Doris Bersing, PhD
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Ageism and Sexism

Fighting Sexism and Ageism: We Need A New Paradigm for Old-er Women.
Ageism

I was stunned, when Debbie—my 67-yer-old client, who has one PhD in American history and a JD—told me that her contract as full-time faculty at a local law school had not been renewed. She is vivacious, energetic, intelligent, and adored by her students. I asked  immediately, why? She has always told me she was on the “retire-at-85” plan and as far as I knew, Academia is supposed to be a world of respect and knowledge; a place where attaining knowledge and wisdom are regarded as the ultimate achievements. Nonetheless, Debbie told me she was forced into retirement! Debbie had spent 25 years of her life as a professor for several graduate and law schools, during which time she had received many awards for research and groundbreaking work. Now, she said “retirement has been forced on me, and my courses have been assigned to young-er faculty members, who are less expensive. For the first time, I have faced ageism as never before, and it is not a theoretical concept, anymore. It is real.” She, too, was shocked.

Yes indeed, ageism –although an old paradigm—is still in full force, current and pervasive permeating all layers of our society. Perhaps it is time to kick this new old paradigm with its ill-fated consequences for our society’s well-being to the curb and embrace a different more optimistic, engaging, and active paradigm of aging: one that does not fear aging but embrace it as a very meaningful and with great potential phase of life.

Sexism

Like we did not have enough  with the ageism in our culture, we also need to face Sexism.  The prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, against women, on the basis of sex is a fact very well known in all fronts of society and affects women of all walks of life. Instances of sexism are experienced by our mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters, and all women and girls around the world. It is one of those phenomena would like to have the exclusivity of it but it is not like that. It is pervasive and perverse all around the world.

Sexism is based in the prejudice and extensive generalization that there is something faulty in women and  it continues to impede women from their rights to grow and thrive in our society. Perhaps we are not as pretty and firm as we were when young-er but seasoned –or spicy, hot women—had fought for equality, diversity, had raised their self-esteem, run for public office. They have shaved off their internalized ageism and are ready to venture in new characters, created new connections, and created a new wave of accomplished women who give us the inspiration we need to live as first-class citizens and make our golden years shine and count, and do what needs to be done.

Not all of us get to that place and nevertheless, it is worth trying. A place where we can branch out, revolt, or go quietly happily ever after about life. Whatever works for you do it with gusto! Let’s this new woman be at the top of the hill and not over the hill. She can change her image of a raggedy crone to the one of mentor. to be proud and loud.

As many of us who are undertaking the journey through the uncharted land, we become pioneers with no maps but following our moral compass to be the best we can be. Being the eternal optimistic and positive thinker, she is, at 80 Ms. Steinem finds herself more productive and at peace than ever.  “…A dwindling libido, she theorized, can be a terrific advantage: “The brain cells that used to be obsessed are now free for all kinds of great things…” 


Preparing Your Home for Alzheimer’s: Tips and Advice for Caregivers

When caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other type of dementia, the safety around the home is a very important issue. Caregivers, here you can find some tips and advice in regards to keeping your home safe.

Some Facts About Alzheimer's Disease

Today,  about 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, with the majority of them being aged 65 or older. Safety at home is a very critical issue when caregiving for somebody with Alzheimer’s disease. Safe at Home is the key. Progressive Alzheimer’s disease makes it impossible for people with it to take care of themselves. Many of them require care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In order to make that possible, many people with Alzheimer’s move into a loved one’s home for caregiving.

Alzheimer’s disease is a severe form of dementia associated with memory loss as well as the loss of other cognitive abilities. The symptoms can be serious enough to eventually interfere with daily life. If a person is experiencing Alzheimer’s, you may start to notice:

  • Changes in personality and interests.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Problems concentrating and general cognitive struggles.
  • Long-term and short-term memory loss.
  • Confusion with places, people, and timing.
  • The inability to complete tasks that require sequential steps, such as getting dressed or making a meal.

Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is not easy. It’s difficult to watch people you love deteriorate and grow unable to do even the simplest things they used to enjoy. However, taking in people with Alzheimer’s gives them the opportunity to spend the rest of their lives surrounded by the people who love them while enjoying comfort and care. In order to make your home as safe as possible for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you’ll want to make a few preparations around the house.

Their Private Room: A Place to Escape

One of the utmost important things about caregiving for people with Alzheimer’s is preserving their dignity and showing them respect. Loved ones need a room of their own where they can have privacy and a place where they can escape the noise and confusion of outside. Their room should be safe, comfortable, and easy for them to move around in. Provide them with all the things they love whether it is a stereo for music, books, blankets, or a television. Remove hazardous decorations that can break or shatter upon impact. It’s also helpful to give them a room on the first floor near a bathroom for accessibility.

Bathroom & Kitchen Safety

The bathroom and kitchen are the most dangerous rooms in the house. If you are taking in Alzheimer’s patients for the long term, it may behoove you to accommodate these rooms for them with a remodel. To do this, you have to take cost into consideration. For instance, the average cost to remodel a kitchen is $19,589. There are several ways to modify your kitchen for safety. Considering the amount of dangerous tools and materials in the kitchen, locks on drawers and cabinets containing these things can prevent loved ones from hurting themselves. Some people also put locks on the refrigerator as the disease progresses. If the room contains steps or stairs, a safety ramp with rails to hold on to can help your loved one navigate the area safely.

When changing your bathroom, it’s important to make it accessible for loved ones while reducing hazards that can lead to a fall. Grab bars or side bars near the toilet and tub can help them get up and down safely and with ease. Label all water faucets clearly so they know which one controls hot and which controls cold. A scalding burn can be a devastating injury. Finally, make liberal use of non-slip mats, stools or chairs, and lighting.

If you are one of the millions of Americans who takes in loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, you’ll need to prepare your home to make a safe, comfortable environment. Providing them their own room is paramount; it’s important to respect their privacy and preserve their dignity. You may also want to consider making renovations or modifications in the kitchen and bathroom. These rooms are important but contain plenty of hazards you want to avoid.


Older’s American Month: Age Out Loud

Each May, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) leads our nation’s celebration of Older Americans Month (OAM). ACL designed the 2017 OAM theme, Age Out Loud, to give aging a new voice—one that reflects what today’s older adults have to say.

This theme shines a light on many important trends. More than ever before, older Americans are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others. What it means to age has changed, and OAM 2017 is a perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate what getting older looks like today.

Marianne Gontarz York, portraits one of our older Americans who live and age out loud. She says on the Newsletter of the Marin County Commission on Aging “…There is no one I can think of who exemplifies this more than Barbara Borden… a 71 year old drummer [who] has lived her life out loud” Read More

Forbes published that according to the Administration on Aging (AoA), to Age Out Loud means “having the freedom to live with dignity, choice, and opportunities.” … and they comment on 10 Ways All Ages Can celebrate Older Americans.

    1. Talk to older people everywhere. Find out what they have to say. Learn about their experiences. Interview people in your community who exemplify what it means to Age Out Loud. Gather a mix of individuals, such as older public servants, elder rights advocates, back-to-schoolers, moms and grandmas, athletes, authors, retired professional people who broke barriers or people trying new careers. Everyone has a story. Share your interviews through written pieces or videos.
    2. Arrange for older adults to share or read stories in a workshop or for a “Senior Day” at a local school. Find out about older adults reading books to children at a local library.
    3. Teachers and others, help local school students set up interviews with residents of a retirement community, assisted living community or nursing home, and write short biographies for a school assignment. Plan a program for wherein the students would read aloud their stories. Invite families of students and seniors and even the media to attend.
    4. Ask your older followers and friends on social media to share their wisdom, tips and stories online. You can use a unique hashtag or post to a page or forum you create or manage.
    5. Arrange a celebratory event with a community leader or keynote speaker from your community. Invite community members to a special event celebrating older Americans. It could be a sit-down meal, a networking gathering or a special program like a storytelling or talent show. Plan activities that will result in proceeds like those from a raffle, and donate the funds to a local charity or program or agency that supports older adults.
    6. Plan a volunteer event for older adults who want to give back. The purpose could be anything from picking up litter or gardening in public areas to collecting clothing and food donations for those in need. If you need ideas visit Serve.gov.  If resources are available, create matching volunteer t-shirts that say “Age Out Loud!” This creates a sense of unity and raises awareness among those who see your group volunteering.
    7. Coordinate an education event like a resource fair, class, workshop or lecture a topic covered by this year’s theme. The gathering could hone in on self-expression with activities like painting, acting and singing or focus on maintaining health and independence with a yoga or strength training class. Nutrition tips can be added to any wellness event. Consider teaching a group about self-advocacy, technology or starting a new career.
    8. Help an older person gather family photos and make an album or scrapbook about their life and the legacy they will leave.
    9. Consider participating in a life review project such as The UMSL Life Review Project at the University of Missouri – at St. Louis, where Dr. Tom Meuser, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, applied gerontologist, and director of the University of Missouri-St. Louis’s Gerontology Graduate Program is recruiting older adults and their adult children in pairs to either be interviewed or complete questionnaires in support of his research. He will be recruiting through July 2017 and welcomes participants to contact him by email at meusert@umsl.edu to volunteer or learn more. The project flyer can be found at here. https://sites.google.com/a/umsl.edu/legacy-project/home.
    10. And finally, simply spend time with an older person, no matter what age you are. Chances are you can learn a lot from them and vice versa. Read the article


Ways for Seniors to Improve Mental and Physical Health

Easy Ways for Seniors to Stay Healthy

In a time where daily stress is almost a given, it’s important for us to take care of ourselves.

Seniors, especially, need to find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety as well as ways to actively improve physical and mental well-being. Fortunately, there are many ways to do that, and most of them are more simple than you might think. Here are a few of the best.

Engage in daily exercise

Exercise is important for everyone, but for individuals over the age of 50, it’s imperative. Getting in at least thirty minutes of workout time every day will help improve your mood and overall health, and it might be a good way to socialize, as well. Start a walking group with friends or neighbors, or invite your spouse or coworker to a swim aerobics class. Having someone to talk to will make you look forward to working out rather than dreading it.

Consider a pet

If you don’t already have a pet, consider getting a dog or cat. Animals can help reduce anxiety and even lower blood pressure, and they are wonderful companions. Dogs are also great motivators on days when you don’t feel like exercising, because they’ll always be up for a walk!

Stay in touch

When life gets hectic, we sometimes forget to stay in touch with loved ones. Make it a point to sit down and write a letter to someone you care about, or give them a call. Set aside time on a specific day every week to do it so you’ll have no trouble remembering.

Eat well

Your diet can have a very specific impact on your health and how you feel, so make sure you’re not overloading on refined sugars and carbs, which can make you feel sluggish. Lots of leafy greens, fish, nuts, and fresh fruit will go a long way toward helping you feel better in every way.

Get some rest

You might think you’re getting enough sleep, but if you feel tired all day it’s possible you need to take another look at your habits. Are you lying awake for a long time at night? Taking long naps during the day? Try staying away from the television, computer, or smartphone for an hour or two before bedtime. Instead, read a book or take a long hot shower. Get yourself relaxed before bed to ensure you’ll sleep and feel rested when you get up.

Get creative

For retirees, especially, the days can seem long and uninspired. If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled, try a new hobby. Get creative and take up a painting class, or try gardening or woodworking. Allowing yourself to create things and try something new will open up a whole new world, and you may just find happiness there.

Staying active and keeping your mind healthy and alert will ensure you’ll be feeling good and ready to tackle anything, no matter what your age is.


Aging Women: From Crone to Mentor

After fighting for equal rights and against negative stereotypes, baby-boomer women find themselves in a society that obsessively worships youth and relegates its seniors to second-class status. Baby boomer women grew up around the fighting of the feminist movement in the sixties and seventies; many were feisty revolutionaries.

In the eighties, the message to them was to embrace the inner Goddess within. Now in their golden years, they imagine a new role as sage, which will help them obtain the freedom they have been chasing since their youth. But what is this new role?  What if wisdom is lacking? Where then do they find meaning in their lives?

We question how the women’s movement has affected women of age. The women who took what they learned as activists in the civil-rights movement and applied it to the rampant sexism of the civil-rights and black-power movements – who participated in the first sweeping consciousness-raising process that Bettina Aptheker called “learning to name our oppression” – these women are still too young to have been included in Coming of Age.

But that phase of the women’s movement spawned two generations of equal rights, abortion rights, lesbian and gay rights, anti-ageism, and AIDS activists; a devoted, beleaguered army of caretakers of abused women and children in the shelter movement; and labor groups such as the CLUW and Women in the Trades, to name only a few “special-interest” groups. Many old women, some place along the line, have been affected by those struggles, as I was, and by the huge body of songs, poems, essays, and visual art that celebrates them, as I was.

Elderly woman today face personal challenges, triggering some profound questions–among them: What is their role as they age? Reproduction is no longer a goal; nor is raising children. If they had a career, it is in the past, or nearly so. Traditional roles for midlife or older women, such as caring for grandchildren or caregiving for a husband or other family member–are still common for women. These limited identities may be difficult to bear for those who spent a lifetime trying to make a difference.

To those old ones who still do battle with dragons [1]

The “aging” woman, with her dry skin and wrinkled body does not represent the pretty, sexy, vital or accomplished; she is considered to be in her dimmed time. Jungian psychotherapist and author Jean Shinoda Bolen has said, “In a youth-oriented patriarchy, especially, to become an older woman is to become invisible: a nonentity.” Or, as historian Bettina Aptheker[2] recently said of older people, especially women, “We’re either invisible, or we’re in the way.” What’s the future for this woman? What role should aging women play in our society?

Food for thought!

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[1] Studs Terkel. In Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It. St. Martin’s Press; 1st St. Martin’s Griffin Ed edition (September 1996)

[2] May 8, 2008: Bettina Aptheker on Feminism and Ageism. A public lecture at Pacific Institute. San Francisco.


Time to Continue the Fight

Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 2.03.02 PMWe know last night didn’t go as many of us planned. We’re upset.We’re disappointed. And we’re heartbroken. But we aren’t giving up. We’re going to keep fighting. President Obama reminded us this morning that the most important thing we can do is move forward. He told us that “we brush ourselves off, we get back in the arena, we go at it.”Kate Kendall from the National Commission For Lesbian Rights said: “… By a slim margin, this nation has elected a demagogue who trafficked in bigotry, stoked racist hatred and normalized misogyny. The election of Donald Trump as President threatens basic principles of human dignity and justice… Many of our most cherished values—inclusion, honoring difference, embracing equality, dismantling oppressive systems—are in jeopardy, but we will not be deterred.

Kendell continues stressing that “…This is the moment we are called to resist. We are about to be tested as never before, and speaking for myself, and NCLR, we will not stand down, sit idle or be silent in the face of oppression, bullying or threat…”  Read More


Marcel Proust on Memory and Coming Out

Who is afraid Of Marcel proustMarcel Proust, a  XX century famous writer, author of a masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, brings to my attention the phenomenon of forgetfulness sometimes attached to the epidemic of dementia.  In Search of Lost Time, is one of Proust’s renowned creations (À la recherche du temps perdu published in seven volumes, previously translated as Remembrance of Things Past) (1913–1927).

In this work, Proust recounts his experiences  while growing up, participating in society, falling in love, and learning about art. He also discusses  memory, separation anxiety, the role of art in life, and homosexuality at length. He described many of the instances of Déjà vudéjà vécu effects and other phenomena related to memory. Proust shows the similarity between the structures and mechanisms of the human mind related to unfinished business and psycho-dynamic  principles he talks about, even without knowing or reading Freud.In this creation, Proust also speaks extensively in this book about the challenges of homosexuality, internalized homophobia, and the challenges of coming out as a homosexual.  Although Proust was gay, he had ambivalent feelings around coming out.

Proust stresses those challenges of being and living as homosexual in a society that des not understand or accept it. Identifying oneself as part of the LGBT group is not always easy or welcoming the way we would wish it to be. Although many people find that coming out is a positive experience, coming out has its challenges and it could have both a positive and a negative impact on the person’s life. It could affect the individual’s family relationships, social relationships, school, or work. Some LGBT people fear negative reactions, rejection and upsetting people they are close to. In many parts of the world strong cultural attitudes and discriminatory laws make coming out even harder. In USA things have changed legally, lately but at a personal level, there are still fears and internalized feelings of homophobia.

In a review by Edmund White for the New York Times, he states that among writers, the twentieth-century novelist they most admired–and who they thought would have the most enduring influence on the next century–was Marcel Proust.

An interesting take on Proust’s stance on memory is performed by  James Keller  a San Francisco Bay Area artist, who guides the audience through the seven volumes of  this Marcel Proust’s great 20th century novel, IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME, about the importance of memory and forgetting, using 180 slides and music as part of the narrative in a virtuoso performance which John Lahr (senior drama critic of The New Yorker magazine) called, “A tour de force” and also, has said that “James Keller is the most well-read person I know.”  Learn more and come to see more at Who is afraid of Marcel Proust. “Who’s Afraid of Marcel Proust?” will be performed in Berkeley on Thursday, 9/24/15  at 7:30pm at the Sacred Stream. For tickets and more information: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2260047 and in San Francisco on Sunday 10/4/15 at 2pm and at 8:00 pm.  Fort Mason.  For tickets and more information: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2239503

One of the big accomplishments of In Search of the lost time, is Proust’s position about the impossibility to recover the time we lose, the forfeiture of innocence through experience, the emptiness of love and friendship, the vanity of human endeavors, and the triumph of sin and despair; but Proust’s conclusion is that the life of every day is supremely important, full of moral joy and beauty, which, though they may be lost through faults inherent in human nature, are indestructible and recoverable.

In a personal level, one of Proust’s marvels as a writer was projecting  his own homosexuality upon his characters, treating them, as well as snob, vane, and cruel, but able to love even if considered it as a sin.

Just food for thought in some of Proust’s  famous and inspiring quotes are:

  • The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.
  • Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
  • If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.


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