I recently enrolled in MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) course at Chattanooga’s Mindfulness Center, along with several other mature women. One of the items on my mindful To Do list was to attend a wellness panel co-hosted by Chattanooga’s Jewish Federation and Hadassah, a women’s organization with decades of involvement in healthcare of Israelis and Palestinians and who’s hospital in Israel saved my own life years ago.
The panel’s focus was on self-care for a longer, healthier, and more active life for mature women. The panelists included Cady and Ed Jones, the dynamic daughter-father co-owners of Nutrition World, a wellness center providing supplements, yoga, reflexology, acupuncture, and other holistic services. Also on the panel was Nicole Berger, a physical therapist with decades of experience from pediatrics to geriatrics, and Lisa Schubert, an occupational therapist and teacher who specializes in ergonomics.
The panel began with Ed Jones advising us to reclaim the gift of vital energy that is all too often bombarded and diminished by information that is chaotic and all too often merged with marketing that urges us to spend money. His discussion of chronic pain included a focus on vitamin D, its vital role, and factors in its absorption. Ed talked about green drinks and noted that Nutrition World’s professionals offered a full program to deal with chronic pain. He was then joined by Cady who discussed the nutrition issues behind chronic conditions, including pain.
As many of the women in the audience nodded in agreement, she talked about returning to eating in ways that pre-date fast food and highly processed food. Cady cited artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, canned foods, and especially margarine which she said is only a compound away from being plastic. She highlighted the need for healthy fats that help keep the brain healthy: coconut oil, olive, avocado oil, and fish oil. She added to that list the fat from “clean” animals such as chickens that haven’t been fed antibiotics.
From a discussion of diet and inflammation, the panel turned to a major issue for this audience: falling and its consequences. Physical Therapist Nicole Berger noted that one out of four seniors fall each year and falls are among the most expensive medical emergencies. Older people need to pay close attention to maintaining their balance.
Vision is a major part of our balance. As we get older, our vision is not as clear. Awareness of our joints and how they operate is also a major part of balance. If we’ve had broken bones, arthritis, or a stroke, our body awareness is affected and we’re more reliant on vision for our balance. If both our vision and body awareness have decreased, we need to build our core strength. The pelvic floor, and our internal muscles must be engaged. Nicole instructed us to do the “kegel” exercise which in addition to strengthening the bladder, assists in our posture. “Our posture is our balance,” Nicole said and suggested that we take advantage of the Federation’s balancing course. It’s heartening to see that community organizations are increasingly providing helpful resources to mature women.
The fourth and final panelist was Occupational Therapist, Lisa Schubert. She reviewed how ergonomics might apply to older women in their quest to stay strong and active. Ergonomics is the study of how our bodies interface with the environment. In a less academic fashion, she noted that women were “schleppers”, a Yiddish idiom meaning that we carry around everything from purses to groceries to babies. Women are prone to falling when carrying groceries. Use your hands efficiently. The thumb and first two fingers give us dexterity, but it’s the other side of the hand that gives us strength. Carry grocery bags with elbows bent and close to your body.
Lisa asked us look at our kitchens. Where do you put things? Her advice for mature women: don’t put things where you have to stand on something to reach it. If you’re looking up, your posture leans backward, and falling backward is easy to do. Place things between waist and shoulder height. This is especially good to remember in the shower. It’s easy to slip in fall reaching over shoulder height.
Lisa’s final words of advice was about computer use and applies to everyone, but especially aging bodies. The top of the computer screen should be at eye level. Consider using an ergonomic foot rest that keeps the feet flexed and moving. We shouldn’t sit for more than twenty minutes at a time and might use a timer to help us out with that. Also, a computer desk that can be converted into a standing desk is a great idea. That’s when I raised my hand to ask a question.
Confession time! I have both a timer and a convertible standing computer desk, but rarely use either of them. What did she suggest to keep from falling back into bad habits? Lisa used the word “mindful” in her response. Whether it’s food choices, green drinks, vitamins, or core exercises and posture awareness, we need to pay attention. I’m hoping that my mindfulness course will help me rededicate myself to “Live Long and Prosper”. We all need to mindful and embrace all four panelists’ strategies for a longer, healthier, more active life.