Your Reverse Bucket List….

OK, I guess we all have a positive Bucket List, things we want to do, places we want to see before we die. I used to have a list of 108 things… some tiny (get an African violet to bloom), some big (go to Greece). But as I get older, my Bucket List is down to one—keep breathing.

What has grown though, is a reverse Bucket List, things that no longer interest me, things I don’t want to do anymore. Here are five of mine and see if they match yours:

  1. I no longer want to go to big parties. Chat, not conversation, reigns at parties, but I don’t care what sign people are or what they think of the weather.
  2. I want to be in bed by 9 and not necessarily with Robert Redford. A good book rather than a good roll in the hay now that I am turning 80. My husband does not agree with item #2. Never has, never will. Testosterone is immortal.
  3. I don’t want to kill time. What is time that I should kill it? Hell, it’s the most precious thing I have, which gets me to #4…
  4. I don’t want to waste time with events, concerts, seminars, movies, lectures or lunches with anyone I don’t like, with people whose thoughts and behavior are now way outside my values radar. Gerontologists call this “social selectivity” and they observe it in older folks. We stick with family and people who have meaning for us and let the rest go. We have no social time to waste.
  5. I can no longer watch long newscasts, those daily doses of depression. It is much faster to keep up with the world by reading online papers, thus limiting the daily dose, but still keeping my aging head out of the sand.                                                                               So what’s your Reverse Bucket List? What no longer interests you? What do you now consider a waste of time? Please post and share. Thanks. Mel



Posted in Growing older, Over 80, Personal, Philosophy | 2 Comments

Red poppies

Oil pencil and oil on paper

For the girls….


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My Happy Mistake

Yesterday I was trying to add two paintings to a blog I am just starting:  Fooling with a new iPhone, I tried using the phone to add photos of my artwork to the gallery blog. Well, I checked the wrong box because those photos went here.

What a happy mistake. I heard from quite a few of you that my writing was missed and that you liked the art. Thank you.

There Is A Third Wind

Though I will be 80 next month, I decided it was not too late to try and teach myself acrylics, oils, mixed media and colored pencil. Again, I have no clue about any of it, just that I want to try and use the brushes I’ve been picking up at garage sales for the last 25 years. If any of you are interested, there are great YouTube videos that will show you how.

So never let age stop you from trying new things. One faithful reader, Cynthia, wrote to me this morning that at age 65 she has just taken a job as executive director of  an important agency in Oregon. Yay, Cynthia.

And yay to all of you who won’t let the stereotypes of age hold you back. Actually, your feedback from my mistake in posting may actually get me writing again on Second Wind. I do miss taking news of interest to older people and presenting it in a way that presumably will not put you to sleep. Some of you were even kind enough to put my past columns on your refrigerator doors. No higher praise.

Countdown to 80,


Disclosure…this photo was age 75. Have to get Mac to do another one. You who were readers of Second Wind know him as Cranky Pants. CP is still going strong at almost 84.


Mel Walsh by Mac Small

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Sunset 1

Acrylic on canvas


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Acrylic on board


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When Retirement is a Pain in the Posterior

by Mel Walsh
Though retirement is stereotyped as a geezer Garden of Eden furnished with recliners and a flat screen TV, it can be tough. You’d never know it, though, from the ads. You’ve seen them—beautiful Botoxed models with silver hair, riding bikes on a country lane or sitting in seaside bath tubs waiting for the moment to be right.

In reality, retirement is no chocolate truffle. It’s a mixed bag. Some people love it, some hate it and some just struggle, trying to understand who they are besides unemployed and what they should do now since they are finally in charge.

Sounds good—being in charge of your life, but if you’ve invested total energy in a job now gone and in a family now departed, facing the future is scary. What will you do with yourself? Who will you become? The silly old person of the stereotypes? A super senior who skydives and makes the news? A grandpa who babysits and loves it because he missed out on his own kids’ childhoods? (Too busy earning a living.)

Maybe a grandma who starts a new business? Or someone who never retires—who works as a consultant or at a part-time job to make money or to feel useful? (The biggest poverty of the later years may be the lack, not of money, but of meaning.)

How to get a grip

First, go easy on yourself. You don’t have to get the new you in place tomorrow. A good first thing to do: practice some personal archeology. That means digging out the interests you used to have. Did you always want to raise orchids, sing in a choir, be an artist, take photos like Ansel, help abused animals?

You may reply it’s too late for all that and I will reply it’s only too late if you don’t start now. Actually, that’s the title of a book by Barbara Sher—It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now: How To Create Your Second Life At Any Age. Sher is a genius at getting people off the dime, out of their fear freezes and into new lives that fit. Certainly her books helped me go back to school in my sixties and get an MA in Gerontology, the study of older people. So any Sher book on Amazon would be number two on my get-going list.

Third: Find a retirement buddy, someone who struggles with the same issues. This could be your mate, a former co-worker or a neighbor. It helps to know you are not alone. Exchanging ideas may result in a new perspective on retirement issues. Sometimes others can see you better than you can and might share what things they think you could do and enjoy.

Fourth: Test out some ideas with classes. Take classes in your interests at community colleges or adult ed classes in your area. Also look online. I got my degree from USC totally online. If you don’t care about credit—you just want the subject matter—-take free online university courses.

A major wakeup call for the brain

Free online courses from major schools are a treasure chest of ideas and information and a good way to get your feet wet in any subject. For a list of high-quality courses, go to

MIT excels at this, and not just in science, but in the humanities with a wide offering of music courses. Carnegie Mellon is a leader online with many science courses. Tufts has wide offerings and excels in nutrition and medicine, both human and veterinary. UC Berkeley is not to be outdone. I had to stop writing this column just to listen to a computer class. All the links to these universities are at the website above.

Fifth: Don’t wait for the perfect thing to magically come your way. It takes effort and bravery to go down unknown paths. To his credit, Cranky Pants ventured forth to fall in a river after a fish, to suffer through golf lessons in the heat of an LA summer and to spin out on a race track going over 100 mph. He decided who he was not: a fisherman, Tiger Woods or Sterling Moss. He found civil grand jury work instead—interesting and done on cool dry land at zero mph.

So, again, we salute him and others who get out there in retirement as test pilots of their own lives. Fly on.

Mel Walsh is a columnist, blogger, gerontologist and author of HOT GRANNY, Chronicle Books. She lives in Carmel CA with Cranky Pants.

Note: This is a repost of a former column, but I meet so many people just beginning the journey, thought I would post it again.

Posted in Growing older, Retirement, Uncategorized | 5 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.


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.


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.

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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.


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

By Mel Walsh. Published May 29, 2012 in the Huffington Post, 

Summer for Dummies


         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, 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