New Horizons

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”
W.H.Murray – The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
The Active Ageing project called; “Winning the Generation Game: Improving Opportunities for People aged 50 – 65 in Work and Community Activity” was set up by the Prime Minister in 1999 and the results published in 2000. The project consulted the Government and sources throughout the country looking for advice, and came up with suggested solutions to the problems which included;

• changing the culture
• enabling and encouraging over 50’s to stay in work
• helping and encouraging displaced workers to re-enter work
• helping older people make use of their skills and experience for the benefit of the wider community.

The report was encouraging and a small step forward to ensuring a fairer deal for those in the 50 – 65 generation, and can be seen as offering radical new approaches to difficult situations. There was a suggestion that Government may even consider introducing legislation on age discrimination, if the current voluntary Code of Practice on Age Diversity, proves to be ineffectual. Government departments are themselves reviewing their own employment practices, and steps are being taken to reduce early retirement in their departments, in the hope of setting themselves up as role models, to other employers.

I have spoken to many of my contemporaries about plans they might have made for the rest of their lives. Did they see their older age as a time of retirement and well-earned rest I enquired, or did they view it as a time of opportunity and challenge? As the Millennium drew nearer I became increasingly aware from their responses that their perception of older age was radically changing. The traditional image of ageing was being shaken off, and being replaced by a far more encouraging picture. I discovered that most of my friends were feeling very positive about growing older, particularly my women friends. I enquired further and asked them what more they hoped to achieve in their later years. Many of my female acquaintances appeared to have a very practical approach to their future, which they perceived with a positive mental attitude. They were realistic about their limitations and were busy making preparations as to how best to enjoy the rest of their lives. This optimistic approach appears to be the vital key to keeping many older folk young at heart. Most viewed as a bonus, the predicted increase in longevity and were determined not to waste the extra years.

However my men friends didn’t always have the same positive attitude, and many saw years of retirement stretching out before them and shuddered at the thought. Many who had been single minded, high-powered businessmen, or workers with responsible jobs, found it hard to come to terms with their loss of status. Their career position had been their status for all their working life and many of these men had just concentrated on their jobs leaving little or no time for hobbies or sport. Of course they were interested in sport they assured me – but from the safe physical confines of the armchair or newspaper. Other men too old for active sports such as football, squash, or rugby had taken up golf. But even for them there was a limit to how much golf one could play in a week! With their testosterone hormone levels dropping, men do have a tendency to look back at what has been. And when they do what they see is their power, both physical, sexual and in career terms, all lessening by the minute. They don’t like it and many are pessimistic of their futures. By contrast women have had years, and months in particular, coming to terms with the physical and emotional changes that hormonal swings create! At this stage in life an competent woman’s ability to previously juggle, family, career, sport, cooking, gardening and caring for everybody including her man, eventually pays off. With more time on her hands she looks forward with optimism, satisfied to at last have the opportunity to concentrate her efforts on just one thing or person at a time.

Speaking personally I find that being involved with younger people helps me to have a youthful outlook on life. I try to listen to my offspring, and their own children and their friends, in order to keep an open mind. I hope it will help me to avoid getting set in my ways and narrow in my opinions. I sense that it pays to keep up to date with current trends, fashions and attitudes in order to understand the aspirations and frustrations of youth. It enables us older folk to help the young sort out their problems. (However, we don’t necessarily have to agree with them) It’s interesting to notice how older men and women who are in regular contact with young people have a far more relaxed and accommodating way of dealing with youngsters. Many of these people are teachers or organisers who are active in their social life, running youth clubs or sport or hobby orientated events. They also appear to be more satisfied and fulfilled in their own lives compared with other older folk, many of whom have become bigoted and disillusioned with the antics of a some of today’s youth. I feel that taking a broader, well-informed overview of life creates a healthier mental attitude. Surely it’s better to live for the day, and to take an interest in current affairs, and to be generous in your opinions. When the old do communicate with the young in a well informed manner it creates respect on both sides and goes a long way to bridging the generation gap. Young people have a lot to learn from the experience and wisdom of older people, and many are prepared to respect their seniors, provided they don’t come over as bigoted, opinionated and dismissive of youth.

Let’s now concentrate on the positivity of growing older, and here I believe that women are faster in learning how to control the march of time than most men are. For example women take more care of their physical appearance by looking after their general health, and by maintaining their looks. Women today are well informed, they avidly read books on fitness and specialist magazines and many seek advice from health and beauty consultants. From advertisements and advertorials older women are aware that with a little help from skin care and beauty products, and slight changes to their diet and exercise, they can hope to delay some of the visible signs of ageing. An increasing number of women are resorting to plastic surgery, which they regard as the most positive way of superficially holding back the years. Many other women less fortunate would love to be able to afford plastic surgery while there are others who won’t admit to wanting it. Some women just cringe at the thought of cosmetic surgery and rely on nature being kind to them.

With the dramatic and positive changes in the attitude to ageing, the thought of “retirement” becomes more attractive. Retiring from work, and retiring from the traditional concept of ageing, leaves us free from the constraints that have bound and gagged previous generations of women. With no written criteria or acceptance of being old, we now have the unique opportunity to break with tradition and re-write the rules! It’s exciting, so we must grab at the chance presented to us and make important changes. If we have good health and adequate financial provision, we could find to our pleasant surprise, that just when we thought we were”over the hill” we find the world is our oyster!

Over the past few years the words used to describe older people have changed too, and definitely for the better. Words like “retired” “mature” or “older person” “older adult” are commonplace today – compared to the labels “old age pensioner” or ” a senior citizen” which were used to describe someone over 60 years of age just a few years back. The changes are encouraging, but for me the most amusing label is one I heard at Help the Aged celebration of older people in Gloucester Cathedral recently. A delightful elderly gentleman described himself as being “chronologically advantaged.” This label is my favourite to date – perhaps you have a better one?

All too often people in mid life and later years find themselves in surprising and sometimes unbelievably upsetting situations. As most of us soon learn, life doesn’t always goes according to plan, and there are times when we need to dig deep down within ourselves to find and use our natural resources and strengths in order to move on. Difficulties have to be overcome after the death of a loved one or the trauma of a divorce, and strength regained after emotional or physical problems. Sometimes we feel like “opting out” when it all gets too much but we need to reach out to others and force ourselves to keep in contact with people and the world around us. Social contacts can help sustain us in times of crisis, keep us strong and positive in our attitude and help us adapt to strange or new situations. We must be prepared for change, today we may not find ourselves living the life or being where we had planned to be all those years ago.

NEW HORIZONS ACTION PLAN
• Keep yourself fit
• Keep yourself busy
• Set yourself goals – but make certain some are easily achievable
• Consider those wild dreams that were previously out of the question
• Investigate ways to achieve your specific dreams or aspiration
• Learn to use a computer
• Find details of local groups, social clubs, day centres or adult education from the local Library
• Consider joining a local religious organisation or group
• Find fulfilling ways to contribute to your social world
• Give a little bit back to society
• Volunteer for charity work
• Write to friends, family and grandchildren
• Try to keep your diary full and plan ahead
• Don’t put off till tomorrow what you could do today.
• Write a daily diary or your memoirs – it can be cathartic
• Detail your family history or traditions or special personal possessions
• Arrange short stays with friends and relatives
• Invite friends or neighbours in for a social drink, coffee or a meal
• Free evenings? Offer to baby sit for friends or family
• Consider a pet for company (dogs make good walking companions)
• Book a holiday or residential course
• Learn to relax and pamper yourself

“Look to this day
Yesterday is but a memory
Tomorrow is but a vision
But, today well spent
Makes every yesterday
A memory of happiness
And every tomorrow
A vision of hope
Look well therfore to this day”

A recent Mori poll on behalf of Help the Aged found that “younger older” people had high disposable incomes and that many had substantial savings. The age group was found to be the biggest spenders on foods, goods and leisure, than were the rest of the UK population. Fewer than half of those people aged 55-64 were still working, and many had leisure time to spend. They had time to enjoy the fruits of their labours! The young adult figures are rising and as the babyboomers join the ranks. There are going to be a huge number of powerful people soon crossing the threshold into retirement, and they all have needs to be catered for. With this increase it should be perfectly obvious by now to corporates, retailers, leisure and recreational concerns, and the media that the 50 plus age group is an economic power, and a key consumer group. Those who continue to ignore us, do so at their peril!

Growing older and feeling good is about having a positive attitude to life. We women should never look back and dwell on our failures or have regrets. We must always look forward with optimism. It’s never too late to adjust your lifestyle. You’re never too old to change your habits or to help yourself to better health. Let’s aim to extend healthy life and not merely prolong death – let’s plan for quality life not merely quantity of life. Begin by taking good care of your body and your looks. Be more active and eat a well balanced diet. Be aware of your finances. Nurture your relationships, love and respect your family and friends. Continue to listen and learn, and always keep an open mind. You know despite its ups and downs it’s still a wonderful world, and it’s good to be alive.
Now dear reader it is my sincere hope that the advice and information I have presented in the previous pages has been beneficial and encouraging for you. If it has been – NOW – could be the very moment to take control of the rest of your life! Whatever you do – enjoy it.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been”
George Eliot

Sexual Matters

For those women lucky enough to embark on a new sexual relationship and who get it right, there can be many happy and fulfilling years ahead. There is no doubt that when a woman (or a man) finds a soul mate and a sexual partner they can trust, they invariably blossom. Supporting one another they can climb to greater heights with new opportunities and interests opening up to them. All the senses are re-awakened and with the right partner, someone with whom to share the ups and downs, life can seem worth living again. Emotionally re-charged these fortunate women and men find themselves facing the future with optimism. (The sensible woman having learnt how to fall in love without losing herself and her identity in the process.)

The menopause has for many women finally put the fear of pregnancy behind them. Now they are free to enjoy recreational sex without the fear of it being procreational! But for mature women some things regarding sex have changed dramatically since youth, and now, in the year 2003 it is advisable to insist that a new partner wear a condom during intercourse. Not however to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, but to protect from Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases. Recently a disturbing study in America by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that the numbers of people within the 50+-age group in the US who have contracted HIV through heterosexual sex, has doubled. It suggests that because of the high divorce rate many people of this age group are back playing the dating game, but because there is little or no risk of pregnancy they do not bother to use condoms.

For both men and women the human sexual response system has four basic stages – desire; arousal; orgasm; and resolution. Most mature couples have experienced these stages of sexual activity over many years, but changes occur to our bodies with age, which we need to be aware of, in order to maintain good lovemaking. The desire to make love is still there to varying and individual degrees, but touch now becomes even more important in increasing the awareness and excitement. Of course women enjoy this less frantic approach to sex since they have always enjoyed a longer period of foreplay involving sexual and sensual arousal. Now she and her partner can both enjoy the extended pleasure, since it takes just that little bit extra to kindle the flame!

With an understanding and less urgent older partner women have time to enjoy the intimacy of tender, gentle loving, and the need for both partners to reach orgasm on every occasion of sexual contact becomes less important. Orgasm isn’t the ultimate any more and it may be reached only in one out of three occasions. This extended arousal time can give both partners great pleasure for the longer period it takes for an older man to get a full erection. His erection will come and go and not be as hard as in previous years, and in order to maintain it, direct stimulation – oral or manual will be needed. With less urgency this can be a time for both partners to enjoy exploring and developing new techniques. Women may find that by using a lubricating jelly it will solve the problem of vaginal dryness experienced by many women at this stage. With an increase in years comes an increase in the time it takes for a man to achieve orgasm, and his ejaculation may be less intense.

This extended and less hurried lovemaking and sexual intercourse can be very pleasing for relaxed and considerate lovers who are not only obsessed with a dramatic final performance. Women with the experience of years know that they don’t necessarily need to climax at the same time as their partners do during penetration. In fact the Hite Report 1989 reported that only about 30% of women do have a simultaneous orgasm with their partner at this time. Female arousal may come and go according to the skill of their partners who need guidance in order to be aware of how the clitoris in particular needs stimulation, either directly or indirectly, to satisfy their partner. Many women are content to reach orgasm as a result of manual or oral stimulation either before or after their partner has ejaculated. Some older women take a long time to peak or do not reach orgasm at all. Nevertheless they perfectly satisfied and content to luxuriate during the final stage of resolution, in the intimacy and closeness of mental and physical contact with their lover.

This period of snuggling and cuddling together can be a magic time for both partners and a time to re-assure and re-affirm their love for one another. For other couples it can create difficult moments, and disappointed if one partner chooses, for whatever reason, to immediately sleep or to avoid intimate discussion. Familiarity can breed contempt and it has to be said that sex can be a major casualty if partners no longer fancy or respect one another. Illness and depression can cause a serious but hopefully temporary imbalance between partners, with one partner left feeling isolated if the other has rejected them. Sex needs to be worked at for it to be a satisfying experience for both partners, and in order to avoid it becoming routine, predictable and boring. Physical changes, which accompany ageing, do undoubtedly limit some sexual activities, and can cause the flame of love to flicker a little. But an open and frank approach to sex, a change or two in lovemaking positions or procedures, plus a little humour will keep the torch alight and burning brightly for many more years to come. If you experience medical or mental problems which are seriously affecting you or your partner’s sexual health don’t hesitate to seek professional advice.

Women taking hormone replacement therapy to help with menopausal problems such as hot flushes, or for strengthening bones and protecting hearts, may find that it also increases sexual libido and prevents vaginal dryness. Possible alternatives for some older women, who experience discomfort during intercourse, are one of the many lubricating vaginal gels available from chemists. Alternatively she may be able to have local hormone replacement therapy prescribed for her by her GP, which can also help lubricate the vagina and make sex more pleasurable. Some male partners who have trouble getting and maintaining an erection, a problem which comes with age may depending on medical history, be prescribed the drug Viagra to overcome the problem.

But according to psychosexual therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer men should receive education along with the prescription for Viagra to explain the effect it may have on his partner and their relationship. Partners who over the years have gradually accepted his impotence may have adapted to the situation with his help, by deriving stimulation and sexual satisfaction in other ways. She may not immediately greet the sudden re-appearance of her partner’s erection with his anticipated delight, and the re-born stud’s eagerness to prove himself may prove too much for her. In many cases in his revived flurry and excitement he selfishly abandons foreplay, forgets to seduce her and leaves her frustrated. They need to talk! Sometimes mental or emotional worries can have an adverse effect on male erection. Learn to talk openly, free of inhibitions with your partner and if necessary seek medical advice to help resolve problems. Women can be a strong influence on men and can change their reluctant attitude to their health. So whilst you are talking to him about sex please encourage your partner to check his testicles for any unusual changes, they may be an indication of testicular cancer. Most cancers, if they are diagnosed in their early stages, can be treated successfully.

For 50 years experts studying the decrease of sexual drive in older women have suspected a link with the falling hormonal levels of progesterone and testosterone. An international trial of the hormone testosterone is looking at the problem of falling libido in post-menopausal women. A synthetic hormone administered via a patch worn on a women’s arm in the same manner as HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) may prove to be the answer. Oestrogen is produced in the ovaries, as is the male hormone testosterone, in small amounts. Levels of both hormones drop dramatically at the time of the menopause or earlier if a woman’s ovaries are removed during hysterectomy. Taking HRT addresses the decrease of the female hormone oestrogen and is already proven to reduce menopausal problems such as mood swings or hot flushes, which result from the drop. At the Centre for Metabolic Bone Disease in Hull, head of clinical research Professor David Purdie said “What we want to do is to allow people to maintain a normal sex life – there’s no reason why it should end in the early fifties”. He commented that some shaky relationships get broken up from the strain put on a woman as a result of her loss of sex drive. Interestingly he has also observed that British women tend to stoically put up with the problem, but that men are not always understanding of the situation. That will not come as a surprise to many of us women! Maybe as a result of these trials the patches could become the female equivalent of the sex drug Viagra.

Today there is no need for partners to feel in the least bit embarrassed when talking about sexual matters. From experience mature women should know what they do, or don’t like when they have sex. Women must take responsibility for enabling herself to have an orgasm. Women all have different sexual requirements and different timing – we need to use our imagination. Men of course can’t fake orgasm, but women can. But with age, some women may have physical difficulties, as well as emotional ones to overcome. In order for a couple to have a happy and satisfying sex life, they must be prepared to be open with one another in order to talk through their problems and their needs. If they find this is difficult or embarrassing they need to consult their GP or Relate counsellor for advice, to help them both find a satisfying solution.

Mature women who have a regular and fulfilling sex life seem happier and more relaxed than others do for whom sex has become a far off memory. Dr David Weeks consultant neuropsychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital says “ Like a number of other stimulating sensations, sex releases a group of substances in the brain, among them the beta-endorphins, natural painkillers that also alleviate anxiety”. Good sex has often been likened to other physical activities such as jogging and brisk walking. Regular participation can benefit our general health, increase longevity and helps us to retain a youthful look.

New Relationships

“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.”   (Mark Twain 1835 –1910)

One way to overcome loneliness is to try and find a soulmate with whom to share the rest of life.   I observe my girlfriends, some young and others not so young in their quests.   Having become very independent and self-sufficient myself since my own divorce I wonder maybe somewhat cynically, if it’s worth the hassle!   Let’s face it; now that you babyboomers (those born immediately after World War 2) and older have reached this stage of life most will have acquired baggage.  Many will have acquired so much baggage along the way, both emotional baggage, financial and family baggage.  From the prevalence of dating agencies we know how difficult it can be for single women to meet suitable men in the first place, so it stands to reason that it will be even more of a problem for single women who have the addition of baggage.   Single men who are attractive enough propositions to risk everything for – baggage or no baggage – seem pretty elusive.   Making comparisons with past partners is the kiss of death, one must never look back, but forward with an open mind to what might be.  Of course we do hear of success stories, of mature women who do meet their “Mr Right” in their quest for love the second time around.    Perhaps for them, the best is yet to come?

But many discover themselves caught up in a complex situation, which they had not bargained for.   Relationships are far from simple the second – or third – time round.   All too soon a woman is likely to realise there are more than just she and her new partner playing their game.   She may also discovers new and unfamiliar rules.   Unlike young love the first time around, the couple may find they need more than just a parent’s approval of their new liaison.   Forming new relationships later in life often entails vetting by committee.   The couple have to run the gauntlet of family and friends before there’s any hope of their relationship progressing, or of it ever becoming permanent!   This can apply to both parties with the added complications of either partner’s children, or young adults, or even elderly dependant parent’s already living in the existing nest.  Offspring and other family relations have the ability to very quickly freeze out a prospective mate if they feel so inclined.   Indeed some family members may feel jealous of the intended, and display a need to compete for love.   There is no guarantee that offspring from one family will happily co-exist with offspring from the opposing camp.    The resulting emotional turmoil and blackmail can create divided loyalties for all concerned and makes choices regarding everyone’s future happiness very difficult indeed.

There are no easy solutions, and the second or subsequent partnerships will usually throw up individual problems, which will need to be overcome if the new relationship is to survive at all.   But it takes diplomacy and sensitivity to keep everyone happy in these delicate situations.   After the initial bitterness following separation or divorce has subsided, it is essential where children are involved and whenever possible, to maintain some form of contact.   Guilt is a strong emotion, particularly the guilt felt by a parent who leaves behind children when they make their break.    Christmas time and a child’s birthday affect all but the most insensitive, and many become aware of the void and unhappiness felt by their offspring.   These are difficult moments.  Inevitably there will be times when one or both former partners feel very alone, at family gatherings such as the weddings, christenings, or funerals.   Some women find themselves emotionally torn between an ex partner who needs support and a new partner who feels jealous and rejected if it is offered.    Over a period of time many divorced and separated couples do eventually work out a formula, which is acceptable to most involved.   However, they need to be aware that some occasions will always be difficult for the ex or new partner, as well as the children.   Someone will invariably get hurt, but in order to prevent further distress to the family; many ex partners manage to put on a united front, even though emotionally things can never be the same again.   I often wonder how many of these people who experience this emotional distress might be tempted to turn back the clock if they could?   It is part of being a human being to make mistakes and have failures, even so we must move on and not allow ourselves to become obsessive or dwell on them.

Happily, some couples will be lucky and find a new partner and despite all odds many make a go of their new relationships.   Other women slowly come to terms with life on their own, and over the years gradually accept being alone, and recognise the benefits of their new-found freedom.   They observe close friends in difficult circumstances, coping with bad relationships, abuse, cruelty and the constraints of a permanent, unsatisfactory partnership.   Many heave a sigh of relief that it’s not them who are going through the trauma of an affair, and realise that at the drop of a hat they have the advantage of being able to happily do what they want to do without having to consider someone else.

These women have no constraints and nobody else to consider or please but themselves.    Work schedules and finances permitting, they can travel anytime, anywhere and are free to visit family and friends scattered around the country, or even the world, either alone or with a loyal girlfriend.   Being a good friend, they are able to answer the call of help from others in distress, and can soon be on hand, to care and console.   With only themselves to consider the world can be their oyster, and although they are alone in life, if they are well enough and enjoy travelling they need never to be lonely.   That is, so long as they can overcome the stigma that some older women still feel, a reticence or a regret, for not being part of a twosome any more.   But they need to realise that convention is a thing of the past, and there is no stigma whatsoever attached to a woman being alone, dining alone, or travelling alone.   In fact there can be a great deal more satisfaction and flexibility for those who find themselves on their own.   With the freedom and choice they are able to do whatever they think is right for them, and them alone, without any form of compromise.

Compatible couples who have been in long term marriages or partnerships are totally satisfied with their mates that they hate be apart from one another for a minute.   But in truth not many people have perfect partnerships and to co-exist a lot of couples make compromises.    Women in more constricting relationships often envy their single friends the opportunity to just be themselves.   We are all unique and would prefer to be able to do what is important to us personally if we are to be happy and fulfilled human beings.   It’s not enjoyable and is often frustrating to always be making compromises as one of a couple.   Being on one’s own again in later life can, by taking advantage of the circumstances, and with the right attitude, be very satisfying.

It is all a question of attitude.   We cannot remove the past, nor can we change the way people have treated us, neither can we change our destiny.   But what we can change is our attitude to life.   To my mind a positive attitude, the ability to turn a bad situation around into a good one, to our advantage, is one of the secrets of growing old successfully.   It’s part of coming to terms with yourself, getting to like and respect yourself.   It develops when you spend time alone, and you give yourself space.   These quiet times, undisturbed by the hurly burly of everyday life, are when you are free to explore your own tastes and talents, music, literature, painting.   It’s quality time, when you have the opportunity to get to know yourself better to become confidence in yourself and of your abilities.   Self-respect and self-esteem are your rewards.   But to achieve this end we have first to believe in ourselves to recognise our worth and not be dependent on others for our happiness.

As Martha Washington, First Lady (1731-1802) said…

”The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.”

Family Matters

“Love is staying awake all night with a sick child – or a healthy adult!”

In my experience a sure way to keep young in heart is to be in the presence of people younger than oneself.   Those fortunate to have a family will know what I mean, and others may have the privilege of working with younger people or mixing with them on a social level.   I am of the opinion that if we are lucky enough to have family and young friends we should nuture them.   We all have differences of opinions with our siblings, offspring and acquaintences over the years.   Sometimes things can get heated and out of control.   We express our differences of opinions or values and maybe, take up a moral stance. Of course some upsetting behaviour is quite unforgivable and a few situations involve serious injustice one to another.

But life is too short to harbour all but the most damaging offence to our difference of opinions, and few family feuds can be worth the cost of people spending the rest of their lives fighting and verbally slanging one another.   As the years go by surely there must come a time, when we should hold out the olive branch and make up.   But we should do it before it’s too late or we may miss the opportunity to make amends, since none of us are immortal.   If we don’t make up and mend with the passing of family and friends, we may find ourselves living with regrets.    Forgiveness and compassion can grow within us with age, and then we begin to see the futility and fragmentation caused by feuding and fighting.   If we older women have acquired some wisdom over the years, we should realise our fortune, and relish the comfort and strength proffered by a united family and front.   We need to strike a balance between things which have caused us disappointment, and the unexpected things which have brought us happiness

GRANDCHILDREN                                .

I revel in the fact that my sons are my best friends too, but the pleasure and joy of holding your first grandchild is hard to beat.   My first grandchild (to date I have 4), was Charlotte, a beautiful baby girl, and the realisation that this wonderful bundle signified the continuum of my life affected me emotionally.   Words cannot adequately describe the feelings I experienced when I first held the newborn baby on that momentous occasion, nor express the awesome realisation I felt that Charlotte, my granddaughter represented my immortality.   At that moment I moved on one step in my own life.   Before I was just a mother – but suddenly I had become – a GRANDMOTHER.   Stereotype grandmothers jumped to my mind, and I felt aware of time passing.   But wait a minute, things have changed greatly on the Granny front haven’t they?

Soon it became clear that with the dramatic social changes which have occurred in lifestyles, relationships and families the UK over the past generation or two, so too had the role of grandparents.   Researchers agree that it is better for children to be brought up in a stable married relationship, but in these days partnerships and single parenting are common.   Consequently, we grandparents must now re-evaluate and adjust to modern times.   We should accept that there are committed relationships outside of marriage, where children, perhaps even our own grandchildren, are loved and nurtured.   It’s important that our generation don’t try to force our methods and opinions onto young parents, or be too judgmental, if we want to experience the potential joys of being a grandparent.

But should older women be expected to sacrifice their carefully planned retirement and freedom for their offspring?   Today this senario is becoming all too familiar with the increase in one-parent families.   And should mature women make themselves available to look after grandchildren, on a permanent or semi-permanent basis, at a cost to their spouse or partner, just when they both thought they were going to have quality time together?    It may seem grossly unfair to the older generation, but with the increase in young unmarried mothers in the UK, and the rising incidence of divorce amongst young people a reality, being put upon to look after grandchildren could be a difficult situation to avoid.   Many young men and women, some just teenagers, expect their mothers to become be a full time nanny when an unexpected pregnancy occurs, and many unmarried youngsters have nobody else to turn to.   Some are too young to cope and some are even too young to claim benefit.   It’s an emotional decision for any mother to make, and many a grandmother to be will feel a moral obligation to stand in as mother to the baby, because of a son or daughter’s mistake.   But should she and her partner stand the cost of their children’s bad planning or misfortune?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, and only the grandparents themselves who face these dilemmas can take the decisions, but I do find it sad that an increasing number of mature women are faced with this moral dilemma through no fault of their own.    Are they being mentally manipulated and put upon by their sons and daughters and shouldn’t they be entitled to lead the lives they had planned for?   Surely they deserve the retirement they worked so hard for, without the constraints of looking after exhausting young children again.   It’s problematical for those trying to find a satisfactory solution, when all around is mayhem and chaos.   Having a baby is an expensive business, as is divorce.    Some offspring seeking a way out of their problems and responsibilities may employ emotional blackmail at this time, putting their parents into an insidious position.

Women who are caught in this trap find themselves once again at home coping with young children on a full time basis, and some understandably feel disillusioned.    This is not how they had envisaged their retirement years and many feel the family should have more respect for them, and not put them in the position of having to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.    For years these women had looked forward to their freedom from paid work, and had anticipated time for themselves, for their partners and time to travel – not baby-sit.   Others agonise as to how they can guarantee quality time for their deserving partner, who, in many cases is not be the father of her offspring who have brought about the situation.   Further tensions can occur when husbands and partners feel jealous of the time she spends with her grandchildren.   Some voice strong opinions and take it out on the females in the house causing even more unhappiness, and many older men haven’t the time or the patience for small children a second time around.

Quite unfairly, older women find themselves having to make choices, torn between loyalty to their spouse, partner, and offspring.   Many women and their partners happily volunteer to look after and bring up a young family, but others find themselves unreasonably expected to be the grandchild’s carers.   Those who do say no to regular childminding may then feel guilty, and are all too aware that there may be further hardships for the young parents concerned.   Those grandparents who do warm to the idea of becoming surrogate parents get stuck into bringing up a second family realising that it will be both financially and emotionally beneficial to the family as a whole.   By sacrificing their own personal freedom and by sharing the responsibility of rearing the children, these grandparents have the satisfaction of consolidating, as best they can, a secure family unit for all concerned.

But not all young people are happy to have their own parents play a part in the upbringing of their offspring.   Perhaps these offspring didn’t appreciate the method of child rearing imposed on them and strive to contrast it.   For traditional grandparents this causes anxiety and there is a temptation to interfere and to impose their own standards.   But they need to realise that a softer approach is necessary if they are to maintain good relationships with the young family.   Times have changed and grandparents need to keep an open mind and keep many of their strong opinions to themselves.   They can play an important role in the upbringing of their grandchildren by just listening to the grandchildren whose young parents are often all too busy to hear.   By being interested in what they think, say and do, they will get closer to their grandchildren and be able share the joy, laughter and the tears.   Just by lending an ear is an excellent opportunity to form a mutual bond between the generations

Grandchildren with thir single parent living at home without a partner as a result of divorce or separation are another emotional challenge for grandparents, who worry if their own offspring can cope with this awesome and lonely task.   Given the opportunity grandparents will do everything possible to ensure their grandchildren have a decent start in life.   The secret is to go lightly, not to interfere, but to be there to give confidence and support when it is required.   It can be a delicate and sensitive situation and one wrong move could leave grandparents without easy access to their grandchildren.   A sensible policy is not to get drawn into the couple’s arguments or to take sides.   Have your opinions by all means but keep them to yourself.   It’s wise to ensure that as far as your grandchildren are concerned you can be regarded as neutral territory and not part of the battleground.   Visiting grandparents and staying over in their house should be regarded by the children as a safe haven from possible storms, and from this stress free environment come rewarding pay backs.

If young children feel secure and happy they will enjoy the experience of grandparents sharing the role of parenting, either full time, part time or just for an occasional day or two.   Grandparents are likely to find themselves doing special things, unusual things with the youngsters, sharing experiences with their grandchildren that they would never have envisaged or thought possible at their age, activities usually reserved for parents.   I speak from personal experience after another busy weekend with my little granddauhters, who had me spinning round like a top in the fairground, frightening myself silly on the Dragon ride in Legoland, and took me swimming, trampolining and boating.   Many childish activities require stamina, and however fit you think you are it’s easy to find yourself exhausted by the exuberant energy of youngsters the second time around!    I regard it as a privilege to be with my grandchildren and I feel they enjoy themselves in my company too.   We all look forward to these special times and I hope very much that they benefit emotionally from these wonderful and rewarding occasions as much as I do.   Through two sad situations – my own divorce and that of my youngest son, has come the opportunity for me to get to know my delightful little granddaughters very well.   I have the time and the inclination to give to them without ever having to force the situation.  Today, many members of one family find themselves uprooted from their original family home and live scattered around the country (or the world) because of their jobs.   Consequently far too many women have to make do with being long distant grandparents.   However, I know that it’s well worth the effort of a journey, the writing of a post card or the sending of an e-mail to keep in touch with those family and friends we love.

 

Breaking Up, Separation & Divorce

When I look back over my life and the past 70 years I realise how young I was when I married for the first time.   I was just 20 years old and had no experienced of the world whatsoever. My traditional marriage was in 1959 and I was a virgin bride.   The pill, which was to change courting and relationships completely and forever, had yet to make it’s appearance.   I don’t regret my marriage for an instant, but like many  young wives who married in 1960 I became restless and felt constricted by the confines of conventional marriage.   During the early years of my marriage I observed other women, just a few years younger than myself, who encouraged by the 60’s Feminist movement, were cutting and thrusting in what had previously been male domains.   They were carving out satisfying careers for themselves and were financially independent.

I was envious of their achievements and longed to be part of it, but realised that with my family restrictions and conventions I couldn’t be.   I did do some part time work during my marriage, but my career eventually took off when I was 40 years old, and my boys had grown and flown.    Although my 25-year-old marriage to the delightful father of my two sons had been a good marriage, by that time it was nearing it’s end.   We had drifted apart as so many long married couples do, partly because I didn’t communicate my feelings well.   Feeling guilty about having failed in my marriage I broke loose and began a 5-year affair.   The affair eventually culminated in my second marriage.   However, after 5 years the second marriage ended painfully and abruptly whilst I was undergoing health problems, when my second husband betrayed me to have an affair with a younger woman.   I have always been encouraged by other’s words of wisdom, and at that difficult time took strength from the following St. Barton’s Ode;

“I am hurt

But I am not slain

I will lay me down and bleed a while

Then I will rise and fight again.”

That was 17 years ago and today I’m fighting fit and fancy free.   I have my romantic flings and enjoy every minute of them, but it will take a very special man to make me give up my career and my new-found independence!   Nowadays instead of being at home as might be expected of an older person  I can travel, socialise and have fun like a teenager.    I sometimes wonder if I have led my life the wrong way around!

Some women are not content to spend the rest of their lives in a safe, but boring relationship, making compromises and regretting what their life might have been.   They decide to risk the comparative security of their married life and make a change.   Following the confines of a poor marriage with bad or little sex, life can become a ball for some women, leading her into unknown and often exciting situations.   Many women rediscover their sexuality in the process.   After rediscovering herself, some will go on to find a partner who has undergone his own midlife metamorphous.   They may spend the rest of their days together happily relishing their luck in at last finding a compatible partner.    Many women go through a messy, confused period immediately after they split from their partner, particularly after a very long relationship or marriage. Women who are unhappy about being single need to ensure that any new friendship is for the right reason and not just to fill a gap because they fear being alone.   Wildly grasping at relationship after relationship in an attempt to couple again only puts unfair expectations on a new partner.

Other women behave like promiscuous men, moving from one relationship to another, with no view to commitment, sometimes using their male partners as a meal ticket, or a means to satisfy their re-awakened sexual appetite.   But many newly single women don’t find single life all it’s cracked up to be.   Some live to regret making the change for change sake, without having thought the decision and consequences through sufficiently.   Other more fortunate women find their new found freedom liberating, and appreciate at last being able to “do their own thing”.   Alone they can indulge themselves by focusing on things they consider to be important, without fear of being criticised or called selfish.  They relish being on their own and love making decisions for themselves and achieving own goals.   Many learn to enjoy their own company preferring it to the risk of an unsatisfactory relationship, and rid of the frustrations and constrictions of domesticity, have no intentions of ever coupling again on a permanent basis.

Women friends, not men friends become incredibly important to women going through a marriage or partnership break up.   Sisterhood support is also of great importance to women when their partners have died.     Women who have been in marriage and heterosexual relationships for many years report that they find it difficult to keep up regular contact with their single girlfriends.    Family lifestyle is of great contrast to a single girl’s way of life.   For a family woman time is precious, but it can also be very restricted with her home, partner and children to care for.   When a women suddenly and maybe unexpectedly finds herself on her own again for the first time since her youth, her life changes dramatically and the sisterly bond between women friends becomes incredibly strong.   Women will support each other emotionally through the difficult period of re-adjustment following the separation, divorce, or death of a beloved partner.   The single “sister” has all too often “been there, done that and has the T shirt to prove it!” herself.   She knows from first hand experience the pitfalls of living alone, and can skilfully guide the new, recently singled sister, through the trauma and loneliness, which can be felt.   Her sisterly support is paramount at this crucial time and a true girlfriend becomes a lifeline, a trusted confidant and is always there for the hurting sister in times of crisis.   Learning to be happy independently takes time and finding yourself alone after years of marriage or partnership can be a pretty scary for all but the strongest of women.   Sadly many vulnerable and emotionally disturbed women are vulnerable and easy prey for the wrong sort of man at this time.

Divorce is horrid for all concerned, but it is a sad fact of life that in the second millennium, one in three of newly married couples in the UK are likely to end up in the divorce courts.   To be in control of the marriage break up, in other words to be the partner who wants to leave, or to mutually agree with your partner to a separation and a future alone, is one thing.    Unpleasant and upsetting as it may be, another and worse still, is to be the victim who is unceremoniously “dumped”, especially after a  long and eventful marriage.   The experience is truly traumatic and emotions run very high at this time.   After the break a grieving process has to be gone through, before any kind of normality can return to life.   It takes an unbelievably long time to acknowledge to oneself that the partner you loved has gone, and to accept they have gone forever.  As one comes to terms with the situation, the trauma and accompanying disturbing emotions can be likened to dealing with the tragic and abrupt death of a loved one.   The length of time taken to heal depends on the emotional strength of the individual concerned.   Circumstances surrounding the separation or divorce will contribute to the duration.   Support from close family and friends during this unhappy period is vital for maintenance of the victims self worth.   Self-esteem can so easily plummet in the struggle to cope with the collapse of a relationship, the end of a marriage, a divorce or the death of a partner.

Many times desertion comes as a complete shock to the other partner.   They search often in vain, to find an explanation as to why it happened.   Some recall warning signs and wonder why on earth they didn’t heed them.   If the departure was sudden the partner left will often look into themselves to see where they themselves went wrong.   All too often they take the blame for the break up of the relationship onto themselves.   Many women who have been left by their husbands continue to love their husbands for a long period of time delaying the healing process.   These women are dismayed and feel that they wasted their love, but wonder how they can just “switch off” their emotions overnight?   They can’t.   Confused they continue to blame themselves for the failure.   Guilt and self-loathing compound their total lack of self-confidence and self esteem.   Overnight their world has shattered and understandably they can feel worthless.  The process of coming to terms with what has happened can take months, or many years before final acceptance of the finished relationship.   Eventually a woman will accept the facts, and get on with her life, but emotionally she never completely forgets and the scars remain.   These scars can impinge on and make future relationships difficult.

Losing a partner to somebody else is extremely painful.   Women find it difficult to believe that the partner she trusted and gave her love to has abused that love, and deserted her for another woman.   She questions whether her partner ever really loved her, and can be excused from feeling that the relationship was just a sham.   She may challenge her lack of judgement in picking the wrong mate.   It’s hard to accept that the partner she trusted with her innermost feelings could abuse her love.   How could he lie to her, how could he turn his back on all they had built up together, how could he disappear never return?   Understandably she feels betrayed.

I’m reminded of the extract from the “The Magus” by John Fowler.

“How shall I explain to you?

If Maurice were here he would tell you that sex is perhaps a greater but in no way a different pleasure from any other.   He would tell you that it is only one part – not the essential part – in the relationship we call love.   He would tell you that the essential part is truth, the trust two people build between their minds, their souls, what you will.   That the real infidelity is the one that hides the sexual infidelity.   Because the one thing that must never come between two people who have offered each other love is a lie…”

Gradually the hurt partner attempts to pick up the shreds of their shattered life. but the pain continues, it’s always there, day in day out, and it can seriously affect a person’s health.   Some people may find it impossible to do anything to get out of the downward spiral they find themselves in.    Extremely painful feelings colour everyday thoughts and actions, and they feel totally out of control.    Intense anger and vengeance eventually replaces the devastation, but loneliness and emptiness follow quickly in their wake.   Friends, however supportive at the beginning, begin to tire of continuous propping up.   Insensitive people can think it’s time the person concerned “pulled up their socks” and got on with life.   But it can take an extremely long time to emotionally let go, to say goodbye to a past in which one had invested so much time and effort.   The disappointed felt by betrayal is the hardest thing of all is to accept.    But one day the grieving does lessen, the feelings of guilt and failure leave, and the death of the relationship is finally more or less accepted.   It may be over, but it is not forgotten, and many women are never able to fully trust again.

From our failures we learn more about ourselves and after a betrayal of friendship we question how we could have ever trusted people who didn’t deserve it.   We all remember regrets in life, but we must learn not to dwell on them.   If after bad times we can pretend to ourselves, and tell ourselves we are strong enough to cope again  – we will cope.   Life does eventually go on in a similar or familiar way, but most partners who have been left will have been changed by the experience, and hopefully become stronger.   Loneliness can be a very real emotion to come to terms with, often as a result of death or divorce, and it has to be hoped that family and friends will come to forward to offer their support.   But human nature can be very strange.   All too often people shy away from those who are grieving, just at the very moment when their support is most needed.    This avoidance by people or family, who were regarded as being close, causes unnecessary upset and the person concerned will feel further rejection and grief.   In a divorce situation hitherto friends sometimes take sides, they reject one of the former partners in favour of the other, causing added loneliness and isolation.   Who needs enemies with friends like that!  Divorce seems to bring out the worst in human nature.   Money, or more likely, the shortage of it, following death or divorce, can cause unbelievable financial problems, mental and emotional stress.

Bereavement

 

Few us will escape the experience of losing a loved one through death at some time in our lives.   As a young teenager my own mother’s sudden death from a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 47 years has had a profound effect on my life.   It caused me great distress and the trauma of discovering my dear mother dead in the bathroom of our home still haunts me today.     The moment I saw her my childhood ended abruptly and overnight I was forced to grow up and take on family responsibilities.   Although  young and distraught I the future to look forward to.   But coming to terms with the loss of a husband, partner or friend at a later stage of life can create added problems to the grief already being experienced.   There may be a very real fear of a future lived alone, and the possibility of having to cope with disability or ill health.   This worry may be may be compounded by the fact that supportive family and friends live a long distance away.

Grief is difficult to bear at such times and all of us react differently to the death of a loved one and the individual circumstances that surrounded the death.   It may be totally unexpected, as it was in my mother’s case, or be anticipated or prolonged.   But whatever the circumstances are, the death of someone close to us is likely to be a highly personal and traumatic event.    Historically in the UK, and still by tradition in many other countries today, a period of time was observed for people to openly express their grief.   At this time of mourning emotions were quite literally worn on the sleeve, a black band or black clothing depicting the outward sign that they were in mourning.   The time of mourning allowed others to openly show their respect and offer their support.   Today in the fast hurly burly of modern life this tradition has all but disappeared, but nevertheless the stages of grief that those left will go through are the same, and all too real.   Such people will need support, but all too often other people today are too busy with their own lives to give it.

Immediately following the death there is a feeling of shock and disbelief which is followed by a time when the grief is openly expressed.   Sadly this can be followed by a period of depression accompanied by apathy.   This can make it difficult for the person concerned to remain optimistic of their future in order to get on with their life.   These emotions are predictable but their timing will vary from one person to the next.   For some who are left on their own, family members, close friends and their religion will be of immense support during their grieving.   This encouragement can help people to move on and should be continued until the bereaved show signs of recovery, which will signify the final stage of the grieving process.   But grieving is unpredictable and people can find their emotions swinging between periods of anger, misery and depression as they attempt to come to terms with their loss and re-adjust to life on their own without their loved one.   It is essential for people to express feelings throughout this time because bottling them up causes further emotional problems which will delay the healing process.

Sometimes there are feelings of guilt after the death of someone very dear to us.   How many of us regret not having been nicer, or more understanding to somebody when we saw them last, who subsequently died suddenly?   A lot of us feel there were things we should have said or done for our loved ones, and now it is too late.   This “unfinished business” is difficult to live with.    Getting on with life, but continuing to live where you and your partner shared your life together can be tough too.   Some people are comforted by their familiar surroundings, but others find the constant reminders of their departed, painful to come to terms with.   Gradually with time there is an acceptance that the loved one cannot and will not return, only then can these reminders of happier times turn into objects of comfort and consolation.

Death of someone close to us is a confusing and often frightening experience but eventually the pain and grief does grow less and the depression lifts.   As life becomes more bearable people who have suffered the loss of a loved one begin to pick up the threads of their former life, but it may take months or even years before this happens.   For some people the depression may persist.   These people should be encouraged to seek to seek professional help.   People with clinical depression need to talk their emotions through with a professional    Some  bereaved may be prescribed medication to get them through their difficult period, but others may need professional counselling.

Body For Life Charity Work

“I expect to pass through this world but once,

Any good thing, therefore, that I can do,

Or any kindness that I can show to any fellow – creature

Let me do it now;

Let me not defer or neglect it,

For I shall not pass this way again.”

As retirement approaches there will be people who seek to do something different with their lives.   A chance to do a job both interesting and rewarding, but ideally in total contrast to work they were obliged to do in order to fulfil their obligations.   For some people charity work offers a purpose to life and is a fulfilling way to contribute to their social world.   They derive satisfaction from doing something for the benefit of others instead of for financial benefit for themselves, and they have fun doing it.   There are many active people who are fortunate enough to receive a retirement pension, but who still have the ability and desire to continue working.    They feel they have many good years ahead of them and want to give something back to society.

200.000 charities now exist in the Great Britain and many depend on voluntary staff.   The larger charitable organisations employ directors, senior managers and those with leadership skills as well as using volunteers.  Remuneration for the senior posts doesn’t usually compare well with other commercial concerns, but for some people money isn’t the only motivation.   But of course all charities depend enormously on unpaid helpers and the generous time and effort given by their volunteer workers.   If you have skills or a training, which could be put to good use, why not consider calling one of the large national charities or perhaps a smaller local charity near your home, and volunteering your services?   Your skills or experience could well be of assistance in either a permanent or temporary capacity.   Skills such as nursing, teaching, selling, driving, computing, cooking, decorating, sewing or shop managing are but a few skills, which are constantly in demand.

Since my own brush with cancer in 1988 I have worked voluntarily with many national charities, concentrating my efforts on those researching cancer causes and treatments, or those caring for cancer patients and their families.   My other group of interest and effort are charities who are concerned with the health and needs of older people.  Through my voluntary work I feel I can put something back into life, which has been good to me.   It gives me a sense of pride and usefulness. All charities depend on the good will and generosity of the public.  You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that by keeping yourself busy and giving a little of yourself for the good of others, you receive an unexpected bonus in return – that of new interests and friendship.

Voluntary Service Overseas (VOS) has a record number of people over 50 years of age taking up voluntary posts in VOS work overseas in developing countries. The over 50’s represent 16% of the 2000 VOS volunteers working abroad, and the figures are rising.   A representative said that the over 50’s  “want to give something back to society”.   These people are more concerned with helping the needy than making money. It’s interesting to note that as a result of divorce, death of a spouse, or early retirement many more people in this age group find themselves alone and with time on their hands.   They feel fit are active and have good brains, and feel they still have plenty more to offer in life.   They are not prepared to retire and give up; they are men and women with valuable experience.

Some posts require teachers, but VSO needs to recruit skilled volunteers, and craftsmen such as carpenters, builders, mechanics and metal workers all of whom are in great demand.  Many older people have acquired patience along with age and fit in well in the developing countries whose pace is less frantic than the UK. Mature people thrill at the opportunity to travel and rise to the challenge of the unexpected. Those of sound health view this opportunity as a bonus time in which to do something completely different and at same time do something to benefit mankind.   A recent report found that a VSO volunteer could be as old as 70, could represent one of 50 professions and could be posted to one of 74 countries.  Many VSO volunteers let their houses in the UK while they are temporarily away.   They feel excited at the prospect of adventure and of taking risks in contrast to many friends of their own age, who have retired in front of the fire with their slippers.

 

 

Sex For Oldies

“In youth we learn; in age we understand.”   Marie Ebner-Eschenbach Austrian Writer (1830-1916

The greatest aphrodisiac of all is the IMAGINATION.

When I observe my women friends I can usually tell those who have survived and thrived many years of physical and sexual togetherness with a loving partner.   Such women positively bloom with happiness and invariably look years younger than they are.   It would appear that regular sex does make complexions glow, and enjoying a loving sexual relationship gives a woman an air of confidence in the knowledge that she is still physical attractive and desired by her man.    This feeling can motivate many women into leading a healthy active life and encourage her to maintain her health and looks.   She aims to continue enjoying good sex with her regular partner to their mutual benefit, and for as long as possible.

It’s interesting to note that Dr Weeks study found the benefits derived from good sex applied to women in long-term relationships, but were not obvious in women who had numerous casual affairs.   Sadly many women I meet who are in and out of unsatisfactory relationships all too often look careworn and older than they are.   I am reminded of Dr Ruth Westheimer who refers to a Jewish teaching, which is so relevant to second time relationships.  She says that when you start the new relationship you bring not two, but four heads to the bed!   Both the present and the past relationship.   Is it any wonder that second, third or even fourth time around can proves to be so difficult to achieve harmony!

Marj Thoburn, head of practice consultantancy at the marriage guidance organisation Relate reports that research shows that older couples of 50+ are romantic and enjoy good sex.  She says “Men and women in this age group have more time and freedom than any previous generation – and they are not going to spend it babysitting the grandchildren” Many of today’s older people were babyboomers who experienced the sexual liberation of the 60’s and good sex has become an important component in this generations lifestyle.   The 60’s open approach to sexuality couldn’t be in greater contrast to that of young people in the 40’s and 50’s who couldn’t freely talk about sex or indeed indulge in sexual practise before marriage for fear of an unwanted pregnancy and it’s accompanying disgrace.   It must be very difficult for young people today who have total sexual freedom, to possibly conceive the attitudes to sex just 4 decades ago.

Marj Thoburn comments on those couples who consult Relate for sexual advice today.   “Ten years ago, we were certainly not seeing as many older people wanting to celebrate their sexuality” It would appear that from Relate’s studies that older people of 50 –70 years of age, still crave the intimacy of a satisfying and loving relationship as they did when they were 30.   She adds “The older you are, the more likely you are to have the skills and understanding it takes to make a relationship fulfilling.”

The growing number of single people in the 50+-age group plays a significant part in these revelations.   Widows, widowers, spinsters, bachelors, divorced persons and those who have split up from their partners are increasing daily.   There are many second marriages of people in their 50’s  60’s and sometimes 70’s, most of who seek the intimacy of a loving and physical relationship.  The increase of sex enhancing drugs such as Viagra and HRT will surely add impact to these numbers and push the age limit of sexual expectation up significantly.   Whatever his age, there may be no holding a good man down, and if women get their wicked ways it could be the men complaining of headaches in the immediate future!

One interesting aspect of older sexuality is the allure that some mature women exude and which attracts a particular sort of younger man.   Young women of his generation as yet do not possess the power of an experienced woman and he finds it exciting.   She too may have been young and vulnerable once upon a time but now she knows how to use her power to great effect.   She derives satisfaction from using her sexual authority to teach her younger Lothario how to woo a woman, whilst at the same time making sure that uninhibited by constraints and conventions of her own generation, she is free to explore her own sexuality and sensuality.   It could be said that women are at their sexual peak in their 40’s and 50’s.   Some newly single women find themselves finally free from restrictions of relationships that stunted their sexual growth, many feel life is passing them by and they want to experiment before it’s too late.  These women have limited sexual experience; they are not looking for love but are curious and want their freedom as well as some fun.   Many young men “testosterone on legs” adore the confidence, humour and wit of an older confident woman, and conversely she thrills at his response to the power she employs over him.    It would appear that recreational sex is almost exclusively the preserve of the older woman, maybe like it was for older men with younger girls in previous generations.

Why is it that so many young people think sex is their preserve?   They appear to still have an outdated view of older people, and a preconceived notion that anyone over the age of 50 is past it.   They think that mature people do not, or cannot indulge in sex but how wrong they are!   I suppose there was a time when our own generation thought that after about 30 years of age our personal sexual prowess could decline, and it would probably finish by the time we were fortyish!

Some young people today seem to waste the best aspects of sex.   Many from their early teens cheapen it with their casual sexual attitude, and by the emphasis they put on self-satisfaction.   They boast about making “love” and their many conquests.   But many don’t make love at all; they only indulge in sex.   Many of them are so busy trying out sexual techniques or thrilling to the latest sexual turn-on, that they miss out on the real thing – love.

Whatever happened to true love, the caring and sharing of one for another, in body, mind and soul?   Where in their casual relationships is the fun of innocent flirting, sensuality and the tenderness true lovers feel when they give of themselves completely, one to the other, putting their partner’s needs and desires before their own?    What happened to loyalty and trust, and lovers who respect and protect their partners?   We mature people have had many years of perfecting loving techniques and as sensitive lovers we should be aware of our partners needs.

So now it’s time to put the record straight, once and for all.   Many older people still do indulge in regular and passionate sex; with partners they love and care for.   They thoroughly enjoy sex, and intend to continue making love to one another for as long as they possibly can.   And that is likely to be for many more years, and to a greater age, than the young would ever believe it to be.

Minerals & Vitamins

Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of strong teeth and bones and is of particular importance in our diet, as we grow older. 99% of the calcium in our bodies is found in our skeleton, our bone nails and teeth. But calcium also has a role to play in the nervous system and is essential for the clotting of blood. A regular intake of calcium throughout our lifetime will help prevent the fragile bone disease osteoporosis, which affects so many people over the age of 60. Calcium with vitamin D is essential to build and maintain strong bones as we age; a tablet combing the two is available from chemists and health food shops.

Lack of calcium during childhood and adolescence leads to week bones, poor nails, teeth and growth. Interestingly this brings us back to that policy of putting plenty in the pot over the years to ensure stability in later life. Rich sources of calcium are milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy produce, and fish such as sardine and pilchards. Importantly for vegetarians leafy green vegetables including spinach, kale and broccoli, and nuts, dried fruit, dates, prunes, raisins and figs, kidney beans, lentils and baked beans are alternate sources of calcium. Many foods today are calcium enriched so read the labels. Bottled mineral water contains calcium in varying amounts.

Sodium is a constituent of salt (sodium chloride). Sodium Chloride is an essential nutrient, and its main function is to help maintain the water balance in the body and to regulate blood pressure. However we need to be aware that sodium taken in large doses is believed to be a contributing factor to high blood pressure. Cutting down on salt can help control high blood pressure. It is not necessary, and is positively unhealthy, to habitually add salt to our cooking and meals.

Iron is of great importance in our diets and an essential component of a number of body processes. Our adult bodies contains approximately 4g of iron, most of this makes up the red pigment in our blood called the haemoglobin. If we don’t have enough iron in our diet it is quite common for the haemoglobin levels in our blood to fall and we become anaemic. We can feel tired, breathless, develop headaches and we look very pale and off colour.

To avoid this happening we need to eat sufficient red meat, eggs and cereals that are all sources of iron. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb the iron, as do fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vit C. However, the absorption of the iron can be interfered with when we drink too much coffee and tea.

Zinc is required for the healthy development and growth of the reproductive organs in our bodies. Along with calcium it is also involved in helping to build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Zinc plays a part in developing our immune system helping to protect us from illness and infection such as colds, flu and other serious illnesses.

Zinc is found in a large range of foods including oysters and sardines, but zinc requires protein to be present in the diet to ensure the body takes it up. We therefore need to eat sufficient protein rich meat and dairy to ensure we are getting the full benefit from our zinc intake.

To help us get the most out of life what we eat is of great importance. I have found over recent years that my eating pattern and habits have changed dramatically. With my family grown and flown I now find myself alone a great deal of the time. Nowadays I cook for one, and if I am honest, it’s all too easy to prepare and cook things that are quick and easy, and I often cook the same favourites. With my busy lifestyle, constantly travelling around the country, and never being sure of where or when I am going to eat, I am conscious of the fact that I’m in danger of not getting the suggested daily requirements of some minerals and vitamins. Many years ago I began to take a keen interest in health supplements and I now supplement my diet on daily basis during busy periods. I would rather be sure that I have the recommended daily intake of specific vitamins and minerals, than leave it to chance.

However when I discussed the virtues of supplementing one’s diet, a doctor friend of mine advised me that this was not necessary if one was regularly eating a well-balanced nutritious diet full of fresh healthy food. I would agree with him, but I know in practical terms that this is not always feasible for many women who find themselves alone or in changed circumstances in middle and later life. So I take the view that my diet could be insufficient for my daily needs on occasions, and I would rather be safe than sorry. But equally when I have a less hectic and more routine period of life I stop taking my supplements and take time to prepare and cook myself very nutritious meals. If you are worried about your diet talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about it. Remember ‘you are what you eat.’ Finding out about supplements takes time and it can be confusing trying to discover which vitamins are beneficial in preventing ill health and which can promote good health. Her is a run down of the important vitamins to help you.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which helps us to see in dim light. We also need vitamin A for healthy skin, but take care, because too much vitamin A simply gets stored in the liver and excessive amounts may be toxic. Vitamin A is found in butter, margarine and liver, spinach and, of course as we all know – carrots.

Vitamin B1 or Thiamin is a water-soluble vitamin, which helps the body metabolise carbohydrates. If we do not get enough vitamin B1 it can cause problems with the nervous system such as irritability and the blood vessels. We find vitamin B1 in eggs, whole grain cereals, fortified breakfast cereals, yeast extract, vegetables and fruit. But a word of advice, overcooking can result in a loss of a lot of vitamin B1.

Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin and also is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrate by the body. Skin problems can result from a deficiency of vitamin B2. Good sources of vitamin B2 are yeast and meat extracts, liver, milk, eggs and green vegetables

Niacin is another of the B complex vitamins although it does not have a number, and is also involved in metabolising carbohydrates to give us energy. We need niacin to help maintain a good skin and for healthy nervous and digestive system. Eggs, liver,yeast extracts, lean meat and whole wheat products are good sources of liver. But our bodies can make niacin if the right materials are present, so it is not totally dependent on what we eat.

Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine is needed to help in the production of red blood cells and for the absorption of vitamin B12. It is found in wheat bran, brewer’s yeast, liver, kidney, milk and eggs. Some women may need to take vitamin B 6 if they are regularly taking birth control pills.

Vitamin B12 is important for red blood cell formation and if the body does not have enough vitamin B12 there is a risk of anaemia. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, liver, eggs, cheese, and fish. Vitamin B12 is not found in plants, unlike other vitamins.

Folic Acid is essential to the body in may ways, but if there is insufficient folic acid anaemia and other symptoms can occur. Vegetables, especially leafy green ones, oranges, offal, bread and pulses are good sources of folic acid.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and as we mentioned earlier in this section, is necessary for iron to be absorbed from our food. We need vitamin C to keep our teeth, gums, skin and blood vessels in good order. A deficiency can cause scurvy and weaken our immune system. Many people take large amounts of vitamin C in wintertime after hearing that it helps to ward off colds and flu, but the medical profession is still somewhat sceptical of these claims.
Good sources of vitamin C are fresh fruit; freshly squeezed fruit juice (not fruit squashes) and green leafy vegetables. Frozen vegetables also contain the vitamin, but take care because vitamin C can be easily destroyed by over cooking; this applies to either fresh or frozen vegetables.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin important in the building and maintenance of strong bones, working with the calcium and phosphorous in our bodies. Our most important source of Vitamin D is the sun, and it is produced naturally by the action of the sunlight upon our skin. Other valuable sources are cod liver oil, fortified margarine and other oily fish.

It’s never been easier to eat a healthy and a well balanced diet. It is the first vital step to becoming fit and maintaining fitness over the years. You should have a varied and nutritious diet the basis for a healthy life if you have followed the basic rules and suggestions in the last chapter. It can be hard to change habits of a lifetime. This applies not only to the content of one’s diet but also to the shopping, preparation and eating of one’s food. Perhaps you have reached a point in your life when you have more time and inclination to be aware of the quality and quantity of food you eat. Try experimenting with different foods and ways of preparation and try not to rely on convenience foods all the time. Try to include more fresh food, fruits and vegetables. However, if you have been ill or you are on a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet, you may find that you need to take vitamin or mineral supplements. Pop along to the chemists, or health food shop if you want to find out more, the staff can be a very knowledgeable and there is plenty of helpful advice in the literature provided by the manufacturers of health food supplements.

If there are things you cannot eat and you are concerned that your diet may be deficient in essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins ask your GP for his or her advice. Check out your cholesterol level, if it is high your GP can refer you to a dietician. Many doctors have a dietician attached to their health practice.
If you wish to see a dietician in private practise contact the British Dietetic Association for a dietician who is local to you.

Mental And Emotional Health

“If what shone afar so grand
Turn to nothing in thy hand
On again; the virtue lies
In the struggle, not the prize”
(Victorian)

I consider myself fortunate to have a close loving family, the strong bond between us having been strengthened through my experience with breast cancer in 1988, but I’m conscious that not everyone is as lucky as me. Even though we are a close family we still have our share of worries and heartaches as do most families, which surround, births, marriages, illness and deaths. And sadly we haven’t escaped the miseries that divorce brings with it. I have been divorced twice, and one of my sons has also experienced the trauma that accompanies a marriage break up. As a united family we are all involved in helping one another come to terms with the problems arising from these situations.

One of the blessings of getting older is the arrival of a grandchild. A child you can indulge, enjoy, and then return when you’ve run out of patience and have just had enough! Well that’s the theory anyhow. But in these modern times it doesn’t always work out that way. Today many grandparents find themselves looking after young grandchildren through necessity rather than choice. This may be the consequence of the increase in one parent families, or as a result of their own child’s divorce. A recent survey by ICM for The Guardian found that over a quarter of grandparents, the majority grandmothers, spent more than 26 hours a week caring for their children’s children. This enforced parenting can cause problems of its own, as we shall discuss later in this section.

As the years go by more and more women are likely to find themselves living alone, sometimes through choice, but more often through divorce or the death of their husband or partner. This situation can lead to loneliness, depression and isolation. I too live alone, not initially through choice, and I know from my personal experience that being active in body and mind can help reduce the feelings of loneliness, anxiety and stress. Getting out and about, and talking to people can help to lift the depression, whilst social interaction and the ability to share problems can raise the spirit. But I am well aware that to climb out of the spiral of depression takes a lot of effort, and sometimes requires medical assistance and counselling. It also requires a great deal of self-motivation. Expected increased longevity is likely to produce even greater problems of isolation, as more people, women in particular, find themselves facing many years alone. Family and friends can provide emotional warmth and be of support, but tend to shy away from neediness or desperation.

As we age we need to keep up our self respect and reassurance, to feel that we are still useful to society and not being discarded. I for one don’t intend to become invisible as I get older, and I think it’s essential that women of a certain age continue to be noticed, and have a strong voice that can be heard particularly when it comes to economic and health issues. This is no time for complacency, now is the moment in history for us women mature to do something for ourselves and for future women, by re-writing the rules and changing the conception of ageing. Just because the young think we’ve had our time and that they know best must not result in us losing our self-esteem or our sense of power. Older people deserve due prominence within the community, and mature women have so much to offer including experience. It is said that with knowledge comes power, so let’s not waste it, let’s utilise our power. But to enable us to stay strong in both spirit and voice. it is essential to maintain our good health as best we can. The link between ill health and inequality is very evident, especially to those of us who work in health related professions.

RELATIONSHIPS

Approaching middle age or later on many mature people with families and responsibilities experience major changes within the family unit itself. Older children flying the nest to follow further education or careers create a void for some parents. Other parents view their children’s departure with blessed relief, and relish the opportunity to spend quality time at last, alone with their partners. I have always taken the view that as responsible parents we would try to teach our children to stand on their own two feet from an early age. Therefore we should be very pleased when finally the child leaves the nest as an independent, responsible young adult. From my observations however some offspring may require a gentle push at a certain stage in their development, to avoid them continuing to settle, just a little too comfortably into the nest! In my view parents deserve to be congratulated on a job well done.
when their children have grown and flown.

The moment of departure, when a child eventually leaves home for good, is a very significant time in a mother’s life. With her nest empty some women feel an intense sense of desertion and rejection. Having spent the past 20 years or so raising her offspring, making personal and financial sacrifices, she now finds herself floundering. She is like a ship without a rudder, unsettled and not quite knowing in which direction the wind will next take her.. Without a focus her future looks hazy and uncertain, and many women at this dramatic point in their lives, start rocking the boat. Most women will look back over the childrearing years and conclude with some satisfaction, that they did their best as they cared and brought up their children in the given circumstances. As good mothers they gave their offspring a mother’s love, supporting them through times of sickness and trouble. After much soul searching and reflection the majority of women feel without conscience that they did their duty and gave the family their best. At this point many women finally become themselves and no longer feel guilty about addressing their own needs.

I think an overdue word of praise is required at this point for all women, but especially mothers. It never ceases to amaze me just how much women achieve on an everyday basis compared to many men They multi-task and many juggle a family and a career. Many of these achievements are taken forgranted and go without due recognition. Initially of course, we should remind ourselves that biologically women are the weaker sex. But this is largely due to the fact that the female sex have menstruation to cope with on a regular basis, with all it’s hormonal complications as all women know only too well, but the majority take in their stride. Mother’s bodies are put under the stress and strain of pregnancy, and eventually the pregnant woman must go through childbirth itself, which isn’t exactly a picnic! I appreciate that modern caring husbands and partners try to comprehend and support their womenfolk during these times, but for the obvious biological reasons, a male cannot experience the intense physical, mental and emotional pressure his partner is going through. Despite the major biological disadvantage, modern day women are strong in all other areas, and can, and do compete with men at most levels very satisfactorily. Miraculously women are out there competing with men at work and play, and yet somehow they continue to juggle family, career and relationships. Many working women are the breadwinners and financially independent, possibly supporting partners children or ageing parents. What incredibly complex, competent, and downright clever creatures we women are! Well that’s got that off my chest – but it had to be said!

This is not a time of life to reflect on the past but to plan for the future, and for some women it can be a time of major changes, especially regarding relationships. Self-examination can be especially uncomfortable and disturbing for all concerned. Partnerships come under intense scrutiny at the time of a planned retirement, but when the early retirement is unplanned, partners find themselves increasingly together for hours on end when they least expected to. It can be an opportunity to talk, to face the facts, to be sensitive to partners requirements and aspirations, a time for honesty and openness.

For some people courage must be summoned up to express their disappointments, and to state their desire to implement changes if the relationship is to survive. Others need even greater courage and conviction in themselves to be able to move on to something different and hopefully better, and to go it alone. Women today are no longer content to be subservient to men, and are not prepared to stay in bad relationships. Neither should they, particularly once they have finished raising their children to adulthood. Many men and women still live together as a couple simply because they are scared of being on their own and alone. A woman of 50 years of age could possibly have another third of her life in front of her, so why should she want to spend it miserably in what she perceives as an unsatisfactory relationship? But as many women find out to their own cost when they move on, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. When the going gets tough with unexpected or terrible things happening it’s rough, and then it’s easy to reflect on the past and yearn for what was. But sadly for many women it is only in retrospect that the familiarity and near normality of that lost former life is appreciated.

For many older couples retirement can be the blissful time they worked and planned for. With a good strong relationship, even the restrictions of limited finance doesn’t stop them from having a good time. Retirement comes up to their expectations. Finally they have time to do all the things they had wanted and dreamt about doing for so many years. Family and work commitments had previously thwarted their aspirations. For some couples or single folk there is the chance to travel, to experience other places and cultures. By taking advantage of pensioner’s allowances and travel concessions they get on a bus, train, coach or plane and they are up and away. At last there’s the time and opportunity to visit friends and locations both far and near, and people and places they have longed to see during those busy years. It can be a magical time for retired people, with time to quite literally “stop to smell the roses”. During a recent trip to the Royal Horticultural Society’s delightful gardens at Wisley in Surrey, I observed many people doing just that. It wonderful to see increasingly large numbers of quite ordinary people discovering the joy, peace and tranquillity of simply walking around beautiful grounds and communing with nature. You can count me in their number.

Sadly some couples will have reached the stage in their partnership where they have simply got bored with one another and find they have little left in common. The growing family has kept them together but gradually over the years, and perhaps with outside interests distracting them, they have allowed their relationship to go stale. Many couples will have been together for 20, 30 or 40 more years. Once they stop and take stock they realise that they have both been pulling in opposite directions and leading separate lives whilst living under the same roof. The situation isn’t all doom and gloom, especially if they can communicate their needs well and after discussion many decide to still be friends if not lovers. If neither partner wants for more, many couples will continue quite happily on their journey through life together. Many of this generation married in the 1950’s and 60’s and took their wedding vows very seriously, and have no wish to break them. They respectfully continue their life together, through the ups and downs, till the end of their days. There is a lot in favour of staying with convention, and if both partners happily agree there are many advantages. Though it must be said, some couples stay together more through familiarity than desire.

If both partners are allowed to pursue their own interests and friendships, neither partner gets hurt, as they would do in a divorce or separation. There is no financial pressure on either partner to give up their share of a treasured home or familiar possessions, and there need be little or no sexual contact. But there is economic security, and without the complications resulting from divorce, the pensions stay intact! These couples continue on together respecting each other’s differences, giving each other space within the relationship, and presenting a united front to the family and the rest of the world. I’m convinced that a large majority of the ageing population at this time live within these constraints, their boredom being channelled constructively into pursuits and interests of their own.

However this arrangement is far from satisfactory when both partners stay in the relationship but do not communicate their needs to one another. Courage is required to dissect the relationship and to look at how, if possible, it can be rebuilt in order to satisfy the needs of both parties. Sadly, many do not have the courage to face up to this uncomfortable process, or are too apathetic to even try. All too often these unhappy, dissatisfied people spend the rest of their days together, in a state of strife. Years ago the option to leave an unhappy marriage would not have been possible, because the average wife was dependent on her husband for her every penny. How things have progressed over the past 50 years. Women going out to work have changed all that, and today, with many women now being financially independent by their own efforts, and mentally and emotionally stronger, they have the ability to manage their lives and to be themselves in their own right.

MENTAL & EMOTIONAL ACTION PLAN
• Learn to say no – take time to think a request through
• Be interested in other people and listen to their point of view
• Start to delegate don’t try to do everything yourself
• Get your priorities right and focus on what is important to you don’t just let things happen
• Be selective and guard your time jealously don’t always do things you feel you have to
• Organise your time don’t let others control you
• Create a routine get a balance between hard work and having fun
• Express your needs
• Share your problems with trusted family and friends and allow them to share their worries with you
• If you have a strong point of view regarding ageism let it be heard
• Don’t be complacent – utilise your power
• Learn from the past but don’t dwell on regrets and look forward to the future with a positive mind
• Don’t be defeatist accept a challenge and try something new and different
• Defend your self esteem and have confidence in yourself
• Organise your time don’t waste it, spend quality time with your partner and loved ones
• Don’t feel quilty about addressing your own needs and communicate your needs to others but be sensitive to theirs
• Confront the facts, if situations are unsatisfactory have the courage to voice your opinions and move on
• Pursue your own interests and friendships
• Think situations through before you act – don’t be hasty
• Take time off to “stop and smell the roses”
• Nurture your female friends
• In the event of death or divorce allow yourself adequate time to grieve
• Don’t blame only yourself for failures and put aside feelings of guilt and self loathing – they are destructive
• Tell people you love them before time runs out and if at all possible make up past disagreements with family and friends
• Offer your support to those who are ill or unhappy
• Whenever possible try to put on a united front with ex partners at family occasions
• Adopt a positive attitude to life
• In some situations it pays to compromise
• Learn to like and respect yourself
• Consider platonic male friendships as an alternative to a sexual relationship and discover the practical solution to dating by “going Dutch”
• Don’t allow a male partner to put you into a sexual situation against
• against your will
• If you are starting a new sexual relationship insist your partner wears a condom
• Consult your GP if you have medical problems such a depression or sexual difficulties. Consider counselling if you are having serious difficulties in coping with life
• Organise your finances and take advice on pensions in order to avoid extra stress
• Seek out the company of young people and keep an open mind, re-evaluate your opinions and adjust to modern times
• Don’t force your methods or opinions onto others – especially the young
• Try to ensure that you can be regarded as neutral territory and a safe haven for your grandchildren, if you are a long distance grandparent – keep in touch
• Give yourself a pat on the back for being the competent woman you are!

Nutritional Fitness

You can’t have good health through exercising alone, regular exercise and a healthy diet must go together, like a horse and cart, if we are to perform efficiently. To a large extent we are what we eat, and if we aim to have a long and healthy life we must watch what we eat. Since I was a small child I have been interested in all forms of movement and sport. An energetic youngster, a bit if a tomboy if truth be told, I soon learnt to be aware of my body and it’s physical limitations, as I ran and jumped, always trying to better my brother and many boy cousins. But in my teens, as a young athlete running for my County, I soon realised my performance depended not only on natural ability, training, or even long legs! It depended on being able to cope with nervous tension, illness, or aches and pains inflicted through incorrect training. But even more importantly, it depended on what I ate and drank; and that made the difference to my coming first or last.

Many people do age well and have strong bodies, because they have regularly looked after their health over many years. Rather like the insurance policy I mentioned in my introduction, the earlier you start and the more you invest the better the pay off in later life. It pays to look after your health, and it’s never too late to start. It’s worth remembering that even when you reach the ripe old age of 50, you may well have another third of your life in front of you, so it’s essential to do everything possible to maintain your health, and in so doing, help to preserve your independence.

A healthy lifestyle consisting of a well balanced diet plus regular moderate exercise, has always been my way of life, and more recently as the years have gone by, I have found specialist health products, particularly supplements to be of benefit to me. Later in this section we’ll look at the part vitamins and minerals play in keeping us healthy in more detail, but first things first. In today’s stressful world a healthy diet is all important, yet despite so much information being easily available to us in magazines, books, on TV and radio, surprisingly few people heed the advice given, and continue to eat junk food. Today the general public is well informed about nutrition and most people know what food is healthy to eat, and what is not. So why is it that these same people are so surprised when they succumb to preventable illnesses from eating the wrong foods!

Our diet can all too often cause, or be linked to, certain preventable diseases or conditions, such as tooth decay, skin disease, constipation and obesity. Other diets can have an even more devastating effect, and be the cause of major disease or death from heart disease, stroke, or illnesses such as breast, bowel or colon cancer. Britain has the worst record in the world for heart disease and more people die from heart attacks than from any other disease. What does that say for our national diet? Far too many of us, estimated at over 90%, already have arteries damaged by our diet, which could one day lead to a heart attack. We can help our families and ourselves to better health, and it’s so simple. Much other diet related simply cutting down on foods that are known to cause problems could prevent diseases. We can easily prevent our teeth from tooth decay by not eating so much sugary food or sweetened drinks, and by regularly brushing our teeth with fluoride toothpaste. The Department of Health and the Health Development Agency (formerly the Health Education Authority) say that small changes to one’s lifestyle, especially with regard to diet, can reduce the chance of illness and disease.

We need to regularly eat sensible amounts of good wholesome food for our health’s sake, a balanced diet with a wide variety of tasty, nuitritous fresh foods. We should aim to be not too fat, but equally not too thin, and to maintain a regular weight without extremes of yo-yo dieting.

Being slim is no indicator of general health. It is just as unhealthy and undesirable to be underweight and anorexic, as it is to be extremely overweight. Food and drink contain calories, which are a measure of energy. Ideally we need to eat enough food, in order to provide sufficient calories to go about our normal daily tasks, with some left over for the body to use for growth and repairs. When we eat and drink more calories than our body’s need for day to day functioning, and for repair and growth, we disturb the balance and tip the scales. The excess calories simply get stored up around our body in the form of unsightly fat deposits (most women are familiar with these!) and we gain weight.

At the other end of the scale, when we don’t eat enough food, and we don’t have sufficient calories, the body has to feed off it’s own reserves and then we lose weight. However, when this is done to extremes the resulting weight loss can be unhealthy and very dangerous indeed.

How much energy we individually need depends on the life that we lead. It’s true to say our parents and grandparents needed more energy from their food in order for them to be able to cope with the physical demands of life in those days, as we concluded when we compared traditional grey granny with her modern counterpart in our introduction. Traditional gran positively encouraged her family to eat as much as possible in order for them to literally, keep up their strength, which they needed in order to work and survive.

Half a century ago there was good reason for encouraging people to eat more meat, eggs, butter, cheese and milk – they all contained fat. During activity the body produces the required energy by burning up calories which are contained in fat and this process also keeps the body warm. This was vital during winter – there was no central heating or warm motor car to take the kids to school in for trad gran and her family. What they ate as their daily diet fuelled them up sufficiently to undertake physical tasks that were the norm in those days both at work, and in the house and garden. But even with the hard physical life there were some people with less energetic lifestyles who didn’t burn off enough calories so consequently they became fat. The advice given then was to cut down on bread and potatoes in order to lose weight, which is contrary to advice given today, as we, will discover.

It’s imperative that as we age we eat the correct amount of food for our individual daily requirements in order to maintain the calorie balance. It’s not sensible to carry excessive weight with the accompanying health hazards of obesity, joint problems and heart disease. Some women find in their middle years and later on in life, that their appetites decrease although their weight stays the same. This is quite understandable and normal for they are probably less active than previously and they simply need less food and energy in order to perform. They are the fortunate ones, because after the menopause women who continue to eat a large amount, but who are less active, will find the calorie excesses stored on their tummies.

Prior to menopause this excess fat would have been stored on their hips, thighs and breasts with just a small amount on their tummy. Men traditionally store excess calories on their stomach and this body shape is associated with an increase in the risk of heart disease. Postmenopausal women should be aware that their fat tummy and new shape has the same association. Should they decide to diet they must take care not to lose out on vital nourishment, and be even more concerned with the quality of their food, as well as the quantity that they eat.

It’s important to establish eating habits that make certain that the calories (the energy) comes from a variety of sources. For a diet to be beneficial it should contain foods from all three food groups – carbohydrates, fats and proteins – and in sensible proportions. Dieting, or just not consuming as much food as previously, is always a risky business. By cutting down on calories, one runs the risks of cutting down on essential nourishment, and minerals and vitamins A beneficial diet should contain the following;
53% of carbohydrate
35% of fat
12% of protein

As I mentioned earlier alcohol also provides energy. But the consumption of alcohol must be limited so that it provides no more than 4% of the total amount of energy in the diet. Generally speaking beers contain many more calories than wines, so check out your drinks as well as your food. Wine in moderation can be good for you, however a good night out can soon disturb your balance – in more ways than one! Try to drink 8 glasses of water a day it prevents dehydration and helps get rid of toxins. Much better for your health than too many cups of tea and coffee containing caffeine, or cans of sweet fizzy drinks which are full of sugar.

So just what foods should we be eating? Let’s cut through the mumbo jumbo and look at the basic rules for a well-balanced nutritious diet.
• Eat less fat, especially saturated fat
• Eat less sugar
• Eat less salt
• Eat more starchy carbohydrate foods containing fibre
• Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables It should be simple – the main reason for eating and drinking (apart from enjoying the taste) is to give our bodies energy in order to function. For a woman over 50 the recommended daily allowance is about 1,800 calories. Women who lead an energetic life will need more calories while those who are sedentary may need less. The principle source of this energy in our food comes from four main food groups, and each of these sources contains differing amounts of energy. For example;

• 1g of fat can provide 9 calories.
• 1g of carbohydrate can provide 4 calories
• 1g of protein also provides 4 calories
• 1g of alcohol can provide 7 calories

Let’s take a closer look at the four food groups.

First carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are divided into two categories and are an important source of energy;

simple carbohydrates, which include sugars, starches and dextrin.
complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre.

Simple carbohydrates such a sugar and starch are contained in cakes, sweets and cookies. When we eat them they give us an instant lift and energy, but all too soon leave us feeling hungry again, down, dissatisfied and lacking in energy. We are tempted to snack again on foods like biscuits and chocolates rich in sugar. Sugar is a quick fix and isn’t really necessary if we’re eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet. It kids the body it’s getting the energy it needs, it deceives us and leaves us wanting for more. In reality it bumps up the calorie intake and can leave us wobbling down the primrose path to obesity! We need to watch our sweet tooth (beware tooth decay), and learn to read labels when we are food shopping. Beware of foods containing anything ending in ‘ose, such as sucrose, fructose or lactose – sugar by another name. These simple carbohydrate foods can often contain high levels of fat too. Biscuits, cakes, chocolates, deserts and many instant foods are packed full of calories but rarely contain any vitamins, with the exception of some jams. It’s easy to see how the weight goes on, but you can cut down your sugar intake by using artificial sweeteners in tea and coffee, and by buying low calorie soft drinks and fruit juices.

Complex carbohydrates are infinitely more useful to the body than refined simple carbohydrates like white sugar. Complex carbohydrates found in cereals and potatoes for example, contain dietary fibre to make us feel full and other essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Complex carbohydrate foods should be our principle source of energy. Their bulk is satisfying at the time of eating, and continues to maintain our energy level over a long period of time after we have eaten. Foods containing complex carbohydrates, such as porridge, bread and potatoes are the foods that grey gran and her family needed a lot of years ago to give them the energy their lifestyle demanded. Today we need it to form approximately 53% of a healthy diet.

Fibre is good for our digestive system and can be found in foods such as cereals, fruit and vegetables. Although not nutritional, plenty of fibre is essential in the diet, it is the part of food, which passes through, but is not digested by the body. Fibre absorbs water, and in doing so adds bulk to the intestinal contents assisting digestible material to pass through the intestine with it. Fibre acts like a sponge, and this is another good reason why you need to drink plenty of water. Dietary fibre can help prevent digestive disorders and more serious conditions such as some cancers – it may also help lower blood cholesterol. Sufferers from piles or diverticulitis may find that eating more fibre can ease a lot of their pain and irritation. If constipation is a problem it can be alleviated, in many cases completely by eating more fibre rich foods. Slimmers too can benefit from eating dietary fibre – it can leave them feeling full, but has the benefit of containing few calories.

If you haven’t previously eaten much fibre, take things easily at first. Too much too soon, may leave you feeling uncomfortable and a victim of wind! Most breakfast cereals are good fibre providers, but avoid those that have been coated in sugar and honey. For lunch eat more potatoes and their skins. Potatoes are a valuable source of energy and they contain plenty of goodness in their skins too. Simply boiled they are very nutritious and not fattening. Adding fat to them causes the problem. Consider a simple medium sized potato – nutritious and low in calories – but note how the calorie content of that same potato increases dramatically with different methods of cooking.

• Boiled it contains 115 cals
• Mashed “ 170 cals
• Roasted “ 225 cals
• As Chips “ 350 cals
• As Crisps “ 725 cals

Instead of potatoes, choose rice with your meal for a change, brown rice white, brown rice rather than white is full of fibre, and a lot tastier. Peas, beans, and lentils are a good source of fibre and have the advantage of being easy to prepare. Of course, you could choose to simply open a can of baked beans – the reduced sugar versions are cheap, easy and full of fibre.

When you are next on the social scene or are in need of a quick snack, remember that disastrous fat content of crisps if “naughty but nice” tempts you nibbles and crisps. Let me also issue a peanut warning – each peanut contains approximately 7 calories! If you must snack it’s healthier by far to eat a delicious and nutritious banana. A medium sized banana fruit contains just 80 cals and is rich in vitamin C and energy giving B1, B2 and B6 and the essential mineral potassium. The fibre in bananas is broken down gently by the body smoothing out the rate of sugar absorption and providing a sustained source of energy over a period of time. I chop one banana (I prefer the small size from the Caribbean) into my meusli every breakfast time to give me my early morning energy boost. All fruits and vegetables contain roughage, natural fibre and vitamins (which we will look at in more detail later on). Don’t peel away the fibre and goodness in the skin of an apple, pear or potato. A variety of fresh vegetables and fruits are essential for healthy well-balanced diet, try to eat at least 5 portions every day.

Nutritionists still find it an upward struggle in this enlightened age to encourage the public to eat more healthy food such as less fat, less sugar more complex carbohydrates, potatoes, bread, pasta and wholegrain rice. Past misconceptions was that eating lot bread and potatoes made people fat. The trouble was not with the foods themselves but as we have seen how they were cooked (roasted etc) and also what was they were accompanied by. A generation ago people filled up on a lot of bread but piled on the calories by lashing the bread with huge amounts of butter and cream. They compounded the mistake by adding chocolate spreads, condensed milk, pastes and jams, or worse still – peanut butter and chips – to make popular peanut and chip butties! I distinctly remember as a child being encouraged to eat up my toast which was literally dripping with “dripping” (fat and meat juices left in the pan from around the Sunday roast joint). It was loaded with saturated fat.

It’s easy to condemn the average diet of our grandparent’s generation, but we must remember that their nutritional needs and traditions of cooking were very different from ours today in this fast food era. Let’s not forget that people hadn’t the availability of a huge choice of food or fresh fruits and vegetables all year around that we take foregranted today. That generation ate what was seasonal and mostly grown in this country or a few foods such as meats, fish, vegetables and fruits, which were tinned or preserved. Traditional British foods such as fat roasted potatoes and fat fried chips pushed the country’s calorie intake and cholesterol levels up sky high. Today with the addition of junk and convenience foods the UK levels are still much too high. Despite all the information and health warnings, we still appear to be addicted to fat, as the high consumption of cakes, biscuits, chocolate and junk food in the UK readily proves.

Proteins are our second food groups and are needed by our bodies to build and repair the body’s tissues throughout life. Proteins are found in a variety of interesting sources – meat, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, nuts, pulses and rice. Protein is the basic constituent of the body’s tissues, and is also needed to manufacture digestive and other enzymes. Proteins are made up of complex amino acid structures, and when we eat a varied, well balanced diet, both the animal and plant sources of protein – such as fruits, vegetables and rice, are able to provide the correct amounts of amino acids, which are essential for good health.

If we eat more protein than our bodies need, our bodies are not able to store the excess protein, or the amino acid constituents and the protein that is surplus to requirements, simply gets converted into glucose in the liver. If we are active and energetic our bodies use it up, but if not it gets stored as body fat.

Fats are our third food group and we all need to be well aware of the fat facts, if we want to continue living a healthy life for as long as possible. As we saw previously, fat is the most concentrated source of energy in our diets and contains essential fatty acids. Fats also act as a carrier for many essential fat-soluble vitamins, which are important for our good health. However, a great deal of recent research has been done into the fat content of our diets, and doctors and nutritionists are extremely concerned, because the findings suggest that the UK diet still contains far too much fat. Many of the UK population are obese and the numbers are growing. People who suffer from pain or arthritis in their ankles or knees, and people who are short of breath or have high blood pressure, should check their weight. Getting down to a normal weight may help to improve all these problems and help control the high blood pressure. A low fat diet is a healthy one – a no fat diet is not. The fats in our diet can be divided into two types and we need to recognise them in order to eat more healthily.

VISIBLE FATS, these are the obvious fats you see in butter, lard, margarine and cooking oils.
HIDDEN FATS are not so obvious to see as they are hidden in many “convenience” foods, and in foods such as sausages, pork pies, sauces, cakes and desserts.

We need to know our fats if we are intent on helping ourselves in good health. In particular it’s essential for us to be able to distinguish between

• Saturated fats
• Unsaturated fats

Saturated fats are usually of animal source. They are found in red meats such as beef, lamb and pork, and in dairy products such as full cream milk, cheese, and in suet, lard and dripping. As an easy guide, saturated fats are solid at room temperature (with the exception of palm oil and coconut oil.) The calorie content of these saturated fats is sky high. They contain cholesterol and heart disease has been linked very strongly to the high level of blood cholesterol, the waxy substance that lines the walls of the arteries. Coronary heart disease is linked to a diet rich in saturated fats. Too much saturated fat clogs the arteries and increases the risk of heart disease or failure. Excess in the diet causes obesity. Heart disease progresses slowly and its never too late to improve your diet. Try to keep your levels of saturated fat low and limit the amount of cheese you eat, trim the fat off meat, and eat skinless poultry. You can slow down, or even stop the progress of heart disease by a combination of healthy eating, regular exercise and by not smoking.

Unsaturated fats are found in oily fish like pilchards, herrings, mackerel, sardines and tuna which are great fish to eat and so good for you! Unsaturated fats include mono-unsaturated fats such the superior olive oil, a basic ingredient of the generally healthy Mediterranean diet and also include the polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils – including sunflower, corn and rapeseed, and nuts and vegetables. Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature.

Neither mono-unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats contain cholesterol nor the risk of heart disease is reduced. In fact polyunsaturated fats are thought to positively discourage cholesterol and to keep the levels down. But saturated fats as with all fats contain calories, and too much of any fat will pile on the pounds. When polyunsaturated fat is heated it can form free radicals, which are harmful to our health. The safest oil to cook with is olive oil – keep the vegetable oils for salad dressings.

It is advisable for most of us to cut down on the total quantity of fats we consume and particularly the amount of saturated fat we eat. . Saturated fat should only make up approximately one third of fat eaten. The other two thirds should be a combination of polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats. Look out for foods labelled “reduced fat” but read the contents carefully they can often include added sugar. Milk is an important source of nourishment, but if you prefer buy semi skimmed milk rather than full cream. Semi skimmed milk is higher in calcium and contains far less saturated fat, but has just as many beneficial nutrients and vitamins. Cheese is nutritious and an excellent source of calcium, but it has a very high fat and calorie content.

NUTRITION ACTION PLAN
• Eat a well balanced diet
• Eat more fibre -rich starchy foods, such as whole grain breakfast cereals, wholemeal bread, pasta, brown rice, pulses, fresh fruit and vegetables
• Cook vegetables lightly or stir-fry. If they are crunchy they retain more goodness and take longer to eat
• Snack on fresh and dried fruits or unsalted nuts instead of biscuits and chocolate
• Use less sugar
• Choose sugar-free breakfast cereals
• Cut down on saturated fats
• Cut fat off red meats
• Drink skimmed or seem-skimmed milks instead of full fat
• Cut down on butter, cream, fatty cheeses like Cheddar, Stilton and also full-fat yoghurts
• Choose low-fat cheeses like Edam, Brie and Cottage cheese
• Substitute lean meat like poultry or fish instead of red meat
• Avoid meat products like sausages, luncheon meats or salamis
• Cut down on butter, cream, fatty cheeses like Cheddar, Stilton and also full-fat yoghurts
• Choose low-fat cheeses like Edam, Brie and Cottage cheese
• Eat more oily fish but avoid frying
• Throw out the chip pan and grill instead
• If you must fry only use a spot of oil in a non- stick pan
• Avoid salty foods such as bacon, cheese, pickles, olives, crisps, salted peanuts, savoury nibbles, and savoury spreads
• Don’t add salt
• Drink plenty of water
• Consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements
• Drink herb or fruit teas, which are calorie free
• Drink a glass of sparkling water before meals to take the edge off your appetite and cleanse your system
• Dilute fruit juice half-and-half with water
• Buy low calorie drinks when possible
• Use more herbs and spices for flavouring
• Whisk an egg white with a carton of low fat yoghurt or fromage frais for a creamy topping
• Instead of salad cream or oil based dressings use yoghurt with lemon juice or herbs

Easyfit Exercise Programme

Programme content

  • Stretch
  • Aerobics
  • Bone strengthening
  • Muscle toning
  • Relaxation

Before you start this, or any exercise programme, please check with your doctor if you suffer from heart disease, have high blood pressure, joint problems, back problems, if you are very overweight, have a serious illness, or are convalescing.   Check out location and surfaces before performing any exercises in your home or out in the garden.   Make sure you are warm enough but wear layered loose clothing, which can be discarded as you hot up!   It is essential to make sure that the supports and equipment you use are strong enough to take your weight, and that surfaces are not wet or slippery.   Don’t exercise until at least an hour after meals, and keep drinking water near at hand to avoid becoming dehydrated.

WAKE UP

  • To prepare your body for exercise

Stand with feet apart, feel nice and easy.   Bend your knees – bend forward from your waist – swing arms down and behind you.   Straightening your knees swing your arms up high above your head-lift up rib cage breathe deeply and stretch out your entire body.

If you are chair bound simply bend forward and touch your toes, straighten up and reach for the sky.

WARM UP  

Begin your  fitness programme with some gentle stretching.   First check out and correct your posture.

  • Posture

Stand with your feet comfortably apart and your shoulders back, down and relaxed.  Pull in your tummy and tuck your tail under tilting your pelvis forward.

  • Wrist Circle

To maintain mobility of the wrists sit or stand and tuck your elbows into your waist.   Simply circle your hands working the wrists.   8 times in one direction and 8 times in the other.

  • Windmill

To release tension and mobilise the shoulders simply place your fingertips on your shoulders.   Bring your elbows together in front of you, take them up and back pulling your shoulder blades together and drawing imaginary circles with your elbows.   8 times clockwise and 8 times anti-clockwise.

·         Head roll

To release tension and mobilise the neck look over your right shoulder with chin parallel to the floor.   Drop your chin to chest and slowly roll it to look over your left shoulder.   Roll chin back to chest and on over to the right side.   Repeat 8 times.   Do not roll your head backwards.

  • Ankle circle

Stand with your feet a little apart and hold onto a table or chair back for support.   Lift up the heel of your right foot keeping toes on the floor and circle your ankle.    8 times clockwise and 8 times anti-clockwise.   Repeat with your left foot.   (You can do this exercise sitting down).

  • Side twist

Sit or stand with feet apart.   Bend your arms and with elbows out bring them up to shoulder level with fingertips touching in front of your chest.   Twist your upper body and head around to the right side to mobilise your spine and upper body.  But keep your hips facing forward.   Come back to centre and twist to the left side.   8 times each side.

  • Side reach

Sit or stand with feet apart.   With your right hand reach up and over your head (relax left knee if standing).   Bring arm down and reach up and over with left hand (relaxing right knee) as if climbing a rope.   8 times to both sides.

WARM UP STRETCH

Hold all stretches still for 8 seconds.   Do not bounce.

  • Calf stretch

To stretch out the back muscle of the lower leg stand with your feet hip width apart facing a wall for support.  Place your hands up at shoulder level with arms straight.   Keep both feet facing forward but take your right foot back behind you.   Keep your leg straight and press your heel down hard and push against the wall.   Feel the stretch in your right calf.   Hold for 8 seconds.   Repeat with left leg.

  • Hamstring stretch

To stretch out the hamstring muscle (back of thigh and bottom) stand with your feet  facing forward as before, but further back from the wall.    Using wall for support take your right foot forward.   With knee straight place it heel down and toes facing upwards.   Bend your left knee, push against the wall and lift up the right side of your bottom.   Feel the stretch in the back of your thigh and bottom.   Hold for 8 seconds.   Repeat with left leg.

  • Upper back stretch

Sit or stand to stretch out your upper back.   Bend your elbows and bring arms up to shoulder level.   Place hands on elbows, drop your head forward and round out your back and stretch.    Hold for 8 seconds.

  • Tricep stretch

Sit or stand to stretch out the tricep muscle ( back of your upper arm).   Take your right arm up, bend your elbow and place your right hand behind your head on your middle upper back.  Take your left hand across your chest and push back your right upper arm and shoulder as far as possible.   Hold for 8 seconds.   Repeat with the left arm.

  • Chest stretch

Sit or stand to stretch out your chest.   Take both arms behind you and place your hands on your bottom.   Pull back your shoulders and elbows.   Lift up your rib cage and feel the stretch across your chest.   Hold for 8 seconds.

AEROBIC EXERCISE

Regular aerobic exercise improves heart and lung function and helps to control blood pressure   Blood pressure changes with age and can increase through illness and over-exertion.   Don’t suddenly start to exercise if you already suffer from high blood pressure.   Begin by simple brisk walking – preferably out of doors.

As we get older it is essential to be able to perceive our own physical rate of exertion in order to prevent problems.   This is a simple test.   Jog on the spot for a minute.   Stop and ask yourself how you feel and give yourself ratings.

  1. Feel exhausted
  2. Feel OK but a bit puffed
  3. Feel good and could do more

Be aware of your body – these are your individuals perceived rates of exertion.  During your work out keep asking yourself “which level am I working at?”   If you perceive it to be:

  • 1 Take it easy, but try to gradually build up over the following days until you feel a comfortable 2 or maybe eventually 3.
  • 2 Try a bit harder
  • 3 Challenge yourself a bit more.   Build up the duration and intensity of your work out.   If you feel uncomfortable and breathless, or if you are in pain or lack co-ordination, then decrease the duration and intensity to level 2.

Whatever level you are working at always monitor your progress and don’t overdo it!

“Aerobic” means exercising with air and you should puff and breathe deeply when you exercise in order to achieve.   The increased intake of air enables your muscles to work harder and longer and the result is increased stamina, and improved heart and lung efficiency.   If your stamina is very low, it is important to build up the aerobic section of your exercise programme gradually.   If your posture is poor, breathing will be difficult and the amount of air inhaled will be less.   You see how important it is tot maintain strength, and flexibility of the chest joints as we age in order for them to be able to expand and accommodate deeper breathing.

Aerobic exercise is weight bearing exercise, (no need for dumb bells – the body is using it’s own weight).   Consequently aerobic exercise helps strengthen the spine, hips and ankles, because they have to support the weight of our bodies during the work out.   But you don’t need to go to the gym to exercise, the following movements can easily be performed at home.   Low impact aerobic exercises have sufficient pull on the muscles to improve bone density (more about that in the section on osteoporosis on page ……) as well as to improve stamina, without exhaustion

  • Aerobic march

Clear a space and put on some upbeat music.   Simply march on the spot for a minute.   Lift your feet up, roll through the ball of your foot and keep your weight over your big and second toe.   Now lift your knees higher and pump your arms.   March on around the room and/or garden for several minutes until you begin to puff.

  • Aerobic stand

Choose an upright chair without arms and sit down (towards the front of it.)   Without using your arms to push off simply stand up and sit down continuously in time to the music.   Aim to stand up, leading with your chest forward, and with hands on your thighs.   If this is difficult, place your hands on a table in front to steady you.   (It’s very important to correct posture and strengthen thighs in order to maintain physical independence into older age)

  • Aerobic step

Face a wide, dry step 4-6 inches high (8 if you are very fit)   Hold onto a banister or wall for support.   Leading with your right heel, place your right foot up in the centre of the step.  With your body weight over your knee and foot, step up.  (Don’t let heel or toe hang over the edge of the step).   Remember your posture – balance is improved by working on co-ordination of movement and symmetry of the body.   Step your left foot up to join your right foot, leaning from the ankle joint.   Step back down with your right foot.   Keep close to step and land on the ball of your foot, and lower your heel down to absorb the shock.   Step back down with the left foot.   Continue “stepping” for a few minutes, then change to lead with your left foot for a further 2 minutes.   Aim to eventually step without the support, for maximum effect.

  • Aerobic tap

Stand with feet together.   In time to the music step right foot out to the right side – transferring weight onto it.   Bring left foot across and tap it to the side of the right foot.    Step left foot out to the left side.   Transfer weight and bring right foot to tap onto side of left foot.   Repeat and swing your arms to sides and clap to the beat.   Increase the intensity by swinging arms higher and stepping legs higher and wider.   Continue for 2 minutes and enjoy the rhythm.

  • Spot walking

Gradually bring the intensity down, by walking on the spot with your hands by your side for 1 minute.  Finally, place your hands on your hips and continue for 1 more minute, simply transferring your weight from one foot to the other.   Only lift your heels and keep both feet in contact with the floor.   Now stop!

TUM EXERCISE

  • Pelvic tilt

First learn the “pelvic tilt”.    This is the correct position to adopt in order to perform abdominal exercises correctly.

Lie on your back – knees bent, slightly apart – feet flat on the floor.   Breathe in – pull in your tummy muscles and push your lower back (your waist) into the floor.   This action flattens the arch in your back and tilts your pelvis upwards.   Remember to hold this pelvic tilt  throughout all  abdominal exercises.   Breathe out and relax

  • Abdominal lift
  • Lie back on the floor (rest your head on a small cushion if it’s more comfortable). Bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor.   Reach your arms forward and place your hands on your thighs.   Pull in your tummy, push your back down into the floor, and tilt your pelvis up.   Breathe out, and lift your head and shoulders up, sliding your hands up to your knees.   Breathe in as you slowly relax down.  Control both the up and down movement -don’t just flop back!   Begin with 8 repetitions and build up to 24.

(To increase the intensity of this exercise cross your arms over your chest as you lift up.  To increase the intensity still further, place your fingertips on your temples, keeping your elbows out to the sides.  Tilt your pelvis, breathe out, and lift your head and shoulders up.   Keep your elbows back, head steady, and chin down on chest.)

  • Abdominal twist

Lie in the same position, but place right elbow on the floor with fingers to temples and left hand on thigh.   Tilt pelvis, breathe out and lift your head and shoulders up, reaching over with your left hand to touch the outside of your right knee.   Breathe in, and relax back down.

To increase the intensity of this exercise, from the same lying position, cross your right knee over your left and take your right arm out to the side, palm down.   Place the fingers of your left hand to your temple, with elbow out.  Breathe out, lifting up your head and shoulders, and try to reach across to touch the outside of your right knee, with your left elbow.   Breathe in, and relax back down.    8 repetitions, building up to 24.   Change legs and repeat to the other side.

THIGH EXERCISE

·         Abductor (outer thigh) muscle

Lie on your side, bend your knees and bring them both slightly forward.   Bend your elbow, and support your head in your hand.   Place your other hand on the floor, in front of your waist for support.   Don’t roll forward or backwards.   Pull in your tummy, and tighten your bottom.    Flex your foot, keep your knee bent, and, leading with your heel lift up your top leg (not too high).   Keep your foot lower than your knee, and don’t drop your hip back.   Control both the up and down movement.   (A bent leg is called a 1/2 lever)

To increase the intensity of this exercise, lie as before but place your lower bent leg, back in line with your upper body.   Straighten your upper leg, (full lever) and lift and lower as before, leading with your heel.   Remember to keep the tummy and bum tight throughout the exercise.   Begin with 8 lifts, then roll over and repeat the exercise with the other leg, gradually increasing to 24.

You can add leg weights to increase the intensity still further.

·         Adductor (inner thigh) muscle

Still lying on your side, take your top leg over the bottom one, and place your knee on the floor.   Straighten out your under leg, in line with your upper body.   Flex your foot, and, leading with your heel, lift and lower your leg 8 times, with small controlled movements.   Feel the inner thigh muscles working!   Roll over and repeat exercise with your other leg.   Gradually increase to 24 lifts.

BOTTOM EXERCISE

  • Bottom lift
  • Kneel down, bend your elbows out and place them on the floor. Bend forward from your hips, and rest your forehead on your crossed hands.   Lift and take, one leg up and back, bending your knee 90%, (1/2 lever), your thigh parallel with the floor.   With small, but controlled movements, lift and lower your leg 8 times.   Pull up your tummy muscles; don’t let your back sag.   Keep both hips facing downward, and feel your bottom muscles working.   Change legs, and repeat lifts, gradually increasing to 24

From the same position and with the leg bent as before, take the raised knee across and down, over to the outside calf of your other leg.   Return knee up, parallel to floor, and repeat 8 times, increasing to 24 as you get stronger.   Change to the other knee, and repeat lifting and crossing.     You should certainly feel your gluteal muscles work during this exercise!

LEG EXERCISE

  • Stand up

Brisk walking is excellent exercise for maintaining strong leg muscles, so too are simple stand ups.   Sit on the edge of an upright dining chair – hands on thighs – feet flat on the floor (slightly apart and back under the front of the seat).   Simply stand upright and sit back down again – don’t use your hands to push off!   Aim to stand up leading with your chest forward.

If this is difficult due to rounded shoulders or bad posture.   Place hands on table in front of you for support.   Repeat standing and sitting 10 times and build up repetitions according to personal ability.

ARM EXERCISE

The big muscles in the front of your upper arms, the biceps must be kept strong in order to perform everyday upper body activities such as lifting and carrying.

  • Biceps

To strengthen and shape simply sit on an upright chair (without arms) with your feet flat on the floor – knees at right angles.   Tuck your elbows tightly into your waist.    Keep position throughout the exercise.    Imagine you are lifting heavy weights, rise up your lower arms, fists to shoulders, and lower back down 10 times.    Make it harder by using hand weights, or small plastic drinks bottles filled with water or sand.

The triceps muscles at the back of the arms work with the biceps muscles in the front of the arms to produce strength and movement.

  • Triceps

Exercise them by sitting as before, but incline your upper body and head slightly forward. Pull in your tummy to maintain a good position and make a fist or use weights.      With elbows bent, pull shoulders together and take your upper arms back and up.    Hold them still in this position throughout exercise.    Straighten out and push down your lower arms, turning fists out at the same time.  (Don’t “lock” the elbows.)  Keep upper arms in position – bend your elbows and bring your fists or weights, back up to your shoulders 10 times.   Feel the back of your upper arm working!

BACK EXERCISE

Most  “activities” require a strong back.    The following exercises strengthen the back, but if your back is weak consult your Doctor before attempting these exercises.

  • Back up

Lie face to the floor – take your hands behind you – place your palms on your bottom. –  Pull back your shoulders and breathe in.    As you breathe out lift your shoulders, chest and head up – keep them in a straight line.    Look down and don’t arch back.   Relax and repeat

  • Bird

To help “round shoulders” lie as before.   Take your arms out to the sides, bend your elbow (90%) – place your hands up on the floor, elbows out at shoulder level.   Breathe out – pull shoulders back – lift arms and hands, raise head, shoulders and back (in a straight line) off the ground like a bird in flight.    Keep looking down.   Relax and repeat both exercises slowly and carefully 4 times, building up as you gain strength.

(If this position is uncomfortable, keep head down – pull shoulders back and work arms only).