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.

Each year, by presidential proclamation, November is recognized as National Family Caregivers Month. The theme for November 2015: Respite: Care for Caregivers.

Pre-dawn after a brilliant moonlit night, my autumn thinking adjusts to leaving for work under a canopy of stars without yet a trace of coming dawn. The clearness of night and brightness of stars was impossible not to notice.

A few years ago my husband and I chatted on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan when a Monarch butterfly fluttered past. We thought, how nice. A few moments later, another went by. We slowly became aware. Every few minutes another would come into view, usually either alone or with one or two others nearby. In the course of twenty minutes or so several dozen had passed; all making their way south along the shore. Migration! How could I never have noticed what now seemed so obvious?

Medicare turns fifty this year. Prior to 1965 only about half of older adults had health insurance; and then it only covered about a quarter of hospital expenses. Many could not afford the premiums or were denied due to age or pre-existing conditions.

Being a mid-boomer, I find folk rock music of the seventies a great stress reducer. Travelling I-94 last week to catch a plane in Kalamazoo however, my mood shifted from jiving to sober to tearful in rapid succession.

Happy summer – the solstice is here! Summer solstice occurs when the tilt of a planet's semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the star (sun) that it orbits. So – today, presumably at 4:38 this afternoon, we in the northern hemisphere are tilted as close to the sun as we’re going to be this year.  Our longest day….

Southwest Michigan is on the move! Literally. In response to rather startling statistics regarding higher than average obesity levels in the area, there are multiple initiatives to promote healthy lifestyles both in terms of the food we eat and the activity level we maintain.

“Disrupting aging” is a rallying call for the new CEO of AARP. Taking office last September, Jo Ann Jenkins wants to use her time in office to change the conversation about what it means to grow older. She points out, “I’m a more purposeful person because of my age.”

Question: I’m going to be visiting a friend in the Detroit area in the next couple weeks. She’s in her mid-eighties and is doing well, but house chores are starting to become a concern and she doesn’t have family in the area. Is there anyone over there that she can talk to about local options to help plan for the future?

My grandmother was born in 1891 and passed in 1983 at age 92. My mother commented how fortunate she was to have had her so long. I know how she felt. While my 94 year old mother has sadly lost her memories, she still knows me and still teaches graciousness with her welcoming ways. I know from friends who no longer have their mothers how lucky I am - this weekend I can still spend time with her.

Letters are flooding out! Since the beginning of February the State of Michigan has sent over 20,000 letters per month in southwest Michigan. Why? There’s a new insurance option available for select individuals.