Are America’s seniors facing an ‘aloneness’ epidemic?

Are America’s seniors facing an ‘aloneness’ epidemic?

Recently, my coworkers and I have begun to see a spike in the number of seniors in our community who go days on end without human contact. Yet when asked if they’re lonely, they say no.

These individuals are quite content with their daily schedule. In many cases, they’re proud of their independence—even if it means a lack of socialization and the absence of trusted resources.

This journey into aloneness can be likened to the tale of the boiling frog.

As the fable goes, if a frog is suddenly put into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water, which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

A not-so-pretty analogy but one that bears truth for some seniors who, over time, have isolated themselves.

More and more older adults picking up pickleball

More and more older adults picking up pickleball

I’ve never been a sports-oriented person. I’m not sure if it’s the required physical exertion or the competitive aspect that doesn’t excite me, but I’d much rather spend my days pursuing a host of other activities.

So when my husband announced he wanted us to join a club and play pickleball, I was less than enthused.

Sure, I’d heard that pickleball was one of the fastest-growing sports in America and was being played by lots of older adults, but I really knew nothing about the details.

Pickleball is a paddle sport that requires two to four players using a solid paddle, hitting a Wiffle-type ball over a low net. Players use an underarm stroke to serve the ball and play it on a court that’s about one-quarter the size of a tennis court, so there’s less physical exertion.

The game was invented 50 years ago as a way for three dads to keep their kids occupied. The fathers creatively used materials they had around the house and yard to fashion the paddles, ball, net and court, and then made up the rules.

No gifts this birthday, plan memories instead

No gifts this birthday, plan memories instead

I recently visited New Hampshire to join my mother in celebrating her 85th birthday.

While planning the visit, I asked my mother if she would like to go on a short trip with me—maybe a visit to Cape Cod or to Maine?

My mother has temporarily lost her “partner in crime” for outings. My sister is in “grandma mode,” babysitting her 4-monthold grandson four days a week.

On the girlfriend front, my mother was never much of a socializer. She preferred to spend time with her family and work at her job, and then in retirement tend to her husband’s needs. Having a gal pal was really not her thing.

My mother always displayed a true New England work ethic. When I was a child, if a neighbor called to gossip or chat, my mother 

Winning the battle with robocallers

Winning the battle with robocallers

I just received my fifth email this month on the same topic.

In the email, my friend informed me he’s canceled his landline service and has chosen to use only his cellphone for voice communication because of the abundance of robocalls and scams he was receiving.

Unfortunately, this will not solve his robocall problem.

A robocall is a phone call with prerecorded messages. All robocalls are illegal, unless you have agreed to be called.

The reason we receive so many of these calls is that technology has made it easy and cheap for robocallers, and there’s money to be made by scammers.

Robocalls are the No. 1 consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. According to the FTC, the agency received 4.5 million robocall complaints in 2017, an increase of 132% over 2016.

Giving time becomes its own gift

Giving time becomes its own gift

I volunteered to work at the recent Thousand Oaks Chili Cook-Off for a friend who was going out of town and didn’t want to leave the Rotary Club that puts on the event short-handed.

It was to be an all-day assignment, so I asked my husband if he’d like to join me. I have no idea why he said yes. Maybe it was because I was assigned to work the beer booth.

Upon arrival we met our team leader, Jim, and the other members of our group—one assigned to check IDs, one to place a bracelet on patrons’ wrists to signify they were of age, two to sell drink tickets, two to pour and two to serve the beer, wine and water. We helped with the latter.

We began at 10:30 a.m., and only at 2:30 p.m. could we finally take a breath. The line stayed about 20 deep the entire day. It was 5 p.m. by the time we broke down the booth, packed up and hugged our goodbyes.

Attention to detail gets more important as we age

Attention to detail gets more important as we age

My husband is a finance guy, a CPA with a master’s in taxation. He is, by all accounts, a meticulous, detail-oriented individual.

It’s nice to have one of those in a family. At least one of us should be reading the dishwasher manual when it malfunctions, checking a contract’s fine print before signing and making sure the stove is turned off before leaving the house.

Most recently, my husband won kudos from my mother when he found an error in the Required Minimum Distribution from her 401(k) while calculating her taxes. My mother’s investment advisor, who should have caught the error, was embarrassed and apologized.

Sometimes paying attention to detail can reap financial rewards. 

A little planning can reduce stress when evacuating

A little planning can reduce stress when evacuating

After the recent wildfires ripped through our community, I mentioned to my husband that I didn’t want to let too much time go by before we debriefed on what we did right and wrong when we evacuated.

I wanted this natural disaster— the first my husband and I have really experienced since moving to California 25 years ago—to become a teachable moment for us.

I began by creating a list of things I would take if we were evacuated again. I didn’t do too badly during the recent fires. I was able to function reasonably well in the 48 hours I was away from home, but then again, I had the safety and convenience of being in a hotel.

That may not always be the case, so there are several things I will include next time.

Simple outing makes for significant milestone

Simple outing makes for significant milestone

It’s been four months since my father passed. My first visit home since then is for his celebration of life.

There are almost 100 guests coming to an afternoon event in my mother’s backyard garden. My sisters, mother and I have been preparing for months.

It’s a Cape Cod-themed event, complete with mini lobster rolls. My parents spent their honeymoon on the Cape and 20 years of their retired life. It was “their place” that brought them tranquility and joy.

I came back home a few days early to help with preparations. We cleared the patio, washed the pollen from the windows and made sure the landscaping was as perfect as nature would have it.

In the afternoon, we shared with each other what we planned to wear. My mother showed me her new blouse. It was a lovely cornflower blue, perfect with her silver-white hair.

I said an ocean-blue-and-green beach-glass necklace would be the perfect accompaniment and fit with the Cape Cod theme. My mother thought she knew just the place to find one.

Why do we volunteer?

Why do we volunteer?

In almost every case, those who volunteer express a desire to give what they’re capable of to a cause that is meaningful to them—and to make a difference along the way.

The process of connecting a volunteer to the opportunity that fits them best has always been fascinating to me. With scores of possibilities available in every community, how does one choose where to offer their time and talents?

There are plenty of reasons or situations that motivate a person to lend a helping hand: school or civic group requirements, kids in school/empty nesters/newly retired with time on their hands, a friend’s experience or a professional-development opportunity, among others.

There’s also an important self-motivated aspect: Volunteers (consciously or unconsciously) want to get something out of their experience.

We’ve all heard the refrain that volunteers receive more than they give. But what exactly are they receiving?

Smart home devices can be a boon to seniors

Smart home devices can be a boon to seniors

My husband and I recently made an investment in a Google Home Mini (on sale for $39.95). I had heard about how this smart speaker that responds to your voice could be fun and useful.

You’ve probably heard about the Google Home and Amazon Echo devices, the latter commonly referred to as “Alexa.” Essentially, they’re smart speakers that respond to your voice for hands-free help around the house.

I selected a Google device because it runs on a Gmail account and I already have one of those set up. This 4-inch orb has become one of my new best friends.

From a practical standpoint, it has set wake-up alarms for me and timers for cooking, found my cellphone by calling it when it was lost in the house, and told me whether it would rain the day of my outdoor staff get-together. It also compiles my shopping list as I think of things I need during the week.

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