Why I support doll therapy for Alzheimers

I heard an interesting story on NPR today: the increase in doll therapy for patients with dementia:

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Guzofsky, who has Alzheimer’s disease [pictured above], lives on a secure memory floor at a home for seniors in Beverly Hills, Calif. She visits the dolls in the home’s pretend nursery nearly every day. Sometimes Guzofsky changes their clothes or lays them down for a nap. One morning in August, she sings to them: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.”

No one knows whether she believes she is holding a doll or a real baby. What the staff at Sunrise Senior Living do know is that Guzofsky, who can get agitated and aggressive, is always calm when caring for the dolls.

Doll therapy is catching on at nursing homes and other senior facilities across the country. It’s used to help ease anxiety among residents with dementia, who can experience personality changes, agitation and aggression. But the therapy is controversial.

Supporters say the dolls can lessen distress, improve communication and reduce the need for psychotropic medication. Critics say the dolls are demeaning and infantilize seniors.

Full story here.

I understand the concern that critics may find this kind of treatment demeaning to seniors who now need care to do basic everyday tasks.

However, let’s think of this as something else: Play Therapy.

It’s true that it can be hard to tell if the patients realize this is a toy doll or real baby. However this could potentially be very similar to a child’s imaginary play with dolls or an imaginary friend: kids know it’s pretend, but also get very invested in their pretend world, taking care of their babies, feeding them, changing them, snuggling them for comfort.

I also agree that the positive results – reduced stress, increased verbalization, and more – without the use of medication, make it worth more exploration rather than outright rejection because of its use of toys and play. Maybe the nay-sayers should give it a try.

The Importance of Staring Out Of The Window

THIS!

Staring out the window is often associated with a lack of attention or productivity, but in this film from The School of Life, we examine the activity (or lack of activity) as a highly productive pursuit that we might rarely make time for anymore: Discovering the contents of our own minds.

Source: The Importance of Staring Out Of The Window | The Kid Should See This

The Disturbing Bro-ification of Outdoor Recreation – Adventure Journal plus my own commentary

What does it mean to be “outdoorsy”?

According to blogger Hansi Johnson, it used to mean someone who likes going outdoors. But now, Hansi argues, the outdoors have become elitist to the point of making it seem inaccessible to most.

I’ve observed how the outdoor industry and the media have portrayed getting outside for nearly my entire life, and what used to be a very “volkssport,” inclusive, hippy-like identity has transformed into a super-elitist and entitled one. The destinations presented in the media are generally so unattainable by most people that they might as well be on the moon–and don’t even bother going if you’re not wearing expensive, high-tech apparel and using modern, high-priced gear.

More at: adventure journal – The Disturbing Bro-ification of Outdoor Recreation

Why does this matter? Because the majority of people in both the developed and developing world already feel like they don’t have time, energy, or resources to “go outside” and get exposure to nature, whether that’s to hike, bike, or just have a picnic. Creating this illusion of exclusivity is bad for everyone. Feeling like you don’t belong – of all places – in NATURE is frankly inhumane. Research has demonstrated over and over how our bodies and brains NEED nature and natural environments.

Get outside, hug a tree, pick a flower, fall into some snow, stomp in puddles.

Congratulations, you’re “outdoorsy!”

Now go do it some more.

M.O.B.I. Camp at Nine Mountain: A.K.A. My Reintroduction to Physical Play

A week ago I got to participate in a 7-day movement experience. Not a fitness camp or sports camp, or dance seminar or MMA workshop. Instead it was a collective gathering of 30 individuals with multiple movement backgrounds coming together to train, learn, and collaborate on understanding movement and how to push our bodies in a healthy way.

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This event was designed for professional movers – dancers, fighters, clowns, capoeiristas, tree climbers, traceurs, and more. But what I took away from this experience as essentially a non-mover with a 9-5 desk job was just how accessible movement really is for all of us. How it does not have to be a scary, grueling, sweaty, or complicated thing. It does not have to break your body, but instead can heal it. Movement is innately fun and enjoyable for humans, yet somehow we have forgotten that.

This week-long workshop brought together coaches from all movement backgrounds who had all come across the same question: why wasn’t their practice fun anymore? Why did they feel constrained, injured, or simply broken? All of them had gone on different journeys but had all come to the same conclusions of using movement as joy, as exploration, as celebration, as a way to communicate with others and the world.

Out in the hills of western Massachusetts, near the Deer Hill State Reservation, Kelly Bitov, Aaron Cantor, and Jared Williams organized the M.O.B.I. Camp – Movement Orientation and Body Intelligence.

In addition to Aaron Cantor, the coaches there included my husband Rafe Kelley, founder of Evolve Move Play; Shira Yaziv, owner of Athletic Playground; Nuria Bowart, and Tom Weksler. That said, almost everyone there were expert movers, dancers, musicians, and players, with some movement background and area of expertise.

This was truly a bit of an expedition into the unknown for me, not just in the location but what a non-mover like me would and could do.

Single-handing it with two toddlers, car seats in tow, we flew from Seattle, through Boston Logan Airport, and thanks to a generous M.O.B.I. Camp participant carpooling us 2.5 hours west, we arrived in the peaceful quiet of Nine Mountain Retreats.

For seven days we and about 30 other people made food as a community, explored movement as a community, and slept under one roof or nearby in tents.

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We would meet every morning at 8am on the deck and start moving, mostly outside, and basically not stop until bed. There were breaks in between workshops, but there was always some movement challenge or game to try in between class, helping with meals and clean-up, re-filling the water cooler, or in my case chasing the kids around, and chasing or carrying them up and down two flights of stairs.

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The one core element that I noticed about the entire week was how every single teacher, regardless of their background or emphasis, had one underlying criteria to their movement: PLAY!

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Tom Weksler and Mayumu Minakawa having fun in trees.

Each one of them had the same overarching instructions: Explore! Try this! Be open to new experiences! Don’t worry about looking wrong or silly, as long as your intention is real. We are all here doing this single practice together and trying new things together. Exploration is scary but necessary.

All of these teachers shared a similar story of evolution – they had trained deeply in one or two or more systems, and found each lacking, either missing something they craved or disallowing things for seemingly arbitrary reasons or worse breaking down their bodies and feeling worse after doing a movement practice that was supposed to make them feel better.

So often physical training and movement has been focused on goals – lift this much weight, run this fast, point your toes just so. By stripping all of that away – helped in large part by stripping away the gym or classroom and just being outside – people were invited to try new things, explore new paths, and mostly just remember that movement is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and a celebration of what our bodies can do.

For me, someone who is very goal oriented or achievement oriented, it can be hard to let go of that and just be a novice, especially when I am the “only” novice, surrounded by professional movers. There was even a time mid-week where I cried myself to sleep because I caught a glimpse of myself in a video looking totally awkward. BUT, I came back to class the next day, and for the first time I noticed other professional movers looking or feeling awkward in new types of movement they had never tried before. But they did it anyway! So I did it anyway. And we all felt better after the class for moving, for learning, and for getting outside and feeling the fresh air.

I honestly was nervous about having the kids there, as I didn’t want to interrupt the classes with my kids’ screaming and yelling and chasing balls and asking questions about trees. But in some ways their movement practice was just as genuine and valuable as what the coaches were teaching. I also heard feedback from some that having the kids there was also helpful to get out of their usual headspace and remind them to play and not take the whole process so seriously.

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My 3.5-year-old daughter became an honorary member of the group, with lots of adults chatting with her and wanting to dance and play with her. She and her 1.5-year-old brother also benefited from this experience immensely; my daughter only watched a few classes, and participated even less, but just by being around all of these movers and watching the adults play both kids absorbed all of this training and movement and acceptance of physical play like sponges.

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I caught them moving, jumping, dancing, and playing more than even at home; they also tried new tools like using the foam rollers and other apparatus people had brought with them, either copying what the grown-ups did or discovering other uses for them.

For me, the biggest take-away was just being accepting of where I am, not following a “system” or specific “method” but using these and thinking of these as tools. Taking what works and playing with them. Being inspired by the art of the possible, by the coaches and the students. That was the most amazing aspect of the week for me.

I sincerely hope they have another event next year. And I hope that other “non-movers” like me will give themselves a chance to go explore their own movement practices, and frankly to just go out and play and rediscover the joy of moving our bodies, no matter what silly, goofy, or wrong shape it makes.

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Quick ways to be happier at work

Obviously there is a lot that goes into a “good” job – coworkers, supportive managers, and work you believe in. But there is also a surprising amount you can do within your own environment and office surroundings that will make your day-to-day grind better.

Here are a few compiled by Mashable (P.S.: Manatees are awesome!):

  1. Beautify your work space. You personalize your home; why not personalize your desk? Make your cube or office a pleasant place to work with a few framed photos, a decorative pen holder or a tiny cactus. Image: Mashable/Vicky Leta

Read them all

 

A Playful Day In the Backyard of Biomechanist Katy Bowman

Fall is finally upon us here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m not going to deny it anymore. But even as the weather gets cooler, my family and I are still finding ways to get outside and play.

I have always loved playing outside, climbing on rocks, trees, hiking, and splashing in puddles, and really want to pass this love of nature and outdoor movement on to my kids. It is so great to see other parents encourage their kids, and other grown-ups, to discover and recover their biophilia and love of playing outdoors.

One of the best outdoor play advocates I have met in a long time is Katy Bowman, although for her, moving and exploring the outdoors is simply behaving like a normal human.

Katy Bowman doing her thing

Katy Bowman doing her thing

Katy is a biomechanist with a deservedly large following of movement practitioners using her Restorative Exercise program. Katy is a huge advocate of natural movement and getting outside as much as possible, and encourages it with her kids as well. Katy talks about their experience in their outdoor “nature” preschool on her blog and podcast, but the enriching environments she has set up for her kids at home is in a class by itself.

Katy graciously invited my family out to her house outside of a small town on the Olympic Peninsula earlier this summer.

When we pull up to her house, the front yard looks fairly typical for any house containing small children; a few toys are strewn around the yard, slightly hidden by the uncut grass. Her husband and children have just headed off down the road for a walk. She helps us unload our brood out of the car after the long drive and immediately invites my daughter to explore, with me in tow.

We step out of the house into the backyard, and it is perfect.

My three-year-old daughter’s eyes light up like she’s hit the motherlode.

The lawn is littered with toys – costumes, stuffed animals, balls, a Little Tyke’s scooter car. There is a big basket of LEGOs sitting on the porch waiting to be dumped over and played with.

There are also complex toys laid out intentionally by Katy and her husband Michael for her kids to play with. A tippy rope ladder strung between two trees with a foam mat underneath; ladders laid on the ground for balancing, a jungle gym, a circle swing, large wooden ramps placed strategically up to table tops. The cherry tree is also filled with cherries, for good measure.

The kids have gotten creative with some of their building materials, including taking a couple of blocks from the flower box and made a corral for their plastic farm animals. They have also left little illustrations stealthily added around inside the house: on the wooden bed frame, the balance ball in Katy’s office, and on a couple of door frames.

And that’s before we even meet the chickens or go down to the Dungeness River to throw rocks, wade, climb, and make structures in the sand.

It is obvious the kids have the run of the house, and its affect is wonderful.

Katy has created a practice based on her high level training in biomechanics and years of teaching experience centered on creating a healthy, mobile human being, and this practice is reflected in how she and Michael have set up their home environment. Every space is open for movement, jump, climb, and play. There are edges and imperfectly balanced steps and slight risks everywhere. The kids must learn to navigate their environment safely, and have a blast doing it.

Katy often talks about getting her kids outside and exposed to new, playful challenges. And yet, when I ask her about it, she almost baulks at the idea she is supporting a primarily “playful” environment. For her, this is simply survival, teaching her little humans how to be human. She is merely creating and supporting healthy behaviors, what kids and grownups should be doing all the time.

They let their children go slow, at their pace. Their kids learn by doing, by experiencing. As do we all, really. It’s true that, thanks to the visit, I now have more confidence in being able to ford a fast-moving stream carrying my toddler. And it wasn’t part of a survival training camp or an emergency. It was part of our Sunday family outing. It may sound small or frivolous or “not necessary,” but for the survival of our species, that skill is a big deal.

To me, this kind of activity is not just good for restoring our body and capability to move, it is also restorative to our psyches and filling that need to explore and play at our own pace and learn in a playful way.

Finally my family has to head home. We take the time to let our kids say good night to the chickens before we load back into our car, driving away with the sunset on our backs. After getting to see and play in Katy’s backyard, both the grown-ups and the kids in our family feel renewed, replenished, and ready to play and explore our own backyard and our home environment in a new way.

I highly recommend digging in to Katy’s materials. She has some great ideas and thoughts around leading a healthy, restorative, and in my mind playful movement practice, whether it’s in nature or just in your own backyard.

Six Ideas For Those Who Need to Laugh More (which is everyone)

stressed hamsterI wanted to share a great list from full time mom/worker/author/etc. Katrina Alcorn about how to fit in some play and laughs into a busy schedule.

 

Whether or not laughter is the best medicine, it’s certainly a great coping technique. It may not make you less busy, but it will boost your immune system, protect your heart, help you handle stress, lower your blood pressure, and improve your intake of oxygen. Also, it has zero calories, zero negative side effects, and it’s free.

read her six ideas on how to get more laughter into your busy life quickly, cheaply, and effectively at Because Working Moms Need to Laugh — 6 Ideas | Maybrooks.

Katrina also wrote a great book about her experience being Maxed Out and ways that we can all fight for more time and space to play and be balanced in our lives. It is a wonderful, fast, engaging read. Go check it out.

Architecture and the Airpocalypse | Architect Magazine

A smoggy Shanghai skyline

A really fascinating read about improving air quality through design by architect Blaine Brownell:

During a study-abroad tour of China that I led in May and June through the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture (read more about the trip here and here), one topic, aside from architecture, that my students and I discussed regularly was air pollution. Although we were in southern and central China, which are less affected than Beijing and other northern cities, we often found ourselves in a murky atmosphere. For three weeks, we rarely saw blue sky even on sunny days, and the air imparted a palpable thickness.

We checked the country’s Air Quality Index (AQI) daily via mobile app for the local forecast—especially after a bout of intense allergies sent me to a local pharmacist. This led us to question how we as architects and designers can counter such an ever-present problem.

Air pollution influences not only our physical health but also our experience of the built environment. Buildings and landscapes become soft and gritty, losing their clarity, sharpness, and color behind a veil of smog. The azure backdrop that is beloved in architectural representations is rarely witnessed. Rather, gray predominates, at times accompanied by brown. Despite this reality, blue sky persists in renderings of projects in China.

read the whole article at via Architecture and the Airpocalypse | Architect Magazine |.

Nature Valley shows chilling faces of children addicted to technology

Okay, ignore that this is a granola company’s commercial.

And they may have cherry-picked to prove a point.

YET…

The fact that even these kids exist is terrifying.

Just watch the video. And cringe. Mourn. Cry. Then go do something about it!

Children are obsessed with technology, and Nature Valley wants us to be afraid. Very afraid.

That seems to be the message of this new ad for the granola bar company, which asks three generations of families: “When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?”

The elder two generations share memories of blueberry picking, sledding, fishing trips, and playing baseball as airy music plays in the background.

But then it’s the younger generation’s turn, and ominous music suggests these kids aren’t exactly frolicking in the grass and soaking in the sunshine. The kids detail that they spend five hours a day texting, emailing, tweeting, browsing the computer, or playing video games as the parents cry or lament the death of the good old days.

h/t via Nature Valley shows chilling faces of children addicted to technology (Mashable).

This is not okay people. So, so, the opposite of okay!

Go volunteer to take your niece or nephew to the park, or go hunt for cool leaves and flowers in the park. Grow a flower or even spider plant and give it to a kid! Take action!

Scientists have discovered that living near trees is good for your health – The Washington Post

While it may be better for you to take a walk in the woods than on an urban block, living near trees, even in an urban environment, has been found repeatedly to improve people’s health, even making them feel younger.

In a new paper published Thursday, a team of researchers present a compelling case for why urban neighborhoods filled with trees are better for your physical health. The research appeared in the open access journal Scientific Reports.

The large study builds on a body of prior research showing the cognitive and psychological benefits of nature scenery — but also goes farther in actually beginning to quantify just how much an addition of trees in a neighborhood enhances health outcomes. The researchers, led by psychologist Omid Kardan of the University of Chicago, were able to do so because they were working with a vast dataset of public, urban trees kept by the city of Toronto — some 530,000 of them, categorized by species, location, and tree diameter — supplemented by satellite measurements of non-public green space (for instance, trees in a person’s back yard).

They also had the health records for over 30,000 Toronto residents, reporting not only individual self-perceptions of health but also heart conditions, prevalence of cancer, diabetes, mental health problems and much more.

more via Scientists have discovered that living near trees is good for your health – The Washington Post.

I live in a fairly verdant neighborhood in a very green city, and this report still makes me want to go out and plant some more trees!