HEALTH AND AGING r
VOL.1 ISSUE1 *SUMMER'06
Successful aging through
the eyes of Aunt Virginia
BY PEGGY SMITH
O o n the morning of the
the interview, 100-
year-old "Aunt Virgin-
ia" Plummer began with a L
twinkle in her eye and a most
profound statement: "Time
marches on, and as you get
older, time goes faster."
She should know. Aunt
Virginia was born Virginia
Baxley on April 15, 1906
in Minnesota, where she
lived with her mother, fa-
ther and sister and later, with
her husband and daughter.
As a child, she loved doing
puzzles with her father. As
a teenager she worked at a
downtown department store Virginia Plummer, pictured at the age of 5, grew
doing anything they needed up in Minnesota.
done and, because she was
young and .I,..!i,. she was given the hardestjobs. As a homemaker and
mother, she raised her daughter and created lovely needlepoint.
In fact, Aunt Virginia credits her longevity to keeping busy.
"I always liked being busy," she said. "I like being active, and so I've
just always done something. I never just sat back and rested. But I've been
lucky. I've always been physically active. I walked a lot. I iceskated and
rollerskated, swam and did all those things. I sleep well and I eat well,
but then I keep ..',,,. so I burn that all up. And I traveled. Oh, I love to
travel. I've been all over the world Europe, South America. Traveling
is so wonderful. I've been to all the states except Hawaii. That's the only
place I haven't been. I don't know, Ijust like to go."
continued on page 2
speak for the Institute on Aging's physi-
cians, researchers and health-care service
providers when I welcome you to the first
edition of our quarterly newsletter, (I,.. 11g ,
Seasons. The theme of this issue is successful
._ iH_. which parallels the mission of Florida's
Institute on Aging.
Our continuing goal, to be at the fore-
front of research, health care, education and
career development in the area of ._i,_. is
set in order to make significant contributions
to the preservation of independence and the
prevention and rehabilitation of disabilities
affecting senior citizens.
Our professional staff is dedicated to high-
quality clinical care and research into all as-
pects of health and aging -from molecules to
I hope that this newsletter will provide
you with useful information as to how we
are fulfilling our mission to be a one-stop re-
source for aging research, education and pa-
tient care. -
Virginia, continued from page 1
She also doesn't believe
in "I,, .li, !!!!, around with
this ache and that ache."
She said, "I don't allow
myself to think about it. I'm
not going to think myself sick.
You can sit in one place and
make yourself ill if you really
want to be. Some people, I
think, have worried so much
that they became ill because
they were afraid they would.
You gotta think right." Virginia Plummer at
She shared additional secrets:
Q: What are your favorite things to do now?
A: I like to read, I read a lot -all kinds of things. And
tomorrow, if someone said let's go someplace, I'd go. I've
been well enough that I can do that and I haven't lost inter-
est in things. You go one place and you find things are dif-
ferent, and you go to another place. But if you go with the
idea that everything is the same, you might just as well stay
home. Save your money.
Q: What are your favorite things to eat?
A: Oh, chocolate. I love chocolate. CI .... ,,ii. 's my favorite
food. I like Ci:. .. .., Cream of Wheat. I eat just about
everything. Other than coconut -I don't eat coconut.
Q: Do you have any physical problems?
A: No, I'm in pretty good
health right now. I get a
pain every now and then
just an ache or ...I. i*lli,,..
but I haven't been sick for a
She takes no medicine except
an inhaler for the asthma -- _.
she's had since she was a small
child. So for Aunt Virginia,
the secret of longevity is ac- AuntVirginiatoda
tivity, exercise, travel and a positive attitude. And, of course,
a little chocolate each day. Time marches on, but for Aunt
Virginia, it's been the time of her life! U
Ability to walk predicts future health
As people age into their 70s, their ability to walk a quarter
mile becomes an important predictor of overall health
and even how long they might live, according to study
findings published in the Journal of the American Medical
Of nearly 3,000 healthy seniors studied, those who
were able to complete a quarter-mile extended walking
test were three times as likely to live longer and were less
likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and physical
infirmity as they aged, said Marco Pahor, M.D., director
of Institute on Aging and the multi-institutional study's
co-principal investigator at its Memphis site.
Cutting calories can
reduce aging damage
A lifelong habit of trimming just a few calories from the
daily diet can do more than slim the waistline -a new
study shows it may help lessen the effects of aging.
Scientists from UF's Institute on Aging have found
that eating a little less food and exercising a little more
over a lifespan can reduce or even reverse aging-related
cell and organ damage in rats. The discovery, described
in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, builds on
recent research in animals and humans that has shown a
more drastic 20 percent to 40 percent cut in calories slows
Stroke rehabilitation under study
UF Institute on Aging scientists are leading a national
group of researchers to study rehabilitation techniques
designed to improve walking in the first year after stroke.
Difficulty walking is the most common disability
associated with stroke, said Pam Duncan, Ph.D., the
study's principal investigator and the institute's associate
The focus of the study, known as the Locomotor
Experience Applied Post-Stroke trial, or LEAPS, is a
clinic-based program in which patients practice walking
on a treadmill.
The multi-site, randomized trial will assess whether
there is a difference in the proportion of subjects who
successfully recover walking ability using this therapy
versus a group given a therapist-supervised, home-based
I "" Iliii
Why volunteer for clinical
Clinical trials are scientific studies in which peo-
ple help doctors find ways to improve health
and health care. Many current treatments for
illness are based on the results of past clinical trials.
Simply put, clinical studies are how researchers find out
Before medications and procedures are ever tested
on humans they must be exhaustingly tested in the
laboratory. Then, when a medication passes these tests,
researchers have a clear idea whether it can be tested in
humans and in what amounts.
Clinical trials enroll people who are alike in certain
ways, depending on the study's purpose. The study's
protocol tells who can join the study and spells out the
characteristics that volunteers should have in order
to participate. Testing in humans is permitted only if
a person volunteers for participation. The person is
informed of all the risks and benefits of taking part in the
study, including details about the study approach and any
tests that may be performed. When a person decides to
participate, he or she signs a consent form. A volunteer
can choose to withdraw from a study at any time.
Participating in studies is not for everyone, but for
many people the benefits far outweigh the possible
disadvantages. It presents an opportunity to be part of
medical history, many times helping to find treatments
and cures for those diseases, conditions and syndromes
that can negatively affect our successful aging. The
National Institutes of Health has developed a consumer-
friendly database, www.ClinicalTrials.gov, to provide
patients, family members and members of the public
current information about clinical research studies.
In upcoming issues, we will list participation
opportunities with IOA-affiliated studies. 0
put down that salt shaker
Research shows that excessive sodium intake is linked with
high blood pressure or hypertension in some people.
* Dietary recommendations ..... I avoiding too much so-
dium. The i __-. :t-.1 range is 1,100 to 3,300 mg per day.
* Limit prepackaged, canned and frozen foods often contain
high amounts of sodium.
* High-sodium food include those that are pickled, in cock-
tail sauce, smoked, in broth or aujus, in a tomato base or
in soy or teriyaki sauce. When preparing your food, con-
sider replacing salt with these flavorful herbs and spices:
UIU11MWINaI iI 11kI
Tomato-based sauces and dishes
Bay leaf Braised and stewed dishes
Chives Salads, stews and soups
Cinnamon Desserts and beverages
Cloves Meats and vegetables
Cumin Marinades, chili and tomato sauce
Curry Meats, fish, poultry and vegetables
Dill Seafood, salads, sauces, dips and spreads
Ginger Stir-fried poultry, lamb or meat
Marjoram Meats, fish, and vegetables
Mustard Marinades and fish stews
Paprika Potatoes, chicken and fish
Parsley Stocks and soups
Rosemary Roasted or grilled lamb, chicken or fish
Sage Fish, lamb, pork or poultry
Savory Beans, stews and lamb dishes
George J. Caranasos, M.D.,
professor emeritus, University of Florida
Q: Dear Dr. Caranasos: Aside from the obvious ones
such as exercise and good nutrition, what are some of
the lesser known keys to successful aging?
A: Well, first of all, don't forget to stop smoking! Very
few centenarians are also smokers. So, exercise, nutrition
and smoking cessation are the top three. But, the next
three are just as essential to successful aging:
1. Social Involvement. Without social involvement,
seniors can become isolated. However, interaction with
friends and family on a frequent basis, including gather-
ings at churches, clubs and organizations, provides a net-
work of emotional, physical and logistical support that
affords a sense of security.
2. Participation in work or activities considered
valuable, important or productive. A surprising
result of studies is that seniors involved in volunteerism
or productive work aren't considered "old" or "elderly,"
either by society or by themselves. This provides a sense
3. Autonomy. The ability to make decisions and have
control over one's life is crucial to healthy, successful
aging. Autonomy gives a sense of power.
All these are elements of successful aging and "aging in
place," with the ultimate goal of allowing seniors to re-
main in their own homes living happy, active and produc-
tive lives for as long as possible. U
UF Institute on Aging
PO Box 100107
Gainesville, FL 32610
Marco Pahor, IOA director
Mickey Cuthbertson, Design
.. II ,'I ( 1
l AFor information on making a gift to the
University of Florida Institute o! .'_ _
G I please call (352) 265-7227.
UNIVERSITY OF FLOIDA
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA