DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of my family is an older woman who has been independent her whole life. After she retired, she became the chair of a charitable board and says she is not ready to relax or stop working. She is nearing 80, and my family has noticed that she seems to need assistance with physical aspects in her life. She cannot bend down easily or carry things over a couple of pounds without dropping them. Her mind is very sharp, but her body is not as able as it used to be. Whenever someone mentions anything regarding her needing help, she gets incredibly defensive and shuts down the conversation. I can imagine that realizing one's body is aging is not the best feeling, but I want her to accept her limitations and know how to ask for help with physical labor. Who should talk to her about this? We don't want her getting hurt over something avoidable. -- Handing Over the Reins, Dallas
DEAR HANDING OVER THE REINS: Part of the reason that older people who are vibrant remain so is that they put mind over matter. They often will themselves into being able to do things that their bodies no longer feel comfortable doing. This is also why it is important for people like you to be on the lookout.
One thing that we do with my 85-year-old mother, who sometimes has difficulty walking, is to say that in places like airports she should ride in a wheelchair. Why waste your walking on those long walkways? Save walking for when you have to do it! She likes that option. With your friend, you may offer to help with this or that while saying, "Why waste your energy on handling groceries when you need it for supporting your charity?" Translation: Think of a viable reason for her to relinquish certain duties without pointing out her frailty. You should get better results.