May 28, 2016

In My 87 years, I've Seen Us Go from the Contagious Optimism of our "Greatest Generation" to the Mean-Spirited Anger of Today

I was born on May 26, 1929... 87 years ago. So I'm part of the generation between two well-known ones -- the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.

Tom Brokaw assigned the description "Greatest Generation" to describe those people who grew up during the Great Depression and went on to fight World War II. It's often defined to include those born between 1901 and 1925, but the core of the GG generally includes people born between 1914 and 1924.

The Baby Boomers include people born during the post-war Baby Boom years of 1945 and 1964.

My generation is not as well known and doesn't really have a designated name. But I call it the "Lucky Generation," and I am an example.

May 25, 2016

Looks Like I'm Doing Three Things Right

I subscribe to several health newsletters, but finding something useful for me is hit or miss.

Every now and then I strike gold. That was the case last week when I received the June 2016 issue of the Cleveland Clinic's Men's Health Advisor. It included three articles I liked, especially because they recommended things I was already doing. Here's a brief recap of each. 

Brisk Exercise May Slow Cognitive Declines 
Older adults who engage in moderate-to-intense exercise may help delay age-related declines in thinking and memory, according to a study published online March 23 in Neurology. Researchers reviewed data on 876 people with no signs of cognitive problems who were questioned about their exercise habits and underwent multiple neuro-psychological evaluations.

Ninety percent of the study participants engaged in light exercise (walking or yoga) or no exercise. The remaining 10% reported moderate-to-high-intensity exercise such as running, aerobics, or calisthenics. 

When the study participants were re-tested five years later, those who reported low physical activity levels scored significantly lower than their more active counterparts on tests that measured word recall and speed of task completion. The difference in cognition was equal to about ten years of normal aging.

The take-away message: engaging in moderate-to-high-intensity exercise may help slow cognitive-related decline. The newsletter recommends working with your physician and/or exercise professional to develop an exercise plan tailored to your overall health status and capabilities. 

Mindfulness Therapies May Help Ease Low-Back Pain
People with chronic low-back pain may benefit from using mind-based therapy, according to research published in the March 22-29 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). The study included 342 people aged 20-70 who had low-back pain for an average of about seven years.

All participants received usual medical care for eight weeks; 116 also underwent mindfulness-based stress reduction in a program of meditation and yoga; and 113 received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a specialized cognitive training to change pain-related thoughts and behaviors.

May 24, 2016

Family Fun on a Rainy Afternoon

"Jazz on a Rainy Afternoon" is one of my favorite CD albums, and it prompted the title for this post.

We’ve been having the worst May weather I can remember in my 60 years in Washington. This month's temperatures have averaged nine degrees below normal.

Unfortunately, that unpleasantness has coincided with my being hit by shingles, so I have not been a happy camper.

But this past Sunday was a delight, even though it poured down rain most of the day.

My granddaughter Emily – with her husband Jarrod, their two-year-old daughter Emarie and their second (and brand-new) daughter Emira -- drove from their Baltimore home to pay a visit. We had a great time together for a couple of hours. Emira is just a few weeks older than Nivah, the daughter of my housemates Bhawana and Nimesh.

Here’s Jarrod with Emarie and Emira:

May 21, 2016

Getting Together with an Elderly or Infirm Friend? Lunch Isn’t the Only Option.

Now that I'm starting to recover from two months of battling shingles, I scheduled my first lunch out with a friend yesterday. Appropriately, it was with Jack Golodner, whom I've known longer than any of my other friends. We met in the early 1950s as students in Cornell's industrial Labor Relations School.

We began with the usual “organ recital,” often the prelude to other conversation when friends in their 80s get together. Then we discussed problems with medical care generally, and issues with our own doctors in particular. We had a very nice time together.

But when I got home, I realized I had exhausted my limited energy supply for the day. I was wiped out. 

I certainly hope that my endurance improves as my recovery from shingles progresses. For now, a lunch date is pushing my limits.

Other Options for Getting Together
Last Sunday, my friend Puru called, said he was thinking about stopping by, and asked if I wanted to drive over to our neighborhood farmer's market with him. I wanted. We spent over an hour at the market, and I picked up a few things at the Safeway next door.

The outing gave us a good chance to chat, and brought some welcome additions to my pantry at home. It also took much less energy than going downtown for lunch.

Puru has also offered to stop by on his way home from work -- when the weather improves – to drive me over to Potomac Avenue. This level street just a few minutes from my house offers gorgeous views across the Potomac River… and a good opportunity for me to try out my new walker for some needed exercise.

May 19, 2016

A Setback, Computer Frustrations, and a Solution

On Wednesday, I had a serious setback. I felt on the verge of collapsing, and even wondered if I’d end up in Sibley Hospital’s emergency room again… a repeat of my trip there on March 5. Luckily, Bhawana – one of my housemates -- was home at the time, and again proved very helpful.

I decided this setback was the result of the frustrations I’d felt working on blog posts. As so often happens these days, I was struggling with the computer keyboard, hadn't taken my meds on time, and had spent way too much time sitting in my office chair.

I was almost thinking about giving up on the blog.  But I feel it’s important for me to keep this project going. The blog provides a motivating purpose for me, and in a way – after all these years of telling my story -- feels a little like part of my “legacy.” 

The critical issue is the amount of time I spend keyboarding. Dragon’s voice recognition software helps, but it makes almost as many mistakes as my own slow and unreliable typing. I end up spending hours on a post that someone else could have tapped on the keyboard in fifteen minutes. So I've come up with a remedy: this post is being typed into the computer by my friend and helper, Rikki. 

This idea – like so many -- came to me in the middle of the night, and I'm enthusiastic and hopeful  about it.

The problems I was having on Wednesday have largely disappeared. I've taken my blood pressure several times today, and the numbers are unusually low.

John Pepper and Chris Day – both of whom I mentioned in a post earlier this week about John’s “conscious walking” regimen as a way of managing Parkinson’s symptoms – emphasize  something that they both think is important and that I need to work on – maintaining balance in one’s life.

No question – when I spend too much time at the computer, especially with the frustrations of voice recognition software and my own slow and error-prone keyboarding, my life feels out of balance.