Thursday, May 28, 2009
The world’s oldest blogger, María Amelia López, passed away on May 20, 2009 at age 97. Her blog, amis95.blogspot.com, began when her grandson, Daniel, started it as a present for her 95th birthday. María Amelia began using the internet to keep in touch with news and modern culture. Her blog became her outlet to discuss a variety of topics from politics, to her swollen joints and bouts of dizziness, to even modern fashion.
Her blog, which is written in Spanish, became popular all over the world and has received over one million hits. Her readers even called her “Little Granny,” and would send letters asking her opinion on their own life decisions, such as what to study in school.
María Amelia loved her blog and all of her readers and made it a point to read every comment. I used a Google translator to translate some of the posts so I could read them. What struck me the most about María Amelia’s blog was her ability to be completely genuine. Her opinion on the aging process was not glamorized or negative. It was simply true.
María Amelia spoke of her loneliness and her illness frankly. However, she refused to be defeated by these components that can sometimes accompany old age. Her honesty and determination to continue to live life fully despite the number of candles on her birthday cake were an example to her readers.
The elderly population is a section of our society that is often looked over; María Amelia showed that there is a way for them to raise their voices (or their keyboards) and not only be heard but also to be sought after and listened to.
María Amelia’s ability to use the internet changed her life by providing her companionship and as she would say “feel very loved.” The change she experienced led her to become a strong advocate for how technology and the internet can improve the quality of life for many disengaged older adults.
María Amelia’s updates will be missed by her many blogger friends -- or as she used to call them her "blogueriños", yet María Amelia’s legacy will continue as a brilliant woman who proved that personal growth and development does not have to disappear with advancing age.
Stephanie is a UIndy sociology student who is pursuing a concentration in gerontology. She is also the administrative assistant at CAC.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
We've blogged several times here about the importance exercise and fitness in our older years. Well, today is a whole day set aside to celebrate that. It's National Senior Health & Fitness Day!
More than 1,000 organizations across the country will host activities in honor of the 16th annual National Senior Health & Fitness Day, which is organized by the Mature Market Resource Center, a national information clearinghouse for the older adults.
The day is celebrated the last Wednesday in May each year. If you work with older adults, you might want to mark your calendar now so you can begin planning your activities for next year.
If you are an older adult and exercise or fitness is already part of your daily routine, congratulations! If not, there is no time like the present. Exercise does not require a gym membership or fancy equipment. Meeting up with friends for a walk in the neighborhood counts. Dancing -- ballroom, square dancing or hip hop, if that's your style -- is an excellent form of exercise.
Not sure where to start? SeniorJournal.com offers "29 Tips of Physical Fitness for Seniors."
Some of the highlights include:
- Check with your doctor first.
- Exercise with a buddy.
- Set short-term and long-term goals.
- Start out slowly.
- Do balance exercises as well as strength exercises.
Another good source for senior fitness news is AARP's Fit@50+ program, where you'll find fitness resources, tools and articles.
If you are 50+ and have a fitness routine that you enjoy, tell us about it. If you work with older adults, tell us how you incorporate fitness and exercise into your programming.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community has been working in partnership with the Indiana Division of Aging for the past 22 months to develop Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NNORC) in five communities around the state. The program is called "Communities for Life."
What makes this “aging in place” model so unique is the direct involvement of senior residents, not only as beneficiaries of programs and services, but as paid employees, steering committee members, ambassadors, advocates, volunteer activities coordinators, fundraisers and even service providers. Elders -- not the "elderly" -- are becoming engaged and involved, identifying what’s good about their neighborhoods, what could be better, how to make it better and who will help.
And why are residents in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s so anxious to get involved and become decision makers? As one resident put it:
“I went to sleep one night and woke up old. I didn’t consider this a bad thing – just something that needed to be tended to. I may be old, but I’ve got plenty of fight left in me and I ain’t going nowhere soon.”
We’re all aware of the numbers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, by 2030, there will be about 71.5 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. People 65+ represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2000 but are expected to grow to be 20% of the population by 2030.
For some states, this rapid growth in the aging population is being seen as a “crisis in aging” while others see it as a “problem” to be solved. But in 2007, Indiana believed the best way to address the population explosion was to 1) develop a model of an “elder friendly” community, 2) develop a method to measure community “elder-friendliness,” and 3) help communities interpret and use this information to create action plans to support older residents’ health, well-being, and independence, as well as their social and civic engagement .
Although Indiana is ahead of the game when compared to other states, places like Minnesota have created legislation intended to coordinate planning efforts for dealing with the state’s rapidly aging population. While Indiana does not yet have aging in place legislation, it does have a program that works. Communities for Life is implementing supportive programs and services in Gary, Huntington, Indianapolis, Linton, and South Bend.
What we have found is that structuring programs to meet the needs of both rural and urban communities while being attentive to the uniqueness of each neighborhood, is both challenging and rewarding.
While all CFL seniors expressed a need for improved education and awareness of current senior programs and services, others identified minor home modification for better accessibility as their area of greatest need. As expected, one of the rural communities expressed a need for enhanced transportation services for seniors. To invigorate and engage many stakeholders, a couple of NNORC neighborhoods sponsored a pick-up/clean-up day to address overgrown weeds and trash on vacant lots throughout the neighborhood, which tend to invite crime.
Waking up old use to be synonymous with retirement, and retirement was synonymous with packing up, moving out and moving on. NPR’s Marketplace economics editor Chris Farrell recently addressed the issue of retirement and the Next American Dream.
“Our image of retirement is still shaped by the early decades after World War II. The poverty rate plunged, thanks to Social Security. Older Americans gained universal health care with Medicare. Corporate America offered workers good pensions. And it was in these years that retirees developed a distinct lifestyle, captured by the mass migration to the Sun Belt – places like Sun City – traveling in RVs, and long mornings spent on the golf course.”
While that might have been true in the 1940’s, according to AARP, today 9 in 10 adults age 60+ prefer to stay in their home and community rather than move.
“Connectedness to family, friends and community is truly the emotional fabric of our society and these relationships are key factors in the decision to stay or move,” said Nancy LeaMond, Group Executive Officer, AARP.
Waking up old has taken on a whole new meaning – one that says, “I’m still here and but I’ve got plenty of fight left in me and I ain’t going nowhere soon.”
Although the NNORC concept is not a new one, Indiana’s state-wide approach, providing funding for a year of planning prior to actual program implementation is new. The planning phase allowed seniors the opportunity to have a voice, a say in what they like and what they want changed about their neighborhood and community.
And as ready, willing and able participants in this redevelopment phenomenon, they’re shaking things up and moving things around here in Indiana.
CFL Project Director
Thursday, May 21, 2009
The Indianapolis Star reported today that Eli Lilly and Company will begin enrolling patients in two Phase III clinical trials of Solanezumab, an antibody that may slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Phase III trials are conducted after evidence from smaller trials have shown that the test drug is safe and may be effective in the treatment of a particular disease. Phase III trials help researchers determine gather additional information to evaluate the overall benefit and risk of the drug to patients.
Lilly plans to enroll 2,000 patients in 16 countries. Patients or caregivers interested in participating in the Phase III study of Solanezumab can visit www.clinicaltrials.gov or call (877) 285-4559.
For more information on other Alzheimer's disease research requiring patient participation, click here.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Has anyone watched any of the HBO Alzheimer's Project? What did you think? What struck you? Were you left feeling hopeful or despairing?
If you are in Indiana, you might want to attend a private screening of a portion of the series hosted by the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center (IADC). Following the screening, IADC faculty members will be available to answer questions about Alzheimer disease, current diagnosis, treatment and promising areas of research.
The screening will be held on Thursday May 28, 2009 from 6:30 – 8:30pm at the Riley Outpatient Center Auditorium, 601 West Drive in Indianapolis.
This program is free of charge and open to the public but registration is required as space is limited. Please RSVP to 317-274-4939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, May 18, 2009
I recently read in the newspaper a Y-Press column about immortality, titled "Would you want to live forever?" The article, authored by six youth aged 13-17, discussed the book Tuck Everlasting and immortality as seen by an English biomedical researcher.
Tuck Everlasting, a fantasy children’s novel written in 1975 by Natalie Babbitt, is about a family that discovers a spring under the roots of a giant tree. Whoever drinks from the spring is given eternal life. Teenage Winnie Foster falls in love with Jesse Tuck and has to decide whether to join him in immortality or live (and die) as the rest of world does.
Dr. Aubrey de Grey is an English biomedical gerontologist who is developing therapies that he believes would extend human lives by hundreds of years. His efforts are being promoted through the SENS Foundation and the Methuselah Foundation.
The authors of the column ask the question “Is radical life extension or immortality a good thing?” Most of the young people, who had read the book several years before and liked the idea of immortality, had changed their minds.
A 10-year old boy interviewed for the story said that aging is part of life. An 11-year old girl said, “Life would just go on and on and on. You wouldn’t value it as much.”
I like that, but my favorite comment comes from a 17-year old young woman who said, “I just don’t think life would be as important or as breathtaking or fun if you have so much of it.”
Breathtaking? When was the last time you thought life was “breathtaking?” We live in a world that is obsessed with being young. We often think the best years of our lives are behind us. Our preoccupation with the loss of our youth prevents us from welcoming the exciting events of the journey ahead.
Value, important , breathtaking and fun..what wonderful words to describe life and our personal journeys! When we think about the best way to spend our time, we ought to consider what will be there when we are gone.
Channeling our actions into what will outlast us and build our legacy. It may be the lessons we teach children, the trees we plant, the letters we write to family and friends, or the minds we enrich. Age matters less when we pour ourselves into people and things that will, in their own way, continue us.
Like a character in Tuck Everlasting says, “Don’t be afraid of death – be afraid of the unlived life.” Maybe someday people will describe you and your life – and me and mine -- as breathtaking.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Today is my friend Denise's 40th birthday. Last night we celebrated with a girls' night out during which she received several gifts that poked fun at her advancing age. So, today when I happened upon an article from U.S. News & World Report that disputed several myths about aging, I thought posting it here would be an appropriate gift for my friend:
5 Common Myths About Aging:
To read the supporting information for each of these myths, click here.
Care to expose any other myths about aging that you've encountered? Leave a comment and tell us all about the myth and the truth behind it.
And if you run into my friend, Denise, wish her another happy 40 years.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It's pretty rare that I get to mix business with pleasure on this blog. But as I watched the finale of The Biggest Loser on Tuesday night, I just knew it was an All Things Aging blog entry in the making.
Of the 22 contestants in this season's competition, five of them were over the age of 45:
More remarkable than the fact that they were selected to compete in the fitness and weight-loss reality TV show, is the fact that two of them walked away as winners.
Jerry Hayes, the oldest Biggest Loser contestant ever, won the at-home competition between players who had been eliminated during the season. On the season opener, he collapsed in the gym under the strain of the workout and was ultimately sent home after only two weeks on the Biggest Loser ranch.
That didn't stop him -- or his wife Estella. They continued their diet and exercise routine which led to an 83-pound weight loss for Estella and a 177-pound, nearly 48%, loss for Jerry. That was more than enough for to clinch the $100,000 at-home prize.
Jerry & Estella before and after:
The night's second winner -- and the new owner of the title "The Biggest Loser" -- was Helen Phillips who lost 54.47% of her body weight (that's 140 pounds, folks!). At 48 years old, she edged out two finalists 30 and 25 years her junior, Mike Morrelli (age 18) and Tara Costa (age 23). Helen's prize, besides her new body, was $250,000.
Helen before and after:
Photos courtesy of NBC.com
In his book He Still Moves Stones, author Max Lucado tells that a friend of Oliver Wendell Holmes asked him why he had taken up the study of Greek at the age of ninety-four. Holmes replied, "Well, my good sir, it's now or never."
The success of all five of these contestants (Ron lost 192 pounds, while Cathy shed 95 of her own) puts an exclamation point on that statement and proves once again that it's never too late to change.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Last month, I wrote about my mother and her Alzheimer’s. I told of staying with her for four days while my dad took some time off and feeling blessed to have those precious days. As a long distance caregiver, I knew that each moment was fleeting and one of a kind.
Today, not two months later, my mother has declined to the point where we must place her in a long term care facility. I leave this Friday for Connecticut, where, according to the professionals, we must “trick” her into going.
Suffice it to say “therapeutic lying”, as it is termed in the professional arena, sounds good on paper and in practice -- when it is not your own parent. Perhaps if we were therapeutically lying about something more innocuous than taking her from her home of 43 years and placing her in an 11 by 11 foot room with strangers, it might feel better. I don’t know.
What I do know is that now that the $10,000 payment has been made; her physical, mental and emotional assessment has been completed; and her personal items have magically disappeared through my sister’s stealth movements (so we can put them in her new room), my father has dug his heels in and does not want to move her. I can’t blame him. Cold feet, guilt, denial, sadness, and grief. Perfectly normal emotions for a man who has spent his entire adult life with the woman he loves.
My sisters and I struggle to be respectful of my dad’s process and still do the right thing for our mother. And I struggle with my own emotions of sadness and grief.
I share this story with you for two reasons.
One, to encourage family members to access the resources of the Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations devoted to helping caregivers through this process. It’s easy to feel alone when this is happening in your family. Literature we received from the Alzheimer’s Association; support from A Place for Mom, a free elder care referral service; and logistical help and reassurance from the facility we chose for my mother have all helped make this nightmarish situation a little more bearable.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I write this to encourage each and every one of you to fully enjoy today. As the old adage goes: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift - that is why we call it the present.” Embrace the present you have with your loved ones.
Senior Projects Director
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The University of Indianapolis invites applications for a full-time visiting assistant or associate professor in Aging Studies in the Center for Aging & Community (CAC). Start date: Summer 2009.
CAC seeks an experienced educator and researcher to serve as faculty in the graduate and undergraduate Aging Studies programs and as a research and evaluation project team member for the Center’s contract and grant projects.
Apply electronically at http://www.uindy.edu/visitors/hr. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.
Monday, May 11, 2009
As I searched the Internet one day, I chanced upon a website advertising a film about a woman who has aged into her 90’s exhibiting both practicality and style. Well-known by face perhaps but not by name, model and actress Mimi Weddell is the subject of "Hats Off!" a documentary conducted over a span of about a 10-year period.
What makes her special? Many of the same qualities that I see in aging people every day – it’s just that most of them don’t have films made about them. They go about their lives quietly and leave marks of their personal novelty that are rarely documented but profoundly felt by others whose lives are better for having known them.
So why should we care about Mimi’s story? Is it because she was named as one of the “50 most beautiful people in New York” by New York Magazine when she was 90 years old? Unprecedented as it was, that is not what makes her so special.
She is an example to me as a baby boomer and one I can share with students in my courses about positive images of aging. She exemplifies determination, resilience, creativity, and breaks through the stereotypes about older women.
When Mimi was widowed and left with little but a set of bills by her late husband, she took on the task of supporting herself and caring for her family by starting an acting career -- at age 65! She had worked off and on over the years doing secretarial work and some modeling but had to get serious when the chips were down.
She continues almost 30 years later to work hard at taking care of herself to be the best that she can be and to fulfill her dreams. At 93, she continues to audition, attend photo shoots for ads, commercials, and play an occasional part in films. She loves to be independent and yet her grown children and their families live with her and are part of her everyday experiences.
Check out the video trailer for "Hats Off!" here:
Mimi is a reminder that aging is what you make it, and it can be amazing!
Tamara Wolske, MS
Academic Program Director
Friday, May 8, 2009
The University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community is offering an undergraduate Certificate in Aging Studies through the UIndy School for Adult Learning (SAL).
Individuals who are interested in obtaining the certificate may enroll in the Lifelong Learning College which is a non-degree seeking option (however the credits obtained may later be transferable to a degree program). Students enrolled in a degree program through SAL may take the individual courses as electives or all four courses to earn the certificate.
By 2050, 20% of the US population will be age 65 or older, an increase from 12% in 2000. This increase in the numbers of older adults makes it imperative that we be prepared to live and work in a world where an aging demographic of baby boomers and beyond will affect every facet of life. Earning a certificate in aging studies may give you a leg up in the job market and can help prepare you for your own aging process or that of your loved ones.
The 12-credit hour certificate is comprised of four courses offered in accelerated format. Classes will meet one night each week for five weeks per course in the 2009-2010 year:
GERO 301 Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Aging (SEM I)
GERO 305 Physical Dimensions of Aging (SEM I)
GERO 310 Aging in Society & Community (SEM II)
GERO 320 Psychology of Aging (SEM II)
For more information contact: SAL or call (317) 788-3393.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
The University of Indianapolis will host an exciting conference for physical therapists (PTs) in July 2010. Entitled “Exercise and Physical Activity in Aging: Blending Research and Practice,” and known as ExPAAC, the conference is sponsored by the American Physical Therapy Association’s Section on Geriatrics.
Targeted to PTs in clinical practice, education, and research, the purpose of ExPAAC is to
- disseminate current research about physical activity and exercise from midlife through older adulthood;
- translate research into evidence based practice;
- identify primary barriers to translation of research into evidence based practice;
- promote best practices in physical therapy practice and education; and
- evaluate public policies that influence the capacity of physical therapists to provide services.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The Alliance for Retired Americans this week issued a press release announcing that the U.S. Congress is becoming more senior-friendly, as evidenced by voting records on 10 key votes in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
From the organization's press release:
"The 2008 voting record showed a continuation of a pro-senior trend in America, one which began with the 2006 midterm elections and culminated with the historic elections of 2008," said Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling. "There were more perfect scores on the voting record this year, and fewer zeroes," continued Easterling.
"Higher scores show a commitment to improve health care, strengthen Medicare, and put seniors ahead of drug and insurance companies," Easterling said.Issues considered in the voting record included:
- Social Security privatization
- Low-income energy assistance program
- Medicare improvements bill
- Background checks for long-term care workers
- Drug reimportation
- Elder abuse
- Home foreclosure prevention
Click here for a copy of the report and to see how your senator or representative voted.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Can you stand reading one more article that includes the phrase "swine flu" in it? Currently swine flu, officially known as the H1N1 influenza virus, is not any more deadly than the other influenza viruses. However, because the CDC estimates that 36,000 Americans die -- most of them elderly -- die from flu each year, it's worth paying attention to. In addition, officials are concerned that swine flu may become more dangerous as it spreads.
Believing that knowledge is power, we're passing on the link to "7 Things Caregivers Should Know About Swine Flu," which was published last week in The New York Times.
For more information about older adults and this potential pandemic, check out: AARP Bulletin: What We Know about Swine Flu.
General population information about this virus can be found at the CDC website.
Monday, May 4, 2009
In its Spring 2009 newsletter, the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Research Center listed a dozen Alzheimer's research studies currently enrolling participants.
Click here to download a document detailing what kind of participants are needed, study length and details and contact information for interested parties.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
When we started this All Things Aging blog back in November, I wrote about buying my first pair of reading glasses. Now, I find myself confronting another marker of aging. This post was originally published on my personal blog, but because the content seems to fit, I'm cross-posting it here:
When I was in my 20's, I had ideas for how my life was going to work and generally didn't have any trouble sharing my life's expectations with family, friends and co-workers. One of the things I was adamant about was that, when the time came, I would gray gracefully. I would not fall into the vanity of coloring my hair.
That coming from a 20-something is like a single woman declaring "When I have children, they will not run around the grocery store like heathens, they will be perfectly behaved in restaurants, and they will never talk back to me." Lofty goals, unlikely reality.
Sometime in my early 30s, I started coloring a bit just for the fun of going auburn or experimenting with blondish highlights. It really wasn't about hiding anything.
Now 18 years and 3 children after my bold declaration about graying, the hormones, the years, and the stress from both of those things have done a number on my hair. On the top, the strands of gray are becoming more prevalent. Why is that the gray hairs are the crazy-whack-funky ones that stand straight up or kink in four different directions?
I'll admit to having colored my hair on several occasions for the purpose of preserving my youth. Usually the color came from a box. Sometimes from a salon. But for the past four or five months, I've been going back to that "gray gracefully" theory. I work in a place that's all about positive aging, for crying out loud. So shouldn't I embrace my age instead of try to cover it up?
Well...that sounds good. However, the fact of the matter is that we're not talking about a few straggly grays in the crown of my head. Nope. The sides of my head are almost completely white. It's most noticeable when I wear my sunglasses like a headband (frequently) or when I tuck my hair behind my ears (almost always). Mike said I look like Paulie Walnuts from the Sopranos:
We talk a lot at work about successful aging. And I think that perhaps that means growing old on your own terms, aging in a way that you are comfortable with.
If that's an accurate definition, then I plan to be incredibly successful tomorrow with a box of Clairol Natural Instincts #20 Hazelnut.
Friday, May 1, 2009
On Sunday, May 10, HBO will premiere a five-part documentary series called "The Alzheimer's Project," which will examine several aspects of the devastating disease.
The Alzheimer's Project will air on the following dates and times:
Sunday, May 10 at 9 p.m. EST: "The Memory Loss Tapes" – The opening film in the series brings us into the lives of seven individuals living with Alzheimer's, each in a progressively advancing state of the disease.
Monday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. EST: "'Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am?' with Maria Shriver" – Alzheimer's may occur in older adults, but affects entire families. Learn from five children, ages six to 15, what it's like to have a grandparent suffering from this disease.
Monday, May 11 at 8 p.m. EST (Part 1): "Momentum in Science" – Over the course of two nights, this two-part film examines the work of 25 leading scientists and researchers seeking to understand what causes Alzheimer's and how to treat it.
Tuesday, May 12 at 7 p.m. EST: "Caregivers" – This film profiles five people's experiences -- both the challenges and the successes -- providing care to a loved one with Alzheimer's.
Tuesday, May 12 at 8 p.m. EST (Part 2): "Momentum in Science" – Over the course of two nights, this two-part film examines the work of 25 leading scientists and researchers seeking to understand what causes Alzheimer's and how to treat it.
After the initial airing, the series will be re-aired several times on HBO. In addition, HBO has developed an informative The Alzheimer's Project website that includes supplementary videos as well as materials available for downloading.