ELDER MUSIC: Send the Kiddies Out of the Room
Hearing Loss Treatment and Medicare

Flu Shots and Exercise for Elders


When I was young, in my twenties, I came down with a flu every winter, stuck in bed for a week, achy, miserable and barely lucid. By age 30, I got smarter and I was taking the vaccine every year. For me, it has always worked – except for that one year sometime in my forties, the year I forgot to get the flu shot.

For two weeks I was barely conscious, too sick to care if I lived or died. What went on during those 12 or 14 days – phone calls maybe? did I watch TV? maybe a friend dropped by? I have no idea.

When finally the fever lifted, my head cleared and I got out of bed ready to return to the world, I found on the kitchen counter two, empty, one-gallon jugs that had once held water. I had never bought bottled water in my life, not in gallon containers or any other size. But there they were.

In all the years since then, every now and then, I wonder if, in the fog of flu that year, I walked to the corner bodega and bought that water. And, since I sleep naked, if perhaps I did that without putting on clothes, in the fog of flu, and the guys at the bodega colluded with my neighbors to not embarrass me by mentioning it.

Who knows. But I've never skipped the vaccine again.

Last week, I stopped by the pharmacy for that annual innoculation. The pharmacy has my records from years past so it took only about five minutes and cost me nothing.

In general, Medicare Part B covers the price if your physician accepts assignment. There are a couple of nuances to that you will find here.

This is serious business for elders.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the flu shot for everyone six months of age and older. But it is especially important for

”...anyone who is 65 years of age or older; nursing home residents; and people with serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or HIV. Caregivers for older adults should also get vaccinated to avoid spreading the flu,” explains healthinaging.org [pdf].

People who are allergic to eggs, have had allergic reactions to flu shots in the past, or have been diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome should not take the flu shot.

Mark you calendar today to get the flu shot. Soon. In my area, pharmacies give it without the need for an appointment. If that's not so where you live or you would rather see your physician, do arrange for it. Influenza can be deadly for old people.

There have now been so many studies proving, confirming and reconfirming that exercise is the best medicine known to mankind, it cannot be questioned. Every one of us should be up and moving around as much as our physical condition allows.


The effectiveness of exercise on physical and cognitive wellbeing is so conclusive that the experts have been left for the past several years arguing not if we should, but what type, duration and intensity of exercise does the most good.

Most experts suggest that four kinds are necessary: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. But newer studies are suggesting that for people who cannot and for elders, something as simple as brisk walking can be enough to help.

For the past few years, most experts recommended that all people, including elders, need at least 150 minutes of the four kinds of exercise per week.

For people who have been sedentary for a long while or have conditions that might prevent that much work, that is a lot. But early this summer, WebMD reported on a new study that suggests that less is almost as good:

”'The biggest jump in benefit was achieved at the low level of exercise, with the medium and high levels bringing smaller increments of benefit,' said Dr. David Hupin, of the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne, France.

“The low level of exercise is equivalent to a 15-minute brisk walk each day, according to Hupin.”

You could do that even at home on rainy, cold days. Jack up the volume on some music you like and keep moving for 15 minutes. Time magazine reported further on the same study.

”...there’s growing consensus among some exercise researchers that perhaps people, especially the elderly, can still achieve improved health with less.

“'Fifteen minutes per day of moderate and vigorous physical activity could be a reasonable target dose in older adults,' the study authors conclude. Small increases in physical activity may enable some older adults to incorporate more moderate activity and thus get closer to the current recommendations. If more may be better, ‘Even a little is already good’.”

Note the last sentence of that quotation. I am seeing that again and again in my readings about exercise and old people. Even a little helps and is better than nothing.

Also, if you aim for more than that do only as much as you can. That is, don't be lazy, push yourself as far as is reasonable, but don't rush toward the goals you set.

When I first began my daily home workout routine several years ago, I could not do more than two pushups – only two - before collapsing and we're talking those girly type of pushups on my knees, not toes. I now do 50 without too much effort but it took a year to get there. Do as much as you can but not to much as to injure yourself.

Here are some online sources to help you think through an exercise program.

CDC Basics of Exercise for Older Adults: Not quite up to date as the study I've quoted above but a good explanation of levels of exercise.
Today's Geriatric Medicine is similar to the CDC page but more detailed.
Physical Activity Guidelines for active older adults from health.gov.


I have a neuromuscular condition and it has progressed to where I cannot walk. My exercise consists of Sit & Be Fit or Chair Dancing DVDs. I am ever so envious of all the happy, cheerful elders who are pictured walking on beaches or riding the bikes but that's never going to be me. I know others who struggle as I do just to get in and out of the bathroom, on and off the toilet. And all the smiling older people showing me how pleasant it is to exercise leaves me grinding my teeth.

50 pushups? I am way more than impressed! Call it awe....and inspiration!

I recently heard about doing 30 seconds of intense activity (in my case I chose marching in place as fast as I can), walking for 2 minutes, then doing another 30 seconds for a series of 4 sets. It has remarkable effects. I'm still varying my daily routine, but I have little doubt anything at all is a LOT better than nothing.

I've always wondered why anyone in the fitness business would say things like, "If you can't do 30 minutes a day - don't bother". And I applaud Florence, and others who have limitations, for doing whatever they can. It's intent and attitude as much as effort. Without the first, the second never happens.

Every year at this time I find myself conflicted over whether to get a flu shot or not.
And every year I make the same decision. I do not get a flu shot.
It's not that I'm afraid of needles (heavens knows I've been stuck more times over the last few years than I care to remember).
It's just that each time I have decided to get the vaccine (perhaps twice over the last 30 years), I have come down with flu-like symptoms that made me miserable for a few days.
Also, I have not had an actual case of the flu since I was a teenager.
Now, while I'm not advocating against flu shots, or that you should not get one.
All I'm saying is, assess you own risk.
Do you come in contact with many people every day?
How is your own immune system?
And, do you want to inject yourself with a flu virus (dead though it may be)?

Ah yes . . . The legend still exists to this day. The story of a legendary Lady Godiva of 42nd Street! This happened during the time of the Pig Flu shot that so many avoided. So that was you? You are indeed a legend. By the way, the pharmacist says he owes your change from that twenty dollar bill.

I agree with Bruce on this. The first flu shot I can remember was in the military where we were lined up and got the shot no questions asked. The result was flu like symptoms worse than any cold I have ever had which was a major pain in the middle of basic training. The next time they lined us up I walked up to the doctor and told him I was allergic to eggs and it should be noted on my file. It was and I walked out. My allergies were never severe and I think I grew out of them (if I ever had them in the first place--I have doubts about the accuracy of that diagnosis.) I haven't gotten the flu shot since. If my circumstances were different (was around young children, had to be around crowds of people) I might make a different decision.

On exercise: I have always hated exercise for the sake of exercise and please don't give me any of the usual arguments people give for me to chop a half an hour or so out of my day I could spend in far more pleasant pursuits. I will continue getting my exercise gardening and going up and down our stairs several times a day. For those who find exercise beneficial, I would tip my hat if I were wearing one. For me, it never boosted my mood, improved my stamina or helped me lose weight those times when I did get sucked into long term exercise schedules (six months or longer).

It's on my calendar for next wk. I get a flu shot every year; local pharmacies and senior clinics offer it. I'm out in the community , so exposure is always present. My dog keeps me active in one way and dvd's at home and walk with neighbors 3x a week is my routine. None of this activity breaks any records, I enjoy it .

I have been the recipient of a little elliptical machine, one of those tiny ones that is marketed For use under an office desk. I have now worked my way up to pedaling as much as two hours over the course of the day. It isn't all fast peddling by any means. Over three months I've worked up to the high resistance setting.

My legs are so much stronger now. When I walk There is a spring in my step again. It's been especially helpful with going upstairs, as I no longer automatically reach for the railing. I didn't set out to do two hours a day, but as I do sit and read or use my computer or watch television a fair amount of the day, it feels so good to get the circulation going for ten to twenty minutes at a time.

There are many of these little devices, some bike style, others steppers, as well as the elliptical. I would encourage older folks to check them out online and consider ordering one that seems appropriate. The major considerations are having a place to store them that's out of the way when not in use, and that they are light enough that you can easily managd to put them into place. Also, you want a device that doesn't slide across the floor while you use it. I anchor my device down on a little yoga mat on which I've placed a chair.

Honestly Ronnie, I couldn't do one single full body push-up in my life. Something about body length to skinny arm mass ratio. Even when I was happily lifting 10-12 pound weights and pumping Nautilus, I couldn't do one.

I also can't whistle.

I get a flu shot every year. I do have COPD and many grandkids who visit. The only flu I have gotten in the last 20 years was the year the vaccine didn't contain any of the circulating flu bugs. I ended up in the hospital for a week in isolation to add insult to injury. I thought I was going to gurgle nastily to death. I'll be getting my shot this week.

Our doctor's office runs a flu clinic on a saturday each October. You walk in one door, give your name, get a slip of paper, walk through a hallway, get your flu shot and go out the back door. Takes maybe five minutes. I'm around small children so I make sure to keep my immunities as high as possible. I'm also a big believer in probiotics.

As for exercise, hate the stuff. However, I have spinal stenosis and if I neglect my exercise, my hands will go numb. Also a bit of sciatica that responds well to the exercise I do for it. I have heard that you should be able to get down and up from the floor with no assistance. I'm pretty good about that so I guess I'm doing well. Just have to maintain.

You don't know what flu is until you've had it. It's not a few days of not feeling 100%, but being so sick, as Ronni describes, that you don't think you're going to survive, and maybe that wouldn't be so bad. I don't ever want to go through that again, so I get my flu shot every year. I'm not sure yet about getting the pneumonia shot.

I just recently found out that I haven't had chickenpox, so don't need the shingles shot, but I wonder what's worse - - getting shingles or getting chickenpox in your 70's.

Me too, Elizabeth - I can't whistle. All those 40 years I lived in New York City, I desperately wanted to one of those people who put two fingers in their mouth and let out a piercing whistle for a taxi. (I guess with Uber, now, it's not necessary. But I'd still like to be able to do it.

As to those 5o pushups - they are GIRLY PUSHUPS on my knees. I can't do more than one on my toes. It took more than a year to work up from two to 50, increasing by only one per week of workouts.

Got my flu shot last week. Plan to get my exercise next week. (joking)
Good column, Ronni. I'll go climb on my stationary bike now...

In addition to regular exercise, I also do Dr. Weil's "4-7-8" breath exercise to keep my lungs, and airways tuned up. There's a video on YouTube. There's also a video of same exercise being used as a way to fall asleep, but I haven't tried it out. It shows that over 2m people have viewed this video, so perhaps there's some validity to it.

The other ones I follow are the finger/hand exercises for my arthritis and hand strength. I believe I found those at Mayo Clinic's site or NIH Senior.

Another recommended by friends of mine is the "plank," from yoga, which I see others doing in the park, though I haven't looked into this as yet. Sometimes I marvel at how well we all got along (or did we?) pre internet.

For the last 2 years I've gotten the flu shot as desired by my son for his baby. That's a good enough reason. I do pay a little more and get the one without mercury.

I get my flu shot every year. I got the Asian flu in the late 1960s and I thought I would die. The doctor came to my apartment (which my roommates had vacated because of my flu) but I don't remember what he did. I also got the two pneumonia vaccines that are available. I wonder if Hillary Clinton did? That's the first thing I thought of when I heard about her illness. Very distressing. Vaccines work.

One TV exercise program that I find easy to do with my 75 year old body is called "Classical Stretch" with Miranda Esmonde-White. Just 25 minutes of gentle, consistent movement that works all muscle groups gently. It is on a local pbs station. Google it!

In fits and starts I'm trying to get back to my former couch potato condition (an improvement from my current condition). On nice days, which are now coming more often, I walk around the block (or maybe even 2 or 3). I've occasionally walked laps around the inside of my tiny house (boring!). I'm planning to order one of those stepper platforms so I can do that in front of the TV or whatever. I don't do floor exercises -- too hard to get down and back up again.

Flu shot every year without fail! Any illness now hits harder and takes much longer to recover from. (A sinus infection several years ago had me down and out all winter.) And don't forget pneumonia shots. There are two types available and you need them both (they aren't annual; ask about when you need them). Pneumonia is a killer at our age. Somebody above mentioned shingles vaccine. Get it! I've had shingles and you definitely don't want it!!

Ronnie - the GIRLY push-ups are still impressive. I can barely do one of those, either.

Flu shots. In college, mid- 1970s, one third of my school AND the town of Grinnell, Iowa, were horribly sick with Victoria-A strain flu over a several week period. It was bizarre and awful.

Get a flu shot if you can tolerate it, but also reduce exposure to viral diseases by always carrying your own pen. Never use check stand pens or the ones waiters offer. It is way too easy to transmit a virus from hand to your face. My rate of head colds plummeted, such that many years I don't get even one, after I learned about that trick.

Gargle with salt water every 24 hours and, if you can stand to, use a saline nasal wash daily during flu outbreaks. It takes the virus a bit of time to burrow in, so the washing and gargling can reduce the number that get through.

Here in Minnesota it is tempting to just stay indoors and have groceries delivered all winter.

I am waiting for my ride right now to take me to get my flu shot.

The last year I worked I got the flu and living alone made the illness much worse. There was no one to open a can of chicken soup or pour a glass of 7-Up for me. Those are my medicines when I have a cold or the flu. I was so miserable that I have never failed to get the flu since then.

Oops. ;-(

I meant I never failed to get the flu shot after that. I never got the flu either.

I too have COPD. Last year didn't get my flu shot. Came down Twice with bacterial pneumonia This year getting it at my Drs office ! As far as exercise I try n keep busy with short walks n chasing after my doggies. They are a handful!! Haha. Also try couple xs wk to use stationary bike. Can't do too much. Get out of breath soo easy but better now since I've lost weight that made the bigger difference. Did it by only eating turkey or chicken n veggies n sweet potatoes! Take care everyone 😃

I'm sure the law of diminishing returns applies to exercise, as it does to many other things. The first 15 minutes are the most valuable. I agree with those who say that exercise for the sake of exercise can be boring. So suggestion: add a little game and a little competition (golf, tennis, pickleball, table tennis) and it can be a lot of fun.

My husband and I got our flu vaccinations a week or so ago as we do every year.

As for exercise, I walk about 45 to 60 minutes nearly every day on a local nature trail. I love getting out of the house, seeing the spectacular scenery, and spotting birds along the way. I grab my binoculars and clip on my pedometer to measure miles walked, total steps, and aerobic steps.

The only hard part is that I'm walking downhill from my house to the trail, then up a fairly steep hill on the way back. Seattle is one hilly city.

Got my flu shot today at Walgreens.

Recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and have had 2 surgeries...radiation to follow in 3 weeks for 6 or so weeks. Asked the surgeon if I should get flu and/or pneumonia shots now before starting radiation...he said NO!!! He wants no risk with a compromised immune system!! He asked me who I got that idea from...I said the visiting nurse suggested I ask . He was going to set her straight...

...meant to add...he suggested I avoid crowds and sick people, and wash hands constantly! I like the suggestion by Elizabeth to use your own pen. One new problem...the chip cards have that special pen that you sign the screen with. It is attached to the machine and has a rubber tip. Wonder if those are available somewhere??

Tom Sightings has it 'nailed'. "A little exercise, a little competition"! I retired, joined a 'health' club. Bored myself into a stupor doing those #&+* repetitive exercises. Found a large group of competitive (and younger) volleyball players, (Seattle-Bellevue is big on v-ball), and play 2-3 times a week. I love the play, the vigorous friends and have even 'medaled' at the Nationals! At 81 I've never been so enthusiastic about life.

Jane, most groceries and many other stores have disinfectant wipes available for use on their shopping carts... grab one and wrap that special pen in it. Or you could use your own tissue.

Of course there are a lot of touch screens around and I don't know how to avoid touching them.

MY DH and I get the flu shot every year because we volunteer in schools and senior residences, we take public transit weekends and we travel. Fitness? I just signed up for Pilates, line dancing. We're in a cycling group and ride 40 k's a week. I walk with my sister twice a week, once a week with DH. We like to bus it into the city, then subway way to the east end and walk all the way back along Ste. Catherine Street.

DH swims laps five days a week. He's looking good.

A friend just had a stroke. Happened in her sleep. She can't talk or drive right now, but she is improving.

I was shocked to hear that.

Our cycling group talked about all living in an apartment building some day, so we could help each other without being too close for comfort.

Ronni, you mentioned something about an apartment building like this in NYC, a place where a group of seniors live. It's not a senior home. It's a regular apartment building. Remember that? I like this idea.

Take care, everyone.

Jane, sending you a gentle hug from Montreal.

Trudy, I notice that some McD restos (I only like their coffee) have new inside touch screens for ordering. But the owners have not clued in to the fact that when flu season hits, those screens will become germ factories. I don't see a single senior touching those screens to order their coffee, and it's not because they don't know how to use the technology. They don't want to touch a dirty screen. Instead they line up in front of the one cashier.

This is Tuesday. Thanks to reading Monday's blog & comments I stopped by Bartell's and got a flu shot. It took me about three or four hours to start feeling rotten. It was a real whammo, and I've been recovering all day. Still--since it felt a bit like the flu, I reminded myself--better to feel rotten overnight than for a couple of weeks. It was strange because I've never had any reaction at all. The nurse who gave it to me did say that I was getting the "larger' dose.

I'm a newbie. Hello All! I've been getting a flu shot every year for the past 22 years since I was 38 yo. I still occasionally get a cold but it's much milder than before. RE: exercise, I found the more, the better. It makes me feel great, I now have muscle definition in my upper arms and it eases the pain I feel in my right hip due to arthritis. I am also meeting fellow retirees in my classes. This fall, I am taking 7 exercise classes. I'm trying 2 for the 1st time.

I started getting flu shots beginning with the swine flu scare. It has made a difference, even though I feel awful for a couple of days and my arm hurts like heck - better than the alternatives.

Ok you all. Flu shot. I was a hospital worker for most of my life so the hospitals always pushed employees into a flu shot. I had a pretty strong immune system so didn't ever get a flu like the one Crabby lady described. I ALWAYS remembered how miserable I was and for how long. Thankfully those only came once every 10 years or so.
Anyway - when work talked me into a flu shot I would get a flu. They argued that it takes flu about 10 to 14 days to incubate so it wasn't from the shot until I told them that was when I got it. So I nixed the flu shot for decades. Up to a couple of years ago I thought of myself as entering "old lady country" but not quite there. This last year there are multiple signs I am now IN "old lady country." So I have gotten the flu shot and been flu free for the last few years. Yes - fellow citizens of OLD LADY COUNTRY. If it is free - get one.

As to exercise. One of the old age things I got only in the last few months was swollen ankles. They were CANKLES - the thing Hillary C. has been accused of having. This isn't unusual for the elderly but still not good. It usually means cardiac insufficiency - the heart is getting too lazy to do the work pumping in the venous stage in your distal extremities.

I have had several surgeries in the last few years - all joint replacements. (Another time,) I had months of pre-op pain or post op rehab where I became pretty sedentary. To get my heart moving I use TV advertisements to walk in place, shake really hard or anything that brings up the heart rate. These bursts are only for a couple of minutes at a time - but several times a day. The ankles are much better and even though I am not doing long happy walks - my stride is faster and longer. Go figure. Anyway - point being - do Anything that brings up your heart rate - just for a bit. It isn't ambitious but it is obviously better than nothing. Baby steps huh? Then in a few months you can add to this blog about how wonderful swimming or walking in your park was. You know - one of those that make a lot of us feel like poo. Have a good rest of the weekend you all.

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