West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

Aging and the Challenge of Change

Personal, Parenting, Tosa Business

I’ve been spending a little extra time with my parents lately. They have just entered into their 80s and since our daughter is still in college, I guess this officially qualifies me for the “sandwich generation.”

As I’ve spent more time with them, I’ve tried to pay attention to what affects them. No doubt about it, their biggest challenge, outside of gravity and aging, is change. It sounds obvious, but you would be amazed at what small things make a big change in your life when you’re 80.

My folks live in Glenview, Illinois, a very nice community much like Wauwatosa. Glenview recently built a big and beautiful library. It must have cost them millions. My parents are frequent library users. They have a lot of extra time and, therefore, do a lot of reading. The library is a great resource for them. I thought they’d be thrilled about the new library. I was wrong. Everything moved. Books that were in familiar areas were suddenly difficult to find. Because the parking lot is not yet finished, they have to park across a somewhat busy street. Try navigating that on replaced hips and knees. It took some time and some help from the librarians, but it truly made their life difficult for several months until they mastered the new layout.

The same thing is true of their local movie theater. Their nearest theater is part of a large chain….that no longer prints movie schedules in the newspaper. (Our AMC Mayfair no longer prints schedules in the paper either.) So my parents have to call the theater. As you can guess, it’s not answered by a person, but rather by a fast-talking recording. It can be aggravating for them to find out when movies are being shown.

My father loves passive communication. He’d rather send me a fax than call me on the phone. (He and my mom do not have a computer.) I was fine with that until his 25 year old fax machine broke. There was no doubt that a repair would cost more than the value of the machine. So I bought him a new one. I underestimated the learning curve. My sister and brother and I have all taken turns showing him how it works, but there’s still some confusion. He tried faxing us the other day and, instead, kept making copies. Poor guy.

I should have known. Several years ago I tried to replace my parents’ “corded” phone with a cordless model. I found the biggest buttons I could. A waste of money. My dad wouldn’t use it. It was too different.

Our world today is built on change. Everything is newer, faster and more accessible than ever before….unless you’re growing older and your eyes, ears and limbs ain’t what they used to be. There’s a certain amount of comfort in things staying the same. Our internet-based world could learn a thing or two from the “greatest generation.” For one thing, they would teach us the art of being patient and not needing to do 8 things at once. Our kids have the attention span of a flea.

My point in writing this is to ask local businesses to think about our elders when they decide to only have information online or when they make their parking lots hard to navigate or their menus hard to read. Just a little understanding can go a long way.

In the meantime, enjoy this adorable video of Rita and Frank, who are futilely trying to simply send a birthday photo to their friend. Sigh. Sometimes the future leaves some of us behind.

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