Focus on the Family

Aging Parents No Longer Have Zest for Life

Q: My parents are in their 70s and have lost their passion for life. They have a hard time finding meaning and purpose. Is there any advice or resources that would challenge them to find purpose again?

Juli: Your parents are fortunate to have a child as concerned for them as you are. Although we tend to slow down and retreat in our 70s, staying active is important to good physical, mental and spiritual health.

There are two primary obstacles to activity that you can help your parents overcome. The first is the lack of initiative. Throughout their lifetimes, your parents have always had things that must be done. Work, children, household responsibilities and community expectations get us out of bed, off the couch and into life. Without the pressure of earning money or having people depend on them, your parents lack the motivation to get moving.

The second obstacle is the belief that they have nothing to contribute. We live in a culture that prizes strong bodies, young faces and quick minds. The wisdom and maturity that come in the later years are all too often undervalued. Older men and women don't feel welcomed or needed anywhere.

You can address both of these obstacles by inviting and welcoming your parents into your life. Help them discover how much they have to offer you, their grandchildren, their church and their community. There are many nonprofit organizations that function because of their senior volunteers. Even within your own family, your parents need you to need them and regularly ask for their help and wisdom. Your initial motivation may be for their good, but you're likely to be surprised how much your parents can actually bless and help you.

Jim: It's not uncommon for kids to react negatively to a sudden disruption in the family routine. But it's quite another thing to become, in your own words, "very angry and depressed." It is difficult to say without knowing more about your situation, but it's possible that there may be other issues contributing to your daughter's strong emotional backlash -- subtle problems that have been brought to the surface as a result of this current "crisis."

Whether you believe her behavior is only the result of her dad's change in schedule, or indicative of deeper issues, we would encourage you to consult a psychologist or family therapist. It's important that the entire family be involved in this process. For a list of licensed practitioners in your area, contact Focus on the Family.

In the meantime, you and your husband need to make some hard decisions about how to balance career and family in the future. We're of the opinion that your present arrangement should be viewed as a temporary measure. If your husband's job in the other city is expected to be a long-term commitment, we'd encourage you to think about relocating. Otherwise, we'd advise your husband to consider looking for employment closer to home, even if that means taking a cut in pay.

Until then, he can help ease the stress by keeping in close contact while on the road. I make it a point to call and talk with my boys at least once a day when I'm traveling, and to send pictures and other updates from my smartphone.

Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.)

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