Sally Abrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com Tue, 14 Apr 2015 20:31:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Aging in Place Technology for Kiplinger’s http://www.sallyabrahms.com/uncategorized/aging-in-place-technology-for-kiplingers http://www.sallyabrahms.com/uncategorized/aging-in-place-technology-for-kiplingers#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 20:23:24 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=2180  Kipling. logo Here's my recent piece in Kiplinger's:

Most of us want to remain at home as we get older, but safety, health issues and social isolation can interfere with that plan. A growing number of seniors are turning to state-of-the-art digital tools -- via smartphones, GPS, voice activation and sensors -- that allow them to stay put indefinitely.

 

 

 

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With aging in place technology, seniors can stay home. Here’s a  piece I wrote for Kiplinger’s:

Most of us want to remain at home as we get older, but safety, health issues and social isolation can interfere with that plan. A growing number of seniors are turning to state-of-the-art digital tools — via smartphones, GPS, voice activation and sensors — that allow them to stay put indefinitely.

With “aging in place” technology, you can discreetly keep tabs on Mom — tracking her daily activities on a cellphone, tablet or computer, and getting notified by text or e-mail if something seems out of the ordinary. Gadgets and apps can remind seniors to take their medication and let others know if they don’t. Besides telling time, smart watches can provide feedback on one’s vitals, such as blood pressure, that can be relayed to professionals. These new products are affordable and easy to use.

Kipling. logoBy 2017, experts expect this market to reach $30 billion. “The aging-in-place technology field is exploding,” says gerontologist Katy Fike, who co-founded San Francisco-based Aging 2.0 in 2012 to advise start-ups geared to boomers and seniors. In the past few years, her company has met with more than 1,000 entrepreneurs in seven countries.

Chalk it up to longevity, millions of worried long-distance family caregivers and a looming shortage of professional home aides. About 10,000 boomers a day are turning 65, and close to half of women ages 75 and older live alone. Here are some of the products geared to helping older adults maintain their independence.

Safety and security systems. PERS, which is an acronym for Personal Emergency Response Systems, is familiar to many people. You push an emergency button on a key chain or from a cord around your neck or wrist. Then an operator assesses the situation and can dispatch help or notify family.

But these medical alert systems are changing. They used to work only at home with a base station connected to a landline. What’s new is the introduction of m-PERS (the “m” stands for mobile), which works wherever you are — on the golf course, out to lunch, in the garden or visiting the grandkids in another state.

Rita Labla, 79, of Yuba City, Cal., lives alone and drives, but she struggles with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She has also fallen. “When she’s out of sight, you never know what’s going on,” says her daughter, Loretta Burke, 61, who lives three miles away.

Last July, Burke gave her mother a GreatCall Splash m-PERS. “We were all concerned she wouldn’t use it. Instead, she has it with her all the time,” Burke says. “It’s like her bodyguard.”

Labla agrees. “I feel much more secure with it,” she says. Labla knows she can press it if she thinks someone shady is following her in the parking lot, she gets lost on the road or she has a problem at home.

By checking their smartphones, tablets or computers, Burke and her siblings can track their mother via GPS. You can order a GreatCall Splash at www.greatcall.com or by calling 800-650-5921 ($50 for purchase, $35 activation fee and monthly service starting at $20).

In the next few months, GreatCall plans to add a feature that summons help if it detects a fall — even if you haven’t pressed the button. Already, another go-anywhere medical alert system, Philips Lifeline’s GoSafe (www.lifelinesys.com, 800-380-3111), offers a waterproof pendant with fall-detection capability — for a one-time fee of $149 plus $55 a month. MobileHelp (www.mobilehelp.com, 800-989-9863) has a similar system ($37, plus $50 a month; fall detection is an extra $10 a month).

Sensors are another way to make sure Mom or Dad is safe at home. Several wireless sensors that are placed around the house where a parent goes daily — perhaps the bed, the refrigerator, a favorite chair or the bathroom door — can tip you off if they aren’t triggered.

Sarah King, 83, lives in a basement apartment of her daughter Donita Kniffen’s home in Dardenne Prairie, Mo. Still, sensors from Evermind (https://evermind.us, 855-677-7625) have come in handy.

Kniffen, 52, programmed Evermind so she receives a text the first time her mom’s TV, microwave or reading lamp is turned on. She also gets an alert on her smartphone if none of the sensors has been triggered during periods of the day when her mother should be up and about. Instead of calling every morning to make sure her mother is okay, Kniffen goes on her smartphone to check the sensors. (The sensors come with 
a one-time cost of $199, plus a $29 monthly fee.)

Michael Demoratz, 54, a social worker who lives in Tustin, Cal., chose a combination PERS/sensor system from BeClose (http://beclose.com, 866-574-1784) to keep tabs on his mother, who lives in Pennsylvania. He placed motion sensors in her living room, between the bathroom and bedroom, and on the cellar door, which was the site of two previous accidents.

Demoratz receives a daily e-mail. Green means his mom’s activity is ordinary, yellow signifies out of the ordinary, and red is abnormal. If she were to press the panic button, Demoratz would get a text from the company. “My mother feels reassured because she knows I have been alerted,” he says.

BeClose’s ability to spot variations in behavior is the system’s most valuable feature, Demoratz says. “If I have objective data, my mother can’t just say she’s fine when I call,” he says. “I can tell her I notice she’s not getting up or out much and is spending a lot of time in her chair. Then I can ask why she’s so sedentary.”

Every year, Demoratz takes a vacation to Europe. “This year, from my phone, iPad, desktop or anyone’s computer, I will know exactly what is going on with my mom in real time — whether she is sitting, in bed, in the bathroom or if she has left the house,” he says. “Talk about peace of mind.” (The system costs $499 for the equipment and $99 a month.) 

Medication managers. Taking pills at the right time, often multiple times a day, is critical to your health. What if you forget? New products can provide reminders and let loved ones know whether you’re on track.

Lively (www.mylively.com, 888-757-0711) has just come out with a safety watch that not only tells time but acts as a medication reminder and a medical alert system. You attach a sensor to the pill dispenser, and the senior gets a reminder on a smart watch she wears. Remote caregivers get a notice by smartphone or computer when the medications are taken or perhaps forgotten.

The system also lets you push a button in an emergency. A pedometer feature counts your steps, thus giving you feedback on your activity level. Colleen Sturdivant, who lives in Piedmont, Cal., says her mother, Jane Kennedy, 76, likes the step-counting feature. Since her recent hip replacement, the step counter shows her that she’s getting stronger every day by increasing her steps. Sturdivant likes the feature that notifies her of her mother’s whereabouts, which can be shared with her sister and two brothers through an online dashboard. (The system costs $50, plus $28 to $35 a month.)

A more low-tech system is Reminder Rosie (http://reminder-rosie.com, $130), a talking clock. You manually program it with your voice or a loved one’s voice, for the day, week or sometime in the future (perhaps, “time for my afternoon pills”).

Mike Gilman, 65, a retired New York state tax collector, takes eight pills a day at different times. “Rosie is the most fantastic thing,” he says. Besides jogging his memory about his medication, Gilman uses the device to remind himself when to send birthday cards to family and friends.

If you want a free app for your smartphone or tablet, CareZone (www.carezone.com) centralizes information about your medication and other important information, such as doctor appointments. You can share this information with family members. You can set daily medication reminders that buzz your phone, followed up 10 minutes later if you forget.

Keeping in touch. You might be able to stay in your home, but you can get lonely. Technology can help you feel connected to friends and family — and sometimes even to medical professionals.

With an interactive touch screen from grandCARE Systems (www.grandcare.com, 262-338-6147), you can look at a photo of a grandson’s Halloween getup or a video replay of his baseball home run. You can listen to music, play word games, read the news or surf the Internet. No need to know how to use a computer.

Randall Schafer, 61, of Houston, Tex., uses his grandCARE system to Skype with his mother, 90. (She just pushes a button to videochat.) “My mom is in love with our dog, Daisy,” Schafer says. Her “face lights up” when she sees the schnauzer, he says.

An added feature: The system can transmit health data, from glucose and blood pressure to weight and oxygen readings. For example, a blood pressure cuff with a wireless Bluetooth medical device will record and relay the readings to caregivers. (The system costs $699, plus $49 a month.)

Another system that offers social opportunities — as well as care coordination, calendar sharing and health-data collection — is Independa (www.independa.com, 800-815-7829). All the information is on your TV rather than on a special screen or computer.

You can be watching Downton Abbey on TV and up pops a screen saying your daughter wants to say goodnight. You can accept and videochat — or not, if you’re engrossed in the show. An adult child can go to the Independa caregiver portal via e-mail and send a message or upload photos to your TV screen.

One feature called “Life Stories” lets parents record their memories for their adult children. You or your parents can play the remembrances at any time and e-mail them to other family members. Independa also has introduced a mobile app for caregivers for the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch.

The system costs $799 to $1,399, depending on the size of a special LG smart TV embedded with Independa services. If you have your own TV with an HDMI connection, which is now commonly used, you can hook it up to an Independa AnyTV Companion box, which costs $399. Both systems charge $30 a month.

A unique social engagement tool is the GeriJoy virtual care companion (www.gerijoy.com, 855-437-4569), which costs $249 a month. Consider it pet therapy with a twist. A virtual “talking” dog or cat on a tablet screen interacts and converses with a loved one. Many people name their pet, which is operated around the clock by GeriJoy representatives who work remotely.

To start a conversation, you touch the dog on the tablet screen and talk. Your pet will “wake up” and start chatting. (Perhaps the pet will say, “Did you have a good sleep? You look fabulous today.”) When you ask a question, your virtual companion responds immediately, even if it means the human helper has to look up an answer on the Internet (“How did the Red Sox do last night?” for example). Daily conversations and events are kept on a written log, which the family can access through a secure Web site.

Becky and Craig Jio bought GeriJoy for Craig’s mother, Lucy, who has Alzheimer’s disease and lives with them in Santa Clara, Cal. She doesn’t like to leave her room. “GeriJoy is good company,” Craig, 45, says. She especially loves a silly picture that Becky uploaded of a man with an ultra long nose and tongue. “When it pops up, she cracks up laughing,” Becky says.

The Jios are convinced that GeriJoy has improved her mood. When the system was down for a week with hardware problems, Craig says, “my mother got depressed. Now that it’s back, she’s happier. That makes everyone happier.”

Coming down the pike. In the future, a growing number of seniors will be connected remotely with service providers who will be able to detect changes in physical and mental health as well as mobility, says David Lindeman, director of the Center for Technology and Aging, a research group in Oakland, Cal. “We are in a new era of connected aging,” Lindeman says. “We will be getting more and more information brought to us in a variety of ways so we can support our loved ones.”

Look for more developments in the “smart home.” Entrepreneurs are working on a carpet woven from optic fibers that analyze your gait and help predict if you may fall or are physically declining. Consumer-friendly devices will help long-distance caregivers, with the touch of a tablet or cellphone, to turn off Dad’s stove if he forgets or to close the blinds.

Also on the horizon is the growth in “wearables,” which includes smart jewelry and clothing with sensors and chips woven into fabric. The sensors will track movement, collect health data and transmit to a mobile device.

Don’t like the look of today’s PERS pendants, wristbands and key chains? Cuff Inc. (www.cuff.io) is introducing products, priced from $29 to $199, that look like elegant jewelry. The gadget, which is inserted in specially made bracelets and necklaces, sends notifications, tracks activity and acts as a safety device.

Sensogram Technologies, based in Plano, Tex., is working on SensoTRACK (www.sensotrack.com), a device that you wear on your ear. It captures oxygen saturation, respiration and heart rate as well as mood. The goal is to prevent or to catch a problem early.

We will be seeing more social and caregiving applications, too. Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch (www.ageinplacetech.com), believes voice-activated robots might someday be good helpers and conversationalists. “It is inevitable that companion robots will learn, adjusting responses to become the companion we need, responding to our commentary and reminding us to take our medication so that we can remain independent,” Orlov says.

 

 
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Older Actors Are Taking To The Stage in WSJ http://www.sallyabrahms.com/uncategorized/older-actors-are-taking-to-the-stage-in-wsj http://www.sallyabrahms.com/uncategorized/older-actors-are-taking-to-the-stage-in-wsj#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 13:37:19 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=2162 WallStreetJournal-logo

 

 

Here's a piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal

Clovis Clark, age 59, is a professional nurse. But she also has spent time recently as a conniving, murderous sister and a madam in a brothel.

Her latter roles came courtesy of an Atlanta theater group, the Past Prime Players.

 

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WallStreetJournal-logoHere’s a piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal

Clovis Clark, age 59, is a professional nurse. But she also has spent time recently as a conniving, murderous sister and a madam in a brothel.

Her latter roles came courtesy of an Atlanta theater group, the Past Prime Players.

“I love this,” says the Ellenwood, Ga., resident, who has performed in dramas, comedies, murder mysteries, skits and monologues. “Acting is an opportunity to become someone else.”

The 50-plus crowd is stage-struck. Across the country, growing numbers of older adults are joining theater companies and signing up for classes in acting, directing and playwriting. Many—empty-nesters or newly retired—have never set foot on a stage and are seeking new outlets. But many others, like Ms. Clark, caught the acting bug in high school or college, before pursuing other (paying) careers.

Return engagements

Now, they’re back. And finding new rewards.

“The experience of acting is very different as a 50-something-year-old,” says Karen Sellinger in Albany, Calif. She majored in theater in college but opted to be a psychologist.

Now, at age 60, she’s taking classes at Stagebridge, a senior theater company in Oakland, Calif.

“There’s not this dog-eat-dog competition,” Ms. Sellinger says. “It’s a…community where we’re all rooting for, and supporting, each other.

“We’re all struggling with health issues and memory,” she adds. But “I’m not thinking about my stage of life on stage. I don’t feel my knee hurt. Age is not a part of it.”

Stagebridge is evidence of the trend. Currently, 250 people take one or more of the 30 classes taught weekly in acting, playwriting, improv, storytelling, singing and musical theater, among other subjects. The number of courses has doubled in the past five years. At least half of the enrollees are ages 50 to 70.

In all, the company has eight performing troupes that visit schools, senior centers, public theaters and adult day centers. Every other year, the nonprofit commissions a play in which both professionals and students act.

“The appeal for many is that they know they’re going to be working with a group of people,” says Stuart Kandell, the founder of Stagebridge. “What they may not realize is that the group becomes a real family. Laughing, depending upon one another, making mistakes and recovering together builds a real bond.”

Bonnie Vorenberg, president of ArtAge Publications’ Senior Theatre Resource Center in Portland, Ore., which works with theater groups across the country and internationally, says she now has 791 senior theater groups in her database—up from 79 in 1997. While the growth is welcome, new organizations, she says, invariably face a steep learning curve.

Put another way: “King Lear” isn’t always the right play to start with.

“What works well for older actors is a very narrow genre,” Ms. Vorenberg explains. “Plays can’t be too long—short work is best, at 10 to 20 minutes—[and] they can’t be too difficult because that would require more rehearsals, and people will say, ‘I’m not doing this.’ But they can’t be too easy because then actors won’t be artistically challenged.” (Some companies have actors read their scripts on 

stage; others require them to memorize their lines.)

Scriptwriters, directors and actors say that, increasingly, shows with modern, realistic themes resonate. Audiences—and, in particular, older theatergoers—want to see older adults in positive roles, whether it’s having a new job or being sexually active.

Says Mr. Kandell at Stagebridge: “Theatrical literature has mirrored the popular cultural views of how we see older adults: either as pathetic victims trapped in nursing homes or as super grannies surfing huge waves and running marathons.”

Money trouble

Another challenge for senior theater groups: money. Actors are usually amateurs—not a big draw for donors. And funding for aging doesn’t usually go to the arts. Rather than considered life-enhancing, theater groups often are regarded as a frill.

 

The challenges haven’t deterred Monciella Elder, 61, from becoming a theater director and playwright. In 2009, the professional singer and actor had to stop performing due to multiple sclerosis. “I was so depressed,” she recalls. Then a nearby senior center asked her to run its drama club. Soon after, she left to found Past Prime Players in Atlanta.

Ms. Elder has taken the 18 or so actors, ages 57 to 68, “from ground zero,” she says. She trains them in voice projection, character development, improvisation and acting, along with lighting, sound and set design. In the past four years, she has written and directed more than 20 plays and skits.

For casting, she puts commitment before auditions. Actors must agree to attend twice-weekly, two-hour rehearsals, and three or four a week closer to production.

Her troupe has played at churches, women’s conferences, dinner theaters, schools and senior centers, as well as large venues in Atlanta, New Orleans and Atlantic City (where Ms. Clark played her role as a lady of the evening). Along with lighter themes, Ms. Elder has tackled spousal abuse, death and loss, and sexual orientation.

Before every performance, the actors tell the audience, “We may be past our prime, but we still love to play.” Through her work, Ms. Elder also hopes to dispel stereotypes about aging and to inspire others in their 50s and beyond. Her message: It’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Right on cue, after every performance, Ms. Elder says her phone rings with inquiries from audience members who want to join the Past Prime Players.

At a recent rehearsal, she suggested the group take a week off. They wouldn’t hear of it.

“I can’t get them to go home,” she says. “They’re enjoying themselves so much.”

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Boomer and Senior Housing, Aging in Place Technology, Senior Theatre http://www.sallyabrahms.com/housing/boomer-and-senior-housing-aging-in-place-technology-senior-theatre http://www.sallyabrahms.com/housing/boomer-and-senior-housing-aging-in-place-technology-senior-theatre#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 14:44:02 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=2131 Baby Boomers and Niche Communities

Just back from the What's Next Boomer Summit in Chicago with aging in place technology experts, investors, entrepreneurs. Great products, services and energy.

Speaking of products and services, here's a piece I wrote recently for Kiplinger's Personal Finance on aging in place tech.

More valuable research in two other pieces I wrote on boomer and senior housing that present intriguing options, again for Kiplinger's.

But, a story I wrote for the Wall Street Journal on senior theatre may be my favorite!

 

 

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Baby Boomers and Niche Communities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just back from the What’s Next Boomer Summit in Chicago with aging in place technology experts, investors, entrepreneurs. Great products, services and energy.

Speaking of products and services, here’s a piece I wrote recently for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance on aging in place tech.

More valuable research in two other pieces I wrote on boomer and senior housing that present intriguing options, again for Kiplinger’s.

But, a story I wrote for the Wall Street Journal on senior theatre may be my favorite!

 

 

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Content Writing: The Benefits of Blogging http://www.sallyabrahms.com/uncategorized/content-writing-the-benefits-of-blogging http://www.sallyabrahms.com/uncategorized/content-writing-the-benefits-of-blogging#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:30:53 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=2104 Continue Reading]]> Why would a company that focuses on baby boomers and seniors–or really any demographic–want to have a blog? Blogging can be a powerful tool for businesses. Because I blog for many companies, I spoke at  Harvard Business School recently on a panel about the value of corporate marketing. Rather than repeat its benefits, I thought I would share a slide I created for the event.  It says it all!

 

 Slide1

 

 

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Career Transitions After Age 55 Don’t Have to be Difficult http://www.sallyabrahms.com/aging-and-baby-boomers/career-transitions-after-age-55-dont-have-to-be-difficult http://www.sallyabrahms.com/aging-and-baby-boomers/career-transitions-after-age-55-dont-have-to-be-difficult#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 19:06:18 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=2093 It may be hard to believe if you’re in the throes of caregiving, but if you’ve taken time off or reduced your hours at your “real” (as in paying, non-caregiver) job, or simply want to change fields, there are smart strategies for older job hunters. I interviewed an age 50+ workplace expert for this Boston Globe story.

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If you’re older and looking for work in your field or want to change careers, you’ve got company. Lots of it. A combination of living longer, the fear of outliving retirement, fallout from the recession, the need to sock away more for later or collect health care benefits, and the desire to make a difference is making work important.

According to a 2014 Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, 72 percent of preretirees want to work in their retirement years, and 47 percent who have retired have worked or plan to work. Boomers, it turns out, are starting more businesses than any other demographic.

While it’s true that older people, on average, take longer to find work than those who are younger, there are opportunities.

We spoke about job strategies with Kerry Hannon, a career and retirement expert and author of “What’s Next: Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job In Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond,” and “Great Jobs For Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy . . . And Pays the Bills.”

What is the work climate like for those aged 55 and over?

I’m not going to say that ageism doesn’t exist, but the jobs are there. It’s clear that employers do not only want employees who are wearing hoodies.

Older workers have an edge when it comes to experience and knowledge, but what are the perceived disadvantages?

Some employers believe that older workers may not have the stamina to do the job, that they’re not up to speed with technology, won’t play nicely with younger colleagues, or will have a hard time reporting to a younger boss.

How do you combat that?

Get physically fit — you will exude vibrancy and a can-do attitude. Stay on top of technology and changes in the field. Sign up for computer workshops online, at local colleges, adult education or senior centers. Do you need to go back to school to get a certification? (Many community colleges offer age 50+ retraining.) Let employers know you have a collaborative work style with workers of any age. And, show them you are savvy by having a strong social media footprint.

What does that entail?

Hiring managers will do a Google search on you. You must have a good LinkedIn profile with a professional-looking headshot. Not including a photo doesn’t preclude age discrimination, but eliminates many opportunities. According to LinkedIn, recruiters are 11 times more likely to click on a profile that has a photo than one without. Get active in industry groups on LinkedIn, post interesting articles, and participate in discussions. It’s also a great way to pull together your professional network.

How important is it for older workers to be on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+?

A great online presence gives you an edge. Using social media properly allows recruiters to discover you, and for you to unearth job openings. You can reconnect with past colleagues and pals from across the decades now working in industries or companies you’d like to join. This simple and subtle networking is essential for everyone. If you’re not adept at social media, take a class or ask your niece, son, or a kid in the neighborhood, for help.

What else do you need?

A professional e-mail address like Gmail, not AOL or Yahoo, which will date you.

Can you market your age as an asset?

Yes. You need to articulate your value. Workers 50+ tend to be self-starters, know how to get the job done, and don’t need as much hand-holding as those with less experience. A great benefit to being older is that you have a good deal of knowledge and leadership ability. Chances are you will be hired over someone with less in their quiver and in need of training. Look at your skill set and past experience as transferable to lots of different challenges and fields. Nonprofits and small businesses are good for older workers. They often need your chops, although you may have to work for less.

Older workers are competing with younger job seekers who may not command as much money. Should a worker later in life be willing to sacrifice some salary for a job?

Absolutely. At this stage, it’s always best to get in the door and sacrifice money for a job you want to do. You might be able to negotiate for nonsalary compensation to offset your paycheck such as more vacation, flextime, work from home, even four-day weeks. If you perform well, they may bump up your salary.

Does it send a bad signal to accept less money?

If you like the job and want it or need it, it’s not worth being hard-line. It is also always easier to find a job when you have a job. So accept it, and then keep looking discreetly. In the meantime, you’re keeping your resume alive and your confidence up.

What if you’re unemployed?

Do something every day. Ask for advice and talk to people doing the jobs you’re considering. If you’re thinking of starting a business, volunteer, moonlight, get in there and do the job and see if it’s what you imagined it to be. Volunteering for a nonprofit lets you test the waters, adds to your resume, and puts you in touch with people who might know of a job opening or introduce you to someone who does.

Don’t a few companies have programs that pay a stipend to soon-to-be-retired employees so they can use their skills at a nonprofit and see if it might be their new career?

They’re called “encore careers,” combining socially meaningful work with a paycheck. Those jobs can turn into full-time positions or lead to other part-time or full-time work.

What do you think makes the people you’ve interviewed so successful at making a career transition or starting their own businesses?

They haven’t made rash moves. So, if you are beginning to think about the next chapter, start planning at age 55 what you want to do at age 60 or at 60 for 65. Is it to get into a different department or company, work fewer hours, be your own boss, or switch gears altogether? Do your homework, and network, network, network!

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Companies Care About Caregiving http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/companies-care-about-caregiving http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/companies-care-about-caregiving#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 12:55:34 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=2084 Continue Reading]]> Harvard Business School talk on blogging

Why is blogging valuable for companies? I’m speaking at Harvard Business School this week about this topic on a panel about media today and in the future. (One of my areas of expertise is baby boomers—a jumbo demographic boomers are trying to reach. One way is through content writing like a blog on a company website.)

Check back later for more (after my talk) about why blogging can be so effective for businesses. In the meantime, here are three reasons:

  • Positions you as a thought leader
  • Creates a business opportunity to engage readers
  • Humanizes the company—You’re not just peddling a product, you care about me!

 

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Caregiving and Technology: Can You Say “Cutting Edge?” http://www.sallyabrahms.com/health-and-medicine/caregiving-and-technology-can-you-say-cutting-edge http://www.sallyabrahms.com/health-and-medicine/caregiving-and-technology-can-you-say-cutting-edge#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 02:43:37 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1872 Technology allows caregivers peace of mindLots in the press lately about how technology is helping seniors grow old at home and feel safer, more socially connected and stimulated—and giving their boomer children peace of mind. I’ve written my share of stories on the subject, including one recently for AARP they provocatively titled “Is This the End of the Nursing Home?” about the cool technologies that allow people to grow old at home.

I wrote another on tech tools for caregiving after speaking and moderating a panel on boomer and senior housing—fun with Cathy Smith on the panel from Google talking about trends the company is seeing-- at the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit in San Diego. Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, national experts, and companies with products and services in the aging field met to learn about the latest technology, network and cross-pollinate. It was fascinating!

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Technology allows caregivers peace of mindLots in the press lately about how technology is helping seniors grow old at home and feel safer, more socially connected and stimulated—and giving their boomer children peace of mind. I’ve written my share of stories on the subject, including one recently for AARP they provocatively titled “Is This the End of the Nursing Home?” about the cool technologies that allow people to grow old at home.

I wrote another on tech tools for caregiving after speaking and moderating a panel on boomer and senior housing—fun with Cathy Smith on the panel from Google talking about trends the company is seeing– at the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit in San Diego. Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, national experts, and companies with products and services in the aging field met to learn about the latest technology, network and cross-pollinate. It was fascinating!

If you want to keep current (a good idea!), the best resource I know is industry analyst Laurie Orlov’s website Aging in Place Technology Watch.

And talking great resources, check out the newly released Not Your Mother’s Retirement. It covers work, travel, exercise, spirituality, and caregiving. But I save the best for last. I wrote the chapter on housing. 

 

 Google Images via newsbuzzz.com

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Actors Fake Dementia to Help Family Caregivers http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/actors-fake-dementia-to-help-family-caregivers http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/actors-fake-dementia-to-help-family-caregivers#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 15:58:59 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1857 Continue Reading]]> A hospital program teaching family caregivers to be more effective with help of actors faking dementia

Actor pretends to have dementia

Presenting a caregiving program out of New Hampshire’s Dartmouth-Hitchock Medical Center: trained actors pretend to have Alzheimer’s, other dementias, or Parkinson’s in order to teach family caregivers strategies do a better job. Here’s how it works: caregivers are given a scenario to act out–perhaps coaxing Mom to take her medication, get dressed or change clothes. The actor is Mom and you are a frustrated and running-out-of-ideas adult daughter, perhaps. Or, you perform brilliantly.

Either way, the actors and fellow caregivers critique your “scene” and make suggestions so that when that situation really occurs, you have more effective strategies.

Here’s the piece from my weekly AARP blog

Training medical students to do a better job by using actors to play patients is not new. But at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, actors are faking dementia and Parkinson’s  disease to help family caregivers be more effective — and that’s downright novel.

Last month, 16 caregiver spouses gathered at the hospital’s simulation center to boost their communication skills with a loved one. These husbands and wives were dealing with challenging behaviors and wanted help solving real-life issues. In the process, the group also learned what it’s like to be the one impaired.

Each participant was videotaped in a pretend scenario with an actor (made up to look the part) who refused to get dressed, say, or was exceptionally negative. After the role-playing, the actors and fellow caregivers offered feedback on the caregiver’s body language and interaction — what worked and what didn’t. “Family caregivers are often thrust into this role of providing medical care without medical training,” says Justin Montgomery, a clinical nurse and nurse practitioner at Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Aging Resource Center.

One caregiver in the two-session program was Myra Ferguson, whose husband has Parkinson’s. While she has had experience with the disease — her father also had it — caregiver boot camp reinforced her skills.

Ferguson was asked to play the sister of a patient/actor with Parkinson’s who didn’t want to put on a sweater or take her medicine. “My job was to encourage my ‘sister’ and tell her she could do it,” says Ferguson.  The feedback was positive — and useful. “I saw that I could be gentle and patient,” Ferguson says. “My colleagues liked that I used humor and made jokes to turn things around.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock plans another round of caregiving sessions this spring and hopes to have more in the future. The training program is part of a federal grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration. “I was feeling really alone and lost before the boot camp, but it was like a support group for me,” says Ferguson. “It was also wonderful that I was learning to be a better caregiver.”

Photo by Charlotte Albright/Vermont Public Radio

Would this kind of program appeal to you? Thoughts, please!

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Ageism, Advertising, and Being Married to a Celeb–Sort of http://www.sallyabrahms.com/aging-and-baby-boomers/ageism-advertising-and-being-married-to-a-celeb-sort-of http://www.sallyabrahms.com/aging-and-baby-boomers/ageism-advertising-and-being-married-to-a-celeb-sort-of#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 14:23:47 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1823 Have you ever seen the Dos Equis beer ads starring The Most Interesting Man in the World? If so, you know what my husband looks like. He's a dead ringer for the actor who plays Mr. Cool. I wrote the story below, that appeared recently in AdvertisingAge, one night after yet more "fans" approached him.

I am in a bar in the West Village with my husband, daughter, and nephew. My husband David gets up to order a drink in the other room. "It's happening again," he tells us when he returns.

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Have you ever seen the Dos Equis beer ads starring The Most Interesting Man in the World? If so, you know what my husband looks like. He’s a dead ringer for the actor who plays Mr. Cool. I wrote the story below, that appeared recently in AdvertisingAge, one night after yet more “fans” approached him.

I am in a bar in the West Village with my husband, daughter, and nephew. My husband David gets up to order a drink in the other room. “It’s happening again,” he tells us when he returns.

That’s all he has to say. We know the rest. At the bar, there will have been stares and whispers. Invariably, as they did that night, someone will come over to ask my husband if he’s “that guy” and want to take a picture with him. He has yet to turn down a photo opp.

At a recent meeting attended by hundreds of attorneys, my husband’s buttoned-up law firm puts up two photos side by side on the massive screen. One is of my husband and the other is that guy.

And last summer, on Nantucket, our family is listening to a band playing at a packed brewery. All of a sudden, the lead singer stops mid-song and says, “We are honored to have in the crowd with us the Most Interesting Man in the World.” People turn as he points his mic at my husband.

Dozens of times — in San Francisco, Houston, New York, Nantucket, and Chicago, in airports, elevators, bars, restaurants, on subways and the street, and last night, at a professional basketball game in Boston — David has been stopped and asked if he is The Most Interesting Man in the World from the Dos Equis beer commercials. Although he’s more than ten years his junior, a wee 63 year-old boomer, my husband looks remarkably like the actor.

And that suits David just fine. After all, The Most Interesting Man in the World is sophisticated and adventurous. He drops from helicopters into igloos and hosts rambunctious cougars (the animal, not the older women who hook up with younger guys) in his kitchen. Did I mention the beautiful women on his arm?

My husband is not a poser. He doesn’t say he is Mr. Dos Equis, and always gives his real name. He has been known, though, to toss out, “Stay thirsty, my friend” to star-struck gawkers. When pressed, he always admits he is a mere lowly lookalike.

The truth doesn’t stop him from having his favorite one-liners from the ads: “I once had an awkward moment just to see what it felt like” and “His beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man’s entire body.”

The message is that if you drink Dos Equis, you, too, will be cool like the guy in the ad.

How refreshing! In a society that only seems to celebrate the young and dismisses the old, these advertisers have chosen to build a campaign around a septuagenarian with a gray beard and laugh lines–not a hottie in his 20s or 30s.

Rather than assume an older person is over the hill and no longer has what it takes, Dos Equis made its man an object of desire for women, and someone men want to emulate.

And many of his fans happen to be young.

The Benefits of Age

What makes The Most Interesting Man so appealing is his experience, knowledge and wisdom, all gained from living a long life. These positive qualities are acquired by aging, a concept that has had little value in the marketing world.

Instead, advertisers usually target a younger demographic with, say, a buff, boyish male model wearing tight jeans and no shirt.

If there is a product for older people, it is likely to involve retirement (doom and gloom, you haven’t saved enough) or erectile dysfunction (you’re old, so see, you can’t perform).

Dos Equis has chosen to show a different face of aging, someone who is sexual, fun and vital. The ads have received a grand reception from viewers; there are pages and pages on Google with Dos Equis commercial witticisms and life-size cardboard cutouts on eBay of the real McCoy.

Have we turned the corner with stereotypes of clueless older people? Is this the beginning of multi-layered depictions and a better understanding of the wide range of boomers and seniors? Is ageism dying?

A 2012 campaign for Toyota Venza showed older parents biking with their friends, getting a puppy or clubbing while their millennial age children assumed the folks were going to be early and missing out on life. That’s a start.

The creative ranks of agencies, which are typically made up of Gen Xers and Millennials, could use more boomers. No doubt they would change the script rather than play it safe.

At the very least, there are financial incentives for an advertising shift: the 50-plus group has $2.4 trillion in annual income, or 42% of all after-tax income; the 55-plus demographic controls more than three-quarters of America’s wealth; and 55-64 year-olds outspend the average consumer in almost every category. The buying power of 78 million boomers, the oldest who turn 68 next year, will likely flip the TV picture from black and white to grey.

But my husband isn’t thinking about advertising dollars or his important faux role in transforming how older people are perceived. He’s thinking it’s funny that he’s repeatedly mistaken for The Most Interesting Man in the World.

That part of the story is compelling, feel-good fiction: The fans believe they’ve had a brush with fame, the Dos Equis folks have a winner on their hands while debunking ageism, my husband gets a good chuckle, and even I make out. Not only do I have a new man in my life without having to stray, but he happens to be more interesting than I even knew!

I’ll drink to that!

 

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Housing and Caregiving Updates http://www.sallyabrahms.com/aging-parents/sally-abrahms-housing-and-caregiving-updates http://www.sallyabrahms.com/aging-parents/sally-abrahms-housing-and-caregiving-updates#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:45:40 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1799 Continue Reading]]> Just in time for the holidays. . .Five resources for parents and spouses with dementia and Alzheimer’s, then an interview about boomer and senior housing.

  1. The Alzheimer’s Association. Besides a Caregivers Center with educational resources, updates about the disease, a blog, and support groups, there’s a 24-hour helpline (TK), message boards to fit your situation and an online tool called the Alzheimer’s Navigator. It’s a five-minute survey that asks you questions about your specific situation, offers feedback on your answers, and helps you craft a customized action plan. The coolest part: it gives you resources in your local community.
  2. The National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Referral Center. Besides basic consumer information, it lists research centers, clinical trials and news. Another gov. site: alzheimer’s gov. with treatment plans and money matters.
  3. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, with in-home care strategies and live chats or Skyping with a social worker.
  4. An AARP blog on best books for children about Alzheimer’s and dementia. (I’m biased, I wrote it.)
  5. The National Institute of Health’s list of organizations and associations

Green door houseAnd now, part of an interview I gave to housing expert Steve Moran from the Senior Housing Forum:

How do you see the needs/wants of seniors changing with the emerging wave of Boomer seniors?
As I said in a chapter I wrote in an upcoming book on retirement, “Boomers aren’t going to take aging lying down.” They refuse to accept today’s traditional nursing homes. Rather than grow old in isolation, the Me Generation (which should be retitled the “We” Generation!) plans to do it together. That could mean aging in place with community support and services, sharing housing or moving into a Green House family-style nursing home. And, aging in place technology will play a prominent role. The 78 million boomer demographic ensures they will have more choices if they demand them—which they are. It’s a fascinating time to be a boomer and write about it.

Because my focus very specifically is senior housing, which means in effect I am an insider, I worry that I don’t have the same perception of senior housing as someone who writes from a higher view.  How do you see the senior housing options that exist in the marketplace today?
Not varied enough, but making progress. We have multigenerational designs (Lennar’s Next Gen model and other companies.) Niche communities that are CCRC’s on or near university campuses. LGBT senior housing. The aging in place Village model. Cohousing. Active adult communities. Even with all these choices, the senior housing industry is still evolving and growing. You could say it’s in its adolescent phase!

If you were hired as a consultant to help design the perfect senior housing community what are the things you think would be most important?  What are the things that should be left out?
I’m not an architect, but here’s my dream: A good balance of privacy and social interaction, fabulous exercise facilities, first-rate medical care, a warm and responsive staff, and the ability to call the shots as much as possible. It would be within walking distance of a city or suburban town center so residents would be near restaurants, movies, stores, and people of all ages—the world outside their senior community.

Residents would be able to continue making meaningful contributions (volunteering, mentoring—feeling that they have a purpose). There would be ongoing, varied stimulation—lifelong learning, and rich cultural events not only in senior housing, but also outside the facility. When I look at the physical layout (central nursing stations, shared rooms, an institutional feel) and offerings in my mother-in-law’s nursing home (the highlight is bingo), I want to weep. At least when boomers hit the nursing homes, most will be following the Green House, neighborhood “home” model.

 Photo by jaciXIII courtesy of Flickr

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Vacation First, Then Caregiving, Housing, 50+ Work http://www.sallyabrahms.com/aging-and-baby-boomers/sally-abrahms-vacation-first-then-caregiving-housing-50-work http://www.sallyabrahms.com/aging-and-baby-boomers/sally-abrahms-vacation-first-then-caregiving-housing-50-work#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 15:29:23 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1777 Continue Reading]]> VeniceI’m back from Venice, where the museums, architecture, music and scenery are gorgeous. If you have a mobility issue, though, the steep steps on the hundreds of walking bridges are a killer. I thought about this as I saw older men and women, and parents with baby strollers, navigate with difficulty from street to street. Note to Venice officials: An elevator on those steps would be handy. 

When I’m not traveling to Venice on vacation ((did I mention Verona and Lake Como?), I’ve been putting in a little time on the office keyboard. Here’s a sampling of some of my recent pieces on aging and boomers for AARP, Intel-GE’s Care Innovations, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine:

CAREGIVING: 

Does Caregiving Help You Live Longer? (Hint: it just may) 

Who Cares? Boomers Don’t Want to Live With Their Adult Children, Either! (big surprise)

Creative Aging: Let Me Paint the Picture (it’s a pretty one)

WORK:

Ready for Your Encore Career? (read this before you say “no”)

Talking to Your Boss About Caregiving (how? carefully!)

HOUSING:

Introducing the Retirement Commune (cool!)

 

Out soon: A piece for a national venue on technology for aging in place! Stay connected!

And more: I’m writing and consulting for companies marketing to boomers and seniors. 

 

 

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“If There’s Anything You Need”–Real Help for Caregivers http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/if-theres-anything-you-need-real-help-for-caregivers http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/if-theres-anything-you-need-real-help-for-caregivers#comments Sun, 06 Oct 2013 18:36:04 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1756 Continue Reading]]> strategies that caregivers can use to get help from family and friendsYou know that blanket offer: “Call me if there’s anything I can do.” Guess what? There is! But you have to know how to ask to get what you really need. Someone can “help,” however, if you don’t need what they’re giving, it’s not really helping. 

Usually one family member–that may be you–ends up doing the brunt of the caregiving. But, no man is an island, it takes a village. You get the point.

You may be reluctant to request help from siblings, other family members or friends. This should make it easier:

So, why is it so hard to ask?

  1. You think you’ll get turned down
  2. You’re convinced no one can do the job as well as you and it’s quicker to do it yourself
  3. They’ll think you’re weak, ultra needy or shirking your duties
  4. You’ve given the impression that everything is under control and you don’t need help, or are not open to it

Let’s think about these fears:

  1. If they turn you down, it may be legit (it may be a bad time for them or your request may not be realistic). Ask another time. If they decline repeatedly, it’s possible they’re self-absorbed jerks!
  2. Okay, you may actually do the job better. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that your loved one gets help and that you get a break or have one less thing to do.
  3. If they think you’re weak, needy or trying to get out of caregiving, they don’t “get” it. Nothing more to say!
  4.  You may throw off an in-control, all-covered vibe, but they may want to help and not know what to do or how to offer assistance.

Here’s another way to think about corralling help:

  • Make a list of tasks that would be helpful. What are the people you want to ask good at? (If it’s math, have them help handle the finances or pay bills online; if they’re technology-adept, they could show others how to use a caregiving-sharing website–Care Innovations, Lotsa Helping Handsand others.
  • Be specific. Give them a choice of three things. Start with something small to get them on the team.
  • Suck up to your sisters and brothers! Tell them how appreciative you are for their past help, that you know how busy they are, and how important their pitching in is to you and their parent/friend/sibling. Check the accusations at the door! Saying “you never help. . .” won’t get you what you need. How about, “I really need your help”?

Even if you do get them to help, you’ll want to keep expanding your caregiving network so you try not to lean too hard on one person.  It could be friends, relatives, online support groups, church or synagogue members, or community resources. Just do it!

Photo courtesy of Pierre Pouliquin via Creative Commons

 

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Kids and Alzheimer’s: 9 Unforgettable Books http://www.sallyabrahms.com/boomer-issues/kids-and-alzheimers-9-unforgettable-books http://www.sallyabrahms.com/boomer-issues/kids-and-alzheimers-9-unforgettable-books#comments Sun, 08 Sep 2013 18:04:28 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1736 Continue Reading]]> best books for kids about Alzheimer's, one by Max Wallack

Max and his inspiration

Wallack appears to be every parent’s dream (let’s hope he has a few irritating qualities. . .) Half of the proceeds from the book go to support Alzheimer’s research and care of patients. While a student at Boston University, he works in the school’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center as well as BU’s Laboratory of Molecular Psychiatry in Aging.

He’s written academic papers and travels to scientific conferences. He was presenting something serious in California when I got in touch for an AARP story I wrote about him. Last week, I see he was featured on CNN

Not perfect son enough? I haven’t mentioned Puzzles to Remember, a non-profit he founded a few years back that donates fewer-than-the-usual-50-or-100-piece puzzles to nursing homes and day care centers. 

Check out these other eight excellent books on Alzheimer’s and dementia:

Photo courtesy of puzzlestoremember.org.

 

 

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Look No Further: The 10 Best Books for Caregivers http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/sally-abrahms-10-best-books-for-caregivers http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/sally-abrahms-10-best-books-for-caregivers#comments Wed, 31 Jul 2013 00:27:52 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1724 Continue Reading]]> books for family caregivers

Terrific resources

My office shelves are bulging with books for family caregivers. Publishers eager to get their authors reviewed keep them coming.

There are so many excellent ones that it’s probably unfair of me to create a Top Ten list. But that’s just what I’m doing! 

The list is in absolutely no order of significance. These books offer coping strategies and resources, explain critical concepts caregivers must know, and provide the information they need to make good choices. They’re worth the read:

  1. The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent, by Barry J. Jacobs
  2. They’re Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy, by Francine Russo
  3. When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions, by Paula Span
  4.  Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s, by Joanne Koenig Coste
  5. A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents—and Ourselves, by Jane Gross
  6. Passages in Caregiving, by Gail Sheehy
  7. The Caregiver’s Survival Handbook, by Alexis Abramson
  8. The 36-Hour DayA Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss, by Nancy Mace and Dr. Peter Rabins
  9. The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook, by Diana Denholm
  10. Caring for Your Parents: The Complete Family Guide by Hugh Delehanty and Elinor Ginzler

Have you read any of the books on my list? And?? Whittling down to ten means I’ve probably missed some  gems. What do you recommend?

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The 10 Top Caregiving Resources http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/the-10-top-caregiving-resources http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/the-10-top-caregiving-resources#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 16:18:06 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1713 Continue Reading]]>

I write on topics that I think will interest and help family caregivers, but I can’t cover every issue. Really! So this week, I’m giving you valuable resources as well as go-to groups, organizations and websites that have great info, forums, learning opportunities (a webinar, a podcast, an article, an upcoming conference, studies) and advice from experts and in-the-trenches-caregivers. All in one place — here!

First, I want to give a shout out to AARP’s Caregiver Resource Center. It has checklists, worksheets, tips, tools, articles, blogs, a care provider locator, long-term care calculator, Ask the Experts feature and more.

Other good sources include:

According to the latest statistics from the National Hospital Discharge Survey, done in 2006, elderly patients underwent 35.3 percent of inpatient procedures and 32.1 percent of outpatient procedures. That number is even higher today. Carol Levine, director of the United Hospital Fund’s Families and Health Care Project, makes a good point: “Most family caregivers focus only on the day of surgery and not on what comes before and after. Yet in terms of outcome, these may be the most important times to prepare for.”

  • The Family Caregiver Alliance has updated fact sheets on caregiving issues. New, free online publications through the group’s National Center on Caregiving range from how to compensate a family member for providing care to “Downsizing a Home: A Checklist for Caregivers.”
  • The Caregiver Action Network recently released an online video series for Alzheimer’s caregivers and an online guide for navigating Medicare.

More must-know resources:

Of course there are more. What did I leave out? What else should readers know about? Please share.

Photo by Humayunn N A Peerzaada courtesy of Creative Commons

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Cohousing and Caregiving Go Hand in Hand http://www.sallyabrahms.com/housing/sally-abrahms-cohousing-and-caregiving http://www.sallyabrahms.com/housing/sally-abrahms-cohousing-and-caregiving#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 16:03:49 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1660 Continue Reading]]> Remember when neighborhoods were like caring villages? I never had that experience, but got more than a hint when I visited Camelot Cohousing in Berlin, Mass., a couple of weeks ago.

I went to do a housing story and found a family caregiving story!

It also brought home the point that there are many ways to grow old and have support. Whether you’re a boomer or in your 70s and beyond, it’s an interesting option.

First, the cohousing concept: People own (a few rent) a small, often attached, home with an inviting front porch. Houses are next to, as well as face, one another across a walkway. Roads and cars are banished to the perimeter of the property so there is daily pedestrian interaction with innumerable everyday opportunities to get to know one another. This regular, impromptu communication fosters deep friendships.

Residents share outdoor space and a multipurpose common house. Usually there’s a kitchen, a living room/meeting room/movie area, a bedroom for guests or future caregivers, and whatever else the group wants (a fitness room, game room, sewing room, perhaps) in the common house. It’s also where residents, if they choose, can have one or two meals together a week.

Members in Camelot range from a newborn to 80-year-old Martha Shevett. The day I visited, Shevett was sitting in a white wicker chair on her porch. She had a rail installed because “I’m old and tottery,” she said.

Shevett used to live alone in an apartment. “It was tremendously isolating,” she recalled. Now Shevett lives alone but isn’t lonely.

Before moving to Massachusetts, she had settled in Pennsylvania and Florida. “I’ve never had these kinds of relationships with neighbors. People are so wonderfully supportive,” she said.

If she has trouble opening a jar, she’ll ask someone on the walkway. She’s fallen several times in her house, winding up in the hospital more than once. While she had a visiting nurse, neighbors also rallied. If she had been living in her old apartment, “I would have been up a creek,” she said. Taking a shower is still hard. A neighbor, a registered nurse, called when I was visiting to see if it was a good time to help Shevett take a shower.

There are 34 units in Camelot. If she wants to see fresh faces, she hops in a three legged motorized cart she’s dubbed “my chariot” and in two minutes, she’s atMosaic Commons, another intergenerational cohousing community.  They share meals and have a similar set-up.

Among the faces she sees at Mosaic Commons are her 48-year-old son, David, and 14-year-old grandson. Both mother and son love the arrangement. As David put it, “Mom’s not right here. She’s close enough to be convenient and far enough away to give us distance.” He’s “relieved” and “ecstatic” that she’s surrounded by people who care about her. “It’s the dynamic you want in any small town where people look out for each other,” he said. “I don’t ever want to move from Mosaic Commons. I’m in a place I want to be for the rest of her life.”

And so is Martha.

Interested in cohousing? There are more than 120 developments nationwide, all intergenerational except six geared to seniors. (There are plenty of boomers in senior cohousing.) Around the country, homes in cohousing develpoments range from $150,000 to $1.4 million and are 450 to 2,000 square feet.

Two good resource are the Cohousing Association of the United States and The Cohousing Company.

 

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Tax Tips for Family Caregivers http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/tax-tips-for-family-caregivers http://www.sallyabrahms.com/caregiving/tax-tips-for-family-caregivers#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 21:53:45 +0000 admin http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1640 Continue Reading]]> April 15 is galloping into view. Give me a break! That’s what we all want when it comes to taxes. And this may be your year. Some of the rules regarding tax breaks for family caregivers have changed slightly since last year. I thought I’d do an update.

Software tax programs like TurboTax, TaxAct and H&R Block at Home are easy to use and do many of these calculations for you. It’s still good to know if you qualify.

You might be able to claim your parent, grandparent, stepparent, mother- or father-in-law, sibling, half sibling or step-sibling as a tax dependent even if he or she doesn’t live with you. Here are the rules:

  1. His or her gross income in 2012 must be less than $3,800 (last year it was $3,700) excluding disability and Social Security payments. That number includes rental income and wages, interest and dividends from investments or pension benefits and withdrawals from retirement plans.
  2. You must be paying more than 50 percent of his or her expenses.
  3. The person cannot be claimed as a dependent by anyone else.
  4. Mom and Dad can’t file a joint tax return unless it’s to claim a refund, and neither parent can owe tax on a separate return.
This is a little tricky: if you have siblings who are also supporting Mom or Dad, but none pays half or more in support, and you spend at least 10 percent of your money on their expenses, while expenses from all sibs combined are at least half of your parent’s yearly expenses — you can claim your parent as a dependent. But understand that only one sibling can take that “multiple support declaration” exemption per year. (AARP has a caregiver taxes Q&A and primer here.)

What if your relative’s gross income is more than $3,800? Then that person can’t be a dependent but might still qualify for a deduction on his or her medical expenses. Those expenses will need to be more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. (For 2013 taxes, the threshold will be 10 percent.)

You might also be eligible for the child and dependent care credit. If that’s the case, you’d get a credit of up to 35 percent of expenses paid for dependent care, with $3,000 in maximum expenses. That translates to as much as a $1,050 tax credit. Qualified long-term care services may be deductible as well.

To qualify for the child and dependent care credit, you must have earned income, your relative must be unable to take care of himself or herself because of mental or physical limitations, and the care recipient typically must live with you.

There’s also a credit for the elderly or the permanently and totally disabled, but just 100,000 a year lucky filers can take it. Generally, your annual income can’t exceed $25,000.

Confused? Overwhelmed? You can always call the Internal Revenue Service telephone assistance help line. Dial 800-829-1040 Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.

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Why Do We Care What It Feels Like To Be Old http://www.sallyabrahms.com/work-and-lifestyle/why-do-we-care-what-it-feels-like-to-be-old http://www.sallyabrahms.com/work-and-lifestyle/why-do-we-care-what-it-feels-like-to-be-old#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 19:24:23 +0000 admin http://boomerwriter.com/?p=87 Continue Reading]]> MIT’s AgeLab invented Agnes (Age Gain Now Sympathy System), a body suit that makes the wearer–engineer, product developer, student, architect–feel in his/her mid 70′s.

Want to see it? Check out this demo on of Agnes from The “Today” Show http://agelab.mit.edu/agelab-nbcs-today-show

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A Hot Housing Trend: Be Ready http://www.sallyabrahms.com/housing/sally-abrahms-a-hot-housing-trend http://www.sallyabrahms.com/housing/sally-abrahms-a-hot-housing-trend#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 14:01:03 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1497 Continue Reading]]> Do you know what “aging in place” means? In layman terms, it’s growing old at home (rather than assisted living or a nursing home). Pay attention! It’s a concept that you will hear repeatedly as America’s 50+ population grays and baby boomers’ parents–and boomers themselves–need to think about next steps.

Ten thousand Americans a day are turning 65. In 2010, the population of folks 75+ was 18.8 million; by 2030, it will be 33.3 million.Add these figures to AARP research that shows more than 80% of people want to stay home as they get older.

 Of course they do. But how are they going to do it if they need family members—who don’t live with them—to monitor their medication, make sure their vital signs are vital, and that they’re eating and using the bathroom? Companies are scrambling to develop in-home health monitoring through mobile phone apps, tablets and Web-based programs. Motion sensors in the lights, on the refrigerator, under the mattress in case there’s a fall. Some technology may be able to spot a change of gait or daytime activity that might avert a later trip to the hospital. 

 Two new stories on the subject naming products and services are Mark Miller’s piece for Reuters—love the first line “Getting old? There’s an app for that.”—and another by Lauran Neergaard of The Associated Press.

 Good resources: Aginginplace.com and The Aging in Place Institute

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Where Will Baby Boomers Live? http://www.sallyabrahms.com/housing/sally-abrahms-where-will-baby-boomers-live http://www.sallyabrahms.com/housing/sally-abrahms-where-will-baby-boomers-live#comments Tue, 02 Jul 2013 17:54:47 +0000 sallyabrahms http://www.sallyabrahms.com/?p=1276 There have never been more housing options for baby boomers. Downsize, age in place (in your home, or a family member's or a friend's, rather than assisted living or a nursing home), or live with a friend or even strangers. Just as they have called the shots at every stage of their lives, these 49- to 67-year olds have no intention of taking traditional aging lying down. 

Boomers vow not to be the burden to their kids the way some have felt their own parents have been. They’ve watched Mom, Dad or Grandma living isolated in their house, assisted living or nursing home. “Hell no, we won’t go!” this outspoken generation is chanting again.  Boomers are determined to find more meaningful, fun and affordable ways to live now and for the next two or three decades. It's a new way of thinking called community.

I'm posting a housing story I wrote for the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine about Retirement Communes that offers several living choices, including the new trend of home sharing.  Since the piece came out, readers have been asking for resources. Good idea! I'm listing them at the end of the piece.

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WHEN CHARLENE DICALOGERO LIVED ALONE in an apartment in Watertown, she knew none of her neighbors. “I felt lonely and isolated,” says the 53-year-old, a grants administrator at Lesley University. But since buying a $230,000, 700-square-foot home at Camelot CoHousing in Berlin four years ago, DiCalogero couldn’t be lonely if she tried.

Camelot is an enclave of 34 compact homes with welcoming front porches that sit clustered together in this rural town, about a half-hour drive northeast of Worcester. The road and parking areas are off to the side, while pedestrian walkways wind among the houses. The development is engineered to encourage relationships with neighbors — and it seems to be working.

Passersby receive invitations to join homeowners for a glass of wine, or, for the kids on scooters, an offer of a Kool-Aid “for the road.” Those who want to can share communal dinners a couple of times a week at the complex’s common house, which also has been the site of dance classes, board game nights, and a workshop on falling safely, attended mainly by the sort of older folks who worry about breaking a hip.

The neighborhood of about 80 people, ranging in age from 80 to 8 months, is small enough that everyone knows everyone else, yet large enough to ensure privacy. That community size is by design, too, an element of co-housing since it was pioneered in Denmark in the 1960s and ’70s. Camelot, with both market-rate and affordable housing, opened in 2008 and sold its last available unit in 2012. Another co-housing development, Mosaic Commons, is just down the hill.

With a one-bedroom unit easily adapted to walkers and wheelchairs, DiCalogero, who is single, now calls Camelot her retirement plan. “There are interesting people around who will be there to help me if I get sick and can relate to me as I get older,” she says. Sure, she adds, the modest homes are “not single-family houses on 2 acres — but why would you want to [live like] that if you have a choice?”

DiCalogero is not the only baby boomer thinking ahead to how she’ll stay active and socially engaged in the decades to come. Camelot is one of 13 developments of its kind in Massachusetts, with more inevitably on the way. And co-housing is just one of many ways boomers are trying to avoid being alone in their later years, or at least delay moving into a nursing home.

Few of America’s 78 million 49- to 67-year-olds have any intention of aging the way their parents have, wedded to their independence at all costs, even if it ultimately means social isolation. Plenty of older people are moving in with their boomer children, but many others don’t want to be a burden — for them, the plan is to stay home until they can’t anymore.

But not the baby boomers, who can envision all sorts of alternate living arrangements. “To [the older generation], living alone is the only measure of success, but the boomers’ comfort with interdependence means there are many options,” says Dr. Bill Thomas, an influential geriatrician and author based in New York. “Aging in community, rather than all alone, is going to make the boomers’ experience of old age different than anything that ever came before.”

It may be time to start calling the “Me Generation” the “We Generation.”

 JOANNE TULLER, a 58-year-old community health center administrator, has lived with other people — other people who aren’t relatives — for her entire adult life. She loved college dorm life, so after she graduated, Tuller moved to a co-op in Cambridge with seven housemates. This is great, she recalls thinking early on. This is for me.

More than three decades later, Tuller owns a big Victorian in Dorchester with her partner and shares it with five other adult men and women — plus one newborn. The residents buy their food together, split the cooking and other chores, and each pays about $525 a month.

While admitting collective living isn’t for everyone, “I expect that boomers are going to find the idea less radical than older people,” says Tuller. “Boomers are community-oriented, they went to college and lived in dorms, the hippie [experience] makes them more open to living with people they’re not related to.”

There are compelling demographic reasons why Tuller’s prediction is good news. For one, the pool of family caregivers is shrinking. Some 1 in 4 boomers never had children; those who did may have sons and daughters thousands of miles away. One-third of the population will face old age single — either widowed, divorced, or never married. Already, 4 million 50-plus women live in US households with at least two other women of similar age.

And since the boomer generation is so large — by 2030, the 65-plus population is expected to double to 72 million, or 1 out of 5 Americans — their economic strength, as a demographic bloc, could lead to communities built around all sorts of shared interests. Andrew Carle, founding director of the Program in Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, envisions niche communities for dog lovers, gardeners, even cruise ship enthusiasts. “Boomers have always had the critical mass to demand more choices in anything, whether flavors of ice cream or brands in blue jeans,” he says. “You only need 300 Grateful Dead fans to fill a retirement community.”

Already, those interested in lifelong learning can live at university-based retirement communities on or near campuses. Lasell Village in Newton was one of the first, and there are four or five dozen nationwide now, near such schools as Dartmouth and Cornell. Meanwhile, popular 55-plus communities cater to physically active types. Great Island at The Pinehills in Plymouth has walking trails, fitness programs, nearby golf courses, and a full-time lifestyle director. Highland Meadows in Weston highlights its luxury units and proximity to highways leading to the city, the beach, and skiing in the mountains.

Another common form of shared housing now and for the future is likely to involve relatives, often three generations living under one roof. Between 2007 and 2009, the Pew Research Center reported a 10.5 percent increase in multi-generational housing. Meanwhile, a 2012 survey by home builder PulteGroup found that about 1 in 3 adult children expect to someday share a house with a parent.

Five years ago, music teachers Ted and Wendy Hagarty sold their home in Bellingham. At the same time, Ted’s widowed mother sold hers in Northborough. Together, they bought a spacious Colonial in South Grafton and created an in-law apartment in the lower level with its own kitchen and door to the outside.

The family knew that some multi-generational households run into privacy issues and hurt feelings, so they set clear ground rules from the beginning. “There are adjustments, especially if you are the daughter-in-law, but it’s worked out really well,” says 51-year-old Wendy. “Not all personalities could make it work, but it does because there’s mutual respect.”

Ted, who is 60, says their 20-year-old daughter regularly goes downstairs to have long talks with her 90-year-old grandmother, particularly when she’s had enough of her parents. Ted himself doesn’t “have that panic feeling of not knowing what’s going on,” he says. “And I see my mother at peace. I think it has prolonged her life.”

EVEN WHEN THEY’RE NOT SHARING their homes, plenty of boomers are finding ways to build and share their larger communities.

There was a time when lots of retirees planned on picking up and moving to Florida or Arizona, but the notion of being a snowbird no longer flies the way it used to. According to recent Census estimates, rural areas — including scenic spots long associated with retirees — are losing population for the first time, the situation exacerbated now by boomers who are deciding to keep working and to keep living in their own homes.

“The biggest trend we will see in the next 20 years is people aging in place,” says William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Some area communities are particularly well-suited to this. Earlier this year, Brookline’s ongoing commitment to quality-of-life issues like public transportation and senior housing earned it an age-friendly designation from the World Health Organization, one of only eight such places in the United States. The town holds regular forums to explore needs of older residents, and the volunteer organization Brookline-CAN (Community Aging Network) recently put out a guide listing apartments and condos with amenities such as elevators, concierge services, and underground parking out of the ice and snow.

For the most part, however, this state’s housing stock — with all its narrow doorways and steep stairs — does not tend to match the needs of our aging population, says Kermit Baker, a senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard. For many boomers, staying in their homes will require renovating them to make them more accessible.

Paul Morse, the 59-year-old owner of Morse Constructions in Somerville, is a contractor helping older people stay safely at home. He is among the state’s 82 Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS), a designation earned through the National Association of Home Builders. Since 2008, the number of CAPS has doubled to 5,000 nationwide. Morse says the most common changes are widening doorways for wheelchairs and walkers; installing grab bars, higher toilets, and curbless showers; and reorienting living spaces to make it possible to stay on first floors. Increasingly, experts are adopting “universal design,” intended for all ages and abilities. Eliminating thresholds, for instance, makes moving around easier, whether you’re rolling a wheelchair or pushing a baby stroller.

A decade ago, this type of renovation wasn’t at all prevalent, Morse says. In 2011, however, 55-plus homeowners accounted for more than 45 percent of all US home-improvement spending.

“But there’s more to aging in place than renovations,” says Morse. “Being able to stay in your house is not just about having an accessible home, it’s about support.” To foster a community, Morse and his wife Karen, 56, are also deeply involved in Staying Put of Cambridge and Somerville, an organization dedicated to helping people find ways to age well in their homes and communities. The local group puts out a monthly newsletter and conducts workshops and public forums, some in conjunction with area elder services offices.

The couple also belong to a smaller Staying Put neighborhood group that is made up of 13 members, primarily boomers living in and around Davis and Porter squares. On top of meeting regularly for the last three years, they help one another shovel snow, install air conditioners, and deliver meals to members who are ill or recovering from surgery.

Taken together, the friendships “deepen our understanding of religions and cultures,” Paul says. “So our lives are enriched as we get older, as opposed to [just] stopping.”

An even more involved way to get support is called the Village Movement. Beacon Hill Village in Boston, the first of 110 such groups around the country, isn’t a housing development but essentially a big in-person social network. Founded in 2001 by friends who never wanted to move, its 340 50-plus members each pay $675 a year (or $975 per household) to stay socially engaged and get information and discounts from vetted service providers. Need a dog walker or a carpenter? Want to get a doctor referral, attend a cocktail party, or volunteer in the larger community? Paid staff and volunteers can make it happen. (The seven other Villages in Massachusetts have differing fee structures and services.)

“The connections that we had generations ago when our families lived around is gone,” says Karen Morse. “When you’re connected to your neighbors, you know them differently and are able to do things for each other. It allows for the kind of connection you might have with a family member.”

OF COURSE, as any Rolling Stones fan knows, you can’t always get what you want. For reasons ranging from a lack of family to take you in to medical issues that require professional attention, staying out of a nursing home is not always possible. Yet these days, not all nursing homes are synonymous with institutional hallways, bland cafeteria food, and prickly roommates.

A little over a decade ago, geriatrician Bill Thomas conceived of a new kind of residential facility that would feel like a home, encourage social engagement, and offer the medical care of a nursing home — and it would aim to do all of those things while remaining within reach of those on Medicaid and Medicare. Thomas dubbed his concept the Green House model — not for ecological reasons, but because they would be devoted to the idea that the old can continue to grow. There are 150 or so Green House projects in 24 states; 150 more are in development.

The Leonard Florence Center for Living opened in Chelsea three years ago. There are 10 “homes” in the six-floor building, each occupied by 10 to 12 people. Visitors step off the elevator and come to a door that looks like it belongs to a private home. Inside, there’s a living room with a large fireplace, art and ceramics everywhere, a plate of fruit and fresh-baked cookies on the counter. Each resident gets his or her own bedroom and bathroom, a flat-screen TV, and access to the Wi-Fi network.

Rose Blake for the Boston Globe

Rose Blake for the Boston Globe

Life in the Green House is different from the norm, too. Rather than following a set schedule, residents are in control. They wake up and go to sleep when they want. There are no special visiting hours. In each suite, meals are prepared in a homey kitchen and are shared at the long wooden table in the dining room. There’s an airy cafe, stocked by a pastry chef, and a deli in the lobby.

It all sounds awfully expensive, and this $38 million, 93,000-square-foot project certainly was pricey to build —  something that makes it challenging to replicate on a larger scale, critics of the concept say — with some $28 million coming from private donations and tax credits and the rest covered by a mortgage. And yet 70 percent of residents pay for their stays with Medicaid and Medicare, a percentage of government funding similar to traditional nursing homes.

One of the residents is Lou Sanders, a 95-year-old widower and former military technician. He’d watched his own mother in a nursing home. In a place like that, he says, “you’re losing not only privacy, but your dignity.”

But after four years of living with his daughter, Shelley Diffily, it was clear he was going to need more medical help than she and her family could provide. His blood pressure sometimes dropped dangerously low and he was facing the early stages of Parkinson’s. “I knew I wasn’t heading in the right direction,” he says.

After a period in assisted living, Sanders and Diffily, who lives about 30 minutes away in North Reading, looked at a nursing home in North Andover. It was very nice and clean, but didn’t feel right. “I didn’t want his life to be reduced to half a room with a curtain in between and a little dresser,” Diffily says. Then she heard about the Green House.

About 18 months after moving in, “I couldn’t be in a better place,” Sanders says. “I feel like a person as opposed to being a patient — it’s like a family here.”

As for Diffily, she says one of her concerns is not knowing where she’ll end up in her later years. The 58-year-old has two sons in their early 20s, but she’s resolved not to become a burden to them. “I don’t want to wind up in a nursing home,” she says. “But if I do, I hope I can get into a place like this.”

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SALLY’S BOOMER HOUSING RESOURCES 

 

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