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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.
Always the hostess, Carissa has been very involved in her San Francisco neighborhood for more than four decades. Her door has always been open to friends and neighbors and over the years her home has been the site of countless parties, community meetings, and social gatherings. So when she started to experience limitations throughout the day—such as carrying the groceries up the stairs and into her apartment and managing the necessary repairs around her home—she knew she was going to need a bit of help to be able to keep up with her busy social life. With the support of local community resources that help her overcome her limitations, she can keep enjoying the lifestyle she has come to love.
Carissa now has a grocery delivery service lined up, bringing fresh local produce right to her door. She has also hired a handyman who comes at least once a month to inspect her apartment for any needed repairs and to connect her with other resources if necessary. With these responsibilities taken care of, she can turn her attention to what she loves most: hosting book clubs, parties, and dinners in her home.
Just like Carissa, so many of San Francisco’s older adults would prefer to live in their own homes for as long as possible rather than go into assisted living situations. But that doesn’t mean they must live without assistance! And it doesn’t mean they need to spend their time alone and isolated. Together, let’s explore some of the invaluable resources that help seniors thrive at home in San Francisco.
Resources to Support Seniors at Home in San Francisco, CA
Aging in place can have great benefits for aging adults, including staying connected to the communities we’ve known for years. However, as we grow older, our needs change and we can’t always do everything we could when we were younger. Transportation and mobility can be challenging for seniors in the city, limiting access to common daily necessities. Energy levels and other personal challenges can further limit opportunities for community engagement and self-sufficiency. Luckily, in San Francisco, there is a wide range of resources available to help ensure seniors can enjoy the care, services, and socialization they need while living in the home they choose:
Other Bay Area social groups help to counteract isolation throughout the aging community and help to energize you through activity and connection.
Local gardening activities provide physical activity, neighborhood connection, opportunities to serve the community, and fresh produce for bright, nutritious meals.
Various senior advocacy services provide support in case of barriers to resources and services, challenges with healthcare and insurance, elder abuse, crisis intervention, and other issues beyond your independent abilities.
Getting connected with some of these resources designed for aging adults could help you redirect some of your valuable energy in the direction of self-care, interpersonal connection, and hobbies and activities that make you feel bright and alive.
Finding a Wealth of Services and Resources for Seniors in One Place
In addition to the resources listed above, San Francisco is also home to organizations that offer a wide range of tools and services to support your independent lifestyle. At Institute on Aging, you can get set up with a care manager, who can help identify the services that will best fit your lifestyle and the improvements you wish you see in your life, from health to home updates to social and personal enrichment. If you need behavioral health services, in-home care and assistance, a day program that allows you to get out of the house and socialize, meal delivery, transportation, or advice and advocacy, Institute on Aging has what you need in one place. Is today the day to expand your support community and your horizons?
Reach out to us at 415-750-4111 for more information about our diverse programs, services, and resources. If you’re an older adult, their family member, or their caregiver, Institute on Aging has options designed for you.
“I don’t actually care about money,” April said, blowing gently on her cup of tea so that she could take a sip before finishing her thought, “I just care about not having money.”
She shared this seemingly-contradictory but all-too-understandable emotion during a group discussion about taking care of her elderly mother. April’s father had died of a heart attack nearly 20 years ago, when April was in her teens, and her mother’s health had just begun to decline within the last few years.
April was married and worked part-time, and as such, became a primary caregiver for her mother. Her two siblings pitched in when they could, but they weren’t able to contribute significant amounts of time or financial help. Needless to say, this caused stress. April hated worrying about money when worrying about her mom, but those concerns crept up in her mind like English Ivy, snaking around every thought.
That’s a problem for many people when they are discussing how to financially care for an older loved one. There is a lot to take into account, from expenses to potential tax benefits. These conversations can be stressful and potentially explosive, especially if there is already tension or any lingering conflict between siblings.
Money dynamics and family dynamics are often extremely tricky. When you mix in the emotional strain of seeing a loved one struggle, it can be particularly brutal.
It doesn’t have to be, though. There are positive and productive ways to discuss finances with family members when acting as a caregiver for an older loved one. You just have to be honest, clear, and assume good faith where it is warranted. If you do that, you can take away a source of stress and tension and allow everyone to enjoy their precious time together.
Types of Financial Tension and How to Resolve Them
There is no one type of disagreement over money. There are many reasons families might have trouble seeing eye-to-eye, including:
Type and Expense of Care
When families are discussing how to take care of an older loved one (or loved ones) they are of course concerned about how to pay for things. There aren’t many people who can say, “Never mind the cost!” because, in real life, most of us have to mind the cost.
That can be a problem if different siblings have different ideas about what to do based on expenses. For example, some might think that a home health aide is too expensive, while others think that it will save money. These are real debates, and they don’t mean someone is trying to shirk responsibilities. Disagreeing about what type of care is needed and how much should be spent on that care is part of the process.
How to solve it: These types of debates aren’t like someone suggesting you eat dinner at McDonald’s just to be cheap. They are long-term life-changing decisions, so assume good faith when someone disagrees with you. Gather as many facts as possible and encourage everyone to do their research in order to determine what is in the best interest of your aging loved one. Don’t just go with your gut feelings.
Inequality of Means
April and her husband weren’t rich, but they had significantly more money than either of her siblings, even with April just working part-time. Her two brothers had jobs where they worked hard (one of them had two jobs), but had little money and less time.
We’ve talked about how some siblings can balance money with time (that is, if you don’t have time, help with money, and vice-versa). But even that isn’t always possible. One of April’s brothers didn’t even have a car; getting to his mom’s house across the Bay could take hours. So they really didn’t have much to give.
How to solve it: Figure out what resources you have and find creative ways to use them. For instance, one of April’s brothers was, well, not exactly a cook, but knew how to make food. April would transfer money to him each week, and he’d go grocery shopping and make some casseroles, as well as pick up things his mom needed. Every Sunday, April would pick up the meals and shopping from her brother and bring it to their mom. The system allowed him to help in a way that worked for him without having to spend hours getting across the Bay. It also eased April’s burden and made her less resentful about shouldering the bulk of the expenses.
Like April, you and your family should take into consideration everyone’s burdens, their opportunities, and what each can reasonably be expected to do. With this information, you can pool resources, with everyone contributing according to their means. Things don’t have to be equal, they just had to be equitable.
Tax Incentives and Bonuses
As we discussed in our article on tax deduction for caregivers, you are entitled to many exemptions and deductions if you pay 50% of more of your dependent’s expenses. And the best part is that one individual doesn’t even have to pay all 50%! Many people can pay into that…but, of course, only one person can claim a dependent. Everyone else has to sign a waiver.
This can create conflict. Imagine a scenario in which two siblings each pay 25%. Or where one sibling pays extra, but their parent lives with the other. The one who had their parent move in has a more direct claim to dependency, but then she also gets the tax benefits even though she pays less. Or if there is one sibling paying 30% and the other two paying 35% each, should the one get all the benefits?
How to solve it: The most important aspect here is communicating and perhaps getting professional accounting help. While it is true that one person will get the benefits, it is still possible—and even easy—to be fair. Calculate what each person is paying and split the benefits according to what each person contributes. Or agree to split deductions evenly if that is what makes everyone happy. Plan it out.
Now, the problem, of course, is that not every family trusts each other. There may need to be lawyers and contracts involved. While that is a potential solution, it’s best to try to resolve conflict with trust, communication, and love.
Understand That Your Emotions Are True
Anger. Resentment. Frustration. Guilt.
These are some of the primary emotions that often come with discussing finances, and the last one, guilt, is the most insidious. We feel guilty because it feels dirty and distasteful to think about money when a loved one is sick, struggling, even fading into the sunset. It feels tacky.
But it isn’t. Your finances are real, your life is real, and your emotions are real. Especially in the Bay Area, where living expenses are so high, you have every right to be worried about how you’re going to pay your mortgage or save for the future. For most of us, not worrying about these things would be irresponsible.
But you should also understand that other people are feeling the same way, and they aren’t wrong to do so either. They have their own concerns, and even if you think they are being irrational—even if you know that they are—in their minds, they aren’t. In their minds, they are worried, just like you.
Remember that their minds are just as clouded with grief and with guilt as yours. They are weighted with confusion and sorrow, with dreadful anticipation of the unknown.
The best advice we can give is to understand that everyone is going through hard times. Everyone is struggling to adjust to the rhythms of their new normalcy. With patience, understanding, empathy, rationality, facts, and the knowledge that you all want to do what is right for the older adults in your life, you can come to an arrangement based on fairness and love.
And that, we promise, is worth every penny.
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. Learn more about our FInancial Support Services, or connect with us today to learn more.
My grandma loved to have my cousins and me over for weekends or for whole weeks during the summer. We never called it Grandma Camp, but she used to refer to her family gathering space as Mother Goose’s Kitchen. There were times when we got to be unconditionally creative, sing and dance with abandon, and get to know each other better in the context of fun.
If you already have the grandchildren over for visits, then you already have a version of camp underway. The elements that upgrade a regular visit to Grandma Camp—also known as Cousin Camp—are special planned activities that make the experience magical and memorable. You might even choose a theme for each time you have the grandkids over and plan activities around that theme. Your adventure could be a day experience or a sleepover that connects a couple days of fun. Here are some Grandma Camp ideas all in one place to help you make the most of what intergenerational fun San Francisco has to offer.
Camp Grandma Tips and Ideas for Staying In
Don’t be afraid to do camp with the grandkids your way. If it works better for you to be laid back and initiate activities when the time is right, go for it. If you’d rather have a schedule so you know when and how to prepare for each adventure, run with that style. However you plan to structure your experience, it’s good to have a list of possible Grandma Camp activities that you know the kids will love.
Create a Movie Theater at Home
One of my kids’ favorite things to do is to have a movie night where we actually set everything up as if it were a real movie theater. We make tickets by cutting squares out of paper and drawing little buckets of popcorn on the squares. We get ready with individual bowls of popcorn and grapes or apple slices, and we choose a movie that everyone can get excited about.
This is one time I let the kids pull all of their stuffed animals out. They line them up at the entrance to our theater and put a ticket in front of each. The hype is really about all the prep and time leading up to the show. Then everyone is ready to relax and laugh together while we watch our feature presentation.
Make Mini Pizzas Together
Kids always get excited about pizza, especially when they get to be the chefs and get a bit messy! And pizzas can really be made with anything. If your grandkids are older, you can get some refrigerated pizza dough, cut it up into some smaller portions, and have the kids carefully stretch out their personal crusts. Then, they can add sauce, cheese, and other toppings—maybe some healthy greens the San Francisco way. While the pizzas bake, the kids can look in on their progress.
Or get creative with what you have at home already: tortillas and bagels are great for adding a sauce or spread and then toppings. You could even do open-faced sandwiches on bread and let the kids get creative with their fixins. You could also core an apple and slice it through the center, so you end up with thin rounds. Let the kids spread on peanut butter and top it with dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, or any other small treats. Whatever type of pizza project you do, it helps to set up workstations by spreading parchment paper on the table or counter, so it’ll be easy to clean and the kids’ masterpiece meals won’t stick.
Crafts to Open Up a World of Imagination
Planning out some crafts is always a good idea because you can collect supplies and get prepared in advance. If your grandkids’ ages vary, you may want to have a couple different craft options. When I used to play with my cousins, young and old, we would pretend that we were part of a little village market. We’d explore outdoors for interesting things and spend some time crafting. Then we would set up our artwork and neat rocks, sticks, and leaves on display. Each person would choose their storefront on this couch or in that doorway. We’d take turns walking around and looking at what others had for trade. To this day, I still use a special rock as a doorstop that my cousin drew a wolf on with charcoal because he knew I’d love it.
Usually, when you provide kids with supplies, they’ll find creative ways to turn out wonders. Used cardboard rolls from paper towel, toilet paper, or wrapping paper make great telescopes, walking sticks, and lightsabers. Empty tissue boxes become picture frames to decorate when you pull out the flimsy plastic flaps and deconstruct the box a bit. Keep an eye out for other recyclable items to save for these crafts. You can even talk to kids about the importance of reusing and recycling, and review San Francisco’s up-to-date guidelines on recycling household items. Your grandkids will love getting creative with you.
Grandma Camp San Francisco—Chart Your Adventure
Exploring San Francisco is another great way to spend the family time together, especially if you have some other adult assistance to help keep eyes on the kids while you’re out and about. I couldn’t possibly list all the great kid-friendly places and activities throughout the city, so I’ve narrowed down some of my favorites. Be sure to call ahead when you can to confirm hours, accessibility, and anything else you need to know to plan your visit. And be on the lookout for discounts for seniors and kids at these attractions.
The Bay Area Discovery Museum is on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, just outside of San Francisco. It is best for children younger than ten, and even very young children can find accessible activities. Be sure to explore the vast outdoor area for surprising and interactive fun.
The Presidio has some really beautiful, leisurely hikes that are great to do with kids. Start from the Visitor Center and try the Ecology Trail for some diverse plant and animal sightings or Lovers’ Lane for a gentle stroll.
The Cable Car Museum is a unique stop, and it’s always free! Kids will love learning about the history and the science behind cable car transit and seeing the powerhouse that still runs the existing cable car lines in the city.
The Julius Kahn Playground is a clean Parisian-style park that has recently been updated. You’ll love the easy parking, clean restrooms, and beautiful views on a clear day, and kids will love all the exciting and unusual opportunities for play.
Singalongs at the Castro Theatre are worth looking out for. They schedule different children’s movies throughout the year, and your grandkids will be enchanted by the theater’s fancy interior.
The Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 is full of mesmerizing exhibits for kids and adults if you’re willing to get mixed up with the tourists. Learn about the sea creatures off San Francisco’s coast, and then check out some of the views and other attractions around Pier 39.
The Koret Children’s Quarter Playground (also known as the Golden Gate Park Children’s Playground) is another awesome—if busy—place to visit. Thrilling concrete slides built into the hillside, a carousel, an impressive sand play area, and unique play structures keep kids occupied and active.
How Grandma Camp Activities Can Bring You Together
No matter how old we are, we all need fun to keep our minds and bodies active. Tapping into your child at heart can be rejuvenating for you, and it’s a perfect way to meet your grandkids where they’re at, have a blast, and create lasting memories. When it comes time for your Grandma Camp or Super Sleepover—or whatever you want to call it—make sure you set everything else aside and give your full attention where it counts. You and the kids will create your own favorite pastimes and activities to look forward to the next time you get together.
After my father had his stroke, I lived in rolling fear, peaking every cold and rainy spell, that he would catch pneumonia. It became almost an obsession of mine, heightened in my imagination by the cruelty of it: this strong man who took on everything in the world, being felled because his weakened immune system couldn’t fight off some bacteria.
Of course, this wasn’t an irrational worry. Pneumonia is the 8th-leading cause of death in the United States and the 4th-leading cause of death for people over 65, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. And morbidity rates increase with age: the older you are, the more susceptible you to succumb to pneumonia.
That’s why even though he didn’t end up dying from pneumonia (it was almost certainly due to this Bears game, though doctors disagree), it was good to be cautious of it. And as I learned, pneumonia isn’t just a winter thing. It is the product of a weakened immune system being unable to fight off the viruses and organisms that inflame the lungs and can happen anytime.
If you are over 65, or a loved one is, you should understand what pneumonia is, how you can catch it, and most importantly, how to prevent it. Being aware of how seniors can prevent pneumonia means that you don’t have to live in fear of it. Knowledge is the true first step toward freedom.
What is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is, simply, an infection of the lungs. It can be in one lung or both. There is no one “cause” of pneumonia, but it is a product of bacteria, viruses, or fungi invading the lungs. Whatever the specific variety, these tend to inflame the alveoli, which are the air sacs in your lungs. The alveoli then fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe, and often causing a fever.
How Do I Catch Pneumonia?
There are many pneumonia-causing strains that are contagious, especially in large groups of people. Anyone of any age can get pneumonia, but older adults are particularly vulnerable. Typically, pneumonia affects you when you have a weakened immune system, like when you have a cold or the flu.
What Are Some of the Symptoms of Pneumonia?
While the presentation of pneumonia varies, these are some of the primary symptoms:
Malaise or general lassitude
Cough (particularly with green or yellow sputum)
Shortness of breath
The problem here is that many of those are also symptoms of a cold and flu, and it can be difficult to determine whether those symptoms are truly pneumonia-related. But there are a few ways to tell, especially in older adults. Older adults tend to become more confused when they have pneumonia (as opposed to a cold). People with pneumonia also tend to experience more pain and more difficulty breathing, and, for reasons not entirely clear, older adults are less likely to have a fever.
If you are experiencing these symptoms without a fever or if symptoms persist, seek medical attention right away. A simple diagnostic test can determine if you have pneumonia, and diagnosis can be confirmed via chest X-ray or CT scan.
Why Are Seniors More Susceptible to Pneumonia?
This is a twofold question. We have to ask both
Why do older adults tend to get pneumonia more?
Why is there increased morbidity and mortality rates for older adults?
The first is due to lower overall health, generally. More time in hospitals, more infections, and more time around people who potentially have pneumonia add up to increased susceptibility. One problem is that weaker lungs have trouble expelling the germs that cause pneumonia. If a healthy younger person and a less-healthy older adult are both exposed, the younger person might expel the germs before they cause any trouble.
This also explains the increased mortality rates amongst older adults with pneumonia. As breathing becomes harder, it becomes more and more difficult to expel fluid, which keeps making breathing more difficult. It is a sad cycle. Additionally, the effort the body expends in clearing the lungs and fighting the virus weakens other areas, which is why we often hear about other types of organ failure (particularly in the GI tract) arising as a complication from pneumonia.
How Can Seniors Prevent Pneumonia?
Great question! Much like there is no one cause, there is no hard and fast way to completely avoid pneumonia. But there are steps you can take to lessen your chances of catching it.
Immunization. There are a few different vaccines for different age groups, and they are taken at different times. I’m not a doctor, so I’ll defer to the CDC, who says adults over 65 should get “a dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) first. Then get a dose of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) at least 1 year later.” But of course, check with your doctor. Even if immunization doesn’t completely prevent pneumonia every time, it can greatly lessen its severity.
Be aware of other sick people. It’s a fact of life that if you are susceptible to infection, you should avoid the infected. Grandparents with pneumonia should avoid seeing their infant grandchildren while they are infectious, and vice-versa. Also be careful in larger groups of older adults.
Hygiene. So much of life comes down to good hygiene, and this is no exception. Wash your hands frequently to help prevent colds and flus that can lead to pneumonia. And practice good oral health as well; tooth and gum infections can open the door to lung infections.
Stop smoking. This can’t be emphasized enough. Strong lungs fight pneumonia. Weak ones succumb to it. You can’t prevent every cause of weakness, but you don’t have to deliberately weaken them, either. Rates of pneumonia and its severity skyrocket for smokers.
Better overall health. Practice good nutrition habits. Exercise. Practice essential health tips like being social, staying active, and doing what you love. Pneumonia is a sickness, but it is usually caused by other illnesses. It latches onto illnesses or infections, making its way into your body. Living healthily can help close that door.
Pneumonia is scary. It attacks our most essential physical need, making each breath more and more difficult. It’s a drowning weight, and there’s a reason why I was so afraid of it.
But it isn’t all-powerful. Even among older adults, the right practices can help lessen pneumonia’s unwelcome occurrence and its uninvited outcomes. Doing so can help you live the life you want, filled with exploration and adventure, with friendship and rich, easy laughter.
It means going out and inhaling deeply all life still has to offer.
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.
Being a caregiver for an aging or disabled loved one takes an incredible amount of strength. It takes strength to physically support them, to offer encouragement and positive perspective, to always be thinking ahead to their needs and strategizing better ways to live and thrive. But where does all that strength come from?
Some of it comes from our own unconditional dedication to serving and improving the quality of life for these individuals. But our energy for physical tasks, positivity, and emotional resilience is not a bottomless well. If we don’t commit to caring for the caregiver and being realistic about our own needs, our well will run dry. With a shift in perspective and a healthy dose of self-care, we can revitalize ourselves and our caregiving at the same time.
Accepting and Caring for the Caregiver’s Needs
There’s nothing wrong with needing to take a break, needing to lean on someone else for a change, and needing to shift the focus from the other to the self. It’s easy to feel as if our identities are wrapped up in caregiving, but caregiving is what we do—it’s not who we are.
Take a moment to ask yourself, “Who am I if I’m not a caregiver?” To give the proper attention to this important question, write your answers down—even if you don’t feel that you can answer the question directly.
. . .
Generally, our lives are made up of relationships, interests, responsibilities, and deeper purpose and passion. Ideally, these aspects give back to us as much as we give to them. But if you’ve lost touch with one or more of these aspects over time, or if the scales have tipped so that you’re giving more than you are being filled and energized, it’s time to stop and evaluate your situation.
There is no shame in taking care of yourself. In fact, it’s what is best for everyone. The first step to caring for the caregiver is acceptance. Open up to your needs because they are a reality, but also because you deserve compassion and care just like your aging loved one does. Once you develop that acceptance, transformation can happen toward overall wellness and better quality of life for you and the one in your care.
Transforming Caregiver Stress and Fatigue
If you’re exhausted and stressed out as a caregiver, there are ways to turn things around and start re-gaining and sustaining your strength. But if you keep going this way on limited reserves, you could be headed toward even greater physical, mental, and emotional strain. It’s time to turn your attention to those relationships, interests, activities, healthy lifestyle practices, and support networks that can help you find balance again and take care of you.
Review what you have written down in response to the question posed above. Can you determine some of the missing pieces of your life’s puzzle right now? Are there ways you used to see yourself that you can no longer see now? Are there things you used to love that are no longer part of your life? Here are some ideas for how to revive your well-being and get you back on track.
Talk about your experiences. Similar to the practice of writing down your reflections here and gaining clarity, talking about your experiences and sharing your feelings with others can help to ground you in those experiences. If it feels as if your friends cannot relate to the stressors you experience as a caregiver, try connecting to caregiver support groups to give you a place to express yourself and reflect in understanding, compassionate company. You can find support groups online and groups in-person near you. You can also meet individually with a counselor, who can empower you to strengthen your self-understanding and personal development. Caregiver family therapy can also be a wonderful way of giving voice to your experiences and forging a healthier path for the future.
Take time for yourself. Let’s repeat that the first important step toward self-care is accepting that it is a priority. Sometimes what we need is to be able to step away from the many responsibilities of caregiving so that we can bring our own needs into view. Developing a comprehensive respite care plan can help pave the way for much-needed breaks. Maybe you need the time to take care of errands and other personal or family responsibilities. Perhaps you need an opportunity to stop doing and remember how to just be. One unique way to tune back into who you are is with a guided yoga practice designed with caregivers in mind.
Reconnect with friends and family. It is common for caregivers to lose touch with friends and other support networks when their responsibilities seem to draw all the focus. But just as our aging loved ones need socialization, so do caregivers. If you’ve fallen out of touch with some of your relationships in the midst of caregiver stress and burnout, now may be the perfect time to call someone up and reconnect. Consider personal socialization to be a regular weekly need so that loneliness and isolation do not become additional burdens on you.
Ask for help. None of us have to do it alone. It can be hard to ask for help and share some of the caregiving weight with another, but it is a critical step for your well-being and for the overall health of the caregiving relationship. Assistance might come in the form of cooked meals, occasional respite care, a social day program for your loved one to enjoy, wide-ranging family support, or care management and other expert assistance at home.
Loving and Caring for Ourselves Actively
If you’re still not quite sure how to approach your self-care, take a caregiver stress test to gain some more compassionate awareness. We know that actions toward self-care are much easier said than done, but those empowering actions can start right now by understanding and accepting of your own priorities in life. Transforming your needs and your perspective will allow you to be your best self personally and professionally. Remember that you don’t have to be strong alone.
To watch movies, or TV, or even just glance at commercials, or really interact in any way at all with pop culture, you’d think Valentine’s Day was just a celebration of new, young love. Cupid shoots an arrow, and—bam! True love, as fresh as the melting spring.
And while we here at IOA are certainly in favor of young love, we know that the idea that romance and romantic times are the sole property of the young is cruel, degrading, and truly harmful. Whether you have been married for 50 years or are meeting someone new, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of your love.
So while not every moment can be romantic, some certainly can be. And Valentine’s Day, especially in a region as cinematic and lush as San Francisco and the Bay Area, can be a beautiful celebration of love, no matter where you are in life.
So we want you to enjoy this Valentine’s Day with the person or the people you love. There doesn’t have to be a heart-shaped box of expectations: do this the way you enjoy most.
But as a kickstarter, here are some Valentine’s Day ideas for older adults in the Bay Area. We can’t wait to hear how you celebrated.
9 Great Bay Area Valentine’s Day Ideas for Older Adults
Spend the day with family and friends. We certainly recognize that not everyone is in a relationship, nor do we think everyone should be. But love is love, whether you are with your sweetheart or with the family and friends who make you happy to be with. Go to brunch, cook dinner, go for a picnic if the weather permits. And always remember: not being in a relationship never means that you are alone. Celebrate with all the love you have in life.
Sock Hop at the Presidio Officers Club. The most historic building in San Francisco is having itself a throwback shindig with a sock hop on February 10th, from 7-10. Free admittance, live music, throwback cocktails, and as much dancing as you can handle. Register now for some 1950s romance.
San Francisco Bay Cruise. What’s better than an intimate 4-course dinner over Valentine’s Day weekend? How about that dinner as you watch the jaw-dropping SF skyline sail by from a luxurious boat on the Bay? Departing from Embarcadero, these 3-hr cruises also offer live entertainment and dancing.
Salsa Festival. Starting on February 15th, this 4-day festival at the Whitcomb Hotel showcases “social dancing, world-class performances and shows, music from acclaimed bands and DJs, workshops and classes for all dance levels with top instructors, a beginner boot camp, educational lectures and late night parties in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world.” Shake your way to a romantic weekend, or just enjoy the hot thrill of some of the world’s greatest dancers.
Classic Romantic Movie. Casablanca. It Happened One Night. The Philadelphia Story. Pillow Talk. Maybe you don’t feel like going out. Maybe you want to stay in and watch a great romantic movie. The Big Sick. Talk To Her. That’s a wonderful idea. When the music swells, and they kiss, your heart is guaranteed to grow 12 sizes. Before Sunrise. The Way We Were. Have we given you any ideas?
Cupid’s Undie Run. This is the opposite of staying in. On Saturday, February 17th, starting at Pedro’s Cantina, there is a charity fun run…in your underwear. Accompanied by a party, this very short run raises money to find a cure for Neurofibromatosis. It’s a good cause and an adventure. So you can spend the weekend helping children while getting exercise or just watching people be goofy. It might be something you never thought you’d do, but there’s always time for the first time.
Wine Tasting. Granted, there are ways to have fun without running/stripping down. February 17th is also the day of the Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting Festival, at Fort Mason on the Bay. Taste from some of the best vintages judged by 63 of the top wine experts in America. It’s a way to clink glasses without paying top dollars. And what’s more romantic than wine?
A Walk in Golden Gate Park. OK, a walk in the park might be more romantic than wine, especially one as wind-swept and historic and cinematic as Golden Gate Park. We didn’t list Vertigo in our romantic movie list, for obvious reasons, but we know that you’ll feel incredibly romantic standing at the spot where earth meets sea and where man’s towering works meet nature’s roaring beauty. It’s impossible not to.
Bridgewatch. Valentine’s Day isn’t happy for everyone. For many people, the expectations of love amplify feelings of loneliness, which is why suicide attempts tend to spike on the holiday. Thankfully, groups like Bridgewatch organize volunteers to talk to and befriend people on the Golden Gate Bridge, preventing a senseless loss of life. At IOA, we know that the offer of friendship, even (maybe especially) from a stranger, can make all the difference. It’s why we run our Friendship Hotline, and why we feel programs like Bridgewatch can make a huge difference. Is it romantic? No—but it is the heart of love.
Love Makes The World Go Round
What is the heart of love? Is it romance between two people? Is it deep and abiding friendship? Is it the warmth you feel with your group of confidantes, with your family members, with the people who know you the best? Can love be found in the laughter of shared long-running jokes, or the first breath shared by new lovers?
Is love reaching out to someone in pain, someone who is lonely, and saying, “I am with you”?
We think it is all of these things, and so much more. Love is what we celebrate at IOA. Love for each other, love for the world, love for our community, and the love of continuing this journey of life. Whether you are journeying while holding someone’s hand or embraced in a group hug, we celebrate you this Valentine’s Day. This and every other day.
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.
Karen was a little concerned. At 72, she was starting to realize that living on a fixed income was tough. Not wanting to spend the rest of her life worrying about finances and struggling to get by, she decided to look for part-time work. But after a few months of looking, she still hadn’t found the right fit and feared that with her limited mobility she wouldn’t be able to find her footing in the modern workforce.
Karen’s situation is by no means unique. In fact, many aging adults find themselves looking for work years after retirement in order to get by. Unfortunately, it can be intimidating to return to a traditional workplace. Luckily, there are a number of ways that aging adults can increase their cash flow while doing things that they actually enjoy. If you are concerned about your aging loved one’s finances and are wondering how seniors can make extra money, let’s look at some out-of-the-box ideas that are definitely worth exploring.
How Seniors Can Make Extra Money Doing What They Love
Making money later in life doesn’t have to mean that your loved one has to do a job they dislike. It’s possible to earn some extra cash doing things that make them happy while making use of their unique set of skills. Finding what that is, however, may take a little creative thinking.
Below are just a few fun and fulfilling ways that seniors can make extra money:
Enter the online marketplace: Selling personal belongings that your aging loved one no longer wants or needs can be an easy way to earn some extra cash. Help them sort through their belongings and take pictures of items they want to sell, such as furniture, jewelry, art, books, or dishes, and show them how to post it in an online marketplace such as Craigslist or eBay.
Work with kids: There are so many casual employment opportunities out there working with kids, from tutoring to babysitting. Help your aging loved one put up ads in places where you know parents will see them (at pools, recreation centers, cafes, libraries) stating their availability and the services they are willing to offer. Posting a brief ad on Craigslist or Care.com may also be a good idea.
Become a companion: There are many aging adults out there who don’t have many friends or family left in their life and are looking for someone to keep them company and do some minor non-medical care tasks. It could be as simple as taking them out for activities during the day, or even just going over to their home, making them lunch, reading to them, or playing games with them. Many families would be very happy to pay someone to spend time with their aging loved one. If your loved one is able-bodied and has a means of transport, this could be a great option.
Pet sit: If your aging loved one has a love of animals, pet sitting could be the perfect way to make a little extra cash. Friends and neighbors may even want their dogs to be taken for walks or let out during the day while they are at work. In addition to making money, spending time with animals is very therapeutic. It will get your loved one outdoors and give them something to nurture and care for. Again, Craigslist ads and posters are great ways to spread the word.
Get Crafty: Is there something your loved one excels at making? Perhaps they knit beautiful scarves or make amazing needlepoint art. Whatever it is, encourage them to sell their products at local craft fairs, small shops, or even online through Etsy or Craigslist.
Cook for Others: If your loved one is a whiz at baking or cooking, talk to them about creating a product and selling it at community events or at a local farmer’s market. Even just spreading the word to friends and family can drum up some business. Your loved one could also prepare meals for others as a way to make some extra cash if they love to cook. Just make sure to look into whether or not your loved one will need to obtain a food safety certificate, as this will vary from state to state and depend on where and how much they are selling.
Not only will the above ideas provide your aging loved one with some extra money, they’ll also keep them busy, active, and social, which are all important to healthy aging. And who knows, your loved one could even discover a new passion in the process!
Maximizing Cash Flow: Simple Tips and Tricks
Of course, apart from finding ways to make money, it’s important to make sure that your aging loved one takes advantage of opportunities to save money. Asking for senior discounts can be a great way to save a significant amount of cash. Places like restaurants, grocery stores, clothing shops, and hotels will often offer discounts for those over 55. Becoming a member of American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) or American Seniors Association (ASA) can get your loved one even more discounts and deals.
It’s also a good idea to help your aging loved one make sure that their bank accounts and/or investments are optimized. Make an appointment with their bank and go through all of their accounts to make sure that you are getting the best interest rates possible, and set up a meeting with their financial advisor to talk about the status of their investments. You may also want to consider getting your loved one on a money management program that will help them with budgeting, negotiating with creditors, and maximizing tax returns.
In the end, Karen decided to tutor kids and teens in her neighborhood in Spanish, her native language. Not only did she derive so much joy from spending time with young people, she was also engaging her mind in new ways. The best part was that she was able to tutor from the comfort of her own home, so her limited mobility wasn’t a problem at all. And while making extra cash had been the driving force behind the tutoring, she loved it so much that she almost couldn’t believe she was getting paid for it. At age 72, she really felt like she’d found her calling.
At Institute on Aging, we offer a variety of resources to aging adults so that they can live healthy, happy, fulfilled lives. To learn more about our diverse services, contact us today.
Leona was worried about her mother. At 85 years old, Marie was had just lost her husband, George, of 60 years. Since George’s death, Leona noticed a marked difference in her mother’s demeanor. Once a very bubbly, chatty, and enthusiastic woman, it was as though Marie’s zest for life had disappeared.
Marie spent her days flipping through old photo albums of her husband and staring blankly out the living room window in her San Francisco Bay home—a home she’d soon have to sell to relocate to a smaller place. On most days when Leona would stop in to check up on her mother after work, Marie hadn’t gotten dressed or had anything to eat.
Of course, Leona wanted to help her mother navigate the process of grieving, but she was dealing with a lot of grief herself after losing her father and didn’t feel she was equipped to help her mother in the way she needed it. Leona had been seeing a counselor to help work through some of her emotions and it helped her immensely. Perhaps, she thought, Marie could benefit from counseling too.
When Leona presented the idea to Marie, she was resistant. She had no interest in leaving the house, let alone talking to a stranger. But after a few weeks of back and forth, Marie finally agreed to go to therapy.
Counseling can be an incredibly powerful experience for aging adults who are struggling mentally and emotionally, whether it’s due to the loss of a loved one, the challenges and realities of aging, or social isolation. But with the abundance of senior counseling services here in San Francisco, it can be difficult to know which type of therapy and counselor would be best suited for your aging loved. So, in hopes of trying to help make the search for support a bit easier for you, let’s take a look at some of the features of various types of therapy available in San Francisco and explore some ways to help you and your loved one find the right counselor.
The Many Therapeutic Options for Your Aging Loved One
Anyone who has googled information about therapy and counseling knows that there are many different types of therapy. And while it is great that there is such a variety of different approaches, it can make it difficult to know which is the right fit for you or your loved one.
Generally speaking, the type of therapy to seek out for your aging loved one partially depends on the issues they face. Let’s look at some of the mental and emotional health challenges commonly experienced by aging adults and the types of corresponding therapy that are often used as treatment:
Loss of a spouse/loved one: As we saw with Marie, losing a spouse can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, the loss of a spouse not only comes with a significant amount of grief and sadness, it can also bring about major lifestyle changes for the remaining partner, such as relocating to another home. Bereavement therapy can be extremely effective for aging adults in this situation as it helps them move through feelings of grief and loneliness and cope with significant changes in their lives.
Physical pain or decreased mobility: We usually think of the physical body and our mind as separate entities, but it turns out that therapy can actually help aging adults with managing physical discomfort and adjusting to their aging bodies. Pain management therapy supplements or replaces medication and incorporates mind-body techniques that effectively reduce physical pain associated with aging. It also helps people cope with the emotional effects of physical pain and physical limitations.
Insomnia or sleep disturbances: Many adults deal with insomnia or sleep disturbances. While medication can be effective, it often comes with a number of side effects, such as drowsiness, impaired memory, and loss of balance that puts aging adults at a higher risk for dangerous falls. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be extremely effective for the treatment of insomnia by employing relaxation training, stimulus control, and sleep hygiene education to help aging adults sleep.
Stress/Depression associated with aging: Chronic stress and or depression are not uncommon for aging adults to experience. Retirement, social isolation, and illness are only a few factors that contribute to the development of depression in aging adults. Problem-solving therapy, supportive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy are commonly used to help aging adults come to terms with and adapt to their new realities or stressors in their lives. These types of therapies may also address issues of self-esteem and self-worth and help replace negative thoughts and behaviors with more productive, positive ones.
There are, of course, a number of other issues that aging adults face and a plethora of therapies out there. The above-mentioned therapies, however, give you a place to start when it comes to narrowing down the search for seniors counseling services in San Francisco.
Finding the Right Senior Counseling Services in San Francisco
Although it can be useful to get familiar with the different types of therapy available to your loved one, finding the right therapist is important too. In fact, many studies show that the client/therapist relationship (or therapeutic alliance) is just as critical, if not more critical, to the outcome of therapy than the specific techniques used.
Here is a list of key things to look for that will help you narrow down your search for a counselor in San Francisco:
Someone who specializes in working with older adults. Finding a San Francisco-based counselor who has a great deal of experience working with aging adults is essential. Not only will they be more familiar with many of the unique struggles that aging adults face, they’ll be well-versed in the current research on seniors mental health.
Proximity to your loved one’s home. Finding a therapist close to your loved one’s home can make it easier for them to engage in treatment. Some counselors who work with aging adults will actually come to their homes. This is especially helpful if your aging loved one has mobility issues or don’t have access to transportation. In fact, having the session at home can actually help increase the comfort level of your loved one.
A flexible therapist. Finding a counselor who has experience working with a variety of therapeutic techniques, rather than dogmatically adhering to one, can be extremely beneficial to your aging loved one. And while it is important to have a general idea of the type of the above types of therapy, it is ultimately up to the counselor to figure out what techniques would be best suited to your loved one. Keep in mind that this could mean that they fuse a variety of techniques to create a multidimensional approach tailored to your loved one’s needs.
Affordability. Therapy can be quite expensive, typically ranging between $140 and $200 a session. If your loved one is on a fixed income, it’s a good idea to seek out services that offer reduced rates for aging adults. Institute on Aging’s psychotherapy services, for instance, offers an affordable rate of $50 a session. You’ll also want to check your loved one’s health insurance plan to see if they qualify for complete or partial coverage for mental health services.
It took Marie and Leona a few tries to find a counselor that Marie was comfortable with, but eventually, they found a good fit. In time, Marie was able to work through a lot of the grief she felt and together with her counselor came up with some strategies for combating loneliness and coping with selling her family home. And while none of it was easy, she finally started to feel a sense of peace with her new reality and a glimmer of hope for her future.
Institute on Aging offers a variety of resources for aging adults in the Bay Area, including accessible and affordable mental health services for aging adults. To learn more, contact us today.
Larry had always hated the cold. Every year when winter rolled around he avoided the outdoors as much as possible, opting to stay in his condo with the heat cranked up so he wouldn’t have to feel the damp, penetrating chill of the San Francisco air.
Larry’s tendency to hibernate in the winter became greater as he got older. Eventually, he realized that it wasn’t just the cold that was so hard on him. His lack of physical activity was taking a toll on his body and mind as well.
Larry’s experience isn’t uncommon. Many seniors struggle to stay active throughout the year, but the winter months make it even more difficult. For many, the darker days tend to increase fatigue, the cold can cause arthritic pain to flair, and the rain and snow can keep one indoors, making it harder to engage in movement. Unfortunately, inactivity can have a significant impact on our well being—both physically and mentally. That’s why it is so important for seniors to keep moving all year long.
If your aging loved one has the tendency to be sedentary in the colder months, we’re going to share some of our best tips for how to stay active in the winter as a senior so that they can feel their best all year.
The Importance of Physical Activity for Seniors
At the end of each winter, Larry typically felt weak and drained. He attributed the feeling to the cold weather and the grey skies, but in actuality, his physical symptoms were mostly a consequence of his lack of inactivity. While exercise and movement are important for people of all ages, it is especially important for aging adults.
Engaging in regular physical activity helps aging adults maintain healthy muscle mass and bone density. This is a significant factor in effectively preventing dangerous falls and subsequent fractures or broken bones, making it safer for aging adults to live alone. Regular physical activity can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure. And although arthritic pain tends to increase in the winter for many aging adults, exercise can actually help to decrease this pain by lubricating joints.
Of course, the positive effects of physical activity for older adults don’t stop at the physical body. It is well-known that exercise can significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Furthermore, several studies also confirm that regular exercise can help prevent cognitive decline, making activity all the more important for aging adults susceptible to Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss. In short, the benefits of exercise for older adults are incredible.
Tips for How to Stay Active in the Winter as a Senior
As you can see, aging adults can reap many benefits by engaging in regular physical activity. Unfortunately, the winter does make it tougher to stay active. Whether it’s the icy sidewalk or the persistent rain that is preventing your loved one from getting out and being active, here are some tips for overcoming the obstacles to exercise in the winter:
Join a gym: Gyms are great places to get some exercise in the winter if it is too chilly outside. Many gyms offer senior discounts on memberships, as well as workout classes specifically for aging adults, like water aerobics or yoga. Encourage your loved one to take advantage of what is available to them. Community and recreation centers often also offer exercise groups for seniors, and they may be less intimidating than the gym. Either way, getting out of the house, staying active, and engaging with other people will inevitably have a positive effect on your loved one’s well-being.
Exercise at home: While getting out of the house and interacting with others is a great idea, there’s a lot that aging adults can do in the comfort of their own homes when it comes to exercise. Exercises that help older adults improve balance, for instance, often require no equipment and can be done easily on one’s own. It also may be a good idea to get a pair of light free weights for your aging loved one and encourage them to get into the habit of carving out a piece of their day for a little lifting session—they can even do it while they are watching TV!
Layer up: The winter chill is especially hard for older adults because their bodies generally produce less heat. If they love going for outdoor walks but struggle with the cold, look for a pair of thermal long underwear or a down winter coat to help keep them toasty. You could also suggest that they try drinking a cup of hot tea to warm them up before they go out. Just make sure that your loved one isn’t going outside when it is very icy or slippery.
Do something fun: Exercise doesn’t always need to be intentional to be effective. There is a whole host of activities for your loved one to engage in that double as fun senior exercises. If your aging loved one loves to garden, help them find an indoor garden or greenhouse to volunteer at a few times a week. Grocery shopping and house cleaning are also great, gentle forms of activity.
While it can be tough to exercise during the winter months, these tips can make it a lot easier for your aging loved one to keep their activity levels up year-round. Of course, always keep safety in mind—if your aging loved one experiences mobility issues, be sure that they always have a family member or caregiver present to supervise them during exercise.
After some encouragement from his daughter, Larry decided to attend weekly Tai Chi classes for seniors at his local community club. Not only did he start feeling much better physically, he noticed that his mood improved as well. Larry even made a few new friends in his class whom he started meeting for coffee on a regular basis. Perhaps winter wasn’t so bad after all.
At Institute on Aging, we strive to make it possible for aging adults to live comfortably, safely, and independently in their homes. For more information on our programs and services, contact us today.
As we begin a new year, caregivers for older loved ones have a lot on their plates. You are facing another year with resolve and determination, with courage and with love, and with a plan to care both for your loved one and for yourself. This is what is on your mind. What might not be on your mind is taxes. But as you get ready to file in a couple months, it is a great idea to look back on 2017 and find out exactly what you can deduct due to your role as a caregiver.
There’s no doubt that being a caregiver for a loved one (that is, a non-professional caregiver) can be draining financially. Many people who are caregivers have to either take on the finances of their loved ones, stop working or cut down on hours in order to help, or both. Regardless of your situation, a little bit more money in your pocket never hurts. The state recognizes that: there are many tax deductions, exemptions, and benefits for caregivers, which means that this April might not, in fact, be the cruelest month.
So when it comes time to prepare, find out what benefits you have accrued, and take advantage of them. Not only will they be helpful to you and your loved one, but you deserve them. Through your work, your sacrifice, your determination, and your love, you have earned them.
A Brief Note About Financial Advice
When it comes to finances, especially when it comes to taxes, there are no easy answers, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What we are doing in this article is listing a few common items that can potentially be deducted.
But keep in mind that every situation is different, and you can’t just assume. None of this below should be construed as financial advice or legal guidance. Always talk to your tax preparer and work with them.
(In addition, all of this information is accurate for 2017. Like everyone else, we have no idea what the new tax bill will mean. This is still a good starting place, though.)
If you have questions, please look into our Personal Financial Management Services. We can help you talk to experts and people who know tax laws. They can provide guidance and support. While this list will help you compile possibilities, you need a pro for actuarial actualities.
Potential Tax Deductions for Older Adult Caregivers
The first thing that you need to establish is if your loved one technically counts as a dependent. If they do, and you claim them, you are already eligible for a good-sized deduction, especially since not only do you have a new claim, but you are bumped to Head of Household status (even if you live in a different house). This could be a difference of thousands of dollars.
There are a few qualifications for an older loved one to qualify as a dependent.
They have to be a legal resident of the United States, Mexico, or Canada.
You pay more than 50% of their living expenses. These expenses can include: Medical, Dental, Clothing, Rent/Mortgage, Transportation, Food and a few others.
Their own taxable income can’t exceed the cutoff for that year. In 2017, the cutoff is $4,050. Social Security is tax exempt if a single filer reports under $25,000 of taxable income or $32,000 for filing jointly.
Older adult doesn’t file a joint return.
While often the dependent loved one is a parent, this isn’t always the case. An aunt or uncle, brother or sister, or even a friend can be a dependent if they meet all the above requirements AND they have lived with you for no less than six months.
Another stipulation is that you don’t have to pay 50% by yourself- you can split is among family members. Only one person can claim a dependent, but in order to claim while not paying 50%, anyone who pays 10% or more has to fill out their own Multiple Support Declaration waiving their right to a claim. This will obviously necessitate discussions with family members.
Dependent Care Credit
If your loved one doesn’t qualify as a dependent because their own taxable income is too high or for other reasons, you may still qualify for the Dependent Care Credit. In order to be eligible, your loved one must live with you and you must hire a caregiver so that you yourself can work.
Be aware that this is more complicated than claiming your loved one as a dependent. Be sure to talk to an expert.
Deductible Medical Expenses
In addition to the immediate deductions, you are also eligible to deduct the cost of over 100 items, from medicine to wigs, that you pay for your loved one. Who specifically qualifies for this varies based on situation—they don’t necessarily have to be a legal dependent. Be sure to discuss this with your tax professional.
These potential deductions are outlined in IRS Form 502, and here is but a smattering.
Remember that you can also deduct many long-term healthcare costs for the chronically ill.
I’ve often heard caregiving described as a “long road”, and it is a journey, one whose end is both certain and unpredictable. But it also involves actually being on the road a lot. You drive from appointment to appointment, to the store and back, to various doctors and therapies and meetups with friends and graffiti classes (ok, that last one is our fault).
That puts a lot of wear and tear on your car. Luckily, you can deduct a lot of expenses for transportation primarily related to medical care (same caveats as medical expenses apply). This can include:
Public transportation (key in the Bay Area)
Transportation for nurses, doctors, therapists, and other professionals (if patient is unable to travel)
This is a good spot to note that you can also deduct travel expenses of going to see a relative suffering mental illness, as visitation is a recognized form of therapy and care.
Whether repairs and upgrades are in your home or your loved one’s home, you can potentially deduct them if they are medically beneficial to your older loved one (getting a new grill doesn’t count, even if you cook veggies on it).
There are many ways, big and small, that you can upgrade and retrofit a home to make it safer and more comfortable for your loved one. We’ve written severalarticles about it, but know that all of these can be deducted:
Grab bars in the bathroom or other rooms
Better wheelchair and walker accessibility (wider doors)
Smart home technology
Addition by Deduction
There’s no doubt that being a caregiver for an aging loved one can be a challenge. It will be beautiful and rewarding, and the time you spend could be some of the best time of your life. But there are considerations, and there are burdens.
Understanding the tax benefits of your caregiving can help to ease some of the financial burdens and the real emotional stress that can come with them.
A mind with less stress has more room for love and more room for adventure. You can be a better caregiver if some of your financial concerns are lessened, and that is good for everyone.
These aren’t a cure-all, but knowing what you are eligible for—knowing what you, in every sense of the word, have earned—can make things easier.
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.