Tracey and I have been out there in bookstores and businesses, meeting with people concerned about loved ones and hoping to get clues on how to manage their own future. I have been impressed with the degree of diligence this community brings to the issues that face us all and delighted by the new ideas bubbling up. Ideas like cooperatives of elderly folks pooling resources for services that make their lives easier and extend the good years in their own homes.
One woman introduced us to the three categories of aging-the Go Go Years, The Slow Go Years and the No Go Years. She noted that making good preparations for these stages is essential to a serene and joyful life. While many of us still believe that it will be “Go Go” till we drop off the perch, it seems wise to plan ahead.
I have been surprised by the age range of the women -(for it is mostly women who attend our talks.) Women in their eighties-and looking great might I add, who are living engaged and vibrant lives and Gen-Xers already caring for their parents-all come looking to join in a conversation about the future of old age.
In a world where 14% of the population will be elderly in 2014, it is more than time to re-vision this later stage of life or there will soon be a rather large bunch of grumpy old folks cluttering up the planet, querulously demanding all the services they need. The cruise ship style retirement community with wine bars, pool rooms and hot and cold running attendants might be fine for some, but many will be able to afford only a rowboat. The current vision for “housing” the elderly, however posh, can be isolating, as many such facilities are literally behind high walls, cut off from the community, as though old age were contagious.
Couldn’t young families use a helping hand, just like our seniors? With resources like meal preparation, transportation and skill sharing, (such as knitting and carpentry)-why wouldn’t it be a good idea to join forces? I like the idea of combining all ages-as Tracey points out, a two year old walks at the same pace as a ninety year old! Best friends in the making, I’d say.
Entrepreneurs, take note-there is a market out there for new ways to serve the community, both the aging one and the emerging one. It’s time to rethink old age and invent a new wave of possibilities.
One of the most popular holidays at my Mom’s elderly residence is Easter, where the families of all the employees and residents come on over to share a meal and a photo with the easter bunny. Kids of all ages, dressed in their best, play games, hunt eggs and share a meal with the elderly residents. Everyone enjoys the mix of ages as wisdom meets energy. What if the vacant apartments in the building were made available to families who needed a great place to live. Think of the fun! Some lucky two year old might just get that walk with a ninety year old new best friend.
Just as the weather has turned blindingly beautiful and I am eager to run all over the mountain roads of the North Country-in this brief season after the frost is out of the ground and the mud has receded and before the arrival of the black flies, I carelessly dropped a sofabed on my foot.
It was, as all sofabeds tend to be, heavy, and I dropped it from a good height, so it had time to get a good velocity going before it landed smack on top of my rather delicate little foot. Luckily the Arnica was within arms reach and as I pulled off my sock with one hand, I grabbed the tube in the other. I would love to do an experiment to find out if this is really effective or just a comforting belief in the herbal ways, but cannot resist doing what I can to stave off damage.
My day on the porch with my foot propped up and iced was not so bad, I found. Warm sun, cool breeze and the tea kettle just a few hops away in the kitchen, my computer on my lap (sorry cats, you had to settle for the guest chair), I got a surprising amount of work done.
This morning, the foot looks pretty good-nothing appeared to be broken though it was a very nice color of violet blue. I look forward with relief to the being up and about again, if not ready to run a 5K, at least managing a putter in the garden and to get the laundry put away.
I thought then of my Mom, who at age 89 has peripheral neuropathy which weakens her legs and makes it increasingly hard to get around. I wondered if Arnica would help and realized it is a very different thing to be down for a day or two from facing ever decreasing mobility.
The neuropathy, in which the messages to and from the brain are distorted by irregularities in the myelin sheath around the nerves, is genetic, caused by a glitch in a gene. It might well be something I face in the long distant future, should I be lucky enough to get old. I have the hope that some scientist is working on a gene upgrade, so I will be OK, but that is by no means a sure thing. I am optimistic though and for now, so is Mom. She does her exercises and walks as much as she can to keep fit and take advantage of the strengths she still has.
So I push the envelope and go the extra mile (literally) while I can and am grateful for every step, and for the strong will, courage and determination I also inherited from my mom. Thanks Mom for a genetic and spiritual legacy that is proving to be a pretty good deal, Happy Mother’s Day!Read More
April 22, 2013 Earth Day
OK, this is a day late…”a day late and a dollar short,” another thing my mother said to me more than once!
My mother started celebrating Earth Day the first time it ever happened by planting flowers and becoming a recycling fanatic. That was in 1970 and I was a freshman in high school having come of age in the 1960’s, a tumultuous time for my family, friends and the world. Her commitment to recycling finally had a home and purpose other than being perpetually frugal, a remnant of the Great Depression. She insisted on recycling everything and being very upset, almost indignant, when she found things that could not be recycled anywhere. She was equally disappointed when she saw others not recycling or throwing away things that were “perfectly usable.”
When she could no longer drive herself around, her ‘helpers’ and anyone else who stopped by to visit was called upon to “just take this to the recycling center for me when you go.” She instilled in my children and me a sense of responsibility for the earth, for our communities, for others. All of which has served to make us feel guilty when we find ourselves not recycling that one thing that we know we should.
It is poignant; warming and chilling at the same time to have these feelings wash over me whenever I am looking at something deciding if it can be recycled or not! As we approach Mother’s Day in May and her birthday in June the memories of her life, my life with her, and the impressions that she gave to me roll around my mind, heart and soul reminding me to enjoy the present, let the past go to a warm corner of my heart and look forward to the future. I am calling this recycling memories!
Happy recycling! And love your Mother-Earth!Read More
Today I am writing a little personal story because I feel I have been through “the wringer” as they say and want to explain my distance from writing, socializing and generally being ‘no fun’ for the past eight months.
Mary and I wrote our stories about caregiving in our book with all its glory, joy, pain and suffering because we learned a lot about ourselves, our families and navigating old age while dealing with the, ahem, messed up health care system.
Last July we finished the second draft (or was it the twentieth?) and the book was back from the editor and off to press. We were excited and relieved.
Sometimes things get thrown at you for a reason; usually it is a reason you weren’t expecting nor particularly like. A week after the book was done, it happened, I ruptured a disc in my neck at work, it took a while to get a proper diagnosis and even longer to get good care. Another lesson in our, ahem, messed up medical system.
A Goddess smack, a gift, a luxury…all of these I have heard from caring people. Even had people praying for me with laying on of hands. I whine and complain, I spent a lot of time this winter on my hands and knees crying. I have learned what chronic pain is first hand and it really does make you crazy! I breathe, I meditate on positive affirmations, I contemplate words from one of my mentors, Jeanine Parvati, “How does it serve?”
Friends, acquaintances, family, doctors, therapists-everyone- has something to tell me about what I should and shouldn’t be doing to heal myself or get healed. I get annoyed at their thoughtful advice and even more annoyed when they say “I know how you feel.” I finally said to someone, “no you don’t!” Unless you have had a ruptured disc with the resultant nerve and muscle pain from the constricted nerve root you cannot imagine it. I never did, even though my dad and son have both had disc problems from injuries, it is worse than I imagined. This is my neck! It is hard to hold my head up!
This injury has made it impossible for me to do the work I love and have been doing for over thirty-five years. Being a midwife is more than a job, it is my identity, it is who I am. As if the physical discomforts aren’t enough, having my self-identity taken away so unceremoniously has been emotionally distressing as well. (in this I am not alone and more fortunate than others; a nod and curtsey to veterans and those with degenerative diseases.) Starting any new writing projects has become difficult; it was hard enough before this happened, but now I am distracted by pain and all the ‘what to do’ about my life, work, and making health care decisions that my ability to concentrate and think clearly is also compromised.
For the last three months I have been able to do a little more, meaning I can vacuum for longer than two minutes, gentle yoga and dance, and short walks without ending up on the floor for two days. Some days the pain is mild until 1 or 2 in the afternoon, then I have to lie on my back on the floor, but lately it is all day, all night pain and I am seriously considering surgery, something I have never wanted. It certainly is outside my lifelong belief of diet, exercise, natural remedies and curing myself.
One dear friend and colleague said, “Well, maybe this is what holistic medicine really means.” I am trying to see it as a whole part of my life and healing process on every level.
All this is my way of saying thank you to the universe for giving me what I need even though I still do not see why I need this now! And I offer my gratitude and apologies for those who care for me and put up with me when I am at my worst.
Off to see a new neurosurgeon tomorrow and I’m bound to hear once again “you need surgery.” This time I may just schedule it.Read More