In April a quiet but profound change happened at the federal level. At least it was big to those of us who watch trends and have professions in the field of aging.
A statement from Cabinet Secretary of Health & Human Services Sebelius announced the bringing together of the federal Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities into a single new ”Administration for Community Living” [ACL]. The new Administration for Community Living is headed up by Assistant Secretary on Aging Kathy Greenlee.

“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught”. The line of course stems from the play South Pacific. It’s always been a favorite of ours. As a teenager it was my husband’s first touch with professional theater and he’s still amazed how a bare stage transformed into a tropical island. We enjoyed the movie version and then both got to experience an outstanding stage performance in Stratford a few years back.

Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, I’m just old enough to remember what now could be deemed quaint customs- the bell on the produce truck that sold vegetables on the street, and the milkman. The milkman delivered our milk and put it in our milk shoot: a shoulder high little door on the outside wall of the house that opened onto our kitchen counter on the inside.

Easter – a time of renewal and rebirth in religious communities around the world with Christians honoring the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead and his Resurrection into heaven.

Decades roll by imperceptibly and then suddenly add up to a whole bunch of time. I could relate to Pat Moody’s comment recently that he loved his job and just kept coming to the office every day and pretty soon thirty-seven years had gone by. I’m right behind him.

One of my early recollections of books was my mother reading to me at bedtime. She wouldn’t always read stories, sometimes she’d read about birds or bugs or animals.  I loved the descriptions that helped me picture what she was reading about. Whether she read stories or facts, it was always a different world and I think it made me comfortable with the bigger world out there.

A  recent article in the Herald Palladium  detailed how 25 percent of persons seeking health care through the local emergency room were not “emergencies” but rather people seeking health care who felt they didn’t have a viable alternative.

Anyone beside me trying to fit more relaxation and exercise into their already full schedules? While I’ve never been a big one for New Year’s resolutions, I’m a firm believer in the “never quit, never give up” perspective - at least on the big goals. To keep trying has to reap more rewards than giving up --- right??

“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Those are the times that make life sweet; all trials worth bearing. Such times are unique for each of us yet there is usually a similar thread - the interrelation between people, often between generations.

It’s such a blessing that in the natural order of things the longest, darkest days of winter are tempered in timing with holidays that bring us beautiful night lights. There’s something peaceful and warming about the way night itself seems to frame sparkling lights to add a friendly sense of cheer.

When I was just out of college I took a job in a nursing home as a nurse’s aide while I looked for a job related to my schooling. I was assigned as a “floater” in a skilled nursing unit.

I quickly learned how ignorant I was about so many daily care needs.  My appreciation for the work of personal care aides and other support staff went sky high and I found most of the people who lived there charming.

A family member lived with and cared for her mother the last couple years of her mother’s life. It was time she’ll never regret giving even though it was also emotionally and physically draining. 

A neighbor coped with the death of her only remaining siblings the same year as her husband’s health seemed to spiral downward. While caring for her husband she tries to minimize her own health concerns which daily remind her that they really cannot be ignored. She worries.

“The care of human life and happiness… is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” THOMAS JEFFERSON
“Every day, for example, politicians…swear eternal devotion to the ends of peace and security….And every day statesmen, of which there are few, must struggle with limited means to achieve these unlimited ends….”ADLAI STEVENSON

Jefferson sets the goal. Stevenson’s words, while at the time referencing purposes in foreign policy, reflects so many challenges we have today. Where to place our limited means for the most impact – a daunting challenge faced by the Super Committee in Congress. I can’t imagine. Even without the extraneous baggage of partisan politics, the scope of what must be considered staggers the mind.

A few years back my banker called me with a question. She and her sisters and mother were all getting together for a weekend and they wondered if I knew someone who could meet with them to talk about planning for her mother’s future. They were all professionals and wanted to plan ahead. Smart move --- they didn’t know where to turn.

We had the fortune of having some family and grandkids visit recently and got talking about the age range of parents. Our son and his wife had what some folks call a surprise; a baby born when their older children were at or approaching young adulthood. In fact they had two more babies a year or so apart - the two wonderful young adults who just visited.

Looking through the stories of some of the people recently “spotlighted” by the Herald Palladium for their community contributions, it was gratifying to see some mention partnership or influence by the Area Agency on Aging [AAA] in relation to their work. Influencing and/or inspiring local business endeavors is a large part of what the AAA is all about.

It’s a treat having my mother live close to me. At 91 she doesn’t travel much anymore. A happy result for my husband and me is having my sister and brothers make regular trips across the state or down from Holland to visit her. Extended family as well - nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren and the younger end of mother’s siblings have all made the trip and gotten to know beautiful southwest Michigan - though for some the trip is getting difficult as the family continues to age. 

My husband and I have visited many churches in our travels - sometimes for a service, sometimes just for a moment of quiet reflection. There’s something about a church without a service that’s very peaceful. You feel like there’s a silent story there that links you not only to faith, but also to the community that fostered it. Someone built that church – magnificent or simple, and a lot of thought went into it. It’s a place for people to gather and find spiritual peace, strength, and commonality to each other.  If it’s your own church it’s comfortable and familiar; a safe place for your own personal commune with God.

 

We got into a silly discussion the other night about birthday parties and toys. The occasion was a gathering to celebrate my mother’s upcoming 91st birthday as I’d be out of town on the actual day --- which  should be today – July 3rd – Happy Birthday Mother!

Referencing happiness research, Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says that a year after someone wins the lottery and a year after someone becomes paraplegic and loses function of his or her legs, their happiness quota is the same. We strive for happiness; our intellect kicks in. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”.  Disability does not necessarily mean unhappy or unhealthy. 

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