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Friday, July 29, 2011

Know Your Self

       I have mentioned material in Roiter’s book[i] several times. There is more in it and I sincerely recommend that you take a look at this book to gather important information. The book has four sections reflecting key issues in understanding retirement.  They are:  1.Personal   2.Social 3.Financial and 4.Physical.  I will not be talking about the financial at this time.
         I suggest that you google retirement financial. There are many blog entries on that subject, as many of you probably know.  I am more interested in psychological factors and will concentrate the non-financial information.
         So we will start off with the Personal Factor, which is the last one, discussed. Roiter makes a strong case that the key to the whole process is to know yourself which helps us understand what we do and why we do it. This value is why I think that meditation is so important in our lives.  He uses a cake metaphor to make his point “Yourself is much like a cake, made up of many parts, including (in the case of the cake) flour, sugar, milk, eggs flavorings, and other ingredients
         Of course this is true for all our lives but is particularly important as we approach and live our lives in retirement.  “If your attitude is that aging consists of inevitable decline, that is what it will probably be for you.  I believe that this book has demonstrated that this does not have to be the case….Focus on the difficulties and that is what you will find. Focus on the great an you may become deluded, for it is not all great.  Focus on the good, and be aware of the great and the difficult an you will age well.”
         I was able to find some questions you can ask yourself. Once you have answered them, sit back a write a brief paragraph about each of you answers.

1 Who has the most inspiring influence upon you? What is the cause?
2. Do you tolerate negative or discouraging influences which you can avoid?
3. Are you careless of your personal appearance? If so, when and why?
4. Have you learned how to "drown your troubles" by being too busy to be annoyed by them?
5. Would you call yourself a "spineless weakling" if you permitted others to do your thinking for you?
6. Do you neglect internal bathing until auto-intoxication makes you ill-tempered and irritable?
7. How many preventable disturbances annoy you, and why do you tolerate them?
8. Do you resort to liquor, narcotics, or cigarettes to "quiet your nerves"? If so, why do you not try will-power instead?
9. Does anyone "nag" you, and if so, for what reason?
10. Do you have a DEFINITE MAJOR PURPOSE, and if so, what is it, and what plan have you for achieving it?
11. Do you suffer from any of the Six Basic Fears? If so, which ones?
12. Have you a method by which you can shield yourself against the negative influence of others?
13. Do you make deliberate use of auto-suggestion to make your mind positive?
14. Which do you value most, your material possessions, or your privilege of controlling your own thoughts?
15. Are you easily influenced by others, against your own judgment

[i] Rotter, B. (2008) Beyond Work: How Accomplished people Retire Successfully, John Wiley and sons, Canada.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Retirement and Happiness

           I recently received an email regarding my blog activity and personal retirement goals. The message says:

“ It would be better if you include your passion on your retirement activities. It is what gives you more energy. When you love what you do and you do it without pushing yourself, you embrace life more and enjoy it to the fullest. 

         It prompted me return to the process of leisure self-examination expressed in a recent blog entry
         Travel is the second most common leisure activity reported by many retirees.  Retirement can provide us with an opportunity for personal growth through leisure activity that is much wider than fishing or playing golf.
         In fact I see walking travel as a form of leisure and I’m walking more than I have for a long time.” In fact yesterday I purchased a pocket pedometer so that I can keep in touch with the distance and amount of time I spend walking.
         I also take along an ipod, given to me recently at my Psychology Dept retirement party. As I walk I hear songs from Glee, my favorite television program. I always get a big smile and sometimes tears of joy come to my eyes.
  If it rains in the next few days, which is highly likely, I will probably sing as I walk.[i]

I'm singin’ in the rain
Just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling'
I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I've a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Just singin',
Singin' in the rain


[i] Singin' in the Rain is a 1952 American comedy musical film starring Kelly, Donald and Debbie Reynolds and directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen.

[1] Dorfman, L.T. & Kolarik D.C. (2005). Leisure and retired professor occupation   matters, Educational Gerontology 31 (5), 343-361

Friday, July 15, 2011

Aging and Remembering People’s Names

     One of my biggest problems, which has been with me for a long time, and seems to be increasing, is being able to remember people’s names. I have other cognitive difficulties but this one is the most frustrating.  I am not alone “A common complaint of older adults is that they have trouble remembering names, even the names of people they know well.”[i] Specifically this research found that people in their 70s  “…show an impairment in recall of names of known people, but not of known objects.” Other forms of memory problems weren’t differentiated on the basis of age.
         There are also other types of cognitive skills problems listed in the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire.  It has several main categories. They are memory, distractibility, blunders, and memory for names. The rest of this blog entry will deal with memory for names. Future blog entries will take a look at the others.

        The main memory items are:

  1. Do you leave important letters unanswered for days?
  2. Do you find you forget people's names?
  3. Do you fail to listen to people's names when you are meeting them?
        It often takes at least a week for me to answer important letters including those from my financial advisor and within the last year I have had a very difficult time remembering peoples name that I have known for years but don’t see very often.  The good side of it is that instead of getting stressed trying to remember them I relax and inevitably, usually within a minute or so, the name pops into my consciousness.
         I have historically not paid much attention to people’s names. The first time I remember having difficulty with remembering a person’s name was in my second year at University.  I was walking along with a person who I had recently met in one of my courses.  Coming toward us was a person who I had attended high school with. He waved at me as he approached.  I tried very hard to remember his name but nothing came up as he approached. When we are close enough to talk I did a very silly thing. I said, “I know you both well enough to know that the best way for you to meet is for each of you to tell the other his name.”    They both looked at me as if I was some kind of idiot.  They did exchange names but neither of my relationships with them grew after that.
         Finally, I spend quite a bit of time watching TV, I recognize faces of actors that I haven’t seen for 30 years but it takes a lot more to remember their names. If you think about the very early days of humans’ survival would likely be more probable in recognizing the face of someone whether or not you remembered his or her name.


[i]   Wallace, J. Craig; Kass, Steven J.; Stanny, Claudia (2002). The cognitive failures questionnaire revisited: Dimensions and correlates, Journal of General Psychology,129(3), 238-256. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Being Carried away from the Here and Now

          As we age we need to pay attention to the quality of our thinking. A major factor, measured by the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire, is referred to as Distractibility.  
         The days, when I am reading novels, I sometimes read during the day and also at night before I go to sleep.  The next time I pick up the book I can’t remember specifically what I read the night before. I do recognize it quickly and move on with the adventure.
         I usually do not have any trouble making up my mind. I take time to think about my options and then follow up on my decision
         Sometimes I head up stairs to something but when I get there it takes a few moments to remember what I was going to do. I think this is because I have several different ideas moving around in my brain at the same time.
         I understand what daydreaming is but I can’t recall any specific instances but think it may be connected with forgetting why I went from one part of the house to another.  Also, when I am walking somewhere if I am not chanting in meditation, my mind does tend to wander around.
         I experience the “tip of the tongue” phenomena in failure of name recognition. I have started using little tricks like associating the forgotten material with links that are very easy to remain. For instance on of my neighbors names is Oswaldo. I connect his name with Dr. Oz who has his own TV show and is connected with Oprah Windfrey.
         To conclude I think this characteristic has been controlled by my techniques for staying in the “here and now”.  It has been helpful even though my years of teaching may in some instances be connected with the stereotype “absent minded professor.”

The items listed in this section of the Questionnaire are:
         Instructions: Please indicate how descriptive each statement is          of your beliefs by circling the number that corresponds to your          response. (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree)
         1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

1. Do you read something and find you haven't been thinking about it and must read it again?
       1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )                   
2. Do you have trouble making up your mind?                                 
      1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )
3. Do you find you forget why you went from one part of the house to the other?                                   
      1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )
4. Do you daydream when you ought to be listening to something?               
     1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )
5. Do you start doing one thing at home and get distracted into doing something else (unintentionally)?           
     1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )
6. Do you find you can't quite remember something although it's 'on the tip of your tongue'? 
     1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )
7. Do you fail to notice signposts on the road?                              
     1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )
8. Do you find you confuse right and left when giving directions?           
     1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )
9. Do you find you can't think of anything to say?                            
     1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )
[1]   Wallace, J. Craig; Kass, Steven J.; Stanny, Claudia (2002). The cognitive failures questionnaire revisited: Dimensions and correlates, Journal of General Psychology,129(3), 238-256. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Exploring Ageism

        A number of my posts have focused on Ageism. Now let’s explore more about its structure. First a reliable source, Wikapedia that tells us that: “Ageism, also called discrimination is stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups because of their age. It is a set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, and values used to justify age based prejudice, discrimination, and subordination.”  It is good to remember that ageism is also directed towards younger people.
         The next information was gathered from a textbook I have used in my aging class for many years[i]  Ageism is a form of stereotype, which “… is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions.”
         Ageism is in part a reflection of our fear of dying and is also connected to the idea of  “apocalyptic demography” which is currently having negative influence on Canada’s health care policy and other seniors’ issues.
         Think of our world’s current financial situation. With so many people out of jobs etc.  It is easy to believe that seniors are a burden that must be lifted.  After all they have had their chance and spending money on them takes it away from younger people.  “Out with the old, In with the new!”
         Some ideas related to this attitude are presented in the textbook.  It’s first comments are about mandatory Retirement which as been eliminated in Canada and the United States. We are told that in spite of this improvement, ageism towards both younger and older workers ability exists even with the growing use of equal opportunities legislation. Older people applying for jobs are competing with a growing number younger people. Ageist attitudes of potential employers seem to be directed upward rather than downward. 
         There is also a brief discussion of ageism and sexuality. The prejudice is that seniors lack interest in sexual activity. And if you are an interested male, you are probably “a dirty old man.”  Even with the emergence of such sexual enhancers as Viagra, prejudice continues. I wonder how many males, worried about their capability, have bought into the sales pitch of Viagra producers.
         I recently I came upon an online article that discusses not only ageism but other forms of intergroup prejudice such as sexism and racism[ii] I am going to display their ageist items next.
Ageism statements
Instructions: Please indicate how descriptive each statement is of your beliefs by circling the number that corresponds to your response. (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree)
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

1. Complex and interesting conversation cannot be expected
from most old people.
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

2. FSA-7: Most old people would be considered to have poor personal hygiene
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

3. FSA-8: Most old people can be irritating because they tell the
same stories over and over again
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

4. FSA-13: Old people don’t really need to use our community sports facilities.
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

5. FSA-15: It is best that old people live where they won’t bother
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

6. FSA-16: The company of most old people is quite enjoyable. (R)
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

7. FSA-20: I sometimes avoid eye contact with old people when I see them
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

8. FSA-21: I don’t like it when old people try to make conversation
with me.
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

9. FSA-27: I personally would not want to spend much time with an
old person.
1 (   )      2(   )        3 (    )      4 (     )       5 (     )

Finally, It is a good thing to remember that persons who accept ageist stereotypes will reap the reward of self-stereotyping, as they get older.

[i] Chappell, N., Mcdonald, L. & Stones, M. (2008)  Aging in Contemporary Canada, 2nd               Ed, Pearson Prentice Hall

[ii] Allison C. Aosved, Patricia J. Long, Emily K. Voller,   Measuring Sexism, Racism, Sexual Prjudice, Ageism, Classism, and Religious Intolerance, 39, Article first published online: 1 OCT 2009