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The Big Send Off

Family and Funeral Traditions

quotation about deathI recently watched Billy Connolly’s “Big Send Off”, looking at different death and funeral traditions around the world. It was a fascinating examination of how we humans have a universal need to grieve the loss of a loved one by demonstrating how much we cared about them and recognizing their life achievements. But although we all share a need to give our loved ones a “good send off” we do this in many different ways, each culture, religion and community having their own specific practices. Of course, one cultures’ deepest traditions often seem extremely odd to other cultures.

At the time I watched this program my elderly brother-in-law was dying. He was suffering with Parkinson’s disease and had mourned the passing of my sister since she left us 16 years before. To say he was ready to go was an understatement. He was keen, and determined neither to live in a nursing home nor to be kept alive through medical intervention.

His service was dignified and beautifully planned, honouring his Fijian upbringing, his army career, his family life and his eccentricities. The eulogies were full of wonderful memories, emotion and humour, in equal parts. A powerpoint presentation of photographs taken throughout his life illustrated many of his life stories, most of which were unknown to those who knew him in his later years. The burial service was poignant as my sister had asked to be cremated and to have her ashes buried with her husband. And so we shared the emotions of farewelling her again as well.

And then there was the gathering afterwards! We kept it simple; just drinks and nibbles for extended family and close friends. But many of the people hadn’t seen one another for a long time and so it turned into quite a party. My brother-in-law’s relatives had come from interstate and overseas, so some people were reacquainted while others met for the first time. Our extended family reunited, and many cousins had not seen one another since the last family funeral so had a lot to catch up on.

The wine and beer flowed freely, the nibbles were passed around, and the volume of the gathering grew steadily over many hours.

No disrespect is meant when I say a great time was had by all! My brother-in-law was farewelled in the manner that he would have enjoyed and of which he’d have thoroughly approved. I think Billy Connolly would agree we had an excellent “Big Send Off”.

How does your family farewell its loved ones?

Travel in New Zealand: Coromandel Peninsula Cruise

We recently enjoyed a brief road trip around the central part of the North Island of New Zealand. The scenery was spectacular, the food was world class and it was a wonderful way to relax and re-energise. The Coromandel Peninsula is an area of New Zealand we had never visited before.

I puzzled about why, when I was a 19 year old backpacker travelling New Zealand with my friend Suellen, we didn't go to this area. I soon realised that we'd probably been advised not to go there because we were hitch-hiking (oh yes, those were the days of being 10 feet tall and bullet proof!). It is an area where any lift would have to take you to the next 'big' town because there was nothing in between.

Fast forward to now and we relished being in such lush countryside driving through predominantly dairy and fruit farms, observing the bee hives carefully tended on most produce farms, the pigs, ostriches and alpacas. In other parts of the peninsula we drove through lush rain forest and beside stunning coastal scenery, more beautiful than anything I've seen anywhere.

Entering a sea caveThe highlight was taking a cruise at Whitianga. Ken from Cathedral Cove Scenic Tours was the perfect host, knowledgeable, fun and aware of each of his clients,  making sure we got the photos we wanted, were warm enough etc…… All the little things that make for an enjoyable tourist experience.

With my professional interest in career change and my personal interest in people's stories I couldn't help but ask him how he came to be doing this work.  With delight he told me that he and his wife had always planned to move to this area but a redundancy hastened the process.  Rather than moving five years later, as planned, they made the move to the Coromandel Peninsula and bought the tourist boat business.  He looked at me and said, almost in a boyish way, "This is my work.  This is what I do every day.  How lucky am I!"  

He had no idea that my professional life is spent helping people make major career changes, nor did he know what joy those words would give me.  If only everyone could feel that way about their work!

Undeniably, where he works is spectacular.  Enjoy these photos taken on the cruise, which includes Cathedral Cove and other scenery which was featured in movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Cathedral Cove Coromandel Peninsula NZ  Mercury Bay Coromandel Peninsula NZ 

Jim Rohn Motivational Video – Strive For Maximum Achievement

Enjoy this motivational video by Jim Rohn about maximum achievement!    "How much will a tree grow? As high as it possibly can. How many levees will it produce? As much as it possibly can." – Jim Rohn   Major Takeaways: Focusing on our…

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Are Baby Boomers Older, Sicker, Fatter and More Sedentary?

Baby boomers are "older, sicker, fatter and more sedentary" than the previous generation, according to Dr Beth Seidenberg's article Baby Boomers: Here’s How Digital Health Tools Can Save You Money – And Save Your Life

Boomers have higher rates of chronic disease and lower self-rated health than members of the previous generation at the same age, according to a 2013 JAMAInternal Medicine study. Obesity is significantly higher amongst Boomers (38.7% vs. 29.4%); rates of hypertension, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia also are higher. Boomers exercise less than the previous generation (35.0% vs. 49.9% exercise more than 12 times a month). Half of all Boomers report zero regular physical activity.Forecasters say the number of Boomers with multiple chronic diseases will quadruple by 2030.

Dr Seidenberg offers some hope, asking whether Baby Boomers may turn this around by becoming high-level adopters of digital health products, using these products to raising their awareness of their own health and physical fitness, and through this improving their health and fitness significantly. The most common digital products in this area are 

  • Activity tracking  eg Jawbone and FitBit

  • Food intake and weight loss recording eg MyFitnessPal

Do you use either of these?

She also mentions two great ideas, already operating in the US, but I am unaware of them in Australia. 

  • Telemedicine and remote monitoring – Visit your doctor online not in the surgery

  • Tools which enable you to compare the costs of different medical services so you can make an informed decision about which doctor, hospital or procedure suits you. 

Would you use these services if they were available to us in Australia?

Over 50s are generally digitally competent and are often early adopters of new technology.    Are you currently using a health and fitness app or product to motivate or inform your health and fitness efforts?  If so what difference has it made for you?

 

Coping With The Death Of Your Parents

It doesn't matter how old you are, or how emotionally mature, when a parent dies it has a huge impact on your life.

I recall sitting at my mother's funeral, surrounded by a loving husband and children as well as wonderful extended family, feeling bereft. My mother was close to 90 and had Alzheimers. She was ready to leave this life. Yet the thought "Now I'm an orphan" kept ringing through my head. I was in my 40s at the time! Even as it was happening I could see the funny side of my emotional response under these circumstances, but it was a very real and raw response at the time.

older man looking at cameraIn recent years I've supported my husband through the death of both parents, and seen the loss in his eyes. Yet when his father died he wouldn't discuss the loss, even though it was obvious to me just how deeply it had affected him. Just recently I contacted an old friend with my condolences on the death of his mother, a strong woman who'd been the backbone of the family. "It's been a tough day but it was her time to go" was his stoic reply.

We all know that death comes eventually to us all and if you survive to an old age you have been one of the lucky ones. But still we, in our Western culture, don't really know how to grieve the loss of our parents when we are older. Our Western traditions of death suggest that we should celebrate the lives of loved ones, particularly when they are elderly. But when your age reminds you that you are an "older person", but inside you feel like a distressed and lonely 5 year old, how are you supposed to act?

You may be interested to read an interesting article on this subject  "How are baby boomers handling the death of their parents" recently published in the Huffington Post.

 

Give Me Brisbane Any Day

It is wonderful to travel the world, and to dream of the places you could visit, but at the same time it is so easy to overlook the treasures that are close to home.

Brisbane River from Hamilton Brisbane is a city like that.  It doesn’t have the visual magnificence of Sydney, screaming “Look at me!” whenever you go anywhere near the harbour or the beaches.  It doesn’t have the legendary shopping experiences of Melbourne, or its ingrained quirkiness (although I suggest that aspect is changing rapidly). But Brisbane has limitless things to do and see, easily accessible and often less expensive than the bigger east coast cities.

The Powerhouse theatre is a great example of this.  Converted into an eclectic space of theatres, open space, bar and restaurant, and located on the river, it is a delight to visit.  Just last week I saw Melanie Safka perform there.  We sat outside in comfort (although it is winter in Brisbane) to sip a glass of wine and enjoy a gourmet pizza, watching the City Cat pass by on the river.  After that delightful interlude we went inside to enjoy a great concert, with an audience of predominantly baby boomers, although there was a good smattering of younger fans.  In the main area all ages and stages of life were represented.  An interesting musical performance was taking place in an elevated open area, while others were taking photos of themselves and their companions using the props that were displayed to promote the Queensland Cabaret Festival.  After the show, unlike so many other cities, we walked a short distance outside to our car and were on our way home in minutes.  The Powerhouse is a world class venue, but just one of so many examples of great entertainment and interesting places to visit in Brisbane.

Another favourite place of mine is Moreton Bay where we spend a lot of time, sailing on the Bay, walking beside it and just looking at it.  It’s Brisbane’s best kept secret, but I’d rather it not share to much information about it because I love that isn’t too busy even during the weekend.

Enough of my favourites! What is your favourite place in Brisbane?

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Healthy Feet v My Hobbit Feet

My Hobbit Feet don't meet the ideal requirements for healthy feet

I’ve always hated my feet.  One of my relatives (who only got away with it because his are similar) once described them as Hobbit Feet and that’s how I always think of them….short, sturdy, broad, with stubby toes (even a bit hairy if left unchecked). 

My flirtation with stilettos was painful and brief.  I’m very grateful that during my 20s, when such things seem to really matter, chunky wedged shoes were predominantly in fashion and at other times I was a backpacker with just a couple of pairs of shoes whose sole purpose was to cover my feet and keep the cold out. 

Those feet have carried me many wonderful places, but it seems they are getting a bit worn out.  Years ago I went to a podiatrist who told me I should be wearing orthotics.  I did….most of the time….and even got used to not being about to buy the pretty shoes that were on special, instead having to purchase shoes suitable for orthotics.  I love going barefoot, summer and winter, inside and outside whenever possible, so shoes have never been a big priority for me. Therefore the annual trip to the expensive shoe shops for people with difficult feet was a chore that I performed with little joy.  However I sort of forgot that you are supposed to get the orthotics checked once a year.  That just didn’t happen and the same old pairs of orthotics got transfered from one pair of shoes to another, depending on the season.  

I guess my feet decided it was time to complain, and complain they did….painfully! 

I need healthy feet to get fit

I wanted to start doing some regular long walks for exercise so went back to see the podiatrist and….Surprise! Surprise!….found I needed new orthotics.   Being relatively obedient I went along with the decision and spent a small fortune on what must surely have been gold-plated inlays for my shoes. 

It didn’t take too many days before I realized that my leg muscles were seizing up, becoming incredibly painful and necessitating a few visits to the physiotherapist.  It seems that my legs rather liked the old regime of well-worn orthotics when out and bare feet at home.  They reacted very severely, to the point that I could barely walk.  So much for the daily walks and healthy feet that I’d been seeking!

Wearing in my healthy feet

So now I’m “wearing in” the newly adapted orthotics…30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, 75 minutes a day….Gosh in a week I’ll be able to wear my shoes for 2 whole hours.  That’s something to look forward to. 

If I wasn’t convinced that I need them, and if they hadn’t cost me a truckload of money, I’d have put the darn orthotics in the nearest garbage bin by now. 

When I see gorgeous young women in their stilettos there is a part of me that is quite jealous, and another part that wants to go and tell them to look after their healthy feet because they have to last you a long time. 

Taking Palpitations to Heart: The Arrhythmia of Life

Heart healthMy body may be telling me that I’m no spring chicken, but in my mind I’m still about 41.  Why 41 you may ask?  I’ve no idea except that it was a good age to be, a time when I felt fulfilled and content with family, friends and life in general. 

I sometimes wonder if it is because I was the baby of our family by many years, somewhat of a surprise in Vatican Roulette I suspect!   When you grow up with adult siblings you always think of yourself as “younger”….and so in my mind I haven’t progressed past 41.

So it comes as a shock when things start to go wrong.  I tend to ignore the obvious signs of ageing.  I don’t justify them, just quietly ignore them and hope they will go away.  After all, I’m “younger” aren’t I?

Obviously I do the same with my husband too, so when he asked me to take him to hospital recently with heart palpitations I secretly suspected he was over-reacting.   However the fact that he was not going to work that day told me that he was worried, as I only ever recall him taking one sick day in all the years we have been together. 

I was supportive that this condition needed to be checked out, but I think both of us were being particularly aware and cautious because a close friend had recently had a serious heart problem that was related to arrhythmia. 

I certainly expected that he’d be home by mid-morning, lunch time at the latest.  So it came as a surprise to me that the hospital took it all very seriously, that Emergency treated it as….well…an Emergency.   Then they said they would take him to the Coronary Care Unit and when we got there I realized just how seriously they were taking David’s condition.  Heart palpitations and arrhythmia are conditions that need to be monitored, that can be symptomatic of critical illness, conditions that can even precipitate strokes.  Woooooo!  Now the truth was hitting home.

I think it was at that point that I realized we are getting older!  We have hit the time of life when things often start to go wrong, and when seemingly small things can turn into big health issues.  That isn’t a pleasant thought, in fact it is downright frightening.

During his hospital stay of 5 days David had many tests and was put on new medication.  It should keep his heart beating regularly, with the proviso that he may need treatment in years to come.  So that problem has been dealt with for now.

But what lesson have we learnt from this?  It’s obviously time for an arrhythmia of our own habits and everyday life.  It's time we considered our heart health and made changes to improve our chances of longevity. We need to change our everyday rhythm of life with a complete health shakeup, a review of our diet and exercise, a recognition that we are no longer young and have to start taking our health seriously. 

My brain recognizes these as facts…..heart health is important….but I have made no changes to our everyday life.   Maybe by writing about it I might internalize the importance of this issue and start making changes to our everyday habits. 

Do you have any suggestions to make this change to a healthier lifestyle less painful?   

By Jenni Proctor

Travel in Thailand – Hill Tribe Family

Getting off the beaten track has always been my husband, David’s, idea of a good holiday.  It’s something I enjoy too, especially when it means that you meet the local people rather than other tourists.

On our recent 2 week holiday in Thailand we planned the holiday to give us variety – Bangkok and Phuket on either end of a five day tour, with a driver and guide, through the Mae Hon Song province of Thailand.  It wasn’t the actual itinerary that appealed to us, although the countryside is beautiful, but rather that we would be meeting people from several different remote hill tribes close to the Myanmar border. 

To spend time with people who still live fairly traditional lives is a precious privilege in our world, as technology reaches into the most remote villages rapidly changing the expectations and lives of so many.   But that is what we were able to do, and it was an experience that I’ll always treasure.

Thailand Hill Tribe FamilyThis photo shows David, our guide Ay and driver Goh, with the most remarkable family I have ever met.  Their home is small and humble, their facilities basic, and their furniture non-existent, with the exception of two stumps of wood to sit on (probably brought in for us to use).  But within that home it was inspirational to see the love, co-operation and determination to create a great life.  The parents were both outgoing and obviously understand the importance of exposing their children to the outside world.  They have raised their children to be friendly, confident and ready to take on the world!  At some time they had an American student live with them for months and she ensured that the older girls developed excellent English.  The younger two are being taught English by their older siblings.  The eldest girl recently left home to study nursing at University so we didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her but we did hear how much the family was missing her.  The second girl, Ann, also wants to studying nursing.  Om, the third daughter, plans on becoming a teacher and hopes to return to the local area to teach the local children.  The little boy, Dom, was quite shy and initially agreed with the family that he’d be a rice farmer like his dad, but then quietly shared with me that he’d like to be a doctor.  Number 5, engagingly known as Email, is still at the dancing and swirling stage so our communication consisted of smiles and giggles, but those smiles and giggles were pretty special!

I was curious about how they studied at home.  After all the house consists of two small living areas, two small sleeping areas and a tiny verandah.  I was told that sitting around the fire, in room that is used for cooking  and eating, the children all do their homework and help one another as they can.  There was a TV but it was broken and covered with a cloth.  Computers are accessed at the local high school and no-one seemed too concerned that they didn’t have access at home. 

Yes, it is a simpler life, but a life that is rich in the things that really matter. 

By Jenni Proctor

 

 

Lightening the load when you’re moving house

Changing zip codes can mean changing lifestyles, too—adapting to new neighbors and switching your local coffee shop and bar. It can also mean a change in how you view your possessions. Moving house is the perfect time to lighten the load both literally and figuratively. Here are some ways to make the process of moving house more manageable.

Be selective

Many families manage to put their stuff in boxes, move it into the new house, and spend the next fifteen years never unpacking it. Much of the stuff we have we don’t necessarily need—and being able to differentiate the necessary from the expendable is an important skill. If you haven’t learned it yet, now is the perfect time to do so.

Organize

Your daughter’s high school yearbook is irreplaceable. Your 1995 Real Simple magazine, however, is probably not something you’ll need anytime soon. Try and think back to the last time you used something. If you can’t remember, you can probably live without it.

Have a recycle pile, a giveaway pile, and a keep pile. If you have difficulty letting go, give yourself a “probation pile” and stack it with all the items that you’re mixed about. Go through it a few days before you leave—anything you’ve forgotten about can go straight to the giveaway pile.

If you want a bit of extra cash, don’t forget that your “giveaway pile” can also be a much more lucrative “sell pile.” Companies like www.musicmagpie.com will trade you your old CDs, DVDs, and games for money, which lightens the financial load as well, and makes letting go of your old things easier!

Give things back

Don’t forget that the various potlucks and parties you’ve hosted over the years may mean that half of your kitchen’s inventory isn’t actually yours. Go through your pots and pans and try and remember whether the casserole dish is in fact your neighbor’s. Also keep in mind that pots and pans are easily replaceable, and you don’t necessarily need to fill ten boxes with your kitchenware.

Label

With fewer things to pack on your plate, you can afford to be more organized. Have different boxes for books, clothes, and silverware. Label boxes on each side so they can be directed to the right room; otherwise, moving day will be chaos. Clear instructions can save a lot of time and effort. Enjoy starting over Rather than seeing your new and emptier home as overwhelming, remember how much more work it was when you had to de-clutter! Try and see moving house as liberating. It can even be an excuse for a shopping spree. You do have to replace that casserole pan you returned to your neighbor, after all…

5 Ways for baby boomers to maintain their health

As you get older, it gets much easier for those minor aches and pains to build up and break you down. There’s no shame in it. We live decades longer today than we used to thanks to modern medical breakthroughs. But a longer life doesn’t always automatically mean a healthier one. The baby boom generation has been integral on the international stage for the past four decades. But now the majority of this great group are knocking on retirement’s door. It’s never too late to take the steps that will help guarantee a high quality of life well into your twilight. Here are five ways baby boomers can maintain their health.

First of all, make sure you are drinking enough water. It sounds incredibly simple, but most people don’t get enough of the old H2O each day. Human beings are 70% water. Clear fluids help lubricate your joints, refresh your blood supply, maintain skin elasticity and basically make everything run better. Do whatever is necessary to drink at least eight cups of fresh, filtered water every day. You’ll notice a huge difference in your vitality.

Another easy one that’s often ignored is getting the proper amount of sleep every night. You should strive for eight hours, though every person is different and you might require a little bit more or less. The deep, REM sleep we experience late in the night helps reduce anxiety and rejuvenate your mind for the next day’s activity. Without it you will be sluggish and far more likely to injure yourself. Stress is one of the largest contributing factors to a number of diseases, and getting enough sleep is an easy way to combat that negativity.

Regular exercise is also a crucial element to maintaining your health. And this has nothing to do with age, really. Exercise always keeps your body young, helps your organs maintain peak effectiveness and obviously reduces fat deposits. At least thirty minutes of exercise each day will cut down the chance you’ll face heart disease or a stroke, and will even help stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. You’ll also have more energy to chase around grandkids or enjoy the great outdoors on the weekends.

A proper, balanced diet goes hand in hand with that regular exercise. Your nutritional needs change as you age, so do the proper research to find out the peak eating strategy for you. You can’t ever go wrong if you focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and avoid processed and chemically treated foods. Lean proteins are great, and cut out the sugar, salt and alcohol whenever you can. Obviously you have got to live your life, and you don’t want to lose all the fun stuff. But moderation will serve you well.

Finally, don’t forget about the support you can receive through regular doctor’s visits. This is hugely important as you age, so that any problems can be caught and addressed as soon as possible. Check to see if your insurance covers any sort of premier patient line, so you can pick and choose the best doctors for your needs. But in any case, take advantage of bi-yearly appointments at the very least, and heed the advice of those respected professionals.

 

Top health issues for baby boomers

For Baby Boomers each New Year is something to celebrate. Depending on what end of the generational spectrum you’re on, you may be one year closer to retirement, or another year removed from the hustle and bustle of working life. You’ve got another year with your life partner ahead, and your kids and grandkids have grown up just a little bit more. It’s always a great time to review the blessings life has bestowed, while also committing to some lifestyle changes. No matter how successful, happy and healthy you are, there’s always room for improvement. And let’s face it, we’re not getting any younger! Now is the time to make your health a priority, even if you never have before. So consider taking on any of these top five New Year’s health resolutions for baby boomers, and you’ll be shocked at who you’ve become when another New Year rolls around.

The first resolution on this list is important regardless of the age bracket, but is probably more important for baby boomers than anyone else. And that’s making sure you pay attention to preventative health measures. You should be seeing the doctor twice a year, but there are also some specialists you must pepper in there as you get older. It’s never fun, but a bit of discomfort due to some awkward office visits could actually save your life some day. Major diseases have been cured simply because the sufferer uncovered them early enough to make a difference. So do yourself a kindness and see the doctor as often as necessary this year.

If you’ve made it to this point in life and you’re still smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes you may think you’re charmed. But the fact remains every day you are at risk for serious health problems. Those gory commercials you see on TV paint the whole picture, so we don’t need to go into detail here. But you know there’s simply no good reason to keep smoking. Make 2013 the year you resolve to give up nicotine and actually do it. It’s never too late, no matter how old you are. And every day you go without smoking from now on is a healthier and happier day ahead.

As we age the food choices we make become more and more important. Perhaps you don’t want to live a life that doesn’t include your favorite cheeseburger joint, and you don’t have to. But resolve to make healthier food choices overall in 2013. Heart disease impacts men and women, and what we eat has as much to do with the issue as our genetic disposition. Lean heavily on vegetables and unprocessed foods, and keep sweets and red meat to a bare minimum. Treat yourself from time to time, but a year spent with healthier eating habits will help you stick around long enough to enjoy your retirement.

Food alone won’t do the trick if you don’t pair it with regular exercise. And it’s never too late to get started. There are plenty of studies about the benefits of regular exercise on aging. If you get at least thirty minutes of mild to moderate exercise each day, you greatly reduce your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack. But best of all you’ll remain mentally sharp and physically balanced for long years ahead. You’ve worked hard and gathered a ton of amazing memories during the course of your lifetime. So keep them with you by exercising.

Finally, resolve to stay healthy mentally, both in the use of your mind and in your attitude. Physical exercise is one thing, but the mind is a muscle that needs to be worked out as well. So consider turning off the television in favor of a quality book some nights. Pick up that crossword puzzle again, or download apps filled with brain teasers. Make a point of seeing friends and family for some lively conversation. Learn new things, challenge yourself, and create a life that surprises people, not one that is predictable and boring. It’s up to you to keep things interesting.

Experiences that push you outside of your comfort zone and time with loved ones will boost your health and wellbeing for many years to come.