Helpful apps for seniors

8 tech solutions to maintain independence and give caregivers peace of mind

By Jeff Salter for Next Avenue

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Every day for the last 24 years, I’ve worked with the elderly and, by extension, with their families. As the founder of Caring Senior Service, a non-medical in-home care provider, my goal is to ensure that people can age with dignity in their own homes and to reassure families that their loved ones are safe and secure. Increasingly, technology helps on both fronts.


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The importance of listening to the person with dementia

We need to hear well before the voice is silenced by the disease

By Mike Good for Next Avenue

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Credit: Thinkstock

(Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series examining and interpreting a commonly used “bill of rights” for dementia patients.) 

People with Alzheimer’s or other dementia are an invaluable part of our society. Millions of them are brilliant, wise and actively advocating for their rights and needs.

As my friend with Alzheimer’s, David Kramer said, “It’s not something that necessarily makes us idiots.” No it doesn’t, but unfortunately the vast majority of people don’t understand the disease, and therefore, don’t know how to listen to the person with dementia.

Just like anyone else with unique challenges and special needs, people with dementia need to be able to communicate their needs, wants and fears without being judged.


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It happens to the best of us: I’m not cool anymore

Despair turns to hope during a humdrum trip to the grocery store

By Peter Gerstenzang for Next Avenue

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Credit: Thinkstock

A few mornings ago, I saw a reflection of myself and had to summon every bit of strength to keep from shrieking. What was staring back at me, from a darkened winter window, was sad, morally repugnant and just plain creepy.

As I caught a glimpse of myself on the NordicTrack, wearing a velour sweatsuit and horn-rimmed glasses so I could watch CNBC, I had the most unsettling epiphany: I’m not cool anymore.

I looked beyond the window at my snow-covered suburban lawn and wondered what had happened to my rebellious nature. Where was the guy who once wore mirror shades and motorcycle boots, whose long hair was held in place by a bandana? How did he morph into the guy who was exercising before dawn? Who chugged prune juice? And now dressed like senile mobster, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante? I did not know. And I was bummed about it.


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Art and friendship make powerful tools to fight ageism

College students and older adults become ‘pals’ in this creative arts program

By Linda Bernstein for Next Avenue

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Credit: paletteprogram.org Caption: PALETTE participants bridge the generations

“Whom would I meet? What would I say? Would I seem dorky?” These were Rena Berlin’s concerns before she met her Partner in Art Learning, the new “pal” she’d been matched with through a program that pairs a college student with an older adult to create art.

“For the first time in my life I really felt like a senior,” says the 68-year-old educator from Richmond, Va., with a laugh. “They were transporting a small group of us from the Weinstein Jewish Community Center in a van to the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. A van. That mean’s you’re getting old. I was also nervous.”

It turns out she had nothing to worry about. “After my PAL and I got started, it was amazing,” she says.


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Community garden grows more than expected

img_9273When Marketing Director Jami Colson started rounding up volunteers for a new community garden on the deck off the dining room, she didn’t have to look far for support. She found a willing partner in Carla Hattendorf, dining services director.

“I may know a lot about cooking vegetables, but I didn’t know a thing about growing them! I do not have a green thumb, so this is a learning experience for me, too,” said Carla. “I’ve really enjoyed the whole process, and I know the residents have, too.”

Garden planning began before the summer with a trip to Jackson Nursery. Residents were given a tour, education, and even a great discount for their chosen plants.

“We have four tomato plants, two pepper plants, some zucchini and herbs. We also have flowers, a butterfly garden, and hummingbird feeders. Residents have a fabulous time sitting and watching all the critters who come around. We sometimes laugh and wonder if we planted this garden for ourselves or for the squirrels, as they’re fattening up,” said Carla.

Even though residents have enjoyed small yields from their garden, Carla has already seen a great return on investment in other ways.

“I just think it’s a great way to stay active, getting out there and watering, pruning, etc. And it gives people more ownership and enjoyment of their nutrition. We grew some little yellow cherry tomatoes, and they’re not as acidic as regular tomatoes. People with stomach problems can tolerate and enjoy them more. There’s such pride in watching your “babies” grow and produce,” said Carla. “And it’s brought people together in wonderful ways. Residents hang out in the dining room more, which contributes to the experience more, and it’s important for residents to have that. If they have nothing else to talk about at meal time, they can talk about the garden. People who normally just sit there quietly are now making friends with table mates. All over this garden!”

If a garden can help with conversation, Carla, with her non-green thumb, has even discovered how conversation can help with a garden!

“Some people may think it’s strange, but I talk to the plants. Even on my days off, I often come in to water the plants and talk to them. It works! Now, when plants throughout the community start dying, they’re brought here to the garden, and we’ve brought them back to life.”

They say you reap what you sow, and when you’ve planted seeds of community and caring, you’re sure to have a beautiful harvest.

The secret to a long marriage

Our relationship is different from our parents’ but just as lasting

By Candy Schulman for Next Avenue

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Credit: Getty Images

When I mention I recently celebrated my 40th wedding anniversary, friends stare incredulously as if to say, “How is that possible?” I joke that I was a child bride in an arranged marriage, sold with a dowry to the highest bidder. The truth is I did vow “I do” at 23.

My husband, Steve, and I married young and had a child late.


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4 life lessons from Tony Bennett and other 89-year-olds

Bennett and Dick Van Dyke are going strong and happy

By Liz Fedor for Next Avenue

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Caption: Tony with his son Danny, 2007 Grammy Awards

Singer Tony Bennett, at 89, isn’t resting on his laurels.

He recently released a new album, The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern. In an interview with NPR, he recalled how much he loved singing for his relatives as a boy. “It created a passion in my life that exists to this moment as I speak to you, that is stronger now at 89 than in my whole life,” Bennett said. “I still feel that I can get better somehow. And I search for it all of the time.”

Bennett’s not the only 89-year-old who is defying stereotypes of older age.  Actor Dick Van Dyke  just wrote a memoir titled Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging.  Queen Elizabeth continues to carry out the royal responsibilities she inherited in 1952. And Marilyn Hagerty, my friend and former colleague, continues to write regularly for the Grand Forks, N.D., Herald.

Their daily lives offer four lessons for all people of all ages:


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Fiftysomething diet: 7 trendy (and healthy?) foods

They are getting a lot of attention and may even be good for you

By Maureen Callahan for Next Avenue

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In the never-ending parade of new food products that make headlines every year, there are always a few that catch on and become trendy, almost fashionable. They are options that beg to be included in any healthy diet.

The question is: Are they worth bringing to the table? Put another way, will they help you age more gracefully and do they have unique nutritional benefits?

Here’s a look at seven of the trendiest edible offerings that people are talking about around the water cooler, at book clubs and in the coffee shop, along with details on what they do and don’t offer when it comes to health, nutrition and disease prevention:


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Dad’s gone but his travels to Africa still inspire me

His pictures from the other side of the world set me off on an unexpected path

By Wendy Walleigh for Next Avenue

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Credit: Getty Images

Africa has had a special place in my heart ever since I was a little girl looking at my father’s World War II photos. Dad had been a 24-year-old Air Force cargo pilot in multiple countries in east, west and central Africa. And while on the continent in 1942 and ’43, he traveled to Egypt and Palestine.

He sent his photos of these locales home to my mother, who lovingly preserved them, mostly black-and-white, affixing them to the black pages of a photo album with sticky corner-frames. I liked to sit with him looking at these pictures as he told me the stories that accompanied them.


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Passion for painting

The Golden Years-2 After spending nearly his entire career working for the Soil Conservation Service, it’s no wonder resident Harland Dietz developed a love for the outdoors. What’s surprising, even to him sometimes, is his relatively newfound desire to paint the scenes he so admires from nature.

“I don’t consider myself an artist. I paint for therapy mostly, and I’ve never taken a class. One day I just started painting things that are interesting to me. I’m particularly fond of the prairie. We lived in a lot of different states over the years, and we decided one day we’d buy a painting that represented every state we lived in. We could easily find mountain-scapes and seascapes, but no prairie images. So I said, ‘Well by gosh I’m just going to paint one.

”Harland may not consider himself an artist, but after recently entering (and winning at the Masterpiece Level) the Art is Ageless® juried competition here at the Topeka Presbyterian Manor, others certainly think of him this way. His painting, “The Golden Years,” will be featured in the Art is Ageless calendar this fall.

Harland and his wife Anita have only lived here for a year, but have already begun making a big impact.

“We really need a designated art area and the former pool table room on the fourth floor would make a perfect spot. I’m working on making this happen, so hopefully we’ll be able to set up and have art classes there soon!

”Look for Harland’s work, along with work of local Charles E. Moore (Hippo-Drama Clock) to be featured in the upcoming calendar, and for the work of Barbara Fuller (Three Wise Men) to be featured on greeting cards.