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, mind, retirement, soul, wisdom

what to do? what to do?

Compact Calendar Card - Design 3 by Joe Lanman, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Joe Lanman 

Those who have retired before keep reminding me that it won’t take long for me to wonder how I did anything while still working. My days will be filled with projects until there isn’t any more time left.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

photo (56)So, even though it might sound like work, I plan to schedule my time in blocks of 1-2 hours in this new retirement state. I have a white board positioned to my right, under the window of my office, at just the right height for me to add items while sitting at my laptop.

I’ll include those tasks I never could find time for before, like housework (thanks, Sweetheart, for filling in when it was clear I wouldn’t). Two hours each day, at least for the first week. And I have a stack of recipes I want to try – rhubarb upside down cake, orange scones, rhubarb pie – so one of those will go on the schedule for each day. And I plan to write more, for this blog and for myself. That means some time needs to be scheduled for research, another 1-2 hours.

Then there are the presentations I promised to do for Ladies of Valhall (the women’s auxiliary of Sons of Norway out here in San Diego) in September and for the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild in August. They will each take 2-4 hours to prepare.

Every other week I meet with my critique circle. I need to have a new piece written (or an old piece rewritten so that it is worth sharing). That requires another 4-6 hours every other week.

There are audio tapes from Great Uncle Henry from his years living in China while he worked for the Chinese Maritime Customs Service in the 20’s and 30’s. I keep picking them up to transcribe them, but get stalled in the same places each time. I’ve been reading books and books about China’s history in the period just before he arrived there, during the years he was there, and even some of the history afterwards to try to absorb more of what he assumes his listener knows. Transcribing the tapes I have will take weeks, not hours.

Through all of this I have to continue maintaining the website for the Writers Guild, adding posts regularly to improve the likelihood that new people will discover it and decide the Guild is worth looking into. That takes 1-2 hours every day.

I also hope to dig deeper into my family history, to learn more of just who our ancestors were and how their hopes and dreams have influenced mine. Everyone I know who is into genealogy tells me there aren’t enough hours in the day to devote to this project. There is never a point at which the work is “done.”

There are photos to organize (and scan), papers to file (and others to shred), closets and cupboards to organize, and trips to plan.

photoThere are now 8 more hours in each week day that can be scheduled and that means I need to keep a paper calendar with me at all times because I won’t be able to keep all the possibilities in my head. I tried scheduling everything on my iPhone, but it just doesn’t look like a calendar. I need to see not just the events I have scheduled but all the days between them. Look left to see what I mean.

I must leave time for reading. I am reading Peder Victorious, the sequel to Ole Rolvaag’s Norwegian immigrant saga, Giants in the Earth. And yesterday I borrowed the third in Norwegian mystery writer Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, The Redbreast. I’ve read four of his books, three from the Harry Hole series (The Phantom (9th), The Bat (1st), Cockroaches (2nd), and am now working my way through them in the order Nesbo wrote them) and one standalone novel, Headhunters. I won’t be satisfied until I’ve read all the books in both those authors’ series.

But most importantly, there are the grandchildren. Not working any longer means we can help out during the day, not just after my work day ended.

Ufda! I think I understand what those kind folks advising me about the future mean. I don’t know how I’ll ever get all of that done. But I’ll let you know if I discover any tricks.



Retirement by 401(K) 2013, on Flickr Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  401(K) 2013 

The day has come. Yesterday I deleted all e-mail message from my work account. I unsubscribed from all the internal professional platforms. I sent off a farewell message to all my colleagues and special messages to the special colleagues.  Then I logged off, put the government-furnished equipment I had received to permit me to work the approximately 2700 miles away from the office for the past three years into a box and dropped it off with FedEx for delivery to my government supervisor. That cut off my ability to get in touch with anyone on the official network.

All ties have been disconnected. I am no longer employed. I am retired.

Let the fun begin!


happiness, leisure, retirement, soul

the energy of youth

A post on Reflections from Kathy prompted these thoughts. Thanks, Kathy.

Our grandson is just 19 months old and boy does he keep us going! It is wonderful to have him run towards us when we arrive, holding his hand out to grab one of my fingers so he can lead me toward the front door to go outside. He loves being outside. And he clearly associates our arrival with an opportunity to get out of the house.


No matter how hard we try to keep him inside, where his energy isn’t quite so overpowering, to read books or play with his many motor vehicles, he insists on heading outdoors. And with his engaging smile, how can we resist?

My knees and hips may ache, and he doesn’t know his own strength as he holds on very tight to my finger and he swivels to change directions without warning, but I have decided he is my favorite exercise regime. He walks faster than I do, at least as he heads downhill pushing is toddler-sized cart filled with his favorite toys. So keeping up with him adds plenty of steps to my Fitbit record for the day.

He is approaching the terrible twos and seems ready to jump the gun. The other day, as we had urged him nearly home, trying to dissuade him from marching up the sidewalks to the neighbors’ porches, he began stalling, walking behind the fence that surrounds the house at the bottom of the cul de sac where his home is, watching us carefully to make sure we weren’t coming after him. When we called to him, he would come, but only as far as the driveway. He would stand on the lawn, dangling one foot in the air, as though he was about to step on the driveway to follow us, when he would swivel again and head back to the end of the lawn. Cajoling didn’t work to get him back on the path. And there is absolutely no way we would resort to a pat on his little behind to encourage good behavior – not these days.

But when he headed towards the neighbor’s back yard, we had to take matters – and him – into our own hands, picking him up and making our way swiftly back up to his home, our son’s home, our grandson’s mother’s home.

It is the most wonderful exercise program in the world.

body, health, leisure, mind, retirement, soul

cruising in the caribbean

Cruise ship - Radiance of the Seas by blmiers2, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  blmiers2 

We are seniors. We have been for awhile. And taking cruises is something seniors do. In the winter, many of those seniors go cruising in the Caribbean, where the weather is warm and shopping is duty free.

I had been fascinated by the idea of taking a cruise long before I joined the ranks of seniors. I first wanted to take a cruise since before I joined the ranks of teenagers, in the days of that TV classic from the late 50’s, The Gale Storm Show: Oh Susannah. Finally, last month, my husband and I headed off for ten days on a cruise involving stops at six islands interspersed with three days at sea. I was so excited.

We were with two of my cousins and their husbands and were joined for evening meals and many other events by a couple my cousins had met before who have enough nights of sailing with the cruise line we were on to be five-star passengers. The six of them had been on many cruises before. But we were newcomers. There were so many things we didn’t know, even though my cousins and their husbands tried to fill us in.

Maybe the fact that we didn’t have to do our own research was part of our difficulties. My cousin’s husband had checked out the price, the route, and the time of the year, concluding that the price was great, the route would take us to lovely ports, and the time of year would guarantee us pleasant weather. He was right, but that wasn’t enough for our first cruise.

Here is what we learned from our experience.

  • Be prepared to experience motion sickness. No matter how big those ships are, the bow will be bobbing along in the water at some point and that motion can be difficult to adjust to. It is no surprise that the dining rooms are at the back of the ship, where the motion isn’t quite as extreme. Bring motion sickness medicines along. There will be some available on the ship, too, but those shops are like mom-and-pop shops everywhere, limited in what they offer and the prices are high.
  • Start from somewhere close to home. Our ten-day cruise originated on the east coast. We live on the west coast. So our first travel day was consumed just getting across country. And our first flight was delayed by hours because of mechanical problems, putting us at risk of not making our connection or arriving on time, not the carefree beginning to our vacation we had hoped for. And the return trip was even more stressful.
  • Start with a short cruise. This may seem counter-intuitive since it will cost a packet of money for a vacation and longer vacations always seem better than short ones. But we both concluded we should have tried a five-day, not a ten-day, cruise for our first one. Had we not been on the ship for so long, we would likely have enjoyed all of our cruise, instead of just the first half. That’s because. . .
  • Cruise ships are confined and confining places where it is difficult to get away from anything unpleasant. And what was unpleasant for us was the viral infections we both picked up. For the final five days of the cruise, we couldn’t take part in many of the activities we had been looking forward to because our coughing disrupted those around us. In addition, the virus robbed the food – the exquisitely prepared and oh, so plentiful food – of its flavor.
  • Remember that not everything comes with the cost of the room. Meals are included – and as I had expected, there was plenty of food at all the hours we were awake. But everything else beyond food comes with a price tag. It isn’t that the prices were all high – drinks were about what we pay for them back home. But we don’t go out to have cocktails ten nights in a row back home. On the ship, that’s what we all did. And the Love Boat series that included Dr. Bricker as one of the main characters never prepared us for the cost involved in visiting the ship’s medical center. For what we paid for our medical bills – thanks to my PSVT episode – we could have brought along another passenger or taken another shorter cruise. And it happened on the fifth day – what would have been our departure day had we opted for a shorter cruise.
  • Be aware that people on cruises – both passengers who have been on them before and the staff – speak a different language. We didn’t know what the Lido deck meant. Everyone else knew that was the top deck where the buffet and the swimming pools were. I checked what I thought was the right box on the form to arrange for our disembarkation but when we were advised to be ready to leave the ship at 7:30 a.m. while our flight out of town wasn’t until 5:00 p.m., I thought they had made a mistake. When I called to ask why we had been told to be ready to leave so early, the helpful man at the other end of the phone explained, seemingly with great pleasure, that we had been approved for the Luggage Direct program. I had no idea what that meant except that it required us to leave much earlier than we wanted to. We didn’t know the difference between Expedited Departure and Luggage Direct, so we showed up to disembark with the wrong group. I thought a 7:30 a.m. departure time was pretty darn expedited, but we had to wait for the expedited departure folks to leave first. Once we figured out the language of cruises, I realized that what people told us was accurate, but it was as if they had been throwing Finnish words into the middle of English sentences.
  • No matter what clothes you bring along, you’ll need different ones. I had bought three pairs of walking shoes to be sure I had good ones for walking around in port. The first pair bruised the top of my foot before I even set foot on the ship. The second one had decorative holes along the top – I thought it would be good to have shoes that could breathe. Each edge was the source for rubbing my toes, resulting in blisters. Thankfully I bought a pair of walking shoes on the ship – at a lower cost than any of the pairs I brought with me – that served for part of the time. I had to buy another pair when the blisters on my toes made it clear I was not going to make it back to the ship if I didn’t get out of that pair. And I hadn’t brought along dressy shoes for the three formal evenings. I made do with the third pair of walking shoes that could pass for ballet slippers.
  • Be prepared to pony up plenty of money for anything off the island. Sure, it was possible to just walk off the ship and walk around town – each port offering essentially the same shops, all duty free, all offering goods I don’t need and wouldn’t use – but anything beyond that came with price tags per person in excess of a couple of hundred dollars. The one excursion my two cousins and I took together was a slightly lower price and I can’t imagine that any of the other offerings could have topped it. We went zip lining across the jungle canopy of the Dominican Republic.
  • Check for where the smokers spend their time. On our ship, smoking was permitted around the outdoor swimming pool on the Lido deck – at the back of the ship – and on the verandas of the staterooms. Unfortunately, the couple in the stateroom just forward of ours were smokers. Every time we opened the door to spend time on our veranda, we heard one of them open their door. And then the smoke wafted from their veranda to ours. I wish we had asked to swap staterooms with them on the first day. I didn’t think of that until the end of the cruise.
  • Are we sorry we went on the cruise? Not at all. It was a wonderful opportunity to reunite with my cousins and their husbands. And we met other great people as well. Besides, it was on my bucket list.

    Will we go on another cruise? Maybe. But unless taking a cruise is the only way to get somewhere we really want to go, I think we’ll opt for an all-inclusive package where we can stay in one place or go out somewhere else as we want to, not according to the ship’s schedule.

health, mind, retirement, wisdom

mandatory retirement?

When I began this blog, I wasn’t yet eligible for either Social Security or Medicare. But I’ve passed the first milestone. At 62, I am now eligible to apply for Social Security at a reduced rate. I plan to keep working while I still enjoy it. But the question of when to retire is always on my mind.

The November 2010 issue of AARP Bulletin included a short article about the fact that the State Department’s mandatory retirement age of 65 doesn’t apply to the Secretary of State or ambassadors. It also mentioned that Dr. Elizabeth Colton, who turned 65 in August of this year, filed a lawsuit in September 2009 calling the mandatory retirement age unconstitutional.

So I did a little digging. I knew that the mandatory retirement age for Foreign Service Officers is 65. And that the mandatory retirement age for Diplomatic Security agents is 57. And that there is no mandatory retirement age for Civil Service employees. What I found interesting is that nearly every mention of mandatory retirement ages referred to physical and mental requirements and the resulting stress on those to whom it applied – those in law enforcement, pilots and air traffic controllers, but no reference to any reason mandatory retirement should apply to diplomats. Just that it does.

The mandatory retirement age for Foreign Service employees was set at 60 by the Foreign Service Act of 1946, long before the passage in 1967 of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Thirteen years later, the “new” Foreign Service Act of 1980, changed the mandatory retirement age to 65, restoring it to what it had been from 1924 until 1946. It would seem that thought was given to the fact that it was illegal to discriminate against anyone over the age of 40 in the workplace in the United States, but still it was acceptable to consider Foreign Service employment exempt from ADEA. And so it has stood since that time.

But Elizabeth Colton decided to challenge that exemption when an assignment she had been offered and had accepted at age 63 was withdrawn when someone realized she would turn 65 eight months before the end of that assignment. Her suit claimed discrimination based on age.

Another blogger, Diplopundit, highlighted the contrast between the Department’s treatment of Dr. Colton when she entered the State Department in 2000, at which time she was one of four new entrants featured in State Magazine, with the current circumstance. The article cited the wealth of experience Colton brought to State – as a journalist, university professor of international relations, Emmy-award winning television producer, magazine editor – which many supporters now feel State is too willing to toss aside. See thoughts from Walter Russell Mead of American Interest Online.

The timing of AARP’s short piece about Dr. Colton in the November issue is ironic, perhaps, in that the judge dismissed her case two months earlier, in September.

Another change in the FSA of 1980 was bringing the Foreign Service under Social Security. Before then, members of the Foreign Service were exempt from Social Security.

Should there be a mandatory retirement age for diplomats? Is 65 the right age? Should it be raised? In 1980, 65 meant eligibility for Medicare as well as full entitlement to Social Security. In the meantime, the age at which a person is eligible to receive full Social Security benefits has gone up, leaving diplomats forced to retire at 65 without the right to obtain full Social Security benefits. Isn’t that enough reason to raise the mandatory retirement age? As debate continues around proposing the age for full Social Security benefits be raised to 70, shouldn’t the mandatory retirement age for diplomats be raised to match?

No age is the right retirement age for every person. Some people want to retire at as young an age as possible. Others want to work for as long as possible. Too often I think mandatory limits are put in place to avoid the need to consider the individual differences. I don’t want to have to wait until I’m 70 to retire, but I accept that others both want to work until an older age and have the capacity to do so well.