Category Archives: Health & Well Being

The Fun Factor: 12 Ways To Grow Younger As You Age

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Old Men Grooving – Britain’s Got Talent 2015 Semi-Finalists      (From left) Fred Folkes, Bret Jones, David Welch, Patrick Alan &                      Phil Stanley                                                                                                        

This video from the 2015 audition of the group “Old Men Grooving” (OMG) on Britain’s Got Talent is a hilarious viral Internet sensation with over 26 million views. OMG  has clearly become a cultural phenomenon.  We see this seemingly ordinary group of buttoned-up, cardigan-wearing gentlemen totally shatter traditional paradigms of aging in a very funny and inspiring way.

Rather than deliver the stodgy, dull and embarrassing performance obviously expected from the judges and audience, OMG breaks out with super slick and syncopated dance routines that show impressive agility and in-the-pocket coordination.  These gentlemen are clearly on a focused mission to enjoy themselves and to have fun.  Several comments by OMG members provide thoughtful insights about the group’s subliminal motivation:

  • David Welch, OMG choreographer stated,  “When you get to a certain age, you shouldn’t just be put in a corner and left to rot. You should be enjoying life and if you want to get up and feel the groove, then you should do that.” 
  • 60-year-old Phil Stanley recognized OMG for renewing his lease on life, “It’s more than just remembering the old days and the kind of people we were, it’s about remembering that we’re still that kind of person, despite age.”
  • Bret Jones stated, “The young men now are one day going to be old men. We want them as young men to have the mentality that they never have to stop. They should keep moving and keep developing.”
  • Fred Folkes, owner of a street dancing school stated,  “In a way, it is like reliving our youth. It’s bringing back something we did when we were very young just for fun. It’s bringing back the best times of our lives.”

The March 2016 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a study entitled, Longitudinal Relationships between Caloric Expenditure and Gray Matter in the Cardiovascular Health Study” which evaluated 876 participants aged 65 and older.  Researchers concluded that increasing energy output from a variety of physical activities correlated to larger gray matter volumes in the brain.

These findings suggest that regardless of type or duration of exercise, caloric expenditure through physical activity may alone moderate neurodegeneration and may increase gray matter in the brain related to cognitive functioning. As life expectancy increases and health improves, the study implies that older people can increasingly engage in physical activities previously associated only with younger people.

Another collaborative study among several research institutions in Berlin evaluated 708 people aged 60 and older concluded that on average, 75-year-olds of today are much fitter, happier and more satisfied with their lives than 75-year-olds of twenty years ago.  The study attributes the gains to sociocultural factors such as education, in addition to increased well-being due to physical fitness and higher levels of independence in old age.

Key takeaways from scientific research are that people growing old today do not at all resemble seniors of earlier generations. Old age is getting younger.  Evidence is compelling.  Physical activity, mental acuity and emotional well-being combined together can greatly impact quality of life as we age.  It seems to me that  there is a holistic approach to meet an ideal lifestyle balance. Have fun. 

So following are twelve proposed ideas to have fun and grow younger as you age:

  1. Get Exercise. Make a habit every day of engaging in physical activity that you wildly enjoy–dance, walk, run, yoga, Pilates, swim, hike, bike, jump rope. Whatever you love, just do it. Keep moving.
  2. Cultivate Relationships with Family & Friends. Nurture those relationships with people who generate positive energy. Maintain social connections and interactions with others. It is vital to our long-term emotional health and intellectual well-being.
  3. Learn Something New. When we conquer a new challenge it provides a profound sense of gratification, reinforces our ability to grow and enhances our mental acuity. Take an online course, learn to play a new instrument, study a language, try a new recipe. Regularly challenge yourself to eliminate those mental cobwebs and experience perpetual thrills.
  4. Drink Red Wine.  Many research studies point to the extensive benefits of drinking red wine, in moderation, of course. Red wine has melatonin which helps regulate our body clock, resveratrol and other antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. From lowering cholesterol to fighting cancer, red wine is not only good for you, it is fun to consume.
  5. Have More Sex. Scientific research is abundantly clear. An active sex life as we age is essential for preserving vitality. On a regular basis, sex can extend longevity and release endorphins that act like natural painkillers.  Besides providing beneficial exercise, it also makes us very happy.
  6. Listen to Music.  Research has proven beyond doubt that music is a profound source of perpetual joy. Don’t wait, compose your favorite playlist and grab your iPod whenever you can.
  7. Get Plenty of Sleep. Benefits of sleep are well documented and expansive as well, from reducing stress and inflammation to improving memory and helping weight loss. Indulge yourself often and get plenty of sleep.
  8. Play Brain Games. Fun with brain games is indisputable.  Their intellectual benefits are abundant and they are insanely additive. Once you start, I promise, you’ll never stop.
  9. Smoke a Joint (only where legal, of course). In a recent New York Times article, Tom Huth stated, “I’m 74 years old, and I have smoked marijuana almost every day since dinosaurs roamed the earth in the early ’70s. When my awareness is heightened, I’m on my game — the best I can be at thinking creatively, making decisions, focusing on my work, seeing the big picture … and caregiving.  It’s the stoned state itself: that lyrical disorientation, that rush of wonder and possibility.” Thanks for the enlightenment, Tom!
  10. Indulge in Nature. Walk in the park. Tend to your garden.  Go to the beach. Bird watch. Catch  a sunrise. Or a sunset. Ponder a full moon. Whatever you do, make a habit of routinely connecting with nature.  You’ll soon be on your way to Nirvana.
  11. Cuddle an Animal. Without question, animals have healing powers. From lowering blood pressure to increasing our social interaction. Find a pet to love or schedule regular visits to your nearest animal shelter.  Your ‘ROJ’ (returns on joy) is guaranteed to be exponential.
  12. Escape with the Arts. Read a book. Watch a movie. Draw. Mix colors. Take photographs. Write poetry. Watch YouTube. See a play.  Let the creative wonder of the arts engulf you and carry you up, up and away.

In your fleeting time on earth make a simple vow each day: Have fun!

 

 

Sparking the Human Spirit: Magical Elixir of Music

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How do you spark the human spirit? Just watch to see exactly how its done. You will also understand why this video has more than 15 million collective views.

This is the story of Henry age 92.  He spent over ten years as a lifeless, isolated and depressed nursing home resident until the day he received his first iPod loaded with his favorite music from back in the day.  Once Henry hears music from his past, his spirit is sparked and the transformational experience is beyond touching to witness.

The late world-famous neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks who appears in the video observed, “Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience.  Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring with it memory and  the feeling of life when nothing else can.”  

From the beginning of civilization music has been recognized as the world’s universal language.  Rhythms and sounds are primal in their capacity to evoke memories and a complex range of intense human emotions from sublime joy to profound sadness.

We process music in the right hemisphere of our brain like other creative functions.  It can stimulate our endorphins that generate emotions similar to those feelings we have when we’re in love or making love.  In recent years, many research studies have explored the impact of music on memory, health and well-being. Suffice to say, music affects human beings in some very astonishing ways.

It’s no wonder that my favorite pastime is listening to music. From my earliest recollections, music has been a major love of my life. Music moves me like nothing else. From Rodgers & Hammerstein to Motown; Joni Mitchell to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; R&B to Brazilian, my playlists go on and on.  It’s hard for me to describe the deep sense of joy, emotion and awakening that I experience when I listen to my favorite music.  Simply stated, music is in my soul.

It’s a funny thing. When I hear my favorite tunes that reach back across the decades, I  am often startled by my ability to effortlessly remember lyrics from hundreds of songs with uncanny precision. It is a paradoxical experience to recall exact words and intricate rhythms from favorite oldies just minutes following a senior moment.

A technologist and social worker named Dan Cohen had a similar epiphany while volunteering at a local nursing home in 2008. Acting on instinct, he decided to offer iPods with personalized playlists to residents who were socially isolated or suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Cohen’s work became the focus of a poignant and award-winning documentary published in 2014 entitled “Alive Inside” which chronicles the experiences of people including Henry who were literally brought to life by hearing music from their past.  If you haven’t yet seen this riveting film, please make time to do so.

As one path leads to another in life, there was an overwhelming public response to Henry’s video which became a viral Internet phenomenon.   Henry’s story is also central to Alive Inside and helped raise global awareness and understanding of the expansive benefits of personalized music.

The documentary in turn helped raise charitable funding that led to the launch of Cohen’s Music & Memory℠ initiative that brings personalized playlists and iPods to residents in hundreds of nursing homes across the country and around the world.  Since its launch, the program has further expanded to serve people in hospice, adult day care, assisted living, hospital and home health care.

It is fascinating to see how human experiences, chance encounters and karma connected to create this captivating and mystical journey. Here are some of the insights I take away:

  1. Every human being is a beautiful tapestry of experiences, emotions and memories that live deep within our spirit.  We are all “Alive Inside”.
  2. There are many complex challenges associated with aging  in a culture that is insensitive and intolerant of the natural process of growing old.
  3. The aging experience is at times overbearing.  During these times, people are sometimes overwhelmed with natural feelings of sadness, loneliness and isolation.
  4. Music is a magical elixir that has transformational powers to spark the human spirit.  Music can restore our identity, return our dignity and bring us back to life, like nothing else can.
  5. By simply observing human nature, Dan Cohen with his abundant compassion and kindness began what has become a global initiative to rescue human spirits. What a legacy to leave the world.
  6. By sharing his human vulnerabilities, Henry jolted global awareness and understanding about the process of aging.  An Internet sensation at age 92,  Henry rocked our world over 15 million times. Now that’s what I call  “Amazing Grace”.
  7. Please, go hug a musician. These are the artists that dedicate their lifetimes to cultivate extraordinary crafts.  They create unforgettable rhythms, sounds and compositions that help define who we are, rekindle our memories and inspire us to live.
  8. Don’t wait for your own music rescue. Make time every day to enjoy your favorite music. Nurture your spirit and often revisit those indelible memories imprinted on your soul.
  9. Practice honoring and cherishing elders in the same way that you want love and respect as you grow old.
  10. Volunteer to spend time with lost and lonely people who yearn for a simple human touch of compassion and kindness.
  11. Join the movement  by  donating an old iPod, gift a new one or just simply contribute to Music & Memory℠ Project.
  12. Spark a spirit. Spread the word. To the magical elixir of music!

To me, this story serves as a simple reminder that every human being has the power to leave a positive imprint on this world as we pass through it.  What legacy will you leave?

 

 

 

The Passion Phenomenon: Live Long, Be Happy

                           “…Keeps me living. Keeps me going.”

Beverly Guitar Watkins has lived her passion as a phenomenal, pioneer rhythm & blues guitarist for the last six decades.  Recognized as “Queen of the Blues”, Ms. Watkins continues to tour and play concerts at age 77. She provides an important inspirational lesson on longevity, quality of life and the pursuit of passion.

It is interesting to note that over the course of her lifetime, Ms. Watkins labored in some tough and physically demanding jobs cleaning houses and working car washes. Notwithstanding decades of bodily stress and toil, her hard classic blues style continued to evolve. Most importantly throughout her lifetime, Ms. Watkins never stopped the pursuit of her passion–music.

The pursuit of one’s passion has long been recognized as a driving force to lifelong happiness.  I recently learned of another life affecting derivative related to the pursuit of passion from a study published in the November 2015 Journal of Psychosomatic Research entitled, “Purpose in Life Predicts Allostatic Load Ten Years Later”.   The scientific term allostatic load” describes wear and tear on the body that occurs over time with exposure to chronic stress.

This study has significant implications to life span and quality of life. Greater life purpose predicted lower levels of allostatic load in 985 subjects evaluated at their ten-year follow-up.  Researchers concluded that living a purposeful life correlates to better mental and physical health including longevity.  Mounting evidence of these associations might be explained by the connection between life purpose and our body’s ability to regulate physiological systems related to stress response.

It makes infinite sense. As we pursue our passion, internal mechanisms mobilize our body’s ability to withstand exposure to chronic stress. In turn, our pursuit of passion drives sustainable happiness and reinforces our will to live.  Ms. Beverly Guitar Watkins is a brilliant example of the “Passion Phenomenon”.  Bottom line: Pursue your passion. Live Long. Be Happy.

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart.”  ~Steve Jobs

 

Body Beautiful: Age is Nothing But A Number

Ms. Ernestine Shepard in bikini, age 77

       Ms. Ernestine Shepherd Bodybuilding Champion at age 77

Lessons Learned From The Inspirational Ms. Ernestine Shepherd

  • Spirituality, love, nutrition and fitness are crucial to  well-being during our golden years.
  • Memories and legacies of loved ones can transform profound sadness into triumphant victory by jump-starting our commitment and drive.
  • Establishing long-term goals can help drive priorities, discipline and focus.
  • Those who age with exceptional grace are generally vibrant, vivacious and funny.
  • Sharing life’s gifts with others has a lasting ripple effect that  uplifts and inspires, while challenging cultural stereotypes of what it means to grow old.
  • Strut your stuff with attitude because “Age is nothing but a number”.

We salute and thank you Ms. Shepherd for sharing your phenomenal inspiration and for teaching us all how to soar!