Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sarah Hope Kagan, PhD, RN, on Mental Health and Well Being as We Age

It was easy to see why Dr Kagan is an award-winning teacher. Before I got there, she and a couple of others, pulled the chairs into a circle so we could all see one another and have a more intimate setting.

Since New Directions is a nonprofit, we got a gift card and Robin Franklin and Suzanne provided coffee and snacks.

Sarah hails from a farm in Michigan and currently lives in Center City. Altho she has a car, the very safe Swedish Saab, she learned about when she gave a talk in Sweden, she walks everywhere, including to work.

Her friend Angela, also a nurse, drove her to the Giant. Angela was surprised to find it had metamorphosed from a Home Despot.

They enjoyed the time to talk outside of work.

We went around the circle, said our names, why we were here, and asked a question.

After everyone spoke, Sarah remembered everyone's names, and said, Great question. She makes you feel good!

Ron Abrams came in late b/c there was an accident that held up traffic from downtown.

Sarah, who will be 53, brings 30 years of gerontological experience to her talks which she gives all over the world.

  She and Herb Smith, PhD, head of Penn's Population Studies Center, studied demographics - the statistical data of a population, especially those showing average age, income, education, etc. - on Growing Old Around the Globe.

Sarah plus another nurse teach the course at Penn. We can take it if we choose!

Current lifespan in the USA is 79.  Fifty years ago, lifespan was about 65.

The longer you live, the more your life expectancy will increase. 

Women live longer than men. One reason is their ability to socialize. Isolating yourself if you're old is the worst thing you can do. We must have interpersonal relationships and see other people.

The longest living women in the world live in Hong Kong and Macao, both are part of China. BUT, there's been so much modernization in China, including unhealthy air pollution and cigarette smoking, we wonder how long that distinction will last.

Orange County, CA, she noted, has the healthiest populations in the country, due to tobacco cessation.

Wiki - Orange County is included in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Image result for orange county ca It's also a wealthy community. In poverty-stricken communities people die young. They are uneducated and fall into bad dietary habits that bring on obesity and a host of other problems.

In Russia and Japan, men die 10 years younger b/c they smoke.

Image result for freud smoking cigar
Interesting Aside: Freud was 83 when he died of jaw cancer via euthanasia. He smoked 20 cigars a day. Read about it here. Just b/c you read about it doesn't mean it's true. 

Demographics show that Pennsylvania has the oldest population and Pittsburgh has the most old people, with 24 percent of the population.

Older adults also reside in Philadelphia, Buffalo and Boston.


Sun City, Arizona was developed specifically as a retirement community.

Oh, goody-goody. Let's move to Sun City, relax and do nothing.

 Image result for picture of casket
In the old days when America was an agrarian society, people worked on their farms from sundown to sunset and died, often while they were hard at work.

Image result for mule and plow

We must think of "age-friendly" places.

Ada and Rich touted the memory unit of Brandywine at Dresher where 105-yo Lillian Moss lives.

Image result for brandywine at dresher

Sarah Kagan had some encouraging words about dementia.

Meds can slow the disease process. As can a healthy diet and exercise.

And learning new things, particularly a new language or playing a musical instrument.

Image result for banjo player

Rich Fleisher.... is that YOU playing the banjo?

The Music Department of the brain is different than the language part and may still be quite active. When visitors arrive in dementia units and sing or play the piano, the residents may participate, as that part of their brain is still active.

Larry Kirschner plays piano in several nursing homes. 

She discussed the importance of intergenerational relationships.

It's important to me and also to Max, nearly 2, that we have a close relationship.

Sarah cited a Pew Foundation study - Growing Old in America: Expectations vs Reality - view it here.

People age in different ways and we should value the way each person ages. Stereotypes include wrinkles, stooped over and white hair. These may be genetic traits. There are, however, ways we can get beyond our genomes. More later.

Sarah teaches college students and asks them to share experiences about their grandparents. And how they can learn from them. Wonder if they ever thought of that before.

She surprises them by saying, You age from the moment you're born. You're aging right now sitting in this class.

Image result for student in class

This was interesting.... the older we get, the more we're like "ourselves" and not like our peer group.

Hotel Maids Study. Maids were generally poor, immigrants, and uneducated.

Two groups. Both did the same things. One group was told "Your job keeps you really healthy." That group had lower blood pressure and lost weight. Read about it in The Times.

A Yale study showed the most insidious form of 'ageism' - prejudice against the aging - is self-stereotyping. "Oh, I can't do it b/c I'm too old."

Image result for clint eastwood Does 84-yo Clint Eastwood believe he's too old to direct movies?

It's a sad fact that as we age, our contemporaries die.

Rich Fleisher had spoken to his mom/law years ago. She told him she was depressed.

Why, he asked. You have everything!

All my peers are gone, she said.

Talking about it helps. My 92-yo mom always calls me when one of her friends dies. I commiserate with her.

We all grew up in a historical time period, said Sarah.

At Brandywine, when I visited Ada's mom, they have reminders of things like

Image result for washboards

Image result for old tvs  and of course

Image result for papyrus

Sarah writes the "Myths of Aging" column for Calkins newspapers. She went to school with one of the Calkins family members. Read her column here.

He was a CEO and told her There should be a mandatory retirement age.

There should NOT be a mandatory age, she said. Think of what the newspaper would be missing if he/she left. All the wisdom he's gathered and can share with the rest of the staff. Plus it's more economical not to hire and train someone new.

When Sarah gave a presentation in California at a nursing home, Sister David asked her, Would you like our memory games?

Yes indeed! These can be found on the Internet and can be useful tools in strengthening the memory.

Many of us in the room - including Rich, Ada and myself - are frequent exercisers.

B/c we exercise, we are actually changing the genomes in our brain. This is good to know!

Helpful handouts:  Click to enlarge.

Afterward, we all went downstairs and sat in the Coffee Shop and talked. Teresa was raised by her beloved grandmother in Jim Thorpe, PA, hence her accent. When her grandmother developed Alz's disease, Teresa's mother had no patience with her and once hit her in the head with a broom.

Sarah Kagan commented on this saying that elder abuse is common and is usually caused by uncontrollable stress in dealing with an elderly person.

We suggested that Teresa volunteer in a nursing home since she so enjoyed caring for her grandmother.

The Kirks - Betsey, Raighney and Will - were gonna see the movie "Still Alice" at the Hiway in Jenkintown.

Image result for alice film alzheimer's

Betsey said, "Let's not ruin the optimism I'm feeling after today's program."

I could never see those films - or read the books - about brilliant individuals - such as author Iris Murdoch - who undergo these horrific illnesses.

I've written about several of them, though.

Here's "Suite 1104," or whatever it's called, published in Writing Disorder. 

I am totally inspired by Sarah Kagan's talk. If you'll excuse me, up the stairs I go to my stationery bike, where I'll be mindful, like the hotel maids, of how my Ride to Nowhere is actually a Ride Toward Good Health.

And tomorrow, I'm doing something new, which invigorates our brains.

Am going to hear Pastor Ken Barkley give his sermon at the Willow Grove Bible Church just around the corner.

Image result for sermon on the mount

My life with Christians - Willow Grove Bible Church - Setting up the Room for Today's Program at the Giant

Once a month on a Friday night, The Fresh Ground Coffee House is offered at the Willow Grove Bible Church five minutes away from home.

Image result for fresh ground coffee house This is their unforgettable logo.

I warmed myself up with a couple of cups while the room filled up with wall-to-wall people who buzzed like bees in our ears.

You had to shout while you talked.

Don't you hate that?

Burt Plaster sat down and talked with me. You're a very good listener I said to him. He was just put in charge of a Christian ministry with HQ in Fort Washington. When he was in medical school, he told me, the best way for him to pray was to write.

God speaks to him.

I said I feel the presence of God when I stand, small and humble, before the huge dome of the stars, impossibly high up in the sky.

I feel different in the daylight than in the night.

You do, too, I'd imagine. Think about all the different ways we feel. I felt very happy yesterday when I found out my story "A Light in the Kitchen" will be published.

Burt's wife Joni came around. She is one of the most lovable people you've ever met. Last time I was there, I prayed with her and Pastor Ken Barkley.

I asked Ken what he'll be preaching about on Sunday... something about John the Baptist, I believe, when he meets Christ.

I said I would attend. 

The Compass is at Boggs Printing in Hatboro, PA.

We're still looking for a vibrant exciting unforgettable cover. I had not found it until I saw the digitilized photos of Chuck Greco of Huntingdon Valley.

His studio, he told me, is in the laundry room. When I wrote about Bill Daley, ceramicist, for Art Matters, he told me the same thing.

Take a look at Chuck's artwork here. 

I tried to post a couple of the pix I'm interested in, but, leave it to Blogspot, they came out in the middle of this post, covering up some of my immortal words.

Who's this with the gorgeous yellow nails?

We're not telling.

At 1 pm today, I've got a program at the Willow Grove Giant on Caring for The Elderly.

Went over this morning to set up.

The elevator is not working.

I knew about the employee elevator but the people behind the service desk were SO NASTY they wouldn't let me take it.

Then I asked 'AN OFFICIAL' who allowed me entry.

For Dr Sarah Kagan's gift I bought, with Sandie's help,

Image result for red tulips in pot  Wish us luck in getting people to attend!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Babysat Max for two fun hours - The Busy Box

Dan called to remind me to be at their house at 10:30.

I left early b/c I wanted them to take my pic for the next issue of the Compass. My hair is blond now, which blends in with the all-white hair underneath.

The shirt I'm wearing I bought in Paris when Sarah and I went a couple of years ago.

Mailed the photo over to Rene at Boggs Printing, along with a photo of one of their three cats, Blank. Rene is a cat-lover.

No thanks, meowed Blank. I much prefer a live mouse to a cookie.

Dan and Nicole attended the funeral of Zissis Pappas, held at a Greek Orthodox Church on York Road. Pronounced Z.C, he was one of Dan's roommates at NYU. Died of an aggressive form of melanoma. Read obit here. He was a professor at Rutgers.

Chugga-chugga-chugga, says Max about his trains. I began singing in my fake operatic voice Chugga-Chugga-Chugga and variations. Something I wouldn't think about doing at home in my living room.
 Nicole will finish her master's in May and then, she said, she'll start looking for a job.
Dan and Nicole took separate cars.

I was shocked to hear her come home so soon, well, nearly two hours.

I was having a blast!

 What's in here, Max? He was able to open the lunch box to reveal..
 Crayons! Green, Max. Next to the yellow rolling pin is a smaller one my mom gave me to give Grace.
I only know about the scale b/c Max dragged it out the last time I babysat.

Girl Scout cookies... the first newspaper article I got into a large Philly newspaper was on Girl Scout cookies. It appeared in the now-defunct Evening Bulletin.

I was happy that Blank still cared for me. Blank took the 'selfie.'

 Max has so many toys and he plays with each one of em.
I noticed that after he opens one of the compartments on this 'busy box,' he fixes the 'opener' so that it will be easier when he opens it next time.

Sort of like backing your car in, so you can zoom right out.

Why, I wondered, is he sitting on his book of construction vehicles? Who does he think he is, his father, Dan Deming the First? Who was also into construction vehicles and wanted to be a backhoe driver when he grew up OR a stuntman..

Well, I thinks, he's sitting on it b/c he loves it!

Boo-hoo! I gave this Busy Box and this Roly-Poly Thing to my grand-nephew little David when they came over.

Interesting story behind it. When I went off lithium after 16.5 years, I couldn't think straight. It's like an alcoholic after they become sober.

I needed to train my brain to think again.

At a garage sale, I bought these toys, which my kids Sarah and Dan both used. I took a photo when Donna, Kam and David were here in order to remember the importance of these toys.

Delicious stir-fry lunch. I ate it with "Carolyn's spoon." Carolyn was a dear friend of my mom who died recently. It's a unique spoon with its flat bottom part. Wrote a poem about it which I'm waiting for some astute lit mag to publish.

For dessert, I had three huge bowls full of p/c.

Image result for popcorn All packed up for my acrylics class tonite at Abington Adult Evening School

My sister Donna left this suitcase here - orig'ly for a comforter she had purchased - which is perfect to carry all the supplies I need.