Wednesday, December 4, 2019

On Volunteering (part 1)
It would be difficult to imagine how some organizations or groups could function without volunteers. And that’s where mature people with decades of accumulated experience are ideally suited to enhance their community’s quality of life by putting their skills to good use through volunteering.
            Volunteering has many positive results. It is a good way to keep busy, meet new people and feel needed now that the children are on their own. It’s also perfect for keeping physically and mentally active. And, it puts one’s own problems into perspective.
            Often volunteers get involved with a specific group or organization because they have lost a loved one to a devastating illness. However, if uncertain on how you could volunteer in your community, it is a good idea to begin by assessing your interests and experience. Most of us have accumulated so many skills that it might be difficult in fact to focus on one in particular.
            If you “only” raised a family, you have organizational, teaching, money management and people skills that a wide range of organizations could use. If you love working with your hands, you could offer your services to do repairs and maintenance at shelters or food banks. If you drive a car, you can deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound people. If you are a grandparent you can get involved in your community’s intergenerational programs to interact with a young child who doesn’t have grandparents. If you can read, an elderly person with poor eyesight would welcome being read to. If you have a telephone, you can become a lifeline for a lonely elderly person by keeping in touch on a daily basis.       
If you love to clown around, why not don a clown suit and visit a local hospital so ill children can laugh, or visit a long-term care facility to share stories and play games. If you write well, consider giving your time to writing an organization’s newsletter or other materials. Youth groups of all sorts could use the expertise of teachers.
            The list is almost endless for those ready to give back.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Aging, I decided, is a gift
As I get older I am at peace with myself and proud of the person I now am. Oh, not physically! I sometime moan about my body, the wrinkles and the sagging butt. And often I wonder about the person in my mirror I hardly recognize, but not for long.

         I would never trade my amazing family, my wonderful friends, my tranquil life for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I have seen too many leave this world too soon -- before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

         I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of my youth, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ... I will. I will walk the beach in a swimsuit stretched over a less-than-perfect body if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.
         They, too, will get old before they know it.
         Over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved
one, or when a child suffers, or even when your beloved pet dies? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being compassionate.
          I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning grey, and to see my youthful laughs forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
          As we get
older it is easier to be positive. We care a lot less about what other people think. We have even earned the right to be wrong on occasion.
       I like my age. It has set me free.
I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be.

















Wednesday, November 13, 2019

On Laughter
We’ve all heard the expression Laughter is the Best Medicine, but how many of us take it seriously?
            The first one to do so was, of course, Norman Cousins who was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that caused him severe pain. When doctors were convinced that he would not live more than a few months he took matters into his own hand to reverse the damage. He left his hospital bed and followed his personal road to recovery. He took massive amounts of vitamin C and embarked on laughter therapy by watching comedies. He soon realized that ten minutes of laughter allowed him to sleep pain free for several hours. He slowly improved as he continued to laugh as much as he could. Two years later he returned to work completely cured. 
            Laughter is good for the body and the soul as it increases endorphins leading to brain activity which amps up memory and recall. In short it makes the brain work better. Nothing works faster or is more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer. In addition studies have found that laughter improves the function of blood vessels which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
            What about those who seem to have negativity ingrained in their heads? It then becomes a question of making the effort to focus on things that can make them feel better, and laughter is a great vehicle to reach that goal. It certainly reverses a bad mood.
             Laughter therapy to relieve negativity, pain and stress is free and universally accessible to everyone. There are of course comedies on television and movies and many radio stations now offer comedy hours. There’s also laughter yoga which provides exercise for the body and the mind. We only have to look to find sources of laughter. Or hanging around with those for whom laughter comes easily rather than with sourpusses.
            Groups calling themselves Laughter on Call visit care centers to help those suffering from dementia and severe pain, and they are making a difference. They are improving the lives of people who might not find much to laugh about in their reality.
            Canadian Albert Neremberg, one of the world’s top experts on the benefits of laughter, uses laughter therapy when working with patients in drug and rehab centers. “Recovering addicts are pining for a rush, and laughing gives them the most natural high there is,” he says.
            As it does for the rest of us!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Honor to our Veterans
The first time I went to Europe some years ago, I visited two military cemeteries honoring fallen soldiers. The white crosses all in a row as far as the eye could see brought tears to my eyes. A cross for every young man who gave his life for freedom in bloody wars. We don’t often think of how many soldiers perished to ensure the enemy was defeated, but we should. And we should also never forget the number of soldiers who came home after giving their all in battle. We owe them so much.
            At the November ceremonies honoring veterans, we see a quickly diminishing number of older men who served in WWII proudly at attention because there are so many younger veterans these days. The ranks of young men and women who serve their country in varied far-away places with honor keep growing. Let’s show them we appreciate their sacrifice. As someone put it: A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to 'citizens of my country' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.'
            That is honor. There are too many people who no longer understand what it means.
            This November, let’s pay homage to all those who ensured our freedom. We owe them that much and so much more. And let’s make sure our children and grandchildren understand the sacrifices of our veterans.
             Lest we forget, lest they forget.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The War on Aging
We all want to look good as we age, and hopefully younger than our real age. We all know that good nutrition and regular exercise are required if we want to look and feel our best. But the war on aging does not end there. There are sorts of procedures and ideas which can help erase or slow the march of time. However, I think the struggle to look young can take the fun out of life.
It certainly does when you consider some of the things some women are doing in the hope of looking young.  Some celebrities swear that a cleanse makes them feel younger while others are rumored to rely on the wacky. Case in point, some use bird poop facials! Not just any poop mind you, nightingale droppings. Poop, really? I prefer to look my age, thank you.
Of course, celebrities of all stripes have always been obsessed with looking young. In the old days, some actresses were known to use carefully concealed surgical tape for a homemade facelift. Today, of course, the anti-aging industry has become big business, and face lifts are often replaced with less invasive solutions such as laser treatments or fillers. And, of course, there are many so-called miracles cures and pills on the market which treat aging not as a natural process, but rather as an illness.
Today’s boomers want to grow older in a more elegant fashion than their parents did which no doubt accounts for hair color being such big business today. Men with gray hair are perceived as looking distinguished, while women rush to hide gray as soon as it makes it appearance because they feel that men judge them for getting older. Yet men see older women like Helen Mirren and Judi Dench as projecting confidence about their looks. Like most European women, the goal is to look well, rather than young, for one’s age, which means more time to relish and enjoy life.
We all know the celebs who have gone under the knife to fight aging. Of course, the professional makeup and the expensive clothes do help. But to me it’s those with a sense of humor about aging that win out. Joan Rivers was a favorite among comedians. She was not afraid to say it like it is. At one point, she told her audience that she was so nervous before an appearance that she had to change her diaper. She was not ashamed to say it like it is: older women often have bladder control problem.
Accepting that the war on aging is full of subtle battles we can’t win will prevent what I consider “aging anxiety” from intruding into our lives and looks. A sure way to project style as we age.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

I do not suffer from germaphobia. I do shake hands with people and touch many things in the course of any one day when I step outside—gas pumps, elevator buttons, door handles, staircase railings, etc. However new technology has made me aware that the number of surfaces we need to touch keeps growing.
            My grandson was using his phone as we sat outside on a sunny day, and an array of points where his fingers had touched the screen were very visible. When I suggested that he might want to clean the screen he made the point that since he was the only one using his phone the marks I saw were simply his body oil. That made sense, but what about other tactile screens?
            As I was waiting in line at the ATM a short time later I began wondering how many fingers had touched that screen since it was last cleaned. Then it dawned on me that it probably had never been cleaned and would probably never be. Wow! Perhaps there’ll come a time when a person won’t be able to connect properly to the ATM because of the thickness of the fingerprints. That made me aware that I need to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer whenever I plan to stop at the cash machine. Also a necessity in this age of self-serve cashiers at grocery stores and pharmacies.
            Talking of cash, I read an article not too long ago that pointed out that paper money is the dirtiest thing we encounter. I can see why. Bills are constantly changing hands and those hands are not always the cleanest they could be. It is believed that, in addition to being touched by fingers that have touched things we don’t want to know about, most cash has some residue of illicit drugs on its surface. Wow! And washing it is out of the question, I suppose.
            I grew up on a farm so dirt and mud and animals and hay were very much part of life. But we did have to wash our hands before eating. My mother made sure of that. However I believe farm life has helped my family be immune to allergies that affect many who grow up in mostly germ-free environments. Dirt is good as the saying goes. Case in point the Amish people have very low asthma rates because they’re exposed to barnyard dust. And today some care professionals are talking of boosting the immune systems of kids by exposing them to dirt microbes. My parents would simply say: Just let them play outside and get dirty.
I am convinced that a little dirt is good for everyone, however I draw the line at touching countless screens touched by countless fingers so cleaning my hands is a must more often than it used to be. I don’t see the need to be in contact with an excess amount of germs. Perhaps that’s the reason I punch the automatic door-opening button set up for wheelchairs when I go to the bank, the mall, or other buildings. Ever since I was following a fellow into the bank who coughed his germs onto the door handle I see not touching those as insurance against colds. 
            Especially now that the cold and flu season is silently and boldly pushing itself forward before I can get my flu shot.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Perspective of Aging
“So, how old is God now?” my grandson casually asked one day. He couldn’t wait to get older, so everyone’s age—including the Almighty—was important. Of course, as the years pile on he may no longer welcome every birthday as eagerly.
Birthdays makes us aware of the passage of time like few things do especially when it speeds up like a car without brakes on the non-sunny side of that famous hill. However, how each age milestone is handled says a great deal about a person.
            The parachute jump by former U.S. President George Bush, the father, to celebrate his 90th birthday was newsworthy because of his former job, but it was impressive because of his age. I recently read a piece about a man, age 55, and his eight-year-old son who won a race at a local father-and-son day. It told me that the man became a father relatively late in life and that he keeps in shape.
 When I graduated from university, relatives and friends were quietly listening as names were called to receive that piece of parchment which gave credence to our years of toil. That is until the name of a woman well into her sixties was heard. The room broke out in thunderous applause. Her age made all the difference. She was proof that age is seldom a barrier to accomplishment.
            One of my aunts passed away at the age of 101. Living that long is a feat worthy of notice and it got me thinking. Her brother, my father, was not so lucky and died at the age of 55 as a result of an accident. At the time I was quite young and thought my father very old, yet now that I find myself older than my father ever was my view of age has undergone a profound change. I know I’m no longer a “young chick,” yet neither do I consider myself old.
            I am simply a grown-up.
            To me, every year downhill is a feather in my cap not something to shy away from. When I turned 50 I went on a trip around the world. Originally I was to go with a friend, but when she cancelled I went anyway. I bought my one-way ticket around the planet with many stops along the way on four different continents, and it was a most rewarding and enriching trip. I got to visit exotic locales and met some wonderful people. The memories will always be cherished. It was a daring thing for a not-so-young woman to do, and it proved—to me, anyway—that age is indeed just a number.
            Now older than my father I am proud to do things he never would have done because he lived in the pre my-age-does-not-stop-me era, like ride a bike, ski, play tennis, etc. Yet, I know I will continue to do these things for some time.
            I am inspired in part by another aunt who when she was 100 still considered herself not especially old. When I went to see her at the residence she called home when she was 95 I was told by the receptionist who looked at me as if I should have known, “It’s Wednesday. She’s at the yoga class.” While I’m sure this is not the norm for everyone in that age range, it beats the mindset that considers aging as a license to sit around and mope a less-than-perfect body.
            There are some benefits to getting older. For one thing, you stop worrying about what people think of you because you realize that they seldom do think about you. They are too busy with their own lives and concerns. You stop being impressed by such things as money and looks because you’re wise enough to understand that only the hearts and souls of people are enduring and endearing.
“So, are you younger or older than 100?” my age-conscious grandson asked me some years back on my birthday. In his mind I was a grandmother and therefore old because his granny, his great-grandmother, was nearing 100 and he heard the comments of the adults. Grandparents are grandparents, right?
            I can only hope that I inherited some of my family’s good genes for living well past what is still considered the norm, and that one day I’ll be able to tell my grandson that I am indeed older than 100.
            Especially if I can do it as we parachute jump together.