I survived now nearly 27 months since my spouse died. Somehow, I cannot imagine, surviving another 27 months or more like this.
Today I copied an article about my deceased daughter Gaby and published it:
I often contemplate now, how I seem to face a dilemma that is not unlike that of the one that dear Gaby had to face after David became too sick to do any caring for her. Well, officially, he had been just her carer, not her partner. They had separate bedrooms of course. As a paid for carer he had to be in the house with her at nightime, in case Gaby needed him in an emergency. When David did take a few day’s leave to travel somewhere to have a break, Peter and I, as well as our young daughter Caroline, would stay with Gaby for a few days. We always had a good time with Gaby. It was like a little holiday. But then of course we were always happy, when we could travel home again.
So, there came a time, when David could not do anything for Gaby anymore. So, Gaby had to look for somebody who could replace him. She tried and tried to find somebody. She never gave up. How can a 54 year old very disabled person find a trustworthy live-in partner? Difficult, very, very difficult. This is all I can say. Now, did Gaby want to end up in institutional care? No, never! So, to be honest, isn’t it somehow a blessing that Gaby did die peacefully in her own home just a few weeks before her 55th birthday? – Originally her life expectancy had been 30 years! I think, one can say, she did do extremely well with her life.
So, to compare the last stages of Gaby’s life with my last stages. Aren’t we in a similar boat? Nobody, absolutely nobody, is inclined to share some of his life with me. There is not even one person, who would be willing to share just an evening with me! The only exception is my son Martin, who might spend about a week with me, that is he may visit for about a week maybe three times a year! Well, of course these are very beautiful special weeks for me. But how can these few weeks make me want to live forever when for the rest of the year I have the feeling to go on living is not worthwhile anymore, because, really, there is nobody living close by, who would be able to spend a few hours with me on a more or less regular basis. Yes, one can have hope, hope, hope. The fact is, with rapidly advancing years, there may come a time, when hope just is not enough anymore, and one is only too willing to welcome eternal rest! 🙂
I can’t keep up with the younger people anymore. All my family are much younger than me. A more elderly person, with not too many other attachments, might understand much better, what sort of company I do need, and hopefully could make valuable time for me. I feel, it is really only natural, if my time is running out now. I am only too willing to face up to it. I think, for the rest of my days, I’ll just concentrate more and more on reading, talking, and writing. I am determined to enjoy live as much as possible for as long as I live, but that does not mean, that I want to live much longer, or for ever and ever. When the time is up, it is up.
“Holy Mary, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
For decades, Philomena Lee didn’t think there was anything interesting about her life story.
After becoming pregnant out of wedlock in Ireland in 1951, a teenage Lee was disowned by her father and sent to live and work in a convent alongside other unmarried mothers. When her son Anthony was three years old, the convent’s nuns, in exchange for a generous donation, gave him up for adoption to Americans, who were told he was an orphan. A distraught Lee watched from an upstairs window as strangers drove off with her child.
For the next 50 years, Lee told nobody about Anthony. That’s just how life went for sinners in the Catholic Church, she thought.
But one day, she told her secret to her daughter, Jane Libberton, who quickly began the search for Lee’s long-lost child. It wasn’t easy: Irish law makes it extremely difficult for adopted children to learn about their parents and birth records, and the nuns at the convent where Lee lived stonewalled her requests for information. Eventually, Libberton pieced together the identity of Anthony: Renamed Michael Hess by his American parents, he’d grown up to be a top attorney for the Republican National Committee.
By the time Lee and Libberton solved the mystery, however, they were too late: Hess had died of AIDS in 1995. His ashes had been buried at the the convent at Hess’s request—he hoped that his mother would return and find him. Just as the nuns wouldn’t give Lee and Libberton any answers about what happened to Anthony, Hess himself had journeyed to Ireland to ask about his mother—with no luck.
Acclaim and Oscar nominations for Philomena, based off journalist Martin Sixsmith’s book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, have brought international attention to the stories of Lee and the thousands of women just like her. Last month, Lee partnered with the Adoption Rights Alliance to launch The Philomena Project, which will advocate for changes to Ireland’s adoption-records policies and help connect mothers and children separated by the country’s history of forced adoptions. In late January, Lee, Libberton, and Mari Steed, U.S. coordinator of the ARA, traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with senators and diplomats about the project, and they spoke to The Atlantic about the film, faith, and forgiveness.
When you started your journey a decade ago, did you ever think it would bring you to Washington?
Philomena: No way whatsoever.
Jane: When mom first met Martin, she didn’t even really want it to be a book, did you? You didn’t really want the story.
Philomena: Oh no. When I told my daughter after 50 years, I said, “No, I can’t.” Because I kept it a secret so long. No way. So then I just decided, well, look, if it can help a lot of mothers my age, I’m nearly 80—
Jane: You are 80!
Philomena: We were ostracized in them days because we had babies out of wedlock, because that was a very awful thing to do. Women my age kept it a secret and wouldn’t tell their families. A lot of the babies born, their offspring, they’re now looking for them. A lot of ladies my age still haven’t come out to say it. So many people responded to the film, and a lot of them actually were women like me coming out. People like Mari and her colleagues have been trying for years to get the government in Ireland to give people rights to their records.
Is the project more about helping adopted children here connect with parents in Ireland, or about putting pressure on Ireland to change its policies?
Mari: Both. Some of the senators and congressmen we met are from the states where a lot of the babies were placed to—in Anthony’s case, Missouri—so we met with Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill. Somebody might go to their local representatives and say, “I was born in Ireland and am a citizen here, what do I do?”
Likewise, we met the Irish ambassador [Anne Anderson] and it’s the same thing. “If one of our citizens should happen to come to the Irish Embassy or call one of the consulates, would you be able to give them these resources and point us in the right direction?” We don’t want to do any hard-hitting political lobbying, but we would like them to lend their voices and their support if at all possible. I think the response was very positive.
Jane: It was very positive! Obviously my mom and I have no experience of being here in Washington and meeting senators, that’s like—
Jane: We had no idea what to expect. Each and every one was different, but very positive. We felt like we were following in Anthony’s footsteps because he worked in these buildings.
That must have been special.
Philomena: Very much so. This was his world.
Activists have said you’d need to drag Ireland to the United Nations to see these changes happen. Have you had more success going the political route than through the Church?“We’re just telling the truth of what happened. It was never, ever from the start meant to be an attack on the Church.”
Mari: Absolutely. With the Church, you really will get nowhere. I’m not saying that’s a negative or a positive. That’s simply what it is. They’re not going to change their mind or suddenly change their policies. And not only that, but all of the records, as of this year, have finally been transferred out from under the ownership of Church agents and are now under the government’s Health Service Executive in Ireland, so we’ve almost removed the Church from the picture, at least as far as the records are concerned. But I think eventually it may take a UN case similar to the Magdalenes cause in Ireland. We’ve got the right players, we’ve got people affiliated with the project. If we have to go that route, we will.
Have the ways the Catholic Church has changed in the past several decades made it any easier?
Mari: Yeah, not really. Their attitudes really haven’t changed.
Jane: In Ireland.
Mari: Yeah, absolutely not in Ireland. Here in the States, we tend to get a lot more encouragement and sympathy. In Ireland, it’s still this stubborn willfulness. They’d rather stay silent and take the bad press than issue apologies, because they know that will open them up to legal liabilities.
Jane: My mom still very much has her faith and is still quite protective of the Church, so you find it a bit awkward sometimes.
Philomena: Sometimes. You just believed everything you were told. You didn’t query it, you just didn’t query it. People would say, “Are you against the Catholic Church?” No, I’m not. At the time they did it, they took me in, they gave me a home for my baby. They gave us a home. It was the Church that caused all the problems because the Church made a baby out of wedlock a mortal sin. So we firmly believed we were sinners. That’s the teaching of the Church.
Were you worried people would take an anti-Catholic message away from the movie?
Jane: I don’t think we even thought about the Catholic stance at all, this is just my mom’s story and what happened to her. Obviously people have come out and said, “This is an anti-Catholic film.” It was never intended to be. This is what happened.”People can’t understand how I could have been so forgiving.”
Philomena: No! It’s my story.
Jane: There are other Catholic groups that are in support of it, [saying] that it isn’t an anti-Catholic film because she retains her faith all the way through it. We’re just telling the truth of what happened. It was never, ever from the start meant to be an attack on the Church. Steve Coogan [who plays Martin Sixsmith] says the same thing. He’s from an Irish-Catholic family. He spent a lot of time with women my mom’s age when he was a child. He never set out at all to make an anti-Catholic film. It’s just different people who have different views. As mom said, yes, they did take her in. Where else would she have gone? But they kind of caused the problem in the first place. They were part of the solution, but they were part of the problem.
Did you feel surprised that so many people found your commitment to your faith inspiring?
Philomena: We did, actually. People can’t understand how I could have been so forgiving. But I mean, Anthony would have been 61 last year. When he was adopted and taken away, I went to Liverpool, two years I stayed there, and then I went down and did psychiatric nursing for 30 years. Now, you don’t work in a psychiatric hospital and not see some awful, sad faces. You see so much hurt and pain caused by anger. I was angry in the beginning, and I used to think, why did this happen to me? And then nursing the patients, sitting down and talking with them, helping them with their problems—it made my own slide into the background. I’ve seen so much hurt caused through anger. And I thought, “I couldn’t go through my whole life being angry.” It’s just not in my nature to be angry. I was upset and very sad and very hurt. But I just went on with life and got married and had children. Working with psychiatric patients, it helped me to heal a lot of the pain I had.
One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is the moment of forgiveness near the end. Steve Coogan, as Martin, seems confused by it, asking, “Just like that?” But Judi Dench, as you, says it actually takes everything inside you to forgive.
Philomena: When my daughter first found out about this story, she was very angry, and I think Steve Coogan took on her anger.
Jane: Martin was a political journalist, and he wasn’t particularly angry. He’s seen all sort of things in his career. Steve asked a particular question of whether you forgive the nuns, and you did. I said, “I don’t,” so he took the anger and put it in his character. Martin wasn’t an angry character, he was a journalist.
Were the nuns as big of an obstacle in learning about Anthony as they appeared in the movie?
Jane: When we went the first time, they didn’t help. They were very pleasant very nice.
Jane: We sat down to tea like this. We knew Anthony’s grave was there. But they didn’t give us any information about the American side of things. When we went back the second year, I’d said we found Anthony’s partner and we found Mary, who was adopted with Anthony, and then they went to the cupboard and gave me papers they could have given me before. Without those papers, there never would have been a book. They just weren’t helpful.”We were ostracized so much. We had to lose our identities. I wasn’t Philomena Lee anymore. I got a name called Marcella. For three and a half years, I was Marcella.”
Did they not fully understand?
Jane: Oh, they understood. [The character] Sister Margaret was [based off] the present-day nun we met with Martin. She was delightful. She’s English like I am, so she knew where I was coming from, because in the United Kingdom, at 18 years old, you can find out your history if you’re adopted. In Ireland, you can’t. I didn’t get angry with her. I was angry, but I didn’t shout out her like Steve Coogan shouts at Sister Hildegard [in the movie]. She knew exactly what I meant when I said, “To me, what you’re doing is completely wrong.” She did sit there kind of stony-faced. She was in the position where she felt she couldn’t give me the information because that’s what she’d been taught by the Church. And we’re only talking about seven years ago. It wasn’t a long time ago.
Did you have a sense of how widespread this was?
Philomena: You mean everybody having babies? Women having babies?
The forced adoptions across the country, I mean.
Philomena: I was a teenager at the time. I didn’t know anything about that. I didn’t know about babies being gone abroad and getting donations for them. I didn’t know the first thing about that. How would we know? The nuns wouldn’t tell you. We were Catholic, we went to church, we went to mass, that’s all we did. I worked in the laundry for three and a half years.
Mari: There were many Irish families who might have had a mother and baby home just up the road and didn’t even know it. They just knew it was the nuns who ran their business. Nobody really knew what went on behind the walls or dared ask. I think they had an inkling, it just wasn’t discussed.
Philomena: And often the mother’s parents were glad to get rid of you, because it was such a shame on them. We were ostracized so much. We had to lose our identities. I wasn’t Philomena Lee anymore. I got a name called Marcella. For three and a half years, I was Marcella. Some of the women now come forward and say, “Did you remember me when I was there?” I wouldn’t have remembered them because they’d have another name. From the day I went in till the day I came out I was Marcella, not Philomena Lee.”And the whole of my life, all I wanted was to find him. Finding out he was dead was very hard, but at least I found him.”
Tell me about the first time you told Jane about Anthony.
Philomena: I go home to Ireland every year. I call it home still even though I’ve lived 56 years in England. My brother, he was a young lad. He was 18 months older than me when I went to the home. He drove me when they discovered I was pregnant. He bounced him on his knees and hugged him and loved him. My father was out signing papers with the nuns—in them days you didn’t query what they were doing—and my brother was out with me in the halls. For years he felt so guilty. “I should have run away with him.” But with the police, the guards, we call them guards in Ireland, [he] wouldn’t have gotten away with it. I went home in 2003, was it? He said, “For goodness’ sake, go back home and tell them.” My son is older than Jane. I went home and sat them down and told them.
Jane: Well, you told me. You came out to see me. I’d just moved house and renovated it. And my mom, you’d [just] been to Ireland, and you said, “Oh, I’ll pop around and see you.” It was slightly unusual because we normally meet in the day, and you were feigning interest in my decor. I just had some new light switches. I remember it very clearly. You looked at them said, “They’re very nice.” You’re not really into that kind of thing.
Philomena: Not decorating, no.
Jane: So she sat down, and we did open a bottle of wine, and she just came out with it. “I had a baby in Ireland,” I think is what you said. But immediately I knew who this child was because we always had his photograph in with all the other family photos. He always looked like he was in an odd place because he’s got nuns with him, or he looks like he’s in a hospital. I had asked you once when I was a child, and you said it was a cousin’s son, and I didn’t think anything more of that. But I felt immediately sorry for her, because I’ve got children, and he was three and a half when he was adopted. I couldn’t imagine having to give a child away at that age. It would just be awful.
Philomena: Awful, awful.
Jane: Clearly you would have bonded with him because they’re little people at that age.
Philomena: He was a lovely, lovely little boy.
What was it like seeing the movie for the first time?
Philomena: We didn’t know what to make of it, did we? We saw it together.
Jane: It was very hard to judge whether it was good or not because we’d been so involved in it. We met the next day at lunch and I said, “I think it’s okay? I think we’ll be alright with this film.” But we couldn’t tell. People asked me if it was good and I said, “I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you if it was good.”
Philomena: We couldn’t!
Jane: It took a couple viewings. Then it went to the Venice Film Festival and received such fantastic reviews. I started reading the reviews to mom, and we could see why people liked it. But it took other people to point us in the right direction.
But you’ve come to enjoy it?
Jane: Yes, we certainly laughed.
Philomena: Oh yes, it’s very funny.
Jane: Life’s not all doom and gloom.
It was already such a tough, emotional movie to watch, it would have been a lot harder without those funnier moments.
Philomena: The thing is, I found him. And the whole of my life, all I wanted was to find him. Finding out he was dead was very hard, but at least I found him. I used to think over the years he could be in Vietnam, he could be on Skid Row. It’s the not knowing. But once I found out how successful he was, then I was able to put my heart to rest and my mind to rest. At least he had a very good life and a wonderful partner. And I’m sure, up there, he helped me to start this 10 years ago. I believe that.
Mari: He’d be so pleased.
Jane: I think he’d be pleased, being a political man.
Philomena: I’m sure he is. The thing is, I’m sure because about one year [before finding him], maybe less than that, I started going back to mass. I had given up going to mass and communion and confession. Somehow or another I said, “I think I’ll start going back.” I went to mass at the beautiful abbey near where we lived. They had a Catholic mass every Friday morning. I joined that and got back in there, and I’d go down and light my candle in this beautiful place. Somehow after this, my brother said to me, “Will you go back home and tell your daughter?” after I started [getting that] feeling. I’m sure Anthony was up there.
Recently, Roderick joined eight other participants in a Catalyst experiment that explored how dance can help older people improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
Over 12 weeks, the participants spent four hours each week learning a routine that combined dance and sign language.
Led by Australian choreographer Kelley Abbey, the program culminated in a live performance at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney.
The participants also took part in seven health-based assessments that measured their physical and cognitive abilities before and after the program.
But after just three rehearsals, Roderick had already made a breakthrough.
After 10 years of living without any feeling in his legs, he says he began to feel a twinge of pain in his calf muscle while doing some stretches.
“It’s pain, but it’s bloody good pain.”
And there was more good news to come.
The big slowdown
Love it or hate it, we are all getting older. When we look in the mirror, we might notice a few more wrinkles or strands of silver hair, but there are also a lot of changes happening on the inside.
For one, we slowly begin to lose muscle mass at around the age of 35, a process that speeds up after we turn 60. This can make us weaker and more susceptible to fatigue, making it tougher to get our bodies moving.
The way we walk also changes. While we may have been able to dart across the street in our youth, we tend to take shorter, slower steps as we get older, leading to unsteadiness on our feet.
Dealing with these physical challenges and the risks that come with them can impact daily life.
Over time, it can become more tempting to take it easy and skip exercise altogether.
On top of that, our cognitive abilities — such as being able to recall names, numbers and do mental calculations on the spot — can take a hit.
But staying fit and mentally sharp go hand in hand — for better or worse, says Emily Cross, a cognitive neuroscientist at the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development at Western Sydney University.
If you’re not moving as much, you’re also not giving your brain enough of a workout.
“We hear it again and again — the use it or lose it mantra,” Professor Cross says.
“That’s particularly the case for physical activity and the maintenance of physical circuits in the brain.”
Get your groove on
But it’s not all doom and gloom. While any form of exercise is good for the mind and body, dancing ticks every box in one go.
Almost half of Australians live with a long-term health issue. It’s why the ABC is hosting a national conversation till mid-November focusing on Australia’s health and wellbeing. It’s Your Move.
Unlike doing squats or lifting weights, dancing is like multitasking on steroids.
You’re moving your body through space, remembering sequences of steps, coordinating with other dancers around you — all while moving in time with music (or trying to!).
This gives your body a 360-degree workout, Dr Ward says.
“What’s unique about dance is that you’re not just doing the same movement over and over … you’re learning so much at the same time,” she says.
“All of that provides a constant musculoskeletal and neurological challenge.”
Dancing is particularly good for your heart. One 2016 study on more than 48,000 participantsover the age of 40 found that those who danced had a 46 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease compared to non-dancers.
Several studies have also linked dancing with improved balance, flexibility, muscle strength and coordination.
By the end of the Catalyst experiment, all the participants saw improvements in their fitness, balance and agility.
On the four-square step test — which measured how quickly participants could step between four squares — Roderick improved his time by over 30 per cent.
And while he struggled to balance on one leg at the beginning of the program, he was able to stand on his right leg for 30 seconds after 12 weeks of dancing.
Dancing can also help people with conditions like Parkinson’s disease — which affects about one in 100 people over the age of 65.
People with Parkinson’s disease often find it difficult to control their movements.
But dancing to music can help them tap into parts of their brain that aren’t as affected by the disease, helping them to find more flow in their movements, says Natalie Allen, a neurological physiotherapist who specialises in Parkinson’s disease at The University of Sydney.
“The rhythm of the music helps people with Parkinson’s to move more freely and easily,” Dr Allen tells Catalyst.
Anni, 72, was diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s disease this year after noticing a tremble in her hands.
Balance can become an issue as Parkinson’s disease progresses, but after taking part in Catalyst’s dance experiment, Anni reduced the wobblein her stance by a whopping two-thirds.
Whether you’re trying to master ballroom dancing or a perfect pirouette, dancing makes your brain light up.
All that learning can also reshape and forge new pathways in your brain.
A 2021 study on 60- to 79-year-olds found that doing a combination of brisk walking and social dancing increased the amount of white matter — neural tissue that enables brain cells to rapidly send and receive messages.
“With dance, we have the whole complement of cognitive and social tasks going on,” Professor Cross tells Catalyst.
“If you want to stave off neurological decline in general, dance is a great way to exercise your brain across multiple domains.”
It’s tricky to study what’s happening in people’s brains while they’re spinning and swaying in a rehearsal room.
But Professor Cross has done the next best thing: taking a peek at what’s happening in people’s brains as they watch a video of their teacher performing a dance routine they’re learning.
“If you’re going to learn to dance, you’re going to learn by watching someone else do it,” she says.
“You have to translate what you’re seeing in other people’s bodies onto your own.”
Our brains contain special cells called mirror neurons, which allow us to learn through watching someone else.
These cells are located in areas of the brain involved in controlling body movements, spatial awareness and attention.
Professor Cross and her team have found that this network of mirror neurons kicks into gear while people are watching and learning — even if they’re just watching a video of someone else performing the routine they’ve learnt.
“These regions are sharpening their responses and are really kind of coming online in a way that helps you bridge that gap between what you see someone else do with their body, and what you do with your body,” Professor Cross says.
The good news is that these same regions switch on in people of all ages, indicating that the brain never loses its ability to learn new things.
“It’s really, really exciting that the learning is kind of shaping these brain circuits,” Professor Cross says.
“It means you can teach an old dog new tricks.”
This cognitive boost was also seen in Catalyst’s dancers.
Shirley, who five years ago was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease — the most common form of dementia — had the biggest improvement of all the participants.
In the beginning, Shirley’s performance on the cognitive tests was much poorer than the rest of the group.
But after three months of dancing, her test results were closer to the rest of the participants.
“It’s fantastic, I can’t believe it,” the 75-year-old tells Catalyst.
And while Shirley may not be able to dance away her condition entirely, her results show that the physical, creative and social aspects of dance can be beneficial.
“All these aspects of dance can potentially help slow the progress of dementia,” Professor Cross says.
The ultimate mood booster
One in eight Australians over the age of 65 are socially isolated or experience loneliness, which can lead to low mood and poor mental health.
While going for a walk with friends is one way to stay connected, dancing gets you out of your comfort zone in ways that other types of exercise don’t, Professor Cross says.
“If you’re learning new things and making mistakes, and laughing at yourself and with each other, there’s potential for building social bonds that you might not get if you’re just in a walking group,” she says.
“There’s expressing yourself through your bodily motions, and none of the other physical activities will have that.”
Our Oral History and Folklore collection records the voices that describe our cultural, intellectual and social life. The collection consists of over 55,000 hours of recordings, the earlier ones dating back to the 1950s when the tape recorder became available. More than 1000 hours of interviews, music and accents are added to the collection each year. Increasingly the collection is available online or may be requested from the catalogue. You can listen to:
Folklore recordings – popular culture, traditional songs, dances, music, stories and more
Interviews with distinguished Australians – scientists, writers, artists, politicians and sports people
Interviews with people who have lived through significant social trends and conditions – unemployment, the impact of child removals from families, the Depression, and migration to Australia
Environmental sound – the historical sound of the built and natural environment.
Some interviews have transcripts or summaries and our online audio delivery system helps you search the content of our collection, which can be searched through Trove.
Interviews by Hazel de Berg – 1,290 recordings of interviews and readings dating from the 1950s of prominent Australian poets, artists, writers, composers, actors, academics, publishers, librarians, scientists, anthropologists, public servants and politicians.
Folk music by John Meredith – over 500 recordings between 1953 and 1994 of traditional Australian folk music, songs, recitations, bush dance music, yarns and reminiscences. John Meredith was a foundation member of the Bushwhackers and helped form the Bush Music Club and the Australian Folklore Society.
Bringing Them Home oral history project – These include over 300 interviews collected between1998 and 2002 of Indigenous people and others, such as missionaries, police and administrators, involved in or affected by the process of child removals. Listen online to a selection of interviews.
Posted Tue 5 Feb 2019 at 6:00amTuesday 5 Feb 2019 at 6:00am, updated Wed 6 Feb 2019 at 12:44pmWednesday 6 Feb 2019 at 12:44pm
5 Feb 2019 at 6:00amTuesday 5 Feb 2019 at 6:00am, updated Wed 6 Feb 2019 at 12:44pmWednesday 6 Feb 2019 at 12:44pm
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For over 100 years, the intelligence quotient (IQ) test has been considered the quintessential marker of who is “smart” and who is not.
But a dip in IQ scores worldwide has researchers questioning if it’s time to broaden how we understand intelligence.
“My particular theory is that scores really haven’t gone backwards, but the IQ test hasn’t kept up with the way we’re using our brains,” says Tony Florio, a clinical psychologist and senior lecturer at the University of NSW.
He argues the test measures only a certain kind of intelligence, and is therefore of limited use.
Dr Florio suggests that the IQ test might help us see who will be successful in a traditional school system, which was its original purpose, but that it is not the be all and end all about who’s smart and who isn’t.
Dr Florio has studied the test for decades and says a typical IQ test is divided into ten subsets including vocabulary, general knowledge and problem solving.
In Australia, he says, these tests are conducted by psychologists either clinically, in schools or very occassionally for organisational psychology testing — for example when selecting members for executive committees.
An IQ score of a 100 is considered a score of average intelligence, 130 and above is defined as gifted, and a person scoring below 70 is interpreted as having an intellectual disability.
Not the first time the test has been criticised
Dr Florio has several criticisms about the breadth of the IQ test, which, he says, measures linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities and not motivation, personality or creativity.
“It’s gone down a narrow pathway,” he says.
He’s not alone in criticising the test.
He says there has been a perennial debate about whether there is one general intelligence.
Dr Florio argues that the IQ test doesn’t necessarily accommodate that “individuals are complicated with many aspects to them” — pointing to similar concerns raised by the test’s very founder.
He explains that French psychologist Alfred Binet, who developed the IQ test over 100 years ago, feared the test — initially designed to help measure the ‘mental age’ of a child — could be too limited.
Binet stressed that intelligence was far too broad a concept to quantify with a single number; however, he designed the test as a way to help identify children with learning difficulties.
France was the first country to introduce universal education and needed to work out who would struggle with learning and might need extra help, Dr Florio explains.
He says it’s much easier to compare people as children because there are different educational milestones that they reach at different ages.
If children were reaching them at a younger age they were seen as gifted and if they were reaching them later they were seen as delayed.
In 1916, Dr Florio highlights, an American psychologist adapted the IQ test for use in the US Army and since then the test has been adopted by many institutions other than schools.
The impact of the ‘Google effect’
Since the test first began in 1906 there has been, until recently, a steady increase in IQ score test resultsworldwide,a trend dubbed ‘the Flynn Effect’.
Dr Florio says factors that led to the Flynn Effect were improved nutrition and maternal health, and increasing access to education.
Even the reduction in the average size of families was a contributing factor, says Dr Florio, as “there’s less children per family so more attention per child”.
Now, however, Dr Florio says research shows a decline in scores occurring specifically throughout Europe where most of the relevant research has been conducted, and this is being branded the ‘reverse Flynn Effect’.
Research seems to suggest that worldwide our IQ scores in developed countries have been dropping over the last decade, Dr Florio says.
“You’d think logically that it should’ve just plateaued but it seems to have in fact gone backwards.”
According to Dr Florio, there are several theories to explain this.
“There’s a theory that’s been dubbed the ‘Google effect’,” he says.
“Because we now outsource a lot of things like our memory and doing cognitive tasks to machines, we don’t develop general knowledge retention which is something that is measured on IQ tests.”
Dr Florio says another explanation could be “that we can’t improve forever”.
But do the decreasing results point to a decreasing intelligence?
Dr Florio isn’t convinced.
He says it may be that it’s not useful to have that kind of general knowledge memory any more, which means that the IQ test as we understand it may need to change.
More than one way to be ‘smart’
Children’s book author Davina Bell, who has researched alternative approaches to intelligence, sits firmly in the camp that argues there is more than one way to be intelligent.
She says she has long felt that creative pursuits were undervalued in traditional intelligence tests, an idea she’s explored in her latest children’s book, All the Ways to be Smart.
While researching for this book, Bell discovered the work of Harvard psychologist Howard Gardener and his theory of Multiple Intelligences.
“Gardener said that rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability we should see it as a series of modalities or abilities,” Bell says.
Gardener describes nine categories to measure intelligence, including bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, such as good hand-eye coordination, interpersonal intelligence, such as the ability to effectively communicate,and musical intelligence.
Bell wanted to create a book that honoured all nine ‘ways of being smart’, for example being ‘smart’ at drawing, interacting with others or being physically coordinated.
“The book offers a kind of validation,” Bell says.
“If you weren’t a traditionally smart person or if you had intelligence in other areas that perhaps weren’t recognised, maybe it provides a validation of your identity outside those traditional intelligences,” she says.
Dr Florio supports Gardener’s broader approach to intelligence, but says the academic community’s response to Gardener’s theory is mixed.
“I think Gardener’s theories are valid, there are lots and lots of other abilities,” Dr Florio says.
Although Dr Florio explains Gardener’s critics say his definition cannot be quantified and in the academic community some say it is not backed up by enough data.
Dr Florio believes there still is a place for the traditional IQ test when it comes to diagnosing conditions like autism, dyslexia and intellectual disabilities.
But, like Bell, he sees approaches like Gardener’s as offering a broader and more modern understanding of intelligence.
“Gardener was pointing out the limitations of the IQ test and the problems of focusing on one aspect. We are complex individuals,” he says.
During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns (traditional Chinese: 猜燈謎; simplified Chinese: 猜灯谜; pinyin: cāidēngmí). In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in the shape of animals. The lanterns can symbolize the people letting go of their past selves and getting new ones, which they will let go of the next year. The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune.
The festival acts as an Uposatha day on the Chinese calendar. It should not be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival; which is sometimes also known as the “Lantern Festival” in locations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Lantern Festivals have also become popular in Western countries, such as the Water Lantern Festival held in multiple locations in the United States. In London, the Magical Lantern Festival is held annually.
There are several beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival. However, its roots trace back more than 2,000 years ago and is popularly linked to the reign of Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty at the time when Buddhism was growing in China. Emperor Ming, an advocate of Buddhism, noticed Buddhist monks would light lanterns in temples on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. As a result, he ordered all households, temples and the imperial palace to light lanterns on that evening. From there it developed into a folk custom. Another likely origin is the celebration of “the declining darkness of winter” and community’s ability to “move about at night with human-made light,” namely, lanterns. During the Han dynasty, the festival was connected to Ti Yin, the deity of the North Star.
Red lanterns, often seen during the festivities in China
Taiwan Lantern Festival
There is one legend that states that it was a time to worship Taiyi, the God of Heaven in ancient times. The belief was that Taiyi controlled the destiny of the human world. He had sixteen dragons at his beck and call and he decided when to inflict drought, storms, famine or pestilence upon human beings. Beginning with Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, all the emperors ordered splendid ceremonies each year. The emperor would ask Taiyi to bring favorable weather and good health to him and his people.
Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty directed special attention to this event. In 104 BCE, he proclaimed it to be one of the most important celebrations and the ceremony would last throughout the night.
Another legend associates the Lantern Festival with Taoism. Tianguan is the Taoist deity responsible for good fortune. His birthday falls on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. It is said that Tianguan likes all types of entertainment, so followers prepare various kinds of activities during which they pray for good fortune.
Another legend associates with the Lantern Festival with an ancient warrior named Lan Moon, who led a rebellion against the tyrannical king in ancient China. He was killed in the storming of the city and the successful rebels commemorated the festival in his name.
Yet another common legend dealing with the origins of the Lantern Festival speaks of a beautiful crane that flew down to earth from heaven. After it landed on earth it was hunted and killed by some villagers. This angered the Jade Emperor in heaven because the crane was his favorite. So, he planned a storm of fire to destroy the village on the fifteenth lunar day. The Jade Emperor’s daughter warned the inhabitants of her father’s plan to destroy their village. The village was in turmoil because nobody knew how they could escape their imminent destruction. However, a wise man from another village suggested that every family should hang red lanterns around their houses, set up bonfires on the streets, and explode firecrackers on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth lunar days. This would give the village the appearance of being on fire to the Jade Emperor. On the fifteenth lunar day, troops sent down from heaven whose mission was to destroy the village saw that the village was already ablaze, and returned to heaven to report to the Jade Emperor. Satisfied, the Jade Emperor decided not to burn down the village. From that day on, people celebrate the anniversary on the fifteenth lunar day every year by carrying lanterns on the streets and exploding firecrackers and fireworks.
Another legend about the origins of Lantern Festival involves a maid named Yuan-Xiao. In the Han dynasty, Dongfang Shuo was a favorite adviser of the emperor. One winter day, he went to the garden and heard a little girl crying and getting ready to jump into a well to commit suicide. Shuo stopped her and asked why. She said she was Yuan-Xiao, a maid in the emperor’s palace and that she never had a chance to see her family since she started working there. If she could not have the chance to show her filial piety in this life, she would rather die. Shuo promised to find a way to reunite her with her family. Shuo left the palace and set up a fortune-telling stall on the street. Due to his reputation, many people asked for their fortunes to be told but everyone got the same prediction – a calamitous fire on the fifteenth lunar day. The rumor spread quickly.
Everyone was worried about the future so they asked Dongfang Shuo for help. Dongfang Shuo said that on the thirteenth lunar day, the God of Fire would send a fairy in red riding a black horse to burn down the city. When people saw the fairy they should ask for her mercy. On that day, Yuan-Xiao pretended to be the red fairy. When people asked for her help, she said that she had a copy of a decree from the God of Fire that should be taken to the emperor. After she left, people went to the palace to show the emperor the decree which stated that the capital city would burn down on the fifteenth. When the emperor asked Dongfang Shuo for advice, the latter said that the God of Fire liked to eat tangyuan (sweet dumplings). Yuan-Xiao should cook tangyuan on the fifteenth lunar day and the emperor should order every house to prepare tangyuan to worship the God of Fire at the same time. Also, every house in the city should hang red lantern and explode fire crackers. Lastly, everyone in the palace and people outside the city should carry their lanterns on the street to watch the lantern decorations and fireworks. The Jade Emperor would be deceived and everyone would avoid the disastrous fire.
The emperor happily followed the plan. Lanterns were everywhere in the capital city on the night of the fifteenth lunar day and people were walking on the street and there were noisy firecrackers. It looked as if the entire city was on fire. Yuan-Xiao’s parents went into the palace to watch the lantern decorations and were reunited with their daughter. The emperor decreed that people should do the same thing every year. Since Yuan-Xiao cooked the best tangyuan, people called the day Yuan-Xiao Festival.
For each Festival celebrated, a switch in the Chinese Zodiac takes place. If this year is the year of the cow, the next will be the year of the tiger.
In the early days, young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples. The brightest lanterns were symbolic of good luck and hope. As time has passed, the festival no longer has such implications in most of Mainland China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong.
Eaten during the Lantern Festival, tangyuan ‘湯圓’ (Southern China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia) or yuanxiao ‘元宵’ (Northern China) is a glutinous rice ball typically filled with sweet red bean paste, sesame paste, or peanut butter. Actually, tangyuan is different from yuanxiao due to different manual making and filling processes. It can be boiled, fried or steamed, each has independent taste. However, they are very similar in shape and taste, so most people do not distinguish them for convenience and consider them as the same thing. Chinese people believe that the round shape of the balls and the bowls in which they are served symbolize family togetherness, and that eating tangyuan or yuanxiao may bring the family harmony, happiness and luck in the new year.
Until the Sui dynasty in the sixth century, Emperor Yang invited envoys from other countries to China to see the colourful lighted lanterns and enjoy the gala performances.
By the beginning of the Tang dynasty in the seventh century, the lantern displays would last three days. The emperor also lifted the curfew, allowing the people to enjoy the festive lanterns day and night. It is not difficult to find Chinese poems which describe this happy scene.
In the Song dynasty, the festival was celebrated for five days and the activities began to spread to many of the big cities in China. Colorful glass and even jade were used to make lanterns, with figures from folk tales painted on the lanterns.
However, the largest Lantern Festival celebration took place in the early part of the 15th century. The festivities continued for ten days. The Yongle Emperor had the downtown area set aside as a center for displaying the lanterns. Even today, there is a place in Beijing called Dengshikou. In Chinese, deng means lantern and shi is market. The area became a market where lanterns were sold during the day. In the evening, the local people would go there to see the beautiful lighted lanterns on display.
Today, the displaying of lanterns is still a major event on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month throughout China. Chengdu in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, for example, holds a lantern fair each year in Culture Park. During the Lantern Festival, the park is a virtual ocean of lanterns. Many new designs attract large numbers of visitors. The most eye-catching lantern is the Dragon Pole. This is a lantern in the shape of a golden dragon, spiraling up a 38-meter-high pole, spewing fireworks from its mouth. Cities such as Hangzhou and Shanghai have adopted electric and neon lanterns, which can often be seen beside their traditional paper or wooden counterparts. Another popular activity at this festival is guessing lantern riddles (which became part of the festival during the Tang dynasty). These often contain messages of good fortune, family reunion, abundant harvest, prosperity and love. Just like the pumpkin carved into jack-o’-lantern for Halloween in the western world, Asian parents sometime teach their children to carve empty the inner tubing of Oriental radish /mooli/ daikon into a Cai-Tou-Lantern (traditional Chinese: 營菜頭燈; simplified Chinese: 营菜头灯; pinyin: yíng cai tóu dēng) for the Festival.
This painting, by an imperial court painter in 1485, depicts the Chenghua Emperor enjoying the festivities with families in the Forbidden City during the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival. It includes acrobatic performances, operas, magic shows and setting off firecrackers.
Lion dance (舞獅), walk on stilts (踩高蹺), riddle games (猜燈謎), dragon dance (耍龍燈) are very popular during lantern festival.
The lantern riddle, according to Japanese scholars, became popular as early as the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1126). The lantern riddles are done by a host blocking one side of the lantern and pasting riddles on the remaining three sides of the lanterns. Participants will guess the blocked side by solving the riddles, which is called “breaking/solving lantern riddles”. The theme of riddles can be drawn from classics, biographies, poetry, the various philosophers’ well-known stories and novels, proverbs, (the names of) all kinds of birds, animals, and insects, as well as flowers, grasses, vegetables, and herbs. Participants can tear off the riddle of the lantern and let the host verify their answers. Those who answer the correct answer can get a “riddle reward”, including ink, paper, writing brushes, ink slabs, fans, perfumed sachets, fruit, or eatables.
Hormonal changes during menstruation and pregnancy
Infection or injury to a blood vessel, blood clots, or varicose veins
Blocked lymph channels (lymphedema)
Allergies to food or insect bites
Kidney, heart, liver, or thyroid disease
High or low blood pressure
Eating salty foods
Brain tumor or head injury
Exposure to high altitudes or heat, especially when combined with heavy physical exertion
What to Expect at Your Doctor’s Office
Your health care provider will look for varicose veins, blood clots, wounds, or infections. An x-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), urine test, or blood test may be necessary. Pulmonary edema, which occurs when fluid builds up in the lungs, can be caused by other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or by climbing at high altitudes. It can be life threatening and may require hospitalization.
Treatment may involve using compression bandages and pressure sleeves tightened over swollen limbs to help force the body to reabsorb the fluid. Other options include a salt reduction diet, daily exercise, resting with legs elevated above the heart level, wearing support hose, taking a diuretic, and massage.
Medication for your underlying disorder. Talk to your health care provider.
Diuretics. For example, loop diuretics or potassium-sparing diuretics. These medicines reduce body fluid levels, but they also deplete important vitamins and minerals, which can result in loss of bone mass. Diuretics may have several other possibly serious side effects.
Surgery may be needed to remove fat and fluid deposits associated with a type of edema called lipedema, or to repair damaged veins or lymphatic glands to reestablish lymph and blood flow.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
The following nutritional and herbal support guidelines may help relieve edema, but the underlying cause must be addressed. Tell your health care provider about any complementary or alternative therapies (CAM) you are considering. If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, do not use any CAM therapies unless directed to do so by your physician.Nutrition and Supplements
Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
Eliminate suspected food allergens, such as dairy (milk, cheese, and ice cream), wheat (gluten), soy, corn, preservatives, and chemical food additives. Your provider may want to test you for food allergies.
Reduce salt intake. If you are taking diuretics, your doctor should give you specific instructions about salt intake.
Eat foods high in B-vitamins and iron, such as whole grains (if no allergy), dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), and sea vegetables. If you are taking certain diuretics, your provider may give you specific instructions about getting different nutrients into your diet, such as potassium and/or potassium potassium restrictions. Potassium is in many vegetables. Follow your provider’s instructions strictly.
Eat natural diuretic vegetables, including asparagus, parsley, beets, grapes, green beans, leafy greens, pineapple, pumpkin, onion, leeks, and garlic. Some of these foods may interact with diuretic medications.
Eat antioxidant foods, such as blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers.
Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.
Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy, if no allergy), or beans for protein.
Use healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil.
Reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids, found in commercially-baked goods, such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.
Avoid alcohol, and tobacco.
Exercise lightly 5 days a week if your health care provider says you can.
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
A multivitamin daily, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins, and trace minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium. Many multivitamins contain calcium and potassium, two minerals your doctor may want you to avoid in large quantities if you are taking certain types of medications. Talk to your provider.
Vitamin C, as an antioxidant.
If you use diuretics, your doctor may have you take potassium aspartate (20 mg per day), since diuretics flush out potassium from the body and cause a deficiency. DO NOT take extra potassium without informing your doctor. Some diuretics do the opposite and cause potassium to accumulate in the body.
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body’s systems although they can interact with many medications and have certain side effects. As with any therapy, you should work with your doctor to determine the best and safest herbal therapies for your case before starting treatment, and always tell your provider about any herbs you may be taking. If you are pregnant or nursing, do not use herbs except under the supervision of a provider knowledgeable in herbal therapies. Your doctor may need to strictly monitor your potassium levels if you take certain types of diuretics, and some herbs may be naturally high in potassium. You should not use herbal remedies without first consulting your physician. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Bilberry ( Vaccinium myrtillus ) standardized extract, for antioxidant support. DO NOT use bilberry if you are on blood-thinning medications.
Dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale ). Dandelion leaf is itself a diuretic, so it should not be used while taking diuretic medications. Speak with your doctor. DO NOT use dandelion if you have gall bladder disease, take blood-thinning medications, or have allergies to many plants. Dandelion can interact with many medications, including antibiotics and lithium. Talk to your provider.
Grape seed extract ( Vitis vinifera ), standardized extract, for antioxidant support. Evidence suggests that using grape seed extract may improve chronic venous insufficiency, which causes swelling when blood pools in the legs. Grape seed can interact with some medicines, including blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin).
Dry skin brushing. Before bathing, briskly brush the surface of the skin with a rough washcloth, loofa, or soft brush. Begin at your feet and work up. Always stroke in the direction of your heart.
Cold made with yarrow tea.
Contrast hydrotherapy involves alternating hot and cold applications. Alternate 3 minutes hot with 1 minute cold. Repeat 3 times to complete one set. Do 2 to 3 sets per day for a short term only. Check with your provider to make sure your heart is strong enough for this therapy.
Put a pillow under your legs when you’re lying down.
Wear support stockings, which you can buy at most drugstores.
Acupuncture may improve fluid balance.Massage
Therapeutic massage can help lymph nodes drain.
Excessive fluid retention during pregnancy (toxemia) is potentially dangerous to both you and your baby.
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Clement DL. Management of venous edema: insights from an international task force. Angiology . 2000;51:13-17.
Hansell DM, Armstrong P, Lynch DA, et al. Imaging of Diseases of the Chest . 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2005.
Haritoglou C, Gerss J, Hammes HP, et al. Alpha-lipoic acid for the prevention of diabetic macular edema. Ophthalmologica . 2011;226(3):127-37.
Kiesewetter H, Koscielny J, Kalus U, et al. Efficacy of orally administered extract of red vine leaf AS 195 (folia vitis viniferae) in chronic venous insufficiency (stages I-II). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arzneimittelforschung . 2000;50:109-17.
Ma L, Lin S, Chen R, et al. Treatment of moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome with Vitex agnus castus (BNO 1095) in Chinese women. Gynecol Endocrinol . 2010;26(8):612-6.
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