Tag Archives: healthy aging

Positive Aging

 

Faye’s 86th birthday
photo by Marv

A week ago, I posted a picture of myself facing a large bowl of fresh fruits holding an “86” candle. At that moment in time, looking into the flame of light, the abundance of color and sweetness arranged by my daughter, surrounded by my husband, daughter, her significant other and two granddaughters, my heart soared with gratitude.

Several Facebook friends commented on how happy I looked. A runner/writer friend said, “Yay, interesting, the cake you Bostonians eat.” I replied, “Yes,” and delicious, too.”

Do I feel 86? No. According to recent scientific studies, accenting the positive, such as embracing gratitude, has a positive effect on aging. The May 3rdBoston Globe highlighted a Washington Post article about how our attitudes about aging can effect our aging process. .https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cliches-about-only-being-as-old-as-you-feel-are-starting-to-have-scientific-backing/2018/04/13/4ccd9c4a-3125-11e8-8abc-22a366b72f2d_story.html?utm_term=.d130e75d145e

Paola Sebastiani, a researcher at the Boston University School of Public Health, reports, Aging well is not only delaying disease…feeling good about your life is an important aspect of healthyaging.

It turns out that I am not alone in feeling younger. One study found that as people age, they consistently say they feel younger—“much younger”—than their actual age. In truth, when I ask myself how old I feel, I’m a little flummoxed. As I look in the mirror, walk the stairs in my house, practice Tai Chi, change the linens on the bed, garden, write, discuss, plan ahead, eighty-six is hard to believe. It’s not that I’m slowing down. Of course I am, but not much. Engagement, learning, following my curiosity, sharing with others, continues on.

I was a sheltered child. Yet, on a Sunday afternoon, perhaps seven or eight years old, I accompanied my parents to a visit to an Uncle’s home where, upon retrospect, I participated in a death vigil for Great Aunt Becky. She was truly old (though I have no idea how old), lying in a double bed—tiny, emaciated, smiling wanly, waiting to die. The image never left me. The article cites William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

Negative views about aging are communicated to us early in life, through media, books, and movies and what our friends and family tell us…These attitudes are present and pervasive already in childhood, so naturally it’s hard to enact meaningful change to these attitudes—but that’s what we are trying to do at the moment.

After many health events, I have learned about the importance of mindful listening to my body. This birthday, I decided to break a family tradition.  Because I have a history of candida and am lactose intolerant, I asked my daughter to bring dessert but to forego the family tradition of a Lizzy’s coffee-oreo yogurt cake laced with chocolate sauce. Savvy in her own choices, I was grateful for the ease in which she honored my request for a bowl of my favorite fruits including pesticide-free, organic strawberries filled with sweetness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sisterhood: My Women’s Group & Our Stories

25 th anniversary - Version 2

I begin with gratitude to Andrea Davies, a new and younger friend, for her Facebook post of Robert Waldinger’s Ted talk on “Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness.” The study of octogenarian men over their lifetime concludes that relationships— those we can rely upon for support and connection over time—can help buffer life’s inevitable personal and physical challenges.

As a female octogenarian, I can attest to the wisdom of friendship and its effects on well-being. When I turned fifty, after twenty-five years of maintaining a psychotherapy practice and my children near grown, I asked myself, “What can I do now that I’ve done it all?” The question was both naïve and sincere and pointed to my state of mind. I felt lost, that something was missing. In truth, I had dedicated time to my husband, my children, my parents and clients but took little time to develop intimate relationships with friends.

Six years later, a neighbor and walking friend, Bev Bader, invited me to join a women’s group. Nine of us spanning thirteen years in age, all married with children and careers, convened. I was the oldest by six years. The commonality of approaching middle age with present or impending transitions bonded us.

Over the course of twenty-seven years, eight of us have continued to meet monthly with two months off during summer. We meet for two and a half hours, in a circle, and divide the time equally for each attendee to tell her story. I recall my nervousness those start-up years when my turn came to state aloud what I wanted and needed in my personal life. As a therapist, I was a listener with responsibility to guide, to help. As a group member, I was vulnerable, sharing aspirations and struggles for which I often had no answers and needed feedback.

I learned, over time, that others could help with perspective and offer support. Bev, Rosemary, Janet, Claudine, Carol, Joan and Eva have walked beside me through the launch of my adolescent children, their choice of spouses, the birth of five grandchildren, my husband’s heart episode, the decision to retire and close my therapy practice, my longing and quest to become a writer, my return to school for an MFA in creative writing.

At age seventy-five, I graduated from Pine Manor’s Solstice MFA program in creative writing. As I looked out at the familiar faces of family and friends, I was aware that the fulfillment of my long journey to become a writer was, in great part, due to the unswerving support and encouragement of my husband and friends.

I am grateful for the nurturance and sustaining friendship of my woman’s group. What we give and what we take are found in the telling of our stories, the trust that comes from the circle. We are, in truth, lifelong sisters.