Create a ‘Flossy Posse’ to fill that empty nest
SAVITRI* at 78-years-old is a sprightly woman living on her own in a huge five-bedroom home in Umhlatuzana.
Her husband passed away over 10 years ago.
She has four children, who have all moved to different parts of the world for work purposes and family growth.
Savitri’s only outings are to the local temple for religious functions, any family functions if she has transport and regularly to the senior citizens club meeting, which takes place once a week.
When she gets home from these events she looks towards the phone to see if it is beeping a red light to indicate a message. Alas, all is quiet.
The silence is deafening and she turns on the TV to watch her soapies.
Her children phone her once a week if they can and speak to her for an hour at the most.
Some visit twice a year if they are living in other provinces and others visit annually or every two years.
Her neighbour and best friend passed away about a year ago and the neighbour’s children are away at work during the day, with no time to chat during weekends except to raise a hand in greeting while passing by.
There are many, many elderly couples or women of all race groups and ages like Savitri living this way.
While they are proud of their children’s achievements and don’t want to hold them back, the emptiness of their homes haunts them daily.
They remember the reason for building these huge homes and the hard work that went into it to give their children the best they could.
These parents must have had dreams of their homes being filled with children and grandchildren, rushing home from school, talking about their day, of family dinners and outings but always of a house filled with love, laughter, music, fun, birthday celebrations and healthy debates and discussions.
The reality is very far from the dreams they anticipated when planning their family homes and building a future for their children.
For women and couples who were smart enough to ensure they had a “Flossy Posse” (that is a team of friends and family who have your back, who will stand by you and who keep you company when the nestlings have taken flight to all parts of the country and world), they don’t feel the same loneliness as the Savitris of this world.
I had the privilege of chatting to a 74-year-old woman at one of my meetings and she told me of her dream of communal living for the elderly.
She and her friends turned one of their homes into a six-lodger apartment that was governed by a memorandum of agreement and each had their own independence without infringing on each other’s privacy. If they wanted to move on, the lease agreement was terminated and a new lodger was accepted after a thorough screening process, including evaluating synergy and social fit with other residents at the house. Now that was a smart move. It created a sense of belonging for these elderly individuals, their very own family circle and improved their security as well.
I believe the current generation of 40 to 50 age group should start looking closely at who they have in their inner circle. Who would you want to be part of your “Flossy Posse”?
If you don’t already have such a group, then start building one because before you know it your children will have started their own life journeys and new adventures, which does not include you on a fulltime basis. They start making their own decisions and taking charge of their own lives, which leaves you with the proverbial “empty nest syndrome”.
Parents who have revolved their lives around their children find it more difficult to adjust to this new phase in their lives as part-time parents only responsible for moral or financial support, while their children set out to conquer the world. This feeling of empty nest and purposeless existence is magnified if one does not have a partner or someone to share new adventures with.
This is the reason why it is important for parents to create their own culture club of shared interests that allows them to de-stress, find support and to enjoy the rest of their lives without fear, loneliness or feeling like they have become a burden to their children.
The parents’ fears and insecurities are projected on to the children, who rebel even more and distance themselves from their parents through feelings of guilt.
If one listens to the children of these parents in conversation with other family members or friends one can often hear phrases such as: “My mother or father is becoming so difficult to deal with. I cannot have a proper conversation with them without it becoming an argument.”
Often, these relationships fracture until their adult children start building their own nuclear family and experience the very same issues in dealing with their own children and their circle of lack of understanding between adult children and parents continues into another generation.
The generation of parents born in the 1960s and 1970s are much more advanced in terms of social skills and especially social media than the previous generation of parents.
However, this does not absolve children from their love and duties towards their parents and elderly of the family.
It is not a new fashion to ignore the very people who have given birth to you, assisted you to create your identity and footprint in this universe.
Their love and blessings improve and advance your life.
The idea of a “Flossy Posse” or having a “Heart Circle” is advisable for teenagers, especially girls from as early as senior secondary school, colleges and universities and can gradually develop into an alumni group even as one ventures into the business world.
Building this type of support system provides one the opportunity and emotional strength needed to overcome any obstacles they may encounter in this journey called life.
And if those relationships stand the test of time and can continue into the twilight years, it alleviates the loneliness and the silence of an empty home.
One can actually see the pain of parents, who revolve their lives around their children without any of their own social interests, or realising their own dreams and creating their own social circles.
We can see from the experiences of our parent’s generation that it becomes more difficult as you get older, especially if one is in the 60 to 70-year age group, to deal with loneliness and empty nest syndrome.
The children of the 1960s generation, who are now reaching their 50-year age group, are the fortunate generation to have the benefit of women who have progressed to the extent that they have their licences and are mobile with their own cars, are technologically advanced and have come to the realisation that they need to maintain their own identity in the nuclear family circle, including by developing and nurturing their very own “Flossy Posse” or “Heart Circle”.
The senior citizen clubs should be admired for the model of creating social outlets for the elderly. All children should support the clubs their parents attend, and their endeavours, because they keep our parent’s generation sane and help to reduce some of the loneliness and empty nest syndrome.
It’s a type of “Flossy Posse”, where they can share and feel young again.
I enjoy the chats I have with the chairperson of the senior citizen’s club my mom attends.
As children, we should make it our duty to connect with them and acknowledge the wonderful service they provide to our parents and elderly family members.
Adult children, who have moved away from the home, should support these senior citizen clubs, even a small financial contribution of R100 or R200 a month will go a long way to assisting these clubs with outings and trips for our parents, including assisting those elderly that are in the club but cannot afford to go on some of the more expensive outings.
The generation before us did not have the advantages or opportunities to create their own “Flossy Posses,” but that doesn’t mean we should continue to punish them for the choices they made to support their children 100%. The next time an elderly relative or parent visits you, think about what they have sacrificed and what they must be going through living on their own, often with no one to talk to for days.
Be kind to our elderly. They deserve your support, love and kindness – not in the big things or expectations, but in the little things we can do for them.
And if their children complain about them to you, have the courage to advise them of the sacrifices these elderly folk made in order for their children to progress.
Don’t trample or cut the ties that have nurtured you and helped you attain the levels of success that you have achieved.
(*Savitri – not the person’s real name)
The hands that raised you as a child should always be remembered and cared for.