October 29, 2014

Flu Shots Not Effective for the Elderly

Govt. Researchers: Flu Shots Not Effective in Elderly, After All  Sharyl Attkinson

An important and definitive “mainstream” government study done nearly a decade ago got little attention because the science came down on the wrong side. It found that after decades and billions of dollars spent promoting flu shots for the elderly, the mass vaccination program did not result in saving lives. In fact, the death rate among the elderly increased substantially.

So the NIH launched an effort to do “the” definitive study that would actually prove, for the first time, once and for all, that flu shots were beneficial to the elderly. The government would gather some of the brightest scientific minds for the research, and adjust for all kinds of factors that could be masking that presumed benefit.

But when they finished, no matter how they crunched the numbers, the data kept telling the same story: flu shots were of no benefit to the elderly. Quite the opposite. The death rate had increased markedly since widespread flu vaccination among older Americans. The scientists finally had to acknowledge that decades of public health thought had been mistaken.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:13 PM | Permalink

A glass of win, a cup of cocoa will help your memory

Daily glass of wine aids memory (if you're over 60)

Older people who consume between one and six alcoholic drinks a week have a 'significantly' better ability to recall memories    Moderate alcohol consumption - up to two alcohol beverages a day – amongst the over 60s was found to preserve the region of the brain responsible for memory and cognition.

Cocoa could be the secret to good memory in old age

Scientists find that elderly people who had consumed higher volumes of cocoa bean flavanols performed better in a cognitive task
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Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre in the United States, who conducted the new study, said it provided the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention.

Scott A. Small, one of the paper’s authors, said: "If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30 or 40-year-old."

The findings still needed to be replicated in a larger study, he added. Dementia charities offered a cautious welcome to the results, which were published in Nature Neuroscience, but agreed more research was needed.

Scientists discover blood test that may predict Alzheimer's 20 YEARS before the disease starts

A blood test being developed by a group of Australian scientists could predict Alzheimer's disease two decades before patients show signs of the illness.  University of Melbourne researchers, who discovered the test, previously helped identify changes in the brain happened 20 years before people started presenting symptoms of the disease, which can be detected by performing brain-imaging procedures.

The blood test would have a 91 per cent rate of accuracy in predicting Alzheimer's and could be available within five years as further testing is yet to be carried out.

Initial research carried out on a trial group resulted in one of five participants positive for the disease despite having no memory loss.  Further tests carried out using brain-imaging procedures showed these patients had signs of degeneration associated with Alzheimer's.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

October 7, 2014

"Total pandemonium" in upstate New York nursing home, "The lights turned back on in people' eyes"

A wonderful article by Atul Gawande.  Can life in a nursing home be made uplifting and purposeful?

One young doctor in upstate New York thought so and he came up with a highly eccentric way of demonstrating it. In this extract from his book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande tells the story of Bill Thomas and his miraculous menagerie.

In 1991, in the tiny town of New Berlin, in upstate New York, a young physician named Bill Thomas performed an experiment. He didn’t really know what he was doing. He was 31 years old, less than two years out of family residency, and he had just taken a new job as medical director of Chase Memorial Nursing Home, a facility with 80 severely disabled elderly residents. About half of them were physically disabled; four out of five had Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of cognitive disability.

Up until then Thomas had worked as an emergency physician at a nearby hospital, the near opposite of a nursing home. People arrived in the emergency room with discrete, reparable problems – a broken leg, say, or a cranberry up the nose. If a patient had larger, underlying issues – if, for instance, the broken leg had been caused by dementia – his job was to ignore the issues or send the person somewhere else to deal with them, such as a nursing home. He took this new medical director job as a chance to do something different.

The staff at Chase saw nothing especially problematic about the place, but Thomas with his newcomer’s eyes saw despair in every room. The nursing home depressed him. He wanted to fix it. …

He didn’t give up, though. He came to think the missing ingredient in this nursing home was life itself, and he decided to try an experiment to inject some. The idea he came up with was as mad and naive as it was brilliant. That he got the residents and nursing home staff to go along with it was a minor miracle.

He brought in a dog, four cats, live plants and a bird in every room, children in the afternoon, and a big garden in back.

It was ‘total pandemonium,’ Thomas said. The memory of it still puts a grin on his face. He is that sort of person. He, his wife, Jude, the nursing director, Greising, and a handful of others spent hours assembling the cages, chasing the parakeets through a cloud of feathers around the salon and delivering birds to every resident’s room. The elders gathered outside the salon windows to watch.
‘They laughed their butts off,’ Thomas said. He marvels now at the team’s incompetence.

‘We didn’t know what the heck we were doing. Did, Not, Know what we were doing.’ Which was the beauty of it. They were so patently incompetent that almost everyone dropped their guard and simply pitched in – the residents included. Whoever could do it helped line the cages with newspaper, got the dogs and the cats settled, got the children to help out. It was a kind of glorious chaos – or, in the diplomatic words of Greising, ‘a heightened environment’.
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‘People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,’ Thomas said. ‘People who had been completely withdrawn and nonambulatory started coming to the nurses’ station and saying, “I’ll take the dog for a walk.” ’ All the parakeets were adopted and named by the residents. The lights turned back on in people’s eyes. In a book he wrote about the experience, Thomas quoted from journals that the staff kept, and they described how irreplaceable the animals had become in the daily lives of residents, even ones with advanced dementia.
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The most important finding of Thomas’s experiment wasn’t that having a reason to live could reduce death rates for the disabled elderly. The most important finding was that it is possible to provide them with reasons to live, period. Even residents with dementia so severe that they had lost the ability to grasp much of what was going on could experience a life with greater meaning and pleasure and satisfaction. It is much harder to measure how much more worth people find in being alive than how many fewer drugs they depend on or how much longer they can live. But could anything matter more?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

August 25, 2014

Yay, Lillian

Every Day, This 99 Year Old Woman Sews a Dress for a Needy Child

 Lillian Weber 99 Dress-A-Day 
This is Lillian Weber of Scott County, Illinois. She's 99 years old but still very active. Every day, she sews a dress for Little Dresses for Africa, a charity that sends clothing to impoverished children in Africa. She gets up in the morning, starts to work on a dress, takes a break, then finishes in the afternoon. For the past 2 years, she repeated this routine daily, producing 840 dresses. Ms. Weber plans to make 150 more by next May when she will turn 100 years old.

 Weber-Dresses

Ms. Weber works from a standard pattern, but she personalizes each dress by combining different fabrics and trims. A child who wears one of her dresses isn't getting a copy of a mass-produced dress, but an original.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

February 28, 2014

“Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up”

In the New Yorker, Roger Angell on Life in the Nineties

“Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up” was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey’s line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains. We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent. The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming. The dead have departed, but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs, even scraps of clothing—that pale-yellow Saks scarf—reappear unexpectedly, along with accompanying touches of sweetness or irritation.

Our dead are almost beyond counting and we want to herd them along, pen them up somewhere in order to keep them straight….

My list of names is banal but astounding, and it’s barely a fraction, the ones that slip into view in the first minute or two. Anyone over sixty knows this; my list is only longer. I don’t go there often, but, once I start, the battalion of the dead is on duty, alertly waiting. Why do they sustain me so, cheer me up, remind me of life? I don’t understand this. Why am I not endlessly grieving?
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Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

January 24, 2014

“I intend to hang around for a while longer, to love and bother you.”

Born in 1923 Arnold Relman is a professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine who has written extensively on reform of the U.S. medical system.  Then, at age 90, he broke his neck.

On Breaking One's Neck

I am a senior physician with over six decades of experience who has observed his share of critical illness—but only from the doctor’s perspective. That changed suddenly and disastrously on the morning of June 27, 2013, ten days after my ninetieth birthday, when I fell down the stairs in my home, broke my neck, and very nearly died. Since then, I have made an astonishing recovery, in the course of which I learned how it feels to be a helpless patient close to death. I also learned some things about the US medical care system that I had never fully appreciated, even though this is a subject that I have studied and written about for many years.

He concludes:

Just a few months after very nearly dying, I am beginning to resume my previous activities and enjoy my life again. However, I walk slowly with a cane, and my movements are deliberate and more cautious to avoid any more falls. My astonishing recovery would never have happened without the superb emergency treatment I received at the MGH and the rehabilitative care that followed. But I am also convinced that other factors contributed to my survival: my family’s support (particularly that of my wife), a strong body, an intact brain, and very good luck all were important. I also believe my medical training helped. It made me aware of the dangers of pneumonia and other infections from contamination of catheters and tubes, so I pushed to have the latter removed as soon as possible and I took as few sedatives and painkillers as possible.

However, there was something else that helped to sustain me. I wanted to stay around as long as possible to see what was going to happen to my family, to the country, and to the health system I was studying so closely. Perhaps I was too engaged in life to allow death to intrude right then. As I wrote to my wife in one of my myriad scrawled notes the first week in the ICU, “I intend to hang around for a while longer, to love and bother you.”

Consider how his strong engagement with life is focused outside of his self.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

January 22, 2014

'Once I started, I thought to myself, ‘Well, gee, why not?"

Why you should heed the tips of a 94-year-old athlete in a new book What Makes Olga Run?  Olga Kotelko from Vancouver, Canada,  took up athletics at the age of 77 and has since scored 26 world records and more than 750 gold medals.

She reveals how she likes to exercise daily, gets eight hours of sleep, keep her brain active with Sudoku puzzles and eat unprocessed foods - with pickled herring, Greek yogurt and the occasional dram of Scotch among her favorite delicacies.

Author Bruce Grierson, spent months meticulously examining Ms Kotelko's lifestyle and told Today.com of the nonagenarian: 'She's having a ball, she's having the best time of her life . . . She thinks of herself as still growing.'

One of the athlete's more bizarre habits is setting her alarm to 2am every morning for stretching and meditation sessions.
After bending, flexing and clearing her mind she then goes back to sleep.
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Everything else aside, one necessity Ms Kotelko considers 'a must', is maintaining a positive frame of mind….'Be optimistic and face every day with a smile,' she said.  'Praying, having faith and a good relationship with your family. Friends, a lot of friends.'

She was always active, but didn’t take up track and field until age 77. Her sporting career has seen her travel all over the world.

'Once I started, I thought to myself, ‘Well, gee, why not?"' the grandmother-pf-two recalled.  'I chose to be a young-at-heart athlete rather than an old woman.'  She says that out of the 11 field and track sports she practices, hammer throw is her favorite.

 Olga Kotelko Hammer Throwing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink

December 20, 2013

Dementia rates down; the protein NAD could slow down aging process

As More People Live Longer Why Are Rates of Dementia Falling? Theodore Dalrymple

The New England Journal of Medicine: “in 1993, 12.2% of surveyed adults 70 years of age or older [in America] had cognitive impairment, as compared with 8.7% in 2002.”

One of our present concerns in the western world is the rapid aging of the population. Never have so many people lived to so ripe an old age, and this at a time when the birth rate is falling. Who is going to support the doddering old fools who will soon be more numerous than the energetic and productive young?

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that something unexpected has happened to confound the gloomy prognostications of epidemiologists and demographers. As the percentage of people surviving into old age increases, so the proportion of them who suffer from dementia decreases. People are not only living longer, but living better. This is a phenomenon that has happened across the western world.
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The explanation favored by the authors is first that the general level of education of the population has increased and second that the prevalence of risk factors for the development of small blood vessel disease, which causes dementia, has declined. Old people have healthier lifestyles and do more exercise than they used to. The decline in smoking (oddly enough once thought to be protective against dementia, but now thought to promote it) may have had a marked effect.

The authors do not tell us why or how education should be a protective effect against dementia. Are neurons like muscles that atrophy if not used? Surveys have repeatedly shown that the educated are less susceptible to dementia than the uneducated, though we must always remember that statistical association is not causation.

However, pessimists need not despair, as there are grounds for thinking that improvement may not last. The authors warn that the huge increase in obesity and type II diabetes may reverse the trend. The fatties of today will be the dements of tomorrow, or at least of the day after tomorrow.

Found: The secret of looking up to 40 years younger is chemical that rewinds the effects of old age and can make you look 20 again

Experts believe they may be able to turn back the clock as much as 40 years after identifying a natural compound proven to rewind the effects of old age in mice.  A protein found in all living cells called NAD could be the key to slowing down the aging process or reversing it altogether.

Tests on two-year-old mice who had been given the NAD-producing compound for just one week had body tissue which resembled that of a six-month old. Professor David Sinclair, an expert in genetics at Harvard Medical School said: 'In human years, this would be like a 60-year-old converting to a 20-year-old in these specific areas.'

The compound works by restoring communication between energy cells within the body which have broken down as we get older.

Prof Sinclair added: 'The aging process we discovered is like a married couple - when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down. 'And just like with a couple, restoring communication solved the problem.

'There’s clearly much more work to be done here, but if these results stand, then many aspects of aging may be reversible if caught early.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

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 12:18 AM | Permalink

October 14, 2013

Life expectancy for American women goes down

Why are American women living five years LESS than their mothers? Scientists baffled by shocking trend

Two studies found that life expectancy rates among women have been steadily falling in about half of U.S. counties.  According to a map by the University of Wisconsin, the states most affected are Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee.  The Southwest and Northeast are the areas least impacted by the trend

The mortality rate is falling among white, high-school dropouts especially who are expected to die five years earlier than the previous generation

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Kindig was the co-author of a University of Wisconsin study published in March which reported that for the last two decades, the mortality rate for women had increased in half of U.S. counties, while the male mortality rate only increased in 3 per cent. Kindig said he was so shocked by it's outcome, that he and his research partner went back and did the numbers again just to double check.

But their initial calculations were right and soon confirmed by a study by the University of Washington which found that female life expectancy either stagnated or declined in 45 per cent of U.S. counties between 1985 and 2010.

The studies agreed that women were living shorter lives, but researchers still don't know what to blame.
'Clearly something is going on,' Kindig told the Atlantic. 'It could be cultural, political, or environmental, but the truth is we don't really know the answer.'
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Only one third of female high-school dropouts are employed, and working low income jobs or being unemployed all together can cause stress which manifests itself in smoking or obesity.

'Life is different for women without a high-school degree than it was a few decades ago, and in most cases it's a lot worse,' said demographer Jennifer Karas Montez.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 AM | Permalink

October 4, 2013

Secrets to a Fulfilling Life

I've written often about George Vaillant, the Harvard professor who directed the Harvard Grant Study from 1972-2004 and later wrote several books summarizing the study, but it's always good to revisit the lessons learned.

The 75-Year Study That Found The Secrets To A Fulfilling Life

Love Is Really All That Matters.  It may seem obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Love is key to a happy and fulfilling life. As Vaillant puts it, there are two pillars of happiness. "One is love," he writes. "The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away."  Vaillant has said that the study's most important finding is that the only thing that matters in life is relationships. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn't be happy.
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It’s About More than Money and Power.  The Grant Study's findings echoed those of other studies -- that acquiring more money and power doesn't correlate to greater happiness. That’s not to say money or traditional career success don’t matter. But they’re small parts of a much larger picture -- and while they may loom large for us in the moment, they diminish in importance when viewed in the context of a full life.
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Regardless of How We Begin Life, We Can All Become Happier.  A man named Godfrey Minot Camille went into the Grant study with fairly bleak prospects for life satisfaction: He had the lowest rating for future stability of all the subjects and he had previously attempted suicide. But at the end of his life, he was one of the happiest. Why? As Vaillant explains, “He spent his life searching for love.”
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Connection Is Crucial  "Joy is connection,” Vaillant says. "The more areas in your life you can make connection, the better."

The study found strong relationships to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. And in terms of career satisfaction, too, feeling connected to one's work was far more important than making money or achieving traditional success.

"The conclusion of the study, not in a medical but in a psychological sense, is that connection is the whole shooting match," says Vaillant.
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Challenges –- and the Perspective They Give You -- Can Make You Happier  The journey from immaturity to maturity, says Vaillant, is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection, and a big part of this shift has to do with the way we deal with challenges.

Coping mechanisms -- “the capacity to make gold out of shit,” as Vaillant puts it -- have a significant effect on social support and overall well-being. The secret is replacing narcissism, a single-minded focus on one's own emotional oscillations and perceived problems, with mature coping defenses, Vaillant explains, citing Mother Teresa and Beethoven as examples.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:19 PM | Permalink

October 1, 2013

Eating out every night

Most people tire of eating out after a while, but not Harry Rosen.

 103-Year-Old Harry Rosen

The 103-year-old who says dining alone every night in top Manhattan restaurants keeps him alive

Ever since retiring from the office supply business, Mr Rosen has been dining out every night at New York City's most respected eateries.
His favorites include Cafe Boulud, Boulud Sud, Avra Estiatorio and David Burke Townhouse.

But Mr Rosen didn't always eat so well. He was born in Russia and recalls marching with protesters during the Russian Revolution.
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Sometimes he's joined by his sons Stan and Jerry, but Mr Rosen has no aversion to eating alone. Although there is always that hope that he'll meet someone new.

Mr Rosen was married to his wife Lillian for 70 years before she passed away five years ago at the age of 95.
'I'm still open to meeting someone,' he said. 'I still have the desire that's what counts.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:03 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2013

Generation 'lightbulb'

This is very good news.

Generation 'lightbulb': Medical advances are enabling us to go on and on and on . . . until suddenly we 'go out'

People are not only living longer but they are staying much healthier in later in life too, according to a new study.

Until recently very poor health tended to strike in the last six or seven years of life, but now it is more likely to occur shortly before death.  Experts believe that this is thanks to medical advances that not only prevent us becoming ill in the first place, but also help us recover our health in the aftermath of a serious condition.

Professor David Cutler of Harvard University, said: 'With the exception of the year or two just before death, people are healthier than they used to be.
'Effectively, the period of time in which we're in poor health is being compressed until just before the end of life. 'So where we used to see people who are very, very sick for the final six or seven years of their life, that's now far less common.

The study is based on results from nearly 90,000 peopled surveyed between 1991 and 2009.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2013

The Silver Lining as Dementia rates fall

Many boomers are still working past 65.  Some never saved enough to retire; others lost much of their retirement savings in the Great Recession.  But there is a silver lining.

Baby boomers take note: For every year you put off retirement, your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia are cut by 3%.

The findings are the result of a massive French study, which looked at the records of 429,000 workers. The scientists presented their results Monday at the Alzheimer's Assn. International Conference in Boston.

"For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2%," Carole Dufoil, a scientist at INSERM, the French government's health research agency, told the Associated Press.

Even better news: Dementia Rate Is Found to Drop Sharply, as Forecast

A new study has found that dementia rates among people 65 and older in England and Wales have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, to 6.2 percent from 8.3 percent, a trend that researchers say is probably occurring across developed countries and that could have major social and economic implications for families and societies.

Another recent study, conducted in Denmark, found that people in their 90s who were given a standard test of mental ability in 2010 scored substantially better than people who had reached their 90s a decade earlier. Nearly one-quarter of those assessed in 2010 scored at the highest level, a rate twice that of those tested in 1998. The percentage of subjects severely impaired fell to 17 percent from 22 percent.
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Experts on aging said the studies also confirmed something they had suspected but had had difficulty proving: that dementia rates would fall and mental acuity improve as the population grew healthier and better educated. The incidence of dementia is lower among those better educated, as well as among those who control their blood pressure and cholesterol, possibly because some dementia is caused by ministrokes and other vascular damage. So as populations controlled cardiovascular risk factors better and had more years of schooling, it made sense that the risk of dementia might decrease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2013

Oliver Sachs turns 80

Oliver Sachs on The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.)

LAST night I dreamed about mercury — huge, shining globules of quicksilver rising and falling. Mercury is element number 80, and my dream is a reminder that on Tuesday, I will be 80 myself.
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Eighty! I can hardly believe it. I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over. My mother was the 16th of 18 children; I was the youngest of her four sons, and almost the youngest of the vast cousinhood on her side of the family. I was always the youngest boy in my class at high school. I have retained this feeling of being the youngest, even though now I am almost the oldest person I know.
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At 80, the specter of dementia or stroke looms. A third of one’s contemporaries are dead, and many more, with profound mental or physical damage, are trapped in a tragic and minimal existence. At 80 the marks of decay are all too visible. One’s reactions are a little slower, names more frequently elude one, and one’s energies must be husbanded, but even so, one may often feel full of energy and life and not at all “old.” Perhaps, with luck, I will make it, more or less intact, for another few years and be granted the liberty to continue to love and work, the two most important things, Freud insisted, in life.
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When my time comes, I hope I can die in harness, as Francis Crick did. When he was told that his colon cancer had returned, at first he said nothing; he simply looked into the distance for a minute and then resumed his previous train of thought. When pressed about his diagnosis a few weeks later, he said, “Whatever has a beginning must have an ending.” When he died, at 88, he was still fully engaged in his most creative work.

My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.

I am looking forward to being 80.

He's had a most interesting life as you can read at Wikipedia

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

June 22, 2013

We'll work until we're 74 and then we'll sing

Walter Russell Mead, When It Comes to Working, 74 is the New 65

Workers aged 60-74 now command better wages on average than workers 25-59, according to a new Brookings Institution study:
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With innovations in health care it will become possible for workers to stay productively employed even later into life, as long as employers invest smartly and wisely in the physical health of their employees. This will be good for older Americans, because working is an essential part of a full human life and a key determinant of happiness. It will be good for younger workers as well; as the aging work force reshapes the economy, young and old alike will benefit from more flexible, service-based employment.

The demographic shifts we’re experiencing now present a huge policy challenge for the country in the short term, but in the long term they could be a source of strength for the US economy.

Singing for Old Folk A Search for Harmony

You may recall “Young@Heart,” the 2008 documentary about a Northampton, Mass., senior chorus of the same name. Going strong since 1982, the group rehearses twice a week, has released three CDs and has given concerts around the world, most recently in Belgium and Holland.

You might expect performers over age 73 — the minimum age — to stick with memory-fanning songs of their youth. But Young@Heart is currently working on tunes by Yo La Tengo and the Flaming Lips.

“It exercises the brain. You have to learn stuff,” the choir director Bob Cilman said. “People work hard to stay in and continue. It’s probably good for their health.”

There’s some evidence that he’s right. Choral singing has been shown to strengthen neural connections, fortify the immune system and reduce stress and depression. “It seems to tinker with the chemicals in the brain in just the right way to make people feel better,” said Stacy Horn, author of the new book “Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others.”

Opening this weekend is Unfinished Song with Vanessa Redgrave,  Terence Stamp and Gemma Atherton.  NYT film critic Stephen Holden says, "It may be hokum, but it gets to you."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:21 AM | Permalink

May 23, 2013

80-year-old Japanese man reaches the summit of Mt Everest

He did it! 80-year-old becomes oldest climber to reach summit of Mount Everest after beating 81-year-old former Gurkha to the top

 Yuichiro Miura 80 Mt  Everest

A Japanese 80-year-old has become the oldest man to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Extreme skier Yuichiro Miura (right in above photo) conquered the 29,035ft peak at 9am local time Thursday morning, beating his 81-year-old rival, Nepalese Min Bahadur Sherchan, to the top.

Mr Miura climbed Mount Everest five years ago, but just missed out on the record when Mr Serchan, a former Gurkha, accomplished the feat aged 76.

Mr Miura and his son Gota called the support team from the summit to report the news.

‘This is the world's best feeling,’ Mr Miura said. ‘I'm also totally exhausted.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:46 PM | Permalink

85-year-old Graduates from College, Finds Job

Hats off to Willadene Zedan

-Willadene-Zedan-

Inspiring 85-Year-Old Lands A Job Four Days After Graduating From College

She's proof that it's never too late to do the things you didn't get to do in the prime of life and that "lifelong learning" is more than hackneyed happy-talk.

With exams over and just days until her graduation from Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, 85-year-old Willadene Zedan began preparing a banquet for her 5 children, 15 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren.

"If I demanded the whole bunch of them show up, it's the least I can do," she says. "Some way to insist on a family reunion, isn't it?"

Her college education began after her husband of 50 years died of a heart attack. 

She relocated to Fond du Lac, where both church and mall were within a 10-minute drive of her daughter's home. She had no firm plans except "to keep my mind alert." Marian University, founded by an order of nuns but now a more broadly based liberal arts school with 2,600 combined undergraduate and graduate students, was a promising place to do that. Zedan had some trepidation about whether she was up for the rigors of college coursework. Auditing her first class erased that worry. She made the acquaintance of another older woman on campus who had been auditing classes for years. Zedan, a no-nonsense sort, realized that if she went that route, "I'd have kicked myself" if she later found she would have had enough credits to graduate had she actually matriculated.

So Zedan added a class at a time and, finally, as many as four in a semester. During her years at Marian, where she majored in theology, it became clear to her that she was doing more than just exercising her brain, as she might with crossword puzzles. "I was preparing myself for a new career," she says, one she hoped would allow her to visit those not blessed with her good health in old age and encourage them to be as physically and mentally active as their situation allowed.

Zedan's classmates were kind and friendly, she says, shouting greetings from across the campus and holding doors open for her without making her feel like "a baggy old lady." But they were hardly her pals, she says, nor would that have been appropriate.
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Her professors were her allies, she says, and have told her that her active participation in class would be missed. "The kids, to their disadvantage, are afraid to speak up," Zedan says. "They thought I didn't give a rip," she says, about sounding clever or always getting the answers right. "And I didn't. The teachers say they'll miss my input. ….."
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That attitude, of needing to satisfy nobody but yourself, is a wonderfully liberating part of old age and it pervades Zedan's life.
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Zedan's job offer came from her own doctor during a recent checkup when talk turned to her imminent graduation. He asked if she'd consider accompanying him on visits to the homebound – starting next Wednesday. Surprised and delighted, she never even asked if he intended to pay her, nor does she much care.

"My body tells me I'm growing old," she says, "and I assume that when I've pushed the Lord as far as I can push him, one day he'll give me one swift kick. But in the meantime — and if I'm lucky, that could be till I'm 100 — I'll be doing what I was trained to do. When I get to the other side, I want to be able to say I used the talent I was given."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 AM | Permalink

May 16, 2013

Study: Retirement is Bad for Your Health

The silver lining to imploding retirement savings.

BBC reports :  Retirement 'harmful to health', study says

Retirement has a detrimental impact on mental and physical health, a new study has found.

The study, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a think tank, found that retirement results in a "drastic decline in health" in the medium and long term.

The IEA said the study suggests people should work for longer for health as well as economic reasons.
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The study, which was published in conjunction with the Age Endeavour Fellowship, a charity, compared retired people with those who had continued working past retirement age, and took into account possible confounding factors.
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The study suggests there is a small boost to health immediately after retirement, before a significant decline in the longer term.

Retirement is found to increase the chances of suffering from clinical depression by 40%, while you are 60% more likely to suffer from a physical condition.

The effect is the same for men and women, while the chances of becoming ill appear to increase with the length of time spent in retirement.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 PM | Permalink

April 8, 2013

"What are the most important lessons you have learned over your life?”

In the Harvard Gazette,  Karl Pillemer of Cornell University offers Lessons from the long-lived

Pillemer is a gerontologist who had a revelation when he realized his research was “entirely focused on older people as problems.”

But Pillemer, who is also a professor of human development at Cornell University, remembered that his job also engages him with “vibrant, engaged, healthy, exciting, and active older people.”

The paradox intrigued him, as did the countless surveys conducted over the past 10 years revealing that the elderly tend to be significantly happier than people decades younger. That knowledge, combined with what he called a “disturbing sense that we lost an age-old and time-honored activity of not just asking older people for stories, but asking for their actual advice for living,” led him to create the Legacy Project, a study of almost 1,500 people, ranging from their 70s to over 100, who shared their wisdom about life. His work resulted in the 2011 book “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.”

Karl Pillemer's research began with a simple question: "What are the most important lessons you have learned over your life?”

His insights neatly summarized at Business Insider

1) Remember that life is short.
...One unanimous refrain included just three simple words: Life is short.

2) For career? Do what you enjoy.
…...“Based on this extremely acute awareness of the shortness of life, everybody argued you should find work you love; work ought to be chosen for its intrinsic value, and for its sense of enjoyment, sense of purpose. And life was much too short to spend doing something you don’t like, even for a few years.”

3) Healthy living?Treat your body like you’re going to need it for 100 years.” …..…The elderly, he added, understand that modern medical technology means people with unhealthy lifestyles are “sentencing themselves to 20 or 30 or 40 years of chronic illness.”

4) Biggest regret? Pointless worrying.
Similarly, respondents surprised Pillemer when he asked them to name their biggest regrets. Instead of listing concerns like affairs, addictions, or shady business dealings, almost unanimously they answered: “I wish I had not spent so much time worrying.”

5) Happiness? Don’t make your happiness contingent. Be happy in spite of bad times.
Younger people tend to be happy ‘if only’. … Their view from later life is that this has to morph into being happy in spite of things.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2013

Seniors Communing with Nature

Surreal Photos of Seniors Communing with Nature

Artists Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen have been collaborating on a multimedia project that started in Norway. Website iGNANT introduced us to Eyes as Big as Plates, a photo series featuring seniors (including a few 90-year old parachuters) immersed in the landscape as a play on characters from Norwegian folklore. Organic costumes and headdresses were created with scavenged materials — a poignant suggestion that each subject has embraced their eventual return to the earth.
 Hjorth+Ikonen Eyes11         -Eyes8-Hjorth-And-Ikonen

 Eyes21- Hjorth-And-Ikonen

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2013

If we valued what geriatricains do, we could transform what it's like to age

Doctors who treat the elderly are in short supply  and Instapundit comments

“The nation’s shortage of geriatricians is no secret. The prestigious Institute of Medicine highlighted the shortage in a 2008 report, and the American Geriatrics Society has projected the nation will need 25,000 geriatricians by 2025, or about three times the 7,000 geriatricians currently certified.”

Well, once the Death Panels get rolling, they won’t be needed much.

Atul Gawande interview about  Geriatricians

Does anybody clamor for geriatricians? We’ve had a drop from 1998 to 2004 in the number of geriatricians in our country, by one-third. At a time when the number of elderly are increasing enormously. In just a decade we’re going to be a 20% of the population being over the age of 65.

Now part of the reason people don’t clamor for the geriatrician is what the geriatrician does. What the geriatrician does is they don’t make your life longer, they help figure out how to be attentive to your nutrition, and whether your toenails are clipped and whether you have good balance and whether your strength is there, and whether you’re exercising, and whether your eyes are doing well. All the things that you need in order to stay independent, to have control over your life.
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And so there was a randomized trial in Minnesota that showed that the likelihood that under geriatricians’ care, as opposed to the usual primary physician for these elderly patients, the likelihood that they would have a disability dropped by 25%. The likelihood they developed depression dropped by 50%. But they didn’t live any longer. And so what we’ve had is the gradual disappearance of geriatrics as a profession and almost no outcry about that.

And so my answer to what do we do about it? Well the reasons why geriatricians are disappearing is in part because we don’t pay them very well, it’s one of the lowest-paid professions compared to becoming a radiologist, becoming a surgeon like I am. Another reason is because it’s not glamorous work, taking care of older people with lots of different problems, arthritic knees, a tumor they might have developed, bad back pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, and them somehow helping them live and stay at home as long as possible.

But if we value it, we actually would transform what it’s like to age.


His 2007 article on The Way We Age Now in The New Yorker is the best article you will ever read on the subject

Americans haven’t come to grips with the new demography. We cling to the notion of retirement at sixty-five—a reasonable notion when those over sixty-five were a tiny percentage of the population, but completely untenable as they approach twenty per cent. People are putting aside less in savings for old age now than they have in any decade since the Great Depression. More than half of the very old now live without a spouse, and we have fewer children than ever before—yet we give virtually no thought to how we will live out our later years alone.

Equally worrying, and far less recognized, medicine has been slow to confront the very changes that it has been responsible for—or to apply the knowledge we already have about how to make old age better. Despite a rapidly growing elderly population, the number of certified geriatricians fell by a third between 1998 and 2004. Applications to training programs in adult primary-care medicine are plummeting, while fields like plastic surgery and radiology receive applications in record numbers. Partly, this has to do with money—incomes in geriatrics and adult primary care are among the lowest in medicine. And partly, whether we admit it or not, most doctors don’t like taking care of the elderly.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 PM | Permalink

"Youth, the best time of your life? What rot. Being old is far more fun!"

Virginia Ironside on aging:  Youth, the best time of your life? What rot. Being old is far more fun!

What a relief it is to reach the autumn of one’s years and not have the future suspended in front of you like an intimidating cloud throwing out tormenting dilemmas.
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Being old means that instead of facing a daunting future, you have a rich past stretching back behind you, which you can plunder and enjoy as you wander down memory lane. My own memory lane is as long as the M1: young people’s stretch no further than a short mews.

With each day that dawns when you’re young, you’re learning something — you’re making mistakes, being hurt, hurting others and stumbling through life.  When you are older, however, you’ve learned from your experiences, and the passage through life becomes far smoother.
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The confidence that comes with age means anxiety and insecurity is swept away, and in its place there is a carte blanche to be eccentric and outspoken
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The fact that my life feels finite gives every day new poignancy. I can cut to the chase: walk out of bad films and refuse invitations from disappointing friends.
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What’s more, I can start new ventures with no fear of failure, since nothing matters very much  any more.
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Most seem to regard being old as some kind of downward slide. In some ways this is true, but it’s worth remembering that the view as you hurtle down the hill is far more spectacular than when you’re trudging up it.
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I prefer to think of old age as entirely new, uncharted territory, where my fellow oldies and I are intrepid explorers, hacking our way through the jungle and discovering treats along the way.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink

February 14, 2013

"But I wanted it so damn bad! I wasn’t going to give up no matter what"

'I had to wait a lifetime to be the real me': Woman, 68, achieves her childhood dream of becoming a firefighter after years of being told she could not do 'a man's job'

A 68-year-old woman who first hoped to become a firefighter when she was saved from a burning building at the age of five has finally achieved her dream six decades later.

 Firefighter Andrea Peterson 68

Andrea Peterson, from Hartford, Vermont has proven she is mentally and physically tougher than many men a third of her age by passing the gruelling tests to join her local station.  The petite widow, who stands just 5 foot 5 and weighs 122 pounds, began working as firefighter after years of being deterred from the profession because it was a 'man's job'.
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She first dreamed of becoming a firefighter after becoming trapped in a burning building in Los Angeles as a child, when a fire erupted as her mother cooked in the kitchen.  They were rescued by firefighters and she recalled the exhilaration she felt when she was thrown from the window - as well as the certainty that firefighting was her future career.
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Her family also deterred her from doing 'a man's work' and after she left college, she had many jobs - ballerina, model, air stewardess, prescriptionist - but they were never the right fit.

'I had to wait a lifetime to be the real me,' she said.

While attending college for aviation technology - where she was the only woman in the class - she met a young man named Dennis and, after four years of dating, they married in 1979.  He served in Vietnam as a pilot transporting Agent Orange, and when he returned home he was diagnosed with cancer, and given just months to live.  But Peterson devoted her life to ensure that didn't happen - and the couple enjoyed 31 years together. Throughout that time, she was his around-the-clock carer as his body slowly shut down.

When he passed away six years ago, she said she was left mentally and physically exhausted, but it also allowed her to realize that 'it's now or never'.
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Despite her classmates and teachers expecting her to drop out, she persevered through the physical training, the studying and the 10 pounds of muscle gain.

'I didn't have a great deal of support,' she remembered. 'But I wanted it so damn bad! I wasn’t going to give up no matter what.'
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When she found out she had passed the tests, she collapsed in tears.

'It was better than my wedding day!' she said. 'It was the happiest day of my life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2013

Aging Matures the Soul

When the frailties of age sound like the maturation process of fine wine

We all ponder death, our own and those of our friends and relatives. For people like Barnes it is something to be frightened of because it means final extinction, an often undignified departure from the only life there is – a life that is thus clung to desperately until the moment one decides to knock off or to be knocked off; when it’s no longer worth the candle. For Christians, as I have written in other blogs, death is not about discarding “a terrifyingly unsound body” for an abyss of nothingness; it is the gateway to eternity, a sacred transition that is accompanied by consoling, ancient, hallowed rites of passage.
The last years of our lives are meant to mellow the soul and most everything inside our biology conspires together to ensure this happens. The soul must be properly aged before it leaves. It’s a huge mistake to read the signs of aging as indications of dying rather than as initiations into another way of life. Each physical diminishment is designed to mature the soul.”
James Hillman,  The Force of Character and Lasting Life
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

January 29, 2013

Sleep and Memory

Quality sleep is deep sleep.   

 Deep Sleep1

Aging in Brain Found to Hurt Sleep Needed for Memory

Scientists have known for decades that the ability to remember newly learned information declines with age, but it was not clear why. A new study may provide part of the answer.

The report, posted online on Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience, suggests that structural brain changes occurring naturally over time interfere with sleep quality, which in turn blunts the ability to store memories for the long term.
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In the study, the research team took brain images from 19 people of retirement age and from 18 people in their early 20s. It found that a brain area called the medial prefrontal cortex, roughly behind the middle of the forehead, was about one-third smaller on average in the older group than in the younger one — a difference due to natural atrophy over time, previous research suggests.
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The findings do not imply that medial prefrontal atrophy is the only age-related change causing memory problems, said Matthew P. Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Berkeley and a co-author of the study.

“Essentially, with age, you lose tissue in this prefrontal area,” Dr. Walker said. “You get less quality deep sleep, and have less opportunity to consolidate new memories.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 PM | Permalink

December 1, 2012

What older people know about life that we don't

Karl Pillemer, professor of human development and gerontology at the Weill Cornell Medical College, author of Lessons for Living,  gathers advice about what older people know about life that the rest of us don't  in the Washington Post slideshow, 12 Ways to Live a Better Life.

2. Act as if you will need your body for 100 years.. Don't worry about dying. Worry about chronic disease. . . . The smokers, overeaters and coach potatoes among us are too focused on the comforting thought that the worst that can happen is dropping dead one day . . . You need to change your lifestyle early in life, not to live longer, but to live better in your 70s, 80s and beyond. Matt McClain / For The Washington Post

4. Be able to look everyone in the eye. To avoid later-life remorse, one word was repeated again and again: "Honesty.'' . . . With a consistency that surprised me, they advise us unconditionally to be honest, to have integrity, to be someone others can trust. . . . If not, we will regret it.

7. Send flowers to the living.. Hal Phipps, 81, was married for 55 years until his wife's death. "I regret that I didn't tell her how much I loved her as much as I should have. And I didn't really realize that until I lost her.'' Who knows why it is so hard, even in the closest relationships, to say what needs to be said until it is too late.

12. Don't waste time worrying about growing old.  Many experts described later life as embodying a serenity, a "lightness of being,'' a sense of calm and easiness in daily life that was both unexpected and somewhat difficult to describe. . . . They acknowledge that growing old is uncharted territory. . . but many experts described it with a sense of exploring a new land.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 PM | Permalink

November 27, 2012

Just in time for aging boomers, the Granny Pod

Just in time for aging boomers,  the Granny Pod

A Virginia company is advertising a new type of living arrangement for elderly parents: a 12 by 24 feet pop up 'Granny Pod' that fits easily into the back yard of a standard American home.

The $125,000 dwelling is being marketed as an alternative arrangement for people struggling to provide adequate care for the aging relatives since assisted living communities have become stigmatized and inviting an elderly relative a spot in the home can prove a squeeze.

The structure is formally referred to as the MedCottage and was designed by a Blacksburg, Virginia company, N2Care.The company was started by Rev. Kenneth J. Dupin, who is a minister in southwest Virginia, according to the Washington Post. He established the design company to create living structures or auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs) that would provide a way for families to care for an elderly relative on their own property.

'Equipped with the latest technical advances in the industry, MEDCottage was made to assist with many care-giving duties. Using smart robotic features, it can monitor vital signs, filter the air for contaminants, and communicate with the outside world very easily.'
'Sensors alert caregivers to problems, and medication reminders are provided via computers. Technology also provides entertainment options including music, literature and movies.'

It was initially approved by the State of Virginia as a 'temporary family health-care structures' since it contains surveillance cameras and the technological capabilities to allow for remote monitoring of the resident.

The MedCottage sells for approximately $85,000 but delivery and installation can add another $40,000 to the total cost.

Original story in The Washington Post., Pioneering the granny pod: Fairfax County family adapts to high-tech dwelling that could change elder care.   

-Grannypod click for full graphic

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2012

What George Vaillant has to teach us about aging happily

David Brooks,  The Heart Grows Smarter

But as this study — the Grant Study — progressed, the power of relationships became clear. The men who grew up in homes with warm parents were much more likely to become first lieutenants and majors in World War II. The men who grew up in cold, barren homes were much more likely to finish the war as privates.

Body type was useless as a predictor of how the men would fare in life. So was birth order or political affiliation. Even social class had a limited effect. But having a warm childhood was powerful. As George Vaillant, the study director, sums it up in “Triumphs of Experience,” his most recent summary of the research, “It was the capacity for intimate relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.”
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In case after case, the magic formula is capacity for intimacy combined with persistence, discipline, order and dependability. The men who could be affectionate about people and organized about things had very enjoyable lives.

But a childhood does not totally determine a life. The beauty of the Grant Study is that, as Vaillant emphasizes, it has followed its subjects for nine decades. The big finding is that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The men kept changing all the way through, even in their 80s and 90s.

The secret to a longer life? A puppy, a happy marriage and plenty of good friends

Owning a dog, and having a happy marriage and plenty of good friends are key to longevity, according to a landmark study.

The Grant study found all these are more important than where you were born, whether you were born into a wealthy or poor family or what social class you are in.
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George Vaillant,  "Having a loving family is terribly important, but from 70 to 90 years old you'd be surprised at the people who, despite enormous deprivation, manage to find love later on.    If you want to be happy, and don't have a six-month-old baby to trade smiles with, get yourself a puppy.  The finding on happiness is that happiness is the wrong word. The right words for happiness are emotional intelligence, relationships, joy, connections and resilience."

At Amazon Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

For Older Adults, Close Connections are Key to Healthy Aging

The study shows that relationships are the key to healthy aging, said Dr. Vaillant, who advised cultivating younger friends for their energy and fresh perspective. “You must have somebody outside yourself to be interested in — not hobbies or crossword puzzles or your stock account — but flesh and blood,” he said. “That’s why volunteerism is so important — the only way to stop thinking of your own unique wonderful self is to think of others.”
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“In the same way you exercise, pay your taxes and eat a healthy diet, you need to start replacing friends as soon as you lose them, particularly around retirement age,”

At the Harvard University Press, a short video of George Vaillant and his new book

Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over 200 men, starting with their undergraduate days. The now-classic Adaptation to Life reported on the men’s lives up to age 55 and helped us understand adult maturation. Now George Vaillant follows the men into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement.

Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects), Triumphs of Experience shares a number of surprising findings. For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa. While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength. Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50. The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.

Andrew Stark reviews in The Wall Street Journal

If a lifetime of achievement is your goal, then it is better to have had an emotionally supportive childhood than a socially privileged upbringing. Pragmatic and practical men are more likely to be politically conservative, while sensitive and intuitive men lean liberal. Other findings upset conventional wisdom (Republican men are no less altruistic than Democratic men) or proved to be just downright confounding: The longer-lived a man's maternal grandfather, the more likely it is that he will enjoy mental health.
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Gradually, though, the study acquired a more literary quality as the men's lives and characters unfolded in deeply individual ways. And with this change came another: Instead of trying to predict the futures of the study's subjects, attention turned to how well they were coming to terms with their lengthening pasts.

The surviving men are now all around 90. For them, the question of the moment is "so—what'd you think?" And the answer is surprisingly complex. Harvard psychiatry professor George Vaillant tells us in "Triumphs of Experience"—the latest installment in the series of Grant Study books he has written since taking leadership of the project 40 years ago—that what a man thinks at a late stage of life much depends on how successfully he has come to terms with life's regrets.

Christopher Caldwell reviews the book in The Weekly Standard

The study does deliver surprises in describing the effects of alcoholism. Vaillant may be boasting when he writes that his work was able “to disprove the illusion that securely diagnosed alcoholics can return to successful social drinking” since that illusion had been long-dispelled by the 1980s. But he is right that alcoholism is “the most ignored causal factor in modern social science.” In this study, alcoholism is the most important factor in divorce. (Certainly it causes marital problems; it may also cause problem marriages in the first place.) Booze also affects longevity considerably more than total cholesterol, frequent exercise, and obesity do.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink

November 15, 2012

"It's wonderful being old"

'It's wonderful being old' says Pope at care home for elderly

Presenting himself as “an elderly man visiting his peers”, Pope Benedict XVI visited a Rome residence for the elderly today, urging the residents to see their age as a sign of God’s blessing and urging society to value their presence and wisdom.

“Though I know the difficulties that come with being our age, I want to say, it’s wonderful being old,” the 85-year-old Pope said during a morning visit to the residence run by the lay Community of Sant’Egidio.
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The Pope told those gathered at the residence on the Janiculum Hill that in the Bible a long life is considered a blessing from God, but often today society, which is “dominated by the logic of efficiency and profit, doesn’t welcome it as such”.

“I think we need a greater commitment, beginning with families and public institutions, to ensure the elderly can stay in their homes” and that they can pass on their wisdom to younger generations.

“The quality of a society or civilization can be judged by how it treats the elderly,” he said.

Pope Benedict also insisted on recognition of the dignity and value of all human life, even when “it becomes fragile in the years of old age”.

“One who makes room for the elderly, makes room for life,” the pope said. “One who welcomes the elderly, welcomes life.”
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the Pope said, “life is wonderful even at our age, despite the aches and pains and some limitations”, he said.

“At our age, we often have the experience of needing other’s help, and this happens to the Pope as well,” he told the residents.

Pope Benedict said they need to see the help they require as a gift of God, “because it is a grace to be supported and accompanied and to feel the affection of others”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

September 28, 2012

Hope for new anti-aging drug after scientists reverse muscle wastage in old mice

Hope for new anti-aging drug after scientists reverse muscle wastage in old mice

Drugs could one day be used to reverse the muscle-wasting effects of aging, new research suggests.  Scientists have identified a key process responsible for muscle weakening in old age and used a chemical to block it in mouse studies.  The findings could pave the way to body-building anti-aging drugs that keep people strong and fit near the end of their lives

A team of British and US researchers looked at the way stem cells in muscle repair damaged tissue by dividing and developing into numerous new muscle fibers.  Strenuous activity, such as lifting weights, results in minor damage that triggers this response and builds up muscle. The end result is bulging biceps and rippling torsos.

But as people age, muscle loses its ability to regenerate itself, leading to limbs that are puny and weak.  Studying old mice, the researchers found that the number of dormant stem cells in muscle reduces with age.  They traced the effect to excessively high levels of FGF2 (fibroblast growth factor 2) - a protein that stimulates cells to divide.  In aging muscle, the protein was continuously awakening the dormant stem cells for no reason.  The supply of stem cells depleted over time, so not enough were available when they really were needed. As a result, the ability of muscle to regenerate was impaired.

The scientists found that a drug that inhibits FGF2 prevented the decline of muscle stem cells. Treating old mice with the drug, called SU5402, dramatically improved the ability of aged muscle tissue to repair itself.  SU5402 is purely manufactured for laboratories and not licensed for therapeutic use.

But scientists hope the research, published in the latest online issue of the journal Nature, will lead to future treatments.  Senior researcher Dr Albert Basson, from King's College London, said:

'Preventing or reversing muscle wasting in old age in humans is still a way off, but this study has for the first time revealed a process which could be responsible for age-related muscle wasting, which is extremely exciting.  The finding opens up the possibility that one day we could develop treatments to make old muscles young again. If we could do this, we may be able to enable people to live more mobile, independent lives as they age.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:28 PM | Permalink

August 21, 2012

Only 5% of eligible adults have been inoculated against shingles

Do I need the shingles vaccine?

What if there was an infection that can cause permanent nerve damage and pain? What if the virus could affect the eye and cause blindness or affect the brain and cause meningitis?  What if the burning rash attacks almost half of all Americans sometime in their life?  If you knew there was a vaccine which could protect you from that malady, would you get the shot? 

The disease is called shingles or herpes zoster and despite a successful vaccine being available only five (5) percent of eligible adults have been inoculated.

If you are over 60, get inoculated and save yourself grief

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

August 3, 2012

Post menopause, a daily glass of wine

Post menopause: Daily glass of wine 'is as good as drugs for protecting women's thin bones'

One or two glasses of wine a day could work as well as drugs at  protecting older women from thinning bones.  Regular moderate intake of alcohol after the menopause helps to maintain bone strength, according to an international review team.

In comparison, they say, abstaining from alcohol leads to a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
--
Experts from the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research analyzed a study by researchers  at the University of Oregon that showed while women were drinking 19g of alcohol a day – about two small glasses of wine – they had a drop in loss of old bone that improved the balance between old and new bone, maintaining strength.

When the women were asked to stop drinking, their 'bone turnover' went up.

One reviewer said: 'The results suggest an effect of moderate alcohol consumption similar to the effects of bisphosphonates.'

Vermeer Glass Of Wine

Johannes Vermeer, A Glass of Wine

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

July 20, 2012

Home Cooking Increases Longevity

Home Cooking Increases Longevity, Cambridge Study Shows

For those of you who use your stove for shoe storage, nota bene: all that wasted time with an inactive kitchen could be shortening your lifespan. In fact, a new study found that people who cook up to five times a week were 47 percent more likely to still be alive after 10 years.

“It has become clear that cooking is a healthy behavior," said lead author Professor Mark Wahlqvist in a statement. "It deserves a place in life-long education, public health policy, urban planning and household economics."

The research team, made up of Taiwanese and Australian researchers, published their work in Public Health Nutrition, a Cambridge University journal after looking at a group of 1,888 men and women over age 65 who lived in Taiwan. At the start of the study, they interviewed each participant about several lifestyle factors, including cooking habits, household circumstances, shopping habits, diet, education, transportation and smoking.

During the initial survey, researchers found that 43 percent of participants never cooked, while 17 percent cooked one to two times per week, 9 percent cooked three to five times in a week and 31 percent cooked five or more times a week.

After 10 years, they followed up to see how many of the participants had died. They then matched lifestyle answers to the 1,193 participants who remained alive. The researchers discovered that frequent cooking was associated with survival. Also associated? Grocery shopping, taking public transportation, not smoking, and being a woman. Frequent cooking -- and survival -- was more common among women and most profoundly among unmarried women, though also among women with families.

There were limitations to the study: women generally live longer than men and, for cultural reasons, women were more practiced at cooking than men. Additionally, those who remained healthy were more able to perform errands related to cooking, like shopping for food, walking and taking public transportation. The truly ailing wouldn't be able to cook because of their health -- not the other way around.

But even after researchers controlled for these other factors, they found an association between frequent home cooking and longevity. "The pathways to health that food provides are not limited to its nutrients or components, but extend to each step in the food chain, from its production, to purchase, preparation and eating, especially with others,” added Wahlqvist.

 Chocolate Chip Cookies

Higher Education and the Holy Cookie

On the greatest chocolate-chip cookie in the known universe, with recipe….

And so it was that on one faithful day, her three sons received in the mail, not the Holy Cookies for which they begged, but the Holy Cookie recipe and instructions that they learn to cook. I love my mother, but she can be a cold woman once she makes up her mind.

On the other hand, my need was great and my understanding of the gap between desire and gratification scant. And so I learned, at last, to cook. It was one of my mother's many fine and enduring gifts, perhaps the finest next to, of course, life itself.

First, out of sheer necessity, I learned the Holy Cookie and, when that turned out well after only a few disasters, I went on to learning to cook other things. Things like entrees, side dishes, bread and desert right down to and including a Chocolate Souffle.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:19 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2012

Reframing Views of Aging

Unafraid of Aging

The signal public health achievement of the 20th century was the increase of the average human life span. Now, as that achievement helps raise the proportion of the aged around the world, what once seemed an unalloyed blessing is too often regarded as a burden — a financial burden, a health care burden, even a social burden.

“It’s nuts,” said Dr. Linda P. Fried, an epidemiologist and geriatrician who is dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.To assume defeat from what every one of us as individuals wants suggests we’re not asking the right questions.”

Findings from the science of aging, Dr. Fried said, should “reframe our understanding of the benefits and costs of aging.”
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Dr. Fried has spearheaded a large body of scientific research on aging. She spent more than two decades at Johns Hopkins University studying data collected on the health of more than 5,000 men and women 65 years and older as part of the Cardiovascular Health Study, and later mined data on 1,000 women over 65 for the university’s Women’s Health and Aging Study.
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For Dr. Fried, the potential for Experience Corps to benefit both children and older adults was not only exciting, but also a testing ground for the psychologist Erik Erikson’s principle of generatively — that one generation seeks, as it moves into old age, to help and pass knowledge on to a younger generation.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink

July 2, 2012

The Regrets You Don't Want

 Regret

9 Things No One Wants to Regret When They’re Older

1.  Not spending enough time smiling with the people you love.
2.  Holding a grudge and never forgiving someone you care about.
3.  Fulfilling everyone else’s dreams, instead of your own.
4.  Not being honest about how you feel.
5.  Being foolish and irresponsible with your finances.
6.  Getting caught up in needless drama and negativity.
7.  Never making your own happiness a priority.
8.  Never making a difference in the lives of others.
9.  Failing because you were scared to fail.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

June 11, 2012

"The amulet to ward off overly aggressive care"

Discovered: The Magic Word

The word “hospice” usually evokes a shift, a pivot from trying to cure to providing comfort and support at the end of life. Hospice workers help people through the final weeks and months of terminal illness, easing dying people’s pain and fear, bolstering their exhausted families.

But in one case I heard about recently, the word served a different function: It became a kind of magic shield. Simply saying it could protect against unwanted medical treatments for a vulnerable old woman who possibly wasn’t dying at all.

Dr. Sei Lee, a geriatrician and palliative care specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who told me the story, described this use of hospice as “an amulet to ward off overly aggressive care.” He put that potent word to use a few weeks ago; the woman in question was his mother.
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Once he wielded the amulet, “the change was fairly instantaneous.” And well-timed: The next day, as his mother awaited discharge, nurses noticed flecks of blood when she vomited, which sometimes signals internal bleeding. The normal procedure would have involved a naso-gastric tube (something Dr. Lee had tried on himself as a medical student and found intensely uncomfortable), then sedation and insertion of a second tube through her esophagus, into her small intestine. “But they didn’t do it,” Dr. Lee explained, with relief, “because she was under the care of a hospice.”
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The way to ensure the most personalized, least invasive care for Mrs. Lee was to say, in effect, “We’re taking her home to die.”

What’s wrong with this picture?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

June 9, 2012

CAD10, the Vaccine for Alzheimer's

Hurrah!  Groundbreaking Alzheimer's vaccine could cut cases by half and be first step towards finding cure

A groundbreaking vaccine that could cut cases of Alzheimer's disease by half has been discovered.  The jab developed by scientists in Sweden could delay the onset of the debilitating illness and be the first step towards finding a cure.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and attacks nerves, brain cells and neurotransmitters that carry messages to and from the brain.  The vaccine, known as CAD10, helps patients create protective antibodies to defend against deposits that develop in the brain of sufferers.

Researchers from Karolinska Institute in Sweden and from the Swedish Brain Power Network claimed in the Lancet Neurology journal that their discovery could help people with mild to moderate versions of Alzheimer's.  They found no serious side effects during the tests, which took place over three years on people aged between 50 and 80.

One in 14 people over 65 years old is affected by the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.  The risks increase with age, with around one in six people over 80 years old developing the condition.  Scientists hope CAD106 can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by five years.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:41 PM | Permalink

May 21, 2012

GPS smart shoe

The GPS 'smart shoe' that can track Alzheimer's sufferers on Google Maps if they go missing

GPS technology can help Alzheimer's sufferers and their carers, with the release of a shoe that tracks the wearer's position and plots their position on Google Maps.  The GPS Smart Shoe embeds a GPS receiver and SIM card to send the shoe's position to a private tracking website - helping to find people if they wander off.

With 800,000 sufferers in the UK - which is predicted to expand to one million within the next decade, manufacture Aetrex said they wanted to use technology to enable extra support.
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The shoes are available for both men and women, with either straps or shoelaces, and goes for around £300 a pair, with a monthly service plan of £30.  The receiver is tucked discreetly into the heel of the shoe.  The transmitter is embedded in the base of the right heel and tracks the user's location in real time, sending that data at specified intervals to a central monitoring station.

When the wearer wanders off wearing the GPS Shoe, their caregiver will immediately receive a geo-fence alert on their smartphone and computer, with a direct link to a Google map plotting the wanderer’s location.  The company is also talking to various Alzheimer associations to explore various partnerships.

If there is a downside to the technology, it is that the battery life of the GPS receiver lasts only two days - so it could run flat if no-one remembers to charge it.  However an email alert is sent to the carer when the battery is low.

This sounds like a godsend, once care-givers get in the habit of charging shoes every night.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

May 18, 2012

Bucket List

 Bucket-List

In the American Scholar, Toys and Joys by William Deresiewicz

In Nothing to Be Frightened Of, his book-length meditation on death, Julian Barnes, quoting Richard Dawkins, produces a similar list: “music, poetry, sex, love (and science).” Again the emphasis is on the pleasures, high and low. Look at lists of “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” and you’ll find them dominated by exotic sensations of one kind or another (“Skydive”; “Shower in a waterfall”; “Eat jellied eels from a stall in London”).

Really? This is the best we can do? This is what it’s all about? These are the things that make our lives worth living? When I think about what really makes me happy, what I really crave, I come up with a very different list: concentrated, purposeful work, especially creative work; being with people I love; feeling like I’m part of something larger. Meaning, connectedness, doing strenuously what you do well: not sights, not thrills, and not even pleasures, as welcome as they are. Not passivity, not letting the world come in and tickle you, but creativity, curiosity, altruism, engagement, craft. Raising children, or teaching students, or hanging out with friends. Playing music, not listening to it. Making things, or making them happen. Thinking hard and feeling deeply.

None of which involve spending money, except in an ancillary way. None of which, in other words, are consumer experiences.
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Our idea of the self becomes a consumerist one, which means a passive and diminished one. I’m all for jellied eels, but the pleasures of the body are as nothing to the joys of the soul.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 PM | Permalink

May 9, 2012

Depression and purpose, strawberries and blueberries

If you're depressed, don't delay getting treatment;

A Kaiser Permanente analysis shows Subjects Who Were Depressed in Middle Age Had an Elevated Risk of Dementia

The findings, published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, add to the evidence that late-in-life depression is a likely early sign of Alzheimer's disease and suggest that chronic depression appears to increase the risk of developing vascular dementia. Adequate treatment for depression in midlife could cut the risk of developing dementia.
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To look at links between depression and dementia, Dr. Whitmer and other researchers looked at 13,535 long-term Kaiser Permanente members who had enrolled in a larger study in the period from 1964 to 1973 at ages ranging from 40 to 55 years old. Health information, including a survey that asked about depression, was collected at the time.

Eat plenty of strawberries and blueberries.

Strawberries and blueberries could delay cognitive decline among the elderly (over 65) by up to two and half years.  Researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School says its all in the flavonoids which are extremely powerful anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory substances.

And find new purpose in life.

Purpose in Life May Protect Against Harmful Changes in the Brain Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Researchers at the Rush University Medical Center  explain

“Our study showed that people who reported greater purpose in life exhibited better cognition than those with less purpose in life even as plaques and tangles accumulated in their brains,” said Patricia A. Boyle, PhD.

“These findings suggest that purpose in life protects against the harmful effects of plaques and tangles on memory and other thinking abilities. This is encouraging and suggests that engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities promotes cognitive health in old age.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2012

Montessori methods for patients with dementia

Here's a good idea.  Montessori methods could be used for patients with dementia.

Judith Potts writes It's time to give our elderly the sort of care we give our children

The Montessori method was originally designed for children with learning disabilities. Now it is a sought-after form of nursery education for children of all abilities. My own children attended one and I based my method of teaching drama on the muscle memory and five sense techniques. Seeing a reluctant child develop into one who is confident enough to use his or her imagination to create an imaginary object is truly magical. I am sure it would be the same working with dementia patients.

I can see how it would adapt for dementia patients – even those with severe dementia – because muscle memory still works for these patients, making repetition easy for them. Arranging flowers, sorting objects and singing songs are successful exercises that muscle memory holds. Using beautiful objects in a peaceful, warm and caring environment will enable some memory to be re-opened. Recognition skills can be re-established and enjoyment in successful task completion experienced again.
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Tom and Karen Brenner are Montessori gerontologists, researchers, consultants, trainers and writers. They work with dementia patients – using the Montessori method – while also training others in the system.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

April 11, 2012

Senior Companions

When it comes to getting old, we have to take care of each other.

Senior companions, introduced in 1974 as part of the Senior Corps, helps "“helps frail seniors maintain independence in their homes, while also providing respite for caregivers,”

Paula Span calls it An Age-Appropriate Assist

John Antsy keeps a busy schedule. Tuesdays and Fridays, he heads over to see Don and Prudence Allender, who might need groceries or prescriptions picked up or a light bulb changed. “It’s a great boon, because neither of us is driving,” Mrs. Allender said. Mr. Antsy, on the other hand, is still cruising around Waterloo, Iowa, in his 2000 Buick LeSabre.

On Mondays, he visits with a woman living in his subsidized senior apartment building; she uses an oxygen tank and rarely goes out, so she appreciates having company.

On Wednesdays, he spends a few hours with a man who has Parkinson’s disease, which provides a break for the man’s caregiving wife. “It gives her time to go out with her sister and get her hair done, have lunch, do some shopping,” Mr. Antsy explained.

No clients on Thursday, but “that’s fine and dandy, to have a day off.” Mr. Antsy, who volunteers about 20 hours a week with the Senior Companions program at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, can use a break himself now and then. He’s 78.

About 13,600 such Senior Companions participants — all older adults themselves — served nearly 61,000 clients last year. The volunteers must be at least 55, but more than 40 percent are, like Mr. Antsy, over 75.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2012

Writing off the old

In the much touted national health service of Great Britain, life-saving treatment is denied to the elderly.    Even palliative surgery!

Sentenced to death for being old: The NHS denies life-saving treatment to the elderly, as one man's chilling story reveals

When Kenneth Warden was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer, his hospital consultant sent him home to die, ruling that at 78 he was too old to treat.

Even the palliative surgery or chemotherapy that could have eased his distressing symptoms were declared off-limits because of his age.

His distraught daughter Michele Halligan accepted the sad prognosis but was determined her father would spend his last months in comfort. So she paid for him to seen privately by a second doctor to discover what could be done to ease his symptoms.

Thanks to her tenacity, Kenneth got the drugs and surgery he needed — and as a result his cancer was actually cured. Four years on, he is a sprightly 82-year-old who works out at the gym, drives a sports car and competes in a rowing team.

‘You could call his recovery amazing,’ says Michele, 51. ‘It is certainly a gift. But the fact is that he was written off because of his age. He was left to suffer so much, and so unnecessarily.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2012

"I couldn't read or nothing"

Imagine the courage of finally learning how to read at age 90!  And then going on to write a book!

Book written by 98-year-old lobster boat captain who only learned to read at age 90

James Arruda Henry had plenty to be proud of as a lobster boat captain who managed to build his own house and raise a family.

But he kept a secret into his 90s - one that forced him to bluff his way through life by day and brought tears at night.

Mr Henry was illiterate. He couldn't even read restaurant menus; he'd wait for someone else to place an order and get the same food. Sometimes he'd go hungry rather than ask for help. Most of his family was none the wiser.

Now he's 98, and his self-published collection of autobiographical essays is being read in elementary schools. In A Fisherman's Language details his barefoot beginnings in Portugal, life in a tenement in Rhode Island, boxing as a young man and his adventures at sea.
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'I couldn't read or nothing. I tell you, it makes me a very, very happy man to have people call me and write me letters and stuff like that.'
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A granddaughter, Alicia Smith, had the idea of sending the book on a cross-country journey as a literary chain letter of sorts. A copy started its trip at an elementary school in Connecticut and is heading off Friday to one in Berkeley, California.
--

 In A Fisherman's Language

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:04 AM | Permalink

January 6, 2012

"An appetite for old age"

Th latest study from Britain reports  the brain starts going downhill at 45: Scientists find mental decline sets in much earlier than they had thought 

• British men and women suffer the same 3.6 per cent loss between the ages of 45-49 
• Whilst older men aged 65-70 fare worse with a 9.6 per cent drop in comparison with the 7.4 for their female counterparts 

Memory and other brain skills begin to decline at the age of 45 – much earlier than previously thought, say researchers.
A major study shows the brain's capacity for memory, reasoning and comprehension starts waning in middle age rather than in the 60s.

The study looked at civil servants aged between 45 and 70 working in London when cognitive testing began in 1997 to 1999.
Cognitive function was measured three times over 10 years to assess memory, vocabulary, hearing and visual comprehension skills.

In the same week, the New York Times reports

Vitamins B, C, D and E and Omega-3 Strengthen Older Brains

Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E are associated with better mental functioning in the elderly, a new study has found.
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After controlling for age, sex, blood pressure, body mass index and other factors, the researchers found that people with the highest blood levels of the four vitamins scored higher on the cognitive tests and had larger brain volume than those with the lowest levels.

Omega-3 levels were linked to better cognitive functioning and to healthier blood vessels in the brain, but not to higher brain volume, which suggests that these beneficial fats may improve cognition by a different means.

Higher blood levels of trans fats, on the other hand, were significantly associated with impaired mental ability and smaller brain volume.

The best antidote to fears of growing older is to read Cicero on Old Age as Joseph Epstein wrote in a book review last year.

"Cicero," Montaigne wrote, "gives one an appetite for old age." And so he does. Of course old age, bringing with it diminished strength and desires, cannot do some of things youth can; of course old age makes one more prone to illness and disease—parts, after all, do wear out; of course old age puts one closer to death. But weighed beside these serious detractions, Cicero contended, are the opportunities old age brings for "the study and practice of decent, enlightened living," accompanied by a calm that youth, and even middle age, do not allow.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 PM | Permalink

January 3, 2012

Now What?

In 1981, five days before cancer killed him, the life-loving writer William Saroyan told the Associated Press: "Everybody has to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?"

There it is: "Now what?"

That is the great question growing all the greater for being asked by the biggest, most self-conscious and possibly most self-deluded generation in American history, the baby boomers.

Raging Against Aging in which Henry Allen takes a scalpel to law professor William Ian Miller's book about old age and who answers the question of "Now what?" with "Losing It"

"LOSING IT—in which an aging professor laments his shrinking BRAIN, which he flatters himself formerly did him Noble Service, a Plaint, tragi-comical, historical, vengeful, sometimes satirical and thankful in six parts, if his Memory does yet serve."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 AM | Permalink

December 28, 2011

"“Elderly patients often are embarrassed by their feet"

What magic does touch create
that we crave it so. That babies
do not thrive without it. That
the nurse who cuts tough nails
and sands calluses on the elderly
tells me sometimes men weep
as she rubs lotion on their feet.

The Tao of Touch by Marge Piercy

I never knew of this poem until yesterday when I read a feature on a foot care nurse, The Clipper Makes Her Rounds.

“Elderly patients often are embarrassed by their feet, Ms. Merrill has found. “They’re ashamed,” she said. “They worry their feet are stinky or weird-looking.”

And so they put off foot care until the problem becomes pressing. “People come to me with ingrown toenails or corns so painful they can’t walk any more,” she said.

Handling people’s feet — cutting and filing nails, inspecting and healing every bump and rough patch, rubbing on lotion and massaging them — certainly sounds like one of caregiving’s less pleasant tasks. But the foot care ritual can also bring deep connections.

“It’s sort of like being at the hairdresser for them – it’s amazing what will come out,” Ms. Merrill said. “Men will tell me their war stories and say, ‘Gee, I haven’t talked to anybody about this in years.’”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink

December 3, 2011

Old Age or low B12

Jane Brody says  It Could Be Old Age, or It Could Be Low B12

It is an important question. As we age, our ability to absorb B12 from food declines, and often so does our consumption of foods rich in this vitamin. A B12 deficiency can creep up without warning and cause a host of confusing symptoms that are likely to be misdiagnosed or ascribed to aging.
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A severe B12 deficiency results in anemia, which can be picked up by an ordinary blood test. But the less dramatic symptoms of a B12 deficiency may include muscle weakness, fatigue, shakiness, unsteady gait, incontinence, low blood pressure, depression and other mood disorders, and cognitive problems like poor memory.
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In its natural form, B12 is present in significant amounts only in animal foods, most prominently in liver (83 micrograms in a 3.5-ounce serving). Good food sources include other red meats, turkey, fish and shellfish. Lesser amounts of the vitamin are present in dairy products, eggs and chicken.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:20 PM | Permalink

October 30, 2011

Booming anti-aging industry

The first boomers are now in their sixties, some of them already collecting social security, and, as they have all through their lives, are having an outsized impact on the market.  The anti-aging industry in the U.S. has grown from virtually nothing to one worth $88 billion in the past 10 years .

In the Telegraph, Julia Llewellyn-Smith examines the people hoping to cure old age.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:46 PM | Permalink

October 13, 2011

Single ladies growing old

What is it like for All the Single Ladies?    Reflections and  lessons learned by Kate Bolick in The Atlantic

We took for granted that we’d spend our 20s finding ourselves, whatever that meant, and save marriage for after we’d finished graduate school and launched our careers, which of course would happen at the magical age of 30.

That we would marry, and that there would always be men we wanted to marry, we took on faith. How could we not?
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For thousands of years, marriage had been a primarily economic and political contract between two people, negotiated and policed by their families, church, and community. It took more than one person to make a farm or business thrive, and so a potential mate’s skills, resources, thrift, and industriousness were valued as highly as personality and attractiveness. This held true for all classes. In the American colonies, wealthy merchants entrusted business matters to their landlocked wives while off at sea, just as sailors, vulnerable to the unpredictability of seasonal employment, relied on their wives’ steady income as domestics in elite households. Two-income families were the norm.
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“We are without a doubt in the midst of an extraordinary sea change,” she told me. “The transformation is momentous—immensely liberating and immensely scary. When it comes to what people actually want and expect from marriage and relationships, and how they organize their sexual and romantic lives, all the old ways have broken down.”
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But the non-committers are out there in growing force. If dating and mating is in fact a marketplace—and of course it is—today we’re contending with a new “dating gap,” where marriage-minded women are increasingly confronted with either deadbeats or players. For evidence, we don’t need to look to the past, or abroad—we have two examples right in front of us: the African American community, and the college campus.
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This erosion of traditional marriage and family structure has played out most dramatically among low-income groups, both black and white.

She concludes rather more hopefully for single women.

the cultural fixation on the couple blinds us to the full web of relationships that sustain us on a daily basis. We are far more than whom we are (or aren’t) married to: we are also friends, grandparents, colleagues, cousins, and so on. To ignore the depth and complexities of these networks is to limit the full range of our emotional experiences.

And then ends with a lyrical description of the Begijnhof  in Amsterdam which was founded in the 12th century, part of a movement that has always fascinated me, the Beguines.  For sometime, I've thought the model of the Beguines could offer an attractive way of living for older women.  They take no vows but live in community and devote themselves to prayer and good works like caring for the poor and the old.

Living in community counters the Long loneliness in America that Rod Dreher writes about

Some told me stories about how isolated they are, even living in big cities, and how lonely they are for community. Others have talked about how much they envy me having a St. Francisville to go back to; their families moved around so much that there’s no anchorage for them to find harbor in. Still others expressed sorrow at how much they want what the people in St. Francisville have, but how very far they are from being able to get it. When one friend said that in all his social network, he can’t think of a single person he’d trust enough to authorize them to pick his kid up from day care in the event of an emergency, I thought about how I haven’t lived in St. Francisville in almost 28 years, but I can think of at least a dozen people there — family and friends — off the top of my head that I could trust unreservedly with my children in a moment of crisis.

That is remarkable. What kind of country do we live in, where this is so uncommon? What has happened to us? If I’d only heard this privately from a couple of people, it would be one thing. But I’m getting it from more than a few, and from all over the country.

One friend got in touch with me and spoke with disarming bluntness about loneliness and helplessness, saying: “Everything I’ve done has been for career advancement. Go for the money, the good jobs. And we have done well. But we are alone in the world. Almost everybody we know is like that. My family is all over the country. My kids only call if they want something. People like us, when we get old, our kids can’t move back to care for us if they wanted to, because we all go off to some golf resort to retire. It’s hell. This is the world we have made for ourselves. I envy you that you get to escape it.”

One cry from the heart of Christine Odone, I'm scared of growing old and ending up in hospital, neglected and humiliated.  If she lived in a community like the Bequines, she would have no anxiety.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 PM | Permalink

September 27, 2011

Are you getting your Vitamin B12?

Study Finds Vitamin B12 May Prevent Memory Loss

A new study has found a link between poor nutrition and cognitive problems in older adults. The study, published Monday in the journal Neurology, found that adults over 65 with a vitamin B12 deficiency are more likely to have lower brain volumes and cognitive impairment than those with adequate B12.
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“We showed that four out of five markers of B12 deficiency were strongly associated with poor cognitive performance overall, and more specifically, poor episodic memory and perceptual speed,” said Christine Tangney, Ph. D., the study’s lead author and associate professor of clinical nutrition at Rush.

The researchers also found that brain volume was significantly lower in those with high levels of markers for B12 deficiency.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 2-6 micrograms of vitamin B12 for adults over 50.

Foods rich in vitamin B12 are fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 PM | Permalink

August 24, 2011

"I've been shot - I hope it doesn't ruin my new hairdo"

'I've been shot – I hope it doesn't ruin my new hairdo': 92-year-old heroine threw herself in front of crazed gunman as he blasted three in salon

A heroic 92-year-old was blasted in the neck with a shotgun when she leapt in front of a gunman who opened fire in a crowded Wales hairdressers, it was revealed today.

The woman sprang into action after Darren Williams, 45, burst through the doors of Carol Ann’s Salon in Newport, brandishing the double-barrelled gun.

The courageous widow was hit in the neck as she tried to protect hairdresser Rachel Williams, 37, from the attack by her estranged husband.

She first kicked a table towards the 16-stone bodybuilder before stepping between the gunman and his intended victim as he raised the weapon.

But Darren still fired both barrels of the shotgun - hitting his wife in the leg, the pensioner in the neck and another customer in the arm – before fleeing to woodland where he was later found dead.

---
‘The old lady was worried about where she had been shot because she didn't want surgeons to shave her hair - because she'd just had it cut.

The 92-year-old woman hasn't been named.  She was released from the hospital after being treated.  Hats off to her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

August 23, 2011

Prunes for your bones

Want super strong bones? How a handful of prunes a day could help prevent fractures

They may be known for helping you over an embarrassing episode of constipation but prunes have another very useful effect.

Scientists have found that post-menopausal women can protect themselves against osteoporosis and bone fractures by simply eating around 10 of them a day.

Florida State and Oklahoma State academics proved that dried plums are far better than figs, dates, dried strawberries, dried apples, and raisins for improving bone density.

 Prune Dried Plum

--

'Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have,' said Bahram H. Arjmandi, Florida State professor and chairman of the U.S. Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences.

'All fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on nutrition, but in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional.'
--
'Don't wait until you get a fracture or you are diagnosed with osteoporosis and have to have prescribed medicine,' he said.

'Do something meaningful and practical beforehand. People could start eating two to three dried plums per day and increase gradually to perhaps six to 10 per day. Prunes can be eaten in all forms and can be included in a variety of recipes.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 AM | Permalink

August 5, 2011

It's in the genes

Long-living people don't necessarily lead healthier lives says study

People who live to be older than 95 don't necessarily eat any better, exercise any more or booze any less than the rest of us.

According to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, a long life is in the genes.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 AM | Permalink

July 28, 2011

Fear of Aging

93-year-old Rhoda Curtis writes Why Our Society is Ageist

Why does Elizabeth fear old age? Why does anyone? There is a strange conflation in our American society between growing old and becoming infirm. And there seems to be a sense of shame connected with infirmity, in spite of all the wheelchair accommodations in our streets and the electrically propelled chairs whizzing along the sidewalks and the streets. It's this sense of shame that I don't understand. It isn't as if the ageing process was something we could control and/or manage. Bicycle, motorcycle and automobile accidents render people of any age infirm and dependent upon all kinds of physical support to be mobile. Are we ashamed of becoming crippled in any way? I think we are. Political correctness phrases like "Otherwise enabled" don't really fool anyone, least of all a person in a wheelchair or on crutches or someone walking with a cane. The "crippled ones" know how they feel; they know how debilitating pain really is, and they know how difficult it is to stay mobile.

Any self-image that prevents people like Elizabeth from engaging fully with life is a destructive self-image. Conversely, it's when we engage fully with life that we find ourselves enjoying that engagement. We feel satisfaction. If we accept someone else's image of us as true, it becomes true, no matter how damaging or uplifting. If that image doesn't conform to one that satisfies us, we slowly destroy our own possibilities.
--
When I lived in South Korea about 30 years ago, I noticed that women over the age of sixty felt encouraged to go into business for themselves, and in general seemed to be happier than the under-60-year-olds.

It was the reference to South Korea that reminded me of a post I wrote in 2004, Our Fears of Aging Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies and the remarkable series of studies by psychologists Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin.

Just how much the mental stereotypes we hold can affect our lives can be seen in Fear of aging.

Fear of aging speeds the very decline we dread according to a series of studies by psychologists Ellen Langer of Harvard and University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin.  Our collective negative stereotypes of aging, in particular the idea that aging brings about memory loss, lead to "decreased effort, less use of adaptive strategies, avoidance of challenging situations, and failure to seek medical attention for disease-related symptoms."

By contrast, in China the elderly are revered for their wisdom; aging itself is seen as positive and active. When groups of elderly Chinese and elderly Americans were compared against each other and then with younger people on memory retention, the older Chinese did so well even the researchers were surprised. They concluded that the results can be explained entirely by their positive images of aging.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:09 PM | Permalink

June 24, 2011

WWII Vet Marries for the First Time, at 99

WWII Vet Marries for First Time, at 99

“I never met the right woman until I met Virginia"

---
Herrick, a World War II veteran and a retired postal worker, has been a resident at Monroe Community Hospital for 1½ years. Virginia Hartman-Herrick, 86, has been widowed for 25 years and moved to MCH about a year ago.

Gilbert and Virginia have a pretty simple, but very sane, philosophy — do the things that make you happy.

They met in the hall one day shortly after Virginia arrived.

"I said something about an exhibit of china painting downstairs (It was an exhibit of her work.). And he said, 'I'm going to go down and look at it.'"

Gilbert, who does oil paintings, liked what he saw. And the two of them soon became an item.

"There's nobody here to talk to," Gilbert says. "She was the only one, and I started visiting her every day. I thought she would kick me out." She didn't.

"We wanted to share a room," Gilbert says, "but you can't do that here unless you are married. So she asked me, and I said yes." Her five children, grandchildren and great grandchildren all helped prepare the wedding. Gilbert and Virginia use wheelchairs, and they decided to postpone their first married dance until the dance floor was a little less crowded. Their first kiss was tricky; the dance will require a little practice. "We didn't want to knock anyone over," he says.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

April 8, 2011

Mature and Intrepid Gentlemen

What a terrific group of guys and what an adventure!

Elderly Adventure: 85-Year-Old Makes it Across Atlantic on a Raft

What do you do when you're 85 and get compensation money from a car accident? You blow is on a raft and sail the Atlantic.

With whales and mahi-mahi for company, Londoner Anthony Smith and three retiree friends sailed their raft made of pipes, dubbed the An-Tiki, from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa to the Caribbean island of St. Maartens. Sixty-six days and 2,800 miles later, the crew reached St. Maartens on Wednesday.

They made the trip to raise money for WaterAid, a British nonprofit which brings drinking water to poor communities, and to prove the elderly are capable of embarking on adventures frequently considered dangerous.

"Some people say it was mad," Anthony Smith told the Associated Press. "But it wasn't mad. What else do you do when you get on in years?"

To recruit his team of "mature and intrepid gentlemen," Smith, a former science correspondent for the BBC, placed an advertisement in British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

It read:  "Fancy rafting across the Atlantic? Famous traveller requires 3 crew. Must be OAP. Serious adventurers only."

-Anthony-Smith-Sailor-


A stroke of bad luck paid for the trip, courtesy of Smith, who was hit by a van and broke his hip.

"I got some compensation money," he said. "So what do you blow the compensation money on? You blow it on a raft."

The crew departed from the Canary Islands after bad weather delayed their trip for about a month. Smith delivered a farewell speech – in nearly impeccable Spanish – to a crowd gathered on the dock and then waved goodbye.

The raft was loaded with food including oranges, avocados, potatoes, cabbages and a pumpkin. Once the store-bought bread was consumed, sailing master David Hildred began making it from scratch in a small oven.
--

"Yes, of course it's a success," Smith said with a smile. "How many people do you know who have rafted across the Atlantic? ... The word mutiny was only spoken about two or three times a day."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:09 PM | Permalink

April 3, 2011

Cancer patient with "nothing to lose" tackles bank robber

Woman, 66, tackles robber, credits her cancer for giving her bravery

A 66-year-old bank customer, courageous because she says she is dying of cancer, tackled a would-be robber Friday and restrained her until deputies arrived, the Broward Sheriff's Office said.

When deputies asked the customer why she intervened, she replied she "was dying of cancer, figured she had nothing to lose and didn't want to see her [the robbery suspect] get away with it," said sheriff's spokesman Mike Jachles.

A woman entered a  Bank of America branch in Oakland Park, Florida, put her hand inside her purse, said she had a gun, ordered everyone to the ground and demanded $10,000.

Dunsford "just lost it," he said. "She ran up to her, grabbed her in a bearhug and slammed her to the floor. She said, 'I've got cancer. You could kill me if you want!'"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

March 27, 2011

He got married on his 100th birthday to a younger woman, 93

To have and too old: Dance partners with combined age of 193 become world's oldest ever newlyweds

         
         193Combinedage Wedding

A dancing couple with a combined age of 193 have tied the knot - and become the world's oldest ever newlyweds.  Forrest Lunsway, 100, married Rose Pollard, 93, after he finally popped the question following a 28-year courtship.  The loved-up couple, who are both keen ballroom dancers, met on the dance floor of a community centre in 1983.

Rose said she initially told him she'd never marry him but she finally succumbed when he popped the question last year.  She said: ‘I told him up front I had no intention of getting married. But then one day he asked me “how come we never got married?” and I said “because you never asked me”.

‘'So he got down on one knee and said “Well I’m asking you now, just set the date.” I told him “I’ll marry you on your 100th birthday”. And I did.’
--
The wedding was a total surprise for all the guests - who thought they had been invited to Forrest's birthday party.

Pastor Sam Lewis, who officiated the ceremony, said: ‘I’ve done a lot of crazy weddings, but this is awesome. The theme of the wedding was “you’re not done living until you’re dead.”’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 AM | Permalink

March 9, 2011

The Longevity Project

How to Keep Going and Going

What can 1,500 Americans born a century ago, most of them long dead, tell us about the secret to a long life? Plenty, according to Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, two psychologists who, in "The Longevity Project," mine an eight-decade research effort for answers to the kinds of questions that sent Ponce de León searching for the Fountain of Youth.

There are no magic potions on offer here, but many of the findings are provocative.
The best childhood predictor of longevity, it turns out, is a quality best defined as conscientiousness: "the often complex pattern of persistence, prudence, hard work, close involvement with friends and communities" that produces a well-organized person who is "somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree."
---
The authors suggest that persistence and the ability to navigate life's challenges were better predictors of longevity.
--
Parental divorce during childhood emerged as the single strongest predictor of early death in adulthood.
--
The respondents to the study who fared best in the longevity sweepstakes tended to have a fairly high level of physical activity, a habit of giving back to the community, a thriving and long-running career, and a healthy marriage and family life. They summoned resilience against reverses and challenges— including divorce, loss of a spouse, career upsets and war trauma. By contrast, those with the darkest dispositions—catastrophizers, who viewed every stumble as a calamity—were most likely to die sooner.

The Longevity Project by Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin

       The Longevity Project

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:27 AM | Permalink

March 2, 2011

‘Mm! That’s for me!’ ”

Great quotes in this piece as the elderly indulge  My Unhealthy Diet? It Got Me This Far

The author's mother, 82, has cherry cobbler for breakfast and said "I’m a sneaky eater,” she told me. “Inside me is a very naughty girl. I like to eat in the privacy of my own room — sticking my spoon deep into the jar of Mrs. Richardson’s caramel sauce so it sticks straight up, maybe sprinkling a little salt on it — and not telling anyone.”

Mr. Gerberg in his late 70s said. “They had all these cockamamie things to put on the sour cream: candies, chocolate. I had heaping portions. It was thrilling. And all I could think was, where are the potatoes?”
--
Larry Garfield, 95, of Key Biscayne, Fla., ..Asked why he recently ate a rare calf’s liver with mashed potatoes at Joe Allen’s restaurant in Miami Beach (even though he shouldn’t have, given his diabetes), Mr. Garfield said: “You ever walked down the street and seen a pretty girl and thought, ‘Mm! That’s for me!’? Well, I looked at the menu and thought, ‘Mm! That’s for me!’ ”

Later on he said, not without satisfaction, “The main thing to understand about the people who have constantly warned me about what I eat is that I’m here and they’re not.”

--
Mary Pyland, 92, said "Honey, I just had fried chicken with cream gravy and biscuits and mashed potatoes for dinner last night. And I made a caramel pie that was just about the best thing you ever put your lips around.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 AM | Permalink

February 4, 2011

A view of retirement at 107

He never made more than $10,000 a year in his life and now at 107, after living in retirement for 41 years, he's still getting by on his own resources which are savings, social security and a lifetime annuity he purchased before he retired.

He tells us how he did it by following basic principles

Thrift, real estate investments, using debt well, working even when jobs were hard to find, saving and investing conservatively, and staying healthy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

February 1, 2011

"So solid a comfort, so durable a satisfaction"

In a review of the new book Never Say Die, Joseph Epstein at first credits the author Susan Jacoby for her role as "reality instructor".

--as a contributor on old-age health matters to the AARP bulletin and other magazines and newspapers, she feels that in the past she often idealized aging. "One of the reasons I am writing this book," she avers, "is that I came to feel, especially as I saw the real, not-for-prime-time struggles of much older friends, that I was presenting a half-truth that amounted to a lie."

...A longtime feminist, Ms. Jacoby expresses anger at her sisters for ignoring the plight of aging for women, especially women living alone. A majority of women will outlive their husbands—two-thirds of those over 85 in America today are women—with diminished finances and in terrible loneliness. "Old age," she writes, "is primarily a women's issue." She also underscores—no surprise here—that aging is even more difficult for the poor, of either gender.

But he wearies at her constant tirade

So complete is her attack that she is not prepared to allow the one possible reward of old age, which is the potential for acquiring wisdom through experience. Depression rather than wisdom, she holds, is more likely to be the lot of the old.

He turns to Cicero who, as Montaigne wrote, "gives one an appetite for old age".

Of course old age, bringing with it diminished strength and desires, cannot do some of things youth can; of course old age makes one more prone to illness and disease—parts, after all, do wear out; of course old age puts one closer to death. But weighed beside these serious detractions, Cicero contended, are the opportunities old age brings for "the study and practice of decent, enlightened living," accompanied by a calm that youth, and even middle age, do not allow.

----As for the attribution of such faults among the old as being morose, ill-tempered, avaricious and difficult to please, Cicero claimed, rightly, that "these are faults of character, not of age."

For Susan Jacoby, the answer to the increasing numbers of old, poor, sick, lonely women lies in benevolent care by the government and doctor assisted suicide when one has lived too long.

For me, that is more fanciful and pernicious than belief in God.

Ms. Jacoby makes no effort to hide or even subdue her politics, which, as you will have already gathered, are liberal, standard left-wing. Brought up a Catholic, she long ago shed any belief in God or the supernatural..

And so, she utterly fails to comprehend the consolations that a strong belief in God can bring. For those who have grown in their faith, aging becomes a natural monastery where one detaches from the things of the world to focus increasingly on God and eternity.

Compare what a blind monk has to say. in the gorgeous movie, ."Into Great Silence (Two-Disc Set)"

“The closer one brings oneself to God, the happier one is. The faster one hurries to meet him. One should have no fear of death. On the contrary! For us, it is a great joy to find a Father once again. … The past, the present, these are human. In God there is no past. Solely the present prevails. And when God sees us, he always sees our entire life. And because He is an infinitely good being, He eternally seeks our well-being. Therefore, there is no cause for worry in any of the things which happen to us. I often thank God that he let me be blinded. I am sure that he let this happen for the good of my soul… It is a pity that the world has lost all sense of God. It is a pity…They have no reason to live anymore. When you abolish the thought of God, why should you go on living on this earth? … One must (never) part from the principle that God is infinitely good, and that all of his actions are in our best interest. Because of this a Christian should always be happy, never unhappy. Because everything that happens is God’s will, and it only happens for the well-being of our soul. Well, this is the most important. God is infinitely good, almighty, and he helps us. This is all one must do, and then one is happy.”

Here's what Cicero has to say On the Immortality of Souls in his Discourse on Old Age which I believe should be required reading for anyone afraid of aging and of death.

" Cicero's Cato major, or discourse on old age. Addressed to Titus Pomponius Atticus. With explanatory notes. By Benj. Franklin, LL.D."

For nature appears to me to have ordained this station here for us, as a place of sojournment, a transitory abode only, and not as a fixed settlement or permanent habitation.

But oh the glorious day, when freed from this troublesome rout, this heap of confusion and corruption below, I shall repair to that divine Assembly, the heavenly Congregation of Souls!
--
Now these, my friends, are the means (since it was these you wanted to know) by which I make my old age sit easy and light upon me; and thus I not only disarm it of every uneasiness, but render it even sweet and delightful.

But if I should be mistaken in this belief, that our souls are immortal, I am however pleased and happy in my mistake; nor while I live, shall it ever be in the power of man, to beat me out of an opinion, that yields me so solid a comfort and so durable a satisfaction.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:09 PM | Permalink

December 16, 2010

NASA's Aboutface

Forget global warming. Now, NASA is saying

the Sun drives almost every aspect of our world's climate system and makes possible life as we know it. ...

According to scientists' models of Earth's orbit and orientation toward the Sun indicate that our world should be just beginning to enter a new period of cooling -- perhaps the next ice age...

Climate Change: It's the Sun Stupid

The science "consensus" has not only collapsed, it has raised the white flag and confessed that the skeptics were right all along. I think we can stick a fork in the climate change agenda. A few nuts will continue to wander the streets, mumbling to themselves and each other. But as a significant political agenda, I think it's over.

Elsewhere in Australia, CO2 is causing SuperWheat

CO2 is called a fertiliser, it’s a CO2 fertilisation effect which means that carbon dioxide is a food source for plants if you will, that’s the carbon that goes into the bulk of the biomass of the plant. So raising levels of CO2 actually increases that growth, increases the biomass and in agriculture, increases the yield. Given, of course, that there’s sufficient water and sufficient nitrogen and that is what we’re seeing here. We have a number of different varieties in this trial and we’re seeing overall on average 20 per cent yield increase due to elevated CO2.

The question is whether Can environmentalism be saved from itself?

Before they were sucked into the giant vortex of global warming, environmentalists did useful things. They protested against massive Third World dams that would ruin both natural and human habitats. They warned about invasive species and diseases that could tear through our forests and wreck our water systems. They fought for national parks and greenbelts and protected areas. They talked about the big things too – such as how the world could feed another three billion people without destroying all the rain forests and running out of water. They believed in conservation – conserving this beautiful planet of ours from the worst of human despoliation – rather than false claims to scientific certainty about the future, unenforceable treaties and radical utopian social reform.

“How high a price must the world pay for green folly?” asked the thinker Walter Russell Mead. “How many years will be lost, how much credibility forfeited, how much money wasted before we have an environmental movement that has the intellectual rigour, political wisdom and mature, sober judgment needed to address the great issues we face?”

The answer is too high, too many and too much. Please grow up, people. You have important work to do.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:54 PM | Permalink

December 15, 2010

Alzheimer's is like a clogged drain

Insights Give Hope for New Attack on Alzheimer's

The first sign the disease is developing — before there are any symptoms — is a buildup of amyloid. And for years, it seemed, the problem in Alzheimer’s was that brain cells were making too much of it.

But now, a surprising new study has found that that view appears to be wrong. It turns out that most people with Alzheimer’s seem to make perfectly normal amounts of amyloid. They just can’t get rid of it. It’s like an overflowing sink caused by a clogged drain instead of a faucet that does not turn off.


healthybrain_SevereAD.jpg

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 AM | Permalink

Fountain of youth?

Is lenalidomide the fountain of youth?

Eureka! Now scientists discover the drug that could give you a longer and healthier life

Until now it has merely been the stuff of fairy tales and science fiction.

But a ‘fountain of youth’ drug which could help pensioners stay fit and healthy long into old age has been unveiled by doctors.

In tests, tiny amounts of the drug lenalidomide massively boosted immune system chemicals key to fighting off invaders from bugs to tumours.

Concentrations of one of the protective compounds rose more than 100-fold.

---And the minuscule amounts of the drug needed mean that treatment is likely to be side-effect free, the doctors behind the breakthrough believe.

_Fountain of youth.jpg

Image is a detail from the painting Fountain of Youth by Lisa Zwerling

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

November 27, 2010

Children in the War Against Dementia

A moving story that illuminates and chills, Children Ease Alzheimer's in Land of Aging because it's a glimpse into our future.

It is part of a remarkable South Korean campaign to cope with an exploding problem: Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. As one of the world’s fastest-aging countries, with nearly 9 percent of its population over 65 already afflicted, South Korea has opened a “War on Dementia,” spending money and shining floodlights on a disease that is, here as in many places, riddled with shame and fear.

South Korea is training thousands of people, including children, as “dementia supporters,” to recognize symptoms and care for patients. ----

Hundreds of neighborhood dementia diagnostic centers have been created. Nursing homes have nearly tripled since 2008. Other dementia programs, providing day care and home care, have increased fivefold since 2008, to nearly 20,000. Care is heavily subsidized.

And a government dementia database allows families to register relatives and receive iron-on identification numbers. Citizens encountering wanderers with dementia report their numbers to officials, who contact families.

So the authorities promote the notion that filial piety implies doing everything possible for elders with dementia, a condition now called chimae (pronounced chee-may): disease of knowledge and the brain which makes adults become babies. But South Korea’s low birth rate will make family caregiving tougher.

“I feel as if a tsunami’s coming,” said Lee Sung-hee, the South Korean Alzheimer’s Association president, who trains nursing home staff members, but also thousands who regularly interact with the elderly: bus drivers, tellers, hairstylists, postal workers. “Sometimes I think I want to run away,” she said. “But even the highest mountain, just worrying does not move anything, but if you choose one area and move stone by stone, you pave a way to move the whole mountain.”

--

The dementia caregiving program had made him “wonder why I wasn’t able to do that with my own grandma, and I think I should do better in the future to compensate for all my wrongdoing,” he said. “I could have taken care of my grandmother with a grateful feeling. If only I could have.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

November 18, 2010

Super Mamika

I loved this story, Man dresses depressed Holocaust-survivor grandma as superhero, cheers her up.

"Sacha Goldberger found his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother Frederika, a WWII survivor, feeling lonely and depressed. To cheer her up, he photographed her dressed up as a fictional superhero. To his surprise, she loved it. The photos are a bit comical, but there's an underlying sense of hope, strength and courage in them."

-Grandma-superhero.jpg

More photos here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:20 PM | Permalink

October 12, 2010

The population bomb of old people

In Foreign Policy, Phillip Longman makes you Think Again about Global Aging.

Yes, the world faces a "population bomb" -- of old people.  The phenomenon is not limited to rich countries and the outlook is even worse for Asia.  Soon a Chinese child - only one because of its stringent one-child policy - will be responsible for supporting two parents and four grandparents. 

Population  Bomb Old People

To have enough workers, old people will have to work longer, but they can only do that if they stay healthy.

In other words, a planet that grays indefinitely is clearly asking for trouble. But birth rates don't have to plummet forever. One path forward might be characterized as the Swedish road: It involves massive state intervention designed to smooth the tensions between work and family life to enable women to have more children without steep financial setbacks. But so far, countries that have followed this approach have achieved only very modest success. At the other extreme is what might be called the Taliban road: This would mean a return to "traditional values," in which women have few economic and social options beyond the role of motherhood. This mindset may well maintain high birth rates, but with consequences that today are unacceptable to all but the most rigid fundamentalists.

So is there a third way? Yes, though we aren't quite sure how to get there. The trick will be restoring what, in the days of family-owned farms and small businesses, was once true: that babies are an asset rather than a burden. Imagine a society in which parents get to keep more of the human capital they form by investing in their children. Imagine a society in which the family is no longer just a consumer unit, but a productive enterprise. The society that figures out how to restore the economic foundation of the family will own the future. The alternative is poor and gray indeed.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

The population bomb of old people

In Foreign Policy, Phillip Longman makes you Think Again about Global Aging.

Yes, the world faces a "population bomb" -- of old people.  The phenomenon is not limited to rich countries and the outlook is even worse for Asia.  Soon a Chinese child - only one because of its stringent one-child policy - will be responsible for supporting two parents and four grandparents. 

To have enough workers, old people will have to work longer, but they can only do that if they stay healthy.

In other words, a planet that grays indefinitely is clearly asking for trouble. But birth rates don't have to plummet forever. One path forward might be characterized as the Swedish road: It involves massive state intervention designed to smooth the tensions between work and family life to enable women to have more children without steep financial setbacks. But so far, countries that have followed this approach have achieved only very modest success. At the other extreme is what might be called the Taliban road: This would mean a return to "traditional values," in which women have few economic and social options beyond the role of motherhood. This mindset may well maintain high birth rates, but with consequences that today are unacceptable to all but the most rigid fundamentalists.

So is there a third way? Yes, though we aren't quite sure how to get there. The trick will be restoring what, in the days of family-owned farms and small businesses, was once true: that babies are an asset rather than a burden. Imagine a society in which parents get to keep more of the human capital they form by investing in their children. Imagine a society in which the family is no longer just a consumer unit, but a productive enterprise. The society that figures out how to restore the economic foundation of the family will own the future. The alternative is poor and gray indeed.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 PM | Permalink

Use it or lose it

Turns out that Taking Early Retirement May Retire Memory, Too

Data from the United States, England and 11 other European countries suggest that the earlier people retire, the more quickly their memories decline.

The implication, the economists and others say, is that there really seems to be something to the “use it or lose it” notion — if people want to preserve their memories and reasoning abilities, they may have to keep active.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 PM | Permalink

August 31, 2010

Gerotranscendence

Lars Tornstam coined the word "gerotransendence" to describe a state in later life.


Simply put, gerotranscendence is a shift in meta perspective, from a materialistic and rational view of the world to a more cosmic and transcendent one, normally accompanied by an increase in life satisfaction.

Gerotranscendence is regarded as t
he final stage in a possible natural progression towards maturation and wisdom. According to the empirically based theory, the individual moving towards gerotranscendence may experience a series of gerotranscendental changes or developments. These typically include a redefinition of the Self and of relationships to others and a new understanding of fundamental existential questions. The individual becomes, for example, less self occupied and at the same time more selective in the choice of social and other activities. There is an increased feeling of affinity with past generations and a decreased interest in superfluous social interaction. The individual might also experience a decreased interest in material things and a greater need for solitary "meditation". Positive solitude becomes more important. There is also often a feeling of cosmic communion with the spirit of the universe, and a redefinition of time, space, life and death

I wouldn't have known about gerotranscendence, although I've experienced some of it, it were it not for Paula Span. Nor would I know that this is so contrary to what people expect about old age, that many children and caretakers often label this behavior as "pathological."

Take for example the fact that some elderly people confuse past and present. Are they improperly oriented in time and place? Or are they experiencing a transcendence of the borders of time? Dr Tornstam argues

old people who experience these changes (including greater spontaneity and playfulness, less self-absorption, and feelings of “cosmic transcendence”) take greater satisfaction in their lives.

Her post on Aging's Misunderstood Virtues in in the New York Times includes an interview with Lars Tornstam.

But perhaps there’s nothing wrong, said Dr. Tornstam, who has been investigating aging for more than 25 years. Our values and interests don’t usually remain static from the time we’re 20 years old until the time we’re 45, so why do we expect that sort of consistency in later decades?
“We develop and change; we mature,” he told me in a phone interview from his home in Uppsala, Sweden. “It’s a process that goes on all our lives, and it doesn’t ever end. The mistake we make in middle age is thinking that good aging means continuing to be the way we were at 50. Maybe it’s not.”

An increased need for solitude, and for the company of only a few intimates, is one of the traits Dr. Tornstam attributes to this continuing maturation. So that elderly mother isn’t deteriorating, necessarily — she’s evolving. “People tell us they are different people at 80,” Dr. Tornstam explained. “They have new interests, and they have left some things behind.”
--
When he began publishing his work in the mid 1980s, it made a bit of a splash. “It was so unusual,” recalled Merril Silverstein, a social gerontologist at the University of Southern California, who teaches about Dr. Tornstam’s theory, though he remains somewhat skeptical about it. “It turns on its head the current ideas about ‘successful aging’ — avoiding disease, remaining productive, forming social relationships. This advocates the opposite, a retreat into your own consciousness.”.

If you're interested in learning more about Gerotranscendence, you can download Tornstam's 2 page pamphlet here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:22 PM | Permalink

August 26, 2010

Is it true?

Tom McMahon evaluates things differently now that he is older

When I Was Young:

The first question I would ask: Does this make sense?

  • If it didn't, I would stop right there. No need to go further.
  • If it did, I would go on to ask: Is it true?

Now that I'm older:

The first question I ask: Is it true?

  • If it isn't, I stop right there. No need to go further.
  • If it is, I go on to ask: Does it make sense?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

August 18, 2010

A Religious Renaissance?

Another perspective on our aging society comes from John Allen in the National Catholic Register with a look at the market they represent.

Factoids first

  • For the first time in history, the number of people on earth aged 65 and over will soon exceed the number of children under 5.
  • Nearly 40 million Americans today are 65-plus, greater than the combined populations of New York, London and Moscow. By 2050, the 65-plus total will soar to over 80 million.
  • Every eight seconds in the United States today, a baby boomer turns 65.

These trends cause policy wonks to fret about how the West will afford pensions and health care, especially as the ratio of workers to retired persons shrinks from 4-to-1 (the level analysts say is ideal) to 3-to-1 (the projection for the United States by 2050), or 2-to-1 (Canada and Europe), or even 1-to-1 (Japan). Catholics ought to worry too, because when public safety nets break down and elder care isn’t available in the family, faith communities will be pressed to step into the gap
.

Yet seen through American Catholic eyes, the “grayby boom” ought to be a source of excitement as well as anxiety, because whatever social strains it may create, rapid aging also heralds a potentially massive religious renaissance.

-- To be sure, turning 65 does not magically make someone religious. The current crop of elderly Americans is more religious partly because that’s how they were raised, and it’s not clear how future generations will turn out. Nevertheless, it’s also a consistent sociological finding that someone marginally open to religion at 35 will be much more actively religious at 65. Researchers say that an uptick in both prayer and attending religious services begins in the early 30s with such people, and builds as they age.

In other words, the “core market” for religion in America, the segment of the population most inclined both to believe and to belong, is about to explode.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink

July 27, 2010

Hospital Delirium

My mother thought she was captured by the Chinese while Justin Kaplan saw

“Thousands of tiny little creatures,some on horseback, waving arms, carrying weapons like some grand Renaissance battle,” who were trying to turn people “into zombies.” Their leader was a woman “with no mouth but a very precisely cut hole in her throat.”

Hallucinations in Hospital Pose Risk to Elderly

Disproportionately affecting older people, a rapidly growing share of patients, hospital delirium affects about one-third of patients over 70, and a greater percentage of intensive-care or postsurgical patients, the American Geriatrics Society estimates.

“A delirious patient happens almost every day,” said Dr. Manuel N. Pacheco, director of consultation and emergency services at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. He treated Mr. Kaplan, whom he described as “a very learned, acclaimed person,” for whom “this is not the kind of behavior that’s normal.” “People don’t talk about it, because it’s embarrassing,” Dr. Pacheco said. “They’re having sheer terror, like their worst nightmare.”
--

Frequently, geriatricians say, delirium is misdiagnosed, or described on patient charts as agitation, confusion or inappropriate behavior, so subsequent doctors might not realize the problem. One study found “delirium” used in only 7 percent of cases; “confusion” was most common. Another study of delirious older emergency-room patients found that the condition was missed in three-quarters of them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2010

"Where people knew where they were"

P.D. James, a 90-year-old woman to marvel at.

PD James interview: 'I have lived a very happy and fulfilled life'
She’s a life peer, a best-selling crime novelist, and last year, the BBC’s scariest interrogator. As she approaches 90, PD James reflects on death, family − and the husband she couldn’t save.

James will be 90 on August 3 and, as she sits like a small attentive bird in her sage green drawing room in Holland Park, surrounded by her bookcases, rubber plants and photographs of family and friends, you would not guess that she was approaching this grand old age. She never hesitates or has to search her memory for a word. Though she does have an elegantly handled walking stick by her side, she doesn’t appear to need it. And, as I discovered when I tried to find a free July morning in her diary, she is still an active member of the House of Lords, still writes books and still gives lectures, her next one being on a cruise to New York in the Queen Mary 2.
--
Her family – she has two daughters, five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren – keep telling her she should slow down. ‘But it’s not easy to slow down. There’s more than one house to run and there are the finances to think about, and an awful lot of people want an awful lot of things. They have to be replied to. But I have no cause for complaint. I have lived a very happy and fulfilled life.

It was often a very difficult one

Here she is speaking about the great appeal of mystery stories

James suggested that their provision of certainty in a changing world was part of their appeal. 

On the cusp of her 90th birthday, she talked about the fact that her own childhood was one that a Victorian child would have recognised, whereas the speed of change in her lifetime means that the modern world is “entirely different in a fundamental way”. “I think our morality has not caught up with technology yet,” she said. “It’s a world in which it’s difficult to feel entirely at home. That’s why people feel relief in going back to the detective stories of the 1930s, going back to Miss Marple’s St Mary Mead, where there’s a more assured morality, where people knew where they were.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 AM | Permalink

June 29, 2010

Why people get wiser as they age

Why cultures around the world and up and down the centuries have depended on the advice of the grey-haired elders.

What older people lose in reaction time, they make up for in better decision-making with greater insight. 

With age, really DOES come wisdom: Scientists prove older people are less impulsive

Granny was right all along, scientists say. You really do get wiser when you get older. 

According to their research, although the brain slows down with age, this simply helps older men and women develop greater insight. 

The reason for this is that, unlike the young, the elderly's brains are not ruled by the chemicals that fuel emotion and impulse. So their slower responses really are more thoughtful and 'wiser'.

For their study, scientists looked at the brain scans of 3,000 Californians aged between 60 and 100. 

These showed that what older people lose in reaction times, they make up for in better decision-making. 

Professor Dilip Jeste, from the University of California at San Diego, said older people were less affected by dopamine, which helps signals pass between neurons and is involved in the reward system of the brain.
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The elderly brain is less dopamine- dependent, making people less impulsive and controlled by emotion.

'Older people are also less likely to respond thoughtlessly to negative emotional stimuli because their brains have slowed down compared to younger people.

'This, in fact is what we call wisdom,' he told the Royal College of Psychiatrists' international congress, in Edinburgh.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 AM | Permalink

Aging through a physician's lens

The doctor found passion, meaning and purpose a few blocks away.

Dr. Jeffrey M. Levine was studying geriatrics at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan when he began taking classes at the International Center for Photography a few blocks away.
--
Twenty-five years later, Dr. Levine’s moving portraits of older Americans have appeared on 30 covers of The Gerontologist, among other medical journals. “Aging Through a Physician’s Lens,” an exhibit of his work, was shown at the New York Academy of Medicine earlier this year and traveled to universities across the South
--
“It’s been a great struggle and a big financial concession,” Dr. Levine said of his dual lives as a geriatrician and photographer.

 Dr. Jeffrey Levine Photographer

In part, he hopes to persuade medical students — whose documented reluctance to specialize in geriatrics may have unhappy consequences for this aging nation — that treating old people is a satisfying mission.

He hopes to help the public, too, see older people in a different light. “Google ‘pictures of aging’ and you’ll find I.V.’s, condescending stereotypes, caricatures,” he said. “I like to show pictures that are uplifting, that show the inner spirit that helped an individual reach that age.”

“I don’t mean 90-year-old bungee jumpers,” he added, “just people who on a daily basis live contented, happy, healthy, productive lives. Who participate in life. Who contribute to the world.”

The Elderly Through the Eyes of a Geriatrician  by Paula Span

His reaction to the piece on his blog, Aging and Invisibility

I was touched by some of the comments that readers wrote in response to the blog post, particularly one by Elisabeth, a 78 year old woman from Oklahoma who complained of becoming invisible with old age.  “We are invisible,” she said, and even though no one is rude, they “for the most part do not see us as real people.” This perception is one that I have frequently heard articulated when discussing the aging process with my patients.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 25, 2010

Taser Granny

"Don't Taze My Granny" was the headline on Drudge that prompted me to clink through to read this story of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma.

Lonnie Tinsley of El Reno, Oklahoma made a nearly fatal mistake last December 22 when he went to check on his grandma, Lona Vernon.

Concerned that Lona hadn’t taken her medications, Lonnie called 911 in the expectation that an emergency medical technician would be dispatched to the apartment to evaluate the bedridden 86-year-old woman.

Instead, that call for help was answered by nearly a dozen armed tax-feeders employed by the El Reno Police Department.

Understandably alarmed — and probably more than a little disgusted — by the presence of uninvited armed strangers in her home, Lona ordered them to leave. This directive, issued by a fragile female octogenarian confined to a hospital-style bed and tethered to an oxygen tank, was interpreted as “aggressive” behavior by Officer Thomas Duran, who ordered one of his associates : “Taser her!”

“Don’t taze my granny!” exclaimed Tinsley. According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Tinsley’s “obstructive” behavior prompted the police to threaten him with their tasers. He was then was assaulted, removed from the room, thrown to the floor, handcuffed, and detained in a police car. At this point, the heroes in blue turned their attention to Lona.

The tactical situation was daunting; at this point, the police had only a 10-1 advantage over a subject who — according to Duran’s official report — had taken an “aggressive posture” in her hospital bed. The sacred imperative of “officer safety” dictated that the subject be thoroughly softened up in order to minimize resistance.

Accordingly, one of the officers approached Lona and “stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation,” narrates the complaint, based on Lona’s account. One of the officers then shot her with a taser, but the connection wasn’t solid. A second fired his taser, “striking her to the left of the midline of her upper chest, and applied high voltage, causing burns to her chest, extreme pain,” and unconsciousness. Lona was then handcuffed with sufficient ruthlessness to tear the soft flesh of her forearms, causing her to bleed.

After her wounds were treated at a local hospital, Lona was confined for six days in the psychiatric ward at the insistence of her deranged assailants from the El Reno Police Department.

Just what kind of aggressive posture could an 86 year-old woman in a hospital bed and tethered to an oxygen tank take  that would so intimidate ten policemen that "officer safety" required she be stunned with a taser gun?

Boy, I like to sit in on that jury.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:06 PM | Permalink

June 2, 2010

The Brighter Side of Aging

Another study - covering more than 340,000 people shows Happiness May Come With Age.

A large Gallup poll has found that by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older, and researchers are not sure why.

“It could be that there are environmental changes,” said Arthur A. Stone, the lead author of a new study based on the survey, “or it could be psychological changes about the way we view the world, or it could even be biological — for example brain chemistry or endocrine changes.”
--
The results, published online May 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were good news for old people, and for those who are getting old. On the global measure, people start out at age 18 feeling pretty good about themselves, and then, apparently, life begins to throw curve balls. They feel worse and worse until they hit 50. At that point, there is a sharp reversal, and people keep getting happier as they age. By the time they are 85, they are even more satisfied with themselves than they were at 18.

 Happyhat


In measuring immediate well-being — yesterday’s emotional state — the researchers found that stress declines from age 22 onward, reaching its lowest point at 85. Worry stays fairly steady until 50, then sharply drops off. Anger decreases steadily from 18 on, and sadness rises to a peak at 50, declines to 73, then rises slightly again to 85. Enjoyment and happiness have similar curves: they both decrease gradually until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next 25 years, and then decline very slightly at the end, but they never again reach the low point of our early 50s.
--
Andrew J. Oswald, a professor of psychology at Warwick Business School in England, who has published several studies on human happiness, called the findings important and, in some ways, heartening. “It’s a very encouraging fact that we can expect to be happier in our early 80s than we were in our 20s,” he said. “
And it’s not being driven predominantly by things that happen in life. It’s something very deep and quite human that seems to be driving this.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:49 AM | Permalink

April 25, 2010

They came with respect for age. They didn’t see age as a disability.”

I have remarked that in the end, we will have to take care of each other, but it's already happening as A Graying Population is cared for by a Greying Work Force.

In an aging population, the elderly are increasingly being taken care of by the elderly. Professional caregivers — almost all of them women — are one of the fastest-growing segments of the American work force, and also one of the grayest.

A recent study by PHI National, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of caregivers, found that in 2008, 28 percent of home care aides were over age 55, compared with 18 percent of women in the overall work force.

The organization projects that from 2008 to 2018, the number of direct care workers, which includes those in nursing homes, will grow to 4.3 million from 3.2 million. The percentage of older caregivers is projected to grow to 30 percent from 22 percent.

The average caregiver in Rhode Island from Home Instead Senior Care, the private agency that employs Ms. Antonaccio, is about 60, said Valerie Topp, chief operating officer for the state franchise. Younger aides often do not work out, Ms. Topp said, adding that clients frequently ask that the agency not send over someone too young.

“The older ones came to us after being family caregivers, so they understood the stresses that families were under,” Ms. Topp said. “They came with respect for age. They didn’t see age as a disability.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink

April 22, 2010

Optimizing our human potential

Distrust, discontent, anger and partisan rancor is how the Pew Research Center titled their latest survey which shows that only 22% of us say they can trust the government to do the right thing always or most of the time.  That means 78% of us don't trust the government to do the right thing most of the time.

Walter Russell Mead in Go Home, Mae West  says it's time for power to start drifting back to the states and local communities and away from Washington.

The American people need to feel that they are citizens and power-holders rather than consumers and spectators passively watching the political circus.  Otherwise our society will slowly unravel and the fabric of our common political life will steadily weaken.  The sense of civic responsibility and the dignity that come from actively participating in self-government are necessary elements in the virtue that makes our form of government work and that keeps the economy strong.  If we lose these priceless assets American society will be fatally undermined.
--

In some ways, the Progressives were the opposite of what we need today.  They believed that centralization of power and professionalization of government service were the most important items on the reform agenda.  To some degree, today’s reformers will need to undo the work the Progressives did.  The original Progressives harnessed new techniques of management and information control to create large, professionally-administered government bureaucracies.  Today we need to use new techniques and technologies to break those bureaucracies down, to make small units of government more powerful, and to make government at all levels more responsive and more user-friendly.  In virtually every case this will involve taking on government employees, reducing their numbers, eliminating their job security and cutting back on unsustainable retirement and other benefit levels.

The blogger Shrinkwrapped looks at the debt and financial crisis that threatens to engulf us and says we are Balancing on a Pin.  The source of his hope will surprise you.

We need to begin thinking about aging in a new way.  We cannot afford to lose the accumulated wisdom of our elderly.  Adding a decade (or two or ten) to our working life would be a revolutionary change that would dramatically improve our chances of survival as a species and a Civilization.  If we continue our current trajectory, we will face a possibly Civilization destroying crunch within a relatively short time frame (20-40 years.)  Interestingly, this is the same time frame that Ray Kurzweil and others have postulated for a technological Singularity.

We have survived (so far) the existential danger of the atom bomb; we will face new existential dangers as our technology (especially biotech and nanotech) matures.  The balance between Libido and Entropy remains finely tuned.  We would be remiss to eschew the benefits from optimizing our human potential.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2010

"Clearly better without the booze"

No matter how old you are, alcohol, even in moderate amounts, can cause serious problems as you age and stopping can bring real benefits to the rest of your life.

The Aging Drinker

 Aging-Drinker

For years, therefore, medical groups have called for screening every patient, including older ones, for alcohol and other drug use. But as Ms. Sharp’s recently published study in The Journal of Applied Gerontology shows, many doctors still neglect to ask older patients about drinking. Her survey of 101 primary care physicians found that 73 percent reported screening new patients over 65 for alcohol use at their first appointments, and only 44 percent screened their existing patients.

Dr. Oslin’s 85-year-old patient, for instance, had seen a series of specialists, plus his primary care doctor, and all had missed his alcohol dependence.
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Perhaps, Ms. Sharp speculated, doctors don’t look for alcohol problems because they think older people can’t or won’t stop drinking anyway.
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But older people can indeed benefit from treatment or intervention. In fact, older people dependent on alcohol do better in treatment than younger people, Dr. Oslin has found. They’re more likely to attend therapy sessions and take prescribed medication, and less likely to relapse.
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It can be worth the fight. The 85-year-old he saw continued to abstain from drinking and continued seeing his psychiatrist. He was able to rejoin family activities and stopped taking antidepressants.

“He only lived another 14 months, but he was clearly better without the booze,” Dr. Oslin said. “The family got to see their husband and father again for the first time in a long time. They were very grateful that they had that year with him.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 22, 2010

"Death on a cellular scale is ..oddly pro-life"

Is Aging the Body's Cure for Cancer?

Maybe so according to a study from an international team based at Newcastle University in England.

The Newcastle team, working with the University of Ulm in Germany, used a comprehensive “systems biology” approach, involving computer modelling and experiments with cell cultures and genetically modified mice, to investigate why cells become senescent. In this aged state, cells stop dividing and the tissues they make up show physical signs of deterioration, from wrinkling skin to a failing heart.

The research, published by the journal Molecular Systems Biology, shows that when an ageing cell detects serious damage to its DNA – caused by the wear and tear of life – it sends out specific internal signals.

These distress signals trigger the cell’s mitochondria, its tiny energy-producing power packs, to make oxidising “free radical” molecules, which in turn tell the cell either to destroy itself or to stop dividing.
The aim is to avoid the damaged DNA that causes cancer.

Verum Serum comments

But I’m taken by the ironic, almost poetic nature of this discovery. In a real biological sense death, at least death on a cellular scale, is found to be oddly pro-life. Aging turns out to be a gradual battle against more catastrophic failure.  It’s all very counter-intuitive and yet somehow not unpleasant to learn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 12, 2010

The Last Days

Why is it that we find it easier - and it's not an easy matter - to contemplate our deaths than to think we will ever become frail.

Overlooking the frail years

This kind of binary thinking — either I’m healthy and fine, or I’m outta here — and the reluctance to look at the frailty likely to occur in between seem to me quite common. Yet most elderly Americans – more than two-thirds of current 65-year-olds, according to a detailed 2005 projection by a team of health policy analysts — at some point will need assistance to cope with daily living, either paid help or unpaid, at home or in a facility.
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You don’t have to be elderly to engage in binary thinking. “It’s the same phenomenon when you talk to smokers and very overweight people,” said Karl Pillemer, a Cornell University gerontologist. “They say, ‘I don’t care if I die young.’ But they’re not necessarily buying into early death. They’re buying into decades of very unpleasant chronic diseases.” By the same token, he noted, “lots of elderly people are not going to live happily and healthily into their 90s and then keel over.”
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But this unwillingness to contemplate that possibility can have unhappy consequences, Dr. Gillick pointed out. It can lead fragile older people to undergo aggressive medical treatments they may later regret, for instance, especially when their physicians also engage in binary thinking, or at least binary explanations.

One thing is sure we'll be looking at a lot of New Gizmos, some of which debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas.

“When you have a growing market segment, everybody wants a piece of the action,” said Majd Alwan, director of the Center for Aging Services Technologies, itself just six years old.

That is before we become targets of teminal sedation,
a treatment that is already widely used, even as it vexes families and a profession whose paramount rule is to do no harm.

These are morally troubling grey areas we will likely face with our families and our doctors.

Discussions between doctors and dying patients’ families can be spare, even cryptic. In half a dozen end-of-life consultations attended by a reporter over the last year, even the most forthright doctors and nurses did little more than hint at what the drugs could do. Afterward, some families said they were surprised their loved ones died so quickly, and wondered if the drugs had played a role.
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The medical profession still treats its role as an art as much as a science, relying on philosophical principles like the rule of double effect. Under this rule, attributed to the 13th century Roman Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas, even if there is a foreseeable bad outcome, like death, it is acceptable if it is unintended and outweighed by an intentional good outcome — the relief of unyielding suffering before death. The principle has been applied to ethical dilemmas in realms from medicine to war, and it is one of the few universal standards on how end-of-life sedation should be carried out.

The reality is when Facing End-of-Life Talks, Doctors Choose to Wait.

When is the right time — if there is one — to bring up these painful issues with someone who is terminally ill?

Guidelines for doctors say the discussion should begin when a patient has a year or less to live. That way, patients and their families can plan whether they want to do everything possible to stay alive, or to avoid respirators, resuscitation, additional chemotherapy and the web of tubes, needles, pumps and other machines that often accompany death in the hospital.

But many doctors, especially older ones and specialists, say they would postpone those conversations, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Cancer.
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Dr. Nancy L. Keating, the first author of the study and an associate professor of medicine and health care policy at Harvard, said not much was known about how, when or even if doctors were having these difficult talks with dying patients. But she said that her research team suspected that communication was falling short, because studies have shown that even though most people want to die at home, most wind up dying in the hospital.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

January 2, 2010

Aging brains are set up for the next developmental stage

The New York Times advises us in How to train an aging brain

Recently, researchers have found even more positive news. The brain, as it traverses middle age, gets better at recognizing the central idea, the big picture. If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to build pathways that help its owner recognize patterns and, as a consequence, see significance and even solutions much faster than a young person can.

The trick is finding ways to keep brain connections in good condition and to grow more of them.

“The brain is plastic and continues to change, not in getting bigger but allowing for greater complexity and deeper understanding,” says Kathleen Taylor, a professor at St. Mary’s College of California, who has studied ways to teach adults effectively. “As adults we may not always learn quite as fast, but we are set up for this next developmental step.”

Alexej Von Assaulenko Aging Brain
                    the painter Alexej von Assaulenko

Jack Mezirow, a professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, has proposed that adults learn best if presented with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma,” or something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired.”

Dr. Mezirow developed this concept 30 years ago after he studied women who had gone back to school. The women took this bold step only after having many conversations that helped them “challenge their own ingrained perceptions of that time when women could not do what men could do.”

Such new discovery, Dr. Mezirow says, is the “essential thing in adult learning.”

Could it be the good news is that aging boomers will be better off if they critically examine their ingrained perceptions of the world as being all about them?

YES.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:10 PM | Permalink

December 17, 2009

Worry and Stress Decline with Age

Gallup reports that worry and stress decline with age.  The most difficult time begins at 18 and doesn't
really start declining until 56

 Gallup, Stress Worry

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:58 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2009

Elderly woman witnesses to man trying to rob her

Catching up on all the stories I wanted to post about, here's how one remarkable elderly woman of faith saved herself and possibly her attacker.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 PM | Permalink

September 30, 2009

Dame Vera Lynn

A popular English singer during WWII, Vera Lynn was called "the Forces' Sweetheart".  Her most famous songs are "We'll meet again" and "White Cliffs of Dover"

Now at 92, she is back on the charts with her album, "We'll Meet Again - The Very Best of Vera Lynn",
overtaking  U2, the Stone Roses and Eminem.  Dame Vera Lynn storms into the top 20 with her CD of timeless tunes

The forces sweetheart kept up the spirits of millions of Britons with her songs and personality during the Second World War.
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She travelled thousands of miles, often at considerable personal risk, to entertain troops.

She also had a BBC radio show on which she performed songs such as We'll Meet Again, I'll Be Seeing You, Wishing, and If Only I Had Wings.

Earlier this year, speaking of her role during the war she said: 'My songs reminded the boys of what they were really fighting for. 'Precious personal things rather than ideologies. I brought home a little nearer for them.'

 Vera Lynn Album

On September 14 of this year, she celebrated with champagne after becoming the oldest ever recording artist to top the album charts.

 Vera Lynn Champagne

Still a beauty at 92, she even gives beauty  tips.

 Vera Lynn Beauty

Hats off to a remarkable woman.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

September 24, 2009

CBO vs AARP

The Congressional Budget Office director told Senator Max Baucus that his
plan to cut $123 billion from Medicare Advantage—the program that gives almost one-fourth of seniors private health-insurance options—will result in lower benefits and some 2.7 million people losing this coverage.

Medicare and Gag Orders

Imagine that. Last week Mr. Baucus ordered Medicare regulators to investigate and likely punish Humana Inc. for trying to educate enrollees in its Advantage plans about precisely this fact. Jonathan Blum, acting director of a regulatory office in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said that a mailer Humana sent its customers was "misleading and confusing to beneficiaries, who may believe that it represents official communication about the Medicare Advantage program."
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Meanwhile, we have the case of the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP), and its fanciful Medicare claims. The self-styled seniors lobby is using all its money and influence to cheer on ObamaCare, even though polls show that most retired persons oppose it. AARP has spent millions of dollars on its TV ad campaign and bulletins and newsletters to its members, including eight million direct-mail letters over Labor Day. The AARP Web site claims that it is a "myth" that "health care reform will hurt Medicare," while it is a "fact" that "none of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress will cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:04 AM | Permalink

September 3, 2009

Alternative to hip replacement in our future

In what I think is a major medical breakthrough, British scientists are using adult stem cells to avoid hip replacements.


Doctors in Southampton are using the pioneering technique, where a patient’s damaged bones are repaired using their own stem cells.

Patients hailed the treatment, after many found they could walk normally again without any pain and without the need for hip replacement surgery.

So far six patients have had the treatment with only one failure, doctors said.

The numbers are small but the prospects are huge.

Under the treatment, surgeons at Spire hospital used purified cells from bone marrow extracted from the pelvis.

The stem cells, which are immature cells that can develop into different kinds of tissue, were then mixed with “cleaned, ground-up” bone from another patient, after they had a hip replacement operation.

They then finished with dead tissue being removed before surgeons filled the cavity with the mixture of stem cells and donated bone.
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Prof Oreffo, who is currently leading a team researching how stem cell technology can be used to repair human skeletal tissue, told Sky News that stem cells used chemical signals to attract blood vessels.

"Bone is a living vibrant tissue. These stem cells generate new tissue and drive new blood vessel formation to bring in nutrients," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:26 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2009

The spiritual lives of Alzheimer's patients

The religious sense remains alive.

Not even Alzheimer's can erase God

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

June 17, 2009

Intergenerational Day Care

I hope this expands around the country.  It is sorely needed. And everyone benefits.

Day Care for All Ages

It is not a panacea, but researchers who have studied some of the country’s 300-plus intergenerational facilities over the past decade say the best of them provide some of the best care available for frail seniors.
Elderly adults participating in structured activities with children are more focused and in better moods than when children are not involved, scientists have found. Moreover, adults continue to be in better spirits after the children leave, suggesting the interactions may have lasting effects. Even adults with mild to moderate cognitive deficits do better when involved in activities with children.

Many older adults resist day care, even though it can delay or prevent a move to a nursing home and is less costly than professional home health care. A facility with children can seem especially humiliating. Some families get their loved ones through the door by urging them to volunteer to help with the children.

“The families tell them, ‘You have to go. The children need you,’” Ms. Hamilton-Cantu said.

 Intergenerational Day Care
photo by Iris Schneider

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Elderly adults in age-integrated daycare programs don’t actually take care of children — that’s the staff’s job — but they do have an enormous impact on children’s lives, researchers have found. Compared to their peers in traditional preschools, children in intergenerational daycare programs are more patient, express more empathy, exhibit more self-control and have better manners.

At ONEgeneration, there are no etiquette courses per se, but every time children and adults come together for an activity — and that can happen as many as eight times a day — they greet each other with, “Hi, neighbor!,” and shake hands. Children have been known to spot elderly strangers in malls and restaurants and call out to them: “Hello, neighbor!” Sometimes they even walk over and shake their hands.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2009

Corruption hat trick, tennis at 100 and previously used cadavers

Some news from Boston you may have missed.

Sal DiMasi, former Speaker of the Massachusetts House who resigned in January was indicted on public corruption charges for pocketing thousands of dollars in payments from a software company while using his office to make sure that company won state contracts. 

That makes three speakers in a row indicted, two already convicted, writes Howie Carr in Bay State run by men of steal. "This isn't a democracy, it's a kleptocracy."   

A corruption "Hat-trick".  Massive corruption is the primary reason why it's not good when one party continues decade after decade to dominate local politics.

One 93-year-old, looking for a handicap parking spot at a Wal-Mart, hit the gas instead of the brakes and shot 25 feet inside the store, injuring nine people, including a mother and her one year old child.

While another old man, Roger Gentilhomme went out to play tennis for 2 hours, like he does every day, to celebrate his 100th birthday.

"The big question everyone asks is, 'What do you attribute this to?' " Gentilhomme said during a conversation at his home in Falmouth before driving himself to tennis. "Well, I can't attribute it to anything. I haven't the slightest idea why I'm here. But - and here's what I tell everyone - I do watch out for myself. If something starts irritating me, I try to find out what it is and get it fixed.

What leaped out for me was the Mass company that lists cadavers among its assets

Innovative Spinal Technologies, a medical device maker, shut down this year and listed among its assets in a federal bankruptcy filing, nine human bodies, including "eight previously used" cadavers.

James Tarento gibed, "What we want to how the company managed to find a cadaver that wasn't previously used!"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

May 27, 2009

Being a sacred witness to the elderly people you meet

There will not be enough doctors, heath care or money when we boomers get old.  We will have to take care of each other.    Time we started learning how by paying attention to what our elderly people need most and that is to be seen and appreciated. 

Mother Theresa, beatified by Pope John Paul II said "There is  more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread."

True Grit : Growing Old in America by Jude Acosta

Ours is one of the few civilizations in recorded history that not only ignores the aged but devalues them. The way we have placed such emphatic priority on youthful sexuality, incessant and needless entertainment, and endless consumerism has in effect put the accrued wisdom of the elderly at philosophical and spiritual odds with everything the modern American marketplace stands for. We are a nation of Peter Pans and we believe that somehow we can avoid growing up if we just pretend that aging, like death, is for someone else, not us. And like very young children we cover our eyes and make believe the aged are not there.
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The irony is that while the increasing number of elderly in America may need more care and companionship than ever before, many, like my friend, Mr. Garry, will in fact be more alone. With less family living nearby, fewer social invitations, and little or no value in a world that places material success on par with spiritual salvation, they are often stuck at home, unable to care for themselves well or at all, and dependent upon government services instead of family. For many Americans, particularly those who live in front of the television, the aged and infirm are all but invisible.
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According to a growing number of mental health experts, loneliness is the greatest contributing factor to all manner of illness in our culture. University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo and writer William Patrick in their book Loneliness (WW Norton, 2008) state that loneliness is so serious a condition that it puts people at risk for heart disease, cancer and respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments. Citing three decades of research, they point out that loneliness can disturb our levels of stress hormones, immune function, and even gene expression, while positive human interaction increases levels of oxytocin, a bonding hormone that reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels. In this sense, loneliness is transformed from a purely "emotional" state to a measurable biochemical one.
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Contrary to current media spin,
it does not take a whole village to change the situation of the elderly in this country. It takes one person, one moment, one conversation at a local park, and, like a sacred witness, the willingness to see them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 PM | Permalink

May 19, 2009

Health care rationing has begun: the elderly hardest hit

Last week the  trustees reported that the Medicare will run out of money in less than 10 years, by 2017, two years ahead than projected last year.  Social security will run out of money in 2037.  It will start running deficits in 2017.  The trust funds have always been a fiction since the surpluses have been used to reduce budget deficits. 

From the summary issued by the trustees
Medicare's annual costs were 3.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008, or about three quarters of Social Security's, they are projected to surpass Social Security expenditures in 2028 and reach 11.4 percent of GDP in 2083.

The argument goes Medicare is going to bankrupt us which is why we have to have universal health care.  To which Megan McArdle replies

I hear this argument quite often, and it's gibberish in a prom dress.  Any cost savings you want to wring out of Medicare can be wrung out of Medicare right now:

The Wall St Journal reports that the "unfunded liability" of Medicare over the next 75 years is  $38 trillion.  Yes, trillion.  It's hard to wrap your mind around just how big a trillion is. 

A trillion seconds ago, no one on this planet could read and write. Neither the Roman Empire nor the ancient Chinese dynasties had yet come into existence. None of the founders of the world's great religions today had yet been born.

A million seconds is 13 days.
A billion seconds is 31 years.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years

Do you believe the White House estimate that it could save $2 trillion in health care over 10 years just like that the Boston Globe asks.

President Obama is right that the cost of healthcare, now more than 16 percent of the economy, is simply unsustainable.
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But will the industry's gauzy pledges of better coordination of care, more standardization of insurance claim forms, reduced administrative costs, and greater efficiency actually yield the promised savings?

Wesley Smith says we're Pushing Health Care Rationing By Not Discussing Health Care Rationing

rationing prohibits health care funders from paying for otherwise covered treatments, based on the patient’s age, state of health, disability, or perhaps, because the patient committed politically incorrect lifestyle crimes such as smoking or being overweight.

The rationing has already begun and the elderly are hardest hit.

Viking Pundit reports on a story in the Boston Globe on the "pathbreaking effort to cut medical costs" begun by Massachusetts General Hospital: send home the frail elderly from the hospital sooner and reduce their emergency room visits. 

Medicare is now the country's largest purchaser of health care.  OMB budget chief Peter Orszag believes that "comparative effectiveness research" will determine what works best.  Problem is virtual colonoscopies work best for the elderly but not for anyone else.  So as the  WSJ reports in How Washington Rations, Medicare now will refuse to reimburse for virtual colonoscopies.

The problem is that what "works best" isn't the same for everyone. While not painless or risk free, virtual colonoscopy might be better for some patients -- especially among seniors who are infirm or because the presence of other diseases puts them at risk for complications. Ideally doctors would decide with their patients. But Medicare instead made the hard-and-fast choice that it was cheaper to cut it off for all beneficiaries. If some patients are worse off, well, too bad.
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All this is merely a preview of the life-and-death decisions that will be determined by politics once government finances substantially more health care than the 46% it already does. Anyone who buys Democratic claims about "choice" and "affordability" will be in for a very rude awakening.

David Brooks in Fiscal Suicide Ahead says that for Obama  Health care costs are now the crucial issue of his whole presidency.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

March 30, 2009

Giving your brain a workout

Brain Gyms are the latest in mental health writes Kelly Greene in the Wall St Journal

Patrons pay $60 a month to work out on 20 computer stations loaded with "mental fitness" software, including a "neurobics circuit" that purports to stretch the brain. Ms. Bucklin says she's addicted to an art-auction game that displays a dozen Monets for purchase. "Then they'll intersperse them with other Monets, and you have to tell them apart," she says. "I minored in art history, and I still find it difficult."

Thousands of Americans are choosing to join a small, but growing, number of "brain gyms" springing up around the country. Similar brain-teaser programs are available on home computers, sometimes free of charge. The scientific jury is still out on the efficacy of such software.
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More than 700 retirement communities have added computerized brain-fitness centers in the past three years, according to Alvaro Fernandez, co-founder of SharpBrains Inc., a firm that surveys the brain-fitness software market.

"We saw this area explode last year," says Mr. Fernandez. He estimates that consumers spent more than $80 million in 2008 on mental fitness. "You have an industry with tools and coaches. This is more real than people think."

The industry pins its claims for brain exercise on a relatively new scientific discovery: neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to rewire itself throughout life by creating neural connections in response to mental activity

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2009

Chocolate works

Peggy Griffiths is nuts for Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars, eating 30 a week.  Clearly to her benefit as she is now 100 years old.

 Cadbury Centarian

 

Her daughter Eileen Osborne, 69, added: 'When mum was a little girl, her mother told her that sweets were bad for you but chocolate was good.

'Ever since then she only ever ate chocolate, never any of the other snacks on offer.

'She absolutely loves it. In the past ten years she has eaten her way through 30 bars per week. We're always told too much chocolate isn't good for you - but it has got her to her 100th birthday.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2009

" if you lose too much weight after the age of 40..."

If you're over 40, don't worry too much about those last ten pounds. 

Scientists who have studied facial aging say

“Excessive loss of weight can be detrimental to youthfulness and attractiveness,’’ Dr. Guyuron said. “It’s a warning if you lose too much weight after the age of 40.’’

Other factors that may accelerate facial aging are what you would expect - smoking, sun exposure, stress - and what you wouldn't - use of antidepressants.

Twins and the Wrinkles of Aging from the Well blog at the New York Times.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 AM | Permalink

January 20, 2009

Driving while old

Despite growing numbers on the road, fewer older drivers died in crashes and fewer were involved in fatal collisions during 1997-2006 than in years past. ... Crash deaths among drivers 70 and older fell 21 percent during the period, reversing an upward trend, even as the population of people 70 and older rose 10 percent. Compared with drivers ages 35-54, older drivers experienced much bigger declines in fatal crash involvements.

This runs counter to what most of us think.  Turns out  people limit their own driving as they get older.  They know themselves and know their own limits.

The oldest drivers were more likely to say they restricted their own driving. Drivers 80 and older were more than twice as likely as 65-69 year-olds to self-limit driving by doing such things as avoiding night driving, making fewer trips, traveling shorter distances, and avoiding interstates and driving in ice or snow. The percentage of drivers who said they limit their driving increased with each added degree of impairment.

People under 25 are the most dangerous ones on the road, 188%  more likely to cause crashes than middle-aged adults.

Let's hear it for Age, Wisdom and Driving

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 AM | Permalink

January 8, 2009

The Caring Collaborative

From the New Old Age blog, comes news of how aging boomers can care for each other when childless and without family

I learned I wasn’t alone in my fear when a New Old Age post last July, “Single, Childless and ‘Downright Terrified,’” drew more than 400 comments. Leaving aside an unpleasant back and forth among readers about whether those of us without families have chosen (and thus deserve) our solitary lives, it was a mournful chorus of women, and some men, with no special someone to sit by their hospital bed or bring them chicken soup in the event of illness.

Well, while some of us have been worrying, others are working to create a community-based model for people, particularly those who live alone, to band together and take care of each other. It’s called the Caring Collaborative, piloted in New York City last fall with plans for replication, and it’s the latest innovative project of The Transition Network, a membership organization of 5,000 women crossing the Rubicon from careers to retirement and from youth to old age.
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This is no amateurish kitchen-table project. Rather the Caring Collaborative is a foundation-funded, computerized operation that includes a service corps — members enrolled in the time bank — and an information exchange for sharing health-related expertise, connecting people newly-diagnosed with a disease to those who know the ropes and compiling lists of member-recommended doctors, products and services.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

January 6, 2009

With a Revolver Under the Sofa Cushion

I think the best argument for our Second Amendment's right to bear arms is that the elderly, the disabled and those otherwise vulnerable do not have to live in fear but can protect themselves with a licensed gun. 

That's just what a 91-year-old man in Florida did when he repelled two home invaders with his 38 caliber revolver to protect his wife of 72 years.

Terror erupted in the Johnsons' heavily barred house on Lake Stanley Road shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday as the couple watched TV news. She was sitting in her wheelchair. He was sitting nearby on the sofa.

That's when a stranger stepped through the back door.

"What are you doing? What are you doing?" Berlie Mae Johnson, 90, remembered asking as the man stepped on her shiny-clean tile floor. "By then, he had the gun to my head. I don't know what all I said."

The man ordered the couple: "Be quiet. Don't say a word. Don't move."

Overcome by shock and fear, Berlie Mae Johnson said she couldn't move as a second man wearing a stocking over his face started to come through a sliding-glass door from the backyard.

"It's terrible. You don't know what [they're] going to do. You expect at any moment . . ." she said, her voice breaking. "I can't hold up. My nerves are shot. He'd probably have killed me."

But the love of her life was ready.

Her husband, who goes by Johnny, had his stainless-steel Police Special revolver tucked under a cushion on the sofa. He has been protective, she said, ever since they met at a Church of God service in Cocoa during the Great Depression.

"You don't think, man. You do what you have to do," Johnson said of how he grabbed his revolver as the second intruder entered. "He saw the gun and, boy, he was gone."

Shifting his aim, Johnson fired at the man still holding a gun to his wife's head.

"I shot as plain in his middle as I could have," said Johnson, describing how the man jumped and ran out the door. "I think I missed."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 AM | Permalink

December 22, 2008

Cliff Young. What a man!

What a remarkable story. 

The Legend of Cliff Young: The 61-year-old Farmer Won the World's Toughest Marathon


An Unlikely Competitor

Every year, Australia hosts 543.7-mile (875-kilometer) endurance racing from Sydney to Melbourne. It is considered among the world's most grueling ultra-marathons. The race takes five days to complete and is normally only attempted by world-class athletes who train specially for the event. These athletes are typically less than 30 years old and backed by large companies such as Nike.

In 1983, a man named Cliff Young showed up at the start of this race. Cliff was 61 years old and wore overalls and work boots. To everyone's shock, Cliff wasn't a spectator. He picked up his race number and joined the other runners.

The press and other athletes became curious and questioned Cliff. They told him, "You're crazy, there's no way you can finish this race." To which he replied, "Yes I can. See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn't afford horses or tractors, and the whole time I was growing up, whenever the storms would roll in, I'd have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I'd always catch them. I believe I can run this race."

When the race started, the pros quickly left Cliff behind. The crowds and television audience were entertained because Cliff didn't even run properly; he appeared to shuffle. Many even feared for the old farmer's safety.

Cliff-Young

The Tortoise and the Hare

All of the professional athletes knew that it took about 5 days to finish the race. In order to compete, one had to run about 18 hours a day and sleep the remaining 6 hours. The thing is, Cliff Young didn't know that!

When the morning of the second day came, everyone was in for another surprise. Not only was Cliff still in the race, he had continued jogging all night.

Eventually Cliff was asked about his tactics for the rest of the race. To everyone's disbelief, he claimed he would run straight through to the finish without sleeping.

Cliff kept running. Each night he came a little closer to the leading pack. By the final night, he had surpassed all of the young, world-class athletes. He was the first competitor to cross the finish line and he set a new course record.

When Cliff was awarded the winning prize of $10,000, he said he didn't know there was a prize and insisted that he did not enter for the money. He ended up giving all of his winnings to several other runners, an act that endeared him to all of Australia.

What a remarkable man.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2008

Red wine and marijuana

Via Ronnie Bennett, the pre-eminent elder blogger comes this news

Memory can be an issue as we get older even without fear of dementia. Now, two new studies each have a different idea of what might help. You could try
marijuana. Or, some different researchers suggest red wine. Make of it what you will.

Clicking on the links I found Scientists are high on the idea that marijuana reduces memory impairment

The more research they do, the more evidence Ohio State University scientists find that specific elements of marijuana can be good for the aging brain by reducing inflammation there and possibly even stimulating the formation of new brain cells.

The research suggests that the development of a legal drug that contains certain properties similar to those in marijuana might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Though the exact cause of Alzheimer’s remains unknown, chronic inflammation in the brain is believed to contribute to memory impairment.

Any new drug’s properties would resemble those of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, but would not share its high-producing effects. THC joins nicotine, alcohol and caffeine as agents that, in moderation, have shown some protection against inflammation in the brain that might translate to better memory late in life.

And Red, red wine: How it fights Alzheimer's

Reporting in the Nov. 21 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, David Teplow, a UCLA professor of neurology, and colleagues show how naturally occurring compounds in red wine called polyphenols block the formation of proteins that build the toxic plaques thought to destroy brain cells, and further, how they reduce the toxicity of existing plaques, thus reducing cognitive deterioration.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

December 3, 2008

Tap Dancing

I tapdanced as a young girl and later took it up again as a lawyer, taking lessons from old black man Stanley White who learned from the legendary Bojangles Robinson

Here's Sammy Davis paying tribute

Now the London Times says A new generation is discovering the joys of tap dancing

There's Tap Jam, a bi-monthly tap improvisation night with dancers aged 18 to 80

Back at Tap Jam the temperature is rising. The 130 people crammed into the basement at Digress, a bar on Beak Street, Soho, are a disparate lot. Young black men, old white ladies, super-cool Japanese students, well groomed hipsters in their middle years and twentysomething barflies. It's rare to find an 80-year-old retired secretary and a 31-year-old fire-eating belly dancer in the same place, but it happens at Tap Jam.
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“When people think of tap dancing they think of Singing in the Rain and Mary Poppins,” says Dan Sheridan, another organiser. “Tap Jam makes them see it in a whole new light; this is American-style tap or hoofing.” And people are coming back for more. “When we started it was just us and our friends; now we've got a much wider audience.” And it's taking off all round the country.

I'm  getting the urge to take tap up again.  It's far more fun than the health club which now that I think of it is getting pretty boring.  Besides I love tap shoes.

Cockburn started tap in her early twenties. “I had always wanted to do it but was ill during my teenage years. As soon as I was well again I took it up. I think it's a fantastic thing; you can't have a sad tap dance, you can only be happy.”

Looking at the smiling faces around me, every colour and every age, I have to agree.

Take a look at this Challenge between Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr.  Wouldn't you like to be able to do that?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

December 2, 2008

Distraction explains senior moments

Aging brings mental changes - including a slowdown of mere milliseconds - that drives us to distraction, Surveying the Brain for Origins of the Senior Moment in Science Journal by Robert Lee Holtz.

Ms. Puccinelli, 69 years old, said. "There is a lack of concentration. Because you're getting older, you get more concerned about it."

By recording the electrical activity of her mind at work, neurologist Adam Gazzaley at the University of California at San Francisco was using her healthy brain as a road map of mental changes that age brings to us all. In particular, Dr. Gazzaley and his colleagues were trying to understand why aging drives us all to distraction.
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Among the brain circuits that focus attention and memory, his research suggests, aging is a matter of milliseconds. In experiments testing how well people of different ages could recall faces and landscapes, Dr. Gazzaley and scientists at UC Berkeley found that among older people, the brain was slightly slower -- 200 milliseconds or so -- to ignore irrelevant test information. That instant of interference was enough to disrupt a memory in the making, they found.

We don't ignore distractions as easily as we once did.  Of course, diet and exercise play a role, but so does education.
"With the right kind of training, we can take an older mind and make it younger," Dr. Gazzaley says. "The potential exists."

A good social life also helps.
An active social life also appears to slow the rate at which memory fails, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reported this past July in the American Journal of Public Health.

Despite its distractions, a healthy brain may also mellow with age. The roller-coaster rush of dopamine, a biochemical associated with heady feelings of reward, doesn't affect older people as strongly as it does the young, Dr. Berman reported this fall in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Is this evidence that, among older neurons and synapses, life can lose its savor? "I would suggest it shows that older people are appreciating life in a different way," says Dr. Berman.

In other words, the dopamine drop may be a biochemical marker of something else: t
he wisdom to accept with grace what we cannot change.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:43 PM | Permalink

November 29, 2008

Singing for a Good Life

Via Kottke comes the news that Brian Eno believes in singing is the key to a good life.

Well, there are physiological benefits, obviously: You use your lungs in a way that you probably don't for the rest of your day, breathing deeply and openly. And there are psychological benefits, too: Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness. And then there are what I would call "civilizational benefits." When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That's one of the great feelings — to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.
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The critical thing turns out to be the choice of songs. The songs that seem to work best are those based around the basic chords of blues and rock and country music. You want songs that are word-rich, but also vowel-rich because it's on the long vowels sounds of a song such as "Bring It On Home To Me" ("You know I'll alwaaaaays be your slaaaaave"), that's where your harmonies really express themselves. And when you get a lot of people singing harmony on a long note like that, it's beautiful.
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So I believe in singing to such an extent that if I were asked to redesign the British educational system, I would start by insisting that group singing become a central part of the daily routine. I believe it builds character and, more than anything else, encourages a taste for co-operation with others. This seems to be about the most important thing a school could do for you.

Group singing in chapel and assembly was always part of education until a comparatively short time ago.  I remember singing together throughout my school years, at camp and at family get-togethers when my grandparents were alive.  When people got together they would sing, be it at church, at work or in a friendly gathering.  Sadly,  with fewer people going to church and no singing at work, that experience has been lost.

 C

So a few weeks ago when I went to a concert We the People by the Mystic Chorale, I was delighted that the conductor Nick Page expected the audience to join the 200+ members of the chorus to join in singing many of the songs. 

 B

So enjoyable was it, I've decided to join the chorale for their winter gospel concert. 

The Mystic Chorale is a non-profit, volunteer organization that accepts anyone who loves to sing.  The commitment for each concert is short, only 8 weeks, a perfect antidote to the winter blues.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

November 28, 2008

What one dog did for a bitter old man

What one dog did for a bitter old man.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered. In vain. Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, 'I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article.' I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog.
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'Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!' I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. 'If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don't want it' Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Read the rest of the story by Catherine Moore here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2008

Go to Church and Live Longer

The scientific evidence mounts:

Attending Religious Services Sharply Cuts Risk Of Death, Study Suggests

A study published by researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, strongly suggests that regular attendance at religious services reduces the risk of death by approximately 20 percent.
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“Interestingly, the protection against mortality provided by religion cannot be entirely explained by expected factors that include enhanced social support of friends or family, lifestyle choices and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption,” said Dr. Schnall, who was lead author of the study. “There is something here that we don’t quite understand. It is always possible that some unknown or unmeasured factors confounded these results,” he added.

Others:

Weekly Religious Attendance Nearly as Effective as Statins and Exercise in Extending Life
Improvements in life expectancy of those who attend religious services on a weekly basis to be comparable to those who participate in regular physical exercise and to those who take statin-type medications

Go to Church and Breathe Easier
religious activity may protect and maintain pulmonary health in the elderly.

Religious Attendance Linked to Lower Mortality in Elderly
The current findings build on a series of earlier studies at Duke and elsewhere showing that religious people have lower blood pressure, less depression and anxiety, stronger immune systems and cost the health care system less than people who are less religiously involved.

Research Shows Religion Plays a Major Role in Health, Longevity
For the first time, that extra lifespan has been quantified. While there are differences between genders and races, in general those who go to church once or more each week can look forward to about seven more years than those who never attended.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:05 AM | Permalink

November 18, 2008

Loneliness and the need for human connection

Loneliness is a signal like hunger, thirst and pain that something important is missing - connection with other people - that all humans need  says John Cacioppo, author of Loneliness.


"Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection" (John T. Cacioppo, William Patrick)

The best guarantee of a long, healthy and happy life may be the connections you have with other people.

From an interview with the author in US News and World Report, Why loneliness is bad for your health

The painful feeling known as loneliness is a prompt to reconnect to others.
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Humans have a need to be affirmed up close and personal; we see this most often in marriage. But people who don't marry may find meaning elsewhere. We also have a need for a wider circle of friends and family, but we all know that close family connections can be a mixed blessing. And there's a need to feel that we belong to a larger group. Many of us tend to ignore the collective part of social connection until there is an insult or threat. An example is how, right after 9/11, Americans felt very close to one another. There was a harmony and helpfulness that was really quite surprising. Being an Obama-ite during the campaign would be another example of having a collective identity, feeling like you're part of something grand and wonderful.

People who go to church regularly live longer than nonchurchgoers. Why is that?
Churches can be very beneficial—one can feel connected to the group, the church, and to God. Those are actually different things, but both seem to have beneficial effect. God is like a supercharged friend.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

October 21, 2008

Menu for a Long and Active Life

 20 Functional Foods

Revealed.  The 20 'functional foods' you should be eating for a long and active life. 

Gary Williamson, professor at Leeds University calls them 'lifespanessential 'since they all contain polyphenols known for their anti-oxidant properties, helping to prevent cancer and heart disease.

Mainly fruits and vegetables, but chocolate, tea and coffee made the list

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:25 AM | Permalink

October 18, 2008

Late Bloomers

Malcolm Gladwell on Late Bloomers.  Why do we equate genius with precocity?

The freshness, exuberance, and energy of youth did little for Cézanne. He was a late bloomer—and for some reason in our accounting of genius and creativity we have forgotten to make sense of the Cézannes of the world.
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Late bloomers, Galenson says, tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. “Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.
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Mark Twain was the same way. Galenson quotes the literary critic Franklin Rogers on Twain’s trial-and-error method: “His routine procedure seems to have been to start a novel with some structural plan which ordinarily soon proved defective, whereupon he would cast about for a new plot which would overcome the difficulty, rewrite what he had already written, and then push on until some new defect forced him to repeat the process once again.” Twain fiddled and despaired and revised and gave up on “Huckleberry Finn” so many times that the book took him nearly a decade to complete. The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.
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On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

October 16, 2008

Clicking on the web a workout for the brain

Good news for middle-aged and older people.  Internet use 'good for brain'. 

A University of California Los Angeles team found searching the web stimulates centres in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning.

The researchers say this might even help to counter-act the age-related physiological changes that cause the brain to slow down.

The study features in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Searching on the web stimulates more areas of the brain than reading a book.  and may keep it active and healthy.

Well I certainly plan to be a 'silver surfer'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2008

Elderspeak

In 'Sweetie' and 'Dear',  a Hurt for the Elderly

Professionals call it elderspeak, the sweetly belittling form of address that has always rankled older people: the doctor who talks to their child rather than to them about their health; the store clerk who assumes that an older person does not know how to work a computer, or needs to be addressed slowly or in a loud voice. Then there are those who address any elderly person as “dear.”
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Those little insults can lead to more negative images of aging,” Dr. Levy said. “And those who have more negative images of aging have worse functional health over time, including lower rates of survival.”

In a long-term survey of 660 people over age 50 in a small Ohio town, published in 2002, Dr. Levy and her fellow researchers found that those who had positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer, a bigger increase than that associated with exercising or not smoking. The findings held up even when the researchers controlled for differences in the participants’ health conditions.

The worst offenders are often health care workers. 

Some seniors get livid, some think it bullying.  The smartest shrug it off.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2008

Personality Predictors of Longevity

Activity, Emotional Stability and Conscientiousness are the personality predictors of longevity
according to a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging as reported in the July/August Psychosomatic Medicine

Those who stay active physically, are emotionally stable, and conscientious live about 2 or 3 years longer and no one knows why.

Personality counts says AARP

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2008

Airbags for the Elderly

A JAPANESE company today unveiled a wearable airbag for the elderly that pops out when they fall.

The 1.1kg airbag looks like a traveller's waist pouch but inflates in one-tenth of a second when sensors detect the wearer has taken a tumble.

The Tokyo-based company, Prop, unveiled the ¥<148,000 ($1685) device at a fair of products for the elderly and people with disabilities.

It protects the back of the head and the buttocks with two inflated bags that contain 15 litres of gas each.

Elderly people are more prone to injury when they fall due to their brittle bones.

 Michelin Man

They will only look like the Michelin man when the airbags inflate.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2008

Personality traits for living longer

The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the oldest running study on aging,  says Active, stable people live longer

The most recent findings looked at the link between personality traits of people and their lifespan. The data showed that certain personality traits were definitively linked to a longer life, including emotional stability, organisation, discipline, conscientiousness and resourcefulness.

Certain other traits led to a shorter life: anger, emotional instability, anxiousness and depression, among them. The study concluded that "longevity was associated with being conscientious, emotionally stable, and active".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

August 27, 2008

A whiskey a day

10 cigars a day and a shot of whiskey in his morning tea is the secret to Jack Priestly's long life, now 100.

A retired baker and a widower since 1993, Jack
keeps active by going shopping, gardening and keeping chickens.

Jack stopped driving two months ago and now gets about on a motorised scooter.

He said: "I don't feel my age. I've still the mind of a young man. But if I had the company of a good woman, I'm sure I'd feel 40 years younger in a flash."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

July 20, 2008

He draws 9 hours a day - at 112

He stopped school in the third grade, has lived in mental health centers since 1952 when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and didn't begin drawing until his 80s.

Bent over or sitting at a table, gripping a ballpoint pen, marker or crayon, Frank Calloway spends his days turning visions from his youth into lively murals _ and at 112 years old, the images of his childhood are a window to another time.

Drawn on sheets of butcher paper and sometimes stretching to more than 30 feet long, the works mostly show rural agricultural scenes, with buildings, trains and vehicles straight out of the early 20th century. And his colorful creations are gaining more attention in the art world.

The works by a man who has lived about half his life in state mental health centers will be part of an exhibit this fall at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. His caretakers have suspended sales of his artwork until after the show after finding out some of his drawings could sell for thousands of dollars.
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"Most people see his age. You know, what I see is his ability, the beauty that he actually puts on paper, that comes out of him and his mind," she said.

Calloway's circle of admirers extends outside Alabama.

"There's a presence with him, I'm telling you, that feels angelic," said Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, which will borrow 18 scrolls from Calloway for an exhibit in October called "The Marriage of Art, Science and Philosophy."
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Plans are for Calloway to attend the opening of the Baltimore show. It will be his first trip on an airplane and likely the first time he's left Alabama. Hutto said she looks forward to sharing his work with a wider audience.

"His art overcomes boundaries," she said. "People may say, 'Well, he's a folk artist. I don't like folk art.' But if you ever meet him, there is such life in what he creates, and you can't look at one of his paintings without seeing that smile, without seeing that gentle man."

Alabama man turns 112, still spends days drawing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2008

How would you choose to go?

How would you choose to go?  Cancer, heart attack or just old age?

That's the question posed by geriatrician Dr. Joanne Lynn 'How Many of You Expect to Die?'

In the fine New Old Age blog by Jane Gross in the New York Times. Don't miss the comments.

What got me was the excellence of the graphic by Joanne Lynn.

 3 Ways  To Die

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2008

Making Sense of Older and Happier Adults

"The image of youth or young adulthood as the best time of life is probably not an accurate stereotype."

The Washington Post makes sense of several studies pointing to the greater happiness of older adults in Older Adults May Be Happier Than Younger Ones.

The important finding that people who are biologically older are happier than younger adults runs counter to many people's expectations.

The younger adults, Smith said, had less trouble with their health but had many more of the other kinds of predicaments, and those, in the long run, tended to trump their better health.

Yet another study, Smith said, looked at job satisfaction among people of different ages and again found that those who kept working past age 65 had the highest level of job satisfaction -- going against the stereotype that older people keep working mostly because they can't do without the money.
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The studies present an interesting puzzle, said Catherine Ross, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin. Yang's finding that older adults are generally happier than younger ones seems superficially at odds with many studies that have found that older people are at higher risk for depression and other mental health problems.
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In line with Yang's findings, Ross and Mirowsky found that advanced age was positively correlated with feeling positive emotions. But the researchers also found that being older was negatively correlated with active emotions. Older people, in other words, had both more positive and more passive emotional states.

"A lot of research in different areas finds the elderly have higher levels of depression, so it looked as though mental health was bad among the elderly," she said. "What this study does is say, 'Yeah, it is not that the elderly have negative emotions, but that when they are negative, they are passive.' "
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Young people -- the very people we think from the stereotype are best off -- in fact have high levels of anger and anxiety and also high levels of depression, compared to middle-aged adults."

Younger adults were far more likely to have financial worries, troubled emotional relationships and professional stressors, she said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

June 23, 2008

A Blessing with every Breath

If I had died in 1975, without faith, without family, without love, I would have gone with a bitter curse on my lips.

Now, my heart raises a blessing with every remaining breath.

Lawrence Harvey while awaiting a third kidney transplant,  the first lasted for 20 years, the second for two.

Deliver Me or Take Me

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:33 PM | Permalink

June 12, 2008

Eighty Years in the Making

Each week with my film club we see a movie and then go out for dinner at a nearby restaurant or pub to talk about it and everything else.

Last night we saw Young at Heart, a funny, feel-good movie like no other.  I was a bit apprehensive at first wondering if the audience would be laughing at the old folks.; I was touched to see how moved and delighted the young audiences were.

They've toured Europe and the States and played in prisons.  Their joy in being together and singing is infectious.  Their dedication and hard work is inspiring.

HIghly recommended.

Here's one of their music videos, Staying Alive by the Bee Gees.

There's so much fun and life there, it's pure delight.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

Law school dean becomes priest and prison chaplain

They call him 'Doc' at the prison for his four doctoral degrees. 

For decades he was dean of two law schools including Notre Dame. 

Now at 71, a widower and father of five, David Link will be ordained a Catholic priest this Sunday.

When his wife died in 2003 from ovarian cancer, Link said
"I certainly got a call from the Holy Spirit.  It wasn't on a cell phone, but it was a pretty clear call. When the Holy Spirit calls, he doesn't ask how old you are. He just has another job for you."

Urged by his wife, he became a volunteer at the Indiana State Prison where he will continue as full time chaplain after his ordination.

When he began sending the men birthday cards, one inmate, "this big, tough-looking dude," came to his office crying with thanks. No one had ever sent him a birthday card before.

"If you had said to me 10 years ago when I was dean of the law school that I'd first of all go to the seminary, and second that I'd be here working with maximum security prisoners, I would have said you had a bad mental problem," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

June 11, 2008

21st Century Romeo and Juliet

A difficult, touchy subject about elderly parents in a nursing home. 

Who controls the intimate lives of people with dementia?

An Affair to Remember. 
She was 82.  He was 95.  They had dementia.  They fell in love.  And then they started having sex.
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Gerontologists highly recommend sex for the elderly because it improves mood and even overall physical function, but the legal issues are enormously complicated, as Daniel Engber explored in his 2007 article "Naughty Nursing Homes": Can someone with dementia give informed consent? How do caregivers balance safety and privacy concerns? When families object to a demented person being sexually active, are nursing homes responsible for chaperoning? This one botched love affair shows the incredible intensity and human cost of an issue that, as Dorothy's doctor says, we can't afford to go on ignoring.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:58 AM | Permalink

May 30, 2008

Vogue editor deplores cosmetic surgery

British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman writes

But while we want to look younger, we are emphatically not going to get any younger. And while we can a do a great deal about the kind of clothes we wear, and the food we eat, and the holidays we take, and the colour we paint our bathroom, we can't do a damn thing about the fact that we are going to get older.
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While I happily highlight my hair and spend a small fortune on serums and oils, and anything with the word 'radiant' on the packaging, to smear onto my skin in an attempt to improve on nature, for some reason this doesn't, to my mind, fall into the same trap as starting a relationship with a surgeon.

Perhaps it's that when I go to bed at night and wake up in the morning, I can still see the real me.
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Firstly, in a time where we are all obsessed with eating healthy foods, supporting organic initiatives and shielding our children from E numbers, how on earth do you defend the choice to introduce unnatural substances into your skin, the long-term effects of which we still don't know?
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'We broke through the glass ceiling, and we broke the gender barrier, with a tremendous amount of effort, and now we all want to look like Atomic Kittens,' she said. 'Where is the emancipation in that?'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:47 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2008

Slow Medicine

Slow medicine encourages less aggressive and less costly care at the end of life reports the New York Times in For the elderly, being heard about life's end.

Grounded in research at the Dartmouth Medical School, slow medicine encourages physicians to put on the brakes when considering care that may have high risks and limited rewards for the elderly, and it educates patients and families how to push back against emergency room trips and hospitalizations designed for those with treatable illnesses, not the inevitable erosion of advanced age.

Slow medicine, which shares with hospice care the goal of comfort rather than cure, is increasingly available in nursing homes, but for those living at home or in assisted living, a medical scare usually prompts a call to 911, with little opportunity to choose otherwise.
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The chief medical officer at U.C.L.A., Dr. Tom Rosenthal, said that aggressive treatment for the elderly at acute care hospitals can be “inhumane,” and that once a patient and family were drawn into that system, “it’s really hard to pull back from it.”

“The culture has a built-in bias that everything that can be done will be done,” Dr. Rosenthal said, adding that the pace of a hospital also discourages “real heart-to-heart discussions.”

Beginning that conversation earlier, as they do at Kendal, he said, “sounds like fundamentally the right way to practice.”

That means explaining that elderly people are rarely saved from cardiac arrest by CPR, or advising women with broken hips that they may never walk again, with or without surgery, unless they can stand physical therapy.
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Some of those most in tune with slow medicine are the adult children who watch a parent’s daily decline. Suzanne Brian, for one, was grateful that her father, then 88 and debilitated by congestive heart failure, was able to stop medications to end his life.

“It wasn’t ‘Oh, you have to do this or do that,’ “ Ms. Brian said. “It was my father’s choice. He could have changed his mind at any time. They slowly weaned him from the meds and he was comfortable the whole time. All he wanted was honor and dignity, and that’s what he got.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2008

Self-focused or other-focused lives

Jennifer F has written a remarkable post that may cause you to reconsider your world view

All of my scattered thoughts on the subject were brought into relief the other day when I had a conversation with an immediate family member (whom I don't want to identify directly). He seemed depressed and uneasy about something, and when I asked him why he said it was about his retirement account. He's deeply distressed that he won't have enough money to afford anything other than a government-run nursing home in his old age. I reminded him that my husband and I would love for him to move in with us when it gets to the point that he doesn't feel comfortable living on his own. We weren't even talking about a situation where he might need intensive medical care, yet he flatly refused to even consider the notion.

"I would never do that to you," he said. "I would never have you put your life on hold like that."

We've had this conversation many times before, yet this time, the first since my conversion to Christianity, I was hit by just what a profoundly sad worldview this reflects. I've always wanted this family member to live with us when he can no longer live on his own, and he's always refused on the same grounds. That part is nothing new. Yet this time I saw clearly that the situation goes beyond an unfortunate refusal of help: it reflects a worldview in which well-meaning people like my relative believe that the best thing they can do for their loved-ones is to not burden them with their presence, where the very meaning of life has been twisted to suck love out of the world.
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It leads us to believe that if we were ever to lose our self-sufficiency, our presence would not just be an annoyance but would in fact prevent our loved-ones from fulfilling their very purpose in life.

When I compare my life with the self-focused worldview to my life with the other-focused worldview, the difference is striking. Not that I am anywhere near some saint-like level of always seeking to serve others before myself, but simply understanding that that is the goal, that my own life isn't about me, has changed everything. It's counter-intuitive, it requires sacrifice, and it isn't always the most comfortable path. But it is clear that, truly, this is how we were designed to live. After all these years of trying it my way, it's like I'm finally operating my life according to the instruction manual. And it is ultimately a manual for how to live a life of love, written by he who is Love itself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 AM | Permalink

April 24, 2008

Beaten back by a 95-year-old woman in a wheelchair!

I love stories about feisty old women fighting off criminals.  Here's one that tops them all.

When a man smashed the glass of the door to force his way inside, a  95-year-old woman in a wheelchair fought him off with a screwdriver!

For an hour and a half she fought him until he passed out and she could call 911!

Every time the man would poke his hand through the window she jabbed him until he quit.
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"There was busted glass where they had busted out.  She had blood on her. There was glass in her hair."
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“What do you tell your friends in county jail, where did you get those wounds? I don't know that he's going to tell them he got them from a 95-year-old lady confined to a wheel chair."
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Police suspect it will be a long time before anyone trespasses on her property and neighbors like Gerri call her a hero.  “She's very sweet.  She doesn't want to go to the nursing home and she's doing a pretty good job protecting herself.

Hats off to Gerri Grindle.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:05 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2008

The golden years are really golden

The oldest Americans are also the happiest

"The good news is that with age comes happiness," said study author Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist. "Life gets better in one's perception as one ages.
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Yang's findings are based on periodic face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans from 1972 to 2004. About 28,000 people ages 18 to 88 took part.

They are also far more social than we have been lead to believe, one factor in their happiness, along with being content with what they have and who they are.

The unhappiest time is midlife and the boomers are the unhappiest of all.

Yang's study also found that baby boomers were the least happy. They could end up living the unfortunate old-age stereotype if they can't let go of their achievement-driven mind-set, said George, the Duke aging expert.
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So far, baby boomers aren't lowering their aspirations at the same rate earlier generations did. "They still seem to believe that they should have it all," George said. "They're still thinking about having a retirement that's going to let them do everything they haven't done yet."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:36 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2008

"Age Cool"

With all of us boomers getting older, it's good to know that MIT has an AgeLab to develop new ideas to improve the quality of life for older folk and those that care for them.

Technology and nurses will be our best hopes for aging well because there will not be enough geriatricians for us; there's not enough now as I wrote in "Nothing, It's Too Late."

Selected by the Wall St. Journal as one of the 12 People Who Are Changing Your Retirement, Joseph Coughlin describes his work as "trying to get people to 'age cool'."

he is pushing advances in transportation, health care and housing off drawing boards and into older adults' lives.
And he can't do it quickly enough.
"If we don't hurry," he says, "the products being designed now aren't going to be there when the [baby] boomers need them."


In a piece by David Ho, MIT AgeLab Preparing for an Older Tomorrow, Coughlin is quoted
"Our greatest success is now our greatest challenge," Coughlin says. "Where are you going to live? How are you going to get around? What are you going do in those 10, 20, 30, 40 years of extra time?"

So he founded AgeLab
to unravel a paradox: Humanity in the last century achieved the dream of much longer life, but didn't plan for the effects on work, health and daily living.

One of its projects is a partnership with the Business Innovation Factory and the Tockwotton Nursing Home in Rhode Island to  creating a real-world laboratory for improving elderly care by  developing and testing new solutions, products and models

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2008

Not Done Yet. The Aging of the Boomers

Some interesting thoughts on the aging of the boomers.

"Boomers have a clear sense that their own aging is next," writes Matt Thornhill, head of the Boomer Project, that focuses on understanding the boomer generation and is part of a larger market research firm. 

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been --And Continues to Be

In survey after survey, boomers tell us they are not yet "done." They have mountains to climb, worlds to conquer, wrongs to right, and grandbabies to kiss. For most boomers, they'll be over the hill when they're under the hill.

The quest, it seems, isn't for the Fountain of Youth, but the Fountain of Vitality. Boomers will spend time, money, and considerable effort to maintain their vitality until their last breath. Viva the Vital! -- Long live the vital! --will be the mantra for the next 40 years. It is the context that explains the path boomers are taking.

John Martin sees  in the retirement of boomers, happy days for organizations that depend on volunteers as they watch their ranks swell by as much as 50%

Boomers are Wired to Work and are volunteering in larger numbers and greater percentages than previous generations.

Our national research suggests that people over the age of 50 (which is where the majority of boomers are at present) have reached a point in life where they are less likely to focus on "becoming someone" and instead are focusing more on "being someone." While younger cohorts are driven more by interpersonal or external social values, boomers, especially boomers over 50, are more motivated by internal values such as self-fulfillment, self-respect, and sense of accomplishment.

Boomers Search for the Wisdom in Faith

Members of the generation that came of age tripping on mind-altering substances are more than likely exploring a new path at midlife and beyond: spiritual enlighten ment. In our work at the Boomer Project, we uncovered that baby boomers, now ages 44 to 62, are shifting their life's focus from trying to "become someone" to more about "being someone." This shift starts to happen around age 50, truly "midlife" (at least) for most of us.

Boomers beyond age 50 typically have become more motivated by inner feelings and beliefs, and are not driven so much by what their friends, peers, co-workers, or even family feel or believe. Boomers at midlife are beginning to wonder about their purpose, and what legacy they will leave. And it is the culmination of these feelings that has many midlife boomers becoming more religious and spiritual.

It surprised me to learn that six in seven boomers identify a religious affiliation.

When Thornhill wondered how he found himself back at church at 48, he found  Dr. Gene Cohen's concept of the smarter and wiser brain and "developmental intelligence"  compelling, 

This is the combination of wisdom, judgment, perspective, and vision one develops later in life. It is characterized by three types of thinking and reasoning typically developed after age 50 or so: relativistic thinking (recognizing that knowledge is relative and not absolute); dualistic thinking (the ability to uncover and resolve contradictions in opposing and seemingly incompatible views); and systemic thinking (being able to see the larger picture, to distinguish between the forest and the trees).
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Accepting religion requires faith, which is not a black and white thing at all. Most religions require followers to uncover and resolve contradictions as a matter of course. And one must be able to see the larger picture in order to accept the tenets and beliefs of most religions. All of these tasks are much easier for boomers who have brains that are growing older and wiser every day.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

March 11, 2008

The Art to Growing Older

Making art, whether it be singing, writing, painting or crafts seems to be the key in the art of growing older happily, still contributing, still creating. 

Studies Suggest There's An Art to Getting Older

In 2006, the preliminary findings from the federally funded Creativity and Aging Study suggest that
making art, or even listening to music or viewing paintings, supports physical, mental and emotional well-being and eases some symptoms of illness, including dementia.
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Sometimes arts participation can be powerful therapy. Susan Perlstein, the founder of the National Center for Creative Aging and New York's nonprofit Elders Share the Arts, recalls a Holocaust survivor who sat watching her peers perform theater for a year before she told them how she escaped death more than 60 years earlier. The group turned her story into a play and made her the star.

"She said to the group . . . she felt for the first time she could feel at home," Perlstein said. "This process of being able to share your stories and transform them into art is actually a deeply healing process. She went from a depressed, sick older person to a lively young person. It was phenomenal to watch this change."

Taken as a whole, the benefits to the well-being of the old who participate in creative arts are quite extraordinary:
• new growth of brain cells stimulated
• better overall physical health
• less depression and loneliness
• medication use down
• a heightened sense of control and social engagement
• increased sense of independence

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 AM | Permalink

March 7, 2008

Cheers to Buster

No wonder he's called Buster. When he was a hundred, he fought off a gang of muggers in South London.

He has 17 kids and still works as a van cleaner, returning to work at age 99 saying he was bored after 2 years of retirement.

Well, he's taken up running in his spare time and completed a half-marathon in five hours, 13 minutes last weekend.

Now he plans to run the London Marathon and celebrate after as the world's oldest marathon runner.

"I've said I'll attempt it," he told Reuters by telephone from his workplace at Pimlico Plumbers. "I haven't said I'll complete it. If I do make it, all the better. I hadn't thought of doing it before but someone asked me and the money goes to charity so why not?"
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"If I finish, I'll do what I always do and have a pint and a fag," he said. "People ask what is my secret but I haven't got one. They say fags and booze are bad for you -- but I'm still here, aren't I?"

Who do you think you are, Buster?. 

Buster's a hero of mine.

         Buster Martin 100

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:56 PM | Permalink

March 4, 2008

Grumpy old dogs and young pups

When we think of older people, we think of them as getting stiffer, more close-minded in their opinions.  In short, "as rigid as their arteries" as Nicholas Danigelis, a sociologist at the University of Vermont says.

Yet the opposite is true.  People grow more liberal and tolerant as they age; their political attitudes grow more liberal and flexible. 

Danigelis in a recent study published in the October 2007 American Sociological Review,  looked at the political attitudes of 46, 520 people. 

"We found no support for the bogeyman of gerontology, which is that the older you get, the more conservative and rigid you become," he says.

Yes, older Americans are less tolerant of gays, blacks or women in certain positions of authority. But they were less likely to hold onto those prejudices.  In some areas – censorship of library books or unpopular public speakers – the group of people in the older age bracket has became more open-minded over the last 30 plus years as younger people went in the other direction, this survey found.

“Both the grumpy young people and the grumpy old people became more tolerant over the years,” said Danigelis,
in an interview. “But the grumpy old people did so at a much quicker pace.”

They may be old dogs, but they are open to new opinions, more so than the young pups. 

Ah, the benefits of living a long life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:16 AM | Permalink

February 26, 2008

Banging the Drum, 1 to 100

Amazing film

HT. Remembering Matters

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:02 PM | Permalink

February 21, 2008

Living well and living longer

While still a preliminary finding, it seems that the mental acuity of seniors is improving, older people are functioning at a higher level for a longer time.

And the five easy steps to living long and well reports the New York Times are

... abstaining from smoking, weight management, blood pressure control, regular exercise and avoiding diabetes. The study reports that all are significantly correlated with healthy survival after 90.

While it is hardly astonishing that choices like not smoking are associated with longer life, it is significant that these behaviors in the early elderly years — all of them modifiable — so strongly predict survival into extreme old age.

“The take-home message,” said Dr. Laurel B. Yates, a geriatric specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who was the lead author of the study, “is that an individual does have some control over his destiny in terms of what he can do to improve the probability that not only might he live a long time, but also have good health and good function in those older years.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:46 AM | Permalink

February 5, 2008

The Greying of HIV

"I have a population that, having survived this terrible illness, is now getting illnesses of old age 10 or 20 years sooner than normal," said Dr. Ardis Moe, a physician at UCLA's Center for Clinical AIDS Research and Education. "That's the bad news. The good news is that they're not dead."
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With HIV, growing older, faster

Now more than a quarter of the estimated 1 million Americans living with HIV are, like Gibson and Golay, older than 50, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2015, half will be older than 50. At least two long-range studies of people aging with HIV are underway, by the National Institutes of Health and the Veterans Health Administration.

A 2006 study by the New York-based AIDS Community Research Initiative of America on the interaction of HIV and aging on mental health found depression to be almost 13 times higher in longtime survivors than in the general population. As do the very elderly, whose suicide rate is the highest of any age group, longtime HIV survivors often grow despondent over health disabilities and the deaths of friends.

"Everybody I knew died in the late '80s or early '90s," said Los Angeles resident and longtime survivor Thomas Woolsey, 59. "It sounds like I'm the lucky one, but I don't really think so. What good is a life without any friends?"

Most people lose a lot of their desire to live when they lose all their friends,  particularly if they don't have close family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

January 31, 2008

Brain Fitness

You've probably seen or read about brain fitness software that are supposed to ward off memory loss and combat the dulling of the mind.

Most haven't done any scientific research to bolster their health claims.

Two scientists have taken a skeptical view.

Sandra Aamod, editor of the journal Nature Neuroscience, and Sam Wang, professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton University, offered a critical view of the products in a November New York Times opinion piece. A better bet, the authors argued, is physical exercise.

"So instead of spending money on computer games or puzzles to improve your brain's health, invest in a gym membership," the authors wrote. "Or just turn off the computer and go for a brisk walk."

Retraining the brain for the aging workforce

The search for the quick fix and the quick buck continues.  If software doesn't work, maybe a surgical procedure or a drug will do the trick.

The old ways are still the best even if we get bored hearing them.

good nutrition
exercise
socializing with friends
positive attitude towards aging
spirituality
mental stimulation

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

January 29, 2008

Get off the couch

Leading a sedentary lifestyle may make us genetically old before our time.

Sedentary life 'speeds up ageing'.

They particularly focused on telomeres, the repeat sequences of DNA that sit on the ends of chromosomes, protecting them from damage.

As people age, their telomeres become shorter, leaving cells more susceptible to damage and death.
--
But men and women who were less physically active in their leisure time had shorter leukocyte telomeres compared to those who were more active.
--

The most active people had telomeres of a length comparable to those found in inactive people who were up to 10 years' younger, on average.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

January 2, 2008

What to say to a carjacker

The grandmother who fought back during a carjacking.

"I said, 'Look, if you do don't stop this car and get out I am going to stab you in the eye with this ink pen and I'm serious,' 'OK.' So, he turned the corner right there at the Kangaroo and he got out."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:25 AM | Permalink

November 29, 2007

Walker Headlights

Why didn't someone think of this before? Lights on walkers may cut falls

Forget driving in the dark — sometimes it's dangerous just walking in the dark.

As the population ages, medical teams are responding to more calls from people who have fallen in the night. Many are from older adults who toppled over their walkers while reaching for a light switch on the way to the kitchen or
bathroom.

Credit Ron Olshwanger, director of the Creve Coeur Fire Protection District, whose own experience with his own mother ultimately led to his inspiration.

The lights (which are a lot like bicycle lights) cost $34 at Medical West, a medical supply firm that can install them on new or existing walkers.

Olshwanger emphasizes that he and the fire department won't make any profit off the headlights. His inspiration is his mother, Bernice Bormaster, who died five years ago. After breaking her hip, she called her son three times in the middle of the night for help getting back to bed.

"It's a perfect example of what can happen. A lot of these people, their minds are fine, their bodies are just a little weak." Olshwanger said. "These people want to live a normal life, and I think this will help."

HT bookofjoe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:41 PM | Permalink

November 18, 2007

Old Love

Last week I wrote Life Imitates Art, this week there is a much finer piece in The Boston Globe about the situation facing Sandra Day O'Connor called A love supreme finds space in dementia.

So this, in the end, is what love is.

Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor's husband, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, has a romance with another woman, and the former justice is thrilled - even visits with the new couple while they hold hands on the porch swing - because it is a relief to see her husband of 55 years so content.
--

And despite the stereotypes, researchers who study emotions across the life span say that old love is in many ways more satisfying than young love - even as it is also more complex.
--
Researchers trying to understand aging and emotion performed brain scans on people across a range of ages, gauging their reactions to positive and negative scenes. Young people tended to respond to the negative scenes. Those in middle age took in a better balance of the positive. And older people responded only to the positive scenes.

"As people get older, they seem to naturally look at the world through positivity and be willing to accept things that when we're young we would find disturbing and vexing," said Dr. John Gabrieli, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT and one of the researchers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2007

Life Imitates Art

Or maybe creative people have a greater sense about what's in the air.

Justice O'Connor's husband forms romance with fellow Alzheimer's patient.

Last week I watched Away From Her, a movie starring Julie Christie as Fiona who, suffering from Alzheimer's disease,  decides she would be better off in a retirement home than with her husband of fifty years whom she dearly loves, despite some troubled spots that they never discuss.

New patients at the retirement home are not allowed visitors for thirty days so they can adjust more quickly.  When the husband finally is allowed to visit his wife he finds Fiona has fallen in love with a fellow patient.   

The movie is a brilliant adaption by Sarah Polley of an Alice Munro short story, "The Bear Came Over the Mountain."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2007

"Unsuccessful Aging is Dying"

Ronni Bennett over at Time Goes By has posted a two-part interview with Dr. William Thomas, a young geriatrician and author of What are Old People For?


"What Are Old People For?: How Elders Will Save the World" (William H. Thomas)

Here is one excerpt.

We human beings live a long time after our reproductive peak. This is no accident. Our species took the necessity of aging and, from that, refined the virtues of elderhood. Elders are an integral, biologically determined element of the human cultural fabric and it is time they understood this role and begin to play their part.

And another on the two most important things he's learned from elders.

1. Wisdom lies in knowing what to overlook. 2. In the end, no one gets out alive and so, for the time we are here, it is all about relationships. Nothing else really matters.

Part One
Part Two

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

100 Huzzahs for Peggy

  Peggy 100 Paragliding

Grandmother celebrates 100th birthday by becoming world's oldest paraglider.

"I  was sitting in a chair floating above the mountains. I'm not scared at all.

"I love heights, I love climbing, I love getting up in the air. I hope to do this again when I am 105, but this might be my final goodbye to all my flying escapades," she said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:01 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2007

The Experience Movement and the Purpose Prize

Civic Ventures, a think tank founded in the late 1990s is "reframing the
debate about aging in America and redefining the second half of life as a source of social and individual renewal"

It's about "helping society achieve the greatest return on experience."

They begun a number of programs including the Experience Corps, a national service program for Americans over 55, the Next Chapter working in local communities to help people in the second half of life connect with peers and find pathways to significant service.

The Purpose Prize provides 5 awards of $100,000 each to people over  60 who are taking on society's biggest challenges.

Here are some of the winners about whom Mark Freedman, founder and President of Civic Ventures said,

"These men and women - some national figures, some local heroes - disprove the notion that innovation is the province of the young and show us the essence of what's possible in an aging society."

Nominations for the 2008 Purpose Prize are open November 15 through March 1.

The foundation also publishes a number of booklets available for download including The Boomers' Guide to Good Work

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

October 19, 2007

At 108, Olive blogs

Just about everyone in Australia knows Olive.  She's the blogger who is turning 108.

Three cheers for Olive!

You can watch her sing My Blue Heaven on YouTube and hear her tell stories as well.

 Olive

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 AM | Permalink

75 and she earns the handle, 'The Hammer'

Mona Shaw reached her breaking point, then reached for her hammer and so lived out what most of us only fantasize about.

Taking a Whack Against Comcast

The insulting idea that, as Shaw puts it, "they thought just because we're old enough to get Social Security that we lack both brains and backbone."

So, after stewing over it all weekend, on the following Monday, she went downstairs, got Don's claw hammer and said: "C'mon, honey, we're going to Comcast."
--
Hammer time: Shaw storms in the company's office. BAM! She whacks the keyboard of the customer service rep. BAM! Down goes the monitor. BAM! She totals the telephone. People scatter, scream, cops show up and what does she do? POW! A parting shot to the phone!

"They cuffed me right then," she says.

Her take on Comcast: "What a bunch of sub-moronic imbeciles."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink

October 16, 2007

Normal Aging Brains

The best thing to keep normal, aging brains sharp is physical exercise which seems to help the brain as much as the body.

And you want a 'bushy' brain not a 'twiggy' one.

A healthy brain is a bushy one. Branch-like tentacles extend from the ends of the brain's cells, enabling them to communicate with each other. The more you learn, the more those connections form.

Doctors discuss theories on aging brains.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

September 20, 2007

Wii will rock you

About three weeks ago, the chef at a nursing home in England brought in a video games console, the Nintendo Wii, that belonged to his son so that the staff could play it on the weekend.

But once the residents, ages 80-103, got a gander at the console, they were so enthralled they demanded the staff purchase one immediately.  Forget bridge, crosswords, even the telly, all these residents want to do is play Wii.

"They were absolutely hooked.

"They're up of their armchairs and moving about and there's a real team spirit."

 Flossie Wii Videogaming

The games system has proved to be such a success that executives at Sunrise Senior Living are now planning to buy one for each of their 15 residential homes.

If this goes ahead, inter-care home tournaments would take place with teams of elderly residents travelling to other care homes via mini-buses for matches.

Dr Lorna Layward, research manager at Help the Aged, said: "Anything that gets elderly people up off their feet and trying something new is a very good thing.

Elderly 'addicted' to Nintendo Wii at care home.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 AM | Permalink

September 8, 2007

"My mother is much stronger than I ever knew she was."

76 years old, Doris Anderson was hunting elk with her husband when their truck broke down.  They began walking out when they got separated in the woods.  Two weeks passed, the hunt had stopped, the memorial service was being planned, when Doris was found by the police, alive and well.

Surviving canyon ordeal

"My mom is much stronger than I ever knew that she was, I thought that she was more fragile than that and she's proved me wrong and I'm glad," she added.

Equally delighted is Mrs Anderson's husband Harold who had carried on looking for help when his wife had become exhausted and decided to try to return to their vehicle.

A disorientated Mr Anderson was later picked up by another hunting group, but they failed to find his wife.

"I thought my wife was dead," Mr Anderson said of the news that his wife was alive. "It's a living miracle, it has to be."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 AM | Permalink

August 16, 2007

Aging in Place

The New York Times has a good piece on the Grass-Roots Effort to Grow Old at Home with a handy sidebar giving contacts for aging in place communities across the country.

“A few neighborhood-based, relatively inexpensive strategies can have an enormous effect,” Mr. McCallion said. “If people don’t feel so overwhelmed, they don’t feel pushed into precipitous decisions that can’t always be reversed.”

For inspiration, the nascent groups looked to Beacon Hill Village in Boston, which pioneered the approach six years ago. Beacon Hill’s 400 members pay yearly dues — $580 for an individual and $780 for a couple, plus à la carte fees — in exchange for the security of knowing that a prescreened carpenter, chef, computer expert or home health aide is one phone call away.

I wrote about this new phenomenon that started on Beacon Hill in Aging at Home last year. 

It's cheaper by far, and desired by a great majority of the elderly.  The biggest question will it work in the suburbs, outside an urban neighborhood?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 AM | Permalink

August 8, 2007

The Seven Tasks of Aging

At Times Go By, Ronni Bennett nicely organizes links and summaries to David Wolfe on Jung's Seven Tasks of Aging

Here quickly are the seven tasks -

1. Facing the Reality of Aging and Dying
2. Life Review
3. Defining Life Realistically
4. Letting Go of the Ego.
5. Finding a New Rooting in the Self
6. Determining the Meaning of One's Life.
7. Rebirth - Dying with Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2007

The New Sweet Spot

When a  electronics company no longer sees future profits in electronics because of competition from Asia
and decides to focus on the elderly who want to live independently, that's big news.    But that's just what Phillips Electronics has done.

Electronics Giant Seeks a Cure in Health Care  (WSJ, subscription only)

Philips paid $750 million last year to buy Massachusetts-based Lifeline, an acquisition that represented a turning point for the company.

For decades, its medical-systems division made and sold large, professional equipment like X-ray and CAT-scan machines to hospitals. Now, Philips is attempting to meld its health-care experience with its knowledge of consumer marketing. The goal: carve out a new high-growth business selling health-related products and services.
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One of the hot areas Philips identified was "independent living," or elderly people who wanted to live on their own for as long as possible.
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Philips organized focus groups of elderly people and their adult children in Madrid, Frankfurt, San Francisco and Boston. They made some key findings. For instance, a stigma exists among many seniors who are reluctant to acknowledge their frailty or ill health. Another problem: Elderly patients often aren't comfortable with high-tech products, and prefer a measure of human interaction. Sometimes, arthritic fingers prevent them from navigating tiny buttons.

Philips developed a profile of the elderly customer it wanted to target. Internally, they dubbed it the "Senior Solutions Sweet Spot." People in this group, they determined, valued self-reliance, felt that staying connected to friends and family was important and yet wanted to address "functional decline" like weakening vision or trouble walking.

This is coming just in time for aging boomers since we know there won't be enough geriatricians, It's already too late.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 PM | Permalink

July 9, 2007

Foreigners or Nuns

When the family tree becomes a beanpole, there's no one left to take care of the old folk.

So, Italy's Aged Turn to Foreigners for Care

Marzano is one of a swelling number of Italians entrusting themselves to an army of foreign workers from eastern Europe, South America, Asia and Africa who are doing what families here are increasingly can't or won't do - take care of their elderly.

Long life and low birthrates have conspired to change family life, which long had been the one institution Italians could count on while history rolled past, with its parade of conquerors and short-lived governments.

Italy's demographics - and Europe's as a whole - give new meaning to the term "Old World."

Twenty-four of the world's 25 oldest countries are in Europe, noted a joint report by the European Commission
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"I would have thought I would have lived with my son; I would never have thought that it would be like this," said Marzano.

The alternative solution in Italy is to send the old folk to be cared for by nuns, many of whom have converted their former  schools into rest homes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink

May 24, 2007

College Reunion

I'm so delighted to have access to my blogs again even though I've lost all my draft posts, no doubt my most brilliant. I'm off to my Smith College reunion in an hour or two and looking forward to seeing all my classmates and to learn what's happened in their lives.

Here's a picture of me and friends on Ivy Day, some years ago. I'm the one on the right in the shadow.

 Jill Ivy Day Ek, Ann Kaplan, Mazie Cox-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

May 7, 2007

All About Wisdom

"..whenever I had a problem, I went to something wholesome to solve it."

One of the “wholesome” things that helped, he said, was bowling.

That's about as good an explanation of dealing with problems as I have ever heard.

 Bird In Hand Victor Schrager

The Older-and-Wiser Hypothesis
in the New York Times Sunday magazine.

The popular image of the Wise Man usually does not include a guy in a bowling shirt, but several qualities have emerged again and again in older people like J. who score high on Ardelt’s wisdom scale. They learn from previous negative experiences. They are able to step outside themselves and assess a troubling situation with calm reflection. They recast a crisis as a problem to be addressed, a puzzle to be solved. They take action in situations they can control and accept the inability to do so when matters are outside their control.

so how do academics define wisdom now that they have begun studying it?  For one thing, you don't have to be smart or accomplished or even old, though most older people are more even-keeled and emotionally resilient.

Certain qualities associated with wisdom recur in the academic literature: a clear-eyed view of human nature and the human predicament; emotional resiliency and the ability to cope in the face of adversity; an openness to other possibilities; forgiveness; humility; and a knack for learning from lifetime experiences. And yet as psychologists have noted, there is a yin-yang to the idea that makes it difficult to pin down. Wisdom is founded upon knowledge, but part of the physics of wisdom is shaped by uncertainty. Action is important, but so is judicious inaction. Emotion is central to wisdom, yet detachment is essential.

Vivian Clayton whose research has made many breakthroughs in understanding, first analyzed the Hebrew bible
“What emerged from that analysis,” she says, “was that wisdom meant a lot of different things. But it was always associated with knowledge, frequently applied to human social situations, involved judgment and reflection and was almost always embedded in a component of compassion.” The essential importance of balance was embodied in the Hebrew word for wisdom, chochmah, which ancient peoples understood to evoke the combination of both heart and mind in reaching a decision.

Another researcher Birren boiled it down to the "Berlin Paradigm" and defined wisdom as
an expert knowledge system concerning the fundamental pragmatics of life.

Ardelt who's now doing research in Boston analyzing Harvard University graduates says
People who rated high in wisdom, she adds, were “very generous,” both financially and emotionally; among those who rated low in wisdom, “there was this occupation with the self.”

What is very clear is that old people with a more positive attitude towards old age lived seven and a half years longer.

They can regulate their emotions better, registering the negative, focusing on the positive.

It may be that the seeds of wisdom are planted early in life with exposure to adversity or failure, that one called a "stress inoculation" that enhances the person's ability to regulate emotions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 4, 2007

"Nothing, it's too late."

Ronni Bennett delivers unwelcome news and a  whole lot of numbers from as well as a good exegesis of  Atul Gawade's piece in The New Yorker on The Way We Age Now

There will not be enough doctors trained in geriatrics to deal with us aging boomers.    There's not enough now. 

Seems as if the number of geriatricians is declining while the number of plastic surgeons is rising.    Doctors just don't want to deal with "Old Crocks" which is what we all will be given enough time.

Even if we stop obsessing on how well we look, and start focusing on how well we are, we're out of luck and on our own.  When asked whether enough geriatricians could be trained to serve the booming elder population, Chad Boult, professor at John Hopkins said,

"Nothing, it's too late."

Read Ronni's post  but don't miss the Gawade piece to get the full flavor of what we individually and as a society are avoiding, the certainty of our decrepitude and the words of a wonderful writer.

Even as our bones and teeth soften, the rest of our body hardens. Blood vessels, joints, the muscle and valves of the heart, and even the lungs pick up substantial deposits of calcium and turn stiff. Under a microscope, the vessels and soft tissues display the same form of calcium that you find in bone. When you reach inside an elderly patient during surgery, the aorta and other major vessels often feel crunchy under your fingers. A recent study has found that loss of bone density may be an even better predictor of death from atherosclerotic disease than cholesterol levels. As we age, it’s as if the calcium flows out of our skeletons and into our tissues.
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Decline remains our fate; death wil come. But, until that last backup system inside each of us fails, decline can occur in two ways. One is early an  precipitately, with an old age of enfeeblement and dependence, sustained primarily by nursing homes and hospitals. Th  other way is more gradual, preserving, for as long as possible, your ability to control your own life

Is it hopeless? Are we all doomed?  Not if Chad Boult can get geriatricians to train primary care doctors to treat the very old.  But that's a tall order given that today, 97% of medical students take no course in geriatrics, 97%!

Frankly, I have a lot more hope in Gould's backup plan called "Guided Care" which calls for nurses to be given a highly compressed, three-week course in  making geriatric care plans for individual patients and working with patients, families and doctors to implement the plans.

I count myself very lucky that my sister Colleen, a nurse, plans to become a certified nurse practitioner to work with us future "old crocks."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 21, 2007

Hurrah for Miss America

Venus Ramey, Miss America in 1944, is now 82 and needs a walker to get around her Kentucky farm where she sells trees.

When she caught Curtis Parish stealing scrap metal from her yard, she took out her gun and shot out his tires as he was leaving.

"The first time I was robbed on the other side road about 6 or 7 years ago, I caught one man," Ramey said.

But now both police and Ramey say they don't think this man will try to steal from her again.

Police say Ramey had every right to fire the gun since they say she witnessed the men committing a crime on her property.

I wonder how many older people feel safe only because they have a gun to defend themselves and to keep people from preying on them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 10, 2007

My Generation by The Zimmers and geriatric 1927

You may know him as geriatric 1927 , Peter Oakley, the Englishman who became an unexpected star on YouTube when he began telling his life story in videos.

Now he's "the new old age happening". Now he's going to be a music star  as he tells us himself and lets the secret out with a message from the old people to the youth of the world.

We are old.  We are here. We have much to contribute. We object to the abuse that sometimes happens to old people.

At the behest of the BBC, he's sings "Talking About My Generation" by the Who and backed up by a geriatric chorus with an average age of 78, called the Zimmers.    A CD was produced at Abbey Roads Studio by Mike Hedges with a release date for the CD is May 28th,  proceeds going to age-concerned charities.  He's hoping it climbs the charts to get the message out.

Ronni,
that's your cue.

I watched the slide show and the video here on MySpace.

It's fabulous.

Big thanks to Hootsbuddy

Update.  Buster is part of the band!  I know Buster.  He's the 100-year-old man who fought off a gang of muggers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 8, 2007

Margaret Rutherford, Dame Commander

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Last  month, I guest blogged at Ronni Bennett's Time Goes By, the indispensable blog for anyone who wants the real skinny on what it's  like to get older.

I could say Ronni is a Dame Commander but she's more of a mother hen keeping track of a growing brood of over 50 "elderbloggers", swatting away ageist snark  while still laying before us one perfectly composed post every day to enjoy with breakfast.

Her photo time line is a model of how family photos can be meaningfully enhanced with just a few lines of context.  As a movie buff, her TGB ElderMovie List is a fine resource when looking for a movie you can watch without embarrassment with your parents and with pleasure just by yourself.  So when she asked me to write something about aging, Margaret Rutherford immediately came to mind.]

  Montage Margaret Rutherford-1

Growing older has never really bothered me, perhaps because I was lucky in having wonderful role models of older women. Every May there is an alumnae parade at Smith College and the largest, loudest cheers go up for the oldest women in their 80s or 90s who march proudly under the banner of their graduating class. I’d be all right, I thought, if I could be one of them.

But it was seeing Margaret Rutherford for the first time that absolutely convinced me how delightful it could be to be like her. I was gobsmacked and totally enchanted when I first saw her play Miss Marple in the four “murder” films based on the Agatha Christie novels: Murder She Said, Murder at the Gallop, Murder Most Foul, and Murder Ahoy - every one of which deserves prominent placement on the TGB ElderMovie List

She was endearing, stout as an armchair and as comfortable too, a bicycle-riding, tea-making, pie-baking sleuth with an admiring male pal, cheerful in cape and hat, perfectly dressed no matter what the occasion, sensible to human frailties, fearless, smart as a whip and as funny as all get out. Who knew that being an old lady could be so much fun?

A force of nature, she could do things with her mouth, her tongue in cheek, that have never been equaled and will make you forswear even the idea of plastic surgery if it would rob you of the expressiveness of a ravishing, totally lovable old face like hers.

Born in a London suburb in 1892, nine years after her father murdered her grandfather with a chamber pot, Margaret Rutherford was an only child. Her mother died when she was 3 and she was brought up by a pair of guardian aunts.

Maybe the experience of living with a mentally ill father who was readmitted to Broadmoor, a British hospital for the criminally insane, when she was only 12, disposed her to a life in the theater. She wasn’t pretty, but she was funny and I think a late bloomer. She was 33 when she made her stage debut at the Old Vic in 1925 and 53 when she married a fellow actor Stringer Davis.

She really came into her own in her late 60s and 70s when she began to play Miss Marple. She worked with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, winning an Academy Award best supporting actress in The V.I.P.s. In her 70s, the Queen named her first an officer of the British Empire, later a Dame Commander.

And what a Dame Commander she was as Miss Marple, laying bare evil and overcoming it with goodness, everything made right.  And she did it by becoming and being her magnificent self all the time. Take one scene from Murder Ahoy:

MISS MARPLE: Are you implying that I am unhinged?

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR CRADDOCK: No. No, of course not!

MISS MARPLE: Then what are you implying, pray?

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR CRADDOCK: Well, just that you are temporarily not yourself.

MISS MARPLE: Chief Inspector, I am always myself!

In one interview, she said,

"I hope I'm an individual. I suppose an eccentric is a super individual. Perhaps an eccentric is just off centre - ex-centric. But that contradicts a belief of mine that we've got to be centrifugal."

Centrifugal she was, radiating out from a deep core of self, to delight and gift the world.

Since I believe that the point of aging is to become more ourselves, our best selves, and to give our best selves away, I would make Margaret Rutherford a patron saint of aging.

She’s mine anyway.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:07 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 6, 2007

The Difficult Patient

Because human nature doesn't change, bringing out the classics to train doctors is illuminating. 

The Difficult Patient, a Problem Old as History

Sophocles somehow got that tenuous position just right, just as he knew that sick people, isolated and transformed by chronic disease, dread being alone and forgotten more than they dread pain or even death.

What will happen when so many singles - never married, divorced or widowed -  get older alone?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:55 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 1, 2007

No wonder he's called Buster

I say let's give 3 cheers to the 100-year-old man who fought off a gang of muggers in south London.

This WWII vet called Buster busted the chops of 3 youths who jumped on him from behind as he was leaving a pub and knocked him down.  They ran away while Buster, bloody and bruised, walked to the hospital.

I was confused and I was lashing out at them. How the helI I found the strength I don't know. I think it came from my temper. I don't lose it often but when I do it's not a pretty sight.

Buster who was born in 1906 and has 17 children still works as a van cleaner and said

As long as I still wake up in the morning, I will continue to work.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 18, 2007

Cyber Wisdom

In this digital age comes a new way of tapping into the wisdom of people with a great deal of life experience.

An Online Outlet for the Wisdom of the Aged.

600 seniors answer several thousand letters a month AND publish a weekly advice column in 22 newspapers.

Mayyasi purses her lips and goes to work, mauve fingernails clicking across the keyboard. At 73, she is restlessly retired. This is her volunteer work. People need her, and she is their cyber-grandmother, a virtual plate of fresh sugar cookies, warm and reassuring in lives full of cold rain.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 30, 2007

Post post-modern women - Courtesans?

Is a courtesan, not a prostitute,  but a courtesan the ideal archetype for a truly modern woman?

Robert Paterson and his sister Diana will be exploring the lifestyle of courtesans in a short series on Trusted Space that looks very interesting.

Here's a taste.

Looks are transient.  A beautiful woman becomes a faded beauty, something sad to behold.

A clever, witty and kind woman ages without her age being noticed, and she, has maturity, and good sense and  a great deal to offer younger women and she knows well her time has passed and she loves nothing more than to pass on her experience to a
younger intelligent woman she respects.

Age is no obstacle for her.  She has no need of plastic surgery because she takes on her new role as grand dame with great relief.

She has had many men and many experiences, and she is happy to live with her memories and move forward with her personal interests.  She does not need to diet because she is now fulfilled by things that feed her mind. Her pleasure of the body has been replaced by the utter pleasure of all things interesting to her. 

She sleeps alone and comfortably.  She leaves the fretting of love and not love to younger women.  She has no more of those thoughts to cloud her mind and take away her sleep.  She is comfortable with herself.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 3, 2007

Surprising Secret to a Long Life

Education is the signal factor that most effects good health and long life.

The Surprising Secret to a Long Life
The one social factor that researchers agree is consistently linked to longer lives in every country where it has been studied is education. It is more important than race; it obliterates any effects of income.
--
Year after year, in study after study, says Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, education “keeps coming up.”

And, health economists say, those factors that are popularly believed to be crucial — money and health insurance, for example, pale in comparison.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 27, 2006

Designer Crutches

It may be too late for Christmas, but designer crutches are cool.  For that special someone who wants to age with grace and grit.

Adding comfort to an uncomfortable item are LemonAid Crutches.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 18, 2006

3 hours of Exercise a Week bolsters Memory, Intellect

It's real physical exercise, not crossword puzzles, that keeps your aging brain fit reports the Wall St Journal.

For the first time, scientists have found something that not only halts the brain shrinkage that starts in a person's 40s, especially in regions responsible for memory and higher cognition, but actually reverses it: aerobic exercise. As little as three hours a week of brisk walking -- no Stairmaster required -- apparently increases blood flow to the brain and triggers biochemical changes that increase production of new brain neurons.
---
support for the brain benefits of physical exercise has become stronger. A number of earlier studies showed that elderly people who take up aerobic exercise show improved cognitive function after a few months, says Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois, Urbana
--
As little as three hours a week of aerobic exercise increased the brain's volume of gray matter (actual neurons) and white matter (connections between neurons), they report in the November issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. "After only three months," says Prof. Kramer, "the people who exercised had the brain volumes of people three years younger.
--
"This is the first time anyone has shown that exercise increases brain volume in the elderly," says Dr. Kramer. "It suggests that aerobic exercise can stave off neural decline, and even roll back some normal age-related deterioration of brain structure."
--


With more gray matter and white matter, "the brain is more interconnected, more plastic and more adaptive to change," Prof. Kramer says.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:33 AM | Permalink

November 14, 2006

Live longer and be loved by a dog

Dogs may hold the secret to a long life.

DOGS may be the secret to health and happiness because they encouraged their owners to walk them daily whatever their mood or circumstances, British researchers said today.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth found that dog owners felt obliged to walk their dogs despite bad weather or low moods, keeping them fit and making them feel better once they were out.
--

Ms Knight said that many participants in the study were retired people, including those who had been widowed or otherwise lived alone, or were recovering from illness or operations.

She said that they discussed occasions when they had felt lonely, isolated or depressed, and reported that their dogs helped them stay physically fitter and helped maintain social contacts.

Besides, what other creature gives so much unconditional love and affection?

Dogs have given us their absolute all.  We are the center of their universe.  We are the focus of their love and faith and trust.  They serve us in return for scraps. 
It is without a doubt the best deal
man has ever made. 

Roger Caras

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:48 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 11, 2006

Anne Porter's poetry winning acclaim

Our poet laureate, Donald Hall is 78, says that poetry is well suited to the rigors of old age.

"Poems are made for other persons to read but made out of silence and solitude, and perhaps there is more silence and solitude in the world of the old."

Take 95-year-old Anne Porter featured today in the Wall Street Journal and whose first volume of poetry was published when she was 83.

Asked why she keeps writing poems through her 80s and 90s, Mrs. Porter responds that art may be the only pursuit that old age can't wreck:

"You can't sing anymore, you can't dance anymore, you can't drive anymore -- but you can still write,"

Here she is on "Old in the City."

You stay away from doctors,
They'd send you to the hospital,
Where pieces are cut out of you,
And after that you die.


On finding a ticket that says "Keep This Ticket" in her purse, she wrote. 

I keep it carefully
Because I'm old
Which means
I'll soon be leaving
For another country

Where possibly
Some blinding-bright
Enormous angel
Will stop me
At the border

And ask
To see my ticket

On getting older, she says

"People don't use their creativity as they get older," she said. "They think this is supposed to be the end of this and the end of that. But you can't always be so sure that it is the end."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 6, 2006

Good movies for old folk

With the help of her readers, Ronnie Bennett at TimeGoesBy has put together a list of "eldermovies" which just might be handy if you're spending a weekend with an elderly parent.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 30, 2006

Jitterbug cell phones for elderly parents

I haven't been posting as much as usual because I've been taking care of my mother who just had major surgery to remove cancer from her colon.     

Like many older people, she doesn't have a computer or internet access.  Yet as she recovers, she realizes that she'll need a cell phone if she plans to drive again, just in case of an emergency.

Jitterbug is what she's looking at.  They have made cell phones easy-to-use for  the technologically-challenged.  With big buttons, bright screens and no unnecessary features, it looks great for the elderly who want something just for an emergency.  Best of all, there's an operator always standing by to help out.

Has anyone had experience with them?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:17 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 12, 2006

Fresh out of law school at 91

He started law school at 86 and finished at 91, one year ahead of schedule. 

And to do it, he had to teach himself how to use a computer and the Internet.

Allan Stewart said, "Time is of the essence. I think if I had let it run too much longer I might not have finished it."

Good show, mate.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2006

Get Older, Not Frailer

Why do some people age well and others get frail?

Two reasons:
1. undetected heart disease
2. having positive images of growing older

Old but Not Frail: A Matter of Heart and Head

You’re only as old as you think you are. Rigorous studies are now showing that seeing, or hearing, gloomy nostrums about what it is like to be old can make people walk more slowly, hear and remember less well, and even affect their cardiovascular systems. Positive images of aging have the opposite effects. The constant message that old people are expected to be slow and weak and forgetful is not a reason for the full-blown frailty syndrome.
---

More and more scientists say they have been won over by an accumulating body of evidence.

“I am changing my initially skeptical view,” says Richard Suzman, who is director of the office of behavioral and social research programs at the National Institute on Aging. “There is growing evidence that these subjective experiences might be more important than we thought.”
--
Dr. Levy wondered, were there long-term effects of believing the stereotypes of aging? She found a study that could provide answers, the Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement. The two-decade-long study included 1,157 people, nearly every resident of Oxford, Ohio, who was 50 or older and was not suffering from dementia. And it had questions about beliefs about aging.

It turned out that people who had more positive views about aging were healthier over time. They lived an average of 7.6 years longer than those of a similar age who did not hold such views, and even had less hearing loss when their hearing was tested three years after the study began

Our fears of aging become self-fulfilling prophecies

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:18 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 15, 2006

Cleopatra "even more fascinating"

Neferititi was actually a fascinating aging beauty

Cleopatra was not a young hottie, but a mature beauty, a woman of a certain age.  She had wrinkles on her neck and bags under her  eyes according to a new examination of the famous bust.

Which just underscores the importance of lighting.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 13, 2006

You're 100. Take the day off

He was forced to take a day off when he turned 100.

He had planned to mark his 100th with a pint at his local but colleagues arranged a VIP tour of Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium, where he will be presented with a shirt with 'Buster 100' on the back.
---

Buster said: "Boredom is a big killer. I went back to work as I like to keep active. If I didn't work I would become the most miserable sod you have ever come across so I don't want to stop working."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 12, 2006

Golden Girls at Yaddoo

New ways to grow older at  New Rentals that Aim to Age with Creativity.

Like the Burbank Senior Artists Colony the NYT reporter likens to Golden Girls meets Yaddoo.

They sing, they dance, they paint, they create their own movies and radio shows.

We’re thinking beyond the problems of aging to its potential,” said Dr. Gene D. Cohen, the director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at the George Washington University Medical Center. “What’s emerging is a very talented group of people who are an under-recognized national resource.”
----

The colony is the brainchild of Tim Carpenter, the founder of More Than Shelter for Seniors, who grew up near Yaddo, the New York artists’ community. Mr. Carpenter recruited an advisory board sprinkled with actors to hone the concept and drew an initial core of tenants, ages 55 and older, through local arts organizations. No tryouts or portfolios are required, but the artistic ambitions of residents transcend the flutophone or macaroni-glitter-and-glue crowd.
--

Like a challenging painting, life at the arts colony has become an exercise in perspective. “You meet yourself,” she said. “You find out who you really are.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 9, 2006

That Little Old Lady with a Gun

He thought he had found an easy mark in the woman in a wheelchair.  He bent over to grab the chain around her neck; she grabbed her pistol and shot him in the elbow.     

Margaret Johnson,  applauded across the country,  is no victim because she took responsibility for protecting herself seriously.

Woman in wheelchair on way to gun practice shoots mugger.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 22, 2006

Pursuing Fame on a Senior Discount

I found The Fame Motive very interesting because I never understood the desire for fame.  To me, the upside pales against  the downside, the lack of privacy and control,

But the speculation at the end struck me most.  If this need for approval never dies, then turning to a deepening belief in God in one's later years and/or  focusing on leaving a legacy seem to be  eminently positive ways to handle life's disappointments and a hell of a lot better all around than whining about them.

People with an overriding desire to be widely known to strangers are different from those who primarily covet wealth and influence. Their fame-seeking behavior appears rooted in a desire for social acceptance, a longing for the existential reassurance promised by wide renown.


These yearnings can become more acute in life’s later years, as the opportunities for fame dwindle, “but the motive never dies, and when we realize we’re not going to make it in this lifetime, we find some other route: posthumous fame,” said Orville Gilbert Brim, a psychologist who is completing a book called “The Fame Motive.” ...

“It’s like belief in the afterlife in medieval communities, where people couldn’t wait to die and go on to better life,” Dr. Brim said. “That’s how strong it is.”
--

“It’s a distinct type, people who expect to get meaning out of fame, who believe the only way to have their lives make sense is to be famous,” said Tim Kasser, a psychologist at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “We all need to make meaning out of our lives, and this is one way people attempt to do it.”


Therapists and researchers, including Dr. Brim, have traced longing for renown to lingering feelings of rejection or neglect. After all, celebrity is the ultimate high school in-group, writ large. It appears a perfect balm for the sting of social exclusion, or neglect by emotionally or physically absent parents.
--
The participants in the study who focused on goals tied to others’ approval, like fame, reported significantly higher levels of distress than those interested primarily in self-acceptance and friendship.


Surveys done since then, in communities around the world, suggest the same thing: aiming for a target as elusive as fame, and so dependent on the judgments of others, is psychologically treacherous.


Freud might have agreed: he is said to have fainted only twice in his life, both times when he perceived a threat to his legacy.
--
In compiling his research, Dr. Brim, 83, thought much about how an intense desire to reach this unknowable, alluring state of being might affect older people’s behavior, if the motive did not fade.


“I concluded that several things could happen, and one of them is to find another source of approval,” he said. “That might be a great love, if you’re lucky. Or perhaps it is a deepening belief in God. But I think many people suffer with realization that they are not going to be famous and there’s nothing they can do to solve it.”


It  brought to mind, The Libidinous Later Years.

This is what consciously formed legacies are about –...the.. fight against our extinction.  We cannot succeed indefinitely at that in a physical sense, but we can through a legacy that extends our beingness beyond the time of the flesh.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

Panic for Rolling Stones

Maybe it's time to get off the stage.

Panic for Rolling Stones as tour tickets go unsold

But perhaps most embarrassing of all for the band who have a combined age of 249 is that cut-price tickets are also being sold to pensioners through the company Saga.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 14, 2006

geriatic1927

Normally, I'd post this on Legacy Matters, but a better example of aging with grace and grit can't be found than this septuagenarian British widower who's become one of the most popular posters on YouTube, opening each of his videos with a blues song and tagging  each, "grumbles" and "gripes"

---Geriatic1927

Pensioner becomes surprise YouTube star. 

He's called geriatic1927. 

Peter posted his first video on YouTube about a week ago, under the user name geriatric1927 which refers to the year of his birth. He called it "first try."

In the clip, which starts with "geriatric gripes and grumbles" and some blues music, Peter tells how he became addicted to YouTube.

"It's a fascinating place to go to see all the wonderful videos that you young people have produced so I thought I would have a go at doing one myself," he says, sitting against a backdrop of floral wallpaper and family photographs.

"What I hope I will be able to do is to just to bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person who has been there and done that and hopefully you will respond in some way by your comments."

I love him.  Here you can find the videos he's posted telling his life story

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 PM | Permalink

August 4, 2006

Record-Setting 91-year-old Racer

He's 91 but Leo Burns is still an amazing athlete.

91-Year-Old Driver Is Still Setting Record Pace With Unbeaten Filly

To Dean Hoffman, Burns is “a remarkable story by any stretch, even more so because he’s so nonchalant about it.”

“It’s not that he’s going out there to be a novelty,” said Hoffman, the senior editor of Hoof Beats, the national trotting group’s official publication. “He’s going out there driving and winning. What he’s doing just staggers the imagination.”

While many may see harness racing as fancy — the pastime of yesteryear moguls like Cornelius Vanderbilt and Leland Stanford — it is physically demanding, at times punishing, to its drivers.

Strapped precariously into sulkies, drivers do not have air bags or seat belts as fallbacks if something goes wrong during races in which speeds reach 30 miles an hour, or more.

“It’s a young man’s game,” said Leroy Moore, 70, a longtime acquaintance of Burns who insisted that when on-track accidents happen, “young men bounce better than older people.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:25 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Senior Improv

WIT and wisdom make up happy hours.

The senior citizen improv class is a first for WIT, a professional theater collective that puts on about 100 performances and teaches more than 200 students a year.
--
Freund feels "astonished" by the quality and quantity of material that her classmates have to draw from, "and they're dirty, and they're funny, and they're imaginative."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 31, 2006

Is Longer Better?

Another wonderful post from the Doctor Is In wherein he ruminates on the endless pursuit of a longer life.

For we who live longer in such an idyllic world may not live better: we may indeed live far worse. Should we somehow master these illnesses which cripple us in our old age, and thereby live beyond our years, will we then encounter new, even more frightening illnesses and disabilities? And what of the spirit? Will a man who lives longer thereby have a longer opportunity to do good, or rather to do evil? Will longevity increase our wisdom, or augment our depravity? Will we, like Dorian Gray, awake to find our ageless beauty but a shell for our monstrous souls?
------
Like all, I trust, I hope to live life long, and seek a journey lived in good health and sound mind. But even more–far more indeed–do I desire that those days yet remaining–be they long or short–be rich in purpose, wise in time spent, and graced by love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Brooke Astor and Elder Abuse

Brooke Astor, now 104, inherited millions from her husband, Vincent Astor whose father died in the sinking of the Titanic.

Astor  is a noted philanthropist, giving away millions to the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall and the Museum of Natural History as well as many smaller projects and for which she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

No matter how rich, no one is immune from the perils of old age and incapacity.  Her legal guardian is her son from her first marriage, Anthony Marshall, 82, a Broadway producer. 

Her grandson, Philip Marshall, has filed papers in court alleging "elder abuse" and requesting that his father Anthony Marshall be moved as Brooke Astor's guardian.

Despite the $2.3 million Anthony Marshall pays himself yearly as his mother's guardian, he cut off Astor's access to expensive medication, reduced her doctors' visits and ordered her staff not to take her to an emergency room or call 911 without contacting him first. 

Relative says N.Y. philanthropist abused.

Philanthropist Brooke Astor, the 104-year-old society queen who gave away nearly $200 million to city charities, is now sleeping on a filthy couch in torn nightgowns while her son withholds money and proper medical care, her grandson charged in court papers.
---

The papers also claim that Astor has been denied many of the staples of her high-society life. Her Estee Lauder face creams were replaced with petroleum jelly and her French chef was fired, they said. Nurses had to use their own money to purchase hair bonnets and socks for Astor, the papers say.

It is appalling how some children treat their aging parents.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:50 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 24, 2006

Let them keep on truckin

If your older parents insist on driving and they still can safely, it's a good thing because they are far less likely to enter a nursing home or an assisted living center.

The American Journal of Public Health published the results of a study by researchers at John Hopkins based on extensive interviews over 10 years.

Giving Up Driving May be Express Lane to Long-Term Care

"The independence that accompanies a driver's license and car has long been linked anecdotally to a better quality of life for seniors."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 9, 2006

Adult coloring

Japan is way ahead of us

Mitsubishi Pencil Co. has drawn attention with a new set of coloring pencils designed for adults as a coloring boom among middle-aged and senior people continues across Japan.
--
Coloring has emerged as a simple pastime for retired members of the baby-boom generation, and its popularity has surged with claims that thinking about and separating colors has the effect of a mental workout.

It's one way to cultivate your eye and beauty which is immensely gratifying. Too few of us have the time when we're working.

I've always looked forward to painting in my later life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 PM | Permalink

June 30, 2006

Why We Get Older and Mellower

Good news for aging brains or why we get older AND mellower.

It turns out that we become MORE emotionally stable as we grow older because our brains gradually reorganizes our emotion system, moving from the amygdala to the pre-frontal cortex, from the more animal brain, center of the automatic fear response, to the the more evolved, conscious thinking brain.

That slow move gives us increased control over our negative emotions and greater accessibility to our positive emotions.

This gradual reorganization of the brain's emotion system may result from older folk responding to accumulating personal experiences by increasingly looking for meaning in life, the researchers propose in the June 14 Journal of Neuroscience.

Evidence that emotional functions improve in older brains "indicates that our ability to register the significance of information is preserved, and even enhanced, as we age," Williams says.

  Neural Feel As People Age

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 20, 2006

World Cup Revives

Maria Mueller, 95, was found slumped over in her chair by her son who couldn't find a pulse. Neither could the local doctor who declared her dead.

She suddenly sprang up and asked when Germany was next playing in the World Cup.

When told she had been declared dead by doctors, Maria Mueller replied: "Not likely, not until I see if Germany wins the World Cup.

"There's still life in these old bones yet, and I certainly couldn't miss the football.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

June 16, 2006

Republican marrow

When chemotherapy did not work for her leukemia, she had to wait for a bone marrow transplant to save her life. She joked what if the bone marrow was from a Republican!

Well, it was as Mary Traver from Peter Paul and Mary learned when she called the donor to thank her.

We are more alike than we are different.

Peter, Paul & Mary Still Have a Song to Sing All Over This Land.

These days Ms. Travers's thoughts turn to much more than music. In conversation, she mused on mortality and the trio's long relationship.

"I think I scared the boys," Ms. Travers said of her ordeal, referring to Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey, who are both 68. "I think of them as my brothers." She was sitting in Mr. Yarrow's apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where her husband, Ethan Robbins ("I call him St. Ethan"), often stayed while she was being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.


Said Mr. Yarrow said of the cancer scare, "In our case, every little bit of nonsense between us disappeared."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2006

Aging with Grace and Grit--NOT

Aging with Grace and Grit--NOT

Two elderly women devised a complex plot in which they befriended homeless men, took out life insurance policies on them, and then killed the men in hit-and-run accidents in alleys around Los Angeles to collect $2.2 million in payments, police said Monday.

Said police spokesman Lt Paul Vernon,
"It is one of the most sinister, evil plots I've ever seen"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:23 AM | Permalink

May 11, 2006

Moving Seniors

A whole new business has emerged that helps seniors relocate from longtime homes to smaller spaces.

In Moving on Down, The Washington Post features this senior move service offering help with the physical task and the emotional strain.

"For someone who has a lifetime's worth of accumulation, think of the volume and physical task of doing it. There are the emotions of our things: a woman giving up dining room furniture that she has served holidays meals on, her china closet with all her pretty things," said Martinko. "A lot of the losses are revisited. Often they have lost a spouse, they have lost their mobility. Maybe they are giving up driving, losing their vision, their hearing, their home."

Sometimes it is easier to let a stranger take charge.

National Association of Senior Move Managers here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 AM | Permalink

May 8, 2006

The Best of Aging

Dr. Stephen Ruppenthal has eight ways to see growing older is full of possibilities and adventure.

1. Cultivate your relationships
2. Connect with your spirituality
3. Make a difference
4. Protect your health
5. Exercise your intellect
6. Nurture your creativity
7. Rejoice in nature
8. Build your legacy

Age matters less when we pour ourselves into people and things that will in their own way continue us.

We are fortunate to have about 20 "bonus years" to do all of these. I wrote in What's the Point of Aging - expect the best of aging and you will have it.

A great relief indeed, to become more like ourselves. Better still, our better selves.

Ronni Bennett echoes that thought in Becoming Who We Are

Now I believe I was too quick, at 50, to have set myself in stone. It is unlikely that we change our bedrock natures, but it a rare individual who can avoid gaining new knowledge, understanding and perhaps a little wisdom as the years pass - and that alters our perspectives and therefore who we are....

we are all, unto our deathbeds, in the process of becoming. Sometimes I entertain the notion that that's what our “job” is while we’re on Earth.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:11 PM | Permalink

May 3, 2006

From Samuri to CD producer

Robert Brady, an American who's lived in Japan for many years and posts at Pure Land Mountain is guest blogging at Ronni Bennett's blog Time Goes By, What it's really like to get older

Yesterday he wrote about his father-in-law who is descended from a long line of samuri, Keiji Kodaira who graduated from college at 80

Accomplished and still accomplishing, Kodaira just released his first CD at 91. He wrote the traditional Japanese songs over 50 years while he was a teacher and later about his life, but he and his brother produced the CD themselves and did all the illustrations as well as a songbook in the past year on a computer.

That’s another great thing well-spent elders do: besides setting examples as they lead the way, they raise the bar.

Asians have far more positive images of an active and vital old age that result in a far happier old age. Because of that they are far happier as they grow older.

It may be that as the sun sets, we turn West for role models, towards those societies with great expectations for the elders among them.

Hell, I want to release a CD when I'm 91. I expect that as we grow older and more digitally fluent, we will have many more opportunities to develop our own creativity than we can imagine.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:45 AM | Permalink

April 28, 2006

Scientists Figure Out Why We Age

From Nature, Wrinkled cell nuclei may make us age. It may be that blocking an aberrant protein could keep cells "pert and young".

The team suggests that healthy cells always make a trace amount of an aberrant form of lamin A protein, but that young cells can sense and eliminate it. Elderly cells, it seems, cannot.

Critically, blocking production of this deviant protein corrected all the problems with the nucleus. "You can take these old cells and make them young again," Misteli says.
---
"If this really has a physiological role in normal elderly people then it's a huge deal," says David Sinclair who studies the molecular mechanisms of ageing at Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:37 AM | Permalink

April 14, 2006

Outsourcing the Elderly and the Elder Beat

The New York Times says Elderbloggers Stake Their Claim.

Ronnie Bennett of Time Goes By is quoted
Blogging helps keep older minds sharp, offers a platform in which to express views and opens social networks all over the world,

While in Britain, a foundation has built a township in India so that the elderly can be outsourced

Dignity Lifestyle, as the new township is known, is a first-of-its-kind concept in India. The foundation is emphatic about the fact that it is not an old-age home. It is about ìproductive ageingî, where the elderly are able to enjoy facilities like libraries, film shows and talks. As the town is part of the state governmentís semi-rural area development programme, the elderly have the option of getting involved in the regeneration of the area through literacy and other developmental programmes.

Uma Devi, administration manager of Dignity Foundation, said: ìIn India, we donít have a culture of dumping our elderly in old-age homes and this is not a home but more a lifestyle. We have a full-fledged geriatric care unit to take care of the needs of those requiring extra care due to diseases like Alzheimerís.î

Back in the U.S, there's a new blog chronicling Ageism in America sponsored by the International Longevity Center

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

April 11, 2006

Karate Granny

I say you're never too old to learn yoga or tai chi. Karate is usually for younger folk.

Not this granny though. Granny used karate

75 year old Anica D was sleeping when an intruder broke into her house and attacked her.

No one answered her calls for help so she tried out some karate moves she learned from television, immobilized the 30 year burglar, then called the police who arrested him and later charged him with burglary and attempted rape.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2006

Senior Co-housing

A lot of us who are growing older, some with, others without spouses are looking for a new way to live. Not for us, nursing homes or living in Sun City. Florida or Arizona may be too far from our families.

We want, like we always did, more. We want to stay close to friends, be independent yet live in a community where new friends can be made, meals can be shared and neighbors counted on to help if needed. We want something affordable, easy to maintain yet comfortable and we don't want to become dependent on our children.

In talking with a few friends about the idea of living together sometime in the future, we agree on the physical and emotional virtues of living in a small community or neighborhood, but we never got to the point of figuring out where or how or when.

Luckily, Charles Durrett has published a handbook, Senior Co-housing, A Community Approach to Independent Living that gives us a process to follow when we get serious. Why make mistakes that other people have already made? Why not take advantage of the lessons learned elsewhere?


"Senior Cohousing: A Community Approach to Independent Living" (Charles Durrett)

His book will be helpful to many.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:34 PM | Permalink

April 3, 2006

Loving Robots

Will robots fill the space now empty of husband, children and pets?

Seemingly sentient robots can fill void, researchers say.

The AIBO from Sony ''gives me a sense of identity," Light said. ''The dog loves me all the time. . . . It gives me an entrée into a world I had thought I'd lost forever."
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Alan Beck, lead researcher in the Purdue study, said he feels no misgivings when using the robots among elders who are mentally competent and who let themselves imagine that the machine has feelings. ''It's a suspension of disbelief," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:03 PM | Permalink

February 28, 2006

Growing Old Together

You're never to old to create the rest of your life. You can be 80 and revolutionary.

They are unlikely revolutionaries. Bearing walkers and canes, a veritable Merck Manual of ailments among them, the 12 old friends — average age 80 — looked as though they should have been sitting down to a game of Scrabble, not pioneering a new kind of commune.

Opting for old age on their own terms, they were starting a new chapter in their lives as residents of Glacier Circle, the country's first self-planned housing development for the elderly — a community they had conceived and designed themselves, right down to its purple gutters.

Over the past five years, the residents of Glacier Circle have found and bought land together, hired an architect together, ironed out insurance together, lobbied for a zoning change together and existentially probed togetherness together.

"Here you get to pick your family instead of being born into it," said Peggy Northup-Dawson, 79, a retired family therapist and mother of six who is legally blind. "We recognized that when you're physically closer to each other, you pay more attention, look in on each other. The idea was to share care."

In California, New Kind of Commune for Elderly , in the NYTimes.

We're going to be seeing a lot more of these stories.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 AM | Permalink

February 17, 2006

Aging at Home

Well, what do you know. From my old neighborhood on Beacon Hill, a great alternative to nursing homes and assisted living centers. An existing community figures out how to age where they live and still get the services they need without depending on adult children.

Aging at Home: For a Lucky Few a Wish Come True

ALONE in his row house on Beacon Hill, with four precipitous flights of stairs and icy cobblestones outside the front door, John Sears, 75, still managed to look after himself after he was hit by a taxicab and left with a broken knee.

That is because Mr. Sears was one phone call away from everything he needed to remain in his home, the goal of more than 80 percent of the nation's elderly as they confront advancing age, according to consistent polls.

Mr. Sears required both practical assistance and peace of mind: Transportation to and from the hospital. An advocate with him at medical appointments. Home-delivered meals from favorite restaurants. Someone at his side as he hobbled to the bank and the barber. Someone else to install grab bars in his bathroom. A way to summon help in an emergency. People to look in on him.

They are all only one phone call away and organized by Beacon Hill Village, a non profit organization, created by the local residents themselves for themselves with a little help

In the lingo of the US Administration on Aging, it's a NORC - a natural occurring retirement community.

"I don't want a so-called expert determining how I should be treated or what should be available to me," said 72-year-old Susan McWhinney-Morse, one of the founders. "The thing I most cherish here is that it's we, the older people, who are creating our own universe."

Five years ago, Beacon Hill Village was a wish, not a plan.

Today, it has 340 members ages 52 to 98, an annual budget of $300,000, an executive director and staff, a stable of established service providers and enough foundation support to subsidize moderate or low-income members, who number one-fifth of the total. The annual fee is $550 for an individual and $780 for a household, plus the additional cost of discounted "à la carte" services.

A how-to manual is coming next month.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 AM | Permalink

February 3, 2006

Rocking and rolling at 60

While Ellen Goodman ponders whether Boomers at 60, are a Benefit or Burden

Super Bowl XL is now officially the site of the first successful protest movement of the aging baby boomers: for the right to rock 'n' roll
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We seem to be developing two distinct story lines about the boomers at 60. The generation is portrayed as either a crushing burden or a huge benefit.

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The truth is that baby boomers have never had much more in common than a date book. The folks who turn 60 this year are as different as Bill Clinton and George Bush, Donald Trump and Cher. Even if boomers share a fascination with their aging process, aging itself may be as individualistic as a set of genes.

Ronni Bennett, settling in, is quite sure that aging is great.

The young are welcome to their youth, which has its own pleasures. I wouldn't trade my newfound comfort to return to those years because now, even in a culture that wants me to disappear from view, to not remind them that they too will be (and look) old one day, being old feels like I've won a prize. The gains so outweigh the losses and are so personally empowering and exciting that I almost wish it could have happened sooner - except each of us comes to understanding and acceptance in our own time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 PM | Permalink

February 2, 2006

Wrinkled Crime

Japan is now seeing a soaring rate of crime by those over 65 at the same time that crimes by youth have fallen. Geriatric crime up in Japan.

From theft to arson to murder, figures by the National Police Agency tell a sorry tale of soaring “neo-geriatric” crime during 2005. In a year when youth crime fell, the over-65s accounted for more than one in ten of all Japanese arrests — a dramatic leap from the one-in-50 level recorded in 1990.

Crimes favoured by the elderly are pick-pocketing and shoplifting. In many cases, said one police officer, they have developed a cunning strategy to avoid arrest even if caught red-handed: feigning senile dementia.

But murder is also sharply on the rise, with the over-65s responsible for 141 incidents last year. In most cases, the strangling or stabbing was by a husband or wife who had found that after more than 50 years of marriage they could no longer stand each other.


Demographic trends play a large part, but it may be that the silver-haired have just too much time on their hands. A former police psychologist says

“Neo-Geriatrics are those over 65 who are still fit, healthy and want to get more out of their lives. Without work, they’ll be filled with anxiety and there’s a likelihood they may turn to crime.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:01 PM | Permalink

January 13, 2006

Aging Makes the Brain Better

More from Time's special report on Tuning up your Brain

More supple and elastic than anyone realized is the aging brain because aging in fact makes the brain better.

"In midlife," says UCLA neurologist George Bartzokis, "you're beginning to maximize the ability to use the entirety of the information in your brain on an everyday, ongoing, second-to-second basis. Biologically, that's what wisdom is."

In fact,

Essentially, the brain spends decades upgrading itself from a dial-up Internet to a high-speed version, not fully completing the job until age 45 or so.
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It's that talent for reflective thinking that explains the role older adults have always played in the human culture. It's not for nothing that history's firebrands and ideologues are typically young, while its judges and peacemakers and great theologians tend to be older. Not everyone achieves the sharp thought and serene mien that can come with age. But for those who do, the later years can be the best years they have ever had.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:10 PM | Permalink

November 5, 2005

Donate Life

John Scripter was on his death bed with only days left to live when he consulted with his wife and then agreed to become the first heart transplant at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was really, really scared. The doctors thought, maybe they could give him another 7, maybe 10, years of life with the transplant.

Now, a folk hero, Scripter returned to MGH for a 20th anniversary celebration of his transplant. Doctors now expect him to live another 15 to 20 years.

He faced his fear and won maybe as much as an additional 40 years of life. Since more than 200 people have gotten transplants at MGH and won whole new lives. Families have remained intact, children are not orphans.

This is why people should make out organ donation cards. If you are in an accident and your heart or liver can be saved, wouldn't you want to give a perfect stranger another 40 years of life?

Donate Life.

  Donate Life-1

Here's a Donor Card, free and printable.

There are also some wonderful stories

Gloria has told Suzi of her grief for Suzi's loss and her intention to be sure she is deserving of Bobby's gift. Suzi says that her grief "turned to joy when I discovered that my husband's death was not final but had given five people a chance to live." Melissa, who wrote in that first letter to Gloria that she hoped a child had received one of her dad's organs and could live to grow up, understands now that the gift that saved Gloria's life also "saved" the lives of her son Arylon and daughter Aquia, who came so close to becoming motherless at ages 9 and 6. Gloria and family, who attended Melissa's wedding, now are celebrating with Suzi the birth of Melissa's little boy, Robert. 


Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:37 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2005

Cheating Death

If you want to learn all about Aubrey de Grey, the English biogerontologist who claims we can live to be 1000, who has won the respect of some scientists and the scorn of others, you must read The Man Who Would Murder Death.

Whether it's above, beyond or beneath me, I find the idea of living to 1000 years exhausting even to think about. All this focus on the survival of the physical body alone seems creepy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:40 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2005

When eBay is a Financial Lifeline

Facing age discrimination in searching for a job, the 55-Plus Crowd takes to eBAy Auctions.

Many people age 55 and older are turning to the online marketplace.

For some retirees, eBay has become a kind of financial lifeline, supplementing pension plans or savings that may not be sufficient.

Others have uncovered a latent entrepreneurial streak in themselves or simply see eBay as a creative outlet; they enjoy the sales process and the interaction an eBay business gives them with people around the world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2005

Tough Old Birds

A large and growing body of evidence is showing what some of us know instinctively - younger people are more physically resilient, but older people are far more resilient emotionally. 

That's why they are often called "tough old birds."

From With Age Comes Resilience, Storm's Aftermath Proves  in today's Washington Post.

"Study after study has shown that for older people, negative emotions have less of an effect than with young people -- and for the elderly those effects dissipate faster," said Gene D. Cohen, a geriatric psychiatrist at George Washington University who for 20 years directed research on aging at the National Institutes of Health.
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"You don't live to 80 without being tough," said Robert E. Reichlin, a clinical psychologist and specialist on early onset Alzheimer's disease at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He treated elderly evacuees at the Astrodome. "Older adults do bounce back well because they have seen a lot and they have lived through a lot. Psychologically, they can take a lot more in stride than young people."
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"Most people would intuitively think that older people would not be able to handle adversity," Cohen said. "But they have survived the death of a significant other, loss of prestigious work, loss of health. They are very high on the scale of creatively adapting to adversity."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

August 23, 2005

The Last Prejudice

No one does more to rail against ageism, the last acceptable prejudice - than Ronnie Bennett.   

Take a look at The Courage To Be Our Age.

So why do we try so hard to deny our age? Because we live in age-phobic culture that is discriminatory and disrespectful, littered with false beliefs about old age. No one wants to live in such a world, so we go along with the cultural imperative to maintain a facsimile of youth, actively complicit in our own second-class citizenry.
Ageism is as evil as every other ism and it will persist as long as we pretend to be younger than we are.

And if you think you're not prejudiced, just take her test on aging myths to see how you do.  After all, if you don't know what's true, it's hard not to be prejudiced.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 PM | Permalink

Folates Good

Oranges, legumes, leafy green vegetables all contain folates.  So do folic acid supplements.

Now we learn that folates appear to have more impact on reducing Alzheimer's risk than vitamin E, as does healthy diets overall.

From a long-term study by the National Institute on Aging.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

August 5, 2005

Drinking improves thinking

The Australians began a 20 year study in 1999 to examine the changes in people's thinking and mood as they age.

Preliminary results are in.

It is guaranteed to raise a cheer among those who enjoy a tipple: moderate drinkers are better thinkers than teetotallers or those who overindulge.

Research by the Australian National University in Canberra suggests drinking in moderation boost your brainpower. But none at all, or too much, can make you a dullard.

A study of 7,000 people in their early 20s, 40s and 60s found that those who drank within safe limits had better verbal skills, memory and speed of thinking than those at the extremes of the drinking spectrum. The safe consumption level was considered to be 14 to 28 standard drinks a week for a man and seven to 14 for a woman.
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The results may reflect the fact that alcohol can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and increase blood flow to the brain - factors linked to improved mental function. They also support research that suggests moderate alcohol intake can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by improving circulation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 PM | Permalink

June 27, 2005

More drinking better wine

Something happens in middle age when you realize the road ahead is shorter than the road that got you there.    Time is more precious because you realize you will run out and you don't know when.

Time to live for real, time to live on purpose.

Here's how Rob Paterson describes his 55th birthday.

So for me there is a poignancy of reaching a milestone. Life has become very precious for me as I acknowledge that my father had less than a year to live when he reached his 55th. How much time do I have? How much time do you have? What would it mean to have less than a year to live?

Of course none of us know and it may only be an hour or a day for many of us but we imagine that we have decades ahead of us.

For much of my youth I imagined that I had time.
No more bullshit for me now only life.

No more worrying about silly things. No more wasting time with people who make me feel bad. No more working for things that mean nothing.

More play. More being with those that I love. More doing dangerous things that do mean something. More being nice to myself. More doing and less thinking. More time with dogs and nature.

More drinking better wine. More with my body and less with my mind. More love less bitterness. More love. More love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:59 PM | Permalink

June 21, 2005

Secrets of Successful Aging

How well we react to stress is one of the most significant factors for predicting how well we age writes Tara Parker Pope in the Wall Street Journal's The Secrets of Successful Aging.

"One of the myths of aging is to choose your parents wisely," says John W. Rowe, who, before becoming chairman of Aetna Inc., served as director of the MacArthur Foundation Research on Successful Aging, one of the largest aging studies in the country. "People feel there is a genetic program they are playing out. But since only about one-third of aging is heritable, the rest is acquired -- that means you are responsible for your own old age."

Staying connected with strong relationships is especially important.
Connectedness in old age is enormously important.

Second are the personality traits such a optimism, adaptability and a willingness to try new things.  People with such traits get over day to day stress sooner.

Other coping skills that you can develop are
• seeking control when you can
• getting accurate information so you know what to expect.
• keeping friends and family close
• finding exercise you like and doing it on a regular basis
• getting more sleep.

Plato once said, "Old age has a great sense of calm and freedom," but only if you get there and age well.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:02 PM | Permalink