Breaking the Stereotypes of the Elderly – Blog 8

When we first started discussing the topic of aging in class, Dr. Kirasic mentioned that our view/stereotype of elderly as frail and fragile was wrong. In addition, she also mentioned  regular exercise is one of the most important and beneficial things that we can do for both our mind and our bodies. As a result, I wanted to look at two of individuals who stood out to me the most. They are breaking the stereotypes of what many consider to be the “typical” elderly adult and I wanted to look at what they have done that has made them some of the most active older adults of our society.

I will admit that before doing my research on the topic, I also had the view that the elderly were frail individuals who had trouble walking and mostly sat around watching their TV shows or reading a book. However, writing about the following individuals has given me a new perspective about the kind of life an elderly person can live, and gives me hope the I too can be active at an older age, though I doubt I will be one of those who people is running marathons at the age of eighty.

 

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One of the most interesting articles I came across featured Täo Porchon-Lynch (pictured above), a ninety-eight year old who is considered a “yoga celebrity.” Not only does she still actively teach yoga (with some limitations due to her hip replacements), but she also is an avid competitive ballroom dancer, and still drives and lives by herself. Porchon-Lynch has pretty much defied all of the expectations that we typically have of the elderly. Originally from India, she has studied under the “great” yoga masters of the 20th century, has displayed her ballroom skills on national television, and still travels nationwide hosting yoga workshops. Porchon-Lynch has always been active in yoga throughout her long life, and to me that explains what keeps in her such great shape, flexibility, and health. I believe that by staying very active throughout her life, she has prevented the “decay” that often occurs physically as we age. My dad has often said, in regards to those who are elderly, the more they don’t move and aren’t active, the less the will be able to do later on. I never truly appreciated his words until very recently. Probably my favorite thing about Porchon-Lynch that was mentioned in this article was how she only wears high heels and how she only drinks wine and tea (and never water alone), which to me sound like a very interesting life choice but seems to have worked well for her.

02chinawang-web1-master768

The other individual who interested me the most is eighty year old Wang Deshun of China, shown above, who is most well known for his walk down the runway during Beijing fashion week last year, and commonly referred to as “China’s hottest grandpa.”
Born in 1936, he focused mainly on his career as an actor and artist along with other various jobs along the way, until at the age of 49 he chose to move to Beijing to focus on modeling. Wang keeps both his mind and body active by spending his mornings reading books and keeping up with the news, and works out for three hours in the afternoons-which includes a half a mile swim every single day. And as evident by the picture above, Wang certainly does not have the average physical appearance we expect of they typical eight year old man. I find it to be a true testimony of the physical shape that Wang is in, since I struggle with a 30 minute run on the treadmill, so I can barely even imagine working out for three straight hours! In fact, the only change in his lifestyle that Wang has made as he ages is to consume less alcohol ( a different approach when compared to Porchon-Lynch), but still eats whatever he wants whenever he feels like it. Wang is well known in China, and around the world, for breaking the barriers of what we think the typical “grandpa” looks like, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon with plans go parachuting soon, something that I am scared to do even at my relatively young age.

Both Porchon-Lynch and Wang are well known for their amazing physical condition and lifestyles that  defy all of our typical expectations of what it means to be “elderly.” They have both inspired me to be as active as I can be both in the future and right now, and have motivated me to start working out on a regular basis once again (though that will most probably be postponed until after finals week). While I know that I will most likely be in nowhere near good shape as either of these two, it is my hope that I will be physically fit enough to get around on my own and be active enough to be like my 80 year old great aunt who went on a tour to Israel around three years ago by herself, and without any of our family members with her. Hopefully if I remain active and live a healthy life, I too will be able to live a similar lifestyle that is full of excitement.

 

Cultural Fact:

sky-burial-in-tibet

In Tibet, instead of burying or cremating their dead, funerals consist of what is known as a “Sky burial,” as shown above, in which the body is left for large birds to consume. After death, the body is left alone for around three days while monks perform various prayers and ceremonies for the dead. Next,  the body is carried to a special location where it is laid out for vultures and other scavenger birds to eat. If the birds eat the body, then it is believe that the body has no sin, and that the soul has passed on into the afterlife. Unlike most funerals around the world, the family is not allowed to be present during the sky burial.

References:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/fashion/tao-porchon-lynch-oldest-living-yoga-celebrity.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/04/world/asia/china-wang-deshun-model-80.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth
http://www.tibettravel.org/tibetan-local-customs/tibetan-funeral.html
http://traditionscustoms.com/death-rites/jhator-sky-burial
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