Successful Aging: Through 17 years and nearly 850 columns, here’s what we’ve been talking about
Each October I write an anniversary column that reflects some of what I have learned from our readers during this past year. Every so often someone asks me, “Are you still writing the column?” The answer is yes. After 17 years and almost 850 columns, there is more to write because the successful aging story cuts across everything from public policy, to business, entertainment, pensions and testosterone. And fortunately – we all are doing it.
This year’s questions included subjects of fall prevention, energy, scams, age discrimination, loneliness, work, relationships, widowhood, solo-aging, celebrations and more.
Here are just a few highlights:
Age discrimination: A reader shared her frustration of being the target of age discrimination by her university employer. She filed her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and expected no action, acknowledging that proving ageism is difficult. She adds, “I feel fighting preferable to acceptance.” Another reader felt age discrimination in the marketplace. She was annoyed that sale items often require purchasing four or five to get the sale price. She writes, “What senior buys four or five bottles of salad dressing?”
Employment: An 87-year old woman indicated how pleased she was to be working at her age. She was a greeter at Home Depot; the employees became her second family. Not all feel positive about opportunities to work in later life. “Trying to get a job at my age, 80, is a waste of effort,” wrote one reader.” I acknowledged his difficulty and offered a bit of hope: 255,000 Americans 85 years and older were working during the past year. Military and law enforcement veterans often have difficulty in transitioning to a new job. To address the issue Adam Gonzalez, a combat veteran, created the website Silentprofessionals.org, specifically for veteran military and law enforcement seeking employment.
Falls: To ensure safety while making frequent nighttime trips in the dark, a reader suggested purchasing lightweight non-skid socks for traction similar to those worn by hospital patients. They are available on Amazon.
Relationships: After joining a “meet up,” a reader was curious if it mattered that he was still married and that his wife had dementia. After losing his part-time position and dealing with his wife’s disease, he took up square dancing and was pleased that he had no problem getting partners. He admits, “I can’t judge a woman’s age by her appearance.”
Technology: Children and cell phones are not just an issue for parents. A great-grandmother took her seven-year-old granddaughter on a trip and was concerned that she spent a great deal of time on the phone while they were together. The same issue confronted a grandmother who took her three grandchildren on a trip. Playing on the phone excluded conversation and taking in the new environment. In both cases, phone rules needed to be established.
Ageism: A reader clarified terminology and ageism. He wrote, “When ‘elder’ is used as an adjective such as ‘Elder Hostel’ (renamed Roads Scholar), it is not ageist. When it is used to advertise a class as being for ‘elders’ it has an ageist quality.” The reader prefers “older adult.” Another reader is annoyed with caricatures that make fun of older people, in particular, the cartoon Maxine. “She wears striped socks that are falling down her skinny legs and gunny sack dresses. Her messy red hair is held up by a scarf of some sort. I don’t know anyone my age that looks like that.”
Bits and pieces: An owner of a Board and Care facility pleaded to avoid judging all Board and Care facilities based on a single bad experience. I also received requests for back columns, ways to find phone numbers of Uber and Lyft (which aren’t available), permission to reprint columns in various newsletters and research studies.
Although I have not met you, dear readers, I feel connected to you. I was pleased when a woman spoke to me after a presentation I gave and said, “I feel that I know you.” Connection is key in our time of disconnect.
So 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.
Send emails to Helen Dennis at email@example.com, or go to www.facebook.com/ SuccessfulAgingCommunity.