Aging, Death and Dying, End-of-Life Planning, Swedish Death Cleaning

Gentle Swedish Death Cleaning – Is it for You?

What is Gentle Swedish Death Cleaning?

At a certain point in life when one falls seriously ill, or the 55+ crowd is downsizing and retiring to another location or country, or when there are family discussions about assisted living, it becomes clear mortality may be in the offing (hopefully far off) and belongings will be left behind.

Is it possible to prepare for the time-consuming task of divesting now? And could this activity bring a sense of relief to you and your loved ones?

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter (part of The Swedish Art of Living and Dying series) by Margareta Magnusson, first published in 2017, addresses some of these questions..

Contrary to what the title may infer cleanings take place before your demise. They are intended as an exercise for the living and do not refer to having someone else bear the burden of tending to belongings after your departure.

In Swedish the exercise is döstädning — a combination of the word “dö” (death) and “städning” (cleaning). As Magnusson explains, “Death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up; it is a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.”

Such “cleanings” are a decluttering and organization system not dissimilar from lifestyle trend books and videos such as Marie Kondo’s hugely popular Konmari, a Japanese organizing system (I add European comforts), or centuries old Danish “hygge” and Norwegian “hugga” lifestyles focused on keeping and enjoying all that is cozy and easy. Hugge, a colloquial term in Norwegian, means to comfort, console, or hug, but it may also mean to chop, cut out, or pare down. If you are a minimalist, these concepts are already familiar.

The process is ultimately like spring and fall cleaning. It may also be thought of as mindfulness about what you choose to surround yourself with now. It may also be thought of as a chance to discuss your wishes for end-of-life.

Takeaways from Magnusson’s book:

  • Start in your 50’s (perhaps any age as it is never too early to be aware)
  • Contact loved ones and let them know your plans (tag items now)
  • Create an opportunity to discuss your End-of-Life plans, encourage candid conversation
  • Begin divesting of less important personal items
  • Gift possessions away gradually – furniture, books, collectibles, clothing
  • Keep mementos and items you cherish or are useful – photos, letters, diaries
  • Donate
  • Prepare a list of important documents and passwords
  • Continue decluttering
  • Initiate a plan for who will inherit your pet or pets
  • Focus on how this process will ultimately unburden children, executors, and others
  • Notice how you may feel less stress or feel happier and freer as you do it
This faux painting reminds me of gathering field flowers with my two sisters for our mother. A friend from Mexico loved it the minute he saw it, and it is tagged for him.

Considerations and Outcomes

The word death is off-putting for some but Magnusson’s intention is to invite us to simplify now to prepare for the inevitable – death in this lifetime. It is a practical and sensible way to help us reflect upon our legacies and what we are leaving behind. It is a kindness to those left behind creating a less burdensome aftermath. And to put it into perspective, it is the antithesis of being buried with all your belongings in a tomb for your afterlife as an Egyptian pharaoh. (Yes, the pharaohs left treasures for us to understand their civilization and we thank them).

Learning the Process Through Experience

I had the pleasure of living in Sweden as a student at the University of Stockholm International Graduate School. I rented rooms from older adults. I did not hear, read about, or witness this tradition.

It is not yet clear if döstädning is definitively Swedish, but Magnusson has certainly been the first to claim it as officially Swedish with her book. Based on my experience Swedes tend to be practical and realistic. In Sweden, you are cared for from cradle to grave with your taxes. Your burial is included. Gentle death cleaning makes sense culturally. It seems to be a Scandinavian custom.

Personal Experience

The unexpected demise of my beautiful mother taught me much. My father died when my siblings and I were children. My mother put all her love energy into creating quality of life and fine memories for us to continue. One day she went for a routine surgery and did not survive. She had, however, organized everything just in case – life insurance, bank account, and a holographic will with a list of which heirlooms (paintings, silver, oriental carpets, family treasures) for each child. Even though I continue to choke up when remembering, it was an extraordinary gift of deep love and care. She modeled this concept without ever speaking of it, she had pre-planned all. A few years later, I followed her lead.

Another quiet display of döstädning from the Greatest Generation:                            NOTICE WHEN SOMEONE OLDER STARTS GIVING THINGS AWAY. The action is a clue. It is likely they feel their moments in this lifetime may close in the not-too-distant future.

A lovely 80+ friend in Washington, D.C. called me one day and asked me to please visit. She was clear, “I am contemplating my demise.” Like me, she was a solo adult with no significant other, no children, and few relatives. She insisted I return to California with sacred items from her travels and family. It was an honor to receive the gifts given so tenderly. I treasure them and have marked them for homes with the next generation.

American Tole Tray from Raleigh, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. family via beloved friend, destined for godson and wife who collect antiques, always wished for a French tole tray but this one has far more sentimental value

Another older friend, a neighbor above, was a descendant of a Spanish land grant family. He also lived, as did the fine lady from D.C., an intercontinental and sophisticated life. He too was a solo ager with no spouse or children and insisted on giving me an Austrian tea set, some Mexican silver, and other charming items to enjoy playing house and entertaining with. He died shortly after I received these love mementos.

Even though I shared my heart with my behavior, I wish I had known then how to share what their presence in my life meant to me and had a chance to say goodbye.

I started divesting in my late 40’s because loss (in my life) happens without warning and without time to prepare – sudden deaths of loved ones and friends, accidents, financial disappointments. I cherish my life. I feel my mission has yet to be completed. I carry on with items that bring me the most pleasure or are useful. I am grateful to those that modelled döstädning for me.

Fortunately, there are millennials and Gen-Xers in my life (though not all wish to have possessions) – a niece, a godson with four little children, friends from Oaxaca with extended families, a beloved doctor friend, young women friends and others who thankfully are present to be recipients.

The photo does not do justice to this 1940’s piece from Indian Style with hand-placed fabrics over the poster. Tagged for a doctor friend who loves unusual East Indian and Persian art. Depicted are Krishna and Radha.

If it appeals to you, start with döstädning as a spring and fall cleaning or downsizing so you may focus on quality of life to the end of your life. I suggest starting before you imagine you need to and proceed slowly. You may rediscover meaningful photos, old friends, memories. May you be inspired to find homes for or donate items. Your efforts will be a kindness to those who survive you. Best wishes as you discover and enjoy possible benefits if you have not done so already.


Resources:

https://www.bystored.com/blog/swedish-death-cleaning  well-written review of Margareta Magnusson’s main how-to and why points by a storage company in London.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-HLC3KtzsE   You Tube post from Penny Marshall of ITV as she visits the author, a funeral, and a death café in Sweden in 2019.

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/opinion/sarah-devries/toss-out-lockdown-junk/  Sarah DeVries in Xalapa, Veracruz, MX says “re-home” what you no longer need  

“If you’re an expat, you’re probably already well-versed in the art of doing away with what no longer serves you so that you can make room for new adventures. In Latin America, where ample storage space is more of a luxury than a given, it can be extra important to make sure that one’s physical environment doesn’t suddenly turn into something resembling a dragon’s lair with mountains of “treasure” piled up all around.”

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2017/0725/Boomer-parents-One-day-this-will-all-be-yours.-Grown-children-Noooo Not all boomer children want their parents’ belongings.

https://mylifesite.net/blog/post/im-not-ready-yet-part-1-what-goes-in-the-keep-pile/  a blog about decluttering and downsizing for moves to senior living

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1TisVCm3D4  A mother (age 65) and her daughter listen to the audible Gentle Swedish Death Cleaning and have fun implementing some of the suggestions.

Wendy Jane Carrel, MA, is a Spanish-speaking senior care specialist and consultant from California. She has travelled Mexico for several years researching health systems, housing, senior care, and end-of-life care in order to connect Americans, Canadians, and Europeans with options for loved ones. She has investigated hundreds of senior living choices in 16 Mexican states. Her web site is http://www.WellnessShepherd.com

Aging, Assisted Living Mexico, Ex-pats in Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Retirement in Mexico, Senior Care Mexico

Successful Aging Expo San Diego, November 2019

On November 2 the newspaper San Diego Union-Tribune hosted a free event that attracted a 50+ crowd interested in subjects related to aging. Main speakers were Patricia Schultz (author of 1000 Places to See Before You Die) and Captain Dale Dye, USMC retired (author, filmmaker) focused on veterans and others.

November 2, 2019

Most of the activity at the San Diego Convention Center was at booths. Among the participants offering information were AARP, Leading Age, healthcare service providers, a cancer awareness initiative group, estate planners, Medicare Advantage Plan insurers such as Humana and SCAN, retirement counselors, senior movers, senior living placement consultants, a sleep therapy advisor, and others.

The highlight for me, related to some of my work as a senior placement consultant for Mexico, was to meet up with Miguel Angel Torres and Marisa Molina of Serena Senior Care in Baja California. I toured their Rosarito assisted living home last year and am eager to return to see their latest developments.  I appreciate their dedication, enthusiasm, and focus on quality care. See www.serenacare.net plus links to videos found on their web site.

As an aside, Serena offers residents and visitors to Baja a Full Assistance Card for $99/year ($198 per couple).  The Full Assistance Card offers ambulance services, roadside assistance, a 24-hour bi-lingual call center, discounts, and access to online medical records. Have not seen this service in action so am not in a position to comment on it. Information on this is at the web site listed above.

Miguel Angel Torres, one of his supporters, and Wendy Jane Carrel Assisted Living Consultant for Mexico at Serena Care booth

Corey Avala of www.RetireBaja55.com was also present to encourage folks to retire early and “affordably” to one of three developments he is involved with. Have not seen them.

Jane Garcia, a realtor from Dream Home Mexico was also there to espouse the benefits of retiring to Mexico.

One of the advantages of Baja California for assisted living and retirement, aside from the lower cost of living, is its close proximity to San Diego for health care through the Veteran’s Administration, and U.S. healthcare for American ex-pats who wish to return in case of need.

Many thanks for the warm reception by the San Diego Union-Tribune sponsor team!  Many thanks to the San Diego Union-Tribune for producing the San Diego Eldercare Directory 2020 available in print at the expo, and also available on-line at http://www.sandiegoeldercare.com. The directory includes listings of independent living and long-term care throughout San Diego County.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjO4FIeS-7g

Aging, Assisted Living Mexico, CCRC's in Mexico, Death in Mexico, Dying in Mexico, End-of-Life Planning, Expats, Life Plan Communities Mexico, Mexico, Nursing Homes Mexico, Senior Care Mexico

Senior Care Specialist for Mexico Talks about Assisted Living & Nursing Care in Mexico, and Why End-of-Life Planning for Ex-pats is a Good Idea

I am grateful to Focus on Mexico, where I address the ever-changing topics in Mexico (and elsewhere) of independent living, assisted living, nursing care, Life Plan Communities (CCRC’s – there is only one so far with others being developed).

The next talk to the Focus on Mexico attendees is March 21 at 11:15 a.m. at a hotel in Ajijic, Mexico. See https://www.focusonmexico.com/focus-6-day-program/   Focus on Mexico offers seminars to folks interested in how to move to and/or live in Mexico.  All presenters at Focus on Mexico are volunteers.

On Friday, March 29, I will be speaking at a FREE community event (open to the public) at the Lake Chapala Society Sala in Ajijic at Lake Chapala, Mexico at 2:00 p.m. on Why End-of-Life Planning is a Good Idea for Ex-Pats in Mexico.

Veladoras for Guadalupe and those we’ve lost, Mexico City Cathedral

Here below are links to articles I have written on the above-referenced subjects:

https://wellnessshepherd.com/2018/09/11/why-creating-an-end-of-life-plan-for-expats-in-mexico-is-a-good-idea/ 

https://www.seniorhousingforum.net/blog/2016/8/3/will-mexico-solve-senior-living-affordability-problem   

https://wellnessshepherd.com/2017/10/10/guidelines-for-choosing-assisted-livingnursing-care-in-mexico/

Wendy Jane Carrel, M.A., a Spanish-speaking senior care specialist, has spent over seven years traveling province to province in Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico researching senior living options. She acts as an advisor or liaison for those who wish assistance negotiating health systems, senior care options, end-of-life care, and disposition of remains.

 

 

 

 

Aging, Death and Dying, End-of-Life Care, End-of-Life Planning, Health & Wellness, Living Abroad, Mexico, Retirement

Death Café Ajijic, Mexico; Ex-Pats and Snowbirds Talk Gently about Mortality

A group of American, Canadian, and UK ex-pats and “snowbirds” recently gathered for the first Death Café Ajijic, Mexico. There were 18 persons present at Café El Grano including an anesthesiologist, a hospice nurse, a hospice social worker, a psychiatrist, teachers, and others. There were two facilitators who work with end-of-life planning and transitions.

If the term Death Café (excuse the direct wording, I prefer Sacred Conversation) is new to you, you may hear it more and more.  Death Cafes or Café Mortels began with Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz who held over 100 such meetings in his native country until recently. In 2011, Jon Underwood, inspired by Crettaz, created Death Cafes in England (see history at http://deathcafe.com/what/  ).

These all-volunteer social events to discuss death and dying respectfully and informally (no agenda) are now held in 52 countries including Australia, Europe, Canada, the U.S., and parts of Latin America where death has sometimes, but not always, been a foreboding and scary subject.  Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim countries, and places with indigenous populations tend to consider death a natural part of life and honor it as such more easily. Most café organizers work with end-of-life, and tend to focus on alternative, kinder, spiritual ways of departing. Note: There is a Death Café in Singapore.

“At a Death Café… our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives,” states the Café web site. Most of all, the Café encourages an exchange of stories and perspectives as a way to embrace death.

What prompted a Death Café in Ajijic?

First, a number of retired ex-pats and visitors die in Mexico unexpectedly, and, they die without a health care directive and/or an end-of-life plan. There is a need for continued conversation and education.

Second, Loretta Downs, MA, has been speaking to locals at a popular venue, Open Circle (as well as at In the Heart of Awareness, the Buddhist center), about end-of-life for several years.  She flies in from Chicago every January to deliver her talks. About 300 + persons show up to listen as she encourages her audiences to become friendly with the idea of mortality and to prepare for it – think about it, and express to others what you want.  See http://www.endoflifeinspirations.com.

DSCN2635
Wendy Jane Carrel and Loretta Downs, End-of-Life Guides, Planners, and Educators; Co-Hosts of Death Cafe Ajijic 2018

Third, yours truly, Wendy Jane Carrel, MA, has been speaking to ex-pats around Ecuador for three years and subsequently in Mexico with the same passionate message – make friends with your demise, please make a plan.

It seemed natural for Loretta and I to team up to host a Café for Lake Chapala.

My interests had been reinforced as a result of volunteering two years at Juntos Contra el Dolor, the only 24/7 palliative care hospital and hospice in the state of Jalisco, a model for Mexico. I was given the gift of observing how painful chronic and terminal illnesses are treated, the politics of medicine, the politics of opioids, cultural difficulties related to dying, family constellations, and the difficulties of running a non-profit in a rich country (yes, rich in many resources) with little tradition of philanthropy. Most of all, I learned the concept of a “good death” requires much education and outreach in Mexico as well as at home.

Loretta’s friend Nancy Gershman, who produces Death Café NYC, gave us welcome pointers before the Ajijic meeting. We followed Nancy’s advice – small tables of 3-4 for intimate conversation, one of us (Loretta) to circulate and ensure participant exchanges were flowing, see that anyone who was recently grieving the loss of a loved one was comfortable, followed-up by an evaluation to learn what we could do better the next time.  https://www.meetup.com/Death-Cafe-New-York-City/

Cafe El Grano, nice partitions for intimate conversation
Cafe El Grano, Ajijic, Mexico – nice partitions and small tables for intimate conversation – also a most accommodating owner 😉

Because Loretta and I travel often, she is based in Chicago, and I in LA, we may not be producing other cafes until January 2019 unless another healthcare worker can pick-up in our absence.

Note: If you have not heard of Ajijic, it’s a sleepy Lake Chapala village, with a population of around 10,000, an hour south of Guadalajara. It is a popular tourist destination. Lake Chapala is home to around 20,000 full-time retirees from north-of-the border.

The DeathCafe.com web site indicates there are 9 death cafes in Mexico. I could only find one. It is located in Mexico City. See http://deathcafe.com/deathcafe/1695/ .

I have so much more to learn. I am now eager to return home to attend hospice social worker and end-of-life guide Betsy Trapasso’s Death Café LA https://www.facebook.com/deathcafelosangeles/   or Maggie Yenoki’s gathering in Pasadena https://www.facebook.com/deathcafepasadena/

References

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/12/what-happens-at-a-death-cafe/   excellent overview of a Death Café gathering in Sonoma, California by Shepherd Bliss

https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2017/mar/09/death-cafe-learn-talk-dying-patients

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/07/10/the-founder-of-death-cafe-has-died-but-his-movement-to-accept-the-inevitable-end-of-life-will-live-on/

https://www.facebook.com/DEATH-Cafe-Singapore-402018853254286/  a unique look at what Death Café Singapore is paying attention to

https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/take-me-to-the-death-cafe

Aging, Alzheimer's, Assisted Living, Assisted Living Mexico, CCRC's in Mexico, Health & Wellness, Life Planning Communities Mexico, Living Abroad, Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Senior Care Mexico

Guidelines for Choosing Assisted Living/Nursing Care in Mexico

Gardens at Casa de las Lunas in Puerto Vallarta with independent living, assisted living and respite care, private pay

According to realtors at Lake Chapala, Mexico, and the information desk at the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic, the popular ex-pat retirement destination has received more than double the no. of potential renters, buyers, and information hungry folks from Canada and the U.S. than in years before. (Other popular retirement destinations are also seeing an increase in activity – see no. 3 below).

Among visitors intent on moving are travel aficionados looking for a unique cultural experience, the prospect of meeting stimulating people from all parts of the world, but more importantly, an opportunity to stretch their dollars.

And then there is senior living and healthcare, a subject of interest for most. For “sandwich-generation” boomers who lost savings and/or homes during the American recession of 2007-8, or spent savings for the education of millennial children or grandchildren, many are finding there may be little left for themselves or parents if assisted living or nursing care are ever required.

An added concern is that funding for Medicare and Medicaid in the U.S. are currently being challenged.

Alma, a non-profit home for 40 residents in San Miguel Allende

If the cost of assisted and continuing care in Canada (Canada takes care of its disabled, ill, and older adults through universal care programs but there is also private pay care) or the U.S. is not an option, there are more affordable options in other countries. The closest place to look is Mexico.

Here are guidelines for looking at assisted living and continuing care in Mexico, costing between $600 USD to $3500 USD/month, depending on the value of the American dollar and the Canadian dollar vs. the peso, the location, and the residence you choose:

  1. Take note – in Mexico the terms assisted living and “nursing home” are often one and the same, with exceptions. Care facilities are not known as they are north of the border – assisted living, rehabilitation, nursing home, and hospice. It is often an all-in-one approach. Also, with some exceptions, homes mix physically disabled residents with memory care residents.
  2. Select cities or areas you wish to be in for climate – coastal, desert, mountains. (Coastal tropical places cost a little more because A/C is expensive).
  3. If the future resident does not speak Spanish, seek places with ex-pat communities and English-speaking locals who are often a source of volunteers – Baja California Norte (Ensenada, Rosarito Beach, Tijuana), Cancun, Lake Chapala, Mazatlan, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta. Or, choose smaller places such as Merida, and San Miguel Allende. Some care homes have all foreigners as residents, others locals and foreigners together. Usually one person on staff speaks English, sometimes more than one.
  4. Do the due diligence. Research places and determine costs. Most assisted living and “nursing homes” catering to foreigners have web sites in English easily found on Google Search.
  5. Consider private pay homes and non-profits, as well as residences run by nuns whether you are Catholic or not. Nuns often (but not always) provide quality care as most are nurses with a mission to serve, plus costs tend to be what Mexicans would pay if price is a consideration. Another level of care is found in government homes, some pleasant others not; some accept foreigners with residency cards. There are differences in every region of the country, and there are no rules.
  6. Note: no two places will be alike – financially, environmentally, socially, and in terms of care. Homes are not regulated with the strict standards one is accustomed to in Canada and the U.S.  However, there are places with quality care and high standards.
  7. Conduct site visits. Assess for yourself what might be an acceptable match in terms of environment and people. Would you or your loved one feel comfortable and safe? Do you like the space, the staff?  How are you welcomed? Do residents seem cared for or are they alone in “God’s waiting room” without attention and activities? Ask residents what they like best and what they don’t like. How clean is the home? Standards differ from place to place. Arrive at meal time… is there enough assistance for each resident? Is food fresh, nutritious, and nicely presented? Is it food you would or could eat? Does the home prepare meals compatible with health challenges? What about care plans and medication management? What about emergencies? How are these matters handled?

Patio at a private pay “nursing” home, Casa Nostra, at Lake Chapala

 

Casa de los Abuelos DIF (government) home for seniors, Morelia – these homes are intended for Mexican nationals but on occasion persons with residency visas who pay are accepted, depends on the place and availability

There are no simple answers for selection.

Ideally, we would all have perfect health to our last days and an abundance of funds which would allow us to receive the best possible care wherever we choose to live.

Note: CCRC’s (Continuing Care Retirement Communities, from independent living to demise), now referred to as Life Plan Communities, have not arrived in Mexico, with one exception. There are plans in the works for Life Plan Communities in Baja California, Cancun, and at Lake Chapala from American, Canadian, Mexican, and Spanish developers.

References:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=6lYA7c1Pnuo   Ajijic, Mexico video 2017

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/foreign-retirees-flocking-mexico/

https://www.seniorhousingforum.net/blog/2016/8/3/will-mexico-solve-senior-living-affordability-problem

Aging, Assisted Living Mexico, Mexico Grandparents Day/Dia del Abuelo Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Senior Care Mexico

Mexico Celebrates Grandparents Day (Dia del Abuelo) August 28, 2017

Throughout Mexico, children and grandchildren make a point of spending time with their elders on August 28. They also bring gifts. This year, because the official day is Monday, most festivities and visits were held over the weekend.

Note: The tradition of celebrating Grandparents Day was instituted in 1983 under the presidency of Lazaro Cardenas. During the 1990’s, announcer Edgar Gaytan promoted the special day on a radio program dedicated to older adults.  It has become an important event for families.

 

Arriving at Ohana Assisted Living, San Juan Cosala, Jalisco, Mexico for Grandparents Day Celebration

This year, Ohana Assisted Living in San Juan Cosala at Lake Chapala in the state of Jalisco honored its residents with a grand party that included relatives and friends, staff, folkloric dancers, an extraordinary jazz band with musical choices remembered by the generation of residents, and a beautifully prepared buffet. The residents at Ohana are from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.

Hosts Ana and Alonzo, both geriatric nurses who live on the lovely campus, warmly greeted all. They produced a memorable event.

Ana and Alonzo, geriatric nurses, owners of Ohana Assisted Living

 

Fabulous Mexican summer fruit at Ohana Assisted Living, known for its quality meals and treats

 

Grandparents Day cake at Ohana Assisted Living, Mexico

 

Folkloric dancers near the Ohana Assisted Living pool

The dancers changed costumes three times and by the end of their performances they had gone from pastels to bright and colorful red, white, and black!! Loved the zapadiada dancing. Fun for all.

Grandparents Day Celebration with live jazz band at Ohana Assisted Living, Mexico

 

Former heavy weight wrestler. salsa teacher, and LA Times writer Ken in rehab after a fall in California, accompanied by adorable caregivers

dscn1767.jpg
Bob, U.S. Air Force retired, with his caregiver who lovingly calls him “joven”, young one because of his bright spirit

Aging, Health & Wellness, Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Older Adults, Senior Care Mexico

International Day of the Older Adult is Celebrated in Guadalajara, Mexico

The International Day of Older Adults is celebrated, by proclamation of the United Nations, on October 1 every year.

In Mexico this event dovetails with the country’s Senior Day at the end of September. Festivities are held at senior centers, senior homes, and on DIF (government social service) grounds.

For those of you who haven’t been to Mexico, especially Guadalajara, its “tapatio” residents love to sing and dance no matter their age. Being around these folks will automatically lift your spirits. They love to dress up, eat well, and have fun.  Most of all, they never give up despite mobility issues or aches and pains.

Tapatio singing seniors
Tapatio singing seniors

In Mexico there are 7.5 million persons 70 or older. This number is expected to reach 8.5 million in 2020, and 10.2 million by 2030.  According to the Mexican government, at 60 you are an older adult. It is unclear why the number of boomers and persons ages 60-70 are not included in the Mexican government statistics (INEGI) reports.

In the U.S. there are 70-80 million adults who  will be over 65 by 2020.

This year I attended the Asilo Juan Pablo II senior day festivities (see earlier post September 2016) at http://www.WellnessShepherd.com .

Last year I attended an event at DIF’s Centro de Amistad Internacional (Center of International Friendship) on Calle Eulogio Parra 2539 just off Lopez Mateo in Guadalajara. It was co-hosted by the Office of Older Adults for the State of Jalisco, Mexico and by INAPAM ( the National Institute for Older Adults, est. in 2002). It was held on the first Sunday of October from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Groups of seniors performed dances, ladies were offered free beauty treatments by the Irma de Zuniga make-up academy located on Lopez Cotilla in downtown Guadalajara (www.irmadezuniga.com), there were talks by gerontologists, nutritionists and others experts. Jhre Chacon and his team of healing touch trainees from UNCOA offered massages, Reiki, and other relaxing experiences for the guests. There were also poetry readings and card games.

Tapatio caballeros
Tapatio caballeros

 

older adult folkloric dancers, Guadalajara
older adult folkloric dancers, Guadalajara

 

healing touch holistic care for older adults, Guadalajara
healing touch holistic care for older adults, Guadalajara, offered by UNCOA

 

Queen for a Day make-up gift for older adults, Guadalajara
Queen for a Day make-up gift for older adults, Guadalajara

Ana Maria Luz Garcia, owner of the historic restaurant La Fonda de Arcangel Miguel (www.fondasanmiguelarcangel.com, housed in a colonial convent in the center of Guadalajara), hosted the buffet breakfast/brunch. Garcia is a passionate advocate for healthy living at any age.

Consuelo Manzo Chavez, Director of Older Adults for DIF presided with Alma Solis Montiel, who at the time was the Director of INAPAM but is now the Director General of the Institute for Older Adults for the State of Jalisco.

International Day of Older Adults with DIF and INAPAM Directors & amigita Leila
International Day of Older Adults with Senior Care Advisor Wendy Jane Carrel, DIF Director Consuelo Manzo Chavez, and former INAPAM Director Alma Solis – now Director of the Institute of Older Adults for the state of Jalisco, with unidentified older adult, and human rights attorney Laila Martinez de Santiago

Aging, Ecuador, Ecuador Senior Care, Ecuador Senior Living, elder abuse, End-of-Life Care, Health & Wellness, Humanitarian Rescue Older Adults

Abandoned Elders Rescued in Ecuador

 

Wendy Jane Carrel with Diosalinda at rescue home in Chordeleg, Ecuador
Senior Care Specialist and health journalist Wendy Jane Carrel with Diosalinda at rescue home in Chordeleg, Ecuador

For those of you who haven’t seen it before, above is a photo of yours truly with Diosalinda. She led a terrible life of abuse by family before she was rescued by a home for abandoned seniors in Chordeleg, Ecuador four years ago. If I had funds, I would have adopted her. Such a gentle, loving, sensitive soul for all she endured.

Did you notice the Dios in the name Diosalinda? Dios = God in Spanish. At the end of her life she finally has peace, protection, and safety.

 

Please find below a link to my article at http://www.CuencaHighLife.com  on how impoverished and abandoned elders are rescued in Ecuador. It is far from complete, but it is based on site visits to almost every province in the country.

https://www.cuencahighlife.com/abandoned-impoverished-elders-looming-crisis-ecuador-worldwide/

Aging, Assisted Living, Health & Wellness, Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Older Adults, Senior Care Mexico

Mexico Honors Older Adults August 28, Dia del Adulto Mayor 2016

sweet resident with sweet volunteer Mari
Sweet Zenaida, daughter of Juan Pablo II resident Jose, with precious volunteer Mari who is not only a warm greeter at the home but is part of the outreach to over 30 seniors in the neighborhood

This week Guadalajara, Mexico has seen senior centers, DIF (government social services), non-profits serving older adults, and private sector senior residences celebrating Mexico’s Day of the Older Adult, also referred to as Dia de los Abuelos (Day of the Grandparents). The occasion has been feted every August 28 since 1982.

Guadalajara’s parish of San Bernardo, a social justice block with a church serving 3,000 parishioners, houses a two floor senior home, Asilo Juan Pablo II,  where festivities have been in full force. (The diocese also provides a school for Downs Syndrome children, a rehabilitation home for over 50 men, and a palliative care and hospice with 8 beds and outreach to 65 patients, Juntos Contra el Dolor). The Sr. Cura of the Church, Father Engelberto Polino Sanchez is the guardian for the community.

On Saturday, August 27, DIF sponsored a breakfast for the 52 male and female residents. On Sunday, August 28, Father Engelberto celebrated mass. Afterward, the older adults enjoyed a meal of pozole (a stew of vegetables, hominy, and pork) served with jamaica (a hibiscus drink), plus live Mexican music provided by an electric piano and a singer. Mexicans love festivities and the seniors at Asilo Juan Pablo II are no different. They were happy campers.

Below are photos commemorating those in support of older adults, as well as the appreciative seniors who live at Asilo Juan Pablo II. It is a Mexican custom for the older generation not to smile too quickly in photos. An exception, the charming church priests below with their energy of light…

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Sr. Cura Engelberto who presided mass for the seniors on Mexican Day of Older Adults pictured with Padre Francisco of Templo de San Bernardo, Guadalajara

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Reverent seniors, about 30 of whom are wheel chair bound at Asilo Juan Pablo II, Guadalajara, attending mass on Mexico’s Day of Older Adults

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senior who is not feeling well with Alicia, an adorable favorite enjoying pozole

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disabled senior with super attentive wife who kindly dances with and cheers up other seniors

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Severely disabled man Eliseo who is not a senior, rescued from the street and given a home at Asilo Juan Pablo II.  He is popular for his enthusiasm

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Dancing at Day of the Older Adults, Asilo Juan Pablo II, Guadalajara, Mexico

Note:  The Juan Pablo II home, a non-profit, is well run. There are challenges with raising funds and providing enough for the residents. The home survives successfully, none the less. Seniors with pensions pay for private or shared rooms. There are indigent seniors who have been rescued. One disabled man around the age of 50, was found in the streets and is living most contentedly at the assisted living, as mentioned in photo above.

The dedicated administrator Bertha C. Gonzalez offers a clean, efficient service with good standards for quality of life in Mexico, up to and including Mexican carino (kindness and care). She hand selects and supervises a team of nursing assistants and nurses, many of whom are sent by various schools to train at the home. Every day there is occupational therapy and some form of physical workout. Every other day there is entertainment, among other activities. Many residents are talented artists, handicrafts experts, and poets. The home is connected to the large church so that those in wheelchairs can attend services easily. Being Catholic is not a requirement for residency. The home is currently full. There is a waiting list.

The senior home has outreach to around 30 elders living in the neighborhood through its volunteer group Asilo en Salida. Mari, featured in the first photo, also goes out with the group.  For more information about the activities write to asiloensalida@gmail.com

Contact info:

Asilo Juan Pablo II  Pro Dignidad Humana, AC   asilojp@prodigy.com.mx

Av. Plan de San Luis #1616  Col. Mezquitan Country  tel. 3824-5368

Sr. Cura Engelberto Polino Sanchez, Director General

Bertha C. Gonzalez, Administrator    Maria Delores Cortes, social worker

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Asilo-Juan-Pablo-II-San-Bernardo-100984640248947/

 

Aging, Alzheimer's, Assisted Living, Expats, Health & Wellness, Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Retirement, Senior Care Mexico, Senior Living

Senior Care/Senior Living Options at Lake Chapala, Mexico

Not long ago I addressed a group of Canadians and Americans at an Open Circle chat at the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic, Mexico. Most of the attendees were full-time residents with the lay of the land, but curious newcomers attended as well.

The most meaningful part of the presentation?  Introducing American and Mexican senior living owners to the audience. After the chat they were able to become acquainted with one another.

In the photo below, four Mexican registered nurse owners are represented. I am the person holding the microphone.

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Senior Care Specialist Wendy Jane Carrel introduces owners of Senior Homes at Lake Chapala to Americans and Canadians

Senior Housing Forum posted my article based on the talk.. See http://tinyurl.com/zoz9zdf or https://www.seniorhousingforum.net/blog/2016/8/3/will-mexico-solve-senior-living-affordability-problem  to read the entire piece, or,  read below…

Will Mexico Solve the Senior Living Affordability Problem?

Published on Wed, 08/03/2016 – 4:55pm

By Wendy Jane Carrel, wellnessshepherd.com

If you cannot afford healthcare or retirement in Canada or the U.S., what are your options? Where do you look?

For the last five decades, and especially since the U.S. economic challenges that became apparent in 2007-2008, retirees have been choosing destinations in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Despite news about crime and drug cartels, Mexico reigns as the number one choice for most American and Canadians, primarily because of its lower costs, warmer weather, health care choices, and location so close to home.

According to U.S. Consulates in Mexico there is a current count of between 1.2 – 1.4 million Americans living in Baja California, Cancun, Lake Chapala, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel Allende, and other areas. (The number also includes Americans who are not retired). According to the Canadian Consulate in Guadalajara and the Canadians Abroad Registry, approximately 10,000 Canadians are registered in high season and 1,500 are registered as retired full time in Mexico. Not all Canadians register.

Choices for senior living in Mexico are not all that dissimilar to those in Canada and the U.S.:

  • Aging in Place – independent living in your own home or apartment

  • Aging in Community – co-housing

  • Assisted Living – if you require care and cannot afford full-time care at home

  • Nursing Care and Rehabilitation

Lake Chapala

Currently, at Lake Chapala, Mexico there are in the neighborhood of 20,000 retired Americans and Canadians.

North shore Lake Chapala, which includes the communities of Ajijic, Chapala, Jocotepec, San Antonio, and San Juan Cosala (40 minutes drive time from one end of north shore to the other), has several options for senior living with others being planned.

What is different from Canada and the U.S. is the cost of living, especially for health care, often up to two-thirds less.

What is also different is that there are no Life Planning (continuing care) models at Lake Chapala. A project was planned three years ago and has yet to be built. There is one, however, that will open in Mexico City sometime this fall.

Another difference is that in Canada and the U.S. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are in separate areas on a campus. In most of Mexico, dementia patients are living and sharing the same space with older adults who have mobility issues, not dementia issues, and the care is rarely specialized.

Mexican senior homes are under the purview of the Ministry of Public Health and local fire departments. They are not tightly regulated and inspected as they are in Canada and the U.S.

What is available at Lake Chapala now?

  • Three co-housing/independent living options – one in Ajijic with three individual apartments and five casitas, a pool, lakeside views, and two meals a day; one in Riberas del Pilar on two levels where residents have their own apartment, are provided with two meals a day, and have access to a library, a gym, and a pool; and one in San Juan Cosala, focusing on health, green living, and sustainability.

    At the first two if you become immobile or develop serious health issues you would need to move. At the property in San Juan Cosala (in development) you can invite caregivers to your living quarters.

  • Three assisted living homes specializing in Alzheimer’s and dementia care – one is run by a geriatrician and a nurse, the other two by nurses with doctors on call. One of these homes plans to add a second home in the near future for a total of four dedicated Alzheimer’s care homes at the lake to meet the growing need.

  • Six homes combine assisted living, nursing and some rehabilitation.

    That number climbs to seven if you include two rooms above the offices of a physician in Ajijic (no rehab), and 9 if you include one owner who has three homes (no rehab).

    It climbs to 10 choices with an American-owned recovery care center for plastic surgery (more like a B & B) where you can also rent suites. The recovery center has been in existence for almost 20 years.

    The total number of choices reaches 11 if you include a low-income senior home in Chapala which also has Mexican residents.

  • Four properties have owners who live on site. These properties are either American- or Canadian-owned, or, owned by English-speaking Mexicans who focus on serving the expat community. There usually is one person who speaks English at the senior living options at Lake Chapala.

The above-mentioned places are private pay. Monthly costs for private pay assisted living at Lake Chapala range between $1,000 and $2,000 U.S. per month except for the home in Chapala. (The average U.S. private pay is $3200-$3500, and up to $12,000/month or more for Alzheimer’s care).

Most care homes at the lake have 12 or fewer residents. Service is considered personalized. In many instances there is the quality of “carino,” caregivers treating you like a lovable member of the family.

There are 125 senior living homes in the state of Jalisco, housing 1,723 elders. These numbers include only Mexican citizens. Not included are Americans and Canadians at Lake Chapala or in Puerto Vallarta. There are approximately 758,000 older adults in Jalisco state.

In Guadalajara, an hour from Lake Chapala, there are three models of senior care – private pay, non-profit care primarily with nuns (usually excellent quality), and government care (usually DIF, a social services entity that exists throughout Mexico). Prices range from gratis for the indigent to around $400-$800 U.S. for those with pensions, and up to $3500 U.S. for private pay.

Note: I have met Americans with incomes of $600 or less/month who are living comfortably and safely in Mexican assisted living homes throughout the country.

Resources:

Canadian retirees make new homes in Mexico

Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia National Institute of Statistics and Geography

US State Department – Relations with Mexico

* Cover photo of Lake Chapala courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
** Map of Lake Chapala region courtesy of mexico-insights.com