Leave it to Dr. Bill Thomas to write a new book, in this case Second Wind, and then use the book tour, not just to publicize its release by joining radio personalities and attending book signings, but instead to educate in a big way. Dr. Bill, some of his Eden Alternative and Green House Project colleagues, and other friends have undertaken a nationwide educational SecondWind Tour — with stops in 25 cities between the beginning of March and the end of May 2014. He’s using the book and the tour to promote his philosophy — and his beliefs — about aging.
Dr. Thomas’s philosophy is powerful, which is good because he is proclaiming and evangelizing to a large and very powerful demographic — the boomers — a generation that is beginning to age in earnest. A goodly number of us don’t quite know what to think about aging or how to get on with it. Of course we know we are going to age but are definitely uncertain about next steps. Participants at one of Dr. Thomas’s SecondWind Tour events — my husband and I attended the Washington, DC festivities — see and hear quite a bit about aging, gaining some insight, ideas, and tools that stimulate even more thinking. Did I mention that Dr. Bill is a great storyteller?
Visit the SecondWind website.
The goal — of the SecondWind Tour and Dr. Thomas — is nothing less than getting the entire boomer generation to understand the inevitable, that getting older is an inescapable part of each of our life plans. Aging, along with the incumbent physical changes, will gradually slow us down, and we can’t change a thing. Well, actually, we can change some things about aging by accepting what’s coming in our lives and by learning how to deeply appreciate the way our aging years can offer us a second wind — a time for growth, perspective and wisdom — after we finish with the years of traditional adulthood.
I’ve always thought of myself as a cup-half-full person. Just about any time that something hard or challenging occurs, I’m out there trying to help solve the problem or at least make things better. My continuing retinal detachments (a.k.a. proliferative vitreoretinopathy or PVR) together with oil that may never be removed from my eye, have challenged me.
My new glasses!
Following the fifth surgery in early December 2013 I’ve continued to feel frustrated, afraid, and helpless, not all at once, of course, but at various time and especially when double vision hampers my piano playing and writing activities.
During the winter months I began to feel a bit better. I made an appointment with a low vision specialist, an optometrist with advanced training in the treatment for people with sight limitations. Almost every eye clinic at a hospital or medical center has a low vision section. On the day in early February when I visited the specialist I entered the office feeling terribly sorry for myself, and within the hour I emerged feeling more positive and hopeful. Something wonderful happened at that appointment.
When we look around at elders, it’s interesting (and a bit awesome) to observe many engaged and committed people leading rich lives for as long as they live — and often despite fairly daunting physical difficulties. I usually think of my parents who use their energy to help others and solve problems in the world, despite sometimes frustrating aging concerns and occasional physical roadblocks. Participating in these activities energizes them. My mother describes it as, “living the Sermon on the Mount.”
One of my favorite folk song books.
I’ve been thinking about Pete Seeger, the activist folksinger who died at age 94 about a month ago. An amazing and prolific musician — I’ve sung his songs since I was a baby — he taught us a lot about music and singing and, more importantly, how to sing along with others. Seeger also combined his music with a strong social conscience, using the songs to demonstrate the importance of helping others and improving the world, and he did these things it right up to the end of his life.
Pete — just about everyone I talk with thinks of him as Pete, whether they’ve ever met him or not — also demonstrated how well a determined and engaged person can overcome daunting problems and continue to live a successful life right through the late elderhood years.
We hear a lot about assisted living communities these days. If we need to learn more, we check out glossy brochures that describe each place in considerable and colorful detail. Sometimes we visit the community for a meal or to participate in a special event.
What we don’t see when we help a family member consider whether or not to move into an assisted living residence are the small details — the daily interactions of various personalities, the stories of individual community residents, and the ongoing narrative or body politic of daily life.
On her blog, Assisted Living: An Insider’s View, Carol Netzer, a four-year resident of an assisted living community, shares stories, experiences, and observations. A psychologist by training, Netzer possesses a keen eye for detail and a knack for storytelling. Each post describes a situation, a person, or an event, providing readers with a window through which to observe the successes and challenges of the day-to-day assisted living experience.
Just when you think that you have settled the most significant adult child-aging parent issues — when you and your parents have spoken about medical care support, finances, and the range of their end-of-life wishes — along comes another concern to worry about, and it’s one that may be completely out of our control.
We now need to be concerned about the possibility of a parent entering a hospital and assigned to observation status for several days. Observation means that, rather than being officially admitted as a patient, the person is there to be watched, sort of like an out-patient, but not really an out-patient. The problem is, it’s difficult to discover what status a hospital assigns a patient — the two look almost alike with nurses, doctors, hospital rooms, blood pressure checks, etc. Admission and observation do not look that different to the patient and family, and apparently many hospitals are not especially forthcoming with the information.
Why is patient status significant? It’s simple, really. If your parent needs to enter a skilled nursing facility or nursing home after three days of observation status, Medicare will not pay and the family will be required to pay all of the bills, including the hospital costs. For Medicare to pay the bills, a family member must be admitted as a patient for at least three days and not assigned observation status.
Over the past year newspapers and medical or health journals have carried stories about elders and observation, and I share them here so that you can learn as much as you can.
Those of us edging closer to retirement may be in for some surprises. We may discover that some of our friends and colleagues are thinking less about taking it easy in their later years and more about using the time to start a business.
A Bloomberg Personal Finance article, Older Americans Shun Retirement at 65 for Risky Startups, by Steve Matthews, describes how many boomers are opting to become entrepreneurs, turning their ideas into companies, and working hard to make their business grow. Quoting from a report by the Kauffman Foundation Matthews notes that, “People from 55 to 64 started 23.4 percent of the [new] companies in 2012.” The Kauffman Foundation offers support and information to people who are seeking become more independent by educational achievement and entrepreneurial activities. (Kauffman mission).