This week is part two of the 16th anniversary column reflecting what I learned from our readers during the past year.
Here are some themes.
Birthdays: Eighteen months before her 60th birthday Ms. M. began to look for the 80 girls with whom she graduated. She found almost 50 women and had a joyous celebration at the Caltech Athenaeum. In contrast, Ms. M. found turning 80 difficult. She experienced the death of her husband after caring for him for 10 years, received a diagnosis of PTSD and felt she had a gray cloud over her head. She fights these feelings by staying in touch with family and friends through social media, attending a support group and going to musical theater.
On the upside, Ms. J. found the recent eclipse an opportunity to celebrate her sister’s birthday with all of her children, grandchildren and a great grandchild with various husbands, wives and friends attending. She commented, “It was a remarkable celebration and brought home how important family is.”
Loneliness: Mr. R. noted that the three years since his wife of 56 years passed away, he found little help in dealing with his loss. He wonders how long loneliness lasts. To counteract this feeling, he is treasurer of an organization that assists families after they suffer a tragedy. One of their offerings is to make a quilt from the clothing of the deceased. He made one using many of his wife’s T-shirts. He noted, “It helps.” Another reader’s wife has Parkinson’s disease and is in a care facility. He has male friends and a dog, but no one to share his evenings. He finds attending family sessions at the facility very little help. As an added note, loneliness is considered as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Suggestions: Mr. B. let us know that Southern California has a tech-enabled senior transportation service called Ride N Care founded in Los Angeles in 2015. It provides both door-through-door service and curb-to-curb service with a live 1-800 operator to help with pricing schedule, dispatch and post-ride troubleshooting. See www.ridencare.com. Another reader recommended using a cane to prevent falls. In response to the columns on humor, Ms. M.K. suggested a web site and complimentary newsletter from the Association for Applied Therapeutic Humor (AATH) for those interested in humor and laughter. See http://www.aath.org
Bits and pieces: A 74-year old musician plays for a weekly dance class and loves seeing the women in good shape. He referenced the book by Diahann Carroll, “The Legs are Last to Go.” Dr. B. has a portfolio of causes in which he is involved including an elected position and university teaching. He writes “at 71, it’s just a number. I’ve been blessed with gifts and want to use them to help others. I believe I will live longer if I keep moving and if I continue to keep meaning in my life.” Well said!
A journalist indicated volunteering was close to his heart. He and his wife are responsible for the launch of Ten Thousand Villages in Redondo Beach, all run with volunteers. Its mission is to help artisans in developing countries bring their work to the U.S. and set up a fair trade relationship.
The Successful Aging columns often have a life of their own. The column on Caring House in Torrance was reproduced on their web site and used for distribution; the column on Hospice was reprinted for the Retirees of San Bernardino County. A request was made for the digital version of the columns on humor to be shared with friends. Another reader wanted to know how to find the columns on line. A long time reader requested a column from years ago on what to do when someone dies.
An added note: After speaking at a recent event, a woman approached me and said she remembered the column I wrote after my husband passed away 14 years ago. She related to the loss. Tears came to both of our eyes.
So dear readers — thank you for sharing your challenges, victories and wisdom. I am honored to be part of your life. To the best of my ability, I will continue to provide you with the most recent information, research and perspectives on aging. And occasionally a bit of opinion and personal experience will be thrown in for good measure.
To each of you – good health, joy and successful aging.