As the daughter of a 72-year-old who lives nearly 600 miles away, I’ve accepted the reality that it is just my time of life to worry. A lot.
I worry about whether my father is getting enough exercise and eating too much sugar. I worry every time he has a prostate exam. I worry when he drives for long distances as part of his job.
I know that older men sometimes give a lot of reasons for not getting to the doctor for regular check-ups. I wouldn’t put my father into that category. He knows the right things to do and has the tools, like insurance coverage and reliable transportation, to do them.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t take the opportunity to remind him why regular check-ups, eating well and moving more are important.
As a communicator, and someone who works a good deal in public health, it’s my job to advance those messages during my work day. I find myself more and more advancing them on my evening calls with my dad.
Without lecture or judgment, I explore how he spends his time:
- “What did you have for dinner last night?” (subtext: Eat your vegetables.)
- “Did you get to the golf course last Saturday?” (subtext: Get of the house and soak up some sun.)
- “Are you still enjoying participating in the church choir?” (subtext: Keep up your activities.)
- “What are your plans for the holiday weekend?” (subtext: Engage your community.)
And I take the opportunity to wrap up the conversations with action items, like “Be sure to book that train ticket to see me very soon.” Because I know for people who live alone, just the feeling of being wanted and needed can improve their outlook on life, and their health.
There is no doubt that my dad gets the subtext of my statements. Honestly, I think he gets a kick out of reading between the lines.