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Family Matters: Public Policy and the Interdependence of Generations

(Source:  Generations United)

Our families, our society, and our economy are in trouble. One in five children lives in poverty. More than a third of older adults have incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line. The U.S. is still in a recession, a recession that has highlighted how important the generations are to each other. Child, parent, and grandparent are coming back together and living in the same home, dependent on each other for financial support and caregiving.

Download the new report today! Report includes results from a poll conducted by Harris Interactive.  LINK HERE



What’s In a Name??

(Source:  Al Power)

Back on line, at least for the moment. September was a crazy month, but the dust should start to settle soon. I will be going to visit Lakeview Ranch in Darwin, Minnesota tomorrow, attending a fundraising dinner, and then speaking at St. Cloud State University with Dr. Richard Taylor on Friday. Lakeview Ranch, founded by Judy Berry, is a community for people living with dementia that has garnered praise for its compassionate, drug-free care. Judy just won an award from the RWJF for her efforts, (as I have blogged earlier).

The words “elder” and “elderly” are being tossed around in another iteration on www.changingaging.org, so I thought I’d cross it over to this post. There are many people who see the word “elderly” as a simple modifier for an old person, and don’t see why culture change advocates recoil at the word. Here is the reply I posted yesterday:

“While the word “elderly” COULD carry any connotation, the usual result in our society is that it suggests an image of a frail, broken, dependent person. The rather common usage, therefore, of a term that paints aging in such a negative light contributes to the negative image of older people that The Eden Alternative, ChangingAging and other culture change movements try to dispel.

“We are hoping that people will come to see elderhood as a distinct developmental stage–not purely defined by loss of physical ability, but rather a synthesis of life experiences into a form of wisdom and perspective not generally seen in younger adults. This is borne out by many studies that show older adults process information through a richer emotional and psychological tapestry.

“Word choice is all about neurolinguistic programming. Certain words can bias our view of people, and we choose a more positive language, in order to help us make the paradigm shift to a more positive view of aging.”

On the positive side, we have resuscitated the word “elder” and increased its usage in a society that has largely forgotten the term. We choose this word, as it comes from traditional societies where elders had positions of respect. Not only were they not excluded from mainstream society, their wisdom was valued and they were often sought for advice on matters both large and small. This fosters a more positive view of aging.

Beyond that, The Eden Alternative does not even assign a particular age range to an elder. We define the term as follows: “An elder is any person who, by virtue of life experience, is here to teach us how to live”. This includes our frailest elders, who teach us every day to be kind, compassionate and patient, and who show us how to create caring communities. It also encompasses younger people who, by virtue of their challenges, live a similar life experience to many of their older counterparts.

Some of the younger people who live in nursing homes reject the term “elder”, but often when you explain what an elder is in positive, developmental terms, they agree that they fit the bill!  LINK TO BLOG  




What Does It Feel Like To Be 75? Say Goodbye To Spry

(Source: by Jennifer Ludden, NPR)

While reporting my recent series on Aging At Home, I came across a special suit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab. It's meant to help 20-something engineers feel the aches and limitations of an average 75-year-old so they can design better products for them. Think of it as working like those outfits Superheroes put on, only backward. Of course, I couldn't resist.

  • 1.      Now, I'm 40-something — no spring chicken. But if the crosswalk light is blinking, I can still dash across the street, no problem. Until, that is, MIT researcher Rozanne Puleo starts strapping me into what she calls her Age Gain Now Empathy System.  MORE   



Help People Prepare For Aging

(Source: Anthony Cirillo, www.mcknights.com)

"Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you've got to start young."       ~ Theodore Roosevelt

I have a keynote that I give to long-term care associations, caregiving groups and most recently even to the EPA. It is entitled The Meaning of Life. Presumptuous of me, huh?! In it I impart life lessons that we can learn from our elders about living a quality life. Happens that all of the stories (and related songs) originate from fantastic elders in nursing and assisted living facilities.

For example, those elder living a quality life have an unbelievable attitude. Take my friend Jean. She was in her late eighties when she faced the prospect of going into a nursing home. She did not view it as a place to die but as an opportunity to try new things, experience life, as she never did before. And she did…

Smart organizations that educate and take a personal responsibility in educating people about quality aging create what we marketers call tipping points for choice. In other words, when people finally need a service in the continuum of aging they will look to those in the continuum who have reached out and helped them.  MORE




Understanding Care Partnership

(Source: Eden Alternative News & Updates)

When we begin to focus on Elders as people who continue to "grow and become," we open to what they have to offer us.  Seeing Elders as mentors with something to give helps us make the leap from caregiving... to care partnering. When those usually described as care receivers learn they have something to give - and there is always some way that they can, no matter how subtle -and those usually described as care givers deeply acknowledge the ways that they receive from care receivers, some amazing shifts occur in the care dynamic. They become Care Partners."

Instead of seeing the needs of 'caregivers' as separate from the needs of 'care receivers,' we need to focus on the well-being of the whole care partnership.  At the Eden Alternative, we firmly believe that words make worlds.  Like the term 'Elder,' the phrase 'Care Partner' is an excellent example of the transformative power of choosing our language carefully.  As a concept, care partnership evens the playing field, as it is often easy to get trapped in a one-dimensional experience of care.  With this in mind, teams must fully appreciate what it means to be a care partner team.  The term "care partner" should never be used simply as a politically-correct replacement for the words "staff" or "aide" or "caregiver/care receiver." Care partnership encompasses so much more, both in nursing homes and out in the larger community.

By our definition, a care partner team is composed of the following care partners:  the Elder herself; those care partners who work with her, whether they work in a nursing home or through home health support; her family members, friends, volunteers, and any other health professionals that collaborate with her.  Care partnering implies a balance of care, that opportunities to give as well as receive are abundant and experienced by everyone involved in the care relationship in every moment.  To deepen the experience of care partnership, consider holding Learning Circles on the subject that bring Elders and all of their care partners together.







Happiness May Come With Age, Study Says

(Source:  Nicholas Bakalar, www.nytimes.com)


It is inevitable. The muscles weaken. Hearing and vision fade. We get wrinkled and stooped. We can’t run, or even walk, as fast as we used to. We have aches and pains in parts of our bodies we never even noticed before. We get old.  It sounds miserable, but apparently it is not. A large Gallup poll has found that by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older, and researchers are not sure why.


“It could be that there are environmental changes,” said Arthur A. Stone, the lead author of a new study based on the survey, “or it could be psychological changes about the way we view the world, or it could even be biological — for example brain chemistry or endocrine changes.”  MORE  


Believing What You Hear: The Impact of Aging Stereotypes on the Old


The authors of a new paper point out that ageism is different from other "ism" stereotypes because all humans will become old if they live long enough. They reviewed four theories of how stereotypes affect older adults. The stereotype threat hypothesis suggests that since older people are well aware of negative stereotypes about older people, they try to avoid conforming to these beliefs and in doing so, become anxious and stressed. This anxiety leads older adults to fulfill the stereotype by, for example, performing poorly on a test of memory.  MORE



(Source:  www.changingaging.org)


The first, most important and unbreakable rule is that men have no place offering opinions on whether women should or should not "go gray." We live in a culture that penalizes women for all of the normal signs of aging and... MORE Read more at changingaging.org »


Elderspeak: New Program to Improve Communication with Elders Now Available


Language, and our choice of language has a very powerful effect on those around us.  Elderspeak was developed by Daniel Baer, MD, to heighten awareness regarding the impact of communication tone and content with elders. LEARN MORE


Aged Care Residents 'Voiceless Citizens'

(Source:  www.theage.com.au )


Australia's aged care residents have become "voiceless citizens" who are told what time to get up and what to eat, an international dementia conference has been told.  Dr Stephen Judd, chief executive officer of aged care provider HammondCare, was scathing of the aged care industry in his address to the Eighth Biennial International Conference on Dementia in Sydney on Wednesday.  Dr Judd said most aged care residents were living lives devoid of personal freedoms.


"Does anyone seriously believe that an older citizen in residential aged care has not had their rights eroded, however subtly, by being obliged to conform to a regimented schedule?" he said.  He said schedules in aged care facilities were dictated by what best suited staff and operational objectives, not what best suited residents.  He said many older Australians were forced to get up and be dressed by 8am every morning.  "Why can't they sleep in?" he said.  MORE


(Source: Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer's Front Row)


I can't tell you how many times I either heard or read these words -- I can't take him/her out because she eats with her hands. I know this -- it is a big problem among Alzheimer's caregivers…  The positive effects of socialization, initiative, and motivation on the part of Alzheimer's sufferers and their caregiver should not be overlooked. I believe these are as important as the medication...  MORE



Those People

(Source: Alzheimer's Reading Room)


We were working in a memory support center one day when we noticed two women crying at a table. We went over to them to ask if there was something we could to do to help. One woman exclaimed, “We drove fifty miles to come and visit our friend who is living here now. We have known each other all of our lives; we grew up together and raised our families together. Now, she doesn’t want to visit with us. She wants to be with those people.”  MORE

Saturday Night Live Tasked With Fighting Ageism

(Source: ALFA)

The nation’s leading senior living organization reached out to producers of Saturday Night Live, in anticipation of actress Betty White’s appearance as host.

The 88-year-old actress and comedian hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live as part of a viral social media promotion that allowed Facebook users to select her as host. Prior to the live show on Saturday, the Assisted Living Federation of America issued a press release and sent correspondence to the Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night Live, calling on the show to avoid “negative stereotypical portrayals of the very old.”

White’s appearance did include many references to her age. However, at least a couple of those references helped illustrate just how “vibrant and active” seniors in their 80s can be, a point ALFA Richard Grimes made in his letter to Michaels.  The New York Times called White’s performance on Saturday Night Live, “one of the strongest outings of the season. All it took to reinvigorate a 35-year-old comedy show was the presence of an 88-year-old woman.”  MORE