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 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 Colorado State, through their Adult Fitness program, also provides access to their track and weight room facilities for a modest monthly fee (

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. ( Larimer County also has a similar program (

Rock, mineral, and gem enthusiasts can join the Fort Collins Rockhounds’ Club ( 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 ( 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 ( or the Loveland Museum ( Writers might want to consider The Northern Colorado Writers (NCW) and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). See and Published authors may join the Colorado Authors league (

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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Focus on What I can Do -by Marty Marsh

O.k., I confess.  I disliked P.E. in high school.  The only sport for girls was basketball, and I wasn’t interested.  At age 28 my husband challenged me to run to the end of the block, and I couldn’t do it.  That was a wakeup call, and I enjoyed recreational running a few miles a week for the next 30 years.  I felt good and had more energy to work in the classroom with teenagers every day. For me, the key to aging is focusing on what I can do and enjoy, not regretting what I can no longer do.

As I neared 60, I suddenly started feeling some pain in one of my knees.  My choice was to keep running, which I loved, or stop and try something else.  It was difficult at first to change, but I began walking briskly instead.  The point was to be moving, and I was doing that.  I am now 71, and walking is a regular part of my exercise routine.  I also have two new knees, which means I have to modify exercise a bit more. I use walking sticks to hike, and my yoga instructor has helped me modify the routine so I don’t put weight on my knees. I also have a wonderful gardening seat for weeding and deadheading in the garden, so I’m not on my knees. The biggest change in exercise as I’m aging is in my mind—allowing myself to do something that isn’t as strenuous, but keeping up my routines.

I know how important exercise is as I age.  Scientists have found that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities.  People with arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, or depression benefit from regular exercise.  It also helps people with high blood pressure, balance issues, or difficulty walking.

I have learned from my elders.  My father-in-law quit playing chess as he aged because he couldn’t play at a championship level anymore. What a loss! Another friend quit skiing when he wasn’t comfortable on black diamond runs, and years later friends from the senior center convinced him to join their group for a ski trip.  He fell in love with the sport all over again at a vastly different level.

Each morning, when I get up, I look forward to some kind of physical activity.  I plan to continue to keep active and am thankful for what I can do today.  I don’t waste time thinking about what I used to do. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

My Life in History -by Barbara Sharrod

After 9/11 I started recording historical events of my lifetime as I experienced them.  I’d grown up in New York and had recently visited the Twin Towers with husband and children.  We’d sat at a table at Windows on the World, overlooking the Statue of Liberty.  I’d told my daughters that our soda pops cost more than our ancestors possessed when they landed at Ellis Island.
Then I kept going, researching and writing about my birth date, known for the collapse of Galloping Gertie, the third largest suspension bridge in the world.  Next I described the stand- out event:  the assassination of President Kennedy.  One of my students told me the news and my first response was denial.  Along with the country, and perhaps the world, I rushed to my TV set to get the real story.  As I watched, I lived the events:  Walter Cronkite wiping a tear as he reported the time of Kennedy’s death.  The apprehension, jailing and murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.  These killings not only changed history; they changed my world view.  Suddenly I knew that evil is real, random, unfair and powerful.  My spiritual life became an effort to grasp evil without denying it, explaining it away or living in dread.

Of all my living history, the Civil Rights Movement had the most profound impact. I grew up in a New York neighborhood that was considered “integrated,” a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds and religions.  But there were no people of color, and later I realized that that was intentional.  It was unspoken but understood that homes weren’t sold to non-whites.  Later, black kids from the new project were bused into my school.  Finally one of my favorite TV entertainers-- Nat King Cole--was driven off the air by racism.  

In college I signed a petition in support of a Civil Rights demonstration.  When I told my parents, they went ballistic.  They’d seen the Red Scare years.  They’d guided me through the McCarthy hearings.    Together we’d celebrated the courage of Attorney Joseph Welch and broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow.  They’d helped bring McCarthyism to its well-deserved and long-overdue end, but not before it caused neighbors and friends to lose reputations, jobs, incomes and personal safety because they’d signed a petition.  Hence my parents’ fear that my signature could come back to haunt me.  When I read years later of the dossiers kept on Martin Luther King by the head of the FBI and by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, I knew my parents’ fears were not unfounded.

My handwritten record also includes inventions (The Pill, computer, cell phone), Supreme Court decisions, wars, having babies in the 1970’s, and the expansion of civil rights to women and gays.  Someday it will let my grandchildren read a personal view of a time they will only know from a distance.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Memory - by Dale Hein

 Susan arrived at my faculty office for her appointment.  She had been my advisee for three years and was enrolled in two of my courses.  I knew Susan well, but when I greeted her I could not remember her name.  Finally it came floating up in my memory.  A few days later the same thing happened with David.  I was 57 years old.  

Over the next decade, my ability to rapidly recall names and some words gradually faded. I had previously recalled names easily, usually knowing all students by name in my courses, even 50 or more, within a few weeks.  But then, even in small classes, I began having to point at students whom I knew well but could not call by name for class discussion.  I no longer was the smartest person in the room, and I retired from CSU at age 66.  

I learned to say, “Having a senior moment.”  Lately, I admit to “memory lapses.”  I fear perhaps progressing to “pre-dementia” that my doctor once mentioned.  “Early senility” sounds like inoperable cancer of the memory.  Few of my senior friends will mention the dreaded a-word.  

My doctor advised crossword puzzles, acquiring new knowledge, physical activity, and good nutrition.  He knows there is no cure for the a-word.  

I write copious post-it notes to myself.  I say my name when meeting a casual friend, hoping s/he will reciprocate.  I keep note cards with lists of words I may want to recall. 
I work NY Times crossword puzzles.  I take Front Range Forum adult courses at the Senior Center.  I walk and exercise rigorously for an octogenarian.  I do not buy mail order cures for memory loss!

There are advantages to memory lapses.  I enjoy rereading classics from my youth long after I have forgotten why I loved them.  Many memories from long ago remain vivid and precious.  Recent memories are more often ephemeral.

My greatest concern is end-of-life options.  Final relief from extreme pain may be available but not relief from a living death of the a-word.  Emerging choices for death-with-dignity require conscious informed consent near the end.  What if I cannot remember where I hid my final option?  

If you know me casually, will you say your name when we meet?  Do not ask whether I remember my own name!  I hope I can remember to send this item to my editor.  I could tie a string around my finger.  Would I remember why it is there?  We all live in the now.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Zella, My Favorite Retirement Project -by Scott Marsh

Almost ten years ago, my mother called saying that the sister of a good friend of hers had a farm covered with old cars and trucks, and she needed some help.  I called Zella, 84 at the time, met her a few days later at her farm near Pierce, and found her mourning her husband and totally overwhelmed by the massive number of vehicles and implements on the farm.

Zella smells of mice.  Her home, shop, cars, clothes, and farm smell of mice.  I am sure that at least a million mice call her shop building home and many more her old two-story house.  Early in our relationship, I asked her if she had considered using mouse poison.  Her reply was, "I could never kill one of God's creatures."  Her face is lined and rugged with 93 years of hard times, good times, and farming.  Zella's hands are gnarled into fists by arthritis, but she smiles and laughs quickly and often.  Her long gray hair blows around her face as we sit on her stoop and talk.  I probably only get out to see her about once a month, and it is nice to see how excited she is to have some company.  Born in 1918 and growing to adulthood very poor during the Great Depression, she brings that experience into every conversation.  Zella is convinced that another depression is imminent, and she said recently that such an experience would be good for the current generation of "throw it away" young people.

Her gray- green eyes show great sadness, and every time we talk she mentions how much she misses Leo, her husband of 61 years.  Although he died a year before I met Zella, I have gotten to know him by working on his treasures and hearing Zella's stories about him.  He was a photographer, musician, piano tuner, mechanic, welder, and whatever else he needed to be on the farm.  His five old tractors each had a different implement so he wouldn't have to change them for different jobs, and I think he really liked keeping the old machines running.  Everywhere I look on the farm, there is a testimonial to making do with little or nothing.  Unfortunately, when he died after a five-year illness he left the farm covered with unfinished projects - cars, trucks, tractors, and farm equipment, some dating back a century.  I have sold ten cars, five trucks, five tractors, and two motorcycles, the newest of which was a 1975 Cadillac and the oldest a 1936 John Deere tractor.  

I have had great fun hauling Zella's vehicles and implements home, getting them working, and finding someone who wants to buy them— the ultimate in recycling, since nearly all of this equipment would probably have been hauled off as junk.  Zella gets a little money and buyers are happy.  In the process, I have the fun of getting to know Zella, working on her old equipment, and seeing her happiness in receiving cash for the items that meant a lot to her husband but were a burden to her.  She appreciates what I do for her and loves my company, but also I think she sees some of Leo in me.

This story was written in 2012.  Recently Zella’s niece called to inform me that Zella had passed away behind the wheel of her van after feeding and spending time with her cats, whom she loved.  I miss her.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Live Long and Prosper - by Gary Raham

    February 23, 2015 Time magazine declared that babies born today might live to be 142—not quite as long as a Vulcan, but I’m sure even otherStar Trek fans were impressed. The article emphasizes the advances in technology that might extend lives. I contend one would need to cultivate other skills to survive techno changes, multiple marriages, the deaths of friends and family, world news depression, and the mischief of great-great-great-great-grandchildren.
            Here’s my three-step formula for surviving the prospect of ultra aging: 1) Get smart (or at least educated). 2) Keep moving; stay connected. 3) Cultivate a deep passion for something.
Get educated
Education provides options. I earned degrees in biology but never became a field biologist, although one professor suggested I might find a nice snail endemic to a tropical island so that my daily research could be capped off with a Mai Tai and a dip in a quiet lagoon.
I initially chose to enter the honorable, if underpaid, profession of teaching, but because I was more interested in biology than biology students—and had a flare for art—I ultimately parlayed my education and obsessions into science writing.  My degrees gave me the credentials to do that.
Studies show that educated people tend to live longer, either because they can read medical journals if they have to, or because their education casts a stronger beam of light into the dark alleys of an increasingly complex world.
Keep Moving & Stay Connected
            Dick Van Dyke titled his recent book Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging. He knows. He’s a song and dance man graced with talent and good humor. Exercise reduces weight and keeps body parts in working order. Give your thumbs a rest and walk, run, play tennis (my favorite), bike, hike, climb stairs and play ball instead of fantasize about it.
            A younger me thought a writer just had to apply seat to chair and write, but if chair-bound writers don’t also apply feet to the ground often enough, words wither in a sluggish brain.
Despite what you hear on the news, we humans also display an outstanding ability to care for and help one another. We need the personal connections and passions that being with friends and family provides. People with strong ties to others live longer and happier lives.
Cultivate a passion
            Some of us are born with interests that last a lifetime; some need to cultivate them. Painters paint, writers write, and explorers search the world to find a place they can call home. Some live to serve a well-defined god; others find the divine woven into the very fabric of the cosmos. People with passions seem to drive their carriages farther and longer, fueled by wonders both real and imagined.
            Spock (and his alias, Leonard Nimoy) didn’t live long because he was a Vulcan. He lived long to contemplate a universe he found endlessly “faaascinating.”

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Senior Romance - by Richard and Jane Thompson

He: It all started at the Alamo in 1999 — where Rich proposed to Jane by drawing a line in the sand which she crossed to accept.

 She: Wait a minute. The romance really started in San Francisco when your younger son informed me that just before she died, his mom told you to marry me. That was a surprise even though we had been friends for 20 years. I had been a widow for seven years and needed to know if we could become more than friends.

He: I had not been a widower that long, but long enough to realize what so many of our age have experienced in losing a spouse. I also knew that since we had both been blessed by long, happy marriages — 32 years in your case and 42 in mine — we both knew what it means to cherish memories and love and yet move on to new lives.

She: We took enough time to explore our relationship before I crossed the line at the Alamo. I learned how generous you were both to me and my children and I think you learned that I could deal with adversity and we had similar senses of humor. That really was the beginning.

 He: Now in our 80’s we still make time for romance but it looks a little different. As people age and hair thins, bellies bulge, hearing goes and we keep losing our keys, we need to remember that love is patient and kind and forgiveness is more important than ever.

She: And loving involves being attentive to the little things. I really appreciate your doing the dishes after dinner so I can answer my email. There is nothing like playing and exercising and working together as a team.

He: And enduring love should be more than gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes. It also means directing our vision and efforts toward causes in the community beyond ourselves as an expression of our shared spirituality.

She: Definitely, but we need to spice up the romance too. I love that you often suggest sitting down in the living room by the fireplace with a glass of wine and a snack to talk about the day’s events or think of travel adventures we would both enjoy. Our weekly date nights with dinner out and a movie or a play give us another chance to celebrate life together

He: Romance certainly includes intimacy. We know that “making love” is more than sexual relations. Couples of any age need to remember that the best four letter definition of intercourse is talk. Communication, which also means truly listening, keeps relationships growing.

She: We know that healthy people even in their later years can enjoy happy, fun, intimate relationships. He and She: Both of us, in the lyrics from Funny Girl, want to always be able to say, “Make each day Valentine’s Day!”

Sunday, January 17, 2016 Last! - by Nancy Phillips

Books. Was there anything more wonderful? Barely 6 years-old, clutching my very first library card, a passport to an entire building full of books, I could scarcely breathe. I have had many library cards since then and never gotten over my love of books. I never dreamed I would write one.

As an elementary school child, I wrote “poetry,” doggerel really. In high school, I tried my hand at short stories. Sentimental stuff. Embarrassing. I don’t even like short stories. After college, it was a job, marriage and children. Only after the children had become adults and moved on to their own lives did I rekindle my desire to put things into words. I learned about a writer’s group and hesitatingly asked if I could take part.

As a counselor in a shelter for battered women, I wrote about social workers, clients and children. I cranked out hundreds of pages. A novel? My fellow critiquers thought so. They were just being kind. I made a clean copy, put it in a box and hid it in a closet.

 Over the next 20 years, I produced about 20 manuscripts. I printed each novel and consigned it to the closet. Only once did I get up my nerve to send sample pages to a publisher. They came back with such dizzying speed I knew my writing wasn’t good enough.

The real publishers wanted blockbusters from known authors, or something by a celebrity. “We should start our own publishing company,” somebody said. “Vanity press,” warned another. “Not anymore,” a third chimed in.

Small regional publishers were springing up around the country, offering work by local writers in unique settings, and it was selling.

One of the group knew how to prepare print-ready manuscripts for companies that could turn them into an actual book, with a cover and pages. “Nancy, your Leadville book would be perfect. It’s finished, it’s local, it’s historic. People besides us would love it.”

Gulp. Did I dare? Already in my 70s, I wouldn’t do it any younger.

Thus began a period where every member of our group pored over the manuscript, stalking typos, inconsistencies, errors. Photos were gathered to recreate1880 Leadville on the cover. Our publishing company, now named Penstemon Publications, bought a block of ISBN numbers, as others were eager to see their work touched by the magic of print. A local published author wrote a blurb for the back cover.

Chin up. “Ship it,” I said, and we did. In less than two weeks, the print copy was in my hands. I could scarcely breathe as I held it in my hands. I read it from cover to cover and ordered a hundred copies. Ten days later, three huge boxes with the word heavy stamped on them arrived at my house. There they were, as perfect as we could make them. Books. And people wanted to buy them.

Now, a year later, it just might be time to take another look in that closet