Broken Chair

Last week, one of my tennis partners and I found ourselves in a heart to heart talk about aging. Her husband recently had a stroke and can’t speak. She is his fulltime caregiver. “There are so many years behind me,” she said sadly, “and so much fewer ahead.”  So true.

 A few days later, a friend confided, “Aging is hard. I never knew it would be this hard. Sometimes I wonder if I have the strength for it.” She just got out of the hospital after what she thought was a routine bronchitis, which she’d had before. This time, she couldn’t shake it alone.

 Another emailed after taking a cruise to say that he had, “really wanted to hike through Europe” but feared his legs might not hold him up. Instead, he “saw it mostly through my cabin window.” Still another told me that she is, “terrified of falling.   I’ve put night-lights every six feet in my house. If I fall again, I’m dead. That’s it.” She recently had a hip replaced and the recovery took almost a year.

 I could chalk my friends off as being ‘alarmists’ or ‘overly pessimistic,’ but they echo my own sentiments. I, too, have set myself a daily routine to maximize safety and minimize stress. I swim, but only so far, so as not to overtax my shoulders. I walk, but avoid hills, so as not to overstress my knees. I eat healthy, nap, meditate, do mild yoga, read enlightening books and practice music daily to keep my synapses sharp.

 However, all of this moderation only carries one so far. There is no accounting for the surprises that life can throw your way. This afternoon, I made a salad and went outside to enjoy it in the sunshine. As I sat down on the chair, the seat underneath me gave way. Not only did I jolt my joints but my lovely salad spread itself all over the pavement.

 Apparently, there’s good reason for all of us to take extra precautions. Right now, the accidental death rate is up 12% in the US. Why? Falls among the elderly and drug overdoses. Shakespeare, describing impending death in Hamlet said this: “And by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” For now, I’ve decided to appreciate those ‘shocks.’ It means that I’m still here to tell you about them.  










healthy fats

 15 years ago, my doctor put me on a low fat diet because my cholesterol was high. I followed it for a good 12 years, just long enough to watch my hair thin, my fuse shorten and my memory fuzz. It barely put a dent in my cholesterol, although my good cholesterol dropped and my bad zoomed skywards.

 In the last 30 years, Americans have lowered their fat intake by 10% yet obesity has doubled and heart disease remains the #1 killer! Due to a flawed study in the 70’s, (which did not take into account, smoking, carbohydrate intake and exercise), we were led to believe that high fat cholesterol foods are bad for us. Not true.

 Science has now discovered:

  1. DHA & EPA, the 2 omega-3 fatty acids in fish—are more effective than psychotherapy and antidepressants in treating depression.
  2. The fats in fish can improve symptoms of ADHD in children.
  3. Omega-3’s have been found to reduce acts of aggression among prisoners.
  4. The National Institute of Health found that members of the US military with the lowest omega-3 levels also have the highest risk of committing suicide.
  5. Your brain is 60% fat and needs cholesterol to function well! People who eat more saturated fat reduce their rate for developing dementia by 36%.
  6. Healthy saturated fat reduces inflammation and encourages the liver to dump its’ own fat cells which makes it function more effectively.
  7. Saturated fatty acids, especially those found in butter and coconut, help white blood cells to recognize and destroy invading viruses and bacteria.
  8. Eating fat, particularly avocadoes, regulates the production of sex hormones, helps to repair tissue, preserves muscle and improves sexual function.
  9. Polyunsaturated fats, which the body can’t make, are essential for normal body functions. They reduce harmful LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL.

 According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating good quality high-fat foods will prevent the rising epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and reverse the growing numbers of people suffering weight-related heart problems. If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: 46,835 women were instructed to eat a low-fat diet. After 8 years, there was only a 1-pound difference in weight from their fat-eating sisters and there was ZERO difference in their heart disease, cancer or death rates. So, excuse me while I go munch my macadamias.



mirror mirror

While Christmas shopping, I stopped into Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up a larger oven mitt for my husband. Lately, he’s been cooking up a storm and mine is much too small for his hands. While there, I noticed a woman my age staring at herself in the above mirror. Now I don’t know about you but the last thing I want for Christmas is a $200 mirror that lights up AND magnifies my face up to 5 times its’ size!

 But apparently this woman did. Her husband, however, was not such an easy sell. He was astounded by the price tag and kept staring hard into the mirror, as if trying to figure out just what the heck she saw in that thing. Maybe it was like the magic mirror in Snow White and was telling her that she was the, ‘fairest of all,’ but somehow I didn’t think so.

 At one point, he even raised his voice and said, “Jesus, Lorraine. No one should have to spend that kind of money just to look at their own face. You already know what it looks like by now. Besides, it’s beautiful to me. That’s all that matters.” I was impressed by the way he finessed his way out of that one, cuz moments later, they both left happy.

 As soon as they did, I hustled over and stared hard into that mirror. Fortunately, I wasn’t wearing my glasses, for even without the lights on, it was a startling sight. My face was about the size of a cantaloupe, my pores looked like the surface of the moon after multiple Apollo landings and my nose clearly resembled the big dipper. Yikes!!

 This afternoon my husband came home from the ophthalmologist who just prescribed him, ‘blue light blocking’ glasses to wear when driving at night. Apparently, removing this band from the visible spectrum enables us to see better in the dark and also protects our eyes. Gosh, if they can do that, surely they can make those, ‘rose colored’ glasses for real, right? Until then, I shall muddle along happily seeing through my ‘glass darkly,’ without spending one, single, solitary cent.   




hiking w: Herb

An older friend of mine recently asked me to hike with him. He said it would be easy on my knees and I’d love the view so I said, ‘Sure.’ He arrived with his walking stick, water bottle and a grand sense of confidence. As I looked up at the trail he had chosen for us, I remarked, “Gosh! This looks pretty steep!” “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “It’s really easy. I’ve done this hike many, many times.”

 What he had forgotten was that he had not done this particular hike in more than 15 years. For less than 5 minutes later, after slipping on gravel and struggling to get our footholds, we both had to turn around. It was hard for him to give up and I could see the disappointment in his face. In his mind, this exact hike had once been truly easy for him.

 Funny how we remember things, isn’t it? Science says that our memories are often faint and altered recollections of what actually transpired. They have now discovered that each time we recall one, it actually takes on a slightly, different tenor. A recent article in Science Digest says, “Your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.” We have 86 billion neurons in our brains to keep them humming and yet? Apparently that’s not enough to keep our memories both exact and intact.

 Not long ago I said to my husband: “Remember when we used to go dancing?” His reply? “Honey, we only danced when we were dating, not once we got married. I think you’re confused.” I was dumbfounded. Apparently, dancing with him was SO memorable that 37 years has not extinguished my memory of it. Then again, his memory may not be accurate and maybe we’ve been dancing all along.






This is where I found myself last week, registering for Medicare. Yes, that program for OLD people; the one my grandmother was on for as long as I can remember. The whole process felt like a dream that someone—anyone–else should be doing but me. And yet? Here is where I find myself: almost 65. It’s not that I don’t own the years. I just can’t quite come to grips with the fact that now they own me.

 If you look at the statistics—and I do—they are sobering: 63% of folks over 65 are in need of long-term care. The probability of my becoming disabled or cognitively impaired is 68%. Finally there is this: 69% of us will develop disabilities before we die and 35% of us will enter a nursing home! ‘Not me,’ I can hear you saying. Well, I’m saying it, too, but talk is cheap.

 It’s hard enough to face one’s own mortality without having to sign on the dotted line about it. I also have to, “Choose a plan from A to N.” What that really means is: do I pick the Pollyanna plan which says that I’m healthy, will live forever and nothing bad will ever happen to me? Or, do I pick the plan that has me covered if I break every bone in my body, contract cancer and have only 6 weeks to live?

 In times like these, I often refer to the wisdom of noted neurologist and philosopher, Viktor Frankl, who wrote, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It is a book that I read in my youth and one which speaks to me still.       

 “The pessimist observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. The optimist removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it carefully away. He reflects with pride and joy on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What does it matter to him that he is growing old? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has? ‘No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered.”

 Ah, clearly I should face this new reality with the spirit of possibility and carry on.   N’est-ce-pas?


bruised hand

 Aging causes us to lose our brain-processing speed. Typically, we lose a tenth of a second of brain speed per decade from age 20 on. This minute change is very difficult to notice, even for the most tuned-in individuals, because aging occurs at a constant rate.

Well, I may have lost 45 milliseconds of brain speed in the last 45 years, but I am NOT as slow-brained as the 20-something woman who parked at Trader Joe’s this morning. Not by a long shot. I ask you, who parks a brand new SUV and leaves BOTH the driver’s door and the passenger door WIDE OPEN??

Unfortunately, after circling around, the only spot available was next to this car. So, carefully I pulled in, hugging the right line of my parking spot. I kept looking for the driver but there was no one in sight. As I squeezed myself out, a voice behind me suddenly shrieked: “Oh My God! You parked so close to my car!!!”

I turned to see a young woman holding a, single, grocery bag in her hand. For a moment I was flummoxed. Finally I replied: “Well, unlike you, Dear, I’m parked well within my spot. Intelligent people don’t leave their cars unattended with both doors wide open in a crowded, parking lot.” You’d have thought she might have apologized for her thoughtlessness. Nope. She merely deposited her bag onto the passenger seat, shut the door and huffed her way around to the driver’s side. As she closed that door, the poor man idling next to her, who’d been waiting to pull out, finally did.

What I should have said was: “Darlin,’ it’s obvious from the way you parked that your pre frontal cortex hasn’t fully formed yet. Lucky for you, time has slowed my brain’s processing speed so that I was actually able to avoid hitting your car as I pulled in. Otherwise, you’d be missing the passenger door right now.”

However, when I returned home I actually did something even dumber. Picking up my hand weights, which I use every day; I began swinging them in big, wide, circles over my head. Just as I came down from the first circle, I misjudged the distance (by a millimeter or millisecond?) and the left weight went slamming into the back of my right hand. The hematoma is huge and the pain immense. Apparently, stupidity has no age barrier. None.






sleepy sky

           Last night, I met a man whose daughter was at the Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas. She had gone with a girlfriend for an evening of fun and celebration. During the melee, her girlfriend was struck by two bullets in the hip and knee. As they tried to flee, she called her dad, and after listening to shots ring out and people scream, the line went dead. He later learned that his daughter was OK but her friend will likely lose her leg.

            We live in a time of terror and instantaneous replay of that terror. The stress it generates in both us and our children can be immense and overwhelming. During World War II, for example, thyroid issues in Americans (mostly stress-induced) more than quadrupled. At the end of the war, those statistics returned to where they had been before the war broke out. 

            But here’s the thing, it isn’t just World Wars or terrorism that cause stress. Living itself can do the job whether it’s anxiety over exams, job performance, marital issues, or merely one’s health. Life, by definition, means destruction ultimately. Aging only adds one more wrinkle to that demise for a blooming rose does not last forever.

            So, while we are here we must learn to keep ourselves peaceful and still in the midst of what is often sheer madness. Yes, we can eat calcium-rich foods, exercise daily, not drink caffeine after 4 PM, go to bed at the same time every night, sprinkle lavender on our pillows and turn off the Internet an hour before bed. But it goes deeper. It means surrounding yourself with people who are joyful and uplifting and avoiding the bitter, negative naysayers. It means ‘unfriending’ those who aren’t really ‘friends,’ or fill their posts with only vengeance and venom. Perhaps true bliss is simply knowing when to, “block sender.” Peace to you, dear readers.