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

Medicare Advantage is cheaper for a reason — beware

“There is no clear-cut right or wrong choice. The key is to make an informed choice,” writes Carla Fried. I remember feeling absolutely overwhelmed by having to make the choice when signing up for Medicare (in the U.S.). Here’s some information to help you make an informed choice.

Before signing up for Medicare I took an explanatory class at the local community college. It offered the necessary basic information, including definitions of key terms, to help me understand everything else. But choosing appropriate plans was still an enormous project. I recommend that you look for some classes or workshops at a community college or community center near you and that you take full advantage of your 6-month sign-up period.

How the TV Dinner Revolutionized American Life

I wouldn’t touch one of these now, but I do enjoy reading the history of items like this, which “revolutionized middle-class life in the mid-20th century–especially the lives of the women who were expected to put dinner on the table.”

Can you reduce your Alzheimer’s risk with diet and behavior? It’s not that simple

As with all articles of this type, digest the information but be sure to consult other sources as well, especially your own health-care providers.

‘Vax’ is Oxford English Dictionary publisher’s 2021 Word of the Year

Last week we had Merriam-Webster’s new additions to its dictionary. This month we get the story on the Oxford English Dictionary.

A woman convinced her husband that he had Alzheimer’s. Police say she stole $600,000 from him over time.

I sure hate to see reports of incidents like this, but it’s probably good for us, as well as families and caregivers, to be aware of how this can happen.

Burn, baby, burn: the new science of metabolism

Attach the same caveat—“be sure to consult other sources as well, especially your own health-care providers”—to this as to the previous article about diet. In fact, attach the caveat to the article below as well. 

This is an informative article about how science’s understanding of how metabolism works is evolving, including research published this summer that challenges previously accepted wisdom about how aging affects metabolism.

How to maintain a healthy brain

Kailas Roberts, an Australian psychiatrist and specialist in brain health, has some advice on not only how to avoid dementia, but also “optimising brain function throughout your lifespan.”

Richard M. Ohmann, 90, Dies; Brought Radical Politics to College English

“Inspired by the antiwar movement of the 1960s, he helped transform humanities by making room for subjects like women’s studies and Marxist criticism.”

In December 1968 Richard M. Ohmann orchestrated the passage of antiwar resolutions at the annual conference of the Modern Language Association. “ The very notion that a scholarly organization should take a stand on nonacademic issues was practically unheard-of.”

Ohmann was ahead of his time with insights that are in the news today:

starting in the 1970s, Dr. Ohmann turned his gaze inward, writing a series of books exposing what he saw as the complicity of higher education, and in particular the study of English literature, in the perpetuation of class, gender and racial hierarchies.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

What new research says about adding healthy years to your life

Matt Fuchs takes a look at “recent research [that] points to interventions in diet, exercise and mental outlook that could slow down aging and age-related diseases – without risky biohacks such as unproven gene therapies.”

Australian golfer makes hole-in-one just shy of 100th birthday

The story of Hugh Brown of Australia, who “made a hole-in-one on the 161-yard par-3 hole, just two months shy of his 100th birthday.”

7 Books About Older Women Behaving Badly

In my search for literature that presents older adult characters, particularly older women, who often feel themselves becoming invisible in a culture that fetishizes and focuses on youth, I came upon this list. Amy Lee Lillard presents “seven books [that] celebrate the older woman that defies logic and bias. They won’t go quietly into oblivion. They won’t disappear, and in fact, insist on being seen. Even if that involves letting their anger out. Even if it involves violence.”

Some—or perhaps all—of these books may not be your reading cup of tea, but I feel validated just knowing that some authors are still treating older women like functioning adults.

Parents were fine with sweeping school vaccination mandates five decades ago – but COVID-19 may be a different story

I live in a retirement community, and one topic of conversation that has come up quite a few times is “Nobody complained about their kids getting polio shots at school back in the 1950s.”

Here James Colgrove, professor of sociomedical sciences at Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University, discusses how times are now different: “As a public health historian who studies the evolution of vaccination policies, I see stark differences between the current debates over COVID-19 vaccination and the public response to previous mandates.”

The Friendship That Shapes Atlanta Baseball

If, like me, you’re a long-time baseball fan, you’ll probably appreciate this story involving the Atlanta Braves as much as I did. It’s about a lot more than just baseball.

Writing “Eleanor Rigby”

“How one of the Beatles’ greatest songs came to be.”

An informative reminiscence by Paul McCartney.

Seniors decry age bias, say they feel devalued when interacting with health care providers

“The assumption that all older people are frail and helpless is a common, incorrect stereotype.”

Judith Graham of Kaiser Health News reports on “ageism in health care settings, a long-standing problem that’s getting new attention during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than half a million Americans age 65 and older.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Seattle powerlifter, 76, wants you to know it’s not too late to get started

A recent ascent of a steep, rocky hill convinced me that I need to make an effort to strengthen my legs and knees. Fortunately, I found some encouragement in this article.

These Writers Over 80 Are Still Going Strong

Tom Beer writes, “can we pause and pay tribute to the older writers still producing work into their 80s and even their 90s? I ask because I am currently reading Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket . . ., a career-spanning collection of stories by Hilma Wolitzer, age 91.”

Other writers he mentions who are still going strong include Wole Soyinka (age 87), Cynthia Oaick (93), Jerome Charyn, Orville Schell, and Diane Johnson.

Jamie Lee Curtis thinks cosmetic procedures are ‘wiping out a generation of beauty’

The current trend of fillers and procedures, and this obsession with filtering, and the things that we do to adjust our appearance on Zoom are wiping out generations of beauty,” she added. “Once you mess with your face, you can’t get it back.”

James Taylor: “All music is reiteration… We just pick stuff up and use it again. I mean, there are just 12 notes”

A bit of history on the musical icon whose “self-titled debut album was released in 1968 on the Beatles’ Apple Records; he was the first outside artist signed to the label.”

7 Early Warning Signs of Dementia You Shouldn’t Ignore

Dementia isn’t actually a disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s a catch-all term for changes in the brain that cause a loss of functioning that interferes with daily life. Dementia can diminish focus, the ability to pay attention, language skills, problem-solving and visual perception. It also can make it difficult for a person to control his or her emotions and lead to personality changes.

This article contains some information on the various forms of dementia as well as the warning signs to be aware of and how to find help.

Tina Turner’s Swiss Chateau Retirement Is Going Dreamily, Thanks for Asking

“As the Tony-winning Broadway musical about her life returns to the stage, the legendary performer reflects on her career in a new interview: ‘Recently Cher came to visit. We gossiped and laughed a lot.’”

See Tina Turner perform at Harvard Stadium back in 1970 was one of the highlights of my coming-of-age time. In this email interview Yohana Desta asks Turner about her current life: “It’s a blissful life, one that Turner worked incredibly hard to earn.”

The Personality Trait Linked To Living Longer

I feel a certain vindication in reporting these study results. All my life people have been ribbing me about my attention—some call it obsessive—to details. I’m the one who always checks every drawer and shelf at least twice before leaving a hotel to ensure that nothing will get left behind. I’m the one who checks every night at bed time that the kitchen stove has been turned off.

And here’s my payoff: “Persistent and conscientious people” tend to live the longest.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

This French Pianist Has Been Playing For 102 Years And Just Released A New Album

Eleanor Beardsley visits with French pianist Colette Maze.

Maze, born on June 16, 1914, says her mother was severe and unloving. So she turned to music for the affection she lacked at home.

“I always preferred composers who gave me tenderness,” she says. “Like [Robert] Schumann and [Claude] Debussy. Music is an affective language, a poetic language. In music there is everything — nature, emotion, love, revolt, dreams; it’s like a spiritual food.”

At 101, she’s still hauling lobsters with no plans to stop

“The oldest lobster fisher in the state and possibly the oldest one in the world, [Virginia] Oliver still faithfully tends to her traps off Rockland, Maine, with her 78-year-old son Max.”

I have a personal interest in this story. My in-laws grew up in Rockland, Maine. If they were alive today, they’d be 107 and 108. I wonder if they would have known Virginia Oliver.

Why You Need to Forget Stuff

“Forgetting names and faces can be annoying—but it’s critical for our brains to function at their best, a new book argues.”

We joke, and then worry, when we notice ourselves beginning to forget names and such things. This article discusses a new book, Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering, by Scott Small, “who studies and treats Alzheimer’s disease at Columbia University.” Small believes that “some amount of forgetfulness is critical for our minds and relationships to function at their best.”

For older adults, isolation can lead to overwhelming loneliness

Researchers have known for quite some time now that older adults are vulnerable to loneliness as their contact with family and friends decreases because of deaths and their own diminishing mobility. This problem was heightened during pandemic isolation:

The effects of social isolation during the pandemic have hit all ages — some studies, for example, show teens have fared worse than other groups — but older adults already were a population vulnerable to loneliness. And for many, the pandemic was the first time they felt deep, sustained loneliness. It’s a feeling that can impact physical health, creating greater risk for some illnesses and hospitalizations; and mental health, potentially exacerbating symptoms of or leading to clinical disorders such as depression.

Here’s a report from The Mental Health Project, a Seattle Times initiative focused on covering mental and behavioral health issues. 

At risk of dementia? Brain scan shows when you might develop symptoms, study says

This article reports on research published recently in the journal Neurology that may help “researchers determine an estimated timeline of symptom onset” of dementia. 

While some people may not want to know when they’ll start to forget friends’ names or have difficulty calculating change at the grocery store, others, particularly those with genetic predispositions for dementia, could benefit from having time to prepare for the inevitable changes.

What Your Poop Can Tell You About Your Health

Even before I got to be one myself, I noticed that older adults sometimes seem obsessed with the state of their intestines. So OK, I’m just putting this article out there.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

9 websites that will bring you back to the old internet

“The internet has been around for long enough — and shifted so drastically in that time — that it’s really easy to get nostalgic for past versions of online life.”

Costa Ricans Live Longer Than Us. What’s the Secret?

“In the United States and elsewhere, public health and medical care are largely separate enterprises. Costa Rica shows the benefits of integrating the two—it spends less than we do on health care and gets better results.”

Raw Granny Power: 100-Year-Old Woman Is the World’s Oldest Female Powerlifter

A portrait of “Edith Murway-Traina, who is heaving around major poundage at the age of 100—making her a Guinness World Record holder for being the oldest known competitive female powerlifter in the world.”

In ‘Rumors,’ Lizzo and Cardi B pull from the ancient Greeks, putting a new twist on an old tradition

Grace B. McGowan, a PhD Candidate in American Studies at Boston University, celebrates the return of Black women to “the classical tradition, a style rooted in the aesthetics of ancient Greece and Rome.” McGowan writes that artists like Lizzo and Cardi B are “adding their own twist” to this tradition.

Being chased, losing your teeth or falling down? What science says about recurring dreams

I periodically dream about losing my teeth, forgetting to go to class for an entire semester, or being unprepared for an exam. Here a professor of psychiatry and a doctoral candidate in neuroscience from the University of Montreal discuss recurrent dream motifs and their possible meanings.

Baby Boomer Bloggers: Are you out there?

Jane Trombley, a Baby Boomer herself, laments, “I don’t see enough of my peers initiating the conversation. And that’s a drag. Millennials and everyone else need to hear much of what Boomers have to say.”

She ends with a challenge: “Over to you, Boomers.”

So, whadda ya say?

‘No one wanted to read’ his book on pandemic psychology – then Covid hit

In October 2019, a month or so before Covid-19 began to spread from the industrial Chinese city of Wuhan, Steven Taylor, an Australian psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, published what would turn out to be a remarkably prophetic book, The Psychology of Pandemics.

The Guardian reports on Taylor’s psychological approach to understanding pandemics in general and, specifically, the current state of world affairs surrounding COVID-19.

The Best Part of Being 60-Something

Lorraine Duffy Merkl basks in the freedom that being in her 60s offers: “We can finally let go of the please-like-me baggage and secrets that have been weighing us down, as well as the insecurities based on what others think of us, and realize what really matters is being ourselves and letting the chips fall.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

What We Think We Know About Metabolism May Be Wrong

Generally accepted wisdom about metabolism and weight gain used to tell us that people began to put on weight in middle age as their metabolism slowed down. But new research suggests that we need to rethink that hypothesis. 

“By combining efforts from a half dozen labs collected over 40 years, [investigators] had sufficient information to ask general questions about changes in metabolism over a lifetime.” As for metabolism in middle age and after: “From age 20 to 60, it holds steady,” and “after age 60, it declines by about 0.7 percent a year.”

For Seniors Especially, Covid Can Be Stealthy

“With infections increasing once more, and hospitalization rising among older adults, health experts offer a timely warning: a coronavirus infection can look different in older patients.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LIVE FOREVER?

“Today, as humans continue to lust after any number of material and immaterial objects, scientists are researching radical life extension technology like never before. Amazing, right? Let’s see. Read on to learn about the great, the weird and the downright costly behind our quest for eternal existence.”

The usual caution pertains here: Be careful what you wish for.

“It’s Your Funeral!” So Throw Yourself the Best Going-Away Party Ever

book cover: It's Your Funeral! Plan the Celebration of a Lifetime--Before it's too Late

Gevera Bert Piedmont—who apparently hasn’t taken to heart the previous article—begins this book review with the statement “— sorry to break it to you — everyone is going to die.” The book under review is It’s Your Funeral! by Kathy Benjamin. The book’s subtitle is “Plan the celebration of a lifetime—before it’s too late.”

“If that sounds sad and depressing, I assure you, it is not,” Piedmont continues. “Benjamin makes it entertaining, educational and even funny at times.” She says the book contains a section where readers can “make notes on how they want to handle their own demise.”

4 Simple Phrases to Stop Anxious Thoughts

Everything I’ve been reading about the surging delta variant of COVID-19 suggests that we’re having to revise our earlier hope that we were emerging from the pandemic. If you’re experiencing anxious thoughts, licensed clinical social worker Hilary Jacobs Hendel has some advice for self-care.

Please do not hesitate to seek professional help if anxiety begins to overwhelm you.

Podcast: Traveling While Aging

Admission: I don’t listen to podcasts. If I’m going to spend time listening to something, it’s going to be an audiobook.

So I haven’t listened to this podcast. However, the subject may interest you. I’m pretty sure you can listen right from this webpage, without having to download anything.

Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory continues to be a hot news topic. Here’s a succinct explanation of what it is, how it developed, and how the term is currently being used “as a Procrustean epithet that can be made to fit any argument.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

The Sad Story of Nichelle Nichols

photo: Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols in 2013 (photo from Wikipedia)

For the past several weeks, my husband and I have been watching the original Star Trek series (1966-1969) on Netflix a few episodes at a time. We had watched it back in the early 1970s and loved it. I still occasionally recite this motto: “Everything I need to know about life I learned from the original Star Trek.”

The show was ground-breaking in so many ways, not the least of which was the character Lt. Uhura, portrayed by Nichelle Nichols.

I recently came across this article, and it broke my heart:

Inside the heartbreaking conservatorship battle of a ‘Star Trek’ legend

Last Week’s Links

Rewriting My Mother’s Legacy of ‘Skinny Is Beautiful’

Lori S. Marks asks, “How do you learn to love your body when your mother hated her own? How do you gain a clear perception of yourself when your very thin mother studied herself in the hall mirror sideways several times a day?”

And perhaps even more important: “How do you value yourself outside of a number on the scale when your mother routinely weighed you, starting in early childhood, and that number dictated whether she was pleased with you? Or in my young mind, whether she loved me?”

Read how Marks has broken this pattern in raising her three daughters.

When Americans recall their roots, they open up to immigration

Four professors of political science and one of social science report on their research: “Our research suggests that reminding Americans of where they came from . . . creates empathy for immigrants, generating more favorable attitudes toward immigration.”

It seems so obvious. 

Mirrors Tell the Truth, but Not the Whole Story

“To take myself seriously as a writer, I had to embrace my age”

When she was younger, poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist Stephanie Gangi thought of her writing as a hobby. Now she’s in her 60s and has embraced writing: “First novel at 60, forthcoming novel at 65, third in the works.” She now accepts that writing is no longer a hobby: “It is what I do and who I am.”

The result is that “In my work, my women think a lot about how to age gracefully even as they learn to recognize themselves in their new old faces.”

Casual relationships matter for older adults

Family relationships are important for everyone. But casual relationships are also important.

These relationships with people we hardly know or know only superficially are called “weak ties” — a broad and amorphous group that can include your neighbors, your pharmacist, members of your book group or fellow volunteers at a nearby school.

This CNN article reports that “Multiple studies have found that older adults with a broad array of “weak” as well as “close” ties enjoy better physical and psychological well-being and live longer than people with narrower, less diverse social networks.”

Why Older Women Are Opting for Longer Hair

“The shift signifies something larger than just a beauty trend.”

The pandemic kept us from visiting the hair salon. The result was that a lot of women, including us older ones, ended up with hair a lot longer than it had been in many years. Ann Zimmerman reports that many women who rediscovered the long hair of their youth and young adulthood “liked what they saw, [and] they decided to keep it that way.” 

Zimmerman writes, “the pandemic and a burgeoning new take on what aging means to a generation of women who have been pioneers in everything they have done has given them license to experiment.” Although she focuses on hair length here, I’ve talked with many women (I live in a retirement community) who stopped coloring their hair during the pandemic and have decided to continue to wear their gray hair proudly.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown