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

What do people over 100 years old want you to know?

I think you will enjoy this 3-minute video below featuring  100-year-old Grandma Eileen who answers the question, “What do I ask old people?”   She answers candidly, and she may give you insight into your own future-self as you continue on your journey when you will someday enter into the wonderful developmental stage of elderhood!

“I have a 20-year-old brain in an old body.”  “My secret is that you make your own happiness, and you make the place better where you are”

This week I went to a celebration of life for 105-year-old Ina Hinds.  Ina and I visited every week at church.  She was interesting and fun. She wore beautiful hats.  Her lipstick and makeup immaculate, and she was dressed ‘to the nines’.   She was beautiful, and her vibrant spirit inspires us today.

In Las Vegas, where I live, Ina Hinds was locally famous and was frequently mentioned in local news stories for her participation in active exercise classes past her 100th birthday.

As a widow in 1992, (age 81),  Ina joined an active exercise class at the YMCA and continued regularly.

“Everybody in the class was at least 60,” said Esther Abele, more than 30 years younger than Hinds. “But Ina was always the oldest, and an inspiration to all of us. She was still coming when she was more than 100. When she got macular degeneration and could no longer drive, she got somebody to bring her. When she started having to use a cane, she hung the cane on a chair, and sat in the chair using hand weights.” Ina recruited much younger women to the class.

Ina hinds at 105 birthday party in Las Vegas Nevada
Ina Hinds at 105 birthday party in Las Vegas Nevada

There is a stereotype of old and very old people. They are often not seen as whole and capable with a collective life experience and a desire to make a difference in the world. Ina was a progressive woman. She was born before women could vote. She put herself and her children through college. She worked at the Pentagon, and she was active in many social causes.

Yet, at her memorial service, many people were surprised at her life accomplishments.  Why?  Because they did not ask her!

Ask the elders in your life what they are looking forward to.  You may be surprised.  Too often we think that elders primarily want to reflect on the past.  Ask about lessons learned from their past experiences that can help you or the world be better today. Those over 100 years old who I meet as I travel around the United States tell me that they live with joy one day at a time, looking forward with gratitude and in anticipation for each new day.

How well-known to you are the elders in your life?

  • Take the time to ask meaningful questions about their experience, their hopes and their dreams.
  • Record their stories in video or audio formats to keep for generations.
  • Create wisdom circles in your homes or in your community where elders and younger people gather to talk and share life experiences, advice, and laughter.

If you are not an elder now – you are an elder-in-waiting. Let us now look to our elders as role models, Showing us how to live with grace and joy into elderhood!

11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout 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

Tax Deduction Tips for Assisted Living Costs 2016

Did you know that if you are an elder adult or a caregiver for one, there are ways to get a tax deduction for assisted living costs?  In order for assisted living expenses to be tax deductible, the resident must be considered “chronically ill.” This means a doctor or nurse has certified that the resident either:

  • cannot perform at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, continence care, transferring, bath, or dressing; or
  • requires supervision due to a cognitive impairment (such as Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia).

Elders who are not chronically ill may still deduct the portion of their expenses that are attributable to medical care, including entrance or move in fees.

What is the criteria to claim the tax deduction for assisted living costs?

  • The medical expenses have to be more than 10 percent of the resident’s adjusted gross income. (For taxpayers 65 and older, this threshold will be 7.5 percent through 2016.)
  • In addition, only expenses paid during the year can be deducted, regardless of when the services were provided.
  • Expenses are not deductible if they are reimbursable by insurance.

Which Expenses can be deducted?

  • Room and board for assisted living if the resident is certified chronically ill by a healthcare professional and following a prescribed plan of care. Typically this means that they are unable to perform two activities of daily living (ADLs) or require supervision due to Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions.
  • Entrance or move-in fees for Assisted living.
  • Cost of prescription drugs.
  • Personal care items, such as disposable briefs and foods for a special diet or nutritional supplements.
  • Cost of travel to and from medical appointments.
  • Premiums paid for insurance policies that cover medical care are deductible, unless the premiums are paid with pretax dollars. Generally, the payroll tax paid for Medicare Part A is not deductible, but Medicare Part B premiums are deductible.
  • Payments made for nursing services. An actual nurse does not need to perform the services as long as the services are those generally performed by a nurse.
  • Fees from doctors, laboratories, home health care and hospitals.
  • The cost of long-term care in a nursing home or rehabilitation center, including housing, food, and other personal costs, if the person is chronically ill.
  • Home modifications costs such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars and handrails.
  • The cost of dental treatment.

For a full list of allowable medical expenses, see IRS Publication 502. Read about the rules that govern deductions and for more tax tips for elder adults and their caregivers.

My parent lives in my home with me.  Can I qualify for a dependency deduction?

If you care for an elder parent in your home, your parent may qualify as your dependent, resulting in additional tax benefits for you. Once you determine that both of you meet IRS criteria, you can claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return.

To qualify for a dependency deduction, you must pay for more than 50% of your qualifying relative’s support costs. The relative only qualifies as a dependent if he or she meets the gross income and the joint return test. If your relative doesn’t qualify as a dependent because of these tests, you cannot claim a dependency deduction, but you can still claim his or her medical expenses. For more information, read page 20 – 21 (Support test to be a qualifying relative) of the IRS Publication 501 on tax exemptions.

See the 5-minute video below for more details about the dependency deduction.

By nature, tax rules are complex. It’s important to consult a tax attorney or accountant versed in eldercare tax issues about your specific situation before finalizing your taxes. The AARP also offers free assistance and tax tips for elder adults through its Tax-Aide program.

11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout 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

It ‘smells’ like a walk in the woods!

 “Smell is so powerful, you know. My grannies would both bake things like shortbreads and cookies. I think whenever I smell those kinds of things it really takes me back to my childhood.” ~ Curtis Stone

I  met with a representative from ScentAir—a company that specializes in bringing scents into a variety of environments. I felt convicted and excited about bringing this new and innovative experience into Carolina Assisted Living Community.

As my representative and I met the second and third times to explore and determine what scent was just “right,” he shared many of his own personal experiences with other Assisted Living communities where he had witnessed the remarkable results of stimulating the residents through the sense of smell.

  • In one Assisted Living, he had returned to remove a unit he had left for one month as a sample. As he came in the door, he saw a large group of residents at one end of the room all huddled around a small space. He thought it a bit out of the ordinary, but continued on to where he had left his unit. As he walked toward that area, he realized these residents were  gathered around the very unit he was coming to remove. They were  drawn to the scent that was being emitted, as it was somehow speaking to them and at some level taking them to a unique and desirous place. They knew that whatever it was, they wanted to be near it, and they wanted to be near one another!
  • In another assisted living, there was a woman who could engage in a clear  conversation, but she had no memory whatsoever of the past…not even what may have occurred just hours or minutes ago. The scent that was being broadcast through this community was “fresh cut grass.” With this scent now in the air, this woman began to speak of her grandfather on the farm. Over the next few minutes and in great detail she shared  memories that were elicited by the mere scent of this fresh cut grass. The caregivers had tears in their eyes as this was the first time they had observed her having a true memory  that she was able to share.

This is why I am so excited that our own ScentAir units were just put in place. After a couple hours of test “smelling,” we chose “A Walk in the Woods” as our signature scent.

I will be secretly observing and noting any changes in the overall mood and feel in the coming weeks!

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.” ~ Diane Ackerman

The Faculty of Nursing, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia did an 18-month study utilizing aromas in the following ways– Bath, Inhalation, Diffusion, Massage, Spritzer.  Their findings included specific improvements, including:

  • increased alertness
  • self-hygiene
  • contentment
  • initiation of toileting
  • sleeping at night
  • reduced levels of agitation,withdrawal and wandering.
  • Family caregivers have reported less distress, improved sleeping patterns and feelings of calm.

We have not conducted our own studies yet. Some of us are in the process of becoming certified aromatherapists.  We have anecdotal evidence that indicates aromatherapy is effective.

But I wonder –   Is it effective because of the aromas alone? – Or could it have something to do with the intentional and empathetic manner in which the aromas  are introduced?   Our care teams are studying, investigating, and seeking solutions to meet the needs and desires of the elders.  They are noticing when an elder is demonstrating an unmet need and responding by being present, eye contact, empathetic listening, respect, and tender care.

Whether it is the aromatherapy or the intentional person-centered approach and empathetic communication – or both,  the results matter.  We know we are making connections. We are in relationship with elders in our care, and we are inspired by the opportunity to learn the lessons the elders are teaching us every day.

And some beautiful aromas make the day happier for all of us!

About the Author:  Eileen English is the administrator at Carolina Assisted Living in Appleton Wisconsin.

Eileen has worked with elders for more than 40 years and feels her work is a passion, not a job. She was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and later became a Coast Guard wife – eileen-wilsonwhich took her all over the country. She has lived in many states but is happy to now be in Wisconsin near two of her grandchildren. In her free time, Eileen enjoys being outside hiking, kayaking, camping, and spending time with her two sons and three grandchildren. (Carolina Assisted Living is part of the Compass Senior Living family)

Thanksgiving of Goodness and Gratitude

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

Today I am celebrating all the previous moments of goodness and joy in my Compass Senior Living Family.   Gratitude is a wonderful way to grow more beauty into our lives!

When I look back 3 years ago when Compass Senior Living was first formed, there were just four of us, and we were attracted to the possibility of working together to build a company with authentic leaders and a common purpose. Our core values have continued to be paramount in all of our decision-making, as we have committed to maintain a focus on our ‘True North,” which is goodness.

Our decisions have been guided by our core values – goodness, loyalty, faith and fun. It has been humbling to see that this clear direction and focus on what is right, and proper, and good  has attracted incredible leaders, investors, partners, care team members, families, and residents to join Compass Senior Living on our journey.

As we have grown with grace over the past 3 years, our Compass Senior Living family is honored today to serve almost 700 elders and their families.

Goodness and Gratitude.  That is how I would describe the journey these past three years.  I think I speak for the rest of our team when I express our deep gratitude to our President, Dennis Garboden, and Vice President, Will Forsyth for having the faith to begin again – and inviting us to innovate, create, and celebrate this adventure! Thank you Dennis and Will, for “rekindling the spark, and lighting the flame” within us!

As a gift to you today, I have been transcribing some of our resident’s audio clip stories for our Tiny Stories project, and have two to share.

We are building a ‘Tiny Stories’ library to preserve the voices and the legacies of the awe-inspiring elders we have the opportunity to get to know and learn from.  I will let you know when the library is complete, and when all the stories from our communities are posted.

This Thanksgiving week I thought it fitting that I share the audio clips of  Ruby Sims tiny stories.   Her voice and her laughter express  gratitude  that  is a joy to hear. 

Ruby Sims – Resident at Marla Vista Gardens, Green Bay Wisconsin

About Ruby:   Ruby  moved to Green Bay from Berlin, Wisconsin but she was born in Winner, South Dakota. She attended school in Chamberlain, South Dakota and has one year of college. Her past occupations were: piano teacher, bridal seamstress and a sales associate at Sears. She has two daughters named Melody and Joy.  She also use to play the trumpet. She enjoys gospel, oldies and folk music. Her favorite singer is Frankie Valli and her favorite movie is the The Sound of Music. She crochets and one great achievement is that she crocheted 500 baby hats for Meriter Hospital; she received an award for this.


ruby“Well I grew up in the state of South Dakota, and I had a couple of brothers and a couple of sisters. My mother was a very lovely woman. I am very thankful for the parents that I had. Very thankful for the parents I had. Not every body can say that. I am very thankful for them. I am very thankful for the life that I’ve had. But I gave my heart to the Lord at a very young age. I think I was 7 years old when I said, “Yes Lord, I am yours.”

Ruby Sims, Piano teacher

Piano Teacherplayingpiano

“My name is Ruby Ann Sims, and I am a piano teacher, or was a piano teacher. I haven’t been doing it for a while, but I could still do it. I am just thankful for what the Lord has allowed me to do. He has always been a big part of my life.”

(Piano music is  Ruby playing in 2016 at Marla Vista Gardens in Green Bay, Wisconsin)

“Every time an old person dies, a library burns to the ground”   African proverb

About the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in 11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nEugene 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.

Elder Boom! A crisis or a blessing?

Senior friends standing in circle on the beach
“People getting older is not a crisis, it’s a blessing”  Ai-Jen Poo, author The Age of Dignity

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 teenaged 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 road map  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 every one of 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.

This short video introduction to the concepts confirms that “Caring is what makes us human.”


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.











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.

Grandma plays Pokemon Go!


Pokemon GO Encounter at the Lake Shore
JUNE LAKE, CALIFORNIA – JULY 24, 2016: The hit augmented reality smartphone app “Pokemon GO” shows a Pokemon encounter overlain on a lake shore in the real world.

On Tuesday, July 26th, I was visiting my 15 year old grandson, Gabe, in Eugene, Oregon. Gabe and I have always had a great connection. Over the years we connected through Lego building, collecting Pokemon cards, and more recently with Snapchat.  The last time we were together, he and I talked about how much we miss the old days when we played together, as he is now so busy with school and track practice.

When I saw in my newsfeed about the new Pokemon app on Sunday, the 24th, I texted Gabe and asked him if he had downloaded it.   Yes, he had!  When I arrived in Eugene, we decided to go to the University of Oregon campus and have dinner, and try out the new app.  The Olympic trials were going on, so a lot of people were on campus, and it was hilarious to see  people walking around with their phones, hunting Pokemon. Gabe and I walked and laughed and talked and captured Pokemon for 3 hours! It was an awesome connection for us both.

I was born in the 40’s and grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. It is a different world now, and I am grateful for the power of social media to keep me connected to my grandchildren who do not live near me.

The elders who live at home or in Assisted Living communities can benefit from the connections social media can facilitate for them. I have seen it happening in the communities I visit.  We encourage our care team members to help the elders connect with their families, and the outside world.  In the process the care team members make a special connection with the elders and develop deeper relationships.

In one community in Roswell New Mexico, Ms. Virginia  was not able to travel to SMary Beth & Virginia ipadan Antonio to attend the wedding of her granddaughter due to fragile health.  The Executive Director, Mary Beth,  contacted the family and asked if they could stream the wedding through a smart phone or an iPad so that their grandmother could be there.   Ms. Virginia had a front row seat as she watched the wedding on an iPad from her apartment in Roswell, and even got to speak with her family face to face.  Both Mary Beth and Virginia shed tears of joy and gratitude.

In another community, the Life Enrichment Director was introducing social media during a resident council meeting, and  Skyped me in from my home in Las Vegas to talk with them.  At first the residents thought they were watching a movie until I started greeting them by name!

Face time is being used  in one of the Memory Care Communities I visit.  The daughter lives in another state, and every night she calls her father on his iPhone and they talk about his day, and she wishes him sweet dreams, and he tells her he loves her.

I talked to one 87 year old elder who was introduced to Facebook while I was visiting.  The care team called her family to let them know she was on Facebook, and they were able to video chat that evening.  The next morning when I went back into the community the elder told me, “I got 8 likes last night!”   Her family had notified some old friends, and she was connected with people she had not heard from in 40 years.

I saw one 92 year old man with headphones and an iPad.  I asked him what he was watching.  He said, “I am watching youtube videos about gardening.  This has opened a whole new world for me.”   Another woman who grew up in New York was able to do google earth, and virtually walk down the street where she grew up.

It is a basic human need to be connected to one another. It is also crucial to our well-being that we all continue to learn and grow through childhood, through adulthood, and into elderhood.  Let’s create places where the elders are the center of the community, where  we facilitate connections, and grow and learn together.

Watch this short trailer Cyber Seniors  from a documentary created by teenage sisters with a mission to remain connected to their own grandparents, and in the process changed the lives of many.

About the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation 11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nat 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.  She spends her leisure time with her husband Art, her dog Max, her cat Molly, and a 50-year-old desert tortoise named Myrtle.