The New York Times this week features a discussion of aging in place, the term for adapting an existing home to accommodate changes necessary as its inhabitants get older. This article contains links to related coverage.
Many older Americans want to start a business but find they lack certain skills, and sometimes also the confidence to try something new. In response, more organizations focused on training entrepreneurs are targeting baby boomers.
A look at programs across the U.S. that help older adults start their own businesses.
I had never heard the term elder orphan before I came across this article and had no idea what it might mean.
An elder orphan has no adult children, spouse or companion to rely on for company, assistance or input. About 29 percent (13.3 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone. The majority of those are women (9.2 million, vs. 4.1 million men).
Carol Marak, who describes herself as an elder orphan, writes about why we need more services for people like herself who have no family to help them make crucial life decisions as they age. Marak started the Elder Orphan Facebook Page “designed for individuals over the age of 55 who live without a spouse and adult children to look after us as we grow older.”
Jane Brody, age 75, writes that even though she eats a balanced diet, she’s considering taking a vitamin B12 supplement. As people age, she says, their ability to absorb B12 from dietary sources may diminish:
“Depression, dementia and mental impairment are often associated with” a deficiency of B12 and its companion B vitamin folate, “especially in the elderly,” Dr. Rajaprabhakaran Rajarethinam, a psychiatrist at Wayne State University School of Medicine, has written.
Others besides people over age 50 who may have a B12 deficiency include vegetarians and vegans who eat little or no animal protein, people with stomach or small-intestine disorders like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, people whose digestive systems have been surgically altered for medical reasons, and chronic uses of proton-pump inhibitors to control acid reflux. A blood test can measure one’s level of B12.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
New research suggests that people get happier with age. Earlier research has suggested that peoples’ mental health improves as they age, and this study of 1,546 randomly selected adults in San Diego County suggests a correlation with happiness.
Even in an era when it seems every life is displayed on social media for the world to see, a whole generation is getting older, and its stories, if not written or otherwise recorded, will be lost. Serving that market is becoming a small-business enterprise.
This article describes how personal historians work with clients to write the individual’s life history.
An account of Serenbe, a multigenerational community in Chattahoochee Hills, outside Atlanta,GA. The community clusters homes and commercial buildings together so that a large portion of wooded land can be left undeveloped.
Nygren’s vision for Serenbe was modeled on the English countryside, where high-density villages are surrounded by expansive rural spaces.
Dr. VJ Periyakoil, director of the Stanford Palliative Care Education & Training Program, describes the Stanford Letter Project, which encourages older adults to write letters to their loved ones expressing sentiments they might not have been able to say face-to-face. The article contains a link to the Stanford Letter Project, which offers free letter templates.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
Recent Articles on Aging and Retirement
The homeless in America are getting old.
There were 306,000 people over 50 living on the streets in 2014, the most recent data available, a 20 percent jump since 2007, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They now make up 31 percent of the nation’s homeless population.
This New York Times article takes a detailed look at the growing number of homeless older people in the U.S.
Social isolation is one of the primary factors in reducing the quality of life for older adults. Some recent research examined how giving up driving can contribute to such isolation:
When elderly drivers have to stop getting behind the wheel, they run the risk of social isolation, especially if they don’t have an alternative transportation plan, a recent study suggests.
The study looked at driving habits and social activities, like visiting friends and family or going out to dinner or the movies, for more than 4,300 adults over age 65.
This article reports on a dramatic drop in the number of patients taking drugs for treatment of osteoporosis because of their fear of rare but severe side effects. But, as the article points out, many more people benefit from the medications than are harmed by them:
“You only need to treat 50 people to prevent a fracture, but you need to treat 40,000 to see an atypical fracture,” said Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, a professor of medicine at Tufts University who has no association with the makers of the drugs.
Be sure to discuss all medications with your health practitioner.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
Here’s a sad story indeed. Jennifer Weiner writes about her 97-year-old grandmother’s entry into an independent living facility. The mean girls at the facility wouldn’t let Weiner’s grandmother sit at their table in the dining room. They talked about playing bridge but told Weiner’s grandmother that they didn’t need any new players.
Weiner uses her grandmother’s experience to ponder the question of how typical or atypical this treatment is among residents of independent living centers. She cites a recent study by Karl Pillemer of Cornell University that found aggression among residents in nursing homes to be widespread:
According to the study’s news release, one in five residents was involved in at least one “negative and aggressive encounter” with another resident during a four-week period. Sixteen percent were cursed or yelled at; 6 percent were hit, kicked or bitten; 1 percent were victims of “sexual incidents, such as exposing one’s genitals, touching other residents, or attempting to gain sexual favors;” and 10.5 percent dealt with other residents’ entering their rooms uninvited, or rummaging through their belongings.
Weiner also points out that age discrimination is rampant: “Even in a residence for the elderly, the 80-somethings will still be cold to the 95-year-olds.” This discrimination leaves people like her grandmother, now 99 and without cognitive impairment, with no one to talk to. Such is the pain of having outlived almost all of one’s contemporaries.
Here’s another story that even goes beyond the experiences of Jennifer Weiner’s grandmother. Paula Span describes what happened to Ann Clinton, who is 80 and has Parkinson’s disease, at Redstone Village in Huntsville, AL. Redstone is a type of facility known as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). Such communities offer a full range of care, from independent living through assisted living and then skilled nursing care. Many CCRCs promote their range of care as a benefit for potential residents.
Ann Clinton and her husband began their retirement life in an independent living apartment at Redstone. Her husband moved through the assisted living and skilled nursing continuum and died last fall. Throughout her husband’s decline Ann Clinton found companionship and support at the weekly bingo game held in the independent living area of the building. But when she entered the Redstone nursing wing after back surgery, she was told she could no longer participate in the Monday night bingo game, even though she could easily ride her motorized scooter to the game.
And thus began the bingo wars at Redstone. My heart sank as I read how the conflict has escalated. Both Redstone administration and some independent-living residents want to keep Mrs. Clinton out.
Read how lawyers from AARP and the National Senior Citizens Law Center are attempting to fight such discrimination as a violation of both the federal Fair Housing Act and and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Not all the news about retirement life is bad, though. This New York Times article describes how retired folks are volunteering to do “difficult and meaningful work” to give back to their communities:
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, a government agency that runs the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs, some 24 percent of older adults volunteered in 2013, providing nearly 190 million hours of service. Despite the disruption of a recession six years ago, that rate has held fairly steady over the past decade.
Read here about three people who
personify what Mitch Anthony, a consultant, speaker and author of “The New Retirementality,” calls the “legacy or mission phase” of life. At this point, people may be less concerned with paying bills and more interested in paying back.
And there’s more good news in another New York Times article:
For many, a retirement of babysitting grandchildren, golfing and relaxing on the beach is passé. Older people today approach work as a pillar of a retirement lifestyle, planning ahead and adding skills even before leaving their current jobs.
Colleges and universities are trying to figure out how to tap into this growing population of potential students. According to the United States Census Bureau, by 2030 the number of Americans age 65 and older will reach 72 million, up from 40.2 million in 2010.
A Merrill Lynch study conducted in partnership with Age Wave, a research firm that focuses on aging, found that nearly three of every five working retirees said retirement was an opportunity to shift to a different line of work.
For some of those seeking to change careers, retirement offers an opportunity to pursue a calling that wasn’t economically feasible earlier. Still others, forced into earlier-than-expected retirement by health concerns or layoffs, need to keep working for financial reasons.
Read here how many colleges and universities, including community colleges, are working to develop both degree and non-degree programs for older adult students. Especially encouraging is the news that state universities in California, Texas, and Pennsylvania offer tuition-free enrollment for older adultls.
the hourlong “Frontline” documentary “Life and Death in Assisted Living,” airing Tuesday night on PBS stations across the country, doesn’t really break new ground on the subject. But it is important nonetheless.One reason is that families, who make most of the decisions about assisted living, don’t pore over gerontology journals or state regulations as they are looking for a place that is not a nursing home.
So they don’t always realize that these reassuring-looking residences may have no nurse on the premises most of the time, that health care in assisted living frequently consists of a 911 call, that the average length of stay — according to the Assisted Living Federation of America — is less than two years.