Dr. Mauk’s Boomer Blog
Each week, Dr. Mauk shares thoughts relevant to Baby Boomers that are aimed to educate and amuse.
Some people, when they get to be my age, make a bucket list – that is, those activities they would like to do before they die. Well, I decided to make a list of the things I don’t ever care to do and am happy that I haven’t done…so here is my short not-bucket list:
Go sky diving. While this might be one many people’s bucket list, I have no desire to go skydiving. I just can’t imagine that the euphoria at having survived jumping out of plane and relying on a parachute for my life would ever override the sheer terror of the falling feeling. In fact, I would probably have a heart attack and die of fright on the way down.
Own a snake. I hate snakes and would never call one a pet. I would always be worried that it would escape and I would find it in my shoes one day all dried up, or worse yet, that it would curl up in the shower or hide in my closet. A big snake might eat my little dog or cat. Snakes seem like tricky creatures that would give me nightmares. Nope, no snakes for me.
Smoke a cigarette. No, I have never smoked a cigarette. In fact, when I was about 8 years old and my Dad was once smoking a cigar, which he did only occasionally (being more of a pipe man himself), I wanted to be like him and try a smoke. Dad said okay, and told me to take a big deep breath to inhale that delicious cigar smoke. As you might imagine, the fitful coughing after that one drag, combined with his laughter, cured me of ever wanting to smoke anything – thus Dad’s lesson. He did, however, teach me great technique in stuffing his pipe, though not smoking one!
Go bungee jumping. Even if we set aside all the health hazards of having your hips and knees nearly yanked out of their sockets, your pelvis twisted and jolted, or the risks of having a stroke from all the blood rushing to your brain as you hang upside down, this is not appealing at all to me. Those with hiatal hernias or GERD should not put this on their bucket list. Similar to my feelings about sky diving, I just would not trust that the bungee cord would be strong enough or short enough to make it worth the thrill. Even with a go-pro camera to record the event, I’m sure that my screaming would overshadow any future comedic home movies that would come from it.
Get drunk. I can’t see the attraction of getting drunk and not remembering what you did the night before. I guess that it makes for funny big screen movies, but vomiting all over the carpet and having to clean it up the next day when sober just doesn’t make it onto my list of anything remotely resembling fun. Besides, if I ever got inebriated, I would probably be found dancing on a table in a nightclub, make the evening news, and embarrass my kids to death.
Get a kidney stone. I have already had one kidney stone and they are definitely not fun. I don’t care to have another, so I drink plenty of water throughout the day. It is true what they say, that the pain can be excruciating and intractable. Kidneys stones should be on the “avoid at all costs” list of everyone.
So, what’s on your not bucket list?
‘Carpe diem’ is a phrase that you’ve no doubt heard before. Your grandchildren might be announcing instead that ‘YOLO – you only live once’. The message is simple – live each day as though it’s your last, you never know what’s around the corner. According to those phrases, saving for old age might be a waste of money. We never know if we’ll make it to retirement, or how far into our retirement years we’ll get. Aren’t there more important things to be spending our money on than our old age care? Should we be saving at all?
What are your future prospects?
As much as you might convince yourself that you never know what lies ahead, the reality is that you can assume that you’ll live to see old age. Thanks to medical advances, more and more people are living full and healthy lives past an age that would previously have been considered to be ‘old’. After those healthy years, in many cases, come the not-so-healthy years when medical costs and care costs increase.
If you’re trying to convince yourself that saving isn’t worthwhile because you might not ever be ‘old’, bear in mind that by 2030 it is expected that 1 person out of 5 in the U.S. will be 65 or over.
Should you save for old age?
Your future is unknown. A majority of people pay a small fortune in costs for their care when they reach old age. The amount of support available could increase by the time you’re there, or it could dramatically decrease. It is far better to assume the latter and be prepared for every eventuality than to assume that you’ll have financial support and then discover later on that you don’t.
As you age, you may become less able to earn money and may be less capable of making your own decisions. If you don’t prepare in advance, then the eventual burden of your old age care will fall to your loved ones. By saving for old age, you are able to ensure that you get the best place to live, the best support and the best medical treatment, without impacting on the finances and livelihoods of younger family members.
Ecuva is an online health and wellness store where customers can purchase daily living aids, disability aids and items that can make old age easier, more comfortable and more independent.
With the birth of my daughter’s second child, I began to reflect on the important role that grandparents can play in the lives of their grandchildren. Here are five essential tips for older adults who want to have a lasting influence in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
Visit often. For those of us fortunate enough to live near our children and grandchildren, it is easy to see them often. Grandparents may even be the caregivers while parents are working. Visits don’t always have to be planned. Sometimes the best family time is a spontaneous invitation to dinner and a movie. However, sometimes distance can prevent regular visits. Some grandparents make it a goal to see their distant grandchildren once every 6 weeks or every few months. Be sure to take advantage of technology for your time together. Set a regular time to Skype or do Face-time. Don’t miss out on the subtle changes in those early years while babies are growing. Exchanging pictures may help, but they don’t replace the in-person experience. You may even think of relocating to be closer to family. For older grandchildren, be sure to have their cellphone number. Text them often and exchange pictures to stay involved in their lives and let them know you are available to them. Even small connections throughout the week (but without being annoying to teenagers of course) can make a difference in your relationship with your grandchildren.
Offer to help in practical ways. Working parents with young children will need a break at times. Ask how you can best help. Offer to keep the children for an overnight while mom and dad have a special dinner or weekend getaway. Many grandparents like to take their grandchildren on trips without the parents. Places like amusement parks, the zoo, or day trips to the water park or national forest all provide good diversion and quality time with Grandma and Grandpa while giving parents a rest. For even more quality time, take the older grandchildren on a cruise, camping in the mountains, or to a resort without their parents. For the mom with a newborn, take meals to the house (if you live close), do her grocery shopping or laundry, or send her a new bathrobe to show you are thinking of her. A favorite role model of mine sends the grandchildren a “baby shower in a box” with all sorts of goodies when she can’t be present due to distance or health concerns.
Plan special activities. Special activities need not be expensive. This could mean a trip to the park with Grandma or a special morning walk each week with Grandpa. My father used to take every grandson on a bow-hunting trip when they turned 12 years old. This was a rite of passage for every boy in the family. Grandpa would mount their first deer head for them and buy them a special hunting knife to commemorate the occasion. The girls in the family would take a trip to a Disney resort while the men were hunting. Grandchildren remember these events forever.
Attend special events. How fortunate are the kids whose grandparents are able to attend basketball and volleyball games, swimming tournaments, and Grandparent’s Day at school! Take advantage of being able to attend those dance recitals and school plays. If you live far, plan your visits to be able to attend some significant events like graduations, wedding showers, or school performances. This makes lasting memories with your family.
Be a constant in their lives. My parents divorced when I was 9 years old, and my paternal grandparents were the one constant in my life at that time. When a child’s world is jolted by change, grandparents can be that steadying influence that doesn’t change. They provide stability and security in an unsteady world for a child. The most important thing to remember is to be there. You don’t have to be the all-star parent or grandparent, but your children will remember that you were there for them when it counted the most.
We have all heard of the “sandwich generation” – those middle-aged adults who are still caring for their own children and also an aging parent. Well, here is an emerging trend that I will call the Triple Decker Sandwich generation: Baby Boomers who help care for aging parents, who still have children at home of their own, and who find themselves also taking on full time care of their small grandchildren. Yes, that is a sandwich of an entirely different kind. That is a Triple Decker.
Pew Social Trends (2013) revealed that many adults in their 30s and 40s were caring for ailing older parents and also providing some type of financial support for grown children. This resulted in reports from the sandwich generation in feeling in a hurry, rushed, and not having enough time for all of their expected duties. Now, add to those statistics another emerging trend: grandparents caring for grandchildren. I am not referring to the occasional or even regular hour babysitting or childcare that loving grandparents provide. Instead, this is the 24/7 responsibility for grandchildren who live with them, or whom they have adopted. The 2015 Profile of Older Americans from the Agency on Aging found that “in 2014, about 554,579 grandparents aged 65 or more had the primary responsibility for their grandchildren who lived with them”. Now, please note that this is only those grandparents aged 65 an over. What about all the others in their 50s and early 60s doing the same? I imagine that each person reading this can think of at least one or two grandparents who are raising small grandchildren. The implications of this on the health of aging persons is enormous. So, here are some tips to survive the Triple Decker Sandwich generation.
If you have this many people in your life to care for, you must pace yourself. Avoid the temptation to give 100% all the time. It isn’t possible. Something in your life will suffer – and often this is your own health. Think of this task of caring for multiple generations as running a marathon. Develop skills, train, get into a good rhythm that you can maintain for the long haul.
You might have been able to juggle 4 kids and a job when you were in your late 20s or early 30s, but maybe now you are in your 50s with aging parents, teenagers, and a grandbaby to care for. Flexibility is a key to success. You just can’t do everything the same way if you are caring for small children again. Decide what is most important. Set reasonable and attainable goals. Make small goals for each day and celebrate those accomplishments.
Even if you were used to being able to do it all yourself when you were younger, the amount of care that a Triple Decker generation person takes on requires some help at times. Let your adult children watch that baby to give you a break. Let the teens in the house help with the childcare. It is a good time for them to learn these skills for when they are parents. Tag team with your spouse to share the burden if you have a little one in the home. Church friends are happy to help if you need a night out.
Take time to rejuvenate
Being part of a Triple Decker sandwich is tough. Take time to rejuvenate to avoid burnout. You can’t care for anyone if you become ill or incapacitated yourself. For each person, renewal comes in different forms. For men, this might mean playing a sport or watching games on TV without interruption, or having a quiet private place in the house that is off limits from the noise of the household. For moms, this might be shopping alone or getting a manicure or pedicure. Sometimes talking on the phone, or meeting with friends for lunch provides a needed break. Know what you personally need to recharge and refocus and then allow yourself this (without guilt) on a regular basis. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can change how you deal with them.
Don’t expect too much
Chances are, if you find yourself in the Triple Decker mode, you are aging yourself. You can remember how you balanced work, life, kids, and higher education by yourself years ago. Now you wonder how you did it all. Well, you were 20 or 30 years younger then, so cut yourself some slack. Be sure to get enough sleep. Take breaks as needed. Exercise and eat right. Cut out the unnecessary things you did before to fill time and focus on those priorities that you set, without neglecting your own health.
Triple Decker Sandwich persons are tough and resilient. Congratulate yourself that you have been able to make it all work and care for your many loved ones. You sacrifice many things such as an easy and comfortable retirement and the ability to travel. But, you have given a great gift to those you love by sharing your care for them. In the end when you reflect back on your life accomplishments, you might very well find that this was one of the greatest.
Lets be honest, exercising is not always fun. It can create discomfort, make you sweaty, and take you away from some other pleasurable pastimes or methods of relaxation. However, research clearly shows that those who are active on a regular basis have better weight management, are more relaxed, have higher energy and typically experience a better quality of life. For seniors, exercise is especially crucial since it has positive effects on memory, mood, balance, posture, strength and pretty much any issue involved in healthy aging. For those that find it difficult to start or stick with an exercise program, here are 5 ways seniors can make exercising more fun. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.
1. Find what you like to do. Do you enjoy playing golf, tennis or swimming? Have you considered taking long walks or gardening as pleasurable activities? Well if you enjoy any of the above activities, that is good news. All of these can be considered as some form of exercise. Exercise doesn’t always have to mean going to the gym. Experts tell us that we can accumulate the positive effects of exercise throughout the day by doing such activities.
2. Make it social. For people who enjoy socializing, you can incorporate exercise to add to the experience. Mall walking or group exercise programs have allowed people to interact and get in better shape in the process; just make sure you do as much exercising as you do talking.
3. Add music. Line dancing or Zumba, which are popular forms of exercising for seniors, use music to keep rhythm and add to the fun of the dance class. In these exercise classes, music helps weight management, muscle tone, balance and coordination. Whether you incorporate music during group exercise or during a long walk; music can give us energy, relax us and enhance exercise.
4. Add variety. Our minds and bodies typically love variety. Physically, variety is good for our bodies because it allows the use of different muscles, preventing wear and tear on joints. The body is also stimulated more when you do different exercises, which gives more health benefits from the activity. For our minds, variety is good for the brain. When you do different activities it can prevent you from becoming bored of the same exercises continually.
5. Attach a reward. If achieving results is important for you, attaching fitness rewards can make exercising more fun. Some examples of fitness rewards could be having a low calorie dessert if you’ve finished exercising that day, getting a pedicure, going shopping, or having a massage after exercising. Positive reinforcement encourages us to exercise while knowing that if we do it, there is something good coming at the end.
About the Author: Eric Daw is an active aging specialist and the owner of Omni Fitt. Omni Fitt is dedicated to the wellbeing, health and quality of life of people aged 65 and over. Eric motivates and empowers the older adult population to take responsibility for their independence, health, and fitness through motivating and positive coaching experiences.
The human survival instinct is strong and our spirits are made to embrace life. But what happens when your loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness that has no cure? How do you reconcile the certain death of your spouse, parent, or child? Where can you turn when death is close or imminent?
We are fortunate to live in a society that supports excellent care for those who are coming towards the end of their life. As difficult as this journey is for persons and their family members, the appropriate level of service can provide the needed care and comfort to make the end of life a time of peace and reflection rather than pain and suffering.
Two major services are readily available to bring comfort and promote quality of life even until the end of life. These are palliative care and hospice.
Palliative care is a consultative service for those with life-limiting illnesses who may not yet meet the criteria for hospice or who do not wish to enter hospice yet. The focus of palliative care is comfort and symptom management, but patients may still continue treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, dialysis, home health, or other therapy. Palliative services can be provided in the acute hospital setting, in the home, or in a long-term care facility. A new program called PRIME (Progressive Illness Management Expertise) by AseraCare, focuses on symptom management, goals of care planning, medication management, and transition management. PRIME provides palliative care through nurse practitioners and social workers who coordinate care with your regular medical providers. For persons with serious chronic illnesses who experience recurring rehospitalizations, palliative care management can provide care coordination and smooth transitions to other settings, including hospice, at the appropriate time.
Hospice is a supportive and comprehensive service for those who are dying. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization states that the foundation of hospice and palliative care is the belief that “each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so”. Generally, to qualify for hospice a patient is expected to live 6 months or less. Hospice uses an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, home health aides, chaplains, bereavement counselors, trained volunteers and others to provide comfort and support to the dying patient and family. These services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private and commercial insurances. Hospice care can be provided wherever a patient lives, with 24-hour on-call availability.
End of life decisions are often difficult for families to discuss, but palliative care and hospice programs provide the help that is needed to have these conversations. Their aim is to help provide quality of life until death, helping people “live until they die”. If your loved one may qualify for assistance, don’t delay in seeking this support. It may be the best way you can help your family member have a peaceful end of life.