"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Sunday, September 27, 2020

After the Fall

     It happened to me about three weeks ago. I was on the golf course. It had rained the day before, but now the sun was shining, with temperatures in the near-perfect high 70s. About an hour into the round I climbed up onto the tee box, and without even thinking about it, stepped onto a wet railroad tie. My feet shot out from under me. Boom! Next thing I knew I was on the ground, lying on my left side, my head swimming and leg screaming pain.

     I lay there for a few moments, shaken. My golfing partners came over and hovered and asked if I was okay. I nodded, and said yes, just give me a moment.

     After two or three minutes I labored to my feet. I was still a little fuzzy. So I told my friends I would sit out the hole. We were riding carts. So I just cruised in my cart down the next fairway, gathering my wits. 

     I was okay. My leg hurt, but I could tell nothing was broken, nothing strained. No bleeding, not that I could tell.

     By the next tee I felt able to resume play, and so I did. I was a little sore for the rest of the round -- about two more hours -- but I didn't feel that I was being seriously hampered. After the game I got in the car and drove home. No problem . . . until I pulled into my garage and tried to get out of the car. My left thigh had swollen up, and I had trouble bending the knee. I had to swivel around and gingerly angle my leg out of the door. When I stood up, my leg was killing me.

     I hobbled upstairs, took a shower and examined the damage. It didn't look too bad. It was swelling up, but my leg seemed intact. After the shower I sat down in front of the TV, put some ice on my leg, and just relaxed the rest of the day.

    In the morning it looked looked like I had a football attached to my thigh. That's how swollen it was. And the black-and-blue was starting to show up. Also, as I was getting dressed, I felt a twinge in my left shoulder. 

     I limped around for the next few days, watching my leg get uglier and uglier. The black-and-blue mark went from my hip down my thigh and extended along the back of my knee. It looked worse than ever. But actually, it was feeling a bit better. I thought about going to the doctor, just to make sure, but I decided, really, it wasn't that bad.

     Slowly, my leg began to heal. I skipped golf the following week, but then played the week after -- being very careful around the railroad ties. Now, today, my leg is virtually back to normal. I still feel a twinge in my shoulder, but that's slowly going away as well.

   I'm not I telling you this story just to get your sympathy. I'm telling it as a warning. Falls are a leading cause of injury in older adults. The older we get the more likely we are to fall, and the longer it takes to heal after an injury. Falls can also be extremely serious, even life-threatening. If you break something and are laid up for a time, it's extremely difficult to work your way back -- if you come back at all.

     According to the CDC, one out of five falls causes serious injury like a broken bone or head injury.  Each year over 3 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.

     So please, be careful. I'm sure you know what to do. But if you're like me, that doesn't mean you actually do it. So . . . make sure your stairs well-lit. Keep a light on in the house at night. Get rid of throw rugs and other tripping hazards. Keep hallways and other walkways free of cables and wires.

     Be extra careful of wet tiles in bathrooms and kitchens. Wipe up spills right away. Install grab bars and railings. Do not store things in high cabinets, and whatever you do, do not get on a ladder or stepstool.

     Wear shoes that give you some support, and clothes that won't drag on the floor or catch on something. Be extra cautious if you're taking any medications. Consider doing some strength exercises to improve your balance.

     Are there other tripping or falling hazards we should know about? There probably are, but all I've got left to say is:  Watch out for those wet, slippery railroad ties!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Top 10 Places to Retire 2030

     Yes, that's right. Not the best places in 2020, but the best places ten years from now.

     We all know that today the most popular place to retire is Florida. Warm weather. Low taxes. Lots of golf courses. Plenty of beaches. What's not to like? Florida is followed by Arizona, then Texas, then the Carolinas. Retirees are drawn by the low cost of living, the warm weather, the recreational activities.

     But things are changing. Florida and the Gulf Coast are pummeled by more and more hurricanes and tropical storms. Arizona has been roasting in 100 degree heat all summer, with Phoenix topping 110 on more than 50 days.

     Will retirees really want to move into an area where the flood waters rise, forcing them to evacuate as soon as they arrive? Will they want to bake in the hot sun of the Southwest . . . or, just in case anyone can afford to retire to California, risk the fires and rolling blackouts of the West Coast?

     According to most experts, the country is getting hotter. Climate journalist Abraham Lustgarten in an article for ProPublica and the New York Times, says that Buffalo, NY (believe it or not!), "may feel in a few decades like Tempe, Ariz., does today." Meanwhile, Tempe itself will be sweating away in the triple digits.  

Buffalo, NY, street scene
   He also says that extreme humidity in the Mississippi valley, from New Orleans north, will make living conditions unbearable. Fresh water will be in short supply throughout the West and also across Florida, Tennessee and Alabama. He sees California-type megafires threatening the South from Texas to Georgia.

     While some parts of the U. S. bake in the heat, rising sea levels will chew up shorelines along the East and Gulf coasts, swamping many coastal areas and infiltrating underground aquifers. One estimate projects that high water will force some 13 million Americans to move away from the coastline.

     Experts predict the recent migration of retirees toward the coasts, and toward warmer weather, will reverse. Now instead of retiring to Florida or Arizona, people will head north. They will seek cooler summers. They will avoid fire-prone regions and shy away from low-lying areas subject to flooding.  

     So where will people be retiring in 2030? Okay . . . nobody really knows. But here's a good guess.

     1. Minnesota. The land of 1000 lakes is already rated high on many retirement lists for its low crime rate and great medical care (think Mayo Clinic). Minnesota residents also enjoy the longest life expectancy of any people in the country. Jesse Keenan, Harvard climate-change professor, seriously suggests Duluth as a promising location. He says the city should brace for a coming real-estate boom as climate migrants move north.

     2. Colorado. The state is high and dry, with clear air and access to plenty of recreational activities. There are good medical facilities and a wide array of cultural offerings. According to the Business Insider website Colorado has already become the quarantine location of choice, mostly for people moving from Texas and the West coast.

     3. Northern Florida. In 2030 people will still like the sun and warm breezes. Southern Florida will be awash in brackish water, with cities like Miami and Ft. Lauderdale separated from a beachless waterfront by huge concrete walls. But northern Florida is protected from the hurricanes, has more access to drinking water, and has a slightly more temperate climate. Lustgarten thinks Orlando alone may receive more than a quarter million new residents as a result of sea-level displacement, and it's possible that the Atlantic coast north of Cape Canaveral may still be habitable.

     4. Coastal Oregon and Washington. According to Lustgarten the migration from California, particularly Southern California, to the Pacific Northwest will only increase as people look for a better economy and more temperate climate. The megalopolis of Seattle will essentially merge with Vancouver to its north.

     5. Idaho. Another refuge for West coasters looking for clearer air, cooler temperatures, lower crime rate . . . and its up-and-coming wine country is not threatened by constant fires.

     6. Michigan. Lustgarten suggests Michigan has a climate that will only get "more temperate, verdant and inviting." He predicts a renaissance for currently downtrodden Detroit.

     7. Wisconsin. Almost as good as Minnesota, with plenty of drinkable water, cooler temperatures and a healthy lifestyle. Madison is home to a top university, while Milwaukee on Lake Michigan offers an underused infrastructure that could be brought back to life.

     8. Pennsylvania. The state has the cultural and seasonal advantages of the Northeast, without the high taxes and high cost of living. New Yorkers are already fleeing the city to settle in eastern Pennsylvania . . . close enough to the ocean to visit, but far enough away to avoid the storms and floods. Like football? Penn State hosts Big Ten sports (as does Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota).

     9. Vermont. It has the Green mountains and a green lifestyle . . . and according to Lustgarten, will soon have a more temperate climate. 

     10. Upstate New York. Cities like Rochester and Buffalo could revitalize an already-existing infrastructure, and offer safe, secure neighborhoods overlooking Lake Erie and Lake Ontario -- all with, you guessed it, cooler summers and milder winters.  

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Mastering Our Power

     "Mastering others is strength," wrote Lao Tzu, "mastering yourself is true power." 

     I just saw an article by someone who was mastering the power in himself. He wrote that for most of his life he had never voted in any elections. He felt that politics was dirty. Political people were often angry and unpleasant to be around. He didn't want any part of them. He also figured that one vote has no impact. One vote out of tens of millions? It's insignificant.

     He had heard all the arguments about how it was his civic duty, how if he didn't vote he had no right to complain, how one vote really can make a difference. None of those arguments moved him.

     So what finally changed his mind? He realized that politics doesn't affect him very much, but they do affect many other people he knows -- people with disabilities or chronic illnesses, people fleeing domestic violence, people suffering from racism, genderism, ageism. So he asked himself: How can I say I support these people if I can't take a few minutes to vote? It costs me almost nothing, but it means a great deal to many of my neighbors, including those who have the misfortune to be in the way of a wildfire, hurricane or pandemic.

     It's the power of the vote. And maybe because we all feel so powerless these days, this week Baby Boomers are talking about power. 

     Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles asks us to picture a female brought up without any gender conditioning, a female who does what she wants whenever she wants. Picture a dog named Libby. Then you can picture all the things Laurie admires about her Yorkie's chutzpah in An Untamed Unfettered Female.

Libby does her thing
Libby does her thing
     Carol Cassara at A Healing Spirit addresses another aspect of empowerment. We have created and directed our lives, she says. We're the make-it-happen generation. So it's no surprise that some of us have trouble sitting around, doing nothing, and letting things happen of their own accord.  She offers a simple exercise to discover The (Sometimes Painful) Gift of Sitting with a Blank Canvas.

     Meanwhile consumer journalist Rita R. Robison provides information that will give us power in the marketplace. In Price Gouging Persists on Amazon she reports on an analysis showing that some items on Amazon were up to 14 times more expensive than identical products sold at other retailers.

     (I second Rita's report. I was on Amazon looking for health and cleaning supplies. A bottle of simple rubbing alcohol was priced at $10. That seemed like a lot to me. So I checked out Walmart.com. Sure enough, there was a same-size bottle for $3.92 -- for a two-pack! So I continued my shopping on the Walmart site.) 

     Then we have Rebecca Olkowski with BabyBoomster.com who is Remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The justice, who died on Friday at age 87, spent her life fighting for equal rights and the empowerment of women everywhere.

     For her part, Meryl Baer of Beach Boomer Bulletin focuses on overcoming discrimination and the relentless push for change in Notorious RBG and the Women Who Persevere.

     Finally, as a postscript, you might want to check out Kathy Gottberg's vlog Today Is a Good Day to Live. She reminds us that regardless of our circumstances, we each have the power to shift our mindset and create days filled with things that matter to us. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Old Dog, New Trick

     Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? B and I have not only learned something this summer. We've become experts. On Zoom.

     We started out attending Zoom sessions hosted by someone else. That's Zooming 101. It's pretty easy. Someone schedules a meeting, they send you an email with a link, and you open the link. The only thing you have to know is how to turn on your camera and make sure your audio is on.

     We belong to the Center for Learning in Retirement (CLR) at our local university, and after closing down the spring session in March, the university decided to hold summer courses online. So I signed up for "Strategic Leadership in Times of Crisis." All on Zoom. The course focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and drew lessons about leadership from how John Kennedy and others handled that historic crisis.

     So I logged in, listened to a presentation by the host, watched a few video clips he shared with us, then took part in a discussion about what we could learn from it all. The only thing I had to do was log on (see above) and then press the space bar on my keyboard whenever I wanted to participate in the class discussion.

     A few days later I joined a movie discussion group through our local movie theater. We each watched the movie in advance on Netflix -- Mount Rushmore, a 1998 coming-of-age film starring Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. Then we all logged onto Zoom. The discussion was led by an independent movie director who filled us in on some background, then opened up the session for discussion. I didn't like the movie -- I found the characters unappealing, the situations unbelievable -- but I was in the minority. What I learned is that the movie is beloved by people growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s (ask your kids about it).

     In July, B and I stepped up to actually host a CLR discussion group via Zoom. It wasn't too hard. All we had to do was figure out how to schedule the session, then admit people to the meeting and master the art of calling on people electronically. Yes, we made a few mistakes. But everyone was new at this. Our audience was very forgiving.

     Zoom offers a free version, but you can also buy an upgraded version, Zoom Pro, for around $13 a month. The main advantage is that while the free version limits a session to 40 minutes, the Pro version allows unlimited time. We knew we would be hosting an hour-long course in the fall, and we wanted to set up Zoom to meet with friends and family, so we ponied up for the Pro version. Well, actually, B ponied up for the Pro version.

     Since then we have held a birthday party online with Zoom. We have hosted a family reunion. We've met with a number of friends. B also does church meetings via Zoom, and she recently joined the League of Women Voters which now holds meetings on Zoom.

     Lately, we've been getting ready for the class we'll host in the fall, "Great Decisions in Foreign Policy," a program from the Foreign Policy Association. We've directed this program before in person. Now we have to do it via Zoom. The format calls for us to share a video, then direct a discussion with 25 people. So we have to know how to screen share. That's the AP course in Zooming. Now we've enlisted a few friends to practice how to share a DVD video, then go into discussion mode without totally messing things up.

     Does it sound like I'm bragging about how smart I am learning all about Zoom? Darn right I am!

     I'd say, with all due modesty, that I have the equivalent of a Master's degree in the program. But to be honest, if I have a Master's, then B has a Zoom Ph.D.!

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Held in Contempt

     I once read an article about how psychologists could predict which couples in therapy would end up getting divorced and which ones would patch things up and re-establish their relationship. The key element was not how much they argued, how different their views were, or how much they screamed or cried. The key element was contempt. If husbands or wives felt contempt for their partner, then divorce was almost inevitable.
      This came to mind as I was scrolling down my Facebook feed -- which I try not to do because there's little to be gained from the exercise. But sometimes in the middle of a self-isolating-induced coma of boredom, I can't help myself.

     And what strikes me is how much contempt my liberal friends have for their fellow Americans who are conservatives -- or anyone who happens to disagree with them -- and how they attack anyone who's not on board with their woke agenda. Their call their opponents dumb or stupid. They are liars, racists, even Nazis.

     Meanwhile, conservatives on social media reply in kind. They take pride in denying established facts, disdaining legal authority, ridiculing academia, the media, the government. They say liberals are either rich power-hungry hypocrites or else poor morally corrupt losers.

     That's on Facebook, or other social media, or sometimes on the so-called news channels on TV. It's enough to make you think that there are two different realities -- and that the country is falling apart.

     But then there's real life. I'd say most of my friends are liberals, some vehemently so. But I have a few conservative relatives who voted for Trump, and some neighbors who by all outward signs are proud flag-waving conservatives. And the funny thing is, in real life, we all get along pretty well.

     Okay, part of that is the natural tendency of people to avoid religion and politics in polite conversation. But a good part of it is that the stereotypes posted on social media are not just misleading, they are downright false.

     For example, in real life my across-the-street neighbor is a truck driver who hangs a big American flag outside his front door, and I've heard him make a few comments about how he's out-of-touch with our generally more liberal town. A selfish, narcissistic racist? Well, actually, no. He mows the lawn and plows the driveway of the elderly widow next door, for free as a neighborly gesture. And I've stood around with him on the sidewalk more than once having a friendly conversation with the African-American woman who lives down the street or the Asian couple that lives around the corner.

     Or there's my brother-in-law who is devoted to his conservative Christian church. I know he voted for Trump and -- yes, he's denies global warming and is socially conservative. But is he your typical non-college-educated redneck? No. He graduated from college and he's also taken some continuing education courses. But more than that, he defies the stereotype because he volunteers in the community helping people less fortunate than he is, and despite his views on global warming he drives a gas-sipping VW, has no a/c in his home, grows his own vegetables, and composts most of his garbage. Despite his political views, he actually lives the lifestyle of an ultra-liberal Vermont hippie!

     Then there's the nephew from Chicago. He and his wife are both Trump supporters. You get them started, and sometimes it's a bit much. And yet he's in the music business and somehow gets along with his liberal colleagues. And they live in an integrated building in an integrated neighborhood, so in terms of anti-racism they're way ahead of my liberal friends who live in middle-class white neighborhoods.

     On the other side of the ledger, one of my friends is self-consciously super-liberal. So is his wife. They support Black Lives Matter, LBGTQ rights, free health care -- and I'm guessing they'd support AOC if she ran for president. And yet they actually lead lives that any conservative would  aspire to. They're not welfare cheats. They're not morally corrupt by even the most conservative standards. They both have jobs; work hard; pay their taxes, go to church, don't do drugs. They own their own home, and they've raised two responsible children. Given their actual lifestyle, they could be Mormons!

     Now I'm not saying that there aren't some truly hateful people in the world. But most of us have good intentions based on our own beliefs. Each of us may think that we have better ideas, or support policies that are more fair or more effective. But as people we are no better than our neighbors. Besides, do you really think you'll convert someone to your point of view by insulting and demeaning them?

     I have another relative who lives in Florida. She's a card-carrying feminist -- her hero is Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- but she's been married for over 20 years to a retired military engineer who's about as conservative as you would expect. Yes, I've seen an eye roll or two when the subject of politics comes up. But for the most part they get along just fine. They agree to disagree on some items, but they respect each other as people and for the most part their lives and values are compatible. They obey the law, love their children, pay their taxes, get along with their neighbors, and they both volunteer to help out other people in the community. She volunteers at the art museum and helps raise money for community services, and he supports an organization for retired servicemen.

      So it is possible. We can disagree about things. We can argue and yell and scream. But we need to remember that above all we are Americans who believe in democracy -- and to believe in democracy we have to respect our fellow citizens, even if they have a different point of view. Question their assumptions, tear apart their logic, disagree with their opinions. But there's no benefit in insulting them or calling them names. We cannot hold our fellow citizens in contempt.