Kathy Silverberg. Secretary of Senior Friendship Centers' Board of Governors, Kathy is currently a newspaper columnist/ freelance writer, and previously was Southern Region Publisher for the Sarasota Herald Tribune and Editor/General Manager of four New York Times regional newspapers. She serves as liaison between United Way of Charlotte County and the Senior Friendship Centers. She is past chair of the Board of the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce, is a board member and past president for United Way of Charlotte County; and, is chair of Charlotte County’s Senior Leadership Council.
Posted May 29
I know I’m getting old when I become overwhelmed by the product choices offered at grocery and discount stores these days. And just to make it more difficult, manufacturers of consumer goods are constantly changing the packaging making it all the harder to recognize the items with which you have become familiar.
This problem is all the more challenging for my 89-year-old father who cared for my mother at the end of her life and by necessity became the household shopper. He is forever getting the wrong size trash bags, picking up the large boxes of Kleenex that won’t fit in the boutique-size tissue holders and getting detergent without the “He” designation for use in front-loading washing machines.
Then there is the matter of manufacturers that frequently discontinue products altogether. You purchase a liquid soap dispenser for the bathroom and before you know it, the refills are no longer available. The moisturizer that you’ve used for years is no longer available and the cold medicine that has worked for you has been recalled. Ugh!
I’m still hopeful that I have not gotten too old to adapt, even if it takes a little more effort and causes some confusion, but for my father, it is far more difficult. I’ve thought that perhaps if I made a list of common items he buys with a complete description it may help, but I haven’t acted on my idea.
The other problem Daddy has is buying items he already has in the pantry. Interior designers who plan pantries with shelves so deep that they gobble up canned goods and boxes of crackers should have to live with their choices. Same goes for those who plan cave-like kitchen cabinets that require a person to stand on his head to reach the measuring cups that have slipped behind the mixing bowls.
Thankfully, some resourceful people are coming up with all sorts of more people-friendly kitchen options that eliminate some of this frustration. And the movement to age in place is giving birth to a variety of home accommodations to make things easier for older residents. Consider the lever handles that have replaced the modest door knob that caused difficulty for arthritic hands. Grab bars in the bathroom, higher toilets and wider doorways are also becoming popular.
So I guess as confusing as the proliferation of new products has become, it is good to know that some people are working to make life easier as we age. And, it is important to realize that much of the new product development is geared toward better serving the needs and desires of a changing population. Or, is it just a ploy to get us to buy more than we need or can use? Oops, I’m sounding way too cynical and I can’t stand crabby old people.
NAVIGATING THROUGH LOSS WITHOUT LOSING ONE'S ZEST FOR LIFE
posted April 5, 2012
Losing a loved one is never easy but as life progresses, the chances of that happening on a more regular basis increase. Those of us lucky enough to live a long life will lose relatives and friends along the way. It is just the nature of things.
So how do we deal with the losses and still maintain our zest for life? It is not an easy question and the answers depend on lots of factors including our individual personalities and how we relate to others as well as conditions including health, economic status and family structure.
Truth is, life at all stages is a series of gains and losses. As a child grows up, he gains new abilities and freedoms but often loses the sense of comfort that comes from staying close to the nuclear family. It is scary to strike out on your own whether that means a new school, a new job or a new place to live.
With every loss comes a grieving process. Though it may seem incongruous to compare losing a job with losing a close relative, there are similarities. We miss the way things were, the comfort of the familiar, the pleasures of relationships that have been constant over time. When there is a change in those or other circumstances, it can be jarring to the psyche and even cause physical ailments.
The website Helpguide.org points out that the stress that comes with life changes can be mitigated by resources such as a strong support network of family and friends, maintaining a sense of control and having the self-confidence to know you can make it through the changes, having the ability to bring your emotions into balance and maintaining an optimistic attitude. The website’s article, “Understanding Stress,” also points out that the more preparation and information a person has about a coming change the easier the transition will be.
All that said, it is hard to navigate through the challenges that life presents. But staying engaged and sharing feelings with others who have experienced similar situations can help. As my mother used to say, “Things have a way of working out.” I believe that. I also believe that it helps to allow for grieving while still keeping in mind that a better day is ahead and that life is to be lived with all its complexities.
posted Feb. 16
For too long, the view has been that senior citizens can be put in one of two categories: either they play golf or they live in a nursing home and that sooner or later most will fall into the latter.
As some 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, this stereotype is becoming less and less applicable. In fact, it is just as difficult to capture older Americans with a simple description as it would be for any age group.
A generation or so ago, when I was heavily involved in what we thought at the time was re-inventing newspapers – little did we know of the challenges that lay ahead – we discussed at length techniques designed to attract young readers. We decried the old belief that young people would be interested in reading a “teen” page.
Instead, the research was telling us teens and young adults wanted to see themselves and topics that interested them integrated into the total newspaper package. They wanted to read about pop culture, movies and entertainment but they also wanted to stay up to date on important developments at home and around the world, especially if they could relate through people their own age.
Our techniques aimed at creating more young newspaper readers were probably too little too late. But the theory that any particular segment of society can be considered as a monolithic, homogeneous group is erroneous, and no more so than seniors.
Many people well into their 80s are leading very active lives, engaged in a myriad of activities from fulltime employment to volunteer work to competitive sports. Some have the means to enjoy a busy retirement filled with travel, hobbies and other leisure pleasures. Many others are juggling finances as they look ahead to a life that will likely last much longer than they imagined just a few decades before. And, too many are facing very difficult choices dictated by health concerns, dwindling resources and unsuitable living situations.
It is a diverse group with priorities and concerns that span the spectrum. But they face a society that has for too long looked at aging as a problem to be solved instead of a reality to be appreciated.
Seniors are viewed by many as having done their work, having made their contribution and now they should be content to watch Fox News and have dinner at restaurants that offer early-bird specials.
It is up to those who know the fallacy of this perspective to change it one relationship at a time.