Old Enough to Know Better

Ouch my achy back, I’ve done it again!

It’s that time of year when my delightful small garden calls out for attention.  Given a fine day I’m more than happy to respond but I do get carried away with my enthusiasm. I know I’m old enough to know better, and I know I’m informed enough to prepare my ageing body for such an event by stretching it out.  Trouble is I only intended to prune a plant or two, cut back a hedge or two, or dig a patch or two.  But I ended up doing it all, scaling ladders to hedge, digging deep to plant, and heaving rubbish to tip.  End result…severe back ache which happens every spring. So when will I learn?

What to do?

My local Osteopath Mark, to whom I have resorted for sympathy and treatment, advises me to attack the garden for half an hour at a time, rest for 10 minutes, then attack again to help prevent problems. Of course keeping my back strong and supple is the best way to avoid getting back pain. Regular exercise, maintaining good posture and lifting correctly all helps.   Most times my back pain gets better on its own and I don’t feel the need to see a doctor. The pain usually lasts for a several days so I remain as active as possible and try to continue with my daily activities. I sometimes take over-the-counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen if I’m really uncomfortable, which usually occurs at night time.

Although it can be difficult to keep cheerful and to be optimistic when I’m in pain, I know it’s important to stay positive as this helps me recover faster. Of course I’m now religiously doing the stretches and movements Mark has advised me to do, and promising myself not to act so impulsively next time! Back pain isn’t funny but sometimes a little laugh helps, especially if you realise its bad news – when you get to the age your back goes out more than you do!

What better motivation do I need for doing my preparation exercises than that?

Question 1 STRESS

I know I am fortunate to have a busy life and shouldn’t complain but I find myself getting stressed out. My friends are losing patience and I know I need to get a grip. How can I stop panicking and getting angry, its irritating my friends?

Ruth Stein, Watford

Answer

Stress is an instinctive reaction for self-survival which automatically switches your body to a state of red alert.   So Ruth when you feel fear and your senses sharpen hormones flood into your bloodstream.   You breathe more deeply, your heart rate soars and your muscles tense ready for action.   Some stress is an essential part of everyday life and helps keep us out of danger.   For example we need to be alert when we cross the road.   But sometimes we all feel we can’t cope with our stress, even simple things make us “blow a fuse”.   Know the difference because this is distress and is detrimental to your health.   Pent-up feelings push up blood pressure and put a strain on the whole body including the heart.   So learn not to panic and find ways to reduce your stress levels

To be happy and productive you need to manage your life, have a positive action plan and take control.   Create a routine, set yourself realistic goals, and learn to prioritise and focus.    Don’t say yes to everything you are asked to do, you are only human, so guard your time jealously.

Ruth make a list of things that cause you stress and consciously try to relax and tackle the source of the problem wherever possible.  Gentle rhythmic cycling, jogging or swimming reduces tension; helps release pent up energy and encourages deep refreshing sleep.   Yoga, body conditioning classes and relaxation techniques are also helpful.

Question 2 DARK CIRCLES UNDER EYES

Hi Diana I have been very busy lately with lots of late nights and I haven’t been getting enough rest.  My problem is it shows around my eyes which look puffy and have dark circles under them!  What can I do to brighten them up!

Lucy Craig, Glasgow

Answer 2

Well Lucy I have a several homemade remedies to help with your puffy eyes.    Either you can apply cold, damp used tea bags to each eye, or slices of cucumber, or cotton pads soaked in witch hazel, or simply 2 cold teaspoons (all kept in fridge).  Give yourself time off, lie back, apply and relax for a soothing 10 mins.  All the above can work wonders!

With regard to the dark circles, they may indicate an excess of alcohol, cigarettes or coffee?  If that’s the case cut back!  In the meantime, try applying thin slices of potato or taking a brisk walk will get the lymphatic drainage system going to clear away the toxin build up, the cause of dark circles. Matt concealer helps disguise dark circles if all else fails!  If you have under eye bags you can again kick start the lymphatic drainage by tapping along lower eye socket with your fingertips – working from the inside to outer corner of your eyes.

Lucy you’ll soon be bright eyed and bushy tailed again!

Life Is Like A Bicycle

That great US Statesman Claude Pepper once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. You don’t fall off unless you plan to stop pedaling.”

Well, I don’t plan to stop pedaling any time soon and last week something rather exciting happened to me.  As a mature woman I took possession of a new bike…possibly only the 4th bike I’ve ever owned!  Cycling at my age is still an option, only riding my new bike is somewhat different from previous “wheels” because it is motorized!

Styles of bicycles change over the years, but cycling is timeless and my super new white bike (with green trimmings of course) is what the cycling trade call an eBike by GTech [I bought it online as I do or most things nowadays]! It looks like rides like a conventional mountain bike, but has an added boost of electric power which gives me an extra push.  This “push” reminds me of when as a little girl my Dad would give my back that little extra “power push” as I wobbled off on my first 2 wheeler bike.

My new bike is just so thrilling to ride pedaling like on a conventional bike but making the ride easier by giving that extra boost of power when needed, such as up and down hilly slopes.  It’s suitable for young and old alike with its electric power helping one travel for longer and making the journey enjoyable.

At first I was concerned that my new form of transport would not do the job of helping me to keep fit.  However, it is such a pleasurable experience that I get on my Ebike two to three times more often, riding out in the fresh air fearlessly covering longer distances than I did on my conventional mountain bike. I can go fast if required thanks to its small light motor. This doesn’t make the bike at all heavy and its light enough for me to carry up my front steps. The electric motor’s detachable battery comes inside with me, to re-charge in the kitchen alongside my mobile phone. How 21st century am I?

As I’ve proudly pedaled along on my new GTech eBike I’ve met several people for whom manual cycling had become too painful because of arthritis, back, knee problems and hip replacements. In their 60’s and 70’s they have all splashed out on eBikes. They love the freedom of cycling, feel fit and tell me their electric bikes are the best thing ever because they can now cycle further without pain.

It goes without saying that we were all wearing safety helmets and reflective jackets. You don’t get older without getting wiser!

Q1 – Skin tags

Please can you advise me what to do with a couple of small flesh coloured growths that are hanging off my skin? One is on my neck and the other in my armpit. They don’t hurt but I really dislike them and they don’t look very nice! Jennifer Armitage…Salisbury

A1 – Skin tags

Well Jennifer, I do understand your concerns. But, skin tags (acrochordons) are small harmless growths that look similar to warts; they are very common, knobbly and hang off the skin, whereas warts are usually flat. They’re particularly common in older people and people with diabetes.  Pregnant women may develop skin tags, caused by changes in their hormone levels.

Mostly flesh coloured or brown they vary in size from a few millimeters up to 5cm wide and are often found on the neck, armpits, under the breasts or around the groin, under the folds of the buttocks or on eyelids.

Overweight people with excess folds of skin and skin chafing, may develop tags where skin rubs against skin – or clothing. Skin tags are harmless and don’t usually cause pain or discomfort.  If skin tags are small with a narrow base it’s possible to remove them yourself, by tying off the base of the tag with dental floss or cotton thread. This cuts off its blood supply and makes it drop off.  Or you could cut it off with fine sterile scissors.

Some skin tags die from a lack of blood supply and just fall off if the tissue has twisted. Don’t attempt to remove large skin tags yourself, they will bleed heavily.  They can easily be burnt or frozen off so talk to your GP for advice. However, removing skin tags is regarded as cosmetic surgery and rarely available through the NHS. The NHS will only carry out cosmetic surgery procedures if the problem is affecting your physical or mental health.

If the unsightly tags are upsetting you, or snag on clothing, Jewellery and bleed, you may still want them removed. You usually need to pay for this procedure so consider making an appointment with a privately practicing GP. Sometimes they can be surgically removed using a local anesthetic.

Q2 – Comfortable house shoes

Dear Diana, I work from home and spend a good part of my weekdays around the house. I’m also a fidget so leave my desk 100 times a day to do little jobs around the house, up and down stairs, etc.   I tend to wear slippers for comfort but I’m realising this is not good for my feet. My home is cool, even in summer, so I’m looking for a recommendation for a ‘house shoe’.  Here is my wish list. Kind regards, Anna Everitt …. Bristol

Essential;

  • Comfortable – for all day wear
  • Supportive – for all day wear
  • Suitable to wear socks with

Nice to have;

  • Modern style (neutral and inconspicuous)
  • Light outdoor use for taking bins out
  • Washable

A2 – Comfortable house shoes

Phew!  Anne this is a bit of a tall order but I have a few suggestions.  Like you I work from home spending my time at the PC and taking regular breaks to do a few chores around the house and garden.  Consequently, my requirements are somewhat similar to yours so I look for shoes made of natural, supple, durable leather with a fabric lining.  Leather allows the foot to breathe and can provide long term comfort and gentle support.  Shoes need to have a generous space in which to be able to spread your toes naturally, with soles that are shock absorbing, non-slip and provide underfoot cushioning.  Probably like you I don high heels and dress up for special occasions or conversely fall into the habit of slopping around the house in non-supporting “ballet type” light, flat shoes.

Neither shoe is good for feet if worn over long periods and both can cause back pain, so look instead for comfortable shoes with posture correct heel height to encourage a good walking position.  Feet vary in both length and width, but happily many of the great shoes around this season have adjustable Velcro fastenings or laces to ensure a great fit.  These comfort shoes are no longer just practical and fuddy duddy, but come in exciting colours and designs to suit most tastes and can look great with both trousers and skirts. The best selection of shoes and sandals I have discovered recently are by Padders, Hotters and Clarks.  Happy ambling!

Great Posture Never Goes Out of Style

Diana Moran – The Lady 21st April 2016 – Great posture never goes out of style.

“Jane reminds us that God is in his heaven, the monarch on his throne and the pelvis firmly beneath the ribcage. Apparently rock and roll liberated the pelvis and it hasn’t been the same since” says the delightful Emma Thompson on her heroine – Jane Austen.

Our posture is the position in which we hold our body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. But if like me you sometimes stand or sit incorrectly the result is a headache or back pain! Ouch. Our bodies were designed to move with rhythm and ease, just watch a good gardener scything through tall grass, his whole body moving in harmony and natural grace. Sitting down is something we do to take the weight off our feet, but our daily routine should be a mixture of sitting, standing and moving. But, the style and pace of our modern life makes it difficult to maintain this balance, so we spend much of our time hunched up over a desk peering at a screen or driving long distances straining our eyes, with pain and discomfort resulting from these uncomfortable postures.  We need to retrain our bodies to sit and to stand correctly.

Correcting our posture can feel awkward at first because our body has become used to our bad habits, but with correct posture and our body in good alignment we can alleviate headaches, back or neck pain, and fatigue.  Every morning I stretch for 10 minutes, checking any pains or strains before I start the day. And good posture involves training our bodies to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where less strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments.  Strength and flexibility exercises correct muscle imbalances, improve body awareness, makes our backs strong and resilient and alleviate muscle tension.  Standing (or sitting) tall will boost your bearing and self-confidence and help you look and feel younger! Great posture never goes out of style.

Question

My 80-year-old mother suffers from osteoporosis.   She recently fell and broke her hip and is in danger of losing her physical independence.   I’ve heard that osteoporosis can run in families.   Is this true?   If so what can I do to avoid it?  Anne D – Berkshire

Answer

Dear Anne, I’m sorry to learn of your mother’s accident.   Osteoporosis – fragile bone disease affects 3 million people in the UK.  1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will break a bone mainly as a result of poor bone health.

However, in many cases it is a preventable disease, and not just a consequence of growing older.  Look at your lifestyle. Does it include a well-balanced diet containing plenty of calcium plus vitamin D to build strong bones, and regular weight bearing exercise? This changes have been found to help prevent the disease.   Some women are more at risk genetically and you need to be aware of this.   So, Anne, please consult your doctor.   He may recommend a change in lifestyle, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or specialized drugs to slow down bone loss and maintain bone density.   Talk to your Doctor about your bone density.  It can be monitored with a bone scan (Dexa) screening although it’s not always available on the NHS.  Alternatively, you could contact a private clinic that would perform a bone scan for a fee. Good luck Anne and for more information www.nos.org.uk

Question

As the years go by I find I need to eat less than I used to.   What are your Golden rules (or should I say Green rules) for a healthy eating plan as we get older? Margaret P – London

Answer

Dear Margaret, don’t worry! As we age we can make more of our lives by eating a healthy well balanced diet, it’s that simple! A poor diet can all too often be linked to certain preventable diseases or conditions.  For example, an excess of sugary foods leads to tooth decay and obesity, too much fat in the diet contributes to heart disease whilst too little fibre causes constipation and possible cancer of the colon and bowel. Eating too much of the wrong foods makes the skin, especially on the face, pallid and spotty.

Let’s not forget we eat to give our bodies energy in order to function.   All foods and drinks contain calories which are a measure of energy needed for our body to function and to repair.  The main sources of energy come from Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats.   Many people need less food and those excess calories simply get stored up as unsightly fat deposits around our bodies! So what foods should we be eating?  Well I like to keep things simple, so let’s cut through the maze of advice and look at my basic rules for a well-balanced and nutritious diet.

Eat less of the 3 S’s

  • LESS Saturated fats (Cut down on the amount of red meat by substituting chicken or fish).
  • LESS Sugar
  • LESS Salt

Eat more of the 3 F’s

  • MORE Fish
  • MORE Fibre (Fibre helps improve the digestion)
  • MORE Fruits and vegetables

It’s that simple Margaret – I look forward to knowing how you get on!

Friendship – The Secret to A Longer Life

The harsh reality of life for us females in the 21st century is the need to work hard and for longer if we want to enjoy the extended longevity of life. Maintaining good health is an important tool in order for us to succeed, so we need to learn how to help ourselves by tackling some of the issues which affect our wellbeing, such as physical and mental fitness, nutrition and relationships.  Of course working hard is important, but so too is playing hard, and we need to get the balance right if we are to keep fit and be well.   Play mates, whether they are male or female can play their part too in keeping us happy, healthy and wise.

I think a true friendship is one of the most important relationships we can have with another person. Some people will be fortunate to remain close friends forever throughout life.  I make a great effort to keep up the relationships I share with my special old friends, and try to make them aware of how lucky I feel for having them beside me, through both the good and bad times. I enjoy telling those special friends how much I care about them, and express my joy at having them in my life, and how I cherish our relationships both night and day.

Life is full of physical, emotional and mental challenges and the knowledge that we are not alone is important to us all, whatever our age. The old saying “A problem shared is a problem halved” is so true.  Bottling up emotion and worry can be seriously detrimental to our health and simply talking through our concerns can make all the difference to one’s state of mind.   Although many of us have families who would listen to us, we often would prefer to shield them from our worries and concerns.

With some friends we sense that our souls are closely connected, and as soul mates we know that wherever we are, whatever we do or whatever we say – they’ll be there for us – to listen and still remain friends.  I am sure you have many good friends but because of distance you are unable to talk as often as you would like to.  However, when you do it’s quite remarkable how you are able to pick up straight away where you may have left off years ago.  Perhaps this is what’s meant by “Forever Friends”!

Question 1 – SUMMER LEGS

I am looking down at my legs in despair; they haven’t seen the light of day since last summer.  Do you have any tips on how I can make them look half reasonable for my summer holiday which is in a month’s time? Maureen Chilcott – Edinburgh

Answer 1

You can help your poor pins by giving them a little TLC!  Start by removing unsightly hair, and then exfoliate by giving them a good scrubbing to remove dry scaly skin.  An old fashioned “loofah” does a good job, towel dry and pile on a nourishing skin cream. If you have cellulite use one of the special brand creams containing caffeine and anti-oxidants to target the problem areas. When applying any creams or lotions massage the whole length of legs, starting from toes and working upwards with sweeping strokes, to boost circulation and reduce water retention.

It’s never been easier to give your legs a healthy glow and by simply using a fake tan avoiding skin damage from the sun’s rays. Some products can be applied professionally in the beauty salon, it’s not cheap but the results are worth it.

Other self-tanning products can be applied at home before going to bed.  They are colourless, dry quickly and give spectacular results by morning without ruining your bed linen.  Some well-known brands of moisturisers also contain a gentle fake tan, which applied daily will build up to transform your pale legs with a subtle glow. Look out for the latest self-tan products which come in the form of in-shower tanning lotions to give you a glowing pair of pins the moment you step out!

Question 2 – MAKE UP TIPS

Diana I have been so busy bringing up my family for the past 10 years and have neglected myself, particular my looks.  I’ve lost my confidence and am now totally stupid when it comes to applying makeup.   Do you have any tips to help me? After so long I feel I need to learn and start all over again! Jennifer McNally…Swindon

Answer 2 

Always make up in daylight if possible. Overhead lights cast downward shadows and if the light is behind you, you can’t see enough. Get into a good routine.  Start with moisturising day cream or a simple tinted moisturiser containing SPF (sun protection factor). And that’s it!   Or, if you are more adventurous, use a foundation matching your skin colour (or blend two colours together if you can’t find a good match).

Squeeze a small amount into palm of hand, apply sparingly with tips of fingers. Now for a concealer, best applied with brush, around eyes, spots, high colour and blemishes. Pat into place. Maybe finish with a light dusting of loose powder, but avoid crow’s feet and smoking lines, (powder accentuates them).  Less is best!

If you’re brave, experiment with colour.  Use blush (powder, cream or tube) apply to “apple” of your cheek for a healthy glow.  Coloured eyeshadow can flatter and “bring out” eyes.  Apply with fingertip or brush, but don’t overdo it (avoid shiny eyeshadow).  Accentuate eyes further with eyeliner and mascara.  Brown is kinder than black especially if you are not used to make up. However waterproof mascara is difficult to remove and harsh make up removers may break lashes.

Well shaped eyebrows complete grooming so tame, comb and define. Finally use a lip liner pencil to draw shape, fill in with a flattering colour, or simply lip gloss or jelly for a more natural look.

Have fun Jennifer and wait for the compliments!

Beauty Really Is Skin Deep

Some years ago when I was writing a book about ways to avoid premature ageing I was amused to read a quote by Erwin Tschachler, a Professor of Dermatology who said “Ideally we should do a study of ageing in a Nunnery, with subjects who have stayed out of the sun and subjects who have lived their lives without vices”!

Sounds a bit boring to me but I get his point!  Skin reflects our lifestyle and some of us succumb to vices such as smoking, excess alcohol and processed foods.  However, stress and lack of sleep, certain medications, inactivity and over exposure to the sun all contribute to the ageing process. Our skin is the body’s only external organ, protecting what is inside and keeping harmful things on the outside.  It effectively retains essential fluids, protects internal organs, resists infections and acts as a physical barrier to damage.

We spend a lot of time and money worrying about the top layer of skin, the epidermis, which we see daily in the mirror.   But skin has 2 more layers, the middle dermis and lower hypodermis. And beauty really is skin deep, because what goes on below the surface in the dermis and hypodermis is what really matters. These lower layers contain hair follicles, nerve endings, connective tissue, blood vessels, sebaceous and sweat glands, and collagen fibres. This is where the skin process begins, with new cells being constantly formed and renewed.  It takes approximately 30 days for these new cells to find their way up from the lower layers to the top layer.

What we see in the mirror when they finally reach the skins surface are old cells, which are then shed naturally in a continuous process.  But the older we get the longer this process takes!  So what’s new? The most damaging factor is over exposure to the sun which affects the skin cells causing cell damage, but also poses health threats including skin cancers.  The effects from the sunburn may not be visible for years (40 years in my case) but harmful rays will have done their damage.   I learnt the hard way to protect my skin, particularly sensitive facial skin from sun’s harmful rays and pollutants. I use sunscreen containing SPF 15 (sun protection factor).  I consider higher than SPF 30 or extreme sun block unnecessary as we all need some sunlight (Vit D) to protect us from osteoporosis

Beauty can be ageless, it depends on knowing what your body and skin needs most.  Adequate sleep speeds the healing process, and nourishing maintains it helping us look and feel our best. “We can’t beat Old Father Time – no but some women drive a mighty close bargain with him”

Question

When I brush my teeth I have noticed that my gums have become incredibly sensitive, and often hurt for a while after brushing. They don’t bleed but it has become quite an annoyance. Are there any toothpastes I could buy without irritating ingredients? Do you have any other suggestions?

Francis Hird, Cambridge

Answer 

Francis making simple changes such as using desensitizing toothpaste and brushing less vigorously could make a difference.  Many types of toothpaste contain harmful chemicals so I personally use Sensodyne toothpaste specially designed for sensitive teeth. Brushing after we have been eating or drinking acidic foods which soften and make our teeth more vulnerable, may cause the enamel to be more easily worn away. Maybe you are one of those people who often grind your teeth during the day or more usually during sleep?  If yes, this can expose the lower layer of dentine making the teeth more sensitive. Gum disease (Gingivitis) can also cause receding gums and if left untreated can lead to Peritonitis which damages tissue and the bone supporting your teeth.  Francis your symptoms could be more than just a nuisance, because receding gums leave dentine exposed making the teeth very sensitive.  I think it’s time to pay your Dentist a visit to be sure your tooth pain is not the result of a more serious condition. Keep smiling!

Question

During a recent holiday to Crete my husband noticed that the whites of my eyes had developed a slightly yellowish tinge. That was a month ago now and my eyes still haven’t returned to normal. My sight hasn’t been affected and the colour change is minimal but noticeable to me. I am 51; could this be a side effect of the menopause?

Rona Gower, Cheltenham

Answer

Well Rona, by co-incidence I have just read the result of a small study claiming a link between yellow eyes and Menopausal 50-59-year-old women who had been taking Hormone replacement therapy, or Prempro.  I will look out for further studies.

But normally the whites of eyes or sclera are white in colour, but one can get yellow sclera (also called scleral icterus) caused by a high level of bilirubin in the bloodstream.  Bilirubin is made in the liver and is yellow in colour.  If a person suffers from liver disease, the liver can no longer process the breakdown of red blood cells and bilirubin, its natural metabolic product, and no longer enters the bile. Instead it builds up in the blood and tissues, including the sclera of the eyes.

One of the first signs is yellowing, probably caused by blocked bile ducts, leading to a backup of bilirubin.  More seriously it could be a sign of Cirrhosis of the liver due to an excess of alcohol damaging the liver. Or Hepatitis, caused by toxins – but most commonly by a virus that infects the liver, resulting in its dysfunction. Bilirubin backs up and the individual will suffer from jaundice.  Rona, since your eyes have been affected for over a month I would advise you to drink plenty of water and to talk to your GP mentioning any medications you may be taking.

Be Happy, Healthy and Wise

Fitness is an attitude of mind; I believe “Age is mind over Matter” and if you don’t mind it doesn’t matter!  Ageing is inevitable, a depressing thought and nothing we can do about it, or is there? No, we can’t add years to life but we can add “life” to the years we have!  Maintaining good health enables us to pursue ambitions, hopes and dreams with many older people continuing to lead interesting lives.  Feeling well helps us enjoy the increase in longevity by giving us a sense of wellbeing, relaxation and confidence.

Being fit is being able to do the things you want to do, when you want to do them.  Maintaining fitness should be a necessity of life, not an option! People who get it right may experience a decrease of some physical ability in their 60’s whilst others not at all! Many individuals enter advanced old age still performing at the level of younger adults.

Pensioners now outnumber children for the first time in British history. “Grey power” is growing and without the social and economic restrictions of the past, have the opportunity to travel, make new relationships or continue with further education, irrespective of age, gender, colour, class or creed. So youth had better start realising that there is life after sixty!

Ageing and inability is not the same thing, trouble is today we use our brain instead of our brawn, to the detriment of our physical wellbeing. We sit around too much in work and home, with heart disease, joint problems, osteoporosis and digestive disorders the end results. We need to get out of the habit of disguising physical and some mental problems as “just old age creeping on”.

Recent research by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that just 10 minutes brisk walking also improves one’s mental state by increasing self-esteem and reducing stress and anxiety. It concluded that people who regularly exercise have a 20 – 30% lower risk of depression and dementia. When we’re active chemicals called endorphins are released giving us the “feel good” factor.

Wellbeing is not just about the Body, it’s about the Mind and Spirit too. Being socially active can help reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, stress and worry.  So get out there, and get chatting. Talking through personal worries with others can half a problem, or at least put it into perspective!

Question 1

Sometimes I find myself falling asleep at say 20:00 and sleeping straight through till 07:00. After waking up I often feel as if I haven’t slept at all. My husband says I should just let myself sleep, but surely sleeping for so long cannot be good for you? I usually force myself to stay awake until 23:00 when I feel it’s acceptable to go to bed. Is there a natural way to help me stay awake? I have tried coffee.

Lucinda O’Brien, Kent

Answer 1

You think this is a problem? Well I say “who could be so lucky”; most of us would love the ability to sleep so well and for so long. According to the NHS most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night and you can set a regular bedtime schedule by working out what time you need to wake up. It would appear that your body needs those 9 hours!

Most people will envy you, winding down is a critical stage in preparing for bed and you would appear to be an expert! Personally I find that writing my “to do” list for the next day organises my thoughts.  It clears my mind and a few relaxation yoga type stretches helps relax my muscles. Exercising vigorously has the opposite effect.

For some a favourite way of relaxing is taking a warm bath (not hot), which helps the body reach a temperature that’s ideal for rest. Reading a book, listening to the radio, or gentle hypnotic music and sound effects will calm and relax others.

So Lucinda enjoy your sleep and appreciate just how lucky you are!

.Question 2

Recently I have noticed that my hands have become awfully dry and are peeling. I don’t use moisturizer as I have never had this problem before. Due to my job I have to wash my hands several times a day with antibacterial scrub and hot water. The peeling is rather embarrassing. Can you advise any solution?

Emma Hammerfield, Sutherland

 Answer 2

 

Emma you don’t say what your job is, but friends of mine in food preparation, hairdressing and nursing complain of dermatitis.  Avoid contact with detergents and other strong cleansing agents or use plastic gloves. Don’t apply hair lotion, hair cream or hair dye, or peel or squeeze oranges, lemons or grapefruit with bare hands. Wear gloves for chopping raw food, especially onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and raw chicken.  Avoid direct contact with metal, wax, shoe, floor, furniture and window polishes and be careful not to get solvents such as white spirit, petrol, trichloroethylene, turpentine and thinners on your skin.

To speed healing wash hands in luke warm water and a gentle skin cleanser without perfume or tar. Best to avoid soap, use soap substitutes instead.  Rinse hands thoroughly under running water and dry carefully with a clean towel, especially between the fingers. Avoid wearing rings, but if you do, don’t wash with soap as it collects behind the ring and irritates the skin.  Apply plenty of moisturizer (emollient) cream after washing hands.

Rubber can cause eczema/dermatitis, so if you wear rubber gloves, put cotton ones inside them. If water gets inside take glove off straightaway, rinse and dry it. Don’t wear gloves for more than 15-20 minutes (they get sweaty) so having a couple of pairs on the go helps.

Remember Emma, even it seems completely healed, your hands are still at risk of dermatitis for at least 4 or 5 months. So keep protecting them and using your moisturizer which forms a layer over your skin helping protect it against irritating substances that might cause your dermatitis to flare again.

The Menopause

I wish Walt Disney had produced a film which reflected the real world.

Think of Snow White at ‘a certain age’ – with her dwarves Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful & Psycho. Isn’t that a more accurate story about the Menopause?

Now 77 I remember the miseries of menopause in my late 40’s with its hot flushes, mood swings and night sweats [and these were the plus points!]. But, I knew then that menopause wasn’t an illness, just a normal stage in a woman’s life. I was determined not to suffer in silence so consulted my gynaecologist to discuss taking HRT. But, my history of breast cancer unfortunately precluded my taking it. So – I turned to Mother Nature for an answer [only fair, as she had caused the problem in the first place!]

I discovered that plant forms of oestrogen and progesterone are found naturally in foodstuffs such as Mexican yam, tofu (Soya bean curd), French beans, green lentils, miso (fermented Soya paste) and rye bread. I needed to eat a lot of them to consume the recommended amount of phytoestrogens – and we know the downside of eating a diet rich in beans and pulses.

I couldn’t believe it – now I had to choose between mood swings or wind! Life can be cruel!

Eventually in my health shop I found a tablet form of natural phytoestrogens which I took daily. Not sure whether it was mind over matter, but it seemed to do the trick!

Q & A THE LADY APRIL 2016

QUESTION 1 – TUMS
Dear Diana. Now that I have passed the menopause (I am 54 years old) I am struggling to control my waistline and now have a tummy that appears to protrude further than when I carried my first child. I have tried cutting down on sweets and biscuits but somehow feel addicted to them and get quite miserable whenever I try to give them up. Joan Browning, Sussex

Like you middle age spread appeared after my menopause, because like many Mums I’d become the family dustbin, eating the left overs and too many chocolate biscuits. Easy to pile on the pounds, getting the pounds off took more determination! I ate less of the 3 S’s – salt – sugar – saturated fat. And I ate more of the of 3 F’s – fresh food – fish – fruit and veg.

To get back into shape I did this simple exercise (still do). Lie on your back, knees bent with feet hip width apart. Pull in tummy muscles tilting your pelvis up (pelvic tilt) and push waist flat down into the floor. Hold this position throughout the exercise. (Tip – help yourself to get started by hooking your feet under the bed or a heavy chair).

Place hands on thighs; breathe out as you lift your head and shoulders up off floor to a count of 2. Now breathe in and relax back down to a count of 2. Start with 8 repetitions, but build up each day as your muscles get stronger. Persevere till you can do 24 repetitions and that tum will be flat as a pancake in a month!

Question 2. THINNING HAIR 
Dear Diana. My hair appears to be thinning and I am suffering from a dry scalp. I have not changed my shampoo in 20 years and am concerned that I might be going bald. I do not take any vitamins but have heard they might help. Can you advise? Georgette Wilson, Hertfordshire.

I take pride in my hair and recently spoke to my local hairdresser Beverley, who I trust implicitly, about thinning hair and dry scalp thinking she would recommend products. But from years of observation she has concluded that many symptoms often indicate problems coming from within our bodies, not without. Her advice was simple. If in doubt check it out with your Doctor.

So is your hair trying to tell you something? Hair loss can result from shock, sun damage, very low calorie diets and some prescription drugs. If none of these things are found to be the cause try a change of shampoo, but read the label and make quite certain the product does not contain synthetic chemicals which can irritate your scalp and do nothing for your hair.

White flaky dandruff isn’t harmful and changing to an anti-dandruff shampoo might be the answer. Greasy or yellow dandruff might indicate seborrheic dermatitis. Look at your diet and ensure you are getting sufficient protein and iron, plus Omega 3 fatty acids, and a little vit A, essential for the health of your hair and scalp. You may think I’m nutty but I eat a handful a day for the benefit of my health, skin and hair!

Age Really Is A State of Mind

June is my birthday month so what do the astrologers have to say about Gemini women? “A Gemini woman is two, or more women rolled into one, possibly far too much woman altogether. Geminis are simply who they are, so the timid and weak need not apply! They are impossible to pigeon hole, a will-o-wisp, a changeling, a mix of intriguing personalities. Gemini women are one minute demure and doting, the next ruthlessly sarcastic, wild and unpredictable, but no less fascinating”. I’m not too sure I recognise that woman, but my family assure me …they do!

Age is just a state of mind; you’re only as old as you think you are. So should we worry about the years passing? Surely a birthday is just another day where we go to work and family and friends give us love? As we age I feel we need to work out the value of things we believe to be important for how we conduct our lives. Identifying personal values (should) determine our priorities and, deep down they’re the measure we use to tell if life is turning out how we want it to. If we’re satisfied and content with life we’re probably matching our values in what we say and do. When our actions don’t align with our personal values is when things feel wrong, which can be a real source of unhappiness.

As a young teenager I came home one day to find my mother, in her 40’s, had died unexpectedly. That tragic moment changed my life and forced me to grow up overnight and to identify my priorities. From that day I have never taken life itself for granted. I cherish every day and through thick and thin am determined to not waste a single moment of my life. I value my family and dear friends around me and continue to enjoy a fascinating career. Every birthday is a bonus for me; I count my blessings and name them one by one.

If you are a fellow Gemini, I wish you a Happy Birthday. Looking back over the years’ styles, clothes, hair, houses, cars and the people around you may have changed, and the icing on your birthday cake and number of candles are different, but just like you, the cake itself hasn’t really change!

Question 1 – STIFF NECK AND SHOULDERS

My work involves a lot of sitting at my desk peering into a screen. This results in tension around my shoulder and stiffness in my neck. Do you have any hints to avoid this – or exercises I can do to help make me feel more comfortable?
Christine Breckon… Carnarvon

Answer 1

Our daily routine should be a mixture of sitting, standing, moving and some moderate exercise. The pace of life makes it difficult, tension builds up quickly causing stiff necks and aching shoulders. The sheer pressure of work causes poor posture and tension headaches and we appear to carry the world on our shoulders! Check your chair, desk and worktop is at a good height and in sufficient light. Now check your posture, sit with bottom well back on the seat and support your back with a cushion or towel if there’s an arch. Have legs slightly apart, knees bent to an angle of 90 with feet flat on the floor (if you’ve short legs a foot rest or block solves the problem.

To relieve tension headaches take a break from the screen and look straight ahead. Without moving head, look eyes right and focus, now eyes down and focus, then left and focus and finally eyes up and focus. Repeat 6 times to relieve tired aching eyes.
To mobilise neck turn your head to look over your right shoulder (chin parallel to the floor). Drop chin to chest (feel stretch) and slowly roll head to look over your left shoulder. Roll chin back to chest and head on over to the right again. Repeat 8 times with control. (Don’t roll head backwards) To relax shoulders simply lift alternate shoulder to ear level and press back down again. Repeat 6 times. (Don’t take ears to shoulder)
Question 2 – RED ELBOWS
After a recent long spell of ill-health I lost a lot of weight. I am now on the mend, but my arms did become very thin. I am now thankfully gaining weight but have been left with very wrinkled and red elbows. Is there a particular cream or treatment you can recommend? I seem to remember (from years ago) a home-made remedy involving lemon juice and a few other things, but can’t really remember it. I don’t lean on my elbows at table or anything. Thanks in anticipation. Yours faithfully, Christina Old…Kirkaldy

ANSWER 2 

Christina, as we age most of us will experience dry and wrinkled elbows. Like you I remember sinking my elbows into two lemon halves for 10 minutes to bleach them! Elbows crease more than other skin areas and frequent creasing can lead to skin chapping. We all need to moisturize with body lotion every day after our bath or shower, but it sounds like your elbows need feeding with a rich cream rubbed in to restore and rejuvenate them. Do this before going to bed but wear long sleeved PJ’s or shirt to seal in moisture overnight.

Red, dry elbow skin is more prevalent in the winter because of the lack of moisture in the air and of its location on the body. Additional contributing factors include taking long, hot baths or showers, or using harsh soaps and laundry detergents.

If your elbow redness is more severe be aware that Psoriasis causes flaky, red patches on the skin that look shiny and cause itching or burning. They can be anywhere, but are more common on elbows, knees and the lower back. Psoriasis affects 2% of people in the UK and it usually begins between the ages of 11 and 45 when some of the body’s antibodies attack skin cells by mistake, causing them to reproduce too quickly and build up on the skin. You mentioned that you had been unwell and certain things may make symptoms worse, including alcohol, smoking and some medicines, such as anti-inflammatories (for example, ibuprofen) and beta-blockers (used to treat heart problems). Treatment for Psoriasis, depending on the severity of the patches includes creams containing vitamin D or vitamin A and steroid creams. Christina if you are worried I would advise you to talk to your GP about treatment.

Summer Fitness

Mention summer and immediately bikinis, swim suits, short shorts and skimpy clothes come to mind. Whatever our age we all want to look our best in the sunshine and this means watching what we eat and being active to help us keep our bodies toned, trim and fit for summer.

Summertime should be all about fun in the sun, so make sure you get outdoors whenever possible. Recreational activities are beneficial and can also be included as exercise because doing something is better than doing nothing. And certainly don’t decide this is the time for a little summer break from fitness! The experts say its “It’s important to continue exercising over the summer because the effects of working the body and exercising are soon lost once training stops” It’s also possible that you may do yourself more harm than good in the long run. So remember…… if you don’t use it you may lose it! Exercise doesn’t always have to be the recommended consistent 30 minutes a day – and just ten minutes of exercise/activity a few times a day will soon add up!

In the summer months if possible take your exercise during the cooler parts of the day and decrease exercise intensity and duration if the temperature does soar. Get into the habit of taking your exercise anywhere; it could be the gym, your home or garden, your local park or just anyplace, so long as you do regular physical activity. I always find the best time to exercise outdoors is early morning or late evening, and I also find that teaming up with a friend makes any activity more fun. I avoid working out in the middle of the day when the temperature is at its highest and if I’ve been doing my brisk walking I like to do my stretching and cooling down in the shade of the trees and bushes when I’ve finished.

And talking of bushes…..reminds me.

At this time of the year why not take the opportunity to forage; it can yield some delicious results! The hedgerows are now full of blackberries, elderberries, damsons, apples, sloes and rose hips, all wild fruits which are extremely good for us. Back home you can use the berries to make jams, pies, cordials or even gin! Or you could freeze some to use during the winter months.

When it is hot outdoors who doesn’t love water activities? Being in water is a great way to get your exercise whilst keeping cool from the heat.
Swimming is a great fitness choice especially for those who have physical problems and those who find other forms of exercise painful. Water supports the body’s weight making exercising safe and beneficial, and helps ease stiff joints and fragile bones that might be injured by the impact of land exercises. People with arthritis or other disabilities use water to improve fitness and range of movement, as well as to relieve pain and stiffness, and it’s why injured athletes and sportspersons use water for remedial purposes.

If you can’t already swim make this the summer when you learn to! Join a class at your local health centre; you will benefit both physically and socially being amongst others whilst you conquer the technique. When you do start slowly by trying to swim for 10 minutes, then build up to a 30-minute workout three times a week. Even when with swimming always start with a simple warm-up and end with a cool-down, but challenge yourself by pushing yourself to work that bit harder in the middle!
We can still enjoy the summer without diverting from our healthy lifestyle by watching what we eat in order to maintain our personal fitness goals. Many people complain that life is too busy to bother – in which case I say it’s time for them to change personal social and eating habits to promote a healthy lifestyle. So instead of eating that heavy meal they should pack a lunch and go for a walk!

The “hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer” will probably include picnics and barbeques during the holidays and warm weekends. But there are still ways to enjoy these while maintaining healthy eating habits. Focus on simple snacks that aren’t too heavy and which don’t take much time to prepare. If you like meat in your picnic or on the barbeque make sure its lean cut meat – like steak, chicken and turkey. Personally I prefer fish and other seafood and when the weather is hot I like to eat smaller meals but more frequently. I find the more often I eat, the higher my metabolic rate – and a higher metabolism burns more calories.
Why not try barbeque veggie kebabs alongside your meat or fish – plus plenty of other vegetables and those delicious summer fruits? Most fruit has a high water content so eating watermelon, peaches and most “juicy” fruits will provide you with much-needed hydration. The summer sun can be very draining and cause heat exhaustion and with the heat you will perspire more and lose lots of fluid, so hydration is essential.

Drink plenty of water, as much as you can to help replace the fluids lost in perspiration. The risk of dehydration during the summer months is extremely high, especially in older people, so it is important to pay attention to your hydration levels.

The colour of your urine is the easiest way to determine your hydration level. It should be light yellow and as close to clear as possible. Water cleanses the body and allows it to function more efficiently so make sure you are drinking before, during, and after exercise. Dark yellow urine, the colour of apple juice, means dehydration, so keep a bottle of water in your bag, your car, at work or any other place where you spend a lot of time. We all need to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated to keep fit for summer.

Older Women Should Be Recognised And Celebrated

Are you a Baby Boomer? Were you born immediately after the war? If so you are part of the rapidly swelling ranks of the UK’s over 50’s! Perhaps you’ve reached the ripe old age of 60? If you are in your 70’s you may include me in your number! It can be great fun to be in your 70’s because:

Nowadays no-one expects you to run – anywhere – anymore!
There is not a lot left to learn- the hard way!
Things you buy now – probably won’t wear out!
Your investment in health insurance – is finally paying off!
Your eyes won’t get – much worse!
You can live without sex – but not your glasses!
Most women realise there are 5 stages to her life…….
The first stage is to grow up
Second is to fill out
The third to slim down!
Fourth to hold it all in
And the fifth is finally to say – “what the hell with it!”

But that needn’t be. When I look at the 50+ age group, I see the majority feeling happy, positive and getting on with life. But sadly feel I there is a small minority who still feel extremely negative about ageing.

At this stage in life people seem to fall into 3 categories – those who
• Make it happen
• Watch it happen
• Wonder what the hell happened!

Personally I feel that being both 70 years old and female, at this particular moment in history is exciting and a challenge. I’m confident with my maturity, and I’ve finally come around to accepting myself – warts and all! Positive agers like me, relish individualism, are open-minded and eager to embrace all the opportunities that life still has to offer.
But don’t lets underestimate ourselves, we’ve still got lots to offer – and we mature folk should be called – “Chronologically advantaged!”

Older women should be recognised and celebrated. Old age used to be revered – still is – in many societies throughout the world today. But in the UK this attitude is in decline and Ageism is an ugly fact of modern life.

MODERN WOMEN
Modern woman in particular is a powerful force to be reckoned with! For a start, it’s only we women who can “multi-task” isn’t it? Strong women have influenced many events in past history, Eliz 1st, Mrs Thatcher, and we all know for a fact that behind every successful man will be found a strong woman! (It can also be said that behind every successful man, lies a very surprised mother-in-law)

For myself, I am a single, happy, confident and independent woman. I am physically, mentally and sexually active and love the challenge of modern life. Being alone (but not often lonely), with my family having grown and flown, I have the opportunity to do as I please. I can travel; make new friends, reacquaint myself with old ones anywhere in the world. The upside of finding yourself on your own is that on a whim you can change direction without upsetting anybody. I now find I have more time to go to the gym, play tennis, tend my garden, paint my oil paintings, or just mess about on boats.

Of course ageing is inevitable. A depressing thought. Nothing we can do about it. Or is there? We’ve no control over our destined life span, our quantity of life – but we do have a certain control over the quality of our lives. We can’t add years to life, but we can add life to the years. Cynically it could also be said that although plenty of exercise and a healthy diet CAN add years to life – unfortunately they will be at the end of life – when we’re too old to enjoy them!

AGE WELL
A great many people do age well. Although, it has been said that the only way to get a true picture of the natural ageing process would be to do a study of ageing – in a Nunnery! With the gracious nuns as subjects, who have kept out of the sun and lived their lives free from vice! Bit boring?

In the UK a woman’s life expectancy is now 81 years, men 77. Men who make it to 65 can expect to live to 82. Women to 85 so she can expect to enjoy some 30 years of postmenopausal life – that’s another third of her life! Age itself doesn’t matter, age is irrelevant. Age is just a number. Many older people are healthier and more capable than younger people nowadays.

We live in a stimulating, although uncertain time in history. Maintaining good health enables us to pursue some of our ambition hopes and dreams. Compared to previous generations we have a better standard of living and people are living longer. And, thanks to medical advances there is less threat of death, or serious disability, from insidious diseases such as smallpox, polio and some cancers.

Gone too are the social and economic restrictions of past generations.

Education, careers, opportunities and travel are available to most – irrespective of age, gender, colour, class or creed. Far from this being a time of life to switch off, to settle down to a boring and quiet retirement, this is an age in which there is every opportunity to indulge oneself, pursue a lifelong hobby, get conversant with computers, or even to have the courage to start out on a second career or relationship.
Growing older is not a disease, it happens to all of us.
But thankfully the image of age is changing.

CHANGING TIMES
Let me introduce you to traditional Gran, grey haired, bent back sipping her cup of tea, she stares into the tea leaves – into her future. What future? She’s served her purpose. She was a full time housewife, conscientiously looked after the home, cared for her husband, and reared her family – putting their needs before her own. She has her memories, but she feels old and past it. She’s how old? Could be 50 or 80 – it’s difficult to say.

Contrast her with her daughter, who is also a Gran, but lives a very different life. Modern Gran is upright and active, I can associate with her. And the cup she might be holding? It could be an award for achievement at work or sport. She’s taken care of her family and herself. She’s maintained her health. She is active and interesting, more wealthy and wise, and likely to be financially independent. Just by looking it’s difficult to tell just how old she is. She expects to remain both physically and sexually active for many more years – unheard of in Trad Gran’s day!

MODERN TIMES
Inactivity is a major risk factor in old age and many older people need to be more active. Do any activity that gives you pleasure. It will boost energy levels, gets the circulation going and bring colour to your complexion! Good food and regular exercise can get the circulation going, puts a spring in your step and make the cheeks glow!
Why is it so many young people think sex is their preserve? They appear to still have the outdated view, the preconceived notion, that anyone over 40 is past it and assume mature people do not, or cannot, indulge in sex. How wrong they are! But I wonder when we look back…. did we think that our own sexual activities would be diminished – or completely finished by the time we were forty?

Recently on BBC Breakfast Time a young cosmetic surgeon appeared alongside me to promote his book on cosmetic surgery. He inferred that people as they aged needed surgery in order to attract the opposite sex… So I asked him his age. He was 49!! I was incensed and assured him I’m still sexually active and challenged his theory that older women without surgery were unattractive and unable to enjoy life!!!! My granddaughter Lucy then aged 7, texted me in the car on the way home from the studio. “Grandma what does sexually active mean?” (Think her Dad – my son Tim put her up to it!). I replied that I would tell her when she was older…

I am a super active 70 year-old, and feel blessed with my 4 grandchildren to whom I am affectionately known as “GG. (In my TV world it used to stand for Green Goddess – but it now stands for Granny Goddess!) The grandchildren have made me acutely conscious of time passing, and human fragility, and the need to live it to the full. I am constantly reminded of my own granny, who when I was a little girl told me “Live for the day – but keep a cautious eye to the future”

AGEISM
Now wrinkles, I had not planned for at this age, they just happened, as they do for most of us! But I suppose they’re why so many women (and increasingly men) do resort to expensive cosmetic surgery. In the vain hope of holding onto their youth

This preoccupation with youth is becoming a major influence, on other young people, in other societies, throughout the world. And, if this isn’t bad enough, here in the UK we are spawning a generation of couch potato children. We are rearing offspring; many of who won’t be fit enough in their adult lives, to support us, their sprightly parents, and feisty grandparents in our old age. How worrying is that? It does make me wonder if they are so unfit, just who is going to be able to pay for older people’s pensions in the future. Pensioners now outnumber children for the first time in British history. Scary thing is that

all too soon there will be 2 generations of over 60’s alive – and all in need of pensions.
Is there a need to have more children?
Should we use the resources of older people more?
Should everyone work until 70?
Times are a changing, and we mature folk mustn’t allow ourselves to be brushed aside, and labelled “too old”. Nor let ourselves become invisible in society. We must stick together, keep our minds sharp and have the courage to take the opportunity to make ourselves be seen, and to be heard whenever possible.
United, empowered and with one strong voice, we stand much more chance of influencing issues including government policy, in areas such as health, housing and pensions.
I for one don’t intend to sit down and shut up.

Mans’ Infidelity

My heart goes out to Rod Liddle’s betrayed wife Rachel, and I can associate with her feeling that “the wife is always the last to know”.  I too experienced the pain caused by my second husband’s affair. Unknowingly I too lived with a philanderer, and looking back should have spotted the clues – they were there.   I  believe some men are incapable of not wanting another woman, as well being seemingly happy with their partner.  Philanders have one common traint – cowardice, an inability to discuss their personal emotions.  It’s a weakness of character and a major difference between men and women.

Most women try to make their relationships work, if they become unhappy,  or if things don’t work out, they’ll talk about it and confront issues.  Philanderers don’t, they fudge the issue, run away to cheat on their partners, or just have casual sexual affairs to get temporary personal satisfaction which boosts their morale.  They don’t have the guts to talk things through face to face, and get away with it, time after time until they’re caught out.   Rachel is right, his mistress has done her a favour, he’s cheated before and he’ll cheat again.  But, she shouldn’t give up hope – there are many decent men out there – I know.

Institute of Advanced Motorists

Is there an age when older people should stop driving?  At what age is one considered to be “an older person”?   I suppose that at the ripe old age of 75 I am regarded by others as “old”, although personally speaking I consider age is strictly a case of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter!

That may well be my opinion, but when it comes to being responsible behind the wheel of a car it’s not the best policy to adopt.  So when I recently interviewed an Executive of The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) who appeared on my weekly radio programme “We’ve Got Mail “(The Wireless DAB) I posed him the question “At 75 years of age should I stop driving?”

He replied that the trick is to stop when you know your time behind the wheel is up, and that feeling varies enormously from one person to another, adding that taking the decision causes concern to both the motorist and the motorist’s family and friends.  I decided to investigate further and to take up his offer of having my own driving skills assessed to see if indeed my time was up.

Brave of me? It seemed a good idea at the time but as the date grew nearer I realised this would be serious. and could impact on how I live my life.  If indeed I failed to impress the assessor I might be forced to give up driving altogether, with severe repercussions on my lifestyle impacting both my work and social life.

It set me thinking, why would so many people request an assessment as apparently they do?  It appears some older people feel they need a trusted opinion on whether to stop driving for their own or others safety, but the IAM have found that people can be at risk of giving up too soon and need reassurance that it’s OK for them to carry on. Relatives of other older people (children, grandchildren, and partners) have concerns about their loved ones driving, and having an assessment is a way to broach the tricky subject.  IAM research revealed that up to 15% of older people give up too early, simply because they lack confidence.   By law everyone approaching 70 is requested to renew their driving licence and some people feel that having an assessment reassures them they can continue to drive.

At no time have I discussed with family or friends giving up driving, nor have I doubted my own ability until now, so I am curious to know if I am indeed a competent driver.  Nowadays I will admit, as do many of my age. that I am less confident driving at night, finding cars with full headlights blazing a constant irritation.  But my biggest annoyance is Tailgating, with someone intimidating me by driving close behind at a distance which does not guarantee stopping to avoid collision.  And these same pests all too often have full headlights on too!  Am I becoming a Grumpy old woman?

The IAM know what they are doing and I decided they were the best people to do the Mature Drivers Assessment for me.  My appointed assessor duly arrived at my home, spot on time, and of course I was to discover she was a senior plain clothes policewoman!  She was charming and polite although I’m sure viewed me with some apprehension, as indeed I did her.  With clipboard and pencil firmly in hand she inspected my Audi A1 and finally we both climbed aboard.  Seat belts securely fastened we took to the road.

My nerves disappeared almost immediately as I concentrated on the road ahead along county lanes, a village square, main roads and the dreaded M25 motorway.  I’m an experienced driver having been behind a wheel since I was 18 years old (do your maths!).  I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the UK, usually alone, en route to work commitments or family occasions so I’m aware and wary of speed limits and road signs. The hour’s assessment passed quickly, without any major incidents or comments from my assessor, and I finally manoeuvred the car into my parking space somewhat anxious of the outcome.

The assessor requested my driving licence and eventually over a cup of coffee told me the result.  I had seemingly performed well, although she had noted that at times my speeds could have been FASTER, and I signalled a lot.  My heart sank and I felt miffed.  I commented that surely these were signs of a cautious not a reckless driver?  She responded informing me that many of my age group do the same but that overuse is unnecessary.  Secretly I decided that both were “good” faults and realised I had possibly overdone them due to her presence and the assessing situation.

Yet I was apprehensive, was I the “competent” driver I thought I was? Then the final verdict and to my relief I had passed and she was pleased and impressed with my driving skills.  Indeed I had passed with flying colours – Grade 1”Excellent”. The assessor added that she didn’t make an “Excellent” assessment too often!   I felt a great sense of self satisfaction.

Looking at the results in more detail it appeared I had shown good observation, positioning, signalling, and respect for other motorists and that I was indeed a very competent driver.  The assessor suggested I might like to take my driving skills to a higher level.  I could enrol on The Skill for Life Advanced Driving Challenge were I would be allotted an Observer who would first advise and then observe me driving my own car.  At the conclusion I would receive either a straight Pass or a Fail for my driving skills.  Um…I’ll think about it!

Apparently for a small fee of £35.00 the IAM also run modules for drivers of any age, who have specific concerns regarding their driving skills, such as difficulty with parking, or are overly nervous of driving on motorways or through country lanes.  What a great idea to help overcome a particular fear.

The cost of my Mature Driver’s Assessment was £135.00. So did I think it was worth it?    For me yes, and hopefully with such a positive result I can continue confidently behind the wheel of my own car for many years yet!

Now that’s what I call a brilliant start to New Year 2015!  Why don’t you take up the challenge? For more information……

http://www.advanceddriving@iam.org.uk