Age changes the game, but younger relatives might not understand your perspective. That’s why it’s so important to express yourself.

Ways to express your perspective…

Whether they refuse the vaccine even though you’re in a risk group, scrutinize you for minor lapses, or speak to you like a child, it’s ok to feel uncomfortable about their attitude. You don’t have to create conflict, but it’s ok to clarify and own your perspective.

Asking to respect COVID precautions

Masks, vaccines, distancing, family get-togethers…

As a person in a population that is extra vulnerable to COVID, it makes sense for you to carry more anxieties about health guidelines. It’s really important for everyone in your immediate circle to take things as seriously as you do for your health.

If people around you are putting you at risk, you have the right to assert your needs. Multiple advice columns support that drawing those boundaries is well within your rights. Start by telling your loved ones how you feel and expressing your wishes.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s faced this difficulty this year. One of my family members, who’s in his 40s, has consistently refused to be vaccinated against Covid and will not be moved from his position. He will not explain his reasons for rejecting the vaccine, whether it is ideological or simply rebellion against the so-called “nanny state”.

He has already been (politely but firmly) excluded from one family get-together as a result of his intransigence. We have explained that he is not being rejected personally, but there are concerns within the family about his vulnerability to catching the virus and transmitting the infection to the children and their grandparents.

Before Covid, we used to get together with grandchildren and in-laws for Christmas. Last year we all celebrated separately as Covid made it impossible to gather. None of us dares broach the subject of a family gathering this year, and everyone, except the person in question is too polite and kind to tackle the dilemma head-on. I suspect we’ll just repeat last year’s plan, but it annoys me that this vaccine-refuser has spoiled a family tradition.

Does it really matter about a lost Christmas? It does for the older members of the family, who treasure any time with their kids. It is difficult to know what his priority is, although so far it seems to be his own needs.
One individual’s experience, shared with The Guardian

The Guardian’s Annalisa Barbieri advises that “the best thing to do is face this head-on and just explain that, because of his stance on vaccination and the fact he doesn’t want to get vaccinated, you’ll have to go ahead without him.” If this relative still isn’t receptive to your perspective? You’re under no obligation to hang out with someone who doesn’t respect your health.

Modifying types of activities shared

Your body has changed and will continue to do so. That doesn’t mean you can’t keep up a social, engaging practice. When your loved ones suggest activities that don’t feel good to you, get in the habit of providing an alternative suggestion that fits your needs. Instead of a hike, suggest an outdoors walk or a picnic.

Objecting to scrutiny over minor lapses

It’s incredibly frustrating when you experience lapses in your memory and your family keeps pointing it out. 

This article from The Atlantic gives an example of an older woman named Elinor who feels like she’s “constantly being assessed” around her kids. The reality is, your kids and other loved ones are looking out for you, and commenting on what they notice makes them feel like they’re acting in your best interest.

If you’re feeling frustrated about all the comments, it can help to put your feelings on the table. Let your kids know that you’re aware of these lapses, and that you’re aware they noticed them. 

Share how you feel when the lapses happen, and how you might like your kids to address the lapses in a more helpful way. While they likely won’t stop noticing your memory lapses, they can learn to manage them more effectively, and better support you.

Asking for more attention

No, you are probably not asking for an inordinate amount of help. You have a changing body and are entitled to request more support through that process. Whether it’s assistance with weekly groceries, rides to appointments, or company every once in a while on a walk, you deserve to express your needs.

Sometimes with adult children, you have to get on the same page about adult-to-adult relationships. While you are still parent and child, you are now both adults, and that means that asking for help can (and should) go both ways. It takes time to adjust when factors (like aging) change relationship dynamics, and that’s okay. Acceptance and grace are needed on all ends, and being honest about what you need is a great step to building a supportive foundation.

Asking for less attention–I’m not a baby!

Professor Karen Fingerman studies human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, and shared with The Atlantic: “We found in our research that when the middle-aged adult is worried about the aging parent, the parent is both annoyed by that and feels more loved.”

If you feel like you’re being crowded by your kids, express it! Your kids want to support you as best as they can, and alerting them to back off a little should only help your relationship. There’s a balance between being caring and overbearing, and you have a say about where that is.

Calling out when you feel patronized for your age

As an older adult, it feels terrible when people talk to you like you’re a little kid who doesn’t understand what’s going on. It’s demeaning and can make you feel incompetent. Next time you find that someone is diminishing your worth or not taking you seriously, remember that you have a voice and can express your perspective.

An article from Prevention details examples of turning things around when you’re patronized. Try responding with humor, explaining yourself in a neutral tone, or ending the conversation if you need to. It’s okay to put yourself and your feelings first.

The “calling in” technique can also be used: instead of implying negative intentions, “call in” the behavior by asking if the other person has considered their words might be received this way.

Need more concrete guidance?

Consider using the dowloadable worksheet below to help frame a conversation that negotiates between your perspective and your relative’s.

When you speak your mind, your loved ones appreciate it. Expressing yourself is also one way to show yourself love and respect. Even though your loved ones can fall short in caring about your age, remember that you can explain your perspective to them.