Monday, May 25, 2015

Home on the Range



     According to a survey by the financial firm Merrill Lynch called Home in Retirement: More Freedom, New Choices most retirees report that they do not have to worry about home-related financial issues. For example, 70 percent of those surveyed have paid off their mortgages, and 65 percent say they "are now living in the best home of their lives."

     Compared to other Americans, retirees are "more likely to say their homes are comfortable, in a safe community, and a great place to connect with family." They are also more likely to agree that they are now living in a part of the country with pleasant climate and weather.

A kitchen built for a Queen ...
     From my perspective, the weather outside today is just wonderful. However, I am also still scarred from the long, cold, lonely winter here in the Northeast, and so I'm already planning my trip south for next year. This past winter I spent two full weeks in Florida, plus a little more than a week in South Carolina. For this coming 2015-26 winter, I've decided . . . that's simply not enough!

     Anyway, while many of us get away from the cold in the winter (or the heat in the summer), many others are content to stay right where they are -- especially if their home is on the range.

... with a spectacular view!
     For example, we have Laura Lee at Midlife Crisis Queen reporting on the latest developments in building her solar home in southern Colorado. In her post Back to Our Very Special Construction Project, she reports on the progress of her house in the foothills of the Spanish Peaks.

     Meanwhile, Kathy Gottberg at SmartLiving 365 offers up 7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Rightsizing Your Home. She refers to a friend of hers who is currently in the midst of selling her long-time family home and moving to a smaller place. The friend "gets" many of the benefits of rightsizing, but several issues keep popping up that give her pause.

     That's completely normal, writes Gottberg, because in many ways rightsizing is contrary to what most of us have been taught, which is that bigger is always better. The good news is that once you know what to keep in mind, rightsizing not only becomes the easiest choice, also the one that leads to the greatest benefits. She offers seven "don'ts" we should follow when considering a move in retirement, including two that hit home for me: "Don't buy a house just to store your stuff" and "Don't buy where you've always lived just because you're afraid to try somewhere new."

     Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Rita Robison on The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, writes that Scientists Recommend Throwing Away Nonstick Cookware, as well as other products with waterproofing chemicals, such as raincoats, stain resistant carpets, and pizza boxes. The statement by the scientists cites evidence that perfluorinated compounds are linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and other health problems and that they don’t break down in the environment.

     But as fond as we are of our homes, not all of us are content to beat around the kitchen and the yard. Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting has been spending a lot of time traveling recently -- once again on the road and journeying cross country. In Travel Yesteryear and Today she ponders the troubles of today's travelers compared to the hardships of the pioneers venturing west over 150 years ago. The surprise, she says in her lighthearted post, is that not all that much has changed. Bad weather remains a problem. Indian raids have been replaced by TSA checkpoints. Wagon train traffic jams out of Missouri have been replaced by . . . well, you get the point. Take a short sidetrip to her essay to appreciate her wide-angled view.

     Finally, as you may remember, I sometimes write a column for U. S. News "On Retirement," and so you can see my perspective on the housing issue in 7 Baby Boomer Housing Trends to Watch as well as Where Retirees Want to Live Now.

     Anyway, no matter where you may be this Memorial Day weekend, please remember those who gave their lives while defending our country . . . and then go ahead and enjoy the traditional advent of the summer season.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Sign of Aging

     It started about two weeks ago. B and I were out walking the dog at dusk. We were taking our usual route down our street, but for some reason a fly, or some other kind of bug, would not leave me alone. It was darting in and out of my eyesight, around my head. I waved my arms around; but that didn't make the bug go away. Finally I just walked ahead and ducked into the house.

     The same thing happened the next evening. I couldn't understand my sudden attraction to whatever insect was singling me out for attack in front of my own house.

     A couple of days later I was reading in my office chair, and I happened to look up at the ceiling. I saw a couple of black dots. But they didn't seem to be on the ceiling. They seemed to be in my eye. Did I have something in my eye?

     I rubbed my eye, and when that didn't do anything, I took a shower and tried to wash out my eyes. I went back downstairs and looked up at the ceiling. The black spots were still there, mostly in my right eye.

     Finally, I mentioned the spots to B. By the way, I call B Bridge, short for Bridget. Might as well give her name after all this time. Anyway, I told her about the bug that was bothering me when we walked the dog -- she recalled the incidents with some amusement -- and then I described the black spots when I looked at the ceiling. And now, I said, I could see them moving around with my eye. They were in my right eye.

     "Oh, yeah," she acknowledged. "They're floaters."

     "What the hell are floaters?" I asked. This was the first I'd heard of them.

     "It happens when you get older. I've had them a couple of times. They're not serious, and they usually just go away."

     "So how do you know about them? You're younger than I am."

     "Well, my eyes weren't so great to begin with."

     "So you start getting older, and suddenly you get black things rolling around in your eyes?"

     "It has something to do with the fluid behind your eyeball. It dries up, and you see spots."

     So, being the semi-hypochondriac that I am, I googled floaters. WebMD told me that eye floaters are small pieces of protein that appear as spots in your field of vision. As you age the back of your eye shrinks and small bits of protein shred off from the retina. They are particularly noticeable when you look at something bright . . . such as a white ceiling.

     Most of the time floaters are harmless, and according to WebMD, as well as Bridge, most of the  time they do not interfere with your field of vision. However, in some cases, they can signal a retinal tear or retinal detachment which are serious eye disorders. Apparently, you don't have to worry unless the floaters become very dense, or you experience some loss of vision, or you get sudden flashes of light on the edges of your eye.

     So the next night we went out to walk the dog. I got to the end of the driveway, when I saw a flash of light out of the corner of my right eye. And then another one a few minutes later. That was enough for me. The next morning I made an appointment with an opthamologist at our medical group.

     A few days later I was in his office, with drops in my eyes, lying back in a chair as he shined a  spotlight bright enough to land an airplane into my eyes. Look up; look down. To the right, to the left. Back to the right.

     The doctor seemed unimpressed with my eyes, even slightly annoyed that I had troubled him with my so-called problem. Which is a good thing, in my book.

     I have floaters. No sign of retinal detachment. I should go back to him if the floaters get significantly worse, or I begin to lose vision. But otherwise, I'm fine. The doctor says they should go away once my fluid dries up and the bits of protein get absorbed into my body. But he told me to make an appointment in one month. He wants to check me again, just to make sure.

     And so I've got these black lacy-type things floating around in my right eye. A few flashes of light when I go out in the dark at night. But, they tell me, everything is normal. Just something that comes with getting older. Isn't aging fun?!?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What's Your Livability Score?

     This is a short post to refer you to a site I found on the AARP website called the Livability Index. It was developed by the AARP Public Policy Institute as a "web-based tool to measure community livability."

     You can search the Index by zip code or the name of your town to find an overall score. The total score is an average of scores for seven categories: housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and opportunity. You can click on each category to see what criteria they use.

     Presumably, the livability quotient is relevant for everyone; but there's extra focus on older people. For example, the housing category is based on affordability, but also on availability of multi-family housing and accessibility in terms of wider doors and hallways and fewer steps.

      I realize these kinds of rating systems have limits when people are trying to decide where they might want to relocate in retirement. For example, this Livability Index does not take climate into account, which is an important factor for many of us. My daughter lives in Buffalo, and her neighborhood rates an enviable 62 -- but you wouldn't find me living there through the winter.

     My own town scores a 51, which is okay, not great. It rates low on housing (27) and transportation (31) -- housing is expensive and geared toward families not retired people, and we have no public transportation other than a train that's a 15-minute drive away. But my community scores high on health (81) and engagement (63), and reasonably well on environment (53).

     Even if two communities score at the same level on an overall basis, they may show very different profiles. My sister lives in Florida. Her zip code also rates a 51; but housing and transportation in her area score higher while health comes in lower.

     So, I guess you have pick out what's important to you, and be happy where you are. But even if you're not thinking about moving, it could be fun to check out the Livability Index for your own community -- or those of family and friends -- to see how they rate on various measures.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Weekend in Washington

     We spent two days in Washington, DC, and thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful weather, the friendly crowds, and a visit with my two sisters. The bonus: We didn't have to see one politician!

     We did see the Capitol, then took a tour through the Newseum, a news museum that "champions the five freedoms of the First Amendment." In case you don't remember, the five freedoms are freedom of the press, of petition, religion, speech and the freedom to assemble peacefully.
to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment - See more at: http://www.newseum.org/about/#sthash.BEFQBr0o.dpuf
to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment - See more at: http://www.newseum.org/about/#sthash.BEFQBr0o.dpuf
mission is to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment - See more at: http://www.newseum.org/about/#sthash.zAKbipQb.dpuf

The 150-year-old Capitol Dome is being restored


The Newseum on Pennsylvania Ave., opened in 2008


A reminder of big events


A piece of the Berlin Wall


One of the East German guard towers


A news helicopter


Guess what embassy is next door to the Newseum


The National Art Gallery is across the street


Later, we walked over to the Dunbarton Oaks gardens in Georgetown


The terrace with its 100-year-old vines

Do you remember the story of Diana?


Actaeon sees her naked, so she turns him into a deer and his hounds kill him


Union Station

     We took the Amtrak train home. Fortunately, for us, there was no accident. But unfortunately, as you may have read, an Amtrak train derailed last night outside of Philadelphia, killing five people and injuring scores of others . . . a reminder that even in this day and age travel has its dangers. So be careful, be safe, and lets send our thoughts and prayers to those affected by this latest tragedy.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Whirlwind Tour

     I haven't posted for almost a week, because B and I took a quick and exciting trip to Europe. We started out in Ireland . . .

Irish step dancing


Is that an Irish face, or what?


We got a demonstration on the Irish national sport of hurling

    Then we proceeded to Latvia . . .

Seal of the Baltic country of Latvia

Girl in traditional costume


Singing local folk songs

     Then on to Portugal . . .


Fishing is important to the economy

     And Romania . . .

Romanian folk dance

     And the U.K. . . .

English Morris dancing on Dupont Circle

     And so you're thinking, we really didn't go to all those countries in one weekend. But actually, we did better than that. Because when you enter the embassy of a country, you are legally in the country. We spent Saturday at the European Union Embassies Open House in Washington, DC, and we really did cover five countries in five hours.