Archive for the ‘Age’ Category

Locking up grandma

January 10, 2014

I recently returned from visiting my mother. She’s in an assisted living facility and we are investigating a memory care facility, although she does not need it yet. The memory care facility locks the residents in. While touring the facility, one man suggested I put her there now, so she can adjust to it. What? She doesn’t need it yet, she’s happy where she is, and they want me to move her? I would certainly be unhappy to be put in a locked facility when I didn’t need it. It would seem like imprisonment. No, more accurately, it would be imprisonment.

I don’t resent the freedoms I’ve given up with age, because it is the price I pay for living as long as I have, but I am aware of them. I have many limitations that I didn’t have when I was younger. I spend more of my time and energy staying healthy. It takes me longer to do many things. I have trouble learning my students’ names. The list goes on.

My mother was unhappy when we persuaded her to give up her car. I don’t blame her, because having a car means freedom to go places. I will be unhappy when I reach the point I cannot work, since the ability to work is another kind of freedom. She is in her nineties. She may never need to go to the memory care facility. She could go into a nursing home or die before she goes there. I am not going to try to lock her up until she needs to be locked up.


It takes me more time to be healthy as I age

June 15, 2013

A woman who was more than a dozen years my senior told me that she always understood that she would look old, but didn’t realize she would feel old. I realized I would feel old, but I didn’t realize how much time it takes to be old and stay healthy.

I don’t have the demands on my time as when I was the mother of young children. Also, our better financial situation means that I can pay for things to be done that I used to do myself. Our condo association arranges for the snow to be shoveled. I can buy convenience food or eat out. My husband is retired and does a lot of the shopping.

It takes more and more work to attend to my health. I take more medicine just to stay healthy. Two different doctors have given me a program of exercises they want me to do daily. That comes to more than an hour a day of exercises, if I include my cardiovascular exercise.

My doctor sent me to two different specialists in the past year and my dentist and ophthalmologist each sent me to a specialist. The routine things take longer. One of my fingernails keeps splitting. I have to take care of it. I move slower and tire easier than I did years ago, which means the tasks I do take longer.

Yet, I am healthy. I took only one day of sick leave this past year, and that was the first in years. Today my husband and I took a walk to a Subway restaurant, bought lunch and returned home. The total distance was about three miles. That isn’t impressive, but I’m pleased I can do it in my late sixties. I work full time, which means generous vacations, since I teach at a community college. But I like to teach. I’ll be teaching second session summer school, which is optional.

I suppose too much leisure is not really good for anyone, but I didn’t realize that I would be spending so much time trying to keep healthy.

Where not to retire

June 23, 2012

One mental game I play whenever I travel is to ask myself if I would like to retire in the places I visit. It started many years ago, when we were staying in a town with no bookstores. I came to the conclusion that I did not want to live somewhere without many readers. I knew I could get books, but a community where there weren’t a large number of readers would not be a place I wanted to live. Nowadays, the absence of bookstores is not as indicative of a lack of readers.

We were visiting some Greek islands and the guide told us that the building we were passing was  brand new hospital. After comments from an earlier guide, we asked if it was staffed. No, the government can’t afford doctors. That island is certainly off my list.

Whenever a tour guide talks about the relaxed lifestyle, I wonder if the plumber would come promptly. When they talk about it being a playground for the rich, I know I can’t afford it. I know I’m picky. I want four seasons, but I prefer mild winters and summers. If there is a dominant culture, such as a military presence, I wonder if I would fit in. The culture of Jazz, drinking, and spicy food of New Orleans doesn’t appeal to me at all.

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to visit these places, but a quick visit is very different from living there.

Older Students

September 15, 2011

Yesterday, I happened to look in the office of two of my colleagues and found them helping students. In both cases, the students were clearly older than the average community college student. This caused me to think about it. The majority of the time I spend helping students in my office is with students who are at least thirty. In one case, the student does all the homework, and comes to me with a single problem he can’t get right. Usually he takes less than five minutes of my time, but he comes two or three times a week. This is the ideal use of my time.

I have another student who is somewhat lost, but at least he is coming to me in the beginning of the semester, when he has a chance of keeping up. Will all the older students pass? No. I have one who has missed two classes out of seven. It is unlikely she will be able to pass with that kind of attendance. But she is getting her homework to me even when she misses class, which means she has a chance of passing.

I think the older students actually want to get their money’s worth out of a class. They want to learn something, or at least learn enough to pass.

Social Security: Affluent elderly need not apply?

May 20, 2011

When my husband went to college, he resented the fact that someone he grew up with was eligible for a scholarship and he wasn’t. His neighbor’s family made more money, but saved nothing. My husband’s family paid off their mortgage and put away a remarkable amount of money for their slender income. From my husband’s point of view, he was cheated. His neighbor lived better and still got a scholarship. He didn’t understand that scholarships are not a reward for a low income, but a means to educate people who would otherwise not be educated.

There are people who would make social security into something different than what most people understand it to be. Instead of being a pension that was earned by years of payments, it would be a means of supporting the elderly in need. Translation: welfare for the elderly. Affluent elderly need not apply.

Is it fair? Well, the only completely fair way would be to tell people that anyone sixteen and older will be on the old system and the younger people will be contributing to a welfare fund, but I don’t think the government is willing to wait until those sixteen-year-olds reach sixty-two to begin reaping the benefits.

The new vs. old system has been done. The Federal Retirement system changed so that new hires were forced into the new system in 1984. The benefits of the new system to the government are probably just starting to show up.

When an individual or company breaks a contract with someone, he has the option of going to court. The government can change the laws and do what it pleases. The government has behaved honorably in the past, but finances may make that impossible. I hope the government at least attempts to keep part of it’s implied promise to workers.

Preying on the elderly

March 12, 2011

On her 91st birthday, my mother received a call saying she owed money and should pay it immediately. She did not gather enough information to be certain where she incurred the debt since she hung up on the person when he became offensive, but before she did, she told him to mail her the details. In the week since the phone call, there was no explanation in the mail.

I cannot guarantee that my mother does not owe this money, but it is not for her credit card. I checked. Her medical bills, rent, and utilities are paid for by a trust she set up decades ago. My mother’s memory is poor and she might not remember a debt. She knows this, which explains her phone message, saying she would like to pay it promptly.

I think it was a fraudulent attempt to get money from her. She does too, but still is trying to remember if there was some debt she didn’t pay. They didn’t take her money, but they took some of her peace of mind.

Nicer on the inside

December 31, 2010

My mother, who is 90, has a cluttered apartment. It isn’t exactly messy, but things are out. I was helping her organize, and to my surprise, her drawers are orderly. I always assumed that the hidden space would be less organized than the visible space.

I wish that all of us would be better on the inside than the outside.

They didn’t believe she heard a noise.

September 7, 2010

My ninety-year-old mother lives in a retirement community. She kept hearing noises at night that sounded like machinery, but they didn’t really believe her, because the noise would stop when they answered her complaint. At my suggestion, she bought a recorder and recorded the noise. She still doesn’t know what the noise is, but it mysteriously stopped immediately after she played the recording for them. It does come on during the day sometimes, but it no longer interferes with her sleep.

Am I becoming my mother-in-law?

August 10, 2010

My husband’s parents lived frugally. He worked in a meatpacking plant and she took in sewing, but I have never seen anyone else live so well on so little. They turned their backyard into a huge garden and canned or froze all of their vegetables. What they didn’t use they gave away strategically. When their neighbors went fishing, my in-laws were given fish. The sewing machine repairman serviced her machine for “free.” There was no formal barter system, but the returns were noted.

They were careful of money. They paid off their house early and never used credit cards. Lunches were carried and vacations were often camping. I don’t live that way, but I recently cut up a piece of paper so I could use the back for my shopping list. The other pieces are clipped to the refrigerator for future use. I may not become my mother-in-law, but I am imitating one of her frugal habits.


July 26, 2010

Forty years ago I gave birth to a daughter who died less than six months later of leukemia. I don’t think about her very often anymore, but sometimes I wonder what she would be like if she lived. I don’t believe her life and death were part of any grand plan, but I sometimes still feel sorrow about the waste of a young life.

There are three positive things I remember about the occasion and they all were about family. My father spoke beautifully at her funeral, and in a way that meant something to me. He spoke of the waste of the death of a baby, and that a baby’s purpose was to love and be loved. My daughter fulfilled that purpose.

The second was the general support my husband and I received from our families. We felt that they cared.

The third was almost a trivial incident that lasted just seconds. About a month after her death, my son who was not yet two saw me crying. He offered me his bottle.

Some kinds of sorrow are never completely erased, but there were good memories amongst the sad ones.