Senior Agenda Link

Senior Agenda airs live every Thursday morning at 10 am. Podcasts are also available.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mother & Daughter Journey Unfolds Tomorrow on Senior Agenda

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Rosemary Barkes, long time Grove City resident, earned her Master's degree when she was 59-years old, but that is small potatoes compared to her accomplishment this year.   This year, at age 75, she gives us her first book - The Dementia Dance.  Rosemary will be interviewed on Senior Agenda tomorrow morning at 10:00.  A complete review of the book and interview will be available shortly.

In the meantime, please consider listening tomorrow.  We have an important message to share with real life advice and direction from a remarkable woman who stood with her mother in the dementia dance till the very end.  They say experience is the best teacher and Rosemary has experienced the journey that many more of us will face in the coming days.  We will get to the heart of the matter including a discussion of the pros and cons of memory care and the trials and tribulations of dementia.  We will also be discussing how to find joy in the journey.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Salted Cucumbers and Red Ripe Tomatoes

I don't recall the first time I met my grandmother, but I'm sure it was a precious moment smothered in energetic admiration as only she could deliver.  As a child, I lived on the assumption that all good grandmothers were seven feet tall with high check bones, strength of character and the mesmerizing ability to tell a story. She could turn an activity of daily living into a celebration of monumental portions.  I call them monumental because today those stories are guarded memories tucked away deep in my being. She was willful and a bit of a worry wart when it came to family matters.  I always enjoyed her tendency to fret without regard to the toll it must have taken on her because it prompted her to share what I believed at the time to be adult secrets.  She was also a woman worthy of respect. That realization, like many other truths about my grandmother, never occurred to me until I was grown and she was gone. What I did understand about her from the very beginning was that she loved me.  

On Saturdays the two of us made our weekly trip to the local A&P Supermarket to shop.  Our primary purpose was to buy groceries and I usually ended up with an "unexpected" treat, but the real excitement was in the walk to the bus stop.  We would put our Sunday clothes on a day early, lock arms, throw our heads back and march to the bus stop.  We walked with purpose and pride.  It was my grandmother who first convinced me of my own special beauty.  Those walks were our chance to practice the confidence and poise she claimed we deserved.  

My family moved back to Texas when I was about four-years old and those months away from my grandmother in Kentucky were torturous for me.  I cried for her nightly.  I still remember the day I was reunited with her after almost a year away.  We picked up right where we left off and reminisced about the old days like two old friends at a high school reunion.  I made my father promise never to take us back to Texas.  

When I started school, my grandmother lived in the apartment over top of ours.  After school, I was permitted to visit for one hour daily.  She had a desk in her bedroom and the first half of the hour was spent doing homework and discussing the events of the day.  She always prepared an after-school treat and we shared it during the second half of the hour while we watched a cartoon together on her black and white television that has since become quite famous - Spider Man.  The treat itself was always simple, usually salted cucumbers or red ripe tomatoes. When she could afford it, she would buy a melon or the occasional apple or orange. I have no idea how my grandmother made those salted cucumbers and red ripe tomatoes taste so scrumptious.  That is the magic of a grandparent.  

Grandparents play a unique role in the lives of their grandchildren. They generally represent stability in the face of hardship or change.  They are instrumental in handing down habits of the heart and faith.  They work as watchdogs and advocates.  Please feel free to celebrate your own grandparent by offering a comment.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Discrimination Based on Age is NOT Funny in the Workplace

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Listen to Senior Agenda dated 7/25/2013 to hear the story of a 77-year-old man named Richard "Dick" Alexander who believes he lost his job a few years back after 35 years in the same field due to age discrimination.  Dick is an educated, articulate, witty, handsome gentleman who continues to work.  He is a graduate of the Success Program offered by Jewish Family Services in Franklin County (Ohio) which is designed to help seniors win in the job search.  He has a story to tell and unfortunately it seems his story is on the rise.  Equal opportunity includes seniors.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

96 Year-Old Woman Frustrates Robber into Running Away

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According to the Associated Press, on July 15th a masked robber entered a neighborhood grocery store in Marshfield, Wisconsin with the intention of robbing the store but things didn't go as planned.  Margaretta Wolf, who has owned the store for 54 years, was wiling to give the robber all the Tootsie Rolls he wanted but she refused to give him the cash.  When he told her to walk to the back of the store, she said no.  When he told her to open the cash register, she said no.  When he threatened her with his knife, she threatened him with the police.  He became anxious and reportedly ran out of the store after spotting a security camera.

Well, she did offer him all the Tootsie Rolls he could eat...But seriously, we are just thankful that Ms Margaretta is safe.

Read more:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Elder Abuse, Neglect & Exploitation Stops Here

Statistics have it that the number of homeless seniors is on the rise. Some are predicting that those numbers will more than double in the next ten years. They include a disproportionate number of veterans.  Many of those individuals are living with disabilities. These seniors make for good target practice for the unscrupulous vultures out there too damn lazy to make their own way but resourceful enough to plot and scheme against vulnerable seniors.

According to the Ohio Attorney General, elder abuse is often unreported and under prosecuted. To report suspected elder abuse in Ohio, contact the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).  The Child and Family Services (CFS) office in each county has an Adult Protective Services section that investigates all accusations of abuse, as well as neglect and exploitation.  Follow report suspected elder abuse  for more information.  To report abuse, call your local police station.  

Let's work together to protect the elderly.  Please, do not turn a blind eye or deaf ear to elder abuse and neglect. They paved the way for us through hard work and sacrifice and time.  We have a responsibility to our elders.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Photos Posted on Facebook Help Brings Down Accused Ringleaders in Scam against Seniors

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Accused ringleaders of senior identity theft scam.

The party is over for the couple in the picture but we are left wondering about the more than 80 elderly patients they are accused of scamming.  

Last week Amanda Zieminski and Clyde Forteau were arrested after a year-long investigation of an identity theft scam targeting seniors.   A goggle search led police to posted facebook pictures of the couple's recent spending spree and Disney World engagement. The police were able to match the purchases featured on the couple's facebook page with purchases made with the senior's stolen credit cards.  

Zieminski is accused of stealing Social Security numbers and credit card information from elderly patients at a medical center where she once worked.  Forteau is accused of using that information to file false tax returns and have refunds and Social Security payments deposited to his account.  Police discovered more than 50 stolen credit cards and 20 fake driver's licenses upon arrest.  

According to FBI statistics, identify theft, especially medical identity theft, is on the rise for seniors.  Medical identity theft usually involves stealing medical histories and insurance information used to obtain medical treatment.  Criminals are expanding the definition as they increasingly target seniors while in the hospital or some other medical setting.  The last thing anyone should have to worry about when seeking medical attention is safe-guarding personal information but we obviously need to be more alert and aware.  

The fact that seniors continue to trust more easily is compounded by the fact that we are all more vulnerable when ill making the medical settings attractive playgrounds for identity thieves. To complicate matters even further, some seniors are less likely to report identity theft because they fear their families or caregivers will judge them as incapable and try to take control.  

Let's work together to raise awareness and educate one another. Personal information should be closely guarded at all times even at the hospital or doctor's office.  Checks, credit cards, Social Security numbers, Medicare cards and other insurance information are the most sought after sources of information for identity thieves.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ageless Love Has This 78 Year Old Man Walking the Streets

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Larry and Jimmie Sue Swilling of Anderson, South Carolina are hoping for a miracle and you can help. Jimmie Sue needs a kidney soon. We were able to speak with Larry on the air on 7/18/2013 and he reports that his wife is getting weaker and weaker.  They are looking for a healthy individual with a kidney to spare and type 0 + blood type.  Larry continues to work nine hour shifts in order to keep their medical insurance in place and to cover the more than $4000 in monthly medication cost. The operation for the donor will be covered by their insurance.  

We are committed to following this story until a donor is found and a donation is made.  Look at older posts to learn more about this family and facts about making a living donation.  Follow the link below to hear the most recent interview with Larry and learn how to get tested locally. Let's work together to keep love alive.

Son - You Just Got Served by a Baby Boomer

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To the young blood silly enough to claim that seniors do not experience discrimination and then to imply that most seniors are not worthy of employment in a recent facebook exchange on a page that regularly shares post from our blog, a senior I know and love had this to say:

Hey Tyler hope you are having a great day.  I just read your post on seniors.  I am 66 years old.  I have 20/20 vision and a strong mind and body.  The State of Ohio permits me to still drive my auto.  I work more hours than most 20 year old's, pay my bills, run all my household, and do all my yard work, plus all the other work life hands me.  I believe I have forgotten more than you have YET to learn child.  Before you start putting down other people you need to remember what you feel like when people do it to you.  If you are blessed long enough some day you will be 66 as well.  I can tell you WHAT AMERICA IS COMING TO. We are still the greatest nation on God's good earth and I pray your generation will KEEP it that way.  But with the ignorant discrimination YOU portray in this statement, I now know I must pray for the youth of our country more than I have.  Oh yes!  If you are not a "random punk being an ass," you really must quit talking like one.  Blessings to you little one, you will grow into more wisdom, knowledge and understanding as the YEARS go by.

This commentary comes to us courtesy of Izetta Torina - the senior shown here holding her grandson and loving life.   She was recently interviewed on Senior Agenda for one of our Slow Down, Listen
and Learn segments.  Follow the link below to hear that program.

Evan DuBro: An Alzheimer's & Dementia Care Visionary

"NOT ONLY IS THERE NO CURE, THERE ARE NO SURVIVORS.  Name a disease that has no cure and there's never been a survivor," declares Evan DuBro.  Evan is the founder and CEO of Our Family Home which he promotes as the premiere provider in Alzheimer's care in central Ohio.  If that sounds like a proud assertion, maybe that's because it is coming from a proud senior advocate who is deeply vested in his work to provide a more humane care option for seniors and families struggling with Alzheimer's & dementia.  Evan refers to the residents who live in his single family homes which are licensed by the State of Ohio to provide assisted living care for up to five individuals per household as family.  He uses words like dignity and respect and talks about providing a higher quality of life for his residents.  Evan watched three of his own family members make the dementia journey and he is now providing solutions.

To learn more about this local entrepreneur and his vision, click on the link below to listen to the Senior Agenda program which aired on 7/18/2013.

Calls to Action in the Alzheimer's Campaign

Senior activists Sue Crow, owner of Senior Information Services and Evan DuBro, Founder & CEO of Our Family Home.

We need your support in helping us raise awareness and demand progress for those living with Alzheimer's and dementia. Our call to action program which aired on 7/18/13 features a panel of senior service professionals who have each watched members of their own families struggle with the progression of dementia.  Our guests included Jennifer Larsen, founder & CEO of Freedom Home Health, Evan DuBro, founder & CEO of Our Family Home and Sue Crow, owner of Senior Information Services.  Each guests shared a unique perspective offering their very own calls to action. 

Our call to action is this:   We can continue to work to raise awareness, demand notice from our politicians, fight for funding for a cure, and encourage treatment options through volunteerism and donation.  We can also choose to back those senior advocates, physicians, scientists, families, caregivers, and businesses that participate in the fight against Alzheimer's and dementia.  Above all that, we can celebrate our seniors as worthy of the attention and dedication needed to beat these diseases.    

If you want to make a difference but you just aren't sure what to do, click on the link above and take a listen to the information and ideas shared.  


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Alzheimer's & HIV/AIDS - Two Peas in a Pod? We hope so...

I was listening to an internet radio talk show last week and I heard a seemingly intelligent woman make an ignorant statement about Alzheimer's.  She said the reason we are seeing so much Alzheimer's these days is because we have become a society of non-thinkers who rarely engage our minds.  The statement was shocking to me because I have been taking it for granted that at the bare minimum folks understand Alzheimer's as a progressive and devastating disease for which we currently have no cure.  Her statements took me back to the early to mid 1980's when there was so much confusion and misinformation around the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  They reminded me of an exchange between my father and myself back then after a heated argument over dinner.  I was rushing to get the dishes done as quickly as possible so that I could go to my room and be free from this man whom I characterized as a tyrant.  My father suggested that I should slow down with the dishes because if any one of us had AIDS we would certainly all have it soon as fast as I was doing those dishes.  I turned to him and asked, "Dad, did you have sex with your plate because that is one of the few ways to spread AIDS."  I did go to my room at that point but it wasn't so much by choice.  

But this notion of misconception is not a commonality to celebrate. So why are we hoping these two diseases are peas in a pod?  We are hoping that Alzheimer's and dementia will experience the same kind of attention and research that made it possible for HIV/AIDS to transform from an almost certain death sentence marked by cruel and unusual suffering to a controlled disease.  

Alzheimer's is now poised to be the train wreck of the 21st century unless breakthroughs are on the horizon.  We are already facing daunting challenges in healthcare and treatment.  Apparently, we still have work to do in terms of raising awareness and public perception. What can we do to derail the impending train wreck? We can continue to work to raise awareness, demand notice from our politicians, fight for funding for a cure, and encourage treatment options through volunteerism and donation.  We can also choose to back those senior advocates, physicians, scientists, families, caregivers, and businesses that participate in the fight against Alzheimer's and dementia.  Above all that, we can celebrate our seniors as worthy of the attention and dedication needed to beat these diseases.    

Listen to our most recent discussion about Alzheimer's and dementia on Senior Agenda. Post comments here or email us at  We welcome your contributions.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

PSST - Alzheimer's & Dementia Have Nothing to Do with Stupidity

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I was listening to an internet radio talk show last week and I heard a seemingly intelligent individual say something that stopped me in my tracks.  She was promoting an upcoming local arts festival.  Right - I can get behind that.   She was talking about the importance of getting our children involved in the arts.  Right - I can get behind that.  She said that research shows that children who participate in the arts do better academically than those who do not.  Right - I can believe that.  She said that we have become a nation of non-thinkers.  Yes - I suppose there is some truth in that.  She said the fact that we do not engage our minds is the reason why so many people are developing Alzheimer's.  What? Did she really say that?  I regret to report that she really said it and apparently she really believes it.

I live across the street from a retired teacher who struggles daily with her progression of Alzheimer's.  She was diagnosed while still teaching and forced to retire early.  I am reminded of the judge and engineer and musician I know who were also forced to quit working because of the disease.  I think about the faces of the residents I see every week who manage to afford costly assisted living and memory care communities that specialize in Alzheimer's and dementia care.  I wonder how they managed to acquire the wealth to afford these communities?  Were they paid to be non-thinkers?  Did they accumulate their wealth while wasting away like couch potatoes?  Were they a bunch of mindless, unproductive dead beats whose inactivity caused them to catch Alzheimer's?  I think NOT.

Pssst - I feel kind of silly saying this but Alzheimer's and dementia are neurological diseases that have nothing to do with stupidity.  Feel free to educate yourselves on the causes, signs and symptoms.  Follow the link below and listen to a recent Senior Agenda where a representative from the Alzheimer's Association provides accurate and concise explanations about what we know about the disease thus far.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Assisted Living Memory Care Professionals are the Unsung Heroes in Healthcare Today

It's a Family Affair - Assisted Living Communities Work to Confront Dementia

Senior Agenda features three assisted living professionals as they discuss the rewards and challenges of their chosen professions.  In my opinion, memory care professionals and staff are the under-celebrated heroes in senior healthcare today.  Assisted living communities continue to present an attractive alternative to extended nursing home stays or living at home when safety and wellness are at risk.  Alzheimer's and dementia residents require medical care, monitoring, dinning experiences, activities, and stimulation that work within the framework of their unique disease processes.  The folks who sign up to make all of this happen deserve recognition and support.

Of course, we all understand that not all assisted living communities offer the same caliber of care.  We encourage everyone to educate yourselves so that you know what questions to ask when you tour these facilities.  Don't forget to ask to see a copy of their most recent inspection.  According to the Ohio Department of Health:

The Ohio Department of Health's Bureau of Long Term Care Quality is responsible for enforcement of the Ohio Revised Code and Ohio Administrative Code laws and rules in about 533 licensed residential care facilities in Ohio.  Each of these facilities receives at least one unannounced survey (inspection) during a 9 to 15 month cycle.  During these inspections, all aspects of care and services are evaluated based on state laws and rules.  Each facility is required to display a copy of the most recent survey.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hospice & End of Life Discussions

Listen to Senior Agenda to learn about advance directives, hospice, and end of life discussions.

The discussion includes hope, fear, denial and acceptance.  We explore the concept of dying well.  The program provides a complete explanation of hospice services and includes answers to the most commonly asked questions.  Our society is so afraid to talk about dying that we are ill-equipped to know how to begin the conversations and we really have no idea how to help our loved ones when they face death. This should be required viewing.  

Overcoming the Fear of Falling

Take a listen to one of our most popular programs yet - The Importance of Balance.

Senior Agenda features an impressive panel of experts speaking on the importance of balance in the lives of seniors.  The panel includes two physical therapists, a registered nurse, and a hospital injury prevention specialist & master trainer for an innovative program called A Matter of Balance.  Topics of discussion include the fear of falling, falls prevention, home safety measures, and out-patient and in-home physical therapy treatment remedies.  This is an important topics for seniors and their families.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Plan Your Funeral before Applying for Medicaid

Julie Olds,MMC
 Director of Community Relations and Education
Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services 
Kevin Schoedinger & Julie Olds
Senior Agenda - July 11, 2013

Listen to Senior Agenda podcast dated 7/11/2013 to discover why you should plan your funeral before applying for Medicaid.  I will give you a three hints about this reasoning: 
1) We are not suggesting that the application process will make you want to end it all.  
2) Pre planning is not a Medicaid requirement.  
3) This is directly connected to the Medicaid spend down.  

Kevin Schoedinger and Julie Olds of Scheodinger Funeral & Cremation Services were guests on Senior Agenda this morning and they spoke on the importance of funeral pre planning in connection to the Medicaid spend down.  I think you will be surprised to discover what Medicaid considers as allowable in the funeral planning process.  You might also be surprised to learn what Medicaid considers as assets and how very few you are permitted to retain if Medicaid becomes necessary.  Interestingly enough, many assisted living communities and long term care facilities only accept either private pay or Medicaid.  Some accept long term care policies.  Medicare does not cover assisted living or long term care costs.  These are needful conversations.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Learn More about Making a Living Kidney Donation - Help Us Help This Family

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Larry Swilling will be one of our featured guest on tomorrow morning's Senior Agenda at 10:00 am.   He has been taking action in the search for a kidney for his wife of 56 years, Jimmie Sue Swilling, for almost a year now.  The story has received national attention and Larry reports more than 1300 inquiries since he took to walking the streets in Anderson, South Carolina with a sign that reads - Need Kidney for My Wife - back in September of 2012.  But still - no kidney.  

Finding a match is no easy task.  Jimmie Sue has been working with the Medical University of South Carolina.  She needs a donor with O+ blood.  Larry and family all have A+ blood.  

Consider the following quick facts about a living donation provided by the National Kidney Foundation: 

  •      A live organ can come from a family member, good friend, spouse,    in-law or even from a stranger. Thanks to improved medications, a genetic link between the donor and recipient is no longer required to ensure a successful transplant.
  •      The organ most commonly given by a living donor is the kidney. People usually have two kidneys, and one is all that is needed to live a normal life. When the kidney is removed, the single normal kidney will increase in size to compensate for the loss of the donated kidney. Parts of other organs including the lung, liver and pancreas are now being transplanted from living donors.
  •     To donate a kidney, you must be in good health and have normal kidney function. The prospective donor and recipient must have compatible blood types.
  •     If you wish to donate to a stranger, it is important to educate yourself on donation and make sure you understand the risks and benefits of donation. If you decide to pursue donation, you will need to contact transplant centers in your area.
  •     Donors are never financially compensated. Under federal law, it is illegal to receive money or gifts in exchange for an organ donation. The cost of the living donor's evaluation, testing and surgery are generally paid for by the recipient's Medicare or private health insurance. Time off from work and travel expenses are not covered by Medicare or private insurance. However, donors may be eligible for sick leave, state disability and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  •     A kidney can be removed in either of two ways, the traditional open surgery or the laparoscopic technique.  To learn more please visit the  National Kidney Foundation at Living Donation.  
Larry is not about to give up.  He is a hard-working, dedicated, and determined husband.  This 77-year old still works nine hour shifts in a local factory because his wife's medicines costs about $4,400 a month. They have Medicare and have worked it out so that the cost of the surgery for the donor will be 100% covered.  

Let's work together to keep this love story going.  Most everyone sees this as a heart-warming story but these folks are real people asking for real help.  If you or someone you know could be a possible donor, please call MUSC's transplant center at 
1-800-277-8687 today.   

Larry Swilling

Tune in at 10:00 am on July 18th to hear this man interviewed.  Scroll down for a glimpse of a previous interview.

Apparently Inclusiveness Doesn't Include Seniors

It used to be about trying to do something.  Now it's about trying to be someone.
Margaret Thatcher 

We appear to live in a space and time where anyone who stands outside of popular public opinion, whatever that may be, is subject to increasing hostility and invisibleness.  Margaret Thatcher said it best, "It used to be about trying to do something.  Now it's about trying to be someone."  

These days the someone everyone wants to be is characterized as progressive, inclusive and enlightened.  But it seems we have become so progressive, inclusive, and enlightened that we now feel empowered to pigeonhole anyone who dares to deviate.  Consider the following excerpt taken from an article written by Dean Obeidallah, a frequent commentator and "voice of inclusion" on various networks including CNN where he argues that people can "evolve over time for the better" in connection to the Paula Dean scandal: 

"Certainly if someone is spouting racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or Islamaphobic comments today, they deserve the punishment they receive--be it losing their job or being cast from mainstream society to the fringes to wallow with the hate mongers."  

Excuse me Mr. Obeidallah, but people can "spout" whatever they want.  Ever heard of the First Amendment or Freedom of Speech?    In addition, I would be careful about suggesting that those who agree with you are more "evolved" than those who do not. This school of thought has been used for discriminatory purposes too many times to count.  

And in all this chatter of tolerance and inclusion, where is the discourse on behalf of seniors?  Apparently those discussions stand  outside of popular opinion or rhetoric.  Apparently it isn't sexy or interesting or even cool to want to talk about seniors or the issues that impact them.  Apparently we aren't as all inclusive and progressive as we like to think.  

Last week I was interviewing a potential guest for Senior Agenda who said she would consider coming on the program but only as long as our audience wasn't "just a bunch of old people with one foot in the grave." I waited for her to realize what she had said and offer an embarrassed apology but she did not.  She kept right on talking.  I asked her if she had ever listened to the program.  I suggested that she do that as soon as possible.  "I am a senior advocate,"  I explained.  "Do you know what it means to be an advocate,"  I asked.  What became clear to me in the conversation that followed was that she understood the word "advocate" as a label void of any action and all complexity.  Her conception of the word started and ended with an empty rendition of political correctness and tolerance.  

I do not tolerate older people.  I work to understand them.  To be an advocate means that you work to effect change where there is injustice and to preserve standing where there is equality.   I do not call myself an advocate because I seek recognition or approval. It's not about me.  It's about seniors. I am willing to work to uncover complexities and then push for what seems to me in the best interest of seniors despite political discord or association.  I am willing to risk ridicule and criticism in an effort to make a difference.

Senior Agenda is all about community and action and advocacy.  It is about honoring and esteeming our elders while fighting to protect those who have out lived their resources including families, finances and friendships.  It is about raising awareness when retirements, pensions, social security, Medicare, and Medicaid are threatened.  It's about getting to the bottom of disproportionate poverty, elder abuse & neglect, and crimes against the elderly.  It's about learning to embrace aging and rejecting negative images and stereotyping about growing older.  It's about wellness and health and happiness.  It's about celebrating seniors.  It's about trying to do something.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Senior Husband Still Looking for a Kidney for His Wife

Larry Swilling will be interviewed live Thursday July 18th at 10:00 am on Senior Agenda.  He is a determined, dedicated, loving, committed, heroic senior husband who is taking action in the search for a kidney for his wife.  Consider listening to offer support and help get the word out.  Check out the segment below for a glimpse of this amazing man and his wonderful wife.  

Husband, 77, Takes to the Streets to Find Wife Kidney

Friday, July 5, 2013

Private Moments Shared Deliver Hope...from romance to grief and loss.

Podcast for interview (6/27/13) with Pastor Izetta Torina is now available.  Click on link above to Listen to Senior Agenda and review.  We are delighted to have received so much positive feedback where this interview is concerned.  Pastor Torina offers inspiration and encouragement as she shares some of her life lessons in regard to romance, marriage, and even grief and loss.  Since the interview initially aired just nine days ago we have heard from women in abusive relationships, folks working through the loss of a loved one and even some folks struggling with depression who have written to say this program offered them hope.  Pastor Torina is a remarkable woman with profound insights.  She was chosen as our very fist Slow Down, Listen, and Learn guest because she as been so influential in my own life.  She is my very own mother.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Is It that Senior Southerner Paula Dean Has Corporate America Running Scared ?

Discussions about  1) whether our society is capable of forgiveness and   2)whether folks are capable of change are strategic distractions around TV personality and chef Paula Dean's recent confessions.   We are all a chatter, but not everyone wants to admit that what we are really talking about is old-fashioned Southern style racism.   

What is also interesting in all of this is the quickness with which corporate America is running scared.  Dean is being sued for discrimination and after portions of a recent deposition went public, her corporate partners quickly decided to bail. 

We appear to live in a space and time where anyone who stands outside of public opinion, whatever that may be, is subject to increasing hostility and even banishment.  Public opinion is changing but the consequences of going against the grain are as real and rigid as ever.

But a word about those distractions first:

1) Why can't we just forgive her and move on? Are we so incapable of forgiveness that we are going to judge someone for one little thing they said almost 30 years ago?  We can't let her off the hook so easily because we do not believe she is telling the whole story.   Show me a 60-some year old, white, Southern woman who claims to have never used the "n" word, and I will likely show you a liar.  But Dean admits to using the word.  Show me an individual with the same demographic  markers who claims to have said the word only once, and I will definitely show you a liar.   Based on her botched apology on the "Today" show,  she is obviously distressed about the scrutiny she is under and what it is costing her,  but that is quite different than being repentant.  Forgiveness generally follows a sincere apology.  

2) Now,  for those who are making the argument that folks are capable of change in lieu of confronting the ramifications of growing up in an era where racism was as all-American as apple pie.  YES - folks can change.  Again, we just don't believe Dean falls into that category.   According to her, she doesn't understand that the "n" word is hateful.   She initially didn't see anything wrong with employing a plantation theme (black slaves included) for an upcoming event.   She doesn't get that jokes like the one her brother, Bubba, is said to have told about President Obama where he suggested they send the President down to the Gulf of Mexico after an oil spill so that he could ni**er-rig it is offensive.  

What about this business of the high cost of going against public opinion? I guess that is about as old hat as undercover sugar-coated racism.   The twist is these days those who support public opinion proudly describe themselves as progressive, inclusive and enlightened and everyone else as NOT.  Consider the following excerpt taken from an article written by Dean Obeidallah, a frequent commentator on various networks including CNN where he argues that people can "evolve over time for the better" in connection to the Paula Dean scandal: 

"Certainly if someone is spouting racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or Islamaphobic comments today, they deserve the punishment they receive--be it losing their job or being cast from mainstream society to the fringes to wallow with the hate mongers."  

Excuse me Mr. Obeidallah, but people can "spout" whatever they want.  Ever heard of the First Amendment or Freedom of Speech?   Of course, there are some limitations but they do not include spouting racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or Islamaphobic comments unless those comments are advocating hate crimes or violence.  In addition, I would be careful about suggesting that those who agree with you are more "evolved" than those who do not. This school of thought has been used for discriminatory purposes too many times to count.  

We have become so insistent on the inclusion of tolerance that we have become intolerant.   Once a sentiment is established as public opinion, we dare anyone to defy it.  That is why corporate America is running in the opposite direction of Dean.  This is a slippery slope.  Don't get too comfortable.  Public opinion is subject to change.  

I know that racism is wrong.  I want it to STOP.  I work to change people's minds and hearts.  I support interracial marriage which was widely frowned upon until the 1990's and illegal at the time of my birth in 1965.   I cannot support ostracizing or displacing people who dare to disagree with me.  What should we do with those who do not support interracial marriage?  Should we see to it they are unemployed and then deny them a place in the unemployment line?    Maybe we should just characterized them as "less evolved" and banish them from mainstream society.  After all, interracial marriage is legal and currently in line with public opinion.  

It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. We still have work to do!!!