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, May 27, 2012

How're YOU Doing?

     “How are you?” can be a dangerous question to ask an older person. They may tell you.
     Sometimes it seems as if all older people do is share their litany of physical ailments. Conversations that once focused on movies seen, say, or ideas considered now seem to be mostly about aches and pains, operations and medications, pills and physicians. It quickly becomes tiresome, in the way that hearing the same thing over and over can bore the listener to tears.
     Don’t let this become you.
     Of course everyone develops physical problems as they age. It goes with the territory. But endlessly talking about them indicates one sad fact: These people are thinking only of themselves.
     The easiest way out of this rut, this quicksand of self-absorption, is to think of others. Other people with problems worse than your own. Odds are, they’re in the majority. And they could use your help.
     One of the best things about getting older is having more time freed up on your schedule. Use this time to give back.
     Over the past few weeks, for example, my wife and I have participated in a fund-raising walk for the Stroke Awareness Foundation and as volunteers at Courageous Kids Day, the annual outing for families of children suffering from cancer. Every other week I record audiobooks for people whose disabilities prevent them from reading or holding a book. My wife belongs to two philanthropic/educational groups (PEO and To Kalon). She is a regular health-care advocate for her mother, who lives in a senior-living facility. And there are myriad other ways for us all to get involved.
     Try looking outward, not inward. You’ll find yourself rewarded well beyond all expectations.
     And if that doesn’t work, if you still think you’re the center of the universe, get a cat.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pop Quiz

     The news has been all over the media recently, Baby Boomers, but in case you missed it I’m repeating:
     Get yourself tested for Hepatitis C.
     I know. Most of you are saying, “Huh?” But it’s true. The Centers for Disease Control are saying that Boomers – anyone born between 1945 and 1965 – should get a one-time blood test to make sure Hepatitis C isn’t lurking somewhere in your body. If it is, your liver could be in danger, and stats indicate that Boomers are most susceptible.
     Makes no difference if you think you may have had a Hep-C test before but just can’t remember when. Makes no difference if you’ve done drugs or not. Makes no difference if you had a blood transfusion before blood was screened for Hepatitis C. Makes no difference if you’ve had sex or not.  Or got a tattoo, a mani-pedi or shared a toothbrush. Any of those things could have introduced the blood-borne virus. And you don’t want it.
     Odds are you don’t have it. But why gamble? Get the test.
     Your mind – and your liver – will rest easier for it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bottoms Up

     Medical science keeps saying that as we age, our bodies begin losing strength from the bottom up, and so I keep reminding you, too.
     When they say the bottom goes first, they’re not talking about our buns (although gravity does have an effect and mine are a lot saggier than they used to be). No, they’re talking about our feet and legs, which means we have to work to combat that if we’re to maintain a semblance of our once-youthful vigor.
     The easiest exercise for this part of the body is walking. If you can, set aside a regular period of time to get out there and walk. But don’t get distressed if you don’t have the time for a regular walking regimen. You can sneak in steps during the day. Take the long way around if you’re doing something around the house or job. Always use the stairs, not the elevator. Don’t stay glued to your desk but try to make regular laps around the office.. You’ll find you think more clearly and your productivity will go up.
     When you’re seated, always try to stand up without using your arms to push off. It’s simple if you learn forward first.
     And work on your balance every day. Simple exercise: stand heel to toe for at least 10 seconds without tipping. Switch feet and do it again. You’ll feel your leg muscles working as you do so.
     That’s the whole idea.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Making News

     Did you watch the network news last night? Odds are that you did. You’re a Baby Boomer. That’s what Baby Boomers do.
     How do I know that? It’s not just me. Lots of people know what you watch. It’s just that most of them are in advertising.
     You’re a big market, you know. The biggest single demographic group in the country. Advertisers want to reach you. They research you like crazy. That’s how they know Baby Boomers watch network news shows. You can tell that they know by looking at the commercials.
     Have erectile dysfunction? They have a product for that. Is your cholesterol running high? They have a product for that. Heartburn acting up? They have a product for that. In fact, if there’s any medical condition that’s likely to affect an aging population, they have a product for that. And it’s advertised regularly on the network news shows.
     You don’t see many commercials there for acne remedies or diaper services or SAT testing. Those are advertised online or on the cable channels where the younger people are getting their information, such as it is, about the world. They’re not watching network news, at least not in large enough numbers to make advertisers salivate.
     Want to have your network news without being reminded constantly that you’re getting older? TiVo the shows and zap through the commercials. There really aren’t many other options. As Walter Cronkite – yes, you know who he was – would have said, “And that’s the way it is.”