Vote on Senior Center Shuffle Referendum Next Week

Should you vote for or against the Shuffle in the December 13
referendum? Do you agree with the public officials and the “Vote Yes
Darien” Political Action Committee who say the “Shuffle” is the best way to serve our seniors, use public space and spend our taxes? Or do you believe the grassroots “Stop the Shuffle” PAC that says the Shuffle
is ill-conceived, complicated and expensive?

Either way, you, as a taxpayer and voter, should understand the points both sides are making prior to voting. To that end, I would like to share some of what I’ve
been able to learn and point you to where you can learn more for yourself.

First, circle back to December 2006, when the Senior Center Task Force
issued a report which found that the people who frequented the decaying
Senior Activities Center at Edgerton Street wanted the building to be
renovated, rather than replaced. The renovations, estimated at $5
million, would have made the center, housed in an old elementary school
built in 1954, compliant with accessibility codes and replaced windows,
bathrooms, and the HVAC system.

Nevertheless, the Selectmen voted unanimously to build a new Senior
Center at the same site rather than renovate. Their decision was based
on the belief that a new building would cost less than renovations and
would stand a better chance of lasting well into the future. Plans were
drawn up, but the final price tag came in at $6 million, rather than
the $4.5 million anticipated, and seniors and taxpayers started to

In reviewing letters to the editor of The Darien Times, it seems that
the public was asking the Selectmen to examine several alternate ideas.
Since the town had recently purchased the old library at 35 Leroy
Avenue for $4.2 million, the Senior Center board proposed moving the
Senior Center there. (When I asked some public officials why that never
happen, I was told it was because the old library didn’t work
programmatically, lacked a gym and would have needed too much
renovation, including a new roof, new HVAC and the addition of a

Other ideas which were studied included combining the Senior Center and
the Darien Community Association, for a cost of $5 million. More
seniors were using the DCA than the Senior Center, and the programs
could have been easily meshed. But this concept didn’t gain traction

While proposals for a new Senior Center languished, the Selectmen
pressed on with plans to turn the old library building into affordable
housing. But just as that project was coming to fruition, an election
shifted the balance of power on the Board of Selectmen from Democrats
to the Republicans. The new First Selectman, Dave Campbell, and other
newly elected Republican Selectmen, Jayme Stevenson and Jerry Nielsen,
quickly put a stop to the affordable housing plans and introduced their
own proposal for using town property, which they dubbed “The Shuffle.”

The Shuffle, which involves a three-phase move of municipal offices and
activities space, would cost the town’s taxpayers $6.98 million. The
Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance and the RTM have all approved
it. Detailed information about the costs, architectural plans and
bonding is available at the Town of Darien website:

The Shuffle calls for relocating the Board of Education from its
offices at the Town Hall annex to newly constructed offices inside the
old library. Because the old library has 20,000 s.f., and the Board of
Education currently uses only 15,000 s.f., they can easily fit in.
However, renovations to the old library will be have to be
comprehensive, including a new roof and HVAC, plus the building-out of
offices, meeting rooms and storage space to accommodate the school
board’s needs.

After the Board of Education has moved out of Town Hall, their former
office space, plus shop space that is currently being used by the
Department of Public Works (23,000 s.f. in all), will be gutted to make
room for the new two-story Mather Community Center. Because seniors
told the architects that they loved the natural light at their current
center, new windows will be cut into the brick walls of the annex. A
new kitchen, multi-purpose room with a stage, lounges, exercise and
health-related facilities, craft and shop rooms, and accessible
bathrooms with showers will be built. When complete, senior activities
will be shifted to the new community center, which will also provide
programming and space for other age groups, including families, after 3

The current Senior Center will then be demolished, although that cost
is not included in the Shuffle price tag. The Selectmen championing the
Shuffle say that affordable senior housing will be constructed at the
Senior Center site by a nonprofit organization at no cost to the town.

Supporters of the Shuffle say the time has come for our seniors to
finally have the new, modern senior center they deserve, an
accomplishment that has been a long time coming. They warn that
stopping the plans will just send us all back to more years of debating
the best uses of town spaces, while our seniors remain in an old,
inappropriate, dilapidated building. They also point out moving
municipal offices will be a more efficient use of town-owned property,
eliminate an 18,000 s.f. obsolete building and lower operating costs.
But most of all, the new Mather Community Center will serve all Darien
residents. You can learn more at Vote Yes Darien:

Opponents of the Shuffle, on the other hand, maintain that the plan is
inefficient, moving offices that do not need to be moved and wasting
taxpayer dollars. They point out that the Board of Education never
requested a move from Town Hall, nor do they have any programmatic
needs for new offices which are physically separated from the rest of
town government. Opponents also believe our seniors should have their
own dedicated facility, rather than sharing a 23,000 s.f. community

Members of the Stop-the-Shuffle PAC list on their site many other solutions to the need for a new Senior Center, which would be much more cost effective: (Note: This is an edit from my original post.) Among the options are: construction of a new, smaller Senior Center at the current Edgerton site. With 2,300 residents 65+ (2010 census) in Darien, a smaller
dedicated senior center would make more sense. They point out that
while Westport has almost twice as many seniors as Darien (4,200), the
Westport Senior Center is only 12,000 s.f..

Shuffle opponents also list as options using the old library as the site of the new senior center or selling the old library building and land for an estimated $3 – 4 million to generate revenue for the town
and to help cover the cost of a new Senior Center.  If the latter came to pass, they expect that
the property would be used to build condominiums, enabling Darien
seniors to remain in town when downsizing. You can learn more about
their points at Stop the Shuffle:

A referendum truly brings democracy back to its roots. It gives you a
direct say over a major municipal project and the spending of your
property tax dollars. If 3,113 people vote "No" and are the majority, the Shuffle will be overturned. If a majority votes in favor of the Shuffle, those votes will carry the day.  I hope you’ll learn as much as you can about the issues and vote on December 13, 2011.

Aging in Place+Gallivant Annual Meeting

We will hold our first annual meeting for Aging in Place+Gallivant on Monday, December 12, 2011, at 3:30 pm at the Darien Senior Center. The Senior Center is at 30 Edgerton Street.

Please come and learn more about how the our new organization meets the needs of seniors in Darien.

The guest speaker will be Christina Crain, MSW, the Director of Programs at the Southwestern CT Area Agency on Aging. Chris will speak on: The Aging of CT; How will we meet the needs of today and tomorrow’s elders?   

Enjoy holiday refreshments and meet others who care about helping local seniors stay in their homes as long as they would like. 

Pleases RSVP by Friday, December 9th, by calling 203-585-4094 or emailing  

Maintain Your Brain Luncheon

Next week, on Thursday, November 17, Aging in Place+Gallivant will host its annual free luncheon in conjunctions with the Darien Community Association.

Dr. Danilo de la Pena will speak on "Sustain a Healthy Brain." Dr. de la Pena is Executive Director of the Research Center for Clinical Studies in Norwalk, CT.

Today, November 10, is the last day to RSVP by calling 203-585-4094 or emailing AIP+G:

The lunch will run from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. The DCA is located at 274 Middlesex Rd., Darien, CT.

Ending Isolation By Forming a Group

Have you heard of the Caring Cooperatives? These are groups of women who live alone and have no family nearby and are banding together to help one another with doctor visits, errands and other necessities. The movement was started in New York City in 2008 by a group of professional women near retirement who had been part of a national nonprofit called The Transition Network. The New York Times ran an article on Friday, September 16, about the Caring Collaborative: "Coming Together to Make Aging a Little Easier". It is well worth reading.

I've heard of other cooperatives like this, where retired people help each other with medical appointments and hospital stays. Members even act as medical advocates for each other. I have a friend in California who has had training in how to do this and has accompanied a neighbor to the hospital, making sure she was not neglected and that she understood the directions doctors and nurses were giving her.  My friend also brought her neighbor home.

The church I belong to (The First Congregational Church of Darien) started a Caring Committee many years ago that provided rides to medical appointments, home-cooked meals, friendly visits and cookies and flowers at holidays. They brought my mother a plate of Christmas cookies when she was in a nursing home. That always made me feel so good. A few years ago, the committee expanded to include chore services and is now called Church Friends. It's not just for helping older people, though. When I young mom had an operation, members provided meals and rides for her kids to their activities.  

I'm on the board of new nonprofit in Darien, Connecticut, called Aging in Place+Gallivant ("AIP+G"). We provide a single place to call to learn about the services that already exist in the community to help you stay in your home as you get older. We also provide transportation and some handyman services. We are currently discussing how we can use volunteers to do more, such as friendly visits and friendly shopping.

The point is, people are making a difference in helping one another. You or your loved-ones do not have to be alone. Find out what is available where you live.

How To Help Caregivers

One of the women who comes to our church's monthly lunches (First Congregational Church of Darien, UCC) for older members is a caregiver. She can only get out to a few lunches when her husband is receiving a medical treatment. It does her so much good to be with other ladies, enjoying the lively conversations. (We are determined to solve the problems of the world and discuss them quite seriously!)

But I've wondered what else we could be doing for this truly lovely lady and what resources exist online that could help. In my searches I discovered that the Mayo Clinic has some basic advice on how to help caregivers. Take a look.

I've also learned that our Darien Senior Center runs support groups for caregivers. What a great local resource.

If you want a new site that lets you play games and interact with other caregivers online, check out The Caregiver Village.  (Full disclosure - they contacted me to recommend themselves. Since I like entrepreneurship, I'm posting the link.)

Being a caregiver can be tiring, lonely and frustrating. You do not have to do it alone! Seek and find the support that is out there.

Please post your own resources to share with others. Thanks!

Should You Take the (P.S.A.) Prostate Test?

Two articles from last week's New York Times  starkly raise the question of whether it makes sense for healthy men to undergo prostate cancer screening. The United States Preventive Services Task Force has scientific evidence that the tests do more harm than good, but the entrenched practices of the medical establishment and some patient groups are fighting the pronouncement. Separately, an article in the Science Times simply reinforced for me the evidence of potential harm from over testing (see link below). The best way to understand the controversy is to read the articles yourself and do some critical thinking:

Published: October 6, 2011
Giving healthy men P.S.A. blood tests for prostate cancer does not save lives and often leads to treatment that can cause needless pain and side effects, a government panel said.
Published: October 7, 2011
A finding that a blood test to screen for prostate cancer does not save lives, but results in needless medical procedures, is being contested.
Published: October 3, 2011
A prostate biopsy more than doubles the risk of being hospitalized for infections and other problems within the following month, a new study says.
Reading these articles about the studies on prostate cancer screening and the backlash they are causing really makes me question how science, medical technology, fear and greed all interact. It sure looks like the P.S.A. test is at best worthless for saving lives, and at worst, that it does more harm than good. The tests lead to far too many further tests that will not save your life, and in fact, can worsen its quality.
Yet, good people, doctors, insurance companies and policy makers all seem to be unwilling to try to understand the value of how statistical evidence can better guide our decisions. Even the articles show how quickly we turn to the small, individual stories that are easier for us to relate to, the anecdotes of lives being saved -- or of tests being avoided. 
But what none of these articles show are anecdotes from the people who had the further tests and treatments and had their lives wrecked as a result. If you're reading this and can provide such anecdotes, I will make sure they are posted because I believe we need to get a better handle on what the choices are. And we need to have some better ways to imagine the consequences of not following the scientific evidence which the United States Preventive Services Task Force has published. 

Active Vacations for Empty Nesters

One of the advantages of having adult children is that vacations are no longer dictated by the school calendar. We have also found ourselves more willing to try a vacation that was planned by professionals. This September we tried biking in Tuscany with Vermont Bicycle Tours.

One of our biggest surprises was that virtually everyone on the tour was about our age, mostly with adult children off on their own or in college. Given that this was a very active vacation, it was nice to be with people who were all fit, were from all over the U.S. and Canada and were interested in exploring the world. I was actually amazed at how much other people on the tour bike on a regular basis. While I might do 30 miles a week, they were doing over 65.

In case you're wondering what an active vacation is like, I'm going to give you rundown right here.

Vermont Bicycle Tours really tries to take care of its guests. They arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport in Rome and drive us to the hilltop town of Orvieto in Umbria. (The 1 1/2 hour ride was terrifying, as our driver drove as fast as possible, weaving in and out of lanes. We finally asked him to slow down.) Orvieto is an ancient town built on a flat hill of tufa.

Orvieto Highlights: Viewing the duomo with amazing carved friezes and gargoyles.
Exploring underground caves where people once lived and hid from attackers.
Walking the narrow streets filled with people out to enjoy a fall weekend.
Excellent thin crust pizza covered with fresh mushrooms and prociutto.

Bus ride to La Parrina where we stayed at Antica Fattoria La Parrina - a very old working farm with olive trees, vineyards, old buildings, and a lovely pool. The fattoria makes its own cheese and wine and grows its own fruits and vegetables. Given all this, I expected that the locally produced food would be amazing. But it wasn't. Most of the food was just really plain with not much flavor or interest. The La Parrina wine was fine, however.  The only food that impressed me was a vegetarian lasagna made with zucchini, peppers, local fresh cheese and bechamel sauce. And surprisingly, we had freshly roasted turkey with it. Delicious.

During a tour of the La Parrina shop, we were surprised to see a local man come in pulling a little wagon with two huge glass jugs with woven covers. He filled the jugs with wine using something that looked like a fire hose that came out of the wall. Wine was only 1 euro per liter when purchased that way! I wish we could do that in our country.  

Bike rides that we took from La Parrina included a windy ride to Talamone - a lovely village by the sea where we had a fantastic picnic prepared by our tour guides, Luca and Robert. They used fabulous fresh foods, including the best pesto I've ever had. They also gave us wild boar salami and lovely soft pecorino cheese. Why can't we get food like that in the states?

The biking past olive orchards, vineyards, sheep, hills and plowed fields was just wonderful. Going by bike really let me take in my surroundings. It made me truly live in the moment. The best part was being cheered on by ditch diggers laying pipes by the side of the road.

The great picnic in Talamone was in sharp contrast to the truly terrible dinner we had that night at the "Ristorante il Pescatore" of Orbetello. I expected amazingly fresh seafood in this seafood restaurant by the lagoon, but it all tasted old and of very strong unpleasant fishy flavors. I asked if I could change my spaghetti with clams for spaghetti with tomato sauce, which fortunately they let me do. The tomato sauce was just OK. But the locally farmed bass, served next, was just too fishy to eat. The only part of the evening that was great was the bus ride there -- we saw a gorgeous sunset, a rainbow and lightning -- all at the same time! 

The following day, we rode to Capalbio. The medieval walled village reminded me of Middle Earth. There we had aquacotta and wild boar (cinghiale) ragu on creamy polenta. The food was out of this world. Some of our new friends and we had been drawn into the restaurant al Pozzo by the aromas coming out the door. After lunch, we rode to a gorgeous beach in a park preserve near Ansedonia. We rode 6 km through a pine forest to find a path to a spectacular crescent beach - white sand, warm water of many blues and greens -- could have stayed all afternoon. But we needed to push on to Orbetello where we would be picked up.

The next day, we were taken by bus and ferry boat to Giglio Island where we explored another medieval town and went swimming at a windy, wavy beach. And my husband got to eat grilled calamari that he adored. I can't say enough about how fascinating the medieval villages are with their imposing walls, tiny streets, sturdy doors, shuttered windows, potted flowers and succulents and spectacular views. We could see the islands of Monte Cristo, Elbe, and Sardinia.

More later.

Test Your Senior Trivia Memory

A fellow baby boomer friend emailed this "memory" quiz to me. It's truly a trip down memory lane, especially if you watched a lot of TV when you were younger. Take a look. Test yourself. Answers and my score at the end.

1. What builds strong bodies 12 ways?
A. Flintstones vitamins
B. The Butt master
C. Spaghetti
D. Wonder Bread
E. Orange Juice
F. Milk
G. Cod Liver Oil
2. Before he was Muhammad Ali, he was...
A. Sugar Ray Robinson.
B. Roy Orbison..
C. Gene Autry.
D. Rudolph Valentino.
E. Fabian.
F. Mickey Mantle.
G. Cassius Clay.
3. Pogo, the comic strip character said, 'We have met the enemy and....
A. It's you.
B. He is us.
C. It's the Grinch.
D. He wasn't home.
E. He's really me and you.
F. We quit.
G. He surrendered.
4. Good night, David.
A.. Good night, Chet.
B. Sleep well.
C. Good night, Irene.
D.. Good night, Gracie.
E. See you later, alligator.
F. Until tomorrow.
G. Good night, Steve.
5. You'll wonder where the yellow went...
A. When you use Tide.
B. When you lose your crayons.
C. When you clean your tub.
D. If you paint the room blue.
E. If you buy a soft water tank.
F. When you use Lady Clairol.
G. When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.
6. Before he was the Skipper's Little Buddy, Bob Denver was Dobie's friend...
A. Stuart Whitman.
B Randolph Scott.
C. Steve Reeves..
D. Maynard G. Krebs.
E. Corky B. Dork.
F. Dave the Whale.
G. Zippy Zoo.
7. Liar, liar...
A. You're a liar.
B. Your nose is growing.
C. Pants on fire.
D. Join the choir
E. Jump up higher.
F. On the wire.
G. I'm telling Mom.
8. Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, Superman fights a never ending battle for truth, justice and....
A. Wheaties.
B. Lois Lane .
C. TV ratings.
D. World peace.
E. Red tights.
F. The American way.
G. News headlines.
9. Hey kids! What time is it?
A. It's time for Yogi Bear.
B It's time to do your homework.
C. It's Howdy Doody Time.
D. It's time for Romper Room.
E. It's bedtime.
F... The Mighty Mouse Hour..
G. Scoopy Doo Time..
10. Lions and tigers and bears...
A. Yikes.
B. Oh, no..
C. Gee whiz.
D. I'm scared...
E. Oh my.
F. Help! Help!
G. Let's run.
11. Bob Dylan advised us never to trust anyone...
A. Over 40.
B. Wearing a uniform.
C.. Carrying a briefcase.
D. Over 30.
E. You don't know.
F. Who says, 'Trust me'..
G. Who eats tofu.
12. NFL quarterback who appeared in a television commercial wearing women's stockings...
A. Troy Aikman
B. Kenny Stabler
C. Joe Namath
D. Roger Staubach
E. Joe Montana
F. Steve Young
G. John Elway
13. Brylcream...
A. Smear it on.
B. You'll smell great.
C. Tame that cowlick.
D. Grease ball heaven.
E. It's a dream.
F. We're your team.
G. A little dab'll do ya.
14. I found my thrill...
A. In Blueberry muffins.
B. With my man, Bill.
C. Down at the mill.
D. Over the windowsill.
E. With thyme and dill.
F. Too late to enjoy.
G. On Blueberry Hill.
15. Before Robin Williams, Peter Pan was played by...
A. Clark Gable.
B. Mary Martin.
C. Doris Day.
D. Errol Flynn.
E. Sally Fields.
F. Jim Carrey.
G. Jay Leno.
16. Name the Beatles...
A. John, Steve, George, Ringo
B. John, Paul, George, Roscoe
C. John, Paul, Stacey, Ringo
D. Jay, Paul, George, Ringo
E. Lewis, Peter, George, Ringo
F. Jason, Betty, Skipper, Hazel
G. John, Paul, George, Ringo
17. I wonder, wonder, who...
A. Who ate the leftovers?
B. Who did the laundry?
C. Was it you?
D. Who wrote the book of love?
E. Who I am?
F. Passed the test?
G. Knocked on the door?
18. I'm strong to the finish...
A. Cause I eats my broccoli.
B. Cause I eats me spinach.
C. Cause I lift weights.
D. Cause I'm the hero.
E. And don't you for get it.
F. Cause Olive Oyl loves me.
G. To outlast Bruto.
19. When it's least expected, you're elected, you're the star today.
A. Smile, you're on Candid Camera.
B. Smile, you're on Star Search.
C. Smile, you won the lottery.
D. Smile, we're watching you.
E. Smile, the world sees you.
F. Smile, you're a hit.
G. Smile, you're on TV.
20. What do M & M's do?
A. Make your tummy happy.
B. Melt in your mouth, not in your pocket.
C. Make you fat.
D.. Melt your heart.
E... Make you popular.
F. Melt in your mouth, not in your hand.
G. Come in colors.
Below are the right answers:
1. D - Wonder Bread
2. G - Cassius Clay
3. B - He Is us
4. A - Good night, Chet
5. G - When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent
6. D - Maynard G. Krebs
7. C - Pants on fire
8. F - The American Way
9. C - It's Howdy Doody Time
10. E - Oh my
11. D - Over 30
12. C - Joe Namath
13. G - A little dab'll do ya
14. G - On Blueberry Hill
15. B - Mary Martin
16. G - John, Paul, George, Ringo
17. D - Who wrote the book of Love
18. B - Cause I eats me spinach
19. A - Smile, you're on Candid Camera
20.. F - Melt in your mouth not in your hand
(I got 100%. :-) ) What was your score?

Aging in Place+Gallivant News

Here is the latest news from Darien, CT, on what's going on for seniors. Learn more about
Aging in Place+Gallivant:
The one place to call for information and referral to senior programs and services!
Call 203-585-4094

Aging in Place+Gallivant Annual Luncheon, Thursday, November 17th from 12:30pm to 2:30pm at Darien Community Association, 274 Middlesex Road, Darien
Aging in Place+Gallivant and The Darien Community Association invite you to attend the Aging in Place+Gallivant Annual Luncheon, Sustain a Healthy Brain, featuring Dr. Danilo de la Pena, Executive Director, Research Center for Clinical Studies in Norwalk.  Join us for an interesting, informative and uplifting presentation where you will not only learn about memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and different types of dementia, but how you can also keep your brain healthy and work to prevent these issues. Free lunch - all are welcome.  R.S.V.P. by November 10th to 203-585-4094 or

Saturday, October 1st
On December 14, 1990 the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish October 1st as the International Day of Older Persons.  This holiday is celebrated by raising awareness about issues affecting the elderly and is also a day to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society.

Tuesdays, October 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th from 12:30pm to 2:30pm at the Darien Senior Center, 30 Edgerton Street
Learn the latest research on how to preserve memory and cognitive function, what areas of the brain are responsible for memory, and how to keep your brain working well.  Includes recommendations for diet as well as current research on the most important nutrients for memory improvement and optimal brain function.  These 4 consecutive Tuesdays in October are 4 separate courses sponsored by the Greens at Cannondale, and refreshments will be provided.   October 4: Depression in the Elderly with Dr Alan Siegal, a nationally recognized Alzheimer’s disease expert and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University.  October 11th: Top 10 Herbals Products with Allison Wiencek, PharmD and Kristen Murray, PharmD, will discuss how herbals are regulated, common uses of the “top ten” on the market, and important interactions to keep in mind when deciding to use herbal products. October 18th : Cooking Demonstration with Craig Swindell, Cook and Chef at the Greens of Cannondale. October 25thMaking Connections with Lois Alcosser, Freelance Writer, will discuss how we have different friendships throughout our lives, from childhood on.  We can gain many insights recalling those various friendships and sharing them is surprisingly beneficial; a way of making new connections.  Attend any session or all of them.  For more information call 203-656-7455.

Tuesday, October 4th at 12:30pm at the DCA, 274 Middlesex Road
The DCA Women’s Group is having a Brooks Brothers Fashion Show.    Come see the latest fall fashions, and enjoy lunch.  Please reserve your space for this event by contacting the DCA at 203-655-9050 by Monday October 3rd.

Thursdays, October 6th, 13th and 20th at 11:00am at the DCA, 274 Middlesex Road
The DCA kicks off its fall Art Lecture Series, this year focusing on Paris, with lectures on three consecutive Thursdays as follows:  "Man Ray/Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism", “Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco” and “Matisse:  In Search of True Painting”.  Lunch will be provided by Marcia Selden Catering.  For more information and to make reservations please contact the DCA at 203-655-9050.

Fridays, October 7th and October 14th from 10:00am to 1:00pm at the Darien Library, 1441 Post Road
Medicare Open Enrollment begins October 15th.  Darien Library in partnership with CHOICES (the Connecticut Healthcare Options Program) will be offering free one-on-one Medicare counseling sessions.
Counselors help individuals understand health insurance issues including:
· Medicare
· Medicaid
· Prescription Drug Benefits
· Supplemental Medigap Policies
· Long-Term Care Insurance Policies
Contact the Darien Library Reference Desk to schedule an appointment at 203-669-5236

Wednesday, October 12th from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the Senior Center, 30 Edgerton Street
Call the Senior Center 203-656-7455 to sign up or Helen Ries 203-327-6286 for information.
*    Tune up your driving skill and update your knowledge of the rules of the road.
*     Learn defensive driving techniques.
*     Discover ways to handle left turns, right-of-way, highway traffic and blind spots.
*     24 hour a day customer service support.
*     Only $12.00 for AARP members and $15.00 for non-members.
*     In Connecticut, taking this course may qualify you for a multi-year insurance discount!

Friday, October 14th at 1:00pm at the PepsiCo Theater in the East Campus of Norwalk Community College
The public is invited to see recently taken photographs and video clips of today’s Cuba .  The pictures were taken by world traveler and lifelong photographer William Barnett, a member of the Connecticut Association of Photographers and the Photographic Society of America. He will narrate this live one-hour presentation and allow time for questions. The event is sponsored by Lifetime Learners Institute. For information phone 203-857-3330 or

Friday, October 14th at 7:00pm and Sunday, October 16th at 2:00pm at Darien Library, 1441 Post Road
Darien Library is proud to present for the second time “Weekend One-Acts,” a theatrical weekend featuring free performances of one-act plays from two esteemed American playwrights.  The program of two works includes Tennessee Williams’ I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow and David Ives’ Variations on the Death of Trotsky.

Tuesday, October 18th from 9:30am to 11:30am at the Senior Center, 30 Edgerton Street
Each winter, millions of people suffer from seasonal flu. Flu—the short name for influenza—is caused by viruses. For older people, especially those who have health problems like diabetes or heart disease, the flu can be very serious, even life-threatening. The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season.  The Darien Health Department will be holding an October seasonal flu clinic and Molly Larson, RN will provide seniors with their flu shots.  The Health Department will also be offering the Fluzone High-Dose Vaccine which was specifically designed and recommended for individuals 65 years of age and older.  The cost is $30.00 and Medicare is accepted.  Please bring your insurance card.  You may also pay by cash or check and receive a voucher to submit to you insurance company.  For questions on what type of vaccine to receive, please contact your health care provider.

Tuesday, October 18th at 12:45pm at the Senior Center, 30 Edgerton Street
Inta Adams with the Department of Social Services of Darien will explain the importance of looking into your Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan every year.  Plan changes for the upcoming year will be discussed along with an explanation of how Medicare Part D works.  Inta can help you in making decisions about your Medicare Part D plan for the coming year.

Thursday, October 27th at 12pm at the DCA, 274 Middlesex Road
The DCA and Stamford Hospital invite you to a FREE "Lunch and Learn" focusing on Orthopedics.  Program begins at noon, reservations accepted at the DCA.  A Flu Shot clinic will be held beginning at 10:30 prior to the program.  For more information, please call the DCA at 203-655-9050 or visit the web site

The Energy Assistance Program is now in progress at the Darien Social Service Department.   To be eligible for the program the State requires proof of all income and assets of every household member.  For more information and/or an appointment call the Darien Social Service Department at 203-656-7328.

Call Aging in Place+Gallivant Dispatch!
Darien seniors can call 203-655-2227 to make a reservation (24 hour advance notice and a voluntary contribution are appreciated) for door to door service for transportation within Darien, Stamford, Norwalk and New Canaan.

Aging in Place+Gallivant
P.O. Box 1242
Darien, CT  06820
Tel:  203-585-4094  Fax:  1-866-224-4210
Helping Darien seniors live independently, comfortably and with dignity in their own homes and the community as long as possible

Life Lessons From Irene

Life Lessons From Irene

A week ago, we began our recovery from Hurricane Irene. Since then, I've been thinking of the life lessons I have drawn from the experience and have decided to share them with you:

1. Think creatively, make a plan and be ready to execute it. With dire predictions of Irene coming our way, I knew if we lost power that I would not want to open my freezer or refrigerator for at least 24 hours. That way, the insulation of the appliance would keep everything safely cold and frozen. So I planned meals I could serve without the need of the fridge. I didn't buy more food that could perish. Instead, I baked banana bread for a tasty breakfast, made sun tea and left it out, had bottled juices ready, as well as shelf-stable food I could cook on the grill. The plan worked really well. By the time I finally (and very briefly) opened the fridge, the high-cost items were still partly frozen. And we used them as they began to thaw over the course of three days -- yes - three days.

To wash the dishes, I put pots of water in the sun and heated them with "solar power". Worked like a charm! And I used a Girl Scout trick of adding a little Clorox to the rinse water. (Prior to the storm, we also stocked up on cash, filled the cars with gas, took inventory of our candles, batteries, flashlights, and bought a car charger for my cell phone - a very wise choice. After the storm, we used as little hot water as possible - reserving it for very short showers.

2. If you can help, give it. If people offer help, take it. When our neighbor's tree fell into our yard and partly blocked our driveway, he came over with a chainsaw and worked with my husband to remove enough branches so that we could get our car out.

We actually didn't lose power during the storm, but when our other neighbor did, we took in her food. However, the following evening, the electric company's tree workers were removing a tree from downed wires and knocked out our power in the process. As we cooked up our defrosting food another 24 hours later, I offered some to still other neighbors who couldn't cook. One gratefully took it. Since he had a generator, he gave me ice, which I used to preserve some of my food. I gave garden tomatoes to another neighbor who had power, and he took in my food which by then was in real need of refrigeration.

These were good deeds and trades that came naturally. It showed me how kind people can be.

3. Take advantage of local resources. We discovered that our local public library has a huge generator and offered to stay open until 10:30 pm just to accommodate people. It became the center of our town. It seemed like the entire population of Darien descended on the library to use its computers, electricity and wifi. The library even serves coffee and snacks from a small coffee bar. What a God-send! Always remember the library is one of your greatest resources.

Before the storm, the town kept the dump open and supplied piles of sand and bags to enable residents to make sandbags. After the storm, they stayed open late to allow people to dump brush. And the high school became a shelter for families who had to evacuate their homes. Sometimes a government can do good things.

4. Keep a positive attitude. As we saw the pictures of devastation from all over the northeast, people in our neighborhood kept saying how lucky we all were. We came out of our houses and checked on each other. We allowed the storm to bring us together.

Count your blessings. Help others. Be creative.

How To Cut Medicare Wisely

Most of my senior friends are really scared that their Medicare benefits will be cut -- all except my friends who are widows of corporate executives whose companies still have them covered and those who are retired teachers. The teachers happily see no medical bills whatsoever because their former school systems (a.k.a. local tax payers) are still picking up the complete tab. We all know that Medicare, corporate, public employee and union health care benefits are breaking the bank and driving up taxes, debts and deficits farther and farther. The question is: what can we do about it? 

Blunt cuts hurt everyone. But many experts believe we can save significant sums by making intelligent choices about how we cut back and manage the care the health system is delivering. For an excellent analysis and set of recommendations on this very topic, read the opinion piece in the New York Times:

Published: August 22, 2011
Smart cuts can be made to Medicare without shortchanging patients.

Princeton Alumni Weekly: Last passage

This is the most moving piece on love and Alzheimer's which I have ever read. It was published in the Princeton Alumni Weekly on April 6, 2011. I hope you'll all read it.

Princeton Alumni Weekly: Last passage

A New Senior Center in Darien?

Curious about the proposed new senior center for my town, I attended a presentation by the team of architects at the current Senior Center this week (8/16/11). The plans I saw are very nice, definitely worthy of a town that is one of the most affluent in Connecticut. The building committee and the architects obviously did a lot of homework -- field trips, studies of demographics and focus groups (See the plan on the town website: ).

Yet, I still came away with concerns, pondering questions raised by the audience and some of my own, and with visions of mounting dollars signs dancing in my head:
  1.  Is the proposed Mather Community Center a "community center" for all residents, or is it a senior center?
  2. How accurate are reports in the Darien Patch that the entire project, which involves moving the Board of Education out of Town Hall to the former library site (35 Leroy) and reconfiguring the Board of Ed  space into the Mather Center, will cost $7 million?
  3. What other costs are there that haven't been included yet?
  4. Could anything be done to improve ease of movement between the two stories?  (The plans show one staircase and one elevator on opposite sides of the building.)
  5. Why was this plan, known as "The Shuffle," the only one considered by the Republican-dominated Selectmen?
  6. Why can't the Senior Center be rebuilt on its current site for less money and without disturbing the Board of Education?
  7. Why do so many public officials say that 35 Leroy (the former home of the Darien Library) is not good for a senior center but is good for the Board of Ed.? (I've never heard a good, straight answer. Yet, most seniors I speak with would love to have that building as the senior center.)
Even though the current Senior Center is old, decrepit and inadequate for many senior needs, the users (and I) love its abundance of natural light. The desire for natural light seemed to be a driving force in the plans for the new center. But to have natural light in the Town Hall Annex where the ground floor has brick walls and few windows (It's been used for storage and maintenance workshops for the town), adding natural light means putting in windows and skylights with shafts from the roof of the second floor. It's easy to guess that this has added a lot to the cost.

The architects did say that the $7 million figure quoted in the Patch was being worked on, and already they've shaved a couple of million off by using an older HVAC system, relocating the kitchen, cutting out treatments to the outside of the building and the site, among other changes.

Seniors in our town and in other towns like ours say that they love the fact that the senior center is their special place. Will a community center that is in a lower level annex to Town Hall have that same feeling for its users?

And who will be the users? The 2,400 residents over 65? The architects said it would be for active adults, but the printed presentation called the potential users part of the 4,900 "elderly" residents who are 55+ (55+ in my mind is not "elderly". I think of elderly as 85+). But this is important. Because facilities and programming for people in their 50s and 60s would be quite different from programming for people in their 70s, 80s or 90s. But that is probably why this is a being called a Community Center -- not Senior Center.

It's a pity that our town didn't rebuild the senior center in its current site a decade ago. But each new set of politicians on the Board of Selectmen have changed the plans. That is why many people who really care about getting a new Senior Center want to push through the plan we have now. That is certainly a point to consider.

Still, I think it's important for taxpayers in our town and the senior population (however it's defined) to study the plans, think about them and ask questions. I'm concerned that the operating costs will be sky high. And I wonder about the unintended consequences of The Shuffle on the operations of the Board of Education and the Senior/Community Center. Are we over building? Are we building something that is redundant? Are we planning a white elephant that will be underutilized? What will be the impact on other organizations which serve the same population (The Darien Community Association, the library and the YMCA)?

Can we please look at 35 Leroy (the former library building) as a better alternative for a new senior center? Old surveys (which got buried) say the neighbors would like that. The building has loads of natural light already and is architecturally pleasing. When I first asked why 35 Leroy couldn't be used as a senior center, I was told, "Oh, it doesn't have a kitchen." Well, the revised plans for the Town Hall call for adding an addition which will house the commercial kitchen. I was also told it didn't have a gym. But the gym at Town Hall doesn't seem to be playing a large role in the new plans, which have exercise and fitness rooms planned.

Even though we seem to be riding on a runaway train, we still have time to ask questions. Please get involved.

City Living Is Great

Many people want to retire to small towns or cities with great, warm climates as they age. But when my widowed mother reached 65, she longed to live in New York City again. So she got on an airplane and flew east from Santa Barbara. Manhattan was perfect for her. With big sidewalks and amazing public transportation, my mom could walk to the small grocery stores with their shelves of small-sized products, local restaurants and the public library. She could take a bus to Broadway shows, parks, grand department stores, fabulous art museums and a huge variety of movie theaters. From her apartment window, she could watch life go by. Out in the streets, she reveled in the hustle and bustle -- the sheer excitement and energy that is always present in New York. 

Having been born in New York, she was back in her element and in the home town she loved so much.

That's one reason the lead article "A Rocking Chair Called Manhattan" in the Sunday, August 14, 2011, Real Estate Section of The New York Times caught my eye. Of course, the other reason, is because the piece focused on how people really do want to stay in their homes as they age. New York has many, many services that make aging in place relatively easy. And with the population aging rapidly, those services are a very good thing.

The article is well worth reading. I'd love to have readers comment on their experiences with aging in place in New York or any other urban area. What services do you use? What makes city living right for you?

Dealing With Blogger

A friend just alerted me that this blog had disappeared! When I checked, indeed, it did not exist. Of course, I went into panic mode. The lesson I've learned from this episode is that fiddling with online software is not as easy as some people say it is.

Following another friend's advice, I thought I could make my blog's domain look like another one. I have registered as a domain, and I redirect it to this blog: He told me I could redo my settings so that would look like the name of the blog all the time, not just redirect. Well, it didn't work.

So much for believing that I am tech savvy. But I believe I've fixed the problem now. If you've been following this blog, and got confused that it had disappeared, I hope you'll come back.

Thanks to all, and especially to my friend from my Wharton Alumni Networking Group!


How To Form an Aging in Place Group

I was recently involved in a discussion about the best way to form an Aging in Place or a "Village" organization. Nonprofits that enable seniors to stay in their homes as they age are growing all over the country. Many are following the Beacon Hill Village (BHV) model. BHV charges dues, has a board and a staff, and provides direct services and referrals to services, as well as ongoing social events. This is a very popular model that is gaining ground rapidly and is large enough to have annual national meetings and an online group to join (Village-to-Village).

But when we started Aging in Place in Darien (now Aging in Place+Gallivant) we took a different approach. 
We began as a pilot program sponsored by The Community Fund of Darien, which is like a United Way. Our focus was to provide information and referrals to all of the agencies that are already in place and ready to help seniors remain independent in the community and their own homes. We did surveys and focus groups to determine what needs were being met -- and not being met for our local seniors. We then hosted a summit of service providers and enabled all of them to learn about one another and how we could tap their services. We looked to find ways to fill in the gaps, and from our summit attendees, we created committees to handle the top areas of need: transportation, handyman services, ways to end isolation and to get the word out about what's available.

Having excellent ties to agencies and service providers has helped establish a really useful organization that is making a true difference for seniors in our community of Darien, Connecticut. The ties also helped us find a really great board. We became independent this year and merged with the local senior transportation provider, Gallivant -- making us stronger and in a position to better meet one of the top needs. Learn more about us at:

Who's Got Your Back? (Spinal Health)

Backs and spines are on my mind. It always gets me when I read about therapies that really don't work that well, but doctors and hospitals keep talking them up and advertising them. In the past week, I've gotten a glossy marketing piece from Greenwich Hospital extolling the virtues of spine surgery, spinal fusion and bone growth; read an article in the New York Times by Jane Brody on spinal fractures and caring for your back; and read a New York Times business section article on spine specialists repudiating Medtronic's bone growth product primarily used in spinal fusions. "Spine Experts Repudiate Medtronic Studies".

My conclusion from all this is that my mother was right. Avoid surgery. Be wary of doctors who are looking to make money from expensive procedures. Don't twist. Don't do stomach crunches. Don't do bending and touching your toes exercises. Lift things carefully and properly. I also have listened to my primary care physician who gave me back-strengthening exercises similar to ones written up by Jane Brody. 

As Ms. Brody points out, vertebrae can just crumble from compression when you have weakened bones. And two out of five women over 80 have had such fractures. Half of the 1.5 million fractures due to bone loss are fractures of the vertebrae. Sometimes, you don't even know you've had the fracture, which can occur even if you don't have osteoporosis. The columns says that bone strengthening medicine, calcium and vitamin D can help prevent the breaks, however. And experts warn that you should not rush into invasive procedures like bone fusing or bone strengthening. These procedures are risky and may not have much benefit.

The business section article about Medtronic's product backs up Ms. Brody's column. It tells how an issue of The Spine Journal was devoted to the topics of bias and conflicts of interest in corporate medical research and sponsorship of scientific studies. The articles singled out Medtronic's Infuse, which is used in 25% of the 423,000 spinal fusions performed in the U.S. annually. Questions of morality and public safety are at the core of The Spine Journal's investigative journalism, questioning Medtronic's research as to the effectiveness and the safety of Infuse. Medtronic makes about $900 million a year from sales of Infuse. (And you wonder why our health care system and Medicare costs are out of control.) The entire article is well worth reading and goes into far more expert detail than I can. If you or a loved one has back problems, I commend all these pieces to you.

Switching On Sharper Memory

What if you could improve your memory with the flip of a switch? That's exactly what researchers at the University of Southern California and Wake Forest University have done. Theodore Berger, who is with
the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and holds the David Packard Chair in Engineering and is director of the USC Center for Neural Engineering, was part of a team that has discovered a way to help rats remember more clearly by using an electronic system that mimicks the way nerve impulses work. By using this innovative system, they were able to get rats to remember how to do something, even though the rats had been given drugs to make them forget.

The breakthrough is based upon recent learning about how the hippocampus works in enabling us to learn, by taking in information about an action, transmitting it from one region of the brain to another, and then bringing that information back when we need to repeat the action. This is how short-term memories become long-term memories. The team implanted an electronic prothesis into rats' brains that had been programmed with the information that should be residing in the brain but is blocked by drugs or some other problem. By flipping a switch the impulse from the prosthesis skips over the blockage to deliver the message and lets the rats remember. In other words, this little electronic device can do the same thing our brains do - transmit information from one region of the hippocampus to another, thus delivering a memory that had been wiped out.

The news release from USC and an article in the New York Times explain the elegant experiments far better than I can.

The potential for such a discovery is mind boggling. Imagine if scientists will be able to help dementia patients relearn how to do the tasks of daily living? I swear we are becoming more bionic everyday. (I have three friends who have had their knees replaced within the past three weeks.)

But there could be a dark side of which we must beware of. Since I read both science fiction books and conspiracy thrillers, I can also imagine such a breakthrough leading to the programming of minds. And that is a very scary thought. (Think: The Manchurian Candidate and other Cold War stories.)

Theodore Berger of USC was the lead author of “A Cortical Neural Prosthesis for Restoring and Enhancing Memory,” which was published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

On Becoming 80

Just this week I attended a Day Wings luncheon. Day Wings is a group of older women in the First Congregational Church of Darien who meet monthly for fellowship. They had started the group 50 years ago or so because they all worked and couldn't make the day-time luncheons at church. So they had dinner together and called themselves Night Wing. Now, still friends, they are mostly over 80 and don't drive at night, and they switched the name to Day Wings. Although I'm not in their age group, I really enjoy their company and conversation and try to make the gatherings.

We were sitting on a deck in the sun overlooking the beautiful Holly Pond. Then, one member pulled out of her purse a piece of paper with a quote that our former senior minister Alfred Schmalz had read to a Saturday Smorgasbord gathering at church in the late 1960s. I enjoyed the piece so much, I just have to share it.

On Becoming 80

The first 80 years are the hardest. The second 80 is a succession of parties.

Everybody wants to carry your bag and help you up the stairs. If you forget anybody's name, or an appointment, or promise to be several places at the same time, you can explain that you are 80.

If your clothes don't match, or if you take someone else's coat by by mistake, or forget to mail a letter, you are 80.

It is a great deal better than being 65 or 70. At that age you are expected to retire to a little house in Florida and become a discontented, grumbling, bored has-been. But, if you survive til 80, everybody is surprised that you are alive, surprised that you can walk, surprised that you can talk above a whisper, surprised that you have lucid moments.

At 70, people are mad at you for everything. At 80, they forgive anything.

If you ask me, life begins at 80. Give thanks. YOU'VE GOT IT MADE.

Aging in Place + Gallivant Has New Executive Director

Aging in Place + Gallivant has a new executive director, Gina Zarra Blum. I met her at the organization's board meeting on Monday and was very impressed. We've put out a press release with the announcement.

This has felt like a great accomplishment after the long road we've been on to starting this nonprofit to help seniors to remain in their homes as they age. I've been working on getting this going for six years, starting with an initiative at my church (First Congregational Church of Darien) and then expanding to a town-wide pilot program of the Community Fund of Darien.

As we did research we learned that older adults needs four things to be able to thrive while remaining in their homes rather than entering institutions: access to information and referrals to trusted sources of help (nonprofits and vetted for-profits), transportation, handyman services and ways to stay connected.

Transportation was so important, we merged with Gallivant, which provides local transportation to seniors via an accessible van and a very nice town car. Gallivant uses a professional dispatcher to arrange the rides. Our board member Charlie England provides handyman services. He began doing this as a ministery through St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Darien. We also work with the library, the Town of Darien, the DCA and many nonprofits to keep our seniors connected to all the services which already exist to help them remain in our community.

I'm feeling really good about this new accomplishment. Welcome, Gina!

What To Say To Someone Who Is Sick

On Sunday The New York Times ran an article about what to say -- and not say -- to someone who is seriously ill. I found the piece to be truly enlightening, as I have often wondered what to say or do. Rather than reiterate all the tips in the article, I am including a link to it at the end of my blog so you can read it for yourself.
Years ago I visited an uncle who was dying, and my aunt said, "Doesn't he look great?" I was on the spot. But I couldn't bring myself to lie, so I said something specific and honest. My uncle's eyes were still very bright and very intelligent - taking everything in and radiating out again his wonderful spirit. So I spoke of his eyes and how bright they were. I said, "You're still you. I can see that twinkle." I always wondered if that was right. I kissed him and held his had and told him I loved him. This article made me feel I had done the right things.

The article was also timely for me because I had just this past week delivered a meal to a friend who had undergone double knee replacement. Again, I was relieved that I did some of the things the author said to do: I gave my friend a hug. I did offer something specific - a dinner. And I stayed for a visit in which we didn't just talk about the surgery and physical therapy and pain. We also talked about goings on in our church and our kids.

My friend said she was so grateful to people in our church (First Congregational Church of Darien) because so many members had been kind and helpful to her. She told me that one member had come over and read poetry to her, which she really loved.

And I thought, "Yes, that is what we need to do for others - bring beauty into their lives. Lift them out of misery with good stuff like poetry, literature, music or art."

Read on...

Published: June 10, 2011
A guide to what to say — and what not to say — to someone who’s sick.

Seniors' Health Is Better in Areas with Lots of Doctors

If you're wondering where to live, and you care about your health, choose a place with lots of primary care physicians. A recent study has shown that in areas with lots of primary care doctors, seniors do better. The seniors are less likely to be sent to the hospital because the doctors will treat them and manage the illness outside the hospital.

The research was conducted by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and it analyzed Medicare claims from 5.1 million beneficiaries. What's fascinating is that not only were hospitalizations 10% lower, but people over 65 had death rates that were 5% lower, when they lived in a place with a high concentration of doctors.

The data did show that Medicare spent a little bit more on patients in areas with more primary doctors. But I think it's worth it.

Read more in the New York Times:

Published: May 30, 2011
Older people in areas with high concentrations of primary care doctors are hospitalized less often for conditions that can be treated outside hospitals and have lower death rates, researchers find.

Aging in Place Merged With Gallivant

Aging In Place in Darien has merged with Gallivant. This merger gives older adults in Darien, Connecticut, one place to call when seeking transportation, handyman services, information or referrals to agencies and services that help seniors to stay securely in their homes as they grow older.  Services are open to anyone.

The merger came about from Aging in Place's strategic planning process. I was on the committee and reached out to the Gallivant chair to learn about their process of securing a 501-c-3 charitable organization designation from the IRS. In our discussions it became apparent that seniors' and philanthropists' needs could best be met by a combined organization. Why have two nonprofits serving seniors in the same town?

So through a lot of work and negotiation, we found a way to merge. Read more about it in this news article:

Check out our new website: (which I developed for the organization).

What Do You Say When Someone Dies?

Last week my mother-in-law died. This is the fourth big death I've experienced as an adult (preceded by my parents and father-in-law). Each time I've been struck by the range of comments and behaviors that I and my husband have received from neighbors, friends and acquaintances. I've also been fascinated by how our electronic age is gradually changing the way we can respond to the news of a death.

With that in mind, for all of you out there who may wonder what to say when a friend's loved one dies, here are some tips. Believe me, every message of condolence is a blessing.

The absolute worst thing you can do is to remain silent. Your friend is grieving and feeling alone. They want to hear some recognition of their loss.  

Please Say Something! If you don't know what to say or are at a loss for words, you can always use the line uttered by every detective from every cop show on TV and every modern crime novel, "I'm sorry for your loss." It may be trite, but it covers the right ground and lets your friend know you care.

If you're part of a faith community, you can use say in an email, card or letter, "You are in our thoughts and prayers." Trite is OK when people are grieving.

However, try to refrain from saying that everyone is better off because the deceased was in bad shape. Words like that come across as pretty cold and unfeeling. Even after a long illness, the family is still feeling sad. There is a huge gap between having your loved one around and having them gone.

And please try not to say, "It was God's will." or "Things happen for a reason." You may believe it, but maybe the bereaved doesn't. It may be frustrating. Even the Rev. Dr. Sloane Coffin of Yale Divinity School said when his son died in an auto accident that he did not believe that God's hands were on the steering wheel.

An email is OK in this modern era (but not a text). Emails are fast, personal and easy to respond to.

Phone calls are good, too.

Handwritten letters, notes and cards are all deeply appreciated. And I even appreciate postings on Facebook.

If you've experienced loss yourself, you can reference that and how you understand the deep and frustrating feelings of loss. If you knew the deceased, say something you remember. Say something nice about them.

Offer help or give something tangible. I actually did ask for help from one friend who offered it. (When my mother died, one friend baked me cookies. Another gave me a rose plant that is still in my garden.)

Ask the person how they are doing. If you're in a conversation, invite them to talk about their experience with the death or the person who is gone.

Just listen. Just create a quiet space for the person to talk into. Make eye contact. Give a hug.

Life if tough. Death is part of life - something we all must face and live with. Make your friend's loss less sad by acknowledging it with kindness. Remember the Golden Rule. 

Drug-Resistant ‘Super Bug’ Hits LA County Hospitals, Nursing Homes « CBS Los Angeles

If you think you need an antibiotic, think twice. The more antibiotics we take, the more super bugs we make possible. Don't ask your doctor for one just for a cold, flu or a cough. Make her (or him) take a throat culture first to make sure you have a bacterial infection.

And if you wind up in a hospital, make sure everyone who comes in your room or examines you has washed their hands. At the "How to Live to Be 100" talk at the annual Aging In Place in Darien luncheon, a doctor told us that being vigilant about hand washing in all medical settings is key to getting a good outcome. He told us to stay out of the hospital, if possible. But if we have to go, then protect yourself and your loved ones from the bacteria that are everywhere. He said he had to do this for his own family members when they went into the hospital.

The problem is that if we don't stop using too many antibiotics and we don't protect ourselves, we'll get more outbreaks of super bugs like the one in Los Angeles. See below.

Drug-Resistant ‘Super Bug’ Hits LA County Hospitals, Nursing Homes « CBS Los Angeles

You May Need Protection from the Dark Side of Reverse Mortgages

Did you know that if you have a reverse mortgage in only one spouse's name that when he or she dies, the other spouse will most likely lose the house? Even worse, they could wind up owing even more money than the value of the house. That information hit me hard when I read about a lawsuit being brought by AARP against the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"). HUD regulates reverse mortgages.

Older adults can tap the equity built up in their homes by taking out a reverse mortgage. They get monthly payments made to them from a bank that holds the mortgage. The older adult(s) can use that money any way they like. When the mortgage holder dies, the house is sold to repay the loan. This was all fine and good while housing prices were rising.

But when housing values fell, homes that suddenly had to be sold were worth less than the value of the mortgage. So the surviving spouse suddenly owed more money than the house was worth. And if their name wasn't on the mortgage, the house would be taken away and sold.

AARP is bringing suit to right these wrongs. On March 9, 201, The New York Times ran an article about the suit, the details, facts behind it, and profiles of surviving spouses who are out the fees and possibly their homes.

If you are in a reverse mortgage or are considering taking one out, read this article first. Do your homework. Consult a good attorney.

Read on:
Published: March 8, 2011
The lawsuit argues that changes in late 2008 meant that surviving spouses not named on the mortgage must pay the full balance to keep the home, even if it is worth less.

You Can Recover from a Stroke at Home

You read that headline correctly. You can recover from a stroke or other brain injury at home. And you can continue to make progress for a far longer time than previously thought -- up to a year.

The largest study ever conducted on stroke rehabilitation has revealed that intense physical therapy performed at home is just as good as physical therapy in an institutional setting. But the physical therapy has to be intense, and it has to occur within a year of the brain injury. The study is called the Locomotor Experience Applied Post-Stroke trial. The physical therapies tested were designed to enhance flexibility, range of motion, strength and balance -- all with the aim of improving walking. The study measured how well the patients could walk one year after the stroke.

To me this is phenomenal news, offering great hope. My own mother suffered from a major stroke, and it was incredible to me to see how she gradually got back some of her abilities to speak and to do things, although she never really recovered. She had no physical therapy at all, just a lot of love and some good and bad care-givers.

You can read more about the study funded by the National Institutes of Health and involving the University of Southern California.


Handling Multiple Chronic Conditions

Did you know that two-thirds of older adults suffer from multiple chronic conditions? As we're living longer, more sedentary lives, more problems just build up.

In December, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a report:
Strategic Framework on Multiple Chronic Conditions on the challenge our nation and its people are facing in dealing with this problem. How can we reduce the costs for society, taxpayers and the individuals who are afflicted by so many different ailments?

Big pharma and specialist seem to want to treat each condition in isolation and with drugs. But this approach has the very real potential to wreak havoc with unintended drug interactions. We need a new system with one doctor in charge of a team that works together.

 We individuals need to read up on this challenge and put pressure on our congress, our president and the medical establishment to start implementing some real solutions. The models are out there at places like the Mayo Clinic. The problem is that there are too many special interest groups with too much money and entrenched positions who are controlling the situation.

Electronic health records can be part of the solution. Being an advocate for your own health is another. And expecting the medical establishment to use more "best practices" is still another. 

Read more at: and in Jane Brody's column in The New York Times:

Ten Reasons to Visit the Darien Antiques Show

10 Reasons to Come to The Darien Antiques Show
The Best Winter Weekend Activity Around
Preview Party – March 4. Show – March 4 – 5.

You don’t have to be an antiques collector to enjoy The Darien Antiques Show. There’s a reason for everyone within driving distance of Darien, CT, to visit the show:

1.    See the halls, rooms and nursery school of the First Congregational Church of Darien magically transformed into a collection of booths filled with gorgeous antique furniture; antique and estate jewelry; fine art; accessories like Inuit carvings, colorful pots, ceramics or Chinese porcelain; sailors’ woolies; fireplace accessories; antique silver; and mid-century art, furniture and accessories – which can complement any décor and fit any budget.

2.    Support the church’s outreach efforts. St. Luke’s LifeWorks is the primary beneficiary of the Preview Party. It is a not-for-profit organization that plays a critical role in providing learning opportunities, housing and support services to people overcoming homelessness right here in Fairfield County. Additional proceeds from the party and the show benefit other organizations selected by the Board of Outreach including: A Better Chance in Darien, Person-to-Person, Aging In Place in Darien, Norwalk Emergency Shelter, Carver Center and more.

3.   Support the entrepreneurial efforts of the 37 antiques dealers at the show. They come from all over the Northeast. These are top dealers who guarantee all their merchandise. Some have been in the business all their lives, some are new. All have lovely items.

4.    At the Preview Party, do some in-person social networking, see old friends, enjoy fine wine, good music, yummy hors d’oeuvres, while browsing through the beautiful booths.  Bid on great items at the Preview Party Silent Auction and Live Auction.

5.    Get a family heirloom appraised, road-show-style, by Christine Downing from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

6.    Look, ask questions and learn. Our dealers are very friendly and are eager to share their knowledge.

7.    Meet our new dealers who are bringing fine art that reflects our region and other one-of-a-kind items that can lift your home décor to a new level.

8.    Connect with the past by browsing and buying. Items like the ones on sale at our show aren’t made anymore.

9.    Enjoy a home-cooked lunch or afternoon treat at the Café.

10.    Uphold a tradition from the 275-year-old church First Congregational Church of Darien. This is the show’s 44th year.

Quick Facts:
Sponsored by the First Congregational Church of Darien - 14 Brookside Rd., Darien, CT.
Just south of Exit 13 from I-95.

The fun and festive preview party on March 4th – 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm, $45 advance sale, $50 at door, patrons: ($55 New Collector, $75 Collector, $100+ Connoisseur).

Show Hours:
Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sunday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Admission: $10, $8 for seniors.

Further information, discount cards and photos are at  And visit the Darien Antiques Show on Facebook – become a fan and help spread the word!

Show Sponsors: William Pitt – Sotheby’s is a platinum sponsor of the show, People’s United Bank is a gold sponsor and Moffly Media is the media sponsor.

Darien Activities for Seniors in February

Here is the latest on Activities for Seniors in Darien, Connecticut
from Aging In Place in Darien:

Aging In Place in Darien is the one place to call for information and referral to senior programs and services!
Over 1,000 calls from Darien residents to date!
Call 203-202-2912

“Faces” at Lifetime Learners Open House
Friday, February 11th at 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Norwalk Community College East Campus, PepsiCo Theater, 188 Richards Avenue.  Area artist and photographer David Pressler provides a unique view of our world through “Faces”, a video slide show of nature’s geological forms, animals, trees, flowers, man-made objects and people.  Free and open to all.  Bring your lunch or buy it there.  For more information, call Lifetime Learners at 203-857-3330 or go to

Be Prepared for an Emergency
Wednesday, February 16th from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Darien Senior Center, 30 Edgerton Street.  Learn about Code Red and Nixle (Darien’s two alert systems), how to put together a “Go Kit” and “Stay Kit”, and meet members of Darien’s emergency management team.  All are welcome.  Door prizes!  For more information, call Beth Paris at 203-656-7455 or e-mail

Navigating Your Hospital Stay:  What You Should Know
Thursday, February 17th, 2011 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Darien Senior Center, 30 Edgerton Street.  How does your hospital rate?  Did you know that staying overnight may not always count as a hospital stay and you may not be covered?  Did you know you have a right to ask for a different roommate?  What is a hospitalist and how do they communicate with your personal physician?  Get the questions and answers you need to ensure a safe and successful hospital stay.  Presented by area expert Sue Worland, RN of Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County.  To register, call Beth Paris at 203-656-7455 or e-mail

Honeybee:  Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper
Tuesday, February 22nd from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Darien Community Association, 274 Middlesex Road.  Ten years ago, Marina Marchese fell in love with bees during a tour of a neighbor's honeybee hives.  She quit her job, acquired her own bees and eventually opened her own business.  Today, Red Bee Honey sells artisanal honey and honey-related products to shops and restaurants all over the country.  Honeybee is a warm and inspiring story of one woman's intimate experience with honeybees.  Free and open to the public.  For more information, call the DCA at 203-655-9050 or go to

Seniors Who Surf
Every Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Darien Library, 3rd Floor Conference Room, 1441 Post Road.  Bring your laptop computer and have fun with others while you surf, email and get the answers to all your questions.  For more information, contact Judy Sgammato, Technology Manager, Darien Library, at 203-669-5256 or

Know Anyone Who Needs Home Heating Assistance? 
Encourage them to call Darien Social Services at 203-656-7328 to find out if they qualify.

Need a Ride? 
Take the Gallivant.  Call 203-655-2227 to make a reservation24-hour advance notice and a voluntary contribution are appreciated.  Or purchase Half-Price Taxi Vouchers from Darien Social Services.  Call 203-656-7328 for more information. 

Please feel free to forward this bulletin to friends and family who might be interested!

Do you want to unsubscribe to this bulletin?  Write to

Alyssa Israel, MPH, CHES
Aging In Place Coordinator
P.O. Box 926, 701 Post Road
Darien, CT  06820
Tel:  203-202-2912  Fax: 203-655-9416