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A Difficult Discussion How Do We Talk About Senior Suicide?
This month, I want to talk about a very sad but important topic. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and we need to bring light to the distressing reality of senior suicide. Adults over the age of 65 have an unusually high suicide rate, and individuals 85 and older make up the highest rate of suicides among adults. This is not a new trend among seniors. You can find articles in the New York Times warning of the rising suicide rates among the elderly all the way back in 1987. Over 30 years later, very little has been done to address this growing problem. If you have ever lost someone to suicide, you know one of the first things you ask is, “Why?” There is never a good answer to this question, because we never know what was going on in a person’s head in their darkest moments. But when it comes to senior suicide, there are many studies identifying the warning signs. Poor health is a big factor in senior suicide. When a person’s health fails, they can lose their independence, which becomes an immense physical and emotional burden. Isolation is also a problem. Seniors often have fewer social bonds than they did in their youth, either because family members have moved or because their long-time friends have passed away. These factors inevitably lead to depression, a mental health problem that is too often overlooked or ignored in our seniors. Many people in this generation grew up in a time when there was an intense stigma around mental health issues. There was little research about the causes of mental illness, and there weren’t many treatment options. Seniors today can still carry those negative ideas about mental health, and for this reason, they are less likely to seek help. They fear they’ll
be judged, or they assume their depression
is just part of getting older. When they struggle, seniors
may tell themselves to “just deal with it.” But this approach often ends in tragedy.
Battling senior suicide is one important challenge caregivers take on. Not only do they help with day-to-day activities seniors may no longer be able to do themselves, but our Angels also know the warning signs to look out for when it comes to senior suicide. When a caregiver sees something concerning, they quickly contact the client’s care manager who will inform the family members and take action. The holidays are coming up, and this time of year can be especially hard on seniors who already feel alone. I encourage you to reach out to your loved ones and see how they are doing. Let them know they are loved and valued, and remind them there is no shame in asking for professional help if they need it. This is a difficult topic, but being open and proactive can ensure the time you have with your loved one isn’t cut short.
Cindy Saunders, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
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New and Rediscovered Passions in Later Life
A Guide to Picking a Post-Career Hobby
Aside from financial concerns, the No. 1 question that most impending and recent retirees struggle to answer is how they will fill up all their time. While spending time with family and relaxing are priorities for most folks entering the post- career chapter of their lives, these aren’t enough to fill up the bulk of your newly acquired free time. Cultivating a hobby is a great use of your time at any age, but especially during retirement. As Dick Van Dyke once said, “To me, retirement means doing what you have fun doing.” Here are three questions to help you discover a hobby that’s right for you. Do you have a dormant passion? Work has a tendency to put our other interests on the back burner. Maybe you painted for pleasure during college but put the canvas away to focus on your career. Perhaps you were once a chess fanatic, and today you find your board gathering dust from lack of use. Now is the perfect time to rediscover those once-beloved activities. What have you always wanted to do? Discovering new hobbies is just as rewarding as rekindling old ones. Have you ever heard about a pastime and thought, “I’d love to do that, if only I had the time”? Former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe opened a winery after retiring If you’re age 55 or older, it’s time to get serious about planning for your retirement. In fact, most industry experts recommend far longer lead times of 20 years or more! But don’t be discouraged! Even if you’re a late planner, there are steps you can take to ensure you get the most out of your retirement. Here are the three most important steps you need to take to secure your future. Get Your Finances in Order The first place to start when preparing for retirement is your own checkbook. By gauging your overall financial readiness, you can identify whether your spending and lifestyle habits are in need of a course correction. You’ll need to consider all of your finances as well as your income tax rate, the rate of return on your savings, and any benefit plans you may have from your employer. If your financial readiness falls short of the income you expect to live off of in your retirement, it’s time to make some adjustments. Cutting back on day-to-day expenses, working a second job, and increasing your contributions to salary deferral programs are all great ways of boosting your readiness ahead of retirement.
from football. While you probably don’t have the
financial resources of a professional athlete, there’s nothing stopping you from pursuing a newfound passion at the same velocity as the footballs Bledsoe threw. Is there a cause you want to support?
Volunteer work can be incredibly fulfilling, especially when you have the time and energy to devote to it. Many older adults find that giving back to the community adds meaning and purpose to their lives. The best way to figure out how to donate your time is to think about a cause dear to your heart. From there, find a reputable organization that supports said cause, and see what you can do to help. Retirement is the perfect opportunity to throw yourself head-first into something you’re passionate about. So what are you waiting for?
3 Steps to Retirement
Know Your Portfolio The stock market is a tempting gamble for those looking to jump-start their nest egg. However, investments with the highest returns also come with significant risk. The last thing anyone wants is to end up losing their principal right before retirement. That’s why most financial planners recommend investment strategies that grow more conservative as you age. If you are thinking about investing — or have been doing so for some time — it’s a good idea to check in regularly with your portfolio and ensure that you are comfortable with the amount of risk you are incurring. Settle Your Debts Debts, especially ones with high interest rates, can chew through your retirement savings. If you can’t get it all paid off before retirement, consider moving your credit card debt and other loan balances to accounts with a lower rate to ensure you are paying as little in interest as possible. These tips provide a general road map to a more stable retirement. Your own goals and financial situation may provide unique challenges and opportunities on the path to your post-work life. To understand your best options, reach out to a trusted financial advisor.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE Resources to Prevent Senior Suicide
Suicide is a serious problem in the United States. It can impact anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, or economic status, but our seniors are often at the greatest risk. This is a scary reality, but there is help out there! These are a few resources available to seniors and their families when dealing with suicide. For Seniors in Need: Friendship Line Launched by the Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention, the toll-free Friendship Line is the only accredited crisis line in the United States for people ages 60 and older. Seniors do not often contact traditional suicide prevention centers, so in addition to accepting calls, the Friendship Line’s team of trained volunteers will also reach out to older adults who are at risk. This is both a crisis intervention hotline for suicide prevention and a warm line to provide emotional support to lonely or grieving seniors. Phone Number: 800-971-0016 Website: ioaging.org/services/all-inclusive-health-care/ friendship-line
For Family Members: Suicide Prevention Toolkit It can be difficult to talk to our loved ones about suicide. We’re often afraid that bringing up the topic may upset them, or that they will feel attacked, which could “push them over the edge.” But ignoring the problem and warning signs of suicide in seniors is very dangerous. The Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health created a valuable toolkit with warning signs and strategies for dealing with senior suicide. Digital copy available at ccsmh.ca/projects/suicide . Don’t wait until it’s too late to look for answers about suicide. Pay attention to the warning signs, and do what you can to help avoid a preventable tragedy.
Ingredients • 1 small loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups) • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil • 2 large tomatoes, cubed • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cubed Directions 1. Place a large sauté pan over salt, and toss often for 10 minutes or until toasted. 2. In a large bowl, mix vegetables and herbs. Toss in bread and medium-low heat and add olive oil. Add bread and 1 teaspoon
• 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced • 1 cucumber, sliced into rounds • 20 basil leaves, chopped
• Salt, to taste • Vinaigrette
your favorite vinaigrette and mix again. 3. Serve immediately or let sit 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
Inspired by Food Network
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It’s Time to Talk About Senior Suicide
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Get Outta Town! Find a New Adventure This Fall
36TH ANNUAL CAPITOLA ART &WINE FESTIVAL WHERE: Capitola Village, Capitola WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 8 and Sunday, Sept. 9 ADMISSION: Free WEBSITE: CapitolaArtAndWine.com This juried show features over 160 fine artists of all mediums, as well as a wide collection of live entertainment. Spend the weekend exploring Capitola Village as you sip superb wines from 22 Santa Cruz Mountain Wineries, enjoy delicious food, and discover beautiful works of art. Complete with an amazing kids’ area, the Capitola Art & Wine Festival has something for everyone.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It doesn’t have to be this way. Register today to join the world’s largest event to help put an end to Alzheimer’s! Not able to participate in the walk? Visit bit.ly/VisitingAngelsWalk to support this amazing cause by sponsoring your Visiting Angels team! MONTEREY BAY BIRDING FESTIVAL WHERE: Watsonville Civic Center Community Room, Watsonville WHEN: Sept. 28–30 ADMISSION: See website for registration WEBSITE: MontereyBayBirding.org Have you ever woken up at dawn to go birding? Can you tell the difference between the call of an albatross and a shearwater? Do Facebook friends sent you pictures of birds? Then this festival is for you! Veteran and beginner birders alike have a unique opportunity to learn more about the world-class bird habitats in our community, as well as explore these habitats for themselves. Attend lectures, participate in workshops, and sign up for a number of field trips all celebrating some amazing birds.
2018WALK TO END ALZHEIMER’S WHERE: Seascape Resort and Park, Aptos WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 22; 8:30 a.m. ADMISSION: See website for registration WEBSITE: Alz.org/walk
One in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and
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