Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I had the opportunity to speak at another women’s group about the book and there was a good discussion about communication and/or lack of it. I don’t know what the ladies did about their families after they left, but maybe they made a call to help mend fences or reach out.

I also met with a person to help set up a support group for persons with depression. We thought we could use the book, Voices of Older Women as a guide. It would be a good source or trigger for discussion. It didn’t work out but I believe I shall use it here on my blog as a trigger for discussion here for bloggers.

While preparing for the Voices Of Older Women book, I interviewed 100 women from 50 to 97 years old. We talked about many issues. I’d like to discuss some of them here on this blog. Many said that they would like to communicate more with families, but knew they were busy and didn’t want to impose on them.

Let’s start with Chapter 1 of Voices. The chapter announces the problem which is that many older women are invisible to families and society. That they are overlooked ignored, not called on for advice, not acknowledged, nor appreciated for who they are and what they do.
Did you ever feel like that? Do you find ways to express it or talk about it with family and friends? Or do you push it aside and accept that as your fate? What does it feel like?
Let’s talk about it.

At a meeting about long term care issues and Medical and Veterans services, I found out that many don’t know about the help available for older persons who find themselves in need of services. This is as it has always been. People are not interested or do not have a need to know until there is a crisis. Then they start to look for help when a little foresight could have helped them to plan for the inevitable.

Is it the same in communication? Do people hold off telling loved ones how they really feel until there is a crisis? What do you have to lose by sending an email or card, or calling a relative just to say, “Hi, how are you and I love you.”?
It could be the most important conversation of the day for the recipient and by the way the caller too.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Message Most Relevant Now

I had and opportunity to speak about the relevance of the book, Voices Of Older Women, on Monday, to a group of older ladies. The emphasis was on intergenerational communication and the imperative need for it at this time. Faced with the many scams, and frauds going around now especially among seniors, who can be vulnerable to them, we need to know what is going on with our older family members.

When I mentioned some of the current scams reported in the newspaper and on by the media almost everyone had an example or story to tell. This is happening right now everywhere. In light of the bad economy, the perpetrators are becoming more desperate and bold. We need to be talking to our older family members.

Improving Communication

I emphasized that we need to understand the different values and characteristics of the generations in order to communicate well with one another. We are coming from different points of view and it is hard to be completely honest with each other.

How much do we really know about our older relatives?
For instance the G.I. generation aged 85 to 108 and the Silent Generation aged 67 to 84 sometimes find it difficult to talk about how they are really getting along and what they need. The Baby Boomer Generation aged 49 to 66 may not press them for information for many reasons. The solutions would be different between the generations.

Some of the ladies present were at odds with their families and are searching for ways to get together. One woman was planning to get five or so friends together in a group to discuss ways to improve communication with families.

What other ways could we improve communication? How do we mend fences?
Do you know what your mother’s hopes and dreams are? Did you ever ask her what really bothers her? Do you know what her favorite person, place, or thing is? Do you know what her passion is? What her talents and skills are? Maybe we should make some time and ask. Do your children know these things about you?

It is important to build the trust so we can talk about long term care issues. What would you like done if you become gravely ill? Do you have a Durable Power of Attorney?
There are many other questions to be asked and answered.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Voices Of Older Women Message is Relevant

Voices of Older Women: What They Want to Say; Why You’re Not Listening has a very relevant message. It is that we need to talk to each other and listen to each other. We have a lot to teach each other. In light of the situation we find ourselves in now at this time in history, the message is more important than ever. We need to come together and be available and ready to help one another. We may not be able to solve the big problems in the world but we can make a difference in the lives of our families and neighbors.

Beginnings Endings and what’s in the middle.
Someone said life is what happens while you are planning your life. Isn’t it the truth? Did you ever expect to see such a terrible economy right in the middle of planning for next year’s vacation, that new home, travel to a special place, college education, or retirement?

How are you handling the economic crisis? Are you fearful of losing your job? Are you concerned about what may happen if we continue on this scary path of failing economy and bad news everywhere? It seems that everything we hear in the news now in terms of the economy is bad, getting worse, and the worst is yet to come. It is scary. How can we not be fearful? We need to know that things can and will get better. We need to have some hope that things will turn around. Our American history proves that it will. But we don’t hear that on the news.

Let us look to our elders - our older relatives and have a talk with them. They have lived through both bad and good times. They have seen it all. They are experienced in dealing with bad economic times. Did you ever ask your grandparent about the Great Depression, or WWII? They never talked much about those times but they had to deal with many problems. Some men worked two or three jobs to make enough money to buy food. During the war people found that many items were rationed. Women joined the work force while men went to war. Families had to help each other and their neighbors.

Ask your parents and grandparents what they think about the situation. Getting together with some older members of our families and in society might allay some fears that we have now. They have experience and memories of difficult times. They also know that “this too shall pass”. They may have some ideas of how to turn things around. We could have an elder forum - a group of seniors at church or at a senior center or even at the schools to talk with us - bring some comfort and consolation to those of us who are fearful and worried about the future. Let’s invite them to talk to us.

Older people have the time, patience, and experience to talk and listen to the younger people who may be worried about their situation in life and are looking for some answers.
In Voices there is mentioned a web site, Elder Wisdom Circle, which is a nationwide organization of seniors offering free advice through the internet.
Fourteen members meet as a group and go over requests for advice, and come up with the best solution. This group was originally set up by Doug Meckleson, who often turned to his grandmother for advice, and wanted to have a place where seniors could use their life experiences to help others. Check out the website. www.elderwisdomcircle.org.

Read more!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings and Endings
Somebody died this week. A neighbor of mine just died suddenly. She hadn’t been sick or given any indication that her life was about to end but it did suddenly. It just happened. We came back from a short trip and someone told us that she had died. It was a terrible shock.

She was a wife, mother and grandmother, a sister, daughter, friend, actress, and I’m sure many other things to many people. I don’t know how she got along with her family. I don’t know if she had resolved issues with her children about old grievances. I don’t know if she had prepared herself for the possibility even though it could happen any time.
But I hope she did.

I wonder if she had anyone that she had wanted to call but put it off. She probably got busy and thought there would always be time. She may have had someone she wanted to thank but never got around to it. She would do it tomorrow. She probably had many things she wanted to do, but would take care of them tomorrow. Now her family and friends will get together to mourn her passing and celebrate her life.

We are unprepared for death even though it is inevitable. We don’t think about it and certainly don’t talk about it. There are so many other things to do. But her sudden death reminds me of all the "stuff" I want to sort out, people I want to call, cards and letters I want to send, family and friends I want to tell that I love them, visits I want to make, and time to sit and enjoy the beauty of life. I want to celebrate life now! But I guess I’ll do it tomorrow.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009


New Beginnings
To wonderful older women: The holidays are over and now we can look at some new beginnings in the New Year. Have you made some resolutions? Let’s change them to dreams and bring them into reality. What do you really want to do this year? Are there some family relationships that need help and improvement? Is there something you always wanted to do but keep putting it off until you feel better, have more money, or have the time? Are you waiting for someone to call? Is there someone you need to apologize to or forgive for something? Do you need to allow more exercise into your life? Now is the time to do it. If not now, when? What are you waiting for? If you have been inactive for a while it may be hard to get started but let’s go. Pick one new thing to do this month and do it!

Baby Boomers: You too can make a resolution to acknowledge your older relatives Make some time for them. Schedule them into your week. Call them regularly, send emails, and make an effort to visit more often and include them in your lives. Find out how they are really getting along.

Behind Closed DoorsWhen I was interviewing women for the book Voices of Older Women, I met many active and talented ladies who found many new ways to find purpose in their lives after raising their families. I also met several who were not active and found it difficult to get out and do things. They were very lonely and isolated and hidden behind closed doors so to speak because they found it very hard to let their families know their situation.

The word I hear in my own community is that many older women are alienated from their families for many different reasons either geographically or emotionally. This separation has not been easily understood or accepted without hurt and not knowing how to solve the problem.

As I continue my volunteer work with a senior program that provides volunteer visitors to some of the more lonely, isolated seniors, I have the opportunity to meet many older persons, mostly women, who are living alone and are homebound for many different reasons. The one thing they many seem to have in common is loneliness. This loneliness can be a very pervasive, overcoming, and debilitating feeling. It causes a person to feel unwanted, unimportant, and forgotten, which is reinforced when no one calls or comes by to visit. One can spend many days thinking, and remembering sad events and it is hard to come up out of the doldrums because there seems to be no reason to do this.

The reason may be because one has recently lost a spouse or because one does not get out much because of disabilities or lack of transportation. Or it may be that they have moved away from their family home and friends and find it difficult to make more friends. In any event the result is they are home alone and lonely. Let’s face it – getting old alone is not good. Just when one needs socialization more than ever it disappears. One forgets how to be hospitable when there is no one to be hospitable with except the TV.
A person may even have family nearby, who are very busy with their own jobs and children and have forgotten to schedule in their older relative. The older person does not always let the family know how lonely she is. She kind of thinks that the family should know this and remember to call or stop in. Consequently, the communication stops and neither really know how the other is doing.

The visitor program matches the older person with a volunteer who visits once a week and provides the minimum of socialization but is sometimes a real life line to a person isolated and lonely behind closed doors. But it is a last resort to a major problem.
The problem is that there is a lack of honest communication between generations which leaves one person very lonely but also deprives both of learning about each other.

There is a need for communicating long before the older relative is totally alone and isolated. The family needs to know what to do if the older relative becomes ill. The older relative needs to be able to trust that the family will honor their wishes about long term care issues, finances, and living arrangements. This can only be done through early ongoing conversations. You can start the conversation now. Let’s remove the barriers to communication between the generations.

Next some community efforts at finding ways to communicate with each other.

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