After a radio interview at my local NPR affiliate, I chatted with one of the radio hosts about his father. The conversation was another lesson on the power of continuity, Lesson 1 in my book, Aging Our Way, and a theme I spoke about at The Vital Aging conference in Saratoga Springs, NY.
The father in question was described as “cantankerous, difficult, and a bit of a drill sergeant.”
Now, I’m somewhat sensitive to characterizations of “Grumpy Old Men.” It is a money-making movie concept, that’s for sure. But it also misses the complexity of the life, as we learn in Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino.
For this man’s father, his short stint in a nursing home was a mess, largely because, according to the father, the staff was not punctual, meds were not delivered on time, and the place didn’t run efficiently. A familiar critique of a nursing home, mind you, AND this says a lot about the patient, doesn’t it?
Turns out this man is a veteran—like 2/3 of the men in his age group—and for him, a regular routine, punctuality, and consistency are keys to his sense of groundedness. Many of us can relate to this.
In other words, his son said, “if you say you’re going to visit at 6, and you arrive at 6:10, he’s going to be all worked up.” And I say, if you know this, you can dramatically improve his quality of life.
Long story short, the father in question demanded to go home, and thanks to his sons, he now has a home care nurse who is prompt and steady; just the type of advocate he needs. He gets his morning coffee at the same time every day. And his 17 pills. (Last I saw, the average for someone his age was 11 pills a day, so he’s not far from it.)
Now if he could just get his sons to arrive right at 6pm, that would be truly aging his way.
Copyright Meika Loe
Meika Loe is Associate Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Colgate University. She is the author of Aging Our Way: Lessons for Living from 85 and Beyond.