Trisha and John Parker speakers


Growing Older Isn’t For Sissies

As my friend Herb often says, “Growing older isn’t for sissies.” Everyday, we 50+ folks know he’s right. Along with all the other issues we face, as a man, I long ago had that experience of looking in the mirror and seeing my father. For women, aging in a society that celebrates glamour and youth, the mirror can become a dreaded enemy.

Each year, we seniors spend millions of dollars trying to look better (younger) and that probably isn’t a bad thing. When I compare our generation to previous ones, I do believe we are in pretty good shape physically and have aged quite well. I think it’s great that the majority of us continue to groom ourselves nicely and dress somewhat fashionably. I smile while writing that last line because I’ve never been known as a “clothes horse.” If you don’t understand that reference, you’re too young to be reading this blog.

So, what’s the point? The point is, as seniors, we will not win the battle against physical aging. We should stay in good condition, eat well and all the rest, but we are not going to overcome the changes aging will bring about. The wrinkles will come ever faster, the hair we love will thin, and the hair we don’t want will flourish. We need to develop an attitude of acceptance toward physical aging. Of course, my wife Trisha does not accept my view on this subject and has vowed to “go down swinging.”

I raise this issue to preface what I consider to be a more important aspect of the aging process, our minds. To me, the biggest difference I observe among people as they get older is not physical, but mental. I’m not talking about loss of mental acuity, but simply how people use or don’t use their minds. Some seem very engaged concerning current events, new ideas, and even strive to be creative and contribute to society. As Trisha and I wrote in our book, it seems as though retired life for many simply means not having a job any longer. We discovered so many folks in our age group who did not have a plan or set goals for their future. This isn’t a criticism per se because we firmly believe everyone should spend every phase of their lives as they choose. We simply find it curious that so many find themselves in such deep routines, often seem bored, and quite frankly, unhappy. The fact is, planning or not, life does happen.

In our case, my wife and I can’t think of anything more interesting or rewarding than meeting new people, having new experiences, creating something new, or seeing new places around the corner or around the world. I often think about the question I used to get during my teaching career. It was, “Why do you like teaching?” My response was always, “Because I learn so much.” I had to continually read new books, review the latest research, meet new students, learn and evaluate new ideas, and create ways to put them forth. It was always new and exhilarating. I guess that helped shape my views on how I wanted to spend my retired life. I can only say it works for me and my wife, but others must choose the path that works best for them. Choose wisely. As someone once said, “This is your life; it’s not the dress rehearsal.” We’ll drink to that.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

 

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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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elderly11

Older and Wiser?

 

We’ve all heard the theory growing older makes you wiser. I can’t really confirm the veracity of this theory, but can at least confirm growing older certainly makes you more experienced in the ways of the world. Sometimes that’s good, but often it means we become less trusting and perhaps more cynical.

          One doesn’t have to be older or even wiser to understand many of the changes going on in our culture today. While we heard not so long ago the “era of big government is over,” today we have government entities attempting to control virtually every aspect of our lives. This refers to government on every level, local to national.

For example, a couple of years back I left my car parked at the home of a relative who lives in another state. When I returned I found a notice threatening me with a fine for not having that state’s license on my car. I called the bureaucrat who left the notice and he told me I needed to show proof I wasn’t living in that state. In the cause of decency, I can’t really repeat what I told him. He then referred me to the local official in charge. Taking the high road, I wrote that official a very polite and responsible email explaining my wife and I had been traveling in and around the state and merely left the car at our relative’s home while we were gone. The next day I received an email back from the kind lady in charge directing me to give her my complete itinerary including mileage, dates, and locations traveled.

At this point, you probably expect I’m going to tell you I became furious and fired off a blistering email that told her where to go and what she could do with her invasive request. Maybe you are wiser because that’s exactly what I did. A brief response followed that informed me the matter had been dropped.

We now live in a culture where various levels of government bodies can tell us what color we can paint our houses, what flags and other symbols we can display, prevent churches from erecting crosses (the very symbol of many church beliefs), what light bulbs we must use, when we can use our fireplaces, and on and on.

In the latest news, many of our children and grandchildren are being told what costumes are not allowed to be worn on Halloween. If this trend continues, someday they’ll be telling us what kind of health care we must buy.

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Aging and Relationships

 

Hopefully, as we age, we all learn it’s our relationships with friends and family that are the most important components in our lives. Unfortunately, there are some out there who prefer to isolate themselves, but they are the exceptions. The important fact is, there’s a considerable amount of scientific research that shows people who continue to maintain and create new relationships tend to be much healthier and age more successfully than those who live in isolation.  

I’m not sure I needed the reminder, but over the last few weeks I’ve been very fortunate in the relationship category. First of all, traveling to the east coast, one of our sons and his wife blessed us with another grandchild, an incredibly beautiful little girl. Just as happened with all of our grandchildren, that first glimpse of this little angel took our breath and stole our hearts. Holding her tiny body in my hands was overwhelming and there is surely no greater feeling than that of pure love.

Additionally, on this trip we were fortunate to further reconnect with friends made back in my Air Force days. It’s amazing how much time has past, but how much time has stood still in our friendship. These are wonderful people with whom we share great memories, and hopefully we will have many more good times ahead.

As also happens when one travels, my wife Trisha and I were so pleased to make the acquaintance of several new people we look forward to getting to know better in the future. It seems the more you open yourself up to this kind of opportunity, the more people you can meet and share a relationship.

Finally, this week marks the birthday of my wonderful wife Trisha. I’ve now known her for over half a century and been married to her for nearly forty-four years. She is clearly the kindest and most considerate person I have ever known. She wakes each day with a smile and continues to brighten the day of everyone she encounters. For her, difficult situations are simply problems to be solved. She’s not petty, doesn’t complain, and is always positive. She’s warm and loving, and completely devoted to her family. She’s extraordinarily beautiful on both the outside and inside. I couldn’t ask for a better relationship. Happy Birthday Trisha!

One last but important note I want to share. One of my Air Force buddies is in need of a kidney transplant. If everyone who reads this would share this information, perhaps he could be helped. I know that as we age, this kind of decision is probably not one we nor our doctors would advise, but sometimes circumstances arise and the more people that know of this need, the greater the possibility he might be helped. Feel free to contact me.  

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Marto

Grandparents Day

 

     On September 8, our country will celebrate Grandparents Day. If you are lucky enough to be a grandparent, you might not want to hold your breath for the presents to roll in. The fact is, just being a grandparent is the reward in itself. My wife Trisha and I are very blessed and extremely excited we will soon be with one of our sons and his wife at the birth of their third child and our eighth grandchild. We could not be happier.

     If you have ever wondered where Grandparents Day came from, let me explain. The idea came from a housewife in Fayette County, West Virginia by the name of Marian McQuade. She was very involved in working with the elderly in nursing homes and wanted them to get the attention they deserved. She also hoped grandchildren in the country would learn from their grandparents and see them as a source of wisdom and knowledge. In 1978, President Carter ushered in the first official Grandparents Day. It is now celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Now you know.

     Here are a few quotes that better sum up being a grandparent:

“Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting.”

   Unknown

“Grandchildren don’t make a man feel old; it’s the knowledge he’s married to a grandmother.”

   G. Norman Collie

“Never have children, only grandchildren.”

Gore Vidal

“Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.”

Welsh Proverb

“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.”

Rudy Giuliani

“Grandchildren are God’s way of compensating us for growing old.”

Mary H. Waldrip

“Grandmother-grandchild relationships are simple. Grandmas are short on criticism and long on love.”

Unknown

“It’s amazing how grandparents seem so young once you become one.”

Unknown

“What a bargain grandchilden are. I give them my loose change and they give me a million dollars’ worth of pleasure.”

Gene Perret

“When grandparents enter the door, discipline flies out the window.”

Ogden Nash

“One of the most powerful handclasps is that of a new grandbaby around the finger of a grandfather.”

Joy Hargrove

“Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever.”

Unknown

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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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Moore, Oklahoma – Two Months Later

   On May 20 of this year, a two-mile wide Category 5 tornado struck the town of Moore, Oklahoma. It destroyed countless homes, dozens of businesses, a medical center, a large shopping complex, and an elementary school. Twenty-four people were killed including several children attending that school. Numerous others were injured, some of them so badly they remain hospitalized to this day.

   At the time of this tragedy, my wife and I had just returned from a trip abroad. We could not believe the devastation we saw on television and felt concerned for everyone involved. During that week, we attended services for my late aunt who had been born in the mid-west. With the approval of her family, Trisha and I made a donation in my aunt’s name to help the victims of the tornado.

   This week, after traveling to a family event in Kansas, we drove to Moore, Oklahoma. What we saw there was overwhelming and almost beyond comprehension. We both became emotional as we drove through the path of the tornado realizing in just moments homes that once stood on the cement foundations we were seeing had exploded and disappeared. As we drove to the site of the Plaza Towers Elementary School, we realized many of the damaged, but still standing homes we were passing, were those of the parents of children who attended that school. When we arrived at the site, now a makeshift memorial, the depth of this horrific event hit us with full force. It’s an emotional jolt we will never forget.

   As a senior, I remember the struggles of earning a living and raising a family. Experiencing an event like this during those years would have been devastating. Here are a few pictures we took, and if there is anyone reading this blog who would like to help the good folks of Moore, let me suggest the following website:

http://www.charitynavigator.org

Plaza Towers Elementary School

Plaza Towers Elementary School

School Memorial

School Memorial

Path of Tornado

Path of Tornado

Tornado Path

Tornado Path

Tornado Damage

Tornado Damage

Only Sign Left at Medical Center

Only Sign Left at Medical Center

Destruction

Destruction

Shopping Complex

Shopping Complex

Shopping Complex

Shopping Complex

School Memorial

School Memorial

Please visit:

http://www.TheBestofOurLives.com

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