Creative Aging Expert

Winter 2011

In This Issue


Extended Middle Age — Then What?

I have just finished reading Thriving Beyond Middle Age, by E. Craig MacBean and Henry C. Simmons published by The Institute for Retirement Planning in Richmond, Virginia, and available through Amazon. In their book, the authors speak of "extended middle age." This period typically starts when we are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, and often coincides with the end of full-time employment. This period of life is hard to distinguish from the lifestyles of people in their 40s and 50s who are not retired. It can last for a long time and is a period of the fewest complications and the most options. One feels they have control of their life although at the same time there are intimations of frailty.

"The challenge of 'Extended Middle Age' is not to succumb to the seduction of thinking things will never change....Typically 'Extended Middle Age' ends in a transition that we call 'Ready or Not.' The hallmark of this transition is a loss that requires a significant change of lifestyle and/or redefinition of self in the light of changed circumstances."

The authors point out, "The challenge in this transition is just to stay on your feet — emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially. We must make choices about a new lifestyle. Those who are attached to notions of control may find these new waters especially rough." They caution that if you wait too long to make life changes as you age out of extended middle age, someone else may end up making decisions for you.

I find this book useful in helping me to think through the next stage of my life. I am becoming tired of dragging my laundry down and then back up a long flight of stairs to the laundry mat. Ditto for taking the recycling down and running my garbage out to the compost pile. I fly up and down those 12 stairs leading to my apartment many times a day. The back stairs are sharper and narrower and require good balance to navigate. I am also weary of hunting behind things on crowded shelves to find hidden objects. This makes me begin to think about changing my residence to a first floor apartment with greater storage space and easy access to a washer/dryer. Along with these considerations, I now have arthritis in my left knee for which I am getting physical therapy. Hard to tell exactly what the future limitations of that will be; one thing my doctor suggests is to avoid climbing stairs. If eliminating climbing the stairs to my apartment would give me more time for hiking up mountains, I'm all for residing on a first floor!

Just like the authors say, it is hard to face these kinds of decisions; but they must be faced. Is this my "Ready or Not Moment"? Stay tuned. I would love to hear from those of you facing a similar transition and how you handled it, accepted it, lived with it.

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Male Senior Dance Partners Hired

Women outnumber men at retirement communities around the country by a 3-to-1 ratio. Edgewater Points Estates in Boca Raton, Florida, has a solution. Hire men to dance with the ladies. "At home I dance with a broom," says Victoria Schabel, a 90-something resident who has kicked off her shoes to ease her sore feet. "This is better." Men who love to dance apply and are soon twirling and waltzing various women around the dance floor. Zaharias, 72, is a retired product designer who's taken too many ballroom dancing lessons to count. Bruce, 58, is a retired clinical psychologist whose training in dance led him to his gig at Edgewater. This practice of hiring men to dance with women at retirement homes is not yet a norm; but it certainly is a nifty and original idea. This information came from an Associated Press article in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

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Asking the Right Question

Instead of asking a retiree what they are doing with their time, ask them: "What do you enjoy most about the life you are living?" This is also a good question to put to younger people — to get away from the age old question, "What do you do for a living?" You will be surprised at the thoughtful answers one gets from phrasing the question this way. It brings forth interesting insights into what is really important to a person in their present life.

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Research: What Is Age?

We commonly define the age of a person in terms of calendar years. However, we also have subjective estimates of our age, and these can be more important than chronology. One doesn't necessarily "feel her years," and we are more likely to base our behavior on our subjective estimate than the calendar. In this longitudinal study people ages 70-104 were evaluated over a six-year period. Researchers found that on average people felt they were about 13 years younger than their chronological age. The difference changed very little over the years. Interestingly, if participants were asked about their ages from looking in the mirror, the age discrepancy was lessened to about 10 years.

The researchers also asked the participants about life satisfaction. Overall, there was a high degree of satisfaction expressed, regardless of age. Illnesses did have a depressing effect on feelings of youthfulness and aging satisfaction. The fewer illnesses, the more social contacts and the more intellectual abilities the participants had, the more satisfied they were. Researchers speculated that people who live to be 85, the sample average, may indeed be "younger" than their age might suggest. Overall, "older people feel younger than they actually are and generally are satisfied with their aging."

From: "Self-perceptions of aging. Do subjective age and satisfaction with aging change during old age?" By Anna Kleinspehn-Ammerlahn, Dana Kitter-Gruhn, and Jacqui Smith; Journal of Gerontology, Psychological Sciences, 2008, 63Bm P377-385 as reported in the Positive Aging Newsletter, Jan/Feb 2009.

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Name Change for AAHSA

The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging has changed its name to LEADINGAGE. It is an association of 5,400 not-for-profit organizations dedicated to expanding the world of possibilities for aging — advancing policies, promoting practices, and conducting research that supports, enables, and empowers people to live fully as they age.

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Senior Travel Guide

SeniorTravelGenie.com is a website dedicated to online travel reviews, advice, and information for those ages 50 plus. The site says that "the interactive community, which relies on user participation, is the only place on the web where seniors can easily share insider information about the best places to eat, stay, and visit off the beaten track." Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Becoming an Elder

"The place of respect that elders enjoy in tribal groups represents a sharp contrast to how older adults in our society are seen. The elders earn and accept the respect they're given. It's not just that they're acknowledged by their people — they claim themselves as vital resources for the communities. Becoming an elder is, for them, an active step that involves staking out a place of power around the fire. A person closest to the flames has something valuable to bring forth and takes the initiative to do so. In this way, he or she claims that place of respect at the fire.

"We see this step of owning our power as the missing piece to the role of elders. To some degree we have accepted our culture's picture of aging. We realize that it is time for us — individually and as a group of people in the second half of life — to create a new picture of vital aging. It is time to claim our places at the fire." From Richard Leider, co-author with David Shapiro of Claiming Your Place at the Fire (Berrett-Koehler, 2004).

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Aging in Place

Most seniors, when asked say they want to age at home. Some exciting new options are opening up to make that more possible. Virginia-based Med Cottage came up with an idea to tap into this plan. Med Cottage is a pre-constructed "accessory dwelling unit" (ADU) placed on the property of a younger relative. The ADU has a bedroom, bathroom, sitting area and kitchenette. It is connected to the power and water from the main house. This "granny flat" enables older relatives to not necessarily age at home, but does allow them to age in the community and not in an institution. Med Cottage, in collaboration with the Jefferson Area Board of Aging (JABA), was able to get a state law passed that allows for temporary accessory dwelling units to be placed on the property. Unfortunately the law comes with restrictions that limit the opportunity for ADUs to be occupied by a relative of the main homeowner — by birth, marriage, or adoption. In addition the caregiver must live in the main house and not the other way around.

JABA is also pushing for zoning law modifications to allow for "shared homes," where multiple older adults legally own a portion of a larger home, and a nurse or health aide also lives with them, providing services as needed. In addition, JABA has set up a non-profit business selling products that enable older adults to more comfortably manage living in their current home, at myhome4life.com. Information for this article came from an article in The Richmond Times Dispatch, August 26, 2010 by Matt Thornhill, president of BoomerProject. Contact him at matt@boomerproject.com. The Jefferson Area Board of Aging is located in Charlottesville, Virginia, and can be reached at: jabacares@hotmail.com.

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A Solution for Slippery Rugs

I have always had a small rug in my kitchen in front of the sink. The rug has depended on a separate rubber mat to keep it in place; but it doesn't do the job. The number of times I have tripped over that moving rug I'd hate to count. Recently I found a solution. I bought a small bathmat-bathroom kind of rug that has the rubber attached to it. No more movement between rug and mat! I feel secure now when I stand on it — knowing that it will adhere to the floor and will not go whirling out from beneath my feet.

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Read Details of SW Coastal Path Hike

In October a friend and I hiked for two weeks on the SW Coastal Path, along the Bristol Sea in England. If you are interested in reading the details of that trip, and viewing pictures of this amazing coastal path, go to ActiveWomanTraveler.com and scroll down to AWT traveler and under that TheAgingAdventurer. There you will find three articles detailing our trip, along with one article about anticipating our trip. Each month I will have a different article about one of my adventures on this web site.

I wish everyone a happy and adventuresome coming of spring.

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