Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My mother is 85. She’s in reasonable health and certainly as stubborn
as any of her children. We all live in town but I am the primary
caretaker. I go over each night to feed her and put her to bed. The
other sibs are less reliable and get simpler responsibilities. Here’s the
problem: she’s decided she doesn’t want to leave her home. Period.
For a while she had been taking classes at the local senior center. Now
we can’t even get her to go out for pizza and a movie. Her answer: “I
have Netflix.” I’m worried she is going to cocoon herself into a coffin
much too prematurely. She’s intelligent, funny, and reasonably
healthy. But she’s turning into an isolated misanthrope, if you don’t
count the neighbor caretaker who drops in during the day. Do you
have any winning arguments to keep her relating to people other than
her kids?


Dear Worried:

Many elders like to stay in environments that they know and feel safe
in. It’s not just fear of falling, though that’s a legitimate concern. It’s
knowing one’s routine, feeling secure, and not wanting to bother with
the potential for catching an illness from others or having to hear lots
of kvetching about health issues. What you are seeing as misanthropy
could be self-protection. But I agree it is too soon to become a 24/7

Have a meeting with your mom one on one, and then together with
your sibs. Simply tell her: We need you to do this for us. Prior to that
talk to the neighbor, and to the senior center. Be sure you understand
what they offer in terms of classes and drop in events and what the
neighbor can handle re timing . It’s legit for your mother to prefer
sitting in her own living room to a room with other folks just sitting
around. But identify lectures, movies, or classes that she might enjoy
and offer to pay the neighbor to take her there and help get her
introduced to other people. Once she starts to make friends and look
forward to seeing them, she’ll be more interested in going out more
often. And if not, make sure to stock batteries for the remote.