ELDER MUSIC: Classical Gas Part 7
Finding New Friends in Old Age

You and Me and Flu Season

EDITORIAL NOTE: Several readers suggested I replace the far right photo in the banner with a screen grab from the video interview I posted on Saturday. I thought that was a pretty good idea, so I did it. See above.

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Flu vaccine

God knows my memory could be off but I'm guessing I began getting an annual flu shot sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Before then, a week home in bed with the flu was a winter ritual.

Only once in the 30 to 40 years I've taken the vaccine, did I forget to do it – but I will never forget the flu I suffered that year, and I do mean suffered.

It happened about 15 years ago, so let's say I was age 60 or so and I was in bed for two full weeks with all the awful symptoms – fever, muscle aches, headache, chills, sweating, fuzzyheadedness, etc. and it took a month after that before I was at full capacity again.

During those two weeks, I had little sense of time passing, just horrible discomfort and then, finally, the pain and fog lifted. I was well and functional again. But it has puzzled me ever since that in the kitchen that day I found two empty gallon jugs of water.

I had never bought water. There is no need in New York City which regularly wins awards for the best tap water in the United States. Yet there they were, those two empty jugs.

Had I gone to the corner bodega to buy them? If so, why? I didn't remember then, I don't remember now and I don't recall anyone visiting me who might have brought them although there is nothing to say those things didn't happen. It's not a big deal; just one of the small mysteries of life but forever attached to the word “flu” for me.

So here we are at the beginning of the 2017/18 flu season and even though people 65 and older are at high risk for the flu itself and at greater risk for preventable complications than younger adults, nearly one-third of those between the ages of 65 and 74 skipped the flu shot last year.

A couple of other worthwhile statistics: 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people 65 and older as do 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations.

Almost all elders should get a flu shot each year and there is a special, high dose vaccine for old people called Fluad. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),

”The 'high dose vaccine' is designed specifically for people 65 and older and contains 4 times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot. It is associated with a stronger immune response following vaccination (higher antibody production).

“Results from a clinical trial of more than 30,000 participants showed that adults 65 years and older who received the high dose vaccine had 24% fewer influenza infections as compared to those who received the standard dose flu vaccine.”

The vaccine is a good health investment and in fact, for most us requires no monetary investment. For those with original Medicare, Part B covers the shot with no copay - that is, free. If you have Medicare Advantage, check with your insurer.

If you have an allergy to eggs, you should consult with your physician about the flu vaccine and here's something new I learned recently: if you are receiving chemotherapy, you should talk with your physician before getting the shot. With approval from my doctor, I got mine, Fluad, two weeks ago, about three weeks before my chemo begins.

In my old age, a bad cold feels too much like the flu so I don't want to even imagine what a flu would feel like to me nowadays.

Oh, and here is one more reason to get the flu shot. It is estimated that people 65 and older who skip the flu immunization increase U.S. health care costs by $4.8 billion a year.

So you can contribute to Medicare's solvency too when you get a flu shot.

Here is the CDC's extensive website section on the flu.


My husband and I never miss our flu shots. A cold is bad enough, why take a chance on something worse??

Agree totally on flu shot. Great idea on the photo, too. Was so good to see you interacting in person on the video. We probably all needed that Ronni fix.

Love the new photo to the right! You go, Girl!

Excellent reminder for everyone to get the flu shot. Especially those of us who are older and/or have health issues. My local supermarket (Publix) is giving the flu shot and also giving you a $10.00 gift card for getting the flu shot! That was $10.00 that went towards the $20.00 bottle of wine I went there to buy. :)

Stay crabby (and healthy!).

Love the photo. It shows the spunky Ronni we follow. The preceding one more reflects the "grumpy old lady" persona.

I agree with earlier comments about the new photo. You look happier, and, paradoxically, healthier, than in many of the earlier photos. But, as your doctor has said, other than the cancer, you are very healthy. Here's hoping that a few months from now that qualifier will be gone and your doctor will be saying nothing more than that you are very healthy.

Short observation - your photo on the webpage is updated, but in the email version (which is where I normally read your postings), it still shows the older banner photo.
As for flu shots, it's already on my calendar, thanks.

I, too, suffered through the flu for several weeks about 10 years ago. The flu is not just a cold and maybe feeling achy and tired. For me, it was being sicker than I had ever been, and ever hope to be. I don't wish it on anyone. Got my flu shot early this year because I'm going to travel in a few weeks.

It was great to see your video, and I was happy to see how great you look and sound. Wishing you only the best!

Thank you for the information on FLAUD. I didn't know about it and will try to schedule my flu shot unless my doctor give it to me at my appointment on Friday.

Your banner is just wonderful. From a very pretty little girl to a beautiful elder. I love the picture. It's one of such happiness.

Love the new photo. Great idea to put it up there where we can enjoy it every time we visit.

Absolutely, get that extra strength flu shot! Four or five years ago I struggled most of the winter to throw off a simple little sinus infection that in previous years would have lasted a week at most. I now dread getting even a cold. Family members are diligent about not visiting if anyone in their household is the least bit ill. And when I'm at the store I'm careful not to touch my face and always wash my hands when I get home. I've never been a germophobe, but I know my resistance and ability to recover is much weaker now.

Love the photo ...

Flu shots are not for me since the U.S. Navy gave me one in 1962 at the end of boot camp. Never have had the flu since that shot but the after effects of that shot were awfully dramatic in 1962.

Great new banner photo addition, makes me smile just looking at it. Just got my high dose flu shot last week at Safeway. No gift card but a 10% off grocery coupon which I give to my son and daughter-in-law with piles of kids.

I'm 70 and the last time I got a flu shot was when I was 24. I have found that by eating a whole food, plant-based diet consisting entirely of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts and seeds, my immune system has been strong enough to fight off viral infections like the flu. I can't remember the last time I was sick. I think that's been a much better preventive measure for me than the flu shot ever would have been.

On another note, I really enjoyed the interview with your ex-husband. You've had a fascinating life, and I was really interested in the fact that you never remarried. My wife passed away from brain cancer four years ago, and I dated a little about a year to two years ago. But then I decided that I was happiest being single at this stage in my life. Now I focus on my writing and my photography and that makes me happy. Sometimes that makes me feel like I'm a little out of step with the rest of the world though so it was good to hear that you too made that decision and seem to be very comfortable with it. I really admire your work and your writing.

I get my flu shot every year (free here in UK) but I've also had one for pneumonia and coming soon for shingles. I will take whatever I can to reduce the risk of illness.

Forgot to get a flu shot last year, but didn't get the flu. Probably because I don't go out much...

I really do like the new photo and I think it makes you look younger than the photo you posted previously -- I really do like your hairdo!

LOVE the change in the banner!

Re flu shot, elder immune systems, et al: I got sick ALL the time when I was a kid, and since my twenties have had an increasingly good immune system, apparently. I almost never get sick now, and if I catch a cold, it's piffling compared with the colds I got as a younger person. I haven't had actual flu (i.e., as distinguished from a cold: fever, worse symptoms, longer duration) for, I dunno, maybe 35 or 40 years. When I turned 65 my doc said I should get a one-time pneumonia shot, and I should start getting the flu shots. I'd heard of people who get sick after their flu shot, and I hesitated. But, I got the pneumonia shot, I now get a flu shot every year, and I've also had the shingles shot. I still almost never get sick, and I just turned 80. Whoopee!

I, too, think your latest photo addition is a plus. I'm struck by how much in that photo you resemble your youthful photo third shot from the left. Wonder what, if anything, you specifically recall about yourself or events each of the years those photos were taken?

Flu shot annually is definitely a wise idea. We have several optional sites on different dates to obtain a shot, including at a Senior Health Fair, likely later this month. My preferred time and location is early Oct. at a drive thru our local hospital offers each year -- just drive in a large parking lot area accommodating several traffic lanes at their Cancer center -- stick out my arm after signing a short form, then the nurse gives me the shot and I drive away.

The flu shots seem to be more reliable. A couple of years ago it was not effective for over 65 and I did get the flu that year. Probably due more to very young germy grandson

Love the picture

No one has mentioned chemo and flu shot to me, so thank goodness for this information. Don't you want to SCREAM sometimes about what it takes to get good information? That is a whole other subject! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thanks AO!
I never had flu shot.
The last time I thought I had flu was when I was 14, I had a fever for one day.
Ronni's post is very convincing. I am happy that three comments are against flu shot however.
My former coworker Tom died from flu shot around 2010, Tom was only 68. Tom's cubicle was less than 30 steps from mine. I heard that Tom got the flu shot for the very first time.

I agree with J. Lanning Smith that eating a plant based diet (and maintaining a strong immune system) helps to ward off the flu. I've had the flu shot every year for the past three years, with mixed results. For some people, unfortunately, it does not guarantee immunity. BTW, I love the new picture!

AO, I think you need to re-evaluate your sources of information. Online research only helps if it's done with full awareness of how much utter rubbish there is out there, especially on matters of health. Anyone can have an opinion, but that doesn't make the opinion correct, or one that other people could safely adopt.

Ronni usually comes down hard on people who post this sort of thing. (I know, because I confess now that I ventured too close to the line myself on one occasion. I was only saved from being banned altogether because I had posted reasonable comments in the past, so she generously allowed me a second chance.)

At the minimum, always remember to recognize that your personal situation is not universal. I think it is fine to say, "A flu vaccine is not right for me, and here's why." It is NOT fine to say nobody should get one, because taking that advice may very well even kill some people. It's harmful, and Ronni is right to disallow such talk.

FWIW I didn't get the flu shot for years and never got the flu. I began doing so out of respect for others -- especially older vulnerable people with whom I came in contact -- including my husband whose immune defense mechanism had been compromised due to health issues as he aged. Also, common sense told me as I aged my body was becoming more vulnerable to health issues. My understanding of the flu vaccine is that it isn't likely to be 100% effective, but is designed to protect against the expected flu variations in each year, so is adjusted to change from year to year. Also, even if flu is contracted by some despite having received the shot, the result may well be a milder case of those deadly flu symptoms. My mother was a teen who never forgot the 1918 flu pandemic that took so many lives in her surrounding rural community. She welcomed a flu vaccine's availability so many years later. i can only say that if I was going to take Chemo I would welcome the knowledge that all the health care workers would likely have had the flu shot, thus protecting me as best they can and I would hope all others with whom I came in contact cared enough to do the same.

The new picture seems just right for the season.

My HMO (Kaiser) would chase me around the city if I didn't get my shot!

Thanks for the laugh over the water jugs. Reminded me of once (out of four instances in my life) when I became delusional during a bout with the flu - in 1980. Evidently, I wrote a letter, a letter that resulted in my enlisting in the Naval Reserves a few days later, just one day before I would have been too old (when I turned 42). Now, I'm religious about getting my flu shots. At my annual physical, next month, I plan to get another Zostavax shot. I got one 10.5 years ago, but I believe my immunity has dwindled. I surely don't want another bout of shingles!

In addition to shots and lots of hand washing, never, ever, use public pens! My rate of head colds dropped to nearly nothing when I started carrying my own pen to sign credit card receipts. If you have to use one of those plastic things to sign on a machine, carry a sanitizer bottle or wipe and use it immediately after, before touching your face.

Flu shot is always a must for me and I love the new photo
showing your beautiful smile!

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