Changing responsibilities with age

With the approach of middle age, many couples look forward to a time free from the responsibilities of supporting their children, a time that they can devote to themselves without having to take into consideration the emotional and financial needs of dependants. At the same time as their children are reaching adulthood, however, a couple’s own parents are probably reaching old age. The implications of looking after elderly parents should be thought of in advance, because it may have a considerable impact on the couple’s lifestyle. Factors to bear in mind include whether both parents are still alive, or one has been widowed; how fit or infirm the elderly people are; financial considerations; and the alternatives available. It is important to remember that looking after your own parents is not a duty, but a privilege – a way if giving back something of what they have given you.

The average lifespan of man in our society has increased considerably during the last ten years. This has led to the emergence of a category of people who solely because of their age have to be subjected to regular medical supervision. With increasing age there is a greater chance of all kinds of disorders occurring, because the body as a whole begins to function less well. The area of medical specialization concerned with the treatment of the aged person is called geriatrics.

From retirement age onwards people older than 65 are regarded and treated as a separate group and are known as Senior Citizens or Old Age Pensioners. For those who are not mentally prepared for this, retirement means an emotional crisis. A completely new prospective has to be found and the person has to take initiatives to avoid loneliness. This becomes increasingly difficult as the body ‘co-operates’ less and with the death of close relatives and friends. Admittance to an old people’s home or hospital may become inevitable when the old person is no longer able to cope alone. Although alternative care for the elderly is offered on a small scale and society’s policy on aged persons has somewhat improved, a truly changed attitude towards older people is still lacking. Because of their experience and worldy wisdom they would be able to make an important contribution to the solution of the problems in society, and as soon as that role has been acknowledged older people will not have to – as still often happens – feel ‘shelved’.