Doris Bersing, PhD
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How to Save Your Closest Relationships During a Stressful Self-Isolation

No matter how well your family gets along under normal circumstances, spending more time at home together amid a global pandemic has likely put your relationships to the test. All that extra time in close quarters can not only lead to strained relationships but also physical, mental, and emotional health challenges for everyone, and more so for seniors. With that said, there are plenty of ways that you can relieve any ongoing tension and reduce the stress in your home. Few things you can do to preserve and strengthen your relationships during this time of crisis.

Seek guidance.

None of us is above getting help when we need it. If you and/or other family members are dealing with depression, anxiety, chronic stress, or other mood-related issues, it’s essential to get help. Whether it’s scheduling an appointment with a therapist or working with a health coach, help is out there for the taking. Depending on your family circumstances, you may even need to work with a mediator. Families with divorced parents might be experiencing a more significant toll right now. Norman Spencer, Ph.D. says that regardless of the situation, taking steps toward improving your physical, mental, and/or emotional health will pay off for you and everyone around you. And the benefits will carry over well past the pandemic.

Freshen up your living space.

 Oftentimes, your environment is a contributor to tension and stress. For example, if you notice people in your household criticizing one another, arguing, or complaining more than usual, take a close look at your living space. Is it dirty? Is it messy? If so, take steps to fix it. Declutter your entire home room by room, getting rid of any items that you don’t want or need. Deep clean your home from top to bottom. Make sure you are changing your air filters, put out some air-purifying houseplants, and take other steps to improve the indoor air quality of your home. Maintaining a clean living space can do wonders for relieving tension and stress.

Plan outdoor activities.

Another way that you can improve your overall health and well-being and foster the relationships in your household is to spend more time together outdoors. Over the past several decades, children and adults alike have been spending less time in nature.

However, the good news is that there are many outdoor activities that will allow you to unplug and reduce stress. Whether it’s setting up games in the backyard, hiking in the wilderness, or planning a weekend beach trip, getting out in the sun together may prove to give your family the boost of health and joy that you need.

Connect with other seniors, help in the community, reach out.

As Bob Shannon, from Seniors Meet, says: people of a certain older generation should get together and chat about the stuff their kids have no interest in.

On the other hand, it is not only self-agency but as a society, there is the level of social responsibility and action that can take place vis-à-vis the consequences of this pandemic around seniors. Support for older people, their families, and their caregivers is an essential part of the countries’ comprehensive response to the pandemic. The World Health Organization-Europe, states that “dissemination of accurate information is critical to ensuring that older people have clear messages and resources on how to stay physically and mentally healthy during the pandemic and what to do if they should fall ill”.

Give each other grace.

Finally, remember that this continues to be a stressful time for pretty much everyone. For a year and a half plus, everyday routines were upended for countless households across the country (and the entire world). And spending more together with other people is a breeding ground for tension and stress. But just because you and your family are having problems doesn’t mean that they can’t be fixed with a little work and determination. A piece of advice from ZenBusiness’s article on stress management for business owners translates well here — Everyone in your household should make a list of their stress triggers. That way they know exactly what can send them spiraling and take steps to avoid or walk away from situations where they know they could lose their cool.

And as we move forward and (hopefully!) fully emerge from the pandemic, make a point to show grace, patience, and understanding to one another, even when you don’t feel like it. And each of you will benefit both in the short term and long term.

Don’t let the COVID-19 pandemic continue to negatively impact your closest relationships. Remember to consider seeking professional help, clean up your home, get outside, and cut each other some slack, reach out to your community centers, start new zoom-classes when possible and talk to your friends about it, reach out, and with focused efforts, our relationships will begin to become stronger than ever.

 


Ageism and Sexism

We Need A New Paradigm for Old-er Women.

Ageism

I was stunned when Debbie—my 67-yer-old client, who has one Ph.D. in American history and a JD—told me that her contract as full-time faculty at a local law school had not been renewed. She is vivacious, energetic, intelligent, and adored by her students. I asked immediately, why? She has always told me she was on the “retire-at-85” plan and as far as I knew, Academia is supposed to be a world of respect and knowledge; a place where attaining knowledge and wisdom are regarded as the ultimate achievements. Nonetheless, Debbie told me she was forced into retirement! Debbie had spent 25 years of her life as a professor for several graduate and law schools, during which time she had received many awards for research and groundbreaking work. Now, she said “retirement has been forced on me, and my courses have been assigned to young-er faculty members, who are less expensive. For the first time, I have faced ageism as never before, and it is not a theoretical concept, anymore. It is real.” She, too, was shocked.

Yes indeed, ageism –although an old paradigm—is still in full force, current and pervasive permeating all layers of our society. Perhaps it is time to kick this new old paradigm with its ill-fated consequences for our society’s well-being to the curb and embrace a different more optimistic, engaging, and active paradigm of aging: one that does not fear aging but embrace it as a very meaningful and with a great potential phase of life.

Sexism

Like we did not have enough with the ageism in our culture, we also need to face Sexism.  The prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, against women, on the basis of sex, is a fact very well known on all fronts of society and affects women of all walks of life. Instances of sexism are experienced by our mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters, and all women and girls around the world. It is one of those phenomena would like to have the exclusivity of it but it is not like that. It is pervasive and perverse all around the world.

Sexism is based on the prejudice and extensive generalization that there is something faulty in women and it continues to impede women from their rights to grow and thrive in our society. Perhaps we are not as pretty and firm as we were when young-er but seasoned –or spicy, hot women—had fought for equality, diversity, had raised their self-esteem, run for public office. They have shaved off their internalized ageism and are ready to venture into new characters, created new connections, and created a new wave of accomplished women who give us the inspiration we need to live as first-class citizens and make our golden years shine and count, and do what needs to be done.

Not all of us get to that place and nevertheless, it is worth trying. A place where we can branch out, revolt, or go quietly happily ever after about life. Whatever works for you do it with gusto! Let’s this new woman be at the top of the hill and not over the hill. She can change her image of a raggedy crone to the one of mentor. to be proud and loud.

As many of us who are undertaking the journey through the uncharted land, we become pioneers with no maps but following our moral compass to be the best we can be. Being the eternal optimistic and positive thinker, she is, at 80 Ms. Steinem finds herself more productive and at peace than ever.  “…A dwindling libido, she theorized, can be a terrific advantage: “The brain cells that used to be obsessed are now free for all kinds of great things…” 


Older’s American Month: Age Out Loud

Each May, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) leads our nation’s celebration of Older Americans Month (OAM). ACL designed the 2017 OAM theme, Age Out Loud, to give aging a new voice—one that reflects what today’s older adults have to say.

This theme shines a light on many important trends. More than ever before, older Americans are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others. What it means to age has changed, and OAM 2017 is a perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate what getting older looks like today.

Marianne Gontarz York, portraits one of our older Americans who live and age out loud. She says on the Newsletter of the Marin County Commission on Aging “…There is no one I can think of who exemplifies this more than Barbara Borden… a 71 year old drummer [who] has lived her life out loud” Read More

Forbes published that according to the Administration on Aging (AoA), to Age Out Loud means “having the freedom to live with dignity, choice, and opportunities.” … and they comment on 10 Ways All Ages Can celebrate Older Americans.

    1. Talk to older people everywhere. Find out what they have to say. Learn about their experiences. Interview people in your community who exemplify what it means to Age Out Loud. Gather a mix of individuals, such as older public servants, elder rights advocates, back-to-schoolers, moms and grandmas, athletes, authors, retired professional people who broke barriers or people trying new careers. Everyone has a story. Share your interviews through written pieces or videos.
    2. Arrange for older adults to share or read stories in a workshop or for a “Senior Day” at a local school. Find out about older adults reading books to children at a local library.
    3. Teachers and others, help local school students set up interviews with residents of a retirement community, assisted living community or nursing home, and write short biographies for a school assignment. Plan a program for wherein the students would read aloud their stories. Invite families of students and seniors and even the media to attend.
    4. Ask your older followers and friends on social media to share their wisdom, tips and stories online. You can use a unique hashtag or post to a page or forum you create or manage.
    5. Arrange a celebratory event with a community leader or keynote speaker from your community. Invite community members to a special event celebrating older Americans. It could be a sit-down meal, a networking gathering or a special program like a storytelling or talent show. Plan activities that will result in proceeds like those from a raffle, and donate the funds to a local charity or program or agency that supports older adults.
    6. Plan a volunteer event for older adults who want to give back. The purpose could be anything from picking up litter or gardening in public areas to collecting clothing and food donations for those in need. If you need ideas visit Serve.gov.  If resources are available, create matching volunteer t-shirts that say “Age Out Loud!” This creates a sense of unity and raises awareness among those who see your group volunteering.
    7. Coordinate an education event like a resource fair, class, workshop or lecture a topic covered by this year’s theme. The gathering could hone in on self-expression with activities like painting, acting and singing or focus on maintaining health and independence with a yoga or strength training class. Nutrition tips can be added to any wellness event. Consider teaching a group about self-advocacy, technology or starting a new career.
    8. Help an older person gather family photos and make an album or scrapbook about their life and the legacy they will leave.
    9. Consider participating in a life review project such as The UMSL Life Review Project at the University of Missouri – at St. Louis, where Dr. Tom Meuser, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, applied gerontologist, and director of the University of Missouri-St. Louis’s Gerontology Graduate Program is recruiting older adults and their adult children in pairs to either be interviewed or complete questionnaires in support of his research. He will be recruiting through July 2017 and welcomes participants to contact him by email at meusert@umsl.edu to volunteer or learn more. The project flyer can be found at here. https://sites.google.com/a/umsl.edu/legacy-project/home.
    10. And finally, simply spend time with an older person, no matter what age you are. Chances are you can learn a lot from them and vice versa. Read the article

Ways for Seniors to Improve Mental and Physical Health

Easy Ways for Seniors to Stay Healthy

In a time where daily stress is almost a given, it’s important for us to take care of ourselves.

Seniors, especially, need to find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety as well as ways to actively improve physical and mental well-being. Fortunately, there are many ways to do that, and most of them are more simple than you might think. Here are a few of the best.

Engage in daily exercise

Exercise is important for everyone, but for individuals over the age of 50, it’s imperative. Getting in at least thirty minutes of workout time every day will help improve your mood and overall health, and it might be a good way to socialize, as well. Start a walking group with friends or neighbors, or invite your spouse or coworker to a swim aerobics class. Having someone to talk to will make you look forward to working out rather than dreading it.

Consider a pet

If you don’t already have a pet, consider getting a dog or cat. Animals can help reduce anxiety and even lower blood pressure, and they are wonderful companions. Dogs are also great motivators on days when you don’t feel like exercising, because they’ll always be up for a walk!

Stay in touch

When life gets hectic, we sometimes forget to stay in touch with loved ones. Make it a point to sit down and write a letter to someone you care about, or give them a call. Set aside time on a specific day every week to do it so you’ll have no trouble remembering.

Eat well

Your diet can have a very specific impact on your health and how you feel, so make sure you’re not overloading on refined sugars and carbs, which can make you feel sluggish. Lots of leafy greens, fish, nuts, and fresh fruit will go a long way toward helping you feel better in every way.

Get some rest

You might think you’re getting enough sleep, but if you feel tired all day it’s possible you need to take another look at your habits. Are you lying awake for a long time at night? Taking long naps during the day? Try staying away from the television, computer, or smartphone for an hour or two before bedtime. Instead, read a book or take a long hot shower. Get yourself relaxed before bed to ensure you’ll sleep and feel rested when you get up.

Get creative

For retirees, especially, the days can seem long and uninspired. If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled, try a new hobby. Get creative and take up a painting class, or try gardening or woodworking. Allowing yourself to create things and try something new will open up a whole new world, and you may just find happiness there.

Staying active and keeping your mind healthy and alert will ensure you’ll be feeling good and ready to tackle anything, no matter what your age is.


Aging Women: From Crone to Mentor

Copyright: Aaron Amat

After fighting for equal rights and against negative stereotypes, baby-boomer women find themselves in a society that obsessively worships youth and relegates its seniors to second-class status. Baby boomer women grew up around the fighting of the feminist movement in the sixties and seventies; many were feisty revolutionaries.

In the eighties, the message to them was to embrace the inner Goddess within. Now in their golden years, they imagine a new role as sage, which will help them obtain the freedom they have been chasing since their youth. But what is this new role?  What if wisdom is lacking? Where then do they find meaning in their lives?

We question how the women’s movement has affected women of age. The women who took what they learned as activists in the civil rights movement and applied it to the rampant sexism of the civil-rights and black-power movements – who participated in the first sweeping consciousness-raising process that Bettina Aptheker called “learning to name our oppression” – these women are still too young to have been included in Coming of Age.

But that phase of the women’s movement spawned two generations of equal rights, abortion rights, lesbian and gay rights, anti-ageism, and AIDS activists; a devoted, beleaguered army of caretakers of abused women and children in the shelter movement; and labor groups such as the CLUW and Women in the Trades, to name only a few “special interest” groups. Many old women, someplace along the line, have been affected by those struggles, as I was, and by the huge body of songs, poems, essays, and visual art that celebrates them, as I was.

Elderly women today face personal challenges, triggering some profound questions–among them: What is their role as they age? Reproduction is no longer a goal; nor is raising children. If they had a career, it is in the past, or nearly so. Traditional roles for midlife or older women, such as caring for grandchildren or caregiving for a husband or other family member–are still common for women. These limited identities may be difficult to bear for those who spent a lifetime trying to make a difference.

To those old ones who still do battle with dragons [1]

The “aging” woman, with her dry skin and wrinkled body, does not represent the pretty, sexy, vital, or accomplished; she is considered to be in her dimmed time. Jungian psychotherapist and author Jean Shinoda Bolen have said, “In a youth-oriented patriarchy, especially, to become an older woman is to become invisible: a nonentity.” Or, as historian Bettina Aptheker[2] recently said of older people, especially women, “We’re either invisible, or we’re in the way.” What’s the future for this woman? What role should aging women play in our society?

Food for thought!

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[1] Studs Terkel. In Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It. St. Martin’s Press; 1st St. Martin’s Griffin Ed edition (September 1996)

[2] May 8, 2008: Bettina Aptheker on Feminism and Ageism. A public lecture at Pacific Institute. San Francisco.


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