Last Week’s Links

Here’s what I’ve been looking at around the web lately.

Cohesive neighborhoods boost teens’ mental well-being

I grew up in a small New England town in which almost all of us kids played outside together. We rode freely around the center of town on our bikes, but we knew that, no matter where we were, we’d better behave because any parent that caught us doing something we shouldn’t would reprimand all of us. So I found this article interesting:

Teenagers living in cohesive neighborhoods – where trusted neighbors get involved in monitoring each other’s children – experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, a new study suggests.

I just thought of my childhood situation as effective discipline. I never realized that it contributed to my mental health as well.

How about you? Did you grow up in the same type of environment as I did?

Despite Alzheimer’s plaques, some seniors remain mentally sharp

The result here is based on a very small sample size, yet this research suggests that further examination may yield knowledge of why some people seem more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease than others.

Protecting Your Digital Life in 7 Easy Steps

Some suggestions for how to make your personal data”more difficult for attackers to obtain.”

What’s the Use of Regret?

Gordon Marino, a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, contemplates the meaning and function of regret, especially the type that he calls “moral regret.”

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

New imaging tool may detect Alzheimer’s early

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a chemical compound that can detect Alzheimer’s disease at an earlier stage than can current methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Ideally, we’d like to look at patients with very mild symptoms who are negative for Alzheimer’s by PET scan to see if we can identify them using Fluselenamyl,” Sharma said. “One day, we may be able to use Fluselenamyl as part of a screening test to identify segments of the population that are going to be at risk for development of Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the long-term goal.”

The Common Beverages That Help Ward Off Dementia

New research conducted on women over 65 has found that those who drank the equivalent of two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee a day showed a 36% decline in dementia risk over those who did not consume that much caffeine. The amount of caffeine studied equals that in five to 8 8-ounce cups of tea or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

Said Professor Ira Driscoll, lead author of the study:

“The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications.

The study followed 6,467 postmenopausal women for about 10 years.

How to live to 100: Town full of centenarians spills its secrets

Ben Wedeman reports for CNN on residents of Acciaroli, Italy, south of Naples. According to city mayor Stefano Pisani, one-tenth of the population is 100 years old or older. A study is currently under way to examine possible reasons for the residents’ longevity:

The elderly inhabitants of Acciaroli and the hilly coastal areas surrounding it are the subject of a study being conducted jointly by Rome’s La Sapienza University and the University of California-San Diego.

Researchers are investigating 300 local centenarians, trying to understand why people here live so long, and have such low rates of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Among the things they plan to look into is whether the high concentrations of rosemary in the diet, and lots of walking through the mountains nearby have a positive impact on longevity.

But this article is no stuffy academic treatise. Read it for some of the circumstances to which the town’s inhabitants attribute their long life, including sex, meat, and ice cream.

Craig Hill: Expert says you’re never too old to get moving again

A reporter for my hometown newspaper, The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA), has some advice for older adults who are awakening to the realization that exercise is a necessity for healthy aging. The reporter asked Todd Dail, fitness director at a 55-and-older community, for some pointers:

“A friend of mine, a physical therapist, says, ‘Motion is lotion,’ ” Dail said. “And it’s true. The more you move, the more you lubricate your joints, and it starts to feel good again.”

There are some pointers here on how to decide what kind of exercise might be right for you, where to find classses, and how to evaluate if a particular class is right for you.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Going for the Gold in the Golden Years

Here’s a look at older adults “undertaking rigorous training and testing themselves in competitions”:

At the last National Senior Games, held in Minneapolis, nearly 10,000 participants competed in 19 sports — not just swimming and running but also little-known contests like pickleball and retirement standards like shuffleboard. The first National Senior Games nearly 30 years ago drew 2,500 contestants.

Marc T. Riker, chief executive of the National Senior Games Association, “estimates that 200,000 older athletes compete in these organized games at the local, state and national levels.”

When a Spouse Dies, Resilience Can Be Uneven

Although not specifically aimed at older adults, this article addresses an issue many people are likely to face in their later years. Previous research has suggested that most people, about 60%, return to their previous work, daily routines, and prior state of contentment within a few months to a year after the death of a spouse.

But new research is calling this global assessment inadequate to describe the aftermath of spousal loss for many if not most people, suggesting a need for more effective and specific ways to help them return to their prior state of well-being. Someone who ranks high in life satisfaction may nonetheless be having considerable difficulty in other domains that can diminish quality of life, like maintaining a satisfying social life, performing well at work or knowing who can help when needed.

This new research found the factors that contributed most to resilience were “remaining socially connected and engaged in the usual activities of everyday life and knowing where they could turn for help and comfort and receiving support when they needed it.”

How The Simple Act Of Paying More Attention Compensates For An Aging Brain

As we get older, our brains gets slower at certain tasks—but that just means we need to work smarter.

New research from Germany suggests that our brains are able to compensate for the effects of aging by paying more attention and by suppressing information that’s irrelevant to completing a given task.

Secrets to Lasting Relationships From High School Sweethearts

Scientists now know that the part of the brain concerned with executive functioning (what we typically call “growing up”) continues to develop into at least the early 20s. Therefore, high school sweethearts do a lot of their growing up together. In this article several couples whose relationship began in high school discuss how they met the challenges of growing up together and how their partnership continues to thrive today.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Older Entrepreneurs Take On the ‘Concrete Ceiling’

Many older Americans want to start a business but find they lack certain skills, and sometimes also the confidence to try something new. In response, more organizations focused on training entrepreneurs are targeting baby boomers.

A look at programs across the U.S. that help older adults start their own businesses.

‘Elder Orphans’ Have a Harder Time Aging in Place

I had never heard the term elder orphan before I came across this article and had no idea what it might mean.

An elder orphan has no adult children, spouse or companion to rely on for company, assistance or input. About 29 percent (13.3 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone. The majority of those are women (9.2 million, vs. 4.1 million men).

Carol Marak, who describes herself as an elder orphan, writes about why we need more services for people like herself who have no family to help them make crucial life decisions as they age. Marak started the Elder Orphan Facebook Page “designed for individuals over the age of 55 who live without a spouse and adult children to look after us as we grow older.”

Vitamin B12 as Protection for the Aging Brain

Jane Brody, age 75, writes that even though she eats a balanced diet, she’s considering taking a vitamin B12 supplement. As people age, she says, their ability to absorb B12 from dietary sources may diminish:

“Depression, dementia and mental impairment are often associated with” a deficiency of B12 and its companion B vitamin folate, “especially in the elderly,” Dr. Rajaprabhakaran Rajarethinam, a psychiatrist at Wayne State University School of Medicine, has written.

Others besides people over age 50 who may have a B12 deficiency include vegetarians and vegans who eat little or no animal protein, people with stomach or small-intestine disorders like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, people whose digestive systems have been surgically altered for medical reasons, and chronic uses of proton-pump inhibitors to control acid reflux. A blood test can measure one’s level of B12.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

People Are Happiest At This Unexpected Time of Life

old-people

New research suggests that people get happier with age. Earlier research has suggested that peoples’ mental health improves as they age, and this study of 1,546 randomly selected adults in San Diego County suggests a correlation with happiness.

Have a Story to Tell? Your Personal Memoirist Is Here

Even in an era when it seems every life is displayed on social media for the world to see, a whole generation is getting older, and its stories, if not written or otherwise recorded, will be lost. Serving that market is becoming a small-business enterprise.

This article describes how personal historians work with clients to write the individual’s life history.

Is This Sustainable Village The Future Of Retirement?

An account of Serenbe, a multigenerational community in Chattahoochee Hills, outside Atlanta,GA. The community clusters homes and commercial buildings together so that a large portion of wooded land can be left undeveloped.

Nygren’s vision for Serenbe was modeled on the English countryside, where high-density villages are surrounded by expansive rural spaces.

Writing a ‘Last Letter’ When You’re Healthy

Dr. VJ Periyakoil, director of the Stanford Palliative Care Education & Training Program, describes the Stanford Letter Project, which encourages older adults to write letters to their loved ones expressing sentiments they might not have been able to say face-to-face. The article contains a link to the Stanford Letter Project, which offers free letter templates.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

LA art exhibition look at dying through words, photos

Four years ago photographer Andrew George approached the medical director of a Los Angeles hospital with an unusual request: He wanted to meet and take photographs of people about to die.

There was nothing macabre about the request, George says. He simply wanted to learn of and reflect the wisdom these people had gained in the hope that others could discover how to lead better, more fulfilling lives.

Read what George learned about the hopes, dreams, happy memories, and regrets of his participants.

Relationships with family members, but not friends, decrease likelihood of death

For older adults, having more or closer family members in one’s social network decreases his or her likelihood of death, but having a larger or closer group of friends does not, finds a new study that will be presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).

Will Your Prescription Meds Be Covered Next Year? Better Check!

The battle continues to rage between drug companies that are trying to make as much money as possible and insurers trying to drive down drug prices. And consumers are squarely in the middle.

This article from National Public Radio (NPR) suggests checking with your insurer to see if your prescriptions will be covered next year. If your insurance company drops coverage of one or more of your medications, you may have to consult your doctor about replacements.

New Clues in the Mystery of Women’s Lagging Life Expectancy

While the life expectancy of American women has remained stagnant, the cause or causes of this stagnation has eluded researchers. But new research has “found that many common demographic traits — whether a woman is rich, poor, unemployed, working, single or married — might not be as important as the state in which she lives.”

The finding that the social and economic environment of states affects women’s life expectancy but not men’s surprised researchers: “Women have consistently had longer life expectancy than men, and still do, though less so than 30 years ago.” Another surprising conclusion from the research is that people’s environment can be just as important to their health as their individual behaviors (such as exercise and healthy eating).

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here are some articles from around the web that caught my attention over the last week.

Alzheimer’s Patients Keep the Spark Alive by Sharing Stories

This heart-warming article reports on an eight-week storytelling workshop at Northwestern University that helps couples coping with Alzheimer’s disease stay connected:

Each couple’s story serves as a reminder of both the good and challenging times they have shared, experiences both poignant and humorous that reveal inner strength, resilience and love and appreciation for one another that can be easily forgotten when confronted by a frightening, progressive neurological disease like Alzheimer’s.

Don’t Throw Out Your Organ Donor Card After 65

I’ve been signed up as an organ donor since early adulthood, but lately I’ve been wondering how useful my organs would be now that I’m approaching 70. This piece explains how age makes those of us over 65 “particularly desirable as donors, living or dead, for older recipients, who represent a growing proportion of transplant patients.”

Diet, exercise reduce proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease, study says

A healthy diet, physical activity and normal body mass index have been connected to overall better health, with a new study at the University of California Los Angeles suggesting the combination of healthful choices may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Just in case we needed yet another reminder of the importance of healthy eating and exercise.

Virtual reality treadmills help prevent falls in elderly

A small study suggests that adding a virtual reality obstacle course to treadmill workouts may help prevent falls among older adults:

“Our idea was to use the virtual reality environment to safely train both the motor or gait aspects that are important to fall risk, while also implicitly teaching the participants to improve the cognitive functions that are important for safe ambulation,” said lead study author Anat Mirelman of Tel Aviv University in Israel.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Middle-age memory decline a matter of changing focus

The inability to remember details, such as the location of objects, begins in early midlife (the 40s) and may be the result of a change in what information the brain focuses on during memory formation and retrieval, rather than a decline in brain function, according to a study by McGill University researchers.

Senior author Natasha Rajah, Director of the Brain Imaging Centre at McGill University’s Douglas Institute and Associate Professor in McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, says that this decline in middle age may be a sign not of declining brain function, but rather of focusing on different aspects of information. “Rajah says that middle-aged and older adults might improve their recall abilities by learning to focus on external rather than internal information.”

Too Old for Sex? Not at This Nursing Home

A nursing home in the Bronx, New York, follows a “sexual expression policy” that allows residents to spend time together:

a number of older Americans … are having intimate relationships well into their 70s and 80s, helped in some cases by Viagra and more tolerant societal attitudes toward sex outside marriage. These aging lovers have challenged traditional notions of growing old and, in some cases, raised logistical and legal issues for their families, caretakers and the institutions they call home.

But the article also notes the other side of such a policy:

But intimacy in nursing homes also raises questions about whether some residents can consent to sex. Henry Rayhons, a former Iowa state legislator, was charged with sexual abuse in 2014 after being accused of having sex with his wife, who had severe Alzheimer’s disease and was in a nursing home. A jury found him not guilty.

Alexander Masters’s book based on discarded journals gives ‘throwing your life away’ a new meaning

leather diaryMany of us in our later years think about writing down something about our lives to leave a legacy for future generations. Here’s an interesting story about a biographer, Alexander Masters, who has published the book A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip. In 2001 two Cambridge University professors found 148 diaries in a Dumpster (the Canadian term is skip). Not wanting their find to go to waste, they gave the diaries to Masters.

Becky Toyne examines Masters’ project here and concludes:

We don’t have journal writing like this any more. We remain obsessive chroniclers of our lives, only in public pictures rather than private text (and we edit out all the sad bits). By contrast, the diaries of “I” build to a 40-million word chronicle of a life containing very little excitement. The difference? “These books were alive,” says the Cambridge professor upon finding them strewn about a skip – and in Masters’s heartbreaking, heartwarming biography we learn that, however unremarkable or littered with disappointments our existence might turn out to be, so are we.

What Do Contested Conventions Look Like? Ask Hollywood And Sinclair Lewis

I offer this article in preparation for the upcoming political conventions.

And this is as political as I’ll get here, I promise.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

What I’ve Been Reading

Last Week’s Links

Happiness increases after consumption of fruit and vegetables, study finds

orangesWe know we should eat lots of fruits and vegetables to keep our bodies healthy, but new research suggests this approach may also help our mental health as well. The study out of the University of Warwick, to be published soon in American Journal of Public Health, found that:

people who changed from almost no fruit and veg to eight portions of fruit and veg a day would experience an increase in life satisfaction equivalent to moving from unemployment to employment. The well-being improvements occurred within 24 months.

Star Trek and the Kiss That Changed TV
Star Trek: The Exhibition
Star Trek: The Exhibition

“Everything I need to know about life I learned from Star Trek” has long been my motto. I’m talking specifically here about the original series featuring William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock.

Finding this article truly warmed my heart. Natalie Haynes writes that Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura, said that Gene Roddenberry, the series’ creator, believed in a world of tolerance: “He believed in that world, if you got it you got it. If you didn’t get it, you’d see it anyway.”

It’s a neat summary of the allegorical complexity of Star Trek: if you get the subtext, you get it. If you don’t, you just see the surface story. Whenever Roddenberry or his writers had a political point to make, they tended to use allegory as their best way to get that point across. One of the joys of Star Trek is that our crew is constantly exploring, constantly curious. So there is always a planet, a species, a story which can throw its illuminating light upon the less exotic world of the earthbound viewer.

Haynes examines how the same approach continued in the later Star Trek spinoffs, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I haven’t watched all of the episodes of the later shows, but I cannot forget the lessons that the original series taught us about racism, greed, war, despotism, and other dark aspects of human nature.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Articles That Caught My Eye Last Week

Exercise Program No Help for Some Seniors’ Hearts

A recent study out of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health found that “Starting moderate-intensity workouts a few times a week didn’t prevent cardiovascular events for sedentary, functionally-limited older adults.” However, these results:

shouldn’t discourage physicians or patients from efforts to establish a walking and weight training regimen, the researchers argued. Along with prior studies showing numerous benefits of exercise on the heart, primary results from [the trial] showed an 18% reduction in incidence of major mobility disability and possibly a cognitive advantage as well.

The study included 1,635 sedentary participants who were between the ages of 70 and 89 years and at high risk for mobility disability but still able to walk unaided. “It is possible that exercise needs to be started earlier in life to reduce heart attacks and strokes, or that even more exercise is needed,” said Anne Newman, MD, MPH, lead author of the study published in JAMA Cardiology.

Alzheimer’s Disease as an Adventure in Wonderland

In her memoir “Aliceheimer’s: Alzheimer’s Through the Looking Glass,” Dana Walrath uses drawings and stories to chronicle three years of caregiving for her mother, Alice, who was in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The experience turned out to be a magical trip down the rabbit hole of memory loss, an outcome that inspired Dr. Walrath, a medical anthropologist who taught at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and who also studied art and writing, to share their tale.

Read an interview with Dr. Walrath about the creation of this example of graphic medicine.

10 Months, 45 National Parks, 11 Rules

This article caught my eye because my husband and I have promised ourselves that we will travel now that we’ve retired—somtthing we did very little of earlier in life. Read here about how Jeremy Cronon managed to visit 45 of the 47 national parks in the contiguous Unived States in 10 months.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown