Tuesday, March 14, 2017

More, Not Less - by Norma Glad

When I swim, I often counted how many of each of my four strokes I accomplish, so I could do the same number of each.  Ice skating was another opportunity to count and even up the number of glides in each direction. I began balance therapy exercises, and counting each repetition seemed to come naturally.

One day I said to myself:  “No one besides you is keeping track of your exertions. Think of something else to say as you perform…” Almost immediately, these words came into my mind:  Love in My Life!  Love in My Life!  Love in My Life! No, I’m not lacking love in my life.  I’m very sure there are family and friends who love me.  My new phrase brings to mind the many people and passions in my life who comprise my love life.

I have been using the phrase delightedly since then while constantly asking myself what it means to me. I love the warmth it implies, gatherings of friends and family, including the warmth that comes over telephone wires and into my computer.  I’m so glad I have been able to develop inner capacities to take in and give out love of several kinds. It implies to me recognition of the important place that love has had in my life, an assertion that I’ve carried on the values I was taught, and an acceptance of the love from others which has enriched my life.

These four words encourage me to keep on wanting to give tangibles and intangibles to those around me who are needful. The phrase seems to crowd out many habitual  negatives which have haunted me most of my life: I’ll never make it, I should have done something else, I’m sure to get it wrong……LOVE IN MY LIFE is a great substitute for all of these. 

“Love in my life!” is a great accompaniment as I walk to the mailbox, or anywhere else. The phrase has sometimes taken new forms in my daily rounds.  When I’m out in nature I find myself repeating “Beauty in my life!  So much beauty in my life!”  It’s especially meaningful when the sun is shining.

One day a friend used the word ‘joy.’  It was a natural: “Love in my life – and joy!” Now the phrase accompanies me as I swim, skate,  exercise and live with love in my heart. It helps me be in this very moment rather than wonder what I’m going to wear, whom I should call first when I get home, what will they say.

Here’s the latest version:  This morning my mood is down but I’m not, because there is Love in My Life! Deep breaths are a great accompaniment to Love in my Life. I encourage everyone, young and old, to find a phrase that works to enrich daily life.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

When to Stop Driving -by Renate G. Justin

“Arthur, we think it is time for you to stop driving.”
“Why? I am a fine driver.”
“We observed you driving in the wrong lane yesterday, putting yourself and others in danger.”
“Poppy cock.”
So it went until we finally took my husband’s car keys from his night table while he was asleep.  Promptly he used a spare set and took out his Oldsmobile.  His family had to drive the car away and not tell him where it was to stop his driving.  He was furious--a scenario often repeated, as I knew from my family medical practice where I was consulted about the driving ability of older patients. 
In order to save my son and daughter from a similar scene, I gave my car away when I started to forget names and at times familiar words.  I decided to use the Fort Collins Transfort system to get around, a challenge at times.       
Surrendering car keys is a life-changing moment. In Fort Collins, giving up driving means no more evening entertainment, no plays, concerts or late night movies, no quick run to the grocery store. No Sunday outings except on foot or with friends.  
Bus service is, on most lines, hourly, with long waits if you have to take more than one bus to reach your destination.  In winter sidewalks are covered with snow, and there is no service evenings or Sundays.  From my personal experience, as long as you can walk to the bus, it is possible to plan daytime outings. Errands take longer but can be accomplished.  A real plus is that the bus drivers in Fort Collins are uniformly helpful, cheerful and always ready with a friendly greeting.
How can we tell when the time has come to make the drastic change from private to public transportation?  There are no easy tests to evaluate mental or physical ability.  Most people become more forgetful as they get older, and their reaction times are prolonged.  At what point those factors represent a danger to driving ability is difficult to determine.  Many older adults limit their driving, -- not at night, not in bad weather, not in Denver traffic -- but does that make them safer on the road in Fort Collins?
Drivers over 75 have more non-fatal crashes than younger drivers, most frequently because of failure to yield right of way or obey traffic signals.  Men have more accidents than woman.  Older drivers have more fatalities than younger drivers because they are frail and therefore sustain serious injuries more frequently.  Predictors of accidents are:
  1. Falls in the past two years
  2. Visual and cognitive deficits
  3. A history of previous car crashes
  4. Effects of medication 
Getting lost and near misses, often only witnessed by the driver and not reported, also are predictors of future problems.
Family members, family physicians, even license bureau personnel are reluctant to mandate the difficult change in lifestyle ‘no driving’ represents in spite of the fact that 14% of 75-84 year-old drivers and 20% over 85 have some cognitive impairment, not taking into account visual, hearing and mobility impairment.  The complexity of evaluating an elderly person for adequate functioning becomes clear if you consider that the act of braking a moving car involves:
  1. Motor skills, muscle strength
  2. Balance and normal reaction time
  3. Adequate cognition
Both AAA and AARP have classes for older drivers; most driver-education agencies give road tests to evaluate driving skills.
In all honesty, just as we know when it is time to retire, we also know when it is time to stop driving.  Each individual knows how often he or she forgets words, can’t remember names, makes errors in typing or falls asleep in front of the television.  It does not take superior intelligence to translate those failings to the steering wheel of a car.  Which one of us elders has not made excuses when we ran a red light or ignored a stop sign: “It happens to everyone sometimes,” or “I was thinking of something else.”  We don’t really need our family members, our physician or the police to tell us that our skills have deteriorated and that we might hurt someone by insisting that we are safe drivers.  In the long run, it is up to each individual driver, as he or she ages, to hand over the car keys to the young grandchild and say: “The time has come for you to take over.”

Perhaps, once we have driver-less cars, the transportation problems of the elderly will be solved.  We will be relieved of having to make the difficult decision at what age to give up our mobility and independence, to surrender our car keys.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Beginnings -by Dale Hein

  New beginnings can be merely restarting again on a familiar path.  A truer new beginning offers an unfamiliar route.  When I retired from Colorado State University 15 years ago, I had future options. 

 I observed many faculty colleagues retire.  Some continued part-time or as a consultant in their profession.   Many retired colleagues indulged in travel or hobbies.  Volunteerism satisfied others. 
Teaching and learning were my passions.  Why not continue in a new venue?  Also, I wanted to explore new intellectual areas outside of my professional life in applied sciences for wildlife conservation. 

 During graduate school, I read C.P. Snow's classic 1959 lecture The Two Cultures, in which he lamented the gulf between scientists and "literary intellectuals.”  When I was immersed in sciences, 
there was never enough time for literature, history, philosophy, or fine arts.  Retirement allowed me to catch up in non-sciences – a new beginning for scholarship.  I wanted to understand my own life beyond my knowledge from sciences and my own experiences.  Humanities could help.  

 Fortunately, I live in a college city with opportunities for adult learning.  CSU offers choices for continuing education in many subjects.  The Osher program at CSU offers courses especially for older non-CSU students.  Front Range Community College is another option. 

 I joined Front Range Forum, an adult education program at Fort Collins Senior Center.  Courses are as diverse as the interests of several hundred FRF members.  In FRF I take or lead many courses in literature, history, philosophy, and even a few in sciences.  What, for example, have I learned in a few of my courses?     

 For 8 weeks I explored the West with Lewis and Clark and then investigated the roles of women in the westward expansion of America.  In Great Ideas of Philosophy, I learned that Plato emanated and explained Socrates' didactic learning.  In classic literature courses, I discovered that Poe innovated the short story format, but that Chekhov and then Munro perfected the genre.  One course, Literature Meets Art, taught me that art reflects and reveals history.  In a course on Walden, Thoreau was not a hermit but a transcendental philosopher and a naturalist.  I learned that science and humanities interact and have common features.  Both build upon earlier scholarship.           

I learned that humanities expand the possible explanations for human behaviors and experiences.    Sciences describe living systems and processes of life.  However, knowledge from the humanities helps me understand my own life.  I learned that themes of human experience reoccur in time and place, e.g., coming-of-age, love, family strife, injustice, cultural conflicts, virtue, etc.

 In retirement, I am thrilled to have found fascinating new beginnings for learning.  Once again, as in childhood, the first day of school is the best day of all, a fresh start into joyful learning. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

On Aging Gracefully -by Barbara Fleming

A recent issue of AARP Magazine features all kinds of ways for people over 50 to avoid aging, to get, as one article puts it, “younger every year.”  Perhaps staving off aging works for some people, at least until it catches up with them (which it will), but in my experience, embracing aging, reaping its benefits, is infinitely more rewarding. I choose to age as gracefully as I can. 
I cannot claim that I have consistently aged gracefully. I have learned through considerable experience, though, that for me resisting the course of nature is not worth the effort it takes. So graceful aging means learning to accept the inevitable and to live around it, being grateful for life’s blessings, and finding productive ways to use my skills to enrich my own life and perhaps to benefit others.
Graceful aging means being able to step away when the time comes. One day a person is in the thick of things, making decisions, carrying responsibilities, doing tasks that seem important, interacting with other busy people. Life has structure and purpose. But then we pass the torch, leaving the decisions and the tasks to others, even knowing they will be done differently. Grace needs to rise to the fore then, allowing that different is not wrong, just different, and that a life stage has passed.
Graceful aging means accepting the exigencies of aging—which can, admittedly, be frustrating to say the least—with courage and adaptability. For me, it means selecting only commitments which I am sure I can fulfill without undue stress or fatigue. It means adjusting my schedule to leave space in my days to rest and relax.
Graceful aging means living day by day but planning and hoping for more days to come. Grace does not have space for fretting about what lies ahead. Practicality is important, of course; I have done the legal paperwork. And then, as aging makes possible, I have let it go and kept going. I still have living to do.
Graceful aging means knowing what brings pleasure and how to find it. It can be, for me, as simple as an afternoon of friendly bridge with compatible people who know it’s just a game. We all have different ways of seeking pleasure, even though they might not be the same when we age as they were in youth. Pleasure could be physical activity, travel, social gatherings and more.  Whatever brings pleasure in the aging years, however, requires adaptation to attendant limitations. Paul Newman was still racing cars well into his seventies, but I’m pretty sure he adjusted for age-related changes in his reactions and vision. Graceful aging takes the body’s changing needs into account, deals with them, and “leans in,” if you will, to enjoy the moment.

No one can suppose that it is simple or easy to age gracefully, or that it happens without an investment of emotional energy, but I believe it is worth the reward—a degree of serenity, opportunities to learn and grow, a lifetime of good memories, the flexibility to choose what to do and how to do it, and the satisfaction of living each day as richly as possible. For me, that is enough. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Holy Smoke! -by Libby James

 I feel lucky. My four children are now AARP eligible, ranging in age from 52 to 57, and all of them have arrived at incredibly interesting intersections in their lives and careers. I feel so fortunate to be able to watch as the action unfolds. 

All are married.  Each family has produced three offspring, now between the ages of 27 and 11. Their parents currently have satisfying, exciting jobs that are keeping them challenged and engaged.

But, as the song says, “The times, they are a changing.” And before very long, it’s a reasonable gamble to say that all or most of my children will be doing something different. It will happen because of outside forces, such as company buyouts and changes or it will happen because they decide to make a change.

My kids worked hard and have been successful enough that they are now in a position to make some life decisions based on factors beyond simply generating income. All but the very youngest of their children will be out of high school by this time next year. Five are already college graduates and another will be in 2017. Three are in or contemplating college, numbers 10 and 11 will graduate from high school in 2017 and the “caboose” will be a middle-schooler next fall.

I believe these parents of my grandchildren are in enviable positions. Yet they are at a time in their lives that while invigorating, are complicated and possibly terrifying. They have spent decades in their careers but are at least another decade away from retirement. Three of them have years of experience in the business world. In varying degrees, because it is impossible to generalize about any of them, they are ready to broaden their horizons, to do something different, to put to use their hard-earned skills and expertise in new ways.

They have the luxury of making their own choices. But before they do, they will have some nitty-gritty decisions to make about how and where they want to live and work. Big house? Small house? One house? Two houses? Big city? Small town? Travel frequently? Stay close to home?  Based in the U.S? Based overseas? Work for someone else? Start a business? Become a consultant? Get involved with volunteer work? That’s only the beginning of a list I think they are going to need to make.

When I turned 50, I remember thinking, “Oh. I guess I’m getting old.” But now 50 seems young to me and I chuckle as I hear my kids talk about aging. It seemed strange to me when Jamie Lee Curtis, age 57, was congratulated by a radio interviewer who praised her for the way she was handling “the aging thing.”

My children all have a zest for life and—to a greater or lesser degree--a gambler gene that will influence what they decide to do with the rest of their lives. The rocking chair isn’t even close for this crew.

I’m staying tuned.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Living With Hope - by Carole Crane

The call came from my internist when I was in a business meeting.  My internist told me I had breast cancer.  She said, “We will work it out together.”  I knew I had someone beside me.

All my life I religiously had annual mammograms, including a few false alarms. Given that no one on my mother’s side had cancer, I wasn’t supposed to get it.  At 67, I expected another false alarm. But it was cancer and an uncommon type at that – triple negative.  Driving home, I seemed to be on automatic pilot, trying to convince myself that the diagnosis was a mistake.  

My much-loved husband, Myles, was a wonderful support.  He was with me all the way, from the first meeting with the oncologist and the other physicians (I did need him at the doctors’ appointments to help me remember what they said), through all the tests, the lumpectomy, the radiation treatments and the aftermath of that, the support group, the hospital Navigator program, and the emotions of my cancer journey. I was busy— going from one appointment to another, working, and getting tired from radiation, although Myles and I had good times at my radiation appointments five days a week.  We did jigsaw puzzles, talked to the other patients and heard their stories, ate snacks and laughed.  It was good to laugh.

I discovered a lot of support in Fort Collins for women with breast cancer—support groups, neighbors, friends, relatives, and service providers.  The caring from physicians, nurses and other hospital staff was wonderful.  Everyone I encountered taught me about hope, positive attitude and maintaining a sense of humor. So many kind people walked with me through this time in my life. I was overwhelmed by the generosity, graciousness, and good wishes.

Inside I was somewhat of a different Me than the one on the outside.  I cried, didn’t sleep at times, wondered what all this meant, and questioned my future.  With all that, I also knew I would fight, and fight I did.  Myles made sure I ate the right foods; I went back to exercising as soon as I was able; I continued working every day; I prayed; I had loads of hope; I found inner strength.  And by the time all the treatments had concluded I had gotten back my confidence and spirit until…

December, 2014, just three years later, when I participated in genetic testing and learned I had a defective gene, BRCA1.  A mammogram revealed another, but different, cancer in the same breast as before.  This time I was a different Me inside and out.  Myles and I made some tough decisions about treatment.  I chose to have a mastectomy and hysterectomy and decided not to have reconstruction nor take the customary five years of pills.  

Unlike the first time, I started this second journey with confidence, hope, spirit and fight.  I discovered that hope is a powerful weapon against fear and sadness.  I will never let go of it. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Banish dull moments, but not reflective ones - by R. Gary Raham

Seventy-year-old male introverts confined to book- encrusted basements rarely succeed in quests for health and happiness. As a writer, I also spend lots of time wallowing in the mangrove swamp of my own mind, hoping to be ambushed by clever ideas. But I’ve learned to take off my hip boots now and then to explore some of the many real-world options available to seniors in Northern Colorado. Regular bouts of pseudo extroversion lead to serious dividends: exposure to new ideas, new human contacts, and a chance to enjoy Colorado’s great outdoors, to name just three. And that last option often leads to reflective moments that make my personal swamp more sublime.

For example…
If you are male and fifty plus, you may enjoy playing tennis to start your day. Youngsters (50-59), geezers (60-69), and super geezers (70 and above) meet at either Rolland Moore Park or CSU tennis courts (depending on the season) every day of the year. (Contact Richard Aust at rlaust@q.com for more information.)

My wife joins other women and men who like to run, jump, and throw things—like javelins and shot puts. They meet on a semi-regular basis to practice, often at CSU’s outdoor track on College, and participate in Senior Olympics and Masters Track and Field. They build strong friendships along with rigid muscles. (See www.coloradomasterstrackandfield.club) Colorado State, through their Adult Fitness program, also provides access to their track and weight room facilities for a modest monthly fee (http://www.hes.chhs.colostate.edu/outreach/adultfitness/

If you possess itchy teacher genes, you may enjoy volunteering for the City of Fort Collins Master Naturalist Program. After a six-week training program, you will qualify to lead nature programs to entertain and educate adults and children in the town’s natural areas. (https://naturetracker.fcgov.com/) Larimer County also has a similar program (http://www.larimer.org/naturalresources/volunteer/).

Rock, mineral, and gem enthusiasts can join the Fort Collins Rockhounds’ Club (www.fortcollinsrockhounds.org). During the summer they take many field trips, usually in Colorado and Wyoming, and they hold a gem and mineral show every March. The Western Interior Paleontological Society (www.westernpaleo.org) based in Denver provides those interested in fossils many opportunities for programs and field trips.

If you’re the artsy type, look into volunteer opportunities with the Fort Collins Museum of Art (http://www.ftcma.org/) or the Loveland Museum (http://www.lovelandmuseumgallery.org/volunteer/). Writers might want to consider The Northern Colorado Writers (NCW) and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). See www.rmcscbwi.org and www.northerncoloradowriters.com. Published authors may join the Colorado Authors league (www.coloradoauthors.org/)

So, after a day hunting fossil ammonites or discussing Paleo-Indian discoveries at the Lindenmeier site north of Wellington, I return to my basement and wade back into my mangrove swamp. But now I see the glitter of ideas on every rain-soaked bush with new clarity. The air smells fresher. Even the mosquitoes of daily life buzz with a certain perverse charm. I love to see potentially dull moments burnished to shiny, if sometimes imperfect, gems of reflection.