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Concerned Son Wants Dad to Slow Down

Dear Aunt Traci,

I'm worried about my dad. He's 72 years old (although he would hate me telling you that), and refuses to "slow down." He often makes what I consider irrational decisions, such as spending tens of thousands of dollars restoring old cars, driving his sports car too fast, and going out to expensive restaurants with his much younger girlfriend. (She's great, by the way. It's not an Anna Nicole Smith thing...) He even bought a boat without knowing how to operate it, and lived on it for two years!

I get that growing old is hard, but I'm worried that he's spending all of his money frivolously and not saving for the rest of his life. People are living longer these days and he could have another 20 or 30 years left to live. He's always saying, "Life is an adventure to be lived, not a problem to be solved." But, I can't help but worry about his choices. How can I get him to make better decisions about his life?


Slow It Down, Pops

Dear Slow,

Your dad sounds like a lot of fun, actually! But, I understand your concern. After all, if something DOES happen to him, the burden of caring for him would likely fall on you and your siblings (if you have any), and possibly the girlfriend.

Let me ask you a question (that you obviously can't answer here). Are the decisions he is making out of character for him? In other words, it's one thing for a conservative accountant to suddenly buy a Ferrari and start taking lavish vacations. It's another thing if it's a person who has always kind of lived on "the edge."

If the answer is "yes;" these decisions are out of character for him, then you have a rational reason to be concerned. A major change in personality, lifestyle, or decision-making can be a sign of something neurological. It's a good idea to sit him down and gently ask him to accompany you to see a doctor.

But, if the answer is "no;" he's always kind of been this way, then maybe step back and look at your own perceptions of the situation. Sure, he isn't living his life the way you would live yours. But research shows that people become more of who they are at the essence as they age.

It doesn't seem to be harming anyone for him to spend the money he earned in the way that he chooses to spend it. If he wants to enjoy his life and continue to have adventures for the next 30 years, then he has earned the right to do that. As many of my readers know, my best friend unexpectedly died this year 3 days before she turned 50. And, she died before we got to have so many of the adventures we were planning for when we got to be your dad's age.

Slow, barring any medical (or severe financial) issues, I say let your dad live out the rest of his life the way he wants to. Keep an eye on things, of course. But, just love and accept him the way he is. You don't have to agree with someone's life choices to do that.

I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.

Francis Bacon

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