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Conflicted Over Your Aging Parent’s Romantic Relationship?

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aging parent romance

Do you think Dad is jumping into a new romance too soon after Mom’s death?

Do you feel Mom’s new boyfriend is too controlling?

Do you feel uncomfortable around Mom’s new boyfriend or just find you can’t warm up to him?

Are you conflicted about asking Dad’s new girlfriend to attend family events?

These and many other questions arise when your aging parent gets involved in a new romantic relationship. We all know (intellectually at least) that it’s natural for people of all ages to want love and companionship. We likely want our aging parents to be happy and have someone to spend time with and enjoy. But, the reality may be a lot more complicated. You might be grieving over your deceased parent and trying to deal with those feelings while Mom or Dad is embracing a new relationship. There might be all kinds of family history and emotions involved.

Our feelings about our parents’ sexuality, or sex and aging in general, can make us uncomfortable about issues related to intimacy too. Do you put Mom and her new boyfriend in separate rooms when they come to visit or ask them what they prefer? Do you feel embarrassed when you see Dad being affectionate with his new girlfriend?

Even when family members get along well, new relationships can be tricky. The issues are exacerbated when there’s pre-existing conflict or concerns come up over money, control, care disagreements, etc. When an aging parent decides to get married or make major life changes related to a new relationship, our discomfort might turn to concern.

Here are a few tips when your aging parent gets involved in a new romance and you’re feeling conflicted:

  • Explore your feelings and try to separate your emotions from concerns about the relationship. There are times when you may spot legitimate concerns that an older relative might be in an exploitative or unhealthy relationship (for more on this topic, visit EasyLiving’s article “Exploitation or Love?”). On the other hand, age does not always bring the wisdom we hope and our older loved ones may have every right to make questionable relationship choices.
  • If you are feeling conflicted or struggling with grief over a deceased parent, seek out a support group or counselor. Feel free to contact our team for recommendations.
  • Get an outside party involved with family mediation or moderating discussions about conflicts or big decisions.
  • Question your own beliefs and stereotypes. Are you treating your parent more like a child? What feelings might be impacting the way you perceive Dad’s new girlfriend?
  • Try to get to know the new partner. Keep in touch with your loved one and be welcoming to the new partner. Unless there are signs of mistreatment, you probably don’t want to let your negative feelings cause major damage to your relationship.

At other times, you might be concerned that your aging parent is isolated and lonely. Depression is often misinterpreted as a normal part of aging or grieving. Keep an eye out for signs of depression and encourage your loved one to stay involved in activities and relationships. Check out some of our tips for helping a depressed, isolated older relative. Varied relationships and social engagement keeps us emotionally, and even physically, healthy.

Our team is here to help, whether you just need someone to talk to, a neutral professional to evaluate or mediate, or help with assessments, counseling or professional services. Call us at 727-447-5845.

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The Age of Love and Older Adult Relationships

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Age-of-Love-postcard_front

One February 27th, we will be co-hosting an exclusive screening of The Age of Love at Mease Manor in Dunedin. The Age of Love is new documentary that follows the adventures of 30 seniors who sign up for a first-of-its-kind speed dating event exclusively for 70- to 90-year-olds. It follows the stories of some of the seniors involved and explores themes about love, relationships and how dreams and desires change – or don’t change – from first love to the far reaches of life. If you’re interested in getting a sneak peak at The Age of Love movie, RSVP today to reserve your seat.

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Why did Aging Wisely and EasyLiving think The Age of Love screening was important to co-host?

We have always made it our mission to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial well-being. We understand the importance of seeing each elder as an individual and understanding the human needs that continue over a lifetime. Elders are as varied as any age group of people, maybe even more so since they have had many years of different life experiences, and their relationship needs, desires and concerns vary widely too. There are many underlying stereotypes and assumptions we may hold about older adults (often without even realizing it) and this movie helps get us thinking about them.

The movie also reminds us of the importance of relationships and companionship in later life. Many of the speed dating participants have lost spouses over the years through divorce or death. Most are looking to find the same thing many of us are: a companion to sit by their side and avoid facing the process of aging alone. Contrary to what society constantly seems to tell us, growing older doesn’t mean that we cease to have the same desires as anyone else, and it’s heartening to see The Age of Love take those desires seriously.

Ask Yourself: Discussion Topics from The Age of Love

How You View Older Adults
  • “My perception of myself at this age is certainly different than the perception I had of my grandparents.”—Dwight, The Age of Love  How do you imagine you’ll be as an elder? Is it different than how you see elders you know? How do you think we tend to see ourselves in terms of age? Do you think elders today are different from elders 20-30 years ago? What about in the future?
  • Do you inadvertently treat elders in a child-like manner at times (using terms like “honey” or calling them “cute”)?
  • Are there ways in which you might be treating elders as if their needs and concerns are all the same?
  • Do you have certain assumptions about elders in terms of romantic and intimate relationships?
Loss, Isolation and Loneliness in Old Age
  • Older adults disproportionately suffer from loneliness and isolation. What are some of the things about the way our society is structured that might contribute to this?
  • What are some possibly solutions to loneliness and isolation/losses of aging? If you notice an older loved one becoming more isolated, what would you do?
Relationship Issues
  • If you work (or imagine yourself working) at an Assisted Living or other senior care setting, would your personal beliefs impact your interactions with senior clients and their relationships? For example, how would you feel and react to a same-sex relationship among two residents? How would you feel if a woman with a spouse living in the community began having a relationship with another man in the community?
  • What complications arise when elders have dementia? How can we define their ability to consent to a relationship?
  • What feelings would you have if your widowed parent become involved with someone new? Would there be a situation where you can see being concerned (what would cause you concern)?
  • In care facilities, how can we balance the need for safety/supervision in group settings with the reality that older adults do continue to be sexual human beings with a need for intimacy and private time?

We’ll be sharing more thought-provoking questions, answers and information throughout the month, so stay tuned!

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’s a great time to take a look at those you love with a new lens. In addition to logistical and medical needs that come with aging, don’t forget the diverse human needs of your aging parents.

Aging Wisely is here to help! Our comprehensive assessment is a holistic look at the situation, offering solutions to ensure a well-rounded quality of life. Some of the issues we help with include: family mediation (dealing with conflicts over relationships and concerns you might have about someone being taken advantage of), engaging eldercare services and resources for a more fulfilling life, suggesting age-friendly activities to suit the person’s interests and abilities…and more. Contact us at 727-447-5845 for a free consultation!

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Mission Statement

Our goal is to enable every individual we work with to live the most fulfilling life possible, with utmost dignity, focusing on their physical, mental, spiritual, family and financial wellbeing.