Thursday, 31 May 2012

#268: The Sweet Smell of Age

Who smells better?  Young people or older folks?

I read that headline today in the Globe and Mail and thought Gaaaagh...another reason why I don’t want to get any older!  An item by Wendy Leung was reporting on the results of a recent study conducted the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. The research, involving 41 young, middle, and older aged individuals, set out to see if it is possible to detect age by smell alone.   

Falling into line with popular perception, I immediately guessed that stinkier smells would identify the older research subjects.  But I was wrong!  The older subjects had a distinctive odour, but it was described as “neutral”.  Of the three groups, the young were the smelliest.

Whew!  At least that is one aspect of aging we won’t have to worry about.  But first we need to identify the factors that account for this phenomenon.  I don’t know about you, but I am all for smelling as neutral as possible as I age, so I would have liked more analysis.  In the absence of this in depth investigation, I've had to do some speculating on my own.  I think old people smell better because they:
  • experience less stress and therefore sweat less.
  • have more time to bathe and shower
  • make a concerted effort to avoid the smelly old-person stereotype
  • have more than the usual supply of cologne and bath salts, gifts from their uninspired children
  • change their socks and underwear regularly
(This last observation triggered an olfactory memory that supports the recent MCSCP findings.  While hiking in New Zealand, our party of four older adults shared a bunk room after four days strenuous hiking without access to showers. Still, the room didn’t smell too bad.  It might even have been described as "neutral".  Then it filled up with four more hikers, all young men.  Instant Eau de Locker Room.  But we weren’t their parents: we couldn’t say anything.  We could only open the windows, adopt mouth-breathing techniques, and go to sleep.)

Who smells better?  I had the proof all along.....


Wednesday, 30 May 2012

#266: Meanwhile, in the Garden

While appreciating that he knows his way around a lawn mower, I recognize that my husband Bruce cannot distinguish a pansy from a petunia. And he has no intention of learning.  That is fine with me -- I am happy to be the family gardener.

So it was me out there early this morning turning on the sprinklers. Southern Ontario is in the grip of a drought, and because I no longer rush out the door at 8:30, I could do something about it.  (Time to water the flower beds -- who knew that would be one of the benefits of retirement?)

Soon I was extracting dandelions, cutting deadwood from the rose bush and spraying the brick walk with horticultural vinegar to keep down weeds.  I noticed a little toad, the resident chipmunk, our cardinal family and a gang of grackles.  Gardening, for me, is addictive.  I'll just yank out one more bit of bindweed .....oh, look at you, you poor dry thing....I must transplant those ferns......

Bruce would have been in and out of there in a flash.  Sprinkler on. Done.

I did eventually stop, however.  Transplanting ferns would have taken too much time -- time that I couldn't afford.   My sister-in-law Toni was arriving from Edmonton, and since I was her chauffeur I didn't want to be late on my very first middle-of-the-day airport pickup.

The gardening could wait.  I had more important things to do.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

#265: It Takes Two

No one who works ever invites people to dinner on a Monday (not unless Monday is a day off), but retirees can invite guests any time.

My husband has just made a big point of mentioning this, adding that we could not have pulled off last night's dinner-on-the-deck, the first of the season, and for company, without both of us pitching in. But some of us pitched with more ability than others.

Bruce may think otherwise,  but he was largely responsible for the dinner's success.  He marinated and grilled the chicken, made the rice, baked a pan of brownies, vacuumed the family room and washed the kitchen floor.  For my part,  I turned up late in the afternoon and did what I do best:  assemble things. I made a salad, set out some grapes and cheese, organized a simple dessert and cooked the asparagus.  I also set the table, but it was just another job  that required no talent.

Our first outdoor meal of the season was a success thanks to good food, good company and balmy outdoor temperatures.   At 10:30, we were still on the deck finishing the last of the wine.  Our guests (who are not retired) were impressed.  We were impressed.  We could do this again!

Weekday guests?  No problem -- as long as the same job-sharing arrangement applies.


Monday, 28 May 2012

#264: It Depends

Yesterday I admired a friend’s sunglasses, and she whipped them off to reveal a second pair of glasses with clear lenses underneath.

“They are Fitovers”, she said, waving the sunglasses and naming the brand, “but I call them my Depends.”

Good for her.  You might as well laugh about the “assistive devices” that make the aging process more comfortable.

I confessed to her that I have lost two pairs of expensive Fitovers.  But since mine were not as nice looking as hers, (“old lady glasses” is what my daughter called them), perhaps it was no accident that I laid them down somewhere and walked off.  If I had thought to give my wraparound sunglasses a pet name, there might have been more love in my love/hate relationship with them. 

But perhaps all that is really needed to boost Fitovers' cool factor is an image makeover.  In fact, a search of the web reveals that this has already happened in Australia,  with a Fitover TV advert that brings new meaning to the idea of "protection".  Who wouldn't want to wear these sunglasses? 

And speaking of "protection", I see that the advertising moguls are also having a go at Depends, finessing the brand and making it seem more acceptable to discerning older consumers.  Trying to get away from the “adult diaper” image, the new slogan is “Looks and fits like underwear. Protects like nothing else."  There are new models too.  Goodbye June Allyson, hello Flirty Model sashaying down the street and shaking her long hair and her padded booty. 

I was a bit concerned about youngsters Isabelle Brasseur and PJ Stock as Depends’ spokes models, however.
Stock's disposable jockeys
Too far, too much and too unbelievable is what I thought.  Then I did an online search and discovered what they don’t tell you in the commercial.  These two are wearing their Depends to show that men and women living with “below the waist” cancers can wear sort-of-sexy “underwear”, too.

Who knows if the prostate cancer market will care one way or the other, but at least I can stop feeling embarrassed for Isabelle and PJ! 

Sunday, 27 May 2012

#263: Timeless

Does it mean that you are really retired when you discover that you have gone all day without a watch? And you don't really care....?

And yes, I had my cell phone, but ask anyone over 65 -- a cell phone does not equal a watch.  (The phone wasn't on, anyway.)

If I had needed the time, I would likely have asked someone -- someone wearing a watch..

Saturday, 26 May 2012

#262: Chickens Coming Home...

A friend of mine will soon be dealing with a couple of family health concerns that could very well be simultaneous: her husband’s back surgery and the birth of a grandchild.  Contemplating the impact of these two events, she admitted, “I don’t know what I would do if I were still working”.

There is no doubt that one of the benefits of retirement is the freedom to support family members as their lives present changes and challenges.  Sometimes the kids or grandkids need help, or a spouse is ill, but more often, it seems the retiree is parenting their own elderly parent.  I estimate that half the women my age are what I term “good daughters”, but there are plenty of “good sons”, too, who (among other things) make numerous visits, even out of town, to keep tabs on Mom or Dad. 

My “good daughter” days are over, but I have friends who are in the thick of it, and I am filled with admiration for their selflessness.  They don’t think twice about what needs to be done—they just do it and they hang in there as long as they need to. 

I know they are not so crass as to consider that they are setting a wonderful example for their own children.   But it is true, that while supporting one's elderly parents is the proper, loving thing to do, it may eventually also pay off.  Because someday—because they they love us and because we may not have screwed up too badly as parents and grandparents -- we hope that our kids will be there for us.  They will have seen us in the role of good sons and daughters, so when the time comes, they will know how it’s done. 

But please, God, not too soon.   

Friday, 25 May 2012

#261: Hello....... My name is ........

Does one of the good things about retirement include the possibility that you may be at home in the middle of the day to take calls from “technical service specialists” who want to help you with your problematic Microsoft programs?

I guess it depends on how much you want to tease them with coy questions and time-wasting asides.

Or how much pleasure you derive from telling them to take their technical service to the dark side of the moon....

Thursday, 24 May 2012

#260: Sh*t Retirees Say

You’ve no doubt seen those YouTube videos of “Sh*t Girls Say”.

I wonder what the retiree equivalent might be.  Are there classic "seniorisms" that reveal our age even if they can't see our greying hair? 

Alas, I fear it is too true.

Even without obvious references to the fact that they are pre-boomers and subject to the indignities of aging, pensioners unintentionally identify themselves by making innocent comments such as:
Can you read this menu?  
Sorry. What did you say?
I’m staying well. How about you?
I just have a few pictures...
Just wait.  It will come to me.
Do you have any decaf?
Well (checking watch), it is past my bedtime....
Have you seen my car keys?
What was I looking for?
I’ll just get my grandson to show me.
What’s my password?
Is my phone off?  How do I turn it off?
I did it before by accident...

(Except for the reference to a grandson, I am sure that I have uttered every one of these statements.  It is enough to make to make me think twice about ever opening my mouth in younger company.  I might as well dig out my negative heel sandals and orange caftan.)

 A few years ago I would have added some version of You'll never catch me doing that in reference to anything computer-related.  But recently,  more retirees do seem be recognizing the benefits of technology and are making friends -- even if they are not embracing it.   Several residents at the retirement home where I volunteer use laptops and some now have iPads and e-readers, gifts from family members.
I expect that there will be a substantial learning curve as they get the hang of these new devices and that should make for a lot of Sh*t Retirees Say as demonstrated in the delightful Webcam 101 for Seniors Worth checking out if you haven't already seen it.

And who cares if the Huffmans burble "sh*t" until the cows come home* ?  This couple has a great attitude.

*more "sh*t" retirees say

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

#259: Cancelled!

The meeting that I was supposed to attend tonight (I am a volunteer on a "volunteer committee") has been cancelled.

As the only retired person in the group, you wouldn't think I would be so darned pleased. But it feels like winning something twice.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

#258: Spell? Check!

If you are a woman over 65, I have good news for you:  You are a superior speller.

This tidbit was offered to me last night as I lay awake listening to the BBC World Service on the radio.  I did not hear the entire item (That is the trouble with listening to the radio while half asleep --you only hear half the program.) but I got enough to gather that research in the UK has revealed a national spelling emergency.  I heard this demonstrated as Brits-in-the-street attempted the spelling of  neccessary  necesary nessessery  necessary. Only about half got it right, and the ones who did were female retirees.

Blame it all on spell check. The younger crowd, especially 18 - 25 year old males, are according to the study, the worst spellers and the most likely to trust spell check or worse yet, auto-correct.  They blithely assume, I suppose, that these programs know exactly what they intend to say and can say it better.

I am not surprised that older women are decent spellers.  We use spell-check but treat it as a partner, not the boss, and we probably went to school at a time when spelling was part of the curriculum. And we may have worked in careers that expected good spelling.

But what about men over 65?  The BBC program didn't say, or if it did, I was asleep.  But my guess is that older men fall somewhere in the middle.  I can't help but recall the retired guys who came into the library and avoided using the computer catalogue because they couldn't type. "My secretary did all that for me", they would explain.

I bet she was a great speller.       

Monday, 21 May 2012

#257: May Long: Bring It On

Today is Victoria Day, aka May Two-Four, or May Long if you live out West.

A Manitoba friend has pointed out that even if it feels like every other day to retirees, May Long (or whatever you call it) is still the holiday that ushers in warmer weather and the promise of summer. 

Not a little thing if you spend half the year digging through snowdrifts.

Her observation reminded me that this year, I will have unlimited opportunity to enjoy the summer.  I will not be working and I will not be on holidays since we probably won’t do much travelling until the end of August.  I can enjoy my yard and garden, sit on the deck in the evening in balmy weather, stoke up the barbecue and walk into town for ice cream..... any day of the week.

So many simple summer pleasures await, without even leaving town.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

#256: Mazeophobia

Yesterday, I had a lovely time with my Ontario daughter at the Yorkdale Mall in Toronto.  We visited, had lunch and did some shopping.  But because I had driven myself to Yorkdale—first, I got lost. 

The “getting lost” part was so predictable: I have had a lifetime of losing my way.  I chronically confuse left and right, and map reading—for me-- is right up there with reading Russian.  My directional dysfunction feels like a sort of learning disability, so to compensate, I usually practice if I know I will driving someplace new.  I still recall (with some anxiety) that it took 5 learning trials to successfully navigate my way across South Edmonton to a school where I would be teaching.  Bruce’s question at the end of my first day on the job wasn’t “How were your classes?”  He quite rightly inquired “Did you get lost?”

Realistically, driving to Yorkdale Mall from Guelph is not a big deal so practice runs did not seem warranted.  Any ordinary driver would know to travel east for 66 kms on the 401 (the highway that crosses Southern Ontario) and then turn right. That’s how easy it is.

But, somehow, in spite of discussing this trip at length with Bruce, printing off Google maps and directions, and setting my GPS (yes, I even have one of those) to 1 Yorkdale Road, I still managed to turn left, and I found myself whipping up Highway 400 to Barrie.

Sigh. Sigh again.

I have had other unscheduled trips on the 400, but at least I was able to be more resigned—more Zen-- about this latest incident.  James, our Qigong instructor, tells us that when learning a skill such as balancing on one foot, it is the effort to train the muscles and the brain that really counts. Standing like a stork doesn’t matter as much as all the neural pathways that are being stimulated by the new challenge.  (He doesn’t talk about the benefit to aging brains, but we know what he means.)  So he would have been proud of me yesterday. Problem- solving neurons firing on all cylinders, I focussed, I listened to the GPS, I ignored my instincts, and got back on the 401 and reached the meeting place at Yorkdale just in time.

When I began my retirement, I thought that I might try to conquer my Mazeophobia (fear of getting lost).  Without a lot more practice, however, I am not sure that this will ever happen completely.  But I do think I can become more comfortable as I struggle (literally) to find my way.  And at least I can think of it as a positive, brain building, anti-aging experience.

With that in mind, I intend to spend part of this afternoon stimulating more neurons as I figure out how to get to the Hamilton airport, 65 kms from Guelph.  My sister-in-law will be flying in from Edmonton in a couple of weeks, and as I am the designated driver, I want to make sure that I don’t leave her in Arrivals while I accidentally head off to Niagara Falls. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

#255: Two-Four No More

So many excited, over-the-top posts on Facebook about the glorious long weekend, the first of the summer!  You'd think these people never got a day off.

I must have felt like that last year, but I don’t remember.  Retirement blunts holiday euphoria.

It’s a strange but not unpleasant feeling to think “May 24 weekend?  Ho Hum. Guess I’ll skip the nursery until Tuesday.”

Friday, 18 May 2012

#254: Just a Trifle

We had company for dinner yesterday, and my husband Bruce offered to make a trifle for dessert.  This was a first.  He has made cakes, pies and crisps, but never a trifle.

I had other things to do, so I readily agreed.  He gathered the ingredients and agonized over the procedure.  I am a fast and loose cook, and he is a rigid recipe-follower, so trifle (a fast and loose dessert if I ever saw one) was perhaps not the best choice, but eventually we did come up with a game plan.

  •  Prepare the cake (a failed cake that was living in the freezer waiting for its reincarnation as trifle) by spreading it with jam and cutting it into cubes. Bruce did this under supervision.
  •  Place cake cubes in pretty glass bowl.  Much agony ensued because he was sure we didn’t have enough cake. ( I thought we would need to invite more neighbours over because we would surely have trifle for 20.)
  •  Sprinkle cake with Grand Marnier and orange juice to achieve the right degree of moistness.  This was a shared responsibility, as was sampling.
  •  Make the custard sauce.  After much consultation about how long to stir and how to tell when the custard was ready, he surveyed the pot and declared that we didn’t have enough.  He said it was lumpy. I kept saying things like “It’s just a trifle!”, but he was unconvinced.  He made a second batch and used both.
  • Spread the raspberries.  This went well.
  • Top with whipped cream.  Whipping the cream was a learning experience, but he got the hang of it.  In the end, we had much too much, but really, can you ever have too much whipped cream?  
  • Add the garnish. I offered to toast almonds but got distracted and let them burn. “Fast and loose” is not always a good policy in the kitchen, even with a trifle.  He shooed me away and finished the job.
When it was time for dessert, the trifle was greeted with great enthusiasm.  It was sublime, and almost everyone had seconds. The custard sauce was the best part, and our guests praised the pastry chef. 

I deserved none of this, because I was just the coach.  I was at home for the day and could offer my two cent’s worth as required:  I gave instructions, and my husband did the work.  And he does it so much better….


Thursday, 17 May 2012

#253: Buying In/Getting Out

I blogged the other day about how I sometimes feel as if my retirement no longer seems to belong to me but to “the volunteer sector”, a mysterious force that I am starting to picture as a large, slavering, supernatural creature waiting to swallow innocent new retirees.

No wonder that I have failed to complete/commit or even make a start on many of my retirement ambitions -- or even (lately) clean the house.  Volunteering, unlike paid employment, has the uncanny habit of expanding to fill a void, and in doing so, discretionary activities get squeezed right off the calendar.  Yesterday, for example, I bowed of my Wednesday walk in order to give extra time to the retirement home.  That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did happen.

So I have been giving some thought to the most effective way to stay-on-track/ follow-through-on good resolutions such as exercise more, cook more creatively, develop the ugly bits of the garden—and on, and on, and on....and not get lured away by some other task that seems more worthy.

On the basis of my own behaviour and, crass as it may seem, I think the secret is Pay Money.  If I “buy in” to an activity by actually buying in (i.e. paying a fee) I am much more likely to say “I’d love to help you on Monday morning but I have a Qigong class at that time.”  I am also much more likely to attend the class. Then, I go off to my volunteering task.

If you are a new retiree who might enjoy volunteering, begin with one commitment you will truly enjoy. Then, sign up and pay up for activities that are just for fun.  Yoga and Life Drawing.  French classes and Flower Arranging.  Whatever.  You’ll attend, you’ll have a great time, and you will have the perfect reason to say ‘No” when the “sector” exerts its mysterious forces. 

I’ve already said “No” once this week.  It is good feeling.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

#252: Scotch

This time last year I was talking to another librarian about retirement.  He was really looking forward to it, so I asked what he would most enjoy about not working.
"A double scotch at lunch", he said without missing a beat.  

Today, that doesn't sound like a bad idea.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

#251: All of the Above

How do you know that you should refuse to take on added responsibility within a group to which you belong---even if it is very tempting?  Check whichever apply:

  • Rotisserie chicken has crept back onto your shopping list. You have no time to cook.
  • You hope that delivering books to your retirement home readers qualifies as weight-bearing and aerobic exercise.
  • Your current volunteer activities are starting to feel like work--right down to the projects completed at home in the evening.
  • Housework?  What housework? All the wastebaskets in your house needed to be emptied in April.
  • You have just returned two books to the library, unread, and untouched.
  • The tomato plant you purchased over a week ago is still in its nursery pot.  The entire garden feels jilted.
  • You can’t help thinking “I need another holiday!”
  • Your husband keeps saying:  “I thought you were retired.”

And he has a point.  Retired people are allowed to say NO, and that is what I am going to do.

Monday, 14 May 2012

#250: Family (History) Matters

One of the things that I fully intend to do as a retiree is work on my family tree.

And I am not alone.  In years past, the people who came to the information desk clutching fat file folders and looking for the “genealogy department” were invariably older folks who had the time and inclination to investigate their origins. They were not above making a special trip to Ontario to carry out their investigation and our library became another destination on their family history holiday, along with local cemeteries, churches and city archives.

But they were often thwarted in their pursuit of family facts.  An hour or two at the public library will usually not yield much if the mother lode is hidden in a book or on microfilm.  These researchers from Kentucky, Ohio or Manitoba would often return  home with only a single date or name – a tiny clue to help them unravel the mystery of their past.

It is so much faster and easier now to do family history with the help of web sites such as  You can even try out the service without commitment and take a limited peek into your genealogy.  I entered my mother’s name and birthday and was shown part of a record which may or may not be correct. How intriguing!  I’d love to know more, which is just what the Ancestry folk are counting on.

I may eventually sign up and pay $30.00 for the privilege of doing family research for six weeks in the privacy of my own home.  But since most libraries subscribe to, I could begin my search there, using the library internet for free.   It would be worth it to find out if my mum was a Sara (as we all thought) or a Sarah (which she is in the one public record that I could view online).

I can just imagine her as a Twenties girl, discarding that old-fashioned “h”....

I’m hooked already. I’m already picking apples off that family tree and I haven’t even planted it yet.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

#249: 200 Kisses

"I have 200 grandchildren!"

I am having a nice conversation with a cheerful, elderly woman and she is telling me about her family.

Two hundred? My goodness!  I am stunned and tell her so, but I am thinking is this even possible?

She explains that her six children have all had large families, and of course, there are many great grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren.   Best of all, many of them live nearby and they visit her frequently.  She smiles again. "I am never lonely. I have a lot of company!"

Still amazed, I mentally do the math (6 x 6 x 6....).   If I had wanted to plant kisses on 200 downy heads, I needed a different game plan about 45 years ago.

My two daughters are already over 30 and I can pretty much guarantee that between them, they will never produce even six children.  Maybe one or two if I am lucky, but I’m not counting on it. 

Besides, wouldn’t it be a burden remembering 200 names?  And imagine the worry.  There is lot of scope for screwing up in such a large group.  I would be a nervous wreck! The tsunami of cards, letters, phone calls and visits on Mother’s Day would not make up for 364 days of stress.

But I congratulate this super-grandma.  I’m delighted that she is 200 x happy.

Today is Mother's Day, and I am happy, too.  My little family is just fine.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

#248: Safe at Home

An email arrived yesterday from a friend who lives in a lovely town house condo.  She wanted me and all her other aging book group buddies to know that there is a unit in her development on the market. 

As a health professional, she pointed out the special features that made this dwelling particularly suitable for older people.  “There is a main floor bedroom and bath, perfect for those who want to remain independent longer. It doesn’t matter how many support services you have, if you break your hip and can’t climb the stairs to your second floor bedroom, you will not be allowed to return home.”

Well.  That makes you sit up and take notice, doesn’t it? 

And here I am in our two story house. We have lots of stairs, no main floor bathroom and no main floor bedroom, for sure. And we aren’t getting any younger.

Her cautionary advice is perfectly correct.  But there are some topics I’m just not ready to deal with, and this is one of them.  I don't want to move. Maybe when the garden is too much work,  or if I start avoiding the basement laundry.   Perhaps if I find myself puffing as I go up the stairs to bed....

But not right now.  For the time being, I think I am equal to this right-sized house in the neighbourhood we love.  As for the future,  I'll keep exercising to improve strength and balance, and I’ll be sensible and use handrails.  I think I’m good for another 10 years .......

It is such a nuisance typing with crossed fingers. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

#247: Apples and Optimism

Ontario’s fruit crop took a major hit during our last cold snap.  All those Niagara fruit trees were seduced into putting forth hopeful buds only have them frozen solid a couple of weeks later.

I feel sorry for the farmers and I feel sorry for myself because I love Ontario fruit and I eat bushels of it all through the year.

The last time I remember a fruit panic like this was probably in the late 70’s.  Florida oranges had frozen in an unseasonable frost, and orange juice supplies were threatened.  My friends and I were sure our kids would go without juice. We bought as much as we could and put it in the freezer, just in case.

In the end, there was enough orange juice to go around and if we didn’t want to pay the increased cost, we convinced our families that apple and grape juices were just as tasty. Somehow we survived. 

If you have been around several decades, you can take the long view about a lot of things, and not feel quite so anxious.  Perhaps that is why healthy old people seem reasonably content.  They know from experience that most of the time, most things turn out alright.       

As for me, I will definitely miss my favourite Honeycrisp apples.  But I am equal to the challenge of finding some new favourite fruits.  It’s good to shake things up a little, even it’s just a fruit salad.   

Thursday, 10 May 2012

#246: Old Friends

My husband and I had dinner last night with an old friend, someone we first met in New Zealand 40 years ago.  As usual, we had a good time catching up.  We told her about our amazing holiday, and she told us about hers. 

She had attended an excellent conference in Santa Fe, but the highlight of the trip was re-connecting with her BFF from high school, a woman she last saw in 1957.  I was impressed and wanted to know more about the visit.  “Amazing” was her answer.  “We had such a lot to talk about. She has had a wonderful, interesting life, just as I might have expected.  We fell back into the friendship as if no time had passed at all."

I am looking forward to spending time tomorrow with one of my old friends, someone I rarely see now that she lives in another country.  We don’t go back 57 or even 40 years, but 33 years is still a long time, and I am pretty sure that we will carry on just as we did when she lived down the street.  We are still the same people, and what we liked about one another all those years ago has not changed.

There is nothing like a visit with old friends. 

Of course, to have old friends, you have to be old.  But that is a trade-off I can accept.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

#245: Do Retirees Rule the Marketplace?

Today I did a bit of shopping.

First I went to a hair salon downtown where another senior and I were the only clients. Then I dropped into the bookshop where two or three older people were checking out the displays.  In two clothing stores I tried on dresses along with a couple of women my age. 

With a few more errands to complete, I visited the drugstore near the mall.  By now, I was consciously on the lookout for older customers.  Sure enough, several were maneuvering their walkers around Shoppers Drug Mart, and it wasn’t even Seniors’ Day.

Then off to the bird-feed store to stock up.  Again, the retirees were lined up at the till.

By the time I got home, I could anticipate the answer when I asked my husband about the barber shop cohort waiting with him when he got his hair cut that morning.   Yes, indeed: “Just the usual bunch of retired guys.”

Is it my imagination, or do seniors keep the wheels of commerce turning from Monday to Friday?

Of course, I was only in and out of senior-friendly stores.  I didn’t check out the tattoo parlors and skater shops.  Or the hemp store.

Perhaps more research is indicated....

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

#244: Loveliest of Seasons

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough...

Crabapple trees are lovely, too.

I first read this poem by A. E. Housman when I was a schoolgirl in Calgary in the 50's. I had never seen a cherry tree, but I still understood what the poet was talking about.   Housman concludes that if he wants to appreciate “the cherry hung with snow”, he should waste no time because:

 Of my three score years and ten
 Twenty will not come again.

I feel the same now, except that by his poetic calculations I only have two years left in which to enjoy my favourite season.

One of the best things about travelling to work was my 25 km. drive through the greening countryside of rural Ontario.  In springtime, for an hour each day, I delighted in the old lilac and apple trees blooming where they must have been planted long ago beside farm gates that have now disappeared. 

But in retirement, when it is spring, it is all spring all the time. There is nothing now to keep me from sitting under my frothy, pink flowering crabapple (I still don't have a cherry tree) all day, every day.

And I am much more optimistic than good old Housman.  I am counting on many more years in which to go about the woodland, my neighbourhood, and my garden to marvel at the miracle of spring.

Monday, 7 May 2012

#243: The Teacher Advantage

At Qi Gong today, our instructor asked how many of us were retired teachers.  Of the twenty-or-so people in the group, at least half put their hands up.

When I discover a coincidence like this, I naturally wonder what is going on.  Are teachers natural joiners?  Do they just prefer to learn in a class setting?  How peculiar that this particular class is so popular with this group..... 

Or maybe it is not so strange.

My guess is that many of these former teachers worked together and they have kept in touch.  One of them may have enthused about the classes and pretty soon, they are all Strolling over the Mountains or Reaching up to Support the Heavens.

And exercise is not the only benefit.  They are learning a new skill and hanging out with friends.

I am tempted to observe that if you want a happy, healthy retirement, it helps to have gone to teachers’ college thirty or forty years earlier.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

#242: Fashion Footnote

Painterly prints are turning everything from tunics to trousers into wearable art. Anchor the look with bold horizontal stripes, which tame even the busiest of prints. Having declared yesterday that retirees are, in general, a pretty stylish bunch, I feel the need to point out that there are some looks that I will never aspire to.  I have my limits, and was reminded of them when I came across a newspaper item on the latest fashion trend: mixing prints and patterns.

My mother did warn me.  She considered mixing patterns an egregious fashion faux pas.   Admittedly, she gave me a lot of other fashion advice which I now ignore.  I wear brown with black, white after Labour Day, and none of my handbags match any of my shoes.  But this combining thing .... I think she was spot on.  At least for women of a certain age.

Imagine this flowered pants and stripey sweater outfit on a woman over 65. What comes to mind?  Fashion maven or bag lady?

If an old guy mixes prints and patterns, we know he must be living by himself ; no woman has had the opportunity to say "Surely you are not wearing that out in public!"  But similar garb on an older woman?  What is her excuse?  Perhaps she didn't listen to her mother.

Some super confident ladies might pull off this look. Barbara Amiel could pose at the corner of Bloor and Bay in her mixed pattern ensemble and not raise eyebrows.  I, on the other hand, would not look "with it" in such an outfit. More like "out of it".  Eccentric.  Colour-blind.  Dotty.  I would be arrested for panhandling.

Fortunately, being retired means freedom to ignore foolish fashion trends.  But style, thank goodness -- style is always in fashion.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

#241: Fashion File

My early morning trip to the grocery store yesterday stalled a bit when I noticed that my t-shirt was inside out.  Should I just leave it? After all, it was going to be under a jacket. No one would notice.

But, I would notice.  I would feel as if I were truly giving in to slipshod tendencies. Not something I want to encourage in myself now that I am retired.  Next thing, I would be forgetting my bra. So I fixed the shirt.

And I’m not the only 68 year old woman out there who thinks that grocery shopping is a reason to look respectable.  In fact, once I started checking out my older fellow shoppers, I concluded that retirees, --especially the women—look pretty darn well turned out.  You don’t see them pushing their shopping carts around Zehrs dressed in pajama bottoms, sweat shirts and Crocs.  Perhaps, like me, they have sartorial standards to maintain for fear of looking like sloppy (and incompetent) pensioners.

But there could be some other reasons at play.  Perhaps these well-groomed older women getting groceries:
  •   own a pre-retirement wardrobe of nice clothes and still wear them, even to the grocery store.
  •   have the time to search their closets for a good-looking outfit and the right accessories.
  •  want to look their best because they might see someone they know while shopping,  (They know that if they look unkempt, they are guaranteed to meet someone they know.)
  •  are actually going out later and want to look nicely well turned-out.
So, for the record, if you see me at Zehrs I will be wearing underwear and all my clothes (even the ones you can’t see) the right way around.

I may even have a more exciting appointment after the shopping is done.       

Friday, 4 May 2012

#240: Service Call

I am sure I have mentioned that it used to drive me crazy when, at work, an older person would offer to wait while I attended to someone else’s needs.  The older library patron would offer the explanation: “Take your time.  I’m retired and I don’t mind waiting”.

I usually took them up on their offer, but what I wanted to say was “No way.  Your time valuable, too!” 

But now that I am getting the hang of being retired, I see their point – to a certain degree.  Between the two of us, my husband and I do have more discretionary time, so if a service person needs to drop by to sort out our water softener (last week) trouble shoot our super-slow internet service (this week) or consult about TV aerials (today), we can arrange to be available.  We don’t have to leave the key under the mat, book off work, or arrange for an evening or Saturday service call. 

But we still have to find something to do at home “between 1:00 and 6:00” while we are waiting.  (Those service people seem to give themselves a lot of latitude, regardless of the day).

And take it from me.  Retired on or not, killing time for 5 hours is a bummer.