On Electroshock Therapy and Being Really Old

The January 1 New York Times had a couple of articles of interest to seniors.

One was about electroshock therapy to relieve depression. According to the article, electroshock  today is nothing like what you remember from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and in fact can be very helpful for the depressed. Kitty and Michael Dukakis (aged 80 and 83) are advocates because of all the treatment has done for her. The late Carrie Fisher reported positive experiences with the treatment, as has Dick Cavett.

The Times also published the latest in its series on how several of the “oldest old” in New York City are faring. Every day is a blessing, we often hear, and certainly these nonagenarians are still leading lives full of meaning and joy. But great age, the series underscores, brings great challenges.

Things Change

We have taken another step towards what we always suspected was the eventual place to which we would return. That being largely done, I have turned my thoughts daily to those things that will change for us.

Some of them are very great. I will save those for later. And, some are very small, very mundane. They occur to me in the course of an ordinary day, a day that is largely like any other that I have experienced here on the Bluff. Yet, they are in their very small ways profound. They provide a real contrast between that which we left behind nine years ago, that which we have lived here in the interim, and that to which we return.

Here is the first of many. I’ll try not to burden you with all of them. Perhaps I’ll reduce them to a list at some point. Okay, here goes.

Composting. In our  previous home we, i.e., Ray, raked leaves every fall many times over. They were deposited in a leaf compost pile behind the house. They were oak leaves, and they were like shoe leather. It took years for them to decompose. Still, it was the right thing to do. We did not put them in plastic yard bags and send them to the dump.  The kitchen waste went down the disposal. All gone.

Coming to the Bluff, we had no garbage disposal. It would have been a strain on our septic field. Moreover, we have 17.9 acres of land. It was not long before we bought the cage that became the compost pile. We have deposited yard and kitchen waste there for years. I am amazed that so much organic matter piled into that cage decomposes into such a small amount of soil. No matter, Ray has dug it out and used it in the vegetable garden.

Meanwhile, back in the burbs, we would go to our condo with its scary Badger disposal. I was bemused that I would prep a meal and turn around to look for the compost pail – a fixture on our counter on the Bluff.  What to do with all this marvelous organic matter? Well, I did what I had learned to do over those many years before: put it in the disposal. Still, it seemed awkward to us.

Now we return to the burbs. I have to acclimate myself to the former ways. Since we live in a covenanted community, we are subject to the prevailing rules: no prospect of a compost pile in our yard.

We’ll be fine. But, I will cherish the years when we were able to turn what we bought and raised for food into nutrients for the next generation of plants. Perhaps I can slip some of the larger deposits into our daughter’s compost pile down the road. Her family has raised their composting to an environmental commitment.





Some Good News for Home Caregivers

We have several friends who at some point in their lives have become at-home caregivers for a parent, spouse, or other loved one. NPR has just broadcast a story on the dilemmas such caregivers face. One item of good news — thirty-three states now have legislation requiring hospitals to give caregivers training and instructions before a loved one is sent home from the hospital.

Hospitals have an incentive to do this anyway because of the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program created by the Affordable Care Act. They can be dinged by Medicare if too many patients have to be re-admitted after being sent home. Whether this program survives the Republican drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act remains to be seen.

Another bit of good news is that under Medicare, physicians can prescribe skilled nursing care at home. The visiting nurses provide care and treatment, as well as additional training for the home caregiver. This brochure lays out the terms and conditions Medicare’s home health care program. (Like Obamacare, Medicare may soon be on the chopping block.)

The NPR story made me recall some of the thinking that went into our decision to downsize and move to a more urban area. In our new home in Reston, Virginia, we’ll have access to several agencies providing home health care, should that become necessary one day. By downsizing to a single home, rather than the Finger Lakes house and the Reston condo we used to have, we’ll also be in a better position to afford an assisted living facility should we we come to the point at which home health care is no longer possible. There are several such facilities in and around Reston, and more are on the way.

Downsizing Progresses

We’re making some progress on our downsizing and relocation, though it’s a long, complicated process. We settled on our new townhouse in Reston, Virginia, last week.

img_2094Here’s a photo of our new home. It includes that one-car garage, which is a nice feature. Will we be able to cut back to one car? Only time will tell, but there is a bus stop on the corner.  You can just see a bit of the deck out back, which has a view into some woods — even a glimpse of a lake.

So many arrangements had to be made before this could happen. Here we are looking a little dazed after the settlement, which itself required weeks of preparation. That’s our friend and indefatigable real estate agent, Evelyn Flynn, with us.



We kept wondering whether we had forgotten something, but when we checked the place out we found that the electricity, gas, and water were on.

The next day, the furniture arrived. Our hardworking movers brought the piano through safely. img_2096


Then the cable guys came, putting us back in touch with the world.

All we have to do now is get our house back north ready for the market. We’ve made a lot of progress on that too, but there is still much to be done. We’ll keep you posted.

ps. There are lots of kids in our new neighborhood, We’ll have trick or treaters for sure next Halloween — something we missed at our house in the country.

Useful Links

The Washington Post does a good job of reporting on issues of interest to seniors. One recent article reported that rates of dementia seem to be declining and speculated on the reasons. It’s nice to have some good news!

This article on atrial fibrillation is also interesting. Since I had my episode on July 4, I’ve learned in talking with others that this problem is quite common — and difficult to learn to live with. My only problem with the article is that it makes no mention of helpful medications. Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers can restore and maintain a normal heart rhythm for many sufferers. They are working for me, so far.


A Complicated Business

This business of downsizing and relocating is complicated. There are so many stages involving everything from finances to utilities being turned on or off, and so many decisions to be made. I’m glad we didn’t wait until we were older.

Yesterday, we had some furniture removed from our house in the Finger Lakes. We need to clear things out a bit, while leaving enough to make the house look like a home when we put it on the market in the spring.

img_2086A van almost as big as our house showed up.





img_2088The hardworking crew did the job in no time, despite the wintry weather.





img_2089There goes our piano.







We shall have music!

We shall have music!

So exciting to see it in mid-air.






The stuff is headed to our new home in Virginia, which we don’t quite own yet. The settlement date is November 30. The movers wanted our things now so they could be part of a large shipment headed south in early December. We hope our settlement goes smoothly — or our furniture will be homeless.

The Long Good-bye

When we moved to the Finger Lakes nearly nine years ago we were taken by the beauty of the area. It has never disappointed. As a dear friend here and I have agreed, we will never take the views and the countryside for granted. We haven’t.

Now, as we begin the process of leaving, I am even more acutely aware of our surroundings.  We saw the super moon the other night, and it was super.  But, as it starts to wane, Ray and I are still enthralled by the daily pageant of the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets. Early this evening, we stood on the front porch and admired Venus in the western sky. A short while later, we stood on the deck and waited for the moon to rise in the east. Again, it did not disappoint. While slightly reduced in size from the full super moon, it rose red-orange and beautifully clear. The  stars were clearly visible, and when I wake in the middle of the night I can expect to see the Pleiades.

These are spectacles that we can not expect to see back in the great conurbation of Boston to Washington and beyond. Sure, we’ll see Venus, Ray tells me. It is just that bright. The light that has crept into the Western hemisphere, on the other hand, has obliterated so much of our  connection with the natural world. Hence, I shall never take for granted the experience that has been ours here.

Kind readers: when I first posted this entry, it was titled “Separating.”  I woke this morning to desperate messages from both daughters, saying they were stunned to hear that Ray and I were separating. One issued a mild expletive; the other said her heart skipped a beat.  Thought it best to change the title.

Things are moving fast!

When we last wrote about our own transition, we were in the early stages: closing on the condo that we were selling (done) and looking for a possible next home (not as easy as one might think.) We were guided in the hunt for the next place by a long  trusted realtor who has also become a friend. Little did we expect that the pace would accelerate to warp speed.

We expected that we would rest after selling the condo and mosey through the next home buying process. We would continue to live here in our beloved Finger Lakes and keep an eye out for a place that met all the attributes that we have promoted on this site. Well, that’s not how it has happened.

Evelyn, our realtor and friend, started – at our request – giving us a sense of the market and what properties could meet our wish list. We were assessing what we might find in good time.  When we were down to see the family, we would go to open houses and Evelyn would show a possible property. We stuck our necks out on one that was certainly a compromise but during the home inspection turned out to have standing water in the basement! Thanks to Evelyn and daughter Marjorie for being on the scene. No deal.

Whew! We were back to moseying. What a relief. But…, only for a week or so. Daughter Marjorie was riding home one evening and saw a realtor’s sign “Coming soon.”  It was almost perfect. Not as close to the shopping and restaurants that we had entertained with other places, but in great shape. And the greatest bonus: we would be a ten minute walk from Marjorie and family and would be in our old neighborhood.

We bit. And we got it. Now we have to work out all the technicalities and legalities of getting from one place to another, one state to another. Think financing, selling the current home, getting insurance, transferring voter registration, registering cars. You get the picture if you have ever done an interstate move. Let’s not talk mail and magazine subscriptions. We’ll save that for another day.

We’ll close the deal the end of this month. We’ll start moving things into the next home. The condo contents will be delivered. Items not needed here will be transported. We’ll be back and forth for a period.

Stay tuned.






Leisure World Living

California’s Rossmoor 55+ community, where Lynne Kerwin lives, was once one of the Leisure World communities, developed by Ross Cortese, starting in the 1960s. The prevailing view at the time was that most seniors wanted to remain in the communities where they had always lived, close to family and friends. Many did, and many still do today, but Cortese realized that others would prefer to live among other active adults in communities with lots of amenities — pools, golf courses, restaurants and the like — and lots of things to do.

Ultimately, seven Leisure World communities were built. Today, they are independently operated, and some no longer use the Leisure World name, but this website gives links to them all. Each has its own website as well.

These are large communities — Laguna Woods Village in California claims 18,000 residents — but that means that there’s plenty going on. The list of clubs at Laguna Woods takes up several pages, starting with the American Association of University Women and ending with the Yoga Club.

The Leisure World and former Leisure World communities are not senior living centers with dining rooms and medical services. Residents are living just as they would in any other community, relying on the hospitals, doctors, supermarkets, services, and shopping centers around them. As a result, seniors don’t have to pay a large upfront entrance fee to get in, but simply buy their homes through a real estate agent.

Here’s a list of homes currently available at Lansdowne Woods, a former Leisure World in northern Virginia. Prices for condos range from about $180,000 to $675,000, with most somewhere in between. Monthly condo fees at Lansdowne vary with the price. On a two-bedroom, two bath at $219,000, you would be looking at $532.49 per month.

If you’re looking for an active life in a beautiful location, one of these communities might be just right for you.


Life at Rossmoor, in Walnut Creek, CA

Here’s our first reader contribution on places where seniors live. It’s from our friend Lynne Kerwin, who spends time in the summers here in the Finger Lakes of New York State. The rest of the year, Lynne can be found enjoying life in a 55+ community in California.

“Moving to Rossmoor is like going to college your freshman year. There are about 10,000 people here that have come from somewhere else. They are eager to make new friends, pursue their interests and try new activities.

“The residents are educated and eager to learn. The problem here is too much to do, not too little. There are four pools, 27 holes of golf and every imaginable sport plus over 200 clubs and organizations. Because so many services are provided by the staff, we have lots of time to participate in the activities, to volunteer, and to work or just relax if we wish.

“We are located in a heavily treed valley surrounded by hills and mountains in Walnut Creek, California, just east of San Francisco. Most days the sky is blue and the weather is warm. The community was established in the 1960s and has grown to capacity over the years. There is a variety of housing, although most residents live in condominiums built over several decades.

“We have our own library, event center, fitness center, restaurant, counseling center, theater, arts and crafts, music rooms, wood shops, and much more. The recreation staff plans many of the activities and entertainments but so do the residents and their organizations. We have a weekly newspaper in Rossmoor thicker than newspapers in many larger cities. That is how we communicate all that is happening in Rossmoor.

“During our first hours visiting Rossmoor, my husband and I knew this was where we wanted to spend our days in California. My sense is that most if not all homeowners think we live in paradise.”