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

Last Week’s Links

‘I am mine’: This is what Alzheimer’s is like at 41

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is particularly devastating. This article tells the story of a loving couple when the husband, Jo, was diagnosed:

Four years ago, Jo was diagnosed with dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s disease, an extremely rare form caused by a genetic mutation slithering through his family tree. Jo watched his mother die of the same illness when he was a teenager. Even in this early-onset form of Alzheimer’s, Jo is a terrible rarity: he was 37 years old when he was diagnosed.

The publication carried an earlier story, soon after the diagnosis, that is linked here.

This article decorously discusses the many issues this family faces, including information about the decision to place Jo in an a home and end-of-life directives in patients with dementia.

Lies, lies and more lies. Out of an old Tacoma house, fact-checking site Snopes uncovers them

In the pre-internet days we called wild-sounding stories urban legends. Nowadays most such stories are spread across the internet, and we call them hoaxes.

All those viral hoaxes, spread by social media, have created a market for fact-checking sites, with Snopes, started in 1994, being the champ.

I’ve been consulting Snopes for ages, but I did not know until I came across this article that it is run out of a 97-year-old house in Tacoma, WA, my new home town. In fact, the Snopes house is in Tacoma’s North End, which is where I also live.

Snopes is particularly busy in the current political climate, in which “the hoax reports just keep rolling in.” So before you blindly repeat that story you heard on Twitter or read on Facebook, ask yourself: “ Just what is your receptivity to something that sure looks like it came from a bull?”

Best Buy is cashing in as Americans grow older

Big electronics store Best Buy is positioning itself to attract an older clientele by becoming the go-to niche market for digital health:

In August, Best Buy announced it would buy GreatCall for $800 million. GreatCall makes Jitterbug cell phones with big buttons and bright screens designed for senior citizens, as well as medical alert devices that can detect falls and summon help.

The demand for digital health products and services will grow in the future as the U.S. population of people over 65, now at around 50 million, doubles over the next 20 years as Baby Boomers retire.

Google Plus Will Be Shut Down After User Information Was Exposed

I was somewhat relieved to read this news. When Google Plus came into being, I tried for a few weeks to use it. But I never really got it: Its interface wasn’t obvious, and I never saw the point of simple links with no context.

So I’m glad to learn that I no longer have to feel inadequate about not knowing how to use Google Plus effectively. Now if I could just figure out Instagram …

Nursing Homes Are Pushing the Dying Into Pricey Rehab

Bloomberg reports:

Nursing home residents are increasingly spending time in rehabilitation treatment during the last days of their lives, subjected to potentially unnecessary therapy that reaps significant financial benefits for cash-strapped facilities, a study shows.

A study out of the University of Rochester, based on data from 647 New York-based nursing home facilities, revealed that “Some residents were found to have been treated with the highest concentration of rehabilitation during their last week of life.”

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

When Family Members Care for Aging Parents

Sandeep Jauhar, a cardiologist, writes about her experience sharing caregiving duties with her siblings for a father with dementia and a mother with Parkinson’s disease:

My siblings and I joined the ranks of the 15 million or so unpaid and untrained family caregivers for older adults in the United States.

In addition to expected duties like dispensing medications and shopping for groceries, she discovered that she also needed to look out for people trying to take advantage of her parents financially:

after some items were stolen, we realized we had to be more careful about whom we allowed into our parents’ home. Older adults in this country lose almost $3 billion a year to theft and financial fraud.

Can’t Get Comfortable In Your Chair? Here’s What You Can Do

Chairs haven’t always been the big, soft, enveloping things that fill our living rooms today. Historically, chairs were built to accommodate the human spine better than many chairs do today. If you’re having trouble sitting comfortably, here are some suggestions about how to sit so as to best support your spine.

35 OVER 35: WOMEN AUTHORS WHO DEBUTED AT 35+

I’m a bit peeved that the author of this article chose 35 as the starting point for “older” writers’ debuts.

This list of “women writers whose debut traditionally published full-length work came out after their 35th birthday” includes writes from age 35 to 93.

Apple Watch faces its toughest challenge yet: Grandma and Grandpa

Because one of the stereotypes of older adults is people who have to ask their grandchildren how to work the DVR, I especially like articles that feature older adults using new technological gadgets. This article focus on the Series 4, the latest version of the Apple Watch:

The Series 4 Apple Watch now in stores pitches itself as a Food and Drug Administration-cleared “proactive health monitor” and a “guardian” that will call help if you take a hard fall. Its screen is 30 percent larger. You won’t see Apple say “senior citizen” in ads – yet suddenly, grandmothers and abuelas, not to mention opas, are thinking about getting one. Adult children looking to keep parents safe are curious, too.

Writer Geoffrey A. Fowler reports:

I sought help in reviewing the new Watch from a gang of tech-savvy seniors. Seven members of the Computer Club of Rossmoor, a 55-plus community in California, helped me set up, poke and prod the new model. No seniors were harmed in testing the fall-detection tech… . There wasn’t a technophobe among my helpers. After our tests, one of them – a satisfied Apple Watch owner – decided she’d definitely upgrade. None of the others were sold.

Read how they tested the watch and how the new features, such as the fall detector and electrocardiogram monitor, performed.

The Comforting Fictions of Dementia Care

This long article in The New Yorker looks at the use of “nostalgic environments,” surroundings created to resemble life in earlier times, to help ease the anxiety and disorientation of dementia patients. The article proceeds from description of such environments to a consideration of the ethics of lying to patients intertwined with a history of various approaches to treating patients with dementia.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Infectious Theory Of Alzheimer’s Disease Draws Fresh Interest

This article reports on the “germ theory” of Alzheimer’s disease. Germs in this case “means microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. In other words,” is Alzheimer’s an infectious disease. This theory “has been fermenting in the literature for decades,” but research in this area has received almost no funding.

If the germ theory gets traction, even in some Alzheimer’s patients, it could trigger a seismic shift in how doctors understand and treat the disease.

14 of the Very Best Books Published in the 1970s, From Le Guin to Haley

Having come of age in the glorious 1960s, I took particular interest in this list of books published in the following decade that, in a literary way, reflect the profound ways in which the ’60s influenced later society. The books from this list that I remember most vividly are Rabbit Redux by John Updike, Kindred by Olivia E. Butler, The Stories of John Cheever, All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi.

What about you? Do you remember any of these books?

Scientists Gave MDMA to Octopuses—and What Happened Was Profound

Ever since we began visiting the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. in the mid 1990s, I’ve been fascinated by the Giant Pacific octopus native to this area. Octopuses (yes, that’s the correct plural) are extremely intelligent, although their decentralized nervous system differs greatly from our own. Octopuses are also asocial, in contrast to humans’ need for social contact.

This article reports on a study by scientists interested in whether octopuses would react the same way humans do to “the drug MDMA, versions of which are known as molly or ecstasy.” The drug commonly makes people “feel very happy, extraverted, and particularly interested in physical touch.” The scientists were interested to discover that, despite our different nervous structures and social behavior tendencies, octopuses’ reactions to the drug resembled humans’ reactions.

It’s clear that psychoactive drugs like MDMA, LSD, and magic mushrooms are going through a scientific renaissance—they’re being studied as potential treatments for depression and PTSD—and as their stigma decreases, scientists are more open to studying them, and more research funding becomes available. This could be important for our understanding of animal and human brains.

Paper Trails: Living and Dying With Fragmented Medical Records

This is a long article, but it’s a must-read for anyone who moves from one place to another or from one medical facility to another. Dr. Ilana Yurkiewicz explains how lack of compatible electronic medical records can disrupt medical treatment and how such disruption can lead to life-and-death situations.

How to Optimize Caffeine (and Improve Your Productivity)

caffeine is powerful stuff, and because it has a direct effect on your energy level, you should drink it with intention rather than on autopilot.

This article is aimed at office workers (hence the emphasis on productivity), but it’s good advice for anyone who is bothered by occasional insomnia.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

IS THE CURE FOR ALZHEIMER’S HIDING INSIDE US? SHE THINKS SO

Here’s a profile of Annelise Barron:

Alzheimer’s is the root cause of 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and the complexity of the disease has troubled neurology researchers for decades. But Barron, an associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford, has uncovered a way for our own immune system to fight off a major cause of Alzheimer’s. If her research leads to a treatment, it would be the first new therapeutics development in more than a decade.

BOOKS WITH STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS OVER 50

Being of a certain age myself, I enjoy books that feature older women characters. And if you’re into reading challenges that ask you to read a book featuring “a strong female character over 50,” here are eight books to help you fill in that category.

READ HARDER: A BOOK WITH A FEMALE PROTAGONIST OVER THE AGE OF 60

And if 50 is too young for you, here’s a list of six books featuring female protagonists over age 60. I heartily second the recommendation of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and would also add Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

Cover: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

SOLVING THE HIDDEN DISEASE THAT’S AS BAD AS 15 CIGARETTES A DAY

That disease would be loneliness:

Experts agree that we’re facing a loneliness epidemic, one that has profound consequences for our physical health, our longevity and our overall well-being. But where others emphasize the scale and seriousness of this looming crisis, Murthy offers an encouraging message: Yes, loneliness is a pervasive problem worldwide, but there is a simple and actionable solution.

Why Older People Have Always Trashed Young People

Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?
Oh, what’s the matter with kids today?

Why does every generation express worry that its kids aren’t as good? Because of fear, this article argues:

We talk of children in terms of continuation. They carry on our traditions. They take our names. We delight in how they look like us, act like us, think like us. We want our kids to adopt our politics, our causes, our sense of meaning. In our children, we seek immortality.

But then they grow up, and we discover they’re not us. They are their own people. They’ll find their own politics, their own causes, their own sense of meaning. They’re more interested in the future than the past. They’ll know their parents’ names, of course, and probably their grandparents’ names, but perhaps not their great-grandparents’ names, and certainly not their great-great-grandparents’ names. Which means one day they’ll have children, and those children will have children, and our names will begin to be forgotten too. We will slip into nothingness, remembered by nobody, having left no recognizable impact.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Was Smokey Bear wrong? How a beloved character may have helped fuel catastrophic fires

The recent fires [across the western U.S.] actually highlight an ongoing debate among ecologists about whether Smokey should shoulder some responsibility for the flames now regularly sweeping across natural lands. For much of the last century, Smokey was the pitchman for the federal government’s aggressive wildfire suppression policy. That tactic, some scientists believe, may have contributed along with climate change to making American forests vulnerable long-term to combustion. They call it “the Smokey Bear effect.”

This look at the history of modern American fire prevention explains what looks like a counter-intuitive concept.

An Extraordinary Documentary Portrait of a Playwright Facing Alzheimer’s Disease

There’s no danger of impersonality in “The Rest I Make Up,” Michelle Memran’s documentary portrait of the playwright María Irene Fornés (which [screened] August 23rd through the 29th, at moma). It’s very much a four-handed film, made (as the credits say) both by Memran and by Fornés, and it’s explicitly, inescapably about their collaboration. The resulting film is a profound, tragic, yet joyful vision of art. It’s more than the portrait of an artist (or even of two); it’s a revelation and exaltation of the artistic essence, of the very nature of an artist’s life as an unending act of creation in itself.

The New Yorker looks at a film documenting Alzheimer’s disease.

How to get a good night’s sleep

A science journalist spent months researching sleep. Here’s what he found.

Sean Illing interviews Henry Nicholls, author of Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of a Good Night’s Rest. Nicholls says that establishing sleep stability—going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning—is the simplest way to begin addressing sleep problems such as insomnia.

The Backstory: the story behind ‘Passing the Peace Torch’

the protest group is still active, increasingly frustrated by a visible age gap between older veterans of the peace movement and younger, politically active citizens who seem to have moved on to other causes.

A local (Pacific Northwest) take on a national matter of concern to those of us who grew up marching and protesting and chanting, “There is some s**t we will not eat.”

Slow, steady tortoise beats speedy hare in real life, study shows

The lesson communicated by the tale of the tortoise and the hare, one of Aesop’s fables, holds true in the animal kingdom, according to new research.

The fable’s lesson is simple: consistency and perseverance beat out disinterested talent. In nature, faster animals tend to apply their speed inconsistently, just like Aesop’s hare.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown