Amid laughter during a recent dinner out with my uncle, a vivacious 88 year old widower, he leaned over and commented that he was trying to decide whether to stay in his home or move to a senior community that had big apartments and other options should his needs change. There is of course no right answer to this question. Still driving and able to afford services in his home if needed, I offered that he might want to think about how he wants to stay connected with people in the future.

Last Monday I had the pleasure once again of attending the annual community celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Lake Michigan College. This year’s theme, “The Urgency of Now” rang true for me on a number of fronts.

It's 2015 – wow the years fly by! Being a new sixty-something myself I find Social Security coming up regularly in discussions among family and friends. I’ve long been a believer in the inherent strength of this social insurance system.

The Care Management Program purchases in-home services on a pre-set, per-unit basis according to an individual’s care plan and a “DSP” Bid Agreement. 

Providers bill monthly to be reimbursed for services provided.  Services provided include Community Living Supports (In-Home and Residential), Personal Care, Homemaker, In-home Respite, Out-of Home Respite, Chore, Home Delivered Meals, Personal Emergency Response Systems, Counseling, Financial Management, Nursing Services, Private Duty Nursing, and Medication Management.

There’s a joke among my friends and family that as we get older we seem to need a lot more “maintenance and tuning” to keep body and soul chugging along. Don’t we all know it!

Groundhog Day has come and gone. It snowed pretty well on Saturday, February 2nd. Supposedly this means our rodent friend didn’t see his shadow and spring is on its way. Particularly if we get the necessary snow and ice to keep our lakes and crops in sync with mother nature, spring will be more than welcome.

“Go placidly amid the noise & haste & remember what peace there may be in silence.” “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter; for always there will be greater & lesser persons than yourself.” “Be yourself.” “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.” “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.” DESIDERATA (excerpts only)

In 1900 the lifespan in the U.S. was 47 years. Today it’s approaching 80, albeit with significant disparities across class and race. That’s an increase over a 100-year span that approximates all the gains since the beginning of time. The 20th century advances in lifespan, as well as early industrialization, brought us a new concept: retirement.  We talked about the “golden years” and made retirement a positive, sought after goal.

Teenagers regale each other with memories about what happened last night, last weekend, maybe last summer. Young adults reminiscence back a few years to high school, college or early adventures. Then we’re older and our musings cross decades; we find ourselves chatting about thirty, forty, or fifty years ago. It’s real but kind of surreal at the same time.
Soon to ring in 2013, can the early ‘90s really be over twenty years ago?

There are so many blessings that we inadvertently take for granted. Life in the United States is one of them. As a college student I had the opportunity to work in northern Spain in the highly political Basque country during final days of Franco’s reign. In one month’s time I witnessed the “disappearance” of an entire family whose son had been an active protester of Franco.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. JOHN MUIR

I was incredibly fortunate to be able to pass a couple weeks on photo safari in Africa. From Johannesburg, we flew into north central Botswana, mounted safari trucks and didn’t emerge for twelve days. There were four trucks carrying six each plus a native guide. A number of my fellow travelers were professional photographers.

Over the past thirty years certain trends have emerged. We’re living longer than we used to.  In general, thanks to Social Security, private pensions and the saving ethic of the depression era generation, the average income of the senior population has increased.  All good news.

I knew it was really fall when my neighbor brought out her Christmas lights for the spruce tree in her front yard.  She wisely finds a warm day in fall to prepare them for an easy flip of a switch later on. I’m usually out there in the ice.

I lost my father at age 90 in 2006. About ten years before that he was diagnosed with chronic dementia. For a brief period I went into denial. He was personable and brilliant; a nationally known pioneer in aeronautics and the space industry.  How could this be?

An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry”. GEORGE ELIOT, 1866

And a different view, “I know nothing grander, better exercise,…the triumphant result of faith in human kind, than a well-contested American national election”. WALT WHITMAN, 1948
In idealistic longing, it makes sense that a multi-party system would bring together some of the best minds to debate different perspectives of various solutions to national issues. The resulting consensus would be a compromise bringing the best tenants of each perspective into a solid plan.

Particularly after a hot, hot July, the coolness of August nights seem to beckon change. The fleeting pace of time as it races through summer towards fall feels sometimes like it’s all going too fast.  But of course all is going as it should.

One benefit of a recent family reunion was the blending of generations. Some of the little ones paused in their attention-getting shrieks and antics and started to ask questions and listen to the stories of their uncles, aunts and grandparents.  Older children regaled their stories, testing their experience on the reaction of adults. Young adults shared their explorations into finding a life for themselves with a mixture of excitement and fear.

My mother always encouraged me to dream. That was good advice. Dreaming in and of itself is fun, spurs creativity and creates a great sense of “what if…”  It also helps you recognize and seize opportunities as they come along. The excitement becomes self-perpetuating as every now and then dreams do come true.

When’s the last time you vacationed somewhere with no air conditioning when it was pretty hot? Sound uncomfortable? There’s a definite upside. Heat makes you slow down. It also brings everyone outdoors.

Taking responsibility for your own actions, honesty, and doing your share of the work were key values in my family when I was a kid. As a teenager lost in the sand dunes along Lake Huron after a night bonfire and coming home after curfew, my father only had to look at me and say “I’m disappointed in you” for me to never ever want that to happen again.

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