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The Second Half: Challenges: Diamonds in the rough?

July 7, 2010

By Kathleen D. Tresemer
Columnist

In our Second Half of life, we have challenges. How we prepare for them, handle ’em, and otherwise view them makes a difference in both attitude and outcome. But many of my Second Half pals are exhibiting fears about this subject, and some intriguing ways of dealing with them.

One 50-something pal suggested astrology: “It’s logical to assume that nature and the universe impact our lives. Why not prepare for—or maybe avoid—some of these challenges through astrology?”

OK, so I now receive a daily horoscope in my morning e-mail. What could it hurt? Check out this excerpt from my planetary overview for today from Astrocenter.com:

“…You may experience anger or challenges from others, but this can be a healing experience if you look for a deeper meaning. Spiritually, there are many opportunities for growth and renewal now if you can stay open and flexible.”

Being open and flexible is almost always good advice…I’ll take it.

I found some rather grim research, originally published at www.medicalnewstoday.com, presenting the 10 Most Common Medical Challenges Facing Baby Boomers. Here’s their list, and it’s a bummer:

1. Functional decline: The USDA reports our bodies lose 1 percent of muscle mass a year beginning at age 45.

“The only recourse is to exercise,” says Yoga Master Rachel Bixby of Lazy Dog Yoga Studio in Roscoe, “This deterioration can certainly be reversed, but it requires dedication and respect for your body. Consistency is more important than how hard you push yourself.”

At first, I feel like the tortoise chasing the hare…then I remember who WON! Call Rachel at (815) 703-3384 for a consultation.

2. Depression: Major change can cause depression, and we are constantly changing in ways we don’t like during our Second Half. In seniors, depression is subtle: apathy, sleep disorder, general aches and pains. “Everybody I know must be depressed,” a pal exclaimed. “I’ve taken to carrying Snickers bars in my purse and distributing them at every social event!”

3. Disease: Age-related diseases—blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypothyroidism, constipation, incontinence and arthritis—are best addressed with preventive measures. Pick any health-related area, and start obliterating it with diet, exercise, supplements or voodoo—just start before the damage is too severe to reverse. Please…just don’t pretend you aren’t suffering or at risk!

4. Polypharmacy: Term used for the number of prescription and OTC medications seniors take. Talk to your doctor about reducing the number of meds you take and review No. 3 again.

5. Falls: Dizziness from medications or medical conditions can cause a general loss of balance in our Second Half, and then we fall down and hurt ourselves. Some non- medical aids that have a solid impact in improving balance: tai chi and yoga. Visit http://balance.lifetips.com and http://www.brighthub.com/health/fitness/articles/18186.aspx for info about improving your balance with simple exercises.

6. Abuse and neglect: Don’t exclude self-neglect here…you can fix that today!

7. Financial exploitation: An extension of No. 6, vulnerable seniors easily become victims of caregivers or family members. See No. 9 for more.

8. Dementia: Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth-leading cause of death for Americans older than 65. But there are new medications that help improve quality of life and slow down the ravages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, so, don’t wait if you think you are struggling too hard to process information or remember things…go see your doctor!

9. Caregiver burnout: Caregiver burden—caring for sick parents and spouses, or raising grandkids—can lead to depression and other stress-related illnesses. If you find yourself in this situation, consult the experts at places like Lifescape Community Services. Lifescape is the largest agency in northwestern Illinois serving older adults, families and caregivers in Winnebago, Boone, Lee and Ogle counties. Whether a person needs a nutritious meal, help completing complicated paperwork, assistance in paying bills, adult daycare or a volunteer opportunity, they can help. Find them at 705 Kilburn Ave. in Rockford, call (815) 963-1609, or visit them on the Web at: http://www.lifescapeservices.org/. They are amazing!

10. Death and dying: Decide how you want to live out the end of your life and how you want to die—now WRITE IT DOWN! Next, tell your kids, your siblings, your doctor and lawyer, and give copies of your wishes to them. Simple, right?

“Growing old is not for the weak of character,” a Second Half pal told me sagely. “Now, go spend every cent you have on yourselves, while you can still enjoy it!” Then, she left me for exotic destinations, in the company of her frugal, but fun-loving, husband.

“If I had a pot of money,” I grumbled, “that is what I’d do.”

Instead, I’m checking out Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel), the not-for-profit travel organization. Their mission: to empower adults to explore the world’s places, peoples, cultures and ideas, and in so doing to discover more about themselves. Visit their Web site at http://www.roadscholar.org/.

For local fun, I’m looking for classes in exotic topics or day trips to fascinating locations, so I head to CLR (Center for Learning in Retirement) over at RVC. The choices are just amazing, and if you can’t find something of interest, “You ain’t trying!” Visit their Web site at www.rockvalleycollege.edu/clr or call for a catalog: (815) 921-3931. Better yet, attend the CLR Annual Meeting at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 4, at the RVC Starlight Theatre.

Remember: intense pressure turns common carbon into DIAMONDS, and we are carbon-based beings, after all. Those senior challenges are no excuse to give up. Sing it, folks: “Diamonds are a geezer’s best friend!”

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

From the July 7-13, 2010 issue

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