Multiple generations living in one household is nothing new. Throughout our history children, parents and grandparents have shared life together in the same home often out of financial necessity, other times out of convenience.

What is new is the number of children who are being parented by grandparents. In the 1980s there were 2 million children under 18 living in the home of a grandparent, now there are 4 million nationwide and the number is growing. In Michigan 152,400 children under the age of 18 currently live in homes where the householder is a grandparent. Of those, nearly 26,000 have no parent in the home.

Questions and Answers about Emergency Response Systems

Q:  My doctor said I should get a medical alert bracelet but I think he meant the button to push to call for help.  There are so many confusing terms and products, where do I start?


A:  It is confusing when so many different products have such similar names.  A medical alert or ID is generally defined as some piece of  jewelry, usually a bracelet or a tag on a neck chain, which can quickly identify to medical responders that an individual has a certain diagnosis that needs attention, ie. food or drug allergy, diabetes, or epilepsy, and this condition might be the cause for the person being unresponsive or having a seizure.  These IDs can be as simple as a metal bracelet with a medical symbol on it, all the way to something with an imbedded microchip that contains a person’s full medical and emergency contact information.

A colleague recently sent me a clear synopsis of how to recognize a stroke. Given that a friend had recently experienced one of these signs, it rang especially true for me.

In my friend’s situation, she had been talking to her husband while doing dishes; he was at the other end of the counter watching golf on TV. Responding to her in casual conversation, he began his response, and stopped. He started again, and stopped. She turned, he motioned with a worried look; only scattered partial words would come out. All motor skills were intact, but he couldn’t voice a simple sentence.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving & AARP, an estimated 44 million Americans age 18 and older provide unpaid assistance and support to older people and adults with disabilities who live in the community. In most cases the care is provided by family members, and often the caregiver is living in the same residence.

It started small.

Rhonda’s mom needed help with household chores. “I was happy to pitch in. I didn’t think of myself as a caregiver at first, just a daughter helping her mom,” Rhonda says.

Over time, the quick stops after work turned into a daily before-and-after work routine.

“Gradually I found myself spending several hours a day helping mom with everything from paying bills and shopping to organizing her medicine and helping with personal things like getting dressed and help getting back to bed at night,” Rhonda says.

Questions and Answers About Aging and Driving

Q:  My children want me to stop driving.  I think I am doing fine and I have not had any tickets or accidents but they say it is only a matter of time.  What can I do to prove I am still a good driver?


A:  There might be nothing you can do to prove to your children you should still be driving if they have decided for some reason you should not.  There are things you can do for yourself, however, to ensure you are as safe as possible.  It is important to recognize that as we age, our eyesight can weaken, depth perception can change, and our reaction time can decrease.  If your children have specific concerns, you should try to address those with them.  Have an honest, forthright discussion about the pros and cons of continuing to drive.  Talk about what other options are available and if your children are willing to help with your transportation needs, for instance.

A woman I knew was worried. She had a good head for business and had done well managing a host of little investments that added up to a nice sum. A recent purchase she’d made however, was weighing on her mind. She asked her daughter to look into it. Her deepest fear was realized. Instead of a $2500 investment buying a nice chance for growth, she’d fallen victim to a scam.

Aging is a good thing and every stage of life is one to be valued. That said, I admit that when someone says, “You don’t look your age, how do you do it?” I’m glad.

My usual response is to tell them it’s due to “clean livin’.” For some reason, this almost always elicits a chuckle or even an outright belly laugh. Perhaps these people know me better than I think.

What’s your reason for getting up in the morning? The French call it your “raison d'être”. Costa Ricans call it “plan de vida” and Okinawans call it “ikigai”. However you say it, research published in Psychological Science shows people who have a sense of purpose live longer, better lives. The study, conducted by the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York and Carleton University in Ontario, looked at how 6,000 adults of all ages answered survey questions like “Some people wander aimlessly through live, but I am not one of them” and other questions that measured individuals’ sense of purpose.

Asking around about favorite holiday memories, common themes come up. Childhood surprises and traditions are big. Special foods, traditional blessings, decorations, and song abound. But through all those things, the common thread is people.

We need each other; relationships are special. Family is usually front and center, but special memories and times often reach beyond family.

Sharing a low beach fire with grandchildren on a late summer night while watching a red crescent moon set silently into the lake is unbeatable. Far from any town or light, as blackness descends, the night sky unlocks a limitless treasure trove of stars; unimaginable in distance or dimension. We crane our necks to try to take it in. The vastness and density of stars, milky way, occasional satellite or rare prize of a shooting star bind us in common awe. It’s a prize night.

Two seemingly unrelated stories recently came my way.  They tie together.

The first was from a friend, concerned about a smart woman in her nineties used to making decisions and managing her life, who found herself unable to access needed medical support. This woman, a retired nurse with complex medical issues, felt frustrated and increasingly vulnerable; understanding what needed to happen, yet unable to find physicians accepting new patients.

The second story was about a twenty-six year old woman launching a career studying age. As an undergraduate freshman, she was horrified to discover people who need assistance with common household tasks or bodily functions, often felt shame over their condition. She came to view the world through a social justice lens and began to figure out what effects living in an ageist society had upon assumptions about life, death, and dignity.

Did you know that counting inland lakes and rivers, seventy percent of Berrien County residents live within one mile of a body of water? Not only are there forty miles of Lake Michigan coastline, southwest Michigan boasts 306 inland lakes and rivers as well. Couple that natural beauty with railroad, shipping and easy interstate connections to nearby cities, and you have core assets needed for economic growth. What a glorious area we live in!

                As a member of the Cornerstone Alliance Board, I’ve been privy to the impressive economic development work of the Alliance for some time. They are a local powerhouse responding to and attracting businesses seeking a place to call home. Now, recent creation of the Berrien County Economic Development Partnership offers a whole new level of collaboration.

A majority of people turning 65 can expect to use some form of long-term care in their lives.

What does that mean? How can I plan for it?

Needing long-term care means sometime in the course of our lives most of us will need daily assistance with routine activities such as dressing, bathing, eating and attending to personal needs. Assistance can be provided in a nursing home, but it’s provided increasingly in one’s own home.

How “livable” is your community? Having added three decades of life to life expectancy over the past hundred years, and recognizing persons’ age 85 and up are the fastest growing part of our population, it’s a fair question.

Do you know the interesting thing? Factors that make a community livable benefit all ages. For example, a person with arthritis may find he/she can’t walk very far. A community that installs well placed benches however, not only provides resting spots, but also place for moms with kids in tow and friends to rest and chat.

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. MARIE CURIE

 We can’t control or predict the varied health issues we each will have to deal with, but we have more power over the future than most people realize. Dr. Harry Lodge, MD and Professor of Medicine at Columbia University points out that this is true for brain health as well as physical health.

Michigan’s state level Aging and Adult Services Agency [AASA] just released its 2015 Annual Report. AASA and its network of 16 regional entities designated by federal statute as Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) is charged with planning and developing services to help people stay as independent as possible throughout life. It’s great work.

When I was a small child my mother and I would sit and listen to records together. Flight of the Bumblebee, originally an orchestra piece from a 1900 era opera, has long been popular as a solo piece. Mother urged me to visualize bumblebees and guess what was coming next. I fell in love with violin.

Into 2016 we are launched! Per the U.S Census Bureau, the U.S. can expect one birth every eight seconds and one death every ten seconds in 2016.  Net international migration is expected to add one person every 29 seconds. The combination of births, deaths and migration should increase the U.S. population by one person every 17 seconds. This is good news for the States.

Anyone remember Pong? I went off to college in 1972, the year Pong was invented. We were nine years away from IBM inventing the first personal computer.