Annie Lane: How to get my mom’s golden years to glow

Published 5:47 pm Friday, October 21, 2022

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Dear Annie: I feel really bad for my mother who, in her early 70s, just seems to be bored with life. She’s not in the greatest of health, as she has emphysema and COPD, which require her to use oxygen, but she can get around. I live with her because although she still has all of her faculties, she can’t possibly care for a home in her condition all by herself. She was forced into retirement due to her age and health condition; that’s when I noticed her passion for life just went downhill.

As a widow, she has never wanted to meet another man, not even for simple companionship. I tried introducing her to a group of nice people her age that I met at my local cafe, but she was completely disinterested. My one older friend noticed her hostility and took it personally. I felt bad and embarrassed, and I was surprised at my mother’s aloofness toward them. That’s not the mom I know. The mom I know loved getting up for her part-time job and usually can get along with anyone.

I am an only child and single with no plan of having children, so the notion of keeping my mom busy with a grandkid or two is not on the dream board. My mom tends to live in the past and says that although she’s bored, she doesn’t like to go out to meet new people. Even when her church friends invite her for lunch, she’ll decline and tell me, “That’s just not my thing.” But then she says she’s bored! It’s like a vicious cycle that won’t end.

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We have family nearby that we see occasionally, and she talks with them over the phone daily. Her life has basically been reduced to watching TV from the moment she wakes up till the moment she lays her head down for bed. She will still do some light cooking and cleaning. She goes to the same two stores all the time and frequents the supermarket at least three times a week, which is unnecessary spending in my eyes. We are on a fixed income, and I know she goes simply out of boredom, but I’m afraid her habit has her overspending.

Other than TV and shopping, she’ll do puzzles in the daily paper, which is great for the brain, but I want something new for my mom. I try to encourage her that these are her golden years and she should be enjoying them much more.

Am I being too pushy? Should I accept the fact that she’s not one of those spritely elders who loves to take trips with friends? I think if she engaged in more of those types of outings, her life would be more fulfilled. Any suggestions on how to get a bored but stubborn elder to think outside the box? My mom deserves more than just sitting around waiting for her time to come.

— Concerned for Mom

Dear Concerned: I wouldn’t say you’re being pushy; you clearly love your mother and want her to be satisfied and content in this next phase of her life. But it’s important to remember that the transition your mom is going through is a big one for any elderly person to accept, and it’s best to let her take it at her own pace as she adjusts to her new reality.

As someone who enjoyed working part time and forgoes purely social outings, like lunches with friends, your mother sounds like she prefers activities that have purpose. Physical capabilities permitting, perhaps she would consider joining a club, volunteering or helping out at the local senior center or library. This could give her a task to work on primarily, but in a setting where she can meet others with shared interests and socialize. Try turning the daily phone calls with family into FaceTimes and more regular visits instead. Would she consider taking on a furry companion to keep her company while you’re at work?

Your continued love and support will no doubt show her that, while her life may be in flux in a lot of ways at this moment, some things, like her family and the bonds you share, never change.

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