Every house seems to have its “swirl” zone. That place where leaves, seed pods, or snow swirls against something and heaps into a mound. The swirl zone at our house inconveniently forms on the steps to our front porch and the garage door. While away for a couple days, our neighbor decided to blow our leaves; very thoughtful of her.

Inter-connectedness of people is important. With the passing of a brother-in-law recently, people at his memorial frequently remarked how much they’d liked stopping for a chat as he enjoyed an afternoon sitting on his front porch. Acquaintances and friendships grew.

It was opening day for the Detroit Tigers. I had decided to take my bike to school since I could get home faster than I could by taking the city bus. I wanted to absorb as much of announcer Harry Heilman’s play-by-play as I could.

But about half way home, it started to snow. In about fifteen minutes, I was soaking wet and very cold. The game had been called, now a minor consideration.

Age or disability combined with low-income status is not an arbitrary predictor of an individual’s ability to make decisions about their health insurance.

But that was the perspective given by one former health insurance executive at a national conference in Chicago last week.

Speaking about people who are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid – people often referred to as ‘duals’ -- a former CEO of a major U.S. health plan stated, “All duals should be mandatorily enrolled [in managed care] almost for their own protection.”

Today is National Grandparents Day!

Many people assume that Grandparents Day resulted from lobbying by florists, greeting card companies and similar businesses. This could not be farther from the truth. Grandparents Day is a day for celebrating the connections between the generations, and its origin was decidedly noncommercial. The holiday has remained fairly true to its roots. Susan Adcox, writer for “The Spruce” tells us that the roots of Grandparents Day go back to 1956 and a West Virginia mother named Marian McQuade.

While helping to organize a community celebration for those over 80, Mrs. McQuade became aware of the many nursing home residents who were forgotten by their families. She wanted a holiday to bring attention to these forgotten individuals and to honor all grandparents. In 1973 West Virginia became the first state to have such a day.

  1. My father seemed incoherent the other day and I discovered he had taken Vicodin given to him by a neighbor.  I am shocked he did something so foolish!  He refuses to talk to his doctor and now I wonder if he’s got a drug problem ---what can I do?


  1. Unfortunately, drug abuse and misuse is on the rise in persons over age 55.  Opioid addiction and related hospitalizations and deaths have increased dramatically in the last ten years for this demographic.  Part of this lies in physicians prescribing too many pills, such as a 30-day supply when a 5-day supply is sufficient, and not paying enough attention to patient’s history, such as other doctors prescribing for the patient, and potential drug interactions.  Another dynamic is the increased marketing of prescription drugs and people’s willingness to take drugs to address even minor issues.  Finally, some studies indicate that, since the 1960’s drug culture, more people are open to using drugs, and sharing drugs, as well.

It is, therefore, more common than one would think that a neighbor or family member might say, “Your knee is hurting?  Here, don’t spend money on a doctor visit, I have this drug leftover from my dental procedure…”  You are correct that this is a foolish practice for both parties.  It most certainly is an illegal action on the part of the friend, no matter how well-intended, and it is dangerous for your father as he might not be taking an appropriate dosage or might have an allergic reaction or drug interaction.

A cousin called from the Seattle, WA area wondering if I knew anything about services available in southern Florida. Her dad, my uncle and a widower of several years living alone, was recovering from a hip replacement and needed support.

About the same time, a friend from the Detroit area called about help for her father living in southern Ohio. Her father’s macular degeneration had progressed into serious disability and her mother had just passed, leaving her dad without his well-sighted partner. 

Both women have busy jobs and are long distance caregivers. They can visit, but not live by their respective fathers. Both fathers wanted to stay where they were if possible. Tough situations; surprisingly common.

What is a caregiver?  Sometimes called an informal caregiver, this could be any unpaid individual (for example, a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) involved in assisting others with routine activities of daily living and/or medical tasks.

National statistics from the Family Caregiver Alliance out of San Francisco in 2015 showed that 43.5 million persons provided regular, unpaid care to someone needing ongoing help. Of these, 5-7 million were long distance caregivers. The number of long distance caregivers is projected to double by 2020.

While most caregivers, about sixty-six percent, live within ten miles of the person they’re caring for, nationally, long distance caregivers live an average of 450 miles from their care recipients; or approximately seven hours travel time. Their anxiety tends to be higher; they worry a lot.

What to do? There’s no one answer, every situation is different. But there is an invaluable resource available when trying to figure out what help might be available in another part of the country. The Eldercare Locator is a phone call, or online “click”, away.

Launched in 1991, the Locator is funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging, part of the Administration for Community Living, and administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. 

Here’s how it works. By calling 1-800-677-1116, you’ll be connected to a professional trained in eldercare and well-versed in common issues and needed services. The Locator receives about 300,000 requests for assistance annually on a wide range of topics including transportation, housing, benefits eligibility and home and community-based services. 

Want to know about specific local services in a given community? Just give the person taking your call the city or zip code where the person you want to help lives, and they’ll be able to connect you directly with a local expert virtually anywhere. Locally, at Area Agency on Aging, we serve as the local expert and routinely get calls patched through from the Locator from distant friends or family wanting to help someone here in southwest Michigan.

Call times are handy. Locator phone lines are manned Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  

A second option is to access the Locator online. You can go to www.eldercare.gov and punch in the city or zip code you’re interested in. Local contact information will pop up. You can narrow your search by choosing certain topics to research. Information and brochures on high-profile topics are also available.

Want to know more about how the Locator works? Check out the publication at www.n4a.org/files/EldercareLocatorDataReport.pdf

Figuring out a plan long distance isn’t easy, but these tools can help a lot. Good luck.


“…work is an important part of what gives our lives meaning and direction.” – Michael R. Bloomberg, financier, philanthropist, former mayor of New York City 

Recently, columnists have been expressing concern about not just jobs, but the role that working itself plays a role in our lives. Automation, particularly computers and robots, have been replacing human workers in manufacturing and retailing. Professional observers have concluded that as many as 42% of jobs will be replaced by machines by 2050.

And it’s not just the loss of income that concerns many observers. It’s the idea that that work gives our life meaning, and the sense of purpose in our lives. And simply not working will diminish us as human beings.

Well, where better to see how not working affects our well-being than at a place where nonworkers gather – the local downtown restaurant around breakfast time.

Last week a friend and I made our regular weekly breakfast outing at the restaurant and watched clusters of nonworking retirees coping with their unemployment. They seemed to be confronting their lack of employment with commendable courage, laughing, telling stories of earlier days, regaling one another with family tales, commenting on current events, extolling the potential of their favorite teams, smiling a whole bunch. In short, they seemed to be happy to have the opportunity to get together.

In the past few years, I’ve asked many nonworking retirees if they miss work. Overwhelmingly they say no, but they tend to miss the people with whom they worked and the familiar structure of time and place.

I’ve learned too that what observers ignore is that some jobs are simply not satisfying. One of my first jobs in high school was setting bowling pins manually. It was difficult, dangerous, and sometimes painful, with pins flying around from lane to lane. I never found any redeeming value in the actual labor. Only the paycheck.

When I was in junior college, I worked second shift as a trucker in a large company building engines. I watched co-workers on the assembly line doing mind-numbing, repetitive tasks for hours at a time. Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, warned how minute, repeated operations can be spirit-crushing. Not much meaning or sense of purpose there.

And even if a sense of purpose could be salvaged by a productive, satisfying job?  What is so magic about a 40-hour week? Couldn’t people find a sense of purpose in 20 hours a week, through a job-sharing system? Couldn’t we actually use that automation to reduce the burdens of production, to give us more time to do things we choose to pursue on our own? More likely the problem is not in work, it’s in income.

That old saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground,” which extolls the seeming virtues of toil, ignores the opportunities of freedom. And retirees can be instructive here. Some renew ties to family, develop new social networks, pursue passions, like golf, arts and crafts, develop new areas of personal endeavor.

Or if the personal interest hobbies still lack meaning, compassion can be your guide. My friend Charles is a member of the St. Joseph/ Bennon Harbor Rotary Club. He became aware of the problems of toxic water in the Dominican Republic. So with his fellow Rotarian Terry, from the Lakeshore club, he set out to mitigate the problem. So for the past several years, they have organized volunteers, set up  schedules, made trips to the Dominican Republic, raised money, and installed water filters. They didn’t get a nickel for their work, but they have been internationally recognized.

Fortunately, they had the time and the freedom from work to develop a new sense of purpose.