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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The geriatric gap: Our aging blind-spot

We don't understand what 'growing old' means

It wasn’t the call. It wasn’t the flight. It wasn’t the hospital or even the startling news that his mother and father had been holding back information from him for over a year. With parents both in their late 70s, my friend Jeff knew there would come a day when their lifelong independence would be shaken by an unannounced change in health.

This was that day. Jeff was confronted with a father in cardiac intensive care, recovering from a heart attack, and a mother with undisclosed memory loss. As bad as this was, it’s not what had Jeff frustrated—and guilty. It was his failure to get his parents to respond the way he thought anyone would and should in this crisis.

Jeff wanted them to take action, to address all the obvious things that needed to be managed and changed. He tried logic, persuasion, sarcasm, guilt and threats. He feigned indifference. He acted out and became aggressive. After three long weeks of daily interactions with his parents, Jeff flew home. Defeated and exhausted, he asked himself, “Why is this so difficult?”


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

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