Last Week’s Links

Here are the articles that caught my eye last week.

You’re probably washing your hands all wrong, study says

Are you washing your hands long enough?

The study from the US Department of Agriculture shows most consumers failed to wash their hands and rub with soap for 20 seconds. That’s the amount of time recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that washing for shorter periods means fewer germs are removed.

On our recent cruise a nasty virus gave many passengers a bad cough and sore throat. The ship’s captain encouraged all of us to wash our hands for the amount of time required to sing Happy Birthday twice.

Where Is Barack Obama?

The most popular American, whose legacy is the primary target of Donald Trump, has, for now, virtually disappeared from public life.

There’s no limit to longevity, says study that revives human lifespan debate

Mind-boggling new research findings:

Death rates in later life flatten out and suggest there may be no fixed limit on human longevity, countering some previous work.

Study: Sitting linked to increased death risk from 14 diseases

If you sit for six hours a day or more, your risk of dying early jumps 19 percent, compared with people who sit fewer than three hours, an American Cancer Society study suggests.

Could Aspirin Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease? Mouse Study Says Maybe

Could an aspirin a day keep the Alzheimer’s away? If only it were that simple. And yet, new research suggests that there does seem to be some hope that aspirin, one of the most widely used medications in the world, may help to treat some aspects of this devastating brain disease.

As with all such studies, keep in mind that these results are years and years away from any implementation in humans.

How Your Age Affects Your Appetite

A decade-by-decade look at how our appetites may change over time. We need adequate nutrition throughout our lives, but those of us over 60 need also remember:

Food is a social experience, but the loss of a partner or family and eating alone affect the sense of pleasure taken from eating. Other affects of old age, such as swallowing problems, dental issues, reduced taste and smell also interfere with the desire to eat and our rewards from doing so.

 

© 2018 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

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

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

Last Week’s Links

Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond

From Jane E. Brody, long-time health writer for the New York Times:

A recently published book, “70 Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade,” inspired me to take a closer look at how I’m doing as I approach 75 and how I might make the most of the years to come. It would be a good idea for women in my age cohort to do likewise. With a quarter of American women age 65 expected to live into their 90s, there could be quite a few years to think about.

About the book 70 Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade, Brody writes:

What are the most important issues facing these women as they age, and how might society help ease their way into the future? Leading topics the women chose to explore included work and retirement, ageism, coping with functional changes, caretaking, living arrangements, social connections, grandparenting and adjusting to loss and death.

Curtis Sittenfeld: Pride and Prejudice Then & Now

Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest book, Eligible, is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.

While social rules have changed dramatically in the 200 years since the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s themes of love, wealth and class are still relevant. Women today can secure financial independence and enjoy intimate relationships without a marriage certificate. Yet societal pressures to marry and bear children persist. And so does the allure of “a single man in possession of a good fortune.”

Men Have Book Clubs, Too

Book clubs have a reputation as something women do together, but this article focuses on an all-male group in Marin County, CA:

The Man Book Club is going into its ninth year. It has 16 members, a number of whom are lawyers and engineers in their mid–50s. Each month, the host must prepare a meal appropriate to the book under discussion.

There’s also information on other all-male book groups around the country.

What You Really Lose When You Lose Perspective

Our perspective is how we perceive people, situations, ideas, etc. It’s informed by our personal experience, which makes it as unique as anything could be. Perspective shapes our life by affecting our choices. But the minute our minds become steeped in worry, perspective goes out of the window. We forget about our triumphs. We stop being optimistic as fear takes the wheel.

Sarah Newman explains how fear can cause us to lose sight of all the wisdom we’ve accrued over our lives.

Meg Rosoff on Coming of Age

Coming of age is such a common topic for fiction that this type of novel has its own name: Bildungsroman. These novels focus on the psychological growth of the main character from youth into adulthood.

Here novelist Meg Rosoff discusses these coming-of-age novels:

  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Henry IV Part I by Shakespeare
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Older women more likely to be overprescribed inappropriate drugs: Study

A recent research study from the University of British Columbia found that:

Older women are nearly 25 percent more likely than men to be over-prescribed or inappropriately prescribed drugs, with a new study pointing to social dynamics as the explanation for the discrepancy.

When authors’ prejudices ruin their books

This is a common question among avid readers: Should authors’ prejudices affect our reactions to their books?

In this article Imogen Russell Williams asks:

The unsavoury attitudes found in novels from writers such as GK Chesterton and Susan Coolidge have ruined some of the fiction I loved most as a child. But where do you draw the line when you return to tainted classics?

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Notes on Aging

Tai Chi and Heart Disease

Tai chi is a favorite type of exercise offered to older adults because it requires only slow, gentle movement and deep breathing. Tai chi helps improve balance, an important benefit to help prevent falls and their related injuries. Some more recent evidence also suggests that tai chi may also promote cardiovascular health by slowing heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

Ask Your Doctor if This Ad Is Right for You

The health care industry spent $14 billion on advertising in 2014, according to Kantar Media, a jump of nearly 20 percent since 2011. That includes over-the-counter medications, but not sponsorships (the Super Bowl had two health care systems as partners). While magazine advertising has dropped off somewhat with the withering of the publishing industry, television advertising has risen 55 percent for hospitals and 30 percent for prescription drugs in that period.

This article, not specifically directed toward older adults, examines advertising trends that attempt to drive people with good health insurance toward expensive prescription drugs and treatment programs. Many of these advertisements occur on television during popular programs such as presidential debates and sports events like the Super Bowl. Many of the pricey drugs advertised are available in much cheaper generic brands.

But as the volume and spending on advertising increases, health economists and doctors are raising concerns about the trend, which they say increases prices and encourages patients to seek out more expensive and, often, inappropriate treatment.

Using the Arts to Promote Healthy Aging

across the country, the arts in their myriad forms are enhancing the lives and health of older people — and not just those with dementia— helping to keep many men and women out of nursing homes and living independently. With grants from organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institute on Aging, incredibly dedicated individuals with backgrounds in the arts have established programs that utilize activities as diverse as music, dance, painting, quilting, singing, poetry writing and storytelling to add meaning, joy and a vibrant sense of well-being to the lives of older people.

Read about how programs that keep people creatively engaged in the arts are improving the quality of life for many older adults.

Why living in a 55-plus community may be better for your health

When my husband and I decided to move 2,000 miles away for retirement, we had to decide whether to buy a house or enter a retirement community in our new city. We decided on a retirement community because we didn’t want to have to bother with chores such as mowing the lawn and cleaning out the gutters. Only after we had been here for a while did we realize how much easier it is to meet people and to stay socially active in a retirement community than it would have been in a house.

This article well describes how living in a senior-oriented community can improve quality of life for older adults. There’s also information here on CCRCs, continuing-care retirement communities, which offer “a range of long-term options that, in addition to independent town homes or apartments, can include on-site assisted-living facilities, memory care units for residents who develop dementia, and nursing homes.”

Entering just about any senior community can involve many rules and regulations, so be sure to read over and understand everything before you sign a contract.

The $1,000 Shoes

Joyce Wadler confesses:

I just paid $1,000 for a pair of orthopedic shoes. I was forced to do this because as one gets older, one’s feet often get wider, and designers, concerned as they are with cultivating older shoppers, offer shoes that look like boats… . When I was in my 20s and saw older women in these ugly shoes, I wondered what made them buy them. Now I understand that it was the same thing that made them go out with unsuitable men: availability. You search and search and there’s nothing out there. After a while you say: “I can’t take it. Just let me find something I can make do with. I don’t care if it’s not perfect, just let it get me through the Kornberg destination funeral.”

I haven’t worn anything but flat shoes for probably 15 years now. My problem wasn’t my feet; it was my back. At some point you just have to decide which is more important, vanity or comfort.

And here’s another confession, perhaps related: I haven’t worn a dress or skirt in about the same length of time. Pants are just so much more comfortable, and they cover my worst feature, my large calves. Also, it’s much easier to find flat shoes to go with pants than flat shoes that go with skirts.

And thank heaven for retirement, which has rendered all these considerations moot. I never go anywhere that requires an outfit dressier than nice pants (though I prefer jeans), and I’ll even wear my open-toe sandals, which fit amazingly well, in winter if I can’t get away with comfortable athletic shoes.

I do admit, though, that sometimes even those comfortable athletic shoes cost way more than I think they should. But nowhere near $1,000.