Your Experience With Joint Surgery/Replacements?

I’m writing a book about preparing for and recovering from joint surgeries on knees, hips, shoulders, ankles, feet. It will be a nitty gritty guide, patient to patient, with tips and hints for getting the best outcome from these surgeries.

Am especially interested in hearing about your knee and hip replacements.

Please write back with any experiences or opinions about such surgeries:

Here are some things to write about:

What difference did the surgery make in your life?

What made you decide to do it?

Would you do it again? Did you know what you were getting into? What, if any, were the surprises?

Did you have good pain control? What meds were used?

What, if anything, did you find hard about recovery? Was any equipment useful? Walkers, leg lifters, etc. What were the biggest problems?

What advice would you have for others?

Did anything really help in recovery? The kind of help you had? Friends and family? Physical therapists? How did you handle daily living? Food, getting around?

Did you feel you got good discharge instructions from the hospital?

Did you go to a rehab/nursing facility after the hospital? If yes, what was your opinion?

Did your family come in to help? Was there conflict about what to do, how to do it, etc?

How did you handle any frustration, depression during recovery? What got you through the post-op nights?

What are your observations about family and friends who have had joint surgeries?

Really, I am interested in anything you have to say. I will not use names if I use your quotes in the book. If I think your remarks still identify you, your family, your hospital or doctor, I will change your location and leave out those names, but I don’t change your opinions or experience! Don’t worry about grammar, lovely writing, doing it just so…just write.

I very much appreciate anything you care to send about the experience. If you want to forward this to anyone who has had joint surgery, please do so. Love to hear from them too.

Send privately to me at mel58@mac.com, or leave a public reply below. Thanks. Mel

Posted in Health, joint surgeries, Personal | 2 Comments

Two Valuable Free Subscriptions Plus Retirement Urges

Trying to keep up to date on every issue connected with growing older—well, that used to be a task. But one great free site makes it all easy. Subscribing to the free weekly newswire at http://www.savvysenior.com will convey everything you need to know about life after 60. (OK, it doesn’t tell you how to cut your toenails if you can’t reach your toes, but it will help on most every other front.)

Another favorite here at Our Geezer Home is http://www.peoplespharmacy.com. That too is a free subscription and is full of useful and up-to-date health information, both mainstream and home remedies. Subscribers will also get special health and pharmaceutical alerts when important items hit the newswires, such as a drug being taken off the market because of its harmful effects on consumers, one of whom may be you.

Subscribe to those two free sites and you will be ahead of the aging game.

Why Am I Telling You This? It’s the R word, Retirement

After almost 40 years of writing professionally, I am tired. I started writing professionally back in the 1970’s. I have written four non-fiction books for major publishers, been nationally syndicated for a few years, had regular columns in the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Huffington Post. I’ve also written for the Oprah magazine, Glamour and Working Women. Those things along with a ton of work for Silicon Valley corporations have kept me afloat in addition to with some surprise consulting jobs for Gallo Wines and the CA Olive Industry.

As for aging issues, I got an MA in Gerontology at USC when I turned 60 and since then I’ve written one book about aging, HOT GRANNY, and hundreds of newspaper columns about life in the geezer lane. Also on the aging front, I had one of the few weekly radio shows in the country that was just about aging at KVMR-FM.

I’ve had the honor of doing national book tours, doing interviews on national TV, one of which is on YouTube evidently forever, and you can find it if you Google: Mel Walsh CBS. (There you will find clueless me who forgot to take off her red socks and walking shoes before going on the air.)

Looking back at it all, it was more than I ever expected out of life—but now I want to do something different. I’m 77. Average age of planet departure in the US is 78. Now or never is the time to have fun, do some art, smell the roses and kiss my profession fondly goodbye.

But and however, I just didn’t want to leave you all high and dry when it came to info about the later years. So consider subscribing to http://www.savvysenior.org and http://www.peoplespharmacy. They are gold mines of good information as is http://www.mayoclinic.com if you want to research any ailment or body glitch.

Thank you very much for subscribing here and I wish you all a very good New Year. My motto for the year is taken from my friend June who has this to say about aging and having fun in the later years: Eat the popsicle before it melts.

So eat your popsicles. Love, Mel

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Happy You, Happy Heart

I guess we ordinary people always suspected it—moods can effect our heart health. But we mostly heard this in a downer way, people dying of broken hearts.

However, what’s getting attention on the medical landscape these days is the opposite idea—-people can live longer because of a happy heart.  The Rx suggested here is joy, pleasure, contentment and yes, happiness.

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Is there evidence that happiness promotes heart health?

You bet. Just consider this: Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center in New York followed 1,739 healthy adults over 10 years, taking periodic measurements of their negative emotions—depression, hostility, anxiety—and their positive emotions—joy, enthusiasm and pleasure. They also monitored the state of individual heart health or heart disease. Without boring you with details about how they controlled for this or that, what they found was a correlation between the state of the emotions and the health of the heart. Happier people had healthier hearts.

Happiness Seemed to Ward Off Heart Disease.

This finding and others like it might have major implications for the treatment of heart disease. If heart troubles can be prevented by boosting positive emotions, will doctors prescribe HBO comedy specials, golden labs or whatever else floats your happiness boat?

The team’s leader, Karina Davidson, Ph.D., said the study was the first to examine the relationship between clinically-assessed positive emotions and heart disease. She called for more research, but said people should try and put fun into their daily routines, rather than enjoying life in short bursts.

Binge Funning

“Some people wait for their two weeks of vacation to have fun and that would be analogous to binge drinking, ” she said. “If you enjoy reading novels, but never get around to it, commit to getting 15 minutes or so of reading. If walking or listening to music improves your mood, get those activities in your schedule. Essentially, spending a few minutes each day truly relaxing and enjoying yourself is good for your mental health and may improve your physical health as well.”

Other studies came to a similiar conclusion. Julia Boehm, Harvard School of Public Health, did a meta-analysis of the many studies about health and happiness. Her findings? Optimistic people have half the risk of a first heart attack than pessimistic, negative people. The stress associated with negative emotions evidently harms the heart and vessels.

Tragedy: Get Outta Here

Which gets me to the subject of what we choose as “entertainment” at the end of the day. Call me a wanna-be Pollyanna, but since life can be tough, it’s a daily challenge to keep spirits buoyant and I don’t want my movies and TV to bring me down when I’ve worked all day to be Zen and pleasant. So count me among the people who will not currently be seeing the movie “Amour” about the disintegration and death of older people. Why pay to face death when you can get it for free in your own life? Me, I guard my moods and can barely take the passing of Michael Crawley on Downton Abbey.

Same goes for news. Almost all bad and depressing. I read newspapers just enough to know what is going on and it’s my husband, Cranky Pants, who keeps Brian Williams company at the end of the day.

Any Cautions?

Sure. While the Columbia study is regarded by the cardiac community as the one that most clearly suggests happier people have lower rates of heart disease. a correlation does not prove cause and effect. More research is needed to prove that happiness is an evidence-based Rx for heart disease. Also note: this study does not mean any of us can ignore established risk factors—smoking, high blood pressure, inactivity and wallowing in saturated fat—my once favorite form of edible entertainment.

So what to do?

 You probably already know what makes you happy. Unless you have a heroin habit, do those things more often. Some of us, though, have forgotten some of the simple joys of childhood and need to excavate them from memory. I am currently enjoying peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Benny Goodman and sunrises.

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Same to ya.

Thanks to Stephen Bowler and CarbonNYC for their photos and please post any hints you have for staying on the sunny side of the street after 60.

Posted in Health, Heart, Moods | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Why You Need a Therapy Dog in Retirement

305572250_4b67f52ff2_zWell, ok, maybe you don’t, but I do. Trouble is, they don’t make the kind of dog I want. There are therapy dogs trained to help people with disabilities, to hear for the hearing-impaired, to help people convalesce in hospitals and nursing homes, to help veterans recover from the trauma of war. The airport in San Jose, CA even has therapy dogs walking the terminals to calm those anxious about flying, the theory being that if you pet a dog, you will forget that your airplane is going to go down in flames over Kansas.

No, I want a therapy dog for the money-impaired retiree, we who are trying to recover from the post-traumatic shock of the market and housing meltdowns of recent years. Maybe you too now need some soft fur therapy if you lost 40 to 50% of your house’s value…the house that was going to be the family piggy bank since you hadn’t saved 8 times your annual income for retirement. (Who actually does this?)

Me, I’d like one therapy dog for past losses it and another puppy for current investments yielding under ½ of 1% percent, which is the current overnight rate, lower than inflation, higher by a smidge than absolutely nothing at all. Actually, it is nothing at all since inflation is beating it by several points. I’d call that dog Benny after Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve.

What I Can’t Get Over

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I can get over the notion of people in retirement becoming the newly poor…not nouveau riche, but nouveau pauvre…but I can’t get over the idea that we are not marching in the streets over federal policy that denies savers and investors any livable return. Well, maybe we have not marched in the streets since the Vietnam War, but we could at least write letters, talk to our representatives and prod the AARP to get on board this issue.

Now I hear a lot of reasons why the rates are so low—economic recovery being the most parroted—-but nobody talks about the benefits to the biggest debtor of them all, a federal government in the hole for over 16 trillion dollars. Call me paranoid for having these thoughts, but if I appointed the head of the Federal Reserve, the guy who sets the interest rates for my debts, I’d pick someone who kept the interest rates near zero.

And so it came to pass.

And who else benefits from these next to nothing interest rates?  Certainly not responsible retirees, savers, holders of CD’s, treasury notes and other once reliable instruments of generating income for us who are either retired or let go in a downsizing.

What To Do?

First, listen to what most sensible and honest investment advisors say: Just because you are not as well off as you used to be, don’t go off chasing high-risk investments promising higher returns. Risk goes up as promised returns go up, yet cash-strapped retirees, too old to chase risk, are falling for investment schemes that promise high returns. An “investment advisor” told me to put all my money into marinas in Australia. I won’t even get into what friends and friends of friends say except one acquaintance wanted me to finance triangles under which one could sit to get magical vibes from the universe. He also wanted to give me other magical vibes—a two-fer.

Instead, I resisted both offers and put my assets into balanced funds at Vanguard. www.Vanguard.com. Vanguard doesn’t promise the earth or get you into docks on a far away continent. Instead, they bring you down to earth and have lots of good information on their site. Even if you think of yourself as investment illiterate, Vanguard will help newbies understand what to do in these unstable times. In a simple online survey, if you put in what you are willing to endure in terms of risk, they will suggest what diversified and balanced investments might make sense.

Which gets me back to my therapy dogs—dogs to calm economic assaults, money worries, and the fantasies of eating cat food when I’m 95.

So what kind of dog would make the best therapy dog for wallet worries? Is your own dog a best friend when you read your bank statements? Are there therapy cats? Please post comments and photos below.

Woof. And thanks to Pohan, Lindyi and Tuppus for dog pics.

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Posted in Decisions, Money, Retirement, Scams | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Meet Your Future Geezer

Old Couple by Josh Hill

Old Couple by Josh Hill

Wonder what you’ll be like as an older person?

Well, researchers at the University of Chicago can polish your crystal ball. They did a study of people aged 57-85—the National Social Life, Heath and Aging Project. They went into people’s homes and asked about health, relationships and sex lives, though how they got honest answers about sexual behavior in face-to-face interviews with a spouse in the next room is a mystery. Their walls must be thicker than mine.

Health Findings: Parfum De Tiger Balm
In the health department, arthritis is one thing these older adults had in common. In the 75+ group, 62.8 % had arthritis, which explains the sweet smell of Tiger Balm in the morning in the homes of older folks—that and our snappy copper bracelets. Among that same older group, though, only 16.8 % reported a heart attack. Is this good news or have those with heart problems already passed into the Great Beyond, beyond the questions of researchers?

Is a mystery.

Statistically, hypertension may also be in your future in that 60% of the same older group—75 to 85—have high blood pressure, which may be related to the fact that 55.2 % of the subject group was also obese. And the younger group is even more rotund—61.2 % of the 57-64 year olds are obese. (I am beginning to feel very self-conscious about the buttercream cupcakes I made last night.)

About Relationships
I hope this won’t ruin your day, but not all older people said they liked to spend time with their partners. Not a recreational choice. Only about 50% of men said they like to spend time with their partners and by the time partnered women got to be over 75 only 47.7 % said they liked to spend time with their honey-buns.

If these results aren’t misprints, we have a problem. Retirement means two people alone in a house all day. Lordy, if you don’t enjoy that, your days are toast.

But here’s the mystery: the vast majority of people in the study said they were happy in their relationships. Maybe the contradiction just translates into what has become a retirement mantra: I married you for life, dear, but not for lunch. Get the heck out of the house.

Now… The Sex Thing
The younger ones in the study had more lifetime sex partners than the people 75+. Forty-seven percent of women 57-64 had more than two lifetime sex partners, while only 20% of the oldest women had more than two sex partners in their lifetimes.

Well, no surprise here. The fast-lane Boomers among the group had reliable contraceptives and Woodstock. The older ones—well, they were pre-pill and pre-rock and probably lived more in the Tony Bennett lane.

Last, when it comes to sex, men stay true to form. While most women 75 and older said sex is NOT an important part of life, 75% of men over 75 said sex is still important.

So go ahead. Put that picture in your crystal ball—it’s going to be marriage counseling in our walkers.

By Tony Alter

Image by Tony Alter

Posted in Family, Growing older, Health, Mates, Mel on Huffington Post, Retirement, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to See Your Invisible Gift

I never thought I’d grow up young.

But, in the 21st century, that’s not unusual. I’m just one of many—women who are 50, 60 or more on the outside, but girls of 20 on the inside. This is the era of young older women—vintage girls—a contradiction, but a truth, an ordinary miracle. Outside may be a bit crinkled, but inside it’s still dewdrops and roses. That leads us vintage girls to big surprises: the faces we see in our mirrors. We ask: Who’s that in my mirror? How could that face possibly belong to me? Looks like my mom.

What we see in a mirror, the outside us, doesn’t match our inside selves and because we don’t feel old, we imagine age has happened to others, but not to us.

“My girlfriends look old, but I’m just in disguise.”

Me, I’m accidently old…hit and run by the passing years—and I’m thinking of making this bumpersticker for my car: MY OTHER AGE IS TWENTY.

Age takes many of us by surprise. Now that’s really funny. Where did we think those birthdays were going? Backwards?

Anyhow, with menopause in the rear view mirror of life, I finally realized I was on the outskirts of age. There could be a huge run of longevity ahead of me and all I knew about it could be put in a nutshell. I just knew that a stretched-out future in retirement was a new thing under the sun, nothing like my grandma’s life—which was tatting, tapioca and tending to her canary until she died younger than I am now. With today’s medical rescues from conditions that used to kill people, some of us could live to be 100. And if that isn’t a demographic miracle, dumb luck pouring down on our heads, what is?

Think about it: Around 1900, people in the US died at the average age of 48. But we’ve been given a reprieve from extinction. Don’t have to die. Not yet. A forty-year gift of life. This is unprecedented in the long history of human existence. In fact, it’s an immense gift, but many are blind to it. Women look at their older bodies and they don’t see the gift because their packaging is wrinkled.

The gift is invisible. They see the package, not the gift.

So here’s my advice. Take it twice a day.

Say this aloud to yourself:

Age is a gift, an invisible gift. Thank you. I’m still alive.

With that perspective you will find an instant cure for wrinkles: You will no longer care about them…it’s just the package, not the gift.

Please add your tips or comments. Mel Walsh is a gerontologist, author and columnist. Her book, HOT GRANNY, is available at Amazon.  Twitter: @MelWalshWriter.

 

Posted in Growing older, Looks | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to Beat the Heat When You’re 50+ and Bikini-Challenged

By Mel Walsh. Published May 29, 2012 in the Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com. 

Summer for Dummies

by ana.gr

         Some days I think I am no smarter than your average roadside weed. That’s because every year, come summer, I have to re-learn the ways to stay cool and comfy when the temp goes over ninety. But then I had to re-read Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care after every birth, so the sieve brain issue is not new for me.  So, should you also need a reminder about how best to take care of yourself in the summer heat, here’s a Summer for Dummies refresher.

by Klearchos Kapoutsis

Take off your clothes That’s a no-brainer for teens, who strip down to short shorts and midriff thingies as soon as school is out. But older people, with each passing decade, seem to cover up more and more of themselves as the years go by. In our culture, the sags and other signs of aging are to be hidden, and so we wear long sleeves and long pants when it’s 100 degrees out. (Ever see beach pics of older people in other cultures? They just don their swimsuits like everybody else. None of this burqa-esgue hiding.)

So take off your clothes. Most of them anyhow. My spies tell me that there are women who even abandon their bras in the summer, not wanting to be wired into an extra layer. A sleeveless tank or cami under a light cotton top takes care of the too-revealing issue. Around the house, panties and a tank are adequate for women and certainly get the seal of approval of Cranky Pants, my mate, who walks around in nothing much himself. Capris (also known as pedal pushers among the older set) are great for going out in the world. Kmart has a range of cotton capris for women that are just $6.98.

Neck coolers These look like rolled bandanna scarves and will keep a person comfortable in the heat. They have little beads sewn inside that will plump up when wet. So first you soak the neck cooler in water to get the beads soaked and expanded. Then you put the scarf on and let the evaporation work to keep you cool. It’s like having your own personal evaporative cooler. Turn the scarf around when the side against the skin gets warm. I keep my extras plumped up and ready to go in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Look in local sports stores for neck coolers. (Yes, neck coolers are a bit dorky, but better dorky than in the ER for heat exhaustion.)

Hand fans I can’t figure out why we in the US seem to have abandoned these. I carry a folding paper fan in my handbag all summer long and can be found shamelessly aflutter when it’s hot. I buy them by the dozen on Amazon—$6.99 for 12, free shipping for Prime members. Great gifts for friends with hot flashes.

Managing the hot days Think Italian or Spanish when it comes to at living in a hot clime. They take the afternoons off for siesta and are active in the cooler parts of the day and evening. So, take a hint from them if you want to hike, run your errands or garden. Do these things in the early morning. Take a nap in the afternoon. (If you’re working, don’t let the boss see you.) Then stay up late and enjoy the starry nights. Even cooking dinner ahead of time in the cool mornings makes sense. Then the main food folderol is already in the bag for the day.

Keeping the house cool Electric fans and air conditioning help out many, but so do simple window shades. Also, opening the house when it’s cool at night and closing it up when it starts to get hot in the late morning will manage the temps. You can go greener by not using the AC 24 hours a day and by setting it to 75 or above. As for electric fans, local hardware stores have some great sales.

Drink It seems silly to remind people to drink water, but the older you get, the more your thirst mechanism goes awry. Keeping a big bottle of water in sight is a good reminder. In sight, in mind.

So stay cool, will ya?

I’ll probably have to write this again next summer.

Please add your tips or comments. If you want an audience of millions, comment on the Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com. Search term: Mel Walsh—to get to this column and others. Mel Walsh is a gerontologist, author and columnist. Her book, HOT GRANNY, is available at Amazon.  Twitter: @MelWalshWriter.

Posted in Growing older, Health, Mel on Huffington Post, What to wear | 2 Comments

Checking Out of Checking In: Why Older Women Still Check Their Luggage and What to Do Instead

Yep, we all know that carryon luggage is the way to travel—no waiting in line to retrieve bags, no items stolen in the airport’s back rooms, no lost luggage or baggage fees. So why doesn’t everyone just carry on?

My guess is that some pack their carryons so heavily they can’t heave them up into the overhead bins, and so they direct their luggage to the belly of the plane, their suitcases then vulnerable to sky pirates looking for loot. And older women, unless they’ve been doing weight training, may find it especially hard to lift and shove 40 pounds of gear—the usual US weight limit for carryons—into the overheads, which may not even be empty above their seats. Someone else got the space first. Then too, people over 50 are shrinking in height, sometimes considerably, so the push upwards can be harder than ever.

A Modest Proposal.

Get a luggage makeover. Go small. Go low. Go under the seat in front of you. Luggage manufacturers now make small rolling bags that will tuck under a seat. No lifting and much lighter.

Well, you may say, a child could live out of such small bag for two weeks, but it’s not for me. Well, I used to have that Marie Antoinette attitude—I must have all my frills and accoutrements—but then I discovered L.L Bean’s Carryall Rolling Underseat Bag—five colors, free shipping, $129. (You can see below that I picked the plum color.) Paired with a tote/handbag that slides over the handle of the underseat bag, here’s what I now pack and this list does not include the clothes I travel in—jeans, wrinkle-free jacket with an iPhone in the pocket, comfy shoes and wrap for the plane’s cool air.

Roller bag ‘n tote

 What Can a Canny Woman Stuff into an Underseat Bag?

Almost the kitchen sink. Into my bag go five tops including a sleep-in tee/beach coverup, one pair pants, one pair capris, one caftan, one pair soft slippers, a rain jacket, socks, bras, panties, folding aluminum hanger, soap leaves, sink stopper, necklaces, scarves, sandals, swimsuit and folded Rick Steve’s Ciivita Day pack.

Most everything is rolled and stuffed into eBags Slim Packing Cubes so that like stays with like items. The whole bag packed with these things weighs in at under 15 pounds and that—ta-dah!—is the limit for carryons for many international airlines, so I’m good to go pretty much anywhere without checking luggage.

And What Goes in the Large Handbag?

Into the travel tote/large handbag goes a wallet, passport, tickets, iPad, Kindle, eBags Portage Jr. toiletry case, the required bag for small liquids, hair brush, 2 chargers, ear buds, water bottle, snack and sunglasses. I use an old PacSafe tote, but there are newer options out there, some by baggalini and Lug Life.

Note What Isn’t There

         I leave behind my laptop, hair dryer, anything that wrinkles, anything bulky, any valuable jewelry, books (love those e-readers), big bottles of shampoo and conditioner, bulky shoes, dressy clothes. I try to leave all my troubles behind too. It’s the psychological baggage that one always pays for.

Tips and Tricks

         If you are a fashionista who wants a different outfit every day and who wouldn’t dream of washing out her travel clothes on the road, then this system is not for you. If, however, comfort, ease of travel and the security of your stuff are high priorities, you might adopt the underseat strategy. A few airline seats have equipment under them in which case you can easily lift 15 pounds into an overhead bin.

The trick to getting all these items into one small case is to select lightweight clothes that are hard to wrinkle. URU makes great silk tops that you can throw in a washing machine, place under a sitting elephant and they will still look good. Ditto for the black Misook knit pants and jacket that will take me anywhere dressy with the aid of a scarf or necklace.

I can’t go anywhere without jeans—color me 90 and I’ll still be wearing them—but they are bulky and so the tip here is not to pack them, but wear them on the plane.

One way to encourage clothes to dry overnight is to wring them out, wrap them in a towel and stomp on the towel. Some wash their travel clothes by wearing them in the shower, but too icky sticky for me.

So, before your next trip, take a look at www.llbean.com for their rolling underseat bag and visit www.eBags.com for slim packing cubes, toiletry kits and totes.

See ya, but not in the baggage area.


Posted in Mel on Huffington Post, Travel, What to wear | 2 Comments

7 Things to Know About Life After 50

1. The urge to cook evaporates. The urge to order out, go out and cop out of cooking takes over. After 50, there is no going back to four-course dinner parties. Those dinner parties now seem like dreams, a time long ago when we pretended we were chefs the way we all once pretended we were rock stars.

2. The achievement years are not over after 50. When it comes to creativity and getting important things done, we older adults are not over until the fat lady sings at the memorial service. (Proof: See resumes of Grandma Moses, Granny D. and Dr. Ruth.)

3. The most common word retired couples use at home is just one syllable: What? The most common phrase? I can’t hear you. Conversation attempted one room to another will not work, proving that, after 50, sound no longer goes through doors or around corners.

4. Grandparenthood doesn’t mean what it used to. Think role revolution. No longer does the word grandma mean rocking chair. In fact, over half of grandparents report playing sports with grandkids. No wonder. The average age of a first-time grandparent is 48 and while that may not be so different than years ago, what’s different is biological age. Today’s grandparents are in better shape than those 100 years ago. They are also more connected to what’s going on in the world. About half of them are still working, which means they have lives beyond the Bermuda triangle of age: the couch, the fridge and the TV.

5. People over 50 begin to care less about what other people think. To understand this on a life stage level, remember that babies don’t care what anyone thinks. Centenarians don’t give a damn either. It’s the years between when the pressure to be popular turns us into social wimps. But the good thing about growing older is that we begin the shed that go-along conditioning and start returning to our natural-born independent selves. By 100, we’ll be able to tell anyone to take a flying leap.

6. After 50, the most important attribute of a mate or friend is a gold-plated, very handsome sense of humor. Nothing works its mood-levitating magic like a good giggle, which is why sitcoms have laugh tracks, not cry tracks. And when you really think about it: If God is watching us, the least we can do is be entertaining.

7. After 50, one can finally tell the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

Mel Now On Huffington Post

I will be posting occasionally on the new Huff Post site for people 50 and over. To find my work online, go to www.huffingtonpost.com and put Mel Walsh in the search box.  There are other ways to follow those columns, but frankly, since this is a brand new enterprise, I have not yet figured out how to use these methods myself to follow others on the Huff Post. Will let you know when I get a clue.

Anyhow, check out the new Huff/Post 50 under the Living section at the top of the home page. Bill Maher and other ancients past 50—that’s me—will be writing for it and for you.

Posted in Growing older, Lifestyle, Mel on Huffington Post, Retirement | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Growing Down: Incredible Shrinking Humans


CharlynW/Flickr

I don’t need a shrink because I’m already shrunk. Over the years, I’ve measured the ever-diminishing me. I’ve lost two inches in height and I can’t seem to find them anywhere except in a pair of platform shoes.

And I’m not alone. Just call us the incredible shrinking species. Humans are not pre-shrunk. They do it by living a long time. One study of more than 2,000 older adults concluded that women lost an average of 2 inches between ages 30 and 70, ending up with a total loss of about 3 inches by 80. Men lost a little over 1 inch between 30 and 70 and about 2 inches by 80—in height that is. No other male parts were measured.

Yep, most of us knew this without reading a study. We just had to look at our grannies as we grew up and they grew down, but it is nice to know that we are not likely to melt into the ground like the Wicked Witch of the West. And if I end up three inches shorter at 80, well, I was always short near the end of the month, so it makes sense to be short near the end of the lifespan.

So where do the inches go? First and most important: the disks between the vertebrae in the spine flatten out over the years. Also, tummy muscles weaken and bulge out leading to rotten posture and the shortening of the human in question. Also, feet can flatten and the pads of the feet may get thinner which will make us ever so slightly shorter and ever so interested in shoes with thick protective soles. We walk around town looking like mountaineers who lost their way to Whitney. But me, I never met a polyurethane outsole I couldn’t love and take home.

Are there ways to fight gravity?

Yes, regular weight-bearing exercises help preserve height, meaning exercise on your bedroom trapeze won’t count. Israeli researchers, studying over 2000 subjects, found that men and women who engaged in vigorous aerobic activity lost only about half as many inches in height as those who adopted the couch slouch life in middle age or who never exercised at all. It will be interesting to see how the texting generation ends up at 80 with only thumb-bearing exercise. They may be small enough to fit in a shoebox.

Other ways to preserve height: Spinal surgeon Dr. Roger Hartl suggests doing all one can to preserve the disks between the vertebrae. That means improving microcirculation to the disks by avoiding obesity, smoking and diabetes, a trio I’ve come to regard as the three horseman of the health apocalypse.

Of course there are also the usual recommendations to promote bone health by adequate calcium and vitamin D. Any height loss that is more extreme, painful or faster than is common—see the stats above—should be investigated by a health professional. A bone density test may be ordered. And, just to cover your bases, it may be wise to bring up the issue of shrinkage next time at the doc’s so the fact of your disappearance gets on the chart.

If you have a primary care doc who is recording your height as well as your weight, give him or her a gold star. If that isn’t happening, use the old pencil mark on the door frame approach. It worked for your kids as they grew up. It can work for you as you grow down.

But don’t get into a funk over predictable height loss that is not associated with serious health issues. Humans in earlier ages didn’t live long enough to have these problems. The longer we live, the shorter we get. It’s a trade-off: life for height.

Who wouldn’t take it?

 

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