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

Why Your Brain Hates Other People

This article, originally published in 2017, looks at evidence that suggests our inclination to “otherize” people—to separate people into categories of us vs. them—may be hardwired into our brains. But I especially like the subtitle: “And how to make it think differently.”

Anne Frank: the real story of the girl behind the diary

Boisterous, popular, self-aware: a new collection of all Frank’s known writing brings her into sharp focus, says the Costa-winning biographer.

This article is by Bart van Es, author of Anne Frank: The Collected Works.

David Milch’s Third Act

Despite what dementia has stolen from the cerebral creator of “Deadwood,” it has given his work a new sense of urgency.

Mark Singer offers a profile of and reports on conversations with David Milch.

10,000 Steps A Day? How Many You Really Need To Boost Longevity

A report from NPR:

Many pedometers and fitness tracking apps set a baseline goal of taking 10,000 steps a day. It’s a nice, big round number — with zero basis in science. A recent study of older women found significant health benefits even below 5,000 steps — and no added benefit above 7,500.

Asking our readers about their hometowns brought back nostalgic memories and emotions — some bitter, some sweet

WHEN I WROTE over the holidays about my mixed feelings about my hometown, I asked you to submit reflections on your relationship to your own hometowns. Nearly 100 of you responded, with a depth of insight, searching, humor, pride and pain that left my head spinning.

Read some of the responses about hometowns, complete with an interactive map.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

What memories about your hometown does this article bring up?

© 2019 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

Too Many Open Browser Tabs

Whenever I find an interesting article, I leave it open on my browser because I just know it will form the basis of a spectacular blog post. I’ve always done this, but in the past I would finally just close everything and start over again because the web is, after all, an infinite source of riches. But since I challenged myself to write a blog post a day in 2015, I’ve been less eager to close all those tabs down. What if I face a day when I can’t think of anything to write about?

My browser has now become so bloated that I have to do something to make my system work faster. Instead of just closing all those tabs, I’m resorting to a collection of the very best ones here. Because I have lots of wide-ranging interests, this is quite an eclectic collection. But every one of these articles is worth attention. I guarantee it.

The Moral Bucket List

New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks writes here about some special people:

ABOUT once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

Brooks distinguishes between two types of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues:

The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

He goes on to say that a while back he set out “to discover how those deeply good people got that way.” In the rest of the article he describes what he found out.

It’s a good article, and I encourage you to read it. But I’ve left this browser tab open for a while now because this article reminded me of a former friend of mine. She could, at times, act caring and loving, but I always detected the tiniest disconnection between her inner workings and her outer behavior. For example, one day after she had spent a long time describing how each of her three children had recently hurt her feelings, she paused for a second while looking at me, then asked, “How’s your daughter?” During that second I could see the gears working inside her head: “I’ve talked about my kids, so I should now ask about hers.” I knew she wasn’t truly interested, so I said, “She’s fine” and left it at that. She visibly exhaled with relief.

This women always blamed other people for any problem in her own life. Everything was always the other person’s fault. She even developed a convoluted philosophy of life—it involved a person’s True Center of Pure Being (her caps)—that allowed her to avoid having to take responsibility for her own actions. When one of her children made her feel down on herself, she would explode and scream at me, trying to make me feel just as bad about myself as she felt about herself. When I told her, several times, how hurtful her behavior was to me, she said that I should understand that she was under a lot of pressure. “I’m not what I do,” she said.

This woman is the opposite of the people David Brooks describes. One can’t simply invoke one’s True Center of Pure Being. She is what she does. We all define ourselves by what we do and say. And this is why she’s a former friend, not a current one.

Sex, Dementia and a Husband on Trial at Age 78

This article brings up one of those issues that’s so complex and deeply personal that I have trouble figuring out what I think about it. In Iowa, Henry Rayhons, age 78, has been arrested for having sex with his 78-year-old wife, who had severe dementia, in a nursing home. The couple was married in 2007 after each had been widowed.

The top-level issue is whether Mrs. Rayhons was capable of giving consent for sex. But the lower-level issue is the question of who gets to decide whether Mrs. Rayhons was capable of giving consent: her husband, nursing home administrators, her doctor, her children?

This case suggests that someone must take the initiative in setting guidelines:

Sex is one of the most ambiguous areas in the scientific understanding of Alzheimer’s. While there are established methods of measuring memory, reasoning and the ability to dress, bathe and balance checkbooks, no widely used method exists for assessing the ability to consent to intimate relations.

Furthermore, dementia symptoms fluctuate. What may be appropriate on one day may not be appropriate on another day. Even more confusing, what may be appropriate in the morning may not be appropriate in the afternoon of the same day.

I’m glad I’m not sitting on the jury for this case.

Parsing Ronald Reagan’s Words for Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., reports:

Now a clever new analysis has found that during his two terms in office, subtle changes in Mr. Reagan’s speaking patterns linked to the onset of dementia were apparent years before doctors diagnosed his Alzheimer’s disease in 1994.

The findings of the study by Arizona State University researchers were published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Altman points out that these findings “do not prove that Mr. Reagan exhibited signs of dementia that would have adversely affected his judgment and ability to make decisions in office.”

But the findings do suggest that alteration in speech may one day be used to predict the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions long before clinical symptoms appear. Earlier detection could lead to earlier treatment, which in turn could help reduce or at least slow damage to the brain.

This research used the same computer algorithm that other researchers have used to analyze changes in writing by novelists, which I have written about here:

Canadian researchers have reported that analyses of syntax in novels by Iris Murdoch and Agatha Christie indicated early signs of dementia (Ms. Murdoch died of Alzheimer’s; Ms. Christie is suspected to have had it.) The same analysis applied to the healthy P. D. James, who died at 94 last year, did not find signs of dementia.

Scientists not involved in this study caution that much more research is necessary before analyses such as this can confidently be used in examining for Alzheimer’s disease.

Film Review: “Still Mine”

‘Still Mine’ Adds to Movies on Aging

Paula Span reviews this new film:

Not long ago, I could name the really excellent recent movies about aging on one hand. Now I’m running short of fingers, which I hope reflects filmmakers’ dawning recognition of the way this global demographic shift affects all our lives. The latest entry, a Canadian movie called “Still Mine,” opened in New York, Washington, Phoenix and several other cities last month and will arrive in Denver, Atlanta, Seattle, Charlotte and more locations today.

And, just as rain is the standard symbol for Seattle, dementia has become a standard trope for aging:

Interesting, isn’t it, how many of the best films about aging zero in on dementia? On my personal favorites list (adding “Still Mine” to “Amour,” “The Iron Lady,” “Iris,” “The Savages,” “Away from Her” and “About Schmidt”), all but the last incorporate a central character suffering from this disease. Screenwriters, and novelists like Walter Mosley and Alice LaPlante, can’t seem to resist its intrinsic here-but-not-here drama.

“Still Mine” is clear-eyed about this phase, not nearly as brutal as the masterful “Amour,” but more grounded than “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Quartet,” both of which featured charming British actors in fluffy screenplays that carefully evaded most realities of advanced age.

This film doesn’t, but it is gentle, more gentle than life can be.

 

Concerns About Dementia Screening

Concerns About Dementia Screening – NYTimes.com.

This article describes a patient who benefited from early diagnosis of a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease. But for most people, early diagnosis of dementia only provides knowledge of a problem for which there is no effective treatment.

the push for ever-earlier dementia screening raises troubling questions for patients and their families. When the diagnosis is early Alzheimer’s disease, the medical profession has little treatment to offer. This month, researchers at an Alzheimer’s Association conference in Boston urged policy makers to think hard before recommending wider dementia screening, saying studies have found no evidence that early detection improves outcomes.

And the experts said that little, if anything, is known about the potential risks of early detection. The diagnosis may cause stress, anxiety, depression and even suicide in patients, and can have implications for employment, purchasing life and long-term care insurance, and one’s overall quality of life, sense of autonomy and self-image.

While there are no easy answers, the article concludes with an encouragement for older adults and their family members who begin noticing signs of cognitive impairment to get a thorough medical examination:

The physician should take a history, do a thorough exam, and rule out a number of potential causes of mental impairment: depression; thyroid, kidney and liver function; vitamin B12 levels; infections; and dehydration and electrolyte disturbances. . . . The physician should also do a careful review of medications, since many drugs can have adverse effects on cognition. . . . Reassuringly, many people who experience mild cognitive impairment do not progress to dementia, and many even return to normal, some studies suggest. A study of primary care patients seen at Wishard Health Services identified 130 patients with mild cognitive impairment. A year later, most were stable, and nearly one-third had reverted to normal.

 

Dementia’s Signs May Come Early – NYTimes.com

Dementia’s Signs May Come Early – NYTimes.com

Studies presented Wednesday at an Alzheimer’s Association conference in Boston showed that people with some types of cognitive concerns were more likely to have Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains, and to develop dementia later. Research presented by Dr. Amariglio, for example, found that people with more concerns about memory and organizing ability were more likely to have amyloid, a key Alzheimer’s-related protein, in their brains.

And, in a significant shift highlighted at the conference, leading Alzheimer’s researchers are identifying a new category called “subjective cognitive decline,” which is people’s own sense that their memory and thinking skills are slipping even before others have noticed.

This article reports on a new interest in Alzheimer’s research, the subjective reports of aging patients, known as “the worried well,” who sense their cognitive abilities changing before standard testing procedures reveal definite signs of dementia:

leading Alzheimer’s researchers are identifying a new category called “subjective cognitive decline,” which is people’s own sense that their memory and thinking skills are slipping even before others have noticed.

However, it’s important to note that:

Some memory decline reflects normal aging, they say, and some concerns reflect psychological angst. People who forget what they wanted in the kitchen or the names of relatively unfamiliar people are probably aging normally. People who forget important details of recent events, get lost in familiar places or lose track of book or television plots may not be, especially if they have more problems than others their age.