A group of us were sitting around this morning, discussing our parents getting old, some of the problems that caused, and how we can alleviate them.
Loneliness is one problem.
Many of our parents had lost a partner, lost many of their close friends. Or their friends have moved away. For us, a friend moving, say, two suburbs away isn’t much, but when you have limited mobility it becomes a major problem.
Many older people lack mobility. They can’t walk as far, or as fast, due to problems with hips or knees or their back. Many of them can’t drive any more due to vision problems.
Lack of mobility makes you housebound. It becomes harder to go out and do things, which makes it harder to talk to people, which in turn ends up making you lonelier. It becomes a vicious circle.
This is not just old people, by the way. It impacts everyone. It just happens that we were discussing old people, our experiences, and some of the problems.
A lot of the things we could do to make lives better for our elderly parents took place during working hours. Exercise classes, craft sessions, friends getting together. Which we couldn’t get to, because we were working.
We talked about how not being able to give our parents their freedom made us feel helpless.
Giving up your job, your life, to look after a parent is sometimes the only thing you can do. But most of the time, that’s not optimal. There’s the money aspect, of course, but there’s also the dignity, the freedom for the older person. They don’t want to be reliant on you. (Or our parents didn’t, anyway.) They want their own life, but they want it to be happy and fulfilled.
They certainly don’t want to have to rely on someone else.
It’s one reason I can’t wait for self-driving cars.
Seven years before Mum died she lived in a small country town which had a post-office/shop and that was it. Even the local pub, which used to be open Friday and Saturday nights, had closed down. She drove 100 kilometres for groceries, and she was losing her sight. So we moved her across the state (a move of 400km) to be closer to her family.
If we’d had self-driving cars, she could have stayed in her own home longer.
Mum left most of her friends behind when she moved, and while her new town had family, with her limited visibility it was still hard to go out and do things on her own. She had to wait until one of her children was available to take her shopping. There were exercise sessions she was encouraged to go to, but she had to take a taxi to get there. She couldn’t go to places like craft classes, because most of them were in working hours.
She was tied to our schedule, not her own.
If we’d had self-driving cars she could have gone where she wanted to, when she wanted to. It would have given her back mobility, which would have given her back her freedom.
That’s no small thing.
(Mum moved into an aged care facility six months before she died. She loved it. There were people around to talk to. They ran classes. They had concerts, and excursions. She could do things again.)