How many times more will you see your parents before they die?


“See Your Folks” website makes mortality less abstract. (Tyler Olson/ Simplefoto)
August 12, 2013
‘See Your Folks’

How many more times will you see your parents before they die?

It’s a question many people don’t want to face. Logically, we know our moms and dads will die someday. Yet the idea that they will be gone one day is easy to ignore.

“See Your Folks” is a disturbing yet enlightening Web site that puts this question front and center. By answering a few simple questions, it can predict how many more times you might see your parents before they die.

“We’re so busy growing up we sometimes forget that they are also growing old,” the site says.

The predictions are not random and have no elements of mysticism. They simply draw on life expectancy data from the World Health Organization. By answering four basic questions — “Where do your parents live?” “How old is your mum? “How old is your dad?” “On average how many times do you see your parents a year?” — the site will estimate the number of times you’ll see your parents before they are likely to die.

It took mere seconds to learn that I will probably see my parents, who are in their 60s and live in New Jersey, 138 more times. (I couldn’t resist the morbid temptation to enter the ages of other loved ones whom I don’t see as often as I might like. For example, given our current rate of visits, my younger sister and I will see each other 1,225 more times before I die.)

What to do with this information? Well, for some of us it will inspire a weepy call to our parents and a plan for more frequent visits home.

For others, the exercise may be little more than a gentle reminder that mortality is not an abstract idea. Acknowledging its inevitability can help us “make the most of our lives,” say the site’s creators — whether or not that involves seeing our parents more often. “The right kind of reminders can help us to focus on what matters, and perhaps make us better people.”

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