eiffel tower

Trisha and John Parker


Tips For Seniors Traveling Abroad

Having recently returned from an incredible travel adventure to Italy and France, I thought it might be beneficial to share a few travel tips for those considering such a trip.

1. If you plan on driving while in a foreign country, make sure you check in with your insurance agent. In most cases they will advise you to purchase additional coverage from the rental car company in the country you are visiting. This is important because when renting a car in the U. S., if your coverage is like mine, the rental car’s coverage is typically not necessary.

2. When possible, book a hotel in the middle of the cities you want to visit. Most foreign countries have rapid transit much better than ours and you can travel easily through most of them. Often, the entire country is connected by efficient rail systems. On our recent trip to Italy, we became very familiar with the Milan train station as we traveled through it several times. Of course, the way most foreign cities have been centrally designed, once there, you can walk to most of your destinations.

3. Because we are all connected to our smart phones, don’t feel you have to get expensive extended coverage while abroad. Most hotels, restaurants, coffee houses, etc., have free Wifi. To stay in communication back home, we simply sign up for a $10 universal texting plan. It gives you peace of mind in case you need to contact a family member or friend. Otherwise, forget you have a phone and enjoy your trip.

4. As a senior, there is a registration program the U. S. government offers that will also provide an extra sense of security while abroad. Here is the link for registration. This will give your family members an extra way to communicate with you in case of emergency. Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

5. Take your personal safety and security seriously. In most countries you will visit, you probably won’t have to worry about major crime. The fact is, petty crime such as pick pockets, etc., exists in all cities. Keep your passport, credit cards, cash, travel tickets, and I.D. in a hidden travel belt. I have always resisted this suggestion, but during our long recent trip, I decided to wear one and found it quite convenient.

6. If you have any other questions about your health and safety in a country you plan to visit, here are two more links that will keep you informed:

Current Travel Warnings and Current Travel Alerts

Bon Voyage


Every so often I write a blog encouraging folks to be prepared for disasters. Whether man-made or natural, we never know when they will occur. We seniors, often having special needs, should be even more vigilant in preparing for the possibility of such occurences.

In light of yesterday’s horrific storm Sandy, it occurred to me October 29 is not a good date in American history. Going back to 1929, we had Black Tuesday and the Great Stock Market Crash. It was the beginning of the Great Depression. Yesterday, we had the worst storm to hit the east coast in over 100 years. The date: October 29.

We should all be concerned for those who lost family members and lost property in this terrible disaster. In the coming days I’m sure there will be calls for donations of food, clothing, and money. Let’s all participate and show the true American spirit. Let’s also be wary of future October 29 dates.

P.S. My day yesterday was actually pretty good. It was my birthday, October 29. I was born on a Tuesday.

Also, Trisha and I hope to see many of you at the Successful Aging Expo in San Jose, Saturday, November 3. We will be the keynote speakers at 11:00. It will be held at the San Jose Convention Center.

Here is a link to Trisha’s blog: Trisha’s Dishes. She has a couple of tasty recipes I’m sure you will all enjoy.

Healthy Mediterranean

“He’s Got A Gun!”

Given the numerous recent shootings in the news, probably each one of us have questioned what we would do if someone yelled, “He’s got a gun?”

Unfortunately, I’ve had that experience. Several years ago while teaching at a California State University, I was having coffee with two of my students after an early morning class in the outdoor patio of the student union. We were seated at a table next to a cafeteria parking lot separated by a three-foot wall. All of a sudden we heard an explosion in the direction of the parking lot. My first thought was something in the kitchen area must have blown up. We all stood in curiosity just as there was another explosion. This time I could see the flash point and source of the explosion. It was a young man with a rifle and he had just fired another shot point-blank at a person lying in the shrubbery. The gunman then turned and began to walk directly toward us.

I don’t recall many specifics of the next few seconds. I do remember a sense of disbelief followed by a surge of white-hot terror. The next day, both my male and female students would tell me I grabbed each of them by the head and pushed them to the ground. I don’t remember doing that but I’m sure some paternal instincts were involved. They also said they could see my head moving back and forth and my eyes darting all around. When they described my behavior I did recall desperately looking for something to throw at the gunman. After all, I’m an old baseball player and I’m sure I thought I might be able to knock the rifle out of his hands. Very stupid. It never worked in the movies, and I’m sure it wouldn’t have worked then. 

As the gunman approached, he stopped and began to do something with the rifle. At that point, a campus security officer ran into the lot behind the gunman. He had heard the explosion, but had no idea it was a shooting. I yelled, “He has a gun,” and the officer dropped to one knee and pulled his pistol. State University security are always armed. The gunman turned and began to run toward the underground entrance of another parking lot. The officer gave out an alert on his radio and followed after him. For some reason I followed along at a distance.

As the gunman ran down the parking lot ramp out of sight, I could hear an officer already in that lot yell, “Drop the rifle.” Then five pistol shots rang out followed by one rifle shot. The gunman was down and dying. He did not survive.

It turned out to be a love triangle and the young man had decided to kill his ex-girlfriend. He waited in the lot where she parked her car and confronted her. The first shot literally blew her into the shrubs, and as he hovered over her for the second point-blank shot, she was able to pull a large economics text to her chest. The bullet rang through the book but this act saved her life. People from the cafeteria put her on a food cart and raced her to campus clinic where doctors were able to save her.

I was interviewed by several reporters who had arrived on scene and then taken, along with the two security officers, to a police station for our statements. Mine differed from theirs in that I distinctly recalled five pistol shots followed by a rifle shot (I believe when the gunman fell to the ground). They said the rifle shot came first. No matter. In all honesty, if I’d had a gun when he approached me, I would have shot him myself.

The only mystery left was when the police asked me what the gunman was doing with the rifle when he had approached me. I could not remember. Moments of terror really confuse your senses. I tried and tried but could not come up with an answer. Six months later, in the middle of the night while sleeping, it came to me. I sat up in bed and yelled, “He was trying to kill himself.” Of course, I scared my wife half to death, but I now saw it very clearly in slow motion. He was trying to put the rifle barrel under his chin just as the first officer entered the parking lot and I yelled “He’s got a gun.”

We hear experts on television giving lots of advice and maybe that’s a good thing. If I’d been more prepared, perhaps I would have simply run. I don’t know and I hope you never have to find out for yourself.

Be safe.


Even before I retired, I began to watch and listen to less news. One of my strict “retired-life rules” is absolutely no news before bedtime. In this era of instant information, we are bombarded with daily stories and images of human tragedy. It often appears the entire world has gone completely mad. While I resist the temptation to panic, as responsible people we should ask ourselves the question, “What would you do in an emergency?”   

First of all, let me suggest a “go bag.” In our book, Trisha and I wrote about the usefulness of having a small travel bag already packed with versatile clothing such as nylon pants and jacket, sweat shirt or sweater, an extra pair of shoes, etc. In addition, it should have toiletries and a two-week supply of medications. This type of bag would be very useful in case of fire, flood, or other emergency in which you would need to evacuate. Having lived in the hillsides of southern California for much of my life, when those fires begin, you don’t have much time to get out.

Of course, if you really want to do it right, a flashlight, first-aid kit, emergency blanket, a multi-purpose tool, and a portable crank-style radio would be advisable. Additionally, include copies of your contact information, maps, and extra cash. A flash drive with all your personal information would be invaluable if a disaster forced you from your home for a long period of time.

If something terrible happened that would keep you in your home for an extended period, make sure you have plenty of water and extra food. This would not be a problem for us. Our neighbors have all decided they will gather at our home if an emergency takes place. The way Trisha has our pantry stocked, it resembles a small convenience store.

Of course, it’s natural to have the attitude “that will never happen to me.” Unfortunately, bad things can and do happen. The wise person is prepared. 

Bucket List

I’m glad so many of you liked my blog concerning “bucket lists.”  One of the people I heard from was Annette Renee White who has a bucket list website you might enjoy visiting. Give it a look.

Bucket List Journey » ABOUT




On our website,, there is a page called Trisha’s Dishes. This is a page where my wife Trisha offered her favorite recipies. The problem has been that Trisha had to go through our publisher every time she wanted to include a new recipe. Well, good news. Trisha now has her own site where she will be providing her favorite recipies and a forum for others to share their favorites on a weekly basis.

Do yourself and your taste buds a favor and visit her new site.

Simply go to our homepage and click on Trisha’s Dishes or click on the link below.


My Family’s Favorite Dessert « Trisha’s Dishes

Seniors and a Stree-free Environment 

After coming off a long travel adventure, it has taken a while to get unpacked, organized, and acclimated to our own home. As we were going through this process, I came across an online article that provided suggestions for creating a healthy and happy home. It reminded me of something my wife Trisha and I have been working on since we retired. In our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life, we referred to it as creating a stress-free environment. Reducing stress is key to maintaining both mental and physical health, especially as we get older.

Have you ever visited someone who has been retired for many years and noticed their living environment had not changed in years? That in itself may not be a bad thing, but the fact is as we get older we need to pay attention to our environment and make sure we create one that is stree-free, promotes good health, and meets our need for safety.

Here are a few suggestions for creating a stress-free and healthy environment:

1. Reduce clutter – This is my personal favorite because I’m claustrophobic and clutter makes me very stressed. Clutter also increases your chances of tripping and falling (see my last blog). Now University of Chicago researchers have found that living with clutter actually makes you more tired and that fatigue creates a hormone called cortisol within your body that can cause you to eat from 200 to 1,000 more calories per day. I was just going to use the “big bones” excuse.

2. Keep it light – Scientests have shown that keeping your home environment filled with natural light is good for both your mental and physical fitness. There are some studies that now contend an abundance of natural light in our environment can even help prevent disease. I’m always intriqued when I walk into a person’s home that has closed blinds or heavy window covers that prevent light. I’m sure it has something to do with privacy, but keeping our living environment filled with natural light is very important.

3. Keep it simple and spacious – This doesn’t mean you have to have a large home, it simply means don’t over fill your living space with furniture, plants, etc. When my wife and I bought our first home (sometime back in the last century), I could not wait to get one of those big sectional couches. Well, I got my wish. Of course, even the kids had a hard time walking around in our living room. As my old baseball coach used to say, “You have to learn from losing.” Allow yourself plenty of space and wide walking paths.

4. Keep it personal and upbeat – Have you ever watched one of those television shows where exerts come into someone’s home and help them redecorate (o.k. guys, now you know I do watch some of those shows)? They will often look at the paint color or some art object and ask why it’s there. The person typically responds, “It’s been there since we moved in.” Yikes! How much does two gallons of paint cost. Why are you hanging on to grandma’s old quilt hanging on the wall? If you are retired, it’s definitely time to make your living environment your own. Look through some magazines, watch some of the decorating shows, and create the kind of living space would make you happy.

5. Enjoy your space – Once you have created the perfect space for your retired life, make sure you enjoy it. My wife Trisha and I have added a mid-afternoon break to our schedules. When we are home, around 4:00 or so, we stop what we’re doing and sit down for some hot or iced tea, sometimes a snack, and just relax. Sounds very English doesn’t it. It just seemed that around that time we are usually still going strong on various projects and a nice peaceful break would be beneficial for us. Our stress-free environment is the perfect location.

See you next time and don’t forget to share this site with your friends and family.

Don’t Forget to Vote

November 2, 2010


Personal Note: Thank you to the growing number of people who visit our website and read this blog. I promise to make it more informative and entertaining with each edition. Please continue to make comments and give me feedback, and I would ask you to share the site information with others in your email list. As with any of the social media, the more people who participate, the better. Thanks.

Falling is a Serious Problem

In our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life, my wife Trisha and I were stunned by the statistics we discovered concerning seniors and falling. Simply put, one-third of women sixty five and older and half of all women eighty-five and older will be injured in a fall. The statistics for men are only slightly less. The National Institute on Aging reports that 1.6 million seniors are treated at hospitals each year for injuries due to falls, half of which occur at home. Among age groups, seniors have the highest mortality rate due to accidents, half of these deaths are due to falls.

If you are telling yourself, “Well, I’m very careful and this really isn’t that important for me,” please think again. Falling is the leading cause of injury deaths for seniors. Each day, nearly two seniors die per hour due to falling. Sadly, these statistics are growing for reasons still being investigated.

If you are a senior, or you have interactions with seniors, here are some suggestions to help prevent serious falls at home:

* Arrange furniture to allow for wide walking paths

* Make your home as clutter-free as possible

* Reconsider low tables, plants and other possible hazards

* Secure area rugs with slip-resistant backing

* Reposition electrical and telephone cords

* Install grab bars in toilet and shower areas

* Insure adequate lighting for nighttime activity

* Rearrange items on shelves for easier access

* (See a complete list for securing your home in The Best of Our Lives)

More Pictures from Our Recent Travel Adventure

As I promised in the last blog, here are a few more pictures from our recent adventure. There is one from Russia and a few more from Japan.



New Gadgets

I’ve got a couple of very cool new gadgets for you. Have you ever been driving on a long trip, or even a short trip for that matter, and started to feel a little drowzy? I’m sure everyone who has lived to the ripe old age of retirement is smart enough to stop and get some rest. But what if it’s been a long day, you feel fine, but would like a little insurance you won’t accidently nod off.

A wonderful new little device called the Drive Alert Master fits into your ear like a hearing aid and monitors your head movement. Any slight tilt forward will send you an alert signal to keep you awake. I have a good friend who recently fell asleep for the second time while driving, so I’m pleased to tell you about this product. It’s a great and inexpensive insurance policy for you and the passengers in your vehicle. Let’s face it, nobody knows they are falling asleep when it happens. Right now this company is offering $5 off from an already reasonable price. Here is the website:

Drive Alert

The second gadget I want to tell you about is for those folks who like to make notes or record information. Whether it’s keeping track of your parking spot, making up a shopping list, or keeping track of some valuable records or ideas, this is for you. It’s a magical pen that not only records vocal or other sounds, it registers and stores your written notes. In addition, it can be attached to a computer and gives you the ability to send recordings and/or written notes to others. Lose those notes, just grab your pen and retrieve them. Wish I could remember all those songs I wrote when I was much younger.  Here is the website:


Health Alert

The recently published results of a long-term health study begun in 1996 indicates a strong corrolation between low levels of folate and a decrease in brain function. This, the study concludes, results in the increased possibility of dementia and depression. For some reason that likelyhood is even greater for women than men.

The researchers suggest that taking Vitamin B complex  supplements may increase your folate levels and be the key to opening the window to the “brain’s power and function.”  I’ve been taking this type of supplement for almost two years just to be safe. Much like chicken soup, it can’t hurt.


by John Parker

Whether you decide to stay in your current home, remodel, or downsize, it’s imperative you make  your home safe and secure for your retirement years. Our generation is supposed to live, on average, much longer than previous generations, so it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to take care of ourselves.

As I wrote in a recent blog, a few months ago my best friend had an accident in which a ladder slipped and he took a terrible fall. He actually came very close to losing his life. Unfortunately, seniors have the highest mortality rate due to injury. Among those deaths, 50 per cent are due to falling. One-third of women eighty-five and older will be injured in a fall. For men, the statistics are only slightly less. The bottom line is: 1.6 million seniors are treated at hospitals each year due to falls. Half of those falls occur at home.

As my wife and I wrote in our book, The Best of Our Lives,  over the last few years we have gradually prepared our home for retired life. As somewhat recent retirees, we probably didn’t have to make every change so early in our retired life, but have been pleasantly surprised at how these changes have made  life much easier and more convenient.

While our book has a very complete list, here are some of the most important safety and security issues:

1. Get rid of clutter. Both the inside and outside of your house should to be cleared  of small objects that  might cause you to trip. Reconsider placement of low tables, plants, and other possible hazards. Keep your walking paths clear and reposition electrical and phone cords.

2. Inspect your living space and eliminate safety hazards. Remove or install slip-resistant backing on area rugs. Identify and repair cracks in flooring and find solutions for slippery tile. Eliminate sharp edges on furnishing and decorations.  

3. Inventory and update your kitchen. Consider replacing old cooking utensils with easy-grip types and one-touch bottle and can openers. Reorganize storage and place most frequently used items such as dishes at levels easy to reach. Always keep an updated fire extinguisher in a handy place.

4. Safety-proof your home and be prepared for emergencies. Install a security system and consider adding a “panic button” for emergencies. Keep flashlights and battery operated lanterns handy. Install motion lights, smoke alarms and nightlights. Keep a supply of water and canned food on hand as a backup. Strategically place telephones around your home and always have one next to your bed.  

Depending on your age, you may not need to make all of these changes right away. But over time, they will become more necessary for your safety and security. Some health care providers offer a service in which they will come to your home and help you with your safety and security issues.

Be safe, secure, healthy and happy.