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THE BEST GRAN IN THE LAND: A 71-year-old Cork woman, who used to make up stories to encourage her granddaughter to eat her porridge, was crowned Ireland’s Grandparent of the Year in Dublin on Sept. 25, 2011.

Pauline O’Regan was nominated for the prize by her 10-year-old granddaughter Emelia Deane, who described her as "the best gran in the world."

Emelia said she felt close to her grandmother despite the gap in years between them and the fact that they lived far apart. "She’s very kind and thoughtful and she used to make up lots of stories about a girl called Mary Ellen so that I’d eat all the food I don’t like."

O’Regan said, "It was a shock but also a lovely surprise to find out that my granddaughter thought so highly of me as to enter my name for the competition."



SEND IN THE FLUTE AND YAYLI TANBUR: The patient who has undergone vascular surgery relaxes as the anaesthetist plays a popular Turkish song on the yayli tanbur. His colleague pulls out the flute.

The physician monitors the patient’s pulse and blood pressure on the screen.

Dr. Erol Can, chief anaesthetist in the intensive care unit at Memorial Hospital in Istanbul, first discovered music therapy when he worked in a Sofia hospital in his native Bulgaria.

When he emigrated to Turkey in 1996, he began to replace the recorded music with live instruments.

"I learned to play the ney flute in order to play the kind of music that was used in traditional music therapy hundreds of years ago, making use of the psychological and physiological effects of the makam."

The makam is a musical mode unique to classic Arabic and Turkish music. Its use as a form of medical treatment is not new. In fact, playing ancient Arabesque scales and patterns is a form of traditional Islamic medicine that is almost 1,000 years old. There is a different makam for every illness and every health problem.

But the doctors stress music is no substitute for conventional medical treatment. "It’s complementary treatment," says Dr. Bingur Sönmez. "Without having to prescribe additional drugs, five to 10 minutes of a certain musical piece lowers the heart rate and blood pressure."

Can says, "We have been using makams for five years in our department." They are convinced the traditional musical cures are producing results.



TEENS HELP OLDER ADULTS MOVE ONLINE: Doreen Burton, 75, arranges the photographs of her late husband on the table. Some of them date as far back as the 1950s. In one, he is posing with his football team, and another shows him wearing the uniform of the Royal Signals when he did his national service. It is a record of the family’s history that she wants to pass along to her children and grandchildren.

She gathers the photographs together and heads for the activities room at South Lodge care home in Leicester, England. There, with the help of two 16-year-old boys from St. Paul’s Catholic school, she scans in the pictures; types out the memories that accompany them and uploads them to a social network for older adults.

The weekly sessions are part of Adopt a Care Home. The program is the brainchild of Lilla Harris, a former nurse and care home manager. Harris, with her partner Howard Bashford, founded the award-winning website Finerday. The free network is designed to encourage older people to share experiences, pictures and memories with family and friends online.

So far, almost 40 schools have signed up for Adopt a Care Home. They are expecting another 100 to join by the end of the school year.



NEVER THINK THINGS ARE OVER: Jan Slepian still can’t believe it.

When Slepian moved to a retirement community in Maplewood, NJ, a decade ago, the former children’s book writer began to pen pieces about aging for the Winchester Garden’s community newsletter.

In 2009, Slepian pulled 20 of her short essays together in a book entitled: Astonishment: Life in the Slow Lane. The slim self-published volume hit a nerve and the author has been doing the retirement home circuit ever since.

Last January, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theater adapted her book for the stage. Astonishment is a staged reading with simple backdrops painted by illustrator Laura Schreiber. The show’s debut coincided with Slepian’s 90th birthday. And attracted sold out crowds at the Dreamcatcher’s theater in South Orange and at Union County College.

"My strong feeling is that, who would have dreamed that at my age I would have a successful book and theatrical production?" Slepian said.

"One should never think things are over," she added. "If you think that the excitement and the newness of something coming along are long gone, then I want you to listen and be heartened by this."