Category Archives: Faith Community

When does OLD age start? Now that’s a loaded question…


Ask anyone over 60 what “old” means to them, and it’s usually at least 10 years more than their age.  Many people today simply don’t consider themselves “old” (and please DON’T refer to anyone as such without total consent!)   Age is really just numbers and as the longevity revolution marches onward, the lines become very blurred.

Thanks to a growing  universal access to clean water, sanitation, waste removal, electricity, refrigerators and vaccinations, and continued improvement in health care, demographers predict longevity will keep lengthening in the decades to come.

The fastest growing segment of the population are those 85+, which from some accounts might consider this segment of the population our “oldest of old”.  Does that mean our “very old” are used up and residing in nursing care?  If you haven’t observed an airport lately see how many of these “oldest of olds” are still traveling the world, some on adventure vacations!

Demographers have their work cut out for them in the years ahead.  While we can be celebrating the possibility of extended life, this also leaves many who are wondering how we will meet the challenges of a fast aging society.

In the 1950s, less than 10 percent of the country was older than 65. That share will double to 20 percent by 2050. The longevity revolution will touch global economic and political life,  the size of the labor force, the number and kinds of jobs the economy will require, and the productivity of the workforce.  In short, aging affects everything,

How we view older people in our society has everything to do with how healthy we are as a nation.  We are truly all connected, and as the lines of aging blur faster each day, it will be a matter of how we fare in a society where their no longer lines drawn in the sand as to when someone is “old”.

Personally,  I don’t intend to get old.  We’ll see how that works out –  ask me in 30 years…and not a day before!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder or AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those that serve them.






Shifting Gears…What Might Happen if We Try Something New!

I have always been a proponent that if something is just not working well, shifting gears may be a solution.  Let’s face it – everything is changing fast these days, so much so that it seems as if technology  leads the pack in shifting gears at every juncture of our daily lives.

Shifting gears often is related to moving from one level of activity to another;  taking on a new course or direction that results in change.  And hopefully that change is positive.  

Elder care today is more and more becoming about caring for someone with dementia.  Why the shift?  Because we’re living longer and the reason so many more people are getting dementia is simply for that reason – as we age the probability of cognitive impairments increases.  So, if we shift gears in terms of thinking about elder care in terms of caring for someone with some level of cognitive impairment, could care for that person change… for the better?

Most certainly our focus as a nation and world is clearly focused on dementia care as the public health crisis of our generation.  Because of this, there has never before been such a concerted effort in shifting gears to new models of care, most often referred to as person-centered or patient-centered care.

Will shifting gears alone be the impetus for deep culture change?  Certainly those of us passionately advocating for vast changes in care for our older adults and those that serve them hope that enough of us will collectively make a difference.  By bringing the human side of caregiving to the forefront, rather than taking a secondary role to the medical model of care, change can certainly be deep and wide.

This shift in gears requires a shift in our thinking.  Taking a new course means taking risks, accepting that not every decision is going to be the right one, and that it is a continual process of trying new approaches until outcomes improve for everyone, especially those we are caring for.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute.  AGE-u-cate develops and delivers aging and dementia education for professional and family caregivers that results in transformative change.


How Can we Avoid and All-Out Family Feud over Mom’s Teapot?

I was very fortunate, for  when my sweet mom passed, no one else asked for “the teapot”.  It wasn’t particularly pretty, and certainly of no monetary value.  But to me it was priceless reminder of the tender moments we had together to talk about an endless number of topics that mothers and daughters share. Often accompanied by a scrumptious homemade sweet, we always had back-up favorites in the freezer so we were never without an accompaniment for our favorite Bigelows “Constant Comment”.   When we weren’t chatting and sipping, we would often play a quick game of Yahtzee, Gin Rummy or in latter years, our absolute favorite go- to game,   Rumikub.

Being the last of 5 girls, I suppose Mom had more time for girl time than the businesses of her earlier life.  The teapot symbolized was our shared, sacred time together that will always be treasured.

What happens when those special items are sought after by more than one family member?  All too often, that’s when the family fireworks erupt.  Surrounding that item may be emotional and sentimental feelings that a person (s) may long to hold onto.  There is nothing wrong with this… unless there is one item and multiple people who want it!

How can we avoid World War III?  As I remind aging parents, especially those who are downsizing or contemplating who gets what of the family heirlooms, you do have options in passing on your personal belongings.

The safest way (in terms of avoiding family feuds) is to gift it while you can make the decision to do so.  Talking to various family members about what they would like also helps narrow the choices.  Our parents lovingly started putting names on items that one of the children or grandchildren has requested along the way.  Of course, it was their decision, but for the most part, they did this fairly and with thought put into why the family member wanted certain items.  Most were tied to memorable occasions, special trips or life events which included that person.

When it came time for the “major downsizing” when they moved to a retirement community, for all other items, some which has value, my mom created a well thought-out lottery which had items grouped by approximate value.  We were each given an option to choose one from each category.  For the most part, this execution of non-titled property was brilliant!  They knew who was getting what, and each child was the recipient had at least one top item of the various groups.   My parents were happy to lighten their load, and us kids were thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the process, knowing both our wishes had  been fulfilled.

My parents also enjoyed many years of seeing their treasured things in our homes, knowing they no longer had to care for them or worry about what would happen to them when they passed.

Does this plan always work?  I can tell you most certainly that no it does not.   Maybe because no one wanted to part with the “stuff”, children couldn’t agree on anything, so parents gave up, or the topic was never broached.  There are many other reasons, like sudden illness, estrangement or unfortunately and sadly, children that announce they want nothing of their parents.  Personally, I think this is not very compassionate.  Many of our parents came from the depression-era, and they worked very hard to acquire what they had, and for the most part, these items were treasured, as it was before everything on the planet could be mass or re-produced at a fraction of the cost.

When I talk with families, I often ask what they are gaining, except hurt feelings, by wincing at the idea of taking mom’s “junk”.   Instead, encourage and even help your parents inventory their belongings, asking what they would like to keep and what items they would like to pass on now.  These treasures make wonderfully thoughtful birthday and holiday gifts, and with some coaching and ideas of how to creatively get this often insurmountable task done, take it one step at a time.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute, a passionate advocate for older adults and those that serve them.

How Can We Embrace the Fact that Death is a Part of Life?

We all know that the only thing certain about our life is that someday it will end.  And yet death continues to be an elusive topic in most families and social circles.  Someone recently shared with me that she felt if she brought up the topic with her parents,  they might feel like she wanted to hurry things along.

Do we fear the inevitable that much?  Or do we instead fear the journey to that “end” point?

Kelvin H. Chin, Executive Director, Overcoming the Fear of Death Foundation says the fear of the PROCESS of dying is not the same as the fear of death. It is a common fear, and is closely related, but it is not the actual fear of death itself.


Studies do in fact verify that people fear that their pain, symptoms, anxiety, emotional suffering, and family concerns will be ignored. Many critically ill people who die in hospitals still receive unwanted distressing treatments and have prolonged pain. Many fear that their wishes (advance directives) will be disregarded and that they will face death alone and in misery. Physicians may use confusing or vague medical terms and talk briefly about treatment options when the patients are too sick to participate. Most people want to discuss advance directives when they are healthy and often want their families involved.

Attitude are changing about end-of-life care and death with many forward thinkers aiming to empower people  facing the end of their lives.  The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization explains this movement as an effort “to de-medicalize and re-personalize the end-of-life experience.

As more families are educated on hospice and palliative care and the holistic approach that emphasizes acceptance, comfort and counseling over deployment of life extending medical measures, I believe more of us will be less fearful of the process, seeing it as more humanistic and gentle.

While the tide is turning slowly, it is my hope that health professionals and families will approach death as a part of life and one that when discussed openly and honestly will change our culture and attitudes about how we honor wishes, create moments of joy and lift unnecessary burdens along the way.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute.  A passionate advocate for older adults and those that serve them,  she embraces transformative change in elder care.