Immigrants & the elderly

Most people I know – well educated, middle-upper income, professionals – don’t think that the raging immigration issue affects them.  They might be passionately on one side or the other of the debate, but they don’t see it hitting home.  Their home.

They are wrong.

One of the things we discussed during Tuesday’s Radical Age Movement meeting was the impact on elder care if there is a major clamp-down on undocumented workers, the backbone of not just home care & cooking in the swank conclaves of our large cities, but also the home care of dependent & elderly people in every nook & corner of our nation.

One home healthcare provider is facing their Haitian-American nursing assistants & practical nurses losing their temporary protected status in November, told they MUST return to Haiti no later than July 2019, while other staffers – dreamers – face being returned to a homeland many never knew if DACA is not restored.

It’s no surprise to anyone who’s been in a continuous care facility or nursing home that many of the workers seem to be foreign born – statistics indicate that they account for one in four “direct care” workers.  Even more are hired directly by families, paid under the table for their services.  As the ranks of the elderly swell with an influx of baby boomers (like me) & chronic disease/disabilities replacing death, the women who traditionally provided care has shrunk due to careers or seeking better pay & benefits.

That caregiving gap has – until now – been filled with immigrants, many undocumented.

In 2005, there were approximately  500,000 immigrants in direct care; by 2015, that had ballooned to over one million.  Imagine the consequences if vast numbers of them are either unable to work or afraid of attracting ICE’s attention.

Cracking down on immigration means tearing apart the safety net these workers provide for families needing affordable care for parents who are living longer, often dealing with chronic health problems, with children who work so can’t stay home with Mom or Gran or Uncle Phil.  The impact is already being felt by the disabled, elderly & their families.

The current administration as far terminated Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for Haitians, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans.  Other nationalities are expected to follow.  America is no longer considered a safe harbor by immigrants, whether legal or undocumented.

Almost 11,000 direct care workers are here from largely Muslim countries – how does the travel ban affect them,  families denied permission to join them.  And there are those DACA members facing deportation.

If the president gets his wish & we reduce the number of legal immigrants, deport all the undocumented & return DACA eligible to their homelands, then they are not the only ones who will suffer uncertain, scary fates.  You might, too.

“Wellderly” – new one on me

Seems I’m behind the times – until  a few ago, had never heard the term “wellderly.”  AKA “old people who are in good health.”

Per the World Health Organization (WHO), many developed countries hold 65 to be the augur of elderly, while the United Nations (UN) tags it five years younger – 60!  ARE they old, or simply 60+ years in age?

 

Back in Spring 2016, Eric Topol, MD, a geneticist at Scripps Health, published The Wellderly Study that looked at people 85+ years old whose lives had been free of chronic disease (except arthritis, “which is ubiquitous in folks 70+”).

In a collaboration between Scripps Research Institute & Scripps Health, Dr. Topol & his team collected 1,400+ genetic samples from “wellderlies,” data that is now available as a DNA data set to other scientists.

Known as the Scripps Wellderly Genome Resource, it offers priceless info for comparing wellderlies to their disease-prone peers.  Its long-term goal is to uncover the mechanisms that protect these healthy 85+ year olds, that let their systems apparently flick away the deterioration that besets most their age.

Radical concept, from medicine’s pov –  focus on the healthy instead of the physically and/or mentally diseased & deteriorated.   It’s not wasted on me that these studies are happening as my Boomer generation grows greyer & greyer, with no stomach for having the longer lives that improved medicine & medical technology offers if they are devoid of good mental & physical health.

Find myself thinking of my mother, of John’s, of the awesome Anne Hyatt.  Of the three women, only Mom Murphy was a by-definition wellderly – she was devoid of any chronic debilitation until the instant she died of a massive heart attack.  Mom had problems with a torn rotator cuff that left her without the full use of an arm, while Anne had advanced dementia.

But I’d tag all three as wellderly.  Mom was limited in her movements, but she was sharp as tacks to the very end.  Anne couldn’t remember from one moment to the next the day & the date, but no one was more ready for the next moment of joy.  THAT’s the sort of wellderly I want to be as I age ever upward.

How do we get samples, do studies that nurture those traits?  Worth a ponder.

Those three ladies are my sort of wellderlies!

empowered & equipped

One of the participants at today’s wondrous Create a Crystal Clear Vision 2018 workshop mentioned that when she’s in her flow, she empowers & equips people to do what lays before them.

Empowered & equipped – it took hearing those words paired to realize I’d never connected them that way before.  It’s not enough to empower others, myself.  I have to do what I can to make sure they/I am equipped to take action.  Empowerment is energy, equipped is what it takes to act.

I am empowered to free myself & others to reach in & reach out to expansive lives, but empowerment alone still leaves me static.  How do I equip myself to make the small sweet steps & brash bold leaps required to bring change to individual lives, communities, the culture?  The Universe detests generalities, loves details –  then It knows what’s needed & can figure out how to respond.

It is 1/27/18 & I am empowered.  Now, to get equipped.  To be detailed in what I need. To spell it out, see & feel it, make use of it.  Because empowered & equipped only matter when they end up in something constructive being DONE.

Awaken

If I lowered my laptop screen & moved my page-a-day You Are A Badass calendar, I’d see a beautiful mug purchased many years back at Borders – large, a lovely shape & an eggshell color, with Awaken in yellow script across the front.

This morning, at a wonderful Create a Crystal Clear Vision workshop led by the remarkable Christa Tinari.  Smiling, remembering the first time the two of us met, at a gathering of supporting creative under the bright shining Edie Weinstein – at Zen Den.  Christa & I immediately glommed on to each other as we realized that the three words that describe her work are “engage empower transform” & mine were “engage energize empower.”  Clearly kindred spirits!

It was delightful morning & early afternoon, a group of eight of us gathered in an art room of a local Montessori school, all of us – six women, two men – seated on very low seats at very low tables.  A creativity-burbling space & an intriguing mix of energies.

My greatest take-away from the day was realizing the undeniable truth of that mug, unseen behind my computer screen.  I have awakened.  Was about to write down, “Now, it is time to act,” when it hit me with a dazzling flash – I AM.

I am awake & doing.  Not just planning, not just prepping – I am empowered & equipped & take small sweet step after small sweet step.

Christa helped get me to that astonished aha.  When we first connected, years ago, she was just taking her own first steps toward realizing a dream – to be a singer.  She talked about it at the circle of creatives at  Zen Den.  She was stepping into something that felt unfamiliar, yet also like a homecoming; unknown, yet known to the very soul of her being.  And although she was simply a new acquaintance at the time, John & I went to hear her sing – twice – during those early days.  Now – wow!! She is an in-demand vocalist who holds her audience in thrall at her rich singing.

Now, Christa is there for me as I take MY first steps into what’s unfamiliar, yet feels like homecoming; my unknown, yet known to the very soul of my being.  What she shared today – on so many levels – was exactly what I need.  Not a kick in the butt to get moving, but the sure knowledge that others are by my side, that the Universe is not alone in having my back.

And at the back of it all is still Edie.  John & I went to a holiday party at Edie’s.  At the party, I got to talking to an engaging fellow named Tom who mentioned that a terrific band – Cherry Lane – was playing later that night at Puck.  On our way home from the party, we checked out the band, which was everything Tom described.  We sat next to two gals – twins – who LIVED the moment.  They wondered if Christa was going to be singing – which was how I discovered she often sat in with Cherry Lane.  At home, I checked out future dates for the band & discovered that Christa WOULD be be singing on 01/26/18  with the lead musician, at Perkasie’s  Chimayo Gallery, about an hour from Squirrel Haven.  Unrelated to the music event but possibly because Christa was on my focus radar, discovered yesterday about today’s workshop, signed up & plunked down the $45 for what turned out to be a wondrous start to winding down of a madly marvelous month that models all I want to accomplish within each of the remaining eleven.

From Edie to Tom to Cherry Lane to Chimayo to Christa to Christa to realizing an awakened, active ME.

Correction – said  “at the back of it all is still Edie.”  In truth, at the back of it all is the best, most glorious partner & committed awakener – the UNIVERSE, which constantly seeks to be invited in, to partner up with a conscious mind body spirit determined to awaken & act.  Thanks,partner – looking forward to more of the same great collaboration in the year ahead!

 

Voltaire got a bum rap

In my high school days, I was taught that Voltaire was an atheist who derided the very idea of God.  So, I was left drop-jaw surprised that he wrote, “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”  Doesn’t sound like someone all twisted over the idea of a Divine Being.

All of which gave me pause.  How many other things was I taught & just assumed were true that haven’t the legs my teachers gave them?  Interesting thought to have at 65.

Turns out that, like many intelligent men & women of his day, Voltaire was a deist. He held firm to two beliefs –  there IS a Creator behind our universe (who does NOT intervene in its workings) ~and~ that organized religion is the impetus behind mankind’s most inhumane crimes.  His Treatise on Tolerance is an eloquent outline of his beliefs.

Did my teachers ever really read Voltaire?  Have to wonder.  His Treatise is certainly excellent reading for our current day.  And my amazement over the distance between what I was taught & what I have learned is a fire under my butt to revisit, rethink & reappraise my core assumptions.  One of the great pleasures of older age!

Red light, GREEN light

When I was little, I’d play Red Light, Green Light with the rest of the neighborhood kids.  But what’s fun as a child packs no joy as an adult.  Yes, adults have their own version of the game.  Someone played it with me yesterday.

I was at a favorite coffee spot in Lambertville, sharing with a friend my The Whole Elder Catalogue idea.  He was intrigued, but a friend of his – a stranger to me – was only interested in laying down red lights.  “How will you pay for it?”  “How will it produce income?”  “You know that you need a broad subscription base – where will you get it?”  He was relentless!  My friend had to leave to pick up some Landjäger – seriously – but the red light guy stuck around.

At one time, he would have flustered me, made me feel out of my depth & downright discouraged.  Not yesterday.  I did not put any energy around it, just let him have his say with my only answer being there were sure to be great challenges ahead & I look forward to meeting them head on.  I was my own green light.

I’ve never understood why people feel the need to be practical & do their darndest to deflate dreams, even dreams of people they’ve never met before.  From the time I was a little girl – probably still single digits in age – I’ve loved the film, Holiday.  Much as I loved the 1938 Katharine Hepburn-Cary Grant version, I’ve come to treasure the 1930 version – with Ann Harding & Mary Astor – even more.  Mary Astor is far more likeable – the actress in the latter version was clearly not meant for dreamer Johnny Case.  Their scenes together are more sisterly.  And Ann Harding’s character is clearly more bohemian than the Great Kate’s.  But both versions are about the importance of dreaming.  I love when Ann Harding’s Linda tells her shocked father that she’s “Going on a ride – Oh what a big ride!”  When her sister, Julia – Mary Astor – scoffs that her ex-fiance might rturn Linda’s love, Linda puts her right – “You’ve no faith in Johnny, have you Julia?  His little dream may fall flat, you think.  Yes, so it may.  What of it?  There will be another!  The point is he DOES dream.  Oh, I’ve got all the faith in the world in Johnny, whatever he wants to do is alright with me.  If he wants to come back & sell peanuts…  OH, how I will believe in those peanuts!

I feel like a blend of Johnny AND Linda – it doesn’t matter how many red lights people have thrown in my way, an inner GREEN has always prevailed.  I just never fully realized it until now, until a total stranger had no interest in my dream, only in dashing cold water.  Should have told him, “Just watch me!  I’m on a big ride, with green lights, all the way!