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Posts Tagged ‘aging’

Christopher Nolan’s new movie Dunkirk will open in July, but you can watch the trailer now. The Rolling Stone called it “Gripping,” and said the trailer moves forward with, “…white-knuckle intensity.” Seeing as the Rocker composed the music and sound design for this one, I can understand why:

Nolan wrote and directed the movie, which takes place in 1940, when 400,000 Allied troops were surrounded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, caught between the English channel at their backs and the German army on land. Civilian sailors joined the English navy and air force for an all-hands-on-deck evacuation operation. http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/see-gripping-new-trailer-for-christopher-nolans-dunkirk-w480901

I’d never heard of this story, about simple Sunday sailors and fishermen setting sail across the channel to rescue their British troops. If Hitler had turned his army toward that edge of sand, the war might have been over before we got our chance to jump in after Pearl Harbor.

Great Grandpa Hudson remembers seeing kamikaze pilots in the Pacific even after Hiroshima. He was retelling some of his war stories this week while we were visiting, and Great Grandma Ada told us some of her frustration with the VA. She’d been trying to get her WWII Vet a new set of hearing aides for months.

Hudson just turned 91 in April. He is one of two men left from the ship he served on in the Pacific. The Navy made him the cobbler onboard when he was a teenager, which probably sparked his interest in woodcarving. Totem poles abound around their property that he has painstakingly carved over the years. He is starting to slow down now, but still has a twinkle in his eye!

I was struck again at how profoundly deaf Hudson has become, and how isolating that can be for him and all our seniors. He and Grandma waited months for a new set of hearing aides to arrive, making calls to no avail, until finally Ada wrote to the Administrator, the Boss of the whole operation. All of a sudden, she received emails and calls tracking the package, a semi-apology, and supposedly the hearing aides are actually in the mail and on the way.

Did the package actually ship? Was their address correct? Who knows, but not many 90+ year olds are married to such a feisty 93 year old!

It’s Memorial Day weekend and if you’re not traveling, you’re probably barbequing something. But let’s not forget our Veterans, the men and women who risked life and limb only to return home to staggering “wait times” in order to see a doctor at their local VA. The proposed new budget from Mr T’s administration may look good to some, but is in reality a typical GOP move to outsource services:  “We are very concerned the administration’s request to make the Veterans Choice Program a permanent, mandatory program could lead to a gradual erosion of the VA health care system,” the VFW stated Wednesday in written testimony.'” It’s kind of like eroding the public school system by pushing charter schools. http://taskandpurpose.com/veterans-groups-criticize-proposed-va-budget-cuts-elderly-vets-benefits/

Funding for medical research will be reduced by 30 Million, and the new priorities will be Gulf War Vets and opioid and suicide prevention. This is all well and good, but let’s not forget our elderly Vets. When I found out that Medicare doesn’t pay for hearing aides, or audiology testing, I was dumbfounded. Bob told us that soon enough we will be able to purchase hearing aides over the counter. Ada said, “But will they be any good?”

A feeling of not being heard would land me into a state of deep despair. It’s such an important sense, not just for communicating by phone that a set of hearing aides have not yet arrived, but for our ability to connect with others.

When the call went out to send as many sea-worthy vessels as possible to evacuate the British soldiers from Dunkirk, 933 ships responded including battleships from the Royal Navy and a 14 ft open-topped fishing boat. They brought back 338,226 Allied soldiers over eight days while being bombarded by Nazi planes.

What if they never heard the call?

Cville Wedding Tastings 055

 

 

 

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We will be finishing our unfinished basement in a few weeks, so it’s time to pick a paint color. Last time I picked a color it was Navajo White, remember that from the 90s! Since warmer off-whites are out, and cooler off-whites are in, I’m looking for a pale bluish/grey color at the Benjamin Moore store. Should I stick with pale Moonlight White, or go more saturated with Edgecomb Gray, Silver Gray, or Gray Owl? Wait, what about Beach Glass, I love that name! http://www.benjaminmoore.com/en-us/for-your-home/color-gallery#&ce_vm=0

This is where my horoscope shines through all my disbelief about horoscopes. I’m a Libra, so the scales of justice are blind and I can take weeks weighing and balancing a simple choice like the basement’s new, hip wall color. Funny, cause I can walk into the shoe department at Nordstrom and hear one shoe calling my name.

But the new grey also pertains to my generation. My last blog post on Facebook garnered lots of comments about Bob’s retirement plans; the idea of combining co-housing with sustainable senior living. Friends from his old “hippie house” at Duke, friends who actually did join communes in the 60s, and relatives who lived and worked on a kibbutz all chimed in. My friend Edie from high school told me about this guy, a mere 29 years old, who was  featured on the Today Show – Willie Geist called him a “Disrupter.”

Ash Jacob developed an App for Aging in Place! “With 10,000 people retiring every day in the United States, 29-year-old Ash Jacob is using iPads and other technologies to change the senior care industry.” http://www.today.com/news/29-year-old-uses-technology-turn-senior-care-industry-its-t94056

While watching the video, I was aware that the 90+ year old client had a rep from the App company there, and on the other side of the client sat the actual aide who assists with daily tasks. So what Jacob did was put an iPad in every home to let the family stay informed…when did she eat lunch, what did they talk about…seems counter-intuitive to me. Although it does solve the problem of driving to doctor appointments and coordinating medication, the things a family member might do if they lived in the neighborhood.

Which begs the question for aging silver foxes like us, just HOW do we want to age?

No use fighting it with creams and potions, it’s a fact of life. Would you rather stay in your home with an aide doing daily chores and an iPad to communicate or alleviate guilt?  Or would you rather live in a community with like-minded people, a new tribe so to speak, and share the resources. You know Bonnie cooks for four households, Ronnie mows the lawn, Nurse Johnny drops in as needed? There would be a van driver, say Moishe, who would drive you to the symphony or the latest climate change protest, or the doctor, or the unveiling. Otherwise you could walk most places, or scoot around on a scooter.

You could participate as little or as much as you like – not a vegan? Start a chili cook-off! Yes, there are big places like this already, The Villages in FL and right here in VA we have Westminster Canterbury (WC) http://westminstercanterbury.org  But you’ve got to buy into places like this, so if you’ve got the money, no problem. Once you walk in, you can move between more or less care needed for the rest of your life! Sigh. It’s the totem pole of life and death – independent living, to assisted, nursing and or memory care, and out the door. This is from WC’s website:

Learning is revered among our residents. Opportunities are abundant for continued education. Developed in association with the University of Virginia, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) conducts university-level classes for older adults. Many classes are held at Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge. You might even find your neighbor as one of the instructors. At Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge, there is plenty to do, and every day is different. While one day may take you outside of the community to experience lifelong learning, the next day you may choose to:

Walk the Nature Trail, featuring a stocked pond, gazebo, and walking path in a 17-acre protected habitat.
Play a friendly game of pool in the Billiard Room.
Create a stunning arrangement in the Flower Room.

As Ada would say, “You get the picture.” As Sue might have said, “Probably lots of Bunnys in that place.”

But Bob was thinking more of Summer Camp for Seniors, or a Post-Modern Woodstock.  Think of co-operative gardens. A small boutique operation, non-profit, come as you are kind of place, no ‘dressing for dinner,’ near a beach town, with a hot tub. Where everybody has a front porch. Maybe a retrofitted motel or hotel? A bungalow colony?

For me, I’d rather not live an isolated life, connecting with family via App. I’d like to learn how to play Mah-Jong. I’d like to be able to swim in a pool, or the ocean, and take cooking classes, walk my dog, and knit and string beads. And write and travel with Bob some, and make new friends. Maybe still try and make a difference in the world, if that’s not too corny anymore. I want to be near my grands most importantly of all. I don’t want to be an after-thought to them; they will really, really need us in those pre-teenage wonder years. Once they get a license, it’s all over!

I’ve let my strawberry blonde hair turn a golden grey, not a dictionary definition of the color, “…dark, dismal, or gloomy; gray skies; dull, dreary, or monotonous.” No! Grey is the new Platinum, Titanium and Gold. We are all made of fine metal. And 10,000 of us every day are redefining what retirement looks like. Here is my silver fox, who was and is always a disrupter, in his happy place.  IMG_3261

 

 

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This morning I slept late. I woke from another nightmare. This is the only time in my life where I’ve been having back to back nightmares. I can get pretty Freudian about my dream life; when something unusual like this happens, I pay attention. My unconscious mind is telling me it’s time to change the rules of the game.

“Everyone I know is in transition,” Great Grandma Ada said. We’ve been trying to convince her it’s time to become a Snow Bird, and she is finally ready. She is ready to end the virtual search and start scouting out the places her friends have landed on the beautiful FL coastline. Of course, anyone who knows her can tell you she never met a stranger. Whatever community that is just quirky enough to tickle her fancy, she will become the ruling Queen Bee in a matter of days! Still, it won’t be easy leaving the house you called home for fifty years.

The Bride and Groom are buying their first home together. Yes, it kills them to see how prices have gone through the roof in Nashville over the past five years, but they thought by this time they would have been headed home to VA – a place for lovers and two sets of loving grandparents! But life being what it is, and their careers just starting to take off, they decided to stay put. I know in my head it was the right decision, but my heart is just catching up with my head.

They made an offer on a perfect house today. Fingers crossed please.

The Rocker and Ms Cait have acclimated to the West Coast. It fits them to a T, I would love to see more of them, but they are happy in the hills of LA. Both creative types, doing well in their fields; my son is in his perfect place. And lucky for me, he has been staying out of my nightmares!

And us? Well we sold the tiny town house to the parents of one of the tenants, almost too easily, while we were on vacation. We never went to market. The father is actually a physician too, and his wife loved the house from the moment their daughter moved into an upstairs bedroom. No more urgent emails and calls in the early morning – “The smoke detector isn’t turning off;” “The kitchen faucet is broken;” “There’s a squirrel in the chimney!” I loved that charming hundred year old house. And it’s strange to think we don’t have our future charted. We won’t be living in town, so where will we be living? Someplace warm for Bob, someplace near the grandbabies for me. My North Star is hiding.

These are the dark and scary things of my 3 am night life, the feeling of being uprooted, of being immobilized, of not belonging. There is death, and public humiliation. Oh yes, Jung gets into my free-wheeling interpretations. Traveling back and forth over the Delaware River Water Gap as a child, to visit my birth family, left me always seeking a safe harbor, a port in the storm.

Retirement looms large as the big unknown future unfolds at its own pace. Bob worries he might be bored no longer working. I personally don’t think boredom is an option for him. He is a nomad, and would love to travel the world, footloose and fancy free. Not me, a home base is essential to my quiet dream life. But wherever I land, I will keep writing so long as my fingers, and my mind, keep working. I just sat down in front of a blank piece of paper and drew a clock, so all is not lost! http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/384949524/the-unknown-brain?showDate=2016-03-25

I read that our generation, the Baby Boomers, will redefine our golden years in the same way we created a cultural revolution in the 60s and 70s. I suppose that is true. Aging in place, maybe. Co-housing, why not? Didn’t Bob go to Woodstock! No dressing for dinner in a retirement home for us, with Frank Sinatra playing in the background. Does the AARP print a rule book? We really never wanted to play by the rules, so why would we now?

My psychologist brother, Dr Jim, just sent me this article about nursing homes; fair warning, it’s not pretty. http://www.vox.com/2015/12/2/9826772/life-lessons-nursing-home?mc_cid=042158e728&mc_eid=e134d96057

Here’s my theory: If for most of your life you are concerned with the mundane (which, think about it, always involves personal comfort) then when you get old and feel a lot of pain, that’s going to be the only thing you’re going to think about. It’s like a muscle — you developed the mundane muscle and not the other one.

So I’m working on my creativity and compassion muscles, how about you? Here is our high school reunion picture from 1996 – this year will be our 50th! Bob is front and center, can you find me next to Bess? Hint, third row from bottom on the right. 10366217_974001499278561_5244274030678340288_n

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“We’re gonna have a good time!” Even though it’s not a “special” birthday, marking a decade or anything, it’s nice to know I’ve made it through another year on the mountain. As Bob would always say, “It’s better than the alternative,” meaning I could have had a funeral. Nothing like an ER doctor to put things into perspective.

According to Native American culture, I was born during the Duck Fly Moon. And last night, unfortunately, we missed seeing the total eclipse of the moon in VA due to a stack of clouds. Amazing pictures have been scrolling across my Facebook feed, along with birthday greetings from friends near and far. Sometimes I just shake my head at political commentary, or shrug about people sharing TMI, but sometimes you just gotta love social media!

Today we plan on going to the movies to see Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway in “The Intern.” People are raving about it, even my brother, Dr Jim, told us it’s a good take on aging. He said when some HR person asks DeNiro, the new intern, where he sees himself in ten years, and the answer is, “You mean when I’m 80?” his expression is priceless.

We could use a good laugh. And to be honest, I don’t see myself on this mountain for another ten years. I reluctantly moved South to be closer to the Bride, but she’s working on her career in Nashville while the Groom’s interviewing all over the country. Who knows where they will settle; and the Rocker and Ms Cait? I’m pretty sure they will be West Coasters for the foreseeable future. It’s time Bob really thought about retirement, and it’s time we thought about our Golden Years.

When we are no longer driving, I’d like to live in a walkable neighborhood. We know only too well how circumstances can change. And as much as I’ve enjoyed the serenity and the views from my aviary, I know we have another move left in us. But for today, I’ll eat some cake and think about all that tomorrow.

Sunset on the Porch

Sunset on the Porch

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The conference call converged via my iPhone this weekend. Three siblings in three different states all talking at once or in turn, about their lives, their loves, and even their memories. Because I happened to grow up an “only child,” I treasure these calls.

Dr Jim, my psychologist brother, told me to look up a fellow Minnesotan on a TED talk, and so I did. Kay had been reading a book about dying and the health industry’s push to prolong life even when tethered to tubes and machines. And Bob had been reading, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, about crematoriums. Jim thought we needed some positive messages about aging.

Enter Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones. Here is a guy from MN who decided to study the pockets around the world where people just happen to live to a vital old age of 100+. He calls this topography, which happens to be almost exclusively on mountainsides (remember this when he talks about not exercising), Blue Zones.

Sardinia, Italy, that has 20 times as many 100-year-olds as the U.S. does, proportionally. In Okinawa, Japan, we found people with the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. In the Blue Zones (Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, Calif.; and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica), people live 10 years longer, experience a sixth the rate of cardiovascular disease and a fifth the rate of major cancers.

So not only are people living longer, they are living to a healthier old age. And what do they have in common? Well you’ll have to view his TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_how_to_live_to_be_100?language=en
or read this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-buettner/how-to-live-to-100—nine_b_94972.html but here is my take away.

We have become less connected to family and friends than any other generation. We may think we stay plugged in only because of texts, email, social media and blog posts. But that’s not the same as actually being connected. The communities Buettner studied are semi-isolated, the centenarians have friends they have kept since they were toddlers. They belong to the same tribe. And they all have a reason to get up in the morning.

I could relate to a Great Great Great Grandmother, who said her reason is holding her latest Great Great Great Grand Daughter, that it’s like “Leaping into Heaven!” Now this is my kind of old age, staying vital and leading a meaningful life. Not being medicated into oblivion in an old folk’s home.

It will be interesting to see if our generation takes a different tack as we age. Will we age in the same way our parents did before us, become snow birds? Will we line up to enter the latest continuing care community? Or will we drink red wine and walk everywhere while still fishing for our family?

A friend of mine is taking a giant leap and moving across country to San Diego so she can walk one block to the ocean and sail a boat. She’s living each day as if it were her last. We helped kickstart a cultural revolution when we were young, maybe it’s time we started another.

Great Gma Ada and the Love Bug

Great Gma Ada and the Love Bug

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For another day I’ll be the same age as Bruce Springsteen. Tomorrow I’ll leap ahead of him and catch up with Bob, who has a birthday the day after the Love Bug in August. My sister Kay already called, my MIL sent me the usual Chico’s gift card (thank you Ada), and my son already posted on Facebook. This year it feels like people are jumping the shark on my birthday, let’s all take a breath. I’m in no hurry to age.

I had to pick up the latest Atlantic magazine because it was all about aging. You can’t miss it. The cover is an old geezer on a skateboard, doing an ollie with his socks slouching down around his ankles.  The cover story is, “What Happens When We All Live to 100?” Good question. I started reminiscing about skateboarding down a parking lot ramp in my old hometown of Dover, NJ. I was one of very few high school girls who had the nerve to do this stuff, and I never got very good at it. But I remember the woody station wagons, the street lights, and blaring the Beach Boys while I tried to “hang ten” without wiping out on asphalt.

Then I was back in real time, reading, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/09/why-i-hope-to-die-at-75/379329/

I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75. Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal

This morning I chewed my gummi multiple vitamin and my calcium chocolate candy. I popped my supplements for my psoriatic skin condition and my swiss-cheesey, osteopenic bones, and then to top it off, I swallowed a Claritin for my allergies. I’m not taking any meds for anything serious, I’m blessed with an Irish peasant’s good DNA so my heart and blood pressure seem to be doing fine all on their own, knock knock.

What I’m not doing is sticking to any sort of diet whatsoever, and I don’t think I’m obsessed with exercise, though at one time in my 40s I may have been.  Still, I’m not willing to give it all up in a mere 9 years! I kept reading. Is this guy for real, or is he writing satire for the Atlantic? Could this just be Gulliver’s Travels for the well-heeled, senior set?

The author, Ezekiel Emanuel, talks about how modern medicine has managed to prolong life, and asks the  important question, “But as life has gotten longer, has it gotten healthier? Is 70 the new 50?” Let me warn you, if you are over 70 and prone to depression, do not read this Atlantic article! You may as well hang up the cleats, or stilettos, now. The inevitable stroke or stent is lurking right around the corner.

So, let’s hope we are all outliers who will experience a healthy old age! And if you are one of my readers who is crying their eyes out already because the last chick has left the nest, take heart. Let’s end on a positive note, let me count the ways being an empty nester has improved this old gal’s life.

  1. I can get into the hot tub, naked, anytime I want
  2. I can eat ice cream for dinner if I feel like it
  3. I can sleep in (until 8am  sometimes)
  4. I can listen to my music in the car and YES Bono I’ll download your free album!
  5. I can sing anytime, anywhere with impunity without using the “right” words

Oh, and I can still search for flea market finds and transform them into tiny treasures for the grand baby!  IMG_1143

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Yesterday afternoon, a little boy was visiting so I turned on the TV to find the Disney Channel. Up pops CNN with a rugged, red-faced swimmer leaning on the arms of others, and everyone in my living room was instantly transfixed, even the three year old. We leaned in to hear her words, and in the middle of her second message (or “rules for life” let’s call it) our satellite went out. Maybe I didn’t hear her words in real time, but Diana Nyad spoke to me online with her three rules. I figured if a woman my age could swim from Cuba to Key West, I could listen to her.

I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team.

This woman swam for 53 hours, without a shark cage and with only a silicone mask for her face at night to protect her from jelly fish. But what really got me, even beyond the fact that this was her FIFTH try to swim 110 miles, was that her strokes-per-minute never varied, she was a slow and steady 50 strokes per minute!

We’ve all heard of inspiration boards on Pinterest, and inspirational speakers who like to talk about their time as dare-devil Navy pilots landing on aircraft carriers at sea with only a 500′ runway. Yes, I sat through that one. But an inspirational swimmer, now that’s something!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/02/diana-nyad-swim-cuba-florida-complete_n_3856821.html

I just read about a woman who has a picture of Joan of Arc in her bedroom, she figures if Joan could change the course of history before the age of 18, she should be able to get out of bed.

I’m hanging a picture of Diana Nyad on my study wall. So what if I torqued my spine in water aerobics, so what if my yoga studio closed its doors, so what if my knee sounds like crepe paper. No more excuses! After all, if Nyad could swim from Cuba to Florida, I can…what? Dance again, maybe like the Flapper did after our Year of Living Dangerously. One beautiful stroke at a time.

Perseverance is a critical quality. Like the Love Bug crawling every day to the dog’s water bowl even though she finds the door to the mud room closed most of the time. She gets out of her giraffe chair, puts on her goggles and dashes across that kitchen floor in the blink of an eye. IMG_1786Still, she crawls. I think of Maya Angelou’s inspiring words:

“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”

Diana Nyad

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