You may be wondering what housework has to do with independent living, but think about it for a minute. Your home says a lot about you. I call it the go/stay continuum because your independent status could hinge on whether or not you have a clean safe place to live.
For some reason the words “accepting help” strikes terror in the hearts of seniors everywhere. Accepting help is erroneously seen as the “beginning of the end.”
This isn’t true of course, but it may be time to evaluate your capabilities realistically: When you can no longer drive or are having trouble keeping up with housecleaning, shopping or even routine activities of daily living, you may “need help.”
So what’s the rub? I will use housework as an example because it meets with the most resistance. Housework has gotten a bad rap; seen as a moral obligation instead of the “hard work” that it really is seems negate the importance. It isn’t surprising that seniors are often reluctant to pay “real money” to have someone else clean for them.
In addition, many seniors feel uncomfortable allowing another person, a stranger, into their homes. Hire from a reputable agency to set your mind at ease, and get over the idea that everyone is out to steal your “stuff.” If you are worried about privacy issues the same standard applies. Try to remember that unless you are a celebrity nobody really cares enough to delve into your privacy issues.
As a young person you could get away with being messy. Friends and neighbors labeled you as “too busy”, “too lazy”, or may even have called you a “slob,” but the idea of competency didn’t enter into the picture. As a senior it is a different story; indifferent housekeeping may be seen as a sign that you are not managing.
Think twice before declaring out of hand that you can’t afford to hire help. More likely, you can’t afford not to. Your independence status could very well hinge on home cleanliness and safety.
Who doesn’t love fall? The weather is close to perfect and the fall colors are breathtaking. It is the time to enjoy sunny days and long drives in the country.
Alas, colorful leaves fall much too soon. Before we know it yards everywhere are buried under blankets of sodden leaves. It is time to rake and bag up every last one of them and send them on their way.
Yard work is good exercise but the noises from neighborhood Leaf Blowers are enough to drive you crazy. Whatever happened to good old fashioned yard work?
My husband still enjoys yard work the old fashioned way. He pulls on his gloves, ignores his creaky knees and arthritic fingers, and trundles out to the backyard every Saturday. Raking is hard work; muscle soreness and injuries are pretty common. It seems we need a plan.
Yard work needs to be approached scientifically. The experts all say:
• Warm up with some stretching exercises.
• Know that good posture is important and avoid vigorous twisting and turning. Repetition is the enemy.
• Pace yourself; take frequent breaks. Section off the larger yard and do small bites at a time. Have a plan, but try to refrain from tackling the whole project at once.
• Listen to your body.
Decide what you are going to do with your piles of leaves. When we were kids it was great fun. We would make huge piles and play in them for hours. I hope some of your chores are still fun for you, but more than likely you see them as a lot of hard work. This year make a party out of it and be sure to include a lot of treats.
• Be careful when bagging leaves, especially if wet. Work with manageable loads and remember that good posture is doubly important.
• Use a leaf scoop to fill your bags and lift carefully; keep the bag close to your body and lift using your legs.
Take your time, protect your joints and enjoy the process.
Be sure to modify or avoid activity that causes pain:
• find a different way of doing it
• cut down the time you do it
• use an ergonomic tool
How much do the “good old days” or the “not so good” old days influence the way you perceive life today? Memories good or bad have a way of keeping people stuck in their tracks. Can you “let go” of the past long enough to move into the future?
Living in the past or worrying too much about the future is like “running in place.” You are alive and you are going through the motions, but you aren’t going anywhere.
This is not the time to bail out. You are older and wiser now; it is time to use the perspective and wisdom gained along the way to move into the future. Believe it or not, you can still step up and make a difference.
Life is filled with opportunity and you can be part of it. Stop negativity in its tracks. Refrain from prefacing everything you say with a comparison to the “good old days.” Stop mid sentence the minute you “hear” yourself make negative remarks about anything or anyone. Rephrase the remarks and give it a kinder spin. Being in constant conflict with the world around you is exhausting, and who needs that.
Change starts at home and it spills out into the world around you. Make a difference by doing something positive: vote, run for office, be on a committee, volunteer or become a mentor.
The “good old days” may indeed have been very good to you, or not, but live for today. Let go of the past and make room for what comes next. Silence negativity by focusing on what is good in your life right now.
My daughter wears tee shirts with the logo “Life is Good” stenciled on them; I love them (lifeisgood.com). Good words to live by, don’t you think?
The holidays are rapidly approaching. Once again I am going to get on my soapbox and beg you to write a personal message (a.k.a. as a letter) in each and every greeting card that you send.
It is sad that the art of letter writing is nearing extinction; the thrill of finding a personal letter in the mail box is long gone. Phone calls, text messages and e-mails are quick and easy ways to keep in touch, but they don’t carry the same punch as reading and rereading the written word.
You don’t have to wait until Christmas to write. Do it now. Write a letter today. Your first efforts don’t have to be long. I know you have some pretty cards; they come in the mail from various charitable organizations all the time. Pick out a card with a nice message, address the envelope, and then write something. Tell someone that you are thinking about them today. Write to a family member or an old friend you haven’t heard from in a long time. Just a note will do; you can write a longer letter later, after you get the hang of things again.
You are not alone if you feel that handwriting is too much work. Manual dexterity becomes troublesome as we age; fingers become stiff and sore and they cramp up if you grip the pen too tightly, but don’t give up.
Buy some pretty stationary, with lines if necessary, and treat yourself to one of the new ergonomic pens (designed especially for people with hand issues). Put on some music, sit at your desk, do a few finger/hand exercises, and then gently touch your pen to the paper.
If it has been a long time you might need to dredge up a few basic skills that you learned as a child. Start with “Hi,” and go on from there. Experience the joy of communication all over again. Your first letters may be a little stilted and your penmanship a little shaky, but no one will mind…it’s the thought that counts.
Write, not only because it is a loving thing to do, but because the process of writing stimulates learning, memory, and thinking. A rather painless exercise don’t you think?
Remember how much fun it was “growing up”? Everyone made a big fuss about how much bigger and stronger and taller we were getting. It was embarrassing actually, but we learned to accept that one day we would be tall, short, or somewhere in-between.
When we get older no one ever tells us that we look a little shorter. A little chubbier or a little “peaked” perhaps, but never “shorter” because that word suggests that we are getting old.
We have always fussed about being weighed, but now it seems we have something else to worry about. We are shrinking; we are now an inch or maybe even two inches shorter than we used to be. No wonder our clothes feel tighter and our pounds have redistributed.
Height, as you know, is determined by the length of the leg bones, the spine and the skull. The leg bones remain pretty much the same but the spine really does shrink. Those little cushions of cartilage between the bones of the spine wear down and get thinner as we age. The end result is that the spine gets shorter and stiffer. This tends to be true whether we have osteoporosis (a bone thinning condition that causes the bones of the spine to crumble) or not.
There are a lot of reasons to protect your bones if you want to be active, healthy and independent. The best way to do this is by fighting bone loss:
• Calcium and Vitamin D (best obtained from diet, rather than pills but do whatever it takes).
• Regular exercise, especially the type that puts stress on the bones. Weight bearing exercise stimulates the creation of new bone tissue.
• Limit tobacco and alcohol use.
• Bone density test if indicated.
Take care of your back. Stop slouching. Stand tall and do whatever it takes to keep your back strong and pain- free. Strengthening, stretching and improving your posture will make you look taller, and your new clothes will fit comfortably.