Archive for Health Talk
We do this because we have a great passion for helping others.Â We strive to provide some comfort to those in medical crisis.Â But every once in a while, it’s nice to hear a “Thank You.”
On June 24th, the World Pediatric Project (WPP) announced the recipient of their Julian C. Metts Jr. Humanitarian of the Year at their Annual Board Meeting.Â The recipient of this distinguished award was none other than our very own President & CEO, Babs Jackson and the Hospital Hospitality House of Richmond!Â This honor is â€œawarded to the individual or group who during the year has best exemplified the passionate heartfelt dedication to healing children who other have no hope of receiving help.â€
WPP empowers children, families, and communities through their four-tiered approach.Â First they send highly trained teams of pediatric specialists to provide critical medical services for patients in need around the world.Â Second, they develop health education prevention programs that are open to the public programs and targeted at reducing birth defects and preventable diseases.Â Third, they coordinate care for children in need of especially complex care and transport the children to US-based, or advanced regional facilities that are capable of providing the services they need.Â Finally, they work with local healthcare providers to come up with sustainable solutions to provide healthcare resources.
For WPP children and their guardians, we provide a home away from home.Â WPP Patient Care Coordinator sees us â€œas the provider not only of amenities and a safe place to stay, but also a space where a sense of community is created and able to flourish amongst the familiesâ€ staying at the House.Â Closeness and bonding form between patients, families, and our staff.
WPPâ€™s blog post announcing the Humanitarian of the Year mentions our very own Ms. Ethel, our 8th Floor custodian, for her ability to provide a loving and comforting presence for families staying at the House:
â€œThey all love her, she takes care of them, and the relationship she builds with the families is a strong one.Â She asks about patients and remembers them if they have to come back for further care.Â She is just one example of why our partnership (HHH and WPPâ€™s) works.â€
Although Babs is retiring this year, the WPP points out she is leaving behind an incredible service and that her legacy will remain the solid ground and culture for HHH.Â She has certainly enriched all of our lives, and we’ll try to live up to her example.
A few of us were sitting in the library at Hospital Hospitality House the other day.
First: Yes, we have a library, full of wonderful donated books and games. Secondly: This is not something that we get to do very often.
It was a day much like any other, and as we discussed our plans for the upcoming Fancy Hat Party and Hats Off shindigs, we heard some discussion from around the corner. At the start of the meeting we had noticed a few folks checking in and the voice we now heard seemed to be giving a sort of tour:
â€œThatâ€™s the library. If youâ€™d like something to read and maybe pass the time, thereâ€™s a pretty good selection in there. If you go through those doors, youâ€™ll find the dining room. Weâ€™ve got a group coming in tonight to make spaghetti for everybody, and theyâ€™re nice ladies. They usually get a good Bingo game going after supper.â€
The person leading this tour? The gentleman who drives our courtesy van. He works for us, driving people to and from their appointments and visits with the doctors nearby. But he seems to have expanded his list of responsibilities. In addition to knowing which building houses chemotherapy and which reconstructive surgery, he knows where to get a good sandwich, where to find a newspaper or toothbrush, and where to sit and look at the Governorâ€™s mansion in the afternoon sun. And every time he brings a new guest to Hospital Hospitality House, he offers a little guided tour.
This made us think about how things sort of operate here at The House. While few of us are really full-time â€œemployees,â€ we all have some sort of title or job description. But everyone who â€œworksâ€ here does a little bit of everything. Volunteers perform many of the tasks that keep our oars in the water. The spaghetti dinner was provided by volunteers. Songs and concerts during holidays are sung and played by volunteers. Things like Bingo are organized by volunteers. They are all people who have chosen to give, and to give to us.
We always look forward to annual events like our Fancy Hat Party, and they are always a blast, but they are a necessity. The funds that are raised at these events pay for things like detergent and new bed linens and electricity and indoor plumbing. It is your generosity that keeps our doors open.
Winston Churchill said,
â€œWe make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.â€
It sometimes seems that we live at Hospital Hospitality House, and many of us make our living here, but for our guests, it means their life. When we pause for a moment and think of it that way, weâ€™re living pretty large.
It should come as no great surprise that we have a soft spot for our little guests.Â If you look at our cover photo on our Facebook page, youâ€™ll see a picture of Maria and Teresa â€“ The Twins.
Granted, they didnâ€™t come to Richmond to see us.Â They came to see the fantastic doctors at the VCU/MCV Hospital.Â The Twins were born conjoined, and stayed with us for a while as they prepared for their eventual separation.Â Students from VCU made dresses for them to wear before and after their surgery, art students made plaster casts for the doctors to use during planning sessions, and everyone connected to the project seemed to take a personal interest.Â And it was quite the project, there were hundreds of people involved, and it was quite interesting.
Maria and Teresa are from the Dominican Republic.Â They came to Richmond through the hard work of World Pediatric Project.Â WPP actually started here in Richmond, and help find solutions to healing critically ill children in developing nations.Â Sometimes that means initiating programs in those countries, and sometimes that means sending children to a hospital here in the United States that has the staff and knowledge to help them.Â
Maria and Teresa are, by the way, not the first young guests of Hospital Hospitality House of Richmond who arrived with passports.Â Weâ€™ve seen children and families from Honduras, Belize, and many other foreign countries.Â Our only rules for guests is that they must live outside of a 30 mile radius of downtown Richmond and be receiving care from an affiliated hospital.
That often means children.
It is for this reason that an entire floor of Hospitality House has been designed for children.Â They come to us for chemotherapy, for treatment of birth defects, for emergency care, and more.Â But theyâ€™re still kids, and this floor provides them with a kitchen where family members can whip up homemade meals, with a family room where they can sit around like at home, and a play room furnished with enough toys to invite much-needed play time.
Even if you have cancer or a heart defect – if youâ€™re a child you need your family and you need to play.Â Thatâ€™s an unwritten Hospitality House rule, but one that we never, ever, ever break.
Weâ€™re fortunate to be located in a town with such amazing medical facilities.Â Weâ€™re practically across the street from the main campus of VCU/MCV, and they are one of at least a dozen world-class hospitals that each provide cutting edge care to patients.Â These patients are often youngsters.Â VCU/MCV has even broken ground on The Childrenâ€™s Pavilion, a huge facility dedicated to providing care for our little ones.Â They already have Childrenâ€™s Hospital of Richmond, but this will add a new spot to meet the growing need here in town.
Civic leaders here in Richmond recently debated creating a free-standing Childrenâ€™s Hospital in our city.Â They invited leaders from some of the most innovative childrenâ€™s hospitals in the country.Â Many argued that we have a distinct need for one in Richmond, and many argued that hospitals like VCU/MCV are already meeting that need.
Weâ€™re not sure either way, but we know that there will always be room for their patients here.
Going to the doctor is scary, isnâ€™t it?Â When you meet with a medical professional, what they tell you can be scary.Â And it carries some gravity, because they are, after all, professionals, right?
Your doctors are the best source of information and should be relied on when making decisions about your health.Â Remember that they are, after all, human beings first, and can make mistakes.Â In fact, over 100,000 people will die in America this year from a medical mistake.Â They can be as drastic as a mistake during a surgery to something seemingly careless like a miss-read prescription.Â Sometimes it is a doctorâ€™s physical action, and sometimes it is inadequate care.
But there are things that you can do to help reduce your risk (and your doctorâ€™s risk!) and improve the quality of your care.Â And itâ€™s really very similar to talking to your auto mechanic.
When you take your car in for service, you tend to be pretty specific about whatâ€™s going on.Â You describe a certain sound, a vibration, or colorful smoke spouting off from under the hood.Â When you meet with your doctor, you should share everything.Â Your discussion should not be limited to what you immediately think is wrong with you.Â One symptom may be linked to another and may be an indication of a larger problem.Â Doing this is easier if you prepare a list of whatâ€™s ailing you.
You also question your mechanic after heâ€™s made his initial diagnosis.Â When your doctor offers his or her opinion, start asking your questions.Â â€œWhat causes this?â€Â â€œHow will you fix this?â€Â â€œAre there any other things that could cause this to happen?â€Â This is partly for your own information, but it will often make your doctor think outside of the box, and perhaps realize that theyâ€™ve diagnosed incorrectly or overlooked something.
Use your common sense.Â If your transmission is slipping and the garage wants to sell you brakes, you would certainly question that.Â You are truly the best judge of how you feel, so take that confidence into your doctorâ€™s office.Â If you are used to certain medications, question the side effects and interactions of any new ones.Â Ask why a doctor recommends a certain medication or procedure.
When youâ€™ve gone to a doctor, or to your mechanic, you have formed a relationship.Â Itâ€™s a partnership of sorts, with one of you needing service and the other providing it.Â Keep this in mind on your next visit, and help your doctor make the right decisions for you.
After all, doctors donâ€™t offer rentals.
One of the things that we caught during the Holidays was the Rose Bowl Parade.Â Thatâ€™s the big one in Pasadena, California.Â What made it kind of nice this year was seeing Hannah Storm.Â Sheâ€™s a big-time ESPN anchor and sports junkie.Â We were kind of worried about her.Â Storm, you see, had an accident and was severely burned.Â During her Rose Bowl appearance, she had fake hair and eyebrows, and you could clearly see one of her hands bandaged.
Hannah Storm was trying to light a gas grill when it sent a fireball into her face, leaving her with first and second-degree burns on her face, hands and chest.Â She lost most of her hair and is still battling an infection.Â She was glad to be back on the air, but still has trouble with her hand, making it difficult for her to pick things up or flip through cue cards.
Seeing Storm made us think of some other burn victims.Â Most are like her, and never expected to get burned.Â It was some accident or moment of carelessness.Â And sadly, it frequently happens to children.Â Perhaps itâ€™s childhood curiosity or the fact that they donâ€™t yet know what qualifies as dangerous?
Later that evening, while trying to digest too much turkey and tired of football, we saw something inspiring on PBS.Â It was a profile of a camp designed specifically for young burn victims.Â Or as they like to call them, burn â€œsurvivors.â€Â We like that better.Â You can see it for yourself here.
The Central Virginia Burn Camp (CVBC) was established around 20 years ago in Charlottesville by the Charlottesville Professional Firefighters Association.Â Firefighters, like burn survivors, have some first-hand experience in the dangers and perils of dealing with fire and its destructive nature.Â For those who have been injured, this destruction is in the form of scars, loss of hair, and often involves months and years of surgery and rehabilitation.Â CVBC was created to provide youngsters from 7 to 17 a place to be kids, among people who have had similar experiences, and free from the worry of stares and questions.Â For a week every summer, they just have to be kids.
The Camp is staffed with counselors, therapists, nurses, and firefighters from throughout the state.Â They engage their young charges in swimming, boating, horseback riding, arts and crafts, and other fun summertime activities.Â Just like every other kid.Â And yes, they have an evening bonfire.Â What would summer camp be without one?
The best part about it is this:Â Central Virginia Burn Camp is free.Â Â They receive sponsorships from a ton of firefighter associations, the University of Virginia Health System, and other like-minded groups.Â They also are like us, a non-profit, and as such count on donations from individuals to keep stocked up in sunscreen and marshmallows.Â Â Many of the kids who go there have been treated right here at VCU and weâ€™ve met some families as their kids go back and forth for therapy and reconstruction surgeries.
You probably know that weâ€™re pretty passionate about the â€œlittlesâ€ that spend time here at Hospital Hospitality House.Â And we genuinely need and appreciate your donations of time, money and goods.Â But we had to share this story.
We love the holidays.Â Itâ€™s a wonderful time.Â Even here at Hospital Hospitality House of Richmond!Â Last week Love Limousine and New Market/Afton Chemicals joined forces to take a bunch of our guests on a tour to see some of Richmondâ€™s tackiest holiday lights and displays.Â In a limousine!Â That was great and everyone had a great time.
But the holidays can be tough on people, and especially the folks who stay with us here at Hospital Hospitality House.Â This time of year often brings on bouts of depression and anxiety.Â Imagine dealing with this when youâ€™re already dealing with a physical medical crisis!
There are many different forms of depression, and they manifest themselves in a number of different ways.Â But there are some common signs that you may notice in yourself or others.
A common sign of depression is irritability.Â Youâ€™re worried about holiday shopping and visits, or youâ€™re stuck here with us and miss your family, and you begin to lash out.Â Feeling short-tempered?Â Itâ€™s common, but may be a sign of something deeper.Â During this stressful time, learn how to say no.Â Take a moment to yourself.Â Itâ€™s important to understand that you canâ€™t be everywhere doing everything for everyone.Â You canâ€™t really control everything, and understanding that will help you to control your emotions.
Another sign is losing interest.Â This may mean losing interest in eating, interacting with others, or quitting a hobby that one enjoys.Â Itâ€™s important to move forward.Â As much as we like to stuff ourselves during this time of year, move forward with your healthy eating.Â It gives you energy and is important to your health.Â If you play bridge every Wednesday, then play bridge.Â We often have volunteers here at Hospital Hospitality House who engage our guests in games.Â Keeps things interesting.Â Likewise, if a friend or loved one seems to fall out of touch it might be a good time to reconnect.Â Just a check-in.
Understand that your current feelings or medical condition are something that you experience but are not who you are.Â There might be a loss of self-worth if you cannot do some of the things that you were used to, like household chores or a sport.Â But these feelings and conditions can change.Â Sure, you may have to make modifications to your life, but being depressed or sick isnâ€™t who you are.Â Just like that feeling of control, you canâ€™t control these feelings any more than you can cure your own heart disease.Â
Which brings us to the most important point:Â Thereâ€™s always help.Â No matter how much you think that you might know about yourself, thereâ€™s someone who probably knows better.Â Those of us who are parents understand this.Â And this help may mean taking a medication to treat your symptoms, just like a physical disease.Â You often face rehabilitation after a medical crisis, and you may for your depression as well.Â Instead of physical therapy itâ€™s mental therapy.Â This means sitting with a professional and talking through your worries.Â They may help to bring some clarity or sense to what youâ€™re feeling.
Not everyone has the leisure of a stress-free holiday.Â And some may experience more stress than others.Â This stress may cause issues with mental health.Â Get to know the warning signs and tackle it head on.
So, we had a pretty good Thanksgiving.Â Saw some friends, kissed a baby, and ate too much.Â Survived Black Friday without going to the Mall, bought a book from a local shop on Small Business Saturday, and clicked some buys for Cyber Monday.Â And now weâ€™re getting ready for Christmas and the Holidays.Â But itâ€™s different here.
The folks who stay with us over the Holidays didnâ€™t visit with family, and most had to watch their diets.Â They didnâ€™t go out for Black Friday, most didnâ€™t wander Carytown for Small Business Saturday, and they wonâ€™t be decorating a tree.Â Theyâ€™re here with us for the Holidays, far from their families.
Not that theyâ€™re without a Holiday.Â Â We have some wonderful volunteers who come to Hospital Hospitality House of Richmond every year to decorate, put up a tree, and serve meals during the Holiday Season.Â We get pretty close with our guests, and many of them make great friends while theyâ€™re here, and so theyâ€™re not completely without friends, and to a certain extent, a sort of family.Â During Thanksgiving week, we had meals prepared by the VCU Community Health and Wellness Network and the Hanover Youth Council.Â Last year the local group Offering came by and sang to our guests.Â The year before that, a whole gang of kids from Midlothian High School came by to help decorate and make sure that Hospitality House was appropriately festive.Â And we try each year to get as many folks out of the Hospitality House as we can to stand on Broad Street and watch the Richmond Christmas Parade.Â No matter where you are, everyone loves a parade.
And these volunteers bring more than turkey, tinsel and musical instruments.Â They bring smiles, hugs, and a sense of camaraderie.Â They pause and talk to our guests, and more importantly, they listen.Â â€œWhere are you from?â€ will bring a story of neighbors and missed pets.Â They wonder about their homes and missed mail, and the folks who come help out around here listen.Â They care about the feelings of those who are stuck here in Richmond during a time when everyone should be around loved ones.
Maybe thatâ€™s why they do it?Â Thatâ€™s kind of why we do it.
â€œTo give patients and their families a place to call home during their stay in Richmond.â€
Weâ€™re a non-profit, and survive mostly through the largesse and goodwill of our volunteers, our donors, and, well, people like you.Â We donâ€™t do it for money or recognition.Â We do it because we realize that there are people who come to Richmond because theyâ€™re in medical crisis, and weâ€™re blessed with some of the best health professionals in the country.Â Our guests arenâ€™t here to go sightseeing, and their trip is often unplanned.Â Would anyone choose to stay with us on Christmas day?
As you gather with your friends and family this Holiday season, remember Hospital Hospitality House of Richmond.Â Sure, there are many of us who will be here on Christmas Day, and New Yearâ€™s and Hanukah; but weâ€™ll kind of be working and will go home at the end of our day.Â For our guests, though, they wonâ€™t have a choice.Â They didnâ€™t really come here of their own volition.
Perhaps to get into the Holiday Spirit you could volunteer at the House?Â Organize your group to come down and prepare a meal, sing some songs, or just hang out with some guests.Â Our wish list stays pretty full, and some new decorations or some fresh board games could go a long way.Â Maybe instead of fighting the crowds at the Mall you could give a gift to Hospital Hospitality House of Richmond in your loved oneâ€™s name?
We all get a little break during the Holidays, but medical crisis doesnâ€™t get a vacation.Â It will be right here.
Weâ€™ve had some pretty good blows in Richmond over the past few years.Â Irene, Gaston and Isabel to name a few.Â We were reminded of that this week when we saw something down the street from Hospital Hospitality House of Richmond.Â There is an advertising agency here in town called The Martin Agency.Â Weâ€™ve met some of them, and theyâ€™re a group of very creative, fun, energetic people.Â Youâ€™ve no doubt seen some of their work.Â They created the GEICO gecko, the â€œThis is Peggyâ€ commercials, and some other great work.
Martin is a pretty good-sized business, with several hundred employees.Â In addition to their place here in Richmond, they also maintain a small office in New York City.Â One of the guys at Martin rented a U-Haul and invited his coworkers to help him to fill it with water, clothing, food and other stuff.Â This guy was then going to personally drive the truck up 95 to donate to relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy.Â Pretty cool, right?Â Well, the supplies got snapped up pretty quickly, and this guy came back with some stories about what heâ€™d seen.Â He figured that those folks needed more help, so he organized another run.Â This time, he was blessed with a donation from Hilldrup Moving and Storage:Â An 18-wheeler with a driver.
Now THATâ€™S cool!
We have talked about this before, but thought that weâ€™d run through it again:Â You need to be prepared if theyâ€™re calling for serious weather, and especially if you are living with a medical condition.
So what do you do?
The old adage is that when the forecast looks bad everyone runs to the grocery store for bread and milk.Â And they do, for some weird reason.Â If you look at whatâ€™s going on after Sandy (and what has happened here a few times!), the biggest issue for most people is the lack of power.Â So your milk isnâ€™t going to do you a whole lot of good.Â You should focus your shopping on bottled waters, canned goods, and dry things that will keep you going without needing to be refrigerated.
We often hear of fires after a natural disaster, and those are quite frequently man-made.Â When your power goes out youâ€™ll still need heat, and we will go to great lengths to get it.Â Whether itâ€™s a fire in your fireplace or a gas heater, you need to be aware and alert that an open flame is an invitation to add a disaster to a disaster.Â This is equally true of generators and that extension cord that you snaked over to your neighborâ€™s house.Â You should also be cautious with heaters that could potentially give out toxic fumes.
Are you sufficiently stocked up on your required medications?Â And do those medications require refrigeration?Â Most of them will be okay for a few days, but have a back-up plan.Â In addition to having enough, you also might find it difficult to see your doctor for a few days, so plan accordingly.
Now, this is a worst-case scenario, but what if you have to be rescued?Â Many of the people impacted by Sandy were caught off-guard by rising floodwaters.Â And nobody plans for their house to catch fire, right?Â If you have to be rescued you are going to want to take important things with you.Â This includes medications and medical records.Â If these are life-saving medications, you may want to invest in some sort of medical alert or I.D. bracelet or necklace.Â This will tell emergency responders to look for your meds if you arenâ€™t able to tell them yourself.
Lastly, keep up hope.Â The folks in New York and New Jersey are in a bad way, but theyâ€™re moving forward.Â Theyâ€™re cleaning up, trying to get their kids off to school, and trying to get their businesses open.Â Why?Â Because thatâ€™s what we do.Â Much like many of the guest that we meet at Hospital Hospitality House, it is only in their time of greatest crisis that we see peopleâ€™s truest character.Â And itâ€™s generally more powerful than any storm.
When you end up in the hospital you meet a lot of new people.Â Most of them are medical professionals.Â There are the doctors, the specialists, internists, nurses, technicians, and others that see to your care.Â In the case of an extended stay, you may see a crowd of anonymous faces that float in and out of your room at all hours of the day and night.Â We oftentimes hear the complaint that these professionals seem cold or uncaring.Â A nurse that never smiled or a doctor who never made eye contact.Â Well, they are professionals, and they are trying to do the difficult job of making you better, and sometimes saving your life.
But do they form an emotional attachment to their patients?
Weâ€™re not medical professionals, so we canâ€™t say for sure, but we do know that we form a connection to the guests that stay with us at Hospital Hospitality House of Richmond.Â We listen to their stories, share their laughs, and in some cases their tears.Â Truth be told, we often go home and laugh about our day, and often cry about the horrible things that some of our guests are having to endure.Â We try to keep the laugh to cry ratio pretty well slanted to the â€œlaughâ€ side.
We were reminded of this when Maria and Teresa came back to Richmond from the Dominican Republic for their checkups.Â Remember them:Â â€œOur Twins?â€Â Theyâ€™re recovering nicely from the surgery that separated them, are growing, putting on weight, and are pretty much off of all of their medications.Â The initial surgery involved a team of over 40 medical staff, and that doesnâ€™t include the plastic surgeons, care nurses and others who contributed to their care.Â And every time we met one of these people we could see that they were passionate about the twins.Â It seemed to us that they were emotionally connected.
Medical professionals are just like anyone else â€“ they like to succeed.Â And they no doubt celebrate their successes and get emotional about their failures.Â But when a patient doesnâ€™t respond to a treatment or things donâ€™t go well, it isnâ€™t as if theyâ€™ve blown a tire or missed a putt or allowed a cake to burn; theyâ€™re responsible for someoneâ€™s life.Â And we imagine that it may take a certain amount of emotional detachment to deal with that on a daily basis.Â But seeing the joy on everyoneâ€™s faces every time that the twins were around, and especially on their most recent visit, told us that these folks were passionate about the girls and their care.Â And they, too, laughed when the girls laughed, and there were probably some pats on backs and â€œGood Jobâ€ exchanges behind the scenes.
We got another reminder when we watched the coverage of Hurricane Sandy.Â At one point, Bellevue Hospital, the oldest hospital in the United States and an icon in New York City, began to flood.Â They were running on precarious generators that were beginning to shut down due to the effects of the storm.Â In the midst of the rain, wind and rising waters, they made the decision to evacuate their patients, starting with those at the highest risk.Â Many of them were infants.Â This image said it all:
These people went out in the face of a raging hurricane that was soon to ravage the New York area, and here was a nurse with a newborn clutched to her chest.Â Sure, that was probably the easiest way to transport the baby, but is there any doubt that she was emotionally involved and passionate about its safety?
We think not.
There once was a man who lived to a very ripe, old age.Â He was born in the hardscrabble times when electricity was a luxury.Â The town of his youth, nestled in the hills and hollers of West Virginia, was one of general stores, horse-drawn carts and the rumble of coal trains.
He was handy with his hands and learned carpentry, a trade that brought him some acclaim.Â In a time of wealthy barons, he could make beautiful spiral staircases with a saw, a hammer, hand-made nails and freshly milled oak.Â His success as a carpenter allowed him to buy enough land to graze some cattle and plant a few vegetables.Â He married his childhood sweetheart and began his family – five children, all daughters.Â As each one grew and married, he gave her a slice of the family farm, and they built their own homes along the road that defined the property.
During the First World War, unable to serve due to his status as a family man, he rode hobo-style to Norfolk, where he did his part by helping to build warships.Â On return trips to his beloved mountains, he frequently walked most of the way.Â He returned again in World War II, adding to the effort for many months before returning to his home and family.
He saw each of his daughters grow, saw to his farm, and watched the passing seasons, year after year after year.Â He welcomed grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren.Â Every morning, he woke up and wandered to the henhouse, gathered some eggs, and entered his kitchen to prepare a breakfast.Â Shortly after lunch, he took some good sweet tea onto the shade porch and enjoyed a short nap.Â Every afternoon, he opened the gate and called in his cows for feeding and milking.Â As dusk bathed the holler in coolness and fireflies, he walked the rows of his garden, toeing the dirt and pinching off errant blooms.
He lived to a ripe, old age.Â When he had happily lived into his 90â€™s, many in the now large family asked about his secret to longevity.Â How did he do it?
Thereâ€™s an island off the coast of Greece that is referred to as the place where â€œpeople forget to die.â€Â Ikaria is a windswept place that Homer mentioned in The Iliad.Â On Ikaria, nobody wears a watch.Â If someone is coming by for lunch, it could mean noon or it could mean early evening.Â The local doctor doesnâ€™t open his office until at least 11 a.m., and the locals can often be found gathered around each otherâ€™s dining room tables playing dominos and drinking local wine until after midnight.Â They spend a great deal of time socializing, and there is a great sense of community.Â According to the residents, it is not a â€œmeâ€ place, it is an â€œusâ€ place.
And it has an unusual concentration of people who are over 100 years young.Â They have a reputation for longevity.
Scientists have begun to study this and other clusters of â€œold ageâ€ around the world.Â Part of what theyâ€™ve found is a sense of life.Â On Ikaria, the sense of community somewhat â€œshamesâ€ people into participating.Â â€œWeâ€™re having a cookout.Â You have to come.â€Â And people bow to the peer pressure.Â Another cluster of healthy elders is in Costa Rica, where the local slogan is â€œplan de vida.â€Â A community of elders on Okinawa refer to it as â€œikigai.â€Â For the Costa Ricans it means â€œplan for life,â€ and on Okinawa it means â€œsomething one lives for,â€ but in both cases it means â€œwhy I wake up each morning.â€Â All of these communities seemed to have a secret for longevity.
As researchers looked into areas like Ikaria, Costa Rica, Okinawa, Sardinia and other spots that seemed to have beaten Father Time, they discovered that the residents had some things in common:
In a time when Americans spend $30 billion annually on vitamins and supplements, these people ate simply.Â They often grew much of what was on their dinner table, and had a noted absence of processed sugars and flours.
They enjoyed a cocktail, but in moderation, in social settings, and with a meal, among friends.
They all belonged to a faith-based community.Â It was used for spiritual and social connections.
They all took a few minutes each day to unwind, through prayer, meditation, or a daily nap.
They didnâ€™t lift weights, jog, or join gyms.Â Health clubs in America are a $20 billion dollar industry.Â In 1970 40% of all children walked to school.Â Today it is just over 10%.Â These people walked to their neighbors, to the market, or through their gardens.Â Physical activity was just a natural part of their daily lives.
There is great discussion among the lab coat crowd about these groups of happy old people.Â Is it the fact that theyâ€™re doing something positive or that theyâ€™re not doing negative things?Â Perhaps it was the fact that theyâ€™d all surrounded themselves with an active, caring community?Â Or maybe that they all took some time to de-stress every day?
Maybe our friend in West Virginia had a mountaineer version of “ikigai?”Â Take a minute and think about that…