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When it Comes to Senior Living and Caregiving Advice, What do You Want to Know?

As the end of this year approaches we begin to plan our stories and articles for next. While we have practical advice and topics related to senior living and caregiving, such as how to downsize when joining a retirement community or what questions to ask when touring a community, we also want to invite our readers to suggest topics you are most interested in. After all, we are here to help you make the most of senior living!

We have created a simple, easy-to-fill-out four-question survey for you to share your ideas and let us know what you think here:

Thank you in advance for taking the time to complete our survey and we hope you enjoy our blog.

Cheers, Editorial Team

How Seniors Can Access Fresh Produce Through Government Programs

During September we are continuing the theme of highlighting the benefits of healthy eating. This is the first of two posts focused on how seniors on a limited budget can access nutritional food.

Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is widely acknowledged as the most important thing one can do to improve one’s health and well-being through diet. Yet alongside that widely acknowledged fact is the myth that fresh fruits and vegetables are unaffordable for those with a limited income. On the contrary, there are many programs—both public and private—to help seniors afford nutritious food.

The largest and most well-known program to increase food access is the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called the Food Stamp Program. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net,” benefiting “millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families.”

Few Seniors Utilize Benefits

One of the unknown facts of this seemingly well-known program is that many seniors who are eligible for SNAP benefits don’t receive them. According to AARP, 67 percent of eligible individuals 60 and older do not receive eligible benefits, despite the fact that many have paid into the system through their taxes for decades and it is easy to apply for the benefits.

According to the Harris School of Policy Studies 2009 study at the University of Chicago, once seniors are initially enrolled they are no more likely to drop SNAP enrollment than any other age group. However, the challenge lies in the initial adoption.

AARP suggests that the reasons why seniors don’t sign up for this benefit is because they are embarrassed, feel that by accepting benefits they are taking away from others or are simply unaware of the program. The University of Chicago study mirrors these findings, stating that “60 percent of eligible non-participants are unaware of their eligibility.” The National Council on Aging (NCOA) observed similar reasons for low-adoption rates for SNAP among seniors, pointing to mobility, technology and again stigma and shame for accepting public benefits. Furthermore, some seniors are discouraged by myths about how SNAP works and who can qualify.

NCOA has promoted initiatives to increase the adoption rates by seniors, including funding partner programs that assist older adults with the enrollment process. This can range from help understanding criteria for income eligibility or simply using encouraging messaging about how SNAP is “saving money,” instead of seniors “receiving benefits” or “welfare.”

Increased Access to Farm-Fresh Foods

Many states now allow SNAP recipients to not only use their benefits at any grocery store, but at farmers’ markets. Farmers markets in all 50 states now accept EBT SNAP cards and more and more markets are offering program that allow seniors to double their SNAP funds. A November, 2014 NPR article points out that the success of a number of local initiatives at farmers’ markets across the country—such as at the Crossroads Farmers Market just outside of Washington, D.C. where a combination of donors and private foundations contributed to double EBT funds—led to the passing of a 2014 farm bill “that included a program to boost SNAP dollars when they’re spent on fresh fruits and vegetables.”

The State of Washington now offers a Fresh Bucks program which “matches SNAP funds, dollar-for-dollar up to $10 per cardholder per market, per day.” While it is true that not all programs operate in the same fashion, in many instances, customers with EBT cards can visit the market information booth to receive a transfer voucher. The customer then decides “how much he or she would like to spend…and the account is verified using a cell phone.” After that “the market provides the customer with wooden tokens” to be spent on farm-fresh foods at individual vendor booths. In addition to the SNAP program, “fresh, nutritious, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, honey and fresh-cut herbs can [also] be purchased with Seniors Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) benefits. “Coupons are issued to eligible SFMNP participants to buy eligible foods from farmers, farmers’ markets, roadside stands or CSAs that have been approved by the State agency to accept SFMNP coupons.”

Through government programs low-income seniors can improve not only their nutritional health, but also support their local food producers. Moreover, those who are concerned about the economic ramifications of programs like SNAP can take heart in the fact that the USDA cites that every $5 spent using SNAP generates $9 in economic activity.

The Last Stop: Unexpected Emergencies

I was sound asleep when a continuous ear-piercing beep from my apartment alarm system woke me. It wouldn’t stop. I rolled over, now wide awake. Thoughts of Is this for real and Is the building on fire raced through my head. I doubted there was a real fire, but if so, what should I do? Why have I never attended a fire drill? Should I stay in my apartment or go into the hall or maybe try to get out of the building? Still lying in my warm bed but becoming more anxious, I wondered if maybe the beeping might be a warning that one of my apartment smoke alarms needed new batteries. That had happened once before. I decided to get up and listen to see if the sound was coming from the other rooms. They were all beeping, so forget the battery theory. I looked out from my sixth-floor apartment window, which faces the back of the property. Everything looked tranquil.

Read more about the unexpected frustration and excitement that this emergency and another caused in Margery’s life in the Last Stop: Part 22.

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.”


The Link Between Food Insecurity and Poor Health in Seniors

Our next series of articles discusses the benefits of healthy eating and how seniors can incorporate this into their daily lives. For seniors residing in senior living communities, their chefs increasingly include locally sourced produce into the meals. Elders living on their own can buy produce from local growers at their the farmer’s market. Fortunately, even those on a limited budget can eat healthily and we’ll discuss state and federal programs that are available to aid seniors on an fixed income. In the following post we will focus on the health issues that result when food insecurity threatens healthy eating habits, a reality that is far more prevalent for seniors than many people realize.

Nearly 1 in 12:  that’s the number of seniors in the United States in 2011 who “had limited or uncertain access to enough food to sustain a healthy lifestyle” according to the Spotlight on Senior Health Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans report produced by Feeding America and the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger.

This food insecurity translates into tangible effects that affect a senior’s quality of life and health. Of the nutrients that are found in our diets, iron and protein are especially important for seniors. Yet seniors experiencing food insecurity consume 14 and 12 percent less of these nutrients than food secure seniors. They also consume fewer calories.

Consuming fewer calories and nutrients results in irreversible health issues. “Food insecurity was found to be negatively associated with nine diseases and other negative health conditions,” according to the report. Though heart attacks are an expected health risk as seniors age, food insecure seniors are more than 50 percent more likely to report a heart attack than their peers with access to food. Remaining independent also proves challenging, as they are 22 percent more likely to experience limitations with activities of daily living. Food insecure seniors are also 60 percent more likely to be depressed.

Even though all ages experience food insecurity, for seniors the health implications are much more significant. The study found that even food insecure seniors with higher incomes still experienced health issues, as a result  ”it is clear that food insecurity affects health and well-being independent of income levels,” the report concludes.

Earlier this year, we had a clearer picture of the number of seniors experiencing food insecurity through the release of The State of Senior Hunger in America 2013:  Annual Report. Using the 2013 data collected from the Current Population Survey, researchers estimate that 15.5 percent (9.6 million) seniors experienced food insecurity, an increase of 300,000 more than 2012. Seniors between the ages of 60-64 reported the highest percentage (18.62) compared to 12.54 percent of seniors 80+. Women were more likely to experience food insecurities than men, and employed seniors experience the threat of senior hunger at a lower percentage than seniors who are unemployed or disabled.

The distribution of food insecure seniors differs from state to state. Minnesota has the lowest estimate of threat of senior hunger at 8.30 compared to Arkansas which reported 26.10. Unfortunately with the estimates showing that the threat of senior hunger only increasing, the authors warn that the United States will be face additional public health challenges, especially because of the health issues that result from food insecurity.


** Images taken from Spotlight on Senior Health:  Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans and The State of Senior Hunger in America 2013:  Annual Report.



The Last Stop: Living Together

As a retired psychotherapist, consultant and mental health educator I spent much of my professional career helping people understand and manage their feelings. Yet I do not think that I have actually written about how it feels to live in a community like this. Well, it’s time to correct that. Despite the challenges, I recommend this CCRC lifestyle as the best choice for seniors who are looking for their last stop.

Learn more about my thoughts and observations learning to live together in my latest post Living Together.

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.”

How Geriatric Care Managers can Help You Care for Your Parents

Where can your turn when those conversations about how to care for your parents become difficult?  Who’s available to help you sort through all the options?  Is there a neutral third party who can listen objectively and make recommendations?  If you’re miles away, who can make a personal visit to assess your parents’ health?  The answer: geriatric care managers.

Who are Geriatric Care Managers?

Geriatric care managers are health and human services professionals with specialized knowledge of and experience in senior care.  Their backgrounds may include such fields as nursing, social work, gerontology and psychology.  They advocate for senior clients and support families; offering independent assessment of the situation and arranging for and coordinating appropriate services.  More often than not, family members struggle with emotions during this time; few are prepared for how these situations will affect them personally.  Geriatric care managers help families understand not only the situation and options, but also the feelings involved.

To learn more about how geriatric care managers can help lessen the stress of caring for your parents, visit’s page Geriatric Care Managers Can Help.

How a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist Can Help Your Parents Remain in Their Beloved Home

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 .

Joan’s Journey: Conservation and Change Describe Senior Living

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.

How to Overcome the Challenges of Moving to Assisted Living … Using TV Catchphrases

A few years ago, you bought a medical alert system for your older parent or relative. Then later, you added in-home care to help her with the activities of daily living. Now, you’re done with aging in place. She’s moving into assisted living.

When moving day arrives, emotions might be high—but risk should be low. Let’s look at everything you need to know to keep seniors safe during the move. To help with our journey, we’ve enlisted the help of our friend, the television.

And a one … and a two …  and awaaaay we go!How to Overcome the Challenges of Moving into Assisted Living ... Using TV Catchphrases

Ask her, “How you doin’?”

Moving into assisted living is a huge change, so don’t trivialize the impact. Acknowledge the emotions moving causes and don’t let those feelings of helplessness, anger and sadness simmer. Talk it out, frequently.

Don’t look back: “The tribe has spoken”

Make moving a collaborative process so that your loved one can be involved. After all, she is the one who’s actually moving. Work with her to organize and plan the move. It’s not about you doing it all or her doing it all. Do it together.

Once you’ve made the decision to move to assisted living, don’t look back. Don’t go 50 rounds once you’ve made the decision. This isn’t an occasion to keep asking, “Is that your final answer?” Make the call and move on.

“Just the facts, ma’am”

Don’t get fooled by sales talk or fancy brochures. Visit as many facilities as you can with your loved one. When you visit the facilities, examine all aspects of life. Never assume anything when you’re visiting—ask questions! Most importantly, use a checklist like this one to inspect the assisted living facility so you can compare the options available.

Talking to residents is one of the best ways to learn what it’s actually like to live at the facility, so don’t be shy to ask them questions! After your visit, talk with your loved one about what you both liked and disliked about each facility so you can choose the one that best fits both their needs and their wants.

“Move that bus”: How to get your home ready to sell

Your home may not need an extreme makeover, but now that you’ve chosen your ideal facility, it’s time to get your house ready to sell. Go through the house, clean it up, and make those small repairs that have been put off for years. You want your house to shine for prospective buyers! Work with a real estate professional to sell the house. It’s one less item that you have to manage, and you’ll make sure you’re getting full market value for the assets.

“Well, isn’t that special?” Bring the things that matter, but not everything

Moving into an assisted living facility means your loved one has to narrow down what they want to bring with them. First, talk to the facility to learn what is and is not allowed. Then you and your loved one need to have a talk—be careful not to assume what they want to take with them.

Make sure your loved one brings her favorite belongings. You want to avoid clutter, but you also want to recreate the feeling of home in the new space. Be careful of the temptation to buy your loved one completely new furniture for their new home—many older adults prefer to keep their favorite recliner or sleep in their own bed.

Finally, double-check that you have packed the basic, day-to-day items she will need. These include medication, shampoo, toothbrush and other toiletries. Pack enough clothing to fill the closets. Include enough underwear and socks so that there is always a clean set available. Bring sweaters for air conditioning, and nice outfits for socializing events.

Choosing which items to bring can be the most difficult part of this process. Your loved one will likely need to downsize. Keep up the conversation with her so that everything she needs to be happy and feel at home is packed to bring with her.

“Grab your gear” (Or better yet, have someone else grab it)

Once you’ve decided what your loved one is bringing with her, it’s time to get it over to the new place. Let a moving company take care of things. While they do the heavy lifting, you can go over the paperwork to update your loved one’s address with the post office and necessary companies. You want her to continue getting her mail!

“Hi, everybody!” Make some new friends

It can be hard to make friends as a senior. She doesn’t have to announce herself every time she enters a room at the new facility, but your mother will have to try a bit. Work with your loved one to create a friend strategy before you arrive. Encourage them to meet the neighbors. Look at all of the available activities and pick a few to try. Meeting new friends and staying busy will ease the transition and make living in the facility much more enjoyable.


You’re not Mighty Mouse. Your job isn’t to save the day. Just do a little planning and help her transition to assisted living. Bring your plan and do the work, and you’ll be just fine. Remember, with clear eyes and a full heart, you can’t lose.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is an NAHB Certified Aging In Place Expert and has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard as well as a Master’s in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home. As the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company, Shayne writes about issues that matter to seniors and those that care about them.

The Last Stop: On the Go

For nine installments, I’ve been describing my senior living experiences. This month, I want my readers to know how good it feels to get away. I feel fortunate that I have places to go, people who want to see me and that I can handle the unpredictable, challenging experience of travel.

So far, so good.Margery prepares for takeoff!

When I went to Beijing to visit my son, he suggested I order a wheelchair when I landed to get me to where he would be waiting. I was insulted and firmly told him I had no problem walking and he should know that. The truth is, he was travel-smart and I was dumb.

In a country where few understand my language and I don’t understand theirs, there is a huge risk of getting misdirected when traveling alone and not being able to ask anyone for help. He was so right and I was stupidly vain. I was sure glad I did what he told me anyway. I went from the plane to the wheelchair to his car without a hitch.

Read more about Margery’s travels, including some helpful advice for seniors who decide to hit the road, in “Part 11: On The Road.”

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.”