Tag Archives: Aging

Goodbye Charlie and Hello ?

For years we have been reading about robots that can take over many of the menial household and other chores.  I read these reports with a certain scepticism and a “Will it ever happen in my lifetime” question.

Robotic vacuum cleaners have been around for some time but I don’t know anybody who has used one.

Charlie the robot


Well now enter Charlie.  Here in Auckland, a robot named has been ’employed’ as an aged care worker in a rest home.  Charlie is a health care robot and has been working in the village for the past couple of years.

He is designed to do simple tasks such as taking vital signs, reminding patients to take medication  leaving nurses free to focus on more personal care. Work is also being done on applications that will allow Charlie to detect when a patient has fallen or wandered off.  We are also told that Charlie can even chat with the residents albeit simply.

This is part of a three-year study conducted by the University of Auckland exploring seniors’ attitudes toward robots.   Residents of Selwyn Village their families and staff  were interviewed to determine their views on which tasks health care robots could perform and what the mechanical helpers should look like. So Charlie was “born”.   Weighing in at 45 kgs/99 lbs he has a humanoid name but a 26 cm/10.4 inch touch screen instead of a face.

Charlie has now left the village but in his place some 30 robots – in five different shapes and sizes – are being introduced to Selwyn. At this point of their evolution, the Selwyn robots can not only help provide healthcare but also enable Skype voice and video calls over the internet (numbers can be pre-entered and the connection made with one touch of a button). Some have additional brain-fitness programs to help the user’s memory, as well as entertainment in the form of music videos, photographs and games. Patients booked to see the doctor or nurse at Selwyn can interact with the medical centre’s on-site robot before their consultation.

Tubby Robot

"Tubby" - photo David White NZ Listener

One enthusiastic resident has named his robot “Tubby” which was apparently what he was called when he was younger.   And Tubby, as it happens, is rotund, standing about as tall as a domestic vacuum cleaner.

We have all heard and probably used the expression”the inmates are taking over the asylum” well now we can say with some truth “the robots are taking over the village”.

Saturday Stroll

Coffee.  Garden.  Coffee.  Does a good morning need anything else?  Betsy Cañas Garmon, www.wildthymecreative.com

It has been the most beautiful day here and I could not put off the weeding any longer.  It’s amazing how if the sun is shining everything seems to be easier. The weeds are taken care of and now it was necessary to go to the garden centre once again to buy more plants.


I decided that I needed two brightly coloured Azaleas for the back patio that gets little sunshine at this time of the year.

Back steps

Then three white ranunculus and red pots for the brick steps up to the upper patio.

Yellow rununculas

And for no reason other than that they looked so good, three yellow ranunculus.  I shall find a place for them tomorrow.

Bush walk to Massey memorial

Walk to Massey Memorial

Massey Memorial

Massey Memorial

We finished the walk this afternoon with a climb up to the Massey Memorial.   More on Massey and his memorial tomorrow.

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done.  ~Author Unknown

Note – all photos taken with my new i-phone.

My Week

After yesterday’s rant I thought I would move onto something less heavy.  But what?  I am having one of those moments when I sit in front of the blank screen and my mind screams “write, write” but nothing comes forth.  So I now shall go back and look at some of my frogs.  But there is a paucity of ideas there.

So what have I done this week?  It’s now Friday here and so there have been five days since Sunday.  How can one get through so many days and not have much to show for them?

  • I have had walks with Lotte each day as recorded in my blog.
  • I went to a movie on Monday evening and saw ‘The Help”.  I strongly recommend this movie.  I had read the book and this is probably a faithful rendition of the story.  In case you haven’t seen this movie, it tells the story of three women who dare to defy convention and get together to tell the stories of the way coloured women servants were treated in the 1960s in the south.  Well worth a trip to your local cinema.  An added bonus for me was that it was showing at our local bijou cinema so we took our wine in with us and had a meal afterwards.  A very pleasant unexpected evening out.
  • Yesterday I was taken out for what was described as high tea.  Being English I know that traditionally, high tea was a working class meal served on a high table at the end of the workday, shortly after five pm. It was a heavy meal of meat or fish dishes, vegetables such as potatoes and baked goods such as crumpets, vegetables  and other  foods such as baked beans and cheesy casseroles.  Afternoon tea What we had yesterday was afternoon tea at Martha’s Pantry.  Beautifully served with a great selection of teas.  I chose the blend called Paris and my partner had Pomegranate.  Mine was delicious a blend not unlike Earl Grey but with subtle undertones of various other blends.  I tried to purchase some as we left but unfortunately, they only had teabags available and being English, I drink real tea.  They did try to get some from their suppliers (they use leaf tea in their shop) but the smallest amount I could buy was apparently 500 grams (about 1lb) so it would be stale long before I used it.  Hard luck!
  • Oh I forgot.  I picked up my new i-Phone on Tuesday and have lots of fun finding my way around that.   But being blonde I have to go to the phone store to have them show me how to connect the Blue Tooth. Watch this space!  Oops, another exclamation mark.

So quite a busy week for a retiree almost retiree.  (almost  to yet another exclamation mark here but stopped just in time.  Have things to do this afternoon with and for my Real Estate friend.  and looking forward to tomorrow’s brunch with my French conversation new friends.

“If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone.  A man should keep his friendships in constant repair.”
Samuel Johnson

Thursday Lunch

“The caterpillar dies so the butterfly could be born.
And, yet, the caterpillar lives in the butterfly and they are but one.
So, when I die, it will be that I have been transformed from the caterpillar of earth to the butterfly of the universe.”
John Harricharan, award winning author, lecturer and businessman.

MPH Logo

Today I went to the hospice to serve lunch for the first Thursday in several weeks.  Firstly, a friend’s husband died and she needed my support, then there was a memorial service for another friend who died last year and last week I had the lurgy so I couldn’t take my germs to the patients (or the staff).

All of the patients were new to me.  They don’t seem to stay in the hospice for any length of time, but rather come for a few days or a week and then go home, to return again at a later date.  Quite often they are there to have their medication sorted out or perhaps just to give their carers a much-needed break.

So I had to introduce myself to all of them.

One patient was surrounded by her two daughters and some of their small children.  That was a noisy room with children laughing and competing with each other for Granny’s attention. Apparently, another daughter is about to give birth any time so she wasn’t visiting today.

Another patient was celebrating with her husband.  They had just heard that their daughter had given birth to their eleventh grandson – he was one hour old.  The grandfather had been to see mother and child and reported to his wife (and me who happened to be in her room) that all was well.  The baby was strong and thriving and the mother was radiant.

How lovely to think that as these two lives are coming to an end, other new lives are just beginning.

And when I came home I read this post from Winsomebella and I thought again how great life is.  I think grandparents have the best of all worlds.  They have these small people to love, to nurture and to assist in so many ways.  Many grandparents in today’s world also have the responsibility of sharing the raising of these children.  I have responsibility for my grandchildren only until they are returned to their parents.

And I thought of how quickly the years pass and how these little folk grow and become their own people.  They change, they mature, they learn and they repay all the love, kindness and help given to them by their grandparents many, many times over.  I only wish my late husband had stayed around with us long enough to see his grandsons grow into the strong young men they are each becoming.

“To be a really brilliant grandmother remember what it was about your own that you loved most, then imitate her.”
Judith Baxter – 1938 –














Ode to a Sister

“Regrets I’ve had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption”
From My Way sung by Frank Sinatra.

I think as we look back on our lives there are always some regrets.  The road not taken; the decision not made; the opportunity missed.  For me one of my regrets is time not having been spent with family.  Because I moved to the other side of the world I know that I missed out on lots of celebrations but also missed out on shouldering some responsibilities.

Thinking about this today I came up with this “Ode to a Sister”

I am not there when you call out my name
I am not there when you need a sister’s help
I am not there when things go wrong
And you need a shoulder to cry on.
I am not there

I am not there to celebrate the births of grandchildren
Or the marriage of your daughter
I am not there to see your children thriving and
I am not there to see their children growing

I am not there when decisions on mother’s care must be made
I am not there to assure you that the decisions are right
I am not there when mother dies and you have to deal with it
Alone until we came from far away

I am not there to help you cope with father’s aging
I am not there to help make  decisions on his care
I am not there when he dies and again you deal with it
I am not there.

I am not there when more decisions must be made
Dealing with the trappings of our parents lives
Unknown things about them surface
And I am not there.

I am not there to celebrate 21st birthdays
Or special birthdays of your own
I am not there when a special friend dies
I am not there.

I am not there when riots flare around you
And scared you sit alone in your flat
I am not there to hug you and say you will be safe
I am not there.

But I am there always with you
In thoughts and memories that we share
I will always be your loving sister
I am there.

I wrote this as stream of consciousness and it is published just as I wrote it.  so it’s from the heart.

Sisters are very special  and I have said this so many times before.  But before I get mawkish about my sisters, one in London and one in Los Angeles, I shall end this post.

Mother and girls

Mother with her three daughters

“Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters – never had to have a chaperone, “No sir” – I’m here to keep my eye on her.”  Irving Berlin 1988-1989.
Composer and lyricist

Oxford, City of Learning and mistakes

I never make stupid mistakes.  Only very, very clever ones.  John Peel, British writer.

College in Oxford

I think this is Brasenose College but it was several years ago.

I read this post from Hallysan at Photographic Memories today and it brought back vivid memories of my last time in Oxford.

It was several years after my husband’s death.  I had been away the year before for some months and spent time with an elderly widow as her companion.

The second time I went back to be with her, the United Kingdom had introduced many new rules for companions and caring to fit in with the requirements of the European Union which they had just joined.  So we had to have some training.  The organization through which I worked was based in Oxford and insisted that we go to Oxford for 2 days for this training.  Very basic food handling, people handling etc.

On the phone from Oxford, the woman at the office told me that most people stayed at the Y.  My thoughts on this, although never having stayed at a Y, were not good so I decided to source accommodation elsewhere.

Bed and Breakfast

I thought I had found a treasure and so booked for a couple of nights.  But horrors, what I found when I arrived very late in the afternoon was a far cry from what had been depicted in the advertising.

It was really late in the day, and as it was mid-summer in Oxford (July) all the accommodation was taken.  So after trudging around the city, I decided that I would stay for the night and hopefully find somewhere better for the next night.

Obviously, I didn’t stay for breakfast.  One look at the dining room and through to the kitchen convinced me that this was not a place to eat.

The next day when I arrived at the office I told the people of my disappointment.  Apparently, it was well-known that the place I had chosen was a disaster and it had been the subject of many complaints and had even featured in a documentary about bad places to stay.

To add insult to injury, one of the other women had stayed at the Y and loudly sang its praises.  What do they say – Pride comes before a fall.  I should have listened to Mother.

If you are English (and as old as me) you may remember a series called Rising Damp.  This ran from 1974-1978 and was set in a terrible house with a ghastly landlord.  My guy was Reggie Perrin incarnate.

They did manage to find me another place for the second night which was more what I had expected and they insisted that I make a complaint about the standard of the first place.  When I said that I wouldn’t be staying and told the proprietor why he became very agitated saying nobody had ever complained before.  As I had already paid in advance for the two nights I had to forfeit the second night’s cost, but it was well worth it to get away from that place.

That was the first time that I booked anything via the internet on the other side of the world.  And I learned a lesson.

“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”
So said The Queen in Alice in Wonderland.













On Making Decisions

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” Orson Welles

As some of you may know I have now been on my own for 13 years since the death of my husband.  Of course, at the time, I thought I couldn’t go on and my life was in disarray.

As time passed, however, and the grief and sadness dimmed somewhat I began to think about the rest of my life and how I would live it.  Determining as I always have, that the decision making would be in my hands.

A couple of years after my husband died I met a man at a dinner party.  He had recently lost his wife.  His was quite a tragic story in that his wife was very sick dying and they had separate rooms.  He came into her room one morning bringing her tea only to find her dead in the bed.  Well, we dated a few times but apart from being widowed/widowered (is there such a word?) we had nothing in common.  So I ended that relationship after a few dates.  But it didn’t just end – he hung around my apartment block for days and “just happened” to be passing when I came out the entry door.  And every night he was sitting in his car opposite the apartment when I arrived home from the office.  Ugh.  Not scary but rather very creepy.

So onto number two.  Again his wife had died suddenly.  He had found her on the bathroom floor, dead having had a massive heart attack.  How did I attract these men?  Anyway, true to form he wanted to replace a 40-year marriage in 4 weeks and so this relationship went nowhere.  Shortly thereafter he met and subsequently married again.  And that marriage is working out well from all accounts.

Now number three.  This started out well.  One date for a drink and then I took off for England for six months.  During that time we had a great exchange of emails.  He was very witty and charming.  I thought this could be a long-term relationship.  We enjoyed the same things and I saw a future where we would each keep our own apartments and independence, meeting regularly for company, dinner, theatre or whatever.

However, when I returned home he wanted us to live together, either in his apartment or mine.  Yet another one wanting to replace a 40-year marriage in a matter of weeks.

I enjoyed his company and the side benefits but was in no hurry to enter into any commitment.  Having told him this, he went off to Australia that week and immediately met up with a woman with whom he has been living ever since.

So I have now decided that I am no good at this looking for a partner and am better off living on my own, with Lotte (my Tibetan spaniel) for company.  She asks little of me.  Only to be fed, loved and walked all on a regular basis and these things I happily provide for her.


For male companionship, I have a friend with whom I go to the movies or to dinner but he knows there is no way this friendship will ever morph into anything else and he seems to be happy with that. I am beginning to spend more time with my women friends and discovering what a joy they are to be around.  One friend is a Real Estate Agent with an interest in all things spiritual.  And I am walking this path with her.  Among the others, one is a Feng Shui practitioner, another is a landscape gardener, two are masseuses, yet another is a teacher and another an astrologist.  A wide and varied group of women who are interesting and interested in what life has to offer.

Our discussions cover such a wide range of subjects with each of us listening intently to the other’s point of view and voicing our own.  With the exception of one, they each live alone, mostly by choice and appear to be enjoying the lives they are creating.  As am I.

I am proud and grateful to have these women as friends and will cherish that friendship for as long as it lasts – a season, a reason or forever.  I have said before that we do need friends and these women are mine.

As I read this post today from Winsomebella I realized that there is a definite movement of women deciding to take charge of their own future.  The future is open and wide enough for us to do as we choose, providing we don’t hurt anyone else in the process of course.

I would not have missed the 41 years with my husband but now can enjoy the freedom to make my life the way I want it – My Life My Way.

“Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.
Walk beside me and be my friend.”
– Albert Camus,1913 – 1960, French Algerian author, journalist, and key philosopher.











A Winter Week in the Country

“Circumstances or people can take away your material possessions, they can take away your money and they can take away your health; but no one can ever take away your precious memories.” Judith Baxter 1938 –

I read this blog from 1959duke today and I thought I should like to share another of my memories.

It came upon me very gradually.  I had been on my own for 4 years  following my husband’s sudden death of after 41 years of marriage.  My sister in America, had to cancel her visit to me for health reasons and in all, it seemed that my life was at a standstill.  I was waiting for something to happen.  Then I realized I had to make it happen.

I decided that I would visit my sister in LA for several weeks and then go on to my other sister and father in London.  But there is always a question of money when one goes away for any length of time.

At the time, the New Zealand dollar was so weak that everything became exorbitantly expensive when one was traveling.  Through a friend I had heard of a company in the UK that arranged short-term placements for companion/housekeepers.  So the first move was to get information from that company and once it was established that I did qualify to work for them, other arrangements were made.  The apartment was leased for four months which gave me time to decide what I was going to do and where I was going to live.

Having visited with my sister is LA I went to London to spend Christmas with my father and my other sister and her family.

Just before Christmas I went to the agency that was to arrange a job for me.  They had only one position to offer me.  This was with an elderly (89-year-old widow) who lived alone in a small village outside Chichester.  This is not an area with which I am familiar.  I met the client a couple of days before Christmas and it was decided that we would have a trial period of two weeks, commencing early January.

The day I was to start working in Sussex I woke up to a ‘winter wonderland’.  London totally covered in snow.  All the road and rail travel in chaos.  I took a  taxi to Victoria Station to go to Chichester.

I had a very interesting train ride  during which I met two South African women who had been acting as companion/carers, one for a period of 8 months and the other for 4 months.  Their motivation for doing this was to be able to purchase a property when they returned to Johannesburg. Neither of them was particularly happy in their work and did their best to put me off.

Snow in chichester

Chichester Photo Ashley Stevens

Arriving in Chichester I took a taxi to Highleigh, my destination and part of a very small village some 6 miles out.  Unfortunately the driver didn’t know the way and of course, neither did I.  Luckily I had my mobile phone and we could call the client for directions.

After taking afternoon tea with my client during which we discussed Christmas and how we had spent it; she was in Tenerife at a great nephew’s wedding and I was in London with my sister’s family; I took time to unpack and settle in.


Eggs to be scrambled

Supper was a disaster.  It was decided we would have macaroni cheese.  A very simple dish that even very young children can make. However, the oven’s temperature guide was in Fahrenheit and I am used to Centigrade.  As the resulting macaroni was inedible we settled on scrambled eggs.  Not an auspicious start and particularly as I had been warned by the agency that this was a very demanding woman and nobody had ever managed more than two weeks with her.

Sunday – I woke to find that the oil central heating wasn’t working.  The plumber was in Oxford taking a daughter back to university, so a telephone call to a friend of the house-owner resulted in taking off with the friend to the nearest large hardware store to buy a heater.  We found two old heaters in the house and so were able to manage until the plumber came on Monday.

Monday dawned wet and windy.  The plumber came but the gardener did not.  He decided that he would rather do extra shifts at the local hostelry and so would not come back to do the garden.

Tuesday started very well.  I took the dog in the car and we then had a lovely walk around the harbor.  But when we returned we noticed that the dog was very quiet.

Perhaps she was exhausted from the walk?  Not so.  She was chewing her way through my handbag to get at the chocolate covered raisins.

Victoria sponge cake

Not content with that, and following being severely chastised, she then took the top off the sponge cake I had put out for afternoon tea.  To complete the day, she then made a big puddle in the sitting room.

On Wednesday we went into town to do some shopping.  Unfortunately, my lady  parked the car facing the wrong way in a one-way street – the result an instant thirty pounds sterling fine.

Peugeot car

Mrs M's car

Later we decided that it was time to call the window cleaner.  He hadn’t been seen for months.  His response was that he was about ready to retire being eligible now for the pension.  He thought he would work only part-time for now and would only go to those clients who paid the most.  Blackmail or what?  So add that to the chronicle of disasters for the week.

Thursday it snowed and  the snow caused chaos in parts of the country.  Motorists were stranded on the M11 one of the busiest motorways and on the M25 the motorway that circles London.  Great outcry about the lack of foresight of the various local bodies and those responsible for applying the grit to the road.

Chichester Cathedral via Wikipedia

Friday dawned another freezing cold day.  I went into the town and explored the Cathedral and the quaint shops and lanes.

Well, then Saturday.  We awoke to find that we had no telephone.  The owner of the house was 89 years old and a trifle frail and therefore, very vulnerable.  Luckily I had my trusty mobile phone but when I did get through to British Telecom I was told that there was a fault outside the house and it could be next Friday before anyone could get around to fixing it.

Old phone

They did tag the call priority, but could make no promises as to when the phone would be in working order once again.  The whole morning was spent chasing British Telecom and the Care Line Service that provides assistance to elderly folk in case of emergencies.

Again, Mathilde (the Dandy Dinmont dog) was very quiet.  The breakfast tray cloth was larger than the tray and yes, you’ve guessed it, Mathilde tugged the cloth and the whole tray fell distributing tea, butter, milk, marmalade etc etc everywhere.  Not only did the floor have to be washed but also the kitchen table and the covers on the kitchen chairs.  Oh happy day!  And we were having guests for lunch!


So to Sunday.  A beautiful clear, frosty day dawned.  We decided we would go to Church.  The Church in the village is 12th century and has been used for worship regularly since then.  It is rather simple but very lovely.  After Church we were taken to lunch at the local country club.  Roast beef was on the menu, so following a dry sherry and a conducted tour of the premises, we all tucked in.

On our return to the cottage we heard the dog barking furiously.  The silly, greedy, little thing had been scavenging in the downstairs cloakroom and got her head stuck in the empty bag that had held dog biscuits.  Not quite frothing at the mouth when we arrived.

So you can see that life in an English village is not uneventful. My family was amazed that I didn’t throw my hands up in disgust and return home.

“To live in lives we leave behind is not to die. So don’t forget to make time and take the opportunities to make memories everyday.”  Judith Baxter

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I am going to clap and cheer

“Children are the most wonderful audiences. What’s struck me most is that that they watch it so silently, until the end when they shriek and shout and clap.Emma Thompson, 1959 – British actress and comedienne.


Among the things that arrived in my inbox today was this.  Isn’t it inspirational.

Whenever I’m disappointed with my spot in life, I stop and think about little Jamie Scott. Jamie was trying out for a part in the school play. His mother told me that he’d set his heart on being in it, though she feared he would not be chosen.. On the day the parts were awarded, I went with her to collect him after school. Jamie rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement.. ‘Guess what, Mom,’ he shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to me….’I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer..’

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all chap and clear  clap and cheer,  and see the positive side of things when life throws those punches at us? When one door closes etc etc…

As I have said before I am a true Pollyanna.  I can see the upside in almost everything.  One upside of my husband’s death is that I never have to watch another rugby game.  I have been to rugby matches all over the world as he was keen on the game.  And when there was a televised match we had every TV in the house tuned to the channel in case missed something.

So from today I am going to make sure I clap and cheer at every opportunity.

“We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by”.   Will Rogers

Solitude, Silence, Simplicity, Sentiments and Saturday

“There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall.”
Colette  1873 –1954, French author

Pebbles for Meditation

I read this post on Quiet from Misty at Rainy Day in May and it set me thinking about all the noisy years I have had in my life and now the quiet years.

The years when the children were growing up, going to school, after school activities, having friends over, learning to drive, arguing with each other, arguing with mother or father – these were noisy years.

During these noisy years, I often wished for some quiet time alone and as with all mothers, these were fleeting.  But mostly I loved being involved with the children and their activities.

Now the children have left home and started families of their own.  My post on April 1 ‘waxed lyrical’ about them. And the house is quiet without them.

Very occasionally, it is filled with the noise of growing boys laughing and arguing with each other and one or both of their parents.  But when they leave, the house once again settles into silence.

And so now I am in the quiet years.  The time now that I am on my own, without anybody else to worry about, and I choose what I do with my time.  After all, my blog is titled “I choose how I will spend the rest of my life”.  This is my simple time.  A time when I can divest myself of all the extraneous junk, both physical and mental that I have been carrying around for ages.

So each day I can choose to

  • Read a book
  • Have coffee on my own or with a friend
  • Take Lotte, the Tibetan Spaniel for a walk
  • Make phone-calls
  • Watch TV
  • Write my blog
  • Read blogs written by others
  • Invite friends over for coffee or dinner
  • Go to the movies
  • Go to a concert

The solitude is at my choosing as is the silence.  The sentiments come and go because I find as I get older, I do become more sentimental. And today is Saturday and the sun is shining.

And I found this poem from Wang Wei a Tang Dynasty Chinese poet, musician, painter, and statesman. who lived 699-759 AD

In these quiet years growing calmer,
Lacking knowledge of the world’s affairs,
I stop worrying how things will turn out.
My quiet mind makes no subtle plans.
Returning to the woods I love
A pine-tree breeze rustles in my robes.
Mountain moonlight fills the lute’s bowl,
Shows up what learning I have left.
If you ask what makes us rich or poor
Hear the Fisherman’s voice float to shore.












To read more of his poems go to http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Chinese/AllwaterWangWei.htm.