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Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Aging...
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6. Help exists: The challenge is finding it.

Linda Wozniak, senior business service assistant in the UNH's School of Health and Human Services, knows the importance of referral services. An only child, she helped her father, who had Alzheimer's disease, and her mother, now 93 and a resident of an assisted living facility, investigate health-care options. "For them in the beginning there were not many resources for help and fewer home care agencies where one could seek information. My parents had no idea where to find assistance," she says.

"It's difficult to navigate all the complexities of health care, insurance, and so forth," agrees Amy Schwartz, senior policy analyst at the New Hampshire Institute for Health Policy and Practice at UNH. "It's such a confusing issue and sometimes elders just don't want to deal with it."

The institute provides technical assistance and oversight to ServiceLink, which provides free referrals to a wide range of services in New Hampshire that assist with everything from understanding Medicare and Medicaid benefits to financial planning, home meal delivery, transportation, housing options and caregiver support.

ServiceLink staff make visits to housebound clients or those with disabilities and will make contacts on their behalf. For information, see or call (866) 634-9412. To make initial inquiries in other states, check with the local office for the aging, visit a local senior center or go to

Several web sites can help sort out which Medicare prescription drug plan will work best. Detailed information about available plans by geographic area and states' health insurance assistance programs are available at

Local aging offices often hold classes to answer seniors' personal insurance questions. For the phone number of a nearby office, see

7. Being active pays off.

"Physical activity is crucial," says Betty Crepeau '66, '88G, '94G, professor and chair of UNH's department of occupational therapy. "An exercise regimen can be as simple as walking and lifting light weights." And, she points out, it's never too late to start.

Medical checkups, including any recommended tests, can go a long way toward warding off disease. "If illness does strike," says Crepeau, "don't delay or try to convince yourself that it will go away. Get it treated." Medicine has made great strides, so in the event of serious illness, stay positive, advises Ed Hujsak '49. Three months after retiring, Hujsak had a quadruple bypass and an almost-always-fatal form of colon cancer. "Eighteen years later, I am still here, keeping busy and in acceptably good shape," he says.

Volunteer work can keep seniors in touch with other generations while making a real contribution. "Elders who have meaningful hobbies and activities report being happier," says Douglas Simmons, UNH assistant professor of occupational therapy.

Lester Rollins '47 is an active member of Toymakers in Franklin, Penn., where volunteer woodworkers make toys each year to distribute through nonprofit organizations. This year, in addition to providing about 1,200 toys, they expect to donate $2,000 to the Salvation Army.

Studies indicate that reading, crossword puzzles, and word and math games may help keep the brain sharp. In seacoast New Hampshire and southern Maine, the Active Retirement Association provides cultural and educational programs for people age 50 and over. And some seniors enjoy the mental challenge of returning to the classroom. UNH offers New Hampshire residents age 65 and over the opportunity to enroll in two courses for credit per year tuition free. About 50 people a year take advantage of the waiver, says registrar Kathie Forbes '69. Most state universities offer similar free or low-cost courses; some offer "senior college" courses exclusively for older adults.

For Steve Leavenworth, learning has been a lifelong endeavor. After earning a bachelor's degree in civil engineering in Michigan in 1950 and a master's at Tufts in 1965, he earned a bachelor's degree in history--a longtime interest--from UNH-Manchester in 2000 at age 75.

Now 81, Leavenworth volunteers at the Concord, N.H., Historical Society and teaches boating safety courses. To keep fit, he hikes and kayaks with the self-styled "Geezer Patrol" at the Concord Senior Center. "I'm still going strong," he says. "Can't remember what I had for breakfast sometimes, but I live each day to the fullest."

8. Talk to your kids.

"'I wish I knew what Dad wanted' is not a question we want to ask, or have our children ask about us," says Ned Helms '71G of the New Hampshire Institute for Health Policy and Practice. Even the most outspoken of your offspring may hesitate to bring up concerns about health, finances or living arrangements. You can--and should--take the initiative. For someone who is a caregiver for a senior relative or who is approaching their own senior years, the answers are important. "It is difficult to start the conversation," says Helms, "but so much more helpful and important to have it when you are not faced with immediate or crisis decisions with no understanding of what each other's wants and needs are."

Part of many seniors' reluctance to talk about their future may be due to personality and part may be generational. Baby Boomers tend to be more open and comfortable talking about aging than their parents, says Crepeau. "In earlier generations, these topics were rarely discussed."

On the other hand, caregivers whose parents have made no plans may have to take the initiative themselves, says Shippee-Rice. "Many older adults continue to protect their children," she points out. "They don't want to burden them or interfere with their lives and may hesitate to bring up concerns. An adult child can often start a conversation by saying something like, 'Let's make a list of the things you still feel comfortable doing and things I can give you some help with.'"

In 2004, the institute developed a booklet titled "Planning for the Future" with the Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services. Call (603) 862-5031 for a copy. Filling out the checklist together can open up conversations, says Helms. "A rich life deserves an end that we help shape with one another."

9. Friends are big.

Experts concur that friendships play an important role as we age, especially long-time friends. Lydia Jones Mathias '64, who lives in Kingston, Mass., where she grew up, agrees. "I still have many friends that I've known since childhood," she says, "and that is a real treasure." Old friends and new were instrumental in helping her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. "The day I had surgery everyone sent prayers and thoughts to me. Honestly, I almost felt a high. I came through the surgery with no pain and a positive outlook. Afterward, friends brought me flowers, meals, and cards and one even made me a beautiful book so I could write about my journey." If old friendships have lapsed, make new ones by joining organizations or clubs.

10. Seize the day.

"Up to about 50, there is a sense of, 'I'll do it--sometime,' says Robert Sampson '54. "At nearly 74, it's 'I'd better do it now.'"

When we're young, we tend to view old age as a time of diminished capabilities, but getting older can actually be a wonderful time of life, says Shippee-Rice. "Although any transition tends to bring uncertainty with it, our senior years can also be a time of opportunity. Some people may want to travel, take courses, volunteer or even begin another career. Others may just enjoy 'being' after years of hard work. Even just knowing that you have so many options can be exciting."

After considering his options for a few years following his retirement, 70-year-old John Buskey '59 and wife Janet are embarking on a new business installing phone and network cabling in new home construction.

Gene Reeves '55 has taught in Japan for the past 17 years, and views aging from both Western and Eastern perspectives. "In Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, we have a word for life in which the two characters mean birth and death," he says. "It reminds us that what is between birth and death is a process which, looked at one way can be called living, and looked at another way can be called aging. I'll never forget having a conversation with the famous Japanese educator and religious leader Shin'ichiro Imaoka when he was about 102. He told me that his ears and eyes and legs were not working as well as they used to and that he was building a new house for himself. An interesting mix of recognition and denial, don't you think? That mix, I think, might be aging at its best."

Ultimately, the key to successful aging may lie in how we have lived the first two-thirds of our lives. An optimistic outlook, care of our physical, mental and financial well being, and a carefully considered plan for our senior years can, as Shippee-Rice notes, put a person "in the best possible position to enjoy all of life."

Just ask Peggy Sanborn Hoyt '47. When contacted for this story, she was leaving for a three-week tour of Russia. This fall she is getting married. Hoyt is 84.~

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