Friday, June 22, 2018

Elderly Care Time "bank"



The share of Swiss residents 65 or older rose to 17 per cent in 2010
(Keystone)

St Gallen may become the first Swiss city to introduce a novel banking scheme in which retired care volunteers “deposit” hours worked looking after elderly people.
 
In return they can use any time saved up for their own care provision later in life. The St Gallen government hopes the pilot project will lower social service costs and encourage local solidarity as it copes with a steadily ageing population.

Switzerland’s demographic time bomb continues to tick louder and louder. Whereas only one in ten residents were over 65 in 1960, five decades later the ratio is one in six.

The state pension system is also suffering from underdevelopment. According to the Federal Statistics Office, four actively employed people fund the state pension of one retired person. Forty years from now this share will fall to two employees.

The ageing population, especially those in need of special care, represents a major challenge for local authorities.
“We need to bring the village mentality to the city and return to the days when people took more care of those around them, whether they are family, friends or neighbours,” Katja Meierhans, who is leading the pilot project devised by St Gallen and the Federal Social Insurance Office, told swissinfo.ch.

Under the proposed scheme, a retired person in good health who has time on their hands can provide care and support for elderly locals in need. Every hour worked is recorded as a “deposit” on a special personal account, which can later be used to pay for care workers’ time when the volunteer in turn needs assistance.
The idea for the project emerged as a result of the new situation facing many local authorities.

“We haven’t noticed a reduction of solidarity in Switzerland. But it’s more about greater individual mobility and new family structures; family ties and networks are not as resistant as in the past. It’s therefore important to look for help from outside the family circle,” explained Ludwig Gartner, deputy director of the insurance office.

Demographic change means that more and more people need help even if it appears that older people remain healthy longer.

Experience
 
St Gallen is located in northeastern Switzerland, close to the German border. With a population of 72,522, the city was chosen by the federal authorities for the pilot project due to its previous experience of voluntary schemes.

Since 2008 the canton has been offering a similar time scheme run by the local branch of the Swiss Red Cross in which people can exchange assistance.

The new project is not intended to create competition with existing activities for the elderly like nursing homes or mobile services, however.

“The biggest need for the elderly is help with day-to-day things like shopping, administrative tasks and cleaning,” said Meierhans.

Independence
 
The main goal is to help elderly people live longer independently in their own homes.

“After all, a job in a nursing home is a lot more expensive for the social services and less satisfactory for an elderly person,” she added. “The scheme can also combat loneliness and bring people together, strengthening solidarity.”

Some 12,000 people over 65 live in St Gallen and the programme’s success will ultimately depend on their level of participation.
The organisers hope that 300 people will sign up to provide 2-3 hours of care per week over a 42-week period, adding up to a total of 25,000 hours of work.

“If this is reached we will be delighted,” said Meierhans. The maximum amount that can be “deposited” by each volunteer will be 750 hours.

Restoring structure
 
Although it is a voluntary project, it will not be cost free. The St Gallen authorities have proposed creating a foundation with a SFr150,000 annual budget to finance an internet site to allow volunteers to contact those needing help, as well as to cover administrative and training costs.

The money will also serve as a guarantee if the project fails, to compensate volunteers for any hours they have accumulated.
The St Gallen city authorities still need to give the final rubberstamp this spring. All being well the project will then begin in summer.

“We believe it’s a very good proposal. It’s a way of using available resources in society and restoring social structures that have weakened over time,” said Thomas Diener, director of Pro Senectute, the largest professional organisation for the elderly.

“Retired people increasingly realise that they don’t want to waste time, even on themselves, but prefer to do something that gives meaning to their lives. These are people who are financially secure, but who are seeking to be active. It's not just altruism, but the pursuit of happiness through helping others.”

Care home statistics

More than 75% of elderly people in Swiss care homes have health problems, with almost two out of five suffering from dementia.

The Federal Statistics Office found that 67% had great difficulty in performing daily tasks such as eating and getting dressed. The results were part of a 2010 report on the state of health and living conditions of old people living in institutions.

It found that 77% had a health problem of more than six months’ duration, with 39% suffering from dementia and 26% from depression. Other health issues included heart and blood pressure problems, diabetes and rheumatism. The average age of those surveyed was 83 years old.

The report also found that care home residents had fairly regular calls or visits from friends and family. Some 55% were visited at least once a week, with 12% having daily visits. Only 2% had no contact with the outside world at all.
end of infobox

Swiss population

The ageing of the Swiss populationcontinues from year to year. On the one hand, the share of people 65 or older rose to 16.9% in 2010 – or 1.3 million people out of the total population of 7.9 million.
On the other, the share of the population under age 20 continued to fall (from 21.2% to 21.0%).

In 1900, there were 76 young people (under age 20) and 10 people 65 or older for every 100 people of working age (ages 20–64). This ratio has changed significantly: in 2010, there were only 34 young people and 27 people 65 or older for every 100 of working age.
Thus, the old-age dependency ratio has almost tripled while the youth dependency ratio has halved. This link between generations is especially influenced by the ageing of the population; this trend is caused by falling birth rates coupled with a steadily increasing life expectancy.

As a result of the higher life expectancy, the number of elderly people is rising. For women life expectancy rose from 48.9 years in 1900 to 84.5 in 2010 and for men it rose from 46.2 to 80.1.

But the number of people under age 20 is decreasing: 1,636,125 in 2009 against 1,703,750 in 1960.

Worried about growing older? About your place in society when you're 60, 70 or 80?

There is a lot to life after 60 — and society is coming increasingly to appreciate the contribution older people can make. That’s what active ageing is about — getting more out of life as you grow older, not less, whether at work, at home or in the community.

And this can help not just you as an individual but society as a whole.

About the year

2012 - European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations

The year is intended to raise awareness of the contribution that older people make to society. It seeks to encourage policymakers and relevant stakeholders at all levels to take action with the aim of creating better opportunities for active ageing and strengthening solidarity between generations.

What is active ageing?

Active ageing means growing old in good health and as a full member of society, feeling more fulfilled in our jobs, more independent in our daily lives and more involved as citizens. No matter how old we are, we can still play our part in society and enjoy a better quality of life. The challenge is to make the most of the enormous potential that we harbour even at a more advanced age. The European Year 2012 seeks to promote active ageing in three areas:

Employment – as life expectancy increases across Europe, pension ages are rising, but many fear that they will not be able to stay in their current jobs or to find another job until they can retire on a decent pension. We must give older workers better chances in the labour market.

Participation in society – retiring from one's job does not mean becoming idle. The contribution of older people to society as carers for others, typically their own parents or spouses and their grandchildren is often overlooked and so is their role as volunteers. The European Year seeks to ensure greater recognition of what older people bring to society and create more supportive conditions for them.

Independent living – our health declines as we grow old, but a lot can be done to cope with this decline. And quite small changes in our environment can make a big difference to people suffering from various health impairments and disabilities. Active ageing also means empowering us as we age so that we can remain in charge of our own lives as long as possible.

Foreword by Commissioner Andor
 
 
We tend to forget that population ageing is a major achievement – the result of healthier living conditions and medical breakthroughs that reduce premature mortality. Additionally, people now have more freedom to choose whether and when to have children.

Yet it is undoubtedly true that the rapid ageing of Europe’s population over the coming decades and the upcoming retirement of the ‘baby-boom’ generation presents real challenges. Many people fear that life will be harder in the much older societies in which we will be living and that tensions or even open conflict between the generations will be unavoidable.

The European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012 has sought to forestall any such negative developments. The key is to support active ageing across all aspects of life, from professional, community and familial activities to the capacity to age healthily and independently. This will be the basis for solidarity between generations in the years to come. It means that, as we age, we retain control over our own lives rather than having to depend on the younger generations.

Active ageing starts in the workplace. A third of Europeans said recently in a Eurobarometer survey that they would like to stay in work after they have reached the age at which they are entitled to a pension, though not necessarily full time. But not many Europeans currently get the chance to do so.

At the same time, it means changing our attitudes to what it means to be older, shifting upwards the borderline between ‘young’ and ‘old’ as our life expectancy increases and increasing our appreciation of the support and experience older people can and do offer in all areas of life. Active ageing also means offering better support to older people who need it so that health impairments do not automatically lead to exclusion and excessive dependence on the help of others, ensuring a life of dignity.

It is a vast agenda to which all levels of government, businesses, trade unions and civil society must contribute. The main policy instruments are in the hands of policymakers in the Member States. However, the European Union (EU) has a role to play in this regard. It can mobilise a wide range of policy instruments to support Member States and other stakeholders in their efforts.

The European Year provides an opportunity for all of us to think about what we can do to make active ageing a reality and to commit to new initiatives in the years to come. This brochure presents the EU’s contribution to the active ageing agenda and shows that the EU is a strong partner in this regard.

I hope this brochure will help strengthen the resolve to work together at European level and inspire more determined efforts in all Member States to promote active ageing, thereby ensuring that solidarity between generations can withstand the test of population ageing.
 
László ANDOR
 

Generations 2012 seeks to incentivise stakeholders at all levels to set ambitious goals and to take action that will enable our societies to cope with demographic ageing by strengthening the contribution that older people make to society and enhancing their independence.

This is a timely initiative, since the large cohorts born in the late 1940s and the 1950s are now reaching retirement age. Thus, demographic change is happening now in the EU, with massive social, economic, budgetary and political consequences.

Two trends are particularly noticeable. Firstly, the total working-age population (15-64 year-olds) is set to fall by 20.8 million from 2005 to 2030 as the baby-boom cohorts retire. This has tremendous implications for the future of jobs and growth in the EU, as well as for the sustainability of social protection and health systems, which face a widening gap between spending needs and revenues from taxes and contributions.

Secondly, the number of elderly people is increasing rapidly. The number of people aged 80+ is set to increase by 57.1 % between 2010 and 2030 (1). This will mean 12.6 million more people aged 80+ in Europe, with significant implications for health and care services.


Demographic change can be successfully tackled through a positive approach that focuses on the potentials of the older age groups. The concept of active ageing is at the heart of this positive response to demographic change, which is essential to preserve solidarity between generations. Active ageing principally means three things:
1. Enabling both women and men to remain in employment longer – by overcoming structural barriers (including a lack of support for informal carers) and offering appropriate incentives, many older people can be helped to remain active in the labour market, with systemic and individual benefits.
2. Facilitating active citizenship through enabling environments that harness the contribution that older women and men can make to society.
3. Enabling both women and men to keep in good health and to live independently as they grow older, thanks to a life-course approach to healthy ageing combined with adapted housing and local environments that allow elderly people to remain in their own homes as long as possible.

Europe can only meet the challenges of demographic change through active ageing; its future prosperity and social cohesion depend on it.
(1) Eurostat base scenario.
The EU’s Europe 2020 strategy aims to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth with high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. It has set five specific targets for the EU to meet by 2020, including an employment rate of 75 % for all 20-64 year-olds and at least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion (2).


Active ageing is an essential part of the Europe 2020 strategy, the success of which depends to a large extent on enabling older people to contribute fully within and outside the labour market. Older people have to be empowered to remain active as workers, consumers, carers, volunteers and citizens.


Eurobarometer Survey on Active Ageing According to a 2012 Eurobarometer survey, the majo-rity of Europeans (60 %) reject the need for higher reti-rement ages. Rejection is strongest in Romania (87 %), Latvia (86 %) and Slovakia (83 %). Only in Denmark (58 %), the Netherlands (55 %), Ireland (53 %), the UK (51 %) and Austria (49 %) the majority of respondents agrees on the need for the official retirement age to rise. This rejection does not, however, mean that Europeans are not ready or willing to consider working longer. Some 61 % support the idea that people should be al-lowed to continue working once they have reached the official retirement age, and 53 % reject the idea of com-pulsory retirement age.


Active ageing is the basis for solidarity between generations – a goal of the EU enshrined in Article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty. It means that older people can take charge of their own lives and contribute to society – and allows more to be done for those elderly people who depend most on the support of others.

The European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012 aims to create new momentum to achieve the goals set, including the wider economic and societal goals, by raising awareness of these crucial issues, by changing attitudes and by engaging all levels of society in an effort to offer better opportunities to older people to remain active and to participate as full members of society alongside the younger generations.

The European Commission hopes that the Year will produce new actions and new commitments on the part of Member States, local and regional authorities, social partners and civil society organisations to promote active ageing and thus strengthen solidarity between generations. Each of these

(2) Other targets cover Education, Climate Change and Energy, and Research and Development spending. http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/ reaching-the-goals/targets/index_en.htm


providing policy expertise on living and working conditions The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in Dublin provides information, advice and expertise – on living and working conditions, industrial relations and managing change in Europe – to the key actors in the field of EU social policy, including governments, EU institutions and the social partners. It has developed a resource pack on active ageing that looks in particular at what needs to change at the work-place to keep older workers in employment, and at labour force participation of people above the official retirement age.





The Open Method of Coordination in Social Inclusion and Social Protection
 
 
 
Active ageing in the labour market, active ageing in the community and healthy ageing are all affected by social protection systems and issues around poverty and social exclusion. Social protection systems and employment policies need to support each other to encourage and enable people to work longer, while social transfer schemes as well as health and social services ensure that older people can actively participate in society and live independently.
 
As with employment, social protection and social inclusion policies are a matter of Member State responsibility. Nevertheless, the EU makes an important contribution by supporting reforms through the definition of common goals and a process of mutual learning. This process is known as the Open Method of Coordination on social protection and social inclusion (OMC) (10). The OMC covers pensions, healthcare and long-term care, and social inclusion. It provides Member States with:
1. common objectives;
2. shared indicators to measure success;
3. a framework for reporting;
4. benchmarking to compare performance and identify best practice.



Reporting in the context of the Social Protection Committee helps to assess progress and identify key challenges and future priorities. Peer review seminars provide for the dissemination and discussion of good practice between Member States.
 Making a decisive impact on poverty and social inclusion
 
 
 
Achieving the Europe 2020 target of lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion will require, in many countries, looking also at the situation of older people and older women in particular.
 
 
(10) Open Method of Coordination: http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/ glossary/open_method_coordination_en.htm


The OMC on Social Protection and Social Inclusion supports Member States in promoting access for all to the resources, rights and services needed for participation in society, combating exclusion and its causes, and enabling access to the labour market.

As well as supporting mutual learning and exchange through the OMC process, the European Commission has established the European Platform Against Poverty and Social Exclusion as one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 agenda. It aims to strengthen work at all levels to reach the EU headline poverty reduction target. Notably, it seeks to promote new partnerships and social innovation and to make best use of all EU funds towards social inclusion objectives.

The Platform was created as an outcome of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2010.

A priority of the European focus on combating poverty is to overcome discrimination and increase the integration of people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, immigrants and other vulnerable groups. This is directly relevant to the situation of vulnerable older people. The Platform against Poverty and Social exclusion also contains a special focus on the social risks of elderly migrants within this context, including consideration of the specific cultural and linguistic needs they may have and the particular risks of poverty and isolation they face.
 
A comprehensive strategy for adequate, sustainable and safe pensions
 
 
 
The future sustainability of adequate pension systems is a key requirement for active ageing in the coming decades. Many older people have no other source of income than their retirement pension, and without sufficient income, people are restricted in their ability to take part in society fully.
 

The EU has set a common framework for Member States to share ideas, approaches, knowledge and experiences with regard to pensions. This process (10) has the following common objectives:
1. Adequate retirement incomes for all in the spirit of solidarity and fairness between and within generations;
2. Financial sustainability of public and private pension schemes, notably by supporting longer working lives and active ageing;
3. Pension systems that are transparent and well adapted to individual and societal needs.

Pensions Peer Review Examples In 2011, nine EU countries peer reviewed the Dutch approach to Balancing the security and affordability of funded pension schemes. In 2011, 10 EU countries peer reviewed German work on the Effects of life courses on women’s pensions.EU support to national policymakers: coordinated strategies and mutual learning 15



The 2010 Joint Report on Pensions highlighted that more reform is needed, particularly around achieving active ageing in employment – particularly for older female workers. The EU facilitates national reform efforts notably through peer reviews.

On 16 February 2012, the Commission adopted a White Paper on Pensions setting out how the EU and Member States can best work towards ensuring adequate incomes in retirement, notably through active ageing. It proposed measures to promote a better balance between years spent working and years spent in retirement and to enhance the opportunities for making additional retirement savings.
 
Cooperation in the area of healthcare and long-term care
 
 
 
Systems of healthcare and long-term care play a major role in enabling healthy ageing and independent living. However, these systems are under tremendous pressure at a time of demographic ageing and strained public budgets.
 

Organising these systems is down to national and often regional policymaking. However, an EU process (10) is supporting mutual exchange and learning in identifying solutions to achieve:
1. Access – to a mix of home, community and institutional services, including through affordability or insurance coverage and shorter waiting times;
2. Quality – including through better coordination between levels of care and priority on rehabilitation and helping people remain in their own home;
3. Sustainability – including through an appropriate mix of public and private finance and better coordination between services, as well as health promotion.



The EU facilitates reform processes in the Member States through peer reviews and by funding projects aimed at giving better access to international experiences to national policymakers.
 
Healthcare and long-term care peer review examples In 2011, seven EU countries peer reviewed the Swedish approach to Dealing with expanding care needs and limited resources. In 2009, eight EU countries peer reviewed French work on Alzheimer’s and other related diseases: coping with behavioural disorders in the patient’s home.



The EU supports active and healthy ageing also by promoting a better quality of care for frail older people, both in institutional settings and in the home. It has focused in particular on preventing elder abuse. A Special Eurobarometer report on health and long-term care of 2007 found that 55 % of Europeans believed that many dependent older people are victims of abuse from people who are supposed to look after them.

In March 2008, the European Commission organised a major conference on Protecting the dignity of older persons – the prevention of elder abuse and neglect to help develop a better understanding of the phenomenon and how it can be tackled effectively across Europe.

Following this the European Parliament requested a pilot action, which the European Commission implemented through a Call for Proposals for projects focused on monitoring elder abuse through public health and long-term care systems and identifying good practice for its prevention.
 

A pilot initiative against elder abuse: three projects funded by the EU EuROPEAN – European reference framework for the prevention of elder abuse and neglect http://www.preventelderabuse.eu MILCEA – Monitoring elder abuse across the European Union through public health and long-term care systems http://www.milcea.eu WeDO – European Partnership for the Wellbeing and Dignity of Elder People http://www.wedo-partnership.eu/



The Commission has also funded an action called ABUEL, which provides a multinational prevalence survey of elder abuse under the Public Health Action Programme.

The EU’s Daphne programme fights against all forms of violence against children, young people and women and protects victims and groups at risk. It has also funded actions to tackle elder abuse. These have covered better ways for detecting, monitoring, tackling and preventing elder abuse, including physical and financial abuse. The Daphne project Eustacea created a European Charter of rights and responsibilities of older people in need of long-term care and assistance.
 
The DAPHNE programme: tackling abuse within families Breaking the Taboo 2 is working to empower health and social service professionals to combat violence against older women within families. It follows up a first project which resulted in the publication of the report CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING


 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Stages of Retirement


Stages of Retirement


Recently, I sat in an office filling out paperwork for my appointment. When I reached the bottom of the form, which required a date, I realized even though I had an appointment, I didn’t know the date. Too lazy to dig into my purse for my cell phone, I asked the guy next to me, who was also filling out the same form, if he knew the date.

“The third”, came the reply.

“Thanks. Retired,” said I by way of explanation for my lack of date information.

“Me, too,” he sighed.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to know what was behind the sigh. He seemed a little depressed, heavy. So, I queried, “Not having a good time in retirement?”

He hunched forwarded a bit in his seat and looked at the floor. “I get up every morning wondering what I’m going to do today. I’m thinking of getting a part-time job.”

“Maybe you could volunteer for an organization,” I offered.

“Yeah, I already do that but this isn’t what I thought it would be.”

With that, my name was called and I got up to leave. Before I made my exit, I turned to him and said, “What you’re experiencing is normal. You’re not alone.” He nodded his head but kept looking at the floor.

In 1975 a professor of gerontology named Robert Atchley identified seven stages of retirement. Since then, they’ve been pared down to six but the bottom line is retirement is such a major life transition requiring a redefining of our very role in life that no matter how much we plan, we’re bound to experience at least some of the stages. The guy in the waiting room was in the stage of disillusionment possibly missing the structure and productivity of work, which had given his life purpose. While not everyone goes through this stage, most of us do. It’s similar to the realization, somewhere around age 40, when we say to ourselves, “Is this all there is to life?” You know that moment I’m talking about. The one where you realized you didn’t become brilliant, rich, famous, have the exciting career you dreamed about or whatever you thought would happen to your life. Well, that realization shows up in retirement, too. After the “honeymoon” of relaxation, the feeling like you’re on vacation, the relief of leaving the rat race behind, boredom sets in and you find yourself saying, “Is this all there is to retirement?”

Even Colin Powell talked about it on the speakers circuit a few years ago. After leaving his post as Secretary of State where he was constantly whisked here and there in limousines and government jets with an entourage of assistants, secret service agents and press corps, he found himself walking down Fifth Avenue in New York all by his lonesome to fetch a hotdog from the street vendor. He went on to recount how he ended up on the speakers circuit because his wife of 56 years told him unless he found something to do with his life, they wouldn’t make it to year 57. While his wife’s ultimatum may be slightly comical, she was wise enough to realize he needed to do something to recreate his purpose in life. For both their sakes, she wasn’t going to tolerate his moping. The lesson in Powell’s story is how he reoriented himself by joining the speakers circuit thus creating a new routine for himself. And…securing his marriage for at least another year.

Unfortunately, for many of us disillusionment with retirement and therefore, life, can last years before we decide to take inventory of our situation and decide what we’re going to do when we grow up. For a sad few, the disillusionment stage can last the rest of our lives. That’s a real downer, folks. People who think their “golden years” aren’t golden have no one but themselves to blame. So, take stock! The willingness to take stock of our situation, options, wants and needs is the first step to recovering our retirement dream. Like the guy in the waiting room who was thinking of getting a part-time job, acknowledging that something’s gotta give moves you toward action. Back in 1935 when the retirement age was set by the government at age 65, it was a rarity indeed, for most people to even live to that age. With longevity comes opportunity. Today, with more and more people living to be 100, the idea of sitting out 30 years of retirement in a rocker on the front porch should be enough to get you motivated to find a new hobby, career, volunteer activity or whatever floats your boat.

So, whether you’re already retired and wondering where your retirement dream went or you’re looking at retiring someday in the future, keep the disillusionment stage in mind. It may only last a day or two or it could be years. That’s up to you. Know that for most of us, it probably will come. But, also know, it is an opportunity to take stock, to reinvent yourself, to learn, to be, to give, to reach your potential in areas you may not have ever envisioned for yourself. And, remember, what you’re experiencing is normal and you’re not alone.

STAGES OF RETIREMENT II

Last Sunday, as Martin and I sat in the kitchen waiting for dinner to finish baking in the oven, we sipped a glass of wine and talked about our latest projects. Suddenly, I realized the day before was our one year retirement anniversary. A year!?! Gone already! And, we didn’t even celebrate having made it a full year. A year of ups and downs as we adjusted our way to a fulfilling retirement routine. Mind you, we’re not there yet. But, we managed to make it into Stage 4, the Reorientation Stage. With six retirement stages, we’re more than halfway there. Yipeeee!

Last week I wrote about Disillusionment, Stage 3. After meeting someone who was obviously disillusioned with retirement and having been there myself, I felt the need to forewarn as many people as were willing to read my post. But what happens before and after disillusionment? Well, in the past year we’ve experienced all the before.

Pre-retirement, Stage 1, was filled with euphoria. We planned what we would do in retirement. Martin gave his notice at work. His employer threw a catered retirement bash. Bucket lists were made. Lists included all kinds of things we always wanted to do but never seemed to have the time for. Travel made it onto the list, an activity we never liked much before, so whatever made us think we’d like it in retirement, is anybody’s guess. After a work life of travel, travel, travel for both of us, we decided travel was, in reality, one of the last things we wanted to do. Little did we know, this was just the beginning of adjusting our retirement goals and outlook.

Initially, Stage 2, Retirement, aka the “honeymoon” took on a feeling of perpetual vacation as we motorcycled, hiked, gardened, bicycled, engaged in some artwork, sat on the screened porch reading in the warmth of sunny fall days. Winter arrived to a long trip to visit family for Christmas, a luxury we never enjoyed while we worked. That was followed by lazy mornings sipping lattes by the fire and staying in my jammies ’til noon as I took on the new hobby of knitting.

But disillusionment was seeping in. Spring arrived to six months of perpetual vacation giving way to a feeling of restlessness. A feeling of missing the challenge, the mind stimulation, the purpose afforded by the everyday grind of work. What!?! Miss the rat race? No. Not possible. And worse of all, we were getting on each others very last nerve. Our marriage, made in heaven, was being tested at every turn or so it seemed. We arrived at Stage 3, Disillusionment, not even realizing what it was or that it happened to most retirees. But, we did know, something had to give. So, once again, I trawled the web for answers. I’m here to tell you, there’s not a lot out there, not even on the so-called “senior” (I hate that word but that’s what we have) websites. However, in one Google search, I stumbled across Robert Atchley’s research into the stages or phases of retirement and voila!, a lot of things fell into place. For starters, we made a conscious decision to aim for Stage 4, Reorientation.
To me, Reorientation, is a couple of things. First of all, you put on your designer cap and pull up all the creative muscle you can find on the right side of your brain and start designing a retirement lifestyle to put you smack in the middle of your happy place. Secondly, kiss the rat race goodbye. Let it go. Sever old ties, if necessary. You still need people in retirement. You still need human connection. You still need to network. But, staying in touch with the old gang still tethered to the work place can keep you tethered there as well. Keep the real friends. Let the rest go. And, give them permission to let you go.

Retirement is a reinvention of who you are. For us, we are right brain people who lived our work lives in a left brain world. We wanted to explore different art mediums in retirement but held ourselves back. You know, the old fear of failure specter. What if I can’t draw? Can’t paint? Can’t carve? What if I produce ugly stuff nobody likes? Scary as the thought was, when we decided to seriously enter the world of artists, that is the precise moment we started our reorientation. After several enjoyable weeks of watercolor class, mainly because of the social interaction, not the painting, yesterday I took my first drawing class. Don’t even think it…I already know I put the cart before the horse. Anyway, my drawing instructor told our class, “After today’s class, if anyone asks you what you do, you tell them, you’re an artist”. He went on to tell us how he wanted us to start thinking of ourselves as artists. Think it, feel it, be it. (I really like this guy.) Besides classes, we’ve become involved in a couple of artists’ guilds, Martin helping out with the fall arts festival, both of us attending openings (wine, cheese and art…doesn’t get any better than that) and me enjoying more social interaction in my drawing class. We’ve made new friends. Artist friends who encourage and support. I’ve made the discovery I can actually draw. Let’s call it the discovery of a lifetime and I am pumped! We feel like we’re well on our way to creating a rewarding Retirement Routine, Stage 5.

Once we are settled into our new retirement lifestyle, we intend for it to last a long, long time but we also intend to keep looking for more discoveries of a lifetime. More risk, more exploration, more change. What about Stage 6? you ask. Stage 6 is the Termination of Retirement. That’s when you’re so old and frail, you can’t do any of this fun stuff anymore. You’re focused on meeting your maker. As I said, that’s a long way off. Until then, I’m an artist.

The Transition


We were ready for retirement! We had three financial planners (yes, three…hedging our bets you see) tell us we had plenty of money. We had lots of things to do. Me, gardening, gourd art, growing food, painting, reading, writing and 6 grandkids. Martin, bicycling, motorcycling, gourd art, photography, helping me with the six acres and ditto on the 6 grandkids. We were both accomplished cooks who like trying new dishes. We were set!

Then the announcement was made by Martin to his company. I left work two years earlier. I had adjusted and was happily sailing along in a nice routine. I was looking forward to Martin joining me so it was a surprise to both of us when we were overcome by emotion and stress. I trawled the web looking for information about what we were feeling but came up pretty much empty. Most of what’s out there is about money in retirement not how to enter retirement in bliss. So, were we an aberration and everyone else in the country entered retirement living happily ever after? 
 
Most of the retirees I approached with this question spoke merrily about how much they enjoyed being retired. Congratulations rolled in from family and friends, some of whom were retirees, via Facebook and email. And, of course, the oft asked question we received, “How did you do it?” There was even a tinge of envy in the faces of a few who asked. And a very honest few told us outright how envious they were. So what was wrong with us? We were supposed to be happy. Right? 
 
Even I felt a certain sadness at Martin leaving a company he’d worked at for almost 22 years. In some respects his retirement party was more like a wake than a celebration as I realized how many memories and good times we shared with so many at this company. I also realized it was this amazing company which was a large part of why we could retire early. It was hard to walk out the door that night knowing I would never be back. It was hard to say goodbye to co-workers we had known for over 20 years. Even I shared a lot of memories with these people. I couldn’t imagine what Martin was going through.

As Martin’s last work day approached I also began to doubt our numbers. What if the financial planners were wrong? What if we were wrong? What if we didn’t have enough activities to keep us occupied? What if we got bored doing our hobbies everyday? Was it really the wisest thing to leave a working life behind? Retirement is defined as conclusion, ending, termination. It sounded so final. Even though I was at home for two years, with Martin still in the workplace, I didn’t really feel like I was retired. Now it seemed real and scary and doubtful. Now, when people asked, “What do you do?”, the answer would be we’re retired…concluded, terminated, ended…YIKES! The stress continued to creep in. 
 
But, as I voiced my doubts, on occasion someone would step forward and tell me how they, too, had felt moments of uncertainty. I came across the one brave and honest soul in my circle who looked me straight in the eye and said, “Retiring is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Wow! Finally. Someone who made me feel like the sadness of leaving a working life behind was normal. Then, there was the man who told me it took his Dad 6 months to adjust to retirement and how his family worried about him the entire time. Finally, there was the couple who told me it was a transition, an adjustment and it would take time. How much depended on us. For them, it took two years. It took us about 18 months to transition. The key? Finding renewed purpose in life.

If we had a do over, knowing what we know now, we’d do some things differently. Martin has noted how he’d choose the spring to retire because the weather is more conducive to motorcycling, bicycling and hiking, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains we love so much. Being physically active, getting out of the house more often may have made this easier. I’d want us to take advantage of his company’s Employee Assistance Program for the 6 free counseling sessions they offered. Talking with an expert about the emotional side of retiring may have allayed some of the stress. And, though we traveled extensively for work and find we’re more homebodies, I think a long vacation someplace sunny and warm may have helped us transition. Learning we needed to find a new purpose in life was critical. But, that took some time. Starting this blog put me on the road to a new purpose in life. Acknowledging the activities we were already engaged in may not be enough or the one, was also of critical importance. For those of you who are not yet retired, don’t take anything for granted – learn from my mistakes. Fortunately, we were always risk takers, willing to try new things, take a chance. We also recognize that failure is often the catalyst for success so my advice is try, try again in your search for renewed purpose.

The point in all this is retirement is a huge and I mean HUGE life changing event, not much different from getting married or divorced or having a baby or losing a loved one. It’s change. And, as with any life changing event, it means emotional ups and downs. It means being prepared to roll with some punches. It means good days and bad days until you adjust to a new reality. It means adjusting to new schedules or, with retirement, maybe no schedules. After all, every day is Saturday. So, my best advice is before you retire, regardless of your age, think about how you will make the transition as painless as possible as you reinvent who you are.

DYNAMIC AGING

Kathy Merlino is the author of Kathysretirementblog.com, a blog about her perspective and thoughts on the emotional side of retirement and caregiverschronicle.com, the story of her journey as a caregiver. She is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on non-financial retirement topics. Kathy believes retirement is a journey, not a destination. I love to hear from readers!


DYNAMIC AGING
        
Tomorrow I begin a course, Dynamic Aging, at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Furman University. The program, developed by Dudley Tower, PH.D, is the first of its kind. Additionally, this is the first time it is being taught by Dr. Tower so those of us taking the class are brave souls indeed. And, after reading some of the literature on Tower’s website (www.dynamicaginginstitute.com), I’m thinking that’s exactly what he is looking for in his students…people willing to take a risk, a chance, a bold step into a different type of future than the one most retirees ultimately end up with. During the past nearly two years, I’ve written numerous posts about the need to move out of your comfort zone in order to achieve a rewarding retirement (see “Comfort Zone”, “Ch-Ch-Changes”, “Living Bolder”) so when I came across this course offering, I was both intrigued and delighted. Finally, after reading way too many articles suggesting actions like involving your children in your finances and medical conditions in your sixties (as you would soon slip into a declining cognitive state rendering you incapable of understanding those items), here was someone, not only thinking along the same lines I was, but, willing to teach me how to actualize it!

In April 2013, I wrote, “bold living begins right after leaving the comfort zone”. Yet, most people enter retirement with the idea of continuing with their same hobbies maybe adding some travel or, for those wanting extended travel, an RV. Several much, much older people advised me to do everything I really ever wanted to do right after retiring because as I aged, it would be “too late” as I would decline physically and mentally to the point of not being capable of doing anything requiring any effort. Sounds like they read some of the same articles I read. The only difference is they believed what was being peddled in those articles. Scary as it is, that dreary bit of advice and those articles, in a nutshell, is our society’s current view of retirement. We will maintain as well as possible but inevitably slowly decline to a point where we can no longer function independently needing our children’s intervention or an assisted living community or (shud-d-d-der) a nursing home. I believe this view results in a self-fulfilling prophecy as our minds create a reality we believe to be true. Prior to retiring, I heard of one couple, retiring at 60, who bought a home in a “senior” community and, even though neither golfed, anted up for a golf cart to drive from one home to the other as well as the clubhouse where the residents could play cards, pool or party. Just shoot me, now!

The view of a leisurely retirement where we slowly decline into oblivion is nothing more than mindset. For example, when we retired, an item on Martin’s bucket list was to participate in the state time trials for bicycling (see my post “Second Fastest Old Man in the State”). Never having the time to put in the practice miles while working, retirement meant he finally had the time to invest. As he started biking 100 miles or more a week with thousands of feet of climbing, we began hearing comments like, “Don’t over-do it. You’re getting old. Your body can’t take that kind of a workout anymore.” Well, his body did take it. He received a silver medal for his efforts. And, he’s still cranking out 80 to a 100 miles a week with his times getting better and better. Last spring, during a routine physical, Martin’s much younger doctor told him he was intimidated by Martin’s fitness. While I’m not in as great a shape as my husband, I still hit our jungle of a woods on a regular basis chainsaw in hand and have had my share of naysayers telling me I should “slow down” or how that’s dangerous work for a woman my age. Ha! That’s dangerous work for anyone at any age but I find it exhilarating and will continue my bush whacking.
According to Tower, “dynamic aging is a unique, systemic, more fully engaged, and proactive approach to one’s own aging process.” There’s a lot to this idea but I believe the one component necessary to a fully engaged, proactive approach is an open mind. Our mindset will determine the unique outcome for each and every one of us as we age. Instead of withdrawing from a rapidly changing world and buying into the notion of decline, turning your mind in such a way as to stay engaged and even welcoming what may come, will provide ongoing mental and physical stimulation. During the last several years, I’ve met many, many people who have not engaged in the technological revolution. Yes, we live in a world where there is an inherent risk in being online or using a debit card at the store. But, there has always been a risk of being robbed on the street. And, frankly, I’d rather have my debit card compromised at a store than have a mugger take my purse at gunpoint. Yet, I’ve met many who will not bank online or use a debit card at a store, carrying cash instead from place to place to pay bills and make purchases. They refuse to make purchases online or engage in social media for fear of someone stealing their identity apparently unaware most identity theft today occurs at the mailbox or trash can at their door step. I believe it is this very mindset, which prevents most people from leaving the comfort zone of our society’s current view of aging and staying fully engaged in life.

The world will continue to change at light speed due to the very technology some choose to avoid. Wishing for the good old days and following the already forged path into a slow decline is a dismal way to spend a couple of decades or more. We are at an age where fear of failure, fear of what others will think of us, fear of making a mistake, fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of any kind should not even be on our radar. During the next year, as I take the Dynamic Aging Program at OLLI Furman, I plan on posting my thoughts on the program so that, you, my readers, may benefit from what I’m learning. My hope is we will both learn some things, which will make our retirement a more meaningful, more exciting, more rewarding time in our lives than we could have imagined.

Retirement is a journey, not a destination…

JOAN AND SHELAH CELEBRATE TURNING 80

Celebrate Lifelong Exercising

Yes, that’s right – Shelah and I

celebrate Joan and Shelah celebrate 80 years on earthbirthdays in May and this year we both reached 80 – healthy, active and productive – thanks in no small part to Katy Bowman’s Nutritious Movement™ and Restorative Exercise™.  And thanks to our commitment to learning, practicing and integrating movement into our daily lives. Integrating movement means moving, moving more, moving better and moving more of our bodies.) For more information, check out our book, Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole-Body Mobility by Katy Bowman with Joan Virginia Allen, Shelah M. Wilgus, Lora Wood and Joyce Faber (2017).

Joan, Shelah, Lora and Tessa up a tree!

Little did we think we would literally be “up a tree” celebrating 80. (Left to Right: Joan, Shelah, Lora and good friend Tessa.) Natural Jungle Gym courtesy of California Thomas Fire and creative sculpting by brother-in-law, Ken.
We thought it would be fun to look back and pick out some clues to how we got here.

From There to Here – Joan

Joan, as a child, hanging on a swingset

For me, Joan, I have always “exercised” since pre-teens. Here I am at age 10 hanging on our swing set. If only I had continued to do this or something similar daily, I am pretty sure I would be able to do chin-ups today. Check out our post on The Chin-Up Project: We Begin.) I am just grateful Katy reminded me it was okay “at my age” or any age, to climb trees and do a chin-up.

I had a regular “exercise” routine from the time I was in my teens to age 71. (Since then I traded exercise for whole body movement). While I was clerking as an attorney at the California Court of Appeals, a group of us were doing Jane Fonda workouts every day at lunchtime.

In my 50s I took up Olympic-style racewalking and did two half marathons race-walking in my late 60s.

I have been a public speaker since high school. In my 50s I began doing presentations on fitness. I would start out by asking the audience. I would ask “What if you discovered you had the potential to live healthy, active and productive to age 120? What would you do differently?” This was prompted by reading a book (now out of print) called We Live Too Short and Die Too Long by Walter M. Bortz, II, M.D., in which he poses the idea that we begin shutting down physically and mentally way too soon in our lives. Furthermore, he advocates for staying active to realize our potential – which may be longer than we think.

Changing Expectations

That’s when I began changing my expectations and my life to support living healthy, active and productive at every age. Just this change helped me focus on optimizing how I move my body to give it the best shot at realizing this potential. What might you do differently?

Joan's family celebrates by hiking a trail on the Ranch

Our family joined us at the Ranch to help celebrate birthdays 80 and 82 for me and hubby, Willis. Is anyone surprised to see us celebrating by hiking the trails at the Ranch? That is turning out to be our legacy. We get out and move when our family gathers together. I am grateful we can model a healthy, active and productive lifestyle as we age.

From There to Here – Shelah

Shelah, as a young woman, on a jungle gym.

Shelah says the closest she ever got to a Jungle Gym (before the natural one at the Ranch above) was to pose for this picture in her younger years.

Shelah, as a young woman, performing ballet.

Shelah’s focus was on ballet as she grew up. Those ingrained ballet foot positions have given her no end of trouble as she continues to work on getting the outside edges of her feet straight.

Shelah has always been active and has traveled everywhere including China, Japan, Vietnam Nam, Thailand, India, Bhutan, England, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Malaya, Singapore, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Canada, Nicaragua, Romania, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Iceland, Costa Rica, Guam, Laos, and Myanmar. Also, she says she fell at least once per trip. In her 60s, after meeting Katy and integrating restorative exercise into her daily life, she no longer has a problem with her balance. Something to celebrate!

Shelah has always been an avid walker. Her favorite was the Cotswold Trail in the UK. It’s about 100 miles long and they walked about 10 miles per day carrying light packs with clothing. They stopped along the way to eat at pubs or restaurants. To find eating places, they had to leave the trail and go down into a village or town and then climb back up to the trail (often a hike of 500-900 foot elevation) after eating.

At 80, she regularly attends restorative exercise classes and integrates them into her daily life including going up and down a long flight of stairs to her second story home, walking to stores, taking the bus everywhere, and regularly walking despite a mystery injury that has made movement much more challenging.
Finally, we are still working on doing our one chin-up; maybe by the time we are 81. Time to celebrate – I exceeded my expectations of 80 for 80.

80 FOR 80

When I turned 79 in May 2017, I set myself the goal of walking/hiking a minimum of 80 miles each and every month until my 80th birthday. Eighty miles a month is not a huge undertaking – it’s less than three miles a day. What can be HUGE is making the commitment to reach that goal of 80 miles each and every month for a year. How about the days I don’t feel like it or because of inclement weather it might be difficult, or for health reasons I cannot, or maybe I’m traveling or…?

I bought a Garmin Vivofit2 watch and after calibrating my steps to the device, I began tracking my walking/hiking on a daily basis. From May 14 through June 14, I covered 99.5 miles. We hiked in Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks during that time so gathering mileage was fairly easy. However, we also flew on planes and did lengthy drives here and there when I could not walk much. And each day, I managed to get some mileage – if no more than just walking through the house to do my daily tasks or walking to/from/in the grocery store or choosing to park far away from my destination so I could accumulate something!
And what’s really interesting about this goal is how my focus is on accumulating miles. That leads to being more active more often. I love to write on the calendar at the end of each day how many miles I have racked up.

My second month (June 14 through July 13) I tallied up 127 miles thanks to a trip to Maui to celebrate our youngest daughter’s 50th birthday. We chose a condo on what I have found to be the best walking beach ever – 2.5 miles long with virtually no one on it. Most mornings I awakened really early because of jet lag/early sunrise and headed out in my bare feet to walk the beach and watch the sun rise.



I was actually able to do a full five miles barefoot one morning. This is remarkable for me because for at least 20 years, I had to wear orthotics. The pad that should cover the metatarsal heads in the balls of my feet have slipped forward making it painful to walk and virtually impossible to walk barefooted. Now thanks to practicing the correctives of Nutritious Movement and integrating them into my daily life for better alignment, my consistent practice of whole-body movement, changing to negative heel and zero drop shoes, and hiking on natural terrain in Vibram five-finger barefoot shoes with a small metatarsal pad (https://www.correcttoes.com/shop/metatarsal-pads.html), my feet had no problem doing five fun-filled miles barefoot in Paradise.

Over the past five months, I have averaged 110 miles per month – well over my goal and well on my way to hitting 1,000 miles for the year – or more. (Eighty miles a month for one year would equal 960 total miles. My goal is to hit the 1,000 mile mark or more.) WOW! This is going better than I expected.

We live on a 9.5 acre ranch on a mountain. My husband, Willis and I, have created a system of trails that allow us to hike any distance we choose by configuring the trails differently. One configuration may be three miles, another five and another…whatever we are up to that day. And being on the side of a mountain means it is constant up and down.
Here are some photos of those with whom we share the forest:



We have named our trails for family members; e.g., my trail is called Journey Joan. It is the longest one on the Ranch running from the north to the south side with multiple switchbacks and a serious incline. It was a surprise for my 76th birthday from Willis.



Everyone in the family (children, spouses, grandchildren) has chosen a trail name relevant to hiking. It is very cool to see their names on the trail signs and, of course, they love the recognition.

For those days when the temperatures are in the 90s and 100s at home, we live within 25 minutes of a beautiful walking beach where we delight in the cool breezes and sounds of the ocean.



I don’t see walking as optional for me. With pelvic prolapse, exercising the muscles of the pelvic floor is paramount to strengthening and maintaining the healthy condition of that area. I don’t know if the prolapse will get better; however, at this time in my life, I will be happy if it does not get worse. Walking is not enough. Unless I walk in form (read: alignment – https://nutritiousmovement.com/mind-your-pelvis/), it isn’t going to get the job done. I have always been an avid walker/hiker and yet here I am with pelvic prolapse anyway. Someone recently asked me how I figured the prolapse occurred. At first I said chronic constipation and straining while toileting for 50 years. Then after working with Katy, I found it was really the result of many things including not being aligned, sucking in my guts, wearing shoes with heels, and oh so much more.

 Take a look at this post by Katy for a lot more information:
https://nutritiousmovement.com/4-fast-fixes-for-pelvic-floor-disorder/.

Bottom line (pun intended), without changing my shoes and how I hold and move my body, the constipation would probably have continued and the prolapse most likely would have been exacerbated leading who knows where.

From Souls to Soles Community

Community

It is said that building a nest egg for one’s old age is not as important as building community.  As a former hospital nurse I can agree with that axiom. Nest eggs in this country can disappear rapidly, while communities are usually there for the long haul.

Lora Finds Community in Portugal

I’ve recently returned from four weeks in Portugal, during which every time I asked directions or needed assistance I was listened to, helped, directed, led or otherwise honored. In one neighborhood, I casually told the owner I loved the spot he’d created by the fire. He found out how long I was staying and saved it for me each night. One couple drove us to our B & B because he couldn’t describe the route we should take. Although I was a stranger, most people made me a part of their strong community. It reminded me that earlier in my life I felt like that in California neighborhoods.

The Nutritious Movement™ Community

Katy Bowman supports the communities of nature lovers, movers and seekers of better health and functionality and we gravitate to her. Not to confuse “branding” with community, it’s not that we all have to buy the same shoes to feel part of the group. We participate and “belong” because of shared interest, mutual respect and structure which encourages our own creativity and expanding awareness.

Our Class Community

Class Community

Joan and I teach Katy’s work  at our senior center in California and our alignment class is a treasured community that’s in its eighth year. The group acceptance and honoring how each of us participates is a big part of the success. I sometimes say “clavicle” instead of “scapula” and the class takes that in stride with hardly a giggle. I accept my imperfection and the class accepts me as I am.

Segue from souls to soles

Lora climbing stairs to trails

I brought only Merrill “barefoot” shoes with me to Portugal. When I arrived and saw how rugged the cobblestoned cities and mountain trails are, I thought I’d made a big mistake. The soles are quite thin and seem pierce-able. Well, they turned out to excel on every level. It sometimes poured rain and the shoes would be dry by morning. I walked and climbed from the valley floor to the top of castles with no perforations or slippage or discomfort. I think I was less tired wearing their very light weight than wearing hiking boots.

Lora visiting a cathedral

When I visit cathedrals, I believe I can tell how much their community loves them by the feelings they inspire in me. The same goes for trails.


Lora in a magical forest

The forests were enchanting and magical and my shoes helped ground me in the feeling of the places we hiked. The trails in Sintra, Portugal were very clean and fragrant. Every time I made a heel strike and rolled my foot forward for the toe push-off, I had the sensation of connecting with Mother Earth in a place where many others honor her. The beauty, variety of greens, and many textures reminded me of descriptions of magical forests in old stories. I felt complete, grateful to be there and connected to the mountains.

Earth’s Heartbeat

NOTE:  There are “waves” which emanate from the earth which some call “earth’s heartbeat.” They’re low-level earth emanations discovered by Professor Schumann in the 1930’s while working on German secret plans. Although Schumann’s electromagnetic resonance has been relatively stable at 7.83 Hz, they spike at times. I mention this here because its gentle waves are commonly linked with health and brain well-being, and while walking in places like Sedona, Arizona (or mountains in Sintra), people frequently feel happy, energized yet calm and may meditate. And yes, both those places are inordinately beautiful, clean and interesting, which adds to the joy of any hike.

When in Portugal

I must include the name of what must be one of the best Inns in Portugal. “Tea4Nine Guest House” is in Braga, Portugal, owned and run by Margarita. She was not only perfect with my gluten-free diet and secured me great medical care when I became ill, she was quietly present and made sure we had everything we needed. She epitomizes the host/friend I hope I am in my community. Abregata, Margarita.
Welcome to the community of our blog.

Dynamic Aging

If you are 50 or more today, you are recommended to read on and just do it.

What if your pain and lack of mobility isn’t due to your age, but your habits? What if changing how you move can change how you feel, no matter your age?

Dynamic Aging is an exercise guide to restoring movement, especially for healthy feet, better balance, and the activities of daily life. Biomechanist and movement teacher Katy Bowman shares exercises and habit modifications for varying fitness and mobility levels. Dynamic Aging:

- Is geared to a 50+ audience
- Includes exercises and postural adjustments that require no special equipment and include modifications for all fitness levels
- Will teach you how to move for healthy feet, improved balance, and activities of daily life
- Will help all readers move and feel better

Alongside Bowman’s instructions are the stories, experiences, and advice of four women over seventy-five who’ve used these principles and exercises for years. Along the way they found recommended surgeries unnecessary, regained strength and mobility, and ended up moving more than they did when they were a decade younger. From hiking in the mountains to climbing ladders and walking on cobblestones with ease, each of these women embodies the book’s message: No matter where
you’re starting, if you change how you move, you can change how you feel.



To Katy Bowman, whose paradigm of whole-body movement is a gift that opens the door to healing the cause of pain.
—J. F.
 
To my husband and soulmate, Willis. I love the adventure of life with you.
—J. V. A.
 
To Shelah, Joyce, Lora, and Joan, with my love and admiration.
—K. B.
 
To Gail Dennison, who sweetly yet consistently recommended that I try Katy Bowman’s approach to joint care before resigning myself to surgery.
—L. W.
 
To Thea, who first found Katy, and Tessa, who gets me out walking.
—S. W.

  

Description


Katy wrote this book with co-authors Joan Virginia Allen, Joyce Faber, Shelah M. Wilgus, and Lora Woods, all of whom are in their 70’s. These amazing septuagenarians have all transformed their bodies and their lives using the exercises and lifestyle modifications in their book. Dynamic Aging is a book for people of any age who want to maximize their mobility and increase balance and strength as they get older.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

When I was a kid, my mother observed that I “always insisted on learning the hard way,” meaning that I wouldn’t let myself benefit from the wisdom of others, and needed, instead, to experience lessons for myself. Fortunately, I’ve grown out of this trait in many respects. Now when I meet people who have had the experience of walking down a path I am currently on, I value their insight. And what I’ve learned from the people around me who’ve lived much longer than I have is that I need to take good care of my body, because if I don’t, I’ll miss being able to move how I want to.
 
I have had my body for only forty-one years, but over the last twenty-two, I’ve had the pleasure of working one-on-one with over a thousand bodies, most of them older than mine. And if there is one message I’ve received loud and clear, it’s that those coming to me for corrective exercise and alignment work in their sixties and seventies wish they had had access to this material in their twenties. From these people, I’ve learned to value future physical function now. That’s why I’ve chosen to write this book.
 
I teach people new ways to move their bodies. And I’ve had the good fortune of working with a large group of people over a long period of time. This means I have been exposed to a lot of data—about what people have done in the past, which hobbies and injuries they have, and where they are today.
 
I’ve worked with groups of competitive athletes, young children, pregnant mamas, post-natal mamas, and breast cancer survivors. I’ve led courses for those with cardiovascular disease, bad backs, and pelvic floor disorders, and thousands of people suffering with foot pain. I’ve gathered the information on what thousands of people have done in their past, and as a result, I’ve become familiar with the average movement history of today’s seventy- and eighty-year-olds in my culture.
 
This book includes the stories of four of my clients: an attorney, a dance-movement therapist and RN, a teacher and social worker, and a sassy, kick-ass graphic artist (she’s done most of the graphics in this book) who travels to far away countries. These women began working with me in their late sixties and early seventies and were part of a large group that started taking classes in my new-at-the-time exercise facility around a decade ago. They were the four who continued to show up, sometimes two hours a day Monday through Friday, for years, eventually studying to become movement teachers themselves.
 
Now, in their mid- to late seventies at time of writing (with one turning eighty just as this book is being published), they are some of the few of their own peer group who haven’t made a transition into senior living centers. They look younger now than they did years ago. They move “younger” than they did years ago. I regularly tell people this is possible—that they can look, move, and feel younger through smart movement and regular training—but I’m forty-one years old. Who’s going to believe me when I say that starting at sixty or even seventy isn’t too late and that tremendous improvement is possible? And so I thought I would ask Joan, Lora, Joyce, and Shelah to share with you their own insights about how a goldener can turn back the clock. You’ll see their commentary throughout the book, the perspectives of four strong, dedicated, powerful women well into their seventies who are active and thriving.
 
But what is a goldener? When these women came to me with the idea for this book, they were clear: We don’t want “old” in the title. Or “senior.” Or “geriatric,” for that matter. How about an all-new, beautiful term that describes how we feel about this stage of our lives, the golden age? How about “goldener”? I agree wholeheartedly with their thoughtful word choices, and science seems to as well.
 
Exercise has powerful capabilities to improve health, but so do words. During a game of charades, have you ever mimed a senior, shuffling at a snail’s pace, stooped over, one hand on the low back and the other on an imaginary cane? As biological beings, our behavioral patterns are shaped by what we see—how our own parents move, how our peers move. Even how cultural norms are portrayed on TV can shape our reality. The question is, how do other people move, and how do preconceived notions of the way the “over sixties” move affect how we move once we, ourselves, are older?
 
In a study created to measure the impact of positive or negative stereotype reinforcement, researchers found that walking speed and time spent in the balance phase of walking increased after only thirty minutes of intervention (Hausdorff, Levy, and Wei 1999). Did the researchers hand out a magical exercise or stretch? Nope. During a thirty-minute video game, subliminal terms were flashed on the screen: senile, dependent, diseased for one group and wise, astute, accomplished for the other. With absolutely no exercise intervention, the positively reinforced group was able to make gait and walking speed improvements more commonly found after weeks or even months of exercise training. So here’s the takeaway message for everyone: Words can be profound, so practice positive speak about yourself and those around you. And here’s the takeaway message for exercisers: The way you’re moving (or not) right now could be influenced by things other than your physiology.
 
There are many headlines, some of them about research, announcing the norms of the human experience. However, using age as a variable in research can be problematic as it’s hard to separate age from length of habit. There is a difference between the statements “Older adults are more prone to bunions” and “Older adults who’ve been wearing too-tight shoes for longer are more prone to bunions.” Age is typically selected as a research variable because it is objective and easier to quantify than your behavior over time. You can tell me with great accuracy how old you are, but it’s less likely you could tell me with great accuracy just how many hours you’ve spent with your toes crammed together in your shoes. And so, it is often through language in general and language used in research that we perpetuate the idea that bodies start falling apart simply because they’ve reached a certain age. Of course, all cells will eventually cease to replace themselves, but what’s important here is not the inevitability of decline, but that we’re able to see the difference between natural decline and the loss of function we’re experiencing simply due to weaknesses created by poor movement habits.
 
And here’s something else to consider: There seems to be a culture-wide decrease in strength that’s not related to age, but to a lifestyle that requires very little movement. A study comparing the grip strength of millennials (those born between approximately 1980 and 2000) in 2015 to the grip strength of this same age group in 1985, for example, shows people’s grips are significantly weaker today than they used to be (Fain and Weatherford 2016). Kids today (I never thought I’d type those words) move less than I did as a kid, and according to my grandparents, I moved less throughout my childhood than they did throughout theirs. Given the human timeline, i.e., the recent introduction of technology and the relatively recent Industrial Revolution, I’ll suggest that with each generation comes less movement. This is actually good news, as it means our perception of the general decline in body weakness over time could very well be coming from the fact that we’ve really just been extremely sedentary the bulk of our lives. We’re mostly under-moved, and not at all too old.
 
Dynamic Aging is a guide to get you moving more and moving more of you. This isn’t a book that suggests, “Hey, you should start walking!” Instead, it helps you see which parts of your body you can start moving a tiny bit here and there so you feel like going out to take a walk. This guide contains exercises designed to improve your movement habits through simple postural adjustments and exercises designed to challenge your body, gently, in a way that you probably stopped doing a long time ago without realizing it. As you slowly introduce more movement into your life, it’s likely you’ll see an improvement in those movement declines that you had associated with age but that were actually a product of your long-term movement patterns.
This is a guide facilitated by four of the most amazing, dynamic goldeners I know, who began just as you are about to now (with their feet). I hope you will gain as much from reading their experiences as I have from participating in them.

MEET THE GOLDENERS:

Joan


At the age of seventy-one, after a long career as an attorney, I was referred to Katy Bowman for exercises to help with my pelvic prolapse, chronic constipation, and foot problems. I met with her for a whole-body evaluation and began the movement practice that day which would change my life. I am now seventy-eight years of age. My chronic constipation completely disappeared three years into my movement practice. I walk daily and am able to continue to pursue my passion for hiking (three to ten miles), now in FiveFinger and zero-drop shoes, on the mountainous terrain of the trails on our ranch, on the sandy beaches of our nearby coast, and in our quest to hike all of the national parks (thirty-two to date, with the latest six hiked last summer in my seventy-ninth year). I can walk barefoot without discomfort. I climb and hang from trees in our forest—something I would never have thought of doing but for Katy’s example and instruction. At seventy, I was scheduled for major surgery to address my pelvic organ prolapse. The surgery has not yet been necessary. My balance is the best it has ever been—about two years ago I walked barefoot across a log six feet above a rushing river, something I never thought I’d be able to do, and certainly not for the first time at age seventy-seven. That same year (2015), Joyce (then seventy-eight) and I walked the sands of the Dungeness Spit in Washington for a total of eleven miles to see the lighthouse. And my overall body strength has improved significantly.
Changing how I move has changed my life, and I now work as a movement teacher, sharing what I’ve learned with others.

Joyce


I sustained painful knee injuries twenty-nine years ago. I had completed my teaching career of twenty years and was in the process of getting my master’s degree in social work when I injured the meniscus of my right knee doing yoga practice at home without the proper warm-up needed because of a studying, sitting, listening overload. The injuries I sustained—a meniscus torn in one knee and the other damaged shortly after from compensating stresses—are common. For years I sought relief from the pain and restricted mobility with a variety of palliative measures: limited walking, Tai Chi, gentle yoga stretching, daily pain pills, weekly chiropractic treatments, and massage therapy. Yet other than surgery—a choice I was unwilling to make due to the risk of complications and limited chance for sustained improvement—there appeared to be no path for healing and wellness. That all changed for me when I was sixty-nine, and my chiropractor told me she would not continue to treat me unless I learned how to strengthen my muscles to keep the bones adjusted between our appointments. I did not want to lose my chiropractor, so when a friend told me about Katy Bowman’s movement classes, I went. Almost immediately I began to understand my body from a biomechanical point of view. I learned that injuries, pain, and inflammation are our bodies’ warning flags: we shouldn’t ignore them or power through them, but rather teach ourselves to heal using them as our guides. This whole-body model of wellness has taught me that our health is influenced more by our habits—the way we use, load, and live in our body—than by our age. Today at age seventy-nine (I’ll be eighty when this book is printed), without having had any surgery, I have regained my ability to walk without pain or impairment and to live with wellness in my body, mind, and spirit. Whole-body movement has made this possible in my life and I feel strong and capable walking the path to healing and wellness.

Lora


At sixty-eight, I was scheduled for the first of at least two surgeries that would have left me with a complete knee replacement. Through my work as an RN and dance-movement therapist, I thought I knew and had experienced all the self-help modalities and was resigned to “the knife.” A friend talked me into trying Katy’s exercise program. Although convinced that it was another incomplete answer, I decided I should try everything. And her program turned out to be just that: everything. I had endured restless leg syndrome since my teens (before it had a name). For six decades I lost an average of one night’s sleep every two weeks to nerve pain originating in my sacrum. After doing some of her exercises for two weeks, I began noticing that I wasn’t even getting twinges of my usual “restless leg.” That was an amazing finding for me, as I’d thought it was a familial malady. This success empowered me to cancel knee surgery and more frequently try gentle knee-stretching exercises for my frozen knee. Currently, at seventy-five, I can walk up to six miles on any terrain, and walk to all my in-town errands and appointments on my original biological equipment.
 
More important to me even than that was my ability to pack into the Sierra Mountains. Last year, I was able to join my sons and some grandkids on a one-week, lake-to-lake adventure. I carried one-fifth of my weight in supplies over beautiful but sometimes rugged and steep terrain. I started out early each day and was the last to arrive at the next camp, but I still feel both lucky and triumphant.
 
Incorporating the principles in this book into my daily activities has created opportunities to change life-long conditions I thought were “just me.” My biggest reward, however, is the excitement of students who, like me, are finding that aging isn’t bad after all—aging is an opportunity to move, play, and expand into new areas.

Shelah

 
I started classes with Katy at age sixty-six, when I retired from my job as a graphic designer (sitting at a computer a lot). I’m a life-long exerciser, but I was so impressed with the logic of the scientific theory of her program, I decided to do more than the exercises—I decided to take her teacher training program.
 
I’m a work in progress and a product of my long-term habits. While preparing for a trip just before my seventy-fifth birthday, I reached into my closet trying to find a garment and twisted too far (not a Katy-recommended movement, for sure), and the resulting back pain made it obvious something was very wrong. Because I wanted to go on my trip, I treated the pain aggressively (bad move) and finally went to my family doctor. An MRI showed serious scoliosis in my back accompanied by painful shearing of lumbar vertebrae.
 
After a very long month of doctor-prescribed inactivity except five- to ten-minute walks on level ground, I was well enough to start the basic exercises you’ll be learning in this book. Today at seventy-eight I can walk three to four miles daily in relative comfort. Healing at this stage of my life often takes a long time and, yes, it has tried my patience. Using the principles and exercises outlined here, my back is healing and I am slowly regaining my active lifestyle. Moving better doesn’t automatically mean you don’t get injured, but it makes you more resilient if you do. Katy’s teaching has given me the knowledge and tools to know what movements I can do, like hanging and core strengthening, and which movements I must be very careful doing—like twisting.

Note From the Goldeners

This book is for readers of any age. Attaining and maintaining mobility, strength, and balance is a lifetime task. When we were young, we learned to balance, optimize our stability, stay on our feet for extended periods of time, and walk upright with confidence. Then, our lives took us in a more sedentary direction until, lo and behold, we found that easy movement had been lost somewhere along the way. We have learned so many exercises through our training with Katy, but the exercises in this book are those that we feel have been key to regaining and maintaining the balance and mobility lost to us through years of neglect.
 
Katy will be giving the more technical information and guidelines throughout this book, but this is what we septuagenarians have found helpful to keep in mind:
Work to incorporate the basic alignment points and movements into your daily routine.
Treat your body with appreciation and respect.
Approach exercise with mindfulness, not force.
Remember even small changes add up to larger functional improvements.
 
One job of your muscles is to stabilize your joints to allow full function of your entire musculoskeletal system. The exercises in this book are designed to mobilize and strengthen neglected muscles for the purpose of improving your head-to-toe alignment and day-today function.
 
SAFETY FIRST. It is always important to check with your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have “replacement” parts, including but not limited to hip replacements or knee replacements.
 
DISTINGUISH BETWEEN PAIN AND NEW SENSATIONS. If you experience pain while doing an exercise, try other options or modifications offered or come back in a few days, and try it again. You are the boss of you! Take responsibility for your own safety and well-being.
 
CRAMPING may occur when muscles are being stretched or used in different ways. If you experience cramping during an exercise, you may STOP doing the exercise and allow the muscles to relax before doing it again.
 
SORENESS after exercise may occur as a result of using muscles (and joints, bones, and fascia) in a new way and/or overusing your tissue (going too far too fast). Be gentle with yourself as you try these exercises. Go slowly, focus on what you are doing, and be mindful of what your body is experiencing. Adjust accordingly.
 
SAFETY TIP: For added stability while doing any standing evaluation or exercise, we recommend you start by holding on to or leaning against a secure surface such as a counter, the back of a sofa, a wall, or a closed door to prevent falling. While the overall goal is to do these exercises without support, safety and prudence should always be primary concerns.

SUGGESTED EQUIPMENT

Thick and heavy book or yoga block
Chair with straight back and level seat
Rolled up towel or half foam roller (pictured below)
Tennis ball
Full-length mirror (very useful but not mandatory)
Mat (optional)
 
HALF FOAM ROLLER
 
Who Can Use this Book?
A book on dynamic aging is really for anyone, at any age. Truly, exercise programs should be geared to strength and skill levels rather than to any particular age, which can have little relevance to strength and skill levels, as you’re about to find out. And so, this book could be easily utilized by anyone wanting to be more dynamic but feeling like they’re starting from a place of little balance and strength.

CHAPTER 1

YOUR FEET ARE YOUR FOUNDATION

I love feet. In fact, I’ve written two whole books about them (Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief and Whole Body Barefoot). You should love your feet too. Not only are they amazingly complex—they each have thirty-three joints and over a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments—but they also serve as the foundation to almost every day-to-day task you perform. This is why stiff, painful, under-moved feet are the first body part you should start moving better if you’re finding your other parts—like knees and hips—difficult to move.
 
Even though most of what we do with our bodies—get up out of a chair, take a walk through the park, drive a car—requires we use our feet to a certain degree, we never really use the sophisticated machinery of our feet to their full potential. Instead, we use all of the many parts that make up our feet as one clump—one clump living inside of a shoe.
 
Chances are that you (like me until a few years ago, and probably also like almost everyone else you know) have spent the bulk of your life wearing “good” shoes. Stiff shoes. Supportive shoes. Shoes with elevated heels and limited space to stretch your toes. Shoes that, over decades, have sort of “casted” the muscles in your feet. This, combined with our excessive sitting and lack of walking on natural terrain (and many other habits we have), can lead to foot ailments such as bunions, hammertoes, bone spurs, plantar fasciitis, osteoarthritis, and neuropathy. If you don’t move all of the joints and muscles in your feet, then your circulation decreases, which has big implications for your ability to heal from injuries, especially important to those dealing with diabetes. Our immobilized feet can also lead to ailments that don’t seem immediately foot related—knee, hip, lower-back, and even neck pain can all be connected to your foot health.
 
Perhaps you’ve experienced so much pain that you’ve been prescribed special shoes or splints or orthotics; maybe you even have to limit your walking because of pain you’ve experienced.
 
But here’s the good news: It’s much more likely that your feet feel weak and stiff because you’ve spent a lifetime not using the muscles within them than it is your feet are weak and stiff solely due to their age.
 

Joan Says

I was always a barefoot girl. When I got into my forties, I began to notice pain in the balls of my feet when walking on a hard surface like a hardwood, tile, or concrete floor. Then I began noticing I could not walk barefoot at the beach without the balls of my feet hurting. I had never worn really high heels—nothing more than two inches. I was surprised and dismayed. I was prescribed orthotics for my dressy work shoes AND for my sporty tennis shoes. I had to wear them in just about every shoe I owned. However, there didn’t seem to be orthotics for heels. This created even more discomfort, because all my weight was being shoved down on the balls of my feet. I experienced pain when walking and standing and I got backaches. Whenever I could, I would slip off my shoes at work while sitting at my desk. And I wanted to sit a lot more of the time.
 
When I “retired” (left my lawyering days), I did a lot more Olympic-style race-walking and was paying well over $l00 a pair for walking shoes that were engineered with air or other devices supposedly to protect my feet from feeling any pain.
 
However, training for half marathons was not possible without orthotics. I finally resigned myself to the fact that I would wear orthotics for the rest of my life because I knew I wasn’t getting any younger. And we all know it’s all downhill physically as you get older (or so I had heard).
 
When I met with Katy for my first movement session, she explained the importance of getting my weight off the front of my feet and back onto my heels. For me this was a HUGE challenge because for nearly seventy years I had been standing with my pelvis forward, knees slightly bent, and weight on the balls of my feet. (It was if I had a magnet in my belly that was constantly being pulled toward my kitchen counter when I was washing dishes or preparing food.) She suggested I try reducing the height of my heel, cautioning me to start out wearing flat shoes for only a short time at first to allow my feet and body to adjust to having my weight more on the rear of my foot. But I couldn’t get the lower shoes to fit properly with my orthotics. She suggested I try my new shoes, along with my new exercises and foot mobility, without my orthotics. I was apprehensive but figured it would be self-limiting—if it hurt too much, I could just go back to my old shoes and orthotics.
 
Here we are, eight years later, and I’ve never gone back. Not only have I found it unnecessary to use my old whole-foot orthotics, I can again walk barefoot on the beach and for limited periods on the tile surfaces at home. Unfortunately, I have discovered the fat pads of the bottoms of my feet have either moved or disappeared, leaving my bones without cushions, so in my zero-drop and “barefoot” FiveFinger shoes, I now use a small, soft metatarsal pad and thin, flat liner pad cut just behind my toes to pad just under the soles of my feet. With this arrangement I hike three to five miles regularly on dirt trails, and do longer hikes in the nearby mountains and in the national parks. So not only has the condition of my feet improved, I am now doing something I never did before—using minimal shoes to improve my overall whole-body conditioning.
 
The Immobility Cycle
 
The longer we’ve been inactive, the less all our parts move, and the more we start doing things in our life that repeat the cycle. For example, sitting for long portions of each day for school and then work may have left the muscles in your legs weak, the joints in your knees and hips tight. When putting on a shoe every morning becomes a challenge—which is really another way of saying that moving in a particular way has become a challenge—we start opting for shoes that are easier to put on.
 
Shoes that require less hip and knee use are typically slip-ons, shoes that you can just poke your feet into. But here’s the thing: Slip-on shoes could just as easily be called slip-OFF shoes, which is why, when you wear them, you have to clench your toes and stiffen the muscles in your feet and ankles just to keep them on. Stiff feet are weak feet—feet that aren’t able to spread out into a wider, more stable base while you’re walking and can’t sense your environment and respond quickly.
 
While slippers and slide-on shoes are certainly a convenient way to address one consequence of stiff hips (i.e., difficulty putting on shoes), a “big picture” approach would be to work toward better hip mobility so that you don’t end up adding “tight feet” and “decreased balance” to what started as just a hip issue (see pages 182183 for an exercise to address this).
The following exercises are truly foundational in that they are designed to strengthen and mobilize the feet to improve their function and how they feel, but also in that larger movements and skills, like balance and walking, depend on well-functioning feet. We’re used to approaching our health in segments. Foot exercises are for the feet, hip stretches benefit the hips, and balance exercises are to improve balance. While this is true, exercises for the feet can also benefit the hips and balance. The effects of movement are holistic in nature, so if you’re thinking “my feet are fine, I want to jump to balance challenges,” know that each exercise in this book directly impacts all other movements you’d like your body to be able to do, and starting with the feet can make a huge impact because, as I’ve already mentioned, most other things you do with your body begin at the feet.
 
Case in point, the first exercise for your feet isn’t even a movement of the feet themselves: it’s a movement of your hips.

WEAR YOUR HIPS OVER YOUR HEELS

Most of us have been wearing shoes with a heel. It doesn’t matter if it’s one inch or three, conventional shoes all come with raised heels and that has forced many of us to shift our pelves forward to balance out the downhill slope we’ve strapped to our feet. Line your hips up over your ankles.
 
 
Barefoot-Friendly Floor Space
One of the reasons thick soles are recommended is because many of us have lost the ability to sense things with our feet, and may inadvertently step on something sharp enough to harm them. However, that puts us in a pickle—in order to redevelop our feet’s sense, we need to go unshod and make them healthier, which then puts our feet at risk. The solution is to create a barefoot-friendly floor space.
Vacuum an area you want to keep clear to make sure you don’t step on any sharp debris (think pins, needles, etc.).
For an extra layer of protection, roll out a thick towel or yoga mat over the area you’ve vacuumed.
If your feet are very sensitive, double up on floor coverings—put a mat over a carpet, or layer a blanket or many towels for cushioning.
Any time you’re going to your barefoot space, do another visual check for any items you don’t want to step on.

TOP OF THE FOOT STRETCH

The Top of the Foot Stretch stretches the muscles of your toes, feet, and ankles all at once, and targets any muscle clumps that might have developed due to too-tight shoes or postural habits.
This stretch is key to improving toe, foot, and ankle mobility.