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Quote: Meals on Wheels are such a blessing to me. I appreciate everyone who helps make them possible – Juanita, Milton Quote: I don't have to worry anymore and Bill loves it. There couldn’t be a better place – for both of us. – Ursula, Pensacola Quote: There is no escaping aging issues. No one and no family is immune. If you or your family have not been affected, you will. Please give generously. C. Flack and Kathleen, Gulf Breeze Quote: I love being a Foster Grandparent. I almost fall to the ground every morning from the kids hugging me. - Queen, Pensacola Quote: Council on Aging of West Florida has been a big help to me. – Robert, Pensacola Quote: Thanks to the support groups, I know what is coming. Before, I didn’t. – Ray, Pace Quote: I volunteer with the Council on Aging of West Florida because I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping seniors, and making new friends! I feel we all need to help our senior citizens to 'pay back' what they have done for us in the past. – Ed, Pensacola

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Age is a Work of Art: The Value of Artistic Expression in Senior Lives September 21, 2017

Art at its most basic is a way of understanding and interpreting the world. While a painting or a piece of music can be inspirational, moving, sad, motivational or all of the above, the process of bringing those things to life can be equally meaningful. As we touch brush to canvas, mold clay or capture fleeting moments, we are experiencing life even as we are preserving it. That act has many benefits beyond just the emotional; creating art can improve cognitive abilities, preserve memory, connect us with others and so much more.

Oft-cited features associated with successful aging include a sense of purpose, interactions with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy and health. Creative activities contribute in some way to all of these features. 

A sense of purpose 

Painting, knitting, writing and other forms of expression do so much more than just quell boredom. By regularly engaging in these activities, elders feel a sense of purpose associated with the task at hand and a sense of accomplishment when complete. More so than just watching television or lying in bed, art allows seniors to contribute to society and to their own wellbeing while making an indelible mark on their world and others. There is now a reason to get out of bed, to eat, to continue in their lives. 

Interactions with others

As we socialize, our brains are activated. We are listening, comprehending, formulating responses, and so much more. Art as a communal activity gives older individuals an excuse to get together, discuss the latest news, share tips related to aging, discuss their children and grandchildren, and even wax nostalgic for the "good old days." When reunited with their caregiver after the activity, the conversation can turn to the project. The art becomes a point of conversation and bonding.

Personal growth

Turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks! Every day, there seems to be a new story of a 70-year-old who took up music for the first time or an 80-year-old learning to draw. These new skills activate parts of our brain that can easily go dormant when being a passive participant in life. Learning things is exciting, encourages us to share with others, and improves mental acuity.

Self-acceptance

With age often comes various impairments. It can be difficult to accept these new limitations in life, especially for those who were active in their younger days. However, slowing down can have its perks. As some seniors may be forced to take it easy, they find that they are capable of excitement in a new and different way. Composing music may not be as exciting as running a marathon, but it carries with it new challenges that can lead to self-acceptance and even self-love.

Autonomy

At Council on Aging's adult day health care center, The Retreat, we had a day of fun painting rocks for the Pensacola Rocks phenomenon. Many of these individuals live with Alzheimer's and dementia and can no longer perform basic life functions by themselves. They seemed to understand, however, the fun involved with touching brush to stone. Without any assistance, many of them created collages of color or recreated memories that they got to keep. This autonomy leads to greater confidence and, of course, greater health outcomes.

Health

Mental and physical health are probably our primary worries as we age. And while art may not have a direct impact on physical health, it does help with hand-eye coordination, concentration, memory and so much more. Using art to engage with memories, like creating a collage of childhood photos, can even reinvigorate longterm memory and excite the pleasure and memory centers of the brain. 

Many community organizations offer great opportunities for those looking to get started in the exciting world of art, including Pensacola State College.

"The College of Continuing Education offers a large variety of classes for people of all ages," said Marianne Arroyo, an instructor at PSC. "I teach Drawing and Painting classes. The classes that I offer range from beginner to advanced with an emphasis on traditional techniques, as I believe, one must learn to walk before running. Students learn about different materials, brush techniques, composition and color theory. Students get to work right away because often the biggest obstacle that they face is fear."

For those reluctant to start a new creative chapter of their lives, Arroyo recommends that they listen, learn and then jump right in. She reports that oftentimes her older students are surprised by how well they are able to draw and paint. 

"Working with adults is extremely gratifying," said Arroyo. "My students come from various backgrounds and different life experiences. They are interesting and have unique perspectives. Age doesn't limit the need for continued learning. For many of my students, this is the first time in their lives that they have the freedom to choose what they want to do with their time. They've had careers and they have raised families. It's often a transitional time and the ideal time to experiment with various classes and discover something they love; something they can devote their time to. Additionally, it provides social interaction which is important as we age. I've seen many friendships develop as a result of these classes."

As we age, it is very easy to stay in a comfort zone. Trying something new may lead to a new hobby or even a new professional pursuit. 

"I like to quote theartist Frederic Whitaker," said Arroyo. '"A painter seldom makes his mark until middle age - and sometimes a great deal later. Many artists have done their best work after 70.'"


Veteran Profile: Larry Mosley September 21, 2017

At age 28, Chaplain Lt. Col. Larry D. Mosley had no military experience of any kind. An Associate Pastor of Florence First United Methodist Church in Florence, Alabama, Chaplain Mosley was working on acquiring a private pilot's license when he was recruited by the local Civil Air Patrol chapter to be a Chaplain. He had been an ordained minister for ten years during the Civil Rights movement and soon faced resistance in his upward mobility within the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church due to his beliefs in equal rights. "I had come to believe and to preach that the teachings of Jesus Christ were absolutely incompatible with racism, white supremacy, religious bigotry and anti-Semitism," Chaplain Mosley says.

Despite this, he began to receive recruiting letters from the Division of Chaplains stating the urgent need for chaplains as the Vietnam buildup of the military services was under war. "I considered this a call from God to seriously consider the chaplaincy," he says. "During the interview for the chaplaincy I expressed my opposition to the Vietnam War. They explain to us that, according to the Geneva Conventions, chaplains are defined as 'non-combatants'and are forbidden to bear arms or to participate in any form of combat."

After the interview, Chaplain Mosley was informed that he would have to wait a year to be placed in the Air Force, whereas he could have been placed in the Army or Navy Chaplaincy that day. "The Air Force had always been my first choice," he says. 

Three months later, he received his orders from the Chief of Air Force Chaplains to report to the USAF Chaplain School at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Ala. Following graduation, Chaplain Mosley spent two years at Reese AFB in Lubbock, Texas. "Because I had a private pilot's license, I could talk flying with the young trainees," he states. "I flew a lot in the instructor's plane's backseat in T-37 missions, in the two-engine, straight wing jet with side by side seating."

The Vietnam War was heating up and there was a growing need for chaplains to minister and council with increasing number of troops. Chaplain Mosley felt a sense of God calling him to volunteer for service in Vietnam. With his family's support, he was later assigned to U Tapao Royal Thai Airfield in Thailand. "One of our main missions at U Tapao was the B-52 bombers that dumped tons of bombs on the Viet Cong invading South Vietnam," he recalls.

One memory that sticks out in Chaplain Mosley's mind is when a rescue helicopter crashed near the Thai Navy hanger. He helped get one survivor onto a gurney and rolled him through knee-deep water to the waiting ambulance. "I boarded the ambulance with him and prayed and comforted him as we drove to the hospital," he says. "I learned 30 years later that he had survived." He finally got in touch with the wounded soldier, Master Sergeant Tommy Miles, thirty years later and filled him in about the day of the accident.

Chaplain Mosley retired after 25 years of service in August of 1992 and later came to Pensacola First United Methodist Church as the Associate Pastor. His unyielding dedication to the United States and those who served it will never be forgotten.



Goin' Up the Country September 19, 2017

America has always had a love affair with cars - from the muscle to the sleek to the sport, there is something about a classic roadster that's American as apple pie. That's why across the country, people are joining car clubs to show off their classic vehicles, swap stories or simply hang out. We've listed three big car clubs in the Pensacola area that you can enjoy whether you have a cherry speedster, or are just a fan of these classic machines.

Oft-cited features associated with successful aging include a sense of purpose, interactions with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy and health. Creative activities contribute in some way to all of these features. 

Panhandle Cruisers

If you are looking for variety in your hot rods and roadsters, Panhandle Cruisers is your one- top shop for all that matters in vintage and custom cars.

Formally called the Panhandle Cruisers Car Club, they are a nonprofit that was founded in 1981 to encourage restoration, repair and modification of vehicles of all kinds. The vehicles vary from vintage 1900s automobiles to hot rods to muscle cars and even modern-day imports. Some cars are unaltered factory standards, while others are heavily modified and custom.

Panhandle Cruisers hosts events year round throughout Pensacola. In addition to their bi- onthly membership meetings, their most well-known meetup they attend is the Cars & Coffee events, held the fourth Saturday of every month. Located at the Carmike Bayou at 5149 Bayou Blvd, both members and spectators are encouraged to grab a cup of coffee at the nearby Starbucks and wander through the roadsters, motorcycles and domestics. Other car clubs and independent owners also attend this free event, so there is always a variety of vehicles.

Panhandle Cruisers host other events such as cruise nights, dinner get-togethers, Christmas parties and car shows. They also participate in charity car shows, fairs and events by promoting, managing and judging them as a way to give back to the community.

Membership is only $20 per year and your car qualifies if "it has wheels and you think it looks cool," according to the Club. For more information on the club, their events and to join their membership, visit panhandlecruisers.com.

Emerald Coast Regional Mustang Club

If any car has kept its class and reputation intact since its earliest days in 1964, it would have to be the Mustang - which to this day is synonymous with style, power and performance. 

That's why the Emerald Coast Regional Mustang Club (ECRMC) devotes itself to the 53- ear-old legacy of the Ford Mustang.

Painting, knitting, writing and other forms of expression do so much more than just quell boredom. By regularly engaging in these activities, elders feel a sense of purpose associated with the task at hand and a sense of accomplishment when complete. More so than just watching television or lying in bed, art allows seniors to contribute to society and to their own well-being while making an indelible mark on their world and others. There is now a reason to get out of bed, to eat, to continue in their lives. 

Originally founded in 1987 by four local Mustang fans as an informal social group, the ECRMC became a Florida non-profit in 1989 and was adopted as part of the Mustang Club of America in 1995. Over the years it has seen every generation of Mustang, as well as every generation of new Mustang lovers. 

ECRMC hosts a huge list of events every month - many of which are cruises. The second Friday every month is their Navarre Classic Car Cruise-In, where they meet at the Fort Walton Beach city hall and drive to Navarre Park. Their biggest event, however, is their Mustang and Ford Powered Car Show, which is set to take place on October 28 at the Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium. Featuring Mustangs, Model Ts, Falcons, T-Birds and other specialty cars, this is the club's biggest fundraiser and is also a chance to take home a sleek trophy in any number of competition classes.

The Club also focuses on their charity efforts, donating to local organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Sharing and Caring, Silver Sands School and more.

As long as you have a Mustang and can pay the $25 annual membership fee, you'll find a passionate group who not only wants to show off their cars, but help others who can't resist the allure of the famous 'Pony.' For more information on the club, their events and to join their membership, visit emeraldcoastregionalmustangclub.com.

Rare Air Emerald Coast

Volkswagen has produced some of the most distinct looking cars on the road since they first arrived in America in 1949. From Things to Rabbits to Beetles to Buses, there is no mistaking the charm of these eclectic cars.

The Rare Air Emerald Coast VW Club was built to help keep the legacy of these iconic vehicles alive. The Club was established in  1991, when two separate Pensacola VW clubs - Rare Air and Emerald Coast - were consolidated into their current form. Rare Air Emerald Coast is part of the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America, and is the largest VW club in the Florida Panhandle. "Wild" Bill Tucker is the current president of the club, and has been involved with it since 1994.

"There's this whole subculture for VWs. There's a sense of camaraderie - you wave at other VW drivers. If one is pulled over on the side of the road, you pull up and see if you can help. It's our code," said Tucker.

Rare Air Emerald Coast is both a social club as well as a resource for VW owners to come to for help maintaining and repairing their vehicles, since there are very few mechanics in the Pensacola area who work on air-cooled VWs any more.

Some of the club activities include participating in car shows, and two major shows are coming up in the next few months. On October 21, the club will host its 21st Annual VW Show at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola. 

The Rare Air Emerald Coast VW Club is open to anyone with a classic VW and $15 per year to spare on their membership fees. For more information on the club, their events and to join their membership, visit bit.ly/2vE43G7.


Senior Chill Out 2017 June 9, 2017

It's that time of year again in the beloved Sunshine State - the sun is setting later, the temperatures are rising, and the humidity is becoming almost stifling. While many residents and tourists take this opportunity to explore the sandy white beaches of the Gulf Coast and enjoy an abundance of outdoor activities, low-income, and often home-bound, elderly residents are suffering in the heat.

Elevated temperatures can be extremely dangerous for aging adults, many times resulting in heat stroke or heat exhaustion. People's ability to notice changes in body temperature decreases with age and many seniors also have underlying health conditions that cause them to be less adaptable to heat. Even medicines that seniors take can cause dehydration at higher levels. A recent University of Chicago Medical Center study found that 40 percent of heat-related fatalities in the United States were among people over the age of 65.

Thankfully, several guidelines can help keep seniors safe in the hot weather:

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible
  • Routinely check on a friend or neighbor and ask them to do the same
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down
  • Drink more water than usual and don't wait until you're thirsty to drink
  • Do not use the stove or oven to cook
  • Keep an eye on the heat index: High humidity inhibits the body's ability to cool itself through sweating
  • Wear light-colored, loose clothing when outside
  • Wear sunscreen: A sunburn not only can hurt when you try to move but it can actually make it more difficult for the body to cool down
  • Take it easy: Avoid intense exercise and strenuous activity, particularly outdoors
  • Know the warning signs of heat-related illness: Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting, red/dry skin, and breathing problems that you should seek immediate help

 

In an effort to raise awareness about these potential issues and ensure that local seniors are comfortable in their homes during the summer, Council on Aging of West Florida and WEAR ABC 3 partner with Cat Country 98.7, NewsRadio1620, and Magic 106.1 FM every year to procure the community's donations of new air conditioner units and fans during the Senior Chill Out. While utilizing all-day media coverage, donation centers are set up at three Lowe's Home Improvement stores throughout the area for one day. Afterwards, hard-working volunteers help to install the units for seniors who need it most in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. 

This year's 2017 Senior Chill Out will take place on June 30 from 6:00 am to 6:30 pm at select area Lowe's Home Improvement stores. Donations can be made at the following locations:

  • Lowe's on Fairfield Drive in Pensacola
  • Lowe's on Airport Boulevard in Pensacola
  • Lowe's on Highway 90 in Pace
  • Lowe's on 9 Mile Road in Pensacola
  • Lowe's on Highway 98 in Gulf Breeze

 

In addition to these wonderful in-kind donations, monetary donations are also welcome and will be used for the purchase of additional fans and air conditioning units. Last year, the 2016 Senior Chill Out raised just over $8,000 to help with additional purchases.

With your help and support, Council on Aging and its media partners can continue to help aging adults stay safe in the summer heat.

For more information or to make an online donation, please contact our office at (850) 432-1475 or visit www.coawfla.org. Please also note that A/C units and fans will not be handed out at the Senior Chill Out event. If you are a senior in need, please call the Council on Aging office to be placed on the waiting list.


Hurricane Season is Here May 31, 2017

Hurricane season is here. And with experts predicting above-average Atlantic activity, now is the time to be prepared. Better to spend half a day getting ready now than being rushed in the days leading up to a storm when all supplies have been purchased by the more prudent.

Five Things to do Now Before a Disaster

1. Refer to the hurricane evacuation zones and maps online at www.santarosa.fl.gov/KnowYourZone. Determine if and when you would have to evacuate. Remember: All mobile home residents are advised to evacuate, regardless of location. If you need help determining your zone, contact Santa Rosa County Emergency Management BEFORE A STORM THREATENS at 850-983-5360.

2. Decide NOW where you would go if ordered to evacuate - a friend or relative's home, a hotel, or as a last resort, a public shelter. REMEMBER, if you are going to leave the area or go to a hotel, don't delay. Determine your route, leave early and travel the shortest distance possible. Think tens of miles, not hundreds.

3. Purchase a battery-powered NOAA weather radio and, if you have a landline, be sure to have a non-electric phone. Even though phone service may not be disturbed, a cordless phone will not work during power outages. Also be sure you have a car charger or portable battery charger for your cell phone and mobile devices. If there is a power outage, you will not be able to charge your phone or tablet inside your home.

4. Make sure your street address number is clearly marked on your home.

5. Whether you rent or own your home, review your insurance policies with your agent now.  You may wish to take photos or videos of your belongings at the beginning of each hurricane season.

Disaster Planning for Special Needs

In a disaster, people with special medical needs have extra concerns. Take the following steps if you or your family members have special medical needs:

  • Have at least a three-day supply of necessary medical supplies, like bandages, ostomy bags or syringes.
  • For medical equipment requiring electrical power such as beds, breathing equipment, or infusion pumps, check with your medical supply company and ask about a back-up power source such as a battery or generator.
  • If you use oxygen, have an emergency supply (enough for at least a three-day period).
  • Oxygen tanks should be securely braced so they do not fall over. Call your medical supply company regarding bracing instructions.
  • Prepare copies of vital medical papers such as insurance cards and power of attorney.
  • Store extra batteries for hearing aids, implants, TTY and light phone signaler.
  • If hearing impaired or non-verbal, bring additional communication devices if applicable.
  • Service animals may become confused, frightened or disoriented during and after a disaster. Keep them confined or securely leashed or harnessed, this will help a nervous or upset animal.

Preparing your Medication

  • Always have at least a three-day supply of all your medications. In some emergencies, you may need to prepare for a week or more.
  • Store your medications in one location in their original containers.
  • List all of your medications: name of medication, dose, frequency and name of prescribing doctor.

For those with special needs or are considered vulnerable, Santa Rosa County has a special needs shelter. Santa Rosa County offers transportation to a shelter in the event of an evacuation. Registration is required prior to any disaster. To register:

 What to Bring to a Shelter

  • A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes.
  • Toiletries, personal items and all medications.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • Identification.
  • Special items for elderly family members.
  • Any dietary needs and snacks.
  • Flashlights and spare batteries.

 

Santa Rosa County also offers a welfare check for those that request one in the event of a disaster. Emergency Management staff is available to conduct public speaking engagements on safety and preparedness when requested.

Cool tips for helping seniors beat the heat May 30, 2017

Summer is almost here and temperatures are beginning to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people die from heat waves each year than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to being adversely affected by excessive heat due to slower adjustment of the body to changes in temperature, increased risks associated with other medical conditions and prescription medicines that can impair the body's ability to regulate temperature or inhibit perspiration. 

Be aware of the following cool tips for beating the heat:

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.
  • Drink more water than usual and don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
  • Don't use the stove or oven to cook - it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-related illness like muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting.

 Older adults and their caregivers are also encouraged to learn the signs and first aid response for heat-related illnesses.

 Heat exhaustion symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale and clammy skin
  • Weak pulse
  • Fainting and vomiting

 If heat exhaustion symptoms are present:

  • Move to a cooler location.
  • Lie down and loosen your clothing.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible.
  • Sip water.
  • Seek medical attention if you have vomited and it continues.

 Heat stroke symptoms:

  • High body temperature (above 103 degrees F)
  • Hot, red, dry or moist skin
  • Rapid and strong pulse
  • Possible unconsciousness

 If heat stroke symptoms are present:

  • Call 911 immediately - this is a medical emergency.
  • Move the person to a cooler environment.
  • Reduce the person's body temperature with cool cloths or a bath.
  • Do NOT give fluids.

Council on Aging of West Florida is also accepting donations of new fans and 5,000- or 12,000-BTU window air conditioning units to help local seniors beat the heat. Additionally, we welcome monetary donations that will be used for the purchase of additional fans and air conditioning units. Please drop off your donations at the Council on Aging office located at 875 Royce Street in Pensacola, or call (850) 432-1475 for more information.


Take a Trip With Panhandle Senior Travelers March 7, 2017

It's a common misconception that aging signifies a slowing down in life. In fact, aging should be considered the opening of a new life, with different experiences as rich as those had in youth.

Hans Christian Anderson once said that "to travel is to live." Travel, especially with seniors, is key to a healthier aging, as moderate activity is usually the number one way to lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and cancers, according to a recent study by the Global Correlation for Aging (GCOA). 

What's more, travel can improve seniors' mental health as well as physical. In a poll regarding travel by GCOA, they found that 80 percent of seniors say travel helps to improve their general mood and outlook toward life. Travel has also been found to increase seniors' brain activity and cognitive stimulation, which can potentially delay the onset of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. 

Panhandle Senior Travelers knows the intangible value of travel for seniors.

In 2005, spouses Terry and Carolyn Reeves organized the non-profit association for seniors 50 years and older, specifically to provide affordable travel and social opportunities. They have a board of eight directors who manage the funds and finalize the outings. The board rotates out completely every two years and is made up entirely of volunteers. 

According to the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, having a variety of positive social supports can contribute to psychological and physical wellness of senior individuals. Along with travel, having a vibrant social life is important for a senior's mental and physical health; this further solidifies the importance of an organization like Panhandle Senior Travelers (PST).

One of the main concerns for seniors is a lack of retirement funds for travel. Traveling can be expensive, and although seniors dream big about retirement traveling, they don't always have the money to make their dreams a reality. PST takes this into account when organizing their trips.

Susan Breed, a travel planner with PST and a four-year member, says what makes their trips affordable is the lack of interim fees. Volunteers with PST organize the trips themselves, rarely with the assistance of an outside planner. Colonial Trailways in Mobile, Ala. typically provides transportation; for international trips, they usually enlist the services of AAA.

"We do everything and usually pay the venues with cash ourselves when we arrive," says Susan, "but since we aren't a business and don't have a company credit card, sometimes we'll do all the work ourselves, then pay Trailways to provide transportation and make all the final arrangements for us with no extra fees." That means the cost of a trip is solely the price of the venue and the price of transportation, rather than fees to outside parties, like travel planners or booking sites.

There is often a group rate involved, which lessens the cost even more. Day trips cost approximately $50 and two-day trips around $250. Longer trips, typically one week, usually cost between $1500 and $2000. 

"We try to do two long trips per year, then several overnight or two day trips, and the rest are day trips," says Susan. "In the past we've gone to Canada, Niagra Falls, and Albuquerque by bus. We also try to do around one out-of-the-country trip per year." This year, PST will spend eight days in London in September.

This past February they spent three days in LaFayatte, La. celebrating the Courir de Mardi Gras. In April, they'll be on an overnight trip in Union Springs, Ala. catching a play at the Red Door Theater and touring the Hyundai Plant. In May, they plan to visit Ark Encounter on a multiple-day trip to Kentucky.

If you're over 50 and seeking an adventure in your life, check out the Panhandle Senior Travelers. You can stay active, make new friends and experience new places without completely breaking the bank.

To find out more about Panhandle Senior Travelers and their future excursions, visit pstravelers.org or join their Facebook page, Panhandle Senior Travelers!


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Man & Woman's Best Friend - Especially Later in Life March 7, 2017

Dogs have been "Man's Best Friend" for thousands of years. Dogs provide warnings and protection, help to hunt and to herd, and are growing ever more useful as service dogs. Service dogs each serve a special purpose, whether to assist the visually impaired, to provide comfort to sufferers of PTSD, or even to warn of oncoming medical crises. According to PAWS, a reputable nonprofit organization that specializes in helping to rescue and rehabilitate animals, stress level, blood pressure, and the risk of depression all tend to decrease when time is spent with a furry friend. Today, dogs are perhaps best-known and best-loved as four-legged companions to people in all stages of their lives. For seniors, dogs offer special kinds of love and support, can alleviate boredom and anxiety, and can even improve health.

What age of dog do you want to add to your life? Puppies are playful and cute but need a great deal of training, care, and attention as well as several trips to the vet for immunizations and other medical needs. In contrast, middle-aged dogs already show their temperaments, are already house-trained, and should need only yearly or bi-yearly trips to the vet. Older dogs are generally calmer, and adopting an older dog is often the best choice for older humans as well.

The "best" breed for you depends on your lifestyle, and every breed has both "good" and "bad" dogs. All of us want healthy dogs, and most older adults seek pets with calm temperaments that like to be petted. Beyond those basic criteria, would a large or medium dog fit in your dwelling, or are you particularly looking for a small dog, one that is easy to transport? Do you want a dog who will keep you active with a daily walk, or one that will be happiest when sitting by you most of the time? Do you want a dog that does not shed? Do you want a companion that will be with you most of the time? Are you looking more for a watchdog friend or merely a cuddly one? Do you have young grandchildren who love to visit but who are not always gentle? Among the many dog breeds recommended for seniors, each of the following are suitable for some, but not all, older adults. Each breed has its advocates!

  • Beagles are known for their even tempers and gentle disposition and do not need much exercise - but they can get into trouble if left alone too long. 
  • Pugs love to play, and demand more attention than some other breeds. 
  • Cocker spaniels are generally easy going, but need frequent exercise. 
  • Schnauzers are eager to please and love their human companions, but also require daily exercise and regular grooming.
  • Poodles are generally easy to train, relatively clean, and low shedding.
  • Chihuahuas are good if you want a small dog with a big bark to warn you of anyone coming. 
  • Terriers are very good dogs for older adults; each type of terrier displays its own traits. 
  • Two lively terrier breeds, the Welsh and Irish Terriers, do not shed but their coats require regular maintenance.
  • Yorkshire Terriers are relatively low energy dogs that love to snuggle with their human companion, but they also require regular grooming. 
  • Two particularly protective terrier breeds are the Scottish and the Boston Terrier. 
  • Several of the small spritz breeds that are recommended for older adults include the American Eskimo Dog, the Shiba Inu, and the Japanese Spitz.  

Breeds such as those listed above can be a great fit for older owners, and purebreds can be predictable in nature and temperament. Once they outlive their prime time in the show ring, well-trained purebred adult show dogs are often available at low price. Of course mixed-breed dogs often become the best pets. Adult dogs, purebred and otherwise, might be obtained from people who have to give them up for reasons such as military transfers. Perhaps the most common source of dogs of any age is your local animal shelter. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in the United States every year. Adopting shelter dogs generally costs substantially less. Often the cost of spaying/neutering, first vaccinations, and sometimes even microchipping is included in the adoption cost. Local sources of pet adoptions in the Pensacola area include the Pensacola Humane Society, the Escambia County Animal Shelter, and the Hotel for Dogs and Cats.

However your new companion comes into your life, there are several places around Pensacola to hang out together including these dog-friendly places:

  • Bayview Dog Park and Beach
  • Navy Point Walking Trail
  • Bay Bluffs Park
  • Naval Live Oaks (part of Gulf Islands National Seashore)
  • Pensacola Bay Brewery
  • Gulf Coast Brewery
  • Jaco's
  • Hopjacks
  • The Cottage Cafe
  • Red Fish Blue Fish
  • Pensacola Beach Dog Beach

Pensacola also has several canine-friendly events each year. Coming soon, Gulf Coast Healthcare's 5th Annual A Bark to Remember will take place on Saturday, April 1 from 10 am to 3 pm at the Vince J. Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park. This event raises funds and awareness for the local Alzheimer's Association and emphasizes ending the disease through the love of dogs. In addition, the Pensacola Humane Society will be hosting their Paws on Palafox 3K Dog Walk on Saturday, May 6. This event raises funds to help provide low-cost or no-cost spay and neuter surgery to thousands of pets in Pensacola. 

While dogs have been the focus of this article, let's not forget about cats and kittens in your quest to find a furry friend. Cats tend to require less maintenance than dogs because they are more independent and they also bathe themselves. They are generally smaller and eat less. You won' t need to housebreak them; just set up a litter box and they figure out how to use it naturally. Cats are also beneficial around the house to capture or at least scare away many critters including rodents and insects.

Furry companions offer many benefits, especially later in our lives. A furry friend in your house can improve your health both mentally and physically. The dogs featured with this article are up for adoption at the Pensacola Humane Society.


Elder Orphans March 7, 2017

Though the golden years are full of travel, philanthropy and fun for many older adults, this era of life can present a challenge for those who either did not plan appropriately for their retirement or find themselves beset with physical and mental obstacles while having no one to assist them. A growing subset of the senior population - as much as 22 percent of those 65 and older - is increasingly vulnerable to the otherwise routine aspects of aging because, simply put, there is no one in their life to help them. Their parents and siblings have passed, they never married and therefore have no children, and many of their friends are too far removed or unreachable. This population, known as elder orphans, is a silent, growing problem afflicting many of our nation's elderly.

Elder orphans find themselves in this predicament due largely to circumstance rather than choice, according to the 2016 report "Elderly Orphans Hiding in Plain Sight." Many of these individuals have been perfectly independent throughout their lives and have not needed outside assistance. "As they age and decline, however," the report states, "they realize, often too late, that they can no longer complete many of the tasks they were previously able to do."

Suddenly, and frequently without much warning, elder orphans find themselves stranded - socially, physically, mentally - and unable to access the preventative care they once took for granted. This leads to serious health problems and concerns, which often burdens the individual with unexpected healthcare costs, leading to a downward cycle from which there may realistically be no escape.

Being an elder orphan can have dire social and mental consequences, as well. With decreased social interaction due to the inability to access transportation, seniors can suffer loneliness and isolation, crucial risk factors for medical complications and mortality. The safety and livelihood of these people are threatened, and without mitigating efforts, could become worse if population trends continue. Seniors without a care network also face legal and estate challenges, since many adults depend on their children to help tend to financial affairs and navigate legal questions. Affordable housing is also hard to come by. Even mobile homes may become unaffordable as their money is tied up with other more pressing expenses, such as food and medicine. Foreclosure and homelessness is a rare but real problem.

Finally, transportation is a necessity of both city and country life, one that many of us take for granted but one that can be prohibitively expensive or turn a simple doctor's visit into a full-day affair.

With no family and few friends, it is incumbent upon us, the community, to rescue these elder orphans from an unfortunate experience during what should be the best years of one's life. Experts recommend reaching out to those who we feel may be isolated and vulnerable and attempting to interact with them. Asking simple questions like, "Have you fallen in the last six months?" or "How much medicine do you take?" can be helpful when contacting a social services agency, such as Council on Aging, on their behalf. Offering to take them to church, doctor's appointments and community events can also go a long way toward helping them. Researchers say that developing a rotation schedule with neighbors can lighten the load on individuals in the community.

It is crucial, according to the literature, to reach elder orphans before complete loss of cognitive and physical functions or admission into acute care facilities. "Early identification of these at-risk individuals allows for care plans that can better meet the needs of the elder orphan," the report states.

For those who are truly concerned about a neighbor or acquaintance, consider becoming their health care advocate. Prepare a medical summary of their conditions, allergies, a list of medications and dosages, etc.; offer to accompany them to the doctor and ensure they fully understand diagnoses and treatment options; take notes of any concerning behavior and tell their primary care provider about it; offer to make meals or clean their home in exchange for a small fee, or if you prefer, reach out to service providers who may be able to offer a meal delivery services and transportation from public funds.

Obviously, not everyone can commit to several hours a week of free or even paid work or vigilance. That is why it is so imperative to identify these individuals before their condition deteriorates. If you know someone, or know someone who knows someone who is without parents, a spouse or children, make them aware of the many services available to them should they ever become unable to care for themselves. Encourage them to make an emergency contact sheet with people who are willing to do small tasks for them. By working together, we can alleviate the coming concerns associated with elder orphans and help ensure that their golden years are just that.


A Lifetime of Love with Senior Companions February 23, 2017

After a 12-day hospital stay, followed by two separate stints in The Haven of Our Lady Peace nursing home, Sherry Burton knew that her mother, Marie Wombles, needed better long-term help. Marie is legally blind, has trouble hearing, and has also had several recent episodes involving blood clots. She would sometimes have trouble maintaining her balance, and as a result would fall and sustain injuries that required medical care or hospitalization. She simply could not be left alone. What was a daughter to do?

Enter Council on Aging of West Florida's Senior Companions program, which enlisted long-time volunteer Rose Cook to provide support and help to the struggling family. Rose first became interested in senior care when she and her sister began helping their mother in her old age. After she passed, Rose went to work at a nursing home where she discovered her passion for helping our community's elderly. Rose has been involved with Senior Companions for three years now and has had as many clients.

Early in 2017, Senior Companion Supervisor Janice McGrew accompanied Rose to meet Marie.

"It was love at first sight," said Rose. "I felt an instant connection. I now work with Marie in her house five hours a day, five days a week."

Rose not only provides friendship and a listening ear; she also helps make meals, does laundry, keeps Marie's room clean, and whatever else the grateful client wishes.

"I wouldn't trade her for the world," said Marie. "She is an absolute angel. She is precious and kind-hearted."

Rose has fit in well with the rest of the family, too, including Sherry.

"The only problem with Rose is that she spoils momma," said Sherry. "I'm just kidding of course. I can joke like that because we all get along so well."

Marie said that her various medical conditions will likely be with her the rest of her life. Some days and some months are better than others, as problems tend to flare up and then subside.

"Rose is there with me through it all," said Marie. "This is a lifetime thing for me, and I hope Rose is too."

On a typical weekday morning, Rose and Marie can be seen chatting in their living, watching The Price is Right.

"She can hear or see it too well, so I narrate it for her," said Rose. "I love being here. I love making her life easy. You know, I can get up and fetch her a cup of water if she needs it in just a few seconds; it might take her several minutes to do. I can just do things a little more efficiently so she can relax."

Rose's service provides a welcome respite to Sherry, too, who used to have to watch over her mother 24/7.

"The other day I was able to get out of the house, do some shopping, grab something to eat, and I never doubted that momma was in good hands," said Sherry. "Rose has helped us all. She deserves an award."



Other Entries

Please help us provide seniors in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties with the programs and services they need to live healthy, safe and independent lives in their own familiar surroundings. These program and services, which include Meals on Wheels, adult day health care and caregiver support, enable seniors and their caregivers to face an uncertain future with the dignity they deserve.



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