Why Revive a Sleeping Blog?

Dearest Readers,

You have been abandoned the last two years as life intruded on my writing. For that, I am sorry. This blog and its weekly columns ran about 8 years before being distracted by moving back to Carmel from the Sierra Foothills,  by the kidney cancer of Cranky Pants and the larynx cancer of me.

The thing about cancer is this: it keeps you busy and keeps you driving. We drove the Honda so many times to doctors and scanning centers,  Cranky Pants,  whose daily name is Mac, called it The MelMac Cancer Bus.

The good news is…they got it all. I am getting my voice back and CP is recovering slowly from a surgery that involved a five-armed robot named Da Vinci. If you ever meet this creature, you will be lucky as the delicacy of this robot, controlled by highly trained surgeons, can work miracles not possible with ordinary surgical cutting.

So where to go from here? Back to human, factual, funny writing about aging, about life between 65 and 100. No robots involved. Just heart and brains. I figure, during our hermit and Covided lives, we need a little distraction, acknowledgement of what’s going on that is not covered by the discouraging media.

So What’s Happening to You?

What do you miss most is what I want to know. Your job is probably high on the list if you are unemployed,  but what about the little things that none of us are supposed to mention or complain about…not in such a serious time. I do know  what you are not missing is toilet paper as I imagine most of you  have a Tower of Paper hidden somewhere in the house.

Me, I missed flowers on the coffee table. The pre-quarantine ones were long gone. The bright center of the living room was missing. But who would be silly enough to go to the grocery store, not just for eggs and milk, but for flowers? Me. I donned my robber mask, my gloves and my mental Super Woman cape , waded into market battle and got me some flowers. Alstroemeria is what to buy during a pandemic because it lasts long enough for you to watch several years of televised episodes of favorite shows on Netflix. It also makes a nice background for your Zoom calls.

 

Older people have to be careful about these video calls from the kids, as the kids, having read that geezers are prime target for a virus, are checking you out as they talk. Do you look sick? Are you coughing? Is your house neglected? I even put lipstick on for a Zoom cameo as I don’t want them worrying about me…pale and wan…an aged hermit in her den.

And about the hermit part… Have you discovered your Inner Hermit, the one that has been waiting to come out for 60, 70 or 80 years?   Mine is out and soaking up the quiet, loving the empty calendar and just sitting around doing nothing. I should dress like a monk to express this newly emerged self, but it would scare Cranky Pants, so I put on the pink sweatshirt he had made for me after I got a clean pathology report. On the front it says in block letters: All Final Margins Are Clear.

So that’s my story… lived to see another day, both of us. Lived to begin writing to you again. And  you can leave your story in the comments below, which are public…just so you know. Other readers can be inspired by the utterly useless and embarrassing things you miss while trapped at home.

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts”.

Winnie the Pooh

Lost & Found: The Pleasures of Life

Have you noticed a weird category of life experiences—things that give great pleasure, but because they are not part of your habit pattern, you forget how wonderful they are and so you don’t pursue those pleasures? Then you run across the great experience again, repeat it and resolve not to forget and then forget and so on and so on?

Are we all forgetters of fun?

These memory lapses are not the Alzhammered forgettings of age. As a teen, I would forget how much I loved swimming in a lake at night until some friend would say, let’s go swimming under the moon. In the water, I would remember and resolve to do it again and then I would forget. Forget the lake, forget the moon.

Today what I forget is how much I like jazz, clarinets and saxophones. Also, I keep forgetting how I love gardenia perfume,  peanut butter on fresh bread, Doris Day, a roast chicken stuffed with spaghetti and cheese and dinner parties where the laughter of six people is the sauce of the evening.

It’s a mystery…

So how can a human designed to seek pleasurable rewards, keep forgetting her pleasures? Maybe my reflexes need re-conditioning. I don’t get it and want to take this up with Pavlov, but he’s permanently retired.

Maybe I will just settle for naming the phenomenon—forgetting the unforgettable.

Lord, another paradox to fog up life.

But I’m trying to pull the wonderful forgottens back into my life. For instance, what I saw last weekend at a jazz festival is reminding me about the power of music. I saw that you can settle a sedate 91-year-old into a concert chair, but if he hears something like Pennsylvania 6-500, he will be smiling and tapping and rocking and swaying and having a 1940’s kind of good time.

Ditto for me and Cranky Pants. There’s nothing like the pleasure of Dixieland, swing or ragtime to get the body going and the endorphins doing the double lindy in your brain.

So that’s my resolution. To become again what an old boyfriend once called me…a Pleasure Potato. To that end, I will write, not a Bucket List, but a Buck Up list, things to do that bring joy to the spirit.

One resolution is to turn on jazz every day at 3 PM, The Mind Sludge Hour. Yep, get the pleasure habit locked into the life pattern: Jazz, tea and a peanut butter snack at three. And then there are still chickens to roast and I can bite the ladle and ask friends to dinner.

I don’t live near a lake now, but I still live near a moon. Now I have to remember what else you can do with a moon.

by myyorgda/flickr

When retirement is a pain in the posterior…

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 http://tinyurl.com/2xr7sd.

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.

Turkey Soup: The Remains of the Day

What differentiates us from the younger generation—besides not smoking our house plants?

I say it’s turkey soup—knowing how to make it, eat it and value it enough to rescue the carcass from a hostess’ intent to throw it in the garbage. To cooks of a certain age, turkey bits and bones are poultry gold. The day after Thanksgiving, I drove home with my daughter’s turkey carcass in the back seat.

Turkey soup is chicken soup with muscle and worth every minute it takes to make, which is actually about ten minutes to start and another five at the end to strain it and get it ready for the refrigerator. The cooktop does the rest, simmering the infant soup into adult shape in about two hours.

By JaseMan

But let me begin at the beginning, which is after Thanksgiving when most of the meat has been harvested to make white bread sandwiches with lots of mayonnaise. The actual soup recipe is so simple it should not be called a recipe…maybe just heirloom instructions for getting the most out of a bird. Our grannies did this after Thanksgiving the way our grandchildren get up now at 3 AM to wade into Black Friday shopping—both post-turkey day traditions.

First, pull any remaining chunks of turkey off the bird to save for another meal. Then put the bones in your biggest pasta pot. You may have to break up the carcass to have it fit in the pot. Add a few carrots, celery stalks and chopped onions if you have them. (Stores sell the packaged beginnings for stuffing—chopped celery and onions—and those will do nicely instead.)

Fill the pot with water to cover the bird. Put on high heat until it just boils. Turn down immediately to just a simmer. (You need to make sure it doesn’t boil over.) Let it stew for 2 hours bubbling away slowly.

Then turn it off. Let cool. Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain the cooled soup into a large bowl. Throw the remains away. Refrigerate the soup.

When ready to use, skim the fat off the top of the bowl and take out as much cold soup as you want to warm up for a meal. (The “soup” may look like jelly at this stage and I love to eat it cold and jellied with plenty of lemon pepper grated on top, but that’s peculiar to me.)

You can eat this soup warmed up as just a plain broth or instead, boil various pastas in the broth—tortellini swimming in warm broth with sprinkles of cheese on top are good. Adding bits of veggies ups the nutrition, which is why I keep grated carrots and frozen spinach leaves on hand. Or you can make a turkey vegetable soup—adding turkey bits and veggies of choice and maybe a handful of couscous to rev up the bulk.

Turkey broth can be frozen, but I never have enough left to freeze.

By David Masters

And that’s how to get the most from your turkey. Now, if I could only figure out how to squeeze the most out of each day, boil the time down to one delicious essence.

A Geezer’s Turkey Day- A Little Salt, Lots of Sweet

Let us give thanks for…

…The fact that the CD rates in our retirement funds have not yet gone below zero. When interest rates go to zero, we may owe the bank money for the honor of their holding it. So what shall we do with our remaining assets to make sure we won’t end up having Thanksgiving 2020 in a church basement?

I had relatives who, during World War II, buried their money in Mason jars in the backyard. When they dug it up after the war, it was full of mold and they had to hang it out to dry. Moral of the story: no matter what you do with your retirement money, you will be hung out to dry.

However, cynicism is like salt—just a touch is enough. Too much is bad for your mental health and we need all the mental health we can get. So let’s really really give thanks for….

Longevity and health—Yeah, yeah, our medical system is a mess,  but we are living much longer than people did 100 years ago, when the average age of death was the late 40’s. If decades of life aren’t a huge gift, I’ll eat a turkey neck.

Life. What a gift. Thank you.

And how about that warm, well-lighted place we live in? Not under a bridge, not in a tent in Haiti, not in a refugee camp anywhere, but in a warm house, insulated in more ways than one.

Home. What a gift. Thank you.

And then there are those around the table—that salty, nutty mix of family and friends who show up to eat in 20 minutes what it took 8 hours to prepare. Well, never mind. They are the ones who hold us up when we begin to sink, who let us know we are not wandering  alone on the planet, but part of the Family of Man.

Family and friends. What a gift. Thank you.

And then there is the Internet, which is how we stay in touch, especially on holidays. It’s so busy today, in fact, that I can’t upload all the great photos I found for this post. Again, never mind.

Communication over the river and through the blog to grandmother’s house. What a great thing. Thank you.

And last, thank you for reading this when your mind is really on what to put in the stuffing. Is this finally the year for oysters?

Hint: Probably not.

Bad Moods: Changing into something more comfortable

Moods come in all colors—black, grey and blue for starters. Am I the only one seeing more blue moods in the morning?

By D. Sharon Pruitt

Evidently not….

By Lainey Powell

Maybe it’s economics—the rates on retirees’ CDs are going so low, we’ll soon owe the banks money. Or maybe it’s being in a country where the politics are so partisan, it’s like living in the same house with a mom and dad who are always fighting and you can’t get out.

Whatever the cause, it’s no way to live and too many downer days have prompted me to review my favorite ways of slipping into something more comfortable in the way of moods.

Music…the most instant and effective mood changer I know. Put it on, leave it on, move to it, sing along. Listen in the car, in bed and secretly with a pair of earphones during boring lectures, waits in the doc’s office or on planes, trains, buses or walks. Jeremiah was and still is a bullfrog and to listen to Joy to the World will turn you into a rainbow rider. If it doesn’t, a pulse check is in order. Women can hide earphones under their hair and nobody has to know they are listening to iTunes.

By Laser Guided

Clothes….Clothes make the mood. I should know. I’m a writer who gets up, starts to write and am still in a bathrobe and bunny slippers at lunch time, wondering why I don’t feel more professional. But to tell the real secret of clothes, it’s socks. Socks can be mood changers. The reveal of a red ankle cheers others up too, just like the 19th century—to say nothing of the uplift of even wilder patterns.

By Nina Matthews

Animals…I borrow my animal uppers from neigbors right now—baby goats, donkeys, miniature horses and chickens. Dogs and cats are more usual and quite reliable as mood modifiers, but really, nothing can equal an anti-depressant as much as a good hen.

By Leoncillo Sabino

Perspective….We are lucky to live now, for space travel and Hubble images offer an unprecedented way to get comforting perspective—-visual and emotional. Google NASA’s picture of the day to see how tiny we humans are. Or just contemplate the image of the Earth from space. Others may get the creeps from knowing how insignificant humans are, but it cheers me up to know we are not the be-all and end-all, but just dinky dots on a very pleasant planet.

By NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Relaxing after a hard day’s mood…If you don’t have trouble with alcohol and don’t take meds that can’t pair with booze, then one nice glass of wine at the end of the day might improve your mood. (Much more can ruin both health and mood.)

By Steve Jurvetson

Today, the old thing about never drinking alone is pretty much out the door when you have a population of older widows or single women who want to relax over a glass of wine. What are they going to do? Go out and bring in a passerby so they can have drinking buddies? No, I have news for the “never drink alone” people. Every older woman I know who lives alone and enjoys wine also drinks alone….either before dinner as she cooks or with her Trader Joe’s entree. We are not talking about women at risk, unless it’s the risk of relaxing.

Dancing…I do something I call Dopey Dancing, just moving around to music in a stupid way in the family room. Others ballroom dance, tap or line dance to get the exercise, another predictable mood elevator. Sometimes just watching other people dance can get the good vibes going as my friend Judith reminded me this morning, sending a short video of great dances from the movies.

So, if you want to shed a blue mood or improve a rosy one, click here on Judith’s prescription:

Botanical meds: What docs don’t know and how you can get the info yourself

Maybe you already suspected this, but docs think you don’t know much about herbal medicine. And, in a recent survey reported in Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, they also admit they don’t know much about natural remedies either. They perceive botanical illiteracy on both sides and they are right. Most of us couldn’t tell a ginger root from a day lily bulb.

It’s not always been this way. People grew their own pharmaceuticals. Their pharmacy was called a garden and, in much of the world, botanicals are still the basis of medical treatment. And, though people don’t know it, much of our own “mainstream” medicine comes from the earth. Aspirin is derived from the willow tree and the early contraceptive pills came from the Mexican yam.

By Peter Guest

Luckily, in some first-word countries today—not the US— there are doctors who actually study botanical medicines in school and use them regularly in their practice. In Germany, botanical medicine is taught in medical schools and that knowledge is tested in the qualifying exams. Seventy percent of German doctors prescribe botanicals and these medicines are reimbursed by their public health insurance program.

Where to find information when you live in Botanical Dum-Dum Land

All Americans should be better informed about botanical meds. Some of these natural treatments work very well, without the expense and side effects of prescription drugs. The caution here is that there are sleazy products and sleazy people promoting all kinds of “natural” treatments, so the consumer has to weed out the the good from the bad.

Luckily, there’s at least one doctor in this country who has studied botanical treatments and is also up on the latest in higher tech medical advances. He is Dr. Andrew Weil, graduate of Harvard Medical School and a scholar of natural botanicals. He has a foot in both worlds and practices integrated medicine.

Dr. Weil is the reliable source of information about what to take for what condition–what plant or supplement helps with colds, infections, high blood pressure, arthritis and the many other ills that flesh is heir to. He tells what natural product to take, how to take it, the actual doses, what to watch for, when not to take it and what prescription drugs don’t mix well with the botanicals.

Find this treasury of information at http://www.drweil.com. On the home page, click on Supplements & Herbs. There’s your little home companion to basic botanical medicine and if your doc needs info about how an incoming cold can be warded off with garlic, that’s the spot.

Will you be believed? I don’t know and have given up trying to convert those who don’t want to know. As someone said, it is hard to convince anyone of a fact when his occupation depends on his not believing it. What I do know is that garlic wards off my incoming colds if I get to the garlic fast enough.

And yes, I still get kissed. And while I’m at it, Happy Wedding Anniversary to Cranky Pants.

Prisoner of Stuff: Solving the Downsizing Dilemma

Do we hold on to stuff or does stuff hold on to us? So many people drown in their possessions, I  believe stuff has a gravitational pull, power to suck us down into buying, holding, hoarding and then adding more.

By Betsy Fletcher

And family photos have twice the gravitational pull of other material things. If the Internet hadn’t come along as a place to store family photos, the USA would be covered coast to coast in pictures of Johnny’s first birthday and Jenny’s recital.

Why does it happen?

Each of us has an Inner Hoarder and each Inner Hoarder has a reason. For my parents—it took two of us more than six weeks to clean out their house—it was all about The Depression. In The Depression, there wasn’t enough stuff–even soap and toothpaste were precious, so my parents held on to everything, even last month’s newspapers. And I’m still holding on to some of their stuff, but for a different reason.

The thing isn’t the person

I think I am confusing the possessions of a person with the person. If I give away the old books my mom collected, I will be giving away my mom. Well, at least being disloyal to her.

This is nutty thinking, or more accurately, nutty non-thinking, but I think I have a solution. I will keep one or two of them—a little curtsy to mom—and give the rest away to our local library so someone new can enjoy the words. A simple win, win.

Objects of someone else’s desire

When you give something away, you can console yourself with thoughts of the further adventures of the object. Who will read, wear or use it? I write little short stories in my head about where things will end up. Usually, my stories have happy imaginary endings and sometimes, real happy endings,  as with the many bookcases that have ended up in the offices of our local hospice.

And that is one way to cut loose from the magnetic power of stuff—think of the other people who could use and appreciate it. And the process is certainly green–recycling and keeping stuff out of the landfill, a destination my garage has been mistaken for.

Judging the stuff of others

Cranky Pants and I are gearing up for a move to smaller quarters, the downsizing of the geezer class. Of course, what I keep are the necessities, while what he keeps are sentimental objects. Then, after I finish judging his supposedly foolish choices, I say a little prayer of gratitude when I realize the sentimental choice he holds onto is me.

The joy of simplicity

Friends don’t let friends move without good wishes and casseroles served with side dish testimonials about how good it feels to be free of stuff because they’ve done it themselves. Friends are coming forward now to say they’ve stripped themselves of possessions and are happier for it.

Skip and go naked when it comes to stuff—that’s their advice and I believe it for everything you own owns you. You have to fix, polish, insure, repair, arrange, dust, wash and generally look after what you own. There are better ways to spend the rest of our years on the planet.

So, though I am not getting rid of everything, I am going around the house selecting what really really matters and trying to develop a let-it-go attitude about the rest. Think about it. There aren’t self storage units in heaven. Your kids will just throw it out or give it away, so we might as well say goodbye to all the boxes now.

Truth to tell, I expect to be relieved—the happiness of  a light backpack. Is that joy I see around the next corner of life?

By Cornelia Kopp

The important pleasures of age…what are they?

The important pleasures of childhood were playing outside on summer nights under the streetlights, going swimming, riding bikes and, now that I think of it, not having to cook. (No wonder people love their mothers—a personal chef on the premises.)

The important pleasures of mid-life were mostly private.

By Mario Annunziata

But what about the important pleasures of age? What are they?

Each of us has personal answers and it’s fun to mull them over and come up with a list. Here are mine and may this list set you off on your own quest:

You no longer have to do what the other kids do. One of the gifts of age is growing a mind of your own. Not that you didn’t have it before, but now the mind is more sure of its own thoughts. Independence has strengthened over the decades because you’ve found that much of what you were taught about life turned out to be untrue. (Despite what you were told, good guys don’t always win and nothing bad happens if you wear white shoes before Memorial Day.)

So, yes, later life is a wonderful time to use and polish the First Amendment and the nice thing is, you can’t wear it out. It’s like old silver…the more it’s used, the better it is.  So we Americans can say just about anything without being tarred, feathered or fired.

Now, if you wonder why this freedom comes into full bloom in later life, it could be that you have retired and escaped from the worker box, the parent box and all the other boxes of life. (I don’t know one single person past 60 who considers herself in a box labelled “senior”.) And once you are out of a box, thoughts loosen and run free and the tongue along with them.

Some people think this is crankiness of age. I think it is the honesty of age. If you aren’t going to tell the truth about life now, when will you?

Another important pleasure of age: That’s the experience of appreciation, of gratitude for still being alive on a tiny planet in a huge universe with other humans who have been afforded the same miraculous privilege. Every day in every way I grow more grateful for what I have and do and did.

So what…you may say. This is pleasure? Somehow it is. Gratitude has a calming effect–like sitting in the autumn sunshine with one perfect cup of tea.

By St. Groove

I wouldn’t be surprised if blood pressure goes down when people count their blessings. Earlier in life, I didn’t have time to count my blessings, only time enough to count the kids in the station wagon.  Were all aboard? Which gets me to my third important pleasure, family….

There are probably some people on the planet whose families have given them more trouble than mine and I’d surely like to go out to coffee with them to compare stories. You name it and family has given me grief–yes, ancestors, peers and descendants. Murder, mayhem and madness to start. Yet despite this, I consider my family one of my greatest assets. Yes, my dad deserted us in the Depression, but it was he who later showed me that life was larger than living in a factory town in Connecticut. Yes, my first husband and I divorced, but he stuck by his kids all these years. Also, he, a devoted fisherman, has helped me thru life by telling me long ago that I was like—no, not like a rose—but a fishing line.

By Dave F.

He said a fishing line looks pretty and graceful moving through the air over the water, but when big pressures pull it down, it holds. That one compliment sustained me through hard times. What a gift.

And so it goes with almost every family member. Each has given me a gift and they continue their charity. One gift that keeps on giving is that I can be myself with them—totally, completely, without reservation. They accept me and I can relax into myself in way that doesn’t happen in other situations.

By Jamie Henderson

I guess appreciating family is a pleasure of growing older because I was not insightful enough when I was younger to notice that I sit in a ring of comfort. Or maybe it was that I never sat. Busy mothers don’t sit.

Now, this post is certainly straying into the personal, but that’s the nature of a diary, geezer or not. However, after writing 233 columns about aging and health for a newspaper over the last few years, writing a personal blog now seems to be—well—too personal for someone whose habit is more journalistic.

However, this post is intended, not to inform, but to send you on a quest to find your own important pleasures of age. Please consider using the comment section below to post your own thoughts on the subject. Just know what you post about your pleasures may be read by all my other readers. But if not the truth now, when?

By Anthony Easton

If you ever think of moving….Six things to know

Older people, if they move from the family home—-the one where the dog died—-typically do it at two defined times. They may first get the urge to move when they are newly retired and want to trade in the bigger house for a smaller one and maybe take a fling at a geographic adventure. This is when folks move to Arizona, Florida and various Del Webby places. No ice to fall on. Flowers in the wintertime. Yesssss!

By Kevin Dooley

Later in life, when people are in their 70’s on up–deep into the pill-taking stage—they may want to be nearer adult children. Someone to watch over me and so on.

They pick the child who seems most interested in parental welfare and move closer.

Whatever the reason for the move—snowbirding or hoping for a little help through later life—here’s what to think about. Begin with this basic:

The truth about today’s real estate market is that people may need tranquilizers the size of horse pills when they find out what their house is currently worth. Oh, the horror of a 40% drop in value. That’s when people will need to make a decision whether to still try and sell or maybe rent or actually forgo the winter tan and stay put. However, what will encourage them to sell is that there are great bargains to be had at the other end of the move. The prices of houses in sunny places—think the gambling cities of Nevada—have fallen fast and long. So a lateral move from diminished price home to diminished price home is more palatable. Well, not really palatable, but maybe swallowable if you hold your nose.

Also, when imagining a new home, people need to think about what kind of environment makes older people happy and healthy. Scientists have looked at this issue and come up with the following points, all of which make sense to me as I feel my way through my own life. So here’s what to keep in mind—

First, go for a home that is near people—you will need a social life–and near services for seniors. Do not go for an isolated home in the boonies even if you can get the acreage for a song. We who are older don’t need to go back to the earth 20 miles from town. We are past the tepee stage of life.

by Fergie Lancealot

I give this anti-islation sermon to Cranky Pants, but he still wants a fishing cabin in the wilderness. I say get it out of your system on vacation and send me smoke signals about how it’s going back there at the trout shack.

Second, look for good medical care. That means the doctors there will still take new Medicare patients and the hospital has a good rep. If you want to know about specific doctors, ask a nurse. Nurses know the scuttlebutt about who is a prince and who a pain in the stethoscope.

Third, look for decent nearby shopping which could include farmers’ markets to get healthy veggies and fruits and and maybe a Trader Joe’s to fill the grocery cart without paying a king’s ransom and yes, a drug store, preferably one with short lines at the prescription counter. (We now have one where the lines are so long, they find the dehydrated bodies of seniors lying in aisles at the end of the day.)

Fourth, look for good public transport systems. You may be driving now and can’t imagine the day when you hang up the car keys, but begin to imagine. How many 90-year-olds are still driving? And don’t you hope to be 90 plus? So, a good public transportation system is something to look for. It means you don’t have to drive to shopping, medical care and movies. You are chauffeured, m’dear.

Fifth, look for a place that is walkable. If there is anything we learn from other people and other cultures where longevity is routinely achieved, it’s that these people walk. Walkable means out of traffic, pretty flat, without lots of high curbs, hidden bumps and iffy sidewalks upturned by tree roots. Some people use malls and parks as a walking place. Others are lucky enough to step outside their doors into an easily-walked neighborhood or even onto nature’s walkway, a beach. On the other hand, even New York City is walkable. My father walked all over Manhattan and lived into his 90’s, still walking until called to higher places.

Sixth: Stairs are not senior-friendly. Sometimes we go down the stairs head first, so look for single level homes. Young seniors down-sizing to townhouses often forget that two levels will not do when they are recovering from knee surgery later on in life. How long can you sleep on a couch when you can’t make it up the stairs?

Take-away thoughts: The basic task of choosing a new home after 60 is to imagine specifically what you’ll need as an older person. Because if you take care of yourself, you will get older and you don’t want to be out of luck then when it comes to location and services. The other important thing is not to have a nervous breakdown when you come up against the realities of the current real estate market. At least don’t break down alone. Call me and we’ll scream together.

By Mingo