Help Aging Parents: Veteran’s Benefits Revisited–on Blogtalk Radio

                 All three levels of Veteran’s Benefits:

Healthcare (includes prescriptions)
(3 pension levels including Aid and Attendance)

are discussed on blogger Dale Carter’s March 5, 2011 Blogtalk radio interview. Victoria Collier, a Vietnam Veteran, who’s now an attorney specializing in elder law and veteran’s benefits, is Dale’s guest.

While attorney Collier obviously can’t cover everything in depth, there are 2 reasons I highly recommend taking the time to click the link below and listen to this half-hour program.
— As an educator I know that some of us are better visual learners; others are auditory learners who learn best by listening.
— While the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Pension Program is no secret to my readers, attorney Collier brings up more helpful details in a half hour than one can include in a blog. (We’re told blogs won’t hold readers’ attention that long. Is that a surprise?)

Since our goal is to help parents age well–during the good times and during the challenges, if there’s a veteran in your family–especially an aging one–check out Dale Carter’s interview. It’s packed with information that can help parents (and grandparents), who are veterans, age well.

….And who knows, this might just turn into a life-changing gift for Mother’s…or Father’s…Day, a birthday or any day.

3/26/14 Help! Aging Parents was just nominated again for the Best Senior Living Awards 2014, “Best Blogs by Individuals” category.  It was a finalist in 2013. I appreciated your votes last year and would very much appreciate them again this year by clicking if you’re on Facebook. Deadline 4/28/14 Thanks so much!

Changing often: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: Mother’s Day Gift Ideas (2015 update)

Also Click Great Gifts Tab Above

Mother’s Day always seems to creep up on me.  It quickly becomes too late for ordering one of the best Mother’s Day gift ideas. If, however, you’re too late but are creative, a photo and message in a gift-wrapped box has two advantages: anticipation created after seeing the photo, then subsequently receiving the gift itself. .

I’ve never seen this handbag in the East….maybe because it comes from California. But I’ve seen it in the West and grandmothers who have it, love it.  They should since it’s pricey. (Yet we all know–everything pricey isn’t loved by everyone).  At least one grandmother says it’s “a thrilling gift to receive…I don’t think any mother or grandmother would appreciate anything more.” She has the “Vanessa.” What makes it so special?

It’s a Brighton handbag, with an adorable photo of her grandchildren expertly reproduced on the back and front– a wonderful conversation piece of excellent quality….”sturdy,” I’m told. (I loved an old Brighton handbag with the family dog, in their former online ad,  but I’m guessing grandchildren’s photos usually win out.)

2015 update: If you want to get it for Mother’s Day, it must be ordered in person from a Brighton Collectibles store and that takes time so click store locater link now. Indeed, they no longer have photos of the–what they now call “Memory  Handbags” on their site. Does that make them even more special to the recipient??

The second pricey gift: the iPad.  An 88-year-old with macular degeneration received one as a birthday gift last weekend and says “it’s great” because she can enlarge the font to read books as well as the apps (some of which her children installed for her). She can once again enjoy reading a book. (I understand her kids went to the Apple store at 7:30 in the morning and there was already a long line.) You might want to read about Marti and her 87-year-old dad’s experience when she bought him an iPad.

A less pricey gift: the Kindle.  Again the size of the font can be enlarged, benefiting people with macular degeneration as well as others. While the Kindle is obviously not as versatile as the iPad since it’s made for reading books, it too enables many aging parents to enjoy reading once again.

Less expensive gifts are highlighted in a just-updated April 2010 Mother’s Day Gift post:  Happy Shopping!

Related: (click links)
2015 A Great Mother’s Day Gift-Inexpensive, Yet Priceless  Easy DIY or ask a friend to help
2015  Fashionista or Frumpy-Dumpy 1 and 2-flattering Mother’s Day clothing for aging moms

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

Lifting Aging Parents’ Spirits on Dreary, Rainy Days

Another dreary, rainy day in the northeast–the day before Easter, a time when we expect Spring weather to lift our spirits.  For me it’s cozy–rain pattering on the roof; my husband at home; each of us is doing what we want with few “must do’s” until we meet friends for dinner tonight.

Then I think about the older people who live alone on dreary days. My neighbor, with a husband, 5 adult children and umpteen grandchildren, is prepared for this kind of day. She has looked out for an independently-living 90+ year-old childless (and as I understand it “remarkable”) aunt for 10 years…through the good times and some major health events.

Idea #1: a movie on a rainy day

Every weekend my neighbor visits her aunt, bringing a film from Netflix. What’s better than watching a movie on a dreary day?  Sometimes it’s an old movie, featuring stars of her aunt’s era; sometimes it’s a current film. She and her aunt watch together and often have a snack as if they were at the movies. It’s something her aunt looks forward to and a responsibility my friend feels blessed to be able to do.

Idea #2: Live-streaming Forwards on a dreary day

We all receive forwards.  They can bring music, video, and interest to aging parents who use computers and know how to click the link.  Connecting with nature is uplifting and regenerating, so watching the live-streaming below should capture older people’s interest:

1.  The 24/7 (special light that doesn’t disturb birds, they say) live-stream video of an eagle pair and their 3 little eaglets. Who doesn’t love watching babies?

2.  The NY Times live stream of red-tailed hawks, Violet and Bobby, on their nest, waiting for their eggs to hatch–any day now. It’s mesmerizing. One person called it “a zen-like experience.” The fact that the nest sits on the window ledge of New York University’s President’s office–smack dab in the middle of the big city–attests to the hawks’ resourcefulness. Excellent technology makes this live-stream close and personal–actually, I think, addictive. 6/24–Note: After what seemed like interminable waiting, just 1 egg hatched; the 49-day-old hawk fledged (flew out of the nest) yesterday. Hundreds of thousands of addicted and emotionally attached viewers got an education from watching the daily drama. Here’s a time-compressed robin’s nest experience–it can’t replace, but it is nice to share, especially on a dreary day:

Idea #3: Links on a blah day

Links such as YouTube add entertainment to aging parents’ lives. Our lives are busy and, speaking for myself, there’s precious little time to watch and appreciate everything that’s forwarded. But there are elders who aren’t busy, who don’t have much going on, who feel down on dreary days. Selected entertainment can be a “pick-me-up.”

As we look for ways to help parents age well when those dreary days dampen spirits, why not give these ideas a try?

2/20/13 Help! Aging Parents again was 1st runner-up, this time joined by 3 additional  blogs for this honor. Check them and all finalists out on  And many thanks again for your vote.

The Best Cell Phones for Seniors–with 9/12/14 update

I just got my new cell  phone, and it’s one that I  can understand, outsmart, and know how to operate!!!  I got it at the Verizon Cell Phone for Seniors store at the mall!” (an email forwarded to me by a friend in 2011. Although I found several Verizon Senior Stores through Google and Yahoo in 2011, they no longer exist.)

What is the best cell phone for aging parents? I thought PC magazine might have the answer.  Its three-page article, The Top Simple Cell Phones,” (Feb. 2011) offers excellent information, plus ratings and a slide show of seven phones. I knew Jitterbug (third page) was senior-user-friendly, but had little knowledge about the other cell phones.

CNET reviewed “best basic phones” (Sept. 2014), if you read the comments, you probably won’t buy any of them…so you might want to check what not to buy. Instead click this PC Magazine link, read content below the phone and check comparison chart which features older (seemingly preferred) cell phones for seniors, Just 5 J509as well as  Snapfon ez ONE-c-unlocked, written about in the 11/29/12 piece below.  Worth reading if doing comparisons for a non-techsavvy senior phone.

That said, 9/12/14 CNBC news commented on Great Call’s Touch 3 (Samsung). Although a smartphone, from the video it seems simple enough for non-techsavvy seniors; and their children might love the “being able to check up” feature. On the other hand, for seniors who continue to be/feel independent, some features could be considered intrusive.

Most recently, 1/1/15, a relatively young guy, G.E. Miller, reviewed and reinforced Tracfone’s simplicity and value on his blog, 20Something Finance, In fact, he’s now using it. The Tracfone was far and away the most popular based on the many comments below, going back to 2011. Always heartening to know when a product has staying power.

Cell phones today are  invaluable–for different reasons for different age groups. Clearly a simple, user-friendly cell phone is a necessity as we try to help parents and older people age well. Gaining the confidence to use it encourages connections (a key to aging well) and is obviously helpful in emergencies.

And what was this cell phone that she could understand, outsmart, and operate? Comment from Fran, below, much more helpful than the writer’s, so I’m going with Fran and her thoughtful research. Note: Comments are found below social media icons, below “Related” They’re called “Thoughts”–at the very bottom of post.

Because there’s so much interest in the SVC (Samsung T115) I’m including 2 UTube links about it. The first–short, simple, but bounces around:   The second–longer and more detailed, showing seemingly every feature (including textured sides for a nice grip) and updated 10/11:

11/25/11 The new Snapfon ez ONE-c (Unlocked) has been selected as PC Magazine’s new “Editor’s Choice” for simple cell phones (,2817,2396826,00.aspby Alex Colon. He  also wrote PC Magazine’s “Top Simple Cell Phones” 2/2011 review (second paragraph above). The Nov. 2011 issue elevated the new ezONE-c (unlocked) model above the Snapfon ez ONE’s  3.5-star rating.

11/29/12 Alex Colon (PC magazine) writes–page 2, near bottom: “As far as simple phones go, our favorite is still the Jitterbug Plus, which is a straightforward flip phone with a good keypad, an easy-to-navigate interface, solid call quality, and good battery life. The Just5 J509 and Snapfon ez One-c are also good options, and are even more basic than the Jitterbug Plus, if you’re looking for Zen-like simplicity.”

2/20/13 For those with disabilities (vision, hearing) states offer programs that distribute free telephones. Check out my recent post:

5/20/13  There  are 2 Simple Smartphones on the market. Some parents may love the simplicity and features. Check May 7th post ” Smartphones for Seniors” 

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


Challenging Doctors to Help Parents–Who Are Patients–Age Well

Are We Brave Enough to Question a Doctor?

Reaching old age in relatively healthy condition involves many things. Along the way, there are the inevitable health issues that may require hospitalization.

I also think it’s safe to say that most of us just naturally want to please our parents’ doctors or at least not get on their bad side. We want to collaborate, not seem critical or questioning.  But sometimes………

While it’s not uncommon to feel stressed just thinking about having a difficult conversation, especially one that involves someone in authority, it can be more daunting when we feel we must have this kind of conversation with our parents’ doctor or other health workers who care for our parents.

*                         *                     *                        *                       *

Maureen Dowd tackled this issue in her  April 13, 2011 NY Times column, informing us that–among other things– “A report in the April issue of Health Affairs indicated that one out of every three people suffer a mistake during a hospital stay.”

For those of us trying to help parents, older people or anyone age well, I think this column really is a “must-read,” especially if a hospital stay is imminent or might be in their future.

Unintended Consequences as We Try to Help Aging Parents

When Aging Parents Move and We Try to Help–Telephones! 

Will Our Telephone # Move Too?

Unlike cell numbers, hard-wired telephone numbers don’t necessarily follow to a new residence–even when it’s not far from the previous residence. For aging parents, telephone numbers need to follow from the “get-go.” Obvious? Perhaps. Under stressful conditions–perhaps not.Unintended consequences, are just that. We don’t think about them until we’re left with the damage control. And if we’re responsible as we try to help aging parents, it’s easy to become angry with ourselves for creating additional problems that disappoint parents and can unnecessarily involve siblings.


An 85-year-old relative recently moved from her condo to assisted living–not a move she initiated. Several months of worsening mobility problems and a series of hospitalizations jeopardized living alone.

The last several years she and her 3 grown children had discussed the wisdom of moving. Friends in her condo complex had died or moved. And there was an attractive independent-living place nearby, making it easy to maintain her routines.

My relative is smart, organized, active, loved her condo of 40+ years and hung on to her independence–through many serious health events.  But last month her doctors advised she needed assisted–not independent–living. She gave in and asked her children to arrange for the move while she recovered in a hospital.

What’s a telephone got to do with it?

To reiterate from past posts, connections to others is one of the 3 most important factors in healthy aging. And telephones provide a major way of connecting with others. Indeed older people may have their friends’ numbers on automatic dial as memories fade.

My relative’s caring, efficient children notified the phone company to close her account immediately.  It was an easy thing to cross off a long list. But suddenly they realized friends couldn’t contact her.  She had a completely new phone number at the assisted-living facility, which used another provider.

Think about new phone numbers being a problem for aging parents and grandparents who downsize (and for their aging/old friends).  If they remain in the same area of their city/town and stay with the same phone company it’s more likely that the phone number won’t change. Simply tell the phone company that although the address is changing, your parents want to keep the same #.

1.  However, do not notify the phone company to stop an aging/old parent’s existing phone service before asking if they can transfer the old telephone number to the new address. Otherwise the existing phone number can be given away.

2.  Check out–ahead– the phone system/provider at the new place. When an institution has its own system or a different phone provider, it may be best to ask the person in charge to take care of having your parents’ old phone number transferred immediately if it’s doable. This eliminates having aging parents in a new living situation feel even more isolated because friends can’t phone them.

My relative’s children report it was a hassle to get the old phone number back–took 3 weeks to accomplish.  “We were just lucky,” they added.  (It may not be this difficult everywhere.)

It was simpler back in the day, when “Reach out and touch someone” was part of a well-known telephone ad; when accessing a live human being on the other end of a business’s line was the norm. Never-the-less we can prevent unintended consequences and, in the case of telephones, maintain that connectedness so important for older people’s aging well. It doesn’t take too much effort…when we have a “heads up.” Otherwise, it pays (to use an old Revlon nail polish ad) to “Make haste slowly.”


Help Aging Parents: Phones and Frustrations

Automation, Confusing Menus, “On Hold” Forever, Can You Talk to Real People?

To help older people age well, we know how important it is to stay connected. Face-to-face is great; phones are next best. That said, making a phone call to get information, check billing status etc. is no longer simple. Today’s automated technology can frustrate and discourage older people, undermining feelings of self-reliance–increasing their dependence on adult children to handle “stuff” for them. Does this help parents age well?

Telephoning to Get Information–Complicated

Haven’t we all experienced it –first the menu, next a series of instructions, then often a long hold which clearly the machine doesn’t mind–but what about us humans on the other end?

For older generations who spent most of their life talking to a person, being subjected to a menu of endless, seemingly unsuitable or quickly-forgotten options is frustrating and confusing… No doubt even worse for those with some hearing or memory loss.

Help Has Arrived
The Ask The Experts column in AARP’s March 2011 bulletin provides it. (Click link and maximize to see column in readable-size font.)

“How can I quickly reach a live person when calling a customer service number?” is the third (and last) question in the column. AARP’s Experts introduce three . coms that come to the rescue. With companies’ customer service numbers (answered by human beings) and the “how-to’s” of bypassing automated prompts to reach live representatives, there is help for aging parents….and us.

1. provides a long, alphabetized list of companies’ phone numbers where human beings answer the call. I clicked the link; be certain to scroll to the very end for 8 additional suggestions about bypassing prompts and reaching a human being.

2. displays a list of popular companies’ phone numbers, a long alphabetical list of companies, or you can type in a company’s name. You’ll be able to see average wait time, user reviews, customer satisfaction ratings for phone accessibility among other things.

3. prevents you from being placed on “hold” and is another free service. Clicking the link brings up the simple-to-follow instructions. Interesting details in this NY Times Business Section article.

The above should help aging parents who use computers.  For those who don’t, we can print out a list of company phone numbers our parents often use (where humans answer the phone), along with the 8 suggestions found on  And–oh, yes, won’t this information help us too?