Two Former Marine Pilots

Reminiscing and enjoying a bit of leisure time in our “Best Quarter” period

Reminiscing and enjoying a bit of leisure time in our “Best Quarter” period

Pete and I pause to recall and smile over a memory. We were squadron pilots in VMF 323 based at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Southern California from 1958 to 1960. We flew the Mach 1.6 (1000 miles per hour) Chance Vought F8U-2 single seat fighter-interceptor jet. We completed week-long carrier qualification landings and takeoffs aboard the USS Ariskonay CV34; trained constantly in order to be ready at any time for any mission; and deployed on several tactical missions and inter-squadron competitions out of Yuma, Arizona.

We both spent some eight years on active and reserve military service in the Marine Corps, during a fortunate period of peace after the Korean War and before the onset of VietNam. Pete went on to become an airline Captain with United Airlines, ending up flying B747-400s on long-distance trans-Pacific schedules. I, an aero engineer, went to work at Boeing in Seattle, supporting sales of commercial jets; eventually formed my own transportation consulting business.

We, and several of our U.S. Marine comrades have kept in touch over the decades, gone to reunions, and annually celebrated the Marine Corps Birthday Dinners. ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’: As President Reagan once said: “Some people spend a lifetime worrying if they made a difference---the Marines don’t have that problem.”


The majority of men my age (and many a lot younger) have chronic lower back pain. Most times, it is not severe enough to warrant looking into having surgery. It can get painful enough, however, to ultimately elect to have a cortisone injection in the lower spine, which can alleviate much of the discomfort for several months or more. Lower back pain is not limited to men only, of course.
In the meantime, there are two exercises which have helped me a lot and which I teach my students in class. I developed these after many physical therapists’ sessions and visits to physicians for steroid shots.  They should be done every morning on rising, in a standing position before a mirror; and at odd times during the day when thoughts about good posture are triggered by a twinge in the back.
The first is simply the equivalent of “pelvic tilt”, in an erect stance posture instead of lying flat on the floor or a mat. The second is the equivalent of “traction”, again standing erect instead of being stretched out by machine while lying flat on a therapists’ table. The key is exerting pressure against yourself, in just the correct stance and position, to marginally straighten the curvature of the lower spine. While exerting the pressure--for up to 30 or 40 seconds--it is doubly beneficial to slowly rotate from side to side.
The diagrams and descriptions below show how to do these two exercises. Do them religiously every morning, for no more than three minutes each position, and some further presses during the day as you remember, and you will feel far better in a week or two. They are easy, no difficult positions like lying on the floor, no machines or bands, and reap the added plusses of strengthening your shoulders, pectoral muscles and wrists. You will find more exercises like this in
Wellness for Super Seniors.


Jim Hands was born just before the outbreak of World War I. He turned 102 a few months ago.  Jim used to attend my "fitness-for-over-75's" class--three days a week--for more than five years.  The reason he is not doing my exercises now is not because he quit; it's because I stopped conducting the classes at his retirement community center last year. He recently asked me to start them up again at that venue, and I may have to; one simply cannot let a centenarian's request go unanswered.

Jim has had the most extraordinary life and career: New Jersey State champion athlete in his youth; Olympic's try-out contender; jazz clarinet player; executive in the fabrics industry, supplier of stage curtains for America's top opera houses, interior decor for ocean liners and luxury aircraft, Williamsburg furnishings; wood worker flawlessly producing duplicates of early American classic furniture pieces; collector of fine art; married to an author and authority on gourmet foods; builder of several homes. Jim and I did a joint public presentation at our community center in Stonington (CT) on his 100th birthday, where I acted the "interviewer" part, and Jim the responder, together with thirty or forty slides depicting scenes from the periods of his life.

I plan to visit Jim in the coming weeks and ask him some further questions: for example, "to what do you attribute your long, active and clearly successful life?" One thing I know, he still has a robust sense of humor, along with his keen interest in people and their lives. I and a friend were lunching with Jim one day, and my friend Paul (himself in his mid-eighties) offered his services to drive Jim to the store, for shopping, to an appointment or any event he wanted to go to. Jim's eyes twinkled and he said, "Paul, I already have a driver, and she's a lot better looking than you!"

I think Jim's going to be around a long time yet. 

Man's Best Friend

Super Seniors also benefit from companionship. At times, for some, a dog is the answer (especially when most of one’s friends have gone on before). I just picked up a rescue dog: he’s eight years old and blind. A real sweetie, and a fast learner. Within a few days he knows how to get around without bumping into furniture, and where the stairs were and how to go up and down (with a little coaching and reminding). It’s all part of general “wellness”. 

Vital Interests

Juan O'Callahan, painting the statues at St. Marys Church in Stonington, CT 

Juan O'Callahan, painting the statues at St. Marys Church in Stonington, CT 

As we get older we do need to keep up interests and/or hobbies. Those who happen to live longer AND better seem to have a knack for being vitally interested in some activity.  It may involve relationships or just conversing with others, having a good friend or friends, a group activity, music, films, the news on television, puzzles or reading.
Mine, in addition to health and fitness issues, happens to be art.  I paint for fun; mostly landscapes, mostly plein-air, in oils on canvas.  Recently, however, I had an opportunity to participate in the renovation program at our local church and I volunteered to repaint the statues of Our Lady, St. Joseph and the Stations of the Cross (all of which were in a bland, blond wood configuration).  It was a somewhat spiritual experience.
Some of my earlier art is on another website
 and this is of interest only in that there is a link to my father’s art, Clinton O’Callahan, who painted in Paris from 1920 to 1939, between the two World Wars, with a short write-up extracted from his biography and catalogue raisonne from my daughter Monica’s thesis. 

My son-in-law Tom is responsible for the blue and gold painting of the niches and he has been contracted to do much of the sanctuary painting and further gold trim art work...a big task that we are all excited about. See more of his work at and @thomasfrohnapfel on Instagram. 

The Reset Button -- Pritikin Longevity Center

Juan O'Callahan, author of Wellness for Super-Seniors, at Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, FL

Juan O'Callahan, author of Wellness for Super-Seniors, at Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, FL

Health and wellness coaches need refresher courses from time to time.  I flew to Miami recently for a long-weekend “Taste of Pritikin” sampler program.  I first went to Pritikin Longevity Center some twenty five years ago.  My wife joined me for the two-week syllabus, and at the end of it she literally glowed.  Those two weeks turned my life around—indeed, they probably saved my life.
For the recent three-day refresher regimen, we attended six lectures (given by doctors and nutritionists) and participated in a slew of activities: three yoga or pilates sessions; three stretch, exercise and weights classes; two cardio workouts; and two cooking demonstrations.  In spite of the heavy workload, there was time enough in midafternoons to slip across to the Blue Monster golf course and watch the world’s best players compete for the Cadillac Championship trophy.  (Pritikin’s location is situated on the Miami Doral Golf Resort complex.)
Here’s what the Pritikin program promotes (in very simplified form):

  • Healthy Weight Loss
  • A Healthy Heart
  • Significantly Lower Cholesterol
  • Diabetes Control
  • Reuced Blood Pressure/Hypertension
  • Healthier Mind

What separates Pritikin from the world of health resorts and spas, executive medical physical centers, wellness clinics and weight loss ranches is that Pritikin’s medical professionals give lectures throughout the day.  Pritikin wants its attendees to know and understand the relationships between one’s health and avoidance of certain diseases (the “diseases of affluence”) and sensible nutrition, exercise, posture and mind meditation.
Those principles form the basis of my program as well, but geared more for over-80s (particularly in exercise areas).  It is modeled on Pritikin’s proven successes; successes researched and analyzed by MD/PHDs at medical schools such as UCLA and Harvard, documented in hundreds of medical papers, and evidenced by its healthy and enthusiastic alumni.
Pritikin Longevity Center should have a national advertising campaign, aimed at the Boomers' generation, with a slogan such as “DON”T take a cruise this year; DO take a Pritikin LIFE-CHANGER break instead.”  The cost is about the same, whether for 7 or 14 days' comparison.  The first (cruise) will allow you to eat copiously--and not too well--and gain 8 to 12 pounds.  The second (Pritikin) will prolong your lifespan in a healthy mode, make you feel great again (“glow”), and lose up to 8 pounds.
Our motto at is to encourage both Boomers and their parents to live not only longer, but BETTER. Pritikin can kick-start one into a new life-style regimen in an organized class-like environment guided by a team of superb health professionals.  For a one-on-one alternative, I offer that option (see the website section herein).


Juan's Wellness for Super-Seniors Class

Juan's Wellness for Super-Seniors Class

"Moreover, living longer AND Better", that's the key when we get to be in our 80s and 90s.  This is a snapshot of one of my classes a few years ago, 14 'students', all of whom stayed with the program for several years.  Some had aides, some used walkers, one could not stand.  Some of the younger attendees (80's) watched over or assisted some of the more senior seniors (90's).  The ages of four in the front row, at that time, were 91, 94, 96 and 90 respectively.  There was always laughter and light banter (even while doing knee bends and leg strengthening exercises to improve balance and mobility).

Early on in this group class, several participants were rather heavier than they should be (as shown in the first BMI chart below) and one or two edged over into what is defined as obese (BMI in excess of 30).  Less than a year later I took their height and weights again, drew the lines as shown in the second chart below, and significant improvement was quite obvious.  The class was delighted with the visual, but apart from that they all felt so much better, stronger and positive.  One tall gentleman had reduced his weight from 240 pounds to under 200.  Another lady lost over 20 pounds.

This may seem contradictory to my previous two blog-posts, wherein I suggested that if Boomers had not positioned their overall wellness and vitality by age 70, they probably would not do so after that.  This group of mine, however, was exceptional...there are always exceptions.  It IS possible to improve one's health after 75 or even 80.  But as I wrote earlier, the HARDEST part is getting started.  It takes help and encouragement from their children and friends.  


Let's look at some numbers.  Of USA's 320 million population, 75 million are the so-called Baby Boomers.  Boomers are generally defined as those born between 1946 and 1964.

The population of persons over the age of 75 today (those approaching my-defined "the best quarter" category) number about 20 million.  The average life span, currently, is 77 for men and 82 for women--some 30 years longer than the average life spans of our great-grandparents.  I estimate that in 10 to 15 years time (2025/2030), the population of persons over the age of 75 will be about 50 million, two and a half times the number today.  And the average life span will likely increase another 4 or 5 years, taking into account further advances in medicine, pharmaceuticals and geriatric care.

This poses a challenge to Boomers.  Are you going to age well, stay active and ambulatory, interested in life, and living during "the best quarter" in an anxiety-free manner?  Or are you going to spend several years possibly bedridden, depressed, chronically ill, lonely or confined in a nursing home room?  These may be uncomfortable words--I know--but they should be considered at some time, and even discussed with our children (or our parents).

Boomers are those who are now (in early 2016) in the ages of 51 to 69, more or it 50 to 70.  This is exactly the bracket that lifestyle choices can be re-assessed, changed if necessary, and a "health-and-wellness" path defined for the next 30 to 50 years.  If it's not done now (say, by the time you are 70) it's probably not going to be done after that.  

There are certain factors we humans have no control over: i.e. genes, gender and aging.  But we do have some control over a multitude of lifestyle choices that affect health, diseases and attitude: i.e. smoking obviously; heavy alcohol intake; sedentary habits; being seriously overweight; very high fat diet; excessive salt intake; high blood pressure; stress and/or rage; diabetes type2.  These, individually or in tandem, can cause the lingering symptoms that lead to depression, dementia, and killers such as stroke, heart disease and certain common cancers.

The 3-Pillars' program outlined in my book Wellness For Super-Seniors, although initially developed for seniors over-75, is perhaps even more important for the Super-Seniors' offspring: those 75 million Americans who are now "The Boomers".  You are encouraged to truly live well, (that is what I teach: LIVE LONGER, BETTER), so that the burdens--financial, caregiving and otherwise--may not be onerous on YOUR children, the "Generation X-ers & Y's" primarily.        


I call those born between 1910 and 1934, i.e. people living today at the tail end of 2015 into 2016 who are 81 to 105 years of age, "the best quarter" folk.  

After Brokaw's book came out entitled "The Greatest Generation", intended to mean primarily those Americans who actually fought in World War II and supported the war effort as adults, the phrase became accepted as a definition for all those born between 1901 and 1945.  I don't agree with that time span: I was born in 1933--just 6 years old at the start of the war--and do not consider myself part of "The Greatest Generation".  Indeed, by the time I joined the U. S. Marine Corps at 20, the Korean War was officially ending.  I, and most people born after 1927 (up until 1945) fall into a nameless generational bracket (or brackets, plural).

So I am going to re-name the generations--for people still living at this time, i.e. born 1910 and later--as I visualize it.  The four columns are:  Dates Born   Ages Now   Title   As-Adult Notes

  1. 1910 - 1927    88 to 105    The Greatest Generation       Fought & Supported WW II
  2. 1928 -1934    81 to 87       The Forgotten Generation     Korean War Recall & Call Up 
  3. 1935 -1945    70 to 80      The Unhappy Generation      Viet Nam, The Draft & Revolt
  4. 1946 - 1955    60 to 69     The Hippy Baby Boomers      Space, Pot & Haight-Ashbury
  5. 1956 - 1964    51 to 59      The Rocker Baby Boomers    Whiz-Kids, Money & Mobility
  6. 1965 - 1984    31 to 50      The "X" & "Y" Generations     Electronics, e-Mai1 & M.E. Wars
  7. 1985 - 2000   15 to 30      The Millennials' Generation    Social Media, Terrorism, Concern
  8. 2001 - 2015/6   1 to 14      The Hopeful Generation(?)   Hoping For Change, Peace, Calm       

My book "Wellness for Super-Seniors" addresses health issues confronting people in the "Over  75" age brackets (which I am in the process of upping to age bracket 80 to 105), with tutorials on how they can improve the quality of their lives.  The three pillars of instruction encompass Sensible Nutrition; Doable Exercises; and Awareness OF Vital Health Concerns.  Since it is likely that the book will not be much read by people in their 80s and 90s, it is more important that the book be directed toward a dual audience comprising the Super-Seniors' children (The Baby Boomer generations above), and the Super-Seniors' caregivers and aides.

Lastly, The Boomers' generations might take note of all the same advice, at this very stage in their lives (i.e. those age 51 to 69), and diligently practice the three pillars--nutrition, exercise and awareness--if change or improvement or weight adjustment is warranted.  The reason being, that if beneficial change is not effected in this earlier time period, it will probably not be even attempted in the following two decades.  We are living a lot longer now.  It behooves us all to try and make our quality of life during this period, "the best quarter", truly the best.  Thus, our motto: "Et Vivere Melius"".../i.e. "Moreover, Live Longer Better!"  



The Hardest Part

The sub-title of Chapter 7 in my book Wellness For Super-Seniors reads: "The Hardest Part IS Getting Someone You Love Started".  That adage can apply to oneself as well.  It can also relate to any new exercise or walking routine, to a better nutrition program, to a fact to any regimen that might improve one's health yet entails an element of will power at first.  In this instance in the book, I was leading to a discussion of excess weight.  For many people losing excess weight is a lifelong struggle.  Being considerably overweight can be the cause or catalyst of many medical issues, including hypertension, diabetes type 2, poor balance or vertigo, high LDL cholesterol, and certain serious heart-related illnesses.  

It can be extremely difficult to lose weight after one has reached the age of, say. late-fifties or in one's sixties (especially if trying to do so alone).  Further complicating matters, it is a very difficult subject to discuss openly:  medical or health carers rarely say directly to an overweight patient, "you need to lose 25--or 40--pounds", even if the physician or nurse practitioner or naturopathic doctor suspects it could greatly benefit that patient, perhaps prevent another fall, lessen a looming requirement for another hip replacement, enhance the ability to start an exercise routine or just plain walking.  Doctors may lose patients that way, because middle-aged and older adults do not like to hear--or admit--that they are 'fat'.

With my Juan's Wellness classes for super-seniors during the past decade I sometimes broached the subject head on.  I would plot everyone's BMI on a large billboard chart (like the one shown) at the start of a new group session, and compare the participants' lines again in two or three months' time, and again in a year.  BMI is a formulaic value based on height and weight; this particular visual-aid chart was developed at the University of Texas.  To illustrate, an individual's line that crosses the mid point in the yellow shaded band (BMI 20-25) is in a normal healthy range; a line crossing in the blue band (BMI 25 - 30) is overweight; and over 30 is considered seriously overweight.  The chart shows a beginning classes' results with two or three participants' lines crossing in the latter range, i.e. seriously overweight.  Half a year later, they were all in the normal or slightly-overweight category: I will publish that follow-up chart in a subsequent well as some of their euphoric comments.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 7 in my book about this tricky subject:  "...And the payoff (for those who lose weight) is that it is much easier to move around, to accomplish tasks, and not to find oneself quickly fatigued or exhausted.  But for the 'considerably overweight' people--even though they know all of the above--it is still extraordinarily difficult to begin a new eating regimen.  Nevertheless, you HAVE to keep trying.  And so do your parents.  it's worth it!"