Making Travel Easy and Fun for Seniors

Leisure travel, be it a weekend getaway, a pilgrimage, a visit to friends or family, or a holiday to new places, is a great way to relax.  Travel can be fun, exciting and rejuvenating. What’s more it really helps broaden our horizons and expand our knowledge as we discover new places in Sri Lanka and abroad.  Irosha Wijetunga of Travel Concepts, has a few tips for the readers of The Senior Station which can help make travelling far more easy and enjoyable for elders.

The first thing Irosha recommends is to evaluate your choice of destination. It is important to consider what you want out of your holiday – relaxation, adventure, discovery, or a spiritual retreat. You must consider your budget and physical capacity as well.  For example, discovering new places does necessarily have to entail travelling to far flung places. You will find lots of new places to visit in and around Sri Lanka that can be relatively easy on the wallet and not so difficult to get.

  • Avoid peak travel seasons like school holidays when booking your vacation. Tickets and accommodation become more expensive during that time and places tend to be far more crowded
  • Plan to spend a few days at each place if you are travelling to more than one location so that you have time to relax and really enjoy each destination
  • Cruising is a beautiful way of travelling for seniors where one can experience the world at an easy pace. It’s a trip full of entertainment, as well as an opportunity to make new friends. Tour groups are also recommended especially for those travelling alone.

Some things to remember when travelling overseas: 

  • Always take a few extra copies of your travel documents with you along with a clearly marked sheet that has the details of a friend or relative to be contacted in unexpected emergencies
  • Also carry a set of instructions, checklists or reminders written in bold lettering. This will help you avoid mishaps like losing documents and ensure smooth travel
  • It helps to book an aisle seat onboard a plane or train in order to move freely if necessary. Sitting in one place for long periods may cause blood clots, and so flexing your calves and feet, and moving about occasionally would be advisable
  • At airports elders travelling with pace makers should not go through metal detectors. Instead they should inform the security personnel so that they can be screened separately.
  • Notify security personnel about patients who have diabetes and are carrying supplies such as vials, syringes, jet injectors, epiPens, infusers or insulin pumps. Insulin in any form or dispenser must be clearly identified.
  • Never place important medication in checked baggage as they can get lost or delayed. However remember that any liquid carried in hand luggage which is over 50 ml will need to be screened separately. Placing medication in separate clear plastic bags with the details clearly tagged is an idea to consider
  • It is also a good idea to include a list of allergies, medication and dosages, just in case a doctor’s visit is needed during your trip.
  • Should you require any oxygen, etc. onboard please ensure a formal medical form is signed by your physician and given to the airline at least 48 hours prior to your departure or you may be refused boarding
  • Personal wheelchairs, walking sticks and other mobility aids need to be clearly marked. Certain walking sticks may not be allowed onboard so ensure that this is verified with the airline office or at the check-in counter prior to arrival at the gate
  • Wheel chair facilities are not meant for the disabled only. Walking in airports can be long and tiring, and all elders are entitled to this facility. The airline must be contacted prior to travel to avail of the facility which includes other airport assistance like carrying your baggage off the belt and taking it to the point of exit. Passengers maybe charged an extra fee for such assistance though

Checking in to a Hotel 

  • When booking rooms in a hotel, you may want to request for rooms in the ground floor level wherever possible. It makes movement so much easier. Of course one would need to make these requests in advance to avoid disappointment
  • Upon check-in always get a card from the hotel with their address just in case you lose your bearings when returning after a tour
  • Ensure that you store your valuables in the locker provided
  • Also always get familiar with the fire exits as you check-in

Travel Insurance 

  • Insurance is highly recommended for travel and health, and most insurance companies provide policies for passengers up to the age of 70 without much effort. For those above the age of 70 however, the options are limited.
  • Paying for your air ticket by credit card is one way of obtaining a free insurance policy. It is however important to check with the issuing bank if there is an age limit applicable and what exactly is covered when obtaining these policies
  • It is also vital for the policy to be valid for minimum of one month beyond the scheduled return date. This will help if in case your return date is extended due to unavoidable circumstances

On a closing note don’t let planning a holiday seem like a complicated task. Putting everything together can also be a lot of fun. And once these systems and checks are put in to place they are easy to follow through on each subsequent trip. So just decide on where you want to go and never look back!

For more information on travel and bookings of flights and hotels please contact Travel Concepts directly on the numbers below.


TEL : + 94 11 2793700 / 2793800
FAX : + 94 11 2792137

MOB : +94 772 637997



Getting The Best Out of Insurance

In the second of our series on investments for seniors, Chamila Nagendran, Managing Director/CEO of Infinity Trust Wealth Advisors (PVT) Ltd. talks about the need to invest in an insurance policy. The insurance options available to senior citizens reduces with advancing age, it therefore makes sense to acquire cover as early as possible.

What are the Insurance policies available for seniors? For example after 50 is it possible to get medical or life cover. If not at what age would you consider getting insurance in order to reap the best out of the available policies?

Most of insurance companies prefer clients who are less than 60 years since there is a lesser risk of illness compared to seniors. However, many insurance companies do provide an insurance cover for seniors with a higher cost and after a health check up.

We need health insurance because we cannot predict what our medical bills will be. Given the high cost of healthcare, having a health cover protects us financially in the event of an unexpected serious illness or injury.

What should a senior look for in a medical cover?

  • Maximum age limit they could continue a health cover
  • Premium of the health cover compared to the benefits and limitations of the health cover
  • Claim procedures (is it a reimbursement or will they settle the full bill directly to the hospital)
  • Exclusions (such as will it cover dental surgeries)

Can a person integrate different policies together? If yes, then how is it beneficial to get more than one policy?

Yes one can integrate different policies and create a unique cover for oneself. Ever-so-often people integrate a life cover along with health cover. Most of the life covers are include an investment strategy to provide a lump sum amount after a long period of insurance.

Till what age do the medical policies provide cover? Are policies something you renew every year or are they valid for a couple of years? Also can you get lifetime cover?

Normally all medical insurance providers initially grant cover for a period of 12 months. Thereafter, we can renew the policy annually up-to the required number of years.

Does the premium increase with age?     

There are a number of factors that influence the annual increase in premiums. The main reasons though, are medical inflation and the increasing age of the insured person which increases the chance of illnesses or injuries.

How do deductibles normally work?

By having a deductible there will be a reduction in the premium payable by the member. A deductible will be applicable on an annual basis and depends on the claims made by the member.

Many people don’t have medical insurance. What are the best policies available to seniors in Sri Lanka internationally and locally? Is it a good idea to get international cover as opposed to getting only local cover?

When one gets international health cover, usually the member can get medical treatment locally as well as in hospitals located overseas, and the limit of cover is very vast and substantial. Local cover is applicable only for treatment in local hospitals and limits of cover are not very much in comparison. This is because there is a huge difference in the price of medical care in Sri Lanka and abroad.

If you are unable to get a cover due to medical reasons are there any other options available for seniors?

If an insurance provider declines a client’s application for cover there is unfortunately no other option available for a senior citizen to obtain medical cover.

At the time of cashing in your life policy, what are the options for re-investment?

Some prefer to reinvest their money into another insurance cover; however this could depend on person to person.

How does travel insurance work for young seniors and older seniors (75 and above)?

Travel cover can be obtained form the age of 18-70years.  Following options are available to prospective client.

Annual cover – The member can make any number of trips but in each trip minimum stay of 30 or 45 days should be adhere to.

Single trip cover – cover can be obtained only for a stay overseas for a particular number of days required by the member.


The Senior Station investment specialist

Chamila Nagendran is the Managing Director/CEO of Infinity Trust Wealth Advisors (PVT) Ltd. She is a financial professional with over 20 years experience in the banking and finance sector in Sri Lanka, as well as in the United Kingdom.  She is a qualified independent financial advisor from Charted Institute of Securities and Investments London.

Over the last 7 years she has been engaged in client relationship management, providing a range of financial services. She is passionate about providing holistic financial advice so that her clients can achieve their financial goals and dreams. She says that working together with her clients and being part of their financial success gives her great pleasure, which keeps her motivated and encouraged as she takes on this very demanding yet rewarding career.

Chamila has considerable experience working with clients who want to manage their retirement investment portfolios. Through a series of frequently asked questions, she has shared with The Senior Station some useful pointers and tips which can help seniors in managing their financial assets.


Invest for a Secure Retirement


What are the first things to consider when one wants to plan one’s retirement?

First thing to consider is savings savings savings! Someone who’s thinking of their retirement hopefully is still working. Best thing to do is start saving the excess between your income and expenditure. It’s best to have an idea of your retirement needs so you have a target as you save.

The traditional equation is Income – Expenses = Savings

But I recommend Income – Savings = Expenses

This way you decide how much you are going to save and manage expenditure accordingly.

Expert says you need about 70% of your pre-retirement income to maintain the same lifestyle.

Does retirement necessarily mean a dip in lifestyle options?

Not at all. If you start as early as possible and plan your retirement smartly, the compounding effect will make sure you get there without putting away large sums of money. However, if you haven’t started yet, it’s never too late to save, you will only have to bear the cost of delay. The longer one takes to plan, the more investments might be needed in order to achieve your objective. Retirement means you have more time to enjoy your remaining life and that’s why it’s important to plan way ahead when you are at a peak of your career and earning capacities.

Does a retirement plan vary hugely between a young retiree (about 60 years) and an older senior (70 years and above)?

The risk appetite a typical client will take varies according to age. There will be a variation in the planning process. It depends on the individual circumstances too.

What is an ideal investment mix for retirement which will give us an assured monthly income and  a decent standard of living? Would this result in depreciation of assets/capital over a period of time?

A typical mix for a retired senior would be 20% in to equity based investments to beat inflation where you don’t have to eat in to capital over time and 80% in to fixed income based instruments. This again can be broken in to 60% to be invested in top rated finance companies and 40% in to banks. Your 20% invested in equities will over time grow more than the remaining 80% of your fixed income and will prevent capital erosion.

This typical mix can change again according to individual circumstances.

Does such an investment plan allow easy liquidity for unexpected calamities?

The need for liquidity is the reason why majority of the funds on a typical senior citizen plan are placed in fixed income asset classes. Also when investing in fixed income components we recommend larger deposits divided in to smaller amounts. This way you don’t uplift the whole fixed asset base and will not be subjected to additional penalties.

Do banks give special rates for senior citizens?

Yes banks and finance companies give an additional 1% to senior citizens as compared to normal citizens. Also there is a government stipulated scheme from all banks where senior citizens get a higher rate of interest on deposits of up to Rs 1 million. (Soon to be increased to 1.5%)

The stock market has been very shaky in the past couple of years? Why would one want to invest in it?

Stock market returns are not like fixed income returns. One has to be able to invest in the share market with a long-term view and with no immediate need to liquidate. If you take past performance in Sri Lanka as well as globally, stock market returns have out performed fixed income returns in the long term. Being in share market is mandatory to beat inflation and to preserve wealth. However the status of the market when you enter in to it will significantly impact your investment plan. You need to have holding power and should be able to be there for the long run.

Are there any tax benefits for senior citizens?

There is no withholding tax for senior citizens on their savings and fixed income investments.

What is considered a long term period for an investment for a senior? How would that vary with the age of the investor and the amount they have to invest?

A maximum of 5 years is considered long term for a senior citizen. Investment planning is an ongoing process and more time in hand will give better returns with less risks, and with even small regular investments.

If an instrument gives very attractive interest rates should we lock in our money for a long period?

Yes, if the instrument is above the bench mark and the company providing it has solid financial records, I would say locking in for long term is advisable. Maximum term should be 5 years depending on the strength and stability of the institution.

Many pensioners have lost their life savings to fraudulent schemes. How does one protect their savings from such instruments?  Are ratings of these institutions available to the public?

 It is always advisable to seek professional advice from a reputed qualified independent financial advisor. Having a no obligation chat with one of them will provide you with a lot of options to consider. Rating reports are definitely available for the public however understanding the content might not be easy for everybody. One should never invest with financial institutions which are not registered with the Central Bank. A lot of fraud and misleading of public have been under taken by institutions which were not registered with Central Bank.

What is the role of an investment  manager and what are the benefits of employing one?

 Investment management involves the professional management of various financial securities and assets belonging to an investor for the purpose of earning maximum benefits. It involves setting investment objectives, formulating an investment plan and establishing of the portfolio strategy.

The typical role of an investment manager/advisor is to:

  • Discern the best strategy for investors,
  • Analyze status of finances and assist in asset allocations, monitor investments on an ongoing basis,
  • Help gain maximum benefits from investments,
  • Provide advice on investment areas and finally handle investor decisions and investments with the utmost discretion.

Every individual Interested in securing his or her future through investment, should consider employing an investment manager or advisor to have a planned approach to their future.

The Senior Station Investment Specialist


Chamila Nagendran is the Managing Director/CEO of Infinity Trust Wealth Advisors (PVT) Ltd. She is a financial professional with over 20 years experience in the banking and finance sector in Sri Lanka, as well as in the United Kingdom.  She is a qualified independent financial advisor from Charted Institute of Securities and Investments London.

Over the last 7 years she has been engaged in client relationship management, providing a range of financial services. She is passionate about providing holistic financial advice so that her clients can achieve their financial goals and dreams. She says that working together with her clients and being part of their financial success gives her great pleasure, which keeps her motivated and encouraged as she takes on this very demanding yet rewarding career.

Chamila has considerable experience working with clients who want to manage their retirement investment portfolios. Through a series of frequently asked questions, she has shared with The Senior Station some useful pointers and tips which can help seniors in managing their financial assets.



– By Sajeda Akbarally

There has been much written about men- issues pertaining to men, exercises for men etc. Most of my work in the fitness area is with women. So, I thought I would dedicate this article to women, a specific group of women – the older women. You can decide whether you fall into this group J. Many “older” women ask me whether they are too “old” to start exercising. You are never too old!

Did you know that? :-

  • After the age of 30 women lose approximately 3kg of muscle mass in every succeeding decade of life.  For people whose diet is inadequate this figure can be as high as 20% to 40%.
  • Women who are inactive, and who have poor dietary habits run a higher risk of osteoporosis in later life.
  • A woman’s risk of death from heart disease, usually due to a poor lifestyle, increases by approximately 400% after menopause. The rate of stroke also increases dramatically at this time in life.
  • Women with diabetes at any age are at a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke than those women who do not have diabetes.

There is considerable evidence to support the theory that exercise works directly to improve your health, lower the risk of developing life-threatening problems and provides an added indirect benefit of keeping your weight down.

So what is the recommendation?

Many health professionals recommend that older women engage in regular cardiovascular exercise (e.g. walking, cycling, swimming) as well as regular strength training.

In order to counter the natural muscle wastage  (3kg every decade after age 30) you need to perform some degree of strength training. This will help preserve, if not, increase muscular strength and endurance, particularly in the leg and hip muscles, which often become weaker with age.

It is highly advisable that you have a resistance program (weight training program) specifically designed for your needs. In this way you can address any problem areas, or other areas that require special focus.

If you are not a “gym” person, you can consider group classes such as circuit training (refer my last article).

If you are exercising at home it may be worthwhile engaging the services of a personal trainer to give you some guidelines as what is safe and advisable for you to do on your own.

Advantages of Exercise for older Women

Aside from the fundamental health benefits and weight control, as already outlined, there are a number of practical benefits and allied health benefits. These include:-

Daily activities become easier and less tiring as you gain stamina, with increased cardiovascular fitness. People who exercise generally have more energy to get through the day.

  • Strength training helps older women tone, shape and strengthen muscle fibres, minimizing the “fatty marbling” within the muscle that results in a flabby, weak muscle.
  • Exercise helps increase metabolism, and bone density – both factors which ordinarily decline with age.
  • The risk of sustaining fractures resulting from osteoporosis can be mitigated with strength training.
  • Increasing your core (abdominal) strength will help to improve posture, and contribute towards a firmer looking abdomen.

Cautions to Older Women contemplating Exercise

  • If you are over 40 years of age I would recommend you get clearance from your doctor to start exercising if you have never exercised before, or if you have any concerns which may affect your ability to exercise.
  • Unless you have been exercising previously it is important to seek the guidance of a qualified trainer before commencing any physical training program.
  • It is imperative that you listen to your body, and do not push yourself beyond reasonable limits. Do not compare yourself with your younger compatriots, or with yourself “x” years ago. We all age, and need to accept that we cannot do what we once were capable of doing…

So there you have it – all the reasons why all you “older” ladies should consider exercising! Go for it!


Senior Station fitness guru – Sajeda Akbarally.

Sajeda Akbarally has been a fitness trainer and consultant at Lifestyle Fitness Lanka Pvt Ltd for about 15 years, training men, women and seniors in various exercise modes, and conducting fitness assessments and consultations.  Sajeda has conducted group classes specifically for seniors, focusing on the key areas of balance, strength and flexibility.  She advocates regular exercise in order to maintain a healthy body and mind. With the aging process the muscle mass and bone density in our bodies is reduced, making it increasingly difficult to exercise. Those who are able to keep up with a modest exercise regime find the greatest benefits to their daily lives.


Exercise for the Elderly


Early old age often coincides with retirement, and as such this is a time when many people who have been physically inactive due to work commitments up to retirement suddenly find the time to commence some sort of physical activity. By middle old age many have developed some physical disability, making exercise difficult if not impossible.

Today we look at a few different forms of exercise which are suitable in old age.

Advantages of Exercising in old age.

  • Aerobic exercise makes the heart stronger, this has been proven. Exercise can also keep blood pressure under control. Thus through exercise we can reduce our risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
  • Weight bearing exercise maintains bone mineral density, which naturally declines with old age. Loss of bone mineral density increases the risk of osteoporosis (thinning of bones) and fractures.
  • Exercise increases muscle strength, which also naturally declines with old age. Muscle weakness can lead to osteoarthritis, a painful condition affecting joints, which can be ameliorated by building muscle strength around the affected joint.
  • The immune system benefits through exercise. This means we can better ward off colds and flus, and may even lower our risk of many cancers.
  • Stress, anxiety and depression can also be reduced to some extent by exercise.
  • Being mobile in old age helps to control incontinence, constipation, poor wound healing and deep vein thrombosis.

Cautions to Exercising in old age

  • The health risks of exercising increase with age. Any senior person considering commencing an exercise program should certainly obtain a medical clearance beforehand.
  • Fast walking would be better than running or jogging, as it offers less strain on the heart, less stress on knees, and less chance of slipping.
  • As you age your vision, hearing and sense of balance deteriorate. Sports where there is a risk of collision with opponents or stationary objects should be avoided.
  • If you have a history of falls then be careful in pursuing activities which require a good sense of balance – like climbing, skiing, and cycling.

What should exercise in old age achieve?

No single form of exercise will achieve the six key objectives in old age – to improve

  1. Strength – to perform everyday tasks – walking, climbing the stairs, getting out of a chair
  2. Bone mineral density – particularly in the wrist, hip and spine
  3. Stamina – to avoid undue tiredness
  4. Power – the ability to use our muscles fast when we need them – eg. to prevent a trip from becoming a fall
  5. Balance
  6. Flexibility -to be able to perform everyday tasks.

We need to adopt a mix of exercise types to achieve all these goals.

Exercise options for the elderly

These are the ideal exercise options and their prescribed benefits:-

  1. Brisk Walking-  stamina and cardiovascular fitness, maintain muscle strength in the legs and help prevent bone loss.
  2. Swimming- develop muscle strength as well as cardiovascular fitness, improve flexibility in the shoulders. Weightlessness in water is an added benefit.
  3. Cycling- develop cardiovascular health, lower body strength and power, balance, ankle and foot flexibility. This requires balance.
  4. Tennis and badminton – maintain cardiovascular fitness, speed, stamina, muscle tone and power. Also bone density in the preferred arm, balance and flexibility.
  5. Keep fit classes/aerobics – structured class can bring all the benefits of different types of exercise. Teacher must be qualified to teach older people.
  6. Yoga, Pilates, Tai chi – Maintain and improve flexibility, muscle tone and strength. Reduce anxiety. Develop body awareness, and realize which body parts are becoming less efficient with age.

How much exercise do you need?

Not much. Once or twice a week for half an hour will be sufficient to maintain your independence. Exercise, once completed, should leave you feeling no more than pleasantly tired the next day.

Remember, exercise cannot restore tissue which has already been destroyed by old age or disease. It can, however, protect against a number of chronic diseases of old age. It will help to make the most of the residual function. Life expectancy can be increased, and partial and total disability delayed. In some cases, biological age can be reduced by as much as 20 years.  Thus exercise is a very important part of healthy living for senior citizens.

Senior Station fitness guru – Sajeda Akbarally.


Sajeda Akbarally has been a fitness trainer and consultant at Lifestyle Fitness Lanka Pvt Ltd for about 15 years, training men, women and seniors in various exercise modes, and conducting fitness assessments and consultations.  Sajeda has conducted group classes specifically for seniors, focusing on the key areas of balance, strength and flexibility.  She advocates regular exercise in order to maintain a healthy body and mind. With the aging process the muscle mass and bone density in our bodies is reduced, making it increasingly difficult to exercise. Those who are able to keep up with a modest exercise regime find the greatest benefits to their daily lives.


“I did what I loved, and fell in love with what I did”

– Inspiring story of Madhuri Mody –

When Madhuri Mody smiles, her eyes twinkle and light up. She’s one of those people who exudes energy and enthusiasm that can mesmerize you. When asked to summarize her life, she smiled and said “Mine can be described as a beautiful life because I did what I loved and fell in love with what I did.”

We at the Senior Station spent a breezy Friday morning photographing Madhuri, who generously agreed to model for our page. While speaking to her about her life we realized very soon that Madhuri’s was a story truly worth sharing….

“I have spent 52 years of my life in Sri Lanka. And I am now a Sri Lankan citizen. So I guess that makes me more Sri Lankan (the country of her birth is India),” she says beaming. “While my growing years were indeed the most exciting, I think that my time spent in Sri Lanka has been the most fulfilling.

I was born in a little town called Nasik, which is located at the foothills of the Western Ghats mountain range, about 150 km East of Mumbai. It was an idyllic and innocent life, typical for any small town child. Cocooned in the protection of an indulgent extended family which included my parents, brother, four sisters, aunts and many cousins, my days were filled with play and laughter. All the children went to the town school which could best be described as a small building with a few rooms. However even then, I knew there were bigger and better things in store for me.  I must say that I owe much to my father who encouraged me to pursue my every dream. When I was in the seventh grade I asked my father for a bicycle. He agreed to get me one, on one condition – that I would come first in class. The day I peddled to school on my brand new bicycle, I felt a gush of pride because I had won a hard earned prize. A passion for achievement began to bloom within my heart and I suddenly started to see opportunities everywhere I looked. Sanskrit was introduced in to our school about that time and I threw myself in to the subject. Not long after, I entered into a Sanskrit speaking competition and gave a speech entirely in Sanskrit on a national hero, Bal Gangadhar Tilak. I came third in the district!

The first major turning point in my life came when my family moved to Mumbai. To my young mind, the enormity of decision to move to this great metropolis was an eye opener and provided me with exposure to the larger world. Perhaps Mumbai then was far quieter than the overcrowded megapolis it is today, but for me, a little small town girl, it was an incredibly exciting new world. I enrolled myself in classes near my home where I was introduced to yoga and participated in a range of sports such as hockey and badminton. In college I thoroughly enjoyed sports and excelled in them all, playing inter college matches, and was the goal keeper of the hockey team. I think it was through sports that my personality truly blossomed and I never looked back.

One day I heard about the Bhosle Military School which ran regular military training camps for boys and girls. I convinced my cousin to cycle with me to the academy to collect a set of enrollment forms. It was almost 7 kilometers away from Nasik! My family members were furious when they found out that one of their girls wanted to undertake military training. However, once again my father took my side and supported me. I was able to attend a 20 day camp in which I was trained in archery, rifle shooting, horse riding and other military exercises. It was an exhilarating experience and inspired me to enroll in the NCC (National Cadet Corps). My moment of pride was when I was one amongst just eight girls who were selected to represent the State of Maharashtra at the annual Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.

The Republic Day Parade is perhaps the largest public event in India in which all states compete in cultural and military displays. That year, Maharashtra won first place in the parade and to my astonishment and delight I was chosen to collect the trophy from the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Oh what a special moment that was! The joy and pride I felt cannot be described in words. That moment will always be etched in my memory.


My mother was the person who taught me the skills that a young woman needed. I soon grew in to a young woman of marriageable age and finding a good alliance for me preoccupied my parents and other elders in the family. I was presented with many fine suitors and whilst I knew marriage was inevitable, I turned every proposal down for the fear of my dreams being stifled within the confines of married life.  But all that resistance changed the day I met Kirti.

Kirti was different from all the men I had met. I wouldn’t say my heart went in to a flutter when I saw him. He was tall, but not really handsome. There was however, a pleasantness about him. He was intelligent, kind and humorous – very solid in a quiet sort of way. He came from a family that was learned, well traveled and in many ways very progressive. My father had learnt that society in Sri Lanka allowed many more freedoms for women and knowing my strong headed ways, advised me that perhaps this would be the ideal match for me.  Things moved very quickly from there and before I knew it, I was married to Kirti and moved to Sri Lanka. The second big turning point in my life!

Sri Lanka was a whole new learning experience for me. I don’t think I would have found it easy to adjust if not for absolute support I got from my new family and most of all from Kirti. My big disappointment however, came when my father-in-law refused to allow me to work in the family business. I decided instead of feeling sorry for myself, I would find other ways to spread my wings. I took up various crafts, and learnt the local language and as much as I could about Sri Lanka. I learnt about Ayurveda and acupuncture and almost became professional in the fields. However, not too long after marriage, my son Sandeep, and then daughter Deepali, came along and consumed all my time and attention.

It was being married to Kirti though, that made everything perfect. He was a truly noble man. He was a wonderful father and husband.  My children doted over him and I felt completely secure in his care. Kirti recognized my many talents and encouraged me to use them. I participated in the activities of the Gujarati Mandal in Colombo where I taught Indian dancing, which I learnt in my youth. I also was one of the founders of the Sri Lanka chapter of the Chinmaya Mission which promotes the study of ancient Vedic scriptures. You could say I am a spiritual explorer, and was interested in ways to connect with the divine. This interest cuts across religions. For example, ever since I was young, I have been interested in Sufi philosophy and many other spiritual teachers.

At 56, I faced the most dramatic and traumatic turning point in my life. In 1996 Kirti was struck with cancer and after two heartbreaking years he left us. My world was shattered! My soul mate, my mentor and my dearest friend and husband was gone. I felt completely crushed and thought I would never survive without him. But I found the courage largely thanks to my children as well as a final letter from Kirti encouraging me to stay strong and independent. I especially drew a lot of strength from my daughter Deepali who stayed rock solid by my side, though she refused to pamper me. Sometimes I resented that she would not step in to share in my responsibilities.  In hindsight I realized she was just helping me get strong again.

About this time, the family business and assets had been divided amongst the various family members. I took charge of Kirti’s share and restructured the business to make it more profitable. I managed the finances, negotiated new transaction terms and sorted out all the tax and legal issues that arose from Kirti’s passing away. It was no easy task for me as I was not well versed with the business and therefore I was particularly proud of how I executed it all.

After Kirti passed away, I learnt to reinvent myself personally as well. I made new friends and looked at new ways to grow intellectually and spiritually. I was one of the early members of the Theosophical Society as well as the SAARC Women’s Organization. I still dance at Gujarati Festivals and am learning to play the harmonium. I am also very closely involved with charitable institutions that helps those who are suicidal and suffer from deep emotional distress. Otherwise I fill my days with reading authors like Deepak Chopra, Vimala Thakker, Kambiz Naficy, J Krishnamurthi, and the publications of the Chinmaya Mission. I also enjoy being connected with friends through What’s App and emails.

A friend has nicknamed me ‘Ever-ready’. I suppose it’s because I am always willing to try something new.   I guess I am just trying to keep my life meaningful.”

-As narrated by Madhuri Mody



Our Personal Ecosystem

Our Personal Ecosystems Age as We Do

Did you know that your body is actually a living ecosystem that support trillions of lives! That’s right. Each of us host trillions of microbes inside as well as on the surface of our body that not only live off us, but also contribute to our well- being. What’s more, our personal ecosystem or microbiome is unique to us very much like our fingerprints.

The study of the human microbiome is gaining huge momentum. Researchers are particularly interested in the microbes within the gut or stomach. These little organisms that live in the lining of our stomachs and intestinal tract have a very important job to do in keeping us healthy, as they are essential to digestion.  Research shows that they:

  • Produce vitamins K, B7 (biotin), and B12
  • Help regulate appetite
  • Help control inflammation
  • Help control cholesterol
  • Stimulate the immune system
  • Are involved in production of 90% of your serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter

An imbalance in the mix of bacteria living in the intestinal tract or a shortfall of certain microbes has been linked to obesity, depression, and chronic diseases, from heart disease to diabetes.

Studies show that the ecosystem we support ages as we do!

By the time you were three years old, your digestive tract, especially your colon, was home to a community of diverse bacteria. Some of those microbes got there from your mother as you passed through her birth canal. If you were breastfed, you accumulated even more. And you picked up some bugs from your environment as you played with other kids, petted the cat and made mud pies in the dirt. Research has shown that keeping clean is important. However, keeping your environment overly sanitized might actually work against you.

As a healthy adult, the bacterial ecosystem that is unique to you is well established and fairly stable. However, those bugs can take a beating when you take antibiotics to treat an infection or eat a high-sugar, low-fiber diet of processed foods. The chemicals in the packaged food we eat, is harmful to us and the microbes in our gut.

By the time your hair turns gray and your joints begin to stiffen, your microbiome has changed considerably. In your senior years, your microbiome bears little resemblance to the one of your youth.

Although researchers haven’t pinpointed exactly how aging changes your intestinal flora, they do know that certain factors can be damaging:

  • Your intestinal tract has its own nervous system with as many nerve cells as your spinal cord. It’s not clear how the gut and the bacteria within it interact with the brain, but scientists know that chronic stress disrupts neural communication. Experts suspect an unhealthy mix of gut bacteria could also contribute to depression.
  • A high-fat, high-sugar diet that is low in natural fiber does not support bacteria in the colon. These bacteria need fiber (got from fruit and vegetables) to create inflammation-fighting fatty acids. A poor dietary mix causes many of these bacteria to be depleted and is the reason for many of the diseases of aging.
  • A diverse mix of healthy bacteria requires a diverse diet. We tend to buy and eat the few standard fruit and vegetables available at supermarkets which reduce the number of types of bacteria present in our digestion system.
  • Gastrointestinal conditions that often occur in seniors such as diverticulitis, decreased saliva production, and tooth loss which also impact gut bacteria.

How do we keep our ecosystem or microbiome healthy as we age?

Here’s what you can do to boost the number and type of healthy bacteria in your tummy:

  • Eat different types of foods that are low in fat and sugar, and high in fiber diet. Eat as many season fruit and vegetables as you can and if possible eat home grown or organic produce.
  • Make small portions of fermented foods part of your daily diet. These foods help replenish your gut bacteria. These include curd, yogurt, cheese, pickles and acharus.
  • Practice stress relief — whatever technique is comfortable for you. Try meditation, or listening to soft, instrumental music.
  • Exercise daily. It not only helps relieve stress but also contributes to a robust population of gut bacteria.
  • Brush and floss regularly. Keeping your gums healthy and holding on to your teeth as you age allows you to eat a chewy and diverse, fiber-rich diet.
  • Don’t take antibiotics unnecessarily. And, if you do, replenish your gut bacteria with fermented foods and possibly a probiotic supplement. Clinical trials show that taking a probiotic with the antibiotic reduces the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.


Art of grandparenting

Parenting In Partnership With Grandparents

Now I have fabulous a system in place. Every Saturday my kids spend the night with their grandparents. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. My little fellows brighten up the weekend for my parents. The kids love it because they get totally pampered. And for my husband and me, we get that much needed downtime at the end of the week. I find grandparents bring certain roundedness to a child’s upbringing by filling in the gaps. They provide love and solace, and act as a cushion against many of the usual stresses that children have to deal with while growing up. And yet often parents and grandparents face huge conflicts while balancing out their roles in a child’s upbringing. The trick is in appreciating the value of each other’s participation in a child’s life and establishing clear boundaries for both parties.

Working through the pitfalls

Communication is pivotal to the relationship between parents and grandparents. Here are few pointers for grandparents to ensure harmony in their relationships with their children and grandchildren

  • Respect  parental rules – Grandparents  have to respect the parenting decisions made by their children. Even if it will bring a smile on the little one’s face, do not break parental rules like sleep-time routines, TV time and the amount of candy a child is allowed to eat. These rules are enforced for the benefit of children and when grandparents say it’s OK to break them, it’s difficult to discipline kids.
  • Don’t buy your grandkids’ affection – It’s tempting for grandparents to shower their grandchildren with gifts, but check with the child’s parents before you buy more toys. Maybe you can substitute some of your gift giving with activities, and do something with your grandchild that you both will love.
  • Do not play favorites – Some grandparents indulge one grandchild more than the others. Sometimes this happens rather unwittingly. Children are very sensitive and can be hurt by this and grandparents have to be very conscious that all their grandchildren feel equally loved.

Parents too have to make an extra effort in nurturing the relationship between grandparents and their children. Make sure there is regular one-on-one time spent with grandparents. Facilitate activities kids can do with their grandparents like visits to the park or a movie. If the families are living far apart, then a regular call, web chat or email will keep grandparents connected with the lives of kids. Keep them posted on milestones, such as birthdays, awards won and many more. Share information about children’s friends, interests and hobbies. One of the greatest challenges of growing older is the sense of not being able to keep up and we have to sensitive to this need of our elders.

Physical limitations of the older generation are another key issue. Sometimes older people cannot cope with too much activity and get distressed. In these instances limiting the amount of time spent with grandchildren or having someone to help during visits would be advisable. Of course these should be decided upon together with the grandparents and with their approval.

While grandparents need to accept that their children may have a different philosophy for bringing up the little ones. There is a lot to be gained from their experience. Giving grandparents an ear, and carefully considering their advice will make them feel relevant in a child’s upbringing. Of course you have to be able to make grandparents understand that the final decision is yours.

Another reason for a breakdown in relationships is the competitiveness for a child’s attention and love. In these instances both parents and grandparents need to realize that both relationships have a very different dimension to it, and both are very important for the emotional wellbeing of a child. Children have a huge capacity to love and to seek love, and both parents and grandparents will find a special place in the little ones’ hearts.

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