The desire to be loved and adored doesn’t automatically disappear once one reaches his or her golden years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the life expectancy for females is 81.2 and for males, 76.4 years old; with men and women living longer than ever before, there’s plenty of time for a love life. These days, seniors are no strangers to the dating scene and nor should they.
Just because the senior population is living longer and alone, doesn’t mean they should have to pass on companionship. In 2014, 72% of senior citizen aged men and 46% of women of the same age were married. In the same year, there were 8.7 million widows and 2.3 million widowers. While divorce and separation in older individuals remains low at 14%, the percentage has almost tripled since 1980. The statistics prove that there are many seniors on their own.
Although many seniors are happy to live alone or don’t want to attempt the dating scene ever again, many could benefit from companionship.
Take the Plunge, Start Dating
If you are a senior, living alone and longing for companionship, don’t be afraid to get yourself out there and start looking for a potential partner. While it can be an overwhelming adventure, take small steps, be confident, and have fun. There’s no point to dating if you’re not going to enjoy the process. Afraid of be viewed as too silly or immature? Senior citizens dating is more popular (and normal) than ever. Here are some tips to get started:
- Join Groups: If you want to meet new people the old-fashioned way, you’re going to have to take an active role. Check out classes at your senior center or try activities you’ve never done before (i.e. yoga, hiking, cooking), there may be eligible mates in attendance. Some senior communities have “Singles Groups”, don’t pass up the opportunity to mingle.
- Look Up an Old Friend: Still think about that old significant other from high school or college? Wonder what he or she has been up to all these years? Do a simple internet search or look them up on a social media site like Facebook. Seems too farfetched? You never know, your long lost love may be living alone and looking for companionship as well.
- Consider Online Dating: If you consider yourself tech-savvy, give online dating a try. While there are pros and cons to online dating, there are plenty of age appropriate sites just for seniors, such as AARP, Stitch, eHarmony, and Our Time. Many people prefer online dating because they feel like it’s easier to be themselves, but at the same time, some people pretend to be someone they are not.
- Online Dating Safety: While a majority of online dating is legitimate and safe, you should always be cautious when sharing your information. It’s easy to get swept away by the perfect profile and Mr. or Mrs. Right who seems to pen the most beautiful love notes, but it’s important to beware of potential online scams that can leave you heartbroken and penniless.
When dating, don’t be afraid to be yourself, don’t forget to communicate all or your expectations (it’s okay to be picky), and don’t forget to have fun. While you may not find the love of your life, you may find the perfect dance partner or dinner date, just use your head before your heart.
In the current form of the cyber world, safety has become an issue for a great many reasons. Utilizing the internet can sometimes bring more harm than good, especially when the user is rather clueless of the mechanics of it all. Over-sharing through the internet is a serious issue that is mainly common among young ones. With the recent fluctuation of users, its important to consider cyber security for seniors. They may not be very familiar with technology, and may fall prey to online dangers more easily. This is where the Center for Internet Security comes in.
The Threat of Scams Challenges Cyber Security for Seniors
One of the main concerns of internet security are scams, and their ability to spread prolifically around the globe. There are mountains of evidence of scams that have cost fortunes. Among the most common victims are the elderly who can be a little too nice, and even gullible, when it comes to sharing. On top of this fact, they are also less likely to report it. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has stated that older Americans are less likely to report a fraud, even after having experienced it.
A Discernible Level of Awareness
Internet users must be wary of suspicious messages. The elderly must be warned of ‘inviting’ messages like “Free gifts!” and “You’re a winner!” They need to be able to know their rights and limitations as internet users. Your elders must not fall for messages that call for urgency through warnings or scares of their accounts being closed, “new relatives” who suddenly need financial help, and other such scams to con them out of their money. If your elderly loved one does not have the ability to distinguish between safe and appropriate internet activity, then it might be necessary to keep their internet usage under personal watch. Check last visited sites and social media accounts every now and then if you suspect something fishy is going on.
Check Online Purchases
The need for internet precaution and watchfulness increases if your elderly loved ones like to shop online or use their credit card for other online transactions. This includes the games that they could be playing, or attempts to pay bills through their computer. Buying online has been made as simple as a few clicks, so it is important to be sure that the purchases that are made and sites that are being visited are safe. In such cases, you can consider requiring your authorization for their purchases, depending on their needs.
Keeping your elderly loved ones safe online is essential. Though certain internet security steps are in place, many elderly are still falling prey to online predators known as “catfish scams.” These are people with fake online profiles that try to extort money from their victims. Although, it might feel intrusive to pry on your elderly loved one’s internet activity, it is a necessary evil in keeping them safe in the long run.
To maintain your security, visit the official guidelines here and keep up with the latest internet safety tips.
As people begin to age, they begin to require additional assistance. As the child of aging parents, watching this process can be surreal and painful. The people who provided you with all your needs for so long, the seemingly invincible adults whose strength and vigor taught you what means to live with energy, slowly begin to weaken. They slow down. They don’t think as well. They age.
Aging parents can often use a helping hand. Food, laundry, cleaning, and many other common tasks begin to get overwhelming and even dangerous. You need to step in and help out. And yet, your parents aren’t helpless. They’re proud people. They’re still the same strong adults who grew you from a seed into the full fledged adult you are now. You don’t want to be rash. Don’t banish your beloved parents to a nursing home. Nursing homes are the source of thousands of abuse complaints every year, according to Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard.
Luckily, many businesses offer top notch services that will help keep your parents independent. Consider these and others like them.
Cooking is hard. Even experienced professionals make dangerous mistakes. And certain techniques, like deep frying, can make any kitchen a flammable hazard. Moreover, easy meals may not be ideal for an aging person’s health. Enormous numbers of aging adults today are suffering from diabetes or prediabetes, conditions that are tricky to care for. Here are some good services to keep your folks well-fed and satisfied.
- Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is a classic service that helps elderly people—and others—to get nutritious food with minimal effort. Good variety, solid service, and a long history of success make this service a comfortable one.
- Mom’s Meals. Like Meals on Wheels, Mom’s Meals provides a wide variety of nutritious frozen foods to seniors and other people with special needs. And many insurance and social services programs cover the cost.
Home Health Aides
Home health aides aren’t quite nurses, aren’t quite cooks, aren’t quite cleaning professionals. They combine elements of all three and more. A home health aide is a professional jack-of-all-trades, someone able to adapt to whichever needs your parents have. Flexible, generous, and multi-skilled, home health are a great tool to keep your parents out of the nursing home. They’ll help cook, clean, check meds, and take care of the miscellaneous needs that arise regularly for aging people.
An app a day may keep the nursing home away. Technology can provide all kinds of solutions for an aging parent. Don’t stereotype your elders; older people often take to cutting edge tech with the enthusiasm of a geeky teen. Health apps, communication gadgets, self-driving cars, etc. The modern world is overflowing with convenient sleek wonders that can provide your aging parents with access to all the world’s joys. And technology can keep your folks independent. Some pieces of tech may allow your parent to communicate directly with healthcare professionals without having to make direct contact; no need to have a nurse stop by twice a day—record blood sugars and upload the data from home.
The winter months can be a welcome sight for many people who love the snowy landscapes of frosty trees and winter activities, but winter can also make life limiting and dangerous for older individuals. With winter comes slippery ice, drifting snow, and cold temperatures, which can keep some seniors housebound and feeling isolated. Staying safe and healthy during the winter months is crucial and can contribute to an elder’s wellbeing the rest of the year.
Get a Flu Shot
The flu is notorious for arriving in the winter time. While flu shots are encouraged for anyone of any age, seniors over the age of 65 should always opt for a flu vaccine as it can be a lifesaver. Older individuals, who contract the flu, are more likely to have complications that can have life threatening results. One of the best ways to stay safe during the winter time is by staying healthy.
Winterize Your Home
Keeping your home warm in the winter can be a challenge, but some simple winterizing steps can cut down on heating bills and the risk of having complications related to the cold, such as hypothermia. Elderly individuals are more susceptible to hypothermia because they aren’t able to produce the same amount of body heat as younger individuals. The best way to prevent life threatening hypothermic conditions is to keep the indoor temperature at least 65 degrees (F).
Setting your thermostat high can be expensive, particularly if your house is old and drafty. If your income is limited, see if you qualify for financial energy assistance; these programs can help you winterize your home by putting up weatherstripping and insulation. When trying to keep your home warm, never use your oven to heat your home. It’s also important that you have working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in your home.
Have a Plan B
Many elders live independently without any problems, however, winter weather can make it hard to get out of the house or around for basic errands such as a trip to the pharmacy or groceries. If the weather gets too cold or treacherous, it’s important for many seniors to have a backup plan. If you are an independent elder, know your limits when it comes to cold weather. If your house becomes too cold, make arrangements to stay with friends or family. When the road conditions become too dangerous for you to travel comfortably, make arrangements to have someone deliver groceries and other basic needs (many places offer delivery services). Additionally, make plans with a friend or loved one to check in daily, either by phone or in person. A simple slip and fall or another household accident can put your health in danger.
Go Outside with Caution
During the winter months, everyone gets a bit of cabin fever and it’s always a good idea to step outside and get some fresh air. If you feel as if you are mobile enough to go outside, make sure that your clothing is warm enough and you are wearing boots with good tread. If you notice ice dams or excess snow on your roof, do not attempt to remove them yourself. Additionally, consider hiring someone to shovel and de-ice your sidewalks. Listen to the news, if the weather reporter says to stay indoors, stay indoors.
Seniors face many daily challenges. Hygiene can be one of those challenges. A senior with whose cognitive abilities or physical range of motion have recently declined may be in danger of things they’ve never never imagined. Through most of your life, you’re capable of sticking to basic sanitary needs. If you become forgetful with age, or you lose the ability to move in the way you once did, you’ll have issues.
Some seniors may not be willing or capable of communicating new hygiene needs. This is a sensitive issue. If you are a caregiver, you need to ensure that your patient (or family member, or client, etc) has a safe space in which to discuss problems like this. No one wants to ask for help going to the bathroom or showering. Nonetheless, these things happen and it’s crucial that seniors communicate these needs. As a caregiver, it’s your job to make it comfortable and face-saving as possible for people to come to you with hygiene issues.
With age, the simple shower can become a dangerous trap. Range of motion decreases and smaller accidents become more serious. For the elderly, a fall in the shower could cause a whole host of big problems. According to the National Institutes on Health (NIH), falling down is a “common reason for trips to the emergency room and for hospital stays among older adults. For a senior, one broken bone could be the difference between independence in a lifelong home and being stuck permanently in a long-term care facility like a nursing home.
Showering is an absolute hygiene must. If someone your provide care for is at risk of a shower fall, you need to be careful. Discuss safety. Keep tripping hazards off of the bathroom floor. A shower chair can work wonders for a senior in the shower, keeping her or him safe, while helping maintain independence and privacy.
Handwashing prevents people of all ages from getting sick. This is nothing new to seniors. But for many seniors, hand washing has always been an important but relatively small matter; getting sickness was a minor hassle. Older adults have weakened immune systems. This means two things: 1) they get ill more easily 2) illness is much more serious. For the elderly, a simple flu can be life-threatening. According to flu.gov, “Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.”
As a caregiver, it’s crucial that you remind senior of the importance of good hand hygiene. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells us to use soap and water, and to scrub for at least 20 seconds.
Seniors are also at increased risk for dental health problems. The average person over the age of 65 has “lost an average of 13 teeth,” according to the NIDCR. Make sure any senior in your care brushes for at least two minutes at a time, 2 or 3 times daily. Modern gadgets like electric toothbrushes and water flossers may make this process easier.
As you grow older, your driving patterns will change and a time will come when you might have to give up your keys. According to Mushkatel, Robbins, & Becker, “Barely half of Americans 65 and older held a driver’s license in the early 1970s. Today, 84% of seniors have a license”. It is important to recognize when that is the case. This does not mean the end of your independence, as there are a number of ways you can get around without hassle. This might mean making a switch to what can be a safer and healthier lifestyle for you in your senior years. Your body will give you signs to let you know that your driving patterns have become harmful, and it is necessary to pay attention to those signs. Here’s how to recognize these warning signs.
Health Related Complications
Some of the early warning signs that your age might be interfering with your driving are usually health related. One of the most common complications are health issues that affect your eyesight. If you have an eye condition that affects your vision that is a very clear indication that you should give up your keys. While such a condition might not directly affect your ability to see, it might compromise your night vision, making it difficult for you to drive in the dark. This could also be sensitivity to light or blurred vision.
Loss of Hearing
Loss of hearing could also be a very important sign, since your hearing is vital to your continued safety on the road. If you find that you are increasingly unaware of people honking around you or other safety cues necessary for the road, then you might need to reconsider your decision to keep driving.
If you are on constant medication, you should confirm with your healthcare provider if it is okay for you to keep driving, This is because the side effects of certain medication includes an inability to drive. The same goes should you discover that your reflexes seem to have slowed down and you are finding it increasingly difficult to react as swiftly as you should when you are driving.
Another key health related complication stems from memory loss. Getting lost or missing your way once in a while can happen to anyone. However, if this happens regularly, then you should seek professional help and suspend driving until you hear from your doctor.
Difficulty with Normal Driving Routine
When driving gradually becomes more stressful and you find yourself having difficulty with normal driving routine such as forgetting to turn on your lights, making sudden turns without using your signal or even breaking for no reason, then your driving has probably turned harmful. Also, if you find that you are increasingly having close calls such as near crashes and dents on your car, then that is a warning sign as well.
Benefits of Not Driving
Giving up driving does have several benefits. Not driving may not be easy for you at first, particularly if you have been driving your entire life and it is something you enjoy doing. Nevertheless, deciding not to drive can save your life and the lives of others sharing the road with you. Some benefits include:
Expand Your Network – This is a good way to meet people and expand your social network. If you are reluctant to ask a friend or neighbor for a ride, you can trade something in exchange.
Save on Gasoline and other costs – Owning and keeping a car can be a drain on the resources. Giving up your car means that you save on gasoline and other related costs.
Reduce health risks – In seeking alternative ways of transportation, you might decide to walk or maybe cycle to nearby destinations. These are great ways of incorporating exercise into your lifestyle, thereby reducing health risks.
Increase safety on the roads – Another benefit of not driving is ensuring increased safety on the roads. You greatly reduce the chances of a crash and keep the road safe for you and for other users.
Are you ready to give up your keys? How did you make the transition?
The internet has opened up huge avenues for information and commerce. The online world has endless marketplaces, databases, and communication possibilities. That openness has been, in many ways, a precious gift for aging populations, enabling senior citizens to do research, keep up with the news, and stay connected with friends and family in remote places.
Unfortunately, the same freedom that allows for an older adult to speak with his old baseball buddy overseas with the push of button also allows him to get preyed upon by eastern European cybercriminals. One click gets you the answers to the Sunday crossword puzzle, another click transfers the contents of your life savings to a teenager in St. Petersburg. Here are a few common tricks used by by internet charlatans trying to bilk senior citizens out of their hard-earned dough.
Scammers frequently fleece the elderly by claiming to be someone other than who they are via email. Common tricks include claiming to be a medicare agent, the IRS, or a falsely imprisoned member of Nigerian royalty. This scam is so effective because it elicits the happy cooperation of the victim. Instead of mugging you at knifepoint, the scammer talks you into simply handing it over. By the time you realize you’ve been duped, it’s way too late; someone somewhere’s got your money, and only thing you know about them is that they sent you an email claiming to want to help you out.
It’s not just new technologies such as email that enable frauds to slip their paws into your pocketbook. Good old telephones still serve as a useful tool for these morally moribund thieves. The technology may be different, but the scam is much the same. Scammers make false claims, get seniors to hand over their personal information, and voila! The thieves hold the keys to the city.
Some telemarketers pose special problems to seniors due to their similarity to legitimate salesmen. Many may actually be actual business owners who realize they’ve got an easy sell and step up their pushiness. But most cases of fraud by telemarketers involved actual criminals who set out specifically to prey on vulnerable populations. According to fraud.org, people 60 years and older make up nearly a full third of all telemarketing scam victims.
Seniors often have a complex med regimen. Scammers know this. They also know that seniors frequently have lots of money, may be in the process of cognitive decline, and were likely raised to be trusting, faithful citizens. They sell fake or stolen meds to elderly adults. Easy money. This fraud can take place by any of the previously mentioned methods: mail, email, telephone. It makes no difference. This trick can come at you from any direction.
What You Can Do
Keep in mind, if something seems too outlandish, or too good, to be true, it probably is. Very few people win the lottery. Sensitive medicaid issues will not be dealt with via email. Pharmacists will be upfront about costs and med updates.
Be vigilant. Keep these scams in mind. If something seems suspicious, speak with someone. You could help take down a predator.
Late last month, Uber announced a new plan to offer driving jobs for many older adults. This is in partnership with Life Reimagined, a subsidiary of AARP. They have not established a number of positions they plan to open, but press releases have made reference to extending opportunities for “millions of people [to] earn additional income as driver-partners on the Uber platform.”
What does this mean for aging adults? Does this move signal progress and jobs for a vulnerable and neglected population? Is this opportunistic PR for a company with a poor public image? Will America’s aging population embrace this offer, seeing in it a valuable and trusted role to help folks get around? Or will it reject the idea as demeaning and exploitative? Here’s a guide to help you navigate this new move.
Uber and Its Motives
Uber is a service which provides rides for its customers using a smartphone app which finds part-time drivers. Think of it as an informal taxi service. With this plan, registered semi-retired adults could sign up to make themselves available to give rides to people for a small fee.
As a company, Uber is trying to nicen up its image. The ride-sharing company was hit with many controversies in the last few years, making it and its much-touted “sharing economy” look a little dodgy and cutthroat. By partnering with a nonprofit AARP subsidiary, Uber’s may be hoping to make itself look generous and noble in the country’s eyes. Whether retired persons take this as complimentary or condescending remains to be seen.
AARP and Life Reimagined’s Role
Life Reimagined is a nonprofit subsidiary of AARP. Their goal in this is help get work for aging Americans. Uber is a modern, innovative company, and many of AARP’s members may be excited to participate in a new business model, as well as demonstrate their technological skills. Life Reimagined also grants the program credibility, ensuring that AARP has its eye on Uber and trusts them to function ethically.
Job Outlooks for the Elderly
For someone over the age of 50, getting a good job is difficult. Unemployment remains high, and many skilled workers are forced to take menial jobs making very little money. Employers often favor young, technically savvy workers, and ignore very good candidates simply due to their age.
This initiative by Uber and Life Reimagined could mean many, many jobs for people over 50, and could give technology-inclined older adults a chance to strut their stuff. This could provide a double advantage: income, and stereotype shattering. Both would be of significant benefit to AARP’s members.
The big question: will AARP members go for it? Will they see this as a great opportunity to get out, make some money, and show off their ability to adapt to the changing modern work world? Or will they scorn this move as taking advantage of the fact that it’s difficult to find good work? Uber provides a living wage, but a driver’s salary comes nowhere near the six figures many out-of-work AARP members are accustomed to. While the answers are uncertain, AARP’s presence is a good sign; their involvement will grant credibility for Uber, and will ensure its new employees have a powerful advocate on their side.
Senior citizens have earned the right to live how they choose, where they choose, and in many cases, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not a welcome option. Aging bodies and failing health can make independent living more difficult as time goes by. Fortunately, technology is available to help the elderly maintain their independence and remain longer in their homes.
Hardware for Senior Citizens
- Wireless tracking system with sensors that lets a remote caregiver track an elderly person’s activities and check on the elder at any time using a secure webpage. The system will alert caregivers of any disruptions by text, phone, or email.
- GPS mobile personal emergency response system that allows the user to summon emergency assistance by simply pushing a button. The system consists of a base station, a mobile unit, and a button worn as a pendant or on the wrist. A push of the button connects the user to a mobile help operator who can send help to the correct location even if the user is unable to communicate.
- Medication management system that dispenses meds, reminds the user to take them, keeps an inventory, and alerts and posts compliance information, which is accessible through any device with internet capability. Medications can be inserted into the unit by a pharmacy or the caregiver.
- Wireless activity tracker to help senior citizens lead healthier lives. It tracks calories burned, distance traveled, steps taken, stairs climbed, and quality of sleep.
- TV ears that enable elderly people with hearing loss to hear TV without turning up the volume. Users can set their own tone and volume without affecting others. The device reduces background noise and increases clarity and word discrimination.
Software for the Elderly
Apps can make life easier, and a number of apps are designed especially for senior citizens. A Senior Net blog lists a number of iPhone or iPad apps helpful for seniors:
- Pillboxie reminds seniors to take their medications, and equally important, tells them which medication to take and when.
- Eyereade allows the user turn the phone into a magnifying glass with a light to brighten the text.
- Luminosity helps users of any age sharpen their minds with games designed by neuroscientists to enhance attention, memory, and other mental skills.
- Skype lets seniors view friends and family while talking to them in video conferences.
- Park’n’Forget lets you punch in the level, aisle, or spot where you parked to help you find your car.
As we age and the people in our lives begin to move away or pass, the loss of companionship and interaction with others can be a very real problem. Situations and friendships dissolving over time is a natural cycle of life, as nothing is permanent and change is ever-present. The loss of loved ones due to illness or geographical distance can cause a sense of loneliness and depression for us as we get older. It has always been said that a dog is a man’s best friend, and truer words have not be spoken when we age and have dog as a companion. Of course, it is not only dogs that can provide such companionship, cats, birds and a host of other animals can also serve as great companions.
Research studies tend to suggest that pets can benefit our health
Many research studies have been done regarding how pet ownership or living with a pet can benefit our health. Measuring the impact of human and animal interaction is difficult and problematic for researchers, so there are very few definitive conclusions that have been reached through these studies. The results of many studies do tend to suggest that having a pet can help with heart health and reducing depression or loneliness. One study suggested that pet ownership is an important source of much needed social support. This social support enhances a person’s well-being and alleviates loneliness. Another study found that those who have a pet had fewer doctor visits.
A growing trend in physical and mental therapy is the use of therapy dogs to help those patients suffering from depression, high blood pressure, and other conditions. Research suggests that animals have a healing effect on certain mental conditions in patients, such as decreasing stress and anxiety in post-traumatic stress disorder patients, decreasing loneliness and feelings of isolation in elderly patients and increasing self-esteem and spirit. The increase in self-esteem enables patients in physical therapy to be more involved in group activities.
The benefits of pet interaction also manifest in lowered blood pressure, a decrease in heart rates, an increase in endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, hormones which are associated with good health and a feeling of well-being. Hospitals and nursing homes have begun to use therapy animals much more in the past few years, and report a very positive impact on their patients’ quality of life.