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Completing Ten Years

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear readers:

It’s hard to believe that I am completing 10 years of writing the Successful Aging column. That means it’s time to ask the question, “What have I learned?

Older adults are fit. In a column about 90- year olds, I referenced a study about nonagenarians conducted at UC Irvine.  A woman from Florida wrote that she was a study participant and just had a visit from two of the researchers.  This active 90-year old described one of her activities.  She wrote a book about socialable bridge (rather than serious bridge) and has a website to promote it at http://bridgetable.net.   Age and technology do go together.

Yet not always.  A 90-something woman with no computer called to tell me how much she enjoyed the column.  She was in the middle of scrubbing the floor since her cleaning lady cancelled.

Employment remains critical. The e-mails conveyed a sense of seriousness.  How to launch a small business for in-home services, ways a career counselor can shift from a young clientele to an older one and how to just find a job for income are some examples.  An older long-time South Bay home owner with sales and management experience was on the verge of losing his home if he didn’t find employment that paid more than the minimum wage – a story often repeated.

Readers are problem solvers.  Many have suggested solutions to readers’ problems.  For example, a 77-year old “electronics guy” who needed to earn extra income launched a greeting card business from his home using social and network marketing.  He writes, “Anyone can generate income if they are willing to work and gain a few new skills.”

Heroes are inspiring.  In response to columns on Hospice, an extraordinary woman wrote that she has been on Hospice for two years with a diagnosis of breast cancer that spread to her lymph nodes.  She opted out of treatment because she wanted “quality … rather than quantity of life.”  She did not complain but rather offered to assist me in my columns on an as needed basis.  Thank you A.J.

Caregiving is an ongoing concern. Readers have asked for references for caregivers, ways to evaluate caregiving services and what to do when a family caregiver becomes stressed, angry and depressed.   The questionable funding for Adult Day Care Centers has created anxiety and uncertainty among family caregivers and the Centers.

Readers are generous. I was overwhelmed with the response to my caregiving story.  I wrote it in preparation of my role as the closing motivational speaker at a 48-hour caregiver retreat.  Here are a few touching comments.  “I was honored and humbled to read your article today disclosing your personal journey with Lloyd.”  “Your article is one of the most loving caregiving remembrances I’ve ever heard.  It’s incredibly beautiful.” “The way you portrayed your final years together is really a blessing.”  Yes, reflection is difficult, yet nourishing.

Readers take action. A woman in Ontario asked about how to start a caregiver support group in her library.  Others volunteer.  After reading one of the columns on Facebook (not sure how it got there), a reader indicated that after a year of feeling guilty for not working, she is a  Library Express volunteer delivering and returning books for homebound library patrons.  And then there is the woman who volunteers at an assisted living facility not only to give back but to remove her own fear of assisted living.

Not all agree.  And yes, there were some– actually very few– that offered a different point of view. Here’s one example.  I wrote that advertisers are slowly acknowledging older adults as important consumers.  As one reader wrote, “I think you are missing the point.  I don’t see anything that supports your contention that advertisers are accommodating….this change.”

Columns have a life of their own. I received a thank you letter from author Jane H. Thayer from Edgartown, MA.  Her academic colleague from Cornell and Swarthmore lives in Torrance and sent her clippings of the column.  She found the sources cited helpful in the research and the writing of her book “Elderescence.”

Questions covered additional subjects such as finding a geriatrician, dating, depression, sleep, homecare, retirement, Alzheimer’s disease and more.

So dear readers – both new and long term – here’s to another year of being together.  Thank you for sharing your challenges, victories and wisdom with me.  I am honored to be part of your life. To the best of my ability, I will continue to provide you with the most recent information, research, resources and perspectives on aging relevant to your lives.  And occasionally a bit of opinion and personal experience will be thrown in for good measure.

To each of you—good health, joy and successful aging.

Copyright 2011 Helen Dennis. All rights reserved.

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