Age Can Give Life to Family

Published February 20, 1980. A few weeks ago, a reader wrote in about the possibility of having her parents live with them again. She suggested it may be difficult since she still had small children at home. Another reader has a different perspective which deserves consideration. She wrote:

“Dear Dr. Barlow,

Your recent article in the Desert News dealt with the situation of older people living with married children when the grandchildren are small. This would be admittedly difficult, both for the elderly as well as the other family members. However, doesn’t this circumstance usually arise after the grandchildren are married, or at least no longer tiny?

One point you didn’t mention is that much difficulty today is rooted in the fact of the permissive upbringing of the younger generation. Isn’t permissiveness, indulgence, and lack of discipline much of the reason for the present high divorce rates, vice, violence and gluttony in the uses of liquor, tobacco, drugs – yes, and food?

Serious problems do arise quite often when older folks live with their married children. But isn’t that what life is all about – learning to cope with problems.? Or do we want an entirely problem-free world for our young people? Isn’t character building considered important any longer?

Recently I heard a young man express his appreciation for the privilege of having his grandfather in their home during his later years until his death. There were problems of course, but also much joy in the exchange of love, compassion and understanding of one another. The young man was soon to leave home and recognized the value of the experience he had gained. To him, it was a good schooling for the immediate future and probably the remainder of his life.

Have selflessness and self-discipline lost their value or meaning? While we who are altruistic try to help our fellow man, isn’t almost everyone else looking for the easy tasks? Who is going to do the harder ones? Surely, if a nurse can attend an incontinent patient, or deal with the temper-tantrums of an unruly old person, a family member can learn to do as much. They did it for us in our infancy and youth.

If people could learn to accept responsibility, it would save them from years of guilty feelings later on. We do have many selfless people in our communities. Please encourage more of us to this end.”

I appreciate the perspective and candor of both readers who wrote. As mentioned in the article, situations and circumstances vary from couple to couple, and how one couple deals with the issue may differ from another. We should keep the needs of the elderly in mind as well as the needs of the married couple.

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