21 Apr 2016

The 100th birthday ‘celebration’ that wasn’t

My Grandma Ada lived for 100 years and five days. The most important lesson she taught me was the value of a goal and a purpose.

Technically speaking, Ada was my step-grandmother. My maternal grandmother (Nonna) passed away suddenly in her 70s, and my grandfather (Nonno) briefly courted and then married Ada.

Ada was a sweet woman, a widower who was never blessed with children. The wedding was a casual affair. It was heartwarming to see two people in their 70s rediscover new love.

Nonno died less than three weeks into their marriage. He decided to stop taking his heart medication because “he felt great.”

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14 Apr 2016

Second-half choices matter

If soap operas taught me anything, it’s that bad choices result in bad outcomes.

As a teenager, I’d arrive home from school just in time for “General Hospital.” I can still remember the lies of omission Luke made to Laura that destroyed their relationship. Or the many times Blackie would refuse help from others, causing himself to land in even more trouble.

Even then I wondered why people refuse to choose options that would make their lives better.

It’s especially sad when we see this happen in the senior community. The result of bad choices can be poor health, loneliness, isolation and even homelessness.

Take the case of Hugh, who at age 80 had hip replacement surgery.

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31 Mar 2016

These ‘hacks’ make life easier for seniors

If you’ve been reading how to ideas on the Internet lately, you’ve probably come across the term “hack.”

One definition of the word is a new technique that solves an old problem.

Normally a hack is not an expected solution but something clever that gets the job done in a new and unique way—like taking a picture of prescriptions with a smartphone camera so you have it handy for a doctor or emergency room visit.

Clever solutions are becoming more the norm as so many of us are dealing with the challenges of aging.

Here are some hacks I’ve learned that can make life easier for seniors or their family caregivers:

Television remotes have become a mass of complicated buttons. If you want to easily see and feel the right buttons to press to get the TV on and off or to change a channel, consider taking clear adhesive silicone rubber bumps and placing them on the buttons most used.

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17 Mar 2016

It’s never too late to express condolences to the grieving

Whether through our own reminiscences or those of others, keeping alive the memory of a loved one who dies brings a sense of comfort.

In a recent column I wrote about learning about the death of a dear high school friend a month after she passed away. I felt sad because I wasn’t there to share in her family’s grief and I couldn’t, at the time of her death, acknowledge to them the big place my friend held in my heart.

A number of readers wrote to remind me that grief knows no timetable and that my condolences and memories would still be welcome, maybe even more so now.

I know this from experience.  At age 19,

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3 Mar 2016

Seniors’ rich history and powerful stories need to be shared

Standing before you is a grayhaired man wearing clothes that could have come from a garage sale.

Even with the aid of a walker, his gate is unsteady. He has difficulty hearing and shouts to ask others to repeat themselves. His eyes are dull and cloudy behind his smudged glasses. His voice is coarse and weak from years of use.

This man is not your loved one, and you avoid eye contact; your gaze passes right by him. Maybe it’s because he appears uninteresting or maybe he reminds you of your own mortality.

Would it surprise you to learn this man was a decorated war hero or that he raised three children as a widower, or that he was the head of programming at NBC or an accomplished musician?

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18 Feb 2016

Reality of death is hitting baby boomers hard

We all know that death is a part of life, but as a baby boomer today, it can uncover new emotions.

I think my personal experience might reflect what some boomers are experiencing.

While I’m blessed that my parents are still living, I’ve seen the loss of grandparents and my in-laws. And while there was sadness and grief, I was comforted by the fact that they had lived long lives.

Death was around in my teen and college years, too. I lost schoolmates to drug overdoses, car accidents and disease. But as I experienced those tragedies, I had the cumulative shoulders of my classmates to share my grief.

Until recently, though, it had been a long span between deaths, sort of like the epidemic of weddings I attended in my 20s and then their long absence until our friends’ children were ready to tie the knot.

Then I received news that Randi, my best childhood friend, had died. 

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4 Feb 2016

Make life easier for mom, dad

For seniors trying to make their savings stretch, spending on home repairs or new appliances can cause a lot of anxiety. Many are concerned, sometimes rightfully, about whether they will outlive their money.

But I’ve discovered other aging retirees—even those with an ample nest egg—who are simply too conservative when it comes to their finances, and as a result they do not make relatively small improvements or purchases that could have a tremendous impact on their quality of life. In these cases, just because “it ain’t completely broke” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fix it.

Take, for example, my parents and the case of the temperamental oven and the troublesome toilet.

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21 Jan 2016

One subject that’s seriously tough to swallow

My father has an appointment with the gastroenterologist. He says he’s having trouble swallowing some foods, especially cheeseburgers, which are a favorite of his.

Difficulty swallowing is not new for my father. When he was in his early 70s, my parents frequently visited my sister in New Hampshire. On those visits, my father would have difficulty getting his food down during mealtime.

It happened so often that my sister’s son and daughter, ages 4 and 8, would call the kitchen chair my father sat in “Grampy’s choke chair.” The moniker was hilarious to them but probably not so funny to my father.

At that time my father’s diagnosis was dysphasia—difficulty swallowing due to acid reflux.

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13 Jan 2016

A time to honor those who care

Our community is full of them.

They often go unnoticed by friends and neighbors. Their role is not known to their employer. For many, their doctor is unaware of their situation.

They walk among us, shop among us, work among us—yet we don’t see them for what they are: family caregivers.

As you look around your workplace, your neighborhood or your doctor’s waiting room, you might be surprised to learn that one in five people around you are caring for an aging parent, a spouse, an elderly family member or friend with a chronic, debilitating or serious health condition.

“It’s not surprising that many of us don’t see these people in that light because most of the time 

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24 Dec 2015

Make an effort to give local this season

As the holidays roll around, many of us look toward giving to those less fortunate.

According to a recent study, over 30 percent of all charitable giving last year occurred in December, which is why our mailboxes have been filled recently with requests for donations.

There’s the practical aspect as to why most giving occurs this month: People are in a giving frame of mind and want to make sure their donation occurs before a new calendar year. It’s also why charities are dependent upon a good holiday season for a large portion of their annual fundraising.

The Giving USA Foundation publishes national estimates on giving by individuals, foundations, bequests and corporations. You may be surprised to learn that 75 percent of all giving is by 

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