Shout Out to My Bud

Christine is going South to study Spanish and take her “Grown Up Gap Year”: now that her parents have peacefully passed on and her kids have flown the coop, she’s good to go.  I’ll be following her progress at  If you love Christine like me, follow her blog.DSC_0238


Falling Skills Class Tomorrow

On August 21, 2018 I will be joining Alayne Blake at The Fall Prevention Coalition meeting in Pleasant Hill, CA.

At this meeting I will demonstrate traditional martial arts falling skills and teach participants how to build muscle memory and  incorporate concepts and skills into their regular exercise program to alleviate the fear of falling and be better prepared to take a safe spill in the future.

Class will be held at 500 Ellinwood Way, Pleasant Hill, first floor.

Falling Facts


Practice Getting Up

I’ve been petitioned so in the next few weeks I’ll be inviting seniors from my Matter of Balance class to sign a waiver then practice falling down and getting up.

If you want to join us, shoot me an email…

senior health and safety


img_5461In my job I see homes all over Alameda.  One of the homes I visited recently was a lovely home valued at over a million dollars on the lagoon.  It was festooned with imported Italian pottery and beautiful rugs.

Theoretically, the actual owner of the house may have qualified for my program, she just didn’t have the paperwork to verify it.  Although her home is amazing, she is on a fixed income and at 86 years of age, with a variety of chronic disease complaints (and probably the medications that go with them) no one in the Fire Department really wants her to climb a ladder.

It was her sister who rubbed me the wrong way.

“Why do all these immigrants come here and get everything for free!  We worked hard our whole lives, we should get some assistance!”

I explained my program is subsidized by HUD and that the Federal government requires that I verify their income to see if they qualify for this free service.  I explained that how all government programs work.

“If people can verify that they qualify, then they get stuff for free.”  I asked her once again for her documents which she could not produce.

In the end, I asked if she would like me to replace her smoke detector for a fee.  When it is obvious that a senior needs assistance we can install them free of a service charge but they must pay for the smoke detector at cost.

She did, and I did.

I was annoyed because she made a big deal about being Italian, how nice it was that I was Italian, and how her parents came from Italy as if that was some big important thing.  I just stood there with my mouth open.  Can she really not see that she is the child of immigrants?  Didn’t she hear family stories of how difficult it was for Italians back in the day?  Why is she so angry at other immigrants?  Too much Fox news I suppose.

Look in the mirror, lady.  The problem is you.  You are the one who wants stuff for free.  You are the entitled one.



Self Care for the Flu: Post Healthcare Edition

Face it:  no one thinks they will get the flu and when you are sick you won’t have the energy to remember all the stuff you will need so I’ve compiled this handy guide to help.  Blue tape it on the door to your medicine cabinet.

Day One: Explosive sneezing and mild sore throat.  Cancel all your plans and haul your butt to the grocery store. Purchase the following items:

Manuka Honey

Ginger root

Black Tea

Club Soda




Olive Oil


Feta Cheese

Also The Obvious: Tissues, Cough drops, Bandanas,Masks, Rubbing Alcohol.

Go home and eat pasta with as much raw garlic, raw parsley, olive oil, and feta as you can consume (I chop a whole head of it, seriously, not a clove or two).  Share this with your family because they will also need the immunity boost.

Wash your hands, wear a mask, and cover your sneezes while cooking, please.

If you still have energy, make a giant vat of Raw Ginger Tea.  Take the biggest pot you have, fill it with water.  Grate 3-5 inches of ginger root into it. Simmer for 20 minutes, add the juice of a lemon.  Drink hot with honey or cold as a beverage.  It will sting and at first you will hate it, but you will learn over time that this is a miracle cure and will reduce the time of your illness.

Day Two: This is the day to boil a big pot of water and have some black tea because you just don’t want coffee when you are sick and if you don’t have black tea you will get a caffeine withdrawal headache.

Be sure to put Manuka Honey in your tea and then eat a teaspoon plain because that stuff is pure antibotic and it tastes like a caramel candy.

Use the whole kettle of boiled water.  I get some Bonne Maman jars (with lids) and I mix up some Salt Water to gargle with later.  No mystery, I pour hot water and add salt.  Then I cool and set in fridge.

At the same time I  make Lemon Water.  Same idea, hot water and lemon juice, cool, stick in fridge for the duration of my illness I’ve got quick access to fluid.  I also prepare a Neti Pot because you should never use tap water for a Neti Pot.

For the common cold I find a sore throat with sinus congestion is the next phase, but I’ve notice the flu jumps straight into my chest.  Because asthma runs in my family, I make sure I have some abuterol on hand to ease the tightness in my lungs. Anytime I remember, and usually after a hit of abuterol, I gargle with the salt water.

Day Three: Fever and aches and pains.  Repeat all of the actions above and if it seems like too much and you want to die, you have the flu and you really need to stop and sleep like crazy.  Be sure to notice if you neck hurts or if you are sensitive to light.  Too many young people die of meningitis because they didn’t know the symptoms.  Focus any energy you have on sleeping well with your head elevated. If your bedding sucks, make a resolution to improve it and then keep it when you are better.

Day Four: If you think you are better but you are unsure, ask yourself:  Do I have the energy to wash the sheets that I’ve been sneezing and coughing on?  Do I have the energy to wash my pyjamas?  If you do, then do that before anything else, then ask yourself again…do I have any energy left to empty my bins filled with disgusting kleenex?  If so, great.  If not, go back to bed and repeat until you can clean your room.  That’s the day you know you are better.  Do not go to work and make people like me sick!

Day Five:  You wake and you feel clearer.  Are you able to clean your surroundings as penance to the poor people you live with you had to listen to your bodily noises for the past four days?  Do not decide to go to work unless you can first clean up.  If you can clean up, then by all means you can probably go to work tomorrow.

If the conservatives win and the Affordable Care Act is repealed, we will all need to take better care of each other.  Yes, productivity make decline, but without healthcare we will need to put our health first.




When to run.

I love this from the New York Times.  I remember when my son started at a new elementary school.  I went to visit him at recess and was dismayed to hear a parent volunteer yell at the kids to stop running.

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s against the rules, they will get hurt.

“Is it really a rule?  Those kids are running on the basketball court.”

“Yes, but that’s organized.”

I doubled checked the rule with the administration then I withdrew my son.





Fear of Falling Diminished by Practice

When I was 38 I learned how to fall down. At the time it seemed impossible until I went slow, practiced, and got very good at it. Why aren’t we all taught how to fall down and to fall down well in an easy, habitual way?  The kids that learn how to fall excel at sports because, well, think about it:  if you have a plan for how to fall down, how to dissipate your weight, if you KNOW you can do it without getting injured, doesn’t that make running fast and jumping higher just that much easier?

I am currently participating in a program developed by Boston University and promoted by the National Council on Aging.  It is called “Matter of Balance” and it is an evidence based cognitive behavior and exercise program.  I am considering becoming a lay instructor for the Fire Department because I would like to offer this class at the Senior Center.

The piece I believe they got wrong was the assumption of the negative.  So, when they describe how to re-set your mind, they want you to replace “negative thoughts” such as “I am afraid I will fall” with “positive” thoughts such as “I will not fall.”

But this, in my opinion falls short.  Replace the negative with truly positive, “I will maintain my balance” and go even farther to learn deeply, “If I fall it is possible to fall well.”

Falling well means going with the flow, protecting your head, rolling softly.

Here is an article from The New York Times:

And like that Daddy and Daughter team on facebook said, “When I fall down…I get back up again!” A sentiment that I am currently drilling into my own head with regards to the political challenges we are facing.  But that’s another thing.

senior health and safety, yoga

Floors and Feet.

photo-jan-25-9-34-29-amThe first thing I notice when I enter a home is the floor.  Not because I have a floor fetish but because I’m worried that the person opening the door might be unsteady and lose their balance while rushing to let me into their home.  I am the “Senior Safety Officer” for the Fire Department’s Safety & Accessibility program and my job is to visit low-to-moderate income elders in their home to provide free smoke detectors, grab bars, and other items to prevent fires and falls.

My experience is that entering an elderly person’s home usually requires navigating a variety of objects “conveniently located” by the door. Objects like a chair, a bag of mail, slippers, a cane. The act of door opening can be even more challenging if the person is using a cane or a walker.

I’m always glad if the floor is solid like formica.  Less happy if it is covered in throw rugs. Very sad if it’s old and lumpy.  Old and lumpy rugs tend to be covered with lots of furniture and that furniture is covered in precious brick-a-brac or stacks of paper that is generally not to be displaced.

Yesterday I visited a British expatriate, J. P., who had every sort of floor covering.  Formica in the entry way, nook, and kitchen, thick lumpy rug in the formal living room, smaller pile rug on the stairs and in the  bedrooms.

She walked barefoot in her house and that’s the next thing I notice: her feet.  American feet of this generation of seniors are a reflection of years of high heels and chair sitting.  They are usually swollen and tightly curled. I’m guessing they have never been elevated above her heart, but I could be wrong.  I try not to stare, but the yoga teacher in me wants to cue her to spread her toes.  I feel myself spread my toes and flex my feet in response.  I feel my heart go out to her as I watch her flutter unsteadily back to her seat in the nook. I bring myself back to how I can help right here right now.

J.P. is sweet and happy to have me visit and immediately expresses a desire to have more visitors so I pull out my “Alameda Friendly Visitors” flyer and tell her that her wish is my command, there is a program here in Alameda specifically designed to match volunteer visitors with elders who crave more company.  She is delighted.

Then we discuss my program which offers simple home renovations to help low-income seniors be able to “age in place” safely.  Evidence based research shows that precautions such as grab bars in showers, cognitive behavioral training, and balance exercises can help reduce falls and injuries.

I wear a uniform and my job is to be an official nag/authority figure that can deliver “the truth” without instilling fear.  When I inform my clients that a throw rug should be discarded because it is a falling hazard they say, “Oh yes, my daughter has been saying that I should do that…” to which I reply, “It’s important that you consider letting her help you address this situation because our goal is to keep you safe in your home.”  They smile and nod and I kind of know that they won’t do it until they trip on it.

Yesterday I added: “I’m betting you had to care for someone once in your life?”

To which J.P. replied, “Oh yes! I worked very hard.”

So I said, “Well, so now it’s your turn, you’ve earned the right and you deserve some help.”

She responded well to my gentle bossiness and expressed so much gratitude I made a vow to bring her some meyer lemons from my tree.

The thing that wakes me up at night is the idea that I’m there to promote, “aging in place”.  It’s important because in reality it is probably the best and cheapest thing for an adult to do over the long haul but most of my client’s homes are not really set up very well. What I used to call “my dream house” (a big spread downstairs and all bedrooms upstairs) is actually not too great for aging in place.  In my mind’s eye I see their  little bodies barely navigating the five feet from the nook to the front door and I wonder how they get up those stairs? Ideally there would be an office that could become a bedroom downstairs. That’s how I remodeled my aunt Dorothy’s place.  I had her move out of the master suite upstairs and I renovated her downstairs bedroom and bathroom into a wheelchair accessible suite.

All of this happened one summer when she had a very dramatic fall and was living in assisted care for a while.  She decided she wanted to go home so I got to work with her permission.

We were lucky because she had the financial means to pay for the work, and I had the time to help and I guess that’s the point I’d like to make.  Perhaps we should all, while we are healthy and mobile, decide sooner rather than later to make our living areas accessible for the future.  Maybe plan for a time when your more aged mom will visit in the future and then remodel a downstairs bed and bath with her future older self in mind.

Just be sure to concentrate on the floor and all the stuff on the floor.  Imagine a wheelchair rolling through your house and what it would take to make that easy.  I know it sounds grim, but you will learn to love the freedom the space provides.