Posts Tagged ‘Aging’

Death be not proud

October 10, 2014

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We all know that death is a creepy topic, and we avoid serious discussion of it like the plague (oops, poor choice of cliche!). Well, Halloween is coming, and I highly recommend your listening to this half-hour interview on the subject of death. You will learn a lot, and be entertained as well. Then, to really get into the gory details (and learn a lot more), explore her website and watch some of her short videos.

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Dive in!

September 12, 2013

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This is worth reading:

Diana Nyad and the wisdom of age

Guest Columnist (Vincent P. Ward)
Published: Sep 12, 2013, in The State
http://www.thestate.com/2013/09/12/2974330/ward-diana-nyad-and-the-wisdom.html
The thing that impressed most people about Diana Nyad wasn’t her triumphant emergence from Gulf waters after 53 hours to become the first person ever to swim from Cuba to Florida’s Key West without a shark cage. It’s that she was 64 years old.
The sheer strength, tolerance of pain and discomfort and endurance it took are astonishing. But as Nyad indicated afterward, there’s more to be found by looking deeper. The three things to take from her journey, she said, are “never give up; you’re never too old; and it looks like a solitary achievement but it’s a team effort.”
This was more than breaking a sports record. It was a demonstration of what can be accomplished with the products of aging itself. In a PBS interview the next day, she said that as she ages, “the clock seems to be ticking faster” and “time seems to be running out.” She wanted this to be “a lesson to my life that says, ‘Be fully engaged; be so fully awake and alert and alive.’”
So wisdom was a major factor. She later spoke of the line between acknowledging the possibility of being defeated by things that are bigger than we are, and quitting before we actually reach our limits. It takes wisdom to see, and to live into, that paradox.
Courage is another factor. Nyad braved the water temperature, waves, currents and weather. She braved sharks, swimming without the contraption that keeps them away and marginally eases the water’s resistance around the swimmer. She braved the jellyfish, which had taken her out of action before. She braved the depths, in which unknown critters swim, some of which could rise up to make you dinner.
In other words, she entered the ocean more on its terms and less on hers. This requires another frequent feature of aging: humility, the recognition that in the great scheme of things, you’re not nearly as important as your ego thinks you are. Related is a willingness to surrender to the task, to go with the flow of the sea, rather than determining to conquer it.
Patience is a factor, too. It took four decades of it to hold onto her “extreme dream.” Biding her time while her body aged must have been hard, and probably seemed unwise to many.
Exhaustion, muscle and joint pain, sunburn, swallowed sea water that had to be vomited up, self-doubt, fear, two days without sleep and more. Why would anybody deliberately embrace such suffering? I suspect for the same reason Christ did: for the sake of meaning greater and far more important than safety and comfort.
This swim was in Nyad’s mind for 40 years. She got in the water to start on four occasions, but never finished. But being unable to finish was not the same as giving up. Aging, if you’re paying attention, entails internal change, an emergence, a response to insistent pressure from the inside to become more authentic. So I suspect the meaning of the swim changed over the years and decades, becoming a journey, a process, that occupied a much larger, more central and more profound place in her than just breaking a record. I think it came to represent a destiny of the spirit.
But the time for fulfilling it was not to come until she was spiritually equipped, with the wisdom, courage, humility, interior strength, love that drew supporters to her, and acceptance of the role of suffering in life, which only years can bring. Her journey began decades ago, but I think she had to be 64 to integrate all that and finish this stage of it. “Stage” because the journey is life, and it’s not over till it’s over.
Those of us who are “of an age” had better be paying attention. It wasn’t the goal of swimming from Cuba to Florida that Diana Nyad never gave up on — it was herself. We should be inspired by her to the same journey. Our approaching death is no excuse for giving up on life.
Dr. Ward is a Columbia psychotherapist; reach him at drv-sc@earthlink.net.

Something to keep a bloodshot eye on.

November 20, 2008

cannabis-plant

Usually, I don’t post about preliminary research findings, and this one only applies to rats, but I think it is interesting. Beyond that, no comment.

Puff-a-Day Marijuana Dose Helped Older Rats Remember (Update1)

By Rob Waters

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) — A daily puff of a compound like marijuana, the plant blamed for ruining potheads’ recall, might help maintain memory in old age, researchers who tried it on rats reported today at a neuroscience meeting.

Here is the full story.

Lessons for living longer

June 15, 2008

Author Dan Buettner (The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest), in partnership with National Geographic and the National Institute on Aging, traveled the world to find out who lives the longest and what we can learn from them.

From the NPR story:

Buettner says one such zone, the Italian island of Sardinia, has the highest number of male centenarians in the world, while another, Okinawa, Japan, has the longest disability-free life expectancy. In Loma Linda, Calif., a community of Seventh Day Adventists has a life expectancy that’s nine to 11 years greater than that of other Americans. And middle-age mortality is lowest on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula — where Buettner says middle-aged residents have about a four-fold greater chance of reaching age 90 than people in the United States do.

Some commonalities which seem to correlate with long, healthy lives:

“One of the idiosyncrasies we discovered is that people who eat nuts four to five times a week, 2 ounces at a time, tend to live two to three years longer than people who don’t eat nuts. That was a big surprise for us,” Buettner says.

Some may think the secret to longevity lies in strenuous physical activity, such as running marathons or triathlons or pumping iron. But Buettner says he has identified four things people can do that can potentially increase life expectancy: Create an environment that encourages physical activity, set up your kitchen in such a way that you’re not overeating, cultivate a sense of purpose and surround yourself with the right people.

“These are long-term fixes that have been shown over and over to add not only more years of life, but better years of life,” Buettner says.

These findings are consistent with the findings from Vaillant’s book Aging Well (see previous post), and with many other studies (for example here).

The weakness of this kind of research is that it only shows correlations (does not prove cause and effect) and suffers from the “cohort effect” — all the people studied, by virtue of their similar age, grew up under unique socio-cultural-historical conditions which may never occur again.

Happy-Well

May 22, 2008

It gives me great pleasure, and not a little anxiety, to launch this blog, which I am calling Happy-Well in honor of George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist/researcher who is the author of Aging Well.

In his book, Vaillant reports on the results of a long-term study where men and women were monitored for decades. Here is an exerpt from Weight Management for Your Life which further describes the study (p. 8):

Vaillant writes about factors that seem to predict which research subjects turn out to be Sad-Sick (including dead) and which Happy-Well. One description of the Happy-Well group highlights their “learning to live with neither too much desire and adventure nor too much caution and self-care. … Rather, successful aging means giving to others joyously whenever one is able, receiving from others gratefully whenever one needs it, and being greedy enough to develop one’s own self in between.” After reviewing the data on all 1406 subjects Dr. Vaillant was pleasantly surprised to learn that most of the significant predictors of positive outcome were things we have some measure of control over: “The protective factors … – a stable marriage, the ability to make lemonade from lemons, avoiding cigarettes, modest use of alcohol, regular exercise, high education, and maintaining normal weight – allow us to predict thirty years in the future.

As you will see by glancing at the categories list, I plan to comment on a variety of health and wellness related issues, particularly ones which we can affect by changing our behavior. I hope you read and benefit from my postings, and I look forward to hearing from you!