Music, Movement & Joy

Music.  It makes us happy or it makes us cry – depends on the song and what emotion it evokes.  Music connects us to memories.  We sing if we hear a song even if we are not good singers. We tap our toes, snap our fingers, we move our arms, legs,  heads, or our entire bodies.  I’d be surprised if we consciously make a decision to do any of those things – we just do it.  The music moves us.

So why was I so surprised a few weeks ago when something truly WOW happened?  The best way I can describe it:  Pure Joy.   It made my day, week, month, maybe my year.  It is leading me on new path. What happened?

I lead senior adult fitness classes. I work with older adults to improve their cardiovascular system, functional strength, balance, core strength  – it’s what I do.  I’m passionate about helping others stay healthy, strong and independent as they age.  Music is always part of the workout because music makes us happy, encourages us to move and it sets the tempo, the mood.   The training I’ve done, the fitness classes I’ve led have always been with active adults in a studio setting  – they come to me.  Until recently.  An opportunity crossed my path recently to lead a Saturday morning class in an Assisted Living facility and my intent was to lead a “structured” class which is “how things are done”.  I quickly discovered that that isn’t the case when you are working with much older adults  and/or adults that have varying degrees of dementia. So I do what I do:  I winged it – made it up as I went along – I let the music guide me.

I’d been with these awesome ladies for about a month.  Participation was low.  It was “exercise” class and most folks stayed in their rooms because you know:  Exercise.  The few who were participating were marginally participating; others were with me physically in the room, but not mentally.  The morning that “it” happened, after 15 minutes of a “no go” morning, I told them we’d play “Name That Tune”.  They name it, I’d play it.  Someone asked for Elvis.  I played Elvis. Toes were tapping.  More Elvis.  More toe tapping and fingers keeping beat against chair arms.  Doris Day “Everyone Loves a Lover” got fingers snapping.  Ladies were leaving their rooms with their walkers to come see “where that music was coming from” and then their toes were tapping, hands moving, big smiles on faces.  Chubby Checker and his Twist was next and before I knew it  –  it was game on.  A 90 year old typically in a fog of dementia got up and was dancing, eyes closed.  Someone got up to dance with her, then another.  Another reached her hand out to me and told me she wanted to dance.  As we were dancing, I looked up and saw staff watching in awe taking pictures, taking video and shouting encouragement.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see a very frail 97 year old moving her feet trying to get up – her aide comes to assist her and asked “Miss Margie, are you wanting to dance?  Margie told her “I am going to dance!” so with the help of her walker and her aide helping support her, she danced.  We danced for two hours.  They wore me out.   I played old gospel songs and they sang every single word.  I was asked for “one more fast one”  so Jerry Lee Lewis saw us dancing to the dining room for lunch.   I sat and had a very good conversation with a lady who typically is not able to have a steady conversation. She had been awakened and it was pretty darn awesome sauce.

Since that day, I’ve been reading up on how music can affect the memory and how individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can benefit from music. It doesn’t have to be formal programs of music therapy and anyone with time, energy and passion can make a difference in someone’s life.  I’ve watched the documentary “Alive Inside”  and have signed up for training with Music and Memory and have decided to get involved with elders in my community on a volunteer basis.   In my small way, I want to make a difference.  Music. We can all bring some music to folks can’t we?  All of us together can make a big difference.

For more information and a big dose of WOW head over to Music and Memory as a starting place.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

 

Chamayne – Why She Runs

This is a guest blog from my friend, Chamayne Metcalfe Johnson.  Chamayne and I graduated from high school together in 1981 and are 55 this year.  Age 55 may not be the same as it was for our mothers, but the years tick on for all of us.  One thing that is  different for us is that we are better equipped to change up our habits so that we can be stronger and healthier as we age.  This is Chamayne’s story.

I did indeed have a very special birthday this year. I ran my first 5K race — at age 55.  I placed 5th in my age group and only started running 3 months ago.

Here’s the story: After steadfastly refusing for years, um…decades, when asked by friends, I started running on August 22, 2018. Well, maybe more like shuffle-jogging at times but still…

I had never run in my entire life. And I do mean never. In high school and into my 20’s, I was what most people might consider to be fairly fit and “athletic.” However, there’s a big difference in being “athletic” and being an athlete. I was not an athlete. I never participated in organized sports teams, never had a coach making me run, and therefore, I.NEVER.RAN. EV-ER. And in my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, well….enough said.

But then…

For the last two summers, for some unknown reason, I’d wake up and see the sun shining, hear the birds singing, and have a real urge to hop out of bed, go out the back door, and actually run. I never did it, but something was just there — a nudging, an itch, a restlessness.

I ran into a teaching friend a couple of weeks into school who made changes to his lifestyle for the sake of his health and because of his loved ones, so that he’d be here for them. He told me that every day, he looks in the mirror, points at himself, and says, “You will NOT be a sorry ass!” For some reason, that hit me hard. It began to motivate even the stubborn no-I’m-never-gonna-run me. It resonated and stuck with me.

The final piece of the puzzle, the determining factor, the catalyst… Kenny. My sweet husband has coal miner’s pneumoconiosis…black lung disease.  He is also a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. He’d give anything to have his health back, to breathe easily. He’d love to be able to inhale our beautiful mountain air deeply and exhale fully until his scarred belly is concave. He’d love to run. He can’t, but by golly….I can.  And so I am.

All of those things just came together in God’s perfect timing and I made my mind up to start one day after school. I’m doing it. Running. I’m more tortoise than hare, but I am a runner now. I love it. I’ve fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. I’ll probably never be fast but then that’s not my goal anyway.

My goal is not to waste the health that God has so graciously bestowed upon me. I’ve been so very blessed with strong legs, healthy lungs, a heart that’s still beating, and eyes and ears that can gaze upon the majesty of nature and hear the beauty of birdsong as I run.

My goal is to be healthy, to be here for my loved ones. My husband needs me, my mother needs me, my son needs me. I’m doing it for me, for them, and for those who can’t.

I’m doing it for my mother, who due to ulcerative colitis, grief, and other concerns, is in very poor health and begs me to do whatever I must to stay healthy, maintain good balance, prevent falls, and promote strong muscles and bones.

I’m doing it for my mom’s lifelong best friend who’s had two total knee replacements.

I’m doing it for Mamaw, who, before her death, was crippled and confined to a wheelchair by degenerative osteoporosis.

I’m doing it for my brother, Britt, who died by suicide. I think of him often as I run here on the farm.

I’m doing it for Daddy and Pappy who died of heart disease.

I’m doing it for Papaw, Memmy, and my cousin Karen, who each died from stroke complications.

I’m doing it to set a good example for my and Kenny’s kids and grandkids.

I’m doing it to encourage others, especially anyone who’s never run before, anyone in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s…anyone who’s never really been active and thinks it’s too late. It’s not! No matter your age, young or old, teenager or grandparent, you CAN make a change. If I can do it, you can do it.

When I first started, Wednesday, August 22, 2018, I didn’t even know if I COULD run. I truly didn’t know if it was possible at 54 years, 11 months, and 6 days old. I have beginning cataracts, damaged cervical vertebrae from a car accident, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis curvature from childhood, arthritic-like joints at times, and numerous kidney stones just waiting to be jarred about and send me to the ER again. Not to mention, zero cardiovascular stamina.

I solicited the help of my friend Erica. She and another friend started back in January, asked me to join them, and I practically laughed in their faces as I categorically refused, saying, “This ole gal don’t run!” Oh, but I ate those words, incorrect grammar and all, and now needed advice on apps and some “coaching.”

I started the Fitness22 5K app, an eight-week program. You run 3 times per week, building up run time. You always start each run with 5 minutes walking to warm up and end with 5 minutes walking to cool down. Between warm up and cool down, you alternate run time with walk time. For instance, Week 1 Day 1 is: 1 minute run/1.5 minute walk, 6 times. That’s it. Sounds doable, right?

Guess what? I thought I’d DIE trying to run ONE MINUTE. Yes, 60 seconds! It was awful, even with 1.5 minutes walking in between. But I stuck it out. I did the next day and next day and the next day, week after week. If I couldn’t finish one of the training runs, I’d repeat it again until I could accomplish it before moving on to the next level. At the end of the 5K app, you’ve built up to running 35 minutes non-stop with no walking in between. (I’ve actually worked up to 53 minutes and over 3 miles a few times.)

So, I started running literally 60 seconds at a time, gasping for breath like a galloping horse, and today, I completed a 5K, running the whole way, never walking one step and never stopping one time.

I can’t wait to do it again.       ~  Chamayne