By: Megan Landisch
Spring 2015 Communications Intern
Senior majoring in advertising
Researchers who study aging processes are finding that a positive perspective about aging not only makes us feel good; it can also impact our health and life style as we grow older. Dozens of universities and research centers have begun to look into the correlation between positive attitudes and longevity. A research study conducted by Yale, has found that there seems to be a connection between optimism and aging. The New York Times reported on the study in October, “Over and over, they’ve found that those who hold more positive age stereotypes behave differently as they age from those with more negative stereotypes, even when the groups are similar in other ways, including health status…Older people with more positive views of aging do better on memory tests. They have better handwriting. They can walk faster. They’re more likely to recover fully from severe disability…those with more positive self-perceptions of aging actually live longer, by an average of 7.5 years.”
Milwaukee’s own, Dorothy Kara emulates this theory that a positive attitude supports a healthier lifestyle as she ages. Dorothy is 88 years old; but claims that she “doesn’t feel that old at all!” Dorothy lives independently in a retirement community and keeps herself incredibly busy. She still drives and takes full advantage of the independence driving gives her. She goes to church multiple times a week, and is also involved with various church groups, which allows her to meet and befriend people of all ages.
When Dorothy is not at church or meeting with her friends, you may find her leading an exercise class at her apartment building. Dorothy leads the 30-minute class every Thursday. “The class is divided into two parts” Dorothy says, “The first part is standing exercises, some women use walkers, and the second half is seated exercises.” Dorothy leads the class independently and men and women of all ages and abilities attend it. “The oldest person in my class is a 97-year-old woman”, she explains.
Dorothy’s activity doesn’t stop there. As a woman who worked in business her whole life, Dorothy decided to apply some of her business skills to improve life in her apartment building. When she noticed that some of her neighbors in her apartment building were getting hungry, but had no way of getting food because of mobility and driving issues; Dorothy decided to launch a snack shop inside her building to provide snacks and refreshments for all building tenants. With funding from the owner(s) of the apartment complex, Dorothy makes a weekly trip to the store to buy bottled water, candy bars, chips, and soda. She then stocks her “Snack Shack” with the snacks. The food and drinks are free and available to tenants at any hour of the day. “If someone is hungry at 11:30 at night, they can just head down and grab a snack,” Dorothy adds, “I like being able to help my friends and neighbors in need.”
Dorothy’s active lifestyle, ability to make friends, and positive attitude undoubtedly helped her recover when she recently had a bout of vertigo. “I was feeling dizzy and disoriented quite often” she says, “but I went to the doctor and started receiving physical therapy. I was able to bounce back and continue to do the things I love.” Dorothy still receives physical therapy, but the vertigo has ceased and she has been able to resume all activities, including driving and exercise classes. As Dorothy finishes her conversation with me, she concludes, “My secret is to stay busy and to stay happy.”