Sometimes it starts like this: You’re having a conversation with an old friend. She’s made the decision to move to a smaller home–or maybe she’s decided to re-locate closer to her daughter. Your conversation causes you think about your own situation. Or maybe it starts…by reading a newspaper article about age-friendly living or visiting someone who lives in a home with a lot of scatter rugs and you trip and fall. No broken bones, fortunately, but it starts you thinking…
1. Your home–where you live currently. Start by evaluating it against specific criteria. Are you sure it can remain a safe, comfortable and easy-to-live-in environment as get older and are less agile–possibly less mobile. Assessment tools are available to help you objectively assess you home. These tools take a comprehensive look at your living environment to determine if it has age-friendly features like no-glare, no-slip flooring in the entry and in any hallways, task lighting in all work areas or anti-scald shower valves. You can download tools from a variety of websites including the National Association of Home Builders (http://www.nahb.org/) and Home Care Innovations (HCI-VA.com)and do these assessments yourself. As Certified Aging in Place Specialists Age-Friendly Innovation Associates, working in partnership with the Rogue Valley Council of Governments’ Lifelong Housing Certification Program, will provide an on-site assessment.
2. Your health–sit down with your health provider and talk candidly about your current and projected health status. Ask you pharmacist for an evaluation of your prescription medications. Make sure you carry a list of your medications, including dosage, with you at all times and keep it updated. Chronic condition like arthritis, diabetes and osteoporosis are present in over 85% of people over age 65. Knowing as much as you can about the chronic conditions. you have and the medications prescribed for them is life-critical. Acquire the book Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions by Kate Lorig (Stanford University). Read it. Consider attending a 6-week series called “Living Well.” See www.sohealthyoregon.org for more information about the series. Do you have an Advanced Directive outlining your end-of life preferences? Go to Choosing Options, Honoring Options for more information (www.cohoroguevalley.com)
3. Transportation–how you get where you’re going. If you drive your own automobile, think about changes in vision, hearing or or reaction time and how these changes may be affecting your driving skills. It someone else in your household is the aging driver, ask them to think about this issue. Consider taking a refresher driving course for seniors. Check on the AAA options (www.seniordrivingaaa.com). Keep in mind that a driving course of this kind can result in reduced insurance premiums. Are you no longer driving but need transportation? In one neighborhood, all the drivers placed simple GPS units on the dashboards of their cars for a month and used that information to assess where they regularly traveled. The data helped older non-drivers in the neighborhood easily link up ride-sharing with someone who always went to grocery every Tuesday morning or the beauty salon on Fridays.
4. Staying Engaged– social connections are important. The reasons for staying socially connected with friends and family as you age range from the recognition that it makes life more “fun” to having someone to call if you need help. But one of the sometimes unrecognized reasons for staying socially engaged is because it helps fight depression. Older adults are at higher risk of depression and about 1/3 of people over age 65 have some form of depression. Signs of depression include sleep problems, apathy, fatigue, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, hopelessness and thoughts of suicide. Consult you doctor and talk candidly. Identify a trusted friend and “let the sad out.” Untended grief can manifest itself in depressive symptoms. For more information about depression, access the five-module, on-line course Mastery of Aging Well (Http://wwww.outreach.oregonstate.edu/programs/agingwell/modules/ ) or consult WebMed (www.webmedmd.com/depression/ ).
5. Caregiving— “Are you a caregiver? ” You may say, “No.” But to that most experts would respond, “You will be…” Stand ready. More than 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability (AARP, 2008).There are a myriad of caregiving websites. AARP (www.aarp.org/) is often the gatekeeper for information on caregiving. The Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) also have useful data and resource references. The Caregiver Helpbook is a rich and valuable resource. Look for Powerful Tools of Caregiving classes in your area. Contact your local senior service office for information. Use the ADRC (Aging and Disability Resource Connection) Helpline 855-673-2372 https://www.adrcofOregon.org