Human Potential at Work Podcast Show Flyer for Episode 71: Aging and Human Potential
Human Potential at Work Podcast Show Flyer for Episode 71: Aging and Human Potential

Guest: Doug Foresta       Guest Title: Producer

Date: August 30, 2017            Guest Company: Stand Out & Be Heard               


[Intro music]



Debra Ruh:                             Hello, everyone. This is Debra Ruh. You’re listening to Human Potential At Work. Today I have Doug Foresta joining me on the program. We are going to talk about aging and we really want to talk about aging in a positive way. We’re aging but as somebody that is in their late fifties I want to really talk about aging in a real grounded authentic way as well. Welcome to the program, Doug.

Doug Foresta:                       Hi, Debra. It’s always a pleasure to be with you.

Debra Ruh:                             I agree. I love the conversations that we have. I hope our listeners also enjoy them as much as I do. I have been thinking about aging a lot. My mother is 78 years old and she walked some … Well, we lost my father in 2013. That was difficult and it was very hard for my mom obviously. She walked a lot of health problems, Doug. It was very traumatic for everyone, her especially.

                                                      I remember we talked her into moving into an assisted living facility in Jacksonville, Florida because she just had gotten … It had gotten really bad. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which I did not think was a good diagnosis. Not that I was in denial, Doug, but the reason I didn’t think it was a good diagnosis was my mother had been grieving for my father but she had not had any dementia or any signs leading up to …

                                                      All of a sudden she had an accident. She tripped over her cat and she fell. She hurt herself. She went to the emergency room. They gave her a couple of different medicines that seemed to cause problems because all of a sudden my mom got … My mom has always had Borderline Personality Disorder but things got really bad. I was living in Virginia, Doug.

                                                      She thought that there were homeless people camped out all around her house. There were people living in the walls of her house. Somebody had come into her garage and stole the motor out of her car. She would go down to her neighbor’s house at two or three o’clock in the morning saying somebody was chasing her. It was horrible for her and everyone else involved.

                                                      Here, I’m in Virginia. We’re driving back and forth. Needless to say, Doug, we wanted my mom to be stable and safe. We moved her into a nursing home. A very nice assisted living facility. She was in there for about three weeks, Doug. She was rushed to the hospital, had a heart attack, and she was pronounced dead. They brought her back. Then her lungs started filling up with fluid. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finally they used one antibiotic and it got better.

                                                      It turned out that this particular very, very nice assisted living facility had Legionnaire’s Disease and they had not disclosed that to us. My mother had gotten Legionnaire’s Disease. I understand of course in a litigious society, Doug, why they would keep that secret but this is my mother’s life you’re talking about here.

Doug Foresta:                       Of course. Yeah.

Debra Ruh:                             Anyway, we walked all that path. My mother actually moved here to Virginia. She’s a lot better now. She still has Borderline Personality Disorder. I start with that story, Doug, because I was in my mid-fifties as that was happening. It was the most traumatic for my mother but it was very traumatic for all of the family.

                                                      I really started … I think a lot of us think about our mortality and aging and the wisdom of aging and all that. It was just a little quick snapshot of something that my mother walked. Doug, I know you’re a lot younger than I am. I don’t know. I’m sure you’ve walked some paths with aging and trying to understand how do we honor ourselves and other people as we age? How do we do that in this society?

Doug Foresta:                       Certainly. I’m not that much younger, Debra. I’m 44 as of this recording. It’s definitely an age where I think aging is more on my mind. It’s been on my mind more than it probably ever has been. Certainly I have my grandmother on my mother’s side passed away before I actually was born. She was 49 when she died. The other side of it is when we think about, “Oh, man. I don’t want to get older” or what comes with aging. Well, of course, there’s the piece of that. We’ve done whole episodes on gratitude but there’s the other side of it, right? To be alive is to age.

Debra Ruh:                             Right, right. We’re all aging. You’re beautiful daughter is aging. What age is she as of this recording?

Doug Foresta:                       Yeah, she’s almost four months. She’ll be four months next week.

Debra Ruh:                             Yeah. She’s at the point where we’re calculating [crosstalk 00:06:09]

Doug Foresta:                       She’s at the ripe old age of four months.

Debra Ruh:                             We’re still calculating weeks and days with Ellie.

Doug Foresta:                       Right. You know you’re young when you’re counting by weeks.

Debra Ruh:                             I don’t want to tell you how many months old I am, Doug.

Doug Foresta:                       I haven’t done that calculation for myself. I don’t want to.

Debra Ruh:                             That would make my head hurt. Just some facts from the World Health Organization. The number of people aged 60 years or older will rise from 900 million to two billion between 2015, so it’s already started, and 2050. Moving from 12% to 22% of the total global population.

                                                      Of course, some societies, some countries are aging faster than others. One of the fastest aging societies is Japan. We’ve talked about that on the program before. Of course, when we talk about disabilities we talk about people that are over a certain age because as we live our lives in these beautiful, amazing, fragile bodies more of us acquire disabilities as we get to a certain age.

                                                      I believe that the AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, I read a statistic once that said over the age of 65, 46% of Americans have a disabling condition. Doesn’t mean that they can’t live full rewarding lives but they can’t hear as well, we can’t see as well.

                                                      Also, Doug, I think we’ve talked about this before. There’s 74 million Baby Boomers in the United States. The Baby Boomers, and I’m one of those Baby Boomers, have been really revamping what different ages look like. Since we came out and started ripping our bras off in the ’60s. Peace and love, peace and love.

                                                      It’s just important to understand that all of this goes together. If you’re talking about two billion people out of what, our population is seven and a half billion people right now, going up to eight billion, two billion of those people are over the age of 60 or will be between 2015 and 2050. Those are staggering numbers. There’s a lot of opportunities. We’re going to learn a lot about diseases, diseases that happen with aging. We’re going to learn a lot about healthy living, eating right, medications, natural integrative medicine. I just think there’s a lot that we’re going to learn from so much of our global population aging, don’t you think, Doug?

Doug Foresta:                       Yeah. I was thinking about what are some of the social implications. We tend to think about aging mostly in the way of who is going to be the caregiver for all these people, right?

Debra Ruh:                             Right.

Doug Foresta:                       The reality, even if let’s say we’re not able to hear as well, we’re more reliant on technology, that’s one of my thoughts too that if we have an aging population that is not totally disabled, is able to have some type of engagement with the world, what does that look like? How might that change society hopefully for the better?

Debra Ruh:                             Yes. I agree. I’m hoping, I’m always very hopeful that it is going to eventually improve society overall. There’s a lot of troubling statistics and I’ll talk a little bit more about just some of the personal things that my family is walking.

                                                      There are also things that are troubling like elder abuse. I know that the World Health Organization has a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. In 2017 it was held in Switzerland. They on their website say that around one in six older people experience some form of abuse. A figure higher than previously estimated and unfortunately predicted to rise.

                                                      Now they say here governments must protect older people from abuse, which I agree. I would interject a different word, Doug. I would instead of saying governments I would say societies. One thing that I’ve learned with the trauma that’s going on in the United States with our political situation and our current president, whether you like him or your love him or whatever, is that I have realized that I really shouldn’t expect my government to solve a lot of these hard issues like elder abuse.

                                                      Can my government contribute to it? Absolutely. I’m starting to understand the communities, the families, the churches, the places where people gather together. Not just religious places. Corporations have a role to play. I think some of the most innovative corporations understand it’s the four Ps, Doug. It’s yes, please be profitable. We want you to stay in business. We want you to pay your shareholders and your employees. We want you to be a healthy company. It’s more than profit. We have to be thinking about purpose, we have to be thinking about people, and we have to be thinking about … Oh, no. My age is showing. What is the fourth one? Planet. Planet. That place where we live.

Doug Foresta:                       That’s right.

Debra Ruh:                             There’s another thing I noticed when I was on the World Health Organization. I’m very fond of that organization. There is the WHO Global Network for age-friendly cities and communities. They put out a press release on June 19th, 2017 welcoming Paris, France as it’s 500th member.

                                                      The network has grown rapidly to include 500 cities and communities in 37 countries covering over 155 million people. This is about cities and communities that really want to become more age-friendly. They really want to be very welcoming and make sure that all generations are included. I think there’s troubling and there’s optimism.

                                                      Some of the other things, Doug, and I’ll go ahead and talk about this now. My husband and I, I’ve been married to this man for a long time, Doug. I still love him to pieces and would marry him again tomorrow. We are celebrating in September our 35th wedding anniversary.

Doug Foresta:                       That’s amazing.

Debra Ruh:                             Yeah, and we’re actually going to go on a vacation. I’m going to go on a vacation. A vacation to Turks and Caicos. I have not been on a vacation as an entrepreneur in a long time.

Doug Foresta:                       I bet.

Debra Ruh:                             We’re going to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. Our daughter Sarah is going to come with us, which is going to be fun. My husband got diagnosed a few months ago with early-onset dementia. As you can imagine that freaked me out, especially with the work that I do. Making sure that we understand that people with disabilities aren’t broken. They add value to society and to the workforce.

                                                      I have a small family. It’s my husband and myself, my daughter Sarah, who is 30, who was born with trisomy 21, sometimes referred to as Down Syndrome, and my son. It’s interesting the small family in the United States of four people. Now we have additional disability diagnosis in our family. Once again my family is not broken. My family, Doug, is probably very typical these days, right?

Doug Foresta:                       Yeah.

Debra Ruh:                             You, Doug, as a therapist have been really very wonderful about holding my hand as I … To be honest with the audience I haven’t been able to talk about this without crying. I think this is a real journey. I’m glad that today I can actually talk about it without …

Doug Foresta:                       Well, I really commend you, Debra, for having the courage to share this with the audience. My guess is there are many, many people listening who can relate.

Debra Ruh:                             Yeah, I know that this is going on. I know it’s going on but I was staggered with the numbers. I read one place and then I can’t find it. I’m not really sure … If I look at research, Doug, I want it to be grounded. I read one place on the internet that every second somebody in the United States is being diagnosed with dementia. Now I will tell you that I cannot ground that so let me ground it in another place. This is not [crosstalk 00:15:46]

Doug Foresta:                       I’m not sure that math would hold up.

Debra Ruh:                             That’s what it felt like to me. This is some really grounded math from an aging society in the United States. In the year 2015 it was estimated that 5.3 million people in the United States were diagnosed with dementia. Now just to ground that a little bit more because I know we have a lot of listeners in other countries. As a matter of fact, the program is listened to in 73 countries, which is exciting. Including Chad, which is in Africa. Sorry. I welcome our Chad viewers and our Slovakia viewers and listeners. Very, very blessed to have such a wonderful audience.

                                                      They’re grounded numbers are someone that is diagnosed with dementia every 66 seconds. By 2030, someone will get a dementia diagnosis every 33 seconds. It’s not the one second but it is seconds. That’s, as you can imagine, very troubling. If you look at institutional care, I’m looking at this right now with a lens in the United States. Institutional care in 2015 for memory care it would cost $90,500. American families are spending over $49 billion ever year on long-term services. Our Medicaid services in 2013 … They said that in 2012 they had spent $134 billion taking care of people that have dementia and Alzheimer’s.

                                                      It was interesting. I was reading an article and they said the Zika and the Ebola and the HIV get all this press when people are being diagnosed with dementia every 66 seconds.

Doug Foresta:                       Right. It’s not as dramatic, right? As getting Zika or Ebola. It’s a larger problem, it’s a much larger issue but it doesn’t get the press that those things get.

Debra Ruh:                             No, it doesn’t. Trying to understand this, what we’re walking, and why are we walking it, I think society has a lot to learn from it. I remember the other day it was about maybe a month ago I got really aggravated with my husband because I had noticed that he had missed two days of his medicine. I got really freaked out. What did I do? I made it all about me. “I can’t believe you’re not taking your medicine. Why aren’t you taking your medicine?”

                                                      I sometimes just get really scared and freaked out. What do I do? I was harassing this poor man. I was giving him a hard time about, “You’ve got to take your medicine.” He listened to me and then he came into the room and he said, “Debra, do you know what the definition of dementia is?” I thought, “Ugh, I guess I should really educate myself.” “Of course I do.” He said, “You forget things. I try not to forget my medicine but I would appreciate …”

                                                      This is very early-onset, it’s very early-onset. He just will forget … Also, Doug, in the last six months my husband he got hearing aids because he had significant hearing loss. It’s interesting. My husband was on statins for 30 plus years. Statins cause some people, especially men, to have cognitive loss that can be diagnosed as dementia.

                                                      Plus, plus, this wonderful man that I married when he was 11 years old he was in Buffalo, New York and he was flying a kite and he had gotten that kite up and it was really going well. We’d been there. He ran in front of a car and the car hit him and threw him 50 yards. He fell on the cement. He landed on his eye. His eye fell out. He crushed his hip. They thought he was dead. It was horrible.

                                                      Now this accident happened 50 plus years ago but he was in a coma for a long time. He was in the hospital for months. I know without looking at the medical records that my husband sustained a terrible traumatic brain injury as a child. Now he went on to graduate from high school, he got some college, he got married, he had a couple of cool kids. He worked at Capital One for many years. He lived a “normal” life but what we don’t know is is his brain going to age differently from another brain that didn’t have that traumatic brain injury. I don’t know. Nobody knows.

                                                      Even today I was at … We now are at Walmart pharmacy. The Walmart in Short Pump, Richmond these guys rock, Doug. They are so good. We were talking about the medicine that he was on and where are we going and I’ve even more improved his diet and blah, blah, blah.

                                                      I just feel like I’m really blessed to have people around me that are trying to help us walk this path authentically. Also, remembering in The Power of Now, which is a wonderful book by Eckhart Tolle, which reminds us all we have is the moment we’re living in right this moment. Right this moment. No, right this moment.

Doug Foresta:                       It is hard because … I agree with you that we should live in the now but at the same time just to acknowledge that as human beings we can’t help but have our … We want to have some sense of a story, of a coherent narrative, about what’s happening in our lives. Part of what I understand from you, Debra is that they really don’t know what the progression … No one can really tell you, “Here’s exactly how this will progress” or even if it will progress, right?

Debra Ruh:                             No, they said … We go to this wonderful neurologist, Dr. Ted Harris, and I’m actually going to have him on the program in the future. Dr. Harris told us that with the diagnosis that my husband has 40% of the people don’t get worse. 40%.

                                                      60% take a billion different paths. Even today I was talking to Dr. Harris and he was saying, “You know, I don’t totally understand what’s going on with your husband because he’s a younger man. I’m perplexed.” We’re trying different medications. Of course, we’re eating right, reducing stress. All the different …

                                                      You know that feeling … Sometimes the only way I feel like I have any control of life is maybe if I force-feed my husband Omega 3s, maybe that will be better. Then there are times when I get really freaked out, Doug, and I think I don’t … I’ll start crying. I’m just walking this path as authentically as possible.

                                                      Every once in a while I remember I would be thinking, “Woah, he’s leaving me. He can’t leave me because I’ve been married to this man 35 years.” It’s been really nice to have you there with me, Doug. Sarah is also walking it. My son is walking it. We’re all figuring it out together as a family. As the numbers show us, as the numbers show us, we’re not the only family walking this.

                                                      We do have to have the courage and be authentic to talk about these journeys so that somebody else can say, “Well, oh, really, Debra? I didn’t know you were walking that path. Have you thought about this? How about this?” I was looking at another statistic and they were saying … The US census. I think we take the US census every four years, Doug? Is that right? I think it’s every four.

Doug Foresta:                       I think so.

Debra Ruh:                             As of late census bureau they said more people were 65 years and over in 2010 than in the previous census. In 1900 there were 3.1 million people age 65 and over or just 4.1% of the total population in the US. Then of course we already talked about how those numbers are going to increase dramatically.

                                                      This is something that … I ordered a book about our thinking selves versus our memory. I don’t know. We’re going to walk something if we live long enough, right? We’re all going to walk something. It’s just part of life. Doug, I read a poem. I read a poem by Ann Landers that I loved. “At age 20 we worry about what others think of us. At age 40 we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60 we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.” That’s so true, which probably they never were anyway.

                                                      I also was reading different things about pro-aging and aging out loud. 10 top things: accept what changes are going to happen. I’ll tell you, Doug. It’s interesting looking at my face and seeing the wrinkles and the this and that and trying to not be a little freaked out. It’s like, “Oh, I’m thinning in my hair. Okay.” Embracing it but at the same time can’t help but be a little freaked out by it. Adapting to those changes and almost providing yourself deeper compassion, which you always talk about, Doug. “Be compassionate with yourself too, Debra.”

Doug Foresta:                       Absolutely. Walking that path and, like I said, it’s definitely been on my mind more too because I too can look in the mirror and see some more … It’s like, “Oh my God. That wrinkle wasn’t there yesterday.” Yes, you start to … I think one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is this idea of … I think as we get older one of the things I think that maybe we come to a deeper truth about is letting go and, as you said, living in the moment more.

                                                      I think that that truth of letting go and not holding on so tight I think becomes more and more apparent because we realize that we’re not going to be on this planet forever. What impact are we going to have while we’re here? Also, that we don’t know as much. I think as we get older we realize, as you’re experiencing now, that we have these twists and turns in life that we can’t necessarily anticipate and that we can’t … Yeah, the only thing that we can anticipate is that there probably will be twists and turns. We can’t anticipate what they are necessarily.

Debra Ruh:                             Yeah, just having the empathy with other people to understand that you don’t know what they’re walking too. Doug, let me read these 10 items that is about aging out loud, pro-aging. I will tell you I took some of them from some websites and I sort of made this list my own.

                                                      Number on was accept that changes are going to happen. Number two, adapt to the changes and understand the limitations and have deeper compassion. Number three, adopt or continue healthy habits. One of mine is Zumba. Number four, always believed in this one, do what you love. If you don’t have a job that you love make sure that you’re volunteering or you’re spending time if you love to draw. Do what you love. This life is supposed to be about joy too. Not just a trudging walk to the death.

                                                      Number five, remember that younger generations are watching. I know some of my best relationships, Doug, are some of the cross-generational relationships I have. I have learned so much with the young people that I get to interact with. I was talking to a woman that’s 23 years old. A while back. She has a lovely figure and everything. She said, “Do you think that this shirt is too low-cut that I’m wearing?”

                                                      I said, “If you’re going to wear a low-cut shirt do it when you’re 24 years old. When you get to be my age maybe people don’t want to see it as much.” We’re being a little funny here but it’s like be authentic to yourself. I felt like I can be a bit of a gift to the younger generations but they’re a gift to me too. She came right back at me when I said, “Maybe I’m too old.” She’s like, “Who said?” She came right back at me and said, “Why? Why? Who decided?” I learn a lot being around younger people and older people. The wisdom coming from people who are older than me sometimes is breathtaking.

                                                      Number six, a favorite of both of ours, gratitude. Number seven, accept your flaws, your strengths, and your wisdom. Number eight, be authentic to yourself and to others. Number nine, try to focus on the possibilities because there are always possibilities. Number 10, celebrate your journey.

                                                      Those are just some things to do to think about again out loud and pro-aging and I don’t know. Just honoring each of us along the path. I was talking to Sarah, my daughter. She had a little bit of a tiny bit of a meltdown with her dad about what she was going to get to eat at a fast food restaurant, which first of all, why are y’all at a fast food restaurant? Whatever.

                                                      Second of all, anyway, her dad and her got in a little argument. She was feeling bad later about it. I said, “Well, soon as you figure out how to be perfect, Sarah, let me know. I sure haven’t figured it out.”

Doug Foresta:                       You know, as you share those 10 things, Debra, it reminds me of … Again, I think the theme in all of those … Again, I think the thing that runs through them is this idea of, like you said, living in the moment and letting go.

                                                      It reminds me of there was a book, I don’t remember the author, it’s called What Happy People Know. At the end of the book he talks about … He said that the key to happiness in life is that at every moment in life as we get older we have losses, right? Lie becomes loss, loss, loss. It’s the loss of our sight, the loss of our hearing. I just went for new glasses and they’re like, “Oh, your eyes are getting weaker and weaker.” Your hearing is going to get worse. Your knees are falling apart. Our memory isn’t what it was.

                                                      Life becomes all these series of losses. At the same time, every day you wake up there’s an opportunity to have new moments, right? If we’re alive we have the opportunity to experience new moments. They key to happiness in life is to love the moment more than you mourn the loss.

Debra Ruh:                             Oh, good one. Good one. You know, I think also what should have made the top 10 is curiosity. One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, I love, love, love her work. I love her work. Eat, Love, and Pray, a lot of us have read. Take the time to read some of her other books. I think she’s got one out now called Big Magic. It’s got magic in the title. It’s Elizabeth Gilbert. She talks about that a lot. Being curious. Being curious. Maybe we don’t know what our purpose is. What’s my purpose? Why don’t I know what my purpose is? Follow your curiosity.

Doug Foresta:                       [crosstalk 00:32:28] keep you young. Curiosity will keep you young and youthful.

Debra Ruh:                             Yeah, you know what? Doug, the other day when you told me that my listeners had gone from listeners in 64 countries to listeners in 73 countries I was like, “Yay, that’s so cool.” Then I thought, “But how many countries are there?” I started thinking about it.

Doug Foresta:                       That’s right. We both were like, “How many countries are there?”

Debra Ruh:                             How many countries are there? What did we do? We went on the internet to look. It is a moving answer depending upon how it’s calculated. The number that most people went with was 194 countries. I was like, “Wow, 194 countries.”

Doug Foresta:                       That blew my mind.

Debra Ruh:                             Right, it’s like, “Wow, that’s so cool.” There are so many things that I am curious about. Sometimes when I talk to my mom and she … My mom has once again always struggled with mental health problems. When my dad died it just … She’s so sad about that. Even though, I believe my dad is in a better place. Blah, blah, blah.

                                                      Still, it’s just been a real, real sad journey for her. I’ve tried to pique her curiosity about different things like Sarah and I were talking about who is this Dr. Down that Down Syndrome was named after? There’s so many things to know and be excited about. Just little things that …

                                                      I have a peach tree in my yard, Doug. The peaches are seeping this clear stuff. It’s like, “Hmm, that doesn’t look like that’s good.” I went online and tried to figure out why is my peach tree doing this? Well, it’s not good for the peach tree. I forget what the disease is called but there’s nothing you can do about it. Don’t eat the peaches. Let the tree go through another cycle, another full year and if next year it has it again … It said sometimes the tree can actually heal itself. Let the tree live for another year. If it comes back, cut the tree down. I’m like, “But I like my peach tree.”

                                                      Just being curious about things like that in your life. It’s like, “I want to save my peach tree.” I love trees. I just love trees. I think that they’re such a blessing to our planet. That’s a whole other story.

Doug Foresta:                       You bring up such a good point, Debra, which is about … I want to be mindful of my time. Just to throw out there, one of the things I like to say to Sam … This is one of the most exciting … If you had to ask yourself when was the best time to live? If you could live any time when would be the best time to be alive?

                                                      I think if you’re a rational person you’d have to say it’s now. I don’t think that there’s any better time to be alive as a human being. For all the problems in the world, for all the suffering, for everything else, the best time to be alive is right now because I’m sure it’ll get better but it’s right now is the most exciting time because we are learning things about the universe. We are learning things about our world. Yes, we’re struggling, yes, we’re making a mess, but we are exploring.

                                                      There’s so much. You could never know and learn all the things there are to experience in one lifetime. One of the things that I really takeaway from what you’re saying is that this piece about pro-aging is really about celebrating. It’s really about celebrating being alive and being truly alive.

Debra Ruh:                             Yeah. The 10th one was celebrating your journey. I agree. Let’s just celebrate who we are. Let’s try to be a little bit more compassionate with each other. I find that I can’t watch a lot of negative news or negative political comedies right now because my life seems too real to me right now to worry about President this did, President that. Whatever. This one is going to blow us up.

Doug Foresta:                       This politician called this politician a jerk.

Debra Ruh:                             Yeah. This person hates this. My life feels very real to me right now. Sometimes very intense. I feel so blessed with the work I get to do and the people I’m surrounded with. I love meeting people that are listening to the program, that it’s touched them. I just think we all need to do our little part to make a difference in the world.

                                                      Anyway, Doug, thank you so much for being on the program. Thank you to everybody that listens. Please help us get the word out about the program. If you think we should have guests on or you want to be a guest, let me know. Very easy to find me. You can find us on Human Potential At Work on Facebook. I’m all over social media. Thank you to everyone. Doug, thank you for joining the program today. Thanks to everybody that’s listening.

Doug Foresta:                       Thank you.

Debra Ruh:                             Yeah. Thank you, Doug. Bye bye, everyone.


[outro music]


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