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Develop a plan for how to age successfully

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear Readers:

Successful aging is like world peace. Everyone is for it, but they’re not sure how to make it happen.

However, while most of us can explain what world peace means, that’s not the case with successful aging.

One reason is that “success” is an ambiguous term. Additionally, the shifting meaning of successful aging has paralleled changes in theories about social and psychological aging.
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Want to be an entrepreneur? Here are some tips

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear Readers:

Last week we discussed entrepreneurship for those in the second half of life. Today’s column offers tips from experts.

An important first step is to ask yourself a few questions, suggested by Mary Beth Izard, author of “BoomerPreneurs” (Acheve Consulting, 2010) as noted in a May 2012 Money Magazine article:
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Entrepreneurship can be rewarding work

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear Readers:

I recently participated in a conference on a subject that just doesn’t go away – employment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for those 55 and older increased from 5.9 percent in February to 6.2 percent in March. That is below the U.S. unemployment rate for all ages, which is 8.2 percent.

It may sound like good news for older adults that their unemployment rate is lower than the national average. Yet we know they have a shorter time to make up for losses from their investments, that it takes them longer than younger folks to find a job, that many are underemployed, and that some have given up looking for work altogether.

Entrepreneurship may be a viable option.
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Using a Cane

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

“A cane makes me feel old.” Some of us have heard this before.  Yet we know using a cane can be a life line.

Kathy Gantner, a physical therapist with Torrance Memorial Medical Center agrees.  She strongly urges her patients to continue using a cane to walk distances, to keep pain at a minimum or to walk without limping.  She adds, “People look younger walking with a cane than walking without one.  Without some assistive device, they may walk bent over, drag their feet or walk more slowly.”  The latter could be a serious problem particularly in a cross street with a stop light.  “You might not get across in time,” she added.  And if one is hardly moving, “the balance system is not provoked and that’s important to stay healthy.”
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Resisting Change

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Have you ever wondered why someone you care about deeply doesn’t do what we think is best for them?  It may appear to you that they are stubborn.  They may resist walking, socializing, getting a home companion or moving when it is clear that their home has too many levels to safely navigate.

Before we rush to judge, let’s consider reasons why some older adults may be resistant to change and appear to take the path of least resistance. Read more »

Elderly, single woman not lonely but still suicidal

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Q: I do not like getting old. As a single woman I realize my chances of getting a partner are getting harder and harder. Unlike my female contemporaries who are happy just with their children, grandchildren, pets, hobbies, travel and job, I want romance and sexual intimacy. I have aged well until the last couple of years. And that bothers me a lot.

In fact, I have contemplated suicide but haven’t told my friends. They will think it’s because of depression. It’s not, because I keep myself constantly busy and despite feeling alone, I am not lonely. I just don’t want to grow old with decay, decline and discomfort. I have no family left, so other than my friends who would feel bad for a short while, none would mourn grievously. I have healthy organs which I would like to donate, but my research finds that organs are not accepted from suicide victims.

At least I am not denying I’m aging.

— V.U.

Dear V.U.: You have shared a lot. So first, thank you for your candor and reaching out to be heard.

Let’s talk about your situation. Clearly you are very unhappy at this time. There is no question — particularly if you have contemplated suicide — that this is serious.
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Putting in a good word for what to call older adults

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: I recently was in the grocery store when a young checkout girl called me “honey.” I found the term quite patronizing. I replied, “I’m old enough to be your mother and if I were your mother, you would have known better not to call me “honey.”

Also, I had an incident occur on my front lawn which drew the police to my home. (In its coverage) my local newspaper referred to my husband and me as an elderly couple. We both are 72 years old and don’t consider ourselves elderly. Am I the only one having trouble with our language?

– B.L.

Dear B.L.:

You are not alone. It’s understandable that you were offended.

But let’s take a closer look. In defense of the young checkout clerk, we don’t know her background. It may be a question of geography.
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Adjusting to change can be especially difficult for elderly

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: My 84-year-old cousin has been a widow for 10 years. She has been independent, positive, outgoing, attended lectures and all kinds of events – until she fell and injured her elbow. Although she recovered from the fall and injury, something has changed. She has stopped driving and now has a housekeeper who drives her. A relative pays her bills and balances her checkbook, although my cousin is mentally sharp. I think she is depressed and feels useless. Her children would like her to move out of her three-story home which she is resisting because of change and cost. How can I be helpful without being intrusive?

– S.H.

Dear S.H.:

As we age, the changes we encounter can test the best of us.

Let’s consider some reasons why older adults may appear to take a path of least resistance.
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The joke is on those who belittle older adults

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear Readers:

Over the years, many have asked me to comment on public policy issues, political debates and other contemporary topics. My response has been the same: “I write about successful aging and avoid taking sides on important and often controversial issues.”

This week I’d like to change my tune, at least for this one column.

It’s about the recent Academy Awards telecast. It was a big event, with 39.3 million viewers; up 4 percent from last year.

And age seemed to be a consistent theme. Read more »

Change perception of cane use to ‘can do’

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: I am a 76-year-old woman who recently had back surgery. Before my back problems I was active and physically fit. Although I am grateful I can walk, I am unhappy using a cane. It makes me feel old and I wonder if others now see me as an old woman. Being 76 doesn’t make it any easier. How do I get over this?
– W.J.

Dear W.J.:

The good news is that you were fit before the surgery. That’s a big benefit to your recovery.

Kathy Gantner, a physical therapist with Torrance Memorial Medical Center, agrees and shares some of her views.
Read more »