What we can learn from our aging parents

What We Can Learn From Our Aging Parents

I don’t know about you but my own parents are getting up there in age. My Dad turned 85; my Mom 77. In my circle of friends, there are many who take worry about their aging parents, care for them, or grief their loss.

This makes me wonder: What can we learn from our aging parents? Are there some things we can do in our lives? Something that will make our own journey a little easier? Something that might also make it easier for our children when one day we are the aging parent (aren’t we all aging all the time anyway?)

Take Care Of Your Body While You Can

One conclusion I have drawn from watching others is this: We are well-advised to take care of ourselves on an ongoing basis.

Duh, you might say. Sure. Of course, that means good eating, exercising, enough sleep – all the things we hear all the time.

It also means: If your hip joint is failing and you need to get an artificial hip to avoid worse problems down the line, take action sooner rather than later. Don’t wait until it is too late. Have that surgery while you’re young enough to keep your risk of having surgery and anesthesia low. Train your body back while you are younger and it is easier to do so.

Years ago, I tackled that question with my left knee. To have or not to have reconstructive ACL surgery, was the question. What kind of life did I want to lead? One sitting on the couch or being active, hiking, canoeing, martial arts, and so on? Active, of course, was my answer. I found the best surgeon I could lay my hands on (after a decent amount of research). It worked out great.

It is all too human to face fear. Fear about having such a surgery. Fear about what could go wrong. Of course, it makes sense to ask whether the surgery is likely to make your situation better or worse.

I sometimes think of this comparison: Say your body is like a car. At first, it’s new and spotless. Everything works exactly as it should (let’s hope so). But then over time, you hear a rattling sound. You ignore it because you are busy with other things. Then a knob comes off from the radio. May a handle falls off six months later. None of this keeps the car from driving. But you start to think of your car as “older”. More things go awry over the next few years. Finally, the car is officially “old”. It is time for a new car.

But when it is our body we are talking about there is no whole-body replacement. We must keep things in order and healthy condition all along the way. We can’t let it stack up. All of a sudden we are 85, have a bone-on-bone painful hip situation on the left, an amputated right toe, and swollen legs – leaving us barely able to walk.

The conclusion: We must tackle our fear, research the matter and step into action instead of procrastinating.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add: Prevention is better than having to fix things. Another duh (but how often do we ignore it?).

Admit We Need Other People and Practice Asking For Help Sometimes

“I don’t need help; I can handle everything myself.”

Have you ever heard anyone say that? Maybe you have said it at one point or another. Maybe I have, too. I’m all for independence but going that far is too far.

Yes, I get it: Some of us don’t like admitting that we need help sometimes. Some people even say they don’t need anyone else. They might say that having someone else around is nice but not necessary – until one day it is. One day it is very obvious that external help is needed. Independence comes to a screeching hold.

Dealing with life situations where a lot of help is needed is hard enough. Doing this is easier when the person needing the help has learned to ask for and accept help on some level throughout their lives. It is less shocking to them. It will also build better relationships. When we allow ourselves to show a bit of vulnerability, others will feel more comfortable showing theirs, too.

Don’t Put Things That Matter To You On the Backburner For Too Long

It can be detrimental to put off things that matter to you. Sure, it may be hard to figure out how to pursue a dream while you’re still in the midst of a career, and raising children. Yet, unforeseen things can happen in your life that could stop you from making some of your dreams happen.

At age 55, I can still trek in Nepal – at least I think so. I’m about to make that happen next year. If I don’t make it happen soon who knows what could happen? I could get hurt, and be unable to go. Or not have time because my family might not be able to spare me for two weeks.

It is worth pausing every once in a while and look above the rim of the bowl of our daily lives and think about what matters. What do we want to happen in our lives before it’s over?

Some years ago I told my Dad that I had read someplace that it is theoretically possible to live to 130 years of age. He has never forgotten that. He mentions it to me just about every time I talk to him. He says he will not make it to 130, but he hopes I will. He says that the average life expectancy in Germany is now 80 years. Any year lived beyond that age is like a bonus year you didn’t know you were getting.

In A Nutshell

When I watch my aging parents and watch my friends deal with theirs my thoughts are:

  1. Take care of our body (and mind) on an ongoing basis. Otherwise, we are likely to accumulate issues and wait to take action until we no longer have access to these remedies.
  2. Be humble and connected enough with others to ask for help when you need it. It is important to practice some vulnerability because it will make our friendships deeper. It will also lessen the shock when we lose more and more of our indpendance when we get older.
  3. Don’t put off your dreams. It’s worth reconsidering your dreams and making them a reality while we still can.
  4. There’s no day like today to take action. Let’s be honest: We all feel fear sometimes. But the price of procrastination is too high.

I invite you to write down (right now) one thing that you can take a little step forward on today. Something that is important to you. Something that you have had a touch of procrastination about.

Have a blessed day!


  1. Well, I must say I’m not a procrastinator. As my kids would tell you I’m OCD to the extreme. Not sure that’s true but I do tend to see something that needs to be addressed and I’m on it. Drives my husband crazy. But I can’t just let it go. I gotta fix it. LOL! I do, however, agree with you on your four points. Another good post, Stephie!

  2. Stephie Althouse on at

    Thank you, Regina! Terrific!

Leave a Comment