We have just come back from Europe, where we celebrated our 39thwedding anniversary. The trip came about because Steve had been invited to speak at a conference, the International Psychogeriatric Association, which was held in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Santiago de Compostela turned out to be a lovely town. For over a thousand years, the town has been the destination of a great pilgrimage to visit relics of one of the apostles, St. James. The relics are housed in a magnificent cathedral. Pilgrims from all over Europe walk to Santiago de Compostela to visit the relics.
The conference was quite interesting. Of particular note was the importance several speakers placed on providing high quality medical and social care for persons with dementia. That sounds obvious, yet often the obvious medical problems get overlooked, partly because persons with dementia sometimes can’t report problems and partly because medical personnel are not trained to look for problems. As a result, undiagnosed health problems and untreated pain diminish the person’s quality of life and may compromise further the person’s cognitive ability. Speakers also discussed how social care and the quality of the environment can likewise make a difference for people with dementia.
Since we were going to be in Europe, we decided to stay longer and celebrate our anniversary in Paris. We have been to Paris many times, but we still enjoy going there. We have seen the major tourist sites, and so we don’t feel pressure to cram in visits to the Louvre or to ride up to the top of the Eiffel Town. Instead, we have a leisurely pace. We may seek out a small museum we have not been to before, or just walk through an interesting neighborhood. Judy keeps a list of restaurants in Paris that she reads about, and we visit new places as well as old favorites.
We have found a hotel that we like that is down the block from our favorite bakery, Gontran Cherrier, where we buy breakfast pastries and a half baguette for later in the day. The hotel is in a neighborhood that is off the main tourist route and it looks like a movie set of Paris 75 or 100 years ago. The narrow streets are filled with cafes and shops. In the morning, we see shopkeepers opening up. The fish monger has a prominent location at a street corner, and each morning except Monday starts setting out fish on ice in front of the store. The same routine is going on at other stores. You can get almost anything you might need. Beginning around 4 pm, the cafes begin to fill up with local people, having a drink and sometimes staying for dinner. People are out walking as well, and children can ride on a merry-go-round in the middle of the neighborhood.
You might ask, why make a big deal on a 39thanniversary? Why not wait a year to the 40thanniversary and do a big trip then? First, of course, was the opportunity. We were in Europe anyway. But more importantly, what we have learned about aging is to take advantage of opportunities now, because you never know what might happen in the next year. This is not a morbid thought. Rather, we are being practical and know that at some point we won’t be able to make this kind of trip. We have known a lot of older people who say they regret not having traveled to some place special when they still could, but we have never met anyone who said they regretted having made a trip or pursued some other opportunity to do something they always wanted to do.
While we were in Paris, we had time to talk about the places we love to visit and things we like to do, and we hit on an idea that is perfect for our 40th. Tune in next year to find out what it is.