Category Archives: Lifelong Learning

5 Life Lessons From Stephen Hawking

As his death is met with grief, we remember his wisdom. [Photo credit: hawking.org.uk]

By Bryce Kirchoff for Next Avenue

As the passing of renowned physicist and public intellectual Stephen Hawking is met with grief and remembrance the world over, Next Avenue wanted to honor the man who educated the world on a host of issues by sharing five important lessons we learned from him:

1. Trust in science, but remember that we haven’t uncovered all its mysteries yet.

At 22, Professor Hawking was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neuron disease and told he only had a few years to live. For most of his adult life, he was wheelchair bound and could speak only with the aid of a vocal synthesizer. Yet, against all odds, Hawking had a successful career and rich family life until passing away at the age of 76. read more

The Power of Sharing Our Stories

Playing a game at an assisted living facility opened up connections [Photo credit: Adobe Stock]

By Reyna Marder Gentin for Next Avenue

My friend runs an assisted living residence not far from where I live. When she called to say she had a mitzvah (a good deed) for me that was “right up my alley,” I was wary, to put it mildly. She explained that she was running an event where the residents would play a game encouraging them to share, open mic style, stories from their lives. My friend knows I write — essays, memoir pieces, a novel. I tell stories.

“Will you come?” she asked.

I wanted to say no. As my children will tell you, with the rare exception of a Shabbat round of Scrabble or Bananagrams, I don’t play games. Maybe I’m uptight, or just no fun, but games are not my thing. The idea of helping to facilitate an octogenarian quiz show was not high on my list. read more

4 Ways to Maintain Healthy Family Relationships

Deploy a little patience this holiday season [Photo credit: Adobe Stock]

By Ken Druck for Next Avenue

(Editor’s note: This essay is the latest in a series from author and speaker Ken Druck, based on work in his book Courageous Aging, which is about how all people can make peace with, and find joy in, every stage of life.)

Things don’t stay the same as we get older. We evolve into the older versions of ourselves.

The same happens with families. And sometimes growing older can cause great upheaval to the family dynamics — especially between adult children and aging parents — requiring additional patience and understanding if we want to age together in a way that is healthy. read more

6 Steps to Keeping the Peace This Holiday Season

Hands holding glasses as if making a toast, above a table set for a big meal

These tips can help avoid resentment and friction at family gatherings. [Photo credit: Thinkstock]

By Donna Sapolin for Next Avenue

Our expectations of family members and a desire to have a heartwarming, joyful time with them seem to peak during holiday gatherings. Yet that’s precisely when relatives can be at their worst, replaying old grievances and interacting in incredibly unproductive ways.

To help prevent disappointment and ensure a happier season, try applying these six strategies:

1. Bury the hatchet. Nothing will chase the cheer and deepen chasms faster that engaging dysfunction. So, during the visit, do your utmost to give up trying to change anyone’s thoughts and actions. read more

7 Tips for Travelers With Disabilities

Directional sign points to path for people in a wheelchair

You can do more than you may think – but planning is essential. [Photo credit: Thinkstock]

By Barbara and Jim Twardowski for Next Avenue

Jackie Witt always feels a little anxious before she travels. The 31-year-old can barely climb steps, finds walking long distances difficult, and can’t lift more than five pounds.

Witt, who has visited France and Ireland, has central core disease, which causes muscle weakness. “Because of my disability, I want to know everything I’m going to be faced with while traveling, which obviously isn’t possible,” she said.

One of her most difficult travel days was waiting for a ferry in Ireland during low tide. The only way to reach the boat was a perilous descent across moss-laden stone steps without a railing. A fellow passenger and Witt’s mother stood on either side of her as she navigated the slippery path. On the last step, a crew member picked Witt up and deposited her onto the deck. read more

5 Ways to Make Sure Your Parents Are Safe In Bad Weather

Photo of flooded neighborhood

You can’t control Mother Nature, but certain precautions are important. [Photo credit: Thinkstock]

By Jasmine Dyoco for Next Avenue

Lately, it seems our headlines have been filled with stories about Mother Nature wreaking havoc on our surroundings. From horrible flooding to fast-spreading wildfires to monster hurricanes, weather and the damage it causes is putting human lives in danger.

And while I certainly always want to keep my family safe, the person I worry about most when bad weather rolls in is my aging father. After all, getting to safety can be especially difficult for older adults. read more

Why Some Grown Kids Cut Off Their Parents

One mother reflects on whether she’s partly to blame. (Photo credit: iStock)

Could their estrangement be caused by how we raised them?

By Elizabeth Vagnoni for Next Avenue

The truth is — I am estranged from my two adult sons.

The truth is — I love my sons and I miss them every day.

The truth is — I can’t understand how in the world this has happened.

The truth is — saying you love them and miss them is not enough. There is much more to say, but you need a conversation — you need actual interaction, not just silence.

For me, the estrangement began over what I believed to be a misunderstanding. Since then, I’ve been on a journey of understanding, or at least trying to understand. read more

When Music Becomes Your Medicine

Man sits at piano with mobile device, learning to play

Music therapy has been around for a long time, but only recently became a recognized medical discipline with board certification. [Photo credit: Adobe Stock]

Playing an instrument offers physical and emotional benefits if you have health issues

By Bart Astor for Next Avenue

If music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, then playing music hath charms to heal the savage breast, or, more appropriately, the damaged lungs.

This is what Tom Zoe of Austin, Texas believes. So he helped create a program at Seton Medical Center in Austin, where he volunteers, to teach sufferers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic lung diseases to play the harmonica as part of their physical therapy.

The blowing and drawing required to play the harmonica are excellent exercises that help patients with COPD. The exercise also improves muscle tone in lips, cheeks and tongue. read more

It’s Never Too Late to Learn Something New

Woman with backpack looks at mobile device in library

Where to look for learning opportunities [Photo credit: Adobe Stock]

Don’t just watch the kids go back to school this fall

By Patricia Corrigan for Next Avenue

Lunchbox? Check. Backpack? Check. New outfit for the first day? Check.

So you’ve helped get a grandchild or other youngster ready to go back to school. But what about you? Staying mentally active after 50 stimulates neural networks, increases knowledge, enriches life and provides opportunities for social interaction and fun at the same time.

Maybe you’ve secretly always wanted to speak Italian or learn to quilt or try your hand at landscaping. Maybe you’re ready to take up Scuba diving or acting. Perhaps if’s time you developed a new skill that will boost your productivity at work. Or maybe you’re eager to go deep with Shakespeare’s history plays, take up memoir writing, better appreciate opera or learn to make beer. read more

The Amazing Technology That Could Change How We Age

Experts say it will make life happier, healthier and easier for older adults and caregivers

By Suzanne Gerber for Next Avenue

Hand typing on a laptop

“Future tech will increase older people’s independence and help relieve the health services,” says Naomi Climer. [Photo credit: Getty Images]

Pop quiz: When you think about how technology will personally impact your life over the next 10 to 20 years, which of these things do you envision as being part of that evolution?:

  1. Holographic technology to communicate with your family
  2. A car that chauffeurs you around
  3. 3-D-printed medicine
  4. Drones to help with household activities
  5. All of the above

If the tech-prognosticators are to be believed, the correct answer is E: All of those Jetsons-sounding devices will be available in the coming not-so-many years.

Whether that news thrills or terrifies you, it’s ultimately a good thing, because these technological developments can help older adults and those who are housebound with tasks keep them mobile, keep them at home longer and help them stay connected to others, which is one of the most important factors for a long and fulfilling life. read more