Writing About Aging…. Relationship Changes with Young People

Recently, I had an online conversation with a young man who is about thirty now, whom I have known a very long time.  No identifying details, of course, but I reflected on his situation with his grandmother, who is almost eighty. He visits every Christmas and often once during the summer.  This time he found himself being very frustrated by her behaviors.  She was constantly checking to see if he needed anything, even fussing over him, which she had not done before. She also seemed depressed, among other things, and he just found her new, different way of being, strange and even annoying. They love one another very much and have always had closeness, meaningful communication and understanding that he has become an adult.  Her preoccupation with his every move was “driving him crazy.”  He felt very guilty, but he was also totally concerned about what was happening.
Most of us know that ageing has its difficulties as well as its blessings. We may have a richness of experiences, a close circle of family and friends, and a vibrant intellectual life.  If we’re lucky, we can remain that way until we die although our bodies do, let us say, deteriorate over time. That’s the hard part. I am not old. But some people consider the sixties to be old.  Since people age at different rates and have different health issues, sometimes the sixties are old. Of course, I have experienced the aging of others, many of whom I love deeply.  Among them, of course, my father and mother. I have much older friends, as well.  I am also blessed with having much younger friends.
When talking to this young man, it really suddenly came to me that although young people know and love older people, they can’t really relate to the process.  This understanding of what is happening to old people we know and love is really important. As relationships between them transition into new territory, I think such awareness can enrich the relationship.  Also, it can help younger people realize and accept the reality of changing roles and even shifted responsibilities for looking after the old.  So I’m posting a part of our exchange here. This is my response to his concerns.  He liked it.  I don’t know if that means it will be helpful.  Each person is highly individual. This does not exclude the old.  Here is my response.  You may or may not find it relevant, I know.  but perhaps as always with writing, it may reach someone who can find some meaning from it.
Hmmm…lots of possibilities here. Just a few possibilities, maybe some or maybe none of them apply to your grandmother. I think some of us as we age wrestle with issues that younger people, even those around sixty, will not understand. I think many times we ourselves don’t realize what we’re doing and why and, certainly are not aware that we’re driving crazy those that we love. And your grandma’s way ahead of me since I’m just 67 : ) But I recognize this as something I’ve seen and hope I don’t ever do, but might who knows? We do definitely become aware that we are going to die, as in sooner than later. I remember a couple years ago thinking about something that would happen in fifteen years ahead, and this thought popped into my head, “But I might not be here for it in fifteen years!” I might not be here eventually can become I probably won’t be here and then damn, I definitely won’t be here : ) It’s startling, at first. A little weird, to be honest. The whole accepting our own mortality thing. Everyone reacts differently. She loves you very much obviously even though she is driving you crazy, and do NOT feel guilty about that. She may fear she will become useless if she isn’t always busy doing something for you. That you will find her irrelevant. That she can’t get everything done that she is supposed to get done. Especially if her life has always focused on having just one role as with many women her age. I’m a little concerned if this is bothering you because you sense something different about her. It’s good to trust our instinct sometime. She is acting different. How long since you were with her like this, long enough that you would notice this change in her? She may be depressed, grieving about leaving those she loves when she dies, depressed because her body doesn’t do what she wants it to anymore, confused or irritable because of medication combinations, even by forgetting to take her medications sometimes. She might be realizing she has some memory loss. Or that she is cognitively less acute. Terrifying to an aging person. Because, of course, we’re all terrified by the prospect of Alzheimer’s, and we all know irritability can be a symptom. A visit to the doctor is a good idea.  Of course, usually we’re just freaking ourselves out. And often old people can be crotchety old things just because…

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3 thoughts on “Writing About Aging…. Relationship Changes with Young People

  1. I am in my sixties and dealing with my 82 year old mother.She is not the same person anymore. She is mean and rude to her friends and neighbours. She has early stages of dementia. There is a simple clock test. Ask the old person to draw a circle and put the numbers of a clock inside then ask them to draw the arms so that the hands point to 11:40 or any other time and see if they can do it.

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