Guide

How To Improve Quality Of Life For Ageing Parents

The concepts and concerns related to quality of life in older ages are different from the general population. Older age brings increasing vulnerability as a result of physical and functional decline and for anyone that’s in a loving relationship with their parents, this vulnerability can be hard to watch. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that children can support their ageing parents to maintain a good quality of life.

What is quality of life and why is it important?

Quality of life can be both objective and subjective and can include social contacts, dependency, health, material circumstances and social comparisons. Adaptation and resilience often plays a part.

Quality of life embodies overall wellness and happiness and has intangible components, such as spiritual beliefs and a sense of belonging. For children of ageing parents, understanding the individual differences in both the current level of and change in quality of life over time is important for identifying potential targets for intervention.

What children can do to support quality of life for ageing parents

Around the home

Maintaining independence to comfortably and safely remain at home is one of the most important factors for good quality of life. According to the Australian Senior’s Quality of Life Report 2022, losing independence is one of the greatest fears (45% of respondents).

To help parents comfortably and safely stay in their home, take a fresh pair of eyes to the home. This may require you to rearrange furniture to remove trip hazards or to install rails for bathrooms and outdoor steps.

If your parents still enjoy gardening, installing raised garden beds and creating wide and even paths can be hugely beneficial. Long-handled tools can make digging and weeding easier too.

Staying active

Only one in four adults between 65 and 74 engage in regular physical activity. For those who don’t regularly exercise, they risk a decline in stamina and strength, as well as mental capacity.

As a child of ageing parents you can arm yourself with research to support the claim that regular physical activity offers a range of benefits to improve quality of life. You can also do research on what’s available in the local area, such as gym sessions specifically designed for older adults, a walking group, tai chi class or an aqua aerobics class. If you’re not available to go for walks with your parents yourself, seek out their friends and encourage them to get involved too.

Being social

Encouraging your parents to be more social can be as simple as phoning them or visiting them more often. You could take this one step further by baking some cupcakes with the grandkids and having your parents visit other elderly neighbours to share the love. This can be a great way to introduce new friendships within the local neighbourhood.

Outside of your own family, there are church groups, social service organisations and community groups that can help. Research suggests that social activities, social networks and social support aids cognitive functioning and some of the best activities they can engage in for improved cognitive ability include group walking, working in a community garden, volunteering, joining a choir, community excursions, engaging in arts and crafts or cooking classes and playing sport.

Sites like Meetup.com can also bring like minded people together.

Getting out and about

Downsizing the car to a vehicle that’s more manageable is one way to help your parent’s build confidence when driving. Switching from manual to an automatic or installing car parking reverse sensors is another.

Driving can become more difficult for seniors as reaction times slow and vision becomes impaired. Your parents may decide they only want to drive locally or they may decide not to drive at all. If they are adamant they don’t want to drive, take a few trips with them by train or bus to show them how easy it can be. Also remind them of services such as Uber, Dial-a-Ride and community transport.

Sometimes the decision to stop driving isn’t up to them and you may be required to step in. Consider these seven tips to help your conversation go a little smoother.

Eating well

One of the simplest pleasures in life is good food, yet many seniors resort to freezer meals as they age because they are relatively affordable and easy to prepare. Often high in sodium, these freezer meals can cause high blood pressure.

You can make sure your parents have access to high quality food they enjoy eating by dropping off pre-prepared home meals or by working with them to create some new tasty recipes. If you don’t have time or distance is an issue, look into meal delivery services such as Meals on Wheels or make at home meal kits like Hello Fresh. High quality, enjoyable food can be a really important part of a senior’s day.

Starting quality of life conversations early

It’s hard to get help for elderly parents when they don’t want it or don’t feel like they need it. That’s why it’s important to start early in your conversations about quality of life.

Quality of life isn’t something that’s only important in the senior years. Begin by talking about your own quality of life and ways that you think you can improve it. Brainstorm ideas and set goals together, committing to make small steps that will improve everyday life. Make new recipes together, start volunteering together – anything that gets your parents thinking about ways they improve their quality of life before it starts to decline.

Quality of life conversations should be part of your general chit chat and not a purposeful sit down that comes from nowhere and can cause parents to become defensive. Conversations that directly mention “carers”or “care at home” can trigger negative reactions so get parents used to talking about everyday life and the supports they require.

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