How To Gain Weight In One Easy Lesson
Many of us are worried about putting on weight. But when it comes to our dear parents in their later years, losing weight can be a very significant problem. Exhorting them to eat more will have about the same effect as when they told you to eat your lima beans when you were a kid. Ugh!
While our metabolisms inevitably slow down as we age, a significant factor for a surviving widow or widower living alone, is that eating alone is simply not much fun. And that leads one to the observation that in some situations, losing weight may be a symptom of a different problem than metabolism. That problem may be lack of socialization, especially for a parent living alone.
Most of us enjoy the company of others to one degree or another. There may be the occasional crusty old curmudgeon who prefers the company of his 1940’s short wave radio, (hey, my parents had one), and four walls, but those folks are few and far between.
The causes of lack of socialization are as simple as growing old. You outlive your friends. You lose your ability to drive. Your friends lose their ability to drive. You lose some mobility and it is harder to jump in someone’s car to go shopping. Your kids visit, if they live nearby, but they are also busy with their lives.
The result, slowly but surely, is more hours alone in your home, and fewer hours out and about with others. And getting out and about to see and do things with other people is as much fun for an 80 year old as it is for a toddler escaping the playpen (without the squeals of delight).
If your mother or father starts mentioning “I can’t go anywhere”, or “No one visits” or “I feel like I’m alone here” or “I’m bored”, those are sure signs that more interaction with other people is needed and they feel trapped.
For the person with easy access to transportation and the ability to use it, encouraging routine trips for shopping or sightseeing may help. But the person without easy transportation may need a more comprehensive, yet simple solution. That solution is assisted living.
One of the biggest virtues of assisted living is that there are numerous people around, all of whom can walk to everything they want to do in the same building. So mom or dad can join others for exercise class, for book reading, for movies, for ice cream on Thursdays, for social hours, and inevitably fierce bowling competition on the Wii. Most important, is that mom or dad will be sitting down to eat with others. I can relate from personal experience with my 90 year old mother, that she gained 12 pounds in three months after moving into an assisted living facility. And that’s with skipping her lima beans.
In her case, the lesson was clear. Being around others much of the day can be the difference between thriving and decline. Assisted living was the perfect answer for her. How do I know? Every time I stop by her apartment unannounced to see her, she is like the cat, Mephistopheles, in the musical CATS, she simply isn’t there. Probably out raiding the snack tray with some of her friends.
And one last thought on assisted living. It is more expensive than an apartment. But it includes food, utilities, and many other services. And for veterans or widows of veterans, there could be substantial VA benefits to help pay the cost of the assisted living. So on balance, the extra cost may not be that much, and the joy of easy socialization may easily outweigh those costs.