Archive for March, 2009

Washington, DC and Cherry Blossoms

Cherry BlossomsIt was a day of beauty in Washington, DC. A perfect spring day in the low 60’s. The cherry blossoms put on a spectacular show, as they do every year.

It was not a day to drive. Vehicular traffic was bumper to bumper. Pedestrian traffic was also slow, but it was a time to absorb the beauty of the blossoms. Metro (Washington’s subway system) was the way to go, but it required the footmobile and quite a bit of walking.

In a previous post, I encouraged you to start your exercise program slowly. Just walk a little each day. Did you do it? By now, you would’ve been in good shape to walk around the Tidal Basin (see picture). By the time I had gotten out of the Smithsonian Station at about 1:30 pm EDT, I had about 2,000 steps on my pedometer. At the end of the trip, I was at 10,000 steps.

OrchidIn addition to the walk around the Tidal Basin, my husband and I took in the Orchid Show at the Natural History Museum. (He has a small collection of orchids). It was a small display, but beautiful, nonetheless. The nice thing about living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area is that the Smithsonian is free. I feel very fortunate to live here, but it does take effort to take advantage of the resources. Many times we’ve stayed away because tourists descend on the city as we move into spring.

Spring has not quite arrived in some parts of the country, but I hope you’re ready when it does arrive because you’ll want to get out there and enjoy! As seniors, if we don’t move, we won’t get far and at least for me, I want to be able to keep up with my grandchildren! Happy walking and happy spring!

Seniors and the Flu

docwizMonday’s issue of USA Today contained an article, “Drug-resistant Flu Strains Throw Dctors a Curve,” with some interesting statistics obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov). It stated that every year about 200,000 people get sent to the hospital and of that number, approximately 50% are over age 64. Furthermore, of the 36,000 that die each year from the flu, more than 90% are people over 64.

It is a known fact that the flu vaccine is an educated guess as to what strain of flu will hit for the season. This season, fortunately, the types of flu strains circulating are covered by the current vaccine.  (Type A: H1N1 and H3N2 and Type B) Next season’s vaccine will include the same Type A strains and a new Type B.

Drugs that are currently available target certain types of flu, but the problem is that most doctors don’t know which flu strain has infected their patients because the symptoms are the same. There is a viral culture that can be taken, but it takes about a week to obtain the results.

Here are the currently available drugs and what they target:

  • Tamiflu: H3N2 and type B only
  • Relenza: all three flu strains
  • Amantadine and rimantadine: H1N1 only

Tamiflu is relatively new and can be delivered in pill or liquid form. It can reduce the severity and duration of the flu and is also used for protection against the bird flu, but even some variants of the bird flu are beginning to show reduced sensitivity.

For most people, the flu vaccine is the best defense. Prescription drugs always have side effects, so particularly for the elderly that have other health problems, this could mean a risk for flu complications.

Bottom line … make sure you keep your immune system strong. In upcoming posts, I will cover different ways to do this. In the meantime, take care — spring is right around the corner!

PS – As a member of HiltonHonors, when I stay at a Hilton property, I get USA Today delivered to my door each weekday morning. I’m pretty loyal to the Hilton line. It’s one of the best rewards programs. Check it out at www.hiltonhhonors.com.

Nintendo Wii Fit and Seniors

wiifit-croppedLast month while visiting friends in California, the topic of conversation turned to the Nintendo Wii Fit. All of my friends are retired and it was interesting that they all had Wii Fit. One said, “This is what retired people do.” The oldest in the group, an 80+ year old healthy woman, had a perfect bowling score. The mother of another friend who is pretty much wheelchair bound loves playing with her grandchildren.

Personally, I don’t own one, but I’ve had the opportunity of trying it at a friend’s home and several times at my son’s home. It’s challenging … and now it’s on my “wish list.” The basic console costs approximately $250 and the Wii Fit is an additional $90.

This does not, by any means, replace a real workout at the gym. But if you’re not doing anything, then at least this will get you started and perhaps interested in doing more.  As Anne Underwood, health writer at Newsweek says, “…it encourages you to try a broad range of exercises that you might not try otherwise.” You can read her entire article at http://www.newsweek.com/id/138076.

Are you hooked on Wii Fit? What has it done for you?

Home-Based Business and Taxes

Today my husband and I made our annual trek to our accountant’s office to bring our tax papers. What a good feeling to have that project completed. In a couple of weeks or so, we’ll get the news … good or bad … but for us, it would be a lot worse without a home-based business.

Did you know that Hewlett-Packard started as a  home-based business? They set up shop in a one-car garage behind David Packard’s Palo Alto house. They flipped a coin to decide the company name and because William Hewlett won, the company was named Hewlett-Packard.

Coca-Cola was created by pharmacist Dr. John Styth Pemberton in his back yard on May 8, 1886. In 1976, Martha Stewart started a catering business with a friend in her basement. A decade later, Michael Dell started to build Dell Inc. from his dormitory.

Your 401(k), pension, IRA or whatever you were depending on for retirement may be smaller than expected. Even Social Security may run into problems if the number of retirees drawing benefits outnumber workers paying the Social Security tax. Today’s Washington Post reported that in my tri-state area of Maryland, Virginia, and DC, pension plans for local and state workers have lost more than $28 billion since last summer.

What’s the biggest benefit of a home-based business? It allows you to take the same kinds of deductions available to big corporations. The deductions will then allow you to decrease the amount of taxes that you pay. If you would like to read more about the tax benefits of a home-based business, I offer to my United States senior readers above 55 years old, a small paper called, “The Tax Times.” I have only a limited number of copies, so it will be mailed to the first 25 that request it. You need to e-mail me at nora@noranagatani.com. Please include your name and mailing address.

Happy filing!

Shingles Vaccine

injectionYesterday I got an injection for the shingles vaccine. It is something recommended for those 60 years of age and older. Since this blog is dedicated to “living happily ever after,” I thought I’d share some facts about it.

There has been a nationwide shortage of this vaccine and I had to keep calling my doctor’s office to check on availability. Finally, they started a wait list and I got a call a couple of weeks ago to set up an appointment.

Previously, I’d been under the impression that if you’ve already had chickenpox, then you had an immunity from shingles. It’s actually not the case – if you’ve had chickenpox, then you are a candidate for shingles. The chickenpox virus actually stays in your body and can reappear years later as shingles.

If you’d like a technical term, shingles and chickenpox are caused by the Varicella Zoster virus. Shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters and is also called Herpes Zoster. I won’t go into the details of the pain … perhaps some of my readers have had it and would like to comment. I’ve been fortunate; I’ve not had it and I’m doing everything I can not to get it. Just the word “pain” is enough to get me motivated to get the vaccine.

At least one million people in the United States in a year get the disease and it is more likely to hit those over 50 and with weakened immune systems. The vaccine is relatively new. It was licensed in 2006 and in clinical trials, the vaccine prevented shingles in about half of the people 60 years and older. Should you get the disease, it can reduce the pain.

So if you’ve had chickenpox, I highly recommend that you get the protection.