THE PLEASURES OF OLD AGE

“Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth.” W. Somerset Maugham.   

With maturity comes an ‘ease of being.’   It’s true, we don’t stay up until the wee hours of the morning (often) but we can still have a fabulous time and be in bed by midnight.  Recently, I went to Philadelphia for my cousin’s 80th birthday celebration.  It was three full days of partying — everyone had a blast!  Yes, bed time was earlier but the enjoyment the same.

Most Assisted Living Centers happy hour starts at 3:00pm!  Personally, I loved going to Dad’s Happy Hour . . . let the party begin!  Dad and his fellow residents also loved Happy Hour and still had time for a nap before 6:00pm supper!  

Another pleasure of old age is being able to play 18 holes of golf instead of a “quick 9”.  I remember when we were kids, Dad had Saturday golf every week — and he didn’t get home until after lunch.  That did not go over well with the Mother of his children.  After the children left, it was 9 holes with Mom once a week and 2 rounds of 18 holes weekly  . . . ahhh . .  the decadence!

Now, it’s the little things that give us much more pleasure; taking a grandchild to their first ballet or play, hearing the newest member of your family call you “Grandma” or “Nona”.  The family getting  together to celebrate a wedding or birthday  . . . all give us a chance to luxuriate in the foundation we have created for the generations to come.

And to those baby boomers reading this — remember, how you treat your loved ones is how you’ll be treated.  Paul said it best in his Epistle to the Galatians:  for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

AGING ALONE? PREPLAN!

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Old age is  like everything else.  To make a success of it you’ve got to start young.”   That is especially true if you plan to age alone, without the benefit of children or close family.    I am most likely going to age alone and I am preplanning for that.  You should too.

Today’s 80 is the new 70 and 70 the new 60.  Most of us don’t plan on giving up work, volunteering or travel until we’re well into our 70s or 80s.  I have friends who were volunteers at the Key Biscayne Tennis Tournament for over 20 years — the only reason they didn’t volunteer this year was because he became sick and couldn’t.  

As we grow older those of us aging alone have to make plans while we’re fully functional.  We have to discern what resources are available to us in whichever community we choose as our ‘last home’.  With today’s service industry and technology there is a huge advantage . . . there are healthy meal services (both for profit and non-profit), ride share and in many neighborhoods free ride services.  We also have medical care right here on the Island.  

But, as I state over and over again, it’s about preplanning.  You need to have a trusted friends or advisors who can be named as your Power of Attorney for Finance and Health. You need to decide now how to disperse your jewelry, money and tangible goods and write it down.  You should also plan to stay out of probate court.   

You also need to give your passwords for your bank, phone, computer and any other technological device you have, to trusted friends.  Sometimes the best thing to do is find a disinterested third party, such as elder care lawyer, and give it all to him or her.  Yes, you have to pay them but it’s a simple business transaction devoid of emotion.  You should also think of who is going to manage your health care from an insurance point of view so you’re not selling your tangible goods to pay for unwanted or unneeded health care.   You will need an advocate and that takes preplanning.

To review:  If you live alone now or believe that you will age alone without the benefit of family, now is the time to decide where to live, who to trust, who to choose as your beneficiaries and who to have as your Power of Attorney.  I strongly advise you consult with an elder care attorney for all the correct documentation and to have an advocate for you when you can no longer advocate for yourself. 

RETHINKING THE “I’M OLD” MYTH

Now that I’m a senior advocate and activist, I find that many things that used to be funny are now insulting.  Recently, Julie Andrews did a performance to benefit AARP at Radio City Music Hall. It was her 79th birthday.  To be funny she rewrote the words to “My Favorite Things”, here is one of the four verses: “Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses, Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses, Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings  . . . these are a few of my favorite things”

Is this funny?  Not to me.  Yet, she received a four minute standing ovation and several encore requests.  Apparently, I’m in the minority.  However, I think the truth lies in the difference between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.  Ms. Andrews is part of the Greatest Generation and I suspect her audience was, as well.

First, Cadillacs are no longer and “old peoples car”, secondly cataracts now mean that if you have them and remove them — there is a lens placed in your eye so you no longer need glasses!  Hearing aids?  I’m confident that one day I might need them and with any luck Bose will have them for $500 instead of $5000.  I don’t need Polident or Fixodent and neither did my Mother and she was 88 when she died.  If you go to my dentist, Dr. Friedman. you won’t need them either!

More importantly, let’s think of how lucky we are!  In today’s world of we know how to fix things – falling thighs, exercise!  Cataracts — Medicare pays to have them removed and new lens inserted which means no more glasses! (Or at a a minimum, only for reading tiny print.)  For our teeth, we have implants!  And, if you want to tuck in the chin, eyes, tummy, face —- well, there is my doctor, John Martin and Mike Kelly.  Both are Key Biscayne residents and Dr. Kelly has a column in this paper. 

Bottom line – yes, growing older takes its toll but in todays world we can fight against it.  We’re all aware of exercise and diet.  We know if we simply walk 3 or 4 times a week we live longer,  And, yes, fried foods are a guilty pleasure  . . . which, from time to time we should indulge!  But, for the most part, let’s celebrate those lines  . . . and, if you don’t like them — get rid of them.

GROW OLD OR PURSUE YOUR DREAM?

Gabriel García Márquez states it beautifully, “It is not true that people stop pursuing their dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing their dreams.”   When Dad turned 90 I realized 60 was young (and I wasn’t quite there yet).  Think about it, the first 30 years, you’re finding your way, the next 30 years you’re working your way and I say, use the last 30+ years to do it your way!   

The mindset of the Greatest Generation was to work until you’re 65, retire, receive medicare and social security.  I remember, Dad did that and within a year he was bored out of his mind and partnered with a good friend in a small exploration business.   That kept him busy until he was about 80.  Then he started volunteering at a church-run thrift shop weekly — he quit that when Mom got sick and she became his full time job.  

As I enter my 60s I’m launching a company,  working my consulting job and writing articles.  I love the deadlines and the intellectual stimulation.  I think we all do.  That makes me think it really is up to us to stimulate our minds in ways that make sense for each of us individually.  At the age of 77 Donna Shalala is running for Congress, at the age of 81 Madeline Albright is on tour for her latest book and at 93 Jimmy Carter is still relevant!  Yes, they’ve chosen a national platform but being relevant in a smaller community is no less satisfying.

With today’s technology and car-ride services there is no excuse to stay at home if you want to get out.  And, if you get out, you’re more relevant.  I know an octogenarian amateur playwright (soon we’ll be seeing one of his summer shorts!), and several septegenerian Starbucks employees.  All are happy and “pursuing their dreams.”   Let’s join them!

FLORIDA ADDS MORE MONEY FOR SENIOR CARE

As we all now know, after Hurricane  Irma fourteen elderly souls died because the nursing home in which they resided did not have a electricity after the storm.  As a consequence, they “overheated” and died.  Well, there is good news – the Florida Legislature and Governor have placed $37.1 billion dollars in this year’s fiscal budget to be used across six health care and social service agencies.

Florida’s medicaid program is the largest recipient at $29.2 billion and Children & Family Services receive $1.7 billion.  Those living in nursing homes will receive a 25% raise, from $105/m to $130/m. Nursing homes are now required to have generators with enough fuel to cool buildings during elongated power outages. The above monies are all coming from Florida taxpayers but my favorite part of the legislation is not tax based.

Starting this fiscal year, nursing homes (that receive medicaid dollars) will be paid on a set formula.  These providers must meet certain “direct patient-care” requirements as well as “quality of care” requirements.  In other words, if a nursing home only meets a minimum standard, they will be paid a minimum amount and given a set amount of time in which to bring the ‘home’ up to the formulaic standard.  As the homes hire more qualified staff and add amenities to its building and programs – they will receive larger payments.  As one law maker put it, they have to spend money, to make money.

As a senior’s advocate I’m thrilled that our state government realized how badly these “homes” were treating their patients.  Yet, it took senseless deaths to have a focus placed on how our greatest generation and aging or ailing baby boomers are treated when they can no longer treat themselves.  That is where we must be more vigilant.

As I write this, I cannot help but remember the 17 people who died very prematurely at Parkland High School.  And, yes, because of the deaths and the student’s activism we’ve put in some stricter state gun regulations.  Also many large gun sellers are now refusing to sell to anyone under 21.  Still, much like our senior citizens, why must it takes death to examine our mores and ethics.