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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


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.

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 or join their Facebook page, Panhandle Senior Travelers!

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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."

The Way Forward is Giving Back February 16, 2017

Want to be more involved in the community, make friends, stay busy and go to bed knowing that you did something good? Few activities help as many people while enriching our own personal lives as volunteering. The best part is that you don't need to sacrifice a lot of time or even do something you do not particularly enjoy: Council on Aging of West Florida has a range of service outlets available for almost every time availability, many of which involve pursuits that fit nicely into whatever your existing hobby or interest may be.

Our clients are in need of everything from social interaction and food delivery to yard work, home maintenance and more. Enjoy meeting new people and learning? You may be great for The Retreat, where senior citizens are eager to chat and play with newcomers while sharing the wisdom of yesteryear. Or maybe you prefer to work with your hands? Our ramp team or yard maintenance team could use just a few hours of your time.

It is not just our clients who will thank you: research shows the volunteers themselves gain confidence, learn new skills, and report healthier, more consistent joy than those who do not give back in some way.

"Our volunteers are our partners, meeting the needs of our clients by preventing isolation and improving their quality of life," said Volunteer Program Manager Tricia Dixon. "Helping a senior increases socialization for both the senior and the volunteer. It impacts the community by bringing awareness to our elderly population by providing services such as Meal on Wheels delivery, friendly visitors and yard services."

Regardless of how you choose to apply yourself, Council on Aging depends on volunteers to help us serve our diverse and growing senior population. We need volunteers of all ages who are willing to give of their time, experience and skills to help us carry out our mission.

For more information on volunteering, call Tricia Dixon at (850) 432-1475.

 Here's some ways you can give back:

  • Delivering Meals on Wheels - Deliverers are needed. We offer convenient and flexible schedules for individuals, groups, church groups, civic clubs and employee volunteer programs.
  • Helping at our Adult Day Health Care Center - Our participants need, and enjoy, interaction. Teaching arts and crafts classes, helping with meals and snacks, assisting in the garden or just lending a smile and an ear can make their day.
  • Marketing and Community Events - Our marketing team is trained to enthusiastically and knowledgeably let our community know what we have to offer.
  • Performing Administrative Tasks - We also need help "behind the scenes." Making phone calls, filing and data entry are a few of the valuable ways you can help.
  • Participating in Fundraising Initiatives - We need assistance with fundraising. Organizing special events, soliciting sponsorships, and staffing events are important roles you can play.

 But don't just take our word for it. Here's what some volunteers have to say:

Haydee Seda: "I enjoy just talking to the clients. I click with them. Helping the staff, playing dominoes, improving their quality of life, making them happy - it's just a part of my life now. I relate to them and they relate to me. Volunteering at The Retreat has become like home to me."

Desiree Brantley: "I enjoy volunteering my services on my day off. It really is non-stop fun. Eldercare has been a passion of mine since my grandmother taught me the value of service. I want to carry her legacy forward in a continuous cycle of service that should really never end."

James Brown / Dan Krueger: "We've been building ramps for about 10 years. We come from a lot of different professions, but we're all neighbors helping neighbors. It's enjoyable to get in a group and help those who need it. There's nothing like a person looking up at you with freedom in their eyes. When we're done, they gain some independence. They can go out to the garden, and you can tell they're very grateful for the opportunity we've given them."

Bill Wein: "Volunteering to deliver Christmas gifts for Council on Aging has become an annual event at IMS ExpertServices that we look forward to. We deliver 120 or so gifts to those who are shut in, those who need someone to talk to, and those who need someone to make their day or season better. I am consistently humbled by how my team steps up and participates in this wonderful experience. Some of them even make friends."

Council on Aging announces Rat Pack 2017 January 27, 2017

Year of "Lucky Number 7" includes Marianne McMahon, Nels Offerdahl, John Peacock & Roger Webb

The annual Rat Pack Reunion fundraiser, hosted by Council on Aging of West Florida to raise money and awareness for senior programs in the area, will take place Oct. 27, 2017 at 5:30 pm at New World Landing. At the event, four local leaders will be recognized for their service to the community. They are: 

Marianne McMahon

Marianne started volunteering with the American Cancer Society by assisting with the Cattle Barons Ball. Following guidance that, "Much is required from the person to whom much is given. Much more is required from the person to whom much more is given," Marianne currently serves as a board member for the PACE Center for Girls and the Arc Gateway. In addition, last year she became involved with Fiesta.

Nels Offerdahl

Nels attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison before moving to Gulf Breeze in 2000. He built and operates three local movie theatre complexes in Gulf Breeze, Pace, and Crestview. He was a member of the 2010 Mayoki Indians and the 2016 Court of Fiesta. He also serves as a board member for the Panhandle Charitable Open. 

John Peacock

John has served as a Financial Advisor for Edward Jones in Pensacola, Fla. since 1995. Prior to this, he also worked as a consultant to the US Department of Energy and served in the US Navy Nuclear Program. He is the President of the Panhandle Charitable Open Golf Tournament and a board member for the Edward Jones Grassroots Task Force, Council on Aging of West Florida, Autism Pensacola, Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, UWF Foundation, WSRE Foundation Board, Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce, Five Flags Rotary, and the Downtown Improvement Board.

Roger Webb

Roger began his career with Wendy's in 1970 when Dave Thomas hired him as a part-time employee when Dave opened his third restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Currently, Roger owns the Wendco Group, which has a total of 43 Wendy's restaurants and employs a staff of over 1,200 people in Northwest Florida and South Alabama.

Now in its seventh year, the Rat Pack Reunion pays homage to the glamorous Hollywood styles of yesteryear by honoring Pensacola's own celebrities with a gentle roast, auction, dancing, dinner and more. As men sport their skinniest ties and women show off their most dazzling gowns, hundreds of individuals gather to raise funds and awareness for Council on Aging of West Florida. To date, the event has raised close to a million dollars for services like Meals on Wheels, The Retreat Adult Day Health Care Center and more programs that aging adults in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties depend upon.

To purchase tickets, sponsor Rat Pack Reunion, or for information on the event, visit

Senior Companions Create Lasting Friendships January 9, 2017

At 95 years old, Syble Lee can't get around like she used to. A hearing problem and some other illnesses have made common undertakings like preparing meals, walking and doing dishes more difficult than they used to be. Add to that the fact that her daughter, Dorothy Griffiths, has to sometimes be gone for large portions of the day, and you can see that Syble needs help.

That is where Council on Aging of West Florida's Senior Companion program comes in. Eva Cook has been a Senior Companion since September of 2016 and, as she is assigned to Syble, has been the saving grace Syble and her daughter have needed.

"Some relatives of mine have participated in some of Council on Aging's services and they told me I should give them a call," said Dorothy. "I did, and it wasn't long until my mom was paired with Ms. Cook, who has just been a delight. She's part of the family."

Eva helps do the dishes, prepare meals, and socialize with Syble. The relationship has grown from one of caregiving to a genuine friendship with mutual benefits.

"I love talking about the good old days," said Eva. "We have a good rapport and I really do feel like part of the family. I used to work with children, building relationships with them and helping them however they need. I just enjoy helping people."

According to Dorothy, Syble has long had trust issues and was worried about being left with a relative stranger. Those fears have long since been put to ease, though, as Syble has now come to depend on Eva.

"We have a lot in common," said Syble. "I love when she makes me breakfast. She helps with whatever I need."

Dorothy even reported that her mother will fall asleep when it is just her and Eva in the house - a sign of trust and confidence in her Senior Companion's abilities and concern for her new friend.

Dorothy also said that Eva is the relief that she sometimes needs, being that she is the only immediate family that lives nearby.

"Some members of my family aren't the most dependable," said Dorothy. "I don't want to reach out to them for help, but sometimes I need a break. Before Eva, I was honestly considering having to put my mother in a home. Thank goodness for Eva. It is a match made in heaven."

The three routinely go to doctors' appointments and complete other errands together. Thanks to the Senior Companion program, Syble is able to continue living with family, in a home, and enjoys many of the amenities of life that become limited in an institutional setting. By committing just about 20 hours a week to conversing with and helping Syble, Eva has made a world of difference

New Years Resolutions for Aging Adults January 3, 2017

It's the new year, and if you haven't yet determined how you will focus on self-improvement in 2017, don't worry: we've got you covered! Small, incremental steps are the key to successful life-changes, and while popular choices like weight loss or better financial security are admirable, there are a few key issues older adults should especially focus on.

  • Light physical activity a few times a week. Even for those with mild heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's can engage in walking, stretching, water aerobics and more with the help of a caregiver. Plus, moderate exercise can even help those conditions get better!
  • Look out for falls. Believe it or not, one in three senior citizens fall each year, resulting in preventable injuries. Why not use the new year to practice exercises that improve balance - like walking with an elastic band - and check with your doctor if any medication you are on may lead to dizziness? Plus, go ahead and throw out that old rug you've been meaning to get rid of: they are easy to trip over.
  • Make old friends. You read that right. As we age and move apart, we may lose touch with old pals and confidantes. 2017 should be your year to reignite dormant friendships through social media, a phone call, or (gasp!) a handwritten note.
  • Get enough sleep. Older adults are done growing, so they don't need as much sleep as younger people, right? Wrong! They need just as much, so be sure to avoid those daytime naps, which feel so good but keep you up at night. Seven to 8 hours is recommended, but a little more time in a comfy bed - especially during the frigid months - couldn't hurt, right?
  • Work on your (brain) fitness. Reading, completing crossword puzzles, and even struggling through a challenging Sudoku can not only keep you occupied and provide a great social activity; it can also keep your mind sharp and your wit quick! You can even take a free college course through the University of West Florida's Leisure Learning program. Learn something new or rediscover something old!

No matter how you decide to tackle the new year, make sure you finish out 2017 stronger than you started it. Just be sure to set realistic goals, like the ones set above, that provide a real, tangible benefit in both the short- and long-term.

When Happily Ever After Ends December 20, 2016

The termination of any relationship is complicated and heartbreaking for both parties, but the effects are exacerbated when that relationship is a lifelong marriage and the participants are in their golden years. For one reason or another, the divorce rates of those in their 50s and beyond has doubled in the last three decades, giving rise to an often undiscussed epidemic that many have dubbed "gray divorce."

Apart from the financial considerations - such as split retirement, alimony and who keeps the paid-off house - there are many psychological and mental health issues that arise. And while both parties may be older and wiser than when their high school crush broke up with them after a summer fling, the ensuing feelings can be devastating and difficult to manage.

The one silver lining is that many older adults rely heavily on their grown children for emotional support. They also do not have to deal with the messy custody issues that many younger couples face. Older children are also more understanding of relationship struggles and will not be as likely to "pick sides" as they may have been in their younger years.

Perhaps not surprisingly, older couples divorce for often the same reasons as those in their 30s and 40s, according to Christa Moody, a licensed mental health professional who practices in Pensacola.

"Sometimes, there is a success disparity where one individual does not find the fulfillment in their marriage that they do in their career and social circles," said Moody. "Other times, it is dishonesty and infidelity. Regardless, it is always true that the one who does not share the feelings of divorce will be disproportionately affected." When that happens, Moody said, coping mechanisms are vital. "You can feel like things are out of your control, so it's important to rely on friends, engage your social circles, see a counselor if you feel depressed or unsure, and engage in light physical activity like walking or yoga," said Moody.

For senior citizens who already struggle with social anxiety and depression - or for those whose friends and siblings are no longer around - this can be an especially difficult time.

"There is a correlation between lack of social connectedness and depression," said Moody. "I tell my clients to rely on their faith and spirituality if that is something they express. You can also join a civic organization, attend divorce workshops at your local place of worship, or even get involved in a free college class."

Online dating is also quite popular among older Americans, and whether those connections lead to a short-term spark or something more meaningful, it is important to not wallow in sadness for too long. In fact, as many as 20 percent of single seniors use dating apps.

However, most experts recommend waiting at least until the divorce is finalized before getting back out there. This time can help you process your feelings and work through whatever shortcomings the experience may have identified. Not only can a premature jump into the dating pool polarize friends and jeopardize legal proceedings, it can actually make you feel more alone than ever.

"When they are ready to get back out there, many seniors actually find great success," said Moody. "There's this notion that you shouldn't bother in any sort of relationship investment in your golden years, but many people actually feel liberated and can reclaim a teenage sense of fun." 

Through it all, it is important to be aware of your own feelings, your own boundaries, and your own goals. If you do find a special someone and desire another go at tying the knot, most experts recommend a prenuptial agreement, as repeat marriages are more likely to end in divorce.

No one can say how long it takes to get over a lifelong love, and many never fully recover, but with some professional help, light physical activity, and a shot at putting yourself back out there, you may surprise yourself.

Meals on Wheels program makes world of difference for senior citizen December 13, 2016

The first things you notice about Mamie Powe is her warm, welcoming spirit, her quick wit, and how she doesn't let her age or slight hearing loss get in the way of either. She has been living in her current residence "forever," and wouldn't have it any other way. Her daughter, Emmia Brown, lives just down the street and her dog Coco can often be found sun-bathing outside.

Mamie isn't as mobile as she used to be and suffers from some of the common ailments that plague many elders. As such, it is not as easy as it once was to do basic cooking tasks like boil a pot of noodles or grill some chicken. Thankfully, she has been enrolled in the Council on Aging of West Florida's Meals on Wheels program for about three years. She has come to rely on the ready-made microwaveable meals for a majority of her sustenance.

"I especially like the chicken, spaghetti and greens," said Mamie. "I get six meals a week and it's easy to just warm them up and eat."

Mamie is homebound, and before Meals on Wheels, she relied on Emmia to cook food almost daily, a task that added to her daughter's already busy schedule of transporting her to and from doctor's appointments, church, and other community activities. Other friends and family would also help out occasionally, but Meals on Wheels has provided a consistency to Mamie and Emmia's life that relieves a lot of stress and concern.

"I stay pretty busy taking care of her," said Emmia, who actually used to work at the Council on Aging about 20 years ago. "Meals on Wheels has helped a lot and made it easier on me."

Emmia said that she has been more than pleased with the service for her mother. She now has time to make breakfast in the mornings, something she loves doing. She also said that some of the Meals on Wheels portions are so large for her mother that there are leftovers for later meals.

Though she still needs help with other daily needs such as cleanup and keeping up with appointments, Mamie said that she feels better knowing that she doesn't have to worry about food.

"It has helped me a lot," said Mamie. After looking over at her daughter, she continued, "It's helped her a lot, too. I'm so glad I was told about the program. I really look forward to the food. More people should know about it."

Learn more about Meals on Wheels here

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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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Coming of Age Magazine is the only senior - oriented lifestyle publication in Northwest Florida. Locally produced and published in Pensacola, Florida by Council on Aging of West Florida in partnership with Ballinger Publishing.

Coming of Age Magazine

Spring 2017 - 3/8/2017
Coming of Age Spring 2017

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