Retired-Life Health


Socialization and Travel

Both in our book and in our presentations, my wife Trisha and I stress the importance of socialization as one grows older. There is overwhelming evidence that a senior’s physical and emotional health, as well as increased longevity on average is directly affected by frequent and continued socialization. Growing older in isolation is one of the worst things we can do in our retired life years.

Obviously, this is more difficult for some than others. I’m sure my friends would laugh and most likely be surprised to know that basically I’ve always been a bit shy. Once I get to know someone, I have no problem, but for most of my life I’ve found it difficult to be “outgoing” and social. Fortunately, I married someone who is probably one of the most friendly and outgoing people on the planet. I continue to learn from her each day and have actually gone through a bit of a change on the social front.

For those who read this blog, you know my wife Trisha and I love to travel. Certainly, our children, grandkids, and friends are the most important components of our lives, but the occasional travel adventure is the extra spice to our retired life. While we love seeing new sights and having different experiences, we have discovered that meeting and getting to know people from all over the world is both a learning experience and great fun. To know it’s also good for our well-being is icing on the cake.

In this case, due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to cancel a previously planned trip with our good friends and travel companions. In just a few days, Trisha put together a completely different trip through northern Europe to experience places we had not yet visited. As usual, she did a great job and we had a wonderful adventure together.

While we were warned weather is always an issue in this part of Europe, good fortune was with us and our weather was glorious. The sites, sounds, food, and most of all, the people were all wonderfully educational and interesting. We were once again struck by how remarkably easy it is to meet, converse, and even strike up friendships with people from other cultures. Not surprisingly, we all seem to want the same things, but politics and power seem to get into the way with our world leaders. I know this is quite a simplistic thought, and there are very real threats in the world, but as it was once said, “can’t we all just get along?”

Here is a brief summary of the places and people we encountered during our trip:

In addition to visiting all the sights of London, we shared conversations with Jerry and Marita at our hotel, and then the better part of a late evening with Canadians Colin and Monie at a local ice cream parlor. They were an extremely nice couple. Obviously, we were curious about the food in London, and I must say the Pub scene is great fun.

We would recommend The Queen’s Arm’s near Victoria Station for fish and chips and a tankard of ale. A real surprise was an Asian restaurant named A.Wongs. It was gourmet food with over the top preparation, taste, and presentation like nothing I’ve ever had before. Perfection would be the word I would use.

Trisha and John Parker at The Queen's Arms

Trisha and John Parker
at The Queen’s Arms

The Queens Arms

The Queens Arms

A. Wongs

A. Wongs

On a flight to Stockholm, I was privileged to meet a terrific man named Urban who provided me with valuable insights into Swedish culture and politics. Our first and lasting impression of this city was entirely positive. It was very clean, the people were exceptionally friendly, and ladies forgive me, some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. Trisha might have called me sexist, but she was very busy looking at all the handsome men. Our first morning at a sidewalk bistro was very enjoyable.

Trisha and John Parker Morning in Stockholm

Trisha and John Parker
Morning in Stockholm

On our first night in Stockholm, we discovered a little bistro called Ristorante 60 with both indoor and sidewalk tables. Next to us were two interesting young musicians and graduate music students named Phillip and Victor. Although we were a bit travel weary and there was a definite age difference, we actually wound up closing the place. Time flies. Here’s Trisha with the manager.

Trisha Parker Ristorante 60

Trisha Parker
Ristorante 60

The next night, at a local pub we met three truly great young men, Joe, Andrew, and Joe (we think he said Joe because he was sure we would not be able to pronounce his name). They had all returned from their second tour as part of a peace-keeping force in Afganistan. They could not have been more interesting and were so humble when we thanked them for their service. It was another wonderful evening.

While we enjoyed everything about this beautiful city, a true highlight was our visit to Millesgarden. This is the estate, now museum of famous sculpture Carl Milles and his artist wife Olga. The estate sits perched atop a hillside overlooking the water and city of Stockholm. While the art is magnificent and inspirational, the serenity was refreshing. We stopped often just to sit and take in the sheer beauty of this truly must-see location.

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

I should mention that when Swedish musical legends ABBA needed a couple to fill in for one performance, Trisha and I helped out.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

Should anyone be planning a trip to Stockholm, Trisha and I highly recommend the Miss Clara Hotel. It’s an eight story former girl’s school that has been remodeled and transformed into a bright and modern place to stay. It has a beautiful restaurant and a great sauna. Obviously, many hotels have similar amenities, but it’s the warm and professional staff that sets this hotel apart from the others.

Traveling to Copenhagen, we had the pleasure of meeting Christian and Caroline and their beautiful family while having lunch on New Haven Street along the canal. Each of them warm, friendly, and with a great sense of humor. We had many different servers at our outside tables, and only one of them did not seem to speak English. Finally, while Christian was helping me figure out my bill, I asked him if the tip was included. He said, “Yes, I believe the tip is included.” Our non-English speaking server was just walking by the table, and in a very loud voice in perfect English said, “The tip is not included!” We all laughed hysterically at this very funny moment.

Trisha and John Parker Copenhagen

Trisha and John Parker
Copenhagen

Of course, among the dozens of amazing sites in Copenhagen, a tourist simply cannot miss the Little Mermaid.

Trisha and John Parker  The Little Mermaid

Trisha and John Parker
The Little Mermaid

In Amsterdam, we had the pleasure of meeting Doug and Joan, and Jim and Judy while visiting the Anne Frank house. It was a moving experience and afterward we all found a canal-side restaurant with the best Panini I’ve ever tasted. These folks turned out to be wonderful company and after lunch we actually wound up walking through various parts of the city together. The next morning, along a canal we had morning coffee for Trisha and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The sightseeing then continued. O. K., we did share that pastry.

Trisha and John Parker Morning / Amsterdam

Trisha and John Parker
Morning / Amsterdam

 

For our next stop we headed to Brussels and on the train met a very interesting young Frenchman and world traveler named Stephane. It so happened that while we were there, the G7 leaders were meeting which gave the city an extra sense of activity with helicopters, limos, and lots of police escorts flying through the city streets. On our last day there, while boarding a bus to visit the Atomium, the last site on our list, the driver said he did not take credit cards. Not having enough Euros left, and getting near the end of the day, our plans would have been crushed. Total strangers Denny and Mary spoke up and offered their own money to buy our tickets. Obviously, we later reimbursed them, but what a wonderful gesture. The Atomium was the high point of the 1957 Brussels World Fair and it was a stopping point recently on T.V.’s Amazing Race. We loved it, especially the rocket ship feeling on the high speed elevator to the top.

Trisha and John Parker Brussels Atomium

Trisha and John Parker
Brussels Atomium

After our days in Brussels, we traveled through northern France and then crossed the English Channel at the same time the Allies had done exactly 70 years before. Of course, we were going the opposite direction toward London, but it still gave us a bit of a chill, especially knowing Trisha’s father was one of those D-Day heroes.

Just one more mention of kindness from others we received on this wonderful adventure. On our original flight from San Francisco to London aboard Virgin Atlantic, the flight crew was sensational. Trisha noticed several of the women had their hair in beautiful tight bun-like configurations. She asked one of the attendants how their hair was styled so perfectly. It turns out it’s with the simple use of a mesh “doughnut.” Flight attendant Claire asked us about our travel plans and we gave her our dates. Two and a half weeks later, when we arrived at the gate at Heathrow in London, Claire was there waving at Trisha. They embraced and then Claire gave Trisha a bag with a hair “doughnut” she had purchased for her.

The answer to the question is, “Yes, we can all get along.” Thank you to all the special people who made our trip so much fun. It’s clear that socialization, maybe even especially while traveling makes our lives much richer and far better.

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How Long Will We Live?

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How long will we live? Having made it this far into retired life, it’s probably something most of us have pondered if not discussed out loud. It’s obviously a question without any possible guaranteed answer.

In the U. S., according to a recent survey, life expectancy for all genders and races averages 81.48 years for those living in Hawaii to 75 years for those living in Mississippi. Asians typically live the longest followed by Hispanics, Caucasians, and African-Americans. But are there any factors that would help increase the chances of living even longer?

On this week’s 60 Minutes, there was an interesting segment that featured researchers who have been investigating the mystery of human longevity. Having done considerable research and writing frequently on this topic myself, I thought I would share their major findings.

First, let me tell you their study used the files taken from residents of the former Leisure World retired-living complex near San Diego, California. It also has followed up with approximately one thousand of these folks who are still living, many into their 90’s.

Here are some of the conclusions from this major ongoing study:

  1. Not surprisingly, only non-smokers have lived into their 90’s.
  2. All of those in their 90’s have exercised regularly throughout their retired life. An even more interesting finding here is that those who have lived the longest get about 45 minutes of exercise per day. More time exercising, or more strenuous exercise does not seem to be factor. Even breaking up the exercise time and activity, as long as it totals 45 minutes each day seems to work.
  3. Social activity such as clubs, game playing, or simple socialization with friends appears to be a significant factor for longevity according to this study.
  4. Surprisingly, taking vitamins has not been shown to be a factor in this study.
  5. Alcohol, in moderation (two drinks per day), has been shown to be a positive factor in longevity. The type of alcohol does not appear to matter, not even red wine over white wine.
  6. Caffeine intake, equivalent to two cups of coffee per day, has been shown to be a positive factor in longevity. The intake of more, or less, is not a positive factor.
  7. High blood pressure in older adults appears to be a positive factor. Obviously, this is not the case when a person is younger, but for older adults, it appears to be a positive.
  8. While obesity is a negative for all younger adults, maintaining one’s weight as an older person, or even gaining some additional weight has been shown to be a positive factor to one’s longevity. In this case, old and skinny is not good.
  9. While not directly addressed by the researchers on the program, some of those 90+ folks interviewed in the story contended that continuing to have sexual relations into old age was a “definite” factor. I guess we can now safely drink to that. Twice!

I want to wish all of you mothers a wonderful healthy and happy Mother’s Day!

mothersday_a7

 

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Slowing the Aging Process

As we reach retirement age and beyond, all we need to do is look in the mirror to be reminded of the many years we have lived. What I’ve always found interesting is that some people seem to look much older or younger than their actual age. Curious, I began to investigate the actual factors that  cause us to physically age. Based upon scientific research, these are the main factors I discovered:

1. Eating foods that cause chronic inflammation. Among these are foods that contain large amounts of vegetable oils, margarine, red meat, white bread, sugar, and other processed foods. The inflammation caused by these foods accelerates wrinkle formation in our skin.

To prevent this acceleration, eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid. Such foods would include those with flaxseed or flaxseed oil, avocados, salmon, and olive oil. Fresh fruits and veggies are also beneficial because they contain lots of zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and beta carotene. Red peppers and carrots are especially good. All of these help maintain healthy skin and retard the aging process. In addition, studies have shown that we need to have at least one helping of protein with each meal in order to maintain healthy skin. Insufficient protein causes tears, wrinkles, and cracks in our skin. This obviously ages us much more quickly.

2. Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol is a natural diuretic and the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. This dries up the natural moisture from your skin and exacerbates the fine lines and wrinkles that make us look older. Not drinking alcohol or drinking less also allows the liver to more easily flush toxins from our bodies that also benefits our skin. I’m sure we have all had the occasion of seeing a total stranger and can almost instantly determine that the person is a heavy drinker on the basis of their heavily wrinkled face.

3. Constant worry, anxiety, or stress.  Recent studies have shown that stress has a harmful effect on the DNA in our cells. This part of the DNA is called telomeres and when measured, those suffering stress had shorter telomeres in their cells causing the cells to become damaged or die. Stress also ages our brains, increases our blood pressure, and disrupts our sleep, all of which can make us look and feel older.

4. Lack of exercise. Exercising at 40 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate is not only healthy for your weight, heart, and lungs, it provides a rejuvenating effect on the skin.

5. Smoking. If knowing that smoking causes heart disease, infertility, bladder cancer, high blood pressure, and lung cancer isn’t enough, it also is terrible for the skin and the aging process. Smoking deprives skin cells of oxygen and cause pale and uneven coloring. It also breaks down collagen and causes skin to sag. Puffing on cigarettes also creates deep wrinkles around a smoker’s mouth.

6. Too much sun. While being out in the sun can provide certain health benefits, too much sun certainly has a down side. In addition to the increased risk of skin cancer, UV rays weaken skin cells and blood vessels. This is what causes that tanned, leathery look. It can also make us more susceptible to bruising.

A recent four-year study in Australia determined that daily applications of sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer, fights wrinkles, and keeps skin smooth and resilient.

Highly Recommended

Since retiring, my wife Trisha and I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States and many countries around the world. In this new section of my blog called “Highly Recommended,” I will be sharing travel locations, hotels, cruises, and restaurants that we have found so compelling we want to share them with readers.

In this case, because my wife’s passion is cooking and my passion is eating, we want to share one of our favorite local places to eat in the bay area city of Brentwood. It’s a little hide-a-way place called Oodles of Noodles and More. They serve Asian-style cuisine in a very casual setting. The price is very modest and they use no MSG, no frozen meats, and all fresh vegetables. They have a variety of spicy sauces from mild to hot and spicy. Each customer gets a bowl and goes through a salad-bar style area to fill their bowl with their favorite veggies and other goodies. You then pick out your meat and sauce. My wife and I like to combine Pineapple Teriyaki and Spicy Mongolian. The chef then grills your food right in front of you, along with your choice of noodles or rice.

Family_eats

We have never been able to eat all of our serving and take the remainder home for a delicious lunch or dinner the next day.

Oodles of Noodles and More

6670 Lone Tree Way, Ste. 5, Brentwood, CA

Trisha Parker Oodles of Noodles

Trisha Parker
Oodles of Noodles

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Getting Better Every Day

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

Growing older, I’m sure most of us have heard the suggestion that one of our goals as we make our way through the trials and tribulations of life, is to try to become a better person each day? To be loving and respectful of others.

I’ve always considered myself a very fortunate person because I had parents who not only talked about the virtues of being loving and being respectful of others, but also lived that example. I’m also fortunate because I married a woman who lives according to the same principles.

This week, filled with tension and worry, I was witness to a real-life example of selfless behavior. My wife Trisha had surgery on Tuesday. She was scheduled for an early procedure that required us to rise at 4:00, get ready, drive an hour to the hospital, and check in at 5:45. We were right on schedule and she was taken to pre-op along with about 10 others. I was allowed to join her once the IV’s were in place and she was ready to go for a 7:45 procedure. As the time neared, there was a bit of commotion as a number of doctors gathered and then exited toward the operating rooms as a group. After a few minutes we were told there was an emergency and my wife’s surgery had been delayed. That was an understatement.

As we watched the other patients being rolled into surgery, we were told the operating room scheduled for my wife was being used for the emergency patient. As I sat next to her, experiencing the normal tension such a situation brings about, we waited for more than five and a half hours. Finally, my wife’s anesthesiologist came in to begin the final preparation. Now, I’m not sure how most people would have reacted, but let me tell you what transpired. After asking some mandatory questions, the doctor said, “We are very sorry we kept you waiting for so long.” My wife responded, “Were you able to save the person’s life?” The doctor, taken a bit by surprise said, “Why yes, it took a while, but we were able to save the patient’s life.” My wife said, “I’m very happy to be a part of that, let’s go.”

When I told my medical friends about this, they said not all patients would have reacted in such a positive manner. As I said, I’m a lucky man to have examples of selflessness like this on a daily basis. I’m very proud.

By the way, her surgery went well and she is recovering nicely.

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anxiety

Managing Senior Stress

 

     As a senior, one of the things I most looked forward to in my retired life was getting away from stress. While most of my friends and colleagues always said they considered me to be calm and easy-going, inwardly I was always very driven, highly motivated, and somewhat of a classic Type A person.

    

     Of course, becoming a senior and/or retiring, especially in this day and age, does not magically remove one’s stress. In fact, our current culture seems to have evolved into one that creates and promotes stress on a daily basis. How many times a day do we hear ominous sounds emanate from our radios and televisions just prior to hearing words like “news alert” or “news update?”  Is it a nuclear attack or is a tsunami headed our way? No. Usually it’s a story about some overpaid baseball player or Anthony Wiener has shared more pictures of his private parts. Our politicians and media seem to have conspired to keep us in a state of constant unrest. The truth is there is plenty of stress for seniors without any additional stress factors being artificially created.

    

     Because on average we now live longer, we have to contend with more health issues than ever before. The economy and other societal changes have also served up a large portion of stress. Concern over the possibility of outliving our financial resources is also a stress factor for seniors.Added to the list is the fact the economy has not provided the best opportunities for young people, which in turn has created a myriad of family issues ranging from joblessness to high rates of divorce. More than previous generations, parents and grandparents are often put in the position of having to cope with a range of these stressful family and financial issues.

    

     Having researched the topic of stress and its impact for many years, I’ve collected a list of what I consider to be the best possible remedies for managing senior stress. They won’t solve the causes of stress such as economic concerns or difficult family issues, but they can potentially help individuals manage the stress such problems create. Rather than the sleeping pills and alcohol  many seniors seem to rely on, consider these stress management suggestions and techniques:

Regular Exercise – A routine of regular exercise can not only help to make you more healthy, it can provide both mental and physical relief from stress.

Stay Positive – Do everything within your power to maintain a positive attitude toward life and those around you.

Spend Time With Positive People – The world is filled with whiners and complainers, but there are also those who continue to have a positive outlook on life.

Spend Time With Those Who Deserve It – Life is too short, especially as a senior, to spend a minute with someone who doesn’t respect or value you.

Keep Life Lighthearted – While society and the media seem to want us to live in a state of constant crisis, try to view life through a prism of lightheartedness.

Become Solution Oriented – One of my life’s greatest blessings is being married to a woman who doesn’t agonize over problems, but views every problem as a situation to be managed by finding a solution.

Explore Your Faith – One of my best friends and co-author of a book we wrote together spent years without exploring her faith. Once she did, she changed her life and even returned to school earning another Ph.D. This one was in religion.

Breathe – As a former consultant, some of my best results working with clients involved the simple act of getting them to calm down through slow breathing when stressed.

Look Good, Feel Good – My late parents, while I was growing up and later in life when they lived in our home, and my wife always put forward this philosophy. While none of them ever walked around the house in formal attire, all of them always maintained a state of good grooming and dressed in fresh clean clothes. All I can say is “it works.”

Let Music Relax You – Very few things can transform your mood and general well-being as listening to some of your favorite music.

Compliment Others – Not only will this make you feel good, it will make someone’s day and will most likely provide you some good karma.

Find Some Quiet Time – This can be used for meditation, prayer, positive affirmations, or simple relaxation. Once, while teaching at Pepperdine University in Malibu, I walked into my evening class and several students appeared concerned. Apparently, on their way to class they saw me standing alone and gazing into the distance. When they expressed their concern I told them I was simply enjoying the sunset over the Pacific.

Turn Off The News – Whether it’s for an hour or a couple of days, get away from the news. I know people who will follow a tragic story for days. If you can help the people in the story, do so, but don’t constantly involve yourself in the stress.

Create a Stress-Free Environment – I’m smiling as I write this because certain events had served to create a complete mess in my walk-in closet recently. Feeling very stressed each time I slid open the door, just yesterday I’d had enough and launched a two-day cleanup and reorganization. Getting organized, simplifying, and fixing the things that need fixing in your environment is a sure way to reduce stress.

Keep Life Simple – As you probably did in business, each morning create a simple to-do list. Give yourself ample time to complete your tasks and if you don’t finish something, put it at the top of tomorrow’s list. Another suggestion is to not over-book your schedule. You do not have to accept every invitation or make time for everyone you know. It’s your life and your schedule.

Pursue Your Love Life – The research is very clear that seniors who continue to engage in sexual activity live longer and healthier lives.

Look For The Good In Everyone and Everything – Increasingly, we seem to live in a culture where everyone is a critic on almost every subject. To stay positive, it’s important we look for the good.

Forgive – As seniors, almost all of us have had incidents and persons in our lives that have created tension and regrets. In some cases these situations may be very serious and irreparable. The fact is, you don’t have to forgive and make up with someone who has caused you pain, but if you can forgive them in your heart and move on, you will relieve a great deal of built up stress.

Don’t Worry – As the song says, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Worry never prevented or solved anything, it only serves to create more stress. 

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Rather than my typical blog, I’m going to refer you to this month’s issue of OneTen Magazine.  It has an article (beginning on page 39) that explains how my wife Trisha and I got into researching, writing, and speaking about about retired life and successful aging.

  

Our path certainly wasn’t planned but simply evolved from our own interest in making our retired life as good as we could make it. Currently, we are having a rewarding time as speakers on the topics of successful aging and retired life. Hope you enjoy the article.

OneTen Magazine

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

I recently heard a man complain about some of his friends who had taken up jogging. They were constantly bugging him to jog with them. He finally gave in and said he would jog with them, but only for 1/4 mile. He would later exclaim, “It was the worst three hours of my life.”

I thought it was a funny line. On the serious side of getting in shape, perhaps you have heard about the Frenchman Robert Marchand. Mr. Marchand recently set a record riding a bike for 15 miles on an indoor track in one hour. Robert is 100 years old.

A new report estimates that more than one-third of babies born this year will live to be over 100 years old. Good for them, but what about us old timers? Well, the current average life expectancy in the U. S. for both men and women is between 78 and 79 years. Overall, women usually live two to four years longer, but men are catching up quickly. 

So what are the factors that allow someone to live to be 100 or more? A recent study, The New England Longevity Study, concludes there are four major factors that would allow a person to live to 100. Not surprisingly they are: genetics, environment, lifestyle, and luck. Most of us would probably guess genetics would be the most significant factor. That’s correct. But the study also found genetics is only a 25-30% factor, much less than previously thought. The good news is, if we are somewhat lucky (i.e., don’t get clobbered by a bus or suffer some other accidental disaster) can control our environment and live an appropriate lifestyle, our chances of living to be 100 aren’t that bad.

In their recently published book, The Longevity Project, authors Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, determined six personality traits of people who live to be 100. They are:

Conscientiousness

A conscientious person is someone who tends to all matters including their own personal health.

Healthy Habits

Simply put, the research tells us there are very few smokers who live to be 100, and no obese people.

Working Long and Hard

Mental stimulation is the key. Even stressful work provides the mental stimulation found in those who live to be 100. Remember our Frenchman friend Robert Marchand? He worked until he was 89.

Active Life

As my wife Trisha and I pointed out in our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life, it’s not as much aging as it is inactivity that causes a person to lose strength and stamina. In addition, there are now numerous studies that indicate maintaining muscle strength plays a role in staving off cognitive decline and possibly Alzheimer’s.

Stong Social Network

In their book, Friedman and Martin conclude a strong social network is the “strongest predictor of long life,” and the New England study describes this predictor as “extraversion,” calling it the key trait.

Good Health

While this is an obvious predictor of a long life, the New England study found a high percentage of people who have already lived to be 100 had encountered a serious health problem at some point in their lives. These “survivors” were able to overcome their health problem and live on to their ripe old age.

My reading and research on this subject concures with all of the above. I would, however, make a couple of additions or distinctions. A positive attitude, probably an aspect of every one of the previously stated factors cannot be denied as having a strong influence on longevity. The other longevity factor that more and more research has discovered is adequate sleep. Both stroke and heart disease have recently been correlated to inadequate sleep.

As I look over all of these factors and traits, I can’t help but think of my wife Trisha. She personifies almost everyone of them. She doesn’t drink, smoke, is incredibly concientious, hard-working, has healthy habits, and is so active one would get dizzy following her on a daily basis. She is also extraordinarily extraverted and sleeps very soundly. She is 63, but I’m not sure anyone would ever guess her that old. I’d better start working out more because she is probably going to be around for a very long time. I hope so.

 

Until next time . . . . . . .

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