Get Up and Go

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By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, May 18, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

GOOD TIMES -- Being active is an imporftant and enjoyable way for Senior Citizens to stay happy, healthy and alert. Read more about it in this month's Health & Wellness section, beginning on Page 13A in this issue of the Alantic News.
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON -- Beloved old Frances "Nana" Lunde, who lived to be around 75 years of age, used to joke that her "get up and go has got up and went."

Well before the stroke that ultimately took her life, Nana Lunde had slowed down to a point where she rarely ever left her home.

Never having learned to operate a motor vehicle, her favorite Sunday drives (with someone else at the wheel) eventually took a back seat to just staying put in one of the wing chairs in the parlor.

She depended upon black-and-white television shows and crossword puzzles to occupy her, unfiltered cigarettes to calm her, and visits from family members to amuse her.

Arthritis affected Nana Lunde to a point where she no longer crafted her homemade braided rugs from strips of old clothing. In fact, Nana Lunde pretty much just stopped doing much of anything. It was just … easier that way.

For many Senior Citizens, it’s no secret that getting up there in age does indeed bring along with it plenty of challenges. Aches, pains, fatigue, diminished vision and hearing, dementia, loneliness and depression are major factors in the elderly’s ability and desire to "get up and go."

However, it’s a sure bet that the huge majority of health care providers would agree that one of the best things Senior Citizens can do to combat these challenges is to face them head-on, in the best and healthiest and most practical way they can.

There’s no two ways about it: Senior Citizens who enjoy active lives — partaking in a variety of interests that are suited to their abilities and lifestyle— can greatly enhance their every-day well-being and perhaps even their longevity.

Not content to sit at home and be idle, many Seniors (whatever their marital status) find plenty to do to get themselves out of the house and keep active: Golf, bowling, tai chi, yoga, dancing, Pilates and other physical activities; Senior Citizen clubs and civic organizations; affiliation with a local house of worship; attending performing arts and sporting events; working at a part time or full time job they love; visiting shut-ins; and volunteering at schools and hospitals, among many others.

Those with a bit of wanderlust within are prone to travel here and abroad (Italy or Great Britain, anyone?) as their health and pocketbook allow, or venture on day trips to regional attractions (Foxwoods comes to mind). Bingo games, card parties, providing transportation for others, going on luncheon or dinner dates and just generally getting together on a regular basis for conversation and camaraderie all help to enrich the lives of those who take part.

That’s not to say, though, that Seniors who do need to spend many hours at home because of certain limitations and personal situations are doomed to vegetate. Many enjoy cooking, baking, sewing, and knitting for worthy causes. Word and sudoku puzzles, cryptograms, and board and video games keep mind and hands nimble. The Internet has opened up a whole new world to the elderly, who can and do have the ability to become just as computer savvy as the younger folk.

Here in the Seacoast area, many of these opportunities — and more — are available to local Senior Citizens. Recreation programs open up all kinds of venues for getting together and having fun.

The Dorothy Little Room at the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton is one such venue. Though the town’s Senior Citizens do not yet have a center to call their own, the library has generously provided them with a comfortable and convenient place to have Bingo games, do crafts, and play some cards through programs offered by Hampton Rec.

On a recent Thursday, there’s activity in the Little Room as two groups of local Seniors deal their cards and put on their "poker faces." In the midst of their spirited banter and strategy-planning, they reflect upon the benefits of being busy.

"It takes your mind off yourself," declares Mona Otis, an active member of the Hampton Senior Citizens Club. "It’s depressing to sit home all the time. The walls close in on you."

"Don’t sit home," advises Christine McDonough. "Go out and socialize!"

Turning her attention from the cards in her hands, Roseanna Wright lists the things she enjoys doing to keep busy: Volunteering her time with her fellow Hampton Area Lions Club members at the local nursing home, attending church and bingo games, and giving people rides.

Laura Milsovick offers advice for getting out regularly for fresh air: "Get a dog — it’s the best exercise." And speaking of exercise, McDonough does so three times a week at Fitness Revolution, while Florence Smith exercises her inner Betty Crocker. "I bake and cook for the kids and grandkids," she smiles as she checks out the new hand she has been dealt.

Poker isn’t the only game in town for these card enthusiasts.

"To keep your brain smart," says one, "play bridge. Bridge is excellent. You’ll never lose your mind if you play bridge."

Over at another table a game of Frustration is underway. Getting together like this on a regular basis "makes us get out of the house," says Florence Bellafatto.

"I enjoy it," says Reba Skinner of the card games she enjoys with her friends. "It gives me [a way] to be with all of them. It’s just a joy."

Gretta Cleary looks forward to "having a laugh together over a cup of coffee, and Jean DeWyngaert says "the camaraderie of friends is a blessing every day. It keeps my spirits up. It keeps me going."

In her book "I’m Tougher Than I Look," author Sue Miller offers a list of "personal ten commandments" for Senior Citizens to follow if they find themselves giving in to less-than-positive forces that can adversely influence their lives. They all involve tweaking the thought process and/or changing attitudes and actions that can easily cause discouragement.

In short, Miller says, "get off your duff and live life to the fullest." In other words, "get up and go."

Advice which Frances "Nana" Lunde would have been wise to heed, and which many in our community already follow.

Isabel Grasso and Louise Caulkins
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