What are women’s greatest concerns when it comes to aging?

August 11, 2009

While doing research for my upcoming presentation at the Larimer County September Symposium, I found a fascinating study from 2004 on womens’ perceptions of aging.  Here’s a PDF of the full presentation and findings.

The psychologists involved in this study questioned 1,000 healthy, physically fit, active women age 18-86 (average age 41) about various aspects of aging and the fear they felt.

Overall they found that health challenges, money problems and fear of loneliness rated the highest among all of the women questioned. After that, loss of emotional well-being, loss of a mate, and fear of a spiritual void followed in importance, along with fear of death.

The highest overall levels of fear were found among women age 20-29, and the least among those  70 and older.  Women who were separated or never married were found to be most fearful and women in their 40s-60s were found to be most confident.  Women who were self-employed were most confident regardless of  time projections.

Perhaps the most interesting finding was that aging concerns differ greatly by age and marital status.


Post-concussion syndrome

June 25, 2009

brain photo blog sizeAfter struggling for over a year with some difficult and confusing symptoms which emerged after a traumatic brain injury last May, I finally did the needed research yesterday. I found that I have been contending with a well-known set of symptoms called post-concussion syndrome.

I know, I’ve made a few jokes about my spaced out condition, but I finally decided my difficulties were no joke to me because they continue to get in the way of my work and my relationships with others.

Here are some of the primary symptoms of post-concussion syndrome:

  • Attention deficits, difficulty sustaining mental effort
  • Fatigue
  • Impulsivity, irritability
  • Low frustration threshold
  • Temper outbursts and mood changes
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Impaired planning and problem solving
  • Inflexibility
  • Lack of initiative
  • Dissociation between thought and action
  • Communication difficulties
  • Socially inappropriate behaviors
  • Self-centeredness and lack of insight
  • Poor self-awareness
  • Impaired balance, dizziness and headaches

Medications and cognitive rehabilitation have been found to be ineffective in treating these symptoms, but neurotherapy (EEG biofeedback) has found some success in teaching the injured patient how to promote normal functioning in the brain by normalizing dysfunctional brainwave patterns.

Music Within: The Queen’s Quips

May 13, 2009

ron-livingstonBeing one who always appreciates stories of triumph over personal tragedy, (after all I AM the Queen of Crisis,) I thoroughly enjoyed this 2007 film about the real life of Richard Pimental.

Critics found it unrealistic (well duh, it’s a movie!)  but I LOVED the actor (Ron Livingston, what a hunk!), the story, and the great Baby Boomer music!

The film uses voice-over narration for Richard’s early years, a technique I happen to like, and then climaxes with the explosion of a bomb in Vietnam that cost him his hearing.

It then tells the story of his friendships with two disabled men, Mike, a drug-abusing, foul-mouthed cripple with a streak of saintliness, and Art a genius with cerebral palsy.

Richard and Art experience first-hand the discrimination, sometimes unconscious, that the world inflicts on those who look, sound or act differently, in one of the movie’s most infuriating scenes. They are asked to leave a restaurant, “because you’re disturbing the other customers.” How are they disturbing them? By being there? By existing?

Pimentel then quits his job with an insurance firm to devote himself full-time to finding work for disabled Vietnam War vets, while providing a perpetual soundtrack for scenes taking place throughout the ’70s.

Richard Pimental is one of many activitists who made the Americans With Disabilites Act of 1990 a reality in this country.  His story is inspirational and well worth watching.

Iodine, CFS and Cancers

April 11, 2009

Being desperate for some sort of relief from my ongoing foot infection/rash, I visited a naturopathic doctor yesterday.  From him I learned about how serious our iodine deficiencies are in this country, especially in the middle of the country with no access to the ocean.

Being the curious, researching sort, I then read a book about this subject: IODINE: Why you need it, why you can’t live without it and afterwards could not believe that I had never heard about this before.  We are most definitely not getting what we need from our daily salt intake.  I am taking an iodine supplement for now!

For a nice concise summary of the issues involved go read this simple two pager.

My dietician advised that we should never take more than 200-400 mcgs of iodine per day.  It’s easily available as Kelp at the health food store.

Letting go vs. trying to make things happen

January 20, 2009

I was raised to believe that you are the only one who can make things happen in your life.  You are in charge, and if your life does not go as hoped for, you are at fault.  If you are not getting the results you want, change the plan.

But lately I have been having a hard time finding that kind of simple, results- oriented mind set satisfactory.  I sometimes wish I could believe in some sort of greater being who controls the world, someone we can simply pray to in order to change our life.  However, that just does not fly for me.

I’ve been also thinking a lot about death.  A friend’s boss has been diagnosed with bile duct cancer with a slim chance for long term survival.  She is 46 and only found out in December.  For some reason this really hit home for me.  It makes me wonder what the point is for anything we do each day, if it all ends up in misery and pain.

One thing I know for sure, we all must find our own answers to these crucial questions.  No matter what we choose today or for the rest of our lives, we all must die.  This is the fact that helps each of us determine what we will do today.  Can we find meaning in this day’s activities when we know we are like every single person who has come before us?  When we know we will all slip away at the end of our lives, dust to dust.

My most positive response to these realizations is gratitude that I am still here living a relatively healthy life, with the strength and power to do what I can in this moment.  What will that be today?

First I will watch this five minute video to put me in the proper mind set to appreciate everything I will experience today.  You might also consider reading Barbara’s thoughts at Hole in the Donut.  She’s a real inspiration to me!

Learning how to be happy

January 16, 2009

So I dutifully made my new year’s resolution to be a happier me this year.  To appreciate all that I am and have, and try to feel GREAT about that.

But sometimes I wonder.  Did any of us really learn how to be happy?  How do you train yourself to feel fulfilled?  I remember Bob Greene suggesting to Oprah last Monday:  “I’m afraid you never learned how to feel happy.”

Perhaps we all need special training in how to manage the human condition.  Sometimes we are not so different than my little pupster.  We need specific training in how to comfort ourselves when there is no one else around to turn to.  We need to learn how to embrace our fundamentally flawed bodies and souls, ask for help without guilt or shame, and find some balance in our lives.

The first question that always comes up for me, either consciously or unconsciously is:  Do we even have the right to be happy?  There was a fascinating segment on CBS Sunday Morning last week about guilt, what it is and how it works in our brains.  Brain research has shown that there is a special place in our brains dedicated to feeling guilt.  In other words, we are hard wired for it!

My master’s thesis was on shame and guilt.  I worked in a rehabilitation hospital and the issue that came up constantly was depression and shame about aging-related disabilities.  The patients were ashamed of their slowly decreasing skill set, and afraid to ask others for help doing things they could have done alone before.

Turns out this was useful training because now I find myself, my husband and almost everyone I know suffering at least occasionally from age-related aches and pains, if not disabilities.  Change is tough, especially when it includes physical decline.

So, do we have the right to feel happy in spite of the fact that our bodies will never be as lithe, limber and pain-free as we remember them?  Can we love ourselves into positive feelings about our lives and our bodies?  Can we find a way to make our lives just a tiny bit closer to the dream we have in our heads, even if it ain’t perfect?

There’s the challenge.  That’s the fight I’m determined to fight this year!

The Moment I First Believed: A book review

January 8, 2009

Just finished Wally Lamb’s third novel, and what a book it is!  I thoroughly enjoyed She’s come undone by Wally.  Could not believe how well he captured the internal life of an emotionally disturbed, obese young woman in that book!

This new one is the story of the ultimate midlife crisis.  In the midst of dealing with the common midlife issue of burying a beloved aunt who helped to raise him, Caelum Quirk finds himself working in the same school where the Columbine massacre occurred.  He happens to miss that day of  school because of his aunt’s funeral, but his wife Maureen, the school nurse, barely misses annihilation by hiding in a cabinet in the Columbine library.  There she develops a lifelong case of PTSD while listening to the killers shoot a number of her students to death.

To Caelum’s credit, he sticks it out with his damaged wife, moving back to his family farm in Connecticut.  This novel is the story of all he discovers about himself by loving his wife through thick and thin while also learning about his crazy family history in the process.

This is also the story of what violence does to people through time.  The violence others do to us, and the violence we do to ourselves through not acknowledging our own human frailty.

Caelum knows when he returns to the family farm in Connecticut, that there are far too many memories there for him.  His line:  “The place was radioactive with memories” was a standout.

But, to his credit, he stays and works through it all, solving many mysteries about how he came to be.  In the end, he is rewarded with a much better life.  He confronts the crisis instead of trying to run away from it once again.

Though definitely long and very convoluted, this novel is well worth sticking with to the end.