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Pick a number

Have you had The Moment yet?

That’s the time when you realize you are – take a deep breath – old. And not just old, but a member of the merry band of people known as the “elderly” or worse, as the “frail elderly”.

Now I would have bet my AARP membership that I was 20 years away from old. Old was an every-receding horizon. I could march forward in life and yet never reach that horizon. Inside, I was forty-three. Sometimes, in my more rebellious modes, I was even a snotty fifteen. OK, when surrounded by twelve youngsters who called me grandma, I shot up into my late 50’s. But really, I didn’t feel old.

My moment: What did it?

Heat did it. Yeah, I know that in Northern California there was also smoke and ozone pollution, but it was the heat. I had to leave a 50th class reunion early because of the heat. Had to cancel radio shows because of the heat and eventually, hightailed it for the fog of the coast because the numbers on the thermometer went into the three-digit range.

But who was this new wimp? Could it be someone who, on the online weather sites, is called a “sensitive group”. Could it be “elderly”?

Seems so. Me, the sick and the infants. Me who used to be able to hike hours in the Arizona summer sunshine.

Part of the problem is that I don’t perspire much or at all. The natural cooling system is on the blink. My doc tells me to carry a spray bottle of water. I have been known to pour an entire bottle of water over my head – at times one might call inappropriate. But part of the problem has to be connected to my age.

So what to do after your “moment”?

When such a moment comes – and it will – pay attention and take care of whatever vulnerability makes you feel old. Whether it’s heat sensitivity, lung issues connected to pollution, heart issues connected to exertion, joint problems connected to – well – joints, take care and fix it. Read up, look for solutions and consult a good health care practitioner. Heck, write medical columnist Dr. Gott, he who gives advice in this paper. If he doesn’t have a suggestion for just about every ill, nobody does.

If the problem is heat

Mr. Carrier invented air conditioning for summers like this. And there are simply lovely fans, both electric and paper. (You can buy a box of little paper fans online at eBay for almost nothing.) At a sports store, buy one of those cooling neckerchiefs filled with water-absorbing beads that you soak and then tie around the neck. They work by slow evaporation. The fridge is a smart place to store these wet bandannas at night.

Drink lots of water – duh! – and don’t sit out in the car while your mate waits in the prescription line at the pharmacy. Cars in summer are death traps, literally. It’s amazing how fast they heat up.

Also remember Tom Lehrer’s song: Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun. Pretend you are Spanish and take a siesta in the hot afternoon and come to life at night when it’s cooler. However, party, not hearty, but smart. Alcohol will only make you feel warmer, no matter how charming that G&T looks visually.

Words to the Wise

You may have a vulnerable body part or a glitch in some system, but it doesn’t mean some bad fairy suddenly turned you into a down and out geezer. Sure, you may have a parts problem, but don’t allow The Moment to eat away at your entire self image. I figure I have an antiquated cooling system, but the rest of me is fine. Brain is better than ever. Sassiness levels up to the mark. Engine running smoothly, but darn it sure runs hot. So I just have to pull over to the side of the road and lift the hood up now and then.

And you, your bad part may be sixty-five or ninety years old, but the rest of you is whatever you say it is. Try fifty as a nice number.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist and certifiable geezer. Her book of advice for older women, Hot Granny, is available at The Book Seller in Grass Valley and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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