June 19, 2013

Death cafes

Death Be Not Decaffeinated: Over Cup, Groups Face Taboo

“Death and grief are topics avoided at all costs in our society,” said Audrey Pellicano, 60, who hosts the New York Death Cafe, which will hold its fifth meeting on Wednesday. “If we talk about them, maybe we won’t fear them as much.”

Part dorm room chat session, part group therapy, Death Cafes are styled as intellectual salons, but in practice they tend to wind up being something slightly different — call it cafe society in the age of the meetup.

 Invite Death-Cafe

Mr. Underwood adapted the idea from a Swiss sociologist, Bernard Crettaz, who had organized “café mortels” to try to foster more open discussions of death. “There’s a growing recognition that the way we’ve outsourced death to the medical profession and to funeral directors hasn’t done us any favors,” Mr. Underwood said. He envisioned Death Cafe as “a space where people can discuss death and find meaning and reflect on what’s important and ask profound questions.”
Doctors and scholars who study attitudes toward death say that for most people, such conversations are healthy; talking about death can ease people’s fears and the notion that death is taboo. “A major part of American society is very averse to thinking about dying,” said David Barnard, a professor of ethics at the Oregon Health and Science University who has written extensively about the end of life.

In the United States, Death Cafes have spread quickly. The first one met last summer in a Panera Bread outside Columbus, Ohio, where guests were served tombstone-shaped cookies. Since then, more than 100 meetings have been held in cities and towns across the country, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Seattle.
The Death Cafe movement has a few ground rules. Meetings are confidential and not for profit. People must respect one another’s disparate beliefs and avoid proselytizing. And tea and cake play an important role.

“There’s a superstition that if you talk about death, you invite it closer,” said Mr. Underwood, the organizer in London. “But the consumption of food is a life-sustaining process. Cake normalizes things.”

Underwood has written a guide to running your own death cafe following the Death Cafe concept of tea, cake, conversation about death

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 PM | Permalink

December 6, 2012

How boomers will change end-of-life care

How baby boomers will change end of life care by Monica Williams-Murphy, MD

The baby boomers, the largest generation in American history, are now almost all in the last third of their lives (if average life expectancy is 78). They have spent the previous, early and middle thirds of their lives transforming cultural ideas, expectations and practices (e.g with the civil rights movement, environmental movement and women’s movement, etc).

The question now is, “Will the baby boomers also transform our cultural ideas, expectations, and practices regarding the end-of-life?”

I say yes! Here are my predictions and recommendations for this generation of “revolutionaries”:

1. Baby boomers expect to live longer and will seek out technologies to do so. We continue to see life expectancies extended (although the obesity problem may soon change that) and the boomers will focus on ways to further extend their years on the planet. I strongly recommend however that they seek technologies that will extend quality life rather than quantity alone. For example, but do not choose medical interventions that will prolong your days if those days are going to consist of lying in a bed, unable to poop or pee without assistance. Choose technology that creates quality alone, quality plus quantity, but never quantity only, at the expense of suffering.

2. Baby boomers will author and create the “natural death” movement. The natural birth movement was predominately a product of the baby boomer consciousness. Taking root in the 1960s, a movement occurred to “de-medicalize childbirth” with varying degrees of penetration into general culture.

Death will become “de-medicalized” and will again be viewed as a natural event that can be managed in natural settings such as the home. The hospice industry will see phenomenal growth to accommodate this shift in desiring to manage dying at home. (90 percent of Americans already say they want to die at home but nearly 80 percent of us presently die in medical institutions.)

3. Boomers like to be in charge and will seek more control over the dying process. One present expression of this is the right to die movement. While I am opposed to physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, I understand and support the impulse to gain control over the dying process and to minimize suffering. I personally feel that this can be accomplished without choosing to ingest a life-ending substance, however. At the right time (for you), choosing comfort-focused medicine over cure-focused medicine will allow you to gain control over the dying process: physical suffering can be controlled with appropriate medications, allowing time for quality emotional, social and spiritual closure and reconciliation to be obtained between you and others. Additionally, choosing comfort-focused care more often enables you to die, expectantly, where you desire to be the most (usually at home).

4. Expect more non-traditional, cost-conscious funeral preparations. A great example of this is my husband, Kris, who is one of the trailing baby boomers, born in ’61. He wrote a great treatise on this topic entitled, “Final Resting Places and Dealing With the Funeral Industry Monopoly” (Chapter 22 of It’s OK to Die). In this chapter he argues compellingly that the funeral industry hangs us out to dry if we haven’t made plans in advance. We don’t “shop around” in the midst of our grief and just pay for whatever is easiest (but not most economical), while wiping our tears.

Kris gives unusual tips for saving thousands of dollars on funeral costs and tells a story about how we drove his deceased father, in a full–sized casket, across multiple states in an SUV to save on flight costs for the casket and the whole family. It was a very “thinking out of the box” experience (slight pun intended), which turned into a trip that gave final closure to the whole family, saved thousands of dollars, and felt like an adventure. Sounds like something every baby boomer should look into.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

March 31, 2008

The last boomer competition...how you die

The last boomer competition is not just about how long you live. It is also about how you die. This one is a “Mine is shorter than yours”: you want a death that is painless and quick. Even here there are choices. What is “quick”? You might prefer something instantaneous, like walking down Fifth Avenue and being hit by a flower pot that falls off an upper-story windowsill. Or, if you’re the orderly type, you might prefer a brisk but not sudden slide into oblivion. Take a couple of months, pain-free but weakening in some vague nineteenth-century way. You can use the time to make your farewells, plan your funeral, cut people out of your will, finish that fat nineteenth-century novel that you’ve been lugging around since the twentieth century, and generally tidy up.

Mine is longer than yours, Michael Kingsley reflects in The New Yorker.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2007

The world's 'oldest human being' dies at 116

A bachelor, Hryhoriy Nestor who attributed his long life to the fact that he never married, died at 116 in the Ukraine.

In accordance with his wish that there should be no crying, a hearty meal was served of his favourite dishes: warm potato and herring, and cabbage with home-made sausage.

"He didn't find himself a mate because he was a short man and never had money," Oksana believes.

He also led a healthy life, she says.

He loved to get outside and would run barefoot through the grass. Vodka he drank in moderation, and his favourite food was simple country fare with his greatest luxury a slice of sausage in a bread roll.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:50 PM | Permalink

February 21, 2007

New Magazine "Obit"

Will Boomers Give New Life to Obituaries?

Will people pay just to read obituaries? We are going to find out. Following up on a mini-boom in newspaper obits -- both the New York Sun and the Wall Street Journal have added them -- a husband-and-wife team from Princeton, N.J., plans to start publishing a glossy magazine, Obit. "We truly believe that we are starting a 'movement,' " co founder Barbara Hillier said in a prepared statement.

On its website, Obit calls itself "the hottest thing in periodicals since the golden years of Esquire and Playboy, that will leave an indelible mark on American society." Should the magazine fail after it hits newsstands next year, that line will doubtless appear in its obituary.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:53 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 12, 2006

"No one ever taught me to grow old"

From the Newsweek  cover story on Billy Graham

To everything there is a season, says the author of Ecclesiastes, and for Billy Graham this is the season of coping with the toll of time. Getting around is harder; so is recalling familiar Scriptures. Yet rather than simply withdrawing into the shadows to enjoy a few richly deserved quiet years with his wife and family, Graham believes he may have been called to a last mission: to soldier on by faith, praying and pondering and sharing what he has come to see and feel and think in the twilight of his life.
All my life I've been taught how to die, but no one ever taught me how to grow old," Graham remarked one day to his daughter Anne Graham Lotz. "And I told him, 'Well, Daddy, you are now teaching all of us'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

Funeral Director or Party Planner?

Early on in Boomer Remains, I wondered how boomers were going to change the way we think about death, dying and funerals. 

Ken Dyctwald, wrote in Age Power that

Boomers didn't just eat food -- they transformed the snack, restaurant and supermarket industries.
Boomers didn't just wear clothes -- they transformed the fashion industry.
Boomers didn't just date --they transformed sex roles and practices
Boomers didn't just go to work -- they transformed the workplace

Well, have you heard of funeral concierge before?  I didn't until I read this piece in the New York Times.

It's My Funeral and I'll Serve Ice Cream if I Want to

As members of the baby boom generation plan final services for their parents or themselves, they bring new consumer expectations and fewer attachments to churches, traditions or organ music — forcing funeral directors to be more like party planners, and inviting some party planners to test the farewell waters.

Mark Duffy, who runs a funeral concierge service is interviewed.

What they want, he said, are services that reflect their lives and tastes. One family asked for a memorial service on the 18th green of their father’s favorite golf course, “because that’s where dad was instead of church on Sunday mornings, so why are we going to church,” Mr. Duffey said. “Line up his buddies, and hit balls.” Another wanted his friends to ride Harleys down his favorite road, scattering his ashes.

Apart from boomers wanting more services to reflect their lives, services can be more fun!  if the icky dead body isn't around.  Wouldn't want to cast a pall on the party.

The biggest change, Mr. Duffey said, is that as more families choose cremation — close to 70 percent in some parts of the West — services have become less somber because there is not a dead body present.
“The body’s a downer, especially for boomers,” Mr. Duffey said. “If the body doesn’t have to be there, it frees us up to do what we want. They may want to have it in a country club or bar or their favorite restaurant. That’s where consumers want to go.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

Third Age Blog

I'm one voice in a group of talented people each with a distinctive voice, experience and expertise: Connie Goldman, Jacqueline Marcell, Jed Diamond, Lisa Haneberg, Rinatte Paries, Ronni Bennett, Sharon Whiteley, Susan Anderson, Susan Mitchell, Tom Blake and Yvonne Divita.

I write about many of the same things I do on Business of Life and Legacy Matters but often in a more personal way.

Until I can get me on of those doohickies that signifies a new post on another blog, I'm just going to periodically round-up a group of posts and link them here in reverse chronological order.

Rules of Life
Responding to Suffering
Make Haste for a Neighborhood Barbecue
Lessons of Katrina
Afraid to Get Prepared?
Intensely Alive While Dying
Why Can't We Talk About the Important Things?
A Gift of Stories
Good enough is good enough
Learning from Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2005

Going the Distance

Thomas Lynch, a funeral director for 40 years has an amazing op ed piece in Sunday's New York Times, Our Near Death Experience.

For many bereaved Americans, the "celebration of life" involves a guest list open to everyone except the actual corpse, which is often dismissed, disappeared without rubric or witness, buried or burned, out of sight, out of mind, by paid functionaries like me. So the visible presence of the pope's body at the pope's wake and funeral strikes many as an oddity, a quaint relic.

[O]urs is a species that down the millenniums has learned to deal with death (the idea of the thing) by dealing with the dead (the thing itself) in all the flesh and frailty of the human condition. We process grief by processing the objects of our grief, the bodies of the dead, from one place to the next. .... We commit and commend them into the nothingness or somethingness, into the presence of God or God's absence. Whatever afterlife there is or isn't, human beings have marked their ceasing to be by going to the tomb or the fire or the grave, the holy tree or deep sea, whatever sacred space of oblivion to which we consign our dead. Humans have been doing this for 40,000 years.

I've been doing funerals for almost 40.
Late in the last century more homegrown doxologies became more popular. We boomers, vexed by the elder metaphors of grief and death, wanted to create our own. Everyone was into the available "choices."
For many Americans, however, that wheel is not just broken but off track or in need of reinvention. The loosened ties of faith and family, of religious and ethnic identity, have left them ritually adrift, bereft of custom, symbol, metaphor and meaningful liturgy or language. ...
Many Americans are now spiritual tourists without home places or core beliefs to return to.

INSTEAD of dead Methodists or Muslims, we are now dead golfers or gardeners, bikers or bowlers. The bereaved are not so much family and friends or fellow believers as like-minded hobbyists or enthusiasts. And I have become less the funeral director and more the memorial caddy of sorts, getting the dead out of the way and the living assembled for a memorial "event" that is neither sacred nor secular but increasingly absurd - a triumph of accessories over essentials, stuff over substance, theme over theology. The genuine dead are downsized or disappeared or turned into knickknacks in a kind of funereal karaoke - bodiless obsequies where the finger food is good, the music transcendent, the talk determinedly "life affirming," the accouterments all purposefully cheering and inclusive and where someone can be counted on to declare "closure" just before the merlot runs out. We leave these events with the increasing sense that something is missing.

Something is.

Just as he showed us something about suffering and sickness and dying in his last days alive, in death Pope John Paul II showed us something about grieving and taking our leave. The good death, good grief, good funerals come from keeping the vigils, from bearing our burdens honorably, from honest witness and remembrance. They come from going the distance with the ones we love.

I think as boomers age, there's going to be a great new Awakening in this country. For all the narcissism and materialism of the 80s and 90s, the foundational experience of the generation was spiritual.  By the time you hit your fifties, you're not so interested in the cutting edge, but the shape of the knife, then all the uses to which it can put, finally, its purpose.  There's an enormous appetite for purpose and meaning.  Boomers have spent countless hundreds of hours, in their college years and later,  sitting stoned, talking about love and  meaning.  From middle-age, you don't care about bold and shocking, you want deep.  I think there's going to be an extraordinary efflorescence of personal creativity, as boomers resort to digital tools to tell the stories of their lives.   

Ronni Bennett calls them Stories for the Infinite Future in a must-read post how we ordinary people can create what only kings and queens could afford in the past.

I have left with the other papers my friend will need, a final blog to be posted. Yes, it begins with, “If you’re reading this, I am dead,” though I intend to update it every six months or so and I may be able, in time, to get more creative than that. 

I’ve also left instructions to set aside money to pay my blog host for at least a year after I die, along with other instructions for downloading my blog onto CDs (or whatever storage medium has evolved by then) to give to anyone who cares to have it. 

Imagine if you had such a record from your grandparents, great grandparents and even further back what a gift that would be. Now it can be so into an infinite future.

Putting your digital assets in a form that can be used and enjoyed into the future not only benefits you in their creation by adding in a deeper way your meaning, your purpose but your descendants into the infinite future.  That's what the Protected E-Vault is all about.  It's because Legacy Matters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:16 AM | Permalink

March 21, 2005

The Twilight Zone

The final vote in the House was 203 yeah and 58 nay.  The familiar saying that hard cases make bad law may be true in Terri's case. 

While I am pleased that the President has signed the emergency legislation that allows a federal court to review Terri's case,  I don't think that an extraordinary appeal to Congress is the way to handle such cases. 

I  hope that this Congress seriously debates and considers how to provide the incapacitated with rights that insure the same due process if they have left no written directives that we accord convicted criminals.    "The facts of this case suggest that existing safeguards are dangerously inadequate" the editors of the National Review write. Democrat Michael Totten writes To Save or Not to Save and questions what the White House will do about people who are taken off life support because their families have run out of money.

I hope every adult appoints a health care proxy first, or at minimum, leaves advance medical directives.
There is no excuse for a competent adult American to leave their families clueless as to what to do.

Because absent a health care proxy, absent a living will, we have entered the twilight zone.

The debate on the right to live,  the right to die and the right to euthanize has begun. 

Whatever your opinion is on the Terri Schiavo case, there is no debate that the issue touches all of us.

No doubt we can keep bodies alive almost forever.  With oodles of money, Sunny von Bulow is still alive after 20 years in a coma.  While the battle for Terri raged on, a baby born with a fatal defect died after the removal of life support against the mother's wishes.  Does Spiro Nikolouzos meet the criteria for brain dead?  If his family can not find an institution who will take him, his life support will be cut off in 10 days.  In both cases, the hospitals were concerned about the rising costs of what they considered futile care. 

We're hearing about the rising costs of supporting aging boomers in their retirement.  What about the costs of keeping boomers alive through tax-supported Medicare?    The costs of end of life care can be extraordinary, a fact which prompted former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm to say in 1984 that "we have a duty to die" and get out of the way of younger generations.  He was often misquoted as saying the elderly have a duty to die. 

"I am fairly sure that the young generation and the baby boomers are going to demand more control over life and death," said Lamm. "I think they're going to demand physician-assisted suicide. We have some of these ethical issues that lie in our future, and we just have no idea of how tough they're going to be."

I don't have all the answers.    I do have some sense of how tough these issues are and will increasingly be.  I am concerned about the rights of the disabled and incapacitated.  I  think a lethal injection or increasing doses of morphine is far more humane than starving people to death.
I hope people think of the costs of futile care.  I  hope people think of themselves as part of a great continuum and face the prospect of death bravely.    I hope that people will decide for themselves and spare their families.

UPDATE: These women are yeoman -  doing the research and finding the facts and not just spouting opinions.  See What Bush Did in Texas by the Anchoress and Katherine Lopez at the Corner

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:45 PM | Permalink

Featured in Time Goes By

I am pleased, delighted and honored today to be featured today in one of my favorite blogs.

I'm a huge fan of Ronni Bennett and her blog Time Goes By.   She not only  addresses what it's really like to get older, she does so with passion and humor and sometimes with an insouciance that makes aging seem just another of life's adventures and mysteries and not something to be feared.

I love her small photo essays and I think her rule of telling a story in several sentences to illustrate photos is a wonderful way to tackle the overwhelming amount of photos we all have, choosing the best to create a personal legacy archives to leave behind as evidence of the lives we lived. 

She is certainly a pioneer, one of the first these days to write unflinchingly about aging.  She will not be the last on the aging beat and those that follow her have a high bar to meet.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

February 22, 2005

Boomer Burials and Scatterings

I never cease to be amazed at the variety of burial and cremation choices now available  for aging boomers as they plan their last wave out.

I've already written about creative cremains, fantasy coffins, rocket rides for remains to rest in space, green burials, dust to mulch, and in boomer remains  how diamonds are forever, silk urns get through airport security, and the promessa process to turn your body into compost. 

But I never knew about harleycaskets where you can choose the "custom casket built for bikers" with a velvet interior and custom "highway to heaven panel and decals"

Or the DNA Genome Vault to preserve your genetic strands inside a miniature pyramid with a 3-D memorial bust on the top.

Golfers  - and some golf widows - should know that cremated remains can be poured down one of two putting-green holes that lead into two large ossuraries or containers, underneath the putting green for eternity on the greens at Catawba Memorial Park  in North Carolina.

If you love parties and fireworks, why not go out with a bang with the help of Angels Flight for a "scattering from within a beautiful fireworks display".

The Eternal Ascent Company is offering franchise opportunities to join their growing business  - and the patented process of sending cremated remains on their "final flight to the heavens in a giant balloon."

If you want to make a statement and an environmental tribute at the same time, consider Sea Services for burial in a bio-degradable "Ocean Urn that gently cradles remains at the ocean's depths than safely dissolves".

Sea lovers or scuba divers might really like the idea of eternal reefs where your ashes are mixed with concrete and buried at sea, part of an artificial reef where you sleep forever with the fishes. 

Or, in Italian style, you can become one with nature again, buried in Mother Earth, naked and in the fetal position,  all tight and cozy in a biodegradable pod from capsulamundi with a tree planted as your marker.

And this is only the beginning of the Long GoodBye.

UPDATE:  Just one day after I posted this, I learn that Hunter Thompson is going to have his remains fired from a cannon.

If you hear of any more, let me know.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 PM | Permalink

Hunter Thompson

Take some sex, drugs and rock and roll, add guns, lots of alcohol and a ground-breaking, profanity-laden mind-bending prose style, and you were off on a wild ride with Hunter Thompson at the wheel on "a savage journey into the heart of the American Dream"

Those who first read him in the early 70's saw a striking prose talent and felt the frisson of listening to an outlaw tell his outrageous stories in the back of a smokey bar.  A colleague Paul Krassner  said

It was hard to say sometimes whether he was being provocative for its own sake or if he was just being drunk and stoned and irresponsible," We were willing to risk all of his irresponsible behavior in order to share his talent with readers.

But unlike his model Jack Kerouac, Hunter Thompson never grappled with larger questions of meaning and purpose.  He never grew up or grew larger, he grew cartoonish, the model for Uncle Duke in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury.

James Lileks writes

A great writer in his prime, but the DVD of his career would have the last two decades on the disc reserved for outtakes and bloopers. It was all bile and spittle at the end, and it was hard to read the work without smelling the dank sweat of someone consumed by confusion, anger, sudden drunken certainties and the horrible fear that when he sat down to write, he could only muster a pale parody of someone else’s satirical version of his infamous middle period. I feel sorry for him, but I’ve felt sorry for him for years. File under Capote, Truman – meaning, whatever you thought of the latter-day persona, don’t forget that there was a reason he had a reputation. right

To some, like Ken Layne who met him once, he was kind

Even though we’d met only once—one long, sunny San Diego poolside afternoon that affected me deeply and permanently—and even though I was just another young punk writer wanting a little wisdom from the Good Doctor, Hunter S. Thompson was kind and generous to me, and he will always be one of the great pillars of my life....    Hunter Thompson was a great American writer, and the finest wordsmith of the West since Mark Twain. His was a rare and special talent, never to be seen again.

But his life and the legacy he left behind never matched his talent. Gerald Vandeleun used to drink with him.

This morning I think even less of him. Yesterday, it would seem, he left in the same way that he lived -- gun-crazy, thoughtless, self-obsessed and selfish to the last second. A gunshot suicide at home, leaving his wife and son to discover and deal with his ruined corpse and clean up the room. What a man.

Interestingly, he had been interviewed after Ernest Hemingway killed himself in Idaho in 1961

"I think he killed himself because he couldn't write anymore," Thompson is quoted as saying in a chapter of Paul Perry's book titled Totally Unclassifiable.  "He couldn't write, he was too sick to hunt. He just didn't have it anymore, so he decided to end it."

UPDATE:  An unserious man, he could be very funny.

One of Mr. Thompson's more colorful antics occurred in 1970, when he ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colo., on the "Freak Power" ticket. The gonzo candidate " whose platform included changing the name of Aspen to "Fat City" and decriminalizing drugs " decided to shave his head, so he could denounce his crew-cut Republican rival as "my long-haired opponent."


Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

January 14, 2005

Celebrating Lives Well Lived - Oh Well

You don't often see ads for mortuaries except for discreet ads in the obituary pages.  That's about to change.  Boomers want funerals to be more about their lives and they are not alone in their interest in personalizing funerals.

That will likely change as the interest in personalizing funerals continues to grow.  Baby boomers are saying they want the funeral industry to be more about their lives.   

Kristi Arellano reported  in the Denver Post (sorry link expired)

Denver's Fairmount Cemetery & Mortuary  has launched a billboard and print campaign featuring black-and-white photographs of smiling people accompanied by epitaphs such as "Walked on all seven continents" and "Put six kids through college." 

The tagline: "Celebrating lives well lived."

The aim of the ads is to bring Fairmount to the forefront of people's minds when they find themselves planning a funeral and secondly, to encourage funeral planning. 

Can't argue with that, but what about lives not so well lived.

Oh Well

via Jim Treacher

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:01 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2004

Simple Living, Simple Dying

Watch the movement towards Green Burials increase in popularity as nature lovers and environmentalists learn they can choose to make the manner of the disposal of their bodies a statement of their values.

    The ideas behind green burials are simple. Bodies are not embalmed. Elaborate caskets made of metal or rare tropical hardwoods are replaced with fabric burial shrouds or simple, biodegradable coffins made of wood or cardboard. Concrete grave liners or vaults that prevent the ground above the coffin from settling are avoided.

    Perhaps most significantly, in lieu of carefully manicured cemetery grounds, native plants and wildflowers are allowed to flourish, turning the burial ground into a nature preserve. "It preserves the land and the habitat for the animals," said Ramey. "Our habitat is going quickly, and if we don't preserve it, we won't have any."

    Though there are over 200 green cemeteries in Great Britain, the movement is relatively unknown in the United States. South Carolina, Florida, California and Texas have the only four green cemeteries currently operating here. Several more green burial facilities are being planned throughout the country.

Others argue that the traditional home funeral where bodies were bathed, anointed with oils and prepared for burial by the people who loved them is the way to go.

"The typical American funeral is a commercially created tradition," said Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a grassroots organization raising awareness of alternative funeral choices. "The general line in the industry is that a traditional funeral has a fancy casket and a hearse. But the truly traditional funeral in America is a home funeral,"

Jerry Lyons, a home funeral guide in Sonoma County says,

    "These are people who want to take charge and be responsible for their own family members, and to lend themselves to more privacy and intimacy," she said. "Many religious and spiritual backgrounds call for this type of home wake."

    According to Lyons, the home funeral greatly helps survivors with the grieving process. "There's coherence and continuity for the family. It allows more time to visit and view the body, to say prayers, and to visit in the middle of the night," she said. "It brings death back into the cycle of life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:04 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2004

So What Is Wisdom Anyway?

I found much to like in "Learning to Love Growing Old", but nothing so much as this clinical description of wisdom:

    It is not easy to talk about wisdom without lapsing into platitudes and vagueness, so a team of European researchers -- no surprise there -- has taken on the challenge to isolate the features of wisdom in clinical detail. From their ongoing studies of the aging mind, psychologists Paul B. Baltes and Ursula M. Staudinger, both of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, define wisdom:
    • It's an expertise that wraps information in the human context of life and relates it to generational and historical flow.
    • It is factual and procedural knowledge about the world and human affairs.
    • It mingles insight and judgment involving complex and uncertain matters of the human condition; there is an appreciation for and understanding of the uncertainties of life.
    • It involves a fine-tuned coordination of cognition, motivation, and emotion, knowledge about the self and other people and society.
    • It carries knowledge about strategies to manage the peaks and valleys of life.
    • It integrates past, present, and future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

Our Fears of Aging Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

It shouldn't be surprising that two recent studies show Healthy Aging Requires Healthy Attitudes or seniors with more positive emotions less likely to become frail. John Milton wrote, "The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven." Acting happy can make you happy writes David Myers.

In fact, a positive attitude effects all age groups. It may be that positive emotions impact the chemical and nerve responses governing the body's healthy balance as some researchers suggest. And it may be that positive attitudes affect the way we see and experience the world. Just as having high expectations of children results in better school performance, treating older people as competent and productive adults actually helps them perform that way. Too many think aging is a problem instead of a natural part of life. Instead of treating the elderly as regular people with the respect due their accumulated wisdom, too many treat them condescendingly in the unforgettable words of Ronni Bennett as "wrinkled children".

Just how much the mental stereotypes we hold can affect our lives can be seen in Fear of aging. Fear of aging ,speeds the very decline we dread according to a series of studies by psychologists Ellen Langer of Harvard and University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin. Our collective negative stereotypes of aging, in particular the idea that aging brings about memory loss, lead to "decreased effort, less use of adaptive strategies, avoidance of challenging situations, and failure to seek medical attention for disease-related symptoms." By contrast, in China the elderly are revered for their wisdom; aging itself is seen as positive and active. When groups of elderly Chinese and elderly Americans were compared against each other and then with younger people on memory retention, the older Chinese did so well even the researchers were surprised. They concluded that the results can be explained entirely by their positive images of aging.

Stephan Rechtschaffen, founder of the Omega Institute says our denial of aging has its costs and it's not just our elders who suffer. He quotes Erik Erikson, "Lacking a culturally viable ideal of old age, our civilization does not really harbor a concept of the whole of life."

So how do we change the negative stereotypes we all hold? Maybe it's just a whole-hearted embrace of the aging process as a natural part of life. Ronni Bennett does just that in Time Goes By when she writes about a kind of enrichment that is unavailable to youth, the "depth and dimension new events acquire when they are informed by memories of past experience. Once again, as he seems always to be, Shakespeare is right: “The past is prologue” - the backstory prepares us for and increases appreciation of the present."

Fortunately, it's the boomers who are now becoming older. Once they get over the fact, they are no longer young and can't compete on that ground, they will revolutionize attitudes about aging, just as they did about sex, music, food and feminism. I'm beginning to hear voices like Annie LaMott,

    My Aunt Gertrude is 85 and leaves us behind in the dust when we hike. Look, my feet hurt some mornings, and my body is less forgiving when I exercise more than I'm used to. But I love my life more, and me more. I'm so much juicier. And, like that old saying goes, it's not that I think less of myself, but that I think of myself less often. And that feels like heaven to me.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 AM | Permalink

September 29, 2004

Green Houses

Sometimes, entries I post on my Business of Life blog could just have easily been posted here, so go read Green Houses which is of particular interest to aging boomers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

June 5, 2004

Boomer Orphans

About 4900 parents of boomers die every day. The generation that always thought of itself as young are becoming inescapably adult as they deal with the deaths of their parents and administer their estates. Some 76 million boomers, ages 39-58, will have to deal with the inevitable matters of life and legacy. This has huge implications for the financial services industry that so far has done little to meet these growing needs of boomers to put their affairs in order and maintain family legacies.

Jeffrey Zaslow at the Wall Street Journal writes Baby Boomers Confront Another Rite of Passage: Burying Their Parents,

Losing their parents has led them to rethink their life and career choices, and to reinterpret their relationships with their own children. Some have found solace by creating new ways to keep their late parents in their lives, writes Zaslow.

I will quote extensively because I believe the article is important and it's behind a subscription wall.

Zaslow highlights 41 year old Andrew Doctoroff, a psychologist and judge, who lost his mom in 1999 and his dad in 2002.

    "They were exceptional people -- warm, empathetic, vibrant and good," Doctoroff says. As his mother was losing her struggle with cancer, he dreaded that his young children would grow up without a sense of her.

    So he began videotaping his mother, asking her about her regrets and triumphs, her values and her sickness. He taped her at the family dinner table as she cradled his baby daughter. After she died, and his father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, he taped him, too. Mr. Doctoroff says that since losing his parents, he feels disoriented. those 28 hours on videotape are "magical elixirs that animate my parents, bringing them back to life," he says.

    While they're alive, boomers' parents can take steps to soften the mourning process their children will endure, says Phyllis Davies, author of "Grief: Climb Toward Understanding." Her parents died in 1997 and 1999, and years earlier, her mother wrote a letter to the family and left it with her will. Her mom wrote: "I hope that the initial shock of my departure has begun to wear off, and that the kind carpet of pleasant memories has started to unroll."

    She asked her children to recall the happiest family memories, and she listed many: "Christmases...the nights we slept under the stars...the pets we loved..."

    She also wrote that someday, her children would be standing at the Pacific and feel a sudden, soft breeze, or they'd be in the mountains, noticing the stirring of trees. "Feel that I'm sharing the moment with you," she wrote.

    The letter was "an incredible gift" and continues to resonate, says Ms. Davies. "I have a real sense that my mother is walking with me."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

May 24, 2004

Boomer remains

Ken Dyctwald, author of Age Power, says

    Boomers didn't just eat food -- they transformed the snack, restaurant and supermarket industries.
    Boomers didn't just wear clothes -- they transformed the fashion industry.
    Boomers didn't just date --they transformed sex roles and practices
    Boomers didn't just go to work -- they transformed the workplace

So what will they do with Death and Dying? Here are some earlier clues

If you love jewelry, you can extract the carbon from a boomer's cremated remains and turn it into a diamond, a Life Gem.

If you're an environmentalist, you can quickly turn the remains of a boomer into compost. The Promessa process freezes a corpse to minus 321 Fahrenheight in a liquid nitrogen bath, breaks the brittle body into a rough powder with mechanical vibration, and then dehydrates what remains into a pink-beige powder. The compost-loving inventor, Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh, says "For me, it's really romantic. It smells good. It feels like gold." The compost can feed plants and shrubs planted by the dead person's family. When a father dies, we can say, 'The same molecules that made up Daddy also built this plant,'" said Mrs. Wiigh.

Don't laugh. The Industrial-gas company AGA Gas, part of Germany's Linde group, has invested in the idea, taking a controlling stake of 53 percent in Promessa. The company has already filed for 35 patents.

But, if you want to transport a boomer's remains and you think the cardboard box the funeral home supplies is tacky and you know that anything fancier won't make it through airport security, try the silk urns you can get from
Renaissance Urn

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 PM | Permalink

Senior Boomer Trainwrecks

I'm reading Ken Dychtwald's Age Power, on how the baby boom generation is about to transform into the largest elderly population in human history, changing how everyone lives, large and small.

His take on the Five Social Train Wrecks We Need to Prevent.

    1. Using 65 as a marker of old age -- and the onset of old-age entitlements -- is meaningless, unfair and even dangerous.

    2. Without a dramatic shift in healthcare skills and priorities, our society will face epidemics of chronic disease.

    3. A caregiving crunch could become the social and economic sinkhole of the 21st century

    4. Tens of millions of boomers are heading toward a poverty-stricken old age.

    5. Without envisioning a new purpose for old age, we are creating an "elder wasteland."

Somehow, I think they will all pale aside of the sight of aging boomers at the Mick Jagger @80 Farewell Tour

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 PM | Permalink