May 23, 2008 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
"It's amazing how much crisper the general experience of life becomes when your body is given a chance to develop a little strength."
~Frank Duff (author)
May is Older Americans Month. When it was established in 1963, 17 million Americans had reached their 65th birthday. Today, more than 35 million Americans are 65 and older and, of those, more than 5 million are 85 and older. Many more of us are living longer.
DHS employees learn Tai Chi movements
DHS employees learn Tai Chi movements.

One of the things that can help us live longer and be healthy and happy as we age is exercise. So, in recognition of Older Americans Month, this week I participated in a Tai Chi demonstration sponsored by the Salem Senior Center in the lobby of our building.

As many of you may know, I try to visit the gym every morning before work to run and get an aerobic workout. And, I try to use the stairs during the day as much as possible. I think it's important to exercise regularly, and I try to practice what I preach.

But I realize that aerobic workouts are not the entire story, nor are they possible for everyone. It's equally important – particularly for those of us who are aging baby boomers – to focus on balance, strength and flexibility. Those are three key aspects of fitness that can help us prevent injury and illness as we age.

DHS employees learn Tai Chi
DHS employees learn Tai Chi movements.

And, because I know I'm not as limber as I should be, every now and then I take a foray into exercises that focus on stretching and flexibility. At the encouragement of my wife and daughter a few years ago, for example, I had a brief, painful encounter with yoga. Turns out yoga and I weren't the best match, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't keep looking for other ways to improve my overall fitness.

That's why I participated in the Tai Chi demonstration. It wasn’t nearly as humiliating as my yoga experience, but our instructor was kind to us and began with a series of relaxing, simple movements that focused on balance and flexibility. We weren't the most graceful class, but we gave it our best.

Unfortunately, the session was cut short when the instructor became ill (she recovered and is fine), but those of us who gamely experienced the public embarrassment of having an audience watch us as we wobbled through unfamiliar balance exercises did the most important thing people can do when it comes to exercise – we tried it.

Exercise is a form of prevention that we can control. It increases physical, mental and spiritual health, and it helps prevent chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. Though not all illness is preventable, being fit can give us more resistance when illness does strike and can help us recover sooner. I thank the Tai Chi instructor for her patience with us, and I thank my fellow classmates for being willing to try something new.

DHS employees learn Tai Chi
DHS employees learn Tai Chi movements.

Running is still my favorite exercise, at least for as long as my aching baby boomer knees hold out, but I'm determined that I will always look for ways to stay fit. My challenge to each of you is that you do the same. I think it's very important that all of us keep trying until we find an exercise routine that works for us – whether it's stretching, strength-training, walking, gardening, aerobic workouts or anything else that helps maintain our health. Find something you enjoy, and go do it.

And finally, one last thing to please do. Monday is Memorial Day. Please take a moment to honor those who have sacrificed themselves for our country and those who are currently serving our country overseas. Many of us have family and friends serving our country either at home or abroad, or we have lost loved ones in the past. Our thoughts are with you.


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