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Don’t Wait Until You’re 80 Years Old to Be an Eccentric Dresser Tags: Don’t Wait Until You’re 80 Years Old to Be an Eccentric Dresser

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Iris Apfel was involved in even more fashion collaborations this past year than her fellow ubiquitous fashion-spokesperson Alexa Chung. Linkups with Happy Socks (socks and underwear), Macy’s INC line (ready-to-wear), WiseWear (wearable tech), Tane (jewelry), and even her own line of emoji were added to her existing lines with HSN (more jewelry) and Eyebobs (oversize glasses). She’s also a “friend of the brand” for Swarovski, making public appearances on its behalf, and a brand ambassador for the Citroën DS — yes, the car. Apfel has been canny about taking what she calls her “geriatric starlet” persona multiplatinum while still preserving the appearance of being an outlier.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a vintage store in a Texas strip mall trying on a pair of oversize sunglasses. The shop clerk said, accurately, “Those are sooo Iris Apfel,” and then launched into a monologue about her love for the fashion icon, recommending Albert Maysles’s documentary on her. She loved, she said, that Apfel didn’t care what anyone else thought. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Apfel isn’t the only “geriatric starlet” to gain a beachhead with millennials, just the most famous. Advanced Style, the blog-to-book-to-documentary juggernaut helmed by Ari Seth Cohen, highlights rare birds of fashion d’un certain age, including Apfel herself, who leave no fascinator unturned. It’s of a piece with the Instagram accounts celebrating the ’80s-grandma lunacy of Angela Lansbury’s outfits on Murder She Wrote or listicle tributes to the Golden Girls. But there seems to be a kind of wistfulness in the veneration of elderly style by young people — a couple of years ago, several women in my office were talking about how they wish they could dress that way. One pointed out that we could, if we simply “lower the legal age of not giving a f—.” Our enshrinement of these women is part jealousy: wishing that we could be free of the need to be attractive to potential partners, to not scare away new friends or employers, to draw attention away from ourselves. What is today’s athleisure-bot uniform but a kind of camouflage, telegraphing an overwhelming sameness — the fashion segment of the bland global-minimalism design ethos that writer Kyle Chayka called Airspace? The acceptable years for eccentric dressing shouldn’t fall only during tutu-sporting childhood and blue-haired senescence.

Luckily, there are some women in my age cohort who aren’t waiting until they qualify for Social Security to stunt Apfel style. Susie Bubble has been doing girlie maximalism long before Alessandro Michele was a name on anyone’s lips; Leandra Medine built an empire on the transgressive appeal of “man-repelling” fashion. (When a woman dressing for herself constitutes a rebellion, you know we’re dealing with some screwed societal norms.)

Katharine Zarrella, the founder of Fashion Unfiltered, has a style outlook as unfiltered as her criticism: wacky hats and turbans, and lots of Comme des Garçons. Zarrella says that she really eased into the eccentric thing when she moved to London in 2010, inspired by the city’s embrace of weirdness. Since then, “I haven’t gone out in about six years without some form of cranial accoutrement — I feel naked without something on my head.” Another watershed moment was CDG’s 2-D collection for fall 2012. “I loved how powerful I felt when I wore it, and I thought to myself, why save this for special occasions? Why shouldn’t I feel like this every day? That was it.”

“Life’s too short to be boring, and I think people should find happiness and excitement in whatever ways they can,” she adds. “For me, it just happens to be through fashion … my understanding of my aesthetic has helped me develop a further understanding of myself — of who I am — and, in my opinion, it’s better to have a grasp on that by the time you hit 30 instead of waiting until you’re 60.”

My friend Piper Gray is another one of those women — she basically treats leopard print as a neutral. “I spent a lot of time as a kid in Tennessee drawing future-me in clothes I’d wear when I’d fully control my wardrobe,” she recalls. “It was outlandish stuff I’d see on Miss America contestants and Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame. (Those caftans!) I still go for the slightly outlandish, I guess, something a little bit bonkers. I recently took a personality test that said my defining trait was cowardice (rude), but I rarely second-guess what I wear. Aren’t we all striving for self-possession? Give me animal print and something shiny — that’s the closest I get.”

If anything, it’s the perfect uniform for unfettered youth. “I don’t have to worry about baby spit-up or kid crumbs,” she says, “so I can afford to be a little not-precious.”
Tips for Reducing Loneliness in Elders Around the Holidays
Category: Member Blogs
Tags: Tips for Reducing Loneliness in Elders Around the Holidays

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There is a lot of pressure on people to enjoy themselves during the holidays. The reality, however, is that many people feel increasingly isolated and unhappy during this season of goodwill, and elders can have an especially hard time.

While aging can bring wisdom and experience, there are inevitable losses that even the healthiest seniors face. Loved ones and friends fall ill and pass away. Energy and mobility levels often decrease, resulting in feelings of lost independence and opportunities. Neighborhoods change over time, leaving even those well enough to remain in their own homes feeling lonely.

According to National Institute of Mental Health, older adults who are socially isolated are at higher risk for depression. The focus on family, friends and togetherness during this time of year can actually bring melancholy feelings to the forefront for many elders.

If you believe that your parent, spouse, friend or neighbor may be feeling lonely or depressed, there are steps that you can take to help lift their spirits. You are probably busy with your own holiday plans and traditions, but it’s important to remember what the holiday season is truly about. Simplifying some of your plans will allow you to focus on what really matters: the important people in your life. Use these ideas to brighten up a loved one’s winter season.

10 Tips to Enhance a Senior’s Holiday Experience

  1. Make a point of actively listening when your loved one wants to talk, even if the discussion is negative. An honest and empathetic conversation can help them process what is bothering them, whether they are mourning a loss or coming to terms with new challenges in their life. It may also reveal why they are feeling down and help you devise other ways to lift their spirits.
  2. Remind them how important they are as a part of your life, your family members’ lives and these annual holiday celebrations. They may feel useless or burdensome if they cannot contribute to or fully participate in the festivities like they used to. Encourage them to do what they are capable of and be especially careful not to act like what you do for them is done out of a sense of duty. Show them they are loved.
  3. Over the years, holiday cards often bring bad news and diminish in quantity. I used to sit with my mom when she opened her cards, because so many of them brought news of illness or death. She was also keenly aware of the people she didn’t hear from. Be gentle with your loved ones if these annual greetings are an important tradition of theirs. If possible, ask family members and friends to contribute a simple card, photograph or drawing to help keep the senior’s seasonal mail more upbeat. My mom needed this connection with her life-long friends, so I helped her write her own outgoing cards each year as well.
  4. Help your loved one see that you are trying to simplify your holiday plans to focus on the real meaning of these celebrations. Let them know you are trying to ignore the increasing hype over the food, gifts, decorations and parties in order to focus on the people and values that you cherish. Remind them that they have taught you the importance of family and friendship and thank them for that.
  5. If a senior is in a long-term care facility, check with the activities director and local schools or extracurricular programs to see if they can arrange for children to visit with or even perform for the residents. New activities and interactions with younger generations can be very uplifting for elders who are in physical or emotional pain. If possible, take the senior out to school programs and games, especially if they feature younger family members.
  6. Check with your loved one’s religious organization to see if they can offer social and/or spiritual support. For example, the Stephen Ministry is a program offered by many Christian churches that provides one-on-one support to those who are having difficulties in life. Many churches can arrange for a congregant or leader to visit a senior in need at home or in a facility. Just having someone to talk to can go a long way toward relieving depression.
  7. Help them add decorative touches to their home or room in the long-term care facility. Ensure that they do not present a safety hazard and try to decorate in stages to prolong the fun and give them something to look forward to. Many seniors enjoy reflecting on past holidays as they unpack cherished decorations, so be sure to listen to their stories and ask about special items.
  8. Cook traditional baked goods or treats with your loved one, if possible. If they reside in an assisted living facility or nursing home, bring treats on your visits for your elder to enjoy and share with their friends. Try to make their dining table festive, too, by using appropriate colors, themes and seasonal flavors.
  9. Call your elder’s friends and see if they would be able to come to a small holiday gathering. One year, I was able to use a small conference room at my parents’ nursing home to host a New Year’s Eve party for them and their friends. They loved it. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be on a particular holiday or be a large or expensive shindig. Realizing that the people they care about came out to spend time with them is priceless for an elder. Just be wary of large or loud groups if your loved one has dementia. Big gatherings can be disorienting and upsetting for them.
  10. The most important thing you can do with a senior to make them feel loved and included this season is to simply spend time with them. Look at family photos, watch home videos or holiday movies, listen to seasonal music, or do crafts together. Regardless of what you decide to do together, any time you can spare is a precious gift.

Knowing how to juggle seniors and the holidays can be tough. Do what you can to help your aging loved one feel involved and get into the holiday spirit without stressing yourself beyond your limits. If you put too much on your plate, it is likely that neither you nor your loved ones will enjoy the festivities nearly as much. Remember that your best efforts are good enough.

Tips for Beating the Holiday Blues
Category: Member Blogs
Tags: Tips for Beating the Holiday Blues

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Holidays are a time for celebrations, parties, and get-togethers. But sometimes the holiday season can also be a source of the blues, especially for older people, who may think about how quickly time has passed, or miss loved ones more during this time of year. Health conditions or concerns about money can also make it harder to enjoy the holidays. The AGS Health in Aging Foundation offers the following tips to help cope with the blues that may accompany the holidays. 

Take Action

Get out and about
Ask family and friends for help traveling to houses of worship, parties, and other events. Invite family and friends over. Taking a brisk walk in the morning before you begin the day, or in the evening to wind down your day, is a great way to beat the blues.

Helping others is a great mood lifter. To volunteer, contact your local
United Way, or call places such as local schools, hospitals, museums, or places of worship to inquire about volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood.

Drink Responsibly
It can be easy to overindulge around the holidays, but excessive drinking will only make you feel more depressed. One drink = 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. The recommended limit is no more than 3 drinks on a given day or 7 drinks in a week. If you have health problems or take certain medications, you may need to drink less or not at all.

Accept your feelings 
There’s nothing wrong with not feeling jolly; many people experience sadness and feelings of loss during the holidays. Be kind to yourself, seek support, and even laugh at yourself every now and then.

Talk to someone
Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, and neighbors. Talk about your feelings; it can help you understand why you feel the way you do. Making a simple phone call, having a chat over coffee, or writing a nice e-mail, greeting card, or letter can brighten your mood.

Recognize Warning Signs of Depression

Holiday blues are usually temporary and mild, but depression is more serious and can linger unless you get help. Signs of depression include:

  • Sadness that won’t lift
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Frequent crying
  • Feeling restless or fidgety
  • Feeling worthless, helpless, or guilty
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
Depression is treatable. Talk to your primary healthcare provider or get other professional help if you experience five or more of these symptoms every day for two weeks.  If you have recurring thoughts of death or suicide, you should get help immediately.

Help Someone with the Holiday Blues

Include them
 Invite them out and to get-togethers. Take into account their needs, such as transportation or special diets.

Lend a hand 
Offer to help them with their cleaning, shopping, cooking, and other preparations such as decorating for get-togethers in their homes.

Be a good listener
Be a supportive listener and encourage discussions about feelings and concerns. Acknowledge difficult feelings, including a sense of loss if family or friends have died or moved away. Try to put yourself in the
other person’s shoes to understand how they feel.

Encourage them to talk with their healthcare provider 
The holidays can cause people to feel anxious and depressed. But for some, holiday tensions can lead to full-blown clinical depression. Often, older adults don’t realize they are depressed. If you suspect depression in someone you know, you may need to bring it up more than once. Let the person know that depression is a treatable medical illness and not something to be ashamed of.


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Cling to the old
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