With Great Sadness

In honor of a friend who lost her son over the weekend:

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Aging In Place

A lot of our friends have started to think about their next move. Our kids, for the most part, have grown up and moved out of our homes.  Many of us are left in houses that feel empty….

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with yards that feel way too big.

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So with that in mind my husband and I have started a preliminary search to see what is out there, how much it costs and what do you get for the money.  On a whim we went into a new senior neighborhood to check out the maintenance free patio homes.  As a physical therapist I was curious about the trends in these types of communities.

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My daughter was with us and after we viewed this beautiful home with many wonderful safety features, she said,  “Why don’t they incorporate some of these same features into regular new construction houses?”

  • Floor lighting that stays on all night
  • Double railings on all stairs
  • Walk-in showers with no threshold lip to step over
  • Wider doorways and doors (about $8.00 extra per door vs about $1,000 to retro-fit)

The truth is that they already do.  It is called Universal Design.

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Overwhelmingly, Baby Boomers say that they want to remain in their homes as long as possible.  They are engaged with families, friends and their communities where they may have lived for decades.  Whether you are looking to downsize or stay in your current home and adapt as you get older, keep in mind the idea of universal design.  Adapting your home doesn’t have to look institutional or medical.  It can be useful and beautiful for all ages.

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Little Darling, It’s Been A Long Cold……….

Little Darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter.

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OK, maybe not a lonely winter.  In truth, it has been quite the opposite.  Lots of fun family time, good holidays, enjoying hot chocolate and snow filled festivities.  But come on, its the end of February, enough WINTER already.

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I was coming out of the grocery store the other day, it was really cold and the wind was gusting  about 60 mph.  One of the employees was trying to collect the carts when all of a sudden he stopped, looked up at the sky and yelled “TURN IT OFF”.  I understood.  It was freezing and I couldn’t even open the door of my car against the wind.

Little Darling, it seems like years since it’s been here.

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I realize that we in Colorado are not the only ones suffering.  The rest of the country has more snow than they know what to do with.  The Great Lakes are almost entirely frozen over.  Polar vortex and bombogenesis are newly learned vocabulary words we have at our disposal to describe this never-ending story!

Little Darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting.

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I remember in high school back in the sixties in upstate New York.  I would be sitting in class thinking that this cold, gray, dank, snowy February would never end.  This month has reminded me of  those days.  But, I know that February is almost over.  Time doesn’t go backwards, only forward.  Is Spring just around the corner?

Here comes the sun.

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I hope so!

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Did I Say That

Remember when your kids were little and they would say something embarrassing in public?  You know what I mean.  You’re in the grocery store and one of your kids says, loud enough for everyone to hear, I might add,  “Why is that man so fat?”   Or you are walking down the street with the kids when they see a child in a wheelchair.  They just can’t stop staring until they get close enough and say, “What’s the matter with her?”.

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We knew that our small children would, for the most part, be forgiven for inappropriate comments.  We as parents would try to turn these awkward encounters into, as Oprah would say, teachable moments.

People say that one of the advantages of getting older is that you feel more free to say exactly what is on your mind.   You are not quite so concerned about what everyone else might think about you.  I admit, my friends and I started feeling this in our forties.

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At some age, though, just like Sophia from the Golden Girls, it seems that the filters in our brains begin to falter.  We have all heard older people say things out loud that you wish they would have kept to themselves.  I have seen it in my own family.  It is another one of those things that we have to watch out for as we age.  It is a balancing act I guess, but….. balance is just another thing that diminishes as we get older.    Sigh!

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A Healthy Dose Of Skepticism

My Mother was a bright intelligent woman who retained much of her cognitive function until she died at the age of ninety-four.  But, I think it was when she was in her late seventies that we discovered she was falling prey to “sweepstakes winner” scams.  You know the kind I mean.  You send in one hundred dollars and they guarantee one of five gifts will be sent to you: a big screen TV, cruise, jewelry etc.  So my Mom sent in her money and got a tiny chip of a sapphire necklace worth virtually nothing.  My sister had to have a talk with her, and from then on she did not engage in conversations with strange people on the phone or at the door.

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(pic: Costarican Times)

A close relative of mine in his late eighties was still being “persuaded” to send money to charities even though he no longer could afford to give any money away.

For a while the thought was that our parent’s generation, the “greatest generation”, was just too generous and trusting. The thinking was that the problem would disappear with the passing of this generation.

Unfortunately,  now we know that as we age there are physiological changes that occur in our brains that make us more susceptible to these types of scams.  The latest research shows that it may not be just the result of an aging brain, but more pointedly the changes in a specific part of the brain.  According to a research study from the University of Iowa, the problem may be deterioration in the part of our brain that governs what we believe and what we doubt.

“The current study provides the first direct evidence beyond anecdotal reports that damage to the vmPFC (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) increases credulity. Indeed, this specific deficit may explain why highly intelligent vmPFC patients can fall victim to seemingly obvious fraud schemes,” the researchers wrote in the paper published in a special issue of the journalFrontiers in Neuroscience.

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(pic: Costarican Times)

According to AARP, roughly one-third of all scam victims are sixty-five or older though that age group is only one-eighth of the population.  The six most common scams?

Romance:  Also known as the “Catfish” phenomenon.  Scammers cruise dating websites, sweet talk potential victims until they can get money out of them.  Young and old often fall for this one.

Charity: Older people often are the first to open their hearts and wallets to fake charities, especially when veterans, sick children or disasters are used as the bait.

Grandparents: After gathering information from obituaries, Facebook or other websites, scammers call grandparents in the middle of the night claiming to be a grandchild in distress while traveling and in dire need of money.

Home Repair: Less than trustworthy contractors show up at the door claiming that while driving by they noticed repairs that need immediate attention.

Health Care:  Medicare benefits are a prime target for scammers.  Medical identity theft as well as come-ons offering free medical supplies or threatening loss of Medicare coverage are also a problem.

Investment:  We have all seen these.  Come for a free lunch or dinner at a nice restaurant and we will tell you all about our great financial product.  Some of these are legitimate some not.  Or, telemarketers call offering “risk free” investments.

Understanding that there is a physiological change in the older brain that may make us more susceptible to scams may help us to understand, rather than to blame, when our parents do something that, to us, looks so silly.  Hopefully it will make us more aware of these pitfall as we get older.  Approach situations with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Remember the Seinfeld episode when Jerry volunteers to be a companion to an elderly man?  Now that’s a healthy dose of skepticism!

Posted in Aging, Baby Boomers, Family, Grandparents, humor, Money, News, Parents, Seniors, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Looking For Someone To Blame

There seems to be a lot of resentment for Baby Boomers who refuse to retire and open up the job market for the unemployed and under-employed.  Despite the fact that boomers can’t afford to retire and are still trying to recover from the big recession AND trying to do it in a struggling economy, there is a lot of push for boomers to step aside.

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So, when my husband brought this article to my attention I found it interesting.  According to the article by Matt Sedensky (an AP reporter studying aging and workforce issues as part of a year-long Fellowship), the idea that older workers remaining on the job are stealing these jobs from younger workers is simply not supported by any evidence.  In fact the opposite is true.   “Having older people active and productive actually benefits all age groups, economists say, and spurs the creation of more jobs.”

The article has much more about why having older workers in the job force does not limit the opportunities for younger workers.  http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/01/03/older-workers-taking-jobs-from-the-young-nonsense-economists/

So, maybe younger workers don’t have to worry that baby boomers are keeping them from getting jobs.  And the millennial who sent a comment to me that baby boomers should just die and get out of the way so that the millennials can clean up the mess that we made; well maybe he is just looking for someone to blame.

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New Year

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May your New Year be filled with Love, Peace and Joy!!

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Remembering

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During this time of good cheer and the hustle and bustle of the holidays, taking a moment to remember the six adults and twenty children gunned down a year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Victims who will never fulfill the promise of their young and innocent lives and families whose lives will never be the same.

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Can You Smell The Peanut Butter?

A friend from my book club told us about this article in USA Today.  For us baby boomers who are always wondering if we are having “senior moments” or something more sinister,  this is very interesting.

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(Photo: Brand X Pictures, Getty images)

How’s this for a low-tech way of diagnosing Alzheimer’s: sniffing peanut butter. Researchers at the University of Florida have discovered some merit to the bizarre-sounding notion, reports Futurity. Knowing that patients in cognitive decline often lose their sense of smell first, the researchers had patients sniff a dollop of peanut butter with each nostril separately. They used a ruler to measure the point at which people detected the odor (and to keep the other nostril closed).

The weird result: People with a confirmed diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s could smell it fine with their right nostril, but not their left, say the UF scientists. Generally speaking, the right nostril picked up on it 10cm before the left one. Also of note: The left-right difference is specific to Alzheimer’s, and doesn’t apply to other forms of dementia.

“At the moment, we can use this test to confirm diagnosis,” says the lead researcher. “But we plan to study patients with mild cognitive impairment to see if this test might be used to predict which patients are going to get Alzheimer’s disease.” Bravo, says Dan Nosowitz at PopSci. This could end up being an easy, cheap, and effective weapon in the Alzheimer’s fight.

So, of course, I had to try it when I got home.  I had no trouble detecting the smell on both the right and the left side.  It was the result I expected as I have not had any episodes that would raise a red flag.  But I know that Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be elusive and difficult to pin down.  The peanut butter test just might change that.

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Housing Dilemma

Yesterday I was putting up the Christmas lights outside the house.  Now, I know that for some, this is just way too early.  I don’t turn the lights on until Thanksgiving night but it was sixty degrees here yesterday and this morning the temperature is a whopping  fourteen degrees and it’s snowing.  So I took advantage of, maybe, the last really nice weather for a while. The job seems bigger and bigger each year even though I am not putting any more lights up than usual.  That got me thinking about the house.

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This is a discussion that seems to be creeping into the conversations of my friends who are in the baby boomer age range. We are facing some kind of decision about our houses as we age.  Is our house and yard getting to be too much?  Do we downsize?  If we downsize, when do we make the move?  Can we age in place?  Of course, if and when to retire enters into this discussion.  These decisions are not easy, they are life changing events.

Life event Life change units
Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Imprisonment 63
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain a new family member 39
Business readjustment 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family reunions 15
Change in eating habits 15
Vacation 13
Christmas 12
Minor violation of law 11

Score of 300+: At risk of illness.

Score of 150-299: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk).

Score <150: Only have a slight risk of illness.

This scale illustrates the level of stress that can occur with these life events. We know that stress can make us sick, but as the list shows, it is difficult to avoid.  We are in our sixties now and we face losing parents, retirement,  downsizing,  having enough money to last the rest of our lives, sleep changes and probably a few more from the list.   It is why we sometimes go kicking and screaming into the third act of our lives.  But, no matter what kind of house we live in, we at least have to be thoughtful about it and our futures.

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