AARP Defensive driving course – a benefit for old people!

People my age received their driver’s license 65 years ago; which was the last time they reviewed the laws and driver “best practices.” For the last 65 years, we have just coasted – have not taken a driver’s license exam and have not reviewed the laws. Our biggest worry is the eye exam.

The AARP offers a Smart Driver course; either on-line or at a 4 hour class.

We recently took the course in a four hour class at the local senior center. While we expected to be bored, it was informative and at least made us think. It costs $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members.

The best ideas we could relate to.

  1. Having a blind side mirror.
  2. Only making right turns if possible, which delivery services such as Federal Express practice; not because their drivers are old, but because of the savings in time and gas costs.
  3. Learning about roundabouts.
  4. The safety devices on new cars, including back-up cameras, blind side beeps, and several more. Beware, that these can also be confusing and distracting if you are old. They take getting used to.
  5. Timing lights at intersections.
  6. Stopping distances and following distances.
  7. Fog lines.
  8. Left and right mirror settings.
  9. Not pulling into the intersection while making a left turn.
  10. Seat adjustment for airbag protection.
  11. Steering wheel hand position adjustment; not 10 and 2, but 9 and 3. This protects your hands from the airbag in case of a crash.
  12. Anti-lock brake system.
  13. Lane markings.
  14. Space cushion around your car.
  15. Distractions.

Then of course, if you take the course, your insurance company will give you a break; anywhere from 7.5% to 15%; which more than pays for the course. I think it also useful for you to have a record that you took the course. You never know when that may come in handy.

You might also want to check out safecar.gov. Or,  safernm.com; or, whatever source your state has.

REMEMBER, you are OLD,  and you will be described as “elderly” or worse in any police report or newspaper article.

 

THINK OLD!                DRIVE OLD!

 


HOW BUSINESSES LOSE OLD PEOPLE – they don’t know what seniors want/need!

Last week I read The Longevity Economy, by Joseph F. Couglin, who is the founder and director of MIT’s AgeLab even though he is only 56. His basic thesis is that businesses do not really understand old people and what they want or need. I was intrigued enough, at 78, to 1) sign up as an AgeLab volunteer and 2) over the last week, while on a trip to Tucson, come up with personal examples of how businesses do not understand old people.

Here are just a few of my thoughts:

1. Side mirrors on cars do not let you see a car next to you on either side and it is hard to turn your head. I bought a blind spot mirror from Amazon and stuck it on my mirrors before I left.

2. The bath tub in our first hotel was too  high, with a step and inadequate grab bars.

3. The bed is high. I couldn’t sit on the edge and put my shoes on. I was unstable getting out of it in the middle of the night; and, I  get up often – another problem of aging

4. The TV clicker is difficult to use, though this one was simpler than most.

5. The restaurant is great. It is quiet and you can share a plate, unlike a lot of restaurants.

6. In case we don’t want to drive the distance, we have options. We can fly, we can use Uber/Lyft and  rent a car. A little more costly than the drive and stop but not much, and not the stress. We miss the non-stop SW flights from ABQ to TuS.

7. When we leave, ABQ, we notify our neighbors, set up on/off lights and hide the computer. When you think about it, we really don’t have much that the average thief would want.

8. The car is a Prius and after 6 years and 75,000 miles, we still average 55 miles to the gallon,which appeals to our geriatric cheapness. And it is easy to drive and park, although I would like a back up camera that is standard on new cars.

9. Freeways are ok outside of cities as we stick to the right lane. And use speed control.

10. We also plug the I-phone into the cigarette lighter so it is always charged. And of course, google maps gives us directions as to where we need to go.

11. We don’t drive at night on the freeway

12.  Food and  other items packed in plastic that old fingers can’t open. Knives are hard to use on plastic packages with arthritic fingers. Scissors are also difficult, but who travels with them.

13. The paper TV channel guide  has letters too small to read. The TV clicker was confusing, no grab bars in the bath tub, , bath tub too high,  so without a grab bar, difficult to step into. – For the blog I have enhanced the TV channel guide.

14. On the way back, we stayed at a famous old hotel, but again no grab-bars on the high tub and the bottles of shampoo and conditioner were over a foot tall and heavy.

15. Lights in hotel rooms are not designed for old people; nor is the placement and switches on lamps.

This is just a sample.

More to come.

THINK OLD!


GATHERING OF NATIONS – 3000 Indian Dancers

The 36th annual Gathering of Nations.

This event, bringing together thousands of Indians from 750  American and Canadian tribes was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 25, 26 and 27, 2019.

The annual event was held in Tingley Colosseum on the NM State Fair Grounds. All 11,571 seats were filled on the day I went. It included the  Miss. Indian America Contest as well as several days of competitive dancing.

The costumes, made by the 3000 singers and dancers, are the highlight of the event. Dancing is a traditional part of the Indian Culture and not to be missed.

The Albuquerque Journal in its “Coming Together” story describes the event in detail with pictures.

The cost in 2019 was $19 per person and $10 to park. At noon, when the dancing starts, there are long lines and they only accept cash. You are better off getting you tickets on-line. Just go to gatheringof nations.com.

REMEMBER, if you are old, take care as there are dirt paths, and once inside Tingley Colesseum, huge crowds, subdued lighting and the possibility of a fall is always present.

It is worth it just to see the costumes and the Indian Families. The 2020 dates are April 23, 24 & 25.

You can buy Indian jewelry and crafts from hundreds of native craftsmen and women.

You can also buy food, some traditional, and some from the usual assortment of State Fair type vendors.

If you do eat, try the fry bread and the Indian Tacos.

 

While the fry bread was good, it doesn’t compare to the fry bread that you buy on the side of the road in NorthWestern New Mexico.

THINK OLD!


BLIND SPOT MIRROR – SAFETY DEVICE FOR OLD DRIVERS!

 

I still drive and around the city it is not too bad. I use a a few tricks, such as turning right as much as possible, but when I get on freeways, which is about the only way to get from city to city any more, I am faced with drivers coming up on my left and getting in my blind spot.

For $10, I fixed that thanks to a few rental cars and
Amazon.com. You affix a blind spot mirror to the driver and passenger side mirrors and you can see the cars right next to you.

It is hard to turn an old neck to look without the mirror and it is also a distraction.

Blind Spot Mirror

THINK OLD!


A PUZZLE FOR SENIORS ON VACATION!!

Let’s face it. Anytime you take a trip, your schedule changes; and,  old people love schedules.

With family, you need something everyone can concentrate on and do together; without controversy.

Thus, I suggest a puzzle. In addition to the puzzle, you need a grandchild who will be an expert at identifying pieces and patterns.

The practicalities. Get your puzzle at a thrift store. It is better to pay a dollar, than $30. Check the bookcase. People frequently leave puzzles.

You need a place to put the puzzle together. Most vacation rentals don’t have puzzle space; and, if you use the dining table you run into meal problems – which will stress some out.

The solution is simple. Go to Home Depot or Lowes and look for a sheet of plywood or styrofoam a bit larger than the puzzle. Look on the cover of the puzzle box for final dimensions.

Then you can put the puzzle together on the sheet on a coffee table, dining table, or two chairs, etc. You can move it for meals or other events.

Remember to tell your grandchild that he/she can not stay up all night working on the puzzle.

Leave the puzzle and the board for the next renter.

THINK OLD!


SHEEP HERDING IN IRELAND AND NEW MEXICO

 

 

On a Rick Steves’ tour to Ireland a few years ago, we visited a working sheep ranch and watched the dogs herd flocks of sheep following whistled commands from the sheep herder.

The Kissane Sheep Farm  is located in Moll’s Gap, Kenmare, County Ireland, Ireland. It is 7 Euros for an adult to watch the dogs and the shearers in action. You can also adopt a sheep, but if you want to take it home, you have to buy it and put up with an enormous amount of red tape. Better to adopt one in the name of a grandchild.

In addition we were able to watch expert shearers shear one of the sheep:

I like Rick Steves’ tours because they always include something new; something beyond museums and restaurants; and, something that I know nothing about.  I wanted to replicate the experience when I returned to New Mexico.

Searching in my own backyard, I discovered the New Mexico Herding Dog Association and on Saturday, May 13, 2017 we went to one of its events on the New Mexico State Fair Grounds.

This was the herding instinct test in which herding dogs, as classified by the American Kennel Club, and which have no experience with sheep, are tested to see if they like sheep, with three sheep. Mixed results. A fascinating new sub-culture to me, and one close to home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A variety of breeds tried to maneuver three sheep while their owners urged them on. At first the dogs didn’t do much, but after watching the owners race about herding the sheep, the dogs got the idea,  and tried it themselves.

About 40 sheep were kept in pens and were maneuvered about by a trained sheep dog which efficiently moved them from pen to pen and then into the arena where the test took place. The trained dog then sat quietly and watched from an adjoining arena.

The next step is to visit the FTB Ranch in Mountainair, NM and watch more events.

If interested you can search for events in your state on Google.

Search terms: State+herding dogs

ie Utah+herding dogs

THINK OLD!

 

 


DINNER WITH 96 YEAR OLD QUAKER IS HIGHLIGHT OF COSTA RICA TRIP!

 

Marvin Rockwell and his wife at their home in the Monteverde Quaker Community described in Wikipedia.

In December, 2018, while on a Road Scholar trip to Costa Rica, we  visited the home of Marvin Rockwell, age 96, for a typical Costa Rican dinner and a Power Point talk on how he came to lead a group of Quakers to Costa Rica in the late 1950’s. The talk included pictures of his adventures.Click for a podcast of pictures that Marvin showed us.

The family style dinner consisted of tamales, vegetables, tortillas, tomatoes,carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, chocolate cake  and the ever-present Pinto Gallo.(Black beans and rice served with every meal in every setting in Costa Rica.) There was no booze since this was a Quaker home.

We ate at a long table on the open porch of Marvin’s  home in the highlands of Costa Rica, where Rockwell has lived since the early 50’s.

Marvin’s story, illustrated by his Powerpoint presentation, consisted of photos of his move to Costa Rica in the 50’s and his adventures since.

Marvin is a Quaker, originally from Fairhope, Alabama. In WW II, he served as a surgical teck in the US Army. In 1948, the US passed a draft law and Marvin, as a Quaker, refused to register. Even though he had already served in WW II, he was convicted of failing to register and sent to prison for a year and a day.

Since I originally wrote this, Fairhope, Alabama has been featured in the Travel Section of the New York Times. It seem Fairhope has a history consistent with what Marvin did in moving to Costa Rica. In 1894 “populist reformers” moved there from the North to establish an “…experimental, utopian community…”  Traveling while old continues to be fascinating. I may have to visit Fairhope.

When he was released, he and his friends, searched for a new place to live and settled on Costa Rica which had just outlawed the military. They purchased a tract of land in the central part, away from the mosquitos of the coast, and 41 of them proceeded to move there. The move, in an old jeep and pick-up truck took 3 months, as  Costa rica had little in the way of roads, and due to border technicalities .

They arrived, bought the land, compensated the Costa Rican squatters, and established a Quaker Colony which exists to this day. Five of the original 41, including Martin, are still alive.

They rebuilt the houses of the squatters and established s cheese factory with Martin in charge. They used metal Quaker Oats cans as cheese forms. The factory, still operating, now produces 8000 pounds of cheese a day.

Marvin, a bachelor, adopted a child abandoned by the child’s single mother. He then married a Costa Rican woman, and they had 4 more children.

Martin took pilot lessons, bought a  piper airplane and started to build runway in Monteverdi.   They cleared the land except for stumps. Then, while flying over the proposed runway almost crashed because of wind currents. They abandoned the airport idea, even though the approved runway was listed on aviation maps until recently when it was changed to abandoned.

Marvin wanted his children to be bilingual, so  he moved to the US and became a chocolate salesman in Ohio ?? for 8 years so that his children, and his wife, became fluent in both English and Spanish. He then moved back to his home in Costa Rica, and except for  trips to Africa in his 80’s, to see the animals, has lived in Costa Rica ever since.

He established a small hotel, which he has now closed.

He offers Powerpoint talks and dinners to various groups. He left our dinner at 7:30 as he had to give another talk that night.

THINK OLD!


VISIT THE “OLD MAIN” NEW MEXICO PRISON – Scene of 1980 Prison Riot

In 1980 there was a prison riot in Santa Fe, New Mexico that resulted in the deaths of 33 inmates and the destruction of the New Mexico State Penitentiary. Since then a new prison has been built next to the remains of “Old Main.”
The New Mexico Department of Corrections conducts tours of Old Main at the New Mexico Prison in Santa Fe. I took the tour in 2012. The tour took about two hours.
“Old Main” was virtually destroyed and 33 inmates were murdered.
Tours are conducted for part of the year. The goal is to raise money for a museum; however, nothing seems to have happened in the last five years.
If you want tickets for the  Tour, click here; however, as of the date of posting this post, no tours are being offered. They may be offered again in 2019.
June 13, 2019 – I just checked and it seems a few tours are available this summer. Click here.
If you still want to visit a prison, try Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia; or read about it in the New York Times.
If you want to read about the 1980 prison riot in New Mexico, click here.
This is out of my comfort zone; but something we should be aware of.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

THINK OLD!

END OF THE WORLD – RESCUE AT SEA – why seniors on cruises need insurance!

 

Tender from the Viking Sun approaching the Chilean General Service Boat Talcahuano.

I was recently on a Viking Sun Cruise around Cape Horn, going from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile. While walking the 1/4 mile walking track on Deck 2, I noticed a Chilean Navy Ship, the General Service Boat Talcahuano,  in the distance beginning to circle the ship. Part of the deck path was closed and a tender had been launched. I,  like about half of the 900 passengers, watched for the next hour, or so.

While we watched, the tender made several attempts to hook up with the Chilean Navy Ship, but couldn’t get close because of the waves. The Navy vessel continued to circle the ship and tried to reposition itself.

The tender returned to the cruise ship and waited while the Navy ship circled again. I was right above the tender on deck 2 next to the blocked deck area.

Through an open hatch in the top of the tender, I saw the Captain of the Viking Sun, whom I think had just taken command of the tender. He headed straight for the Navy Ship, and without apparent incident, went along side and transferred the passenger on a stretcher, her husband and the ship’s doctor to the Chilean Navy Ship which took off for a land-based hospital.

I was totally impressed with the way Viking handled the situation.

I did not hear of any report of the event on the Viking Sun; however,  the next day Newsweek reported that the passenger had fallen, had injured herself, and had been evacuated to Coronel Bay, Chile for emergency treatment. Look at the Google Map of Coronel Bay; not quite the “End of the World” around Cape Horn, but close.

This  raised a number of questions in my mind. Questions to ask about your travel insurance on a cruise; or any international trip, especially, if you are old; and, maybe even if you are not.

  1. No way was Medicare going to cover the evacuation, or anything else, outside the US. What are you prepared for?
  2. Does the fact that the rescue happened in international waters make any difference?
  3. Will the Chilean Navy want to be reimbursed?
  4. Does your travel insurance cover rescues at Sea?
  5. What about costs for husband, doctor and costs after transfer to the hospital in Coronel Bay?
  6. What if the passenger does not have insurance?
  7. Just what does your travel policy cover?
  8. Will your regular insurance cover any of this?
  9. Is there insurance coverage for the ship’s medical care or for the ship’s doctor  going with the injured person  to a foreign hospital?
  10. What unknown costs are there to a difficult rescue at sea?

The bottom line is that this lady was injured, transferred on the high seas, in a stretcher, from a cruise ship to a tender to a Chilean Navel Vessel, in international waters. She was then taken to a foreign hospital. She and her husband probably had no idea where they were going except that it was near “the end of the world.”  We had just come around Cape Horn.

The real question is: What next? Did she come back to the ship? How? Where? When? Did she go home? How? Who paid?

Interesting  questions, ask your insurance carrier.

I have in the past few years had two friends who have  gotten sick while traveling, both in China. One spent over a month in a Chinese hospital, was transferred  back to the US with medical support;  and, then died. No insurance – wiped out an inheritance. The other had a stroke, spent several weeks in a Chinese hospital and was flown back to the US with a medical professional accompanying her. She had great insurance which covered all the costs and she is doing fine.

Travel insurance is expensive if you are old; but, consider the alternatives.

You might even want one of your kids to review your travel policy, if you have one, and advise you. None of us ever reads the policy, we just pay and board the ship.

THINK OLD!

 

 


MUMMY AT FONCK MUSEUM in Valparaiso, Chile – the geezer’s memory, not the geezer!

One of the best things about traveling while old is that you come across something that reminds you of an experience early in your life, allowing you to relive that experience. It also gives you  a new story to tell.

 

Mummy from the Atacoma Desert on display in the Fonck Museum, Valparaiso, Chile.

This happened to us in February 2019, on a Viking Sun Cruise included tour at our last stop in Valparaiso, Chile. We stopped at the Fonck Museum in Valparaiso. The museum had archaeological exhibits from Chile and one of them was a mummy from the Atacama Desert  near Arica, Chile in the northern part of Chile on the Chilean/Peruvian border.

Thirty some years ago we had gone on an EarthWatch expedition in connection with the University of Tarapaca, Arica, Chile. For two weeks, working with a pathologist, professors, and students from the University of Tarapaca, we dug up mummies, measured them, documented the burial cloths and checked them for evidence of arsenic poisoning from the water in Northern Chile.

Some of the mummies were over 7000 years old and due to the Atacoma Desert’s lack of rain, were perfectly preserved.

Years later, the mummy pictured above brought back memories of an early adventure.

THINK OLD!