Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Exercising with a Purpose
We all know that exercise is good for the body and by extension for the mind. Something as simple as walking every day brings benefits.
            But what about targeted exercises? For example, there are exercises specifically designed to help bones stay healthy. That is certainly something all aging women should be doing. I do a set of such specially designed exercises every second day in the hope that I will not be the victim of broken bones.
            And what about exercises to reduce the risk of falling?
            One study involved a sample of 256 physically inactive, community-dwelling adults in Oregon. Participants either took part three times per week for six months in a Tai Chi group or were assigned to a stretching control group. The purpose was to measure the number of falls as well as functional balance.
            The Tai Chi group had significantly fewer falls compared with the stretching group. Also, compared with the stretching group, the Tai Chi participants showed significant improvements in functional balance, physical performance and reduced fear of falling.
Who would not want that!
            These results certainly show that Tai Chi is very effective in reducing falls. And it is such an easy set of targeted movements that anyone can do them, with proper instructions, of course. And now that the good weather is back, finding a group of Tai Chi enthusiasts who follow an instructor in an outdoor setting can be that much more pleasant.
            There is such a group that practices in the large park near my home. I can’t wait to join them as soon as everyone feels the weather is warm enough.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Making it Count
Now that warmer weather has finally arrived, I have gone back to walking around the lake near my house. It is great to finally be able to stroll in the fresh hair after a long winter where most of my walking had to be done in a mall to avoid the ice and cold winds.
            A couple of days ago I was especially enjoying the warming weather when I saw a tall man I judged to be in his thirties coming in the other direction totally naked from the waist up except for his suspenders. He was carrying a shirt and a jacket in his hand. The weather was nice but it certainly was not summer. Like me, the other walkers were wearing a jacket over a shirt or top.
            I asked myself what that fellow is going to do during the dog days of summer. He certainly has nothing else to remove. I simply attributed his behavior to some sort of temporary insanity after a cold-induced trauma. Perhaps he had to spend a lot of time outside during the coldest days of winter due to a mishap, and now he was blessing the warming weather in the only way he knew how.
            I don’t think it’s unusual for people to do things the complete reverse of what is expected in order to sort of rebalance an order which has been assaulted. That’s why you see people, especially kids, wearing shorts as soon as the spring sun begins to warm up the air. You can almost hear them think: enough is enough. Just like some older people do the reverse and are seen wearing heavy jackets and hats as soon as the fall winds are expected. Their experience propels them to be ready.
            As people get older inner thermostats seem to get a bit out of kilter. I suppose that’s not surprising after decades of going from freezing to hot and then from hot to freezing the body becomes unsure what to expect. That’s why you see some seniors wearing sweaters even in summer months.
Don’t you think it’s truly amazing how we humans adapt to the various seasons year after year. We complain about the cold wind of winter only to turn around and wake up to the warmest day of the year.
We should all get a medal for our ability to adapt. Without necessarily going naked from the waist up!           

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Those of us who remember the Beatles, have known a world that was rather disconnected if you go by today’s standards. We had television and the telephone to keep us connected to the world, and our friendships were nurtured by direct interaction, not via a screen, whether large or small.
Today, the whole world is connected. Whereas there was a day not so long ago when long distance direct-dialing became a reality, today we can call half-way around the world at the speed of light using a hand-held device that once was the stuff of science-fiction. Whereas we used to write letters—actual letters—by hand, we have gotten used to emails that are so much quicker and efficient but so much less personal.
As we all know, things change and evolve all the time, and we have gotten used to tons of inventiveness as we made our way in the world over the years. And we learned about computers and how to connect to the world at a time when it was an unprecedented step. And the many constantly evolving hand-held communication devices have also joined the parade.
I question whether it is really important to be in constant communication with the rest of world. My grandchildren love social networking because it keeps them connected to their friends and what they are doing. In my view, if you want to know what your friends are doing, you simply pick up the phone and call them. Of course, that simply shows how far behind the times I am, I was told recently. Nobody calls anymore, everybody texts.
Life is changing in ways that may make us worry about the future for our grandchildren. Will they forget how to write a proper sentence after spending so much time texting, an activity where numbers stand in for words and vowels are all but forgotten?  Will they have problems interacting with people without a screen in front of them?
One thing we have all learned along the way is that nothing is ever perfect, but we humans learn to adapt to whatever we encounter. Every generation has its own challenges, so our grandchildren will be living in a world different from ours in many respect and they will make the most of it, just as we made the most of our lives. They will simply wonder how we could have been so far behind the times, just as, at some point, we thought our parents and grandparents were.
And life goes on!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Spring has Sprung

After a long, miserable, cold winter it’s heavenly to feel the sun warming up everything in its path and green beginning to appear on lawns. At long last we can make the best of the good weather by exercising outdoors. When it’s not raining, of course. But why complain? All that rain will mean flowers very shortly in areas where they have not yet come to life.
            It’s no accident that spring is the time dedicated to improving health through exercise. May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month when people, especially older adults, are encouraged to exercise to build up bone and muscle strength. Lifting weights targets bones in the arms, wrists and upper back, while aerobic exercises like walking and dancing benefit the legs, hips and lower back. But bones also need vitamin D which is triggered by sunlight and promotes the absorption of calcium. We should all spend ten minutes or so every few days in the next few months exposing arms, legs or back to sunshine before splashing on the UV protection. Of course, vitamin D is also available as a supplement.
            May is also a month dedicated to older adults, a good time to look at other benefits of regular exercise. We all know that being active not only reduces the risks of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, it also protects memory and thinking skills while reducing brain fog experienced by so many of us as we age.
           A study at the University of British Columbia concluded that regular moderate intensity exercise increases the volume of some brain regions. The study showed that aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain for verbal memory and learning. Another benefit of exercise is that it reduces stress and anxiety which often contribute of cognitive impairment. Something to keep in mind when we consider that a new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally.
            Spring is here at last, so there’s no time to waste. Let’s step outside and enjoy the new season. Happy Spring.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Plogging Anyone?

Now that spring is finally here, it’s time to rediscover the pleasure of walking, or jogging for those who still do, and see the beauty all around. That beauty can be in the tiny flowers that are starting to blossom or simply the newly green ground all around us.
            However, after the snow from the long winter has finally melted, the world we see as we walk is not always pretty. There are candy wrappers, disposable coffee cups, crumpled plastic and paper bags, and all other manner of trash people simply did not bother to dispose of properly. Like me, I’m sure you’ve seen people throwing garbage out of the windows of their car as they drive along, most of the time fast-food wrappers or paper cups. They could not be bothered to wait and throw it in a proper trash can or recycle it.
            There is a new craze to clean up this garbage which is called plogging. Originating in Sweden, the activity involves joggers picking up litter as they go along. But why not clean up the environment while staying fit by simply walking? And it is something we can do anywhere with our grandchildren to show them that we can all do our part for a better and cleaner environment, and teach them that rubbish impacts animals and our water supply.
            Why not also think of plogging this summer along shorelines while vacationing. If enough people get involved in cleaning up the environment, surely more and more people will be shamed into follow suit.
            Of course, you need to be prepared for plogging. To protect yourself, gloves are a must. Gardening gloves are ideal. Also you should carry a reusable and washable shopping bag, compostable bag or other small receptacle.  
            Happy plogging.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Creativity and Happiness

Being creative in our senior years can make us happier, according to research.
For example, The Creativity and Aging Study conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts and The George Washington University determined that older people who pursue creative projects such as writing, painting and music have more self-esteem while having better overall health and being happier.
Who doesn’t want that as the years pile on?
Research has shown that creativity fires neurons that create connections to make the brain grow as it ages. And creativity results in more life satisfaction. Award-winning author and poet Piero Rivolta, 77, who rededicated himself as a writer after a successful business career says he wishes more people pursued creativity sooner.
According to Rivolta: “You really need a sense of purpose as you get older with seemingly less to do.” And creative pursuits such as art classes are also a great way to connect socially. “... whether you’re sharing ideas, the gift of your talents or just time together, it makes for a much happier existence.”
There are many examples of older people who did not let age stand in the way of their creativity. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Millard Kaufman wrote his fist novel Bowl of Cherries at age 90. Benjamin Franklin was 78 when he invented the bifocal lens. Frank Lloyd Wright completed the design of the Guggenheim Museum in New York at 92. And Giuseppe Verdi wrote the acclaimed opera Falstaff at 79.
We only need to follow a road that brings us enjoyment rather than worry about the number of candles that will decorate our next birthday cake.
That’s always my quest!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Time Goes On
When I talked to a family member after he recently underwent surgery, he told me everything went well except perhaps for his surgeon. “The guy was about twelve years old!”
            I knew exactly what his exaggerated observation meant. It seems that those who are coming after us look younger and younger all the time. I mean, we all remember the turn of the century, don’t we? That was not so long ago, at least not as far as I am concerned, yet those born in 2000 are now adults. A bit scary, don’t you think?
Time goes on for everyone.
While we feel some people look too young to actually work in their given profession, many of us are always trying to look younger than our birth certificates attest to. The options available to us are forever growing, from expensive potion and injections to surgeries. But I still maintain that if people “redesign” their faces too drastically facial recognition software, which it seems will be everywhere soon, may fail to recognize the person it was made to recognize. And then what about aging features? Is facial recognition software built to take into account the aging process? I mean, what if you can’t start your car because of new wrinkles near your eyes? Or because an ugly wart has just sprung on your nose?
And what about if you have a bad cold with red eyes and a runny nose?
And what about fellows who decide to shave their beards?
So many questions, so little time!
A couple of days ago I ran into an old acquaintance who told me he would be celebrating his 70th birthday in a few weeks. Then he asked: Do you think I look older or younger than my real age. Vanity, oh vanity, no matter the age! Of course I told him he looked a good six years younger, which made him smile with satisfaction.
And I thought only women were desperate to look younger than they really are!