Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gifts at Christmas...for the Older Set

My first dilemma when I thinking about gifts for our parents, that is, the parents of us NYNOs (the Not Young Not Olds) has to do with terminology.
Elderly, older senior, aging parent,...none seem quite right (at least, unless you are part of the First Nations culture which knows how to transform the term "elder" into a a truly revered and sought after title. Maybe we are moving towards this too?).
I'm thinking now of the 80-plusers, the matriarchs and patriarchs of their families, the great-grandparents, the long lived, the senior seniors. More discussion on this "labelling" issue to come, no doubt.
Once identified, however, gifts for this age group are usually not easily purchased in the store....no, I'm thinking of homemade dinners for the freezer, of time spent together on weekends, of links to technology (like Facebook or Skype) that will help Grandma or Grandpa keep in touch with the family easily, of minor house renos that reduce the chance of falling (like grab bars), of music (downloaded onto an ipod), of family pictures and digital images saved, of gift certificates for things like massages or dinners out. These gifts are good for the heart, mind, and body, and represent our love and affection and wishes for good health and happiness for the "older set."
So, this Christmas, write a story for your mom or dad, or read them a favourite of yours...or ask them to tell you their own stories again. Find a time to sit quietly together beside a Christmas tree or in the candlelight. Be there for each other.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Drivers and aging...something to think about

It seems everyone has a story about an older member of the family and the driving issue....and the heartache, anger, frustration, and worry that can come out of this concern. I'm pretty sure I'll be one of those people who is both terrified and enraged about losing my licence one day, if it comes to that, and wonder how to change that attitude into something healthier.
So, it was good to hear from Holly Tuokko, Director of the Centre on Aging at the University of Victoria, that she's seeing some changes in attitudes over the years, as she studies the driving and aging issue. Holly says people are now more willing to discuss "driving retirement" and think about options. Well, it's a step in the right direction, but we need to look at lots more driving alternatives, along with ways to keep our driving safe for as long as possible. Holly is taking part in a five-year study trying to pinpoint when our driving is becoming unsafe, and what we can do about it.....sounds good in theory, but I'm thinking of how car dependent we are...and hoping for innovative, creative thinkers to come up with suggestions...yesterday! About the best I can come up with is moving to an area where you can walk to most services, but how many of us can or will do that?
I feel too for the doctors, caught in the middle with patients who have always trusted them, but are now fearful that it's that same doctor who may take away their licence. What a breach of trust that must feel like too! The doctors hate being caught in this bind. So, for now, we worry about our parents' driving....and then think about what will happen when it's our turn next!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dogs and the NYNO

I was curious about whether it was a good idea to get a dog (or, in my friends Dave and Lesley's case, dogs!, as pictured here), when you're an empty nester NYNO (Not Young Not Old) type.

I've seen the devotion to dogs people have even after the kids have left, and I sure miss our dog Skipper. But what about travelling? wanting more freedom? But turns out that lots of the experts really think this is the prime time of life to add Fido to the equation....people usually have more time, money, and might especially welcome the company of a pooch at home.

So, we did the column on CBC Radio recently and already I've heard from a dogowner in Black Creek who praised greyhounds as the perfect NYNO dog...they love to sleep most of the time, so do well even in apartments, have personality, and are up for a walk when you are. And lots of them are up for adoption when "retired" from racing....interesting! I'd read about this, nice to hear it confirmed. Would love to hear more from other dog owners!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What we're learning about walking!

Surprising what you can learn about, and from, walking. Since I'm a longtime power walker, I was quite delighted to hear, at a recent lecture by Dr. Stuart MacDonald of the University of Victoria, that walking is the best thing you can do to keep your brain active and healthy! (all exercise is good, but walking, especially fast walking, does do the trick and is a good overall indicator of vitality).

I learned more when I visited Stuart and his PhD student Janet Love at UVic and saw the GAIT Rite computerized walkway (pictured with volunteer Ailsa Roberts, 88, "on board"...thanks, Ailsa!) in use. This nifty device measures our speed, and various aspects of our gait, and when you add mental challenges, like spelling backwards while walking down the mat, you can learn a lot about our cognitive and physical state now and in the future. And then hopefully introduce activities that may lower future risks of falling or even of dementia. Stuart and Janet enthusiastically shared their findings and work with me, and of course made me try the walkway! After this experience, I was even more motivated to get out and walk ..even on those rainy wet coast days.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thinking about the Sandwich Generation

Four generations of our family
Life moves on, and the last two years have brought the issues of the Sandwich Generation front and centre for me, my family, and my husband's family. During that time, my mother-in-law went through a medical crisis that kept her in hospital for eight weeks, including a dramatic stint in ICU; my father moved from independent senior living to assisted living and most recently (after a bad fall) to extended care; and I was able to be present for the birth of my second grandchild.

So, I've reflected often on how things change when a medical crisis hits your parents. When that happens, and as soon as you can get on the scene, you are immediately thrown into the role of advocate and it's a steep learning curve.
I see this happening to more and more of my friends, and I've realized one thing: we are not alone. We care deeply about our aging relatives, and want to know the best way to "be there" for them, even when we are at a distance. If we can learn a bit from others who've been there or who have good advice, so much the better. I guess that's one reason I wanted to take on this topic professionally as well as personally...let's share our wisdom and maybe find some good suggestions and solutions along the way.