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Back in my day

By Marianne Delorey

“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.”  – J.K. Rowling
Tension between the generations is natural. Even young toddlers need to push off from their mothers’ arms and learn to walk without help. This sets the precedent for many many things to come. It is most obvious when those beautiful babies become temperamental teenagers and nothing you can say or do is even remotely correct. It is hard, as the mother of a teenager, to not take this independence personally. It is hard to see it for what it is: a way for them to find their own footing and become who they were meant to be. It is also hard for parents to recognize them as their own individuals, irrespective of who they are relative to us. We hope that they recognize the wisdom of the older generations and – gasp!- even occasionally ask for assistance and insight.

But every generation of teenagers needs to find its own way, and our generations were no different. It is still hard for me to ask for help – whether it is from my children, asking about how to use a new piece of technology – or from my elders on how they handled difficult situations (for example, living with teenagers). Each generation assumes so much has changed that the older generation may not be able to offer help. Certainly, I cannot ask my mother if 12 is too young for a first phone. But the bigger picture is still there – I could ask her at what point I was ready for more responsibility.

The reality is, despite how the world changes, we can still rely on our older generations to teach us. And one of the best things they can teach us about is how to age. The younger generations won’t listen, let’s be honest about that, but our older folks can lead by example, and sometimes, that is even better.

Meet Louise and Ann. These two sisters remember visiting their mother and aunt in elderly housing 30 some odd years ago. When it came time for them to consider the move, there was a comfort level with the building they had visited before. One had taken a fall, the other was sick to death of stairs. But for both, the familiarity of the building felt right when the time came.  Having each other nearby made the transition easier, but they have both embraced aging in their own way. One jumped in with two feet, volunteering to do announcements for the office. The other quietly does puzzles in the library. Given the example of their mom, they are anticipating aging for a long time to come. They have set themselves up for their next chapter and are enjoying what it offers.

For our company, it feels warm and fuzzy for us to be a tradition of sorts, but it is also wonderful and humbling and scary that we have now been around for generations. And the hope is that we will be there for generations to come. I think ahead about my own retirement. It is hard to picture myself even shorter and with even more gray hair, but I think I would thrive in a community where I could help out and enjoy the company of others.

We all need role models. In my line of work, I am blessed to have had several wonderful examples of how to age. If you don’t have a role model, find one, or even better, make your own.

Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or mdelorey@colonyretirement.com and www.colonyretirementhomes.com.

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