Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Women's Voices on Spirituality & Aging

Photo by Alberto G.
Yesterday I scoured through the list of books I've read in the last five years, pulling together a subset of books on spirituality and aging.

After I finished the list of 8 books that fit squarely in that category, I was astonished to see only one female author among them.

Where are the women writing about spirituality and aging?

Women's Voices on Caregiving

I do agree with the French feminists that women tend to write more grounded works and tend to write from the body and from personal experience.  It follows that spirituality would be grounded in daily tasks of relating to other people in the domestic sphere.

In other words, we find the divine by serving one another through human interaction more than by solitary meditations.

A number of the dementia memoirs I've read have applied theology in them, particularly Debra Shouse's Love in the Land of Dementia (2013).


Monday, September 29, 2014

Books on Aging & Spiritual Growth

Photo by King of Monks.
After spending decades journeying through life, many people end up gaining great spiritual insight. The cliche about elders being wise holds true for many older adults.

Because the generations are more isolated from each other in industrialized nations than they are in traditional cultures, this hard-won wisdom isn't always present in every home.

Fortunately, a number of insightful people in midlife and late life are writing books that offer thought-provoking commentary on how to respond to life's challenges--including challenges that are often correlated with late life: illness, death of loved ones, loss of employment. 

But advanced age is not all decay.  Our youth-obsessed culture often reads it as such, missing out on the strengths of a half-century-plus view of life. 

Here are a few books that I have read that contain insight found after 50--listed in reverse chronology by publication date. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Falling Upward: Book Review

Published January 1, 2011.
I've been reading more intentionally about the second half of life for the past four years.

Recently, I've been choosing books from Changing Aging's recommended list of books that depict aging as a period of growth and development. 

This week, I've been reading Richard Rohr's Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass 2011). 

Rohr describes life as having two distinct and opposing tasks. 

The first half of life is dedicated to building a self that is based on goals, accomplishments and ego.  

But many people end up learning how short-sighted life is when defined this way. Consequently, many adopt the task in the second half of life of transcending narcissism, accomplishments, material security and the vanities of the temporal world.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Still Mine: Film Review

Released on DVD in the USA
May 6, 2014
Because I watch a lot of films featuring older adults, I note various choices made in each film. For example, the point of view can determine a great deal about the way characters are portrayed and themes are established.

Some films adopt the point of view of adult children, as does The Savages (2007) , Big Fish (2003) and Marvin's Room (1996).  

Other times an ensemble cast allows a multigenerational perspective, as is present in Is Anybody There (2008), Checking Out (2005) and Nothing in Common (1986). 

Because I am trying to empathize more with the challenges and opportunities of advanced age, I value films that adopt the point of view of older adults.

Still Mine, with a 2013 limited release in Canada, takes such a viewpoint.  Available in the US on DVD this year, I finally took the opportunity to watch it. 

James Cromwell plays Craig Morrison, an octogenarian who decides to build a one-story home for his wife, Irene--played by Genevieve Bujold.   She has dementia and struggles to manage the stairs in their two-story farm house. 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Maslow Is a Liar

I see beauty in chaos in this photo by J.E.F.
Introduction to psychology courses nearly always include some attention to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

From the start of the life span, people usually master each of these needs in ascending order.

People establish physical needs, then social needs and finally more abstract needs, such as self-actualization.

As we age, however, we do not reduce our lives in order from the highest needs down to the most basic needs.  Before I studied gerontology, I expected to see an orderly movement in reverse order as people age.

The aging process is more chaotic than I imagined.

Each person's aging process is unique to them.   And even though some patterns in how people age might emerge in large studies, the aging process of just one person is largely unpredictable.

However, the more I interact with older adults, the more I observe how people can hold onto higher order tasks--spirit, beauty, knowledge and relationships--even as their bodies start to betray them.

Maslow's Hierarchy fails to serve as a model for the aging process.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Am I Old or Am I Young? Quote

Photo by Luc B.
"Forty is the old age of youth, fifty is the youth of old age."  ~ Hosea Ballou

Because I am a gerontologist, people ask me directly or indirectly, "Am I old?"

Well, there isn't an easy answer to that question.

Last week I talked with an administrator at a local university who was telling me he was a lot older than people imagined.

Older? He's in his mid 30s.

Because I regularly socialize with people who are twice or three times his age, I perceive him as young--even though he is twice the age of an incoming university student.

From his perspective, he exemplifies Ballou's first clause in this post's epigraph:  "Forty is the old age of youth."


Friday, September 19, 2014

Many Paws: Book Review

Published January 2014.
 "There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity."  Washington Irving, The Sketch Book, 1820

I love a good book.  This week I had had the opportunity of interacting with Susan DeGarmo's 2014 book Many Paws: The Years of Change.   I am grateful that I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

And I was intrigued, amused and inspired by this creative, light-hearted look at menopause.

Intrigued. I'm saying "interacting" with Many Paws rather than "reading" since DeGarmo's book is an example of an "altered book."

This a form of book that explodes in the reader's hands with an array of colors, textures and interactive features.

Luggage tags for the journey of life.
When I first opened the book I couldn't decide whether to read it quickly or slowly.

Many Paws has many surprises, and I didn't want to miss out. Yet I was also eager to discover each detail.

For example, one of the the sections features a set of 6 luggage tags, each containing lines of a poem about the physical changes of menopause. (Pictured)

The third tag reads, "Can't lose weight / Running Late / What is it I'm Forgetting??"


Friday, September 12, 2014

Share Music Videos with Others

Photo by Steve. 
Once a week I spend the afternoon with a dozen friends at a local skilled nursing center.

Sometimes we have a lull in an activity we're doing together. 

When this happens, I always offer to sing as a way to fill the time. 

They howl, "No, don't do that."  

This week we were joking about our day being a stereotypical Monday.  One of the residents asked me if I knew the song "Monday. Monday," released in 1966.  

Again, I volunteered to sing. Olivia protested, "Nooooo!"  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Leisure World Cohort Turning 90

Photo by Ryan Dickey.
I was on my way to yoga last week, when I saw one of my husband's co-workers, lifting weights at the same gym.

After sharing our fitness goals, J.V. told me about a story featured on 60 Minutes about longevity.

J.V. remembered that some of the most recent findings encouraged 45 minutes of moderate exercise (with no benefit for more than that).

In addition, he told me that I didn't have to worry too much about becoming  a rail. Why?

The study found that a little extra weight for older adults correlated to longevity when compared to those who were thin.

This information goaded me to find the segment "Living to 90 and Beyond" online.


It did emphasize that obesity is not good for people in any life stage. In fact, those in midlife who were obese had more negative outcomes. But once people age into the oldest stages, a little extra weight was a good thing.

But the issue of weight was just the fact that led me to this goldmine of research.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Emotional Causes for Insomnia

Photo "Scratching" by Kevin of sheep counting people
As promised, here I am writing about insomnia.  Yes, midlife women might have a bit more trouble sleeping during perimenopause, but the causes can be complex and might affect women and men of all ages.

Let me focus first on emotional causes for insomnia and some basics on how to 1) identify an emotion 2) trace its origins 3) neutralize it, and 4) gain habits that prevent or remove insomnia-inducing emotions before bedtime.

1. What emotion am I feeling? People can experience a variety of emotions that interfere with sleep--anger, fear, worry, sadness.  Even positive emotions such as euphoria can prevent people from getting a good night's sleep.  When I have trouble sleeping, I do well to reflect on the emotions I am feeling.   Here is the Plutchik Wheel, just one list of emotions, some of which interfere with sleep:

Image of the Plutchik Wheel by Machine Elf 1735