Simple outing makes for significant milestone

Simple outing makes for significant milestone

It’s been four months since my father passed. My first visit home since then is for his celebration of life.

There are almost 100 guests coming to an afternoon event in my mother’s backyard garden. My sisters, mother and I have been preparing for months.

It’s a Cape Cod-themed event, complete with mini lobster rolls. My parents spent their honeymoon on the Cape and 20 years of their retired life. It was “their place” that brought them tranquility and joy.

I came back home a few days early to help with preparations. We cleared the patio, washed the pollen from the windows and made sure the landscaping was as perfect as nature would have it.

In the afternoon, we shared with each other what we planned to wear. My mother showed me her new blouse. It was a lovely cornflower blue, perfect with her silver-white hair.

I said an ocean-blue-and-green beach-glass necklace would be the perfect accompaniment and fit with the Cape Cod theme. My mother thought she knew just the place to find one.

Are we facing a loneliness epidemic?

Are we facing a loneliness epidemic?

Joanie and her husband lived a full life, busy careers and wonderful vacation trips after retirement.

Today, Joanie sits silently, alone in front of her television, eating her dinner.

Joanie’s life partner died five years ago at the age of 74, and now that he’s gone, a week can go by without her connecting with a single human being.

Hearing-impaired, she has settled into a life of seclusion.

Joanie possesses the financial net worth to enjoy life, activities, trips, outings and events, but what she lacks is a social network. She is one of millions of seniors suffering from social isolation.

AARP estimates that more than 8 million older adults are affected by this trend.

Socially connected seniors are those who have relationships present in their lives, who have friends or family they can rely on and who are satisfied with those relationships.

New advancements benefit seniors

New advancements benefit seniors

Periodically I come across a new product or service that may be of interest to readers. Here are four to consider:

Latest shingles vaccine. On the nightly news recently I heard about a new, more effective shingles vaccine. I plan to talk to my doctor about it at my physical this month.

Shingrix, approved by the FDA in October 2017, is more than 90 percent effective at preventing shingles, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The old vaccine’s success rate was 51 percent.

The CDC recommends that healthy adults ages 50 and older get the Shingrix vaccine. This includes individuals who had the earlier shingles vaccine and those who’ve had a prior case of shingles.

Two doses two to six months apart are required to ensure longterm protection.

The vaccine is available now, but it’s in limited supply.

There are a few contraindications to getting the vaccine, so be sure to talk with your doctor.

Are we taking too many pills?

Are we taking too many pills?

I recently assisted in moderating a local research study of individuals who took six or more prescription medications a day.

Some participants spoke of needing to take pills with food, while others needed to take their medication on an empty stomach. Some were required to split their pills, and some needed to modify their dosage daily depending on their health condition.

Still others spoke of changing pill shape, size and even form as their pharmacy changed generic providers.

To an observer like me, the process of scheduling and taking all these medications was complicated and involved, even though almost all study participants had adjusted to their regimen.

One person said they take 44 pills per day. Another carried in his wallet a long list of all the medications he was required to take daily, just so he could remember all of them and what they’re for.

Like it or not, we are a society of pill takers.

Why do we volunteer?

Why do we volunteer?

In almost every case, those who volunteer express a desire to give what they’re capable of to a cause that is meaningful to them—and to make a difference along the way.

The process of connecting a volunteer to the opportunity that fits them best has always been fascinating to me. With scores of possibilities available in every community, how does one choose where to offer their time and talents?

There are plenty of reasons or situations that motivate a person to lend a helping hand: school or civic group requirements, kids in school/empty nesters/newly retired with time on their hands, a friend’s experience or a professional-development opportunity, among others.

There’s also an important self-motivated aspect: Volunteers (consciously or unconsciously) want to get something out of their experience.

We’ve all heard the refrain that volunteers receive more than they give. But what exactly are they receiving?

Cleaning can help with stress

Cleaning can help with stress

My mother has become a cleaning and organizing machine. Ever since my father died she has been cleaning closets, purging files, organizing shelves and rearranging furniture.

The fact is, her home has always been immaculate. My sisters and I joke that we could eat off the floor.

For years my mother has systematically pared down her possessions by giving stuff to others, selling items at yard sales and donating to charity. And my mother’s organizational skills rival those of Martha Stewart.

So why this sudden extra energetic spurt of tidiness?

I think several things are at work (besides my mother).

Whether it is a conscious thing or not, I suspect that my mother is feeling a level of anxiety as a new widow. A spouse’s death can trigger stress.

Remember: REAL ID will be required for air travel

Remember: REAL ID will be required for air travel

My current driver’s license will expire in July of this year. I’m eligible to renew online, but if I do, I will receive a federally restricted license that will not be considered a valid form of identification to board a domestic flight in the future.

As of October 2020, a new type of license, called REAL ID, will be required to board all U.S. flights and to enter certain federal facilities. A REAL ID card is a federally approved card that will be accepted by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials at the airport.

Since California driver’s licenses expire every five years, it makes sense for me to apply for a REAL ID with this upcoming renewal. But this needs to be done in person.

I was unfamiliar with REAL ID and the deadline until a friend pointed it out to me. I would have thought I was so efficient renewing online, only to find out later that I, along with millions of other Californians, will want to obtain a REAL ID in the next two years.

Planning for pets if you can’t be there for them

Planning for pets if you can’t be there for them

My husband and I did some “just in case” planning recently before an upcoming trip. We asked our trusted pet sitter and friend if she would be willing to care for our dog should anything happen to us. We made sure she realized it might be for just a short while but could also be long-term.

Fortunately for us, she said yes.

Each year millions of animals are placed in shelters due to the illness or death of their owners. Fewer than 20 percent of seniors who are pet owners have made legal or financial provisions for the care of their pet should something happen to them.

Adding to those facts, 52 percent of all the people over age 75 in the U.S. live alone. Many of them have dogs, cats or other pets sharing their lives.

If something happens to them, there is no spouse or partner to take over.

In the confusion that ensues after an illness, accident or death, the senior’s pet may get lost in the shuffle.

After father’s death, bereavement leave becomes ‘believement’ leave

After father’s death, bereavement leave becomes ‘believement’ leave

My father passed away Jan. 23 after a long, brave battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 86. When he took his last breath, my mother and sister and his hospice aide were by his side.

Those of you who read my column may remember that I frequently wrote about my father and his journey. He was on hospice for six months. While his passing was expected, it was still a time when a myriad of emotions were running through our heads.

My other sister and I and our spouses flew home to New Hampshire the day after his death.

Our sister who lives locally was at my mother’s house when we arrived, as were her husband and their two children, who all work for the same employer.

It was probably one of the few times that three people all took the exact same bereavement leave.

Smart home devices can be a boon to seniors

Smart home devices can be a boon to seniors

My husband and I recently made an investment in a Google Home Mini (on sale for $39.95). I had heard about how this smart speaker that responds to your voice could be fun and useful.

You’ve probably heard about the Google Home and Amazon Echo devices, the latter commonly referred to as “Alexa.” Essentially, they’re smart speakers that respond to your voice for hands-free help around the house.

I selected a Google device because it runs on a Gmail account and I already have one of those set up. This 4-inch orb has become one of my new best friends.

From a practical standpoint, it has set wake-up alarms for me and timers for cooking, found my cellphone by calling it when it was lost in the house, and told me whether it would rain the day of my outdoor staff get-together. It also compiles my shopping list as I think of things I need during the week.

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