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Judson Haims: Dangers of dehydration — pay attention to the signs

As we all know, our bodies are composed of mostly water — nearly 65 percent. This makes it imperative that we focus on hydration at all times of the year. Unfortunately, most of us only consider combating our body's loss of water during the summer months, when it is hot outside and we can feel ourselves losing water through perspiration. That also is the time when we most often hear about the need to hydrate: "Drink plenty of water."

Not only does water help our body regulate our temperature, it also flushes waste via urination, lubricates and cushions our joints, assists in digestion, and helps stabilize our heart beat. Water keeps every part of our body working properly.

Here in the mountains of Colorado, winter months and altitude can greatly exacerbate one's likelihood of dehydration. Low humidity and oxygen levels, combined with higher rates of respiration and increased rates of sweat evaporation can cause people to lose water through respiration at high altitude twice as quickly than at sea level.

Below are some of the signs and symptoms of dehydration:

• Thirst

• Decreased urine output — urine will become concentrated and more yellow in color

• Fatigue

• Headache

• Dry nasal passages

• Dry, cracked lips, dry mouth, eyes stop making tears, sweating may stop, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting

• Lightheadedness (especially when standing)

• Irritability and confusion in the elderly also should be heeded immediately

For the elderly, dehydration can present symptoms that may cause concern of other ailments such as cramps, low blood pressure, confusion and irritability, unconsciousness or delirium, and sunken eyes. In extreme circumstances dehydration may cause seizures, brain swelling, kidney stones and even compound ailments like diabetes and dementia.

Some reasons for lack of water retention include:

• Fever from the flu

• Diarrhea from a stomach virus

• Vomiting from stomach illness

• Increased urination from certain types of medications

• Diabetes

• The aging process may cause a reduction in a sense of thirst

As is often the case in medicine, prevention is the important first step in the treatment of dehydration. Here are six remedies and ways to prevent dehydration:

1. Fluid replacement is the treatment for dehydration. This can include: water, juice, soups, clear broth, popsicles, Jell-O, ice cream, milk, nutritional drink supplements and replacement fluids that may contain electrolytes.

2. Reduce or eliminate dehydrating beverages such as coffee, tea and soft drinks. Beware of alcohol intake, too. Alcoholic beverages increase risk of dehydration because the body requires additional water to metabolize alcohol and it also acts as a diuretic.

3. If you drink unhealthy beverages, you need to add even more water to your daily total intake.

4. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Most are high in water content.

5. Drink water throughout the day in small amounts. It is not good to suddenly gulp down 64 ounces of water. You can fill a 24- to 32-ounce tumbler in the morning, refill it by late morning, and refill it again in the afternoon.

6. Individuals with vomiting and diarrhea can try to alter their diet and use medications to control symptoms to minimize water loss.

Keep in mind: If an individual becomes confused or lethargic; if there is persistent uncontrolled fever, vomiting or diarrhea, or there are any other specific concerns, then medical care should be accessed. Call 911 for anyone with altered mental state — confusion, lethargy or coma.

Water helps every part of our body. Drink up!

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.

Giving Thought: Expanding early child care services in the area

In the past six years, the Aspen-to-Parachute region has successfully increased the number of early-childhood spaces by 24 percent. This means that hundreds more local children — more than 577 individuals, because most of them don't attend preschool full-time — are reaping the benefits of an education during the vital years between birth and age 5.

One of the pillars of Aspen Community Foundation's Cradle to Career Initiative (CCI) is ensuring that all of the region's young children are socially and cognitively ready to learn in kindergarten. And preschool figures prominently in preparing children for a classroom environment.

"Kids from 0 to 5 are our most vulnerable population," said Joni Goodwin, executive director of the Early Childhood Network that serves Basalt to Parachute. "That's when 90 percent of brain growth occurs and getting a child into a quality program is very important.

"That's not to say moms shouldn't stay home with their children, but for most families in our area that's just not a reality," she added.

In other words, when parents work full-time to pay the costly bills that go with life in the Roaring Fork Valley, they often don't have money for steady, high-quality child care. And even if they do have the financial resources, they can face an uphill battle to find a vacancy in a nearby preschool.

The Early Childhood Network's primary focus is to help connect parents with affordable, quality child care options in their communities. The Network also aims to improve the quality of local childcare through training, advocacy and coaching.

Building a solid early-childhood infrastructure is good for children, but there's also a family and workforce benefit. Stated simply, every day when a child is engaged at a quality preschool or child care program also is a day when mom and dad can work hard to put food on the table, secure in the knowledge that their child is safe and learning. Those are important ingredients of a healthy community.

Of course, while we're thrilled to have more of our children getting some preschool experience, the job of preparing those children for kindergarten is far from finished. For example, while 82 percent of incoming kindergarteners have attended some preschool, still only 62 percent of the total are demonstrating "readiness" for kindergarten.

"Even with such good participation, we still have some children who aren't meeting critical learning benchmarks," said Gretchen Brogdon, ACF's data and research director. "So what else is going on for those children?"

There are probable theories — problems at home, economic disadvantages, genetic factors and many more — but limited data to clarify the connection between young children's experiences and their readiness for learning. And other questions are presenting themselves.

We know that vulnerable children need high quality social and educational experiences with support for their families. Can we get better at developing specific kinds of early education programs that best suit them? And, we know more about the preschool-aged children (3- and 4-year-olds) than we know about the infants and toddlers in the community. What can be done to help these families and improve their prospects?

Our Cradle to Career Initiative is a multi-pronged effort with dozens of institutional partners to improve overall youth success from Aspen to Parachute, and we are learning every step of the way. In the coming weeks we'll share more about the data from these Cradle to Career efforts and what the research is telling us.

Another positive development we can report is that public awareness of the need for affordable early childhood education is growing, and both local and state officials are exploring ways to build a strong and sustainable early childhood system. A vast body of research confirms that public investments in early childhood education pay off handsomely in the long run.

"I think it's going to be a great year for early childhood," said Goodwin. "Awareness is growing statewide, even nationwide. We're not where we need to be, but I'm seeing a lot of steps in the right direction."

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Guest commentary: Solution to our country’s environmental challenges is ecological literacy

In this unique time, our federal leadership is taking no action to address climate change, is dramatically reducing environmental regulations that protect our air, water and food, and believes that the use of more fossil fuels is the solution to energy independence.

Personal politics aside, this direction reflects a lack of basic ecological literacy: no connection with nature (usually occurring in elementary school), no understanding of human dependence on ecosystem services (concepts learned in middle school), and no knowledge of even rudimentary environmental economics — where, in this case, short term economic gains will be offset by longer term external human health and mitigation costs (principles explored in high school and college).

At the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, we believe it doesn't matter whether you are liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, Muslim or Christian, American or foreigner, black or white. Being ecologically literate transcends these labels and leads you to the understanding that in a world of 7.5 billion people (and growing), we all must be conservationists.

The vast majority of conservationists don't even self-identify as such. But, if you would rather that bulldozers not raze the woods, desert or beach you love, then you might be a conservationist. If you like the idea that some places should be truly wild and free, then you might be a conservationist.

And, if you want clean air, clean water, clean food, a stable climate for you and your children — these transcend our differences and our politics — then you are a conservationist.

Ecological literacy has never been more important in our country's history. ACES works each day to teach and inspire citizens, students, policymakers, land managers and tourists to integrate environmental science and ecological literacy into the fabric of their daily lives.

This year, ACES is celebrating its 50th anniversary of "educating for environmental responsibility" as our founder, Elizabeth Paepcke, so presciently said decades ago.

ACES has come a long way in 50 years. In the past year alone, ACES taught life, earth and environmental sciences every day in regional schools to a total of 5,500 students, providing more than 2,700 in-school classes and 420 outdoor field programs. ACES partnered with 56 schools to help them meet state science standards and connect thousands of youth to the natural world.

At Rock Bottom Ranch, our "regenerative agriculture" techniques are used to educate both youths and adults how to grow food sustainably, highlighting replicable models of sustainable, low carbon-footprint agriculture while providing local, healthy food for regional residents.

ACES' forest division has forged groundbreaking new science on forest health through our Forest Health Index, State of the Forest Report, and our one-of-a-kind Forest Forecast model, showing where tree species will exist in the future given varying climate change scenarios.

ACES continues to protect and restore habitats in our region. Through the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan, we are helping restore local forests and enhance wildlife habitat in portions of the 4,860-acre planning area.

Through our lectures and events, we convene eco-luminaries from around the world and continue to incubate community leaders and promote civic engagement.

For the past 50 years, ACES has aimed to create an environmentally literate citizenry requisite for societal well-being. It is our hope that for the next 50 years ACES can continue to act as an integral part of Aspen's "environmental conscience," safeguarding the reason above all else why most of us choose to live here — the natural world.

At this crucial moment in our country's history, I want you to be aware of your own power — and shared responsibility — to determine the future of this planet.

I ask you to transcend the political fray, get involved, and join us in our work to educate for environmental responsibility.

Chris Lane has been the CEO of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies since 2012.

Mike Littwin: Trump’s shutdown battle cry — praise the Lord and pass the candy

Donald Trump is losing badly in the government shutdown battle, and that scares the hell out of me. I don't see any viable, face-saving way out of this self-inflicted crisis for Trump, and that scares me even more.

Here's where we are: Trump has invented an emergency in which no one really believes. (Remember the caravan? And the Middle Easterners? Did the invasion ever begin? Any casualties other than the kids who died in understaffed and ill-prepared border-patrol custody?)

And to fix the nonexistent emergency at the border — yes, there's a problem at the border of long standing, but not an emergency — he is proposing the same build-a-wall solution he has been proposing for years, except it's now made of steel instead of concrete. Either way, more than half the country believes the wall — which Mexico was supposed to pay for — is somewhere between unnecessary and ridiculous.

As of Tuesday, the parties were at a standstill. By Wednesday, following Trump's poorly received Oval Office speech, matters got worse. Much worse, even though Trump apparently tried to make nice by beginning his Wednesday meeting with Congressional leaders by passing out candy. CNN reports that at least one Butterfinger bar was in evidence.

The sweetness apparently ended there, though. Here's an account I've pieced together after listening to several participants relate the events: Democrats asked why Trump couldn't open the government and then negotiate about the wall. Trump then asked if he did that, would Democrats eventually agree on funding for a wall. Nancy Pelosi said, "No," and then Trump walked out. Chuck Schumer said he slammed the table. Mike Pence said there was no slamming. All seem to agree he used the words "Bye, bye" and that Trump said the meeting was a waste of his time. Sadly, no mention from any of the participants about what happened to the remaining candy.

The thing is, presidential walkouts are not even close to being the worst-case scenario. I mean, TSA workers are already doing a sick-out. But, as you know, Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to build the wall without congressional approval, thereby attempting to solve an emergency that doesn't exist with a solution that wouldn't work and meanwhile causing a constitutional crisis — which, I confess, I've long thought was coming. For those keeping score, that would count as the pre-Mueller-report constitutional crisis, or, as one friend wrote, the next-to-last constitutional crisis of Trump's (two-year) administration.

Could Trump get away with that? It would be a way to reopen the government, although the matter would certainly wind up in court. As we've learned, presidents do have wide powers in case of an emergency, but what if you declare an emergency when there isn't one? Who gets to decide when it's an emergency and when it's a power grab? For Trump, the benefit would be he could reopen the government while the courts take months, even years, to decide the issue. The risk, of course, is that meanwhile democracy dies.

We got a hint Wednesday when Trump was asked by a reporter what his "threshold" was for declaring a national emergency. Trump was — shock — apparently unprepared for the question and answered it this way: that declaring a national emergency was his fallback position.

"My threshold will be if I can't make a deal with people that are unreasonable," Trump said. Of course, if we build a wall every time someone is unreasonable in Washington, the Great Wall of China would have to be the fallback position.

In defending the idea of the wall, Trump fired back at Democrats who had called the wall medieval-era technology. "They say it's a medieval solution, a wall. It's true, because it worked then and it works even better now," Trump said, as we waited for him to move on to catapults and moats.

There are other options. Someone could give in. Except that the Democrats won't and Trump can't — the base in either case would revolt. Or Trump could try to trade the future of the DACA kids for the wall, which Democrats once proposed and which he rejected. I doubt if Democrats, who are winning the battle of the polls, would make that deal again. And if Trump did agree to the deal, he'd get the same blowback from Fox, Coulter, Rush, et al.

So, he could …

Well, I hope it's not another Oval Office TV appearance, which I guarantee didn't change anyone's mind. Presidents speak to the country from the Oval Office only in true emergencies. In Trump's brief but lie-filled speech, delivered in his teleprompter-style monotone, he attempted to turn wall-funding into a humanitarian venture, even reading the lines that this is "a crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul."

At that point, the viewer had two options — throw up a little in your mouth or laugh out loud. The kids-in-cages guy is going the humanitarian route. Trump must have believed that Pelosi and Schumer would be moved by his sudden attention to the children. In any case, Trump was fortunate that the Democratic response to the president, given jointly by Pelosi and Schumer while sharing a podium, was just as low energy as Trump's speech. On Twitter, the scene was being compared to Grant Wood's American Gothic, although, to be fair, the Dem response apparently got better ratings than Trump did.

That ratings thing must drive Trump crazy, but not as crazy as the fact of his reputed deal-making skills being so exposed. And, let's be honest, after the candy-passing/walkout fiasco, Trump has no real idea what to do next — and that may be the scariest thing yet.

Mike Littwin runs Sundays in the Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com

Guest commentary: Aspen city council candidate guided by seven key principles

I am proud to be running for Aspen City Council.

I was fortunate to move here 14 years ago, and to be on skis at Snowmass at 15 months. My grandparents came here in '52. My girlfriend's grandfather helped build our town. They, and so many of you, worked hard to make it what it is.

It was not easy shaping Aspen into what it is now. The walking malls were deeply contentious.

The creation of the Real Estate Transfer Tax, the lodging tax, the Red Brick, the Wheeler, and keeping the straight shot out of Aspen — twice — were all decided by less than 85 votes.

Now again, we face big challenges. This council has lost its vision and its backbone. Our middle is eroding. The middle classes, middle ages and affordable businesses are vanishing. We are not doing enough to plan for our climate future. If we do not rebuild our middle, Aspen as we know it will cease to exist.

I believe these trends can be slowed and reversed if we work together. With belief in one another and a collective willingness to do hard things, we cannot fail.

I have taken the five-generation-pledge: to leave for my grandkids a town better than the one my grandparents left me, and this goal drives me. I ask you to join me in this effort, guided by these seven principles:

Housing comes first. Everything else is moot if we don't live here. We must insist on housing retirees and 60 percent of our workforce. There is no community of character without the characters who live in it.

Affordable business matters. It's not just about inexpensive clothes. It's about year-round jobs and businesses that are uniquely Aspen.

Think long term. With climate change impending, our landfill almost full and fires on the rise, we need to invest in our resilience.

Care for one another. I have your back, you have mine. That is how Aspen was built, and what makes it special. We can disagree and still care about each other's well-being.

Be brave. No more changing paths with the winds. We must be bold enough to stand up to vocal minorities when their interests do not align with the spirit and the majority of Aspen.

Lead by example. Rather than complaining about what is wrong elsewhere, let us fix it here and show the world how it can be done. Truly local energy and food, 100 percent voter participation.

Do the work. Our time is spent on what we value. I pledge to you to be the hardest working person on council, as I have been on NextGen and Planning and Zoning, despite being a candidate with a full-time job.

I launch this campaign with my leadership collective: People with 10, 20, 50 years of knowledge that help me — and can help us all — learn, evolve and think through issues. I am grateful to have led the effort to change our local election day, ensuring more participation and better representation.

We have a simple question in this election: Do we pull up the drawbridge, turn off the lights and give up on the Aspen Idea, or do we double down on 70 years of tradition and do the bold things required to ensure that Aspen's best days are ahead? I insist on the latter.

I ask for your vote and the opportunity to do more.

Leading up to the March 5 municipal election, The Aspen Times is publishing one guest commentary from each candidate. Mesirow's website is http://www.SkippyForAspen.com, and he can be reached at Skippy.Mesirow@gmail.com.

She Said, He Said: Leave your brain out of bedroom, let sensuality be your guide

Dear Lori and Jeff,

My girlfriend and I have been together for four years and the frequent and passionate sex we used to have at the beginning of our relationship has become more routine and happens much less often. I still really enjoy being intimate with her but I often wonder if I'm able to satisfy her in the way she satisfies me. Bottom line is I wonder if she still really enjoys it. Any suggestions?

Baffled in Bed

Dear Baffled in Bed,

Jeff: The confusing and sometime awkward dynamics of sex are on the top of our most-asked-about list and a frequent topic of pop culture. In the nine-year run of "Seinfeld" (one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms), sex was a recurrent theme in many of the episodes. One of my favorites was "the tap" where Jerry asks George how his latest relationship is going. Here's the dialogue:

George: There's one little problem.

Jerry: Sexual?

George: Yeah. Well, I've never really felt confident in one particular aspect.

Jerry: Below the equator?

George: Yeah.

Jerry: Nobody does. Nobody knows what to do. You just close your eyes, you hope for the best. I really think they're happy if you just make an effort.

George: I don't know. Last time I got the tap.

Jerry: You got the tap?

George: You know, you're going along, you think everything's all right and all of a sudden you get that tap. You know, it's like "all right, that's enough, you're through."

Jerry: The tap is tough.

George: I got the hook. I wish I could get a lesson in that.

Jerry: It's a very complicated area.

George: You could go crazy trying to figure that place out.

Jerry: It's a hazy mystery.

This is a satirical but all-too-familiar look at men's lack of understanding of what women really want. The bottom line here is that there is no easy answer, no "10 Tips for the Best Sex Ever" solution to the complexities of sex — even if Cosmo (the magazine, not the "Seinfeld" character) says there is. What I can suggest is that you don't try to be the hero in bed. Find out what makes her hot directly from the source and, even though getting the tap can be painful, the reward for freely expressing your sexuality is greater than the fear of possible rejection.

Lori: As much as men want to reign supreme between the sheets, the truth is that women are equally responsible for their own pleasure. So if you blow her mind in bed, pat yourself on the back, but if her response is a little lackluster, don't automatically take it personally. There are a number of possible reasons for why sex may not be as satiating for her — stress, lack of sleep, hormones and confidence can all play a role. But there are some things you can do to create a greater pleasure potential. Dr. David Schnarch in his book, "Passionate Marriage," encourages partners to get out of their heads in the bedroom. Great sex, whether sweet or spicy, has much less to do with techniques than with connection — connection to each other and to your own sexuality. If you're caught up in thinking about what you're doing and how she's responding (or not), then you aren't present in the moment with her. Leave your brain out of the bedroom and let your sensuality guide you.

Lori and Jeff: Even if it's awkward, talk about sex outside of the bedroom. Find out more about each other's desires, fantasies and fears. Work on letting go of the pressures you've put on yourself to please her, and allow freedom, curiosity and connection to take your sex to new heights.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.

Guest commentary: City Manager pens farewell after 19 years

I am honored to have served as Aspen's city manager for 19 years. The challenges of the position have been obvious enough that friends frequently comment, "I don't know how you do it" and "What a thankless job you have!"

What these friends haven't understood is that I love city management because it is a profession in which one can make a positive impact upon the lives of so many people. That community connection is hard to find in state and federal jobs and is even more remote in the private sector. Local government really is where the rubber hits the road.

The city of Aspen has had plenty of controversy over the past several decades and it will continue. It's in our nature because Aspen is a unique community. We are always striving to define and create the best possible qualities in a resort community. (Why yes, Virginia, we can create world-class amenities while maintaining our egalitarian nature in the face of an onslaught from the world's most wealthy — and show 'em all how to do it right!).

Aspen's local government receives a huge volume of good suggestions from an intelligent and involved population and staff. Implementing the policy directives of a visionary council while leading a talented and determined staff has been a rewarding challenge.

In order to thrive in such a dynamic environment, the city's organization has to be structured in a nontraditional manner that creates flexibility and opportunities to experiment. A top-down, command-and-control organization is inconsistent with Aspen's values and aspirations. Within this nontraditional type of organization there is only one approach for the leader: never, ever seek or accept credit for any organizational success, and always accept the blame when things go wrong. I accept full responsibility for every fumble.

In addition to addressing a growing list of challenges to our notion of Aspen's future, today's local leaders face another challenge. In the words of another city management veteran: "This is a tough and brutal time to serve your community. The personal cost of leadership has never been so high. … Public service has always been hard, but in too many communities, public service has devolved from hard to brutal.

"It can be emotionally wearying just to endure the constant slings and arrows of trolls who thrive on mean-spirited name-calling. They often knowingly disseminate false information with a conscious goal of dividing the community. It is even more frustrating and hurtful when it is a colleague on the council modeling the worst behaviors of divisiveness to try and get his or her way."

In this day and age, it takes a great deal of courage to run for elected office. City Council members (and staff) constantly receive volleys of social media "slime missiles" that can make it hard to focus on creating Aspen's best future. I ask that you help candidates in the upcoming elections stay on the positive side as they navigate today's political climate in service to this amazing, matchless community.

I am honored to have been your city manager, partner, and friend for these past 19 years.

Happy trails and deep powder, y'all!

Guest commentary: Where do Colorado Republicans go from here?

It's said that elections are MRIs for the soul. Well, the last election clearly gave Colorado Republicans plenty to think about. Democrats swept every statewide race on the ballot, took over the state senate, grew their majority in the state House and knocked off a five-term congressional incumbent. Immediately, the question was asked: Has Colorado turned permanently blue?

Before the left gets too excited, we should look at some of the other recent feedback from voters. Just two years ago, Coloradans voted down single-payer health care by a 58 percent margin. And in November, voters soundly defeated two massive tax hikes, rejected an extreme setback for oil and gas development, and embraced a new process for redistricting and reapportionment that will make it harder for Democrats to draw gerrymandered maps.

None of this is surprising. Historically, our state has been prone to smaller government and local control. It's the mindset that brought us the popular Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) — and it's the same values that conservatives still consider most important.

So then, how do Republicans turn policy agreement into future electoral success?

First, we as Republicans have to talk more about what we stand for rather than what we stand against. Voters gravitate toward people who have a clear vision and a relatable message. We should compare and contrast our positions to help educate people about the effects of different policies. Effective leaders always give people something to believe in. Voters want to know why, and how, Colorado can be even better 20 years from now.

Second, Republicans should promote a positive, inspirational message that focuses on creating more opportunity for more Coloradans. We live in the best state in the country. Our economy is ranked No. 1. Coloradans are amazing people — and we should celebrate every success story we can find. Then, we should talk about how to create more of these success stories. If we aren't talking about how our policies help increase opportunity for each and every Coloradan, we are missing the boat.

Third, Republicans have to be ready when Democrats overreach. Democrats will inevitably overplay their hand by trying to circumvent the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, shrink our Second Amendment rights and further limit energy development (among other things). When this happens, Republicans will not only have to be ready with a positive vision for our state, but also with the infrastructure necessary to capitalize on that vision. The left's long-term political infrastructure, which includes think tanks, grassroots organizations, media organizations, candidate training organizations and a whole lot of money, has been building since 2003. Conservatives need to catch up — quickly.

For Colorado Republicans, there's a lot of work to do, but it's doable. Our state deserves to have balance — with strong conservative voices alongside liberal voices. It's why Sen. Cory Gardner's re-election race is so important in 2020.

Adversity creates opportunity. We need more conservative voices who can outline a clear vision for the state — a vision that supports small business, promotes a world-class education system, works for our veterans and military, and protects the Colorado way of life that we all love.

Let's get to work.

Michael Fields is the executive director of Colorado Rising Action, a nonprofit that focuses on accountability and advancing conservative principles.

Judson Haims: Like a good bourbon or wine, aging is a good thing

Chances are if you are not yet comfortable with who you are, you may not be old enough. Sometimes, with age comes the discovery of knowing who you are and what truly makes you happy and content.

Getting old is not all bad.

Aging does not need to be fought off and it does not have to threaten our self-worth. While American society at large may be consumed with being young and pretty, there is a comfort that comes with age. Ask most anyone if they would go back in time and relive their junior high and high school years, and you may find that most will say "no." Aging gives many people time to become comfortable with who they are and understand their purpose in life.

Do we really want scientists messing with the natural order of life? All life has a beginning, middle and end. From the planets and stars within the solar system to the smallest living organism, everything comes to an end at some point. The journey is exciting and should be reveled.

In many parts of the world, the elderly are revered and society views them as a source of power and wisdom. In these societies, aging is equated with respect and becoming better. Some cultures believe a long life is considered a reward for righteous living. I believe that our elders should be venerated, treated with deference and respect. The knowledge and guidance our elders possess is significant to the survival of communities and our world.

Unfortunately, within the American culture, there lies a fear of death and thus, in some respect, a fear of aging. We are all going to get older. So, are you going to enjoy it and even look forward to the process?

An important key to enjoying aging is making sure that you continue to work toward having new experiences, goals and doing something you love.

No matter how many times life carries you around the sun, stay young at heart and curious about — everything. Share your stories and life lessons with someone else. While (currently) you may not be able to control the aging process, you don't have to be "old." Stay healthy, and be young at heart and mind.

Health is a multi-faceted concept that includes physical and mental aspects. While you can't always control your physical and mental health, you can often control your perspective and how you adapt to your changing circumstances.

Our thoughts and emotions have the ability to create tangible changes to our bodies. If you have experienced chronic ill health and disability, you may have to make adjustments to your way of life. There is nothing wrong about reaching out to others to help with your personal needs. Being conscious of what you can and cannot do, and knowing your limitations, still leaves a way for gaining focus on those things you can do. A renewed sense of purpose and meaning in life lies around the corner.

My grandmother lived a good life well into her 90s. While there were times of stress, sadness and ill health, she was the consummate optimist. She always kept busy. When time and physical abilities allowed, she engaged in the activities she enjoyed. As her capabilities diminished, she adjusted and found new meaning in activities she had not before considered. In her kitchen, hung on a wall, was a saying she held dear. It now hangs in my kitchen and I am reminded of her optimism and fortitude every time I read it:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

Our psychological attitude toward life may determine the quality and duration of our latter years. Since how we age has so much to do with our attitudes and beliefs, such a shift in perspective could make a world of difference.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.

Guest commentary: When you die by suicide, you don’t end your pain. You transfer it

On the third Tuesday of each month, Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village hosts a meeting that no one wants to attend.

I visited the church in October, shortly after dusk. A sign pointed me to a meeting room in the back of the building, at the end of a dark hallway.

Inside the room, two dozen women and men sat quietly around a conference table. They each introduced themselves and then shared the names of their children — a son or a daughter who had died by suicide.

When my turn came, I talked about my cousin Melissa, who was like a sister to me. She killed herself on New Year's Day in 2015, at the age of 35.

Huddled there in a circle of grief, I knew we were not alone. Colorado lost 81 children and 1,094 adults to suicide last year.

My family and I will be tortured for the rest of our lives by our failure to prevent Melissa's death. There's nothing I could tell her parents, or those in the church that night, to ease their pain.

But the parents at Bethany Lutheran weren't looking to me for solace. They just wanted to know how they could make a difference — how they could spare other families the anguish they've suffered.

Colorado's next legislative session, which begins Friday, can offer some answers. At Mental Health Colorado, we're bringing a broad range of proposals to state lawmakers.

Among other requests, we're asking the General Assembly and the governor to:

Fund the Zero Suicide framework, training health care, education and law enforcement personnel to spot the early warning signs of suicidal ideation.

Strengthen the enforcement of mental health parity laws, requiring public and private insurers to provide sufficient coverage for the treatment of mental-health and substance-use disorders.

Create a statewide bed tracking system, enabling Coloradans to find the nearest available psychiatric or substance-use facility.

Adopt a "red flag" law, allowing judges in certain circumstances to order the temporary removal of weapons from individuals deemed a significant danger to themselves or others.

Expand the School Health Professional Grant Program, placing nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists in more schools.

Boost funding for school-based health centers, particularly in rural Colorado.

Increase access to housing and supportive services for individuals with serious mental-health or substance-use disorders.

It's an ambitious agenda. And with only 120 days until legislators adjourn, we don't have much time to enact it.

But for thousands of families like mine, help can't come soon enough.

Andrew Romanoff is the president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado (www.mentalhealthcolorado.org), the state's leading advocate for the prevention and treatment of mental health and substance-use disorders. Romanoff served as speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives.