Traveling Alone? Here Are Some Tips

We all  know we don’t have to take off our shoes in airport security after 75, but there are a few other things that make travel easier.

Even if you’re not handicapped, you can request a wheelchair to meet you at the airport entrance and take you all the way down that long corridor to your gate. They’ll also lift your heavy carry on bag into the overhead bin.

More important are some tips about staying in hotels and motels alone. First, join any and all hotel chain clubs because the points DO add up giving you free nights now and then.

Next, ask for a room near the elevators. I know, they can be noisier, but most of us don’t hear all that well anymore. In addition, it saves you a long walk down the hall alone, where troublemakers may hurt or rob you.

Bring 100 watt bulbs to put in the lamps, since the management usually uses very low watts to save money.

Sleep on the side of the bed far from the phone. Managers tell us most people answer the phone then sit on that side of the bed while they talk and it’s got less bounce. They do it even with cell phones.

If you’re placed in a first floor room with doors leading to a patio or garden, check the door locks before turning in. I once was in a motel where I did that, discovered they were open, locked them and went to sleep.The next morning the lobby was filled with local detectives because everyone else in my wing had been robbed. It seems a maid left the doors unlocked and someone went into the open rooms, right in front of the sleeping guests , and took their wallets off the top of dressers.

That’s another tip:Put your wallet (and passport) in the room safe (or under your pillow) when you go to sleep.

My friend Joan discovered another safety tip when she sold her home, bought a motorhome and traveled the country for a year looking for the best place to retire. When asked if she was afraid to drive alone, she said, “No, I bought a plastic blow- up man at Service Merchandise, and put him in the seat next to me. Everyone thought he was real.”

Now that she’s settled in Florida, the plastic man lies crumpled up in a heap on the floor of her front closet. ###

Dating Old Boyfriend? How’s That Workin’?

 The following piece was written by my friend/colleague, Journalist Andrea Rock and is the lead story of this week’s “Health After Fifty” Website.

For more stories that also interest widows, see

Is Dating an Old Friend a Good Idea?

Andrea Rock

Being hit with that random blast from the past also may make you wonder what would happen if you had a chance to reconnect with that person now, especially if you’re among the growing number of middle-aged and older Americans who are divorced, widowed, or otherwise single.

There’s a reason memories of those romantic relationships tend to recur over the years, even when you’ve spent most of your life with another person whom you’ve loved just as much or more. “Neurologically, loving someone always leaves a mark, good or bad,” says Justin Garcia, Ph.D., an associate director at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University. “But if the relationship occurred during the formative period of your life when you were building your sense of self and your sexual identity, the pull of those memories is even stronger.”

And while there are various ways you might cross paths with a love from long ago, living in today’s digital world increases the likelihood of that happening. “With the growing use of social media by people in this age group, we’re seeing more people who are actually getting back in touch and interacting with a former sweetheart,” Garcia says.

An email that changed everything

In fact, that’s exactly what sparked such a reunion for one suburban Chicago woman when she least expected it—at the age of 83. For seven years she had been living alone following the death of her husband, with whom she’d had two children and a happy 55-year marriage.

“I was living alone, but I had enough friends to enjoy a full life and I hadn’t even thought about dating,” says “Cathy,” who asked that we not use her real name to protect her privacy. “My relationship with my husband had been so good that I thought it was too high a bar for someone else to reach.”

But everything changed one day when she got an email from a man who’d been her first serious boyfriend in high school. She hadn’t heard from him since they parted ways after he decided to attend a university in California and ended up settling out there. Cathy opted to earn her degree at a college in Illinois, which is where she met her husband.

“Howard” (not his real name) was able to get back in touch with her because he spotted Cathy’s profile on the social networking site LinkedIn and invited her to connect. Cathy laughs when she recalls how she reacted to that first email from Howard: “I wrote back right away, and here’s what I said: “I’m so glad you’re alive. Most everyone else we knew is dead.”

Not only were they both still alive, but they also were sharp mentally, physically fit, and in good health overall. After communicating long-distance via phone and email for a couple of months, they decided to get together in person, meeting halfway in Phoenix.

“It was a rare and precious opportunity,” she says. “Not only did we ignite the romance of our youth, but over the next three years we had some wonderful adventures together, traveling to Utah, Yellowstone, and other beautiful parts of America I’d never seen.”

Howard sometimes came to Chicago to visit her, but it was Cathy who did most of the shuttling back and forth. Every three months or so she’d fly out to join him for three or four weeks of travel. “He had a luxurious motor home complete with a 1,000-book library that we’d travel in, so it was like being on a comfortable but still exciting vacation,” she says.

A light-bulb moment

But as time wore on she found it increasingly difficult to take off for weeks at a time. “I felt torn, because while I was with him, I started worrying about things that needed to be done at home, and when I was back, I’d be wondering how he was doing on his own.”

A turning point came when Cathy returned from one those trips as she was approaching her 86th birthday. She walked into her beloved home and found herself breathing a sigh of relief. “It finally hit me between the eyes. If I were in my 50s, maybe I could continue all of this traveling back and forth, but at my age, time is even more precious. I really wanted to spend as much of it as I could in the home I love, doing what’s really important to me.”

Cathy realized that while they both loved to read, in other ways she and Howard were quite different. What Howard loved most was being out in nature, surrounded by mountains. Cathy, however, preferred going to plays, seeing movies, or meeting friends for dinner in the city. “No matter how much I cared about Howard, I realized it was too much of a compromise for me to keep going back and forth to the other side of the country to live the life he loved.”

When Cathy called to explain how she was feeling, Howard said he understood completely and agreed that they should each maintain their individuality and live where they were happiest. Despite being far apart geographically, they remain very close. “I still love to talk with him and we actually chat on the phone every night,” she says. “But I also treasure having an independent life, which is something most women in my generation didn’t have when we were younger.”

Cathy’s unwillingness to compromise is actually one of the hallmarks of singles in their 50s and up, according to results of a recent survey released by Our Time, an online dating site for Baby Boomers. The poll found that 55 percent of the singles age 50 and up surveyed said they knew exactly what they wanted when it came to relationships. An even higher proportion—nearly 75 percent—said they knew what they didn’t want.

The bottom line

Getting back in touch with a special someone from your youth can be worthwhile, regardless of the ultimate outcome. “Reconnecting is an opportunity to explore your relationship at a different point in life,” says the Kinsey Institute’s Garcia, who is also an assistant professor of gender studies.

“For some it can lead to rekindling romantic love, but others may find they are just taking care of unfinished business. Sometimes they may recognize that it was best that they went their separate ways when they did,” he says. ###

One More Time: Don’t say ‘Yes’

The world is awash with scammers–and too many prey on unprotected widows and seniors.

Recently my 85-year-old cousin got a call supposedly from her granddaughter, saying, “I’m in the police station. I had a car accident and they took me here and won’t let me go until I pay them $500. Can you send it to me?”

We heard about that scam before  and most of us know that’s never our granddaughter and never send money.

But this had a new twist. The caller (who did NOT sound like her granddaughter) asked, “Can you hear me?”

Fortunattely, my cousin had been warned about that too by the managers of her building, so she said, “I can hear you.,” But she DID NOT SAY “YES.”

That’s the important part. If you say, “Yes, I can,” the scammer will edit the tape of your voice, and transfer that YES to one that allows them to take money from your bank account.

God only  knows where they get all this information about us to even make the call.

And my cousin wonders how dumb they must be .

“Why would they call me?” she asked.  “I’m broke.”




Watch Out for Robberies

My community newspaper just reported two robberies in the parking lot of our high-end shopping center.

One was jewelry and clothing valued at more than $1,000. The other was clothing in Neiman-Marcus bags at $2,000. Both were taken from unlocked cars.

Come on, People! Who puts such valuable items in a car, parks in a mall lot–and waltzes off to buy even more expensive stuff without  bothering to click  the door locker?

Let me remind you to put valuables in the locked trunk of the car if you must leave them inside.  I add that as a reporter, I learned from our local police that one of the most common thefts occur in supermarkets when shoppers leave purses on the kiddie seat of shopping carts, and wander away to squeeze tomatoes. (And many are unzipped.)

Two more precautions from those loyal men in blue:

  1. Don’t sit around restaurants and other public places bragging that you’re soon leaving on  vacation in the warm, sunny climes. Thieves are lurking in surrounding booths and will follow you home and watch for the day when all is quiet and you have gone.
  2. While it’s convenient to have the USPS hold or forward your mail, think twice before doing it. Police also said mail carriers may sit in those same restaurants and talk loudly about how quickly they finished their routes because all the people on such and such streets are away. Those same “bad dudes” hear that too, and call on those streets. ###

Regal Roofing Comes To Rescue

If you’ve decided to stay in your home as long as possible, as I have, you’re bound to  also face constant repairs, large and small, that need your attention–(and money.)

Just this year my  trusted household repair team:

1.Fixed cracks in the double car asphalt driveway and repainted it with stain (which avoided replacing the entire driveway for $10,000;)

2.Built up a backyard slope that washed  away and puddled with every rain, and planted grass to hold the dirt in place;

3.Recarpeted my entire living dining stairway hall area; and

4.Replaced the furnace.

You know all that was expensive, so I wasn’t prepared to  find water dripping from the ceiling of our small office/bedroom this week. I had called several roofing companies over the summer because I found a crack caused by moisture in the hall stairway. We already had painters fix it twice, so I thought it might be from the roof. Two out of five did appear, gave me two different stories, both of which sounded weird, and they never came back. I hear this often happens with roofers.

But when I saw the ceiling leaking, I got desperate and called a friend who suggested Regal Roofing in my area, Glenview IL.The owner, Anthony  Jerominski, came over that day, told me the vents around the house were blocked, and condensation had formed beneath the roof and was building moisture across the house. Oh, also, the roof was 13 years old, well worn,  and needed replacement.

The friend who suggested (and used) this roofer is an engineer (and attorney) and he came over to talk with the Tony, who had made the inspection. We’re waiting for the temperature to rise above 30 degrees so Regal can get this fix going.

What a relief to finally find someone who is trustworthy, competent, and responds to calls. Tony is also on Angie’s List. If you need Regal Roofing, call 847-657-1110.

And though I’m stubbornly committed to staying here, I can’t help feeling it’s  like being nibbled to death by ducks.  “Big ducks.


‘I’m not lonely–I’m here!’

Oh, how often do you get that kindly look of sympathy when you tell someone you’re a widow?

“It’s too bad you live alone,” some say. “It must be so hard to find people to do things with,” note others. And the worst: “You must be so lonely now.”

The most important answer is to the latter:

“I’m never lonely because I”M here.”

What that says is “I count. I am someone. I am interesting, curious, well-read and nice enough to attract friends to join me when I want company.” Also, being alone is better than under’taking an unsatisfactory substitute for company. (And that seems to be the majority of choices.)

What you are NOT saying is that Solitude can be a great relief. It also can bring the joy of deciding to do, buy and participate in that bring you–and only you–pleasure.

Most of us spent our lives pleasing others–first parents, then husbands and children– and putting their desires before our own in order to gain their love and approval, We furnished the house to make them comfortable, we bought and prepared food they liked best, went to movies they enjoyed , often missing art documentaries and love stories  to attend war and Star Wars film with them.

But now we fill the market basket with our guilty pleasures–but without the guilt. We see all the movies WE choose, weeping and laughing with abandon. And we go home toa peaceful, pleasant homes that, in some cases, remain pristinely neat and clean with no on around to make messes.

Also, we have hours at a time to walk about in our cozy corners, reading good books or watching Masterpiece theater on PBS with no interruption.

So no one should feel sorry for us. Solitude has its advantages. Ask any married man or woman whose spouse is out of town on business for the week..



Michelle’s Next Career?

During their interview, when Oprah asked Michelle Obama if she plans to run for public office after she leaves the White House, the FLOUS famously responded, “NEVER!!!! ”

That’s okay. She can always become Melania Trump’s . speechwriter.




Meryl Streep? Absolutely FIRST RATE!

And so the over-rated Tweeter takes a shot at the finest actress of our time– and the media falls back into its disgusting pattern of making his ignorant tweets the lead story on  all its outlets.

This small voice instead turns attention to the horrifying week ahead when the GOP will try and jam through the Tweeter’s cabinet that is not qualified, and not properly vetted in the same sneaky way they tried to destroy the Ethics Committee last week.

Get on your phone, get on that email server and make your voice heard by your state and national representatives if you also are appalled by this UnAmerican behavior. Make it clear you will vote against anyone that encourages it.

Fight with the only weapons we have left: our voices and our votes.

Also  change the channel whenever you see reports coming on about the president-elect or his “over-rated” tweets.


Are We Hoarders–or Memory Keepers?

More and more often my widowed friends tell me they MUST get busy and clear out their homes in order to downsize and move! Then, they add, “But I just can’t get started.”

So the mad circle continues until they are incapable of moving and their families have to go in and do it for them.

One friend’s family was able to get a “helper” three days a week from a charity organization to help her sort her “stuff” and her life. This woman’s tiny, two-room apartment is so cluttered with five cartons of old movie tapes, bags of clothes from Goodwill, and family photos of her life, from early childhood through the birth of 16 grandchildren, that she no longer can sleep in her bedroom, but goes to bed in recliner chair.

“My helper puts three boxes out–one for Goodwill, one for things to keep, and one for garbage,” she explained, recreating a horror scene in my mind from TLC’s Hoarders series.

Fortunately, her loving family just decided to take over this mission. They plan to go in, clear out all but the most important “memory items” and move her to an assisted living facility.

But It makes me think about a recent article I read concerning the psychology of “saving”–AKA “hoarding.”

We do it because each item or photo has a comforting memory attached to it and that makes us feel as though those people involved in it are still close by. We look at the picture of our parents holding us in their arms, or holding our hands, or beaming at our graduations and weddings–and we feel them close.

Our weddings albums often take prime real estate in our homes after our spouses’ death for that same reason. We turn the pages, again and again, and in addition to reliving those days when we were all young, strong, and attractive , we were, most importantly, together.

So keep those especially dear memories, of course., But don’t clutter your living space and your mind with so many memories you can’t find your way to the bedroom.

Try and remember you are never alone because YOU are there!


New Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fix

A few weeks ago I went to my doctor because my fingers hurt and she diagnosed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and she was right.

She said it was caused by making fists while I slept that put a strain on those hand muscles, and gave me mitts to wear overnight.

She wasn’t quite right there, since the pain continued and intensified.

It was so bad yesterday I went online to read about the syndrome and learned it is usually caused by repeated strain on certain muscles in the wrist and hand, and I realized the real cause.

Each morning I held my cell phone in the same position for an hour while talking to my daughter, and last week I spent far more holiday hours than usual holding a very good book in the same position as the cell phone. No wonder those fingers were sore!

Many of my friends are undergoing carpal tunnel surgery now, and I suspect it’s because they too are overusing those new mobile devices and computers. So the first thing I did yesterday was to buy a Verizon Blue Tooth for my cell phone, setting my fingers free. Next I loaded my Kindle with free books from my local library’s Media Mall, and then I visited Google, and checked out: carpal tunnel exercises.

I was directed to where an occupational therapist’s video demonstrated a series of four exercises guaranteed to help carpal tunnel pain within a day.

Believe it or not—that DID work. I spread my fingers at my sides, moved them as the video demonstrated 30 times, and repeated it a few more times before bed. I didn’t wear the mitts and for the first time in months I awoke pain free. To stay that way, I’m talking on my Blue Tooth clipped to my ear, and reading books on Kindle.

If you’re dealing with this mystifying pain, check out the exercises before you see a surgeon.

It won’t hurt—–literally.