Wrinkled Wisdom: STILL Locked Up at Home??

“Coloradans can now get tattoos.”  That was the lead of a news article discussing the end to our governor’s stay-at-home order.  Under the new safer-at-home approach, we are not ordered to stay home, just “strongly advised” to stay at home. Will this make a difference for oldies?  Not much.  We’re retired.   No escaping the house to a workplace.  

It’s going to be a long time till we can hit a bar or restaurant with friends and family.   We do some social-distancing with them; but, time together is usually cut short because we have to get home to hit the john.

Is vanity playing a big part in decisions by some governors to relax stay-at-home orders?  Salons are now open!  Looking good; feeling good.  We have been struggling with manicures and especially pedicures.  Just not as flexible as we used to be; bad news for our toes.  And, we strongly recommend against cutting your own hair after a quarantini or two.

Some governors are allowing gyms to open.  Familiar with the term “Freshman 15”?  That is how much weight students are expected to gain in their first year of college, 15 pounds.  Hmmm.  Worried about the implications of the term Covid-19??? 

Okay, the good news is that we haven’t run out of toilet paper.  And, we’re saving money on dry cleaning.  It’s not like we’re getting dressed up to go to grocery, liquor, and hardware stores or pharmacies or marijuana dispensaries.  

Our water bill may drop too since we’re living in our PJs most of the time and doing less laundry.  But we are washing our hands more often.  Hmmm.  Guess that might be a wash.  (Did we just hear a giggle or was that a groan???)

Saving money isn’t any consolation.  While the media often refers to staying home as a lockdown, we jokingly describe it as being locked up.  Yes, yes, we know it is absolutely the right thing to do; but.  We are getting lots of emails from friends with the same message:  this is getting tougher.  The novelty has worn off.   We’re antsy.

It’s fun to hear from people we haven’t heard from for ages, suddenly checking in to see if we are alive.  And, it’s been entertaining to get lots of inquiries from young neighbors asking if they can pick up anything for us at the store.  Huh?  We can still drive!  Then we realized loads of organizations have urged people to help the elderly.  And, by definition, we are the elderly!  Hate that term.

Since we are oldies and at a higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19, we asked ourselves: is it smart to take advantage of senior hours at grocery stores?  Does lumping a bunch of vulnerable seniors together at one time make sense—even if we might get to the toilet paper first?  We all have a pre-existing condition—aging.

Good thing we can’t walk into our banks.  Wearing masks could create panic.  Now we just bring multiple disinfectant wipes when we drive through or use the ATM.

We have used some of our new-found free time to do a bunch of stuff around the house.  Some projects are just so boring that we stopped.  And, social distancing at Home Depot is a challenge.  Besides, it’s just so easy to say: I’ll do that tomorrow.  Ah…procrastination!

We still don’t know for sure whether Covid-19 will result in more babies than breakups.  But, one national law firm reports that they’ve gotten so many calls about divorce that they’ve added extra hours.  Divorce mediation is now online.  A hint, maybe?

So our Wrinkled Wisdom for today?  Hang in there.  Don’t forget your mask.  Call your insurance company and drop insurance on that second car for a couple of months.  Step outside at 8 p.m. and scream and shout and howl to honor our healthcare and frontline workers.  Think pork plant closings and hoard bacon.  If you are bored, count Dr. Birx’s scarves.  And, take note.  A Maryland police department just issued a warning:  “Please remember to put pants on before leaving the house to check your mailbox.  You know who you are.  This is your final warning.” 

Visual Acuity

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Ghosts!!?? Apparitions of some sort!!??

Okay, we don’t believe in ghosts.  But, what are those flickers of light in the corners of our eyes that create the illusion of elusive shadows lurking around the house?

Time to visit the eye doctor for a reality check.  Hmmm.  Just manifestations of eye issues, we’re told— “floaters,” leaky vitreous fluid, double vision (there are not two dogs coming toward you), macular pucker, stressed retinas, cataracts (get the upgraded lens), and corneal conditions….take your pick.

Ah…..another sign of aging.

Everyday visual challenges are exasperating.  Can’t read the number on the prescription bottle to reorder.  Can’t read the amount owed on bills.  Can’t read the due date for paying the bills.   Don’t these organizations realize that some of their customers are oldies?  Use larger print!  Seeable colors!  The easy answer?  A magnifying glass.  Oh, and yes, perhaps we should opt for paying bills online.

Wow.  Amazon really hypes magnifiers with lights for seniors, emphasizing that they end struggling to read tiny print.  The promo language also points out that these magnifiers are great for reading in bed without waking your partner, and are useful for parents and school nurses inspecting children for lice.  Okay.  Hadn’t thought of that.  Bad image!

We’re oldies, but we do own a cell phone and have learned to use its flashlight to read menus in dimly lit restaurants.  Carrying around a magnifying glass would be a bit embarrassing.

Not only has a magnifying glass now become a necessity to read fine print, a magnifying mirror has become essential paraphernalia.  Essential for nailing those black and white hairs growing from our chins, those errant hairs emerging from our ears and noses, and those seemingly foot-long ones jutting out of our eyebrows!  Yes!

Other visual challenges?  How about coping with the glare from headlights while driving at night or sun reflections during the day?  Yikes, those low, huge, setting suns are stunning…stunning in their ability to blind us!  What’s happening?  Those darn lenses are scattering the light as it enters our eyes rather than being focused precisely on the retina, creating an exaggerated glare.  Listen for glare warnings from traffic helicopters.  Really, weather reports include glare!  Wow, who knew?

And, it’s tougher when we are going someplace we haven’t been before at night because reading street names in the dark from a distance is almost impossible.  Love it when it is a numbered street.  Easy, 112th comes after 111th.  But, then they squeeze in a street with a name!  Rude!

Got a giggle when older friends would jokingly say they only dated individuals who could drive at night.  Thought they were kidding.  They weren’t.

“Visual acuity” is defined as the sharpness of our vision.  The test for visual acuity is our ability to identify which vile line of those tiny letters we can still see when tested at the eye doctor’s.  We flunk.  Who doesn’t need reading glasses at our age?  Thank heavens the eye chart for drivers’ licenses is more forgiving, and we don’t have to wear glasses while driving.

We recently wrote about being both literally and figurative thin-skinned.  Visual acuity is the visual equivalent.  We can’t see some stuff, and we really don’t want to see some other stuff.

So our wrinkled wisdom for today?  Make your ophthalmologist your best friend.  Forget hoping for good grades on that visual acuity test.  Can’t read something?  Forget your pride and grab the magnifying glass.  When searching for that least noisy restaurant table, check out the lighting, too.  And, remember, the CEO of Uber said people won’t own cars in 10 years, so night driving won’t be a problem.  Of course, it won’t matter to us since by then the kids will have taken the keys and put Uber/Lyft apps on our cellphones.

Senior Moments

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What was the point I was about to make?  Did I close the garage door?  Lock the car?  Why did I come into the kitchen?  Ah…we label these senior moments.  Is dementia or Alzheimer’s just around the corner?  Nope.

Stop worrying!  Oops.  Actually, worrying about senior moments—those familiar lapses in memory—is healthy.  People with dementia aren’t aware that they just had a senior moment.

Let’s get real.  We’re oldies.  Our brains change, making it more difficult to dredge up certain facts or memories.  The hormones and proteins that repair brain cells and stimulate growth have begun to decline.  Age-induced forgetfulness is normal just like bad knees, sagging skin, and cataracts.

We oldies have probably brushed our teeth 50,000 times and closed our garage doors 40,000 times.  These repetitious activities are now automatic.  We are often thinking about something else while doing them…like…shall I listen to classic rock or jazz on my car radio?

Reality monitoring is a term used to describe focusing on common activities we do so frequently that we have difficulty remembering if we actually did them.  A reality check is easy, we’re told, because the actions we perform leave behind memory records that are different from actions we think about.  Okay, if you say so.

But, we do like the concept of reality monitoring to help us determine which repetitive activities we most frequently fail to remember.  Once identified, develop a ritual.  We put our seatbelt on as the garage door clatters down.  Done.  No worries.  Garage door closed.

It’s not just us oldies.  At any given age, we’re improving at some things and getting worse at others.  The brain’s processing power and detail memory peaks at age 18, according to research.   The ability to learn unfamiliar names peaks at age 22.  And, facial recognition peaks at 32.  Okay, we think we feel better now.

Research also found that people of all ages often forget who someone is and personal details about them.  And, forgetfulness isn’t limited to someone we’ve just met.  We forget acquaintances, coworkers, classmates, and friends.  We forget shared experiences.  Most younger people excuse the “forgetter;” but, apparently, the individual loses points in a dating relationship.

Oldies are even more forgiving because, well…been there, done that.  Plus, we’ve probably already forgotten what you told us.

And, we found this interesting theory called memory decay.  Hmmm.  How appropriate.  We know something but can’t retrieve the information.  The reason?  We don’t use the information regularly.  Yes, we once knew who sang Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.  Storage of new information is also believed to interfere with recalling older information.  Never did “use it or lose it” make more sense!

We’ll close with one of our favorite lines we often quote to each other walking out of a store after shopping.  It’s okay to forget where your car is parked.  It’s not okay to forget what your car looks like.  Another reason to value handicapped parking.  It’s close in.  Makes it easy to spot your car!

Our wrinkled wisdom for today:  Write yourself notes.  Don’t be naïve.  You won’t remember in the morning.  Same with New Year resolutions.  Did we break them or just forget what they are??  Have a place for everything and everything in its place.  Don’t overdo it.  But, put your keys in the same spot when you walk in the door.  Have fun playing word games and online bridge.  Do crossword puzzles and Sudoku.  Great for keeping that aging brain with it.  Pay attention to each action you perform even if you’ve done it tens of thousands of times already.  And, remember that you said you would never drink that much again…ever again.

Huh??? What???

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There are a plethora of humorous greeting cards for sale that make fun of older individuals and hearing loss.  Surprised?  Nope.  Just think of it as a form of market segmentation aimed at us oldies!

Three old guys are walking together.  “It’s windy today,” says the first.  “No,” responds the second, “it’s Thursday.”  The third says, “I’m thirsty too.  Let’s have a beer.”  They can even get a bit racy.  Take the card with the doctor with a stethoscope who says to his aging female patient, “big breaths.”  “Yes, they used to be,” she answers.

Hearing loss ranks third among chronic health conditions affecting Americans.  And, researchers say the culprit is simply the noise that we all encounter in everyday life.  Teens and young adults are also at risk of noise-induced hearing loss.  Think about the impact on hearing from rock concerts and action movies.

But, let’s get real.  Age is the strongest predictor.  Nearly 25 percent of us between 65 to 74 and 50 percent of people over 74 are more apt to miss a bridge bid or mishear a comment.  Men are twice as likely to lose their hearing.  As they age, women have more difficulty with lower frequencies.

We’ve had some personal glitches.  We thought you said earring, or endearing or….  Oh, you are talking about hearing?  And, while listening to the financial channel, we couldn’t understand why they would be talking about vaginas.  They weren’t.  They were referencing something “for China.”  Then, it was prostate for pro state.  Euthanasia not youth in Asia.  The list goes on.

We love to eat out.  But, loud restaurants seem to be the norm.  We’re not alone.  It’s the top complaint from diners, according to the 2018 Zagat National Dining Trends Survey.  Restaurants’ modern, minimalist décor may be trendy, but those high ceilings and hard surfaces make conversation difficult.

Love the guy who wrote: From a health perspective, we should be as worried about the rising decibels of our favorite neighborhood joints and national chains as we are about their ballooning portion sizes.  Restaurant reviewers are ticked off as well and often list noise levels in their reviews.  Wow.  Our dining habits could be damaging our hearing.

You can ask the restaurant manager to turn down the music.  Sure.  As if that’s going to happen.

AARP to the rescue!  The group for oldies suggests choosing a booth not a table, sitting along the perimeter of the dining room so sounds aren’t coming from all sides of the restaurant, and avoiding tables near the kitchen.   But, here’s our favorite.  Tell the waiter that you read lips, so he or she will enunciate clearly.

Yikes, there are even apps.  One called SoundPrint takes a decibel reading to help you choose the quietest area of the restaurant to sit, drink, and eat. Normal conversation is about 60 decibels.  If the restaurant’s noise is 70 to 80 decibels, you’ll need to lean across the table and yell.  For perspective, know that New York City restaurants average 77 decibels.  New York City bars hit 81 decibels.  Yes, that’s New York.  But, we’re betting restaurants all over the country are equally jarring.

The best news?  Musicians’ earplugs.  They filter out loud sounds and allow you to hear quieter sounds.  Etymotics Research makes the earplugs, which can cost as much as $300, but sells a version for $15.  Amazon ranks these inexpensive earplugs at No. 386 for all electronics products—every electronic product you can think of.  That means that a fair number of people have already bought them and wear them to concerts, football games, movies, and, yes, noisy restaurants.  Imagine.  Enjoying the entertainment while being able to hear what your friends are saying.

Our Wrinkled Wisdom for today:  Go online to Amazon today and order the musicians’ earplugs.  Carry them everywhere!  Think of it as you would defensive peeing.  Let restaurant managers know you aren’t happy about the noise level and cite research about hearing loss for those working in that environment.  If he or she blows you off, just roll your eyes and know that the manager will be losing his or her hearing at quite an early age.  We guess that’s what is known as serving revenge cold.

Our Midnight Confessions

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Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.  It’s been quite a while since we uttered that opening line in a confessional—when we were young and practicing Catholics.  But, like Stephen Colbert of The Late Show, we admit we are guilty of some embarrassing things we keep secret.  Aren’t we all???  We reiterate Colbert’s standard disclaimer: “I don’t know if these are technically sins, but I do feel bad about them.”

Well, we don’t feel guilty enough about these secrets to actually go to Confession. And, admittedly, our “sins” may not fall into the venial category—a relatively slight sin—much less a mortal sin—a gravely sinful act that can lead to damnation if a person does not repent before death…or so we were taught.  However, like Colbert, we feel we will be better for confessing—even if we aren’t all that sorry.

So, here is our version of Colbert’s “Midnight Confessions” segment.  And we promise Stephen we won’t write a competing book.

  • Sometimes we don’t use toilet seat covers in public restrooms. We just sit down.
  • We drink directly from the juice container when no one is around though we spent years, nay, decades telling children and spouses it’s a no-no.
  • Even though it’s not green, we sometimes run the dishwasher when it’s not full.
  • We have mixed our darks and lights, overstuffed the washing machine, and generally abused it. Amazingly, it still works.
  • Now that the phone or television announces who’s calling, we sometimes don’t answer—especially when we recognize certain names.
  • We have arrived at parties with food we didn’t make, but put them in our own dishes and let people think we are talented cooks.
  • We aren’t adamant fans of professional sports. We do like the cute players and their cute butts, and an excuse to order pizza.
  • Sometimes we have candy or cake or cookies for breakfast. We just tell ourselves they are no more caloric than doughnuts.
  • Sometimes we correct grammar on signs and menus—in ink. Sometimes we email the company and point out the grammatical error in their advertisement.  Sometimes we actually get a thank you!
  • When we dropped the roast and the dog licked it, we wiped it off, put it on the table, and didn’t tell.
  • We’ve removed a rock from a national park, carried agricultural products over states lines, and washed dry-clean-only clothes. (We do dry them flat.)
  • Sometimes we pretend we took a shower, but we really just washed our armpits.

So our wisdom for today?  Confession is good for the soul, or so we were taught.  It generally makes you feel lighter—at least for a few minutes. And, we hope that our unburdening lets you know you are not alone.  However, honesty is not always the best policy.  Beware of collateral damage.  Think about listing your confessions on our comments section.  No names necessary.  We guarantee absolution!  And, hopefully, we’ll all have a giggle.

About That Bucket List

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A drop in the bucket, slime bucket, sweat buckets, come down in buckets, kick the bucket….and finally, wait for it: bucket list.

Bucket idioms have been around for centuries, and now it’s the bucket list that is all the rage—for all ages, not just seniors.  Bucket lists are ubiquitous.  So, if you need inspiration, just check out the list of 10,000 things to do before you die.  Lists have been concocted for visiting foreign countries and big cities, for particular seasons, and even for cooking new recipes.  Google at will.

The term appears to have originated with, or at least been popularized by, the 2007 movie The Bucket List, which starred Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

Wow, who knew that 90 percent of people over-55 have already created a bucket list?  That’s what surveys say.  Okay, most of us oldies have an idea of some things we might want to do before kicking the bucket, but are those ideas realistic?  Let’s take a look at some common online ideas.

Defying gravity seems to be very popular.  Our movie stars, Morgan and Jack, had skydiving on their bucket list.  However, they also had stunt men.  We were very impressed that the first President Bush parachuted to celebrate his 90th birthday.  But, he’s a longtime skydiving fanatic.  If skydiving or other feet-off-the-ground adventures like parachuting, paragliding, or parasailing make your list, we suggest a tandem jump with a professional as Bush did.  We also suggest you update your will and have your life insurance paid up.

A hot air balloon ride makes many lists and seems to us a reasonable way to get high without… well…getting high.

A tattoo?  Nope. That ship has sailed for us oldies.  Sagging skin is not the best canvas for tattoo art.  Just get a temporary one.

Of course, traveling the world and eating exotic foods is popular limited only by bad backs, knees, and hips; planter fasciitis; and medical issues…such as GERD.  You get the idea.

Many bucket lists tout running a marathon, learning a new language, writing a book, or taking music lessons.  Really?  And, you have waited until now because?

Conquering a fear lands on many lists.  And, there are such creative names for these phobias.  Fear of spiders—arachnophobia.  Claustrophobia—fear of small, confined spaces.  Fear of heights—acrophobia.  Fear of rats plays a huge part in the novel 1984.  Even that phobia has a name—musophobia. We prefer to think of bucket list items as fun and adventurous objectives.  We are happy to die with some fears.

Scuba diving sounds exciting; but, sadly, we’ve pretty much missed the Great Barrier Reef, which is fading fast.  And…questions: are you willing to don a bathing suit?  Can you swim?  Are you willing to come face to face with sharks, giant squids, electric eels, and flesh-eating bacteria?

Going on a cruise is quite doable but potentially fattening.  Prolific food and drink.  But, beware of Legionnairesdisease and leaning too far over the railing if you’ve had a few or irritated your partner.

A new study reports that, on average, oldies are willing to spend about $13,000 on their bucket lists.  Looking at lists online, we don’t think that would cover visiting all seven continents, highlighted by an elephant ride in Thailand.  But, you could visit all 50 states, see the Northern Lights, learn to crack an egg with one hand, swim with a dolphin (in a wetsuit, please), go on a whale watching tour, or plan for the next total eclipse…all popular choices.

Pity our kids.  With life expectancy rising each year, they could be working forever.  Heck, one in 10 oldies now say they will have to work until they are over 71.  Expect future bucket lists to include…retirement!

So, our wrinkled wisdom for today?  Creating bucket lists can be fun, but maybe start waaay before you might actually kick the bucket.  Hear that young people?  And, think realistically.  Heck, there is always virtual reality and you don’t even need to get out of bed.  Give it a Google.  And, since some degree of memory loss is a fairly common part of aging, be sure your bucket list is on your smartphone, lest you forget.

Old Is the New New

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No, we aren’t talking about consignment shops. We’re talking about the changing face of America.

The world’s older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.  There are now over 72 million boomers and another 50-odd million people who belong to the “silent” generation.  And, our growth is outpacing every other demographic group.  In fact, by 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older.  A virtual tsunami of oldies!

Old is the new new!  That should earn us a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  With this reference, we are broadening the feminist theme of Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit.

Interestingly, speaking of respect, did you know we have our own government agency?  It’s called the National Institute on Aging (NIA).  It’s part of the National Institute of Health, which we all know as NIH, and is charged with studying aging and extending our healthy, active years of life.  Alzheimer’s disease is an important focus.  Oh, and testosterone therapy.

There is power in numbers.  Money talks.   Ah, sometimes adages and their general truths are apropos if a bit overused.  As a group, we oldies have tremendous economic clout.  Seniors control nearly a third of total U.S. net wealth.  Advertisers need to catch on!

And, marketers are wising up…albeit…slowly.  They are recognizing that we spend and it’s not just on cruises, medical alert systems, senior living facilities, and Depends.  Research underscores that we are significant buyers of cars and Apple products.   Hence the recent AARP headline:  Automakers Rediscover and Create for Boomers.

How propitious that self-driving cars are being developed just as we are aging!  How very thoughtful.  And, another fun headline: Self-driving Vehicles and Baby Boomers: A Budding Relationship.

Yet, advertisers have a long, long way to go.  Today, less than five percent of advertising targets the baby boomer market.  Most advertising dollars are spent catering to 18 to 34 year-olds.  Forbes magazine calls us the most neglected, wealthy group in the history of marketing.

And, important to advertisers, we Google.  We check our e-mail on our smartphones. We order stuff online.  We use social media.  We have Facebook pages.  We check out YouTube.  In fact, baby boomers describe themselves as heavy Internet users. The average broadcast media viewer is now over 50, which is really a profound change that will greatly impact television advertising.

Marketers, do the math!  Get over gerontophobia.  And, learn to talk to us in a way that reflects some reality.

And, wow, do they have a lot to learn.  Most seniors don’t like the advertising aimed at them.  It isn’t realistic or respectful, according to polls.  It’s stereotypic.  We want ads that capture our attention, entertain us, inform us, and respect us.

Okay, we all don’t look like Jane Fonda at 79.  Who can afford that much cosmetic surgery?  However, we do enjoy a beautiful oldie being featured in ads for L’Oreal skin cream aimed at women of all ages.  One of our favorites is an ad for Aldi, a German discount grocery chain with stores in the U.S.  It features an older woman, who, after pointing out the teas she buys for her husband, shares with the viewing audience: “I don’t like tea.  I like gin.”

As marketing changes and matures (is that a pun?), we hope to see an end to articles and discussions about ageism being the last politically correct prejudice.  We understand that mockery of older people masks fears of growing old.  We’re guilty.  Remember when we were in our 20s and dissed 30-year olds as over the hill?  Maybe that’s already changing.  A recent study shows that the younger generation’s greatest fear is their phone batteries running low.  We could create a fun analogy about aging, but won’t.

So our wrinkled wisdom for today?  Lift a glass.  Make a toast.  We’re not invisible anymore!  Give to the National Institute for Aging.  Yes, it’s a federal agency, but Congress made an exception and it can accept donations.  And, it’s OUR federal agency.  If an Aldi store comes to your area, shop there.  The management obviously has a great sense of humor.  When advertisements feature seniors in a fun and respectful manner, buy the product— after you Google the reviews, of course.