Put it on an iPod and Plug in!

jj on motorcycle

Noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, once said that, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Recently, opera singer turned neuroscientist, Linda Maguire, researched using music for those with failing cognition. “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s. They can’t follow life or conversations. They don’t remember people. They get lost and confused. But because the part of the brain that internalizes music remains healthy, they can follow music.” 

Maguire’s study revealed 5 important benefits of music:

  1. Music evokes emotions that bring memories.
  2. Music is a way to reach beyond the disease and reach the person.
  3. Music can bring emotional and physical closeness. With dementia, patients often lost the ability to express emotions.  Through music, if they are ambulatory, they can even dance. Dancing can lead to hugs, kisses and touching, which brings security and memories.
  4. Singing engages both mind and body. It gives you better posture, better oxygenation and stimulates tissue because the heart and lungs literally vibrate.
  5. Music can shift mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions. 

Maguire’s study says that three of the most therapeutic songs are: “The Sound of Music,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It also suggests that if you are caring for an elderly person, to compile a playlist of songs that were popular when they were 18-25 years old. Put it on an iPod and plug them in!!

On that note, I leave you with, “I Wanna Die Young,” a song I wrote inspired by my grandmother. That is she pictured above on the back of a Harley in her 70’s. She is the same girl that still sang “Happy Birthday” to me at age 93, long after she had forgotten who I was.  







 Well go figure. Apparently I have been doing something good for my body and brain for the last 40 years and I didn’t even know it!! I guess you could say it started in my 20’s and I just sort of kept it up.  I do it at home and always when I’m travelling. You name it. Anywhere I find the space, I  simply just do it. Like how it feels. Love how it gives me a different perspective on things.

I’ve done it in SO many hotel rooms your head would spin.  I’ve done it in public, in private, under bright lights, in pitch dark, against fences, bathroom doors in shopping malls and smack on the beach in broad daylight.  What am I talking about??  You guessed it:  handstands.

Now, science says that what I have been doing several times a day for all these years has 5 beneficial results:

  1. Builds core strength.
  2. Makes the upper body strong.
  3. Increases balance
  4. Helps with bone health, circulation & breathing

Here’s the crazy thing: anyone can do them. It just takes a little practice, a little confidence and a nice strong wall to fly up against. Place your hands about a shoulder’s width apart; aim them about 12 inches from a nice, sturdy wall…and GO FOR IT. The worst that could happen is you chicken out half way up and come back down.

One word of caution: in the thousands and thousands of handstands I have done over the years, only once did I have a disastrous result. As I recall, I was staying in a rundown Motel 6 and there was no room to do one. So, I closed the bathroom door and did a handstand against it. Well, the door didn’t latch tightly.  So as my feet landed on it, I had the lovely sensation of going all the way over and both feet landed smack in the toilet. Thank God I was only 20 at the time.

Give it a try….it just might change your mood AND perspective on things. 🙂

P. S.  Yes, this was me this afternoon at the YMCA.


silent crowd at starbucks

Take a good look at this picture of a group of 20 somethings at Starbucks this morning.  I watched and photographed them for several minutes, during which time not one of them looked up or even acknowledged one another.  Welcome to 2015.  I would not want to be their age for anything right now.  Why?

1. I wouldn’t be able to talk to my friends as conversation now is done primarily via thumbs. (The last time I actually used mine was to hitchhike).

2.  I would never feel the heart-palpitating anticipation of waiting days for handwritten letters from someone I love.  (Instead, I could ‘hook-up’ or ‘break-up’ instantly via Facebook.)

3. I wouldn’t be able to get the 6 o’clock News in one, nicely, digestible, half hour. (It would bombard me 24/7 on Twitter.)

4. I couldn’t say the bill ‘got lost in the mail, ‘ as it would be sent directly to my Inbox.

5. I couldn’t have a wild time at that private party knowing it would stay private. (By morning, my hat dance routine would be viral on Instagram.)

6. My boredom tolerance would be zero, my curiosity likely non-existent and my sense of allegiance to country, place and home not even a memory.  (Now, thanks to politicians and lawyers, I can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance but can read Lolita– just not the Bible– in class.)

7. Most anything I say would be politically incorrect. (Now I would either have to pretend to like everybody– no matter how wacky– or simply remain mute.)

8. I would neither be able to remember nor mourn my innocence. (Thanks to the Internet it would never exist.)

9. My moral compass would be all screwed up. (Instead of making a bowl of popcorn for the movie, I might well, ‘smoke a bowl’ instead.)

10. I would likely still be living with my parents! (My college degree wouldn’t get me a job and even if it did I still couldn’t afford to live on my own.)

It seems that a sense of gratitude has now been replaced with a sense of entitlement.  Many of my friends say they wouldn’t want to be younger simply because they have, “Been there.  Done that.”  Truth is I haven’t been ‘there’ or ‘done that’ at all.  And I sure wouldn’t want to be there doing it NOW. 


plant a tree 3 old man young girl

If you have not yet read, “Why I hope to die at 75,” by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in this month’s Atlantic, don’t bother. He may be a distinguished scientist, head the Department of Medical Ethics at U Penn and be a primary architect of Obamacare, but frankly he’s not too swift.

At first I thought he was humorously flipping the numbers of his own age, 57, around. Nope. He is dead serious. Not only does he list the various reasons why 75, “is a good place to stop” including physical, mental and creative decline. He also spends a good many pages telling us exactly what he WILL have accomplished by that age: “will have loved and been loved,” will have “contributed his best work” to his field and will have “seen his children grown.” Is he a fortune-teller, too? He may or may not live long enough to see any of those things happen!

The single worst part is his wanting to be remembered, “as vibrant and engaged, not feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” Wow. Does narcissism come to mind? Look, getting wrinkled, frail and whatever else is part of the journey. If you can do it with an eye open for what magic lies beyond the bend, hooray! And if some young idiot thinks you’re ‘pathetic,’ shame on them.

It’s good for the young to be around the old. It’s even better they learn to take care of them, so they can truly understand their own aging one day. Emanuel says, “Our living too long places emotional weights on our progeny.” Yes, partially, but it also builds strength, character and teaches valuable lessons otherwise lost. He thinks the young need more time, “out of our shadows.” To do what? Indulge in their own self interests so they, too, can leave behind a ‘youthful’ legacy?

Garbage like this makes my blood boil. And to think the Atlantic actually prides itself on over 150 years of exhibiting a, “moderate world view.” Moderate? The bottom line is that despite his Harvard Ph.D., Emanuel is a sad victim of the “fixed mind set.” If you don’t know what that is, get a copy of “Mindset” by Carol Dweck right now and start reading.

Geez, the ancient Greeks were wiser than our present day intellectuals. They said: “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”  To that, I say “AMEN.”



A girl named, “June” almost cleaned my clock during a three hour match on the tennis courts this afternoon. As the temperature soared to 90 degrees, she sent me left, then right, then shot up a high lob that I lost in the sun. Her serve, always precise and with a punch, aced me in the opening game. The first set ended quickly at 6-3 in June’s favor. At the changeover, she sat and rested on the bench, sweetly sipping her water. I paced, nervously bouncing the ball on my racket and taking quick swigs from my Starbucks.

What I haven’t told you is that we were playing doubles in the Senior league. Doubles. But our only real opponent was that tall, strong girl with the short haircut and big tooth grin. My partner and I changed positions hoping for an advantage. What we received instead was more of June’s arsenal. Suddenly she was sending my serve down the alley with her deft, inside-out, one-handed backhand or whacking low volleys at my partner at the net.  There were times I felt she was reading my mind as she moved into just the right position before I even connected with the ball.  I was unnerved.

At 4-4 in the 2nd set, I started giving her back what she was giving us: a myriad of shots that defied predictability. She never hit the same shot twice in a row. Never. So, during her next service, I purposely gave her three, different returns: a drop shot, a backhand deep down the middle, then a high lob cross court. While we did win that game, what amazed me was that at Love-Forty, she still served my partner a wicked angle and fought hard through an almost five minute point. We barely closed a 7-5 win in the 2nd set.

By the 3rd set, June was getting tired and it began to show. I made myself not look at her. Forced myself to stop admiring her game and start playing mine. I sent every ball that I could to her partner. More than three hours later, drenched in sweat, we finally prevailed. As June extended her hand in congratulations, I ignored it and instead threw both of my arms around her and hugged hard. It was a hug of both relief and sheer admiration. You see, June is just shy of 80. I want to be her when I grow up but I have a long way to go.




man in casket

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,” is the regret most often heard from the lips of the dying.  Those were the findings of an Australian palliative nurse.  So, if this is true about us, does that mean the primary reason for our personal sufferings in life is because we are too fixated on pleasing others?  Can it also be the root of our obsession with youth and beauty?  Is this why so many people who should have rich and happy lives simply don’t?

 This morning I watched a boisterous group of three year-olds play, “Red light.  Green light.”  They had trouble getting started.  By the time the teacher had the last ones properly lined up, the first ones were already wriggling out of their places.  Some hopped on one foot, others giggled and twirled, and one little boy never did get in line.  Corralling them was like trying to stop 18 grasshoppers from twitching and leaping; an impossible feat.

 For the half hour that I watched, the teacher pleaded for them to “stand still,” “listen to me,” “don’t push Sally,” “stay on the blue line,” “get back in order,” “no talking,” and on and on.  When I left, I realized that of the 30 minutes they had for the game, they only actually played about 10 of them.  Maybe our lives are like that:  two-thirds of the time we align ourselves with the group, or are forced to.  The other third we try desperately to be our unique selves and navigate our independent joys.

 One would hope that with maturity, we ‘grow out of it.’  However, if that list of regrets is accurate, we just may not.  So, I wonder.  When my own children reach adulthood, will they have found the unique qualities which make them individuals and pursue them?  Or will they, like many, be so influenced by their peers and society that their own true selves get lost in the shuffle?

 My grandmother always said, “Example is the greatest teacher,” and she was a great one.  These days, though, the young take theirs from computer screens, not flesh and blood people.  They are better ‘talking’ with their thumbs than their voices.  So, what will be their dying regrets?  That they didn’t speak up?  In the end, maybe that is the very, same thing.

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a non-fiction memoir of her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s.



As I deliver this bit of shocking news, I hope that you are not sitting down.  Frankly, you need to be standing at attention.  Here goes:  if you are over 40, only about 60% of you have even thought about getting old.  However, one third of you prefer, ‘not to think about aging at all.’  Now consider this:  If you are over 65, 70% of you will be needing long-term care either from a relative, home health aide, assisted living or a nursing home.

Great! Some of you may think to yourselves, “That gives me 25 more years to think about it.”  Fine.  Have it your way.  Stay in denial.  You won’t be alone.  If you’re like many, you’ll be botoxing, bleaching and bonding whatever it is about you that seems like it’s getting old.  If that doesn’t work, you’ll tighten and sew up the rest.  Trouble is, when you really DO get old, you’ll actually look older, if not kinda weird.

There is only one way to stay young:  stay involved.  Meet new people.  Take an interest in young people.  Take an interest in old people.  Plant a different kind of flower in the front hedge.  Teach your dog a new trick.  Read up on something different in the news and share it with a complete stranger.  Don’t just walk across the crosswalk, skip.  Ride your shopping cart if the lanes are clear.  Wave to that cop in your rear-view mirror.  Put on some music and dance while you make dinner.  Trust me NOBODY is watching.

Shake it up.  Nothing deadlier than a rut.  Once you’re in one, that tire just doesn’t want to move from the groove.  Recently, I started running backwards in the pool.  Figured if I’m gonna go back and forth and get nowhere, might as well do it backwards.  Get out the scrapbook and find that picture of you graduating from college.  Remember how you felt that day?  Life was ahead of you?  You were gonna make things happen?  Nothing could stop you?  Well what’s stopping you now?  




Interesting ride in the elevator this morning.  As the doors closed, I went to push the UP button, but the four year-old next to me beat me to it, hitting the DOWN one instead.  We headed down.  “DADDY!” she shrieked, “Why aren’t we going UP???”  “Because you pushed the DOWN button,” he said with a grimace of embarrassment.

Ah, indeed, one cannot go UP in life, if one keeps pushing the DOWN button and we do it all the time.  Don’t believe me?  Why do women lie about their age?  They do not want to face their actual years of living.  Why?  What makes 30 more special than 37?  Hopefully those 7 years were well-lived and they are proud of them.  Why not own them?  I knew a woman once who told me she had two children.  When I later learned that she actually had three,( a mentally ill son who had been institutionalized for many years), she said he, ‘didn’t count.’

Wow.  Everything counts.  Every ONE counts.  It all adds up to the beautiful, complex, crazy, wonderful puzzle that becomes our lives.  Sure some are messy, others splendid, but every HOUR of them are OURS.  Claim them.  Embrace them.  Flaunt them.  But whatever you do, don’t hide them or you will just go down.  Down, until you end up in the basement with all those people who declare that “50 is the new 40.” 

            What?  50 is not the ‘new 40.’  It is actually 10 years more beautiful than 40 could ever hope to be.  It has more gray hair, more lines, more experience, more disappointments and joys, and more stories to tell.  Which brings me to why I write this blog in the first place: celebrating older people.

Why aren’t they our FIRST priority?  They are living legacies and their time with us is short.  Why was Taylor Swift on the cover of Vanity Fair this month instead of Stevie Wonder?  She is awesome and I love her music but his work has affected the world longer than she has even been alive.  And while we’re at it, why are feisty, fifty year-olds advertising erectile dysfunction drugs?  Seriously, get a real, 75 year-old guy who can barely click the TV remote and put some believability back in advertisement.  When THAT happens, I’ll know America has its’ head on straight.  Till then, I’ll keep writing.






A gray-haired old woman from the United Kingdom

Faces like this beauty are becoming gloriously ever-present.

Well, now that the super rich are going to keep the rest of us from falling off the fiscal cliff, consider this:  our elderly are going back into the workplace faster than you can shake a cane.  Today alone, I was helped by more gray hairs than young folk.

 Walking into the supermarket, the stock ‘boy’ was putting up a case of ketchup.  Granted, he did it bottle by bottle, unlike the young bucks who hold the case in one arm and fill the shelves with the other.  But considering he was in his 70’s, I was impressed nonetheless.  Same with the bent-over, bald guy who was gathering up wayward carts in the parking lot.

 Several of my ‘over 60’ acquaintances have hired on at Starbucks over the last few years,  just “for the benefits.”  The janitor at the YMCA is a grandmother in her 60’s who never seems to take a break.  The younger janitor, I notice, however, is often sitting on various stairwells sipping coffee or munching candy bars.

 However, one further surprise awaited me on this first day of January, 2013.  When I reached the end of my first lap in the pool and looked up at the lifeguard chair, I had to remove my goggles to believe my eyes.  There, 4 feet up, with a red buoy strung over her chest was a gray-haired woman who looked at least 75.  Her bare legs, while fit, had sagging skin dotted with old age spots and her ankles appeared swollen. 

 I kept swimming.  A few minutes later, she climbed down from the chair and a young, buff guy took her place.  I stopped to watch her move to her next location.  Her posture was erect but in the kind of way that takes effort.  And while I had the sense that I might not exactly like to drown on her watch, I also had tremendous respect for her resolve.  Frankly, it won’t be the super rich or the President or anyone else that keeps this country from going down on its’ knees.  It will be our elderly who continue to stand tall in the face of Time’s demise.   

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” now on Amazon/Kindle.  



 Here’s what makes my blood boil:  callous jerks running roughshod over old folks with an air of insouciance that unhinges me .  Whether it’s shoving past them in lines, defrauding them by phone, neglecting their care or outright ignoring their presence, their constant victimization makes me furious.  I defy one, single reader to go one, single day without witnessing this crime.  And it is, a crime.

A few hours ago, a frail, old man was backing out of the “Handicapped” space next to my car.  He moved slowly and looked behind carefully as he reversed.  However, when he was three-quarters of the way out, some girl flew around the corner in a large pickup, SAW him and actually SPED UP to pass him.  He slammed on his brakes.  After she passed, I looked through the window at his face.  It was grim and shaken.  I waved.  He looked up nervously.  I smiled and motioned him to roll down his window.  He did but only one inch.  “Not your fault,” I said.  “She was a jerk.  You were in the right of way.”  He gave me a tight-lipped, half-smile.      

 I kicked a cab in New York City once.  I was helping my 90 year-old grandmother across 5th avenue when a taxi ran a red light.  He came so fast that I had to pull her out of his path.  As he passed, within mere inches of us, I kicked his bumper as hard as I could.  THAT made him slam on his brakes.  He jumped out of his taxi yelling in a foreign language.  I was too mad to be intimidated.  “You almost hit my grandmother, you maniac,” I yelled.  “You could have killed her!”  As I continued to maneuver her safely across the street, cars all around him began honking.  He just stood there, yelling, as all of 5th avenue angrily swarmed around him.

Frankly, I don’t know to this day if I actually made a dent in that cab because I never looked.  However, I hope I made one in the driver.  Part of me wonders that if that girl today in the pickup had been closer, would I have kicked her bumper too?  Maybe I’ve turned into the Clint Eastwood of the elder set.  Maybe I’ll start carrying a cane at each hip.  If someone gets unruly with one of my elderly, I’ll whack ‘em.  First I’ll look ‘em right in the eye, though, and say, “Make my day.” 

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” now on Amazon/Kindle.