The love, affection and care that parents hold for their children is unparalleled and knows no bounds. It’s their meticulous upbringing that enables a child to establish his own identity and gain strong footholds in the world.
However, as we grow older, we find less and less opportunities to spend quality time with our parents. Also, it’s ironic how on one hand this digital age has made long distance communication a breeze, while on the other, it has made the children and their parents distant from each other.
Moreover, the brutal economy demands dual incomes to run a household, which further hinders the chances of taking care of a parent who might require round the clock care or even frequent visits by their children for longer lengths of time.
While we can never, in a thousand years, repay them for their unconditional love and support, we can reciprocate them, albeit partially, by spending as much time as possible with them in their old age. Not only is it our responsibility to do so, but there are also certain advantages associated with spending time with the parents. Some of which are as follows:
It curbs their loneliness
Often, parents suffer from loneliness and depression once they are left with an empty nest. This can lead to distress, functional decline and even early death. The correlation between the sense of isolation, health deterioration and premature death was researched in a study, Loneliness in Older Persons.
During this research, around 1600 elderly people, with an average age of 71, were evaluated. It was determined that people who suffered from loneliness experienced more difficulty in performing daily activities and being mobile as compared to those who did not feel isolated or left out.
Moreover, 23% of lonely adults died within the span of 6 years of the study as compared to 14% of those who did not lack companionship. Sadly, the study also concluded that 43% of the people over the age of 60 suffered from some form of loneliness.
The research further established that loneliness is one of the key factors that can lead to a decline in cognitive health leading to dementia, as well as other health impairments such as depression and coronary heart diseases.
Another report presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference states that one-third of global dementia cases can be prevented by successfully managing defining lifestyle factors. One of these factors is increasing social contact, especially in the later years, which can reduce the chances of dementia by a promising 15%.
Due to the scary statistics of dementia and its lack of cure, it is best to employ as many preventive measures as possible. This includes periodic brain tests of your parents (technological advancements allow elderlies to conduct online dementia tests from the comforts of their home) and conducting mental exercises with them.
Thus, feeling loved and cherished not only benefits our parents for the time being, it also increases their chances of living a longer, healthier life as compared to those who feel neglected and lonely.
They need a support system
We have had our parents’ at our backs almost all our lives. From childhood, and all through the turbulent teen years and even when we grew up and became independent; we always knew that we could rely on them and that they were our strongest support system.
Similarly, our parents need us more than ever once they grow older, though they might not be as vocal about their problems as we used to be. Therefore, it is even more important to be physically present in their lives; and observe for yourself if they are being irritable, losing their appetite, being forgetful, having difficulty moving around and generally seem to lack focus and vitality. Early detection of such behavioral and physical symptoms can assist us, and them, in seeking out a timely medical intervention.
Furthermore, we will be left with only regret and despair if we stay too busy in our lives and fail to take note of their deteriorating health. Hence, we should not only spend time with your ageing parents but also observe any unusual changes that are in their body language and behavior that may trigger a warning.
Discovering the past and connecting with the future
Our parents are walking, talking archives! They may have lived through and experienced, first-hand, some of the major historical world events. Connecting and conversing with them on a regular basis can get you privy to numerous valuable stories and life lessons. You can also learn about their struggles in life, which shaped them up for who they are. All of this will help you appreciate them more.
Moreover, these few years may be the last chances for you to garner as much knowledge about your forefathers as you possibly can; treasured knowledge that you may one day pass on to your kids. Or better yet, your kids can hear about their ancestors directly from their grandparents.
Carol Bradley Bursack, author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories, and who also writes a blog, says, “This connection is good for the parents, but it’s also good for the younger generations – including grandchildren.” She also says, “We are repositories of more family history.”
She also noted that being active participants in our parents’ lives allows us to find peace more easily and readily after their demise. This stems from the fact that we will know that we did the best that we could for them and, hopefully, there will be no regrets.
Therefore, take out time for your parents even if you have an extremely hectic schedule because they are not going to be around forever. Use whatever precious time is left and be there for them as they were ever-present for you.