Each November, I feel thankful not only because it is the season of Thanksgiving and I have an abundance for which to be grateful but because it’s National Family Caregivers Month—a time to recognize and be thankful for selfless family members who provide care for those they love. Inevitably, I am reminded of all the days I spent caring for my own mother as she aged and eventually faded from this life.

Her dying and my caregiving is a bittersweet memory for me. It was mentally and physically challenging–to a far greater extent than I had anticipated. However, it was also a time when I felt close to her, learned from her, felt needed by her and inspired by her will to live and love me.

Like my mother, older adults often rely on their families for support. However, the role of families’ responsibilities in the care of their loved ones is complex. The family structure has changed over the last several decades. Older adults have fewer children to rely on for care in later years. Families are spread out geographically making hands-on care more difficult. The economic downturn in the last decade has depleted some people’s resources for financial supporting of aging loved ones. Many caregivers put their own fiscal well-being in jeopardy by assuming the financial responsibility of others, not to mention the toll caregiving takes on emotional and physical well-being due to ongoing intensive caregiving responsibilities.

The responsibility of caregiving has become one of the most import issues for many societies to address in the 21st century. While it is true that individuals are living longer, they are often living with chronic conditions that require some level of assistance. However, caring for a family member can be demanding and often competes with other responsibilities, such as caring for children or a job.

Let us each take time to celebrate and acknowledge those who provide care for family members. Aging demands a complex network of support with every twist and turn along the way. My experience with my mother has taught me the vital need for every human being to feel connected– connected to their histories, their communities and their families. Family caregivers are making this happen for many elders. For this, they deserve many thanks!

With midterm elections in one week, it is important for voters to plan ahead, while they can. Following are voting tips for those who wish to cast their ballots on Election Day on Nov. 6, 2018.
Make sure you:

  1. Are registered to vote. There are numerous websites where you can check your voter registration status.
  2. Know where your designated voting location is. This can change from time to time. Ohio voters can check on voter registration status and designated voting location. If you’re from a different state, just go to your secretary of state’s website which you can find by doing a web search. You can also find your polling location here along with other important information about elections.
  3. Know what you need to bring with you in order to vote. Don’t show up empty-handed. Different states require different things. You can look up what your state requires.
  4. Can get to your voting location whether by car, public transportation, walking or biking. Uber offers free rides to and from polling locations in most states. Some restrictions may apply. Lyft also offers discounted rides to and from polling locations.
  5. Know what time polls open and close. Each state differs. You can find yours here.
  6. Set aside enough time during poll hours to cast your votes. This may mean voting on your lunch break or leaving earlier in the morning and getting to the polls before work. Either way, plan ahead so it’s not a last-minute decision. Sometimes, it’s fastest to go mid-afternoon or mid-morning, when fewer people are at polls.
  7. Prepare ahead of time by reading about and studying the candidates and issues. There’s nothing worse than showing up on voting day and not knowing anything about the candidates and issues listed before you. We have the power to make informed choices based on information provided through reading the news, watching televised debates, and attending events where candidates speak. Don’t wait until the day of the election to learn more about the candidates and issues. If you are of older age, you may want to check out AARP’s article on voting for seniors to ensure you pay attention to the issues that will likely affect you. You can even see a what your ballot will entail ahead of time and learn about the candidates and issues.

In this day and age of technology and information, people have fewer excuses for not being informed prior to voting. Countless resources exist online to help people through the process. Should you run into issues that violate your rights as a voter, you have the power to report it.

Every human has the essential need to feel a sense of contribution, whether to their own lives, the lives of their family members, their relationships with others, and/or society. Contribution takes on a different set of meanings and forms for each person.

As a pioneer in the field of psychology, Erik Erikson helped develop one of the major theoretical philosophies of human development. Erikson, Erikson & Kivnick (1986) noted that elders have the time and ability to contemplate the meaning of life. They can take life’s lessons and integrate them into their beliefs about life, their behaviors and their interactions with those around them. Additionally, because of the wisdom of their years, elders have a greater ability to adapt to change.

As Erikson explained, all stages of life build upon one another to create an entire psychology of a person. Erickson’s eight psychosocial stages involve the entire life cycle, integral to life in time (Kivnick & Wells, 2013). Erikson’s theory states that development continues throughout adulthood, well into older age. Erikson acknowledged that identity issues faced in the early stages of life can recur, especially when people have reached mid-life and retirement (Osborne, 2009). Thus, elders face many challenges of identity later in life. For instance, in retirement, elders often feel a loss of identity, once work and career are no longer an integral part of their everyday experience. This can lead to psychological challenges, and individuals can regress to identity challenges faced earlier in life.

I had the honor of interviewing a woman last year who was the model for Erikson’s theory. She was in her late eighties and described common life events, experiences and concerns associated with each of Erikson’s life stages. Today, she is fully involved in her world. She continues to develop as she copes with losses of friends and family members.

The adaptation and resiliency exhibited by elders can be attributed to the integration of the experiences of stages of life. As a society, we must realize the opportunity to promote the psychological health and wellbeing of older adults. With the current social construction of aging and retirement, we risk isolating our elders and taking away the process of vital involvement that elders need to experience in order to make meaning out of their lives and help others do the same.

In fact, the principal of vital involvement requires us to recognize that elders influence their families, their communities and the field of gerontology (Osborne, 2009). When I visit long-term care facilities, I often become saddened by the lack of social interaction among the residents. I see many of individuals staying in their own rooms, day after day. There is often a sense within the facilities that the medical care is enough. We need to find ways to enrich our communities so that all individuals can receive the care they need, whether medical or social, and participate in meaningful ways.

by Molly Prues

Retrieved from Insights by Molly Prues

The Strengths of Multigenerational Collaboration

Collaboration between generations is an important way to change people’s attitudes about aging. One of a number of examples exists as a program in Pittsburg at Carnegie Mellon University. A professor, who is also an artist, created the program to collaborate with older people to create large-scale murals in public places. Younger artists pair with older adults from the city. The elders act as “custodians of history” and provide a historical vision of places throughout the city on which artists base their murals (Baker, 2014). They provide a richly textured backdrop to conversations that enable dialogue and promote cohesion (Baker, 2014).

The murals in Pittsburg represent collective collaboration. The elders’ contributions are essential to the production of a collective depiction of social life (Baker, 2014). This example demonstrates how older adults provide a vital role in society as vast resources of knowledge and wisdom. At the same time, the older adults gained a sense of purpose and value in society. Thus, the benefits were reciprocal.

Another example is the Montessori Child Center at Maple Knoll Village, a long-term care facility for older adults, in a neighborhood just north of Cincinnati. The Intergenerational Program provides activities and experiences that benefit both the younger and older persons involved. Children engage in activities with active, healthy, older adults and those more dependent on care. This increases children’s awareness and understanding of elderly persons and aging as a normal life process which people experience in different ways.

Older adults benefit from the program by actively engaging with youth, sharing stories, and helping them which provides the adults with a sense of purpose, value and youthful energy.

Opportunities for the creation of programs similar to the aforementioned ones abound. Where else multigenerational programs make sense?

Baker, D. (2014) Creative approaches to working with older people in the public realm.  Working with Older People.  18(1) 10-17.

Older adults often rely on their families for support. However, the role of families in the care of their loved ones presents complexities. The family structure has changed over the last several decades. Families are smaller. Older adults have fewer children to rely on for care in later years. Also, families spread out geographically, making hands-on care more difficult. In addition, the economic downturn in the last decade has significantly decreased the resources available for financial support of aging loved ones.

Many caregivers put their own fiscal well-being in jeopardy by assuming the financial responsibility of others, not to mention the toll caregiving takes on emotional and physical well-being due to ongoing intensive caregiving responsibilities. This additional burden stresses many caregivers, as they struggle to keep up with working and raising their own families.

The services and programs VistaLynk provides an attempt to help families so they can better help their aging loved ones, feel less mystified and more confidently address their needs.

Why do some elders thrive in later years, while others struggle? Few would argue that getting older is stressful. Later life is often marked by significant losses, such as personal relationships, finances, health, independence, and cognitive and functional abilities (Lavretsky, 2014). The phenomenon of individuals coping and continuing to thrive in the face of multifaceted losses illustrates the concept of resilience.

Resilience allows for successful aging. However, the concept of successful aging has come under scrutiny due to its limiting definition which focuses on the absence of disease and disability (Rowe & Kahn, 2015). Can successful aging exist in the face of adversity and challenge? I believe it can.

Resilience allows individuals to respond to adversity with strength. Individuals experience aging through the various aspects of biology, psychology, sociology, and cognition. Within each of these domains, the process of resilience can manifest. As a gerontologist, I strive to foster resilience in older individuals through the development of effective social programs and services aimed at helping those who care for older adults. We can learn resilience at an early age which can help us throughout our lives, well into our older adults years.

Lavretsky, H. (2014). Resilience and aging: Research and practice. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press.

Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (2015). Successful aging 2.0: conceptual expansions for the 21st century. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 70(4): 593-596.

Quote retrieved from 15 Wise and Inspiring Quotes About Aging in Psychology Today

“The wiser mind mourns less for what age takes away than what it leaves behind.”
– William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

This quote could hold different meanings depending on your perspective. For some, it may mean that as you get older, you focus more on what is most important to you. This certainly is evident in the video accompaniment to “Connections: Aging with Grace” when Mary Childress Rogers explains she doesn’t want an exotic life. Rogers says being with people she loves is the most important thing to her. Making good impressions and getting dressed up and attending cocktail parties has little meaning to her whereas she used to feel obliged to do so during her younger years but not anymore.

For others, you may understand the above quote as stating that those who focus on loss are less able to use their mental powers. Positive psychology explores the link between positive thinking and immunity and its help in treating depression by seeing the positive aspects of their lives. Focusing on loss can lead to stress and negativity, which can make the body less able to respond to attacks from bacteria and viruses, resulting in an increase in infections. Having a positive outlook on life also equips people better for dealing with serious illness. Optimists will have better physical and psychological well-being and better skills for coping with stress and hardship.

Third, to some, the above quote may mean that when you focus on your strengths rather than weaknesses, you’re more able to take advantage of your mental powers, even if they’re not quite what they were when you were younger. This occurs in much the same way positive thinking helps a person.

Bottom line is we can continue to cultivate a good life, and a healthy mind and body as we age and help others do the same.