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

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.

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

Elders and Students Living Together: A Novel Housing Idea

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This picture was shared with AsOurParentsAge.net by  Humanities Deventer community administrators. Many thanks!

What if every long-term care and assisted living community had a few areas where students could live for free in exchange for an hour a day of volunteer work? Wouldn’t that create an interesting multi-age community? Well it’s been tried in The Netherlands, and it’s successful.

According to a story from the Australia Broadcast Company (ABC) an assisted living community in The Netherlands now sets aside six rooms for college students. The students live free in exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work each month. The students and the residents love it, though according to a student interviewed in the article, the main problem is that people they know die.

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How Do YOU Feel About Getting Older?

Created with Festisite.

Created with Festisite.

Take a few minutes to read How I REALLY Feel About Getting Older, a Huffington Post article by Jane Gross, that reflects and reviews many of the most concrete problems that occur when people age.

Gross describes the frustration of living in a society that trivializes older adults while it also turns away from the wisdom of elders. At the same time, she observes, the media bombards older adults with messages urging people to overcome aging problems simply by purchasing one product or another. And then there are the media messages that reinforce the aging stereotypes held by those who have not yet started to worry about growing older…

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Oliver Sacks’ Perspective on the End of His Life

musicophilia-1-194x300The direction of every life can change in a moment. We learn this as we age and also as we support elder parents.

In his February 19, 2015, New York Times’ opinion piece, My Own Life, Dr. Oliver Sacks illustrates how fast things can change. If you missed his article, it’s a stirring description of what it’s like to feel good and robust at one moment and discover a metastasized cancer tumor at the next. There is nothing unique about this situation — it happens all the time. What is unusual is that a person takes the time to write about it and the ending of life with intimacy and clarity.

Dr. Sacks, a neurologist who has written many books about our brains and how they work — my personal  favorite is Musicicophilia — is in his eighties and a professor at New York University’s School of Medicine. The movie Awakenings, with Robin Williams portraying Dr. Sacks, was based on his book of the same name.  Continue reading