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

The best books on Critical Thinking

I’ve been concerned that schools are not adequately teaching critical thinking skills since I first started teaching writing to college students back in 1971. Since then my concern has turned into alarm as I’ve seen the results of the lack of these skills pervade modern culture. 

Here philosopher and writer Nigel Warburton lists five books to help us learn about topics like straw man arguments and weasel words.

What Role Should Work Play in Retirement?

Behavioral scientist Utpal Dholakia, Ph.D., explains that “the idea of retiring as not working may need to be reconfigured for our times.”

Can Bullet Journaling Save You?

I keep reading about the benefits of bullet journaling, a process touted as not only the best productivity tool but also as many people’s favorite creative outlet (just search Instagram to see all the fancy bullet journal layouts pictured). “Bullet journaling has taken off as a kind of mindfulness-meets-productivity trend that equates organized journaling with an ordered interior life.”

Here Anna Russell writes about her discussion with Ryder Carroll, the thirty-nine-year-old digital designer who invented the Bullet Journal. Carroll offered Russell this parting advice: “You’re not doing it right, you’re not doing it wrong, you’re just figuring it out as you go along.”

On planes, adults have tantrums too. Here’s how to handle bad behavior at 38,000 feet

Writing for The Seattle Times, travel writer Christopher Elliott declares, “The worst behavior on a plane? It’s often adults.” And doesn’t it seem that we’ve heard and read of lot of examples that prove him right on news broadcasts and Facebook lately? Elliott has some concrete suggestions on how to deal with bad adult bahavior if it should happen near you on your next flight.

And as you’re crammed into your ever-shrinking coach-class seat, console yourself with this fact: “The worst behavior on a plane often happens in the first-class section. It’s the super-elite frequent flyers who behave as if the plane belongs to them.”

Tina Turner Is Having the Time of Her Life

I was lucky enough to watch Tina Turner perform at Harvard Stadium in the summer of 1970.

Here Amanda Hess reports on the retirement life of Tina Turner, “the symbol of rock ’n’ roll stamina for 50 years.” Now 79 years old, she has been retired for 10 years in now lives in Switzerland in a home she calls the Chateau Algonquin, with an unobstructed view of Lake Zurich. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

In the 1890s, Female Medical Students Embroidered a Yearbook on a Pillow Sham

The first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States was Elizabeth Blackwell, in 1849. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on her autobiography plus the life stories of four other pioneering 19th century women physicians. At that time the Victorian notion of separate spheres ruled society: The world of business and politics was the sphere of men, and the world of home and church was the sphere of women, who were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine. Keenly aware of their ground-breaking significance, most early women physicians chose to emphasize that their work was not a transgression into the world of men, but rather a logical extension of their traditional position as women, responsible for the care of their family’s health. 

I was therefore delighted to come across this article about women medical graduates of the time who turned women’s traditional task of needlework to the service of expressing their professional selves. Be sure to check out the photos in this article, which offers a short history on the entrance of women into the profession of medicine.

Why hasn’t evolution dealt with the inefficiency of ageing?

Jordan Pennells, a PhD student in bioengineering at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, addresses the question “how has ageing persisted within the Darwinian framework of evolution?” 

Here’s his concluding sentence:

In the drive towards the cure for ageing, evolutionary medicine has the potential to further our understanding of why human diseases arise, and elucidate the unanticipated costs of subverting this intrinsic biological process.

That phrase the cure for ageing caught my eye because it suggests that aging is not a necessary and unavoidable process of life, but rather a condition to be studied and overcome. But I can’t help but wonder what the result would be if we did, in fact, discover how to cure aging.

How Not to Grow Old in America

Tag line: “The assisted living industry is booming, by tapping into the fantasy that we can all be self-sufficient until we die.”

Geeta Anand, formerly a reporter for The New York Times, is a professor at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In this article she uses her own experience caring for aging parents to look at the assisted living industry. Here’s her conclusion:

Assisted living has a role to play for the fittest among the elderly, as was its original intent. But if it is to be a long-term solution for seniors who need substantial care, then it needs serious reform, including requirements for higher staffing levels and substantial training.

What Statistics Can and Can’t Tell Us About Ourselves

“In the era of Big Data, we’ve come to believe that, with enough information, human behavior is predictable. But number crunching can lead us perilously wrong.”

We come across a lot of statistics in our daily lives, particularly in consideration of whether a particular medication will benefit us. In this article Hannah Fry, professor at University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, explains how statistics work, particularly in the context of scientific study results.

Do you have a self-actualised personality? Maslow revisited

If you ever took an introductory psychology course, you undoubtedly learned about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, usually pictured as a pyramid with several levels. At the bottom of the pyramid are basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter. Only as each level of needs, starting at the bottom, is met can an individual move up to the next higher level. At the pinacle is the achievement of self-actualization, or the pursuit of creative goals and the achievement of one’s highest potential.

This article by Christian Jarrett reports on research by Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at Barnard College, Columbia University, aimed at reformulating Maslow’s work and linking it to contemporary psychological theory. 

Jarrett concludes:

The new test is sure to reinvigorate Maslow’s ideas, but if this is to help heal our divided world, then the characteristics required for self-actualisation, rather than being a permanent feature of our personalities, must be something we can develop deliberately.

He writes further that Kaufman says he believes that his work can help people reach their highest potential: “‘ Capitalise on your highest characteristics but also don’t forget to intentionally be mindful about what might be blocking your self-actualisation … Identify your patterns and make a concerted effort to change. I do think it’s possible with conscientiousness and willpower.’”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here are some articles that caught my eye over the past several days.

Can We Live Longer but Stay Younger?

Here’s a long though fascinating look at what goes on in the AgeLab, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge. Here researchers work not only on adaptive devices to help with the problems of physical aging but also on questions about whether those problems of aging can be biologically controlled.

Thinking About Retirement? Start With A Book

Retirement expert Sara Zeff Geber offers some reading suggestions in this article for Forbes.

How to Get the Best From Your Immune System

Here’s a booster for your immune system: an explanation of how it works and how to take care of it.

Most older adults don’t ask doctors about dementia, survey says

Only 10 percent of people between ages 50 and 64 with a family history of dementia say they have talked to a doctor about preventing memory problems, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging published Wednesday at the University of Michigan.

How to Revisit the Ghosts of Your Past

We all have moments from our past that gnaw at us — a regret, an unanswered question, an old tragedy. We obsess over these moments when we can’t sleep, or when we need a good cry. But most days, we try to ignore these unwelcome memories, pushing them aside so we can buy groceries or go to work or do new things that we won’t regret. Our poor choices and hurt feelings fade to the background, until another quiet moment beckons them to come pick at us again.


In this way, a single moment can pester us for years and years — unless we return to the past and confront it head on.

Kalila Holt has some advice on how to undertake the process of confronting such moments head on.

Arthritis supplement glucosamine may lower heart disease risk

Finally, some good news:

Glucosamine has long been used as a supplement to help ease the joint pain of arthritis, but new research suggests its anti-inflammatory properties might also lower heart disease risk.

Novel Alzheimer’s drug passes first phase of human testing

And a bit more good news:

A new drug for treating Alzheimer’s disease has successfully passed the first phase of testing in humans. Preclinical studies had already shown that the drug could improve memory and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in older mice.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Writing over 50: A Teacher’s Own Lessons

I’ve worked with a lot of older adults whose retirement has given them the free time to do the writing they’ve always wanted to do, whether they’re interested in life writing (memoir), fiction, or poetry. Here Peter Krass, himself an older writer who has taught online workshops for over–50 writers, explains what he has learned from his students:

my students have shown me that while older writers do face unique challenges, they also possess special strengths. What’s more, these strengths are more than equal to the challenges.

Read here his lists of both common challenges and common strengths his students have taught him. And if you’re interested in writing, let this article encourage you to look for a writing program that fits your requirements.

Retiring Retirement

A growing portion of the elderly look and act anything but.

Linda Marsa reports that, although it’s true the number of over–65 people is increasing, many of those people are still healthy enough to want to continue working.

Americans over age 60 are working longer and participating in the labor force at greater rates, according to a 2016 Brookings Institute report. And not just to beef up the bottom line. A study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that nearly 50 percent of retirees want to continue working in retirement. About a third say it’s because they need the money. Two-thirds, however, say they just want to stay mentally active.

What Books Were Bestsellers the Year You Were Born?

Are you interested in finding out what books were birthed the same year you were? Literary Hub has you covered with these two lists:

I’ve read exactly one of the fiction selections and one of the nonfiction books for my birth year.

8 Old-Lady Novels That Prove Life Doesn’t End at 80

Novelist Heidi Sopinka writes, “older women in literature … arguably represent one of the most underwritten aspects of female experience. Even when they do manage to get into a book, they almost exclusively face sexism for being ‘unlikeable.’”

When “the image of a 92-year-old woman, vital, working, came into [her] head,” Sopinka wrote her début novel, The Dictionary of Animal Languages, around that character. While working on the novel, she “began seeking out an old-lady canon”:

It wasn’t female aging that fascinated me as much as I wanted to swing into the viewpoint of a woman who had lived a long complicated life, deeply occupied by her work. I began to think of my book as a coming-of-death novel… .

Weirdly, the closer I delved into the closed-in days of looming death, the more I learned about living. Still, there is such a fear of female power in our culture that older women are ignored or infantilized, as though they are somehow less complex than us even though they are us, plus time.

Here she offers a list of eight books that are “unafraid to take on the full measure of a woman’s life”:

  • The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
  • The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien
  • Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
  • Stet by Diana Athill
  • Destruction of the Father by Louise Bourgeois
  • Writings by Agnes Martin

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Aging in Place

The New York Times this week features a discussion of aging in place, the term for adapting an existing home to accommodate changes necessary as its inhabitants get older. This article contains links to related coverage.

My Recent Browsing History

Here are some of the recent articles that have caught my eye.

Lessons on Aging Well, From a 105-Year-Old Cyclist
More Women in Their 60s and 70s Are Having ‘Way Too Much Fun’ to Retire
You’re a completely different person at 14 and 77, the longest-running personality study ever has found
From the Elders to the Kids: What I Wish I’d Known
Boomers Are Ditching Retirement for Entrepreneurship. And They’re Killing It