My grandpa Rex is one of my heroes. At the age of 94, he wakes up everyday looking for ways to be productive and honor his bride – my grandma Nellie who is now 93. They still hold hands; make people laugh; and inspire others to be “aging champions.” (Listen to their take on happy hour here.) And, they do this in a private condominium – assisted only by my aunt and uncle who live five miles away. How long will they be able to live independently? No one knows. But, our family is hoping that grandma and grandpa will be able to avoid an assisted living center. As a family, this “what if” scenario is the next big discussion we need to have. And no one wants to have it. What if the options for assisted living were actually an upgrade from my grandparents’ current condo’? What if we all looked forward to visiting their assisted living center? I learned today that this may be more possible than previously thought.
I had the good fortune of sitting with an environmental gerontologist this morning. Yeah, I didn’t know they existed either. But, Yavuz Taneli uses a Masters in architecture and a PhD in environmental gerontology to make spaces that help the elderly thrive. He absolutely loves his work, and treats it as a “giving-back” exercise for the love his grandparents showered on him. He misses his grandparents, who died a few years back, and he relishes the months that, as a child, he got to live with them. Yavuz’s parents treated their own home as an assisted living facility during his grandparents’ final years. Although Yavuz believes that is the very best model, he understands how complicated elder care is for American families today. So, it’s only fitting that Yavuz, a Turkish name that means “intrepid” would be the latest member of the ARISE MD healthy-aging network. It’s relatively easy to talk about managing mid-life aging, because we have many modern solutions to help people feel and look their best in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. But, it takes big courage to be proactive about the management of the twilight years.
After 15 years of cosmetic surgery and six years of age management medicine, I have yet to attend a lecture within one of my myriad organizations that addressed living and thriving during the last years of life. Some call this the “twilight” of life, which is a nice euphemism. I am passionate about this space, because I want the best for my grandparents and because I believe the last five years of my life can be as enjoyable and meaningful as my mid-twenties. I’m on a mission to be different than most Americans (including doctors), who treat life’s twilight as the inconvenient elephant in the living room. However, talking about it before you really need to does two things. First, it helps everyone see (as described in the attached interview) that the elephant is much nicer in modern times than everyone assumes. And secondly, it releases freedom and energy for all parties to live a fuller life now.
Our family, like most, struggled when it came time to tell my grandparents that they had to stop their RV’ing lifestyle. After 30 years of roaming America in their mobile home, Rex and Nellie both had health issues that made it unsafe for them to be on tour. As the Miller family doctor, I was thrust into the early conversations with my grandparents. To their credit, Rex and Nellie were only mildly resistant. I’m not saying they shut down the tour and settled easily – it took them three years to really wind things down. But, that’s exactly what they did – they slowly transitioned their program. And they were only able to do that because my dad and uncle helped support my grandparents’ RV’ing for as long as possible – even flying to my grandparents and driving their RV home for their seasonal return to the midwest.
In many ways that’s the model I observed in Asia and that’s more of what Yavuz observed in Turkey – grace and sacrifice on the part of sons, and especially daughters, in those two cultures to help carry the late-aging burdens with their parents. The really good news, according to Yavuz, is that “moving parents or grandparents to assisted living centers no longer means that you have to give up being close with your aged loved ones.” With Yavuz Abi’s (Abi means brother in Turkish) help I want our ARISE MD community to be bold about the full spectrum of life, which includes the best possible twilight season for you and your loved ones. Thanks to my dialogue with Yavuz, I’m more comfortable, if the need arises, moving my grandparents to an assisted living center.
Fresh off the plane from a meeting in Lake Tahoe, I corralled Yavuz to help us gain perspective on the new era of assisted living centers in America.
Yavuz represents Direct Supply. To learn more check out https://www.directsupply.com.
Also, check out aginginplace.com. This community has inspired me on several occasions to help patients age well in their current home.
Lastly, arisemd.com is your starting point for becoming an aging champion. We unlock health potential in young and more mature adults. If you’d like to schedule an initial consult please email : email@example.com or call : 414 386 2600.