Last Week’s Links

Why the most successful students have no passion for school

Jihyun Lee, associate professor in the School of Education at the University of New South Wales in Australia, reports on her research into students’ attitudes toward school:

My research has found that there is in fact no relationship between how well students do academically and what their attitude toward schooling actually is. A student doesn’t need to be passionate about school to be academically successful.

Lee continues: “research shows that students’ self-belief in their own problem-solving abilities is far more important than their perception of school itself.” She sees this as a problem because, she says, “Formal institutions [such as schools] shape the lives of a citizenry. They need to be upheld, bettered and strengthened.”

Her solution to this problem? “Adults responsible for making decisions about schooling need to be more cognisant about the long-term influences that the school experience can exert on students’ attitudes and beliefs. . . . Whether students are able to see the link between their present and future may have critical consequences for society.”

‘After His Death, I Didn’t Cook Anymore’: Widows on the Pain of Dining Alone

“Readers share poignant stories of the pain and comfort that food can bring after a loved one dies.”

After The Times published a Food article about how mealtimes can be difficult for widows (a gender-neutral term that bereavement counselors now use), hundreds of readers described the heartbreak and joy that food and cooking can bring after losing a partner.

Childhood trauma may do lifelong harm to physical, mental health

Here’s news from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC):

Traumatic experiences in childhood can do lifelong harm to physical and mental health, education and work, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Preventing traumatic childhood experiences — such as abuse, seeing violence or substance abuse in the home, or having a parent in jail — could reduce many problems later on, according to the CDC.

These later problems include suicide; chronic illnesses such as heart and respiratory diseases, cancer, and diabetes; and risky health behaviors such as substance abuse. “The CDC has several efforts to prevent childhood trauma and reduce the harmful effects of such experiences.”

Women of a Certain Age, Gail Collins Has Your Back

Lesley Stahl praises Gail Collins’s new book No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History:

So imagine a book about “non-young” women, written by Collins with her signature droll sensibility. “No Stopping Us Now” is a chronicle of the herky-jerky nature of older women’s journey to progress in the United States over the years. It’s eye-opening, brimming with new information and, as you’d expect from Collins, a lot of fun.

Grandparents Are Heroes, and Also Totally Normal People

Maria Russo reports on “the excellent new grandparent-centric picture books surging into bookstores and libraries [that] come from creators who grew up in other cultures.” The reason for this “may be because Americans are still catching up to Europeans — and to children — when it comes to realizing that older bodies can still be vital and attractive. And we can only hope the reverence and tenderness toward elderly people found in Asian cultures takes root here, too.”

Russo offers specific examples of the books she’s talking about here, in case you want some suggestions for upcoming holiday gifts.

Confirmation that the art of proofreading is dead

I include this one because we sometimes need a bit of levity.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Older Americans Are Increasingly Unwilling — Or Unable — To Retire

“About 1 in 4 adults age 65 and older is now in the workforce. That number is expected to increase, making it the fastest-growing group of workers in the country.”

This article from National Public Radio (NPR) looks at why so many older adults continue to work after age 65.

Lifestyle changes, not a magic pill, can reverse Alzheimer’s

Clayton Dalton, a medical resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, reports on results of study out of UCLA that suggest lifestyle changes may be more important than medication in treating Alzheimer’s disease. 

the researchers used a protocol consisting of a variety of different lifestyle modifications to optimise metabolic parameters – such as inflammation and insulin resistance – that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Participants were counselled to change their diet (a lot of veggies), exercise, develop techniques for stress management, and improve their sleep, among other interventions. The most common ‘side effect’ was weight loss.

Dalton points out that the study was small. As with all medical research, further study is necessary to replicate and strengthen findings. Still, he concludes, “it’s time to start taking these approaches much more seriously. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple over the next three decades, to nearly 14 million in the United States alone.”

For Sale: Jane Austen’s Wince-Inducing Descriptions of 19th-Century Dentistry

Check out this interesting article from Atlas Obscura for photos and discussion of the state of dentistry when Jane Austen wrote this letter to her sister in 1813. “At the time Austen penned the letter, dentistry was still painfully unstandardized. Treatments varied widely, and troublesome teeth were often yanked out by people from all sorts of professions.”

The search for one woman’s family led a reporter to find her own roots using oral history, archives and DNA tests. It also led to stunning results

Deborah Barfield Berry explains “My search was sparked by an assignment from USA TODAY to write about a family in Hampton, Virginia, who believes its members are descended from the first Africans brought to the English colonies in 1619. If their claim is true, they are connected to a founding American family, heirs of a legacy history has ignored.” The family name is Tucker, and Berry knew that her grandmother’s last name was Tucker and that she was from a place near Hampton, Virginia. So Berry thought, “What if, in this world of six degrees of separation, I was related to the family I was writing about?”

‘I’M A NEUROLOGIST, AND THESE ARE THE 5 THINGS I DO TO KEEP MY BRAIN HEALTHY’

“Ajeet Sodhi, MD, a neurologist and the director of neurocritical care at the California Institute of Neuroscience, shares the habits and activities he does to promote and improve brain function every single day.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘Holden Caulfield at 27’: Esquire’s 1968 Profile of Peter Fonda

Apparently prompted by the recent death of Peter Fonda, Esquire reprints its 1968 in-depth profile of the actor.

I consider myself part of the universe. The universe is a religion. Man is a religion. It’s all heaven, it’s all hell. Everything is everything. Death is just a change.”

The Misconception about Baby Boomers and the Sixties

Louis Menand declares in The New Yorker:

Thankfully, we are within sight of the end of the fiftieth anniversaries of things that happened in the nineteen-sixties. What’s left is mostly stuff that no one wants to remember . . . One reason to feel glad to be nearly done with this round of fiftieths is that we will no longer be subjected, constantly, to generalizations about the baby-boom generation. There are many canards about that generation, but the most persistent is that the boomers were central to the social and cultural events of the nineteen-sixties. Apart from being alive, baby boomers had almost nothing to do with the nineteen-sixties.

For his argument, he defines baby boomers as those born between July 1946 and December 1964; approximately 76 million people were born during those 18 years, he says, and the “expectations and potential life paths of Americans born in 1946 were completely different from the expectations and life paths of Americans born in 1964.”

Menand’s point is that baby boomers were consumers of significant social and cultural changes that were created by older people born before July 1946.

The idea that youth culture is culture created by youth is a myth. Youth culture is manufactured by people who are no longer young. When you are actually a young person, you can only consume what’s out there. It often becomes “your culture,” but not because you made it.

Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live

despite the verities of science, many of our most important questions compel us to tell stories that venture beyond the facts. For all of the sophisticated methodologies in science, we have not moved beyond the story as the primary way that we make sense of our lives.

Robert A. Burton, M.D., a neurologist and novelist, explains how and why our brains construct narratives to make meaning our of our experiences.

‘The Last Ocean’ Considers Dementia in All Its Uncertainty

The first, startling epigraph in Nicci Gerrard’s new book, “The Last Ocean,” comes from Emily Dickinson: “Abyss has no Biographer.” Gerrard sets out to tell the story of dementia, a disease that can appear to consume those it afflicts. After her father, John, died in 2014, the author — who writes best-selling thrillers with her husband under the name Nicci French — embarked on learning more about the disease as both a journalist and an activist. The result is a tender, inquisitive tour of a subject that can be raw and painful.

In an interview with John Williams in The New York Times, Nicci Gerrard talks about her latest book.

“I knew there was a book I could write about how mysterious it is to be human, really.”

“For three or four years, I spent my working days talking to doctors, nurses, carers and, above all, people living with the illness. I knew I had to find a way of making that into a book full of lots of different voices and stories.”

“I didn’t want to write a book that was certain and had answers. I wanted to write a book that was full of questions and feelings.”

“If I had to think of one thing that knocked me back: I became more optimistic and less scared about getting old, becoming frail, than I had been before I started.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Margaret Hamilton’s sister shares her memories as Seattle’s seniors celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing

Seattle resident Katherine Heafield is the younger sister of Margaret Hamilton, who developed the flight software for the Apollo program. She was one of many who gathered at a moon landing commemoration party at the Greenwood Senior Center on Friday to reminisce.

Immune cells invade aging brains, disrupt new nerve cell formation

Stanford researchers have found intrusive immune cells in a place in the brains of humans and older mice where new nerve cells are born. The intruders appear to impair nerve cell generation.

Richard Russo: On the Moral Power of Regret

One of the most memorable novels I’ve ever read is Richard Russo’s Empire Falls (2001). When I came across this essay by Russo, I knew I had to stop and take the time to settle in with it. I hope you learn from it as much as I did.

Can Alzheimer’s be stopped? Five lifestyle behaviors are key, new research suggests

Recently researchers reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference that people—even those with a genetic risk for dementia—may be able to stave off cognitive decline by following at least four of these five lifestyle behaviors:

  • not smoking  
  • exercising at a moderate to vigorous level for at least 150 minutes a week
  •  consuming a brain-supporting diet  
  • consuming only light to moderate amounts of alcohol  
  • engaging in cognitive activities

The article includes suggestions for healthy eating.

ON THE LONGEVITY OF ADRIENNE RICH

Holly Genovese wonders why Adrienne Rich “has stayed relevant when other writers of the ’70s feminist movements have not.”

But I think, if I could guess, that Rich’s continuous appeal over the last 50 years is more about her absolute certainty that politics and art were intrinsically linked, that art was meaningless without political consciousness, that nothing could exist within a vacuum, and that choosing not to take a stand was in fact choosing the side of the oppressor.

And Rich continues to be relevant because “In the last few years, since the election of Donald Trump, it has become impossible not to be political. To be apolitical is to support the growth of fascism, white nationalism, and the downfall of the republic.”

As always, the personal is political.

A hospital introduced a robot to help nurses. They didn’t expect it to be so popular

In the face of a long-term nursing shortage, the Austin-based company Diligent Robotics has developed a robot to reduce nurses’ work load by performing tasks “that don’t involve interacting with patients, like running errands around the floor or dropping off specimens for analysis at a lab.” 

But the company was unprepared for one result of the robotic trial run:

the Diligent team was surprised to find that patients were fascinated by the robot and wanted to interact with it during their beta trials. Patients ended up being so infatuated with Moxi that they would ask for selfies with the robot; one child even sent Diligent Robotics a letter asking where Moxi lived.

The robot was so popular that the Diligent team programmed superfluous activities for Moxi to do once an hour so that the robot would wander around the floor and flash heart eyes at people.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

A sampling of some of the most interesting items that caught my eye over the last week.

KODAK GOT THE DIGITAL PICTURE TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

Here’s an interesting article on how Kodak, author of all those famous “Kodak moments,” missed the boat by refusing to accept and adapt to the advent of digital photography.

6 EASY HOW-TO COMPUTER BOOKS FOR NEW TECH USERS

Two books on this list are aimed specifically at us older folks:

  • Computers for Seniors: Email, Internet, Photos, and More in 14 Easy Lessons by Chris Ewin, Carrie Ewin, and Cheryl Ewin
  • Computers for Seniors For Dummies by Nancy C. Muir 

Don’t let the title of that second one get your goat. The For Dummies series is well known and even somewhat loved. When you need information on a subject you know absolutely nothing about, the For Dummies guide is often a good place to start.

Study: Retirees lose by taking Social Security at wrong time

Sarah Skidmore Sell reports for The Associated Press on a new study revealing that many older Americans aren’t maximizing their retirement income from Social Security, which “accounts for about one-third of all income annually received by U.S. retirees.” The study concludes that “optimizing Social Security would improve the lives of millions of retirees,” but there is very little information here about how individuals can figure this out for themselves.

HOW SMART TECH IS HELPING DOCTORS BATTLE DEMENTIA

Mention “dementia research” and most people will probably think of scientists looking for biomedical ways to diagnose, treat and eventually cure degenerative brain diseases. But there is also a burgeoning research program that aims to improve care for the increasing numbers of people living with dementia — estimated at 850,000 in the United Kingdom and 50 million worldwide.

Half of women over 40 say older women in fiction are clichés, survey finds

A recent survey by Gransnet, the UK’s biggest social media site for older people, and publisher HQ (HarperCollins) found that 51% of women over 40 “feel older women in fiction books tend to fall into clichéd roles.” Here are some of the most interest findings from the survey:

  • 47% of women over 40 say there are not enough books about middle-aged or older women.
  •  “when older characters do appear in fiction, half of women (50%) say they’ve seen them being portrayed as baffled by smartphones, computers or the internet – and think it’s insulting.”
  • 75% buy their books online.

As a result of the survey findings, Gransnet and HQ are launching a fiction writing competition for women writers over age 40. The article contains more information on both the survey and the writing competition. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

How to train your brain to accept change, according to neuroscience

Change is naturally more difficult as we age, but it’s beneficial to our cognitive health to stimulate and encourage it.

Because our brains have evolved to resist change, accepting changes, even when we know they are for our own good, can be difficult. Nicole Spector offers some advice for teaching our brains to accept change:

  • Do cognitive rehabilitation exercises—the gym for the brain
  • Learn a new language or a task that is out of your comfort zone

Learning something new, something that we never thought we’d be able to do, can give us the confidence to undertake other new experiences:

Over the years, we learn to succeed by viewing our previous failures and successes in a certain light and as we get older we lose sight of that. When you try a new thing it makes you more confident to try to do more new things.

Michael Douglas Refuses to Age Gracefully in ‘The Kominsky Method’

Playing a shabby acting coach in his first ongoing TV role since the 1970s, the “Wall Street” star confronts the realities of growing older, onscreen and in his own life.

Dave Itzhoff profiles actor Michael Douglas, who, at age 74, portrays an aging acting coach in the Netflix series The Kiminsky Method.

On “The Kominsky Method,” [Chuck] Lorre [the show’s creator] said he wanted a show … that would let him address topics about confronting aging and mortality that are usually shunned on such programs.

Douglas stars along with Alan Arkin, whose character’s wife dies in the show’s first episode, “forcing Kominsky [played by Douglas] to realize that his own time on earth, however degrading, is also limited.”

THE FUTURE OF AGING JUST MIGHT BE IN MARGARITAVILLE

Kim Tingley reports for The New York Times Magazine on Latitude Margaritaville, a community for residents 55 and over, being built along a highway in Daytona Beach, Florida. As the name suggests, the community is based on music by Jimmy Buffett.

The real frontier here, though, was not the surrounding wilderness but a hitherto uncolonized stretch of time: the multiple decades that more and more Americans can expect to live in better and better health after they retire. What will these pioneers do? Who will they become? And how will that, in turn, alter the course of human history?

Tingley describes Latitude Margaritaville as one of many experiments the senior housing industry is undertaking. These experiments are driven by statistics:

The Census Bureau projects that in 2034, for the first time ever, people 65 and older will outnumber those under 18. Americans are living longer and having fewer children, and fewer immigrants are showing up.

Yet communities specifically designed for seniors face a dilemma: How do they conceal the facts of living that help residents adapt to the needs of aging? At what age does the notion of life as a beach party become obsolete? These are questions that the growing industry of senior housing seeks to find answers for.

WILL THE GOVERNMENT BLOCK THIS GENETICIST FROM SELLING AN ANTI-AGING PILL?

Molly Fosco profiles David Sinclair:

he’s a professor of genetics at Harvard and founder of the Sinclair Lab, where he and his team study the processes that cause age-related diseases. Sinclair aims to develop a drug that will interrupt these processes and, ultimately, find the Holy Grail: a way to reverse aging. If, that is, he can get government approval — and at the moment that’s looking doubtful.

Age-related diseases include high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and dementia. According to Fosco, Sinclair believes that doctors who treat these diseases are going about it all wrong because they do not treat aging itself as a disease:

“Your doctor should be able to prescribe a drug that would slow or reverse aging,” he [Sinclair] says, “the same way he or she would prescribe a drug for high cholesterol.”

Sinclair doesn’t want to simply increase the human lifespan; he wants to increase the number of years people live healthy, mobile, and disease-free lives. His approach puts him outside the mainstream of scientific research into aging.

After a Wildfire, Rebuilding Life Can Be Hardest for the Oldest

Alexandra S. Levine reports on the recent California wildfire:

The hardest-hit community, Paradise, Calif., was a popular place to retire, with more than one-quarter of its residents 65 or older, according to census figures. Many of them have now lost everything late in life and must start over from zero, often with little support and with major health challenges.

The fire was devastating to the region’s high population of older adults:

Many of the thousands of structures in Paradise and surrounding parts of Butte County that were lost in the fire were nursing homes, assisted living facilities, other geriatric care centers or mobile home parks catering to retirees. Roughly 2,300 residents of the fire zone had relied on in-home health aides, according to Shelby Boston, the county director of employment and social services.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Why can’t life begin after 40 for a writer?

Fiona Gartland, a journalist with The Irish Times for 13 years and newly published novelist, addresses the issue of ageism in publishing. Most publishers, she says, expect writers to have published a book by about the age of 40.

English author Joanna Walsh, who runs @Read_Women, has argued that ageism in publishing silences minorities and women in particular because women are more likely to be the ones who spend part of their lives caring for children, which makes finding time to write more difficult. She says “older women are already told every day in ways ranging from the subtle to the blatant, that they are irrelevant and should shut up”. Placing age barriers, for example for writing awards, is arbitrary and “a particularly cruel irony” for those unable to write in their youth, she says.

But “Not everyone finds a voice in their youth,” Gartland argues, and that “doesn’t mean what they have to say is any less valuable or any less worthy of hearing.”

When ICU Delirium Leads To Symptoms Of Dementia After Discharge

NPR reports on a medical problem that physicians are just beginning to study:

post-ICU syndrome — a cluster of cognitive symptoms that can include anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as delirium — affects 30 to 50 percent of all patients who are rushed to the ICU because of a medical emergency. That’s including younger patients who had no prior mental challenges. And in some of those patients, dementia soon follows.

The Vanderbilt ICU Delirium and Cognitive Impairment Study Group of Vanderbilt Medical Center is working to develop a network of clinics across the U.S. to work with patients after discharge from an ICU.

Cataract surgery, hearing aid may boost the aging brain

Researchers in the U.K. have found that both hearing aids and cataract surgery can help prevent cognitive decline in older adults.

“It’s not really certain why hearing and visual problems have an impact on cognitive [memory and thinking skill] decline, but I’d guess that isolation, stigma and the resultant lack of physical activity that are linked to hearing and vision problems might have something to do with it,” said [Piers] Dawes [of the University of Manchester in England], a lecturer in audiology and deafness.

Researchers suggest that both better screening of older people and reduction of the perceived stigma of using hearing aids may help slow down the onset of dementia.

How the Finnish Survive without Small Talk

I found this article about the Finnish aversion to small talk fascinating.

Finnish people often forgo the conversational niceties that are hard-baked into other cultures, and typically don’t see the need to meet foreign colleagues, tourists and friends in the middle. As Tiina Latvala, a former English instructor in Sodankylä, Lapland, explained, part of her job was to introduce her young students to the concept of small talk.

It sounds refreshing not to have to feel obligated to engage in vacuous but socially expected small talk. It’s also interesting to note different ways in which different cultures develop their societal norms. What might seem rude to a visitor to Finland is, for the Finnish, just business as usual.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown