Skip to content

Health & Balance

Font Size

Understanding Your Health Choices: Conversations Before the Crisis

Talking across generations

We are products of history as well as our personal experience. Attitudes about dying, and about talking, often differ depending on our date of birth. For example, social historian Mary Pipher writes about the "greatest generation," the group now in their 80's and 90's, as people who survived the Depression and World War II, experienced enormous changes in society, and may have known substantial poverty as children.

While there can be wide variation by individuals, in general terms members of this generation tend to be very self-reliant, have a strong sense of privacy, and do not like to ask for help. These characteristics must be respected.

Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

8 Reasons To Slooow Down

By Janis Graham Winding down the pace of your life just a tad can make you happier and healthier. Here's how! The Hurried Woman Syndrome. The good news: If you can learn to rush just a little bit less, studies show that you'll lower your risk for high blood pressure, have better relationships, and live longer. And no, you don't have to overhaul your schedule. "Slowing down just a few moments a day can be beneficial to your health," says Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., coauthor of Stress Free...

Read the 8 Reasons To Slooow Down article > >

Siblings work together-Vanessa and her brothers and sisters

Vanessa Brown and her five brothers and sisters are part of an African-American family. They are well established in careers, live in the same area, and stay in close touch with each other and their parents. In talking with their peers about the end of life, they felt that attitudes across cultures were fairly similar. But when their father suddenly became ill, they were reminded that their parents' experience represented a different history and different attitudes.

"My father died without a will, and so did my mother, even though he died first and she saw what problems it created," says Vanessa. "And they absolutely refused to talk about death. With that generation in our community, certain things were just never mentioned in polite company, and one of them was death. My father's view was, 'Don't you try to hurry me along.' And both my parents had a distrust of authority, plus they expected the family to do all the caregiving. My brothers and I tried to get my father to see other doctors, but he did not trust the white medical establishment. He had no reason to."

Vanessa and her siblings were not able to convince their parents to act differently, but the brothers and sisters grew closer through coping with the deaths of their parents. Eventually they helped one another prepare wills, designated responsibility for raising the nieces and nephews should a parent die young, and talked about end-of-life interventions and wishes. Through the loss of their parents, they were strengthened as a family.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family