Tag Archives: aging

Zoomer TV Debut on CARP Infomercial

A couple of months ago we attended a recording for CARP of an informercial featuring Matt Dusk. As part of the deal, each attendee was asked to contribute a soundbite relating to their interest in CARP – and they used mine! You can view this on YouTube (I haven’t yet watched the whole piece, which is heavy on advertising, but this links to my few seconds!)

CARP is the Canadian Association of Retired Persons,with a remit that covers issues of concern to those over 45 and no bottom limit for membership. It is  based around advocacy, benefits and community, though as a non-profit, its close connections with the commercial agenda of Zoomer (magazine and broadcasting, headed up by Moses Znaimer) sometimes feels a little uncomfortable.

My interest is a real sense of passion for changing the way our society perceives and responds to aging and a return to a recognition of the value and wisdom that older people can contribute. So CARP is quite a key organization for me to have connections into as I move forward and find my place in the next stage of my life.

Passionate aging.

(CARP Conference 2)

Passion is a word I hear often in Canada. It was genuinely awe inspiring to feel an un-abating  wave of passion from speakers in their 60s and 70s as they talked about their lives and work.
Tod Machover
Image via Wikipedia
Tod Machover projects the energy of a much younger man. ‘Wired composer’ that he is, his most recent opera, Death and the Powers, addresses issues of mortality amid an animated stage, musical chandelier and a chorus of robots.
He has also made the composition and scoring of music accessible as never before  with his Hyperscore, encouraging a deeply creative and exciting relationship with music. Seeing a young man, Dan Ellesy, who is profoundly affected by cerebral palsy, performing his own music on stage using this software moved me to tears. (I would urge you to catch this performance as part of a TED Talk by Tod Machover – it is at around 13 minutes into the talk, all of which is fascinating!)
This links into another area of Tod’s work, Music, Mind and Health, a project in partnership with MIT that is exploring and developing musical activities to measure and respond to a variety of medical conditions and enhance lifelong mental and physical acuity.
Similarly, Charles Pachter, one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists, seems possessed of a youthful irreverence and zest. The whole audience sat enthralled as he significantly over-ran his time slot with a presentation of his life (so far) in images. Many of his paintings are dominated by the moose, the queen of the north, which in childhood became inter-twined with the confusing existence of a Queen with dominion over Canada but who does not live here. Nearing 70, this witty, challenging man shows no signs of renouncing this strand of irreverence or of stopping questioning the social order.
I have, as yet, little knowledge of Canadian actors – we do not watch much television and have as yet to fully embrace the wonderfully rich theatre culture here. If Eric Peterson’s virtuoso performance as Crankius Farticus (his own term for himself) is anything to go by, we have much to look forward to! I was snorting with laughter at his pitch of a TV series based around a Zoomer superhero. (For those who don’t know, a Zoomer is a ‘Boomer with zip’, a term that people seem either to love or loathe!)
William Friedman offered a rather different awareness. This intelligent, thoughtful lawyer found the need in his fifties to reshape aspects of his life. Perhaps surprisingly, this took the form of competitive bodybuilding and led to his son Bryan’s film, The Bodybuilder and I (Best Canadian Feature Documentary 2007). The transformation of his body (and, believe me, there are few men of 60 plus who can boast abs like his!) seems also to have re-shaped his relationships and sense of himself . The film was at one stage described to him as being about how much his son hated him –  and has led to the odd  inappropriate smile from a judge unable to banish the image of the bodybuilder in posing pouch. I have to admit to some difficulty reconciling the reflective speaker with the polished poser, yet the fundamental message of continuing to embrace life and self-exploration with passion and in whatever way is right for you was inescapably positive and valid.

Live long and prosper . . .

(CARP Conference 1)

If I took one message away from last week’s CARP Conference it is that aging, as with life in general, is very much what we make it.

Next time some young spark reckons you’re old, it may be worth remembering that the relationship between aging and mortality increases steadily from the age of 10, doubling every 8 years (Drs Leonid and Natalia Gavrilov). So from one point of view, by age 11 you’re on the slippery slope. Alternatively, perhaps it’s time to re-embrace our mortality and learn to live more comfortably with it.

Which brings me to another key theme; we choose how we perceive what happens to us. Dr Elizabeth Lombardo exhorted us to ‘get a smaller but, that is, to let go of all the ‘buts’ that stop us from doing what we really want, alongside all the ‘musts, shoulds and oughts’. Her recipe for long life and happiness also includes cultivating a positive perspective, learning how to overcome obstacles, applying your strengths and focusing on what you enjoy, gratitude and appreciation and exercise. Elizabeth’s primary focus is happiness – she has a web site full of free resources and a book, A Happy You I – as well as a lovely, smiling presence that suggests she really does practice what she preaches.

Having worked in the field of dementia research, I already knew the importance of using your brain in new ways. Dr Elkhonon Goldberg brought a fresh understanding of why this is the case. The part of the brain most prone to atrophy is the pre-frontal cortex. This is the area that fires up when we are presented with the novel and unfamiliar. As we age, by definition, there is less that is new to us. Therefore, unless we seek out new experiences, the pre-frontal lobes (and linked right brain) receive less stimulus and so succumb to aging.

Interestingly, although we know that brain processing in some areas decreases with aging, there is strong evidence that, in their own specialist areas, the problem solving capacity of older people exceeds that of their younger colleagues – Dr Goldberg terms this the ‘paradox of aging’ (see his book The Wisdom Paradox).

[Not a valid template]If Stanley Coren had his way, doctors would be prescribing dogs! There is good evidence that pet ownership in general and dog ownership in particular can help to keep us healthy, especially after the age of 55. The benefits include lower stress, cholesterol and blood pressure as well as improved mood. Older dog owners visit their doctor less frequently and are more likely to take regular exercise, with increased social opportunities thrown in. A number of studies have suggested that ‘pet therapy’ can provide huge savings on public health spending.

The day was neatly drawn to a close by inspirational speaker Dan Trommater, who just happens to use magic to challenge his audience’s assumptions and make the point that we choose what we perceive and how we respond to it.

Which takes me back to where I started . . .