Inconsequential, Useful, Comforting and Delicious

It isn’t often that a writer sets out to talk about inconsequential things. No, we chase the important stuff with BIG HEADLINES. But I have had enough of important stuff as it mostly has to do with Covid, death and politics. So I went on a search to write about something unimportant that was useful, comforting and delicious. I came up with one thing.

Jam. Now this is a candidate for indulgence during lockdown, one that won’t have you end up as big as a walrus when home prison ends.

I don’t know of one person who does not love the sweet and fruity deliciousness that brings your toast up to culinary levels fit for the gods and minor saints. You met jam as a kid and have kept on with it ever since, though jelly got in there too as the grape jelly that went on the after-school peanut butter sandwich.

So anyhow, I went and investigated jams to see what were the most popular, most delicious and best reviewed of the bunch. Almost all can be ordered online or delivered from your grocery store if  you don’t feel like masked shopping.

Strawberry is the most popular jam in the US. Now there are a lot of lousy jams out there…mostly sugar, high fructose corn syrup, flavoring  and pectin, but little fruit. A good jam should be at least 50% fruit. If you would like actual pieces of strawberry in your jam, try Bonne Maman’s Strawberry Preserves. You may have seen the jars of Bonne Maman around as they have that red and white checkered top. If you want to investigate their whole line, you can order a selection of mini sample jars on Amazon for $10.70. All are made in France but popular here: www.bonnemaman.us

Bonne Maman’s five most popular preserves are apricot, golden plum, raspberry, strawberry and lemon curd. All would be good on cream cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt as well as all kinds for bread, though jam will slide off naan flatbread…duh… as the spots on my desk will attest this morning.

Cranky Pants and I have found that Bonne Maman is cheaper in the stores than online. You may have better luck, but if you are in Costco looking for a deal, try Kirkland Strawberry Jam which gets excellent reviews, the only drawback is that it comes in a huge jar.

Now, about a jam that gets really good press. Every reviewer…there are lots of jam reviewers… says that when it comes to grape jelly, Smucker’s gets the prize. That will be my next scientific experiment, comparing grape jellies.

Back to popularity…important if you are making choices for people who are not you, usually known as family. Here are the US stats from most popular on down: Strawberry wins by far. See above. Next are grape, raspberry, blackberry, apricot, blueberry and cherry.

There are some brand name jams that keeping cropping up in the reviews and here are the ones to look for:

Tiptree from England. Their apricot and damson plum are in my fridge, the plum great on lamb rather than the dreaded mint jelly.

Crofters Fruit Spreads. The Morrelo Cherry gets five stars on Amazon with at least one person wanting to go  for six. Have not tried this is as it is expensive,  but if you order a pack of six, the price goes way down. Not a size for us: Six is too many for a geezer household and condo pantry, though they could make good holiday gifts if tarted up with wrapping and ribbon.

Last, the one that gets a spotlight, red carpet and champagne in the reviews: Sarabeth’s orange and apricot  preserves which also has pineapple in the mix. This mixture of Sarabeth’s has won prizes and stars and is in my online shopping cart. Sarabeth’s is made in the exotic Bronx.

Now, about the sugar and the weighty walrus lurking within.  Most jams have about 10 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Don’t need a tablespoon to get a flavor hit. Instead, a heaping teaspoon has about five grams of sugar. Try that in one of the low sugar yogurts. This homemade mixture has about half the sugar of the popular fruit flavored  yogurts that have as much as 26 sugar grams.

Here are some low-sugar yogurt brands that would welcome a heaping teaspoon of your favorite jam plus maybe some berries and nuts:

Fage Total, Siggi’s Icelandic, Stoneyfield Plain Greek and Oikos Triple Zero which leaves some room in the container for you to add what you want.

Anyhow, I hope this foray into the inconsequential but delicious has inspired you to abandon CNN in favor of a cup of tea, a piece of toast, a spot of jam, all enjoyed outside somewhere, luxuriating in the inconsequencialness of it all.

Do not be surprised if there are more food columns here in the lockdown months, food for geezers who are living  solo or in twos, mostly tired of cooking for 50 years and needing some easy culinary comfort while in home prison.

In my other life….before the gerontology degree….I was a cookbook author and had a syndicated column about food, so there is a bit of experience behind these columns. The curious  among you can still find a cheap used copy of my Guerrilla Cooking on Amazon. And no, I don’t make any money from it…a writer’s eternal lament.

Now to order that Sarabeth concoction and see if it really is sunshine on toast.

 

The Barnacle Theory of Life

Barnacles….marine undesirables, clinging sea-shelled critters. They grab onto and weigh down everything from sea turtles to boats that have to be put into dry dock to scrape off the cluster of heavy shells.  And then there are the barnacled whales. If you don’t already feel sorry for whales, Google whales and barnacles.

Well, imagine humans, but imagine them being weighed down by invisible barnacles….burdensome emotions and regrets. I have this theory that we are born without barnacles, no ponderous experiences and thoughts have yet attached themselves. But as life commences, we get these imaginary weights…the bad things that happen in every life that pull down our spirits, prospects and hope.

Could be bad parents, addictions, mental illness, job disappointments, poverty, bills, divorce and the deaths of friend and family. (We are all orphans by this time of life.) You have your own list of barnacle events, happenings that squeeze the life right out of your spirit and weigh down hope. Maybe take time here to inventory your own barnacles. Everybody’s got them. Writing your truths in a journal is a good way to take stock.

You may think I am off the chart here, but I see this Covid lockdown as a chance to go into dry dock and get your spiritual barnacles scraped off, emerging lighter and more buoyant at the end of these solitary months.

Yeah, easy to say. How do you scrape off a spiritual barnacle in the middle of a pandemic?  Well, gratitude can melt some barnacles. Gratitude is often talked about, occasionally used,  but needs to be practiced on an expert daily level if it is to have an effect on  outlook.

But why should we geezers be grateful? We have lived most of our lives, are falling apart and can no longer even go out to eat pizza. You’ve got your own list, but at the top of mine is the absolute miracle that in this unimaginably huge universe, in a constellation of stars called the Milky Way, near a so-so star called the Sun, on a blue planet that actually  has water and life, a wiggle of a sperm hit an egg decades ago and that became me. What are the odds of that?

What are the odds of you? So the fact of existence against all odds is certainly something to mull over today. Makes our own little emotional barnacles seem insignificant. Looking at the ocean has the same effect. Best of all, at night, in the ocean, floating on your back, looking at the universe…real remover of any barnacles. Plan a future trip to Hawaii to get this done.

There are other and perhaps easier ways to scrape off the weights of life: Take music. Why do you not have your favorite music on right now? Why don’t I? It’s already in front of me on my computer. It’s on my cable TV, my radio. Get to it girl. Oddly enough, a mix of country music, Beethoven, John Denver and Bach do it for me as does any Dixieland jazz, especially if that jazz has a sax somewhere. Is there anything a saxophone does not make better? Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz can melt barnacles.

And then there are pets. Those eyes that see through you. Well, maybe they just see the possible liver treats coming from you, but, unless they bite, growl or throw up on the couch, they are front line barnacle removers.

As are flowers. If I could not retreat from the hard things in life into my lavender and roses, I would sink beneath the waves…and you know the current waves. They are  named Covid, Politics, Climate, Economy and Loneliness.  Who knew a rambling rose could be a protector against these things?

And, of course, there are friends and family, the other inhabitants of the blue planet. Meetings in the open air, Zooms, phone calls…(those still exist)…emails, texts…everything except carrier pigeons to keep in touch and remember you are part of a big tribe. Also, if you know someone, a so-called friend, a complainer, who has repeatedly weighed down your spirits, a lockdown is a great time to distance. You just can’t meet to go to the movie. Or anywhere.

All the above can lighten the load, but protecting yourself against incoming barnacles is smart too. Maybe we will emerge lighter from lockdown if we avoid the big weights of the media….the constant chatter, the alarming headlines, the lies, the anger,  the always breaking news. The clue is to not let that news break you. Cut down the media input and the barnacles don’t have such a chance to attach.

So that’s my theory….The Barnacle Theory of Life. Does any of it make sense to you? Your comments are welcome.  Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Your Upper: A Deep Wallow in Nostalgia

We have a long road ahead when it comes to managing life in the time of Covid and I’ve found ways to keep up mood and morale. The greatest of these…in my house now…is a deep dive into the past. When one is older, the past is BIG. How to organize my wallows was the problem. The answer? Organize nostalgia by decades.

I decided to start with the 1950’s. Such a calm decade compared to what went before…Depression and World War II. Living into the beginning years of that decade was like coming home. How sweet it is now to wallow backwards into memories of that time.

I began my wallow by ordering a used copy of a long lost family cookbook: Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, revolutionary in that it displayed photo images of techniques and foods, including, on page 307, Beauty  Touches for Pies…a photo guide. (Most cookbooks before the 50’s were just text.) In this book, I’ve found family recipes including my grandmother’s way of making tapioca and I intend to cook from this book for a month at least.

On the menu: nostalgia for the mouth. I want to try the touching 1950’s version of ethnic gourmet, spaghetti and meat balls, and will look for a straw-bottomed bottle of Chianti in which to put a multi-colored candle that drips and makes one feel racy enough to put on a black turtleneck.

Then what to watch after dinner? What were the great movies of the 1950’s, many appearing now on Turner Movie Classics, Netflix and Amazon Prime? Look for American in Paris, Singin’ In the Rain, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Rear Window, High Noon and many more. If you are watching on an Internet movie site, just put in:  movies from the 1950’s. Turner’s schedule for classic movies can be found at: https://bit.ly/3j3oXbt

If you are royally sick of watching anything on a screen, there are the books of the 1950’s, ones you may have not yet read. Auntie Mame and Eloise in Paris are the lighter ones. Peyton Place will show you how values have changed in 70 years. Here are some others for a deep literary dive:  East of Eden, The Old Man and the Sea, Doctor Zhivago, The Caine Mutiny, From Here to Eternity, Giant and on and on. Almost all can  be found on Amazon from the used book sellers.

Music: Oh boy, this is a book in itself. That decade was so rich musically. I could throw out dozens of names, but the important thing is that any of the artists you once liked can be found on www.youtube.com

If you want to see Duke Ellington at the 1956 Newport Festival, you can find it on YouTube. Or look for Elvis doing Jail House Rock. I’ve gotten fabulously distracted on my computer looking for Little Richard, Ray Charles,  Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Count Basie. Again, almost anybody you can think of who sang or played an instrument in the 1950’s, can be seen doing it again on YouTube.

While you’re on YouTube, you can also look to for the Top Ten TV Shows of the 1950’s to get snippets of I Love Lucy, Lassie, The Ed Sullivan Show or The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason, he who showed me, when my dad took me to dinner with him, how to eat black olives…one on each finger. Gleason was funny on and off the screen.

Then, getting away from the boob tube, there are always the yearbooks. If you have any from the 1950’s, you can go back and look at lost loves, departed friends, friends you should get in touch with while you are both alive, the teachers, good and bad, and what passed for cool things to write in a year book back then.

If you have any clothes from the 50’s, you are a better hoarder than I. My ex took back his letter sweater so I can’t wallow in my closet.

I intend to go backwards into the 1940’s and started last night with a sleeper of a good movie on Netflix,  The Exception, with Christopher Plummer. More on that decade later. Until a vaccine arrives, my intention is to wait out life by nostalgic visits to the eight decades between the 1940’s and now.  If I give a month to exploring each decade…. books, food, movies, TV, music, friends and lovers from the past…that should take me up to the arrival of a vaccine and a reopened, less frightening world.

 

How To Stop The Wars About Risky Behavior In The Year of Covid

Three  things are really hard for me: getting off sugar, learning each form of social media and agreeing with friends and family about what it’s ok to do in this year of the plague. It’s the last that I bring before you today. You have already run into it one way or another.

Take couples for instance: Maybe the man thinks it’s ok to have Ronnie over for drinks inside the house, all notions of a mask set aside. Six-pack thinking according to the wife, who hasn’t even allowed their grown kids in the house for three months. There will be a conversation about that, you betcha, with probably no conclusion as this Covid is new and many are the guesses about what to do and what not to do. Is your guess as good as mine?

Or take someone living alone. One thing that person knows is that living in a hermitage is getting old, especially since it may continue to the end of the year. So what to do? What outside activities are highest risk and what are lowest? Is a trip to the grocery store the same risk as a trip to the doctor’s office?

And so it has gone. Such confusion. But…the physicians in Texas have gotten together to make up a handy dandy risk chart going from 1…low risk…to 9…high risk. To me, the chart seems sensible, providing some structure to the choices we all make.

Examples: Worst thing is going to a bar. Also 9’s: going to a sports stadium or big music concert.  Though the chart doesn’t mention it, I would think political rallies and conventions would be up there in the 9’s, high risk.

The 8’s are still high risk, but not quite as bad. One surprise for me is that going to a buffet is an 8. So is Disneyland.

Getting a haircut is a 7, which is too late for me as I got one last week because I couldn’t see out past my hair. I do have a son who now looks like Benjamin Franklin, bald on top from chemo, but luxurious  on the side. The info on the chart indicates that I should shut up and not say a word about a haircut.

You have to see the chart for yourself, but opening the mail is a 1, lowest risk; getting takeout is a 2; grocery shopping is a 3; eating on the outside of a restaurant is a 4; having dinner at someone’s house is a 5; visiting an elderly relative is a 6, though the chart does not say who is at this moderate risk, the visitor or us geezers.

Using the chart as a guide when there now is little else to show the way, maybe a  couple could agree that the family do only those things that are 1 to 3 on the chart, the lowest level of risk. A lively single looking for action will know to stay away from the 7 through 9, the highest risk.

Below is the link to this chart which doesn’t cover every situation, but it surely is a start, a way to make these new decisions without getting into a fight with family, friends or yourself.

If this link does not work for you, Google:

Know Your Risk, Texas Medical Association.

Thanks to the docs of Texas, maybe I can now stop the argle-bargle with Cranky Pants. And get lots of takeout. Only a 2.

https://www.tpr.org/post/know-your-risk-covid-19-chart-released-texas-medical-association

 

 

The 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 people   who are 60, 70, 80 or more on the outside, but sprouts of 20 on the inside. This is the era of young older people— vintage youth — a contradiction, but a truth, an ordinary miracle.

On the outside we may be a bit crinkled, but inside it’s still dewdrops and roses. That leads us vintage people  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. Or dad.

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 friends 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, way back, at the threshold year of 60, 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 or dumb luck pouring down on our heads, what is?

Think about it: Around 1900, people in the U.S. 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. People 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 experience in the Reply section below. This column is an edited version of  one I wrote for the Huffington Post. Thanks, Mel Walsh.

Foot Talk….When Your Feet Begin to Complain

Well, blame it on shoes that aren’t the right size. Or blame it on high heels, pointy-toed shoes, bad genes or aging (which wears out the protective pads at the bottom of the feet). You can even blame the problems on over-zealous shoe salespeople who assure you…with the look of an angel… that the shoes pinching in the store will stretch out when you get home. That is some stretch — the classic shoe store lie women may believe if the shoes are “cute”.

And you can’t just blame us women for being a little silly about shoe choices. Men who go gaga over high heels encourage women to end up with shortened leg ligaments and misshapen feet. (It’s our version of Chinese foot-binding and why men should be quiet about the allure of stilettos. I wouldn’t wear them for Robert Redford.)

So what to do?

Except for special occasions, forget high heels. (The Duchess of Cambridge is going to be footsore when she’s 55.) And get your feet re-measured. They can get longer and wider over time. Buy shoes that are in the actual shape of your footprint, that feel good in the store. Buy nothing that’s a maybe. Wear new shoes around the house for a while and if they don’t fit, bring them back and try again. If you order shoes online at Zappos, they will take them back, no questions asked, and they pay the return postage, so no risk there. Almost all of the brands below are sold at Zappos.

Believe it: Dress shoes can be comfortable

If you have hard to fit feet, but need a flat dress shoe — listen up mothers-of-the bride — try Ros Hommerson’s flats or other brands that combine style with comfort. BZees are on the less expensive side. Stuart Weitzman comes in with comfort at the upper end of your wallet.  Ballet flats and skimmers are the things to look for. Maybe kitten heels if you need some height.

Much more informal for workplace and weekend wear are these brands, beloved of many and stars in my own closet: Merrell Encore, Clarks, SAS, Easy Spirit Traveltime, Hallux Fidelio sandals from Austria and, I confess, UGG’s classic short boots and Ugg’s Coquette slippers. Tourists and other people on their feet all day also love Keen, Teva, Mephisto All-Rounders, Hush Puppies, Aersoles, Crocs and Birkenstocks, Birks still here after all these years.

Clogs are the friends of nurses, chefs, dog walkers and others on their feet all day. Dansko, Sanita, Klogs and Clarks are among the best choices and http://www.clogworld.com the place to go if you can’t navigate without clogs. Clogs have gotten less clunky and now come in colors, prints and patterned leathers.
Sport shoes are a cinch when it comes to comfort. Front runners here are Asics, New Balance and Brooks. Other people love the rocker shoes: their backs don’t quite hit the floor. Me, I hate the rocker shoes — like walking through an earthquake. But some are big fans. Different strokes for different feet.

Sock it to you

Now, comfort shoes, if they have enough room in the toebox, can be made even more comfortable with socks that are padded. Thorlo started the padded sock trend and was so successful that other manufacturers got on the bandwagon. You can always find the basic padded sport sock, but now padded socks come in black dressier versions. (Thorlo socks are worth every penny and last a long time — if your mate doesn’t make off with them.)

Drug store relief

A visit to the foot care section of the drug store may help with your walking comfort. Today, there are all kinds of foot gizmos designed to provide relief — from extra padding for the soles to protection for corns and bunions, those lovely bumps that arrive when your feet decide to grow sideways. Many more options at http://www.footsmart.com.

Professional help

If home remedies and well-selected shoes don’t help your feet, get thee to a professional. No, not a pedestrian. The word is podiatrist. A good podiatrist can help with problems of misbehaving feet. They may have products that drugstores don’t carry and though they will not go all kissy-kissy over your tootsies the way your mom did, they may keep you on the road.

And that’s the point — keep on keeping on — passing through the valley of corns and hammertoes and forward into life on the open road.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist, author and columnist. Her book, HOT GRANNY, is available online at http://www.Amazon.com. This column first appeared in the Huffington Post. 

Growing Down: What To Do About Height Loss

 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 two inches between ages 30 and 70, ending up with a total loss of about three inches by 80. Men lost a little over one inch between 30 and 70 and about two 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 in my 80’s, 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 more than 2,000 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?

Summer for Dummies: How To Beat the Heat When You’re 60 Plus

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 for older people, each passing decade  brings a desire to cover more of ourselves. In our culture, the sags and other signs of aging are to be hidden, 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.

There are women…no name here…who 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 $7.98.

Neck coolers

These look like rolled bandana scarves and will keep a person comfortable in the heat. They have little beads inside that plump up when wet. 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 online or 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 U.S. have abandoned these. I carry a folding paper fan in my handbag all summer long and will keep them aflutter when it’s hot outside. Try Amazon, $8.98 for 5. Free shipping for Prime members. These are great gifts for friends with hot flashes.

Managing the hot days

Think Italian or Spanish when it comes to living in a hot clime. They take the afternoons off for siestas and are active in the cooler parts of the day and evening. So, take a hint from them if you want to hike, run errands or garden. Do these things in the early morning. Take a nap in the afternoon.  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

Portable 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. If you have the budget and the talent, ceiling fans are saviors.  A short PS here: In this time of summer fires, it’s smart to have an air purifier at hand too. We have one in the bedroom and one in the living area. As for what face masks are cooler than others….whether worn for fires or Covid….please share  your experience in the comment section. They all seem hot to me.

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? That is unless you live where I do now, which is coastal California near Monterey Bay. If you are visiting, bring sweaters because the natural air conditioning from the Pacific can freeze your bumbershay off.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist, author, columnist, spokesperson. Her book, Hot Granny, is available at Amazon. Visit Mel at www.melwalsh.com.

Meet Your Future Geezer

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

Well, researchers at the University of Chicago can polish your crystal ball. Their study of people aged 57-85…the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project…goes into people’s homes and asks about their health, relationships and sex lives, though how they get 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? It’s 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 them are 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 cupcakes I made last night.)

About Relationships

I hope this won’t ruin your day, but not all older people said they like to spend time with their partners. 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. So do Covid lockdowns. 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.

This column originally appeared in the Huffington Post. It has been updated.

Sunshine Vitamin May Help Older People With Chronic Pain

Though experts currently have differing opinions about sun exposure, one thing is clear and can be acted upon: If you have unexplained or unrelieved muscle or bone pain, you may want to talk to your doc about testing your vitamin D level.

Is vitamin D an action hero painkiller? It sounds silly — pain old vitamin D as a possible reliever of pain. We know vitamin D as the Clark Kent of supplements, found in ordinary grocery stores, easily available from sunlight, available in fortified foods, egg yolks and fish, good for bones, but certainly not as a super hero painkiller.

 

However, if you have generalized muscle and bone pain, you will want to know what was uncovered by researchers at the Mayo Clinic: People with low vitamin D levels take nearly twice as much narcotic medication for pain as people whose vitamin D levels are normal. So far it’s just a correlation between the level of meds people require and their vitamin D levels, not a proven cause and effect.

But if groups of people who are low on D require almost twice as much morphine, fentanyl or oxycodone as those with a good D level, maybe they are in twice as much pain because they have half as much of what might turn out to be a natural pain preventer or reliever. That’s the theory that has grabbed the attention of medical investigators.

“Vitamin D is known to promote both bone and muscle strength. Conversely, deficiency is an under-recognized source of diffuse pain and impaired neuromuscular functioning. By recognizing it, physicians can significantly improve their patient’s life.”

Body Fat Steals Your D

Dr. Turner adds that people who are overweight are prone to have pain caused by low vitamin D because vitamin D likes to reside in fat. So when any of us have inviting layers of fat, the vitamin takes up residence in Fat City rather than circulating throughout the body the way it’s supposed to, bathing muscles and bones in a nice D bath. Dr. Turner also adds that checking D levels requires just a simple blood test that can be ordered by your doctor.

Can Low D Happen to You?

Yes, especially if you are older. Scientists say that about 50 to 60 percent of older people in North America do not have satisfactory vitamin D levels. Articles in The New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of the American Medical Association and other reputable sources state that many adults are deficient in Vitamin D. Why? We older people are not outdoors as much as we were when young. We are office-bound or at home cocooning, especially now with Covid isolation. And fearing skin cancer or wrinkles, when outside we cover up and use sunscreen, so the sun can’t get through to work its D magic on the skin.

Dermatologists, naturally invested in preventing skin cancer and wrinkles, say we can get all the D we need through supplements, but there are other experts who advise also getting a little sunshine, not only for pain, but for depression and other ills. Dr. Christiane Northrup, women’s menopause health guru, recommends daily brief exposure to the sun. Her specific recommendations — the dos and don’ts of safe solar exposure — can be found at http://tinyurl.com/86ulw3e. Now, however you decide to obtain vitamin D, you should know the current optimum level. The National Institutes of Health recommend that women age 51 to 70 get 600 IU’s a day.

Bottom line? Though experts currently have differing opinions about sun exposure, one thing is clear and can be acted upon: If you have unexplained or unrelieved muscle or bone pain, you may want to talk to your doc about testing your vitamin D level.

If vitamin D works to treat your pain, great — then Clark Kent has turned into Superman. And if it doesn’t take away the pain, at least you won’t have rickets.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist, author and columnist. Her book, HOT GRANNY, Chronicle Books, is available at Amazon.