Doris Bersing, PhD
Blog

It’s Leap Year! Take a Leap and Dare to Age Well.

The concept of aging well may seem puzzling – what exactly does it mean to age well? Is it about aging gracefully? It may appear unexciting, as striving to look younger or conforming to societal expectations based on age can be overvalued. Instead, perhaps we should focus on aging with purpose, finding happiness in the later years. Maybe grace, although it may sound pleasant, is not the solution. Heather Havrilesky once expressed in an article about aging well that she believes being powerful is more important than being graceful. She believes that aging gracefully requires constantly proving oneself against various challenges such as personal criticism, public humiliation, and a steady stream of negative comments. It also involves a slow deterioration of self-confidence and sudden shocks that can cause one’s illusions to crumble. However, she asserts that individuals should pursue their passions and be true to themselves, following their bold and unconventional impulses. Ultimately, the key to aging well is daring to live life on one’s own terms and by that token daring to age well.

Instead of persisting on the path of misogyny by trying to be a “nice lady” as we age, we can embrace and rejoice in the process of getting older by acknowledging the positive aspects of aging. While there may be difficulties to navigate with age such as physical weakness or fragility, it is important to face them with a positive attitude. This year let’s chart a path towards empowerment and redefine what it means to age well for ourselves as older women and defy societal expectations about aging. Let us also discover the resilience and confidence within us to age gracefully and optimistically. As we embrace the concept of leap year, let’s explore some tips for taking a leap towards aging well. Do at least one courageous thing this year to make you more interesting to yourself — and to others! Start with one of these suggestions:

  • Create a space for yourself (it could be just carving out some time for just YOU! Self-care, reading, taking a bubble bath, going to the hair salon. Step out of your comfort zone and try something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance. It could be learning a musical instrument, taking up painting, or even traveling to a new destination. Embracing new experiences can help maintain cognitive function and promote personal growth.
  • Nourish your mind and book a full hour with your counselor or psychotherapist to explore new ways to reinvent yourself. Allow space to dive deeper into your emotions and give yourself permission to feel. Leap year serves as a reminder that change is possible, at any age, and that personal growth should be an ongoing journey. Whether it’s overcoming fears, facing adversity, or pursuing lifelong dreams, leap year encourages us to take a leap of faith and believe in our ability to grow and evolve.
  • Go out with an old friend, with no-agenda. Just to share time, space, and being. Maintaining strong social connections is crucial for overall well-being. Try to nurture existing relationships and forge new connections. Spending time with other people can prevent you from feeling lonely or anxious and can provide a sense of belonging and contribute to a happier and more fulfilling life.
  • Join a dating online platform if looking for a companion or if you are single, divorced, or bereaved and would like to meet someone, (If not computer savvy, take a FREE course at your local library, no excuses! When finding your candidate, legend has it that Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, granted women the right to propose to men on leap day, leading to the tradition of women proposing on February 29th, so go for it.
  • Engage as a volunteer at a preferred organization in your community. There are countless ways for older adults to get involved and make a positive impact through volunteering. Just few options are: mentoring and tutoring—using the tricks of the old dog, participating in local charity events, offering your skills and expertise to nonprofit organizations, engaging in community service projects like serving meals at a soup kitchen or organizing recreational activities for seniors.
  • Stay Active—and this does not mean joining, one more time, a gym, it means just to move, to engage in regular physical activity that suits your abilities and interests. This could be anything from walking, swimming, yoga, dancing, gardening, going up and down the stairs, walk to the store, do yard work, clean your house, or dancing, just keep on moving!
  • If you find that you are no longer able to do the things you used to do, try to develop new hobbies and interests (learn a language, take on playing an instrument, create new dishes in the kitchen. Whatever can rock your boat and gives you joy is IN! Pursue your passions.
  • Finally, do not procrastinate your health care and make this leap year, the one to repeat a full check-up. Make the most of your doctor. Everything taking care of yourself goes, after all why not devoting, simply, this year to love yourself more?

If in need of some inspiration, read what 100 centennials can say about living and aging well.

Among other things, they suggest you “… Keep your eyes open, never stay stuck in the past, , leap into the future, … and dance while you still can… ”


Older Women: The Double Standards of Aging

I am very passionate about the theme of older women and aging women. I am struck by how hard it is for some women to age gracefully and enjoy their lives, or exercise their professions, find new hobbies, make new relationships, or express and fulfill their desires and sexuality. I reflect on the other part of the equation—like the Ying and Yang of the universe, where there are always opposites manifesting daily—where a more positive attitude can rule.  The one society does not embrace often but could exist, the one that should also be possible and considers age as something beautiful, a positive part of evolution.

Ageism and Sexism

As Robert Heinlen— , one of the most influential and controversial hard science fiction authors, once said:

“Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist-a master-and that is what Auguste Rodin was-can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is…and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be…and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart…no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn’t matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired-but it does to them.”

Do we all need to be good artists, or this positive side of the aging women equation is just science fiction? Culturally, there are influences against any positive view of this process for women but not for men who become the old sexies or the silver foxes (a term with a more positive meaning “an attractive middle-aged man having mostly gray or white hair.”). Tired of the double standard and given the influx of beautiful and interesting women with silver hair, people started using the term “silver vixen.” However, the term has been distorted to refer to a person who is hot-headed and ill-tempered. Vixens are often used to mock a woman who is rude or unpleasant. Surprised?

Other distortions we could observe during past centuries are the use of words describing wise women–crone, hag, and witch—once were all positive words for old women. Crones, hags, and witches frequently were leaders, midwives, and healers in their communities. The meanings of these three words, however, were distorted and eventually reversed during the 300 years of the Inquisition when the male-dominated church wanted to eliminate women holding positions of power. Women identified as witches, who were often older women, i.e. crones and hags, were tortured and burned, and the words witch, crone, and hag took on the negative connotations that continue as so in our language. Many examples of sexism and misogyny plague our current culture for all women but when it comes to older women, we find this discrimination to be multilayer going through race, gender, sexual preference, and of course age.

The double standards faced by older women

Since Susan Sontag coined in the 1970s the phrase “double standard of aging”, discussions about this dual interpretation of aging have continued to evolve. Recent feminist gerontology scholars have called for an intersectoral approach to cultural norms regarding physical appearance and aging. Hated for many, Sontag described aging in “The Double Standard of Aging,” with a terrible clarity: “Growing old is primarily an ordeal of imagination, a moral disease, and a social pathology, which affects women more than men.” The horizon of potential dwindled and receded day by day… According to the author, is a social convention which states that aging improves men but destroys women.

Women are therefore held to a greater standard, regarding aging, than men. Gwyneth Paltrow, a younger woman (50+), has validated this double standard of aging. In an interview with British Vogue ,Paltrow discussed the “double-standard” of women having to maintain their beauty while men get older and are celebrated.

“I think that it is a cultural problem.” Paltrow reflected on the fact that women are judged harsher for getting older. As women, we are interested in being healthy and aging. It’s so strange that we are supposed to freeze in time.

The double standard of aging, as described by Sontag, refers to both genders being devalued at older ages – ageism in a youth-oriented society. However, the standards in our culture create more problems for women than men. Sontag’s “double standard” of aging is a devaluation of both genders as they age, i.e. ageism in a young-oriented culture. However, the standards in our culture cause more problems for older women than men. Women suffer greater losses because aging erodes the social assets of women (their attractiveness), while men gain from their most valuable social resources (their earning power and achievements in the public arena). Women must hide their aging to be considered by society as distinguished.

Mental and Physical Wellbeing

Men have a wider range of options, while women are more confined to the idea that beauty is equated with youthfulness. Women’s aging is associated with a loss of sexual and visual allure, while a man of a higher age can be considered “handsome” and “sexy”. In terms of sexuality and intimacy women follow the “happiness scripts” that tell us what older women should do to feel happy. These scripts place a strong emphasis on the beauty of the body, sexual desire, and timelines. The dominant happiness scripts for older women focus on beauty and body. This includes anti-aging products, cosmeceuticals and cosmetics that can hide signs of ageing. Got Botox?

A woman who doesn’t look old is the happy older woman. Women who cannot counteract the ageing process are usually portrayed as unhappy. The aging narrative is a downward spiral in which older women feel unhappy due to their loss of beauty and are alienated by their mirror reflection. As a result, older women who are less attractive tend to feel like a second-class citizen, unattractive and purposeless. They may even become asexual.

It is acceptable for a young woman to have a love interest for aged men but older women who have sex with younger men are ridiculed. While the pressures on older people to remain sexually active as part of a wider project of ‘active’ aging are undoubtedly increasing there is still a copout to refuse sexual activity on the grounds of advanced age and loss of attractiveness in contrast with the sexy oldie-fox for image men.

To add insult to injury, there are new and continually increasing pressures on older people to remain sexually active as part of a wider project of ‘successful’, ‘active’ or ‘positive’ ageing. For men, hence more of the double standard of aging, this active aging is fixed and supported by global pharma—who have not heard of VIAGRA—and yet what for women? Many, supported by the ‘asexual older person’ discourse, which places the sexual activity of older women within the outer limits, just refuse or abstain from having sex. Yet, refusal or abstinence is just an option and should not be the norm. Often, a decision to not have sex or a declaration that you don’t want to be sexual can become stigmatizing in later life. It is easy to reject sex or sexuality because of age, if the “asexual older person” narrative continues to be available—after all, to do anything else would be bad, abnormal, unnatural, damned.

Alternately, some older women may find it liberating to be free of sex. This is especially true for those who never enjoyed sex in the past. Or for those who have experienced sex in their marriages as a duty, but not as something they enjoyed. Women who once enjoyed sex can refuse to have sex later in life by claiming that sexual interest will decline. It is not a one size-fits-all. How much of these beliefs or attitudes are genuine and how many are introjections of socio-cultural values?

Overcoming Societal Stereotypes and Prejudices

The same is true when it comes to social and psychological stereotypes. While older men are perceived to be wise, experienced, forceful, and authoritative, older women are perceived to be vulnerable, stubborn, and frail, invisible, and just plain old. Hillary Clinton is an excellent example. Rush Limbaugh, a radio commentator, predicted in 2007 that the U.S. People would not vote for Senator Clinton because they would not like to see a woman “age before their very eyes.” In 2014, her critics claimed that she was “too old” to run for the presidency again. However, these same critics did not have any concerns regarding Donald Trump, Joe Biden, or John McCain’s ages when they ran. The American culture frowns upon ugly women, and an older woman is considered ugly, and it seems she should be invisible too.

In popular culture, societal stereotypes often paint a negative image of older women, while giving older men a more positive portrayal. This creates a stark contrast between the experiences of men and women as they age. For women, the process of aging is often depicted as challenging and filled with physical changes such as saggy breasts, spotted hands, and wrinkled necks. These portrayals reinforce the idea that older women are frail and fragile. On the other hand, society tends to view lines and wrinkles on a man’s face as signs of character and wisdom, without placing the same pressure on them to hide signs of aging through hair dye, anti-aging creams, or Botox. However, in reality, many older women defy these stereotypes. They are strong, resilient individuals who are capable of accomplishing incredible things despite societal expectations. Their experiences should not be reduced to simplistic narratives that focus solely on physical appearance. It is important to recognize that the beauty and worth of older women go beyond external features. Their strength comes from their experiences, wisdom, and resilience.

It is crucial that we highlight their strength and resilience to counteract these limiting beliefs about aging. While it is true that society tends to idolize youthfulness, we should not overlook the wisdom and experience that come with age. Older women have a wealth of knowledge to offer, based on their life experiences. By valuing their insights and contributions, we can create a more inclusive society that respects individuals regardless of age or gender. It is time to challenge the societal norms that perpetuate negative stereotypes about older women. Let us celebrate their achievements, acknowledge their strengths, and promote a more accurate portrayal of aging in media and society. By doing so, we can pave the way for a future where everyone is valued for who they are rather than how they look or their age.

Impact of ageism on healthcare for older women

On one hand, it is evident that older women bear the brunt of society’s double standards when it comes to ageism, sexism, and gender biases. These unfair expectations can take a toll on their mental and emotional well-being. However, it is important to note that internalizing these ageist stereotypes can intensify their impact, leading to a decrease in self-esteem and a sense of helplessness. This, in turn, can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and despondency among older women. It is crucial for society to recognize and challenge these harmful attitudes to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all individuals regardless of age or gender. By acknowledging the unique challenges faced by older women and promoting equality across all generations, we can work towards dismantling the double standards of aging that perpetuate sexism and ageism.

Furthermore, the disparity in health care for older women is a pressing issue that cannot be overlooked. Ageism has far-reaching consequences, particularly in the realm of healthcare for older women. Stereotypes and biases can affect the quality of care received by older women, leading to misdiagnoses, undertreatment, or neglect. Healthcare providers may unconsciously prioritize the health concerns of younger patients, dismissing or downplaying the symptoms and concerns of older women. This can result in delayed or inadequate medical interventions, potentially compromising the health and well-being of older women.

While women tend to live longer than men, they are often faced with unequal access to quality healthcare as they age. This discrepancy is not only rooted in sexism but also fueled by ageism, perpetuating a cycle of discrimination against older women. The double standards of aging, combined with deep-seated sexism and ageism, contribute to this unfair treatment. Instead of being viewed as capable individuals deserving of the same level of care, older women are often dismissed as frail and helpless. They are deemed unfit for aggressive treatments or surgical interventions simply because of their age and gender. This discriminatory mindset not only undermines their autonomy but also denies them access to potentially life-saving medical interventions. It is disheartening to witness how these stereotypes perpetuate the notion that older women are merely complaining about multiple symptoms due to being “just old and lonely.”

Fighting ageism and sexism with education and empathy

Alternately, many minority women have had to endure disrespectful treatment within the healthcare system due to factors such as sexism, racism, or bias against lesbians. This history of mistreatment only amplifies the challenges they face when seeking proper care and support. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach that tackles both sexism and ageism within the healthcare system. It is crucial for medical professionals and policymakers to recognize the unique needs and experiences of older women and work towards creating an inclusive and equitable healthcare environment. By acknowledging and challenging the double standards of aging in health care, we can work towards creating a more equitable system that provides comprehensive care for all older women, regardless of their background or identity. Furthermore, promoting more realistic and diverse views of older women in the clinical field is crucial. This shift in perspective can greatly improve doctor-patient relationships, as doctors will be better equipped to understand and empathize with their older female patients. Ultimately, this leads to improved adherence to treatment regimens and reduced disparities in health and healthcare for older women. It is time to dismantle these ingrained biases and ensure that every woman receives the quality care she deserves as she ages gracefully.

It’s strange and sad that so many women are unwilling to accept the fact they are aging and are no longer a minority. Women are now most of the Americans 65 and older. We have the chance to be part of the critical mass which can help change ageism and sexism.  By continuously educating ourselves about different cultures, perspectives, and experiences, we can gain a deeper understanding of the diverse realities faced by older women. This knowledge empowers us to recognize and challenge the double standards that unfairly affect us.

Self-awareness and empathy are the best ways to fight against double standards. Be aware of your biases. Consider whether you have different expectations of different people depending on their race, gender, or other factors. Consider how your decisions or actions may affect others. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Listen to others’ perspectives and change your views if needed. I believe we need to see more older women expressing their disappointment with the current status quo and ageism, including anti-wrinkle products and pharmaceuticals. As a former activist, the older woman should not find joy in fighting wrinkles. Instead, she should fight against ageism.

Advocacy and Activism against Ageism and Sexism

Advocacy and activism play a crucial role in effecting social change and dismantling ageism and sexism. Individuals and organizations can engage in advocacy efforts by raising awareness about the double standards faced by older women, promoting inclusive policies, and supporting initiatives that empower older women. This can involve lobbying for legislation that protects the rights and well-being of older women or participating in grassroots movements that challenge ageist and sexist practices.

It is crucial that we celebrate the beauty and wisdom that come with age, valuing the unique experiences and perspectives of older women. By embracing aging as a natural part of life, we can create a society that values individuals of all ages and genders, fostering unity, respect, and inclusivity. Let us stand together, advocate for change, and work towards a future where ageism and sexism are no longer barriers to the full participation and empowerment of older women.


The Value of Older Women in Society: Embracing Wisdom and Redefining Roles.

Most of my patients are older adults, vibrant retirees, eager to make the most of their newfound freedom and explore new passions. Others are empty nesters, adjusting to the bittersweet reality of having their children leave home. And then there are the baby boomers, who are facing the challenges of aging with determination and a desire for continued personal growth. As society continues to prioritize youth and marginalize seniors, it is important to recognize the unique value that older women bring to the table. Baby boomer women, who grew up during the feminist movement of the sixties and seventies, have fought for equal rights and challenged negative stereotypes. However, they now find themselves in a world that often overlook their contributions.

Image by Freepik

The Challenges of Aging and Remembering the Legacy of the Women’s Movement

As women age, they face unique personal challenges that raise profound questions about their roles in society. The traditional goals of reproduction and child-rearing are no longer applicable, and careers may be in the past. Many older women find themselves in limited identities, such as caring for grandchildren or fulfilling caregiving roles for family members. For those who have spent a lifetime trying to make a difference, these limited roles can be difficult to bear.

Many of them fought the battles undertaken by the women’s  movement of the sixties and seventies and laid the foundation for generations of activists dedicated to equal rights, reproductive freedom, LGBTQ+ rights, anti-ageism, and more. From the civil rights movement to the shelter movement, older women have been influenced by these struggles and the impact of these movements on older women and their social influence in our social fabric cannot be ignored.

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. In a youth-oriented society, aging women are often seen as invisible and diminished. The physical signs of aging, such as dry skin and wrinkles, are contrasted with the societal ideals of youth, beauty, vitality, and accomplishment. Jean Shinoda Bolen, a Jungian psychotherapist, aptly stated that becoming an older woman in a youth-oriented patriarchy is to become invisible, a nonentity. 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 said in a public lecture of older people, especially women, “We’re either invisible, or we’re in the way.”This perception raises questions about the future and value of older women in society.

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, and they feel they need something different but what?. 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. Needless to say that some of us, still are battling “those dragons” as Studs Terkel said when dedicating his book, Coming of Age, that we face when dealing with our own  “dark night of the soul”. We perceive this phase, often, as an explosion of a deep sense of meaninglessness. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything, one feels unvalued and drifting without a clear intention.

Then, what’s the future for this woman? What role should aging women play in our society? In a society where ageism and feminism are prevalent, it becomes crucial to address the future of older women. Empowering older women is not just about breaking barriers and changing stereotypes, but also about recognizing their immense value and contributions. As we strive for equality, it is essential to create opportunities that allow aging women to continue making a difference in various spheres of life. By embracing their wisdom, experience, and unique perspectives, society can benefit tremendously from the guidance and mentorship of these trailblazing women. It is time to challenge societal norms and ensure that older women are given the respect and platform they deserve to continue shaping our future.

Embracing Wisdom and Redefining Roles

While society may overlook the value of older women, there is a wealth of wisdom and experience that comes with age. Older women have lived through significant social changes and have valuable insights to offer. Their experiences can serve as a guide for younger generations and contribute to the collective wisdom of society.

Instead of accepting limited identities, older women have the opportunity to redefine their roles in society. They can break free from societal expectations and explore new avenues for personal growth and fulfillment. Mentoring younger individuals, engaging in community activism, pursuing creative endeavors, and advocating for causes they are passionate about are just a few examples of how older women can contribute to society. By reinventing themselves and using their wisdom to create and enrich the next generations of fighters, they could play a crucial role in enhancing our communities and, by the same token, value their background and history.  Creating intergenerational relationships, and connections with younger individuals, older women can pass on their wisdom, share their experiences, and bridge the generation gap. These relationships benefit both parties, as younger individuals gain valuable insights while older women remain engaged and connected to the world around them.

Overcoming Ageism and Unleashing Your Power

Ageism is a pervasive issue that affects older women disproportionately. By challenging ageist stereotypes and advocating for equal treatment, older women can create a more inclusive society. Recognizing the contributions of older women and providing them with opportunities for continued growth and participation will help combat ageism. Older women need to be seen and heard in all aspects of society. Media, advertising, and popular culture should reflect the diversity of women of all ages. By showcasing the accomplishments and stories of older women, society can break free from the narrow focus on youth and celebrate the contributions of all individuals. Representation matters!

Older women have played significant roles in shaping society and continue to have much to offer. It is essential that we recognize their value, embrace their wisdom, and provide opportunities for them to redefine their roles. By challenging ageist stereotypes, fostering intergenerational relationships, and designing new spaces and opportunities for older women to be part of our communities, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society that appreciates the unique contributions of older women. Let us celebrate their accomplishments and ensure that their voices are heard and valued in a space and time where age does not limit one’s potential or worth. By empowering older women, we can collectively work towards a more equitable and progressive society for all.


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

Copyright : fotoluminate

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.


Preparing Your Home for Alzheimer’s: Tips and Advice for Caregivers

When caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other type of dementia, the safety around the home is a very important issue. Caregivers, here you can find some tips and advice in regards to keeping your home safe.

Some Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease

Today,  about 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, with the majority of them being aged 65 or older. Safety at home is a very critical issue when caregiving for somebody with Alzheimer’s disease. Safe at Home is the key. Progressive Alzheimer’s disease makes it impossible for people with it to take care of themselves. Many of them require care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In order to make that possible, many people with Alzheimer’s move into a loved one’s home for caregiving.

Alzheimer’s disease is a severe form of dementia associated with memory loss as well as the loss of other cognitive abilities. The symptoms can be serious enough to eventually interfere with daily life. If a person is experiencing Alzheimer’s, you may start to notice:

  • Changes in personality and interests.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Problems concentrating and general cognitive struggles.
  • Long-term and short-term memory loss.
  • Confusion with places, people, and timing.
  • The inability to complete tasks that require sequential steps, such as getting dressed or making a meal.

Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is not easy. It’s difficult to watch people you love deteriorate and grow unable to do even the simplest things they used to enjoy. However, taking in people with Alzheimer’s gives them the opportunity to spend the rest of their lives surrounded by the people who love them while enjoying comfort and care. In order to make your home as safe as possible for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you’ll want to make a few preparations around the house.

Their Private Room: A Place to Escape

One of the utmost important things about caregiving for people with Alzheimer’s is preserving their dignity and showing them respect. Loved ones need a room of their own where they can have privacy and a place where they can escape the noise and confusion of outside. Their room should be safe, comfortable, and easy for them to move around in. Provide them with all the things they love whether it is a stereo for music, books, blankets, or a television. Remove hazardous decorations that can break or shatter upon impact. It’s also helpful to give them a room on the first floor near a bathroom for accessibility.

Bathroom & Kitchen Safety

The bathroom and kitchen are the most dangerous rooms in the house. If you are taking in Alzheimer’s patients for the long term, it may behoove you to accommodate these rooms for them with a remodel. To do this, you have to take cost into consideration. For instance, the average cost to remodel a kitchen is $19,589. There are several ways to modify your kitchen for safety. Considering the amount of dangerous tools and materials in the kitchen, locks on drawers and cabinets containing these things can prevent loved ones from hurting themselves. Some people also put locks on the refrigerator as the disease progresses. If the room contains steps or stairs, a safety ramp with rails to hold on to can help your loved one navigate the area safely.

When changing your bathroom, it’s important to make it accessible for loved ones while reducing hazards that can lead to a fall. Grab bars or side bars near the toilet and tub can help them get up and down safely and with ease. Label all water faucets clearly so they know which one controls hot and which controls cold. A scalding burn can be a devastating injury. Finally, make liberal use of non-slip mats, stools or chairs, and lighting.

If you are one of the millions of Americans who takes in loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, you’ll need to prepare your home to make a safe, comfortable environment. Providing them their own room is paramount; it’s important to respect their privacy and preserve their dignity. You may also want to consider making renovations or modifications in the kitchen and bathroom. These rooms are important but contain plenty of hazards you want to avoid.


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