Master the arts of aging well

A few months ago, I said, "I need your help." I was in the early stages of designing an online (computer-based) course containing health-related information.

I envisioned five modules — a no-cost, Web-based version and a fee-required, faculty-interactive version. The latter would lead to a "Mastery of Aging Well" certificate.

I asked you to respond to a survey telling me whether these were the right topics: "Memory Difficulties," "Depression in Later Life," "Medication Jeopardy," "Food as Medicine (Nutrition)" and "Physical Activity and Exercise."

And almost every one of the more than 300 respondents said they were (quiet hurrah!). The vast majority wanted the free, Web-based approach (not surprisingly), but about 8 percent were interested in actually taking this as a series of courses. Some of you had trouble accessing the "tiny url" that housed the survey (I'm so sorry about that), but the problem-solution process you used was actually good for your memory. "Pushing" ourselves mentally strengthens our thinking process.

Developing an online series is something I'd never done before. In a word — "whew."

It's been labor-intensive — but it's moved along quite well. With the help of great peer reviewers and the design experts on the OSU campus, who know how to make research-based content totally engaging, a very interesting product is coming out of the chute.

So — here I am again. Not really asking for help this time, but inviting you to a sneak preview of the Mastery of Aging Well series. It will happen on March 23 in the OSU Extension auditorium (569 Hanley Road, just off the Jacksonville Highway). Two sessions, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Call 776-7371 for details and to let us know you're coming. You can just drop in, of course, but it's sometimes nice, when company is coming — to know what to expect. There's no charge and we will have snacks (foods that improve memory). I'm also including a drawing for Harry and David gift certificates.

A few of the attractive, aging adults who agreed to "star" in the video portion of this online series will tell you the "back story." I think it will be fun — join me if you're available. I'll talk about some of the more fascinating things I discovered as I dug deeply into each topic. Let me give you a little sneak preview right now.

With the memory course I came to realize more about "brain food" (a hint: think red, purple, deep blue and dark green). I learned about a Web site called and another that offers a "brain tour" ( Regarding later-in-life depression, I became acquainted with the newly-approved Food and Drug Administration treatment for depression (transcranial stimulation) and the unexpected symptoms of this kind of depression. With medications, I discovered there's actually a secret to minimizing the likely side effects of medicines.

After working with an exercise physiologist, I'm better acquainted with how to exercise for specific disease conditions. (Andy Baxter of Baxter Fitness and Bill Macy at Avamere were invaluable in that regard.)

There's more. That's why I'm calling this a sneak preview "¦ it's just the beginning of mastering this business of getting older and better.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.

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