What Would Flo Think?

The last day of Nurses Week ends today on Florence Nightingale’s Birthday: May 12.

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Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910, (CR Royaume-Uni)

Would Flo be surprised that a special day, May 6, had been dedicated to nurses in 1982, and in 1990, that day grew into a full week that ended on her birthday? Would she be pleased that the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as “The Year of the Nurse and Midwife” in honor of her 200th birth anniversary? Would she be happy to learn that this 2020 designation is significant because WHO is promoting nursing education that will increase the numbers of nurses and midwives in order to strengthen Universal Health Coverage?

What would Flo think of the modern nurses’ role in this Pandemic? Would she be reminded how she, during the Crimean War, campaigned for better care of the sick and wounded soldiers and for a higher standard of hygiene, which saved countless lives? I bet she would be proud to see that nurses are still campaigning for better conditions for their patients. And that they are speaking out for safe working conditions for all health care workers.

Continue reading “What Would Flo Think?”

NURSES REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE

 

Betsy, a writer friend, emailed me the story she had read in our workshop since I had to miss the class. She knows I hang on every episode of her life in Ireland where her second child was born and she negotiated the daily vicissitudes of a different culture. In this episode she had left the hospital with her new baby girl. She happily accepted the offer to have a nurse visit her and the baby at home.

Her daughter is in college now but Betsy still remembers how helpful the nurse was—and knowledgeable and reassuring, which, in turn, made me remember the article I read not too long ago by David Bornstein, The Power of Nursing (NYT, May 16, 2012) about nurses who made regular home visits to at-risk pregnant women and continued these visits until their children reached the age of two. The program, Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), conducted studies that demonstrated the visits improved both child and maternal health and financial self-sufficiency and provided a five to seven point boost to the I.Q of these children. Plus many more positive results.

NFP, which has been around since the ‘70s is implemented in forty states, empirically proves what many of us already know: nurses REALLY make a difference. Training paraprofessionals to do the nurses’ job didn’t yield the same outcomes.

We nurses do make a unique contribution. No one else can fill our shoes.

Update on Tom and Helen

There are many good things about getting older but unfortunately our society holds aging as an inevitable downward spiral. That’s why I like to post about the positive when I find it. Tom and Helen are wonderful examples of a happy circumstance.

I have written two posts about them. After the excerpts below, I will give you an update.

 

 

 

1/10/2018

Dream Deferred

My friend, Helen (not her real name), called me a few weeks ago. Without salutation she said, “I am in love.” I knew she was taking about Tom, a friend of more than 30 years.

Helen and her husband, and Tom and his wife, were friends back in California. After Helen and her husband moved to North Carolina, both couples sent Christmas letters over the years. Tom and Helen were the scribes. Helen called to give her condolences after Tom’s Christmas letter noted the tragic loss of his beloved wife after a brutal battle against Alzheimer’s. Soon the two were reconnecting and updating their lives. They found they had much in common.

“I’m going to tell him that I am not interested in a relationship,” she had told me. And then her phone call.

Their frequent phone calls and messages erupted into deep emotions. Tom flew from California to North Carolina for Christmas, leaving two days after the New Year. He stayed with Helen in her one-bedroom apartment. They laughed constantly. Sang familiar songs. Finished each other’s sentences. Fell into a routine as if they had co-habited for years!

And the sex was great!

Helen will visit Tom the end of this month. Both in their seventies, they are investigating on which coast they will live—together.

 

 

8/15/2018

New Love in Old Age

. . . Then there is my writing friend I call Helen who found true love with Tom. Longtime friends, they both lost their spouses and reconnected to find a “spark” that ignited “true love.”

I have heard from Helen recently. She and Tom are now living together in California.

“Tom and I have ten children and stepchildren between us. His live on the west coast, mine on the east coast. And he has a fulltime job in California. We haven’t figured out how to navigate these difficulties yet.”

Recently, they traveled to the east coast to attend one of Helen’s grandchildren’s graduations. “Thanks for making my Nana so happy,” her fifteen-year-old grandson told Tom during that trip.

“Our love is truly a miracle for us both,” Helen writes. “Tom is one of the nicest people I have ever known, and there is an ease and flow to our days.”

They work out at a gym several evenings a week and they both swim a quarter of a mile most nights. Both have lost weight—fifteen pounds each–and leave the gym “energized and with a sense of relaxed well-being. Not bad for almost seventy-nine.”

Helen ended her email by writing, “We have trouble letting go of the evening and going to bed, like two little kids. I joked recently that we need a parent. But all is not lost — we do still brush our teeth.”

 

Tom and Helen now live in Florida. She turned 80 the week before we met. Tom is a few years younger and just recently retired. They came to Raleigh last week to see Helen’s daughter and granddaughter.

During their visit, I had lunch with Helen at a Thai restaurant. Tom dropped her off so we could have some “girl-friend” time together.

Helen filled me in on her life with Tom for the past two years as her vegan noodle dish cooled in front of her. Happiness lit up her face when she described their partnership filled with respect, trust and intimacy.

As impressed as I was over the psychosocial gains their relationship provided, the gerontological nurse practitioner side of me rejoiced in the physical gains, too.

They continue to swim three times a week, reaching a mile at least twice a month. With the exercise routine that Tom developed and a new interest in ping-pong—they bought a table and take private lessons—both have lost weight. Helen no longer needs to take blood pressure medication.

Sitting next to them on a park bench near the Thai restaurant after lunch, I observed the obvious affection they hold for each other.

Getting older isn’t always a bummer. There are truly magical moments. I have witnessed one.

PF-Elderlybridge_1201447c

We Agers Are Experts On Our Own Aging Experience

A fellow nurse clued me into Doris Carnevali’s blog. Here is what a Seattle news station, K5News, wrote about her. Her blog follows.

A retired nurse is helping explain what happens when we grow old. Some of it might surprise you.
Author: Ted Land
Published: 7:10 PM PDT June 5, 2019
Updated: 7:25 PM PDT June 5, 2019
SEATTLE — A 97-year-old blogger is helping explain what happens when we grow old. Some of it might surprise you.
Each morning, Doris Carnevali sits at a desk in her West Seattle home and starts writing.
“The ideas are bubbling in my head between the time I’m asleep and awake,” she said.
She has plenty to say about what it’s like to age and she’s sharing it all on her blog, Engaging With Aging.
“Sure, there are times when I am down, and the 14th thing I drop in a day makes me frustrated as all get out. But on the whole, it is so much more exciting than I ever thought it was going to be,” Carnevali said.
She is retired from the UW School of Nursing and has written medical textbooks. Then at the age of 95, she picked up a new hobby: blogging.
“I had been ranting about the fact that I thought aging had gotten a rotten deal. That it was much more pleasant, exciting, and challenging than I had been led to believe,” she said.
After hearing that rant, the dean of the UW School of Nursing urged her to publish her thoughts. So Carnevali’s granddaughter created a blog account and the words flowed.
Today, she’s written dozens of passages on what she calls age-related changes.
“My hands don’t pick up things the way I used to, do I say I’m losing my hands? No, I’m changing how I use them and that way I don’t get down in the dumps,” Carnevali said.
Engaging With Aging isn’t a how-to advice blog. It’s more of a diary about what she’s going through. If her readers extract lessons, great. If not, the exercise keeps Carnevali sharp.
“I’m still growing, I’m green, I’m inept, I’m clumsy, I’m learning every day, but I’m green, and I’m growing,” she said. “I thought of aging as being grey, no, it’s green.”
She does not shy away from the fact that there will come a day when her hobby is no longer possible.
“When it happens, it happens, and it would be nice if it didn’t, but I’m too busy doing other things to worry about it right now,” she said.

Engaging With Aging

With that expertise come responsibilities

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Many of the people who study old people, theorize and write about us, take care of us, or relate to us are not “old’ themselves. They experience old age second handedly. Earlier in my life as a nurse I often had older patients. As a daughter I shared my parents’ aging. In my 50’s I blithely participated in three editions of a nursing book about caring for the elderly without taking note of myself as the “outsider.”

Now I feel as If I had been a pilot flying over the city of aging, assuming I knew how the residents lived. What an illusion!   It’s not that what I knew, used or wrote about elderly people was inaccurate. But it paid only narrow attention to the significant ways normal aging was changing agers’ capacities to manage their ever-present tasks and relationships. I had looked at them…

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Barriers to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

In the April 2019 AARP Bulletin there is an article discussing the restrictive laws in North Carolina that control Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.*

North Carolina is where I now live. While I no longer practice as a nurse practitioner, I’m always on the lookout for the latest restrictions or advances in APRN practice. And I am saddened with this particular write-up. Why? Because the story shows that the years of research proving that APRN’s give the same level of safe, quality care as physicians in similar settings is totally disregarded. Therefore, limiting the use of APRN’s has caused the following:

Many rural North Carolina counties face severe provider shortages. Three have no primary care doctors, 26 counties have no OB-GYN, and 32 are without a psychiatrist, . . . .

North Carolina:

  • Ranked 35th for overall health care
  • Ranked 41st for infant mortality
  • 56% of low-income children don’t have a doctor

(Michelle Crouch, Bridging the Health Care Gap, AARP Bulletin/Real Possibilities, April 2019. p 44.

In 2017, a bill to expand APRNs practice was defeated. Both the NC Medical Society and the NC Academy of Family Physicians opposed this bill, in spite of the fact that “moving restrictions on APRNs could save the state $400 million to $4.3 billion in health care costs annually” and, could increase the number of APRNs to correct the health care shortage.

I have almost 40 years’ experience in watching the struggle to limit APRNs practice. I know many physicians who work alongside nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and mental health nurses who promote their role in keeping our communities healthy. From my viewpoint, it’s the efforts of organized medicine that disregards putting patients first and values only its own economic growth.

A new bill to remove barriers to APRN practices is expected to be introduced this year. I will be following this closely. It is my dream that in the near future, all states will give APRN’s full practice authority.

See how APRN practice varies from state to state.

*Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

  • Certified Nurse Practitioners
  • Certified Nurse Midwives
  • Certified Nurse Anesthetists
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists

One of Top 50 Fantastic Blogs for Nurses 2018: Nursingstories.org

I came across the Nurse.org Blog by chance. What a surprise to see that my nursingstories.org was named one of the “top 50 fantastic blogs of 2018.” I’m only a year late to appreciate the honor. And it is an honor to be in the company of the other 49 nursing blogs.

I think you will be impressed with nurse.org. The wealth of information covered is impressive: jobs, hospital reviews, career guides, nursing school programs, nursing organizations and available scholarships. Nurse.org also has a blog written by active, involved, compassionate nurses for other nurses and those outside the health care field. I’ve added the latest post below. Please visit this awesome website.

Reblogged from January 30, 2018

Nurse.org – Impacts the lives of nurses and nursing students by publishing thought-provoking content and launching culture-changing initiatives.

Top 50 Fantastic Blogs for Nurses 2018

Staying up to date on current news and topics in a field is an important task to keep the mind and tools sharp, and this is especially true for nurses! Whether you’re a working nurse, aspiring nurse, or simply interested in the topic of nursing, reading up on the happenings and opinions of the industry is a worthwhile endeavor. This is why we love and think nursing blogs are the perfect way to accomplish this task!

We’ve browsed through hundreds of nursing blogs, written by nurses or medical journals about nursing topics, and have hand selected the top fantastic 50 for your reading enjoyment.

We took a few factors into consideration when making our selections:

  • Quality of content and site
  • Frequency of posts
  • Credentials of the writer
  • Amount of interesting and/or helpful content
  • Personal selection (we personally enjoyed these blogs!)

These nursing blogs range from personal experiences to great resources for current nursing students and those looking for a new job. With something for everyone, you can’t go wrong with our list!

In no particular order, here are Nurse.org’s Top 50 Fantastic Blogs for Nurses 2018!

Nursing Stories

The voice of this blog belongs to Marianna. After four decades of being a nurse and nurse practitioner, Marianna wanted an outlet to share stories of patients she cared for. Her goal is to encourage nurses to tell their stories about the professional and personal difficulties they’ve encountered, as well as the times they have impacted their patients’ lives. Her experiences demonstrate how nurses develop a relationship with patients and their families that differ from the doctor/patient relationship. She also shows how nurses often struggle to be heard in a hierarchy that favors physicians.

 

Here is the latest Blog:

January 21, 2019

I’m A Nurse And I Grieve – How To Cope With Patient Death

By Wali Khan, BSN, RN 

Follow @Wali_khann on Instagram

Picture this, you arrive to work, receive the assignment and mentally begin to prepare for the task at hand. You create an outline in your mind and on paper of how the next twelve hours will go. You receive the report at the bedside, gather your supplies and prepare for your initial assessment. You’re told the family is in the waiting room and they want to see the patient. Your patient is ill but stable, for now. You check the patient, check the ventilator, check your drips and make your way out of the room to the supply closet.

The time now is 1930. Suddenly, you hear the central monitor alarming loudly with sirens of a fatal occurrence. Naturally, your stomach churns, your heart begins to rapidly beat, and you’re hoping it is not your room but deep down you know it may very well be. The charge nurse screams your name and you sprint back to your room to find your neighboring nurse performing compressions on your patient as every available body rushes to your and your patient’s rescue.

This is your first cardiac arrest.

You lock eyes with the clock in the room and realize life and death rest in the hands of the clock. You haven’t felt this before and feel the sweat trickling down your back. As the primary nurse, you are the recorder.

Arriving late, you begin to jumble times and medications on a paper. Each one of your feet feels like it’s buried in quicksand; pulling you deep into the ground as the feeling of paralysis settles in your legs. A momentary brain dump occurs as the whirlwind of events unfold.

The time now, after multiple rounds of epinephrine, defibrillation and compressions are 1943. The attending physician calls the time of death out loud. The team confirms and it is over.

5 Ways To Maintain Healthy Emotional Boundaries When Your Patient Dies

This is one of those occurrences that no institution, no book, and no rotation can ever prepare you for. This is a reality that inevitably comes upon us, sometimes forewarned and other times when we least expect it. If you’re like me, you’re a giver. Naturally, you develop love, an affection, a deep concern for those you are responsible for caring for. So, rightfully, it hurts to watch a patient go and to have the knowledge of the inevitable reality that the family has yet to accept or believe.

Image courtesy of @wali_khann Instagram

However, you also need to intuitively understand the need in professional life for a balance between compassion and healthy emotional boundaries. Because in this line of work, you must continue to love, to give, to heal, and to nurture, despite the unfavorable outcomes and endings. Here are 5 ways I’ve come to accept the process of letting go without experiencing emotional and mental paralysis.

  1. Practice silence.In this situation and many others, you won’t have the right words or any words at all. Having stood at this station multiple times over, I want you to know that this is normal and okay. Being present with your patient and their loved ones while accommodating them with anything they need is more than sufficient at this time. In many situations, the best way to intervene is to lend an attentive ear. You will not have all the answers but, you most certainly possess the ability to connect and heal through nonverbal communication.

As humans, we speak through our eyes, touch with our smiles and heal through our spirits.

These moments will serve as times of prayer, of silence, of smiles, of tears and of joy; all in one. Practice the art of silence.

  1. Be an advocate for all – the patient and the family.Your care extends beyond the bedside – for the patient and for the family. This is one of those times where your advocacy skills will come into play. Allow adequate time for grieving, extended visitation, chaplaincy/Imam involvement, extra tissue/water, and facilitation of open and sensitive communication between patient, family & the interdisciplinary team.

Understand that people from all walks of life come to the hospital to seek care. They present to us with their illnesses, but they also bring along their cultural and spiritual practices which to them, are an additional component of their healing and sometimes grieving. Having a comprehensive understanding of the sensitive nature and uniqueness each of your patients present will allow you to provide the necessary support they require.

  1. Convey empathy when interacting with the Family– share their feelings of loss, if they are open to it. It is a good idea to spend time with the family of the patient both at the bedside and in private throughout the duration of care rendered. This will help you to better understand the dynamics and communication style of the family. If the family has a designated spokesperson that relays information to the remainder of the family members, use them to effectively communicate with the family. High running emotions can lead to miscommunication and misdirected feelings.
  2. Treat your thoughts as guests– mortality is undoubtedly frightening but it reminds us to live a purposeful life. Every day of that which has been granted to us is a gift. A priceless gem. Remain in a state of gratitude. Talk to God. Be open to yourself and your thoughts.

It is important to accept and address the fact that negative outcomes will happen in your professional life. Know that grieving is natural, even in the context of the nurse-patient relationship. Patient deaths are never easy.

I want you to know it is okay to grieve and mourn. It is okay to feel for your patient. You may be a health care professional, but you’re still a human being capable of feeling pain, sadness, and hurt. It’s only natural.

  1. Seek assistance – death changes us.It brings forth unprecedented emotions and psychological consequences that we are never fully prepared for. If you need, use this time to seek out the social services provided by your respective institutions or a third party. The role of these professionals is to facilitate conversations and therapeutic modalities that will help you to address these unprecedented feelings and thoughts.

There is absolutely no shame in talking with other trained professionals to help you compartmentalize everything you have experienced. The name of the game is consistency and longevity. This may be the first time you’ve experienced the death of a patient, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Image courtesy of @wali_khann Instagram

Wali Khan, BSN, RN is a Chicago based trauma resuscitation & ICU nurse in one of the busiest Level I trauma centers in the country. His writing entails a powerful narrative and perspective on the balance between faith and medicine. Passionate about nursing, faith, community service, he uses his voice on social media to highlight the intersection between the three. As an immigrant and first generation college graduate, his journey entails a story of perseverance, balance, and compassion that students and practitioners can relate to. With a previous career as a personal trainer, his lifelong commitment to health and wellness, he inspires and encourages his fans and followers towards an empowered and healthier life.

Getting on the Bus

This post appeared in two parts on September 8 & 20, 2013.

 

The first night in a hotel room in Estoril, Portugal, my heart, flipping about in my chest, jolted me awake. Thump. Thump. Thump. Silence. Then a rush of horses’ hooves clopped on my ribs. Trying to ignore my heart’s gymnastics, I tried to go back to sleep but the Mariachi band playing under my ribs demanded my attention. Pressing my fingers into my wrist, I palpated the same irregular rhythm. Besides a touch of anxiety, I felt fine. No chest pain, no shortness of breath, no dizziness, no nausea. Then my bladder upstaged my clinical observations. Damn.

Slowly, I rose and sat on the side of the bed, careful not to disturb my husband who slept beside me. I waited to pass out. When that didn’t happen, I shuffled in the dark, feeling my way along the wall, to the tiny bathroom.

Successfully back in bed without tripping, falling, or fainting, jet lag eased me into slumber.

The next morning, I awoke to the same sensation in my chest. More alert than the night before, I diagnosed the uneven heartbeat as atrial fibrillation. A geriatric nurse practitioner until my retirement three years ago, I had treated many patients with this condition—its occurrence increases with age. A fact I couldn’t ignore.

I remembered the day before as my husband and I explored the neighborhood around the hotel we had walked past a medical clinic. Through the large glass window, I saw several people sitting in a waiting room, some reading magazines, not unlike our clinics back home. I had no desire to seek help there. I didn’t speak the language, and who knew how advanced medical practice was in Portugal? Besides, I was counting on this event ending soon.

Getting ready for the day’s adventure, my husband slipped a sweater over his head as I laced my shoes. “By the way,” I said, “I am having some a-fib. It’s nothing serious and I suspect it’ll end on its own. I just want you to know, in case I pass out, get an ambulance and tell the medical folks what’s wrong with me.” I made eye contact. “A-fib, got it?” My husband of forty years knew better than to question me, and nodded. I figured he was happy to put off a deviation in our itinerary—his controlled persona would be spared a chaotic scene.

We rode the elevator down to the lobby, queued up with our tour group and boarded the bus to Cabo de Roca. I grabbed a window seat. The vibrant, coastal city gave way to dry grasses clinging to rocky cliffs. I slipped down in my seat and put my fingers to my neck, checking my carotid pulse. The irregular rhythm ticked off around one hundred beats per minute. No too rapid to worry me—yet.

After a couple of hours, the light blue sky became cloudless as we headed into thinning air. Would the high altitude affect the rhythm of my heart? Would my pulse become so erratic that my blood stagnated, forming a clot that would migrate to my brain and spawn a stroke? My husband remained deep in his book. Or was he consciously ignoring me? The medical clinic near the hotel began to look inviting. And very far away.

The bus turned into an empty parking lot. We arrived before the Japanese tourists. My husband was the only one who headed over to the one-story building that stood at the far end of the lot where one could obtain, for five Euros, a certificate validating that one had stood at the westernmost point of continental Europe. The others headed to the bathrooms or the gift shop.

I stepped off the bus last. I felt something strange. Or, rather, I felt nothing. My heart had stopped. No, it just felt that way with the prancing finally gone.

Cabo de Roca

My chest was silent. My pulse was regular. The air smelled cool and crisp.

Released from potential calamity, I dashed off to find my husband.

When we returned to the States, my internist insisted I wear an Event Monitor: electrodes attached to my chest at one end and at the other end to a plastic box that would hang around my neck for a month. When I noted any flip-flops from my heart, I was to depress the start button and the monitor would record the “event.”

During the first week, after I wrestled with the monitor to find a comfortable position in bed, I settled into sleep. My heart, booming loudly in my ears, jarred me awake. I pressed the record button and the monitor gave off a high-pitched sound and began taping. As instructed, I lay still. When the whining stopped, I stumbled out of the bedroom to call the toll-free phone number.

The nurse talked me though the process of sending the recording across the phone lines. I hung up, relieved that she didn’t tell me to go directly to the hospital, as happened with my friend, Norm, after his first submittal. He was sent to the emergency room immediately. A pacemaker was implanted in his chest the next day.

I reassured my husband, who woke up during the taping and trailed after me, concern covering his face. We ambled back to bed—him to sleep and me to await any further malfunctioning of my heart.

Three weeks later, I mailed the monitor, wire, attachments and unused batteries back to the company. I wouldn’t miss the nightly struggle to sleep with a rigid box digging into my ribs. Or fear of the monitor beeping at inappropriate times during the day. Or most of all, the constant state of surveillance for any twitch in my chest.

The only two episodes I had during the month were not atrial fibrillation but sinus tachycardia: a regular, rapid heart rate that’s not life threatening. Wearing the monitor for a month seemed too much of an inconvenience for such a paltry yield.

No doubt there will be other assaults to my aging body, mildly annoying or life threatening. The trick is to know the difference: whether to stay back and seek medical care or take a chance and get on the bus.

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80 year-old male model

As a retired gerontological nurse practitioner and a woman dealing with my own aging, I am always happy to read about successful aging. This one comes all the way from China. I hope you enjoy 80 year-old Wang Deshun’s story as much as I did.

 

An 80-Year-Old Model Reshapes China’s Views on Aging

 

Sinosphere

By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW NOV. 3, 2016

 

Wang Deshun, who turned 80 this fall, at the China Fashion Week in Beijing last year. Credit Quan Yajun
Wang Deshun, who turned 80 this fall, at the China Fashion Week in Beijing last year.
Credit
Quan Yajun

BEIJING — Before cranking up the techno music at his 80th birthday party, the man known as “China’s hottest grandpa” paused from his D.J. duties to poke fun at the country’s staid traditional celebrations for the elderly.

“I should wear a long robe, with the word ‘longevity’ embroidered on the front,” the birthday boy, Wang Deshun, said at his party in September.

Far from looking frail, the silver-haired actor, model and artist wore a crisp white shirt and black jeans, his back straight and his eyes glittering with humor.

“Two young maidens should help me into an old-style wooden chair,” he added, pretending to hobble.

Determined to avoid mental and physical stagnation, Mr. Wang has explored new skills and ideas while devoting ample time to daily exercise. Last year, he walked the runway for the first time, his physique causing a national sensation. He takes obvious joy in subverting China’s image of what it means to be old.

Wang Deshun explains how he became a runway model last year. Video by Redstart Media

And old age in China begins relatively early. The legal retirement age for women is 50 for workers and 55 for civil servants, and 60 for most men.

Being older in China typically means being respected, but also, often, sentimentalized. Someone as young as 50 may be addressed as “yeye” or “nainai” — grandpa or grandma — regardless of whether they have offspring.

Mr. Wang is having none of that.

“One way to tell if you’re old or not is to ask yourself, ‘Do you dare try something you’ve never done before?’ ” he said in a recent interview at a hotel in Beijing.

“Nature determines age, but you determine your state of mind,” he said.

Mr. Wang has not escaped being called grandpa — he has two children and a 2-year-old granddaughter — but the honorific is accompanied by accolades for his vigor and his embrace of the new.

“Grandpa, you’re my idol!” one admirer wrote on Mr. Wang’s Weibo social media account, one of thousands of similar comments.

Sex appeal is part of the mix.

“Grandpa, your stomach is so gorgeous! Incredibly handsome!” another person wrote next to a photo of Mr. Wang, topless in a gym, his skin smooth and pectorals buff.

Mr. Wang said he was always athletic. An avid swimmer as a child, he still swims more than half a mile each day. “Morning is my learning time,” he said. “I read books and news. From 3 to 6 p.m. is my exercise time, in a gym near my home.”

He also drinks less alcohol now, he said, but that is about as far as his dietary restrictions go. “I am not picky at all about what I eat. I eat whatever I want.”

Mr. Wang was born in the northeastern city of Shenyang in 1936, one of nine children of a cook and a stay-at-home mother. At 14, a year after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, he began working as a streetcar conductor.

Mr. Wang blowing out the candles on his 80th birthday cake in Beijing on Sept. 20. Credit Shen Qi

 

“I liked acting, singing, dancing, playing musical instruments so much that I joined my work unit’s band,” he said. At the Workers’ Cultural Palace in Shenyang, he took free lessons in singing, acting and dancing. He later took a job at a military factory and joined its art troupe. Sometimes they entertained soldiers.

“Even if there was just one sentry, say, at the top of a hill, like once in Dalian, we’d surround him and perform,” Mr. Wang said.

Later he worked in radio, film and theater. In the early 1980s, Mr. Wang, who would teach runway modeling at a Beijing fashion school, staged what he believes was the first modeling show in the northeastern city of Changchun.

“In 1982, the clothes Chinese wore were so out of date,” he said. “I went to the city’s biggest department store and told the sales clerks, ‘Give me your nicest clothes, and I’ll organize a show.’ They agreed. The best clothes they had were fur coats, and for men, woolen Sun Yat-sen suits” — also known as Mao suits.

Back then, he said, “Chinese had no sense of color or style. People wore black, white, gray or blue. Some people wore army uniforms. I wanted to start a sense for fashion among ordinary people. We did a swimming-suit show. The girls refused at first, thinking it was indecent. But I insisted.”

By 49, Mr. Wang was eager to move to Beijing, China’s cultural capital. He wanted to be a “living sculpture.” He also needed money.

He began working out, determined to have a lithe body that would allow him to interact, almost naked and covered in metallic paint, with copies of Auguste Rodin’s and Camille Claudel’s sculptures of women. The idea, he said, came from his wife of 48 years, Zhao Aijuan.

After the first show in Beijing, in 1993, the authorities, disturbed by its sensuality, barred Mr. Wang from performing in public. He continued to perform privately.

“I really admire him very much,” said Xiao Lu, 54, a performance artist. “I do body art, and you know, after a certain age. a person’s abilities decline. But he has this amazing sculpted body and spirit. Such power for life really comes from the inside. He makes the feeling that’s in the Rodin sculptures come alive.”

Last year, he appeared bare-chested in a fashion show in Beijing’s 798 arts district, featuring designs by Hu Sheguang.

His appearance on the runway earned him a cultlike following. Some fans call him laoxianrou, or “old fresh meat,” making a play on the word for teen idol: xiaoxianrou, or “young fresh meat.’’

So has old fresh meat replaced young fresh meat?

Perhaps not. But Mr. Wang’s physicality, notable in a society where men rarely highlight their attractiveness, also sets an example in a nation that is growing older fast.

“People can change their life as many times as they wish,” he said. Having a goal is important, he said.

“Being mentally healthy means you know what you’re going to do,” he said. “For example, a vegetable vendor, when he wakes up, he has a goal, he works hard. And when he finishes, he feels fulfilled.”

For Mr. Wang, fulfillment comes in many forms: acting, modeling, exercising and creating art.

And one day soon, he said, parachuting. That is the plan.

 

 

 

 

GETTING ON THE BUS Part 2 of 2

event monitorDuring the first week, after I wrestled with the monitor to find a comfortable position in bed, I settled into sleep. My heart, booming loudly in my ears, jarred me awake. I pressed the record button and the monitor gave off a high-pitched sound and began taping. As instructed, I lay still. When the whining stopped, I stumbled out of the bedroom to call the toll-free phone number.

The nurse talked me though the process of sending the recording across the phone lines. I hung up, relieved that she didn’t tell me to go directly to the hospital, as happened with my friend, Norm, after his first submittal. He was sent to the emergency room immediately. A pacemaker was implanted in his chest the next day.

I reassured my husband, who woke up during the taping and trailed after me, concern covering his face. We ambled back to bed—him to sleep and me to await any further malfunctioning of my heart.

Three weeks later, I mailed the monitor, wire, attachments and unused batteries back to the company. I wouldn’t miss the nightly struggle to sleep with a rigid box digging into my ribs. Or fear of the monitor beeping at inappropriate times during the day. Or most of all, the constant state of surveillance for any twitch in my chest.

The only two episodes I had during the month were not atrial fibrillation but sinus tachycardia: a regular, rapid heart rate that’s not life-threatening. Wearing the monitor for a month seemed too much of an inconvenience for such a paltry yield.

No doubt there will be other assaults to my aging body, mildly annoying or life threatening. The trick is to know the difference: whether to stay back and seek medical care or take a chance and get on the bus.tour_bus