Banishing the Grinch from Christmas

When I walked into my 87-year-old friend's kitchen, she didn't even say hello. Instead, she said, "I hate Christmas. Well, not when the kids were little. But now. I hate Christmas."

She motioned to the envelopes, cards, an address book and pen spread out on the table. But I knew the real reason. Last year, on Christmas Day, her only daughter had died. I can't imagine facing Christmas under such circumstances. So I looked her in the eye and said, "If I were in your shoes, I'd hate Christmas, too."

She nodded.  Her eyes said it all.

Then, I started admiring the really clever Christmas cards she had chosen, which had been designed by a British artist. And we got into quite a discussion about artists, family histories and generator installations in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Out of the blue she said, "Before you leave I have to show you the dog."

She explained that she had gone to all the CVS drugstores in our area trying to find more dogs just like the one she was going to show me. She wanted to have one for herself and give others to friends and family. She had managed to snag only three.

There on the kitchen counter sat a stuffed dog. She pushed the "Push Here" button on his paw. And the dog started singing a Christmas song, moving around and flapping his ears in time to the music.We both burst out laughing.

"Isn't he great?" she asked.

I left her house marveling at how the Grinch hadn't actually gotten away with stealing my neighbor's Christmas completely. She still had a lot of resilience and even Christmas spirit left. That's probably why she's lived so long.

Still, in this highly commercial world, I hope we can all keep the true spirit of Christmas and this multi-cultural Holiday Season alive. Joy, peace, hope, love. Let the light of what's ultimately good overcome the darkness. 

Candlelight Concert at First Congregational Church - Free Rides from Gallivant

Christmas Candlelight Concert at First Congregational Church

Get in the Christmas spirit at the beloved annual Candlelight Concert at The First Congregational Church of Darien on Sunday, December 9, at 7:00 p.m. The evening will feature performances by The Darien High School Tudor Singers under the direction of Chris Andrade, the church’s Senior Choir soloists, world-class pianist Max Pakhomov, and a carol sing-along. Dan Hague, First Congregational’s Music Director, has also promised “a few surprises.”

John Stuart, Chair of the church’s Music Committee, said, “This is a Christmas gift to our entire community. I find the concert very special, even magical. It’s an event that simply is not to be missed, and all are welcome.”

There is no charge for the concert, but the church will be collecting a free-will offering to benefit ElderHouse of Norwalk, CT, one of the worthy causes supported by the church’s Outreach efforts. ElderHouse Adult Day Center is committed to providing aging seniors with a safe, nurturing environment where they can share time with others while receiving the care they need. Learn more about Elderhouse at

For Darien seniors 60+ who would like a ride to and from this evening event, Aging in Place+Gallivant is offering free transportation using their volunteer Friendly Drivers. Just call Gina Blum, Executive Director, at 203-585-4094. Aging in Place+Gallivant is a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization whose mission is to help older adults in Darien to live independently, comfortably and with dignity in their own homes for as long as possible. It is generously supported by community members, including the First Congregational Church. Learn more at
The First Congregational Church of Darien, UCC, is located at 14 Brookside Road in Darien. For more information about the concert, please visit the church website at or call the church office at 203-655-0491.

Dangers of Reverse Mortgages

Yesterday, The New York Times ran a front-page article on the financial dangers of reverse mortgages. Unsuspecting seniors, lured by deceptive sales pitches or lack of full disclosures, who took out reverse mortgages are losing their homes. Defaults are running high. Reverse mortgages allow homeowners 62 and older to borrow money against the equity they have built up in their homes. They pay back the loan when they die or move.

Some people look at their homes as a bank, and they can use the money from a reverse mortgage for a vacation or to pay for school for grandchildren or for healthcare needs. These are practices fraught with peril for many seniors.

The article, "Abuse Growing in Loan Option for the Elderly," (print title) not only profiles people who have lost their homes, but also gives tips about things to look out for.
  •  The fees may not be affordable.
  • You still have to pay property taxes, insurance and maintenance.
  • Make sure both spouses are on the deed. If your spouse and dies, and he or she is the only name on the deed, then you'll lose the house and have to move.
  • Read the details of the loan. There are no standards.
 You can learn about more about reverse mortgages by reading the article on the NY Times website: 

Regulators are noting new abuses tied to reverse mortgages, which let people 62 and older borrow money against the value of their homes and not pay it back until they move out or die."

Time for Good Food

I love summer. I love gardening. I love good food. Those three things naturally go together.

Most of us want to eat well. That means preparing fresh, seasonal foods that taste great. This summer, I have a bounty of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers in my garden. I also am growing dill, parsley and garlic. When I was invited to a beach picnic, I decided to create a Greek dip (tzatziki) by combining plain Chobani Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dill, parsley and garlic to serve with my freshly harvested vegetables.

The people at the beach picnic practically inhaled the appetizer. Who says eating healthy food is boring? Not only that, but a recipe like this is very easy to prepare.

Greek (Tzatziki) Dip
1 6 oz. package nonfat Greek yogurt
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. freshly chopped dill
1 Tbs. freshly chopped parsley
1 finely chopped garlic clove
pinch salt (to taste)

Wash all the herbs carefully, then dry and chop them.
Mix together all the ingredients and refrigerate for at least an hour to meld the flavors.  
Stir before serving.

I also use this dip on my homemade chicken souvlaki, made with fresh herbs, which I serve with Greek salad and pita bread.

Connecticut Tax Free Week Coming Up

I just received this notice from Terrie Wood, my state representative. It's good to keep in mind that you can buy clothes and shoes under $300 without paying sales tax for a week, starting August 19.

With the start of school just around the corner, I wanted to remind you to take advantage of the upcoming “Tax Free Week" which runs from Sunday, August 19 through Saturday, August 25.

The one-week event eliminates Connecticut’s 6.35 percent sales tax on all clothing and footwear costing less than $300 per item and runs from the third Sunday in August through the following Saturday.

Since sales tax is calculated after the use of any coupons or discounts, if the final price is less than $300, the sale is exempt from taxes. Clothing or footwear under $300 either rented or put on layaway is also tax-free.

Purchases totaling more than $300 will have sales tax calculated on the full cost.

Tax Free Week was first enacted in 2000, and applies to most clothing and footwear purchases that are intended for everyday use.  Goods not covered under the program include items that are solely intended for use in sporting activities and accessories such as jewelry, watches, handbags, and wallets. 

For more information, visit the Department of Revenue Services website at

Best Regards,
Terrie Wood

Aging in Place+Gallivant

Aging in Place+Gallivant is being featured this month (August 2012) as the Client of the Month by 341 Studios. 341 did amazing work for AIP+G, helping us build local awareness of our relatively new nonprofit and its services. Aging in Place+Gallivant is the place to call for transportation and referrals to agencies and vetted services that can help Darien seniors remain in the homes they love as they age. (More information at:

Take a look at 341's work:

3.4.1 Studios, LLC, is a marketing and design agency that applies a mix of creative and strategic intelligence to the design of high-quality traditional and digital marketing communications materials.

August Activities for Seniors in Darien

The director of Aging in Place+Gallivant, Gina Blum, has just sent out her monthly e-newsletter listing all the activities that seniors living in our area might like to attend. I think it's a wonderful service that Gina performs for those who have signed up to be on the email list. If you'd like to be included on the mailing list, just contact her at:

To see the list of activities, just go to the Aging in Place+Gallivant website's activities page:

NEED A RIDE to activities or to an appointment?
Call Aging in Place+Gallivant!
Aging in Place+Gallivant offers transportation services for Darien seniors and the disabled Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm within Darien, Stamford, Norwalk and New Canaan.  They have 2 vehicles on the road at our busiest times – a 12 passenger, handicap accessible van, and a 4 passenger sedan.  Call their dispatch number at 203-655-2227 to make a reservation (24 hour advance notice and a voluntary contribution are appreciated).  For your convenience, this number is serviced 24 hours a day by our dispatcher, Drivers Unlimited, where you will speak to a person to make a reservation.   For service to other locations, at times when Gallivant is not in service, or when you need a person to pick you up from a medical appointment, call the Aging in Place+Gallivant office for a Friendly Volunteer Driver at 203-585-4094.
Aging in Place+Gallivant is the place to call for information and referral to senior programs and services.

Their mission: Helping Darien seniors live independently, comfortably and with dignity in their own homes and the community as long as possible

Finally a Film for Older Adults!

When I worked in advertising, the magic audience that consumer packaged goods companies wanted to reach was adults 18-49. In movies, the target audience tends to be young males, 18-24 (going on 10 to 16). But Fox Searchlight has done something enlightened and produced a movie for the over 50 set, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

Even Fox Searchlight has been surprised at the response to this delightful film with top-notch British actors and actresses, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson. The film cost a mere $10 million to make. Yet, Marigold Hotel has become the top specialty movie of 2012, having already taken in over $90 million in global box office with only a limited release.  Its popularity has encouraged Fox to release it more widely.

Last week, I saw the film at my local movie theater and thoroughly enjoyed it. Great cast, fun screenplay, good story, wonderful characters. I particularly enjoyed watching Maggie Smith play a very different sort of person, after seeing her as a wizard professor in the Harry Potter films and the head of a aristocratic family in the "Downton Abbey" TV series. I also loved Dev Patel's portrayal as the young, entrepreneurial hotel owner. (Patel was the star of "Slumdog Millionaire.")

I hope more Hollywood producers learn from Marigold Hotel's success that there are other audiences (i.e., older adults) out there who will pay to go to the movies. They just want a good movie to see, something with substance, not just non-stop action, explosions and noise.

The New York Times ran an excellent article ("Older Faces on Screen Draw an Often Overlooked Crowd") on May 24 about the film's surprising success. I encourage you to read more there and to go see the film. The more demand we create for good films for the older generations, the greater chance we'll have of Hollywood producing them.

Gallivant Expands Transportation to 5 Full Days a Week

Have you heard of Aging in Place+Gallivant's transportation services for seniors in Darien, CT?

Most people who are familiar with the transportation service simply call it "the Gallivant". In April, Gallivant expanded its hours of operations to five days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., using two vehicles and three professional drivers. Gallivant has a 12-passenger handicap-accessible van with a wheelchair lift and a 4-passenger sedan.

The door-to-door service will take Darien seniors (and disabled people) anywhere they want to go in Darien, Stamford, New Canaan and Norwalk. While the service is free, many riders make a contribution of $5.00 per round trip to help cover some of the costs of the service. People use Gallivant to go to the hairdresser, to medical appointments, to the beach or the library, to the Senior Center or the DCA, or out to lunch with friends.

If you can't or don't want to drive somewhere, give the Gallivant sedan or van a try. Just call the dispatcher (available 24-7 and operated by Drivers Unlimited) at 203.655.2227. It helps if you can be ready to tell the dispatcher:
  1. Who you are.
  2. Where you a located.
  3. The name and address where you want to go. 
  4. The time and date of your appointment and when you'd like to be picked up. (Medical appointments should be booked 48 hours in advance.)
  5. What type of appointment it is.
  6. Any other pertinent information.
(Full disclosure: I'm the chair of the Transportation Committee for Aging in Place+Gallivant.) 

Aging in Place+Gallivant is a nonprofit charitable organization whose mission is to help Darien Seniors live independently, comfortably and with dignity in their own homes and in the community as long as possible. Learn more about the organization and its services at

The Elder Index

Can you afford to live in your home state as you get older? To find out, visit the Elder Index. This index lists the cost of living in 17 different states from Connecticut to California for older singles and couples. The study, in pdf format, for each state lists costs for people renting or with or without mortgages. It also cites healthcare costs.

The only downside to the information is that it is four years old. The most important aspect of this information is that it shows what percentage of each state's senior population is on the verge of poverty. As people live longer and more people enter their senior years, our nation will be facing some important challenges in ensuring our older adults do not slip into poverty. The time to build awareness and to start planning is now.

Learn About Darien's Aging in Place+Gallivant

Last week, "Community Matters", hosted by Jim Cameron on Darien TV 79 (Cablevision), ran an interview with leaders of Aging in Place+Gallivant. Community Matters is a local program that looks at the various organizations which make Darien, CT, a better place to live.

Mr. Cameron spoke with AIP+G Executive Director Gina Blum, Board President Dorothy Baker, and former Board President Kaye Barker. They explained how AIP+G's mission is to help Darien seniors live independently, comfortably and with dignity in their own home as long as possible. The organization provides referrals to vetted nonprofit agencies and private service providers, as well as direct services including: transportation, small tasks, shopping and friendly visitors. They are also offering outings and events in conjunction with other community and area organizations, such as the public library, senior center, and Darien Community Association. (Full disclosure, I'm a member of the board and chair of the transportation committee.)

Learn more at or call Gina at 203.585.4094.

To arrange a ride on our Gallivant van or in our sedan, call the Gallivant dispatcher at Drivers Unlimited: 203.655.2227.

And watch the interview:

Aging in Place+Gallivant Interview from Wyn Lydecker on Vimeo.

Pickleball To Start at Darien Senior Center

If you live in Darien and want to try Pickleball, come on down to the Darien Senior Center on Edgerton Street.
Pickleball will begin Tuesday March 6, 2012, at 9:30 am. The cost will be $3 per session. Mark your calendars.
Pickleball is easy on the joints, is lots of fun and is great exercise. 

Award Winning Senior Transportation

One of the keys to independent living for seniors is access to transportation. This morning I read some really great stories about organizations all over the country that are providing superior senior transportation. These organizations were all winners the STAR Awards from the Beverly Foundation. I found the write-ups to be truly inspirational: So many volunteers and professionals driving so many miles to help seniors (or "elders") get to medical appointments or go shopping for groceries.

You can read the stories for yourself:

If you are part of an organization that provides senior transportation, then maybe you'll want to apply for a STAR award. As chair of the Aging in Place+Gallivant transportation committee, I'm thinking that we should do so, but maybe next year.

Here's a copy of the Beverly Foundation's brief release about their awards:

Beverly Foundation Senior Transportation STAR Awards—Application Opens January 15
The Beverly Foundation will be awarding $10,000 to up to 18 senior transportation services and programs through the 2012 STAR Awards. To be eligible for a STAR Award, applicants must: deliver transportation services to senior passengers; be in operation for at least three years; know how to report transportation data (e.g., driven miles, cost per ride, number of senior passengers); demonstrate an ability to identify good practices in delivering transportation services to senior passengers; and submit a complete application. Application instructions, past STAR Award reports, and a news release are now online. The STAR Awards application may be accessed through the Beverly Foundation website starting January 15 and will close on January 29.

Try Pickleball!

Yesterday, I tried playing Pickleball for the second time in my life. The first time was outside on Cape Cod while visiting relatives. Yesterday was in the Darien Town Hall gym. A friend (Ruth Anne Ramsey, who is a local realtor) arranged for a demonstration Town Hall in an effort to get our Parks and Recreation Department to sponsor Pickleball.

Ruth Anne says Pickleball is great for all ages, kids through seniors, and I agree. Our coach for the day was 80 years old. She made sure to get people out of the audience to come out on the court and try their hand at playing. Ruth Anne also told me that the Darien Schools have introduced Pickleball into their physical education program.

If you haven't tried Pickleball, it's a great way to get out and get exercise without putting as much strain on your joints as you do in tennis or paddle tennis. Take a look at the YouTube videos (see below) and the Pickleball website for more information. Then, get something going in your town.

Watch for announcements about Pickleball in Darien, CT.