December 18, 2013

Miscellany of links on surprising studies of older people

OMG: Adults Far More Likely Than Teens To Use Phones, Text While Driving

The report, done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, reveals that adult drivers (25-59) are by far the likeliest age group to admit to using their phone while driving…..Adults 60 and older were the least likely to report using their cell phones while driving.

Surprising study: Older adults less fatigued than younger generations

According to research from the London School of Economics, older adults are actually less tired than their younger counterparts.  The data, which came from the 2010 American Time Use Survey of 13,000 adults, shows that fatigue actually appears to decrease with age. People over the age of 65 reported being almost one full point on the 0-6 scale (with 6 being “very tired”) less tired than people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Pew Study Living to 120 and Beyond: Americans’ Views on Aging, Medical Advances and Radical Life Extension

Asked whether they, personally, would choose to undergo medical treatments to slow the aging process and live to be 120 or more, a majority of U.S. adults (56%) say “no. But roughly two-thirds (68%) think that most other people would. And by similarly large margins, they expect that radically longer life spans would strain the country’s natural resources and be available only to the wealthy.

BBC  How certain 'Memories' pass between generations

Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behavior of subsequent generations. A Nature Neuroscience study shows mice trained to avoid a smell passed their aversion on to their "grandchildren". Experts said the results were important for phobia and anxiety research.

The animals were trained to fear a smell similar to cherry blossom. The team at the Emory University School of Medicine, in the US, then looked at what was happening inside the sperm. They showed a section of DNA responsible for sensitivity to the cherry blossom scent was made more active in the mice's sperm.

Both the mice's offspring, and their offspring, were "extremely sensitive" to cherry blossom and would avoid the scent, despite never having experienced it in their lives. Changes in brain structure were also found.

"The experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations," the report concluded.


Kottke, The Invention of Old People

Old people, like those who live to be older than 30, didn't exist in great numbers until about 30,000 years ago. Why is that? Anthropologist Rachel Caspari speculates that around that time, enough people were living long enough to function as a shared cultural hard drive for humans, a living memory bank for skills, histories, family trees, etc. that helped human groups survive longer.
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Old people are repositories of information, Caspari says. They know about the natural world, how to handle rare disasters, how to perform complicated skills, who is related to whom, where the food and caves and enemies are. They maintain and build intricate social networks. A lot of skills that allowed humans to take over the world take a lot of time and training to master, and they wouldn't have been perfected or passed along without old people. "They can be great teachers," Caspari says, "and they allow for more complex societies." Old people made humans human.

What's so special about age 30? That's when you're old enough to be a grandparent. Studies of modern hunter-gatherers and historical records suggest that when older people help take care of their grandchildren, the grandchildren are more likely to survive.
Posted by Jill Fallon at December 18, 2013 12:18 AM | Permalink