Books about getting old come in a lot of varieties. Here are some thoughts on 3 completely different types of books aimed at baby boomers or people who study boomers. One is a brilliantly written memoir by a successful public speaker. The second is a wonderfully human, trying-to-be-funny-and-succeeding-against-all-odds book about the difficult subject of caring for close senior relatives with dementia/Alzheimers. And the third is actually a textbook on research about grandparent roles in many countries of the world.
Aging Disgracefully: A Memoir, by Danny Cahill. We all talk about page-turners, usually in connection with mystery novels, but this memoir is just as compelling. It’s written by a guy who was tremendously successful his whole life – from his first job out of college as a recruiter, and all the way to buying that company. His success, though, is chronicled only incidentally as he bares his soul about his love life and his marriage and his relationships. The guy pulls no punches – though you may wonder how it’s possible anyone could be “the good guy” so much of the time.
He includes some embarrassingly frank descriptions of the sexual antics of younger persons who learned about sex from porn on the Internet. But I was particularly amazed by his statement late in the book: “I never understood why Sydney, and later Kelsey to a far greater degree wouldn’t stop something they knew to be harming them.” Who has never heard about the madness of addiction? Dysfunction? Danny Cahill is a public speaker, a successful entrepreneur, a playwright, and one hell of a storyteller. I couldn’t put this book down, and probably your giftee won’t be able to either. $18 hardcover on Amazon, $8 for Kindle version.
Operation caregivers: #LifeWithDementia by Alexandra Allred. This is truly a compelling account of what Allred’s family went through when both her parents were afflicted with dementia/Alzheimer’s. She and her sister spent incredible amounts of energy helping their parents adapt slowly to their medical conditions – denial is common among those who are becoming memory-impaired – and then moving them into memory care facilities and watching over them. Whether your life is touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s or not, this book is engaging and extremely readable. Despite many other pressing to-dos, we couldn’t stop reading it. It truly opens a window onto the realities of caring for loved ones who are no longer in their right minds much of the time.
The stories of poor care from lackadaisical, uncommitted workers are full of details, often related with vivid dialog, and are frightening to contemplate. The sisters’ love is clear as Allred narrates the many struggles they go through – to visit, to correct poor conditions, to communicate with their parents, to pay the overwhelming financial cost, and to keep seeking a better facility. The book is also full of helpful, hard-learned tips about ways to communicate with someone overtaken by serious memory issues as well as practical advice for every step of preparing yourself or a loved one so that chaos does not ensue when family must begin hiring caregivers and seeking memory care. Good book. Hard-hitting but funny – Allred worked hard to find humor in such difficult circumstances. Printed with double-spaced and lots of white space so it’s easy to read. $20 for paperback on Amazon.
Grandparents in Cultural Context, edited by David W. Shwalb and Ziarat Hossain. This book is a textbook written in academic style – a little dry, lots of statistics, a sprinkling of illustrations – but it contains some interesting facts about what it’s like to be a grandparent in countries all over the world. Compare, for example, the growing cultural diversity in the United States and Germany, brought on by immigration and fostered by increased acceptance of intercultural relationships, to the dwindling number of grandparents in Japan and China brought on by rising levels of childlessness among younger generations. If you’re a boomer and thinking of emigrating to another country, this book might give valuable insight into that nation’s expectations of you in your role as a grandparent. Full of information and educated speculations; interesting, but not what you’d call a page-turner. ~$59 paperback, $47 eTextbook on Amazon.
If you sit or stand for long periods of time, your back probably gives you trouble now and then. Or maybe all the time. Or maybe you don’t have to sit or stand for long periods, but your back hurts anyway. Or maybe you run a lot, or lift heavy stuff, or you’re just plain very active. Whatever the situation, if the pain is in your lower back, a product called BaxMax promises to give that area the support that could give some relief.
The BaxMax is a support device that adjusts to fit around your waist and over the top of your hips. It’s “Power Unit” consists of two discs connected to each other by strong extendible drawstring-type fiber strands. You open the space between the two discs and position it so that the discs are situated with your spine right between them. Then, when you pull the belt snug and connect it with the hook-and-loop closure, the two disks push firmly against the muscles that help support your spine and the front compresses your belly muscles.
Growing up, I remember seeing a strange-looking contraption hanging on the hook on the back of our bathroom door. I remember staring at it for long periods of time while I took a bath or did my kid business. Never asked anyone about it – figured it was some grownup thing I probably wasn’t supposed to know about. Years later I found out one day that it was a sacroiliac support device my dad used when he was working on his milk truck, lifting and pulling and pushing hundreds of pounds of milk bottles and cottage cheese cartons around inside the truck, onto the heavy wheeled hand truck, into the little neighborhood stores and then switching them out for outdated items in his customers’ refrigerated cases.
My dad’s back device was made of stiff gray cloth and bloomed with what seemed like a mad array of straps and belts. The BaxMax is a much sleeker device, and you don’t have to sport baggy striped overalls like my dad did in order to wear it under your clothes. Of course, you can wear it outside your clothes in situations where support is more important than sleek lines.
I don’t have any back issues but hoped it would enhance my ability to maintain proper posture while sitting for long stretches at my computer. It was helpful for brief periods. I then asked a friend who has back issues to try it. She is extremely pleased – appreciates the support she gets from the two disks on either side of her spine. Wore it under her dress to a party and loved the relief it gave her. She was also very happy that the material was so breathable. She said her previous devices were rubberized, and she was forever having to change her shirt when she wore them because she got so sweaty.
Here is an interesting review of the BaxMax on a website that talks about how back support devices work. It says don’t use any belt if you’ve never had a back injury, but that the BaxMax can be very helpful immediately after a back injury or to support your spine while lifting heavy objects (no heavier than you could lift without a belt). Available from BaxMax, the manufacturer, via Amazon at ~$70.
As we mature into our 50s and beyond, decades of hunching over computers, staring down endlessly at cell phones, and otherwise inadvertently abusing our muscles, tendons and joints, can begin to take a toll. Many of us develop, as a result of too much hunching, a kink in our posture that bodes no good. But, like the 85-year-old stooped-over woman who discovered yoga and regained her properly aligned spine, there are things we can do to rectify the situation no matter how late in the game we start.
Agreed recently to review a couple of books by Dr. Karl Knopf, a professor of health and fitness for older adults and the disabled. For 40 years he’s worked in multiple areas ranging from personal fitness and therapy to consultation, plus he developed the “Fitness Educators of Older Adults Association” to guide trainers of older adults. Now he’s writing an ongoing series of books on fitness and health topics for older adults.
Stretching for 50+ is one book in Knopf’s series. I took it with me one day to a place where I had to sit and wait for a long time, which gave me plenty of time to pay serious attention to trying the exercises. The biggest surprise was the stretches relating to posture.
A family friend who’s a doctor came up to me one Sunday while I was helping my daughter prepare family dinner and said, “I’m worried about you grandma. Your shoulders are getting rounded.” Now this friend is not only a doctor but is also a former personal trainer. So you can bet she doesn’t prescribe drugs if stretching and exercise will solve the problem. She said there was a solution.
She taught me an exercise that I’ve been working on. But when I read this book, I learned there’s more that can and should be done. It describes stretches to help remedy the situation – whether your poor posture comes from working on a computer all day or using your cell phone for texting and typing emails, which tends to lead towards the “head forward” problem.
And Dr. Knopf has also written a book called Beat Osteoporosis with Exercise that features low-impact stretches and exercises designed to improve posture, build bone density and increase strength and flexibility – all of which can help prevent falls in the first place.
Each book includes hundreds of photos so it’s easy to see how the moves are done without having to read an inordinate amount of text. No matter how old you are, you can benefit from incorporating even some of these exercises and stretches into your routine. Remember, this stuff deserves just as much a place in your schedule as all the things you do to keep your mind strong and nimble.
Attendees will choose from programs that consist of discussion and hands-on activities in seven areas: adaptive dance, rhythmicity with drumming, improv theater, video biographies, modern portraits, stained glass and singing. At only $10 a person, this is a unique opportunity both for those with early-stage Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other conditions that limit cognitive or neuro-motor abilities, and for their caregivers.
This collaborative effort is a significant achievement for arts organizations that were already offering this kind of programming, but hadn’t previously thought to tailor it to this particular target group, according to Stacey Foisy, creator and co-chair of the undertaking. Potentially a model for other cities, the workshop will take place right here in Chicago on June 15 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4545 N. Lincoln Ave. Get more details and register here.
*Brain Camp participating organizations:
Art Institute of Chicago, Boomers Plus, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Loyola University Museum of Art, Northwestern Medicine-Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Old Town School of Folk Music, and Video Family Biographies.
With the impending crippling of some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, do you ever wonder how access to healthcare might change for your grandkids, or your friends’ grandkids – the kids who are constantly telling you, “Just Google it, Grandma”? Below is an interesting article written from the perspective of a healthcare professional.
Gen Z: The ‘just Google-it’ generation
by Kim Bassett, President
Norwood Hospital in Massachusetts
Imagine growing up in a world where Google has always existed. Where Facebook is as much of a staple as Nickelodeon or the Johnny Carson Show. A world where terrorists are real, and 9/11 is taught as a history lesson, just as D-Day and Hiroshima were explained to earlier generations.
Generation Z-ers, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, make up 25% of the U.S. population – larger than both the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations, respectively. Those born at the start of this generation are entering the workforce, bringing with them a combination of their Millennial parents’ ideals and their own, shaped by living in a technology driven world at a time of national insecurity with war on-going and terrorist attacks being sensationalized in the media.
This generation is uniquely positioned to change healthcare from both the provider and consumer sides.
1) Technology. Generation Z is the first generation born after the advent of Internet and social media. They are true digital natives, growing up with smart phones, tablets and other devices connected to the entire world. It’s akin to a child growing up in a home with two languages. They not only learn both languages much earlier, but also how to leverage the knowledge seamlessly into their everyday life.
○ Consumers – Because of this, we can safely assume that as consumers they will demand healthcare digitally, enhanced care options available online versus the traditional care model of in-person visits.
○ Providers – On the healthcare side, we will see new software programs created to meet their own demands.
2) Entrepreneurship. Millennials created this trend, making great strides toward changing workplace culture, creating a more flexible work environment, community service, work-life balance. Generation Z will take it to the next level, evolving it further, not letting their predecessors efforts go by the wayside.
○ Consumers – Gen Z, as a consumer, will demand access to healthcare, even though they don’t work in a traditional employer-providing healthcare environment. And because they are seamlessly connected through social media, you can be assured the entire world will hear their thoughts on this issue.
○ Providers – Not one to pass up a business idea, Generation Z will create new business opportunities to not only fulfill their own healthcare needs, but also form businesses and product lines that will help their older family members in the Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer generations. Generation Z carries over their Millennial predecessors trait in their need to make the world a better place.
3) Diversity. Generation Z is the first generation to be gender non-specific. They are growing up a world where it’s commonplace for people to change gender and marry people of the same-sex. This acceptance of all types of lifestyles will change – and already has – the healthcare landscape.
○ Consumers – Gen Z will expect healthcare providers to provide equal access for non-specific gender roles and relationships just as they are asked to do with traditional male-female roles. Gen Z will continue to push for acceptance in all aspects of healthcare for every consumer, regardless of gender identification.
○ Providers – In healthcare facilities and other workplaces, gender roles will continue to evolve as HR departments and employers struggle to wrap their arms around these new realities in our culture. Acceptance will become paramount to the happiness of Generation Z in the workplace, much like the issues of flexibility and work-life balance are to the Millennials.
As the largest generation to exist, Generation Z is becoming equipped to move our culture forward in all aspects – economically, socially, and technologically. So before dismissing or scoffing at their seemingly radical ideas, remember that they hold your future in their hands and perhaps – with a little guidance and encouragement from their predecessors – that future will be the best yet.
Who doesn’t love books that speak to us where we are in life? Whether you’re feeling old or caring for aging parents, or you’re just curious or wanting to read a good memoir/story, here are a few – in a wide range of topics – from the year 2016 that some of us Boomers might enjoy.
I’m 93. Why am I still alive? True stories from a long and eventful life, by Alan Mayer. Ever ask yourself this question – even if you’re still a long way off from 93? Mayer is a NY native who butchered, boxed and entrepreneured for many years. Then he and his high-school-sweet-heart-turned-spouse moved to Chicago where he was a banker for 30 years. This short new book – written in large print, with very small margins and lots of white space between lines – is full of stories from his life and many of his own personal observations on life. He’s survived near-miss accidents, several serious illnesses, life-threatening disgruntled employees, and other incidents that left him wondering how he came out okay. Check it out (paperback $14.95) at http://wethepeoplepublishing.com/
Cats Are Capable of Mind Control, and 1000 UberFacts you never knew you needed to know, by Kris Sanchez.Fun. Weird. Interesting, occasionally perhaps questionable “facts” about a myriad of things such as:
– “Coca-Cola and Pepsi are used as pesticides by farmers in India, since they’re cheaper and get the job done.”
– “The [five-sided] Pentagon was constructed so that no point in the building is more than a 10-minute walk from any other point in the building.”
– “Vultures have stomach acid so corrosive they can digest anthrax.”
Light reading that may appeal to several different levels of curiosity. My reaction to a few of the statements was to go and check another source before believing it, so keep your truth detector in gear and tell kids to double-check with you if they question something. Suitable for adults and kids maybe 7 and up. My 9-year-old granddaughter found it intriguing in small doses. Available on Amazon in hard cover and Kindle editions, both ~$12.
Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey, by Fred Minnick. The author is famous for writing about spirits in a well-researched and entertaining fashion. This book is no different – amusing anecdotes, interesting history of the spirit as unique to its original home in the South, fascinating stories of competition between distillers, and even a story of how James Bond, who ordered a martini “shaken, not stirred” instigated the rise of white spirits to compete with bourbon. Sample chapter headings include: “Government: Friend and Foe,” “Whiskey Is the Devil’s Own Brew,” “Distillers vs. Nazis and US Government,” “To Beat Jack Daniel’s” and more. The books’ bibliography reveals how the author conducted his research: interviews with important industry figures, government publications, books, corporate literature and so on. Quarto Publishing Group 2016. ~$12 Kindle edition, ~$15 hard cover on Amazon.
The Blue Nightgown: My French Makeover at Age 78!, by Karin Crilly. It’s a memoir, not a novel. The author’s husband of many years dies after a long illness, and she decides to move to Aix-en-Provence to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in France, despite the fact she doesn’t speak the language. Simply written, the story is a chronicle of her experiences there in search of joy, learning and, yes, romance at age 78. She re-connects with a guy she met 25 years earlier and, after months of increasingly intimate phone conversations, agrees to meet him in Amsterdam – and buys a blue satin nightgown in anticipation. You have to read the book to know what happens. This is an easy read, a charmingly simple story of a huge adventure undertaken by a long-past Boomer-age woman of comfortable means. And it’s even more enjoyable because she ends each chapter with a recipe for something wonderfully French to eat. $6 Kindle.
The Future Tense of Joy: A memoir, by Jessica Teich. This book is the beautifully written chronicle of a brilliant 30-something woman’s battle with childhood demons and a seemingly ineradicable fear about life’s danger. Educated at Yale and then at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, she has two young girls and a loving husband, but she can’t get control of her fear. One day she hears about another brilliant young woman, also a Rhodes scholar, who at age 27, had a hugely promising life ahead of her – but chose instead to commit suicide. Author Teich decides she will investigate this woman’s life story and see if, in deciphering that woman’s suffering and life choices, she can find help for her own struggles. The story is full of tension and drama and even some of the really tough parts read almost like a novel in gentle poetic prose. $14.99 Kindle on Amazon.
Even when your Baby Boomer life is very comfortable, things can sometimes start to feel really low-key, even routine. So it’s good to know about travel/vacation options that could revitalize you with their unexpected vibrancy. Arizona is one of the few states we’ve been to multiple times – and enjoyed very much each time. The folks from VisitPhoenix.com partnered recently with Lux Bar, 18 E. Bellvue Place, to showcase the winter joys of Arizona and invite Chicagoans to include this winter-warm state in their upcoming travel plans. Scottsdale serves as the main hub for Phoenix, Mesa and more and is continually growing and changing.
Wineries in the desert?
Yes! Downtown Scottsdale features four Arizona wine tasting rooms that tell the story of the state’s 100 award-winning wineries including LDV Wine Gallery – eat, sip and taste on their two shaded patios. Further south in the Wilcox wine region, check out Salvatore Vineyards, Carlson Creek Vineyard, and the Sue Vino Winery, all of which serve, along with the four tasting rooms, as part of the Scottsdale Wine Trail.
Scottsdale is also now home to a unique cocktail bar called Counter Intuitive. Open only on Friday and Saturday nights, 8pm to 2am, it rotates its decor and menus every few months – from a New Orleans antique shop or Cuban hideaway, to an Agua Caliente Racetrack during Prohibition or a Chinatown hangout. You never know what kind of ambiance to expect – just that it’ll be interesting and stimulating – which gives even full-time area residents something new to get excited about.
Southwest culture and art
Besides imbibing, of course, other activities may call to you on your visit. You might like to go exploring the cultural footprint of the Southwest’s Native American nations during Native Trails. This is a series of noontime festivals that tell stories of Native culture through song and dance. Free, at Scottsdale’s Civic Center Park January through March. Then you can always visit the Arts District where dozens of creative minds have their shops;
extended hours on Thursday evenings let you take the Scottsdale ArtWalk. Or take a self-guided tour of the Scottsdale Public Art Program (love the holiday musical greeting on their website!) of some 50 artworks, including well-known pieces like Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE”sculpture and Soleri Bridge & Plaza.
Wanna be a cowboy? Almost all local resorts in Scottsdale offer trail rides and communal cookouts, but how about this for a challenge?! Arizona Cowboy College gives you a closeup view of what it’s like to be a true cowboy. Learn horsemanship skills – yes, serious things like cutting, branding, inoculating, dehorning and driving cattle – and then go out and do that stuff on the range. Yikes! We’d have to sign up for an awful lot of horsemanship skills before even thinking about attempting the rest of it. Hmm. Wonder if trying this at a ripe old age like 60 would ever result in actually achieving such skills? Hey, who cares? If it’s on your bucket list, go for it! If your taste leans more towards a less vigorous horse-related activity, check out Fort McDowell Adventures for a trail ride.
Or how about learning (or at least trying) to drive like the pros on a racetrack? Bondurant Racing School experts teach high-performance racing skills on a 1.6 mile, multi-configuration track. From four hours to four days, the school offers racing courses for every level of driver. If you’ve already graduated to a huge Cadillac or Buick, consider how this might shake up your life.
Then there are adventure tours that include climbing mountains, stargazing, hiking and bicycle riding. Try Green Zebra Adventures or a trek with Arizona Outback Adventures (AOA) that includes the history and gelology of the landscape and some insights into the desert’s flora and fauna.
Other facilities to consider: The Boulders Resort & Spa. One-hundred-sixty private casitas (small individual houses) set out in the Sonoran Desert just far enough to be free of light pollution – the canopy of stars out there is magnificent and seemingly endless. The resort just underwent a multimillion dollar makeover that incorporates the area’s indigenous roots and Old West charm along with new furnishings and upgraded fixtures in bathrooms. Enjoy your private fireplace and cozy patio. Commune with 12-million-year-old natural rock formations. Enjoy drinks in the redesigned lounge bar and dig the Southwestern cuisine in the Palo Verde restaurant.
Or check out the new custom-designed furniture in the completely restored and modernized 60-year-old Hotel Valley Ho that welcomed Hollywood’s finest during its heyday in the 50s and 60s. There are dozens more places in a wide range of prices, including the wellness experience at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa‘s Spa House.
Lux Bar hosting
Lux Bar welcome Arizona Tourism attendees with tasty appetizers that led to a first course of rich crab bisque, then the diner’s choice of broiled skirt steak with caramelized onions and maitre d’ butter, or sauteed whitefish with lobster butter, or penne pasta with dried tomato, parmesan, arugula, and zucchini, seasoned with thyme and roasted garlic and topped with smoked Nueske’s Farm smoked chicken. Entrees were accompanied with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes served family style. Dessert was an old fashioned chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache and chocolate frosting – perhaps a new “near-death by chocolate.” High five to the Lux Bar culinary and service teams.