We are Seniors

We are Seniors and We are Strong

we are strong

The Boomer Generation is unlike any generation before it. We are blessed with both the opportunity and the challenges of living longer and with greater choices. Thomas Hobbs in the 1600s was famous for his quote “Life is brutish and short.” And so it was in that day. In 1600, the average life could expect to live 30-35 years.  Compare that to today where two thirds (2/3) of all the people that ever lived past the age of 65 in the entire history of the world are present today! By 2020, we will have reached 1 Billion over the age of 60.

What we saw coming, but never though it would come so fast (at least for me) is that the last of the “Baby Boomers” are now entering 50 years of age. Currently, 10,000 people are turning 65 every day. And, for the first time, those who are 65 years old outnumber children 15 years old and younger!

“Being older is the new normal.” Today, we are everywhere and engaged in every aspect of life.  We participate in the community with service, art, science and commerce. Currently, older adults have increasing political clout, financially grown in strength, and have amazing wisdom and experience.

This isn’t to say that we don’t face challenges such as matching our health span and financial stability with our lifespan, or facing ageism in our culture. The saying “old age isn’t for sissies” is true today as it was yesterday. But we’ve learned that planning today for our tomorrows and developing a life affirming purpose such as being a mentor for the next generation, providing community service or caring for those who could use a helping hand such as a fellow senior goes a long way to achieving a balanced, healthy, lifestyle.

After all is said and done, what matters most about aging beautifully is the people you love, the people who love you, and not the job, not the cars, not the ‘stuff.’

Walking with Moses to Save My Memory

moses seniors helping seniors nhMy alarm rings every morning at 5:10, or rather it plays the latest pop music in an attempt to rouse me for the day. Ten minutes later, always hitting snooze once, I rise and our dog, Moses is moving off his bed and taking his first stretch of the day. Within 15 minutes Moses and I are leaving the house for a morning walk. We are among the first up in the neighborhood, a fact I like and one which actually helps to encourage me out of bed. I would rather walk in the quiet of the morning, fog rising off the lake and just one fellow early riser who waves from his porch but knows enough not to break the silence and the peace.
My walk is anywhere from 1650 steps to 2800 steps, depending on the humidity. Less humid and Moses and I can walk the longer route and we will not be bothered by the deer flies that plague us on humid mornings. And I don’t actually have to count my steps, I wear a Fitbit and strive to stride 10,000 times each day. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t but having a goal is a good thing.
In a recent study conducted by neuroscientist, Kirk Erickson, at the University of Pittsburgh, an increase of 2% in the size of the hippocampus was measured in a group of men between 60 and 80 years old who walked briskly around a track, 30-45 minutes 3 times per week for a year. This compares to a decrease of the hippocampus of 1-2% found in a control group who did nonaerobic exercise 3 times per week for the same length of time. A decline in hippocampas volume of 1-2% is typical in old age.
In addition, the walking group showed increased scores on memory tests, not surprising as the hippocampus is the area of the brain essential to making new memories. Therefore, as the hippocampus volume decreases, as in Alzheimer’s Disease, the ability to remember if you ate lunch or if a friend just visited is significantly impacted and eventually short term memory is severely diminished.
So this net gain of 3-4% volume in the hippocampus is dramatic. And it steers us in a direction as we age. Some suggest that even more important than doing a crossword puzzle is a walk for increasing or preserving memory.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is approaching. This an annual event in which more than 450,000 people will unite to raise awareness and money in the fight to end this disease. This is an important event and an important cause. Today the US has an estimated 5.3 million people living with Alzheimer’s Disease. By 2025 this number will be 7.1 million, by 2050 this number will triple. The cost of care today is 226 billion dollars and in 2050 it is likely to be 1.1 trillion. This disease, along with other forms of dementia, has no cure. It is the 6thleading cause of death. And it knows no boundaries. Rich, poor, famous or unknown, anyone can get Alzheimer’s Disease. We will all be touched by this crises as just the dollars alone needed to provide care will wreak havoc on medical care.
I will be walking in September with The Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. Meanwhile I will continue to every day to hopefully increase the size of my hippocampus and improve my memory. If you do not walk as a regular routine, maybe joining the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a good place to start. Just 30 minutes 3 times per week after that and you may be on your way to changing your future and preserving your memory. Find a walk at

July is National Sandwich Generation Month

Judy's mom 1990I am 53 and my go-to sandwich is a good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I know some folks my age would claim bologna and cheese. I can recall a few spam sandwiches at the camp in Maine. There is something intriguing, if not gross, when you have to take your lunchmeat out of a can and pass it through a grinder which is why, I am sure, we were willing to eat that stuff.

But I am not referring to the various trends in sandwich meat over the decades. No, I am talking about the phenomena related to caring for family members who are on both ends of the age spectrum. This is a relatively new term, first coined in 1981 and entered into the Merriam Webster Dictionary in 2006.

Once characterized by folks in their 30s and 40s, this trend has moved from predominantly Baby Boomers and now is strongly represented by Generation Xers. Due to extended life expectancy, delayed parenting, and increased need for both parents to work while raising a family, 47% of adults aged 40-60 fit this description. 80% work and many of these people will have their job impacted by the increased demand of caregiving, resulting in lost wages, reduction of work hours, and at times, loss of employment.

I am a Baby Boomer and now am part of the “Club Sandwich” generation. No kidding. That is an actual term, though it has not yet been picked up by Merriam Webster. Like many Baby Boomers, I am now a grandparent. The Club Sandwich generation describes those of us who are still supporting, in some fashion, our own children, while also providing support to our parents, and now have become grandparents. I officially made the “Club Sandwich” club this year on June 2nd and I am loving it!

But being in the sandwich generation isn’t easy. Part and parcel with this definition is the concept of providing care. Providing care to multiple generations. Usually in unchartered territory. As we navigate caring for aging parents we are often caught unaware, reacting to circumstances in which we feel alone. And even more so because while we sit in the emergency room from 7 pm to 1 am, our children are elsewhere, likely needing us for something, if only to tuck them into bed.

It seems too, that because the care we are providing is for our parents, the very people who cared for us and then happily (or unhappily) lived on their own, something seems out of sorts. Because these are grown-ups who need help it seems that it is not talked about and support is more difficult to find. Everyone at work expects to see less of us after having a baby. Few understand that it could be our parents who take us from work, from sports activities, from social time with friends because there are no free minutes in the day, week, or month.

The risks are well documented. The “sandwichers” are more likely to get sick if we are without support. But this same group will report higher levels of happiness if they do seek help. Still able to provide care when needed, given regular and reliable assistance, the sandwich generation will express a love for the family member who needed help that is deepened and richer than previous felt. And most say, although it was the hardest thing they ever did, they would not have it any other way.

With life expectancy rising and the first of the baby boomers approaching 70, we have not yet seen the full impact of this phenomena to society. Being prepared and finding a way to reap the full benefit of the joy associated with caring for our loved ones means first understanding that you cannot go it alone.

Waltzing with My Parents

Dancing with ParentsI have, on occasion, met a physical therapist that did not suffer from a need to be perfect, though by and large most of us exhibit many characteristics of this affliction. Maybe we come to this profession as a result of this tendency for an eye towards detail and it is a great fit from the outset, or maybe we are trained to be this way just as we are trained to assess and understand human motion. We watch closely as someone comes up to sitting from lying supine, we note how they move their shoulders and trunk over their hips to rise to standing. Which muscles are weak? Is the onset of contraction slow, is the timing with the firing of synergistic muscles poor? Are the opposing muscles tight? Where is the origin of this difficulty? And, most importantly, how am I going to meet this challenge and how is this patient’s body going to respond?

Synergy: the increased effectiveness that results when two or more people work together.

Why do I bring this up, this stuff about muscles working together to make a beautiful or not so beautiful movement? It occurred to me recently that senior care is, at its best, like synergistic muscles. When all components are smooth and effortless the result is like a waltz. You and the loved one you care for will move across the stage with perfect timing, giving up car keys with turn here, accepting outside help with a flourish there.

The truth however, may not be quite so lovely. Like aging muscles, we find weakness in conversations related to forgetfulness, miss-steps in understanding as processing slows. We may even fall to the ground in frustration and fatigue as we attempt to handle every appointment, errand and chore on our own, losing our balance for the sake of others.

In essence, we must combine our efforts with the right timing and strength to produce greater ease for long life. And, just as opposing muscles, through the process of reciprocal inhibition, know to shut off in order to allow movement in a direction, we will also need to sense when to quiet ourselves to allow our aging parent to lead.

Helping my parents has been a waltz of sorts. At the outset I wanted the dance to be perfect and since I have been a professional caregiver for 30 years I thought I would lead. But I am their daughter and that is the most important role. So this has moved from a beginner’s jig with stepping on toes at times, to a more advanced waltz with more grace and rhythm than one might expect. We still miss a beat here and there but because we are working together for increased effectiveness, this synergy of relationship, of adult daughter and aging parents is getting more and more beautiful.


elder sistersTwo weeks before Easter 2015 and my mother and I went on a special trip. This trip was planned for a week earlier and it was postponed due to more of the same for the winter of 2015-bad weather. My mother needs help getting into and out of the car and she quickly gets cold, a symptom common to many of those over 80, so wind, freezing rain and snow put a damper on our plans. My father and I agreed we would wait for me to take mom out.

The days before the trip were interrupted by more than bad weather. First there was a call with concerning result from lab work. My mother’s PT INR was elevated to a critical level. The PT INR, or Prothrombin time (PT) is a blood test that measures how long it takes blood to clot. A prothrombin time test can be used to check for bleeding problems. PT is also used to check whether medicine to prevent blood clots is working. INR stands for International Normalized Ratio which allows doctors to understand results even when they come from different labs or tests.

Every Wednesday evening I get a call with a report on my mother and father’s PT INR. Both have been on warfarin, a medicine used to reduce the risk of blood clots. For my mother and my father atrial fibrillation increases the risk of blood clots forming. The difficulty arises when the medicine taken to prevent blood clots thins the blood too much and clotting time is significantly slowed. My mother’s PT INR was 7.49, well above the desired range of 2-3. In fact it was critical.

Measures were taken to aid in blood clotting but it may have been too late. The days following were days of declining health for mom. She stopped eating, slept 22 out of 24 hours every day, and showed evidence of a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is a temporary stroke that will usually resolve itself. The biggest worry for me was the uncertainty if this was temporary or a permanent change, or worse. Mom reached a point where she could not lift her left arm off her lap, she could no longer assist in getting up to standing from sitting or take any steps. She fell and hit her head.

One of the complications of aging is accumulated medications. As we get older we add doctors to our list of experts, all with the intention of resolving or at a minimum improving the quality of our life. A rheumatologist for arthritis, cardiologist for heart worries, neurologist for cognitive function, and a primary care physician to top it off. Each adds a medication and the list can grow. But every medication has side effects.

My mother rebounded and a week later she was back to her good old self: an 82 year old with 40 years of arthritis, 2 strokes, vascular dementia, and 2 heart attacks, an 82 year old who loves her family and had a great visit with her sister. We met with her cardiologist and after much consideration we took mom off of some medications that are now more risk than benefit. We are faced with the knowledge that at some point our bodies cannot be repaired. But our relationships last through all things and as her sister exclaimed with joy “we are all related.”

CRASH B and Family Support

C.R.A.S.H B. and Family Support

rowing seniors

Sunday March 1st 2015 was my first experience with the World Indoor Rowing Championships. You may know from a previous blog that I am a member of a master’s crew team. We are masters not in ability but in age. Apparently after a certain age which will not be disclosed here, you are considered a master.

The World Indoor Rowing Championships is better known in rowing circles as the “Crash Bs.” Just a side note here, in our home it has been referred to as the “Groovy Bs” as back in the days of prep school my husband’s first introduction to a fellow preppy was something like “My name is Bruce but call me Groovy B.”

Groovy. We are definitely over 50. Being older means it is time to be thoughtful about how I age. I chose to row because it was something I had wanted to do since college and because healthy aging means staying fit and staying social. In fact, physical activity and socialization are better than any medicine on the market to combat memory loss. Better than that, the support of a team of middle aged folks is unique in that flaws are easily accepted when we have gained such insight into our own.

CRASH B Warmup

CRASH B Warmups

But back to the C.R.A.S.H –B. race. C.R.A.S.H –B. stands for “Charles River All-Star Has-Beens.” By their own description: “In the beginning, C.R.A.S.H-B. was a group of 1976-1980 US Olympic and World Team athletes who lurked on the Charles River, never rowing the same lineup twice, never practicing before a race, always jumping the start against Harvard and having a lot of fun too.”

At the end of my rowing season this fall, as the water was getting cold enough to numb your legs in 10 seconds, talk started about going to the C.R.A.S.H.-Bs. Coaches tried to get everyone excited and it sounded like a fun idea.

In January I started to take it more seriously and began training. I had seen pictures, knew that there was a large attendance and I generally try not to embarrass myself in front of more than my family. The numbers of Baboosic Lake Rowing Club members intending to attend had dwindled but I was ok with that. I determined that this would be about my personal best. I kept training,

CRASH B World Championship Sprints

CRASH B World Championship Sprints 2015

beginner that I am, rowing 4-5 times per week on my WaterRower and neglecting weight lifting, energy drinks and the like.

The big day arrived this past Sunday and my husband, Randy, friend of Groovy B, drove me down to the Boston University Agganis Arena for the event. The reality of the event began to sink in as we realized we were surrounded by top ranked rowers, some who had Olympic medals and had broken world rowing records. These are not “has-beens.” These oarsmen are impressive and represent rowing clubs from around the world. The Royal Navy Crew Team is seated in the bleachers behind us, the team from Brazil one section over. Australia, Norway, Germany and Cuba are represented.

Another quote from the C.R.A.S.H.-B site: “Although C.R.A.S.H.-B. as an organization maintains a nontraditional irreverence to all things that are not fun, nonetheless this ergometer has become serious business, threatening to replace fun with pain, unless you can equate the two.” The rowers who have decided to participate are clearly able to mix fun and pain and the support of the crowd is enthusiastic.

Randy was allowed down on the floor with me, able to sit right behind me as my coach for the day though he has never rowed, coxed, or coached before. He was prepared to support and encourage me and I know I am a lucky woman.

As I said, my goal was to reach the other side of 2000 meters on an erg with a personal best time. I failed that. But I discovered a few things.

One, the support of a coach and a teammate who did not attend but sent messages the night before and through that morning was fantastic. I was disappointed in my time and they rallied from an hour away and reminded me to be proud for the training I put in and for showing up. As master’s we have learned that most of life is about showing up.

“physical activity and socialization are better than any medicine on the market to combat memory loss”

Two, my coach for the day/husband/friend of Groovy B is my biggest fan. He told me when to push harder, when to try a power 10, when I was nearing the end and could celebrate finishing. Randy was there for me. I missed my goal for time but sharing this experience with him was amazing.

As Randy pointed out to more than one thousand folks on Facebook, I did not break a world rowing record on Sunday. However we were both inspired by the C.R.A.S.H.-B. race. A woman in her 80’s broke the world record for that age bracket, a 60 year old gentleman with an Olympic silver medal broke the world record as well.

Staying Fit as a Senior

Staying Fit as a Senior–A 60 Year Old Broke a World Record

I plan to be better when I am 60 than I am at 52. I am inspired to be fit, stay social and age well. I can endure pain and have fun. I have a remarkable support system.

This summer my sister Kathy wants me to row her across the lake in Maine to get donuts at the wonderful Day’s Store in Belgrade Lakes. I just might. But she will have to cheer me on all the way and then pay for the donuts. It is never a bad time to add a cheerleader or to carb load when rowing. Another thing that comes with the wisdom of age.

CRASH B and Family Support.


Shoveling Snow

The school vacation in February for our family has been a time to spend the week together, sometimes staying home and taking day trips, sometimes going away to ski. It has been important to me that we spend some time doing something special. The years go fast and our home has shrunk over the past nine years from eight to three as five out of six children have graduated high school and moved away.snow shoveling

This school break for my youngest son was a little different. He is saving for college which he plans to attend next year. His plans will take him to San Diego to be close to his brother, sister-in-law, sister, and step-sister. I am a little envious of the freedom of being 18 and was even more so when we found that my son and his wife are having a baby. So Mitchell will also be moving close to his niece or nephew.

Given the need to save money he opted to get as much work scheduled as possible. Delivering pizza for a local pizza/sandwich shop is fairly fruitful and he is doing a good job saving. His first job was waiting on tables in the assisted living facility where my parents live. This was a character building job. He saw a lot of his grandparents, he was loved by many folks-all over eighty, and he was able to learn about serving the elderly. He left only so that he could save more through the tips that he collects on his deliveries.

Seniors Helping Seniors of Southern NH and ME is also busy and our February vacation plans were limited to an afternoon of cross country skiing. Our plan was to take Thursday afternoon to go out to some groomed trails, get some exercise and have some fun. That was the plan.

On Wednesday I had my Caring for Seniors segment on the Girard at Large radio program. This is 15 minutes of sharing ideas on how to care for the elderly and to care for ourselves as we provide that care. Topics are varied and sometimes relevant to the season, sometimes related to dementia or another challenge facing those growing old.

This week I chose to discuss tips on caring for the elderly in the winter. We have all struggled a little with the endless snow and cold this winter but the elderly are particularly at increased risk of falls, dehydration, illness and loneliness in this weather. I asked my listeners to check on elderly family members and neighbors and do something good for them. This could be shoveling or clearing a walk, making certain the house thermostat is set high enough and the flashlights have batteries that work in preparation for power outages.

I drove away happy with the segment. Rich Girard always has me feeling relaxed and he has a fondness for the elderly so he likes my segment.

A short while later I was sitting in the home of a gentleman who needs the assistance of Seniors Helping Seniors. I was contacted by two family members who were worried about him. A recent health decline and the snow and cold were complicating things for their uncle and it was more than they could handle. Jobs, family and the demands of their own home meant visits are possible only once a month.

This visit they were dismayed. He had become home bound and less mobile. Worse still, he had been plowed into his home and had no easy access in or out for caregivers. I was also worried about him. It was evident that he is not eating well and needed someone to help with his home. He is a 20 year veteran of the Air Force, serving in Korea and into Vietnam and now he is struggling with basic needs.

The moments after the meeting, as I drove away from this home, I am sure that God was speaking to me. I could hear Him saying “Judy, put your money where your mouth is. Don’t just talk the talk.” I just could not see leaving piles of snow outside and this man stuck inside. I wanted to do something and I knew what it was.

My husband and son were not shocked when I proposed giving up our afternoon of skiing to shovel. They heard the story of this elderly veteran and I think they knew there was only one good answer.

It was a really nice afternoon on a sunny, cold winter vacation. We worked together at something really worthwhile. They met a veteran and a good, kind man who needed some help. We talked, we laughed and we shoveled. We shoveled a lot of snow.

Winter Weather

seniors winter barnThere is a comic going around Facebook right now with the request for someone to please stop shaking the snow globe in which all of New England seems to be living. This is a reasonable and humorous thought. Here in New England we have broken multiple records this winter.

In Boston the snow total for the month of February has beat the record by 15 inches as noted in this table from the weather Channel.

February 2015: 58.5 inches as of 1 p.m. Feb. 15
January 2005: 43.3 inches
January 1945: 42.3 inches

Winter storms became important enough to be named in the 2012-2013 season and Juno and Marcus this year alone have combined to top winter snow totals. Jan. 26-28, 2015 (Juno): 24.6 inches
Feb. 7-10, 2015 (Marcus): 23.8 inches. This weekend we have survived Neptune and we are looking at Octavio coming up the eastern seaboard this week. It certainly makes us hope we don’t reach Zelus, the name set aside for the 26th winter storm of the 2014-2015 season. And it almost erases the memories of the Thanksgiving storm that had many of us trying to figure out how to cook a turkey without power.

In our mid-fifties it is draining to be outside shoveling and snow blowing every 3rd day. My husband Randy has been up on a 20 foot ladder numerous times clearing ice dams that have caused leaks. A wonderful neighbor tipped him off to ice melt in panty hose so we now have ladies stockings adorning the tops of our windows. Anything that works.

But as exhausted as we may be from the activity of the winter storms, the elderly are at risk this time of year and need more frequent visits if living at home. The seniors living in New England are more likely to cancel doctor visits during the frigid temperatures and snow storms that we are experiencing. Without the encouragement and support of a caregiver an early infection could be left un-noticed until pneumonia sets in.

Errands seem daunting when you can’t seem to get warm in your own home and so food in the pantry may begin to dwindle. Hydration and nutrition suffer.

As family hunker down and try to manage their own home, the elderly can be left with fewer visits and less monitoring. Social isolation grows and minds can become idle.

If you know of a senior in your neighborhood who may need someone to check in on them, take a few minutes to call or knock on the door. Bring over a meal and ask them if you can pick anything up while you attend to your own groceries. And if the door is opened, enter your elderly neighbor’s with a watchful eye and a listening ear. Are they more tired than usual, do things look as if they are in disarray? These could be signs that a regular visit is in order.

In times of record breaking weather the elderly need more attention and this is a wonderful opportunity to take a break from shoveling the roof and to spend time being a great neighbor. Of course it goes without saying that their roof may need some shoveling as well!

Nurse Salesperson

Nurse Salesperson

Retired RN? Looking for an enjoyable way to earn some income?

Seniors Helping Seniors is looking for a special senior (50+) to join our family. As a nurse you have made a career of caring for others. You have seen the good care models and the not so good care models. You have worked at assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and rehabilitation units, and you currently live in Southern NH or Southern ME.

But you are unique. You have a gift for connecting with people. You look forward to talking with others. You are excited when your phone rings, when you get an email or you get a Facebook message. You strike up conversations in the grocery store and look forward to meeting new people in various settings. Put you in a room of people and you are excited to connNursing Jobsect with them. People tend to like you because you are interested, engaging and have a positive outlook on life.

If this is you, we want to have a conversation with you. Like you, we are unique. We have a care model that is different—far superior—but different. And we want you to help us connect with the assisted living facilities, nursing homes and rehabilitation units. You will be talking with the discharge planners and managers to get them on board with our care model.

This opportunity will be unique as well. With your income based on account specific commissions, the sky is the limit in terms of where you could take this. It also means you can work according to your schedule—when and how much you would like.

If this might be right for you, and you would like to explore this opportunity further, please use our online application: . (The application is normally used for caregivers, so some of the check boxes do not apply to you.) Please do not call or email.

Apply online quickly and we will get back to you right away to arrange a phone call!

Give Thanks In All Things

Dad and Moms

Ok, so I looked everywhere for a perfect Thanksgiving Day picture from my past. I had a picture in my head; I know I’ve seen it. My grandmother and grandfather Chase, my mom and dad, and all of the aunts and uncles standing behind their chairs at the Chase family home in Watertown, the picture is being taken before anyone can sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner and just after Grandpa has led grace. Our family grace went like this:

Be present at our table Lord,

Be here as everywhere adored,

These mercies blessed and grant that we may live in fellowship with Thee.

Looking these words up I find this:

Be present at our table, Lord;

Be here and everywhere adored;

Thy creatures bless, and grant that we

May feast in paradise with Thee.

We thank Thee, Lord, for this our food,

For life and health and every good;

By Thine own hand may we be fed;

Give us each day our daily bread.

We thank Thee, Lord, for this our good,

But more because of Jesus’ blood;

Let manna to our souls be giv’n,

The Bread of Life sent down from Heav’n.

These words were written in 1741 to music written in 1551.

My grandparents were faithful believers and this is a part of my history that has great meaning. I cannot say these words without being back at a family table, either in Watertown Massachusetts or in White Plains, NY.

This Thanksgiving is different than many for us. Randy and I will be with my mom and dad at the nursing home where mom is staying for her rehabilitation. She is allowed 2 guests but they have graciously given us an exception. I made my soup that has become a traditional first course for those who usually share Thanksgiving with us at our home. I will add it to the dinner being served.

Prior to the illness that put mom in the hospital for 2 weeks and now has her in rehab, mom was very focused on Thanksgiving. For weeks she would ask what she should bring on Thursday. She woke one morning and asked if we could smell the turkey cooking yet. It was mid-October.

I can’t find the picture that I am remembering but I have this one. Dad hugging mom. This looks like he is truly thankful for her and his life with her.

And that is what Thanksgiving is about. Not the table but the blessings we have been given. We have abundant blessings. “In all things give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!