Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry jelly out of the can. Only cranberry jelly ‘fresh’ out of the can has the lines to indicate true authenticity. Thanksgiving is recognized as one of the ‘happiest’ days of the year. And, why not? For many, the elements that are thought to contribute to our happiness — family, friends, food, and fun — come together on one day.
Thanksgiving is also a time where families check-in and checkout how everyone is doing.
Millennials are now hitting 40 years old and Gen X’ers are somewhere between their 40’s and 50’s. Their parents are older Baby Boomers in their mid-70’s or Silent Generation in their late 70’s and 80’s. While prickly conversations may arise at the table, it is often on the car ride home that adult children begin to have questions about their parents.
When Did Mom And Dad Get Old? It happens in a snap. The energetic parent you knew is not quite as spritely as you recall. Millennials and Gen X’ers suddenly see their parents as older, even elderly.
Questions arise. Are they okay? Do they look well compared to last time we visited or video-chatted? As she cleared dishes, mom mentioned, as if it were part of a distant weather forecast, that she is “going in for some more tests.” There is the realization that you may be transitioning from loving daughter or son into a caregiver.
Are They Safe Behind The Wheel? For older adults managing multiple health conditions, and often a multitude of medications, the capacity to continue driving safely sometimes becomes a concern. A few more scratches on the car, or even a lighthearted description of how a mailbox met its tragic end might pose a second worry. How much longer can mom or dad continue to drive safely? My gifted colleague at The Hartford’s Center for Mature Market Excellence, Maureen Mohyde, once captured the table side worry as an ill-advised Thanksgiving conversation that begins with, “pass the peas, and hand over the keys.” Her research team, in collaboration with the MIT AgeLab, conducted studies that showed what many of us might have guessed — the approach is both bad manners and not effective. Because there is no definitive age that defines an older driver, a much more thoughtful strategy ensures both road safety and a loved one’s quality of life.
Here are resources to start the conversation right.
Can They Stay Home? Thanksgiving often includes a visit to the family home where memories were made and are now memorialized. Adult children begin to wonder, how long can my parents safely stay in their home? Kitchens that once stored favorite treats in pro basketball height cupboards now make it difficult for mom to prepare a meal. The once treasured staircase that served as a backdrop for family photos and holiday decorations now appears to be both a hurdle and a hazard for aging knees. While the majority of older adults want to remain in their own home, many fear that they may not have the capacity to do so as they age.
Learn more about MIT AgeLab’s future vision of the home and read my colleague Ryan Fredrick’s awesome new book Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide To Choosing A Home For The Second Half Of Life.
Now the question Millennials and Gen X should be asking themselves. What am I doing today to ensure that I (or we) age well tomorrow?
As younger adults in their 30s, 40s, and 50s today, Millennials and Gen X’ers are catching a glimpse of their possible future selves in their parents aging. Now is the time to ask how are today’s choices and behaviors defining their older self tomorrow?
- How well are you taking care of your physical self today to ensure resilience for a Thanksgiving dinner decades in the future?
- Have you thought about where you live today and its impact on how well you will live as you age?
- If you were not to drive, are you near, or do you have access to activities you want and need to keep you healthy, happy, and connected?
- Is the home you are making memories in today one that you could see yourself aging in tomorrow?
These questions can wait until the day after Thanksgiving, but they are part of comprehensive longevity planning, the new retirement planning. For now, let’s talk cranberry sauce. Canned or hand-made? My vote is for canned.