Helpful apps for seniors

8 tech solutions to maintain independence and give caregivers peace of mind

By Jeff Salter for Next Avenue

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Every day for the last 24 years, I’ve worked with the elderly and, by extension, with their families. As the founder of Caring Senior Service, a non-medical in-home care provider, my goal is to ensure that people can age with dignity in their own homes and to reassure families that their loved ones are safe and secure. Increasingly, technology helps on both fronts.


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The importance of listening to the person with dementia

We need to hear well before the voice is silenced by the disease

By Mike Good for Next Avenue

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Credit: Thinkstock

(Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series examining and interpreting a commonly used “bill of rights” for dementia patients.) 

People with Alzheimer’s or other dementia are an invaluable part of our society. Millions of them are brilliant, wise and actively advocating for their rights and needs.

As my friend with Alzheimer’s, David Kramer said, “It’s not something that necessarily makes us idiots.” No it doesn’t, but unfortunately the vast majority of people don’t understand the disease, and therefore, don’t know how to listen to the person with dementia.

Just like anyone else with unique challenges and special needs, people with dementia need to be able to communicate their needs, wants and fears without being judged.


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It happens to the best of us: I’m not cool anymore

Despair turns to hope during a humdrum trip to the grocery store

By Peter Gerstenzang for Next Avenue

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Credit: Thinkstock

A few mornings ago, I saw a reflection of myself and had to summon every bit of strength to keep from shrieking. What was staring back at me, from a darkened winter window, was sad, morally repugnant and just plain creepy.

As I caught a glimpse of myself on the NordicTrack, wearing a velour sweatsuit and horn-rimmed glasses so I could watch CNBC, I had the most unsettling epiphany: I’m not cool anymore.

I looked beyond the window at my snow-covered suburban lawn and wondered what had happened to my rebellious nature. Where was the guy who once wore mirror shades and motorcycle boots, whose long hair was held in place by a bandana? How did he morph into the guy who was exercising before dawn? Who chugged prune juice? And now dressed like senile mobster, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante? I did not know. And I was bummed about it.


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Art and friendship make powerful tools to fight ageism

College students and older adults become ‘pals’ in this creative arts program

By Linda Bernstein for Next Avenue

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Credit: paletteprogram.org Caption: PALETTE participants bridge the generations

“Whom would I meet? What would I say? Would I seem dorky?” These were Rena Berlin’s concerns before she met her Partner in Art Learning, the new “pal” she’d been matched with through a program that pairs a college student with an older adult to create art.

“For the first time in my life I really felt like a senior,” says the 68-year-old educator from Richmond, Va., with a laugh. “They were transporting a small group of us from the Weinstein Jewish Community Center in a van to the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. A van. That mean’s you’re getting old. I was also nervous.”

It turns out she had nothing to worry about. “After my PAL and I got started, it was amazing,” she says.


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An unexpected reunion

betty-and-artArt Bloomer wasn’t expecting to attend a high school reunion this summer. But then Art and his wife, Sue, started talking to fellow Westerly resident Betty Curtis at our Fourth of July indoor picnic.

While they made small talk, Betty asked Art where he grew up. “I said, ‘You’ve never heard of it.’ I said Lebanon, Kansas, and her eyes lit up like crazy.”

Betty said she most certainly did know Lebanon – it’s where she had her first teaching job in 1950-51. That was Art’s senior year at Lebanon High School. He asked her maiden name—Feldman. “It rang a bell immediately. I said, ‘You’re Miss Betty.'”

Not only was Betty one of Art’s teachers, she sponsored the yearbook and taught journalism. Art was editor of the student newspaper and business manager of the yearbook. In fact, he still had the book – which Betty had signed — in his apartment. Within a few days, Art and Betty spent hours poring over the pictures and memories inside.

Betty remembered Art as the tallest boy in school and also that he was valedictorian. Art remembers that the boys thought Miss Betty was quite attractive. She was only five years older than they were.

“I told her, ‘You don’t know how much the senior boys were stuck on you,'” Art said. “She laughed and said ‘I can’t wait to tell my kids I was a hot teacher!'”

It’s rather remarkable that Art and Betty wound up neighbors at the Westerly more than 65 years later. Betty was engaged during her year in Lebanon, but her fiance, Charles, was attending seminary in New Jersey. He had asked her to marry him before he left, but she wanted to wait. “I said no, I needed to pay my bills.”

She spent that Christmas in New York with Charles and bought material for her wedding dress on Broadway. They were married in June 1951, then she joined him in New Jersey for three more years. Their first son was born there.

They returned to Kansas and Charles pastored several churches, while Betty taught piano and school. She eventually earned two more college degrees and later taught remedial reading to incoming freshmen at Wichita State University.

Art, meanwhile, got an athletic scholarship to Emporia State University. He was drafted in his junior year and decided to join the Marine reserves so he could finish school. To his own surprise, he applied for a regular commission and spent 31 years as a Marine Corps pilot. He and Sue didn’t return to Kansas until 2004 – 50 years after they were married.

It’s hard to believe he wound up living in the same building as his former teacher, yet here they are. “I don’t know if it was coincidence or divine intervention,” he said.

Betty, too, marveled at how one year in her life suddenly has so much significance, given her rich journey through school, marriage, and family life. “It’s like a piece of meat had laid there in that sandwich for 66 years, and I had given it hardly a thought,” she said.