Too old to learn a language? Don’t believe it

As an older adult, you have skills that can help — and your brain will thank you

By Bill Ward for Next Avenue

Studies indicate that attaining a working ability to communicate in a new language may actually be easier and more rapid for the adult than for the child.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock – Immersing ourselves in another language at whatever age expands not only our minds, but our lives.

Conventional wisdom holds that the older we get, the harder it is to learn a new language. Which is true — except when it’s not.

Turns out that while our brains might not be as quick or deft as in those halcyon days of youth, all that hard-earned experience, knowledge and discipline can come to the rescue.

Using our adult knowledge to learn a language

“[Older adults] know more about culture, about how the world works, about how our native language works,” said Lisa Frumkes, senior director of content for Rosetta Stone, an education technology software company that develops language, literacy and brain-fitness software. “So we can build on these things. We also have to have discipline when learning a language, and that is something older people have more of. Knowing how to regulate your schedule, that’s 90 percent of the exercise.”

read more

Why I call my Dad even if it’s not Father’s Day

My phone calls to him used to be obligatory, but loss has a way of changing things

By Jill Smolowe for Next Avenue

Jill Smolowe with her father

Caption: Jill Smolowe with her father

When I was a college undergraduate, I used to call my parents every Thursday night. The calls were mandatory, the price of college tuition, so to speak. Invariably, my mother would answer, then yell, “Dick! Pick up! It’s Jill.”

Nothing of substance was ever said about my coursework. And certainly I wasn’t going to tell them who I was sleeping with or what I was smoking. So, I remember not one thing about these phone calls beyond this: both of my parents were on the line, I was itchy to get off so I could get back to my life and any parental input pretty much came from my mother.

read more

7 signs your aging parents need extra help

They may be afraid to tell you they are having trouble

By Joanna Nesbit for Next Avenue

Elders who want to remain in their home may not admit they need help for fear of being encouraged into an assisted living situation. But letting things go too far can precipitate a crisis situation.

Credit: Thinkstock Elders who want to remain in their home may not admit they need help for fear of being encouraged into an assisted living situation. But letting things go too far can precipitate a crisis situation.

While their 84-year-old father recovered at a rehabilitation facility after landing in the hospital with symptoms of a mini-stroke, the Jones (not their real name) siblings took the opportunity to do some cleaning at his house.

Opening the fridge, they were shocked to find layers of mold, hardened food and multiple jars of the same item in varying states of decomposition. They knew solo living had become challenging for their dad, but they didn’t realize the extent of the decline.

“The two biggest reasons for geriatric decline are depression and dementia,” says Amy Fuchs, elder care consultant and licensed clinical social worker in Saddle River, N.J. Depression can set in when older people feel isolated and lonely, and often may be grieving the recent death of a friend.

read more

9 keys to a happy retirement

What the experts say, plus 8 great retirement books

By Richard Eisenberg for Next Avenue

Happiness and retirement do go together.

Credit: Getty Images

It turns out that happiness and retirement do go together.

Well, based on the research and books I’ve read and interviews I’ve done since becoming editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels at Next Avenue in 2011, they can go together if you play your cards right.

And it’s not just about having saved enough money or having a great pension, though both of those help. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are nine keys to a happy retirement, one of them pertaining specifically to couples. I’ll lay them out shortly and suggest a few books that can help you retire happy.

read more

What’s causing your knee pain?

The common culprits, plus treatments to consider

By Emily Gurnon for Next Avenue

Knee pain can really slow you down as you age. But an accurate diagnosis and treatment can help.

Credit: Getty Images

Whether it came on suddenly when you were playing tennis or more gradually over many years, knee pain can keep you from doing even the most basic of activities. At the very least, it can limit your ability to move as easily or quickly, or sit in one place for an extended time.

Arthritis is the most common cause of knee pain for older adults, said Dr. Julie Switzer, an orthopedic surgeon at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn. Arthritis comes in three main forms, she said: osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis.

read more

Why people give up beloved pets

The sad truth about pet surrender, plus how to keep owners and animals together

By Donna Jackel for Next Avenue

Some seniors have to give up beloved pets due to health or finances. This is a grey tiger cat.

Credit: Thinkstock

Alan Killough lost his job around the same time the family cat had kittens. Reluctantly, he and his wife, Lisa Harrison, both 56, took the litter to the nearby Downey Animal Care Center in Downey, Calif.

Bernice Osorto, an employee of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), greeted the couple. She asked why they were surrendering the kittens and offered an alternate plan: If Killough and Harrison would take the four kittens back home and care for them until they were old enough to be spayed and neutered, the ASPCA would pay for the surgeries and help re-home them (the term for finding a new, suitable place for a pet to live).

read more

A Memorial Day promise to my family

She made a vow to her father to always tend the family graves

By Diana Reese for Next Avenue

Memorial-Day-Promise-web

Credit: Thinkstock

(This article was originally published in May 2014.)

While friends look forward to barbecues and boating during the first long weekend of the summer, I’m making plans for my annual cemetery tour in northwest Missouri.

I promised my dad before he died that I’d put flowers on his parents’ grave, as well as his, every Memorial Day. Although he knew my mom would, he wanted reassurance that someone would continue the tradition after she was gone.

My mom’s still here, but I’ve made a point of visiting the graves every year.

read more

Health care community residents practice gratitude through journaling

Research has shown that recognizing the good may improve well-being

By Tina L. Kies for Next Avenue

Journaling-web

Credit: Adobe Stock

Her pale blue eyes sparkle when she smiles. Peacefully observing all that surrounds her, she is a history book waiting to be opened. An experience outlines every wrinkle, silently alluding to the secrets, loss, love and happiness that she has experienced during her lifetime. A few weeks shy of her 90th birthday, she speaks of the celebration that her family is planning for her with the enthusiasm of a child.

“After all,” she says candidly, “I don’t know how many more of these I’ll get!”

read more

Prepare for surgery with exercise and diet

‘Prehabilitation’ is slowly being recognized as valuable for success after a procedure

By Judith Graham for Next Avenue

Preparing-For-Surgery-web

Credit: Getty Images

A dozen years ago, at the age of 50, Lillie Shockney decided to have breast reconstruction surgery after two bouts of cancer and two mastectomies. The procedure called for removing a flap of skin and fat from her abdomen, used to rebuild her breasts.

Shockney knew a lot about breast cancer and the trials of recovery: she was (and still is) director of the breast center at Johns Hopkins’ Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. Characteristically, this dynamic nurse didn’t want to stay in the hospital for any longer than absolutely necessary.

read more