As we age, it’s okay to ‘play it safe’ a bit more

Categories: Nation/World

March 28, 2014, edition
By Jean Gonzalez
Catholic News Service

Replacing a microwave oven for his elderly grandparents did not seem like a big deal to David Teare.

The microwave malfunctioned while Teare, a Texas native, was visiting his  grandparents in St. Petersburg, Fla.

When he went to the local store to purchase a new microwave, a friendly hello to another customer sparked a conversation that really caught Teare’s attention.

20microwaveThe customer told Teare about the microwave her mother previously had owned — a standard model with a touch pad as a timer, like many models and like the model Teare was hoping to purchase.

She told Teare she noticed that her mother unknowingly would key-in the wrong cooking time. For example, instead of pushing 40 seconds, her mother might press the “0” button one too many times and end up with 4:00 (four minutes).

“She told me she became concerned about her mother’s safety and purchased a microwave with a turn-dial timer,” Teare said. “I remember thinking, ‘I can see Grandpa doing that by accident,’ and I immediately picked up a turn-dial model.”

The microwave suited his grandparents, though his grandmother did ask why the microwave was different from the touchpad model they’d had before.

Teare feared his grandmother might react with disdain when he explained. But she admitted that not only might Teare’s grandfather mistakenly key-in the wrong cooking time with a key pad, but that she had done so herself.

“It’s not because I think they are stupid. Anybody could put the wrong time on a key pad,” Teare said. “It is easy to walk away from the microwave and not realize that something you wanted to cook for a minute will be there for 10. I didn’t want to take a chance.”

Physical safety is an issue that can rear its head with many decisions involving seniors, as well as others. AARP, the nonprofit membership organization for people 50 and older, offers tips on how to stay safe — safe from theft and home invasion, or safe from slips and falls, or safe while exercising, for example.

Celia has it right

If you visit the AARP site page dedicated to exercise and safety, you’ll come upon the phrase “Use your common sense.” That’s a mantra that Celia Arroyo of Boston has used much of her life, especially now that she is officially in the senior category.

Arroyo has lived alone for more than a decade. Before she retired about a year ago, her commute to work included walking to a bus stop, taking the bus to the train station, taking the train to downtown Boston and walking a few blocks to work.

She said her routine and her personal awareness both played a critical role in her safety. She was very familiar with her surroundings, which included everyday commuters, and she always kept an eye out for something that might be “out of routine.”

“My sons would always worry about me, especially staying out in the cold at the bus stop,” said the mother of three grown children. “But I would tell them: ‘Hey, I got to get to work. And I’m not asleep you know. I know what’s going on. It amazed me when I would see people go to sleep on the train because I couldn’t do that. I need to stay alert.”

Today Arroyo continues to stay alert in her everyday activities. She said safety many times comes down to common sense and gut feelings.

“Do I go out at night? Only if I absolutely have to. Do I open my door to people selling stuff? No way, I just say ‘no thanks,’ ” Arroyo said.

“I like living alone,” she said. “It gives me freedom. Is it more dangerous? I don’t think so. I keep myself safe.”