Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest: Karen Peterson
Guest Bio: Karen Peterson, M.A. is the executive director of Giving Back and the founder of the Move With Balance® healthy aging program. She has a combined 40 years of teaching experience in adult education programs, colleges, and senior centers. She is a Certified Educational Kinesiologist, Natural Vision Improvement Instructor, Touch for Health Instructor, and a Certified Massage Therapist.
Segment Overview: Karen Peterson talks about her book “Move with Balance….” and why she published the work.
Health Professional Radio
Neal Howard: Hello, you’re listening to Health Professional Radio. Thanks so much for listening. I’m your host, Neal Howard. Glad that you’re here. We’re in studio today with Karen Peterson, Executive Director of the non-profit organisation, Giving Back. She is also the founder of Move with Balance—it’s a healthy aging program—and an author, the author of Move with Balance: Healthy Aging Activities for Brain and Body.
Karen says forget the crossword puzzles. There are some other things that we can do and should do in order to stay mentally and physically agile as we age. How are you doing, Karen?
Karen Peterson: I’m doing just fine. I’m glad to be here.
Neal: Thanks so much for coming back and talking with us a little bit more. Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here, and get just a little bit personal with you. If I’m out of line, you just go ahead and let me know, and we’ll move right on, guarantee that. Now, you say that you feel better now than you did when you were 38 years old. Now, obviously you’re not 38. We don’t go backwards in age. Is it okay to ask, why is it so significant that you feel better at whatever age you are now than you did at 38? Well, what is that age?
Karen: Well, my age now is actually 69.
Neal: Oh. I’m a little bit behind. Congratulations, happy birthday, whenever it was. We seem to think that our elders or seniors are decrepit, feeble-minded, or—maybe dating myself with a term that may not be normally heard a lot, feeble-minded—and needing to be cared for gingerly because they’re fragile. You don’t consider yourself fragile at all, and you don’t look fragile.
Neal: I have your photo, and you don’t look fragile at all. You have a vibrant air about you, and you speak as if you’re happy and alert and clear of mind. Is that something that you’ve been working on and you paid attention to your whole life, or is this something that has motivated you to be the developer and author that you are?
Karen: Well, I have three children, so during that time I wasn’t even thinking of myself. I was busy taking care of them, really. I didn’t even know … I had some part-time teaching jobs at adult education, and I dabbled in that, and with my husband did his business, entrepreneurial thing. Then, as they got older, I noticed that I was getting older, and I just one day said to myself, “Well, I don’t even feel older here. What is going on?”
So, I didn’t really plan it, “Oh, I’ve got to have a good aging experience.” I just recognised how great I felt. Then I also felt … I noticed that society has the pictures that you were describing—the feeble-minded and everything. This is an interesting thing. I had mentioned working with children doing these activities—not exactly the same ones totally, but the same type of activities with children—very successfully.
Karen: Even in the Giving Back program, we had the seniors working with the kids. Then just one day, I walked into our local senior centre and showed them what I knew and what I could do, and they loved the activities and thought they were great. It was like from that point on, I was working with seniors, which I never did. Then I felt, “Wow, these people really need to be honoured and brought back into the community for their wisdom.” These people – because I had never been around seniors that much, except my grandmother, which I can tell you about in a minute.
I just started loving teaching them. They were so appreciative and easy to work with. You can imagine that. I just thought, “Well, how can I get them back in the community? I want them to be able to give back.” Then I thought, “Well, that’s going to be the name of the non-profit, Giving Back.”
Neal: Giving Back, makes sense.
Karen: In 2000, I started that non-profit, and then I’d have the fit seniors. I call them the fit – well, you can call them elders. I like that word better than ’senior citizens’. I take the fit elders, which would be, let’s say, like me, somebody like you were describing me, and I would do a little training for them and then place them working with kids. And Then I was approached by some elder groups around here where I live, and they said, “Could your program work with frail elders?”
So, I started having the fit seniors partner off with the frail elders. Then it just kind of took off, so I knew I was in the right direction. You know how when things work out in your life, you keep doing it. That’s how that all went.
Neal: A snowball effect and a wildfire effect all in the same thing. It just kind of blew up in all different kind of directions, and you found yourself helping seniors of all ages and of various physical conditions, mentally and physically as well, right?
Karen: Right. Then really what happened was the fit seniors felt useful in the community, because they were placed in doing something that was useful. The frail seniors felt like they wanted to do the exercises, because they had a special partner who they looked forward to seeing each time the class happens, and who made it a loving, safe atmosphere for them to do it in. Because when I was just teaching in front of a group by myself, certain people could pretend like they were doing the exercises and not really doing them.
Neal: Like a church choir.
Karen: Once they had this partner, yeah, they couldn’t sneak by. The partner was there to assist and help them do it, and they did them together. It really turned out to be also a socialising thing and fun. It doesn’t mean that your listeners need to do it the way I did it with the fit seniors and the frail seniors. They can just do it with their grandmother. They could do it that way after church or somewhere like that, just start a program. It doesn’t even have to be with partners. They can do it that way or not.
Neal: Now, one thing that is always in the forefront of well, in my experience, every senior’s mind, is that incident where they fall down. They’re getting out of the shower or they’re coming up the stairs or they’re getting some groceries out the car, and they take that fall that would normally just be, oh, an ouch. But now there are some serious problems that are happening as they hit their knee or their hip. Physical therapy’s on the way, maybe even pain meds or something like that is on the way. You’ve got the mental and the physical stress.
You’re also a certified instructor of touch for health and natural vision improvement. Now, what exactly does that entail, and is it significant in your helping of seniors specifically?
Karen: Well, I guess I have a background in anatomy and things. Maybe not like an MD or anything, but I have studied anatomy and massage and different things and touch for health, and the body, to be able to know things about that. Then the vision, what’s important for what I’m doing here for the vision, is having the two eyes work together so that you have depth perception.
Because people don’t even realise maybe that their two eyes are not functioning together. They’ve just compensated. The body will compensate for anything. There’s probably about four exercises or more in the book where you can check out this and get it to work, your depth perception.
Neal: That’s exactly what I wanted to talk about, because it was very interesting when I was looking through your information, and checking out your book and things. You claim that every 18 seconds, a senior falls and ends up in the ER, and who knows how long it’s going to take them to end up in the ER?
Neal: They go through … and your movements. Your program helps them to maintain their balance and their concentration and their eyesight. It’s fascinating. It enhances basically brain function.
Karen: Yeah. That’s why it’s just so unique and innovative compared to other programs, because it’s dealing with so much at the same time. The head of our Department of Health said that same thing when he was amazed at the results. He thought it was because of that integration of the mind and the body. You know how so much keeps things separately. Here’s this little compartment over here, and here’s this little compartment. But when we’re living, we’re in all compartments. We need to get them integrated and working all together.
Neal: When we’re talking about movement, what exactly is educational kinesiology?
Karen: Well, kinesiology is just the movement of the body in space. I was just going to say, another thing that I just haven’t mentioned yet that’s really important that we work on, is things like timing and like that. For instance, after we hang up today, I’m going to go and teach a class, and I’m having them do things with rhythm and timing, where they have to come in at a certain time.
That’s another thing that fades a little bit when we get older, and you can work on keeping yourself sharp and alert. That’s something that we’re going to be doing. I’m going to have them do some clapping exercises. I’m going to bring in some shakers and have some different rhythms that they have to do, like that.
Neal: Different types of music?
Karen: Yeah, things like that we can do, bring in. They have to clap these different things out. They have to hear it, and then, this is another thing like I did last time. A person is concentrating a lot on their own rhythm. They’re just kind of walled off in this group, doing their own rhythm. So I said, “After you get your own rhythm, then start to listen to everybody else.”
Doing your own is really working with the left brain, concentrating on that one detail, my own rhythm, I got to get it right. Then once you’ve gotten that in your system, you can start listening to everybody else and meld with them, which is a right brain thing. So, you’re really working on getting your right and left brain working together at the same time, so your whole brain. These kinds of activities then, when you go out in your life and you’re whole-brained, it just works a lot better.
Neal: Now, as we wrap up this segment, at your website, movewithbalance.org, I understand that your book offers some special access associated with that website. Could you speak to that briefly?
Karen: Yes. I feel that I wrote the book in a very user-friendly, easy way with great colour pictures to indicate what the exercises are, and I tried to explain them very simply. But, if you still need any more help, I put 60 videos online. The people who buy the book have access to 60 videos of the exercises that they can check to see, am I doing this right, or is this how you do it? So they can also watch that.
Neal: Great, great.
Karen: I think that’s really helpful. There’s a tip section on the website because I’m always making up new exercises. They can go there and there’s a few of them on there already, and a new one that’s a really good new rhythm one, that I put on there about two weeks ago that they could see. It’s not in the book, but that gives them an idea of what kind of stuff’s in the book.
Karen: Some of it may be too hard for the really frail people, but then I don’t do those with them, or I make adjustments. It can be adapted for any group.
Neal: One size doesn’t fit all? It’s extremely flexible and can attend to any person’s needs, yeah?
Karen: Yes. When you watch the news at night and those doctors come on to talk about different vitamins, each one of them is now saying, it’s not one size fits all. We can’t say across the board, everybody who has cholesterol needs to take this. That’s exactly right, and that’s the same thing with this. You have to adjust it to the person. That might sound hard, but it isn’t that hard. You can see what they can do. And if they can’t do it, then you make it easier.
Neal: Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host, Neal Howard. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to Karen Peterson today, the Executive Director of the non-profit organisation known as Giving Back, and also the founder ofMove with Balance. It’s a healthy aging program.
We’ve been here talking today about how we can actually enhance the agility that we experience in our older years, even after years of, well, for lack of a better term, bad habits when it comes to moving the body and keeping the mind along with the body, healthy and agile. It’s been great having you here with us today, Karen.
Karen: Thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed it.
Neal: Transcripts of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm.