Sam Bauman: 'Fiscal Cliff' is more of a slope than a crash

Seniors alarmed by all the dire warnings about a "fiscal cliff" that awaits on Jan. 1, 2013, can relax a bit. Yes, the congressional mandate of higher taxes and lower spending, largely for the military, will take effect unless Congress gets its house in order - something rare in these partisan times.

But even if they don't rewrite the law, things won't crumble at once. The taxes will go up, but over a year-long period, so the initial impact won't be as dire. And certainly with the largest military budget in the world, the Pentagon can limp along for a month or two until things get straightened out. But eventually both Democrats and Republicans will bite their bullets and get something done.

This is all aside from the furor over extending the President George W. Bush tax cuts. Most will undoubtedly remain in place; the whole battle is over whether to tax the $250,000-plus income group more (as Warren Buffet has been advocating of late). That's another story of partisanship at play.

So don't bite nails, just hang loose until it all gets worked out.

Warmth in winter

It's common for many seniors to complain about cold hands or feet sitting around at home during the colder winter days. Reason is as we age our hearts become less efficient so less blood is pumped to the extremities of hands and feet. Short of turning up the thermostat (and heating costs) the best way I found from my ski teaching days is to keep the body core warm. It's easy to do - just wear an outdoor vest indoors. That keeps the body core warm and allows more blood to circulate to those hands and feet.

In my case I use a Cellotex vest I was given years ago by the old MCI phone service that then sponsored ski races. It's nothing fancy and by now is a sort of gray rather than white, but it works just fine. I've got other ski vests that also do the trick.

At ski school we used to lecture students on keeping the body core warm (and not using cotton gloves) and active. Being active in the home can be more difficult, although I have learned to enjoy my treadmill every day now that we're getting weather.

Along with that, if you're still out there walking away happily, remember the way to keep warm but not overheat is by layering your attire. Peeling something off while hiking along the steep parts and adding it back when the going gets easier is an easy way to air condition the body. If I'm going to do serious outdoor activity such as skiing I start my layer with some silks I bought years ago in Europe. The top and bottoms are light but do a fine job of insulating the body. And they are cheap in these days of economic trade with silk producers like China and Japan.

Heavy, thick sweaters aren't a particularly good idea if you're going to be active. Cashmere works very well and is light but pricey. Some synthetic things from Patagonia are light and work just as well. I'm sure are plenty of specialty fabrics that will keep you warm without bulking you up.

More on skiing

OK, so I taught skiing for many years and still enjoy Alpine as well as cross country. But I don't think it's a good idea for most seniors to take up Alpine or downhill skiing unless they are in excellent physical condition and did it back when they were younger. The sport is demanding, particularly of the quads in the thighs. And good balance, something that seniors seem to lose easily, is a must. An easy way to check your balance is to stand on one leg while holding with your hand the other leg bent 90 degrees. Try to do that for at least 30 seconds without having to reach out for something to keep your balance. You do can do this repeatedly to improve your balance. It will also help protect you against falls, another benefit for seniors.

But Alpine skiing is classed inherently dangerous by Nevada law. So go softly into the day.

• Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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