You have undoubtedly seen the commercials on TV for Gilchrist Hospice Care. Adult children of aging parents will say such things as, “Mom’s not coping very well with Dad’s illness — would counseling help?” Or, “Dad’s not getting to doctors’ appointments — does he need to be in a home?” Or, the aging parent might say, “I’m not ready for Hospice care — I just want some help.”

The comments are reflective of the varying perspectives on aging from adult children and their aging parents.


A religious writer and recognized older adult advocate who brings those perspectives into focus on topics surrounding the fears and frustrations of the aging is Missy Buchanan, a native Texan who writes from Rockwall, Texas. I was privileged to hear her speak and to purchase a couple of her books. One of those books, “Voices of Aging: Adult Children and Aging Parents Talk with God,” (Upper Room Books, 2015) is eye-opening for revealing how the two generations view similar situations from very different perspectives. The author suggests that we should try standing “in the shoes of the other generation” so that both “are better equipped to understand and cope with the other’s fears and frustrations.” Perhaps this is a good message for the new year!

Many of the scenarios Buchanan presents may sound familiar to the reader, as many of them are played out every day. For example, the adult child says, “Will she ever realize that I’m no longer a child? … So why does my mother still treat me as if I’m five years old?” The aging parent says, “Sometimes I feel obsolete. Unnecessary. Irrelevant. … Lord, is it wrong that I still yearn to be needed? To know that I matter to someone? To know others value my life lessons?” In this selection, mutual respect sometimes gets lost in the chaos that is modern life so that the older generation feels neglected and the younger generation feels torn by all the responsibilities of family, job, home, ad infinitum.

In another scenario about clutter, the adult child says, “My mind boggles over how much people accumulate in a lifetime. I look at my mother’s overstuffed home and shudder to think what would happen if she were gone tomorrow.” The aging parent says, “There are nights when I close my eyes and worry about dying. Not about whether I’ll go to heaven—about the worn-out underwear in my drawer that my children will find after I’m gone.” The aging parent is thinking back to a time when her family had to scrimp and save and not “just toss things out like people do today.”

Driving is another topic that causes much consternation and fear in both generations but from diametrically opposite perspectives. The adult child, dreading having the car conversation with his father, says, “Why can’t he understand that I just want him to be safe? … How do I reason with someone so stubborn? … And so I sit and seethe about his obstinate pride and irresponsibility.”

All the aging parent can think about is the loss that not driving will entail: “I will always be dependent on someone else. ... Driving remains the last shred of independence I have. … I will become a prisoner in my own home.” And what if the tables were turned on the son and he could not drive! And so Buchanan invites the adult son to give up driving for a week as a way to appreciate the aging parent’s concern while appealing to the aging parent to designate a reliable person to monitor his driving.

As an aside, Patty Whitson at the Bureau of Aging of Carroll County provides a cadre of people through AARP who give driving refresher courses for older adults. The course also includes positioning of car seats and mirrors for optimum safety.

Dignity is an issue that raises concern between the generations as well since it involves how to deal with an aging parent’s need for more help and the aging parent’s need to retain his or her dignity. Buchanan has the adult child saying, “I find it difficult to straddle the line between her need for independence and her need for assistance. … There are times when she doesn’t notice spills and odors, when I must protect her from herself,” which leaves the daughter in a quandary about “preserving her self-esteem and maintaining my sanity.”

The aging parent remembers listening to her children talk about her as if she weren’t even there and making decisions about her without consulting her: “They don’t seem to understand that even though I am growing older, it is still my life. … It’s hard enough that old age assaults my independence and privacy…” Here is where one of Buchanan’s recommendations on aging is most apparent for the aging parent: “Let go of struggles — cultivate acceptance of reality.”

As 2019 is getting underway, let us all realize that we are getting older. In a culture that values youth over aging, let us do what Buchanan suggests that the generations do; that is, to talk with each other about the journey through aging. Let’s stop seeing aging as an enemy; rather, let’s see aging as a “master teacher” about experience, wisdom, strength, and creativity.

In the voices of two of Buchanan’s adult children —“God, grant me wisdom and grace to be the adult child you call me to be” and “May I offer … dignity as best I can, knowing that growing older is not easy.” As an aging parent may we reply with a Buchanan aging parent: “Mold me into a role model for growing old with grace.”

Perhaps then we as prime-ers in either generation can help bridge the gap between the varying perspectives on aging and have a happier and more fulfilling new year!