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A COLLEGE GRADUATE AT 76, ‘MISS VI’ LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

REBRANDING AGING®

‘THE FATHER OF AEROBICS’ IS STILL GOING STRONG AT 86 R&B PIONEER’S MOTHERSHIP IS BACK ON COURSE

NO BOUNDARIES DEBBIE ALLEN HAS OVERCOME RACISM, SEXISM AND AGEISM TO BECOME A HOLLYWOOD POWERHOUSE.


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G R O W I N G B O L D E R  3


CONTENTS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

BREAKING BARRIERS

5 | FROM THE EDITOR 6 | GROWING BOLDER WITH ... 7 | BOLDER FINANCE Take care of your health, and your wealth will follow. By Marc Middleton 8 | 5 QUESTIONS Kenneth Cooper, M.D., the man who coined the term “aerobics,” practices what he preaches — and is still a force in healthcare at age 86. By Jackie Carlin 16 | BOLDER HEALTH Genetics and the precision medicine revolution. By Bill Shafer 20 | ROAD TO RECOVERY The future in spine surgery is already here. By Marc Middleton 4  G R O W I N G B O L D E R

BY MARC MIDDLETON

22 | BOLDER ARTS Tales from a cabinetmaker’s (now useful) life. By Bill Shafer

FEATURE

24 | BOLDER LIVING Simple strategies for eating better during the holidays. By Jackie Carlin

18 | STANDING OUT, FITTING IN “Miss Vi,” at 76, receives her hard-won communications degree from Rollins College. By Marc Middleton

28 | SURVIVING & THRIVING ® George Clinton’s Mothership is back on course. By Bill Shafer 30 | THE TAKEAWAY Gene Cohen, M.D., discusses the surprising link between creativity and healthy aging.

A COLLEGE GRADUATE AT 76, ‘MISS VI’ LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

REBRANDING AGING®

‘THE FATHER OF AEROBICS’ IS STILL GOING STRONG AT 86 R&B PIONEER’S MOTHERSHIP IS BACK ON COURSE

ON THE COVER: Debbie Allen, despite her many accolades, says her most rewarding work is with young people through her dance academy. Photo courtesy of Debbie Allen

NO BOUNDARIES DEBBIE ALLEN HAS OVERCOME RACISM, SEXISM AND AGEISM TO BECOME A HOLLYWOOD POWERHOUSE.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

PHOTO COURTESY OF DEBBIE ALLEN

DEPARTMENTS

10

Debbie Allen has overcome sexism, racism and ageism to become one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood.


FROM THE EDITOR

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Marc Middleton MANAGING EDITOR Jackie Carlin ASSOCIATE EDITORS Katy Widrick, Bill Shafer ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY Stephen Morales, Scott McDermott, Joshua Soros, Oliver Bokelberg, ABC/Eddy Chen

WE’RE BACK TO PUBLIC BROADCASTING

DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT AND PRODUCTION Jason Morrow, Pat Narciso, Josh Doolittle, Mike Nanus DIRECTOR OF CIRCULATION Jill Middleton

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IT’LL BE EXCITING TO RECONNECT WITH THIS ENGAGED AUDIENCE.

t’s been a busy couple of months. We’ll soon have a new production studio home and a new TV broadcast home. Growing Bolder is returning to public broadcasting stations nationwide in early 2018, presented by WUCF-TV in Orlando and distributed by American Public Television (APT). We’re excited to reconnect with APT’s highly engaged and passionate audience. We believe that our flagship television program is not only entertaining, inspiring and educational — it’s critically important to our mission of Rebranding Aging®. We all know that we live in an ageist society, and have been brainwashed by the media, marketing messages and our culture in general about what’s possible as we age. The constant bombardment of negative images and messaging has so thoroughly convinced us that aging is a time of loss and limitation that we actually create that reality. We’re literally poisoning our futures with our belief systems — robbing ourselves of not only years of life but also quality of life, and adding billions of dollars to our national healthcare costs. Growing Bolder is flipping the aging narrative to a time of passion and purpose. And one thing we’ve learned, above all else, is that the most effective way to change belief systems and behaviors is through the relatable examples of ordinary people living extraordinary lives. Sharing the results of one study after another, or one expert opinion after another, might stimulate thought — but it rarely leads to personal change. However, when we can see ourselves in others, that’s when the magic of transformation occurs. That’s why we’re anxious to bring the life-affirming, life-changing message of Growing Bolder back to public broadcasting. Please help us spread the word that the rest of our lives can be the best of our lives by reaching out to your local public broadcasting station and telling them that you’re ready to start Growing Bolder! 

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Marc Middleton, Editor-in-Chief marcmiddleton@growingbolder.com G R O W I N G B O L D E R  5


GROWING BOLDER WITH

TIM GUNN

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FASHION CONSULTANT/TV HOST “Even when I’m asked to comment on red-carpet looks, I’m much more interested in women who have experience, maturity and a career to reflect upon than the ingenues who are just starting out. I want to look at someone like Helen Mirren. She’s a woman of a certain age, she has a real woman’s figure and she looks fantastic — whether she’s on the red carpet wearing a gown or whether she’s caught by the paparazzi wearing a pair of jeans and a blazer. Even if I could, I wouldn’t turn back the clock. Not even one single second, because with each day I have more experience, I’m a little wiser and I feel more confident navigating the world.”

Tim Gunn is an Emmy-winning co-host and producer of the hit fashion design show Project Runway. He’s also a leading expert himself in fashion and lifestyle design, and has authored several best-selling books. For nearly 30 years, Gunn was an instructor and administrator at New York City’s famed Parsons School of Design, where he still serves as the school’s honorary chair of fashion design.

KENNY LOGGINS

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MUSICIAN

“I’ve had a couple moments where I thought I was ready to sail off into the sunset and retire, but I didn’t do well with it. The first time I tried it, I was 50, and it was because Sony Records, my label since I was 21, dropped me. That was devastating. I finally realized that I must stay creative, or I’ll be depressed. So, I dug into my savings and recorded an album that no one heard because I couldn’t afford to market it the way record companies do. But it taught me that I need to stay active — and part of that is learning to use new technologies. I teach my children that if they follow their hearts, they can make a living at it and find happiness. My advice? Follow the fun.”

Few artists enjoyed more success in the 1970s and ’80s than Kenny Loggins, both as a duo with Jim Messina and as a solo artist. Now, he’s looking toward a much younger audience with a new take on his classic “Footloose.” He’s releasing the song as part of a package that includes a companion book and a CD of new material.

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ACTRESS “I came to Los Angeles in my 60s for a one-year trial run. Finding success in a new career this late in life made me feel like I’m worth something again. I was a psychologist, and worked very hard. But when you retire, you start to feel invisible. Acting, strangely enough, has been very easy for me. My advice to anyone is to take just one step forward. Just keep moving, no matter what you’re interested in. My kids were very encouraging and supportive. If they’d said, ‘You’re a fool to try this,’ I would have been cut down. Instead, they kept cheering me on. Every day is a new adventure. I’d like to have a larger role in some project, but it’ll happen or it won’t happen — it’s just fun to be working.”

Jo Farkas always wanted to be a movie star. As it does for most of us, life got in the way — but her dream never really died. After raising her kids and retiring from her career in psychology, she moved to Los Angeles and finally made that childhood dream come true. She has appeared in commercials, in TV shows such as Chicago Hope, Weeds and American Horror Story and in movies such as My Best Friend’s Wedding.

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to listen to our Growing Bolder Radio conversations with Tim Gunn, Kenny Loggins and Jo Farkas.

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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

PHOTOS BY SCOTT MCDERMOTT (TIM GUNN); STEPHEN MORALES (KENNY LOGGINS)

JO FARKAS


BOLDER FINANCE Jean Chatzky has an important investment tip — one that won’t cost you a penny but can yield an enormous payoff.

PLAN FOR LIFE

Take Care of Your Health, and Your Wealth Will Follow. BY MARC MIDDLETON

J

ean Chatzky is the financial editor for NBC’s Today, and she has a tip on the No. 1 investment that you can make. It’s an investment that won’t cost you a cent — and could save you hundreds of thousands of

dollars. In addition to her work on Today, Chatzky is AARP’s personal finance ambassador and a best-selling author. Her new book, Age Proof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip, addresses the greatest fear of all baby boomers — a fear that outstrips even death itself. “Running out of money before running out of time,” Chatzky tells Growing Bolder. “It’s a very real possibility — especially when you look at longevity and realize that retirement can last 30 or 35 years. Sometimes, it can last even longer.” Rapidly rising healthcare costs are the most serious threat to our financial futures. “More than 80 percent of our healthcare dollars go to caring for chronic diseases,” Chatzky says. “And lack of exercise is the primary cause of chronic diseases.” So, what’s her surefire investment tip? ExGROWINGBOLDERMAGAZINE.COM

ercise. “If you can reduce your chances of getting a chronic disease, then you can decrease your future healthcare costs,” she says. “That way, you can increase your investment in retirement accounts.” Chatzky’s belief in the health-wealth connection is underscored by the fact that her new book is co-written by Michael Roizen, M.D., Cleveland Clinic’s chief wellness officer. “We figured out that many of the same habits that help us manage our health can also help us manage our money,” Chatzky notes. “If you develop the discipline for one, you can excel at both.” If managing money is one of the most important life skills, why are so many of us so bad at it? “Because we’re not taught how to do it,” Chatzky says. “I was an English major in college. I didn’t become a good money manager until my late 20s and early 30s. It isn’t rocket science. You don’t need a business degree. You don’t have to be an amazing economist, stock picker or hedge-fund manager. It’s simply good habits, often repeated.” Chatzky is among the large and growing

number of financial experts who say retiring at 65 is no longer practical or desirable. “If you can remain happy, healthy and involved in some sort of work, then you can put off tapping into a pension,” she says. “You can also avoid pulling money out of retirement accounts, and delay or increase Social Security and Medicare payouts. That can make a huge difference in your financial future.” Chatzky remains a big believer in the stock market. “The stock market is a great place to be for the long haul,” she says. “Even if you’re in your 50s, you could have another 40 years to grow your money.” If you’re getting a late start, though, you’ll have to save significantly more, or live on significantly less. Chatzky notes that even people who save often fail to consider making major changes, such as downsizing sooner or moving to a state with a lower cost of living. “At some point, we have to think about big changes rather than small ones,” she adds. “It’s not a matter of skipping the latte and thinking that’s going to do the trick — because it won’t.” Chatzky says that annuities can be a great tool for those approaching retirement. “I like annuities to cover fixed costs,” she says. “Knowing that your fixed costs are taken care of through a combination of an annuity and Social Security is a really comfortable way to live.” Chatzky also advocates “longevity insurance,” which could be a deferred annuity with the potential to provide a significant return when you reach your 80s. The money will have a long time to grow — and will be available at a time when healthcare expenditures are likely to ratchet up. Before we end our interview, Chatzky offers one more word of encouragement to those struggling financially: Invest in relationships. “We’re all looking for a little more purpose and satisfaction, and we find that through our relationships with other people,” she notes. “We find it through doing work that we feel is meaningful and important. It doesn’t come from things. It comes from relationships.” 

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine. com to learn more about Jean Chatzky, her books, her blog and her podcast HerMoney.

G R O W I N G B O L D E R  7


5 QUESTIONS Kenneth Cooper, M.D., the man who coined the term “aerobics,” practices what he preaches — and is still a force in healthcare at age 86.

‘THE FATHER OF AEROBICS’ Exercise is Medicine for Pioneering Physician. BY JACKIE CARLIN

8  G R O W I N G B O L D E R

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017


KENNETH COOPER, M.D.,

is a pioneer of preventive medicine, and the man who coined the term “aerobics” in his landmark book of the same name. Published in 1968, Aerobics, which has been translated into more than 40 languages, started nothing less than a global health and fitness revolution. Cooper has written an additional 18 books, which have combined to sell more than 30 million copies. Over the last 50 years, he has lectured in more than 50 countries, inspiring millions to exercise for vibrant health. And he practices what he preaches; at the age of 86, he has logged more than 38,000 miles running. He exercises daily at his Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas.

Growing Bolder recently profiled one of your patients, 99-year-old Orville Rogers, who’s a world-record-holding runner. He never ran at all until he read your book in his 50s. He bounced back from a stroke at age 93 to keep running and setting records. How is that even possible? Orville’s success can be attributed to his perseverance, his discipline and his desire to keep enjoying life to the fullest. By the way, in 1993 he had a six-vessel bypass procedure, a condition we discovered because his performance was decreasing. So, we resolved that problem. Then, in 2011, he had a stroke that took him down for 11 days — and then another one just a few days later. But since 2011, he’s been on a roll. He’s been one of my favorite friends, and one of my favorite patients, for more than 50 years now. Is he a freak of nature, or can any of us hope to do the kinds of things Orville is doing?

People are performing at high levels at older ages. I’m trying to prove that with my own life — and with thousands of patients I’m working with who are “squaring off the curve.” You can live a long, happy life before dying suddenly. We’ve been led to believe that you should slow down as you age, when, in reality, people who do this are shortening their lives and not enjoying their lives to the fullest. We’re now seeing scientific evidence that proves you can slow down the aging process — and, in many cases, reverse it. GROWINGBOLDERMAGAZINE.COM

In your previous answer, you mentioned “squaring off the curve.” That’s the idea that it’s possible to maintain an active quality of life and dramatically shorten a period of decline at the end. It’s something others call “compressed morbidity.” Is it a realistic and achievable goal for all of us to square off the curve?

I think it is, when you realize that 75 percent of the diseases we have are the result of an unhealthy lifestyle. If you accept that, and change that, you might be surprised to see that you, too, are able to do the things people like Orville and others are doing. I’m still very active at 86 years of age. I work 50 to 60 hours a week; I travel. In fact, I have a trip coming up to London, where I’ll be speaking. I also recently opened a new center in China. How do you slow the aging process? Start by combating four of the major contributors to poor health — smoking, inactivity, obesity and stress. We’ve studied 96,000 people who’ve followed our suggestions for 20 years or longer. We call it “Cooperizing.” They’re living, on average, 10 years longer the national average. It’s not enough to just live longer. We all want to live better. Is there any connection between diseases such as Alzheimer’s and exercise?

I think it’s now universally agreed upon that the only thing we have on the horizon that

can prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia is exercise. We have many studies showing that even in young children, the brain functions differently in those who keep themselves in shape. The kids make better grades in school. We see the same thing as people age. Exercise plays an extremely important role, particularly with the onset of Alzheimer’s, dementia and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s. This hasn’t been given enough emphasis in the past, and we’re trying to change that. At 86, you have energy and enthusiasm for your work and for life itself, and it doesn’t seem to be diminishing. What do you think about being in your late 80s?

I don’t worry about it. Age is nothing but mind over matter — if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Satchel Paige once said that, and I couldn’t agree more. If I lost my enthusiasm or my zest for life, I wouldn’t last long. My 92-year-old wife says to people, “Don’t you wish you had as much enthusiasm for anything as my husband does at age 86?” I think it’s because I practice what I preach. I enjoy coming to work. I enjoy spreading my message around the world. If I square off the curve and die tomorrow, praise the Lord. I’ve had a fantastic life. 

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to hear our entire conversation with Kenneth Cooper, M.D., and learn more about his eight healthy steps to “Cooperizing” your health. Plus, he’ll explain in-depth the tremendous impact his program has had on people with Parkinson’s disease.

G R O W I N G B O L D E R  9


10   G R O W I N G B O L D E R

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017


BREAKING

BARRIERS DEBBIE ALLEN HAS OVERCOME SEXISM, RACISM AND AGEISM TO BECOME ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL EXECUTIVES IN HOLLYWOOD. BY MARC MIDDLETON

When she was 12, Debbie Allen was denied admission to the Houston Ballet Academy. Today, she’s a legendary choreographer, actress, director and producer. GROWINGBOLDERMAGAZINE.COM

G R O W I N G B O L D E R  11


Despite her accomplishments, Allen says her greatest satisfaction has come from mentoring young people at her nonprofit Debbie Allen Dance Academy.

W

Fast forward 55 years. Now Allen is a legendary choreographer, actress, director, producer and one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood. Her many awards include three Emmys, a Golden Globe, five NAACP Image Awards, an Astaire Award for Best Dancer and the prestigious Olivier Theater Award. She holds four honorary doctoral degrees, was appointed by President George W. Bush as a U.S. cultural ambassador, has been an artist in residence at the Kennedy Center for more than 15 years and has choreographed the televised Academy Awards ceremony 10 times. Despite her many accomplishments, Allen tells Growing Bolder that her greatest 12   G R O W I N G B O L D E R

pleasure and greatest satisfaction has come from mentoring young people at her nonprofit Debbie Allen Dance Academy. “I consider the academy to be my true legacy,” she says. “Dance gave me the discipline, focus and persistence needed to overcome rejection and succeed in any endeavor. I want to pass that on.” In a time when public funding for arts programs is slipping, Allen believes that nothing less than the future of our country is at stake. “America’s leadership is born on innovation,” she says. “There’s nothing like the arts to bring confidence and creativity. I’m totally convinced that if we don’t nurture the creative spirit in our young people,

we’ll not maintain that leadership.” What’s being taught at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy is far more than just pas de bourrés and pirouettes. “It’s character education,” Allen says. “Dance gives you a sense of discipline. It helps you understand and accept criticism while moving forward. It gives you a sense of yourself, and is a true connection to the emotional spine that we need as human beings.” Allen’s big break came in 1982 with the TV show Fame, in which she was both a star and choreographer. She has also appeared in TV shows ranging from The Love Boat to Grey’s Anatomy, and has directed or produced The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Ties, Jane the Virgin, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Empire, NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DEBBIE ALLEN DANCE COMPANY

hen Debbie Allen was 12, she was denied admission to the Houston Ballet Academy because of the color of her skin. Several years later, her application to a major university dance academy was rejected because her body was “unsuited” for ballet — a comment commonly used in years past to discourage African-American dancers.


Kids at Allen’s academy learn about themselves as well as about dance. “Dance gives you a sense of discipline,” Allen says. “It helps you understand and accept criticism while moving forward. It gives you a sense of yourself, and is a true connection to the emotional spine that we need as human beings.”

GROWINGBOLDERMAGAZINE.COM

G R O W I N G B O L D E R  13


Everybody Hates Chris and countless others. She’s especially proud to have directed A Different World, the influential sitcom that aired from 1987 to 1993. The program, about African-Americans in college, confronted issues of race and inspired millions of people, of all colors, to go to college. Despite her remarkable success, noth14   G R O W I N G B O L D E R

ing has come easy for Allen. She has had to overcome both the sexism and racism prevalent in her industry. When she started her directing career in the early ’80s with an episode of Fame, there were very few women working behind the camera — and no black, female directors. “There were many, many times when I

was the only woman on the set,” she recalls. “There were many times when I was the only black person on the set.” Now, at age 67, in addition to sexism and racism, Allen encounters ageism. A graceful warrior who has overcome one prejudice after another, Allen is not about to back down from this one. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

PHOTO BY ABC/EDDY CHEN

Allen’s acting stint on Grey’s Anatomy led to an opportunity to direct the series, which celebrated its 300th episode in 2017. Now, she’s the executive producer. “It’s amazing,” Allen says of working with Shonda Rhimes, who also created The Practice and Scandal.


PHOTO BY OLIVER BOKELBERG

Allen takes care of herself physically, and makes it a point to be around people with positive attitudes. She says: “I think positive energy is important to your health, and when you’re around people who aren’t positive, you can come up sick and not even understand why.”

“I respond to challenge with passion, persistence and energy,” she says. “I’ve been told many times that my energy level is off the charts which, I think, diminishes any negative perception that one might have about working with a 67-year-old actor, director, choreographer or producer.” Allen says she takes care of herself physically, and makes it a point to be around people with positive attitudes. She says: “I think positive energy is important to your health, and when you’re around people who aren’t positive, you can come up sick and not even understand why.” One of Allen’s most exciting collaborations began in 2011, when she was hired to play Dr. Catherine Avery on Grey’s Anatomy and became part of ShondaLand, which is the name of the production company owned by creator, producer and head writer Shonda Rhimes — who is herself a trailblazing woman of color. Allen’s acting stint led to the opportunity to direct the series. Now she serves as GROWINGBOLDERMAGAZINE.COM

executive producer. “It’s amazing,” Allen says of working with Rhimes, who also created The Practice and Scandal. “Shonda is a great storyteller and an incredible human being who reaches across aisles and barriers and boundaries to give more opportunity,” she adds. “I’ve hired more women to direct Grey’s Anatomy than any other show on TV. So, I feel really good about that.” One of Allen’s current projects — and one about which she’s particularly passionate — is Freeze Frame, a musical about young people in the inner city and their struggles with gun violence. “I’m hoping to take Freeze Frame to Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia,” she says. “It’s an incredible, interactive theater piece that can help bring communities together and heal the divide.” Allen doesn’t think about the future, and won’t venture an opinion about what she’ll be doing in her 80s or 90s. “It’s all about the here and now,” she says. “That’s where

I live and that’s what I focus on. I have no intention of slowing down and resting on my laurels, because there’s so much more to do.” With a legendary career that has spanned three decades and is still going strong, Allen continues to move forward while giving back — providing an inspirational example for all. She says: “To make things happen you must believe in yourself, and you must continue working to expand your talent and your technique because just when you think you’re there, you’re not. There’s always something else you can learn. I’m still a student — and that’s what makes a difference.” 

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to listen to our Growing Bolder Radio conversation with Debbie Allen and to learn more about the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.

G R O W I N G B O L D E R  15


BOLDER HEALTH Jane Gibson, Ph.D., chair of the Clinical Sciences Department at the UCF College of Medicine, says genomics and precision medicine are showing tremendous promise for the future.

GENE POOL

Here Comes the Precision Medicine Revolution. BY BILL SHAFER

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n the future, the most effective tool in the fight against cancer may be your past. Your family history and individual genetics could contain all the information necessary to formulate a treatment plan unique to you. Studies underway at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine are researching how genes may help to identify treatments that use your personal genome to help prevent diseases such as cancer before they even have a chance to start. Precision medicine promises to be among the most important innovations in healthcare. Based on the results of the Human Genome Project, an international research project that succeeded in mapping all the genes in the human genome, researchers have a better understanding of the sequences of DNA. “When you know what you’re looking for, it’s much easier to find mistakes or variants that are associated with disease,” says Jane Gibson, Ph.D., chair of the Clinical Sciences Department at the UCF College of 16   G R O W I N G B O L D E R

Medicine. “This research allows us to design therapies that are targeted for the actual genetic defect — stopping disease in its tracks.” Gibson says precision medicine represents a major step forward in the entire process. “It allows us to customize everything from screenings, to diagnoses and treatments,” she notes. Consequently, many changes have already begun to take place. “The technologies, particularly in molecular pathology, have come light years from where we were even five or 10 years ago,” continues Gibson. “We have the capability now to sequence someone’s entire genome — to characterize what disease a patient has or may be susceptible to, and what the right treatment should be.” Personal information is the basis of precision medicine — which means that having in-depth knowledge of your family history can be a differentiator in treating disease. Gibson says it’s more important now than ever to talk to your relatives, share information, explore your genealogy and compile as complete a family medical history as possible.

But there’s more to it than that. “It’s critical to realize that it is not just the genes we inherit, but also how those genes change as we get older,” says Gibson. “This is information we can map at any age to better understand how to prevent and fight disease.” Precision medicine has become a large part of the curriculum at medical schools across the country, where the next generation of physicians will be well prepared to put these findings into practice. “Our students do research in the field and shadow physicians who are currently using precision medicine to treat patients,” says Gibson. “They’ll be quite knowledgeable about this technology, because it’s going to be a huge part of their future.” Already, significant progress has been made in the fight against cancer — enough so that medical educators are hopeful about what’s to come. “I think that the future looks extremely bright,” says Gibson. “With genomics, we have the technology in our hands to truly make a huge difference in the way we prevent and treat cancer, as well as other genetic diseases.” 

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to go inside the lab with Jane Gibson, Ph.D., and learn much more about her innovative work at the UCF College of Medicine. Also discover how your genes may be the key to your future health.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017


OUR DOCTORS TEACH DOCTORS

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he may be the most unusual student on campus. She holds hands with her teachers and sings to the safety staff as they usher her around campus on a golf cart. She’s 76-year-old Vivian Carrington, and she’s just weeks away from graduating from Rollins College’s Hamilton Holt School with a degree in communications, becoming one of the oldest Rollins graduates ever. “Whatever comes to my mind, I put my mind to it and I do it,” says Carrington, who’s known at the college as “Miss Vi.” In fact, Miss Vi has been “putting her mind to it” since she was a young girl, and became the first female African-American lifeguard hired by the City of Orlando. “I beat up the boys in the neighborhood, and half of them were afraid of me,” she says. “So, when I was hired for the position, I fit right in with the male lifeguards. It just seemed natural.” 18   G R O W I N G B O L D E R

In a life filled with personal challenges, standing up for herself while helping others has been a constant for Miss Vi, who spent 24 years in the funeral service business. She has given swimming lessons to thousands of children over the past 60 years. She has volunteered at a local hospital for three decades, comforting grieving and dying patients. Miss Vi has found time to run a prison ministry, helping newly released female convicts, and to serve as pastor to a small church. She also invested six years — and a considerable amount of money — earning a doctorate of theology degree from a Bible seminary in the early ’90s. Then, when she applied for a paid position as chaplain at the hospital where she had volunteered, she got some bad news. She was told she couldn’t be hired because her degree wasn’t from an accredited school. “Wow, that didn’t feel good,” Miss Vi

recalls. “I went to college for six years, paid my money and studied hard. As I walked to my car, I said to myself, ‘I’m running a marathon, and I’m going to win this one.’” Discouraged but not defeated, she applied to and was accepted at Rollins, one of the top private liberal-arts colleges in the U.S. “If you don’t give up, and you keep pushing and keep going and keep persevering, you’ll get there,” she says. Little did she realize that her persistence and perseverance would be tested again. Midway into her course work, Miss Vi was diagnosed with a potentially deadly case of lupus, an autoimmune disease. “Even the doctor said, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t do anything for you,’” Miss Vi says. “I could have given up and felt sorry for myself. I stayed calm and said, ‘You’re not God, and you don’t have the last say over my life.’ So, as you can see, I’m sitting here today talking to you.” Because of the illness, it took Miss Vi six NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

PHOTO COURTESY OF ROLLINS COLLEGE

“Miss Vi,” at 76, receives her hard-won communications degree from Rollins College President Grant Cornwell.


LIFELONG LEARNING

STANDING OUT, FITTING IN MISS VI AND THE POWER OF PASSION AND PERSISTENCE. BY MARC MIDDLETON

years to earn a degree. Her health struggles were well known on campus, but she refused to play the pity card. “No pity,” she says. “I want to display love, kindness and strength. When I would come to school with an oxygen tank, some of the kids would say, ‘Oh, Miss Vi, let me carry your books.’ I’d say, ‘Go on about your business. I know what time I have to be to class. Go away.’” Although she’s old enough to be their grandmother, that hasn’t kept Miss Vi from socializing with her fellow students. “I tried participating in everything,” she says. “Sometimes, I was the only soul sister sitting there. But I was there, and I had fun. I enjoyed myself.” She stood out — but she always managed to fit in. “The connection that I see between Miss Vi and her fellow students is inspirational, especially in team initiatives,” says Rick Bommelje, an associate professor of GROWINGBOLDERMAGAZINE.COM

communication at the college. “It truly is a community of learners, and she’s right smack in the middle of it.” Fernando Rodriguez is one of the Rollins Campus Safety Officers who looks out for Miss Vi. He describes their relationships as mutually beneficial. “Miss Vi is hope and inspiration to me,” says Rodriguez. “She shows how nothing is unreachable; how you can overcome whatever obstacles are in front of you.” Her competitive spirit, belief in herself and endless passion for life touches everyone with whom she comes in contact. “There’s nobody like my mom,” notes daughter, Angie. “She’s like a light. When she comes into a room, she just brightens everybody’s spirit.” Several weeks after she spoke with Growing Bolder, Miss Vi floated across the stage, her head held high, and finished her marathon — receiving the degree that will open doors in the years ahead.

Of course, anyone who graduates from college at 76 is not just a student, but also a teacher. So, Miss Vi is ready, willing and able to drop a little knowledge on anyone who asks. “Just be who you are, and know that you have a purpose in life,” she says. “Have dreams, aspirations and goals. Think big, and when faced with challenges, keep pushing and persevering. You can’t be timid. You’ve got to be strong and have some backbone.” Adds Miss Vi: “When I face challenges, I have faith in God and faith in myself. I weather the storm. Tomorrow the sun will shine. That’s the way I look at it.” 

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to watch our video feature story on Ms. Vi and spend more time getting to know this extraordinary woman.

G R O W I N G B O L D E R  19


ROAD TO RECOVERY

The NeuroSpine Unit Team at Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital is the world’s most experienced in iMAS surgery.

FINE-TUNED

The Future in Spine Surgery is Already Here. BY MARC MIDDLETON

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t’s 9:30 in the morning, and worldrenowned neurosurgeon Robert Masson, M.D., has already finished one major surgery and is about to begin a second. “This next case is a minimally invasive spinal reconstruction,” he explains. “We’re approaching through a small incision in the midline of the lower back using a combination of technologies with advanced microsurgery, advanced navigation and image guidance, and intelligent three-dimensional structural biomechanics.” The procedure is called iMAS, or intervertebral micro-access surgery, and will be performed by the neurospine team at Health Central Hospital’s newly designated Center of Excellence. “It’s taken a decade of hard work to achieve this prestigious designation,” Masson says. “We’ve created the least-invasive spinal reconstruction platform in the world — and are passionately committed to providing the best spine healthcare in North America.” Masson imagined, designed and developed the entire platform —including the custom tools, techniques and most of the

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leading-edge technology required. In the last several years, he’s personally trained hundreds of surgeons from all over the world in what has become the new standard in minimally invasive spinal reconstruction. “I was told that [Masson] was doing large spinal reconstructions through incisions two centimeters in length and said, ‘No, he’s not. It’s not possible,’” recalls Ian Dorward, M.D., a spine surgeon from St. Louis. “But I saw him doing complete reconstructions in one-quarter of the time most surgeons take,” Dorward continues. “And his patients were popping up and leaving the hospital the next day. I thought, either I can adopt his procedures, or I can quit fooling myself and find something else to do. Because this is the future in neurospine.” Says Masson: “The iMAS procedure starts long before we make an incision. The most important aspect is a complete understanding of three-dimensional anatomy. We understand our approach angles down to the millimeter.” He adds that his team “knows exactly where we’re going by using image-guided,

fluoroscopic-guided, approach planning. Our extreme targeting and accuracy translates into less trauma, faster recovery and higher functional response immediately post-op.” The NeuroSpine Unit Team at Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital is the world’s most experienced in iMAS surgery. Each member was recruited and trained by Masson with the stated goal of achieving peak performance, every time. The team communicates clearly, continuously and nonverbally, achieving what’s known as flow state. “Everybody on the team is in complete synchronicity,” says Masson. “Every task is fully orchestrated and performed in the most efficient manner, with the single goal of patient recovery and performance post-surgery.” As we watch, Masson’s team flawlessly executes a complex spinal reconstruction in a little more than an hour. Many surgeons take five or more hours to perform similar procedures. The NeuroSpine Center of Excellence at Health Central Hospital has become a global destination for minimally invasive spinal reconstruction and a training center for surgeons worldwide. “Dr. Masson’s creativity and drive for improving patient care has led to a complete change in the approach of how spine surgery is done,” says Anthony Russo, M.D., from Butte, Montana. “It’s a new world,” adds Timothy Keenen, M.D., a spine surgeon from Tualatin, Oregon. “I’ve reset my expectations about how big an incision has to be, how long a surgery has to take, what kind of results I’m going to see and how long it’s going to take to achieve those results.” Masson’s not done yet. “Nothing is more dangerous than complacency, apathy and the inability to recognize opportunities for growth,” he says. “I believe my purpose is to continue raising the bar, pushing myself, my team and the industry on behalf of patients who need and deserve the best healthcare possible.” 

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to go into the operating room with this incredible team. You’ll see for yourself how the team operates as one unit. Plus, watch Masson’s motivational Road to Recovery video minutes.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017


I choose a pain-free, active life again. I choose Orlando Health. If you’re suffering from chronic back or neck pain, the NeuroSpine Center of Excellence at Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital offers highly effective treatment you can trust. Led by internationally known neurosurgeon Robert Masson, MD, the NeuroSpine Center of Excellence offers the only spinal surgery program in Central Florida certified by the Joint Commission. We offer non-invasive and minimally invasive treatments for disabling back and neck issues. Virtually all of our spinal surgery patients are up on their feet the same day of surgery and quickly return to their active lifestyles with support from our dedicated therapists.

To schedule a consultation or to learn more, call 321.842.5027 or visit: OrlandoHealth.com/SpineExcellence.

NeuroSpine Center of Excellence

OrlandoHealth.com/SpineExcellence 10,000 West Colonial Drive | Ocoee, FL 34761

Not actual patients.

Joint Commission Certified for Spinal Surgery


BOLDER ARTS Nancy Hiller, a successful woodworker, says it’s OK not to fit in — and to “let humiliation be your motivation.”

WOODEN YOU? Tales From a Cabinetmaker’s (Now Useful) Life. BY BILL SHAFER

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ancy Hiller loves her work and she loves herself. It’s been a slow, steady climb to achieve both. All she heard growing up was that she wasn’t good enough, wasn’t outgoing enough and wasn’t going to amount to anything. “‘Nance, you’re useless,’ is what my stepfather would tell me over and over again,” she recalls. Today, Hiller owns her own custom furniture and cabinetry company, is a featured national columnist and is the author of three books. “I don’t think he can say that about me anymore.” Yet, those three words, “Nance, you’re useless,” swirled around inside her head, stripping her of self-confidence, filling her with doubt and leaving her to wonder if perhaps it was the truth. She enrolled at Cambridge University, only to have to drop out. “I loved my studies,” she says, “but I just couldn’t do the work.” Her stepfather’s voice got louder — not just in her ears, but inside her head. She tried some low-paying jobs, but didn’t like them. Desperate for direction, she saw that the local vocational college featured a course in woodworking and cabinetmaking. Her stepfather laughed, and told her that those were skills that she would never master. 22   G R O W I N G B O L D E R

So, out of spite, she enrolled. And from the very first day, she was filled with fear and doubt. “I looked around and realized that I was the only woman in the class,” says Hiller. The first task was to cut a straight line in a board. “I couldn’t do it,” she says. “I was so embarrassed that I wanted to quit right there. But then I thought that if I didn’t see it through, I’d have to admit defeat to my stepfather — and that was not going to happen.” Hiller persevered. Little by little, day by day, she grew more and more proficient. Ultimately, she mastered the technical skills and went on to build her own business. Success, right? Not exactly. Something was wrong, and she realized what it was. She had started a woodworking company only to realize that she didn’t like woodworking —or, at least, she didn’t like the business of woodworking. “I think this probably happens to people a lot,” Hiller says. “I got caught up in the romance of woodworking. I forgot about day after day of working in cold, lonely woodshops. I forgot about the relentless repetition required to maximize output. I forgot that a craft is different than a business.” She had to escape, so she shut the shop down. “Even though I could hear my step-

father hitting me with a big, ‘I told you so,’ I knew it was the right decision for me,” says Hiller. She was now in her 30s, and still felt the sting of being “useless” and unable to finish college. So, she went back to school to prove her stepfather wrong — again. This time, she earned a degree in religious studies at Indiana University. It was an unusual major, but something unexpected happened that completely changed her attitude about woodworking. “Everything just sort of clicked,” Hiller recalls. “These concepts of spirituality, artistic beauty and personal fulfillment — it was the connection that had been missing for me between the intellect and the aesthetic of my woodworking.” Now, Hiller couldn’t wait to get back to the shop. But there was still some unfinished business. She had to find a way to clear her head of all the doubt and negativity that filled it. Not an easy task for someone who had always struggled to put her feelings into words. “I’m not one of those people who can come up with the perfect response to an insult off the cuff,” she says. “But woodworking gives you hours to mull things over and come up with the right response.” So, she began to write, and to submit her stories to woodworking magazines. She wrote about everything from woodworking techniques to self-esteem, to fighting against gender inequality. The articles found a loyal audience. Now, at age 58, the woman formerly considered useless is the owner of NR Hiller Design. She’s also a noted columnist and the author of three books, including Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life. “I’ve learned something very important that I’d like to pass along,” Hiller says. “It’s OK not to fit in. Just because some people don’t like, understand or support you, they can’t stop you from finding your own path and pursuing your dreams.” And if you have doubters in your life, Hiller says, “don’t be afraid to let humiliation be your motivation.” 

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to go inside Nancy Hiller’s woodshop and see more of her beautiful, custom designs.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017


They’re Growing Bolder, Are You? Growing Bolder is the one-of-a-kind active lifestyle Media Network that combines celebrity interviews, Inspirational stories of ordinary people living extraordinary lives and tips and motivation on living The boldest life possible.


BOLDER LIVING Sherri Flynt, who oversees Florida Hospital’s Center for Nutritional Excellence, says starting with small tweaks to your diet can eventually lead to major changes in your health.

BE HEALTHY

Simple Strategies for Eating Better During the Holidays. BY JACKIE CARLIN

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here’s no denying it — as a nation, we’re eating ourselves to death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of us are obese. And obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers are some of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Many of us know why we need to make changes. But the how can be tricky. What works for some people may not work for you, and changing your lifestyle can feel overwhelming. Here’s the good news — you don’t need to do it all at once. “People get so frustrated with the thought

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that they have to change everything they’re doing in order to make a difference in their health,” says Florida Hospital registered dietitian Sherri Flynt, who also oversees the Center for Nutritional Excellence. “The bottom line is, one small change will have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing.” Flynt says the goal is to start with something easy — such as drinking one less soda and eating one more fruit and vegetable per day — and build from there. Over time, she says, you’ll start seeing those small tweaks leading to big changes. The holidays can be a minefield for anyone trying to eat healthier. Flynt says the keys to success are planning and mindfulness.

“Portion size is probably one of the biggest challenges we face over the holidays,” she says. “It’s OK to have some treats — just use smaller portions. Instead of a fourth of the pie, maybe just have an eighth of the pie.” Flynt notes that many people tend to skip eating during the day if they’re attending a party that evening — and that’s a mistake. She suggests filling up on fruits and veggies throughout the day to help you stay full and on track with your goals. Creativity in the kitchen can also be an asset, both during the holidays and all year long. “Combining different foods can lead to a very tasty holiday dish,” says Flynt. “For example, our chef has developed a really tasty recipe that uses fennel to season mashed potatoes, and there is very little fat added.” (See recipe on facing page.) Also, she suggests, look at your favorite recipes and find ways to make healthy swaps. Instead of using whole milk in your mashed potatoes, for example, use one percent milk. Roasting vegetables instead of steaming them is another way to dramatically enhance flavor without adding calories or eliminating benefits. Roasting potatoes, broccoli or Brussels sprouts brings out a natural sweetness in the vegetables that can make them more palatable for even the pickiest eaters in your family. Teaching common-sense and real-world lessons such as these will be one of Flynt’s missions at the under-construction Center for Health & Wellbeing in Winter Park, Florida. Slated to open in late 2018, both Florida Hospital and Growing Bolder will partner with the Winter Park Health Foundation to bring exciting educational opportunities to the community through the center. “When we open our doors next year, we’ll launch several programs designed to raise awareness about how day-to-day eating habits impact the overall wellbeing of our bodies and minds,” says Diana Silvey, WPHF vice president of programming for the Center for Health & Wellbeing. “Through our nutrition theater, we’ll offer cooking demonstrations, classes, educational programs with dietitians and much more,” she adds. “There’ll be many fun opportunities for people of all ages to learn to cook and eat healthy.” Flynt says her team of dietitians will also NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017


offer medical nutrition therapy — one-onone consulting that helps people who are dealing with medical issues devise eating plans to manage those conditions through their nutrition choices. “I’m very excited, because people and their healthcare providers are starting to realize that nutrition plays a great role in our health,” Flynt adds. “Not only does eating well affect how our bodies function, our food choices also impact how we feel from day to day.” Flynt says her No. 1 message is to not feel overwhelmed by trying to make big choices about your lifestyle. The key is to just get started. You can do it! 

YUKON FENNEL MASHED POTATOES Serves 20 4-oz. portions

3 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (peeled and cubed) 2 cups onions (large dice) 3 large fennel bulbs (about 2 ¼ lbs.; discard center core, then slice) 1 teaspoon garlic powder 2 tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees 2. Combine fennel and onions with half the oil and place in an oven-proof pan. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and puree in a food processor until smooth. 3. While fennel and onions are baking, steam or boil potatoes. Drain or remove from the steamer and mash, folding in the fennel puree. 4. Add the rest of the ingredients and serve.

Nutritional information, per serving: Calories, 62; total fat, 1 g.; saturated fat, 0.1 g.; cholesterol, 0.0 g.; sodium, 99.8 mg.; carbohydrates, 12 g.; fiber, 3 g.; sugar, 0 g.; protein, 2.3 g.

GB EXTRA Visit wellbeingnetwork.org for a link to Growing Bolder’s full conversation with Sherri Flynt and get more of her tips for real-world healthy eating. She weighs in on the latest diet trends, from glutenfree to Whole30, and offers more advice for making small, sensible choices that are sustainable. RECIPE COURTESY OF FLORIDA HOSPITAL’S CENTER FOR NUTRITIONAL EXCELLENCE AND CHEF EDWIN CABRERA

GROWINGBOLDERMAGAZINE.COM

G R O W I N G B O L D E R  25


Never Stop Playing.

fun doesn’t care how old you are.

Once YOu Become

Fearless...

...Life Becomes

Limitless.

“Posture is important as we age. I go to PIlates twice every week.” John Corse, 94 World Record Holding Masters Swimmer and Practicing Attorney

®

for more inspiration follow us on

Photo: Eney Jones

Doris Long, 102 World’s Oldest Rappeller Photo: Vladimir Yakovlev, Age of Happiness


BOLDER EXPERTS

A STAYING PUT GreatTRANSITIONS® Helps Your Parents Age in Place. BY PAUL HENDERSON Paul and Lyn Henderson both hold the CSHP®and SRES® certifications and are the founders of GreatTRANSITIONS®. The Hendersons designed this program to guide people to transition to the next place they call home. For more information and to hear their radio spots, please visit GTFlorida.com.

s our parents age, it’s only natural to worry whether or not they’re alright by themselves at home. Here are some ways to help them age in place that will offer the peace of mind you need. n Make the House Safe: Remove anything someone could trip over. Falling is the No. 1 cause of loss of freedom and even death for older people living alone. Also, a one-level floorplan is much safer than a home that requires climbing stairs. Other factors — such as no-step entries, wide doorways and hallways, non-slip surfaces, good lighting and lever door handles — make a home more accessible and safe. n Use Technology: Consider devices that allow you to monitor and interact with your parents. Security cameras, smartphones and notebook computers are a great way to communicate. Their GPS tracking capabilities can monitor those in cognitive decline or with memory impairment. n Use Outside Organizations: “Villages” are membership organizations that offer both volunteer and paid services designed to assist with transportation needs, shopping and household chores. “Villages” often host social events and activities that stimulate the mind, keep the body moving and create meaningful connections. GreatTRANSITIONS® has decades of experience in guiding families through what can be some overwhelming decisions. We’ve learned that the right information is necessary to help your parents make the best choices. Find out more at GTFlorida.com/ free-senior-resources. 

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G R O W I N G B O L D E R  27


SURVIVING & THRIVING ® Clean and sober at 76, R&B pioneer George Clinton is more energetic, more creative — and funkier — than he has been in decades.

‘FUNK IT!’

George Clinton’s Mothership is Back on Course. BY BILL SHAFER

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eorge Clinton is still alive — and no one is more surprised than he is. The 76-year-old Godfather of Funk pulled himself out of the mire of addiction and depression and has emerged happier, healthier — and funkier — than he has been in decades. It wasn’t easy, and he wasn’t certain he would make it through. Clinton became a force in the music industry in the ’70s with the bands Parliament and Funkadelic, creating his own over-thetop take on R&B. Hits like “Testify,” “Give Up the Funk” and “Atomic Dog” gave his signature sound a nearly unrivaled energy. Clinton had an undeniable ability to infuse songs with infectious hooks. In addition to creating his own records, he became a highly sought-after producer, for himself as well such acts as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Snoop Dogg. His music was sampled by such diverse artists as Kool and the Gang, Jewell and Dr. Dre. Clinton’s live performances became legendary for their length — more than three

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hours — and for their visual antics. “Wherever the Mothership lands, there’s always a party,” says Clinton. But it was a party that even he realized couldn’t last forever. Three things nearly did him in: drugs, financial problems and heartbreak. “I picked up the drug habit pretty early on,” he says. “And I have to tell you, I sure had fun.” But the drugs impacted the quality of his performances. And as astute as he was musically, he struggled financially, becoming embroiled in legal battles, often over control of his own music. But Clinton wasn’t prepared for two events that nearly broke his heart — the unexpected death of his son, followed by the end of his 22-year marriage. The confluence of events compelled him to make a decision to get clean. The first thing he did was shave off his trademark dreadlocks. “I thought maybe if I had a whole new look, it would start me on the way to being a whole new person,” he says. But changes to his appearance would be easy compared to changes

to his lifestyle. “I was still doing the old dope and that wasn’t working,” he says. “Wasn’t having no fun doing nothing. The habit was making me old. So, once I got rid of that, life just started.” Clinton, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, says he was surprised by how much better he felt. His energy and his voice came roaring back. And, even more unexpected, his creativity blossomed. Now, at age 76, he says he’s more prolific than he has been in years. With the release of his latest single, “I’m Gon Make U Sick,” the man who revolutionized R&B is back on his game once again. “It’s been a decade of change, but let me tell you, the Mothership is back and flying all over the country,” he says. “It’s amazing to know that even at my age, I can win new people over,” he adds. “And me? I feel like I’m just getting started. Fresh, fired up and clean. All this, everything I’ve been through, has taught me just what you have to do to get through life. Let me lay on a little George Clinton wisdom: Do the best you can, then funk it!” 

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to listen to our entire Growing Bolder Radio conversation with the one and only George Clinton.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017


VEHICLE DONATION PROGRAM

In with the new & out with the old!

Donate your car to 90.7 WMFE so you can start 2018 off fresh and get that new car you’ve been wanting. Donating saves you from all the hassles that come with selling an older car or paying for those hefty repair bills. We’ll make donating your vehicle fast, easy and efficient!

Simply call 866-963-3288 or visit wmfe.org/vehicle 90.7 WMFE is member-supported public radio for all of Central Florida. On air, online, on mobile and in the community.

The 2017

Legendary Broadcaster Interview With Growing Bolder Radio & Magazine

December 6, 2017 FULL SAIL LIVE Orlando, Florida GrowingBolderAwards.com

GROWINGBOLDERMAGAZINE.COM

G R O W I N G B O L D E R  29


THE TAKEAWAY

DR. GENE COHEN ant to age better? Get creative! I very much believe that creativity can have a tremendous impact on our health as we age — and it’s a belief backed up by research. I was the project director for a study sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. We wanted to examine whether regular interaction with the arts could have an impact on older adults. The results stunned even us. We studied adults between the ages of 65 and 103 in Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco who were actively involved in the arts. The average age was 80. For two years, these people participated on a weekly basis in a range of arts programs, including singing, painting, poetry and writing. We found that this activity had very positive effects on physical health, mental health and social functioning. How to explain these results? By incorporating our findings with earlier bodies of research, we found that people experience an immune system boost when they develop a new sense of mastery combined with strong social support and interpersonal engagement. When they mastered new arts skills alongside other people, the results were particularly robust. An improved immune system doesn’t just make you feel better — it can actually help your brain. We know that mental challenges and environmental stimulation induce the formation of new brain cells. That same combination also causes existing brain cells to sprout new projections, like a tree sprouting branches. This creates more connections among existing cells, thereby improving the brain’s ef-

ficiency. So, if you’re at risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, an ongoing brain fitness program will probably delay onset of the disease for some period of time. This study has attracted a lot of attention, particularly among policymakers because they recognize the impact on costs. Medications are very expensive, and in the Medicare D population, there are more than 35 million people eligible for coverage. This study represented a saving of eight cents per day. So, among individuals in that population group, that would translate into a billion dollars a year. Our work marks the latest big change that’s occurred over the last several years regarding how we view our ability to improve our overall wellbeing. We’ve learned that if we exercise, we can improve our physical fitness. We now know that through challenging our minds, we can improve our brain fitness. And we’ve shown that engaging with the arts has a positive effect on the immune system, which has a positive effect on our entire body. For more than 3,000 years, we thought the only way to turn things around was with a magic bullet. Well, we’re still waiting for that magic bullet. But we know that there are a host of things that we can do in our day-to-day lives that can have a huge, positive impact on our health and wellbeing. So, sign up for that art class you always wanted to take. Join a community singing group. Learn how to sculpt. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose! 

Editor’s Note: Gerontologist and psychologist Gene Cohen, M.D., who died of prostate cancer in 2009, was one of the world’s most renowned experts on aging. He served as the first director of two distinguished institutions: the Center on Aging at the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Center on Aging, Health and the Humanities at George Washington University. His work studying the link between aging and creativity had a profound impact. “Single-handedly, he changed the image of aging from one of senescence to a period of creativity,” said Walter Reich, M.D., a GWU colleague. Shortly before his death, Cohen shared these thoughts with Growing Bolder.

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GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to listen to our entire conversation with Gene Cohen, M.D., and learn more about his groundbreaking research into the link between creativity and healthy aging. He’ll also explain why he believes intergenerational relationships are one of the keys to longevity and wellness for all generations. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

PHOTO BY JOSHUA SOROS

w

The Surprising Link Between Creativity and Healthy Aging.


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Growing Bolder Magazine: Vol. 32  

Debbie Allen has overcome racism, sexism and ageism to become a Hollywood powerhouse. She talks to Growing Bolder about her rocky road to su...

Growing Bolder Magazine: Vol. 32  

Debbie Allen has overcome racism, sexism and ageism to become a Hollywood powerhouse. She talks to Growing Bolder about her rocky road to su...