Julie Gorges, a baby boomer herself, has been writing professionally for more than 20 years. She writes about baby boomer humor, grandparenting, happiness tips, health, menopausal musings, retirement, travel and leisure on her blog.
Summer is just around the corner! As visions of sailing, road trips, and time at the beach dance around this baby boomer’s head, my writerly pals and I are sharing our summer dreams and inspiration in the C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y – Summer Blog Hop. (For more summertime fun, click over to meet the awesome #Gr8Blogs bloggers listed at the end of this post.)
What have I been up to lately? What have I been writing? What books am I reading? What’s making me proud? What am I anticipating?
And…will I go shark cage diving on our trip to Africa this fall?
Read on to find out…
* What I’m Loving
My family, of course, on an early summer road trip! We went camping on Pismo Beach – a drive-on beach in Central California where the cold wind blew, my daughter-in-law got her car stuck in the sand, and we took an exciting bumpy ride on the sand dunes. But a fun time was had by all! Next summer family trip – Catalina Island!
* What I’m Writing
After promoting my latest book, I’m happy to get back to writing again. Next up, a book to help those over 50 who are struggling to lose weight.
Confession time. After caring for my mother for a few years, I had gained a lot of weight stress-eating. Since I had neglected my health during that time, a check-up was in order. The doctor bluntly informed me that I had gained 20 pounds since my last visit. Okay, I already knew that, but it was still painful to hear!
So began my quest to drop the weight. The pics below show me before and after my weight loss.
Let me tell you, losing weight is a whole new ballgame as you age. This was a a learning experience as I mastered what worked – and found out what didn’t work anymore now that I’m older.
I’m ready to share my secrets. No dangerous surgeries, expensive weight loss programs, or crazy fad diets involved. I’ll discuss why it’s so hard to lose weight as you age and what you can do about it. I’ll share with you my personal struggles, tips so you never feel hungry, how to stop stress-eating, some of my favorite recipes, and how to keep the weight off. I hope to have it finished and ready to publish by the end of the year just in time for 2020 resolutions.
By the way, I’m so grateful that my book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia, published a few months ago, has been well-received with several five-star reviews including this one from Readers’ Favorite:
“…It is a caring, heart-filled story of a daughter’s journey with her mother, as they both face the monster of an illness that steals so much.”
The book, as well as other reviews, are available on Amazon.
* What I’m Anticipating
This fall, I will fulfill a lifelong dream and visit South Africa with my husband, Scott. I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that he was trying to talk me into going shark cage diving with the great whites in Cape Town.
One of the reasons I think our marriage works so well – even after 40 years – is because we support each other’s dreams and Scott was super excited about this idea. Oh dear! Although I consider myself an adventurer, visions of the scene of a shark attacking the cage in Jaws kept dancing around in my head.
Now, for the big question. Will I do it?
Drum-roll please….yes, we have booked this adventure.
Mind you, this decision was not made lightly. I did plenty of research and watched several videos so I’d know what to expect. I discovered that the companies in South Africa do not chum the waters or feed the sharks and closely follow safety regulations. I couldn’t find any reports of fatalities, but I did see a viral video of a cage dive gone wrong on Guadalupe Island in Mexico when safety precautions were ignored. Horrifically, the shark ended up thrashing around violently inside the cage with a man – who miraculously was unharmed. By the way, even though I am scuba certified, I would never go shark diving without a cage or try to feed the sharks. I have my limits and that just seems dumb and dangerous.
Now, if I could only stop hearing “duun-dun, dun-dun, duun-duun, dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun” every time I think about the cage dive.
Stay tuned, I’ll be blogging all about my experience.
* What I’m Reading
Ready to hit the beach or sit by the lakeside with a good book this summer? Here are a few books I’ve read lately that you may want to check out:
I was impressed with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The protagonist is a 30-year-old isolated, socially-awkward woman. Her unrequited crush on a musician, the way her workmates make fun of her, and her first experiences getting a manicure and a bikini wax – made me want to laugh and cry. Mostly cry. Despite Eleanor’s initial resistance, a man she works with befriends her. The book eventually reveals the mysterious event that left her so physically and emotionally scarred. This character touched my heart and reminds everyone that a bit of kindness and empathy goes a long way.
If you’re looking for a good thriller, a book that I couldn’t put down is The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn. Sort of a combination of Rear Window, Wait Until Dark, and Gaslight. I don’t want to give anything away, so that’s all I’ll say. But take my word, this is a gripping story that will keep you guessing.
I just finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and have mixed feelings about it. I was impressed with the lyrical, hauntingly beautiful writing as the author describes the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coastline. The murder mystery combined with a coming-of-age story drew me in. But some of the book didn’t make sense and although some people loved the controversial ending, without any spoiler alerts, let’s just say I didn’t.
* What’s Making Me Burst with Pride
So proud of my oldest son, Jonathan, who graduated last month with high honors. He earned his degree while working full-time and with three kids – who were delighted to decorate his graduation cap with their names!
* What’s In My Camera Lens
I don’t claim to be a photographer (sadly, writing is my one and only creative talent), but with the “super bloom” we had this year, how could I resist snapping lots of pics? They say it never rains in Southern California – but this year, it did in a big way with record-setting rainfall. The result? An eye-popping explosion of flowers on hillsides.
These first photos were taken at Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore where a poppy paradise drew massive crowds. Tourists from around the world could be seen on the trails enjoying the spectacular sight. The last two were taken near Hemet where I grew up – and yes, that’s my adorable youngest granddaughter posing in the flowers.
What else this summer will bring remains to be seen. Hope you enjoyed sharing my life and a big thanks for stopping by! For more Summer 2019 C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y moments, please visit the #Gr8blogs below:
What do you baby boomers think of when you hear the word “retirement”? If you’re prepared, you may have blissful thoughts about life without the need for an alarm or days spent with the grandkids. In contrast, if you aren’t financially prepared for it, the word itself can inflict apprehension about what the future will bring.
Too often, boomers don’t realize until they hit retirement that they weren’t ready. My guest blogger, Danielle K. Roberts, co-founder of Boomer Benefits and a member of the Forbes Finance Council, lists four of the top mistakes boomers can avoid, to be one step ahead in your retirement planning.
Mistake #1: Taking Social Security benefits too early
First, it is important to know that Social Security was not designed to sustain your lifestyle without another source of income. The majority of seniors need 70% or more of their pre-retirement income to maintain their lifestyle in retirement.
How to Avoid:
The longer you can delay Social Security, the easier it will be to supplement your other savings in retirement, leaving you a comfortable amount to live on.
Full retirement age is 66 or 67 depending upon your birth date. For every year that you delay taking your benefits (beyond full retirement age), you will increase your benefits by eight percent.
If at age 67 you are set to receive a benefit of $1,600 a month but delay taking your benefits until you are 70, you would instead get $1,984 a month for the rest of your life. A few years can equate to a large sum of money over time.
Mistake #2: Having debt entering retirement
The sad reality is that over 70% of baby boomers in the U.S. (60 and older) are in debt. Debt alone can wreak havoc on your retirement.
How to Avoid:
Before you quit your job and head off into the sunset, pay off as much debt as you can.
Interest rates have a bad habit of increasing and your income is likely going to be fixed. Having a fixed income makes it a lot more difficult to put a dent in your debt. Eradicating debt before you retire will be both a financial and mental relief as you head into your Golden Years.
Mistake #3: Underestimating the full cost of health care in retirement
Medical costs in retirement are staggering, even if you’re healthy! In a widely publicized study, Fidelity estimates that a healthy couple retiring in 2019 would need $285,000 set aside for health care costs. This number will only grow over the coming years.
How to Avoid:
Don’t assume that having Medicare will mean no out-of-pocket expenses. In fact, you could potentially have hefty bills that you are responsible for. Of course, Medicare will help cover a large portion of your health care costs, but you will still have monthly premiums, deductibles and coinsurance.
The best thing you can do is prepare ahead of time with a tool like a Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA can be a vehicle for setting aside money for health care costs, but it can also act as a triple tax advantage for you.
Last, don’t forget about long-term care. Long-term care is one of the costliest expenditures a senior can face. Whether you choose a long-term care insurance policy or set aside a portion of your HSA savings for this substantial expense, don’t let it become an afterthought.
Mistake #4: Assuming your money will outlive you
Most of us want to get as much out of life as we can. Too often, our optimism overshadows our savings accounts. Data from the Federal Reserve shows that the median amount Americans have saved for retirement in total is $120,000; a fraction of the recommended $1 million nest-egg.
How to Avoid:
It is never too late to start stockpiling money into a 401k or IRA. These types of savings accounts will propel your money much further than storing it in a traditional savings account.
Whether you need to cut down on your grocery expenditures, downsize your home, or find a way to boost your income – getting more money into one of these accounts will make life easier for you in retirement.
It’s Never Too Late
The best thing you can do is have a plan. Whether you find yourself in the middle of retirement without enough to live on or you are a pre-retiree realizing the monster expenses you’ll face, devising a plan to build up a nest-egg is still in reach.
Start today, your retired-self will thank you later.
Danielle K. Roberts is the co-founder of Boomer Benefits where she and her team help baby boomers navigate their Medicare insurance options. She is a member of the Forbes Finance Council and writes frequently about Medicare, retirement and personal finance.
Eating healthy is important at any age but becomes especially crucial for baby boomers over 50. Why?
Okay, the bad news first. As we get older, our bodies go through some major changes, as nutritional expert Tara Collingwood M.S., RDN points out in an interview for Newsmax. “Men and women alike are susceptible to bone loss, muscle loss, hormonal changes, and the dreaded middle age spread,” the dietitian explains. “We see and feel these changes in our achy joints, vision impairment, heart complications, weight gain, decreased memory retention, and lack of energy — all of which are tied directly to nutrition. “
The good news? Eating the right foods can help prevent diseases, maintain a healthy metabolism, and help you look and feel good.
With that in mind, here are 10 super foods that boast a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio to keep your body performing optimally. You’ll notice that some of these age-defying and disease-fighting super foods are items that you may already love and are sitting inside your refrigerator or pantry.
#1 Wild Salmon
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week, particularly fatty fish like salmon. Salmon is packed with vitamin D, potassium, B vitamins, and other important minerals, but that’s not all. Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps fight inflammation, removes triglycerides from the blood, benefits arthritis, and may even help with memory loss and dementia. (By the way, omega-3 can also be found in other fatty, cold-water fish like herring, sardines, rainbow trout, cod, tuna, and mackerel.)
In addition, salmon is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. This is important since protein is what our bodies use for maintenance and repair. No wonder experts often put salmon at the top of their list of healthy foods that promote good health!
#2 Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are tiny, nutritional, energy-boosting dynamos – in fact, they’re the single richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids you can buy. They’re loaded with antioxidants, protein, minerals, plus soluble and insoluble fiber to help digestion.
The seeds are also a “complete protein” – which means they contain all nine essential amino acids, which is incredibly rare for a plant-based source of protein. Another benefit? These little seeds have an unusual property – they swell to more than five times their weight in liquid. That means adding a spoonful or two to meals will help you feel fuller. If you’re trying to lose a few pounds, this can be helpful!
So here are a few fun facts about this super food. Although chia seeds have only become a popular health food recently, they’ve been around a long time as a staple of Mayan and Aztec diets. In fact, “chia” means “strength” in the Mayan language. Aztec warriors were known to use the seeds to give them high energy and endurance, especially during battles. And in case you’re wondering, these seeds are the same ones used for the iconic Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Pets that allow you to “grow” garden animals and characters. However, the seeds in these kits aren’t approved for consumption, so head to a grocery or drugstore to reap the health benefits.
These nutritious seeds are virtually tasteless, so you can add them to just about anything including oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, sauces, breakfast cereals, soups, and salads. Or if you’re making pancakes, waffles, muffins, or homemade granola, toss in some seeds. Another popular way to eat the seeds is by making “chia pudding.” Just mix some seeds with one cup of liquid like almond milk. After 15 minutes or so, the seeds “swell” and the pudding is ready to eat. Add some fruit, nuts, or other toppings to add flavor. Just be careful about eating spoonfuls of the seeds by themselves which could pose a choking hazard.
This unique and nutritious fruit contains 20 different vitamins and minerals along with antioxidants including carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are important for eye health. Surprisingly, avocados have more potassium than bananas- an important mineral that most people don’t get enough of that can help reduce blood pressure.
Other bonuses: Avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which numerous studies have shown can help lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol while boosting ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. These fruits are also high in omega-3 fatty acids which, as previously mentioned, help remove triglycerides from the blood and lower inflammation.
These small berries are packed with nutrients including vitamins, potassium, minerals and antioxidants. Blueberries and blackberries contain high levels of soluble fiber which is beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight, lowering cholesterol, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and lowering blood pressure.
The berries rank the highest of any fruit for antioxidants including concentrated levels of flavonoids, a natural brain booster that helps reduce age-related declines in motor skills and cognitive activity.
When selecting berries, note that the darker they are, the more antioxidants they have. These fruits are also anti-inflammatory. The good news is that frozen are just as good as fresh and easy to toss on your morning cereal or salad.
Nuts in general are good for our bodies, but almonds are the most nutrient-dense nut, ranking highest in protein, calcium, vitamin E (which helps skin stay supple), magnesium, and folate. Almonds are also high in manganese and copper which are necessary to form collagen which can help our bodies look and feel younger.
An added bonus: Dieters who ate almonds daily shed 62 percent more weight and 56 percent more fat than those who didn’t, a study from Loma Linda University in California found. “The fiber in nuts may prevent your body from absorbing some fat, speeding weight loss,” says lead author Michelle Wien, R.D. Almond eaters also lowered their blood pressure, the study noted.
Ginger may be best known for its ability to soothe stomach aches and ease nausea. But it has so much more to offer.
This anti-aging herb is a good source of many nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6; however, the majority of its benefits for anti-aging nutrition come from its special phytonutrients called gingerols. As WebMD points out: “When you eat or drink phytonutrients, they may help prevent disease and keep your body working properly.” Healthline adds: “Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.”
By the way, other herbs such as garlic and turmeric also contain anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve achy joints and stiff muscles.
#7 Matcha Green Tea
Matcha comes from the same plant as green tea, but since it’s made from the entire leaf, it packs in a more concentrated amount of antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.
The good news is that these powerful properties can help us baby boomers as we age. To read all about the anti-aging benefits, check out my previous blog written by an expert guest blogger.
What makes matcha such a super food? Its key component is EGCG, a catechin linked to lowering risks to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease. Loaded with antioxidants, matcha is known for its immunity-boosting and disease-fighting properties. According to Healthline.com, “Including matcha in your diet could increase your antioxidant intake, which may help prevent cell damage and even lower your risk of several chronic diseases.”
EGCG is also linked to potential weight loss benefits. Matcha can crank up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories every day and process food more effectively. In fact, researchers conducted a series of studies on dieters and found that those who drank green tea lost more weight than those who didn’t drink it.
The amino acid L-theanine in matcha, which stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin helps improve concentration and memory. According to a study published in the journal Phytomedicine, regular consumption of green tea may even offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
An added benefit: Unlike coffee, the amino acids in Matcha help your body absorb the caffeine gradually which releases energy slowly and sustainably. Matcha promises a four to six hour energy boost that’s just enough to perk you up.
Janie Zeitlin, a registered dietitian in White Plains, NY and New York City, says matcha is a “nutritional powerhouse,” and “a valuable addition to any diet,” but adds that moderation is best because of the potency. Most experts recommend drinking a cup or two a day.
Experts recommend adults consume three cups of beans per week to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. With good reason.
This often overlooked super food is considered “heart healthy” since beans contain an abundance of soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Beans also deliver a powerful combination of vitamins and minerals, including blood-pressure-regulating magnesium, energizing iron, bone-strengthening calcium, potassium, and folate as well as antioxidants. Keep in mind, the darker the bean, the higher its antioxidant levels.
As a bonus, beans help raise levels of the hormone leptin which curbs appetite and thereby can help you maintain a healthy weight. Beans are also metabolized more slowly than other complex carbs, helping you feel fuller longer while delivering an excellent source of energy through much of the day.
A comparatively inexpensive source of protein, beans can be purchased canned, frozen, or dried. To increase your intake, incorporate beans into main dishes like chile or soup, use as a filling side-dish instead of bread or potatoes, toss into a salad, or eat snacks like roasted chick peas or hummus. Have a variety of beans including kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, fava beans, and lentils in your pantry and get creative!
The South American grain quinoa is well-known to vegans and vegetarians because it’s a complete protein and filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, such as B2, magnesium, copper, iron and phosphorus.
Quinoa is easy to use in place of other grains, pastas, or white rice. An excellent source of protein with sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids, it punches more nutrition than most grains.
In addition, quinoa contains large amounts of flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol. These are potent plant antioxidants with numerous health benefits.
#10 Dark Chocolate
Okay, I saved the best for last. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Just so happens that quality dark chocolate is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and a few other minerals.
Dark chocolate also contains organic compounds that function as antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins, among others. Some studies indicate that consuming small amounts of dark (at least 70 percent cacao) chocolate on a regular basis can lower blood pressure and decrease the rate of stroke in women by 20 percent.
The darker the chocolate, the lower the fat and sugar content. However, don’t go too crazy. Unfortunately, there are 170 calories in one piece (1 oz) of dark chocolate and the treat does contain sugar along with all those nutrients, so should be eaten in moderation. Still, I love that dark chocolate can be counted as a health food, don’t you?
Did you imagine yourself part of Howdy Doody’s Peanut Gallery? Before the age of technology, did View-Masters, Polaroid cameras, and colored TVs absolutely blow your mind? Do you remember family road trips with no seat belts, car seats, or air-conditioning in a Woodie? On Sunday nights, did you gather in front of a small TV set with rabbit ears to watch The Wonderful World of Disney eating Swanson TV dinners?
With a warm fuzzy feeling, the book helped me remember watching iconic shows like Bozo the Clown (I loved that show so much that I named my imaginary friend after this clown), Beany & Cecil, Romper Room, H.R. Pufnstuf, and Mighty Mouse. I recalled fondly all the sugary cereals we boomers ate and snacks we feasted on like Twinkies and Ding Dongs without gaining a pound.
Little Golden books, Jiffy Pop, Tang, Silly Putty, Bazooka bubble gum, Schwinn bikes, Hush Puppies, MAD, and Ovaltine. It’s all in Silverstein’s book along with popular beauty products, automobiles, restaurants, and music that we adored. We baby boomers are a sentimental bunch and this book is sure to bring a smile to those who grew up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Of course, I had to interview this boomer who “retired” from his career running a marketing agency and went on to reinvent himself as a freelance writer, consultant, author, and blogger in a quest for a productive and fulfilling second half of life. Here’s his thoughts on being a baby boomer and becoming an author later in life:
What’s your personal favorite baby boomer childhood memory?
Without a doubt, it was watching Saturday morning television. In particular, I loved eating my bowl of cereal and milk in front of the TV and imagining I was Rusty, the human pal of Rin Tin Tin on the television program, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.
What do you think is the best part about being a baby boomer?
The best part is being able to have a realistic perspective on the past. It is looking back with gratitude for a life well lived, accepting the challenges, failures and pain, while cherishing the successes and love-filled memories.
How old were you when you wrote your first book?
Many writers have a “novel in the desk drawer” that never goes anywhere. Mine was a coming-of-age novel that I wrote right after graduating from college at age 21. My first real book, however, was non-fiction. It was titled Business-to-Business Internet Marketing, and it was the first book to be published on the subject. It became a business bestseller. I wrote the book in 1998, when I was 50 years old.
What inspired you to write that book?
My inspiration for writing it was driven by business: I had my own direct marketing agency, and the Internet was just coming on the scene and revolutionizing the way we had to do business. I knew if we didn’t change we wouldn’t survive, so I researched the topic. When I realized there was no single source available, I wrote a book about it.
Did you always dream about becoming a writer?
Even in grade school, writing came naturally to me and I loved writing essays and stories. My love of writing continued into college, where I wrote for a university newspaper and also started a satire magazine with some other students. Writing was always a key part of my career.
What advice do you have for other baby boomers who want to write a book in their later years?
Writing is a wonderful form of expression, but it can be time-consuming. Thankfully, many boomers have the luxury of time, so it is quite possible to write a book. I would suggest doing a few things that will help make it a more productive pursuit. Read a lot of books, particularly in the genre that interests you. Writing fiction is very different from writing non-fiction, so think about what story you want to tell or what topic you want to cover. Find your own personal comfort zone and writing style. Write every day. Decide if your book is a personal project or if you want to try to get it published. Getting published is easier than ever, since you can self-publish, but producing and marketing a book, and attracting readers, can be daunting tasks. Seek out advice from other writers and from writing consultants — lots of free information is available by doing Internet searches.
About the Author
Barry Silverstein is a baby boomer, freelance writer, and retired direct marketing/brand marketing professional. He is the author of the new book, Boomer Brands: Iconic Brands that Shaped Our Childhood. Silverstein has written numerous marketing and small business books, including Branding 123 and The Breakaway Brand. He also writes Happily Rewired, a blog for boomers. Visit his website for more information.
Call me professional, call me nice, or call me the life of the party, but don’t you dare call me elderly. Call me a “sweet old lady” and you’re in even bigger trouble! Call me a “senior citizen” and I’m irritated. After all, we don’t refer to people under 50 as “junior citizens.”
There’s a lot of debate these days on what to call us aging baby boomers. Seniors? Elderly or elders? Mature? Or simply older people?
According to one report, 80 percent of older Americans have been subjected to ageist stereotypes. No wonder we baby boomers want words that describe us in a way that bears a sense of dignity, which isn’t always easy to come by in later years.
In fact, some boomers have become so sensitive to negative words that they don’t want to be called Grandma and Grandpa anymore, preferring something a bit hipper like “Nana” or “Papa” befitting a more youthful attitude toward life.
After all, think of some of the words used to describe older people – derogatory terms like old codger, geezer, biddy, coot, fossil, hag, fart, and fogey.
And don’t you hate it when a waitress or sales clerk calls you “dear” or “dearie” which is supposed to sound endearing but just sounds downright demeaning? Next Avenue readers reacted strongly to an article “The Negative Effects of Elderspeak, emphasizing that they find words such as “honey,” “sweetie” and “young lady” to be at best, rude, and at worst, disrespectful.
Consider all the insulting terms like “a senior moment,” which suggests that normal forgetfulness that can happen at any age is somehow tied only to getting older. Or the phrase “still driving” as if this is some kind of a miraculous accomplishment for older adults.
Even the term “seniors” seems aimed at creating barriers, especially in the workplace.
So, the search for better words continues.
A survey by The Journalists Exchange on Aging interviewed journalists who write about retirement and aging to find out which words they prefer to use when describing those over 50. The top choice was “older,” followed by “seniors,” (but only to describe those older than 65). Age-specific references such as “those over 50” or “people 65 and up” also won approval among the journalists.
“Senior citizen” was on the list of “mostly disliked” terms which some considered dehumanizing. “Elderly” was the word that grated the most, coming under criticism for its “impersonal and stigmatizing manner” of grouping older people with images of frailty and decline.
The term “boomers” was fine with survey participants, but not “baby boomers.” “They’re not babies anymore,” one respondent noted. Some journalists in the survey criticized “mature” as one of those words so deliberately, self-consciously “correct” – striving for linguistic neutrality – that they seem silly.
Another media guide on reporting issued by The International Longevity Center and ageism campaign group Aging Services of California suggested using terms like “older people” or simply “man” or “woman” followed by his or her age if relevant to the story. The guide added that using positive terms was “an important step in overcoming ageist language and beliefs.”
Alex Juarez, Communications Director for AARP Arizona agreed that we need to get rid of the negative stigma attached to getting older. “In reality, aging gives us experience,” he said. “At AARP, we don’t think we should be defined by age. For a couple of years, we have been using the term 50 plus. That’s important because we don’t want people to be identified as seniors.”
Some staff members at AARP The Magazine, favor a more playful approach to language. “We use the word grown-ups a lot,” said editor and vice president of AARP Steven Slon. He points to a feature called “Movies for Grownups” as an example. He adds that those who are older “don’t want to be marginalized and put off in a category of people who simply get discounts but are not to be taken seriously.”
Of course, the question of what to call those over 50 isn’t simply one for the media. The words that people in general use to describe us help define and shape attitudes about growing older. So, the debate continues.
What word do you prefer to describe us baby boomers? What word do you find insulting? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
The exciting day is arriving soon! My new book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia will be released on March 1, 2019. This is the fourth book that I’ve had published, but the one that I’m most proud of – dedicated to my Mom who bravely fought Lewy Body dementia and the 15 million noble unpaid caregivers – most of whom are family members – who care for a loved one with this horrible disease.
In celebration, I will be hosting a Book Launch on my author Facebook page on March 1. Visitors will have a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card as well as free copies of my book. Of course, all of you are invited! Stop by anytime that day and simply like, share, or leave a comment on one of my posts and your name will go into a raffle. You can ask me questions about becoming a writer/published author, participate in a quiz meant to educate you about dementia, or just say hello. Hope you’ll join me!
In addition, as a bonus for readers of my blog, I’m providing a sneak peek – an excerpt of the first chapter of my new book below. The Kindle edition of the book is now available for pre-order on Amazon for $2.99 and a paperback edition is available for $9.99.
So without further ado, here is the introduction chapter of I’m Your Daughter, Julie. If so inclined, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. Hope you enjoy!
My mother suffered from Lewy body dementia (LBD), a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s symptoms that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally toward the end of her life.
LBD is known for tormenting its victims with vivid hallucinations, delusions, and night terrors. Sometimes my mother was in a complete state of panic because she thought a bear was in the laundry room, a tiger was swimming in the pool, or baby lions were squirming in the bottom of her bed.
One time, Mom became hysterical because she saw her long dead step-father – a former boxer who physically abused her mother – standing in the hallway.
Watching Mom slowly lose her mind became a normal part of my life as her full-time caregiver. Sacrificing part of my life to care for a parent with dementia who I loved dearly was one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. Caregiving was also the most challenging, demanding, and heartbreaking task I’ve ever undertaken.
Dementia not only changed my mother forever, it changed me in profound ways too.
I had never heard of this brutal disease before Mom’s diagnosis. However, LBD is not rare. According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) and the Mayo Clinic, it is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, more people have become aware of this disease after it was discovered that actor and comedian Robin Williams suffered from LBD at the time of his death. Recently, CNN founder Ted Turner was also diagnosed with this disease.
Still, much remains to be done to raise awareness. As LBDA’s site points out, although LBD affects an estimated 1.4 million individuals and their families in the United States alone, it is currently widely under diagnosed. Although “many families are affected by this disease, few individuals and medical professionals are aware of the symptoms, diagnostic criteria, or even that LBD exists,” their site points out.
This certainly described me. When I began this journey with my mother, I had no idea what ordeal lay ahead. Dementia starts out in a seemingly non-threatening way with some memory loss and confusion. Even as the disease progressed, Mom had some good days when she wasn’t as confused, shuffled and trembled less, held her head a bit higher, and was more lucid and alert. Sometimes she’d go days without any hallucinations. This is typical for people with LBD whose symptoms often fluctuate drastically from day to day.
On good days, for a moment of denial, I could pretend she would get better. In fact, this is a belief my Mom often vocalized. “When I get better, it won’t be so hard,” she’d say optimistically to comfort me, as was her nature.
This statement always caused a pang of distress because I knew deep down that it wasn’t true.
As the disease took its inevitable path, I was often hit with that harsh reality. Mom knew who I was most the time. But then there would be days she thought I was a nurse or a professional caretaker and begin making friendly, polite small talk. One day she asked if I liked to sail.
“Yes, Mom,” I answered. “You know I love sailing. I’m your daughter, Julie.”
Our family has sailed for more than 30 years, so the question was unsettling. After she got sick, Mom would bravely maneuver down the docks with her walker and step into the boat flanked by family members on both sides until she was physically unable to do so. Everyone on the dock admired her for that.
“Oh yeah, I know you’re Julie,” she said, looking a little embarrassed.
A few moments later, she asked the name of my mother as if I were a stranger again. Trying to have a sense of humor, I said her name, Carmen Hacker. She looked confused and I felt bad.
“You’re my mother,” I explained sadly. “I’m your daughter, Julie.”
My Mom often told me about something I did in the past as if explaining an incident to a stranger.
“My Julie…” she’d begin the story and relate something that happened in my childhood. Or she would say, “My Julie takes good care of me.”
Her appreciation warmed my heart and made all the sacrifices seem worthwhile. At the same time, it broke my heart because my mother didn’t recognize me when she said it.
We tried to laugh at those moments when my Mom’s mind would come back, but painfully, deep down, I knew we’d been given a disturbing glimpse into the future. The day would come when my mother wouldn’t recognize me at all. Even though I would patiently explain who I was, she wouldn’t understand anymore.
Losing a Parent, a Little Bit at a Time
Sometimes you lose a parent in death suddenly. What you don’t realize until you have a parent with dementia is that sometimes you lose a parent excruciatingly – a little bit at a time. Grief takes many forms and it isn’t just for mourning someone who has died.
After my Mom lost her ruthless battle with LBD, many people encouraged me, as an author and professional writer, to pen a book to share my experiences and offer advice to other caregivers.
Although I had shared some of my story in my blog, Baby Boomer Bliss, I couldn’t immediately dive into an entire book on the subject. The heartbreaking experience of watching my Mom rapidly deteriorate both physically and mentally before my eyes, the difficulty of taking care of her at the end when she began to lose all bodily functions, as well as her death were all too painful to relive.
Telling my story still isn’t easy, but I’ve finally healed enough to put my feelings into words. I hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help all you dear caregivers.
This book is a memoir of sorts sharing my intimate story, but it is also a practical guidebook. I want to help you cope with the many challenges that lie ahead, learn how to take care of yourself during this difficult time, and succeed with your noble and important role as a caregiver. By sharing my journey with you, I want to make the process a bit easier and provide some comfort to all of you who are losing your loved one a little bit at a time like I did.
Although this book is written specifically for those caring for a parent with dementia, it is also valuable for caregivers of spouses, relatives, or friends suffering with this disease. The information is meant to help you whether you’re a full-time caregiver, helping another family member or friend on a part-time basis, or looking after a parent who is living in an assisted living facility or nursing home. In fact, much of the book applies to caregiving in general, no matter what disease or disability your loved one may have.
To be clear, I’m not a health professional writing this book from a medical standpoint. Although I’ll briefly go over some of the different kinds of dementia along with general symptoms, so you’ll know what to expect, this is a deeply personal book written from my heart.
I’m reaching out to you as one who has traveled this difficult but, in the end, worthwhile journey you are already on or ready to embark. You’ll notice the book is short and to the point because I know from personal experience that as a caregiver your time is limited.
The Facts and Figures
If you’re caring for a parent with dementia, you are certainly not alone. The statistics are brutal. Shockingly, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 15 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia. They provide an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.
The truth is that while the government spends an estimated $150 billion annually with Medicaid and Medicare to care for those with dementia and about $570 million on drug research to cure or slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, it does little to support those family caregivers whose loved ones suffer from dementia. Sadly, very few programs pay family members or friends on a regular basis to provide care.
Nearly 10 million people caring for aging parents are over the age of 50, according to a study conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Because life expectancy has increased during this past century, the number of caregivers has more than tripled over the past 15 years and it’s not unusual for retirees over the age of 65 to be caring for a parent. Most, but not all, caregivers are married, employed women.
Nearly half of family caregivers surveyed by The Home Alone said they performed medical and nursing tasks. More than 96% also helped their loved one with daily activities such as personal hygiene, dressing/undressing, getting in and out of bed, giving prescribed medications, shopping for groceries, and providing transportation. According to one Gallup poll, the majority of respondents had been caregiving for three years or more.
“Without caregivers, people with dementia would have a poorer quality of life and would need institutional care more quickly, and national economies would be swept away by the advancing demographic tidal wave,” a report from The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states. The report adds that this support comes at a cost of caregiver distress.
Indeed, caring for a loved one with dementia takes an emotional toll. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), a person who provides care for someone with dementia is twice as likely to suffer from depression as a person providing care for someone without dementia.
That’s because caring for a person with dementia presents extra challenges. “Dementia-related symptoms such as wandering, agitation, hoarding, embarrassing conduct, and resistance or non-cooperation from the loved one makes every day challenging and makes it harder for a caregiver to get rest or assistance in providing care,” FCA’s website points out. “The more severe the case of dementia, the more likely the caregiver is to experience depression.”
Other emotions are involved as well. Even the most capable and responsible caregivers can feel overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, isolated, and exhausted – on top of feeling guilty for having these feelings.
Pros and Cons of Caregiving
My personal story matches many of the statistics I’ve listed above. I won’t sugarcoat this. Caregiving for someone with dementia is one of the most difficult jobs you’ll ever encounter. All the patience, courage, strength, and compassion you can muster will be needed. I say this even though I had a lot of support from my family. Not everyone has this kind of backing.
But I want to add that caregiving is a life-changing experience that is fulfilling and inspiring as well as difficult and painful. Essentially, you’re giving up part of your life to take care of someone you love during his or her darkest hours. That is certainly a worthwhile objective. For that reason, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of this difficult road.
Like many adult children, I had assured my mother repeatedly that she’d never be put in a nursing home, which was her biggest fear. Motivated by my intense love for her and a strong religious belief that children should care for their parents, I kept that promise. But to be perfectly honest, some days I didn’t know if I could continue for another minute.
Caring for someone with dementia is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. In fact, if you’re unable to provide full-time caregiving for your loved one, don’t feel guilty. Our family ended up hiring in-home full-time professional help at the end of Mom’s life, but I wish we had done so sooner. By that time, I was experiencing symptoms of caregiver burnout. In Chapter 9, I discuss all the many options available to caregivers today whether you need part- or full-time help.
But here’s the thing for all of you who, like me, choose to take this path despite the tremendous challenges and sacrifices. Caregiving is a labor of love.
Taking care of my Mom allowed me to connect with her on a deeply emotional level. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give my mother the same kind of loving care she unselfishly gave me throughout her life. It was an opportunity to make the end of my Mom’s life as comfortable as possible in a loving atmosphere. I had to remind myself often of the reasons I undertook this task to overcome the anguish that comes with the territory. If you choose this course, you’ll need to do the same.
No doubt, the personal growth and life lessons experienced on this journey made me a better person. I’ve always been religious, but my faith was strengthened as I learned to rely on God like never before. During difficult moments, I found an inner strength, fortitude, and resilience that I didn’t know were there that makes me more confident about overcoming any future challenges. The experience also made me more empathetic and compassionate – not only toward other caregivers – but people facing all kinds of struggles and trials.
Caregiving can be a worthwhile experience, but only if you’re providing care for the right reasons. Your motives cannot be based purely on guilt, a reluctant sense of duty, or – even worse – performed with an eye on inheritance. The report from NCBI referenced earlier adds that caregivers with the wrong incentives are “more likely to resent their role and suffer greater physiological distress than caregivers with more positive motivations.”
If you had a difficult relationship with your parent in the past, determine if you’re able to overcome the complex feelings involved to become a caregiver. Maybe your father abandoned or neglected you as a child and has come back because he needs care. Or your unkind and critical mother expects you to care for her. Some adult children can overcome their feelings to become a caregiver while others decide it’s too painful and investigate other options.
While I realize not everyone has a good relationship with their parents, this was not the case with my mother. She was my best friend and I loved her desperately. We were in this together – better or worse – to the very end. While I’m proud that I gave caregiving everything I had, could I have done better? Oh, yes. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this book. I want to help you avoid some of my many mistakes.
Learning from My Mistakes
Let’s get real. Like many who care for family members, I was unprepared, inexperienced, and untrained when I was thrust into the role of full-time caregiving. Most of us are not nurses or professional caregivers.
At first, I didn’t know what to expect as the disease progressed. What was the best treatment? How could I communicate with my Mom when she became difficult and irrational? Many of the physical tasks also puzzled me such as how to lift my Mom from a chair or help her get dressed.
Unlike a professional caregiver, I was caring for my own mother which was complicated emotionally. I was by no means prepared for the strong fluctuating feelings that shifted wildly from day to day.
My emotions ranged from a yearning for the mother I once knew and loved, to anger and frustration with the inevitable and relentless progress of this disease, to helplessness as I watched symptoms worsen, to guilt when I lost my patience, to fear and worry of what lie ahead, to a deep and profound sadness.
During my lifetime, I relied heavily on my mother for advice, guidance, friendship, and support. Now, I had to adjust to her being totally dependent on me. I was mourning the loss of the mother I knew and trying to accept and love the person she had become.
I also grieved for the freedom I once took for granted. Although other family members gave me regular breaks, I could no longer leave the house without a “babysitter.” Often, I felt hopelessly trapped. Fortunately, as a freelance writer, I could work from home, but writing takes concentration and the constant interruptions and demands were frustrating. Eventually, I had to give up most of my larger clients.
Even though my Mom displayed childlike traits caused by her disease, she clearly was not a kid and deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. This made caregiving more difficult and confusing than caring for my children when they were young.
Prior to her disease, Mom always served herself last and patiently waited for what she wanted. As the dementia progressed, however, when my mother wanted something, she wanted it NOW like a toddler. Suddenly, my Mom preferred kid’s movies like Free Willy and children’s TV shows like Full House. As the disease progressed, she became increasingly stubborn and obstinate like a rebellious teenager.
At the same time, my mother was still an adult with decades of wisdom, experience, and independence behind her. I had to constantly remind myself that this wasn’t easy for her either. Most the time, I succeeded in treating her respectfully like an adult, but sadly, not always. When I failed, an enormous amount of guilt and remorse followed.
Sometimes, all these intense emotions overwhelmed me. Sometimes, I felt downright resentful. Sometimes, Mom and I bickered over stupid stuff. Sometimes, I was irritable instead of patient. Sometimes, I thought I would lose my mind along with my mother. Not pretty, but there it is.
My guilty list of “should haves” is long. I should have gotten an accurate diagnosis sooner. I should have been calmer when Mom was unreasonable. While Mom was in a rehabilitation center after surgery, I should have made sure the staff was checking for bedsores. Suffering from burnout, I should have gotten professional help sooner.
Although I tortured myself with all the “should haves” after Mom’s death, now that time has passed, I know deep in my heart that I did the best I could under the circumstances. If you decide to be a full-time caregiver for your parent, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not perfect. From talking to other caregivers and reading books and articles on the subject, I realize mistakes, frustrations, and struggles are part of the bargain.
However, it is my dearest hope that I can help you avoid making some of my mistakes. For example, by sharing how I handled all the emotions that come with this territory – and how I could have dealt with them better in hindsight – I hope you’ll be better able to cope with the emotional rollercoaster that lies ahead.
Along this journey, I learned about the different stages of dementia, available treatments, proper transferring techniques, how to improve communications, and ways to deal with disturbing behavioral changes. No less important, I discovered how to care for myself during this challenging time. These are just some of the topics I plan to tackle in this book.
The End of the Journey
Unlike some books on this subject, I’ll walk you through the entire process and take you to the end of the journey. By that, I mean that I’ll include information that will help you cope after your loved one dies.
When my Mom was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to accept that dementia is a fatal disease. As I mentioned before, early stages of dementia often start with memory problems which may seem somewhat insignificant. But I want you to be prepared.
Alzheimer’s, LBD, and other forms of dementia are diseases that progress over time and eventually lead to death. Life expectancy depends on age, severity of symptoms, and other medical conditions. However, on average, Alzheimer’s patients live between eight to 10 years and LBD patients between five to eight years after diagnosis. Consider that these diseases can go undiagnosed for months or even years.
Some with late-stage dementia die of a medical complication, such as pneumonia or some other infection. Others die from a fall as immobility issues arise. However, dementia itself can be lethal. Weight loss, malnutrition, swallowing difficulties, and dehydration are serious risks as the disease progresses.
If you prefer – and I would recommend this – read my final chapters after your loved one passes. When you’re ready, I want to share ways you can heal, reinvent yourself, and move forward to live a fulfilling and happy life.
Stay with me and we’ll get through this together.
But first, let’s start with the basics. What exactly is dementia, what are some of the early warning signs, how is it diagnosed, and what kind of treatments are available? The next section will answer these questions.
***Click here if you’d like to order a copy of my book.
Many people are focused on candy hearts with romantic messages and heart-shaped boxes of candy in February, but this month also happens to be American Heart Month. What better time for baby boomers to think about their hearts in a literal way, focusing on ways to prevent heart disease and develop heart-healthy habits?
Of course, we boomers are already focused on our health to some extent. In fact, nearly four times as many baby boomers worry about health than finances or outliving their money in retirement.
Our worries aren’t unfounded. Consider these sobering facts about heart disease, the most prevalent fatal chronic disease afflicting older Americans, according to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):
Heart disease accounts for 32 percent of all deaths and is the leading cause of death for both men and women age 65 and older.
Although many Americans do not perceive heart disease as a woman’s health issue, estimates indicate that from 40 to 50 percent of postmenopausal women will develop heart disease.
The American Heart Association estimates that 81% of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 years old or older.
The good news is that even modest changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your heart health and lower your risk by as much as 80 percent. Since February happens to be American Heart Month, let’s celebrate by taking a quick look at six ways to improve your heart health:
Here’s how to get started:
Control Your Risk Factors
Be proactive and know your numbers when it comes to your health. Regular check-ups are essential as we age. Type 2 Diabetes is at its highest level for those over 65. And baby boomers are more likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure than the previous generation. All three of these conditions increase the risk of heart disease. If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about implementing an effective treatment plan.
Break Out Those Sneakers
Step away from the TV and get your heart rate up. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. In other words, aim for about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Not so bad, right? Moderate exercise is classified as walking, riding a bike, going for a swim, gardening, a game of basketball, or even washing the car. Pick an activity you love so you’ll stick with it.
The good news is that baby boomers are less likely to smoke than previous generations. However, if you’re an exception to the rule, February is the perfect time to quit. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, smoking is a risk factor for heart disease, and causes one in five deaths each year in the United States. Need help? The American Lung Association offers tips and tools including a counselor-staffed phone line you can call for support. Get started!
Eat a Heart Healthy Diet
Ditch the processed and fast foods and eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and healthy fats and oils. We boomers love to eat out, but try and eat more home-cooked meals to have more control over your diet. Make it fun and have a potluck inviting your friends and family to bring a heart-healthy dish and share their recipes. Eat healthier and control portion size. And not just for February. Shoot for the long run. Maintain a healthy body weight and your heart will thank you.
Baby boomers often face stressful situations including caring for aging parents, retirement worries, loss of a loved one, and declining health. Nonetheless, as we age, it becomes imperative to find ways to reduce this silent killer that is a leading contributor to heart disease. Find healthy ways to relax whether it’s listening to soothing music, an evening stroll, deep breathing, or watching a funny movie.
Last year, baby boomers received new warnings about alcohol as people aged 50-plus deaths linked to alcohol soared. Although studies have shown that moderate drinking – one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men – can reduce heart disease risk, those benefits quickly turn into health risks when you drink more than that amount. If you’re over-drinking, cut down the number of days you drink alcohol, reduce the amount of alcohol you drink at one sitting, and avoid people, places, things and activities that may trigger a drinking binge.
By making some small changes in your everyday life, you can make a big difference for your long-term health. Choose to make yourself a priority and ask your friends and family to join you in your efforts to become heart-healthy so you can have a long, fulfilling life – not only during American Heart Month, but every month of the year!
New data released last month was disturbing for the 85% of baby boomers still working. Many don’t have enough saved for retirement or simply aren’t ready to leave the working world behind. Some say they plan to continue working into their 70’s and even 80s, according to a 2017 report, America’s Aging Workforce.
Older workers being pushed out of jobs.
Unfortunately, new analysis by ProPublica and the Urban Institute published last month shows that the decision may not be up to them. Dismally, more than half of employees over the age of 50 are being pushed out of longtime jobs before they choose to retire. Most suffer financially and only one in 10 of these workers ever earns as much as they did before their employment setbacks.
Apparently, 50 is the new 65.
The analysis was based on data from the Health and Retirement Study that began tracking 20,000 people in 1992, from the time the participants turned 50 through the rest of their lives. The study focused on workers who entered their 50s with stable, full-time jobs, and who have been with the same employer for at least five years.
The results are sobering. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently 40 million Americans age 50 and older who are working. That means, according to this study, that as many as 22 million of these people have or will suffer a layoff, forced retirement, or other involuntary job separation. Of these, only a little over 2 million have recovered financially – or ever will.
Unfortunately, this problem could be worse than we think. Jeffrey Wenger, a senior labor economist with the RAND Corp., claims some older people are likely laid off, but cover it up by saying they retired. “There’s so much social stigma around being separated from work,” he says, “even people who are fired or let go will say they retired to save face.”
As a result, the steady earnings that many boomers count on in their 50s, 60s, and beyond to build up their retirement savings and ensure financial security often disappears.
“This isn’t how most people think they’re going to finish out their work lives,” said Richard Johnson, an Urban Institute economist and veteran scholar of the older labor force who worked on the analysis. “For the majority of older Americans, working after 50 is considerably riskier and more turbulent than we previously thought.”
What can older workers do?
You may be thinking, wait a minute. Isn’t it illegal under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act for employers to treat older workers differently than younger ones? Yes, but employers can be sneaky about the way they fire older employees, Often phrases like “layoff” and “job elimination” are used as an excuse for age discrimination. No matter. You may have legal recourse and an age discrimination claim if:
you experience a layoff and notice that less-qualified, younger employees at the same level are not being laid off.
your company claims to be eliminating a job, but simply changes the title and puts someone younger in the same position.
you’re being targeted for poor performance while younger employees doing the same things aren’t suffering any consequences.
In addition, there are some steps you can take to prevent being laid off. Although there are no guarantees, experts recommend the following strategies to enhance job security:
A common myth concerning older workers is that people over 50 are rigid. You can prove this disparaging idea wrong by remaining flexible, resilient, and adaptable.
Understand your company’s objectives and your boss’s priorities, and then align your work performance with them. In other words, find ways to make your boss’s job easier and make yourself indispensable.
Do not contribute to the false belief that all old people are cranky and difficult. Be friendly, cooperative, and helpful. Makes sure management likes you and be the kind of person others enjoy working with and hanging around.
Brag a little. Ensure that your boss knows about any improvements you’ve implemented, challenges you’ve overcome, and projects and goals you’ve completely successfully.
Be careful not to give the impression that you lack initiative and are simply coasting along until retirement, which can make you vulnerable during a layoff. Make a point of continuously updating your skills and expanding your knowledge. Read journals, take courses, attend conferences, or attain additional certifications in your field.
Finally, while it’s important for everyone to have emergency savings, if you’re 50 or older, it’s even more critical to have a strong financial safety net. Have enough savings on hand to ride out a potentially lengthy period of unemployment.
The start of a new year is like a blank slate. We don’t know what will be written upon it, but the exciting prospect is that there are loads of things we can engrave upon it!
I already have some thrilling plans put into motion for 2019. What else happens remains to be seen. My writerly pals and I are sharing our hopes – on the writing road and our personal lives – in our blog hop: “What I Want to Accomplish in 2019 Even if I Don’t Win the Lottery.”
Please have a read and then visit the other bloggers linked at the end of this post for more smiles and inspiration.
My Big Book Announcement!
I’m so proud to announce that my book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia, will be released March 2019. The book is currently under review and will be available for pre-order on Amazon within the next few days.
This book is a memoir of sorts sharing my intimate story as primary caregiver for my mother who had Lewy Body dementia. But it is also a practical guidebook.
The statistics are brutal. Shockingly, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are about 15 million selfless and noble unpaid caregivers of loved ones suffering with dementia – the majority of which are family members.
They are the unsung heroes and my goal is to help them by sharing my journey, I want to make the process a bit easier and provide some comfort to all those who are losing their loved ones a little bit at a time like I did. It is my dearest hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help others. I’m reaching out as one who has traveled this difficult but, in the end, worthwhile journey they are already on or ready to embark.
A Trip to Africa
My husband and I love to travel. We’ve been to all the continents with the exception of Africa and the Antarctica. The latter doesn’t appeal to me – WAY too cold – but I’ve learned to never say never.
But Africa…to step back in time to the pristine natural wilderness where animals still roam free. Those who have traveled around the world say that there is no other place that compares.
As my friends, family, and regular readers of this blog are aware, this has been my dream for decades. I’ve always been interested in seeing this country, but after reading Isak Dinesen’s lyrical book, Out of Africa, and seeing the magnificent scenery in the movie version during the 1980s, the allure of Africa began calling my name. I pined to see this vast, wild land with hauntingly beautiful scenery, golden savannas, and rolling grasslands with my own eyes.
I am a patient woman. Because if I want to do something bad enough, I know eventually it will happen. (On the flip side, if I don’t do it, I figure that I didn’t want it bad enough.) Now that I’m pushing 60, I wanted to make the long 21-hour flight before I get much older.
So, we saved the money and found a great deal and this is the year. In the fall, my husband, Scott, and I have booked a tour to see the famous white-sand beaches and breath-taking cliffs in Cape Town, the melting pot of cultures in Durban with a game viewing cruise, a safari in Kruger National Park, and the poignant Apartheid museum in Johannesburg.
On top of all that, hubby is trying to talk me into climbing into a cage plunged into the ocean so I can come face-to-face with a great white shark. We’ll see. Of course, I’ll be writing all about it in this blog, so stay tuned and you’ll see whether I gather up the courage.
When something bad happens, it can be a potent and powerful influence. The experience can clarify priorities and redefine paths. This happened after my Mom died and my caregiving days were over.
My life had revolved around her care, so I felt a bit lost when she was gone. I wasn’t the same person and wasn’t sure what was “normal” anymore. Did I even want the same things? So, I took a step back to look at my life. A few changes were in order. I began focusing on my spiritual, emotional, and physical health, which had been neglected.
After my Mom died, I made it a goal to read something spiritual and inspirational each and every day. I am a regular Bible reader. Even so, admittedly I’d become sidetracked with work and the business of life and a day or two would slip by without any spiritual fortification. Because of challenges I was facing, my reliance on God and need for spiritual food required more deep reading, meditation, and prayer – yes, every single day. I keep that goal foremost in my mind for 2019.
I also want to continue my journey to reach a healthy weight this year. Oh, it’s an endless battle, especially at this age. I almost accomplished my goal weight last year, then gained some of it back. So, hubby and I have joined Weight Watchers (you can join for free with the purchase of certain subscription plans right now). Now that I’ve shared this goal with all of you, I’ll be held accountable, right? So, once I succeed – a positive attitude is essential – I plan to finish an eBook on losing weight and keeping it off after 50 to share my journey and tips I learn along the way. If this doesn’t give me motivation to make my goal this time – nothing will!
Some changes in the direction of my career were in order as well. Out of financial necessity, I went back to freelance writing after Mom’s death. But after decades of stressful deadlines, I wanted more creative control. Specifically, I wanted to decide what to write and how much time I spent doing it as I head toward my retirement years. So, I started my journey to independence with this blog and a few book projects.
With that in mind, now that my book on caregiving is finished, I’m going to focus on my manuscript aimed at helping those who dream of writing. I’ve had so many people tell me that they want to write a novel or memoir during their retirement years, but don’t know how to get started.
Author Joseph Epstein wrote in a New York Times article, “Eighty-one percent of Americans feel they have a book in them – and that they should write it.” That means about 200 million people dream about becoming an author in the U.S. alone.
Unfortunately, most people don’t attempt to live out these cherished dreams. Why not? Many people don’t know where to start. Others allow self-doubt and a fear of failure to stop them from moving forward.
That’s where I come in. As a professional writer and author for over 30 years, I want to help those harboring a burning desire to write attain their goals. I’ll provide inspiration, motivation, and knowledge to help aspiring writers begin their writing journey.
The book will contain a wealth of information to help any aspiring writer. But, if you’re retired, this book is written specifically with you in mind. You finally have the time and freedom to pursue your passion. After years of keeping your nose to the grindstone to earn a living, haven’t you earned that luxury? Whether you want to write a memoir, start your own blog, write a how-to book, pen some poetry, or write the great American novel – this book is for you.
Now, it’s your turn. What are your goals and aspirations for 2019? What do you want to accomplish to tick off your bucket list this year? Please share in the comment section.
Thanks for stopping by! For more inspiration, be sure and visit my blogger pals below (check back as more are added):
Was 2018 a crazy roller coaster ride for you? Smooth sailing? Milestone events?
My writerly pals and I are remembering the happy moments as well as lessons we learned from challenges this past year in our blog hop: “My Ups, Downs, and In-Betweens and Beyond in 2018.”
Check out our personal reveals, then visit the other #Gr8blogs linked at the end of the post for more shared recollections and lessons learned along the way. We hope you’ll be inspired to dive into your own special memories of 2018!
So, what important life lesson did I learn this past year? What exciting announcement do I have for next year? You’ll have to wait and see at the end of this blog. In the meantime, I’m fortunate that I had a lot of reasons to celebrate this past year. Here are four of them:
Celebrating a New Arrival
If you’re a grandparent, you know the instant connection you feel deep down in your soul when you hold a new grandchild for the first time.
Emily Paige, our fourth and newest member of the family, was born on January 26, 2018.
For the first time, I am a long-distance grandma. My newest grandchild lives about five hours away. Oh, I know it could be much worse. But the distance seems ginormous to me. After all, it robs me of the joy of seeing my new granddaughter on a daily or weekly basis. I’ve been spoiled since my other three grandchildren, now ages 11, 9, and 7, have always lived close by.
Our goal was to see Emily Paige once a month during her first year of life. We met that objective, but still, I’ve missed hearing her first word or watching her take that first tentative step in person (although the kids are great about sending me videos). And yes, at nine months, she is already walking!
But I won’t complain too much. Near or far, grandchildren are a true blessing. On those special occasions, when we’re all together and my grandchildren are sleeping nearby, curled up in little balls, a warm glow of satisfaction permeates my body. I quietly sip my coffee the next morning, eagerly anticipating the soft, sleepy-eyed snuggles soon to come my way.
To be needed and wanted by these delightful creatures is a wonderful treat! The rewards of family life only grow richer and more fulfilling when each new grandchild is born.
Celebrating Family Fun
Speaking of special occasions when our whole family is happily united, all nine of us were fortunate to take a family vacation to New York and Washington DC together this summer.
It was my oldest son and my grandchildren’s first trip to New York and none of us had been to DC before.
To hear the children’s squeals of delight when they saw the bright and gaudy lights of Times Square, viewed the spectacular city from the top of the Empire State Building, or saw the iconic Statue of Liberty from the ferry for the first time was magical.
Between visiting hectic NYC and DC, we rented a tranquil lake house in upstate New York. We paddled in kayaks, fished, and saw fire flies for the first time in our lives.
What beats traveling with the people you love?
Celebrating 40 Years of Marriage
Want to put some magic back into your marriage? Write down one reason you love your spouse for every year you’ve been married. Remember why you were first attracted to each other. Then share your list with your loved one.
The list was easy for me. Some of my reasons in my letter to my husband were serious: “Because you put God first in your life, because you gave me two wonderful sons, a great daughter-in-law, and four beautiful grandchildren, because you know what I need before I do, because you have a calm voice that soothes me, because you never leave the house without kissing me good-bye, because you kept proposing until I finally said yes, because you are thoughtful and a romantic at heart.”
Some were humorous: “Because you gave me the best last name ever (Gorges pronounced as ‘gorgeous’), because you still think I’m sexy and my butt looks great, because you make me pumpkin pancakes, because you rock Hawaiian shirts.”
Some were fun: “Because you’re always ready for our next adventure, because you love the ocean and sailing, because you make the best apple martinis, because you love to travel and dance.”
We celebrated our 40th year of marital bliss with a tropical anniversary party. We even performed a flash mob dance with our family to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.” Good times!
Celebrating Finishing My Book
On a more serious note, as some of you know, three years ago I lost my Mom. She suffered from Lewy Body dementia (LBD), a a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s symptoms that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally toward the end of her life. During the final years of her life, I was her full-time caregiver.
Sacrificing part of my life to care for a parent with dementia who I loved dearly was one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. Caregiving was also the most challenging, demanding, and heartbreaking task I’ve ever undertaken – even with the support of my family. Dementia not only changed my mother forever, it changed me in profound ways too.
As I write in my soon-to-be published book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia: “Sometimes you lose a parent in death suddenly. What you don’t realize until you have a parent with dementia is that sometimes you lose a parent excruciatingly – a little bit at a time. Grief takes many forms and it isn’t just for mourning someone who has died.”
After my Mom lost her ruthless battle with LBD, many people encouraged me to write a book to share my experiences and offer advice to other caregivers. Although I had shared some of my story in this blog, I couldn’t immediately dive into an entire book on the subject. The agonizing experience of watching my Mom rapidly deteriorate both physically and mentally before my eyes, the difficulty of taking care of her at the end when she began to lose all bodily functions, as well as her death were all too distressful to relive.
Even now, painful memories can take my breath away. Last week, I went to DMV to renew my driver’s license. The last time I was there was with my Mom. The disease was already taking its toll and she could no longer drive. I strongly suggested that she get a non-driver identification card. But Mom insisted on taking the written exam, saying it was a matter of pride. When asked for identification, she wanted to present an actual driver’s license not an “ID card for old people.” She wouldn’t change her mind.
So, Mom took the test and, of course, she didn’t pass. Not even close. But what was most pitiable was the confusion on her face when informed of the failure. Mom truly thought she had aced the exam. “I don’t understand,” she kept saying again and again. Her bewilderment and disappointment broke my heart.
You can see why detailing our journey during my Mom’s final years wasn’t easy. While writing the book, some of the memories were so painful, I’d have to set the manuscript aside for a time. Now that the book is finished, however, I know that writing about the heartbreak was a cathartic experience that, in the end, helped me heal and continue to move forward with my life. It is my utmost hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help other caregivers. The exciting announcement I promised: This book that was written from my heart will be released early next year. Stay tuned for announcements regarding a publication date and pre-ordering options.
The most important lesson I learned in 2018? After healing from the loss of my mother and celebrating the arrival of a new member of the family, an awesome family vacation, and 40 years of marriage, I wholeheartedly agree with Michael J. Fox, who said simply and eloquently: “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” I couldn’t have said it better.
How was your year? What was your biggest accomplishment/event? Do you have an important lesson you learned in 2018? Please share in the comment section below!
For more Up, Down, and In-Between 2018 moments, visit the #Gr8blogs below:
Rosie looks back at 2018 fondly with the publication of her first hardback edition of one of her children’s books, a new website, a love for family and baseball, and a crafts fair that includes a special moment.
Carmela shares her journey after she chose to walk away from the publishing house she had always known, publishing a new children’s book from start to finish on her own, winning two literary awards, and reaching her goal of becoming a full-time author.
Sandra’s year included the birth of a new grandchild (I can relate to the joy of that!), her first contract with a traditional publishing house, launching and promoting her new book, along with a writing workshop and festival. Sandra shares four awesome life lessons we can all put to practice.
Auden shares her struggles in 2018 along with her many accomplishments: 1000 blogs, the release of a new book, a promo video, and 1 million monthly views on Pinterest. She also looks back fondly on the simple pleasures in life like a relaxing vacation with her dog and a trip to Comic Con.