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A constantly curious and melancholic wanderer...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

How to become an Age Warrior...

How to become an Age Warrior (and the Occupational Therapist’s role in the process). 

We all fight different battles in life. Life is often referred to as a battlefield.  But as we fight our different battles we also find meaning in life.  We start to appreciate the things we are fighting for.  We fight for hope and happiness and peace.  We are on this quest to find meaning in life, even though we don’t always understand why it sometimes must be such a struggle.  

While everyone’s battles might be different, becoming older is a battle for most people.  There are so many changes and some of them you can feel in your body and others you feel on a deeper level.  Suddenly the children are out of the house and you don’t have the role as parent anymore (at least not in the same way as for the first 18 – 20 years) and then you face retirement and loss of identity when you suddenly don’t know who you are without your job.  At a certain age, you start experiencing losses in terms of loved ones who die and who you can never see again.  Your physical abilities change, your memory and ability to concentrate change.  Your ability to contribute to society change.  The way people view you change. 

And yet, this article is not to tell you about the battle of ageing, but rather to tell you about the joys that comes with the added grey hairs.   And to encourage you to keep on fighting for hope and happiness and peace.  To continue to find meaning in life.  It is to prepare you for the battlefield of ageing and guide you on how to become an Age Warrior and to celebrate this next phase in your life.  It is a beautiful phase, despite the difficulties it may bring.  You are worth so much!  You have had years of refining and shaping this person that you are.  You need to share it with the world. 

What is Active Ageing:

Active ageing is a term that was adopted by the World Health Organization in the late 1900’s.  It conveys a more inclusive message than “healthy ageing” as it not only shows the variety of factors that contribute to “healthy ageing”, but also the continuing participation of the ageing individual in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs.  Active ageing aims to extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life for all people as they age, including those who are frail, disabled and in need of care. [1] Maintaining autonomy and independence as one grows older is a key goal and this is where the role of an Occupational Therapist becomes very important. 

What is an Occupational Therapist: 

            Occupational Therapy involves helping people live more independent and productive lives by the use of meaningful activities to promote participation in everyday life.  It is focused on improving life skills which can lead to better quality of life. [2]

·      “Occupational therapists facilitate optimal occupational performance and community participation across the full spectrum of ability, from healthy adults actively engaged in their communities to those who are coping with serious physical and mental health conditions in more supported environments like assisted living facilities and nursing homes” (Ad Hoc Group on Aging, 2007, p. 1).

A program will be run by an Occupational Therapist on Active Ageing that will be presented in the form of groups.  The aim of this program is to guide you to become an Age Warrior. It will equip you to promote and maintain your health, abilities and function.  It will prevent and slow down loss of independence. It will improve quality of life and help you to continue finding meaning in your life. It is aim at empowerment through knowledge.  Remember, knowledge is power!!! And yet knowledge is only half the battle.  You will only become an Age Warrior if you do something about the knowledge you are given.  

What is often a problem for senior citizens is the fact that they need a lot of information whether medically, legally or about preventative measures, but that there is not always a single health professional willing to look at all the information and not just the symptoms and exploring an action plan with and not for the individual.  This program will aim to provide that supportive environment, giving relevant information, individualized planning sessions and intervention strategies.

The program will be divided in different themes, exploring the different aspects that are important in the active ageing process.  Here are a few tips taken from the program on how to start the process of becoming an Age Warrior:

            Change your mindset.  
      We want the world to change their mindsets about ageing and tear down the stereotypes and ideas that are common to ageism.  But have you changed your own mindset?  Do you believe you are capable and still has a valuable contribution to make to society?  The changes that comes with age, will only limit you as much as you allow it to.  Did you know that there is growing literature pointing to the unique strengths of older adults?  Our knowledge continues to grow as we get older and we have a better understanding of the world.  Studies show that senior citizens have more creative problem solving skills in everyday life and that emotional experience and emotional balance improve with age.  This improved perspective of the world, is what gives elders wisdom, that cannot be attained at younger ages.  [3]

            Be informed.  
      We live in a world that is full of information. You can self-diagnose from the internet these days and every person can instantly become an expert on certain topics.  It is however important that the information you find is reliable.  Make sure your information comes from established institutions that have been around for a while. Non-profit organizations that are specializing in the information you are seeking is a good place to start. Reliable health websites of organizations like WHO and National Institute on Aging can give valuable information or use MedlinePlus to look up a specific condition.  Keep record of the information together with your action plans that you want to take to apply the newly learned info.  Discuss these plans with trusted family members and friends to hear different opinions on the matter.

            Accept and Adapt.  
      Even Age Warriors will experience some functional losses as part of the ageing process. Warriors are known for their wisdom.  This includes knowing how to fight the different battles.  Off-course the biggest technique to avoid functional loss will be prevention and this is part of a life-course method. Avoiding health risk behaviors like smoking and excessive drinking, being physically, socially and spiritually active are all things that can decrease the amount of functional loss as you become older.  There is however a circle of life process that we cannot deny.  If you start to experience functional loss, remember that early screenings and treatment has proven benefits of slowing down the process.  The next step is to accept and adaptWe all need help and support from time to time.  You might need help more often as you get older – either using assistive devices, aids, or sometimes from a person.  Allow yourself to find the balance between accepting help and living as independently as possible. [4]  You are not putting yourself in a box by accepting help.  If you make the decision to seek help, you are taking control of your live and health. 

            Use your Senses. 
    We receive sensory input every second and we are often not even aware of this process as it is our bodies natural way of understanding our environment.  But why not purposefully start stimulating your senses more and more?  Most older adults will experience some changes in their sensory capacity (vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch sensation) as a normal part of ageing.  Why not counteract some of these changes, by increasing your exposure to sensory stimulation.  Sensory stimulation is a method of therapy often used by health care professionals for people with dementia or cognitive deficits as their opportunities for using their senses are limited.  However, the times we are living in, often restricts us from experiencing those very beneficial stimuli that we need.  We almost never walk barefoot and therefore don’t get much sensation under our feet.  This is something that is important as we have reflexology points under our feet that benefit from stimulation.  We don’t have time to just take in the smells and sounds and beautiful images we are surrounded with. Sensory stimulation is something that we all need to seek out and enjoy every day. Think of creative ideas to stimulate your senses everyday

     There are many aspects of wellness that is important to consider.  Taking wellness domains into consideration when thinking of our health and quality of life means that we make use of a holistic life approach.  Look for organizations that promotes wellness and make sure that any health care professionals you see and their prescriptions considers you holistically and aims to achieve wellness in the different areas.  Meditate!  There are recent studies that show that long-term meditation may slow brain ageing. [5]  Meditation is also known for its effects on reducing stress and anxiety levels which contributes to overall better health and quality of life. [6] Meditation does not only have to be seen in a traditional aspect, but can mean any time set aside for relaxing, thinking and contemplating.  Our minds need shutting down from time to time and this can be achieved through active meditation.  Find a quiet spot on your own, or put on some calming music while meditating.  Start with a few minutes a day and try to increase this as you continue.  Avoid distractions like mobile phones, or thinking about to-do lists. 

            Make memories:  
      When you reach a certain age, you start worrying about your memory.  You get worried when you can’t remember people’s names or important dates and even forgetting where you put your keys.  What is important though is to be able to determine what is part of normal ageing and what is not.  A good question to ask yourself (or even a trusted friend or family member) if you are worried about your memory is:  Is this “memory loss” affecting my everyday living in any way? (for instance, forgetting where you put your keys vs forgetting what you use the keys for) Even if there are small ways in which it does affect your daily functioning, then you still don’t need to immediately panic. There are many ways of improving and maintaining memory and many memory aids to use to help you remember important information.  If you do feel worried about your memory or your family/friends have mentioned this to you a few times, you could get an early memory screening test done and then be well-prepared for the future.  Another important thing to remember is to make new and special memories every day.  You don’t need perfect memory in order to make memories. 

            Get moving!  
      There are few things as important as exercise, not only as we age, but throughout our lives.  This does not only contribute make us feel good and improve our quality of life, but is also one of the biggest factors of preventing disease, functional loss and mental decline.  Find an exercise program that works for you and that is within your abilities and try to stick to it.  Walking has many benefits and can be enjoyed by most people without any equipment.  You could either walk for longer periods at a steady pace or try shorter bursts of more intense walking, adding some stairs or hills etc.  There are also many other exercises that can be adjusted to suit your needs for instance yoga, tai chi and water gym.  If you have some loss of mobility, then you can still move your limbs and joints even when sitting or lying down to get some stretching done and prevent the joints from becoming stiff.  Start slow and then move forward. 

            Connect! The most important thing in life is the connection we make with others.”  Tom Ford.  Our connections change throughout the course of our lives, and due to circumstances or different life paths we lose connection with some people.  The important thing is to keep on being connected in some or other way.  Social isolation is a serious health risk and can increase the chances of mortality.  [7]  The three plagues that causes the bulk of suffering in older people are loneliness, helplessness and boredom.  [8]   Age Warriors need to fight these plagues through staying connected in various ways.  Think of different ways to stay connected by joining a class, volunteering, or get connected on social media.  Stay spiritually connected.  Find ways to stay connected spiritually depending on your religion or different beliefs. Having a rich spiritual life contributes to meaning to life.

            Don’t ignore signs of depression and/or anxiety. 
      Depression is not a normal part of ageing.  It is a medical and treatable condition. The symptoms are often seen as typical problems of ageing.  Be aware of the difference.   Anxiety is known as they silent Geriatric Giant.  It is twice as common as dementia and 4 – 8 times more common than major depressive disorder.  Do not overlook and neglect symptoms of these disorders.  Rather seek help.  Think about whether any of the symptoms you experience from time to time affect your functioning and quality of life.   Even though there are many different activities that can improve mood and help you feel more relaxed, it is important to know that there are also medical help that can make a big difference. 

            Think about the Future.  
       This does not mean that you need to worry constantly about the future, but Age Warriors fight the battle by being prepared for the future.  When thinking of the future it is important to be informed, to find someone that you trust to be part of the process, to be realistic and to make wise decision.

            Remember who you are. 
      Think about how you want to be remembered.  Write some of your stories from the past down.  Have moments of reminiscing with friends or family, sharing old photos or keepsakes with them.  Write down things about your personality, your likes and dislikes, taste in music, favourite food, music, movies etc and this could form part of your care plan if needed in the future.  Remind people that you are more than your age, show them the person that you have always been.  Be proud of that person!

            Celebrating the Third Age.  
      You have come so far!  This is just the next chapter in your book.  And it is not always about the happy ending.  It is about the story. 

(Keep an eye out for follow-up articles and helpful tips on the different aspects of active ageing mentioned in the article.)

[1] WHO:  Active Ageing; A Policy Framework
[2] ASCS Senior Care:  Occupational Therapy for Seniors has many benefits (website)
[3] World Economic Forum:  Global Population Ageing, Promise or Peril?  Chapter 1
[4] The University Hospitals of Columbia and Cornell.  Handout on Aging and Loss of Independence. 
[5] Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy.  Eileen Luders, Nicoals Cherbuin and Florian Kurth.
[6] https://www.mymedicarematters.org/2017/05/7-tips-for-wellness-and-healthy-aging/
[7] A Place for Mom:  20 Facts about Senior Isolation that will stun you. 
[8] Eden Alternative ™ 10 Principles

Thursday, August 17, 2017

a little poem

I wish I could be one of those people who could just blog everyday and read the news everyday and stay up to date and achieve all these small goals that I set up for myself. I try, I really do... but before I know it - Life happened again and it's been 6 months since I wrote anything and I loose touch with the world out there and get caught up in my own (mostly wonderful) mess.

Here are a few things I do get to do everyday...

  • wake up next to my favourite person (even though I'm really not a morning person and he probably does not feel like my favourite person if it depends on my morning groans) 
  • have lots of cuddles and kisses and pretend play and giggles with my 2 year old boy 
  • feel thankful for the good things in my life 
  • listen to the moana soundtrack at least once a day (less thankful about this one) 
  • prepare healthy food for my family (well most days, some days you just feel like cheating I guess) 
  • work  a little on a new project that involves one of my favourite thing in the world - geriatrics 
  • learn a few new words or phrases in French (actually this does not happen every day, but I really do try and keep up with my studies.)  Il'ya un serpent dans ma botte- he he.  
  • take a few photos on my phone of my somewhat boring life and share it on instagram (sadly the camera we bought broke and the part that needs to be replaced is not made anymore - would have been nice if the lady who sold it to me told me that - so that part of my life is on hold) 
  • talk to God about life and how I never achieve all my goals, but how I am so happy He loves me anyway :) 

Things that I am definitely neglecting is writing and reading... I don't know if that will change soon, but every now and then I come across such beautiful writing that it inspires me.  A while back my husband shared with me this poem that was played in the Season Finale of Penny Dreadful (one of those shows he watch that I should apparently avoid, because I am a sensitive soul) and I thought it was so wonderfully melancholic and touching.  Usually I like to translate poems that touch me in my own language, so I will be sharing the original poem and my version in Afrikaans with you.  

Just a quick hallo from the little island of Mauritius... I can't promise that I will write again soon, but I will always continue writing in some way or another.  

Maybe next time I write it will be how I am achieving all my daily goals... but probably not. Nevertheless I will still be me ;) 

 Ode on Intimations of Immortality from 
Recollections of Early Childhood

William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, The earth, and every common sight To me did seem Apparelled in celestial light, The glory and the freshness of a dream. It is not now as it has been of yore; - Turn wheresoe’er I may, By night or day, The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
  The rainbow comes and goes,  And lovely is the rose; The moon doth with delight  Look round her when the heavens are bare Waters on a starry night Are beautiful and fair; The sunshine is a glorious birth;

Daar was 'n tyd toe veld en sloot en stroom 
- die heelal en elke alledaagse deel - 
vir my kon voorkom soos 'n droom 
omring met 'n heilige glans 
kon dit my gedagtes laat dans 

en elke oomblik van die dag of nag, 
met hierdie droom in my hart 
kon ek alles in 'n oomblik vermag 


kyk my oë steeds maar sien nie meer nie 
my droom was eens en toe nooit weer nie


die reënboog kom en gaan
die roos bring wel weer troos 
die maan loer hoopvol rond 
al is die hemel kaler as die grond 

water wys die sterreprag 
dit skitter tot die end

en dan word die sonsopkoms 
'n nuutgebore wens 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My secret affair

 On request of my writer's group... (some facts; we do have a wine fridge, we are married, we do give the Valentine's Day presents as mentioned, and those were some of my vows...but mostly fictional)

To make such a confession right after Valentine's Day, could come as a bit of a shock.

Or maybe it's quite fitting.  Does Valentine's Day  become a bit forced after so many years of marriage?  Does it actually point to what could be wrong in relationships?

I don't know...

I remember I used to find Valentine's Day cliched and I swore never to be sucked into the commercialisation and shallowness of it all.  But then I met my husband and suddenly I wanted to be corny with someone on the 14th of February.  I guess that's why this year I still made him the usual music mix and he bought me beautiful red roses.

But let me get back to my confession... my secret affair.  That thing I promised on my wedding day would never be an option.  "I promise to laugh at your silly jokes and make you feel like the most important person in my life (the words echo through my mind, accusing me of forgetting too soon).

It all started the day he told me he wanted to buy a wine fridge.  I did not approve.  It felt like a waste of money and space in our already cluttered home.  But I finally gave in and it arrived and my husband stocked it with a gallery of wines; white ones, red ones, different vintages and blends and selection wines from smaller vineyards.  Names I never heard before suddenly became well-known in our house - for instance; David and Nadia, Boschkloof, the Sadie Family and Mullineux.

I soon realised this was more than just a hobby.  It was becoming a hobby and an expensive one.

I was feeling angry and neglected... Isn't that how most affairs begin?

I would look at him as his fingers touched these bottles in such a tender way, exploring the suppleness of every new one he took out.  Undressing the bottle with his eyes, opening them with such care, scared to spill a drop of it's precious content.  Then pouring it into the glass, looking admiringly at the colour, taking in the intoxicating smell and finally bringing the glass to his lips, taking that first sip, getting completely lost in its taste.

I wanted him to look at me like that, to smell my hair like he used to, to taste me and loose himself in our embrace.

He asked me to drink with him and share in his new hobby, but I refused.  Maybe out of fear of loosing control or maybe because of the joy this seemed to bring him and how it accentuated the emptiness I felt.

After a few months, I could stand it no more.  It was time I took action... I needed some excitement of my own.  I wanted all my senses to be stimulated, reminding me that I am alive.

I waited until he had a meeting at the office that I knew would continue until late.  I showered and put on my new lingerie that I knew showed just enough to make someone feel enticed and wanting to see more.

I put on my favourite perfume and red, slightly daring lipstick to make my mouth seem fuller, more inviting.  I went downstairs slowly...my heart was pounding now.  I had no idea if I was ready for what I was about to do.

I open the door of the wine fridge and take out a tall, dark bottle.  It was a wine I was not familiar with, called Beeslaar Pinotage.

My glass was already out and I pour the velvet, deep red wine and watches as it moves from side to side, like waves in the searching ocean, before it settles.

I look at the colour - it appeared dark in the bottle, but holding it up against the light I can see that it is lighter than portrayed at first glance.  I take time to really smell it - like I have seen my husband doing so many times.  I close my eyes and forget about my surroundings while trying to only focus on what I can smell.  The subtle nuances of pomegranate and plum with just a hint of spice tease my nose.  I continue to keep my eyes closed and open my lips slightly, and take the first sip.  I don't swallow it immediately but swirl it around in my mouth, exploring the tempting taste with my tongue.

I feel a slight explosion of senses happening in me, creeping through my body, making me feel totally relaxed

I think back to the last few years.  My husband sometimes trying to smell my hair, but me pushing him away, because I am busy with a household task that cannot wait.  I remember so many times he folded his arms around me and kissed me in my neck, and me focusing his attention on something he didn't complete yet for me.

I take another sip - the first ecstasy wearing off and now leaving me with a content feeling - knowing what I have in the glass and the feeling it produces in my body.

I have what I need, I realise.  He wants to share his new love with me because I am and will always be his first love.  He wants to touch me and taste me and show his love to me...

I pour myself another glass and wait for my lover to come home.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Journalist for a Day

Sometimes I forget that I used to study journalism for a year before I settled on my Occupational Therapy degree.  I love writing and even though in the end I did not see myself as a journalist, it is still fun to sometimes have opportunities to use some of my skills obtained in that first year of studies.  My little writer club's assignment for the month was writing a newspaper article, so I decided to write about Meryl Streep's powerful speech at the Golden Globes as well as the fact that social media and the internet makes it easier to find and share information, but so much more difficult to find the truth.  

Meryl Streep Trumps with Golden Globe speech

This year’s 74th Golden Globe Awards Ceremony had many memorable moments from the Hollywood stars but included an underlying tension about the future, in particular with the upcoming inauguration of the controversial president-elect of the United States, Donald Trump.  

Although there were a few jokes about Trump during the ceremony, it was Meryl Streep who took the opportunity on stage to voice her disappointment in the people’s choice during November elections.   Streep who received a lifetime achievement award and is called the greatest actress of her generation, used the podium to address what she calls “poor performance” by the man who is about to fill the country’s most powerful seat this Friday, 20 January 2017.  She specifically referred to an incident where Trump allegedly mocked a news reporter with a disability.  Streep continued with a powerful statement saying:  “This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Trump had a quick response on Twitter saying that he was not surprised by Streep’s remarks, calling her a “Hillary-lover” and denying that he mocked the reporter, Serge F Kovaleski. Kovaleski, a South-African born reporter writing for the New York Times, suffers from a chronic condition called arthrogryposis, which limits the functioning of his joints.   Trump has continually claimed that he has never met Kovaleski and therefore could not have mocked his disability and stated he was rather referring to what a “flustered reporter” would look like.  According to Kavoleski, he and Trump not only met on a regular basis for interviews and articles, but were on first-name basis for years. 

Trump continued on Twitter, calling Meryl Streep one of Hollywood’s most over-rated actresses. This is just one of many occasions where Trump has made use of social media to respond to claims about his integrity, or to share his unconventional views on sensitive topics.  It is clear that social media played a major role in this presidential election and that Trump’s showmanship and raw unfiltered use of it, sparked interest in many voters and the 19.3 million followers he has on Twitter.  This, together with a general drop in trust of mass media, could have played a role in his surprising victory on 9 November 2016.  According to social media experts, less than one in three Americans  still have confidence in the media to “report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.” Among Republicans especially, trust of media is lower than the norm. 

Streep who has been nominated for 19 Academy Awards and 30 Golden Globes, holds the record for the most nominated actor of all time.  In total she has received 157 different awards internationally, 3 of them Academy Awards.  In her lifetime achievement speech she focused on the importance of diversity and empathy towards human beings.  She also asked the public to support the committees protecting journalists and the press who we need to “safeguard the truth”.  

The question remains what the future will hold for a world seemingly ruled by social media and unsupported tweets and feeds.  Where values are easily forgotten through internet shaming or trying to get more likes and shares and where people seem to lose the ability to find the truth amongst the noise of loud voices. We can only hope the truth will continue to set free, open eyes and break down any walls being put up.