I will leave my friend’s name out, just in case she is reading this blog, but I think her reaction is one that many people have because they are not aware of the range of housing options for older adults.
There isn’t one large leap from living independently in one’s home to needing assisted living — there are numerous steps and choices.
Housing needs are not clear-cut nor consistent. There are a continuum of needs, finances, preferences and opportunities.
Housing is likely the biggest investment most of us will ever make — our home becomes a place we can call our sanctuary, and build memories. As such, the “where” and “how” we live are among the most important decisions we make. And these decisions cannot — or should not — be made suddenly or in a moment of crisis.
According to statistics, more than 23% of NJ’s total population is over 60 — and by the year 2030, all Baby Boomers will be of retirement age. Additionally, studies show that the majority of adults 50+ wish to remain in their homes and/or communities as long as possible, with a sense of independence and connection.
We need to spend time educating ourselves about available options, planning in advance for adapting our current home, exploring our next home and preparing for change.
For all of these reasons, we are hosting the NJAAW Housing Series, bringing together experts in the realm of NJ housing to explore options at each stage and need, to help you make informed decisions for yourself or for the older adults in your life.
The series takes place online on consecutive Wednesdays in February at 4 p.m.
Speakers will explain strategies to help you stay in your homes with modifications and built design. They will also discuss options for getting help in the home, downsizing and when assisted and supportive living becomes necessary.
You’ll find more information at njaaw.org/events. Please register once for Zoom links to all four sessions Those who register will also have on-demand access to session recordings.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday as far back as I can remember. There was something magical about Mom, Dad, my brother and me piling into the family car on Thanksgiving eve and driving from our NJ home to upstate NY.
We’d always spend “turkey day” and a few days thereafter with Dad’s side of the family. Inevitably, it would also snow while we were there — and I love snow!
Throughout the years, the Big Event was either hosted by Dad’s parents, his older brother and family or his younger brother and family.
My first cousins were fairly close in age to my brother and me, and we enjoyed spending time together. And we were loud! This made for some raucous times at the proverbial “kids’ table.”
Our celebrations were rich with traditions. Great Uncle Steve, sipping his Johnny Walker Black, would tell stories of his travels abroad with the military or with Great Aunt Kate, who would often chime in. If a piano were nearby, Grandpa would play and sing. And without fail, you’d hear Grandma exclaim, “Oh, George!” multiple times, admonishing her husband for yet another groan-worthy joke or story.
Recaps of times gone by and peals of laughter were de rigueur at these gatherings. And the food! I’m blessed to have relatives who were phenomenal cooks and bakers.
My fondest memories are from Thanksgivings of later years, spent in the small-but-cozy Utica, NY, home of Dad’s youngest brother and family: my Uncle Paul, Aunt Marie, their four children, and Aunt Marie’s Mom, “Gram.”
Turkey and Trimmings and Pie — Oh My!
Second cousins eventually joined the family and the kids’ table on their enclosed porch got even tighter! However, there always seemed to be enough room — and endless amounts of fantastic food.
I always marveled at how my Aunt Marie managed to have the gigantic turkey (there could be upwards of 30 people) plus all the fixings and other goodies ready at the same time. She had limited space to do this since family members around the “adults’ table” took up most of the room in her kitchen and counter space was at a premium!
Desserts were a bounty of heavenly homemade pies as well as Italian cookies and pastries from a favorite nearby bakery.
The morning after Thanksgiving, we carried on perhaps the greatest long-standing tradition of all: leftover pie for breakfast.
Sadly, we stopped heading upstate for “turkey day” decades ago as families scattered. Many of our elder relatives had also passed on.
As much as my heart aches for “the good old days” — spending the happiest Thanksgivings with Dad’s family and being with those who now are gone or a distance away — I am thankful that I have plenty of fond memories and photos to lift my spirits.
This Thanksgiving, may your heart be filled with gratitude and your stomachs, with delicious food.
And if you’re also unable to spend time with those you love, whether they’re near or far or no longer walking the earth, may your memories be as sweet as pie.
Speaking of pie…I do hope you’ll join me and my relatives in enjoying a slice or two for breakfast the morning after!
Sue Burghard Brooks (pictured above, far right) is entering her third year as NJAAW’s Communications Manager and is also Executive Producer of the nonprofit’s monthly “Aging Insights” TV program. She confesses that her favorite Thanksgiving pie is mincemeat — though growing up, she never ate it because her older cousin Ed (pictured front, holding his youngest sister, De) said that it was made of monkey meat!
Guest blog by NJAAW Board member Dr. Charisse Smith.
In the spring of 2020, I heralded a call to action for grand-families across New Jersey. Grandparents and other older family members bravely took on the challenge of helping their students with remote or virtual learning during COVID-19.
They assisted their young students with logging onto such online learning platforms as Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Meets, Canvas and plenty of other sites dedicated to virtual instruction. Uploading, downloading, links, passwords, usernames, mousepads, iPads and screenshots had become familiar vernacular for these now tech-savvy older warriors of the web.
This school year, students are back in their classrooms and the laptops and tablets have taken a backseat to in-person instruction.
Additional challenges for in-person learning
Many students are finding it difficult to adjust to a very long and very different type of school day. Masking, social distancing, quarantining and other COVID-19 school protocols have made the school day especially demanding-particularly for the younger ones who had not benefited from any previous type of in-school experience.
Those students who have had the in-person experience of a “normal” school day are also finding it challenging to navigate through an extra set of expectations — wearing masks all day, not sharing materials and sitting socially distanced from friends in the cafeteria — in addition to catching up to grade-level expectations.
Since students returned to school, educators and parents have expressed concern about learning loss due to the shortcomings of virtual learning and the lack of “real school” social interactions.
To help students adjust to the social and academic demands, schools have added an additional layer of supportive learning opportunities to the student day: Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
What is Social Emotional Learning?
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotion, and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships and make responsible and caring decisions.”
There are public school districts in NJ — Westfield, Deptford, Clayton, Paulsboro, Readington, Eatontown and Jackson among them — that have adopted SEL curricula, which address student self- and social-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and relationship skills.
When schools are committed to the tenets of an SEL curriculum, the strategic instructional opportunities and practices enhance a positive classroom climate and help students become self-aware, caring, responsible and engaged lifelong learners.
I am again heralding the call to our Grand-families–partner up!
As grand-families and caregivers, you can also support in-school SEL by finding out about your school’s SEL curriculum and becoming more involved with your student’s school.
The benefits of grand-family/school partnerships
Grand-families partnering with schools that support SEL provide a win-win for the entire school community. Intergenerational older adult/student relationships provide wonderful opportunities for SEL and development.
Stanford University psychology professor and Founding Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, Laura Carstensen, states that as we age, our brains improve in the areas of complex problem-solving and emotional intelligence. Both of these are great qualities of a great mentor! Children can benefit from the counseling and experiences older adults can provide.
Carstensen points out that older adults are exceptionally suited to meet the needs of children because both welcome meaningful, productive activity and engagement. Older adults can help children develop self-awareness and empathetic skills that are essential to building healthy relationships in school by cultivating their relationships at home; identifying, communicating and acknowledging emotions, and modeling empathy and coping skills.
Our students thrive when schools and all families partner together. As one of the first in my school community to see students arriving at school, I have observed our older adult family members walking young students to their class lines outside on the blacktop playground. I’ve also heard their morning conversations, which have included making sure that the students are respectful toward their friends when joining their class line and ensuring that they say “good morning” to classmates.
At lunchtime, my first-graders are eager for me to read their “love notes” — words of encouragement and daily affirmations from their grandmas and abuelitas tucked inside their tiny lunch boxes. These are definitely warm-and-fuzzy moments, even for me!
Grand-families, please help our schools!
Schools have room for improvement. Our schools can be consistent in creating spaces where families feel welcome to share their culture, language, wisdom and skills.
Reach out to your child’s school, teacher or principal to develop a partnership. Join your school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or Parent Association. The skills, wisdom, and time you volunteer may make a difference in how your young family member connects socially and emotionally to school.
Let’s continue this course of positive relationship building and support because we all are family–parents, students, grand-family members and educators. Thank you!
NJAAW Board member Dr. Charisse Smith, principal consultant and owner of Sankofa Educational Consulting, LLC, in Trenton, NJ, is the new Curriculum Supervisor for Social Studies, kindergarten through grade 6, for Trenton Public Schools. A member of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Inc. – Pi Chapter, an organization of professional educators, she and her chapter sisters focus their volunteer efforts on youth, education and service to the Greater Trenton area community. Smith and her husband, Steven, are the proud parents of Raven and Satchel. She is also a caregiver for her parents, Richard and Saundra.
https://www.njaaw.org/2021/11/01/grand-families-call-to-action/These ideas and resources for my guest blog titled “Grandfamilies: A different call to action” are just a small slice of the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) pie. Grand-family members: Our students still need you! Use those SEL skills that have carried you through life and life’s challenges. Thank you!
SEL partnership questions for the student’s school
Does this school have multiple ways to maintain two-way communication with families; to invite families to understand, experience, inform and partner with the school to support our students’ social and emotional development?
Do families participate in the school’s/district’s SEL team?
Does this school or district provide meaningful opportunities for all families to learn and contribute to SEL?
Ways older family members can support SEL
Participate in any back-to-school events and parent-teacher conferences (in-person or online)
Add yourself as a communication contact between the school and home
Share information with the school/teacher about how your child learns best
Mentor a student or two
Become a from-home volunteer for your child’s school (stapling packets, cutting out laminated decorations, volunteering your translation skills for flyers and information that are shared in the community)
Share your culture with your child’s school
Help unpack and repack your child’s book bag or backpack to check for important information about school and schoolwork
Practice SEL activities with your student
SEL activities you can do at home
Dedicate time to talking with your child about their day to help students navigate the art of conversation
Pay attention to your child’s behavior before and after school
Help establish and maintain routines such as preparing for school in the morning, homework time, playtime, bath time and most importantly, bedtime
Establish an open line of communication (texting, FaceTime-ing, etc. with older students)
Be aware of “red flags” or changes in “normal behavior” (losing interest in school, friends, or favorite activities), eating (loss or insatiable appetites), and/or sleeping behaviors (unable to sleep, sleeping during school hours)
Read books or watch online storytellers that promote SEL
Participate in mindfulness exercises together, such as walking, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, coloring with crayons or colored pencils or watching clouds
Attend school SEL activities
Resources for grandparents and others caring for school-age children
The Whole-Brain Child by neuroscientist and parenting expert Daniel Siegal and Tina Payne Bryson: This New York Times Bestseller explains the child’s developing brain and how we can best support it.
Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at Schoolby Carla Shalaby: Follow the stories of four different young children, known in their respective classrooms as the “troublemakers.” This radical take encourages us to shift our adult perspective to better understand the and sometimes confusing behavior of children.
Yo Soy, I Am by Trenton, NJ-native Jacquelyn León: This is the tale of how a child’s name came to be. It is interwoven with family, history, culture and love, to fortify the connection between the child’s name and the child’s identity to the world. The book celebrates and honors the home as the child’s local roots grow and blossom across the world.
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love: Julián is a boy who lives with his abuela (grandmother) in New York City. Although his preferences and attire may seem unconventional, he is supported by those around him to be himself.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf: Bulls are supposed to fight, correct? Not Ferdinand. A peaceful and calm bull in the bull-fighting rings of Spain, Ferdinand remains true to himself despite the pressures to change.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown: Marisol McDonald is a biracial girl with red hair and brown skin. In many ways, Marisol defies the norms and sometimes confuses those around her. She is, however, confidently herself!
Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson: Chloe and her friends have no interest in playing with Maya, the new girl at school who wears ratty hand-me-down clothes. But when Maya leaves school and Chloe realizes her mistake, she learns that you don’t always get a chance to apologize.
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig: Brian is unnoticed by the other students in his class. He is never included or invited until the new student, Justin, arrives and shows us that it just takes one friendship to change a person’s life.
About sharing and gratitude
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams: Classic and award-winning story about a family’s home being destroyed by fire. A young Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins to buy a really comfortable chair for all to enjoy.
Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister: Rainbow Fish has beautiful glittering scales like no other in the ocean. While at first, he refuses to share his most prized scales, he learns that when he does, he creates invaluable friendships.
About overcoming fear and anxiety
The Good Eggby Jory John and Pete Oswald: The Good Egg is always doing what it should, even taking care of the other eggs who are not doing their best. But when the Good Egg’s own shell starts to crack, it realizes that balance and self-care are more important than perfection.
Jake the Growling Dog Shares His Trainby Samantha Shannon: Follow Jake, a sweet, kind, and misunderstood dog, as he learns more about sharing, facing his fears, and the many remarkable differences in the world
SEL literature for older readers
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: Jesse’s colorless rural world expands when he becomes fast friends with Leslie, the new girl in school. But when Leslie drowns trying to reach their special hideaway Terabithia, Jesse struggles to accept the loss of his friend.
New Kidby Jerry Craft: Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of a few kids of color in his entire grade.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz: Esperanza thought she’d always live a privileged life on her family’s ranch in Mexico. She’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and her mama, papa and abuelita to care for her. But suddenly, tragedy forces Esperanza and mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp.
The pandemic has had a harsh impact on our ability to spend time with older relatives, such as grandparents. Conversely, it has awakened us to just how much we cherish those intergenerational ties.
Sunday, Sept. 12 is National Grandparents Day and we wondered about its history. There appear to be three people behind the movement.
According to a recent online Better Homes & Gardens article by Emily VanSchmus, in 1969, 9-year-old Russell Capper penned a letter to President Nixon requesting that a day be dedicated to grandparents — much like the national celebrations of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Capper received a letter from Nixon’s secretary indicating that the president liked the idea but couldn’t declare a holiday without a resolution from Congress…
Generations United’s website at grandparentsday.org states that National Grandparents Day is “rooted in the innovative work of two committed and passionate pioneers: Jacob Reingold and Marian McQuade.”
Reingold, who served as Executive Vice President of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx from 1958 to 1995, attended the 1961 White House Conference on Aging. Accordingly, he was so inspired by a speech concerning the “new image of the aged” that he “focused on recognizing the role of millions of older Americans who are grandparents.” That same year, on September 16, the first day specifically honoring grandparents was held at the Hebrew Home. Two years later, it became an official holiday in the borough of the Bronx.
In 1970, West Virginian Marian McQuade, who served on the West Virginia Commission on Aging and the Nursing Home Licensing Board, began campaigning to create a special day of recognition for grandparents. She said she wanted to educate youth about the importance of seniors and the contributions they have made throughout history. She urged the younger generation to “adopt” a grandparent and “learn more about their lives, challenges, and desires for the future.”
She reached out to civic, business, faith and political leaders and began a statewide campaign for Grandparents Day in West Virginia. In 1973, the first Grandparents Day was proclaimed there by Governor Arch Moore.
Reingold and McQuade’s work culminated in 1978 (nine years after Capper’s letter) when Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day, and President Jimmy Carter signed a presidential proclamation.
(An interesting side note: According to legacyproject.org, McQuade and her husband, Joseph, had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild!)
Wishing those who celebrate a safe, memorable day!
I remember growing up and watching my aging grandmother sit by her living room window, looking out, waiting for nothing in particular to happen – just watching her life pass her by.
That sad, helpless memory always stayed with me, but I was never able to take that sadness and transform it something productive, something that could help people.
Then, 20 years ago, I became involved with the New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well (formerly New Jersey Foundation for Aging).
I joined the organization and first served on an Advisory Council. I then ascended to the Board of Trustees, became its Chair for six years and after my term as Chair expired, I am serving as a Board member again.
Realizing a Wish
I wanted to do something that would make the lives of older adults more meaningful and enriched, so more grandmothers (and grandfathers) would not have to stare out of apartment windows. At the time, then-NJFA, with its emphasis/focus on facilitating seniors to live independently, actively and in their community, gave me the opportunity to realize this wish.
To me, it is the accomplishments and actualization of our vision that is most valuable, as it shows me that we aremaking a difference. Coupled with this is the engagement and dedication of our Board members, who seek to bring those things to life. This is all done in concert with the extremely hard work and devotion of our staff, who move our agenda forward every day. This is why this change in our name, New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well, more accurately describes who we are and what we do.
We tend to think that “getting older” is something that is going to happen in the future. However, it is happening every day, and educating yourself about what you and your loved ones are going to face as you live and age in New Jersey, is critical.
Everyone has a right to age well in the community of their choice. As the New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well, we will continue to provide leadership in public policy and education and work diligently to ensure that all New Jersey residents can do just that.
Included in NJAAW’s name change is an updated logo and this new website, which is a portal packed with reliable information on programs and services available in New Jersey to help you live life to the fullest.
NJAAW will present educational forums and its Annual Conference (online June 3 and 4) offering development opportunities and best practices for professionals entrusted with caring for seniors. Our award-winning monthly TV talk show, “Aging Insights,” features local and national experts and connects seniors, their families and caregivers to community-based services and resources. The program can be viewed on our YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/njaaw/ (where you can subscribe and get notified of upcoming topics), here on our website and more than 70 public-access TV channels throughout our state.
This is an historic moment! Nearly 23 years have passed since we were founded. Now, in 2021, we have a new name, a new logo, a new website. Our mission, however, never changes!
New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well. Join me in celebrating and spreading the word!
Mark Tabakman (MTabakman@foxrothschild.com) is a Partner, Labor & Employment Department, at Fox Rothschild, LLP, where he has practiced since 1987. He is conversant in all aspects of employment law and has expertise in wage-hour and overtime law, including defense of employers in numerous DOL audits and wage lawsuits.
As a young child growing up in New Jersey, I recall spending countless summers in the sandy woods of Wall Township with my maternal grandmother, Carolyn Holland.
On her screened-in porch, we spent hours playing such card games as Pitty Pat, War and Casino. This card shark, with less than an eighth-grade education, showed me no mercy, winning game after game! Through these card games, she fortuitously taught me how to quickly identify numbered groups (subitizing*) and strategy (critical thinking).
My paternal grandfather, Robert E. West of Neptune, instructed me in the art of applying the correct tip for great service at the local Perkins Pancake House. Maternal aunt Doris Sergeant of Asbury Park cultivated my love of reading and storytelling through her reading aloud. Her fluctuating animated voice magically fit each and every character of the stories she read.
As I reminisce about these special moments as a wide-eyed, inquisitive youngster, I now appreciate them as authentic learning experiences. I truly cannot recall specific reading or math lessons or feeling that these moments were “school,” but as an educator, I recognize that the benefits of simple card games and stories read to me set me on the path toward academic success.
Although I assist teachers in applying curriculum and best-teaching practices to classrooms, the simple games, conversations and nightly read-alouds with Carolyn, Robert and Doris were invaluable.
COVID-19 and virtual teaching/learning
According to the New Jersey Department of Education, there are approximately 2,734,950 students in New Jersey’s public and charter schools who are now participating in some form of virtual or remote learning due to the COVID-19 crisis. Many New Jersey schools pivoted from photocopied worksheets and packets to working exclusively online with students in virtual classrooms.
In a matter of a few weeks, New Jersey school districts found themselves quickly gathering their troops of learning experts, teachers and educational technology departments to provide quality learning opportunities for all of their students. Families also found themselves banding together to navigate through digital learning platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, Class Dojo, Canvas and Blackboard.
Older Americans are teaching/learning, too
Older Americans also fearlessly accepted the call to join the ranks of the virtual homeschooling faculty. Because many parents continue to work as essential workers, older adult family members have been designated as the at-home schoolteacher. These older family members are ensuring that children are logging on, participating and completing school assignments.
One example is a 68-year-old grandmother in Mercer County’s Hamilton Township, Mrs. Jones. She joined the ranks of homeschoolers this March. Mrs. Jones is not only caring for her ill husband, but by working in online learning platforms to assist her kindergarten-aged grandson, has expanded her technological skill set.
Through perseverance and a little bit of coaching, Mrs. Jones is now more comfortable helping her grandson with the daily requirements of cyber-learning such as logging on to online class meetings; monitoring reading, writing, and math assignments in Google Classroom; accessing books online; following up with emails, and communicating with teachers via the Class Dojo app.
Familiarizing oneself with multiple learning platforms can be overwhelming even for the most tech-savvy person. But older Americans, like Mrs. Jones, are courageously balancing the duties of being a caregiver for an ailing spouse, running a household and homeschooling an active kindergartener.
I admire Mrs. Jones for her tenacity and grit during this challenging time. She admits that working with technology is frustrating, and she felt like giving up, but I encouraged her to take care of herself and to do her best. Her best is amazing!
Other ways older adults can share knowledge/expertise
I encourage all older adults who are caring for and/or homeschooling young family members to share their knowledge and expertise by:
Counting and grouping the number of tiles on the floor
Finding a pattern in the carpet
*I mentioned subitizing before. Subitizing is a hot topic in math education circles. It means “instantly seeing how many.” Math educators have discovered that the ability to see numbers in patterns is the foundation of strong number sense. Visit https://mylearningspringboard.com/subitizing/
Following a recipe using measuring spoons and cups
Writing a song together and recording Tik-Tok videos of you singing
Coloring in coloring books
Listening to books on tape or online together
This website features videos of actors reading children’s books, alongside creatively produced illustrations. Activity guides are available for each book. https://www.storylineonline.net/
Older adults have much to give and young people, much to receive! I would dare to guess that there are many Mrs. Joneses here in New Jersey. Are you one? You deserve our gratitude, respect and support.
As a New Jersey educator, I would like to thank all of the caring and brave older Americans in our state who are committed to sharing their knowledge, wisdom, love and expertise to help our students continue to grow and learn!
Dr. Smith is the featured guest on Episode 106 of Aging Insights, with host Melissa Chalker — watch “Learning Together” now!