The front porch, a rediscovered—and needed—social space

The front porch, a rediscovered—and needed—social space

My husband and I used to chuckle when my mother-in-law lived with us. She would set up shop inside our open garage with her cup of tea, our dog on a leash, her lawn chair, her Table-Mate tray table and a set of magazines.

It did not matter that our backyard held lovely views of the Conejo Valley; the view she wanted to see was people.

While sitting in the garage over the course of the day, she would see the mail carrier, delivery people, neighbors walking their dogs, Realtors dropping off flyers and the people next door walking to their car.

She would shout out a “Hey, mister!” or “Hey, lady!” and launch right into a conversation with anyone who walked by. I am sure the interaction reminded her of her hometown in Ireland, where neighbors were close and conversation was plentiful. And the exchange fed her soul.

Celebrating life in isolation

Celebrating life in isolation

Birthdays during the pandemic have certainly changed.

Take, for example, a first birthday, when a child’s parents reflect on how quickly the year has gone. One-year-olds have achieved so much in their first year. They have developed their own personality and can really enjoy the excitement of a party just for them.

My great-nephew, Wyatt, turned 1 this past week.

His parents, grandparents and great-grandmother held a socially distanced outdoor party for him. Neighbors and friends drove up, stayed in their cars to drop off gifts and send well-wishes, and were treated to a to-go lunch including a hot dog, bag of chips, soda and birthday cake.

Wyatt will never know his birthday celebration was different than it might have been pre-pandemic. But most of us know that this year’s birthday will likely be different from those in the past.

Last week was also my friend Adrienne’s 77th birthday. 

COVID unpredictability lingers

COVID unpredictability lingers

Before COVID-19, many of us over the age of 60 never regarded ourselves as “older adults” or as someone with an underlying medical condition. However, it didn’t take long for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and county public health officers to place new classifications on us once the novel coronavirus arrived in the United States.

I have many friends over the age of 60 who would consider themselves vital, with jobs or volunteer duties, large networks and busy lives.

Their age was never a primary identifier for them, and their medical situation was something they controlled while still managing their robust lives.

The truth may be somewhere in the middle

The truth may be somewhere in the middle

With so many headlines, news stories and opinion pieces about the impact COVID-19 is having on an individual’s health and safety, as well as the health of our economy, it is hard not to feel we have enough information to form opinions.

In many posts on Facebook and Nextdoor and in letters to the editor, local residents are quite adamant in their opinion on both of these topics.

It makes sense because if we are listening to, watching or reading the news, we are inundated with recognized health experts, healthcare providers, government officials, economists, business advisors, lawmakers and community leaders offering their opinions on the present situation and the future before us.

Team bonds responding to those in need

Team bonds responding to those in need

Sometimes a crisis can connect a team in a way no other experience could. I am one member of a small team of non-furloughed employees working in the Senior Concerns office and responding to calls.

The metaphor “band of brothers” keeps coming to mind.

This historical phrase refers to a diverse set of men who are thrown into battle, making them a family as close as any blood ties could make them. In our case, we are a band of sisters, but that is beside the point.

Let me start at the beginning as to why band of brothers (or sisters) was never a touchstone in my life.

I never belonged to a team such as sports, band or choir. My previous career was in sales, which, by its nature, is not a team sport. Generally, salespeople have

Feeling sad amid COVID crisis

Feeling sad amid COVID crisis

Lately a lot of people have been asking me how I’m doing. They know I work with seniors.

I’ve been answering that question by simply saying we’re very busy. I’d like to elaborate, but the truth is, I’m having a hard time processing all I am feeling.

There are a lot of challenging, and some heartbreaking, situations that have come to us during this pandemic, bringing me great sadness and making me think just how hard life can be.

I took a call from a 90-year-old couple who were asking if we could grocery shop for them. They were terrified of leaving their home for fear of getting sick. They’d been seeing reports on TV of doctors making choices to treat younger, healthier patients over the elderly and allowing the elderly to die. The wife told me they did not want to die that way.

Five steps to kick that out-of-control feeling

Five steps to kick that out-of-control feeling

For most of us, our daily lives have been disrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shelter-in-place order.

Work, social and family life has been upended in ways we may never have imagined. Life may feel unsettled as an air of uncertainty hangs over us. It’s natural to feel out of control given the significance of these life changes.

What makes us feel out of control, however, varies by person. For some, the uncertain nature of the stock market may strike the strongest nerve. For others, it might be the threat to the health and well-being of our family. And for others, job loss and the lack of ability to pay for basic living expenses hits the hardest.

Virus presents greatest risk to seniors

Virus presents greatest risk to seniors

One of the first references to “getting old ain’t for sissies” was published in 1968. Fast-forward 52 years and whoever made the statement had no idea how true it would become.

In a world where we’re experiencing exponential growth in the number of people who are over 80, little is being said about the impact viruses and infections have on this aging population.

Right now, the world is abuzz with news about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, with 75,000 people having contracted the disease and over 2,118 deaths as of the writing of this column.

In China, the overall fatality rate is at about 3%, but what may not be universally reported is that the number rises to almost 15% for adults in their 80s.

Accurate census count is critical

Accurate census count is critical

Yes, this will be my second column on the upcoming census in as many months, but hopefully you’ll forgive me. After all, there’s a lot at stake here. What happens in 2020 will determine the fate of our region’s communities for the next 10 years.

Did you know that, according to the U.S. government, Ventura County is in the top 2% of counties “at risk” for undercounting in the upcoming 2020 census?

Why would Ventura County be any different than other counties? It seems, according to the federal government, that we have an overabundance of factors that will challenge census takers. Among them: potentially hundreds of individuals (if not more) who may be in the country illegally and who are fearful of being asked if they are a citizen (they won’t be).

A life is changed in the blink of an eye

A life is changed in the blink of an eye

This month, another adult child was drafted into the world of caregiving. Her name is Janet, and she is a 50-something schoolteacher with a husband and two adult children.

One would think that the most logical subject of her caregiving would be her frail 86-year-old mother who lives 2,000 miles away. And in some ways, you would be right. But that is only half the story.

Janet grew up one of two children. Her older brother, David, was a special needs child. Back in his day they may not have put a name to it, but he does not make eye contact, has learning impairments and only at age 50 was he stable enough to get his driver’s license.

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