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Tag: aging

Christie Brinkley unveils the secret to staying young — and it is …

DOGS!

The 63-year-old model says so in PEOPLE, so it must be true.

She tells the magazine/website that her two dogs, Maple Sugar and Chester, are her anti-aging antidotes.

Of course, Brinkley has also credited a few zillion other things with being the secret to her youthful appearance — pretty much any product, it seems, that pays her to do so.

brinkleyanddaughtersBetween her and Cindy Crawford, another 50-plus former model who claims to possesses the secret to staying young, they are shilling not just anti-aging products, but everything from wine to furniture to dog food.

While explaining the secret of staying young to PEOPLE, for instance, Brinkley manages to work in plugs for her book, Timeless Beauty, Purina dog food, and her appearance at 63, with her daughters, in Sports Illustrated’s new swimsuit issue.

Strangely, there is no mention in the PEOPLE article of her line of skin care products that — or so she tells us on television — are her secret to staying young.

The Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare Bio-Clock Activation System claims to help resist, reduce and reverse the top five signs of aging, according to commercials for the products.

(Try not to confuse this with Meaningful Beauty, apparently made from Italian miracle melons that never rot — the line of anti-aging products touted by Cindy Crawford, who is also managing to remain freakishly young looking despite her advancing years.)

A further parenthetical statement: (Yes, while recuperating from recent surgery I’ve been watching far too much television.)

cb_bio-clock_kit_1aChristie, according to the product’s website, spent four years working with scientists to develop the product. (And yes, she looks good in a lab coat, too.)

“Now,” the website says, “she is sharing her secret with you. It is truly an anti-aging activation or ‘bio-clock’ activation system, containing a proprietary Bio-Copper Complex to help firm, smooth and bring back youthful radiance to skin.”

I’ll admit that Brinkley looks pretty amazing — but given she is saying the secret of staying young is her dogs/her skin creams/her book/even Purina dog food, I’m beginning to suspect the secret to staying young may be selling out.

Perhaps I am being hasty and cynical — or maybe just old and crotchety — but it seems that, for a fee, she’ll endorse any product as being the equivalent of the fountain of youth.

Consider the dog food connection in the PEOPLE article, which took some stretching to accomplish:

brinkley2After praising her dogs, and saying that nutrition is the secret to staying young, Brinkley singles out Purina Pro Plan (but then after all, she is a spokesperson for the company).

It, she says, is keeping her 14-year-old Labradoodle Maple Sugar young.

“That’s why I feed my senior dog Maple Purina Pro Plan,” she tells PEOPLE. “It has enhanced botanicals and ingredients that aid in digestion, things she needs.”

Maple Sugar and Chester, in turn, help keep her young, she says — and I suspect there is more truth in that statement than any of the others.

Your Cindy Crawfords and your Christie Brinkleys are from an era when advertisers and the media set impossibly high standards for women to live up to. That era never ended.

What has changed is those same forces are now setting impossible standards for the over 50 crowd to live up to — especially women. Men, as evidenced by Steve Carell getting good reviews for going grey, and Sam Elliot’s recent movie role as grandfatherly stud muffin, can still somehow get away with visually aging.

But the pressure is there for them, too, even though I — not being one to put too much effort into appearance — never felt it to any great extent. At nearly 64, I’ve given up on finding the fountain of youth. I’d settle for a steady urine stream.

So while I admire the effort your Brinkleys and Crawfords are making — and their willingness to share their anti-aging secrets with the general public — I can’t help but see a little sadness in it all.

They both were and are beautiful women, but you know what? A wrinkle or two wouldn’t really hurt their looks — and might even provide their Stepford-ish faces with some character.

It’s possible to age beautifully without waging an all-out war against that natural process — pouncing on every grey hair, slathering every wrinkle with miracle spackle, tightening, lifting and toning up every sag.

There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s appearance, or working hard at being healthy, but this insistence that all outwardly signs of aging must be fought off at all costs (Brinkley’s Bioclock Anti-Aging system will run you $125) is a fraudulent, manipulative and deceptive bill of goods.

Don’t buy it. Instead, adopt a dog.

(Top photo, PEOPLE; bottom photo, Associated Press)

When you’re feeling way older than your dog

I’m still a few days away from reclaiming my dog Jinjja, being cared for by a friend while I recover from some recent surgery, but I did stop by to take him for a test walk last week.

(That’s not us in the video above. I’m not quite that slow and bent over, and Jinjja’s not quite as willing as that dachshund to move along at a snail’s pace.

The test walk convinced me I needed a few more days — given Jinjja tugs a bit on the leash — before getting back to the two walks a day routine.

Then I came across the video above, which made me think if that old guy can still walk his dog, a little wrenching of my guts shouldn’t be holding me back. I’m not sure which impressed me more — the old man’s perseverance or the dog’s patience.

Still, given Jinjja’s hosts are so gracious and he seems to be having such a good time there — enjoying a large, escape-proof yard, the companionship of two other dogs and attention from three times as many humans — I decided to stretch his visit out to a few more days and pick him up after the holidays.

Yes, dogs help keep us young, but sometimes they can remind us how old we’re getting, or feeling — especially when a walk is the last thing you feel like doing and your dog is insisting on it. The video also got me thinking about dogs and older people, and how a good match is pretty vital to their successful coexistence.

jin2When I adopted Jinjja six months ago, after he was freed from a South Korean farm where he was being raised to become meat, I was in decent health and thought I had enough energy to handle whatever challenges he might pose.

His three escapes and the subsequent recovery efforts — one on the eve of my surgery — made me question that … and more.

Should I, at almost 64, have chosen a smaller, lazier, older dog to adopt — one content to do little more than lay around the house, one for whom my tiny courtyard would be ample space?

In retrospect, yes. But I didn’t know at the time that I was going to have to deal with a kidney cancer scare and a surgery that takes six weeks to recover from.

I’m far from alone in having this kind of issue. Even though dogs age much more quickly than we do, it’s not uncommon for older folks to find the dog they’ve been caring for has become more than they can handle, or for them to adopt one who might not be a perfect fit for their circumstances.

I’m a firm believer that a dog can bring joy, meaning, comfort, companionship and numerous health benefits to the life of an older person — and that ideally every older person who wants one should have one.

But, as with any adoption, considerations of one’s circumstances, and the possibility of unforeseen new ones, need to be kept in mind.

You can find a pretty good summary of all the pros and cons when it comes to pets and seniors in this guide put together by the National Council on Aging Care.

It was a dog who led me to the home I bought a year ago — a different dog (Ace) who died before I moved. He needed a home without steps. He was not a leash-tugger, or even a leash-requirer, and he was content to always be at my side.

The condo seemed a perfect old man/old dog house. It didn’t have anything that could rightly be called a yard, but it had no steps (which I’ll admit appealed to me as well) and it had a small fenced courtyard.

Ace — while he was an extra large dog — never seemed too thrilled with yards, anyway. He would rather go on walks and meet people, or lay on the porch and wait for people to come meet him, or simply station himself at some other observation point:

At dog parks, Ace, a highly social animal, would generally remain where the people were, rather than romp around the acreage.

Jinjja is a different story — and one that’s still evolving. He’s still working on his socialization skills, and more. We attended our first obedience class, where he showed great promise, but attending those classes was cut short by my illness.

Jinjja is still easily frightened, and wary of the male of the human species. He was at my friend’s house for a month before he let her husband pet him.

Their place was an ideal spot for him. He can just go out the back door and have an entire yard to romp in. There’s no need for leashed walks, and thereby fewer opportunities for him to take off — and when he does that, getting him back is no easy task.

DSC05631I’ve concluded that’s a result of both nature and nurture — though the environment he came from could hardly be called nurturing.

It is fairly characteristic of his breed (Jindo) to wander. And contact with humans was best avoided at the dog farm in South Korea where — though he might have been someone’s pet at some point — he was mostly raised.

So for this particular old person (for whom moving into a house with a large escape proof fenced yard is out of the question), it’s a matter of more training, more trust-building, more work, more walks, more trips to the dog park, and more of the kind of perseverance that old man in the video reflects.

And all that will resume by this weekend.

Why? Because of all the rewards we’ve only briefly touched on in this article. You — whether you are young, or old, or in between — already know what they are. I’ve been reminded of them when Jinjja, who once kept his distance from me, joyfully greets me during my visits to his temporary home.

We’ve got more bonding to do, more tricks to learn, more walks to take. He’ll have to slow down a bit. I’ll have to stay upright and pick up the pace. But, as a team, I’m pretty sure we can do it.

(Click on this link for more stories about Jinjja)

Look what this mailman delivered

Mailman Jeff Kramer met black Lab Tashi on his route in Boulder a few years ago.

“As fast as he could — which was not very fast — he ran up to me tail wagging, first day I met him,” Kramer said. “He’s just a really friendly dog. And I am a dog person, and they can tell.”

Kramer greeted and petted him nearly every day. But over the years, Tashi’s mobility declined — until the point that, after turning 13, the dog became unable to handle the steps of the front porch.

Kramer was in a position to help.

He’d built a ramp for his own elderly dog, Odie. But Odie passed away not long after that, about five years ago. The ramp sat in pieces in Kramer’s backyard.

So he offered it to Karen Dimetrosky and her family. Then he delivered it, in pieces.

rampAnd when two months went by and the family hadn’t assembled the ramp, Kramer came by on a day off and put it together for them.

“He’s just amazing,” she added. “We’ve had the ramp for a few months and he’s saved us …

“I can’t imagine not having the ramp now. It’s the only way he gets in and out.”

“We were literally carrying him up and down the stairs,” Dimetrosky told the Boulder Daily Camera. “And he weighs about 70 pounds.”

“I just noticed they needed it,” Kramer said. “I didn’t need it anymore and I hate throwing things away.”

Kramer said most of the dogs on his route are friendly.

“I’ve got about 30 or 40 that enthusiastically greet me,” Kramer said. “Then I’ve got three or four that enthusiastically want to eat me.”

Kramer recently attended Tashi’s 14th birthday party, and Dimetrosky said that Tashi, despite his achy bones, gets up off his bed whenever Kramer comes by.

Kramer said Tashi is one of his favorite dogs on the route.

“He’s just so happy with life.”

(Photo and video by Jeremy Papasso / Daily Camera)

Stress can turn dogs prematurely gray

SONY DSC

Young dogs who are especially anxious and impulsive can grow gray hair on their muzzles prematurely — just like humans, a new study says.

Scientists involved in the study, published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, said they had long suspected stress led to premature gray around the muzzle in dogs, even though little research exists on the topic.

SONY DSC“Based on my years of experience observing and working with dogs, I’ve long had a suspicion that dogs with higher levels of anxiety and impulsiveness also show increased muzzle grayness,” said Camille King, a Denver area veterinarian who led the study.

Author Temple Grandin also took part in the study, according to a press release from Northern Illinois University, King’s alma mater.

To investigate, the researchers traveled to dog parks and veterinary clinics in Colorado, giving questionnaires to the owners of 400 dogs, CBS reported.

The owners answered 42 questions about their dogs’ behavior, age and health, while the researchers took photos of each dog.

The researchers excluded dogs with light-colored fur. They focused just on dogs between ages 1 and 4, as older dogs could have gray fur simply from aging, the researchers said.

To gauge anxiety levels, the researchers asked about whether the dog destroyed things when left alone, had hair loss during vet exams or when entering new places, or cringed or cowered around groups of people.

To rate impulsivity, the researchers asked if the dogs jumped on people, whether they could be calmed, if they had difficulty focusing, and if they continued to be hyperactive after exercising.

Female dogs tended to have higher levels of grayness than male dogs did, the researchers found, and dogs that showed fearfulness toward loud noises and unfamiliar animals and people also tended to have increased grayness, they said.

In contrast, they said, grayness had nothing to do with the dog’s size, whether it was fixed and whether it had any medical problems.

(Photos by John Woestendiek)

You want to put what where?

triaddoggames 093

Seems like Ace and I, as we keep piling on the years, take turns these days experiencing health problems — from the pesky to the potentially fatal.

Saturday was his turn again.

He woke me up about 5:30 a.m. to be let outside, not all that unusual. But then he declined to come back in. He just wandered about the backyard, stopping here and there, straining to pee, but to no avail.

Once he did come back in, he wanted out again two minutes later, where he again attempted, unsuccessfully, to complete the task.

As I do with my own ailments, I got on the Internet to Google the possibilities — urinary tract infection, stones of some sort, or some other kind of obstruction that was blocking him from doing what he needed to do.

Given it was already 10 a.m. when I called his vet, and that they close at noon on Saturday, I wasn’t too surprised when I was told all slots were filled. But I was promised that a vet would call me back.

When he did, about 30 minutes later, I told him Ace was struggling to pee and that, to my knowledge, he hadn’t been able to all morning. Otherwise, he seemed fairly normal, and not in pain, not even when I pushed and prodded around his abdomen.

The vet — not the one I usually see at the practice — told me that, while I might have to wait around for an opening, I could bring Ace in. And he told me I probably should. If I waited until Monday, and Ace went all that time without peeing, he’d likely be dead by then.

After taking some X-rays, the vet showed me what he said were bladder stones — faint little circles, and some not so little, inside his bladder. He said it would take some testing to determine which kind of stones they were (some are more easily treated than others). The first priority though, was to get that obstruction cleared and that bladder drained, so he suggested a catheter.

I winced at the word. It has only been a few months since I was treated to that process while in the hospital for bypass surgery. Of all the highly intrusive things they did to me (okay, for me) the installation of the catheter remains my most traumatic memory. The mere word gives me shivers.

Why, I wondered then, and still do, would they install this device into a person without knocking him out — good and out — first?

I would not wish it on my worst enemy, much less my best friend.

Ace, his tail tucked between his legs rather than in its normal full and upright position, was ushered to a back room, and I stepped outside to pace and worry. I didn’t exactly “feel his pain,” but I did remember mine.

As soon as I stepped back into the office, only about five minutes later, the vet and a technician came into the waiting room with Ace and said things were flowing again. Ace, thanks to the catheter, had peed, and peed some more, and one little stone came out in the process.

The vet tech took Ace outside and he peed some more. His curled-up tail, which had been in the down position all day, was up — generally a sign that all is right with the world, or at least his world.

While the emergency was over, the ailment remains. Tests of his urine this week will determine whether the stones still inside his bladder are of the struvite variety, which can sometimes be treated with a therapeutic diet, or calcium oxalate stones, which require surgical removal to totally get rid of them.

Whatever the case, I’m sure Ace will handle what’s ahead in a far more classy and stoic manner than I would.

These days, we both grunt a bit now when settling down, or getting up. We’re both a little slower. We both have to shift around a bit to get comfortable, then stretch ourselves out when we get back up again.

But somehow he is better at this aging thing than me. It has been almost three years since he, now 10, surpassed me, now 61, according to most formulas for comparing dog years to human years. Now, as a large dog, he’s aging much more quickly than I am — even though you wouldn’t know it to look at us.

This week’s medical agenda includes the testing of his urine, whatever steps are deemed necessary for him after that, an echocardiogram on me to assess how my heart is working after quintuple bypass surgery, and another visit to my physical therapist for a continuing back and shoulder problem, now being treated by something called “dry needling.”

I’ll spare you the details of that. Suffice to say, for me — and even for my dog — getting old is getting old.

(A special thanks to Brian LeFevre at Winston-Salem’s Ard-Vista Animal Hospital for working Ace into his schedule and getting things flowing again.)

How to stay young? How to grow old? Dogs show us the way to both

foghat

Dogs have a knack for helping us accomplish our goals. Somehow, they seem to know what those goals are without ever being told. Maybe, they know our goals better than we do.

With no apparent effort, they can help us accomplish our missions … whatever the mission … even missions that are completely opposite from one another.

Dogs, for instance, can help us stick to a routine, or get us out of a rut. (Ace has done both for me.)

They can enlarge our circles of friends, and — at those times solitude might be best — keep it from getting too lonely. (Ace has done both of those, too.)

And they can both keep us young and show us how to grow old.

That last trick, I think, is particularly impressive.

Dogs, when you think about it, show us how to live our lives (in the moment, with abandon), cope with our maladies (with brave perseverance) and die our deaths (with grace and dignity).

Between the examples they offer, the similarities between our species and the uncovered secrets dogs may still hold, it’s no surprise that science and medicine and more than a few other fields of study are increasingly turning to them for answers.

What dogs have to teach us about living a healthy life — some of it obvious (if we pay attention), some of it suspected and undergoing research — was the subject of an article last month in AARP Magazine.

As it noted, dogs, as they continue to evolve alongside us, are increasingly mirroring us, right down to getting the same diseases and disorders.

“… This evolution is ongoing, a process scientists call convergence: Human and canine genes, shaped by the environment we share, are evolving in lockstep. Today, along with home security and leftover disposal, dogs confer a host of wellness benefits, especially to kids and older people,” the article’s author, David Dudley, wrote. “People with dogs sleep better, weigh less and get more exercise than dog-free peers.”

“And there are the less tangible perks, the ones cataloged in Marley & Me–style books. This burgeoning “dogoir” literary genre revolves around the reductive but basically correct idea that a dog is foremost an instrument of personal growth: It exists to ease your existential anxieties, impart lessons about love and friendship, and teach you how to be a better person.”

But as noted by Dudley, who weaves the lessons his dog Foghat taught him into the article, that’s just the beginning of what dogs might have to share.

He cites a couple of research projects as examples of the possible answers dogs may hold when it comes to aging.

Neuroscientist Elizabeth Head is studying elderly beagles at the University of Kentucky in an attempt to determine why, by age 6 or 7, they start showing signs of the microscopic beta-amyloid plaques that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

About a third of the beagles will succumb to canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, about the same percentage of Americans over 85 who will get Alzheimer’s.

“It could be that living in our environment — our food, our water, our homes — has made dogs more vulnerable,” she says.

Head thinks dogs might hold the key to defeating it. Past studies, she notes, have demonstrated that an antioxidant-rich diet and “behavioral enrichment” — a course of memory drills and new-skills training — can significantly delay or diminish plaque development and memory impairments.

At the University of Washington, Daniel Promislow, an aging researcher (in both meanings of the phrase), has assembled a team to join in a Canine Longevity Consortium. Through a a grant from the National Institute on Aging, they’re working on the first national longitudinal study on aging in dogs, which will include looking at how dogs stay so seemingly happy and carefree as they advance in years.

On the downside, as we all know, they can relatively suddenly become frail, forgetful and sick — as was the case with Dudley’s dog, Foghat.

“…He entered his dotage in roaring good health. Around his 18th birthday, I Googled “oldest dog in the world,” because I started to wonder if he was closing in on a record. He was what gerontologists would call a successful ager.

“And then, seemingly overnight, he wasn’t. If you have to go — and you do — a swift slide into decrepitude is the preferred way. The phrase is “compression of morbidity,” when the infirmities of age are delayed until the bitter end. Still, it’s no picnic. The joints went first. He started limping after a vigorous bouncing-a-soccer-ball-off-his-nose session. Then he needed help climbing into the car or crawling under the bed, his favorite sleeping spot.”

As Foghat declined, Dudley wrote, his “senescence appeared as both a comfort and a warning of what awaits: Some fears and eccentricities will lift with the years; others will only deepen. One by one, the things you love to do become too difficult and slip out of your life.”

With his death, Dudley says, “I was struck by the strange new stillness — the foreign silence of a household without a dog. It was as if a machine that had been humming in the background for a long time had suddenly been switched off.”

Amid that silence, Dudley, like many other grieving dog owners, started quantifying what he learned from Foghat.

” …And now that I’m no longer young, and he’s dead, I’ll do my best to follow the path Foghat blazed into my life’s last half…” he wrote.

“So eat the best food you can afford. Go for a walk, even if it’s raining. Take a lot of naps. Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch. And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy.”

(Photo: Foghat, the author’s dog, in 1995 at age 1, left, and in 2012 at age 18; courtesy of David Dudley / AARP Magazine)

The Honey Moon’s over; the honeymoon ain’t

DSC02733

That up above is Friday, June 13th’s “Honey Moon,” under which Ace and I slept during a quick beach trip over the weekend.

Given the next Friday the 13th Honey Moon won’t come along until 2098 — and given Ace is 9 and I’m 60 — we decided, after some math, it was best to take full advantage of it.

So, even though there was plenty of room inside the home of our hosts on North Carolina’s Figure 8 Island, we slept outside on lounge chairs, so we could fully bask (though I remained clothed) in whatever it is that is so special about it.

The honey-colored full moon always occurs in June around the summer solstice, when the moon, in its orbit around the earth, comes closest to our humble planet.  That point is called “perigee,” not to be confused with pedigree, which is a silly certificate, or peregrine, which is a falcon.

On Friday, the perigee coincided with the moon’s full phase, and coincided with a Friday the 13th as well.

All of which sounded too magical to not sleep under. The last time all those coincided was June 13, 1919, according to Universe Today, and it won’t happen again until June 13, 2098.

The honey moon is likely what gave us the phrase “honeymoon,” according to atronomer Bob Berman.

“That phrase dates back nearly half a millennium, to 1552 … The idea back then was that a marriage is like the phases of the moon, with the full moon being analogous to a wedding … meaning, it’s the happiest and ‘brightest’ time in a relationship.”

We’re not sure what sunrises are analogous to, when it comes to relationships, but maybe they’re reminders to wake up and see the brightness in your partner every day — the Saturday the 14th’s, the Wednesday the 23rd’s, and all the other non-special ones.

In any event, there was a nice one the next morning — sunrise, that is.

One of the advantages of sleeping outside is that you get to wake up to something like this:

DSC02778

Our beach trip is an annual affair, a gathering of college buddies, sponsored by the humans of a dog named Earl.

DSC02805

Earl and Ace are both starting to get up in years

DSC02727 DSC02868 That’s them to the left in their University of North Carolina garb. That’s them, not so far left, receiving the daily doggy blessing from host Steve, during which they sit enraptured, either by his words or the Milk Bone they know is coming.  

As older dogs, Ace and Earl react a little more slowly (except when treats are involved); grunt, sigh and harrumph a bit more; sleep a lot more; and, unlike the sun and moon, they don’t always rise and set so effortlessly.

All of which I could also say about myself. I did manage on Saturday, even after my restful sleep under the Honey Moon, to work in two — or was it three? — naps.

I’ve noticed I seem to spend with each passing summer a little less time in the surf, a little more time in the hammock, only occasionally getting those dog-like, running-in-circles, bursts of energy.

But I guess all those quiet moments allow me to figure some things out — such as, when it comes to dogs, and truly good friends, the honeymoon is never over.