Immune Protection

By Doug Mayberry

April 8, 2019 5 min read

Q: Over my 70 years, I've learned the lesson that it's almost impossible to change people's minds about certain issues. Even if you bring up hard proof, there's no guarantee that the other person will listen.

My granddaughter has always had some quirks, but she and her husband now believe that vaccinations are bad for children. They vaccinated their 6-year-old daughter but not their 2-year-old son.

Even if they've decided it's safe for their kids, I have to worry about them carrying diseases around me.

As a senior, I realize my health is more vulnerable than the average person's. Seeing my great-grandchildren is worth the health risk, even if it's a little unnerving.

On the other hand, listening to my family talk about their beliefs makes me worried about how commonplace these ideas are. I know that this sentiment is on the rise, and there are many new stories about sicknesses that had almost disappeared coming back again.

Knowing that I can't count on herd immunity anymore, what can I do to protect myself?

A: The vaccination debate is getting more heated and seems unlikely to disappear in the near future. Unfortunately, this puts seniors at particular risk due to weaker immune systems.

However, you can take preventative actions.

Recently, health officials in Rockland County, NY declared a state of emergency due to a measles outbreak. Looking to the county's response, we can see some potential ways to protect ourselves.

Public places such as parks, malls and religious facilities can be a hotbed of disease due to the constant flow of people moving through. If you know of a local outbreak, avoid high-traffic places when possible.

Before focusing outward, make sure that you're up-to-date on your own health. Visit your doctor for an annual checkup and get yourself as healthy as possible. Although it's a sensitive topic, make sure to check yourself for sexually transmitted infections or STIs (surprisingly common in retirement communities!). Having a secondary condition can weaken your immune system further.

The basic vaccinations recommended for those over 65 include influenza, pneumococcal, tetanus/diphtheria and shingles (herpes zoster).

If you're looking for a caregiver to come into your home, do your due diligence. Check if they've had a flu shot themselves.

Societal changes happen over long periods of time, and it's unlikely this debate will end anytime soon. Even if broader change seems impossible, you can talk about your own health with your granddaughter and her family. You may have some success on the individual level.

In the meantime, do what you can to take care of yourself. — Emma, Doug's granddaughter


Q: I think I'm starting to lose it!

I just retired (almost a year ago), but I feel like an entirely different person. I was always on top of things but now am more scatterbrained. Talking to my friends who are still working makes me realize just how much life has changed.

I have no reason to think it is health related, but other people have noticed the personality change. Even my wife has said it.

What's going on?

A: To many, retirement feels like a situation where the grass is always greener.

A lot of people tend to think of retirement in very abstract terms, as in the absence of work. However, without work, many people don't know what to do with themselves.

Even if you were looking forward to retirement your whole career, it can still be surprising how much it changes your life. After working for so long, your personal and professional identities have merged and are hard to disentangle.

The first year of retirement is often a huge adjustment period. You're probably not used to having so much free time.

I recommend getting on a schedule so that you have more regularity. Having meals and exercising at the same time every day can bring about a surprising amount of change.

Retiring doesn't mean that you're done living. Get involved with hobbies, activities and your own community.

Now is the time to explore interests you never had time for before! — Doug

Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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