Senior Station fitness guru – Sajeda Akbarally.

Sajeda Akbarally has been a fitness trainer and consultant at Lifestyle Fitness Lanka Pvt Ltd for about 15 years, training men, women and seniors in various exercise modes, and conducting fitness assessments and consultations.  Sajeda has conducted group classes specifically for seniors, focusing on the key areas of balance, strength and flexibility.  She advocates regular exercise in order to maintain a healthy body and mind. With the aging process the muscle mass and bone density in our bodies is reduced, making it increasingly difficult to exercise. Those who are able to keep up with a modest exercise regime find the greatest benefits to their daily lives.

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“I did what I loved, and fell in love with what I did”

– Inspiring story of Madhuri Mody –

When Madhuri Mody smiles, her eyes twinkle and light up. She’s one of those people who exudes energy and enthusiasm that can mesmerize you. When asked to summarize her life, she smiled and said “Mine can be described as a beautiful life because I did what I loved and fell in love with what I did.”

We at the Senior Station spent a breezy Friday morning photographing Madhuri, who generously agreed to model for our page. While speaking to her about her life we realized very soon that Madhuri’s was a story truly worth sharing….

“I have spent 52 years of my life in Sri Lanka. And I am now a Sri Lankan citizen. So I guess that makes me more Sri Lankan (the country of her birth is India),” she says beaming. “While my growing years were indeed the most exciting, I think that my time spent in Sri Lanka has been the most fulfilling.

I was born in a little town called Nasik, which is located at the foothills of the Western Ghats mountain range, about 150 km East of Mumbai. It was an idyllic and innocent life, typical for any small town child. Cocooned in the protection of an indulgent extended family which included my parents, brother, four sisters, aunts and many cousins, my days were filled with play and laughter. All the children went to the town school which could best be described as a small building with a few rooms. However even then, I knew there were bigger and better things in store for me.  I must say that I owe much to my father who encouraged me to pursue my every dream. When I was in the seventh grade I asked my father for a bicycle. He agreed to get me one, on one condition – that I would come first in class. The day I peddled to school on my brand new bicycle, I felt a gush of pride because I had won a hard earned prize. A passion for achievement began to bloom within my heart and I suddenly started to see opportunities everywhere I looked. Sanskrit was introduced in to our school about that time and I threw myself in to the subject. Not long after, I entered into a Sanskrit speaking competition and gave a speech entirely in Sanskrit on a national hero, Bal Gangadhar Tilak. I came third in the district!

The first major turning point in my life came when my family moved to Mumbai. To my young mind, the enormity of decision to move to this great metropolis was an eye opener and provided me with exposure to the larger world. Perhaps Mumbai then was far quieter than the overcrowded megapolis it is today, but for me, a little small town girl, it was an incredibly exciting new world. I enrolled myself in classes near my home where I was introduced to yoga and participated in a range of sports such as hockey and badminton. In college I thoroughly enjoyed sports and excelled in them all, playing inter college matches, and was the goal keeper of the hockey team. I think it was through sports that my personality truly blossomed and I never looked back.

One day I heard about the Bhosle Military School which ran regular military training camps for boys and girls. I convinced my cousin to cycle with me to the academy to collect a set of enrollment forms. It was almost 7 kilometers away from Nasik! My family members were furious when they found out that one of their girls wanted to undertake military training. However, once again my father took my side and supported me. I was able to attend a 20 day camp in which I was trained in archery, rifle shooting, horse riding and other military exercises. It was an exhilarating experience and inspired me to enroll in the NCC (National Cadet Corps). My moment of pride was when I was one amongst just eight girls who were selected to represent the State of Maharashtra at the annual Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.

The Republic Day Parade is perhaps the largest public event in India in which all states compete in cultural and military displays. That year, Maharashtra won first place in the parade and to my astonishment and delight I was chosen to collect the trophy from the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Oh what a special moment that was! The joy and pride I felt cannot be described in words. That moment will always be etched in my memory.

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My mother was the person who taught me the skills that a young woman needed. I soon grew in to a young woman of marriageable age and finding a good alliance for me preoccupied my parents and other elders in the family. I was presented with many fine suitors and whilst I knew marriage was inevitable, I turned every proposal down for the fear of my dreams being stifled within the confines of married life.  But all that resistance changed the day I met Kirti.

Kirti was different from all the men I had met. I wouldn’t say my heart went in to a flutter when I saw him. He was tall, but not really handsome. There was however, a pleasantness about him. He was intelligent, kind and humorous – very solid in a quiet sort of way. He came from a family that was learned, well traveled and in many ways very progressive. My father had learnt that society in Sri Lanka allowed many more freedoms for women and knowing my strong headed ways, advised me that perhaps this would be the ideal match for me.  Things moved very quickly from there and before I knew it, I was married to Kirti and moved to Sri Lanka. The second big turning point in my life!

Sri Lanka was a whole new learning experience for me. I don’t think I would have found it easy to adjust if not for absolute support I got from my new family and most of all from Kirti. My big disappointment however, came when my father-in-law refused to allow me to work in the family business. I decided instead of feeling sorry for myself, I would find other ways to spread my wings. I took up various crafts, and learnt the local language and as much as I could about Sri Lanka. I learnt about Ayurveda and acupuncture and almost became professional in the fields. However, not too long after marriage, my son Sandeep, and then daughter Deepali, came along and consumed all my time and attention.

It was being married to Kirti though, that made everything perfect. He was a truly noble man. He was a wonderful father and husband.  My children doted over him and I felt completely secure in his care. Kirti recognized my many talents and encouraged me to use them. I participated in the activities of the Gujarati Mandal in Colombo where I taught Indian dancing, which I learnt in my youth. I also was one of the founders of the Sri Lanka chapter of the Chinmaya Mission which promotes the study of ancient Vedic scriptures. You could say I am a spiritual explorer, and was interested in ways to connect with the divine. This interest cuts across religions. For example, ever since I was young, I have been interested in Sufi philosophy and many other spiritual teachers.

At 56, I faced the most dramatic and traumatic turning point in my life. In 1996 Kirti was struck with cancer and after two heartbreaking years he left us. My world was shattered! My soul mate, my mentor and my dearest friend and husband was gone. I felt completely crushed and thought I would never survive without him. But I found the courage largely thanks to my children as well as a final letter from Kirti encouraging me to stay strong and independent. I especially drew a lot of strength from my daughter Deepali who stayed rock solid by my side, though she refused to pamper me. Sometimes I resented that she would not step in to share in my responsibilities.  In hindsight I realized she was just helping me get strong again.

About this time, the family business and assets had been divided amongst the various family members. I took charge of Kirti’s share and restructured the business to make it more profitable. I managed the finances, negotiated new transaction terms and sorted out all the tax and legal issues that arose from Kirti’s passing away. It was no easy task for me as I was not well versed with the business and therefore I was particularly proud of how I executed it all.

After Kirti passed away, I learnt to reinvent myself personally as well. I made new friends and looked at new ways to grow intellectually and spiritually. I was one of the early members of the Theosophical Society as well as the SAARC Women’s Organization. I still dance at Gujarati Festivals and am learning to play the harmonium. I am also very closely involved with charitable institutions that helps those who are suicidal and suffer from deep emotional distress. Otherwise I fill my days with reading authors like Deepak Chopra, Vimala Thakker, Kambiz Naficy, J Krishnamurthi, and the publications of the Chinmaya Mission. I also enjoy being connected with friends through What’s App and emails.

A friend has nicknamed me ‘Ever-ready’. I suppose it’s because I am always willing to try something new.   I guess I am just trying to keep my life meaningful.”

-As narrated by Madhuri Mody

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Our Personal Ecosystem

Our Personal Ecosystems Age as We Do

Did you know that your body is actually a living ecosystem that support trillions of lives! That’s right. Each of us host trillions of microbes inside as well as on the surface of our body that not only live off us, but also contribute to our well- being. What’s more, our personal ecosystem or microbiome is unique to us very much like our fingerprints.

The study of the human microbiome is gaining huge momentum. Researchers are particularly interested in the microbes within the gut or stomach. These little organisms that live in the lining of our stomachs and intestinal tract have a very important job to do in keeping us healthy, as they are essential to digestion.  Research shows that they:

  • Produce vitamins K, B7 (biotin), and B12
  • Help regulate appetite
  • Help control inflammation
  • Help control cholesterol
  • Stimulate the immune system
  • Are involved in production of 90% of your serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter

An imbalance in the mix of bacteria living in the intestinal tract or a shortfall of certain microbes has been linked to obesity, depression, and chronic diseases, from heart disease to diabetes.

Studies show that the ecosystem we support ages as we do!

By the time you were three years old, your digestive tract, especially your colon, was home to a community of diverse bacteria. Some of those microbes got there from your mother as you passed through her birth canal. If you were breastfed, you accumulated even more. And you picked up some bugs from your environment as you played with other kids, petted the cat and made mud pies in the dirt. Research has shown that keeping clean is important. However, keeping your environment overly sanitized might actually work against you.

As a healthy adult, the bacterial ecosystem that is unique to you is well established and fairly stable. However, those bugs can take a beating when you take antibiotics to treat an infection or eat a high-sugar, low-fiber diet of processed foods. The chemicals in the packaged food we eat, is harmful to us and the microbes in our gut.

By the time your hair turns gray and your joints begin to stiffen, your microbiome has changed considerably. In your senior years, your microbiome bears little resemblance to the one of your youth.

Although researchers haven’t pinpointed exactly how aging changes your intestinal flora, they do know that certain factors can be damaging:

  • Your intestinal tract has its own nervous system with as many nerve cells as your spinal cord. It’s not clear how the gut and the bacteria within it interact with the brain, but scientists know that chronic stress disrupts neural communication. Experts suspect an unhealthy mix of gut bacteria could also contribute to depression.
  • A high-fat, high-sugar diet that is low in natural fiber does not support bacteria in the colon. These bacteria need fiber (got from fruit and vegetables) to create inflammation-fighting fatty acids. A poor dietary mix causes many of these bacteria to be depleted and is the reason for many of the diseases of aging.
  • A diverse mix of healthy bacteria requires a diverse diet. We tend to buy and eat the few standard fruit and vegetables available at supermarkets which reduce the number of types of bacteria present in our digestion system.
  • Gastrointestinal conditions that often occur in seniors such as diverticulitis, decreased saliva production, and tooth loss which also impact gut bacteria.

How do we keep our ecosystem or microbiome healthy as we age?

Here’s what you can do to boost the number and type of healthy bacteria in your tummy:

  • Eat different types of foods that are low in fat and sugar, and high in fiber diet. Eat as many season fruit and vegetables as you can and if possible eat home grown or organic produce.
  • Make small portions of fermented foods part of your daily diet. These foods help replenish your gut bacteria. These include curd, yogurt, cheese, pickles and acharus.
  • Practice stress relief — whatever technique is comfortable for you. Try meditation, or listening to soft, instrumental music.
  • Exercise daily. It not only helps relieve stress but also contributes to a robust population of gut bacteria.
  • Brush and floss regularly. Keeping your gums healthy and holding on to your teeth as you age allows you to eat a chewy and diverse, fiber-rich diet.
  • Don’t take antibiotics unnecessarily. And, if you do, replenish your gut bacteria with fermented foods and possibly a probiotic supplement. Clinical trials show that taking a probiotic with the antibiotic reduces the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

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A Parody – To the Dengue Mosquito

Dengue mossie did you midss your direction

From the clean drain water when you flew

 take an U -turn in search of a bite

Pet dog Toby who could not stop you has no wings to fly

To save his little buddy from the sting

You broke into a family fast asleep

The day went by and the youngest a burning fever

Ambulance ride as if in a dream

Ended up on a hospital bed family distraught

God could not have created you

You are an Intruder

Just fold your wings

Get lost! Scram and don’t ever come back

I cannot take my revenge!

I am an Avenger!

For it was my innocent

Lovable Grandson you bit!

And I cannot get you!

                                                       -Dawn Fernando

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Our first writer’s testimonial-

Me a writer? My fascination for words amazed my parents at a very young age- No training but one day I discovered my talent and soon I was a free lance journalist. I joined a writers group, met my old friend Christine Wilson who became my role model. She encouraged me and I published my short story book- Sunrise- Sunset, and now my second book. When God gives you a talent don’t let it blow in the wind.

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Who we are…

Our seniors’ golden years should be celebrated. It is a moment to look back with pride at all that they have achieved and use this opportunity to make the best of all they have to offer…

We are two friends who often despaired that so little was available for our elders in terms of information, facilities and most importantly activities. Often we’d encounter problems which we couldn’t find ready solutions to and there seemed to be precious few places that we could turn to for advice or assistance.

What was missing, we felt, was a common platform or meeting space for seniors, their families, and caregivers to share experiences and receive information about the issues and challenges facing our senior citizens today. And from this need evolved the idea of ‘The Senior Station’ – an online space dedicated to seniors and their caregivers where we could talk about all that’s out there from health and well being to entertainment, and everything in between.

So, if you consider yourself a ‘senior’, or if you have an elderly person in your care, then please join us at ‘The Senior Station’. If you have any information, advice or practical tips that you feel would be useful to others like you, then we urge you to share them via this page. If you are an individual or part of an organization that is already providing services or facilities for elders, then The Senior Station is the place where these can be shared, promoted or advertised for our members to benefit from, enjoy or be entertained.

Finally, if you have ideas in the area of elder care that you would like to see implemented then please do send us a message. We are always on the lookout for resources that could help implement good suggestions. And if you would like to volunteer or join us, please don’t hesitate to contact us because we believe that this is a truly worthwhile cause that will require a great many to contribute their effort, time and resources to.

So do tune into ‘The Senior Station’. A space specially dedicated all the amazing seniors amongst us.