Value your Siblings and the Old People in your Life

Hurry is the enemy of love.

It’s been noted that ‘hurry’ is the enemy of love.  Sometimes we are so busy, even in retirement, that we don’t have time for what is most important – like our siblings and the old people in our lives.   When our elderly friends or family need our help, we’re conflicted over our priorities. This can be difficult because we already have so much to do.  It’s essential, however, to value your siblings and the old people in your life.

I haven’t known anyone who regretted the time spent with the old people in their lives.  My father and my in-laws both died before I retired.  My father died as a young man, but my in-laws both lived into their late 80s, and my husband and I were actively involved in caring for them at the end of their lives.  Dixie, too, cared for both of her parents in their final years, even moving them to live closer to her and her husband.   Anyone who has done this knows that it’s not easy, and there are times when you wish it would just all go away.  Still, there is great comfort in helping the people we love at the end of their lives.  To make them feel cared-for and safe, and above all, loved.

It’s easier, of course, if they live close, but what do we do when they live far away.  Forbes Magazine shares these seven tips for helping your aging parents beat their loneliness.

Tips for helping out when you live far away.

  1. Maintain frequent contact.  If you only call once a month, call more often.  Call for no reason – just to talk.  When I lived outside the country, I wrote my mother a long letter every week.  I couldn’t call her, but I wanted to maintain regular contact.  When we returned to the United States after five years, she had saved every letter.  She’s gone now, but I’m glad I wrote the letters.
  2. Visit in person at regular intervals. A hug is even better than a call!  Even if you have a difficult parent, you can keep it brief, but make it regular.
  3. During your visit take your aging parent to concerts or plays or movies or anything that he or she especially enjoys and might not go to alone.
  4. Check out the community services available where your parent lives. You can find out so much on the internet.  You may be able to lead them to a great senior center that they don’t even know about.
  5. Ask your parent questions about things like lottery entries and contests. When my mother began to get dementia, she started to enter contests where she was sure she’d win lots of money that she could leave to us.  It wasn’t long until she was scammed.  This is an increasingly worrisome problem, and there are plenty of unscrupulous people out there to take advantage of trusting seniors.
  6. Consider hiring a geriatric care manager. This is particularly helpful if you can only visit your parent once or twice a year.  These professionals can find activities and help your parent when you are far away.
  7. Consider teaching your parent to use technology. My mother-in-law learned to use the computer in her 80s.  She was proud to master e-mail and absolutely delighted with Skype!  Along with the advantages to communication comes a profound sense of pride for the senior who conquers technology.

Treasure your siblings, too!

Value your siblings.

It’s not just our parents and our in-laws who need the gift of attention:  it’s also our siblings.

These are the people who share our past, who co-star in our memories, who understand in the most profound way the very foundations of our lives.  They were there long before our spouse, our children and our grandchildren and they are worth celebrating.  No matter what the relationship with our siblings is at the moment, research shows that strengthening that bond makes us healthier and happier!

Just like with our aging parents, the key to the relationship with our siblings lies in communication and a willing heart.  Familyshare offers nine ways to stay connected to your adult siblings in an article of the same name.

  1. Learn what your siblings are involved in and make efforts to support them.
  2. Forgive and forget. Avoid all those bad things from the past.  Just don’t bring them up.
  3. Treat your siblings as you would a friend. We’re always quick to give our friends a break, but sometimes we don’t offer that same compassion to our sister or brother.
  4. Keep trying – even when it seems like family dinners are always awkward and uncomfortable. You’ll never regret trying.
  5. Keep your siblings in the loop.   Let them know what’s going on in your life.  I’ve always had good feelings about my brother, but we didn’t communicate regularly because our mother kept us both informed, but when we no longer had her, we began to pick up the phone and call each other.  I treasure those calls now.
  6. Have fun together. Do something that everybody likes.  If you live far apart, have a family reunion.  We rented a house with my husband’s family last year and siblings from New York, California, Florida, and Maine had a ball together for four days!  It was worth every penny.
  7. Connect with technology.
  8. Don’t talk about politics. Or religion!  I’m begging you!
  9. Let your siblings grow up. That sister who is 18 years younger than you are is not a little kid anymore.  Treat her with respect!

When we first started this discussion, we said that the only things that are really important in life are the people we love and the people who love us.  I know that’s true.  Don’t let all the hurry of life – even in a great retirement – keep you from concentrating on them.

Why not pick up the phone today and call your mom or your brother!

Pam

writers@richlyaged.com

 

 

 

 

 

Making Nice with In-laws

All things are made better with a cup of tea in a lovely china tea cup.

 I loved my mother-in-law dearly.  I miss her every day and would love to spend an afternoon drinking tea with her out of her treasured china tea cups – or sharing a glass of wine on her patio.  But when I think about making nice with in-laws, I can’t help but think about a time when I didn’t “make so nice,” and I’m glad I found out about it in time to make amends.

My mother-in-law lived her last few years in the independent section of a senior community.  When we visited, she wanted to parade us around so that everyone could see us.  I hated making the rounds – exchanging polite chitchat – so I often begged off on that part and just stayed in her apartment.  We saw her frequently, visiting her and taking her out or bringing her to our house to stay a few days.  But I didn’t care if we saw anybody else – just her.

I was shocked once when we were attending a holiday party to find she had told the management that we lived out of state.  Apparently, it was deeply embarrassing to her that we weren’t very visible to her friends and to the people who worked there.  After that, we made sure to have dinner with her in the dining room when we visited and to talk with her friends and the staff.  Who knew?  I thought we were having quality time without distractions, but she thought no one knew she had attentive children.

These kinds of misunderstandings happen not just with our mothers-in-law but with all the in-laws and out-laws we gain when we marry into a family.  But there’s hope . . .

Lessons from “The Happiness Project”

A few years ago, I read a wonderful book by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.  She has some wonderful suggestions for creating warm relationships with those people who are members of our family, but not our genetic relatives.  These work for all the in-laws and the out-laws – mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters.  I’m paraphrasing, but all the ideas here belong to Ms. Rubin.  There are plenty more in the link to her book above.

  • Remember the “mere exposure effect.” That means that familiarity breeds affection.  The more often we’re exposed to something – music, sports, art, even faces – the more we like them.  So if you’ve been avoiding someone in the family, perhaps you should spend some time together.  It may improve the relationship.

“A mother gives you a life, a mother-in-law gives you her life.”
― Amit KalantriWealth of Words

  • Act the way you want to feel. Feelings really follow actions, rather than the other way around.  If you want to deal with someone in a calm and friendly manner, make sure that you approach that person in that way.  Acting calm and friendly will actually make you feel calm and friendly.  This is the same thing as smiling when you really feel lousy.  If you do it for a while, you’ll improve your mood.  Try it.  It works.
  • Avoid pointless bickering. If you fight about the same things – politics, for instance, or religion, just agree to disagree.  You are not going to change your 85-year-old father-in-law’s voting habits.  Criticizing people’s choices isn’t polite, and it isn’t effective.

Accept yourself as you are, know what you value, and let the rest go.

  • Act in accordance with your own values. Gretchen Rubin correctly points out that when we really accept ourselves, others accept us, too.  You don’t have to be noisy about it, just go your own way.  When our sons were young, they both went through a long (and I mean very long) hair phase.  I know that was not my father-in-law’s favorite hair style, but I’m a big believer in letting people wear their hair the way they like.   I never said anything.  He never said anything.  It worked out.
  • Respect the priorities of others. Sometimes relationships can be difficult because we simply think different things are important.  Ask yourself what is really important to that person, and then if you can, if it doesn’t violate your own values, see if you can honor that priority.

How do you handle your special family relationships?  We’d love to know.

Pam

writers@richlyaged.com

 

 

 

 

Enjoy your Children and Grandchildren

 

 Blessed with children and blessed again with grandchildren.

Children and then grandchildren…both relationships uniquely special.

In retirement, in an ideal world, we’re finally finished with the anxiety of launching our children into the world of adulthood.  Hopefully, they are grown up, finished with school, working, and married with children, but they are still our children and will always be part of our “primary family.”

They, however, have spouses and children of their own, and we now have a different status.  Even though we revel in the freedom from responsibility that adult children embody, some retirees can feel abandoned by their grown children.  Some others have difficult relationships with their adult children for any number of reasons.

In “Mothers and Their Adult Daughters:  Mixed Emotions, Enduring Bonds,”  Karen L. Fingerman, Ph.D. argues, “The parent-offspring relationship in modern America is based more on emotional affection than on economic or cultural imperatives.”

In other words, adult children who stay in close touch with their parents do it because they like them and like to spend time with them.  That’s the secret. We want them to want to be with us. It’s a choice.

Here are some suggestions to make that happen.

  • Don’t talk about how long it’s been since you’ve seen/ had a text from/ or talked on the phone with them. You’re trying to tell them that you love them, but what they’re hearing is a whole heap of guilt.  It’s better to say (when they finally do call), “Hi!  I’m so glad to talk to you.”
  • “How can you live like this?” is not a good way to start a conversation. Have you forgotten what it was like to try to work, do kids’ sports, teach Sunday school, and get Christmas ready?  Something’s got to give, and in my house back in the day, it was the housework. Here’s a good place to employ the 50-year-rule.  What difference is a clean bathroom when compared to a happy kid?
  • Don’t make your kids take sides in your own marital problems. The prevalence of divorce in our generation has made some big family occasions more awkward than they were in an earlier time.

Try to get along when everyone is together, and make it easy for   them if that’s  impossible.

I have one friend who does Christmas with her adult children early in December so that they can spend the actual day of Christmas with her ex-husband and his  present wife. The appreciation she receives from the children is worth the sacrifice.

A few more tips for “children and grandchildren” happiness.

  • Make sure that your adult children know how much you love them. Embrace them and tell them so.  It’s not all about the grandchildren.
  • Have fun with your adult children. Take them out to dinner without the grandchildren.  Meet as adults.
  • Be a cheerleader for your children. Share their good news with them with genuine joy.
  • Treat your grown children with respect. It’s hard to give up the role of advice-giver.  Just listen and act as a sounding board.  This is difficult!  Sometimes I have to bite my tongue.
  • Accept your family relationships the way they are and not the way you would like them to be. It’s not “over the river and through the woods” anymore!

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”              Elizabeth Stone

I have two children happily married and four teen-aged grandchildren.  This is a wonderful phase in our “richly aged” retirement lives.  Enjoy it everyday! It adds to our richness.

Homework:  Give hugs to all of them, even if they are cyber hugs.

Dixie

richlyaged.com

writers@richlyaged.com

Reconnect with your Spouse: Making your Marriage Survive Retirement

 

There’s lots of togetherness in retirement!

If you read Dixie’s last post, you’ve been remembering why you chose your partner.  That’s a good place to start.   If you want your marriage to survive retirement, you’ve got to reconnect with your spouse.

Retirement is a wonderful time, a time to be celebrated, but it’s also a time that takes some getting used to – much like that first year of marriage when we learn to make the enormous leap from “me” to “we.”

But for some reason, we expect a period of adjustment to marriage but not to retirement.  Maybe it’s because most of us have spent a lot of years in a pretty consistent routine – raising kids, going to work, and handling the myriad number of chores and obligations required to do both those things.  We think the relationship we’ve forged over the years will just go on in this new and free format, only we’ll be on vacation all the time!

For better or for worse, but not for lunch!

Unfortunately, experts know that the changes accompanying retirement can wreak havoc on a marriage.  The statistics involving divorce at this period are pretty grim: since 1981, there has been a 16% increase in the divorce rate among couples married 30 or more years.

There might be a bit too much togetherness during those first few retirement months.  And when both spouses have worked at jobs where they were in charge, there may be a difficulty in giving up that authority!

“Thank you dear for finishing my sentence.  That’s exactly what I would have said.” –  Wife of a retired husband

Sometimes couples have simply stopped working without really making a plan for their retirement – not a financial plan, but a life plan!  They may feel overwhelmed and baffled about what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives!  But it doesn’t have to come to that.

The good news is that couples who make it through this passage (just like all those other passages encountered in any long-term relationship) come out the other side stronger and happier.  Most couples eventually find that this time is one of the sweetest times in life.

How do we make it sweet?

  • Start by making a conscious commitment to the relationship. Tell yourself that your spouse comes first.  Before your grown kids.  Before your grandchildren.  Before your friends.  Before anyone.  When a major decision comes up, ask yourself, “Is this good for the relationship?”
  • Give yourselves space. You don’t have to be joined at the hip.  In fact, it’s important to have some interests of your own.  Find some new hobbies or spend more time on the ones you already have.  You’ll be more interesting to your partner when you have something special to share about your day.  My husband just started a part-time job at the golf course.  He comes home full of stories about new people and new activities.
Be sure to have a couple of good hugs every day!
  • Create a ritual for yourselves as a couple. Have coffee together and read the paper each morning, share a cocktail before dinner, or take a walk each evening after dinner.  This is a time each day when you know you’ll be concentrating on each other and talking.   My favorite time of day is early morning coffee with the newspaper!

More ways to reconnect!

 

  • Express appreciation for your partner. Tell him why he’s great and tell other people in front of him!  Everybody likes to feel appreciated.

 

  • Don’t ignore your sexual relationship. Work on being intimate.  Make a date for sex or give each other a massage or just make sure to have a couple of decent hugs each day.  Physical contact is important.  It makes you feel loved.

”Explore one another. You might like what you find.”  Unknown

  • Spend time with mutual friends. Reaching out to other people enriches your life, not just by giving you an excuse to get out of the house to do something, but by providing perspective on your own relationship.

Establish a new routine.  And remember to laugh.

 

  • Create a new routine for chores.  I can remember my grandmother and grandfather arguing over which direction the handle of the tea kettle should point!  Instead of fighting over the correct way to wash the dishes or make the bed, divide the responsibilities for chores in an equitable manner and then let your partner alone.  And say thanks!  My husband does the vacuuming.  And I don’t.  I think that’s fabulous.
  • Establish separate territories in your house. When I was doing research for this blog, I thought this was a weird idea.  Especially since we live in a tiny house.  Then I realized  that Bob spends lots of time in his man cave on the lanai (that’s a porch in Florida), and I spend a lot of time in my office corner of the bedroom.  We  wander in to see each other from time to time, but we both have our own space.  It works.

 

  • Keep a sense of humor. Laughter greases the creaky wheels of life, and flexibility is the key to happiness!

 

The good news here is that couples tend to get happier the longer they’re retired.  If you expect a period of adjustment, you’ll find that you can work together to create a wonderful retirement life.

Pam

Writers@richlyaged.com

Building Extraordinary Relationships

Love is all there is!

If you’re reading a blog about positive aging, I’m relatively sure that you’ve reached the point in your life where you know that the most important things in life aren’t things.

The most important things, of course, are the people we love and those who love us.  That’s why building extraordinary relationships is essential to a happy retirement.  You can have all the money in the world.  You can play golf seven days a week, but if you don’t have people to love, life can be pretty lonely.

It’s only stuff!  You can’t even give it away.

It’s not about acquiring things anymore.  All of our possessions – those things that we thought so necessary when we bought them – turn out to be just “stuff.”  Perhaps we have cleared out our parents’ homes only to discover that all that stuff becomes, in the end, a burden.  We don’t want it, and we can’t sell it.  Heck, we can’t even give it away!

I remember when we were cleaning out my mother-in-law’s studio apartment after her death.  There wasn’t one charitable organization that would come for her flat screen TV.  Finally, we just put it out in the hall with a sign saying, “Free TV.”  It was still there the next morning.

Consider the 50-year-rule.

What does matter, however, are the relationships we forge during our lives.  My mom practiced the 50-year rule.  She liked to think about things in relation to what difference they would make in 50 years.  Wise woman.

If we employ the 50-year rule, we’ll see that very little that we do now will matter in 50 years except those things that we do with the people we love.  Time spent with our children and their children.  Time spent volunteering, perhaps, or time spent mentoring.  Or even time spent protecting the environment.

91% of people in couples said their relationship with their partner was the most important thing for a happy retirement. 75% said that it was their partner or spouse that they would turn to in times of need. 83% overall said that strong personal relationships were very important in determining their happiness.

Huffington Post

It isn’t only the relationship with our partner that’s important.  It’s also the other beloved people in our lives.  I still remember and embrace the time spent with my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles when I was a child.  They still serve as mentors and models to my life.  Today, I also have siblings and in-laws and grown children and grandchildren and long-time friends to consider.

Everything else is just stuff!

Because building extraordinary relationships is paramount to a successful retirement, we’re starting a series of blogs on how to do it.

Since our relationships bring to our lives both our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows, they deserve some time and some consideration.

Many people go along year after year repeating the same arguments with the same people and suffering through the same disappointing holidays, but it doesn’t have to be that way

It is possible to build extraordinary relationships– to make them more joyous or, at least, less difficult.  We just need a plan.  So come back and spend some time with us over the next couple of weeks while we explore the best ways to build vibrant and fulfilling relationships.

Pam

Writers@richlyaged.com

 

10 Tips Toward Being a Good Citizen

Being a good citizen was a big deal when we were kids!

I was 10 in 1958, separated by only 13 years from World War II where my father fought and was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge.  For his whole life, he got tears in his eyes when the flag went by.  Patriotism and love of country were more than words to all who had lived through that war – something that rubbed off on us, the first generation born after the war.

The idea of being a good citizen was a big deal.  In fact, we even got a grade for it in school.  What was later called “conduct” was then called “citizenship.”  We started our school day with the Pledge of Allegiance, and we were all required to take Civics to learn about our representative form of government and how it worked.

The whole idea of a public education was to train young people about how our system of government works, so they could be good citizens and be part of it. We’re not doing that today.

Sandra Day O’Connor

I agree with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that we should be talking more about the importance of citizenship in our schools, but what can we do beyond that to be good citizens and support our democratic way of life?  The Honorable Lee H. Hamilton has written a great article titled “What Does it Mean to be an American Citizen?”  Many of the suggestions below come from this article.  Others are my own.

So what can we do to be good citizens?

This has nothing to do with politics.  Good citizens come from both parties!

  • Begin with gratitude. You and I are so lucky that we were born in this country in the 20th Century.   Realize that America is never “finished.”  Our way of government is a continual experiment that reflects the “will of each generation.”  We must realize that its continuation is not guaranteed.
  • Brush up on the basics. It doesn’t hurt to spend a little time reading the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  They are not just words on a page – to be bandied about by whatever political party needs them.  They are living breathing documents upon which our whole way of life is based.
  • Stay informed about issues in our communities and our country. It’s hard to be a good citizen without knowing what’s going on.  Beware of the bias of those delivering the “news.”  It might just be opinion, or it might not even be true.  Check the facts.
  • Run for elective office or work for candidates of your choice. Particularly locally.  President Obama was once just a community organizer, and President Trump was once just a business man.
  • Vote and hold your representatives accountable with phone calls, e-mails, attendance at town meetings, etc. Start a petition or a letter-writing campaign.  Good citizenship doesn’t stop at the ballot box.
  • Join the Peace Corps or the military or non-profit organizations. Care for our citizens.  Take care of a neighbor who needs some help.
  • Accept jury duty and be willing to act as a witness if necessary. Justice is essential to good governance.  It doesn’t happen if people aren’t engaged.
  • Join organizations or parties that reflect your own views. Work hard, but realize that both sides have good ideas, and nothing will happen if we don’t work together for the common good.
  • Check your cynicism at the door. We can be a better nation.  We just need to believe that we can.

Engagement is the secret!

“Good citizenship and defending democracy means living up to the ideals and values that make this country great.”

Ronald Reagan

Liberty symbol

The secret to good citizenship is engagement.  Share with us how you are engaged with your community.  We’d love to hear about it.

Pam

Writers@richly aged.com