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Monthly Archives: October 2015

Getting Ready to Downsize? Don’t Go it Alone!

There are many events in life that can prompt you to move or downsize to a smaller, more appropriate-sized living space. Some of them, unfortunately, are fraught with stress: divorce, death of a spouse, changing finances, and increasing frailty are just a few examples. Combine this stress with the logistical and emotional struggle involved in sorting through a lifetime of treasured possessions, and you have the makings of a truly unpleasant experience.

That is why if you are considering downsizing or moving, you might think about bringing a professional in to help you deal with all these potential problems.

A move (whether it is to a shared living arrangement, an apartment, or to a smaller house) usually involves getting rid of a lot of personal belongings that may not have a place in your new home. Deciding what to keep and what to sell or donate can be both physically overwhelming and emotionally traumatic for many people. Bringing in a professional organizer – someone who can help make clear, objective decisions about what to keep and what to part with, as well as find the right resources for donating or selling the things you no longer need – can take a huge burden off your shoulders. A professional organizer can also help you determine which items will fit well into your new, Golden Girls home, and which possessions do not.

Another area that some professional organizers specialize in is paper management. In getting ready for a move, you may come across years of accumulated files that are out of date and no longer needed as you transition to your new home. A professional organizer can help you decide which papers you need to keep, which ones you can scan, and which ones can go straight to the shredder or recycle bin. The last thing you need to be doing is packing and moving boxes of useless paper!

Professional organizers can also help you plan the logistical aspects of your move and provide both physical and moral support on moving day (sometimes taking the place of a son or daughter when they can’t be there to help a parent). A professional organizer can help supervise the move itself, and then on the other end make sure that everything gets unpacked and organized into the right spot, so that your new place feels like home right away. Starting out with “a place for everything and everything in its place” can make moving to a shared house, new apartment or home that much easier.

Finally, consider a mental health professional as an essential part of the equation, especially if your move is due to a major life change. There are many professionals that specialize in helping people work through these kinds of transitions. They have the ability to help you through the mental and emotional turmoil that accompanies life-changing events such as divorce, illness or other loss, and make you feel at home in your new life.

There are many experienced professionals who can help you navigate these choppy waters – don’t go it alone!

This post was contributed by Penny Catterall, founder of Order Your Life. Since 2009, Order Your Life has helped clients in the Washington, DC Metro area control clutter, improve workflow and make life simpler. Order Your Life offers home organization services, as well as downsizing, move management and settling in services. They are also available to help you organize ‘virtually’ anywhere in the world.

10 Must Do Health Checks for Women Over 50

Aging is a double-edged sword.  On one hand, our years and experience give us the  perspective to seek out the important things in life, value time with loved ones, and really enjoy our hobbies and other pursuits.  On the other hand, as our bodies change and mature we need to be more mindful of our health and pay close attention to differences we experience.  We’re not getting any younger!  Part of the beauty of the Golden Girls lifestyle is the ability to find housemates with similar interests and goals – in order to make the most of our time with our new housemates, women over 50 should maintain good relationships and with their doctors and keep regular medical appointments.  Early detection is key for the successful treatment and management of a many health concerns.  But where to start?  The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services suggests women over 50 complete 10 essential health checks.

  • Mammogram.  More than 3 million cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, with most of those occurring in women ages 40 and older.  Regular mammograms are a key early detection tool.  Early detection, combined with new treatments and a better understanding of the disease, have led to much improved survival rates.
  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing.  If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or peritoneal cancer, you should speak with your doctor about getting tested for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.  Studies show that BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations account for about 5 – 10% of all breast cancers and 15% of ovarian cancers overall.
  • Pap Smear.   Women are advised to get a pap smear every 3 years until the age of 65.  Pap smears help detect cervical cancer.  Most doctors suggest that women over the age of 65 can stop having pap smears, so long as the patient had at least 3 negative tests in the past 10 years, or if she has had a hysterectomy.
  • Colonoscopy.  Women under the age of 75 are advised to get a colonoscopy to look out for colorectal cancer.  One of the main benefits of a colonoscopy is that doctors can remove small polyps during the procedure before they become cancerous.  According to the American Cancer Society, 9 out of 10 people whose colon cancer is discovered early will be alive 5 years later.
  • Depression.  Its totally normal to feel sad occasionally, but if you find yourself feeling hopeless or having a lack of interest or pleasure in doing things for more than two weeks, you might be depressed.  It’s important to talk to your doctor about being screened for depression.  As we age, emotional health is just as important as physical health.
  • Blood Glucose.  It’s important to have your blood sugar levels tested regularly to see if you have diabetes.  This is especially important if you have high blood pressure or if you take medication for high blood pressure.  Diabetes, if untreated, is a particularly insidious disease that can affect the heart, brain, eyes, feet, kidneys, and nerves.
  • Cholesterol.  Are you a tobacco user or overweight?  Do you have a personal history of heart disease or blocked arteries?  Do you have a male relative in your family that had a heart attack before age 50 or a female relative before age 60?  If any of these factors apply to you, consult your doctor about getting your cholesterol levels checked.  High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors leading to heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
  • Blood Pressure.  Women over the age of 50 should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years.  High blood pressure is a concern because it can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure , and other health problems.
  • Chest X-Ray.  If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is one of the best health moves you can make.  People aged between 55 and 80, have a 30 pack per year smoking history, or smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years should talk to their doctors about being screened for lung cancer.  Currently, the only approved screening for lung cancer is a chest x-ray.
  • DEXA Scan.  A DEXA scan is critical for determining whether you have osteoporosis.  Screening is recommended starting at age 65.  Osteoporosis cannot be cured, but treatment can help make the condition more bearable.

All of these health checks are important, but it’s crucial to maintain a strong relationship with your doctor or healthcare provider.  Keep up your good health to make the most of your Golden Girls years!

Statistics on Shared Living

Remember Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia? More than an 80s sitcom that recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, The Golden Girls sparked a movement. From a surprising concept – who has housemates past their 20s? – shared living has become a national housing model that has been featured in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, ABC, PBS, and NPR. It’s credited as creating the “roommate generation” for baby boomers, and gives single baby boomers a way to find companionship, shore up their finances, and age in place – staying in their homes as they grow older.

With housing costs high and feelings of loneliness when children are grown and a spouse is no longer around, older adults are looking for answers. Today, the shared living movement is being embraced across the country as an exciting aging-in-place option for baby boomers.  Many people begin thinking about shared living following a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or another major life event. Demographic data indicate that in the wake of the recession shared living for mature adults is on the rise. In 2013, there were more than a million households where single people ages 46 to 64 shared housing with non-relatives, according to Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research.

Further evidence of the shared housing trend and opportunity, according to the US Census Bureau, the number of unrelated women who live together has grown from 2.96 percent in 2005 to 3.8 percent in 2012. An AARP analysis of census data in 2014 found 132,000 households with 490,000 people in shared living situations. Not only is the number of older adults who are embracing shared living increasing, the number of areas where you can find shared living options is growing, too. The National Shared Housing Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps educate baby boomers and older adults about the benefits and options of shared living, lists 54 local, national, and international organizations that match roommates or find shared housing options that operate in 23 states. Golden Girls Network is the only national roommate matching service – featuring an online database that allows homeowners to find potential roommates and home seekers to find available rooms in their area (or another place they’d like to move).

Whether choosing shared living to offset costs of maintaining a home independently, companionship, security, or someone to help around the house, shared living makes it easier for baby boomers to age in place. And as baby boomers, we want to stay right where we are, thank you. AARP released a report in April 2014 that indicated 71% of adults aged 50 to 64 want to continue living where they are now. For adults age 65 and older, the number is even higher at 87%.

More than numbers, however, roommates point to the trend as being one of the best, unexpected elements of their retirement life. From holidays to everyday life, the companionship provides real benefits. Thanksgiving now brings multiple families together and provides a table for those without local relatives. And Sunday night dinner allows housemates to become friends – sharing the fun of their weekend and what’s on tap for their weeks with others in the same boat.

I found Golden Girls living when a divorce left me with a recently remodeled home and four empty bedrooms I could no longer afford on my own. I love to share my story. Want to learn more about shared living? Please contact me.

3 Ways to Embrace Lifelong Learning

Mature woman (60s) helping elderly mother (90s) pay bills.

It’s that time of year – the leaves are turning, the air is crisp, and the kids are back in school. Learning is a full-time job when you’re young, but it doesn’t need to end when you outgrow your backpack. Learning is a lifelong process, and we can help it along by actively seeking out educational opportunities, whether it’s learning to salsa dance, take fabulous photographs, or finally speak French. Not only is lifelong learning fun, it helps keep our minds sharp as we age! Looking for inspiration? Here are three ways to incorporate learning into your lifestyle, at any stage of life.

  1. Get Back on Campus

If you’re an older adult who wants to learn, you’re not alone – according to USA Today, the number of students over 50 at community colleges has been steadily rising since 2005. It’s not surprising as local community colleges offer cost-effective, flexible options for baby boomers who want to take a couple of courses to check things out, but don’t want to enroll in a full program. Community colleges also often offer programs specifically for older adults. The American Association of Community Colleges’ Plus 50 Initiative helps community colleges develop and expand programs for students over 50. The wide variety of subjects community colleges offer is an added plus, since it means you can study just about any subject that interests you. Take a course with one of your roommates! Learning is a lot more fun when you do it with a friend.

  1. Go Local – Community, Recreation & Senior Centers

Learning doesn’t need to be academic. Local community, recreation and senior centers offer classes, lectures and exhibits on a wide variety of subjects. Want to make some art for your shared home? There’s probably a class for that. While some centers offer these opportunities for free, others require you to become a member before signing up, so check before you register. These options provide terrific information and help you learn more about your community and meet others that share your interests at the same time!

  1. Get Online!

One great thing about the internet – it is an absolute treasure trove of learning opportunities. Many large universities offer online courses. And websites like Coursera and the Khan Academy have partnered with top universities like Harvard, Princeton and MIT to offer free online courses and learning activities at all levels. Not looking for intense academics? Check out specialized sites like Duolingo where you can learn a new language or America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooking School to learn to perfect your cooking technique. YouTube also has instructional videos that cover everything from knitting to building a catapult.

Once we get past our schoolyard days, learning is a marathon, not a sprint. Pick a subject that interests you, a medium you find comfortable, and learn at your own pace, on your schedule. Make it a joint activity with your housemates, and you’ll double the benefit by making it a bonding experience. However you choose to do it, learning new skills enriches our lives at any age.