Ah, The Aging Me
Table of Contents
Aging Related Posts
From My Cap to My Eyes – February 26, 2015
I Get Colder as I Get Older – February 22, 2015
Creatively Facing Death and Dying – February 13, 2015
My Aging Skin – February 9, 1015
Oh, Those Painful Kidney Stones – February 7, 2015
My Life in Review – February 6, 1015
The Incredible Shrinking Man – February 4, 2015
Stories I Tell My Grandchildren – January 31, 2015
Reading to Your Grandchildren – January 29, 2015
Grandchildren: Aging Rejuvenators – January 22, 2015
A Typical Day of Eating – January 8, 2013
Weight Loss Update – January 7, 2015
Does Time Speed Up as We Age? – January 2, 2015
Happy Holidays! – December 23, 2014
Keeping a Medical Journal, Too! – December 22, 2014
Keeping a Personal Journal – December 20, 2014
The Joy of Singing Enhances the Aging Process – December 16, 2014
My Aching Back a My Aching Neck – December 15, 2014
My Weight Is Like A Yo-Yo – December 10, 2014
Eyes, Eyes, Oh My Aching Eyes! Two – December 8, 2014
Thank Goodness for My Dermatologist – May 27, 2013
Feeling Less Old – May 25, 2013
Successful Aging – Finding the Fifth Level – May 18, 2013
Keeping Up With Technology – May 13, 2013
Finding Humor in the Aging Process – May 9, 2013
I Sing for the Love of Singing – May 8, 2013
Eyes, Eyes, Oh My Aching Eyes! – May 5, 2013
Autobiographical Review of My Life – May 3, 2013
Pictorial Review of My Life Changes – May 1, 2013
On the Road to Recovery (I Hope) – April 30, 2013
Visiting the Doctor Again – April 29, 2013
Sigh --- Another Memorial Service – April 27, 2013
How Older Persons Are Portrayed in TV Commercials – April 25, 2013
Sore Throat Again – April 24, 2013
Requiring More Sleep These Days – April 23, 2013
How Old Are You Mentally? – April 21, 2013
The RealAge Test – April 20, 2013
Conversation and Music Can Overcome Depression – April 19, 2013
A Smart Aleck and a Senior Citizen – April 18, 2013
Skin, Oh My Aging Skin – April 17, 2013
Oh, My Aching Back! – April 16, 2013
Blood Pressure Problems – April 15, 2013
Feet Problems – April 14, 2013
The Processes of Aging – April 13, 2013
Many Jobs in a Lifetime! – April 12, 2013
Ah, Those Vericose Veins Are Creeping In – April 11, 2013
Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder – April 10, 2013
The Balding Me – April 9, 2013
Photo Display of My Life and Aging Process – April 8, 2013
An Autobodiography – April 7, 2013
Test of Your Knowledge on Aging – April 6, 2013
End of Life Ideas – April 5, 2013
Pink Eye – You Must Be Kidding! – April 4, 2013
Take Personal Responsibility for Learning (posts below the last Aging post)
A Feast of Learning: International Perspectives on Adult Learning and Change – May 25, 2013
Vary Instructional Techniques to Help Learners Take Increasing Responsibility – August 26, 2011
Importance of a Learning Environment – August 24, 2011
Toward Increasing a Learner’s Personal Responsibility – August 19, 2011
Promoting Personal Ownership – April 26, 2011
Aging Related Posts
February 26, 2015 at 8:33 am
In response to my last posting about getting colder as I get older, my friend Anton noted that wearing a fleece hat at night gave him a peaceful and sound sleep. I thought this was a great idea and tried in that night. Now that I have worn my fleece cap four nights in a row, I can attest to how much better I have slept. Of course, I did have to put up with Janet’s initial laughter when she saw me (see the photo below and you can laugh, too), but the result for my comfort has been worth it. Scientist have recently shown that we don’t actually lose all that much heat from our head, but as I no longer have much hair covering it the allusion I feel of not losing any heat from my head or ears gives me extra peace of mind. I do not, by the way, wear my glasses to bed; I just had to see to take the selfie.
I have mentioned before that my c4-c5 vertebrae have some arthritis and this gives me frequent back pain. I can control it somewhat by following my McKenzie stretching routine each morning, taking Ibuprofen as needed, and seeking occasional adjustments from my chiropractor. I also discovered that my nightly routine of reading in bed with my head propped up on a couple of pillows for 15 minutes before I turn out the lights seemed to add some stress to those vertebrae. My friend, Anton, suggested I try Prism glasses to give my view a downward 90 degree angle. With a little research, I found that they are not very expensive and ordered two pair, one for when I am lying in bed without my regular glasses on and one for when I am sitting in a chair reading the newspaper, a magazine, or a book with my glasses on.
What these glasses do is enable me to read a book lying in bed with my head on a thin pillow by keeping my neck straight (almost looking up in essence) with the book held at a 90 degree angle resting on my chest. My eyes appear to be looking away from the book but the prism effect actually allows me to read it with ease. The second pair of glasses enables me to sit in my chair looking straight ahead but seeing a book, magazine, or newspaper on my lap. Because the distance is now a bit farther from my eyes, the pair of Prism glasses that fits over my regular glasses works great. The two other photos below show what they look like from a front view and a side view. Of course I look fairly weird, and Janet and my two grandsons all had great initial laughs at my expense. The main point is that this change has taken some strain off my arthritic vertebrae. Both the cap and the prism glasses represent more adjustments with the aging process.
February 22, 2015 at 4:41 pm
I have written before about my thinning skin. One more disadvantage of such a situation is that I simply need more clothing in the colder weather. This winter has been a good generator of extra cold weather, but I have noticed the need for more layers the past few years. From mid-October through mid-April, I usually have on a layer of long underwear during the day and that helps. A fleece top over a shirt with the underwear below that now suffices most of the time. However, I am finding that at night I now need to wear the underwear below my pajamas with socks on my feet to stay comfortable in bed. My wife says that wearing a stocking cap at night is probably next. My underwear is typically blue, not the red wool ones shown in the photo below, but I think you get the picture.
Faithful followers of this blog will know that a very early caption for a photo was “how did I get my Mom’s toenails with their perpetual fungus?” Now I can say how did I get to matching my remembrances of Dad wearing extra layers in the house during the winter. He finally did wear a cap during the day so I am probably heading there, too. Is living in Florida in my near future?
CC Image courtesy Henry A. Brink photography
Creatively Facing Death and Dying
February 13, 2015 at 1:44 pm
Recently my wife and I watched Being Mortal, a “Frontline” show on our local PBS station. It was a compelling 55 minutes that did a wonderful job of helping viewers think about the end of life and how it could and should be undertaken. Within the link highlighted above is a video replaying the show as well as various supplemental areas packed with information, insight, and answers to several related questions. I highly recommend it.
The show is based on a recent book by Dr. Atul Gawande entitled, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. I am on the waiting list for the book at my local library and look forward to reading it. I’ve heard only rave reviews from those friends who have finished the book.
Having been present when my Mom died 16 months ago at the age of 95 in her own home, as she wanted, with the wonderful support of Hospice, I so appreciate it when a person does the best she can in deciding what really matters in the end. I hope I can do as well as Mom did and I am confident Dr. Gawande’s book will become a useful tool in that process.
My Aging Skin
February 9, 2015 at 5:55 pm
Just a few years ago, I started noticing changes in my skin. As we age our epidermis (the outer skin) begins to thin. Our pigment-containing cells (called melanocytes) decrease but at the same time our other cells increase in size. This results in skin that appears thinner, more pale, even translucent in nature. In addition, pigmented spots (age spots) begin to appear in areas that have been exposed to sun. The photo at the bottom of this post on the left shows the back of my right hand with all the comments made above demonstrated.
I actually am a dermatologist’s dream patient in that there is always something to cut off, freeze off, or needing prescription lotions. When I was a 19-year-old I spent an entire summer on the beach in Long Beach, CA. My hair completely bleached out, I turned a nice bronze color, and I even learned to body surf. However, a dermatologist told me that I am now paying the price for such a misspent summer. At least there were those many girls in bathing suits….
In addition, with aging the strength and elasticity of our skin changes. This often produces a leathery, weather-beaten, even alligator skin in appearance. The photo at the bottom on the right, my right elbow, demonstrates this look quite well.
One other problem that I now notice with increasing frequency is bruising under my skin that shows up if I bump into the corner of a dresser for example. In this case, blood vessels within the dermis become more fragile as we age so such a bump leads to an apparent bruising or some bleeding under the skin. When this happens to me, because my skin is so much thinner, it seems to take a long time for such a bruise to disappear. Although I joke a bit about my dermatologist, I am so thankful that I have a good one and see him at least once each year.
Oh, Those Painful Kidney Stones
February 7, 2015 at 12:37 pm
I had my first kidney stone in 1977 when I was 39 years old. I got up early in the morning because I had what I thought was the beginning of an upset stomach. All of the sudden I had an excruciating pain in my side and back. Some have said that for a male having a kidney stone is the closest thing to birthing a child that he can experience. I can certainly attest to how sharp was the pain. As we had no idea what was happening, my wife quickly dressed our two young children, we piled into the car, and she drove me to the emergency room.
That kidney stone (it was later determined to be calcium based and white in color) looked a bit like the photo shown below and in slide number 1 via the information accessible through this link: http://www.webmd.com/kidney-stones/ss/slideshow-kidney-stones-overview. It was about the size of an eraser on a pencil. Two of the sides had barbs sticking out and as it was attempting to work its way down my urinary tract, one barb got caught. The stone would not budge from that location. I was in the hospital for a week as they waited for it to come loose. This was before they used high-energy shock waves to break up stones so eventually they decided to use ureterostomy. The doctor went in through my urinary tract with a thin tube to locate and crush the stone so some of it could be pulled back and the rest could pass out with my urine. It was a most unpleasant week.
I was told then that my chances for a second kidney stone were now higher and, sure enough, in 1985 I had a second one. This one was a bit smaller but I knew immediately what it was because of my memory of that pain. I went almost immediately to my doctor and he said it probably would pass on its own but that I needed to strain my urine to make sure. The irony was that it happened the morning of a surprise birthday party I had planned for my wife with several friends to be held at a nearby restaurant. While everyone was enjoying their time together that evening, I was gulping water and stepping out to the restroom, strainer in hand, and hoping for the best. I got through the party in a bit of discomfort and fortunately passed the stone later that night. This one turned out to be made up of uric acid and black in color.
It is possible that I have had others, but, if so, they were small enough that I did not notice them or have any associated pain. Drinking plenty of water has probably helped and the weight loss I have described earlier in this blog should be helpful, too, for the future. There is a common saying that aging is not for sissies, and the longer I live the better I understand that notion.
My Life in Review
February 6, 2015 at 6:51
Is it possible to review a life just through photos? Certainly there are some things you can learn, discern, or surmise about a person. Below are photos of me, roughly ten years apart, representing my eight decades. As you look at them, think about the following questions:
1. What are the similarities and differences in appearance over the decades?
2. How does hair and hair color change with age?
3. Body weight and mass (BMI) often varies with age. Do you have any observations after viewing the various photos?
4. Skin tone, wear and tear from the sun, and wrinkles vary among people through their developmental stages. Compare what is happening to yourself with what you can see in these photos.
5. What other observations can you make?
In viewing a set of photos like those revealed here, what thoughts form in your mind regarding your own aging process?
The Incredible Shrinking Man
February 4, 2015 at 8:06 am
No, I have not been exposed to radiation and become the 1957 movie’s shrinking man; I am simply and steadily becoming shorter with age. My tallest point in life about 40 years ago was 5′ 9″ and it has slowly been downhill since then. About 10 years ago I was surprised at an annual physical when the nurse who measured me said I was 5′ 8½” tall. Then about two years ago at another annual physical the announcement was 5′ 8″ tall (or should I say short).
It was about then that I began seeing excess fraying on the cuffs of my 38 x 30 Dockers. It finally dawned on me that the shrinking me was simply walking on the bottoms of my pants even with shoes on. I switched to 38 x 29 Dockers and that solved the problem. Then as my weight continued to decrease through my weight watchers counting and personal discipline techniques (29 pounds since November 1, 2014, as noted in earlier postings), I recently purchased three pair of 36 x 29 Dockers. They should last me for a while.
This apparently was in the nick of time because I was again surprised in my annual physical earlier this week when the nurse announced that I had “fallen” below 5′ 8” in height. It is a bit hard for me to take as I have long thought of myself as one inch taller and I now have to readjust my self-image. At least moving down to a 36 inch waist helps mollify my self-image a bit.
Notice that I quoted the word fallen in the previous sentence. That is exactly what is happening to me as I age. For examples, the arches in my feet are now practically non-existent. I have been wearing orthotics in all my shoes for several years to artificially add back those arches. My vertebrae also have been collapsing (moving closer together) with age. I know, too, that the cartilage between my various joints is wearing out. In essence, gravity and the aging process are doing their normal work as I get older.
There is not much I can do about it. I exercise regularly. I try to eat in a healthy way. I do my McKenzie exercises every morning. Still, the aging me continues to shrink. I now need to readjust that self-image and know that I may be heading to 5′ 7″ if I live long enough.
January 31, 2015 at 2:08 pm
I have been a story teller much of my adult life. By that I mean, something said in a conversation will remind me of a memory and I usually cannot resist entering it into the conversation. I did that with my kids when they were growing up and, frequently, within casual conversations among friends, relatives, and even people I don’t know very well. For ill or for good, I simply love repeating such stories or memories.
Now my four grandchildren are the next available audience. Thus, I tell them short stories pertaining to my work, Navy experiences, history as a barbershop music singer, growing up years, and many other aspects of my past. My two oldest grandchildren (six and four years of age) often ask me to repeat a story that they remember I have told before. I very much enjoy doing so and if I happen to leave out as some aspect of the memory from the last time they heard it, I usually get asked about that lapse.
As readers of this blog will know, I have been serving as my family’s genealogist for many years. I recently did a major update on the material that I have online (http://roghiemstra.com/dutch.html). Completing that update (and, of course, updating must be ongoing), made me think about the stories I love to tell. Thus, I am now gathering these stories as I remember them or when asked to repeat a previous story I told and typing them into a document. I am not sure what I will do with this growing document, but I am thinking about writing a memoir as something I can pass along to my children and grandchildren. Who knows, maybe others will be interested in them, too!
Courtesy jessicawilkins578, Flickr CC
January 29, 2015 at 4:51 pm
Oh, the joy and pleasure of reading to your grandchildren! Whenever we visit our grandchildren we make and take opportunities to read to them. We try to start very early in the child’s life to begin these reading experiences. This reading typically comes during bedtime, but there are times when we ask that an active imagination, a desire to play a game, or a plea to play outside be substituted for a while with reading a book.
I think most of us know how important reading is for various reasons. I believe, for example, that the fact my Mom read to me as a very young child led to my early reading ability and a lifelong interesting in books. My daughter also took advantage of books on CDs and started her son listening to age-appropriate books in the car when he was five years of age. He usually could not wait to hear the next several-minute opportunity for continuing each book.
The last time we visited that family, after discussing it with his parents, I introduced him (at age six years and seven months) to the Harry Potter series by offering to read aloud the first book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). I began by explaining just a little bit about the book and mentioning that if after the first 15 minutes or so he was no longer interested, we would stop. We all were flabbergasted at how interested and excited he quickly become. He kept asking questions and wanted more information, such that the reading was slow-going at times. However, within a six-day period in and around other activities I read the entire book to him.
About half-way through the book on the third day, we all gathered for a family meal. A couple of relatives and a couple of friends joined us. My grandson proceeded to describe the book to the other four adults in a very excited and animated fashion. I think we were all amazed at how well he understood the plot, characters, and even subtle points in the story. In essence, he was really “getting” the story’s essence. By the time we finished, he was anxious for the next time I or another grandparent could read the second book.
I am convinced we further instilled in him the love of reading a good book. We also may have inched his reading ability forward a notch or two.
Courtesy crayonbricks, Flickr CC
January 22, 2015 at 2:42 pm
As most grandparents will know, having grandchildren can truly be a rejuvenating experience. Janet and I have been staying with our son and his wife, a four-year old grandson, and a brand new granddaughter (less than one month old) for a while. We have been helping out however we can and that mainly explains why I have been absent from this blog for several days.
It has been such a blessing and thrill to watch little Isabel grow into alertness. She seems to thrive on my singing, too, at least she stops crying after I sing a few songs and often then goes to sleep. I just realized that perhaps she goes to sleep because of my singing. Oh well, I will choose to believe it is from pure enjoyment.
I also have been playing with my grandson quite a bit (he has a great imagination that seems to have exploded in scope the past couple of weeks), taking him to his swimming lessons, and often taking him to his pre-school and picking him up afterwards.
Fortunately, I also have been able to work-out at a nearby gym several times, which has not hurt my thus far very successful weight loss campaign. I now have a new goal for March 1, 170 pounds, which I believe I can achieve. I only have 12 more to go so it is feasible. I also get to spend some time with the other two grandchildren before that date so the rejuvenating can continue.
One other thing, I need to buy some smaller pants.
January 8, 2015 at 10:45 am
Yesterday I talked about the success I have had in losing weight. I thought it might be useful to share one of my typical days of eating. I must add that I have never joined Weight Watchers so what I am sharing is just how it has worked for me. Obviously, anyone wanting to lose weight in a sensible, controlled, and healthy manner should consult a physician or an organization with people qualified to give advice on a reasonable diet.
As I mentioned before, I am using the WeightWatchers ® point counting system. The book I am using is nearly 12 years old, so I am sure their system has evolved in those years. However, using that book with its suggestions on assigning points to various food items, their POINTSfinder® calculator for determining points by knowing a product’s dietary fiber grams, calories, and total fat grams, and a food log for religiously recording everything you eat each day, the system has certainly worked for me. Perhaps the most useful result over the long haul, is that I have truly begun to change my eating habits, something I will work hard to sustain.
The book recommends a daily POINTS range of 20-25 at my weight for good health and sensible loosing. I initially started at the top of that range but as I slowly lost weight I began to aim more toward the lower part of range as they noted in the book that your body needs fewer points with less weight, plus I simply satiated my hunger with fewer points. I also try to eat 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, two servings of milk, and two-three servings of whole wheat bread.
Therefore, yesterday was a pretty typical eating day for me (I try to drink plenty of water each day so if some other drink is not mentioned below, assume that I had a glass of water):
1 cup sautéed mixed vegetables (cut up pieces of zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, and green pepper) – 0 points
Cooked with 1/4th cup of egg substitute – 1 point
1 TBS of olive oil for the sautéing and cooking – 1 point
1 piece of whole wheat toast (no butter) – 1 point
1 cup of low-fat milk – 2 points
1 small orange – 1 point [total points = 6]
2 slices of whole wheat bread (no butter) – 2 points
1 wedge of Laughing Cow ® creamy Swiss light cheese spread on one piece of bread – 1 point
1 piece of deli turkey (1 oz) – 1 point
1 small salad (romaine lettuce, peppers, cucumber) with no dressing – 0 points
1 small red apple – 1 point [total points = 5/accumulated points = 11]
4 oz of red wine – 2 points [ total points = 2/accumulated points = 13]
1 cup of chicken/vegetable/noodle soup – 3 points
1 slice of whole wheat bread (no butter) – 1 point
1 cup green beans – 0 points [total points = 4/accumulated points = 17]
1/2 banana – 1 point
1 cup of low-fat milk – 2 points
3/4th cup of bran flakes – 1 point [total points = 4/accumulated points – 21]
During the period that I started (November 1) until now, I have eaten out four times, three times for breakfast (I had veggie omelets, no cheese, with egg substitute, two pieces of dry toast, and 1 glass of water each time), and lunch in an airport when traveling (I had a salad, low-fat dressing, to go along with a sandwich consisting of two pieces of whole wheat bread and 2 oz. of deli-turkey that I carried with me).
Being conscious of what you eat, keeping track of it in a food log, and seeing the prize at the end of the journey is what it is all about.
January 7, 2015 at 10:32 am
On December 10, I bared my soul in this blog and revealed my up and down record regarding weight gain, especially as I have aged. I reached 200 pounds on October 31, 2014 (on a now 5′ 8″ frame – I have decreased 1 inch in height over the years with the normal shrinking of cartilage with age) and simply began “looking” the obese person that was me). November 1 I accepted this reality and set some goals with a new determination to lose weight. I set a goal of declining to 180 by December 25, a tough goal given all the holiday season festivities typically organized around lots of wonderful food at family gatherings. I also determined to exercise more regularly. Perhaps it was setting my annual New Year’s resolutions early that did it, but I have been much more successful than in other years, my determination still is high, and I truly believe I have permanently changed my eating habits.
I missed that December 25 goal by only one pound and I have kept loosing on a regular, but I believe sensibly, pace. As of this morning (January 7) I am at 175 pounds. I have had to tighten my belt one notch, my 38 inch waist is closing in on 36 inches, and I am feeling more energetic. I have pushed away almost all desserts. I still count those weight watcher points every day. I also am going to the gym much more regularly.
I now have a new goal: 165 lbs. by March 1. That will put me at the recommended weight for my age and height, a BMI below 25, and officially out of the over-weight classification. I will keep you informed.
2, 2015 at 3:50 pm
It often feels like each birthday, each New Year, even each month or season of the year just flies by. Frequently, I find myself saying something like, “Can it really be 2015 as it feels like I only recently started 2014?” Another statement I find myself saying repeatedly, “I just filled up that two-week pill container, how can it be time to do it again?”
People have pondered this apparent phenomenon for a long time. Psychologists have offered varied theories as to why we often “feel” the increasing speed of time. For example, some suggest that our biological clocks slow down throughout our aging process such that time appears to be passing more quickly. Others postulate that we pay increasingly less attention to the passing of time and become more focused on the exigencies of life such as going to work, engaging in family activities, experiencing common life stresses, even approaching deadlines and, subsequently, take less notice of time as it passes by. Another suggestion centers on the idea that in our early years we encounter more firsts, our first year in school, our first date, our first child, our first major job promotion, and other such novel activities. However, with the passage of time as similar events are repeated each year, they become less likely to feel unique and we “skip” more quickly from one to the next.
The theory I like the most was one described in one of my first graduate educational psychology courses by Professor Howard McClusky nearly 50 years ago. Howard was a terrific teacher, adult education leader, and mentor. He built upon the ratio theory proposed by psychologist Pierre Janet in the late 1800s to describe how our perception of time actually varies with the passage of time. For example, one year in the life of a young person at two, five, or ten years is only a small percentage of their total life. However, for someone in his seventies, each passing year is an increasingly smaller percentage of that life. Our mind, experience base, and even psyche is constantly being compared with what we have already lived,
Thus, as I recently slept through the clock turning over to 2015 (as I have done each New Year’s Eve for the past two decades) I hardly noticed the change knowing (or perceiving) that the next year will pass by more quickly than the last one.
Given all my comments though, I wish for each of you a wonderful New, if not speedy, Year.
Courtesy Julien Delaval, Flickr CC
December 23, 2014 at 10:39 am
I wish happy holidays for you and your family. May 2015 be a wonderful year and best wishes in your own successful aging.
Graphic courtesy of Star 1950 on Flickr
December 22, 2014 at 6:17 am
My last posting was about the personal journal in which I write a few lines each evening before going to bed. I also have been keeping a medical journal for the past three years. As the frequency of my visits to doctors of various specialties has increased over the years, I decided I had to do something to keep everything organized.
I have a large three-ring binder that is labeled on the front, “Rog Hiemstra’s Medical Journal.” I know, it is not a very catchy title, but as the letters are fairly large and I keep it in a prominent place on my office desk, I can easily grab it to refer to past appointments and to take it with me to each new appointment. Three doctors now have commented very positively on it. My last visit was to an ophthalmologist for new floaters and flashes. When he saw it he said I wish all my patients kept one.
I keep spare sheets of paper so I can write down during a visit and immediately after what happened, what the doctor said, any instructions for follow-up activities, and any future appointment dates. This process of writing things down immediately also helps stimulate questions for the doctor that I might not have thought of before initiating in this process.
Then when I get home I type everything into a running record of those appointments and update the journal. I also keeping a running record of my prescriptions and store any relevant materials in the side pockets of the binder. Janet also knows where it is in case she would need to reference it. It brings me some piece of mind and I feel like I have a better handle on my aging process.
December 20, 2014 at 2:27 pm
Both my father and my mother kept a journal or diary for a brief time when they were teenagers. We were very lucky that they survived until they were discovered many years later. Then my father started keeping another journal 51 years later in 1984. He typically wrote only a few lines most days until just before his death in 1999. My sister, Joyce, transcribed these journals so we all can read his words. As she said, he truly blessed us with those 15 years of writing down a brief record of what happened most days. They are very instructive. You can read his words here.
Following my Dad’s example, I started keeping a journal on July 1, 1991. My comments most days typically only involve 3-5 short sentences, but they are an important day-ending ritual. You can read here a piece I wrote on the uses and benefits of journal writing. I am thankful I began this journey as the daily reflecting process adds to my successful aging. I also look forward to passing them on to my children and grandchildren one day.
December 16, 2014 at 6:54 pm
I have written before about my lifelong love of singing. Singing in a small barbershop music chorus and a barbershop quartet each week gives me much joy and a nice break from other activities. This past weekend four of us from that small chorus performed as a quartet for a community group’s annual holiday luncheon. We had never all sung together as a quartet so there is always a slight bit of apprehension on how well we would do as performers and would we sound good.
It is typical that a quartet will rehearse for 30 minutes or so prior to the performance to make sure we know the program, work out a proper blend, and properly warm up our voices. The man singing lead (I sang the tenor part) and I had communicated via phone a couple of days before the performance to work out a 30 minute program that was also to include asking audience members to sing along with us on a few holiday songs.
Unfortunately, the nasty winter weather had other plans and as we staggered in one after the other (the show must go on), the fourth person did not arrive until five minutes before we were to start. Thus, we had no time for the warm-up period and could simply make sure everyone knew the numbers we would sing. Fortunately, we were all experienced barber-shoppers (our accumulated ages totaled 323 and we had 120 years of barbershop singing among us) and the blend and balance turned out to be almost perfect.
I believe there was only miscue (a missed note) throughout our 30 minutes. The lead served as the MC and did a great job with just the right amount of corny jokes. The combined sing along at the end with old favorites like Jingle Bells and Silent Night helped set a festive mood. The applause and complimentary comments afterwards were the music back to our ears and a reminder of why we all love to sing regardless of our ages.
My Aching Back and My Aching Neck
15, 2014 at 2:39 pm
I have talked before about my aching back and arthritis in my neck at the C3 and C4 vertebrae. With smart use of my back, sleeping on a very thin pillow (no more propping my neck up to read at night in bed), and an occasional visit to my very fine chiropractor for an adjustment, I have had very little trouble the past several months.
That all changed three weeks ago when not thinking I did a lot of reading over a short period with my head tilted down. That mistake resulted in a very, very sore neck and some pain in my upper back. Three visits to my chiropractor in two weeks, using ice several times to reduce the inflammation, wearing my cervical neck collar for parts of several days, and 6-8 Ibuprofen each day got me over the hump. I am now back to about 90% with notable progress each day.
I am now committed to changing my book reading posture. I learned another of life’s many lessons.
December 10, 2014 at 12:01 pm
For most of my adult life, my weight has been like a Yo-Yo, up and down. I have long figured that if I were a tree trunk and someone cut me down, they would see my annual growth rings as very wavy with uneven spaces between the lines. From my high of 203 lbs. when I was in the Navy in my early 20s (oh, too much food always available on that ship, and not enough physical activity), I have bounced back and forth from 170 lbs. (I managed to get slightly below that just before I was married – yes, we guys do it, too) to the mid-190s. However, as I have aged, even with “fairly” regular exercise, it has been harder and harder and my waist line has increased. When I hit 200 lbs. on October 31 (BOO! to me), could not look down and see my toes, and had trouble tying my shoes unless I sat down and crossed my legs one at a time, I decided I must do something.
My usual bugaboo is over Thanksgiving and then over the December holidays. Most years these time periods have meant a gain of 3-5 or more pounds, sadness on my lack of discipline come January 1, and then struggling for months to try and reduce the extra waist line.
On November 1 I looked myself in the mirror, set some goals, and started down what I hope will be a new and permanent path. Thus, I began using an old Weight Watchers’ book and chart, simply worked hard to cut back, and really have tried to discipline myself. As of this morning (December 10), I have lost 15 lbs. and, hopefully, counting. I can see my toes again and tying my shoes is getting easier. Thanksgiving was a real challenge, but at least I did not gain that day or that weekend. My goal is to reach 180 by December 25 and hold that weight through December 31. Ultimately, I would like to reach 170 lbs. again. I will keep you informed.
December 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm
I have been away from this blog for a while. I was very involved in adjunct teaching, but finally finished that in May, 2014, after 45 years of graduate teaching almost to the day. Then I immediately dove into updating my family genealogy research that was badly out of date. Last week I finished that and posted to this blog the links to what I now have accomplished (http://roghiemstra.com/dutch.html). Now I intend to be a bit more regular in this blog.
In terms of the aging me, a lot has happened since I last posted on this topic. Eyes, eyes, oh my aching eyes, is an apt metaphor for the eye problems I have had. It started a few months ago when I began having what was eventually diagnosed as dry eyes. This resulted in somewhat blurry vision at times and a feeling of weariness in my right eye. My vision worsened, too. I saw the ophthalmologist who did my eyelid surgery several months ago. With some testing he diagnosed the dry eyes. After some antibiotics that were aimed at influencing more tear duct activity, the frequent use of lubricating eye drops, some washing of my eye lids morning and night, and the purchase of some inexpensive reading glasses, I began to see (pun intended) some improvement.
Then, all of the sudden, I had some large floaters and flashes in my right eye a couple of weeks ago. I have had what I would call minor floaters before, but nothing like this. I called my ophthalmologist, described the problem, and he immediately referred me to another ophthalmologist who specializes in Cataracts, Glaucoma, Dry Eyes, and Macular Degeneration. I was able to get into him right away. Through a thorough examination with more optical machines after dilating my pupils, he could see the floaters and the beginning of cataracts. After determining that there was not a retinal tear, he suggested that the floaters and flashes would most likely diminish over time or at least my brain would work to actually begin to ignore them. That seems to be the case and a follow-up with him in a week will most likely confirm this. This is just another case of the accommodation that one must do in the aging process. I most likely will have to deal with the cataracts at a later date.
27, 2013 at 6:28 pm
Starting nearly 30 years ago, I regularly visit a dermatologist each year. I have had numerous pre-cancerous and suspicious spots, moles, warts, and irregularities cut or “frozen” off. I talked with my dermatologist several years ago about that summer in 1958 when I was young and foolish. I lived in Long Beach and Santa Monica and spent lots of time almost every day at the beach learning to body surf, watch the girls go by, and obtaining initially a good sunburn and then eventually a deep tan. Not only did my hair bleach blond but those were the days before sun screen so I “bleached” my skin such that he noted I am paying the price all these years later.
I now go to the dermatologist twice a year and invariably each time something new has occurred that needs to be removed. I have two new small growths on my forehead that I know will be coming off my next appointment in a couple of months. Obviously, skin cancer is no laughing matter so I “endure” the mild irritation for a few days of these removal episodes, but I know I am enduring because of that summer long ago. The aging process seems to be one more thing and one more thing to be aware of and watch out for peace of mind.
25, 2013 at 2:00 pm
Is it possible to “feel less old?” I think it is as I am finally feeling that way. If you have read this blog since I started emphasizing the aging me several weeks, you will remember much of my motivation for doing this was a series of ailments that struck me somewhat all together. They included bronchitis, sinus infection, pink eye, and laryngitis to name the worst of them. Together (one sort of led to the next) they really knocked the wind out of my sails, my energy sagged, and I certainly felt my almost 75 years.
Visits to three health professionals, chest x-rays, three rounds of an anti-biotic, two rounds of a steroid, the use of an inhaler, some non-prescription meds, lots more sleeping than normal for me, and considerable whining and feeling sorry for myself (sorry, Janet) have finally combated quite well these inflictions. Thus, I am feeling less old and have most of my energy back. I still have a bit of a cough, but I think it is from some lingering sinus drainage. I even sang with both my music groups this past week, the first time in several weeks, and both experiences felt quite therapeutic and exhilarating.
I guess I am somewhat amazed that lingering illness can take so much out of a person, especially when it takes several weeks to bounce back. I recognize that is part of the aging process, but because I have not had so many ailments hit all at once since I was a kid, it was surprising. I know the mantra of eating healthy, staying fit, washing your hands frequently (especially in the colder months), and getting adequate rest. However, there are going to be times of a “perfect storm” when exposure to germs and most likely not adhering adequately to everything in that mantra can knock you low. I hope next winter will be a better one and that I can continue to feel less old. I wish the same for you, too.
18, 2013 at 2:45 pm
I had forgotten all about this interview of me almost 40 years ago. I rediscovered it when doing some cleaning out of my collection of teaching resources. Some downsizing refreshes the spirit I think! At any rate, much of what I said and believed then is not only still true today, but I find myself now embodying much of what I discovered in that rewarding research project: http://roghiemstra.com/aging.html. Here is another interview of me in 1992: http://s3.amazonaws.com/Blackboard/hiemstra/hiemstra.html
I look forward to your thoughts, ideas, and conclusions about successful aging.
13, 2013 at 12:17 pm
Even though I began working with computers in 1958, as I age I am finding it ever more difficult to keep up with the increasingly rapid change rate in technology applications. I envy more each day how younger people seem to easily adapt to each new application, device, or approach with technology as it occurs. I will be upgrading my cell phone at the end of this month and know I will need to seek out training to handle some of the differences from my current cell phone. In the nearly two years I have had it, I know there are many applications I never mastered. Even though this site is now a couple of years old, it offers some interesting ideas to help older people to stay in touch with technology: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/business/retirementspecial/03Tech.html?_r=0
Finding Humor in the Aging Process
May 9, 2013 at 9:50 am
Home Instead Senior Care® is one of the organizations that is able to provide elderly home care as it is needed. There may be a franchise near you. One of my brothers-in-law pointed me to a great speech by a very good senior comedian, Mary Maxwell, who headlined at a Home Instead annual conference a few years ago. You can find other of her “presentations” on YouTube, but here is the one cited above: Mary Maxwell. At only 7 minutes plus, it is well worth watching, especially if you a “senior.”
I Sing for the Love of Singing
May 8, 2013 at 6:33 am
I have been singing in groups for more than 60 years as it refreshes my spirit constantly. Thus, this bronchitis, deep cough, and sinus drainage (with pink eye, sore throat, and laryngitis part of the time) since the end of March has prevented me from rehearsing with two groups to which I currently belong. I really miss those weekly gatherings. I think (my fingers are crossed) I am finally at the end of this very long spell of illness and so look forward to singing with them again.
Below is a photo of the Hometown Blend, a barbershop quartet with which I sang for a wonderful twelve years. All but me have passed the scene and I really miss them. Click here to listen to us sing a song (Happy Birthday with me as lead).
Eyes, Eyes, Oh My Aching Eyes!
May 5, 2013 at 7:07 pm
In 1960 I started down the path of becoming a Navy pilot. However, just as I was preparing to move from basic training in flight school to advanced training, I began having headaches after staring at the instruments for very long. Subsequently, I went through a series of tests and it was determined that I needed glasses to correct my vision to 20/20. I was unable to continue the flight training and opted to move back to an enlisted category, finishing a two year period in the Navy reserves.
Thus, I have had a love-hate relationship with glasses for more than 50 years. Obviously, I love the fact that I can maintain a 20-20 vision with glasses, but I hate the fact that during the past couple of decades I have needed a new prescription every two to three years. This has been frustrating, expensive, and at times cumbersome in adjusting to new frames. I have another annual appointment with my eye doctor in a few weeks and already “dread” what may be the result.
If you have not had a recent eye exam, here is an interesting web site where you can test your current acuity: http://www.assistech.com/visual-acuity-test.htm. May your eye sight be stable.
CC Image courtesy Justine’s photostream on Flickr
Autobiographical Review of My Life
May 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm
Wednesday I presented a pictorial review of my life as a way of showing the aging process. Today I include an autobiographical essay that has been adapted from a chapter in a book a few years ago. It was an interesting process to sit down and think through those meaningful aspects of my life. I recommend it to anyone. This fall I am even contemplating starting a lengthier Memoir, something I can leave to my children and grandchildren as they age and reflect on what made Dad and Granddad who he was.
Hiemstra-autobiography – A PDF version.
1, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In the link through the above title, I have created a review of my life changes from photos. You can watch my changes in facial structure, hair growth and loss, life changes, and even now my many encroaching wrinkles. Toward the end of my march over the decades, I pose these questions:
1. What are
the similarities and differences in appearance over the decades?
2. How does hair and hair color change with age?
3. Body weight and mass (BMI) often varies with age. Do you have any observations after viewing the various photos?
4. Skin tone, wear and tear from the sun, and wrinkles vary among people through the developmental stages. Compare what is happening to yourself with what you can discern in these photos.
5. Family relationships do matter. What thoughts pop into your mind about family in viewing these photos?
6. In viewing a set of photos like those revealed here, what thoughts form in your mind regarding your own development?
I welcome any of your thoughts, but, better yet, consider creating something similar if you have not already done so to share with your children, grandchildren, and friends.
30, 2013 at 3:17 pm
My doctor prescribed a steroid, 10 days on an anti-biotic (my second round of both), and chest x-rays. Lots of sleep (had a nice long nap today) will help, too. My bronchitis and sinus infection had reasserted themselves. I am certainly ready to feel well again. It has now been more than a month since my memorable late winter/early spring begun. Perhaps I am being reminded that I am almost 75 and don’t recuperate quite as quickly. Here’s hoping!
Visiting the Doctor Again
29, 2013 at 6:36 am
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell off and broke his head.
Momma called the doctor and the doctor said, No more monkeys jumping on the bed!
My grandchildren and I love reciting that whole story. Well, after two nights of fitful coughing and little sleep after my bronchitis returned full force, I called my doctor for another appointment this morning. Coughing is now not only “inconvenient,” but also painful down deep in my lungs as I have no doubt strained some muscles and tissues. I think as you age, it is harder to get over some things.
CC Image courtesy DanaK-WaterPenny’s photostream
27, 2013 at 1:02 pm
One of the aspects of the aging process that I like the least is the seemingly increasing frequency of memorial services and funerals. I attended a memorial service today at church, just got word yesterday that another high school classmate had died, and within the past two weeks a person I worked with at Syracuse University and the husband of another person I worked with died. Last month the third member of a wonderful barbershop quartet with which I was associated for more than a decade died. http://roghiemstra.com/blend.html.
We have been attending our current church for nearly 33 years and I have watched church members grow old with me, many have passed away, and still many others are now very frail. Obviously, this is all a natural part of the aging process and at least I am still here to experience these events. However, seeing friends, colleagues, and loved ones die is not easy. I don’t believe I fear death as I know (at least intellectually) it is a part of the life process, but as the years fly by I know that event will one day reach me.
25, 2013 at 7:00 pm
I was involved in some research 30 years ago that examined how older people were portrayed in television commercials: http://roghiemstra.com/oppta.html. How different do you believe such portrayals would be today?
24, 2013 at 6:57 pm
This will be a winter/spring to remember. I mentioned several days ago that I had pink eye. Before that it was bronchitis, sinus infection, sore throat which lead to laryngitis (at least people didn’t have to listen to my endless story telling for a while), and a cough that is having a hard time going away. Just when I thought it all was about over, now I have the beginning of a sore throat again and my cough seems to be coming back. Ugh and double ugh. Is healing harder with age??? I think I need a glass of wine.
CC Image courtesy Hades2k’s photostream on flickr
April 23, 2013 at 2:01 pm
I am finding that as I age I require more sleep. Even 10-15 years ago, I could survive fairly easily on 6.5-7 hours each night. Now it is typically 8 hours unless I have an early morning meeting. Short naps seem to be a bit more frequent, too.
CC Image courtesy wwarby’s photostream
21, 2013 at 11:05 am
Here is a somewhat whimsical test of your mental age. Be sure to read all three of the “Important Notice – Read before you start” clips.
20, 2013 at 8:32 am
If you are not familiar with this site, I highly recommend it: http://www.realage.com/
I take the test every couple of years just to see how I am doing as I age. They also have various tips on how to impact positively your results.
19, 2013 at 12:33 pm
Years ago on a sabbatical I interviewed 30 people in nursing homes, senior centers, assisted living residences, etc. It was a most revealing and fulfilling experience for me. If you are interested, here is a summary of the study’s report. I remember so clearly in one assisted living residence interviewing a man who sat alone in a TV room much like the man in the YouTube video noted below. I began “trying” to interview him and it took a while to even get his attention. When I found out he had been one of the original officials in a soil conservation organization and with a Master’s degree in soil conservation, I built off of that knowledge with my questions. Within a few minutes of talking about that part of his life, he came alive, sat up straight in his wheelchair, and we talked for 30 minutes about his life. It was fascinating to watch that transformation. Unfortunately (and regrettably), I was on a tight schedule with more interviews scheduled and could not spend more time with him. As I was leaving the facility I happened to walk through that area again and once more saw him slumped in this wheelchair with a depressed, forlorn look on his face.
As some of you know, I love to sing. I sing in a barbershop music quartet (check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9P-I4ZZFx4) and a chorus and the rehearsals each week are very uplifting. Thus when I saw the YouTube clip noted in the link below, it ties together both of these points. Music like simple conversation can truly be uplifting and even bring a fading, depressed man back to some vibrancy. Long live music and may we all remember to talk to (even sing to if that is your talent) older friends, relatives, residents in nursing homes or senior centers, and even strangers when we can. Just simple conversation can be uplifting.
So, one day if I wind up somewhat uncommunicative, just have a barbershop quartet or chorus sing to me or even put a headset on my ears with barbershop music playing.
18, 2013 at 8:17 am
A smart aleck
and a senior citizen are sitting next to each other on a long flight.
The smart aleck is thinking that seniors are so dumb that he could get one over on them easy.
So the smart aleck asks if the senior would like to play a fun game.
The senior is tired and just wants to take a nap, so he politely declines and tries to catch a few winks.
aleck persists saying that the game is a lot of
fun. ‘I ask you a question, and if you don’t know the answer, you pay me
only $5. Then you ask me one, and if I don’t know the answer, I will pay you
$500,’ he says.
This catches the senior’s attention and to keep the smart aleck quiet, he agrees to play the game.
aleck asks the first question. ‘What’s the distance from the Earth to the
The senior doesn’t say a word, but reaches into his pocket, pulls out a five-dollar bill, and hands it to the smart aleck.
Now it’s the
senior’s turn. He asks the smart aleck, ‘What goes up a hill with three
legs, and comes down with four?’
The smart aleck uses his laptop and searches all references he could find on the Net.
He sends e-mails to all the smart friends he knows; all to no avail. After an hour of searching, he finally gives up.
He wakes the
senior and hands him $500. The senior pockets the $500 and goes right back to
The smart aleck is going nuts not knowing the answer. He wakes the senior up and asks, ‘Well, so what goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four?’
The senior reaches into his pocket, hands the smart aleck $5 and goes back to sleep.
[With age come wisdom and the ability to win over those smart “a”s.]
April 17, 2013 at 8:48 am
About five years ago I happened to look down at my arm just as I turned it in a twisting motion. What was it I saw? My skin was sort of sagging and dimpling (for a while I refused to recognize it as wrinkling). Recently it hit me, not only was I obtain “aging skin,” but like my Mom’s toenails, I was now obtaining her skin. The photo below shows not only that aging skin, but also the age “spots” that I remember my Dad having increasingly as he aged. Oh well, not much I can do about it except recognize it as a natural part of the aging process.
April 16, 2013 at 8:54 am
For various reasons, I had not helped Janet with the spring yard work (raking around bushes, edging, etc.) for four or more years (I know, what was I thinking?). This morning I worked for only about an hour with some of these tasks and, wow, did I pay the price. An aching and stiff back, plus the carpel tunnel problem in my right wrist and thumb let me know it was still there. A diagnosed issue with some arthritis between the C4- C5 vertebrae also cried for some relief. The cited photo below describes visually how I feel. Thus, I need a hot shower and will do some running around for top soil and grass seed to let things calm down. Aging is definitely not for sissies.
CC Image courtesy chispita_666’s photostream
15, 2013 at 12:33 pm
For the past 2-3 years my blood pressure has been rising. I was on a couple of meds for other reasons that also could be used to lower blood pressure so nothing new was prescribed. Over a year ago I reached the American Heart Association-defined High Blood Pressure Stage 1 (Systolic 140-159 and Diastolic 90-99) and my GP had me begin to periodically chart my BP with an Omron home monitor. I could watch it rising over time and by the time of my annual physical a couple of months ago, I was beginning to occasionally enter Stage 2 (160 or higher over 100 or higher). I was becoming worried about this in terms of cardiovascular disease possibilities and my GP and I talked about it. She added a new med and I began charting my BP every day, morning and night.
It has begun to work and I have been fairly consistently at the lower range of Stage 1 again. Occasionally I even get into the 130s over the lower 80s. I checked with my GP this past week and we are both pleased with the results, but she wants me to continue monitoring it twice a day for the next month. The photo below is a graphic from the Internet, but it matches closely to my monitor and I have been regularly besting those figures. Obviously, I know that I should lose 10-20 pounds and that could have positive effects both on my BP and the slight ache in my right knee. I do continue to walk three or more times each week for 40-50 minutes and occasionally do strength training at the gym (I know, I know, I should be doing more of each). As many reading this will know, however, eating less is not always easy (I do love my desserts) and finding (or taking) time for exercise is often a challenge. I simply will keep trying.
cc Image courtesy Adrian Puser’s photostream on Flickr
14, 2013 at 7:19 pm
My feet problems go well beyond the varicose veins forming in my ankles. About two years ago I started developing a burning sensation in my feet when I walked. The pain kept getting worse so during the 18 months following that initial discomfort I saw a podiatrist, neurologist, two orthopedic specialists, and a witch doctor (not really on this last one, but I was about ready to resort to one). Nobody seemed to be able to help and it was becoming a big problem, limiting some of my walking and workout activities. I was alternating almost too much between Naproxen, Acetaminophen, and Ibuprofen (I knew I shouldn’t take too much of any single inflammatory reducing compound for too long for fear of long term impacts) to keep me going that one of the orthopedic specialists finally said I should talk to my GP. Thus in my annual physical a couple of months ago I mentioned all these problems to my GP. She suggested I try a Gaba analog drug as it can sometimes be used as a broad-spectrum analgesic for pain relief. Now I am not giving anyone who reads this a recommendation as that comes only from your medical professionals, but by working me up over a few weeks to 300 mg (100 mg at a time three times a day), it finally has worked. I really don’t think about the pain anymore unless I get over tired or over use my feet, I am back to my walking and workout routines, and this aging body seems to have overcome most of the foot pain. Thank goodness for my wonderful GP.
13, 2013 at 10:10 am
Here is a great but concise piece on the processes of aging: http://www.bcm.edu/hcoa/index.cfm?pmid=13595
12, 2013 at 3:53 pm
How many different jobs have you had in your lifetime? Can you match this? http://roghiemstra.com/myjobs.pdf .
April 11, 2013 at 1:49 pm
Ten years ago my ankles were nice and clear. Wow, look at them now!
April 10, 2013 at 10:07 am
Does this ever happen to you? It does to me (I seem to remember that it does anyway, I think). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oHBG3ABUJU
April 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm
I did not realize how much hair I had lost in the past few years until a saw a photo taken of the back of my head. Wow! However, if you stare at the balding area for a while, I think you can see a stag emerging (or is it my hopeful imagination).
8, 2013 at 8:23 am
Yesterday I presented a whimsical look at me. However, today on a bit more serious pictorial review, check out this page where I portray my life with photos: http://roghiemstra.com/thedecades.pdf.
7, 2013 at 10:51 am
Some people write autobiographies, I create an autobodiography. Don’t swoon ladies and don’t be too envious gents.
6, 2013 at 5:57 am
Test your knowledge about aging and the aged. Here are three sample true-false questions:
_ In general, most old people are pretty much alike.
_ The majority of old people are socially isolated and lonely.
_ The majority of old people are seldom bored.
Try out this quiz. There is an answer key and even a second quiz if you feel so inclined. http://roghiemstra.com/agefact1.html.
5, 2013 at 7:41 am
A Book Recommendation
As my Mom enters into a stage of needing much more care and support to stay in her own home, a book was recommended to me that is wonderful. Living at the End of Life by Karen Whitley Bell. She
4, 2013 at 4:35 pm
I have not felt well the past several days, so decided to start this blog, Ag, The Aging Me! Then wouldn’t you know it, I woke this morning with both eyes almost crusted shut. My bronchitis of this past week seems to have morphed into something else. I visited the doctor and the verdict was Pink Eye! At almost 75 it is almost laughable and not so pleasant. An anti-biotic should take care of it within a few days, but what will be next – a blue tongue?
Image courtesy doctorspiller.com
Take Personal Responsibility for Learning Posts
A Feast of Learning: International Perspectives on Adult Learning and Change
May 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm
I am very pleased about this book that came out in the summer of 2013 (IAP – Information Age Publishing) with the title shown above. I and an adult education colleague in France are the editors. This book grew out of a symposium near Paris last summer that involved nine presenters from six countries (Canada, Colombia, Germany, France, the UK, and the USA).
I believe that it will make a nice contribution to the literature as chapters focus on such topics as heuristics of adult learning, facilitating self-directed learning, placing individuals at the center of the learning process, executive self-development, distance learning, science self-directed learning, entertainment-education, positive deviance in transforming education, and learning through the life course.
In our symposium the task was to concentrate our research and intellectual acumen on where adult learning is heading in the 21st Century. The exciting dialogue, support, and energy that flowed throughout our time together led to a decision to create this book from our collective presentations and the feedback provided by each other. I am convinced that the synergistic result of bringing together each of has resulted in new learning applications, research streams, and practice suggestions that will benefit the field of adult learning for years to come. I hope, too, that it will spawn much new scholarship.
August 26, 2011 at 8:52 am
Many times it feels more comfortable for an instructor to use the same teaching technique over and over again regardless of its effectiveness. For example, many instructors rely almost exclusively on the lecture method without considering other techniques that could work even better in helping learners take increasing responsibility for their own learning. This is not to say the lecture technique is inherently bad. However, using it nearly exclusively in lieu of other equally effective techniques can lead to learners depending on an instructor for information rather than exploring alternatively learning techniques.
To combat this problem, conduct an instructional audit of your teaching units. This involves analyzing each lesson plan or activity and then choosing at least three different instructional techniques through which content can be acquired. For example, for a group of learners meeting two hours in a row, you might decide to use a mini-lecture, small group discussion, and a simulation exercise. In an online course, a brief lecture using YouTube, an audio link, or PPT slides with notes could be augmented by learners working independently on study material or participating in asynchronous discussion forums.
By using several different techniques for delivering information, you are varying the presentation modes, providing learners with opportunities to participate, finding ways of involving the learners in the teaching and learning process, and promoting the notion of learners taking more responsibility for their own learning. Becoming actively involved in the instructional transactions helps learners take increasing ownership for what takes place. For more information, read Assimilating a Personalized Approach into Instructional Processes: http://roghiemstra.com/tlchap4.html.
August 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm
Although most people can adapt and survive in a variety of conditions, a physical learning environment needs to foster friendliness, hospitality, and feelings of comfort. Places that appear inhospitable often result in people who do not seem to care about each other. Buildings appearing user-friendly are places that reflect people who are hospitable and make sure the environment is pleasing and welcoming. There is a corollary point here. A building cannot be any more hospitable than the people who use it. No matter how well equipped or designed a facility may be, there is no substitute for friendliness and hospitality among users of the facility. In reality, hospitality should be a watchword in all adult learning settings.
A teaching environment that is well tended promotes more active participation in the learning experience. Human creatures, like other creatures, tend to establish territories. Adjustment of things in our personal spaces is another of our interesting habits. We do this to give meaning to our space and to create a sense of comfort or familiarity. Personal space needs and territoriality in instructional settings can be dealt with by making sure that the spaces are not overcrowded and that each adult has adequate space for working and for storing personal items. Further, any barriers that are physical should be dismantled if the teacher wants to convey an atmosphere of collaboration in the learning experience.
As we move increasingly to online or blended learning that combines both physical space connections and online discussions, the learning environment needs to be even more carefully considered. The implications of such changes for how people interact successfully with each other will be the subject of a future essay. For more information on this topic see Where we Learn Shapes our Learning: http://roghiemstra.com/ndacelech3.html.
August 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm
Most instructors teach the way they were taught and this usually means assuming an authority position where all decisions regarding what will be learned, how it will be learned, and how it will be evaluated rests with the instructor. While this approach certainly has some value for particular situations where a high degree of structure and control is necessary, in general, an individualizing approach is more effective than an authoritative approach with adult learners because it capitalizes on those innate capacities for self-direction.
It is not easy, initially, to embrace an individualizing instructional approach without some degree of hesitancy, confusion, or skepticism. After all, most of us were initially trained to believe or shown that instruction was largely a one-way street and usually from that authority position. Many new (and experienced) instructors worry about the proper role of a teacher. It is recommended that you keep an open mind to the potential of organizing instruction differently and give it an honest try. Here are several observations and suggestions for making the process viable.
1. The negative response of certain learners may cause you to question whether the individualizing approach really works.
Some learners may at first find the approach appearing too permissive and loose. This reaction can be expected as most learners have been accustomed to a more teacher directed approach and will be confused when an instructor urges them to take increasing charge of their own learning. Simply be aware that some people will initially believe an instructional role should be conventional or teacher-directed.
2. Some colleagues may question an instructor’s use of an individualizing instructional process and challenge its efficacy.
The plain truth is that some instructors are threatened by the idea of giving learners a role in the instructional process. They often have conventional ideas about what an instructor should and should not do. Rather than be personally threatened by this reaction, the best defense is offense. Start a dialogue about your evolving views of instruction. Though you may not convince everyone, as you gain experience and have increasing success, the proof will be in the pudding.
3. Certain bureaucratic hurdles may interfere with the use of an individualizing instructional process.
While these hurdles or barriers are sometimes only sources of irritation, they should certainly not be overlooked or ignored. The key is understanding the nature of the policies and following them according to the spirit rather than the letter of the law. For example, certain institutions have a standardized syllabus format that must be followed. If this is the case, follow the prescribed format but add additional information through attachments or appendices. This compromise usually satisfies the needs of the institution and learners.
4. Above all else, be patient, flexible, and trusting in the abilities of yourself and learners.
It is not unusual to desire fairly immediate results if you are trying a new approach to teaching. If results are slow in coming, a typical response might be to abandon it. However, one of the consequences is that many good ideas are then never able to mature. Thus, don’t expect too much too soon when the individualizing approach. Because the process involves a good deal of preplanning, challenges previous instructional experiences, and often is new to you and your learners, it will take time to realize the kind of benefits that will surely come.
5. Giving frequent feedback to and receiving it from learners are useful ways of promoting instructional success.
One of the most important things you can do to ensure instructional success is to give frequent feedback to your adult learners. In addition, solicit frequent feedback from learners regarding how the learning experience is progressing and how your instruction is being perceived. This helps determine progress and what kinds of changes need to be made so as to make the experience as meaningful as possible.
6. It is desirable to use a variety of teaching techniques in the individualizing process.
Many instructors rely almost exclusively on the lecture method without considering other techniques that could work even better in helping learners attain their desired competencies. To combat this problem conduct an “instructional audit” of your teaching units. This involves analyzing each lesson plan or activity and then choosing at least three different instructional techniques to deliver the necessary content.
7. Recognize and use learner expertise in your instructional efforts.
One of the characteristics that distinguish adult learners is the amount of expertise they possess. For example, it is not unusual to find a significant number of experienced professionals in any adult learning situation. Providing illustrations that relate to or grow out of such experience and asking for potential solutions to any problems are additional ways of connecting new information with the expertise at hand.
8. Recognize that the individualizing process will not work perfectly for all learners, and that some take longer than others to adapt to the process.
As effective as the individualizing process can be, there will be a few people who resist efforts to assume personal responsibility for learning. These learners often demand that you be teacher-directed in every conceivable way. For these kinds of learners, we suggest you provide the kind of direction they demand while at the same time moving them to assume greater self-direction.
9. The individualizing process can be a structured approach to helping adults assume greater responsibility for their learning.
The individualizing instructional process is not a laissez faire approach to learning where anything goes. In fact, the process has considerable structure built into it. At the same time, there should be sufficient flexibility so that mature learners can indeed direct their own learning. The individualizing process works equally well for those learners who need greater structure as well as those who need less. By focusing attention on the individual needs of learners and devising personalized plans for meeting those needs, the whole meaning of learning is transformed from one of passive acceptance to one of personal empowerment.
For more information read Assimilating a Personalized Approach into Your Instruction: http://roghiemstra.com/tlchap4.html.
August 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm
Promoting Personal Ownership
Most adults, when given the opportunity, prefer to control their own learning activities. Considerable research on adult learning efforts in the past few decades has shown that individuals can take considerable control of various tasks. Individualizing instructional efforts enables each learner to take action, find resources, figure out a comfortable learning pace, and plan the kind of learning that is most appropriate for meeting any particular need. Following are five ways to help ensure people begin to take personal ownership of their learning activities:
1. Access routes to learning resources need to be varied to meet the different individual educational support requirements.
2. Self-discipline and self-confidence are requirements for successful individualized study so have patience and faith that the individualizing approach will work.
3. Instructors should serve as facilitators as well as emphasize the mastery of specific content areas in helping learners assume responsibility.
4. The instructor’s attitude toward the ability of learners is very important when using an individualizing approach so let them discover their own potential.
5. The instructor may need to play a counseling or mentoring role with some learners in helping them gain confidence and understand what they can do by themselves.
For more information read Fostering a Shared Responsibility Between Instructor and Learner: http://roghiemstra.com/tlchap5.html.