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L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Gerontologist

Who Draws George and LJ?

November 30, 2020

So often I am asked if I do the drawings I share each week with my readers. My answer is a resounding, I wish! I have talent in other areas, but drawing wasn’t a skill I was encouraged to develop ever. As I defined my idea for my practice, I thought about including a visual element with my written offerings; however, I needed a trained artist to help me bring that aspect into focus.  

Several months before, Alex Mikev, then an art student at Parsons School of Design in New York, had completed a design project for me. As I looked through his portfolio, I was awed by his drawings. I knew immediately Alex could bring my vision into reality. Almost three years on, our successful collaboration continues.

It all started for Alex with a high school drawing class. Drawing gave him “more joy and purpose,” he says, “than anything else.” With passion and dedication, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Art from Ball University. His artistic style draws on the influence of the great masters of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. He wants to “make things that are as jaw-dropping real as possible.” His beautiful, commissioned works reflect this intention.

Sanctuary of Opara

Alex applies the same desire for realism to our weekly illustrations, with the added consideration of “understanding the conceptual nature of how L.J. and George are relating to each other and to the setting. It’s important I understand the story L.J. wants to tell, and keep the continuity of the journey of L.J. and George Eliot in each drawing.” In his hands, my rough, stick-figure sketches, and scribbling of notes quickly evolve into a finished sketch. Over time, Alex says he has learned to intuit what I am trying to say, and so often he is right-on. Every once in a while we get out of sync, and his rough draft makes me laugh. In the end, even the misunderstood ideas end up as successful illustrations. A testament to Alex’s talent!

As I work with Alex, my first such collaboration with an illustrator, I understand just how hard creating a successful “cartoon” is. Alex makes it seem effortless, but readily admits, “Drawing cartoons is not as easy as people think. It is a process of abstraction to correctly summarize the message, because you have to distill a lot of information into a few lines.” I am grateful every week that Alex translates my ideas so perfectly into those few important lines.

Until next time… Be Vibrant!

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Aging Well in 12 Steps

November 9, 2020

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

To adapt Lao Tzu’s proverb to this case, the journey toward aging well starts with one step: choosing to make YOU a priority.

As a gerontologist, I am asked every day, “What do you do to age more vibrantly?” Some days it’s an easy answer because I am walkin’ the walk and talkin’ the talk. Other days, I want to pull my head inside my collar like a turtle because I have temporarily fallen, not only off the wagon but into the ditch beside it!  I heartily admit since the beginning of the pandemic, staying with the program is harder. Some days I just bag it and go to bed with a book and George beside me. But, I understand that these days especially, it’s important to treat myself with a gentle hand.

What is the very good news about getting sideways with what we know are good practices? Each morning we all start with a fresh page and a new opportunity to make better choices, to step back on the path toward aging vibrantly. That’s the perennial blessing, and I’m most grateful for it.

If this is the first of my blogs you are reading, please read these words several times:

  • The Journey Starts With a SINGLE Step
  • Don’t Beat Yourself Up About Getting It Perfect
  • Do Your Best and Give Yourself Lots of GOLD STARS For Each New Choice You Make and Adopt

Today, I want to talk about times when I’m firing on all cylinders and doing what I know to do to keep my body, mind, and spirit humming at their peaks. Please know for sure, I didn’t implement all these choices (listed below) into my routine at once, and I don’t recommend you try to either. Start SMALL. Pick one, two or, if you are very ready, three, practices to adopt now. Give it some time for those to become habit before adding any more. The journey is our lifetime, and we can only take one healthy aging step at a time.

aging well in 12 steps

My Top 12 Choices To Help Me Age More Vibrantly

For My Body:

The science tells us as we get older we sleep less deeply and often wake earlier than when we were younger. I am experiencing this in my own life in the last few, post-menopausal, years. To counter these changes, I now strive to turn out the lights by 11:15 pm. This has truly been one of the best choices I have made, ever.

  • I exercise almost every day for forty-five minutes to an hour, getting my heart rate up to 85% max.

Once a week I tap dance for an hour (This counts under My Mind, too!) and I pick from a buffet of exercise options on the other days:

  • Brisk walking (my #1 go-to)
  • Interval training
  • I ride my road bike
  • Riding the stationary bike (a great chance to catch up on my reading!)
  • Lifting free and stationary weights
  • Swimming
  • Zumba (virtually, lately)

I avoid sugar, flour, hard liquor, and all processed food while consistently reaching for organic whole foods.

Most days I do well at this one; some days, well, not so much. I have no trouble avoiding all processed foods and hard liquor, but I sometimes get squidgy around baked goods. The good news: each day I have a clean plate on which to fill with better choices.

This one I can honestly say is the easiest for me, as I have been taking handfuls of supplements since I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis at twenty-two, some thirty-nine years ago. Drinking the water has also become an ingrained habit. One thing I do notice: if I short myself on the water, I feel it the next day, so that keeps me honest.

For My Mind:

  • I meditate for fifteen minutes almost every morning.

Especially since the pandemic, meditation keeps me calmer, more balanced, and better able to deal with these very trying times. I might even take a lie-down and do a mini-meditation during particularly difficult days.

  • I get my news from the newspaper, only. I do not watch the news on TV, or have it in my Facebook feed, or anywhere else.

Research tells us how much more harmful negative images—either moving (TV) or still (social media) can trigger anxious feelings of fear, depression, and seeing the glass as bone dry. Limiting my news input to only the written word has kept me sane.

  • I practice being grateful every day for what happens in my life. Since I can control my thoughts, why not pick good ones?

Ten years ago, I bought a piano and started taking lessons. Acquiring new skills is so important at our age. Research shows the benefits for of learning to play a musical instrument are overwhelming. 

Spirit:

I take time some mornings and almost every night to write down not only things I am grateful for but also things I am appreciating at that moment. There is a subtle difference between these two experiences, and I feel both are worth noting in my special notebook. This practice also helps me let go of regrets and embrace forgiveness.

  •  I connect daily with one or more friends who love and support me and who fill me up.

Sometimes this is on the telephone and sometimes it’s over a socially distanced meal or walk. Staying connected to my uplifting pals is as important to me as breathing. I see this choice as vital to healthy aging.

A frustrated clothing and jewelry designer/maker, as well as a yellow-thumbed gardener and avid recipe-experimenter, I get cranky if I ignore my creative side for too many days. These spirit-nurturing hobbies add purpose to my life and keep me grounded and happy.

Nature feeds my spirit, and as many scientists, including Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, author of Forest Bathing have shown, Mother Earth replenishes us when we soak in her beauty, fragrances, sounds, and atmosphere. Nature is a spirit healer, like no other.

I know this is a long article, so I will close here by saying one more time:

Go Slowly! Begin by picking one or two choices from my list. Add them to your daily routine and enjoy the experience of a more Vibrant Life!

And, until next time…Be Vibrant!

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Today, Start Some Emotional Self-Care

October 19, 2020

Late this past summer, I engaged in some fun emotional self-care. I bought a beautiful red jacket on deep sale (yippee). I bought it as a testament to my belief I will be able to wear it this holiday season. Recently, I made summer fruit chutney with the last of the good nectarines; it is the bit of summer I put on top of cream cheese when I entertain friends in my home during the dark of winter. These are small, conscious acts, but important ones. They soothe my heart with the knowing that better times are coming. We will get through this, and at some point, out the other side. Even if the jacket doesn’t make its debut until Holiday 2021, it is there, giving me hope about the future.

I do little things like these as often as I can, especially after learning another state is on fire, infections are going up, or a local business has closed forever; right after I send money to the Red Cross, the local relief fund, and the food bank. Each act makes me feel more empowered, and with it I boost my immune system, reduce stress and help strengthen my armor against illness.

Dr. Bruce Lipton is the author of many books, but his groundbreaking work is entitled, The Biology of Belief. In this seminal work, Dr. Lipton, a cellular biologist, turned the healing community upside down when he put forth what many scientific studies have now proven: Our beliefs push every cell in our bodies toward healing or disease, accelerating aging or slowing it down. That’s pretty heady stuff. The scientists even gave it a new name, epigenetics. Even more astounding were the findings that our beliefs have five times more influence on our health than genetics.

Can positive thinking change your life? The answer is a definitive, YES! We are what we believe.

Here in this platform I have devoted many words to how detrimental high, sustained cortisol levels – from problems like stress and anxiety – are to our health and our rate of aging.

When we continually think negative thoughts—believing the worst is happening every minute of every day and that the world is coming to an end—in L.J. speak, when there’s NO water in the glass—we flood our systems with life-sucking cortisol. A bitter, but absolute, truth. We age and become wizen, inside and out. Look at the faces and more importantly, the body postures of stressed-out folks. They look and move older than they are.

But, all is not lost! How to see your glass half-full?

Now for the good news: by undertaking emotional self-care and consciously doing things that give us hope for a brighter future, we actually begin to shift our negative thoughts to sunnier ones. We know from bushel baskets of research that positive thinking helps prevent disease. They reduce our cortisol levels.

These optimistic feelings can be large or small. Start planning that dream vacation to the Grand Tetons or plant those herbs in a kitchen window box to yield delicious fresh herbs in February when the ground is bare. During World War II our grandparents and parents planted “Victory Gardens,” not only providing food for themselves, but also banking on the war ending and good times returning. I think right now, this red-hot minute, we need to create our own victory garden, be it with colorful brochures or a potted garden, then tend it with our consistent,  positive attention, saying to ourselves, “This is for my better future,” and watch it blossom into reality.

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

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Quarterly Article Recap

September 28, 2020

July 6, 2020—Can You Really Give Up Sugar?

Sugar overdose upsets the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut. It can also cause chronic diseases related to inflammation like heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Ingesting too much sugar can lead to anxiety, dementia, and palpitations. And, it can make us fat. Adopting a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish is the key to keeping us vibrant.

July 13, 2020–Magic in the Music

Moving to jazz, classical, or instrumental –sorry, not rock and roll—enhances your ability to regain and strengthen your balance.

July 20, 2020–Powering Up Our Immune System

A reminder to bolstering our immune systems as our first choice of defense against disease, and that holds true for COVID-19, the Coronavirus. Consider increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, as well as your oral supplements—Vitamins C and D, a good multivitamin, honey, garlic, probiotics, selenium, and zinc.

August 3, 2020—What New Skill Have You Learned?

We all know the thrill of accomplishing something new, and sheltering in-place gives us the perfect chance to learn a new skill. The resulting success does wonders for our immune systems.

August 10, 2020—Cerebral Small Vessel Disease

CSVD, as Leslie Kernisan, MD, MPH says, “is a broad umbrella term that encompasses many different types of problems with the brain’s small blood vessels.” We can lower inflammation within the body, and slow down the onset of CSVD by consistently making healthy life choices.

August 17, 2020—George Eliot and I Are in Print!

After many months of hard work, and countless revisions, I am thrilled to announce the birth of our book, Live Vibrantly! With L.J. and Her Dog George Eliot. ❤️ Many people asked me how this book came about, so I’m sharing my story today on the blog.

August 24, 2020—Let Me Sleep on That

Adequate sleep each night enhances every facet of our health and aging process. It strengthens different types of memories, clears waste products from the brain, offers immune protection against infections, and may lower the possibility of weight gain, depression, and the development of Type 2 diabetes.

August 31, 2020—My Life-Changing Sleep Secret!

As we age, our circadian rhythms governing our sleep-wake cycle change, and so we can no longer stay up late and still function well the next day. Turning out the light before 11 o’clock may be the key to better sleep.

September 7, 2020—Get A Jump This Year on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder gives many of us the blues, come winter gray skies. Light boxes, exercise– especially in the morning– yoga, lowering sugar intake, and keeping up with friends and hobbies can help you stay vibrant until the sun shines again.

September 14, 2020—Explaining Gerontology

Gerontology blends the biological, social, and psychological sciences of aging with humanistic studies of relationships, spirituality, emotions, beliefs, and behaviors of older people.

September 21, 2020–How Can a Gerontologist Help Me?

My job as a gerontologist for both my readers and my clients is to pull together the best science from each discipline on a subject, and filter it through my understanding and expertise. Then I offer non-pharmaceutical, life-enhancing suggestions and solutions to change the course of our aging and lead fuller, more vibrant lives.

September 28, 2020—Third Quarter Recap

A quick summary of all the great articles of the past three months!

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How Can a Gerontologist Help Me?

September 21, 2020

My goals as a gerontologist are to empower, educate, and energize women using great information backed up by sound science. We deserve to be the masters of our health and our destiny. Obviously, we have merited that unique focus all along, but thank goodness society is finally catching up.  We now see women across the planet stepping up and taking their rightful places as full creators of their future. I want to help each one of them access the very best version of herself.                                                             

I knew from the beginning of my most recent return to school, that I wanted to concentrate on issues facing women as they age, for both my own journey and to help all my friends live long, healthy lives so that I would have playmates! But seriously, I saw a great need: For so long, few health and science studies focused on women, and only a scant amount had used women participants.  For example, older studies on testing hormones used men as the participants! (How bizarre is that thinking?) Researchers and doctors just took the results of studies on men and applied the same guidelines to women, because women and men are exactly alike.  😉

Eventually studies featured female participants, but only in the last twenty years or so. Still, nowhere could I find clear, concise information regarding women’s health and well-being as seen through a gerontological lens—a holistic lens—as gerontology is a holistic discipline. Holistic means that since all our parts are intimately connected, to fully understand ourselves as complicated human beings we must look at all the different aspects of a person—the psychological, physical, and social elements. Gerontologists are social scientists.

How are Gerontology and Geriatrics Different?

Geriatrics is the study of the diseases of the elderly and focuses solely on medical conditions. 

Do Only Seniors Need a Gerontologist?

It is most often that older people seek the assistance of a gerontologist, however, I know that the younger a person starts following the advice we offer, the more vibrant they will be throughout their lives. Yet, most folks believe a gerontologist only helps seniors. If we could only get the younger ones to be interested (or think they will ever need us!)

How Does a Gerontologist Help with Everyday Living?

My job as a gerontologist for both my readers and my clients is to pull together the best science from each discipline on a subject, and filter it through my understanding and expertise. Then I offer non-pharmaceutical, life-enhancing suggestions and solutions to change the course of our aging. I want my readers to lead lives filled with more vibrancy, and so hopefully, more fun, and with greater opportunities for heart connections and satisfaction on all levels.

I “walk the walk and talk the talk,” as we say, by road-testing my theories on myself first before I suggest them to you. If it doesn’t seem to work, out it goes. I pass along the success stories through my articles and videos and hope they will help women, as they have helped me, feel more energetic, look younger, think clearer and sharper, remember better, and wake up each day excited to have another day here on this planet to manifest my dreams. Even if we have limitations or challenges, we can always strive to be more vibrant.

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS)

Earlier this year I became a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, CAPS for short, to further help seniors stay in their homes by retrofitting those homes to accommodate their changing needs. My thirty years of being an ASID interior designer and owning my own interior design business give me decades of experience added to my gerontological knowledge, to find just the right, and beautiful, solution to every home’s challenges. Adding this important component to my erector set, I can help build a better model for our future selves to be as vibrant as possible throughout our lives.

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