The Things We Keep: Gene Wilder and the Refusal to Give in to Alzheimer’s

Gene Wilder and his fight with Alzheimer's diseaseHow do you remember Gene Wilder? Generations have grown up with him as Willy Wonka, mad genius and difficult giant. They remember his fierce outbursts, sly songs, hidden sense of menace, and, ultimately, his heart, in helping a poor child who just wanted to believe. Is that how you remember him? Or is it for his great comedies, those collaborations with Mel Brooks: the shaky sheriff in Blazing Saddles, the scheming schmuck in The Producers, or the not-mad-but-yes-very-mad-scientist in Young Frankenstein? Or, his older movies, like the buddy ones with Richard Pryor where he had the gentleness of a child?

Or do you remember little moments, like the way he moved effortlessly from perfect stillness to highly-calibrated insanity, seemingly in a heartbeat? Do you remember the stillness with which he turned around once his monster started moving, or him screaming how he had created life? How he could be both the arch-eyed straight man and the vortex around which the madness swirled? Is that how you remember him?

Fond memories, now tear-diffused, are what we now have of Gene Wilder. That smile that understood exactly what it was like to be a child, back when the world was filled with awe and magic. That smile that told you he knew where the magic came from. He made memories for us all. And it was memory that was at the forefront of his final years, as he braved Alzheimer’s, in private, so that he could keep the faith and the enchantment—but even more so that we could, so that the children could. He showed us how to keep a hold on who you are, no matter the circumstance, and gave us not only a lesson in how Alzheimer’s can devastate, but, just as importantly, in what it can never take from us.

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Embracing Change When Relocating as an Older Adult

relocating as an older adultMoving to a new city can be a wonderful way for your aging loved one to feel rejuvenated. Getting to know a brand new place, seeing fresh sights, and meeting new people are all wonderful benefits of relocating. And although there are a few stressful aspects involved with a move, the experience can provide your loved one with just the right amount of challenge to reignite their inspiration and engagement with life.

An older adult might need or want to move for any number of reasons: it might be to live closer to you or other family members, to enjoy more affordable housing, or to have access to better care. Despite the emotional ups and downs, relocating as an aging adult is often ultimately worth it—especially if your loved one can engage in a supportive new community.

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Pressing Questions: How to Find a Reputable Caregiver Agency

Finding a reputable caregiverCaring for an aging loved one should be a rewarding part of your life, so it’s important to consider ways to avoid burning out in your role as caregiver—and hiring outside help to support you may offer some relief. Whether it’s for a few hours, a few days, or full-time, bringing in a professional can help family members to advocate for themselves and to create much-needed downtime—not to mention, professional caregivers bring a lot to the table, including valuable expertise and a fresh perspective. For families looking to hire a professional caregiver, the most common first step is finding a reputable caregiver agency.

Families usually choose to hire a caregiver from an agency because of the security it provides. A good caregiver agency will take care of all details, big and small, so you don’t have to, like background checks, providing insurance, ongoing training, care management, and handling day-to-day issues. But because the caliber of agencies can vary greatly, it’s critical to do your research beforehand. It’s in both your family’s, and loved one’s, best interest to find an agency that’s trustworthy—and only works with quality caregivers.

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70 Candles: Aging Women Share Their Inspirational Stories on Thriving in Old Age

70 Canldes: inspiration stories on agingGrowing older is akin to entering uncharted territory: the landscape of your own body can begin to feel foreign, and the way you relate to certain aspects of life also shifts. In the book (and related blog) 70 Candles, authors Jane Giddan and Ellen Cole talk about finding ways to appreciate and accept the challenges that come with each new birthday—and what it takes for us to continue to flourish as human beings as we age.

Inspired by the desire to live well into old age, 70 Candles shares stories of amazing women doing incredible things: whether it’s confessing to being depressed after an injury, feeling scared about getting older, or expressing gratitude for another candle on their birthday cake, the women of this community are courageous, authentic, and compassionate.

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The Best San Francisco Neighborhoods for Downsizing as an Older Adult

The best retirement neighborhoods for seniors in san franciscoAccording to the Big Bang Theory, the universe once rapidly expanded outwards, but at some point will start “crunching” together again—and returning to the center. On a much smaller scale, we’ve seen a similar phenomenon when it comes to the living situations of older adults in America. People spend their youth in apartments in the city, then expand to houses in the suburbs, until, after retirement, they return to city apartments and condos. With 40% of people aged 50-64 planning to move in the next five years, we might see San Francisco’s own version of the Big Crunch soon—but it could be a good thing.

Many older adults are excited to move back into a city that is still happening, as they treasure their independence and ability to get around—San Francisco’s youthful vibe can be a boon for older souls. Your aging loved one is sure to find that the area has a lot to offer, from cultural activities to outdoor exercise, community centers to retirement jobs. The key is selling the suburban house, and finding the right neighborhood in the city. As a loved one, you can help with both sides of that equation.

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Bridging Generations, Solving Problems: An Interview with IOA’s Director of Quality Improvement


How do you make lives better? How do you improve the way that older adults live, every day? How do you make things easier on families or caregivers trying to balance their own lives with the needs of those they are caring for? For Sandra Nuñez, IOA’s Director of Quality Improvement, it meant going straight to the source—and asking questions of the people most directly impacted by IOA’s programs and services.

By creating a survey that provides a comprehensive overview of the efficacy and quality of IOA’s programs, Sandra found a way to help improve aspects of the organization’s mission-driven services. And, perhaps just as importantly, she did so by recruiting a team of high school volunteers to oversee the project. This led to an incredible flowering of cross-generational interaction—and possibly changed the way the students viewed aging, older adults, and the impact they could have in the community. It’s just one more way that Sandra’s programs make lives better.

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Wheelchair-Friendly Trails to Enjoy with Your Aging Loved One in the Bay Area

Wheelchair friendly trails in the bay area for seniorsTake a deep breath of fresh air and feel the warm breeze kiss your shoulders as you stare up at the giant Redwoods that tower above. There’s nothing quite like wandering through a majestic forest, far away from any signs of city life. Nature can offer you a sense of perspective on life that few other things can—so it’s no surprise that it has many health benefits, such as improving mental clarity, reducing stress, and boosting energy.

While hearing the sounds of birds singing and leaves crunching underfoot can bring feelings of peace to almost anyone, if your aging loved one requires a wheelchair, it can be a bit of a challenge to explore your area’s natural wonders. Fortunately, many outdoor parks and trails now focus their energy on creating accessible environments for all levels of mobility—and the Bay Area, in particular, is jam-packed with stunning trails that are also wheelchair-friendly.

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How an Ergonomic Computer Workspace for Older Adults Can Help Prevent Injury

Set up an ergonomic computer workspace for your aging loved one. The digital age means we’re able to sit down at a computer and get instant access to the entire world—and for my mom who’s aging in place, technological advancements like the internet have been a real game-changer. Her computer workspace now functions simultaneously as an entertainment system, writing nook, place for lifelong learning, and a gateway to social connection.

I spent a fair bit of time helping set up the space so that it’s physically comfortable for her to use, and it’s now one of her favorite parts of the house. It has also helped us stay connected after I moved away—now I never worry about her comfort during our lengthy Skype chats. Because as great as computers are, prolonged periods of usage can cause older adults physical harm if they don’t have a proper setup. Creating an ergonomic workspace allows your aging loved one to enjoy the freedom of new technologies while protecting their health and comfort.

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Senior-Centric Hospital Units In the Bay Area Offer Healing Without Harm

senior-centric hospitals in the bay areaMorris was admitted to the hospital after experiencing some mild arrhythmia shortly before his 81st birthday. He was feeling flush, and dizzy, and was having some trouble breathing. Nervous about another hospital visit, Morris recalled that while the staff at the last hospital were attentive and concerned, they didn’t seem to have the capacity or resources to treat an older adult differently than any other patient. This time, though, he was relieved to learn he would be taken to a hospital that had a dedicated Senior Care Unit.

From the first moment of his stay, Morris realized that his specific needs would be more easily acknowledged and addressed within a care facility focused on older adults. Before he even got into a bed, he already felt better. Later, he learned that more and more hospitals are creating senior-centric units which specialize in caring for older adults. They allow aging patients to feel comfortable during difficult times, and are an increasingly important tool in healing. See what a difference a senior-focused hospital unit can make the next time your loved one is in need of care.

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Bone Deep: Why Vitamin D Is Essential for Older Adults

Vitamin D is essential for aging adults bonesI remember back when my grandmother was still alive going through a period where she suffered a number of minor falls. She’d been diagnosed with osteoporosis a few years before, but hated swallowing pills, so her vitamin intake was infrequent at best. The falls, however, spurred her into action: she began taking a cocktail of vitamin supplements recommended by her doctor, including vitamin D, to improve her bone health.

After a few months, my mom and I noticed a visible increase in my grandmother’s physical stability—and overall energy. Seeing the effects of a consistent vitamin regimen first hand made me realize how essential a simple supplement can be for an older adult’s health and safety. Vitamin D became a staple in our strategy to help my grandmother age at home.

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