Saving Lives

What I am about to tell you could save your life or the life of a loved one.  We all know about seat belts and how they save lives.  Seat belts are standard equipment in cars these days and “buckling up” is the law.  No, this blog is not about seat belts, it’s about grab bars.  My last blog (A Little Toilet Talk) mentioned grab bars and the fact that we had installed them in our new home but I did not elaborate.

We need to dispel the notion that grab bars are just for “old, feeble,” people in nursing homes.  grab bars are as important to home safety and fall prevention as a seat belt is to drivers of every age.  A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that every year over 235,000 people over age 15 visited emergency rooms because of injures suffered in the bathroom and almost 14 percent were hospitalized.  According to the CDC the most hazardous activities for all ages are bathing, showering (accounting for one-third of the injuries) and getting out of the tub/shower.  Only 2.2 percent of injuries occur while getting into the tub/shower, but 9.8 percent occur while getting out.  Another 14 percent of injuries occurred near the toilet.

So this is why Sharon and I, both healthy retirees, installed a grab bar in our shower and grab bars around the toilet and tub in our guest bathroom.  Anyone, at any age, can slip and fall in the bathroom and a grab bar might be the difference between life or death.  Anyone considering a remodel should install grab bars and the best method is to install what builders call “blocking” to the studs around the tub and toilet.  Thus the reinforced walls can have grab bars installed at any angle rather than just relying on stud location.

Grab bars need not be that obvious.  In our guest bathroom the grab bars are white and blend in with the tub surround and bathroom color scheme.  Some grab bars may even double as towel holders.  The complement the tub/shower grab bars you might also insure that you have a non-slip surface for added protection.  Remember, you don’t need a seat belt until you need a seat belt.  The same is true of grab bars.  They both save lives.

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I’ve have been at it for almost an hour. Dad Gum It. I am increasingly exasperated as I try to unsubscribe to websites sending me unsolicited email messages.

I woke up this morning determined to do something dramatic to end the relentless onslaught of incoming messages that I have no interest in receiving.My computer is sending me warnings about “mailbox overload” and advertisements for things like hair restoration and free-standing metal buildings had taken over my life.

Clearly, my early-in-the-year vow to delete unwanted items on a daily basis has not worked. Setting up an automatic archiving function was also not keeping up– and I’d recently realized I might be putting messages in an archive that I absolutely had no interest in ever retrieving. I am on a mission to clean up my act.

A few websites are easy to detach from. I just scroll down the page to the very bottom, search out the word “unsubscribe” which always seems to be written in the smallest possible font, and tap the word. I love it when I just have to do that once and the site says “You have unsubscribed.” Mission accomplished. Although I have noticed that sometimes those same sites mysteriously start reappearing weeks or months later. I envision I am in their archives under the heading… “Re-instate her when the moon is full and we have a sale on pet toys.”

Then there is this. Many sites make it extremely difficult to find the word “unsubscribe,” or if you do find it and tap it– several more screens appear querying you about exactly why you are unsubscribing. Some even give you options like ” too many emails.” You think?

I wish there was a category that allowed me to say ‘I am unsubscribing because I have been beleaguered by your incessant emails for months and finally figured out how to stop them from coming.”

Or better yet, “I am unsubscribing because I’m on stimulus overload.” You think?

Or what if there was a website called Oh my!  I just checked–and there is.

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A Little Toilet Talk

As you may have figured out from our blogs, Sharon and I are now living in the “Age-Friendly” single story home we had built in the Twin Creeks Development in Central Point.  While neither of us have mobility issues at this time, we did want to plan for the future and what that may hold in terms of health.  Thus are new home is fully accessible and has been certified to the Lifelong Housing standard developed by AARP Oregon and the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

Which brings me to the bathroom toilet.  In every room of the house we tried to incorporate not only the recommended fixtures that were considered “age-friendly” but also adoption of the newest technology.  In our guest bathroom we installed grab bars in the tub/shower, a pedestal sink to conserve space and grab bars adjacent to the toilet for those that might need a little help getting on and off.  In addition, we installed what is often referred to as a “comfort height” toilet with a seat that is at least 18 inches high (16 1/2 inches to the rim) instead of the standard height toilet.   This height is much more comfortable for adults of all ages and abilities and I would recommend it for anyone remodeling a bathroom.

In our master bathroom we installed another unique feature; a bidet toilet seat (called BioBidet) that does, well, what a bidet is supposed to do.  For older adults a bidet toilet may be the difference between independence and assistance.  The BioBidet is essentially a toilet seat with special features and requires a nearby electrical outlet.  It is as easy to install as a standard toilet seat and also functions as a nightlight.

I thought we had covered all the bases (so to speak) when we put in our toilets but technology is always pursuing better solutions to everyday problems.  Today I saw a headline that gave me pause….”Odor-eating toilet seat offers a breath of fresh air.”  Turns out Kohler has developed a deodorizing toilet seat that promises to eliminate bathroom odors and the need for candles, matches or sprays.  The device has a fan hidden in the battery-operated seat which moves air through a carbon filter.

I’m not sure if we will buy this new odor eating toilet seat but you never know.  I will keep my eye out for other innovations that will make life easier and age-friendly.  Any ideas?



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Lazy Able-Bodied People Could Live Here

Life is good. We have been in our certified Lifelong Housing, age-friendly home for over six weeks and our often-stated comment to one another is how “easy” it is to live in a home like this. One of us says that almost every day—smiling as we do.

The no-step entrances assure convenient access from the outdoors or from the large patio in the back of the house. There are 36-inch windowed-doors (with in-built privacy blinds) that lead from the patio to an office or to the great room with its remote-controlled fireplace –or our large master bedroom with its no-door, roll-in shower.

The curving, slightly-elevated and beveled-concrete sidewalk to the front door of this house is actually a ramp– but no one ever realizes that—they instead comment on what a gracious entry we have designed for our home. Anyone could ring the well-positioned doorbell and independently maneuver their wheelchair or walker inside our home without assistance. That was important to us–we have friends who are wheelchair-users and the idea that someone has to carry their chairs with them in the chair (or physically lift them out of the chair —because the chair itself does not fit through a too-narrow door) was definitely not how we wanted to welcome dinner guests.  The living area is spacious and well-lit. We have a drop-down counter that allows a person in a wheelchair (or a small child ) to help the host cook a meal if they choose. (Those helpers are my personally-favorite kind of guests.)

Yes–this is a home that acknowledges and respects that some of us have, or will have, mobility issues. But it is also a home a young family with a baby in a stroller could roll in and out of —with no difficulties. It is the kind of home where a teenager could put his soiled football jersey right through a chute in the closet wall to a basket in the laundry room where an easy-access raised washer and dryer might even prompt him to actually wash those dirty clothes. (Well, that’s probably asking too much…).

People who visit us usually know we went through a process to get our newly-built home certified to a specific standard and say upon entering for the first time–”Oh my gosh, I thought it would look institutional! The more typical comment is “This is really quite beautiful.” Thank you very much.

I often say it’s a home for “lazy able-bodied people.” Our guests laugh at that. It might be funny– but it is also true.

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Don’t Fall For This

I have probably written about this before but it bears repeating.  Falling is a killer for older adults.  I would guess that if you were to ask 10 people over age 65 “Have you or a loved one experienced a debilitating fall?” the answer over 80 percent of the time would be “yes.”   According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the rate of severe falls has been increasing for Americans over the age of 65.  Researchers note that one reason for the increase in falls may be the link to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease.  The CDC adds that in some cases, the medication to treat the disease can increase the risk of falling.

While Americans became frantic recently over one death from Ebola in this country you don’t hear much concern about the number of people over 65 who died after a fall.  Would you believe 24,000 in 2012?   That, according to the CDC is almost double the number reported 10 years earlier.  In addition, more than 2.4 million people over 65 were treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls in 2012 alone.  Falls, according to the CDC, are the leading cause of injury-related death for those over 65.

Now, one more scary statistic to make you take notice.  Currently 10,000 people turn 65 every day in this country and that trend will continue for the next 19 years!  Baby Boomers are not immune.  There is no vaccine for falls.

As most people who read the blogs Sharon and I have been posting know we designed and built an “age-friendly” home in Central Point that has been certified to the Rogue Valley Council of Governments “Lifelong Housing” standard.  This home has no step entry, wider doors and a host of other features…including some to help us avoid falls.

Lighting is critically important for older adults, not just for reading, but for navigating.  We have a a lot of light in our house and even in the dead of night it is possible to see our way to the bathroom without turning on a light.  Also, in the bathroom the light in the toilet has a motion sensor so it comes on automatically.  In our guest bathroom we have grab bars in the bathtub and around the toilet.  In our shower we also have a grab bar.  Some would say since we are healthy adults why do we need grab bars?  To me grab bars are like seat belts… don’t need them until you need them and then they are lifesavers.  Think about installing grab bars in your bathroom before it is too late.

Another simple step to preventing falls is to get ride of scatter rugs.  They may look attractive but can be lethal to slow moving folks that shuffle their feet when they walk.  Exercise can also improve one’s balance and I have been told (but haven’t verified) that Tai Chi can improve one’s stability.

While Sharon and I have been vigilant in trying to prevent falls in our home we have one hazard that remains.  Out new little puppy Lucy is often underfoot and Sharon has bought a lot of little toys for her that often get under foot.  If you come to visit watch your step.


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If Your Horse Drops Dead…Get Off

The November 4, 2014 election “red-tide sweep” suggests Republican agendas will be front and center in the near future. So be it.

I am somewhat divided on how to feel about all this, but I just listened to a television interview with Alan Simpson, the long-retired curmudgeon legislator from Wyoming, advising his colleagues and the President about how to proceed in this new climate. Hope they take his counsel. At least most of it. His statements seem to meet the test of common sense and suggest how Congress could and should make-something-happen in this highly contentious political environment we all find ourselves.

Simpson also spoke about health care reform (Obamacare) but quite differently. When asked if Republicans should keep hammering about repealing it, he said “”If Your Horse Drops Dead, Get Off.”

In my way of interpreting that statement, Simpson saw recent health care changes as good ones and thought the American public was embracing and benefiting from an emphasis on prevention and the promise of increasing access to health practitioners. He seemed to be saying improved health care availability is worth having and Republicans should stop ranting about it. Period.

I loved the dead horse statement. And I think it applies in a lot of other areas. As illustration, if you’ve been on a personal rant about something and it has gotten you absolutely no where–in fact, the only thing it seems to do is irritate family and friends. Stop doing that. A few examples might resonate with you. Maybe you have been repetitiously complaining about pain in your knee but have been unwilling to have the recommended surgery or perhaps you have a big family conflict and you have stood your ground to the degree that it has alienated people you love–big time. Or this might be what is going on for you–you know your home is not going to be liveable if you fracture a hip and need a wheel chair  or walker. You know your bathroom needs a comfort height toilet and grab bars in the shower but you just have not done anything about that. At your peril.

My suggestion is step back–take stock, self-reflect and then move in another direction completely. Make it a positive one.

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Finding My Roots

Today’s Mail Tribune had an article in the TV Tempo section that was promoting a PBS program called “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.”  Gates is the director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard and his show features high-profile guests finding their roots.   This article follows a series of features on CNN following various staff of that channel tracing their own ancestry.  In addition, as we are still unpacking from our recent move to Twin Creeks I was reminded of the boxes and boxes of genealogical materials I had accumulated about 30 years ago in pursuit of my own roots.

When I first began my ancestor tracking journey I had little information to go by.   There was no internet and research involved going to a local genealogical library to pour through endless reels of microfilm or writing to state offices for death certificates.  Slowly piece-by-pieces I was able to fill in many missing parts of my family history.
This blog is not so much about reaching a destination, such as finding a famous ancestor (none so far) or tracing your family back to the middle ages (I’m around 1623).   For me genealogy brings to life two passions I have had for all my adult life; notably travel and history.  I had always planned to take all the information I had gathered, documents, newspaper clippings, visits to cemeteries in five states and four countries and write the great family history after I retired.

Well, I have been “retired” for about two years and the history is still not written.   What I now realize is that the journey was the real story.  Standing on a steep hillside above a Norwegian fjord on the soil my great grandfather farmed or visiting a small village in the Rheingau area of Germany only to discover a distant relative who had heard the story of two brothers coming to America in the 1850′s.  Finding a handwritten will from my great grandfather in the basement of a courthouse in Wisconsin or taping my now departed grandmother singing a nursery rhyme in German.  One time I knocked on a farm house door in Western Minnesota and introduced to the family living there that my great grandfather had homesteaded the property.  They were thrilled to learn what I knew and had some stories to share with me about the homestead farm.  I left with square nails from the original barn my great grandfather John Johnson had built and I have a framed copy of his homestead patent dated 1890.

It’s never too late to begin a search for your roots but I would encourage anyone who can afford it to visit the places where their ancestors lived and loved, worked and died.   Try and put their life into the context of the time.  In many of us with European ancestors often as not wars played a major role in relocation or, as in the case of John Johnson, lack of farming opportunity because he was not the eldest son.   Or Franz Jahnke who was a shepherd in Prussia but wanted something better for his family.  Take the journey.

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My New Best Selling Book

I have this great idea for a new diet book.  The title is “How I lost 50 pounds in two years after turning 70.”   The sub-title will be “If I can do it so can you.”  Want to buy it?   There’s just one problem with my book; it’s a bit thin.  As a matter of fact my “secret” diet can be summed up thusly:  eat less, exercise more.  It really is that simple.

When I retired at the end of 2012 (having just turned 70) I was determined to shed weight.  For years I had travelled the world spending countless hours on international flights eating and drinking with abandon.  I was lucky enough to fly business class in many cases and who could resist the free wine and heated nuts.  To say nothing of the desert cart!

My “diet” regimen consisted of setting a daily calorie goal and then keeping a daily food and drink diary to track what (and how many calories) I was taking in.  The calorie goal was set so that if I did nothing else but stay at that caloric level I would gradually loose weight.  However, if I exercised (walking, cycling, etc.) I could increase my food intake accordingly.  I used a smartphone app called Fitbit but there are many such apps and programs out there.

After about three months I no longer kept the daily food diary as I knew what not to eat (little or no bread, cereal and pasta and no French fries).  I tried to exercise for about 40 minutes at least three or four days a week.   At first the weight loss seemed painfully slow but once my metabolism was moving in the right direction the weight came off and my waistline shrunk.

Recently I saw an article titled “Exercise helps aging brains” by Leah Cannon (  The article reported on a recent study that compared healthy participants 60-85 years old who did 60 minutes of high intensity exercise train or low intensity exercises three times a week for eight weeks.  Both groups had the same improvement in working memory and cognitive ability in a test where they had to think up random numbers and say one number each second for 100 seconds.   Leah Cannon wrote “it was previously thought that aerobic exercise improves cognition by increasing oxygen uptake and potential energy in the body.  This study shows that it not the way that exercise improves cognition.  So more gentle exercise plans that target flexibility, balance and relaxation might offer similar brain benefits to high intensity exercise.”

See, I told you, eating less, exercise more….it’s a no-brainer.

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He said he hoped to die at age 75? He said that!

This blog is drawn directly from another blog site ( which is worth subscribing to if you do not already. A recent post on that site references a September 17, 2014 article in the Atlantic magazine ( titled. “Why I Hope to Die at Age 75” by Ezekiel Emmanuel, who is a 57 year old medical doctor in exceptionally good physical and mental health— with a loving family.

The Atlantic article is unsettling. It will engender an immediate visceral reaction in most people. I suspect Dr. Bill Thomas, a well-regarded national expert on aging and a Changing Aging champion nearly went apoplectic when he read it. As illustration, he calls the Emmanuel article an “epically tone-deaf essay.”

The opposing blog post written by Dr. Thomas goes something like this: Emmanuel “like millions of other people his age (and younger) has difficulty imagining any future self that is not simply a continuation of his current self. Because he cannot see or feel what it is really like to be an elder, he substitutes our culture’s blatant ageism for foresight and declares— defeat.”
Dr. Thomas goes on to underscore this article as “yet more evidence we need to change the way our society thinks about aging. Imagine if we lived in a society that envisioned aging as a sophisticated form of human growth, one that takes a lifetime of learning before one can handle it responsibly. What if he had been taught, from a young age, that the later decades of life are meant to be savored for the slower, deeper and more connected ways of living that they make possible?”

And finally, “not only is there life after 75, there is compelling evidence that some of the sweetest, most poignant of life’s passages are available only to those who have passed that milestone. The time has come for a new story about life, living and aging and it should help us embrace growth and change from our first breath to our last.”
And may I just add… Hallelujah.

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Lucy-Part 2

As I post this blog, our sweet and oh-so-busy new pup –Lucy– who Howard wrote about recently in his blog– lays on my lap. Seems the sound of tapping keys on the computer has lulled her to sleep. Thankfully. She has displayed a somewhat destructive bent in the last few days. A partially shredded sock and a ravaged chair leg are evidence of that. And yes, dear, I was watching her–I just got a little distracted for a minute. And yes, it was your white sports sock and the tooth-marked leg belongs to a chair in your office. No worries. It sounds worse than it is. But that sock is definitely history. Maybe I will just give her the other one to play with and you won’t even miss them.

I went on-line for chew toys this morning and Amazon has quite an array. Before I knew it I had ordered $30 worth of dog toys. And, in case you’re wondering–that was exactly the time when the gnawing-of-the leg incident took place, The sock issue happened while I was in the shower and thought she was snuggled on her blanket. That would be the blanket she never chews on at all. That blanket.

The”Bully Sticks” the breeder supplied to help deal with Lucy’s chewing tendencies worked well for the first week to address her ‘teething’ issues– but then she stopped liking them. Apparently gnawing on dried bull penis (yes, really, that is what they are made of…) can entertain you for only so long.

A friend told me yesterday-” If you have a puppy and you don’t know exactly what that dog is doing, it’s definitely making trouble somewhere.” She was prescient.

Wait–did this just happen? Did Lucy raise her furry little head off my hair- covered lap and wink at me?  Is that possible?  Oh. My. Gosh.

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