Baby Boomers Health and Aging

Wayne Clark and Woody Clark

Health is the first on the list of topics to discuss about Baby Boomers in their retirement. In the next few blogs, we will begin by looking at physical health and aging, everything from chronic illnesses to disease management, epidemics, to injuries such as simple falls. All viewing our health when the consequences have a greater impact on our bodies as we age. We seek out boomer health through the lens of prevention, by promotion, and practical ways to mitigate consequences. Finding ways to promote healthy practices, managing injury and disease. For instance, a colleague of ours took a fall recently while walking his dogs. No severe damage, broken bones or even anything more than minor scrapes and bruises. When it happened, there were a couple of other seniors nearby who rushed over to help him.  They were very supportive and expressed concern how people our age, need to be very careful about any injuries great or small that can result from falls. They recounted several friends that had fallen, they said its worse than you think, take care of the injury and don’t try to do to much until it has healed, sound straight forward recommendations from their experience. This incident reminded us of our parents falling and what started happening to them after that first seemingly innocent fall, the red flag that we don’t heal as fast as we used to and that all too often this was the harbinger of more illness to come.

Several years ago, Wayne read an article about how airbags in cars significantly reduced injuries due to car accidents, the airbags did not prevent car accidents, but the airbags did mitigate the health consequences from blunt trauma. He also knew several seniors at the time who fell, broke a hip, fractured an elbow, and unfortunately started a downward spiral to other accidents, injuries and diseases. He found a body of literature from hospital emergency rooms that showed a growing problem with injuries associated with the elderly falling. To paraphrase one conclusion: if falls were a disease, we would be declaring it an epidemic. He then did some research about how airbags worked, such as gyroscope chip technology recognition of tilting and new micro chemical reaction technology that makes airbags inflate, all looking toward placing airbags in clothes. He wondered even though airbags in clothes would not prevent a fall, they would minimize fractures, bruises and other injuries. The point is that we have a growing number of boomers (10,000 a day) who are at special risk of falling due to balance issues, slower healing process, dizziness, etc. followed by other health consequences. We will not prevent falls, but many of us will move to single story living, will have floors that are smoother, shoes that are less subject to tripping, exercises that promote improved balance, and yes maybe someday have airbags in our clothes that will buffer the inevitable fall.

               Woody discovered in the early 1980s after connecting with Norman Cousins then the editor of the Saturday Review who also wrote books about health, how to recover and get better. Woody produced a documentary feature film on Cousins titled The Healing Force because “Laughter is the best Medicine”.  The film was also made into shorter documentaries hosted by Angie Dickinson on “Health”, “Cancer” and “Heart Attacks”. Cousins used his personal experience after having a serious heart attack in NYC where he was not recovering. The hospitals wanted to operate on his heart, but instead he decided to stay in a hotel nearby where he watched television comedy series and films that made him laugh. Cousins recovered.  This is an example of a natural healing approach to health and wellbeing.

              Now we have the threat of a pandemic that unfortunately has the highest mortality rate in the boomer generation both for those who are at risk due to our age group (over 60) and the higher prevalence of chronic illnesses. The scientists are working on vaccines and treatments to stem the spread of the pandemic, but meanwhile we should all be paying careful attention to some tried and true ways of not spreading or catching this deadly virus. Social distance for seniors is both common (loneliness) but also a problem in and of itself. The literature has identified that in addition to exercise and diet, there is human social interaction that is vital to healthy living. So, for the next several months or even longer, stay in contact with friends and family, in person less, maybe thru social media more, and take advice on the other natural prevention methods. Things to do now — TODAY — like covering our mouths when sneezing, washing our hands for at least twenty seconds, not touching our face (or if you must use a tissue) and being in limited contact with others, etc. Above all, no hand shakings just hit each other’s elbows or shoes to say HI with a smile.