Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Daily or Weekly Weigh Ins?

Photo by Kiss My Buttercream.
After about a two months hiatus, I stepped on the scale today.  Yikes!  I've gained five pounds since Labor Day.

Now, this may not sound like a lot of weight, but I am less than five feet tall (about 141 cm).

Also, the timing is a bit shocking.  I'm going into the holiday season with a little Santa's bowl full of jelly.

I am too cheap to buy new clothes, so I need to trim down, or I won't fit into my clothes by the end of the winter.

I should probably start with a food journal so that I can be more honest about what I'm really eating.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chocolate & Flavanols

Photo by Olga Valisjeva.
Since Nature Neuroscience published an article Sunday, October 26th (online) about the positive effects of cocoa on memory, I've seen dozens of news stories heralding this finding.

Before people start consuming truckloads of chocolate bars, let's take a closer look at elements of their research.

First, the study wasn't aimed at finding the health benefits of chocolate as much as it was aimed at isolating the role of one region of the brain in memory and one type of memory--episodic.

Specifically, the authors were looking at the dentate gyrus, a region of the hyppocampus that allows neurogenesis or the growth of new brain cells.

In their abstract, their conclusion was focused on the brain region and not the role of the cocoa drink:

"Our findings establish that DG dysfunction is a driver of age-related cognitive decline."

Studies of this part of the brain and their function in memory and new brain cell grown are still very young--measured in years and not even decades.

Monday, October 27, 2014

3 Karens on the Track

Photo by Heikki Siltala.
Another trip to the YMCA where I'm measuring my pace against Father Time.  After an injury last fall followed by an illness in the winter, I got lazy about getting to the gym.  In 2013, I had been spending about 10 hours a week at the gym doing a combination of cardio, yoga and strength training.  I was moving so fast that I figured Father Time would consider me "outta sight, outta mind."  

Not so fast. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chast's Graphic Novel: A Book Review

Published 6 May 2014.
Growing old has some great benefits. Frailty is not one of them.

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast focuses her talents on describing her parents' journey into late adulthood--their 90s.  And it's not pretty.

The title of her book actually defers potential readers: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (2014).

So why read a graphic novel about the challenges of supporting frail parents?

UPDATE: Chast won the 2014 National Book Critic Circle Award for the autobiography category for this book.

Even if you aren't going to support parents or a spouse through this process, you will have friends going through some of the things that Chast draws and narrates.

But you won't have the exact same journey. Chast is the only child of parents who lived for decades in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Leaving Tinkertown: Book Review

Published August 15, 2013.
Even very focused memoirs end up tackling a variety of topics. This is true of Tanya Ward Goodman's 2013 memoir, Leaving Tinkertown.

I chose to read it because it fits in with a category of books that I have labeled "dementia memoirs."  I value reading about the challenges and opportunities of hanging onto a relationship affected by Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.

Goodman focuses her memoir around the six years that her father, Ross Ward, lived with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Her account discusses the symptoms, diagnosis, and progression through the major stages of the disease.  It serves as a valuable road map for caregivers.

Even though there are some similarities from one dementia memoir to another, each account shows how the journey is unique to each person and their loved ones.

In the pages of her memoir, Goodman introduces us to her nonconformist father who is driven to create. He has spent decades drawing, painting and sculpting.  He spent some time on the road, painting for carnivals.  However, his major work took form as a miniature town dubbed "Tinkertown."  Ward carved the inhabitants and set up a roadside museum that is still in operation in New Mexico, just north of Albuquerque.

I received a copy of Leaving Tinkertown from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Going Gray at Midlife

Photo by Roberto Trm.
One of the physical markers of age is the appearance of gray hair.

I went through that rite of passage in my late 30s.  When I bought my first house and gave birth to my two children and decided to stop pulling my gray hairs.

Did these big life events bring about the gray? It's difficult to know for sure.

I've been coloring my hair for over 30 years (minus the five years I was either pregnant or nursing).  Recently I decided to stop coloring away the gray.  I'm only 52.

Why am I going gray at midlife?  Many midlife women color away the gray.  Many women in late life color their hair. Why would I want to look older?

I have a handful of reasons.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Soap: An Aging Image

Every once and a while, I am particularly struck by an image of aging.

Most recently,  I have been turning over in my mind this image from Luci Shaw's poem, "The Door, The Window."*

"The minutes / wear me away--a transparent bar of glycerin soap, / a curved amber lozenge dissolving in daily basins of water." 

I like the combination of beauty and utility in this image as well as the passing of time marked by the wearing thin of a bar of soap.

This image will stay with me for a long time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Class and Women Writers

Photo by Filip.
I spent over a decade in college studying English language and literature and then more time than that teaching undergraduates how to read, write, and think critically.

Now that I have left that career to be a gerontologist, I'm reading more books about aging, including a great deal of nonfiction about related topics of caregiving, living with an illness, late-life career changes, economic issues of aging, humor pieces, managing grief and gleaning wisdom and spiritual insight in late life.  

I try to read broadly on the topic of aging, but sometimes I discover big gaps in my reading selections.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Foods that Induce Insomnia

Photo by Mike Sheard.
Because I've been having a little trouble with insomnia, I am writing one post a month on the topic.

By reading about and then writing about insomnia, I hope to gain better control over my sleep habits.

Lately I have been paying closer attention to foods and beverages that contribute to insomnia.

Also, I've noted that insomnia is at times a matter of quantity and timing of "neutral" (neither soporific nor stimulating) foods and drinks,

However, there are certainly some items that have inherent quality of alertness.

Foods / Drinks to Avoid

Caffeine.  The biggest insomnia culprit is probably caffeine. It's the most obvious to people as well.  Nevertheless, people can mismanage their caffeine intake.  The time necessary for caffeine to leave your system varies. Estimates range from 4 to 6 hours on one end of the spectrum and up to 14 hours on the other end.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Grey Gardens: 1975 Documentary

Big Edie & Little Edie
Photo by Slagheap.
For the last five years, I've been viewing and reviewing films that feature older adults.

For this reason, I have long had the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens in my "to be viewed" queue (along with 170+ others).

After being nudged by the bloggers at Dementia Mama Drama to see this Grey Gardens (1975), I finally moved this cult classic to the top of my queue.

The documentary shows a mother and daughter living in a decaying mansion in East Hampton, New York.

The film contains relevance for me because the 58-year-old daughter "Little Edie" serves as a caregiver for her 80-year-old mother "Big Edie."  (These are their ages during filming.)  Many posts I write are aimed at midlife adults who are supporting their older adult parents with age-related issues.

However, I am not sure how to respond to the documentary.

Little Edie. Photo by Slagheap.