I Want to Dance!

DANCE LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHINGA few weeks ago my tai chi instructor invited me to ask myself WHY I wanted to be more fit, more healthy, and eat better. I told him it was because I wanted to age in a healthy way, and be able to take care of myself as I get older. Well that was a great reason, but didn’t really feel motivating or passionate. Then a few days ago I was driving in my car and came up with a better WHY:  I want to stay healthy so that whenever the opportunity comes up, I will be able to DANCE. Now that feels motivating! I am a terrible dancer but I just love to dance. I dance almost every day in the shower and while putting my make-up on. It just brings me alive. I never want to just watch other people dance. I want to stay healthy so I can stay on the dance floor for as long as I want. I’m thinking of getting pictures of people dancing and placing them on the walls in my home office. Then if I eat junk food or don’t exercise enough, I will be reminded that I WANT TO DANCE! Yeah, it’s great to have a vision. Now I will come up with an affirmation. Something like “I am calm, healthy, and I keep on dancing.” Life is good.

New Skin

Steve is still doing very well. He is tired and has some pain, but he can walk without the walker and we went out to dinner and a movie a couple of times last week. It’s nice to take a break from the downhill spiral and just do a holding pattern.

storm rosesI was pruning roses with my grandson yesterday and he said to me, “My mommy is a girl and you are a grandma.” I told him that’s right. Then he asked, “Are you going to get new skin?” I said, “No. My skin is old and wrinkly, huh?” He said yes. At that moment I remembered that life is about so much more than appearances. Getting used to wrinkly skin is easy compared to getting used to all the lessons to learn in this life. It’s quite an adventure! Although I wouldn’t mind some new skin….

Tree in Wiind2In Tai Chi class we practiced the form outside in the park. My instructor talked about doing the form against the resistance of the wind. I thought the wind could not knock me over, but then it almost did! A couple of times! He told me to look at the trees and see how they bow in the wind towards their tops but they remain steady in their trunks. I guess life is like that. We get buffeted by the winds of challenge and change and adversity but if we remain steady and grounded we will be OK. The question is what steadies and grounds us? For me it is my faith, friends and family. My husband is talking a lot lately about relationships. He says life is all about relationships. I agree. So I would say my relationship with the Savior, my friends, and my family sustains me. The wind actually feels good. It clears things up.

Tai Chi

tai hi seniorsMy husband and I walk the indoor track at the county recreation center every day. Attached to the building is the county Senior Center. Yesterday I took a Tai Chi class at the Senior Center while my husband continued to walk the track. Wow! It was great. I like it much better than walking. I took Tai Chi for three years a long time ago and it was nice to get back to it. And honestly, I kinda liked being with people in my age range. I spoke to the Tai Chi instructor. He has Parkinson’s Disease and said, “I eat right, I exercise, and I take my pills. I control the Parkinson’s. It doesn’t control me.” I was impressed and inspired. His wife was in class and was talking to several students after class. This couple is aging gracefully and healthily. I hope to do the same. I am looking forward to meeting more people at the Senior Center. We can be a great support to one another.

No Friends Like Old Friends

ArizonaI just spent 5 days with some very special friends in Arizona.  i went with one friend to Flagstaff and Sedona and will blog about that later. I have known her for 25 years. Then I spent 4 days with 3 girlfriends I met in JUNIOR HIGH! Yes, we have known each other for about 45 years! We had a great time, just “being.” There is no friend like an old friend. One friend said that she loves when we get together because she can “say anything, and even if we disagree, we still love each other.” I am blessed with wise women for friends. Friendship in women has shown to increase longevity and decrease stress. Thanks to all my friends, men and women, whom I have know forever and just for a day. Friends rock!!!

Eating to Live

Arranged Vegetables Creating a FaceA few weeks ago I quit eating sweets and refined flour. I did it because I had gained a few pounds since quitting my full-time job, and my clothes were uncomfortable. Don’t you hate that feeling? I was also having some aches and joint stiffness. Well, I lost 3 pounds in about a week or so and was feeling better in general, but still achy.  I noticed that my addiction to salty chips went away, which was wonderful because I have eaten TONS of chips in my lifetime. Then I went to Philadelphia to the National Speakers Association convention. I ate dinner with a great family who described themselves as “almost vegan.” They all agreed that they felt better and had lost weight. Then I read an article about how Bill Clinton has  gone vegan and feels great. And then to top it off, I met a man at our local National Speakers Association Mountain West Chapter meeting who told me he quit eating refined foods and lost 24 pounds in 1 month and feels great. He is in his 50’s and said his “aches and pains” have disappeared. He also said his physician told him to lose weight or die. That’s motivating! He told me he did it all by reading Joel Furhman’s book Eat to LiveOne of my life policies is that if something comes to my awareness three times, I need to pay close attention. So last night I started reading Eat to Live and I just could not put it down. I was reading into the wee hours and it all made perfect sense. I am only halfway through but can’t wait to get to the actual diet style and recipes. I am going to go for it, and my husband will join me. Not sure if we can talk our grandson into it. We’ll see. I am 60 years old now and I want my upcoming retirement to be filled with not only financial health, but with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and energy. Wish me luck!

Stress Management and Healthy Aging

Geriatric YogaI am excited about attending the AARP Expo in Las Vegas next week. I just turned 60 years old and I think I will fit right in. I have spent years teaching nursing students about stress management and health care. Now that I am not longer teaching full time, I am wondering: What are the differences between younger and older people regarding stress management? Do the same tips work for both groups? It is obvious that the two groups have different stressors because they are at different stages of life. Are the Stress Management PEARLS I talked about last week equally applicable to all ages and groups? Hmm… that gives me something to think about. Honestly, I don’t think there is any research done about this but I will see if I can find some. I’ll also ask people at the Expo what their stressors are and what are the best methods they have used to manage their stress. Stay tuned!

Is it Really Age-related?

My mom Verna

My mom Verna

When my mother was 79 years old, I had just finished my doctoral dissertation. She called me and congratulated me and said how proud she was of me. Then she told me that it was  time for her to go to a nursing home. She said, “I know how busy you’ve been with your education, so I waited until now to tell you that I just can’t balance my checkbook anymore, and I can’t control my gambling. I’m getting old and a nursing home is what I need now”. I was sad to hear that my mom was declining, but at the same time I was glad to know that she would be safer with other people to watch over her in a long-term care facility. So I began the complex and time-consuming task of finding just the right place for my mom. I was blessed to find a wonderful place that took excellent, loving care of her. After she was there for about a month, she looked at me and said, “Spike (my childhood nic name), this feels like home.” I was so happy about that. She loved it there.

Just a few months after she arrived in the nursing home, she began to exhibit unusual behavior. Her alcoholism seemed to worsen, and she asked me to take her drinking every time I visited. She refused showers, and was having trouble feeding herself and making the smallest decisions. The staff assumed she had a urinary tract infection, which often causes dementia-like symptoms in older people. But that wasn’t it. I took her to the emergency room when she exhibited very child-like behavior. It did not take long for the ER staff to diagnose her with a brain tumor in her frontal lobe. She chose not to have it treated and she died peacefully a few weeks later in the nursing home at 80 years of age.

Now here is what concerns me about my mom’s story: She, her care providers, and even myself assumed that her initial difficulties with her checkbook and gambling were just a normal part of aging, especially for alcoholics. So we didn’t really follow up on her symptoms like we would if she were younger. So the brain tumor was missed early on. Now, I doubt that the outcome would have been different for Mom. But it would have been nice to know the diagnosis sooner, so she would have been more aware of what was going on, and make decisions with a clear mind.  And her loved ones may have made different decisions too, about the quality and quantity of time we spent with her.

My point to this story is that when an older person exhibits unusual behavior, let’s not assume that it’s a normal part of aging. It might not be normal.

 

No More Anti-Aging Please

I was excited to receive my first copy of a magazine aimed at helping people to achieve healthy aging. Now that I am about to turn 60, I thought it would be the perfect magazine to help me get familiar with issues of aging. I loved the picture of Dolly Parton on the cover and began to skim the magazine from cover to cover and was happy to read about people who are 50+ and still going strong.  I must say however that the ads were disappointing. A full ten pages were devoted to women’s spring wardrobe. I was very surprised to see that the model was 20-something, gorgeous, and thin. That’s confusing. I figured that a magazine devoted to healthy aging might have models in their ads who were, well, aging! I am not a huge fan of fashion, but as I age I notice that some of my body parts are “shifting.” Wouldn’t it be great if I could find some help here? Every fashion model I see has very little resemblance to women who are aging. Honestly, I don’t even know where to shop for clothes these days. Everything I see in the stores just looks too young for me.

I’ve been watching daytime TV lately, and the same pattern has emerged. All of the fashion pieces show young people modeling clothes. It’s refreshing when the models are audience members, but seriously, the fashions are targeted to young audiences. Have we all closed our eyes to reality? There are millions of people over 50 and in the popular media, we just don’t seem to exist. And when an older model  comes on, she/he is usually talking about ANTI- AGING. There is really something off when we have a word that is AGAINST a natural life process.

All of what I am saying is not new, but I just had to say it. I am happy being my age. I’ve had many experiences, easy ones and hard ones, that have made me who I am. It is time  to honor and embrace aging, not be AGAINST it. NO MORE ANTI AGING! Enjoy my Grandma’s picture below. Doesn’t she look fabulous?Grandma's picture

My Day with Diabetes

 My Day with Diabetes
I volunteered to give one of my neighbors a ride to a doctor’s appointment  a few days ago. I had never met her and it was nice getting to know each other on the drive there. She is about 62 years old and has Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, COPD,  was in a car accident in December, and had pneumonia in January. Wow! I was surprised she was so upbeat and frankly, upright. I took her to the pain clinic and then took her to the hospital where her husband was having his leg amputated due to Diabetes. Like many of us over 50, she had three other people living with her besides her husband: One grown son, one grandson and one friend of a grandson. That will be a topic of another blog…
As I waited in the pain clinic while she saw her care provider, I overheard an older couple bantering about how the husband had a lucky coin, and his wife chiding him about how he should give it to her because he would lose it. He said he wanted to keep it because, “If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all.” I started giggling as they went back and forth in a comfortable, friendly teasing session. I asked them to forgive my eavesdropping and that’s when they told me their story. The husband had taken a fall in September and broke his left hip. Due to his Diabetes, he developed a sore on his lower left leg that was not healing, and a cast had been put on it three times with poor results. He also had his left knee replaced a few years ago. He carried his lucky coin in his right pocket and I suggested he switch it to his left pocket. He needed some luck on his left!
While the husband stepped out, his wife told me her story. She also had Diabetes, plus a heart transplant 11 years ago, obesity, and chronic hip pain. How did this couple keep such a positive, friendly attitude? It was remarkable. When it came time for them to leave the wife asked me where I worked as a nurse and I told her I was actually writing a book about resilient aging. The husband then said, “Aging sucks!” He said it with sincerity and emotion, and even a little anger. The wife agreed, saying, “When I turned 60 everything went downhill!”
Well two things occurred to me that day. First of all, I met two couples, and both couples were sharing the diagnosis of Diabetes. And both couples seemed to have a genuine love and respect for their partners, and a positive attitude in the face of Diabetes and other diagnoses. I did a bit of research about Diabetes and discovered that the incidence of Diabetes has increased in adults aged 65-79 from 6.9 per thousand in 1980 to 12.4 per thousand in 2010 (CDC). That’s almost double!  In 2010 almost 27% of people over 65 had Diabetes (See the CDC Fact Sheet). That’s a lot!
My Dad died of complications from Diabetes when he was 65, which puts me at risk for developing it myself. Meeting those 2 couples that day has inspired me to do better with my exercise and diet. It also inspired me to be upbeat and keep a positive attitude in the face of my challenges. And to tell the truth it inspired me to appreciate my own husband of 36 years. These couples very obviously loved and cherished one another each and depended on each other for support and encouragement. I saw sadness that day but I also saw a lot of love and hope.