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Wisdom from a Widower – Blog Posts By Ken
25 August 2021

Blog 16: Don’t think of yourself as old (Other than taking prudent precautions).

This suggests advice to old people only but bear with me.

Before further comment on the above, what have I learnt so far about writing this Blog?


1. What a cunning plot by my family to keep me busy!

2. Well, I suppose it’s working. Beats housework! (Yep! I know it is very important, so, as a rule…Monday, wash day etc., etc.!)

3. I like to think that, as a regular “task”, it helps to keep the “old” brainbox active. 

4. You might dispute this one, but some of my “wisdom” might help someone else!


Any way as spring begins, I am not alone, I’m sure, in pursuing the odd “project”…playing my part in our community garden,(looks better this year! possible new furniture, “decluttering”, and so on.

Speaking of decluttering, I’m “electrifying “my garage door. Exposing the chaos to the tradies generated some MORE decluttering. In the process, I discovered some evidence of my early days with The “Wednesday Painting Group”. I had lost some paintings in a garage flood. You guessed it, some survived! A dozen or more! All at least ten years old. I like to think some of my technique has improved since then, which seems to be the case, so hopefully, more to come, and I will do my best to NOT THINK OF MYSELF AS OLD! Another challenge! 


Back to the topic. Don’t think of yourself as old. ” To keep this in perspective, I recently heard a fifty plus-year-old say, “I don’t and won’t  think of myself as old!” GOOD! 

Levitin refers to “Healthspan, rather than a life span,” suggesting on evidence, that a longer life span usually means a longer healthspan. I’m amazed to be still here! More about this topic in the next edition.

Ken.

Blog 15: See your doctor regularly, but not obsessively!

I guess most of my “audience” is much younger than me so I will try to share my research and “wisdom” with you all. In fact, I  do find that that the more I read and contemplate “Ageing” the more useful and relevant it seems to us all. Youth may be a period of “development” but apparently how well we “age ” begins very early and continues into old age.


OK, back to today’s Agenda!

I think I began seeing my doctor more regularly around middle age… At age fifty I “discovered”  that my cholesterol level was well above normal. After trying several “alternative” methods to reduce it, ”Dad, why is your face so red?”.(magic potion).. I finally sought medical help. Following several weeks of a strict diet regime, “ordered” by my G.P. he concluded that it was probably hereditary. The result.. more care with diet and exercise, plus daily doses of “Statins”(Lipitor) have worked. Regular, but not obsessive visits ever since! Enough boring, but important stuff!

Perhaps a dash more!… I surprised myself when my darling wife passed away, by accepting an offer of counselling via my G.P…Twelve sessions over twelve months. Three were so helpful that the counsellor agreed it was “enough” for now, with the option of further if needed. So far, so good! No more is needed at this stage, but I would not hesitate if the need arose.


Keep your social circle exciting and new!

Yet another challenge in these COVID 19 times!  “More people are living alone, and ageing alone, than ever. Government research in the UK found that two hundred thousand older adults had not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month. Much debate these days about just how fulfilling is Facebook and other social networks, compared to actual human contact. Apparently, getting “likes” can produce an addictive dose of DOPAMINE, a short term good thing, and we can have many “Friends” on Facebook etc., but they are rarely fulfilling. Daniel Levitin, the author of “The Changing Mind” says, “No convincing studies have been published on this yet, but I’m willing to bet that interactions in cyberspace do not trigger the release of oxytocin, prolactin, and endorphins the way that real, actual human contact does.” Apologies for medical “terms”, but he is a neuroscientist!

In conclusion, I have almost finished reading “KOKODA” By Peter Fitzsimons. ” a masterful account of this iconic campaign that will ensure all Australians can understand what a small band of Australian troops achieved high in the New Guinea jungle….of the conditions and adversities suffered and overcome.”… rather places our current Corona 19 challenge in perspective! Stay safe and follow the rules everyone. The “victory” depends on us all.

K.

Blog 14: Spend time with people younger than you.

More words of “wisdom” for “seniors“. Read it as well, you “youngsters!”

Now there’s an easy one for me. Obviously, most of the population is younger than me! To begin with, my “blended” family and friends are fabulous sources of support and time together. Also, I’m probably the oldest in my Art Group, certainly the oldest in our nineteen townhouses complex! My circle of close long term friends is shrinkingso My Philosophy is, “Spend time with PEOPLE”!(Hard as it is in the current Covid 19 climate!)  and I guess I’m a little spoilt for choice!


Close to Home

1. Last year one small fabulous group in our complex (all younger than me) began a no-dig, above ground garden, plus daffodils along the fence line.(Hope to expand the group this year!) It is now being cleared and replanted, based on last year’s successes and failures! ( e.g. my gigantic, dominant tomato “tree”. This year ….cherry tomatoes in a separate, large pot!) We even have a couple of kids involved! One fabulous neighbour also shares her knowledge and worm farm fertiliser with us!

 2. Over the Father’s Day weekend I have been fortunate to spend time with family and friends, from a “Dinner Date with Daughters,” an overnight stay with them and son-in-law, phone calls to and from family, cards and small gifts. Again, lucky me! BUT, I like to think it is a two-way street. In order to “spend more time with people,” I need to play my part as a friend, neighbour,  grandfather and father. Even a simple phone call, or text, etc. It seems more important than ever at this time. 

To digress.. one of my daughters “nags” me about keeping hydrated. 

The philosopher Aristotle wrote, “Living beings are moist and warm…however, old age is dry and cold.” Wow! Hope to avoid that last bit!

It is difficult to diagnose “dehydration,’ but Levitin tells us, “it is a medical conditionnot a thirst. It may be a symptom, as are headaches and nausea.”

“Dehydration is Deadly, most commonly in younger children and adults over 70. It is wise for all age groups to avoid dehydration.” So, what do we do about keeping hydrated AT ALL AGES, PARTICULARLY YOUNG AND OLD? It is more than simply drinking water often, which is important. To maintain hydration, among other recommendations he advises limited alcohol intake or drink one medium glass of water for every “drink.” And I guess those rehydration drinks after exercise is important!  For more measures, consult his book, “The Changing Mind.”


HAPPY FATHERS DAY!(Probably over by the time you read this!)

K.

Blog 13: Get your heart rate going… preferably in nature!

We humans are not meant to be sedentary. We evolved in an environment that required us to explore the environment. Without this stimulation, the brain ceases to function at its full potential.”(The Changing mind, Chapter 10). I know much is said and done about the great benefits of regular exercise, but how and why? Before referring to “The Changing Mind”, every day I am aware of joggers, walkers cyclists, scooters, swimmers, sports, fitness club members and so on. All well and good, but Levitin tells us that yes, exercise is good but for two reasons:


1. OBVIOUS: IT OXYGENATES THE BLOOD. 
2.NON OBVIOUS: OUR BRAINS DON’T DO WELL WHEN NOT CHALLENGED TO PROBLEM SOLVE.

1.”Every step on a treadmill gets the blood flowing, but doesn’t help to keep navigation and memory systems honed. BUT…

2.”Every step on an UNPAVED TRAIL in a park or wilderness requires micro adjustments to foot pressure, angle and pace, simulating the brain and enhancing MEMORY.”

As an “older” person this resonates with me, and surely it must be vital to all ages. Read the book for much more on this subject but let me quote the following:

THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT CORRELATE OF VIBRANT MENTAL AND  PHYSICAL HEALTH IS PHYSICAL  ACTIVITY. (Time for a break and a brisk walk on the unpaved segments of Sydney Park!)

Again, as someone dealing with life as an older widower, I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be so well supported and in “good” mental and physical health, but challenges must be met and dealt with! I hope these “Blogs” give people food for thought and action. Some of my more recent “thoughts and action” are to look for and act upon the ADVANTAGES of AGEING, like wisdom, the bias towards positivity, compassion, and if you are much younger than me, understand what RESILIENCE IS AND USE IT, and seek support and help if you need it….from parents, friends, doctors, whoever! Nobody is an Island. Also, reach out to others you think need help..a tough one, but we all need each other! 

To quote Dylan Thomas, “DO NOT GO GENTLY INTO THE NIGHT.”  And don’t forget to laugh, whatever goes on around you!

K.





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