Easing the gap between baby boomer kids and silent generation parents
Whether you grew up listening to Glenn Miller, Led Zeppelin or something in between, the generation you’re part of defines who you are and influences how you feel about almost everything. As this generation gap can make for some challenging dynamics when broaching sensitive topics like senior living, you should try and understand the values, beliefs and opinions of your parents first before engaging in any tough conversations.
As an adult child, you might see your parents’ reluctance to sell their house as simple stubbornness, but what’s actually going on can be more complex. Transitioning to senior living can be difficult for some seniors emotionally. It entails leaving a memory-filled home, and in some cases, a move away from a neighborhood full of friends and familiar shops and services. It might represent yet another loss in a series of losses, especially if your mother or father is widowed or has lost other loved ones recently. Your parents may see aging in place as a way to retain some semblance of security, control and independence.
It might take time for mom or dad to absorb the concept that senior living could actually increase their independence by giving them more time for travel or other leisure activities. Keep in mind that, according to a Forbes.com article, a sense of duty characterizes the silent generation, and looking after a house has likely been a key responsibility their entire adulthood. People from this era also tend to have more of a traditional outlook than baby boomers, so the very idea of living in a retirement community might be hard for your parents to wrap their heads around.
In addition, if your parents were born between 1925 and, say, the early 1930s, they may have been touched by the Great Depression when resources were scarce. Anxiety about parting with their belongings might play a role in your parents’ reluctance to downsize. Another obstacle could be an outdated perception of senior living, particularly if they witnessed older relatives living in nursing homes during the 50s or 60s.
Be sensitive in your approach
Urging your parents to downsize before a health condition turns into a medical emergency may seem like common sense to you, but if you try to push your agenda, your parents might interpret your “let’s get things done manner” as impatience, insensitivity and even rudeness. Be aware and thoughtful about the words you use as well as your tone of voice and body language. Constantly telling or reminding your parents to sell some of their possessions or to create legal documents might only cause suspicion about your motives or raise their temper. And constantly checking the fridge for expiration dates or commenting on errant dust bunnies you catch behind the sofa might only serve to hurt your parents.
Your parents need to feel appreciated, not criticized; they need to know they’re loved and aren’t just someone to be checked up on or a problem to be solved. You may also find the words of Steven Zarit, a professor and researcher who studied parental stubbornness in intergenerational relationships, insightful. “Plant an idea, step back and bring it up later.” Zarit was quoted in this article from The Atlantic; it’s well worth a read.
Broaching topics like senior living can be nerve-wracking if your parents are resistant to moving. Learn the best ways to keep these delicate discussions respectful and amicable by downloading Holiday Retirement’s free e-book, “Tackling Tough Conversations: How to Navigate Five Steps in a Senior Living Move".