Gross: The debt we owe


Leah Stasieluk/Iowa State Daily

A report done by CNN last month claimed that the average cost of raising a single child is $241,080. So, if not for the emotion and effort, we owe our parents or guardians for the money they spent on us.

Hailey Gross

We are born and passed from hands to hands until we curl into our mothers’ arms. Once home, we are given a crib, toys, plentiful sustenance, and a roof under which to live. In our childhood, years of youth and our sour teenage era, we are sustained and loved by our parents (or guardians). Eventually, the majority of us are sent off to college with, if not financial support, the well-wishes of our families. We graduate and marry and have children of our own and one day, our parents are old and frail.

Our parents are the single most important thing in our lives until the day we move out. A report done by CNN last month claimed that the average cost of raising a single child is $241,080. So, if not for the emotion and effort, we owe our parents for the simple money spent on us.

However, by then we are too busy and important to take care of those who raised us. Whether they reside in their own homes, nursing homes or our spare rooms, we neglect to give them the love and attention they deserve.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that depression is “not a normal part of aging.” Yet their need to state that tells us that the assumption exists. The CDC does say that elderly are at a larger risk for depression, as it’s a common accompanying condition to those with other medical problems. Of all older people, 80 percent have at least one chronic health condition, making the elderly particularly at risk.

Studies also show that not only is depression a ride-along condition to other health problems, it often creates those problems. According to PsychCentral, depression increases risk of cardiac disease.

Studies on how many elderly people are depressed are inconclusive, as some say as little as 5 percent while others claim up to 13 percent.

Depression in the elderly may be treated in much the same way it is for younger generations through therapy or medication. However, a key element in the elderly’s depression that doesn’t exist to the same extent in younger people is loneliness.

Most people diagnosed with depression feel that they are isolated in some way or another. Whether living alone or constantly surrounded by family, depressed people feel irrational sadness and loneliness in a way non-depressed people have a hard time imagining.

However, for the elderly, that isolation is very real and very saddening.

As you age, those dreams of “tomorrow” are less and less likely to be achieved. Your friends and family become too busy or too physically distant to be much comfort to you, and some of your elderly peers may start passing on before you. Imagine the loneliness of being in the last group in your generation.

Of course, our youthful generation really is quite busy. But that isn’t an excuse for neglecting those to whom we owe the most. I’m not saying that every child should move their parents into their guest room permanently. Not only is it not financially feasible, it’s emotionally taxing for the child.

However, physical distance is no excuse for emotional distance. When running a life of your own, it can take you across the globe. Luckily, we have a myriad of forms of communication that only improve with each passing year. Call your dad. Skype your mom. Do whatever it takes to make them feel as cared for and loved as you did when you were 8 years old.

Though some of us in college have parents as young as 40, most are nearing their 50s or 60s. Unfortunately, those numbers only increase. The best time to begin a connection that spans a lifetime is now. That physical distance that separates parent and child often first appears in college. Even if you are self-sustained, individual and proud of it, there’s no need to distance yourself from a mom and dad who probably miss you more than they can say.

It may not be a direct effect of aging, but depression is prevalent in the elderly. Whether that’s for chemical reasons or for lack of emotional support, it’s hard to say. But the least you can do for your parents, grandparents, guardians or whoever looked after you is to make sure that they are doing all right, too.

They loved us, raised us, spent countless years on us. We have quite the debt to repay.