Earlier Learning Affects the Each Person as it Relates to Aging

Nature: stable, preexisting personality, humor, temperament (See 8/17/21)

Nurture: the activities ,experiences and outcomes of fostering, training, teaching, nourishing

Intangible Personal Asset: an ongoing  attitude, viewpoint or tendency that cannot be touched or held, e.g. individual values, beliefs ways of looking at situations

Both nature and nurture affect the way we view and deal with aging, our own and that of others. Seeking to become aware of our own nature and nurturing can help us to grasp and better recognize the internal, intangible forces that are shaping the way we are pre-programmed to view and deal with our own and others’ aging experiences. Recognizing and accepting them as they is a bit like donning glasses that sharpen images of these silent assets and their impact in presenting situations. It also helps for us to try to remember and understand how we learned them. (They didn’t just appear out of nowhere.)

As infants and children, we were like sponges sopping up what those around us purposefully sought to teach us and rewarded us for learning; or punished us one way or another when we showed failure to learn. But we also sopped up what we saw, heard, and experienced from others around us when they didn’t know that they were teaching us.

In our adult years we sometimes were influenced to add to or modify earlier viewpoints, values, and attitudes. All of this has been quietly stored inside us. Now it is affecting what we believe, value, accept, strive for, or reject in our own aging and that of others. 

The nurturing of others who are a part of our aging world may be congruent and comfortable with ours. But it can just as easily be quite different. For example, I believe in and desire a “slow medicine” approach to my health care, including end of life care. My primary care physician and I are on the same page and each of us recognizes and respects this. In a recent hospitalization I was assigned to a resident internist who immediately took an assertive medical approach that was the opposite of my ongoing prescribed care. Fortunately, I moved on to rehab a few days later and was able to move back to the slow medicine approach. Among my home care providers, some followed the care plan exactly and quite independently without consulting with me about the status of my 100% of any capacity that might be available. (At 99, some days I could and wanted to do much more for myself. On others, not so much.) Fortunately, I was able to negotiate at least partial adaptations with them, but it was difficult for each of us.

This experience and the subsequent reading I did on nurturing and its impact, plus my available cognitive and verbal capacities have enabled me to interact with care givers in an open way.  Many agers can’t. Someday, I may not be able to. Then it falls to designated, informed representatives to try to negotiate whatever adaptations are possible. (Another facet of our aging to be managed in an ongoing way.)

Each aha moment in aging reinforces the growing, sharpening vision of what a very complex experience aging is for both the aged and those who are yet to be aged.

A Mantra when Shopping for Fruits and Vegetables: “Brighter and Darker!”

There is a growing body of research on the  specific effects of various food ingredients  on our body cells.  One hears about anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory effects of food that protect our cells from oxidative damage that can lead to diseases and promote slowing of some age related changes in our cells..

A research project that was reported in the New York Times found a linkage between dietary habits and age related changes in memory and mild confusion. (That certainly rang a bell with me.)  The subjects (<10,000, half of whom were males and half females, whose mean age in the current study was 73 for males and 76 for females. Each, had participated in earlier research involving keeping a daily record of their food intake for long periods of time. In the current study they answered yes or no to 7 questions involving memory and mild confusion. By comparing earlier eating patterns with current mental status a surprising finding was that the 20% whose earlier diaries had shown the highest consumption of colorful fruits and vegetables answered the questions in a way that reflected less memory and mild confusion issues while the 20% whose diets reflected the lowest intake of these fruits and vegetables reported the greatest amount of memory problems and confusion.

Reading this led me to look for more information about the touted fruits and vegetables that were known to contribute to specific health benefits, I found so many variations on lists on what specifically was high, medium, and low in anti-oxidative effects  that I could never remember. I tested the idea of brighter and darker in color as a usable guideline e.g. bright winter squash was high while pale summer squash was low.  Blackberries were darker than strawberries. Spinach was better than paler summer greens. Brighter and darker, this I could remember and use.

There seems to be enough solid information to suggest that it is wise and also possible to take seriously the relationship between antioxidative properties of food and wellbeing.  This may be of greatest importance to those who are not yet aged.  Still, it’s never too late to do what we can where we are.

So, whether we are living in congregate settings where meals are provided or alone where we have wider choices and responsibilities, we can still make thoughtful choices when it comes to the fruits and vegetables we choose to eat.

And just think, we can not only enjoy the appearance and flavor of these foods, but we can also rejoice in the knowledge that that their anti-oxidative properties are contributing to the pace of our aging and our ongoing wellbeing, two for one.