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Optimism rules.

Here’s some uplifting news. Research is supporting our long-held belief that optimism is associated with good things. Findings are that optimism favors longevity in older women, and better emotional health in older men.

The study of women, which included women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, also examined their health habits as possible confounders thinking that those variables could explain their greater longevity. The researchers found that healthy lifestyle only accounted for about 25% of the effect observed. So yes, maintain your health habits but also nurture your positivity (as hard as that can be these days).

As for men, their optimism resulted in a reduction of negative feelings that was partially explained by less exposure to stressful situations. This study sample included mostly white, mostly economically secure men so we don’t know if this finding would hold in a more diverse sample.

Compassion and Choices; compost yourself!

Following up on our previous post, we as a Village have become an organizational member of Compassion and Choices Virginia. We’ll be watching to see if/when our legislature gets on board, and reminding them that this is an issue important to seniors AND WE VOTE. Have you written to your legislators?

The NY Times has been on fire lately with articles about seniors’ issues. Yesterday, it was this one about human composting.

For many of us, the idea of a ‘traditional’ burial in a lead-lined box after having liters of formaldehyde injected into our (collapsed) veins seems like a vast waste of money, space, and resources, not to mention the potential for pollution. Cremation appeals to some, but here you can read about the associated downsides.

Death, with dignity? Who decides?

Should Virginians have the right to medical aid in dying, like our neighbors in DC have (as well as our fellow citizens of Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, among others)? We say YES. Because right now, our only option for a controlled exit is not a very pleasant one: voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED). Here is one story about how that works.

Reading it through, and imagining ourselves in this situation, was difficult. It should not take multiple days of suffering to end one’s life when one is ready to do so. We don’t put our cherished companion animals through such torment. And to those worried about misuse, safeguards can be written into laws.

How can we make it happen? Start by writing to your state legislators. If you don’t know who they are, you can find out here. They all have email addresses. Tell them this is an issue important to you and your friends and you all vote regularly.

‘Kinless seniors’ – CvilleVillage is for YOU!

Yesterday’s NY Times had an article that might scare you.

Who will care for ‘kinless’ seniors?

Are you in this category? You are if you have no living parents, siblings, spouse, or children. It’s to be hoped that we all have friends or work pals for social connections. But they might not be the people you’d be comfortable calling on for help. So when it comes down to it, who will you be able to rely on for that ride to and from your health care provider, for example?

This is exactly what a Village is for! Once we have a Village going in Charlottesville, there will be someone. A volunteer you may already know, who can help you make a list of questions, drive you there, wait with you, take notes on the provider’s advice, help you make sure your questions are answered, and drive you home with a stop at the pharmacy if needed, and maybe even stay to have a cup of tea with you.

You can help make this a reality for yourself, for a kinless senior you know, for kinless seniors in our town, with a donation of money and/or your time on our Planning Committee.

The dreaded RMDs; doctors for us

If you are lucky enough to have retirement savings in an IRA, a 401(k) or 403(b) (these are the same kind of thing, the latter being the one you’d have if you worked for nonprofits) and you’ve turned 72 this year, you must take a distribution from your savings, i.e., money, before the end of the year. The amount is calculated according to how much is in your account(s).

Here is a general guide to this process but most of us will need expert advice on how to do it safely (to avoid penalties) and sensibly (to maximize the benefit to you).

In completely unrelated news, we happened to see on Twitter today that this week is when doctors finishing their residencies learn whether the fellowships (extra training in a subspecialty, like hematology-oncology for example, which is a subspecialty of internal medicine) they’ve applied for have accepted them. Some fellowship programs fill: cardiology matched 100% of its places with applicants.

The one at the very bottom of the list? That only matched 33% of its places?

Geriatrics, my friends. Geriatrics. With an ever-increasing share of our US population being people > 65, there aren’t now, and are not going to be, enough docs with expertise in the health problems of aging folks to go around. We’d better hope that nurse practitioners can pick up the slack.

RSV alert: bring those masks back out!

The CDC is alerting everyone to the risk of RSV, respiratory syncytial (“sin-SISH-ul”) virus, which is most commonly seen in infants and young children but can also be dangerous to elders and people with immune compromise. This appears to be a banner year for RSV, with the CDC reporting that elders are being hospitalized with RSV pneumonia at far higher rates than are typical. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine, and the only treatment available is aimed at alleviating symptoms, which are similar to those of a cold (or COVID).

What can you do? The precautions you took against COVID will help. If you’ve stopped masking in public indoor spaces, you might want to restart that habit. Wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Stay home and rest if you’re feeling ill, seek medical care if you’re not getting better.

From the archives

A tale of a neighborhood and how neighbors help each other, written in 2015 by our predecessors but never posted. (Thank you to whoever.) Seems seasonally appropriate now that we’ve given Thanks and the holidays are approaching. Maybe we don’t all call our neighbor’s cardiologist, but having a Village here would mean Sam could depend on a ride to the cardiologist’s office from a Village volunteer driver. Let’s make it happen! – Ed.

A street, here in the Charlottesville area, is quite short. Five houses, all built in the 1960s, in which three of the five houses have welcomed their second generation of owners during the last decade. The other two houses continue to be occupied by their original owners. In one of those two houses lives a widow whose children live nearby. She’s in her middle 70s, and her children are most attentive.

In the other of those two houses lives a retired man, in his late 70’s. He has no children, no family, and his wife requires assisted living care because of her dementia. Sam, as we will call him, cared for his wife in their home as long as he could, and recognized the point at which her needs exceeded his ability to provide for her. He continues to visit her multiple times each week, and feels that the money he pays for her care is well worth it.

Sam has a long history in this neighborhood. He remembers when the five families on the street would get together, and help each other out as needed. Sam still mows his neighbor’s lawn with his riding mower. He’s seemed a little reluctant to welcome the new neighbors, and even more reluctant to acknowledge that he has any limitations.

But last fall, his neighbors noticed that Sam was having difficulties. He’d push his trash toter out to the curb, and lean over it for several minutes to catch his breath. He’d return from visiting his wife, and it would take him five or more minutes to climb the four stairs to his front door, because he’d have to rest after each step.

One of his newer neighbors began to express concern to him. She’d see see him parking his car as he returned from visiting his wife, and say to him, “I’m worried about you! You look like you are having trouble walking up your stairs”, or “You shouldn’t have to lean over your trash toter to catch your breath. Something must be wrong.”

And Sam would say “I”m okay. I know my heart is a hunk of trash that is held together with wires.” So his neighbor, Abby, started to engage him in conversation. She asked him more about his heart, and Sam told her about his coronary bypass surgery. He told her who his cardiologist was, and about his next scheduled appointment, three months away.

Meanwhile, another neighbor who was one of those original owners who moved in during the 1960’s, Donna, was talking to the widow, Debbie, and told her how concerned she was about Sam. Together, Donna and Debbie told Abby that they didn’t think Sam was safe at home. So Abby, having learned the name of Sam’s cardiologist, called the cardiologist’s office. She left a message, saying “I’m a neighbor of Sam’s. He’s told me that you are his cardiologist, and there are several of us neighbors who have seen and remarked upon Sam’s difficulty getting his trash toter out to the curb, and his difficulties getting into and out of his house. We think he needs to be seen immediately, not in three months. Could you please call him in for an appointment? This week?”

Two days later, Abby looked out of her window, and saw that Donna across the street, was helping Sam into her car. When Donna returned, she told Abby that Sam had showed up at her house, asking for a ride to his cardiologist’s appointment. He told Donna that he knew he couldn’t drive to the appointment, so he’d called for a taxi and the taxi hadn’t shown up. She agreed to drive him, and when she returned, she told Abby, “They’re going to admit him to the hospital,” she said, “But I’m going away for a few days. Can you pick him up if he’s discharged while I’m gone?” Abby said she would.

That evening, Abby called Sam at the hospital. When she identified herself to Sam, he said, “You know, you saved my life. My doctor told me that someone had called and asked him to call me in for an appointment because that person was worried about me, and it turns out, that I was having shortness of breath because of a lot of fluid built up. But I don’t even know you. I mean, I’ve met you. But why should you care about me?”

Abby replied, “You are my neighbor, and neighbors help each other.”

Let’s smash ageism!

Everybody forgets things from time to time. It’s true your recall may not be as good as it once was. But as this writer tells us, that’s a normal part of aging, and it’s different to the cognitive impairment that can herald the onset of dementia.

Ageism may be the one remaining socially acceptable bias. We know that language makes a difference, so stop calling your lapses of memory ‘senior moments’. Stay involved, stay connected, help a neighbor or friend, get outside and move for a half-hour most days, and nourish your body and soul.

Take a moment to reflect on how you can make a difference in this world. And happy Thanksgiving, however/if you celebrate it!

Holiday gift ideas for seniors

Do you already have ‘too much stuff’? We know the feeling. Yet every now and then it occurs to us that a ___________ would be useful. If you have kids who want to give you a holiday gift and you can’t think of anything you want or need, here are some ideas. If you REALLY don’t need or want anything, ask them to make a donation in your name to a worthwhile cause, like Cville Village.

Where to retire?

Yesterday’s NY Times had a piece on trends in choice of retirement communities. That move you imagined doing, to the Florida coast or anywhere in Florida, or any coast for that matter, might not be the right move.

Climate change is affecting those communities, and probably yours too. Here in Cville our summers have gotten hotter and warm weather is extending longer into the fall. You can go here, put in any US address, and get a crude estimate of its risk of flooding, wildfires, and extreme heat. At our address in Cville, we have a minor risk of wildfires but a major risk of extreme heat, predicting 7 days of temps above 103 F this year and 17 of the same in 30 years.