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The Therapy of Pets

I’m still hobbling around after my bunion/arthritis surgery, but my toe is healing.  I have great hopes of being able to resume my former activities involving feet:-)  On to today’s blog topic.

I love animals; a lot of people do.  We’ve all heard how therapeutic animals can be for us.  Why is that?  Here are some words/phrases to describe animals as a general rule: content, calm, hang-loose, loving, go-with-the-flow, devoted, live in the moment.  They embody so many of the things that so many of us humans lack or have in short supply.  When we need a friend, our pet or someone else’s pet or some horses at a stable or some wild birds are there for us.

I was in a park the other day and chose to sit on the lawn near some migrating geese.  I felt calm just watching them as they watched me.  Years ago, I hung out with some gentle cows in a field in England.  Their curiosity overcame them, and they walked slowly toward me–boxcars on legs.  It was special; I still remember it vividly.

I used to be half of a pet therapy team with my dog at a local hospital. We’d visit patients who had requested a dog visit. I’d put Fergie on their bed so they could pet her. The patients loved it, often launching into a discussion about their pet at home that they missed. None ever found the need to mention why they were in the hospital. We were also barraged by staff and visitors.

Once, there was a big, burly patient who looked terrified when he saw Fergie.  When I questioned him thinking I had the wrong room, he explained that he’d always been frightened of dogs ever since he was a child and witnessed his best friend being mauled by one.  He was amazed when Fergie started licking his hand. “Oh my God, a dog is licking my hand,” was all he could say over and over.

Fergie and I visited him a few more times over the next several weeks.  Just before he was to be released, he told me he was planning on getting his own dog.  Even if you’re not a pet person, maybe a bird or a tank of fish could bring you some joy.  Try it out.
My next author talk/book signing for my memoir: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class, will be on February 22, 2014, 2:00pm at the Los Angeles City Library, Central (Downtown) Branch, Meeting Room A, 630 W. 5th St, Los Angeles, CA 90071.  Join me there if you can, and be sure to come up and introduce yourself.

NOTE: Please forward my blog to anyone you think might be interested.  It’s easy to read my previous blogs.  Just scroll down a bit and you will see “Archives” on the right side of the page.  Click on those entries and there they are!  If you’d like to contact me or be added to my email list to be notified of my future blog postings, send me a personal message by going to my book website: AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com and then clicking on the “Contacts and Links” tab.

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Embrace Your Age, Don’t Fight It!

I haven’t blogged for a while because I had bunion/arthritis surgery on my left big toe and have been recuperating.  That really made me feel old.  As a younger person, the words “arthritis” and “bunions” were associated only with old people.  These days, an old woman has been stalking me.  She follows me wherever I go.  She also has the audacity to jump into every mirror I look at and mimic my antics.  Although she seems vaguely familiar, I don’t know her, and I wish she’d go away.

Yes, “getting old sucks” is the prevailing attitude.  It is to be avoided at all costs including pushing ourselves toward age-inappropriate behavior, dress, and the exploding popularity of surgery toward that ever-elusive youth ideal we’ve been sold.

Although I try to fight it, I’m certainly a victim of it.  My hearing began to deteriorate a few years ago.  However, I resisted even exploring hearing aids; it smacked of being old.  I went around missing part of what was being said in conversations, lectures, movies and TV, and, of course, asking people to repeat.  When I finally got hearing aids, a whole new world opened up to me.

What a jerk I was, playing the “youth” game.  We don’t resist getting glasses as we age because lots of young people wear glasses.  However, we’ll shun a cane as we teeter off-balance, chancing a fall and a broken bone.  It’s only after the bone is broken, we’re in pain, and we spend months in a nursing home getting daily physical therapy that we admit to “I should have…”

Where did this all come from, this pathological race toward eternal youth?  Is it Madison Avenue, Hollywood, what?

It hasn’t always been that way.  So many prior and current cultures of the world embrace aging.  The elders are the wise of the tribe and are to be respected and emulated.  Why can’t we go back to that?  The answer is:  we can, each in our small way.

We can admit that we tire more easily and choose not to over-schedule just to keep up with our fictitious, youthful self.  We can use hearing aids, canes, low-heeled shoes for women, whatever, and have a better quality of the life left us.  No one will hate us for it.  No one will shun us for it.

Some years ago, I let my dyed-blond hair color grow out.  It wasn’t an easy decision, and I was nervous about it–about looking old.  I had been dying my hair since my twenties, and I didn’t even know what color it was naturally.  It grew in a snow white.

Skeptical friends started admiring it.  Friends and strangers would comment on it in a positive manner. A well-known actress in her sixties with whom I worked in a production for the baby boomer and senior market remarked that I was the only one there without dyed hair, including her.

I was becoming a pace setter to other friends.  Some started letting their dyed hair grow out.  We have all survived the experience, and no one has ostracized us.  We still have a good quality of life and lots of fun.

Once, a friend gave me a left-handed compliment:  “Lee Gale, you look so good.  Imagine what a knockout you’d be if you had your face lifted.”  I felt only sadness for her.  My purpose in life is not to be a knockout by the “youth” definition.  My purpose is to be as healthy as I can, to embrace life as it is now, and to enjoy it.  I don’t have to wear the facade of youth to do so.

NOTE:  Please forward my blog to anyone you think might be interested.  It’s easy to read my previous blogs.  Just scroll down a bit and you’ll see “Archives” on the right side of the page.  Click on those entries, and there they are!  If you’d like to contact me or be added to my email list to be notified of my future blog postings, click on the “Contacts & Links” tab here at my book website: AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com to leave a message.

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The Importance of Friendships

Today I’d like to blog about the importance of friendships.  However, before I do, I want to tell you about a website someone mentioned in response to my last blog on Volunteering.  It’s called:  VolunteerMatch.org.  I haven’t used it personally, but you can check it out.  Now, on to friendships.

Friendships are important to everyone.  However, they’re especially important to Baby Boomers and seniors.  It’s all too easy to feel depressed and isolated when we get to that stage of our lives.  Friendships will help ease those feelings.  Friends will care about you.  Friends will share your good times.  Friends will help you when you need help.  Friends will talk you through hard times and will be there to listen.  Sometimes, having a good listener is all we need.  And, always remember to be a friend back.

If you’re lucky enough to have long-term friends, don’t ignore them.  Remember to cultivate them, even if it’s just an occasional phone call to ask how they’re doing or even an email reminding them that you’re thinking about them.  You might not have friends or many friends or enough friends for a variety of reasons such as:  you’ve moved to a new location; your old friends have moved away or died; your former friends have found new interests that don’t include you; you were never very good at making friends; and so on.

One way to cultivate new friendships is to attend groups or join organizations.  Don’t be afraid to approach someone you meet there; just start talking to them about the group interest or about admiring what they’re wearing or just about anything.  People are usually flattered by your interest.   Of course, some might not be or might even be rude or ignore you.  You won’t know why.  Maybe life’s not easy for them, either, or they don’t feel well or don’t hear well.

It’s easy to let an unpleasant encounter deflate you.  Try hard not to give up.  Move on to another person.  Sometimes, when you go to a new group, people already have their cliques.  It’s hard to break into an established circle.  Keep at it.  There are usually some group members who don’t stick to that clan mindset, and you might engage one of them.

I have a friend who relocated to a large retirement community.  She found it very cliquish.  It took her a few months to start making friends.  She was quite discouraged at first, but she kept at it and now has several new buddies.

Seek out special interest activities that attract a lot of people.  You might see them posted at such places as senior centers, schools for seniors, libraries, and in senior magazines and online newsletters.  Always keep networking by asking neighbors, acquaintances and others about activities they might recommend or have heard of.

If you like outdoors activities, look for local walking or hiking groups.  I’m a long-time member of the Sierra Club, and I’ve made many wonderful friends through their activities.

Volunteering (which I blogged about in my last post) is another good way to find friends.  If you attend a religious organization, look for their affiliated senior groups.  I’ve mentioned meet-up groups in previous blogs.  Go online to meetup.com.  Look for a group near you which focuses on something that interests you.  You’ll meet like-minded people there and possibly make a friend.

One caveat:  friendships are fragile, so don’t just make it all about you; you must give as well as take.  The opportunities are there.  The hard part is motivating yourself to start with the first step.  You have to do that, however, to yield results.  As I’ve said before:  if it’s hard, DO IT ANYWAY!

Please forward this blog to anyone who might be interested.  To read my previous blogs, find “Archives” on the right side of the page and click on those dated entries.  If you’d like to contact me to make a comment or to be added to my email list for notification of my future blog postings, click on this link to my book website:  AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com and then click on the “Contacts and Links” tab.

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Idea #6 to Help Baby Boomers and Seniors Find a Passion (Volunteering)

Volunteering is a wonderful way to get involved in an interesting activity and to give back to the community at the same time.  Another benefit is that you can make new friends who enjoy the same activity that you do.

There are so many volunteering opportunities available in every community–enough to fit every personality type and comfort level.  The secret is to volunteer at something that is interesting and exciting to you.  That way, it can become a passion and motivate you to embrace life (a theme I stress repeatedly in my speeches and blogs).

Are you a people-person?  If so, then you might choose a pursuit that brings you in contact with humans such as at the help desk at a hospital, museum, police or sheriff department, etc.  I’m a people-person, and I love to perform.  I, also, I love science and animals, and I live close to the world famous La Brea Tar Pits.  So, I guide tour groups around the La Brea Tar Pits and inside its concomitant Page Museum.  My group talk is like performing a monologue in front of an audience.  My group members are all so appreciative, and I love the experience.  It’s definitely a win-win for everyone involved.  I had to study hard to learn my subject, but I’m passionate about it, and it’s been very rewarding.

Maybe you’re a one-on-one person.  My dog and I used to be a pet-therapy team visiting patients at a local hospital.  Maybe you’re the reserved, private type.  There are lots of behind-the-scenes, volunteer activities.  I have a friend who used to volunteer in the “bone room” of the local Natural History Museum sorting ancient animal bones.

Maybe you like children.  I have another friend who volunteered in a classroom at a nearby grammar school.  Do you like animals?  There are lots of volunteer opportunities at local animal shelters or animal rescue organizations.  I have another friend who used to be a tour guide at the zoo.  If you like art, check out the local art museum.

Here are a few more ideas where you might volunteer:  public gardens, local festivals, theaters, aquariums, senior centers, etc.  Just drive around your town and see what piques your interest.  Then, get on the phone, call them, and ask if they are seeking volunteers.  Better yet, go in person.  Ask friends, acquaintances, neighbors or the librarian for ideas of where to volunteer.  I know it may be difficult, embarrassing or uncomfortable, but as I’ve said before:  If it’s hard, do it anyway!

NOTES:  My next author talk/book signing for my memoir:  Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class, will be on November 18, 2013, 7:00pm, at the Cerritos Library, 18025 Bloomfield Ave, Cerritos, CA 90703.  Join me there if you can, and be sure to come up and introduce yourself.  Please forward my blog to anyone you think might be interested.  It’s easy to read my previous blogs.  Just scroll down a bit and you will see “Archives” on the right side of the page.  Click on those entries and there they are! If you’d like to contact me or be added to my email list for notification of my future blog postings, click on this link to my book website: AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com and then click on the “Contacts & Links” tab.

 

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The Role of Humor in Well-being for Baby Boomers and Seniors

Before I turn to my blog subject today, several people have asked how to read my previous blogs.  It’s easy; just scroll down a bit and you will see “Archives” on the right side of the page.  Click on those entries and there they are!  Today I’m hosting my first Guest Blogger.  She is a new friend, Max Izenberg, who writes the newsletter “Suddenly 65.”  Here is her blog:

It occurred to me the other day that many people go through life failing to find the humor in everyday events.   And  I thought how sad that is, since laughter is so very important to the human condition, especially as the years go by, this can prove to be extremely costly to your health and well-being.

I find that a good belly laugh has an almost cleansing effect on the body – practically medicinal in its quality.  Do you remember when you last had a good old fashioned belly laugh where the tears were just rolling down your cheeks?  No wonder they call laughter “internal jogging for the body”.

The best thing to do is to find humor in everyday life and it’s out there.  You just have to make a conscious effort to look for it.  I have a friend who’s a laughter coach and she claims that from the moment you wake up in the morning, you have to make a deliberate effort to look at life through rose colored glasses.  And it does help!

And keep in mind that that kind of attitude has a beneficial effect on you because it has been discovered that daily laughter can help lower your blood pressure and reduce inflammation, boost your energy and immune system, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of anxiety and tension.   It’s a powerful antidote to the everyday stresses of daily living.

That famous quote by Abe Lincoln sums it all up and really probably resonates with most people today.  He said “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die”.

So whoever determined that “Laughter is the best medicine” – maybe they were right on target.    On a daily basis try to see the glass as half full and look at life from a humorous angle even though it may be difficult to do so at times.  You will be helping yourself in so many beneficial ways.  And perhaps the best part of all is that this priceless medicine is fun and free

Max Izenberg publishes the award winning online newsletter for boomers and seniors  –  suddenly65.com.   She describes it as “places to go, things to do, and people to meet.”  It is a FREE weekly newsletter full of local resources for those 60+ so they will always be aware of what’s happening in their backyards.  You can join and read this weekly senior local resource newsletter by going to the website: www.suddenly65.com and joining the mailing list

NOTE:  If you’d like to contact me or be a guest blogger, click on this link to my book website: AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com and click on the “Contacts & Links” tab.

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Is it too late for Baby Boomers and seniors?

I was at a meeting recently where we were all seniors. We were going around the room each telling a little about ourselves. It was my turn, and I told my story of retiring from my career as a probation officer and becoming an actress, author, and speaker.

The next person was a woman who mentioned she was working at her brother’s law office, but she didn’t sound very excited about it. She said her dream as a young woman had always been to get a college degree. I spoke up: “Why don’t you do it now?”

“Now?” she responded in a shocked and defensive tone.

I dropped that discussion quickly; she obviously didn’t want to hear it.

The woman seemed aloof toward me after my remark. I thought maybe she was jealous. My suggestion that she revisit her youthful dream was apparently the last straw for her. She made it a point not to talk to me during the rest of the event. I think I touched a nerve.

During my speaking engagements, I deliberately touch nerves.  I encourage Baby Boomers and seniors to find something to be passionate about as a motivation to embrace life.

Why should we do this at our age?  Do it for the challenge of it–the sheer joy of it.  Why should we seniors go quietly into the night?  There is still plenty of life to be lived. Now is the time to do it!  Don’t just take the easy way out–the same boring way out.

You don’t have to follow my path.  If you’ve always wanted to try something, do it!  You might have to modify it, but see if you can figure out a way to connect with that thing that excites you.

Maybe you can’t become the doctor you’d always wanted to be, but maybe you can volunteer at a medical facility helping patients in some manner.  Maybe you can’t go trekking into the jungles after animals, but maybe you can volunteer at an animal shelter.

Don’t just settle.  Find a passion!

NOTE:  If you’d like to contact me or be a guest blogger, click on this link to my book website: AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com and click on the “Contacts & Links” tab.

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Try Something New

Life can get stale, just like bread.  Try something new.  If you don’t like it, don’t run back to the old, boring stuff you’ve always done; try another new thing.  Eventually something might grab you.

That’s how I got into acting.  I retired from my 37-year career as a probation officer and immediately signed up with the department to work as a retiree on an as-needed basis doing the same thing I’d been doing for years because I didn’t know what else to do in my retirement.  Luckily for me, a friend told me about a local senior community program.  I saw an acting class listed in the catalog and thought I’d try it, as it was something I had never done in my life–something new.

I know it’s comfortable to stick to the tried and true, both in activities and friends. However, trying something new might open doors for you that you never knew existed.

That acting class changed my life. As a result of just deciding to take a chance on doing something different, I am now an actress, author (I wrote a book about attending that class with my 85-year-old father) and speaker (about the book and about inspiring Baby Boomers and seniors to find a passion as a motivation to embrace life).

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Gratitude

I read a self-help book awhile ago called “The Tools,” because a friend raved about it. Those kinds of books are usually not my thing, but I checked it out.  It had a lot of interesting things to say, but others didn’t resonate.  Rather than ignoring everything because it didn’t all work for me, I chose the things I liked and discarded the rest.

The part I liked best talked about being grateful. I’ve incorporated a few minutes of “gratitude reflection” into my morning back-exercise regimen.  I sit back on my heels, take a deep breath, and say out loud: What am I grateful for today?  I think of five things and say them out loud.  Verbalizing that way helps me focus on them.  When my attention strays, I notice that and gently bring it back.

I try to find different gratitudes for each day.  They might sound the same as previous ones (example: my son called me last night), but it’s new for today even though it was the same gratitude I verbalized last week after he called.  Doing my daily gratitudes helps me stay positive in my life.  I have so many good things and don’t want to spend my senior years focusing on the not-so-good things.

We all have a choice. If you get off on complaining and rehashing each negative, upsetting thing that happens, then go for it.  However, if you want to embrace life, stop whining and focus on what makes you grateful.

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Idea #5 to Help Baby Boomers and Seniors Find a Passion (Meetup Groups)

I haven’t blogged in awhile.  Whew!  This book promotion is occupying my time almost completely.  The upside is that it’s a lot of fun giving author talk/book signing events.  I’ll be giving my next one at 7pm at the Santa Monica library in Santa Monica, California.

Today, I want to discuss meetup groups.  Have you heard of meetup.com?  It’s a wonderful website.  You can find groups near you of people who all share a common interest.  I have a friend who has connected with a meetup group just for going to the movies.

I went to a meetup group near my home of people who were interested in speaking Spanish.  We met at a restaurant, and we all conversed in Spanish the entire time.  People had varying degrees of fluency, but everyone was tolerant and helpful toward everyone else.  The ages of the participants also varied greatly.   That didn’t matter as we all shared a common interest.

Just google “meetup groups” or put meetup.com into your computer address bar.  It’s not hard to do.  If you’re not computer literate, ask for help from a friend or relative who is.  If you don’t have a computer, the library has computers.  You can sign up to use them for free, and the librarian can be helpful in showing you how to get to that website.  It’s a great way to connect with others.

I know it’s hard to reach out.  Remember my motto:  DO IT ANYWAY!

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Idea #4 to Help Baby Boomers and Seniors Find a Passion (Genealogy)

Sorry I haven’t posted for awhile, but I’ve been giving author talk – book signing events about my memoir: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class.  I just gave one last week at Laguna Woods Retirement Village in Orange County, CA.  It’s been so much fun in my new role as an author.  People have responded very positively to my talks.

Today, in my ongoing discussion of things Baby Boomers and seniors can do to develop a passion as a motivation to embrace life, I’m going to talk about pursuing genealogy.  I have a retired friend who has been charting his genealogy and that of his deceased wife.  He was able to go back several generations on his own by visiting various websites.  Then, he hired a professional to go back even further.  My friend has contacted distant relatives he finds, and he travels around the world to meet them and visit old cemeteries where ancestors are buried.

The Mormons are passionate about keeping genealogical records on everyone they can as it corresponds with their religious beliefs.  They are very welcoming at all their churches to allow anyone to check their genealogical archives, and there are volunteers there to assist.

You don’t have to be a Mormon to take advantage of their help.  Best of all, it is totally free.  I visited the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles, CA many years ago and found my mother’s name along with all her parents and siblings in a 1920s census record.  She was only five years old.  It was very exciting.

Distant family members have found me because someone spent a lot of time pursuing the family genealogy.  Is genealogy something you could become passionate about as a motivation to embrace life?

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