Friday, March 23, 2012

On the Tip of My Tongue

Photo by mademoiselle lavender
“Oh, she was in Gone with the Wind and Streetcar Named Desire. Don’t tell me. I’ll think of it. . . Vivien Leigh!”

People of all ages have trouble retrieving names at times. However, as we age, this phenomenon occurs more frequently. 

Neurologists and speech language pathologists have numerous explanations for memory problems.  Some are a result of injury or disease.  Others are merely the result of healthy aging.    Retrieving a name is just one small aspect of memory.

It’s usually part of healthy aging to sense that retrieval of a name is imminent but not forthcoming.  Numerous theories exist for explaining specifically what causes these mental blocks. 

Although described earlier by William James and other psychologists, it wasn’t until 1966 that the research team of Roger Brown and David McNeill published an empirically based study that dubbed this frustrating memory problem “Tip of the Tongue Syndrome” or TOT.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Photo by Erich Ferdinand
While people of every age might have trouble with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), I encounter this phrase or its acronym almost daily as applied to older adults, particularly those 85 plus. 

“Activities of daily living” is a phrase describes some of the basic tasks necessary for self-care such as eating, bathing, dressing, transferring, grooming, and continence.  ADLs are one of many areas for measuring a person’s overall wellness.

This phrase is used by social workers, health care workers, insurance companies, judges, assisted living administrators, and caregivers.   While the phrase is fairly widespread, various instruments for assessing ADLs yield different results for the same populations when applied. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Encore Careers: Live to Work Instead of Work to Live

Photo by Tim Cummings
Now that many people are living 20 or even 30 years beyond traditional retirement age, older workers are exploring other options besides decades of leisure.   

You may not be familiar with the term Encore Career, but you probably have some experience with it. 

Did you or your children have a school teacher who was retired military?  That is an example of an encore career: someone who retires from their first career and picks up a second one that is more focused on serving the broader community. 

There are a variety of reasons why older adults postpone retirement.  While some research suggests that only a portion of older adults have the luxury to “follow their bliss” in their career goals, many are finding a way to set aside goals of money, power and fame in favor of more idealistic aims. 

Marc Freedman, author of Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life, suggests these fields for older adults seeking purpose and passion over a paycheck: 
  • Health Care
  • Education
  • The Aging Field
  • Government
  • The Non-profit Sector 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Late Adulthood: A Time to Bless

Photo by Emmanuel Avetta
I grew up listening to Broadway musicals—on LPs, as played on the piano, and when the technology came along, on VHS.  One of the most salient images of older adults from these musicals takes place in the dream sequence relayed by Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof.

In Tevya's dream, two grandmothers deliver quite different postures towards the rising generations. On the one hand, Grandmother Tzeitel pronounces a blessing or “mazel tov” on Tevya's oldest daughter, her namesake, soon to be wed.  On the other hand, Fuma Sarah sends threats and curses.  

These gross stereotypes rattling around in my memory gesture towards the generational work I observe today among the oldest among us.  Those who are the most mature have the role, responsibility and opportunity to use their multigenerational perspective, their wisdom and their energy to bless the rising generations.  It is our task to heed these blessings.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Coping with Illness

Photo by Judy Baxter
People of all ages and life situations are at risk for illness and injury.   But as we age we experience greater risk.  Whether the illness happens suddenly as with a fall or more slowly as with memory problems, the affected person and his or her family members must find methods for coping.

Course materials for the Nursing Learning Network identify the following tasks that ill people face:
  1. Change in body image
  2. Reality of their own mortality
  3. Coping with altered relationships with others
  4. Dealing with an altered level of dependency
  5. Adjusting to physiological changes
  6. Grieving for their losses, such as their former self or former lifestyle
  7. Fear of recurrent problems
  8. Illness occurs with other stressors, such as disrupted household routines, neglected or increased financial needs, and shifting workplace responsibilities

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Don't Retire, Retrain: Decreasing the Dependency Ratio

Photo by JD Lasica
How will the US pay for the growing number of citizens 65+?   Many gloomy projections assume that older adults no longer contribute to the economy.   They are factored in census dependency ratios along with minors ages 0 to 17 who are largely incapable of making a contribution to society through earning wages or through volunteer work.  Labeling all adults 65+ as dependence on par with minors enacts a gross generalization. 

In 2010. the U.S. Census Bureau predicted that “the number of people 65 and older to every 100 people of traditional working ages is projected to climb rapidly from 22 in 2010 to 35 in 2030.”  However, economic factors and personal factors make it likely that older adults will work either for pay or as volunteers for more years and into higher age brackets than their own parents did.

Some of these factors include the increase age for full benefits of Social Security, the depleted retirement accounts based on poor stock market performance, poor real estate performance,  increased longevity, and improved health of older adults.   Working beyond 65 isn't always just an economic necessity. Many have the drive to share their talents rather than spend decades in leisure activities.