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Early Signs of Dementia

In June of 2016, East Tennessee lost one of its favorite and most beloved residents – Pat Summitt. She was only 64. A life cut all too short by Alzheimer's disease.

Pat revealed she had it when she was 59. The rapid progression of her condition and Pat's death suddenly brought Alzheimer's to the top of most people's minds in the area, especially the older ones. Those over 65 started to wonder if they will suffer from it. Their family members had the same concerns.

Alzheimer's causes dementia. According to the Mayo Clinic, "dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning.

Currently there are no cures for most types of dementia. Various studies have revealed that treatment of dementia in its early stages may prevent further brain damage and may prevent symptoms from getting worse for some time.

The Key is Identifying Dementia as Early as Possible

The earlier it is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can begin and the longer it will be before further brain damage occurs. It will also be longer before the dementia gets worse.

There are many symptoms which point to a person with the early stages of dementia. However, people need to be careful. Many people can have one or more of these symptoms and not have dementia. Another caution – the average person is not qualified to make a diagnosis of dementia. Only a doctor can.

Also realize – a person has to have at least two or more types of impairment that impacts their everyday life severely before a diagnosis of dementia can be made.

What are the symptoms of the early stages of dementia? If you're an older person, what can you watch for?

If you are a relative or friend of an older person, what telltale signs would alert you to ask their doctor to check them for dementia?

Here are the More Common Signs

One of the earliest symptoms is depression. However – be aware many older people have depression not caused by dementia. The loss of a spouse or loved one can cause depression. It can also come from a loss of the ability to do things the person has done in the past.

A second sign is hoarding or other compulsive behaviors. There is a year's worth of paper towels, toilet paper or canned goods in their home. They buy these every time they go shopping not remembering they already have them.

A third sign is the person starts putting things in strange places. You find their cell phone in the refrigerator or a remote control in the oven. They were carrying the object when they went to get something. They put it down to pick up what they originally went there for. Days later, they're still looking for it.

A fourth sign is the person is having trouble handling their finances. Throughout their lives, they always paid their bills on-time. You suddenly find out they have not paid several bills. You see they have difficulty remembering how to write checks. You find out they are regularly withdrawing money from the bank even though they have the cash they need at home.

A fifth sign is they can't remember how to get to locations they have been to many times before. Their salvation is the personal navigation device in their car, like a Garmin or Tom Tom. Any time they are going anywhere, they have to put the address into it and let it guide them.

A sixth sign is they are starting to have difficulty following story lines in movies or books. They also have difficulty understanding what articles are about.

A seventh sign is they have difficulty in conversations. They just can't follow what is being talked about. They also may repeat the same thing over and over again forgetting they already mentioned it.

An eighth sign is they start to become more and more critical with people, especially when they have never been that way before in their lives.

The ninth is they suddenly start to steal. They don't intentionally do this. They just pick up an item in a store and forget to pay for it when walking out.

The sad thing is many people starting to experience dementia know they are not as sharp as they used to be and fear what is happening to them and what may be coming. They don't want others to know.

So, They Try to Mask the Symptoms

They start asking for help with a person's name or a recent event by saying something like "Help me out here." They also ask others to remind them what happened. If they have not paid bills, they say they never received them.

Their problem is in addition to trying to keep others from knowing what is happening to them they also are denying it themselves.

You or a Family Member May Not See . . .

. . . the changes taking place or may give the person the benefit of the doubt. You don't realize the full extent of their problem until it's too late. At that point, the dementia is in a more advanced stage.

Watch for these signs in your older family members. Remember – a person can have two or more and it may not be dementia. However, if they have quite a few, let their family doctor know. If you happen to see these signs in a friend, alert a family member to what you have noticed.

If your family member or friend does have the early stages of dementia, hopefully their doctor can start them on medicine to slow the progression of the disease. When dementia is in advanced stages, frequently there is less chance of slowing its progression.

That Concern You Have Right Now is Not Unique to You

Regardless of where we're at in life each of us has some concerns. Those things we worry about and can lose sleep over. People 60+ are no different. They have many of the same concerns younger people do. There also are some specific to their age group.

The most surprising thing is we think we're unique and that others do not have the same concerns we have. It's unbelievable. This is totally false.

Once we realize we are not alone and many others have the same concerns, any concerns we are facing at a given time are not as bad as we initially thought. Just acknowledging them and admitting they're not unique to us is a big step in overcoming them.

8 Major Concerns Common to All People 60+

1. Loss of Freedom and Independence
If there is anything we Americans value, it is our freedom and independence. The ability to do what we want. The ability to go where we want when we want. The ability to take care of ourselves and not rely on others for help.

As people 60+ age, they worry about losing their freedom and independence. They believe at some point they won't be able to get along as they used to. They no longer will be able to do what they desire. They may have to rely on others for help.

Looking more closely, loss of freedom and independence is a state of mind. At various points in their lives, they didn't have freedom and independence. During their childhood, they were dependent on their parents. At various times throughout their adulthood they needed the help of others.

One thing that can comfort them is to look around and see people older than them who still are as independent as they ever were. By focusing on them, by getting to know them and seeing what they do to remain independent, they themselves can follow their example and live the same way.

2. Death of a Spouse
The death of a spouse is tragic especially for a couple married for a very long time. Frequently the grief is severe for the surviving spouse. In addition, there is a greater chance of loneliness.

This is where a support network is very helpful. Family and friends can be there for them as they deal with their grief. They can spend more time with them and comfort them. Just being with another reduces the loneliness.

3. Loss of Friends
The older a person gets, the smaller their circle of friends becomes. Some go to live with their adult children. Others move into Assisted Living Centers and Nursing Homes. Some die.

This can cause grief. However, the same thing has happened throughout their lives. Friends have come and gone.

The way to handle this is to be grateful for the remaining friends. Also recall the good times with those who have departed and be thankful for those.

The older person can also make new friendships. This is where places like senior centers are valuable. They provide the opportunity to meet new people. Some will become close friends.

4. Loneliness
We talked about loneliness in the last post on this blog. Loneliness is the most serious health concern facing older Americans today.

There are many ways for a person to overcome loneliness. It is unbelievable how loneliness disappears when a person has a dog or cat as a companion.

5. Loss of Purpose
For various reasons some people can feel there no longer is a purpose in their lives.

That can occur at retirement. Their work was their life. When they stop working, their reason for living is gone. They don't know how to adjust.

The easiest way to deal with this is to plan never to retire. To continue to work at something far into retirement. If money is needed, it could be at a part time job. If money is not an issue, there are many volunteer opportunities. Many organizations in Knox county are looking for volunteers to help them.

For others, it's when they have to move out of a home they have lived in for many years. They feel their memories are tied to their homes. It was the dream home they and their spouse bought. It's where they raised their children. It's where the most significant events happened.

What they don't realize is those memories are not tied to their home. They'll never forget them. They will always have them regardless of where they live.

For others, it's declining health. Yes, poor heath is a major concern for many.

There have been many studies on how to maintain health. These reveal a person needs to eat properly. Get adequate sleep. Then exercise regularly. Last, see their doctor for regular check-ups. Following through on each of these keeps a person healthy and helps them avoid a serious illness.

Also - a person's support network (their family and friends) can be a great help. They can be there for them, comfort them and help them with their needs. It's at times like this the person will start to realize how much appreciated they are.

6. Lack of Money
A major concern for almost everyone 60+ is whether they'll have enough money to do what they want, to take care of their needs as long as they live or even to survive.

Yes, this can be a valid concern. Most times it is blown way out of proportion. There always seems to be enough resources available to take care of whatever a person needs.

7. Not Being Able to Drive
Everyone is going to reach a point in their lives when they are no longer able to drive. For some that truly frightens them. They look at it as a loss of freedom and independence.

Rather than grieving the loss of the ability to drive, they can look at this as the time to have their own personal chauffeur. A person to drive them where they need to go when they need to. Family members and friends are glad to step up and help out here. Rather than just having one chauffeur, a person might have several.

8. Being Victimized by Financial Predators
On a regular basis, there are reports about older people being taken advantage of by scam artists, housing contractors and others trying to get money from them.

The best way to avoid this is to be on the lookout for this. People 60+ need to pay attention to new scams that are occurring. The news media is great in making scams currently occurring public. Caller IDs on phones help. Anyone can screen the calls they're getting and only answer those when they know who is calling. They can let the other calls go to voice mail.

When a housing contractor or a repair person knocks on their door and says they need something repaired, they never should accept it as fact. They need to talk to others to see if what they're being told is correct. If the repair is necessary, they should get 2 or 3 quotes on the cost of repair from other companies.

These are most of the major concerns people 60+ face. None of them are worth worrying about and losing sleep over. Think about the following comment by Paul J Meyer:

"More damage is done by worrying than by what is being worried about. This is because 90 percent of all worries never come to pass". - Paul J Meyer

Excessive worry is harmful to health. It also robs a person of time they can spend enjoying other things and living it to the fullest.

What is Better?

Enjoying the moment or wasting it worrying about something that probably won't happen?

If you are a family member of a person 60+, watch for signs when they are not their normal selves. Find out what's wrong.

If they tell you they are worried about something, talk with them about it. Listen to them before making any comments. Then share your thoughts. Let them know what they're concerned about may never happen. Get them to look at it from a different view point.

These are supposed to be the golden years for people 60+. They don't see it that way when they spend time every day worrying about any of these which may never happen.

The Main Health Concern for Older People and a Great Way to Take Care of It

What would you say the most serious health concern for older people is?

If you think it is a heart condition, cancer or Alzheimer's, you would be wrong. Actually the most serious one is . . . loneliness. In the United States today, 18% of those over 65 live alone. 43% of those say they are lonely.

There are many different factors which can cause an elderly person to feel lonely. Here are some:

  • Death of a spouse or a loved one
  • Loss of friends
  • Shrinking social network
  • A physical disability restricting the ability to get around

Why is Loneliness More Serious Than the Other Conditions?

Simply, because it leads to and aggravates the other conditions, including depression, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, arthritis and impaired mobility.

How does Loneliness lead to and aggravate these conditions? When a person is lonely, they

  • typically get depressed
  • forget to take their medications regularly
  • may not sleep as well
  • don't eat properly,
  • indulge in risky habits, like smoking or drinking
  • stop exercising and other forms of physical activity.

What Can People Do to Avoid Loneliness?

There are many different things. Here are some:

  • Get out of the house regularly and take part in activities at a local senior center.
  • Do volunteer work.
  • Take classes and learn something new.
  • Get together regularly with friends.
  • Adopt and care for a pet.

As you can see, most of these require the person to get out of their home. They still spend most of their time at home. What do they do to combat loneliness there?

The Best is a Pet for Companionship

Research shows a cat or dog helps improve a person's mental and physical health. It provides companionship and friendship. While the owner cares for it, it also cares for the owner. A pet also loves unconditionally.

A dog also enables its owner to get out and meet other people. It's amazing. When walking a dog, a person suddenly has something in common with everyone also walking their dog.

They're just anxious to tell them about their dog and find out about the other's. That turns into conversations about themselves. Friendships develop which may never have if the dogs weren't there.

If you are lonely now, you may want to consider getting a dog or cat to keep you company. You will be amazed at how you will benefit from this new companion.

If you have an elderly parent or relative who is living alone, ask them if they have ever thought about getting a dog or cat. If they would like to, this just might be the right time to go with them to pick one out.


Some older people may love to have a pet. However, they are just scraping by monthly on the money they have. They just can't afford one. The Office on Aging has a special program to help those in this situation. It is Knox PAWS. The Project LIVE staff administers it.

They work with area animal shelters to match eligible older people with adoptable pets. To be eligible for this program a person must

  • be 60 or older and a resident of Knox County
  • have a monthly income of $1,465 or less
  • live independently in a pet-friendly environment

The dogs and cats available for adoption typically are 7 years of age or older. Normally these dogs and cats are already trained and tend to be gentler, calmer companions.

The Project LIVE Staff Makes Pet Adoption Easy

A person on the staff will go out and do an assessment to make sure the living area is pet friendly and the person is able to care for the pet.

They then will take the person to the animal shelter and help in the selection of the pet.

There are periodic follow-ups afterwards to see how everything is going.

Pets adopted through this program are given an initial medical exam, vaccinated, microchip and are spayed or neutered. The person adopting is provided with six months of heartworm and flea prevention medication for their new pet.

If a participant cannot afford pet food, it is provided through the Feed A Pet Project (a partnership of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and RSVP).

There is no cost for adopting a dog or cat. All of the costs associated with this program are covered by Knox PAWS. Funding for this valuable program comes from the Grey Muzzle Association, the Banfield Charitable Trust and local donations.

If you are an older person interested in adopting a pet through the Knox PAWS program or have a family member or friend who may be interested, please call Project Live at 865-524-2786.


Once a year a fund-raising event is held for the Knox PAWS program. That is PAWS Among the Blooms. That is being held at Stanley's Greenhouse on May 12. Here is more information on it:

Friday, May 12, 2017
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
At Stanley's Greenhouse
3029 Davenport Rd. in South Knoxville
Tickets are $30 at the door

We would like to invite you to join us. You will have a great time. Drop by any time between 5:30 and 7:30 for a relaxing time. Enjoy the live music, hors d'oeuvres, plants and flowers. There will also be a silent auction. Your pet is welcome to join you.

At this event, you will be able to find out more about Knox PAWS. You will also get to talk to others and find out about how they found out about this great program. You just might make some new friends.

A Severe Problem Affecting Many Older People

There is a serious problem right here in Knox County and throughout the United States. Although it is getting more attention, most don't know how critical it is.

3 Stories Highlighting Different Aspects of the Problem

John and Sue have been married for 60 years. John is 83 and Sue is 80. Three years ago, Sue had a stroke which left her paralyzed on the left side and made it difficult for her to get around. John is her only care giver. Lately she needs more and more care. That poses a problem for John. He has back pain regularly. Helping Sue get out of bed and just getting around aggravates his pain. That frustrates him. John has been getting angry more and more frequently. Sometimes he lashes out, striking Sue. There have been noticeable bruises.

George is 80 and lives in a nursing home. He is lonely and depressed. Frequently he presses the "Call" button next to his bed and tells the staff he needs something. What he really wants is someone to talk to. Mandy, one of the CNAs, regularly comes down, closes the door to George's room and screams at George for always calling for help when he doesn't need it. She threatens to restrain him in bed if he doesn't stop.

86 year old Betty has the early signs of dementia. Her grandson has been living with her and has a drug problem. On a monthly basis he takes Betty to the bank where she withdraws $200 from her account. When they get back in the car, her grandson takes the $200 from Betty.

What is this severe problem?

Elder Abuse

It happens more frequently than you may realize. Each of the above cases have been made up. However, they are examples of some of the types of abuse elderly people you know or who live in your neighborhood experience.

The Different Types of Elder Abuse

Here is how the National Council on Elder Abuse defines it:
"Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. It is generally divided into the following categories:

  • Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
  • Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
  • Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control.
  • Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
  • Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an older person's funds, property, or resources.
  • Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her care giving responsibilities. Self-neglect is failure to provide for one's own essential needs."

Only 1 in 23 Cases May be Reported

According to the National Council on Aging 1 in 10 Americans 60 and older has been reported to have been abused. It is believed the actual number is much higher. Reports differ on the number of cases that are reported. The most common is that only one in 23 is reported.

It's Surprising Who the Perpetrators Are

It's shocking to see those who are guilty of abusing elderly people. Perpetrators can be:

  • Spouses, children. and other family members
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Home care aides
  • Workers in nursing homes and long term care facilities
  • Lawyers

The sad thing is that those being abused frequently don't open up about it.

  • If the perpetrator is a family member, they don't want to get them in trouble.
  • If the abuser is a home health aide or a worker in a nursing home, they may threaten the older person not to say anything.
  • If the person has dementia, they may not realize or remember the abuse is occurring or has occurred.

So how do you protect your older parents, relatives and friends from being abused?

Keep your eyes open for unusual things which may be happening.

If you see someone with bruises on a consistent basis and they say they are constantly walking into things or falling, question it.

If a home care aide is caring for a parent or relative, be observant during your visits. Make sure there is nothing out of the ordinary.

If your parent is in a nursing home or a long-term care facility, take an active role in their care.

  • Observe how they are being cared for.
  • Stagger the times when you visit them. Sometimes go at meal times to see if they are eating and how they are served. At other time go during the morning, afternoon or night.
  • See what's happening and how they are being cared for.
  • Take part in the meetings with the staff where they plan the care to be given.
  • Keep notes on what you are told and what you observe during your visits.

Remember – You can be an advocate for them and hold the facility accountable for the care they are to provide to your parent.

Abuse can have an impact on the person's health. Studies have shown abused people have shorter life spans than those who are not abused.

Tennessee is a Mandatory Reporting State

You may not be aware of this. Tennessee is a Mandatory Reporting State. If you see abuse — or even suspect that an adult is being abused, neglected or exploited — you must report it.

To report elder abuse anywhere in Tennessee, contact the Tennessee Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services unit, toll-free at 888-277-8366.

Let's do all we can to protect our loved ones, friends and neighbors from suffering any type of abuse.

Don't Overlook This Very Important Meeting

Julie's brother called her 3 weeks ago. Their mother had a major stroke and was in a hospital in Houston, TX. Her condition was severe.

The Phone Call We Dread

Julie and her husband left for Texas that evening. When they got to the hospital the next morning, they saw Julie's mom lying unconscious in the bed, all these tubes in her body. There was a variety of machines making many different noises.

Julie's 2 brothers and sister were there. They told her the doctors did not hold out much hope for their mom. They all were praying for a miracle. However, there was no change in her condition.

Julie visited her mom every day for the rest of the week. On Thursday, her condition worsened. It looked like she had another stroke. She had limited brain waves. By Saturday there were no brain waves at all. The doctors said there was little hope. She was being kept alive by machines.

On Monday Julie and her siblings decided to take their mom of the machines. She died on Tuesday morning.

Up to the stroke her mom had been in great physical condition. Everyone remarked how her health was better than her children's. The family was more concerned about her dad who had Alzheimer's. Julie's mom was his primary caregiver and since her health was so good, they were not concerned about him.

The Discussion the Family Never Had

The one thing Julie's parents and their children never discussed was what would happen when the parents became incapacitated or died. The children knew nothing about their parents' finances. They didn't know if they became incapacitated whether they'd consider a nursing home. They didn't know if there was a will which might spell out these things.

All they knew was there was family burial plot at a cemetery. Julie's mother's parents purchased it. They were buried there along with many of her mother's siblings. 2 spots remained. Years before Julie's mom and dad expressed a desire to be buried there.

The Scramble to Find Things

When Julie and her siblings realized her mom would not survive, they started scrambling. They searched all through the house to see if there was a will. They also looked for bank statements, life insurance policies and anything their parents may have written concerning what they would like done at the time of their deaths.

They tried to ask their dad about this. However, he couldn't tell them anything because of his Alzheimer's.

In addition to arranging for their mom's burial, Julie and her siblings had to decide what they would do with their dad. Her siblings were leaning towards putting him in a nursing home. Julie thought she might have him live with her.

Julie and Her Siblings' Situation is Not Unique

A 2013 study revealed 75% of adults have never discussed with their parents what their parents' wishes are at times like this. They haven't talked about living arrangements after they retire, long term care or funeral wishes. They also have not discussed their finances and whether they have life insurance.

Only 68% of those 65 and older have a will. This drops to 32% of those who have a high school education or less.

Discuss These Things with the Family

It's important for you to have a discussion with your parent or parents and your siblings about these matters.

  • Do your parents have wills?
  • Find out about your parent's or parents' finances.
  • Ask them about Life insurance policies they have.
  • Ask them where they want to be buried.
  • If they develop a serious medical condition and no longer can live on their own, how would they like you to handle that?
  • Do they expect someone from the family to care for them?
  • Would they desire to move into an Assisted Living Center or a Nursing Home?

If you are an older person, suggest to your children a meeting to discuss these things.

This meeting should be as comfortable for everyone as possible. It should take place in a relaxed setting.

But Our Family Doesn't Get Along

You might say our family could never have a meeting like this. We don't get along with our parents. We don't speak to our brothers and sisters.

If that's the case, give a list of all these questions you want answered to your parent or parents and ask them to sit down with one of their siblings or a good friend whom they trust and talk about the answers to each one. If there are no siblings or no good friends they can do this with, have them sit down with their pastor or someone their pastor recommends. If that's not possible, have them sit down with a financial adviser or an elder law attorney and do it.

The Main Objective Here . . .

. . . is to know the wishes of your parent or parents if they have a serious condition or when they die. You will be able to make sure to follow through on what they desired.

Your parent or parents will be happy. It will spare you of unnecessary anxiety and grief at a time like this.

Your Age Has Advantages. Don't Overlook Them

We all love a bargain. You know – that little extra incentive when we are buying something. Older people are no different. In fact, older people can get bargains more frequently than any other group of people. They also can get those from a greater variety of sources.

It all started years ago during the Great Depression. The age group most adversely affected by it was senior citizens. They lost most, if not all, of their life savings. Social Security was established to provide that age group an income to survive.

Many Stores and Businesses Offer Older People Discounts

That income generally was just enough for them to survive. So companies and business started offering them discounts on products their products or service. Those companies and businesses profited by making sales others would have made.

As time passed, more and more companies and businesses started to offer these perks to older people. At the same time the age at which they could get them started to drop. Initially, a person had to be 65 or older to qualify. Now many offer them to those 55 and older. Some to 50 and older.

Older people can find discounts all around them – grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, plays, vacations, car rentals, air lines, trains, buses, etc. Sometimes these discounts are not publicized. All people have to do is ask about them.

Check These Out!

Retail and department stores that offer discounts:

Belk – The first Tuesday of the month is Senior Day. The discount is15% discount for those 55+.

Dress Barn – Most stores offer a discount weekly – The day of week and amount varies by store – Typically it's10%. Ask at the store where you shop.

Kohl's – Every Wednesday. There is a discount of 15% for those age 60 and older.

Ross Dress for Less – A discount of 10% every Tuesday for those 55+

Stein Mart – First Monday every month. Store sends an email to their customers 55 and older with coupons valid on that day

Michael's – Discount varies by store. Ask at your store what the discount is and how old a person has to be to get it.

KARM Thrift Store – Ask at store when senior day is and the amount of the discount.

Goodwill – Every Tuesday – The discount is 10% for those 60+.

Salvation Army Thrift Stores – Inquire at store.

Local grocery store offers a discount:

Publix – Discount of 5% every Wednesday for those 60 and older.

Note: Kroger's offered a discount of 5% every Wednesday for those 60 and older here in Tennessee. However, that program stopped on March 15, 2017. The company said they were lowering prices on grocery items to compensate for that.

Drug store offers a discount:

Walgreens – First Tuesday of every month – There is a discount of 15 to 20% off for those 55 and older who are members of AARP and have Balance Rewards cards.

Older people can even get a discount on haircuts:

Great Clips - $10 haircuts for those 65 and older+

Sport Clips – Typically $2 off for those 55 and older

SuperCuts – Typically $2 off for those 62 and older

Just about every restaurant offers a discount. Ask the manager or your server about it.

If you're going to a movie, ask for the discount. If you're going to a play, it doesn't hurt to ask if they have one.

Always Take the Opportunity toSave Money Any Time You Can

Don't be embarrassed to ask for a discount you qualify for. Do you remember when you got that letter from AARP around your 50th birthday letting you know you qualified for membership? You may have been a little taken back finding out then you qualified as a retired person. You got over it quickly, didn't you?

No one cares about your age at any of these businesses. Any time you take advantage of a discount you can use what you save for something else. So why not, go ahead and get a discount any time you can!

The Impact of a Brief Conversation

It's amazing how much little things matter.

George was sitting all by himself at Panera in the middle of the afternoon on New Year's Day. He picked a table by the window. So he could see the people passing outside as well as those around him.

George was 78 years old. His wife died 3 years ago. His son and daughter live out of town. Many of his friends had died. Those few still alive are married and celebrating the holiday with their wives or with their children. He didn't want to impose on them but he didn't want to be alone on this New Year's Day.

That's what led him to Panera –- the opportunity to spend time with others. It didn't matter if they didn't know him. Nor that they might not talk to him. They were there and he could hear them talking to each other. That was enough.

He had brought a book with him to pretend he was reading. He sat there with it as he sipped his coffee.

Just then there was a voice, "What are you reading, young man?" He looked up to see a man standing by him. "It's Rogue Lawyer By John Grisham," George responded. "John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. I have read almost all his books."

The stranger introduced himself. His name was Dave Barrett. Dave was in town with his wife for the holidays. They were spending time with their oldest son and his family. In fact, his wife, their son and daughter-in-law were at a nearby table. Dave just got up to refill his coffee.

As they spoke, Dave noticed the tremor in George's right hand. He figured George was suffering from Parkinson's but wouldn't ask him. George told Dave about the area around his home and how it changed over the years. More people had moved in, more houses were built and it had grown more populated. At one time, George's house was the only one on the block. Now there were houses as far as you could see.

Dave told him the same thing happened where he lived. More people moved there and what had been rural was now all homes.

Dave spent about 10 minutes talking to George before it dawned on him his family was waiting for him. He thanked George for the opportunity to talk to him and wished him a Happy New Year.

That unexpected conversation with Dave brightened George's day. It eliminated the loneliness he had felt. When he went home, he was still happy. He had a great conversation with someone he didn't know. 2 weeks later he was still telling others about it and he smiled as he did.

It's amazing. We never know how a brief conversation, a token of friendship, will impact another person. It may have been awhile since they had someone to talk with. They don't want to impose on a friend. However, they would welcome any opportunity to get free of that cloud of loneliness hanging over them.

If there is an older person living in your neighborhood who doesn't have family or friends visiting on a regular basis, stop by periodically and see how they're doing. Even if for a short period of time. They will relish it.

If you have time, visit a senior center or a nursing home. At every one there are residents up in age who no longer have family in the area. Many of their friends may have already died. They have no regular visitors.

How do you find out who these are? Just ask at the desk. The people working there know. Pop your head into one of their rooms, say you were in the neighborhood and was wondering if they had the opportunity to talk.

You can be sure they will be delighted to talk with you. Don't be surprised if they start telling you their life story. You may find you have made a new friend and decide to go back and visit them on a regular basis.

This is one way you can brighten the day of an older person. There are many others. Meeting one and starting a conversation will open the door to the others.

Valuable Information at Your Finger Tips Right Now on the Verge of Being Lost Forever

Every older person you meet or see has a wealth of information that can be useful to you or people you know. They most probably have experienced most, if not all, of the same challenges you have in life. They also may have experienced other challenges you have yet to encounter.

The Problem is You Probably Have Never Known it

They may never have said anything. They may have thought you were too busy or would not be interested in hearing about them.

They may even have experienced a challenge which you are facing right now. They may have dealt with it in a way you never thought of. That way may not only have been the best for them but it also may be the best way for you.

Did you ever ask an older person about their lives and how it was growing up? What about their experiences as an adult? What led them to make the decisions they made?

The Impact of Changes in Their World on Them

Did you ever realize the major changes they have witnessed during their lifetimes and how these changes have impacted them? Here are some examples:

  • Many may have been the first in their families to graduate from high school or college.
  • Many were born before television was common in every home. The primary activity at night and on weekends was playing games or listening to the radio.
  • Most probably the first phone their family had was a party line. That was where two or more families shared the same phone line. The cost was cheaper. They didn't know who the other parties were that shared their lines.
  • You couldn't make a long-distance call by entering the numbers. You had to go through an operator.
  • No one had any concept of a cell phone that you would be able to carry with you. The first mobile phones were big. The nickname for them was "brick.".
  • Their first cars had standard transmissions. (Automatic transmissions were not common.) Few had air conditioning. If they wanted to get cool on a hot day, they rolled the windows down and drove faster.
  • Quality was not common in televisions or cars. Televisions had to be repaired regularly. If you bought a new car, you hoped it had few dents or other defects. Auto Dealers would tell you nothing could be done about them. You just had to take it.
  • Space travel started during their lifetimes
  • The first computers were huge monstrosities taking up whole floors. There was no such thing as personal computers, laptops or tablets.
  • Texting, Facebook or twitter did not exist. The most common form of conversation was talking to another in person one to one.

Yes, every older person has a wealth of information. Just think about how valuable this can be for you if you got it from them.

Where is the Ideal Place to Start?

With your own parents and grandparents. Many of their experiences probably have had a major impact on you. It also may have contributed to you becoming the person you are today. Finding out about their lives may also help you understand the reasons why at times you act the way you do.

This information is too valuable for you not to know. How can you get this information? You can get it by sitting down with them and getting an oral history of their lives. The best way is to record what you learn from your parents or grandparents. If you don't have a way to record it, just write it out.

To help you get an oral history, please go to this webpage.

There you will learn how to go about getting this oral history. There even is a link to the questions you can ask your parents or grandparents to trigger their memories. That will help them tell you about their experiences.

Once you have that history, be sure to pass this down to your children and grandchildren. Know they will love to have your history too. It may not be right now. When they're ready, expect them to ask you. If for some reason, they fail to ask you for your history, record it for them yourself.

Not only will your children and grandchildren find this information valuable, their children and all your future descendants will too.

If you're a little nervous about talking to your parents or grandparents about an Oral History, you may want to start with someone not related to you. You may have an elderly neighbor or there may be an elderly person at church who has no family nearby to get their history. Talk to them about it. Ask if they would give it to you. Let them know you are sure their family will love it and you will make sure they get it. They will appreciate it.

Just Picture This

200 years from now, your descendants track their family back to now. They are able to know how life had changed during your, your parents and grandparents' lifetimes. They see the experiences everyone has had and how they impacted their lives. They also understand the reasons they do some of the things they do.

They will be grateful that you started the tradition.

Lifelong Learner? College in Your Future?

Look around. Doesn't it seem like there are many more older people than ever before? Aren't those you see far more socially active than any their age in the past? They are far more vibrant and happier, and even challenge younger people to keep up with them.

Years ago, age 60 or 65 was considered really old. It was considered the last phase of life and everything from that point on was downhill. Many younger people wanted nothing to do with them. That is no longer true.

Now Age 60 or 65 is a Starting Point

People reaching that age may retire but they don't sit back and wait for age and illness to creep up on them. They are full of life and want to experience all those things they had no time for while they were working.

Most still desire to learn as much as they can. They will continue to read and study up to the day they die. Many are going back to school and taking classes they always wanted to. Colleges have opened their doors to them and are very accommodating.

Two Special Incentives for Those 60 and Older to Take College Classes

You may not know this: Here in Tennessee, there are two special incentives for people 60 and older to take college classes. The first is for those 60 to 64. The second is for those 65 and older. Let's look at the incentive for those 65 and older first.

Under state law, a person 65 and older can take courses for credit at state-supported colleges and universities and not have to pay tuition charges, maintenance fees, student activity fees or registration fees.

The colleges and universities can charge a service fee to defray what it costs them to keep records on each of these students. Those fees cannot exceed $45 a quarter or $70 a semester.

In the Knoxville-Knox County area there are 2 state-supported schools – The University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State Community College.

The University of Tennessee charges an application fee of $50 for an undergraduate or $60 for a graduate. Then the charge is $7 per credit. For a three-credit course the charge would be $21. The maximum a person has to pay is $70 in any one semester.

At Pellissippi State, those 65 years of age or older are eligible to enroll in courses on a space-available basis for credit. The charge cannot exceed $70 per semester.

At both schools, the person would have to pay for books and other fees unique to a course or courses they are enrolled in.

Those interested in attending a course or courses at the University of Tennessee can contact Peggy Love. Peggy's email address is Those interested in courses at Pellissippi State can contact the business office at the school. The email address is

The other incentive is for those 60 and older. They can audit classes at the University of Tennessee or Pellissippi State without paying any fees. The only requirement is there has to be space available in the class they desire to audit.

Auditing a Class

To those unfamiliar with "auditing a course." It means you can sit in on the course, attend all or some of the classes. However, you don't have to do the homework. Nor do you take the tests. In some classes, you would not be able to ask questions.

At the University of Tennessee, the person has to get permission from the instructor to audit his or her class. A special form has to be completed. Information on this can be obtained from Peggy Love. Her email address again is

At Pellissippi State, it does not appear a special form has to be completed. Anyone interested in auditing a course should check with the business office. That email address is

But I Have This Nagging Fear

Taking a class or auditing one may be interesting for you but in the back of your mind there's a nagging fear. You're worried that you won't fit in with all those "younger" students. Don't let that concern you. You have much to offer them. Think about this:

In 2007, Nola Ochs became a Guinness World Record Holder. She was recognized as the world's oldest college graduate when she was awarded a B. A. degree in history from the Fort Hays State University. Nola wasn't done. She continued in school and was awarded a master's degree in liberal arts in May of 2010.

In June of 2015, Doreetha Daniels graduated from the College of the Canyons in Santa Clara, California, with an associate's degree in social science. At that time, Doreetha was 99 years old.

In May of 2016, Alfonso Gonzales received a bachelor of science degree in zoology from the University of Southern California. Alfonzo was 96.

More and more people in their sixties, seventies, and eighties are going back to school. Some want to show everyone they can get that degree that eluded them in the past. Others take classes to learn about things that always fascinated them. Still others have a passion to continue learning.

Most of what younger people in school today know has come from books and classes they've attended. You can help them by relating your real-life experiences.

Get Started Now

If you've always had a desire to attend college classes, don't let your age deter you. Check out what the University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State offer. You may want to see what classes are like and how you'll fit in. So—audit some classes first.

You can get more information about the University of Tennessee by contacting Peggy Love. Her email address is For information about Pellissippi State check with the business office. The email address is

Hidden Gems for You Right Here in Knox County

You may not have heard of them or even be aware they exist. They have a lot to offer you. So, let's help you to get to know about them.

What are we talking about? The senior centers here in Knoxville and Knox County.

Years ago, our local government realized that after giving so much to their workplaces and the community during their work lives, retired people frequently had quite a bit of time on their hands. There wasn't much for them to do or to occupy their time.

So the local officials decided to open senior centers in the city and county. Each center would be a place where seniors could go and meet other seniors. The centers would have a variety of activities for them. They could get involved in those that interested them. In the process, they could relax and enjoy themselves.

Right now, there are eight senior centers in the Knoxville and Knox County. Residents age 50+ can take advantage of what these centers have to offer.

Knoxville-Knox County Senior Centers

Carter Senior Center
Phone: 932-2939
9040 Asheville Highway, 37924
Mon.-Fri., 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Corryton Senior Center
Phone: 688-0510
9331 Davis Drive, Corryton, 37721
Mon., Wed., Fri., 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.,
Tue. & Thu., 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Halls Senior Center
Phone: 922-0416
4405 Crippen Road, 37918
Mon., Tue., Wed., 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.,
Thur. & Fri., 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

John T. O'Connor Senior Center
Phone: 523-1135
611 Winona Street, 37917
Mon.-Fri., 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Karns Senior Center
Phone: 951-2653
8042 Oak Ridge Hwy. 37931
Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Larry Cox Senior Center
Phone: 546-1700
3109 Ocoee Trail, 37917
Mon.-Fri., 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

South Knox Senior Center
Phone: 573-5843
6729 Martel Lane, 37920
Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Strang Senior Center
Phone: 670-6693
109 Lovell Heights Road, 37922
Mon.-Fri., 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Each center is run by professionals and has a wide range of programs specifically geared to what may interest you. These cover many different areas, such as

  • Exercise
  • Lifetime Learning Programs
  • Art Classes
  • Volunteer Opportunities
  • Recreation
  • Education
  • Social Activities

The centers also offer health education and screenings. Some have book clubs, movies, special programs, and speakers. The O'Connor Center offers noontime meals for attendees and a cooperative gift shop. There may even be programs where you may have the opportunity to help out as a volunteer.

Some of the programs are free; some have a minimal charge.

If this is the first time you have heard of these centers, drop by the one closest to you. See what it offers. You will have the opportunity to meet new people and may even get involved in an activity you hadn't even thought about. It's fine to visit more than one center. Each offers different programs and services; all are open to residents of Knoxville and Knox County.

If you haven't been to a center for some time, stop by and see what's going on—it may have changed since you last visited.

There is no reason to stay at home alone all day and watch the same shows on TV every day. Get out, meet new people, have fun, and maybe even learn something. Enjoy yourself!

Valuable Information on Social Security Benefits

You may be wondering about your Social Security options. Hopefully, this will give you a clearer picture.

When Can I Start to Receive Social Security?

You can choose to start receiving those benefits at different ages depending on your circumstances. The only difference will be the amount of the monthly benefit you will receive.

Originally a person had to be 65 to get their full retirement benefit. They could have received a reduced benefit starting at age 62. In 1983 Congress passed a law changing that. The age for the full benefit has increased.

Those born between 1943 and 1954 cannot receive the full benefit until they're 66. It increases several months each year for those born between 1955 and 1959. People born in 1960 and later have to be 67.

Your benefit is reduced if you start it before your full retirement age. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your retirement benefit at age 62, will only be 75% of your full benefit.

There is a bonus if you decide to delay receiving benefits until after you are 66. Each year you delay, your retirement benefit increases 8% a year until you reach 70. If you decide to postpone getting Social Security till you're 70, your benefit will be roughly 32% higher than what you would have received at age 66.

Let's Look at Some Numbers

The monthly benefit you are entitled to is based on the money you earned during you working career.

As of February of 2016, the average full monthly retirement benefit was $1,344.70. A person who decides to take the reduced benefit at age 62 would get $1,008.50. A person who waits to receive their benefits until they're 70 would get $1,775 monthly.

Again, these estimates are based on the average monthly benefit of $1,344.70. You may get more or less. You can call Social Security to get a better idea of how much you will receive. Their toll free phone numbers are 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). There is a tool on their website called the Retirement Earnings Test Calculator that can help you with your own personal information.

When Should You Start to Receive Benefits?

That decision is based on your own circumstances. Here are certain things you'll want to consider.

First: Your Health. If you are healthy, it may be to your advantage to delay starting until you're older. If your health is poor, it may be better to start receiving benefits earlier.

Second: Your Financial Situation. Will you need your Social Security benefit to cover your living expenses? If you do, you should start to receive it earlier.

Are you going to receive a monthly pension from your employer? Do you have a substantial amount in a 401k or an IRA? Do you have money set aside in savings to cover your monthly expenses? If you have any of these, it may be to your advantage to delay as long as possible before you start receiving benefits.

Third: Are You Married? Did Your Spouse Earn Substantially Less Than You? If your spouse's earnings were far less and they are going to outlive you, it would be better to delay starting your benefit as long as possible. That way, the monthly amount will be higher.

Fourth: Do You Love Your Job? If you do, can you continue to work at it as long as possible?

As you can see, making the correct decision is important. If you are married, you need to discuss this with your spouse.

The Social Security Administration has quite a bit of helpful information about retirement benefits on their website,

The people at Social Security also are quite helpful. They can estimate for you what your monthly retirement benefit will be at different ages. Call and make an appointment. Go to their office and discuss this with them. The toll-free phone numbers, again, are 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

You Can Even Work After Retiring

What a great time to be a retiree!

If you're 65 today and in pretty good health, you can expect to live till you're 85. Continue to be in good health as you age and you will probably live longer.

You have the opportunity to do many different things during your retirement. Things you couldn't do while you were working. You can even go back to work. The best thing is you can do something entirely new—not the work you did in the past.

Work? Why Would I Want to Go Back to Work?

There are different reasons. Some are:

  • Personal Fulfillment
  • Supplemental income
  • Social activity
  • Financial support for other family members
  • Keep your mind active

There is no mandatory retirement age in most professions. So there are many options open to you.

Again, you don't have to go back to your old job. You don't even have to do the same type of work you were doing. You have your base retirement income to fall back on. So you can be more selective. You can look for work that satisfies you emotionally rather than work that just provides you an income.

You can also arrange your work schedule to fit in with your retirement. You can work in addition to traveling, doing fun things, and taking part in social activities. You may even want to take some courses and classes to expand your knowledge.

While some retirees work full time, you don't have to. You can look for a part-time job. Many employers have part-time jobs available for retirees.

You may not need additional income. So you may decide to volunteer at a hospital, church, charity, or nonprofit agency.

Two Services Available through the Office on Aging

The Knox County CAC Office on Aging has set up two services to help seniors find work. These are open to residents of Knox County. There is no charge for them.

The first is the Senior Employment Service. Here, they provide job-search assistance, individualized job counseling, semiannual job fairs and workshops for seniors seeking employment.

Most of the employers they work with currently have low- to mid-level full- or part-time work available. These employers like hiring seniors because seniors typically are available to work more flexible schedules than their regular full-time employees.

The second is the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). This is a federal job training program for unemployed low-income seniors age 55 or older who face barriers to employment.

SCSEP places these people in part-time paid community service assignments where they receive on-the-job training. The goal of this program is to give them job-search skills and work experience. This training prepares them to get similar work in the private sector.

To be eligible for this federal program an individual has to have a total family income no greater than 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Each participant works 20 hours each week. The pay is $7.25 an hour.

If you would like more information about either of these programs, please call Kayleen Weaver or Frankie Slay at the Office on Aging, (865) 524-2786, to schedule an appointment.

A Job Fair is Coming Up on Oct. 12

The Senior Employment Service is having its next job fair on October 12, 2016. It will be held from 9:00 noon at the O'Connor Center, 611 Winona Street.

There will be representatives from 40-plus companies and organizations there to whom you can talk. Some of the employers attending will be from the banking, retail, food service, transportation, security and health-care fields. Typically, these companies are looking for people to work 25 to 32 hours a week. Most pay more than the minimum wage.

If you are interested in attending this job fair, all you have to do is go to the O'Connor Center on October 12. Advance registration is not required. You also do not have to be a resident of Knox County, but you should be a "mature worker."

Now I'm Retired. What Do I Do?

Last Friday you retired. Now you're wondering what to do. You have 40 hours or more every week on your hands. How do you fill that? At work, perhaps you were a boss. Now the only one you give orders to is you.

Your only plan was to relax, take naps, and maybe even get away on a trip. Well – that doesn't last long. What do you do then? Imagine what you can accomplish for the rest of your life. What will you achieve next? It is your time, your schedule, your passion.

One Caution

You may have thought you would spend more time with your spouse. Frequently men have a harder time here. They fail to realize that their wives did very well without them throughout their marriages. That won't change when they retire.

Some husbands try to change what their wives do around the home. They observe and feel they see a better way of doing things. Disagreements occur.

To restore sanity, one has to get away from the other. They get out of the home during the day. Since the husband has no place to go, the wife frequently looks for places to spend time. She may increase her involvement with church groups or local civic organizations.

In a very short period of time the retiree is bored and feels lonely. They never believed it would be this way.

How Can You Prevent Boredom from Setting In?

Take some time to figure out what your purpose is. Then start to do things in line with your purpose -- things that you are passionate about. Your world is full of possibilities, new passions to pursue, part-time or volunteer work that is rewarding, people to connect with, and living a healthier life.

You may want to give back and help others. Look at volunteering at churches or with nonprofit organizations. You may also want to consult with small- to medium-sized businesses. One way is to call RSVP, a national resource for senior and retired volunteers. One call (in Knoxville, Tennessee, to 865-524-2786) can connect you to a variety of fulfilling volunteer opportunities that include driving older adults to errands in a provided vehicle, Mobile Meals (known as Meals on Wheels elsewhere), Feed A Pet (pet food delivered to homebound seniors who have pets), O'Connor Senior Center, working with adults on Medicare enrollment issues, minor home repairs and yard work with Project LIVE, fundraising efforts, and much more.

You may have a desire to learn something that you've never done before. Enroll in a class and do it.

You may also be able to teach. For a start, look for opportunities with local literacy groups, mentoring programs, and school reading programs. For more ideas, go to AARP's Life Reimagined site or check out Seniors for Creative Learning at the University of Tennessee Knoxville (meets at the O'Connor Center).

Take time to visit your family more frequently. Before you retired you probably never could visit them during the day. Now you can. If you have younger grandchildren, consider babysitting for them.

If you always wanted to travel, make sure to take trips and see those places you always wanted to see.

While working, you may never have had time to develop friendships. Now, be deliberate about doing that. Look for people in your age group you like and spend time on a regular basis with them. You can meet at a fast food restaurant, a coffee shop, a bakery, or a local diner—any place that suits your fancy.

Get healthier: Wellness classes, exercise, cooking classes, meditation, tai chi, and yoga are all popular ways to get and stay healthy. Classes are also a great way to meet new people or an activity to do with friends. If nothing else, just put on a comfortable pair of shoes and go for a walk in your neighborhood or find a nearby greenway. Get out! Breathe! Move! You'll be glad you did.


A person in relatively good health today can expect to live another 25 to 30 years. You have to make sure your finances will last that long. So you need to plan accordingly.

If finances are an issue, you may have to make adjustments in your lifestyle. You may even find it necessary to get a part-time job. That may have never crossed your mind but may be the only way to make ends meet. Get a job that you are passionate about – one where you're making a difference.

Realize that the older you get the less likely it will be for you to find work. So try to get that job pretty soon after you retire. You may even want to talk to a financial planner to help you make a savings plan with the income from your second career.

We Can Help

The Office on Aging can help retirees get the most out of retirement. We have many programs in which you can get involved. For those who want to volunteer, we offer a wide variety of opportunities. We also work with a broad spectrum of community organizations that you might be interested in. If you want to know more about what we do, please browse this website or call 865-524-2786.

The Graying of Tennessee

Look around you. Have you noticed seeing more gray than several years ago? You actually have.

Forget Senior Citizens. We're Mature Adults

The fastest growing segment of the population here in Tennessee and more particularly, in Knox County is those over 65 years of age. When we were younger, we referred to them as Senior citizens. Now as many of us enter that age group we prefer to be called mature adults.

By 2030, one out of every four people in this area will be in this age group. Did you ever think that would happen?

Three factors are leading to this growing segment of our population.

  • First, the Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964. The first of these people turned 65 in 2011. From then until 2029 10,000 Baby Boomers have turned or will turn 65 every day.
  • Second, people are living longer. Advances in Medicine have really increased longevity. People are living to a much older age.
  • Third, Tennessee and especially Knox County are very desirable places to live. More retirees are moving here to take advantage of the quality of life we offer.

What are These Mature Adults Like? What do They Want From Life?

Age 65 and beyond doesn't mean it's time to sit back in an easy chair and watch others do things. Baby Boomers have a desire to stay active.

  • Some have no intention of retiring and will continue to work as long as they can.
  • Some will expand their knowledge and take classes to learn things that interest them.
  • Others will get involved doing things they like and will volunteer to serve.
  • Many look forward to spending more time with their grandkids. They will move closer to them so they can see them more frequently.
  • Still others have a desire to travel and will take trips more frequently.

This group is feisty. Fiercely independent, they prefer to do things their way. One great desire is to live by themselves as long as possible.

Quality of life and health are important to them. They have seen how health problems affected others and have no desire for this to happen to them. So they exercise regularly. They eat healthier foods. They have regular health check-ups and follow their doctor's advice more closely.

Avoid Loneliness at All Costs

One objective of theirs is to avoid loneliness. They have seen too many instances where parents seem to have been forgotten by their families. At the same time, they saw their parents and extended family members lose friends as they age. The older those closest to them got it seemed less people spent time with them. Loneliness grew. Any time someone said hello, they would welcome the opportunity talk with them as long as possible. Their goal is to not let this happen to them.

In the back of their minds they realize at some point they may no longer be able to care for themselves and live independently. At that point they may have to move into a retirement center, an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Their hope is to delay this as long as possible and to minimize their length of stay.

The Office on Aging salutes these mature adults. We were created to help them. We have many different programs. We also work with many different community organizations who also help. If you want to know more about what we offer, please check out our website at or call 865-524-2786.