Saturday, July 2, 2011

Downsizing--Aging Parents' Homes...How Much Energy Does It Take?

.................And whose energy?

A former colleague, Anna, now a current friend in her late 80's, phoned me yesterday to tell me she was going away for the weekend; she was also wondering how I was progressing with our downsizing.  I enumerated the things I'd been doing and the fact that I was very tired at the end of the day. I started thinking about the impact of aging on one's energy.
I remembered a lunch date with another former colleague, a year ago. Because she's almost 60, retirement was part of our discussion.  And energy was a big part of that discussion.
She's a master teacher and brilliant. She has published, has a stellar reputation and a devoted following of students. While she believes that she's an even better teacher than when she was younger, she is also aware that the energy you have at almost 60 isn't the energy you had at 50. Looking back we agreed that in your 40's you have a great deal of energy, definitely enough to spare.
I've long held the notion most of us reach our peak in our 40's, remain at that level for quite a while. Yet, almost imperceptibly, energy begins to decline. We can easily compensate for it initially because we are older and wiser. But it finally catches up with us.
Less than two years ago Anna and her husband downsized from a large home with over 50 years of accumulation to a good-sized apartment. Anna's mind is excellent, she swam daily until the house was sold and she remains interested in everything.
Her many children and grandchildren were only too happy to help these aging parents/grandparents pack and move. But Anna tells me that, although she didn't have to be concerned with the physical part, the mental energy required was tiring.  Even after showing younger people what needed to be done and how to do it, it often wasn't done just the way Anna wanted. So she did much of it herself.
Can adult children argue with that? If we're creating additional mental stress while trying to be helpful and preserve older peoples' energy, are we helping? And how do we help in a way that respects everyone's wishes, time, and abilities? If we can answer that last question, we can offer our greater supply of energy, have grateful aging parents and grandparents, and feel good.
But most of our parents (as well as ourselves) put off downsizing until we realize we aren't as able as we were and may not have the energy if we wait much longer. The earlier everyone starts, the better.
Note, Boomers:  Some children, who are old enough to care, could care less about their parents' treasures.  Some parents--aging or not, moving or not--are giving things to their children, including old photos that may or may not be in albums. (The photos  of course need identification if they're to have meaning. I think we all know the frustration of looking through an old family album lacking identification.)
It takes a lot of energy and time to go through shelves and drawers, photos and folders of papers. If you're like me with deceased parents who kept everything--you not only have your things to evaluate, but must read and double check theirs before recycling one scrap of paper. Why?  Because, for example, my parents haven't been gone long enough for me to legally shred everything.
My almost 98-year-old mil, Sr. Advisor R, on the other hand, (recently recovered from her broken hip), is conscientiously tossing or giving "stuff" weekly.  Her energy hasn't returned completely, but she is disciplined as I've written previously. Says she doesn't want us to be stuck with it.
When aging parents aren't mentally capable, it's another story. But when they can do, if we didn't know how to help before, why not reread paragraphs 7, 8, and 9? Hopefully we can adapt the concepts, help our aging parents, help ourselves, and perhaps even our children.

No comments:

Post a Comment