Saturday, March 28, 2020

One Community Copes with Quarantine

It is a challenge staying home 24/7. Fresh air helps – a balcony or porch, front or back yard makes it more tolerable. A walkable neighborhood is a plus. I walk on sunny, warmish days. I am not alone – sort of. I pass neighbors (at a safe distance) walking their dogs, folks of all ages riding bikes, couples strolling, often hand in hand, solo walkers and runners. Everyone has been respectful and keep their distance, waving, bellowing “hi, how ya doing?”

Wandering outdoors lifts the spirits in these troubling times. In my part of the world the gray dreariness of a Northeast winter is easing into the colors of spring early this year. My yard, a couple of small patches with no grass, is full of bushes and a variety of flowers planted over the years. Probably due to a combination of a mild winter and lots of rain, flowers sprout early and blossom beautifully. 

My town is getting into the spirit of spring and its implication, hope for the future. A neighborhood initiative called Rainbow Trail is the brainchild of a couple of local Moms. People post rainbows, most homemade, on their doors and windows as a colorful sign of optimism in the future. The pictures offer an opportunity for kids to scour the neighborhood for rainbows, a fun family activity. Folks of all ages pass by and smile when spotting the bright symbols. 

Creating sidewalk messages is another way our community spreads cheer.
Routine home-based activities include reading, preparing meals, exercising, watching TV, laundry and cleaning. Now that the opportunity arises we try new pursuits and resurrect old ones...Tackling intricate puzzles is not a usual activity, but a pastime now attempted while watching mindless TV or endless news briefings...I look forward to planting a vegetable garden, binge watching programs recommended by friends and shrinking my pile of must-read books. And taping a rainbow on my window.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Our Indefinite Staycation

We are lucky, and unlucky, to be seniors in these uncertain times. Hub and I are not confined at home with kids to entertain 24/7. On the other hand we are in the age group vulnerable to coronavirus COVID-19. We are lucky to live in a home that comfortably accommodates two people. Our neighborhood is conducive to getting outdoors. However we spend too much time hovering in front of the TV listening to dire predictions, a downer for our mental health.

My yard is becoming a colorful bright spot in dreary times.
Speaking of our neighborhood...we live in a beach town ‘open’ all year. The population swells over the summer with snow birds and second-home owners, out-of-town family and friends. Most second home owners hail from Philadelphia, New York, and the Washington, D.C. area. Over the past couple of weeks many snow birds, rarely arriving before April, returned to town. City folks, last observed Labor Day and not usually seen again until Memorial Day weekend, materialized early this year, like the flowers that have sprouted prematurely in my yard.

As a result of the increased population and everyone’s desire to stock up, local stores ran out of provisions. Supplied for a winter population, they were not prepared for the influx. Local governments are concerned with their ability to service the increasing numbers in town, especially if many get sick. Towns are urging folks NOT to spend their home confinement time at the shore. But folks will spend time wherever they want. Everyone – individuals, businesses, governments – are adapting to the new temporary normal, with hiccups as they adjust.

Monday was a landmark day in our town. Our favorite ice cream shop opened for the season – take-out only. Hub walked over to get our first delicious taste in months. He was surprised to see quite a few people with the same idea. People queued up, standing several feet apart. Hub waited outside until a space opened, went in, ordered, quickly received his precious package and walked home. A slice of ’normalness’ in strange times.

I ordered curbside pickup from our local grocery store. I called in the order and a couple of hours later drove to the store and stopped in front of the entrance. A clerk delivered my groceries to the car, placing the bags on the back seat. The store was out of some items ordered, but nothing vital. 

One morning I ordered sandwiches from the bagel shop, open for take-out and delivery only. Again I drove, but this time walked into the store to pay and pick up my breakfast. I feel it is important to patronize the few locally owned businesses open. They need our support to remain open and with any luck survive until better times.

I am cooking more than what, in the past, I would term ‘the norm’. Soup from scratch, salads with more than a couple of ingredients, vegetable dishes and casseroles. Trying to keep meals healthy and not too high in calories, and definitely consuming less salt and sugar.

I confess I am not exercising enough. No yoga or zumba or tap classes to frequent, no gym to stop by. Hub and I take walks when the weather obliges and I do my stretches at home, but it is not the same. I need the motivation of a class.  

What would we do without the internet? Zoom is on the lips of people of all ages. Meetings, religious services, programs now moving online, concerts, virtual visits to museums, the list goes on. It is not the same as personal contact, but beats being completely isolated from ‘regular’ life.

Going forward special projects are on my to-do list. I reviewed piles of papers and shredded. There are stacks of pictures to sift through, drawers to clean out, thrift shop bags to fill, books to read, virtual scrabble with family...

Our staycation continues indefinitely, but we look forward to restarting activities missed – going anywhere unconcerned about social distancing, socializing with family and friends, attending meetings and programs, traveling (anywhere!).

Until then everyone stay safe, healthy, and sane at home.
Looking forward to gardening this year!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Boomers Brave a Pandemic

All of us are focused these days on one objective – not getting sick. Specifically, the Coronavirus COVID-19, particularly cruel to individuals with medical issues and seniors. An illness medical professionals are dealing with for the first time, we maneuver unknown territory as best we can.

Of course the Coronavirus is top of everyone's mind. In Different Views of the Virus, Part I, Tom at Sightings Over Sixty takes a bemused look at how two different people approach the epidemic from two different points of view. That the two different views involve himself and his wife does present an interesting situation.

Rebecca Olkowski with has Coronavirus on her mind because everyone’s talking about it and not everyone is seeing it as a serious threat. As Baby Boomers, we’re vulnerable and need to be careful. Here are her thoughts on what she’s doing to prevent getting sick.
 On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal writes about what you should do with your groceries during this coronavirus era. Among the tips are to wash nonporous containers and wash your hands, counter, and other surfaces touched after you put the groceries away.

A common emotion many of us experience during these uncertain times is anxiety. Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles has few natural talents, but producing anxiety is right up there. It doesn’t take much to get the hamster wheel spinning – a medical test, taking a flight, meeting a new group of people. But having had this affliction all her life, she's gotten (if not good) at least better about relieving the rat-a-tat of her nervous heart. Here are seven things that help bring on (somewhat) calmness

At A Healing Spirit, Carol has embraced the gift of time that's come with social distancing. Her deep belief in taking action to protect public health means she is spending most of her time at home. In "Life in the time of plague: the gift of time," she shares with us some things you can do with your unexpected free time.

Cancellation of activities and staying home frees up a lot of time. If you are a blogger, or thinking of starting a blog, this is a great time to take the plunge. Jennifer’s blog post is a must-read. Jennifer of Unfold and Begin, shares her struggles and solutions with creating content for her blog.  If you're a blogger who struggles with what to write about then read How to Make Content Creation Not Suck.

Everyone must decide for themselves how to navigate the next few weeks. I sat through a meeting this weekend where we agonized over whether to cancel a series of continuing education classes for seniors. We polled instructors, sampled participants, reviewed medical and government guidelines, and finally decided not to cancel the small group classes where we can follow protocols for social distancing and sanitation. Meanwhile we continue to reevaluate as the situation unfolds. 

Be careful, be smart, and most important, do everything within your control to stay healthy.

Thank you for visiting the boomers and, for a break while listening to the latest news, stop by our boomer blogs and voice a digital hello.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Perforated Paper On A Roll

Sitting home watching a pandemic unfold before my eyes is truly weird, sort of an out of body experience. To (hopefully) avoid getting the coronavirus I listen to the recommendations...

Wash your hands for 20 seconds and wash often...wipe surfaces regularly...avoid large crowds...distance yourself from touching, hugging, kissing. 

At the drugstore the other day a long line of people waited patiently to pay for their toilet paper purchases. Folks kept a couple of feet apart from each other, heeding the warnings. No one attempted to cut in line.

On TV I view lengthy lines at grocery stores, Target and Walmart, carts full of hand sanitizer and toilet paper, and people crowding each other, jostling, touching, standing inches from those around them. Don’t these people know about the guidelines?

Pictures of empty shelves, toilet paper sold out, headline the news.

What is our obsession with toilet paper all about? After all, folks survived without toilet paper for thousands of years... 

The ancient Greeks used stones and pieces of clay. Public restrooms in ancient Rome contained sponges on a stick, kept in pots filled with salty water. Eskimos used snow and tundra moss. People have used leaves, grass, fur, corncobs and mussel or coconut shells. The French royals used lace. Colonial Americans used corncobs and paper torn from newspapers and magazines. The Sears catalog was commonly recycled for toilet paper. The Farmers Almanac had a hole in the top corner so it could be hung and pieces of paper easily torn off.

The first documented use of toilet paper dates from the year 580 A.D. in China. Toilet paper was a prized commodity exclusively for the use of royalty and the wealthy. Records from the 14th century indicate toilet paper was made for the Emperor in 2-foot by 3-foot sheets.

Fast forward to 19th century America. Indoor plumbing was becoming standard in American homes. In 1857 a resourceful American inventor and entrepreneur, Joseph Gayetty, produced individual sheets of paper he termed “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper”. The product was unsuccessful, most likely due to the absence of advertising.

Seth Wheeler acquired a patent for perforated rolls of paper in 1871. By 1877 his company, the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company, sold perforated rolls of toilet paper in plain brown wrappers. The company thought people would be too embarrassed to buy the item if packages were identified.

A decade later brothers Irvin and Clarence Scott founded the Scott Paper Company. The company introduced toilet tissue in 1890, and by the end of the 19th century manufactured perforated rolls of toilet paper. Victorian mores forbid advertising the product. Wholesalers promoted the product locally and put their own name on the product. 

Eventually the Scott Paper Company decided to sell its own name brands. In 1902 they purchased the name “Waldorf” from one of their customers – the well-regarded Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City - and Waldorf became the oldest name-brand toilet tissue in the United States. 

Another breakthrough in toilet tissue production occurred in 1935 when Northern Tissue advertised the first “splinter-free” paper. 

In the past century and a half toilet paper has become an essential item in every home in America. The average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day, or about 20,805 sheets a year. The toilet paper business is a $2.4 billion industry.

Americans may face a unique problem when the pandemic passes. What to do with all the toilet paper stockpiled in our pantries? They will not spoil or get moldy or ever be out of date, but do we want them taking up so much space? Check out this website and this one for ideas on what to do with your extra rolls.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Invisibles

I like to describe myself as a proudly visible member of the most invisible segments of our society – older women.    -     Cindy Gallop

Have you ever felt ignored? Whether in a social setting, retail establishment, at work or anywhere, it seems to be a not uncommon event in the lives of older folks – more so with women than men. Men on the greater side of 50 are described with adjectives such as distinguished, notable, revered. White hair is dignified and imposing on men. People admire, respect and pay attention to older men. Women of the same vintage are aging, mature, or simply old, the pressure for women to look young pervasive in our society.

The notion that gray hair implies old women, folks to be shoved aside in the work place and everyplace else, is pervasive in American culture, but slowly fading. Women are beginning to revel in their gray locks. I am not there yet, but slowly transitioning, at least mentally if not actually. 

This weekend hub and I attended a milestone event, a Bar Mitzvah, the center of attention a 13-year-old boy. Bar Mitzvah is a religious ceremony where a boy or girl (a Bat Mitzvah for a girl) stands before the congregation, participates in the service, and is welcomed into the community as an adult member now able to fully participate in religious services. A social event celebrating the occasion often follows the religious service.

As invitees to the event, we were surrounded by young people. Not only 13-year-olds –there were a lot of them – but men and women of all ages younger than we are. That is normal in our world today, but sometimes we are undeniably reminded of our advancing age and not thrilled by the revelation. We know we are older, but don’t necessarily want it pointed out. I felt that way at the party.

We were the folks at the old people’s table.

Remember the old folks when you were young and innocent? The men and women hunched over, maybe walking with a cane, tottering around, the women in thick stockings rolled down over their knees, wearing clunky shoes. They sat at a table in the far corner of the room, rarely moving, observing all the activity but not participating. If any of these ancients were relatives we knew, we went over, greeted them, then left to romp with friends.

Fast forward, and we are the old people. No cane yet, my stockings are black transparent ones NOT rolled over my knees, and my shoes, although not yet clunky, are definitely comfy.

We had a table in the back, but not in the far corner of the room. Reflecting on the perfectly placed event table, my criteria is as follows: far from the DJ and blaring music, although close enough to hear announcements, a short walk to the buffet table, and NOT a lengthy hike to the restroom. 

We are the older generation. The comrades at our table ranged in age from the early sixties to (early) seventies, not ancient in my estimation, and definitely not old-old. But I wonder what the 13-year-olds thought of us, although I suspect they may not have thought of us at all. 

In many ways we do not look like our predecessors. Some of us dye our hair. We look healthier. The women’s clothes are not old-fashioned and out-of-date, although most of our figures are, and that applies to both men and women. 

I wonder if the old folks I knew when a kid believed they were ignored by everyone else in the room. Or felt old. An aspect of growing old I find difficult to get my head around is that I don’t think old (most of the time), and much of the time don’t feel old, but when I look in the mirror the realization hits...Wow, I am old mature on the very high side of middle age...

Hub and I enjoyed the party and the company of friends seldom seen (this was an out-of-town event), danced (the girls a lot, the men not so much), and relished the fact that we were healthy enough to attend and participate in the festivities.

Returning to my opening premise...The fact of senior invisibility has been illustrated in TV shows and movies, but perhaps not as humorously, yet poignantly, as in the following excerpt from a Grace and Frankie show. In this segment, Grace and Frankie, a.k.a. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, react passionately when ignored in a convenience store.

I will never be an old man. 
To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.
-       Francis Bacon