Owen Houghton

    Dr. Owen Houghton is a retired geriatric care consultant who continues to volunteer with aging advice. He focuses on issues of aging well and finds that writing a monthly "Age-Wise" column helps him take his own advice to keep his mind alert as an active elder. A former Dean of Students at Franklin Pierce College and avid golfer, he coached the golf team for 23 years. He shares caregiving for his wife with Alzheimer's disease with the staff at Summerhill. 

    “Be Prepared ... the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.”

    As a parent and grandparent, I have been thinking a lot lately about the impact on kids of the divisiveness and negativity which surrounds us, both globally and locally. What are kids learning about respect and right and wrong? Does societal influence affect personal behavior and academic ac…

    Ever thought about why the latest holiday on Sept. 3, the first Monday of the month, is called Labor Day? It obviously has many connotations for various folks — since my wife was a maternity nurse, you can imagine what our thoughts were.

    Since my wife was diagnosed in 2010 with Alzheimer’s Disease, I have periodically used Age-Wise as a means of educating my readers to the variable stages of this incurable disease as we as a family are experiencing it.

    OK, readers, bear with me as I chew on a dilemma facing numerous older folks. Do I spend the money at my age to repair or replace a tooth or two when finances are tight, remaining years are unknown, and my attractiveness is not a big issue?

    My Mark Twain quote last month “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do” and my birthday quip that I surely won’t be around in 20 more years prompted a retort.

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”

    Sometimes I get asked why I don’t move to Florida. When the temperatures drop to below freezing, southern trips seem to be on many folks’ minds. I have to admit that the prospect of playing more golf is tempting.

    As I look back on columns for the New Year over the past 20 years, it is easy to see that the theme often focused on the spiritual dimensions of the holiday time from Thanksgiving through Christmas and other celebrations of seasonal peace and good will.

    “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

    The issues around late life risk taking (Sentinel 8/20/17) raised another dimension which requires some thought this month. If you are a caregiver of a loved one, how much of an impact does that have on your own health? Is it all negative?

    Risk and reward in late life? Seems like there is a relationship to decisions I sometimes make on the golf course relating to taking a risky shot with the promise of a rewarding lower score and somewhat risky decisions in late life.

    As I walk with the multitudes at Keene State College on Saturday, Sept. 16, in the annual Alzheimer’s Walk, I will be thinking about my dear wife of 57 years. She will be lounging in her favorite chair in the Memory Unit at Summerhill in Peterborough.

    When I was a teenager, I got a hold of a paperback adventure story about hero Nick Romano with a mantra “Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse!” The message of the novel, “Knock on Any Door”, later made into a film with Humphrey Bogart, was tempting!

    Going into a new year, we often contemplate how to make this new thing better and sometimes seriously lay out a plan of new year’s resolutions to ensure success. I wonder if when we say “Happy New Year” we really know what happiness means.

    As the spouse of a victim of Alzheimer’s disease, I joined more than 500 folks at Keene State several Saturday mornings ago for a walk to help end Alzheimer’s disease. We were all given “twirly flowers” in colors designating our relationship to the disease: yellow = I am a caregiver; blue =I…

    I have always worked with young people in educational settings — as a guidance counselor, assistant headmaster in a prep school, and in higher education. I feel like relating to youth helps keep me young. I am proud of my active life-style and anti-ageism view.

    On April 21, I shared a birthday with Queen Elizabeth II. While I am 11 years younger than Her Majesty, I was reminded by many friends who greeted me on Facebook that I was in my 80th year. So I am proud to be an older American and celebrate May as Older Americans Month.

    I got lots of feedback from last month’s column on the transition process leading to placement of my wife in a memory care unit. From calls, emails, letters and conversation, it was obvious that “Age-Wise” had hit a nerve and raised some important questions.

    Every year at this time I encourage holiday conversations between the generations on aging issues that affect the whole family. We tend to put off hard planning discussions: What about long-term health care, financial and legal matters, living arrangements, advanced directives, final arrange…

    I just hit the “send” button for one senior Southwest Airlines reservation to Colorado for a mid-month visit to celebrate my son’s 41st birthday. While there seems to be a growing recognition that caregivers need to avoid burnout, as a full-time caregiver, how could I do this?

    ““The challenge, to live up to our better selves, to believe well of our fellow men and perhaps by doing so to help create the good, experiment and explore, to change and to grow.”

    “I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”

    My new life as a caregiver seems weighted with a paradox — I am called to create a routine for my Alz spouse but long ago learned that the only constant in this life is change. The challenge is to create constancy in a life surrounded by change.

    April is my birthday month, so as I pass another milestone (78) I contemplate my aging adventure and ask “What’s next?” Is my aging a natural process of decline, or more the entrée to what Dr. Bill Thomas calls “Life’s Most Dangerous Game?”

    Where do I get ideas for the Age-Wise column? Most months, they come from events, conversations, media or relationships that provide an opportunity for aging-wellness education or situations that have personal meaning. Music and movies became my emotional theme over the past several weeks.

    A lot of my volunteer time lately has been spent around food — working with the Jaffrey Food Pantry, helping start a community supper, and transporting folks without vehicles to shop. And the recent Market Basket drama certainly highlights food’s importance in people’s daily lives.

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