body, happiness, health, leisure, mind, retirement, security, soul

Age Well San Diego

Yesterday San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency, in partnership with Sharp Healthcare, AARP California, The San Diego Foundation, ABC Channel 10, and Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage, held its 11th Aging Summit. It’s the first I had heard of and the first I attended. The woman sitting next to me said she had attended the previous one, two years ago, where the audience was so small they could be seated around a few tables in front of the stage. This year more than 2,000 people registered to attend the event in San Diego with another 500 people connected via webcast in a North County location.

I attended for two reasons: my recent injuries result from reduced bone density, a consequence of aging; and my book club’s decision to discuss Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal, which deals with issues of aging and what constitutes living well at the end of life at our next meeting in a week.

I can’t think of a better way to describe my reaction to the event’s program and workshops than to fall back on a boomer phrase: it blew my mind.

I had no idea San Diego was so committed to dealing with the inevitable increase in the number of people over the age of 65 in the future. San Diego not only has one of the best climates for people of all ages, it is clearly one of the most progressive places for a retiring population to live out final years.

The speakers threw out a number of facts, including the following:

  • In 1900, the average life expectancy in the United States was 47. In 2000 it was 78. A recent cover of Time magazine showed the picture of an infant with the heading, “The first child to live to 142 years of age has already been born.”
  • One speaker mentioned experiencing a serious infection and blood poisoning when she was a child and the complicated birth of one of her children. She pointed out that had those things happened just ten years earlier than she experienced them, they may have led to death.
  • Today in San Diego 21,000 grandparents live with and provide substantial support for their grandchildren while the parents remain absent.
  • For every case of elder fraud abuse we know of, there are likely another 23 cases we will not hear about because the victim is too embarrassed to tell anyone.
  • Right now 65,000 people living in America are over 100 years old. That’s four times as many people as there were in 1990. The number is expected to increase eight-fold by 2050.

The event launched the Age Well San Diego Action Plan, which focuses on five areas of concern for an aging population: Health & Community Support, Housing, Social Participation, Transportation, and Dementia Friendliness.

That last one, ensuring San Diego provides a dementia-friendly environment for the increasing number of people over the age of 65, provides a good starting point for describing the current situation in San Diego–and probably in most other urban centers.

Nick Macchione, Director of the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency which runs Live Well San Diego, reported that in 2014, the number of people in San Diego with Alzheimer’s was 85,000. He also cited an easy-to-remember shortcut regarding Alzheimer’s: 5-5-35. Those numbers translate as 5 behaviors lead to 5 health consequences which 35% of dementia patients exhibit. Studies that report on these behaviors and consequences have concluded this means that about one third of patients with Alzheimer’s could have avoided it by making different lifestyle choices.  I couldn’t write fast enough to record which studies Nick mentioned, but I found this report that corresponds closely with his points.

The five behaviors: unhealthy diet, smoking, physical inactivity, drinking alcohol, and having no friends.

The five consequences: hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, type II diabetes, and depression.

The data behind these numbers explain why social participation is one of the themes of Live Well San Diego. In addition, each of the four other themes in the Age Well San Diego Action Plan include elements to address dementia.

This is the third year of the five-year Age Well San Diego program. The first two years were spent in researching and listening to the community in order to ensure the Action Plan addresses the right issues. That leaves three years for the community to work together to take the steps in the plan, which will lead to data collection so the successes can be replicated and expanded upon.

I knew San Diego is a great place to live when we moved here. But it’s an expensive place to live. And the Age Well San Diego Action Plan addresses the financial pressures on all San Diegans, including those over 65, so that the gift medicine has given us to live at least 30 years longer than our grandparents expected to live is seen as an opportunity, not a burden. San Diego is truly a wonderful place to live.

Note: The Poway Unified School District Transition Program; San Diego-Imperial Chapter, Boy Scouts of America; and San Diego Police Department Volunteer Traffic Patrol also provided assistance during the event.


body, happiness, health, leisure

The Better Way to Travel for My Demographic

The doctor who diagnosed my stress fractures used a phrase that chilled my heart: “in your demographic.” The meaning was clear. I could no longer expect things to be as they were 10, 20, or 30 years ago. My husband pointed out that I need to write down what I learned from the trip because, given my demographic, I might not remember everything when I next decide to travel.

I made some good decisions before my sister and I left for Norway. But since most of my working life was spent moving from country to country every one to three years, and lots of traveling while serving at overseas posts, I thought I knew enough about preparing to travel. I was wrong. What worked during my working years wasn’t always the best option now.

Well Done!

First, the things I did right.

I knew I didn’t want to waste any time in the morning with my hair. So I took the same step as I did before embarking on my year of roving in Africa: I had my hair cut short.

Before the cut

After the cut

I loved the style before the cut, but I knew it would take at least 30 minutes every morning to get it looking right. It worked while I was in Africa. While my hair may be a bit thinner than it was then, I was confident having short hair would mean I could shower, comb my hair, and let it air dry. Total time required after the shower–about 1 minute. This was one change that being in a new demographic really played no role. I know my hair will grow back so I can have that style back.

I also had a manicure and pedicure to have my fingernails and toenails cut as short as reasonable. I wanted to sure I wouldn’t be tempted to take clippers to my toenails and risk cutting into the skin or leaving jagged edges because it’s getting difficult to bend my knees and twist my leg enough to cut the nails straight. The polish also helped prevent nail breaks, at least for the first week.

In addition to packing all my prescription medicines and recommended supplements, I brought small amount of all the medications I might need. More on that later.

woman walking in walking shoesI walked every day in advance of the trip, wearing the shoes I expected to wear to get used to them. I bought a new pair of fitness shoes which had amazing reversible insoles with bubbles on one side that would give me a foot massage while I walked. I worried that too much walking would aggravate the arthritis in my hip which I had been working on improving for the previous six months after a flareup that nearly ruined a trip my husband and I took to England the previous fall. All right, I know, that should have been enough of a warning.

I picked up a purse that had RFI shielding to protect credit card information from being stolen. The purse was also smaller than what I had been using as a “purse” for traveling on planes. That improved moving through airports, though the extra weight I used to put into my purse was now in my carryon bag.

At the last minute I made a decision to bring a camera as a backup for my phone. I didn’t think I’d need it, especially since it meant carrying one more item in my purse. But each day either my phone or camera battery ran out, making it essential to have a backup.

Needs Improvement

Now the things I didn’t do so well. In these instances, my sister showed me how I could have done it.

I brought a large suitcase, but I didn’t fill it because I looked forward to picking up items in Norway. My sister brought a smaller suitcase which opened in the middle, allowing her to separate the items and cover half of them to hold them in place

My suitcase where everything shifted every time I lifted it

My sister’s suitcase where everything was kept securely in place with a minimum of shifting of contents

Now I don’t blame my sister for giving me the things that didn’t fit in her suitcase. After all, mine had room. If I hadn’t brought such a large suitcase, we would have had to find another way to get the items home.

That brings me to the second suitcase lesson. More significant than the size of the suitcases were the number and position of the wheels on them. Mine had only two wheels so that I had to pull the weight of the case whenever we moved. Even my carryon case had only two wheels. My sister’s had four wheels so that she could roll it across the floor.

Bad suitcase

Good suitcase

I did bring two pairs of reasonable shoes for all the walking we did. But I also brought two pairs of not so reasonable shoes. One pair had no support in it, but it looks nice. The other had heels. I tried putting the latter on to go to breakfast one morning and I couldn’t even get out of the room before I realized they wouldn’t work. And I relied on the former when my heel began to hurt because the two pairs of good shoes hit just the point on my heel that hurt. Even worse, I left behind a third pair of shoes that would have been excellent for the walking. Because they were old and didn’t look pretty.

My sister also brought both a camera and her smart phone. Like me, she experienced the battery for one or the other running out. But her camera had a feature mine doesn’t–she could wirelessly download the photos she took with her camera to her tablet so she could share those while we were on the road. I could share photos I took with my phone, but those camera shots had to wait until I returned home for downloading.

I brought over-the-counter medication I thought I might need, but I overlooked the most likely problem–catching a cold. And yes, of course I caught a cold. Fortunately, my sister had brought a small first-aid kit that included both daytime and nighttime remedies for the symptoms of a cold. It got me through the remainder of the trip, though I did have to buy tissues in large quantities in Trondheim.

What have I done as a result of the lessons I learned?

  • We now have spinner suitcases with four wheels and hard sides, three sizes: carryon, medium, and large.
  • The doctor who diagnosed my stress fractures recommended a store that specializes in providing good quality shoes. It was the same store I bought one of the pairs I brought with me. I now have a second pair which do not twist at all. I bought them for their support, not for their appearance. I plan to remove shoes that do not provide my feet with enough support from my closet and go back to the same store, not DSW, when I need a new pair of shoes.

The rest are just plans–plans to replenish a first aid kit with more remedies for common maladies, plans to include spare batteries for my camera, plans to buy a new camera with wireless downloading possibilities.

But first, my heels need to heal. And I’m glad to say that my hip didn’t bother me at all.

Have you had to make changes in your routine due to age? What has been the most difficult?


Image credits:
Featured Image: Tommaso Pecchioli
Manicured nails: Sarah Cervantes
Shoes: Grant Ritchie

body, happiness, health, mind, the alternative, wisdom

How to Improve Your Chances to Live Longer

There really IS something that’s better than the alternative – thinking positively about the future. This article detailing a longitudinal study by Yale researchers, reports that the brains of those whose attitudes towards aging were negative showed shrinkage in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is important for memory formation. And the same brains also showed a buildup of protein plaques and twists associated with Alzheimer’s.

Is this another chicken vs the egg example? Well, does it really matter? Even if the correlation is that hippocampus shrinkage and protein plaque buildup come before the negative thoughts, humans can control thoughts. So think positively about what aging brings you. Freedom from working from 9 to 5. Lower costs at matinee movies. Senior discounts at many restaurants. Celebrate! Don’t castigate. Applaud the future. Don’t condemn it.

What do you have to lose?

happiness, leisure, mind, soul, wisdom

connect, respect, protect

tv_flashpoint01I hate to admit this about any television program, but I’ve become a Flashpoint junkie.  I never watched this Canadian television program when it debuted, but ION Television bought up the rights to the series from CBS and has been rebroadcasting the seasons nearly every day recently. I recorded them without realizing what the series was about. The title was intriguing enough to catch my eye.

Initially, I thought this series would be so easy for Second City TV, if it still existed, to parody. Instead of the three and sometimes even four black vans with dark-tinted windows and flashing blue lights making their way in single file through Toronto’s downtown streets without problems, I’d like to see them encounter normal downtown traffic, preventing the last vehicle from keeping up with the others, peeling off one more at successive traffic lights until they are each on their own. Or, instead of the six members of Team One jumping out fully covered in their armored vests, pants held tight just above the knee with a holster for weapon or equipment, and carrying high-power long guns, able to jog from the vans to the site of the emergency without breaking a sweat or even breathing heavily from exertion, I’d like to see one of them trip on that gear and fall down, knocking the others over like dominoes.

But I’m willing to suspend my disbelief regarding all their gear because I am charmed by their motto — connect, respect, protect — and by how they approach both those they are there to protect and those they need protecting from.

Unlike episodes of U.S. cop shows where the SWAT team arrives with a battering ram to break down the door so those with the long guns can start shooting at anyone in sight, Team One members follow their motto — protecting those who need it, respecting everyone in the area, and connecting with those holding guns, knives, bombs, or hostages to defuse the situation, ideally without anyone being injured. Like all law enforcement officers Flashpoint team members train to keep fit physically as well as to maintain their sharp shooter skills, but they also train to improve their negotiation skills and to recognize behavioral clues that indicate state of mind so they can adjust their plan accordingly. They use the clues to determine how to connect with victims and witnesses, to gather information to learn the suspect’s motivation, and to help anticipate what the suspect will do next.

I’ve picked up some negotiation tactics myself as a result of watching the shows.

  • First, establish rapport by telling the other person your name and asking for his.
  • Second, point out that nothing done up to this point is irreversible. It is possible to end the standoff right here and right now.
  • Third, you always have a choice, but some choices are better than others.
  • Fourth, consider the consequences of the choice you are contemplating now, and then consider the consequences of other choices so you can identify the best option, the best choice, for now.
  • Only use force when necessary, and deadly force is always the last option.

These tactics are appropriate in less than life-threatening situations as well — well the first four anyway. Imagine a situation when a friend has disappointed you, or you feel that you have disappointed a friend. First, establish rapport — with the other person or even with another side of yourself — by finding common ground, something to agree on. Second, point out that the friendship is still what is important. It is possible to close the distance between one another right here and right now. Third, you always have a choice, but some choices are better than others. Fourth, consider the consequences of the choice you are contemplating now and then consider the consequences of other choices so you can identify the best option, the best choice, for now.

Perhaps I am just rationalizing my Flashpoint habit by finding something positive, some lesson, some take away — it isn’t just entertainment; it’s educational, too! But the clincher for me is that motto — protect, respect, connect. A good story that illustrates the power of those three words is worth telling, and retelling. If you haven’t watched Flashpoint yet, I encourage you to check it out.

body, happiness, health, leisure, mind

a guide to healthy aging for women

Healthy Aging for Women

For more about the infographic, see here.

The infographic above represents the top diseases that affect women as we age as well as strategies to address them. I was surprised to see autoimmune diseases on the chart, and even more surprised that 75% of sufferers of autoimmune diseases are women. I guess I am in good company with my Graves disease diagnosis. The National Institutes of Health website has an informative page with information about the more than 80 different autoimmune diseases, the suspected causes, and available treatments, but there is little known about the triggers that bring on the diseases.

I have my own theory to explain the rise in autoimmune diseases: I believe the change in our diet over the years, especially the increase in processed foods with preservatives and remnants of pesticides and herbicides used to increase crop yield, is playing a significant role.

In 2012, National Public Radio reported on recent research into the good bacteria in our bodies and their role in our health.

The human body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only maybe one in 10 of those cells is actually — human. The rest are from bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms.

“The human we see in the mirror is made up of more microbes than human,” said Lita Proctor of the National Institutes of Health, who’s leading the Human Microbiome Project.

“The definition of a human microbiome is all the microbial microbes that live in and on our bodies but also all the genes — all the metabolic capabilities they bring to supporting human health,” she said.

These microbes aren’t just along for the ride. They’re there for a reason. We have a symbiotic relationship with them — we give them a place to live, and they help keep us alive.

“They belong in and on our bodies; they help support our health; they help digest our food and provide many kinds of protective mechanisms for human health,” Proctor said.

And for the past 75 years, we have been killing off the microbes that used to live in our digestive system through the addition of preservatives that make it possible for us to keep the products on our shelves longer. It makes sense to me that if the preservatives kill off the bacteria the food processors don’t want in their products, then the preservatives will continue to do the same work in my gut.

A July 2014 New York Times article reported on studies by Dr. Martin J. Blaser who concludes that we are losing the variety of microbes that used to be part of each human organism.

Dr. Martin J. Blaser, a specialist in infectious diseases at the New York University School of Medicine and the director of the Human Microbiome Program, has studied the role of bacteria in disease for more than three decades. His research extends well beyond infectious diseases to  autoimmune conditions and other ailments that have been increasing sharply worldwide.

In his new book, “Missing Microbes,” Dr. Blaser links the declining variety within the microbiome to our increased susceptibility to serious, often chronic conditions,  from allergies and celiac disease to Type 1 diabetes and obesity. He and others primarily blame antibiotics for the connection.

I am a convert to the organic food movement. I plan to eat what doesn’t come with preservatives, antibiotics, pesticides, or herbicides in order to get everything my body needs, not a limited selection offered up by food processors. I want grass-fed beef and free range chickens. I want fish from the sea, not from a farm. As I shift my diet, I’ll be looking for improvements in my Graves disease and diabetes. And I’ll pass on my observations, subjective and based on limited data though they may be.

body, happiness, health, mind

get out of diet prison!

In prison, those things withheld from an by katerha, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  katerha 

A former colleague, Noel Dickover, has just shared his 20-month journey to better health, during which he has lost 100 pounds. But his goal is not tied to a number. His goal is to live a healthier life. That’s my goal, too. Noel’s story inspires me. I no longer care about my weight. Instead, I care about my depression, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, diabetes, and Graves disease diagnoses.

First Noel addresses diets, redefining them as a sure-fire way to gain wait in the long term. He equates being on a diet with being in a psychic prison. My own experience with Jenny Craig eventually brought me to the same conclusion. It only took two years for my weight to soar up again, past what my starting point had been when I joined Jenny Craig.

Noel then takes on exercise programs, pointing out that like diets, they focus on numbers – number of squats, number of reps, number of steps. This leads to overdoing things, which leads to injuries, which leads to failure. My experience exactly.

Noel’s approach has been to make small changes that he could incorporate into his routine. Gradual changes, at the pace his body accepted. Stretching instead of heavy exercises. Many small meals instead of three big meals. Real food instead of processed foods.

Real food. I’ve just started reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. In addition to recipes, Fallon includes descriptions of what processing foods does to the nutritional value. For example:

Extraction: Oils naturally occurring in fruits, nuts and seeds must first be extracted. In the old days this extraction was achieved by slow-moving stone presses. But oils processed in large factories are obtained by crushing the oil-bearing seeds and heating them to 230 degrees Farenheit. The oil is then squeezed out at pressures from 10 to 20 tons per inch, thereby generating more heat. During this process the oils are exposed to damaging light and oxygen. In order to extract the last 10 percent of the oil from crushed seeds, processor treat the pulp with one of a number of solvents – usually hexane. The solvent is then boiled off, although up to 100 parts per million may remain in the oil. Such solvents, themselves toxic, also retain the toxic pesticides adhering to seeds and grains before processing begins.

That description was enough to send me off to the health food store to look for cold pressed oil and organic food.

Noel’s journey followed these principles:

  • Clear direction, but no clear, measurable end point;
  • Heal at your body’s pace;
  • Experiment before deciding;
  • Changes must be enjoyable; and 
  • No restrictions, just better decisions.

Thanks, Noel. I’m right behind you.

body, happiness, health

retirement week one – baking

rhubarb upside down cakeOne of my goals for the first week of retirement was to try out a few recipes I had stuffed away in a drawer for when I could find more time.  The first was rhubarb upside down cake.

Since I haven’t lived in one place long enough to start a garden for more than 30 years, I haven’t had any rhubarb to pick for at least that long. This spring we found small rhubarb plants at Lowe’s. We planted three in our small garden, right next to the rosemary bush. When the stalks were big enough to cut, I began looking for recipes. After trying a couple of rhubarb cake recipes, I found the upside down cake recipe.

rhubarb upside down cake with ice creamI didn’t have a springform cake pan and I didn’t have a large enough cake pan to hold the batter. I compensated by lining the edge of my 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper to extend the height. The result was delicious, especially with ice cream.

The complete recipe can be found here.

heart shaped wafflesAnother recipe I couldn’t wait to try is for Norwegian waffles. I’ve had the waffle iron for several months (it bakes five hearts with the points in the center so the waffle comes out with a scalloped edge) and the waffle recipe for even longer. We serve the waffles at the House of Norway in Balboa Park on Sunday afternoons. A key ingredient in these waffles is cardamom which gives off an enticing fragrance while they are baking, just the kind of aroma that draws people into the House of Norway to find out just where it comes from.

Find the complete recipe here.

And finally, I found a recipe for orange zest scones from Laura Gummerman’s lemon sconesblog, A Beautiful Mess, which I thought I could make with lemons instead. But lemon juice is so much stronger than orange juice that I knew I had to compensate with more sugar. Instead of just squeezing lemons for the juice and adding sugar, I took a page out of a Norwegian lemon tart recipe I found in August 2015 Viking magazine which calls for slicing two lemons very thinly and then putting them into a bowl, pouring 2 cups of sugar over the slices and letting them sit for at least 8 hours. The sugar draws out the juice and adds enough sweet to it, turning the juice into a very thin syrup.

For the complete recipe, check here.



body, happiness, health

rhubarb upside down cake

From the New York Times


  • 2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, more to grease pans
  • 1 ½ pounds rhubarb, rinsed and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes about 4 cups
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Nutritional Information

Nutritional analysis per serving (8 servings) 652 calories; 33 grams fat; 20 grams saturated fat; 1 gram trans fat; 8 grams mono-unsaturated fat; 1 gram poly-unsaturated fat; 83 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 52 grams sugars; 7 grams protein; 173 milligrams cholesterol; 254 milligrams sodium

Note: Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available data.

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of the pan. Wrap two layers of foil under the pan, and place it on a buttered baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix rhubarb, cornstarch and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
  3. Mix the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes.
  4. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
  5. Whip 2 sticks butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment for 2 minutes.
  6. With your fingers, blend the remaining 1 cup sugar with lemon zest until the mixture is uniform in color.
  7. Cream together with the butter at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl halfway through.
  8. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  9. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  10. Mix in the sour cream, then the lemon juice. (It’s O.K. if the mixture looks curdled.)
  11. With the mixer set to low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the mixer bowl in between the additions.
  12. Pour the brown-sugar mixture into the cake pan, then spoon in the rhubarb and its juices. Spoon in the batter so it covers all of the rhubarb. Smooth out the top.
  13. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top of the cake is firm to touch and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out without any large, moist crumbs.
  14. Place the pan on a wire rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the cake, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it upside-down. Release the cake from the pan while still warm or else it will stick.
body, happiness, health

norwegian waffles


  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 pound melted butter, cooled slightly
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sour cream


  1. Mix eggs, flour, sugar, melted butter, and cardamom together in a bowl.
  2. Dissolve baking soda in water and add to the mixture.
  3. Stir in sour cream
  4. Thin down, if needed, with water.
  5. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter on a waffle iron (Norwegian waffles are usually shaped with five heart-shaped pieces connected in a circle).
  6. Serve with sour cream and raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or lingonberry jam.
body, happiness, health, leisure, mind, soul, wisdom

lessons from the dalai lama

For his 80th birthday, the Dalai Lama’s shared eight lessons for living and asked that we all try to follow them.


For more information about each of these lessons, see this article from