Teach us how to care! People getting older is not a crisis, it’s a blessing

At both poles of human life – caring for one another is what we do and that is part of our humanity.” Ira Brock Hospice care Physician

My mother cared for both of our grandparents in our home when I was a little girl.  I cared for my children as they were born, and my husband when he had open heart surgery.  I cared for my mother when she was transitioning from this life to the next.

Two of my daughters work full time in caring types of jobs, they have teenage sons, and their mother-in-laws are in their 90’s,  living independently, but needing assistance. Their lives are filled with caring for their teenagers,  tending to the needs of their mother-in-laws, and providing care to others in their work.  Their experience is no different from millions of families in the United States.

  • There are 5 million Americans over age 85, which is our country’s fastest-growing demographic. In 2035 that number will be 11.5 million.
  • Four (4) million of us will turn 65 this year.
  • One hundred years ago, 3% of the population was age 65 or older.   Today more than 14% are over 65, and by 2030 the number will be 20%.
  • We have more senior citizens in America today than we’ve had at any time in our history!

Despite these daunting numbers, Ai-Jen Poo, a thought leader, and social activist, in her 2016 book, “Age of Dignity, preparing for the elder boom in a changing America, outlines a roadmap for the opportunity to   become a more caring Nation.

This is an opportunity to strengthen our intergenerational and caregiving relationships.

  • Care is something we do.
  • Care is something we want.
  • Care is something we can improve.
  • But more than anything Care is the solution to the personal and economic challenges we face in this country.
  • Care doesn’t just heal or comfort people individually;  it really is going to save us all!

What seems like an immense challenge is actually an incredible opportunity to transform the three million direct care caregiving jobs to good sustainable jobs for the 21st century –  to jobs that each person takes pride in with joy in service.

  • It is also the opportunity to make sure that our work and family care policies reflect the needs of families.
  • It is an opportunity to make sure that our loved ones that took care of us actually have the choices they deserve – to live with dignity, giving each person the opportunity to continue to teach us how to care.
  • We have the opportunity to create solutions that uplift the future of us all.

“People getting older is not a crisis.  It is a blessing”  Ai-Jen Poo says. Watch this short 3-minute video, and it may inspire you to get her book and learn more, as I did.


 


About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

World Elder Abuse Recognition Day 6/15/2017

“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.” ― Tia Walker

Watch the short video below, and share this with others.  Caring about one another is what makes us human!

The taboo topic of elder abuse has started to gain visibility across the world.  It remains one of the least investigated types of violence in national surveys, and one of the least addressed in national and international action plans.

The 2017 World Elder Abuse Recognition Day (WEAAD) theme will explore effective means of strengthening protections against financial and material exploitation and ending victimization around the world. Exploitation takes many forms.

  • In developed countries, the abuse often encompasses theft, forgery, misuse of property and power of attorney, as well as denying access to funds.
  • The overwhelming majority of financial exploitation in less developed countries includes accusations of witchcraft that are used to justify property grabbing, ejection from homes of and denial of family inheritance to widows.

Elder abuse is a ‘silent condition.’  Although there are many statistics stated, no one knows exactly how many of our nation’s elders are being exploited, neglected or abused.  Evidence suggests that much abuse is not reported because often the elder does not report or because the general public is not educated about the signs of elder abuse.

  • About 90 percent of perpetrators of elder abuse are family members, including spouses, adult children, partners and other relatives. The incidence of abuse is higher if the family member suffers from drug or alcohol abuse, have some type of mental illness, or feel burdened by the care of their loved ones.
  • Only about one out of every 14 incidents of elder abuse (including self-neglect) in domestic settings actually come to the attention of local or state authorities.
  • Significant financial exploitation occurs at a rate of about 41 out of every 1,000 individuals surveyed in the US. This was higher than the rates of neglect as well as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
  • Only one out of every 25 cases of financial exploitation are reported. These unreported incidents would increase the amount to 5 million victims of financial exploitation per year in the United States.

It is our responsibility to protect the precious lives of vulnerable elder adults in our communities.  If the elder lives in Senior Housing, those working there are mandated to report to the state authorities, and/or the police.

Abuse comes in many forms:

  • Physical: causing physical pain or injury
  • Emotional: verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, and intimidation
  • Neglect: failure to provide necessities, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care or a safe environment
  • Confinement: restraining or isolating the person
  • Financial: the misuse or withholding of the person’s financial resources (money, property) to his or her disadvantage or the advantage of someone else
  • Sexual abuse: touching, fondling or any sexual activity when the person is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened or physically forced
  • Willful deprivation: willfully denying the person medication, medical care, food, shelter or physical assistance, and thereby exposing the individual with Alzheimer’s to the risk of physical, mental or emotional harm
  • Self-neglect: Due to lack of insight and cognitive changes, a person with cognitive challenges may be unable to safely and adequately provide for day-to-day needs, and may be at risk for harm, falls, wandering and/or malnutrition.

Let us take care of the children,
for they have a long way to go.

Let us take care of the elders,
for they have come a long way.

Let us take care of the in-between,
for they are doing the work.

—African Prayer


About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

Thanks Dad – my Elder Guide! (Father’s day June 18)

My father, Samuel Russell Harris,  died when I was 27 years old.  Even today I still miss him. He was an eternal optimist! We didn’t have much as a child, but my Dad always encouraged us to turn tough times into an adventure of learning and joy in even the smallest of trials.

I remember when we were getting close to payday and were deciding about what to prepare from our meager cupboards, he joked, “Let’s pick some dandelions, and have them for dinner, and then we can tell the story someday about how we survived on dandelion greens!”   Little did he know that today we would be buying dandelions at Whole Foods as a nutritious green food!

My dad was an advocate of the power of positive thinking.  When I was a little girl he began reading to me from Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, first published in 1952, and also read to me from Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence people, written in 1936, and other writers of the era such as Napoleon Hill, Thoreau, and Hemingway.  Dad wrote poetry and kept a daily journal.  He told me,  growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, that no matter what society dictated as limitations, I could do good and make a difference in the world if my heart so desired.

My dad only had an 8th-grade education.  He had a traumatic brain injury at age 15 when hit by a car and in a coma for 4 months.  Despite his hard start in life, my dad was one of the smartest men I have ever known. When asked what he did for a living Dad laughed and responded, “I am a  jack of all trades.

To me, Dad was my elder-guide.  He was self-educated, a poet, a philosopher, a dreamer, and an adventurer.  I am grateful that, as my elder-guide, he prepared me to approach life’s ups and downs with hope and inspiration. I am honored to be his daughter carrying his spirit of curiosity, optimism, and adventure on my life journey too.

I recognize that a father is not always defined by their genetic association with a child.  I respect and appreciate others who have stepped up to be  role models,  elder guides, and an inspiration for so many.

You may have an elder guide in your life, either male or female who has inspired you to be the best you can be!  Your elder guides shape who you are and encourage you to be greater than you thought you could be. Elderhood is so powerful with wisdom and guidance for us all.

Around the world, people are celebrating their fathers and father role models.   I found that more than 30 countries in the world are celebrating Father’s day On June 18th.  In Catholic Europe, it has been celebrated on March 19 (St. Joseph’s Day) since the Middle Ages. The Spanish and Portuguese brought this celebration to Latin America, where March 19 is often still the date,  though many countries in Europe and the Americas have adopted the U.S. date.

Below, see the dates in other countries in the world when fathers are honored!

  • Third Sunday in June: United States, Argentina, Aruba[,Canada, China, Costa Rica, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Venezuela.
  • February 23: Russia
  • March 19 (St. Joseph’s Day) – Croatia, Italy. Portugal, Spain,
  • May: 2nd Sunday – Romania
  • May 1: Israel
  • May 8: Korea
  • June 1st Sunday: Lithuania
  • June 2nd Sunday: Austria, Belgium
  • June 5 Denmark
  • June 23: Poland
  • June Last Sunday: Haiti
  • August 2: Brazil
  • August 8: Mongolia, Taiwan
  • September 1st Sunday: Australia
  • September 2nd Sunday: Latvia
  • November 1st Sunday – New Zealand
  • November 2nd : Sunday. Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway
  • November 12: Indonesia
  • November 2nd: Sunday. Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway
  • December 5: Thailand
  • 40th Day after Easter (Ascension day): Germany

“I always joke that my kids’ favorite holiday is Father’s Day. They love the way I celebrate the occasion by writing each of them a thank-you letter and a check. It’s my way of letting them know how much I appreciate the great pleasure and privilege of being their dad.” Wayne Dyer


About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

Rhinestone Cowboy released last-ever album “Adiós” – recorded after diagnosis of Alzheimers – Hear the song here!

On Friday, the legendary singer-songwriter Glen Campbell bid a final farewell to his fans by releasing his last-ever album. Titled Adiós, it was recorded in 2012, when the “Rhinestone Cowboy” formally ended his music career after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease the year before.


Glen Campbell has been open about his experience with Alzheimer’s. In 2012, he embarked on a yearlong farewell tour, which was captured in the documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. The film, available on Amazon, also documented some of the singer’s offstage struggles as the disease progressed. Produced by his friend and longtime banjo player Carl Jackson, he says his friend’s attitude towards his ailment was extraordinary.

“Glen’s whole approach to having Alzheimer’s was pretty much different from anything I’ve ever seen before,” Jackson says.  “If he forgot something, he would laugh about it, rather than get sad. And we just went about recording the album that way, as a fun thing to do, and it was a total joy.”

Campbell, who is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, is no longer able to communicate well, and so no one will know exactly what he thinks of his last-ever album. But, according to Jackson, he seems to approve.

“I just know in my heart that it means the world to him … because of the peace that comes over him when he hears the music,” Jackson says. “It just means the world to me that we can do this for him and have him go out on something I believe just reaffirmed that Glen Campbell’s the best — period.”


 Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

 

Everyone is a former baby with a distinctive birthright

Trusting relationships are the most basic of human needs and the strongest foundation for caring for one another. Despite that belief, it’s easy to get caught up in a one-woman hamster wheel of working, consuming media, and just being busy with the many tasks on my to-do list.

  • I teach our care teams about the power of human connection through eye contact, touch, music, and conversation.
  • I teach them that each person has a unique worth from birth through the end of life, as fully capable human beings.
  • I teach our leaders about the power of creating a culture of caring in a person-centered workplace in their responsibility to care for their care teams and families while becoming well-known to one another.

Yet, I acknowledge that I sometimes take human connection for granted; I forget its value and forget to nurture it.

I was reminded again of the power of human connection this week when I was at Desert Peaks Assisted Living in Las Cruces New Mexico, teaching Adriana, a new Life Enrichment Coordinator about the power of human connection in the  ‘Circle of Friends‘.  As Adrianna began to invite elders who are living with cognitive challenges to our circle on the patio outside in the beautiful New Mexico sunshine, one was falling asleep, another in a grouchy mood, another who didn’t talk much, and a fourth person who was confused, but engaged and eager to connect.

As we sat close to one another in the circle we sang  “You are my sunshine” making direct eye contact with each person, and we saw the energy began to increase.  After singing several rounds of the song we welcomed each person, saying their name as we made eye contact and a handshake. “Good Morning Albert, thank you for coming today.”  Then we began discussing the beautiful day, and some of the elders began to talk.  We talked about family and times spent outside.  I said, “I love New Mexico, it is called the land of….” three of them responded quickly, “Enchantment!”   “Right”, I said, “New Mexico is indeed the land of Enchantment.”

Suzy had her eyes closed but began to smile.  We switched up the energy a bit, as we talked about playing together outside, and played balloon volleyball.  After about three minutes, Suzy’s eyes popped open, and with a big smile on her face, she joined the fun!  As the balloon bounced off some of our heads or went flying into the bushes, we all laughed.  The balloon landed on a sharp thorn and made a loud pop!  We all laughed even harder. One of the care team came outside and asked, “What’s all the laughing about out here?”  We ended the exercise when it was suggested we pop the other balloon, so I put it in the chair and sat on it until it popped!  Another loud round of laughter.

Then we talked about how important family,  friends, and connections are, and everyone except Suzy spoke – but she had the biggest smile!  We closed by saying each person’s name and expressing gratitude for them.  To each person, I said, “Thank you for being a part of our circle today, You made my day!”  Then we held hands and sang ‘Amazing Grace’ together.

It was almost time for lunch, and the care team came out to escort our now very connected group into the dining room.  But, you know what?  They didn’t want to leave. They had experienced a powerful human connection with one another and with us. They felt valued as whole and capable, They felt loved. They felt safe. They contributed with a purpose in making another person’s day better.

We can all begin today to recognize and value the power of human connections.   We can clean up the relationships that matter to us now.  We can have the courage to offer a part of our soul and to seek it in another.  We can do this with our residents, our family members, our co-team members, our bosses, our siblings and our mates and our friends and our colleagues.

We can all do this – even with the disconnection and the discord all around us. We can do this for the soul of the world.


Elizabeth Lesser challenges us to “Say your truth, and seek truth in others“.  She says       “Be like a new kind of first responder… the one to take the first courageous step toward the other.” Elizabeth Lesser starts her talk in the Ted Talk in this post with the lessons she learned from being a midwife. “Everyone in this room is a former baby with a distinctive birthright,” she says, and we are all possessed of a “unique spark.

I invite you to take 15 minutes this weekend to reflect on the relationships in your life.  Authentic, genuinely caring relationships are at the core of everything that matters in the world. What greater gift can we give to another than the gift of ourselves?


 


About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

Old people are less relevant, and have less value – self fulfilling prophecy?

“When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur.” (Rosenthal  1985)

In 1968 Dr. Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment. The teachers in a single California elementary school were told that some of their students could be expected to be “intellectual bloomers,” doing better than expected in comparison to their classmates.

  • The “intellectual bloomers” names were made known to the teachers, and the teachers were not told that these children were actually no more talented or smarter than other kids, scoring average and below average IQ scores.
  • At the end of the study, all students were again tested with the same IQ test used at the beginning of the study. All six grades in both experimental and control groups showed a  gain in IQ from before the test to after the test.
  • However, First and Second Graders showed statistically significant gains favoring the experimental group of “intellectual bloomers.” This led to the conclusion that teacher expectations, particularly for the youngest children, can influence student achievement.
  • Rosenthal concluded that even attitude or mood could positively affect the students when the teacher was made aware of the children they thought to be  “intellectual bloomers.” The teacher may pay closer attention to and even treat the child differently in times of difficulty.
  • This study has been utilized over the past 50 years, in different situations, and is called a self-fulfilling prophecy or Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect.
  • If a group or a person has a particular expectation of a certain behavior of another group or a person, the expected behavior is likely to occur.

When it comes to aging, our whole culture is saturated with the expectation that there are certain stereotypes of how older people should act including elder adults themselves.

“What if everything we have learned about aging is wrong?”  Dr. Bill Thomas,

  • Society expects and believes that elderhood and aging are bad, sad, and depressing – and so, as we age we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur!
  • A study published in the journal Experimental Aging Research suggests that just reminding elders of the fact that older people have bad memories, for example, may be enough to negatively affect their recall ability.
  • Not surprising given that this effect can be found in any subgroup or individual. Tell someone they are dumb long enough and they will believe it and act accordingly.

Self-perceptions and society perceptions of aging tend to influence thoughts and behaviors without people being consciously aware that this is happening.  Changing perceptions of aging is challenging because it involves both individual perceptions of aging and wide-spread societal negative stereotypes that are plastered on social media, news, and in advertising.

Changing aging can begin with you and me.  After all, whatever your age, if you are not an elder now,  you are an elder-in-waiting!

“What you think, you become,” Buddha taught. You’ve heard high-minded quotes like these all your life. Now science has caught up. We can finally quantify and track how beliefs and expectations can shape outcomes.

Older adults who associate aging with ongoing growth and the pursuit of meaningful activities are more likely to view experiences – both enjoyable and challenging in adaptive ways.   We need to push back on the societal stereotypes.  And the data proves that we must, indeed change the current paradigm of aging now to preserve our own true identities as we age.

  • Longevity: A 23-year study,  of older adults who reported more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those who bought into society’s negative stereotype of aging.
  •  Illness: In a study of 1,286 people who believed that aging is a time of continued learning and development reported fewer illnesses six years later.  In contrast, those who believed that aging is a time of physical loss had increased physical illness over the same time period.
  • Brain Health: Compared to people with more positive views of aging, those who endorsed more negative age stereotypes displayed greater signs of risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease. It was discovered that the hippocampus, an area of the brain related to memory, decreased in size at a faster rate in those who embraced negative age stereotypes. (Moser, Spagnoli, & Santos-Eggimann, 2011)

So, when you look in the mirror, see the truth about yourself.  We are all aging, and society may say you are ‘over the hill,” worn out, of no value, unattractive, and worse. Do you believe that?  Or are you ready to disrupt that idea?

Look at your future elder self in a mirror.  What do you see?  It is proven that “As we think we shall become.”

  • Look at your future elder self: Do you see yourself as a full, capable, beautiful human being, with a vibrant curious spirit even if you have lost your hair, your mobility,  your vision, or your mind?
  • Look at your future elder self: Do you see yourself growing, learning, giving, playing, and living?
  • Look at your future elder self:  Are you able to embrace your life, and recognize that you have much to give and share – right up until that very last breath when you transition to your next great adventure?

Join the movement to change society’s stereotype of aging. Do not let the expectations of society about aging become a self-fulfilling prophecy for you.   You have an opportunity now to change your future experience beyond adulthood, embracing your journey into your own elderhood.


About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

Remembering the fallen

Memorial Day was officially recognized after World War II, where there were 405,399 military deaths; 670,846 were injured, and 30,133 are still missing.

Today our young men and women are continuing to courageously protect our freedoms. Special thoughts and love and heartfelt gratitude to the families who have shared in the ultimate sacrifice.

Below are some memorable quotes from some of the most inspirational minds in American history.

“I don’t have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is. Every time we hear, watch or read the news, we are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.” – President Ronald Reagan

 “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou

“They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation.” – Henry Ward Beecher

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman

 “For the love of country, they accepted death.” – President James A. Garfield



jean-garbodenAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

What are old people for?

“What are old people for?”

In 2004, a physician named Dr. Bill Thomas asked that question in a best selling book “What are old people for? How Elders will save the world”   Dr. Thomas and his merry band of age disrupters were recently in the Pacific Northwest promoting their Disrupt Aging event.  The stop in Eugene, Oregon was their 110th show.

I am convinced!  Elders will save the world!

It was a  first-of-its-kind event! This immersive and transformational non-fiction theater wove film, music and first-person stories with groundbreaking research. We were challenged to re-frame aging. Dr. Bill asks “What if?” What if everything we knew about aging was wrong?

We invited 88-year-old Mary, who lives at Shorewood Senior Living in Florence Oregon to come to the event that began with a lunch with Dr. Thomas sponsored by AARP. The lunch group was small, giving us quality time with Dr. Thomas asking questions and sharing our passion for being part of a movement to disrupt aging in America.  Mary had learned about Dr. Thomas a few years ago when her husband read about how forward thinking Dr. Thomas was as a world renowned Geriatrician. She was thrilled to meet him in person, as her husband had passed away just 8 months ago at the age of 92.  As Dr. Thomas put his arms around Mary she told him,  “My husband is here looking down on us right now.”  Mary and her husband had embraced a vibrant elderhood together.

We asked Mary to share her experience with us.  She was thrilled to spend this time with Dr. Thomas, and he was honored that she blessed him with her presence!

Mary and Dr T

Mary meets Dr. Thomas.

“When I  was asked if I would be interested in attending a program called Changing Aging by Dr. Bill Thomas in Eugene, Oregon on May 5th, I had heard about the doctor and his specialty in geriatrics. Dr. Thomas was on his “Changing Aging” tour across America.

My first thought was to turn down the offer to attend because it would require sitting in a car for almost an hour to reach Eugene, Oregon and being an elderly woman in my 88th year, the thought of my stiffening body getting out of a car after an hour was not particularly appealing for the start of a long day in town.

My curiosity overcame my thoughts of wondering if I could tolerate the long day ahead knowing that we wouldn’t get back to Florence until almost ten at night.

I am happy to say that the day was a wonderful experience reinforcing what thoughts I had about my aging process. Thinking about all the clichés one could think of, Dr. Thomas fulfilled all of them—“ hit the nail on the head” and others.

He did it with lovely entertainment—stories and wonderful music along with fabulous electronics, the latter, no doubt, standard equipment of this era to the younger generation. As I got into the car to return home, I realized that I wasn’t as tired as I expected to be, I hadn’t thought much about my frailties. I had done something different this day. I had started to do what Dr. Thomas’ program was all about. I was disrupting aging!”

Dr. Thomas is taking his tour to the East Coast in June.  Check out his schedule.

It is truly an amazing social experiment and we were honored to be a part of it!  See the short video below.


jean-garbodenAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

Is loneliness affecting you? Part 2

In the first part of this post, we learned that loneliness affects nearly half of all adults over the age of 50–resulting in real health consequences. This week, we’re looking at ways that you can stay connected and help those around you stay connected to prevent isolation and loneliness.

Loneliness is normal, right? So, how do I know if I’m at risk?

Everyone is sure to experience loneliness at some point in their lives, yes. But, chronic isolation can lead to loneliness that causes severe health effects. The AARP Foundation’s initiative Connect 2 Affect has created a simple online assessment tool to help you identify if you or someone you love is at risk of isolation. Try it out for yourself here.

How do I prevent isolation and loneliness?

Examine these three areas of your life to see where you could be more connected:

  1. Social activity: Close relationships are formed and strengthened by the frequency with which you see other people. Weekly, or more frequent, interactions will help form these relationships that provide a sense of connection which alleviates the feeling of loneliness. Try volunteering, attending regular religious services, or senior center activities weekly.
  2. Nurture relationships: Relationships can be tough sometimes, especially with family. Focus on the positive aspects of your relationships and try to relate to your friends and family in a way that makes everyone happy with the interactions.
  3. Examine local resources: Socialization can be hampered by one’s inability to access social opportunity. Visit your doctor about physical ailments that prevent you from participating in activities, look into transportation services, cleaning services to help prepare your home for guests, and libraries and senior center calendars for an array of classes or group sessions. No one wants to leave their home of many years, but access to daily, spontaneous, and serendipitous interactions along with basic services can allow you to function at a higher level, engage more frequently, and alleviate the lack of resources to maintain a home and higher level of activity in your life.

I know someone that may be lonely–what can I do?

Starting the conversation is the hardest part. Keep in mind, however, that they may appreciate that you recognized that they may be lonely. Connect 2 Affect has created a great poster to remind yourself about what you can help do including:

  • Treat health issues: Fall prevention programs increase balance, strength, and the confidence to go out more often (Read more about how yoga can help in older adults!)
  • Provide support through major life transitions: Support groups to help someone feel connected while coping with significant change
  • Address societal barriers that exclude older adults: Policy changes that support retraining and retention of older workforce
  • Ensure availability of services and support tailored to the needs of diverse communities: Home-sharing models that make aging in place more affordable for all including senior living communities
  • Create opportunity for affordable and accessible transportation: Volunteer transportation services that make it easier for older adults to get around their community

With so many adults in our country facing this plague of loneliness, it is up to us to raise awareness and ensure that those we love (including ourselves!) have the ability to lead healthy, happy lives! Start by reaching out and making a connection.

 

 

Related posts and resources:

Elders find joy in Yoga practice!

Human connection ~ at the core of everything that matters in the world

Elderhood – What do we want to do with an extra 30 years?

Connect where you live! Find a senior living community near you.


About the Author: Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to what is now a career in serving elders and families. Possibilities also led her into the world of becoming a Certified Eden Associate, Certified Validation Worker, Levels I and II, and a licensed Assisted Living Administrator in Oregon. On her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with the people that care for others. She lives in Eugene with her husband, Michael, where they enjoy golf, travel, and volunteering.

 

woman looking worried

Is loneliness affecting you? Part 1

Isolation and loneliness are getting more attention these days from groups such as the AARP Foundation and their newly formed organization Connect 2 Affect. While its important to understand that isolation is the objective lack of social access and resources and loneliness is the subjective perception of one’s well-beingthey are not mutually exclusive. Studies have shown that loneliness and social isolation have serious health affects.

The National Social Life, Health and Aging Project is supported by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institutes on Health, and the AARP Foundation. Together, they examined existing data on the frequency of loneliness in older adults and produced A Profile of Social Connectedness in Older Adults.

According to the report, social isolation is a bigger problem than you may know:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 adults over age 50 is at risk for social isolation
  • Subjective feelings of loneliness can increase risk of death from 26% to 45%
  • The health affects of prolonged social isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Nearly half of older adults in the U.S. experience some degree of loneliness

Dr. Bill Thomas has, for years, led a culture-change movement to identify, understand, and combat what he calls the three plagues: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. After taking a position as the medical director of a nursing home, he realized that people were not dying of disease or physical ailments, but diseases of the heart. Anecdotally, he’s known this to be true in his own experience. But, more and more, we’re seeing empirical evidence that these “plagues” contribute to physical ailments and age the body faster.

Take, for example, this study with findings published in The Guardian where researchers found that loneliness was twice as unhealthy as obesity. Tracking more than 2,000 people over the age of 50 found that the loneliest “were nearly twice as likely to die during the six-year study than those that were least lonely.”

There are still more questions to be answered such as why there is no apparent difference in levels of loneliness based on education, work/retirement status, or whether you care for a dependent, but income does appear to affect levels of loneliness. Or, as the AARP Foundation asks, if loneliness is a cause of poor hearing or other physical impairments or if loneliness is the result of the impairments?

More studies are needed to understand and help prevent loneliness in older adults. In the meantime, we’ll share some ways that you can build bridges to social connectedness for you and the older adults in your life. Join us next week for Is loneliness affecting you? Part 2.

Related posts and resources:

6 reasons to break a sweat in 2017  – Your Brain will love it!

Elderhood – What do we want to do with an extra 30 years?

I have a 20-year old brain in an old body

Connect where you live! Find a senior living community near you.


About the Author: Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to what is now a career in serving elders and families. Possibilities also led her into the world of becoming a Certified Eden Associate, Certified Validation Worker, Levels I and II, and a licensed Assisted Living Administrator in Oregon. On her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with the people that care for others. She lives in Eugene with her husband, Michael, where they enjoy golf, travel, and volunteering.