Changing perceptions one joke at a time…

I just got the book Probus – Way To Dignified Ageing.  I will be reviewing this book in detail soon, but wanted to share something of significant import before that.

For many of us, when we were young, our parents must have seemed like serious people – people who did not joke so much, laugh so much or approve of frivolous behaviour.  Obviously, with several children around the house, a typical Indian middle class family could not have been easy to run and the burden of educating all of us and bringing us up on a shoe-string budget must have been fairly daunting.

By the time we grew older and they could talk to us on an equal footing, the generational gap had set in and the relationship boundaries had already been pretty well established. Besides, by then we had also become too busy with our lives and friends and thus never got to spend quality time with them.  Which meant that we never got to see the frivolous and playful side of our parents, ever. Just think about it, undoubtedly they were just as fun-loving and happy-go-lucky in their childhood as we were in ours.  Surely they were not born serious and stodgy!  I think that in many ways, this is such a pity, because if only we had seen their jovial and joyful side, we would be so much more loving and affectionate as care givers now when they are old and need our help and support.

I am thrilled to say that I believe this book could give us a second chance to see the fun side of our parents.  The first thing I noticed when I quickly flipped through the book was the number of really funny jokes which poked fun of the elderly!  Here were some “stodgy” and “serious” people  laughing at themselves and enjoying the process!  While this book is a treasure trove of information for the elderly, I believe this is a must read for every person who is looking after  the elderly at home or at an old age home.  You can get a copy of it here at cost price.

To whet your appetite, here is one joke from the book that I found hilarious. It’s titled Sharing Forever.

He ordered one hamburger, one order of french fries and one drink. The old man unwrapped the plain hamburger and carefully cut it in half.  He placed one half in front of his wife.  He then carefully counted out the french fries, divided them into two piles, and neatly placed one pile in front of his wife.

He took one sip of the drink, his wife took a sip and then set the cup down between them.  As he began to eat his few bites of the hamburger, the people around them kept looking over and whispering.  You could tell they were thinking, “That poor old couple – all they can afford is one meal for the two of them.”

As the man began to eat his fries, a young man came to the table. He politely offered to buy another meal for the old couple. The old man said they were just fine – they were used to sharing everything.

The surrounding people noticed the little old lady had not eaten a bite. She sat there watching her husband eat and occasionally taking turns sipping the drink. Again the young man came over and begged them to let him buy another meal for them. This time the old woman said, “No thank you.  We are used to sharing everything.”

As the old man finished and was wiping his face neatly with the napkin, the young man again came over to the little old lady who had yet to eat a single bite of food and asked “what is it you are waiting for?”

She answered “THE TEETH”!



Active ageing – Introduction to Probus Club

One way to remain active after retirement is to join a club such as a Probus Club where you will have an opportunity to meet and interact with other retired and semi-retired people and get involved in activities of mutual interest.


A brief introduction to Probus
A Probus club is a local association of retired and semi-retired professionals and business people and others who have had some measure of responsibility in any field of worthy endeavour – who are of character and are respected in their community.  These clubs meet regularly for fellowships, guest lectures, and extension of their interests,  typically once a month.  These are not necessarily a club for “senior citizens” and are definitely not “singles clubs”.  The word Probus itself is an amalgamation of (Pro)fessionals and (Bus)iness.

Though, once started Probus clubs are autonomous, they are all usually sponsored by a Rotary Club.  In this context, “sponsored” means assistance in starting of the club and getting the Certificate of Accreditation, and not any monetary support.

Why did people start such Probus clubs and what do people get out of it?  
To quote from their document:

Researchers have discovered abundant evidence of the need for retired business and professional people to associate with others of similar vocational or educational backgrounds. Their social or sportinq clubs, their voluntary work and their hobbies do not always provide this association. Generally, these people miss the intellectual stimulation, in the broader sense, provided by their former business, professional or executive activities. Within a short time after retirement, the desire to meet other in similar circumstances manifests itself quite strongly. The need may be met, for some and in part,
by groups organized for former staff by public companies or other large organizations. but most of these meet infrequently, and the great majority of retired people do not enjoy even these limited opportunities. The sense of isolation experienced by many people who fomerly held positions of.responsibility and challenge often leads to emotional stress that can result in actual physical illness. There is a need for peergroup companionship and intellectual stimulation, which is growing with increased longevity and the encouragement of earlier retirement. The rapid growth of the Probus movement provides further evidence of the need for this kind of associations.

What happens in a Probus club? 
Probus clubs meet monthly for fellowship. morning coffee, a short business session and to hear an interesting guest speaker.

That’s only the beginning. Many arrange visits to factories, defense establishments, industrial complexes, police stations and plant nurseries. Most arrange short outings
– picnics, barbecues or visit to gardens and places of scenic or historic interest. Many organize extended tours of anything from one day to a few weeks – sometimes as a single club, sometimes in association with other Probus clubs. There are usually fellowship occasions with spouses and friends invited.

Many Probus clubs have a number of special interest groups within the club – such as music, art, history, sports, drama, walking, cycling, philately, computers, sailing, fishing, video, bridge and many more.

A Probus club, in fact, can provide all the enjoyment of any Service Club without the obligations of service, the attendance requirements and the classification system that are typical of other service clubs such as Rotary for example.

Joining a Probus Club
The Probus clubs are fairly active in India as well.  There is one club in Chennai, one in Cheyyar (Tamil Nadu), one in Hyderabad,  and one in Cochin.  Please check to get their latest contact information and to find out how to join them.  There is usually a annual membership subscription (which varies from club to club and from time to time).

Don’t wait for your first break – get Anti-slip mats

October 20th was the World Osteoporosis day.  Their slogan is “Stop at one.  Make your first break the last”.   According to some studies, 1 in 5 older people die within a year of their first fracture and 1 in 3 become dependent on others within a year of their first fracture. Since many older people are prone to Osteoporosis, with regular checkups, improved diet, calcium supplements, and care, even the first fall and fracture can be avoided.

One of the most common causes for a fracture we come across among older people is a fall in the bathroom.  This is not very surprising give that Indian bathrooms are perennially wet and slippery.  However, with a little effort this can be changed.   Reviewed below is a product that is fairly inexpensive and easy to install, clean and maintain and will probably give the elders at home several years of independent living.

Anti-slip mats

Called a snake mat or an anti-slip mat, this is a mat that is commonly used in public wet areas such as around swimming pools and is extremely good at keeping the surface dry while letting the water drain away.  The mat comes in rolls 15 mtrs in length and about 4 ft wide, but can be cut to fit most bathrooms.  The material is heavy enough so it does not curl up and trip anyone and light enough to be easily lifted and rolled up for cleaning.  Cleaning the mat is also fairly simple – just spraying water through a nozzle with some pressure should do.  Click here to buy.

Shaving as you age

As one ages, even simple routine activities such as shaving and grooming can become difficult. Things become further complicated if you suffer from tremors of the hand.

Essential tremor is the most common tremor. It is rarely seen when the hands are not being used. It becomes most apparent when you are trying to do something, such as reaching for an object or writing. It is not caused by an underlying disease. This type of tremor may also run in families.

Other causes of tremors can be

  • Tumours
  • Alcoholism / Withdrawal
  • Smoking/Withdrawal
  • Parkinsons syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Fatigue/Tiredness/Excess Caffeine/Stress
  • Stroke
  • Overactive thyroid

Tremors lead to shaky hands which can make wet shaving with razor difficult and dangerous.    But there are simple ways to work around these issues and remain well-groomed.  Obviously, one way is to keep your beard.  The barber can trim the beard when you go for your haircut.  Of course, if you are not used to having a beard, it can be quite uncomfortable.

The other option is to get an electric razor, a foil type or a rotary type.  These do not have exposed blades and are absolutely safe to use.  The foil type provides close shaves but may not be able to handle longer hair (if you shave regularly, this should not be a problem).  The rotary types usually do not give the kind of close shave that we need, but can handle longer hair easily.

Safe ShaverShown here is a foil type, entry level razor that could be a good place to start if you have not used an electric shaver before.  It is easy to use, can be charged and used CORDLESS, even in the shower.  It is from BraUn, a company that has been manufacturing shavers for many years now and are a market leader.  You can buy it here.

The free float system of this men’s shaver adjusts to all the contours of your body and gives you a safe shave without any rashes or injuries. The body of the shaver is slim and fits comfortably in your hand. The hand grip of this men’s shaver gives you an uncomplicated shaving experience. The cleaning brush that comes with this Braun shaver allows you to easily dust the hair off the shaving head in dry conditions.  This Braun men’s shaver runs on a rechargeable NiMH battery that gives a powerful cordless shave of 30 minutes after a quick charge of 60 minutes. The LED charging indication on the 190 shaver gives you the battery memory status.

Ten priority actions to maximize the opportunity of ageing populations – From UNFPA

The UNFPA report titled “Ageing In the Twenty-First Century – A Celebration and A Challenge”  has listed the top ten priority actions to be taken to maximize the opportunity of ageing populations.  With the Indian 60+ population nearly touching 100 Million, it is time we took this changing scenario seriously and plan for the future.

Here is the list of top ten actions:

1. Recognize the inevitability of population ageing and the need to adequately prepare all stakeholders (governments, civil society, private sector, communities, and families) for the growing numbers of older persons. This should be done by enhancing understanding, strengthening national and local capacities, and developing the political, economic and social reforms needed to adapt societies to an ageing world.

2. Ensure that all older persons can live with dignity and security, enjoying access to essential health and social services and a minimum income through the implementation
of national social protection floors and other social investments that extend the autonomy and independence of older people, prevent impoverishment in old age and contribute to a more healthy ageing. These actions should be based on a long-term vision, and supported by a strong political commitment and a secured budget that prevents negative impacts in time of crisis or governmental changes.

3. Support communities and families to develop support systems which ensure that frail older persons receive the long-term care they need and promote active and healthy ageing at the local level to facilitate ageing in place.

4. Invest in young people today by promoting healthy habits, and ensuring education and employment opportunities, access to health services, and social security coverage for all workers as the best investment to improve the lives of future generations of older persons. Flexible employment, lifelong learning and retraining opportunities should be promoted to facilitate the integration in the labour market of current generations of older persons.

5. Support international and national efforts to develop comparative research on ageing, and ensure that gender- and culture-sensitive data and evidence from this research
are available to inform policymaking.

6. Mainstream ageing into all gender policies and gender into ageing policies, taking into account the specific requirements of older women and men.

7. Ensure inclusion of ageing and the needs of older persons in all national development policies and programmes.

8. Ensure inclusion of ageing and the needs of older persons in national humanitarian response, climate change mitigation and adaptation plans, and disaster management and
preparedness programmes.

9. Ensure that ageing issues are adequately reflected in the post-2015 development agenda, including through the development of specific goals and indicators.

10. Develop a new rights-based culture of ageing and a change of mindset and societal attitudes towards ageing and older persons, from welfare recipients to active, contributing members of society. This requires, among others, working towards the development of international human rights instruments and their translation into national laws and regulations and affirmative measures that challenge age discrimination and recognize older people as autonomous subjects.

You can download the entire report here.

Harnessing the Potential of Older People

In every continent and almost every country, our population is growing older. Increasing life expectancy, thanks to improved diets, better sanitation, medical advances and greater prosperity, as well as falling birth rates are altering the age profile of our societies at a remarkable rate. By 2000, for the first time in history, there were more people sharing our planet over 60 than under five. Such is the pace of change that, by 2050, the older generation will out-number those under 15.

It is in the most highly developed countries where these demographic changes started. But they are actually progressing fastest outside the richest nations. By 2050, the developing world will be home to eight out of ten of the world’s older people . This unprecedented silent revolution will clearly be one of the greatest forces shaping our societies over the coming decades. Yet, there is little sign so far that all the right policies and actions needed have been put in place to respond successfully to these challenges and create a world in which all generations can flourish.

It was to help identify what needs to happen that the UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, together with HelpAge International, produced a comprehensive report into the demographic changes under way. Our report — “Ageing in the Twenty-first Century: A Celebration and a Challenge” — draws not only on expert input from over 20 UN and international agencies and entities, but also the views of hundreds of older citizens from across the world.

To read more about it go here.

What is Osteoporosis?

Today, October 20th is World Osteoporosis Day.

Get your Bone Mineral Density test done today.  It is a 2 minute non-invasive, simple procedure that can tell you if you are Osteoporosis free, Osteopenic (at high risk), or Osteoporofic (having Osteoporosis).

About Osteoporosis

Good Food habits to keep Osteoporosis away

Osteoporosis is a common bone disease that affects both men and women, usually as they grow older. In osteoporosis, the bone mineral density (BMD) is reduced, bone microarchitecture deteriorates, and the amount and variety of proteins in bone are altered.  This leads to an increased risk of fractures. Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis and avoid the often debilitating bone fractures that can result from the disease.

Some Facts

  1. Around the world, at least one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture caused by weak bones.
  2. Thirty-three per cent of older adults who suffer a hip fracture become physically impaired and lose their ability to live independently one year after the fracture.
  3. At least one in five will die within the year following fracture.
  4. Vertebral (spine) fractures can cause extreme pain, long or short term disability, dowager’s hump, and significant loss in quality of life.
  5. Approximately half of all people who have had one osteoporotic fracture will have another.
  6. Eighty per cent of fragility fracture patients are neither assessed nor treated for osteoporosis or falls risk to reduce future fracture incidence.
  7. Treating fracture patients for osteoporosis can reduce the overall incidence of hip fracture by 20-25%.

Here are a few food habits that you can follow to avoid/delay Osteoporosis.

Say YES to:

  1. Fruits
  2. Low fat milk and dairy products
  3. Green leafy vegetables
  4. Pulses and grains
  5. Oily fish
  6. Sun light
  7. Physical exercise

Say NO to:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Smoking
  3. Red meat
  4. Soft drinks
  5. Coffee
  6. Chocolates

Here’s wishing you a fracture free life ahead.

Simplest way to avoid dengue

It appears that dengue is rearing its ugly head again.  In the last week or so, Chennai has reported several cases of dengue with at least a handful of fatal cases.  Dengue and other mosquito borne diseases are set to rise given the imminent arrival of the monsoon.

With incomplete storm water drains providing excellent breeding grounds, the mosquito population is going to skyrocket once the monsoon sets in.

Protecting oneself from getting bitten by mosquitoes can be quite difficult, but not impossible.  Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

1. Make sure there is no stagnant water in and around your house.

2. Use a fine mesh to cover all windows and doors.  There are several types of meshes available (Netlon is a popular brand) and there are many local providers who will come and  understand your requirements and cut and fix the mesh appropriately.

Mosquito Net

3.  Use a mosquito net when you go to bed.  There are wonderfully simple to use models available that do not require any complicated assembly or external support.  Click here or on the image to buy.

Here’s to a dengue-free monsoon.

Approach CAG if you need any help

In an article titled “Catering to the elderly“, S Saroja writes about insurance related issues faced by senior citizens and how CAG can help.

The CAG is the citizen, consumer and civic action group.  CAG came into existence on 7 October 1985 as a non-profit, non-political, non-religious, voluntary and professional citizens group based in Chennai, India. S. Govind Swaminadhan, legal practitioner and former Advocate General of the State of Tamil Nadu, was the founding trustee of CAG. The initial trustees included S. Guhan (former Finance Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu), S.L.Rao (former Chairman, Central Electricity Regulatory Commissioner), Shyamala Nataraj (development journalist with the South India Aids Action Program) and Sriram Panchu (Senior Advocate).

The CAG website is at  Their address and contact details are given below:

Citizen consumer and civic Action Group 
9/5 II Street Padmanabha Nagar, Adyar, Chennai 600020.
Phone: 91-44-24460387
Telefax: 91-44-24914358

Email :