What we can learn about aging from trees…
“If you’re lonely, sit under a willow tree,” says ethnobotanist and medical biochemist Diana Beresford-Kroeger, who then explains, biochemically, why this will help. Equal parts scientist and mystic, Irish-born Beresford-Kroeger grew up studying the interface between the arts and sciences, forging her unique perspective to illustrate how, beyond bromides, Mother Nature really does hold the answers for health and well being, for people and planet.
In The Sweetness of a Simple Life: Tips for Healthier, Happier and Kinder Living Gleaned from the Wisdom and Science of Nature, she mixes knowledge, wonder, and a heaping dose of common sense to show us how to age well, create a healthy home environment and take care of our planetary body, with humor and down-to-earth information relayed through storytelling and supported with plenty of science. Best of all, her suggestions are easy for seniors, reverse mortgage professionals, or anyone else who yearns to become and remain healthier to implement.
Building Better Brains
Dementia is on the decline, reports Laura Koniver, MD, and fish oil is one of the best ways to protect against it. Beresford-Kroeger agrees, and provides some backstory: “Omega-3 wires the body, connecting the brain to itself and to the rest of the body in the neural pathways, insulated by a myelin sheath, which surrounds the nerve fibers. Omega-3 also wallpapers the membranes of the retina to form the visual images translated and transported by the optic nerve into the brain.
“Life with very little Omega-3 changes the chemistry of the brain itself, resulting in attention deficit disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, memory loss, schizophrenia, even suicide…” Eating a diet rich in Omega-3s (e.g., lamb, saltwater fish such as salmon and sardines, walnuts, and olive oil) is a dietary solution more effective and palatable than pharmaceuticals.
No Bones About It
Then there are the aches and pains that accompany aging. Just a fact of life as our bones become brittle? Not at all, says Beresford-Kroeger. She explains how the “biological rubber” (chondroitin sulphate) that keeps our skeleton functioning can be replaced, with “a good bowl of hot homemade soup made from beef broth. It has all the ingredients to stop the aches and pains in your knees, fingers, feet, hips, neck and back.” She details what to buy and how to prepare the soup, to restore the healthy bounce elders recall from their younger years. [Note: In many communities, it's now possible to purchase ready-made bone broth from farmers' markets and organic butchers. Seniors should be sure to ask whether the animals were raised without hormones, on pesticide-free pastures.]
Beresford-Kroeger also describes simple steps to treat addictions (which she used successfully to cure her husband’s three-pack-a-day cigarette habit), what to eat to prevent cancer, and how to create and maintain a healthy weight. It’s the kind of kitchen wisdom our ancestors lived by, often lost today to the lure of technology and accelerated lifestyles.
The Original Social Network
Rediscovering a reverence for Nature’s vast wisdom, we’re invited to join the primal social network: trees, says German forest ranger Peter Wohlleben. “Trees in the forest are social beings. They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbors, and warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the ‘Wood Wide Web’.”
The more time we spend in front of computers and other devices, the more we need to spend time in a forest, says Beresford-Kroeger. “Walk into a pine forest; you’ll come out smarter.” She explains how the biochemical aerosols that pine trees release on warm days penetrate the human central nervous system, making us calmer, better able to focus and learn. Between pine trees, Omega-3s, bone broth, plus the plethora of additional wisdom Beresford-Kroeger shares, seniors (or anyone, of any age) can begin today to boost brainpower and overall health.
Perhaps your next reverse mortgage meeting ought to take place at the edge of a forest. At least consider keeping a jar of organic walnuts on your desk.