Category Archives: Happiness

The Secret To Chronic Happiness As You Age

By all rights, Fletcher Hall should not be happy.

At 76, the retired trade association manager has endured three heart attacks and eight heart bypass operations. He’s had four stents and a balloon inserted in his heart. He has diabetes, glaucoma, osteoarthritis in both knees and diabetic neuropathy in both legs. He can’t drive. He can’t travel much. He can’t see very well. And his heart condition severely limits his ability to exercise. On a good day, he can walk about 10 yards before needing to rest.

Yet the Brooklandville, Md., resident insists he’s a genuinely happy guy — in part, because he appreciates what he can do. “There’s no question that as age impinges on your life, you do have ‘black dog’ days,” said Hall. “I fight aging every day. But I never, ever give up. You have to work at keeping happy.”

Hall focuses on the things that bring him joy: writing and listening to music and audiobooks. By juggling those pastimes throughout the day — every day — he ultimately feels a sense of contentment. “Every one of those things requires that I use my mind — which is a good thing.”

The ‘right’ formula

Geriatric experts agree that Hall has pretty much figured out the right formula. “You have to be willing to accept your new reality — and move forward,” said Dr. Susan Lehmann, director of the geriatric psychiatry day program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Aim to have the best life you can at where you are right now.”

Living with chronic disease often complicates life. The majority of adults 65 and over have multiple chronic conditions that contribute to frailty and disability, according to a 2013-14 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of chronic conditions among people 65 and over has increased over time, too. The percentage of people reporting hypertension, asthma, cancer and diabetes was higher in 201314 than in 1997-98, reports the CDC.

Chronic conditions can have a devastating impact on both men and women, according to the CDC report. About 57 percent of women and 55 percent of men age 65 and up reported hypertension. Another 54 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported arthritis. And a full 35 percent of men and 25 percent of women reported dealing with heart disease. At the same time, older women were more likely to report clinically relevant depressive symptoms than were older men. In 2014, 15 percent of women 65 and older reported depressive symptoms, compared with 10 percent of men.

Chronic pain, in fact, more frequently leads to depression than does anxiety, said Dr. Kathleen Franco, associate dean at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. That depression then leads to additional pain and suffering, she said. “So you have an emotional and physical component.”

That’s why Hall clings dearly to his greatest passion: writing. When he retired at 65, his original plan was to travel with his wife, Tracey. His physical limitations curbed those goals, so he circled back to what has brought him the most happiness. He stays engaged in daily news by writing for two blogs — including one at-large column in which he espouses what he calls his “compassionate conservative” values.

Hall also adores reading, even though glaucoma has made it all but impossible. Not one to give up, he uses his Amazon Echo smart speaker to order audiobooks. He loves sitting on his balcony in the sunshine and listening to books like The Guns of August. Similarly, he enjoys streaming both classical and country music, especially the Oak Ridge Boys and the country rock group Alabama..

Hall also has learned to use Alexa, the Echo’s built-in digital assistant, to help with seemingly simple tasks that are difficult with poor eyesight. To tell time, he simply asks Alexa.

Beyond that, he avoids getting trapped in any frustration loops, such as trying to troubleshoot computer issues. During a recent technological tussle, he simply shut down the machine and turned on PBS and Charlie Rose. “Watching that show keeps my mind active,” he said. After taking time to de-stress, he was able to solve the tech issue.

Hall finds some excuse to get out of his house every day. Sometimes he runs an errand. Or he’ll meet a friend for lunch. As a bird lover, he might just sit in a park listening to birds singing. “If I can combine a pleasant venue with the sound of bird symphonies, I’m a happy camper,” he said.

Mindfulness works for many

This is Hall’s version of what some experts call “mindfulness.” Mindfulness, which often involves deep, slow breathing that’s aimed at lowering your heart rate and calming you down, can be highly effective on older, ailing people, said Franco. “It’s simple. It doesn’t cost anything. You can do it and no one even knows you’re doing it.”

One other thing often works like magic: helping others. “Once you start giving to others, you tend not to get stuck in your own aches and pains,” said Franco.

Anne McKinley knows this firsthand. Even at 85, she still volunteers for an aging advocacy group and sits on its board of directors.

McKinley copes with the debilitating effects of lifelong scoliosis. She, too, battles glaucoma, and her visual perception difficulties affect her balance. She’s had both knees replaced and more recently needed emergency surgery for an infection she contracted in the hospital following parathyroid surgery, which also affected her vocal cords.

The Evergreen, Colo., resident said that keeping a very positive attitude — and constantly reaching out to family and friends — keeps her content.

“Feeling like I have control of my life is very important,” she said. “The key is not to feel rushed. I can accomplish one thing in a day and feel good about it.”

It’s been a tough road since her husband, Cameron, died four years ago after 59 years of marriage. But with her master’s degree in social work and experience as a social worker, she knew how to utilize social services for older people in her community. That includes one service that performs housekeeping and other chores for a modest fee.

McKinley still visits family in Florida — though she must use a cane or walker to get around. Her grandchildren frequently come to visit, “and we feast whenever they do,” she added, typically on the cookies and pies she loves to bake. Above all, she said, she’s always getting out of the house. She gets her hair cut every week. “It’s my best remaining feature,” she said.

Then, there’s her Siamese cat, Frankie, who joins McKinley every evening at 6 p.m. to watch the evening news while McKinley makes herself a snack and a martini. “My favorite part is the olives,” she said.

And, yes, she expresses how particularly grateful she is for what she has — including a home with a 20-foot-high ceiling on an 18-acre site, where she can look out any window and see the surrounding beauty.

The real key to happiness at every age and stage — particularly old age — is not material things, but gratitude for life’s simple blessings, like laughter among friends or watching a sunset with a loved one, said Lehmann, the Johns Hopkins doctor. “It’s the small things in life that end up mattering most of all.”

KHN’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation and its coverage of aging and long-term care issues is supported by The SCAN Foundation.

Who wore it better?

Who knew the differences between America and Canada could be summed up in our leaders’ asses?

One says, “Come to my country. We are happy, smart and have great asses despite eating poutine.” The other says, “I’m rich and miserable and want everyone else to be as miserable as I am.”

Corgi pool party: How much fun is this crazy pup?

Corgi pool party

Dogs are amazing creatures. They jump rope. They play piano and sing. And sometimes they do things that make you wonder whether they’re a bit nuts or just have a finely honed sense of fun we don’t yet fully understand.

Like this dog who makes his very own frenetic Corgi pool party.

Enjoy.

Happy Canada Day to all my readers and subscribers up north

We here in this country look to your basic goodness, sanity and intelligence — except for the unfortunate incident with that Ford fellow — as proof that perhaps we can do better in the U.S.

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Elation

We’ve come a very long way to get to this point. And we are here. At last.

So happy.

More later.

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“It just doesn’t seem right that there are homeless people. I think everyone should have a place to live”

From the mouths of children.

Pretty amazing little girl:

Though Hailey Fort is only 9 years old, she has already done more to help the homeless and needy than many of us have. This young girl spends her free time building mobile shelters for the homeless, and even grows food and provides toiletries for them, too!

When Fort was 5 years old, she asked her mother, Miranda, about helping a homeless man she saw in Bremerton, Washington, where she lives. Her mother said yes, and now they work together to help the needy. The man she helped, Edward, has become her friend. She builds the shelters, “so then you don’t get rained on and you feel safe and stay dry.” “It just doesn’t seem right that there are homeless people,” Hailey told King 5 News. “I think everyone should have a place to live.”

Many more pictures of Hailey doing her thing at the link below, where you can also donate to her work if you are so inclined.

via: 9-Year-Old Girl Builds Shelters For The Homeless And Grows Food For Them, Too – Bored Panda

Photo via Bored Panda

A nicely done article that seems to sum up the events in Ireland

“Renditions of Tá na gays ag teacht abhaile – the gays are coming home – became a rousing anthem heard at ports and airports as young men and women flew in – from across Britain, from Canada, France and Austria and at least two from Australia – to vote.”

A revolution of a sort in a country that was not long ago virtually run by the Catholic Church:

“It’s our Berlin Wall,” said Leonora Frawley. And on Saturday it was euphoria, tears and even some overwhelmed disbelief as news dripped in, ballot box by ballot box, that the Irish had become the first people in the world to give a popular vote to gay marriage.

Paul Bonass and Luke Hoaregreene kiss to celebrate the passing of the Marriage Equality Referendum Same-sex marriage referendum, Dublin, Ireland - 23 May 2015  | Credit: Photo by Lindberg/REX Shutterstock (4786797d)
Paul Bonass and Luke Hoaregreene kiss to celebrate the passing of the Marriage Equality Referendum, Dublin, Ireland – 23 May 2015 | Credit: Photo by Lindberg/REX Shutterstock (4786797d)

On a gloriously sunny day in Dublin, the rainbow flags and scarves were bright, slung out of windows, draped around statues and over shoulders as couples walked arm in arm, hand in hand, gripping their loved ones as if this wondrous day might be snatched away.

The streets were suddenly noisy with whistles and car horns as impromptu mini parades and parties started, ahead of the all-night parties at Dublin’s most famous bars and clubs. Celebrations were going ahead too in Galway, Cork and Westport, and dozens of venues across Ireland.

By the time the official announcement was made, after 5pm, the result was clear, even though a few, dazed and held in the suspense that had gripped the yes campaign since the polls closed on Friday, had not allowed themselves to believe it until it was official.

“I waited,” said Lizzie Armstrong, 22, tears coursing down her checks, as she clung to her girlfriend on the cobbles of Dublin Castle. “And now it’s hit me. Because now I’m the same as you.”

via ‘Ireland might just have become a great little country in which to be gay’ – The Guardian

Now more than ever, I know this to be true

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TGIF!

RUnAroundDachsund

I want to go left

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