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


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.


Posted in Decisions, Money, Retirement, Scams | Tagged , , , , | 4 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


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?


Posted in Growing older, Health | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Mirror, Mirror: Giving Up Those Face Patrols

I can’t tell you how to fly over the rainbow, but I do know one way to make yourself miserable as mud. Here’s how: Get a magnifying mirror. Then go on constant face patrol, a form of culturally-induced self-torture. Consult this mirror often. After all, you can’t wear out a mirror. Sherlock your face. Search for wrinkles, sags, spots, bumps, freckles too large to be cute. Look in other mirrors, too—-stores, restaurants, the backs of spoons.


Use your critical eye along with a narrative, a story told to yourself that may run like this:

Gee, I am looking old. I have furrows like a Utah canyon. My chins? Turkey wattles. And when I smile I see crow’s feet, laugh lines, teeth not as white as whatsherface’s—you know that star with teeth so bright white her bodyguards have to wear sunglasses. Even my earlobes have creases. My ear piercing holes droop. There’s a hair poking out of my nose. Hell, even my tongue looks old.

And that’s the face patrol story as told to mirrors all over America: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the oldest of them all? It’s a story that resulted in over 31 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures in 2010. It’s a story that impels people to go to group face filler parties for injections—all together now, the housewives of Botox County—and to visit dermatologists, plastic surgeons, laser technicians, face scrapers, skin burners—all because the story we tell ourselves in front of the mirror makes us unhappy and we want to have a different story, one that will end with—You look simply fabulous, darling.

To Each Her Own Path

Not that I quarrel with people who decide to reconstruct the face or body. I don’t care what people do as long they don’t hurt themselves or spend the kids’ college tuition on butt lifts so they’ll look like Pippa. Their new bottoms are not my business and, anyhow, it’s not the way the majority of us greet age. An Associated Press survey reveals that only 1 in 5 Boomers has had cosmetic procedures done or would even consider it. So eighty percent of us won’t spend the time or money to go into a body shop.

Really, what concerns me are people who, whether or not they choose serious cosmetic enhancements, make themselves unhappy by going on constant face and body patrols, noting every flaw and sign of age, comparing themselves to Photoshopped images of celebrities, making themselves sad they are not 21 anymore. But why manufacture unhappiness? Why choose an avoidable downer?

Orin Zebest/Flickr

So what to do instead?

First—and this is obvious to the point of Duh—give your mirror a bit of benign neglect. Don’t go on constant patrols. Stay in front of a mirror long enough to brush teeth, do hair, put on makeup, check how the shoes look with the outfit—-that’s enough.

Second—realize that growing older is not an elective. Growing older is the core curriculum of life. It’s what we do and we can do it well, have fun and enjoy the pleasures of maturity or we can try to be 21, a game we will lose. (I don’t want to be 21 again. I spent it pregnant, throwing up and being scared of my mother-in-law.) If you think this is Pollyanna advice, know that I speak from positive experience, having left 50 behind in my rear view mirror along with pregnancy fears and teacher conferences.

Third—You may look older and so what? So what if you look older? Better than looking dead. Better than never having been born and missing out on all that is life. My strategy? I let gravity have its way with me, but still, as the years passed, I tried to look my best 50, my best 60 and will go on and settle happily for looking my best 100. And my standard for looking good is this: take enough care of yourself so you don’t scare people at the mall.

Fourth—Avoid peer pressure. Don’t hang around with people who make a lifestyle out of trying to be cosmetically perfect. If you are getting pressure from friends to go under the knife, tell them what they can do with the knife.

Fifth—I regret this as much as you, but daily exercise—even a 30-minute walk—lights up the body, the face, the spirit. It’s as if you swallowed a light bulb.

Sixth—If you want to look vital—not necessarily young, but vital—pay attention to your crowning glory. Condition your hair. People do all they can to be dewy of face and up-to-date in clothes and shoes, but they let their hair go dull—no life, no gleam. So condition after a shampoo. And maybe look into shine products made from Moroccan argan oil. Argan hair products are reviewed on Amazon, less expensive when bought online rather than in a salon. A tiny dab will make you shine no matter your age.

And maybe that’s the story here: there are ways to shine after 50 without all the expensive and uncertain cosmetic procedures, without the constant face patrols. And last, according to my mate, Cranky Pants: Nothing shines up a woman as much as her smile.

Mac Small (Cranky Pants) and Mel

Posted in Growing older, Looks | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

The 3,000 Mile Umbilical Cord

It’s funny about umbilical cords. They were supposedly cut at birth and they don’t extend to grandchildren. Then how come I’m still connected in some ancient mammalian way to generations of my family even though they live 3000 miles away?

It must be a weird inherited thing. My mom had it too. She lived on the East Coast. I lived on the West. She checked my weather every day—did it rain on her child or was she having a nice sunny day? Ditto for my horoscope. Did Aries have to be careful with co-workers today? Was I going into danger with my love life?

Her connections with me were mostly through her newspapers, a paper umbilical cord. My umbilical cord is electronic. This last week I was mostly emailing family about Irene, The Late Great Storm.


Have you gotten out of New York City? Have you heard from Brian?

And I was a doofus over-50 texter, sending messages with arthritic thumbs: how clse r u 2 river? Sure, I used a cell phone too: just seeing if you are stocked up, just seeing if a tree came down, just seeing….

Maybe I’ll top it off tonight a quick Skype to view the faces that came through the heavy rains without sailing down a creek in an SUV.

Whatever form the cord takes—paper, cloud-lifted emails, clumsy-thumbed text—it’s the ancient umbilical connection to family. How are they? The eternal question.

And, no matter how old I get, even if I make it to 100, I’ll be checking the weather–each of their cities is already bookmarked on my weather site and on my iPhone. And maybe I’ll honor my mom’s tradition and check their horoscopes. (I don’t believe in them, but always believed in mom.) Will my kids and grandkids have a good day? Should they take on a new venture? Stay away from Scorpios?

So, you tell me: Am I a helicopter grandmother, hovering above family when the stereotype says I should be out playing bingo at the senior center? (Not on your life. Bingo tiles equal brain death. )

My guess is that I’m just like many out-of-work mothers, decommissioned by our children’s independence and rightly so. As I see it, I cut the apron strings years ago, but never the cord.

Mothers may age, but motherhood is eternal.

Posted in Family | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Size Matters: The Vitamin Pill Dilemma

I’m not a horse and neither are you. So why do supplement makers design giant horse pills that only Secretariat could swallow? Choking on the choices, we older adults with small throats have just one response to horse pills: Naaay.

Because size does matter, at least if you take vitamins and minerals, and that choice depends on what advice one chooses. There are two schools of vitamin advice and they contradict each other. Some say we don’t need vitamins. Just eat a healthy diet. Others say we do need them for optimum health because people don’t eat well.

Once again, we are left to flip a coin when it comes to health advice.

Erich Ferdinand/Flickr

If you and your doc come down on the side of supplements…you may still have the gagging dilemma to solve: How to take horse pills if you are not a horse.

Luckily, vitamins are made in chewable, liquid and spray forms., but liquids can be expensive. With that in mind,  I searched Amazon and found the edible, non-liquid products below.

(I have no financial interest in these and I’m not a doctor. I just found some products that work for gaggable me and thought they might interest readers with the same issue.)

So here are a few chewable or small-sized contenders:

Centrum Silver,  Citrus Berry Multivitamin, Multimineral Chewables. If your doc says you need calcium, this pill will give you just 20% of the established value, but, on the other hand, this one chewable product covers many nutritional bases.

Omega-3 Easy-to Swallow, Ultra-Pure Fish Oil Supplement, Natural Lemon Flavor.  Dr. Andrew Weil recommends fish oils that are molecularly distilled—the bad stuff taken out—and these small gel capsules are so purified. The lemon flavor matters if you bite down instead of swallow whole.

Bluebonnet Earth Sweet Chewable Vitamin D3, 2000 IU, Natural Raspberry Flavor. If you’re up on nutrition advice, you know that Vitamin D3 is a current star. These little gems are quite tasty.

Enzymatic Smart Q10, 100 mg Chewable Tablets. My doc recommends this enzyme. The Mayo Clinic says the jury is out. Still another advice conflict. Maybe I should chew just half.

Those of you struggling with calcium horse pills have probably found a solution by now as the chewable and liquid forms are readily available. Some of the supplements featured above, though, are hard to find except on Amazon, where the price is usually a bargain and you can read the consumer reviews before ordering. You might also want to run your supplements by a physician or nutrition guru, but only if they are not selling the stuff. (My suspicion runs deep.)

Last…Some of you were kind enough to notice I’ve taken time off from blogging. After writing hundreds of columns with no break, I needed a mini-sabbatical to recharge.

Sandra Forbes/Flickr

But I have steam up in the boiler again—the little blogger that could—and I hope I’ll be seeing you here at http://www.geezerdiary.com.

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