When I grow old …
How do you imagine yourself growing old? I actually never really thought about this question until someone asked me. My answer was simple, living at the beach and enjoying the good weather. But I never did go any deeper than this. What if you come to a certain age when you can’t do everything by yourself anymore? This one hit me hard… I had a flashback to when my great-grandmother was still alive. I am really lucky to have experienced this. I remember us as kids playing around and she just sat there watching us. You would actually not notice her presence. She was just carrying all her medicine with her in a plastic bag and sometimes asked me to bring her water. She would cook with my grandmother, cut all the vegetables, wash the dishes, and even go for walks because staying active was important to her. Those moments are so precious in my life because they created meaning for me. It didn’t seem scary growing old like this because you are surrounded by your family and everyone takes care of you.
So for me, it was obvious that I wanted the same thing for my parents. I want them to move in with me so I can take care of them.
I have a spouse and in his family, it’s normal for elders to go to a retirement home. They think it’s safer if someone educated can take care of you, and family can just come by and visit. Also, they’ll be surrounded by people of their age and they’ll participate in more activities so their brain stays fit too. You can compare it with bringing your child to the daycare vs. keeping them home. Side note: The grandfather grew up in a village where he knew almost everybody. His hobbies were drinking, playing cards and watching TV. In the retirement home, he can do the exact same thing with the people he knows and shares the same interests. They have the same background, speak the same language, listen to the same music and celebrate the same holidays.
That brings us to the next question. Why is there very little diversity in retirement homes? Is it a cultural difference that you have to take care of seniors when they grow older? Or the fact that there aren’t many places where seniors from a different culture feel at home and share the same immigration background? What are their hobbies? How do they fill the day? Can they even watch TV in their language? Eat the food they like, listen to music from artists they know? And most importantly, do the people who work there speak their language and understand their culture? Or should we just say that it’s a no-go to send your parents to a retirement home? There is no right or wrong, but there is definitely a cultural difference.
How it all started
After WWII, the Western government saw a problem. The seniors used to be like poor people because no work meant no money. So instead of leaving the problem with the family like they used to do. They decided that the government needed to take on a caring role. That’s when they started to invest in health care and made sure seniors would have a role in society too. I personally think this is where the difference is between the Middle East, Asia,… Until today the caring role is the family. It’s their responsibility. If they don’t, it feels like they failed. But if you look closely at the latest trends of younger people, you will notice that large families aren’t like they used to be. People have fewer children and work longer so fewer people are available to take care of seniors.
Why it’s hard to take care of parents now vs then
Women don’t have the caring role anymore like they used to. Now they’re forced into labour due to financial reasons or they have career aspirations. This means the person that used to take care of the parents is out of the picture. Smaller families and more ageing people lead to less kin to take care of the elderly.
Besides the fact that we live longer, more people are suffering from chronic diseases. The gap between younger and older people is becoming bigger and bigger.
What if yo can’t do it on your own?
What if you want to take care of your parents but they have an illness like Alzheimer’s? How do you handle this? Do you feel like it’s an obligation to take care of them? Meanwhile, society expects you to actually work until you can barely walk… How do you handle the pressure of not living up to the expectation of your parents? Is it acceptable for your parents to have these expectations? Do you even have a choice when your parents suffer an illness?
Have you ever had to make a difficult decision like this? What did you choose?
for The Narcist