Let's care for the caregivers

be connect Oct 04, 2019

As modern women, we take planning our lives very seriously. We schedule  appointments into our favourite daytimers (probably one of several), we write lists, and we shape our careers by carefully planning for all the different stages. We also plan for the transitions in the lives of our children and the subsequent changes in our homes. But one thing many of us fail to plan for is the eventual responsibilities of caregiving for someone we love who is ill or at end-of-life.

For some reason, having responsibilities for the care of parents never really factored into my own plans; it seemed like some esoteric idea that was seemingly years down the road. When my mother died, everything in my careful planning was turned on it’s ear.

I don’t think that in our grief, my sister and I could have ever imagined the toll that becoming the sole emotional support for my heartbroken, aging father would take. Before my mother’s death, my father was the pillar of the family - he...

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Let's all take a deep breath...

be connect Sep 13, 2019

Every year, I sit in a little booth while a technician coaches me to expand my lungs as much a possible. “Big breath in! And blow out as hard as you can”, she coaches, as she tests my lungs for overall function and capacity.

The exercise physiologist in me knows that a childhood of constant indoor exposure to secondhand smoke, working in smoke-filled pubs when I was young, along with my genetics, has likely led to my more delicate lungs in adulthood. When you work in health promotion, it feels quite humbling to manage your own chronic health problem, but I’m luckier than most asthmatics in that my condition has remained stable for the last 15 years.

My own experience (and those of loved ones) led me to an interest chronic disease prevention. We know unequivocally that some of the biggest killers and illness-producers (e.g., heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes) can be managed and/or prevented with reducing lifestyle- related risks. Twenty-five years ago, I...

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This week's top stories about women, health, and aging

connect eat move Aug 16, 2019

It’s hard not to feel a little down about the news of the world these days. There seems to be nothing but stories about gloom and doom. So, this week, I’m hoping to lighten things up with some good news stories about healthy living and aging. I’m writing about three studies that provide some good news about the power of healthy living for women over 50. Read on about how to reduce your risk of dementia with lifestyle, how working might actually be good for your cognitive health, and new way to manage that stubborn post-menopausal weight gain.

Healthy Lifestyle Offsets Genetic Risk for Dementia

Until recently, it seemed that there was not much you could do if you had a genetic risk of dementia. A new study is challenging this idea; it turns out that all the same things that lower your risk for chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer can also lower your risk of developing dementia – even if you are at risk genetically.

In the...

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The ultimate guide to the Mediterranean diet for women over 50

be connect eat May 29, 2019

When you think about the word diet, what images come to mind? Is it of the young, enthusiastic face telling you that their new magic supplement is going to help you shed 20 pounds? Or the less-than-appealing plate filled with portion-controlled servings? Endless days of cayenne and lemon juice fasting? I’m here to suggest that what you should be more likely envisioning is a long table in Spain peppered with celebration and filled with delicious food.

 

I’ve written a lot about healthy eating habits on the Age Sister blog site, but so far have been hesitant to recommend a specific diet. Lately, many readers have told me that they would feel better if they had a framework to follow when it comes to better eating. The idea of providing a better recommendation has led me to develop this post about what I consider to be the best eating pattern for older women – the Mediterranean diet.

 

Unlike many of the popular diet trends, research on the...

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What is forest bathing?

be connect move May 03, 2019

Shinrin-yoku is defined as “taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing”, and is a mix of mindfulness, physical activity and group experience. Although it sounds like you might end up in a body of water, forest bathing is instead just the art of fully immersing yourself in the experience of being in the woods. Shinrin-yoku is different from just taking a walk in the forest and is attracting a serious following.

Why is being in the woods so appealing to some people? Turns out that we are either “biophilic”, those outdoorsy types who are drawn to camping and hiking, or “biophobic”, those who see the outdoors as a somewhat threatening place, filled with unsavoury bugs and critters.

I must admit, I have a serious love affair with the forest. I’m not picky – if there are trees and something that resembles a path, I’m in. I have spent a huge amount of time in the woods in the past few years while trail-running. Sometimes I run...

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Why social wellness is so important in aging

be connect Apr 26, 2019

Having interpersonal relationships is one of the main ways that humans have evolved and endured. As people got older in early civilizations, supportive relationships were vital to their long-term survival.

You might be surprised to know that the importance of social connectedness has stubbornly persisted in to our modern life, and in fact, has one of the most profound impacts on our disease and mortality rates in aging. For women, social wellness is especially important because (bummer alert) we tend to outlive our partners.

Social wellness has its own field of study and has come to the forefront in healthy aging research and policy in the past decade. This week, I will help you explore the ways that improving your social connections can impact your health, and will offer five important tips for improving your social connections long-term.

Why is Social Wellness Important?

Typically, preventative health is focused on physical behaviours like quitting smoking, eating better,...

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Want to reduce your stress levels? Be. Here. Now.

be connect Mar 22, 2019

“This magnificent refuge is inside you.
Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway.
Be bold. Be humble.
Put away the incense and forget
the incantations they taught you.
Ask no permission from the authorities.
Close your eyes and follow your breath
to the still place that leads to the
invisible path that leads you home.”

St. Theresa of Avila

 

You may have noticed that I’m writing this blog post one day later than I normally would. Yesterday, with coffee in hand and feeling slightly smug that I had managed to carve out an entire day to write, my website went down.

Fast forward several hours after lot of panicked phone calls and hand- wringing, I stopped and took a breath. There was nothing I could do for at least a few hours. It was a beautiful spring day outside and I had two choices: I could let an annoying chain of events ruin my day, or I could put on my runners and go for a walk.

I decided that a good goal for the rest of the afternoon was to...

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For all that you do, this one’s for you. Happy International Women’s Day!

be connect Mar 08, 2019
My sister and I fell in love with the same piece of public art, entirely independently of one another. There was something so powerful about that piece that we both remembered it in a conversation years later. The main body of the sculpture was a woman in a dress, staring steadily into the eyes of the observer. Her calm, vacant expression almost made you want to look away.

Coming from the woman’s head were multiple complex structures, her body a tree trunk, growing massive sets of branches from her skull. On closer inspection, each branch was revealed as an upside-down person. There were babies, children, older people, teenagers, friends and acquaintances.

That beautiful piece so perfectly depicted the life of a woman. It was one of those works of art that takes your breath away – one that captures a life so perfectly that the image has always stuck with me.

I thought a lot about that sculpture when trying to put words to International Women’s Day. It’s hard...
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Spark joy in your health?

be connect Feb 21, 2019

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” 

Joseph Campbell, Professor of Literature

If you’ve watched the Netflix show “Tidying up with Marie Kondo”, then like me, you’re equally mesmerized by the diminutive Japanese woman who helps people get their homes (and lives) in order. One of the most appealing things about her approach is her use of the Kon Mari method to simplify spaces. This is done not by simply reducing clutter, but rather by asking her clients to keep things only if they spark joy.

Given that home organization is not a new concept, why is Marie Kondo so incredibly popular? My theory is that her gentle nudges toward respect and acknowledgment of inanimate objects seems like a way to teach her audience to live a more mindful life; if you must stop and think about the meaning of every item in your home, eventually you will make more measured decisions...

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Are we really ready to talk about mental health?

be connect Jan 28, 2019

“Everyone has a story that will break your heart. And, if you’re really paying attention, most people have a story that will bring you to your knees” 

Dr. Brene Brown, Research Professor, University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

My mother stayed in bed almost every single morning, while we all got ready for school. Before he left for his own busy day of work, my father made our lunches and made sure we got off to the schoolbus. We knew at some point later in the morning, my Mum would have a slow moving readjustment to the world and would eventually emerge from the bedroom. Her day was usually one that was filled with cigarettes, books, and solitude.

My mother’s mood seemed to always colored by her past. Her early life was filled with the trauma of being shipped off to boarding school as a toddler, only to see her mother for a brief period each summer. She often recounted the pain of having no physical contact or emotional support...

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