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Posts Tagged ‘elderly’

Photo: Cycling Without Age.

Thinking a lot about ageing these days. For one thing, hiding from Covid all the time makes me feel old, and then there are the inevitable health issues.

How does anyone make a plan? There is no way to predict exactly what will happen next. So far my husband and I do everything we always did, but I have felt a need to start looking at “Places,” to use the word of humorist Roz Chast.

Some Places boast activities that look interesting. Today’s story is about an activity that would make a good addition.

Jessica Coulon reports at Bicycling magazine on a clever nonprofit initiative. “Ole Kassow, of Copenhagen, Denmark, was riding his bike to work one morning in 2012 when he noticed an old, disabled man sitting on a bench outside a local nursing home. The man reminded him of his father, who uses a wheelchair.

“Knowing the challenges that come with limited mobility in old age, and thinking about how deeply ingrained bicycling is in Copenhagen culture, a thought occurred to him: The man likely hadn’t ridden a bike in a long time and, Kassow thought, he probably missed it.

‘I couldn’t get that thought out of my head, that I needed to get this man back on a bike,’ Kassow told Bicycling.

“Kassow acted on his idea the very next day by renting a rickshaw and offering rides to seniors at the retirement home. He ended up piloting a woman, who began telling him stories about living in Copenhagen as they rode around. When they returned, the facility’s staff were amazed at the woman’s energizing reaction to the ride.

“These volunteer rides grew into what is now the nonprofit Cycling Without Age. The organization partners with nursing homes and senior care facilities around the world to offer bike rides to the people who live there. Volunteers who sign up can pilot rickshaws, also known as trishaws, which can carry up to two passengers. There are also bikes that can accommodate wheelchairs.

“The primary goal of the program is to improve the lives of seniors by getting them outside and back into the community and bringing them joy through riding a bike. According to Kassow, the program gives its participants a greater ‘sense of belonging.’ It’s also a way for the younger generations who volunteer to connect with and learn from older generations.

“ ‘It quickly became something that the other care homes wanted to do in Copenhagen,’ Pernille Bussone, the global community captain for Cycling Without Age, told Bicycling. From there the program began to spread into neighboring countries, like Sweden and Norway. Now, the organization boasts chapters in more than 45 countries. …

“Their evidence of this was anecdotal at first. But after conducting an impact study in their Singapore chapter, they discovered that these rides have the potential to improve participants’ reported mood and outlook on life by up to 80 percent.

“While the shorter, one-day outings are perhaps the most common type of ride that volunteers offer, some of their volunteers have gotten creative. One chapter in Sweden, for example, began offering ice-fishing trips using the trishaws. …

“They’ve also introduced bike touring in certain chapters, which consist of three or four day outings in large groups, that include family members of the elderly passengers and staff from their nursing homes. They stay at hotels and often have picnics outside. Some of the bike tours have had more than 100 people take part. …

“The organization is now gaining ground in the U.S. where there are currently 418 chapters. ‘I’ve personally witnessed the joy and effects getting seniors back outside brings to their quality of life,’ Shelly Sabourin told Bicycling. Sabourin was the director of nursing at a care facility in Madison, Wisconsin, when she found out about the program in 2016.”

Andrea Morris at CBN News has more.

” ‘I see CWA as a catalyst for better lives by helping socially isolated elders and people with limited mobility gain access to their local communities,’ Kassow told CBN News. ‘We all know that exercise and fresh air is good for us, but not many people know that happiness and longevity are mainly the result of both a few close relationships and access to interact with several people in our daily lives. I see Cycling Without Age play(ing) a key role in making relationships a human right for all elders in all societies.’ “

More at Bicycling, here, and at CBN News, here. No firewalls. And be sure to check out the organization’s website, here.

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Photo: Takehiko Kambayashi.
Octogenarian app developer Wakamiya Masako creates fabric designs with Excel art (note her shirt) and also games that older people can win against kids.

I know I’m not the only one when I say that I miss Jimmy the Geek. He would make an initial housecall for computer problems, but after that, he’d solve problems over the phone, usually without charge.

Jimmy died two years ago. And I have managed to take care of myself, techwise, mostly by following his approach to finding solutions.

The common wisdom that old folks need to ask children for tech help gives us a bad rap. Many older bloggers know how wrong that is. We have learned to do all sorts of fancy things with WordPress, for example, adapting when the platform makes its endless “improvements.” My grandchildren have no idea how to do this. They could learn it fast, but I would have to teach them.

You can see why I was drawn to today’s story about Wakamiya Masako, 86, who learned to develop a game app at age 82.

Takehiko Kambayashi writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Retired from bank management for about 25 years, she has spent a lot of her time helping older friends and neighbors learn to use smartphones, and she’s developed the theory that they have a hard time because there aren’t games and apps aimed at their age group.  

“One possible solution, she thought, was to create a gaming app to encourage and enchant older people into more comfort with their smartphones. …

“Her idea has made her famous at home and abroad for being one of the oldest app developers in the world, lauded by Japanese leaders and global technology executives for transcending age barriers.  

“ ‘Ms. Wakamiya asked me to develop a gaming app in which seniors can beat young people,’ recalls Koizumi Katsushiro, president of Tesseract, a company that teaches computer programming and app development in the northeastern city of Shiogama. 

“But he suggested she create the app herself, and that he would help her. The energetic Ms. Wakamiya took on the challenge, struggling for six months to create the game. …

“In 2017, at the age of 82, she launched Hinadan. The game features Japan’s traditional Hinamatsuri festival, a celebration of Girls’ Day. On the Hinadan app, which takes its name from a tiered stand for displaying traditional Japanese dolls, users must move dolls – puzzle-like – into appropriate positions according to roles: the emperor and the empress, court ladies, and court musicians with instruments. It has now been released in five languages. 

“ ‘I was pleased with the launch. But I did not think it was such a major achievement,’ says Ms. Wakamiya, surprised at the global interest in her work. 

“Hailing her as the world’s oldest app developer, Apple chief executive Tim Cook invited her to the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, in 2017. …

“Ms. Wakamiya, who serves as vice chair of the Mellow Club, a Japanese online group for older people, soon found herself on the global speaking circuit encouraging older people to overcome discomfort with technology.

“In 2018, she delivered a keynote address at a United Nations conference in New York on ‘Why are digital skills critical for older persons?’ And she has published several books on aging and technology in Japan, including one titled ‘Life Becomes More and More Interesting After 60.’ …

“In Japan, her advocacy for the use of technology at older ages is particularly notable. Japan has struggled with difficult problems associated with its declining birthrate and aging population, including labor shortages and slow economic growth.

“Those age 65 or older account for 29% of Japan’s population. That’s projected to rise to 38% by 2065, estimates the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo. 

“Ms. Wakamiya began using computers a few years before she retired in 1997 in hopes of socializing online while looking after her aging mother at home.

She says she found that, more than just a new way to expand her circle of friends, computer literacy enriched her life with opportunities to broaden her perspective and satisfy her intellectual curiosity.

“The deficit of online material for older people made her get creative: Using Excel spreadsheets, she saw patterns that she translated into art – designs for fabric and paper fans. She calls it ‘Excel art.’ 

“ ‘Excel looks difficult for seniors. But I came up with an idea of drawing designs using its functions. Then, I got so excited as I was able to produce one new pattern after another,’ says Ms. Wakamiya. … 

“Ms. Wakamiya has taught other seniors how to produce artworks online, using the Excel software as a design tool. ‘It’s very important for seniors to be creative and produce something original,’ she says. 

“Ms. Wakamiya, who sits on Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s digital policy committee, is known as an information technology evangelist with a mission to get seniors to acquire digital skills. … On her own initiative, Ms. Wakamiya flew to Estonia, which is pioneering the e-Residency concept of digital nations, in 2019 to see how seniors are able to fit in its e-government systems. She also made a speech and held workshops on Excel art during her stay. …

“Hashimoto Kayoko, retired from her career at a major trading house, stumbled upon Ms. Wakamiya at an Apple store in Tokyo, where she was giving an inspirational speech. ‘It was as though rain in the dark sky suddenly turned to a brilliantly sunny day. Ma-chan lights up my heart,’ she says. ‘Ma-chan shows me a can-do attitude.’

“Ms. Wakamiya, who lectures across Japan, encourages older people to be involved in volunteer work especially because many, particularly men, do not know what they are going to do in their post-retirement life. 

“ ‘While you contribute to society, volunteering can help broaden your perspective by meeting and working with those in different age groups. Some of them have high aspirations,’ she says. … 

“Ms. Wakamiya’s life after retirement made her see things differently because, throughout her four-decade career at a bank, most of her acquaintances were in the same business, she says. She recently realized that often, in Japan’s culture of perfectionism, many people are simply so afraid of failure they won’t try something new.

“ ‘You should not worry about failures. There are no such things as failures,’ she says. ‘To just start something new is deemed a success because you still learn in the process.’ ” 

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: Filip Mroz/Unsplash.
A coach told his team the day’s workout would be shoveling for old folks at no charge. Where were these guys when I needed them?

I don’t know if there are any coaches reading this blog, but I just had to spread an idea that a football coach at a Pittsburgh high school had after a snowstorm. Over the years, there have been several storms when I was home alone and really needed the kind of help described here. Once the snow was so high, I had to climb over my picket fence.

Cathy Free writes at the Washington Post, “Pearl Moss looked out her front window in Bethel Park, Pa., and was instantly worried. A major snowstorm that pummeled the Pittsburgh area and the East Coast over the weekend had dumped nearly a foot of snow in her driveway, and there was more on the way.

“ ‘I thought, “What am I going to do? There’s no way I can get out there and shovel myself out,” ‘ said Moss, 74, surveying the white landscape on Monday. …

“A few hours later, there was a knock on her door. Moss peeked out and was surprised to see two teenage boys standing on her porch with shovels.

“ ‘I couldn’t believe it — they were going to shovel me out,’ she said. ‘And they didn’t want a single penny to do it.’

“David Shelpman, 16, and Aidan Campbell, 17, live in the same neighborhood as Moss and are on the football team at Bethel Park High School. Head Coach Brian DeLallo had emailed them and other team members Sunday to inform them that their Martin Luther King Jr. Day workout in the school gym wasn’t going to happen.

“DeLallo also posted a notice on Twitter with some instructions. ‘Due to expected severe weather, Monday’s weightlifting workout has been cancelled,’ he wrote. ‘Find an elderly or disabled neighbor and shovel their driveway. Don’t accept any money — that’s our Monday workout.’

“Shelpman and about 40 other team members put on their snow gear and took their assignment seriously.

“ ‘I grabbed some shovels and drove over to pick up Aidan, and we spent the next eight hours shoveling driveways and sidewalks for people that we knew couldn’t do it for themselves,’ said Shelpman, an offensive and defensive lineman for the Bethel Park Black Hawks.

“ ‘It was a fun way to spend the day,’ he said. ‘We just kept going until we’d done six houses. We even skipped out on having lunch. It made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself.’ …

“Braedon Del Duca, a guard for the Black Hawks, shoveled out five houses with two of his friends, Colton Pfeuffer and his brother, Tanner Pfeuffer.

“ ‘I like helping other people, and I love the snow, so it was fun to get a workout outside,’ said Del Duca, 16. ‘It was cool to see how happy people were when we showed up.’ …

“ ‘My dad went to school here, and he also used to shovel snow around the community,’ he said. ‘Whenever there’s a snow day, it’s just what you do when you’re on the football team.’

“DeLallo, 51, said the ‘shovel day’ ritual was started in 2002 by former head coach Jeff Metheny, who is now retired.

“ ‘I was on staff as an assistant coach when he started it, and it’s something everyone is proud to keep going,’ he said.

“In Bethel Park, a Pittsburgh borough with about 32,000 residents, community support of the football team is strong, DeLallo noted.

“ ‘Our games are always well attended, so giving back is the right response,’ he said. ‘Most of our kids know the older people in their neighborhoods, and shoveling snow is a way to connect outside of the usual Friday night football game.’ …

“Other high schools in the area do similar service projects in the community, DeLallo said.

“ ‘The feedback has been awesome, but we’re not the only ones making a difference,’ he said. ‘When you get 11 inches of snow, this is something a lot of communities have stepped up to do.’

“Pearl Moss said she’s grateful for the teens, adding that if they hadn’t shown up when they did, she probably would have been stuck in her house for a while.

“ ‘Those kids did a fine job, and I’ll never forget it,’ she said.”

I believe many teens would like to help neighbors but don’t know where to start. Do you have online neighborhood bulletin boards in your area where people can post needs or trade services — say, a batch of homemade cookies for shoveling the front walk?

We have a pretty reliable paid service right now, but I had a new neighbor offer to help out with his snowblower in the last storm, and you can bet I will keep him in mind. I find it’s unusual for New Englanders to volunteer their help in this way. Please correct me if that has not been your expeience!

More at the Post, here.

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Photo: Capable (Community Aging in Place — Advancing Better Living for Elders)
The Community Aging in Place — Advancing Better Living for Elders program sends a nurse, an occupational therapist, and a handyman to modify and improve the home environment of low-income seniors.

Many people I know are thinking about downsizing or signing up for an assisted-living arrangement that could be tapped when needed. It’s tricky though. Most places require a checkup to show you’re healthy when you arrive, but you may not want to use the service until you are routinely forgetting to turn off the oven or until the local building inspector is demanding expensive repairs on your property.

That is why so many new models are emerging.

Amanda Abrams writes at Shelterforce, “Three years ago, Lisa was in trouble. The Minneapolis homeowner had fallen victim to several recent misfortunes, including a divorce and diagnosis of a chronic illness. But it was the attention of a particularly punitive city housing inspections department that almost did her in. …

“Lisa was required to paint the trim around her own house, add handrails to the front steps, and fix the roof. Later, the city also pointed out that two elm trees in her yard were diseased and had to be cut down. The fines she was assessed had a steep interest rate and the total grew rapidly; within a few years, she owed $24,000; plus, she needed another $4,000 to cut down the elm trees.

“Lisa, then 65, didn’t have that kind of money, so the amount was added to her property taxes, putting her ownership of the house at risk. The home, a two-story duplex in an ethnically diverse North Side neighborhood, was paid off, but Lisa was unable to refinance it or otherwise raise the funds. …

“Lisa’s story sounds dramatic, but it’s not a particularly unusual one for low- and moderate-income seniors around the country. According to experts, the United States is about to face a giant wave of aging baby boomers who are hoping to remain in their houses as they age, but who are often one outstanding tax bill, major repair, or medical crisis away from losing their homes altogether.

“The statistics are daunting. According to LeadingAge, a national association of not-for-profit aging services organizations, in a little over 10 years, one in five Americans will be older than 65, and over half of them will need some sort of paid long-term care services. The organization recently released the results of a poll showing that at least 60 percent of seniors hope to remain at home as they age, even if they have a physical disability.

“But elderly Americans tend to have low incomes, as their life spans outstrip their savings. Roughly 20 million senior households pay over 30 percent of their incomes for housing, according to the AARP Foundation; almost 10 million pay over 50 percent. …

“ ‘For younger baby boomers, their economic situation is much worse than the older ones — they got hit in ’08 [by the financial crisis] and were unable to recover. There’s a growing number of baby boomers retiring with mortgages, so they don’t own their houses outright,’ says Robyn Stone, co-director of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @ UMass Boston. …

“Dan Soliman, director of housing impact at the AARP Foundation, agrees with Stone that a crisis is looming, but he’s more optimistic about the options for addressing it. ‘It’s a really, really big math problem.’ …

“There are definitely innovative programs out there, Soliman says. One is the Community Aging in Place — Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) initiative run by the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. The program sends a nurse, an occupational therapist, and a handyman to modify and improve the home environment of low-income seniors who want to age in place. Initially piloted in Baltimore, it’s a modest program that can have a real impact — and save money for Medicare and Medicaid.

“ ‘They get that if we’re able to keep an older adult in their home rather than a facility, there’s significant savings,’ says Soliman. The program is now being expanded to several states.

“AARP Foundation itself has developed a new program called Property Tax-Aide to help older homeowners gain better access to property tax refund and credit programs; currently only about 8 percent of low-income seniors benefit from these initiatives. …

“And many cities have programs that help elderly residents retrofit their houses to make them more user-friendly. Washington, D.C., for example, offers grants of up to $10,000 to low- and moderate-income homeowners and renters for home modifications that reduce the risk of falls and improve mobility.

“But those programs don’t get at some of the bigger issues, like out-of-control tax bills that can eventually lead to foreclosure, major repairs costing tens of thousands of dollars, or medical crisis that interrupt mortgage or tax payments.

“There is a small program currently being implemented in Minneapolis that addresses just about all of the key problems, and then some. It funds housing retrofits and pays off outstanding bills so that seniors can age in place, and could cover some services as well. And it keeps the homes affordable to low- and moderate-income buyers in perpetuity, so that when seniors no longer live there, the houses don’t fall into the hands of investors or negligent landlords.

“The program, called Project Sustained Legacy, was created by Minneapolis’ City of Lakes Community Land Trust. It takes advantage of the land trust model — but tweaks it slightly. Rather than buying the land underneath a house in order to lower the initial purchase price for a new buyer — the traditional CLT approach — the organization takes over the deed to the land belonging to an existing homeowner. In return, City of Lakes addresses outstanding tax liens, mortgage payments, and deferred maintenance.”

There are, of course, challenges to implementing a program like this. You can read about that and about what parts of the country are tackling a land-trust model here.

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I’m reading Book Six of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. The rings with the birthstones of my grandchildren are from Luna & Stella.

It’s always nice to learn that something you do anyway is good for your health. For example, I love to read. Now an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune tells me that reading books may help older folks stave off dementia.

Doug Williams writes, “If you want to live a long, healthy life, be sure to exercise, eat your veggies, get plenty of sleep and surround yourself with family and friends.

“Oh, and read a few good books each year, too.

“Several studies in recent years indicate that reading — especially reading books — is beneficial to health, wellness and even longevity.

“In 2016, research done by a team at the Yale University School of Public Health found that of more than 3,600 men and women 50 and older in a long-term health and retirement study, book readers — reading at least 3½ hours per week — had a 20 percent lower risk of dying over the next 12 years than non-book readers.

“Books, even more than long magazine or newspaper articles, seem to enhance quality of life, the researchers said.

“ ‘You have to engage more, hold on to information longer,’ says Avni Bavishi, one of the researchers and authors of the study done while she was completing her master’s in chronic disease epidemiology at Yale. …

“Bavishi, now a medical student at Northwestern, says regular book readers can find relaxation in reading. That can be an oasis — an old-school refuge — in this era of constantly changing stimuli from the Internet and 24-hour news cycle. Lifelong readers, too, may develop better critical thinking skills, vocabulary and empathy that can improve quality of life.

“The researchers believe books promote ‘deep reading’ that is a slow, immersive process. That cognitive engagement may help a reader over his or her lifetime to develop better skills for reasoning and concentration that can improve quality of life (better schools, jobs, income, standard of living). Plus, reading books can ‘promote empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence’ that can help create what they call a ‘survival advantage.’ …

“A study published in the journal Neurology in 2013 also cited the benefits of a lifetime of reading as a barrier to ‘late-life cognitive decline.’ It found that although there is no cure for dementia, ‘reading, writing and playing games’ can slow the progress of that affliction. …

“In a 2009 study at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, researchers found reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent, better even than listening to music or taking a walk. Stress reduction was indicated by a lower heart rate and reduced muscle tension.

“Other studies show reading — especially before bedtime — promotes better sleep. It also can enhance social skills and can boost overall intelligence and academic success. …

“In 2012, Stanford researchers — using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — tracked blood flow to the brain of men and women critically reading excerpts of a Jane Austen novel. They found positive physical results, including increased blood flow to the brain in general, not just to the areas responsible for ‘executive function.’ ” More here.

FYI, I post mini reviews of all the books I read at GoodReads. You can email me at suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com about that.

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Photos: UNHCR/Anders Aalbux
Kerstin and Åke are Swedish senior citizens who say they have learned a lot from the young refugees who are
their IT guides and are recommending the service to their friends.

Although I generally bristle when assumptions are made about older people not knowing how to use a smartphone or computer, I have to admit that technology ignorance does characterize many seniors. So I’m not going to get on my high horse about young immigrants to Sweden sharing IT knowledge with the elderly and using the experience to improve their Swedish. I think it’s an important win-win — especially as Erik’s mother has explained to me that there needs to be more effort to help refugees learn Swedish.

Anders Aalbu writes for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, “It is a Saturday in Karlskoga, in the middle of Sweden. Kerstin and her husband, Åke, have each brought their smartphones, a tablet and a laptop. They’ve got a slew of questions, and they admit they might have already asked some of them. But Setrag and his colleague Sara don’t mind. A repeated question is just another opportunity for them to practice Swedish.

“While working as an IT guide, Setrag speaks slowly. But so do the seniors who come to the public library every Saturday to learn how to use their computers and smartphones. They don’t mind that their teachers are refugees, as speaking slowly makes it easier for them to understand each other.

“Wearing his blue IT guide shirt, Setrag patiently explains to Kerstin: “But now you want to travel by bus, so you have to open another app, because this one is for buying train tickets,’ Setrag says. As the app loads, Setrag explains to Kerstin that the initial message that shows up is a one-off. ‘You’ll only see this the first time. It’s supposed to give you an idea about how to use the app,’ he explains as he points to the spot saying ‘Next.’

“Setrag Godoshian, 20, came to Sweden from Syria in 2014. He has spent three years in the introductory programme learning Swedish. A certain level of Swedish speaking skills was needed for him to become an IT guide. Now Setrag gets to speak lots of Swedish, has his first important job in Sweden, and he’s more integrated in the local community. In return, numerous seniors are improving their IT skills.

“Sara Alaydi, 20, is also a Syrian refugee, who arrived in Sweden in 2015. Becoming an IT guide has led to major changes in her integration into the Swedish society. ‘It has helped me so much. I’ve become more social, for instance, also at school. My experience from the job as an IT guide helps with all the group work we have in class,’ she explains. ‘Elderly people tend to speak a little bit slower, which makes it easier for us. And it also makes it less nerve-racking to talk to them, so we constantly get a chance to practice,’ Sara says. ‘And we’re more confident speaking with them, even though we make mistakes,’ Setrag adds. …

“IT Guide Sweden started in 2010. Its founder, Gunilla Lundberg, was approached by two teenagers, both having just arrived in Sweden, and in need of a summer job. Gunilla asked what they were good at, and the answer was ‘we’re good with computers.’ Today, IT Guide is present in more than 20 Swedish municipalities and employs about 200 young IT Guides. …

“IT Guide Sweden was nominated for the Swedish Door-Opener Award for 2018, an award recognizing Sweden’s best integration initiatives.”

Read here about how working as an IT guide often provides young immigrants with good references as they move into the job world.

Marketing and spreading the word about IT Guide to elderly Swedes is one part of the job for these young refugees.

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Photo: Richard Saker for the Guardian
“Oh, this is fun. I feel as if I’m at the party.” Seniors fighting off dementia benefit from Wayback Virtual Reality.

I often think I overdid it in early 2000 repeating myself over and over to encourage an impaired relative to remember her childhood, but an article by Giulia Rhodes in the Guardian suggests that stirring up old memories can indeed be helpful to seniors with dementia.

“In a comfortable armchair, glass of sherry at her side,” writes Rhodes, “Elspeth Ford is getting to grips with her 3D goggles. …

“Elspeth, 79, is a resident at Langham Court, a dementia care home in Surrey, and today she is trialling a virtual reality project, Wayback, that has been designed especially for those living with dementia. Peering into her headset, Elspeth is temporarily transported to 2 June 1953, and a street party for the Queen’s coronation. She is enjoying a children’s fancy-dress competition. ‘I love that boy dressed as an Oxo cube,’ she laughs.

“This is the first in what will become a series of virtual reality films set at historic moments, and available free for those with dementia, their families and carers to enjoy together through a mobile phone and a pair of inexpensive 3D goggles. The idea was developed by three advertising creatives with family experience of dementia.

“For Camilla Ford, Elspeth’s daughter, it is an exciting concept. ‘It gave Mum a huge amount of pleasure and really engaged her,’ she says. … ‘She was immersed in this and it took her back to a time of happy memories, when she was productive and emotionally fulfilled.’

“Elspeth has had vascular dementia for seven years, and finding a point of contact increasingly involves moving to where she is, rather than trying to bring her into the present, says Camilla. ‘If she is in a place she can identify with, and we can see it too, we are somehow equalised. We are at a stage where we aren’t trying to create memories but to relish positive emotions, dropping the expectation of who Mum was and just being with the person in front of us.’

“Elspeth sets off for lunch with her son Dominic, still smiling. It is unlikely, says Camilla, that her mother will remember what has made her feel happy. ‘The point is that she feels uplifted, not necessarily that she knows why.’

“Dan Cole, one of Wayback’s creators, agrees. ‘If the film can open some memories, start a conversation or bring a smile, that’s a success,’ he says. The idea began to form after a drive around Camden, north London, with his father, then in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. ‘It was his old stomping ground and he kept recognising places and telling me little tales; the pub his dad drank in, where he hung about with his mates, even an alley where he once got into a scrap,’ says Dan. ‘In that fleeting moment it was so clear in his mind. I could ask questions. He could tell me things.’ …

“The resulting film was made over two days in a north-London street (satellite dishes and other modern trappings digitally removed) with a volunteer cast and crew of 187 and painstakingly sourced period props, costumes and menu (fish-paste sandwiches, notes one Langham Court resident approvingly). …

“Langham Court’s philosophy is based on the Butterfly Household model, devised by Dr David Sheard, a dementia specialist and CEO of Dementia Care Matters, who is supporting Wayback. ‘People living with dementia become more feeling beings than thinking beings,’ he says. ‘Feelings endure and are more to be trusted when facts diminish.’ ”

More.

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Photo: Kristen Norman/NPR
Nearly half of the people in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side (where artist Matthew Hoffman created the above installation) live below the poverty line. Seniors living there had no idea there were public services that might help them.

Many older people want to stay in their homes a long time — if not forever. But when a friend commented the other day that if you stay too long, “the only person you eventually socialize with is your caregiver,” it got me thinking about the down side.

That’s why I was curious when Ina Jaffe weighed in at National Public Radio (NPR).

From her report: “Debra Thompson is throwing a block party. She has good weather for it — never a sure thing in Chicago — a warm and sunny autumn afternoon. Music is playing, hot dogs are grilling.

“But this party isn’t just for fun. Thompson is the volunteer chairwoman of Englewood Village, an organization that connects low-income older adults on the city’s South Side with services from nutrition to job assistance to home repair. And this is how she is reaching out to potential new members. …

“The Englewood Village has been around since 2015. But its roots go back 17 years and all the way to Boston, where Susan McWhinney-Morse and her friends were grappling with anxieties about aging. They wanted to stay in their homes as long as possible. They wanted to remain in their community on Beacon Hill.

“After a couple of years of effort, they produced the concept now known as the village. It’s a membership-run organization that provides access to services like transportation, help with household chores, even trouble-shooting computer problems, along with classes and social activities. …

“An independent organization has been founded to support the expansion of villages. It’s called the Village to Village Network, which has a map on its website showing where villages are located. …

“This fall, we traveled around the country to take a look at how villages are evolving. We found an effort in Chicago to create villages that serve low-income communities of color. We found a village in rural California where older adults don’t just receive services, they also provide them. Ultimately, what we found was that in practice, the village model isn’t so much a fixed formula, as an expression of older adults’ desires to age with dignity and independence. …

“At her Chicago block party, Debra Thompson cannot be ignored, with her dyed blond hair and a bright yellow T-shirt. She calls out to everyone, hoping they’ll fill out her survey so she can find out what they need. And Englewood seniors have a lot of needs. Nearly half of the people in this African-American neighborhood live below the poverty line. But many of them have no idea that there are public services that might help them. Thompson wants to change that.

“And she persists even when some people are reluctant to put their names on anything. …

“Thompson also passes out information on a lottery for free roof repairs and discounts on utilities and tells people about a service that can help frail older people remain in their homes. …

“[One] observer of the block party is Joyce Gallagher, and she likes what she sees. She is Chicago’s deputy commissioner for senior services. Gallagher loved the village concept from the first time she heard about it and wanted every older adult to have access to such a supportive community. The hang-up was the dues. The Chicagoans who could benefit the most from a village couldn’t fork over a few hundred bucks a year on top of paying for services.

“Then Gallagher had her lightbulb moment. What were the dues for? They paid for office space and computers and phones. But her department already had all of that in its 21 senior centers. …

“So Gallagher began to call meetings at senior centers around the city to see whether anyone was even interested in becoming part of this. She had no expectations about how she would be received. …

“In Englewood, Debra Thompson was interested. In fact, the Village has become her cause. ‘I devote every day to my seniors,’ she says. ‘I’m always looking for ways and partnerships and issues that can assist us to assist them in achieving what they need.’ ”

Read how the movement started in Boston, here. My husband’s friend, who lives on Beacon Hill, told us about it in 2000. Other forms of the concept are practiced around the country. For example, check out several groups in Vermont, here.

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Photo: Sara Teresa
The rollout of a dance-based falls prevention programme in the UK by arts and health charity Aesop will see 1,000 older people benefit.

About 15 years ago, after breast cancer treatment, I joined a hospital-based class called “I Hope You’ll Dance.” I used to call it Cancer Dance Class because anyone who was being treated for cancer or had been treated could join. It happened to have only women during the time I was a participant although men were welcome.

The dance routines were very simple, but there was something pleasant about doing them with women you didn’t know but with whom you shared something as big as cancer. I also liked the music selections, which ranged from the playful “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” to numbers that were more moving, like “You Raise Me Up” and “I Pray You’ll Be All Right.”

I thought of the mysterious comfort that class provided when I read about a dance program for the elderly in England and Wales. Christy Romer described it at Arts Professional, a UK-based website.

“The rollout of a dance-based falls prevention programme by arts and health charity Aesop will see 1,000 older people benefit from a new £2.3m investment.

“The programme will run for two years from October 2017, during which time 63 interventions will take place across England in Wales. These will be delivered in collaboration with health and social care providers, and arts organisations including Yorkshire Dance and Birmingham Royal Ballet. …

“Previous Aesop research showed how the Dance to Health programmes could address a problem that costs the NHS £2.3bn a year, as the rates of completion for dance-based alternatives to NHS exercise courses are 55% higher.

“An evaluation of the Dance to Health pilot programme in February 2017 also concluded that dance artists could be trained to deliver classes which were an enjoyable artistic challenge, faithful to healthcare objectives, and would deliver measurable reductions in loneliness for participants. …

“The expanded programme will receive support from ‘Dialogue Partner’ organisations, including Age UK and NHS England, and collaborate with eight Arts Council England-funded dance organisations. …

“A formal evaluation of the programme will be conducted in 2019, ahead of an anticipated national rollout in the coming years.” More at Arts Professional, here.

Romer mentioned the effort to address loneliness through the dance classes, but I imagine that the way physical motion improves thought processes is a big piece of the health benefit. And what about improving balance? That’s a concern for me, and a reason I take both tai chi and Essentrics when I’m not on vacation.

But I’m on vacation. So I’ll sign off now and go practice standing on one foot.

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Here’s a great story from the Japan Times about a theater group for people over 60. Where do I sign up?

Nobuko Tanaka writes, “At the age of 91, Saitama resident Izumi Noguchi is speaking at his first press conference — at least as an actor anyway.

“ ‘When I saw an advert in April inviting anyone aged 60 or older to audition for a new project called 10,000 Gold Theater, I just felt like challenging myself to do something I’d never had a chance to try before,’ he says.

“Noguchi is the oldest person to join the 10,000 Gold Theater ensemble. …  ‘Gold Symphony, my dream, your dream’ [is] a staging on an unparalleled scale that features some 1,600 performers (not 10,000 as the name suggests) who are all volunteers and almost all amateurs …

“Arts promoter Taneo Kato came up with the idea [when] he was watching a performance of ‘Hamlet’ in which stage icon Yukio Ninagawa directed members of the Saitama Gold Theater and Saitama Next Theater — troupes made up of older and younger actors that he formed in 2006 and 2009, respectively, after becoming artistic director at Saitama Arts Theater in 2006.

“ ‘Out of the blue, midway through “Hamlet,” veteran enka singers the Komadori Sisters — who are actually twins — appeared and sang “I Want to be Happy One Day,” ’ Kato says, recalling how striking a moment it was to see the women, born in 1938, sing those words.” More here.

I wonder how big an issue memorization is for the performers. My friend Dorothy started a group of older amateur actors in Concord, but they do readings and don’t have to memorize. I have many memorized stories, Bible verses, and poems in my head and can trot them out at a moment’s notice. Not sure if I could acquire new ones to the same extent.

Photo: Maiko Miyagawa
Massive undertaking: Seiji Nozoe directs elderly actors during rehearsals for the play ‘Gold Symphony, my dream, your dream,’ performed in Chuo-ku, Saitama City, December 2016.

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The world’s oldest working actor has died at age 101. And good for him to have worked at something he loved for so long!

Shaun Walker wrote recently at the Guardian, “Vladimir Zeldin, believed to have been the world’s oldest working actor, has died aged 101, after appearing for 71 years at the same Moscow theatre.

“The Russian actor appeared on stage as recently as [September], using a walking stick due to a broken hip, to appear in the play The Dance Teacher by the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega.

“He had appeared in the play more than 1,000 times, Tass reported. The theatre had planned for him to appear again next February, to mark his 102nd birthday. …

“Zeldin was born in 1915, when Tsar Nicholas II was on the Russian throne. He shot to fame when he appeared in the film They Met in Moscow, on which shooting began shortly before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. …

“When the war finished, Zeldin joined Moscow’s Red Army Theatre, where he was part of the troupe from 1945 until his death. The theatre is now known as the Russian Army Theatre. Fellow actors at the theatre described him as full of energy until the very last.” More.

I think the actress who played 104-year-old Great-Great-Grandmaw in All the Way Home (the stage version of James Agee’s A Death in the Family) must have been nearly as old as Zeldin. I remember her voice came out as kind of a croak. But that may have been because she was acting.

Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/AP  
Vladimir Zeldin on stage in Moscow.

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A while back, I wrote about Lata, which teaches older folks around the world to create street art with spray paint. I follow Lata on Instagram and can confirm that the results of senior graffiti are a hoot.

Now Vicky Thornton writes at Arts Professional about starting a modern dance troupe for people over 60. There’s hope for us all.

She writes, “DANCE SIX-0 started in response to a visit to the Elixir Festival at Sadler’s Wells that included a performance by the Company of Elders, a contemporary dance company for people aged over 60. Judith Bossano, Meg Edgar and Philippa Heseltine were inspired to establish a similar opportunity for contemporary dance in Salisbury and sought my advice and support.

“I was overwhelmed by their effervescence in describing what they had seen, their enthusiastic response and a very clear directive that ‘we need this’. Judith spoke passionately and eloquently about why at the age of 80 she felt it absolutely necessary to keep moving and dancing and experience the joy she feels when performing. …

“Meg felt this was something needed in Salisbury, recognising that dance brings many physical, social and emotional benefits that are so important for overall wellbeing. She identified Salisbury Playhouse as an ideal venue, considering its location, facilities and audience base.

“Salisbury Playhouse enthusiastically recognised the project’s potential, offering support to trial the idea. We were keen to emphasise that it cater for anyone over 60 with varying levels of mobility. The playhouse facilitated three taster workshops with three professional dance practitioners …

“The high demand for places resulted in two open classes and we held an audition for our inaugural performance company, selecting nine women and three men. …

“At the Wiltshire Public Health Awards in April we won our category of ‘Tackling Health Inequalities in the Community’ for our work with people aged over 60. We hope this award reflects our commitment to offering opportunities but also in challenging stereotypes of what older people can and should do.”

I’m down with that. Read more at Arts Professional, here.

Photo: Adrian Harris/ArtsProfessional
DANCE SIX-0 is a contemporary dance company for the over 60s in Salisbury, UK.

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According to Josh Planos at the Atlantic, the forward-looking Dutch are at it again. Not only are they on the cutting edge in matters such as energy use and floating forests, they have anticipated the increase in Alzheimer’s diagnoses, creating a village where patients can feel normal.

“The isolated village of Hogewey lies on the outskirts of Amsterdam in the small town of Wheesp. Dubbed ‘Dementia Village’ by CNN, Hogewey is a cutting-edge elderly-care facility — roughly the size of 10 football fields — where residents are given the chance to live seemingly normal lives.

“With only 152 inhabitants, it’s run like a more benevolent version of The Truman Show, if The Truman Show were about dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Like most small villages, it has its own town square, theater, garden, and post office. Unlike typical villages, however, this one has cameras monitoring residents every hour of every day, caretakers posing in street clothes, and only one door in and out of town, all part of a security system designed to keep the community safe. Friends and family are encouraged to visit. Some come every day.

“Last year, CNN reported that residents at Hogewey require fewer medications, eat better, live longer, and appear more joyful than those in standard elderly-care facilities. …

“Residents are only admitted if they’re categorized as having ‘severe cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.’ Vacancies are rare, given that a spot only opens when a current resident passes away, and the village has operated virtually at full capacity since it opened in 2009.

“Hogewey was primarily funded by the Dutch government and cost slightly more than $25 million to build. The cost of care is nearly $8,000 per month, but the Dutch government subsidizes the residents—all of whom receive private rooms—to varying degrees; the amount each family pays is based on income, but never exceeds $3,600.”

More at the Atlantic.

Where did I just hear about someone with Alzheimer’s? Oh, right. A detective series on TV. So moving. Boy, I hope that detective’s daughter knows about this village.

Photo: Gabriel Rocha/Flickr

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In Helsinki, Finland, where young people traditionally leave home at 18 but can no longer afford urban rents, Millennials are applying by the hundreds to live with the elderly.

According to Kae Lani Kennedy at Matador Network, “Retirement homes are serving as more than a community for the elderly. These facilities are providing affordable housing for the city’s growing population of homeless millennials.

“ ‘It’s almost like a dorm, but the people aren’t young. They’re old,’ explains Emil Bostrom, a participant in ‘A Home That Fits,’ a new housing project that allows millennials to move into retirement communities. Bostrom is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, and though he has a steady income, it is not enough to compete with 90,000 other renters in a city that has roughly 60,000 affordable rental properties. …

“Bostrom, along with many other young adults, can enjoy discounted rent in exchange for socializing with the seniors in their community. …

“By interacting with a younger generation, the elderly involved with ‘A Home That Fits’ have the opportunity to be engaged in an active and diverse community, instead of being left behind in a forgotten generation.” More here.

And check out a post I wrote about the same phenomenon in Cleveland, here. Both initiatives sound like fun to me.

Video: Seeker Stories

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I liked this story about a 91-year-old artist having his first solo show. John sent it to me. I hope the Arlington Advocate leaves it up for a while. (I know that all the profiles I wrote for the newspaper chain of which the Advocate is a part — and all my theater reviews — are long gone.)

A solo exhibition called ‘Umberto Centofante: A Life’s Work” was featured at the Arlington Center for the Arts (ACA) until last week and highlighted 40 years of still lifes, portraits and landscapes.

Heather Beasley Doyle writes, “When Umberto Centofante tells a story about his life or talks about his art, a distinct, almost palpable energy underscores his words. His eyes light up, his body springs lightly and a hearty laugh punctuates his paragraphs. …

“Centofante’s life began in Pontecorvo, Italy, where he grew up on his family’s farm. When he was eight years old, he says, his teacher gave him a sketchbook to take home with him.

“ ‘All of a sudden some ideas came into my head,’ Centofante recalled, and he filled the book with drawings of farm life. …

“The drawings earned him a prize and the opportunity to receive professional art instruction — a chance he had to pass up so he could help work the farm. Eventually, Centofante became a police officer and worked in Rome. After World War Two ended, he emigrated from Italy, bound for the Boston area and a job as a truck mechanic at Garwood Industries in Brighton he secured with help from an uncle who lived in Milton. Centofante had never been a mechanic, but he learned with the same intuition that had enabled him to fill the sketchbook.

“Centofante is ‘self-taught in everything,’ including painting, according to the oldest of his four children, Elaine Gleason. …

“In the Gibbs Gallery, Centofante’s paintings of boats ferrying passengers through white-capped brilliant blue seas share space with glowing, color-soaked portraits of children and exacting, nearly monochromatic nature scenes such as ‘High Moon.’ …

“Centofante says he never sketches out a project ahead of time — that he spends more time thinking and planning a painting than setting paint to canvas.

“ ‘I don’t design; I just start. I find the resolution very quickly,’ he explained. …

“Asked why he paints, he replied simply: ‘It makes me feel good.’ ”

Read more of the story at the Arlington Advocate.

Photo: Arlington.Wicked.Local.com

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