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.

 


Tackling Daily Life: How to Help a Senior Loved One After the Death of a Spouse

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When your spouse dies, your world changes. You are in mourning, feeling grief and sorrow at the loss.  The National Institute of Health had found that “…you may feel numb, shocked, and fearful. You may feel guilty for being the one who is still alive. At some point, you may even feel angry at your spouse for leaving you…” Death of a spouse at any age is a life-shattering experience. In addition to psychological impacts such as depression, grief can have physical consequences such as sleeplessness and loss of appetite. It is important to know that these feelings are normal and expected, although they manifest in different ways in different people. Grieving does not come on one size-fits-all.  Although with a great impact for anybody, losing a spouse or significant other is more devastating for seniors.

For seniors, bereavement can have a devastating effect on their immune system and cause them to lose interest in their own care. This may in part explain why many seniors experience a severe decline in health or even pass away shortly after the loss of a spouse. For some, the death of a loved one can result in stress cardiomyopathy, often referred to as “broken heart syndrome”. but for seniors who have depended on each other for years, the loss can feel beyond overwhelming. “Losing a spouse is a trying time in many aspects but it can bring also some positive aspects if we can see it that way, says Bob Shannon (*) founder of  SeniorsMeet.org.

Some new facts will settle in and become new realities, some challenges but also some new learning experiences that can speak to the old saying of seeing a glass half full or half empty. The financial aspect is a very important one to look at when speaking challenges. After a spouse’s death, it quickly becomes apparent just how fragile your senior loved one is, financially speaking showing as inability to handle bills and less independence in in accomplishing activities of daily living.

Decreased Independence

It is natural for health problems to arise as we age such as arthritis, low muscle strength, balance issues, and vision problems – some of which may require medication. When two people live together, help is never more than a shout away, and typically one person finds themselves reminding the other to take their medicine. Now that your loved one lives alone, that security blanket has been ripped away, leaving you to constantly worry. You may find yourself making daily phone calls or trips to check in. In some cases, your loved one may be the one making the calls, as this new world is overwhelming. It becomes a balancing act of helping out as much as possible, but also knowing when to take a step back.

If your senior loved one prefers to continue living alone, consider making helpful alterations. Simple home modifications such as stair railings, bathroom grab bars, ramps, or removing any tripping hazards will increase the safety of the home. Install a home monitoring system so your loved one can quickly and easily call for help, giving you both peace of mind.

Should your loved one have mobility issues that limit their ability to take care of household upkeep and maintenance, help them connect with professionals who can handle necessary tasks. Whether it’s having the gutters cleaned, windows repaired, lawn care, house cleaning or any other type of service, experts with top ratings and stellar reviews will give you both peace of mind. For example, many gutter cleaning companies commonly offer a discount for senior citizens. A search on Angie’s list on the topic will yield a lengthy list of professionals, some of whom may even offer specials. Having a dedicated spot to find experts ensures you both find the right people for the job.

A positive aspect: The glass half full.

While it may sound odd, the death of a spouse creates a learning experience. For example, one spouse may have never written a check or paid a bill, as their partner handled all financial obligations. In some cases, the surviving spouse doesn’t know how to cook or drive a car. All the new responsibilities can become overwhelming, but technology makes learning new tasks and skills a breeze.

Encourage your loved one to take a class at a senior center or sign up for senior classes at your local college or university. If your loved one isn’t already tech-savvy, persuade them to take a computer class to learn the basics. They can use their new skills to keep in touch with friends and family via email or social media, keep updated on local and global news, or search the Internet for whatever their heart desires, such as a new recipe for banana bread.

Don’t forget about basic tasks too. Your loved one will have to learn to take care of themselves, and this includesbasic needs such as eating right, adequate sleep, and socializing. So encourage them to stay active and healthy through exercise, healthy shopping lists, joining a local senior center or going out with friends once a week to eat dinner, bowl, or play cards. There may even come a time when your loved one is ready to consider a romantic relationship. If you find they’re longing for companionship, help them connect with senior-friendly dating sites. Making new social bonds and/or dating after the death of a spouse can be a touchy subject. Is it disrespectful to my spouse’s memory? What will my kids think? How long is long enough to grieve? Every widow and widower has different answers to these questions. In reality, there are no set answers but the will be the topic of a next post.

Daily life will change after the loss of a spouse, but with a little help, it is more than manageable.  Help your loved one come up with ways to take back their independence, and live a fulfilling life comforted by the fact that they have a lifetime of memories to cherish.

(*) Bob Shannon created SeniorsMeet.org, along with his wife, Mary, to have a website that allows seniors to meet up and talk about topics that are relevant to their daily lives. They hope to build SeniorsMeet into a community of like-minded seniors.


The Best Senior-Friendly Tech Tools to Keep You Engaged in the World

Now more than ever before, it’s important for seniors to connect with their loved ones and engage in the world around them — even if they’re doing it from the safety of their homes. Senior isolation and loneliness are growing concerns amidst COVID-19, but tech devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets, and e-readers give older adults a chance to stay in touch with the outside world and pursue their passions while staying safe at home. To explore some of the best tech tools for seniors, check out these suggestions.

Smartphones, Laptops, and Tablets

Among some of the most common senior-friendly tech devices are smartphones, laptops, and tablets. These devices can help seniors connect with their loved ones, learn new skills and hobbies, get help in an emergency, pursue passions, and experience a better quality of life overall. Here’s what makes technology so great, especially in the age of COVID-19:

  • Video chatting. Seniors can use smartphones, tablets, and laptops with built-in webcams to video chat with loved ones via popular apps such as Zoom or Skype. According to Lifehacker, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Lite, and WhatsApp are some of the simplest video chat apps for seniors.
  • Calling, texting, emailing, and sending photos. Seniors can use their smartphones to send and receive phone calls, text messages, emails, and photos. Plus, they can access a variety of mobile apps such as MedWatcher, Senior Phone, and Kindle.
  • Browsing the internet. Since laptops and tablets feature larger screens, these tech devices are perfect for visiting social media sites, playing online games, watching videos, and browsing the internet. Plus, seniors can join online communities and connect with other older adults from anywhere in the world.
  • Volunteering. Through AARP and other websites such as VolunteerMatch and DoSomething.org, seniors can find remote volunteer opportunities that allow them to pursue their passions from home.
  • Books, podcasts, and audiobooks. With their tech devices, seniors can listen to podcasts and audiobooks — and read electronic books, magazines, and newspapers.

Before accessing the internet, seniors need to have a plan in place for protecting themselves from identity theft and other types of suspicious activity. Check out Verizon’s tips and guides to learn all about identity theft protection, cybersecurity, and online safety.

Educational Apps and Websites

In addition to using their tablets, laptops, and smartphones to video chat with loved ones, browse the internet, and search for remote volunteer opportunities, seniors can continue their education with online courses, programs, and tutorials. It’s never too late to learn something new, and the internet makes learning easier than ever.

According to Helen Jarden of MoneyPantry, educational websites like Alison, Academic Earth, Coursera, Khan Academy, and Duolingo offer free online courses for seniors. Coursera, for instance, offers free courses on everything from psychology and marketing to nutrition and animal welfare. Seniors can also put their creative abilities to the test with free drawing and sketching classes. As another option for seniors: an abundance of free online tutorials and classes are available on YouTube, including those on knitting, calligraphy, yoga, dance, sewing, cooking, and more. Whatever their hobbies, skills, and passions may be, seniors can find everything they’re looking for online.

The Bottom Line

If you or your senior loved one is struggling physically or mentally amidst COVID-19, some other strategies can help. In addition to using technology to connect with others, exercising daily, eating nutritiously, and rekindling old hobbies and passions are some of the best ways seniors can improve mental and physical health.

With access to the internet, seniors can easily reconnect with their passions and learn new hobbies, which will help to keep their minds and bodies healthy, young, and happy as they grow older. And for more tips and resources that empower seniors to age well, connect with Doris Bersing for geriatric consultation. Schedule a counseling session today.


How to Find and Buy the Perfect Property for Homesteading as a Retiree

When you retire, you will have significantly more time on your hands. The big question is, how do you want to spend it? You can prepare to make the most of your newfound leisure time by moving to a larger property. With a bigger home, you can easily host children, grandkids, and friends at any time.

If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, consider getting a more remote piece of real estate so you can pursue homesteading. Homesteading is all about self-sufficient living. With a bit of land, you can take up hobbies like raising chickens or cutting your own firewood. Spending more time outdoors will also preserve your health as you age, resulting in improved immune function, better sleep, and higher energy levels.

 Doris Bersing can help you figure out if the homesteading life is a good option for you. If you conclude that this is the route you want to take in retirement, you have to secure an appropriate piece of property. This guide explains how to find and buy a larger home as you prepare for retirement.

Define your ideal property.

Make a list of what you’re looking for in a house. If you’re going to be homesteading, you need to consider characteristics like land size, for example. When it comes to the actual house, consider how many rooms you’ll need to accommodate visiting family and what purposes those rooms should serve. For example, young grandkids might want a playroom. When buying a house you also have to think about your own needs, of course. Consider what you might need now and in the future. Seniors with limited mobility do better with single-story homes that don’t require them to use stairs, for example. Meanwhile, individuals with Alzheimer’s require safety precautions in the bathroom, such as grab bars.

Figure out your financial capacity.

Next, take stock of your financial situation. Keep in mind that to buy a home, you will likely have to take out a mortgage. In order to get a low-interest rate, most lenders require you to make a down payment of 20%. If you pay this minimum upfront, you also have the advantage of foregoing the cost of private mortgage insurance. If you have unpaid debts, getting a good mortgage interest rate may be challenging. Improve your odds of securing a favorable loan by quickly eliminating and paying down what you owe. Consult local debt relief and assistance resources. A debt relief expert can offer advice based on characteristics like how much you owe and your employment status.

Close the deal.

 If you do find the perfect property, you will likely have to move quickly to secure it. The real estate market is competitive and you don’t want to let a great opportunity slip through your fingers. In this case, it’s possible that you may have to buy your new property before you can sell your old one.

There are a few precautions you should take. Note that you can request an extended closing. This will buy you some extra time to unload your old home. If you’re struggling to sell your old house, enlist the help of a realtor. They can ensure a more streamlined process. Finally, you can consider renting out your old home until it sells.

Enlist assistance for the move.

 When the time comes to make your move, don’t go it alone. Moving is strenuous at any age and even more so for seniors. Hire professionals to handle the heavy lifting and avoid injury. You can also get a senior moving consultant to help. They will manage the entire process, taking you from A to B — old home to new home — in a streamlined and stress-free manner.

With the above tips, you can find the perfect property to spend your retirement. With effort and persistence, you’ll soon be settled in a new home where you can make the most of your golden years.

For more resources and inspiration on how to live the best life in your golden years, turn to geriatric consultant Doris Bersing. Schedule a consultation today.

Photo Credit: Pexels.com

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

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