By Jane Glenn Haas
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
A real estate agent would not usually be my first choice as a senior health expert.
But Bonnie Joffe of Cherry Hill, N.J., 51 and founder of the website 50andbeyond.com, convinced me that personal, family experiences are as critical for assessment as expert opinions.
She has written a three-part blog on her website addressing the capability of family members to recognize senior physical and mental health situations.
Q: Your “Seniors in Crisis” series talks about your personal experiences recognizing problems with your aging parents when you live a distance away. What can you tell us about that?
A: Many seniors today have grown children who have relocated to different parts of the country. Conversely, many seniors have chosen to retire to locations that are often remote from their adult children. ... This can present many challenges as one or both parents begin to experience health issues and progressively demonstrate a growing need for that support system.
From a personal perspective, I know these issues can creep up on you so fast you don’t even see it coming, and it can become overwhelming.
Q: What’s your goal with this website?
A: I propose to offer a single source for boomers in this geographic area to find the help they need. And in other areas, also. I want to bring in local businesses in wellness, financial and legal services.
Q:. What makes you the “go to” on these issues?
A: My original website was for southern New Jersey, but the volume of national hits tells me there are thousands of boomers with my problems. And there are problems whether parents are close or far away.
My father developed health problems. My mother was in emotional distress. I moved them close to me and found the experience exhausting and overwhelming.
This is going on all over the place. Experts say elder abuse and alcoholism are becoming prevalent. We need to raise awareness. Adult children need to have a place to go to discuss these problems. With a geriatric counselor, you’re still the outsider looking in.
Parents are nervous. Seniors are in financial and medical crisis. Their life savings are at risk.
People resonate more with personal stories.
You know, boomers still have a lot to offer. Our life experiences are going to be critical. We can help turn this world around.
But we need a good mental health program one we can both read and also contribute to. A lot of websites are one-dimensional lots of information but difficult to relate to, personally.
Q: What are some of the crisis situations you hope to aid adult children to recognize?
A: Depression affects more than 6.5 million seniors in the U.S., and it often goes untreated because people think it’s a normal part of aging.
According to HelpGuide.org, many factors can trigger age-related depression and emotional distress, including loneliness and isolation resulting from the death of longtime friends or loved ones, decreased mobility or the inability to continue driving. Retirement and physical limitations can lead to feelings of worthlessness, while illness, pain and disability can damage body image and self-esteem. Many seniors find that fear of death, worries over financial problems or health can also lead to depression.
My goal with the “Seniors in Crisis” series is to create awareness about a subject that is so profound and far-reaching that it cannot be ignored or shoved under the proverbial rug. Countless adult children today will be faced with the challenge of caring for an elderly parent. The ability to recognize the warning signs of crisis is critical.