Seniors & Aging

Smart Elder Living — For Free! | Real Life

Remember the quip: “Mit ahlt cuumt schmart!”? Some say it’s Yiddish, some call it Pennsylvania Dutch. Others suggest that it’s just good ol’ Americanized European immigrant vernacular.

Whatever its roots are, freely (very!) translated and transliterated it prophesizes “With age comes wisdom!” right?

So, as we look forward to achieving the “ahlt,” or if we already have, how can we acquire the “schmart”, the enlightened elder living skills to apply now or at the inevitable time?

Sure, we already know a lot, of course. We’ve learned from our friends and families and from our own experiences. We also absorb seminars and courses, newspaper columns, books, and infomercials, many costing significant money.

There’s a rich and inviting treasure that covers the best from those resources and adds some wisdom of its own. Its mission is to bring late-life and end-of- life enlightenment to us. It enthusiastically invites us to take advantage of its gems and to benefit from them.

It’s easy to access and to browse from any computer having Internet access, social media device, or telephone. We can explore its scores of superb publications as easily as bringing up our e-mail, and can get our hands on printed copies via the nearest printer, and some also via postal mail.

Yes, in my opinion, superb! Primers full of their authoring experts’ fundamental basics of good sense, knowledge, advice — sound and practical factual information about making the most of late-life and end-of- life, all written and illustrated in everyday pleasant and conversational style. They even prompt us with the right questions to ask our professional providers. They give us glossaries of additional references for detailed and specialized information. They relate realistic stories that we can identify with and learn from.

Despite all of those wonders, the entire library is ours to partake from at no cost — as in free of charge, not even a “shipping and handling” charge. Or, if you must insist on precise fact-checking, yes, we’ve already paid for it, via our taxes, and that’s even more reason to take advantage of it, right?

So, why am I so enthused about this rich treasure of wisdom? No, I’m not on the payroll, or on the CEO’s “’Attaboy, thanks for your plug” roster. Rather, it’s because all of the booklets, pamphlets, essays, and articles are indeed excellent, they synch with and complement all of the other resources that we use, and they’re so easy to obtain. Plus, not only are the publications literally free of charge, but we don’t have to suffer through a bunch of marketing “Q and A’s” and promotional sub-sites, nor participate in a “research” charade just to be able to order them, either.

Now I hear you screaming: “All right, already, Gary, so who offers this treasure?” It’s The National Institute on Aging, a unit of the National Institutes of Health. We access them by phone, where a real live human being answers at 800-222-2225, and on line at

You’ll recall that we explored one of the booklets, “So Far Away,” the one about how to accomplish care-giving from afar, in our last column. The categories and topics that some of the others address Alzheimer’s Disease: Description, causes, symptoms, treatment, informed care-giving and living with it, legal and financial plannng, prevention.

Care giving: Options for living arrangements, home health care techniques and options, care decisions, practitioners and helpers, care-giver and care-receiver abuse.

Disability: Falls and fractures, dementia’s impairments, doable activities, bone and joint disorders, aging’s effect on the eyes and vision, foot care, physical activities, arthritis, hypertension.

Healthy Aging and Longevity: Nutrition’s smart food choices, preventing and minimizing disease and decline, skin care, why we feel so tired, achieving a good night’s sleep, hyperthermia, sample exercise routines, wholesome daily activities, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases.

Psychological well-being: Pursuing happiness and positive mindset, defending against depression and negative emotions, spirituality and motivating positive spirit, mourning the death of a spouse or other loved one.

Legal and financial planning: Getting our care directives and fiduciary arrangements in order, arranging for help and the tools to grow old at home with the family, managing all of our affairs, designing and readying all of the elements of our estate plans, special planning for Alzheimer’s, choosing the right long term care facilities and paying for them, arranging for organ and whole-body donation, the NIA-sponsored “Health and Retirement Study” of older Americans’ health and economic conditions.

Men’s and Women’s health: All about menopause and hormones, managing blood pressure, prostate problems, diabetes, ED, libido.

Memory and cognitive health: Degrees and causes of forgetfulness, when to seek help, activities that help the brain and mental health, assessing cognitive impairment, kinds of treatment and their providers, the “Brain Health Resource” seminar kit for community use.

Navigating the world of health care: Communicating with doctors and the other health care providers to produce maximum results, clinicians communicating with patients, interpreting health care literature and websites for applicability and credibility, safe use of medicines, understanding risk factors, volunteering for clinical research projects, learning our “Aging IQ.”

Especially outstanding and worthy of special attention, in addition to “So Far Away,” I commend another N.I.A. publication. It’s the 68-page charmingly illustrated book “End Of Life — Helping With Comfort and Care,” exploring and offering insightful wisdom in friendly conversational style about a wide range of elder living and end-of-life issues. It’s earned a cherished place in my library. It accomplishes what its title suggests about topics such as paraphrasing from its table of contents):

▪ Providing comfort and peace of mind.

▪ Finding and providing the right care.

▪ Understanding and working with dementia.

▪ Making knowledgeable and wise health care decisions.

▪ What happens when someone dies.

▪ Things to do when someone dies.

▪ Understanding and getting help for grief.

▪ Planning and documenting for end-of- life care decisions.

▪ Wholesome and welcome thoughts about our own feelings when handling loved ones’ deaths.

A glossary of further literature resources.

If you encounter difficulty downloading or printing N.I.A’s publications, or don’t have access to a computer, a printer and the Internet, I invite you to let me know which items you’d most like to have. I’ll happily download, print and mail them to you at my cost, so that you can have them. That cost is nominal: A few cents’ to a couple of bucks’ worth of paper and ink, plus a few ounces’ worth of postage.

Expanding “End of Life’s” closing thought: We realize that late-life, especially end-of- life, presents some difficult realities and distressing times, both for ourselves and for our loved ones whom we are caring for or who are caring for us. At least, we can reduce the agonies, the frustrating impairments and the darkness. We can create some successes, joy and sunshine. Yes, we can, simply by learning and applying knowledgeable, desirable care.

And then we can feel the warmth and the well-deserved comfort that come from knowing that we really did do all that we could.

Contact Gary Newman at Your ideas and comments are always welcome.