Importance of Friendship As We Age

Joan

As we age it is important to retain friendships. While some friends are meant to come and go, others last a life-time.

It is important to nurture all friendships. Reaching out, sending notes and listening. Even surprising friends with little meaningful gifts can create a bond that lasts a lifetime.

A dear friend found this note as she was going through her mom’s things. It was folded and tucked into her baby photos. A precious gift to find many years after her mom passed away. It rings true for me. I bet it will for you too.

  1. Time passes
  2. Life happens
  3. Distance separates
  4. Children grow up
  5. Lifestyles change
  6. Jobs come and go
  7. Love waxes and wanes
  8. Hearts break
  9. Parents die
  10. Careers end
  11. We all experience disappointment, disillusionment, and loss of hope one time or another

And still:

“Sisters” are there, no matter how much times and how many miles are between us. A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach.

When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the valley’s rise, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley’s end.

Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you…………or come in and carry you out!

Girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, daughter-in-laws, sisters, sister-in-laws, mothers, grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins and extended family all bless our life.

The world wouldn’t be the same without women, and neither would I. We all have no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor could we have known how much we would need each other.

Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait for an answer.

Ed Cunningham

Change Happens…how can you support it?

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.

Charles Darwin

How do we let go of old habits? How do we accept change? Just because we always did ‘it’ one way does not mean that is the correct way. If we are going to continually wish for things to remain the same how will we grow?

I remember a person who was the treasurer of the United Church Women’s Group. People gently tried to get her to relinquish her position. She would not. Other members of the executive were the same. Within five years the group collapsed. If we can’t accept change, we become stagnant.

Too often I see young, enthusiastic employees or volunteers try to start a new program or do things differently only to be met with opposition and grumbling. Whether at church, the community centre or the spot you live, we seniors are sometimes seen as blockers or a negative force. “We always did it this way.”

How, as seniors, do we stay fresh and able to accept change and transitions gracefully? I feel strongly that our role now is to be a supporter and a sounding board. It’s our time to step back and let the young become involved.

Remember when you began a new job or started a volunteer position? Enthusiasm and great ideas flowed. Sure we made mistakes, that’s how we learned. Let’s be the wise ones who say “go for it.”

Instead of looking for what is wrong with the idea, let’s look at what’s right. Let’s be looked at as a positive, helpful senior not a grumpy old man or woman. Only we can change the way people view seniors.

They say it takes 21 days to change a habit. Beginning today if a negative thought pops into your head when a new idea is suggested, can you make a positive comment instead?

You can say, “have you thought about…?” or give an opinion, if asked. Let’s begin to be looked on as someone who is thoughtful yet progressive.

Can you go through a day without saying something negative? Challenge yourself to look for what’s right with the world instead of what’s wrong.

Over our lifetimes we’ve seen lots of tragedies and sadness. Let’s not be the cause of someone else’s sadness or stress. Let’s encourage and inspire.

Seniors and Driving…when do we give up our car?

One of the most difficult conversations my husband had with his father was trying to persuade him not to drive anymore.

We had the warning signs, dents and scraps on the vehicle and sides of the garage. He had macular degeneration and we could tell his eyes were failing.

At one point the family doctor suggested he stay close to home and for the most part he did. Our fear was that he was close to a school and had to back out of his garage over the sidewalk where young children walked to and from school.

He tended to do things quickly and what if he backed over a child? We felt it would be our fault if we didn’t suggest it was time to give up the keys.

His wife had also told our daughter (not us) that after cataract surgery he told the eye doctor he had a ride home. He did not. He drove home across the city and bounced off the median a number of times. That told us his decision-making wasn’t up to par.

Finally he went for an experimental treatment on his eyes, which did not work, and the doctor told him he could not drive anymore.

Bob had driven him to the appointment and had spoken to the doctor beforehand so knew the results. On the drive home Bob asked his dad what the doctor had told him.

“I’m fine to drive now,” was the answer. Bob said, “That’s not what I heard.” His dad argued so Bob said “Let’s turn around and both ask the doctor so we know the correct answer.”

There was a pause and his dad said “drive me home.” The good news was he did not drive again.

We knew how much his pride had been hurt. It meant loosing independence. We tried to be available when needed and drive his parents places because, like most seniors of that age, they simply refused to take cabs, UPBER or LYFT. “Too expensive.”

Now is the time to start the conversation with your future caregivers as well as your partner or spouse about how you will decide when it is no longer safe to drive.

According to the AARP here are ten signs it’s time to limit or stop driving:

  1. Almost crashing, or close calls
  2. Finding dents, scrapes on the car, fences, mailboxes and garage doors at home
  3. Getting lost, especially in familiar places
  4. Having trouble following traffic signals, road signs and payment markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving foot from brake to gas, consuming the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or causing other drives to honk or complain
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check the rear mirror while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving multiple traffic tickets or warnings from law enforcement

Some of these signs can apply to younger people or people with medical conditions too. It’s not just seniors that have issues with driving. One would hope we will self-police but if our judgement is comprimised we just aren’t capable. We might not notice our reflexes are slower as well as our thinking.

From the time dad was 70, he often had the conversation with my brother and I that we were to tell him when we thought he should no longer drive. He didn’t say it just once he repeated it over many years. We plan to do the same.

We noticed he was driving slower and sometimes holding up traffic. He told us if he became tired he would just pull over and have a nap then continue his journey. My mom thought that was just fine. At 89 years old he hadn’t had an accident and yet we decided it was time “to have the talk.”

My brother said he would do it. My husband and I took a meal out to my parents the next day. When we sat down for dinner, dad looked straight at me and said “Ken says I shouldn’t drive anymore.” I looked at him and said “I agree.” He then looked at Bob and repeated the same statement and Bob answered that he too agreed.

Dad looked sad and then we continued to enjoy the meal. He never drove again yet we kept his vehicle as it was easy for them to get in and out of and he could pay for the gas and upkeep and that seemed to help a little.

So begin to have the conversation with your future caregivers as well as your children or trusted friends. Give them permission to tell you when they feel it is no longer safe for you to drive.

I have researched the cost of driving as opposed to taking cabs etc. It shows that if you are only going to be going about 9655 kilometres (6000 miles) a year it is cheaper to cab it or use public transportation.

Here are some of the things to consider.

Add up:

  1. Cost of the care/5 years
  2. Cost of maintenance
  3. Cost of insurance
  4. cost of taxes etc.

Divide this number by the number of kilometres/miles travelled and that will equal the true cost per mile of owning a car.

I watched as both sets of our parents aged and they really didn’t drive all that far. So for them, it would have made sense to use other modes of transportation. It certainly would have been easier on my husband and I.

One friend, whose parents lived in the country, hired a young student to take her parents into town twice a week for groceries, appointments and a meal out. This deal was beneficial to both.

We hired a service to pick up our mom for her weekly hair appointment. What we couldn’t convince our parents to do was hire a cab for other trips.

“It’s too expensive!” they would say. Yet for me to drive out to my parents, a 40 minutes drive, pick them up take them here and there, drop them off and then drive home, didn’t seem to phase them.

I never minded, yet sure found it tiring. It also ended up taking most of my day. Let’s not do that to our kids. Let’s start talking to each other and maybe take a cab a few places just to get used to it.

If we have to give up driving we have multiple options. Let’s be wise enough to identify them now.

The Dreaded “F” Word for Seniors

Keep Moving!

The National Council of Aging says that one in four Americans over the age of 65 will take a fall each year. I recently read in the local newspaper about the owner of Bills Pizza, a restaurant in Palm Springs, who died as a result of a fall off the roof of his restaurant.

Within our park a fellow fell off his rig and broke his hip a few years ago and he says it has changed his life. Another fellow fell off a ladder. He isn’t able do many activities he used to enjoy. This summer, another fellow was up a ladder and fell and as a result passed away.

Perhaps at a certain age you might want to think about hiring help for activities such as climbing ladders, lifting heavy objects, shovelling snow, cutting grass and twisting your body in ways that you haven’t done for a while. As we age we just don’t heal as quickly as we used to so any damage we do to our bodies may be life changing.

So why all the falls? I know from experience that I am more tippy than I used to be. I do think about climbing anything as my balance isn’t what it used to be. Falls take a toll on us physiologically and often after a big one, we may even limit our social and physical activity for fear of falling again. That is not good.

Keeping moving is important for seniors. We really must think about ways to stay safe and yet move. Lots of people are taking up new sports as they age. This is great as long as they go at it slowly and thoughtfully.

Causes of falls in seniors can be due to vision loss, infections, medication which causes dizziness, dehydration can also cause dizziness, poor lighting, moving quicker than our brain can think and poor flexibility and coordination. What can we do?

In the research it says to look at these four areas when you think of your physical activity:

  1. Endurance: includes such activities as brisk walking, hiking, pickleball, tennis, swimming and biking
  2. Balance: activities such as tai chi, yoga, standing on one foot while brushing your teeth, laying down a piece of tape and walking a straight line and eye-tracking exercises (there are some on U-Tube)
  1. Strength: think about arm curls, chair dips and knee curls
  2. Flexibility: various stretching exercises for your neck, back, legs and ankles

Aquasizes, when taught by a qualified instructor, is one of the most recommended activities as it is easier on our joints. As a senior we are cautioned not to try any exercise until we have checked with our physician.

If you have a friend to accompany you, you are more likely to keep it up. Try not to go too hard at anything. Take rest days so your muscles can heal.

One piece of research said that while our healing processes have performed notably for many years, as we age they just aren’t quite so efficient. It’s sure a fact with me, I take longer to rebound from any injury and sometimes I’m wiped after an overly busy day!

So before you climb that ladder, shovel the whole driveway without a break or twist to fit under a vehicle, maybe you want to think. We wise in your life choices.

Thanksgiving…count your many blessings

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Friends

I can remember following my Grandmother around the house trying to figure out what she was saying. When I asked she said “I’m counting my blessings.” My grandma was wise. Science shows if we focus on our blessings our lives are enriched.

In Canada we celebrated our Thanksgiving yesterday. I’m feeling blessed as I think about all the reasons I am thankful. So here are my blessings today.

  1. I am thankful for all the relationships I have made over my 66 years. As I age I realize how important all relationships are to my well-being.
  2. I find I am much more honest about what I need. If I feel like reading all morning I can. To my surprise, I’ve realized my ‘batteries’ get charged by being alone. I try to honour that.
  3. I don’t have as many set commitments so I am able to spend more time with loved ones. What a blessing.
  4. I am blessed to be able to pursue some life-long dreams.
  5. I fell blessed because I have learned not to worry about things I can not control. If I can’t fix it my focus becomes one of accepting what I cannot change.
  6. Because many close friends have not had the opportunity to age, I try to feel blessed for the new aches and pains… just because I am still here to actually feel them!
  7. I’m blessed that I can choose to learn new things. (Learning the ins and out of WordPress where I create this Blog is definitely stretching.)
  8. I’m blessed because I have time to meet new people and hear new ideas. I value the gift of time.
  9. I feel blessed I am able watch my grandchildren and grandnieces and nephews grow up. What a gift to watch.
  10. I feel blessed that I can be more forgiving not just of others, also myself. With more experiences and wisdom I’m able to be much kinder.

What are your blessings each day?

Celebrate Aging

Mom with her second great grandchild. They met 16 of their 17 greats!

Mom with her second great grandchild. She met 16 of the 17 “grands” and she and dad were very much a part of their lives. They kept in touch with their grandchildren via phone and always made reports to my brother and I about the latest great grandchild story.

I’ve been thinking about my parents. They both lived till they were 92. My dad’s mom lived till she was 94!

I like to think of them as pioneers – brave because they explored new frontiers. Not many people, in their generation, lived as long.

I think they wanted our family to see them as vital and engaged. They watched the news, read books and were generally interested in the world around them. Mom walked most days and dad was always at ‘the farm’ helping.

I know they felt loneliness and pain yet they tried not to continually focus on that. Until the last year of both their lives, when anyone visited mom and dad were interested in their families and lives and that made the visitor feel important.

When I read books about people who have lived past 100, there is a common theme. Move every day, even if it hurts. While walking is recommended, any activity that gets you out and about is key. Be wise when you chose an activity. Acknowledge that your body may not be up for a rigorous work out, the important thing is to move.

Be social. Talk to others, even on the bus or coffee shop. Phone someone. Identify a lonely person and see if you can cheer them up. The centertians all made an effort to get out or invite someone over.

Focus on the present and the future and then define a purpose each day. Most of the centurions interviewed in the two books I read said that they woke up in the morning thinking about what they could accomplish that day.

One joked it was to get her compression socks on so she could go for a walk! Another said it was to find a way to open the peanut butter jar. Definitely a sense of humour helps…

While their goal might be less than when they were in their 60s, 70s or 80s, they still identified a goal. Not all of them named it a goal. It was simply a reason to get up, get dressed and move.

We have great models to observe at our winter home. We live in an active-living recreational vehicle park. Only motor homes and fifth wheels are allowed. One has to be in pretty good physical shape just to navigate the stairs into a recreational vehicle so this becomes a goal for most living here.

People up to 90 year olds are out walking most days, learning or playing pickle ball and tennis, directing choir, teaching ukelele, bike-riding, getting holes in one on the golf course, hiking and hosting resort-wide dinners.

Many residents have had knees, shoulders, hips replaced, have battled diseases or are caring for an ill loved-one. It doesn’t seem to slow them down, they just do it! There is lots of help from other residents as we don’t spend much time in our 400 square foot ‘homes.’ We get to know others quickly as we see most every day. We like to be out in the sun and therefore, without even noticing, we are more active.

So what is your purpose today? Have you got out and moved? Who have you chatted with? Have you learned anything? Have you helped someone?

We too are pioneers as we navigate through our aging process. What are we modelling?

Mindful Aging by Andrea Brant

Over the next months I’m going to review books I have been reading about aging. Each one challenged me to think in different ways.

This week I have read Mindful Aging by Andrea Brant. Brant talks about embracing change with realistic positivity and seeing the gift of loss, the gift of pain and even the gift of death.

Over the years I have embraced change. I’ve always said I have the attention span of a gnat so I find change exciting. I relish new experiences and new ventures. Even at 66 years!

Brant asks us to be realistic in our expectations and yet mindful as we move forward on life’s journey.

For me being mindful as well as realistic is the difficult part. Thinking about loss as a gift causes me to examine my perceptions from a different perspective. Sometimes I find this uncomfortable.

I enjoy the tools and exercises that Brant challenges us to use at the conclusion of each chapter.

Another point she made was that if we are “people pleasers’ we have permission to leave that behind. Not in a selfish way, rather thinking about how we contribute in an enjoyable way for ourselves.

Baby Boomer Letter to Caregiver

Do It Now!

Dear Kids,

I’m writing this letter to give you permission to make tough decisions for Bob and I, if and when the time comes. Defining the time will be difficult as we may not agree that we do need help and so we might not want to hear from you. Preserve; keep us safe.

You see, when we think about ourselves we don’t see “old.” We see ourselves vital and thriving. The only time we feel old is when we look in the mirror or find ourselves exhausted doing something that used to be easy.

As we watched you grow and choose your life-partners we felt so proud of you. Now as you raise your children we see you being loving, supportive and strong, as you give your children tools to become independent, contributing citizens. We found it much easier making decisions for you, our children, than for our aging parents! Sorry!!!!

ALWAYS remember we love and respect you and would move the world to make you happy. That is our unconditional love. Try to keep this front and centre if we say something nasty or ask for something that you simply can’t or don’t have time to do.

Over the next years, if we are blessed enough to age as our parents did, our relationship will change. Parenting a parent is not easy. The relationship is complicated.

Our experience, with aging parents, was difficult. Bob’s parents were challenging and although my parents had a plan and made their wishes known, it was no walk in the park either.

Physically, emotionally and even financially they were challenging. We want your journey easier and give you permission to keep your marriages and children and maybe even grandchildren (fingers crossed!) front and centre.

We had our time of spending winters in Palm Springs, holidaying when we wanted, and driving to events when we were so inclined. Now we expect you to carry on and enjoy yourselves. Never put anything on hold. We give you permission to step in and make some unpopular decisions as our decision-making powers may be compromised. While we are still in our right mind, or so we think, please understand this is what we want!

We have tried to make the road a little easier by down-sizing early, telling you we don’t want to live with you, even if we may say we do, and even picking out our final ‘resting place.’ Our wills are written, we have filled out personal directives and our power of attorney. You have copies. These forms may change and we plan to keep them updated. You may want to remind us occasionally.

As you know, we think that assisted living and later continuous care are the correct routes. We don’t want an expensive place with lots of bells and whistles. It must be clean and have a qualified, caring staff. You will get a sense of the place as soon as you walk in for tour.

We will try to pick out one just as my parents did. It certainly made it easier when dad said “This is a horrible place – all I look at are the garbage containers,” we could think “ you did choose it.”

I still felt sad when I said good-bye after each visit, yet I was relieved because it was what they had wanted. It was also important to me that they were safe, had regular meals and got their medication. We want you to have that same reassurance.

I hope you are able to work together as a team with your partners, in the background, as your support. My brother and I made all the decisions, without our partners in attendance, to keep things less complicated and smoother. Sometimes in-laws can complicate decisions. It’s one tip that really helped us.

Just remember that we love you all more than words can ever express. Keep us safe and carry on with your own lives. Age has a way of creeping up much faster than you will anticipate!

Love,

Mom

More Rules for Healthy Aging

” You do not grow old; you become old from not growing.”

Think About the Kind of Care You Want

# Educate yourself on ‘the system’ – in our province it’s a moving target- ever changing- I liken it to trying to grab jello – it’s complex – I often found it impenetrable. Find out what support services are available for seniors. Were they designed for people who did not live as long as we are expected to? What jurisdictions fund what programs or services? Write letters. Ask your candidates questions. Baby boomers must take action now and design and demand what you want your care to look like:

  • What does quality care look like to you?
  • How can the system be responsive to individual needs?
  • Do you want to age in place? At this point, this option is cost prohibitive and only works if you are wealthy. Often aging in place means more work for your caregivers.
  • If you need 24 hour medical care what does that look like?

My in-laws were adamant that they not want to go into an assisted living facility. They also resisted most offers of help. What this meant for my husband and I was that we were their support. We brought meals, planted flowers, mowed grass and shovelled snow. Do you want that responsibility on your care-givers? After a medical crisis, and with the assistance of a transition nurse who would not release my father-in-law from hospital until home-care and meals on wheels were in place, we had some help. What a relief for us. Little did we know this was not as wonderful as we initially thought. Home care in Alberta is limited and workers seemed rushed and stressed. Also the workers rotate so just when my mother-in-law was comfortable, a new care aid arrived. We did discover that there was a mobile blood service who would come to their home to get blood samples, thus saving us. It always felt like one step forward and two back.

Have you looked at assisted living facilities and long-term care? When my husband and I were looking for his parents we got tours and most times we got a feeling of how it was run quickly. What was the ratio of medical aids to clients? What times were meals hosted? My parents moved into an assisted living facility, of their choice, that had breakfast at 7:00a.m. and lunch at 11:00 and dinner at 4……all to accommodate the long-term care residents in the other part of the building. We never asked about meal times! My dad liked to sleep in so this was an issue, and after dinner it was a very long evening for them. Plus the nutrition cart only came by occasionally……. while the staff assured us there were snacks in the fridge, my parents were not up to going to find them. If you want to be in control, I suggest you start to seriously think about what will you do if something happens to one of you. Or if you get to a point where you cannot care for yourself. Figure it out now. Don’t make your caregivers….

Our friends and I used to joke that we would have the carpenter in the group build us a group home. We would know all residents and hire staff to help. The kids wouldn’t have to visit us so often as we all knew everyone so one visit would please us all. We would hire a cook, a cleaner, a care aid, buy a van to haul us around, have a driver we could use (not us!) and a nurse practitioner. While we laughed about it in our 40s we now wonder if it isn’t the way to go!

When we checked out the cost of many of the private “active living” facilities we knew we couldn’t afford them.

More Rules for Healthy Aging

Here are some more thoughts about aging you might want to think about and discuss with your partner or potential caregivers. Let everyone know your thoughts and wishes. (See the thought for the day at the end of this article)

# Be ready to graciously accept or pay for help even when you don’t think you need it. If someone suggests you might benefit from support, accept it. While you might not want it, think about your caregiver and if you hire some services you will be giving them peace of mind. They may be worried about you. Think of others instead of yourself.

Areas to have conversations with your ‘truth teller’ include:

  • cleaning …as we age our eyes age and we don’t notice dirt like we used to. If you aren’t able to keep up, what will you do?
  • hearing aides…one friend’s children were convinced she had dementia until she started wearing hearing aids. Have you had a hearing test lately? It might be time.
  • mobility aids such as canes, wheelchairs, walkers, suitable footwear, washable clothes etc. If you are tippy or using the furniture to move around the room, it’s time to think about some kind of support. Look at your shoes. How safe are they?
  • driver service…if you are unable to drive and want to retain your independence hire a taxi, take a bus or look into finding a regular driver. Have you had that conversation with your partner or caregiver to give them permission NOT to become your driver?
  • meal preparation and grocery shopping…eating healthy is a huge precursor for remaining healthy (tea and toast won’t do it!) Think about what you would do if you couldn’t prepare meals.

Our daughter told me that her grandparents bathroom was ‘gross’ and something had to be done. I had no time to become a cleaning lady so my husband and I tried to approach the subject. A strong NO was our answer. Finally when we thought it was becoming a health issue my husband took his parents for a day-long outing and myself and a cleaning lady cleaned the main floor. My in-laws were so angry they didn’t talk to us for weeks. Finally when things cooled down they decided they would allow a cleaning lady once every two weeks.

Both sets of parents thought nothing of having us drive them to appointments. I wondered if they subconsciously thought since we were the ones who said, “no more driving” they decided then we could do it!……For me it meant a 50-60 minute drive to pick them up, a 50 minute drive into the city for an appointment, then back. By the time I got home I would be exhausted from lifting walkers, wheelchairs and negotiating parkades etc. My husband’s parents decided to take a driving service one day to see one of their relatives. ( We were out of town) It cost them close to $100 and they were shocked and yet never seemed to realize the time and effort their caregivers put in. They never used the service again and we remained their designated drivers.

5. Move your body every day. Go for a walk. Swim, take an exercise class. Find a television show program for chair exercises. Walk around your home or neighbourhood. Find a friend or neighbour who likes to go for walks. If you try a new activity or exercise, begin slowly so you don’t injure yourself. Regular exercise is important for your overall well being. My husband says once you retire exercise needs to become your job.

Thought for the day:

“We always think old age is 10 years older than we are!”