The Gift of Time to Watch a Baby Grandchild Learn

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 12.31.53 PMIf you read and write about aging — your own, your parents’ or older adults in general — you often hear people comment that as they get older, they feel that their perspective broadens. Aging adults often describe how, as they age, they have more time to observe, reflect, and  worry less about differences of opinion.

I’ve discovered the gifts of time and observation as a first-time grandparent with my new infant grandson. Although I raised my daughter through the same developmental steps that my grandson is currently passing through, I now have more flexibility to watch the way he learns things. I’m watching a mini-scientist figuring out his life, and I get to observe so many of the incremental learning steps.

Of course, I was aware of the the ways my daughter learned when she was an infant and I was a young mother — but nowadays, I have lots more time because I am no longer responsible for the big things that young parents manage in their lives — work, schools, doctor’s visits, and more. My mother, now 88, tells me that she had the same experience as a grandmother when my daughter was an infant.            Continue reading

Bloom Device: A New Way to Easily Stay Connected With Elders?

VMRC race I am looking forward to learning more about a new electronic touch device that’s designed to expand communication options in a family that includes elders, Created by Bloom, the device, when it comes out this fall, may make a big difference for my parents who have a new great-grandchild and want to see all that they can possibly see.

FaceTime is complicated, as is Skype, even thought my parents, my dad especially, knows how to use his iPad and my mom has an iPhone. (Check out my iPad for Dad series on this blog.) They also have an electronic frame with photos from their lives that they turn on whenever they feel like it.

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Famed Clinicians: Prepared but Not Ready for Death

In Memoriam page at the National Institute on Aging

In Memoriam page at the National Institute on Aging – Click to enlarge.

When we think about dying, about the end of our lives, we may look to the experts for guidance — to those people who have long experience with various aspects of aging and the medical issues that complicate the process of dying. We assume that these people have their own end of life details all worked out.

This week a New York Times article by Alexandra Butler, a poet, helped us gaze into the experience of the well-prepared.

Robert N. Butler, M.D., the founding director of the National Institute on Aging, and his wife, Myrna Lewis, a social worker who specialized in support for older women, had all of the details worked out, and they shared all of this information with their daughter. Their preparations, so well conceived and worked out, assumed that Dr. Butler would pass away before his wife, but this did not happen. Just like anyone else, these two experts were confused at the unexpected turn of events. Moreover, when his wife was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, it became clear that while they prepared and saw to the arrangements for the end-of-life, being prepared for death is a lot different than being ready to die.

In her article, Alexandra Butler writes that despite the uncertainty and challenge of watching her parents die, she was very glad that they had made the preparations for palliative care with no extraordinary interventions.

No one wants to die. Some people handle this by avoiding the topic — and the preparations. Others handle it by speaking incessantly about the expectation of dying. Still others, work hard to ensure that each minute detail is in place, so that family members spend time saying good-bye. Dr. Butler, who is also the individual who coined the term ageism, was prepared, but as his daughter points out, he was not ready.

When Dr. Butler died in 2010, I wrote this post for AsOurParentsAge.

Best Quotes

  • Our deaths are the last message we leave for those we love.
  • In a world where so many of our fellow human  beings live with threats of terror and destruction, if you are lucky enough to imaging you might have any measure of control over how you die, that is a privilege that would not go to waste.

Alexander Butler’s perspective offers support and encouragement to those of us — adult children and aging parents — as we navigate the the final years of aging.

What in the World Are Those QR Codes?

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 3.29.40 PMQR Codes. You’ve probably seen them around — on everything from cereal boxes to magazines to advertising banners on the bus or in the subway. Lots of older adults ask me about QR Codes. A common questions is, “What on earth do they do?”

QR is short for quick resource code (QR code), the scannable geometric-looking design that connects a person via smartphone or digital device to online information such as an e-mail site, a video, a website, or even a telephone number. QR codes are similar to bar codes, but the QR image contains far more encoded information — thousands of times more, in fact. Learn more about QR codes at the Common Craft video tutorial site.

A QR code is essentially a shortcut to digitized information. It might be, for instance, at the end of a book chapter, linking the reader to more content on a topic, or perhaps on an advertisement or billboard. It could link conference attendees to a workshop handout or schedule.      Continue reading

Just Where Is That Fountain of Youth?

Yale University Museum

Fountain by Hans Vredeman de Vries, Dutch,  1527 – ca. 1606 Yale University Museum

Have you noticed how large pharmacies devote more and more aisle space to diet supplements, pills to fix this problem or that, anti-aging products, and vitamins that “can fix” almost anything? I’m also confronted by colorful catalogs and continuous ads, all encouraging me to try one product or another.

Jane Brody has just written an excellent article on the New York Times Well Blog, For an Aging Brain, Looking for Ways to Keep Memory Sharp, Published on May 11, 2015, Brody’s piece focuses on the ways that marketers are taking every opportunity to make us think it’s possible to do something to slow down, or even stop, the aging process, but most have no data to prove the claims.

Read the entire article, but here are two of the best sentences, succinctly summing up Brody’s thoughts:      Continue reading

Lost in the Hospital: An Article to Check Out

I’ve just finished reading a Washington Post opinion piece, We Need to Take Better Care of Our Elderly by Jerald Winakur. The March 20, 2015 article describes a hospital experience of a 91-year-old woman, who may be the author’s mother.

Winakur, a geriatrician, describes what happens to an elder who enters the hospital’s complex world of unfamiliar physicians, none of whom are the person’s primary care physician. He describes how wide-ranging medical tests, medical care recommendations, few explanations, and very little personalized care combine to create confusion for the patient and for family members. And, of course, there are the always-connected medical devices.  Continue reading