Category Archives: Physical Health

Aging with Peace

“I am learning to offer to God my days and my nights, my joy, my work, my pain and my grief…I am learning to use the time I have more wisely…And I am learning to forget at times my puritan conscience which prods me to work without ceasing, and instead, to take time for joy.”
Elizabeth Watson, 1979 PYM Faith and Practice

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Simple Advice for Physical Well Being

We all recognize that good health is essential for a great retirement, but what does that actually mean? Do these quotes speak to your condition?

“Everything slows down with age, except the time it takes cake and ice cream to reach your hips.”
Attributed to John Wagner

“Like a lot of fellows around here, I have a furniture problem. My chest has fallen into my drawers.”
Billy Casper, about golf’s Senior Tour

Six simple keys to good physical health are maintaining:

  • Flexibility to bend down to pick up the newspaper
  • Strength to lift a suitcase into the overhead bin
  • Balance to safely step out of the tub
  • Endurance to rake the leaves
  • Weight at a reasonable level to reduce the need for knee or hip replacement
  • Aerobic exercise—20 minutes/three times a week is optimal

Everyone’s circumstances are different. You should always consult with your doctor or health practitioner before starting new exercise programs or after illness or other changes. Keep yourself moving to the best of your ability, not someone else’s standards. Keep in mind that you are more likely to be consistent with physical activity if you are doing something you love.

“Don’t waste a moment feeling sorry for what you can no longer do. Just be thankful for what your body will still do for you. Think how well and uncomplainingly it serves you every day and thank it, thank it every day.”
Mary C. Morrison, “Gift of Days” Pendle Hill Pamphlet 364*


  • Yoga and Tai Chi are good ways to retain flexibility and balance.
  • Strength and endurance can be maintained at the gym, or by lifting a can of vegetables in each hand every which way or doing knee bends during the commercials of your favorite show. Leg lifts can also be done while seated.
  • There are plenty of exercise videos or exercise groups at senior centers or local fitness centers, including movements done exclusively sitting down.

“The only reasons to give up sex in retirement are the same reasons for giving up bicycling: you can’t, you don’t want to, or you don’t have a bicycle.”
Alex Comfort

LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. Articles from this site will open in the same browser window/tab. Articles from other websites will open in a new window; when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

More articles on this website:

Adaptive Advices
Aging with Peace
Allowing Yourself to be Cared For
Being Present When Friends Are Ill
Sexuality in Mid and Late Life

Other Articles/Links:

Widener College Sexuality and Aging Blog
Yoga Journal
Chair Yoga blog
Simple Exercises from
Dr. Andrew Weil’s website
Dr. Gourmet Healthy Recipes

Sources/Further Reading:

* Mary C. Morrison, “Gift of Days”, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 364, Pendle Hill, Wallingford PA.

Discernment for Long Term Care

Q: Can I allow myself to be carried, supported, upheld by others and the love of God?
PYM Faith and Practice, 2002

For individuals facing long-term health challenges and their loved ones, choosing residential health care can be one of the life’s most difficult decisions. The loss and emotions felt when one faces letting go of independence and a long time home may be complicated by the stigma associated with nursing homes or other care environments. Many people are not sure where to begin in the search for long term care.

Practicing discernment based in our values can assist us in making decisions that honor our individual priorities. We can employ Quaker clearness process to assist in discerning what is best for the individual and those involved in care. Knowing more about choices available can also help offset stigma. A useful first step is to assess both the individual and the available local options.

“Nothing about me without me.”

Memorize this phrase used by people with disabilities to remind us that if we are talking about someone, we should be talking with that person. Throughout any assessments or decisions, it is important the person who is at the center of the discussion is included and listened to!

Assessment of the Whole Person: See the person, not just the illness or challenge. Look for their capacity, likes, wants and values in addition to the immediate needs or concerns.

Assessment of Daily Needs: A professional assessment can help determine how well a person can function without assistance. The ability to perform tasks such as preparing food, getting to the bathroom, bathing, using a telephone, and any specific needs are evaluated. Your Yearly Meeting office can help identify professionals who can conduct such an assessment.

Assessment of Resources: Consider viable alternatives. A self care assessment may reveal, for example, that the person is not able to cook for him or herself. . However, is there a family member close by who can deliver meals that can be easily heated? How much help can local organizations such as the Meeting or Meals on Wheels offer? Is the person’s safety at risk—will they forget that they have turned on the stove? Are there adaptations that can be made—technology available to offset any risk? Finally, assess whether combined services and adaptations meet the person’s needs:

  • Will he or she be safe?
  • How well can he or she maintain reasonable physical well being?
  • How will the person stay socially, spiritually and emotionally connected?
  • What does the person most value and how can those values be supported?

A Clearness Committee can offer loving guidance during a time of uncertainty and crisis. This supports a meaningful decision making process that is grounded in spirit and faithful to the values of the individual and loved ones caring for him or her.

Your Yearly Meeting can help identify local resources for aging and care at home. If long-term care is determined to be the most suitable option, know that there are many good facilities to choose from and that many people, after an initial adjustment, find themselves more active and socially connected than they were at home.

“Friends do not take readily to being cared for…But many of us will find ourselves in need of full care in our old age. This will not be easy…But there are compensations and opportunities…And in the experience of living in a Home with others, a deep sense of sharing the darkness and the light can lead to a sense of community not known before…”
Margaret McNeill, 1990

Simple things to consider in choosing a long term care facility:

The basics: Is the home close enough to allow frequent visits by loved ones? Is it financially viable? Does the facility provide the appropriate level of care to meet the person’s needs, and if one’s condition changes, will they still be able to provide appropriate level of care? If not, what are the options – would one have to move to another facility or is it possible to stay there and receive supplemental services to meet health care needs? Once a few facilities are identified that meet the basic criteria, schedule visits to those facilities and consider:

  • What is important to the person who will live there—to be in a town or a city, to be close to nature or children?
  • What types of educational, creative, spiritual, fitness or other activities are provided and are they consistent with the values and interests of the person who will be living there? How much are residents involved in decision making and planning? What adaptations are made so that frail residents can pass time meaningfully?
  • Will the person be able to get to beloved activities outside the residence, such as Friend’s Meeting or other places of worship, family visits? How might this be supported?
  • Empowering self-care and mobility to the degree that is appropriate supports emotional and physical well being. Are residents encouraged to walk, as they are able, wheelchairs used only as needed, not for convenience or speed? Are adaptations made, such as opportunities for rest?
  • Do residents seem engaged? Do their rooms have personal touches? What do the interactions feel like between residents and staff? Does the environment feel home like?
  • Direct Caregivers are likely the ones who will spend the most time with residents. How is staff treated? Do they seem respected? Does it look like care workers have time to spend with each resident or do they seem harried and rushed? Is direct care staff actively involved in care planning? Are their interactions kind and friendly?
  • Overall, is there an atmosphere of kindness and warmth toward all?

“There is that near you which will guide you. O wait for it and be sure you keep to it.”
Isaac Penington, 1678, Quoted in PYM Faith and Practice, 2002

Download this article in pamphlet form

LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. Articles from this site will open in the same browser window/tab. Articles from other websites will open in a new window; when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

More articles on this website:

Adaptive Advices
Housing Options
Slow Medicine

Other Articles/Links:

Friends Services for the Aging
Financing Long Term Care
Friends Life Care at Home

Sexuality in Mid and Late Life

“In our personal lives, Friends seek to ackowledge and nurture sexuality as a gift from God for celebrating human love with joy and intimacy…Learning to incorporate sexuality in our lives responsibly, joyfully, and with integrity should be a lifelong process beginning in childhood.”
PYM Faith and Practice, 2002.

Sexuality in Mid and Late Life:
Excerpts from Older, Wiser, Sexually Smarter
By Peggy Brick

The sexual scripts most of us learned as children are painfully inadequate for our lives as older adults. These scripts, instructing each of us how to think, feel, and act as male or female persons, commonly focus on the reproductive function of sex, define sex as penetrative intercourse only, stereotype gender roles, portray sex as for the young, discount gay, lesbian and bisexual persons, and generally discourage positive sexual attitudes. Such scripts need to be challenged.

In addition, many life changes require people to develop new expectations for their sexual lives. Loss of a partner through death or divorce, a variety of illnesses and disabilities, newrelationships, even the attitudes of one’s own children may require a new view of oneself as a sexual person.

Other barriers to older adults seeking sexual health and happiness are the current commercialization and the “medicalization” of sex, both of which promote quick (and expensive!) “solutions” to often complex interpersonal problems. An overwhelming array of “cures” tempt us: plastic surgery makeovers promise to correct every imperfection from wrinkles to “vulval unsightliness”; pills and a wild variety of penis enhancements guarantee larger, stronger, more powerful erections; an ever-more-exciting plethora of sex toys assure bigger, better orgasms; widely advertised videos assure us of “better sex for a lifetime.” Sexuality education aims to help people evaluate all the messages they receive from the media, advertisers, and pharmaceutical companies and then discover for themselves what can really enhance their sexual lives.

The following principles from Older Wiser, Sexually Smarter offer guidance for a healthy approach to sexuality and sexuality education in older adulthood :

Principles About Sexuality in Mid and Late Life

  1. Sexuality is a positive, life-affirming force. A positive approach to sexuality means acknowledging the pleasures, not just the dangers of sex.
  2. Older adults deserve respect. This respect includes an appreciation for individual sexual histories and the current stage of a person’s sexual journey.
  3. Older adults are not all alike. Older adults vary in their comfort with sexual language, in the discussion of sexual topics, and in participating in learning activities related to sexuality.
  4. Forget the cliche about “old dogs and new tricks”. Older adults are capable of writing new sexual scripts that can invigorate their sexual journeys. Sex is more than sexual intercourse, and there are many ways to be sexual without penetrative sex. Avoid the word “sex” whenever possible because of its vague meaning —when talking about intercourse, use the word “intercourse.”
  5. Older adults learn from each other. Older adults have many “lessons” to share and learn from each other. Discussing ideas with peers helps people take responsibility for their own learning.
  6. Older adults deserve accurate and explicit information, and also additional resources for discovery. Most people in this culture have lived with the message that sexuality is mysterious, secret, and shameful. Having access to the facts and a chance to talk openly helps people overcome those negative messages.
  7. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals must be acknowledged, respected, and included in discussions. Participants in your audience will likely mirror society, and therefore have a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities. Acknowledging all sexual orientations and identities can help make sure all participants feel included.
  8. Flexible gender role behavior is fundamental to personal and sexual health. Strict adherence to traditional gender roles and stereotypes limits individuals’ potential as human beings.
  9. Make no assumptions! Avoid making assumptions about the sexual behaviors or sexual orientations of participants in your sessions. Some may be currently involved in sexual activities, others may not. Some may be married or in relationships, others may not.

About Older, Wiser, Sexually Smarter:

In 2003 Jan Lunquist and I created a teaching manual, New Expectations: Sexuality Education for Mid and Later Life, providing educators with 25 field-tested lessons for older adults. It aimed to help people “celebrate sexuality from birth until death.” Six years later, informed by many workshops, trainings, new resources and research reports, we have developed this completely revised (and renamed) second edition. It is greatly enhanced by the work of our two new authors, Bill Tavemer and Allyson Sandak, and by creative lessons from a number of new educators.

Our lessons encourage participants to identify the issues that confront them, re-think their old scripts, and consider how to create new and positive ways of being sexual as they age. Older, Wiser, Sexually Smarter updates and expands all the lessons, includes three useful timelines, and adds lessons that address additional concerns including: intimacy and communication issues; masturbation; body image; spirituality; cyber sex, and how to talk about sex with your Physician.

Older, Wiser, Sexually Smarter (Copyright 2009) is available through:
The Center for Family Life Education
Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey, Inc.
196 Speedwell Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
(973) 539-9580
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LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. The websites will open in a new window, when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

Widener College Sexuality and Aging website

Friends Meetings in New York and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings may call your Yearly Meeting office if you are interested in a workshop on Sexuality and Aging. Contact us here


Q: How does our community support people who are overwhelmed by emotional challenges?

Q: Am I a listening, caring presence for others when they are experiencing troubling times?

A Time of Loss and Change: depression is not a “normal part of aging” just as it is not a normal part of our development at any age. In older adulthood and at other times in our lives where we are facing loss, isolation or change, we may be at higher risk of depression. Loss of loved ones, roles, home or community ties, or physical changes can increase risk for depression. Men especially are more at risk for depression as they age, and suicide rates increase dramatically for men over 65, even more so for those with a history of depression.

Signs of depression include:

  • Sadness: grief as a natural response to loss is different from depression. Unexplained, unrelenting sadness or grief that never lets up is a sign of depression.
  • Expressions of Feelings of Loss of Self-Worth: a person may feel they are a burden, life has lost meaning, they cannot do things they were once able to do.
  • Withdrawal and Isolation: a person may avoid visits with friends, or avoid coming to Meeting.
  • Avoidance of Activities that were once loved: a person stops doing things that were once important to them.
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns: extreme fatigue, insomnia.
  • Changes in Appetite: usually weight loss, but some people may eat more to try to replace lost energy.
  • Fixation on Death, Suicidal Thoughts: consult a professional if a person expresses thoughts of suicide.
  • In older adults and others, depression may also manifest itself as hopelessness, helplessness, increased irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, unexplained physical complaints. Symptoms such as confusion, forgetfulness, or paranoia may be similar to signs of dementia or other illness. A professional evaluation will help discern the root cause of the symptoms so that appropriate treatment can be determined.

“The remarkable discovery we can make is that love has not deserted us, and that it is available to us now in a new way.”
Margaret Torrie, 1975, PYM Faith and Practice

How can I help? A person with depression needs professional care. Friends can help by encouraging one to seek professional care and by being a caring presence.

Overwhelmed by symptoms of hopelessness and confusion, compounded by the stigma placed on mental illness, often a person who is depressed does not recognize their symptoms and cannot take action to get help. They may also feel ashamed or embarrassed. Let the person know they are accepted and supported, and learn about your local resources and refer to professionals.

  • Validate Feelings: respect and validate the person’s feelings. When a person’s feelings are validated, they feel valued. This contributes to healing and opens the doors for communication. See the Quaker Aging Resources article on Validation.
  • Walk Beside the Person: even if they say “I don’t want to,” let them know that you want to spend time together. If you are rejected, suggest another activity—visit pets, children, a garden. Walking and other exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Mental health research shows that spiritual support, helping a person to find meaning and purpose, assists in recovery. Just listening goes a long way.
  • Don’t give up: continue to let the person know you care. Let go of expectations and understand it is the illness that is keeping the person from calling you back or taking you up on that potluck supper. Enlist the help of others and continue to encourage your Friend to accept professional help. Call your regional faith group office for assistance, especially if reluctance to seek care or accept medication is a concern.

Seek help immediately if thoughts of suicide are expressed or suspected.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION: Click on the blue text below to be directed to outside websites that offer additional information on this topic. The websites will open in a new window, when you are done, simply click out of that window and you will be back on this site.

Other Articles/Links:

Counseling For Friends in Philadelphia Yearly Meetings
Helping Older Adults with Depression
Mental Health America 1-800-969-6642

Sources/Further Reading:

Edited by Patricia McBee, Grounded in God: Care and Nurture in Friends Meetings, Philadelphia, Quaker Press of FGC, order this book from

Deborah Morris Coryell, Good Grief, 2007, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont.

Rosalynn Carter, Helping Someone with Mental Illness,1999, Three Rivers Press, New York, NY.

Brian Quinn, The Depression Sourcebook, 2000, Lowell House. Los Angeles, CA.