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Posts Tagged ‘ageing’

Photo: NeuroscienceNews.
Latinos aged 55 and older who participated in Latin dance classes for eight months showed significant improvement in working memory over their peers who did not partake in Latin dance.

When I expressed worry about signs of aging, my scientist brother chided me for not being more upbeat, saying, “The brain can look like Swiss cheese and one can still have a happy hour, or more maybe, left.”

He was right. Today’s article on the virtues of dance for older people underscores that point and suggests that for some, dance can even reverse decline.

NeuroscienceNews describes a recent study from the University of Illinois.

“Latinos age 55 and over who participated in a culturally relevant Latin dance program for eight months significantly improved their working memory compared with peers in the control group who attended health education workshops, according to the study’s lead author, Susan Aguiñaga, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Working memory – the ability to temporarily keep a small amount of information in mind while performing other cognitive tasks – is integral to planning, organizing and decision-making in everyday life.

“The dance program used in the study, Balance and Activity in Latinos, Addressing Mobility in Older Adults – or BAILAMOS – showed promise at enticing older Latinos to become more physically active and help stave off age-related cognitive decline, Aguiñaga said.

“ ‘Dance can be cognitively challenging,’ Aguiñaga said. ‘When you’re learning new steps, you have to learn how to combine them into sequences. And as the lessons progress over time, you must recall the steps you learned in a previous class to add on additional movements.’

“BAILAMOS was co-created by study co-author David X. Marquez, a professor of kinesiology and nutrition, and the director of the Exercise and Psychology Lab at the University of Illinois Chicago; and Miguel Mendez, the creator and owner of the Dance Academy for Salsa.

“BAILAMOS incorporates four types of Latin dance styles: merengue, salsa, bachata and cha cha cha, said Aguiñaga, who has worked with the program since its inception when she was a graduate student at the U. of I. Chicago.

“ ‘It’s an appealing type of physical modality,’ she said. ‘Older Latinos are drawn to Latin dance because most of them grew up with it in some way.’

“Latin dance can evoke positive emotions that prompt listeners to participate, increasing levels of physical activity in a population that tends to be sedentary, according to the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

“More than 330 Spanish-speaking Latino adults who were middle-aged or older were recruited for the study, primarily through community outreach in local churches. Participants were randomly assigned to either the dance group or the control group, which met once a week for two-hour health education classes that covered topics such as nutrition, diabetes and stress reduction.

“Participants in the BAILAMOS groups met twice weekly for the dance sessions, taught by a professional instructor for the first four months and later by a ‘program champion’ – an outstanding participant in each group who displayed enthusiasm and leadership qualities.

“The program’s champions were selected and trained by the instructor to lead the sessions during the four-month maintenance phase.

“Over the different waves of the four-year study, the dance lessons were held at 12 different locations across Chicago, such as neighborhood senior centers and churches that were familiar and easily accessible to participants, Aguiñaga said.

“Participants’ working memory – along with their episodic memory and executive function – was assessed with a set of seven neuropsychological tests before the intervention began, when it concluded after four months and again at the end of the maintenance phase.

“Participants also completed questionnaires that assessed the number of minutes per week they engaged in light, moderate and vigorous physical activity through tasks associated with their employment, leisure activities, household maintenance and other activities. …

“As with a small pilot study of BAILAMOS conducted previously, the current study found no differences in any of the cognitive measures between the dance participants and their counterparts in the health education group at four months. However, after eight months, people in the dance group performed significantly better on tests that assessed their working memory.

“ ‘That’s probably one of the most important findings – we saw cognitive changes after eight months, where participants themselves had been leading the dance classes during the maintenance phase,’ Aguiñaga said. ‘All of our previous studies were three or four months long. The take-home message here is we need longer programs to show effects.

“ ‘But to make these programs sustainable and create a culture of health, we also need to empower participants to conduct these activities themselves and make them their own.’ “

The open-access study, “Latin Dance and Working Memory: The Mediating Effects of Physical Activity Among Middle-Aged and Older Latinos,” by Susan Aguiñaga et al appears in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

This really intrigues me. Even though I have no Latin background, music like salsa makes me want to dance, too. I suppose if I were in a research study, though, I’d probably need doo-wop to trigger a primordial urge to leap out of my chair.

More at NeuroscienceNews, here.

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I liked this story about a 91-year-old artist having his first solo show. John sent it to me. I hope the Arlington Advocate leaves it up for a while. (I know that all the profiles I wrote for the newspaper chain of which the Advocate is a part — and all my theater reviews — are long gone.)

A solo exhibition called ‘Umberto Centofante: A Life’s Work” was featured at the Arlington Center for the Arts (ACA) until last week and highlighted 40 years of still lifes, portraits and landscapes.

Heather Beasley Doyle writes, “When Umberto Centofante tells a story about his life or talks about his art, a distinct, almost palpable energy underscores his words. His eyes light up, his body springs lightly and a hearty laugh punctuates his paragraphs. …

“Centofante’s life began in Pontecorvo, Italy, where he grew up on his family’s farm. When he was eight years old, he says, his teacher gave him a sketchbook to take home with him.

“ ‘All of a sudden some ideas came into my head,’ Centofante recalled, and he filled the book with drawings of farm life. …

“The drawings earned him a prize and the opportunity to receive professional art instruction — a chance he had to pass up so he could help work the farm. Eventually, Centofante became a police officer and worked in Rome. After World War Two ended, he emigrated from Italy, bound for the Boston area and a job as a truck mechanic at Garwood Industries in Brighton he secured with help from an uncle who lived in Milton. Centofante had never been a mechanic, but he learned with the same intuition that had enabled him to fill the sketchbook.

“Centofante is ‘self-taught in everything,’ including painting, according to the oldest of his four children, Elaine Gleason. …

“In the Gibbs Gallery, Centofante’s paintings of boats ferrying passengers through white-capped brilliant blue seas share space with glowing, color-soaked portraits of children and exacting, nearly monochromatic nature scenes such as ‘High Moon.’ …

“Centofante says he never sketches out a project ahead of time — that he spends more time thinking and planning a painting than setting paint to canvas.

“ ‘I don’t design; I just start. I find the resolution very quickly,’ he explained. …

“Asked why he paints, he replied simply: ‘It makes me feel good.’ ”

Read more of the story at the Arlington Advocate.

Photo: Arlington.Wicked.Local.com

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“JR,” a French street artist, has created a series of murals called “The Wrinkles of the City.”

The wrinkles are the intriguing faces of older people, often pictured on crumbling edifices. Kevin Harnett writes about them at the Sunday Globe, here.

“JR, a Frenchman whose real name is unknown, has become an international art celebrity thanks to his work flyposting oversized black-and-white photographs, often portraits of ordinary people’s faces, to the sides of buildings in cities around the world. …

“JR’s series ‘The Wrinkles of the City,’ which he began in Cartagena, Spain, has also appeared in Los Angeles and Shanghai. More recently he and collaborator José Parlá took to Havana, where they bedecked the old communist capital with the faces of dozens of Cuban Revolution survivors wearing expressions of deep-creased sanguinity. ‘The Wrinkles of the City, Havana, Cuba’ has been adapted for display at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York City.” The show may be seen until July 12.

Street art in Cuba by JR

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My husband, who has made a lot of business trips to Japan (and also has been reading my posts about 100-year-old workers), pointed me to something interesting at the Japan Times.

Jiji writes, “A business project focused on selling decorative leaves for use in Japanese cuisine is attracting overseas attention to Kamikatsu, a mountain town in Tokushima Prefecture. …

“The [Irodori, or bright colors] project, which succeeded in commercializing colored leaves grown in local mountains and fields and now claims members from nearly 200 farms, has become a vital industry in Kamikatsu, which has a population of less than 2,000. …

“The average age of the farmers involved in the project is 70, and many are women. Some earn more than 10 million [yen, more than $100,000] a year from the business.

“Irodori members use tablet computers to check for updated information on orders. The leaves are grown in their own mountains and fields, then distributed to markets across Japan via an agricultural cooperative. …

“According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which promotes international visits to Kamikatsu, the response to its English DVD on the Irodori project was huge. It has been translated into Bengali, Spanish and French.

“Tomoji Yokoishi, 54, who came up with the Irodori idea and is president of the managing company, said perceptional shifts are responsible for its success.

“The project turned regular leaves into a valuable resource and turned its elderly into a workforce, Yokoishi explained.”

I’m guessing that the phrase “for use in Japanese cuisine” doesn’t mean anyone eats the leaves. They are probably used to decorate tables where Japanese cuisine is served. Do you think?

Read the Japan Times article, here.

Art: Elaine Richards, 1994 7″ X 10″ Watercolor Collection B. Riff

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John recently alerted me to a PBS News Hour interview that my brother’s friend Paul Solman conducted with Rosa Finnegan, an enthusiastic 100-year-old worker. That reminded me that I had purchased the September 3 issue of the Christian Science Monitor Weekly largely because that lovely lady was on the cover.

The lead article had an intriguing title and blurb: “The silver-collar economy — More companies are hiring people 65 and older because they believe they are reliable and productive, while the seniors themselves need and want to work. But is the trend squeezing out young people?”

It interested me because I’m an older worker who is not tired of working. I don’t know if all young people feel squeezed out, but just yesterday, a young employee asked a friend of mine, “Are you thinking of retirement? You’ve been here a long time.” My friend made a polite rejoinder about loving the work and the people and not making any plans to leave.

She has many productive years ahead of her.

Mark Trumbull writes of Rosa Finnegan that she “has plenty of similarities with other wage-earning Americans. She hitches rides in with a co-worker, likes to joke around with colleagues, and feels very grateful to have her job. At the end of the day, she’s ready to sink into a cushy chair at home.

“But Mrs. Finnegan is also a trailblazer. She offers striking proof that employment and productive activity need not end when the so-called retirement years arrive. Let’s put it this way: Where many people now nearing retirement can recall Sputnik, civil rights protests, or the pitching wizardry of Sandy Koufax, she mentions memories of gas-lit streets, the spread of telephones, and working at a rubber plant during World War II.

“Having passed her 100th birthday this year, Finnegan is still working at a needle factory in [Needham, Mass.], helping to make and package the stainless-steel products in custom batches. Yes, she walks a bit more slowly now than many of her co-workers. But Rosa, as they all call her, still has willing hands and a nimble mind. And she has no desire to leave her job.

” ‘I’d rather be here than almost anywhere,’ she says. ‘You feel like you’re still a worthwhile person, even though you’re old – [you’re] not sitting in a rocking chair.’ ”

Read the whole delightful story here. And check out the Solman interview and his video clip, here.

And to all who say U.S. manufacturing is dead, I will just point out that there is a needle factory in Needham.

Photograph: Melanie Stetson Freeman / The Christian Science Monitor
Rosa Finnegan works on a needle at Vita Needle in Needham, Mass.

 

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