Archive for July, 2009

Is that coffee table a coffin? DIY funerals, not your basic weekend project.

Monday, July 27th, 2009

It's All About Aging wooden coffee table

Many more people are creating their own funerals at home, without the help or interference of a funeral parlor. They are even building coffins for the eventuality, that double as coffee tables, or bookcases until needed. According to a front page article in the New York Times,  “Advocates say the number of home funerals, where everything from caring for the dead to the visiting hours to the building of the coffin is done at home, has soared in the last five years, putting the funerals “where home births were 30 years ago,” according to Chuck Lakin, a home funeral proponent and coffin builder in Waterville, Me.”

If you think about it, until fairly recently, this was how people buried their loved ones. It’s just been in the past hundred years or so that funeral homes came into being and the funeral industry became the $11 billion behemoth it currently is. But home burials require advance planning, and most people are loathe to bring up the subject. You also need a piece of land, as Central Park (suggested by a Times reader) won’t do, and New York  is one of the few states where DIY is illegal. Now the interesting paradox is that you can bury any animal in your backyard, as I found out this week, when a friend of mine had to bury a horse.

As much as we could have a lot of fun with this, it’s not really dealing with the issue. Is there someone who knows what your wishes are or those of your family? Have you looked into alternatives; cremation (and no, you can not do that at home), donating the organs, or body to science? Here’s a link to a pretty good funeral directive, but you should check that it’s applicable in your state. And as crazy as it sounds, try writing your own obituary. It’s actually a very interesting and moving experience figuring out how you want to be remembered.

Cane Fu fighting. Seniors drop Pilates for some cool moves with a cane?

Monday, July 20th, 2009

It's All About Aging woman with a caneSeniors using their canes as weapons, a concept to make you smile, right? An article recently in the Wall Street Journal was all about “Cane Fu” and it turns out to be a great form of exercise as well as self defense. Senors are flocking to classes at senior centers and retirement communities, and Mark Shuey has developed Cane Masters to train them. While there’s always the danger that anything you use as a weapon can be taken and used against you, the element of surprise, is probably in a seniors favor.

Not surprisingly, if you do a search for Cane Fu, there’s a ton of information on the Internet, ranging from the very serious and scary, to the highly amusing. As much as I generally dislike, the Colbert Report, this recent video on Cane Fu, is pretty hilarious.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Enemy Within – Cane Fu
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Protests

According to the Huffington Post, “it isn’t an entirely new use for the cane. In ancient Rome and Egypt, canes were used as weapons. In the 13th century, swinging a cane before a member of royalty would assure your beheading. In the 17th century, canes required a permit.

“Things changed 200 or 300 years ago. You don’t want to take a cane to a gunfight, so the cane became a crutch and it’s been visualized as that for the last couple hundred years,” Shuey said. “Today when you carry a cane, they think you’re a gimp.”

So what do you think? Time to drop Pilates for Cane Fu?

Birds do it, bees do it, but Grandma??

Monday, July 13th, 2009

It's All About Aging senior couple in loveA friend of mine recently asked for some advice on talking to her grandmother about sex. Why, you wonder, would someone need to have that conversation with her grandmother? With the advent of drugs like Viagra, sex in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, is on the rise, most of it unprotected. Because of the rise in unprotected sex, there is a rise in STD’s among the elderly.

Older people have plenty of intercourse when they’re not in an institutional setting. A survey published August 2007,  in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a quarter of those between the ages of 75 and 85 were having sex, and many were doing it at least once every couple of weeks. A third of these sexually active respondents said they had either given or received oral sex in the past year.

There’s no reason to think that nursing-home residents would be any less frisky, if left to their own devices. After all, we’re talking about a mixed-sex population living in close quarters with almost endless amounts of free time. Already, staffers routinely field patient requests for personal lubricants, pornographic magazines, larger-size beds, and prescriptions for Viagra. And that’s with the 1.6 million elderly residents who came of age before the sexual revolution. Within a few decades, nursing homes will be replete with the desires and expectations of almost 7 million liberated baby boomers.

And according to an August 2007 in the Washington Post: “Individuals who remain sexually active gain the benefit of the physical exercise that comes with sex.  It’s also possible the hormones — the endorphins released by orgasms — give a general sense of well-being that could be beneficial. The psychological benefits of being loved and cared for may also trickle over to physical health.”

But how do you quietly slip Grandma a pack of condoms? Does anyone make them  in large type, easy open? If you’ve got any good ideas, my friend would be really grateful.

Can you sleep through the night? Tips to make it happen every night.

Monday, July 6th, 2009

It's All About Aging Sleep manMaybe you can sleep thorough the night each and every night (if so, I envy you), but most of us have issues either falling asleep, or staying asleep. Valerie Bennis, Founder & President of Essence of Vali has some good tips for all of us.

A good night’s rest is the foundation of health and well being.  More and more evidence points to lack of sleep as a contributor to declining physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.  Along with good eating habits, happy and healthy relationships, work we enjoy and exercise goes a good night’s rest as an imperative ingredient in our health regime.

Some people fall asleep easily and then wake up at 3 in the morning while others take many hours to fall asleep.  These are the two common patterns.  Anything less than 7 hours of sleep is considered not enough.  Even those of us who are good sleepers may not be getting enough rest.

Most of these difficulties are due to stress and also due to some of the foods we eat.  So, what can we do to cut down on stress levels and what are foods we should avoid to safeguard our sleep health?  Here are some tips:

Substances to Avoid
Coffee, Soda and Alcohol:  These are substances that affect our energy in some way – be it stimulating or sedative.  Try drinking water and herbal teas which contribute to your well being and create balance in your body, mind and spirit, rather than a roller coaster effect.

Sugar:  The impact of sugar is a spike in energy and then “fall down” and a vicious cycle of “up” and “down”.  There are many healthy treats that you can find in the health food store that can satisfy your sweet tooth without causing damage.

Nicotine:  This one goes without saying.

Stress:  This is under “substance” because it has become a metaphorical substance in all of our lives.  It is a common refrain – “I am so stressed out” that we all speak and hear and that in and of itself is stressful.

How do we eliminate the toxin of stress? We can empower ourselves to significantly decrease its impact on our lives by doing things that ease stress levels.  See below for some stress busters.

1.    Restorative yoga (gentle yoga)
2.    Exercise
3.    Dancing
4.    Listening to music
5.    Talking to someone really positive
6.    Writing in a journal
7.    Taking a bath
8.    Positive affirmations
9.    Drinking herbal tea, such as chamomile
10.  Rescue Remedy or other bach flower essences
11.   Aromatherapy
12.   Getting a massage or self massage
13.   Helping a friend or stranger
14.   Acupuncture

Once your body is in a healthier state, your sleep patterns will improve naturally.

Other ideas for improving sleep.

1.    Keep a regular schedule in terms of when you go to sleep and when you wake up.
2.    Do not eat a heavy meal before bedtime.
3.    Keep sound and light out of your bedroom as much as possible.
4.    Take a relaxing bath prior to getting into bed.
5.    Use natural products instead of prescription medication or over the counter products.
6.    Do some breathing exercises and listen to relaxation tapes
7.    Do not listen to the news before bed

These are some good ideas from Valerie.  What she left out, is her amazing aromatherapy sleep blend, her best seller for nine years. Have you tried it? What works for you?

Valerie Bennis
Founder & President, Essence of Vali
Tel:  212-242-0576