Five Key Components to Aging in Place – Supportive Relationships

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Sally Smith:  Welcome to Age to Age.  I’m Sally Smith.  Let’s talk.  With us today is Paul Franklin, the chairman of Aging in Place, the wonderful organization that helps connect people to resources so that they can plan to age in place.  We’ve learned a lot from you, Paul, and I appreciate your being with us today.


We’re talking about are the five main things that you need to plan for.  We’ve talked about healthy living, livable homes, financial and legal.  Another one on your list, that I feel is pivotal and, obviously, you do too, supportive relationships are key.  Why are they so important?


Paul Franklin:  Well, you know, normally when we think of supportive relationships, we probably think about our family and friends first.  And that’s probably true.  I mean, they are our support mechanism.  They’re the people that we’re closest to.  We know that they want to do what they can to make sure that our life is as comfortable as possible.  And we have the kinds of things and resources around us to stay independent as long as possible.  So, we normally think of family and friends first. 


But there’s another very important element, and that’s all the different social organizations:  civic organizations, religious organizations, church groups, church senior groups, Jewish community centers.  There are senior centers across the area.  There’s the United Way, Association for the Blind, Alzheimer’s Association.  All of these are wonderful support organizations that help us to be independent, that provide that social interaction that’s so important as we age. 


It’s important, as we know, to not only maintain our physical and mental well-being, but also our spiritual, and people, relationships.  We’re social animals, and we need to interact with other human beings.  We relish that, and it’s so important.  That’s the reason that we think that it’s one of the components of successful aging in place, to have that contact, that resource to be able to know who you can call, where they’re located, and the kinds of resources they offer. 


One of the things we do is bring in a panelist.  It may be a representative from the Trident Area Agency on Aging, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging, and then, of course, there’s the Mayor’s Office on Aging.  All of these are wonderful organizations that have staff to try to help people direct their attention to resources that they, in some cases, didn’t know existed.  So, we try to bring all those together so that people begin to understand what area of successful aging they cover, the resources available, how they can be accessed, and the qualifications, in some cases, that are required.  It’s very meaningful to people to understand the different organizations and their resources. 


Sally Smith:  See, I find that so fascinating because you feel like there’s this whole world of people that don’t really know what’s out there.  That’s partly why you came up with Aging in Place.

Paul Franklin:  That’s right.


Sally Smith:  I know a group of older ladies, and it’s just amazing, one or two of them are very proactive.  They’ll volunteer to give out programs at the Dock Street Theater.  They’re going to the free yoga class.  They’ll go down to the Senior Center and have some project going.  But they’re living side-by-side with many more women, and men, that live in the same place, that could access all the same things, but just won’t go there.  How do you break through that?  I mean, is it just an onslaught of information, and they finally decide to give it a try?  It’s seems that there are such good resources, but people aren’t really taking advantage of them.  Is that true?


Paul Franklin:  Yes.  In many cases, that is true.  This is really where we reach out to help the families get them involved.  These are sometimes very serious situations that involve depression, and it could very well be that they need to see a specialist, a geriatric specialist, someone to help, take a look at the medications and make sure that they’re getting the right medications.


Sally Smith:  That’s a great point.  It could also be other medications and how they interact.  And, let’s face it, we’re just going to be healthier and better, and more motivated, you know, connected to life.  One thing, I guess, that’s interesting is maybe they need someone to take them the first few times, or ease them into this sort of thing, a daughter, or husband, somebody that could go with them a few times to get them going.  I see so many that are really sort of reclusive.


Paul Franklin:  Mm hmm, absolutely.  We see that periodically, and it’s very unfortunate.  We like to interact with them when we can, but sometimes it’s very difficult, unless they have a contact, a friend, or someone that’s very close to them. That can make a difference.  And, certainly, as you mentioned, the medication they’re on, are they getting a reaction, is it not interacting well with other medications, or do they need new medications?


Sally Smith:  Well, you know, one of the biggest things that I learned was when my mother’s hearing began to fail.  She was so fun and with it, and never would have missed out on the opportunity to enjoy other people, but she would miss certain words and would back away a little bit.  And even when she got the hearing aid, it confused her, and she really didn’t want it.  She became more isolated because she really couldn’t hear, so she didn’t want to go to the function.  She was kind of confused by it, not so much mentally, although that was beginning to happen.  She just couldn’t really participate because she couldn’t hear very well.  I can see how that, and sight, those two things, can be so pivotal, you know.


Paul Franklin:  Absolutely.  They’re afraid they might embarrass themselves, or embarrass others, because they didn’t hear exactly what was said, or couldn’t see exactly what was going on.  There are all kinds of reasons why people sometimes do withdraw.  And I’m sorry to say, in many cases, there could be some elder abuse going on.  That’s a very sensitive area.  Fortunately, here in Charleston, we do have an arm of the police department that does look at those kinds of issues.  Mount Pleasant is the same way.  The Mount Pleasant Police Department’s Senior Crime Victims is one of the resources that we have in supportive relationships.


Sally Smith:  That is just so scary.  I mean, that is just so sad.


Paul Franklin:  Yes, it really is.  And, unfortunately, in many of the cases that I’ve seen, it involves family members, as opposed to someone from the outside, so that’s very discouraging.


Sally Smith:  That is very discouraging.  Well, one thing that is encouraging is that Charleston, with its neighborhoods, is basically a friendly place.  We don’t live in a huge suburban area.  We’re lucky.  It’s just like this little lady I know, one of my great heroines, who does connect.  And there are so many people like her that are asking the seniors to come help, to come and be with them, the church groups, the  whatever.  I guess part of it is, as you say, if you can make the connection, you have the chance to really make a difference in somebody’s life, which is cool.


Paul Franklin:  Absolutely.


Sally Smith:  Thank you so much, Paul.


Paul Franklin:  My pleasure.


Sally Smith:  It’s very good to talk to you, as always.  Thanks to all our listeners too for joining us.  We welcome your suggestions and comments.  This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying good-bye and wishing you courage and joy on your journey.  We are all connected.


If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book, The Circle.  It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent with dementia.  Just click on Sally Smith’s name under the Health Professionals tab on the Podcast home page.  All profits support research at the Center on Aging.  Thanks.

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