Just as 78 million baby boomers (born 1946-1964) and I were trying to figure out how to get old and care for our aging parents without losing it, Dr. Ruth (born 1928) launched her 34th book, “Dr. Ruth’s Top 10 Secrets for Great Sex.”
Intuitively, I know that the little lady with a shrill voice, who still lives where she raised her children before becoming famous, has more to teach us — and our parents — than what she calls “sexual literacy.”
If somebody can show us how to keep going without losing our sanity, and our sexuality, maybe Dr. Ruth can. And, wouldn’t we love to stroll on with her relentless smile and energy?
With that in mind, I asked Dr. Ruth what drove her to continue to share her wisdom and spunk with us. “What drives me is the interest in the subject matter!” she said. Short, sweet and to the point — like the woman herself.
It’s no coincidence that exercise (sex is one of the best), passion for something and connection with others are significant factors in staying healthy!
Aging can interfere with those things; and so can caring for parents! Half of the 44 million doing so in the United States are baby boomers; and 80 percent report a strain on their relationship (according to a Caring.com survey). It’s time consuming, costly and sometimes exasperating to care for a parent who is becoming more childlike; it can even be traumatic, particularly if you see yourself in a weakening parent.
We can hold on to what’s most meaningful, though — for ourselves and our parents. That’s not to say medical problems won’t develop; but by having the basics of a healthy lifestyle in place, we decrease the probability, while increasing the chances of recovery.
How? We can be present with our parents, so that we don’t wake up and realize that we don’t know them anymore. We can believe in them and encourage them to do what they still can for themselves and for others. And we can help them revisit an old passion or find a new one. We can go for a walk with them or buy them dumbbells to strengthen their bones and muscles.
We can also remember our parents when they were young and vibrant, and look around at the Dr. Ruths of the world who exemplify the wisdom of age. Then, we’re more apt to recognize the insight of our own parents, even when it hides behind a stutter or the wrong word … or the wrong name.
My mom knows who I am even when she calls me by each of my three sister’s names before she gets to mine. She has seen deep inside me ever since I can remember.
But now here I am, a real live adult with my own wrinkles, as I contemplate how to care for my mom (knowing that with 4 living siblings, I have limited say) … and how to age myself with as much grace as possible.
Sometimes we concede to a parent’s ill health and just try to do things for them — maybe because we love them, maybe because we feel guilty, maybe because we’re not doctors and don’t know what to do other than listen, sometimes not so well.
We can talk to the doctors and explore care options, offer financial support and even open our homes … but it’s possible to do those things without improving the quality of their lives.
Our real task is to stay connected with them and try to keep them interested in life and passionate about living it. Then, with grace and gratitude, we can accept what is that we can’t change — for ourselves and them.
But we can also learn from our parents what to do differently. We don’t have to retire simply because we are old enough or financially secure enough. And regardless, we can stay connected with loved ones, stay engaged physically and mentally, and hold on to a passion that’s worth sharing.