Category Archives: Aging in the Workplace

Why Aging Well is Everyone’s Business

Having a sense of purpose and a community network in which to provide these avenues seems to be important for brain health, an important component of aging well. But aging well starts with more basic work.  Some of these include:

  • Stay positive
  • Get physically active
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat well
  • Connect with other people
  • And take care of your spirit

Why is Aging well everyone’s business?

According to research from Mental Health America, the population of people over age 65 in the United States is projected to double between 2000 and 2030, from 35 million to 70 million. While mental illness is not an inevitable part of aging, and older people actually experience fewer mental health conditions (excepting cognitive impairment) as they age, approximately 6.9% of people aged 65-74 experience “frequent mental distress, and many experience mental health and substance use conditions associated with loss of functional capacity even though a formal diagnosis may not be justified. Anxiety and depression and the psychotic symptoms of dementia in all its forms must be addressed for people to age well, and MHA envisions a supportive, integrated system of both psychosocial and medical care that encourages people to meet such challenges as they occur.

Older people with mental health problems are a diverse population including:

  • people with lifelong serious and disabling mental illnesses;
  • people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia (often with co-occurring episodic anxiety, depression, and psychosis);
  • people with severe depression, anxiety, and emotional and behavioral problems that contribute to high rates of suicide, social isolation, and preventable institutionalization;
  • people with less severe disorders that nevertheless limit their ability to age well; and
  • people who abuse substances, primarily alcohol and pain medications, but increasingly including people with lifelong addictions and those who use illegal substances recreationally.

As stated by Deborah Padgett in the conclusion to her Handbook on Ethnicity, Aging, and Mental Health, aging need not be a time of “irreversible decline and loss,” and depression and emotional distress can be mastered. She concludes: “Declines usually associated with aging are quite malleable and influenced less by aging per se than by a host of psychosocial and lifestyle factors such as stress, diet, and exercise. Among the [most important] psychosocial factors associated with successful aging are a sense of control and autonomy and social support.” So “positive aging” can bring about overall wellness for individuals, focused on their personal goals and current place of residence, social support system, and community. The primary method is by strengths-based therapies that build the healthy habits that MHA refers to as “wellness.” These strengths and supports are critical to aging well.

Still, nearly half of people over age 65 with a recognized mental or substance use disorder have unmet needs for services. Older adults with mental health or substance use conditions often do not seek specialty mental health care. They are more likely to visit their primary care provider– often with a physical complaint.  And though treatment can be an important component of aging well, misdiagnosis, especially by non-specialists, is a significant concern, as is an overreliance on drugs rather than psycho-social treatment. The interaction among physical, emotional and behavioral conditions is complex in older people.

Aging well may seem simplistic in practice, but for society at large, we must integrate collaborative initiatives among public and private sectors that offer multi-level approaches to reaching our aging adults and their families with education, resources, and support.   Eldercare providers, aging and mental health public service organizations, faith communities and member associations must prioritize this agenda as we enter an era of extreme aging.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  Pam is the creator of the internationally recognized Dementia Live Simulation experience, helping caregivers to understand first-hand what life with dementia might be like.   This program is transforming training for law enforcement, first responders, healthcare and long-term care professionals and families and anyone who works with aging adults and their families.  

http://www.AGEucate.com

The Fear of Dementia and How We Must Redirect our Thinking

I had a few “Aha” moments this past weekend that made me realize just how prevalent the fear of dementia is in our society,  and how we must redirect our thinking in order to transform how we look at Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

There are two sides from which this fear is bubbling.  The first is the 10,000 boomers a day who are turning 65, often seeing their parents or other loved ones cognitive decline and living with a halo of terror that this might happen to them.  The other is fear of the unknown by caregivers, families, and society.  By this I mean the fear of how to communicate with some who has dementia, the fear of caring for them properly, fear of their behaviors.

One of my “Aha” moments this weekend was listening to a couple – care partners – both talking about their journey with dementia.  The husband who is living with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) talked about his lifestyle.  He exercised,  was physically active, maintained a healthy weight and diet, had a college degree, maintained strong social connections.  He checked off everything on the list that we are told may stave off dementia.  Yet he was diagnosed in his 60s with Alzheimer’s disease.  Living now 8 years with AD, he spoke to a crowd and with the help of notes and a few small prompts from his wife communicated his heartwarming story and message about still living life and being able to live it with joy.

I’m one of the baby boomers who witnessed two parents with dementia – one from Alzheimer’s Disease and another from Parkinson’s Disease.  My journey certainly did change my life from caregiver to activist.  I suppose there are times when I think about what my future could hold, but in the meantime – I do all I can to take care of myself.  I pay attention to my physical, emotional and spiritual health and all that encompasses those goals.  My mission is to help other caregivers through their journey from fear to transformation.  While it’s not easy, I am living proof that it can be done, and I’ve seen hundreds and thousands of others do the same.  Facing their fear by redirecting their thoughts and actions.

The other fear is one that is even broader, more serious to society’s acceptance of dementia, and requires urgent attention from stakeholders in this arena.  That is the fear of the unknown.  My other “Aha” moment this past weekend was in talking to the Senior Adult director at my church.  She told me how her well-meaning volunteers visit members of the church in care facilities and those who are home-centered.  They often become frustrated because they don’t know what to say or how to talk with someone who has cognitive decline.  Sadly, because they don’t have the tools to overcome their fear they chose to serve in another ministry.

Family and professional caregivers, employers, those who serve in retail, banking, airports, financial and insurance services, customer service industries need dementia awareness training and even more so, need to be empowered with tools to better understand, communicate and compassionately guide and care for the explosive growth of persons living with dementia.

Fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen.  Awareness, education, and training can overcome fear.

I’m thankful for being a part of this movement to help others transform thoughts, feelings, and actions about and for those living with dementia.  By doing so, my concerns about my future with or without dementia are thwarted by the fact that I am confident that the future will continue to improve for those living dementia, their care partners,  families, and most importantly society’s stigma about dementia will be transformed.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  Pam is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Dementia Live® Simulation Education and Training Program.  

www.AGEucate.com

Considering Retirement? This Might Change Your Mind

I wonder if “retirement” will be one of those words that get’s shelved as such a “twenty-tens” thing.  Why the buzz about nixing retirement?

A study of nearly half a million people in France found that people who delay retirement have less risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.  It is the largest study done thus far and backs up the theory about brainpower and the benefits of staying mentally (and physically) sharp.  Researchers agree with the findings that working tends to keep people physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged.  All of these things are known to help prevent cognitive decline.

“For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 percent,” said Carole Dufouil, a scientist as INSERM, the French government’s health research agency.

Are we turning the tide on what old age means and when society determines we’re used up?  I certainly hope so!  Famous people such as actress Betty White (95) and Warren Buffett (87) haven’t given up their day jobs, and neither have any intention of doing so!

104 year old Fauja Singh recently ran the UK based Mumbai Marathon and is to date the oldest running marathon runner in the world.  He took up the sport at the spry age of 81!

Certainly we are seeing the tide change, as our health care and  retirement systems reevaluate the worldwide longevity revolution.  Living 30, 40 or more years in “retirement” is neither financially feasible or healthy for many many people,  and it’s stretching federal and state budgets in ways that no one dreamed of decades ago.

So before gazing into your crystal ball and seeking that dreamy “retirement” you would be wise to consider what work brings you in keeping mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually young.  If, after examining your decision, you opt for retirement,  have a plan of filling your days with meaningful activities that are healthy for mind, body and soul.   Follow the advise of professionals on healthy aging:

  • Stay active. Many studies show exercise reduces dementia risk.
  • Stay connected — join a club, travel, volunteer. Social ties boost brain health.
  • Eat right. High cholesterol may contribute to stroke and brain cell damage, while dark vegetables and fruits may help protect brain cells.
  • Do mentally challenging activities such as word puzzles and other things that stimulate thinking skills.

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

www.AGEucate.com

The Remarkable Australian Men’s Shed Association

Pam Brandon introduces the Indooroopilly Men’s Shed in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

On my recent travels to the beautiful country of Australia, one of the highlights of my trip was my visit to the Indooroopilly Men’s Shed,  one of many such sheds throughout the country.

The Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA) is the peak body supporting almost 1000 Men’s Sheds and is recognized as one of Australia’s largest male based community development organizations.

Founded in 2007, AMSA is funded by the Federal Department of Health to provide practical support to Men’s Sheds and deliver a wide range of services. It aims to improve the health and wellbeing of members and reduce the number of men who are at risk from preventable health issues that may emanate from isolation.

Tour the Indooroopilly Men’s Shed with host David Silcox

Through collaboration and strategic partnerships with national, state, territory and health related community services such as beyondblue, Heart Foundation, Department of Veteran Affairs, Cancer Council, AMSA has developed a range of resources and delivered a variety of national initiatives such as “Spanner in the Works?”, a men’s health project.

Tour of the Indooroopilly Men’s Shed with host David SilcoxTheir tagline reads “Shoulder to Shoulder”.   Research points to the fact that men communicate with others side-to-side, while women are more inclined to communicate face to face.

Sociologist Harry Brod surmises that the side-by-side shoulder orientation is a way for men to seek intimacy. “Numerous studies have established that men are more likely to define emotional closeness as working or playing side-by-side, while women often view it as talking face-to-face. Men, for example, derive intimacy from playing and watching sports.”

Through the activities and programs offered at the Men’s Shed, it promotes healthy aging, reduces risk of depression, isolation and chronic illness that are often associated with aging adults, especially men.

The objectives of the Indooroopilly Men’s Shed in Queensland include:

  • Advance the health and well-being of members.
  • Promote men’s health programs.
  • Identify and nurture innovative ideas and activities for men.
  • Encourage men with widely varying skills.
  • Pursue hobbies, pastimes and interests.
  • Learn new skills and practice and pass on old skills.
  • Learn about their own and other men’s health and well-being.
  • By their efforts contribute to their families, their friends, the Sed and the wider community.
  • Mentor younger men.
  • Promote members’ empathy for fellow men.
  • Enhance personal and group self-esteem and pride in accomplishments.
  • Foster members’ interest in and assistance to the local community.

For more information visit www.mensshed.org

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

www.AGEucate.com