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Family & Relationships

How to Help Your Aging Parents Beat the Blues

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The middle is a hard place to be.

Just ask someone in the so-called sandwich generation, who is burning the midnight oil to take care of their kids, while also helping out their aging parents and balancing a career on top of it all.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40 million Americans are caring for elderly people, with 22 percent of them also caring for children 18 years old or younger. For people in that group, the phrase “work-life balance” has become more of a punch line than an aspiration. 

The truth is, no matter how strong and energetic you are, you can’t be all things to all people, all the time. It’s helpful to have some plans in place to help ensure that your elderly parents are keeping busy, getting out of the house and meeting people that light up their lives—especially during the times that you can’t be there.

Consider the following tips to help keep aging parents happy, engaged and healthy and keep the blues at bay.

Tap into their local community college.

Nearly half of adults in community college are ages 50 and up, according to the American Council on Education. See what offerings are available at a college near mom and dad. It’s a great place to meet new friends and keep those synapses sharp.

Help them find meaningful social activities.

Talk to your mom and dad about their passions. Is there a photography club or book club that would be a fit for them? What about volunteer activities, or opportunities to be a mentor? Help them find fulfilling outings that will keep their interest and help expand their world.

Internet 101.

Take the time to teach your parents about email, social media, video chatting and other methods of connectivity. Even if you’re hundreds of miles away, it’s easy to stay connected these days. The computer will give them access to you and other family members, as well as a portal to chat rooms and other groups tailored to their interests.

Give them a calendar that you’ve marked with events.

Maybe your daughter has a softball game or your son has a campout on the horizon. Keep your parents in the loop, even if they are too far away to attend. Just knowing what the kids are doing can help them feel more involved in your lives. You can also schedule phone calls or online chats on the calendar with them to give them something to look forward to. 

Research community services where they live.

Municipalities, non-profits, churches, schools and community centers offer an array of services for aging men and women, and many of them involve one-on-one contact with younger generations to keep loneliness at bay. See what’s available in your parents’ community.

It's an important role, being in the middle, between aging parents and growing kids. By helping your parents stay connected to the family and the community, everybody benefits—including the sandwich generation.

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