Helpful apps for seniors

8 tech solutions to maintain independence and give caregivers peace of mind

By Jeff Salter for Next Avenue

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Every day for the last 24 years, I’ve worked with the elderly and, by extension, with their families. As the founder of Caring Senior Service, a non-medical in-home care provider, my goal is to ensure that people can age with dignity in their own homes and to reassure families that their loved ones are safe and secure. Increasingly, technology helps on both fronts.


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The importance of listening to the person with dementia

We need to hear well before the voice is silenced by the disease

By Mike Good for Next Avenue

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Credit: Thinkstock

(Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series examining and interpreting a commonly used “bill of rights” for dementia patients.) 

People with Alzheimer’s or other dementia are an invaluable part of our society. Millions of them are brilliant, wise and actively advocating for their rights and needs.

As my friend with Alzheimer’s, David Kramer said, “It’s not something that necessarily makes us idiots.” No it doesn’t, but unfortunately the vast majority of people don’t understand the disease, and therefore, don’t know how to listen to the person with dementia.

Just like anyone else with unique challenges and special needs, people with dementia need to be able to communicate their needs, wants and fears without being judged.


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It happens to the best of us: I’m not cool anymore

Despair turns to hope during a humdrum trip to the grocery store

By Peter Gerstenzang for Next Avenue

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Credit: Thinkstock

A few mornings ago, I saw a reflection of myself and had to summon every bit of strength to keep from shrieking. What was staring back at me, from a darkened winter window, was sad, morally repugnant and just plain creepy.

As I caught a glimpse of myself on the NordicTrack, wearing a velour sweatsuit and horn-rimmed glasses so I could watch CNBC, I had the most unsettling epiphany: I’m not cool anymore.

I looked beyond the window at my snow-covered suburban lawn and wondered what had happened to my rebellious nature. Where was the guy who once wore mirror shades and motorcycle boots, whose long hair was held in place by a bandana? How did he morph into the guy who was exercising before dawn? Who chugged prune juice? And now dressed like senile mobster, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante? I did not know. And I was bummed about it.


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Art and friendship make powerful tools to fight ageism

College students and older adults become ‘pals’ in this creative arts program

By Linda Bernstein for Next Avenue

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Credit: paletteprogram.org Caption: PALETTE participants bridge the generations

“Whom would I meet? What would I say? Would I seem dorky?” These were Rena Berlin’s concerns before she met her Partner in Art Learning, the new “pal” she’d been matched with through a program that pairs a college student with an older adult to create art.

“For the first time in my life I really felt like a senior,” says the 68-year-old educator from Richmond, Va., with a laugh. “They were transporting a small group of us from the Weinstein Jewish Community Center in a van to the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. A van. That mean’s you’re getting old. I was also nervous.”

It turns out she had nothing to worry about. “After my PAL and I got started, it was amazing,” she says.


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The secret to a long marriage

Our relationship is different from our parents’ but just as lasting

By Candy Schulman for Next Avenue

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Credit: Getty Images

When I mention I recently celebrated my 40th wedding anniversary, friends stare incredulously as if to say, “How is that possible?” I joke that I was a child bride in an arranged marriage, sold with a dowry to the highest bidder. The truth is I did vow “I do” at 23.

My husband, Steve, and I married young and had a child late.


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Devotion: Do not be discouraged

Wayne Rector

 By Wayne Rector, Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor resident

There is a song entitled, “Reach Out to Jesus,” which says, “is your burden heavy as you bear it all alone? Does the road you travel harbor danger yet unknown? Are you growing weary in the struggle of it all? Jesus will help you when on His name you call.”

So often in life, it seems, when we set out to do something good, or strive to reach a worthwhile goal, we find obstacles in our path that would discourage us.

The Apostle Paul warns us to “not be weary in well doing.” So if discouragement or weariness in well doing seeks to turn you aside or keep you from doing your best, hang in there, as the saying goes. Work like it all depended on you, and pray like it all depended on God. And, remember, reach out to Jesus, for he is always reaching out to you.

Let’s Pray. Our Father in Heaven, we thank you that you have not put us in the world struggle alone, but you are “a very present help in time of trouble.” We thank you for the light that guides our paths, and for Jesus who leads us when our way is not clear. In His name we pray. Amen.

Veterinarian injects his art and his life with humor

"Two Geriatric Gents" by Dr. Steve Swaim.

“Two Geriatric Gents” by Dr. Steve Swaim.

Dr. Steve Swaim practiced and taught veterinary medicine for 50 years. When he retired, Dr. Swaim put down his scalpel and picked up woodcarving tools. And animals are still his favorite subjects.

Dr. Swaim’s carving, “Two Geriatric Gents,” will be featured on Art is Ageless notecards by Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America (PMMA). After winning the sculpture/3D category in the Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor competition, his piece was entered at the masterpiece level to compete with works from 16 other PMMA communities.

The two “gents” are actually an old man and his dog, who are both due for their annual checkups. The man has a checklist for each of them, and they’re quite similar – except that he won’t be checked for fleas. “One of the guys in my carving club saw it and said, ‘I learned dogs have prostate glands too.'”

Dr. Swaim said cartoon-like scenes are his favorite to dream up, create and paint. “I inherited my humor, and my sons are the same way,” he said, adding one of his favorite sayings: “Humor is to life what shock absorbers are to a car.”

As a professor of veterinary medicine at Auburn University, Dr. Swaim said he peppered his lectures with funny stories and colloquialisms. His colleagues and students urged him to write them down, so he published a humor book titled “I Wanna See a Veterinarian.”

Dr. Swaim said he entered Art is Ageless for the past couple of years, but this is the first time to be featured in the calendar or cards. Most of the time, he gives his whimsical carvings to veterinary students, family and friends. But they also have another purpose.

One of his favorite causes is the Christian Veterinary Missions organization, which has student chapters at many veterinary colleges. For more than eight years, Dr. Swaim has donated carvings to raffles to raise money for mission trips by veterinary students at Auburn, Oklahoma State, and his alma mater, K-State. Without a doubt, his humorous scenes create lots of laughter, which of course is the best medicine of all.

4 life lessons from Tony Bennett and other 89-year-olds

Bennett and Dick Van Dyke are going strong and happy

By Liz Fedor for Next Avenue

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Caption: Tony with his son Danny, 2007 Grammy Awards

Singer Tony Bennett, at 89, isn’t resting on his laurels.

He recently released a new album, The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern. In an interview with NPR, he recalled how much he loved singing for his relatives as a boy. “It created a passion in my life that exists to this moment as I speak to you, that is stronger now at 89 than in my whole life,” Bennett said. “I still feel that I can get better somehow. And I search for it all of the time.”

Bennett’s not the only 89-year-old who is defying stereotypes of older age.  Actor Dick Van Dyke  just wrote a memoir titled Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging.  Queen Elizabeth continues to carry out the royal responsibilities she inherited in 1952. And Marilyn Hagerty, my friend and former colleague, continues to write regularly for the Grand Forks, N.D., Herald.

Their daily lives offer four lessons for all people of all ages:


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Fiftysomething diet: 7 trendy (and healthy?) foods

They are getting a lot of attention and may even be good for you

By Maureen Callahan for Next Avenue

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In the never-ending parade of new food products that make headlines every year, there are always a few that catch on and become trendy, almost fashionable. They are options that beg to be included in any healthy diet.

The question is: Are they worth bringing to the table? Put another way, will they help you age more gracefully and do they have unique nutritional benefits?

Here’s a look at seven of the trendiest edible offerings that people are talking about around the water cooler, at book clubs and in the coffee shop, along with details on what they do and don’t offer when it comes to health, nutrition and disease prevention:


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Dad’s gone but his travels to Africa still inspire me

His pictures from the other side of the world set me off on an unexpected path

By Wendy Walleigh for Next Avenue

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Credit: Getty Images

Africa has had a special place in my heart ever since I was a little girl looking at my father’s World War II photos. Dad had been a 24-year-old Air Force cargo pilot in multiple countries in east, west and central Africa. And while on the continent in 1942 and ’43, he traveled to Egypt and Palestine.

He sent his photos of these locales home to my mother, who lovingly preserved them, mostly black-and-white, affixing them to the black pages of a photo album with sticky corner-frames. I liked to sit with him looking at these pictures as he told me the stories that accompanied them.


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