Much like Pandora’s Box, old age is a gift with a downside. Those who are blessed with long life will inevitably see their minds and bodies start to wear out. Life happens. This is part of it. Lucky retirees enjoy good health and have sufficient incomes to cover daily needs. They have friends and family close enough to provide company and emotional support.

Lifelong interests plus new hobbies or second careers can keep these older adults feeling busy and useful until the end of their days. Worldwide tourism booms because of affluent gray-haired travelers wishing to explore the globe. For these folks, old age can truly be what all those TV commercials call, “The Golden Years.”

As a Certified Music Therapist, Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, and former Senior Center Director, my work takes me to a variety of medical and social service venues. Among my nursing home patients was an affluent society matron, widowed with adult children, who had enjoyed all the best life had to offer.

Ninety-three and wheelchair-bound, she took an avid interest in everything I offered. She enjoyed watching old and new movies, discussing theatre, literature, and acting in the radio plays I wrote with the patients. Since she had toured the world, she enjoyed travel films, reminiscing about her own experiences, and imaging herself in exotic places.

As we age, we change for better and worse. Gaining wisdom is wonderful, but losing agility and memory can be devastating. If we can use that wisdom to keep our sense of humor and stay busy, we can adjust and move through the changes very well. Without humor and a strong sense of self, the aging process can be a cruel thief, robbing us of good looks, mobility, sharp eyes, and ears.

Financial concerns can make life hard at any age. If pensions and/or social security are not enough to provide a comfortable lifestyle, if aging siblings and friends have all died, and grown children moved away, the feelings of loss can be devastating.

Medical science is keeping us alive longer, but doing li le to make those extended years happy and productive. We all smile at TV news broadcasts covering the latest centenarians. These elderly birthday boys or girls appear to be sweet and kind. Unfortunately, they are often monosyllabic and wheelchair-bound. We cringe watching aging individuals get strapped into wheelchairs, then warehoused along the corridors of nursing homes waiting to die.

Those of us with an aging loved one at home race to bookstores and surf the net hungry for the latest updates on the American healthcare system. Understanding differences between Medicare and Medicaid, how to spend down an aging person’s capital, the availability of home health aides, Meals on Wheels, and other services is complex but vital. Every caregiver must either understand ever-changing government benefits, or work closely with a Certified Social Worker who does. Few books and websites deal with an elderly person’s quality of life beyond basic physical needs.

My book does just that. It is a simple, step-by-step manual that can help you and your aging parent, relative, or friend enjoy life by discovering or rediscovering gratifying activities. These activities can be as simple as joining a sing-a- long, or as complex as learning electrical repair.

Every person on the planet enjoys doing something.

For thirty years, I have worked with vibrantly healthy elders and the frail elderly. I have counseled and been counseled by hundreds of wise, amusing, elderly men and women, all concerned with some old-age disability. Whatever their affliction, many have looked stern, pointed a finger, and commanded, “Christina, never grow old!” My usual response is to smile, give them a hug, and say, “But, I want to grow old. Very old! It sure beats the alternative.”

They usually laugh with me. Most elderly people are grateful to be alive. Those few who suffer from clinical depression or chronic pain, truly, and perhaps reasonably, wish for death. These individuals need serious medical and/ or psychiatric attention, right now!

My father died at the age of ninety-two. When people asked me what he died of, I replied, “He died from being ninety-two. He wore out.” At the time of his death, my father and I were at peace with each other. The journey to that peace was sometimes heartbreaking. At other times, it was a joy.

You will probably read my book because you care for an elderly parent, relative, or friend. To simplify my writing, I refer to these elderly loved ones as your “parent,” or “he.” If your parent has a safe, comfortable, and fulfilling lifestyle, God bless! May he live long and stay happy. If your parent is no longer capable of caring for himself, feels in some way unfulfilled, unhappy, is self-abusive, a danger to himself or others, my book can help you.

You and your parent may be best friends or virtual strangers with little in common. As a child, you may have been close to your parent. He may have watched over you, encouraged you, and taught you that you were special and loved. If your parent was distant, he may still have loved you, but lacked the nurturing skills to show you that love.

Financial worries, health problems, or circumstances having nothing to do with you, may have determined how your parent related to you, and to the rest of the world. However good or bad your relationship is right now, it can improve, once you have identified these Three Truths:

Your Parent's Basic Personality Type                                                                                                       Your Relationship to your Parent                                                                                                            What your Parent Needs to Feel Validated and Whole

from How to have Fun with your Aging Parents