At 79 I am in the “at risk” group for coronavirus. I have no real underlying problems, other than old age. However, like all of my neighbors, who are of a similar age, I am concerned.
I was able to get gloves early on. (The next blog is on gloves.) I stay away from other people – six feet, except for my wife. I walk 2 1/2 miles every day. I buy groceries during “senior hour” even though it is early in the morning and I am exposed to a bunch of old people. We have enough food for two weeks. Until today, I drove to a nearby store to get a copy of the New York Times. Today, I had it delivered. So, except for a couple of trips a week and my walks along the Rio Grande River, my wife and I are isolated, “sheltering in place.”
The lack of a face mask concerned me, especially since the Federal Government can’t decide if a face mask is helpful, or not. Even if it is helpful, there are no face masks available for old people. Amazon could not deliver before mid-May; Walgreens was sold out; I had no doctor appointments scheduled, so I couldn’t steal a mask. And, the process of going around looking for face masks is dangerous, in and of itself. Talk about exposure. Web pages do not accurately reflect stock in the stores.
What is an old man to do?
I have a wife of 45 years. In that time she has accumulated a number of bras. She gave me one. It was good for two face masks. The elastic straps could be attached to one side with Super Glue. Bras are washable.
I have yet to convince my wife to wear a bra in any but the ordinary way; however, I am working on her. It would be nice to keep her around a little longer.
I live in a home with three bedrooms. At some point I will need care; especially if I elect to live-in-place. I need a cheap solution; especially at night. Someone to allay my fears of the dark and to answer the phone, the door and generally be a human presence.
A caregiver who is really just an elder-sitter would cost me $20 per hour or $240 a night and I would be asleep. That comes to $87,600 per year; a bit much given my social security of $1600 per month and no pension.
My solution is a student nurse. She can make aging in place workable.
Average student loan debt for graduating nurses is $30,000. The average cost of board and room at UNM for a student nurse is $8580 per school year. This does not include non-academic periods. For three years rooming at the geezer’s, this would be a savings of $25,740; not counting the non-school year times.
I spoke informally to a lady at the UNM nursing school and to a fourth year student nurse, both of whom said it was possible to provide a nursing student with board and room in exchange for staying overnight at my house.
The student would live in one of my empty rooms, use the spare bathroom, eat the food from my “ice box” and check up on me, calling 911 as necessary.
She would be free during the day for classes; could have a boy/girl friend stay over, and could cut her student loans by at least $25,000.
She could do a paper on practical geriatrics for her geriatric course. She could study me, bring fellow students/professors around; and could generally get academic mileage out of her stay with me. I could be the guinea pig for geriatric research programs.
I could visit my kids during exams; and, we could work out something for periods when she had to be away.
She would have enough expertise; more than an elder-sitter; and, would know what to do in an emergency.
She would be better trained and vetted than the usual care-giver. I am afraid that someone is going to scam me or that a care-giver is going to steal my valuables and medicines. A nursing student has a career to lose if she does something unethical or illegal.
A win-win for both of us. She could even drop me off at the adult day-care on her way to classes. And could share my Meals-on Wheels.
When she graduates, she could provide me with a replacement from the entering class.
And I would be the envy of the senior community.
I need a large “senior button” on my computer keyboard to take it into senior mode.
Pressing the button would disable everything I didn’t need including, without limitation, ads, spam, e-mails and anything except what I had specifically included.
The senior button has to be large, clearly marked and perhaps even a toggle switch or a button like the illustration that signals a bus driver that an old person wants off. I need to signal the computer that it needs to stop and let me off.
Pressing the senior button will disengage all the software and hardware, except for the following which would be in large print:
- E-mail from people I select.
- Skype in case my grandkids call.
- The obituary page of the local paper.
- Stock market update.
- Select telephone numbers that by clicking would dial select friends and family members.
- E-mail addresses with a picture of the recipient.
- An onscreen volume control so I can hear.
- Daily menu at the local senior center.
When the button was pressed a second time, it would re-enable the computer so that my grandkids could fix things.
This would be simple.
Think about it. old people suffer from too much, not too little; and not just in computers. Think about the world you occupy. There are too many choices that require too much time to learn.
Every town has a library. When you travel, a library can be your best friend. You can find:
- Information about the town you are in.
- A bookstore that will sell books that the library no longer wants or which have been donated for as little as $1 for hardback and 25 cents for paperbacks, many of them recent best-sellers.
- Frequently they have cafes where you can get a coffee and food.
- They have computers that you can use.
- They have interesting programs and sometime trips for anyone who is interested.
- Local and national magazines; see what is going on in town and read the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal.
- And, finally there is a huge magazine rack with the latest magazines; most of which you don’t get, and which take you out of your comfort zone.
In the US there are 26,200 prisoners over 65 in state and federal prisons and 124,400 over the age of 55.
The geezer, who is 75, and an “opportunist” is thinking outside the box; or perhaps ‘inside the box.” If I have no money, little social security, no home, no assets, no family; and have to line up at the soup kitchen for meals and the free street clinic for medical care, maybe there is another way.
At 75, what do I need? My sex life is a thing of the past; there is no one to take care of me, I am frequently wet and cold; I am regularly exposed to every type of riffraff; and, can no longer fight off street predators. How can I live out my days in some comfort, be warm, eat regularly, and have adequate medical and dental care?
The answer is to rob a bank.
The sentence seems to be 10 years plus an extra 5 years if you have a gun. I need to check to see if the gun has to be loaded; wouldn’t want to hurt anyone. The 15 years takes me to 90 which is about my life expectancy on a good day and I don’t have to0 many of them. If I got in a fight or two, I can avoid good time.
The big problem is that I might get probation since I don’t have a record; so, I might have to rob the same bank twice; or, even three times.
Given the economic and social future of the elderly, prison doesn’t sound too bad; and, it can’t be worse than a nursing home; even if I qualified. If you can’t pay, Medicaid is the only answer. Assisted living is out of the question without money or long-term care insurance.
There is probably a downside, but I am having trouble seeing it.
The food can’t be worse than most senior institutions. If I have a room(cell)mate, he would probably be about my age. I would probably be in some sort of minimum security facility, but, given the gun I might be in a maximum security facility. The friends I would make would probably be better than the ones on the street.
Would I be safe? Probably. I am sure that most Federal Prisons take care of old people; albeit, reluctantly. There are work programs in most institutions and perhaps I could care for other old people if I couldn’t get assigned to the library. Win-win.
The New York Times has an article on California state prisons that have caregivers called ” gold coats.” These are inmates, usually murderers, who in exchange for a “gold coat,” and other privileges, look after the elderly; especially those with dementia. They protect them from the other prisoners, get them food, make sure they don’t fall; and, in general act as highly trained caregivers. They sound better than some in nursing homes I have visited.
Do I want to go this route? I suppose it depends on how cold and hungry I get; and, if I am competent to rob a bank when the time comes.
Or, maybe it would just be cheaper and better to move all of us old prisoners and “Gold Coats” to the “abandoned” military bases where they are keeping illegal immigrants.
A number of former congressional staffers have written this guide listing best practices to make congress listen. It contains local advocacy tactics that work.
I am interested in old people applying the lessons. In 2014 people in the US over 65, constituted 28.4% of the voting population. Check your state. How many voted? How many over 65 voted? What does your state do for seniors? What senior benefits are being cut?
The next generation of seniors will have little money to support themselves. Families are spread out. Homeless seniors may be the future unless you do something.
What do you want from your government?
Seniors are interested in preserving:
- Social Security
- Consumer protection
- Fraud and scam protection
- Their assets
- Their health
and a lot of other things. Seniors have more difficulty finding jobs, have more medical problems and have less time to live than the rest of the population.
Seniors must do something! Is there a grocery cart loaded with your possessions in your future?
Seniors can make a difference:
- Seniors have time
- Seniors have a life-time network of people
- Seniors have organizations – church, senior centers, senior services, etc.
- Seniors have families and friends
- Seniors have more skills than they know
- Seniors need a purpose…
- And, Seniors are bored and need something to do.
The bottom line is that seniors can make a political difference.
Seniors just need guidance; and, Indivisible provides it.
When was the last time you were involved, really involved, in anything worthwhile?
Indivisible tells you what works and what doesn’t. It tells you where and how to start. It tells you that you what you can do at the grass-roots level. And, if the Tea Party could do it, you can do it.
Check your precinct voting record for the last election. A small turnout? How much did the conservative candidate win by? A few votes would have made a difference. Look what the Tea Party managed to do six years ago using a lot of the techniques set out in Indivisible. How many seniors voted? How many could have voted? Would those votes make a difference?
You can go to meetings. You can ask questions. You can call your elected representative. You can organize your neighbors. You can provide a ride to the polls.
It will only take a few “old votes” to make a change.
You can buy Indivisible on Amazon.com for $3.59.
Join an Indivisible group; or start one for old people.
Then, get off your ass, turn off the TV and see how you can make a difference for yourself, for your neighbors and for your grandchildren who will be old sooner than you think.
Look in the mirror! Who do you see there and what is that person doing for the society that has benefitted him/her?
There are now over 6000 Indivisible groups in the US.
You can check out the Albuquerque Indivisible Group.
At 77, I am a “good” driver; maybe a few problems with eyesight, hearing and attention span. I usually know where I am going. The AARP driving course for seniors lowers my insurance rates; and, I avoid driving at night, on freeways and with my kids, who watch me. They know that I saw my father take his father’s car keys. He and I agreed that he could keep his car as long as he didn’t drive it; so, it was parked for several years.
My car has a few dings. I renew my license annually, not for 10 years anymore. MVD and I joke about the eye test.
So, I joined UBER. It was scary. I didn’t know what I was getting into; and, learning to call UBER on a smart phone?? I had to know where I was going; I couldn’t just drive around looking for the place I thought I wanted to go. I also had to know where I was.
I tried UBER in Tucson; clicked on the UBER App; typed in my address and the restaurant address. It took three tries and a bit of deleting, but I did it.
In 3 minutes a picture of the UBER driver, car make and license number appeared on the screen. Two minutes later he was there; just like his picture, and took us straight to our favorite restaurant. The trip cost of $6.32 appeared on the screen; I clicked ok, clicked that the driver was great and he clicked that I was a great passenger. We parted company. We had a nice dinner, re-apped UBER. Same deal, different driver. Cost $5.47; total cost $11.79, no tipping, no money; the amount on my credit card minutes later. The drivers were both great, interesting, and I didn’t worry about the extra glass of wine.
AAA reports the average cost to own a car in 2015 was $8698. For two of us, that comes to $17,396. I don’t think I spend that much, but….. I don’t really want to find out.
My wife and I have two cars, even though we usually travel together. Kelly Blue Book says a dealer would give us about $25,000 for them. Do we need two cars? No cars? One car and UBER?
How many trips do we need to take? One a day? How far do we go? Mostly close to our condo. Seven trips a week; 14 UBER trips; averaging $10 per trip, which may be high. $140 a week; or, $7280 a year.
Using UBER we have a chauffeur, do not cause accidents, are calmer, etc. We even age better. Have you ever had someone say: “Do you see that car?” 10 times a trip?
The bus costs 50 cents and goes most places, but takes longer. Kids work, grandkids are too young and neighbors would rather car-pool with UBER.
The bottom line is: UBER could save us up to $10,116 per year. Even a $1000 savings would be worth it. The real bottom line is that our driving years will soon come to an END; our cars will be taken from us; we will move in with UBER and use the $25,000 for four years of UBER.
Maybe UBER will have caregivers in ten years…..; hopefully, with a car.
UBER is experimenting with programs for seniors, that include, senior-trained drivers, special cars, etc. No details yet.
The New York Times recently reported on UBER’s new ride sharing program which should interest seniors and save them money.
Since I originally wrote this, The New York Times has reported on ride-sharing which fills niches that UBER does not cover, yet. The one that interested me the most was Lift Hero, which provides rides for old people. The web page is down for maintenance, but keep checking. UBER was running a test program for old people in Tucson a few months ago, but I have not seen anything on this recently.
Transportation is a real and growing problem for old people; especially where public transportation is not available.
When you travel, think UBER. I have had success in Panama and Montreal, Canada.
A change of senior-mind-set is required.
- Falling – If you fall, it may lead to the hospital or to not being discovered for a long time. And you forget the button that you are supposed to wear around your neck to call for help.
- Driving – You might have an accident, you might not pass the driver’s test, your kids may take your keys away, you may get lost and you will not know how to get home. What senior has heard of Uber or the bus line?
- Finances – Will your money last? Who is trying to get it? What if need long-term care? What about Medicaid?
- Memory – Not just a “senior moment” any more; you can’t remember where you left things, names, or what you did yesterday, etc
- Telling doctors your symptoms – The Dr. will make a record. The insurance company, MVD, your kids or the trustee under your Living Trust will take action. When you are old, you don’t want a record. What is the Dr.s duty?
- Medicines – You can’t keep track of them and you don’t know why you are taking them. – If you sell your opioids, you may go to jail, but you need the money.
- Caring for children – What if you screw up. they can talk you out of anything; they hide from you; and, teenagers want money and to use your spare bedroom.
- Eye exams – Will this keep you from driving ? Cataracts operation? Blind!!!
- Hearing tests – You never did like people with hearing aids and now you aren’t wearing yours. You are isolated and you still can’t make out the words, especially in a noisy restaurant. Plus, hearing aids are expensive, get lost, break, don’t work right and you forget to take them off in the shower.
- Hiring a contractor – What if he cheats you? How do you know what you need? Do you really need what he says. It is important to act like you are competent, so he doesn’t think you are dumb
- Travel – What if you get lost? How do you get the too-big suitcase in the overhead bin? Do you really need a wheel-chair? Plus, all the usual fears in this day of terrorism.
- Losing things – You put things under other things, or other things on top of the soon-to-be be lost things. Then you can’t find them and have to ask a kid, spouse, friend or stranger for help. And, you feel stupid. Every time you lose something, you know it is dementia.
- Dementia – You have to be really careful here. If you have Alzheimer’s, it is all in your mind; you forget that it won’t be your problem any longer; it will be someone else’s. The fearful time is just before you develop a full-blown case of some form of dementia, and you know something is wrong, but not what but you know you can’t really do anything about it.
And, of course, there are a lot more fears,
The New York Times has a book review entitled Seeing, and Thinking, Like Sherlock Holmes by Katherine Bouton in which she reviews Maria Konnikova’s, “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.” I was struck by the following:
“Another thing we can learn from Holmes is the importance of continuous self-education. When Watson asks why he persists in pursuing a case that seems solved, Holmes replies: “It is art for art’s sake. I suppose when you doctored you found yourself studying cases without a thought of a fee?” Watson answers, “For my education, Holmes.” Just so, Holmes replies. “Education never ends.”
Twenty-first-century technology reinforces these values. Sequential scans of older adults who learn to juggle or to speak a new language show an increase in gray matter in the relevant areas of the brain. Further, Ms. Konnikova tells us, with application and practice “even the elderly can reverse signs of cognitive decline that has already occurred.” (The emphasis is hers — “out of pure excitement,” she explains.)” Bold is added.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes is available on Amazon.com for your Kindle for $2.99. The Kindle has an advantage over books in that you can increase the size of the print, which is important if you are 72 and have questionable eyesight.
To paraphrase: When Watson asks why he persists in pursuing a life that seems finished, he replies…”Education never ends.”
I plan to reread Holmes for more insight; if not education.
Old and going on a beach vacation doesn’t require much. I am a minimalist senior. I can’t tote heavy bags, much less lift them into the overhead airplane compartment. I don’t want to sort things. I am in an “elder rut” and only wear certain easy things I like. I usually leave my checkered pants with the zipper that doesn’t work at home.
In fact, as you can see from the picture, this does not just apply to beach vacations, but to any trip you take after 75, or some other arbitrary date.
I am not going to impress anyone if I don’t wear the latest styles. I won’t be denied admission to any beach restaurant as long as I have the required “shirt and shoes.” I have thought about not wearing pants, but…..
You also have what you wear from home to the beach; and, which can serve in an emergency as extra clothing. It might include an umbrella, raincoat, watch, cell-phone, wallet, travel bag and a light jacket. When you arrive, you take it off: when you leave, you put it back on. No washing necessary.
The following is all that you need for a week, a month or a year. You can wash it all in the sink. During rainy season, you might add an umbrella, or just stay inside.
The following is all you need for a week, a month or a year.
- Shorts with pockets that don’t lose change and wallet.
- 5 t-shirts
- 5 underpants
- Toilet kit with meds
- Laptop, i-pad, case and chargers. You download all your books on the Kindle App., and net flex and perhaps some streaming.
It all fits in a small carry-on bag, including the lap-top or i-pad and cords.