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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Stroke of Dawn

         Last Saturday, I had a very busy morning including walking home from downtown Langley. It took about an hour and a half.  When I got home, close to six o’clock, I felt quite tired and decided to go to bed and read some of the novel I am currently reading.  I went up stairs, took off my shoes, climbed beneath the bedspread and started reading. After a short time I fell asleep. This is the usual way I go to sleep when I go to bed later in the evening.
         I woke up a couple of hours latter and went downstairs where I found Elizabeth working away on her laptop. Without thinking I said, “ Did you stay up all night?” [Note that she usually comes to bed at night after I have fallen asleep.]   She had a shocked look on her face as she looked up. “It’s only 6 pm,” she said.  Then it was me who had the shocked look on my face. I went back up stairs and gradually my actions earlier in the afternoon came back to me. Later on in the evening, after it got dark, Elizabeth said, “I’m worried, that maybe you’ve had a stroke.” 
         Not knowing much about strokes I began a search through the literature.  The first article I found is listed below.[i]  In it a team of researchers found that “Exercise training for ambulatory stroke patients was feasible and led to significantly greater benefits in aspects of physical function and perceived effect of physical health on daily life.”  The strokes are related to interruption of normal blood flow in the brain and it makes sense that an active life helps keep the blood flowing. Other studies confirm that idea.
         I wanted to find out about the symptoms that indicate a possible stroke. Here is some information I found on Google.
ü    Diarrhea
ü    Weakness on one side of the body
ü    Numbness on one side of the face
ü    Heart burn
ü    Slurred or garbled speech
ü    Swollen ankles
ü    Sudden confusion
ü    Fever
ü    Loss of balance
ü    Excessive tiredness
ü    Trouble walking
ü    Sudden pain in one arm
ü    Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
ü    Difficulty breathing
ü    Sudden, severe headache
ü    Chest pain
ü    Sudden unexplained dizziness
         One of the activities I have been doing with increasing frequently and for longer periods of time is meditation. I wondered if it could be helpful.  So, I went back to google and found some interesting information connected specifically with Transcendental Meditation. For instance researchers found that:

“There was a 43% reduction in risk for all causes of mortality, myocardial infarction and strokes in the group of high-risk patients who practiced transcendental meditation compared with the group receiving health education. Other results included lowered blood pressure, body mass index and propensity towards depression, anger and hostility.”
         In fact Transcendental Meditation(TM) has been connected with moderating heart disease, hypertension and strokes.  Below are listed some findings supporting the power of TM by institutions like Harvard, Yale, and UCLA Medical School. They are:                                                                                                                                            
·      Reduced high blood pressure and death rates
·      Slowing of aging
·      Increased Creativity
·      Improved Memory
·      Decreased Anxiety and
·      Reduced Alcohol Abuse
         The material above has specifically focused on the use of Transcendental meditation as a tool to reduce strokes and stress.
          I think that meditation itself no matter what its specific procedures are can help us maintain a sense of being that not only reduces the likelihood of strokes but will also help those of us who have experienced a stroke or strokes to adapt the best we can. 
         I found another interesting article[ii] written by Walter O’Connell in 1984.  He refers to meditation as the “mind’s medication.” O’Connell states the “…meditative practices are of the utmost importance in precipitating life style changes in natural high therapy.” Learning how to observe our “inner i-ness” helps us relax in the here and now.  It also helps us be aware of the world around us without needing to judge it or ourselves.
         As I explore my inner selves through meditation, I am learning to understand the sources of my stress and my biases about the world around me.  Continuing to do this and being here now helps me live my life in the best way possible.  From now on I will pay attention to the stroke factors discussed above in this blog entry and I will continue to stay in the here and now as often as I can.  I will also be getting my annual general medical checkup in May of this year and will definitely report my experiences to my doctor. In the mean time if you have had some relevant experience I would appreciate your comments.

[i]   Mead, G.E., C.A. Greig, et al.(2007). Stroke: A Randomized Trial of Exercise or             Relaxation, GAGS, 55, 892-899


ii  Meditation Can Reduce Heart Attacks, Strokes And Death ...

            Meditation Can Reduce Heart Attacks, Strokes And Death. Posted Sat,   2009/12/12 - 00:14      by Amer Kaissi in Mind and body. › Beyond Science  Mind and body - Cached

iii. Letting O’Connell. W. (1984).  Letting go and hanging on: Confessions of a Zen Adlerian. Individual psychoanalysis: Journal of Adlerian Theory, Research and  Practice,40., (1), 71-82 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Attitudes Toward Getting Old

          Several nights ago, I accompanied my wife to Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Annual Fine Arts Exhibition Opening in which four of her very excellent paintings are being displayed.  While I was there I had two interesting conversations. One was Phil Warren a former Psychology Professor from Kwantlen who retired in 1995 and still has clients in his counseling practice.  The other conversation was with a man who is 83 years old who has his own company and is very active in the community. We had a long conversation. Both of these two gentleman appear to have direction, goals and are continuing to adjust to late life.
         This afternoon Elizabeth looked up from her laptop and said. “How do you feel about your aging?  My mind went blank.  Her question and my previous conversations triggered this blog entry.  I surfed around and found the following Attitudes Toward Aging Questionnaire.  If any of the following ideas are causing or likely to cause you stress, it might be a good idea to consider talking with a counselor.  I intend to personally use them to examine my upcoming adjustment to retirement.

  1.  Old age will be an enjoyable time of life
  2.  I worry that I might become senile and lose my mind.
  3.  I hope that I might look back on my life with a sense of pride.
  4.  I will be more lonely than I am now.
  5.  Older age brings satisfactions, which are not available to the young.
  6.  Becoming frail is rarely an issue, which concerns me.
  7.  I worry about dying and leaving behind those I love.
  8.  It worries me that I won’t enjoy life as much as I do now.
  9.  I find the thought of growing old depressing
  10.   Life can get better once you pass middle age
11.  I will regret the loss of strength and happiness.
12.  I don’t think there is much to be scared about becoming and older person.
13. I worry about loss of independence
14. I expect to be a loving caring person
15. I will be able to accept the death of friends and loved ones as a natural part of life.
16. I look forward to growing old with someone I love.
17. I worry about becoming frail.
18. I will become more irritable and grouchy than I am now.
19. Others may find me difficult to get along with
20. I will be more set in my ways and more reluctant to change.
21. I won’t like growing old
22. I do not worry about becoming senile and losing my mind.
23. I worry about the loss of loved ones around me
24. In my old age I will be as enthusiastic about life as I am now.
25. There is a lot to look forward to in growing old.
26. I won’t feel as safe on my own as I do now.
27. I am concerned about who will care for me if I become frail.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Social Capital: Giving Back to the Community

        Is retirement a time for doing all the things we have not been able to do before or is it the period of time when we face the decline of aging and death?  According to [1] Kelly & Brratt,  “The fantasy of a blissful return to a time when anything is possible, as it was in our youth, is encouraged by the media.”[i] But this seems to primarily be a method of selling anti-aging products.
         There is another way to look at retirement that is expressed by Maynard & Kleiber[ii].  Their article moves beyond desires for individual satisfaction and recreation and connects us with continued relationships within our community. They do this using the concept of “social capital” which shows ways that we can remain active and become more civically engaged through informal social connections.  The concept of social capital goes way back to the ancient philosopher Aristotle’s view that leisure is an important factor in our quest for excellence.  Aristotle believed that “activities are what determines the character of life.” The key to this idea is that happiness can be gained through connections and activities within our social networks.
         Maynard and Kleiber define social capital as reciprocity, social connectedness and trust. One key idea that is related to my own activity is the importance of strengthening intergenerational relations, beyond those within one’s own family. Engaging in these activities can have the effect of creating social capital.
         Within this framework Elizabeth and I have founded ICAL.CA and The Intergenerational Centre For Action Learning. With these two organizations we have begun creating projects within the community where older and younger persons can perform activates together. To facilitate this work we have also created a website:
         Maynard and Kleiber assert that “..strong citizenship requires considerable time and resources. For this reason, we have identified retirees as having great potential for generating social capital and for strengthening citizenship due to their relative economic stability and available time.”
 If you are nearing retirement or already retired, what can you bring to the community that will not only make you happy but strengthen relationships and build social capital?

[i]  Kelly, M. I Brratt, G. (2007). Retirement: phantasy and reality dying in the saddle or             facing up to it. Psychodynamic Practice  13(2): 197-202.
[ii]  Maynard, S.S. & Kleiber, D.A. (2005). Using leisure services to build social capital in             later life: classical traditions, contemporary realities, and emerging possibilities,             Journal of Leisure Research, 37, 475-493.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Leisure In The Here and Now

Today, I went surfing through the research database searching for something to write about. I was not sure what I was looking for. My last blog entry, published several days ago, was about leisure activity so I decided to see if I could improve my understanding of the topic and create a blog entry that would express what I found. A couple of new insights have immerged.
         Besides my personal comments I will refer to two articles and a book.1 In the first article, Kleibler et al report “Leisure is generally assumed to be the context with the greatest amount of freedom in one’s life…” Further in the article they quote another author who indicates that “…we should learn to view limits on the possibilities we face as liberating and not constraining”. The first of my “insights” was seeing meditation as a form of liberating leisure activity. 
          Other researchers, Tyson & Pongruengphant, state that “Stress is the difference between what is and what we think is, that is created by our motivations, needs desires, and expectations.”  I have been able to detach from these factors when, through meditation, I stay in the here and now.  I do this by chanting, paying close attention to the ringing in my ears and/or paying attention to my breath as it moves in and out of my nose.
         Kleibler et al also write that “Seeing constraint as an advantage is a kind of wisdom. It reflects an awareness of the value of discrimination and selection ‘reducing the noise’ of multiple possibilities to facilitate optimization of those activities that are most important.”
         That idea is very close to what R.A.I.N[i] does. In meditation terms it means: Recognition: Recognize thoughts as they emerge from my unconscious. Find a name for them.  Acceptance: Relax and accept them but don’t get attached. Investigate: Look deeply into what you are experiencing and finally Non-identification: Let go of the thoughts and return to concentrating on breathing.  Following this process allows me to stay in the here and now and at the same time continue investigating the vast number of interior “selves’ without getting attached to them.
          Kleiber et al then go on to state “…the emergence of some limitation or constraint often causes adjustments that bring benefits that would not otherwise have been foreseen, beyond simply the learning of resilience and perseverance.” This happens as a consequence of meditation.  Until now I had not thought of meditation as leisure activity. The beauty of it all is that we have the possibility to do this type of leisure activity any time, anywhere. And it is a marvelous counter process to stress.
         As I finish this blog entry, I want to make it clear that I have a long way to go before I reach a condition of  “enlightenment.” Life continues to be a long journey. The benefit of the leisure of meditation’s stress reduction is greatly appreciated as I travel along the path/  

1Klieber, D., McGuire, F.A., Aybar-Damali, B. & Norman, W. (2008)  Having more by doing     less: The paradox of leisure constraints in later life. Journal of Aging  Research, 40, 343-359.

Tyson, P.D. & Pongruengphant, R. (2007). Buddhist and western perspectives on suffering, stress, and coping. Journal of Religious Health, 46, 351-357
  Kornfield, J. (2008) The Wise Heart: A guide to the universal teachings of  Buddhist psychology, The Random House Publishing group

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Retirement Travel

     Travel is the second most common leisure activity reported by many retirees.  Retirement can provide us with an opportunity for personal growth through expanded leisure activity beyond fishing and playing golf. It can also help us develop new senses of identity without interference of routassociated with our work roles.
         Travel as a retirement transition activity can takes us away from both interactions with co-workers and home settings with family obligations. I have some close friends who, after retiring six years ago purchased an RV soon after retirement. They are still enjoying travel to many places in the United States and Canada. 
         Several years ago I received a grant to present my ageism research at a conference in Barcelona Spain. My wife was able to accompany me. After flying across the Atlantic Ocean, we landed in Paris and stayed there for several days. While we were there we visited the Eiffel tower and the Arc De Triomph. We then went on to Barcelona Spain where the conference was being held. While there we went to the Picasso Art Gallery. These are things I will never forget. If I had the money,I would travel to many places in the world. But that is not to be.
         Besides financial limitations some other specific things that may get in the way of retirement travel are; gas prices, family duties, personal health, and pets.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Having a Purpose of Life

     Including my own comments two research sources are used during this blog entry.[i]  I am now approaching both my 72nd birthday in October and my retirement date, which will be at the end of August.  
         Over the past several years my wife, who is ten years younger than I am, has had to struggle with a slowly recovering broken leg. Her leg is vulnerable to stressors as are other parts of her body. She frequently spends 4 or 5 hours standing on a cement floor painting in the art gallery at Kwantlen. Sometimes she takes Advil to reduce her pain.  She is not in constant pain; it comes a goes.
         Herdberg et al, using the Purpose in Life Scale (PIL) reported that:  “…it is not surprising that musculoskeletal symptoms, including back pain, difficulty in walking, pain in the legs and joint pain, were significantly associated with purpose in life for women.”
         It is important to keep in mind that the men and women investigated in the study were all 85+ years old.  If I live that long I don’t know what kinds of losses and gains I will have experienced. When I think about what’s happened lately in the Middle East and Japan I get somewhat worried.
         The PIL has 20 items that can be used to evaluate our sense of well-being.  I will respond to the ones that I think are currently important to me and also put the entire list at the bottom of the blog. If you want you can ask yourself the relevant questions.

1.  Usual level of boredom versus excitement.  I think the last time I was really bored was when I had to wait at the airport for five hours before my plane took off. After waiting about three hours, I found a bookstore, purchased a book and read the rest of the time. I am never bored when I’m reading.

2. Clarity of goals in life.  Over the last five or six years I have slowly begun preparing for retirement.  I have also helped my wife create the Intergenerational Centre for Action Learning ( and Community Building for Research and Action ( In addition, along with the creation of this blog, I have been preparing several workshops including, Retirement, Wisdom, & Memory.  I would say my goals in being socially active are quite clear.

 3.  I think I have a meaningful and purposeful Iife.  From my early childhood I have achieved success by helping others. I intend to continue doing that as long as I can.

Purpose in Life Scale

1. Usual level of boredom versus excitement

2. Whether life seems exciting versus routine

3. Clarity of goals in life

4. Sense of meaning and purpose in life

5. Whether each day seems new or the same

6. Satisfaction with this life

8. Progress toward life goals

9. Happiness versus despair about life

10. Worthwhileness of life lived so far

11. Sense of a reason for existing

12. Sense of meaningful place in the world

13. Whether a responsible person

16. Whether ever contemplated suicide

17. Ability to find meaning and purpose in life

18. Sense of personal control over life

19. Pleasure in daily tasks

20. Purpose and meaning in life found so far

[i] Marsh, A., Smith, L.,Piek,J.& Saunders, B. (2003). The Purpose In Life Scale:                      Psychometric Properties For Social Drinkers And Drinkers In Alcohol Treatment.   Educational and Psychological Measurement, Vol. 63(5) 5, 851-879

ii Hedberg, P., Gustafson, Y., Brulin, C. (2010). Purpose: In Life Among Men and Women Aged 85 Years and Older. INTL. J. AGING AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, Vol. 70(3)  213-229

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Meaning of Age

        I have posted this information because when I check visits to my blog, the postings most frequently read are about the topic Ageism.  The next two paragraphs are direct quotations from a book by Erdman Palmore.
         “Perhaps, the most popular conception of old age was provided by Shakespeare in As You Like It: ‘Sans teeth, sans eyes’ sans taste, sans everything.’  This is one of the most negative conceptions of popular culture, and yet it is often accepted as defining the last stage of life.  It is understandable why people would deny that they belong to such a miserable group.”
         “The basic problem here is the confusion between ‘old’ in the sense of chronological age and ‘old’ in the sense of worn out, useless, outmoded, obsolete, or discarded (Webster’s Dictionary 1984).  Logically, chronologically ‘old’ need not have these negative connotations.  But in popular usage ‘old’ is used to refer to both the chronologically aged and to people who are worn out, useless, or debilitated.  This is meant by the phrase ‘feeling old’.  To ‘look old’ usually means to look ugly and /or decrepit.  To say ‘You don’t look that old is a compliment meaning ‘You don’t look as senile and decrepit as most people your age look.’ ‘To age rapidly’ means to deteriorate rapidly”. This way of thinking also accounts for the phrase “I don’t feel that old”
Palmore, E. (1990)   Ageism: Negative and Positive.  Springer Publishing Company New York  (Quotes from page 41.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Marital Relations After Retirement

        As usual I decided to explore the research database to see what has been found and discussed regarding marital relations following male or female retirement. One major finding, and not surprising, is the continuing division of labour based on gender.  The article I have used is listed at the bottom of this entry[i]
         To begin with Liat Kulik, the author, acknowledges that decision-making based on resources, division of labor in household tasks and about how to use leisure time are affected by men’s retirement more than women’s.  The main goal of her study is to explore the changes in household activities after retirement. She found that in many cases “men’s retirement will have more negative impact on the quality of marriage than that of women.”
         In some ways our marriage is not a very common example of marital relationships following retirement. For one thing I have only been teaching half time for the last six years and consequently I have been spending a lot more time at home than the average 9 to 5 workers or full time university instructors.   In addition, four years ago, Elizabeth broke her ankle and I began engaging in a number of household activities including food shopping, cooking, and doing dishes, laundry and to some degree house maintenance. During the summer I do most of the yard work.
         On the other side of it Elizabeth is our “chief financial officer” who keeps track of the bills and how the money is flowing.  She knows what and how much is invested and keeps a sharp eye on our credit card purchases.  There are some things from our experience and the information from the research article that may be useful to other couples.
                  The article investigates “marital power relations” defined as “…who makes the final decisions at home and in various areas of marital life.” The research is divided into “major decisions” e.g. family budget and major purposes and “minor decisions” such as purchasing household items and renovations.  It also looks at who decides about leisure activities including vacations, entertainment decisions, and how to spend time.
         The quality of the marriage is defined in two ways “ First marital enjoyment” for example laughing together and going out to eat.  Second, and perhaps more important are “marital complaints” such as “money matters, disturbing habits and disagreement regarding entertainment.
         The research found that; “With respect to power relations, similarities between pre-retired and retired respondents were found in major and minor decisions…”   With retirement men became more involved in feminine and general household tasks.  But they still maintained their “masculine roles” and tended to think they should take charge. International Women’s Day is just around the corner and according to the local newspapers we have a long way to go for genuine equality including male attempts to stay dominant in relationships. This can lead to stressful experience for both persons espceically if it’s about the “money.”
         Stressors may lead to an increase in marital tension and decline of marital vitality. It would be interesting to see material exploring retirement of earlier generations where the gender roles were more rigidly applied.

[i] Kulik, L. (2001). The Impact of Men’s and Women’s Retirement on Marital Relations: A Comparative Analysis, Journal of Women and Aging, 13(1),  21-35

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Leisure Options in Retirement

       Several nights ago, Elizabeth and I gathered together with 6 friends whom we have known for a very long time to discuss a book titled The Spirit Level: Why equality is Better for Everyone; a topic very relevant to the current tension between haves and have-nots around the world including Canada. Of the eight persons attending five are formally retired.
The discussion was lively and very satisfying and can surely be classified as a leisure activity.  According to Wikipedia “Leisure, or free time, is time spent away from business, work, and domestic chores. It is also the periods of time before or after necessary activities such as eating, sleeping, etc. We had a wonderful meal with each couple bringing part of the food.
      I was triggered to look for some research about leisure and retirement and was surprised to find a Journal Leisure Studies and in my search came across an article focused on Retirees[i]. Whether we are retired or not “psychological well-being such as self-acceptance, sense of control, good interpersonal relationships, a sense of having a goal in life, personal growth and relative independence” are major requirements of Successful Aging.  T
The study cited below, using a leisure benefits scale, found seven types of leisure benefits “..companionship in activity, strengthening primary relationships, competence and skill development, expression and personal development, health and exercise, meeting role expectations and general enjoyment.”
      In the study the Nimrod provided a table that listed 39 activities connected to Activity Factors such as; popular culture, spirituality, news papers, computer activities and following other generations within our families.(there are others, I just selected the eight that I am particularly interested in.
ü    Art exhibitions—Since Elizabeth has been taking Fine Arts classes. I have gone to a number of galleries and I will never forget the one’s we visited in Paris and Barcelona several years ago
ü    Books—I love books!! My current favorites are Terry Brooks and Robert Ludlum and of course The Lord of The Ring series which I have read several times.
ü    TV—I probably spend too much time watching TV, In any case by current favorites
ü    Children—Our children are all adults now but they live in different cities so I don’t see them very often but when I do, it’s very enjoyable.
ü    Daily News Papers--We get the Vancouver Sun and I always read CANADAWORLD first it’s fascinating but not always pleasurable.
ü    Computer Games—I like Big Fish, prefer adventure games, and am frustrated with hidden object games.
ü    Internet—The Internet itself is amazing.  Pretty good for someone who was young when TV first entered our homes.
ü    Finally; Listening to music—I have a radio next to where I am sitting typing this blog entries. I love music and it is one of the major attractions of Glee.

           Well that’s it I think it’s time for me to go out and have a bike ride.

[i] [i] Nimrod, G. (2007) Retirees’ Leisure: Activities, Benefits, and their Contribution to Life Satisfaction