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.
Here are some of the recent articles that have caught my eye.
You’re a completely different person at 14 and 77, the longest-running personality study ever has found
When Architect Matthias Hollwich was approaching 40, he wondered what the next 40 years of his life might look like. He looked into the architecture that serves older adults, places like retirement communities and assisted living facilities, and didn’t like what he saw. But what if we changed our habits earlier in life so we could stay in the communities we already live in?
The book discusses how to build not only living quarters but also social networks and communities to keep people engaged with society while they age. Social isolation is one of the most common and most debilitating aspects of aging. People who are able to maintain social ties do better both physically and mentally as they age.
Chris Weller writes for Tech Insider:
I recently visited the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey to check out the Genworth Aging Experience, a new exhibit from Applied Minds that uses a high-tech exoskeleton to let people feel what life is like at 85 years old.
The suit allowed Weller to experience common ailments of aging, including macular degeneration, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), speech impediments, and physical impairments. Using virtual reality goggles and a treadmill, Weller discovered how difficult a walk on the beach, which most younger people find a soothing experience, is for an older person.
For the first time in history, people 65 years and older now outnumber children 5 and younger around the world. Without a clear understanding of how the world’s demographics are shifting, we can’t fully prepare for the change or appreciate its effects once it happens.
Follow the links in the article to learn more about the Genworth Aging Experience.
The number of Americans living in multigenerational households — defined, generally, as homes with more than one adult generation — rose to 56.8 million in 2012, or about 18.1 percent of the total population, from 46.6 million, or 15.5 percent of the population in 2007, according to the latest data from Pew Research. By comparison, an estimated 28 million, or 12 percent, lived in such households in 1980.
An interesting article about houses specially designed to hold two or three generations while allowing each its own space.
In a survey of over 350 American adults between the ages of 60 and 86, researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that older people enjoy the same things their younger counterparts do: using Facebook to bond with old friends and develop relationships with like-minded people. They also like to keep tabs on their loved ones.
There’s more evidence here that older adults are one of the fastest growing groups on social media: “As Facebook continues to be a bigger part of American life, the ever-growing population of older Americans is figuring out how to adapt.” As we boomers continue to age, communicating via social media will become increasingly important.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
This looks like a topic that warrants further investigation.
Anne over at Modern Mrs. Darcy recently suggested listing The things that are saving my life right now. Here’s her explanation of this idea:
The idea comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”
It’s easy and often tempting to rattle off a bunch of things that are killing us: “My sore feet are killing me.” “All this snow is killing me.” “I have a couple of clients right now who are trying to kill me.”
Yes, we complain a lot when things are going badly. But what we may fail to notice is all the things that are going well. It’s easy to pull our hair, look skyward, and yell, “Why me?” when we feel overwhelmed. But we almost never ask “Why me?” when things go well. We accept the good things as our due without acknowledging them.
So Modern Mrs. Darcy’s challenge is a chance to set things right, to appreciate the good things as well as the bad. She has invited us to put together our list and post a link to it over at her blog.
Here are some things that are saving me right now.
A little bit of sunshine
Winter can get pretty dreary here in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. But last week we had a few periods when the sun actually broke through. A little bit of sun doesn’t mean that the day won’t also include some rain, but just those fleeting periods of sunshine improved my mood and reminded me of the promise of spring and summer, which are truly glorious here.
Still crazy after all these years
My husband is one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever known. And he loves me. ME! Out of the whole big wide world, he chose me to spend life with. I still marvel at this miracle every single day.
Getting to know our daughter
Our daughter was born and grew up in St. Louis, MO. She left there for college in Tacoma, WA (University of Puget Sound), fell in love with the area, and never came back. We visited enough to know that we, too, loved the area and decided to retire here. And here we are! We have enjoyed immensely seeing our daughter more than once a year and being able to spend holidays together. Since she left home right after high school, we never really spent much time with her as an adult. Getting to know the woman she has become continues to be extremely gratifying.
A brighter world
I had cataract surgery on both my eyes last fall, and since then the world has been a much brighter place. Cataracts smothered my vision so gradually that I didn’t notice it for a long time. But when I realized that I could no longer appreciate subtle differences in colors, I knew it was time for me to do something about it. After I had the first eye done, I would frequently cover one eye and look through the other one. I could not believe the vast difference between the eye with the new lens and the one without. And now that both eyes have new lenses, my reading glasses require a much milder prescription than before. I am so looking forward to seeing all the flowers this spring and summer.
What a luxury it is to be able to choose what I want to do and when I want to do it (and to choose to not do many things I don’t want to do). Having relocated to a different part of the country for our retirement has given us a whole new world of stuff to learn about it. Sometimes I feel like a kid in a candy store.
We didn’t take much time to travel when we were younger. Life was just always too busy. To make up for that, we have committed to traveling frequently in our early retirement years, while we can still move around fairly easily. There are just so many interesting places to visit, so many peoples and countries to learn about, so much glorious nature to see.
There are so many good books out there that I haven’t read yet. Finishing one and picking up another is one of the true joys of my life.
Silver and gold
Make new friends but keep the old.
One is silver and the other’s gold.
I’m sure I’m leaving out a lot, but all of these things remind me how good my life is. I look forward to checking out other peoples’ lists on the Modern Mrs. Darcy website.
What about you? What things are saving your life right now?
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.
It’s not necessarily your parents’ retirement anymore.
Last fall writer Spencer Woodman visited a campground called Buckeye Mobile/RV Estates outside of Coffeyville, Kansas, where a number of migratory workers were waiting to start temporary work at Amazon’s nearby warehouse. Called workampers, they are “mostly retirement-age migrant workers who have taken to the road in RVs and camper vans in pursuit of temporary jobs to make ends meet.”
But the workamper lifestyle isn’t just about finding temporary work:
Although workampers’ schedules can be grueling, they are quick to express appreciation for the community and sense of belonging that their migratory life offers them. The workers at Buckeye not only lived and worked together but formed close bonds and shared a fierce camaraderie.
One workamper told Woodman, “You need to just get in the RV and explore. You won’t get rich doing it, but you get a lot of experiences and you meet the greatest people.”
Woodman wondered if such enthusiasm for the migratory lifestyle might be rationalization, a means of glossing over the harsh economic realities that force people to keep moving in a search for one temporary job after another. But, he writes, many workampers talk about the lifestyle with a zeal that “can become almost evangelical.” Most of them see this life as a way to throw off the shackles of a stationary, materialistic view of life, to abandon “the entire orders of value that workampers have left behind.”
Several comments posted under the article reinforce this view. Len Randol wrote:
At the age of 36 I went fulltime and left our sticks and bricks life behind. I had a job in corporate management and took my family to live a life full of adventure, a life building memories. Connecting with nature and community in a way that didn’t seem possible in in our wash/rinse/repeat lifestyle of before.
Cheryl Henry posted:
Thousands of us WILLINGLY gave up our sticks and bricks home and a life style that is stressful and/or boring! Sure there are those who struggle, but they probably did when they were anchored to one place… . Most of are NOT running around saying “oh poor me”! We are happy traveling to places of our choice, seeing places in this country we could not have afforded to go visit even for a few days. Now we not only get to go, but get to stay for months at a time if we so choose. If we don’t like the place or the neighbors, we move! We have been across the country east to west, north to south and met some wonderful people and made great friends.
Georgia Bissonette said that after the loss of her son:
I wanted to live again, I wanted to get out of bed and my overwhelming grief and fall in love with this world again! I live and love in a 28ft space with my husband,2 cats and our old dog! And I couldn’t be happier! We are leaving Tennessee this weekend, where are we heading? Where the wind blows us!
This lifestyle is obviously not for everyone, but both the article and the comments suggest that, for some, it is an appealing choice.
I had not heard of “virtual retirement villages, whose members pay a yearly fee to gain access to resources and social connections that help them age in place”:
At the core of these villages is conciergelike service referrals for members, said Judy Willett, national director of the Village to Village Network. Members can find household repair services, and sometimes even personal trainers, chefs or practitioners of Reiki, the Japanese healing technique. Most important, the villages foster social connections through activities like potlucks, happy hours and group trips.
One major benefit of virtual retirement villages is that it counters the social isolation that aging adults often experience. Members keep in touch by telephone as well as on websites and by email and social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
virtual villages are popping up all over the country. Currently, there are 140 villages in 40 states, according to Village to Village Network, which helps establish and manage the villages. Another 120 virtual villages are on the drawing boards.
For more information, see Village to Village Network.