This afternoon I pressed send on my final paper for my final class for my Master of Arts in Theology (Biblical Studies) from Fuller Theological Seminary, Bay Area! I was able to walk in the graduation in June, but with one class remaining over the summer, it seemed a bit anti-climactic. And wouldn’t you know, this was one of the most tedious classes I’ve taken. Yes, even accounting for the senioritis I experienced.
Working on my master’s degree has been one of my major efforts at pursuing splendor. I started the program at the age of 59, taking one class per quarter. My idea was that I really wanted to learn this time. In my previous degrees (BA and MPH), I worked full time, even while pursuing a master’s degree in the 1970s. I never felt that I learned much. My goal was to finish. This time I was free to devote more time and energy to my classes, and to move slowly. There was no job goal. No urgency. Just the desire to learn all I could and be enriched from each class.
Now what? What I know so far is “more of same.” More writing, speaking, and personal ministry. However, I also believe God will open new doors for me and perhaps even point me in a new direction. I’m excited and ready for my next adventure. All I know for sure is that it won’t include retirement – much to my husband’s disappointment.
The Second-Half Adventure: Rethink Your Retirement!
Do you believe in retirement? I don’t. After all, who said that after age 65, all we’re good for is golf and luncheons? Retirement seems to be an American concept – perhaps a 20th century American concept. And yet, it seems to be a given for many Boomers these days.
My friend, Kay Marshall Strom, offers an alternative in The Second-Half Adventure: Don’t Just Retire-Use Your Time, Skills, and Resources to Change the World. In cooperation with Finishers.org, Strom asks, “What if your work-for-hire years have simply been prep time for the most important part of your adulthood? What if the next ten or fifteen or twenty or thirty years is what you were really made for? What if your second half turns out to be your opportunity to throw all your accumulated skills and training and education and life experiences and financial resources behind a new and exciting kingdom opportunity?”
In a short book filled with stories of people who have made the leap, Strom calls Finishers.org, which matches volunteers with both domestic and international needs, the “e-Harmony of missions work.” The book offers a chapter on evaluating your skills and needs and another on confronting your barriers. If you’re approaching retirement age, you’ll appreciate the insights in this book.
This is a question hubby and I have been asking ourselves a lot lately. He just turned 70 and we have really been feeling our age. I can’t believe how quickly time has flown over the past 35 years. Wasn’t it was just a few weeks ago we were walking down the aisle?
It seems that my friend Karen O’Connor has the same feelings. She has written a sweet book, Lord, How Did I Get This Old So Soon? Prayers and Promises to Brighten Your Day. Arranged by season to reflect the time of year or how you’re feeling, these heartfelt prayers highlight the grace, mercy, and blessings God provides. In the process, she encourages the reader to open her heart and talk with God. The prayers are short and simple, just a sweet morsel with the Lord. But many of them reflect thoughts and feelings I’ve had as I’ve navigated this aging process. I still don’t know how I got so old so fast, but I’m sure glad I can talk to the One who does know.
This book will make a great Christmas gift or stocking stuffer for an aging parent, or even yourself. I’ll be giving a copy to Mom this year.
I’ve spent my entire adult life refusing to use my Social Security number as ID for medical care. In the beginning it was difficult; providers felt they were entitled to use it. In recent years, it seems that providers have grown used to such objections. They simply create a dummy number for me.
Your Medicare Number is Your Social Security Number
Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey
Then I turned 65, and guess what? My Medicare number is my Social Security number! I’m not happy about that at all, and especially after reading this article that claims “more than a quarter-million Medicare beneficiaries are potential victims of identity theft and hampered in getting health care benefits because the government won’t issue new IDs.” Since 2002, Medicare’s position, it seems, is “Oh well…It’s only 284,000 people.” It’s too expensive and too time-consuming to change the numbers, so the poor beneficiaries face obstacles in obtaining care. What an outrage!
Finally, there may be action in Congress to close this gaping security hole. According to GovInfo.com, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health is floating draft legislation to replace the social security numbers on Medicare ID cards with a smart card in an attempt to reduce the risk of those numbers being stolen or inappropriately used. The problem is funding. They don’t know where to get the estimated $320 million the project is expected to cost. Seriously? Maybe they could get some ideas from these wastes of taxpayer funds. For example, they could take it from The National Institute of Health’s Center for Alternative and Complimentary Medicine’s $386,000 study on the effects of Swedish massages on rabbits or NIH’s $371,026 study to see if mothers love dogs as much as they love kids. Add to that the $804,254 for the development of a smartphone game called “Kiddio: Food Fight” intended to teach parents how to convince their children to try and eat new healthier food choices. Hey, we’re almost there. Get my point?
So have any of you or your parents had problems using your Medicare card? Have any of you experienced access problems? What have you done to protect your account or to get care? I’m a little worried!
People often ask me why I don’t bring Mom over to my area rather than leaving her four hours away. There are many practical reasons, including family and cost, but her church is a large part of that decision.
The Church Is Essential in Combating Senior Isolation
Photo Credit: Jim Reynolds
I know that if Mom were here, she would suffer from isolation. My life is far too busy to provide what she needs on a day-to-day basis. However, she has been particularly blessed by her church, which knows how to do seniors well. They have an active seniors group and women’s Bible study, but more than that, there are a number of people who visit her regularly. Some of those are seniors younger than she is. Others from the Bible study are closer to my age. The combination means that she has visitors every week. Sometimes more than once a week. There are women who make sure she has a ride to Bible study and church on Sunday. When she was healthier there were some who made sure she had a ride to the weekly seniors’ luncheon.
I’m so impressed with their faithfulness. Mom has been in assisted living for more than two years and her church is still her lifeline. I don’t see a lot of that level of ministry, but I’m so glad they are there. It’s worth the inconvenience of driving four hours once a month to keep her close to her church.
What does your church do for seniors, especially the ones who are alone, isolated, and unable to drive? It’s something to think about…
Senior Isolation: A Real Problem for the Elderly
Mom has been in skilled rehab for the past few weeks, following several brief hospitalizations. She’s very alone there, and it’s showing.
She’s bored, depressed, and not progressing as well as we’d like. The good news is that she assures us she won’t complain about assisted living anymore. At least there she has people there to talk to.
A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Blog has an excellent article on senior isolation. It discusses 20 factors in senior isolation, both causes and impact. It’s a useful read, especially if you are a caregiver. It’s easy to minimize isolation when you’re up and active. It’s entirely different when you’re confined to a wheelchair in rehab, alone, scared, and wondering if you’ll ever be able return to what has become home. Let’s do more to make sure our loved ones don’t suffer this cruel fate.
Lessons on Living to 104
Wishing Won’t Make it So | Denial in Aging
Aida Hedson recently celebrated her 104th birthday. In an interview with Market Watch she reflects on her journey, crediting her longevity to her positive attitude and enjoyment of life. But basically, she just lives without thinking a lot about it.
Aida Hedson at 104
Photo Credit: MarketWatch
MarketWatch: Did you ever think you’d make it to 104?
Hedson: The years have passed – and I got here.
MarketWatch: Any plans for your 105th?
Hedson: It will come. If not, I will probably pass away before it! I think I have kept my health good and I look forward to doing what I did up to now.
I love this attitude. I know too many older people, years younger than her, who are just marking time, waiting to die, and wondering why the grim reaper is taking so long. I understand. If you live with pain and your family is gone or far away, it’s hard to find the joie de vivre. But if you don’t find a way to find it, life can be a drag. I love being around older people who just go on living, in spite of it all.
How about you? Are you living life to the fullest?
Happy Birthday to Me!
Photo Credit: Internet Archive Book Images-St. Nicholas (1873)
My friend, Dr. Lorraine Haataia, had a wonderful suggestion for those of us who would rather pursue splendor than remain ordinary. In her recent post, Happy birthday tip: Plan something spectacular every month, she suggests using the monthly anniversary of our birth to take some time to align our activities, habits and lifestyle with our passions, dreams and deepest desires. Doing this, she maintains, will lead to greater happiness.
She suggests taking some time each month to set monthly goals or milestones that will move us a little closer to our larger goals. To get us unstuck. To get off the roller coaster. It sounds like New Years’ resolutions, but perhaps in small bites. And with monthly accountability.
Since today is the anniversary of my birth, I’m going to set aside a few minutes to determine where I’d like to be in some key areas by this time next month. I’m going to write it down and decide what baby steps I need to take each day to accomplish that goal. How about you? Will you join me? Feel free to share your goals here if the accountability would be helpful.
And happy birthday to me!
Attend Medical Appointments With Your Parent
Photo Credit: DIBP Images
Do you attend medical appointments with your aging parent? I’ve found it very useful. Essential. Frequently I identify a problem that needs attention and am able to communicate to her doctors in ways that get action. I’ve been amazed how their doctors seem to look right through the elderly and ignore their questions or comments. And of course, my parents’ generation tend to hold physicians in awe, so if the doctor says they’re OK, they must be.
But if I’m there and ask the same question, it gets attention. And if I ask for a test, x-ray or treatment, they usually agree or explain why they don’t. Awhile back, I asked Mom’s doctor about symptoms of depression I was seeing and even suggested an antidepressant I’m familiar with that’s also used for pain management—another problem Mom has. When I suggested it, the doctor looked as if I had just solved his problem. Said, “Hmmm, that might work” as he wrote out the prescription. Another time I asked if there was someone who could check in on her and perhaps do an assessment. Turns out the medical group has a nurse who does just that. It just didn’t occur to the doctor to order it.
Another problem is that my Mom either doesn’t understand what the doctor says or she forgets. The information is often technical and she doesn’t understand it. Plus, Mom is hard of hearing so often she doesn’t even hear what the doctor says, even though she nods as if she did. The doctor doesn’t remember this, so he thinks she’s understanding and agreeing. Very frustrating.
So if possible, plan to attend medical appointments with your aging parent. They will get much better treatment and you’ll get peace of mind.
Slow down, you’re running too fast…
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto
I enjoyed this article on the TenderLovingEldercare.com blog about slowing down for our elderly parents. I notice this especially when I talk to mom. Mom is hard of hearing, especially on the phone. I talk too fast. She doesn’t understand, but she doesn’t say anything. I catch on when she answers the wrong question. Then I have to repeat it all, slower. Sometimes v-e-r-y s—l—o—w—l–y…
It’s the same when I’m there. I’m usually there for two to four days, with travel days on either end. While I’m there, we schedule several doctors’ appointments. I deal with any of her finances or other paperwork. Meanwhile, I’m trying to stay on top of whatever I can from here. I feel like I’m running the whole time. I often feel frantic as I rush to manage everything, and seldom take time to just sit and visit. Mom and I are both exhausted by the end of the day, so rather than cooking we tend to bring food in.
I forget that Mom is almost 94. That my time with her is limited. We’ve never had a great relationship so it’s easy to fall into the “do my duty” routine rather than trying to get to know someone I’ve never really known and have little hope of knowing. In my hopelessness, I move too fast. Talk too fast. Expect too much.
When my brother comes, he sits and talks with her. Rubs her feet. Cooks her meals. Listens. I really need to take a different attitude. Yep, I do.