HOW MY LIFE IS GOING ON WHEN “BEING OLD”
I congratulate Ron for his initiative to create the blog “Being old,” where every old human being can share his memories, his current life, and opinion.
My name is Vasil Georgiev. I was born on 13 January, 1931 in Plovdiv, the second-largest city in Bulgaria. I originate from a middle class Bulgarian family. I was one year old when my parents moved from Plovdiv to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Here I spent my life until 2001 when I moved to Stockholm, Sweden.
The reason for my move was the death of my spouse Dr. Nadja Georgieva. Nadja was a stomatologist, specialist in orthodontics. She died from colon cancer with metastases. Nadja and I have one daughter who graduated in medicine in Sofia Medical University and later got a scientific degree, a PhD in Pharmacology. In 1990 my daughter got an invitation for post-doctoral research at Astra Zeneca, in Sweden. Subsequently she moved to Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and within a couple of years became Associate Professor in Neuroscience.
I graduated in medicine in 1954. After graduation I worked as a military doctor for two years at the southern border of Bulgaria. This kind of medical work did not fit well with my ambitions. So I left the army and spent almost two years in the country as general practitioner. Subsequently, I got a position as research fellow at the Department of Pharmacology, Institute of Physiology, later named Institute of Neurobiology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, in Sofia. Here I spent forty four years doing research in the field of neuropsychopharmacology. During this period I received two doctorates: PhD, and DSc (Doctor of Science). I also achieved positions as Associate Professor and Full Professor.
I was a leader of a research team and also a scientific supervisor of large number of PhD students. During the same time, I gave lectures in Pharmacology for students at Sofia State University’s Faculty of Biology, as well as at Sofia Medical University, and at the new First Private Bulgarian University.
As I had not been a member of the communist party which governed Bulgaria during 45 years I was not able to take an exclusive position at scientific institutions. Instead, I concentrated at making good research and publishing the results. During my whole research career, I have published more than 230 papers, predominantly in English, in internationally recognized scientific journals. Since I was able to establish scientific collaborations with many colleagues in different countries (UK, Hungary, Poland, former USSR, Japan, former Jugoslavia, Greece, Sweden), a large number of these publications was done in collaboration with them. Significant for my scientific career was the year (1968-69) which I spent as a Riker International Fellow at the Laboratory of Neuropharmacology, run by Prof. W. Feldberg, National Institute for Medical Research in London. I won this fellowship in a competition through the International Union of Pharmacology (IUPHAR). I spent also three months (1990) as an invited Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Kurume Medical University in Japan.
During the period 1992-1996 I worked as visiting scientist at the Department of Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, together with Prof. B. B. Fredholm, with financial support from Swedish grants and the European Science Foundation. This joint research was realized in the framework of bilateral contract between Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences. As a results of this latter collaboration we have published five papers in scientific journals with high impact factor. All my scientific publications are continuously cited in the scientific literature.
When I moved to Stockholm I had already retired (1999). My life changed completely. In Stockholm I joined the ESCC (English Speaking Community Club). There I met interesting people speaking English which was very good for keeping my knowledge in English at a reasonably good level. Here I met Ron Pavellas. We both found similar interests in some aspects of life, and particularly, in music. For quite a number of years we regularly have met once or twice a month and discuss which concerts of classical music to attend. We attend concerts usually either at Berwaldhallen or at Konserthuset; sometimes at churches. Ron very often describes his impressions from the concerts in articles in his music blog. In summer time we visit some museums. Ron rather often shares with me his writing ideas. I try to give him useful advice which he sincerely appreciates.
I turned 85 years on the 13th of January 2016.
Being rather old and also being a physician who has some practice in medicine and in medical research I would like to share my modest experience which I have in keeping a good health condition.
I always start the day with 30 minutes or more of exercises to improve the muscles, mainly of my spine. The exercises have been described in the book “Bible of the people with back pain” (translated in Bulgarian) by the Australian physiotherapist Sara Key, working in London. As I have been suffering for many years from lumbago, complicated with lumbar disc hernia, as well as of sciatica, with permanent numbness, these exercises help me very much to be in good physical condition. I also use some other exercises for the other parts of the body. When I perform the exercises I usually listen to some classical music (Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, Grieg, etc).
After the exercises I have my breakfast in which I include quite a number of seeds, some nuts and always blueberries, one of the more potent food in terms of protecting the brain. I also take a small piece of bread with butter, cheese and olives, together with a cup of green or black tea when I take my medicines for the day.
I continue the day with some house work, reading the news from electronic media (mainly in Bulgarian) or scientific literature in English. Lunch I have at home eating food which has been prepared by my daughter during the weekend. Sometimes, during the week days, I myself also cook. I usually cook beans or lentils once a week. Both are extremely healthful foods. I remember my mother used to do the same. Beans, especially , are believed to be a Bulgarian national food. Everybody in Bulgaria likes both beans and lentils.
My mother lived 86 years; my father lived 87 years. My paternal grandfather lived 97 years. My maternal grandmother lived 90 years. It seems that I have family predisposition for long-living. It is not my purpose to live long but I try to organize my life in such a way that to avoid awful factors from my life. Usually I eat fruits (avocado or bananas, apples, grapes, mango, oranges, berries, pears, etc.) after each meal. After lunch I usually take my nap (for 20-30 min). Than I go outside for a walk (45-60 min). In the afternoon I usually drink either coffee with milk (cappuccino) or tea (rooibos or green).
My evening meal is always with my daughter after her return from work. We prefer meat from chicken, veal and also fish which are consumed mainly at lunch and during weekend. At supper we never eat meat but mainly vegetables in salad form (spinach, ruccola, etc.) with olives, cheese etc. We have reduced to a minimum our bread intake. We also have tremendously reduced the use of sugar in any form. We regularly observe our body weight and calculate BMI. We also regularly take vitamin D3.
I have to mention that the existence of good psychological climate at home is very important. My grandson, who was schooled in Stockholm until he enrolled in the study of Economics at the prestigious University of Warwick in England, graduated with very successful scores and now has a good job in London’s financial center.
When possible we travel abroad together. For example we traveled to London two years ago to attend my grandson’s graduation ceremony at Warwick University. We usually spend one month in Bulgaria. Last year (2015) we traveled to Vienna, as well as to the French Riviera (Nice, Cannes, Monaco).
Before going to bed I usually read (novels, stories, etc.), but I avoid staying up late. I go to sleep before midnight. I try to have 7-8 hours sleep in the night.
Nice and interesting spending of my time at home is following the RESEARCH GATE, an internet portal for scientific literature and activity. I have registered into it and receive regularly information for my scientific publications (followers, citations, questions and answers, etc.). So far I have 1202 citations of my publications in the scientific literature, 880 reads and 222 profile views. This means that the researchers are still interested in my publications. Through this portal I could ask the authors for sending me copies of their articles. I could also discuss with the authors their results.
In conclusion, I would say that it is important to age with dignity. Being old is condition when life and professional experience had been achieved. And if the old person is secured financially , has rather good health, keeps good physical and mental activity, has good friends, and most importantly, lives in good psychological atmosphere at home – such a person might contribute with knowledgeable and useful advice to the surrounding people. Life can be good and interesting, despite of the age, if someone knows how to spend it.