With regard to fitness, for many years, I have been outspoken about my support of sports and strength training as good alternatives to redundant exercises like treadmill workouts. Steve Holman, editor-in-chief of Iron Man Magazine, has taken that idea to the extreme with a new body shaping program designed to slow down and even reverse the aging process. But he’s not the only one interested in the concept of aging.
You may also be familiar with the Real Age Program, or with one of its founders, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Real Age asserts that your actual age is often not in synch with the biological condition of your body. Based on your level of conditioning and diet and other factors, your body may be aging at an accelerated rate. Real Age calculates your age based on your body’s condition and compares it your chronological age. The goal is to improve the body so its actual “real age” is at or below one’s biological age. To me, that is the basis for Holman’s approach: return the body to the youthful condition that it was in before declining fitness and other factors accelerated the aging process.
According to Steve Holman, after we reach the age of 40, our bodies start aging at a faster rate than they had to that point. Studies have shown that without the proper nutrients and exercise, our bodies are aging about 6 months extra for every year that passes! So, let’s say you’re 40. By the time you reach 50, you will look and feel 55. By the time you reach 60, you will look and feel 70 years old! I don’t know about you but that kind of aging does not appeal to me a whole lot.
Did you ever notice that the folks who stay the most physically active seem to be aging more slowly than others who don’t? In my mind, I picture a 63-year old woman gardening while her 65-year-old husband is chopping wood nearby and they both look like they’re in their 50s. Hmm… maybe that was a scene from a 1940s movie but I think it makes the point. They kept active with muscle taxing activities and no doubt felt and looked younger because of it. Steve Holman says that 90% of people over the age of 35 lose enough muscle every year to burn off an additional 4 pounds of body fat. The aging process really starts to catch up with us at that point. Muscle gives shape and strength to our bodies. As we know, when you lose muscle mass, you gain fat, even if the calories you take in stay the same. We don’t feel or look as good. Then we get depressed because we don’t feel and look as good. Then we give up on retaining our youth and it’s all downhill from there. Wow. That was depressing, huh?
Fear not! That doesn’t have to happen.
Both the folks at Real Age and Steve Holman insist that all of this accelerated aging is reversible. According to them, there are specific ways to move and eat that will slow down the rapid aging process to the point where you’re aging less than a year for every year. That means we can look younger in a few years than we do now? Now that is an aging plan we could get behind, right?
Not so fast. Are there drugs, supplements or expensive supplies to buy? No. Just food choices and targeted short-duration exercises are involved. Steve Holman says his years as a fitness magazine editor have allowed him to pick up tips, tricks and strategies from anti-aging experts over the years. And they don’t involve cycling classes or elliptical machines.
According to Steve, to get started, there are 5 rules one must absolutely follow if he or she wants to “slow the aging process, reclaim your health and achieve your ideal body”:
Forget low-fat diets. They lead to sugar addiction and we all know what that causes – fat storage!
Work out less. Resistance training done the right way burns fat and is a great cardiovascular workout, as well. Sports that tax muscles over the entire body can be effective, as well.
Drink water. Water renews your skin, helps burn fat, suppresses hunger and allows your kidneys to operate under less strain which allows your liver to burn fat like it’s supposed to.
Stop endless cardio workouts. Cardiovascular conditioning can be gained with far less time and effort. New studies are showing that long-duration exercise accelerate the aging process by increasing free radicals. These free radicals are scavengers that prey on your body’s essential nutrients and tissues.
Don’t blame your age for all your fitness issues. Studies have shown that men and women of every age, even those in their 90s, were able to gain muscle tone in just a matter of weeks of simple weight training.
Well, those are good guidelines to use to begin combating the aging process. There’s an old saying that goes something like, “I want to die as young as possible at as old an age as possible” (or something like that). I do follow the 5 steps already, though I would admit to not doing enough of #2. How about you? I have been told I look younger than I really am and that’s nice. Now if only I could reverse the aging process so I would feel younger…
Hi. This is Mike. As I mentioned, playing sports can give you a great full body workout and help reverse the aging process. If you are just getting started or getting restarted after a layoff, we can help you with information about supplies and equipment at our site: [http://www.roundballgames.com/sample-page]. Or read our blog @ [http://www.roundballgames.com]
One for the Ages
Satchel Paige was a great baseball pitcher, one of the greatest of all time. He was an African-American and, due to the racial discrimination of the time, most of his outstanding career was not spent in the (white) major leagues. However, after the historic breakthrough by the courageous and talented Jackie Robinson (Mr. Paige’s junior by about 14 years), Satchel Paige pitched in the major leagues for a number of years. In fact, he was still able to get major league batters out at the age of 60! (Mr. Paige’s age at his retirement from baseball is not known for certain because no one, probably including Mr. Paige himself, knew his exact year of birth; some thought he was older than 60). Mr. Paige revealed a mind as sharp as the break on his curve ball when he asked this profound question for the ages:
“How old would you be if you did not know how old you are?”
These writings are dedicated to the memory of Satchel Paige and to all the so-called “over-the-hill” guys and gals in every sport and in every area of life, from Churchill and Reagan in politics to Jessica Tandy in acting and Paul McCartney in fatherhood. They and many like them in the past and present will be joined by many more in the future who are not really “over the hill” because they are too busy taking the hill.
Five Ways to Look at Age
The most common way to look at age is the Chronological. This is the one that everyone is familiar with. It is simply the time that has passed since your date of birth to today. It is the one that governments and insurance companies require of you and that your Doctor knows, even if your boy friend doesn’t. It is a unidimensional measure because it considers only time. It is uniform because everybody who is 48 years, 6 months, and 3 weeks old is exactly that, chronologically. People who view age only from the chronological perspective are somewhere between dumb and dumber.
True Age is another and better way to look at your age. True age is basically what a measurement of all the biomarkers of aging would reveal about you. Here’s four points about true age. One, if a well-trained physician did NOT know how old you are but reviewed a print-out of your biomarkers, she or he could accurately estimate your true age. Two, your true age is not uniform but varies by individual: you can be younger or older than your chronological age. Three, true age is multidimensional rather than confined to time. Four, absolutely nothing can be done about chronological age because it is fixed, but a great deal can be done about true age.
Appearance Age is the age you appear to be to others. It no doubt has some relationship to both chronological age and true age. Yet it is different. This is because it is heavily influenced by a number of factors outside the scope of biomarker measurement, not the least of which is attitude. We all know people that appear to be quite a bit younger or older than their chronological age. But the only scientific way to measure a person’s appearance age would be to have a representative sample of the population observe a person for at least a few minutes. A quick glance is not sufficient because appearance age includes factors such as movement of the body and alertness, not just a frozen face. Then the estimates from all members of the representative sample would be gathered, simple statistical measures applied, and Voila! You have the person’s appearance age. Of course, unless we are part of a study, none of us will ever get this scientific about it. We will just have to rely on random comments from friends, family, and nice or mean strangers to estimate our appearance age; and usually it’s a pretty good estimate.
A new way to look at age, which occurred to me awhile back, is what I call one’s N.E.A.T. age. This is simply one’s time left on the planet from right Now to the time of death. This age is unknowable by readers or anyone, except those committed to imminent suicide (and these poor folks are no more likely to take the short time remaining to do age calculations than they are to be caught dead reading an article about lively longevity). The best we can do is make a calculated estimate based on what we know about the general population and factor in any pluses or minuses that apply to us individually.
The N in NEAT of course stands for Now since the calculation is from the present, today, right now. E is for Elusive because I believe moments of time are elusive. As we humans try to hold or capture a moment of time it eludes us because the next moment is here, and then the next. Time and life are a flow.
The A in NEAT is for Allotted. Everyone who has ever lived has only so much time to live. Some have short lives, some have long lives, and some have lives neither particularly long nor short. But human life is finite and almost certainly will remain finite into the distant future if not forever. We do not need to take sides in the age-old debate about whether or not our allotted time is predestined by God in order to recognize that the amount is finite.
Of course, T is for Time. Time remaining is what it is all about. As has been oft noted: a millionaire on his death bed would gladly exchange his riches for a little more time, say one more day of healthy living.
So one’s NEAT age is one’s Now Elusive Allotted Time. It is a concept that provides a different perspective on aging and on life. For example, let’s suppose there was a 30-year old person named Terry and a 60-year old person named Sydney living in the same town in 1960. Conventional wisdom and simple arithmetic agree that Sydney was twice as old as Terry at that time. Such wisdom carries the (usually) unstated assumption that Terry is about 30 years further from the grave than Sydney. Statistically, this is difficult to argue with. But statistics are oft off for an individual and sometimes by a wide margin.
Let’s suppose that Terry had a lifetime of very bad health habits and, never having had the opportunity to read my writings, continued the very bad habits. Poor Terry expired a little shy of 40. (The same fate could have befallen Terry due to a dreaded disease or tragic accident.) Sydney, on the other hand, decided at some point to lead a health-conscious life. Sydney made good choices and stuck with them. Sydney enjoyed basically good health beyond age 100 before passing on. When Sydney was 60 and Terry was 30, Sydney had a NEAT age of 40+ and Terry had a NEAT age just under 10. So way back in 1960, who was younger: the one with less than a decade of life left, or the one with more than four decades of vibrant life left? One of the neat things about the NEAT age is that the bigger this age number the better.
The fifth and final way that we will look at age is one’s Ideal Age. Your ideal age is your age of choice, your preferred age. The concept of ideal age brings us back to Satchel Paige’s question:
How old would you be if you did not know how old you are?
In a sense, perhaps most of us do NOT know how old we are anyhow. Sure we know our chronological age, and some of us have a rough gauge of our appearance age. But few of us know our true age, and none of us knows our NEAT age. So it should not be so difficult to put chronological age aside for a few moments and answer Mr. Paige’s question.
Before leaping to an answer like 21, keep in my mind that successful living usually involves a combination of physical vigor, mental acuity, and wisdom. Personally, my ideal age is 37; thus even at my next birthday I will still be one year younger than all the women over 40.
What about you? What’s your number? What’s your ideal age? The way my anti-aging program works for you is that after reflection you establish your ideal age. Then we work with all the tools and techniques of the program to bring your true age into ever closer alignment with your ideal age. There is a balance to be struck. A 90-year old reader shooting for an ideal age of 19 is setting up way too much of a challenge and thus is setting up for failure. A 50-year old reader settling for an ideal age of 45 is not challenging herself or himself enough.
Take a number.
Satchel Paige was the impetus for me to write the close to this article:
When it comes to matters of age,
It is best to take a page out of Paige,
And move forward with grace,
Paying no mind to this myth of the human race.
In traditional Chinese and other Asian cultures the aged were highly respected and cared for. The Igabo tribesmen of Eastern Nigeria value dependency in their aged and involve them in care of children and the administration of tribal affairs (Shelton, A. in Kalish R. Uni Michigan 1969).
In Eskimo culture the grandmother was pushed out into the ice-flow to die as soon as she became useless.
Western societies today usually resemble to some degree the Eskimo culture, only the “ice-flows” have names such a “Sunset Vista” and the like. Younger generations no longer assign status to the aged and their abandonment is always in danger of becoming the social norm.
There has been a tendency to remove the aged from their homes and put them in custodial care. To some degree the government provides domiciliary care services to prevent or delay this, but the motivation probably has more to do with expense than humanity.
In Canada and some parts of the USA old people are being utilised as foster-grandparents in child care agencies.
SOME BASIC DEFINITIONS
What is Aging?
Aging: Aging is a natural phenomenon that refers to changes occurring throughout the life span and result in differences in structure and function between the youthful and elder generation.
Gerontology: Gerontology is the study of aging and includes science, psychology and sociology.
Geriatrics: A relatively new field of medicine specialising in the health problems of advanced age.
Social aging: Refers to the social habits and roles of individuals with respect to their culture and society. As social aging increases individual usually experience a decrease in meaningful social interactions.
Biological aging: Refers to the physical changes in the body systems during the later decades of life. It may begin long before the individual reaches chronological age 65.
Cognitive aging: Refers to decreasing ability to assimilate new information and learn new behaviours and skills.
GENERAL PROBLEMS OF AGING
Eric Erikson (Youth and the life cycle. Children. 7:43-49 Mch/April 1960) developed an “ages and stages” theory of human development that involved 8 stages after birth each of which involved a basic dichotomy representing best case and worst case outcomes. Below are the dichotomies and their developmental relevance:
Prenatal stage – conception to birth.
- Infancy. Birth to 2 years – basic trust vs. basic distrust. Hope.
- Early childhood, 3 to 4 years – autonomy vs. self doubt/shame. Will.
- Play age, 5 to 8 years – initiative vs. guilt. Purpose.
- School age, 9to 12 – industry vs. inferiority. Competence.
- Adolescence, 13 to 19 – identity vs. identity confusion. Fidelity.
- Young adulthood – intimacy vs. isolation. Love.
- Adulthood, generativity vs. self absorption. Care.
- Mature age- Ego Integrity vs. Despair. Wisdom.
This stage of older adulthood, i.e. stage 8, begins about the time of retirement and continues throughout one’s life. Achieving ego integrity is a sign of maturity while failing to reach this stage is an indication of poor development in prior stages through the life course.
Ego integrity: This means coming to accept one’s whole life and reflecting on it in a positive manner. According to Erikson, achieving integrity means fully accepting one’ self and coming to terms with death. Accepting responsibility for one’s life and being able to review the past with satisfaction is essential. The inability to do this leads to despair and the individual will begin to fear death. If a favourable balance is achieved during this stage, then wisdom is developed.
Psychological and personality aspects:
Aging has psychological implications. Next to dying our recognition that we are aging may be one of the most profound shocks we ever receive. Once we pass the invisible line of 65 our years are bench marked for the remainder of the game of life. We are no longer “mature age” we are instead classified as “old”, or “senior citizens”. How we cope with the changes we face and stresses of altered status depends on our basic personality. Here are 3 basic personality types that have been identified. It may be a oversimplification but it makes the point about personality effectively:
a. The autonomous – people who seem to have the resources for self-renewal. They may be dedicated to a goal or idea and committed to continuing productivity. This appears to protect them somewhat even against physiological aging.
b.The adjusted – people who are rigid and lacking in adaptability but are supported by their power, prestige or well structured routine. But if their situation changes drastically they become psychiatric casualties.
c.The anomic. These are people who do not have clear inner values or a protective life vision. Such people have been described as prematurely resigned and they may deteriorate rapidly.
Summary of stresses of old age.
a. Retirement and reduced income. Most people rely on work for self worth, identity and social interaction. Forced retirement can be demoralising.
b. Fear of invalidism and death. The increased probability of falling prey to illness from which there is no recovery is a continual source of anxiety. When one has a heart attack or stroke the stress becomes much worse.
Some persons face death with equanimity, often psychologically supported by a religion or philosophy. Others may welcome death as an end to suffering or insoluble problems and with little concern for life or human existence. Still others face impending death with suffering of great stress against which they have no ego defenses.
c. Isolation and loneliness. Older people face inevitable loss of loved ones, friends and contemporaries. The loss of a spouse whom one has depended on for companionship and moral support is particularly distressing. Children grow up, marry and become preoccupied or move away. Failing memory, visual and aural impairment may all work to make social interaction difficult. And if this then leads to a souring of outlook and rigidity of attitude then social interaction becomes further lessened and the individual may not even utilise the avenues for social activity that are still available.
d. Reduction in sexual function and physical attractiveness. Kinsey et al, in their Sexual behaviour in the human male, (Phil., Saunders, 1948) found that there is a gradual decrease in sexual activity with advancing age and that reasonably gratifying patterns of sexual activity can continue into extreme old age. The aging person also has to adapt to loss of sexual attractiveness in a society which puts extreme emphasis on sexual attractiveness. The adjustment in self image and self concept that are required can be very hard to make.
e. Forces tending to self devaluation. Often the experience of the older generation has little perceived relevance to the problems of the young and the older person becomes deprived of participation in decision making both in occupational and family settings. Many parents are seen as unwanted burdens and their children may secretly wish they would die so they can be free of the burden and experience some financial relief or benefit. Senior citizens may be pushed into the role of being an old person with all this implies in terms of self devaluation.
4 Major Categories of Problems or Needs:
Physiological Changes: Catabolism (the breakdown of protoplasm) overtakes anabolism (the build-up of protoplasm). All body systems are affected and repair systems become slowed. The aging process occurs at different rates in different individuals.
Physical appearance and other changes:
Loss of subcutaneous fat and less elastic skin gives rise to wrinkled appearance, sagging and loss of smoothness of body contours. Joints stiffen and become painful and range of joint movement becomes restricted, general mobility lessened.
Increase of fibrous tissue in chest walls and lungs leads restricts respiratory movement and less oxygen is consumed. Older people more likelyto have lower respiratory infections whereas young people have upper respiratory infections.
Tooth decay and loss of teeth can detract from ease and enjoyment in eating. Atrophy of the taste buds means food is inclined to be tasteless and this should be taken into account by carers. Digestive changes occur from lack of exercise (stimulating intestines) and decrease in digestive juice production. Constipation and indigestion are likely to follow as a result. Financial problems can lead to the elderly eating an excess of cheap carbohydrates rather than the more expensive protein and vegetable foods and this exacerbates the problem, leading to reduced vitamin intake and such problems as anemia and increased susceptibility to infection.
Adaptation to stress:
All of us face stress at all ages. Adaptation to stress requires the consumption of energy. The 3 main phases of stress are:
1. Initial alarm reaction. 2. Resistance. 3. Exhaustion
and if stress continues tissue damage or aging occurs. Older persons have had a lifetime of dealing with stresses. Energy reserves are depleted and the older person succumbs to stress earlier than the younger person. Stress is cumulative over a lifetime. Research results, including experiments with animals suggests that each stress leaves us more vulnerable to the next and that although we might think we’ve “bounced back” 100% in fact each stress leaves it scar. Further, stress is psycho-biological meaning the kind of stress is irrelevant. A physical stress may leave one more vulnerable to psychological stress and vice versa. Rest does not completely restore one after a stressor. Care workers need to be mindful of this and cognizant of the kinds of things that can produce stress for aged persons.
COGNITIVE CHANGE Habitual Behaviour:
Sigmund Freud noted that after the age of 50, treatment of neuroses via psychoanalysis was difficult because the opinions and reactions of older people were relatively fixed and hard to shift.
Over-learned behaviour: This is behaviour that has been learned so well and repeated so often that it has become automatic, like for example typing or running down stairs. Over-learned behaviour is hard to change. If one has lived a long time one is likely to have fixed opinions and ritualised behaviour patterns or habits.
Compulsive behaviour: Habits and attitudes that have been learned in the course of finding ways to overcome frustration and difficulty are very hard to break. Tension reducing habits such as nail biting, incessant humming, smoking or drinking alcohol are especially hard to change at any age and particularly hard for persons who have been practising them over a life time.
The psychology of over-learned and compulsive behaviours has severe implications for older persons who find they have to live in what for them is a new and alien environment with new rules and power relations.
Older people have a continual background of neural noise making it more difficult for them to sort out and interpret complex sensory input. In talking to an older person one should turn off the TV, eliminate as many noises and distractions as possible, talk slowly and relate to one message or idea at a time.
Memories from the distant past are stronger than more recent memories. New memories are the first to fade and last to return.
Time patterns also can get mixed – old and new may get mixed.
Intelligence reaches a peak and can stay high with little deterioration if there is no neurological damage. People who have unusually high intelligence to begin with seem to suffer the least decline. Education and stimulation also seem to play a role in maintaining intelligence.
Intellectual impairment. Two diseases of old age causing cognitive decline are Alzheimer’s syndrome and Pick’s syndrome. In Pick’s syndrome there is inability to concentrate and learn and also affective responses are impaired.
Degenerative Diseases: Slow progressive physical degeneration of cells in the nervous system. Genetics appear to be an important factor. Usually start after age 40 (but can occur as early as 20s).
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE Degeneration of all areas of cortex but particularly frontal and temporal lobes. The affected cells actually die. Early symptoms resemble neurotic disorders: Anxiety, depression, restlessness sleep difficulties.
Progressive deterioration of all intellectual faculties (memory deficiency being the most well known and obvious). Total mass of the brain decreases, ventricles become larger. No established treatment.
PICK’S DISEASE Rare degenerative disease. Similar to Alzheimer’s in terms of onset, symptomatology and possible genetic aetiology. However it affects circumscribed areas of the brain, particularly the frontal areas which leads to a loss of normal affect.
PARKINSON’S DISEASE Neuropathology: Loss of neurons in the basal ganglia.
Symptoms: Movement abnormalities: rhythmical alternating tremor of extremities, eyelids and tongue along with rigidity of the muscles and slowness of movement (akinesia).
It was once thought that Parkinson’s disease was not associated with intellectual deterioration, but it is now known that there is an association between global intellectual impairment and Parkinson’s where it occurs late in life.
The cells lost in Parkinson’s are associated with the neuro-chemical Dopamine and the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s are associated the dopamine deficiency. Treatment involves administration of dopamine precursor L-dopa which can alleviate symptoms including intellectual impairment. Research suggests it may possibly bring to the fore emotional effects in patients who have had psychiatric illness at some prior stage in their lives.
AFFECTIVE DOMAIN In old age our self concept gets its final revision. We make a final assessment of the value of our lives and our balance of success and failures.
How well a person adapts to old age may be predicated by how well the person adapted to earlier significant changes. If the person suffered an emotional crisis each time a significant change was needed then adaptation to the exigencies of old age may also be difficult. Factors such as economic security, geographic location and physical health are important to the adaptive process.
Need Fulfilment: For all of us, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, we are not free to pursue the higher needs of self actualisation unless the basic needs are secured. When one considers that many, perhaps most, old people are living in poverty and continually concerned with basic survival needs, they are not likely to be happily satisfying needs related to prestige, achievement and beauty.
Belonging, love, identification
Esteem: Achievement, prestige, success, self respect
Self actualisation: Expressing one’s interests and talents to the full.
Note: Old people who have secured their basic needs may be motivated to work on tasks of the highest levels in the hierarchy – activities concerned with aesthetics, creativity and altruistic matters, as compensation for loss of sexual attractiveness and athleticism. Aged care workers fixated on getting old people to focus on social activities may only succeed in frustrating and irritating them if their basic survival concerns are not secured to their satisfaction.
Social aging according to Cumming, E. and Henry, W. (Growing old: the aging process of disengagement, NY, Basic 1961) follows a well defined pattern:
- Change in role. Change in occupation and productivity. Possibly change in attitude to work.
- Loss of role, e.g. retirement or death of a husband.
- Reduced social interaction. With loss of role social interactions are diminished, eccentric adjustment can further reduce social interaction, damage to self concept, depression.
- Awareness of scarcity of remaining time. This produces further curtailment of activity in interest of saving time.
Havighurst, R. et al (in B. Neugarten (ed.) Middle age and aging, U. of Chicago, 1968) and others have suggested that disengagement is not an inevitable process. They believe the needs of the old are essentially the same as in middle age and the activities of middle age should be extended as long as possible. Havighurst points out the decrease in social interaction of the aged is often largely the result of society withdrawing from the individual as much as the reverse. To combat this he believes the individual must vigorously resist the limitations of his social world.
DEATH The fear of the dead amongst tribal societies is well established. Persons who had ministered to the dead were taboo and required observe various rituals including seclusion for varying periods of time. In some societies from South America to Australia it is taboo for certain persons to utter the name of the dead. Widows and widowers are expected to observe rituals in respect for the dead.
Widows in the Highlands of New Guinea around Goroka chop of one of their own fingers. The dead continue their existence as spirits and upsetting them can bring dire consequences.
Wahl, C in “The fear of death”, 1959 noted that the fear of death occurs as early as the 3rd year of life. When a child loses a pet or grandparent fears reside in the unspoken questions: Did I cause it? Will happen to you (parent) soon? Will this happen to me? The child in such situations needs to re-assure that the departure is not a censure, and that the parent is not likely to depart soon. Love, grief, guilt, anger are a mix of conflicting emotions that are experienced.
CONTEMPORARY ATTITUDES TO DEATH
Our culture places high value on youth, beauty, high status occupations, social class and anticipated future activities and achievement. Aging and dying are denied and avoided in this system. The death of each person reminds us of our own mortality.
The death of the elderly is less disturbing to members of Western society because the aged are not especially valued. Surveys have established that nurses for example attach more importance to saving a young life than an old life. In Western society there is a pattern of avoiding dealing with the aged and dying aged patient.
Stages of dying. Elisabeth Kubler Ross has specialised in working with dying patients and in her “On death and dying”, NY, Macmillan, 1969, summarised 5 stages in dying.
- Denial and isolation. “No, not me”.
- Anger. “I’ve lived a good life so why me?”
- Bargaining. Secret deals are struck with God. “If I can live until…I promise to…”
- Depression. (In general the greatest psychological problem of the aged is depression). Depression results from real and threatened loss.
- Acceptance of the inevitable.
Kubler Ross’s typology as set out above should, I believe be taken with a grain of salt and not slavishly accepted. Celebrated US Journalist David Rieff who was in June ’08 a guest of the Sydney writer’s festival in relation to his book, “Swimming in a sea of death: a son’s memoir” (Melbourne University Press) expressly denied the validity of the Kubler Ross typology in his Late Night Live interview (Australian ABC radio) with Philip Adams June 9th ’08. He said something to the effect that his mother had regarded her impending death as murder. My own experience with dying persons suggests that the human ego is extraordinarily resilient. I recall visiting a dying colleague in hospital just days before his death. He said, “I’m dying, I don’t like it but there’s nothing I can do about it”, and then went on to chortle about how senior academics at an Adelaide university had told him they were submitting his name for a the Order of Australia (the new “Knighthood” replacement in Australia). Falling in and out of lucid thought with an oxygen tube in his nostrils he was nevertheless still highly interested in the “vain glories of the world”. This observation to me seemed consistent with Rieff’s negative assessment of Kubler Ross’s theories.
THE AGED IN RELATION TO YOUNGER PEOPLE
The aged share with the young the same needs: However, the aged often have fewer or weaker resources to meet those needs. Their need for social interaction may be ignored by family and care workers.
Family should make time to visit their aged members and invite them to their homes. The aged like to visit children and relate to them through games and stories.
Meaningful relationships can be developed via foster-grandparent programs. Some aged are not aware of their income and health entitlements. Family and friends should take the time to explain these. Some aged are too proud to access their entitlements and this problem should be addressed in a kindly way where it occurs.
It is best that the aged be allowed as much choice as possible in matters related to living arrangements, social life and lifestyle.
Communities serving the aged need to provide for the aged via such things as lower curbing, and ramps.
Carers need to examine their own attitude to aging and dying. Denial in the carer is detected by the aged person and it can inhibit the aged person from expressing negative feelings – fear, anger. If the person can express these feelings to someone then that person is less likely to die with a sense of isolation and bitterness.
A METAPHYSICAL PERSPECTIVE
The following notes are my interpretation of a Dr. Depak Chopra lecture entitled, “The New Physics of Healing” which he presented to the 13th Scientific Conference of the American Holistic Medical Association. Dr. Depak Chopra is an endocrinologist and a former Chief of Staff of New England Hospital, Massachusetts. I am deliberately omitting the detail of his explanations of the more abstract, ephemeral and controversial ideas.
Original material from 735 Walnut Street, Boulder, Colorado 83002,
Phone. +303 449 6229.
In the lecture Dr. Chopra presents a model of the universe and of all organisms as structures of interacting centres of electromagnetic energy linked to each other in such a way that anything affecting one part of a system or structure has ramifications throughout the entire structure. This model becomes an analogue not only for what happens within the structure or organism itself, but between the organism and both its physical and social environments. In other words there is a correlation between psychological conditions, health and the aging process. Dr. Chopra in his lecture reconciles ancient Vedic (Hindu) philosophy with modern psychology and quantum physics.
Premature Precognitive Commitment: Dr. Chopra invokes experiments that have shown that flies kept for a long time in a jar do not quickly leave the jar when the top is taken off. Instead they accept the jar as the limit of their universe. He also points out that in India baby elephants are often kept tethered to a small twig or sapling. In adulthood when the elephant is capable of pulling over a medium sized tree it can still be successfully tethered to a twig! As another example he points to experiments in which fish are bred on
2 sides of a fish tank containing a divider between the 2 sides. When the divider is removed the fish are slow to learn that they can now swim throughout the whole tank but rather stay in the section that they accept as their universe. Other experiments have demonstrated that kittens brought up in an environment of vertical stripes and structures, when released in adulthood keep bumping into anything aligned horizontally as if they were unable to see anything that is horizontal. Conversely kittens brought up in an environment of horizontal stripes when released bump into vertical structures, apparently unable to see them.
The whole point of the above experiments is that they demonstrate Premature Precognitive Commitment. The lesson to be learned is that our sensory apparatus develops as a result of initial experience and how we’ve been taught to interpret it.
What is the real look of the world? It doesn’t exist. The way the world looks to us is determined by the sensory receptors we have and our interpretation of that look is determined by our premature precognitive commitments. Dr Chopra makes the point that less than a billionth of the available stimuli make it into our nervous systems. Most of it is screened, and what gets through to us is whatever we are expecting to find on the basis of our precognitive commitments.
Dr. Chopra also discusses the diseases that are actually caused by mainstream medical interventions, but this material gets too far away from my central intention. Dr. Chopra discusses in lay terms the physics of matter, energy and time by way of establishing the wider context of our existence. He makes the point that our bodies including the bodies of plants are mirrors of cosmic rhythms and exhibit changes correlating even with the tides.
Dr. Chopra cites the experiments of Dr. Herbert Spencer of the US National Institute of Health. He injected mice with Poly-IC, an immuno-stimulant while making the mice repeatedly smell camphor. After the effect of the Poly-IC had worn off he again exposed the mice to the camphor smell. The smell of camphor had the effect of causing the mice’s immune system to automatically strengthen as if they had been injected with the stimulant. He then took another batch of mice and injected them with cyclophosphamide which tends to destroy the immune system while exposing them to the smell of camphor. Later after being returned to normal just the smell of camphor was enough to cause destruction of their immune system. Dr. Chopra points out that whether or not camphor enhanced or destroyed the mice’s immune system was entirely determined by an interpretation of the meaning of the smell of camphor. The interpretation is not just in the brain but in each cell of the organism. We are bound to our imagination and our early experiences.
Chopra cites a study by the Massachusetts Dept of Health Education and Welfare into risk factors for heart disease – family history, cholesterol etc. The 2 most important risk factors were found to be psychological measures – Self Happiness Rating and Job Satisfaction. They found most people died of heart disease on a Monday!
Chopra says that for every feeling there is a molecule. If you are experiencing tranquillity your body will be producing natural valium. Chemical changes in the brain are reflected by changes in other cells including blood cells. The brain produces neuropeptides and brain structures are chemically tuned to these neuropeptide receptors. Neuropeptides (neurotransmitters) are the chemical concommitants of thought. Chopra points out the white blood cells (a part of the immune system) have neuropeptide receptors and are “eavesdropping” on our thinking. Conversely the immune system produces its own neuropeptides which can influence the nervous system. He goes on to say that cells in all parts of the body including heart and kidneys for example also produce neuropeptides and neuropeptide sensitivity. Chopra assures us that most neurologists would agree that the nervous system and the immune system are parallel systems.
Other studies in physiology: The blood interlukin-2 levels of medical students decreased as exam time neared and their interlukin receptor capacities also lowered. Chopra says if we are having fun to the point of exhilaration our natural interlukin-2 levels become higher. Interlukin-2 is a powerful and very expensive anti-cancer drug. The body is a printout of consciousness. If we could change the way we look at our bodies at a genuine, profound level then our bodies would actually change.
On the subject of “time” Chopra cites Sir Thomas Gall and Steven Hawkins, stating that our description of the universe as having a past, present, and future are constructed entirely out of our interpretation of change. But in reality linear time doesn’t exist.
Chopra explains the work of Alexander Leaf a former Harvard Professor of Preventative Medicine who toured the world investigating societies where people lived beyond 100 years (these included parts of Afghanistan, Soviet Georgia, Southern Andes). He looked at possible factors including climate, genetics, and diet. Leaf concluded the most important factor was the collective perception of aging in these societies.
Amongst the Tama Humara of the Southern Andes there was a collective belief that the older you got the more physically able you got. They had a tradition of running and the older one became then generally the better at running one got. The best runner was aged 60. Lung capacity and other measures actually improved with age. People were healthy until well into their 100s and died in their sleep. Chopra remarks that things have changed since the introduction of Budweiser (beer) and TV.
[DISCUSSION: How might TV be a factor in changing the former ideal state of things?]
Chopra refers to Dr. Ellen Langor a former Harvard Psychology professor’s work. Langor advertised for 100 volunteers aged over 70 years. She took them to a Monastery outside Boston to play “Let’s Pretend”. They were divided into 2 groups each of which resided in a different part of the building. One group, the control group spent several days talking about the 1950s. The other group, the experimental group had to live as if in the year 1959 and talk about it in the present tense. What appeared on their TV screens were the old newscasts and movies. They read old newspapers and magazines of the period. After 3 days everyone was photographed and the photographs judged by independent judges who knew nothing of the nature of the experiment. The experimental group seemed to have gotten younger in appearance. Langor then arranged for them to be tested for 100 physiological parameters of aging which included of course blood pressure, near point vision and DHEA levels. After 10 days of living as if in 1959 all parameters had reversed by the equivalent of at least 20 years.
Chopra concludes from Langor’s experiment: “We are the metabolic end product of our sensory experiences. How we interpret them depends on the collective mindset which influences individual biological entropy and aging.”
Can one escape the current collective mindset and reap the benefits in longevity and health? Langor says, society won’t let you escape. There are too many reminders of how most people think linear time is and how it expresses itself in entropy and aging – men are naughty at 40 and on social welfare at 55, women reach menopause at 40 etc. We get to see so many other people aging and dying that it sets the pattern that we follow.
Chopra concludes we are the metabolic product of our sensory experience and our interpretation gets structured in our biology itself. Real change comes from change in the collective consciousness – otherwise it cannot occur within the individual.
Chopra, D. The New Physics of Healing. 735 Walnut Street, Boulder, Colorado 83002,
Phone. +303 449 6229.
Coleman, J. C. Abnormal psychology and modern life. Scott Foresman & Co.
Lugo, J. and Hershey, L. Human development a multidisciplinary approach to the psychology of individual growth, NY, Macmillan.
Dennis. Psychology of human behaviour for nurses. Lond. W. B.Saunders.
Dr. Victor Barnes is an Adelaide psychologist and hypnotherapist. He has also had three decades of experience in adult education including serving as Dean of a Sri Lankan college (ICBT) teaching several Australian degrees. His overseas experience includes studies and consulting experience in USA, PNG, Poland and Sri Lanka.
Ken Jaeger, founder of MorningStar, proved his acumen for the senior living industry through 15 years of executive roles, garnering experience in acquisitions, construction and management.
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