Central Park: An Age-Friendly Place

Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) recently announced the winners of its Friendly Faces. Friendly Places photo contest.  They had submissions from all over the world and it’s pretty amazing to see so many different perspectives on aging all in one place.”We launched this contest to gain insight on what people think best illustrates an age-friendly community.  We had hundreds of wonderful submissions that captured different moments among family and friends, and showed how communities can be great places to grow up and grow old,” said John Feather, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Grantmakers In Aging.  “Our winning photographs tell meaningful stories of how older adults are vitally connected to the life of their cities, towns and villages in many different parts of the world.”

I am honored to be counted among the winning photos for Walking in a Winter Wonderland—a photo I snapped quickly while walking on a beautiful winter day in New York City’s Central Park.

Nancy Friendly Faces Friendly Places Photo

I typically snap photos of people from behind.  I like the mystery—Who is that person?  Where did she come from?  Where is he going?  I also like the way you see someone when not distracted by their faces.  The focus becomes on how a person is moving.  Is she using an assistive device like a walker or a cane?  Is a friend or caregiver supporting him with a gentle hand or the offer of an arm?  Is an older couple walking hand in hand as if they were 22 and just married?

I rarely submit my photos to contests but I was drawn to the idea of the “Friendly Faces, Friendly Places” contest that John Feather so aptly captures in his quote above.  I happen to think that Central Park is one of the most age-friendly parks in the world.  There are plenty of paved walk ways and benches upon which to rest and watch the rest of the world go by at every turn.  New York City has this reputation as being big and burly—a place where young people come to make their way.

The less known side of the city is what an age-friendly place it can be.  Thanks to GIA for hosting this contest and giving professional and amateur photographers alike a chance to show off why we think our communities are age friendly.

About the Author

Nancy Lundebjerg is Chief Operating Officer of the American Geriatrics Society and the Health in Aging Foundation.

Remembering Maya Angelou

We at the Health in Aging Foundation are saddened by the loss of Maya Angelou today.  In 2002, we presented Ms. Angelou with the Lifetime of Caring Award for her embodiment of graceful aging.  It was a festive occasion that included Ms. Angelou charming the crowd with a few lines of “This Little Light of Mine” and leading a standing ovation for the Girls Choir of Harlem.  In her remarks she reminded us to live a full, rich life and not take its everyday gifts for granted.  She closed with a few lines from her poem, On Aging.

On Aging

When you see me sitting quietly, like a sack upon a shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.  I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!  Hold!  Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it, otherwise I’ll do without it!

When my bones are stiff and aching and my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:  Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling, don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy and every goodbye ain’t gone.

I’m the same person I was back then, a little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.

Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.

Cleveland, MaryJo 4x6

Maryjo L. Cleveland, MD
Medical Director, Post Acute & Senior Services
Chief, Division of Geriatric Medicine
Summa Health System
Akron, Ohio

May is Older Americans Month and this month the Health in Aging Foundation is focusing on injury prevention with the theme “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow”. For this reason, we are going to take a slight detour from our “It’s Not Normal” series and go into more detail on how seniors can keep free from injury. In a sense, it is a continuation of last month’s entry on preventing falls.


So, what do you think of when you hear the phrase “Safe Today”? Here are the 5 things that came to my mind first.

1.  Wear seatbelts! Most seniors will continue to drive into their 80’s and want to be safe drivers. The single most important thing you can do to prevent injury or death in the event of an accident is to wear seatbelts. The National Safety Council estimates that wearing your seatbelt will reduce your chance of injury by 50%! Yes, sometimes they are uncomfortable and wrinkle our clothes. Wear them anyway. And while you’re at it, require that everyone else in the car wear theirs too.

2. Don’t wear high heels! (Gentlemen, you can skip this paragraph.) I have no data to present here; this is purely an anecdotal observation. I have seen beautifully dressed, well-made-up women totter precariously into my office in 2-3 inch heels complaining of balance problems! They are clearly setting themselves up for trouble. Appropriate footwear is key to comfort and safety. Fortunately, ballet-style shoes are popular and tennis shoes are now made in every color imaginable. So, set a new fashion trend by putting a stable gait ahead of vanity and wear sneakers with your skirts.

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National Healthcare Decisions Day

Today, April 16, is National Healthcare Decisions Day.  I hope that you will take this time to discuss and document your healthcare wishes, or talk to your family members about their wishes.  We all need to be prepared in the event of a health crisis, and having the talk is easier than most people think, but many of us need a little inspiration or a reminder to do it.

National Healthcare Decisions Day was established to inspire, educate & empower the public & providers about the importance of advance care planning.  You can find all sorts of free resources, including free advance directive forms for each of the 50 states and a great short video to get you thinking and talking, on the NHDD website: www.nhdd.org.  Additionally, please help spread the word with TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Advance care planning is something we ALL should do and encourage others to do, regardless of age or current health.  Discussing your wishes can be one of the most important gifts you ever give your loved ones.

Related Resources from Healthinaging.org:
Advance Directives: Basic Facts & Information
Guide to Advanced Directives


It’s Not Normal: Falls

Cleveland, MaryJo 4x6Maryjo L. Cleveland, MD
Medical Director, Post Acute & Senior Services
Chief, Division of Geriatric Medicine
Summa Health System
Akron, Ohio 

It is the middle of winter here in Cleveland and we have experienced an unusual amount of snow, sleet and ice. In fact, if you live anywhere with winter, I’ll bet this weather has been challenging. One problem that we see more of in the winter is falls. I ask all of my patients if they have experienced a fall.  Can you  guess the most common answer I get? It isn’t “no”— it’s “not yet.”  Isn’t that interesting? That answer means that they expect to fall sometime. In other words, they think it’s normal. But we are here to find out otherwise!

Falls are certainly common. Most people can tell you about friends or family members who have fallen and suffered a serious injury from a fall, such as a broken hip. Most people also tell me that falling is one of the things they fear the most. The good news is that while falls are common, they are not inevitable. There are well defined risk factors that make it more likely for someone to fall.   And there are also recommendations on how to prevent falls. These recommendations will require you and your healthcare professional to work closely together.

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