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Successful Aging: It’s the 18th anniversary of this column, and here’s what you were talking about

Dear readers,

Each fall, I write an anniversary column that reflects some of what I have learned from our readers during this past year. It’s been 18 years, and almost 900 columns later that I find there is still more to write because aging cuts across everything from public policy to business, entertainment, pensions and testosterone. And it affects all of us.

I prepare extensively to write the anniversary column. For one year, each question and comment from our readers is saved, printed and sorted according to categories. I reread each one; those with the most responses typically are included in the column. Sometimes a single communication may be included if it can be used as a resource or a source for learning. The preparation takes longer each year as the responses continue to increase – which is good news.

Let’s move on to what I have learned. Of the many categories or subjects for this year, I am highlighting just two for this column. Both topics seemed to push some hot buttons that tapped readers’ diverse perceptions, opinions and experiences.

Technology: To my surprise, the question regarding how to encourage a daughter’s 88-year old father to switch from a flip-top to a smartphone had the greatest response. The reader wanted her father to make this change so they could text and also that he would have greater access to emergency numbers.

Here are some of the many comments: “Flip phones may be considered dumb, but not that dumb; you can speed dial an (emergency) number on the flip phone” and “You didn’t talk about the price of these newfangled electronics – who can afford this stuff?”

This comment was addressed to me: “You should know a fundamental part of aging for most is recognizing how little we need in life,” suggesting the importance to simplify rather than complicate.

Another reader wrote, “Be thankful your father is still alive. Phone him just to hear the sound of his voice. And use your woopy-do smartphone to record him. One day you’ll be glad you did.”

Another wrote, “There’s a reason seniors prefer a flip-top phone; it easily fits into a pocket without falling out. This reader suggested that the daughter make some concessions instead of demanding her father comply with her wishes. Another advised she call her father once in a while and not badger him with nonsense while another accused the daughter of being self-centered.

Yet others in their 70s and 80’s found no problem with using a smartphone and marveled at its use, in a sense using themselves as examples. Some of these folks had engineering and military backgrounds; others just loved to learn. Another thanked me for suggesting the use of the Greatcall Jitterbug phone which is a simplified yet sophisticated phone that comes in both smart and flip-top phone models.

Finding a chiropractor: Again, this was a surprise response regarding the number, diverse and intensity of the responses from our readers for the column on finding a chiropractor. On the plus side, some readers thought the guidelines I wrote based on an interview of one who is well known were useful including the past president of the L.A Chiropractic Society who wrote, “I couldn’t have written it better.”

Then there was the other side. A daughter described what she called a scam when a chiropractor unsuccessfully treated her father for neuropathy and charged $8,000. Another declared, “scam” for excess financial charges and lodged a complaint with She is still waiting for a response.

Perhaps the strongest criticism comes from a woman with a doctorate in nutritional biochemistry and physiology who reviews medical evidence for the federal government. She did like the column but wrote that I did not go far enough and shared her view on the subject. “Chiropractors believe that all symptoms originate in the spine so adjusting the spine should prevent all diseases. There is absolutely no research evidence and no plausible biological mechanism to support this assertion.” This reader does see a chiropractor who limits his work to spinal adjustments and advice about movement, not nutrition and does not initiate charges for month-long treatments.

Note: We all know people who are treated by chiropractors and are pleased with the results.

Thank you to the readers who shared their opinions and experiences on these two topics. Next week we’ll have more.

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