Two Steps to Help You Educate Older Folks About Self-Care

If you’ve taken to self-care like a fish to water, why not introduce this lifestyle philosophy to your parents and grandparents? But even if you'd love to share the benefits of your self-care practices with the older generation, can you teach an old dog new tricks? These tips will help you take the right approach.


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Step One: Mind-Set
A fundamental pillar of self-care is the concept that wellbeing goes deeper than simply being in good physical health. Many middle-aged and older people are treated for physical illness without mental health issues being addressed. Unfortunately, this focus on medically-defined health is often compounded by family and friends and the health system. While your older loved one's physical health may be your primary concern, try not to obsess over it to the exclusion of other health areas. (For example, if you're driving Grandma home from a doctor's appointment, rather than thinking, 'The doctor said everything was fine, so Grandma is fine,' consider taking the opportunity to make it clear to your Gran that her happiness matters, as well as her health.) Older people deserve to be fully expressed human beings in their old age, not just physically healthy. Investing in certified palliative care is a great way to instil this attitude in your ageing loved one. When the focus of care is on overall quality of life, rather than simply relieving pain, the patient is encouraged to enjoy life for life’s sake. When you speak to your loved one about self-care, reminding them that self-care goes beyond medical necessity is a great place to start.


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Step Two: Lifestyle
Unfortunately, many older people, especially women, grew up with the assumption that their primary role is to make sure that the family eats three square meals a day. Then, once the children have moved out—or the tragic death of a spouse—they no longer feel the motivation to cook healthy meals. Why? Perhaps they don’t consider themselves worthy of care. If your parent or grandparent lives on microwave meals, diet is a good place to start a self-care regimen. Try to talk to them about the importance of eating well for the sake of their own health. Likewise, if they used to walk to the shops to do weekly errands, encourage them to keep up their exercise habits now that they are alone.

Raising these issues may be interpreted as petty at first, but after a while it will become clear that by taking an interest in their diet and exercise you are showing that you value them as a person. An older person may not be up for grocery shopping or cooking every night of the week, so you may need to employ a trusted helper for these tasks.

If you’re into self-care, you live by the dictum that unless you take good care of yourself, you cannot fully be there for others. This is a highly adaptive attitude that you will most likely teach your children. But what about the older generation? Your parents and their parents?

If you’d like to share the wonders of self-care with your parents or grandparents, these tips will help you encourage small changes with great results for their physical, emotional and mental health.

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