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Elder Services in Your Town - Follow Up

Our experiment two days ago in holding a TGB open forum or what might be called a reader-to-reader feedback day on a specific issue appears to be a rousing success. The question of the day, from SusanG, was

”...what senior services are offered by your town, do you use them, or are their other services you would like to see offered?”

Commenters did an excellent job of letting us know what does and doesn't work in their communities and what could be improved. Many of you named the town or area where you live and that was particularly interesting to me.

Today's post is a short summary of your responses.

A number of readers are pleased with their local transportation – in such places as Fresno, Sacramento, Seattle, Ann Arbor, Cape Cod. Those communities use a variety of solutions: free or reduced-fare public transportation; scheduled buses to senior centers or shopping; inexpensive taxis for medication transportation, etc.

Lack of transportation is a big issue for a larger group of readers in such places as Yonkers, a Texas town, western Michigan, Montreal as it is in almost all rural and suburban areas in the U.S. and, I'm guessing, Canada too.

One person suggested the new, app-controlled taxi-like services Uber and Lyft.

They are mostly available only in large cities and they are controversial, so much so that Germany has banned them and some cities in the U.S. are looking into serious issues of insurance, liability, etc. that are required for licensed taxis but not these new services.

Just yesterday, a German judge lifted the ban but appeals are going forward. You can read more here and with that in mind, of course it's up to you to decide to use the services or not.

A few of readers reported mostly good elder services in their areas: Yonkers, Spain, Canada (transportation in Montreal notwithstanding) and an area of suburban New Jersey where SusanG, who submitted the question, lives.

As has been revealed in many surveys and studies of elder needs and desires for community services, more opportunities for social engagements are high on every old person's list.

Jean wrote poignantly of a common dilemma many of us share as friends die or move away:

”I don't have family near-by and no close friends. (I didn't get out much when I was a full-time caregiver to my husband for 12 years and a part-time caregiver to my dad in the 5 years before that.)

“Since my husband died 2 1/2 years ago I've been working my tail off trying to be active in various groups to help build friendships but but so far I have many friendly acquaintances but no close friend to exchange favors with.”

That's a big one for many of us old folks.

As several readers mentioned, almost as important as personal relationships is the small stuff – that can easily build up into big stuff. Suz put it this way:

”I would appreciate someone to clean and put away the outdoor furniture next week; someone to come by once or twice a year to explain the new (and old!) tech information for computer and cell phones.

“Someone who could assist going through boxes of memorable or useless items that now number in the dozens; help with eliminating unwanted clothing and household items & then donating them to my favorite homeless shelter.

“And I'd love for someone who could put together a list of all the small, pesky things (like screen repairs, paint touch-ups, ceramic gluing, etc.) and have it all done.”

These regularly needed and one-time household chores are precisely the kind of things that Villages volunteers can do so well. Jean left a note asking for links about how Villages work and how to start one.

Instead of many links, I'll give you one that that has an excellent library information from which you can pick and choose as is useful to you.

It is the website of Villages NW, my local Villages “hub” working hard to help build the (so far) eight Villages being developed in the Portland, Oregon area. Use the dropdown menus under the headers, Learn About Villages and Resource Library, where there are dozens of informative papers.

Cathy Johnson of Rockford, Illinois, left a comment about her visit to “Senior Expo” where, she says, only about 10 percent of the exhibitors had information of real value to elders:

”The majority were selling insurance, high-priced in-home care, bathtubs for those who cannot use a standard one, food supplements (the only vendor of these that I spoke to could not tell me the contents, only that it 'helped him avoid a recommended knee replacement a couple of years ago')...”

Yeah, right. You can read Cathy's entire comment here.

So Tuesday's forum experiment confirmed some beliefs I have on elder needs and supplied a lot of new information, as I hope it did for you. As usual, all the comments were thoughtful, informative and useful.

This idea came from SusanG and just when I needed it, too. For a variety of reasons over the next several weeks I will not have as much time as usual to give to this blog.

The best reason is that Peter Tibbles, the “musicologist” who writes the Sunday Elder Music column on this blog and Norma, the assistant musicologist, arrive next week from Melbourne for a good, long visit I've been eagerly awaiting.

If Tuesday is any indication, the TGB Forum is a great way to reduce my time obligation and still keep the blog fresh every day. Here's how you can help:

In the comments today, leave your suggestions for future TGB Forum topics. It might be best to state them in the form of a question but that's not a requirement and don't let it confine you. They can be serious, informational or just fun/funny. As always at TGB, they must relate in some manner to aging.

You will be credited if I use your suggestion so if you have a personal blog, be sure to include the URL in the comment form so I have the link.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: A Long Lost (with good reason) Lone Ranger Show


What did you always plan to do when you were retired? Read all the books you never got to, take up an exercise program, go back to school, do the minor house repairs. volunteer somewhere, cook from scratch everyday, have a large vegetable garden, sleep in until noon, do crafts,travel...or??? Did you do it or not? Why or why not?

I would like to know why hearing aids cost so much and who profits from the sales. A cost breakdown from maker to consumer would be interesting.

The mind boggles when it comes to topics of interest to seniors. They can range from the latest in technology to healthy living. However, the one thing that I know is interesting to many folks like us is money. So many seniors are on fixed or reduced income and anything that would help us save or stretch our $$ would be appreciated.

Have you taken or taught (or both) classes in a "learning in retirement" program? Was the experience good/neutral/not so hot? If "not so hot"... what would have made it better? Did you make friends there?

I'd love to know if, why and where you chose to volunteer in retirement and how does your volunteer work build on your former career.

Creative jobs in retirement?

What was your biggest surprise in retirement?

What was your biggest reward in retirement?

If you are retired, how were you treated by your employer in the last years you were working? Respected elder? Or Old f* who should leave us young folk to carry on? Did your manager make things so uncomfortable that you retired just to get some relief?

After retiring, do you keep up with what's happening in your former profession? Why?

If you are over 75 or better yet 80, and still out there doing great without issues, to what do you owe your good health -- something you eat, take, do? Don't do, never did? Always did?

If you were interviewed what would you say or suggest to those who want to grow old strong and still good to the last drop?

How do you get economical dental care once you use Medicare for your medical needs? I've paid for 2 "initial exams" this year, but can't afford the "plans" either dentist came up with. To go to yet another one, I'll again have to pay for the initial exam. I'm not yet eligible for Clinics, for those who have no resources, but if I pay for these plans, in a year I will be broke. Already being 72, I don't see investing all my savings into my teeth. Any suggestions?

I'd be interested in getting ideas on how to make friends with people who are younger (even much younger) than you. It seems to me that the only way to combat being friendless because contemporaries die off is to make friends with younger folks, but I find it really hard to do. At social events, people do seem to congregate in age groups.

I have a son but it looks as if I may never have grandchildren, so I don't have that outlet. My son doesn't seem inclined to include me in social events with friends (and I don't blame him). So how do I break the age barrier?

Can relate to so many of the comments.
When I feel good
like at the moment
doing everything in my wonderful nature filled surroundings. But when a health crisis happens like this past summer
I felt alone on the planet
and children remind me
I wanted to spend these last years in my edge of the woods retreat and far from them....
So now I aware of what I need in case of emergency and so far most will be taken care of. Nothing remains the same
especially when 80 is around the corner..

I nodded my head when I read Jean's comment yesterday. When you are living alone in your house with no family close by little things can become big problems. So my question is: What do you do when you need someone to do minor house repairs such as caulking a window or repairing an electrical outlet, etc.? Who do you call for help and are there any inexpensive handy men or volunteers in your area?

Home repair has been my biggest problem since my husband died and I have had more incompetent handy men than I can count. I have been cheated, robbed and had to pay to have someone fix the thing the last handy man did wrong. If you use a licensed contractor it costs an arm and a leg. This is a need that most social services don't provide.

I should add that there is a Social Service here that use volunteers to do light housework and yard work, but there is only one woman who volunteers and you have to wait a long time for her help. As far as I know there are only 2 men who volunteer to do light yard work.

Who is your longest duration friend? How did you meet? Is this the person you see at the breakfast table each day? How do you nurture the friendship especially if you live far away? Has the friendship evolved over the years... or is it pretty much stuck in talking about the good old days and trading photos of the grandkids?

Many retirees say they plan to do some traveling. Did you? Did you encounter any problems that you attribute to being older? Did you have a good time or in 20/20 hind sight would a travel video have scratched that itch?

What was the most out of character activity you have done since retiring? The thing that had your children wondering what ever has happened to Dad (or Mom)?

Do those who have experienced losing a spouse have any advice for those of us who will be facing that unhappy event in the future? How does life change for a widow (or widower)?

Also, I like Trudi's question about tips for travel.

I would like to add my vote for a few of the topics mentioned already, especially dental care, household repairs and maintenance issues, and finances.[snip]

In addition to the topics I've listed, I would also enjoy hearing more about what other people expected retirement to be like, and what it has actually been like, what they do with their time, what they would do differently, if they could, or what changes they have made.

Ronni, Peter, Norma - have a terrific time together!

Does anyone know of any worthwhile retreats for elders? I used to frequent Esalen where there were workshops for self-growth, arts, yoga, meditation, etc., but I'd like to find one (residential 3-7 day) geared for seniors (or rather, those over 55-60). Not looking for a landlocked cruise type, nor ones with religious origin.

How have you changed over the years? Do you feel wiser now that you're old? What do you wonder about? What are you grateful for?

I'd like to know if anyone has done much train travel, and how it went, what were the fun parts and the problems. I know Amtrak has somewhat of an elder discount, and I can no longer travel by air. Loved the trains when I was younger. Anyone gone across Canada by train?

So, do we wait to answer these questions until Ronni brings that topic up as a stand-alone column? Or how will this work?

Tamsin and others...
Well, I guess once again I have not written clearly. I thought I said I would post one of your topics now and again when I need a quick post to have some fresh material when I am otherwise engaged.

Apparently I failed. Nevertheless, I am making an executive decision:

If you are interested in random answers to a bunch of different questions on this post - one here, two there, none on some other questions without any continuity - go ahead.

However, if that happens, because it's my blog and I'm interested in sustained conversation one topic at a time, I will cancel the feature.

What would be more useful are good ideas for single topics in the future.

Montreal has excellent transit as do most Canadian cities even the smaller ones. The problem is that people who never take transit don't want to start when they are older. They are a) scared? or b) don't like waiting for a bus. I live in a 150K town which has decent service. I took it as a commuter. Once people stop taking it they never resume, always coming up with reasons, too cold,too wet, five minutes walk is too far etc. etc.

None of the seniors around me ever took transit when they lost their licence or should have stopped. They either took taxis, got drives from friends or signed up for the town disabled mini-vans that are supposed to be for people who can't walk to the bus. Real disabled people took the regular buses which can lower to the curb to let you drive a walker or wheelchair on board. Drivers basically become lazy.

What Vera said is true. we have good public transit, but many senior seniors gradually stop using it.

Several posts have mentioned making new friends, of all ages, now that we are retired and over 60.

Posed as a question ... How active are you at meeting new people for potential friendship? What are your best methods?

Another topic that might have been previously covered (haven't searched):
What ideas do you have for helping out or cheering up a friend who is ill or is a caregiver for sick spouse/relative, and they live 500+ miles away? Especially when you're not familiar with their town.

Ronni - I also prefer a focused, single subject column for most days. Perhaps you could have one called "free for all" where any subject is up for asking and responding.

Darlene - just read about the flooding in your area - hope all's good at your home.

What suggestions do you have for coping with anxiety attacks, especially those that come before a scheduled medical procedure (colonoscopy)and a major surgery (removal of entire thyroid gland) when you have had complications and reactions in previous procedures and major surgeries? I have not tried visiting with a psychologist yet...Each surgery since I turned 65 (there have been 6) has exponentially created more anxiety which is embarrassing and so difficult to control.

P.S. I will be 73 in December and am facing the colonoscopy, the thyroid surgery, cataract surgery, and thumb reconstruction because of severe and painful arthritis. I am anxious just thinking about this while writing. Please share any helpful info that you can!

Ronni, while I agree that not everyone understood the one-topic reader-to-reader concept. I am still impressed with the response and found the information useful. As I have become involved more with local politics over the last year-or-so, it helps to know what is going on in other areas, what the elders themselves think works or doesn't work.

As an aside, last year when a group of us spoke up against a ballot questions we asked to address the two senior groups in our town.[Seniors vote!] They said no because many of their activities were funded by the township and they were afraid they would lose their funding.

BTW, thanks for trying my suggestion. I now feel incredibly guilty about letting my blog lapse. Maybe it is time to resuscitate it.

Whoa. I'll never ask a question again.

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