Wednesday 30 June 2010

Britain's old men - good news ! Exercise can boost your brain power

Eric Jones, 73, from North Wales, goes skydiving at least 10 times a year. He credits his active lifestyle with keeping his mind sharp and has said:
“Extreme sports have helped me keep young in the mind. There’s an edge to sporting activities — you have to be totally focused. My ability to think on my feet and my long-term memory have certainly improved with age.”
For the sake of accuracy, the old man in the photo isn't Eric.

An article appeared in 'The Sunday Times' last week entitled :
Silver set rides wave of greater brain power.It made the following points :

* Far from losing mental abilities with age, scientists have discovered people can carry on boosting them with a little exercise and that the brain can improve with advancing years, dispelling the common belief that a person’s mental faculties peak in their twenties.

* While short-term memory and the ability to reason may decline with old age, researchers found that long-term memory remains unaffected and a person’s vocabulary, emotional intelligence and social skills may all get better.

* Scientists in America now say that three 40-minute walks a week can improve memory and reasoning, while mental stimulation can improve problem-solving and reaction times.

* Dr Peter Connelly, an 'Expert in Old Age' at the 'Royal College of Psychiatrists' has said :
“An older person’s judgment of things can be exceptionally valuable because they have more experience and with it the ability to think through things much more logically and sensibly. Where a young person is jumping all over the place looking for solutions, older people can draw from experience.”

* Older minds are dominant in many areas of British society. Two-thirds of chief executives of FTSE 100 companies are over 50 and in the new British Coalition Government, Vince Cable, the 'Business Secretary', is 67, and Ken Clarke, the 'Justice Secretary', is 69.

* Judges are pressing for a change in the law to allow them to remain in post beyond the age of 70. Lord Woolf, 77, the former Lord Chief Justice, said compulsory retirement was a “huge waste” of talented minds.

Britain is a country where old men live longer and longer and old Methodists live longest of all

My friend D.B. has been trying to get me to join his Methodist Chapel for years. It is his long term project.

That being the case he sent me an article he had seen in 'The Times' newspaper entitled :
Methodists 'live more than seven years longer than rest of population'.
It made the following points :

* Men belonging to the famously clean-living denomination live to the ripe old age of 83.9, compared with a national average of 77.

* For women the difference in longevity was even greater with female Methodists dying at 91.1 on average – nine years longer than the 82 years enjoyed by most British women.

* Last week Stanley Lucas died in Cornwall aged 110, having become not just the oldest male member of the Methodist Church but the oldest man in Europe.

* Dr Richard Vautrey, Vice President of the Methodist Conference, said, “I’m sure there are many different factors at work for Methodists to attain these numbers.
But I would guess that our emphasis on caring for our spiritual as well as physical health, avoiding excess, engaging with people in our communities and being good neighbours all help.”

* Methodism, an evangelical Christian movement that split from the Church of England at the end of the 18th century, is known for its focus on social justice and for many years was at the forefront of the temperance movement that preached 'total abstinence' from alcohol.

* The increased life expectancy of its followers, who now number 265,000 in Britain, was calculated by researchers working for 'British Religion in Numbers', based at the University of Manchester.

* They studied family announcements placed in the newspaper, 'The Methodist Recorder', which found that the mean age of death for Methodist men and women in 1973and 2008 was far higher than that of the general population as recorded by the Office for National Statistics.

* Study of obituaries for Methodist ministers appeared to confirm the trend, with a mean age of death of 83.4 for men who died in 2009 – again more than six years older than the British average of 77.

* The Methodist Conference, begins each year with a rendition of a hymn called 'And are we yet alive?', written by one of the movement’s founders, Charles Wesley.

At the age of 63, its a bit to late for me now to benefit in terms of longevity. Forty years ago it might have been different- but I didn't know D.B. then.

Here's the history of the church which I find quite fascinating :

Monday 28 June 2010

Britain is a country whose old men are living longer and longer and in terms of longevity, are catching up with its women

According to research, life expectancy for men is rapidly catching up with women. The gap in longevity between the sexes has narrowed almost 12 months over the past decade and now stands at 4.2 years, although men in some parts of London, Lincolnshire and Kent have closed the difference by 3 times the national average.

Nick Flint, the Chief Executive of 'Club Vita', a consultancy to the pensions industry, said :
" Men are indeed catching up with women. The decline of smoking has played a big part in this, but so has the increase in gym membership, corporate heath check-ups and men's' fitness magazines. Even the advent of viagra has been important.....the drug has encourages men to go to see their doctor. Once there, other problems can be picked up."

P.S. My 'smile/laughter tonic' for the day is entitled 'Viagra Works' :

Thursday 24 June 2010

Britain is more and more a country where more and more old men have less and less to laugh about

I found this article on a 'Fox News' report from 2006 :

What is Laughter, and Why Do We Do It?
It made the following points :

* We hear laughter every day. Nothing could be more common. However, just because it’s common doesn’t make laughter any less strange.

* Why do we do it? The answer may seem obvious: We laugh when we perceive something to be funny. But the obvious answer is not correct, at least most of the time.

* “Most laughter is not in response to jokes or humor,” says Robert R. Provine,
Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Maryland.

* He argues that in humans, laughter predates speech by perhaps millions of years and before our human ancestors could talk to each other it was a simpler method of communication.

* Steve Wilson, a Psychologist and 'laugh therapist' argues that it is instinctual : “Infants laugh almost from birth and the blind and deaf still laugh. Humans are hardwired for laughter.” He calls himself a 'joyologist'and teaches people, business groups, and aspiring laugh therapists how to laugh.

* Laughing Is Contagious. Seeing someone in hysterics, even if you don’t know who the person is or why she’s laughing, can set you laughing too. Why?

* The answer lies in the evolutionary function of laughter as a 'social' and not a 'solo' activity. Provine says : “We laugh 30 times as much when we’re with other people than we do when we’re alone."

* The purpose of a laugh could be to trigger positive feelings in others. When we laugh, the people around us might start laughing in response. Soon, the whole group is cheerful and relaxed. Laughter can ease tension and foster a sense of group unity. This could have been particularly important for small groups of early humans.

If all this is the case, then it is more and more important that more and more old men laugh more and more and to start the ball rolling try this old 'game show' contestant from the U.S.A. I have seen this clip of 'Uncle Joe' many times and it still makes me laugh :

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Britain is a country awash with rogue traders who prey on old men

This is the face of a 39 year old rogue trader called Billy Smith who, along with his 20 year old son, conned £100,000 out of vulnerable pensioners for unnecessary building work.

The pair have been tried and jailed. They pleaded guilty to 'fraud by false representation and obtaining property by deception', after an elderly woman they conned contacted police. Smith was sentenced to 45 months in prison and the son was handed a nine month suspended sentence for two counts.

The Detective Constable who led the investigation, said : ”This is a despicable series of crimes in which Billy and Riley Smith actively preyed upon elderly and vulnerable people. Even after requests by victims to be left alone, they returned repeatedly and stripped them of all their assets."

Here is the catalogue of their 'known' evil exploits :

* received £50,000 from a vulnerable pensioner in Dorset over a three year period, after revisiting him several times for more cash.

* tricked an elderly woman in Surrey into making payments of £16,000 for unnecessary repairs to her roof.

* repeatedly visited the home of an elderly woman in Middlesex and made off with £7,000.

A bit more research on my part,revealed that this is going on all over Britain and that the number of rogue traders has grown considerably during the last 12 months. New research claims that in that period there were more than 4.6 million 'botch' jobs .

In Norfolk :
An 85-year-old widow was "taken for a ride" by a rogue trader who charged her more than 100 times his quoted figure for repairs to her house.

In Wales :
Police have launched an investigation after an elderly couple paid £3000 to rogue traders for work which was not done.

In North Yorkshire :
Rogue traders sentenced.

In Necton, Norfolk :
Police are warning people to be wary of rogue traders after two men were seen acting suspiciously.

In Suffolk :
Police look at spreading awareness about rogue traders.

In Yeovil :
There have been a number of incidents in which vulnerable householders have been conned by rogue traders.

In Scarborough :
Two rogue traders have been jailed for conning a "vulnerable" woman out of more than £6300.

In Great Yarmouth :
Police are urging Martham residents to be vigilant following reports of rogue traders operating in the area.

In Peterborough :
Residents are being urged to be aware of rogue traders following an incident.

In Thanet, Kent :
Builder Darren Ellis came to the aid of a local church after rogue traders made a mess of its car park when a cowboy outfit dumped a load of sticky tar.

St Helens :
Rogue trader warning.

The stories in detail :

Monday 21 June 2010

Britain was once a country where old men believed they could defend its shores from attack

The television series 'Dad's Army' ran for 78 episodes between 1968 and 1977. It was written by David Croft and Jimmy Perry and based on the Second World War 'Home Guard' platoon at the mythical south coast seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea.

Home Guard units consisted of men who were too old for active service but were trained to defend their areas in the event of a German invasion.
The strength of the series lay in its wonderful characterisations of the different guards within the unit and the scriptwriters evocation of that gentler 1940's England of what was then 30 years ago and is now 70 years ago.

A statue of Captain Mainwaring from the BBC series Dad's Army has been unveiled in the Norfolk town where many of the scenes were filmed.

The life-size bronze cast of the character, played by Arthur Lowe, is seated on a bench by the Old Anchor Hotel in Thetford.

Bill Pertwee, who played Warden Hodges in the series, was among those who returned to the town for the unveiling.

David Croft said he thought the statue was “absolutely marvellous” and was a “frightening” likeness of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard Captain.

Here are the opening credits for each programme :

And my favourite scene : "Don't tell him Pike' :

P.S. I published another blog about 'Dad's Army' on 3rd June 2009.

Saturday 19 June 2010

Britain is a Country which needs a University with a ' Department of Social Work and Gerontology' like Shippensburg in the U.S.A.

The word 'gerontology' is derived from the Greek word 'geron' meaning 'old man' and 'ology' - 'the science of'.

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, commonly known as 'Ship' or 'SU', is located in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. It has a Department of 'Social Work and Gerontology' and offers a MSW degree with a multidisciplinary gerontology minor. Apparently its program 'focuses on providing quality education to the future leaders of our helping professions'.

The mission of the 'Gerontology Program' is to enhance the quality of life of older citizens through interdisciplinary education, research, and service. This is, apparently, accomplished 'through innovative teaching and a wide array of out-of-class experiences for its students'. In addition the University works 'hard to foster intergenerational respect and dialogue throughout the university community'.

Friday 18 June 2010

Britain said " Happy Birthday" today to Paul McCartney, Delia Smith, Fabio Capello and Me

Paul with his 'singing' was 68 today, Delia with her 'cooking' was 69, Fabio with his 'football managing' was 64 and I was the youngster of the group with my 'blogging' at 63.
Of the four of us, I should think that Fabio as the Manager of the England Football Team had the least 'happy birthday' as he watched England achieve an ignominious '0-0
draw' against Algeria in the Football World Cup.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Britain is a country where, in the present financial climate, some young men do not love old men

An article appeared in 'The Financial Times' last week, written by a political journalist and no doubt young man called Alex Barker and entitled :

'Cameron: fair pain for all except the elderly'

It made the following points :

* Prime Minister Cameron is warning that every individual will be hit by the coming financial cuts in Government spending . However, because of the 'Coalition Agreement', 'the elderly will be given a free ride at the expense of everyone else'.

* There is hardly a perk left for over 60s, the most wealthy section of society, that hasn’t been protected by the Coalition.

At this point a chart was added showing the relative wealth of the over 60's.

* Older people will feel 'some indirect pain through withdrawal of some public services', they may however, be the one group in society that does not take a direct hit to income over the next five years.

* Old people, because they were the ones most likely to vote, were, regardless of means, the big winners of the General Election. 'Most of them benefited from the great British property bubble and now will ask their children to pay for the fiscal fallout'.

There then followed a list of spending pledges :

– Free bus passes for the over 60s. This perk costs just £1bn a year, which is an eighth of what we spend on the railways.

– Free TV licences for those over 75. 'Essential at a time of swingeing budget cuts. Cost: £600m (more than the child trust fund which has been scrapped).'

– Restoring the earnings link for the state pension from 2011 because the Coalition promised that pensions will always rise by at least 2.5 per cent — 'even if everyone else’s earnings drop below that'.
– Protecting winter fuel payments. 'A £2.2bn give-away to all 60 year olds, whether they need it or not. '

– No changes to the default retirement age for anyone over 60. The retirement age will be increased. But not until 2016 for men and 2020 for women. 'The move will make all those who paid for perks for the over 60s work even longer. That’s justice for you'.

– Real terms increases in National Health Service spending. The service that old people rely on most will be spared from budget cuts. 'Oh, and don’t forget the free eye tests and prescriptions.'

Among the letters from the public which the article generated my favourite was :

* Not an entirely serious post this but the 1st time I used my bus-pass last year it occurred to me that the net effect to the Exchequer might be cash +ve because it meant I might be inclined to exercise less and thus die sooner?

Monday 14 June 2010

Britain is a country with a county called Kent and a 'Riverside Park' where old men can walk and talk and meet other old men

The Riverside Country Park on the banks of the River Medway is about 10 minutes drive from where I live. If you blot out the industrial landscape on the horizon, it is a place of astonishing beauty.
I went for a walk along the river bank with my friend D.B. last the week. Our first 'port of call' was to look at the board advertising the birds which could be seen in the Park and on the River.

We weren't long into the walk when D.B. drew my attention to a " common tern or sandwich tern diving for fish". D.B. fancies himself as a bit of a bird twitcher, but I don't have too much time for his so called 'expertise'. Anyway, here is the 'tern' on the left and a black headed gull on the right and D.B.'s 2 pudgy fingers indicating the shape of the forked tail of the tern.

The labrador swimming in the water to retrieve an object thrown in by its owner was the next bit of wildlife. The dog turned out to be a 'bitch' and the Old Boy in shorts and wearing walking boots who was its owner didn't want to talk.
I was taking photos of swallows gliding across the water near the river bank when the next Old Boy, who D.B. recognised as 'M', a retired piano tuner, came along the path and he did want to talk. Here he is on the right in conversation with D.B. He proferred 2 bits of information : there was an oyster catcher along the beach and 'The Tree Mariners' pub along the coast at Oare did very good, reasonably priced food.
D.B. and I walked on and paused by the information board at 'Horrid Hill'. In the distance was 'Kingsnorth Power Station'.
D.B. reminded me of the 'Green Peace' protests at the power station in August 2008 directed at Eon's proposals to build the first coal powered power station in the U.K.for 30 years.
He also reminded me of the 2007 protest when protesters had abseiled down from the top of the chimney stack and affixed the letters 'G O R D O N' in vertical formation to the side of the stack. I somehow think that Prime Minister Brown was untroubled by this.

Our last meeting was with a Old Boy, D.B. recognised as his latterday postman, who was walking with his wife. He was a very tall man who told us that the Post Office had paid for a special pedal bike to be made for him on account of his long legs and that when he retired they asked for the bike to be returned. In true British tradition he had refused. His wife lamented that she wished he hadn't given it away to a friend who had it rusting away as a garden ornament.

So : a common tern, swimming dog, retired piano tuner, retired postmen and memories of 'Green Peace' protests and all this, in one walk. I was exhausted.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Britain's West Country is more and more a place for wealthy old men with worn out knees and hips

Britain's 'Daily Mail' newspaper had an article yesterday entitled :
'Go West, old man: Over 50s flock to the South-West, putting strain on the National Health Service...but they claim fewer benefits'.
It made the following points, that :

* The peace and sunshine of the West Country has attracted so many retiring couples that, 2 out of every 5 people in the region are over 50 and more than one in five - 1.2million people - are over retirement age.

* Most of the new arrivals are retirees, with the great majority from the South-East or from London, although thousands also move from the West Midlands or East Anglia.

* This growing 'concentration of pensioners' in the south-western peninsula - the oldest population in Britain - has led to a worrying strain on health services.

But that :

* They are largely middle-class, claiming fewer state benefits than their counterparts almost anywhere else in Britain. For example, pensioners in the South-West are a third less likely to claim means-tested pension credit than in the North-East.

* Conversely, they need more National Health Service hip and knee replacements per head of the population than anywhere else in the country.

I wonder why ? Here I speculate : is it because ? :

* They have led active middle class lives and worn out their hips and knees more quickly than their more sedentary working class counterparts ?

* The women, as girls, played netball on their public and grammar school courts and the men, as boys, played rugby on their playing fields and both sustained injuries to knees and hips which came to haunt them later in life ?

* Imbibed more wine and ate more red meat which had a long term deleterious effect on their hips and knees ?

Sunday 6 June 2010

Britain is a country with more and more lonely old men

An article appeared in the 'Times' last week entitled :

How half million lonely old men are paying price the divorce boom.

The story was based on a report by the charity 'Help the Aged'. It found that these old men lead lonely lives with no friends and no contact with their families and many feel trapped inside their homes.

It made the following points :

* one person in five or with an elderly father is no longer in touch with him. One in four claims to be too busy to maintain contact.

* 'Divorce and family break-up has left millions of men without ties to their children and with few or no family links'.

'We are seeing the first real wave of the 'divorce generation' hitting retirement'.

'As fathers were typically the parents who did not win custody of the children, many are entering later life with strained family ties'.

'Today, around half the number of older men living alone are experiencing some form of loneliness or isolation.'

'Nothing can substitute human contact to combat isolation and loneliness'.

* Retirement deprives many of the company of work colleagues and others are left alone by by bereavement or their own poor health.

* The number of divorces tripled in the early 1970s after the liberal reforms of 1969 made 'quickie' decrees available for the first time and removed the question of fault in many cases.

* Men who divorced in the early 1970s while in their mid-30s will now be 70 years old and many have lost all contact with children who would otherwise be close to them.

Here are two of the letters sent to the paper :

' Well, they were warned, weren't they, time and again. Divorce and you will as like as not lose touch with your kids. Of course some of the men won't have been at fault at all in the divorce and I am very sorry for them, but for those who were at fault and simply abandoned their family or were pushed out due to violence or womanising or whatever, serves them right. I would say exactly the same to any woman in the same situation. You make your bed, you lie in it'.

' Can't these guys have an association and get together for friendship? Alternatively, they can get much younger wives and girlfriends, spend lots of time in sunny climbs and suffer no stress due to being forced to listen to some old boot constantly moaning. Of course the other alternative is to stay married, work yourself to a frazzle and die before the trout and leave her all of your assets. I know which I would pick'.

Saturday 5 June 2010

Britain is a country with grumpy old men like Tony Slattery and me

Tony Slattery is a self-confessed 'Grumpy Old Man. In the link below he vents his gripes about :

Cinema adverts
Bottled water
Multi-tasking companies
Getting old
Crossing the road
The underground railway
Weather girls
Bluetooth at 10 metres
Directory inquiries
Snobby art critics

I find he strikes a chord with me and makes me laugh a lot. My favoutite is 'Weather girls'

He is a 51 year old actor, singer and comedian who :

* came from a London a working class background

* was the fifth and last child of Irish immigrants, Michael and Margaret Slattery

* represented England in under-15 judo achieving a 'Black Belt' before he was 16.

* was educated at a boys grammar school and won a scholarship to study Modern and Medieval Languages at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, specializing in French literature and Spanish poetry.

* discovered a love of the theatre at Cambridge whare Stephen Fry invited him to become a member of the 'Cambridge Footlights'. His his fellow students included Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Jan Ravens, Sandi Toksvig, Morwenna Banks and Richard Vranch.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Is Britain a country of middle-aged 'grumpy' old men ?

'Grumpy Old Men' is a 'conversational style' t.v. programme which started in 2003.

It asks : What are the reasons why men between 35 and 54 are 'grumpy' in Britain today ?

The programme has a number of well-known middle-aged men, apparently between 35 and 54, who talk about 'issues of modern life' which irritate them.

Jeremy Clarkson
Bob Geldof
John Humphrys
A. A. Gill
Nigel Havers
Tony Hawks
Simon Hoggart
John O'Farrell
Rory McGrath
Bill Nighy
Matthew Parris
John Peel
Will Self
Arthur Smith
Tim Rice
Rick Stein
Tony Slattery
Rick Wakeman
Lemn Sissay
Don Warrington
Des Lynam

and the narrator, Geoffrey Palmer.

This Old Brit certainly chimes with the observations about our beautiful English language and has to confess that, he too, asks a question when making a statement.

Is it all part of blending in with the present culture ?

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Britain is still a country where old men who eat bananas can become new dads

Here is a story from 'The Sun' newspaper :

Really old man becomes Britain's oldest dad :

74-year-old Gerry Burks has become Britain's oldest father after his 41-year-old wife Dawn gave birth to a baby boy.

The happy (slightly withered) couple already have a six-year-old son.

Gerry puts his impressive virility down to his diet of bananas and his love for Dawn.

She told The Sun:

"Gerry is not some dithering old man who has fathered a child he can't look after. He's fit and strong and has a youthful outlook. Everyone here thinks we're a great couple and loving family."

Although Gerry will sadly probably be dead before the kid's 18, on the plus side the baby's got a dad and a granddad, for the price of one. Christmas present savings like that don't come along often.

Is Britain a country whose well- heeled Government will inflict financial pain on its poor old men ?

Britain, like many countries around the world has accumulated a vast debt as a result of the World Recession. This debt will need to be serviced. Who will pay ?

Dave Taylor from Purbrook in Hampshire had this letter published in the Guardian newspaper today :

Of the 23 members of the new coalition cabinet 17 are millionaires, 15 are Oxbridge graduates and 12 went to private schools. Where is the justice in this privileged elite forcing through draconian cuts to public spending which will hit the poorest hardest?

Cameron's new government: