Aging: How Fascinating!

Have you noticed how many people talk about aging as if it's a bad thing?

The Area Plan on Aging for Seattle-King County addresses negative perceptions of aging this way:

"Personal and community perceptions of aging influence how we live as well as social, economic and political priorities. A simple thesaurus search on 'aging' produces mostly pejorative terms associated with decline. Myths and stereotypes on aging include: frail, weak, fragile, sick, physically impaired, eyesight and hearing problems, dependent, associated with death, declining physical appearance, lacking sexual desire, mental decline, extreme dispositions (i.e., difficult and pessimistic, warm and kind), lonely, isolated, disrespected, and undervalued.

"Negative perceptions of aging carry a high cost to society: ageism in health care and employment, social exclusion, and elder abuse and neglect. Two-thirds of boomers find 'senior' program and service identification of little appeal. Many senior centers are aware of a stigma associated with their name. New approaches must be used to create a new and authentic perception that the wisdom, talents, and experience of older adults are community assets."

Boston Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Benjamin Zander—a master cellist and international motivational speaker—teaches his students (and audience members) to celebrate change. Zander suggests that, instead of engaging in self-critical thought or talk, we should recognize the value in our experience—including our mistakes.

What a great way to embrace aging! As our bodies and relationships with the world around us change, let's make our mantra "How fascinating!"

Change is everywhere

Change is everywhere but we may have seen the most change—and can anticipate much more in the future—in technology. I am so pleased to have an article about smartphone apps, contributed by Eva Larrauri, a training and information specialist at the Northwest ADA Center. Ms. Larrauri provides examples of assistive technology—in many cases designed for individuals with physical disabilities—that many of us can benefit from using as we age. Read on to learn about solutions that you could hold in the palm of your hand.

Another thing that's changing is our ability to discuss one of life's certainties—death—probably the most fascinating transition each of us will experience. Dori Gillam's end-of-life planning article points to resources that can make conversations with your loved ones easier. I appreciate Dori's advice—don't leave your loved ones guessing, confused, or having regrets that they didn't do what you would have wanted.

Aging and Disability Services leadership changes

Congratulations to Maureen Linehan, who was recently named director of Aging and Disability Services (ADS), the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County. As the chair of the ADS Advisory Council, it has been my distinct privilege to work with Maureen for several years in her previous roles as operations manager and interim director. Please read the article about Maureen's appointment elsewhere in this issue.

I also look forward to getting better acquainted with John Okamoto, the new acting director of the Seattle Human Services Department, one of the Area Agency on Aging's three sponsors. John's outlook on community service and his family connections to aging services are outstanding. See the article about his appointment in this issue as well.

September 12 Alzheimer's Forum on Vashon

Join the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services and Vashon senior advocates in viewing an Emmy award-winning documentary about the growing epidemic of Alzheimer's disease. The Advisory Council's September 12 meeting will focus on the The Forgetting: Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic—a PBS documentary based on a book by David Shenk—and discussion with George Dicks, a Certified Geriatric Mental Health Specialist and lead Mental Health Practitioner at Harborview Mental Health and Addiction Services. Dicks—a member of the Council—will give an overview of different types and causes of memory loss and dementia, and also answer questions after the film.

According to National Vital Statistics System data released last year, Washington state has the highest mortality rate for Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. Currently there are over 150,000 Washingtonians with Alzheimer's or a related dementia. The prevalence of dementia among older residents of the U.S. is growing rapidly.

The Alzheimer's Association estimates a 40 percent increase by 2025 and that, by 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease will nearly triple.

Caregivers and family members who want a better understanding of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia; resources, tools and tips for dementia care; and information about culturally competent care are invited to see the film and participate in the discussion on Friday, September 12, 2014 (11:15 a.m.–1:30 p.m.) at Vashon Presbyterian Church. A no-cost light lunch is available. For reservations, call the Vashon Senior Center at 206-463-5173. For more information about the event, visit the Advisory Council advocacy webpage.

This fall, keep moving, stay connected, and remember our mantra: "How fascinating!"

Contributor Tony Provine is serving his second term as chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. He welcomes input from readers via e-mail (advisorychair@agewisekingcounty.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council, when they occur. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.

Join us!

The Seattle-King County Advisory Council for Aging and Disability Services (ADS) invites individuals interested in issues and services affecting older people and adults with disabilities to apply for open council positions.

Advisory Council members:

  • Identify the needs of older people and adults with disabilities in our community;
  • Advise on services to meet these needs; and
  • Advocate for local, state and national programs that promote quality of life for these populations.

For more information, contact Gigi Meinig (gigi.meinig@seattle.gov or 206-684-0652) or visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.