Last Week’s Links

These people thrived in pandemic isolation — and aren’t ready to return to ‘normal’ socializing

“Living life mostly apart from society — with few if any direct contact-based social, work or school obligations — has been a blessed reprieve for socially anxious people.”

CNN describes people with social anxiety and asks us to “[i]magine you are like them, for a moment.” The article has suggestions on re-entry into society for both people who experience social anxiety and people who will be interacting with them.

Column: I abandoned all my big pandemic projects. Here are 13 lessons I learned instead

Mary McNamara, culture columnist and critic for the Los Angeles Times, writes that she had big plans at the beginning of the pandemic. With refreshing humor she reports that, while those big plans didn’t pan out, she did learn a number of lessons, including “dogs fart all the time” and “I do not love to cook.”

5 Ways to Tap Into Your Smartphone’s Audio Powers

Younger generations seem to have developed great proficiency at typing fast with their thumbs. If you’re more like me and still tap out your text messages and emails on your phone very slowly with one index finger, you might find these directions on how to do more on your phone by voice a big time saver. Learn, among other things, how to dictate a voice memo and send an audio message.

Psychiatric and neurological problems are common in COVID-19’s wake, study finds

Some disturbing news from the Los Angeles Times:

New research highlights COVID-19’s lingering effects on the brain, finding that in the six months after becoming ill, roughly a third of surviving patients were diagnosed with at least one neurological or psychiatric disorder.

The neuropsychiatric ailments that followed COVID-19 ranged widely, from stroke and dementia to anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Virtually all were more common among patients who became sick enough to be hospitalized with COVID-19, and the risk was even higher for those admitted to an intensive care unit.

These research findings about the neuropsychiatric aftereffects of a coronavirus infection were published recently in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

Solutions from Around the World: Tackling Loneliness and Social Isolation During COVID-19

The Commonwealth Fund’s mission is “to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, and people of color.”

This report tackles the issue of loneliness, which has been exacerbated by the global pandemic:

As Americans heed the advice of public health and government officials to remain physically distanced from neighbors, friends, and relatives to fight the coronavirus, another epidemic is exacerbated — social isolation. This can result in loneliness, and the negative consequences can be severe: an increased risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and even death.

There’s news here about programs enacted by several industrialized countries “to address the problem, especially for elderly people and those with underlying health conditions.”

10 Organizations Connecting Generations During the Pandemic

Encore.org is an organization “founded on the belief that the aging of America isn’t so much a problem to be solved as it is an opportunity to be seized.” Here the organization reports on efforts being made to help with the problems of isolation and loneliness that are affecting young people as well as older adults.

This article offers some specific suggestions for “ways to connect the generations.”

Loneliness won’t end when the pandemic ends

The “loneliness epidemic,” as some experts call it, was a problem well before Covid-19. And while physical reunion is now in sight, it’ll take more than dinner parties to reach the marrow of a complicated and deeply cultural problem.

CNN reports on the need to address the problems of isolation and loneliness even after pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links . . . And Some Questions for You

Losing a long-term spouse can be deadly, studies show

The recent death of Prince Phillip has raised concern about Queen Elizabeth:

Known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, “broken heart” syndrome is a documented medical condition.

Another possible complication for people facing bereavement is the widowhood effect: 

The risk of an elderly man or woman dying from any cause increases between 30% and 90% in the first three months after a spouse’s death, then drops to about 15% in the months that follow. The widowhood effect has been documented in all ages and races around the world.

This article from CNN provides advice for people facing bereavement.

He’s a cop. He’s 91. And he has no plans to retire

Here’s another article from CNN. This one profiles L.C. “Buckshot” Smith of Camden, Arkansas. Now 91, Smith has worked in law enforcement for more than 56 years. 

He tried retiring once but “quickly realized he missed the work.”

What happens to our cognition in the darkest depths of winter?

You’ve probably heard of season affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression caused by the reduction of sunlight during the short days of winter. Here Tim Brennan, professor of psychology at the University of Oslo in Norway, discusses both his own and other scientists’ research into the question of what he calls human seasonality, or “the psychological effects of extreme swings in the physical environment.”

“A particular challenge when studying human seasonality is that the widespread belief about mental sluggishness in winter tends unjustifiably to seep into the science,” Brennan writes. However, his research lead him to the conclusion that “there really isn’t evidence of much difference between summer and winter in our thinking, memory and attention.”

Our book critic pays homage to Beverly Cleary, whose characters played a key role in so many of our childhoods

Moira Macdonald, arts critic for the Seattle Times, celebrates the life of children’s author Beverly Cleary, who died recently at the age of 104. “For so many of us, Ramona and Beezus and Henry Huggins and Ellen Tebbits and Otis Spofford were friends, keeping us company during the strange journey of growing up.”

For some Seattle-area residents with COVID vaccines, ‘re-entry anxiety’ is real

Since my husband and I have been “fully vaccinated” for some weeks now, I’ve been watching with interest how people like us are approaching the return to social interaction. In fact, I find the term “fully vaccinated” in itself interesting, since the reality used to be that you were either vaccinated or you weren’t.

Although this article focuses on people in the Seattle area, my guess is that the individuals described here are pretty representative of people of the same demographic everywhere. And I especially resonate with the experience of one woman in the article, who discovered “Reentry anxiety is a real thing.”

How About You?

If you’ve been vaccinated and are returning to society, I’d be interested in hearing what your experience has been. 

  • Are you starting to get back into activities that were suspended during the pandemic? 
  • Do you have concerns about how safe such a return to society is right now?

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The Power of Flexible Thinking

“Flexible thinking is often referred to as cognitive flexibility. This means an individual is able to adapt to new thinking patterns. These individuals often see more than one solution to any presented problem.”

Flexible thinking can help us adapt to challenges we face as we get older. The article offers some specific approaches to becoming a more flexible thinker, including change your routine: “Introduce new changes as you feel comfortable. Keep challenging yourself.”

Atwood, Grisham among contributors to pandemic novel

e knew it was only a matter of time until we started to see literature arising from the pandemic of the last year. 

“One of the first novels about the pandemic will be a collaborative effort, with Margaret Atwood, John Grisham and Celeste Ng among the writers.” Titled Fourteen Days: An Unauthorized Gathering, the novel will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media and will raise funds for the Authors Guild Foundation.

“The story is set on a Manhattan rooftop in 2020 as the virus spreads worldwide and the rich are fleeing the city.”

A year of pandemic life, as told by the things we Googled

In “a story sketched out by a year’s worth of Google searches,” Popular Science examines “some of the prevailing themes that emerged in our collective queries.”

Nearly 50% of people are anxious about getting back to normal, pre-pandemic life — here’s how to cope

“A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that 49% of adults reported feeling uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends.” 

Here’s some advice on how to cope with continuing anxiety and uncertainty as we all continue to emerge from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fully Vaccinated and Time to Party, If You Are 70

“Older people, who represent the vast majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, are emerging this spring with the daffodils, tilting their faces to the sunlight outdoors. They are filling restaurants, hugging grandchildren and booking flights.”

Jennifer Steinhauer reports on how older adults, one of the earliest groups to be vaccinated against COVID-19, are leading the trend back into activities that used to be considered part of “normal life.” Steinhauer points out the the demographics of this trend will change as more people become eligible for vaccination.

Study: ‘Persistent’ loneliness in middle age increases dementia risk

Social scientists have long known that loneliness is one of the biggest problems older adults face as their circle of acquaintances and their own mobility decrease. But a new study has found that “People who were ‘persistently lonely’ between ages 45 and 64 had a 91% higher risk for dementia and a 76% higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease compared to people who don’t feel lonely.”

“Although loneliness does not itself have the status of a clinical disease, it is associated with a range of negative health outcomes, including sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment and stroke.”

At age 80, Sylvia Byrne Pollack of Seattle will publish her first book of poetry

Don’t you love stories like this? I certainly do!

“Part of the magic of poetry is that, when you write the words, you’re a writer,” Pollack continues. “And once you put them down, they’re not really yours anymore. The reader has to do the other half of the work.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

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

There’s No Real Reason to Eat 3 Meals a Day

“Your weird pandemic eating habits are probably fine.”

Of the many aspects of daily living that the COVID-19 pandemic has rejiggered, eating patterns probably rank high on the list. Amanda Mull, staff writer for The Atlantic, describes how she came up with her notion of Big Meal.

A Model and Her Norman Rockwell Meet Again

“The illustrator’s paintings told his stories. Now a teenage subject reveals her own, 67 years later.”

Here’s an interesting story for those of us who grew up with Norman Rockwell’s covers for The Saturday Evening Post.

They can only hold hands, but for Britain’s elderly, first touch with a relative ‘means everything’

A year of pandemic isolation protocols has left us numb to how this disease has changed our lives. This is a heartwarming story of how people are beginning to get some of their humanity back.

Finding Your Voice After 50

“While many manuscripts worthy of publication land on the desks of 20-something-year-old agents, a great majority are written by women over the age of 50 and targeted to a more mature reader,” writes Heidi McCrary. 

For aspiring writers over 50, McCrary, “a woman 50+ . . . looking forward to the second half of my own story,” has four pieces of advice.

Friends by Robin Dunbar review – how important are your pals?

Rachel Cooke reviews the book Friends by Robin Dunbar, which concludes that “the quality of our relationships determines our health, happiness and chance of a long life.”

Cooke notes, “Dunbar could not have known that his book would be published in a time of such loneliness.” 

Final thoughts

“Do deathbed regrets give us a special insight into what really matters in life? There are good reasons to be sceptical”

Neil Levy, professor of philosophy at Macquarie University in Sydney and senior research fellow at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, examines the concept of deathbed regrets. In order to find out what really matters in life, he says, one method is to ask the dying what they most regret. “There’s very little systematic research on this question, but there’s some unsystematic research,” he writes. 

Read why Levy says, “I’m not convinced that the reported regrets of the dying provide us with reasons to think them valuable.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

5 Medical Appointments You Should Stop Putting Off

I know I have wanted to avoid medical facilities and offices while COVID-19 has been on the rise. But there are some aspects of routine care that shouldn’t be avoided. NPR (National Public Radio) has this advice: “There are some medical appointments you just shouldn’t put off any longer, even if you’re nervous about venturing into a clinic or emergency room.”

Running the Show: Where the writers behind your favorite TV shows explain how they made them

Most of us have been watching a LOT of television over the last year to fill in the empty spaces created by lockdown. 

“Here are the conversations with the creative minds behind some of the TV shows you can’t stop watching. The discussions cover a range of topics, including their journey, their craft, their frustrations and, well, their shows.”

Time, like memory, is fickle: days wrap back on themselves

Writer and art historian Grace Linden muses on the nature of time as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our perception of it:

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrung meaning from time. Each day is so like the former. April disappeared entirely; Thanksgiving feels as close, or faraway, as last June. I no longer can keep track of the dates; time has become a pool of standing water.

Washington flu deaths dropped from 114 last season to 0. There are a few reasons why

“Washington’s flu deaths dropped from 114 to zero in a year’s time, thanks to coronavirus protocols and an abundance of caution, health officials say.”

According to the article, similar trends have been noted nationally and globally. Let us take our silver linings where we can find them.

The False Dilemma of Post-Vaccination Risk

woman receiving vaccination in left arm

“We’ll never know for sure how contagious people are after they’re vaccinated, but we do know how they should act.”

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations “is creating a legion of people who no longer need to fear getting sick, and are desperate to return to “normal” life. Yet the messaging on whether they might still carry and spread the disease—and thus whether it’s really safe for them to resume their unmasked, un-distanced lives—has been oblique.”

Here’s some advice from James Hamblin, a medical doctor who is a staff writer at The Atlantic and a lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health.

Libraries Offering Services to Seniors During COVID-19 Pandemic

Because most older adults face increasing social isolation as they age, the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on them. This article examines a few libraries that have developed outreach programs to help senior citizens deal with this problem.

© 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

Can Classics Survive?

I did my B.A. and my M.A. in classics, although I never taught classics at any level and eventually turned to English and, later, psychology. After four years of Latin in high school, I decided to study what I most loved in college, and that was Latin. But I never wanted to teach at any level below college, which is why I changed fields.

I tell you this to explain why these two recent articles drew my attention.

He Wants to Save Classics from Whiteness. Can the Field Survive?

“Dan-el Padilla Peralta thinks classicists should knock ancient Greece and Rome off their pedestal — even if that means destroying their discipline.”

As much as I love Latin literature, I’m not surprised to learn that the study of classics, like the study of the humanities in general, has declined in favor of majors that offer better job opportunities after graduation. But I did not know this:

Long revered as the foundation of “Western civilization,” the field was trying to shed its self-imposed reputation as an elitist subject overwhelmingly taught and studied by white men. Recently the effort had gained a new sense of urgency: Classics had been embraced by the far right, whose members held up the ancient Greeks and Romans as the originators of so-called white culture. Marchers in Charlottesville, Va., carried flags bearing a symbol of the Roman state; online reactionaries adopted classical pseudonyms; the white-supremacist website Stormfront displayed an image of the Parthenon alongside the tagline “Every month is white history month.”

This article focuses on Dan-el Padilla Peralta, “a leading historian of Rome who teaches at Princeton and was born in the Dominican Republic,” who believes “that classics has been instrumental to the invention of ‘whiteness’ and its continued domination.”

If Classics Doesn’t Change, Let It Burn

“The field as is doesn’t deserve to persist. But scholars are hard at work improving it.

This article by Johanna Hanink, associate professor of classics at Brown University, emerged as a result of the New York Times profile above. She writes, “The field of classics should evolve to keep up with the world outside the library doors . . . Today, as the United States comes to grips with its own painful history and diminished status in a globalized world, our approach to antiquity should radically shift once again.” She feels “invigorated, and not threatened, at the prospect of change for my discipline.”

Can Historians Be Traumatized by History?

There’s been a lot written about how experiencing violence and atrocities first-hand can lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Here James Robins go one step further, to ask people if people, such as therapists or historians conducting research, can “be traumatized by something experienced only secondhand.”

Daily tai chi, exercise help older adults with insomnia, study finds

UPI reports on research recently published by JAMA Network Open about older adults with insomnia: “Adults in their 60s and 70s diagnosed with insomnia who practiced tai chi daily woke up, on average, two fewer times during the night than those who didn’t use the ancient Chinese approach, the data showed.”

Why we’re obsessed with music from our youth

Here’s some interesting research about the “reminiscence bump”: “people tend to disproportionately recall memories from when they were 10 to 30 years old.” The research findings suggest that “we aren’t primarily so interested in the music of our youth because we think it’s better than music from other eras, but because it is closely linked to our personal memories.”

The Library of Possible Futures

“Since the release of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock 50 years ago, the allure of speculative nonfiction has remained the same: We all want to know what’s coming next.”

Samantha Culp looks at speculative nonfiction about the future, which she defines as “the constantly evolving genre we might call ‘pop futurism.’” She explains the telltale signs of a pop futurist book: “it sketches out possible tomorrows, highlights emergent trends to watch, and promises ways for even nonspecialists to apply these insights to their own life and work.” 

The seminal work of this genre, she writes, is Future Shock, Alvin Toffler’s book that recently marked its 50th anniversary. Here she looks at subsequent examples of this type of book and concludes that “we need an entirely new way of talking about the future if we are to shape it into something equitable and sustainable for all.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Vaccinated!

My husband and I both got our second dose of COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. I’ve waited to post in case either of us experienced any of the reactions to the second shot that I’ve been reading about.

Last night we each had a very slight bit of soreness in our arm, but that had disappeared by this morning and neither of us has had any further reaction. A few friends who also got their second shot yesterday reported a slight fever and low energy today, but nothing serious.

This article reports that there are still questions about the results of getting the full dose of vaccine, but both my husband and I, being over 70, were happy to get vaccinated.

And here’s the short-sleeve shirt I wore to vaccinated:

T-shirt that says "Yes, I do have a retirement plan. I will be reading more and more books."

I hope that all of you are staying healthy and warm.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Alzheimer’s Prediction May Be Found in Writing Tests

Gina Kolata reports on a study by IBM researchers suggesting that writing patterns may help to predict Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders years before other symptoms appear.

‘Just Cruel’: Digital Race For COVID-19 Vaccines Leaves Many Seniors Behind

I keep seeing stories from several news sources about older adults eligible for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine who are having trouble making an appointment. 

This article does not contain a link to a central information page. But the CDC offers a page where you can find your state health department. Click here.

It’s not just the pandemic. The moon may be messing with your sleep, too, UW researchers find.

Recent research from the University of Washington suggests that “people tend to have a harder time sleeping in the days leading up to a full moon.”

50 Things Turning 50 In 2021

Among things turning 50 this year: Disney World, McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, Janis Joplin’s album Pearl, the pocket calculator, and Dirty Harry. Now doesn’t that just make your day?

Decades later, infamous Tuskegee syphilis study stirs wariness in Black community over COVID-19 vaccine

Some time back when I was in my late 40s I had a freelance project that led me to the Tuskegee syphilis study. Chalk this up as one of the things we didn’t learn about in history class. 

I sobbed out loud sitting at my computer reading about this research, which studied the effects of the disease in poor Black men. Here’s the worst part: even after drugs were discovered that cured syphilis, the treatment was withheld from study participants so researchers could document the natural progression of the disease.

Today, the repercussions of this ghastly history affect attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination in the Black community. 

Please read this article.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown