Friday, November 30, 2012

Movies about Older Adults Active in the Dying Process

Photo by OldOnliner
As a student of the aging process, I regularly watch films that feature older adults.  Mature people live, love and have amazing adventures. But all people--especially the old--experience the dying process.  

At the bottom of this post are films that depict the dying of young adults and children. Also, some of these films take the point of view of the bereft, so sometimes the death occurs days, weeks, or months before the film or documentary starts. 

I value reading nonfiction books about death written by gerontologists, spiritual guides, doctors, social workers, psychologists and other experts. However, as a retired English teacher, I find great truths conveyed through creative works such as novels, memoirs, plays, poems, paintings, and film. 

These works might help viewers prepare for or process the death of a parent, a spouse or another loved one.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Women Help All to Get Old

Sharon Couto, Maye Musk and Sally Beatty Photo from Get Old
I have long suspected that women are primarily in charge of people's bodies. Whether they are gestating bodies, feeding bodies, healing bodies, cleaning up fluids flung loose from bodies, or assisting aging bodies--women are most often in positions of key management over such matters.  I know that in my house, I am the person most focused on effective body management.

Other family members, consumed with personal achievement or leisure activities, often put the health and function of their bodies on the back burner. So I ask them, "When was the last time you ate?" "Why are you coughing?"  "Are you getting tired?"  "Are those shoes too small for you now?"  "How did you get that bruise?" "Why don't we eat some leafy greens?"  

Yes, sometimes little girls, men and boys help with these body-focused duties as they occur in the domestic sphere. I love a man who will change a diaper or a teen who will clean up vomit or a child who will choose carrot sticks over cookies. I applaud them.

However, my trip to the Get Old* blogger summit this October confirmed my suspicions. No matter what our current age or social role, we women are clearly major stakeholders in the management of bodies.  And most every body wants to get old in a healthy way. 

The blogger summit also confirmed another notion: Everybody ages.

In attendance were 10 vibrant bloggers who address issues across the lifespan.  Although my list forces these bloggers into concern based on the "age" of their blogging topics, all demonstrated interest in connecting the generations through family life, education, storytelling (with words and images) and advocacy.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Talking with Older Adults in a Crisis

Photo by The National Guard
The prevalence of news stories about Hurricane Sandy this week reminded me of a set of guidelines I composed for how to talk with older adults in a crisis.

(For general information on how to cope in a crisis, see FEMA's page on the topic.)

Before getting to the specifics, it's important to avoid Elderspeak, a form of baby talk that people too often use to address older adults.

People are usually well meaning when they modify their speech this way, but the result too often is that the older adult feels patronized.

Read this post on Elderspeak to learn more about its features, tone and harmful effects.

Nevertheless, healthy aging does often require conversationalists to make some adjustments.  I suggest starting with a normal conversation features and then adjust as you receive input about possible limitations.

Don't start with the assumption that people have limits such as bad hearing and compromised cognition.  If you guess wrong, you've already broken trust.  The American Speech Language Association (ASHA) shares these tips for communicating with older adults.

These additional guidelines were composed in 2010 for local police officers interviewing older adults after suffering from an accident or from a crime, but they might be helpful in other crisis settings.  You can remember key points through the mnemonic E.L.D.E.R. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Strong, Smart Women Wrestling with Caregiving

Photo by On Being
Over the last three years, I have tried to read broadly about the challenges and opportunities of aging.  Now that I've consumed over 50 books on the topic, I'm seeing a few trends. For example, several long-established, best-selling authors are now writing books about caregiving. They are doing so because they have become caregivers themselves.

Diane Ackerman writes about supporting her husband after his stroke in her 2001 book One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage and the Language of Healing.   Because she and her husband are both writers, Ackerman chose to design a speech therapy program unique to his love of language  Review

Jane Gross describes how she advocates for her mother over several years and several levels of health, showing how caregiving is an ever-evolving activity in her 2011 book A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents--and OurselvesReview

Betty Rollin explains her perspective as an adult child trying to help her mother manage a devastating cancer diagnosis and invasive treatment in her 1998 book The Last WishReview.

Gail Sheehy once again helps her age mates map out the landscape of a life stage--based on her experience providing care for her husband as well as journalistic-style interviews and research--but this time the path is more recursive than linear in her 2010 book Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence. Review

Paula Span found that supporting her aging parent trickier than she anticipated, so she dove into the topic and followed other pairs of adult children and their parents through their challenges and produced this 2010 book When The Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and SolutionsReview