Embracing Green Living as we Age

Q. My mother, Phyllis, is very environmentally conscious. She recycles and finds a creative use for nearly everything. Green living is among her top priorities.

Ever since my father died, my mother has had a hard time living alone. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s seven years ago and has trouble speaking, limited mobility, and needs help with activities of daily living, including dressing and swallowing food that is not cut up.

Since I live 300 miles away, I hired a live-in caregiver to help. As much as I think the caregiver is a good fit, she doesn’t know much about green living, and I can see mom is getting frustrated about her caregiver’s “lack of concern” for the environment. Mom has trouble conveying her desires concerning the subject, since she has become really hard to understand. What are some tips I can give the caregiver to ensure mom’s concerns for green living are met? What are some options for environmentally-conscious seniors like my mother, should she need assisted living or a nursing home in the future?

A. Living a greener lifestyle is a growing trend for seniors in the United States. More than a lifestyle choice, going green has become a concern due to the health and sustainability of our planet as a whole and that of our children’s children. Senior citizens are also making green choices because they save money.

Green living is as much about conscious decision making as it is about any particular action you can take. The following are a few tips you can provide to your mother’s caregiver, so she can actively support your mother’s desires for green living:

  • Proper Disposal of Medications: Most seniors take several different prescription or over-the-counter medicines to maintain adequate health. If expired or unused drugs are collecting in your medicine cabinet, do not flush them down the toilet and do not even toss them in the trash. Instead, take them to your Pharmacy for proper disposal in an “environmentally sound way.”
  • Food Waste: Buy only as much perishables (e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables, bread and dairy products,) as you can reasonably eat within one week. Remember, about a third of what we throw away and truck to landfills is spoiled food and food scraps.
  • Packaging Waste: Always try to buy foods and other products that come without excessive packaging. In fact, opt for those that don’t come with any! Decline plastic bags where possible and bring your own earth-friendly cloth bag when shopping. If you’re buying something that comes in plastic, check the bottom for numbers (like #1 and #2) that tell you the plastics are recyclable.
  • Eliminate junk mail and flyers: You can cut down on the number of unsolicited mailings, calls, and emails you receive by learning where to go to “just say no.” The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS) lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years. For more information, go to
  • Drive Smartly: Slow down on the highway to save fuel and to arrive safely. When doing errands, walk between stores rather than moving the car a few blocks. This is especially important in winter, when engines burn 50% more fuel on short trips than in summer. Remember, the average car produces between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds of climate-changing, globe-warming carbon dioxide every year.
  • Conserve water: Take a bath rather than a shower or shower for less time and only with a fine spray nozzle. Don’t let the tap run while brushing teeth and fix any leaky or dripping taps.
  • Electricity: Use compact florescent (CFL) options or advanced light emitting diode (LED) bulbs to dramatically reduce the amount of energy needed to generate the amount of light equivalent to an old 60 watt bulb. Making sure to turn off all lights when you leave a room or even buying new more energy-efficient appliances can all go a long way toward cleaning up your impact.

Going green doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, the goal should always be to save money rather than spending it.

When it comes to senior housing, the Green House model for assisted senior living offers homes that are designed for only 10 to 12 senior residents.  There are now nearly 150 Green House projects operating in 22 states.

Besides a smaller group of residents, the Green House model is different from traditional senior housing by offering residents a warm, socially interactive living arrangement, smart technology (including adaptive devices and computers) and a “green” home that lets in plenty of sunlight, and includes plants, garden areas, and outdoor access.

To learn more about the Green House model and to locate a Green House home in your area, click here. To read about green niche living, and other niche living options, please read our blog post on the subject.

Unfortunately, not everyone in all geographic areas have access to Green House living, and even for those who do, what happens when the this living model is no longer enough to meet your needs? Nursing homes in Northern Virginia cost $10,000-$14,000 a month – a catastrophic expense for most families. So regardless of whether there is a village community or other alternative senior housing option in your area, it is always prudent to plan ahead in the event that assisted living or nursing home care is needed in the future.  Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection  is the process of protecting your assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Learn more at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Virginia Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website. Or call us today at 703-691-1888 for Fairfax Medicaid Planning or 540-479-1435 for Fredericksburg Medicaid Planning to make an appointment for a consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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