Thursday, October 29, 2009

Neuroplasticity in Later Life

UCLA researchers recently revealed promising findings suggesting the neuroplasticity of the brain in later life. Their research found triggers at key centers in the brain including regions that control decision-making and complex reasoning after just one week of surfing the Web. The increased in stimulation of neural activation patterns during internet training could potentially provide insights into ways to enhanced cognitive functioning in elders. "We found that for older people with minimal experience, performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function," said study author Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and the author of "iBrain." The study consists of 24 neurologically normal participants between 55 and 78 years of age with little prior internet use. Age, educational level and gender were similar between the two groups. Study participants surfed the internet during pre and post functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, that tracked and measured cerebral blood flow levels in the brain. "The results suggest that searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults," said Teena D. Moody, the study's first author and a senior research associate at the Semel Institute at UCLA. Additional studies are needed to replicate findings but preliminary results might be able to unlock the keys into improved cognitive functioning in later life.
Click here for full story.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Research on Aging: The Inconstant Brain

From UCTV:
It was thought that the brain remained stable until the changes of old age occurred. New studies reveal an unsuspected degree of dynamic change in brain tissues that suggest neuroadaptive alterations in response to pathogens, drugs, and even experience. Join expert Terry L. Jernigan, PhD, as she explains the implications of this exciting new research.

5 Foods to Keep you Healthy Longer

From the Aging Fabulous Blog:

Who doesnt love avocado? Its a great source of Å“good fat. Healthy monounsaturated fat helps reduce the bad cholesterol in your body, which can cause heart problems as well as dull, oily skin. Avocado is also a rich in vitamin E, which can help maintain younger looking skin. Additionally, the potassium in avocado reduces fluid retention (and who wants puffy eyes!).

You have probably heard tons of nutrition experts touting the benefits of berries ¦ and they are right! Blueberries, blackberries and even black grapes are rich in phytochemicals ” flavonoid-powerful antioxidants. They help your skin at the cellular level, protecting it against the damage caused by free radicals. Put down that donut in the morning and grab a bowl of berries instead!

Salmon, mackerel, sardines and other fish that are rich in essential fatty acids ” Omega-3 ” are great for your skin. They will help keep your skin moisturized and nourished. If you really hate fish, you can get Omega-3 from flaxseed, walnuts, and other nuts and oils.

Whole Grains
Whole grain breads and cereals are high in selenium, which plays a vital role in the health of your skin cells. Also, if you fill up on whole grains youll be less likely to eat bread, pasta and other products made from white flour. White flour effects insulin levels and can cause skin inflammation.

Green Tea
Okay, its not a food but its still important. A cup of green tea few days a week is terrific for your skin. Green tea contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that will help stave off free radicals, which make your skin prematurely age. Green tea can also reduce the risk of damage from ultraviolet rays, thus decreasing your risk of skin cancer.

And, of course, dont forget to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Continuing to Work after Retirement Can be Healthy

Journal of Occupational Health Psychology recently published a longitudinal study by Zhan et. al of 12,189 men and women from 51 to 61 years old about their employment history, experiences after retirement along with their physical and mental health. The major finding is that people who report continuing to work after retirement also has fewer major diseases or disabilities than those who stop working. These decreased health risks were sustained for full- or part-time job, self-employment or temporary employment. A caveat is that retirees who found work related to their previous careers had the best mental health. Thus, while not for everyone, if one is able to find a job that is relatively little stress provoking, this can lead to good outcomes. These findings have been replicated in several prior studies.

Click here for the NY Times's article

Click here for the full study

Thursday, October 15, 2009

An estimated $2.6 billion is robbed from the elderly

Research indicates that the rate of elderly financial abuse are substantially underreported.
From the Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances Study (2009):

In 2006, there were 21.6 million women age 65+ and 15.7 million men age 65+, or a sex ratio of 138 women for every 100 men. The number of females to males increases with age, ranging from 114 for the 65 to 69 age group to a high of 213 for persons 85 and over.11.

So, what is Elder Financial Abuse?
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder financial abuse is the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder at risk for harm by another due to changes in physical functioning, mental functioning, or both.

Signs of Elder Financial Abuse:
  • Unusual worry about finances or fear
    of an individual
  • Unexplained trembling or crying
  • Changes in communication patterns
  • Any abrupt change in behavior
  • Overpayment for goods and services
  • Unnecessary services or household repairs
  • A set of “out-of-sync” check numbers
  • Increased ATM activity
  • Unusual cash withdrawals from a financial
  • account in a short period of time
  • Missing belongings from the home or
  • room in a facility
  • Excessive time spent on the Internet
  • A signature that seems forged, unusual,
  • or suspicious
  • An unexplained reduction in bank
  • accounts
  • An increase in the number and amount of
  • credit card accounts
Perpetrators by Type (Percent):
Trusted Professionals: 18.0
Family: 16.9
Caregiver (non-agency): 10.9
Caregiver (agency): 9.3
Skilled Nursing Facility/Assisted Living: 7.5
Medicaid/Medical Fraud: 6.7
Befriending (“Sweetheart Scam”): 5.6
Home Repair Scam (includes travelers/handyman): 5.6
Stranger: 5.3
Contractors: 4.5
Criminal (robbery, burglary, rape, drugs, etc.): 3.0
Neighbor—Friend: 3.0
Con Man: 1.9
Phone Scam: 1.5
Total 266* 99.8%**
**Does not equal 100 due to rounding.
Prevent Elder Financial Abuse:
Stay Organized
Keep belongings neat; keep track of possessions; open and send your own mail; direct deposit
Social Security and other checks; complete and sign your own checks whenever possible; use an
answering machine to screen calls and do not provide personal information over the telephone.
Stay Informed
Consult with an attorney about future plans, including a power of attorney; consult with an
attorney about caregiving arrangements; review your will; know where to go if you suspect abuse; ask for help from police, from employees at a bank, from Adult Protective Services, if needed.

Please click here for the full report

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Her Own Words

MinnEESI sent out request for stories of economic struggles that elders are facing. Below here is a glimpse into the life of a 70 year old woman living with so little:

"I'm about 8,000 in debt, will not pay my house off until 2018 and have a $14,000 lien in additional to the mortgage. Need a new roof, defective shingles that would be under warranty if the seller of my house had pulled a permit or would look for any records. NO luxuries, no travel; theater or eating out only if someone takes me. And, because of medical such as dental, that is not covered, cannot get out of debt, medicines that are not covered by Medicare D, etc. Social Security, below national median; state pension is pathetic ($225), other pension funds will expire in about 10 or less years, tiny pension from the UK ($70). Medicare and Medicare D will go up next year, social security I gather won't.

Not sure how many more years I will be able to work and then no idea what I will do and am not even sure if the business pays enough to make it worthwhile. When I work (and business has been awful this year) I inspect houses for mold (have a doctorate in botany specializing in mycology-so much for "get a good education and get a good job"). I usually make about 11,00-12,000 a year from the business before expenses although this year income is down fairly badly -combination of very dry summer and people selecting to do other things with what money they have. Losing my sense of smell after brain surgery in 2006 also hurt my business because my nose was my most important tool. Surgery was not mandatory and surgeon did not warn me that this could happen. Am hoping for some sort of payment from the 2006 car crash, which will go to feed my credit card debt.

Most people have family they can turn to. I don't.

So, constantly worried to distraction about paying bills, whether I will get my property tax rebate before or after October 15th - difference between managing to pay and being in further trouble. I don't 'barely meet my basic needs', I cannot meet them

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Mother's Sacrifice

Why do we take care of our elders? Because they took care of us. Huffington Post detailed a heart warming story about a woman suffered from Stickler syndrome, a hereditary disease that causes blindness, and had to make a difficult decision to forgo her own treatment to save the funds for her daughters.