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July 04, 2003 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-07-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Aging Gracefully

Modern lifestyles are changing
the definition of old age.

RUTHAN BRODSKY
Special to the Jewish News

B

aby boomers are creating a
demographic shift so enor-
mous that people in their
50s or even in their 60s are
no longer defined as old.
Born between 1946 and 1964,
boomers are breaking all sorts of
myths about aging. For instance, the
feverish demand for Viagra by men
age 55 and older should dispel the
myth that the lights may be on but
the voltage is low.
Boomers focus on function and
ability while spending billions in their
desire to stay healthy, fit and mentally
alert. As a result, anti-aging medicine
has become an accepted specialty and
"wellness centers" are well ensconced
in major hospitals.
Still, not everyone ages gracefully.
Even with good health, many make
mistakes which lead to unexpected
challenges.
Obvious negatives for a long,
healthy life, for example, are decisions
to continue smoking, to not losing
that excess 50 pounds, or to watching
TV eight hours a day.
Less obvious mistakes that can be
easily changed are poor posture, not
making time for family and friends,
or not fastening a car seatbelt.
"I've learned several important les-
sons that will make my growing older
more satisfying," says Phyllis
Schwartz, director of senior services at
Southfield-based Jewish Family
Service.
"The first is to financially prepare
for my later years, which includes
investing in long-term care insurance.
I've seen too many refuse to face their
future, often resulting in a financial
disaster for their children and family.
We don't want to leave that kind of
legacy to our children."
Schwartz has also started telling sto-
ries to her children and grandchildren
about family members, family history
and special events.
How we age is largely determined
by what happens to us, and by what

7/ 4
2003

46

we are able to do about it before we
get old. Many people struggling with
their incomes in their later years were
financially secure during their work-
ing years but simply hadn't saved or
managed their finances well for retire-
ment.
A lifetime of neglecting your health
will usually lead to chronic diseases
later in life. Aging is the result of all
the choices we make about how we
care for ourselves, our finances, and
even how we think about our future.
"I'm amazed that no one has ever
informed the public that they do not
have to lose all of their assets if they
or a loved one is in a nursing home or
entry into a nursing home is emi-
nent," says Don Rosenberg, elder law
attorney with Barron, Rosenberg,
Mayoras & Mayoras in Bloomfield
Hills. "People can seek governmental
benefits and still preserve their assets
for themselves, their spouse and their
children.
"There is a terrible gap between
what is the law and what people
believe the law to be. Misunderstand-
ings run rampant because most people
do not take the time to consult a spe-
cialist.

Information Gap

"For example, it is a common misun-
derstanding to believe that your
spouse or children can act for you
during a disability. The truth is, if you
cannot make your own decisions, a
court will.
That's why it's essential that every-
one older than 18 create a durable
power of attorney, a legal document
that allows you to delegate your per-
sonal, health care and financial
responsibilities to an agent. The
authority you give your agent can be
broad or narrow as you choose, but it
allows someone you trust to be you
when you cannot be yourself."
Boomers are definitely doing the
aging thing differently. In the past,
people assumed disabilities were part
of aging. They thought aging and
infirmity were directly linked, and

Working out has changed Judy Etkin's life.

that you passed your prime at a cer-
tain point.
People are beginning to see that
aging and disease are two different
things.
Judy Etkin of Farmington Hills
doesn't want a hip replaced or have
future problems with arthritis.
"I retired from my business a couple
of years ago and started attending
yoga classes and working out with a
personal trainer," she says. "As a
result, my bone density has improved
more than 10 percent and my flexibil-
ity has greatly improved. Even though
I do my best to stay out of the sun,
I'm looking forward to retiring to
Florida in the near future."
Extended longevity is creating a
world where many generations are
alive at once, living much longer and
all in need of different forms of family
support.
Getting older means entry into new
life stages, including empty-nesting,
caregiving, grandparenthood, retire-
ment, widowhood — each with its
own challenges and opportunities.
"We all age differently, but people
who seem to age gracefully often take
on a psychological shift," says Alicia
Tisdale, a clinical psychologist in West
Bloomfield. "They move from acquir-

ing more material possessions toward
a desire to purchase enjoyable and
satisfying experiences. The goal is
often to better balance their lives.
"Though the chronological clock
ticks at the same rate for all of us,
everyone's biological clock has its
own speed and to some extent you
can control that rate. You can't stop
aging, but you can age less," Tisdale
says. "What's more, the essential part
of ourselves, whether you call it soul,
self or spirit, is ageless."
Ike Engelbaum, host of the radio
program Bright Side of Aging on
WNZK-WPON Radio, says that the
biggest mistake people make as they
age is that they're always afraid to
make a mistake. "That means that
some of the best ideas will never get
to fruition," says Englebaum, who is
also publisher of the American Senior

Gazette.
"I can't think of anything more
depressing than growing older and
saying, 'I should have.' It no longer
makes sense to adhere to the strict,
linear outline of life events," Engle-
baum says.
"Times are changing and life
expectancy is skyrocketing. Where is it
written that you can't start a new
career at 62 or get remarried at 86?" ❑

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