Archive for June, 2009

Is health your top priority?

St Columba Catholic Church

St. Columba Catholic Church

Yesterday I attended a memorial service (Mass of Christian Burial) at St. Columba Catholic Church in Maryland for a person I did not know, but I’d previously worked with his daughter and wife. He was only 64 years old — young, by my standard — but had had numerous health problems. Through the eulogies, I got to know this person, who by all accounts, was always happy, cared about other people, loved music, and was always singing. How could one not be happy if one is always singing?

He passed this legacy to his children, one of whom performed a beautiful Filipino song which he said was one of his father’s favorites. He said it was going to be difficult, but he belted it out beautifully. I’m sure his father was watching and was very proud of all of his children. Joyce delaPena

Why do I write this? Because it was so painful to watch his children, who loved their dad so much, in sheer agony and pain at their tremendous loss. His daughter mentioned that he was working two jobs at one point so that she could go to a private college. He had worked hard; now it was time for him to enjoy life. Instead, he had to retire on disability and although his children are grown, he leaves a widow and a grandchild without a grandfather. True, we can say that his pain is over and he’s in a better place, but what about his family. They would do anything to get him back.

If you have children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, are you doing all you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to live life to the fullest? This blog is all about helping seniors to live a long, fulfilling life. But in order to do that, it requires “work.” So let’s do our part to take care of ourselves so that we can be there for our children and grandchildren when they need us. And if, by any chance, there are problems in your family, acknowledge them, thank them, and say goodbye to them. You don’t need any negativity taking up real estate in your brain, do you?

Scroll through the many blog posts to see where you might want to get started. There are categories on the right sidebar to help you. Here’s to your good health!

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Grandparents as Caregivers

Tiz with grandchildrenThe Washington Post ran an interesting article on June 23, 2009 about a great-grandmother caring for her 7-year old great-granddaughter who is autistic, virtually blind, and is “medically fragile.” Instead of enjoying her golden years, she’s busy changing diapers for this child as well as picking up toys and spilled cereal. When distressed, the child bites, furies, and flails. What a heart-breaking story. You can read the whole story at the Washington Post Web site.

Look at these statistics in the article:

  • Number of children in the care of their grandparents: 2.5 million

  • Number of grandparents raising children: 2.5 million
  • Married grandparents raising children: 70 percent
  • Percent of grandparent caregivers who are raising children 5 to 17 with disabilities: 11.8 percent
  • Grandparents who are caregivers and have their own disabilities: 30 percent
  • Grandparents who are caregivers over age 60 and have disabilities: 40 percent
Source: Census data analysis by National Center on Grandfamilies at the nonprofit Generations UnitedKen Klemm.
If you’re a grandparent like me and not in any of the above categories, how fortunate we are. (Enjoy pictures of my Facebook friends Tiz Wheeler Wemyss in England and Ken Klemm in Pennsylvania who are not “caregivers,” but wonderful, loving “care givers”).
Can you imagine being over 60 and not in the best of health being a primary caregiver? 40 percent fall in that category. How difficult it must be. My heart goes out to those brave individuals. Any of us could become a caregiver in an instant. Are you ready? Check out the post by Nancy Fiedelman here.
As difficult as it is, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to take care of your health. Experts tell us it’s important to exercise, eat healthfully, and take good nutritional supplements. If you’re under tremendous stress as a caregiver, check out this drink which has helped many people.

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Prepare for the Caregiving Crisis

Aynsley GroupA fall happens in an instant. What happens to an aging parent after the release from the hospital? It’s a common scenario happening all the time. Are you ready? Prepare for the caregiving crisis. Nancy Fiedelman, manager of the Aynsley Group, one of several privately held companies formed in 1975 to provide quality consulting services limited to elder care, is a compassionate, caring individual whom I’ve known for the past several years. I’ve asked her to help us prepare for the possible situation many of us might face either for ourselves or for our aging parents.

Most of us will be caregivers at some time in our lives – for an aging parent, a spouse, a sibling.  Few of us are prepared to assume this role.  Whether our new role results from an unexpected medical crisis or from a chronic, progressively debilitating illness, one can take the following steps to be better prepared, thus  reducing stress and increasing effectiveness.

  1. Collect the following information about your loved one: personal demographic information (date of birth, social security number, health insurance information); and medical information (names of medical providers, health history, current medical conditions, list of all current medications including dosage).
  2. Determine whether your loved one has documented their wishes about their future care (general durable power of attorney, health care proxy, advance directive, living will).
  3. Identify resources that may be required to address future potential care needs (financial resources – monthly income, assets, savings accounts, long term care insurance coverage – and available public and private resources in the community).

The level of complexity of every situation is unique.  It may be helpful to engage the services of a professional who can provide objective guidance and assistance through the caregiving journey.

Nancy Fiedelman

Nancy Fiedelman

Prepare for the caregiving crisis. People like Nancy and the Aynsley Group provide an invaluable service with many resources to point you to. They can be reached at

Fear of Alzheimer’s Disease

6-05-31-AlzFearAllAgesHere’s an interesting chart that I found at this Web site: Although most Americans fear cancer the most, the greatest fear of those 55 and over is Alzheimer’s.

This was a survey conducted by the MetLife Foundation. They found that although there’s fear, there’s very little preparation for this devastating disease. The greatest risk factor is age. While there are about one in 10 over 65 with the disease, the number jumps to closer to half of those over 85.

Doctors at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health say that obesity may be linked to an increased risk of dementia. Two-thirds of dementia cases in those over 65 are actually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re obese, the risk rises by 42% and if you’re underweight, the risk rises by 36%. So maintaining a normal weight is your best bet for preventing dementia.

Need to shed a few pounds? Try these moist, delicious cookies with lots of fiber. Check it out at


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How to Swallow Big Pills

VITAONE-PILL-TMBMost seniors take a lot of pills — prescriptions and nutritional supplements — and some of them are very large. Swallowing them can sometimes be a problem. If you do a search on the Internet, people offer all sorts of suggestions from putting it on the far back of your tongue to smashing the pills and taking them with applesauce. Many people put a pill in the back of their mouth, take a big gulp of water or other liquid, and tilt their head backwards to get the pill to go down their throat. I remember my mom doing that.

Fortunately, I don’t have a problem with taking large pills as long as I have enough liquid to accomplish the task. However, I recently came across an interesting suggestion. I’ve tried the method below and it works.

  1. Take a few deep breaths to relax (especially the throat muscles), if you’re tense.
  2. Place the pill on your tongue.
  3. Take a mouthful of water and tuck your chin slightly down toward your chest.
  4. The pill will rise to the top of the water and send it to the back of the tongue and easily go down.

Amazingly, you can even take more than one big pill at a time using this method. Give it a try.

So now, you should not hesitate to take nutritional supplements. Need more energy? When traveling, I take pre-packaged pills called VitaOne which gives me a lot of energy. Feel like you’re coming down with a cold? I take one pack in the morning and one at night. Digestive enzymes are included so digestion is not a problem. For more information, click here. vitaone-md_new

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Preventing Falls

ice-bear-fallRecently I read something that surprised me: Push-ups are excellent for seniors to prevent falls. Why? When a person falls, they instinctively reach out to catch themselves in a manner similar to a push-up motion. Therefore, upper body strength would help to break the weight of a fall safely.

If you don’t have the strength to do a push-up, you are at a heightened risk of suffering a broken wrist or other injury. Also, if you don’t have that strength, you might have difficulty getting yourself up, even if you aren’t injured.

How many should you be able to do?

  • Men at age 60 = 17
  • Women at age 60 = 6

Besides push-ups, adding balance exercises to your workout will also help reduce the risk of a nasty fall. The beauty of balance exercises is that they can be done as part of your normal life. For example, while talking on the phone, you can alternate standing on one foot. You can move the foot to the front, to the side, to the back.

The one I find most challenging is tying and untying the laces of my walking shoes while standing on one foot. Try it. You may find that there are some days that are easier than others.

These exercises are of interest to me because in my lifetime, I’ve fallen several times and I’ve had my share of broken bones. But the older one gets, the longer it takes to recover and some people never recover completely. So strengthen yourself so that a fall is not part of your life story.

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Okinawan Study: Centenarians in Hawaii

purpleflowerWhat do you think of living to 100 — you’d be a centenarian. What about 110 — you’d be a supercentenarian! Hawaii has more than double the number of centenarians than any other US city where there are 10 people per 100,000 who qualify as centenarians.

I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. The lifestyle is slower; the moisture in the air makes your skin feel good; the moderate temperature allows you to be outdoors all year. Except for the traffic, it would be a lovely place to retire, if it suits your style to live on an island.

The Okinawans (in Okinawa) are known to live the longest — 50 out of every 100,000 — although in Hawaii there’s a mixture of ethnicity amongst those living to be 100 years or more. There are many studies about the Okinawans. In Hawaii one of the primary researchers in geriatrics is Dr. Bradley Willcox of the Pacific Health Research Institute (PHRI). The institute has been japan-okinawa-mapstudying ethnic Japanese men in Honolulu for the past 40 years. Dr. Willcox discovered the following:

  • Lower blood sugar
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Weighed less
  • Significantly fewer heart attacks, strokes, cancer

Dr. Willcox says that part of it could be related to genes and exercise, but Okinawans:

  • Consume more sweet potatoes (it lowers blood sugar levels) than rice or other starches
  • Eat very little fat and tend to cook their food in water rather than oil
  • Eat small portions which lowers caloric intake (associated with longer life span)
  • Eat lots of (raw) fish which helps prevent strokes
  • Consume a red-pepper alcoholic drink called Koregusu which supposedly gets the blood circulating and stimulates the libido.

The downside of living so long? Brain shrinkage. The MRI of a 100-year old vs. a 30-year old? Expansion of empty spaces in the brain cavity. Dr. Willcox says this means older people think differently and take longer to think.

Honolulu Magazine cites additional keys to Okinawan longevity besides diet.

  1. Psychospiritual: unique belief in a religious philosophy that includes female priestesses
  2. Excercise: physical activity every day
  3. Social: strong family social network that provides support for the elderly
  4. Sense of purpose (ikigai): something they enjoy doing which gives them a reason to live

Finally, it appears that most of them have a personality which is stress-resistant — they don’t get upset. Okinawans call that tagay.

12 Steps to Healthy Aging

dragonsmokeThe following 12 Steps to Healthy Aging comes from the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC. Are you on your way to healthy aging?

  1. Enjoy a diet low in fats and rich in fruits and vegetables.
  2. Get regular physical activity, at least 30 minutes a day.
  3. Have medical tests and screenings on schedule.
  4. Don’t smoke! Avoid secondhand smoke as well.
  5. Keep cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure under control.
  6. Watch your weight. Lose weight if needed.
  7. Get enough sleep and rest each day.
  8. Strengthen bones with the calcium, vitamin D and exercise you need.
  9. Always apply sunscreen before going out.
  10. Stimulate your mind with mental games and social contacts.
  11. Take your medications as needed and stay informed about your health.
  12. Think positively and find at least one thing to be grateful for each day.

The last one is my favorite. Recently, I started a gratitude journal. Keeping a gratitude journal changes your attitude in life. Keeping a gratitude journal encourages you to be on the lookout for what you’re grateful for and not for the negativity in life. Some people like to blame external factors (such as other people) for their attitude. But only you can choose your attitude. No one can choose to be happy or grumpy for you.

If you’ve not read FISH! by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen, it’s a short parable based on the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington. Applicable to everyone, one of the points talked about is that you can choose your attitude. Written for the workplace, it is applicable at home as well. As a senior, you might want to take the lead in your workplace, even if it just starts with you. For more information on the FISH! philosophy, see

Everything happens for a reason and looking for something to be thankful for even in the darkest moment, can help you get through it.  And why just one thing to be grateful for? Why not at least five? Do you keep a gratitude journal? How has that changed your life? I invite you to share.

Here’s to your good health!

sres-logo1One of the painful decisions a senior in their own home must make when a big home (or even a small home) is no longer viable is to sell their home. But let’s face it … there are realtors everywhere and like every profession, there are bad ones, good ones, and then there are outstanding ones. I have a real estate license, but I’m not an agent. I know a lot of agents, however, and can refer people to outstanding agents. One such person is Ted Kramer, whom I’ve known for several years. Ted was once an attorney, but he has been in the real estate profession for many years. I invited him to write a few words because he not only is a fellow senior and understands seniors, but he has the Seniors Real Estate Specialist designation. Here’s what he shares.

People over 50 who are considering a life-style change or who need to change their housing arrangements because of their own or their loved one’s physical or mental challenges should consider hiring a realtor who understands the complex issues they face.

The real estate profession, through the National Association of Realtors, has developed a program to train and certify Realtors® to specialize in counseling seniors to make good decisions about their housing plans. Realtors® who complete this training are designated Seniors Real Estate Specialists® and are entitled to use the SRES® designation and logo .

When a senior contemplates making a move from the family home, a wide range of issues can come into play, including the effect on the senior’s long term financial plan, estate plan, health needs, tax situation and the stress of leaving a place of family memories, organizing and disposing of excess personal property and papers and focusing on the future.

SRES® designees will have learned and adopted methods for counseling 50+ buyers and sellers and established relationships with other professionals including tax and estate lawyers, accountants, lenders (including those handling reverse mortgages), professional organizers, home health care providers, and specialists in making evaluations and recommending institutional care facilities. Sometimes the best choice for a 50+ person is to remain in their current home and the SRES® designee is committed to accepting that outcome rather than pressuring someone to make a move that may not be the optimal outcome. Including a client or customer’s family in the process is important, but the SRES® designee is committed to focus on the transaction and avoid inappropriate involvement in family matters..

Ted Kramer

Ted Kramer

Ted can be reached at 703.304.1140 or by e-mail at Check out his Web site,