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MOTHER'S ILLNESS SPARKS SON’S LOVE OF BUTTERFLIES: In 1954, Michael McCarthy's mother was committed to an asylum when he was seven years old, and he was sent to live with his aunt.

With the departure of his mother, Norah, McCarthy disappeared into his own world.

Then one bright Sunday morning playing in his aunt's garden in Merseyside, in north west England, he encountered a tall buddleia bush alive with butterflies. He observed red admirals, peacocks, painted ladies and small tortoiseshells — like jewels in the dazzling sun.

The small boy was mesmerized: "Butterflies entered my soul," he recalls.

Norah regained her health. And during his adolescence McCarthy began to bond with his mother, sharing a love of poetry. Her generous spirit won him over. He hesitantly confided in her about a love affair. She seemed to understand fully, and they grew even closer.

Now 30 years after her death, McCarthy tells the story of his troubled childhood in his new book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy.

But the book is only partly memoir, The Moth Snowstorm is an impassioned case for nature, told through his adventures as environment correspondent of The Times and later as environment editor of The Independent.

In one heart-breaking chapter entitled, "The Great Thinning," he describes how the English countryside has lost 50 per cent of its biodiversity in his lifetime.

McCarthy wants us to defend nature by bonding with it. By understanding that our ancient link with the natural world is part of our essence – the natural home for our psyches.

He argues that we all have the capacity to experience hope and joy in nature. Should we lose it, he writes, "We would find true peace impossible."

 


 

YOGA ATTRACTS MORE OLDER ADULTS: Strength, flexibility and self-care. These are the reasons more people than ever are choosing to practice yoga.

A study by researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, found older adults pursued yoga as a way to prevent or reduce the symptoms of chronic illness and reduce stress.

Women, in particular, used yoga to try to prevent osteoporosis and slow bone density loss.

In contrast, middle-aged persons engaged in yoga to increase muscle strength and for weight loss.

Additionally, participants talked about the balancing effects of yoga in daily life. As Philip, 53, put it, "If you have yoga, you can hopefully go with the flow with other parts of your life."

Yoga sessions also offered practitioners opportunities to meet like-minded people and a space to experience a sense of community.

Many felt that private yoga studios were too expensive. Several of the participants went to community centres to keep the costs down.

On and Off the Mat : Yoga Experiences of Middle-Aged and Older Adults appeared in the June, 2016 issue of the Canadian Journal on Aging.

 


 

PHYSICIAN EMBRACES DEMENTIA: Dr. Jennifer Bute was running a busy general practice in Somerset, England, when she noticed she was becoming forgetful.

She was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in her late 50s, but she was determined to find practical ways of living with the disease. "You live with dementia," she says. "You don't suffer it."

Writing in the Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging, she notes, "We should look at the person with dementia not as a 'damaged' person, but as someone who is loved by God."

Dr. Bute has released videos, offering tips for families and health professionals, as well as a wide a range of activities suitable for all stages of the disease.

 


 

SHINING EXAMPLES OF LIVING WITH PURPOSE: Jamel Joseph, co-founder of the IMPACT Repertory Theatre in Harlem, encourages teenagers to use their personal experiences to create art and change the community around them.

The film professor spent a large part of his own teenage years behind bars.

Last February, Joseph, 62, was awarded the Purpose Prize in recognition of his work.

The Purpose Prize was created by Encore.org, a U.S. nonprofit organization, focused on mobilizing the talents and experiences of individuals over the age of 60.

Now in its 10th year, the Purpose Prize has garnered nearly 10,000 nominations and awarded more than $5 million to over 500 individuals. The awards are funded by the John Templeton Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

This year, six individuals received combined awards amounting to $225,000.

Dr. Samuel Lupin, 77, won for Intergenerational Collaboration. In partnership with his son-in-law and grandson, he modernized the traditional doctor's house call, creating Housecalls for the Homebound. Housecalls has brought medical care to more than 4,000 patients in the greater New York City area.

And Belle Mickelson, 67, an Episcopal priest and former science teacher, received a $25,000 Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Impact. Mickelson launched Dancing With the Spirit in 2006. The program travels to isolated parts of Alaska, bringing together Native Alaskan elders and young people to share music and stories.