Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Aging, Reading, and Life in the Pacific Northwest

Why you should care about this week’s giant earthquake drill

About 20,000 people are testing the region’s readiness for disaster this week, preparing for an earthquake-and-tsunami one-two punch that could devastate the Pacific Northwest should a megaquake rip along the 600-mile-long offshore fault known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The “Cascadia Rising” exercise — the largest of its kind ever in the Pacific Northwest — tests emergency responses across the region.

The potential for destruction here is staggering. Here’s just one statistic:

FEMA projects that about 9,400 people in Washington would die in the event of a megaquake and tsunami.

Is It Harder to Be Transported By a Book As You Get Older?

I’ve always loved losing myself in a great work of fiction, and the question of whether that pleasure has diminished as I’ve gotten older never even crossed my mind.

Bookends is a recurring feature in the New York Times:

In Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Francine Prose and Benjamin Moser discuss the difficulties of getting lost in reading after a certain age.

Francine Prose writes that she no longer gets immersed in books as she did as a child:

A neurologist friend says that adults are likelier than children to cross-­reference when they read, to compare people and things in a book with people and things they know, which is why an adult reading experience may be a “dip” compared with the child’s “soak.” I enjoy reading a book written centuries ago and discovering a character almost exactly like someone I know. And so I am cross-referencing: My attention is divided between the fictional character and the real-life counterpart.

She admits, however, that “Despite everything, immersion still happens”:

I’m more surprised and grateful now to be transported by words on a page from one world to another. Perhaps because, as grown-ups, we value what is harder won.

Benjamin Moser, on the other hand, believes that becoming a writer ruined him for the experience of getting lost in a book:

As I’ve grown older, I’ve reluctantly discovered that I don’t, in fact, really want to read more books. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to read. I find, though, I want to read the same books.

What those books have in common, he says is this:

they do not try to drag me into a narrative. I can open them to any page and read words — as many or as few as I like — that clean my brain rather than stuff it. The longer I write, the more I realize that stories are the last thing I need. What is missing are not stories but the words to tell them.

Libraries in care homes can improve residents’ mood and memory

Norman Miller describes how reading groups can serve older adults:

A growing number of care homes are discovering that libraries and reading groups can transform the lives of their residents, including those with dementia.

Research published by the centre for research into reading, literature and society (Crils) at the University of Liverpool has found that while any reading helps sharpen the minds of older people, shared reading in groups offers particular benefits. Almost 90% of participants reported uplifted mood, better concentration and better long- and short-term memory.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Aging and Retirement

Old and on the Street: The Graying of America’s Homeless

The homeless in America are getting old.

There were 306,000 people over 50 living on the streets in 2014, the most recent data available, a 20 percent jump since 2007, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They now make up 31 percent of the nation’s homeless population.

This New York Times article takes a detailed look at the growing number of homeless older people in the U.S.

When seniors stop driving, social isolation looms

Social isolation is one of the primary factors in reducing the quality of life for older adults. Some recent research examined how giving up driving can contribute to such isolation:

When elderly drivers have to stop getting behind the wheel, they run the risk of social isolation, especially if they don’t have an alternative transportation plan, a recent study suggests.

The study looked at driving habits and social activities, like visiting friends and family or going out to dinner or the movies, for more than 4,300 adults over age 65.

Fearing Drugs’ Rare Side Effects, Millions Take Their Chances With Osteoporosis

This article reports on a dramatic drop in the number of patients taking drugs for treatment of osteoporosis because of their fear of rare but severe side effects. But, as the article points out, many more people benefit from the medications than are harmed by them:

“You only need to treat 50 people to prevent a fracture, but you need to treat 40,000 to see an atypical fracture,” said Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, a professor of medicine at Tufts University who has no association with the makers of the drugs.

Be sure to discuss all medications with your health practitioner.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Recent articles on aging and retirement

Exercise Tied to Lower Risk for 13 Types of Cancer

For those of us who need even more incentive to exercise:

Anyone who still needs motivation to move more may find it in a new study showing that, in addition to its other health benefits, exercise appears to substantially reduce the risk of developing 13 different varieties of cancer. That is far more types than scientists previously thought might be impacted by exercise. The comprehensive study also suggests that the potential cancer-fighting benefits of exercise seem to hold true even if someone is overweight.

Earlier research had found a relationship between exercise and reduced risk for breast, lung, and colon cancers. The new research also found a lowered risk of tumors in the liver, esophagus, kidney, stomach, endometrium, blood, bone marrow, had and neck, rectum, and bladder.

Could Alzheimer’s Stem From Infections? It Makes Sense, Experts Say

Provocative new research by a team of investigators at Harvard leads to this startling hypothesis, which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

It is still early days, but Alzheimer’s experts not associated with the work are captivated by the idea that infections, including ones that are too mild to elicit symptoms, may produce a fierce reaction that leaves debris in the brain, causing Alzheimer’s. The idea is surprising, but it makes sense, and the Harvard group’s data, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, supports it. If it holds up, the hypothesis has major implications for preventing and treating this degenerative brain disease.

UW researchers test drug to extend dogs’ years

The drug rapamycin, which lengthened the lives of laboratory mice, is being tested on dogs as University of Washington scientists look for alternatives to treating the individual maladies that come with age in humans.

The diseases that kill most people in developed countries—heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer—all have different causes, but age is the major risk factor for all of them. The drug under study might change the approach of treatment:

the trial, which just concluded its pilot run in Seattle, also represents a new frontier in testing a proposition for improving human health: Rather than seeking treatments for the individual maladies that come with age, we might do better to target the biology that underlies aging itself.

Read why researchers think rapamycin might help delay the onset of several major diseases at once.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Recent articles on aging and retirement

Health and well-being are more than just physical

Mental health factors like loneliness, and sensory factors like hearing loss, can matter more to someone’s well-being and risk of death than traditional measures like cancer and high blood pressure, a new study suggests.

Particularly in caring for older adults, doctors should consider more than just physical health, the researchers say.

Traditional measurement of health and well-being involves a medical model based on physical health and the absence of disease. This article reports on research that adapted the medical model to include medical, physical, psychological, functional, and sensory factors in what the researchers call a comprehensive model.

Mercer Girls reach Seattle on May 16, 1864

One of my favorite activities is learning about the culture and history of our new home town, Tacoma, and our new home state, Washington. I had not previously heard of the Mercer Girls:

On May 16, 1864, at 11 p.m. the first 11 Mercer Girls reach Seattle. To increase the supply of teachers and women in the Puget Sound area, Seattle resident Asa Mercer (1839–1917) recruits the women from the East Coast. Their ages range from 15 to 35. The contingent travels from New York via the Isthmus of Panama and San Francisco.

UFOs: ‘Open-minded’ Northwest is fertile ground for cosmic buzz

And here’s another interesting local fact that I hadn’t thought about before:

Hillary Clinton made headlines recently by saying that if elected president, she’d open up Area 51 files and other UFO documents “as much as we can.” That particularly resonated here.

According to Seattle Times reporter Erik Lacitis:

The term “flying saucers,” after all, started right here 68 years ago when a private pilot recounted in great detail seeing nine unidentified objects flying by Mount Rainier.

It was a sunny, clear afternoon on June 24, 1947.

Lacitis quotes Una Drake, who runs the Seattle UFO Network Meetup group:

“Seattle is open-minded about a lot of stuff, spiritually, politically. It’s just part of our culture. People on the fringe are more accepted than in other parts of the country,” she says.

There’s a lot of interesting information here about people who say they’ve seen UFOs. Read it if you dare.

Too few Americans take advantage of local parks

Most neighborhood parks in the United States are geared toward younger people, which limits their use, a new study suggests.

”Relatively modest investments could make parks much more conducive to physical activity for everyone, regardless of age, gender or income level,” said study author Dr. Deborah Cohen, a senior natural scientist at the Rand Corp.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

To Help Students Learn, Engage the Emotions

Emotion is essential to learning, Dr. Immordino-Yang said, and should not be underestimated or misunderstood as a trend, or as merely the “E” in “SEL,” or social-emotional learning. Emotion is where learning begins, or, as is often the case, where it ends. Put simply, “It is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about,” she said.

Seeing the Cycle of Life in My Baby Daughter’s Eyes

The agony of death is more than just physical – it is an existential wound that gnaws away until there is slow, and frequently unwilling, acceptance of the inevitability of one’s mortality. I sometimes see a similar pain in my baby girl’s eyes as she makes another arduous journey – learning how to be alive. Frequently, as she cries when she is hungry, or cries when she is overfed, or cries as she tries to have a bowel movement, or just cries, it seems as if she is yearning to go back to the simple comforts of her mother’s womb.

Haider Javed Warraich, M.D., a fellow in cardiology at Duke University Medical Center, is the author of the book Modern Death – How Medicine Changed the End of Life, to be published in February 2017.

What Every Memoir Writer Must Eventually Decide

The sensitivity to both authentic storytelling and being vulnerable on the page in the interest of relating to your reader will naturally bring you to the issue of what right you have to include another person’s story.

How Books Became The Language My Father And I Found Together

Books are, have always been, a shared vernacular between us. It’s in the pattern of our interactions; each conversation, after a few minutes of personal prologue (“How’s your son?” he’ll ask, to which I’ll answer, “Fine.” Or: “Adrift.” Or: “Let’s talk about something else”), and then he’s telling me what he’s been reading, mysteries usually, high-end crime, Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, neither of whose work I know.

Everyone’s Life Is a School Story

The significant role that these school years have on shaping personalities is something I’ve been thinking about as our kids get older, but really came to a head when the kids and I listened to an interview of one of our favorite kids’ book authors recently. We are all big fans of Andrew Clements, who is well known for writing “school stories” such as Frindle and Lunch Money. In explaining the reason that he writes those kinds of stories, he said that it was because everyone’s life is a school story. Everyone has their own stories from school and their own ideas on how these interactions helped shape them as a person. That stuck in my head and when I also ran across a blog post written by Emily McDowell (a favorite illustrator and designer of mine) discussing how school interactions contribute to “limiting beliefs” we have about ourselves, I really started to think about how to approach the concept with my own kids.

Last Week’s Links

I’m trying out something different this week. I have three blogs:

Because of these wide-ranging interests, I often end up with lots of open browser tabs containing quite a variety of materials.

Since sorting all these materials out for the individual blogs can be quite time-consuming, I’m going to try to streamline my blogging process by putting together a weekly list of all the interesting articles I come across and publishing the same post to all three of the blogs. Feel free to click on whichever links interest you and to ignore the rest.

Note: In compiling this initial list, I discovered that I’ve actually been holding many of these tabs open for two weeks. Therefore, this entry is longer than future ones will probably be.

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Taking On the Ph.D. Later in Life

While the overall age of Ph.D. candidates has dropped in the last decade, about 14 percent of all doctoral recipients are over age 40, according to the National Science Foundation. Relatively few students work on Ph.D.s [in their 60s], but educators are seeing increasing enrollment in doctoral programs by students in their 40s and 50s. Many candidates hope doctorates will help them advance careers in business, government and nonprofit organizations; some … are headed for academic research or teaching positions.

This article caught my eye because I started working on a doctorate at age 57 and finally received my degree on my 63rd birthday. About 30 years earlier I had completed the course work but not the dissertation for a doctorate in English and American literature. My main motivation for returning to school was to fulfill a life-long dream of earning a Ph.D., but I also benefitted from being able to focus my studies on the particular area I was interested in (life stories).

You Can Go Home Again: The Transformative Joy Of Rereading

Returning to a book you’ve read multiple times can feel like drinks with an old friend. There’s a welcome familiarity — but also sometimes a slight suspicion that time has changed you both, and thus the relationship. But books don’t change, people do. And that’s what makes the act of rereading so rich and transformative.

Juan Vidal explains why he rereads three books every year: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard, and Save Twilight: Selected Poems by Julio Cortázar.

Michael Kinsley’s ‘Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide’

Longevity breeds literature. As people (including writers) live longer thanks to medical advances, we can expect many more books contemplating the vicissitudes of aging, illness and dying. These topics, previously thought uncommercial, not to mention unsexy, have been eloquently explored recently by Diana Athill (“Somewhere Towards the End”), Roger Angell (“This Old Man”) and Christopher Hitchens (“Mortality”), among others. Now that the baby boom generation, defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, “enter life’s last chapter,” Michael Kinsley writes, “there is going to be a tsunami of books about health issues by every boomer journalist who has any, which ultimately will be all of them.” Hoping to scoop the others, he has written “Old Age,” a short, witty “beginner’s guide,” with an appropriate blend of sincerity and opportunism.

100 MUST-READ WORKS OF SOUTHERN LITERATURE

Literature of the American South comprises more than just Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and the works of William Faulkner. Here Emily Gatlin provides a class list of the full range of works that illustrate the Southern literary experience.

‘Literature about medicine may be all that can save us’

A new generation of doctor writers is investigating the mysteries of the medical profession, exploring the vital intersection between science and art

In telling the stories of illness, we need to tell the stories of the lives within which illness is embedded. Neither humanism nor medicine can explain much without the other, and so many people ricochet between two ways of describing their very being. This is in part because medicine has become so much harder to understand, with its designer molecules, bewildering toxins and digital cameras inserted into parts of ourselves we have never seen, nor wanted to see.

Telling the stories of illness has given rise to a movement known as “narrative medicine,” or, more broadly, “medical humanities.” We are seeing more and more memoirs by patients about their experiences of illness and by doctors about their attempts to understand their patients’ stories. Many of the books by physicians include their authors’ own experiences of being ill.

Books by physicians concerned about understanding patients’ stories of illness discussed here include the following:

Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
What Doctors Feel by Danielle Ofri
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Adventures in Human Being by Gavin Francis

The Best Music for Staying Productive at Work, Backed by Science

I always used to want complete quiet when reading or concentrating, but when I went back to school I discovered that certain types of music could help me focus. This article summarizes the research demonstrating how music can increase concentration and discusses which types of music work best for this purpose.

The best part of this article is the links to examples of music for focus in these categories: classical, electronic, video game soundtracks, ambient noise, and “everything else.”

Neuroscientists create ‘atlas’ showing how words are organised in the brain

Scientists have created an “atlas of the brain” that reveals how the meanings of words are arranged across different regions of the organ.

Described as a “tour de force” by one researcher who was not involved in the study, the atlas demonstrates how modern imaging can transform our knowledge of how the brain performs some of its most important tasks. With further advances, the technology could have a profound impact on medicine and other fields.

Thinking Beyond Money in Retirement

After a career of working, scrimping and saving, many retirees are well prepared financially to stop earning a living. But how do you find meaning, identity and purpose in the remaining years of your life?

WOMEN DETECTIVES IN FACT AND FICTION

This excerpt from Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction by Erika Janik discusses the female detectives, real and literary, who preceded Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown