weekly blog--one for the ages
My wife and I watched the new movie Nomadland over the weekend. It’s the story about an older woman who has lost her husband and job and decides to live as a nomad. She’s not alone. She’s one of many Americans over 60 who have lost their jobs or a loved one, sunk into debt and have nothing to lose by hitting the road in a van or small RV in search of work and life’s meaning.
The movie is both uplifting and depressing, and in our CoVid environs, makes you want to hit the road too--if nothing more than to go on a vacation or to visit family and friends. The good news is that day is coming soon. The most difficult chore in Massachusetts right now for the 65+ crowd is getting vaccinated. And trying to make an appointment is a frustrating daylong struggle that often results in failure. So on to spring. On my walk yesterday, the temperature topped 50 degrees for the first time in weeks, the snow was melting and on a hillside, I saw crocuses starting to break ground.
The Reality of Nomadland Life in America | Next Avenue
If you are interested in doing research on longevity, the Boston area just might be the place to start as the city and its environs push to become the “Silicon Valley” of aging. Boston: The Silicon Valley of longevity? - The Boston Globe
US life expectancy dropped amid the CoVid pandemic. Between 2019 and the first half of 2020, life expectancy decreased 2.7 years for Black people, to 72. It dropped 1.9 years for Hispanics, to 79.9, and 0.8 years for white people, to 78. U.S. life expectancy plummets amid pandemic - POLITICO
Surprisingly, the COVID-induced recession appears to have had little impact on retirement because: Social Security checks still go out and its finances are little changed; 401(k) contributions and balances seem relatively unaffected; and unemployment has not disproportionately hurt older workers. COVID-19 Is Not a Retirement Story | Center for Retirement Research (bc.edu)
February is Black History month. The precursor to this was created in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be "Negro History Week". This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 20, both of which dates black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
Within this context, ConfrontingAging wanted to take a look at Aging within the African American community and found the following research study that was published in 2019:
Early life stress from racial discrimination puts African Americans at greater risk for accelerated aging, a marker for premature development of serious health problems and perhaps a shorter life expectancy, according to a 2019 study led by a Georgia State University psychology researcher.
Findings revealed that high discrimination at ages 10–15 was associated with depression at ages 20–29, controlling for depression at ages 10–15, which, in turn, was related to accelerated cellular-level aging after controlling for gender, alcohol consumption, and cigarette use. The indirect effect of racial discrimination on aging through depression at ages 20–29 was significant, accounting for 32.3% of the total variance.
Conclusion: These findings support research conceptualizations that early life stress due to racial discrimination led to sustained negative affective states continuing into young adulthood that confer risk for accelerated aging and possibly premature disease and mortality in African Americans. These findings advance knowledge of potential underlying mechanisms that influence racial health disparities.
Separately, 26 Little Known Black History Facts: 24 Black History Facts You May Not Know (oprahmag.com)
The effect of early discrimination on accelerated aging among African Americans. - PsycNET (apa.org)
The importance of black history and why it should be celebrated beyond February - ABC News (go.com)
Punxsutawney Phil is predicting six more weeks of wintry slop. The polar vortex has collapsed over the arctic and is heralding in extremely cold weather. And then there is CoVid and its variants and vaccines which have led to the following…
A 9% year-over-year increase was observed in the number of US Medicare beneficiaries who enrolled in a Medicare Advantage health plan in 2020, with the increase in enrollment influenced by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and its related effects.
A divide between “haves” and “have-nots” is emerging as older adults across the country struggle to get covid-19 vaccines. Seniors with family members or friends to help them are getting vaccine appointments, even if it takes days to secure them. Those without reliable social supports are missing out
Dose No. 2 of your CoVid vaccination is more likely to pack a punch because when hit with the second injection, the immune system recognizes the onslaught and starts to take it even more seriously as it solidifies its defenses against the virus. However, within 24 hours of the second shot, you are most likely to feel well enough to continue with your daily routine.
More Americans Choosing Medicare Advantage Plans Amid Pandemic | AJMC
Older Adults Without Family or Friends Lag in Race to Get Vaccines | Kaiser Health News (khn.org)
The Second COVID-19 Shot's Side Effects Are Worth It - The Atlantic
Some noteworthy age-tech companies to keep an eye on from www.gerontechnologiest.com...
Founded in 2017, Papa initially was an online platform that connected college students to older adults who needed transportation, house help, technology lessons, companionship, and other services. Since then, they have adapted to market demands and added more services that are available in 17 states.
Since 2015, Intuition Robotics has sold a social robot named ElliQ. The company has expanded its product line to include tools for creating digital companion agents without code, automotive solutions and more.
Founded in 2019, Bold has developed an online program that helps older adults build and maintain muscle mass, and try different types of exercise to prevent accidental falls.
Founded in 2015, The Helper Bees (THB) partner with insurance companies and families directly to deliver the best quality care and the right tools to improve the home care experience. The company licenses its mobile app to insurance carriers so they can know when interventions are needed.
Founded in 2013, CareAcademy provides skills training and upskilling for caregivers. Approximately 400,000 classes have been completed to date.
The Most Exciting Age Tech Startups For 2021 | TheGerontechnologist
If you add it all up, of the 150,000 deaths that happen every day on Earth, over 100,000 of them are caused by aging. Deaths from problems like heart disease are preceded by years of physical decline, loss of independence, and so on. Below (from a BBC article) are the top 10 breakthroughs that prove this idea isn’t science fiction – from the discoveries of the past, to the cutting-edge science of the present day.
Researchers are working on ‘dietary restriction mimetic’ drugs, like rapamycin or metformin, which could mimic the effects of eating less, but without the constant hunger pangs.
With the appropriate incentives, evolution can equip organisms with mechanisms to repair broken cells and molecules, and get rid of and replace the unfixable. There’s no reason to think that science couldn’t eventually make it possible for humans too.
The hallmarks of aging
After decades of theories and counter-theories, there’s finally some scientific agreement about what causes ageing, and that means, if we can learn to slow, stop or reverse these hallmarks, we can do the same to the ageing process overall.
Inside our cells, our DNA is split into 46 lengths known as chromosomes. At each of these chromosomes’ two ends is a protective region known as a telomere. Your telomeres get shorter over your lifetime, and people with shorter telomeres for their age are at increased risk of diseases of old age and die sooner than people with longer ones.
Rejuvenating the thymus
Just behind your breastbone and in front of your heart is a small organ called your thymus, responsible for production of immune cells. The decline of the thymus is one of the reasons we get more susceptible to infection with age, as shown by older people dying more often from flu, and coronavirus. The good news is, we have multiple ideas to reverse the decline of the thymus, from gene therapies and stem cells to hormones and drugs.
Induced pluripotent stem cells
These cells are made by taking normal body cells and using a cocktail of four different genes to allow them to turn into any kind of cell researchers can dream up – or, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, any kind of cell a doctor needs to replenish cells lost due to accident, injury, or the aging process.
The Amish gene
In the mid-1980s, a girl in the Old Order Amish community in Indiana was rushed to hospital after a minor head injury wouldn’t stop bleeding. She survived, and started a chain of genetic detective work that eventually led to one of the most startling discoveries in the genetics of longevity. Having just one mutated copy doesn’t seem to cause them any blood-clotting issues. However, ongoing back through the Old Order Amish family tree, the researchers discovered something remarkable: people with one copy of mutated SERPINE1 had better heart health, less diabetes, and lived a full 10 years longer than those without.
Epigenetics is the collective name for a set of chemical flags stuck to our DNA. This is a hot topic of research and has been studied for decades, but what came as a huge surprise to scientists was that observing how your epigenetics change can give us incredibly precise estimates of how old you are.
An unexpected side-effect of iPSC research is that those same four genes that can allow a cell to turn into any other kind of cell also turn back its epigenetic clock. The process, known as cellular reprogramming, seems to make cells biologically younger.
Probably the most exciting breakthrough in aging biology is ‘senolytic’ drugs – drugs that kill aged ‘senescent’ cells. We all accumulate these cells throughout our lives: they’re cells that have divided too many times, accrued unacceptable levels of damage to their DNA, or are just under too high a level of stress. And so, to be on the safe side, these cells stop dividing.
The race to stop ageing: 10 breakthroughs that will help us grow old healthily - BBC Science Focus Magazine
It would be an understatement to say that we live in stressful times given CoVid, impeachment, and aging. But look on the bright side…religious people facing life crises rely on emotion-regulation strategies that psychologists also use. A new study concludes that both look for positive ways of thinking about hardship, a practice known to psychologists as “cognitive reappraisal.” They also tend to have confidence in their ability to cope with difficulty, a trait called “coping self-efficacy.”
Running out of money in retirement is also a common stress point, however, knowing that you have enough cash on hand to get through a severe stock market downturn can help. So how do you figure out your Withdrawal War Chest? Here’s a simple calculation courtesy of a recent article in Kiplinger: Add your total cash reserves and total cash and bonds in your portfolios, then divide your total by your monthly retirement withdrawal. The withdrawal should reflect your living expenses.
Study: Religion, psychology share methods for reducing distress - ScienceBlog.com
Are You Going to Be OK in Retirement? 1 Easy Calculation Can Provide the Answer | Kiplinger
Moving past yesterday’s chaotic scene on the steps of our nation’s capitol…Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, hypothesized that higher purpose gives people a will to stay alive. Americans dream of living long. In a survey by Stanford Center on Longevity, 77 percent said they’d like to make it to 100. Research reveals that people who believe their existence has meaning have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and more favorable gene expression related to inflammation.
For example, if a 90-year-old with a clear purpose in life develops Alzheimer’s disease, that person will probably keep functioning relatively well despite real pathological changes in the brain, one study found. Another meta-analysis of 10 studies involving more than 136,000 people found that having purpose in life can lower your mortality risk by about 17 percent--about as much as following the famed Mediterranean diet.
Separately, in case you were wondering…Which Members of Congress Objected to Certifying Biden’s Victory? - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Boosting our sense of meaning in life is an often overlooked longevity ingredient - The Washington Post
Positive/Successful Aging - confronting aging, a world in transition
A moment in history...On this date last year the health commission in the Chinese city of Wuhan announced that experts were investigating an outbreak of respiratory illness and that most of the victims had visited a seafood market in the city. The statement said 27 people had become ill with a strain of viral pneumonia and that seven were in serious conditions.
As the U.S. nears the end of its four-year nightmare, the year 2021 offers the promise of a new president, CoVid relief, and a return to normalcy. Season’s Greetings from ConfrontingAging, and thank you for continuing to read our website and blog posts.