Category Archives: Aging at Home

Adaptive Advices

Q: Is my home a place where all members of the family receive affection and understanding, and where visitors are welcome?
PYM Faith and Practice, 2002

Assistive Devices can help people maintain self care skills and participate in their favorite activities. Communities benefit from diversity when adaptations are made to include people with physical or other disabilities. What are assistive devices and how can they help?

Grandpa’s knees hurt and he is having trouble getting out of his favorite chair. Marge has painted watercolors for years, but at 73 holding the brush has gotten painful. Irene’s bridge group has noticed she is having trouble distinguishing between the cards. All of these limitations can be resolved with assistive devices and home remedies.

First, if the limitation might be remedied with a wheelchair, a shower seat, a cane, walker or other equipment, get in touch with the medical provider and ask for a referral to an Occupational Therapist (OT) for an evaluation. Medicare covers the O.T.’s visit and several items she might recommend are also covered by Medicare with a doctor’s prescription. Consulting with a professional may help save money and effort—too many have bought a shower seat only to find it’s not the best model and they have to pay out of pocket.

Sometimes the solution becomes clear from observation. I watched Grandpa struggle to get out of his chair and noticed that his hips were lower than his knees. I suggested he get a recliner with a lift that would slowly rise until he was standing. However, this was a favorite chair, so instead, two cushions were put under his seat and now, with his hips higher than his knees, standing is less of a struggle. Marge’s arthritis meant that holding a paintbrush for long was painful. However, when a sponge was wrapped around the brush handle and secured with two rubber bands, she could paint much longer and pain free.

Irene’s macular degeneration meant that she no longer had any central vision. Her daughter called the Association for the Blind for a free in-home evaluation. They recommended several small changes in her home, such as a bright dot put on the thermostat at Irene’s favorite temperature, and a similar dot on the oven dial at a common temperature for baking. Then they showed Irene a catalogue of assistive devices so she could order large playing cards. They also suggested Irene would enjoy Talking Books and explained that the books she chose would be mailed to her for free, along with the machine to play them on.

Irene’s level of vision loss meant that she qualified for other free adaptations. The phone company would give her a phone with very large numbers, and she could receive free 411 information services since she could not read the tiny print of the phone book. Some services, such as tailored radio stations and Talking Books are available to the vision impaired, not just the blind, plus those who cannot read because of some other cause. The phone company also has special equipment for the hearing impaired that is available on a one time sliding scale payment.

This article has just touched the tip of the assistive equipment and devices available. You can find catalogues on line or through medical equipment stores, and see our list of links and other resources.

Considerations for Faith Communities:

Is your Meeting a safe, loving place?
When we become aware of someone’s need, do we offer assistance?
Are the meetinghouse and the Meeting property accessible to all?
— Queries from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice, 2002

  • Know what resources and services are available in your area, such as your county Agency on Aging and the local chapter of the Association for the Blind, so that you can be prepared to share this information with Friends in need. Your regional organization, such as the Archdiocese or Quaker Yearly Meeting, may also provide information, and see our list of links and other resources.
  • Assess your place of worship for accessibility- physical, communication, and attitude.
  • Ask people using wheelchairs, walkers, and canes, or with vision impairment- can they safely access the building, including bathrooms and other areas? Do you have the proper variety of chairs, including some sturdy ones with arms? Consider consulting with a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help determine what you may need to change.
  • Is information communicated in a way that is accessible and inclusive? Ask people with hearing or vision differences what will help them stay in touch with the rest of the community.Are there adaptations or devices that can be used, such as seating arrangements, audio systems in the Meeting room, availability of books on tape for your library?
  • Is there an attitude of inclusion? Is your community consciously inclusive of people with age related or other challenges in planning and facilitation of events and activities? Do you ask people what will help them participate?
  • As individuals are we open to receiving help and support, and if not, how can we help one another to be so?

“In joyful dependence, we can grow to be as fully human as possible, as thoroughly in the image of God as we are intended to be.”
Howard R. Macy, 1988, PYM Faith and Practice

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LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. Articles from this site will open in the same browser window/tab. Articles from other websites will open in a new window; when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

More articles on this website:

Including Everyone: Faith Community Care for People with Challenges
Living at Home Forever

Other Articles/Links:

Certified Aging in Place Specialist
Adapting the Home After a Stroke
Interfaith Disability Network
Interfaith Disability Advocacy blog

Sources/Further Reading:

National Organization on Disability, That All May Worship, 2005, Washington, DC.

Erik W. Carter, Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities, 2007 Paul H. Brookes Publishing, Baltimore, Maryland.

Role of the Spiritual Community in Care

Q: When we become aware of someone’s need, do we offer assistance? PYM Faith and Practice, 2002

Often Meetings are shy about contacting Friends and attenders who might be in need of some sort of support. Meeting members say, “I don’t want to intrude”, or, “They’ll call us if they need something”, or, “We don’t do that.”

Actually, we should reach out, as we did historically, and, if not us, who then? Friends forget that it is not the clergy that we got rid of, but the laity: we are, all of us, the clergy, the preacher, the minister, the pastor, for our Meetings. As pastors, we have a responsibility to reach out to seniors, singles, and the no longer able, to ascertain what role Meeting needs to take in their support. Those who need our help most, may be the least able to ask for it. If the person rejects our help, at least we have tried.

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Allowing Yourself to be Cared For: Autonomy, Interdependence and Interrelationship

Q: Am I willing to offer assistance as part of my religious community serving its members? Am I equally willing to graciously accept the help of others? PYM Faith and Practice, 2002

“Temporarily able-bodied” is the term used by Nancy Eiesland, in her book The Disabled God, to refer to people who are not living with disabilities. In fact, at least half of us will experience some form of disability during our lifetime, either short term or lasting. As our population lives longer, being disabled will likely be inevitable for even the healthiest among us.

We live in a society that promotes independence and self-reliance. Friends may find themselves better prepared to offer care than to receive it. And, while we may be compassionate when others have needs, how willing are we to accept our interdependent natures when it comes to our dependency needs?

“Whenever major change disrupts any relationship-disability, or moving from one stage of life to another-everyone involved has to build a new relationship with the other if that relationship is to continue and flourish.” John Zeisel, PhD, pg.177, I’m Still Here: A Breakthrough Approach to Understanding Someone Living with Alzheimer’s.

This new relationship involves changed roles for people who need care- and caregivers. Understanding that we need to rely on others may not come naturally, but this acceptance can give us strength and allow us to focus on deeper aspects of our relationships. Accepting change allows us to make the most of our lives under changed conditions.

Here a few inspirational stories from people who have experienced major changes due to illness:

In PYM’s 2002 Faith and Practice, Jennifer Faulkner is quoted, “I have a vivid memory of looking down on myself on the bed; doctors and nurses worked on that body, and I felt held in such secureness, joy and contentment the utter rightness of things.” Later, as she experienced setbacks and finally recovery, she said she “never completely lost the memory of being held and the wonder at being alive.”

Ram Dass, in Still Here, writes, “Having accepted my predicament, I’m much happier than I was before. This troubles some of the people around me. They have told me that I should fight to walk again, but I don’t know if I wanted to walk. I’m sitting—that’s where I am. I’m peaceful like this and I’m grateful to the people who care for me…I’ve grown to love my wheelchair (I call it my swan boat) and being wheeled around by people who care.” Pg 6

These stories show how some have found peace with illness and disability. Many of us, when faced with challenges, need to work to reach such acceptance. This work may likely include acknowledging any losses our illness or disability presents.

Tips for Finding Peace with Being Cared for:

  • Think back to simple tasks and follow the trail of what truly enables a person to accomplish a task. For example, Joe went to the market for groceries, loaded them in the car, and put them away at home, all apparently without assistance. However, what if the workers had not been there to open the store, the farmers hadn’t grown the food, the traffic lights were not working? The point is, even the simplest tasks, when we really think about it, require a system of interdependence. You have participated in this system, and you still can, though perhaps in new ways.
  • Be mindful of what you can do, small and large. Make a list of what you are able to do for yourself, and be willing to think in small increments. You need help getting dressed, but you can make choices of what to wear, perhaps get one arm in one sleeve. Encourage your helpers to allow you to do what things you can, regardless of how small, and even if this slows things down. Think in big picture terms of what you can do as well— you can listen to others, give advice, appreciate beauty.
  • If losses come up (or frustration over what you can no longer do), honor your emotions. Hold yourself in the light as you would a friend who was experiencing what you are.
  • Practice gratitude for what you have, your experiences, and the people around you. List it. If you cannot write, allowing someone to record this for you will be a gift to that person.

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” Thomas Merton

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LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. Articles from this site will open in the same browser window/tab. Ziestomverslowcre . Articles from other websites will open in a new window; when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

More articles on this site:

Generativity and Aging
Role of the Spiritual Community in Care

Other articles/links:

Aging As A Spiritual Practice
Gratitude Log

Sources/Further Reading:

Ram Dass, Still Here – Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying, 2000, Riverhead Books, New York, NY.

Nancy Eiesland, The Disabled God, Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability, 1994, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN.

Mary Morrison, Without Nightfall Upon the Spirit, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 311, Pendle Hill, Wallingford, PA.

John Yungblut, On Hallowing One’s Diminishments, Pendle Hill Pamphlet, Pendle Hill, Wallingford, PA.

John Zeisel, PhD, I’m Still Here: A Breakthrough Approach to Understanding Someone Living with Alzheimer’s, 2009 Penguin Group, New York, NY.

Senior Co Housing and Intentional Communities

Q: What concrete steps can we take as a meeting to open awareness of new ways of living in and sharing our world and its resources?

Q: How am I helping to develop a social, economic and political system which will nurture an environment which sustains and enriches life for all? PYM Faith and Practice, 2002

An Intentional Community is a planned residential community whose members share resources and responsibilities, often organized around a common idea or value. For some older adults, moving into an Intentional Community or shared “Senior Co Housing” is an option to traditional retirement communities. An Intentional Community formed around common values allows one to live in a manner consistent with what one’s beliefs, for example an eco-village where practices support a sustainable environment. As we consider options for housing in our later years, Intentional Communities may present an option for living in an inclusive environment and in a way that is aligned with our testimonies and values.

A movement in intentional communities is growing among older adults. Senior or Older Adult Cohousing is a form of Intentional Community where residents participate in the planning and design of villages and live cooperatively, mutually supporting one another through the changes that aging can present. These communities allow residents to age in place while sharing resources for caregiving, property and home maintenance, and transportation. Neighbors look after one another and each member contributes his or her strengths to the community.

“…regardless of the future, man must enter into the possibilities of the present moment and let himself unite with the everlasting yet everchanging elements of the world in which he finds himself.” Elsie Marion Andrews, Facing and Fulfilling the Later Years, Pendle Hill Pamphlet*

In 1998, Jimmy Carter wrote in The Virtues of Aging, “Only 30% of American families are accumulating any long-term savings or pension benefits, while almost 45% are spending more than they earn.” With the more recent decline in our economy, even among those who have saved, many lost significant portions of their savings. Other have used retirement funds for more urgent needs while unemployed or underemployed. While Continuing Care Retirement Communities have been the option for many older adults, it is predicted that such options will not be affordable to the majority of us. For some, aging in place at home or with families will be an option. Others of us will need to consider new ways of living in our older years.

Statistics may be alarming, but might we take this as an opportunity to live our values? Can we honor our the truth of our interdependence and learn to rely on one another? Are there models from the past from which we may learn? Is it possible to live in harmony with a sustainable environment? While we consider how we will be cared for, are we also mindful of the world we will be leaving behind?

“…joy is the awareness of a harmony, a perfect fit, between the form of our life and its shape…” Howard E. Collier, Experiment with a Life. Pendle Hill Pamphlet*

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LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. Articles from this site will open in the same browser window/tab. Articles from other websites will open in a new window; when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

More articles on this website:

Adaptive Advices
Discernment for Long Term Care
Housing Options
Living at Home Forever

Other Articles/Links:

Fellowship for Intentional Community Website
FIC: Quaker walkers visit Rosewind Cohousing and Port Townsend Ecovillage
YES! Magazine: Of, By, and For Seniors: Japanese Senior Cooperatives
Friends Rehabilitation Program

Sources/Further Reading:

Diana Leafe Christian, Finding Community- How to Join and EcoVillage or Intentional Community, 2007, New Society Publishers, Canada.

Charles Durrett, The Senior CoHousing Handbook, 2009, New Society Publishers, Canada.

David Wann, Reinventing Community-Stories from the Walkways of Co-Housing, 2005, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado

*Elsie Marion Andrews, Facing and Fulfilling the Later Years, Pendle Hill Pamphlet, Pendle Hill, Wallingford PA. and Howard E. Collier, Experiment with a Life. Pendle Hill Pamphlet, Pendle Hill, Wallingford PA. are available through the Pendle Hill Bookstore.

On Being a Grandparent

By Thomas G Wells, CR, CSBA

My Grandmother was born in 1895. She witnessed incredible progress in her lifetime – the introduction of automobiles, electric lights, and powered flight. She witnessed social events like the New Deal and the March on Washington. . She also witnessed horrible social catastrophes like WWI, the crash of 1929, WWII, the Viet Nam War. We lived close by and would often spend a Sunday afternoon at her home, until her death in 1973. She was born in the 19th century and here I am living in the 21st.

That realization – that three generations of a family can have their feet in two or three separate centuries – came to me when I was watching one of many TV documentaries that describe the effects of Global Warming by the year 2100. Scientists are predicting that the planet is going to be a lot hotter then, possibly 3 to 4 degree hotter on average. A hotter plant means rising sea levels, destruction of forests and crop lands, social upheaval. Can that be possible? What will Bucks County be like then? Like my Grandmother trying to imagine my 2008, it is hard to relate to those global impacts that will be common place in the 22nd century.

If my children have children, it’s very likely that those grandchildren of mine will have feet in 2100 and beyond. It might be hard to imagine what the 22nd century will be like, but imagine we must! We must not only imagine, we must act now to do something about it. The unborn grandchild, who I will someday hold in my arms, is going to be living with the consequences of what we now do or now don’t to protect our planet. Just as my Grandmother’s generation had to severely adapt to war and economic crashes, this generation must change our habits to the realities of diminishing oil, increasing CO2 levels, inequitable distribution of resources and wealth and a warming planet. The immediacy of our predicament may not be as readily apparent as it was to my Grandmother in those difficult times, but the consequences are as grave, if not more so, for us and our grandchildren.

All change starts with the individual taking personal responsibility and acting on it. Here are a few suggestions that can help save energy, save you some money, do something for the planet and all our grandchildren of the future:

1) Slow down in the car: it’s safer and saves a lot of gas and money.
2) Turn off the AC and the Heat for a few hours everyday.
3) Get an Energy Audit of your home. This will identify areas where air is infiltrating into the house envelope and provide you with strategies for filling the voids. If you are considering adding insulation to your attic, make sure you search for holes where air is coming up through the ceiling into the attic. Get a hatch or attic stairs cover. Look into dense pack cellulose and spray foam insulations. Floors are not as important as walls and ceilings in terms of payback.
4) Look into LED and florescent lighting. Most major lighting manufactures have lots of variety in florescent. We recently completed a Green kitchen remodel which used nothing but LED and florescent lights to good effect. Getting in touch with the future grandparent in me has put a lot of what I do on a daily basis in perspective. I know that I am not going to make it to 2100, but I will pretty soon know someone who will. Camara . Let’s do something great for them – Stop Global Warming and get off Mid-East Oil.

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Visit Tom’s Website