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Suicide among our elderly and boomers

Boomers worked to have it all – or at least as much of life as we possibly could. But boomers may not be as happy as once thought: And our unhappiness may be reflected in the increase in suicide among this generation (born between 1946-1964). The suicide rate rose among boomers during 2000-2010 according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Today’s stories propose some theories for the increase in boomer suicides: unemployment, ill health, disappointments in dreams unfulfilled.

And while the rate of suicide is on the rise among boomers, our own community’s elderly have the highest suicide rates in the nation and in North Idaho and Spokane County.

The good news: local and national resources are close at hand to help anyone and everyone. Take a moment and learn what can be done to end this mysterious healthcare epidemic.Our friends and families are too important to lose to this tragic ending.

(S-R archive photo)

Poll: ‘Elderly’ Means Over 80

  • Thursday Poll: 80 of 178 respondents (41.57%) described "elderly" to mean anyone 80 years old or older. In a close second, 70 of 178 respondents (38.2%) said "elderly" was 70 years old or older. Other responses for "elderly" were: 85 or older — 20 (11.24%), 65 or older — 10 (5.67%), 60 or older — 4 (2.25%) and 55 or older — 2 (1.12%).
  • Small Knives: 92 of 144 respondents (63.89%) disagreed with TSA decision to allow passengers to carry small knives on planes. 49 of 144 respondents (34.03%) agreed with the decision. 3 (2.08%) were undecided.
  • Today's Poll: Will Coeur d'Alene school trustees give a fair hearing to the parents' grievance complaint against them?

Poll: Public Cares More About Ed

  • Wednesday Poll: Rank-and-file Idahoans care way more about education than the Idaho Legislature, according to Hucks Nation. 82 of 139 respondents (58.99%) said the public cares more about public education. Only 6 of 139 respondents (4.32%) said legislators care more. 32 of 139 respondents (23.02%) said neither side care much about education. 14 (10.07%) said both sides care. 5 (3.6%) were undecided.
  • Today's Poll: What age do you consider "elderly"?

On being called elderly for the first time

The Comcast cable subcontractor arrived this morning to put in a cable box. It was the wrong one. The nice young man, Rick, called his supervisor and explained that we likely couldn't go in person to the Comcast warehouse to swap the box because we were "elderly." 

I will turn 57 next month. I recently wrote a story about how aging boomers won't like the same older age labels our parents put up with. How did I react? I pointed to my husband, who is a few years older, and said: "You can call him elderly but not me." 

I was surprised at the intensity of my reaction. Hurry up people, let's figure out some new terms so we boomers can pretend we are not heading to elderly territory.

There Are None So Blind

This is a repost of one of my favorite columns. I recorded it for Spokane Public Radio several years ago and it is available on Public Radio Exchange. This year, the audio essay was broadcast by Delta College Public Radio in Michigan.


November 22, 2004

Giving her thanks for a gift of insight
Cheryl–Anne Millsap

   When I was a girl, an old blind woman lived in the faded white house with peeling clapboards and a shaded, vine–covered porch, next door to me. Mrs. Miller was small and wiry, and very old. Her thin white hair was always pulled into a tight bun at the nape of her neck.

   She lived with a little Chihuahua named Rocky – a strange and exotic pet at the time. The dog was ancient, barely able to walk on his thin matchstick legs and he, too, was almost blind.

   Sometimes, Mrs. Miller’s son, John, lived with them. John was a loud and angry man who worked nights – when he worked – and either slept or watched game shows on the television all day. John drank. And when he was drunk, he wasn’t very nice to his mother.

   I was afraid of that house and everyone in it. To me, the old woman was a person of shadows, living a dark and shuttered life. John, whose angry voice I could hear through the closed windows, frightened me and I was wary of the odd little dog.

   Occasionally, when John wasn’t home, my grandmother would send me over with a baked sweet potato, a couple of ripe tomatoes or a slice of homemade pie. I would knock on the back door and listen to her shuffling through rooms, calling out to me in a thin, rough, voice. Rocky would totter across the linoleum floor, coughing out a dry, raspy, bark.

   As quickly as I could, I would leave the food on the kitchen table – the sticky oilcloth–covered surface crowded with salt and peppershakers, paper napkins and bottles of hot sauce and pickled peppers – and run back out into the sunlight.

   One Thanksgiving Day, my grandmother asked me to take a meal next door. I drooped, but I knew better than to argue.

   I carried the plate, piled with turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and ruby–red spiced apple rings across my back yard. I walked up the bank and past the little grove of plum trees to her back door, and knocked.

   “Mrs. Miller,” I called. “I brought you some Thanksgiving dinner.”

   I listened to her slow, painful, progress through the cluttered rooms. I imagined her reaching out for familiar doorways, feeling the edges of the furniture with bent and arthritic fingers. When she finally opened the back door, I thrust the plate at her, anxious to deliver it and leave.

   But she didn’t take it. Instead, she put her face down to the steaming plate of food and inhaled deeply, breathing in the warm fragrance.

   “Oh, Lord,” the old woman said. “That’s good.”

  And she didn’t move. She just stood there, lost in thought. Finally, as soon as she stepped aside, I set the plate down on the table and ran home.

   Just today, when I thought about what we will have for our Thanksgiving dinner, and my mind remembered, and replayed for me the taste of roast turkey and cornbread dressing, I recalled that day so long ago.

   Thinking about it now, I understand that at that moment the old woman and I traded places.

   I was blind to everything but my desire to run away, but for an instant Mrs. Miller could see. Through clouded eyes, she looked back at other Thanksgivings, long gone. Happy days before she was old and blind, and trapped in a dark house with an angry son.

   In the years since that November day, when the trace of a scent or the sound of a voice leaves me gazing at ghosts, I’ve learned that time gives back as much as it takes away.

   And for that, like the old woman, I’m grateful.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Woman duped in ‘grandparents scam’

Law enforcement is again warning of a swindle known as the grandparents scam after a 79-year-old Spokane Valley woman sent money to a con man claiming to be her grandson.

The woman called Crime Check on Monday and said a man claiming to be her grandson called on Dec. 9 and asked for money to bail out jail in Canada.

The victim believed him and sent a $2,750 money order to a man named "B" in New Jersey, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. She later realized it was scam.

Similar scams were reported last spring and in fall 2009. Anyone with an elderly relative should warn them of the scam.

"Citizens in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s grew up in a more trusting era and are particularly susceptible to this type of fraud," according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. "Suspects can pick their victims from obituaries where the children and grandchildren are occasionally listed by name."

Police warn of scams against elderly

Police are warning of a scam targeting the elderly after a conman nearly bilked an 89-year-old Spokane Valley woman out of $2,500 last week. 

The man called and said he was reviewing employees at a Spokane financial institution “to see if they were handling her account correctly,” according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

The man asked for her balance, then asked her to deliver a $2,500 check to a man named “Meyers” at a nearby grocery store.

“The intended-victim said she was preparing to leave with the check when it occurred to her to call the bank,” according to a news release. “Employees there quickly squelched the attempted fraud.”

Another woman last month told police she nearly sent a man posing as her grandson money for bail in Canada before realizing it was a con. (Read a story on that scam here.)

People with elderly parents are encouraged to talk to them about potential frauds. Thieves may scan obituaries seeking elder widows or widowers to target.

“Persons in their 70s and older grew up in an age where people were more trusting in others, and the elderly frequently fall prey to this type of con,” Sgt Dave Reagan said in a news release.