Episode 003 — Life Extension Quackery
Welcome to the only Podcast on the web featuring a physician, Dr. Bill Thomas (@drbillthomas), and musician, Nate Silas Richardson, who team up for the #AskDrBill Show. (Click here for download and subscription links)
Bill and Nate are the stars of the non-fiction theater performance Aging: Life’s Most Dangerous Game as part of Dr. Thomas’ Age of Disruption Tour.
Each episode features intimate conversations, music, updates from the Age of Disruption Tour.
In Episode 003, Bill and Nate take on the age old question of mortality as well as a deep dive into caregiver stress when your spouse or partner lives with dementia. They also share a behind-the-scenes look at the latest swing of the Age of Disruption Tour, including how the show dealt with a catastrophic power outage during a live performance in Richmond.
People say that the first person to live to be 150 years old has already been born.
What are some of the best ways to help someone who is a caregiver for a spouse who’s living with dementia, deal with her role and reduce her stress?
Complete Episode Text
Dr. Bill Thomas: Hello everybody, it’s Dr. Bill Thomas, and I’m a physician.
Nate Silas Richardson: And I’m Nate Silas Richardson, and I’m a musician.
Dr. Bill: And this is the #AskDrBill podcast, and if you were looking for this podcast, you found it. We’re back in here at Rep Studio in Ithaca, New York, after spending a really exciting week in the Carolinas and Virginia. And I thought, maybe, for the folks who didn’t get to see us live last week, Nate and I would run a quick recap of the week, including a really excited thing that happened on Friday in Richmond.
So, we started in Charleston.
Nate: Yes. We started by not canceling our North Carolina shows. We decided that we were going to strike out on our own path here, not follow in the footsteps of Bruce Springsteen. And, yeah, we went through with the shows, despite the politics.
Dr. Bill: Yeah, we did. Well, actually we started in Charleston, South Carolina.
And then headed up for a breakfast in Columbia with some exceptionally cool people, then hit Winston-Salem.
Nate: I have nothing to say about Winston-Salem. You just looked at me like, “Winston-Salem.”
Dr. Bill: Okay. So listen, everybody. I’m going to tell you, when you wake up in a different city every day, sometimes you’re like, “Winston-Salem. That’s right.” Winston-Salem had a really narrow backstage, I’m saying to Nate, yeah…. I remember that.
Nate: It was the case where we thought the podium could move but then it couldn’t. And so we had to set up in front of this giant podium and put half of our set offstage. And of course, our crack team set it up beautifully and made it amazing and made it work@
Dr. Bill: That was great. And then we did the Blumenthal Theater in Charlotte, which was… excellent.
Nate: Piece of cake. It made everything easy.
Dr. Bill: Love it.
Nate: Perfectly simple load in, plenty of room onstage, lots of helpers.
Dr. Bill: Yeah, that was sweet. And then we went to the Byrd Theater in Richmond, Virginia.
Nate: Which was… interesting.
Dr. Bill: Built in 1928, one of America’s very first theaters built for movies. So it’s one of the oldest movie theaters in America. One little thing, though, it was designed as a movie theater, not as a performance venue, and wow….
Nate: I think the last time they cleaned it was probably 1938.
Dr. Bill: Yes. We had archival popcorn. That was fascinating. And during the Disrupt Dementia performance, Nate and Samite were bringing it all the way, the music, the lights, the sound, people getting up and dancing. And then?
Nate: The power went out.
Dr. Bill: And I just want to ask, what is it like – I’m asking Nate right now – what’s it like to be onstage playing your heart out, and all of a sudden, no power and because there’s no windows, it goes completely dark?
Nate: It was pitch black in there. It’s disappointing. I’ve been there a million times.
Dr. Bill: Oh, really?
Nate: Yes. How many times have I played places where there’s a power cable running out to the… It’s nothing new at clubs and venues and weddings, whatever. So I’m kind of over it.
Dr. Bill: I’m going to say, I was sitting, actually, in the balcony watching. So the power goes out, Jennifer Carson and Kyrié Carpenter come onstage.
Dr. Bill: And Sean…
Nate: Before that, even, Samite got the crowd singing just back and forth. We did a little chant back and forth for a couple of minutes and waited for the power to come back on, which it didn’t. So we finally decided to just move on to the a cappella piece, which I usually sing and I usually strum the guitar along.
And you know, I was playing an acoustic guitar, and we all have acoustic instruments being our voices. And Kyrié and Jennifer, myself, and Samite sang through our wonderful song called “I Want to Be.” And a crew ran up with flashlights. I had purchased some headlamps actually that morning, because the theater was so dark, even with the lights on, that the guys couldn’t even set up our stuff.
Dr. Bill: They had the miner’s headwear with the headlamps.
Nate: Luckily, there was a camping store a block away, so I went and bought some headlamps and handed them to the guys. And they were very happy to get them, but they also came in handy when the power went out. And they shined them up onto the stage, and we went through that song.
Dr. Bill: Well, can I just say, too, because I saw this? People in the audience came up with their lights on their phones and lit you guys.
Nate: I knew there was more than two lights, so yeah. I didn’t know that, though. That’s really cool.
Dr. Bill: It was intensely beautiful. And the reason I wanted to bring it up was that it really reinforced this message of live in the moment to the best of your ability.
Dr. Bill: And life is going to throw you some weird stuff, guaranteed, and what you guys did was really turned a moment the could have been kind of disastrous, and you made it into a thing of beauty.
Nate: A unique moment.
Dr. Bill: Yeah, it was great.
So we finished up the week out in Blacksburg with a wonderful event at Virginia Tech and just, man, 325 people really excited about a new vision of aging. Then we came home.
Nate: And overall, I would say, this week the numbers were up. Attendance was great. We had, I think, 4 out of 5, maybe, with between 250 and 350.
It was really nice to play to full houses.
Dr. Bill: It was fun. And I just want everybody listening to know that it’s like rolling this rock up a hill. And the higher up we get, the better we are at what we do, the more people respond, and it makes it even more fun.
Dr. Bill: So that was our week. I condensed a monstrous amount of work into a couple of minutes, but it was fun. Wanted to share it with you. And we do have two questions for the podcast today.
First question is: People say that the first person to live to be 150 years old has already been born.
Nate: I’m not sure I even understand. So the question is? Is there a person alive today that has lived to 150?
Dr. Bill: No.
Nate: Is the first person to live to 150 alive today?
Dr. Bill: Already alive.
Nate: Still alive, I would say.
Dr. Bill: Yes. Well, they still have to be alive. So here’s what I’m saying. There’s a 10-year-old walking around somewhere – this is the hypothesis.
Nate: I get you.
Dr. Bill: And this 10-year-old is having a birthday party. This 10-year-old is going to have 140 more birthdays.
And people say that that’s true.
Nate: That’s the question. Thanks, everybody, for waiting for me to grock that one.
Dr. Bill: So I think that the answer to the question is probably not, and here’s why. It’s actually a pretty simple thing related to science.
Nate: Can I just make a guess?
Dr. Bill: Hit it, dude.
Nate: That the average life expectancy has gone up and up and up and up.
Dr. Bill: It has.
Nate: But that’s not an indicator that we’re going to live longer and longer and longer and longer. And that’s because the average goes up because we’re doing better with infant mortality. Is that correct?
Dr. Bill: Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!
That is Nate Silas Richardson, Professor of Demography.
The average goes up.
Nate: But the longest livers…
Dr. Bill: They don’t live longer. I’ll give you an example. In the last century, the average life span has gone up 30, 40 years, but the average 80-year-old has only gained 3 years of life expectancy in a century, and it’s even less for an average 90-year-old.
Nate: And how often do they come up with the latest breakthrough that’s going to reverse aging. Every year?
Dr. Bill: No.
Nate: Is it once a season?
Dr. Bill: Every week.
Nate: Every week. Because there was one yesterday. I saw a lot of news flashes. They’ve found the thing that’s going to reverse aging…
Dr. Bill: Always the thing. We always see the thing. When I was working on one of my books a few years ago, I went and pulled old miracle anti-aging books from the 1960s.
Nate: Same stuff.
Dr. Bill: So there they were. It was 1964 or something. They have this grim-looking doctor on the book flap.
Nate: Was he wearing a white coat?
Dr. Bill: Yes. Oh, heck yeah. He has now uncovered the secret to reversing aging. And no, it didn’t work.
Nate: Is he dead and gone?
Dr. Bill: He’s dead. He got old and then died.
Nate: Just like the rest of us.
Dr. Bill: Yeah. So that’s the deal on that. So my point, and I think the point of the show, the tour, everything that we do, is that I can’t really do anything to add to your longevity directly, but I can help you enjoy your life more. So whatever years you have, however many of those years you have, enjoy those years more, and we’ll go from there. Then we’ll worry about living to be 150 later. That’s the idea.
So one more question. And this is one I have. I’m not putting Nate on the spot for this one, although, as you notice he did give an awesome, blazing, demographic analysis of the last question.
The question is, what are some of the best ways to help someone who is a caregiver for a spouse who’s living with dementia, deal with her role and reduce her stress?
I think there’s really two things. First off, understand care as a team activity, as a group, as a coalition, not as a dyad, not as one-person caregiver, one-person care recipient. And try to grow the size and the number and the skill of the people who are contributing to that care circle.
And the second thing I would add is, as difficult as it can be, allow the reality of the person who’s living with dementia to be the reality that applies in the moment. Because a lot of stress comes from trying to get a person living with dementia to come into your reality, when it’s actually a lot easier for you to go into their reality. I would never say that that would lead to a stress-free life, but that’s better.
Nate: Wishing it were different never seems to be a fruitful path.
Dr. Bill: It has a poor track record.
When you say it out loud like that Nate, you think about relationships and you think about other ways that love comes into our life. And we want it sometimes to be different and it’s not different…
Nate: And a lot of the time, the way that you think you don’t want it ends up being better for you anyway. Right?
Dr. Bill: Yeah, I know. I wish that wasn’t true, but it seems to be true.
Nate: When you look back on it, it usually…
Dr. Bill: It all works out.
Nate: You can thank yourself for not having that magic wand and making it be what you thought you wanted.
Dr. Bill: Wow.
The world could be totally messed up because other people have a magic wand too, you know, in that scenario.
Nate: In the movies, they have magic wands or magic DeLoreans.
Dr. Bill: Yeah, that’s true.
Nate: You know that story.
Dr. Bill: So we’re basically living in a non-magical world, in terms of wish fulfillment and deciding instead, to roll with the reality that we find.
Nate: That’s not to disempower people from being proactive and making decisions that would affect the way things are, but there’s certain things that you do have to just roll with.
Dr. Bill: Yeah, I agree with that.
So I want everyone to know that this the #AskDrBill podcast, and it’s brought to you by the Center for Growing and Becoming and the Age of Disruption Tour, which you probably heard about if you’ve been listening to this podcast.
Nate: Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you on the road!