Aging in Place

If you ask most adults where they’d like to live as they grow older, most everyone says that they want to age in their own homes or in their local neighborhoods. It makes sense. People want to feel comfortable and live near familiar streets, parks, stores, and, of course, to neighbors and friends. But, it’s also a fact of aging that many older adults face financial stresses living on fixed incomes and most likely will also to need to adapt their living spaces to increase accessibility. The Library recently explored different housing options to support aging in place with programs on virtual villages, homesharing, and universal design. We have recordings of the programs here.

Start with local gerontologist Jeannette Frank’s To Move or Stay Put:  A Guide for Your Last Decades as a quick introduction to housing choices. She argues that the most important consideration for quality of life is to match the right person to the right place. While it could include a retirement community, it  could also include cruising in a recreational vehicle! Beth Barker’s With a Little Help from our Friends: Creating Community as We Grow Older looks at a wide range of options – co-housing, virtual villages, intergenerational homes, homesharing and NORCs (naturally occurring retirement communities). The village movement is nationwide with over 200 open virtual villages and over 100 in development. In Seattle, we have four villages: NEST, Northwest Neighbors Network, PNA Village and Wider Horizons Village. The heart of the village movement is to create community through volunteer assistance and social opportunities. For Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General under Barack Obama, community is absolutely essential in countering our epidemic of loneliness. In Together:  The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, Murthy writes movingly about the impacts of loneliness on our emotional, mental and physical health –  for adults of all ages. Continue reading “Aging in Place”

Celebrate “Olders”

May is Older Americans Month. The pandemic has certainly put a spotlight on the experiences of older people and the continuing tropes of ageism. I regularly hear and read about the “elderly,” the “silver tsunami,” and “going off the demographic cliff.” In a more recent ugly iteration, some people have even questioned the resources needed to support the medical needs of elders with COVID-19. Let’s move away from “senior,” “senior citizen,” and “elderly” with their connotations of weak, vulnerable, doddering, physically frail, and mentally confused. Let’s ban ever addressing an older person as “young lady” or “young man.” How infantilizing! Language is always evolving and responding to changing attitudes and can even push some of those changes. Most frequently now, I see the use of “older people,” “olders,” and as a sign of respect in many communities, “elders.” The theme for this year’s celebration of Older Americans Month is Communities of Strength. What fun to turn to fiction and nonfiction to find characters and individuals full of resiliency as they age and who defy those ageist tropes.

I’d personally like to roam Manhattan with Lillian in Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, who circles from her apartment in Murray Hill down to Delmonico’s in lower Manhattan and back up the West Side to Macy’s on 34th Street one New Year’s Eve. Lillian is 85 years-old and engages fully with other night-on-the-town denizens. During her perambulation, she reminiscences about the important moments of her fifty years in Manhattan and her job as a high-ranking advertising executive at Macy’s department store. In  an author note, Kathleen Rooney writes that she was inspired by the life of poet and ad woman Margaret Fishback, the highest-paid female advertising copywriter during the 1930s.    Continue reading “Celebrate “Olders””

Alzheimer’s and memory loss: You are not alone

No one ever wants to hear a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, whether it’s for yourself, a family member or friend. The disease is progressive and has no cure. As Ann Hedreen writes in Her Beautiful Brain, a memoir about her mother’s illness, “I’m not up for this. Whatever this is.” It takes a community to support the needs of those living with memory loss from dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common form of cognitive decline. Almost six million individuals live with Alzheimer’s in the United States, and because age is the biggest predictor of getting the disease, it’s estimated that that number will grow to 13.8 million by 2050 with the aging of the Baby Boomers.

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Continue reading “Alzheimer’s and memory loss: You are not alone”

Unmuted Spotlights the Connective Power of Personal Storytelling

Seattle-based memoir author and writing coach Ingrid Ricks recently led a personal storywriting workshop for LGBTQIA seniors and their allies at Seattle’s GenPRIDE center. The workshop built a community of writers and generated an intriguing anthology of fourteen stories entitled Unmuted: Stories of Courage and Resilience from the GenPRIDE Community, released in October to celebrate LGBTQIA History Month. Join us at 6:30 p.m. on Wed. Nov. 18 for readings from Unmuted Stories. Recently, Ricks shared her thoughts with us here on the publication:

I know it sounds simplistic, but I’m convinced that personal storytelling is the key to world peace.

It was the community-building power of personal narrative — along with its ability to foster healing and empathy in today’s deeply-divided world — that excited me most about partnering with GenPRIDE Executive Director, Steven Knipp, to spearhead its ongoing writing workshop.

Our stories humanize us, connect us, heal us. I’ve seen this play out thousands of times with students of every age, and I witnessed the transformative power of personal storytelling once again this past year in working with the GenPRIDE community.

Though united under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, the strangers who gathered for the first GenPRIDE writing workshop couldn’t have appeared more different. What did a middle-aged black man have in common with a white transgender woman in her 70’s? What did a retired lesbian English teacher have in common with a gay man struggling to live with AIDS? What did I, a white straight woman, have in common with the LGBTQIA+ community? Our stories. Continue reading “Unmuted Spotlights the Connective Power of Personal Storytelling”

Positive Reflections of Older Adults in Movies

It’s not so easy to find movies about characters in the 60+ age category, let alone ones that depict older adults in a positive light. Fortunately, some are available for free viewing on Kanopy and Hoopla attesting that seniors can indeed lead interesting and meaningful lives.

My Old Lady Movie PosterMy Old Lady, a 2014 English movie adapted from Israel Horowitz’s book by the same title, can be streamed on Kanopy.  This sophisticated portrait of a lady in her 90’s shows someone in full control of her sharp mind carrying on with her profession. She handles a scheming guest trying to displace her from her Paris home and deals with the drama which plays out when we learn family secrets about the intruder! With Maggie Smith in the lead role some delightful dialogue reminiscent of the one-line ‘zingers’ from the TV series Downton Abbey embellish this film and Kevin Kline holds his own. Well worth watching.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, inspiring older adults appear frequently among foreign language flicks, particularly from France where “joie de vivre” continues in later years. A noteworthy French movie from 2011 is All Together: Et si on vivait tous ensemble which not only shows five friends courageously living together when one of them can no longer live alone, but also successfully handling problems on their own which inevitably come with aging. Iconic actor Jane Fonda depicts graceful aging through her character Jeanne, while the other four actors lend creativity and feistiness to their character depictions. The taboo topic of sex in older life is also candidly depicted and the film is thought-provoking and modern.  Continue reading “Positive Reflections of Older Adults in Movies”