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HEALTH   -   SENIORS
Ann on Aging
May, 2005 - Issue #7
When my editor told me that this issue's focus was on health and fitness, it only seemed fitting to address the most important issue in aging: mental health. My husband lovingly refers to me as a poster child for mental health. I'm not sure that's a compliment, but I do know that as we age our mental health issues become more pronounced and certainly affect us physically, too. My quest for the holy grail of mental health ended shortly; the solution is humor and laugher, plain and simple.

For years we've heard it said that "laughter is the best medicine," and there's a lot of scientific data to back that up. Websites provided me with endless facts, none more fascinating than the info found at www.worldlaughtertour.com. This site is a hoot. You can become a Certified Laughing Leader, or perhaps you'll want to start or join a laughter club. Unfortunately, we don't have one in Santa Clarita. I checked.

I think it might be kind of cool to have a dial-a-laugh line for those closet laughers who are too grown up to let out a good healthy guffaw in public. There's something cathartic about a down and dirty, eye-tearing, rolling on the floor, peeing our pants laugh session. When I think back to my youth, growing up in a one-and-a-half stop light college town a half-century behind the rest of the world, my best memories are of laughing times. Like when Peggy and I did cheers in our orthodontist's waiting room. (He later committed suicide, but I don't think it had anything to do with our cheers). Peggy always had this little problem with laughing and nine times out of 10, we put her undies in the dryer before she went home. One time we hoisted them up the flagpole in the park across the street from our house. It did raise eyebrows. It doesn't seem possible that we have our 40th high school reunion next year. Maybe I'll e-mail Peg and ask her to bring an extra pair of unmentionables, for old time's sake.

Interesting isn't it, that as we age our short-term memory isn't quite as sharp, and it's our long term memory that carries us through our final years. Wow - that's brilliant! Our last years are often filled with memorable thoughts of long ago, funny, wonderful times tucked away in our mind that come back to comfort us later. Time Magazine recently had a special "mind and body" issue that dealt primarily on pleasure, humor and laughter. Leave it to scientists to screw things up by taking happiness and condensing it into a bunch of wires and technical lingo. The fact is indisputable - being happy, laughing, having positive energy... It does keep us healthy and I've got to believe it keeps the people around us healthy, too.

I think of the clerks and cashiers in the grocery store that greet me with a smile and ask how my day is. Of course, they really don't want to know - they want you to smile, say "great" and walk away. Once I let some poor kid stocking shelves have it when he asked how I was. It was a particularly trying time. My life was filled with a multitude of character building opportunities (that's New Age jargon for having a full plate), and the last thing I wanted to do was smile one more time and say "fantastic." I hope he has recovered. I had a friend who went through a wedding reception line mumbling, "My father just died." No one caught it; they simply smiled, kissed and mumbled something equally inane. Still, it's nice of people to at least pretend to care.

There's a lot of credibility in the "When life deals you lemons, make lemonade" theory. I however, make lemon bars, the ultimate comfort food. Being conscious of the butter, eggs and sugar, I've now stopped eating them and just joyfully slather them on my thighs, then roll around in them (great visual, isn't it?). I once had a client who was the ultimate optimist. He recalled how, during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, he skipped merrily through his house catching valuable vases and collectibles. Needless to say, that's one nutty guy I did not underwrite for long term care insurance, and as far as I know, he's still merrily skipping. Then of course there are those who believe that by focusing positive energy on Iraq, everything will resolve itself. That may be so, but I sure feel better backing up the energy with an arsenal of weapons and military.
The ultimate high in my bank of memories was the "We Are the World" happening. What a concept, everyone joining hands across the country, singing in one unified voice. The weekend of the great earth-moving experience, I was in Northern Arizona, and made my long-suffering husband drive almost three hours to some God forsaken town in the middle of a Native American Reservation. When we arrived, I jumped out of the car, grabbed the hands of two slightly inebriated locals and joyfully belted out "We Are the World." It doesn't get much better than that.
Until next month, stay happy and keep laughing.

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You can contact Ann via e-mail at ann@azfinsurance.com.
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