Timing is everything – in food & life!

It’s about time researchers start drawing us back into the natural rhythms of life, but electric lights & temperature control are seriously messing with our bodies & minds.

Snippets:   Scientists have long known that the human body has a master clock in the brain, located in the hypothalamus, that governs our sleep-wake cycles in response to bright light exposure. A couple of decades ago, researchers discovered that there is not just one clock in the body but a collection of them. Every organ has an internal clock that governs its daily cycle of activity.

“We’re designed to have 24-hour rhythms in our physiology and metabolism. These rhythms exist because, just like our brains need to go to sleep each night to repair, reset and rejuvenate, every organ needs to have down time to repair and reset as well.”

Dozens of studies demonstrate that blood sugar control is best in the morning and at its worst in the evening. We burn more calories and digest food more efficiently in the morning as well.

While studies suggest that eating earlier in the day is optimal for metabolic health, it does not necessarily mean that you should skip dinner. It might, however, make sense to make your dinners relatively light. One group of researchers in Israel found in studies that overweight adults lost more weight and had greater improvements in blood sugar, insulin and cardiovascular risk factors when they ate a large breakfast, modest lunch and small dinner compared to the opposite: A small breakfast and a large dinner. Dr. Peterson said it confirms an age-old adage: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

Medicare Advantage – NY Times article

For olders subscribing to Medicare Advantage, the 2019 plan will allow insurers to add new health-related benefits, including:

  • Adult day care programs
  • Home aides to help with activities of daily life (like bathing & dressing)
  • Palliative at-home care (for some patients)
  • Home safety devices & modifications (think grab bars, wheelchair ramps)
  • Transportation to medical appointments

 

As the article notes, “Yet celebration may prove premature. Many questions remain about how insurers will respond to the legislative opening. ”  To find out the WHY behind the concern, read-print out-file the article, then keep your ear to the ground about future information!

Play as an Rx against loneliness

Am jazzed beyond imagination by an article by the great Jane Brody in today’s NY Times that lead me to an earlier opinion piece in the Boston Globe by Jeremy Noble & Michelle Williams.  Both speak directly to my current across-the-age-spectrum playfulness work.

As a society, we thrive when we are connected. Strong social bonds play a causal role in long-term health and well-being. Social connections, in a very real way, are keys to happiness and health.

The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too,” said Dr. Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, an ongoing research project since 1938.” 

 

As a nation – world – increasingly oppressed by a mounting wave of chronic depression anxiety unhappiness, how do we combat the two chief culprits:  loneliness & isolation?

First off, what are they?  Social isolation is defined by researchers as something with objective, measurable markers such as living alone, lacking a social network & regular ties to other people.  Loneliness is harder to measure – it’s more subjective, something we perceive & feel, a sadness over a lack of desired social connections, companionship, close connection.  Social isolation often leads to a sense of loneliness, but being alone often does NOT.

Who’s affected by the emotional fall-out of isolation & loneliness?  Over 1/3 of American adults, with another 65% reporting feeling seriously lonely some of the time.  Yikes!  Current research pegs the toxic effects of the two as matching obesity, alcohol abuse & smoking 15 cigarettes a day as health risk factors, upping the chance of an early death by a whopping 30%.  And the internet, which most people think of as a communication tool, more typically increases both – ironically, heavy use of social media more often lead away from engagement connection happiness to increased feelings of loneliness depression anxiety.

As a society, we thrive when we are connected. Strong social bonds play a causal role in long-term health and well-being. Social connections, in a very real way, are keys to happiness and health.

And what combats depression loneliness isolation?  a sense of PLAY!  The too-often overlooked power & importance of PLAY is at the root of the connect creatively monthly discussion circles I’m kicking off tomorrow at Be Well, turning The Hive into a play pen as we toss around Stuart Brown’s thought that the opposite of depression is… natural PLAY!

Taking a moment to express my heartfelt thanks to & gratitude of an abundantly generous & awesomely present Universe, an invaluable partner & inspiring side kick in the work before us (aka my John et moi), for two great articles that showed up in my cosmic news feed JUST in time to include them in tomorrow night’s premiere Bodacious Building Blocks – connecting creatively  back & forth.  Was excited before, beyond zoomed now!  For a over-the-top unimaginable connection between Stuart Brown & Adam Steltzner’s JPL.  Freakishly fabulous!

“I don’t think it is too much to say that play can save your life. It certainly has salvaged mine. Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.”   ~Stuart Brown ~ 

Death loosens its spectral grip

No, am NOT getting kick backs from the NY Times for leading my readers to its articles!  Can’t be helped, with some of the best writers on living expansively issues on staff.  All hail Paula Span & John Leland, with a special place in my heart for two Janes –  Gross & Brody!

Going analog – at home – is a whole new world for me, especially on the weekends, when our local libraries cut back the amount of time someone can fritter… I mean spend on their computers.  Assigned 40 minutes yesterday, so didn’t dig deeply enough into my digital subscription to find John’s article on America’s changing attitudes toward death.  Praise be, he has a dandy short piece in today’s issue, spotted while perusing the print edition this a.m. at Be Well, my beloved café/away-from-home office.

In Sunday’s lengthier piece, John discussed attending Shatzi Weisberger’s FUN-eral.  As the 88-year old former nurse explained,  “I have been studying and learning about death and dying, and I want to tell people what I’ve learned.  Some people are coming because they love me, and some people are coming because they’re curious about what the hell it’s about.”

John was there because covering a revamped/revitalized funeral was a natural build on three years of becoming friends with & writing about a variety of seriously-old (85+) New Yorkers.

The centerpiece of the standing room only party, held in the commons room of her Upper West Side apartment?  A biodegradable cardboard coffin on which enthusiastic guests were writing greetings, from  “Go Shatzi! (but not literally)” to “Shatzi, many happy returns … as trees, as bumble bees, as many happy memories.”

At 88, Shatzi has become a prominent voice in the “positive death movement.”  My heart leapt at the description – didn’t know there was a movement to describe what I experienced seventeen years ago with Mom, three years ago with my sister Mim & even with Dad, who died in 1973 before the first wave of integrating more humanity into death & dying yet still held a remarkable attitude toward what he was experiencing rather than crumpled & devastated at the prospect of dying at 62.

Shatzi & her “Go, Death!” compadres speak to my concern that American culture finds death to be icky, a topic to be avoided rather than embraced, resulting in a silence that diminishes the lives that lead up to it. 

I think about my oldest brother.  After decades of a relatively distant relationship, they became close over the last twenty years of Mim’s life.  But he still has not seen her online memorial service – the first of its kind in our church, inspired by the unescapable fact that the best minister to capture my sister’s unusual persona was retired & living in Arizona.   I can’t understand WHY Peter has yet to see it, but he hasn’t.  Which is too bad, since it is a wonderful collaboration,  a heartfelt tribute to a creative & complex spirit.

Schatzi would understand the inspiration behind Mim’s tribute, honoring a woman who exited this world cracking up hospital staff who’d swing by for a visit if they felt down in the dumps, knowing that a patient facing death within days would make them smile at her jokes & feel awed by her “bring it on!” attitude.

More & more people feel like Ms. Weisberger, who simply got fed up with Death American-style after sitting with a dying friend who was was so terrified at the prospect of her death, “she couldn’t even talk about it…  And then she died.  So that was a problem.  We had not dealt with the issue – myself, herself and the others.

Schatzi Weisberger used her FUN-eral to educate her friends about having a positive death experience.  She showed them the burial shroud she plans to have cover her for burial (she considers cremation to be environmentally unfriendly), which she got from Amazon.  Friends have agreed to was her body, in keeping with Jewish tradition, and another will bring dry ice to preserve it before burial.  But she assured one & all that she’s in good health, good spirits, and will wait her own good time to have the good death for which she has so carefully prepared!

Schatzi Weisberger does have a final wish – “I really want to experience my dying.  I don’t want to die in a car crash or be unconscious. I want to be home, I want to be in my bed, I want to share the experience with anybody who’s interested.”   She doesn’t expect death to take her hand in a spectral grip, but with a friendly touch.

 

Sweet haunting

Reading John Leland’s Happiness is a Choice You Make has me feeling Mom’s presence.  Based on his year-long series of New York Times‘ articles on a year among the oldest of NYC’s old, the stories John shares hit close to home, ditto the lessons he was surprised to learn by being with them.

Resiliency, kindness, generosity.

Making the most of the moment.

Full-throttle living, in their own way.

Wish everyone could read the articles, which I enjoyed immensely, savor the book & perhaps feel the nodding presence of a beloved older!

“When Outside Factors Determine Retirement Age” NYT 01/09/15

An “ancient” posting of mine, over on older2elder, took me to an excellent 2015 New York Times article,  When Outside Factors Dictate Retirement Age.  Even more relevant today as on 01/09/15. As a member of the Radical Age Movement, Leslye Evans-Lane’s story leapt out at me.

The article describes the 60-year old board-certified academic coach as being ” in a situation where retirement might be the graceful choice.”

I was curious – what would inspire such a “graceful choice”?

Ah, it was a tale that’s all too prevalent in today’s culture.  Not a lack of ability & skills, but a limited expectation & frankly insulting assumptions of what an older person brings to today’s workforce.  The person choosing to exit gracefully isn’t the only loser – so is the company that could have gained from having talents teamed with experience.

After a move meant a job search, Ms. Evans-Lane found herself unable to find one that made use of those talents & expertise.  It didn’t dawn on people interviewing her that she was digitally proficient & they assumed that her age precluded her from doing what she’d done to great acclaim for years ~ relate to 18-year olds. done that before.”Another potential employer told her that she “couldn’t relate to 18-year-olds,” she recalled.

How well I & others know her feeling of “shock, denial and depression.” She never thought her field could be so short-sighted by ageism.  Nor did I.

The concept of self-neglect hits home

Yesterday, Paula Span’s New York Times article on elders’ self-neglect hit home, big time.  My sister, my older brother & even I struggled with self-neglect.

My sister almost died – twice – due to ignoring her own care; perhaps the tumor that killed her could have been treated had she let people know the pain she was in.

My brother ignored his own symptoms, fearing cancer, not seeking care his body clearly needed until others intervened.  (It wasn’t cancer.)

It’s true that I also neglected to get care for ominous symptoms, but I did not hide them  from John or even my doctor – I didn’t have health care coverage, so couldn’t afford the expensive testing necessary to diagnose my condition.  Both Peter & Mim were covered under Medicare.  (It’s a goiter & being treated.)

But I hesitate to call self-neglect a form of self-imposed elder abuse waiting to be addressed.  “We hear much more about other kinds of elder abuse and exploitation. Perhaps it’s easier to respond when someone is being victimized by others than when he is harming himself.”   Self as abuser & exploiter, someone to be held somehow accountable?  Hard to wrap my head around that.

I am a mega fan of Paula Span’s The New Old Age feature, but this one is just, for me, so far off the mark.  It seems absurd to bother writing, “People who neglect themselves have higher rates of illness and death, of emergency room visits and hospitalization. They’re more apt to suffer other forms of elder abuse as well.”  Duh – yeah, people who don’t take care of themselves ARE going to get sick more often & die when care could have saved them.  And they’re more likely to put up with abuse from others.  Not surprising.

I get that Paula is driving home the point that self-neglect can be as deadly as abuse by another person.  But the piece is all over the place.  For example, the person she talks about who wasn’t taking care of herself – – turns out she WAS being abused by her children, who were selling the OxyContin she’d been prescribed.  And restoring a person to good health isn’t necessarily solving the problem – witness the guy who got back to such good health after a month in the hospital, the courts declared him fit to make his own decisions & he restocked his home with the liquor that helped land him in the hospital in the first place.

Here’s what I would say, were I writing an article on the very real horror of self-neglect:

  • I want to write “If you are prone to self-neglect, seek help,” but I realize that most people who suffer from it are the last to acknowledge it.  But here goes, anyway – – If you think you are self-neglecting, seek help, starting perhaps with a counselor, with a pastor, with someone who recognizes that it is an emotional problem as much as it is a medical one.
  • It is very hard to loved ones & friends to spot, much less do something about it.  My brother was living in a van in the middle of a Pennsylvania winter, but the rest of the family didn’t know it.  (A lot easier to get away with these days, thanks to cell phones.)
  • There’s very little that others can do.  How do you force siblings or a parent, a neighbor or friend, to take care of themselves, short of institutionalizing?  Since family matters are often at the bottom of self-neglect, it can be dicey for family to try to address it.
  • Do all you can.  John & I had our hands tied, because neither Peter nor Mim wanted to have any contact with us, so we couldn’t invite him over to dinner or take her out for meals, which would have possibly have given us glimpses of how they were really living.  The two of them called each other regularly, but that was like the Titanic being in contact with the Lusitania.
  • Understand that self-neglect is far from limited to olders elders ancients.  Peter & Mim suffered from self-neglect throughout their younger years.  Could my parents, could I, could anyone have reached out & helped them?  While self-neglect is occasionally as simple as a lack of health care coverage, more typically it’s rooted in low or no sense of self-worth.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to turn the person around.  Do what you can, hold their well-being in your heart & look for opportunities to help, but understand that you don’t have super powers.

As one article notes, “One could argue that the damage we do by neglecting ourselves is far more substantial than whatever neglect we experience from others.”  I can see that in my two sibs, especially in Mim, who openly believed that she wasn’t deserving of happiness.  How better to deny yourself happiness than to deny yourself health?

In the end, I agree 100% that self-neglect is typically a form of self-abuse.  Where Paula & I part ways is in thinking it is limited to olders elders ancients, that family & friends can successfully intervene, that there are viable ways to handle someone who is destroying himself or herself through self-neglect.

AND  I think it is a topic that needs to be openly discussed far more than it is, for which I thank Paula Span.  Dear friend-I’ve-never-met yet long-admired, will take your topic & see what I can do to use your words to start a deeper broader wider conversation around  self-neglect – – how to spot, how to address, when & how to intercede, how to cope with helplessly not being able to help.   Thanks thanks & more thanks!