Navigating the later years of life isn’t just a challenge for individuals, but one that often involves families as well, and a Gainesville-area expert is hoping her new book can help.
Star Bradbury, a senior living consultant, has decades of experience helping people successfully confront the concerns and cares of living as older adults. But she noticed as she worked with community members that not many of the available self-help books on aging cater to families as well as to elders.
Bradbury aims to fill in that gap with her recently published book, “Successfully Navigating Your Parents’ Senior Years,” which provides tips to seniors and to their own aging offspring.
“I wrote my book to provide people with the help they need when they are facing decisions that are important and critical with critical consequences, aging parents or any loved ones,” Bradbury said in a recent interview. “The book is written to educate and inform people so they can make informed decisions or guide their parents in making informed decisions.”
Bradbury worked for 25 years as a senior living consultant, including 18 years at Oak Hammock at the University of Florida, a lifecare community.
“I was the second employee hired, long before they opened,” she said. “I loved the community, I loved my job, and I learned a lot about aging successfully.”
When she left Oak Hammock about five years ago Bradbury did so to set up her own senior living consulting business, and to continue working on her book, which was already more than 10 years in the making.
“I started and stopped and then I would deal with family, deaths and tragedies,” Bradbury said. “I even wrote on vacations.”
She said that at points she wasn’t sure that the book was even going to happen.
“But I was determined and obsessed and I just felt that I had something to say that would help people,” she said.
Bradbury, 72, has lived through some of the experiences she writes about, not just by helping others but by assisting her own parents and stepparents as they aged.
“My book has real stories,” she said. “Both my parents divorced and remarried and I learned a lot about what not to do. Only one of them died the way they wanted; the other three did not.”
Out of college, Bradbury didn’t start directly in senior living. She got her undergraduate degree in modern dance at Bennington College, and when she first moved to Gainesville, she started a dance company, called Still Moving Dance Company
“I taught classes for years, but then thought I needed a more stable career to support myself and my two children,” she said.
For a while she worked at an employment agency, but then switched.
“I love working with seniors,” Bradbury said. “They have great wisdom and knowledge and I knew I would enjoy it. Now, my niche is consulting to help them make a plan to age successfully.”
Bradbury said her book was designed to be a guide for people at many different places and stages in the aging process.
“The book will help you if you are in your 40s or 50s with parents who are getting older. And it would also help if you had parents in their 90s, as many of my friends do, or if you yourself are older and having a health crisis,” she said.
Her book follows an imaginary family, the Spencers through their fictitious aging process, all the way through to the last section about having a prepared exit plan.
“It’s possible to plan a good death,” she said. “Nobody likes to think about this, but there’s a lot of things you should talk about, especially if you are a health care surrogate for your parent.”
Bradbury said most older people don’t want their children to take care of them, so that’s what makes planning necessary.
“The alternative title to this book was originally ‘Your Parents Don’t Want to Live With You Either,’” she said. “People our age laugh and love it. But focus groups younger people said ‘No, it’s not serious enough.’”
The book, instead, ended up being called exactly what it is designed to do.
Bradbury will speak Tuesday, April 18 at 2 p.m. at the Senior Recreation Center (5701 NW 34th Blvd.) at a meeting of the Community Coalition for Older Adults. There is no charge to attend.