2008 – July / August
July- August, 2008 Issue 51
THE POSITIVE AGING NEWSLETTER
The Positive Aging Newsletter by Kenneth and Mary Gergen
Dedicated to productive dialogue between research and practice.
Sponsored by the Web-based Health Education Foundation and the Taos Institute
Issue No 51
In this issue:
- COMMENTARY: A Wild and Precious Life
- RESEARCH: Older Workers are the Best Workers
- RESEARCH: Disability in Late Life: Fact or Fiction?
- IN THE NEWS
- BOOK & FILM REVIEW
- Information for Readers
SPECIAL OFFER TO OUR READERS
September 24-27, 2008: Hyatt Hotel, Sarasota, FL.Dialogues that Deliver: Generative Practices in Collaboration, Conflict, and
Community. Sponsored by the Taos Institute, and featuring talks and
workshops with Ken and Mary Gergen and others: therapists,
organizational consultants, educators, and health practitioners. For
more information and to register go to www.taosInstitute.net A discount of $100 is offered to our readers. The discount code is XuBBVX
Tell me, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?
– Mary Oliver
Each of us loves this question, and yet it also makes us shudder a
bit. With some anxiety we ask if we have done enough with the decades
already given to us. We hope, perhaps, that if others were to hear us
tell our stories, there would be much that was precious, and indeed, an
ample supply of advice. At the same time, there is something about the
question that also suggest closure. It asks us to think backward from
the present moment, as if we had reached the end. As so much of the
research we report in this newsletter suggests, this would be
unfortunate. Rather, as the common adage goes, we gain in health,
energetic engagement and a sense of well-being if we can think about
each day as the first day of the rest of our lives. In this way, we ask
about the potentials for each day to bring forth flowers of both
precious and wild varieties. Ideally no hour should go by in which we
cannot find a little gem.. of wisdom, of humor, of love, of action. If
it isn’t right there beside us, then we would be well-served by
stretching our arms a bit to find it. There is always a piece of
chocolate to eat, a hug to share, a thank-you note to write, a phone
call to a friend, an instrument to play, a book to open, a putt to
make, a sweater to knit, a child to play with, a new recipe to try, a
new journey to plan, a neighbor to visit, or a hammock to swing in.
Today, a man in a shop talked about his mother. She had rented a house
in the Alps in Austria and was taking a hiking trip. He said, she is
trying to find her life again. My Dad died this year, and this is what
she’s doing to start over. When I was a baby my folks were tour guides
for teenagers, traveling by bus around Europe. I went on my first trip
to France when I was 2 weeks old. Then they stopped touring so they
could raise a family and stay in one place for awhile. I guess my Mom
is trying to jump start her life again, going back to where they left
off. This is the first time she’s ever been in Austria, so I guess she
is starting something new as well. She’s not wasting any time
discovering herself again. And, when we think of wild, perhaps we
should ask what there is about ourselves that could now be discovered.
Sometimes we ask ourselves what has been enriching about this day.
Mary and Ken Gergen
A common stereotype in the work world is that in most ways young
workers are better than the old. They are more motivated, more
energetic, more dedicated, and learn more rapidly. The elder worker,
according to this stereotype, loses energy and dedication, becomes
disinterested, and more or less just put in the time. To explore these
possibilities further, a survey was conducted in health care agencies
and nursing homes regarding how workers of various ages performed at
their jobs. These employers compared workers over 55 with those who
were younger. The results were dramatic: Older workers were judged as
more loyal, independent, knowledgeable, understanding, patient,
cooperative, and motivated to do a good job than the younger. They also
enjoyed more fully the challenges of caring for the sick, gaining trust
of the clients, and communicating well with clients. They were less
likely to leave within ten days of training, have background check
problems, have problems with outside family respon- sibilities, or be
absent. The only significant way in which the older workers were judged
negatively was in the fact they were less willing to use the computer!
From: Older workers: An opportunity to expand the long-term care/direct
care labor force by Melanie Hwalek, Victoria Straub, & Karen
Kosniewski. The Gerontologist, 2008, 48, special Issue 1, 90-103.
It is generally believed that old age brings with it increasing
disability. We often fear that as we grow very old we may be unable to
walk, to see, to hear or that we may lose control of vital functions.
How justified are such fears? In this longitudinal study, Swiss
researchers focused on the lives of 340 people, 80-84 years old.
Participants included women and men, living in both the city and
country, and representing all economic levels. The participants were
interviewed annually for many years, up until approximately 8 years
before their deaths. Of those who had died, the average age was 87. The
major question was one of disability. How often, when, for whom? As the
study found, there were no gender differences, no geographic
differences, and no urban/rural differences in percentage of the sample
who were disabled. Most interesting was that disability did not seem to
increase in probability the older one became. It was not the case that
the oldest suffered longer periods of disability. One could be 85 or
80, and age differences did not predict to disability. People who had
higher economic class levels postponed disability until the very last
year of life. The researchers speculated that the generally high levels
of health and the habits of walking to various places in Switzerland
helped to keep these octogenarians free from disability. Whether such
results are duplicated in other nations remains an open question.
From: Social Status and Mortality with Activity of Daily Living
Disability in Later Life by Edith Guilley and Christian J. Lalive
Epinay, Journal of
Gerontology, 2008, 61B, S192-S196.
* GOOD NEWS: HALTING ALZHEIMERS
A Singapore based pharmaceutical company has presented data at a
medical conference in Chicago that suggests a new way to stop the
progression of Alzheimers in its tracks, at least for 19 months
according to their research. Director Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, of
Alzheimers research at the National Institute on Aging has agreed,
These are the first very positive results we have seen for stopping
mental decline. In the study, 321 patients were given a medium dose of
Rember or a placebo 3 times a day. Using a test of mental performance,
the researchers found that the people on the placebo lost an overage of
7% of brain function over 6 months, and continued to decline
thereafter. In contrast, those in the treatment didn’t decline at all.
People on the mid-level dose remained at their initial level of
competence to the end of the study (19 months). While more testing is
essential, and it will be awhile until the drug is available to the
public, the main chemical in Rember is available now in a prescription
drug that has been used occasionally since the 1930’s for chronic
bladder infections and in methylene blue. It was never tested
thoroughly because it predated the FDA, but it may explain why we have
had such smart great grandparents, especially if they had bladder
From: Test drug shows promise in halting Alzheimers by Marilynn Marchione,
Philadelphia Inquirer, July 30, 2008, A6.
* ACTIVITY AND PREVENTING PARKINSONS
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health studied 143,000
people average age of 63 over a ten year period. They found that
people who had moderate to vigorous activity levels were 40% less
likely to develop Parkinsons disease than those with no or light
activity levels. Exercise is also helpful to those who have Parkinsons
disease. While it is unclear what causes Parkinsons Disease, a complex,
chronic illness that is related to dopamine levels in the brain, there
are drugs and therapies to control symptoms, and recently researchers
at Northwestern University hospital have been studying the use of
isradipine, a calcium channel blocker used for high blood pressure, to
slow or stop the symptoms.
From: What older adults should know about Parkinsons disease by Lisa M. Davila, The Erickson Tribune, September, 2007, pg. 7-8.
* PEACE CORPS RECRUITING RETIREES
Retiree Ronald Tschetter is now director of the Peace Corps after a
long career in finance. His goal is to bring many older people back to
work, in one of the 75 foreign countries where the Peace Corp has
projects, as a resource that, if tapped, could just bring tremendous
value to these countries, he says. Many of the new volunteers are
former Peace Corp members. Veterans of the Corps from 30 years ago,
Kenneth and June Nicholson of Vermont are teaching in Bulgaria; Charles
Harkness of Minnesota took a challenge from his daughter, and went to
Kyrgyzstan to teach. The Peace Corps has almost 8,000 volunteers, most
of whom are in their 20’s, but Tschetter wants the baby boomers for
their expertise and
experience in agriculture, business, education, energy and health.
Recruitment is difficult, but efforts are being made to interest older
people to take the fling. “I had a really nice life, but something was
missing,” said Nancy O’Connell, of North Carolina, who served in
Surname in South America in 2003. The hardest part for O’Connell was
learning Dutch, which she did by studying 6 hours a day for 7 weeks.
Safety for the volunteers is a primary concern, and a health assessment
is made before being assignment to a post. The Peace Corps is willing
to work with most problems, if the people are willing, according to
Jack Bardon, of Minnesota, who joined with his wife at age 70.
From: Peace Corps is going after U. S. retirees by Brady Averill, Philadelphia
Inquirer, October 16, 2007, C, A8
* YOU CALLING US OLD?
At the beginning of December 1965, when he was 22, Mick Jagger
approached a microphone in a Los Angeles recording studio and, assuming
the persona of a woman, made an announcement: what a drag it is getting
old. Ironic no more! His state pension is ready for collection next
month and in December the elderly citizen Keith Richards will join him
in some of the other benefits that retirement age has to offer. There
is a mood of optimism, and a belated recognition from the British
government last week that older people have a right to everything
available to their children. We have softened our belief that
retirement is forced upon us at an arbitrary age. Turning 65 is not the
thing it was when we were young. In the past 35 years the UK population
aged over 65 has grown by 31 per cent, from 7.4 to 9.7 million, and the
Office for National Statistics predicts this figure will double in the
next 20 years and treble in the next 30. You don’t need to work at one
of the Saga travel or insurance companies to know that the grey pound
is a vibrant force or that the active pensioner isn’t confined to the
garden centre or bowling green any more. We now know that nothing
actually happens at the age of 60 or 65 to prevent anyone participating
in extreme sports or attending gigs performed by people they went to
school with. The best news may be that the elderly are not a passive,
disorganized group any more. In her new book, Not Dead Yet, Julia
Neuberger issues a ‘manifesto for old age’, a call to arms with such
chapter titles as ‘Don’t treat me like I’m not worth repairing’ and
‘Don’t assume I’m not enjoying life, give me a chance’. Among her
heroes are elderly parachutists and octogenarian topless sunbathers.
Excerpt from: You Calling us old? We Never Felt So Young, by Simon Garfinkel.
Observer, June 29, 2008, pg. 4 Features.
Wellness Made Easy: 365 Tips for Better Health. A booklet from the
University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter. To subscribe visit
their website: www.WellnessLetter.com
Each month the Berkeley Wellness Letter gives out tips for healthy
living. The following are samples from the advice you will find in the
- Cooked tomatoes, as in tomato sauce, (or as they say in
South Philly, red gravy) is even healthier than raw tomatoes. Add
garlic and onions to be even healthier. And fresh oregano and marjoram
are the best herbs for health!
- Discard the soaking water
from dried peas and beans. This eliminates more than half of the
indigestible carbohydrates that cause gas.
- When your mouth
is on fire from hot pepper, one way to cool it off is to drink milk or
a spoonful of yogurt. (In Indian restaurants try the cucumbers and
- Two quarts of plain popcorn have the same calories as 20 potato chips.
prevent dry skin, limit bathing to 15 minutes a day, and favor a tepid
shower over a hot bath. Excessive bathing and use of strong soap
washes away the natural oils that trap water in the skin. Maybe the
French have got it right.
- If you often encounter
aggressive dogs on your exercise route, carry a pop-open umbrella to
scare them away (one of the choices.)
- Don’t worry about swallowing pits, seeds or even apple cores. Think fiber.
you are scheduled for a PSA test, do not ejaculate for about 48 hours
beforehand. Ejaculation temporarily boosts PSA levels.
- Kissing a boo boo is not a bad idea. Licking a wound helps disinfect it and promotes healing. (warm water is easier.)
warm-up before exercising. Stretching cold muscles can injure them.
Warming up by jogging in place for 5-10 minutes prepares you for
Eager for your kisses: Love and Sex at 95. A film by Liz Cane.
This film documents the determination of a 95 year old man in his
efforts to retain a romantic life, including sexual liaisons. After
loss of his wife of fifty years, Bill Cane, a singer and music teacher
found ballroom dancing as a promising way to meet new women. Singing
and wooing went together and Bill produced two new CDâ€™s and found new
love. Available on HS & DVD www.newday.com (1-888-367-9154).
*** USEFUL WEBSITES***
An excellence source of materials on aging can be found through the
Ageline database sponsored by AARP. The database includes summaries of
more than 90,000 publications (professional & provider
publications, general interest & consumer publications) about aging
and the 50+ population.
ASPEC The Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College, St.
Petersburg, Florida Sharing Learning, Sharing Lives From the Visual
arts to the Culinary Arts, Philosophy to Bicycling, Religions and
Faiths to Science and Society, Literature to Laughing Matters, ASPEC
Study Groups enrich the minds, hearts and souls of its 300 plus
members. We interact regularly with students and faculty of Eckerd
College as mentors, colleagues, and friends. Weekly Social Hours at
Lewis House on the campus and monthly events at local restaurants
provide ASPEC members with the opportunity to socialize with each other
and strengthen the ASPEC community.
This website allows members to plan and share funeral details,
including music, form and location of burial with their loved ones.
These people can have online access to the member’s information,
including location of the will and bank accounts.
is a similar British-based website. Members of the site can join and
share ideas for funeral services, or as one member calls them, ongoing
Readers ask if they may reprint or circulate materials published in
this newsletter. We are most pleased for any expansion in circulation.
You are free to use any or all that you find in the newsletter, but
trust that you will acknowledge the Newsletter as the source.
Road Scholar offers educational travel adventures designed for Baby
Boomers across the globe. Places are discovered through experiential
learning, with local resident experts and hands-on activities.
Programs balance scheduled and independent time. Programs such as
whale watching in Baja and wandering in the Swiss countryside have been
designed for women only. Road Scholar is a division of Elderhostel.
(1-800-466-7762)November 21-25, 2008: The Gerontological Society of
America 61st Annual Scientific Meeting: Resilience in an Aging
Society: Risks and Opportunities. Gaylord National Resort and
Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland. Information and call for
papers and online abstract submission form available at www.agingconference.com
September 4-6, 2008, Washington, DC: life@50 is the title of the annual AARP festival of aging. Check it out at www.aarp.org/events or 1-800-883-2784
– Questions & Feedback
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