Aging Parents: Older Women’s Hair Revisited–with 2014 additions

Hair. A focus of women, regardless of age.
Look Good. Feel Better

Tips for appropriate cuts and gray hair, coupled with advice from medical professionals and top stylists to help women look good and age well.

I remember hearing that at one time the “wisdom” of the day for women (mostly until  the last half  of the 20th century) was that going out and buying a new hat would make ladies feel better. Hats were in style for over half of the 20th century. Can we deduce hats could hide a bad hair day, helped women look stylish, and therefore provided a psychological lift in an era when therapy was not stylish?

Minus a hat, isn’t the search for ways to make hair look good–or draw attention away from bad hair–a constant? (Actually, isn’t this true for all perceived inadequacies–be they inadequacies of body, limbs, skin, face, or hair–especially as we age?)

Internet articles to the rescue

Help! Aging Parents has written about aging women’s hair care, hair loss, hair styles, and hair enhancement quoting tricologists, MD’s and other hair experts and stylists (see RELATED below). As Time Goes By has a series of very good posts (below). In September offered “7 Secrets to the Haircut that Will Make You Look Younger” ( It was recently republished, with additional edits, in the 3/7/14 Huffington Post ( Key difference in the 2 posts is found in “Healthy Ends are Younger-Looking…” section.

An earlier HP article “Gray Hair Styling Tips,” can be found by scrolling below the 3/7/14 piece. It no doubt provides worthwhile tips for those who color their hair (eg. “shampoo once a week and just conditioner and water the other days:); yet I question whether this applies to those who have let their hair gray naturally.

Reason: Some on Mother’s side of the family have a prematurely-gray gene. We’ve had graying hair for so long. (Fun to see played out in our late-30’s at a first-ever family reunion.) I think those of us who haven’t colored our hair simply made adjustments as needed, learning what works best. For example, I question “…shampoo just once a week and just conditioner and water on the other days.” The rationale may be that it dries out the scalp (skin). The elders in my 90-year-old aunt’s assisted living facility were bathed/showered once a week for that reason. Check with a doctor if in doubt about a parent’s aging scalp (skin).

“Look good, feel better.” Isn’t it a given, regardless of age? Yet looking good takes on additional importance as parents age, slow down, see less well, hear less well, and lose many things that were previously taken for granted while acquiring wrinkles, thinning hair etc..  With good information we can be there to help.

*                *                   *

3/26/14 Help! Aging Parents has been nominated for 2014 “Best Blogs by Individuals” recognition and we would appreciate your vote by 4/28 if you’re on Facebook. We were honored to be judged part of a 3-way tie for first runner-up last year thanks to your votes which took us to the judging round. Click top badge at right to view a universe of helpful aging blogs and resources, even if you can’t vote on Facebook.

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

(Please note: Because I will be going between the Southwest and Northwest for several months, most likely I can post only once a week for the time being. It will be on Tuesday or a Saturday–just not both.)

Ronni Bennett’s 3-part series on her search for dealing with hair-loss.
Up Close and Personal with 7 instructive tips The More link is one of the best I’ve read, with information from dermatologists (MD’s, one a professor) that answers many questions.


PBS’s: “Life and Death in Assisted Living”–When Assisted Living Doesn’t Help Parents Age Well

At some point I’m guessing most of us have thought about assisted living–either as a future option if adequate help is unavailable or we know people who reside there. (FYI assisted living is home to 750,000 American seniors.)

The people I’ve known are there primarily because of mobility issues or problems with balance. That said, I have an 88-year-old relative who has been in assisted living for several years, initially due to a series of minor falls and irreversible vision problems. At this point she says she’s having memory problems. Of course this is not unique as people age, whether in assisted-living or not. It’s what happens next that could be problematical.

I didn’t know what to expect this past Tuesday, when I watched PBS’s FRONTLINE report: “Life and Death in Assisted Living.” FRONTLINE focused on the largest of the assisted living companies, Emeritus. (Specifics about  the company are in the “chat” link below.) The assumptions families make about assisted living care vs. the reality are understandable, but….

Issues addressed regarding inadequate care and staff training were an eye-opener. One possible explanation: assisted living facilities are not regulated (nursing homes are). In the “live chat” the next day, one speaker compared assisted living regulation to day care center regulation 40 years ago.

Watch the program–

Link to the next day’s live chat text– (Text of the dialog is especially good as we can refer to it again,) Two adult children featured in the PBS program take part.

Check out the resource guide Next Avenue put together “to help people evaluate facilities and learn about assisted living”–

Learn the 7 questions to ask when looking for assisted living —

Learn about FATE (Foundation Aiding the Elderly) 

PBS has provided an important “heads up” as we try to help parents age well.  Thoughts?

Aging Parents and Alcohol: A Lady’s 100th Birthday Lunch–at a Bar


I’ve written before about Mrs. M, who died at 104. From the “old school,” she was a lady of standards and protocol.  Each time she went to the hospital due to another emergency, for example, her son insisted that they call her “Mrs. M” (no “honey” or “sweetie” for her).

For countless decades drinks at “cocktail hour” were part of the routine and in old age she still liked a “little drink”–whether or not her doctors approved. Indeed she threatened to stop all medication and suffer the consequences if she couldn’t have this little bit of enjoyment now and then.

Her son, after trying unsuccessfully to fight the cocktail routine when she entered her late 90’s, wisely I think, decided that it was better for everyone if she had one drink, was happy and lived less long– as opposed to enduring the misery and arguments that accompanied a complete ban on alcohol and living longer. (The primary concern was her falling with such old, fragile bones.)

And so it was on a lovely April day that the two of us went to JB’s, an upscale restaurant-bar, for a prearranged birthday lunch. “Prearranged” translates: spoke with her son to make certain he had no objections, made a reservation and asked for a certain table so Mrs. M wouldn’t need to walk too far once inside the restaurant, and the last arrangement was with God. I prayed for a parking space close to the restaurant.

Mrs. M was dressed and ready, with cane in hand, when I arrived. She’d told a caregiver/companion, who usually came late morning and went home after doing the dinner dishes, that she was going out to lunch with me–not to come until later.

We got in the car for a 5-minute drive to the restaurant.  Right in front was an empty parking space. So far, so good. As we were ushered to our table, chatting about being 100, I noticed some much younger men sitting on high stools at a high round table having drinks and lunch. We sat down and Mrs. M ordered one of the specialty drinks–a pear “concoction” with a sliver of a dried pear floating on top of the liquor, ice and whatever else there was. “Wonderful,” I recall her saying after the first sip.

Suddenly I panicked. I wondered if Mrs. M had eaten any breakfast. How does one ask the question without sounding demeaning, insulting or at best nosey? (In critical situations I realize I instinctively react by “kidding on the square.” It’s something I learned early on; it works for me; it had become a conditioned reaction.) I said something like “I hope you’ve had breakfast otherwise your son will kill me if something happens to you and we’ll probably both be dead–plus we’ll ruin a good friendship.”

She assured me she’d had breakfast and I assured myself she would have a substantial lunch. As the waiter came over to take our orders, he informed us that the men at the high round table had bought our drinks in celebration of Mrs. M’s 100th birthday. She was thrilled–hadn’t had a young man buy her a drink in a long while, she said. She smiled and waved at them. Her delight was worth $1,000,000!

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

*       *       *





Holiday Gifts for Aging Mothers–1 2012 update

Also Click Great Gifts tab above

Fashionable, Appropriate Clothing and Accessories:
7 Excellent Sites 

A never-worn St. John knit hangs in my closet.  Normally a very pricey label, it was so inexpensive (a “buy” you can find in NY). I couldn’t resist getting it for my mother years ago–her size, her color, two piece. But she never wore it.  Why?  At age 83, she tactfully told me that she didn’t wear short sleeves because of flabby arms. Who knew?

Something to think about when selecting clothing: older women’s particular wants and needs, as well as challenges.  Can can they button and unbutton easily? What about hooks and eyes? clasps to necklaces? things that zip, button in back etc. etc.  Do they want to downplay/hide certain parts of their body?

Senior advisor R, 99, still uses catalogs…and always looks well-put-together. Check out her favorite catalogs and their URLs. If you want to entertain your mother, while getting an idea of what she likes, check them out together.  (In counseling we call the latter “a hidden agenda.”)

Appleseeds (800-767-6666) The $79.95 washable, red Cascade Ruffle Pointe knit jacket Cascade Ruffle Ponte Jacketcould be a “must-have” for the holidays. (A woman 65+ reviewed it.)Pair it with black pants and a festive top. Pants, shirts, skirts, sweaters, jackets, coats, pant suits; accessories, handbags, shoes, gifts–you name it, Appleseeds has it. They carry Women’s sizes. Click the Santa’s weekly specials. The “Ruffled Front Boiled Wool” jacket, that comes in various colors, could pull an outfit together nicely in colder climates.

Chico’s (888-855-4986), has online shopping, as well as bricks and mortar stores. Attractive clothing, jewelry and accessories suitable not only for us, but for women of all ages. Check out online: the Mesh Marine cardigan $53+ (hand wash), and Traveller’s Collection Bree cardigan $65+Travelers Collection Bree Cardigan(machine washable) that add a contemporary look and can hide “a multitude of sins” (as they used to say) for older figures. Their ever-changing sales have just changed again, so always check them out along with Today’s Deals.

I visited a Chico’s store recently. I’m told older women especially love their jackets (which also include “cardigan sweaters;” cardigan sweaters are in the sweater category as well) and jewelry. Indeed a well-dressed older woman was trying on a jacket at a bricks and mortar store in Arizona.

Coldwater Creek (1-888-678-5576) emerged from bankruptcy with new ownership, as an online business (no bricks and mortar stores for the time being at least), in November 2015. Many were saddened to see the “Going Out of Business” signs last summer and hopefully will have expectations met with this new business model. While offerings are relatively small as the business gets up and running, they continue to carry all sizes (petite to plus), accessories, a clearance ……. , offer customer service by phone. This link explains the difference between the old and the new (,

Don’t want this to be too long; list will be continued next post.
Happy Shopping!

Help Aging Parents–Thanksgiving Preparations: When Old (and young) are “Ify” (may not come)

The table is set. We’re still uncertain how many people will celebrate Thanksgiving with us.
I remember Eloise (she’s the woman who posted DNR’s all around her home, and died in her sleep at 95) telling me, “when planning a party and older people are coming, there’s a chance someone won’t make it.” We now know the college grad is coming. Still not certain about our recently-out-of-the-hospital relative (in his 70’s) and his wife.

That said, we decided it’s easier to subtract than to add places at a table. We put leaves in at either end and will sit two people on each end. If our relative and his wife can’t come, one person will sit on each end–not a difficult change.

R at 99 is so wise–a reason she has been one of my senior advisors since I began this blog. We discussed the ever-changing last-minute guest list of the last 24 hours (at one point there was a possibility of adding two additional people –an octogenarian and her daughter who R thought were without plans). R said, speaking from experience and referring to our relative, “You know, being in another environment often makes people forget their problems for a while. It will be good for him.”

I have a feeling he and his wife will make the effort to come, and since we’re family and close friends, how can it not be good? So I’ll head to the kitchen, finish the yams and stuffing, and make a nontraditional frozen cranberry salad. Tomorrow I’ll put the turkey on a rotisserie. That act, in and of itself, is the most difficult part. The turkey bastes itself.  We all have our traditions. The cranberry necklace will once again adorn the turkey; the place cards will be autumn leaves, saved and reused from years’ past.*

And we will be thankful that we’re together once again. And again this year we will give thanks for our many blessings and ask protection for those in far away lands, sacrificing to keep us safe so our lives and traditions can go on as usual.


*(Note the leaf place cards: when people die, their leaf place cards continue to be with us as part of the centerpiece…when there’s a divorce, the leaf becomes compost.)