Category Archives: Living alone

Only Child and Senior Loneliness

Only Child's Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Only Child’s Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

When my father died from brain cancer at 66, life turned all downhill for my mother. She had lost her husband of many years and had to go it alone. This was the mid-1960s so changes for women were just getting started. And although my mother had me, I was a teenager and really not much help for mom’s loneliness and her health, which after Dad’s death went from good to worse than bad.

First, it was her arthritis in her hands and feet, which landed her in the hospital for tests, disfigured her hands (rheumatoid arthritis) and damaged her feet to the point of what resembled wounds. I remember coming home from business school and finding her sitting in the living-room, one foot bandaged and propped up on a footstool. Her two visitors were not friends, but the managers at the insurance company where she had started to work when Dad died. They were not there to offer her support, but to try and convince her to quit her job which she was having difficulty doing. She had gone from typist to proof reader because of her fingers.

Fortunately I was able to get a job as a secretary later that year and help Mom with expenses, including doing the actual grocery shopping. But Mom’s health continued to deteriorate. She also had scleroderma, which gave her puffy cheeks and changed her voice to almost a squeak. She died at age 63. Official cause was a brain aneurysm but really the arthritis killed her. Because of the arthritis she fell off her vanity bench which gave her a never-ending headache. She figured she needed her eyes tested and had booked an appointment for an eye test but never made it as she went into a coma and died in hospital.

I have passed both my parents’ ages of death and have mixed feelings about it.  Although I may have escaped some of the medical conditions of my parents (although I do have arthritis – in my neck and bunions and the like on my feet), I still feel very wary going through the rest of my life. Yes, I have had my own medical issues to deal with, but I’m learning that there are two factors that make life very hard to deal with for a senior – living alone and being poor.

I have covered the being poor before, but living alone to my mind, is not the best scenario for a senior and happiness. Apparently, some studies are showing otherwise. See Loneliness among the elderly  where  surprisingly the majority of lonely seniors are married or living with a partner.  But my many years living alone have proven otherwise. Living alone means not having someone there to help you, to support you, provide companionship, and help you deal with all the crap life shoves at you. I realize that not all duos are good – some are abusive; some provide no support.

However, when I observe my friends who have partners of some sort, I see a plus. Sure, they have problems, health, maybe financial, etc. But they seem more positive, have that support (and some even say that) and are happier – the latter just radiates from them. My take here is if you have a good partner, you can deal with life better.

Partners can mean many things from the traditional marriage, to living common-law, to not living together all the time (i.e., maintaining separate homes for whatever reason – often financial – pension laws you know).

One friend who used to live in my neighbourhood had a long-term relationship with a fellow. Their relationship and its setup worked worked very well for them. Both lived in separate houses – in fact he lived just outside Toronto. But they spent weekends together at her place and travelled together. Sure they argued and had differences of opinions – most couples do. But they were supportive of each other, not only with health issues but house issues. And boy, my friend had a doozie when her mean next door neighbour shovelled snow from his driveway onto her gas meter and the entrance for the gas into her house – the latter was blocked and she got gas fumes in her house. She phoned both her partner and me. Both came over here. He got on the phone to the gas company and organized everything there. I insisted she stay overnight with me, but in the meantime she went back home (outside) to supervise the gas company arriving. Her partner and I had another thing to do for her – get some important legal papers off to Fed Ex before they closed to meet a deadline for her.

True, yours truly had some part in this. But consider the scenario without her partner. And remember I don’t drive.

My friend’s situation does not have a happy ending. Her partner was diagnosed with brain cancer and died shortly afterwards. Yes, she was there with him, but has been alone since then.

I have to deal with the crap in my life alone. My son does help where he can but he has his own life. I also have no brothers or sisters.

So, some statistics be damned, I still say a senior living alone is not the happiest and healthiest. Read 10 Dangers of Seniors Living Alone. And I have only covered the tip of that iceberg.

What do you think? I’d like to hear from seniors living alone and seniors with partners. I won’t bite, whatever you say.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only Child and her parents in another time and world

Only Child and her parents in another time and world

 

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Filed under Aloneness, Happiness, Health Seniors, Life demands, Living alone, Mom and Dad, Mother dying, Older Women living alone and health, Only child, Seniors and Happiness

Only Child on dreading the day

Dreading the day or night? That can be a sign of having an anxiety disorder. High anxiety has followed me through most of my life from the early teens. It is my black dog and no matter what I do or don’t do, it hovers and often strikes. The difference may be just that some of the anxieties have changed since I turned senior.Sharon CLB mid 1990s

Well, it turns out that up to 15% and counting of seniors suffer from anxiety. Medical experts, research and the like didn’t cotton on to that for some time and instead focused more on seniors’ physical ailments, dementia and depression. See information from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Now they are taking note.

That 15% figure comes from the NCBI  PubMed. And they are saying that a lot of us seniors with anxiety disorders got them first earlier in life (with some exceptions such as acrophobia). Research is also finding that the anxiety is chronic. They got that one right. I have a few other ideas of my own here. For example, today many seniors, especially women, live alone, so don’t have someone to support them emotionally. Not that all duos are supportive, but often you get some opposites in there, someone who will listen and offer some suggestions, hopefully in a non-judgemental, friendly way.

And I can hear the “pie in the sky” and “when cows come home on roller skates” skeptics reverberating in the background. I know that the above supportive scenario is the ideal situation rather than the norm. And I don’t know what the solution or solutions are to decrease this menace. Certainly less big problems popping up so often in people’s lives would help. And I’m not going to even go into how confusing, complicated and over-busy our world is today. Just think too much technology, to many things to -do and of course dealing with our weather around the world. Enough said about that here.

I will be looking into some more information on anxiety in older adults with some ideas on possible help (I don’t say solutions; the only solution may be to get the hell out of Dodge, but we will all be doing that at sometime. High anxiety can  make that happen sooner as it can lead to heart attacks, strokes and cognitive disorders. It’s that last one that bothers me.)

For now I would like your comments on anxiety – and it doesn’t matter if you are a senior or not. Anxiety really doesn’t belong to any age.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Health, Health Seniors, Help and Support, Life demands, Living alone, Only child, Seniors, Stress, Worrying

Only Child says: Run my life? Then live it

Only child stews about people's interferance

Only child stews about people’s interference

Lately so-called well-meaning friends and family have been telling me how to run my life. They have been using various tactics. Which got me thinking about the psychology of telling people what to do.

For one thing, the methods used make a big difference. And whether they are listening to what I am saying, or not saying. Many times I am just telling about the difficult times I have in my life. But I’m not asking for their advice – if I want their advice, I will ask for it. I think they are forgetting the prime “rule” for when someone confides in you. Listen emphatically; don’t give orders.

I think my son has it down pat what to do and what not to do. Certainly if I have a problem with computers and ask him, he will give advice and try to fix the problem. But otherwise…let me give you an example. A few weeks ago I was complaining about all the Toronto public transit subway closures on weekends and despite shuttle buses (which never can hold the high number of subway passengers), it can mess up you getting to where you need to go. All he said was “the TTC have to do the maintenance or they will have to shut down the whole system.”

I’ll come back to that in a moment, but first how other family members have reacted.

This is the one that always gets my goat and I think I stumbled on a way to handle it.

I am talking about needing someone to do the weekly housecleaning and the like – not because I can’t physically do it, but because of my time (a lot of the housecleaning never gets done) and I just don’t like doing it and don’t do a good job. I add in I can’t get anyone to do it because I live below the poverty level for a single person living on my own. So the interference goes something like this:

Why don’t you move into a condo?

Me: Not enough space to garden and I don’t want someone living right on the other side of my walls. (And do they consider that no matter where you live, the place will need cleaning?)

Why don’t you sell the house (no reasoning about where I would move as the condo and the like has already been covered). You would get lots of money to live on for other things.

Then I throw out the kicker.

My ex-husband is half owner of the house.

The silence is palpable.

Back to my son. If you compare his answer to the house ones (and he has never said I should move out of my house), the difference is he offers a logical explanation for the problem but no advice. He doesn’t say something like  “deal with it” or “you should…”

So, I will step into the shoes of my so-called advisors with a word of advice.

When a friend or relative confides in you about a problem, unless they ask for your advice, don’t barge in with it.

Just listen emphatically. The person confiding may just need a listening ear at this point in time. In my case, as mentioned before, I do ask for advice and help – but I go to the people who can and/or should help – such as my handyman for house repairs and utility companies and governments  who caused the problem in the first place.

If you want to run my life, then you can live it – and that means doing all the things for me that you are suggesting including supplying the funds for them.

And do I really want that?

No. (The extra money needed from somewhere would be helpful, though).

How do you handle unwelcome advice from others? Comments please.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family and Friends, finances, Life demands, Living alone, Only child, Problems, The Art of Listening

Only Child terrified of heavy rain and wind storm starting Wednesday

01910012As if dealing with the snafus connected with the preparations for my East End Writers’ Group’s 15th anniversary presentation for Wednesday evening weren’t more than enough, there is a big storm coming our way the same day. It’s the remnants of Hurricane Patricia plus a clipper from western Canada. And I am terrified.

Terrified of too much rain and floods and high winds. Terrified of the potential damage to property. I worry about water getting in the basement, especially as for some of the time the winds are from the east, and if so how much water and the cleanup. I worry about eaves trough issues – eaves troughs have been cleaned twice so far this year but the leaves keep falling. Problem is walnut trees hanging over from the neighbours’ property. I’ve been keeping an eye on the situation and early this morning noticed some leaves and small branches (that’s how it falls) sticking over the eaves troughs. So immediately I called Gerry who cleans the eaves troughs but he can’t come today as he has to work at his main job (usually he works nights). He suggested tomorrow morning AFTER I had told him about the big rain and wind storm coming Wednesday.  He is coming Friday morning to clean out what the wind sends down during the storm. So I climbed up on a chair and started tying to remove the leaves with a rake. Not high enough to see what’s going on, but I have vertigo and was getting dizzy. I got a hold of Mike who hopefully will come today and clean out the eaves troughs – it will cost me more, but if he can do it today during daylight, that will be a big help.

Terrified of roof, tree, etc. damage and the consequences.

Terrified of power outages and the consequences.

My nerves are so much on edge that my respiratory infection which was showing signs of getting better, is now in a bit of a relapse. It’s all this stress that keeps coming at me – in spades. I noticed that over the weekend when I had little stress the healing had progressed. But from early this morning, no.

I had been sticking to natural remedies because of my allergic reactions to most anti-biotics. And I had decided to see a medical doctor to check out my tinnitus but now he will have to check out the respiratory infection and I’m terrified here – of both the diagnosis and the treatment. My trust in medical doctors is very low because of past experience, which is fodder for another post. I would really like to go to a naturopath but they aren’t covered by our provincial health insurance so I can’t afford the cost. After paying some bills today and taking out money for cash expenses, my bank accounts are almost depleted.

Seniors day as I call it when the old age pensions and the like arrive, isn’t until tomorrow.

Sometimes I think life is too much of a struggle. It is no fun not having a partner, or whatever you call a significant other.

As for the weather, which is at the heart of all the current problems, I can only say what the lady in the bus back in May said.

“God controls the weather.”

I hope he gives us all a reprieve with a much less severe storm. I have my wishes here and am presenting them to him. I hope he listens to me and does the right thing.

It’s not just me involved here – there are all the others connected with the East End Writers’ Group presentation Wednesday and on a much broader scale all of us living in southern Ontario.

If you want to read more about the storm (and get terrified), go to The Weather Network http://www.theweathernetwork.com/ and enter “Toronto” in the Find Your Forecast box.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, East End Writers' Group, Extreme Weather, God, Health, Life demands, Living alone, Old Age pensions, Only child, Power Outages, Trees and Shrubs, Uncertainty, Weather

Only Child trudges uphill

Teddy  points out my  time being wasted

Teddy points out my time being wasted

Except for my garden, actually writing and meeting with old friends, this summer seems to be one big uphill venture for me. And that includes last Wednesday’s fall down – yes two days after being stung by a wasp. Then there is this on-again off-again respiratory sinusitis thing and other “normal” for me health issues.

My friends and I keep saying it’s just because we are getting old. I’m wondering if it is just that. We are all getting older and may not be able to do as much in a day as we used to. Our health may not be as good as when we were younger. But to yet again paraphrase that old Peggy Lee song “Is that all there is (to it)?”

My fall last week was 100 per cent someone else’s fault and I don’t mean God. No one pushed me either. But some careless b****** left picture wire outside and it blew onto the sidewalk up the street from me. I was wearing sandals and walking quickly to the main street to catch a bus. Normally I look ahead where I’m going, not on the ground. You guessed it, the unseen (then) wire got caught in a sandal and I went flying forward, sustaining a nasty large bleeding scrape on my right arm up to my elbow, a smaller scrape on my left knee, and bruises, bruises on my arms and legs. I’m still finding more bruises.

Of course with dripping blood from the arm I had to go home and apply first aid. But not before cursing the son of a ***** who left the wire out. So help me, if that person was around/and or I somehow could find out who he or she is, let’s just say they would be sorry.

It’s like I told my friend Carol the next day. This summer I have cursed so many people I don’t know for menacing acts.

It’s just turning into one of those summers, what with house issues and trying to find time to get things done. That includes my writing. When I finish dealing with the injuries and “ill health issues,” trying to organize my holidays and well, just getting out to get groceries it seems, I don’t have as much time to continue writing my third Beyond mystery book and promote the second one, Beyond Blood. Once into promoting and writing I get somewhere, but all that time I have to waste on the problems, etc. aggravates me.

Part of the problem is I have to deal with all of this on my own. No, I never want to live with anyone again, but a live-out partner would be nice.

Anyway, that’s enough ranting for now. I am getting together with some old friends and more of that is in the works. Sometimes looking back is better than looking forward.

And those who keep saying “moving forward” (I hate that overused expression) can take those two words and stuff them

My toonie’s worth.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

If only Raggedy Annie could do some house repairs

If only Raggedy Annie could do some house repairs

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Filed under Aloneness, Anxiety, Falls prevention, Health, Health Seniors, Home and Garden, Life demands, Living alone, Old Age, Only child, Seniors, Seniors and falls, Writing

Only child on being a Worry Wart

Only Child contemplates worrying

Only Child contemplates worrying

In my memoir You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, I write

Try not to look ahead at what might happen tomorrow, next week, next year, or the worry might kill you. Mom and I could tie for first prize as Worry Wart of all years, always putting our minds through gymnastics about what could happen. (Copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford).

Yep, that’s me. How much of a concern is it for people who worry? Dr. Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D of Cornell University received a shock when he asked hundreds of seniors what their greatest regret in life was. Time spent worrying was their biggest regret.

Not me. When I thought about it, it is not the time spent worrying but all the crap that gets shoved my way, all the stuff I have to deal with on my own because I don’t have a partner. In particular, the stuff I can’t (physically or skilfully) do myself. The current list includes: getting a new window unit air conditioner because the old one died late last summer – and getting someone to remove the old and put in the new; getting someone to help me bring home a few bags of topsoil and a bag of mulch for my garden (I don’t drive and don’t have a car so although Home Depot is three blocks from me I can’t physically carry the bags home. And I can’t rent one of their vans to do so). The two male friends I usually ask can’t this year – one has cancer so no way for him and I understand – the other won’t because of his car. I don’t ask my son because he has back problems and he is out of country on business for most of the month.

So a female friend to the rescue – Tanya next door will take me to Home Depot to get the topsoil bags and get her husband Alex to bring back the mulch in his truck – a bigger bag, mainly because she wants a number of mulch bags for her own garden projects and I’ll just buy the one bag from Alex. This one worried me for some time because it is something I can’t do on my own. I know it’s supposed to be “ask and you shall receive” but is it?

The other current worries are of the bureaucratic red tape stuff that involve work equipment or the house, i.e., renewing an extended service warranty on the laptop which after the three-year lease is no longer covered under the monthly laptop lease fee – but I can get the laptop lease itself extended on a month-by-month basis. I have to get a one-year extended warranty which can’t be transferred to the new laptop I plan to lease from this fall (the old laptop goes back to Dell then). Or I can take a chance on the hardware all working. Considering that I’ve had a memory card and keyboard replaced in a couple of previous laptops (with the warranty – so no monetary cost), guess what I will do.

The other is from the City of Toronto Water and Waste department – the notice in the mail says it is “mandatory” to get replacement water meters (or in my case where the meter was replaced 9 years ago – a retrofit) put in. If the old meter is behind a wall in the basement they will remove the wall and not replace it – just put on a cover that can be opened for any future shenanigans (my word choice). For replacing my old water meter back when, no walls were removed – it’s in a closet with lots of space in front and around it but a wall in back – they just moved out items beside it. Who knows what they will do for a retrofit. I haven’t called to book the time – too busy dealing with other worries. But I will be pretty clear on when they can and can’t get in – not until after the middle of June as my work, house and garden schedule is too busy until then.

Back to the seniors’ study on regretting worry. I don’t regret spending time worrying; it’s the “stuff” coming at me and overwhelming me to worry that is my concern. And that’s not regret; that’s resentment.

The “study” does give some advice from some of the seniors. I find one a good idea. Live one day at a time. I just think about the late John Lennon getting gunned down at 40 and his philosophy on living – something about life being what happens when you make other plans.

The article about Dr. Pillemer’s study is at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-a-pillemer-phd/how-to-stop-worrying-reduce-stress_b_2989589.html

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Anxiety, Family and Friends, Gardening, Helping Others, Home and Garden, Life demands, Living alone, Only child, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncategorized, Worrying

Only Child on seniors’ age versus finances

Only Child  contemplates some harsh realities

Only Child contemplates some harsh realities

When is a senior a senior? Is it 65? Or 60? Or maybe 59? Or maybe 70? Being senior is not necessarily your age, how you feel or how your health is. Being senior boils down to one thing – money.

Last week I did the draft of my income tax returns for 2012. Not only was the income from all sources paltry but what I can’t claim for senior tax credits upset me because I’m not quite 65 – the age the Canadian Federal government puts for seniors’ tax credits, Old Age Security  and Guaranteed Income Supplement payments (the latter can be clawed back when you do your tax returns).

But, wait a minute – the Feds aren’t consistent here. Canada Pension Plans can be paid out from age 60. Last year I opted to start receiving them and many months they saved my bacon. But if my tax calculations are correct (or nearly correct – I have to go through the draft again) my income tax payment is around the same amount as one month’s CPP payment.

Besides not qualifying for seniors’ tax credits, I’m not married or living common law and don’t have a child under 18, so can’t qualify for those tax credits either. My medical-health expenses either don’t qualify or aren’t sufficient to work in with the percentage deduction there. So I’m left with tax credits for a bank service and for having a pass for Toronto public transportation. Oh, I can fill out the form for Ontario property tax credits (age isn’t a “qualification” here) – but it is no longer used as a tax credit when filing your taxes – if approved, you get a monthly payment for the next year.

But wait a minute: the Toronto Transit Commission seniors’ age starts at 65; Shoppers Drug Mart is either 60 or 65 (depending on who you ask there), Hudson’s Bay is 60, Sears is – well I don’t know as their Sears Advantage seems geared to all adult ages. VIA Rail is 60.

Can’t we get this age senior setup consistent? I suggest 55, although that won’t help me now. Of course, that isn’t where governments are thinking for seniors’ age. Freedom 55 is more of a dinosaur than we seniors are.

Where does that leave a maybe senior who is living barely above the poverty level (counting all income sources) for a single person living alone in Toronto? (And I did a Google search for that so I’m not making this status up).

Where it leaves me is having to hit on my RRSPS (which are so meagre they wouldn’t keep me for half a year) to pay my taxes and other non-regular expenses (house repairs/replacements and the like). I don’t have a company pension and it’s too late (in my years) to get into this new government pension setup for self-employed. My freelance income sure isn’t sufficient (maybe if I could spend more time at it instead of dealing with repairs and housework, it could improve. But that’s all part of “the only person living just above the poverty line syndrome). I know I’m not the only “senior” swaying in this boat.

So I do an annual hit on my RRSPs? I figure the way things are going (stress, worry, problems, even health) if I don’t they might just outlive me.

Excuse me while I attend to the latest problem – my printer is acting up – it is printing only one page at a time, even when set to do more. And I checked the connections – even switched to another power cord.

What do you think of all this senior age-money nonsense?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Ageism, Aloneness, finances, Income Taxes, Living alone, Old Age, Old Age pensions, Only child, RRSPs, Seniors, Worrying