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From Stifled Screams to Suicide: More People 85+ Choose the Latter

In my private practice, I hear people repeatedly say, “I feel so ____ and I just want to yell.”

“Do you?” I ask. Fairly often the answer is, “No.”

I ask, “What stops you from yelling?” We may explore this reluctance, or I might ask, “What would need to be different for you to feel comfortable yelling, screaming, humming or making some other audible release?”  

Perhaps you too feel like releasing energy in this way. Recently, a woman in her eighties shared with me, “I was shopping with my friend who is 35-years younger than me and all the store clerks’ directed their answers to her when I was the one asking the questions. Even if I screamed, right there in the store, I am certain I wouldn’t be heard.”

There is a disproportionate number of older adults who commit suicide. Many countries are witnessing declining rates, while the US is seeing higher rates – with older Americans having the highest suicide rate of any age group. While older Americans contribute to 13 percent of the population, this age group accounts for 20% of the people who commit suicide. 

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported in 2019, that suicide among those 85 years and older represented the second largest number of suicides by age range, with the greatest number being among those in the 45 to 64-year age range. 

There are many reasons why a person may seek out mental health support – fear, stress, anger, sadness, confusion, substance abuse concerns – and yet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates a mere 3% of people 65 and older have made the brave move of utilizing mental health services. 

We can turn to the research of Speer & Schneider to see a direct link between untreated mental health and physical manifestations – immune and cardiac functions, increased susceptibility of infections, higher levels of reported pain, asthma and increases in length of recovery following surgery. Just think of how much less physical health needs there might be if we tend to our mental health.

Some older adults are much more likely to get a physical check-up than access mental health services. Another reason for some older adults not accessing mental health services may be due to insurance payment disparity. Medicare covers 80 percent of procedures and processes related to physical health and only 50 percent of mental health. Discussions of cataracts, glaucoma and hip procedures flow from the mouths of some older adults as freely as the Neuse River flowed once the Milburnie Dam was removed. And yet when it comes to talking about mental health, chatter is at a minimum.

I invite you to tap into your primal roots and begin making noise. Harmonize your body by screaming, yelling, humming or something else. Let it out. Perhaps love can fill the space that is being occupied with years of stifled screams.

Adrienne Ione is a cognitive behavioral therapist and personal trainer who integrates these fields in support of people thriving across the lifespan. As a pro-aging advocate, she specializes in the self-compassion of dementia.

Website: yes2aging.com
Guided Meditations: insighttimer.com/adrienneIone
Facebook: silverliningsintegrativehealth


Speer & Schneider. (2013). Mental health needs of older adults and primary care: Opportunities for interdisciplinary geriatric team practice. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice10(1).


Dementia Free Bodies Fear Becoming Dementia Bodies

Extended periods of silence, reduced thought processes, a decrease in extremes of emotions and recognition of an existence beyond the boundaries of our mind are four attributes shared by two different groups of people in our country.

One feared. The other glorified.

10% of the U.S. population is affected by dementia.

10% of the U.S. population strives to reach enlightenment.

We live in a fear-based culture, one that favors an us vs. them mindset. The use of military metaphors proliferates the dementia narrative in mainstream media and the scientific literature, thereby reinforcing this fear. As Lane and colleagues remind us, attention is turned toward viewing disease as ‘the enemy’, ideas of people being robbed of their memories or held hostage by this rapacious disease come into clearer focus. Meanwhile, individual physical, psychological and social needs fade into the background.

At the 2013 G8 Summit, it was declared that we are facing a global “war of dementia.” Current efforts are focused on early prevention by increasing the public knowledge of modifiable risk factors, encouraging person-centered behavioral management, educating the public and supporting caregivers. Nevertheless, when solutions are created within a disease model of care, strengths and resiliency of people living with dementia will remain confined to a space out of common view.

The possibilities in the space that silence occupies may remain undiscovered unless we move out of the mind and into the body of people living with dementia. Moreover, we must consider the impacts of the dementia-free body on dementia bodies.

Resmaa Menakem, within the context of racialized trauma, talks about the effects of fear held within white body supremacy and how the lizard brain is accountable for actions. The same could be considered when caregivers or everyday people interact with people living with dementia. Perhaps there is a fear that the caregiver will one day be the one living with dementia.

Hearing bodily messages takes practice. With the previously shared four attributes, there are four corresponding ways to practice deciphering bodily messages.

One way to practice is to follow your breath. Find a comfortable position standing, seated, lying down or something else. I invite you to notice the presence of absence of your breath. Perhaps you ask your body, “Are you breathing?”

Words have a place. Words expand and also confine. I invite you to try a bodily practice that mirrors reduced thought processes. Tune into your bodily sensations. You may want to experiment with where you notice your breath in your body. Rather than describe or label, feel, sense and notice.

A third bodily practice is expanding your awareness to include all possible emotions. Rather than hierarchizing your emotions or placing value on some emotions while devaluing others – smiling is good or crying is bad – place your emotions on a continuum. Allow yourself to move amongst and between states of being.

When we connect with our bodily sensations, we are actively engaging in a process of recognition of the space outside of our mind. In moving beyond cognitions, we appreciate other aspects of the human landscape.

Traveling and adventuring into the unknown and out into the hinterlands can be scary. To prepare for these explorations, we might trade fear for curiosity.

Let’s be brave and search the body for clues to understand the mind.

Adrienne Ione is a cognitive behavioral therapist and personal trainer who integrates these fields in support of people thriving across the lifespan. As a pro-aging advocate, she specializes in the self-compassion of dementia.

Website: yes2aging.com
Guided Meditations: insighttimer.com/adrienneIone
Facebook: silverliningsintegrativehealth



Emerson, D. (2015). Trauma-sensitive yoga in therapy: Bringing the body into treatment.

Lane, H.P., McLachlan, S.A., Philip, J. (2013). The war against dementia: are we battle weary yet?, Age and Ageing, 42(3), 281–283, https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/aft011

Menakem, R. (2017). My Grandmother’s Hands. Central Recovery Press.



Be the Five

The current prevailing thought construction about COVID-19 is informed by a medical model of disease: respiratory illness. What we need is a paradigm shift. A model that promotes and encourages respiratory health and optimum wellbeing across the lifespan.

Google and WHO teamed to offer a PSA “Do the Five.” I invite you to consider an alternative. In addition to doing the five important tasks outlined in the “Do the Five” infographic, “Be the Five.” Yes. This is a different way of thinking – of being – one that runs counter to a culture of doing. Is it possible that one form of healthy aging is to simply be?

Let’s consider 5 ways to be:

Be ACTIVE by engaging in physical activity ranging from diaphragmatic breath practices, cardiorespiratory activities, strength, balance, flexibility, meditation or even hand mudras such as Prana Mudra for increasing immune health. Try actively saying a word(s) when you breathe in, such as “I am breathing in.” When you breathe out say something else, “I am breathing out.” Or try: Calm in. Peace out.  Or something else. Study findings suggest physical activity, such as cycling (on a bike or using solely your body mimicking cycling form), negates immunosenescence in subjects ages 55-79.

Be PRESENT by being aware of our body, our mind, thoughts, emotions, and others’ state of being. We are more likely to respond rather than react when we practice present moment awareness. By being present we are tuned into the finiteness of our bodily needs: hydration, nutrition, sleep, comfort. Try a self-hug. Physiologically, when we hug ourselves, our blood pressure lowers, immune system boosts, heart rate decreases, cortisol decreases, decrease inflammation, stimulation of brain memory centers, and release of oxytocin.

Be CURIOUS about the possibilities of what is going on. Adopting a mind that frames the world in a sense of “don’t know” can be powerfully emancipating. We don’t expect infants to know how to balance a checkbook – they are just beginning in the world. We too are just beginning. We have never lived this very moment before now. No one person needs to know everything. We are in this together. Try framing activities as play or exploration.

Be POSITIVE amongst all the uncertainty and unknowns, it is possible to alleviate some pressures by naming at least one positive thing that happens each day and/or smile. Stress creates inflammation and thinking positively reduces the negative effects of stress on the immune system. A study out of the University of Kansas suggests smiling reduces heart rate and blood pressure. Try smiling. Even if it’s a fake smile, physiologically, same effects.

Be KIND to yourself and to others. Many people are afraid, distracted and worried. By being gentle and kind we can create a parachute of peace that can aide us in a soft landing, as we all have been shoved out the aft end of an airplane at 14,000 feet above earth. Dacher Keltner, psychology professor at UC Berkeley, reminds us of the importance of the “survival of the kindest.” Try saying: May you be healthy. May you be comforted. May you feel safe. The you in these statements can be directed toward yourself as well as others.

When we “Be the Five”, we may move toward creating mind-body homeostasis, and this might allow us to age for perhaps one more moment. Even if the effects last for a millimoment, maybe there is liberating power in being.

Adrienne Ione is a cognitive behavioral therapist and personal trainer who integrates these fields in support of people thriving across the lifespan. As a pro-aging advocate, she specializes in the self-compassion of dementia.

Website: yes2aging.com
Guided Meditations: insighttimer.com/adrienneIone
Facebook: silverliningsintegrativehealth

Originally printed on Thrive Global. Reprinted with permission.


The Still Life

I am not referring to the still life of the 17th century, a tradition that originated with Dutch painters and spread throughout Europe, where often there was a religious dimension.[1] I am also not referring to still in the sense that Don Henley encapsulates in his 1994 song, “Learn to Be Still.”  Nor am I insinuating an exploration of the archaic use of still that suggests sedentariness. Quite the opposite, although closely connected to the latter.

It’s 5 a.m. I am seated in a plush black leather chair situated in the corner of a soft-red lighted area of our home designed as a small bistro. The Baja-blue ceramic tea pot is on the stove and I am reading the New York Times. A headline captures my immediate attention: “Lifeguards for Life (Or as Long as Possible).”[2] In a 1,122 word story covering lifeguards who are greater than 60 years of age, the word “still” was used 5 times. That is, every 224th word of the story is “still.” My feelings of calm and delight suddenly mix with this internal emblazoned visceral change that underwent chemical synthesis and became a substance fueling the writing this article. I am perplexed at the use of the word still when describing people who are greater than 60 and the daily activities in which they may be involved.

Although well intentioned, selection of the word still is a curious linguistic choice.  This particular article did a beautiful representation of using two-polar opposite definitions of this word: one suggesting change and the other stagnation. On the one hand “still” suggests the possibility of change. A growing or morphing into a larger state than at present. For example, there was reference in the article to the late 1950s when “surfing was still in its infancy on the East Coast.” Now, in 2017, from Kennsington Cove off the coast of Nova Scotia to South Beach, Florida, one can surf up and down the East coast and find plenty of other surfers amidst the waves. Thus, in this case, still implies growth.

Then there’s another use of still when referring to an unchanging situation. The vernacular appeal of using still as a compliment is readily apparent. As in describing Mr. Labert, “One of the oldest active lifeguards – the kind who still dash into the surf to rescue swimmers.” However, his livelihood or successes, as he ages, are redefined in terms of stagnation. Continuing to do the same activities. Use of still in this sense implies accomplishment sans change. Other elderly lifeguards are “still ocean-certified” and “still kept watch.” Still can be likened to a lexiconic hologram: it appears one way from one direction, change your position (or age) and your perspective changes, or the image changes. Faced with a continuum of age from congratulations to offense to oppressive to objectification, our language lends itself to prescribing a limiting condition: “the tyranny of still.”[3]

Some of us will reach, or have reached, an age where marks of success shift from change to stagnation. We could call this the still life. I still live alone. I still drive. I still eat by myself. I still bathroom by myself. While these are not necessarily accomplishments or accolades to be proclaimed at achieving in one’s thirties or forties or fifties, there is that pivotal age when some of the smallest tasks become trophy winning moments. These triumphs are often treated as moments to be captured on camera and lived and relived, with bystanders singing praises such as, “Yay. You are still using a fork.” A comment actually made to a hundred-year-old woman, to which she responded, “Dignity doesn’t age.”

Embedded in these still comments, intended to be compliments, are platitudes served on silver platters. Sure, they appear nice and clean and friendly, yet under the shiny shellacked surface is a sharp jab. What are we saying when we say someone is still capable of completing activities of daily living? Perhaps a round of applause that they are seemingly independent. Why then is inter dependence not congratulated?  As a species is there truly anyone who is fully independent? We all rely on someone to some extent. Taking a look across the life span, we can see a continual push to be independent. If we say, “She’s 47 and she still lives alone,” then this begs questions of “What’s wrong with her?” or simply, “Why?” However, the script and responses are very different if we say, “She’s 97 and she still lives alone.” Often, the question then becomes, “Oh, what is she doing right?” With an implied, “If I take similar measures then I too will live to be that age and be active.”

Perhaps there are more connections between the still life of the 17th century and use of the word still as we age, than is apparent on the surface. Just as with some Dutch painters in the 1600s conveying religious messages, some research suggests we become more religious as we age. Perhaps the use of still is a way of separating the worlds, between the doers and not-doings. If we are still doing something, then we are not dead. If we are still doing, then we are relevant. A good many people desire to be relevant and alive. And one can be both, without adding still into the game. Still relevant and still alive. No. Relevant and alive.

Adrienne Ione is a cognitive behavioral therapist and personal trainer who integrates these fields in support of people thriving across the lifespan. As a pro-aging advocate, she specializes in the self-compassion of dementia.

Website: yes2aging.com
Guided Meditations: insighttimer.com/adrienneIone
Facebook: silverliningsintegrativehealth


[1] Vincent Pomarède and Erich Lessing (Nov. 2011) The Louvre: All the Paintings.

[2] Corey Kilgannon. (July 16, 2017). “Lifeguards for Life (Or as Long as Possible).” New York Times.

[3] Bill Thomas (2015). Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life.

Woman Holding Her Father's Hand

There Are More Than 5 Million U.S. Teachers…

You are having dinner with a friend and notice a softball-sized protrusion on the left side of your friend’s head. Do you inquire about your observation? Maybe you make jokes? Or, perhaps you choose to remain silent.

When we experience or witness cognitive declines, we meet them with resistance and say: “Dang it. Where the heck are my keys?” Or, “Idiot. I hate when I can’t remember.” Or, “Geez, how many times do we have to have this conversation?”

Sometimes, we say nothing.

Silence speaks unkindly.

Despite popular beliefs about cognitive decline being a natural concomitant of the aging process, the National Institute of Health on Aging reminds us that “age-related changes in cognition are not uniform across all cognitive domains or even across all [people ages 65 and greater.]” There is tremendous variability in cognitive functioning among people who comprise this heterogenous group – humans who’s ages are 65 and greater.

And when cognitive shifts do present, often as an inability to remember recently learned information, important dates or repeating questions – we, yet again, opt for silence.

Or, we ignore, deny, hide and humor.

It is estimated that 60% of female and 70% of male Americans will live dementia free lives.

In a fear-based culture, one that favors an us vs. them mindset, these sorts of comforting statistics do not readily capture our attention. Instead, we glom onto facts such as: “There are 5.4 million Alzheimer’s patients in the United States.” For these millions of Americans, their existence is described as “terrible,” “they’ve been robbed of their memories,” and “this is just devastating.” These stories are of loss, wrapped in loss, and suspended by more loss.

Yes. It has been suggested that in the brains of people affected by Alzheimer’s (as determined by autopsy), there is evidence of diminished neural connections, brain atrophy or surface area decreases, neurofibrillary tangles and cellular death. This is just to name a few of the potential losses evidenced in the brain.

However, these changes are often foreshadowed by present-day behaviors and interactions presented by people affected by Alzheimer’s. When we talk about how terrible Alzheimer’s is, this has the potential to inform and shape people’s experiences. How different would our experiences be if we used language of strength and resilience and gratitude to frame the story of cognitive transformations?

What if we begin the story from a different vantage point? A story that begins by us listening rather than narrating. One that holds as the hero of the story the one who is directly affected by Alzheimer’s.

When I read statistics on the number of people in the U.S. affected by Alzheimer’s, I interpret this as the number of possible teachers waiting for class to begin. Yes. People affected by Alzheimer’s have much to teach.

We have much to learn. We know so very little. We could equate our knowledge with the measurement of animals from largest to smallest. Our knowledge is equivalent to that of a tiny crustacean, a Stygotantulus, that measures a tenth of a millimeter in length.

When we stop fearing them and start seeing them as us, maybe then we will be ready for class to begin. Maybe then we will begin to learn.

These teachers hold valuable gifts in the realm of practicing present moment awareness. We could only hope to be so lucky to be chosen to be a teacher.

When we show up for class, with a mindset of not-knowing, perhaps then we can begin to meet cognitive transformations with curiosity, rather than resistance, and begin saying: “Deep breath in, my keys are temporarily out of sight?” Or “Gosh, I wonder how long this will last?” Or “Curious. It appears to me that for you this is the first time we are having this conversation?”

If you’re not ready for class to begin, this is perfectly fine.

Please though, say something to your friend when you notice a softball-sized protrusion that presents as forgetting important dates.

Be brave.

Choose to speak kinder than silence. These are gifts.

Adrienne Ione is a dynamic, mindful, high-fiving, cognitive behavioral therapist, certified dementia specialist and senior personal trainer. Founder of Silver Linings Integrative Health, a company with an aim of promoting health, fitness and wellbeing opportunities for people to thrive across the lifespan.

purple ribbon for the world alzheimers day

The Weather of Alzheimer’s

When you are organizing an event, say, the Tacoma South Sound Alzheimer’s Walk, there can be an illusion that all moving parts are in your control, leaving you thinking: this event will be successful/fantastic/memorable (insert your favorite adjective here) so long as I check off all items on my to-do list.

We could view life as an event. The event. So the narrative goes, as long as I check-off all of the items: be respectful, do good, establish a career and so on, then I will be successful or (insert your favorite adjective here).

In today’s early Autumn event, there is at least one piece that remained uncheckable. The weather.

The weather, with all of its unknowns and impulsivity is similar to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

During a two-hour period of time, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., there was as much variation in the sky as there were people populating Todd Field, at the University of Puget Sound.

The sky was a solid sheet of arctic blue separated only by two main air streams. Within a matter of minutes, the sky shifted to an admiral blue populated by picture-book clouds and rays of sunshine. The imperceptible breeze shifted to barely detectable rain droplets.

A mildly warm autumn afternoon became disguised by a frigid rain storm too gusty even for an umbrella. In between the dramatic changes were the smaller ones too, warm became cold when some cumulus clouds blocked the now feeble sun, rain became stinging stones.

Miniature purple cowbells chimed. Pieces of synthetic orange, yellow and purple flower petals swirled in the air and decorated sidewalks. Bubbles were attempting to be blown from wands. Umbrellas flipped inside out. The announcer suggested over the loud speaker: 1-milers to the left and 2-milers to the right. Do I go left or right? Make a decision.

In the early stages of diagnosis, one may be hesitant or resistant to know more about Alzheimer’s.

For a moment, wicked freezing wind and sharp sideways rains, laughter, then silence.

You may feel anger toward or shame about a diagnosis.

Drop. Drop. Drop. The rain seems to be subsiding.

When you process new information about your diagnosis it is important to do so at your own pace – one that feels comfortable for you.

Round the corner and the sun shone.

Knowing more about Alzheimer’s can reduce the stigma and increase one’s confidence.

The sun shined and the sky lit up blue – presenting shades ranging from sapphire to cobalt to indigo. And then there were beeping cars like flashes of thoughts. Skies shifted across the gray spectrum from cinder block to pewter to forged iron much like the emotional processing of how one can feel so alone.

Then there were straight away streets, friendly faces and familiar feelings in an oh so unfamiliar state of being.

Experiences with Alzheimer’s, unlike the weather, is a checkable item.

Underneath the unknowns there is comfort in knowing and deliberate calm wrapped around impulsivity.

Adrienne Ione is a dynamic, mindful, high-fiving, cognitive behavioral therapist, certified dementia specialist and senior personal trainer. Founder of Silver Linings Integrative Health, a company with an aim of promoting health, fitness and wellbeing opportunities for people to thrive across the lifespan.

mardi gras float

Mardi Gras Float Celebrates Old Age

More than 100 years ago, floats began parading along New Orleans’ streets – from the Krewe of Alla to the Krewe of Zulu – as a way to entice business men to establish roots in the city and bring wealth to an area affected by the Civil War. The annual celebration is a carnival full of festivities. Another aim is to bring awareness to social justice issues such as black lives, sexual liberation and female empowerment.

In mere hours, the Krewe de Vieillesse, with a theme of celebrating age pride, can be seen parading along a route from South Clairborne to St. Charles to Chartres – linking Broadmoor, Garden District and Marigny neighborhoods.

Just as the Krewe of Rex names an influential resident involved in multiple civic causes and philanthropic pursuits, so too does the Krewe de Vieillesse honor an older adult whose contributions add vigor and liveliness to the community.

Just imagine if the Krewe de Vieillesse were a real event. How rich would our nation be if were age-friendly? One that honors all members of the community. Where we don’t ask questions such as: “Is aging a disease, or merely a natural occurrence that produces disease-like symptoms?”

Oh goodness. Aging as a disease?

We learn early on in life that diseases and disease like-symptoms are to be feared. By 2050, it is suggested that 16 million Americans will be diagnosed with dementia, a neurodegenerative disease. Put differently, 60-70% of us will not be affected by dementia.

A pervasive, traditional and customary approach to old age raises questions within the context of a medical model. Old age is seen as something that needs to be cured. Fix it.

I wonder if in the United States’ nearly 4 million total square miles, there is space for alternative constructs of old age?

Similar to one view promoted by physicists James Jeans and Sir Arthur Eddington, thinking the universe to be best understood as a great idea, we can think of old age as a great idea.

The process of aging exists to be interacted with. Ideas of old age are incomplete. As we age, we get to inform the structure and meaning of old age. Our identity adds a uniqueness to what it means to be old.

Maybe there is even space within the idea of old age for self-respect to coexist.

In 1961, Joan Didion wrote about self-respect in Vogue. She suggests, “self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others—who are, after all, deceived easily enough.” Despite living in a nation that barely hears the edges of words spoken by some old people, I hope we can continue formulating other ideas of what it means to be old – for ourselves and others.

Our orientation to the world, one that directly informs our own and others’ identity, could shift away from a diseased medical model and toward a mindfulness-based construct of old age.

If we adopt a mindful approach to aging – one that conceives of the possibility of new categories, a constant recreating or reorganizing of information that defines and interprets our understanding of our worlds, our own and others – perhaps our fears will decrease, and love will increase.

We could be living in harmony with old age. As Thibodaux writer June Shaw said in Nora 102 ½: A Lesson on Aging Well, “her vision decreased, [and] her joie de vivre remained.”

Placing old age within a different frame – one of revelry, rite, and ritual –  we might then view 79 to 80 as a rite of passage. There could be specific rituals reserved for people ages 82-84. And there could be grand revelry at 91. With all this pomp and circumstance to tantalize us in our youth, we might even stop living in fear of being old. We might also stop being afraid of people who are old.

Just as flambeaux carriers shined light on the complex creations of original floats during carnival, let us now illuminate older adults in a celebration of inclusion and appreciation. Thank you for adding to our world.

Let your flame burn bright.

Adrienne Ione is a dynamic, mindful, high-fiving, cognitive behavioral therapist, certified dementia specialist and senior personal trainer. Founder of Silver Linings Integrative Health, a company with an aim of promoting health, fitness and wellbeing opportunities for people to thrive across the lifespan.


The Exorbitant Costs of Single-Minded Identity Construct of Old Age


When you read the words “young-person” in a sentence, what is the image that comes to mind? What about when you hear the words “old-person?” Do you readily form an opinion or do your initial thoughts come in the form of questions: “I don’t know. I need more information? What do you think?” If a clear image comes to mind, then one line informing these socially constructed ideas of aging can be traced to our education system, one that rewards outcome over process.

With such a strict adherence to outcome, we mindlessly develop a world view that we rarely, if ever, question. Freud suggests that although our initial interpretations of the world may be later refuted, we tend to cling steadfastly to these original views.[1] Possibly damaging views are what serve as a lens through which all future information passes.

In childhood we develop ideas of old age. At the time, the way in which we construct this concept may be rather irrelevant information. Old age doesn’t pertain to youth. Or does it?

Our most prominent images of old age can be described by what psychologists refer to as “premature cognitive commitment.” These original concepts of old age become the foundation on which we identify as we age. We live to fulfill these ideas and uphold these images. As Ellen J. Langer suggests, “premature cognitive commitments are like photographs in which meaning rather than motion is frozen.”[2] In other words, in our youth, we hear words such as stodgy, grumpy and crabby to describe old people. Later, as adults, as old people ourselves (if we are so fortunate) we do not question this image. We may act in these ways even if we don’t genuinely feel this way because, well, we’re old and this is what old people do. Unquestioned. This stunted potential is yet another cost of the mindlessness of aging.

Similar to the views promoted by physicists James Jeans and Sir Arthur Eddington who thought the universe to be best understood as a great idea, we can think of old age in the same light. Aging exists to be interacted with. The idea of old age is incomplete. As you age, you get to inform the structure and meaning of old age. Your identity adds a uniqueness to what it means to be old.

Our orientation to the world directly informs our identity. In the U.S., success is so strictly tied to outcome. A self-image that is based on outcome fails to recognize the value of process. As we age, we could greatly benefit from regarding process as perhaps even more valuable than outcome. Furthermore, if we adopt a mindful approach to aging, then we can conceive of the possibility of new categories, a constant recreating or reorganizing of information that defines and interprets our understanding of our world and of old age.

St. Augustine said, “The present, therefore, has several dimensions. The present of this past, the present of things present, and the present of things future.” If we take into consider the process of living, one that is as varied as there are dialects in this world, and use this to inform a construct of old age, then we can see where different processes of old age can occur.  It is possible for many images of old age to exist.

By adopting a coherent mindful approach to aging, we may not only reduce the costs of mindlessness we may also extend the quality and years of our life. I don’t know. I need more information. What do you think?

Adrienne Ione is a dynamic, mindful, high-fiving, cognitive behavioral therapist, certified dementia specialist and senior personal trainer. Founder of Silver Linings Integrative Health, a company with an aim of promoting health, fitness and wellbeing opportunities for people to thrive across the lifespan.

[1] Sigmund Freud, “Analysis terminable and Interminable.”

[2] Ellen J. Langer, Mindfulness.


Aging & Death

As of late, more and more headlines suggest a clear and concise connection between “the elderly” and death. Aging and death are not synonyms. Yes, both happen to us, although not always in a logical and linear order. Just yesterday morning, I sat in the back tea room of our home, opened the New York Times newspaper as I do most mornings and discovered a special edition on “the elderly in Japan.” Here is an 8-page layout on living conditions in public housing communities that sprawl across Japan. Once vital centers of communities, lively in the 1960s, people describe them now as hosting magots, mounds of piling garbage, and incense burning in the smell of urine and bodies decomposing. Grand. Just what I want to become. Elderly. Really? Well, if this is how elderhood is described, why would anyone opt for this. One man interviewed in the story shared his sentiments: “How we die is a mirror of how we live.” This is not an isolated thought, rather it runs deep in our individualistic society. This ideology is deeply entrenched in our understandings of aging.

Time and time again, the two processes are intertwined, so much so that the latter informs the former. Our concepts of death define how we internalize the aging process and how we view others aging. Indeed, I do believe the two deserve attention, only independent of one another. Our culture gravely misses the mark on such separation. We promote a denial of death. A medicalization of death. We view death as a failure. Death as a loss. Death is the enemy. However, I come from the perspective that this is not the only lens through which to view death. In the U.S., death is dark. Jeepers. We wear black to funerals. Come on.

Another perspective constructs death as the beginning, rather than the end. Another view is that death is a continuation. To be continued as life. “Death is not extinguishing the light, it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come,” suggests Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. What would it take for the United States to fully embrace such a paradigm shift? For example, when a person is born at one of the local hospitals, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is played over the intercom and can be heard throughout the entire hospital. Want to take a guess and what song is played when someone dies? That’s right. Nothing. No song is played. Silence. What if instead of nothing, a part of the ballad “You Light Up My Life” was played. Or ABBA’s “Hasta Mañana,” Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” or perhaps Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets to Paradise.” Please, anything other than nothing.

If we did acknowledge death, how might this alter our perceptions of life? Yes, feelings about death are wrapped up in a cloak of fear and are rampant in our culture. “Even the wise fear death. Life clings to life,” remarked Buddha. Yes, I get that many people are afraid of a process of which we know so little about. There are far too many aspect about life we know so little about and so why live a life in the hinterlands. It is a guarantee that we will all get to the hinterland. The how and when is another matter. How do you benefit now from spending energy on worrying about the how and when aspects? Why is it that we cling to damaging ideological constraints of aging as death? How does this serve us if in shaping our ideas about aging, we then intertwine ideas about mortality?

For some, a discussion of death, even bordering on obsession with death, perhaps serves to protect the living. It is yet another way to separate us from them. As is commonly understood in the line of hospice care: They are dying. I am not. Early in my career I recall the first time a nurse remarked to me, “Well, you know she’s dying.” To which I responded, “Aren’t we all from the moment we are born?” She quickly cut her eyes toward me and huffed, “You know what I mean.” I smiled suggesting agreement, although I didn’t know precisely what she meant. And I still don’t. This was almost twenty years ago, when I was first starting out in the field of counseling and took a lot in, rather than ask any questions. And now, I inquire on people’s meaning of this any time such a remark is made. Sometimes, I’ll throw in the question, “If she’s in the process of dying, isn’t she also in the process of living?”

And so, I invite you next time you are in a situation where “someone is dying” share with others an appreciation for their life. Compliment the person who is living or share with them how they impact you – maybe lessons you’ve learned or directions in life you have taken as a direct influence of the person. Be present. Enjoy every moment of life. Death will arrive. And then, you can be present with death.

Adrienne Ione is a cognitive behavioral therapist and personal trainer who integrates these fields in support of people thriving across the lifespan. As a pro-aging advocate, she specializes in the self-compassion of dementia.

Website: yes2aging.com
Guided Meditations: insighttimer.com/adrienneIone
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