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Why private homes are public places

by Susanne Stadler | September 6th, 2014 | Our Homes | Please Comment

Private homes are public places. There is no doubt. Yet many of them are not designed for inhabitants or visitors of different ages and abilities. How many of you have friends or family members who are in a wheel chair or need some other assisted mobility device? Impaired mobility is not the only disability but it is the most visible one and the one most apparent in how buildings accomodate for it. The deficiency in the accessibility of private homes is becoming more and more apparent with an aging population and a wider range of abilities and needs at every age.

At the recent Age and Disability San Francisco Work Group Meeting we got a taste what community effort can bring about and how somebody’s home becomes the community nexus in a neighborhood with no community center  or library. Glenda Hope, former pastor, age 78 has not retired but has become a community organizor in the Cayuga Neighborhood of San Francisco. She organized her neighborhood in clusters with neighbors helping neighbors and with a private home as the community center for each cluster.  What a great, intuitive grass roots initiative, elders as community organizors. What a great incentive for rethinking the private home and its function beyond being just a private shelter. It is time to think beyond our own, current, immediate needs and design homes that can serves us and our friends and community in an inclusive way.

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Advertising Aging

by Susanne Stadler | April 29th, 2014 | Our Homes | Please Comment

Pete Halberstadt owns West Advertising and among his clients are Assisted Living Homes and Car Dealerships. Everybody wants a new car but what about advertising care, and the image of a home when people are mostly in crisis and have exhausted the option of staying in their own home.

 In the last AHWGO salon Pete talked about his experience with advertising for something nobody really wants but many really need.  The basic principles are the same and measurements of success are as important for car dealerships as for Assisted Living Homes. Length of stay, level of occupancy, growth rates are some of the measurements of success. Influencers are family, close others, staff, geriatric care managers, discharge nurses and increasingly internet referral services. The design of websites arecrucial in the decision making.

How can we not bristle at the fact that Assisted Living is a business like any other? With some exceptions many facilities or “communities” have a template approach and how they portray themselves differ only slightly.  Pete talked with great respect about one of the exceptions, AgeSong, a Bay Area company with a humanistic approach that strives to treat people as who they are despite their frailties and decline in function.

 The nomenclature of aging makes change however difficult:

We are a non-profit, faith-based organization that celebrates and respects the dignity and inherent worth of each person. “  A tag line like this makes one wonder why this company has to emphasize that they are aware of the dignity and worth of each person.

The images and colors assigned to aging are sticky:

The colors – beige, yellowish, brownish are preferred.

The people, happy, good looking older adults which are most likely not residents but come from stock photography.


Assessing the quality of a senior home is very difficult and nobody should do it without spending some time in the most care intensive part – Skilled Nursing.

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There Is No Excuse For Elder Abuse

by Susanne Stadler | March 30th, 2014 | Our Relations | Please Comment

You could not think of a better advocate for elder abuse than Mary Twomey, astute, articulate and funny. Yes, we did laugh at our last forum on elder abuse. Mary, who co-leads the Institute of Excellence on Elder Abuse at UC Irvine and also founded the Ageless Alliance United Against Elder Abuse packed the essence of elder abuse in a rap song.

90% of elder abuse is perpetrated by family members. 1 in 10 Americans over 60 are the victim of abuse (people with dementia are not part of this number). Elder abuse comes in the form of physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse as well as neglect and self neglect. Few people know what to do about it when they see it. Many don’t see it.  Knowing about it helps.

Mary demonstrated that nearly everything can be linked to elder abuse. The location and design of the home for example can contribute to isolation or force some people into institutions.  The lack in dementia training for the general public – most of us will be caregiver to somebody with dementia, is nonexistent. Many family relationships have a long term abuse history and the balance can tilt when an older person becomes vulnerable. A person has about 150 personal care attendants through a life time.  About 44 million Americans are caregivers to family or friends. The potential for abuse happens when relationships are unequal.

Mary raps, “There is no excuse for elder abuse” but understands the complex web of family relationship where the abuser and abused can switch roles when one of them becomes a vulnerable elder and understands that  releasing the pressure on care givers through support, training and simply by providing a place  for sharing experiences is crucial in preventing elder abuse.

The other side of elder abuse is the quite delicate balance between an older person’s right to self determination and the recognition of their vulnerability together with a society’s responsibility to help. Accepting help is voluntary, nobody can be forced.

How to prevent it?  Bring up the topic of aging wherever people come together, such as in faith communities and invite people to share experiences. Prevent isolation among seniors. Create a 24/7 hotline for caregivers. Train people in understanding dementia (1 in 2 people with dementia experience some form of abuse by others). Strengthen the voluntary ombudsmen program in nursing homes. Create a federal budget for Adult Protective Services. Include this question in every medical screening “Are you afraid of anyone in your family?” (part of the Hwaleck-Sengstock Elder Abuse Screen).

How to spot it? Go to The Red Flags and realize how we all tend to relegate some of these signs to the realm of “private matters”.

How to report it? Call 1-800-677-1116 (National ElderCare Locator).


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