Judson Haims: It really does take a village
Special to The Aspen Times
“It takes a village” does sound like a colloquial phrase. However, it also is an innovative way to handle the complex living issues that surround our elderly today. As our senior population increases, the need for living alternatives becomes more and more pronounced.
There is an increasing number of elderly living longer, yet in sicker states of health for longer periods. Modern medicine has worked miracles in keeping many folks alive compared with yesteryears — many of those same folks who would not have survived the illnesses from back in the day now view those same afflictions as mere nuisances rather than deadly conditions.
All this leads to a complex and confusing situation when it comes to where mom and dad should be living as they age. It’s a complex problem oftentimes with geographic challenges and a layered decision making process — care for a loved one at a moment’s notice is never a simple solution. So what’s a workable solution? Well, it may very well take a village.
The concept is simple, yet quite effective. A village can be a network of loosely organized volunteers who are focused on meeting the needs of seniors who have chosen to remain in the comfort of their own homes rather than the less personal environment of an institution.
The membership is made up of seniors living in a certain area that pool their resources (an annual fee is common) to help defray operational costs, such as office rental and telephone charges. These volunteers can assist the resident membership through such simple solutions as making a telephone call to arrange some yard work to be completed to more complicated tasks like assisting with taxes after a loved one passes away. (This would be a great opportunity for our local religious organizations to participate in and develop.) Generally, though, these nonprofit organizations help their membership with transportation to and from doctors, the grocery store or to various social events. Some help is offered with technical support for computers or programming a new television, or even ways to safeguard their home from illegal entry.
Universal Design homes
These organizations are not the typical support groups where seniors might go to talk about “issues.” Rather, they are action-focused and results-oriented. They mean to solve a problem and do it quickly and effectively for reduced costs. An example of that effort is the trend toward “universal design” homes for the elderly. In an effort to allow seniors to remain in their own homes as long as possible, and in addition to assisting with smaller tasks such as transportation, there is a movement to build simpler and more elder-accessible homes for the aging population.
Universal-design homes incorporate features that are clearly focused on the needs of an aging population. For example, wider entry ways for wheelchair accessibility, flatter landscapes, driveways and and walkways for less strenuous movement with wheelchairs. Lower sinks, door handles that are levers and not round handles, and more grab rails for stability are the norm rather than the exception. The houses are designed and built for these features, and when built from the ground up, owners can justify certain expenses by lumping them into the bottom-line construction costs rather then adding tens of thousands of dollars to less quality alternative add-ons.
The ideas incorporated in the it-takes-a-village concept are simply geared toward providing the senior population with more alternatives for remaining as independent as possible for as long as possible.
Eating Better as You Age
“The older I get, the harder it is to maintain my youthful weight.” Heard this before? Feel this way now? Well, you’re not alone. For nearly 30 years, I managed to maintain my college weight — it fluctuated from time to time, but I was always able to get it right back to where I was when I was in my early 20s. Then I hit 50. For almost 10 years, I have had to work harder and harder to maintain that weight; and I have definitely enjoyed it less and less. So why is that happening? What can we do about it?
Diana Rodriguez has written a wonderfully brief and to-the-point article on http://www.everydayhealth.com titled “Meeting Your Nutritional Needs as You Age.” In this article, the simple premise is offered: As we age, our nutritional needs change. “Age-related changes can affect how your body processes food, which influences your dietary needs and affects your appetite.”
Rodriguez states in her article, “A healthy diet packed with vital nutrients can help ward off potential health problems that are common in senior citizens, like constipation, heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”
I see these health issues in our clients often. It is amazing how frequently we see such concerns mitigated by the simplest of things: diet changes.
Even if you’ve never followed a nutrition-based diet before, healthy eating isn’t difficult.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. His contact information is http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.
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