Wednesday, October 29, 2014



On Volunteering

It would be difficult to imagine how some organizations or groups could function without volunteers. And mature people are ideally suited to enhance their community’s quality of life through volunteering by putting a lifetime of skills and experience to good use.

            Volunteering has many positive results. It is a good way to keep busy, meet new people and feel needed now that the children are on their own. It’s also perfect for keeping physically and mentally active. And, it puts one’s own problems into perspective.

            Often volunteers get involved with a specific group or organization because they have lost a loved one to a devastating illness. However, if you are uncertain on how you could volunteer in your community, begin by assessing your interests and experience. Most of us have accumulated so many skills that it might be difficult in fact to focus on one in particular, so sit down and make a list.

            If you “only” raised a family, you have organizational, teaching, money management and people skills that a wide range of organizations could use. If you love working with your hands, you could offer your services to do repairs and maintenance at shelters or food banks. If you drive a car, you can deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound people. If you are a grandparent, look into getting involved in your community’s intergenerational programs to guide a young child who doesn’t have grandparents. If you can read, an elderly person with poor eyesight would welcome being read to. If you have telephone, you can become a lifeline for a lonely, forgotten elderly person by keeping in touch on a daily basis. The list is almost endless.

            If you love to clown around, why not don a clown suit and visit a local hospital so ill children can laugh, or visit a veterans facility to share stories and play games. If you write well, consider giving your time to writing an organization’s newsletter or other materials. Youth groups of all sorts could use the expertise of teachers.


Once you have determined how you would like to volunteer, here are some pointers:

-- If you have a specific organization in mind, contact the chapter in your community and speak with the manager of volunteers. Most charities have Web sites which provide volunteering information and opportunities.

-- Contact your local volunteer bureau to collect information about the volunteer needs of organizations and to identify the agencies that could benefit from your support.

-- Check local media. Community newspapers regularly list volunteer needs in their area.

-- Talk to friends and relatives who already volunteer as they can provide information.


Volunteering today involves more than simply coming forward and offering your time and skills. Organizations do try to match volunteers to positions to ensure a positive experience for everyone concerned.

            As a prospective volunteer, you can expect a process which will include:

·         An application   A formal application helps the organization determine how best to use your talents.

·         An interview   This process is an opportunity for you the perspective volunteer to learn more about volunteer positions and their responsibilities.

·         A background check   To avoid problems down the road, organizations do background checks on perspective volunteers and do contact references.

·         Training   Organizations usually provide orientation and training to their volunteers to ensure they clearly understand their responsibilities as a volunteer.

            Volunteering is an act of generosity that should be fun. Once an organization and you have agreed on a specific activity, remember that if it isn’t what you expected you can ask to do something else. Happy volunteers contribute their time for years, something charitable organizations understand only too well. Simply explain the problem frankly and openly.


            The sense of fulfillment makes it all worthwhile. There is a feeling of satisfaction and pride at contributing to ease the burden of others while being positively energized.





Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Depression Awareness Month

I was shocked when I heard that Robin Williams had committed suicide. Why would he? I thought to myself. He had tons of fans, was rich, etc. But you never know how another human being really feels deep inside, do you?

            Soon after, a woman I’ve known for more years than I care to remember confided in me that she came very close to ending her own life when she was a teenager. She was withdrawn and often cried until a teacher cared enough to take her aside and offer to help. It changed everything for her, and she became a successful adult instead of a statistics.

            Her revelation got me to thinking that perhaps we need to pay more attention to those around us, especially the young people who are having a hard time. We may not want to intrude in the lives of others, but it could make a huge difference if we offer to listen and to help. Depression is a treatable disease, not something that should be endured.

            Recently, a man I know who went through a very difficult time confided to me that he had always thought that people who suffered from depression just needed to buck up and stop feeling sorry for themselves, until he himself had to fight the disease. He says he realized that it was not something he could simply wish away. He talked to his doctor and got the help he needed.

            Often, when people feel that life is not worth living, what they need is a sympathetic ear and a warm touch, to know they are not alone. That is true at any age. Teenagers who are overwhelmed because they are abused or because they lack self-confidence as well as older people who have to come to grips with the reality of aging alone can be especially vulnerable. A warm smile and a friendly chat about the many resources available to help them can make a huge difference.

            And being grateful, says the man who conquered his depression. “My life was not perfect,” he says, “but I began to see how fortunate I was when I thought of those living in war zones today. I was living the dream in comparison.”

            Now, being grateful is on his agenda every day.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Sandwich Generation

Just as you’re getting into a nice groove in your 50s and 60s, enjoying your empty-nester status, life has a way of letting you know your responsibilities are not over just yet. Your parents are approaching a time of life when they face challenges they may not be able to handle without help. You may need to provide support that may range from weekly visits to help with shopping and medical appointments to daily interaction to insure basic care and safety.

            Providing basic tasks for a parent may be simple enough, but we must not forget that this is an emotionally taxing time. Seeing parents lose their independence is never easy, no matter your age. Everyone wants their parents to remain the way they always were: healthy and in charge because if they are no longer in charge, we the children, move on to the front lines. It’s one of life’s most difficult time and one when your own personal plans may have to be altered to accommodate the new reality.

            At the same time, as boomers you may also have to be there for your children. Some adult children come back home after finishing their schooling or when faced with a failed relationship so they can get their bearings. They may end up staying awhile. This puts a kink in the empty-nest routine. Boomers also have to be there to help with the grandchildren in a variety of ways.

            Faced with new responsibilities for the older and the younger generation, boomers must adopt, at least for a while, a new lifestyle of service. Most people are happy to help their parents and their children, but it does take its toll. It can be frustrating and lead to depression or even excessive medication. It can also be a dangerous time when the marriage is less than perfect.

            So how can you serve yourself while you serve others? It’s all a question of perspective. If you get sick trying to do too much, you will be of no use to anyone, so plan wisely. Rare are those who don’t have someone in their lives to help fulfill their responsibility to their parents. Siblings should share in helping aging parents. When each one takes responsibility for one aspect of care, the task does not appear overwhelming. For those who don’t have siblings or if they live far away, there are options. For example, neighbors and friends would be pleased to be of service to help provide support for your parents by accompanying them to doctor’s appointments or helping them do some shopping if asked.           

            And you do have to ask. You can’t just wish that people around you will offer to help. Sit down and make a plan that makes sense for you and your spouse, and then go to other people to complete the picture. You can hire someone to do some tasks for your parent, or even seek help from your local volunteer bureau.

            We can’t say no to our aging parents, but we can say no to our children when their demands on our time and our lives are becoming overwhelming. It’s only a question of communicating frankly. For example, you may enjoy babysitting your grandchildren, but when your children expect you to change your plans to accommodate theirs, or abuse your kindness, it may be time to say no once in a while. Explain your reasons clearly and try not to feel guilty.

            I say try because the first time, that no may turn you upside down inside. What have I done? How can I do this to my own child? As boomers, the idea of thinking of yourselves first for a change may play havoc with your psyche. But don’t worry, like everything else, learning to say no becomes easier with practice.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mature fashion

I got to thinking the other day how women’s fashion has evolved over the last few decades. It seems to me that when women of my mother’s generation turned 50, they immediately raced down the road of the matronly look. They gave up style for the “mature” look had been decreed should be theirs and theirs alone. Not so long ago, women over 50 would not have dared to wear slacks or shorts, nor would they have dared to wear anything in denim, anything their daughters would consider cool!

            How times have changed! And thank goodness. There is no longer any age limit for a woman to look chic and stylish. She can shop for her clothes wherever she wants, wear whatever she wants, and her daughter might well take a peak to see what she could borrow!

            A charming, adorable 84-year-old lady I know recently had to shop for a dress to wear at her granddaughter’s wedding. She chose an elegant classically cut red dress which contrasted sharply with her snow-white hair and made her look stunning. Yet, when I saw her, I knew that dress would also have looked marvelous on someone 60 years younger.

            To me, the fact that women no longer have to look, act and dress “old” once they reach a certain age is one of the great bonuses of the evolution of the past few decades. Some might say it is due in part to the women’s movement, but I like to think that the death of the mature look in clothing for women was simply the result of market forces. Women said “enough!” to fashion styles that set them apart and subdued their spirit.

            Today, no matter her age, a woman can shop anywhere she wants for her clothes. Her own personal taste, not her age, now dictates her fashion choices. Evolution has been good!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sharing Life

We all remember one of the most popular shows on television a few years back The Golden Girls. The show broke new ground by focusing on female characters over 50, something that had never been attempted on television before that time. It debunked the idea that life after 50 is a world of inactive dullness. And, along the way, it managed to garner fans in all age groups.

            The reason we loved the characters is because they made us laugh, but also because they lived life with gusto even when they, like all of us, faced some harsh realities along the way. But the great thing was that they supported each other while sharing the joys and pains of life.

            Statistically, women live longer than men with the result that many women find themselves widowed in their later years. Others experience the bitter adjustment thrust on them by divorce and have to face life on their own. Many of these women live alone and would find the idea of sharing living quarters farfetched, but some are willing to study the idea more closely these days. One reason is that our society if forcing us to adjust creatively to life. And having another person under the same roof offers numerous advantages, especially in large cities where many women face loneliness and fear. But the idea is far from new.

            While I was growing up, in that period of time my children refer to, more or less tongue in cheek, as the pre-important age, it was quite common for women to have a boarder. One older lady my family knew had three boarders to fill the empty rooms of her large house after her husband passed away. One of them, a single female schoolteacher, ended up living in the house for 20 years, right until the old lady died. The two became close friends despite their age difference. They shared life.

            I wonder if many of us do not sometimes forget to share life which could offer a whole new dimension to friendship and evolve to a level of family closeness.