May 13, 2024

Your parents are getting old, here's what to do

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“With my family, I’m a communist.

With my close friends, I’m a socialist.

At the state level of politics, I’m a Democrat.

At higher levels, I’m a Republican,

and at the federal levels, I’m a Libertarian.”

- Nassim Taleb

My parents are getting old.

I’m 35, and they’re 65. Or maybe 63?

To be honest, I have no idea how old my parents are. Once a human passes 50, my brain stops using numbers, and switches to words to describe age: “getting old” “old” and finally “elderly”

The point is…that really sad day is coming.

God’s waiter just came over to our table and asked “need anything else?” because the kitchen is closing soon. Except the kitchen is my mom.

To be clear - she’s fine right now. Totally good health. Active, happy. In reality, nothing has changed except my own realization that this won’t last forever.

So until then - I’ve decided that it’s time for some family philanthropy. How do I give back to my parents?

What are the simple, low cost, low effort things for me, that would make a big impact for them? Those are the best life trades: “Easy for me, valuable for you”

Here’s my list of 11 things any kid can do for their parents as they get older. Starting with the lowest cost/effort…going up to high cost/high effort:

Low Cost / Low Effort

1. The obvious one == Call Your Mom:

I used to feel like “I don’t have time, I’ll call her later” – until I realized that nobody gives a sh*t if I scroll twitter 10 minutes less per day…but my mom really cares if I call her.

Trading 10 minutes of social media for 10 minutes of facetime with your parents is possibly the highest +EV trade you can make.

2. Send a pic of what you’re working on:

It doesn’t matter if you’re a consultant working on a deck for your stupid client. Send them a screenshot or email saying check it out.

And he did it twice.  Both companies he started are smash hits and beverages you've probably enjoyed.

You know how when you’re a kid and you draw a squiggle on a paper and show it to your parents and they say OHMAHGOSHH ITS SO GOOD!!

That actually never stops. You can always just show your parents what “you did at school today”.

Watch, I just texted my mom that I’m writing this post

Even if it’s just cleaning up your room, re-arranging your garage, or a random excel file you’re working on. Just snap a pic of you doing it, and send it to them.

This takes zero extra time, but makes them feel included & proud of you.

Medium Cost / Medium Effort

3. Spoil them

Your parents spoiled you, now it’s your turn to spoil them. My cousin buys his parents 2 movie tickets every month. He leaves it on the kitchen counter with a sticky note.

It costs like $30 a month, and makes them feel so happy. They get dressed up, they go out, they love the movie, and it’s all thanks to him. Of course they could have done it on their own, but they love that he does it.

He’s like the presenting sponsor of their date night every month. And they love bragging to their friends about what he does for them.

Flower delivery, coffee shop gift card, movie tickets.. These are ~$30-50/month things that make their day.

4. Calcium CT Scan

One of the most common causes of death is heart attacks, and apparently these calcium scans are great for early detection of blockages. They cost ~$250 (eg. I live in San Francisco and booked this place for my mom)

High Cost / High Effort

OK these are the big ones.

5. Get them a trainer

I recently bought my mom a 2-month package of personal training sessions.

At first she was confused. What kind of Christmas gift is this? She’s a a 65 year old indian lady. She’s not a gym bro. She does the dishes, not deadlifts.

But that’s the problem. The person who needs the gym isn’t the crossfit bro, it’s the mom with bad knees.

  • As you age, your body fails. Hips, knees, back pain etc.
  • When you have pain, you move less
  • When you move less, you age faster
  • The faster you age, the faster you die.

So - I got her a trainer.  Twice a week, ~$85 each, and I did 2 months. That’s roughly $1,360. Not cheap, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing. I can skip this year’s iphone upgrade.

She would have never bought this herself. She also wouldn’t have agreed to it if I asked her. But I bought it, and if there’s anything my mom refuses to do, it’s waste money. So she did every session. And guess what, she got hooked. Now look at her, she can literally do planks and half pushups, at age 65.

This is insane. I haven’t been this pleasantly surprised since that one time I googled Tony Hawk and a photo of this Tiny Hawk came up instead:

6. Booking them a Vacation

The happiest families I know have annual family vacation traditions. I’m not sure if family vacations cause happy families, or if only happy families would choose to go on vacation together.

Either way, an awesome way to give back is to book a trip for your parents (and ideally you) to go somewhere together.

I’ve even done this as a staycation (booked a hotel 30 mins from where they live) just to change their routine.

7. Paying off their debt / mortgage

This is huge, if you can do it. (bonus points, this video of Stephen A Smith telling the story of the day he drove to his mom’s office and retired her)

High Effort, but Not High Financial Cost

8. Talk to the “other parent

Everybody has one parent you get along with better than the other. It’s like being right handed or left handed. Do you vibe better with your mom or your dad?

The easy thing to do is to lean into the one that’s easy. Maybe they’re easier to talk to, you have more in common, or there’s less family baggage with them.

I struggle with this one. I’m really close w/ my mom. Talking to her is like talking to a friend (who just happened to wipe your butt when you were a kid).

For me, I have a much more rocky relationship with my dad. I haven’t cracked this nut, but I know the right thing to do is to build a bridge with the ‘other parent’ too.

9. Record a Podcast

I recently recorded a 2 hour podcast with my mom. It won’t ever be released, it’s just for me and my sister to have.

I asked her a bunch of questions about her life growing up, the adversity she had, different ‘fork in the road’ moments for her, her hopes and dreams for us, etc...

Tbh, it doesn’t matter what she said - I just know that someday when she’s gone, I’ll be glad I did it so that I can hear her voice again.

10. Lastly, the thing they want the most….Stop Sabotaging Yourself

I posted this topic on twitter, and one answer stood out:

“Got Sober”

Immediately, I knew this was the top answer.

More than buying them stuff, or traveling, giving them grandkids or calling them – was just letting them be at peace because they know you’re going in the right direction.

And that, in a nutshell - is why parents are so great.

They are the only people on earth who care about you more than you even care about yourself.

So go call your mom today, asshole!


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