Category: The good news (page 1 of 8)

Are you guilty?

Worse than racism.  Worse than discrimination against sexual preference.  Worse than hatred of others due to their faith.

Ageism. 

Science tells us it has very real mental and physical health consequences on the very people targeted, including a decreased will to live, less desire to live a healthy lifestyle, impaired recovery from illness, increased stress and a shortened life span.

Yet so many people casually make comments about people being an old geezer, or over the hill, or some old fart.  Or they avoid going to a certain place because “old people go there”.  Or even worse, families and younger friends and relatives avoid visiting aging parents in skilled nursing and retirement communities because they don’t want to be around all those “old people”.

And even the trip to the doctor is not safe.  If you’re over a certain age, chances are good your physician is less inclined to discuss new technological advances, new procedures or new therapy.  Because he or she might be assuming your complaints are just due to “getting older”.

How incredibly sad.  How maddeningly wrong!

Older adults…from age 60 to 112… are the ones with the wisdom.  The life experiences.  The perspective that comes from lessons learned.  They have the stories.  What a treasure trove we all are as we age, and usually, how willing we are to share with someone willing to sit still and listen.

The American Society on Aging reports that in 1968, Dr. Robert Butler, founding director of the National Institute on Aging, coined the term “ageism,” four years after free speech activist Jack Weinberg first uttered the phrase, “Never trust anyone over 30.” And since then, not much has changed.  In fact, the ASA says that “ageism doesn’t even register on the public’s radar.”

Here are some other ways we “wise” ones are being overlooked through ageism:

  • Older adults have a more difficult time finding gainful employment. They are seen as technology-averse, unwilling to learn new skills, difficult to manage (particularly by younger supervisors), too expensive, and not productive enough to justify the perceived increased expense (The New York Times, 2009).
  • Older adults more frequently have their health concerns dismissed by healthcare professionals. In addition, they are less likely to receive routine screenings or preventive care, more likely to be treated less aggressively than younger patients with the same diagnoses, are generally excluded from clinical trials, and are typically treated by physicians who have little to no training treating older patients (Currey, 2008)
  • Older adults, when not entirely disregarded by the media, are typically portrayed with negative stereotypes; and, when and if aging is depicted from a positive point of view, the depiction is typically unrealistic and unattainable (World Economic Forum, Global Agenda Council on Ageing Society, 2012).
  • Older adults running for public office are routinely questioned about whether they have “what it takes” (ostensibly, good health, physical stamina, mental acuity, sufficient projected longevity, or all of the above) to serve in demanding leadership roles (York, 2014).
  • Older adults have historically made a meaningful difference in their communities through civic engagement activities (White House Conference on Aging, 2015); however, institutions that could benefit from the knowledge, wisdom, and skills older adults offer are not making an effort to harness those skills in ways that could help local communities build their capacity to better serve those in need.

Now I’m a baby boomer.  So, I’m really just starting to experience ageism.  Sure, there’s the irritating store attendant who wants to call me “ma’am”.  And the woman at the movie theater who wants to give me a senior discount even though I haven’t reached that age yet.  Still, these are tiny things compared to the big picture.  Yet they point to something that sociologists are talking about:

We boomers are having a hard time with the idea that we ourselves are aging. 

Are we afraid?

Is it that it seems like it took five minutes to get here?

Or are we already seeing how we are starting to disappear, at least in terms of how well we are truly “seen” and “heard”?

Maybe the best thing we can do ourselves is to check how we treat those older than us.  Instead of making a judgment about someone based on white hair, a few wrinkles and a birth certificate, maybe we think about how we will want someone to interact with us if we are lucky enough to reach a “golden” age.

  • We will want people to hear what we are saying—actually listen when we speak.
  • If we have a complaint about a pain or discomfort, we will appreciate a medical professional treating us as aggressively as they would a 20-year-old.
  • We will appreciate respectful gestures (letting us go first, holding the door for us, etc.), but we would also appreciate the opportunity to simply blend in when appropriate.
  • And when we truly are incapacitated in some physical way and require special attention, we also will look forward to interaction with those we love…visits, phone calls, letters. A reminder that others value who we are—STILL ARE—and that we are not something to be avoided at all costs.

It’s a tough subject.  And yet it’s one that is going to be more and more important as the population continues to age.  I know I can’t believe I’m not 40 anymore.  I often don’t recognize parts of my body. I realize I don’t really care that I don’t know the names of some of the people on the gossip magazine covers.

But I also DO know how I’m better at my work than ever.  I’m more patient.  I can see the bigger picture.  I don’t panic when some of my younger cohorts do.  I value the work ethic, deadlines, and keeping my word.

I’m still here.  For quite a while.  And I’m going to do my best to treat those years older than me as just someone who’s sitting in a different part of the train.

Cause we’re all going in the same direction.  So why not benefit from someone else’s sneak preview?

 

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”

      Frank Lloyd Wright

 

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

    CS Lewis

 

“Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  And dreams are forever.”

    Walt Disney

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We are all “The Hero”

I saw The Hero this weekend, a new movie starring Sam Elliott.  That’s probably enough said, as Sam Elliott is one of my favorites, and not just for the obvious physical appeal.  It goes a lot deeper, as each of his many roles has demonstrated, but none more than this one.  Especially for boomers and beyond, this one resonates deep.

Without giving away spoilers that aren’t already in the movie’s trailer, Sam plays a veteran actor of western genre movies who gets some bad news about his health.  Understandably, he begins examining his life, attempting to reach out to those he’s loved, trying to rekindle a dwindling career, and frankly just make sense of it all.

Who among us, as we age, hasn’t wondered how we would feel if we got a depressing diagnosis?  Maybe some of you already have.  Maybe a loved one has.  It really simplifies things really fast.

Watching the movie, I was struck by many things.

How fast your life goes by.

How suddenly you walk into a room and you are the oldest and often by many years.

How simple things are now harder, not matter how in shape you are or how many crossword puzzles you do.

How the mirror isn’t your friend anymore.

Dang but inside, you’re about 45.  Ready to chart a new course.  Start a new love affair.  Travel the world.

But first, maybe just sit down and take a breath.  Or even a nap.

Sam shows every emotion in this film.  Fear, tenderness, embarrassment, frustration, anger, resolution. A lifetime.  He feels he’s only done one good thing in his career.  Yet as the film unfolds, it’s clear he’s touched many lives and had an impact he may never fully realize.

I want to think that’s true for each of us.  Because aging can feel scary.  Lonely.  Like your once ever-expanding world is suddenly getting so much smaller.  Your real friends, fewer.  Your joyful moments, only now and then.  And it’s too easy to think we haven’t amounted to much.

We don’t feel like heroes.  But don’t you believe it.  We ARE.

We’ve made others smile.  Held someone’s hand to cross the street.  Taught valuable lessons.  Sang over a few hundred birthday cakes. Been there through disasters. Comforted grieving spouses.  Helped our children learn patience. Showed what true friendship means.  Taken care of our frail parents.  Worried over a sickly pet.

We may not feel like our life matters, but maybe that’s the nature of life.  To not get to know the ending until afterwards.  Like someone who leaves a movie early and misses the gem after the credits.

It’s there.  But only for those who are still around.

Our role is to keep going forward.

I suggest you go see The Hero.  There’s a scene in the movie that speaks to the idea that everyone is a star, everyone is a hero.  That’s something we all can use.

Cause we’re still rockin’ it.

 

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

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Sharpening our 50+ brains.

 

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What’s a 6-letter word that means peaceful?

Silent? No, that won’t fit. Dreamy? No, not unless you’re talking like a teenager in the 1950s. Wow, do I remember watching those Beach Blanket movies…I think “dreamy” was all Gidget ever said….let’s see….6 letters…oh wait…it’s placid. Yes, that fits nicely. Wasn’t there a movie about a giant alligator that somehow migrated to Lake Placid? Who was in that again? Bridgett Fonda? Isn’t she the daughter of that guy who rode the motorcycle in the desert with Jack Nicholson? Boy, I’d love to visit the desert again….

Think I can’t keep my mind still? You’re right. But that’s a good thing. Just working a crossword puzzle forces my mind to reach back, make connections, think about new things and remember. All great exercises for my over-50-and-tired synapses.

A crossword puzzle is just one form of mental aerobics. Even better for a 50+ brain is learning something completely new. (And no, I’m not talking about how to program your new cell phone. For just a moment, let’s branch out a bit further.)

Like learning how to speak French. Taking a course in Native American culture. Enrolling in a ceramics course. Tackling Bach on the piano. Studying the classics.

Things that give your noggin a real workout.

 

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Learning new things is important as we boomers get older. But so is working our muscles.

Reports have been coming out lately saying, “sitting is the new smoking.” We just plain sit too much. Whether it’s at a desk, on the couch or even on a bench in the park, we tend to not realize how much time is going by. The good news is the same reports tell us to counteract the effects of all that sitting, all we need to do is get up at least once an hour and move about—get the blood flowing, the oxygen moving through our lungs and waking up our brains.

Exercise increases serotonin in the brain, which helps us think more clearly. (I can use that.) It’s good for fighting off depression, and helps us not be as likely to start an argument or react to a stressor. (For example, opening my cable bill.) It helps produce more of those brain cells that impact memory. It even can help make us more creative.

We joke about losing brain cells as we age, but it’s really more a matter and needing a bit more stimulation to catch our attention: like brighter light, louder volume, and more intense flavors to awaken our taste buds. I base this on nothing but my personal experience but since my 40s, I crave spicy foods. The hotter the salsa the better, which actually is good news, as studies tout chili peppers’ power to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, prevent stomach ulcers, boost immunity, and help lower blood pressure.

Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory properties that help protect diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (I had to mention this because I’m craving cinnamon toast at this very second. Hey, it’s my blog.)

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You can  continue to build and grow your brain no matter what your age.

It’s all about synapses and neurons and acetylcholine receptors and well, you get the idea.  Even something as simple as writing your name with your left hand if you are usually right-handed….see how different that feels?  Your brain is learning something new.

That’s one reason behind the push at many retirement communities to include lifelong learning on the list of amenities. These communities encourage residents to take classes, participate in activities, and access university or college libraries. You can finally study the works of Mark Twain, decipher Wall Street or explore constellations in the night sky.

Some senior living communities have the advantage of being located on or near a university campus, while others have built relationships with area colleges and encourage faculty members to conduct on-site lectures and seminars.

The more you learn, the more you think. The more you think, the harder your brain works. And that’s smart aging! And a great way to rock the wrinkle.

 

” To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”Buddha

 

 

 

 

 

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Busy, busy, busy.

When did we get so busy?

Seriously.  When was it?  

Remember when you could get through a week, a day, an hour without checking the calendar?  Without looking at your phone to see where you were supposed to be?  Without having to respond to someone’s request for a call or meeting or visit?

How can it suddenly be Sunday night and still there is a stack of magazines and newspapers you want to read, that are dated several days before?  Why is the house never clean?  Where is that stack of mail you were definitely going to sort through?

How can there be so much to do, yet even when it’s done, we don’t feel like we’ve really done anything that matters?

Have we traveled somewhere new?  No.

Have we learned something truly important?  Probably not.

Have we impacted someone’s life?  Highly doubtful most days.

And in the midst of it all, when we feel our reserves are running low, and we actually try to sit still, decompress, breathe deeply and withdraw from the world, why are we bombarded by messages and emails and tweets that demand to know why we aren’t responding?

Think of the pioneers.  People who got up at 4 a.m. and went in the fields to plow, cut lumber, wash clothes, feed the chickens and in general toil to the point of exhaustion.  They knew how to work hard.  And they need when to rest.  And I have a feeling they all understand how important it was to rest when they could.

We seem to have forgotten that.  And for sure, we boomers know better.

Work is good.  Feeling productive is wonderful.  Some weeks are crazy.  But in the midst of it all, one thing does not change:  we have to rest.  We have to recharge.  We have to let our minds settle.

When we don’t, our motors burn out.   We get angry, depressed, and we can’t be happy.

Chances are, you’ve put in many years of working late.  Or raised children without many nights’ sleep.  Or composed a symphony or graded papers or sewed a prom dress long after you’ve reached exhaustion. You pushed yourself many times.  And you survived.

But now, maybe it’s time to take a look at what is keeping you busy now.

Is it really that important?

Can’t the call wait?

Does the email have to be answered right this minute?

Does it really matter if you don’t make up your mind right now?

Maybe take a moment.  Maybe pretend the phone didn’t ring.  Maybe for just a few minutes, or a day, or a weekend, be a pioneer.  Work hard, then sit and rest.  Listen to the birds.

And is those around you don’t understand, do it anyway.

Listen to your spirit.

Enough.   Get busy just being.

You might be amazed at what you’ve been missing.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

        Anonymous

 

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