A YEI member article
South African senior citizens,
seemingly the stalwarts of the community.
Do you, the children of ageing parents really know what’s going on behind closed doors?
Happy families. We see them out and about. We see them on Facebook and Instagram. Senior citizens – happy snaps of smiling grandparents, busy, active parents and greatly adored grandchildren, not forgetting the family pets. These families are the ‘norms’ of society; seemingly the stalwarts of the community.
Yet, on the flip side of the coin, if we delve a little deeper, we find that we have a relatively high percentage of dysfunctional families too. Home circumstances where drugs, alcohol and domestic violence are rife. Mix poverty into the equation, and we see that many families are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain an acceptable, moderate lifestyle which allows for the provision of daily essentials and a nutritious meal on the table each evening.
It’s true, we are living in tough times. It also appears that among the hardest hit are those being forced into early retirement or finding themselves jobless due to redundancy. Many affected people are of the ‘baby boomer’ generation. Folk in their sixties and seventies, who have successfully raised children, and should now be at a stage in life where they are able to travel and enjoy their twilight years, without fear of ending up aged and penniless. The sad reality, however, is that unless both spouses had essentially lucrative careers, this is seldom the case. The floundering economy has taken its toll in spite of provisions made.
Poor financial choices for whatever reason, lack of career advancement over the past years, and even marriage failures ending in divorce, are additional pitfalls that have led to the trauma of facing the future with anxious financial concerns. This can have a devastating effect on the aged person’s mental health, which will in turn eventually affect their overall physical wellbeing.
Hopefully those seniors whose children do earn a sizable income, will offer to contribute towards easing their elderly parents anxieties regarding their remaining years. Even slightly subsidizing their parents’ waning income may grant the elderly the assurance tthat they need in order to enjoy their golden years without constant worry.
I am not for one minute suggesting that children are totally responsible for their parents finances or lack thereof, but here are some points to ponder –
How many children know what their parents’ approximate monthly income / expenditure is? How long have they been retired? How is inflation impacting their investments? Do they have sufficient income for their monthly needs?
It is so easy, and even natural, especially for children living abroad, to assume that their parents are doing okay. This is particularly true if the parents were always good providers and still live in a comfortable, bond-free home. But this might well not be the case. Many retired people that I’ve spoken to have confided their concerns in that they are becoming poorer by the year. This is soul wrenching, and more so when their children are known to be living relatively luxurious lives and are totally oblivious to their parents’ ongoing struggles to make ends meet.
In most cases, aged parents are too proud to ask their children for financial assistance. Having always been the bread winners / providers, they feel that they would be deemed failures and perhaps not be loved as much if they were suddenly forced to admit that they are no longer in a position to travel or afford expensive gifts.
This is a very real fear, and a source of stress and distress. Most parents would rather sacrifice their own needs in order to spoil their loved ones on birthdays, and special occasions. Such behaviour, of course, in turn gives children the impression that all is well, and so the sad cycle continues.
To some, this may sound exaggerated, but it’s a real thing and affects many seniors. The question remains – how many children are aware of their parents’ financial position? And how about medical aid? This is the time of life when older people need it the most, yet many seniors are being forced to downgrade to hospital plans or even no medical, in order to live without supplemental income. The same applies to insurance policies – many seniors are cancelling insurance policies just to exist.
With respect, may I please encourage young people to do the responsible thing. Have that difficult conversation with their parents. Yes, address the elephant in the room. Use the “F” word – that ‘thing’ that causes their lips to smile, but their hearts to ache. Namely, Finances. Your parents cared for you during childhood; accept the challenge and privilege of doing the same for them in their golden years. If it turns out that they’re secure, good and well. They will know you cared enough to check, and be grateful for your concern. If there is a shortfall or you find they are living on the breadline, see how you can help. Even a small amount or taking over a bill payment could make a huge difference. If needs be, think out of the box. For example – your parents might be thinking of selling their home to make ends meet. If that happens, there is a good chance that the profits will be swallowed up in no time, as the cost of living continues to rise. A point to consider is that, if you had been in the know, you may have been able to contribute a small amount each month, resulting in there being a property to inherit further down the track. An all round win-win situation?
Lastly, yes, it is normal for young couples to be so wrapped up with their own lives, careers, and children big or small, that it doesn’t occur to them to ask their ageing parents about their financial status. I have written from my heart, and I hope that my words speak to yours.
Don’t leave it until it’s too late and your nearest and dearest have passed on. Stay in touch. Your parents desperately need the contact. Stay on top of their affairs. Encourage your children to love their grandparents and to share their interests with them. Make use of technology and embrace the moments of connection. These caring interactions will ensure that your parents enjoy a great quality of life in their golden years, and will fill their hearts with warm gratitude, whilst you will have the knowledge that you showed love and compassion, resulting in a life lived with no regrets.
It is sometimes the case that the children are the ones who need financial assistance from the parents. And there are parents around who are in a position to assist in such situations.
At the end of the day, open and honest communication is key,
and nothing is more important than family.
We look forward to you sharing your comments
and stories, in the comments section below…
An article by a YEI member, Carrol Harrison
Carrol is 71, a baby boomer, retired and living in Sedgefield.
Carrol lives in a village, home to mainly retired people and her story emanates from the conversations she has had with many retirees, which is appearing to be an all too common thread in many seniors’ lives.
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