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Posts Tagged ‘seniors’

120218-Luna-and-Stella-rings-Knausgaard-book

I’m reading Book Six of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. The rings with the birthstones of my grandchildren are from Luna & Stella.

It’s always nice to learn that something you do anyway is good for your health. For example, I love to read. Now an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune tells me that reading books may help older folks stave off dementia.

Doug Williams writes, “If you want to live a long, healthy life, be sure to exercise, eat your veggies, get plenty of sleep and surround yourself with family and friends.

“Oh, and read a few good books each year, too.

“Several studies in recent years indicate that reading — especially reading books — is beneficial to health, wellness and even longevity.

“In 2016, research done by a team at the Yale University School of Public Health found that of more than 3,600 men and women 50 and older in a long-term health and retirement study, book readers — reading at least 3½ hours per week — had a 20 percent lower risk of dying over the next 12 years than non-book readers.

“Books, even more than long magazine or newspaper articles, seem to enhance quality of life, the researchers said.

“ ‘You have to engage more, hold on to information longer,’ says Avni Bavishi, one of the researchers and authors of the study done while she was completing her master’s in chronic disease epidemiology at Yale. …

“Bavishi, now a medical student at Northwestern, says regular book readers can find relaxation in reading. That can be an oasis — an old-school refuge — in this era of constantly changing stimuli from the Internet and 24-hour news cycle. Lifelong readers, too, may develop better critical thinking skills, vocabulary and empathy that can improve quality of life.

“The researchers believe books promote ‘deep reading’ that is a slow, immersive process. That cognitive engagement may help a reader over his or her lifetime to develop better skills for reasoning and concentration that can improve quality of life (better schools, jobs, income, standard of living). Plus, reading books can ‘promote empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence’ that can help create what they call a ‘survival advantage.’ …

“A study published in the journal Neurology in 2013 also cited the benefits of a lifetime of reading as a barrier to ‘late-life cognitive decline.’ It found that although there is no cure for dementia, ‘reading, writing and playing games’ can slow the progress of that affliction. …

“In a 2009 study at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, researchers found reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent, better even than listening to music or taking a walk. Stress reduction was indicated by a lower heart rate and reduced muscle tension.

“Other studies show reading — especially before bedtime — promotes better sleep. It also can enhance social skills and can boost overall intelligence and academic success. …

“In 2012, Stanford researchers — using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — tracked blood flow to the brain of men and women critically reading excerpts of a Jane Austen novel. They found positive physical results, including increased blood flow to the brain in general, not just to the areas responsible for ‘executive function.’ ” More here.

FYI, I post mini reviews of all the books I read at GoodReads. You can email me at suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com about that.

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Photo: Kristen Norman/NPR
Nearly half of the people in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side (where artist Matthew Hoffman created the above installation) live below the poverty line. Seniors living there had no idea there were public services that might help them.

Many older people want to stay in their homes a long time — if not forever. But when a friend commented the other day that if you stay too long, “the only person you eventually socialize with is your caregiver,” it got me thinking about the down side.

That’s why I was curious when Ina Jaffe weighed in at National Public Radio (NPR).

From her report: “Debra Thompson is throwing a block party. She has good weather for it — never a sure thing in Chicago — a warm and sunny autumn afternoon. Music is playing, hot dogs are grilling.

“But this party isn’t just for fun. Thompson is the volunteer chairwoman of Englewood Village, an organization that connects low-income older adults on the city’s South Side with services from nutrition to job assistance to home repair. And this is how she is reaching out to potential new members. …

“The Englewood Village has been around since 2015. But its roots go back 17 years and all the way to Boston, where Susan McWhinney-Morse and her friends were grappling with anxieties about aging. They wanted to stay in their homes as long as possible. They wanted to remain in their community on Beacon Hill.

“After a couple of years of effort, they produced the concept now known as the village. It’s a membership-run organization that provides access to services like transportation, help with household chores, even trouble-shooting computer problems, along with classes and social activities. …

“An independent organization has been founded to support the expansion of villages. It’s called the Village to Village Network, which has a map on its website showing where villages are located. …

“This fall, we traveled around the country to take a look at how villages are evolving. We found an effort in Chicago to create villages that serve low-income communities of color. We found a village in rural California where older adults don’t just receive services, they also provide them. Ultimately, what we found was that in practice, the village model isn’t so much a fixed formula, as an expression of older adults’ desires to age with dignity and independence. …

“At her Chicago block party, Debra Thompson cannot be ignored, with her dyed blond hair and a bright yellow T-shirt. She calls out to everyone, hoping they’ll fill out her survey so she can find out what they need. And Englewood seniors have a lot of needs. Nearly half of the people in this African-American neighborhood live below the poverty line. But many of them have no idea that there are public services that might help them. Thompson wants to change that.

“And she persists even when some people are reluctant to put their names on anything. …

“Thompson also passes out information on a lottery for free roof repairs and discounts on utilities and tells people about a service that can help frail older people remain in their homes. …

“[One] observer of the block party is Joyce Gallagher, and she likes what she sees. She is Chicago’s deputy commissioner for senior services. Gallagher loved the village concept from the first time she heard about it and wanted every older adult to have access to such a supportive community. The hang-up was the dues. The Chicagoans who could benefit the most from a village couldn’t fork over a few hundred bucks a year on top of paying for services.

“Then Gallagher had her lightbulb moment. What were the dues for? They paid for office space and computers and phones. But her department already had all of that in its 21 senior centers. …

“So Gallagher began to call meetings at senior centers around the city to see whether anyone was even interested in becoming part of this. She had no expectations about how she would be received. …

“In Englewood, Debra Thompson was interested. In fact, the Village has become her cause. ‘I devote every day to my seniors,’ she says. ‘I’m always looking for ways and partnerships and issues that can assist us to assist them in achieving what they need.’ ”

Read how the movement started in Boston, here. My husband’s friend, who lives on Beacon Hill, told us about it in 2000. Other forms of the concept are practiced around the country. For example, check out several groups in Vermont, here.

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A recent post at Asakiyume’s blog reminded me of Young at Heart, the senior-citizen chorus that inspired a movie I recommended to readers in 2011.

Asakiyume wrote, “One of the women I work with at the jail is in the choir there. I got permission to go in for the performance. The jail choir group is called the Majestics, and they’ve been mentored by a senior-citizen choir called Young at Heart, all of whom were wearing T-shirts that said ‘We put the “zen” in “senior citizen.'”

“Young at Heart performed as the opening act … Then the Majestics took the stage. There were six women, and they covered a great age range (three in their twenties, two in their thirties-forties, and one who was even older than me) and ethnically diverse (two Black, one Hispanic, three White). They sang well-known songs with lots of different flavors (hip-hop, pop, blues, soul), and all the choir members were featured at least once … The entire thing was a huge success; the audience was **so** supportive. …

“At the end the programs director called for an encore, and there hadn’t been a song laid by for that, but the Young At Heart choir sang “Forever Young” … Each time someone sang a solo, he or she linked arms with one of the members of the Majestics and brought them forward, and I could see tears in my student’s eyes and I had tears in mine, because–as the chaplain who was present pointed out–that song is a benediction, and it was so great to hear those words of blessing and hope and expectation directed at the audience in the jail:

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
And may you stay
Forever young”

-@-

So lovely. Such songs take on extra meaning when sung by seniors or by people who feel hopeless.

The Young at Heart movie, which I still hope you’ll see, was also full of resonance. And it exposed me to popular music like Coldplay’s “I will try to fix you.” Whenever that song comes on the radio, I see in my mind’s eye the old guy with the oxygen tank who drew tears from his audiences. He is surely gone now, but not that memory.

That the chorus has gone beyond inspiring seniors and their families to inspiring prisoners who have little to make them feel positive or hopeful — well, it’s just too amazing.

More at Asakiyume’s blog, here.

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A while back, I wrote about Lata, which teaches older folks around the world to create street art with spray paint. I follow Lata on Instagram and can confirm that the results of senior graffiti are a hoot.

Now Vicky Thornton writes at Arts Professional about starting a modern dance troupe for people over 60. There’s hope for us all.

She writes, “DANCE SIX-0 started in response to a visit to the Elixir Festival at Sadler’s Wells that included a performance by the Company of Elders, a contemporary dance company for people aged over 60. Judith Bossano, Meg Edgar and Philippa Heseltine were inspired to establish a similar opportunity for contemporary dance in Salisbury and sought my advice and support.

“I was overwhelmed by their effervescence in describing what they had seen, their enthusiastic response and a very clear directive that ‘we need this’. Judith spoke passionately and eloquently about why at the age of 80 she felt it absolutely necessary to keep moving and dancing and experience the joy she feels when performing. …

“Meg felt this was something needed in Salisbury, recognising that dance brings many physical, social and emotional benefits that are so important for overall wellbeing. She identified Salisbury Playhouse as an ideal venue, considering its location, facilities and audience base.

“Salisbury Playhouse enthusiastically recognised the project’s potential, offering support to trial the idea. We were keen to emphasise that it cater for anyone over 60 with varying levels of mobility. The playhouse facilitated three taster workshops with three professional dance practitioners …

“The high demand for places resulted in two open classes and we held an audition for our inaugural performance company, selecting nine women and three men. …

“At the Wiltshire Public Health Awards in April we won our category of ‘Tackling Health Inequalities in the Community’ for our work with people aged over 60. We hope this award reflects our commitment to offering opportunities but also in challenging stereotypes of what older people can and should do.”

I’m down with that. Read more at Arts Professional, here.

Photo: Adrian Harris/ArtsProfessional
DANCE SIX-0 is a contemporary dance company for the over 60s in Salisbury, UK.

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In Helsinki, Finland, where young people traditionally leave home at 18 but can no longer afford urban rents, Millennials are applying by the hundreds to live with the elderly.

According to Kae Lani Kennedy at Matador Network, “Retirement homes are serving as more than a community for the elderly. These facilities are providing affordable housing for the city’s growing population of homeless millennials.

“ ‘It’s almost like a dorm, but the people aren’t young. They’re old,’ explains Emil Bostrom, a participant in ‘A Home That Fits,’ a new housing project that allows millennials to move into retirement communities. Bostrom is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, and though he has a steady income, it is not enough to compete with 90,000 other renters in a city that has roughly 60,000 affordable rental properties. …

“Bostrom, along with many other young adults, can enjoy discounted rent in exchange for socializing with the seniors in their community. …

“By interacting with a younger generation, the elderly involved with ‘A Home That Fits’ have the opportunity to be engaged in an active and diverse community, instead of being left behind in a forgotten generation.” More here.

And check out a post I wrote about the same phenomenon in Cleveland, here. Both initiatives sound like fun to me.

Video: Seeker Stories

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Melita posted this link on Facebook. She was so excited about the idea of a graffiti class for older folks that she contacted the organization to see if they were planning anything for Boston. I told her I would join her if they held a class. But, alas, Boston is not on their calendar. We have to get the experience vicariously from AxaNews.net.

The Axa article is a series of photos with captions like this: “Women spray their designs on a wall during a graffiti class offered by … LATA 65 [an] initiative for the elderly in the area of urban art. Since it began in 2012, they have introduced the world of graffiti to over 100 senior citizens, giving workshops in different neighborhoods of Lisbon.”

Dovas adds more at Bored Panda, “Graffiti and street art have both often served to deepen the rift of misunderstanding between young and old, but there’s one art organization in Lisbon, Portugal that’s working to change that. LATA 65 works to destroy age stereotypes and turn senior citizens into street artists by providing them with spray paint cans, masks and gloves and finding them free spots in the city to tag up and paint!

“It all begins with workshops, where the students learn about the history of street art and get to create their own stencils. They then find run-down parts of the city to jazz up with colorful tags and stencil art.

“According to the organization’s Facebook, their goal is to connect older and younger generations through art, to help the elderly engage in new forms of contemporary art and, most importantly, to let them have fun.”

This is a whole different level from the knitting groups Di organized with old folks and young girls at church back in the day. Suzanne and Joanna were regulars when they were about 7.

See the seniors’ graffiti artwork here.

Photo: Rafael Marchante/Reuters
Women spray their designs on a wall during a graffiti class offered by the LATA 65 organization in Lisbon, Portugal, May 14, 2015.

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If I ever get tired of tai chi, I’m going to hunt down a ballet class like the one described at Newsday by Donna Kutt Nahas.

“Older adults,” she writes, “are taking their places along the ballet barre and living out their childhood fantasies. Once the province of the young, ballet is drawing late-life ballerinas and, to a lesser extent, male ballet dancers, who are returning to the art after a decades-long absence. Some, with no previous experiences, are attempting pliés and pirouettes for the first time.

“There is no statistical data on how many in the over-50 set are skipping yoga or the gym for ballet, but experts say the physically strenuous and mentally challenging pastime can improve vitality and provide a social outlet for older adults.

” ‘Ballet is low-impact, aerobic, weight-bearing, great core training and great for joint mobility, because you work the muscle in numerous positions,’ says Chris Freytag, an emeritus member of the board of directors of the San Diego-based American Council on Exercise. ‘And it’s great for brain fitness, because you have to connect your brain to doing a number of steps or sequences.’ “More at Newsday, behind the firewall.

On second thought, I think tai chi is more my speed. I took a lot of ballet as a child and even as a young adult. But I think I better just watch the ballerinas do it. And before long, it’s likely that one of the grandchildren will be taking it up.

Photos in the longer article: John Williams, Steve Pfost and Jeremy Bales
People are taking up ballet in their 50s, 60s, and beyond.

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