Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Aging Parents' Appearance--Helping Fathers and Grandfathers Look Their Best

Ever wonder why Dad doesn't look as good as you think he should?

Appearance is the first thing people notice. And this is one area--in our efforts to help aging parents--where adult children can make a significant contribution.
When we do thoughtful things we help parents age well. Some of these things have an added bonus. Such is the case when we help older women and men to look better.
Some older men (especially when there's no woman in their life), seem to let themselves go appearance-wise. Some may just be lazy. Or they may find it difficult to shave well due to eyesight or dexterity limitations. Or they may live alone and have difficulty getting to laundry facilities in a basement or elsewhere.  Or if they can access laundry facilities, they may be clueless as to how to operate the machinery.
Many of these conditions are correctable once noticed so adult children can provide remedies--by helping them get to a doctor or barber shop, by arranging for the laundry to be done, by teaching a willing aging father how to use a washing machine and dryer or by gifting a new, easier-to-use razor, an article of clothing and/or an appointment with a good barber.
(Is a professional shave a gift idea? When Dad was in his final months I remember his delight when the caregiver gave him a shave in the morning, complete with a warm, damp towel.)
While thoughtful overtures definitely bring pleasure, helping an aging parent look better offers 2 more potential benefits: improving strangers' reactions to him--be it at the grocery store, a new doctor's office, wherever; and getting compliments from people who know him and notice the change. All enhance self-esteem.
Grooming and clothing-- can make a big difference. A clean-shaven man makes a good first impression. Stubble and that unshaven look tend to be vagrant-looking on most old/older/elderly men... unless of course your dad or grandfather has the looks off a Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake.
Hair loss, an issue for men, leads to some strange/creative hairstyles which a good barber should be able to restyle more suitably. Dad solved this problem with a hat to protect his balding head and avoid more skin cancer. Here, at 91, he's at my oldest, best friend's beach house. We stayed overnight reminiscing, with the priceless warmth countless years of friendship provide.
While older men don't need fashionista clothing, it needs to be neat, clean, color coordinated and appropriate for the occasion. This 72-year-old, recuperating from major illness, had just come from physical therapy and was waiting for his wife. "She'd kill me," he said, "if she thought I was having my picture taken looking like this." But he's clean-shaven, his hair looks fine on this windy summer day, and his clothes are in order.
Many elderly fathers have favorite clothing combinations that they wear again and again--like a uniform. Before everything wears out, what about taking dad shopping? Visit stores or websites--or surprise him with a gift of clothing that enhances his wardrobe. Sounds like a plan.
Father's Day is less than 4 months away...but who's counting when we can help aging fathers/grandfathers in more ways than one with a single gesture.

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