There are many good reasons why older adults prefer to remain in their own homes and communities. Proximity to family and friends, the comfort of familiar surroundings, privacy — all of these are important. A widowed senior may feel closer to his lost loved one by staying in the house they shared for several decades.

While retirement communities provide numerous opportunities for socializing and activities, seniors may become isolated if separated from familiar neighbors, friends and other social networks. The upheaval of learning new routines and finding new hairdressers, grocery stores, local shops, restaurants, etc., is daunting enough for most of us. To an older individual, perhaps with a diminishing memory, this can be an absolute nightmare.

A Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) professional can help make your parents’ home “aging-ready.” CAPS professionals utilize universal design principles to create a safer, more comfortable and more independent life in their own home, both now and in the future. Learn more about how a certified Aging-in-Place specialist can help your parents age in place by visiting our What is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist page .

Aging comes with its challenges, but with today’s technology, it is easier than ever. Whether you need some help reading, hearing or seeing in the dark, there is a tech solution out there for you.

Motion-Sensing Nightlights

Senior Living made easier thanks to inexpensive tech solutionsWhen you wake up in the middle of the night, it’s easy to stub your toe or trip over a shoe. Falling in the dark is an abrupt wake-up call that you do not want to experience. The easy fix? Motion-sensing nightlights.

These nightlights only come on when it is dark, and they sense your presence. This means you can sleep in the dark, but the light will come on when you get out of bed. They save energy by coming on only  when needed, and their lightbulbs rarely need replacing. At only $10 each, you can put them throughout your house, and you’ll never be caught in the dark again.

Presto Computer-less email

Do you have a friend who refuses to check her email? Or does Grandma always complain about having to go onto social media to see what you’re up to? You can help your loved ones stay in the loop with computer-less email. You send an email, and it prints out as a letter directly into their home. It’s just like getting snail mail, and there’s nothing new for your loved one to learn. Whether you send over birthday invitations, your latest family photos or an article you want her to read, you don’t have to rely on Grandma checking her email. She just needs to pick up the paper that the printer gives her. Easy!

Personal Sound Amplifiers

Do you have trouble hearing your pastor? Do you fight your family to turn the TV up?

You can turn the sound up with personal amplifiers, as much as you need and whenever you need it, without bothering those around you. For $35, you can get a handheld microphone that connects to a headset.

Kindle

For only $79 you can rediscover your love of reading. With the Kindle you can adjust the font size of your favorite books. The screen reflects light just like a regular book, so it isn’t hard on your eyes. It is so lightweight that you can take it anywhere you go. You can fit your entire bookshelf on the Kindle so that you are never without something to read.

Medical Alert System

For $25.95 a month, you can get the peace of mind of help being only a button push away. Medical alert systems help seniors stay safe in case of emergencies. When you press the help button, you are connected directly to a trained specialist who will send you the help you need. They stay on the line with you to comfort you and help you through your emergency. Seconds count in an emergency, and medical alerts can get you help fast.

With ‘smart’ fall detection, you don’t even need to press the button. These smart pendants sense when you fall and automatically call for help. As an added bonus medical alert systems are waterproof so that you can wear them in the shower where your phone can’t go.

Thin Reading Glasses

For most of us, reading glasses are just another thing to lose. But it can be hard to read your text messages without them!

Thin Optics are extremely thin reading glasses that fit on the back of a cell phone. They do not have arms but instead securely and comfortably fit onto the bridge of your nose. With these extremely portable reading glasses, you will no longer have to ask someone else what your text messages say.

Tile

How often do you lose your keys or wallet? Leave those frantic mornings behind with Tile.

You can get a four pack of Tiles for $70. Simply attach each Tile to your easily misplaced things. When you can’t find them, open the Tile app. The app uses Bluetooth to locate your lost items. You can see their location on the screen and listen for the tune the Tile plays. You’ll find your keys in no time!

Wrapping Up

These items will truly make your life better. They are all easy to set up and simple to use, and you’ll wonder how you lived without them before!

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Shayne has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College, a Masters in Business Administration from Stanford, and a keen interest in any affordable tech gadgets that improve the daily life of seniors.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Holiday Villa East (HVE) in Santa Monica, three lovely ladies donated belongings for the neighborhood Goodwill Industries Thrift Shop. Between the daily activities of bingo and Scrabble, these HVE residents paused to place pants, a shirt and a beloved cape into the artful Earth Day donations box handmade by Activities Director Brenda Martinez.

Before placing her attractive brown cape in the box, thoughtful Rose asked if her friends would like to have it. Rose commented that the cape was warm, comfortable and in good condition. She had worn it for many years and was ready to give away the garment. The residents thanked her, but agreed that the cape should go to a new, perhaps needy, owner.

Wise women. Senior living requires downsizing and spring cleaning renews the effort to downsize and get rid of unwanted items wherever one lives. The theme for this year’s Earth Day is It’s Our Time To Lead and served as the impetus for the donation campaign at HVE.

Learn about the other eco-friendly practices that Joan discovered at her community in Joan’s Journey, Part 29.

Oak Crest Village Certified Wildlife Habitat

Oak Crest Village Certified Wildlife Habitat

Whether searching for a senior living community for yourself or an assisted living facility for an aging parent, you likely have a list of amenities that the community should have so it meets your lifestyle requirements. Does the community allow pets? Check. Does it value spirituality? Check. Does it have a swimming pool? Check. Now there is another amenity you can add to the list:  Does the community incorporate sustainability practices into its operations? Sustainable practices result in the saving of energy and water usage, which means lower utility bills, and can also create a more scenic community, in case of having wildlife-friendly habitat.

The goods news is that senior living communities are supporting their residents’ efforts to implement sustainability practices, such as by adopting a community-wide recycling program or adding raised beds to grow flowers and vegetables. If eco-friendly senior living is important to you, be sure to check out our list of green senior living communities which we created in recognition of Earth Day. These communities have adopted sustainable practices, whether by becoming ENERGY STAR©certified or incorporating wildlife-friendly habitat practices into their landscaping.  We expect this list to grow as more communities adopt these practices, not only because of the anticipated cost savings, but because it makes business sense since consumers are expecting businesses to be good stewards of the environment.

 

New California Assisted Living LawsWhat criteria would you use when selecting a senior living community for your parent:  that it’s pet friendly; affordable; close to shopping and the staff seem friendly? What about its inspection history? Did you even think to ask for a community’s inspection records or notice the latest report posted on the wall as you took a tour of the community? If you didn’t, then you’re not alone.

Just as restaurants are inspected to confirm the restaurant and its staff are in compliance with state regulations regarding food safety and handling, so too are senior living communities subject to inspection when providing assisted living services or memory care. Surveyors or inspectors visit the communities, whether to investigate a complaint or for licensure renewal, to confirm the community is in compliance with state regulations, such as managing medication properly or maintaining a clean living areas. The results of the visit are documented in an inspection or survey report. These survey reports, when reviewed over a period of several years, can reveal insight as to whether a community is failing to correct repeat deficiencies or is consistently providing a safe environment.

Many states have the inspection records online, whether in a summary form or the actual inspection reports. However, because these inspection reports are often not posted on a community’s homepage or in an online senior living community directory, you will likely not think to search for these inspection records when looking for a community for your parents. Which is why SeniorHomes.com is posting the inspection records of a community on each community’s profile page. This way you have a one-stop place to review the community’s cost, amenities and inspection history without having to visit multiple websites.

Currently, we are piloting this feature for senior living communities in San Antonio, and we want to hear your feedback as to whether including the inspection records are helpful in your search. To view the inspection records of a San Antonio community, visit San Antonio Assisted Living. Clicking on the State Records tab allows you to see all the licensed communities and where they rank in terms of deficiencies. To see the inspection history for a specific community, click on the “Communities” tab and click on “Get Info” for any community. On the community’s profile page, click on the “Records” tab to see how this community’s deficiency history ranks against others and its deficiencies.

Our goal is to post the inspection records for all licensed communities within Texas and eventually other states as well. Please let us know of improvements we can make in displaying the inspection records or if you want to know more information about a community, such as whether it has received fines. To learn more about how to find inspection records for other states, visit our State Licensing Center.

 

 

There are many single people at my retirement community. Some move in without a spouse, others lose their spouse while living here. Often the men die first and the women remain. We have 29 single men, 103 single women and 101 couples living here. A grey-haired female friend shared a recent observation with me: all the female partners of single men have colored hair. Is there a message in that bit of research? So while spending my last stop being single is not my first choice, I believe living in a CCRC makes being single easier.

Read my thoughts, experiences, complaints and even some good things about being single in old age in my latest post Being Single.

This post was written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist who lives in a CCRC outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”

Last week, we discussed the many transportation options that exist to help aging adults maintain their independence after handing over the car keys. Now that you’re familiar with the alternative transportation choices and know where to turn to find out what resources exist in your local area, you are prepared to have this difficult discussion with your aging loved one. But how do you start the conversation, and how is this difficult subject broached successfully?

First, know the warning signs Elderly woman in car

The first step is determining whether it’s really time to have the talk with mom or dad about their safety on the roads. HelpGuide.org outlines several warning signs that could indicate it’s time for an aging adult to stop driving. Some key warning signs include:

  • Taking medications with warnings against operating vehicles or machinery - While some medications have warnings regarding drowsiness, dizziness and other side effects, some also have explicit warnings advising patients not to drive or operate heavy machinery until they know how a medication will affect them.
  • Combined medication effects - Some medications can cause stronger or different side effects when combined. If your loved one’s physician has prescribed a new medication, it’s a good idea for mom or dad to avoid driving until they know exactly how this specific combination of medications will affect them. Your loved one’s pharmacist can also be a helpful resource for learning about the side effects associated with certain medication combinations.
  • Vision impairment - Vision deteriorates with aging for many older adults. Problems with vision, such as a loss of peripheral vision, can create challenges for older adults behind the wheel, making it difficult to interpret the full visual field. Likewise, sensitivity to light, trouble seeing in the dark or blurred vision are safety concerns for drivers.
  • Hearing impairment - While it is possible to drive with a hearing impairment, auditory cues are more important than you may think for safe driving. When older adults experience sudden or significant hearing loss, it may be time to evaluate their safety on the road.
  • Slow reflexes and decreased range of motion – Drivers must be able to react quickly and adapt readily to sudden changes or unexpected situations on the road. Older adults with slowed reflex response and decreased range of motion may not be able to react quickly enough to avoid accidents.
  • Problems with memory – If your aging loved one is suffering from memory loss, it might be time to consider having the talk about giving up the car keys. Memory impairment can actually be quite dangerous for older adults who drive. For instance, a memory lapse could cause your loved one to forget where she was going and sometimes just keep driving until she realizes she’s in unfamiliar territory.
  • Too many close calls – If your loved one has had multiple close calls or minor accidents, scrapes and dents, it’s time to take a look at whether it’s time to stop driving.

When you realize the dangers that exist if your aging loved one continues to drive, starting this difficult conversation becomes a bit easier to broach. All it takes is a split second and a single mishap for an accident that could cost the life of your loved one or another passenger or driver. Here are some tips for starting and following through with the discussion.

Understand it may take several conversations

The first time you bring up the subject of handing over the car keys, your aging loved one may not immediately acquiesce. Often, learning that he/she is unsafe on the road is difficult to hear and a harsh reminder that he/she is, in fact, getting older. Be gentle when you bring up the topic and plan ahead so that your first discussion is happening well before it’s urgent that your loved one stop driving immediately. This allows you time to have a preliminary discussion, get your loved one’s thoughts about her safety behind the wheel, and find out what specific concerns she may have about no longer driving.

Do your research and offer alternative transportation options

Once you learn what your loved one’s concerns are and whether she feels that it may be time to stop driving, you can do some research. If being isolated and unable to get to important appointments or to the grocery store is a concern, present a specific plan for meeting these needs and information on the alternative transportation options available in your local area.

Be respectful of their independence and opinions

Ultimately, the decision is not yours alone. Unless your loved one is incapacitated, the choice to stop driving is truly his, although you can provide input and support. Be respectful of your loved one’s desire to maintain his independence and offer advice and opinions while stating your commitment to ensuring that his independence is maintained should he decide to give up his car keys.

Know your options when the need is urgent

Unfortunately, some families encounter situations in which an aging loved one is truly unsafe on the road yet he/she can’t accept that it’s too dangerous to continue driving. If the need is urgent, and it’s imperative that you get your loved one off the roads as soon as possible, there are legal options. Most families turn to these options as a last resort, as they’d rather not have to force their loved ones to hand over the keys against their will. If you reach this juncture, here are a few legal options for getting your aging loved one to give up the car keys recommended by AgingCare.com:

  • The physician - Older adults may be more likely to listen to the advice of their physician, so enlisting the doctor’s help to talk with mom or dad about giving up the keys can be helpful. In fact, the American Medical Association recommends that physicians counsel their patients directly, and they can even ask for and accept the car keys. A physician can also write a medical status report that caregivers can take to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • The optometrist or ophthalmologist – These providers can have a similar discussion with an older adult as a physician would, explaining how the patient’s vision impairments make it unsafe to continue driving.
  • Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles - As a family caregiver, you can meet with your local department representatives to present background and health information. This is followed by your request for your aging loved one to receive new vision exams, paper tests and possibly an examination drive with an inspector. Decisions or actions are determined by the inspectors, and the driver receives notice prior to the renewal date on her driver’s license. Even if your mom or dad passes all required tests and exams, you’ll at least have peace of mind that she is deemed safe to drive independently. Note that each state has its own licensing standards and protocols, so the specific process may be different depending where you live.
  • The family attorney – An estate attorney can discuss the implications for the estate with the family should an accident occur, such as a loss of assets should a lawsuit arise from an accident. Your attorney may agree to sit down to discuss the reasons why mom or dad should stop driving with you and other family members.
  • The police - While most caregivers hesitate to take this step, notifying the police for minor accidents and violations facilitates the creation of a report, and the police can make their own request to the Department of Motor Vehicles for new testing if they feel it’s warranted.

Having this conversation with an aging parent or other aging loved one is never easy. But when you consider the alternatives and the dangers that exist if an elderly driver continues to operate a vehicle when it’s truly dangerous, you may realize it’s time to put your fears aside and do what’s necessary to keep your loved one and other drivers and passengers safe on the road. Above all, remember that your loved one’s safety and ability to remain independent are the top priorities.

 

The worst of winter is over, and we’ve been cooped up indoors for far too long. It’s time to go outside and enjoy the fresh air! Last time, in part one of our series on senior-friendly DIY projects, we talked about projects seniors can do indoors.

Outdoor DIY Senior Projects by Shayne Fitz-CoyFor part two, these outdoor DIY projects are the perfect excuse for spending time in the sun, and you’ll be able to enjoy your creations all spring and summer long.

Build a raised bed garden

All you need for a raised bed garden is a raised bed. You can create your own out of wood, or you you can get creative with your containers. A metal tub, wooden crate or a big pot can be perfect for small gardens! Just remember to put some holes in the bottom for drainage.

Create planters

Small planters can go anywhere: your garden, your patio or in your kitchen. You can plant individual flowers or herbs in these little containers.

Here are some fun ways to create planters:

• Yogurt containers are great for upcycling. Wash them and use your creative talents to give them a coat of paint.
• Mason jars look great in kitchens. They’re perfect for keeping individual herbs within easy reach.
• Paint cans have lots of room for roots, and their outsides are ideal for decorating. Paint them, glue on decorations or wrap in fabric. Let your creativity shine!
• Tea cups and mugs are fun ways to show off succulent gardens. Put those dusty cups in your cupboard to good use! They look great lined up on windowsills.
• Rubber rain boots don’t do any good sitting unused in the closet. Fill them with dirt and plant some flowers in them. Rain boots and flowers are a colorful and quirky combination.

Create a backyard theater

Construct a projector screen with a plain white sheet tied taut between two branches or pieces of PVC pipe. Grab a projector, some cushions and some popcorn, and you will be ready for a moonlit movie night.

Reuse an old chandelier

Do you have an old chandelier lying around? Hang it in your garden as a bird feeder! Add bowls on each branch where the lights used to be and paint the whole thing to look like one piece. Fill the bowls with birdseed and sit back to watch the neighborhood birds. The chandelier will add elegance to your garden and your feathered visitors will love eating in style.

Fill the cracks

Weeds love to grow where they are not wanted—like in the cracks in your cement. Fill the cracks with some concrete crack filler to prevent those weeds from sprouting up.

Use basket hooks

Basket hooks are perfect for small spaces. Flower baskets are a classic way to brighten your garden or patio. To literally give off light, hang small solar lights. You can find them for cheap in your local dollar or garden store, and they look like classy sconces hanging off of the hooks.

Clean your windows

Get a fresh start this spring. Now that the sun is shining and the birds are singing you will want to look outside as much as possible! Take some time to clean your windows so you can enjoy the outdoors when you are inside.

Seal your wood

Once the snow and rain is gone, you should take the time to care for your wooden tables and patios. Give them a good scrubbing and then paint them with sealant. While you are at it, you can stain or paint them for a brand-new look.

Spruce up your pots

There is nothing wrong with terracotta pots, but there’s nothing exciting about them either. You can easily pretty them up with paint. This is a great project to do with the grandchildren, too!

Update your mailbox

Your mailbox and house numbers are your house’s first impression. Make it a good one! You can find house numbers in a variety of styles and colors in your local home improvement store. As for your mailbox, you could get a new one, or you can paint and decorate your existing one. If you have a freestanding mailbox, try creating a little flower garden around its base.

Enjoy the outdoors

Get outside and stretch your legs. Have fun with these projects and enjoy the warmer months!

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company with offices nationwide. Shayne is an NAHB Certified Aging in Place Specialist with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business

Sunshine with blue skies, mild temperatures, white beaches and the scent of fresh Pacific Ocean air abounds for seniors living at Holiday Villa East (HVE) in Santa Monica. The theme for this year’s Earth Day, which falls on April 22, is “It’s Our Time to Lead,” and Earth Day is the perfect opportunity at HVE to appreciate and celebrate our environment.

Joan's Journey April Teaser ImageIn the past Earth Day wasn’t an event I identified with or marked on my calendar. This year, however, SeniorHomes.com is paying tribute to our earth with a series of blogs highlighting socially responsible green and sustainable practices at senior living communities. Joan’s Journey will explore such practices at HVE in an upcoming April post.

Throughout April a large, decorated container will sit in the north living room, and residents, staff and visitors are encouraged to spring clean and donate unwanted clothes and items. On Earth Day the collection will be given to our neighborhood GoodWill Industries Thrift Shop where many of our residents walk to and shop.

Earth Day, or Mother Earth Day as the 45-year-old celebration is called in many countries, started in 1970 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The worldwide day, week and monthly activities spreads the awareness that we humans are the shepherds of our planet. Annually Earth Day is celebrated in 192 countries with events held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Sponsored by Earth Day Network, a consortium of 22,000 organizations worldwide, events are held to educate and inspire individuals, businesses and governments to take immediate action to end extreme poverty and address climate change.

Journeyer’s, by participating, YOU and your contributions are making our Earth a better place to live. In the comment box below, SeniorHomes.com and I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences in practicing sustainability. Until the next Joan’s Journey, enjoy the trip day by day.

Joan London is a freelance medical and social service writer who specializes in topics on aging. London moved from Maryland to California to enjoy life in a senior living community and enhance her quality of life by living closer to her children and grandchildren

Senior-friendly transportation optionsDo you expect to have the driving conversation with your parents this year? If so, you’re not alone. According to the the Federal Highway Administration’s 2012 estimate, there were approximately 23.1 million licensed drivers who were 70 years and older. And when you finally do broach the subject, your parents will likely use the argument that they have to drive— how else can they go shopping or reach doctor’s appointments. If you don’t live in the area or know a family friend who can chauffeur your parent around, the argument might persuade you to concede that they can drive a bit longer, even if you know it’s unsafe. Fortunately, there are community transportation resources available that you can turn to, and many are specifically for seniors.

Of the grants which are distributed to the states for funding programs to serve older adults, the Transportation for Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities (5310) grant is solely targeted to funding transportation services for seniors and adults with disabilities. The funding, which is distributed by the U.S. Department of Transportation through its Federal Transit Administration, is appropriated based upon the number of seniors and persons with disabilities residing in a state as per the latest U.S. census data. States then allocate the funds via a grant or another funding process to private nonprofit groups, government agencies who provide services where no nonprofit is available, or government agencies which coordinate the transportation services. These groups may only provide transportation services or could also offer other social services as well, such as meals, operating senior centers or legal aid.

What are the transportation options?

One reason why older adults may be reluctant to relinquish the car keys is because they think that the public transit system is the only option. For some seniors, riding the bus may be overwhelming and they may not be able to reach a bus stop, especially if they aren’t within walking distance. But public transportation agencies have made great strides to provide alternative transportation options besides just buses. King County Metro, as an example, offers a van service that provides door-to-door service for riders who are unable to ride buses.

Nonprofit organizations which operate senior centers or the local Meals on Wheels program may also offer a transportation service. Washington State-based Senior Services has a Hyde Shuttle program which provides van transportation for seniors and people with disabilities to medical appointments, grocery stores and other places as needed.

For a private transportation option, families can consider turning to ITNAmerica. This nonprofit organization has affiliates across the nation that provide transportation in a local metro area. Instead of being funded by grants, membership dues support the organization. The annual individual membership fee may vary by affiliate (iTNGreater Tuscon is a $50 while iTNLehigh Valley is $60) and family memberships are also available. For each ride, there are charges that include a pickup charge, per mile cost or same-day service.

ITNAmerica doesn’t consider itself a taxi service because its drivers provide door-to-door service, even accompanying riders to the door or helping with packages. Instead of vans, seniors ride in the comfort of a personal vehicle. What also makes the service senior friendly is drivers aren’t paid at the time of service; rather the cost of the ride is deducted from a prepaid account. The only drawback to this service is not every major metro has an ITNAmerica affiliate.

Finding a transportation option for a loved one

The one-stop-resource that should be the first on your list to call is the local Area Agency on Aging where your parent lives. Here you can find the resources available in the area. Even better, you can find an advocate who can help connect you with the services your aging parent needs to remain independent, albeit without the car keys.

Though loved ones may be resistant to using a transportation service, fearing it won’t fit within their schedule or believing they are still capable of driving, they should realize that these transportation services are designed to make life easier. After all, think of how much money will be saved not having to pay for car insurance or maintain a car. There is also the bonus of meeting new people during the ride. Yes, it will take a bit of adjusting to scheduling shopping trips and doctor’s appointments, but that’s a small price to pay for protecting your parents’ lives and other drivers on the road.

With these resources in hand, you will be prepared to address your parent’s argument for relinquishing the keys. But if you still need advice how to broach the subject, visit our blog next week as we discuss how to start the conversation.