IOA Blog - Lifestyle Discussions on Aging, Senior Care & Being a Caregiver
IOA services enhance the quality of life for adults as they age by enabling them to maintain their health, well being, independence and participation in the community. We offer innovative programs in health, social service, creative arts & education.
With dementia in the driver’s seat, my grandma has good days and bad days and it can be hard to predict what each new day will bring. But over time, we’ve learned to recognize patterns and help foster the kind of environment and conversations that often inspire the good days. If we’ve picked up one most important rule of thumb, it’s to meet her where she is.
Living with dementia is isolating enough, but to have someone tell you that you’re thinking from the wrong place and time or to highlight all that you’ve forgotten can be even more distressing. Since people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia tend to have a stronger grip on long-term memories than short-term ones, it can be beneficial for us to engage with the level of clarity they find in their distant past rather than struggle to sharpen the clarity of more recent experiences.
If someone tries to tell my grandma that she’s wrong about this person’s name or that person’s intentions, she gets even more confused and anxious. But if we turn on some old, familiar music and encourage her to dance like she used to, she’ll fall right into step and insist that we keep dancing into the night—even if she’s not sure whose hands she’s holding.
Many caregivers and programs for aging adults are committing to meeting people where they are in their memories because that is where there is the best possibility for connection. Facilitating those social activities for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s can lessen feelings of isolation, relax some of their anxiety, and begin to improve their overall quality of life.
How Reminiscence Therapy Helps Adults with Dementia to Engage with Their Experiences
This year, a groundbreaking dementia and Alzheimer’s care facility is scheduled to open in San Diego. The Glenner Town Square is an indoor replica village with storefronts and other buildings designed to look like you’ve traveled back to the 1950s. Participants in this social day care program can browse shops, play with shelter dogs in the model pet store, read books in the library, and watch an old film in the cinema, among other activities relevant to the time period. Attendants in the shops and throughout the village are trained caregivers, interacting with aging participants to enhance the blast-to-the-past milieu. With the freedom to move around in a familiar environment, older adults can feel safe, grounded, and engaged in their experience and with those around them. This kind of interactive reminiscence therapy can inspire a calmer state of being and an improved mood with the need for fewer medications.
When longer-term memories are more familiar and accessible for older adults with dementia, there is a unique point of connection available to us if we can find ways to share those memories. Creating that connection is the goal of reminiscence therapy. Even if we weren’t around in the 1950s or 1960s when our loved one’s memories might be the strongest, we can still encourage those familiar memories to emerge and help older adults feel a sense of belonging. To do this, we first identify sensory triggers that spark recognition: perhaps photographs from that time, old favorite foods and recipes, songs that were popular then, and stories of events, to name just a few. Then, by sharing these things, we invite an older adult to step into those brighter memories and maybe even connect with a greater sense of self and identity in the moment.
It doesn’t necessarily take any special tools or skills to engage with an aging loved one in this way. In fact, if you can practice active listening, they’ll likely guide you toward the memories that are at the front of their mind. Reminiscence therapy could be as simple as encouraging an older adult to tell you a story from their younger days. My grandma becomes very focused and confident when she tells stories about “the war” and her involvement as a student nurse. Even, if the memories aren’t altogether pleasant, she has a grip on that reality in her mind more than she has on the family gathering that is presently happening around her. When we take time out for those reminiscent conversations, she and I connect on a stronger level, and she is calmer and more trusting of the unsettling environment she is actually in.
How Social Day Programs and Activities Give People with Dementia Freedom to Be
Socialization is a basic human need that can be easy to neglect, especially when logistical, cognitive, and mobility issues stand in the way. Loneliness and isolation among older adults lead to compounding negative effects. And people with dementia face even more complex and nuanced challenges to social engagement. With our greater understanding of how the experience of dementia works and how we can influence feelings of familiarity and connection, we are heading into an age of enlightened care and quality of life for those who struggle with memory-altering syndromes.
Institute on Aging puts enormous value on the benefits of aging adults living at home, but we also recognize that socialization can be harder to come by in that case. Opportunities like the Glenner Town Square and IOA’s Social Day Program offer regular, immersive opportunities for aging adults with dementia to engage with a community in the way that works for them. At IOA, for example, trained staff help take care of the basics of transportation, healthy meals, and personal care, so your loved one can focus solely on enjoying the program. By having an opportunity to engage and reminisce with a community of friends, older adults can feel as if they’re leading a more normal and grounded life.
On January 4th, 2018, at 2:39 in the morning, the Hayward fault line began to rumble. For 5-10 seconds, a region nearly 150 miles across shook, from Silicon Valley to Marin and Sonoma, and across San Francisco. While this was only a Magnitude 4.4 on the Richter Scale (M4.4), it woke people up and left them unnerved.
Earthquakes are nothing unusual in the Bay Area. In fact, they are a part of daily life. But because they are so normal, it can be easy to become complacent. Even if we know that it is vital to be prepared for earthquakes, it’s common for our preparedness to slip as memories of large, damaging tremblers recede. That isn’t acceptable for anyone, and it is especially dangerous for older adults in the Bay Area.
It’s easy to forget to plan stuff. It’s easy to forget during times of transition, whether those are literal ones like moving to a smaller house or just the transition of aging. It’s also easy to forget after time has passed and you’ve gotten into a comfortable daily routine that seems far removed from danger. But no matter where you are, you have to have an updated and ready plan for when disaster strikes.
We don’t know when earthquakes will hit. But we can be prepared for when they do.
It’s Everybody’s Fault
If you have lived in the Bay Area for a while, you probably remember the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 (aka, the World Series quake). That 6.9 killed 63 people, injured thousands more, and caused highways to pancake and the Bay Bridge to partially collapse.
But even that quake, on the San Andreas fault, was nearly 30 years ago, and the devastating 1906 quake is sepia-toned history. The last big Hayward rupture happened even longer ago, in 1868, and the Hayward fault has since been built over, meaning a major quake would create exponentially greater damage today. As Earth Magazine puts it:
[I]immediately after a magnitude-7 Hayward Fault event, out of 920,502 households near the fault trace, 298,605 (32 percent) will be without water and 367,519 (40 percent) will be without electricity. These losses are just the beginning of the infrastructure problems a Hayward Fault quake will create. A big quake in a highly populated area means that virtually every aspect of modern civilization—transportation, gas, sewer, water, electricity, Internet access and more — will be affected.
Read the whole article if you want to see the full scope. But we’re not trying to scare you. We’re trying to make you aware that these faults will go off at some point in the future. Maybe not in your lifetime; maybe soon. We don’t know. We just know that in the Bay Area, earthquake preparedness for older adults is crucial.
There are many reasons older adults may need extra help and preparedness during a disaster. These reasons include:
No matter who you are, earthquakes can be disorienting, but if you have any mental or physical impairments, they are particularly so. That’s why you need to plan in advance.
There are many things you can do to prepare yourself for an earthquake, starting with before one hits.
Before the Quake
Make sure fragile or valuable items are secured. You don’t want expensive or even priceless items crashing. You especially don’t want the floor to be covered in glass or other obstacles if you, like many older adults, have a hard time getting around. Securing items means easier and safer movement after a quake.
Store the supplies you need. Every home in the Bay Area should have a kit with water, water purification tablets, maps, non-perishable food, and more. Ready.gov has a full list, but older adults should also have extra medication in their kits. If there is a true disaster, you don’t want to leave without it in the confusion and fear.
Create an emergency plan with family members. Have ways to communicate when communication is down, no matter where you are in the area. If you need help walking or moving, make sure that is part of the plan, even if you are in the same house. Have a designated wheelchair pusher, or someone prepared to carry your bag. Having these decisions made in advance can save precious time.
Know community services before the quake. The American Red Cross offers civilian disaster preparedness training and will also be there after disaster strikes. But know where you can find shelters and hospitals, and the best routes to get there.
When the Quake Hits
Drop. Take Cover. Hold On. If you can get to the ground, do so. Get under something sturdy. If you are in bed, stay in bed and cover your head and neck with your pillow.
Follow the plan as much as possible. When you move slower, altering plans and improvising can be doubly slow. To the extent that it is possible, follow your pre-approved plan.
Monitor local broadcasts for emergency and relief information. A battery-powered shortwave radio can be your best friend. Follow their instructions.
A Few More Tips
Watch out for scams. In the wake of disaster, we see the best in people. We see communities coming together, and rallying to help out the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, we also often see the worst. There are people who try to take advantage of the wounded and scared and vulnerable. Talk to people you trust, and rely on the official aid services, not strangers who offer help for a cost.
You can’t take it with you. Many older adults tend to not want to leave their homes, especially if they are aging in place and in long-time homes. It’s ok to be comfortable in your surroundings but dangerous to be attached to that over your life. During Hurricane Katrina, 70% of the casualties were older adults. Part of that was due to the inhumane conditions and shattered support systems that made the most vulnerable even more so, but it was also due to people refusing to evacuate. Follow instructions and leave dangerous areas.
Research. If this is the first article you read about earthquake preparedness for older adults, don’t let it be your last. It’s a guide toward other guides. We recommend:
So don’t think every clattering rumble of a garbage truck in the alley is the end of the world. We don’t want you to live a life in fear, jumping at shadows. We don’t want that in any situation, earthquakes or not. We want you to live your life to the fullest, every day.
But in the Bay Area, that means being ready for earthquakes. When you are prepared, little tremors aren’t a source of panic because you have a plan and know how to react. No one knows exactly what the next big one will bring, but with a solid plan in place, you have put yourself in a great position to stay safe and in control.
We think that’s an ideal to carry with you in every part of your life.
At Institute on Aging, our programs and services help older adults, their families, and caregivers explore aging together, through good times and bad, as an adventure and a journey. Connect with us today to learn more.
At 82 years old, David was in pretty good health. He prided himself on being fit, healthy, and active, so when he began experiencing severe pain after minor knee surgery, he felt as though the things he valued most were being taken away from him.
After a few visits to his surgeon, David was prescribed Percocet to help manage the pain. At first, the drug did wonders for his pain and allowed him to have the lead the active lifestyle that he loved. But eventually, he found that he needed more medication to have the same effect, so he increased his dosage. Before he knew it, all he could think about was his next pill.
We often don’t think of older adults as being as susceptible to drug addiction as young people, but in actuality, that is not the case—especially when it comes to opioids. The increased need for pain control coupled with healthcare professionals’ tendency to underestimate the potential for addiction in seniors makes older adults vulnerable to opioid dependency and abuse.
In order to help protect your aging loved one from opioid addiction, it’s important that you learn how opioid addiction is different in older adults and explore some alternatives to pain control for those who want to avoid or diminish opioid use.
How Opioid Addiction is Different in Older Adults
David struggled with his escalating opioid addiction for several months until his daughter began to notice that something wasn’t right. When he first began taking Percocet he seemed completely normal, but eventually, she started to notice that he was more confused than usual and had trouble walking. When he wound up in the hospital after a bad fall, he finally revealed the nature of his opioid use to her.
Unfortunately, medical professionals as well as friends and family members of aging loved ones often fail to detect opioid addiction because common signs of opioid abuse, such as loss of balance, shakiness, confusion, memory impairment, and mood swings are often dismissed as regular signs of aging. At the same time, risk factors are sometimes overlooked. However, the unique experiences and physiological changes that happen in our later years can increase susceptibility to opioid addiction:
Significant life changes can increase the likelihood of opioid abuse. Aging adults often deal with many difficult life changes such as social isolation, the loss of a spouse, decreased physical mobility, loss of independence, disease diagnosis, or moving to assisted living. All of these can be preconditions that make one more vulnerable to opioid abuse.
Aging adults metabolize drugs differently. As we age, our metabolisms slow which means that it can take longer for the effects of medications to kick in. This delayed response can cause older adults to take more than the recommended dosage, which may be harmful to the body. Furthermore, since aging adults are likely to be prescribed opioids for longer-term use, they are more prone to building a tolerance and need to take higher doses to get the same effect. At the same time, the brain can become dependent on the medication to maintain equilibrium and your loved one may take more frequent doses to stave off withdrawal symptoms. These factors all increase the risk for addiction.
Medication accumulates in the body more easily. As we age, our body’s ability to filter medication effectively is diminished, resulting in the accumulation of medication in the body. As a result, aging adults are more prone to becoming addicted to medications in smaller doses. This accumulation can also result in more severe side effects, especially when taken in large doses.
If your loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, it’s important to help them get treatment early as soon as possible. The best addiction treatment programs are tailored to each person’s individual needs and should ideally include psychotherapy and peer supports. For some people, pharmacotherapy in the form of relapse prevention medication may also be useful.
In addition to specialized opioid addiction treatment, one of the greatest predictors of successful long-term recovery is strong social supports. This means that the involvement of friends and family is an essential part of healing. Taking your loved one to appointments, having regular visits and check-ins, and expressing your support verbally are all ways to participate in their path to restoring health.
Safer Pain Management Alternatives for Your Aging Loved One
For people who want to avoid or minimize the use of opioid pain medication, there are a number of holistic ways to effectively manage chronic pain. It’s important to consider these alternatives both to decrease the risk of addiction and to create opportunities for pain relief during recovery. Many methods also come with a variety of other health benefits, such as stress reduction and improved fitness.
Here are some of the medication-free ideas that may help your aging loved one manage their pain:
Yoga: The combination of stretching, strengthening, and deep breathing can do wonders for pain relief by increasing the body’s oxygen supply and calming the central nervous system.
Mindfulness Meditation: The mind is an incredibly powerful tool. In fact, practicing mindfulness meditation can effectively reduce pain by 57%. Typically, it includes sitting quietly and observing different parts of the body, acknowledging pain, and letting go of the psychological response or resistance to it.
Strengthening exercises: Low-impact activities, such as swimming, cycling, and Tai Chi can help improve muscle tone and lubricate joints, thus reducing pain associated with arthritis.
Pain Management Counseling: Talk therapy that deals with the psychological side effects of pain can be very beneficial for reducing stress associated with pain and improving and expanding one’s coping abilities.
Of course, these pain-management and reduction recommendations don’t have to be used alone. Rather, they can work alongside medication to improve effectiveness. In some cases, older adults may even be able to work with their doctors to decrease their dosage.
Thankfully, David’s daughter was able to get David the treatment he needed to come off of the opioids safely and completely. Now, David manages his pain through a combination of yoga and pain management counseling and is experiencing great success. While his experience on opioids was scary, he was grateful his daughter’s swift intervention and support helped get him back on track.
At Institute on Aging, we provide aging adults with a variety of resources and services so that they can live healthily, safely, and independently in their homes. To find out how we can help your aging loved one, contact us today.
San Francisco neighbors Kate and Gerry both got dogs after retirement but very different kinds. Kate’s multiple sclerosis forced her into retirement early at 58. She has a very active mind but has to conserve her physical energy and minimize her risk-taking. Meanwhile, Gerry worked until the age of 66 and now looks forward to walking more often in his favorite city parks. Kate needs a dog who can match her energy level, keep her company even when she can’t get out of the house often, and engage playfully with her in the apartment. Gerry needs a dog who’s eager to walk with him around San Francisco but is also adaptable to his smaller apartment and has an energy level that will likely slow down a bit over the coming years.
Research has shown that human-animal interactions lend many benefits, including more abundant socialization and less loneliness, a reduction in stress and blood pressure, better heart health, and fewer reports of fear and anxiety. Pets can offer wonderful daily therapy for older adults, helping them to get out of the house and stay active and giving them warm, loving companionship. Kate and Gerry have explored how to choose the best dog for a senior—or soon-to-be senior—in San Francisco based on their own needs and personal temperaments. We’ll take a look at the criteria they’ve considered and a range of dog breeds that are generally best for older adults in urban environments.
How to Choose the Best Dog for an Older Adult in San Francisco
When assessing different dogs for a good lifestyle and temperament match, remember that you can get a general idea by researching breeds at large. You can also talk to vets, shelters, rescues, or people in your community to learn about any experiences they have with particular breeds you’re considering—or suggestions for breeds you haven’t thought of yet.
Here are some characteristics to keep in mind when looking at different dog breeds:
Size. The size of your dog may be significant for the size of your house so as not to crowd an already small space. It may also be important in case the dog’s size is too big for you to handle at times when they need extra care.
Energy Level. If you are accustomed to a low to moderate amount of activity, you won’t want a high-energy dog who needs a lot of exercise. Your dog will be happiest if they get just the right amount of mental and physical activity. It may be good to get a dog who will encourage you to get out and move around more, but be realistic about your lifestyle needs.
Maintenance and Grooming Needs. Some dogs require very little grooming, whereas others require regular beauty treatments. Learn more about the particular requirements to care for the potential breeds on your list and evaluate whether those responsibilities will fit your lifestyle.
Temperament. Some dog owners may be more interested in a companion to sit close and cuddle with them. Others may be more interested in a playful pup, one who will get along with other animals in the house, or one who is up for regular out-of-the-house adventures.
And, just as importantly, you’ll want to keep in mind your own personal needs and reasons for welcoming a dog into your home. Are you looking for love and companionship? A pal to get you outdoors and keep you active into your golden years? An exciting addition to the family for you and your grandkids? A pet to take care of and reignite your sense of purpose? Or some combination of these reasons? Your own reasoning may inform how you weigh the different breed considerations.
Some of the Best Dog Breeds for San Francisco Seniors
The perfect dog for you will be a personal choice, but we’ve narrowed down a list of some of the dogs that do well in an urban environment and appeal to varying energy levels and temperaments. In no particular order, here are some great options to check out:
Extremely smart, easy to train, and friendly, poodles offer great company. They’re also calm and adapt well to urban and apartment living. There are threepoodle varieties—toy, miniature, and standard—so you can determine what might be the best fit for you. They are naturally clean pets, and they will shed very little if you have them on a regular grooming schedule. Their need for exercise varies from moderate to active, so it’s important to have a sense of the dog’s patterns before deciding they are the right match for you.
These small dogs are gentle and affectionate, a perfect companion lapdog. They will be very attentive and bond with you, wanting to spend lots of time together. They are low-shed with regular grooming, and they are small enough to be carried around. A Maltese is easy to train and likes to go on short walks with you, but they’ll also enjoy playing with you right at home.
While Greyhounds have the potential to be very active and are often raised as racing dogs, in truth, they are naturally very relaxed. In fact, some call them couch potatoes. Although they are large, they will fit right in with quiet urban and apartment living. They do well with training, and they’re easy to handle. They’re sweet and sensitive, and they’re easy to groom. While they’ll be happy to hang out with you around the house, they do need moderate exercise—so plan on regular walks.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Corgis are sharp and active but limited by their small to medium size on short legs. They’re personable and ready to learn, and they get along well with people and other pets. They require minimal grooming but a bit more exercise, so plan on daily walks. Because of their build on such short legs, it may take some extra effort to prepare your home for them with stairs and ramps, so they can be involved without straining to join you.
These small dogs fit well in an urban environment. They’re friendly, affectionate, and adaptable. And they’re really easy to groom and take care of. They are short-haired, shed very little, and require simple brushing. They like to play and have fun and need moderate exercise. They’re also trainable and good with children. They’ll be a great companion, spending time wherever you want to be.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
These adorable dogs look like puppies throughout their lives, and they love to be in your lap and snuggle. These small to medium pups are calm, happy, and loyal. They’re easy to groom but do shed, so plan on brushing them regularly. Cavaliers are moderately active and will require walks and playtime. If they do not get regular exercise, they are prone to weight gain.
Bringing Your Dog Home: Buying or Adopting
Of course, we can learn a lot about breeds, but every dog is a bit different. To minimize the variables and unknowns, it’s a good idea to consider adult dogs—including senior dogs—whose personalities are already established and known. Puppies are cute and fun, but they’re a lot of work and it’s hard to predict what kind of temperament they’ll grow into. In the end, keeping a pulse on these characteristics can help you to find the right dog for your hopes, your home, and your lifestyle.
It’s also good to consider the option of adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue because dogs there need you as much as you need them. You can find diverse breeds, sizes, ages, and personalities of dogs at shelters, and—just as importantly—you can spend time getting to know them and asking the shelter staff questions about the dogs’ temperaments. Buying a dog from a reputable breeder is also an option, but it is typically more expensive, and, again, puppies are more work and less predictable.
When you’ve found the right dog, you’ll be eager to bring them home, to settle into a routine together, and to discover how you’ll play and build a close bond. As soon as Kate met Crispin, a 7-year-old Maltese, she knew they’d get along perfectly as daily companions. And when Gerry decided to adopt Pepper, a 7-year-old Greyhound, from a foster home, he could tell she would love walking with him in Lafayette Park. Gerry and Kate both got in touch with their own preferences and needs, so they could make the best decisions for keeping dogs in the city. If you’re starting your own journey to find the perfect pet,
Mary was devastated. Her mother-in-law Sara had been in a serious car accident and had barely survived the crash. Sara hadn’t regained consciousness after the crash, and because she didn’t have an advance directive or living will, she was kept alive on a ventilator for months. Each day when she went to the hospital to see Sara, Mary wondered if this kind of care is what Sara would have wanted.
While there wasn’t anything she could do to change Sara’s situation, Mary wanted to make sure that her own parents prepared legal documents outlining what kind of medical care they wanted to receive should they ever be in a situation where they were unable to communicate their wishes. Her mother had mentioned in passing that she didn’t want to be kept alive artificially, but Mary knew that her word wouldn’t be enough. She needed it in writing.
Imagining a life-threatening medical situation or the end of one’s life is not an easy thing to do. It is, however, very important, as it allows us to clarify our values and our wishes for how we want to live and how we want to die. Part of that is about making decisions regarding what type of care we would like to receive should we ever be in a situation that renders us unable to communicate our wishes.
In order to help your aging loved one to be as prepared as possible should they find themselves in this type of situation, let’s talk about two very important documents—the living will and the healthcare power of attorney—and the important steps to follow when creating them.
Living Wills and Advance Directives Explained
Advance directives are the documents that detail a person’s healthcare preferences in the case that they are unable to communicate them at the time when care is needed. Two distinct documents comprise the advance directive: the living will and the healthcare power of attorney.
The living will is a written document that outlines the specific treatment measures that your loved one wishes to have or not to have in various situations. In other words, it is an end of life care plan detailing how they want to live in their final days. For example, your loved one may state that they do not wish to be put on a ventilator or feeding tube should they be unable to breathe or eat by themselves. They should also state what kind of treatment they would like to receive. Your loved one may, for instance, state that they desire hospice care at the end of their life.
The healthcare power of attorney, sometimes called the healthcare proxy, designates someone to make medical decisions for your loved one if they are unable to. This may mean making decisions about what treatments or pain management medications they receive or deciding when to admit them to a hospice or care home. The designated person is also responsible for carrying out the wishes in the living will.
It’s important that your loved one chooses their healthcare proxy very carefully and makes sure that the person they chose is willing and able to carry out their requests without inserting their own personal wishes and desires. It’s also a good idea for your loved one to appoint a secondary healthcare proxy should the first one be unable to do so.
Taking the time to help your loved one fill out these forms will not only ensure that they live out their life in a way that is meaningful to them, but it will also prevent families from disagreeing about the ways in which their loved one should receive care.
How to Make a Living Will and Advance Directive: Simple Steps for Success
Once you and your loved one have completed the advance directive forms, which you can easily find online, there are still a few important things you need to do. Here is a breakdown of the steps you and your loved one need to take in order to finish the process of making an advance directive:
Have your loved one reread and sign the documents in front of a designated witness.
Assist your loved one in making hard copies of their advance directive documents and give them to their designated healthcare proxy. Having a meeting with their healthcare proxy to go through the forms is also a good idea, as it will help clarify exactly what is desired.
Arrange an appointment with your loved one’s doctor to review the forms with them. It’s important that you make sure they are comfortable carrying out the specific wishes your loved one has outlined.
Help your aging loved one find a safe place in their home to keep their advance directive and make sure that family members know where it is so it can be accessed easily in case of emergency. In fact, it is a good idea to include its location in the letter of direction alongside their will.
Since the process of making an advance directive may be an emotionally difficult thing for your aging loved one, it’s important that you do your best to help them feel more comfortable with the idea. Filling out your own advance directive forms along with them is one way to make them feel less singled out. It is, after all, important for every adult to have an advance directive, no matter one’s age.
Another way to help them feel more comfortable with the process is to stress that advance directives are not necessarily used in end of life situations. Your loved one may be temporarily unable to make their own decisions for a variety of reasons, such as injuries or treatable illnesses, and the advance directive will ensure they get the kind of care they want. It’s also worth stressing that advance directives are less about death than they are about life—the quality of life that is important to them.
If your aging loved one is still resistant to the idea of filling out an advance directive, give them some space. These things often take time and are typically not completed in one sitting. Your loved one may simply need to think things through in their own time in order to feel ready to start the process.
After many months spent contemplating what quality of life meant to him and what type of care he wanted to receive, Glen came around to the idea of preparing an advance directive. Although it was hard for him to sit with his own discomfort about death, he realized that the thought of being unable to choose how he wanted to live was what really scared him. No matter what, he decided, he wanted to live with dignity and purpose until the very end.
If you are in need of support to navigate your aging loved one’s end of life care, the compassionate staff at Institute on Aging are here for you. Reach out today to learn how we can be of assistance.
Reconnection is a beautiful thing—whether it’s being reunited with loved ones, an old neighborhood that you used to call home, or a dream you’d long forgotten. For many aging adults in institutionalized care, such as hospitals and nursing homes, being able to reconnect with the life they once lived is empowering and meaningful. For aging adults and adults with disabilities living in Inland Empire, this will soon be a possibility.
Institute on Aging is proud to announce the launch of Inland Empire Community Living Solutions (IECLS), a truly life-changing program that aims to help aging adults and adults with disabilities transition out of institutionalized care settings and back into independent community living.
Inland Empire Community Living Solutions: Services and Supports
Situated between the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside, Inland Empire is a unique community that has long been in need of a community living support program due to its large population of aging adults. The IECLS will serve as such a program, making the lives of participants easier, safer, and more fulfilling.
IECLS will be available to Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) members throughout the area who are living in either long-term care facilities or acute short-term care settings and are willing and able to return to community living. The program will also be available to Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) members who are currently living in the community at risk for institutionalization.
Through a variety of support services, IECLS will work to increase the quality of life for program participants by providing them with Intensive Care Management Services along with linking participants to resources necessary to lead more independent lives.
A Team With Heart: Facilitating the Transition to Community Living
Connecting aging adults to meaningful supports can be a transformative experience, allowing aging community members to recapture their freedom and autonomy. One of the aspects of the program that IOA is most proud of is the team of caring individuals that is in place to serve the Inland Empire community. Trained in the field of social work, they are well-versed in many of the issues that aging adults face as they transition to independent living. Life transitions, like moving to a new home, can be challenging even if they are positive, and it takes a special group of people to facilitate that process with grace and empathy. By working from a foundation of understanding, compassion, and respect, IECLS will be able to engage program participants in a way that meets each person’s individual needs.
Ultimately, once IECLS participants are settled in their homes and equipped with the services and supports they need, they will be able to regain agency in their lives and reestablish independence. Whether that means spending more with their families, participating in community events, or pursuing a new passion, IECLS will help make sure that aging adults have what they need to live lives that are joyful, purposeful, and fulfilling to them. After all, it’s never too late to reconnect with what matters most.
At Institute on Aging, we provide older adults with the resources that they need to live healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us today for more information about Inland Empire Community Living Solutions.
The diversity of the Richmond District is a huge part of what makes it special, but our differences are also what can separate us if we don’t look for the similarities beyond. By tapping into our similarities and opportunities to improve our community, we can all live better, more supported and integrated lives. At Institute on Aging (IOA), we advance these best practices every day, so partnering with San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer’s team and the Richmond District Neighborhood Center (RDNC) in a community development campaign is a fitting honor.
“One Richmond” is an initiative that originates with former Supervisor Eric Mar and continues with the office of Supervisor Fewer. The goal is to empower District One residents to speak up and effect change in ways that really matter to them. The strength of this project comes from having so many interested partners who pull together their similarities and their differences. These partners include not only influential offices and organizations, but also local business owners, service providers, and any and every resident who wants to be a part. Together, we are interested in preserving and promoting Richmond District’s rich cultural diversity and identity while knitting the community together more effectively, making resources and services more plentiful and accessible, and fortifying its sustainability by promoting local commerce.
The foundation for “One Richmond” will be getting people involved in roundtable conversations about what is important to them and what they want to see change in their Richmond District neighborhood. For example, we might want to make public transportation options more accessible for disabled individuals or install more restrooms in our parks. We can’t know quite what this campaign will bring, but we do know that the more people who can get involved, the more we’ll get to the bottom of the projects that can make a real difference for our residents. To help us get started, there is currently a survey circulating that allows District One residents to share concerns, ideas, and hopes for the neighborhood. Once we understand our residents’ values and priorities better, we can start planning next steps to implementing progressive solutions. “One Richmond” is a revolutionary model of community development in San Francisco that can reinforce and expand on our community identity and values for a brighter, more integrated future.
Working Together to Achieve Real Community Development in San Francisco
As Supervisor Fewer is working to get “One Richmond” off the ground, IOA was thrilled to host a roundtable discussion, open to the community, to help kickstart the campaign. On January 30, 2018, professional and civilian partners gathered to engage in communication around the four core values Fewer’s office has identified for the neighborhood:
Participants sat at round tables of 10 people each and spent about 15 minutes talking about each of these four values. They brought their wide-ranging knowledge and life experiences together to brainstorm pain points and ways we might be able to improve our public spaces, our social cohesion, and the clarity of our collective identity. One question that came to light is: “What stores are most sensitive to the needs of older adults in District One, and how can other businesses follow suit?” Questions like this one focus beyond the problems; they turn our attention toward creative solutions and open our eyes to the bright, productive possibilities for our neighborhood. By creating space for this proactive dialogue, “One Richmond” can help ensure that the voices of our residents are heard and provide opportunities for positive change.
This dynamic discussion format mirrors the way the campaign is set to progress overall.
Candid Conversations with Diverse Stakeholders
Collaborative Brainstorming Around Pain Points and Solutions
Escalation of Issues for Effective Implementation
There is an incredible wealth of knowledge and creativity within our neighborhood population and our roundtables serve as opportunities to capture those resources and create new ideas for our shared future. At the same time, if we discuss great ideas but aren’t committed or able to turn them around for real change, our efforts will fall flat. That’s why wide-reaching involvement from community partners at every level is critical for “One Richmond”’s success: Only with grounded discussions can we identify the authentic and varied needs of community members and develop practical solutions. At Institute on Aging, we are committed to providing opportunities to talk about what isn’t working and how we can make it work, as well as what is working and how we can transfer that success in meaningful ways.
We look forward to many more discussions like the one Institute on Aging hosted. We hope that as the campaign gets further underway, we will connect with individuals and organizations that can bring even more experience and unique perspectives to the table. Together, we can achieve the goals of real people for real community development in San Francisco.
What Do These Community Values Mean for Aging Adults in San Francisco?
“One Richmond” isn’t just about institutional transformation. Through forums that support equal participation, community members become agents of change, helping each of us grow in the process. And when we all come together to explore our shared interests, we are improving our community already with social cohesion and activation. It is a bright opportunity to unify the district’s diverse communities and empower residents.
Institute on Aging feels a particular affinity with this community development project and its values because it is so closely related to our ongoing work in the neighborhood:
For inclusiveness, IOA aims to dissolve the barriers to aging adults who want to continue to live in their homes and their home communities. We make resources and services available and accessible to help older adults, their caregivers, and their family members thrive. We also host a Social Day Program to foster a similar kind of productive, healing collaboration and support that aging adults—indeed, all of us—need to thrive.
With compassion we lead conversations to revise the ways our community perceives and respects their aging neighbors. We advocate for equal and compassionate treatment of older adults and their inclusion in decision-making that matters to them.
In the interest of community pride, Institute on Aging hosts events and programs to celebrate the strengths of our San Francisco community. But we also keep our eyes open for areas that are ripe for improvement because continuous constructive attention is the kind of involvement that makes everyone feel proud of and connected to their community. The more people can connect with others in their neighborhood, the more we can come to understand our collective identity.
In the interest of sustainability and shopping local, we see amazing value in residents being able to remain in their homes and continue to support a community of which they are an integral part. Just as we partner with local organizations and stakeholders, we promote the good work of these groups in the community. We connect aging adults with local resources, and initiatives like “One Richmond” will allow more resources to emerge to meet the needs of community members.
We’re excited for the important work we do for aging adults in San Francisco to gain even greater reach. “One Richmond” helps us toward that aim by facilitating fresh and innovative partnerships. Through community dialogue, we’re gaining a clearer understanding of how initiatives for the needs of aging adults can knit together with initiatives for other segments of the District One population to create a stronger, healthier, and more inclusive community for all of us. Stay tuned with us to find out how “One Richmond” blossoms.
Do you want to get involved? You can. Take part in an online survey to share your thoughts, concerns, and ideas and encourage your neighbors to do the same. You can also contact Sandra Lee Fewer’s aide, Ian Fregosi, at Ian.Fregosi@sfgov.org for more information about #OneRichmond and opportunities for collaboration.
The experience of aging can be, all at once, fresh and exhilarating but also unsettling as our roles and abilities change and our perceptions of ourselves have to adapt to this transition. The best way to support this natural evolution for all of us is to keep having open and illuminating conversations together. That’s why Institute on Aging is organizing regular opportunities around San Francisco for candid conversations about aging and how to connect to services and resources that are both accessible and life-changing for older adults. Developing these initiatives proactively supports our collective future.
We’re calling this event series Cocktails for the Ages. When you come to share drinks and conversations with the community, a portion of the proceeds goes toward scholarships that give aging and disabled adults in need the opportunity to attend our Social Day Program. This day care option is a welcoming space for all older individuals, including those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and the programming is designed to engage the diverse needs and interests of our clients. Transportation and healthy meals are included as part of our mission to dissolve the barriers to warm and fulfilling care. For families and caregivers, the program can provide respite and time to tend to self-care. It certainly does take a village to nurture our best future.
Social activities like our Social Day Program are critical for aging adults’ overall health and cognitive well-being. In fact, we all benefit from productive socialization, so join us for one of our exciting evenings and bring friends and family who are also interested in our creative, collective path.
Below, find details about our upcoming Cocktails for the Ages events:
Cocktails for the Ages: March 14th
When: March 14 from 4pm–8pm Where: Vesuvio Café, 255 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco What: Happy Hour drinks, food, artwork, and a raffle Who: This event is open to guests 21 years of age and older For more information, contact: Alison Moritz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cocktails for the Ages: March 26th
When: March 26, 6pm–9pm Where: Stock in Trade, 2036 Lombard Street, San Francisco What: Drinks, food, arcade games, bocce ball, and a bean bag toss course Who: All ages are welcome For more information, contact: Corinne Knudtzon at email@example.com
You can also help seniors access our Social Day Program by donating to Institute on Aging through YouCaring.com. Every dollar you donate directly supports scholarships for seniors in need and helps us move to a new site that will allow the program to flourish. All donations are tax deductible.
Institute on Aging is committed to improving the lives of aging adults, their families, and their caregiver. Reach out to us at 415-750-4111 for more information about our diverse programs, services, and resources.
Irene only had one regret. She’d always wanted to learn to speak Italian but never had the money to take classes when she was young. She came close, once. After saving almost enough for an Italian class at her local university she found out she was pregnant with her first child. All of a sudden, Irene’s priorities changed and her dream of learning Italian and traveling to Italy faded into the background.
Having just turned 68 years old, Irene decided that now was her chance to do what she’d always wanted. So, with the help of her son, Louie, she found a local Italian language class offered through a local university, borrowed a beginner’s Italian textbook from her local library, and started studying. Sure enough, she fell in love with it. Irene hadn’t felt this alive and inspired in years and a spark ignited within her every time she learned a new word or phrase.
Following your passions and learning something new, be it a language or a new skill, can be truly transformational at any age. Luckily, there is a plethora of programs and resources available to aging adults to encourage lifelong learning. If your aging loved one has shown interest in taking a class, studying a subject that speaks to them, or even pursuing a degree or diploma, let’s explore some options for continuing education for seniors.
Exploring the Options: Continuing Education for Seniors
There has never been a time when learning has been more accessible for aging adults. An abundance of learning resources and opportunities are available to aging adults almost anywhere. For aging adults in rural or remote settings or who have difficulty leaving the home, online learning can be a great choice. And for adults in urban centers like the Bay Area, in-person continuing education classes and programs give them the opportunity to connect with other face-to-face.
So where do you begin with looking for lifelong learning opportunities for your aging loved one? After you’ve chatted with them about their passions and interests, all it takes is a little poking around the internet or community bulletin boards to find an appropriate program or class for your loved one. To make the search easier, though, here are a few places to start looking:
Post-secondary Institutions: Many public colleges and universities offer reduced or free tuition for adults over the age of 55 or 60. While some schools allow seniors to pursue degrees, others open up space in classes for aging adults to audit. Continuing education departments usually offer an array of subjects, from photography to ancient history, so chances are that your loved one will find classes that will pique their interest. Attending classes at a college or university can also be a great way to connect with the younger generation. Plus, your aging loved one will bring a unique perspective and years of life experience to a classroom of young adult learners.
Community Centers: Community centers typically offer a wide variety of programs for senior citizens, from Tai Chi classes to creative writing. These classes can be a great way for your loved one to meet like-minded adults while trying their hand at something new. Some programs also offer transportation for seniors to and from the facility where the classes are held. The best part is that the programs are usually very affordable—or even free! A quick Google search of senior’s community center classes in your area can lead to endless exciting options.
Online Language Tools: Has your loved one always dreamed of learning Italian or brushing up on their Spanish? For aging adults who have difficulties leaving their home (or speak a language that isn’t commonly spoken in the area they live in), online language classes can be a perfect fit. Tandem is an online language tutoring portal that makes it easy to find a language tutor for just about any language you could imagine. Just make sure your loved one has a computer with access to the internet. If finances are a concern, your loved one can take advantage of free language apps like Duolingo or Fifty Languages.
Of course, learning doesn’t always have to be done formally through classes or online programs. If you can’t come up with something suitable for your aging loved one, encourage lifelong learning in other ways. Take them for a weekly library visit and help them pick out some new books, have a cooking night and learn how to make something new together, or arrange to have your artist friend teach them how to paint. The most important thing is to help your loved one become engaged and inspired in new ways.
The Advantages of Lifelong Learning
Not only will your loved one have a blast learning something new, they’ll be doing something incredible for their health. There are, in fact, many physical, mental, and emotional benefits of lifelong learning.
Keeping the brain active and interacting with others can effectively:
No matter how you look at it, learning makes life richer, expands our minds, and keeps us mentally youthful and agile. As Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
For Irene, learning to speak Italian opened up her world in ways that she could have never foreseen. She began exploring the Italian neighborhood in her city, trying new Italian restaurants, and learning how to make new dishes like fresh pasta and risotto. At almost 70 years old, she felt as if she’d discovered a whole new world.
At Institute on Aging, we offer a variety of resources to aging adults so that they can live independently at home while staying connected to the community. To learn more about our Social Day Program or other programs, contact us today.
Chester loved living on the West Coast. The mild weather suited him, he had a supportive network of close friends, and he adored his apartment with its view of the San Francisco Bay. The only thing lacking was his beloved grandchildren, Lydia and Harris.
Chester used to see his grandchildren almost every day until six months ago when they moved out east for his son’s work. Since the move, Chester felt a deep sense of emptiness and disconnection from the little ones whom he loved the most. While he couldn’t imagine moving from the West Coast at the age of 82, he longed for the close connection he’d had with his grandchildren.
Many aging adults, like Chester, experience the challenges that come with living far away from their grandchildren. If your aging loved one is struggling with living far from their grandchildren, remind them that physical distance doesn’t have to lead to emotional distance. In fact, in this day and age, there are so many wonderful ways to stay connected. In hopes of helping your aging loved one maintain important relationships with their beloved little ones, let’s explore some creative ideas for staying in touch with grandchildren from afar.
Staying in Touch with Grandchildren: Harnessing the Power of Snail Mail
When Chester’s grandchildren first moved away he planned to write weekly letters to them to stay in touch. After finishing the first one, however, he felt self-conscious about his penmanship. Not only did he have difficulty gripping the pen, he found it hard to stop his hand from shaking as he wrote.
While writing letters is indeed a wonderful way to maintain relationships with loved ones, many aging adults, like Chester, have difficulty writing. Luckily, there are many other ways to stay connected via snail mail without having to write long-form letters.
Here are a few fun ideas for staying in touch with grandkids via mail that will help maintain a connection:
Send care packages: Who doesn’t like receiving a personalized care package full of goodies in the mail? Take your aging loved one on a shopping trip for little things their grandchildren will enjoy. It doesn’t need to be anything huge—their favorite candy, a cute little toy car, a storybook, and stickers are all great ideas (depending on the age of the kids, of course). For older grandkids, gourmet chocolate, fun fridge magnets, or decorative coasters are a few mail-friendly ideas. Encourage your loved one to write a thoughtful little note, then package it up and send it off. The kids will love knowing that their grandparents are thinking of them!
Write letters together: If writing is difficult for your loved one but they express the desire to communicate through letters, offer to pen the letters for them while they dictate. Make a fun afternoon out of it with a nice pot of tea and some relaxing music. Your loved one will appreciate you taking the time to help them connect with their grandkids.
Send photos: If your loved one enjoys taking photos, encourage them to get the photos printed and send them in the mail to their grandkids. The pictures can be of anything—from shots of the birds they saw on their morning walks to pictures of them with friends. Or perhaps your loved one has a collection of old photos of themselves and family members. Encourage them to send some in an envelope and write a note on the back of each picture. Grandkids will love learning more about their grandparents’ lives and can write back with questions. Plus, they can frame the pictures and cherish them for years to come.
Create original stories: Sometimes writing letters about the goings on of one’s life can get redundant. So, to spice things up a little, help your loved one write stories for their grandchildren. Use blank sheets and a stapler to create a little booklet, and encourage them to get creative! They can even illustrate the story if they enjoy drawing or painting. If your loved one isn’t sure how to start, writing stories about experiences they shared with their grandkids can be an easy way to get going and help keep special memories alive. Plus, it’s also a way for grandparents to be involved in important milestones in their grandchildren’s’ lives, like learning to read!
Everyone loves receiving mail, and if you use it in creative ways, it can be a great way to stay in touch from afar. The downside, however, is that depending on the distance between your aging loved one and their grandkids, it can take a while for things to arrive in the mail.
Using Technology to Connect with Grandchildren from Afar
If instant communication is more your aging loved one’s speed, technology offers a ton of great ways to keep in touch without waiting for weeks for a reply.
Here are a few fun and easy ideas for staying in touch via technology:
Set up regular Skype or FaceTime dates: Few things connect people more than face to face conversation. Today, Skype and FaceTime can make the distance between people virtually disappear. Encourage your loved one to set up an account and schedule regular dates with their grandchildren in which they establish a routine, like reading them a Sunday night story before bed.
Send a weekly updates email: Email is a really great way to stay in touch and keep one another up to speed on what is going on in each other’s lives. Exchanging emails works so well because it’s easier to share one’s day-to-day experiences, which increases the feeling of connection and presence in each other’s lives. Writing a weekly email with updates or anecdotes can be a great strategy for staying connected via email—especially if the grandkids are busy
Try Snapchat: If your aging loved one really embraces technology and has a cell phone, using fun apps to connect might be a really great option. Snapchat is a platform that kids of all ages will love because it is so silly. Grandparents and kids can take photos of themselves using funky filters that change their faces or add fun features (like dog ears and flower crowns). Sending the grandkids a silly snap with a little message will undoubtedly make them smile. If the kids are too young to have their own phones, send snaps to their parents and have them show their little ones.
No matter how your loved one chooses to engage with their grandkids, whether via mail or screens, it’s important to understand that maintaining these relationships supports their health and vitality. It is therefore critical that you help them break down the barriers that get in the way of staying in touch with their grandkids. Offering to mail a care package for them if they aren’t able to get to the post office easily or helping them choose a tablet can make all the difference when it comes to staying in touch. There is, after all, something so special about the connection between grandparents and grandchildren. And sometimes, distance can even have the power to strengthen that connection.
Institute on Aging offers a variety of programs that make it easier for aging adults to live and age independently, healthily, and happily. For more information on how we can help your aging loved one, reach out to us today.