Do you remember when you were growing up? Your parents took care of you, and made sure that you did all the right things to grow up healthy and happy. Even when you went away to college, they were always there for you – on the phone, driving you halfway across the country at the start of the semester, and welcoming you when you came home. Now you have moved away and have a family of your own, but they still are a sympathetic voice you can talk to when things get tough.
However, you may have noticed recently that they are slowing down a bit, particularly since they retired. It’s difficult being so far away – you want to make sure that they continue to enjoy their golden years, but you don’t know exactly what you need to do to keep them healthy and active. Don’t worry. Even if you can only manage to visit them once or twice a year, you can still help them to get the most out of their life. To start with, it’s incredibly important to keep your parents interested and engaged with the world. For many people who retire, this just isn’t a problem, but others start to feel isolated when they’re cut off from work and all the people that they knew there. Studies show that when people lose contact this way, they start to feel isolated and don’t keep their minds active. This in turn can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s – which is the last thing you want to happen to them.
Keep a lookout for any sign of your parents starting to become isolated. If this starts to happen, make it a priority to get them interested in some sort of activity. For instance, suggest that they take an evening class or volunteer in the local community. If you have trouble convincing them, talk to a neighbor that you trust, and ask them to get your parents out of the house. Once your parents do start to go out, you won’t have to convince them anymore – it’s addictive.
Mobility is another issue that we have to deal with when we start to age. If your parents start to have trouble moving around the house, however, don’t automatically assume that they need to go into care. More and more, seniors are staying in their homes until a fairly advanced age, so there is no reason why your parents shouldn’t do this as well. However, to make things easier for them, you’ll probably have to make their home more accessible. This can be as simple as relocating their bedroom to the ground floor so they don’t have to go up and down the stairs all the time, or it can involve more extensive renovations to places like the kitchen and the bathroom. There’s lots of expert advice out there on this, so take advantage of it. If your parents do decide that they want to go to a retirement community rather than stay in the house, then make sure you help them find somewhere where they can still live independently. For instance, if they are considering moving to senior apartment homes in Wilmington, NC, find out more about activities and places to go in the area, as well as what the social life is like in the community itself.
Of course, there is no substitute for personal contact – so even if you can only see them every six months, make sure you do it regularly. It’s so easy to let things lapse, and before you know it a year or more has gone by. You can make visits seem closer together by spending time with your parents on the phone planning together exactly what you are going to do as a family when you get there, and talking about everything you did on your last visit is also a way to make it seem not so long ago.
Speaking of maintaining personal contact, if your parents don’t have a computer, then get them one. Even if you can’t talk to them every day, you can still drop them a 10 second email to say good morning. Even better, get them a webcam, and then set up a regular time to have a video call with them each week. There’s no better way of feeling close to a person who is 1000 miles away if you can actually see them. As an added bonus, a computer will help your parents to keep up to date with what is going on in the world, and they may even use it meet with other seniors online.