Is it Aging or Illness?

“It’s hard to tell what is age decline and what is disease… I’ve had a very challenging life with disease after disease after disease. I shouldn’t be here, but I have a tremendous will to live; a joie de vivre alternating with debility.” Joni Mitchell at age 70

This quote by Joni Mitchell raises the question: what’s aging and what’s illness?

I often hear people comment when they don’t feel well or have some body part that isn’t working as it did before, “oh it’s just aging, what can I expect?” But is it? If we expect that we will decline with age, perhaps we will. Yet not everyone automatically declines with age. As Joni reports, some people have health challenges throughout their lives that do not relate to age. Some report that they feel better with more energy as they get older.

Aging is not a disease. It is another stage of life that for some is easier than others. The factors that make a difference with this vary from person to person.

In recent years there is a lot of study in the field of psychoneuroimmunology that looks at the relationship between mind and body. Apparently how we view things and talk to ourselves impacts our physical state. We are not necessarily causing our illness and no blame to the individual is intended but our attitudes and self-talk affect how we feel.

As Connie Goldman says in my film, “Greedy for Life”, “It’s not so much what happens to you but how you deal with it.”

I’d love to hear from you about this topic. What’s your experience?

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It Really Does Take a Village!

I am a very involved Nana with my four grandchildren, taking care of two of them after school one day a week plus sleepovers with all of them at different times. Once a year for sure we take a family vacation with all the children and grandchildren and I relish this precious time together.

This special time with my grandchildren nurtures them and me. It also helps my daughter who works full time as a Principal of a school. There are actually three sets of grandparent’s for my daughter’s children who take an active part in their lives. This gives my daughter, Jessica, peace of mind that her children are well cared for and also saves her some money in today’s expensive world.

Jessica learned about calling on a “village” from her upbringing. Her Dad and I divorced when she was 2 ½ years old. I went back to school to earn my Master’s in Social Work. Through the active involvement of my ex and his wife, I was able to develop a co-parenting relationship that gave Jessica lots of love and care from her parents and helped me have peace of mind knowing she was in a loving environment while I was busy at school. When I eventually remarried, Jessica had four loving parents and gained a brother as well.

My research project for my Master’s in Social Work was on the support systems of divorced single parents. Not surprisingly we learned that the more and better quality supports parents had, the better they did. These supports included family, friends, community centers, religious and spiritual communities and even the children themselves. Going it alone puts too much of a strain on the parents who then feel more challenged with their children.

Fast forward to grandparenthood and we find that, where possible, grandparent involvement with their grandchildren also has a beneficial effect. According to some new research, “A new study shows that grandparents and grandchildren have real, measurable effects on each other’s psychological well-being long into grandchildren’s adulthood.” Once again, the benefit goes both ways for the grandparents and the grandchildren.

While it’s true that not everyone has grandparents who are living, available or close by, we do know that, where possible, calling upon this resource is extremely valuable. According to Mary Gavin, M.D., “Besides modeling what constitutes a “normal” relationship, grandparents provide children with a sense of safety and protection, a link to their cultural heritage and family history, and a companion in play and exploration.”

And, besides all that, it’s lots of fun!

“Living Juicy”

“Living Juicy”

photo_2I’m excited to tell you about Rhea Goodman who is “living juicy” and has much to share about how to do this. In her words:

“Part of Living Juicy is aging well, and part of aging well is embracing aging, without being conned by the numbers, or the stories in our heads about what aging looks like. I believe that age is a mind-trip, a numbers game. In fact, we can create a new model for aging! I do this by listening to the wisdom of my body, noticing what I eat, enjoying myself while I walk, run, play,stretch, make love, do yoga, dance, swim, learn new skills. I pay attention and embrace what I love to do, and then DO IT! I go for whatever rings my bell that is oriented toward life.”

Rhea certainly walks her talk, calling herself a cultural creative who has always been interested in alternative modalities such as healing, dance, cultural anthropology, the environment and many more. She has a weekly radio show  called Living Juicy from Santa Fe on KSFR, 101.1 FM on Thursday nights at 6:30 mountain time. Her show is Webstreamed live on www.ksfr.org

Be sure to check out her website which has tips on how to live juicy, archives of  over 300 of her radio shows and other bits of interesting information: www.livingjuicy.org

Rhea exemplifies “the beauty of aging”. I’m excited to add her to the ever growing list of amazing older women who are living their lives fully engaged, providing positive role models for all women.

There is, indeed, beauty in aging!

There is, indeed, beauty in aging!

As 2013 is coming to a close, I am sitting with gratitude for the women who opened their hearts and lives to be part of The Beauty of Aging Documentary Film Project. Five of the seven women filmed are no longer living – Betty, Judy, Shirley, Lavada and Hedda. All of them lived long and quality lives and can be seen in the films on the website: http://www.beautyofaging.com

Some of the lessons I learned from them are to stay actively engaged in life, be connected to other people, animals and nature, work on my attitude by going with the flow and seeing things in a more positive light, be of service, develop and use my creativity, be mindful and live in the present moment. I’m still practicing many of these qualities and I delight in knowing that I can draw upon my memories and the footage of these women to remind me.

Many people who have seen the films on the website and “Greedy for Life” say they are less afraid of getting old since viewing the vitality of these old women. It excites me to know that others have gained inspiration from these women’s stories.

Do you have some favorite older people whom you would like to honor? Please “share their story” on this blog and help spread the word that there is, indeed, beauty in aging.

Many blessings to all of you who follow this blog for a loving, healthy and peaceful New Year.

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Remembering Erv Windward

Remembering Erv Windward

On October 26 of this year, Erv Windward, husband of Shirley Windward (co-stars of the documentary short “Greedy for Life”) died at the age of 97. I attended a memorial gathering to celebrate his life. I was taken with the stories about Erv’s caring and skill as a vocal teacher. It seems that several of his students had studied with him for more than 40 years. Most came not only to sing but to be around Erv and Shirley’s wisdom.

While we were filming “Greedy for Life”, I remember Erv’s deep voice and twinkle in his eyes. We had the privilege of filming one student’s lesson and I was amazed that despite Erv’s hearing problem, he could detect even the slightest need for a shift in tone. It was clear he had a passion for teaching.

I’m holding a place of deep gratitude for the opportunity to film and become friends with both Erv and Shirley Windward. You can enjoy clips of “Greedy for LIfe” under “trailers” on the website:  http://www.beautyofaging.comImage

No slowing down for this amazing 95-year old woman!

No slowing down for this amazing 95-year old woman!

Yvonne Rich has traveled extensively, mostly to the grape growing regions of the world or where there are very tall mountains.  She has been teaching wine appreciation to all levels of students for nearly 40 years in the wine cellar of her Altadena home which is pressed up against the Angeles National Forest.  Yvonne has an interest and passion for a vast variety of things and loves to spend time with friends playing tile rummy, sharing meals and wine, and reading books for her book club.  This amazing 95-year old who lives in the hills of Altadena, CA has no interest in slowing down!

Story and photo submitted by Barbara Balik

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90 Year-Old Edee is Young in Spirit and Heart!

On February 28th 2013, Edith Shuman, aka “Edee,” turned ninety years old.  Most people would regard this as quite an accomplishment.  In Edee’s case, however, she has glided into her tenth decade with such grace and style, that it all just seems quite natural, not extraordinary at all.  It’s as if her geriatric years never really began – she is still SO YOUNG in spirit and in heart, her family and friends all think of her as being a contemporary.  She walks every day.  She maintains an exhausting social calendar which includes movies and plays and concerts and parties.  She’s a regular at bingo.  She’s an awesome mahjong player.   And, she’s a tireless grandma to her two grandchildren in Las Vegas and her four grandchildren in Southern California.  And, just recently, she became a “first-time” great-grandmother, although, even at ninety, she seems too young to be a great-grandmother.  Family and friends come to Edee daily for her wise counseling and advice.  No matter the story content, you can always count on Edee to listen without judging.  It is no wonder everyone who knows her says they want to be Edee when they “grow up.”

Written by Marilyn Howard. Photo by Barbara Balik.

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