As your parents age, you will feel a wide range of emotions as you try and understand what they’re going through. You may have feelings of fear, frustration, sadness and grief as you notice your parents’ changes in demeanor for the first time.
The truth is, aging is something we cannot fully understand until it happens to us. But by trying to put yourself in their shoes to learn about what life changes they’re experiencing, you will be able to better understand their behaviors and help them enjoy more of what life and retirement has to offer.
8 Common Fears of Aging for Seniors
One of the keys to understanding your parents as they age is knowing what keeps them up at night. Your parents may not talk openly about these fears, but it’s likely they are experiencing them more and more as time goes on. Knowing the most common fears of aging will help you talk openly with your parents about their concerns.
- Loneliness. Feeling lonely is common for aging adults as they lose friends and loved ones. While a normal part of aging, these losses can leave your parents feeling depressed. Your parents may be struggling to find someone with whom they can talk to and spend time. Try to talk to them regularly and visit when you can.
- Feeling Unsafe. As they age, your parents may become more at risk for accidents or feel less secure in their own home. Taking steps to ensure their safety can help your parents feel more secure and in control. A few great ways to ensure your parents’ home feels safe are installing an alarm system in their home, adding home upgrades like grab bars in the bathroom to reduce slip and fall risks and getting them a panic alarm button that they can wear to easily signal for help at any given time.
- Poor Health. With age comes physical and mental deterioration. Your parents are dealing with changes to their bodies and enduring new physical challenges they did not have before. With age, bones tend to shrink in both size and density, making them weaker and more susceptible to fracture. Muscles tend to generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility with age, effecting your parents’ balance, coordination and stability. Try to encourage your parents to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle to help them live a longer, healthier life.
- Financial Struggles. Reaching retirement age and no longer working can cause your parents to become stressed out over money. You can help your parents plan for their future by meeting with a financial advisor to figure out how to make their money work for their needs and lifestyle.
- Memory Loss. A common fear of aging for seniors is that they will forget everything they used to know and love. This fear can sometimes be expressed by hoarding or other anxiety-related behaviors. You can help your parents’ memory by looking at family photos with them and talking often about some of your favorite memories. Having a tangible connection to the past can be reassuring to your parents.
- Loss of Independence. Losing physical capabilities and having to rely on others for everyday tasks is a large fear among seniors. Your parents may be worried and fearful about not being able to do things on their own. You could offer to help with specific tasks or look into assistive living aids if you are unable to provide help.
- Not Being Able to Live at Home. To some seniors, a home is much more than the physical house in which they live. It’s a safe, familiar place that is full of memories. Your parents may be worried about being forced to move out of the place they’ve called home the last few years. You can help alleviate this fear by simply talking about it with them. Actively listen to your parents’ fears and help them learn about their options for the future.
- Not Being Able to Drive. Your parents may be concerned about losing the independence of driving themselves wherever they need to go. Remember that feeling of freedom you had when you were able to drive a car by yourself for the very first time? That’s the exact freedom they fear giving up. The best thing you can do in this scenario is find options available in your family and community to help your parents’ transition into a non-driving lifestyle.
How to Cope with Aging Parents
You may find yourself dealing with unusual and sometimes unruly behavior from your parents. As they experience these fears of aging, they may not know the best way to express how they’re feeling. Here are some tips for you to try to cope with their new behaviors:
- Try to Understand Them. Taking time to understand how your parents might be feeling can help you communicate better. Take time to ask yourself key questions about your parents’ behaviors and continue having conversations with them to better understand why they are acting the way that they are.
- Engage in Activities Together. Participate in fun activities with your parents such as taking a painting class, going shopping, baking a new recipe, trying a new restaurant for dinner or having a movie night together. You could also encourage your parents to participate in hobbies they used to love that they maybe haven’t done in a while.
- Don’t Try to Control Everything. You can’t change what your aging parents are experiencing, but you can work to understand it and provide help and support. If you see your parents struggling with housework, offer to help so they can relax or do something fun, instead. If they feel sad or frustrated about the changes they’re experiencing, let them vent and do your best to be there for them.
- Find a Healthy Outlet. You may become angry, resentful and frustrated when trying to understand your parents. It’s important to vent your frustrations in a healthy way to avoid conflict with your parents. Try talking to a friend or sibling, or take some time to go to the gym or exercise outside when you become overwhelmed.