Passionate About Supporting Home Bound Seniors

I am very passionate about serving seniors in my community. I worry about older folks who have trouble with basic activities of daily living such as cooking and grocery shopping. Luckily there are organizations like Store to Door and Meals on Wheels that serve this population. Here is the most recent news on hunger and food security in Oregon and across America.

Serious Health Risks for Seniors without Access to Food

Portland Nonprofit Provides Grocery Service to Home Bound Seniors and People with Disabilities

September 1, 2011 (Portland) – “Access to food is a rising concern of older adults in Oregon,” says Helen Bernstein, executive director of Store to Door. “It’s not just the cost of food that has many seniors concerned, it’s access to stores because of the inability to get around safely.”

Store to Door has served the Portland metro for over 22 years, providing low-cost grocery shopping and delivery. Many clients cannot do their own shopping due to mobility issues caused by diabetes, blindness, heart disease, Parkinson’s and other health problems. Access to transportation is also difficult for people with disabilities. Add in economic factors, and many older adults are struggling to keep food on the table.

A report released Tuesday by the AARP Foundation found that more than nine percent of Americans over the age of 50 were at risk of hunger, an increase by almost 80% from 2001. At Store to Door, the number of clients has remained consistent, but the number of weekly shopping trips per client has declined over the last year.

“People are making meals stretch,” says Judith Auslander of Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.

Nutrition is a primary concern to senior advocates and professionals working with older adults. The lack of proper nutrition has consequences including an increased risk of depression and dementia. A poor diet, or skipping meals completely, can cause dizziness resulting in falls and hospitalization.

By providing access to food, including grocery shopping and delivery service, medical risks and cost associated can be reduced significantly.

About Store to Door

Support Store to Doors mission to facilitate independent living for Portland area seniors and people with disabilities by providing a low-cost, personalized grocery shopping and delivery service. To donate or volunteer, visit or contact Helen Bernstein at 503-200-3335.


Are Americans Frightened of Death?

In a recent Legacy Preservation Society study on aging and morbidity, Researcher Tania Rain revealed how people feel about the aging process and dying. Random Internet users* ages 19 to 68 (median age = 39) were asked about their own mortality.

When asked: If you had the opportunity to select your age at death, knowing the average life expectancy in the US is 78.2 years old, how old will you live to be?

Respondents answers varied from 59 to 125 years old with a median age 86.

When asked: Out of the top 15 causes of death, if you could control your mortality, which cause would you choose for your own death? (From 2009 National Vital Statistics Report)

Nearly 40% prefer to die of accidents, which is the 5th leading cause of death in the US according to National Vital Statistics report. The number one cause of death is heart disease and 15.7 percent of people surveyed selected that as the cause of their own death. See CDC Vital Statistics.

Causes of Death

Only 8.2% of respondents indicated they are very or extremely fearful of dying.  15% said they are very or extremely fearful of the aging process. The majority of people answered slightly fearful or somewhat fearful of death and aging.

When asked what is your greatest fear of aging from 1 to 6, respondents answered:

1. Memory Loss

2. Loss of Independence

3. Debilitating Disease

4. Chronic Illness

5. Feeling Old

6. Looking Old

Tania wanted to find out if the fear of aging and death was an element causing many people to not be proactive and plan for their older years. One recent study says 49% of Boomers are more fearful of running out of money than they are of death. In another study, 30% of Boomers have not thought about what they will do if they need help with daily living activities such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc. Tania now feels that the fear of aging and death does not impact a person’s planning behavior. If people are not fearful of growing older and dying, then there is another reason why they do not plan for their older years.

This study on aging and morbidity shows that people prefer to live as long as possible (within reason) and they don’t want to forget their past experiences due to memory loss. Over one-quarter of people surveyed fear memory lost most. Independence is also very important to people and the thought of losing it causes extreme fear in 24% of respondents.

If people could live longer, they would. The US average lifespan of 78.2 years does not make us believe we will expire at that age.

To learn more about living longer, watch Aubrey de Grey.

Also learn what Dan Buettner has to say about the Blue Zones, where people live to be over 100 years old.

*All respondents were found through Facebook. Total number of responses (n) = 89.

Death With Interruptions

Don’t forget to take this week’s survey: Aging and Mortality

In Death With Interruptions, Noble Prize for Literature winner, Jose Saramago tackles a very difficult subject in an almost absurd manner answering the question: What if no one died? The topic immediately made me think of Aubrey de Grey and his declaration that humans are within grasp of a increased life expectancy to 150 years old. The thought to me is bone chilling.

In my study of aging services, I often wondered: What if life expectancy continues to rise but the frail end up suffering longer?

Although my question and Saramago’s are different, they could begin to unfold the same way. But what I want to explore is something Jose revealed on page 6, “…humanity’s greatest dream since the beginning of time, the happy enjoyment of eternal life here on earth….”

In Good EarthPearl S. Buck illustrates children waiting for the passing of their father so they can inherit the land and move on to a new generation of exploration. Similar to heirs of a monarchy, Wang Lung’s children do not make changes to the estate until they take ownership, but plans are ready to execute at the moment of his final breath. If the old generation doesn’t turn over to time, no progress is made and life lays stagnant. So how would it be possible to enjoy eternal life here on earth? Doesn’t excitement surround life and death? Eternal life is like the concept of peace and tranquility, it lacks chaos and conflict – like the conflict of night and day and the rising tide.

These thoughts led me to my recent study on aging and mortality. According to the 2009 Vital Statistics report, the average age at death in the US is 78.2 years and the top causes of death are:

1 Heart disease
2 Cancer
3 Chronic lower respiratory diseases
4 Stroke
5 Accidents (unintentional injuries)
6 Alzheimer’s disease
7 Diabetes mellitus
8 Influenza and pneumonia
9 Kidney disease
10 Intentional self-harm (suicide)
11 Septicemia (infection)
12 Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
13 Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease
14 Parkinson’s disease
15 Assault (homicide)

One thought would be people are scared of dying and, therefore, put the idea out of their minds and avoid preparing for the retirement years. Another hypothesis is people are fearful of aging, so focus is put on anti-aging solutions. A third idea is that people fall in the mob mentality, if everyone is dying at 78.2 years of age from heart disease, then I should too.

Come next week, the survey results will reveal at what age do people think they will die, and of what cause. We will know if the fear aging or dying is more prevalent and what scares people most about old age. I wonder if the younger you are, the more frightened you are….maybe, maybe not. But we are sure to find out.

Check back next week for the survey results.