Reviewed by Afik Gal, MD

Whether bathing is a chore or a self-care ritual that you look forward to, it can become challenging due to changes in strength, balance, and flexibility. Here are the top tips and tricks that have enabled our AgeAssured members to bathe with greater ease, comfort, and safety:  

Install and use grab bars when you get in and out of your tub or shower as needed to help with balance and strength and to move from sitting to standing if you sit while bathing.

Use non-slip bath mats to reduce your risk of falling or slipping. Non-slip adhesive treads can also be used in the bottom of your tub or shower.

Remove throw rugs or use only those with rubberized backing or non-slip rug tape.

Turn on all the lights. Brighten your bathing space as much as possible, and replace dim lights or bulbs with brighter ones.

Make sure your supplies are organized and easy to reach, including facecloth, body brush, soap, and shampoo. 

Adjust the temperature to no more than 120°F to prevent burns.

Sit down when you bathe. This can help with poor balance and low energy.

Use a hand-held shower head to control the water direction and to easily rinse hard-to-reach areas.

Use a long-handled sponge/brush to reach your backside and extremities without having to bend over or strain. 

All materials supplied by Assured Inc. (“Assured”), including vendor recommendations, are for informational purposes only; are not a replacement or substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment; and should not be relied on as such. Assured strongly encourages you to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new health-related activity, exercise regimen, or dietary program. No representations or warranties, express or implied, are made by Assured regarding such materials. Your use of, or reliance upon these materials is strictly at your own risk, and Assured will not be liable to you or anyone else for any decisions made or actions taken in reliance on these materials.

After a cross-country move last fall, I decided to change my long-standing habit of leaving dirty dinner dishes in the sink overnight. For a week or so, I made a conscious effort to clean up after dinner, even when I felt tired. My reward was coming downstairs the next morning and enjoying the clean, bright kitchen: ah! It felt good.

A few weeks later, I was in the middle of scrubbing a pot after dinner when I realized, wow! I am cleaning up automatically now. I didn’t have to remind or force myself to do it. It was as if I were on autopilot—my body did the work while my mind was free to wander about.

Pulitzer-Prize winning Charles Duhigg’s bestselling book, “The Power of Habit” showed me that what I had stumbled into was the creation of a new habit. Habits are powerful because they unconsciously govern behavior and save our brains energy. You probably have good habits, like brushing your teeth before bed, and, if you’re like me, not-so-good habits that you’d like to change. Duhigg’s book empowers anyone—at any age—to choose their habits rather than accumulate them by chance. Just because a bowl of ice cream made you feel really good one night in 1982 doesn’t mean you have to mindlessly eat one every night forever after!

But wait a minute. Aren’t older adults less able to form new habits than younger adults? No! Older adults have a strong advantage: “They know what makes them happy much better than younger people, and once they achieve a change, they don’t go back,” says Duhigg.

So how do you change a habit? Any habit, good or bad, involves three elements:  a cue, a routine, and a reward. To change a habit, change the routine. In my example, the cue, finishing dinner, remained the same. It was the routine that changed: I cleaned up instead of leaving a mess (before it became a habit, I had to use my willpower to do this). As for the reward, my old habit had an immediate one: plopping in a chair to watch TV. My new habit had a delayed reward, the joy of waking up to a clean kitchen.

Duhig suggests two ways to boost new habits. Piggybacking on a larger change—the start of a New Year, or even a rearrangement of your living room furniture—can help. In my case, the disruption of moving probably made it easier to start new habits. Associating your new habit with a belief, particularly one that goes beyond yourself, is also powerful. You could use your faith, your love for your family, or a dedication to a cause as motivation to stick to your new habit, particularly in times of stress when it’s tempting to revert to old patterns.

What about you? I hope Duhigg’s research empowers you to engineer any new habits you’d like in 2024, no matter how young or old you are.

Katharine de Baun
Katharine has managed online content since 1994, when she founded one of the first parenting communities online. She is passionate about continually learning and promoting Successful Aging in her job as content manager at Assured Allies.

In his bestselling book “The Blue Zones,” Dr. Dan Buettner discovered a strong correlation between health, longevity, and life purpose, a finding that was confirmed by a 2019 study of 7,000 adults over age 50. Volunteering is a surefire way to fill your life with purpose, enrich and expand your social connections, and stay actively engaged in life.

If you’re interested in volunteering but unsure how to start, this article provides inspiration and resources to get you going and find the right match.

Find inspiration: Older volunteers in the news

Looking for ways to help? Sometimes it helps to get inspired by others. If they can do it, so can you!

Old Ladies Against Underwater Garbage: Tired of the trash she kept encountering in Cape Cod ponds, Dr. Susan Baur, 81, kickstarted the group “Old Ladies Against Underwater Garbage.” The group dives weekly from May till September, picking up golf balls, beer cans, Gatorade bottles, and even, once, a garden gnome. “One of our secret weapons is we don’t care what we look like. We are encased in black stuff, we can drag stuff out of the pond,” said Bauer in a CBS Boston profile about the group. 

Th!rd Act: Environmental activist Bill McKibben launched the non-profit Th!rd Act to foster “a community of experienced Americans over the age of sixty determined to change the world for the better.” From the comfort of your living room you can attend one of their virtual events and get involved in one of their current campaigns at  

Award-Winners: Google “older adult volunteer awards” to find dozens of inspiring stories like that of 82-year-old Thelma Smith, who earned the AmeriCorps Senior Services Award in 2022 for over 7,800 hours of service in the Utah County Senior Companion Program. Her words are a testament to the powerful benefits of volunteering: “I was so lonely after my husband passed. Having someone to visit and get to help has helped keep me healthy and sane. I have met some sweet ladies and they have taught me so much. They have given me a new life.” 

Believe in your own value

Too often, older adults are portrayed as a “burden” upon society. This is deeply misguided on at least two levels. First of all, if we stand by the value that caring for each other is one of the highest forms of human achievement, then those who receive care are providing others with invaluable opportunities, not burdens. Secondly, there are legions of older adults who volunteer to care for others, as you can see on this page!

Evaluate your personal situation

If you’re unsure about what you can contribute, make a list of all of your skills and abilities. Include positive things your friends and families have said about you over the years. Are you organized? A good listener? Known as a tech troubleshooter for your friends? Maybe you like to sort things and declutter, write cards, or bake. Maybe you’ve been a teacher, a lawyer, a nurse, an accountant, or a mechanic and would like to use your professional skills in a volunteer setting.

Next, write a list of all of the things you hope to gain from volunteering. It’s ok to be selfish! Volunteering should meet your needs and be fun—at least most of the time—or it probably isn’t sustainable in the long run. Benefits of volunteering could include making new friends, helping advance a cause you care about, upholding values or beliefs that you feel strongly about, learning more about a topic, finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning, staying healthy, being challenged, feeling wanted.

Last but not least, consider your availability and limitations, if any. Do you want to volunteer for a set number of hours every week? A full day a month? If you need to be at a particular place and time, is transportation an issue? Do you have any health issues that should be considered, especially if the work involves physical tasks?

Find the right match

Once you’ve evaluated what you bring to the table, it’s time to look for a good match. No matter what you have to offer, older adult volunteers are always needed and wanted! Websites matching older adults with volunteer opportunities are a good place to start, but you can also contact your local Council on Aging, Senior Center, YWCA/YMCA, church, or community center for more ideas.

AARP’s Create the Good: Search for volunteer opportunities by keyword and zip code.

AmeriCorps Seniors: Get matched with an organization dedicated to helping others.

GetSetUp: Volunteer to teach at GetSetUp, which offers live online classes for older adults on a variety of topics—work, fitness, technology, cooking, and more.

Golden Volunteer: Search for volunteer opportunities based on availability, location, interests, friends, and preferences.

In her recent book “Ageism Unmasked,” author Tracey Gendron refashions a too-often-forgotten idea: there is a vital purpose for our later decades, should we be lucky enough to live a long life. She reframes “old age” as “elderhood,” a distinct developmental stage in the human lifespan that, just like childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, opens up new opportunities and calls us to accomplish a unique set of developmental tasks.

So what are the opportunities and life tasks that open up like a treasure chest once you reach elderhood (it’s a stage, not a number, but most of us probably reach it by age 60 or so)? I’ve outlined five aspects below. As you read this list, see if anything resonates or sparks an idea about your own life and the personal growth that might be in store for you. 

You’ve never been more unique.

Older adults are more diverse than any other age group. Your health history and the sum total of your individual experiences, learnings, habits, and life choices make you a marvel to behold! One 85-year-old volunteers at a local food bank and has early-stage dementia while another runs marathons. One 76-year-old travels to see the world while another finds it in a windowsill garden. Elderhood is a time to celebrate your uniqueness: you are irreplaceable.

You strive for authenticity.

You are less willing to engage in people, things, or activities merely for show or status. Your circle of friends and acquaintances may be smaller, but each relationship will tend to be more meaningful. You may feel a pressing need to reflect on the different experiences and roles you’ve played in your life and to integrate them into the person you are still becoming today.

You embrace vulnerability.

At the peak of our physical and mental powers, it’s easy to think that we are invulnerable, capable of solving any problem that life throws at us. As we age, however, it is much more difficult to sustain this illusion. Our bodies and minds are aging; we all rely on the care of others. Learning how to embrace our own vulnerability with grace and strength helps everyone—at any age—accept and even celebrate our very human interdependence. 

You focus on being and becoming more than doing.

We spend so much of our adult lives racing from one thing to the next, getting ahead in our careers, raising families, and living by the clock. As we get older, the present moment tends to blossom into a kind of richness and depth, a timelessness that was harder to attain when we were younger. At long last, we’re not trying to “get” anywhere. We are here!

You see the big picture.

You’ve lived through a lot. You have gradually made peace with the fact that you won’t be here forever. And maybe as a result of your accrued experience and wisdom, you start approaching what some call gerotranscendence, or the ability to look beyond the limits or needs of your own life to achieve a greater understanding and compassion for the needs of all.

Editor’s Note: While every AgeAssured member’s Successful Aging journey is unique—there is no one recipe—sharing our stories is helpful and inspiring. One person’s aging challenges, joys, and solutions may spark your own ideas and make you feel less alone. It’s in this spirit of sharing that Ally Danielle Zenus writes here about how she helped a couple continue to age in place despite evolving health challenges.

Happily married since 1953, Beverly, age 87, and Donald, age 88, are aging in place at their home in Virginia, surrounded by a great family and friends support network. Beverly is a retired nurse and Donald is a retired US Navy Chaplain, and they enjoy being actively engaged in church, family, and social engagements. When Beverly’s health issues began to affect her lifestyle in recent years, Assured Allies‘ AgeAssured program stepped in both to help her and to support Donald, who eagerly took on the role of his wife’s primary caregiver: “I love being a caregiver,” says Donald, “It gives me joy.”

As an AgeAssured Ally, I helped the couple understand the local resources in their area, like senior centers and delivery services. These resources have helped free up Donald’s time and energy to be more available as a caregiver to his wife. While Beverly is able to bathe and get dressed independently, she is no longer able to drive or stand for long periods of time. So Donald does the shopping, cooking, and housework, and manages all of her medications. Does Beverly like her husband’s cooking? “I love this restaurant!” she replied.

I was able to be helpful to the couple a second time in the last year when Beverly’s health changed significantly and Donald requested further support. “I love your approach,” he told me on our last call, “you are so thorough and do your job beautifully.”

We’d love to hear from you!

There are thousands of older adults out there who would love to learn how you are aging successfully. We’d be delighted to hear from you and consider your story for publication to help inspire others. Write to us anytime.

At Assured Allies, we are proud and delighted that our Age Assured program has helped Beverly and Donald receive the support they need to remain at home, make more memories, and keep laughing together: “You know you are getting old when your youngest is turning 64!”

Are you caregiving for an aging spouse?

Donald’s caregiving became more sustainable when he connected with local resources that helped lighten his task load. If you’d like help getting connected in your area, please feel free to reach out to an Ally. Solutions, resources, and healthy aging research change all the time, and staying up to date about all of the above is one of the ways that AgeAssured Allies help our members. Meanwhile, here’s a short list of free resources that we recommend to get you started:

  • Family Caregivers Alliance can connect you to state-by-state quality information, support, and resources related to family caregiving. Create your own free personalized dashboard that matches your caregiving needs with available resources.
  • Caregiver Action Network is the nation’s leading family care organization working to improve the quality of life for the more than 90 million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age.
  • The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has a lot of good information, tools, and self-help avenues for caregivers and families.
  • iSupport is a free online course for dementia caregivers offered by The World Health Organization.
Danielle Zenus, LSW
Senior Ally Specialist Danielle Zenus is a licensed social worker who has been working with older adults for over five years to help them age successfully. Learn more about Danielle and why she's so passionate about helping others in this in-depth interview.

We are encouraged from a young age to “give it everything you’ve got” when it comes to schoolwork, sports, work, and more. Later in life, we bring that same all-in commitment to all sorts of endeavors, from raising children to saving for retirement, caring for a beloved pet, or growing a bountiful vegetable garden to feed your own family and many others thanks to the potatoes, lettuce, and kale you donate to a local food bank.

All of these acts can involve unconditional love and 24/7 responsibility. And they all take energy. By midlife, many of us feel that we are spread too thin; there is too much going on. We can’t keep up, and sometimes we crash.

One of the many wonderful things about the aging process is that it helps us to focus on what is really important. When it gets harder to hear, we focus on the sounds most valuable to us—meaningful conversations with our near and dear, or the jazz music we love.

The need to preserve our energy as we age is a gift that our body gives us. We learn to make clear and conscious decisions about what to focus on. What do we really value and cherish? What really has to get done today, and what can be put off until next week, or never?

Deciding how to spend our energy can be done in the same way as planning a budget. We have limited resources. There are certain things that we want—that we must—achieve, and others that we now have the wisdom and confidence to reject. So start the week by asking yourself, what do I want to focus my prime energy on this week? Maybe you could write it down, and then organize it into achievable steps.

Quick Wins for More Stressful Weeks

1. Plan a night in with a close friend and order take-out food
2. Minimize your normal housework and cleaning or get help
3. The week before, arrange for any transport to and from the places you need
4. Grocery shop and menu plan in advance
5. Have people ready to talk to before and after any key events like doctor appointments.

Pick a weekly theme like getting your house ready for winter, or sorting through a closet full of old clothes. Maybe one week is all about getting routine physical tests completed. These can be stressful, with follow-up tasks and questions that go beyond just getting to and from the appointment.

On challenging weeks, allow yourself breathing room. Prep what you can in advance; arrange for extra help and support. Don’t forget to add fun and rewards, too!

Michal Herz
Before joining Assured Allies, Dr. Michal Herz,  our Voice of the Consumer Director, worked passionately for twenty years in the field of dementia and aging.

AgeAssured Ally Angelina Portuense has worked with many of our members to optimize their homes for successful aging. Here are some of her best tips!

Let’s face it: as we get older, the choices we made when buying or designing a home years ago may no longer work as well. For example, bathtubs are harder to get in and out of than showers. Doorways might be too narrow for walkers and wheelchairs. In this essay, I will walk you through a typical home and review some of our AgeAssured Allies’ best tips to make it as safe and accessible as possible. 

A Smooth Entrance

Front steps: If you have any front steps, make sure that they are in good condition (i.e. uncracked concrete or solid wood) and have handrails on both sides. Handrails should extend beyond the bottom and top of the stairs to provide support for their entire length. If stairs become a challenge, consider installing an metal ramp certified by the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) with a licensed contractor or a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). 

Doorways: At the entrance (and around any doorway in your home), ensure that there is enough clearance for ambulatory assistive devices (such as a walkers, wheelchairs or rollators) in case you ever need one or are already using one; a minimum of 36 inches in width is ideal. Make sure that your entryway is well lit at night and that any welcome mats are secured to the floor properly to avoid becoming a tripping hazard. 

Age-Friendly Kitchens

The kitchen is often the heart of a home, the place where meals come alive, delicious smells waft, and creativity either soars or plummets. Whether you enjoy cooking or have a love-hate relationship with it, being able to prepare your own meals is a big part of aging successfully. Happily, there are steps you can take to make your kitchen more age-friendly. 

Countertops and Shelves: Keep them free from clutter, especially those close to the stove. When it comes to where to store things, put the items that you use on a daily/frequent basis at arms-reach when standing at the counter. Invest in a sturdy step stool to reach things on top shelves, ideally, one with a handrail and non-skid rubber for your feet. 

Kitchen Tools: Switch to more ergonomic utensils and tools and consider soft-grip bowls and shears. Many older adults like rocker knives, which allow you to cut vegetables and fruit on a cutting board with one hand. An electric can opener might be another wise investment. 

Safer Bathrooms

Designing safe and sturdy transitions in bathrooms are key to making them age-friendly. Is there enough space for you to transition from sink to shower or shower to toilet? If space is an issue, think about installing grab bars, which take up hardly any room. If space is not an issue or permanent grab bar placement is not possible or desirable, explore durable medical equipment that can help with challenging transitions. For example, if you have a large tub wall that requires you to step over it in order to enter the bath or shower, consider a shower transfer bench that you can sit on and slide off of to get over the tub barrier. If getting off the toilet is becoming more difficult, consider a raised toilet seat with arms. Since bathrooms floors can be slippery when wet, consider installing non-stick tape in and outside of the shower as well as non-slip shower mats. 

Well-Equipped Bedrooms 

Navigating dark hallways and stairwells in the middle of the night is not ideal at any age. Not only are our eyes not fully adjusted after waking, but our movements can be slower than normal. So make sure all of your hallways are well-lit and cleared of clutter, especially any hallways going from your bedroom to the bathroom. Light switches should be conveniently located, i.e. at the entry to the hall from the bedroom). Consider battery-operated motion sensor night lights. 

Be mindful of how “slippery” your comforter and sheet sets are. As a geriatric case manager, I have lost count of how many stories I’ve heard from clients who have fallen out of their beds because their covers were too slippery!  

Next, think about how your furniture is arranged. Is there ample space around doorways? A clear passage from the bed to the bathroom or hallway? If getting on or off the bed is becoming a challenge, consider a bed grab bar that can help you pull yourself up and out. Access to a phone in the middle of the night is also important; make sure there is a place close to the bed where a phone can be securely held and charged. Alight should be easily reached and switched on from the bed, too. 

Easy Living Rooms

Living rooms often need to be re-configured as we age to facilitate cleaning and to prevent falls. Examine critically whether you need all of your furniture and knick knacks. Area rugs should be securely fastened to the floor to avoid being a tripping hazard. Electrical cords should be secured to the wall or away from any foot traffic and coiled to remove any slack. Consider anything you can do to make the living room easier to clean, such as de-cluttering, installing hardwood floors versus carpet, or replacing horizontal blinds with vertical ones for easier dusting. 

At Assured Allies, we fully support your desire to age happily in the place you call home. I hope these tips have been helpful. We have plenty more! We’d also love to hear what works for you so we can share your tips with other members. Please reach out to us anytime at [email protected] or call us at (866) 727-7833.

Angelina Portuense, LSW
Angelina is a licensed social worker who has been working in the elder care field for over seven years. Her passion for working with older adults started in her teenage years when she became a family caregiver.

Sure it’s fun to blow out 70 birthday candles, but it’s even more fun to climb rocks. Especially red rocks. Giant ones. Just ask Jim Klein, who recently celebrated his epic birthday by “getting out of my comfort zone” and climbing up to the top of Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ. Jim was kind enough to sit down and tell us why he did it, and why this big red rock resonates for him on the threshold to a new decade. 

Jim, thanks for sitting down to share your story with Assured Allies. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. I just turned 70 and live with my wife Beverly in Ohio. We have a son, Alex (32) who works for Ohio Health and a daughter, Madison (27) who is a Dr. of Veterinary Medicine. As for me, after receiving a BA from Rutgers and MBA from Columbia, I pursued a career with leadership positions in major global brands including Avon, Swatch, Universal Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, National Geographic and the Smithsonian. In my leisure time, I love the great outdoors to explore, hike and kayak.

And you just turned 70.


And just posted to Facebook about your epic Cathedral Rock climb, reaching the “‘End of Trail’ marker just to prove that it is so not the ‘End of MY Trail.’” Did you hike alone?

No, you should never hike alone. I hiked with my wingman son, Alex, who is an expert hiker and trail guide, and my daughter Madison.

How did you come up with this idea, to celebrate 70 with a big climb?

We fell in love with Sedona back in 2019 and I told my family I wanted to climb the iconic Cathedral Rock for my big 70th birthday in 2022, giving me some time to prepare because it is a “bad boy” hike involving climbing, crawling, sliding, and technical skills that I didn’t have, but planned to learn on the job [smiles].

Some people have a fighting disposition towards aging. Is that you?

The best way to deal with aging is to not deny it, but to defy it by pushing your limits, leaving your comfort zones behind, and celebrating what is still possible. I have always been a positivist, even about birthdays. I actually have better strength and aerobic capabilities than I had 20 years ago, thanks to pushing my limits and by power walking an average of 10K a day for over five years.

How did 70 feel at the top of Cathedral Rock?

The climb pushed my physical limits! I crab-crawled up one big boulder on my hands and knees after falling back five times, ungracefully slid down big boulders on my butt, and climbed up through a 90ft tall crevice to reach the summit. At the top I found myself somewhat bruised and battered but thrilled by the accomplishment and the belief that the best years still lie ahead.

What are you looking forward to in the next decade?

I have officially retired from my professional career, but continue to enjoy providing pro bono guidance to some of my former companies. Beverly and I are not snowbirds but we do love mountains, so rather than buying a condo on the ocean, we plan to travel out West to the National Parks starting with the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We also look forward to  some Napa/Sonoma Valley trips for some fun. In my consulting practice, I work with a lot of young people and inspire them to “Go West” to see the majesty of the National Parks, which have almost become spiritual for me and my family.

Most people have at least one health concern or scare before age 70. Have you had any and if so, how did you deal with them?

I just passed my annual physical with flying colors, but four years ago, I had a health scare when I was diagnosed with severe heart disease from a calcium score reading. They discovered it was a false alarm when they put me on a treadmill stress test that revealed I was in the top 5% of aerobic capacity for my age. Nonetheless, it changed my life. I changed my diet and started a fairly extreme exercise routine. A good scare is a good motivator.

What gets better at this stage of life?

My relationship with my wife and kids has never been better and we still love going on family adventures together. If you are physically fit and mentally still kicking, your outlook on life gets better with age.

What advice would you give others about healthy aging or aging well?

Stay physically fit and mentally healthy. And create your own adventures, because there is no better feeling than pushing your limits, leaving your comfort zone and experiencing the thrill of accomplishment. Never stop educating yourself and never stop exploring the amazing world out there.

When AgeAssured member Jani holds court on her front porch, walks down a hallway lined with  family photos, or hugs one of her nine great grandkids in her living room, it’s clear that this 85-year-old matriarch has built a rich life around family and a particular place: the Missouri home she’s lived in for over 60 years. Assured Allies is proud to help Jani age on her own terms, in her beloved home, through hip replacement surgery and beyond. 

Jani was kind enough to share her experience with Assured Allies in a video, which you can watch here. The following interview is a mildly edited excerpt. 

Tell us about your home.

Jani with Christina Ferrari, her Ally Angelina Portuense, and Andy Freedman of Assured Allies.

My home means a lot to me. We moved in in October of 1960 or 1959. I’ve lived here over 60 years and both of my kids have never missed a Christmas. I always told my grandkids that I didn’t care who they married, but they had to marry someone who would come to my house for Christmas [laughs]. It means a lot to be able to stay here.

How did you hear about Assured Allies and the AgeAssured program?

Well, I’ve had two knees replaced and one ankle replaced, and then I started having trouble with my right hip. Before I had surgery in the fall, Assured Allies called me. They wanted to know if there was anything I needed in my home.

What was your first impression? 

When I first heard about Assured Allies I was a little confused because they were going to give me something for free. So I called my insurance company and they said it was for people that would rather stay in their home than go to the nursing home. 

How did your Ally, Angelina, help you get ready for your surgery?

Angelina called me back and wanted to know if I could use anything in the house. I said well, I‘m having a little bit of trouble with my hip that needs to be operated on, and they [Assured Allies] sent me many things that I needed when I had surgery. They sent me a little motion light, anything I mentioned they somehow found [a walker basket, sock aids, personal grabber, long-handled bath brush, leg lift strap, and more] to make it easier for me to stay home, with no charge to me at all. Angelina’s been a godsend; she explains everything to me and this makes you feel good, that somebody else is looking after you. 

What gives you a sense of purpose in your life?

The main thing that makes me happy is being with my kids and my grandkids. That’s what Assured Allies is trying to do for me — get my home fixed so I can stay at home. 

Do you have an experience with Assured Allies that you’d like to share? If so, please let us know at [email protected]. We’d love to keep spreading the word about how we help members like you age in place.

In her early 70’s, my mom, Rita Ann, who recently passed at age 94, had an ankle replacement. The doctor who pioneered the surgery traveled from Sweden to perform the operation himself. “Can you also make me tall and blonde?” mom quipped before the surgery. The doctor was charmed, but my mom’s walking continued to decline and the surgery was ultimately pronounced a failure.

The author with her mother, Rita Ann, and brother Jeremy.

I never questioned this until recently. Last May, Rita Ann who was then 93, fell and shattered her “good leg.” After six weeks at a top rehab facility in L.A. she was sent home because she was too frightened of falling to cooperate with the physical therapists or even get out of bed. It was then that I realized that all those years ago her ankle replacement was most likely a failure because she didn’t really work at regaining mobility. Knowing my mother, I am sure her physical therapy sessions were focused on discussing the personal issues of the physical therapist and my mother offering advice and support. Exercise and pushing themselves physically is not something that most women of that generation did.  We boomers are much more fit than our mothers. At age 68, I go to the gym 5-6 times a week, take multiple classes, swim and walk at least six miles a day. By contrast, at my age my mom’s exercise regimen was mostly limited to her 5 p.m. stroll to the fridge to get the wine.

If my mom had been more inclined to exercise and to regain mobility, it certainly would have enhanced her later years. But in many ways her life was very rich and there is much to learn from her about successful aging. Her curiosity about other people and her genuine investment in them kept her engaged in life and surrounded by love. 

Many people in their 80’s and 90’s are lonely because their friends are gone. But my mom continued to make friends throughout her life and had friends of all ages and walks of life. She approached everyone she met as if that person were a book recommended by the New York Times. Regardless of time, space, or setting, mom opened the hearts of all who crossed her pa​​th, appreciatively read a page or two, and left those hearts more loving of themselves for her appreciation.

The Harvard Grant Study of Adult Development, which has been ongoing for 8o years, has shown the value of relationships as a form of self-care. “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Beautiful and charismatic, my mother drew people to her. But her secret was not so much that she was dazzling but that she has always done the hard work of building relationships. This is something that any of us can do. When we display a genuine interest in others, that comes back to us. 

Mom was always more interested in hearing about the happiness and woes in the lives of those around her than dwelling on her own difficulties. Even notorious curmudgeons fell under her spell. I have always benefited from this. Growing up, the grumpiest shopkeepers welcomed us because we were Mrs. Gold’s kids. Irritable, child-hating Doc Seltzer told mom she had a beautiful figure and told everyone else, “Don’t touch that Sis unless you’re going to buy it.” 

Rita Ann and the author on Derby Day.

Mom doubled her charm offensive when she felt someone was sad or bitter. Monosyllabic Mr. Peterson had the only bakery for miles in Manchester, Maine, and he drew customers who would wordlessly make their purchases and then escape. When my mom first exploded onto the scene, her ebullient greeting was met with something between a murmur and a growl. She continued to greet him warmly until eventually he chatted with her, sharing his concerns about being a single father raising daughters. Mom brought out the best in everyone by concentrating on them. She made people feel good about themselves, and that made her feel good, too.

My mother’s later years were brightened by her optimism and hope. Her certainty that life still held more for her motivated her to relocate to California at age 93.  That hope also allowed her to continue after the loss of a son and two beloved husbands. As a widow in her early 60’s, she fell in love again and remarried. When she could no longer walk, she could still dance.  

Being by my mom’s bedside at the end of her life, I spent a lot of time watching her sleep. I think the reason her face was still beautiful at 94 is that there was no bitterness reflected there. She had the glow of someone who has always chosen to see the best in life and in other people. Even at the end, in constant pain, unable to get out of bed and with her memory in shreds, letting go of life was unfathomable to her. 

Rita Ann was always good about staying in touch with her wide network. When she no longer felt up to making phone calls, her phone continued to ring all the time. Nieces and nephews would call her and numerous others who thought of themselves as a niece or nephew. Several flew across the country to visit her. While almost all of mom’s friends are  gone, their children became mom’s friends and they called her.  So many wrote beautiful messages that they asked me to read to her, extolling her “joie de vivre” and “unstoppable life force.” I read her tributes such as “You have always been a bright light in my life.”   I hoped that hearing how she had impacted so many over her lifetime would bring her comfort.

Listening to these messages of love and appreciation, my mom turned to me, my brother and sister and emphatically drew out her last word.. “Fantaaaaaastic!”

Benita Gold
Benita Gold is a publicist, writer, storyteller, and late bloomer. She has performed personal stories in comedy clubs and festivals. She became a mom at 51 and married for the first time at 53.