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Mom, retired... and depressed...
Old 05-13-2008, 04:01 PM   #1
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Mom, retired... and depressed...

Hi everyone,

My mom has been retired for about 7 months now. She is in her early sixties and, in the past few years, she has had several bouts of illnesses that forced her to retire earlier than she would have liked. Since those illnesses were thought to be related to her high stress level at work, she decided that it would be much better for her health and sanity to retire.

The first few months of retirement were good. It was like a big vacation. But in the past few weeks, she has started to sound depressed. She feels lonely and irrelevant. My parents have been divorced for 20 years and while my dad moved on, my mom never got over it. She lives alone, has very few friends, does not participate to any social activities outside familial affairs, and though she would like to meet new people (friends or SO) she seems scared to test the waters (she is quite shy). Her two older sisters, to whom she is very close, live right around the corner from her. They both have been retired for many years and have grown accustomed to doing things together (traveling, going to the movies, walking). Now that my mom is also retired, she would like to be included but it's not happening for whatever reason.

My sister and I try to make sure we include my mom as much as we can (I call her several times a week and visit as often as I can and she sees or talks to my sister almost everyday), but it doesn't seem to be enough. We feel like she has to get out there and make a life for herself, meet people, make friends, volunteer, join a traveling or a hiking group, do something proactive instead of waiting for other people to come to her. She is still young and mostly healthy and if she only could break out of her shell I feel like her life could be much happier.

In the mean time, she returned to work part time to help fill her days with meaningful work (same stressful job she quit last year). She is not really happy about it but at least she doesn't feel lonely all day.

What would you suggest we do to help her enjoy her retirement?
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Old 05-13-2008, 04:25 PM   #2
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Talk to her sisters to find out why she isn't included?
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Old 05-13-2008, 04:25 PM   #3
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I'm sorry to hear about your mom. My late father was in much the same boat (although at least he had my mom and denied the need for other companionship). I can certaily empathize with you.

Question: does she expressly complain about feeling depressed, lonely and isolated, or is that the (not unreasonable) inference that you've drawn from her circumstances?

In the first case, I would suggest that you do some investigations and find her a qualified coach or therapist that can work on her shyness and social inhibitions. If she is unwilling to consider such professional help, well, resign yourself to the fact that she will be unhappy ... at least you'll know that you've done what you can.

In the second case, you'll want to be careful that you are not projecting your own desires. Perhaps she is just unusually introverted and is more or less content to be without friends. You and your sister can make some tactful suggestions, but if there is resistance, I'd back off.

I wish you every success in doing whatever seems right to you. Just keep in mind that ultimately, it is her life to live. Try to be reasonably supportive, but don't spend too much time worrying about this: you have your own life to enjoy, too!
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Old 05-13-2008, 04:51 PM   #4
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Talk to her sisters to find out why she isn't included?
My mom is a worrier and her two sisters are pretty carefree. I have the feeling that they think my mom is not always a fun person to be around and so they'd rather do things on their own. But I am sure they would never admit that if I asked them. I can always try I guess...
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Old 05-13-2008, 04:57 PM   #5
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My mom is a worrier and her two sisters are pretty carefree. I have the feeling that they think my mom is not always a fun person to be around and so they'd rather do things on their own. But I am sure they would never admit that if I asked them. I can always try I guess...
Funny, but it is similar to what I was thinking... that she was at a job with high stress.. which might mean she was in charge... and would want to be 'in charge' with her sisters...

They have found a nice balance... and a third who wants to be pushy is not appreciated... I think SHE has to step back and just 'tag along' if they will allow... and do everything they want, without complaint.. until she finds her balance...
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Old 05-13-2008, 05:03 PM   #6
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I'm sorry to hear about your mom. My late father was in much the same boat (although at least he had my mom and denied the need for other companionship). I can certaily empathize with you.

Question: does she expressly complain about feeling depressed, lonely and isolated, or is that the (not unreasonable) inference that you've drawn from her circumstances?

In the first case, I would suggest that you do some investigations and find her a qualified coach or therapist that can work on her shyness and social inhibitions. If she is unwilling to consider such professional help, well, resign yourself to the fact that she will be unhappy ... at least you'll know that you've done what you can.

In the second case, you'll want to be careful that you are not projecting your own desires. Perhaps she is just unusually introverted and is more or less content to be without friends. You and your sister can make some tactful suggestions, but if there is resistance, I'd back off.

I wish you every success in doing whatever seems right to you. Just keep in mind that ultimately, it is her life to live. Try to be reasonably supportive, but don't spend too much time worrying about this: you have your own life to enjoy, too!
Thanks for your kind words. She expressly complains about feeling lonely. And I feel sad for her. But at the same time she does not take any step to remedy the situation. I don't know if she would consider professional help as she has very little faith in modern medicine. I can always try to talk to her about it though, we never know. I am pretty shy too and I am quite uncomfortable in most social situations (except if it's people I know well). But I kick myself in the behind and push myself to do it and usually I end up enjoying myself. It's not easy, but sometimes you gotta to be willing to take risks and feel uncomfortable for a few hours to meet new, interesting people. Potential friends are not gonna just show up at your door one day...
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Old 05-13-2008, 05:08 PM   #7
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Isolation and loneliness will make you depressed!

Are there any activities or hobbies she should start to cultivate? She could meet people with similar interests...most communities have classes on everything from cooking, art, sewing, and excursion groups too...she has to plan her days or else they will slip away...
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Old 05-13-2008, 05:35 PM   #8
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Isolation and loneliness will make you depressed!

Are there any activities or hobbies she should start to cultivate? She could meet people with similar interests...most communities have classes on everything from cooking, art, sewing, and excursion groups too...she has to plan her days or else they will slip away...
Her passion is food and cooking. But one of the illnesses she had a few years ago has restricted her diet and since then she has struggled to keep her passion for cooking. I try to send her all kinds of yummy recipes that would fit her restricted diet but she seems to focus only on the things she can't eat anymore instead of adapting to the new situation and find new foods to try. She also would love to travel, but not by herself. They have an excellent travelling club for people 60+ in her city but again, she has not tried to join.
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Old 05-13-2008, 06:30 PM   #9
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You are such a good child to be concerned for your mom. May I give you a little caution? I know of another family in a similar situation. The child and child's spouse tried to include Mom in many of their activities, but somewhre along the line, Mom started to think she should be involved in all her child's family's activities and a whole new set of problems was born. Your immediate family will be forced to plan everything around your mother if you're not very careful. Ultimately your mother must find her own way. She is still way too young to give up and hand the reins to her children. You mentioned that you've tried to help with receipes and such and she isn't interested nor has she checked into the travel club. My own mother would sit there forevermore waiting on one of her children to make all the arrrangements for her life if we allowed it so I'm familiar with trying to pacify a parent. You are truly a blessing to her for trying so hard to help but other than making suggestions (including for counseling or therapy if it's warranted), you will probably need to allow her to learn to entertain herself. I would try to find a list of activities in the neighborhood that gals her age get involved with (a gym or community pool for daily exercise, church activities, children's hour at the library or shelter for women and children for volunteer activities, etc etc) and suggest that she check into those. Try not to baby her too much - I speak from experience here.
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Old 05-13-2008, 06:48 PM   #10
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Bubba,

thanks for your advice. You are right, the last think I want is for her to become dependent on us at such a young age. I would like to put her on the right path and hope she takes it from there and find her own way. Right now I feel like we have to make extra effort because she is in a funk. The sooner we get her out if it, the better for everyone involved.
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Old 05-13-2008, 06:57 PM   #11
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From what I've read, her situation is not nearly as uncommon as most people think. While most pre-retirees think a retirement/life of leisure is nirvana, for a lot of people it's lonely world where the person feels irrelevant (I've had that conversation with my 86 yr old Mom). I wouldn't think you can force her to change, and it may seem trivial, but could you get her to read How to Retire Happy, Wild & Free or Work Less, Live More? If you can get her to reflect on what she'd like to do and get her to decide she wants to join in on activities that she likes --- I would think it might get her on track. There are a lot of people who are better off working (pretty sure I'm one of them) although hopefully they can find something they enjoy if their primary career was not enjoyable.

As others have said, you're to be commended for trying so hard to look out for her...it's what family is supposed to do, but more rare these days.
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Old 05-13-2008, 07:12 PM   #12
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Sorry to hear about your mom, FD. As others have said you are a good person to care about her.

That said, I agree with Bubba that you want to go carefully here, lest your mother look to you for all her social needs. (And you, who are shy also, find it easier to take care of her than to have a life of your own.)

Forgive me for saying so, but if you and your sister are calling her every day, visiting often, and finding that it's "not enough" then her saying that she is lonely is "paying off" for her.

My own mother is very dependent and complains about her lack of friends, interests, etc. Given that she's 84 and in poor health, however, I have made the decision to spend a lot of time with her for as long as she has left. I must say, though, that if I or my father had given her a kick in the butt back when she was 60, she might have had a more interesting, exciting, and fulfilling 20 years.

Along those lines, you have said that your mom feels irrelevant. I have heard it said that the quickest way to stop feeling bad about your own life is to go help someone else. (I think I heard it on this board, in fact!)

Is there any local group such as Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, etc. that you could decide to join as "your" interest, and then ask her to "help" with? She might find that she liked volunteering, feeling important again, etc. and make it her own. Yes, it's a little manipulative, but she doesn't seem ready to get off the dime herself.

Just a thought -- and good luck to you both!
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Old 05-13-2008, 07:51 PM   #13
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Bubba,

thanks for your advice. You are right, the last think I want is for her to become dependent on us at such a young age. I would like to put her on the right path and hope she takes it from there and find her own way. Right now I feel like we have to make extra effort because she is in a funk. The sooner we get her out if it, the better for everyone involved.
I really feel you on this situation. I am working through something similar with my mother. Just a few suggestions. Are there any senior centers or resources like that that can give you advice? Check out the AARP web site, you may find advice there also. Also I would not let my Aunts off the hook. This is a family issue and they are part of the family. They may not want to have your Mom along on every trip but they can invite her on a few.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:02 PM   #14
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You are such a good child to be concerned for your mom. May I give you a little caution? I know of another family in a similar situation. The child and child's spouse tried to include Mom in many of their activities, but somewhre along the line, Mom started to think she should be involved in all her child's family's activities and a whole new set of problems was born. Your immediate family will be forced to plan everything around your mother if you're not very careful.
Whew, what Bubba said. This is exactly why we heaved a huge sigh of relief when spouse's parents moved back to the Mainland. After six years we'd more or less resigned ourselves to a life sentence with no time off for good behavior, and now we feel as if we have our privacy back.

While you're a great source of comfort and support, it's also possible that you are not helping your mother by your efforts. You may even be encouraging her demands for attention and enabling her behavior because she has no reason to change if you're there to catch her at every stumble. If our parents could figure out how to raise us kids then they can certainly be responsible for figuring out their own entertainment...

If she can't do it on her own then the local newspapers frequently run weekly columns of volunteer opportunities. She could deliberately work her way down the list and find something that she cares about.
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Old 05-13-2008, 08:53 PM   #15
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Thanks Caroline,

well I live thousands of miles away from my mom so I don't visit her every week (more like 2-3 times a year) but I do call 2-3 times a week. My sister who lives close by calls almost everyday and visits 2-3 times a week. It may seem like a lot, but where I grew up, it's pretty standard to visit your parents several times a week if you live nearby. What I don't want to encourage is for my mom to live her life around our visits / phone calls.

When she was working she kept saying that in retirement she would like to participate to a number of outreach programs, like mentoring kids or lending a hand to a charity distributing food to homeless people. Somehow it got lost. Maybe I should remind her of it.

Or I could take Midpack's advice and buy her a few good books about retirement for her birthday and let her take it from there!
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Old 05-13-2008, 09:07 PM   #16
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Cattusbabe,

I think I'll have this conversation with my aunts (though I don't want them to feel like it is their responsibility to take care of my mom either). To be fair they do invite my mom on a few outtings but I think my mom would like to be invited to ALL outings (which I find unreasonable). I hope they can all find a compromise.

Nords,

I hear you and I sometimes am afraid that we are enabling her behavior. It is my opinion that she needs a real kick in the derriere and to stop feeling sorry for herself, but my sister is worried that she would take it as a rejection. So we have to tread carefully until she gets her life in order. It's a fine line to walk.

I guess retiring is a pretty major life change and some people take longer to adjust than others.
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Old 05-14-2008, 07:45 AM   #17
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FD,

My grandfather retired in the 1960's and after the second wife died in early 1990's he felt really lonely. So, his brother came to visit and gave him a kick in the rear. I think his words were "What, do you want to die tomorrow??!!" [not the most tactful person]. Anyway, my grandfather began volunteering at the local hospital, and quickly made some friends. For some odd reason, he was a young chick magnet, which was better for me whenever I visited. Anyway, he did that for a year or two and got his act back together, began visiting old friends, got a 60 yr old SO [at 80!!], and felt much better. My mom also had to kick him in the rear to "just visit" the retirement community he eventually moved into. Some people [like grandpa and me] need a good kick in the rear once in a while.

When my grandfather died [other set of grandparents], my grandma began working at the local library part time. Virtually zero stress, got her out of the house, made some new friends, etc.

Also, you don't need to take drugs to feel better. When I was having anxiety issues [mostly social], I went to see a psychiatrist [who was pretty worthless except for the low dose of citalopram], and he referred me to a psychologist to discuss action plans. She was frickin' awesome. I joined toastmaster's and don't really get nervous in social situations any more, am able to speak in public, and don't break out in hives as much. Sometimes you just need someone [who is not family] to tell you what you need to hear.

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Old 05-14-2008, 08:23 AM   #18
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You are a good son but your Mom needs to get a life . When I retired So was still working so I needed to find some social interaction . I 'm pretty introverted so I don't need much to make me happy . I 've been taking classes some financial some cooking and I go to the gym and participate in classes . Eventually you meet people and your life moves on . I'd encourage your Mom to find something she'd enjoy and do it . It is tough regrouping in life but it's tougher to stay stuck .
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Old 05-14-2008, 08:57 AM   #19
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I am pretty shy too and I am quite uncomfortable in most social situations (except if it's people I know well). But I kick myself in the behind and push myself to do it and usually I end up enjoying myself. It's not easy, but sometimes you gotta to be willing to take risks and feel uncomfortable for a few hours to meet new, interesting people. Potential friends are not gonna just show up at your door one day...
Me too! Well said!
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Old 05-14-2008, 11:54 AM   #20
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Could it be grief rather than depression? Her high-stress j*b may have kept her from grieving so that when she finds the time, she could crash. Iím not sure how you would be involved in that or if she needs to work through it herself; maybe one of the medical people here would have an idea.

I really relate to this as Iíve had many losses in the last five years: close and far relatives, really close friends, my health, friendships, and my interest in my j*b. I plan to retire at the end of August and could easily visualize what you describe; my only difference is that I have no children but I see myself surrounded with more people than at w*rk.

All the best, FIREdreamer, thanks for sharing your stories.
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