Preview of Your Coming Attractions

When I retired after 40 years of writing columns for the San Jose Mercury News, I figured I'd said about all I could say. Wrong. I've realized that at age 76, I'm about 10 years older than the oldest baby boomers, who are now turning 66. My very average body has had a lot of experiences in those 10 years. I've learned a lot that could be helpful to people just starting on that same path -- what to do, what to avoid, what to keep an eye on.. Consider me your canary-in-the-coalmine for the boomer generation. Tune in regularly for the heads-up advice.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Doctor Is In

     In terms of doctor-patient relationships, you’ve picked a great time to get older. There actually are doctor-patient relationships now. More like partnerships, if you’re wise.
     Not too many years ago, the doctor was king.  Whatever he or she said was law. The doctor diagnosed and spoke. We listened. That was all.
     Today, we tell the doctor our concerns (well thought-out in advance, to make sure all our bases are covered and no time is wasted). The doctor listens – they want and need our input -- and suggests courses of treatment.  If the suggestions seem reasonable, in light of our own personal knowledge of the situation, we follow. If not and we want a second opinion, we ask for it. If the doctor doesn’t agree, we get a new doctor.
     We patients have more ways now to inform ourselves about our physical condition and the afflictions that may strike.  We go to health libraries. We go online, although it’s wise to take what we learn there with a grain of salt (or, sometimes, an entire shaker). Online information from such known sources as the Mayo Clinic should carry more weight with the savvy consumer – and that’s what we are, consumers of health care. Trusting spurious sources – there are a lot of snake-oil salesmen out there – does no one any good. Neither does getting all hypochondriacal about all the possible ailments we come across. This is real life, not a rerun of  “House.” Odds are that we don’t suffer from them all.
     But an informed patient, working together with an up-to-date doctor, can get the best possible care. That’s what everybody wants this time – patient and doctor, together. And the best isn’t too much to ask. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012


     Every so often, you see an older person with eyes like a St. Bernard. You know the look: red rims, saggy, sort of doleful looking even though the person may be in good spirits.
      That look now is mine. Temporarily.
      It’s a condition called Blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids. It can happen in people of any age, but for some odd reason, seniors seem more likely to suffer it. Once you get it, you’re likely to be stuck with it for the rest of your days. But that doesn’t mean you have to look like a large, sad dog all that time.
     My ophthalmologist has recommended this course of treatment: For two weeks, apply hot compresses on the eyes each night and morning. Before bed, clean the lids with warm water and baby shampoo on a Q-tip. Then apply a topical ointment (your doc can give you a prescription) to the lower rim of the eye.
     It works. The treatment removes the red. Oh, it’ll eventually return, but then you just repeat the treatment.
     Sure beats hanging a cask of brandy around your neck and heading for the Alps. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012


     Every day. My wife and I let our Nintendo Wii game do a body check on us. It calculates our body mass and weight, checks our balance and tests our reflexes with some simple games. It then balances the results against our chronological age and tells us what our “Wii age” (or physical age) is. My wife does really well at getting down into the 20s some days; I’m overjoyed to be told I’m in my 30s or 40s.
     I don’t look like I’m in my 40s, unfortunately, but its what’s inside that counts.
     Medical science agrees. Do things that are good for you and your real age becomes younger than your calendar age. And you don’t need a computer game to tell you (although it is fun).  Here are a few things to do that the docs say will help control your rate of aging:
1.     Walk. Regularly. At least a half-hour a day. If you have a pedometer, shoot for 10,000 steps daily (it’s harder than it sounds, but worth it).
2.      Floss and brush daily. No excuses.
3.      Try to meditate at least five minutes daily. At least, take time to sit quietly and try to clear your mind. Meditating makes me tend to nod off – a too-empty mind.
4.     Drink coffee, up to three cups if you tolerate it well. That and curry dishes or food with mustard help can help combat Alzheimer’s.
5.     Sleep at least 7 to 8 hours each night. Sure, you can live on less. Just not as long,
6.     Know your numbers (blood pressure and the “good” and “bad” cholesterols). Work with your doctor to keep them within healthy limits.
7.     Eat oily fish (salmon, sardines) regularly. More times a week than you eat red meat.
8.     Check with the doc to see if you’ll benefit from low-dose aspirin, calcium and Omega-3 pills. Be wary of self-medicating.
And act your age – the age that you feel.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Head's up

Let me share with you a recent email from Boomerometer reader Lisa J:
     “Hi. In one of your every early blogs you were talking about the dangers of sunshine on our skin, even on the top of the head. You said that if someone would invent a leave-in hair conditioner with sunscreen built right in, they’d make a fortune. You said you’d invest in the company that made such a product. Well, are you rich yet?”
     Thanks for the reminder, Lisa. The subject also has been on my mind lately because a colleague at Books Aloud, where I volunteer recording audiobooks for the disabled, recently was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Right on the top of his head.  He’s undergoing chemo right now, He’s only in his thirties. Nasty stuff.
     And yet we can’t realistically expect to try to protect ourselves by wearing hats every time we’re outdoors, can we? No. What we need is sunscreen that we can massage into our scalps without making our hair look like we’re some movie lounge lizard. Hence my plea for a leave-in hair conditioner that also has some SPF to it. And it appears that my prayers – and yours – have been answered.
     Industry has heard our cries for help, Google “leave-in hair conditioner SPF” these days and you come up with lots of product listings. I haven’t seen many reports yet on their efficacy, but they seem to be worth a try. I’ve ordered something called Quintessence that claims to have a 30 SPF and comes in a variety of tints (I’m getting the untinted model).
     I’ll let you know how it turns out. Looks like an opportunity for a growth industry here, given our nation’s Baby Boomer demographics. I may become a rich investor yet.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Back Online -- Slowly

     Sorry that this post is so late, but the hard drive on my ancient computer crashed and I’ve had to buy a new machine (an IMac, if you’re curious, a big improvement over the old PC).
     And, while all this was going on, my back went out. This has been happening every so often over the past 50 years or so, starting with a slipped disc while I was in the Army. Can’t even call it a war wound. We weren’t fighting anybody at the time, which is the only way I’d want to be in military service.
     Anyway, I was having back spasms while my old computer was having disk spasms. Fortunately for the latter case, I’d backed up all my important data onto an external hard drive before the fall, and thus transferring it to the new Mac was a relative piece of cake.
     Recovering from my internal back spasms, though, proved to be another story. In previous years, it only took me a couple of days to bounce back. The older I got, the longer the recuperation period. And this last episode took more than two weeks to work itself out of my system.
      Which, I guess, is the subject of this posting. It’s a warning about something you’re probably already suspecting – it takes us longer and longer, the more we age, to shake off insults to our body. There’s nothing much that you can do about it, except accept it. And, maybe, wish you were like a computer that could easily be updated. We’ll wait for medical science to get going on that one