How To Survive Old Age (Your Own or Someone You Love)

Posts made in February, 2013

What I’ve been doing for the last 35 years…

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Here I am, in this picture, sitting up all night with a young woman in labor, just part of my 'job' as a midwife. (It is more of a "calling' or vocation than a job.)

Funny how often the things that you are thinking about or focusing on in your work just get put in front of you in various ways.  Or how when you mention these things to your co-author she says I was just thinking about that too!

The past few months I have been preparing for a presentation I am doing this weekend on several topics with the main one being sleep deprivation. So what comes across my email this morning? That’s right, an invitation to a teleconference on sleep!

I saw a patient yesterday with a lot of health complaints, what I finally figured out is that she is getting only 6 hours of sleep a night, from 7 pm to 1 am, gets up and works from 3 am to 1 or 3 pm! 5 days a week! Yikes, no wonder her hormones and health is out of whack!

I’ve always told my patients to rest, after having a baby or surgery or when sick, they seem to have a hard time with this suggestion; it is another thing we Americans don’t know how, or won’t, do. Rest and sleep are important for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself. The brain particularly needs sleep to maintain cognitive functions. Even one night of lost sleep can affect cognitive skills for longer than a week.

Seems this is the latest thing to talk about. Maybe because at least 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic, long term sleep disorders and 20 million more experience occasional sleep problems. Those stats are from a 2007 study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. I imagine there are even more now considering the economy, politics, global changes and let’s not forget school shootings in the last 5 years.

Poor sleep causes all kinds of health problems and another time I will list them all. For now, I will say it took me a while to figure out that I have had chronic sleep deprivation for the last 35 years! While I love my work as a midwife it has certainly taken its toll on my sleeping abilities. That’s another thing I did not know…the more interrupted your sleep is on a regular basis the more your ability to sleep well goes downhill!

I am learning how to sleep all night, to get at least the recommended 7-8 hours, in one stretch…not reading from 3-4 am and going back to sleep. When I gave up my beeper 3 years ago, something that I wore almost continuously for 10 years, it took a year to get over checking my hip for it and jumping at the various beeps and rings of other’s cell phones and pagers.

I think it will take a long time to learn how to sleep all night again. I’ve been trying to for the last 6 months and I am getting closer but it is still a challenge. I wish you a good night's sleep…wish me a good night, too!

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Money for Nothin’

Posted by on Feb 26, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Not to be Debbie Downer, but today as I was hurtling down an icy incline, wait-I did that a few times-once on my snowboard and twice on my driveway, I realized how mushy my body is compared to, well, say-a nine year old’s ski pole or a lumber truck. 

I had just discovered (a tad too late, I was on the quad lift) that I had two close-up lenses in my eyeballs instead of one distance and one close-up as I am used to.  My mind does a great job of unscrambling all the weird information from each eye and delivering a picture to my brain that usually makes good sense.  But, as I say, today I was looking out across the mountain at blurry skiers and unreadable guide signs through lenses meant for text a foot or two away.  Oops.

Committed to the run down the mountain, I proceeded a bit more gingerly than usual and made it to the bottom without incident.  On the way home I mentally reviewed my Long Term Care Policy, remembering a friend’s long convalescence after a fall down a slope in Vermont.  Yep, I remembered paying the premium and was assured that I was all set. 

Feeling free to take chances is a big reason I got that policy in the first place.  I like to think of aging as an extreme sport, and I want to excel at it.  Knowing I have that all sorted out makes me feel grown up in a good way.  Now a word from Debbie Downer.

If you have not made provisions for extra help should you need it, let me remind you that one in two women will need care in their lifetime and that two years is the average time care will be needed.   If you do not qualify for LTC insurance, and admittedly, the qualifications are stringent, you can look into a LTC annuity of some kind.  I am not an expert at this, but your independent insurance agent is.  Ask about it, for this one sounds like a really good deal to me. 

Say you were going to leave $100,000 from your estate to your heirs and donate the rest to the animal shelter-(not my plan, just an example)  If you bought an annuity for that $100,000 instead of leaving it in stocks, bonds or whatever-you could use about $400,000 for your own care and the balance would go to your heirs.  See!  Money for nothin’!  It is more complicated than that, costs and benefits vary, but that is the idea.  Why would an insurance company do that?  To get the use of your money.  They are betting they will make more on it, and their bet is their risk-not yours.  Read the fine print, but check that out.  Could be a great way to plan ahead.

Meanwhile I am going to trust my current LTC policy and keep taking chances!

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Bobcats in the road

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments


On the way to my chiropractor’s office yesterday I drove over a hill and saw something cross the road in front of me. My thoughts progressed rapidly from fox to cat to otter to what was that?! I slowed down and saw the back end of a robustly endowed animal, brown and furry loping off in the snowy woods. Again my thoughts jumped to tailless fox? No, too wide. Over grown cat? No, way too big. Fisher cat? No, still too wide and muscular looking. Then it stopped trotting in the snow, turned and looked right at me. Wow, that is a cougar! No silly, it is a bobcat!  Gazing at me was a magnificent face with big eyes and tufts of fur that flared out in every direction around his head. Hello beauty, I said to him, or her, thank you for crossing my path and being wild and free and surviving in NH. May you be blessed with a partner and many babies this spring. It turned and trotted away on strong legs, with his thick coat of multicolored brown fur gently shifting with every move and his bobtail bobbing.

Traditional Native American animal medicine says that the bobcat sign is a knower of secrets and a sign of patience, among other things as well. Please, Bobcat, tell me the secret of survival, of a long life, of a life of gratitude and joy. I will ponder this bobcat message for a while and if I find any answers I will let you know!

This picture was actually taken in Hancock, NH, not far from where I was driving. The one I saw had more hair on his ears and top of his head.


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Facing Down The Future

Posted by on Feb 19, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

This week, I decided to tackle the hard things-you know, all those things I’ve put off for so long I have begun to hope they will just go away by magic.  After stubbing my toe for the third time on the substantial pile of boxes I placed in front of the filing cabinet in an attempt to clear out a closet so I had room for my clothes, I ditched plans for a “Downton Abbey” marathon and faced down my past. 

In this case the past included a big box of sad and single gloves that resulted in reunion and triumph for a few lucky pairs, a scattering of  broken, never worn and entirely unsuitable jewelry, some photographs that made me smile and a few that didn’t.  At the bottom was a sorry collection of keys to I don’t know what, tangled around a clump of horizontal striped tights-what was I thinking? 

While I sorted, (fortified into the evening with a glass of coastal cabernet) I thought of the neglected areas of my life that could use a good going over and top of the list was my retirement fund.   Until recently, it had languished in several brokerage accounts, going nowhere, possibly shrinking with the economy.  Truth is, I was afraid to look.  After a short and frightening session with a retirement calculator a few months ago, I discovered to my dismay that in order to retire before I was 80 years old, I needed to save approximately 105% of my annual income for my golden years if I intended to live in modestly high style.

This sobering news sent me searching for a convenient hill of sand to re-bury my head, but some truths, once seen can never be unseen.  Instead, I found a certified independent financial planner and put all my hopes for a sunny future with his firm.  This wasn’t just a guy I found with a google search, I asked my more sensible friends for recommendations and in the process discovered that I was not alone in my lack of real and conscious planning.  

An independent certified financial planner is someone who is qualified to manage your future money.  They are rewarded only if you meet and exceed your goals.  I called my retirement guy –Jim Boudreaux at Baystate Financial- to see how it was going and asked what he thought were the most important things to tackle when facing down a retirement plan that, like the contents of my closet, has not been sorted until recently.  In addition to telling me it was going very well indeed with my investments–here is what he said:

1-Keep Working-we will live a heck of a lot longer than our parents or grandparents did.  When they retired at 65, they had an average of five years to enjoy before shuffling off.  You may want to change jobs, you may not earn the same salary, but keep working and earning till you are at least 70.

2-Defer Taking Social Security till you are at least 70.  You will get up to 50% more if you live past 90 years old, and you will need the bigger payment if you do.

3-Change your Lifestyle.  Buckle down and stop spending and start saving “Save every nickel you can, then save some more”  Don’t wait for retirement to downsize, do it now and put the profit from the sale of your big house into your retirement account so an independent financial planner can grow it for you to use later.  All of this money you save can be tax free and tax deferred with the right investments, which means a dollar saved for retirement is more, much more than a dollar spent now.

This is not sexy advice, but it rings true.  It is possible to get creative and have some fun with a budget game, like some folks who are touring the world with a series of long term house-sitting gigs while their home earns them money being rented out to vacationers.  One couple I know sold up and bought a houseboat where they enjoy evening cruises down their home river while saving for their golden years. 

I’m taking off for the summer in Little Bird, my sleek camper home, for a book and lecture tour–hoping to combine business with pleasure.  Anyone want to rent my home-'Rose Cottage' for a few months while I’m gone?  The mountains are ready for hiking, there are lakes for swimming and the Mountain View Grand Hotel is only two miles away, should you want a spa or fancy meal.  Best of all-the closets are clean.

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Love Living Longer – The Tour…

Posted by on Feb 12, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Winter is getting old, not me–I am in the first blushing youth of old– “late middle age” as I prefer to call it.  The snow has lost it’s pristine charm, crackling freshly as I go out to play and has become a hazard of hidden ice ridges and lumps, crouching in wait for my snowboard as I wiz, (sedately) down the mountains. 

My thoughts are turning to summer, note I did not say spring, for spring in the North Country is a bait and switch game of tantalizing smells, ice on the crocus, black flies and, most of all –mud.  Most of us will do anything to escape mud season and the annual spring break camping trip to VA Beach is clear evidence of that.  Friends and family in the hundreds pack up the babies and rocking chairs and drive 13 hours south for a week of sunshine and relaxation in tents and campers of all sizes.  Call us nuts for hitting the beach in windy, often chilly April, but it is better, so much better than the bleak and leafless trees of home. 

This year I am extending the trip with a book and lecture tour.  Tracey and I are planning  to drive all over the US and will be hitting the road in “Little Bird” (see the Notes From the Road section of the web site for more about our lovely little base camp on wheels) in April.  We aim to meet our readers and get the word out about our book with a refreshing change of scene every day or so. 

Would you like us to visit your book club, women’s group or library for a book signing or a talk on How to Survive Old Age?  Our topics will range from -Coffee, Chocolate and Wine-Happy Indulgences that are Good for You to Financial Foundations for Longer Lives. 

We would love to meet you in person, so shoot us an email at  Now is the time to invite us to your town!  Our PR firm will get the word out to local and national media once you are in our schedule, and have tailored an event to your needs. 

Planning, musing and dreaming about our trip is keeping us fresh in the dark and cold depths of winter (it is snowing and blowing a gale even as I write.)  Much like reading seed catalogs inspires gardeners, we are getting out the maps and pins, plotting our course around the country.  Hope to see you out there! 


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