Monday, July 27, 2015

The Wise Merchant: An Elder Tale

Photo by Chrissy H.
This story with Jewish roots is part of a series about elder tales.

In an elder tale, an older adult serves as the protagonist of the story rather than a minor character.

Elder tales give older adults the focus or the "starring roles," making these characters more rich, complex and nuanced than the stock character "little old man/lady" allows.

The source for this tale comes from Allan B. Chinen's collection In the Ever After: Fairy Tales and the Second Half of Life. Willmette, IL: Chiron Publications, 1989. Chinen cites his source as G. Friedlander's The Jewish Fairy Book. New York: Stokes, 1920.   I could not find a separate source for this tale.

Here is my retelling of "The Wise Merchant":

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mr. Holmes: Film Review

Released 17 July 2015.
Ian McKellen gives an outstanding performance in Mr. Holmes (2015).   Nevertheless, it's not just a master's class in acting. The film provides a great meditation on late-life issues that offers insights to viewers of all ages.

DVD Release Date: November 10, 2015.

As a born-and-bred Anglophile, a recent Sherlock Holmes' fan, a long-time McKellen fan, and a recently minted gerontologist, I was exhilarated by Bill Condon's film (based on Mitch Cullin's 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind). 

The film depicts the famous detective wrestling with mysteries in three settings:

[I will keep this review vague enough to prevent spoilers until towards the end; then I will clearly indicate where to stop reading if you have not yet seen this film.]

Setting #1. The film's present year is 1947; Holmes has been retired for 30 years.  He occupies his time by solving problems with his bees and his failing memory.

With his partnership with Watson dissolved decades prior, Holmes finds an assistant in Roger, a boy about 10 years old. Roger (played by Milo Parker) is the only child of the recently widowed housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (played by Laura Linney).  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Films about Aging in French or France

Photo by Peter Mello
Because it's Bastille Day today, I started thinking about all the age-related films I've seen with some kind of French connection.

So I went through my big list of films and selected films based on these criteria:

* Films entirely in French

* Films with significant French dialogue

* Films set entirely in France

* Films partially set in France

I didn't realize how many films fit these criteria until I started looking. Viva La France!

I'm listing them in reverse chronology, with the more recent films listed first.

This post made the Top 10 posts of 2015. Click HERE to see the other 9!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Old Partner: Film Review

Released 30 December 2009.
Some viewers will love this this documentary. Others will find it too slow.  I prefer to see the slow pace as a chance to meditate and to see the sparsity as poetry.

After viewing it, I found out that  Old Partner (2009) won a host of awards and was the highest grossing independently released film from South Korea.   

So what is this documentary about ? 

The documentary shows a year in the life of farmer Choi Won-kyun and his wife Lee Sam-sun.  Even though the film was shot in the 21st century, this couple are still farming without modern equipment. This mature couple do many tasks by hand or with crude equipment

Most notably, Choi Won-kyun uses an ox to help him do his work. But this ox is not just a beast of burden. She's his best friend, his soul mate, and his doppelganger.  His "old partner." 

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Brain's Way of Healing: Book Review

Published 27 January 2015.
I enjoy reading about neuroplasticity for a variety of reasons:

1.  I am very interested in learning more about cognitive development through the rest of the life span after spending decades focused on teaching critical thinking to first-year college students.

2. Neuroplasticity offers positive views of aging and hope for people who have age-correlated problems.

3. I enjoy looking at the birth of a new scientific discipline.

For these reasons and others, I was eager to read Norman Doidge's new book on neuroplasticity.  The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity, pubished in January of 2015.

I find it contains some very intriguing case studies.  The book discusses well over a dozen cases in detail, but here are a few to serve as a quick preview:

We meet a midlife man who improved his walking despite a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, a midlife woman who recovers from Traumatic Brain Injury,  a boy diagnosed with ADHD who becomes more focused, and a toddler girl who overcomes a sensory processing disorder.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Our Souls at Night: Book Review

Published 26 May 2015
I want to say something smart about this book, but I'm probably going to be emotional instead.

Kent Haruf's last book, Our Souls at Night (2015) conveys a lot of depth and complexity with a stylistically light touch.  I'm in awe.  His prose is sparse, yet it conveys a lot of heft.

This 179 page novella is set in the fictional town Holt, Colorado--well outside of Denver on the eastern plains area of the state.  All of his works of fiction are set in the same town.

However, I was absolutely entranced by this quiet romance novel--if that's what you call it. It's unclear because the two main characters participate in a relationship that's a bit unconventional.

The novel opens with widow Addie Moore walking over to visit Louis Waters in order to make a proposition. They are both older adults who have lost a spouse.

They've known each other for  years but haven't really spoken directly except perhaps to exchange pleasantries. Nevertheless, Addie is full sick of the empty spot in the bed next to her, and she has selected Louis as the man to solve that problem: "I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Biomarkers for Longevity and Health

Photo by Martin Sharman.
Everybody dies. If you're lucky, you get to grow old first.

However, aging is correlated with an increasing number of bodily complaints.

Yet people don't all age at the same rate.

Genetics, environmental factors, access to affordable healthcare (provided by benefits, income and proximity), and lifestyle choices affect our aging process.

Well, and we can never completely outrun Father Time.

This week, I read a The Guardian's summary of a recent study that illustrates this variation:

At 38 years old, participants of the Dunedin Study Birth Cohort were found to demonstrate biological "ages" ranging from 28 to 61.

Why did the nearly thousand participants age at different rates?

Here are the 18 biomarkers used in the Dunedin Birth Cohort study. I'm using the labels from Figure 3 of the research publication itself.
  1. HbA1c
  2. Cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2Max)
  3. Waist:Hip Ratio
  4. FEV1/FVC
  5. FEV1
  6. Mean arterial pressure
  7. BMI
  8. Leukocyte telomere length
  9. Creatinine clearance
  10. Urea Nitrogen
  11. Lipoprotein(a)
  12. Triglycerides
  13. Gum Health
  14. Total cholesterol 
  15. White blood cell count
  16. hs CRP
  17. HDL cholesterol
  18. ApoB100/ApoA1

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Showering with Nana: Book Review

Published 30 April 2015.
Caregiving can push people to the edge of sanity.

Elder law attorney and family caregiver Cathy Sikorski takes a pro-active stance by pointing out the absurd things that happen in the life of a caregiver.

In her book Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial (killer) Caregiver, Sikorski documents what happened when her grandmother "Nana" stays for the six months that the author's mother was wintering in Florida.

[I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.]

Because of various age-related challenges (memory changes, role loss and physical changes), Nana required constant attention--much as a toddler would.

Caregivers, despite some uncanny similarities, absolutely must treat older adults differently than they would a child.  Trying to do anything different not only is unethical, it's ineffective.

Or as Nana says, "You don't have to get testy, honey girl." 

The salient issue during the six months time frame of the memoir was the way Sikorski's 92-year-old Nana and two-year-old daughter, Rachel, combined forces to thwart the best laid plans for caregiving.