Redefining Aging: How You and Your Dog Can Grow Young Together #23

#canine #debono moves aging feldenkrais method Jun 04, 2024

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Ever wondered if aging has to mean an inevitable decline for you and your dog? Discover how adopting a positive mindset and gentle methods such as Debono Moves can revolutionize the aging process for both you and your canine companion. Drawing from insights in "Grow Young With Your Dog," we debunk common misconceptions about aging and explore how providing your nervous system with proof that improvement is possible can transform lives. Imagine feeling more agile, youthful, and vibrant as the years go by—it's entirely within reach.

Discover how introducing novelty and variation into our routines can stimulate neuroplasticity, slow down time, and promote healthy aging for you and your dog. This episode is a treasure trove of insights for anyone eager to redefine what it means to grow older.


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All information is for general educational purposes ONLY and doesn't constitute medical or veterinary advice. Please consult a qualified healthcare provider if you or your dog are unwell or injured. 

Aging is a natural process, one that is often met with trepidation and an assumption of inevitable decline. However, the latest episode of our podcast, "Redefining Aging: How You and Your Dog Can Grow Young Together," challenges this belief, offering a refreshing perspective on how we can approach aging with vitality and enthusiasm, alongside our canine companions.

The discussion begins with an exploration of the Feldenkrais method, a holistic approach to movement that encourages us to work with our bodies and our pets' bodies in more efficient and gentle ways. The method is based on the principle that the body and mind are interconnected, and by improving movement, we can also enhance our overall well-being. It's about fostering an environment where improvement is not only possible but expected, regardless of age.

One of the most profound takeaways from the episode is the concept of "compassionate curiosity." This mindset encourages us to look at ourselves and our pets with kindness and a genuine desire to understand and improve our current state. It's about embracing challenges as opportunities for growth rather than signs of decline. The episode shares an inspiring tale of a 96-year-old doctor pursuing his third PhD, illustrating that learning and growth can continue throughout our entire lives, a lesson we can apply to our interactions with our aging pets.

Another key topic addressed is mental resilience. The podcast recounts the host's personal story of her father's remarkable recovery from a severe injury at 94. His determination and positive mindset not only led to a physical recovery but also demonstrated an undeniable youthfulness of spirit. This resilience is a quality we can cultivate within ourselves and encourage in our pets as we both navigate the aging process.

The episode also emphasizes the importance of introducing novelty and variation into our routines. Such changes can stimulate neuroplasticity, which contributes to a healthy aging process by forming new neural connections and creating fresh movement opportunities. It's about breaking the monotony and embracing change, which can lead to a slower perception of time and a richer life experience. This is applicable to our dogs, too, who can benefit from varied walks, different play routines, and new learning activities like nose work.

Finally, the concept of play and its relationship to a youthful spirit is discussed. Play isn't just for puppies; it's a lifelong necessity that keeps both humans and dogs engaged, happy, and mentally stimulated. Whether it's adapting play routines to suit an older dog's abilities or finding new ways to enjoy time together, play is a crucial element in maintaining a youthful outlook for both you and your pet.

Throughout the episode, the overarching message is clear: aging doesn't have to be a downward spiral. With the right mindset, techniques, and activities, we can grow young with our dogs, embracing each year as an opportunity to learn, thrive, and deepen our bond with our furry friends.

As we continue to redefine aging for ourselves and our pets, we realize that it's not just about adding years to life but also about adding life to those years. By implementing the strategies discussed in the podcast, we can foster a life filled with joy, growth, and boundless curiosity, regardless of the number on the birthday cake.

The conversation in this episode serves as a heartening reminder that with the right approach, we can cultivate an ageless spirit for ourselves and our canine companions. It encourages us to question our beliefs about aging and to embrace the journey with optimism and grace.


Today, I'd love to talk to you about aging. Now, it may not be everyone's favorite topic, but it might be on your mind whether you are concerned about your dog getting older and wondering what's ahead or how to cope with what your dog is experiencing right now, or maybe yourself. You know, I get a lot of people in my orbit,

so to speak, and they talk about, you know, how they feel really stiff and sore and they can't keep up with their dog, you know, because they're having their own issues with aging. So I wanna talk to you today about how we can redefine aging and have this process, this journey that we're taking through life to be a bit smoother,

a bit easier, and maybe a lot more fun at the same time. So, in case we're meeting for the first time, my name is Mary Debono and this is the Easier Movement, happier Dog's Podcast. So, yeah, aging. I actually wrote a book called Grow Young with Your Dog. And that book has done really well. I first published it 10 years ago,

and it continues to sell. And it was an Amazon number one bestseller, won a few awards. And what it's about is this idea that yes, aging happens, right thing, we get older, our dogs get older, but there's so many things we can do as the process unfolds to help ourselves and our dogs feel younger, to have more vitality,

to have greater mobility, flexibility, better balance, you know, all those good things that keep us feeling young. So let's talk about some common misconceptions about aging. A lot of people think that, you know, degeneration is just inevitable. Okay? So, and by the way, this what I'm talking about concerns you as well as your dog. So it's pretty interchangeable.

Of course, dogs have generally a shorter lifespan than us, unfortunately. So the aging process does take a different shape with them. So, but if you think about it, like I know when I was in my late twenties, right? I started already thinking that, oh, I have to expect these aches and pains because I'm getting older. 'cause at the time,

I did have a lot of aches and pains that actually started when I was a teenager, and they plagued me until I discovered or stumbled across something called the Feldenkrais Method, which then I took a deep dive in, went to school for four years to learn it, and I've been practicing it ever since. And that was more than 30 years ago. So,

you know, we have to think about that. So, so aging in many ways is relative, right? So I meet a lot of people, I've met a lot of people through my practice that have come to me with aches and pains, and again, have that same attitude that I had that, well, this is inevitable. You know, I am in my thirties for,

you know, it, I'll be 40. I have to expect this kind of wear and tear and, you know, breakdown, if you will. And I have to say that in so many ways, I feel younger now than I did when I was in my late twenties. And other people have told me the same thing. You know, I work with a woman who's 75.

She's amazing. She's incredibly fit, you know, active, you know, she's a big time hiker. She travels, she does all these things. And when I first met her almost 30 years ago, she was a lot, quote unquote older than she is now. She had a lot of aches and pains. She thought that they were just going to get worse.

But through, you know, helping her learn how she could take ownership, if you will, of how she moved, how she felt, right? She changed the trajectory of her life. And that's what I wanna do for you and your dog as well. So, so again, some misconceptions about aging involve. Like we just think, oh, it ha like once we start feeling stiff or sore or things start to,

you know, have issues, that it's all going to be downhill. And I have to say that based on my experience and the experience of many, many, many individuals, human and non-human that I've worked with, that doesn't have to be the case. Okay? There's a lot of precious things that come out of the aging process I might add as well.

So think about though, when you have a negative mindset around aging, if every birthday is like, oh, no, not, not another one, right? Think about what that does to you psychologically, but also physically. It's like you're telling your, your nervous system that things are going to get worse. I'm a big proponent of giving your nervous system evidence that things can get better,

okay? And to help train your brain to look for those things and to do more of those things, okay? So, you know, we have to remember that our brains are prediction making machines. So if we're telling ourselves over and over again that things get worse as we get older, well, what do you think's gonna happen? Right? But instead,

if we can give ourselves evidence, experiences that we can improve and we can improve our movement, for example, we can improve how we feel, we can improve how we think about things. Right now, you're giving your brain evidence that things can get better and aging is not as scary. Now luckily, our dogs are not encumbered by, at least as far as I know,

they're not encumbered by this constant chatter that we have in our own brains, like telling us things like, oh no, another birthday as it's such a negative thing. So they don't have that, which I find very, very helpful. So, you know, over the years I have worked with lots and lots of senior dogs, younger ones too, of course,

but many, many senior dogs that had different, different things going on with them. Some it was, they had a stroke, some they had really severe arthritis in the spine or the hips or the elbows or wherever others had, you know, injuries, knee ligament injuries, things like that, or muscle strain, or just overall stiffness. And you know,

I have to say, in so many ways, it's a lot easier to help your dog feel younger than to help another human feel younger, because the dog doesn't have all those preconceived notions that, oh no, things have to get worse. You know, then I'm getting older. So in some ways, they really have it a little bit better than us in that regard,

okay? But we can change our thinking around aging. We really can, we can change our thinking around it. And as we go through the rest of this episode together, I would love to share some ideas about how you can do that. So again, let, let me give you, so I just gave you a human story about how a woman who's now 75 is kind of younger than she was 30 years ago.

So let me give you a one about a dog. You know, there was a dog who, she was a senior dog, and she used to love to go on walks, loved, loved going on walks. And she would actually wake up her person every morning with, you know, she would wake her up to go for a walk, and the dog would already have the leash in her mouth,

like she was so excited to go on a walk. And then as she got older, she stopped wanting to go on walks. She stopped waking up her person in the morning with the leash in her mouth, and she had to really be coax to go on walks. And they got shorter and shorter. She seemed to just be happy lying in the sun in the yard.

And of course, the her person took her to the vet. And, you know, there wasn't anything that they could do medically, really. They, there wasn't anything really definitive, and she was on, you know, proper food and she had the right joint supplements and all the things they could do to support the dog, but, you know,

this is just kind of how she was. And it was just expected while she's getting older. And then this woman had heard about my work, and so she asked me to work with her dog. And it was really interesting because I was able to help this dog just have more flexibility in her back, okay? And it's a very gentle approach. And again,

I I, I introduced you to that approach in my book, grow Young with Your Dog. But I'll also link to the story about this dog. Oh, I did a blog post about it, so I will link to, to that in the show notes. So I really helped her feel like how she could use her back more effectively, which then freed up her legs to be more comfortable.

And, you know, it, it was, I didn't take away any arthritis that the dog had, but just by helping her learn to use her body in a different way, to distribute the effort of moving in a more equitable way, a more efficient way, the dog just perked up. It's like she felt so much better, and the very next morning she came to the bed in the morning with a leash in her mouth and said,

let's go for a walk. So it's stories like that that really inspire me. Now, we didn't change her chronological age, right? Of course, I didn't have a time machine, and probably if we took radiographs, her spine would, would've looked the same as far as the amount of arthritis she had. But it was that ability. Now, I,

I kind of reminded her nervous system that she could move differently. So that's a, that's another example of how she got younger. And what was really fun about that was because the, the person who, you know, who owned the dog, hate to use the word owned, but her guardian, I'll say her human guardian, a human person, was,

you know, in that age as well, where she's thinking about her own aging process. And I introduced her to some Feldenkrais method movements for herself, and she also felt better. And she said, I can't believe how much more fun walking is now for both of us. So that's really cool. And that is always my idea, is that you and your dog will improve together,

right? And, and just experience life differently with that idea that there's this hope, what we call biological optimism, that things can get better. Now, some of you may say, well, my dog is 16, 17, 18, I don't know, 20. I've worked with dogs at 20 years old. Well, how much better can they get? And, and there is definitely a limit.

So I don't want to sugarcoat to, to mislead you in that you can always have this dramatic turnaround of the clock. But what I will say is this, I have personally worked with dogs and humans that were very, very close to the end of their lives. And so have other people that I've trained, or other people that have read my book and applied the methods.

And there is some very significant improvement in quality of life, despite maybe the dog not being able to get up and start running, or even walking with vitality again. But there is a, a very, very beautiful change that can happen. You know, I'm thinking about a dog who is golden retriever, and she was 16 and a half, almost 17,

I think, and that's pretty old, right? Especially for a golden retriever. And at the very end of her life, she was pretty much bedbound. You know, she wasn't getting up and walking very easily. She needed a lot of help, and her person asked me to come and work with her. And what was so rewarding about that was I could see the relief in the dog as I,

you know, gently, gently worked with her and moved her limbs very, like in a very intentional way, and helped her relieve any discomfort that she was having in her body. And we were able to breathe together and have this just wonderful, relaxing time together for her. And it was so gratifying because her person just could see also like the, the relief she can,

she noticed how the dog's breathing got more relaxed. So there are a lot of things that you can do to relieve discomfort, to relieve a sense of effort that your dog may be experiencing as they get older. And, and of course, I do this with the humans as well, and horses and all kinds of animals. So there are definitely things we can do.

Another story I'm thinking about is a woman who I never met. I've never met her or her dog, but I saw a picture of her dog and she read my book, and the dog was 17 and dying of liver cancer. And they had done all the treatments, the surgeries, all that stuff already, but things were going in a certain direction.

And the dog was having difficulty breathing, not to the point that it was time to let the dog go, but enough that it was definitely disconcerting and definitely interfering with quality of life. And she applied something that I teach in my book, which is connected breathing. And she was just so blown away with how it helped her, you know, really feel even closer to her dog than she already did.

But also it could calm them both and help them both have this more relaxed, comfortable breathing. And it brought her so much peace, she felt it brought a lot of peace to the dog. And then the dog did transition after a period of time they had to make that decision, but it was very peaceful, and her last weeks were very peaceful.

So this is something that, again, it's not about necessarily, you know, obviously turning the clock back, totally. Things happen in life, right? And then we all will meet that end at some point, but it's improving the quality of life for you and your dog all along the journey. So there's so many things you can do to make it easier.

So if we think about, if we think about what it means to feel youthful, you know, and that may mean mean something different for you than it does to me. But when I think about a feeling of being youthful, it's, it's a time of curiosity, right? It's being really curious about things. It's being very creative, it's being very playful,

right? It's, you know, having a lot of vitality, right? It's all of those things. It's having a lot of optimism, a lot of hope, right? A lot of planning for the future. So these are things we can bring into our lives at any age. And again, we can apply this to our dogs. Luckily, as I said earlier,

our dogs aren't encumbered by a lot of the chatter that goes in our own heads, right? A lot of the, the beliefs that we have, or misconceptions we may hold about things, but we can also purposely think about embracing more curiosity. I like to use a term, the term compassionate curiosity, which means curiosity without the judgment attached to it,

right? You're not, you're not criticizing something, you're just noticing it, and you're just like, oh, well that's interesting. And then you get really curious about how, if it's something that you'd rather not have, you'd rather not experience, or your dog, you know, for you or your dog, like, how would you change that? How could you improve that?

So you get really curious about it, that in turn drives different processes in your nervous system to search for solutions, okay? Your brain then will want to search for solutions. Again, this leads to more of a youthful state, right? It's a learning state. We're, we're, we're learning so much when we're young, right? So we can continue that at any age.

I had a client years ago who her grandfather was 96, he was a medical doctor, and at the age of 96, he was working on his third PhD. Now, how cool is that? How cool is that? And that's something I can talk about too, with my own dad, who's since passed away. But, and he lived to be over 96,

and he was always learning, always learning. He just, there was always something else to learn. So he was always diving into textbooks and different things. Like he was so curious. So, and to me, he was always youthful, always useful. And I'll tell you a quick story about what happened to him. He was in, I think he was 94.

Yes, he was 94 at the time. He broke his pelvis to places. So it was, it was pretty bad. And we were told he would have to be in rehab for like six to eight weeks and all, all these other things. And what he did was really interesting because he decided that he was going to really harness his mental energy to imagine that he was fully healed.

So he was like imagining his pelvic bones being fully healed. And he was also imagining all the things that he normally did. He was extremely active. He lived independently. He had a, he had a big property, and he did everything himself. And he was imagining all that. So he harnessed his, his mental energies to not be complacent and say,

oh, I have to be here for, you know, X amount of weeks. But instead he did something about it. So to me, that was youthful in the fact that, oh, and he did all the PT and the OT that they were giving him, and he was just like doing all the things. And he was released incredibly early.

Like, I think he was there just a week or so. It was amazing. And he went on to live independently again. And I just think that was such a good example of how he wasn't going to just accept the fact that he had this injury. 'cause many people, many professionals told him and told us, oh, he'll never be able to be independent again.

That wasn't the case at all. Now, your mileage may differ. So again, this doesn't apply across the board, but you know, my dad was a great example. And how he embraced curiosity. He embraced learning, he embraced optimism. So he harnessed his mind to work in his favor. Now, you might be harnessing your mind, which I hope not in the opposite direction,

many people are, because they would just take all that information and say, oh my goodness, I will never be able to do those things again. And, and again, you need to be realistic, okay? But use, you know, use your brain to help you use your brain to be, you know, yes, you take in the advice of the professionals,

and then you also help yourself. You know, there was no harm in imagining that his bones were knitting back together perfectly. There was no harm in imagining that he was out shoveling snow again, or raking leaves, or, you know, cleaning horse corrals or whatever, right? There was no harm in that. So, and it, in my opinion,

probably helped him, probably helped him, and certainly was really good for his mental outlook. And again, he went on to, to fully heal from that and to go back to being independent. So these are things that are within our control, okay? So, you know, it, it's just a different way of looking at life. So, so the other thing I wanna say is another way to increase this feeling of youthfulness for yourself and for your dog,

is to bring novelty into your life and into your dog's life. That means you, you change up the routine, not in a way that's going to alarm your dog, but, but simple things. You know, you, you go new places, you do things a little differently. You start to look at your routines that might be keeping you stuck.

And when you do things a little bit differently, and, you know, might be something simple like putting the leash on with your non-dominant hand, or, or something like that. I mean, it could be anything. But when you start doing things differently, that really gets the attention of your nervous system, of your brain. So new neural connections are formed,

and it stimulates your brain. It stimulates this process called neuroplasticity, where our brain is constantly adapting to the environment. So we wanna keep that going, right? So that you're, you're aging, if you will, in a very healthy direction, right? As you go along, you're still creating new neural connections, new, new, you know, movement opportunities can come up.

In other words, you're not stuck in the same old routine. The other benefit of this, by the way, when you bring more novelty into your life, it slows down your perception of time. People also often talk about, as they get older, time seems to go faster. And it is based on our perception, because it's like when you're a little kid and you know,

you are waiting for Christmas, for example, right? That seems like a really long time. If it's the summer or something like that. And then as you get older, it's like, oh, Thanksgiving is here before you know it, and then Christmas and then New Year's, and you know, the year just flew by. But when you bring more novelty,

more vari variation into your life, your perception of time can slow, which is really pretty cool. It's like you get deeper into the experience of living, right? More like you did when you were a kid. And this is good for your dog as well, like doing things non habitually because it stimulates and enriches your dog's Life as well. And again,

they, they're forming new neural connections. So maybe instead of, you know, walking around the block like you normally do, you, you go a different way, or you put your dog in the car and you go somewhere completely different. You walk over different surfaces, you know, you go around things, you, you meet different people, you know,

you do things that of course are safe for you and your dog, but different, different. So that's another thing that you can do. And then the other thing is like really thinking about bringing more play into your life. And this could be true, again, at any age for you or any age of your dog. I've seen a lot of people do this,

and I love it. Like, some dogs are really into playing with their ball, and they want you to throw the ball over and over and over again. And that's great when the dog is five years old. But what happens when the dog is 15? And that's not really an option, maybe for your dog. And, you know, you see people do all kinds of wonderful adaptations,

like maybe the dog is lying down and all you can do is really like, roll the ball to your dog, and the dog loves it, right? And you can still play different enrichment games with your dog, maybe like food puzzles and things like that, that bring a sense of play. Or you can teach a dog. And believe it or not,

despite that saying, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, you can certainly teach your dog things at any age. So something like nose work, for example, that's gaining a popularity. You know, you can teach that to a dog even when they're much older, right? So for the most part, so these are things that you can do.

And it also, again, it's maybe novel for you, right? Maybe you have to learn all about how to, you know, teach nose work, and it's something fun that you can do with your dog. So, so these are different things that you can just bring more into your life to help with this idea of like being more youthful despite whatever chronological age you or your dog may have.

So I would say a couple of ideas. If you haven't gotten my book, grow Young with Your Dog, you might wanna get it, maybe it's available at your library, you can find it wherever books are sold online or Barnes and Nobles has it, as well as Amazon. I also sell a PDF version on my website, and I'll link to all that in the show notes.

So that's one idea. The other thing I'd recommend too is I have a free video training, by the way, when you purchase the book, it does come with online videos to support you. So you, you'll have access to that, and it'll tell you how in the book. But if you want a different free training, I do have one.

All you need to go to is mary Debono dot com slash love dog. That's all lowercase, all one word, and that'll be in the show notes. So don't worry about writing it down, especially if you're driving right now. So, yeah. So let's, let's kind of redefine or reframe how we think about aging. Can we think about aging as an opportunity to experience life in a different way,

in an exciting way, in a way that gives us more joy, more enrichment? We can let go of a lot of things. Maybe we used to worry about when we were younger, things we were concerned with, that we realized over time are really insignificant. And can we use this time with our dogs to deepen our connection with our dog? If you're anything like me,

you, you find great joy, like a blissful feeling in that feeling of connection with your dog. And you can have that at any age, in any condition of you and your dog. So I hope you found this helpful. Let me know what fun thing that you're doing that's novel. Like maybe this has really, you know, piqued your curiosity and you're like,

oh, see, curiosity, that's another sign of youthfulness. Remember, but think about, oh, you know, so, so like a little challenge, like what can you do different today? What can you do differently tomorrow? And then let me know. I would love to hear from you. You can always email me, Mary at mary Debono dot com,

and let me know what you're dealing with. Let me know what you're adding into your, your life and your dog's life to make it more novel, to have more variety, to have more stimulation. Okay? Thank you so much for joining me. I so appreciate you listening. I love sharing this work with you, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Bye for now.