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


“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.



Phone Scams

Today alone I’ve been called three times by the same foreign sounding man implying he represents Microsoft and my computer has been infected. Because I’m a valued customer, he has called to help me with my problem. Each time I’ve played along and asked for his number in order to call him back. At that point, we always seem to lose the connection, but each time he has called me back. 

This is a classic scam. These criminals will try to coax you into going to your computer so they can help you “fix the problem.” Do not, repeat, do not give them any information such as your email address or anything else that might help them get into your computer.

The FBI recommends you be aware by looking for the following:

  • “You must act ‘now’ or the offer won’t be good.”
  • “You’ve won a ‘free’ gift, vacation, or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges.
  • “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.” You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.
  • “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone.” The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.
  • “You don’t need any written information about their company or their references.”
  • “You can’t afford to miss this ‘high-profit, no-risk’ offer.”

To minimize the number of calls you get, make sure you register with the “Do Not Call Registry.” If you want to register or verify your past registration, here is the link:

 National Do Not Call Registry 

To report any of these scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission:

Federal Trade Commission

Now if we could just do something about these people who send emails trying to get you to read their blogs.

Years ago when I was still working, I walked out onto my back deck. We lived on top of a hillside ridge and the backyard area was my sanctuary and a place I visited every morning. I especially liked the way the sunlight filtered through the beautiful tree hanging over our deck. That morning there was something very different. The tree was missing. I called the woman who lived below us and not thinking out my message abruptly said, “Where’s the tree?” My retired neighbor lady explained that the afternoon before some men had come to her door and told her they were trimming trees in the area and noticed a large tree on the other side of her driveway. They were concerned that the roots would soon cause damage to her wall and driveway. They also said that since they were in the area, they could give her a good deal on removing it. She did. “But it’s my tree,” I yelled into the phone. A while later, feeling terrible, she brought over some cookies she baked for our family, but it could not make up for my beautiful tree I so enjoyed.

I thought about that this week when my mother told me she had spoken to the wife of one of my late father’s old Navy buddies. He is ninety-one years old and was in the hospital recovering from a procedure in which a dentist had given him three new dental implants. I’m sure the dentist was wearing a mask, but it wasn’t surgical.

As people become seniors, they may or may not become more gullible, but they certainly become targets for a variety of scams, both legal and illegal. Older folks are more likely to have some savings, good credit, and time to talk to those interested in scamming them out of their money. While it’s more difficult to detect a legal scam such as cosmetic dental surgery for a ninety-year-old, I would advise a second and trusted opinion on any large financial decision. Here is some information you may find useful in detecting scams and frauds:

Fake Charities

– Always ask to see written materials about the charity and never contribute immediately.

– Since many scam artists use the names of legitimate organizations such as Red Cross or Salvation Army, should you decide to contribute, never write  a check to a person or unknown organization

– If in doubt, you can check out a charity on the following website

                                                                                        For Charities and Donors – U.S. BBB

Door-to-Door Scams

– Be wary of “free inspections” of roofs, air conditioners, etc.

– Free gifts for a few minutes of your time

– No proof of contractor license or other professional identification

– Handwritten contracts

– The “This offer is only good for today” pitch

(Believe it or not, I was once burned by one of these guys. In my case, I had called a legitimate and recommended contractor for an estimate. That guy didn’t show up, but while I was waiting, one of these door-to-door guys rang my bell. Expecting someone else, I greeted him with, “Well, your late, but come on in.” It wasn’t until he started the job did I know it wasn’t the right person. He wasn’t so much a crook as a really poor workman.)

Pyramid and Ponzi Schemes

– There is no such thing as a get-rich-quick investment

– Be wary of any plan that has you recruiting others

– Be suspicious of investing in a company that has you making a large initial investment

– Always consult someone you trust in financial matters before making an investment

(A good friend of mine once invested in a company that made bicycles supposedly being sold in China. He was doubling his investment about once a month. After a few months, most of his friends were in on it too. Fortunately, I resisted the temptation. Good thing since it was a scam in which he and his friends lost all of their money.)


– “Congratulations, you have just won _ _ _ _. I don’t think so.  

– Never buy anything or send money in order to “claim a prize.” 

– Never give a telemarketer any personal information (this should be your rule for almost anyone you speak to over the phone)

I know there are a lot more scams and frauds that use living trusts, auto sales and repairs, sweetheart deals, health care, real estate, etc. As seniors, we should be wiser, and in most cases we probably are just that. It never hurts, however, to be reminded of all the creeps out there trying to get our money.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

I recently wrote about a friend of mine, Dr. Herbert Schub, that I labeled The Most Interesting Man in the World. That blog turned out to get the most hits of any blog I’ve ever written. Thanks to those of you who come here to read this blog, and thanks to Herb for being so damn interesting!










Least Likely To Be Seen Campaign Button:


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






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.