Secrets of healthy aging
by Keri Brenner
Healthy aging involves both body, mind and spirit, not just visiting doctors and taking prescriptions, seniors who jammed a health forum were told Thursday. "As a society, we used to believe that something outside of us can fix us," said Dr. Neha Sangwan, a physician at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Walnut Creek. "Now, people believe in self-care - everything that happens in your mind affects your body, and everything that we do with our bodies affects our minds."
Sangwan was one of several guest speakers at the second annual Healthy Aging Symposium at Embassy Suites Hotel in San Rafael. More than 350 people attended the sold-out event, called "Aging for the New Millennium: Body, Mind and Spirit."
The program also included a drumming presentation, a nutrition demonstration and a lecture on how to prevent falls.
Interest in the symposium, a joint effort of the Marin County Division of Aging, Kaiser Permanente, Marin General and Novato hospitals, was so high that some people had to be turned away, said Kathie Graham, spokeswoman for Marin General and Novato Community.
"Seniors in Marin are very much interested in health and healthy aging," Graham said.
The stronger focus on holistic aging strategies and health as a combination of mind, body and spirit also was a draw, she added.
"A lot of us in Marin are interested not only in the diseases of aging, but also in body, mind and spirit and how it all fits together," Graham said.
Attendee Lynn Zanandrea of Larkspur said she enjoyed Sangwan's presentation, which featured a short guided-imagery exercise and an explanation of how the body, mind, spirit and emotions interact to create sickness or health.
Sangwan quoted a World Heath Organization study that found depression was at the root of most disability. Baby boomers today are facing many more chronic diseases - such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer and chronic fatigue - that do not have a quick fix.
"People come to me with those things, and I'm supposed to have a magic bullet to fix it," she said. The answer, she tells people, is to learn how to tune in to themselves and use stress management, relaxation and healthy living techniques to fit their lifestyle.
"These ideas are not just for people who are aging, but for anyone, because life has gotten so stressful," said Zanandrea, a retired retail manager.
Bill and Frances Totten of Novato said they try to stay healthy by walking, swimming, being socially active and drinking lots of water.
"We're both in our 80s and there's still a lot of life left," Frances Totten said. "You just have to go out and enjoy it."
Connie Tellep of Marinwood said she likes to ballroom and country dancing to stay fit and youthful. "You just have to keep moving," said Tellep, 70.
Tellep said the symposium was helpful in answering questions about aging that are not normally touched on in a typical doctor's visit that focuses just on the physical symptoms.
"This is a great group," Tellep said. "It's addressing the concerns of aging on the levels of mind, body and spirit in a positive way."
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