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, June 24, 2012

Look at This

     As we get older, our brains age along with us. We sometimes forget things. I’ll tell you what eventually. It’ll come to me, I know.
     But not to worry. The brain is an amazing thing. You can see that by reading the message below:
7H15 M3554G3
53RV35 7O PR0V3
D0 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5!
1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5!
1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG
17 WA5 H4RD BU7
N0W, 0N 7H15 LIN3
R34D1NG 17
W17H 0U7 3V3N
7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17,
C3R741N P30PL3 C4N
R3AD 7H15.
      Cool, huh? Your brain performs a work-around, just as we do to fix computer problems. Don’t have all the letters available? The brain makes us recognize some numbers as letters, given their similar shape. It can perform similar work-arounds for people who’ve had strokes or for those who body parts have lost connection with the control room over time. It requires some concentration, but it works.
     And now I remember what I was going to say: That’s reassuring.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

No Guarantees

     You’ve probably noticed by now that a lot of my posts have to do with health – thoughts on keeping it, enhancing it, worrying about it, that sort of thing. But please note that those are only thoughts, not warranties.
     Let me explain:
     I recently learned that a friend has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the adult-onset kind. She was surprised. I was surprised. She is lean, exercises regularly and rigorously, watches her diet. She is exactly the person who, statistically, is least likely to get diabetes. She got it anyway.
     That made me think of all the non-smokers who have contracted lung cancer. They did the right thing, avoided tobacco, and got the disease anyway.
     And remember Jim Fixx, the runners’ guru, who convinced thousands that jogging and running would help them avoid such health problems as heart attacks? He died of a heart attack. While running,
     I don’t bring up any of this, of course, to suggest that practicing good health habits is futile. Not in the least. But a great many of us persist in thinking that if we just do all the right things all the time we’ll somehow avoid all health problems. Doing the right thing is the right thing to do, all right. It increases your odds of a good outcome. But it can’t insure that. You have to be philosophically realistic if you want to avoid going bonkers.
     This is life. There is no magic bullet to prolong it. So just enjoy every day that you have to the absolute maximum.
     There are no guarantees.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Walk This Way

     So now you’re a card-carrying Boomer. No, I don’t mean the ubiquitous AARP cards that have been populating your mailbox for years now. No, I mean your Medicare card, the one for which you qualify at age 65.
     This means that you now are part of the entitlement crowd of which some Congress members speak so scornfully. Although, if you’re like most of us you’ve been paying taxes for this all your working life. You should be entitled.
     But don’t think that your life is one big gravy train now that you’re on Medicare. An example:
     My 102-year-old mother-in-law’s balance isn’t so good these days so her doctor prescribed a walker – one of those tube-aluminum frames – to help her get around.
Medicare covers prescribed walkers, but only the stripped-down model – the one with two wheels in front that must be slid or lifted to move forward. Many people put tennis balls on the rear two legs to keep them from scratching floors.
     You want the easier-to-use, four-wheel model? Medicare covers only part of that, and only if you get the small-wheel type for indoor use only. You want bigger wheels suitable for going outside to shop or smell the roses? You pay.
     And do you want a seat with that? Sure, but Medicare won’t pay for a padded model, just bare metal. You want more cush for your tush? You pay.
     Clearly, Medicare isn’t paying for you to maintain the lavish lifestyle to which you’re accustomed as a younger person. Getting old means getting less.
     And now we hear Congress bleating about needing to make more cuts to Medicare, which already is bare-bones. Tell you what:
     If those hypocrites can’t give the elderly the same health-care perks that they give themselves, they should just shut the (bleep) up.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


     So how do you like your new car, Boomer? Did you get a good lease on the wheels of your dreams?
     Yes, I’m just guessing that you’re driving a new car, or at least thinking about it seriously. It’s an educated guess.
     A new study by J.D. Power and AARP shows that three of every five new vehicles purchased or leased recently have been by people age 50 and older. For the Detroit Three, Boomers account for 67 percent of all new sales.
     What’s with this? Sure, your retirement account may have taken a hit during the financial downturn. Your inheritances may have been on hold because your parents are living longer. But still, you’re doing better financially than almost anybody else.  Your median income is $67,537, compared with $55,856 for the 18-34 demographic. Boomers are about the only group that can afford new rides these days. Here’s how it goes:
     Millennials, the generation born after the late 1970s, are nervous about holding onto or even getting jobs. They’re not sure if they’re ever going to be able to retire. So they’re hanging onto the cars they have and driving them until the wheels fall off.
     Boomers, you cats with cash, are mostly leasing cars for two years. If things still look good for you at the end of that period, you’ll be back for maybe another two years on a newer car.
     And my generation, the elders on fixed incomes? We bought our new cars a while ago. We’re planning on driving them until our wheels off.