A fond farewell to the incandescent light bulb

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I’ve had bad memories of the incandescent light bulb ever since third grade, so the recent news that the 40- and 75-watt versions of the bulb will be phased out in 2014 didn’t upset me in the least. It all began with my science fair that year. I was at a loss for a project idea. At dinner one night I made the mistake of asking my father for suggestions. Dad, a lighting engineer for GTE Sylvania, suggested I do a project on the incandescent light bulb. That’s when the figurative light bulb should have gone off in my head to steer clear of such an uninteresting topic for 9-year olds. But I ignored that inner voice as my dad waxed poetic about the bulb. Dad suggested he lecture me each night after supper on the topic and together we would build a working electrical box to power the bulb that reduced and expanded the brightness as we turned the dimmer. Life lesson No. 1: Pay attention to that inner voice. And so we began. With a pad of paper in hand, my dad and I sat on the couch...

Turkey basters: an endangered species

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This November, for the first time in 25 years, my husband and I traveled back east for Thanksgiving. It’s not that we don’t visit family a few times a year, but it always seemed that traveling from Los Angeles to Boston on one of the most heavily traveled weekends of the year was a recipe for disaster. But this year, since my mom decided she and my dad could no longer make the trip to her brother’s for their normal celebration, my sisters and I decided to bring Thanksgiving to my parents. Paula, my sister from Connecticut, brought a 26-pound turkey and 12 pounds of roast beef. Carla, my sister in New Hampshire, made enough desserts to fill a football stadium. We had 14 people for dinner, ranging in age from 17 to 83. Observing the differences in the thoughts and activities of three generations during a full-day celebration was like watching three genres of movies simultaneously. At one point, I noticed my 17-year-old niece and her cousin sitting next to each other on the couch,...

Accumulating too much

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Right or wrong, many adults tend to measure their happiness by how much stuff they accumulate, but in later life, I think it’s just the opposite. Today Mary, my mother-in-law, is happily living with a few prized possessions in a 400-square-foot room in an assisted-living facility. Last year her home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, she was living in the facility at the time. Early next year her house will be leveled and a new one built in its place. Before demolition can begin, the two-story duplex with a detached garage has to be cleaned out. This will be no easy task because Mary had an issue with saving things. She was employed as a domestic worker and often her clients would offer her things. Mary never said no. The garage, basement and downstairs are cluttered with bags and bags of clothes for all ages, heavy-duty tools, portable air conditioners, beds, chairs, end tables, televisions, dishes galore, linens, multiple garbage cans, extra wood, wheelbarrows,...

Lawn sprinklers and Alzheimer’s

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Our lawn sprinkler has always given us trouble. My husband tells me it has something to do with the manifolds, the things that have electrical wires connecting the faucet to the valves that control each sprinkler station. I guess if it weren’t for a faulty manifold though, we would not have discovered until much later that my father-in-law, Danny, had Alzheimer’s. Danny was a licensed electrician. Before retirement, he worked for Fort Monmouth Army base in New Jersey. When my husband and I were first married, Danny helped us renovate our 80-year-old fixer-upper in Red Bank, N.J. He was so handy. He helped Peter install 18 windows in our home over one long weekend. We installed a brand-new bathroom together. So when Danny and his wife, Mary, came from New Jersey to visit us in California for a few weeks many years later, we assembled our fix-it list. Right at the top was the sprinkler system. Soon after father and son got to work on that troublesome manifold, my husband came...

Boomer Bootcamp gives tools for our future

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How do we manage the impact aging boomers will have on society? How do we care for our aging parents? What’s the best way to deal with life’s challenges? If only we were having active conversations about these topics. Why? Because we need to be having this dialogue now if we are to uncover how we, individually and as a society, will deal with the dilemmas of aging. Whether we are talking about ourselves, our community or even society as a whole, aging brings with it a bucketload of dilemmas. We all have our own opinions about developing affordable healthcare and housing, finding work for aging Americans, managing the challenges of caring for a loved one with chronic diseases and even dealing with cultural biases against the old. It’s easy to see what a challenging time we live in. The population is graying, and there are as many reasons to address the changes we need to make as there are not to. But one thing is certain: ignoring issues regarding aging won’t make us better as a...

Child rearing doesn’t end for some seniors

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Dori has been taking care of her two children by herself since she was 18. She anticipated that many of the financial challenges, the emotional ups and downs, and the constant juggling act would end once her children became adults and headed out on their own. I know what you’re thinking: This is going to be a story about the legions of baby boomer parents whose adult children have returned home to live. If so, you’d be wrong. What Dori is experiencing will stretch her financial and emotional limits for many, many years to come. At 56, she is a grandparent raising her 2-year old grandson, Luke. A year ago in the middle of the night, Dori received a call from Child Protective Services. They had Luke in custody; her daughter was in jail—a result of using and dealing drugs. CPS was looking for alternative care for Luke and Dori had been identified as a grandparent. If she did not take him, the infant boy would be remanded to foster care. According to the 2010 census, Dori is one...

I care for Mom, but who will care for me?

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Here’s a five-question quiz to take and share with friends. 1. What percentage of baby boomers think they will need long-term care (help with daily activities) as they age, and what percentage actually will need long-term care? 2. What percentage of long term care is provided by family or friends? 3. If there are seven potential (unpaid) family caregivers (age 45 to 64) for every person over 80 today, how many will there be in 30 years? 4. What percentage of baby boomers have no idea of the cost of home care or nursing care? 5. What percentage of baby boomers have enough funds saved to pay for their own long term care? Answers: 1. 36 percent and 70 percent 2. 80 percent 3. Three 4. 80 percent 5. 10 percent Based on two recently released studies, one by AARP and the second by Bankers Life and Casualty Company’s Center for a Secure Retirement, most boomers won’t have enough money to pay for their own care and will be far less able to rely on family and friends for help. ...

Making connections that can help

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Last year, five of the women on my block were caring for a surviving parent. The conversation at our neighborhood Halloween party and the chitchat while walking the dogs held a mix of frustration, concern and fear. “We are on month six of waiting for my mother-in-law’s Medicaid application to be approved.” “My dad in New York fell again and is in the hospital. I am heading back East tomorrow to get some things in place before he returns home.” “Mom’s doctor is now suggesting hospice.” Often in the midst of dealing with our parents’ set of issues, we lose sight of the fact that there are others having similar experiences. That’s what seemed so special about our neighborhood talks. In some way we were our own little support group, sharing situations and solutions, giving each other words of encouragement and a shoulder to cry on. All of us were in the same boat and somehow it was helpful to talk with someone going through similar circumstances. While some support groups can be...

Caregivers and their spouses

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There came a time in our marriage when my husband, Peter, did something so extraordinary that I fell in love with him all over again. You might think it was a grand gesture, like a surprise trip to Italy or a diamond necklace. It wasn’t. It was something so simple, yet so profound. Peter joined me in my caregiving journey. He didn’t have to. I was the one who had signed up to care for our elderly neighbors Fred and Hildy. But of course I had no idea at the time what that meant. Over time, rides around town and grocery shopping gave way to financial planning for long-term care; that’s when Peter stepped in. But the gesture that really gave me pause was more human than financial. Hildy had passed away and Fred was recovering from a stroke. Fred had progressed from the hospital to rehab but was not well enough to come home. So the next stop was a skilled nursing facility until he could regain strength and mobility. Fred had really wanted to come home. It was all becoming too much...

Making a business ‘ability-friendly’

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Recently my parents needed to open a checking account for their newly created trust. In a phone conversation with my mom, who now makes most of the financial decisions, I asked which bank she planned to use. She said she was considering the decision. She was loyal to her old bank, but my sister, who lives close by, wanted my mom to move to her bank. Given similar rates of return at both banks, I asked what I thought was an obvious question, “Which bank is the easiest to get in and out of?” We debated the pros and cons of each location. Both banks were on busy roads with no signals to help regulate traffic in and out. Since my dad uses a wheelchair, we also considered the parking-lot setup, ramp access, whether they had an automatic entry system, and the configuration of the lobby floor plan to try to figure out which bank was easiest for my dad to navigate. We were amused that, as much attention as banks devote to customer service and relationship building, at the end of the...
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