Commentary: Advice to the elderly

Opinion March 16, 2012 0 Comments

by Regina B. Holmes

I turned 81 in June 2011 and am hoping to look forward to becoming 82 this coming June.

What do I recommend to people over the age of 80? The very first thing is to find a job if you can. Is there something you can do well, something that someone may want to purchase? Is the place where you find the job near your home, or at least not so far that you have to spend an hour or more getting there? Is it full time or, if you are lucky, part time? It is definitely a pleasure to receive a check every so often, even if it is not enormous.

I have been fortunate since retiring from full-time work (22 years as associate director at Center in the Park, a senior center in Germantown), to have found a part-time job at the Chestnut Hill Local newspaper two mornings a week, where I am an editorial assistant (typing and editing as needed).

The second thing, or perhaps second and third, are eating well and exercising regularly. What does eating well mean? It means paying some attention to what is written everywhere. Watch your calories. Lower your intake of meat – increase your quantity of vegetables and fruits. Don’t eat lots of cake, ice cream or drink lots of soda. Find a low-calorie dessert that pleases you, like applesauce.

And join a gym – is there one near where you live? Is there equipment there that you can work out on – treadmills, bicycles, a swimming pool, machines to strengthen your arms and legs and improve your balance.

I recently joined Planet Fitness, which is only 15 minutes from where I live, and go usually three or four times a week, where I use a treadmill, an exercycle and several pieces of equipment, which hopefully will strengthen my legs.

Are you taking your vitamins daily? Do you also take a medicine which your doctor recommended? Do you see your doctor/s regularly, and do you take with you a list of the vitamins and pills that you are taking?

How do you feel about the place where you are living? Are you comfortable there? Is it easy to get around? Do you have an outdoor space where you can enjoy looking at plants, basking in the sun if you want to and looking at the sky? And if you are thinking of someday leaving your house, have you thought about what you might want to get rid of first?

I am very lucky to be living in a ranch house (no stairs going up or down), which is conveniently located near a train station, a supermarket, a drugstore, and which has a beautiful garden in front and in back.

Make a list of what you will no longer need and where you might want to donate it, or perhaps what you might want to sell. Talk to your family and see what they might want that you don’t need to keep.

In the past few years I have donated so many books to local libraries and have received a receipt for the donations, which I use when I file my income tax.

One thing that is difficult and yet important is your social life. Do you have friends near your age? Do you keep in touch with as many as you can – perhaps by telephone, by letter, or seeing them as often as is possible. Is there a senior center nearby that you can attend and maybe make new friends?

This past year I lost two very close friends, and I try to keep in touch with some who were close to me when I was pre-teen and in later years too. (I still write and mail letters, and call some on the telephone instead of using email.)

It is important to manage your finances, pay your bills on time and keep records that you may need when you prepare papers for whoever does your income tax. It is helpful to check carefully your monthly bank report and any charge card company statement.

The last thing I shall mention is the fact that life does end some day. Do you have a will? A living will? A durable power of attorney for healthcare? Durable powers of attorney for whoever you want to manage your money if you can’t?

Because I think of my family often – have two sons, three grandchildren – I do have a living will, a will and all kinds of health-related wishes. I have even been working on powers of attorney for my sons.

It would be helpful to have some notes for your spouse, children, close friends, letting them know what your final wishes are – where you might want to be buried, cremated or not, and any service you would like for family and friends.

The end. Hopefully, not yet.

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