MY INSPIRATIONS

94Recently, a young man came backstage to chat with me after a performance. As he left, he suddenly gushed, “Ms. Hudson, this was great. I just love talking to old people!” While the others around me were a bit shocked, I was quite tickled and replied, “Well, Jason, I just love talking to young ones!”

 Growing up, my grandmother was always my greatest inspiration. She was drinking carrot juice and doing yoga long ahead of her time. One afternoon, when she was 70 and I was 17, she suddenly appeared in the kitchen wearing tap shoes. I’d been moping around the house and knew that she was trying to cheer me up.  She began to hop-step-flap-ball change her way through a very, nifty, ‘time step.’  That vision of her with her gray ponytail bouncing up and down still makes me smile.

As a kid I looked up to older people and sought them out for advice. Now that I am the ‘older’ person, there are a lot fewer ahead of me than there used to be. Nevertheless, I still look to them for both encouragement and hope. Here are just some of the inspirations in my life right now: a 94 year-old with the figure of a teenager who chats everyone up while sipping her iced chai latte and grocery shopping; an 84 year-old who took up daily workouts for the first time ever after her husband passed away and a 70-something couple who only recently found each other and are now inseparable.

84 rower

 cap couple

Recently, I had the happy fortune of spending the weekend with three, young couples. One has just had their first child. The other is expecting their first and the latter are engaged to marry. It was déjà vu as I, too, once walked those very roads. I marveled at their energy and fresh faces despite sleepless nights. I was hugely impressed by the equality with which all three seem to navigate their relationships. Mostly, I just gasped at how quickly I went from their age to mine.  At the end of the weekend, one of them told me that I was, ‘an inspiration’ to him because of my energy and enthusiasm for life.  At first, I was surprised but then very grateful. For his compliment is now a great motivation to keep me charging forward with a big smile on my face!!

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SURPRISE!!!

Broken Chair

Last week, one of my tennis partners and I found ourselves in a heart to heart talk about aging. Her husband recently had a stroke and can’t speak. She is his fulltime caregiver. “There are so many years behind me,” she said sadly, “and so much fewer ahead.”  So true.

 A few days later, a friend confided, “Aging is hard. I never knew it would be this hard. Sometimes I wonder if I have the strength for it.” She just got out of the hospital after what she thought was a routine bronchitis, which she’d had before. This time, she couldn’t shake it alone.

 Another emailed after taking a cruise to say that he had, “really wanted to hike through Europe” but feared his legs might not hold him up. Instead, he “saw it mostly through my cabin window.” Still another told me that she is, “terrified of falling.   I’ve put night-lights every six feet in my house. If I fall again, I’m dead. That’s it.” She recently had a hip replaced and the recovery took almost a year.

 I could chalk my friends off as being ‘alarmists’ or ‘overly pessimistic,’ but they echo my own sentiments. I, too, have set myself a daily routine to maximize safety and minimize stress. I swim, but only so far, so as not to overtax my shoulders. I walk, but avoid hills, so as not to overstress my knees. I eat healthy, nap, meditate, do mild yoga, read enlightening books and practice music daily to keep my synapses sharp.

 However, all of this moderation only carries one so far. There is no accounting for the surprises that life can throw your way. This afternoon, I made a salad and went outside to enjoy it in the sunshine. As I sat down on the chair, the seat underneath me gave way. Not only did I jolt my joints but my lovely salad spread itself all over the pavement.

 Apparently, there’s good reason for all of us to take extra precautions. Right now, the accidental death rate is up 12% in the US. Why? Falls among the elderly and drug overdoses. Shakespeare, describing impending death in Hamlet said this: “And by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” For now, I’ve decided to appreciate those ‘shocks.’ It means that I’m still here to tell you about them.  

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

THE SKINNY ON FAT

healthy fats

 15 years ago, my doctor put me on a low fat diet because my cholesterol was high. I followed it for a good 12 years, just long enough to watch my hair thin, my fuse shorten and my memory fuzz. It barely put a dent in my cholesterol, although my good cholesterol dropped and my bad zoomed skywards.

 In the last 30 years, Americans have lowered their fat intake by 10% yet obesity has doubled and heart disease remains the #1 killer! Due to a flawed study in the 70’s, (which did not take into account, smoking, carbohydrate intake and exercise), we were led to believe that high fat cholesterol foods are bad for us. Not true.

 Science has now discovered:

  1. DHA & EPA, the 2 omega-3 fatty acids in fish—are more effective than psychotherapy and antidepressants in treating depression.
  2. The fats in fish can improve symptoms of ADHD in children.
  3. Omega-3’s have been found to reduce acts of aggression among prisoners.
  4. The National Institute of Health found that members of the US military with the lowest omega-3 levels also have the highest risk of committing suicide.
  5. Your brain is 60% fat and needs cholesterol to function well! People who eat more saturated fat reduce their rate for developing dementia by 36%.
  6. Healthy saturated fat reduces inflammation and encourages the liver to dump its’ own fat cells which makes it function more effectively.
  7. Saturated fatty acids, especially those found in butter and coconut, help white blood cells to recognize and destroy invading viruses and bacteria.
  8. Eating fat, particularly avocadoes, regulates the production of sex hormones, helps to repair tissue, preserves muscle and improves sexual function.
  9. Polyunsaturated fats, which the body can’t make, are essential for normal body functions. They reduce harmful LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL.

 According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating good quality high-fat foods will prevent the rising epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and reverse the growing numbers of people suffering weight-related heart problems. If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: 46,835 women were instructed to eat a low-fat diet. After 8 years, there was only a 1-pound difference in weight from their fat-eating sisters and there was ZERO difference in their heart disease, cancer or death rates. So, excuse me while I go munch my macadamias.

 

MIRROR, MIRROR!

mirror mirror

While Christmas shopping, I stopped into Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up a larger oven mitt for my husband. Lately, he’s been cooking up a storm and mine is much too small for his hands. While there, I noticed a woman my age staring at herself in the above mirror. Now I don’t know about you but the last thing I want for Christmas is a $200 mirror that lights up AND magnifies my face up to 5 times its’ size!

 But apparently this woman did. Her husband, however, was not such an easy sell. He was astounded by the price tag and kept staring hard into the mirror, as if trying to figure out just what the heck she saw in that thing. Maybe it was like the magic mirror in Snow White and was telling her that she was the, ‘fairest of all,’ but somehow I didn’t think so.

 At one point, he even raised his voice and said, “Jesus, Lorraine. No one should have to spend that kind of money just to look at their own face. You already know what it looks like by now. Besides, it’s beautiful to me. That’s all that matters.” I was impressed by the way he finessed his way out of that one, cuz moments later, they both left happy.

 As soon as they did, I hustled over and stared hard into that mirror. Fortunately, I wasn’t wearing my glasses, for even without the lights on, it was a startling sight. My face was about the size of a cantaloupe, my pores looked like the surface of the moon after multiple Apollo landings and my nose clearly resembled the big dipper. Yikes!!

 This afternoon my husband came home from the ophthalmologist who just prescribed him, ‘blue light blocking’ glasses to wear when driving at night. Apparently, removing this band from the visible spectrum enables us to see better in the dark and also protects our eyes. Gosh, if they can do that, surely they can make those, ‘rose colored’ glasses for real, right? Until then, I shall muddle along happily seeing through my ‘glass darkly,’ without spending one, single, solitary cent.   

 

 

DANCING IN THE DARK?

hiking w: Herb

An older friend of mine recently asked me to hike with him. He said it would be easy on my knees and I’d love the view so I said, ‘Sure.’ He arrived with his walking stick, water bottle and a grand sense of confidence. As I looked up at the trail he had chosen for us, I remarked, “Gosh! This looks pretty steep!” “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “It’s really easy. I’ve done this hike many, many times.”

 What he had forgotten was that he had not done this particular hike in more than 15 years. For less than 5 minutes later, after slipping on gravel and struggling to get our footholds, we both had to turn around. It was hard for him to give up and I could see the disappointment in his face. In his mind, this exact hike had once been truly easy for him.

 Funny how we remember things, isn’t it? Science says that our memories are often faint and altered recollections of what actually transpired. They have now discovered that each time we recall one, it actually takes on a slightly, different tenor. A recent article in Science Digest says, “Your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.” We have 86 billion neurons in our brains to keep them humming and yet? Apparently that’s not enough to keep our memories both exact and intact.

 Not long ago I said to my husband: “Remember when we used to go dancing?” His reply? “Honey, we only danced when we were dating, not once we got married. I think you’re confused.” I was dumbfounded. Apparently, dancing with him was SO memorable that 37 years has not extinguished my memory of it. Then again, his memory may not be accurate and maybe we’ve been dancing all along.

 

 

GETTING DUMBER BY THE SECOND?

bruised hand

 Aging causes us to lose our brain-processing speed. Typically, we lose a tenth of a second of brain speed per decade from age 20 on. This minute change is very difficult to notice, even for the most tuned-in individuals, because aging occurs at a constant rate.

Well, I may have lost 45 milliseconds of brain speed in the last 45 years, but I am NOT as slow-brained as the 20-something woman who parked at Trader Joe’s this morning. Not by a long shot. I ask you, who parks a brand new SUV and leaves BOTH the driver’s door and the passenger door WIDE OPEN??

Unfortunately, after circling around, the only spot available was next to this car. So, carefully I pulled in, hugging the right line of my parking spot. I kept looking for the driver but there was no one in sight. As I squeezed myself out, a voice behind me suddenly shrieked: “Oh My God! You parked so close to my car!!!”

I turned to see a young woman holding a, single, grocery bag in her hand. For a moment I was flummoxed. Finally I replied: “Well, unlike you, Dear, I’m parked well within my spot. Intelligent people don’t leave their cars unattended with both doors wide open in a crowded, parking lot.” You’d have thought she might have apologized for her thoughtlessness. Nope. She merely deposited her bag onto the passenger seat, shut the door and huffed her way around to the driver’s side. As she closed that door, the poor man idling next to her, who’d been waiting to pull out, finally did.

What I should have said was: “Darlin,’ it’s obvious from the way you parked that your pre frontal cortex hasn’t fully formed yet. Lucky for you, time has slowed my brain’s processing speed so that I was actually able to avoid hitting your car as I pulled in. Otherwise, you’d be missing the passenger door right now.”

However, when I returned home I actually did something even dumber. Picking up my hand weights, which I use every day; I began swinging them in big, wide, circles over my head. Just as I came down from the first circle, I misjudged the distance (by a millimeter or millisecond?) and the left weight went slamming into the back of my right hand. The hematoma is huge and the pain immense. Apparently, stupidity has no age barrier. None.

 

 

 

 

DON’T NUKE…..CUKE!!!

cucumber

If you think that today’s 20-something is, “irresponsible” and “doesn’t consider the future,” get this: People over 50, and there are 76 million of us, don’t either. In a recent survey, fully ¾ of us said that we have profound worries about aging. Our top two concerns are, “losing our independence,” and “being a burden” to our family. The participants were then asked which on a list of 10 things they would be willing to put into place to address those concerns.

Here is the list:

  1.  Have family or friend move in with them.
  2. Move in with children, other family members or a friend.
  3. Rely on your spouse, family member or a friend for care.
  4. Attend an adult day care facility.
  5. Hire an in-home aide or agency for care.
  6. Hire a live-in caregiver.
  7. Move into an assisted living facility.
  8. Move into a nursing home.
  9. Make modifications to your home.
  10. Use the value in your home (your equity) to pay for care.

Dare I tell you how many of us seriously considered those options let alone said we’d be willing to put them in place?  About 20%.  Stanford professor, Douglas Bernheim, recently did a study called, “The Baby Boomer Retirement Index,” with Merrill Lynch. He discovered that only about 1/3 of Baby Boomers have saved enough money for their retirement years. This, despite the fact that most of us feel we, “will maintain our same standard of living in our later years.” Are we victims of, “magical thinking?”

Quite frankly, I have friends who have planned out their funerals better than they have their aging futures. Which brings me to the cucumber. Did you know that sniffing the scent of one can relieve anxiety? Indeed, a recent study put claustrophobics in an elevator reeking of cucumbers and their symptoms were relieved! Dr. Alan Hirsch, renowned for his work with various odors declares that he can even cure migraines with the scent of green apples.

So don’t worry about the future. When we all get too old to take care of ourselves and run out of money or find ourselves in long-term care cubicles, just spray our rooms with cucumber and we’ll be happy campers.