Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Downsizing Dilemma

A recent article in my local newspaper caught my eye - it spoke of the high number of 'unused bedrooms' which are contributing to the increased housing prices and lack of affordable housing for young people. As children grow up and leave home, couples are left with large homes that are quite empty. When faced with a choice of move or stay, many are opting to stay simply because the cost of moving is too great and the options are limited. For many, staying in their mortgage free home, is far cheaper than moving to a condo where expenses far exceed what they are currently paying to run a home. Most have their homes as their greatest asset for retirement and want to save the funds they have for their older years rather than deplete it on unnecessary living expenses. Additionally, the offerings that do exist are often too small for those moving from a house, to consider. Just as there are no inexpensive options for young people, the same is true for those at the other end of the age spectrum. And so, downsizing becomes something many choose not to consider until they are forced by circumstance.

Those living in smaller and more isolated communities face additional challenges as they age because of the lack of resources in many areas which they may not feel until they become less mobile. While living out of the city is attractive when one is young, independent and raising a family, it can be problematic as one ages. Older seniors who stay in their homes which are a distance from amenities like healthcare and shopping may become increasingly isolated and may have difficulty organizing adequate in home supports, as they age.

Housing options, affordability and, for seniors, resources and care are key issues many are faced with. It seems that we need to start looking for innovative housing options for both the young and old. Just as I worry that our young adults of today will never be able to afford to own a home, I am concerned that our seniors of tomorrow will find the cost of retirement living prohibitive and/or will not be able to afford the care they require. So many are already in this predicament; unless we make changes to the way housing and care are offered to our seniors, even less people will be able to cope with the challenges of aging they may someday face.

This is indeed a huge issue that will take years of planning and coordination to resolve, so where do we start?

There is a fair bit of research on Age-Friendly Communities that our policy makers may find helpful. As a start, a document produced by the World Health Organization summarizes the importance of including many parameters for the cities of tomorrow (http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Global_age_friendly_cities_Guide_English.pdf ). As well, there are many interesting co-housing, care in place, and multi-generational models that work well in other countries. As with so many things, rather than 'reinventing the wheel', perhaps our best solution has already been discovered and we need to just look beyond our borders to explore innovative ideas and options that can help both young and old with their housing dilemmas.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Legacies

I have recently embarked on a project with my daughter. We have taken all our family's old photos that have until now sat in shoe boxes or ancient crumbling albums, scanned them, organized them and are creating a family album that spans 4 generations (thank you Shutterfly!). We are fortunate that my grandparents kept organized records in an ancient book that detailed births, deaths and marriages so we have some context to work within. It is beyond fascinating to wander through their lives through photos and dates and to create a family history for my children. I wish I had the foresight when my grandparents were alive to ask them more questions and have conversations with them about generations before them. There is a richness in learning one's family history and understanding how you got to where you are and how very fortunate you are that certain decisions were made well before you were born. I've often thought of the importance of legacies, of family histories or gifting future generations with things we have learned and how they got to where they are today.

I encourage all of you who read this to consider creating your own legacy to pass down to your families. Photos are wonderful but not everyone has the time or patience to pull it all together and with computers and video camera on every phone, there are other ways to save and transmit memories and history. If you have elder relatives sit down with them and ask them questions - I found a list online that is quite apropos so I'm going to include  a few of them them below but the full list of 20 questions can be found on https://www.agingcare.com/articles/questions-to-ask-elderly-parents-147907.htm if you are interested in expanding on these. Write down their answers or better yet, video tape them as they answer them. Ask them to show you photos of important people in their lives and consider scanning or photographing them so you can include them in your creation. It can be a wonderful bonding and special project for grandchildren to do with their grandparents or children to do with their parents.

If I had a chance to sit down with my grandparents now, these are  some the questions I would ask them.
Who is the person who influenced your life the most?
What was the happiest moment of your life?
What are you most proud of?
What are the most important lessons you've learned in life?
What was school like for you as a child? 
Do you remember any fads from your youth? 
What world events had the most impact on you?

(Questions from: https://www.agingcare.com/articles/questions-to-ask-elderly-parents-147907.htm)
What questions would you add to the list? What things would you like to know about the generations before you? And what do you want your children to know about you? 

Knowing where we came from, helps us to understand where we are today and where we want to go.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Inter-generational Relationships

I enjoy reading "Humans of New York" posts. It's an interesting concept - for those who aren't familiar with it, the author takes a photo of someone and publishes it online along with a quote from that person. Sometimes its about that moment in time, who they are pictured with, or something they are doing, other times its a life story, how they are feeling or an experience they had. It's always interesting and underlines both the unique nature and the common thread of humanity. Lately, the posts have been from people in Brazil.

I saw a post a couple of weeks back that has stayed with me - and one I wanted to share with our readers as it particularly relates to seniors and inter-generational relationships........
Above it is a photo of a young mother and her daughter and this is the quote:

“For Heloisa, every elderly person feels like a grandparent. And she loves her grandparents. So I asked her if she wanted to have her sixth birthday party at a home for the elderly. She loved the idea. So I contacted a local home and planned everything with the coordinator. We sent invitations to the family members of all the residents. I’m a photographer, so I went a few days early and took nice portraits of all the residents. On the day of the party, I printed out the photographs and brought them as gifts for their family members. We did games and activities. There was so much joy. Everyone had such big smiles. The residents were crying. Their families were crying. I was crying. I think Heloisa will remember the experience forever. Afterward, her school friends came home with us and we had an old-fashioned pajama party.” (São Paulo, Brazil) from: http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/157584321356/for-heloisa-every-elderly-person-feels-like-a

Firstly, what an amazing mother and child! Secondly, what a brilliant idea! It is no secret that children brighten the lives of adults and that children in a senior's home bring smiles and conversation to even the most stoic of person. On occasion I hear about inter-generational programs or young children visiting a senior's residence but something like this goes beyond that and is such a wonderful gift to give to both that child and those seniors. 

The post, brought a smile to my face - I hope it did the same for you.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Pitfalls to Avoid When Considering a Retirement Home - Guest Blog by Lianas Services

Every now and then we come across and article that we think our followers might be interested in.
This week we would like to share an article by Lianas Services. It has been reprinted with permission.

Whether you are considering a move into a retirement home or if you are part of the “Sandwich Generation” that is concerned about the health and well being of your parents, the thought process of potentially making the big move is very often emotional, overwhelming and confusing.
Here are some pitfalls to avoid when considering a move:
Waiting Too Long
It is only human nature to want to stay at home as long as possible.  However, you will be in a much better position to move into a retirement home when you are in control of the situation.  Be proactive instead of reactive.  Be aware of warning signs such as risks of slips and falls, mobility challenges, cognitive issues, safety and security, nutrition, loneliness and caregiver stress.  They tend to become more prevalent as one ages which increases the risk of creating a reactive scenario as opposed to the desired proactive option.  A frequent comment after a move-in is “I should have done this a long time ago”.
Rushing Into a Move
At the other end of the spectrum, you should try not to rush things if you have the luxury of time.  This can be an emotional, challenging time for families.  Try to plant seeds, do your research, take some tours and keep the lines of communication open with parents and family members.  Nobody likes surprises, and seniors, specifically, do not like to be rushed and would prefer to do things on their terms.
Geographic Convenience for Adult Children
Location is one of the most important features when deciding on a retirement home.  However, avoid the trap of choosing a residence solely based on geography.  The question needs to be “What is best for mom?” and not “What is best for me?”.  Important features such as proper care levels; staff-to-resident’s ratios; 24/7 nursing care; amenities; culinary options; environment; culture; safety and security all play an important role in the decision making process.
Finding the Ideal Retirement Home on Your Own
The search process is extremely time consuming.  In many cases, it can easily exceed 100 hours.  It can be confusing, stressful, emotional and overwhelming.  Talk to friends and other family members that have been through the process for guidance and support.  Do research on line.  For some, the easiest thing to do is to call a transition specialist.
In general, the thought of moving into a retirement home can be daunting.  However, with proper planning, guidance and support, the end result can be fulfilling and rewarding.  Many new residents will initially need some time to adjust but it is quite common to see significant benefits including an enhanced social life, improved nutrition levels, higher levels of care and a secure and safe environment.
Lianas provides families with knowledge, resources and services to assist seniors in transition. To find out more about Lianas Services visit lianasservices.com or call 1-877-450-3365.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Have you had an Essential Conversation™??

Have you 'had the talk' with your aging parents? If you are elderly, have you told your children your wishes if you are unable to make decisions in the future? Have you planned financially for your elder years? Do you have a Will? Do you have Powers of Attorney? If you are a business owner, do you have a plan for what you would like to do with your business when you retire or are unable to work any longer? Have you discussed they kind of care you want if you can't look after yourself in the future?

I attended an interesting meeting today that I thought would be something our followers might want to learn about especially if any of the above questions strike a chord.  Have you heard of The Essential Conversation Project®?

Born out of both professional and personal experiences of two social works with a tremendous passion for helping families with elder loved ones, this organization trains professionals to have the important and "essential conversations" with families to help them with decision making and planning issues around aging. At the same time the company builds partnerships with many different professionals to enable a network of helpers who can assist with any and all specialized issues for their clients and can connect their clients who need help, to an Essential Conversations Facilitator.

Over the many years I have worked with seniors, it is clear that there are certain topics that are much harder for some to broach with their families - topics around aging, care needs, legal and financial issues and death and dying are taboo in many families. And, often no one will even try to raise a concern until there is crisis. Often this limits options and, decision making may be pressured or, not in the best interest of the person involved. If conversations are had in advance of something bad happening it is so much easier for families to deal with the difficult decisions because they know what their loved one wants.

The concept of the The Essential Conversation Project® is simple at its core (in a nutshell, creating a community of helpers to support families dealing with aging issues) but also brilliant and much needed with our ever growing aging population. Sometimes having a neutral professional involved to help with the important conversations and connect you to helpful professionals who understand your situation and needs can make a world of difference.  Check out their website at www.essentialconversationsproject.com.

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Power of Music


When you watch a movie, do you ever listen closely to the music and connect how you feel about what is happening on the screen to what you hear? Have you ever watched a scary movie with no sound? I would bet that if you did, you would realize that it was the music that made you jump far more than the words. The connection between music and emotion is a well-known one but more and more people are using music in their work with seniors with disabilities. There has been work with Alzheimer patients and music and a well-publicized "iPod Project" (musicandmemory.org). 

Music unlocks memories, helps with behavioural issues, improves mood and a host of other things. But a story on CBC news today raised another use and benefit of music for seniors. It seems that playing musical instruments can decrease the effects of some diseases. In Windsor, ON a music therapist has been working with Parkinson's patients and has found that playing an instrument decreases their tremors when they are playing. 

Research indicates that music can motivate people to move, have a calming effect, change negative thoughts into positive and remind one of happy times. Whenever I go to a retirement home when there is entertainment present, there are always people singing along and listening intently. Some even get up and dance. Watching the crowd one can see how uplifting it is for those present. There is even research on a certain piece of classical music played for children with epilepsy. It appears that there is something about this one piece of Mozart music that calms the brain and helps these kids. 

So, if you have an elderly loved one with or without dementia, do try finding music that they enjoy and play it for them. If they played an instrument in the past and you can access one easily, perhaps suggest they start playing again. If you have loved ones in a nursing or retirement home or know any that visit seniors centres and you don't think they have musical programming for them, speak to administration about incorporating it. And for the rest of you, keep listening to music - it is truly 'food for the soul'..........

Monday, 9 January 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all our followers! I hope you had a warm and joyful holiday season.

Each new year brings with it another edition of our Ontario-wide  "Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living" and this year is no different. Our new 20th edition, is hot off the presses and in the process of being distributed across the province. I am always excited to see our new edition, despite the many months I spend intimately involved in the process of bringing it to fruition. Each new book is indeed, new, updated and different to the ones before it.

We are very pleased with the way our Ontario book turned out this year and thank our many homes and resources who chose to participate in our 2017 Guide. Every year we do our best to add new information and reconfigure things slightly based on the feedback we have received throughout the year. We do hope that those of you who see this year's book will be happy with our changes and please do send us a note letting us know what you think of it when you have a chance. I'd also like to thank the many people on our team who work to keep our website, social media streams and publication current - NTech, In View Marketing and BTT Communications.

Not big on resolutions which seem meant to be broken, no matter how well meaning, we prefer to make a continued commitment to our users and the homes and resources throughout Canada who choose to be part of our database. We will continue to do our best to provide comprehensive unbiased information to seniors, their families and professionals about retirement housing and resources through our website, publication and many social media platforms we now employ.

There are new things on the horizon in 2017 for Senioropolis so do follow us through Twitter, Facebook or Google + to stay updated on our happenings!