One of the things that happen naturally as we age is that our minds age as well and tasks that seemed really easy start to feel more and more complicated. Most people wouldn’t think of these as tasks that are all that hard, but for an older person these can easily become confusing to the point of frustration. Unfortunately, these changes happen slowly over time so the frustration builds slowly. These may not seem complicated to a younger person, but tasks like these can become overwhelming as the brain is less able to process:
- Driving a car
- Sorting and tracking postal mail (advertisements vs. scams vs. legitimate bills)
- Understanding websites that require complex passwords, and processes that have pop-up upsells
- Using and being able to comprehend changes in dynamic websites such as Facebook
- Watching out for unusual activity on billing statements, or for understanding incorrect charges
- Operating typical “smartphone” mobile phones
- Tracking checks and reviewing and paying bills
I have watched as my own father finds simple computer tasks such as copying files, updating software, and surfing the internet become frustrating. As a physiotherapist I know put it: “What takes one time for a young person to master, will take us middle-aged folks three times to get it, but ten times for our parents to figure it out.”
In some cases, either ceasing the activity or finding simpler alternatives can be done. But who wants to admit that they are going to have to give up their car, or their smartphone or web access to see family photos on Facebook? Another struggle is that often there are no children (or tech-savvy grandchildren!) nearby to turn to as offspring scatter after growing up. If there are any children local, they are often dealing with being sandwiched between taking care of their own children and taking care of their parents and may feel guilty about not being able to handle both at the same time. Sometimes one feels like the only solution is to put mom or dad into a retirement home in order to get them the care needed.
But that isn’t the only solution. It is possible for an older person to continue to live in their home, and to provide services that come to them to assist in those areas where they find tasks too difficult or complicated. Although they cost money, a study has shown that there are very real benefits to keeping an older person in their own home and functioning as well as possible by bringing in services to assist with those tasks that are too complicated and frustrating to do themselves. People want to stay in their homes — 90% of people over 65 wanted to stay in their homes. Not only that, it can be cheaper as well. The research from the National Aging in Place Council (www.ageinplace.com) showed that costs to stay in the home annually are about $23,000 compared with $60,000 to live in independent living facilities (in 2009 dollars).
Next time I’ll go into more detail about the financial and organizational aspect of running a home and how that can be extended through services available to people who are either too busy, or unable to handle it themselves. Stay tuned!