Another Quiet Friday Night

I was sitting on the couch all by myself as usual and watching TV when my doorbell rang. I got up to see who it was. When I opened the door you couldn’t even imagine my surprise seeing my daughter and my grandson standing in front of the door.

I saw my daughter and my grandson for the first time in months as we were separated due to isolation. Seeing him immediately brought tears of happiness in my eyes as he ran towards me and hugged me.

We spent the night mostly talking about the things they have been doing in the meantime.

My grandson brought his PS4 over as they had planned to stay over for the weekend, so we played a few games together. I wasn’t half as bad as you would expect from an older man.

That night my heart was filled with joy, as for me, there is nothing more important than having your loved ones next to you.

The next morning my son-in-law joined us as well. Since it was our first family reunion after a long time we decided to grill in the backyard. Grilling for the family has always been my passion and they know that well. I grilled my grandson’s favorite dish: grilled potatoes. After lunch, we decided to play football for a while. To my surprise, I wasn’t in good shape. And then it struck me… Am I getting too old for this? But while I was running around and getting all sweaty I had in mind that this is exactly what I want to be doing.

We resumed playing football and my grandson bumped into me. We both fell on the ground getting all dirty. Then, I grabbed my grandson and I started tickling him as he was rolling on the grass. My daughter just said: “Dad, you are such a little boy” and then she turned to my son and said to him: “You better go get a shower”.

My grandson asked if there was hot water. My reply was: “In this house, there is always hot water!” I had recently installed a tankless heater. It heats the water directly and I have unlimited hot water at any time of the day. The only thing I’ve ever needed help with is its maintenance.

This little weekend gathering made me realize how blessed I am to have my family by my side and how much the family can have a huge impact on one’s psychological health. So to all of you out there regardless of age, I advise you to cherish your loved ones and whenever the opportunity arises, spend as much time with them as possible.

Ordering with Confidence

As older folk, we hope we can live up to the old adage about age and wisdom. You know it well. It may be more true that you can teach an old dog new tricks. It just depends on the issue in question. But most every time, we are a bunch of golden oldies with a youthful spirit so we are open to the advice of the young. We try to seek their opinions out to give us fodder for discussion. It is what keeps you going forward with confidence into the future and keeps the mind agile and vital. Life is rich and rewarding if you look for the best of existence in every nook and cranny. Living life to the fullest are not idle words. We know that good and bad things happen, but we can maximize the positive with a great attitude.

Not long ago, a few of us got together to discuss the way of the world at present. This is our favorite pastime—too mull over matters as a group and to compare solutions to the world’s problems. We select different topics, some of which appeal to the young. We invite some younger guests just to mix things up. It can make for a lively interaction. NO heated arguments, mind you. It is gentle controversy at best. We were sitting in a poorly lit restaurant having cup after cup of rich, hot coffee when one of the young people asked why we were having trouble reading the menu. After all, we all wore glasses. He was sure we were going to make a mistake in ordering lunch. Why such concern, we all thought. Was he being overly solicitous, mocking and derisive, or simply wanting to move things along. While he was patient enough, he started to make gestures about getting on with ordering. He finally left the table for a moment, went outside to his car, and returned with a LED flashlight. “Here buddies,” he said. “Use this.” Okay, it was a great idea and we didn’t have such a tool on us—not a one. It was like magic. You could see every tiny printed word on the menu so you could order with confidence exactly what you wanted.

The flashlight made the rounds of the table and the ordering could proceed. We were all fascinated by the difference the magnification made, not to mention the extra light in that dim place. You can bet that the next time we are out, there will be more than one of these in our pockets. It is the sort of thing you want to take everywhere you go. It took a young pair of eyes to see our folly of trying to read a miniscule menu in a poorly-lit restaurant. As I said above, we love to learn from the young. Now what can we offer back? We suggested some new books that we have just read, some movies we like, and some new TV history shows that are sure to grab anyone’s attention. So, there you are. Share and share alike.

Live In A Stormy State? Consider A Backup Power Generator

Seniors who live in stormy, cold climates know how important it is to have heat. They have heard the statistics. The fatalities are always from their age group. Perhaps they don’t have heat or the system is not functioning properly due to neglect. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t have to be yours.

Lucky ones to Arizona or Florida for the season. They are called Snow Birds flocking away from their habitat to warmer climes. What a great idea. In a couple of hours they are toasty warm in the summerlike sun. Those who are not so lucky have to resort to blankets, portable heat, and the heating cooling system that hopefully is not on the fritz.

One thing to always keep on hand in snowy climates is a backup power generator. This marvelous device has saved more than one freezing soul. Even a small one can power up small heating appliances like the flower models that are safe and have a pretty good reach. The affluent have large generators for the entire electrical system of the whole house, and that is great if you can afford it. But at the minimum, a portable generator can be your saving grace.

Generators are expensive to be sure and selecting a mid-range model is not a bad idea. You don’t need the best or the worst, but something in between. Ask for help at your hardware store or read the fine print and testimonials on line before making your decision. It might be a matter of life and death.

Generators have various features and you can pay from $300 to $3000. What is the difference? The lower end models are great for camping and powering lights, an electric blanket, cooking gear, and the like. The big guys are for major power outages that could go on for some time. They can run a furnace, a fridge, a microwave, and charge car batteries, although not all at the same time.

Getting the right generator will save you much grief come November through March. It pays to have one on hand for emergencies. You never know what can happen, even to the best of us. If you are particularly isolated and hard to reach, all the more reason to keep one on hand. Rural folk don’t have to be told more than once!

Keeping Cool; Staying Warm

Seniors can be very susceptible to changes of temperature. When it drops or soars, concern radiates out into the community about the aged population and if they are, in fact, safe. Most of the time, the problem is poverty and people just can’t afford their electrical bills, so they don’t even turn their systems on. Sometimes they forget or are impervious to their own needs.

Keeping warm or cool, depending on the time of year, is important for seniors, and everyone. Advance preparation is all that is needed. Most people have an AC system and they can readily have it checked once a year. Don’t ever assume it is in good working order. You can also buy a backup generator for emergencies and practice using it so you are as ready as a Boy Scout on the fatal day.

It is also wise to stock extra blankets, enough for the whole family should the power go out and the generator doesn’t work or is overtaxed. Or, why put it to chance and instead install something that you will always be able to rely on, a high quality wood stove. Of course this means you’ll need to have firewood in your home and your garden shed, because it is a scary thought to have no reserves in storage in case it gets really cold one night after the stores have closed. It reminds me of an Old Bette Davis movie from the 1950’s. She was a school teacher in a rural village and the school house was a mile away from the town. One day, a sudden and treacherous storm hit. The snow fell in droves and was higher than the schoolhouse windows. The children and their teacher were marooned. As they became colder and colder, Bette became more and more frantic. They finally started burning books, then chairs, then school desks till nothing was left. As they started to literally freeze to death, she decided the only hope was to brave the cold and lead the children through the white out blizzard to safety. Of course, she prevailed. This was senior ingenuity at its very best!

Another storm story with a senior is a film that takes place in rural Minnesota: a real cold spot if ever there was one! A man and his grandson were taking their family cow out to pasture when a sudden storm hit. The snow was wild and the winds were worse. There were white banks of it everywhere the eye could see, and it couldn’t see much else. They were caught in a weather trap of the very worst kind. They were entirely lost and could barely see one another, not to mention the cow. As the temperature dropped and the boy started to freeze to death, the father became panicky. He thought long and hard, and made his move. He cut open the cow the length of the critter’s body, and placed the small son within. The warm blood revived the boy and he survived long enough for the weather to clear and the pair could find their way home. Senior ingenuity at its best.

These were powerful movies about weather catastrophe and a lesson to us all, especially seniors, to avoid such dire conditions that could threaten their survival. If they do not feel safe, consult with a senior center to have an evaluation done of the home to see if everything possible has been done for the vast ranges of temperature that can threaten well-being.

Too Old To Go Backpacking?

article-0-1309E589000005DC-110_306x423No one is too old to go backpacking if they really want to go. It all depends on when and where. If you have to hike up Mt. Everest, well then no. Don’t even think about something that has conquered lesser men and women. If you have to go down into the Grand Canyon on a mule, well then yes. Some seniors are fit as a fiddle and some are frail. You do what you can. For one, outdoor recreation is a spin around the pool with a walker. For another, it is back country skiing at Vail.

So if you get invited, weigh the odds of returning alive, and go for it. Put your best heating pad in your backpack and lace up those old boots. Grandpa is coming! Age is just a number and 70 is the new 50. I have been told that a wiry, muscular 80-year-old can lift weights and ski with the best of them, and the oldest backpacker in the world at 95 has just set off on a two month tour of Europe. Why not camping, fishing, hiking, or other outdoor activity.

Backpacking is for the young at heart – age be damned. This is really a symbolic issue to me about whether seniors can cut it as they advance in years. If you think about it, people do later in life what they did at a younger age. If you never hiked once, why would you at 70? But if you were a regular mountain goat, then why not? Go for it! Staying fit means doing what we love and not succumbing to myths about being too old.

Young people can be pansies about backpacking and they can have no stamina for it. They balk at camping because it is roughing it and they don’t know how to light a kerosene stove. Forget about starting a fire or making coffee over it. Such comparisons are revealing. It is not about age after all, but one’s mentality about physical health. It seems to be a relative matter not always reflective of age.

What constitutes physical health for a senior? How many miles does a man or woman have to walk to prove his or her fitness? There are probably some standard government tests that spell out what you should be able to do at any given age. Let’s guess for a minute. If you don’t pant and gasp after climbing the stairs in your daughter’s home, you may be ready for backpacking. Obviously, you’re going to want a more comfortable backpack than one of the cool backpacks sported by today’s 18-35 year old backpackers, and perhaps something with a set of wheels to make it easier to get around if it all gets too heavy to lug around on your back.

You can certainly get yourself in condition for any trip to the woods. Stretching will keep you limber and the joints oiled. Knee bends, or squats as trainers call them, are required in any workout. Then there is weight lifting to tone and shape the muscles and build strength. You can ride a bike, use a stair stepper, and spin to your heart’s content. You can take Pilates, a modern craze, get down on a mat, lunge lasciviously, and lurch on demand. Seniors do exactly what everyone else includes in their weekly fitness program.

There is no age difference in any activity if the parties involved are up to the task. Ok, you can’t play basketball anymore, but we are talking about common, garden variety backpacking. Many seniors have walked miles of pilgrimage roads in France and Spain that young ones cannot fathom. They have endurance, will power, stamina, and grit. Young people whine and complain, are constantly bored and hungry. Need we say more?

So to answer the question about backpacking, the response is a resounding yes. We advise any and all seniors to get the backpack on and join the ranks of the fit. I am ready to join you.