When Parents Need Nurturing – The New York Times Interview with Maud Purcell

“Growing old is not for sissies.”

I hear this often and have said it myself. Among the many challenges of aging is knowing when to seek help and how to accept it graciously.

Most often, the source of help is an adult child (or children) who may not be in a position to satisfy all the physical and emotional needs of an aging parent (or parents). Advanced old age can create a role reversal: children who once required a nurturing parent must now nurture their parents.

Recognizing that the demands of modern life have eroded the time-honored commitments to care for aging parents, China recently put in effect a law called “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People.” It requires children to meet the emotional and physical needs of their parents, and to visit them often or face fines or possible jail time.

In some former Soviet bloc countries, aging parents can sue children for failing to provide needed financial support. Interestingly, there are similar laws still on the books in many American states, mostly unenforced relics of a bygone era.

But with or without a law, moral obligations to assist one’s aging parents are commonly felt…

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