Want some true stories about aging with an attitude? Thinking about Mother’s Day and moms who embrace life beyond breakfast in bed, flowers, and candy from the kiddos, we found some amazing examples for evolving an outlook towards aging and late-life accomplishments.
Meet the moms:
Lucille Singleton – a mom who started running in her late sixties and ran her first marathon when she was 75. A widow, with children living in another state, Lucille is comfortable fending for herself and she’s unafraid of making changes. Her diabetes and frequent dialysis don’t get her down – she says she keeps her body busy “at all times” and hasn’t stopped.
Edith Connor – a mother of three, grandmother of seven, and great grandmother of six. At age 79, she held the Guinness Book of World Records title as the Oldest Female Competitive Bodybuilder. She hits the gym several times a week to stay competitive.
Harriette Thompson – a grandmother of 10, ran a marathon at age 91 and recorded the fastest time by a woman 90 or older. She ran the race with her 55-year old son at an average of 16:19 minutes per mile. It was slower than she would have wished but the recent radiation treatment on her legs to treat squamous cell carcinoma slowed her training. Six days before her marathon, she and her 90-year old husband ran a 5K together.
Ernestine Shepherd – a grandmother holding the title as the world’s oldest female bodybuilder at age 75. She didn’t dedicate her entire life to fitness, and wants you to know, “you can start at any age.” At age 56, Ernestine went swimsuit shopping with her sister and while trying on suits and laughing at themselves, she realized it was time to get in better physical shape. She takes no medications and has no aches or pains. She trains mostly senior women five days a week, inspiring them to reach their physical potential.
Jackie Stallone – Sylvester’s mom, astrologer and psychic, lifts weights, pumps iron, and does cross-fit training. She wants to be a role model for movie stars at age 50 because they dread getting old and Hollywood fears age. According to her official website, she was the first woman to have a daily TV show on exercise and weight lifting in Washington, D.C. and later opened a gym for women-only.
These are wonderful examples of seeing life and aging as an adventure – whatever we want for ourselves without regard to the number of years we’ve been living or health challenges. A long-held dream or wish can be realized, as it is never too late when you believe it is possible. Find a mentor, coach, or role model, and get started on your dream path.
Partners In Care is a locally-owned and operated family providing non-medical in-home care in nine Northern California counties.
The name “April,” may have originally derived from the Latin word aperire, “to open,” referring to the opening of flowers. An ancient reference for April is to Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love; and in modern times, April is the month of National Card and Letter Writing, designated by the US Postal Service in 2001, to observe and celebrate the craft of letter writing. Stitching these themes together, let’s explore the joy, creativity, expression, and connection through a hand-written note for someone to “open” and feel the love.
Handwriting a personal message in the age of technology may feel like a lost art, but it is easily revived in a few minutes. As with social media, you may not even know the person you are writing to. Receiving a personal message in a card or letter is a gift for the recipient and can become a treasure for a lifetime. The content can be a one-liner or multiple pages. Regardless of age, gender, or location, the power to bring joy to a senior citizen is yours to create!
Senior citizens living alone at home, or in assisted living and nursing facilities, often report feeling lonely and isolated. Depression can become a ‘normal’ way of getting through the day. You have the power to change this for someone by taking a few minutes, right now, by sitting down and writing a letter to an elder. Tell them about yourself, send a picture of your dog, send a funny story, invite them to write to you by including a self-addressed, stamped envelope with a piece of paper to write on.
Starting with the community where you live, inquire with local agencies and facilities working with senior citizens -- senior centers, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, etc., and ask if they have an activities director you can speak with to coordinate sending cards and letters to one or more residents. This is safe and secure for all. Becoming a Pen-Pal may be one of the most rewarding life experiences. Make it a social event by inviting friends for coffee and letter writing – have fun paper, pens, color markers, stamps, and the like for an atmosphere of creativity and sharing. Decorate the envelope! Invite children to draw pictures and write, too!
Establishing the practice of letter writing has its own rewards. To sit quietly and contemplate what to write and putting words on paper can have meditative benefits. Write to your family and friends – someone you can’t be with in person, someone you think of often, or admire from afar. Send a handwritten note to someone who lives in the same house as you.
April is the official month for card and letter writing, but any day of any month is a good day to handwrite a message. Start your own mission to bring joy to a senior citizen. May you receive many blessings in return, finding letters in your own mailbox to open, and feel love.
Valentine’s Day can cause mixed emotions for older adults who are widowed or living alone. Mourning the loss of a spouse or loved one, no matter how long it has been, can be especially difficult and finding a special way to show them some extra love on Valentine’s Day can make a big difference.
Whether you are a family member, caregiver, or close friend, a thoughtful gesture can be
rewarding and create a nice memory. Some suggestions are:
• The timeless hand-written message. This can take the form of a card (handmade with a
photo or ready-made with printed sentiment inside) or letter written on special stationery
with matching envelope. Think of the ways your elder is a stand out person, how they
make you feel good, what you like about working with them, what you admire about how
they live their life. Then simply tell them straight from the heart.
• Balloons – get more than one and tie them together with a ribbon. Helium filled or blown
up by you – the more the merrier. The ‘bouquet’ of color will last for days after the holiday
has passed and continue to be a reminder of feeling special.
• Ask your elder if they would like to look through old photo albums and tell you about their
loves and loved ones from days gone by. Invite a conversation about sweet memories
from the past like their first kiss, first crush, first love.
• Many older adults have a sweet tooth, so if yours does, present them with homemade
cookies or a selection of their favorite candy or candy bar(s). These can be sugar free if
preferable. Indulgence on Valentine’s Day can be a treat all by itself.
• Ask about their favorite romantic movie and if they would like to watch it if possible. Ask them why it is their favorite.
• Invite one of their friends or neighbors over for tea, coffee, or cocktails. This third person
might appreciate being included as you might make their day special, too.
• If transportation is not a problem, take them for a drive to a favorite restaurant, park, or
scenic drive. Seeing the outdoors or favorite neighborhood can be a big boost if staying
indoors most of the time.
• Think red. Get a bottle of red food coloring and make red pancakes or waffles for breakfast. Make red cupcakes or cookies. Make red tea. Dress them in red. Use red place-mats and napkins and plates, etc.
Making Valentine’s Day special for your loved one, client, or friend, will be rewarding and remembered as a special day for a long time.
Partners In Care is locally-owned and operated family business providing non-medical home-
care in nine Northern California counties.
Though most New Year’s resolutions fail, we have a custom of making them, with good intentions, to celebrate a new year. Welcoming a new year, we contemplate the year past resolving to do and be better in the future. Perhaps we could call our resolutions ‘promises’ or ‘wishes’ for ourselves and others to help stay strong and energized to meet goals in the coming year, or at least some of them.
Healthy recommendations from the American Geriatrics Society for older adults include many we may already know but perhaps have forgotten. The new year is a perfect time to refresh our information to use for ourselves and share with others. Older adults and caregivers of older adults may both benefit from a refresher course in self-care promises and wishes for the new year. Here are a few ideas to kick off the new year.
- Read a book, fiction or fact, to dream or learn from someone else’s life or knowledge about a topic you can relate to, or for entertainment. If an older adult is unable to read for themselves, a caregiver or family member could read out loud and both enjoy the experience.
- Take time in each day to do something special for yourself if only for a few minutes. This can be listening to a favorite song, taking a bubble bath, enjoying the outdoors, or calling a favorite friend or family who live far away. This promise to yourself will be a highlight in each day.
- Ask for help for to complete a project, provide respite, or start something new.
- Join a support group and learn from others as well as offering your own knowledge to others.
- Redefine your eating habits to enhance your overall well-being. We need fewer calories later in life and healthy foods are essential. Refer to the USDA’s Choose My Plate program to tailor meals specific to you. (choosemyplate.gov)
- Physical activity can be safe and healthy for older adults even with chronic diseases. Caregivers can share the experience of enjoying mild to moderate physical activities with those they are providing care.
- The more you use your mind the better it works. Socializing is a brain booster – playing cards, board games, discussion groups at your local library or senior center are a few ideas.
- It is never too late to stop smoking cigarettes and a good promise to make for the new year. There is a lot of support for this effort and resources are available on the National Cancer Institute’s website. (www.smokefree.gov).
- Let someone know when you feel down or anxious. Some possible signs of depression can be loss of appetite or pleasure in doing activities. Difficulty sleeping, worry, and irritability may be indications of depression.
- Older adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day. The National Sleep Foundation has tips on how to sleep better. (www.sleepfoundation.org)
Partners In Care is a locally-owned and operated family providing non-medical in-home care in the California counties.
Shaun Clinkinbeard, President, Partners In Care