Transgenerational Products: A Common Sense Solution

older potato peeler

My older peelers gave our aging parents trouble when they tried to hold it.

Transgenerational design is a manufacturing concept for products that are useful for people of all ages and the design also ensures that older individuals will be able to use a product even as they age and their circumstances change.

Some years ago when my husband’s mother was recovering from a stroke, she made it clear to everyone that she wanted to return to her home. My husband and I were newcomers to the aging parent support scene, so when the social worker and physicians at the hospital suggested that we give Mother a personal safety device that she could wear around her neck, we readily agreed.

When my mother-in-law recovered enough to go home, we signed a contract with a company that worked with the local hospital, and we showed her how to wear the device. She accepted it and seemed to wear it most of the time, but sometimes we noticed that she was not wearing it, especially when we dropped in unexpectedly. Over the next few months, Mother wore it less and less, commenting that she did not need it, but when we sat down to have a conversation about it, she pointed out that it was ugly. “Why can’t it look like a piece of jewelry,” she wondered. “Then I’d be happy to wear it all the time.”

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Advice-giving, Aging Parents & Adult Children

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My parents and me.

Advice-giving can trip up the elder parent – adult child relationship and even cause painful divisions between parent and child.

My mother will ask me a question and the answer is fairly straightforward, but then I’ll keep on answering, advising, really. At other times, I offer unsolicited advice about one thing or another. Usually my mother listens, but it’s not uncommon for her to give me the aggravated look that she used when I was five years old and not following her directions. It’s miraculous that my parents, while momentarily irritated with me, are quick to forgive and, yes, even offer me their own advice. We trust one another, and that’s key.

I know that I should be better about offering too much advice, but it’s hard.

A thoughtful article, The Gift of Presence, the Perils of Advice, posted at Krista Tippett’s On Being website, has encouraged me to think about the advice I so effortlessly offer my mom. In his essay, On Being columnist Parker J. Palmer writes that people who need support find it considerably more helpful when we concentrate on listening and asking questions and give advice only when a person insists that we give it. I need to get better at asking questions.

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Will On-Demand Services Change the Way We Age?

photo credit: IMG_1642 via photopin (license)

photo credit: IMG_1642 via photopin (license)

A great article in the December 14, 2015 Washington Post, The On-Demand Economy: Changing the Way We Live As We Age, explains how many new online services such as food delivery, rides on demand. and home services are making life much easier for elders who want to remain independent as long as possible. Most of these connect with easy-to-use smart phone apps.

The article authors, Luke Yoquinto and Joseph Coughlin, are affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, a group that connects new ideas with technology and aims to improve the health and quality of people’s lives, especially as they age.

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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

About Half of All Americans Over 65 Have a Fall — Each Year

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Click to look at the CDC’s complete pamphlet.

I’ve just finished reading a Washington Post article, Strategies for Preventing Falls, Which Are Especially Risky for Older People, appearing in the online edition on March 16, 2015, It reviews the risks, examines the facts about falling, describes how to check an individual’s steadiness, and makes suggestions about the various ways a person can improve balance.

The article describes a number of tests that can evaluate whether a person is prone to falling. An aging parent should perform them with a physician or physical therapist, who can go through the series of steps and safely evaluate whether or not a person is likely to fall. Physically fit adult children can probably experiment —  carefully — at home with some of these tests. The Washington Post article explains them in detail, so I’ve just listed the tests below, and I’ve also linked several of the tests to videos.                        Continue reading

Better Hospital Gowns? All Ages Will Be Thrilled!

Click on this image to check out images of the well-designed new gowns with thanks to the Henry Ford Health System.

Click on this image to check out images of the well-designed new gowns. With thanks to the Henry Ford Health System.

If you are like my parents, me, or people of almost any age, you HATE hospital gowns.

Sometimes putting on or wearing the gowns is worse than the test or the hospital visit. If you have ever helped an aging parent or other elder get in and out of bed with one of those gowns — or take a walk in a hospital corridor —  you know how they keep opening up so a patient feels exposed. Currently these gowns are designed to make it easy and simple to examine a person, but not to make a person feel comfortable.

Well now there’s reason to hope that this situation may be improved.

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