Disrupting Aging

Slow down….and listen. They said. Turn your cell phones on. They said. Share with the world what is happening. After 110 performances on Changing Aging’s Disrupt Aging live theater event, held recently in Eugene, Oregon, its hard to imagine this formula not working to get people’s attention. The message: its time we change how we think about aging.

Changing Aging attendance group 2JPG
Compass Senior Living crew attending the Changing Aging event (from left): Amira, Kory, Beth, Jean, Becca, Niki. (Catherine and Mary not pictured)

The day started with a small group lunch with Dr. Bill Thomas, geriatrician and founder of The Eden Alternative. The group of about 20 were all there for various reasons–from AARP representatives to an elder currently living in a senior community. Dr. Thomas has started what he calls #AskDrBill– an egalitarian way of answering everyone’s hardest questions about aging (for which he specifically asks).

I asked the hardest question I knew about aging: aging comes with loss, how do you ‘be okay’ with not being able to do everything that you used to be able to do? To which Dr. Bill gave his words of wisdom based on his experience, “Change comes with loss, not just aging. If you looked at your checkbook the same way, you’d only record the expenses but not the income. And, that’s not an accurate picture of what your finances look like. Pay attention to the ‘other side’ of the ledger book. We pay attention to the loss and not what is to be gained with the change.”

Gain with the change. The biggest ‘aha’ moment as he said this was not the metaphor of the ledger book–although that is a great metaphor for how one can look at what life throws at you–it was that aging is just change. And, we have lots of change in our lives. So, why is this change so different from the others? It needs flexibility, resiliency, thoughtfulness, and planning. Like any change that life throws our way. Its all between our ears in the way the change is framed.

Disrupt Dementia–The Momentia Movement. The afternoon transitioned into a “non-fiction theater” event as the Changing Aging crew calls it. The group performed two simultaneous tales of a Ugandan refugee and those living with dementia. The Ugandan refugee, Samite (pronounced SA-me-tay), performs the music that he composes as his journey inspires him and life’s challenges, and changes, come his way; as he rebuilds his life. Similarly, the stories told by the elders living with dementia, in their own words, tell the tale of changes that come to them, but how they are inspired to continue on their journey as life throws these particular changes into their own paths. It’s a heart-wrenching, but necessary, truth about how those living with dementia are doing just that–living— and it is up to us to help them adapt and keep living.

Disrupt Aging. As the evening progressed, a second performance blended myth and science; challenging us to re-frame aging. Dr. Bill asks “what if?” What if everything we knew about aging was wrong? Accompanied with music, storytelling, and, yes, audience participation games, we learned that there is no such thing as a “senior moment”. We all simply have a “filing cabinet” and, as we get older, the filing cabinet is more full–and more messy– and it just takes a little longer to find what we are looking for. What’s more, older brains have the power of gist. Older brains have the power to see patterns and pull from past experience to understand what is being explained and, well, you get the gist. Dr. Bill challenged us to stop perpetuating the myth of the senior moment. “Social change starts between the ears,” says Dr. Thomas. Just like racism and sexism, ageism persists when we tacitly agree to ageist comments and jokes by not saying anything. When we let it go, we imply that its okay to perpetuate myths on aging and see elders as declining. The Changing Aging tour is challenging us to perceive aging as a vivid and enlivening process that presents us with extraordinary risks, and rewards. 

We are all getting older and will be considered old, if we aren’t already. How will you approach this change?

 

Related posts and resources:

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

Elderhood–what do we want to do with another 30 years?

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

My shrinking world

Featured image photo courtesy of Changingaging.org.


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, and for, the people that care for others. She lives in Eugene with her husband, Michael, where they enjoy golf, travel, and volunteering.

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.

 

Do you trust the average company?

Trust and transparency are two of the hottest topics in senior living right now. Why now? Why not ten years ago? Or twenty? Don’t we always want customers to trust us? The truth is, senior living companies (and many others in various industries) never really had to answer to the consumer. The digital age has introduced a whole new era of interacting with others that have used a service–and want to tell you about it.

What does this mean? Does it really mean that companies wanted to pull the wool over our eyes and just can’t get away with it as easy now? Maybe some, but not certainly all. There are many well-meaning companies out there that really do the right thing. You can see it on the state surveys that are public knowledge. Oregon has a website dedicated to sharing this information.

What steps are being taken? Its great that its coming up now, but transparency really should be an every day thing–from the beginning. Here are ways that you can keep all companies you interact with honest:

  1. Do your homework on regulation citations. Find your state’s government agency such as Seniors and People with Disabilities department or licensing agency that regulates senior living. Ask them for state surveys or records of complaint and whether the complaints were substantiated or not. When all else fails, as the communities that you visit–they’re required to let you see a copy.
  2. Read Reviews. This may seem obvious for restaurants or a hair salon, but its becoming more popular and trusted for senior living companies.
  3. Write reviews. Is someone doing something right? Write about it! Everyone likes to write a negative review when emotions are strong and they want to “stick it to” the company. But, what about those that do something right? Don’t they deserve credit too? Some providers have reviews and links to write them directly on their website.
  4. Look for pricing online. Does the company you’re looking into share their real pricing info freely or do they hide it? Do you have to get the “sales pitch” before you can be”privy” to that information? Whether its true or not, most humans can’t help but feel like something is being hidden when you can’t get a straight answer.

What makes you trust a company over another? Post in the comments or email me. I’d love to hear and keep the dialogue going. Thanks!


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 eight years of learning the senior living industry in roles ranging from Administrative Assistant to Director of Sales and Marketing to unofficial IT coordinator. Possibilities also led her into the world of education technology for almost three years. Now, 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.

Be the fountain

You can be the fountain, or you can be the drain. This is what the keynote speaker said during the opening keynote of the 2016 Oregon Health Care Association conference. Someone else had said it to her and she used it in her presentation titled Get what you want with what you’ve got. Most of the talk was quips and ideas you’ve maybe heard before or may have in a slightly different fashion. This sentence struck me though. I hadn’t heard it before. It so simply creates an image, a visual, succinctly representing one thing–choice. You have a choice in everything you do–we all do. It doesn’t mean we won’t have bad days or annoyances or times we just want to scream. It just means we have the choice to let them flow through us and be repurposed into something beautiful or let it drag us (and those around us) down.

She went on to relay a story about how her son was attempting to get an autograph from a Harlem Globetrotter after a performance. He kept getting shoved to the back and, after realizing there was a player on the side, he went over to the gentleman that wasn’t as protected by the crowd. When the young boy asked how the player “was doing” the player smartly said, “better because you’re here”. She was struck by the glow on her son’s face. How special he felt because of that comment.

Senior Housing News recently published an article about “relational marketing vs. transactional marketing“. The idea is that instead of treating your marketing and sales efforts like a transaction (i.e. I provide X, you pay Y), senior living needs to treat marketing and sales like a relationship (i.e. we’re working together to get you the care and services you really need). I must admit, this is not a new concept to me. The senior living companies that I’ve been the marketer for have subscribed to this philosophy for years. I recognize, though, that its hard for some to transition out of the “sales” mentality. How do you do it?

I’m reminded of a Maya Angelou quote which I’m sure you’ve all heard: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Fountains are possible because of a simple use of one of the most basic elements on Earth–and yet they can produce amazing joy and fun. Feeling special is possible because of a simple word said in the right way and a person with the where-with-all to choose that they are going to be the fountain.

I hope in your day to day, you can find a moment to ask–how can I make this person feel special today? That’s the “holy grail” in filling a community and making those “sales”–by filling it with love and commitment to the people (all people) that make up the community.

How do you make residents, families, and employees feel special? I invite you to comment and share what you’ve experienced.


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 eight years of learning the senior living industry in roles ranging from Administrative Assistant to Director of Sales and Marketing. Possibilities also led her into the world of education technology for almost three years. Now, 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.

happy elderly senior couple walking on beach healthcare recreation

I don’t want to move.

elder cowboy with grumpy face“You can start over when you’re your age, not at my age.” That’s what my mother-in-law said about moving closer to kids when getting older. “If you want to be closer when we’re old, you have to move here.” She’s not even that old, but there’s no point in arguing. When she and dad moved to their beautiful retirement town, in Florence, Oregon, they decided that was it—period.

Florence is on the Oregon coast, directly west of Eugene. The average age of people living in Florence is 59.4*; and the average age of the country is 37.2*.

Don’t let that average age fool you, though. This community is active in volunteerism, activism, and recreation. Sure, there are quilters and bingo players. But, you’ll also find authors, artists, dog agility trainers, yoga practitioners, and bus drivers who take cancer patients to Eugene to the hospital.

I have talked with people who have retired in Florence, and are getting pressure to move closer to children.

It makes sense to most adult children to move mom or dad closer to you. You’ve got your own kids you can’t uproot; you have a career and you can’t move or work remotely… and maybe you just like where you live. You may be concerned that by moving mom or dad closer to you, you may be uprooting them from:
• Daily support systems and friends
• Clubs, churches or spiritual connections
• Recreational activities, favorite restaurants, barbers, and shopping
• Neighborhood watch groups, and walking or jogging routes
• And, most importantly, the community that they have been connected to for years or perhaps decades.

Many adults are struggling with living far away from parents who are entering elderhood. There are needs that can’t be attended to unless you are right there, right? Well, yes, and no. You may find there is support right in mom and dad’s back yard!

What type of support is available in their hometown? Florence is a small retirement town, but is lacking in enough geriatricians and major medical treatment services. As a result, non-profits have popped up to serve the needs of the population such as the Friends of Florence.

Are senior housing options in their hometown? Visit (or ask your parents to visit) independent living, assisted living and memory care communities. Most people still think of grandma’s 1960 nursing home when they think of these communities. That’s just not the case anymore. Most are modern, comfortable and community-based environments where more elders are thriving simply because they are not alone at home.

Introduce your parents to technology. Use Facebook to stay connected and keep them connected to friends and family around the world. Get them a tablet or smartphone. Ask the senior living communities you are considering if they have wi-fi and if they regularly update their Facebook page on what’s happening. Ask them if they can text or email you with periodic updates.

Plan ahead. Create a plan together. Discuss things like who to call in an emergency. How about medical alert systems or other home emergency system? Who will check on them regularly? How will they ensure they eat well? How will they take care of home maintenance? The best plans are those made before something happens.

Talk finances. Find out where their income is. Low-income services such as Meals on Wheels may be able to help. The Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit may be available to veterans and surviving spouses.

At the very least, before they get old enough to need any help, it’s worth finding out where they want to live.

 

For more examples of True North Elderhood, we invite you to follow Compass Senior Living on Facebook.

* Statistics courtesy of city-data.com


Amira in MalaysiaAbout 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 eight years of learning the senior living industry in roles ranging from Administrative Assistant to Director of Sales and Marketing. Possibilities also led her into the world of education technology for almost three years. Now, 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.