Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Book Review

Published January 23, 2018.
John Leland spent a year interviewing elders 85 plus who lived in and around Manhattan. He presents his perspective on how this demographic--the oldest olds--forge happiness despite formidable challenges.

The result is a book that has a healthy mix of character sketches, direct quotes, applicable aging research, and interviewer reflection.

I enjoyed it so much that I returned the library copy and bought my own. And then I bought a copy for my 75-year-old mother-in-law.

She read it in one day.

In the pages of the book, we meet six older adults and glean from their life experience.

In a gross oversimplification, Leland distills there life lessons in the following passage:
"Each elder had different lessons to teach: from Fred, the power of gratitude; from Ping, the choice to be happy; from John, acceptance of death; from Helen, learning to love and be needed; from Jonas, living with purpose; and from Ruth, nourishing the people who matter" (104). 
Who are these elders?

Fred Jones portrays himself as a dapper dresser and a ladies man, but he has problems managing the stairs in his apartment, so his social interaction is limited. Nevertheless, he maintains a sense of humor and focuses on gratitude.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blood Urea Nitrogen: Biomarker of Health and Longevity

Photo by Neeta Lind.
As a gerontologist, people sometimes ask me about life expectancy.

While large data sets yield clear averages, anticipating the life expectancy of ONE person is nearly impossible.

This post is part of a series on biomarkers

Nevertheless, there are some biomarkers of health and longevity that people should monitor.

Blood Urea Nitrogen is one of them.

[Note: This post does not convey medical advice. It only raises awareness. Please see a licensed medical professional if you have any questions or concerns about your health.]

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) measures one area of the body's waste elimination. Ingested proteins are processed by the liver into ammonia and then converted into a less toxic form, urea. The kidneys eliminate the urea through urine.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Still Dreaming: Film Review

Released on DVD April 19, 2015.
PBS will air this documentary starting April 14, 2018. Check your local listings for show times. 

Shakespeare's plays are rich with meaning, which allows people from every historical era to emphasize different aspects in each play.

Hamlet performed in 1800 looks very different from Hamlet performed in 2000.

But Shakespeare's plays not only change when performed in various eras of time. They change when performed by actors of various ages.

Viewers have the opportunity to witness this phenomenon, thanks to Filmmakers Jilann Spitzmiller and Hank Rogerson who facilitate a unique production of A Midsummer's Night Dream with the making of their documentary Still Dreaming (2014).

The documentary is set in The Lillian Booth Actors Home, just outside of Manhattan. The residents are older adults who worked as Broadway performers--actors, singers, dancers, musicians, etc.

Ben Steinfield and Noah Brody are thirtysomething co-directors who work with residents of the assisted living campus of the home. Over the course of the documentary, we see them cast about a dozen residents. They spend six weeks rehearsing before perform this romantic comedy for staff, fellow residents, and family members.

Even though the leads are usually played by twentysomethings, the play's themes of identity, illusion vs. reality, desire, and autonomy resonate with the mature actors.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ageless Soul: Book Review

Published October 10, 2017.
Many books about aging focus on the physical and financial dimensions of aging. Not many book-length works focus on the spiritual dimension of aging--or how the self transcends the vicissitudes of time.

Fortunately, Thomas Moore (b. 1940) wrote Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy (St. Martin's Press, 2017).  

He has written 19 books, his most famous being The Care of the Soul (1992).

In Ageless Soul, Moore focuses on how older adults can transform the challenges of late life into opportunities to develop and express the most enduring element of our nature--our soul.  

"Aging is a challenge, not an automatic activity. You go through passages, from one state to another. You become somebody. Faced with a challenge, you choose to live through the obstacle rather than avoid it. You make the decision to be in process and to participate actively" (p. 285). 

Yes, Moore spent many years as a monk, but his book isn't squarely a work of devotional literature; it reads most often like a self-help book.