Doctor Jennifer Yang MD. Recognizes The Follies Cast

After attending the 2018 performance, “Everything Old is New Again”, Doctor Yang wrote the following:

"I came to see Tom VerEecke and was "blown away""

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Spectacular and Successful Aging with the Follies

Tenor Tom VerEecke sits behind me in our choir. One day during rehearsal, Tom announced that he auditioned and was accepted to the cast of The Spectacular Senior Follies for 2018 - a show that has been on his radar for a while, but it was only now that his new-job-with-a-flexible-schedule allowed him to go for it. Tom seemed very excited about it, so when he announced that tickets were on sale, a group of us from choir got together for a lovely dinner followed by the show at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts.

With a minimum age of 55 years young and a maximum age of who-knows-what, these active older adults put on a show that blew us away. Being a rehabilitation physician with a special interest in medical issues of performing artists, I admit that a part of me was afraid that “break a leg” might be more than a wish for good luck in this age group.

A big part of my practice involves overseeing the recovery of patients after major surgery or hospitalization, so I am well aware of the difference between "young 75-year olds" vs. "old 75-year olds"; it's great when your biological age is "younger" than your chronological age. The "young" folks are products of successful aging - a concept emphasizing that through one's own efforts, decline and functional loss are modifiable. Avoiding disease and disability, engaging with life and having high levels of cognitive and physical function are of one's own doing, instead of merely accepting unavoidable descent into the inevitable debility of old age.

The Senior Follies cast members are certainly doing this - by singing, dancing and acting their way into successful aging. Sure, there may be small modifications to some of the choreography or music to tailor them to older adults' abilities, but overall you have to give it to them: the hours of practice, and multiple shows over the Follies weekend have given them sharper minds, more flexible bodies, and enhanced heart and lung function compared to non-performing peers. All these come together to give each of these senior performers a better overall quality of life.

I am looking forward to more shows to come, and I am especially excited to share what all of you are doing for yourselves (and others) at the Performing Arts Medicine Association International Symposium in June, 2019. You are the muse for my presentation on "Performing Artists of a Certain Age: Exploring the Overall Function and Quality of Life in Senior Performers".

Thank you Spectacular Senior Follies, for inspiring all of us.

Jennifer Yang, MD
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
jennifer.yang@utsouthwestern.edu

References

  • 1.Rowe JW, Kahn RL. (1997). Successful aging. The Gerontologist, 37, 433‐441.
  • 2.Stowe JD, Cooney TM. Examining Rowe and Kahn's Concept of Successful Aging:
    Importance of Taking a Life Course Perspective. Gerontologist. 2015;55(1):43‐50.