Memorial Day Weekend 2015–Meaningful Connections with Elders and Aging Parents

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Memorial Day Weekend 2015…

…Is there a better time to have meaningful conversations with the older–and the oldest–people in our lives?

Tum, Tum, tum-tum-tum.Tum, Tum, tum-tum-tum: The beat of drums–comes from outside our NYC apartment. Looking through the side window I catch a glimpse of the colors going by, carried by men in uniform. They are followed by a group of about 50 additional uniformed men, marching proud and tall. I learn these men have just placed the above wreaths of fresh flowers at a 1918 Memorial near an entrance to Central Park.

The commonality of experience, hardship, and sacrifice for country, is shared by countless families over countless years. Some memories lie deep within our elders–aging parents and grandparents and no doubt people who never married. Some memories may still haunt; some may never be spoken of. We know this from movies and books we’ve read, if we haven’t experienced it in our own families.

Never-the-less there’s a positive for those of us with aging friends and family members as well as those for whom we’re caregivers if these elders like to talk about the past. It’s the opportunity to ask them meaningful questions that convey genuine interest in them and in their past. It’s something that becomes more precious and more rare, as their contemporaries–with whom they’ve shared a commonality of experiences–die or move away.

The inability to have conversations with people who share the commonality of place and time is a significant loss. And how many younger people have real interest in, or take the time to listen to memories of the past?

The Veterans from World War II die each day. Viet Nam and Korean War Veterans are, themselves, now senior citizens…aging parents and grandparents. Memorial Day weekend offers another opportunity to raise feelings of self-worth in these elders by honoring them with our genuine interest in their service to our country.

Note: Click photos to enlarge

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Elders, Aging Parents and Grandparents: Memorial Day 2015 and The World War II Memorial

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 (Click photos 1x to enlarge; 2x to see “WWII” on some caps.)

Our Elders, Aging Parents and Grandparents: Journalist Tom Brokaw highlighted their specialness, coining the expression “The Greatest Generation” for his popular book about them. On May 19, 2015 countless aging parents and grandparents (and I) visited the World War II Memorial to pay tribute and to remember.

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The Memorial is located on the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument with two identical  pavilions at each side: one commemorates war in the Pacific; one  commemorates war in Atlantic.

Veterans in wheel chairs (or not), wearing blue shirts and caps that identify their branch of the Service, are easily recognized and unobtrusively thanked by strangers passing by.
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Many, like the two Veterans below, don’t mind posing for pictures. We sense pride that they made the world a safer place over half a century ago. These two former Navy men served on the USS Gearing–DD710. The camaraderie has endured as ship’s website confirms.IMG_4078

The volunteers wear green shirts. Some Vets–as well as many non-Vets– assist and push the Vet-occupied wheelchairs.

IMG_4065IMG_4074Part of the National Park Service, the World War II Memorial definitely does not glorify war. It does glorify the deep-seated values of our elders and a time in the history of the United States that affected each and every person living in our country.

And we–or at least I–find most old people don’t hesitate to talk about the WWII war years. In fact reminiscing seems to be a popular pastime with the elderly in spite of all the adversities they’ve experienced. (Depression and war to name two.)

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As we try to help parents, grandparents and elders we care about age well, providing opportunities to reminisce is an intangible gift. For a tangible gift they’ll never forget–if they can travel with you–visit the World War II Memorial. Doesn’t the Memorial Day weekend lend itself to thinking about both options?

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Related: For a postcard-type look, visit this site:  Full-screen photos of all areas of the World War II Memorial, taken on a rainy day, as opposed to my smaller (unless you click them)  photos, taken when it was sunny and warm.

Help! Aging Parents: Best Alzheimer’s Blogs of 2015 Honor

Help! Aging Parents voted “One of the 20 Best Alzheimer’s Blogs of the Year” 

Yesterday I didn’t write Tuesday’s post.  We were in the Washington, DC area–me with only my iPhone, realizing blog-writing on a mobile device is impossible for me. Just before leaving I learned that, for the second year in a row, Healthline honors our blog as one of its 20 top Alzheimer’s blogs of 2015. (Click the 2014 Healthline badge, to see this year’s 20 best blogs. HPAW is #12. 2015 badge not on blog yet.)

Help! Aging Parents’ inclusion on this year’s “Best” list has special meaning for two reasons:

  •  First, it’s the only blog on the list that doesn’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia as a major focus.
  • Second, as I wrote last year, neither Alzheimer’s or dementia is in my husband’s or my family so recognition of our efforts to share objective, substantive information to help the elders we care for–and about–means a great deal.

We take special pride in the fact that “Healthline’s editors carefully selected each winner based on quality, frequency of updates and contribution to the community”–specifically they say–

Helping Parents Age Well isn’t just about helping our parents. The information and insight in these pages is useful to anyone who anticipates living beyond midlife. Key thoughts like “Will these actions I’m about to undertake empower or diminish?” and “Does the quick fix harm later goals?” inform all of blogger Susan’s writing. Her focus on values and long-term solutions makes for a good life-coaching guide and regular reading.

Healthline evidently has over 30 million monthly visitors to its site. They say their “mission is to make the people of the world healthier through the power of information” and they “do this by creating quality health information that is authoritative, approachable, and actionable” …and “We focus our efforts on offering readers and visitors to our site objective, trustworthy, and accurate health information, guided by the principles of responsible journalism and publishing.”

While my iPhone doesn’t lend itself to my writing posts, it does lend itself to taking photos. This Memorial Day weekend was front and center in my mind as we visited the World War II Memorial in Washington yesterday.

Additional photos will be on Friday’s (in place of Saturday’s) post, in honor of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
(Click photos to enlarge)

WW II Memorial, Washington DC  May 19, 2015

WW II Memorial  Washington, DC  May 19,2015

Aging Parents and Memory: The Questionable Impact of Brain Games on Memory. Latest Research

Memory loss: At a certain age I think it’s safe to say everyone–aging parents and us– thinks about it. Many boomers and seniors play bridge, learn a new language, and train their brains using innovative technology, hoping to stave off memory loss.

But the effectiveness of brain-training technology seems to be questionable in real life, according to AARP’s 4/14/ 15 Brain Health Blog, “Major Report Shows What Works and What Doesn’t for Better Brain Health,” written by Elizabeth Agnvall. It’s based upon an April 2015-released Institute of Medicine of the National Academies report, COGNITIVE AGING–Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action co-sponsored by AARP, the National Institute on Aging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other government and nonprofit organizations.

Ms. Agnvall discusses this “groundbreaking new report that spells out what older Americans can do to keep their brains healthy into very old age, while offering insight into the lifestyle habits and medications that can lead to cognitive decline.”

It’s an informative, not-to-be missed easy-to-read post (the study itself looks to be 373 pages). Find out, based on this latest reputable research: “What Helps,” “What Hurts,” and–quoted below–
“Buyer Beware.” 

  • Brain games and other cognitive training: Although research shows that brain training on computers and video games can improve attention and memory as they relate to the games, few studies show that those skills transfer to real life. The report recommends that consumers carefully evaluate claims of companies selling brain games. “People may fall prey to using products that have not been proven to be effective and think they will help them in all areas of their lives,” Blazer said.
  • Supplements: Americans spend more than $30 billion a year on dietary supplements, yet “there just is no good, consistent evidence that vitamins provide value in improving brain health,” Blazer said.
  • Vitamin E does not seem to help brain health and has been linked to a higher risk of death in large doses.
  • Vitamins B6 and B12 provide no benefit to older adults who are not folate deficient.
  • Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a decline in brain health, but taking vitamin D supplements has not been shown to improve memory, motor speed or other aspects of brain health. Moreover, says the report, high levels of vitamin D are linked to attention problems and cognitive impairment.
  • Ginkgo biloba “is not considered effective in preventing cognitive decline.

So now we have the latest information on cognitive* aging as we try to help aging parents and ourselves age well.

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Note: *Cognitive– a term used often in my counseling, but probably not common to most–defined by Merriam‑Webster dictionary: of, relating to, or involving conscious mental activities (such as thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering)

Related: Memory Posts–Click tab under header for past posts about memory

 Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

Aging, Older, Senior Mother’s Day Gift–Survey Shows Half May Not Get Their Mother’s Day Wish This Year

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Note: This shouldn’t be a surprise to our readers. Three years ago we posted: Aging Parents: The Mother’s Day Gift Mothers and Grandmother’s Value Most. Over and over we heard “time with children and family” as the answer to the objective Mother’s Day gift question we asked.

While admittedly our sample was very small as I wrote in that post, if you click the preceding link you might find the responses “hit home.” While the survey below’s sample of 155 is also small, it includes the value (or not) of technology. I spoke with the person responsible for sending me this information and think it fits nicely with what I’ve experienced, especially opening the e-card. Thus–

Survey Shows Half of Senior Moms May Not Get
Their Mothers Day Wish This Year

 LEHI, Utah–(BUSINESS WIRE)–More than 50 percent of senior-aged moms responded that in-person visits are the gift they want most for Mother’s Day—but only 1 in 4 believe they will actually receive one, according to the iTOK Mother’s Day Gift Giving Survey. Of the 155 respondents, 89 percent are “aging in place,” living in their own homes.

“In cases where visiting isn’t possible, technology helps families stay in touch—but it can never replace real human interaction. Our message to folks who are able is: Go visit your mom! We guarantee it’ll make her Mother’s Day special.”

While many busy adults might believe video chats and e-cards are sound gifts for their aging parents, the survey also revealed that two-thirds of senior moms do not know how to start a video chat (such as Skype or Google Hangouts), and one-third do not know how to open an e-card.

Key findings:

  • 53% want an in-person visit for Mother’s Day
  • 26% think they’ll get an in-person visit
  • 61% do not know how to start a video chat
  • 32% do not know how to open an e-card
  • 89% are aging in place (living in their own homes)

“While flowers and cards come to mind as popular Mother’s Day gifts, what mothers really want is to spend quality time with their families,” said James Dunn, CEO of iTOK. “In cases where visiting isn’t possible, technology helps families stay in touch—but it can never replace real human interaction. Our message to folks who are able is: Go visit your mom! We guarantee it’ll make her Mother’s Day special.”

iTOK is a U.S.-based technology advisory company that helps seniors get the most from their technology. The iTOK Mother’s Day Gift Giving Survey was conducted between April 8 – 22 among iTOK members, 75 percent of whom were over 66 years old. More information about the survey can be found on iTOK’s blog: http://itok.net/mothers-day-infographic.
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Note: This will replace this coming Saturday’s post.

 With best wishes for a very Happy Mother’s Day to older mothers everywhere

 

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: 10 Last-Minute Mother’s Day Gifts that Get Used Up–no Clutter!

Spending time with family–children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren–is what most older mothers want for Mother’s Day. Being taken out for Mother’s Day dinner with them adds to the pleasure.

What they don’t appreciate are gifts that become clutter–
–that they really don’t need or want
–that give them “problems” if they’re old because they need to figure out where to put them–
–where to store them,
–how not to hurt the giver’s feelings, and
–how to get rid of them.

10 Mother’s Day Gifts–that don’t last forever and are
thoughtful, eye-appealing, delicious, indulgent, exciting, pampering, practical

Pretty Packaging

 1. A pretty box* (she can recycle later to hold another gift for someone), with thoughtful card saying something like the Valentine message of several years ago: “I’ve put loads of love in this box. When you need a little, just open.”  Possibly accompanied by a picture of yourself/ family/grandchildren/ pet/hearts/candies–you get the idea.

2. Pretty, minIMG_2976iature-size cupcakes from the bakery (or DIY). Sr. Advisor R loves the looks and the taste–just the right size for an older woman, she says.

3. Nicely presented selection of special teas or coffees

4. Beautifully decorated box of favorite candy or R’s favorite candy (See’s which we hand-pick at the store, or the Sweet Sloops from Harbor Sweets)

5. LaDuree or other macaroons–eye-appealing, delicious, indulgent, extravagant

6.  Lottery tickets–exciting for some; gifted in a pretty box or bag. Doesn’t the anticipation of possibly winning add some fun to an older mother’s life?

7. Lotions/oils could be called pampering, depending on the cost. Older skin is at risk for dryness. Moisturizing products to the rescue. Know your mother’s favorite or ask what’s best for older skin. One 93-year-old swears by Aveeno. She says it’s feels light on the skin, while keeping it from getting dry.

8.   Perfume is not in style in some places. However, one 74-year-old grandmother has a favorite perfume. It’s one gift she loves, she says–and can use it up. Check out Mom’s favorite perfume.It’s usually nicely packaged.

9. Gift Certificates
–Appointments at the hairdressers–or at beauty colleges (less expensive), help women look better and no doubt feel better when they look in the mirror. Messy hair spoils appearance–no news there! Make arrangements, make a gift card. This gift can lift an older  mother’s (or younger one’s) spirits and get couch potatoes out of the house.

–Pedicures are a necessity when people are either no longer able to reach–or clearly see–their toe nails. Older women’s toe nails aren’t necessarily visible to us. Have you checked your mother’s? Old nails can get thick, hard to cut and ugly. It’s recommended–especially for diabetics–that pedicures become routine around age 65. What could seem like an indulgence for younger people, becomes a necessity at a certain age.

–Movie script and restaurants’ gift certificates get Mom out of the house with Dad or a friend for entertainment or a meal. Moms say a break from cooking is a gift.

10.  A pretty spring-themed box of stationery or note paper for moms who still enjoy writing, accompanied by attractive “Forever” stamps.

Flowers always seemed synonymous with Mother’s Day and I assume we’ve all gifted beautiful bouquets and arrangements over the years. While in her 90’s Sr. Advisor R said nicely that she no longer had the energy or inclination to dump the dead flowers and mushy water out and clean the container, even though she hated looking at drooping, dying, or dead flowers.

So we’ve given up gifting flowers. Admittedly, if I lived near–in addition to the chocolates–I would no doubt fill a pot with red geraniums for Mother’s Day and put it on her porch. (And replant or recycle when the plants died).

There’s still time to get these non-cluttering gifts and make mothers happy! And doesn’t this help them age well.

*boxes from Dollar-type stores

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

Related: Click “Great Gifts” tab under header at top.