dreamstime_xs_28031654As the beauty and wonder of the holiday season beguiles us, it can feel tempting to build up previous years’ traditions and feasts in our minds. The rosy hue of hindsight causes us to recall only the beauty of the dishes we served, the joy of the caroling group we joined, the hilarity of the games we played. Many revelers experience feelings of frustration, as it seems their celebrations never quite live up to the memory of those holiday traditions from the previous year.

 Release Your Inner Perfectionist

Many of us have no idea that our perfectionism sabotages our ability to enjoy the meals we plan and the activities we so loving plan.

You may be a perfectionist if:

-          You are eager to please.

-          You procrastinate actually executing the plans you devise.

-          You are critical of yourself and others.

-          You never feel you’re quite there yet.

Give yourself permission to set your plans and BE DONE. No dithering, no improving, no worrying. Sir Robert Watson-Watt, creator of the early- detection radar system during WWII, advocated a “culture of imperfection” since the pursuit of perfection only nets diminishing returns.  If you set your mindset ahead of time that good enough IS good enough, you will experience relief. Remove the stress from your holidays. And you will relish your piece of pie that much more, even if it sags a bit. Check out these delicious recipes, including a number of no-bake options.

dreamstime_xs_27676572Explore a Few NEW Traditions

There is something to be said for novelty. If we stop trying to duplicate the glory of Grandma’s famous buttermilk rolls and branch out, we free ourselves from the pressure of living up to the past. Stop trying to recreate old traditions. Start dreaming up some new ones.

-         Whip up some simple but tasty gifts for friends.

-         Consider mixing it up with a trip. A beach holiday could be just the ticket.

-         Pinterest is a great resource for innovative and sentimental ideas.

-        Invite family members and friends to write about their favorite holiday memory. Gather everyone around the fire and allow each person to read his/her letter to the group.

Most of all be sure that your traditions, new or old, allow for spending lots of time with the people you love. Years from now, loved ones will recall the way you made them feel when they were with you, not the technical perfection of your schedule of family activities. So ease up on the pressure this year and give yourself the gift of a beautiful, simple holiday season.

 

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CSL Financial EducationMany retirees wrestle with locating a safe harbor for their nest eggs. The gravity of choosing investment vehicles from a crowded field of options can feel intimidating. Fortunately, a number of cutting-edge resources from some highly educated and qualified experts are readily available to help you plan a prosperous retirement strategy.

Go Back to Class

Experts agree that a lack of financial education is the most significant hurdle investors must overcome in their pursuits of financial independence. Pursue a world-class financial education online.

STANFORD, tuition free

Joshua Rauh, a finance professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business decided just last month that his graduate level course on retirement, The Finance of Retirement and Pensions, should be available to everyone. The eight-week online course has begun, but anyone can jump in. All the lectures so far are easily accessible via his class page once you’ve signed up. Simply register here for free access to the previous lectures and to watch upcoming ones. Rauh sent this letter with helpful links to students who signed up last month. Have a look for more information in planning your retirement strategy.

Khan Academy, also free

Khan Academy has been hailed as a distance-learning powerhouse like no other. Students of all ages simply log in to access instructional videos covering a broad array of subjects, including a set of very helpful retirement funding tutorials. Salman Khan is a former hedge fund manager turned phenomenal educator of the masses. Even Bank of America has gotten in on the action, launching an educational partnership with Khan Academy.

Add These To Your Reading Rotation

The New York Times features a retirement section worth perusing, but keep in mind users may access only 15 complimentary articles per month or join the subscription service for unfettered access. Rutgers University offers a fabulous online resource, which thoroughly covers the ins and outs of retirement planning, investing, and saving options.

Final word of advice: If you have not yet retired, consider delaying your Social Security disbursements for as long as possible. The New York Times lays out the compelling reasons why.

 

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CSL Isolation,Lonely feelings can strike anyone, at any life stage. Social isolation, however, is more than shyness or a tendency toward introversion; it is a state of collapsing social networks and connections. It is a spiral of sorts, which, if left unchecked, can jettison one into anti-social patterns and shrinking social networks, leaving seniors, in particular, physically and emotionally vulnerable.

A groundbreaking study on the effects social isolation and how to avoid it began in August of 2011. A team of Australian researchers, led by Professor Andrew Beer, committed to studying the lives of senior citizens, with research results expected in mid-2014. The question? Which programs most successfully eliminate social isolation experiences in the elderly population, and why?

Andrew Beer explains, “Social isolation is equivalent to the health affects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or consuming more than six alcoholic drinks daily. It is more harmful that not exercising and twice as harmful as obesity.”

 Medical practitioners and mental health experts agree that social isolation greatly threatens the senior population. Active community roles and burgeoning social lives become difficult to maintain in traditional neighborhoods as mobility and health begin to waver. If we are not careful, we risk becoming entirely disengaged from friends and neighbors simply because we feel a compunction to keep our problems to ourselves. People who feel unwell do not get out as much, which, in turn, leaves them out of their circles. Some seniors express feelings of embarrassment over the repercussions of a lingering illness or a careless tumble down the front steps that leaves them unsteady for months. They feel inclined to wait until they are back to normal to re-engage with their everyday lives. Huge mistake. Hold on to your friends and your community with all you’ve got.

If you find your social circle has fallen apart as friends have taken ill or moved away, don’t despair. Build a new one on your block, in your church, at your community center.  A move to an extraordinary community like Conservatory Senior Living, where the warmth is palpable, dear friends occupy apartments just down the hall from one another, and everyone dines together and participates in events tailor-made for seniors, is a wise and forward-looking option as well.

 Behaviorists have puzzled over the social isolation phenomenon for years. There is agreement in research circles that heart disease and cognitive decline tend to go hand in hand with weak social networks. The more encouraging research finding has been that extensive community connections and friendships actually inoculate the elderly against dementia and a range of other health issues. The key is to identify and join a healthy, cohesive community in which seniors will feel happily at home.

Conservatory Senior Living ticks all the boxes for seniors seeking a connected lifestyle in a five-star retirement community. Conservatory boasts state-of-the-art amenities including a movie theater, high quality yoga and exercise classes, wonderful opportunities to take daytrips with friends and neighbors, as well as dining experiences reminiscent of country club days and top restaurants. Conservatory Senior Living builds community every day. We care about our neighbors and we delight in helping residents make connections and stay tied in to the greater community. Families concerned about loved ones feeling lonely at Conservatory need worry no more. Book clubs, game nights, mixers, special performances, and opportunities to spend evenings out on the town crowd our schedule with so many engaging options, there truly is something for everyone.

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CSL Mother Child RelationshipOver our lifetimes, we will build some of our most meaningful relationships with our grown children and their families. These relationships enter striking transition points when our adult children marry, then again as each clear-eyed grandbaby is born or adopted into the mix. As our relationships with our grandchildren flourish, we must be mindful of nurturing the bond that started it all – the parent child relationship.

Parents can feel so connected to their adult children it can seem natural to continue on in the mode of raising them (a little) by offering a stream advice and input. This impulse, though, often serves the parent child relationship poorly. If we do not tread carefully, our words can feel like criticisms while our observations read more like evaluations.

How to Offer Help
Respect is key. Rather than assessing your adult child’s situation and letting them know the areas in which you believe they need help, allow your child to tell you. This approach casts your offer in a loving, unobtrusive light your child will undoubtedly appreciate.

Instead of: “You run all over town on Thursday evenings. I don’t know how you stand it, much less get dinner on the table. How about you let me come by and make dinner that night?”

Perhaps try, “I have some spare time this week and I would be happy to help you out. Is there a particular night I could come over and fix dinner for everyone?”

Your daughter will very likely identify Thursday night on her own. This way, you avoid the pitfall of laundry listing her failures in schedule planning. You still get to help ease her load, but in a way that feels more collaborative than directive.

The Etiquette of Loving Well
Consider the rules you have followed in dealing with close friends over the years. Might you apply the same level of respect and considerate boundaries to your relationships with your grown children? It is unlikely you would chide your best friend on the condition of her garage shelves, or the quality of the dinners she serves.

Choose your words carefully. Rather than viewing your adult children through the lens of responsibility, consider them as whole people. Remember. You already raised them. Now it’s time to simply love them well. Let yourself off the hook, congratulate yourself on a job well done, and simply enjoy them. As you find ways to bring a spirit of joy, rather than a spirit of evaluation, into your parent child relationship, you will likely breathe a collective sigh of relief. Welcome to the sweet life.

For Further Reading:

The Vital Importance of the Grandparent Grandchild Bond

Calling a Truce In Mother Daughter Conflict

Mother Daughter Relationship

My Biggest Critic

Mother Daughter Me

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CSL VolunteeringA while back, an employee of Conservatory Senior Living shared with us a rather insulting US News & World Report article entitled What Retirees Do All Day. (Admittedly, our anger flared at the smug title alone.) The author asserts that retired people watch a good deal more television than everyone else, in addition to relaxing, eating, and shopping. Seniors spend a paltry 0.2 hours per day volunteering. Pitiful. This got us thinking about the benefits of volunteering and the colossal impact we could have on our communities, if only we are willing to try.

The Numbers
Seniors have the opportunity to be a powerhouse of a national resource. Today, seniors over 65 comprise 13% of the American population. By 2020, a full 20% of Americans will be senior citizens. The opportunities to transform neighborhoods, spread love, and provide overlooked people with mentors, companions and friends is there for the taking.

In a world filled with distractions and constant noise, it is reassuring to know there are people willing to come together to give the best of themselves for the simple reward of a job well done. More of those people should be seniors

The Fabric of a Community
So, what can you do in your community? If you’re an athlete, call the public or private schools in your area to offer your services timing or coaching events at meets and practices. Did you know many Junior League chapters accept seniors into their organizations? There, women find meaning in organizing community rallies against domestic violence, for instance, or raising money through Christmas markets. The opportunities are as diverse and multi-faceted as we are. Visit Create The Good for more detailed information.

Sign Me Up!
Senior Corps runs three primary volunteer programs for people age 55 and up: the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), which includes diverse offerings like home renovation, ESL, tutoring, neighborhood watch, Foster Grandparent Program, which spans mentoring teen mothers, teaching youngsters to read, and caring for infants, and the Senior Companion Program, where volunteers help elderly people with the activities of daily living while giving caregivers a much-needed break.

Reap the Rewards!
The most endearing act any person can commit is the selfless one of volunteerism. Showing up, dealing with the occasional inconvenience, puzzling through the difficult bits, and committing oneself to seeing a project through is such a beautiful gift to your community. Some people feel they must possess expert skills in order for their volunteer time to be valuable, but this is simply untrue. A great volunteer chooses an area that excites or intrigues her, trusting the experience will breed the requisite skills.

Connections are made and friendships forged when like-minded people collaborate in the name of service. The fruit of shared labor is sweet for all involved, but it is perhaps sweetest for the community volunteer.

Recommended Reading:
Tips for Boomers Who Want to Volunteer
The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research
10 Great Opportunities for Older Volunteers

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CSL  Tough ConversationsThis scene plays out daily:

Catherine stared into the middle distance as Jen’s voice grew tighter on the line.

“Mom, you know what I’m getting at here. You promised to be reasonable when the time came to talk about this. I don’t think we should wait for a catastrophe before we act.”

“What do you think I plan to do, Jen? Burn down my kitchen? Trot out the door in my lacy underwear? Last month we agreed I would move to a facility when I’m OLD. I am no old lady. I am fine.”

“Mom, wouldn’t it be a relief to live someplace easier? No cooking? No cleaning? You get to relax and have fun? It would feel like a vacation all the time.”

“You just described your father’s fifty years with me.”

“What?”

“Look, honey, I AM safe in my home. I said you could help me decide someday, not dictate the whole thing. So you say it’s time to put me out to pasture and I’m just expected to bray? I don’t think so.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake NO. This place isn’t…”

“Goodbye Jenna. Someone’s at the door.”

“Mom, no one is at the…” Silence.

Our Observation
Our years as Conservatory Senior Living Concierges have afforded us several windows into contentious conversations just like the one above, because the subject of moving into a senior living community blindsides families like no other. So please, take heed. The key is to prepare everyone for these conversations. Have them early and reference them from time to time.

Sit face to face.
Emotional conversations need to happen in person, every time. Don’t conduct them on the telephone and do not ambush your loved one in our offices as we look on awkwardly.
*Acknowledge emotions. Explain your concerns and imagine how it must feel to hear the words you speak. Harbor empathy in your heart.
*Use “I” language. For instance, “I worry for you and I’d never forgive myself if something happened,” NOT, “You have to do something about this, Mom! You can’t keep living like this!”
*Look your parent in the face and listen more than you speak.

Set parameters.
It is all too easy to agree that “when the time comes” Mom and Dad will move into a senior living community. Few families take the time to spell out precisely what that means or have more than one conversation about it. What makes sense to everyone? Make a plan, in writing. Agree that this is a treat, a right of passage.

Scout years in advance – together.
It is a sensitive conversation to broach, so make sure things are clearly defined well ahead. How? Consider taking your parents to visit a few senior living communities around the time they retire. Make sure they lead the charge in exploring potential future homes, even if the anticipated move is a decade or two away. It is so much easier to embrace change when everyone is an architect of that change.

Get siblings and out-of-town relatives on board.
Nothing can derail a moving plan faster than the petulant sister in Colorado who calls to disagree with the plan and accuse the local siblings of leaving her out. Be sure key stakeholders get the opportunity to participate in family conversations so they, too, will feel invested in the plan and its success.

Get excited about all Conservatory Senior Living has to offer!
Conservatory Senior Living is such an unexpectedly luxurious lifestyle choice. We frequently witness the shock and awe on the faces of family members who feel surprised by the quality and grace of our communities. Many residents find Conservatory to be the finest living situation of their lives and are gratified to have found us.

Allow us to invite you and your family to see the Conservatory difference up close! Our sumptuous furnishings, beautiful meals and dining facilities, and five-star settings persuade many a reluctant soul to give us a chance. Our extraordinary community of neighbors and staff vaults Conservatory into first choice standing for almost all the visitors we entertain here throughout the year. Please stop by and experience the friendly warmth of Conservatory Senior Living. Home is waiting and it’s extraordinary.

Further reading:

Caregiving: How to Start the “Tough Conversation” with Mom and Dad. – by Sean Kell
Caring for Your Aging Parents – Oprah
Moving Elderly Parents: Convincing Mom and Dad – A Place for Mom

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Conservatory Senior Living Sandwich GenerationA Pew poll (released Jan 30, 2013) reveals an increasing number of Americans, age 40-59, find themselves sandwiched between the sometimes crushing weight of competing familial duties. They raise minor children and infuse their grown ones with a steady diet of mailbox money, all while providing caretaking, assistance, financial support, and companionship for their aging parents.

Thus, the sandwich generation.

Carole, of Irvine, California, struggled to strike a balance within her family a few years ago when the needs of her parents began to overwhelm her time, impeding her ability to run a busy household of three children, one husband, and two dogs. Initially it seemed wise to move her parents, who lived three hours away, into her neighborhood. That easy access soon translated to a mother who called her repeatedly to request she come over to keep her company. Carole’s ailing father slept away much of each day, leaving her mother lonely and restless away from her friends and routine. Carole strained to continue working full-time, but her thoughts rarely strayed far from the little yellow house on the corner.

The key to navigating sensitive circumstances is to initiate a dialogue about these issues years ahead of time. Honest conversations and forethought, coupled with a plan everyone has built together, go a long way toward dismantling the guilt many adult children feel when they left making these critical decisions solo. Investigate senior communities together and find aspects of the eventual move everyone supports. Agree upon the tipping point that will propel the family into action. Will it be when the loved one can no longer drive independently, or some other factor?

A previous Conservatory blog covered common industry terms. It’s a good idea to look back and review the basic Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) health care practitioners use as your family sets the parameters for the future. Talking about these things before the need arises to urgently act lends a sense of security to the situation. The unknown can feel scary, so remove the mystery and get educated about options.

Carole never anticipated how rapid her mother’s decline would be, nor how foolish it would soon seem to have moved her to the solitary yellow house down the street. Within months, Carole was visiting her parents’ home three times a day to deliver the casseroles she had baked and to oversee her mother’s medication administration. How much easier and more joyful would all their lives have been had they spent time exploring senior living options and deciding, together, which one ones seemed most promising?

The truly extraordinary Conservatory Senior Living communities offer everyone the opportunity to live beautifully. The thoughtfully designed spaces and friendly neighbors mean adventure and active living within the context of a supportive environment for seniors. The Conservatory Senior Living Team love to meet with prospective families to help ease the eventual transitions into their luxurious full-service communities. They understand the pressures of being part of the sandwich generation.  Check them out today.

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