Last Week’s Links

The COVID Strategy America Hasn’t Really Tried

“The clearest way to reduce deaths is to push to vaccinate more of the elderly—yes, still!”

Sarah Zhang reports in The Atlantic: “even though America’s vaccination and booster rates look better in the older groups compared with the young, they are still too low. As a result, deaths in the United States are still too high.”

Category: Health

How to get better at making every type of decision

Allie Volpe describes certain human biases that can complicate the making of decisions, particularly decisions about complex or life-altering questions. She also offers concrete suggestions about how to deal with these biases and how to manage the decision-making process.

Category: Mental Health

The Dog Breeds That Are a Woman’s Best Friend

“Especially when one lives alone.”

Because men generally die at a slightly younger age than women, many women face a period of widowhood. Social scientists have long known that having a pet to care for can reduce feelings of loneliness or depression for widowed people, either male or female. 

When my husband and I were looking at various retirement communities in preparation for our retirement relocation, something I noticed was the number of older adults out walking their dogs. This article, though emphasizing women, provides some advice appropriate for either men or women looking to take on a pet.

I have one consideration to add that this article doesn’t mention. Most retirement communities I’m familiar with allow “small pets.” If you anticipate moving into such a community, I’d advise you choose one of the smaller breeds described here. A boxer, golden retriever, or mastiff probably won’t be welcome in a much down-sized living situation.

Or maybe you’d rather consider a cat?

Category: Assisted Living, Retirement

There Will Be No Post-Covid

Charles M. Blow, an opinion columnist for the New York Times, expresses something I’ve thought for quite a while now: As much as we’d all like to get back to normal, normal won’t ever be the same again, and we are going to have to learn to live with that reality.

Or, as Blow puts it: :the America we knew ended in 2019. This is a new one, scarred, struggling to its feet, dogged by moral and philosophical questions that on one hand have revealed its cruelty and on the other have forced it into metamorphosis.”

Category: Health, Personal

Activist Learning: How Anti-Vietnam War Academics Reinvented the Strike

The escalation of the Vietnam War in 1965 brought about the creation of a new form of protest—the teach-in. It was so effective a vehicle for dissent that the academic community quickly became the main source of opposition to the war. Though it was later eclipsed—notably in the media and, thus, the popular mind—by younger noisier protests, for about a year and a half the nation’s faculties, with the assistance of graduate students and some undergraduates, provided the leadership and the intellectual framework for the growing challenge to the escalating conflict. An initially small group of professors literally taught the rest of the country why the war was wrong.

This excerpt from The Lost Promise: American Universities in the 1960s by Ellen Schrecker brought back memories for me. I was a student at Boston University, a very politically active campus, from 1966 to 1970. 

Categories: History, Personal

Her dad died. So her favorite NFL star took her to the father-daughter dance.

“Philadelphia Eagles player Anthony Harris flew across the country to escort his 11-year-old fan to the event”

Amid all the incivility and protest, I hope we take a moment to appreciate and publicize stories such as this.

Category: Personal

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Increased physical activity lowers ‘preventable’ deaths in older adults, study finds

Small increases in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity among older adults in the United States prevents up to an estimated 275,000 deaths annually, a study published Monday JAMA Internal Medicine found.

When the Last Thing You Want to Do Is Exercise

As a companion piece to the article above, Christie Aschwanden suggests some “ways you can find inspiration and maybe even a little glee in your daily workout.”

A 73-year-old knew she was being scammed. So she lured the scammer to her home and had him arrested, police say.

Lots of people think it’ll be easy to scam us older adults. A couple of them met their match in Jean.

As pleasing as this story is, PLEASE DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME without contacting local law enforcement before you make any arrangements to meet the scammers. Also, don’t volunteer your address, bank, or any other personal information until you’ve arranged for reinforcements.

I’m 72. So What?

“Catherine Texier pushes back against society’s dated ideas about older women, claiming her place among those who are determined to remain vibrant and relevant in the last decades of their lives.”

My generation is caught between two tectonic forces: the impulse to live full throttle till the end — as long as our health can handle it, the way we chose to live since our 20s — and the push from society to put us back into our place and nudge us towards the nursing home, so that the next generations can take over.

Conflicts between nursing home residents are often chalked up to dementia – the real problem is inadequate care and neglect

Some sobering information from Eilon Caspi, assistant research professor of health, intervention, and policy, at the University of Connecticut:

Resident-to-resident incidents are defined by researchers as “negative, aggressive and intrusive verbal, physical, material and sexual interactions between residents” that can cause “psychological distress and physical harm in the recipient.”

These incidents are prevalent in U.S. nursing homes. But they are largely overlooked by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency overseeing care in approximately 15,000 nursing homes across the country. Consequently, such incidents remain untracked, understudied and largely unaddressed.

Caspi emphasizes that the patient with dementia is not to blame for such incidents. Rather, the facility has the responsibility of adequately supervising all residents.

7 New and Forthcoming Books by Writers Over 60

J.R. Ramakrishnan profiles some “fully grown-up writers with thoughtful, diverse books out in early 2022. Their subjects are both fiction and nonfiction.”

Why I Will Never, Ever Go Gray

One of the topics that arose over the long course of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic was people who, unable to get to the salon for a touch-up, discovered the joy of letting their hair go gray. But here Norma Eisen, who had her first gray hairs at age 13, presents the opposite view: “Though some of my friends were flaunting silver locks, I still dyed my hair. Even when the stars looked more gorgeous than ever by going au naturel.”

Don Wilson, Who Gave the Ventures Their Distinctive Rhythm, Dies at 88

Don Wilson, co-founder of the instrumental rock group the Ventures, whose twanging, hard-driving sound, propelled by his dynamic rhythm guitar, led to hits like “Walk — Don’t Run” and helped shape the surf music of the early 1960s as well as influencing generations of guitarists, died on Saturday [January 22, 2022] in Tacoma, Wash. He was 88.

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

Nursing homes can now lift most COVID restrictions on visits : Coronavirus Updates : NPR

The federal government directed nursing homes to open their doors wide to visitors, easing many remaining pandemic restrictions.

Source: Nursing homes can now lift most COVID restrictions on visits : Coronavirus Updates : NPR

Last Week’s Links

Why are side effects worse after a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine?

I had heard stories about the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine producing more pronounced side effects than the first dose. But I was pleasantly surprised when my second shot produced only a very mildly sore arm for about 24 hours. 

woman receiving vaccination in left arm

As more Americans line up for the COVID-19 vaccine, some are anxious about the second-dose side effects, which tend to be stronger than the first. But experts say that the symptoms, which range from a sore arm to headaches and nausea, are a sign that the second dose is doing its job: turbo-charging the immune system’s response to the initial dose, and thus providing more vigorous and long-lasting protection against the virus.

The fence is uncomfortable, but it affords the best view

Iris Schneideris, professor of psychology at the University of Cologne in Germany, discusses ambivalence, or the presence of conflicting emotions.

“It’s appealing to think about the world in black and white. . . . Although this simple view of our inner lives is tempting, day-to-day experience tells us that reality is more complicated and messy than that; it’s full of contradiction,” she writes. But, as uncomfortable as contradictory emotions may be, “being ambivalent comes with many benefits.”

We humans have dumped on the poor pigeon for too long; it’s high time to admire this fascinating, fast, quirky bird

Ron Judd writes in Pacific NW Magazine that pigeons don’t get anywhere near the love they deserve. Sit back and have a good long look at what Judd sees as the good points of these ubiquitous birds.

Maggots, Rape and Yet Five Stars: How U.S. Ratings of Nursing Homes Mislead the Public

The New York Times takes a deep investigative dive into how care facilities for older adults are rated.

Study: 20% fewer seniors in U.S. had serious vision impairment than in prior decade

Here’s some good news: “About 20% fewer adults age 65 and older in the United States have serious vision impairment compared to the prior decade, according to a study published [recently] by the journal Ophthalmic Epidemiology.”

Study confirms that some people age more slowly

People age at varying rates. This article reports on recent research that “found that by the tender age of 45, people with a faster pace of ‘biological aging’ were more likely to feel, function and look far older than they actually were. And that relative sprint toward old age began in their 20s.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Nursing Homes, Once Hotspots, Far Outpace U.S. in Covid Declines

Since nursing homes took a lot of flack for the rapidity with which COVID-19 spread through their facilities, it’s only fair to shout out this fact, too. We live in the independent living section of a retirement community and were able to get in on the facility’s vaccination clinic, for which we are very grateful.

Words to reflect our new reality: A COVID-19 urban dictionary

Covidiot. Emaskulation. Maskne. Check this out.

‘We Are Going to Keep You Safe, Even if It Kills Your Spirit’

“For the millions of Americans living with dementia, every day during this pandemic can bring a fresh horror.”

In hospitals and care facilities, patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can’t follow mask requirements or social-distancing protocols that they neither understand nor remember. “— but what are administrators to do? They can’t just lock people up.”

An ancient Greek approach to risk and the lessons it can offer the modern world

Joshua P. Nudell, a visiting assistant professor of Classics at Westminster College, writes “I am interested in what the classics can teach us about risk-taking as a way to make sense of our current situation.”

By looking at classical history, he concludes that “history explains that individuals might escape divine punishment, but ignoring omens and failing to take precautions were often communal rather than individual problems.”

Rethinking ‘man’s best friend’: WSU research shows the importance of dogs in women’s lives

woman lying on blanket with dog
Photo by Olivia Hutcherson on Unsplash

New research out of Washington State University concludes:

when dogs are interacting with women in a particular society, dogs are more likely to have names, be treated as family, as kin, to be buried and mourned when they died,” says Professor Robert Quinlan, of WSU’s anthropology department and one of three authors of the recently published paper in the Journal of Ethnobiology.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

This Is Not a Moon Landing. It’s a Murder Hornet Operation.

Click on this link to see the photo, even if you don’t read the article. 

“After an operation that looked like a cross between a lunar landing and a low-budget sci-fi flick, entomologists on Saturday suctioned away the first “murder hornet” nest found in the United States.”

The first nest of the invasive Asian giant hornets was found and destroyed in northern Washington state. It’s an interesting article, with a lot of photos.

How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension As an Adult

Reading comprehension, defined as the “ability to process and retain information from texts,” is something we usually think of as happening to children in their early years of school. But here Christine Ro reports on some recent research into enhancing reading comprehension for adults and offers some suggestions for doing so.

Unsurprisingly, some of her suggestions involve slowing down while reading and actively engaging with the text, for example, by annotating, all examples of slow reading.

As holidays near, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, putting families in a quandary about celebrations and travel

Amidst all the discussion of pandemic fatigue, many families are wondering if they’ll be able to celebrate together this fall and winter. This article indicates that Barbara Alexander, a physician and the president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, will not attend the annual Christmas gathering of about 35 people at her parents’ farm this year.

An epidemiologist explains the new CDC guidance on 15 minutes of exposure and what it means for you

“the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is acknowledging that even brief contact can lead to transmission. Specifically, the new guidance suggests that those spending a total of 15 minutes of contact with an infectious person over the course of a 24-hour period should be considered in close contact.”

Here’s some more information if you’re still making up your mind about attending family events this holiday season.

‘Passion and expertise’: UW’s Dr. Vin Gupta shares coronavirus insights with the nation

In normal times, Dr. Vin Gupta would be spending more time with his family and less time on national TV.

But since the world is battling a pandemic — and a flood of conflicting information — pick any weekday and you’ll likely see Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist and an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, on at least one news show on either NBC or MSNBC as a medical contributor.

Many of the first cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. appeared in Washington state. Here’s a profile of a physician from the University of Washington who has emerged as one of the experts seen most often on news coverage of the virus.

“A Sow Killer”: Nursing Home Residents Wither in Isolation Forced by the Virus

One of the worst things about growing old is the social isolation caused by the loss of friends and family members. This year the viral pandemic, with its enforced isolation to suppress the contagion, has been especially hard on older people, particularly those in nursing homes, where strict regulations prohibiting visiting have been necessary to control the spread of the disease.

The article explores how some facilities are addressing the seemingly contradictory requirements for both physical distancing and personal human contact.

Q&A: Did Justin Turner put Dodgers at risk by celebrating their World Series championship?

I always watch the World Series, even when, like this year, none of my favorite teams is one of the last two left standing. But I turned the TV off after the announcement of the Series MVP (Corey Seager of the L.A. Dodgers) and didn’t learn until the next day that Dodgers’ player Justin Turner, who had been pulled late in the final game because of a positive COVID-19 test result, had come out onto the field to celebrate the victory with his teammates.

While I can certainly understand his desire to celebrate, I was incensed and disappointed by his action. In many of the photos he’s not even wearing a mask.

What do you think? 

Should Turner have been allowed to leave the room where he was isolated and mingle with his teammates on the field? 

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Study: Older adults may be excluded from many COVID-19 trials

More than half of all clinical trials evaluating vaccines and potential treatments for COVID-19 are “at high risk for excluding older adults,” according to an analysis published [recently] by JAMA Internal Medicine.

And here’s why we should care about this:

“My biggest concern is that without clinical trial testing, older adults will ultimately be denied treatments and vaccines — as a result, equitable distribution to this population will not be possible, and this will be an egregious oversight,” said [study co-author Dr. Sharon] Inouye, director of the Aging Brain Center at the Marcus Institute for Aging Research in Boston.

After 71 years, their marriage — and that wedding gift of a toaster — endure

Here’s one of those heartwarming stories often featured in the weekend magazine section of local newspapers. It’s too good not to share.

The older I get, the more I appreciate stories like this. How about you?

older man and woman

Older people like President Trump are at more risk from COVID-19 because of how the immune system ages

It didn’t take long into the COVID-19 pandemic for the date to start to accrue indicating that older adults are at higher risk than younger people from this particular disease. Here’s a good explanation of why that’s true and how we can take appropriate action to protect ourselves.

Carter Williams, Who Unshackled Nursing Home Residents, Dies at 97

“By closely describing the inner lives of older people, Ms. Williams altered legal regulations and clinical standards applied to nursing homes.”

Although I didn’t know anything about Carter Williams before coming across her obituary, I now know that we all owe her an enormous debt of gratitude.

Ms. Williams, a social worker, amassed hundreds of accounts . . . for the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform as it lobbied for legislative change in the 1980s. And they proved influential as the group helped shape the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, which required skilled nursing facilities to maintain the “physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of each resident.”

Celebrate her achievements, which benefit us all, by reading her life story.

Who is handling the pandemic best emotionally? Boomers and other retirees.

As the social lockdown has gone on since March, I’ve felt for the younger people I know who were having to shuffle times and locations for their own work-from-home requirements along with their children’s remote-learning activities. I realized quite early on that, with little day care available, their lives had become a pressure-filled chaos that I’m not sure I could have handled.

Even though I’m in the older demographic most at risk from COVID-19, I’ve been grateful all along for being retired. Sure, the pandemic means that we can’t eat at a restaurant or hold our weekly social get-togethers, but other than that, my life hasn’t changed much from what it was like before March. Or at least the logistics haven’t significantly changed, even with the increased anxiety and existential dread of the whole situation. 

In fact, I’ve even been feeling a little guilty about how relatively easy my pandemic-constrained life has been. I was therefore relieved that I’m not the only one feeling this way. According to Daryl Austin in the Washington Post:

The emotional toll of the coronavirus pandemic is steep for most everyone, but it turns out that one group is handling it better than the rest: retirees.

That might seem counterintuitive, since the virus is more dangerous for older people, but studies looking at mental health in the pandemic show that retirees who live at home are free from two of the stressors that are squeezing their younger counterparts — job security and parenting children as they navigate at-home learning and isolation.

 How about you?

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Books to Celebrate the Life & Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The New York Public Library has compiled a list of books about the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The list includes several children’s books.

Leave the Kids with Grandma: 7 Insightful Stories Featuring Grandparents We Love

“Here are seven heartwarming and insightful adored stories about beloved grandparents to remind us of their lasting impressions.”

What Made Black and Blue Pens Standard? A Colorful Look at Ink

When I was a kid, ballpoint pens—which we didn’t get to use in school until 4th grade—came only in blue, black, or red. By the time I started college, green ballpoints were available, which the rebel in me promptly adopted as my main writing implement.

24 colored pens

In this article Yashvi Peeti delves into the history of ink and the psychology of color to help us choose among all the writing implements and colors now available.

How to make friends as an adult

“Making more friends in adulthood is going to take some deliberate effort on your part.”

My husband and I made a huge move—from St. Louis, Missouri, to Tacoma, Washington—when we retired. We moved to be near our daughter, but that move also meant leaving behind the friends we’d made over the course of living in the same general area for more than 40 years. One of the reasons we chose to move into a retirement community instead of buying a house in the city was to be near people of similar age with whom to share planned activities. We’ve been very happy with the new friends we’ve made here.

Nonetheless, making new friends as an adult can be difficult. Here psychologist Marisa G. Franco offers some background on the benefits of friendship and hints about making new adult friendships.

The Pandemic Is Chasing Aging Coaches from the Field

Although I’m a pretty big sports fan, here’s one aspect of the COVID-19 health crisis I hadn’t thought about until I read this article

“While young athletes are considered less vulnerable to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, aging coaches are at higher risk of infection and having a severe response.” As a result, many older coaches are choosing to leave their sports rather than risk getting sick.

On Remembering to Be Grateful on the Darkest Days

“Through the coronavirus and a loved one’s cancer scare, I’ve found immeasurable relief through writing in a gratitude journal.”

woman's hand holding pen and writing

Dom Nero explains the benefits from keeping a gratitude journal, which, he writes, “doesn’t have to be all about the big picture stuff. In fact, I often find it’s more satisfying when I focus on the random joys from my day.”

The act of recording even short and simple snippets of things to be grateful for can help relieve the anxiety and uncertainty most of us have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, he says.

Nursing Homes Oust Unwanted Patients With Claims of Psychosis

Here’s an alarming trend to be aware of:

Across the United States, nursing homes are looking to get rid of unprofitable patients — primarily those who are poor and require extra care — and pouncing on minor outbursts to justify evicting them to emergency rooms or psychiatric hospitals. After the hospitals discharge the patients, often in a matter of hours, the nursing homes refuse them re-entry, according to court filings, government-funded watchdogs in 16 states, and more than 60 lawyers, nursing home employees and doctors.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

How to interpret historical analogies

For those of us who’ve lived long enough to see a thing or two:

Historical analogies – basically, the claim that two events or phenomena separated by time, and sometimes also by space, are similar in essential ways – are all around us. ‘History is repeating itself’ is a prominent idea, often phrased as ‘We’ve been here before’ or ‘This feels awfully familiar.’ Given that analogies are not a central feature of historical writing, or even something historians are normally trained to do, it’s worth asking: who makes historical analogies and why? How do historical analogies work? When do they catch on? Why are they so popular? What purpose do they serve? Do they help us better understand the world?

Scientists get closer to blood test for Alzheimer’s disease

An experimental blood test was highly accurate at distinguishing people with Alzheimer’s disease from those without it in several studies, boosting hopes that there soon may be a simple way to help diagnose this most common form of dementia.

We always have to understand that these medical reports are preliminary. Still, it’s comforting to learn that research is progressing.

An Elegy for the Landline in Literature

Many of us are old enough to remember when a phone ringing in the middle of the night indicated that something very bad had happened. Of course, that ringing phone was a landline, the only kind of phone we had back in those days.

“Since its invention, in the nineteenth century, the landline has often been portrayed as sinister—the object through which fate comes to call,” writes Sophie Haigney. She discusses how the landline was used in literature “as an open line of possibility, just waiting to ring,” that has been eliminated by the ubiquitous cell phone.

Seven Mysteries Featuring Standout Seniors as Secondary Characters

Mystery author S.C. Perkins discusses some of her favorite mysteries that feature older adults who are “long on great personalities” as secondary characters: “I’m here to give respect to the elder characters who not only offer the protagonist the benefits of their knowledge learned through a long life, but also possess a sense of humor about the world that comes from having seen it all.”

Senior Citizens Recreate Iconic Music Album Covers While in Quarantine

To lift your spirits, take a look at these recreations of classic music album covers by older adults from senior communities in England.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

THE RISE OF THE ‘GRANNY STATE’ IN AMERICA’S NURSING HOMES

The growing number of older people entering assisted living facilities is spawning an accompanying fear of elder abuse:

More and more states are passing laws and introducing regulations requiring nursing homes to let relatives set up webcams in the private rooms of elderly family members. Until 2014, only three states — Texas, New Mexico and Washington — had laws on such cameras in assisted living facilities. But over the past five years, five more states — Illinois, Louisiana, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia — have introduced statutes.

But the use of such cameras raise a whole menu of privacy concerns:

  • Who has the right to request such a camera, the patient or the patient’s family?
  • Is the patient mentally competent to either request or refuse placement of a camera?
  • Do caregivers in rooms with cameras have their own right to privacy?
  • Do roommates or significant others who live in the same space also have to consent?

These are significant questions that will have to be addressed in efforts to balance safety concerns with privacy issues.

The Decline and Evolution of the School Librarian

School budget cuts inevitably lead to reductions in support staff such as school librarians:

Between 2009 and 2016, more than 9,000 full-time equivalent school library positions were eliminated in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s about a 15 percent reduction in the country’s total number of school librarian positions. What’s at risk, advocates say, is not just children’s access to books, but also the development of their research skills, digital literacy, and critical thinking.

DASH HAPPY: 6 DASHING EM DASH EXAMPLES IN LITERATURE

This article about the em dash—“possibly the most adaptable and intuitive punctuation mark there is”—just warms this former college composition teacher’s heart.

Engineers Sprint Ahead, but Don’t Underestimate the Poets

David Deming, director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, argues in The New York Times that, over time, liberal arts majors earn salaries comparable to their peers with scientific degrees.

Most of the Mind Can’t Tell Fact from Fiction

Most humans find intense pleasure in stories about universal themes of love, death, adventure, family conflict, justice, and triumph over adversity.

That may help explain why, when stories are done well, we love them so much. Just as artificial sweeteners fool our minds into thinking we’re eating sugar, stories—even weird ones like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—take advantage of our natural tendency to want to learn about real people, and how to treat them.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

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