Category Archives: Health

How Seniors can Cope with Financial Stress

A little while back I received an email from a woman who had come across this blog and, specifically, had perused posts tagged with the word “retirement.” She wrote me that “a combination of my father being downsized in his 60s and my mother falling ill have combined to seriously affect their financial planning for retirement and has exacerbated their health problems. They have inspired me to write a guide for seniors and their families about the most common causes of financial stress, how it affects the person, and provide some coping strategies.” She provided a link to the guide she wrote and asked if I would consider posting it, along with an intro she wrote for it.

I said I would be glad to consider it and she wrote back with the following introduction, which I’m just pasting in, below. I’ve gone over the Guide she wrote and am providing her info here as a service to anyone considering or preparing for retirement, or for anyone who just might be interested in what to expect and, perhaps, how best to plan for one’s eventual exit from the workforce. What follows come from Ms. Jenny Holt.

PS – I will offer one observation. The site her link points to is called “Reverse Mortgage Alert”, which I have to admit raised a red flag for me. I’m not a fan of the concept, at least not as I’ve learned it is frequently practiced. However, after reading some of the info provided there, I do believe what they have to offer is useful information. They are not “pushing” reverse mortgages. Rather, they seem to be intent on providing useful information that anyone seeking to make a major investment move, especially with the home they’re living in, should take into account. If you have info that proves this wrong, I’d really appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.


With more limited access to financial services and often post-retirement, a money problem for seniors can be magnified more than for other age groups. While many have saved or invested in property and pensions, there are common causes of financial issues for the over 55s. These include:

  1. Job Loss/Reduction – 51%

  2. Healthcare – 29.5%

  3. Other – 21.6%

  4. Unpaid Taxes – 12.7%

  5. Divorce/separation – 8.2%

  6. Bankruptcy – 6.7%

  7. Foreclosure notices – 5.7%

The onset of stress can cause a range of emotional and physical problems which may exacerbate any health-related financial issues. These include insomnia, headaches, chest pains, anxiety, and depression.

However, it is more than possible to mitigate these issues. Of course, finding a solution to the financial problem in the first place is preferable. That being said, clearer and more focused decisions can be made with the right approach. Many seniors find stressful situations easier to cope with by combining a better diet with more exercise and meditation.

There is more to learn about this issue and more information can be found in the full Senior Financial Stress Coping Guide.


How I Became A Vampire

Nine years ago I had a nice chunk of flesh removed from my left lower back to remove a Melanoma. They also took a couple of lymph nodes from under my left arm and the left side of my groin. Tests all proved negative and, save for becoming a vampire, I’d put it mostly behind me.

This morning I went for my yearly dermatological exam and had to have another small chunk taken out of the middle of my back and sent for biopsy. So . . . I’ll know in a week or two if I have to undergo another surgery.

Compared to many people, including a number I know, my experience was a walk in the park. No chemo, no radiation, just scoop that shit right out of my body. I’d rather not have to do anything other than eat healthy and exercise, but if I have to go through this again, I’ll take heart from my past experience. Given what others have gone through, I refuse to call myself a cancer survivor. I was never sick and the entire episode took less than three months from discovery to excision.


Eighth Decade, Here I Come!

During my activity against the War in Vietnam, as well as other Peace & Justice movement activities I was involved in, I really never thought I would see my thirties. I know now I was a dreamer and a bit too wrapped up in my view of what was happening in the country, but I thought we were ripe for a revolution and I thought I would be on the front lines. That was nearly fifty years ago and time has given me a new perspective on life, the universe, and everything (H/T to Douglas Adams R.I.P.).

Today, however, marks the mid-point in my seventieth journey around our home star, Sol. It’s my half-birthday! I know . . . aren’t I a little too old to be celebrating half birthdays? I suppose, but this day has some other significance for me. Today marks the thirty-seventh year since a man surprised me on my doorstep in Venice, California, where I was living with my soon-to-be wife. He held me at gunpoint*, threatening to blow my “fucking brains out.” I managed to escape when he went to get something with which to tie my hands behind my back, something I had no intention of allowing him to do. I was prepared to attempt attacking him as he tried, but I didn’t have to. I had been preparing by slowly getting my right foot behind the bedroom door. I was lying spread-eagled on the floor, and each time he looked away I inched my foot closer and closer to the position I wanted.

Fortunately, I was able to get away from him by slamming the bedroom door (well, almost. The landlord had installed new carpeting and neglected to plane the bottom of the door, so it was almost impossible to shut it without a lot of force) in his face, levitating myself from the floor (lots of adrenaline involved at this point), grabbing my Ithaca Riot Pump Shotgun from the closet where I had carefully hidden it and practiced this very thing, and suggested he leave before I killed him. The remainder of the story is a bit convoluted and involved numerous calls to three different police departments before the first one I called finally realized they were, indeed, the proper jurisdiction for where I lived; about 200 feet east of Carroll Canal, on Ocean Avenue. It was years before I was able to finally throw off the hyper-vigilance this episode generated in me.

Also, this coming April I will be ten years older than my father was when he shed his mortal coil. This past September marked thirty-two years since he died. If you’ve read some of my other posts, his death weighed on heavily on me for quite some time. I was always considered the spitting image of him and my mother used to say “You’re just like your father” so often I was convinced fifty-nine was the limit for me as well. I think it wasn’t until I passed the age where he had had his second heart attack, and I had nothing more than moderate hypertension to deal with, I finally convinced myself I would likely live longer than he had.

So, here I am on the downside of my seventieth year on the planet. I actually used Microsoft Project to determine exactly when I would begin the second half of the year, and it was midnight today. Now, in celebration of having made it this far, and because it’s “the season,” I’m sharing two pictures I just found of a couple of my earliest Christmases. Next year is going to be interesting, no doubt. Perhaps it’s been long enough, and I can fully retell the story of this episode some time soon. This was a start.

rickysanta

Not So Happy. Perhaps Wondering Why I’m Sitting on Santa’s Lap When I’m Jewish!

rickysanta2

Much Happier. I Must Have Decided I Was An Atheist By Now & It Didn’t Matter.

 


 

* The link “He held me at gunpoint,” above, is to the decision in a re-trial the defendant won on one count of murder he was found guilty of. I was required to appear as a witness and, since he had become a jailhouse lawyer in the interim, he represented himself, meaning he was the one who questioned me when I gave my testimony. Two things – He was partially victorious on several other charges and the case was remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. As far as I know, he’s still in prison. Second, although the appellate court states he took three guns from me, he only took one; a Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum, with which he shot and killed two people. I carried a fair amount of guilt around for quite some time before I could finally convince myself those deaths were not at least partially on me.


Beautiful Downtown San Diego

San Diego is a beautiful city by my lights, but I don’t think I’ll ever stay downtown again. I’m not sure I can count the number of sirens we heard in the less than three days we’ve been here on both hands . . . and feet!

When I was in my mid-teens I remember staying in Mission Bay, at the Bahia Resort. Days were filled with water sports and evenings were spent cruising around the bay on the resort’s sternwheeler paddleboat, the Bahia Belle. 

 

The Bahia Belle

The Bahia Belle

 
We always went with another family who had a son my age and, if memory serves, we imagined ourselves riverboat gamblers. I think we mostly, much like my 14-year old daughter, were just thrilled to be away from the scrutiny of our parents for a couple of hours. 

Last summer we came here and stayed in US Navy quarters, thanks to our traveling with a friend who is retired military. I was surprised to see we were almost directly across the highway from the USS Recruit, a landlocked training vessel that is (I believe) the only remaining artifact of Camp Nimitz and Camp Decatur, the Recruit Training Center/United States Naval Training Center where I spent my entire month and twenty-three day naval career fifty years ago. 

There are times I bemoan my short career in the Navy, as I was not in long enough to qualify for veteran’s benefits. On the other hand, having been born with club feet, one of which required surgery when I was five, I failed my enlistment physical and, but for my arguments at the time, by all rights never should have been sworn in. Because I did argue, and was sent to boot camp, I was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, allowing me to somewhat facetiously present myself as a “decorated veteran,” something I actually never do. 🙂

  

National Defense Service Medal

National Defense Service Medal


Now I sit in the Santa Fe Railroad station, but a few blocks from the hotel we stayed at, waiting to return home. My family got to tour CVA-41, the USS Midway, and spend most of yesterday at the San Diego Zoo, where our 12-year old was plotzing to visit. She got to see the Pandas and she’s a happy camper, which makes me happy too. 

We left our vehicles at home and used rail, busses, and our tired, barking dogs to wend our way through the weekend, but I wouldn’t trade the time we’ve had for anything. The bonus is I’ve walked more both days than I have since I got my Fitbit ChargeHR, and so did the wife and kids. Can’t beat that!


Cinnamon and Coconut Glazed Donuts!

Sure look good, donut they?

Staying reasonably faithful to a diet that’s both fulfilling and healthful is made difficult here at work. Whenever there’s an event that involves food – and there are lots of them – it is set out on a group of lateral filing cabinets that are just a few feet from me. In fact, of the one hundred or so people on the floor, I’m the closest to the food.

Today, someone brought in at least five dozen donuts. I resisted successfully, but I would prefer avoiding the “near occasion of sin” where possible. Still, I cleared the hurdle, and I’m continuing my quest to drop down to 165 lbs. by my 69th birthday in early June.


The Vagus Nerve and Meditation

Brainstem

An image of a human brain stem illuminated with fluorescent proteins.

I don’t think I use this blog enough to share info like I do on Facebook. As I think about it, though, it seems the things I post here have a much longer shelf life than those I share on FB. Also, my original intent for this blog was to address issues of seeing systems, particularly emphasizing how infrequently — and incompletely — we do so. The piece from Business Insider I’m going to link to here was shared with me by Jon Husband who, in my mind, is inextricably linked to systems concepts via his pioneering work with what he has labeled Wirearchy.

The article concludes with the researchers, Kevin Tracey and Paul-Peter Tak, recognizing how science and, particularly, medicine have approached understanding of the human body as an effort to understand each organ in isolation, and as separate entities. They now realize the systemic nature of the body, and argue for an understanding that is more holistic and that recognizes how everything is connected.

I also found myself thinking about the progress of our understanding and how it shows just how indifferent nature, biology, and evolution are to anything resembling “fairness” or “justice”. Those are human concepts, creations that make sense to us, but have no place in how or why things happen in natural systems. Evolution is interested in what works and a level of adaptability that allows for constant change in survival strategies. Everything else is merely part of the side-show.

What really struck me was the thought of all the people who have existed before us and how much discomfort, pain, and agony have been suffered in the past, prior to our gaining the various understandings we have come to embrace over the last few hundred years of our existence as a species. The “breakthrough” discussed in this article seems somewhat revolutionary and serves to point out how valuable the ability to see systems really is at improving our lives.

Here’s the link. Check it out. Shouldn’t take more than five minutes to read.


Chasing That Elusive Health & Fitness Goal

I have long wanted to get back to my original weight, 7 lbs. 9 oz. but I’m finding it difficult. Regardless, recently I purchased a Fitbit Charge HR digital tracker to monitor the exercise I get and, shortly afterward, a Fitbit Aria electronic scale. I won’t say I’m actually part of the #QuantifiedSelf movement, but I do like data and find they help me achieve goals by showing me how I’m doing and the consequences of not following the steps needed to accomplish them.

 

Fitbit Aria

My New BFF


Last Friday marked two very important milestones in my quest to get in better shape and, more importantly, to reach a point where I can either stop taking the two maintenance drugs I’ve been on for quite some time (for essential hypertension and type II diabetes). I test my blood sugar at least every morning and Friday, for the first time in my memory of the last over 15 years, it was under 90 upon arising. This is very unusual for me as I have always experienced an early morning spike in my readings.

I’m also weighing myself each morning as soon as I get up. The Aria scale measures weight and body fat percentage. After I stand on the scale and it settles, it shows me my weight, body fat %, and my initials (it will recognize up to eight people) twice, then syncs the data via our wifi to my Fitbit account. This morning I dipped below 180 lbs. for the first time in decades.

Over the weekend I indulged a wee bit and this morning my weight was just over 180, but my blood sugar was 89. My average before meal reading is now about 110, an amazing difference from what I’m used to. Last time I had an A1C test, I had dropped below the threshold of 7.0 and I’m quite certain it will be even lower this time. I suppose I could have achieved this a long time ago, but I didn’t. Better late than never, eh?


Old Fart Kicks It Up a Notch

When I first returned to work, I could barely make it up the two flights of stairs to the office area above the factory building where I was to work. I was forced to walk more than I had in quite some time, just to get from my car to my desk or to go to the cafeteria and buy my lunch. It had been over four and half years since I had retired and I had been mostly sedentary.

A little over two and a half months later, I purchased a pair of Rockport walking shoes. A month and a half after that I purchased a Fitbit One and began quantifying my exercise, as well as most of my caloric intake. I set some goals and paid attention. With the Fitbit I was able to get a good idea of how well I was sleeping too.

Three weeks ago I upgraded to the Fitbit Charge HR, which I can now wear on my wrist as both an exercise tracker and a timepiece. It also constantly tracks my heart rate (that’s the HR part). Despite not being in the greatest of shape, my resting heartrate is consistently in the low 60s, which I believe is pretty good.

As of last week, I was fairly effortlessly walking well over two miles and climbing 10 flights of stairs each day (not at once; in total over the course of the workday). I’ve also been stretching each morning as I’m getting dressed. I have such a long way to go and, at 68 years old, I don’t expect miracles – nor do I expect to improve rapidly, like I could when I was much younger. However, I am determined to get in far better shape, which includes losing another 10 -15 lbs.

I don’t know if I’ll ever run. The problems created by being born with club feet and the subsequent corrective activities, including surgery on my left foot, make running quite problematic, as well as painful. I’m thinking of other activities I can indulge in without dealing with the impact running would have on my ankles, hips, and back, all of which are about an inch out of alignment because of my left foot.

I also pushed myself a little bit too hard, by running up those flights of stairs. My right knee has since admonished against such early foolishness and I have little choice but to heed its warning. So, I’ll still climb the stairs; I just will take them a tad more leisurely in deference to my (no doubt) age-related deficiencies.


Did You Know Medicare Doesn’t Cover Dental?

Oral & Heart Health

Be Good to Your Teeth and They’ll Never be False to You.
~ Soupy Sales

Are you aware of just how important your dental health is to your overall health? The two are far more closely related than you may realize. It’s been almost 10 years since my mother’s death, but her oral health played a major role in what brought her life to a close. She had been admitted to the hospital and was awaiting a triple bypass. Coronary bypass surgery has become pretty routine nowadays and the operation she was facing wasn’t all that dangerous, although at her age (81) recovery would have been somewhat lengthy.

However, the real problem was her teeth. The surgeons would not operate before she had eleven teeth pulled. My mother was not one who faced pain all that stoically and she had neglected her oral health. This was, of course, exacerbated by an inability to afford good, useful dental insurance. She was on Medicare, through Kaiser Permanente, and there is no dental coverage offered as part of the overall plan. The reason they wanted to pull her teeth is the very real danger of Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). According to the Mayo Clinic, “Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.”

I will never forget the look on her face when she told me about their plans. She made an expression I had come to recognize over the years that said “I don’t like it, but I have no control so I’m giving up.” Give up is what she did. Within two days she lost consciousness and quickly died. I can still see her expression and it breaks my heart.

Yesterday, I created a petition at “We the People“, a part of Whitehouse.gov. As someone who is currently on Medicare and who has a difficult time affording a good dental plan, and as someone who recognizes the importance of good dental health to overall health (not to mention someone who does need a little work) I am appalled that Medicare doesn’t cover — at the very least — routine examinations and bi-annual cleaning. I know of no studies, but I have a feeling offering such coverage might actually bring down the overall cost of Medicare.

I know there are some issues with whether or not this kind of thing works, or if the Obama administration is either taking it seriously or paying much attention at all. However, I’m bound and determined to do what I can to bring attention to this problem. It only takes a moment of your time to sign and I think it’s worth raising awareness.

Below is the text of the petition. Please take a moment and sign it. Here’s the link. If you have a moment, you can also share through the Facebook and Twitter buttons just below it. Surely you have family who may benefit from this expansion of coverage and, whether you like it or not, you’re going to get old yourself. Will you be able to afford a dental plan? In the long run, I’m in favor of universal health care. However, in the meantime, let’s ensure our older population has the means to remain as healthy as possible. Maybe we’ll all die of less expensive diseases. 😉

“Recognizing the role oral health plays in the overall health of our citizens, as pointed out by such organizations as The Mayo Clinic, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health promotion, and the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, we believe it is prudent and economically imperative to provide coverage for Dental Services to all recipients of Medicare. Many of those who have reached the age of eligibility are healthy and desirous of continuing to contribute to our country’s well-being. Ensuring their dental health is important to ensuring their overall health as well. Many people who have reached the age of eligibility for Medicare are unable to afford separate coverage for dental health. We ask the administration to work toward achieving this goal.”

Thanks from the bottom of my heart . . . and my mouth.


Living Out Loud

Lanterns afloat

My intent is for the act of sharing to be liberating for me . . . and informative for others.

I decided to celebrate my birthday this year by doing something I may regret. No, I’m not taking off to Vegas with $5k and a desire to lose my inhibitions completely, nor am I going to see if I can find some Window Pane or Orange Owsley and relive the late sixties. I’m going to delve a little deeper into what I see as a corollary of something I’ve been writing a little bit more about lately . . . working out loud. The corollary is . . . living out loud. Let me explain.

Working out loud is about finding ways to work where not merely the fruits, but also the cultivation, planting, and meticulous care and grooming of those fruits are conducted in a manner that allows others to follow along, perhaps contribute somewhere along the way. It involves activities such as moving conversations away from email and into other forms of internal communication; e.g. micro-blogging, wikis, other types of social networking/communicating/collaborating tools, etc. I have found from experience it is not an easy thing to do, even when you are a wholehearted supporter of the idea. The entire ethos of our work culture militates against it and, for some, it’s downright dangerous and heretical.

Living out loud, however, is something a little bit different. I’ve never had to do an activity report though, come to think of it, as a kid I did have to face my father’s wrath when I forgot to do one of my chores. Now, however, I’ve retired from the last place I had a regular job at, so nobody much requires me to report to them. I do have some activities I’m involved in where I keep people apprised of my efforts and progress, but it’s not the same as when I worked at Rocketdyne. Anyway, in an effort to share a little more of me, here’s my first formal attempt. I posted the following on Facebook first.

This is the first birthday I haven’t much looked forward to. Although it seems not to mean all that much, since some time in April I am seven years older than my father was when he died. I think about it, because I grew up being told I was “exactly like your father”, especially when I did something untoward or displeasing to my mother. Medically, although my experience is not like my father’s, I am nonetheless in uncharted waters. It’s a situation both my daughters will likely have to deal with their entire lives.

Also, this year I will be closer to 70 than to 65. I am entering my dotage and, frankly, my worry isn’t for me. If it was just me and Linda, I think we’d be fine. We’d get along OK. However, we have two young girls to care for and see into adulthood and sometimes I fear I won’t be there for them much longer. I’m not yet losing any sleep over it and I surely don’t plan to, but the thought I could be gone any day has a little more power than it would have even 10 years ago.

I also think the feeling was somewhat exacerbated by the sudden loss a couple of weeks ago of a long-time friend who was a half a decade or so younger than me. I was deeply affected by her loss and I’m quite certain it’s still haunting me a bit, though I don’t consciously think about it that much.

I know a few of my friends are older than I am. If you’re reading this and you’re older than me, please take pity on me.  I’m a relatively new old man. It takes some getting used to and I’ve also kind of determined this is one hell of a good place to leave some stuff for my kids. It’s why I welcomed the Timeline when it was introduced, and why I’ve uploaded some pictures I have that were taken before digital pics existed.

Sorry if I’m bothering or boring anyone. I’m experimenting with living out loud. Your mileage may vary.

 


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