The Ups and Downs of Your Aging Immune System

In a few weeks, I’ll be lining up, along with about 35% of the Canadian population, to receive the flu shot. In doing so, I’ll be ignoring the bad press, the less than 50% prevention rate, and the physical discomfort to do this. Why? Because, as I grow older, I’m discovering that I can’t rely on my immune system to do the splendid job it did in the past to protect me from the millions of pathogens that come my way all fall and winter.

Up until 2 years ago, I never gave the flu a thought. Ominous suggestions that the ‘elderly’ were susceptible to illness and disease seemed at best, ageist, and at worst, insulting. I was in excellent health, I looked after myself—a weakened immune system couldn’t happen to me. read more

How Toxins Affect You As You Age

By now, if you are over 65, you might be experiencing subtle changes in your health as you age. You might find that you are taking longer to recover from a cold or flu, and you need to rest longer after you exercise or do a chore. You may notice other subtle changes, like patches of eczema on your skin, or ridges on your fingernails, or pervasive physical and mental fatigue. Normally, you shrug off these symptoms—you’re just grateful that you are not suffering from some drastic illness, and decide to leave well enough alone. read more

Not-So-Simple Thoughts About Eating Organic

If you are one of the shoppers who breezes past the organic section of your local grocery, opting for crisper, fresher looking produce at a cheaper price, you are not alone.

Yet organic food, once the domain of ‘hippies’ and other edgy groups, is slowly drawing in more and more consumers. Despite the claim that organic is not necessarily more nutritious, (and certainly costs more than conventionally produced food), consumption of organic produce is skyrocketing.

The main attraction in many cases, is a desire for optimum health—that feeling of energized well-being and vitality we all strive for. Unfortunately it’s a state often disturbed by allergies and food intolerances, a weakened immune system, and a vague, hard-to-pinpoint awareness of feeling “not quite right”. We know now that toxins exist in our food, enter our environment and remain in our bodies for years. And it’s increasingly harder to ignore studies (Is Buying Organic Worth It? Columbia University, May 31, 2013) that say that the presence of pesticide residue is five times higher in conventional food than in organic food (38% versus 7%). read more

A Late Summer Break

It’s the end of summer, and a good time to take a break. The mornings are a little cooler now, and although the days and evenings are still warm and hazy, I can feel fall and winter in the air. So, I’m going to slow down, and savor what’s left of this summer!

For two and a half years since I started this blog, my first thought each morning and my last thought each night was writing for this blog. It’s been an obsession, and a great pleasure! It’s hard to believe that I’ve written 120 articles with no concern about running out of things to write about. It is an interesting world, full of important and urgent issues, which call for attention, research, and consideration. One idea leads to another, one hundred and twenty issues down, hundreds more to go! read more

The Stunning Failure of the Contribution Pension Plan

Ask any Millennial what they’ll live on when they retire, and they’ll look at you with a blank stare. First off, they are young (oldest are 35), so age 65 seems a lifetime away. Secondly, most of them are occupied with just getting by, an outcome of living in the gig economy, in which saving is unlikely. And we (the Silent generation and older Boomers), were like that too—someone out there would look out for us, things would turn out. Furthermore, most of them are convinced that retirement with a pension is a thing of the past. read more

Guaranteed Basic Income—Still a Utopian Dream?

There’s no doubt that talk of a guaranteed basic income (GBI) is gaining momentum. It’s not a groundswell by any means—it hasn’t caught the interest of a critical mass, but its slowly becoming a buzzword.

Last week I wrote about the GBI, discussing its history, and listing countries that have already implemented a version of it. I realize now, as I continue my research, that some of my facts were not completely accurate, so I’m revisiting it.

Here’s how the GBI currently stands:

In Kenya, participants from selected villages are included in a basic income project. They receive a basic income through a charity program, GiveDirectly, a New York-based nonprofit. Initiated in the fall of 2016, this 12 year pilot program includes 95 participants in a rural village in Western Kenya, who receive about $22US every month, to save or spend as they see fit. Before GiveDirectly began the payments, many people in the village were living on less than $0.75US a day. Afterwards, an analysis claimed that “for 45% of the village’s residents, the first month’s basic income payment was the largest amount of money they’d ever had.” read more

The Basic Income—An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

With its promise of lifting people out of poverty and ending the need for food banks, the Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) sounds radical, and even subversive, an invitation to create a shiftless, dependent population—but it may be an idea whose time has come.

This is not a new thought—Thomas Moore wrote about it in Utopia, (published in 1516), in which he explored some of the problems of society. Observing the stern measures that were being taken against thieves, and recalling a conversation with John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, he wrote: read more

No Welcome Mat for Odocoileus Hemionus in This Garden!

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I have a cliff garden. Yes, it is exactly that—a garden perched on a cliff, 30 or so feet above a quiet street bordering the harbor.

I don’t own the garden. That would be impossible, given that I live in a condo. How it came about is a long story, but I’ll give you the short version.

Several years ago, our six story 25 year old building was restored, resulting in piles of building debris everywhere, and a general disturbance of the grounds.

The strip along the outside of our ground floor condo was an eyesore, and since no one came forward with a solution, I offered to clean it up. I’ve had lots of gardening experience, so I felt confident in starting this project. read more

Why the Media’s Messages Matter to Old People

Old people get a raw deal in television and in the movies. We don’t make a fuss about this, because as we age, we become conditioned to the themes and images that flood the media, and bombard us with their messages. That’s just entertainment, we think—it’s not meant to depict real life.

But if we stop for a minute, and analyze the performances in front of us, we may become aware that there is rarely anyone in these presentations that vaguely resembles us.

If you wonder why this is important, researchers say that we are influenced by media, and respond to how it portrays us. Older characters don’t show up very much in the media we view, and when they do, they are shown in ageist or stereotypical roles, frequently ridiculed. read more

Does Social Media Help Old People Feel Less Lonely?

Remember when people speculated that social media would produce a population of isolates, working alone in a room, disconnected from the rest of humanity? And if lonely older people took up social media, they would become even more lonely and depressed? Well, speculate no more—older adults, just like the rest of humanity, have climbed aboard the social media band wagon, and the results are overwhelmingly positive. In fact, older people, once they try Skype, Facebook or other electronic platforms, become enthusiasts, accounting for a substantial jump in use in just ten years. read more

The Hidden, Internal Language of Loneliness

No matter what successes you have had in your life, none of it matters when you descend into loneliness and depression, especially if you are old. Being old can make you more vulnerable than younger people, and more likely to believe you have no options—you feel that you have less time to explore your loneliness, and less likelihood of solving it.

When you admit you are lonely, shallow advice, like “join groups”, or “volunteer”, or “take up a hobby”, come thick and fast from family, friends and advisers—but it only makes you feel inadequate, and guilty that you haven’t tried hard enough. read more

The Death of a Spouse When You Are Old

The first few days, after the death of your spouse, may be the most devastating and wrenching you will ever experience. Nothing that happens later in life, you are convinced, can ever hurt this much. If you are old, and have been with your spouse for many years, the void that is left when your spouse is no longer there, can overwhelm you. Your feelings can be unimaginably painful and raw, as expressed here:

“I weep no tears because my husband has died. I do weep tears for the lost years. I weep tears for the young family members deprived of the opportunity to truly know him. read more