Thursday, December 26, 2019

2019 Top 10 Posts

Photo by draml.
Another year is coming to a close. Many of the posts from 2019 are related to the university courses that I teach:

  • During Fall 2019, I taught Spirituality and Aging for the first time. For years prior, I have intentionally published more blog posts about spirituality, mindfulness, and psychology because the search data shows reader interest. Two of the Top 10 are on this topic.
  • I teach Death, Dying, and Bereavement every spring semester, which explains my persistent interest in topics such as advanced care planning and Tisdale's book Advice for Future Corpses--two posts in the Top 10.
  • I am teaching Biology of Aging again, so continuing my series on biomarkers for longevity helps support that course material. Most recently, I wrote about Body Mass Index (BMI), which achieved #6 in views this year. 
Here are TGAM's Top 10 posts (by views) for 2019.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

I'll See You in My Dreams: Film Review

Released 15 May 2015.
Directed by Brett Haley, I'll See You in My Dreams (2015), Blythe Danner stars as Carol, a widow of twenty years who is negotiating through the challenges and opportunities that come in the second half of life.

This film depicts Carol interacting with a trio of friends (Rhea Perlman, June Squibb and Mary Kay Place) as well as her adult daughter, Kath (Malin Akerman). 

In between outings, Carol drinks wine poolside in her backyard, thinking about how to structure her day and how to eradicate a roof rat who keeps skittering across the front room of her home. 

The tone is quiet and understated with a lilting, poetic quality. 

Even though the film's manner is subtle, the audience can tell that Carol is trying to find purpose and companionship in response to the recent loss of her dog and the decades' long loss of her beloved husband.  

Carol's friends try to push her to date; however, she's reserved and reticent. 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Prepare for Your Care: A Free Resource for ACP

Photo by programwitch via Creative Commons.
Because I teach in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at the University of Southern Indiana, I have the opportunity of working with several experts. This semester, I was privileged to work with Dr. Kevin Valadares, an expert in medical ethics and hospital administration.

Under Dr. Valadares' direction, I was able to participate in Advanced Care Planning (ACP) with my students (Health Care Continuum & Community Services). Sometimes people call ACP by other names, such as Living Will or Advanced Directive.

News report on ACP Grant

USI's description of this project

These are legal documents for establishing whether or not you want curative care or specific types of medical interventions such as CPR, a breathing tube, a feeding tube, or even antibiotics in the case of pneumonia or another infection.

Many people recoil from having such conversations. However, others have watched families struggle to determine how to respond to a serious medical problem suffered by a loved one who can no longer express his or her wishes.

Even a very young person can suffer a life-threatening injury or acute medical condition. While people of any age can live with a chronic illness, this is more prevalent among older adults. As a gerontologist, I have observed many people who have a chronic condition that takes a turn for the worse, rendering them incapable of articulated their wishes.

How Can You Learn about Advanced Care Planning? 

I recently went through the Prepare for Your Care resource. The Regents of the University of California host this site, but experts from a variety of universities, hospitals, and other organizations have helped prepare the information.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

2019 MAIA Review: Day Two

Highlights from MAIA on Friday, August 9, 2019.

I have a few notes that I haven't shared from the Twelfth Annual Mid-American Institute on Aging and Wellness (MAIA) held on the campus of University of Southern Indiana.

Attendees include members of the tristate region's healthcare organizations (including USI students, faculty, and staff member), family care partners (formerly called "caregivers"), and individuals of all ages from IN, KY, IL and beyond seeking to improve the quality of their life by learning more about wellness across the lifespan.

Many healthcare professionals attending earn CME credits (continuing medical education), but a good portion of those present are not healthcare professionals; they are community members who are pro-active about their physical, financial, social, and emotional health.

These are details about the second day of this event, which took place on Friday, August 9, 2019. Find details about the first day, Thursday August 8th, by following this link.

Ron Weatherford in USI's Carter Hall
As people made there way to Carter Hall, they had the opportunity to practice a few minutes of Tai Chi as directed by Ron Weatherford.

Published in 2014 and 2017.
The morning keynote address was delivered by journalist and author Greg O'Brien.

He gave an engaging speech about living with Younger-Onset Dementia. previously called Early Onset Dementia (EOD).

His work as a journalist gives him the ability to articulate a lot of emotions and concepts about living with this disease. His family heritage and personality gives him the ability to do so with a lot of wit and wisdom; he comes from a long line of animated storytellers.

For those seeking to learn more about O'Brien, he has a well-regarded book, On Pluto, which has been republished in 2017 in an expanded edition.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

CRP: Biomarker of Health and Longevity

Photo by Benoit LERAY.

I have grown more curious about the technical information related to blood tests I undergo during my annual check up.

My curiosity was sparked a few years ago when I read a summary of a study about biomarkers. That lead me to read the scientific article behind the summary.

I decided that as a gerontologist and a person who lives in an aging body that I should learn about each of these 18 biomarkers of health and longevity.

This week, I have been reading about the biomarker highly sensitive c-reactive protein, abbreviated hs-CRP or CRP.

Note: I am not a medical professional. This post serves only to increase awareness. If you have a question about your CRP levels or any element of your health, see a licensed medical professional as soon as possible. 

CRP is a protein made by your liver that is present in your blood. Elevated levels of CRP show the body is responding to an inflammation, indicating that something isn't right.

Highly sensitive c-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is a non-specific marker of disease. 

Optimum levels of CRP are 1.0 mg/L or lower
Moderate levels of CRP are between 1.0 and 3.0 mg/L
Concerning levels of CRP are 3.0 mg/L or higher

CRP is not just an indication of heart problems, but high levels do correspond. Consequently, emergency room doctors and cardiologists use this test to find evidence of cardiovascular disease or a heart event.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Fall (Prevention) Festival

Evansville West Side Nut Club Fall Festival 2002
Photo by alandberning
For several reasons, I strengthen my core muscles by doing exercises. Every week, I attend three strength training classes, two dance classes, and one yoga class.

Core strength is vital to posture, balance, rising from a seated position, and preventing lower back injury.

After going to the gym in Evansville:
Strong is the new pretty.
A few years ago while living in Wichita, I had a history of poor alignment in my lower back.

I have had my spine adjusted several times.

I finally went to a physical therapist who helped me identify various muscles in my torso (core) and taught me how to strengthen them through several sets of exercises.

I received this guidance from a physical therapist in 2015. My back has not gone out of alignment since then.

Because of my poor bone health, I am very focused on fall prevention.

It's important for people of all ages and levels of health. However, it's especially important to me because I have very frail bones.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Vanden Bosch and Scheidt Review Films about Aging

Photo by Flicktone via Creative Commons
I teach at USI within the College of Nursing and the Health Professions as a gerontologist with a decade of experience.

However, I spend over three decades previous to that as a student and teacher in the field of humanities.

As a result, I am hyper vigilant about how storytelling informs my understanding of aging.

Storytelling is not limited to the work of raconteurs.

People consume stories through a variety of media: print, film, art, music, dance, and so on.

Humans are primarily storytelling animals.
"It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling." Kahlil Gibran
Fortunately, the editors of the premiere scholarly journal The Gerontologist (published by the GSA: The Gerontological Society of America) have for several years included reviews of films that focus on issues of aging.

The Gerontologist now makes their film reviews viewable without a subscription* 

You can now access these reviews about films that depict aging issues. How?  By going to THIS PAGE on Terra Nova Films. 
GSA Film Reviewers and Their Editor
The reviews published by The Gerontologist are penned by Jim Vanden Bosch (Terra Nova Films) and Rick Scheidt (Kansas State University). Helen Kivnick (University of Minnesota) edits their reviews.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

2019 MAIA Review: Day One

MAIA at USI on August 8 and 9, 2019
I've been reflecting on my fourth experience attending the Mid-America Institute on Aging and Wellness. This event was the twelfth annual MAIA. It's held on the campus of University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. The co-host is SWIRCA & More.

Read the Conference Preview that lists info for All Participants. 

I enjoyed listening to all four of our keynote speakers: Emily Allen, BS, MS (AARP Foundation), Greg O'Brien (Journalist and Author), Harley Gordon, JD (Attorney and Advocate for Financing LTC), & Tim Brimmer, DA (Butler University).

They are all nationally recognized in their fields. They elevated my understanding of healthy aging across the lifespan. I also enjoyed observing as many of the 36 concurrent sessions as humanly possible.

Many healthcare professionals attending earn CME credits (continuing medical education), but a good portion of those present are not healthcare professionals; they are community members who are pro-active about their physical, financial, social, and emotional health.

Friday, August 30, 2019

What They Had: Film Review

21 January 2018.
It took me two months to watch this What They Had (2018).

The film was neither too long nor too boring.

Quite the contrary.

It was very engaging, but it was also challenging.

Written and directed by Elizabeth Chomko, What They Had conveys the complexities a family faces when someone is living with dementia, the most prevalent form being Alzheimer's Disease.

This 2018 film (which in the US primarily showed at film festivals, such as Sundance) focuses on one family's response to Ruth, played by Blythe Danner.

Ruth is the matriarch and former nurse whose memory problems lead to her wandering--during a snow storm--from her Chicago home, which she shares with her husband, Norbert (played by Robert Forster). 

This is frightening enough when people wander in nice weather. However, Ruth has disappeared into the city during a snow storm.

This becomes a catalyst for the son, Nick, played by Michael Shannon, to put in motion a solution for his parents' age-related challenges. Nick does what he thinks is the most obvious, practical, and objective response to advanced age: place mother in an assisted living center.

Their father, Norbert, disagrees--vehemently.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Learning from MAIA 2019 Sponsors and Exhibitors

The 12th Annual MAIA swag bag
This year was the fourth time that I have attended the Mid-America Institute on Aging and Wellness.

Here is my conference preview, which includes social media accounts when applicable. This year's event included four fabulous, nationally recognized keynote speakers and 40 amazing local experts who led discussions/activities in concurrent sessions on August 8 & 9 - 2019.

The event qualifies as a means for healthcare professionals to earn CME credit, but the participants include university students, family caregivers, and adults of all ages who are pro-active about maintaining their wellness across the lifespan.

It's never too early to start aging well! 

The hosts are
  • SWIRCA & More 

    SWIRCA & More is an Indiana Area Agency on Aging (and more), located in Evansville in SW Indiana but SWIRCA & More covers six Indiana counties: Gibson, Perry, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh, & Warrick. 
I have written previously about the 40 or more MAIA speakers. I gained this opportunity to attend after moving to the tristate of IL, IN, KY in 2016. (You can find links to my 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 MAIA reviews / previews at the very end of this post.)

However, this is the first time I am writing about the sponsors and exhibitors.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Coming of Age in Films: Book Review

Published April 1, 2019.
I love a book that gazes at objects from popular culture through the viewpoint of higher education. 

Garrett delivers a powerful mix of "high" and "low" culture. 

He not only gathers an impressive array of films about aging; he discusses with insight these films--individually and in various groups. 

(See the TOC below.) 

If you watch films and if you are aging (hint: we are all aging), this book will give you a broader perspective and a deeper understanding on how narratives and images on film create scripts that people often follow without question. 

Garrett convinced me to overtly ask this question about my film viewing: 

Are the depictions of aging in the film I'm watching helpful or harmful? 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

BMI: Biomarker for Longevity and Health

Photo by St. Murse
Body Mass Index, also called BMI, appears to be a simple tool for determining a healthy ratio between height and weight.

Not so.

Most people will agree to the truism that a person should not be too underweight or too overweight.

People should be just the right weight.

This post is part of a series on 18 biomarkers.

Note: The function of this post is only to raise awareness. It is not offering medical advice. If you have concerns about your BMI, please see a licensed medical professional. 

The BMI categories as published by the CDC are as follows:

Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5 - 24.9
Overweight = 25 - 29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
But the borders between these four categories are hotly debated as is the more general idea of "ideal weight."

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Finding Your Feet: Film Review

Released February 23, 2018.
The tagline for Finding Your Feet (2017) is "Sometimes you need a push in the right direction."

However, it could have been: "Life happens when you are busy making other plans."* 

Imelda Staunton plays the lead character, Sandra Abbott, who has been the dutiful politician's wife for decades, only to learn that her reward is not the one she imagined.

She expected that all those years keeping well coiffed and keeping house and keeping civil would result in her spending her "golden years" traveling in style.

Instead, she finds herself without husband, without home, and without her "posh" (as they say in the UK) friends.

Her husband's infidelity isn't really a spoiler because the crisis that pushes her into self-examination is depicted in the trailer:

This discovery drives her to reconnect with her sister Bif, played by Celia Imrie. Bif has lived a peripatetic life and flouts convention at every opportunity. Because of their different approaches to life. Sandra and Bif set each other off.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

2019 Mid-America Institute on Aging and Wellness Preview

Click on Photo to Enlarge.
The University of Southern Indiana and SWIRCA & More  (Southwestern Indiana Regional Council on Aging) are proud to present the 12th Mid-American Institutes on Aging and Wellness.

This two-day event will take place August 8th and 9th (2019) on USI's campus in Evansville, Indiana.

See the MAIA 2019 brochure for the presenters' photos and bios.

ETA Links to the Summaries of the 2019 MAIA Events:

MAIA 2019 Day One with Allen & Gordon

MAIA 2019 Day Two with O'Brien & Brimmer

MAIA 2019 Sponsors & Exhibitors

The keynote speakers are as follows:

* Emily Allen, BS, MS of the AARP Foundation

* Harley Gordon, JD and advocate for long-term care

* Greg O'Brien, journalist, author and Alzheimer's activist

* Tim Brimmer, music professor from Butler University

People from a wide range of ages and vocations attend. The venue will also include a number of vendors.

There is also a pre-conference workshop on dementia care, led by Teepa Snow, who is dynamic, compassionate and well informed.

If you are already registered, come early to secure your seat and to participate in some light exercise.

Thursday August 8th starting 7:45 am, Cecile Martin will demonstrate chair yoga exercises. Follow along from your seat!

Friday, August 9th starting 7:45 am, Ron Weatherford will demonstrate beginner Tai Chi moves. Follow along from your seat!

Use #MAIAROCKS to read Tweets and Facebook posts about previous MAIA presentations. This will be the fourth time that I have attended. It's invigorating to meet new people and to learn from them.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Advice for Future Corpses: Book Review

Published 12 June 2018. 
Because I teach a university class on death, dying and bereavement, I read about a half dozen books on the topic annually.

Usually, the books take one of two approaches:

The author describes the physical, legal, and economic aspects of dying.


The author describes the social, emotional, and metaphysical aspects of dying.

Tisdale does both in her book Advice for Future Corpses: A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying.

Tisdale worked for years as a nurse, but she writes like someone who is trained in the humanities. She quotes Greek philosophers, European poets, and Buddhist monks in order to create spaces for her readers to meditate about the meaning of death and dying.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Gero Screagle Pride

USI defeated West Texas A&M 94-84.
I was one of 7,330 fans at the Ford Center.
When my husband took a job in Evansville, I wasn't sure what opportunities I would have to work as a gerontologist.

I did not need to worry.

A few weeks later, the director of the gerontology program, Dr. Katie Ehlman, hired me.

She had been using my post about elder speak to teach her students about the power of language to affect attitudes.

I started teaching in the Fall of 2016 and helping with MAIA: Mid-American Institution on Aging and Wellness.

Follow #MAIArocks on Twitter. Add MAIA on Facebook.

Here is a list of the USI courses that I teach. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

On the Brink of Everything: Book Review

Published 26 June 2018. 
Palmer J. Palmer was goaded into publishing this book--On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, & Getting Old (2018)--after his editor noted the theme of aging showing up in his recent writings. 

From his vantage point on "the brink" or the edge, Palmer observes: 

"What I know for sure is this: we come from mystery and we return to mystery. I know this, too: standing closer to the reality of death awakens my wonder at the many gifts of life" (p. 16). 
This book shares insights based on his growing awareness of his own mortality. 

Palmer is in his 80s, and has been a community organizer, author, speaker on the the topic of seeking the true self. (His work reminds me a bit of the quest that psychologist Carl Rogers describes.) 

Those who are concrete, literal, practical people will have very little patience for Palmer. Those who are contemplative, idealistic, and focused on exploring inner landscapes will be inspired. 

The book is a collection of essays (some previously published in books or on blogs) and poetry. Some material is new. Other reviews here at Goodreads indicate that the book revisits recurring themes in Parker's work, so it seems as though it's a good overview of his work. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Gracious Uncertainty: Book Review

Published 15 August 2017.
Jane Sigloh, who has experience as an Episcopal priest, published Gracious Uncertainty: Faith in the Second Half of Life (2017).

Because I am scheduled to teach Spirituality and Aging in the upcoming fall semester, I'm selecting 20 books on that topic so that each of my students can do a report to supplement the textbook.

Many of the books are tipped either to theology or to folk wisdom. However, too many of the books I've selected are steeped in theology (or even psychology or New Age theories).

Sigloh's book leans more towards the folk wisdom side of the spectrum. However, it's clear that she is well read and can take a more academic approach. She often chooses to be more accessible, and it's a strength.

Her chapters are brief, maybe three or four pages long, making them ideal as daily meditations. They might also serve as prompts for writing in a journal.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Can't Nothing Bring Me Down: Book Review

Published 27 February 2018.
I like to read about mature athletes, but usually I just read news stories.

I was delighted to read runner Ida Keeling's autobiography, Can't Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race against Time (2018).

Keeling, born in 1915, writes from the perspective of a centenarian. She was raised by parents who immigrated to New York from the Caribbean.

She worked in factories while raising four children. For the more part, she was a single mother. Later in life, she worked in the records department of the Harlem Hospital.

Not only does she describe her own experiences. She's a witness to larger cultural, political, and historical forces. For example, she describes the Great Depression, World War II, Civil Rights, and Vietnam. She also responds to the election of Obama to the presidency.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Women Rowing North: Book Review

Published January 15, 2019. 
Mary Pipher has written a book for women in the second half of life.

Women Rowing North: Navigating Life's Currents and Flourishing as We Age was published in January of 2019.

I was happy to get my hands on the book in March. Pipher, who is in her early seventies, does describe her own approach to meeting life's challenges; however, she introduces us to dozens of women. A handful of these appear throughout the book.

She also brings in some quotes and describes some research findings. However, she chiefly tells stories about herself and others.

I read Women Rowing North over four days: one day for each of the sections:

Sunday, March 3, 2019

End Game: Film Review

Released May 4, 2018.
End Game (2018) is a documentary by filmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Freidman.

Set in the San Francisco area, the film profiles the last weeks of life for five people: Mitra, Pat, Thekla, Kym, and Bruce.  These five are either patients receiving services through the UCSF Medical Center or the Zen Hospice Project.

The documentary also includes Dr. B.J. Miller, palliative care physician, discussing the importance of being intentional about the dying process.

End Game also depicts family members trying to find ways to respond to their love one's loss of function, pain, and suffering.

We also observe doctors, nurses and social workers addressing patients' and family members' concerns.

At first glance, viewers might think this documentary is about the physical or legal aspects of end-of-life care. It does touch on these topics, but it's really more about how to retain one's humanity during the dying process and how to address questions about what constitutes quality of life.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Crack the Code: Book Review

Published November 5, 2018.
Louis Bezich combines reading, research, and personal experience to write a book for men 50 plus on how to adopt healthy behaviors.

His title reveals his dual content. Crack the Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men over 50. 

Bezich doesn't just give evidence-based facts about healthy lifestyle choices--diet, exercise, stress management. He also discusses the psychology of changing one's habits.

Consequently, he includes information from psychology alongside information from the health professions.

The book includes not only research from scholarly journals but interviews from case studies conducted by the author. The reader gets to "hear" the experiences of mature men taking control of their health.

Friday, January 25, 2019

From the Stage to the Page

Photo by Jorg Schubert.
I don't want to write too much about this because I'm trying to be positive. However, I want to document a shift that I'm experiencing at midlife.

I am shifting away from being an outgoing person in social settings to being largely absent.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy 7th Blogoversary

Photo by Jim Larrison.
Seven years ago today, I launched this blog, The Generation Above Me.

For the previous six years, I have posted the Top 10 or 20 Views over the life of the blog. When I checked the statistics this morning, the posts in the Top 20 stayed relatively constant over the last year.

Here are the All-Time Top 5 Posts for this blog:

5. Films Set in Nursing Homes
4. Books about Aging
3. Adjusting to Bifocals
2. Films about Aging
1. Films about Alzheimer's and Other Dementias

If you want to peruse the list of posts 6-20, you can visit last year's blogoversary post: