To Live Longer and Healthier, Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving Day can bring out a lot of positive feelings and emotions in people, and they’re induced by much more than just turkey! In a recent article in LiveScience, Tia Ghose examines the wealth of scientific literature linking gratitude with improved health and wellbeing. Some of the benefits of expressing gratitude include:

  • Improved sleep quality and duration
  • Healthier levels of cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Lower lifetime risk of anxiety and depression
  • Higher rates of adherence to dietary and medical regimens

An interesting caveat of this power of gratitude is that it works better when focused on others. In a recent paper published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, it was shown that keeping a diary of blessings boosted happiness significantly more than recalling a sense of pride in one’s own accomplishments. Acts of kindness and gratitude towards others tend to be reciprocated or passed on, providing fuel for a virtuous cycle of good vibrations. On behalf of all those affiliated with the Phoenix Commons community, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, and hope that everyone has the opportunity to pass on a whole lot of happiness with a little bit of gratitude.

Harvard Study Confirms: US Needs More Alternatives For Senior Housing

A new report released by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, Housing America’s Older Adults, has found that the United States is facing a demographic shift for which it is not well prepared, especially so when it comes to housing.

At a public seminar titled Aging + Place: Designing Housing & Communities for Aging Populations, which was organized in conjunction with the recent release of this new report, presentations on the report’s findings as well as panel discussions with leading experts in senior housing were featured. Presentation slideshows from the seminar can be found on the event’s website.

The report’s authors call for urgent action at all levels – private, public, local, state and federal – to ensure an adequate supply of housing that meets the needs of our aging population. The main characteristics of such housing include financial sustainability, accessibility, social connection, and integration with health systems.

It’s good to know that Phoenix Commons was specifically designed with these characteristics in mind. Members of the Phoenix Commons community enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing they will be in a sustainable, supportive community as they age, enjoying all that the Bay Area has to offer and in a building that will accommodate their changing needs. Moreover, the community will be supported by AEC Living, a family-owned company with decades of experience in elder care, thus providing a health care link that the Harvard report acknowledges is very important yet usually lacking.

If this exciting, new alternative to institutional senior housing appeals to you, contact us now to learn more about Phoenix Commons. Our members are looking for a diverse group of mature and vibrant individuals who enjoy sharing their time and gifts with the community – could you be one of those?

More Evidence That Walking Keeps Seniors Independent Longer

At Phoenix Commons, we love to point out the superb walkability of our location. A new study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Assocation validates this enthusiasm for walking.

The authors of the study designed what is arguably the most ambitious experiment ever to measure the effects of exercise on seniors, using 1,635 subjects over a period of 2.6 years (on average). By the end of the experiment, seniors in the exercise group were 18 percent less likely to have experienced any episode of physical disability, compared to a control group which received health education only. The exercise group was also 28 percent less likely to have become permanently disabled. The authors claim that the contrast would have been even greater, if not for the fact that many seniors in the control group began exercising on their own as well.

Another important finding of the study is that the benefits of exercise extend beyond the physical. Participants in the experimental group were asked to exercise in a group setting, and the social benefits of this activity were not lost on the researchers, or the seniors themselves. Mildred Johnson, an 82-year old retired office worker, said:

“Exercising has changed my whole aspect on what aging means. It’s not about how much help you need from other people now. It’s more about what I can do for myself.” Besides, she said, gossiping during her group walks “really keeps you engaged with life.”

So get out of the house, connect with a group of local seniors, and start walking together regularly. It’s one of the best things you can do for your health, happiness, and independence.

The Science of Older & Wiser

How important is wisdom as we become older? In her recent New York Times article, Phyllis Korkki writes that wisdom is the most important quality we can possess to age successfully and be able to confront the issues of physical decline and death. Facing those challenges armed with the positive well being and kindness that define wisdom is essential. Korkki cited an analysis by geriatric neuro-psychologist Vivian Clayton which determined the three components of wisdom are cognition, reflection and compassion.  While our cognition is slowed by aging, our wisdom can be enhanced by the broader life experience from which we, as elders, can draw.

“Wise people learn to accept reality as it is with equanimity and when they do, they enjoy a greater sense of well-being,” according to University of Florida- Gainesville associate sociology Professor Monika Ardelt.  Psychologist Erik Ercikson, Korkki says, coined the term “Generativity” or giving back without needing anything in return, whether that giving is creative, social, personal or financial as one of the most important signs of wisdom.

Whatever the nature of one’s limitations, simplifying one’s life is also a sign of wisdom, Dr. Clayton said, for example, by giving your things away while you are still alive. Some people have trouble with the idea of settling for less — “they have gotten so used to the game of acquiring more,” she said.

The acceptance, reflection, kindness, selflessness, simplification, that help us bring wisdom to our aging can become the key to facing the downside with grace. To read the entire New York Times article, “The Science of Older & Wiser” go here or paste in your browser.

Eyes, Vision, and Aging

Come to this FREE educational event presented by Dr. Meredith Whiteside, from U.C. Berkeley School of Optometry, and learn how to take care of your eyes and protect your vision.

Everyone’s vision can change with age, some changes are normal, but losing vision is not a normal part of getting older! Older adults are at higher risk of developing several age-related eye diseases and conditions.

Peet’s coffee and refreshments will be provided.

Location: Alameda Free Library, 1550 Oak St.

Date: March 19, 2014

Time: 1 – 2 pm

To RSVP, or if you have questions about the seminar series, please call Samantha at 510-217-8527 or email[email protected].

This free educational event is sponsored by Elders Village an Alameda based 501(c)(3) with funding provided by AEC.

Adding Life to Years

Adding life to years is the concluding message of this great little video commissioned by the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO). It was released back in 2012 to coincide with World Health Day, but our society’s need to hear this message is more urgent than ever. The video addresses the many stereotypes that hold back seniors and limit their opportunities, and provides a blueprint for better integration of seniors into our communities.

One of the best features of the video is its positive, uplifting tone. Your attitude is a primary factor in determining how you age, so it’s important to affirm older adults’ potential for both learning and action. Instead of waiting passively for what the future brings, you can be proactive and find out how to shape your own future, like the participants at the Successful Aging workshop series presented by Elders Village ( Instead of settling for an institutional retirement home designed for your parents’ generation, you can create your own community and determine its features, like the steadily growing core group of future Phoenix Commons members is now doing. The possibilities for your Third Age are endless – all you need is a group of caring and sympathetic companions for the journey.

WHO: Healthy aging – Adding life to years