Since 2009, Paula has written the New Old Age, a column about aging and caregiving that appears twice monthly, online and in the print Science Times. It draws on research findings from major journals, interviews with expert sources and the experiences of elders themselves. The New Old Age has explored an array of topics pertinent to older adults: ageism, senior living options, health issues from alcohol abuse to vaccination, overdiagnosis and overtreatment, employment discrimination, the effects of COVID-19, end of life issues.
Denise Revel had a history of developing blood clots, so in 2011, when her leg grew painfully swollen and hot to the touch, she knew what to do. She headed for the emergency room.
She recovered from the clot but could not pay the medical bill. Working as a fitness instructor, she had no health insurance. “I’ve always been financially challenged,” said Ms. Revel, 62, who lives with her daughter in Stockbridge, Ga. “I was a single parent raising two children.”
Each fall, Becca Levy asks the students in her health and aging class at the Yale School of Public Health to picture an old person and share the first five words that come to mind. Don’t think too much, she tells them.
She writes their responses on the board. These include admiring words like “wisdom” and “creative” and roles such as “grandmother.” But “‘senility’ comes up a lot,” Dr. Levy said recently, “and a lot of physical infirmity and decline: ‘stooped over,’ ‘sick,’ ‘decrepit.’”
On a recent afternoon in Bastrop, Texas, Janet Splawn was walking her dog, Petunia, a Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix. She said something to her grandson, who lives with her and had accompanied her on the stroll. But he couldn’t follow; her speech had suddenly become incoherent.
“It was garbled, like mush,” Ms. Splawn recalled a few days later from a hospital in Austin. “But I got mad at him for not understanding. It was kind of an eerie feeling.”
People don’t take chances when 87-year-olds develop alarming symptoms. Her grandson drove her to the nearest hospital emergency room, which then transferred her to a larger hospital for a neurology consultation.
A year after her daughter gave birth, Paula began writing about grandparenting for the Times. Her column, Generation Grandparent, appears four to six times a year. It has explored topics from digital grandparenting to the increasing numbers of grandparents per child and grandparents’ influx into delivery rooms.
We were standing in line at the ferry dock in Provincetown, Mass., on a glorious, crystalline day last summer that made saying goodbye a bit harder than usual.
“End of an era,” said my daughter Emma, bound home to Brooklyn after our annual summer stay in a rented house on the Outer Cape.