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Ageless Aging - May 2013
May 07, 2013
Good day to you. This newsletter comes a bit late because I have been off at a workshop about bio-energy healing. More about that at another time.
I want to begin by welcoming new readers and welcoming back those who have been reading this newsletter for awhile. For me, it is a privilege to be able to share new research and ideas about this remarkable time in our lives
Best exercise for those over 55Last month I read an amazing article about the best exercise for seniors. I expected it would be some aerobic or breathing exercise, maybe Tai Chi or Yoga or even lifting weights. But it wasn't. .
To my surprise the research said it is LAUGHING. Yes, laughing. Seems that laughing relaxes muscles, releases endorphins [improving mood and reducing our perception of pain]. It boosts energy, strengthens our immune systems, normalizes blood pressure and reduces the negative effects of stress. (If a pharmaceutical company could bottle it, every doctor in the world would be prescribing it.)
That article brought to mind a book by Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness, which was his report of recovery from a serious, debilitating medical condition through the systematic use of laughter. I also recalled a report of 'laughing groups' in Japan where people gather to just laugh for about 20 minutes. (The Japanese are the nation with the longest lived people in the world.) .
I think I have talked about laughing before but after reading that report, I thought it worth revisiting the topic. Do you laugh for 5 - 20 minutes a day? EVERY day? If not, I hope your consider giving it a try for at least a week - an experiment in 'life improvement'.
Many people in my country (USA) think that you need something to laugh at - a joke, a funny book or movie. But that is not true. We can just laugh. .
How? If you are new to 'daily laughing session', here's how to do it. First, smile. Now start to laugh out loud. Make the sounds.Ha! ha! Hee! Hee! Go ahead. (You may need to 'fake it at first' but at some point you will feel your belly muscles moving. Now exaggerate. Why not try it right now while you are sitting at your computer. )
Did you feel your belly muscles moving....your shoulders and neck loosening? Why not build a laughing session into your day...or night. (I'm using the time when I first turn on the computer as my signal to do a 'laugh session') Others may use a meal...or sitting on the side of the bed at night.
. No, I am not up to 20 minutes yet ....but I hope to get there. After all why ignore research about such a great exercise for those over age 50! Besides it is so inexpensive (a lot cheaper than my pain prescription - and laughing works ) It just leaves me feeling good.
Being old - happy or sad time of life?Here is another study that goes counter to what many people think: .
A study done at Warwick University in England showed that the experience of happiness in life seems to follow a U shaped curve with the decade of the 40s at the lowest level. Contrary to popular perceptions old people are happier than their adult counterparts! AND the researchers found that we seem to get happier the longer we live.
Although researchers were surprised at the finding, I suspect that we who are old are not. One of the things that happens as we age is that our history begins to help us in dealing with circumstances. Confronted with a difficulty, we wind up saying to ourselves, "Well, I got through X and I got through Y and I managed Z so..... I'll manage this thing too. Younger people do not have the luxury of long life history. .
So, if you are in just your fifties or sixties, take heart! The happiest years are yet to be ---
Final notesFinally, I have been reading STILL HERE: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying by Ram Dass. (Ram Dass belongs to what they call the boomer generation and this book reflects on his changing status as he enters his post '60s years. One of his observations really struck me - that those of us living in parts of the world that went through industrialization, have very little by way of cultural teaching for what old age can be like. He then goes on to address this - offering ideas from other cultures etc.
While reading his first chapter I was brought up short. I began thinking of the situation in my own community here in the United States. Many of the 'old' have used their energies and skills to create a small business that meets needs of retirees no one else is meeting at a cost retirees can afford. Others have started or are the backbone of services such as 'meals on wheels', literacy volunteers etc. One woman started a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity and when that was well established moved on to a new project of turning an unused Armory into a vibrant community center. An IBM retiree is establishing a new network of Churches who create living quarters out of unused space to provide longer term temporary housing for homeless families. The list goes on.
Some are creators. organizers. Others administer and still others offer direct service. This is true in many communities. Grandparents have long helped in the raising of grandchildren but they also provide essential services across communities from gardening (food and flowers), through building, tutoring, legal, tax and counseling.
. I was thinking of this as I read Ram Dass's book because his comments made me realize that there have been two great traditions for elderhood: exploring, developing areas of self that adult responsibilities did not leave time for. So I think of 70 year old friends taking up water color, photography, writing poetry, learning languages or starting orchid growing. At the same time these elders are offering services to the Community as a whole as volunteers or as new entrepreneurs.
And yet as we talk about the NEW OLD AGE, I sense that for some this is not meaning moving into such creative and contributory years. Instead some seem to want to hold onto jobs - working and earning ever increasing salaries at their same or similar jobs - holding on to the jobs they held in their adult years. Suddenly I had an uncomfortable insight. If that happens, if that is happening maybe it explains why so many 40 year olds are not finding jobs once they are laid off. . If those in their sixth and seventh decade are not moving out of the salaried workforce, there are fewer opening for those in their thirties and forties.
I do not know about your country. I do know that this is an unprecedented development in the United States corporate world. True the pre-corporate world of family farm and family 'craft business' offered work roles for elders but these were not tied to automatic salary increases etc. as many jobs are today.
Ram Dass seems to indicate that we may be clinging to adult work at job forever mindset because we have not been introduced the the ocean of human development that exists beyond our world of adult tasks and jobs. I am not sure what I think of his book, STILL HERE (I have not finished it yet) but if you are over age 50 (or like myself are pushing into your late 70s) I sure would be glad to know what you think of it.
You do not need to come out of his tradition (religious or otherwise) to read and understand such a book. I can say it is one of the most thought provoking approaches to aging/elderhood I have read in awhile. ( Ram Dass, STILL HERE published by Riverhead Books, 2000.)
Until next month,
PS. As this issues goes out I am flying back from a workshop in Bioenergy Healing in Chicago so if you email me and do not get a prompt response, know it takes me a bit longer to recover after travel these days. I will respond - I promise.
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