Aging With Intention

Aging With Intention: An Ounce of Prevention

Aging With Intention

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

This month I'm reminded of those wise words from Ben Franklin every time I look at my March calendar . . . because it is FILLED with prevention appointments! I've got my annual physical, a mammogram, blood work, a dental check-up/cleaning, and a check-in with my rheumatologist! That's a lot of prevention. But. Like Ben says, it's worth pounds of cure.

So. I got to thinking about preventive care . . . and what a powerful tool it is in our quest to age with intention.

Preventive care . . . is not always fun or appealing. I mean, who likes to go get that annual mammogram or that (hopefully) once-a-decade colonoscopy? Not me, for sure. But, like so many other things in that "ounce of prevention" category, I know they'll be good for me -- and will help me move forward with a greater level of healthful confidence.

These days, there is much talk of "self-care" -- not just in the treat-yourself category (although that stuff is fine to do, too), but in the taking-care-of-your-health category. (Ben Franklin's "ounce of prevention" . . . ) Again, "self-care" is not always fun -- but important in preparing us to age "well." Staying active. Building strength. Eating well. Managing stress. Getting plenty of sleep. Building in brain-work. Cultivating hobbies. Connecting with other people. Scheduling regular visits with our health care "team."

Let's focus on that last one for a minute . . . Scheduling regular visits with our health care "team." (I like to refer to my health care providers as my "team" -- because it really does take a village, y'know?) Ideally, by this point in our lives, we've been able to connect with a primary care doctor that we like and trust; someone we've been able to develop a relationship with over a few years. It's getting harder to do this these days for a variety of reasons: sometimes there are certain insurance restrictions or hurdles, and sometimes it's a challenge to even find a doctor, as they seem to be coming-and-going a lot more than they used to, and certainly it's even more challenging in smaller towns and rural areas (there are no health care providers of any type, for example, in the small community where our up-north cabin is located). But, if you can, it's a good idea to find a doctor (or, at least, a medical practice) for yourself -- and establish a relationship that can last a while. 

Who else should be part of your health care "team?"

  • Your dentist (for regular check-ups and cleanings, and, of course, to fix any problems)
  • Your eye doctor (this gets more important the older we get)
  • Your dermatologist (the older we get, the more likely our sun-exposure is to "catch up" with us)
  • Any specialists you may need to see regularly (like my rheumatologist)

And what should we have "done" on an "ounce of prevention" basis each year? I found a variety of preventive care checklists for women at all ages and stages of life from a simple Google search. Here's a basic compendium I put together for women age 40 and over:


  • Flu shot, every year
  • Tetanus booster, every 10 years
  • Shingrix vaccine for shingles, at age 50
  • Two pneumonia vaccines, starting at 65. The CDC recommends a dose of what’s known as PCV13 (Prevnar) first. At least one year later, get a dose of PPSV23 (Pneumovax).
  • Of course, we should also pay attention to developing/changing recommendations for Covid vaccinations and boosters. (It's now possible for those with compromised immune systems to get a 4th shot/booster. I'm scheduled for mine tomorrow. Yippee.)

Screening Tests

  • Breast cancer: At 40, talk with your doctor about when to start mammography screening. Most women can begin at age 50. However, if you have risk factors for breast cancer, such as a family history, it may be advisable to start in your 40s. Consider having a mammogram every two years if you’re at low risk or annually if you are at higher risk for breast cancer. Recommendations differ on when to stop screening. At age 75, talk with your doctor about whether you should continue having regular mammograms.
  • Cervical cancer: Have a Pap smear every three years. You can have the test every five years if you get tested for HPV at the same time. Most women can stop having regular Pap smears at age 65. Talk with your doctor about whether you should continue.
  • Osteoporosis: Have a bone density test at age 65, and be screened again every two to three years. You may want talk to your doctor about screening earlier if you have certain risk factors, such as family history, low body weight, smoking, thyroid disease, early or surgical menopause, a history of taking prednisone, or a history of fractures. (Because of my rheumatoid arthritis, I started having regular bone density tests in my 40s.)
  • Sexually transmitted disease: Get tested annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea as long as you have new or multiple sex partners, or a partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Blood pressure: Have it checked at least once every two years. (I don't know about you, but I can't walk into any doctor's office without getting my blood pressure checked.)
  • Cholesterol: If you have no heart disease risk factors, get a blood test to check cholesterol levels at age 45. After that, test every three to five years depending on results. (My doctor does this every year.)
  • Type 2 diabetes: If you’re overweight or obese, have a family history of diabetes, or have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, get a fasting blood glucose test and an HbA1c test to measure long-term blood sugar control every three years depending on results.
  • Colon cancer: At age 50, talk to your doctor about having either a colonoscopy every 10 years, a stool test every year, or sigmoidoscopy every five years with a stool test every three years. Other colon cancer screening options are available; ask your doctor what may be best for you. Other colon cancer screening options exist; ask your doctor about which may be best for you. You can stop colon cancer screening at age 75.

It's important to be mindful of our health throughout our lives, but it becomes even more important as we get older. Let's follow Ben Franklin's advice . . . practice an ounce of prevention to avoid the pounds of cure. Do what you can now . . . to keep the wheels from falling off your bus later. (Or to have a "team" in place when the wheels start to get wobbly, as they do. . . as we age.)

Have you scheduled annual check-ups with your health care "team" this year? And how many health screenings have you got planned in the coming months?


Enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you on Monday.

Aging With Intention: Can You Hear Me Now?

Aging With Intention

As I launch my deep dive into Aging With Intention, I've decided to begin by talking about a topic that is especially near and dear to my heart . . .

I have a moderate sensorineural hearing loss - the most common type of hearing loss related to aging - and I wear hearing aids. I have no problem admitting that (although I'm always amazed at how many people do). I am not embarrassed about my hearing loss. I don't think my hearing loss is a "failing" on my part. And I don't care if people "notice" my hearing aids. 

I like hearing!
My life is better with hearing aids.
I wear them all day, every day.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are finding new and more significant links between hearing and our overall health as we age. Recent research shows that even mild hearing loss doubles dementia risk, while moderate loss can triple the risk, and folks with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia. The research highlights three links between hearing and health:

  • Hearing loss contributes to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain (this is a “use it or lose it” thing; when you can’t hear certain sounds, your brain stops listening for them and shuts that part of the brain down).
  • Hearing loss leads to social isolation (if you can’t communicate with people, you tend to keep to yourself; it’s awkward and embarrassing when you can’t hear what people are saying or contribute to the conversation with confidence).
  • When you walk/move in space, your ears pick up subtle cues and signals that help with balance (if you can’t hear these cues, your brain isn’t able to process the ongoing situation in time to help you remain upright).

These are significant links as we age. Brain atrophy and social isolation can both contribute to dementia, and we all know how important it is to do everything we can to maintain our balance.

The Johns Hopkins researchers think that wearing and using hearing aids might help reduce brain atrophy (because hearing aids train your brain to hear those “lost sounds” again), and they're currently engaged in further research to test this theory out. Hearing aids have been shown to ease social isolation and help with balance.

Nearly 27 million US adults over age 50 suffer from hearing loss.
But . . . only one in seven people in that group wear hearing aids!

Screen Shot 2022-02-02 at 6.25.38 PM

(from The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss, Johns Hopkins University)

If you think your hearing has diminished, it’s worth making an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing check. If you have hearing loss, don’t let the following myths keep you from getting help:

“My hearing’s not that bad.”
Yeah. It probably is. Hearing aid users wait, on average, 10 years before getting help for hearing loss. But during that time, communication with loved ones becomes more difficult, and isolation and health risks increase. Dr. Lin, the lead Johns Hopkins researcher, says “Our findings emphasized just how important it is to be proactive in addressing any hearing declines over time.”

“Wearing hearing aids means I’m old, and I’m not ready for that.”
It’s normal to feel worried that hearing loss means you’re aging—and to want to hide it. Plenty of people with a hearing impairment sit silently rather than joining in conversations and activities, because they fear that hearing problems will make them seem helpless or less than competent. The truth: Connecting with others can help your brain stay younger and keep you involved with life.

“I don’t like the way hearing aids look.”
Forget the old days of big, whistling earpieces, big battery packs, and wires hanging out of your grandpa's shirt pocket. Today’s hearing aids and cochlear implants are smaller (and less conspicuous) than ever before. Even celebrities (like former president Bill Clinton and football Hall of Famer Mike Singletary) are wearing them proudly.

And me. Don’t forget me! I can personally attest that hearing aids are easy to deal with, streamlined, and nearly invisible unless you're really looking. Better yet? My new hearing aids (I got an upgrade last summer) have Bluetooth capability, so I can pair them with my iPhone and use them just like AirPods! (And - bonus - they never fall out.)

“I hear that hearing aids are hard to get used to.”
There is a breaking-in period as you—and your central auditory system and brain—adjust to life with hearing aids. That’s why most doctors and hearing centers include a trial period, so you can be sure the type you’ve chosen—whether it’s a miniature behind-the-ear model or one that fits into your ear—is right for you.

From my personal experience, I can assure you that the first few days can be hard -- because your brain is hearing sounds it hasn't heard for (maybe) a very long time. But it doesn't take long for things to settle down, and for the sounds around you to become more manageable again.

“Hearing aids are too expensive!”
Sadly, this one is true. At present, very few states require health insurers to cover the cost of hearing aids for people of all ages. As a result, 61 percent of users pay the bill themselves. At an average price of $1,675 per ear for equipment, fittings and evaluations, hearing aids can take a bite out of your budget. Factor in the high cost of hearing loss, however, and it is money well spent -- it's an investment in your health and well-being.


If you suspect you’re not hearing quite as well as you should be, ask your doctor to refer you to an audiologist for a check up. Getting hearing aids . . . changed my life! And they're likely even changing my brain! There isn’t much we can do if we are genetically predisposed to certain dementia risks, but . . . keeping our brains active - including maintaining our hearing - can only help.

My motivation for learning how to . . . age with intention . . . is to take charge of my own aging process. To do what I can do to age as gracefully as possible. I want to make sure I'm good and strong and healthy so I can meet "old age" from my BEST position, not my weakest. For me, wearing hearing aids is part of that process. Maybe it is (or should be) for you, too!

Screen Shot 2022-02-02 at 4.57.44 PM

(from Understanding Auditory Deprivation, from Healthy Hearing)


Background Information:

Click here for a blog post I wrote about getting hearing aids in April 2013.

Click here for background about my Aging With Intention project.



Gathering Steam


Last month I explained that I'm "in training" for getting old. (Which I want to do with as much style and grace as I can muster, by the way.) I've been doing a lot of research over the past several months, gathering and reading articles, studies and books about aging (I am a Questioner, after all. . . ), and I'm feeling ready to dig into the topic of aging . . . with intention.


(You might remember that I did a little "Selfie" project during 2020. Just taking random selfies of myself through what I thought was going to be a singular year in history. Ha. I'm still doing it . . . Not so "singular" a year after all, as it turns out.)

Anyway. "Officially," I'm planning to begin my deep dive into aging with intention in January (because who wants to start anything new when we're still in the midst of Hannukah . . . or deep into planning for Christmas . . . and setting our sights on a brand new year?), so I thought I'd just throw a place holder here. A little reminder to you that I'm Doing This. Next year.

And . . . because I want to get your thoughts on something.

"Aging," of course, is an all-encompassing topic with many facets. (Because stage of LIFE. . . ). I'm collecting really good information on a number of aging-related topics: health and well-being, finances, legal considerations, attitudes, feeling invisible, relationships, downsizing, retirement, maintaining brain health, social life. The list goes on and on and on. 

Which makes me wonder . . . what concerns you most about aging? What are you most interested in learning, discussing, thinking about? What would be helpful for you to know? Where are your gaps? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email. I want to know.

Let's get this party started!

"It's not how old you are, it's how you are old."
                --- Jules Renard

In Training

Back in the days when I used to run, I laughed and rolled my eyes whenever this conversation came up (as it did, all the time) . . . 

Random acquaintance: What are you training for?
Me: Life.

Because I was never "training" for anything! I just ran. For fitness . . .  because it was easy and convenient and I could just go out and do it. I was never running to "train" for any upcoming races or anything. Just for myself. I mean, it's fantastic if you ARE training for something special, some special athletic event or challenge. But . . . not everyone who runs runs because they have a major race goal. Sometimes people just run as a . . . fitness-for-life goal. Y'know?

Anyway, by now you're probably wondering what I'm going on about . . . when I don't even run any more. 

I've been thinking about this concept of being "in training" for a while now. Trying to get my head around what it means . . . to be training for something. Basically, it's getting your sh*t together to succeed at some point down the road. Preparing yourself for a future event. Making sure you're in the best shape you can be to tackle that future event. Being ready on every level - physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Shoring yourself up for something that's grueling and tough and probably unpleasant. Voluntarily. Because you want to, because you choose to.

Which makes me realize . . .  I AM in training for something. Not running-related, for sure, but something grueling and tough and probably unpleasant.

So if anyone asks me that question now . . .  I'll have a ready answer.
What am I training for?


Getting Old.

"Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life."
                                        Kitty O'Neill Collins

I hear a lot of "old people" (which used to be people of my parents generation, but now includes my own friends and others in my age cohort) joke around and comment that . . . old age is not for the weak. And I laugh and shake my head because I suppose it's true. BUT. Hearing that phrase also makes me determined to put my money where my mouth is! I want to make sure I'm good and strong so I can meet "old age" from my BEST position, not my weakest. If I truly want to do what I say I want to do each year when I set my intentions  . . . live my best life for the rest of my life . . . I need to take my own aging seriously.

I need to put myself in training!

What does that mean, exactly?

Hell. I don't know. But I have some ideas. And I'm willing to do some research and dig a little bit. And I've always been good at figuring things out and putting a plan together. And I can commit myself when I decide to. I just know that it's important for me to get my head around the concept of aging MY WAY. I need to do this FOR ME. Holistically. Voluntarily. Because I choose to.

I am definitely in training now!

Watch this space for further developments.
Maybe you'll want to jump on board and "train" along with me.
Because it's never too early to begin training to be an old person.
(And what are you waiting for???)

"Today is the oldest you've ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be."
                                    Eleanor Roosevelt