Will Robots Take Care of Us When We’re Old?

Personal robots groupTake a few minutes to read a May 2014 Chicago Tribune article, An Army of Robots May Soon be Deployed to Care for the Elderly. This piece, written by Reuters columnist Mark Miller, explores how robots may be able to perform certain tasks to support elders who can’t aways do those tasks for themselves. Innovating with robots is a much-discussed idea in the technology and caregiving communities because so many boomers are aging into their senior and eventually elder years when they will require extra support.

How much of a role will robots play? The May 2014 Tribune article posits that they may play a significant one, if only because the need for caregiving jobs will rise steeply while the people to fill those jobs will rise negligibly. Author Mark Miller also quotes Cynthia Breaseal, who heads the Personal Robots Group at the MIT media lab, pointing out that many people appear to form emotional attachments with social robots. To see some of the other robots that the group is developing, check out the the MIT lab by clicking on the image above.                       Continue reading

Gazing at Aging Through the Reunion Prism

When I attended my first school reunion with a family member, just a few years after graduating from college, the people attending their 35th, 45th and 50th reunions seemed really old. At a Saturday luncheon table near the back of an old-fashioned field house, we watched and clapped, somewhat wondrously, as the different classes stood to be recognized, beginning with a man attending his 70th reunion who moved around slowly with a walker.

The old observatory at the school — now a National Landmark.

The old observatory at the school — now a National Landmark.

Gradually the master of ceremonies worked his way from the front to the back of the room – 65th, 60th, 55th, 50th, 45th. It wasn’t until we reached the class attending its 30th reunion that the alumni started to look, well … not old. It took half-an-hour to reach our tables filled with raucous young men who along with wives and partners, had barely finished with graduate school.

Looking back, I realize that luncheon offered me my first concrete understanding of the way we age — the way I age, actually. We all sat there observing benchmarks — characteristics that define what happens to human beings over 10, 20, or 30 years.

And sure enough, this weekend, here I am in Ohio attending a 50th reunion, though not mine. This time I’m sitting at a table that looks toward the back of the room — and at some fairly raucous young people. Did I mention that not one of the people at our 50-year tables looks old?

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Remembering an Elder Mom Who Deeply Disliked Dependence

Made with Festisite.com.

Made with Festisite.com.

If you are not a regular reader of The New York Times New Old Age blog, take a few minutes to read the post by Perry Klass, M.D., She Wasn’t So Ungrateful After All. Dr. Klass, a pediatrician and a writer, penned this May 27, 2014 remembrance of her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass, also a writer, who lost much of her sight and needed the support of her adult children. Actually Dr. Klass’ essay was more than a remembrance. It was a tribute.

If you are a regular reader of The New York Times New Old Age blog you probably did read Mrs. Klass’ (the mom not the physician) 2013 blog post, A Very Ungrateful Old Lady, vividly describing her frustration as well as the challenges she faced as she increasingly depended on the support of her adult children. If you did not read it, please do. Mrs. Klass died about six months after her article was published.

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Roz Chast’s Graphic Novel: Serious Humor for Adult Children Caretakers

9781620406380

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This morning I am going to One More Page, my local independent book store, to purchase Roz Chast’s new graphic novel, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

I’ve never read a graphic novel, although I frequently pass by them in local independent book stores. Today, however, I will buy the book and explore this new-to-me genre, really a graphic memoir, because I love Roz Chast. More personally, however, I am deeply involved, by choice, with supporting and occasionally caring for aging parents. As Chast shares her experiences and challenges, doing so with humor and pain, I recognize much of what she depicts.

This cartoonist’s elegant work, mostly in the New Yorker, is synonymous with tongue-in-cheek observation. No matter what topic Roz Chast chooses to illustrate, a viewer laughs and thinks, though not necessarily in that order.              Continue reading

Happy Mother’s Day 2014, Mom

My mom and me in late 1952.

My mom and me in late 1952.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I know you are a bit frustrated by a few health issues right now, but I hope you know how much we all admire and love you.

In all these years, as far as I can tell, you’ve never encountered a subject that you don’t want to learn more about. Sometimes when I think about you, I just lean back and marvel at your drive and intellectual capacity. Every time we talk, you tell me about what you’ve learned by working on your computer, sharing at the book club, attending a peace and justice meeting, listening to music at the Bach Festival, or working hard in a committee you serve on at one organization or another. Or maybe I arrive and more plants are in the garden, so I know that you’ve been working out there.

Mom, Her Mom, and Me - 1973

Mom, Her Mom, and Me – 1973

Of course these days you tire more easily, but you are learning to pace yourself so you can do the the things you like to do.

Do you have any idea, over the years, just how many people you have registered to vote, all told? Hundreds, I bet. Of course, we all treasure the picture of you and President Obama (well he wasn’t quite the president at that point). But then you were one of the super-volunteers in the Shenandoah Valley, so active in politics and always willing to take on extra jobs. Then last year you were active in the governor’s election, and one day there you were pictured with former President Bill Clinton when he came to campaign for the candidate. Continue reading

Grandma by Jessica Shepherd: A Book Review


Grandma book

Recently I discovered a children’s book, Grandma, that tells a story, from a child’s point of view, about a much-loved grandmother who develops dementia. As an educator, I’ve often thought about the need for books that help children understand the disease while illustrating how to continue to love and support a family member who experiences dramatic memory changes. Only now, years after my family lost my husband’s mother to this terrible brain disease, are children’s books that address dementia beginning to appear.

Grandma, an easy-to-read picture book written and illustrated by Jessica Shepherd, fits the bill. Young Oscar shares his thoughts about his grandmother, describing the fun they have, the fond ways they interact, and the changes that have come about since she “started forgetting a lot of things.” He describes how she lives in a new community, with caregivers, and tells about his visits.

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