weekly blog--one for the ages
The market for age-related disease and aging is estimated to be a trillion dollars, and it's no surprise that Silicon Valley's ultra-wealthy are investing money in companies trying to reverse aging. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel have invested in South San Francisco-based Unity Biotechnology, a company whose mission is to extend human healthspan, the period in one’s life unburdened by the disease of aging. In 2013, Google formed aging research company Calico, and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to aging research.
Meanwhile, as one ages, you are more likely to find yourself spending more time in the bathroom, and when it comes to toilets, the ones in the US are effectively bedpans with a drain, according to an industry expert. Then there are Japanese toilets, which are marvels of technological innovation. Consider those with integrated bidets, which squirt water to clean your private parts, or the ones with dryers and heated seats. Japanese toilets also use water efficiently, clean themselves and deodorize the air, so bathrooms smell good.
Further, some feature white noise machines so you can fill your stall with the sound of rain for relaxation and privacy, and others have built-in night lights and music players that’s customizable and controlled by electronic buttons on a panel next to your seat. Most of the toilets in Japan are made by a company called Toto, which started the high-tech toilet revolution in 1980 when it unveiled the Washlet, a first-of-its-kind electric toilet seat with an integrated bidet.
Putting a hold on the presidential debates for a moment, there is another debate taking place right now to ruffle your feathers: Which is better, changing the time to summer hours or standard time?
Retailers, chambers of commerce and recreational industries have historically wanted the sunny evenings that allow more time to shop and play. Researchers on human biological rhythms come down squarely on the side of the standard, wintertime hours referred to as “God’s time” by angry farmers who objected to daylight saving time when it was first widely adopted during World War I.
The measures getting the most traction right now are for permanent daylight saving time, which makes more sun available for after-work activities. In 2018, Florida passed a bill and California voters backed a ballot measure to do so. Maine, Delaware, Tennessee, Oregon and Washington joined in 2019, passing permanent daylight saving bills.
A German study of autopsies from 2006 to 2015, however, showed a significant uptick just after the spring switch in deaths caused by cardiac disease, traffic accidents and suicides. Researchers have also noted a significant increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. According to the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms, messing with the body’s relationship to the sun can negatively affect not only sleep but also cardiac function, weight and cancer risk. One prominent study on different health outcomes within the same time zones concluded that each 20 minutes of later sunrise corresponded to an increase in certain cancers by 4% to 12%.
Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers begin their days in different ways, and some of the differences can be attributed to age.
Baby Boomers are increasingly retiring, so they tend to wake up later than the working population. Nearly a third of them wake up after 7 am, compared to 15% of those aged below 65. Older age also correlates with healthier mornings. Those aged 65 and up tend to exercise and eat breakfast--two recommended components of any morning routine.
Some discrepancies are also unsurprising, considering generational trends. Millennials are the most likely to get their news online, while 13% of Baby Boomers read the paper every morning. Just 1% of 20-somethings say they read the morning paper.
During his State of the Union address earlier this week, President Trump said that he would always protect Medicare and Social Security, despite saying last month at the World Economic Forum that he would be open to cutting their entitlement programs. According to an article in The Motley Fool, should Trump win a second term, there are three factors to suggest he would look to reduce Social Security's expenditures.
First, there's the core proposal of the Republican Party to fix Social Security by gradually increasing the full retirement age to as high as age 70.
Second, in March, the president's federal budget proposal called for a $26 billion cut (in aggregate) to Social Security between 2020 and 2029. A good portion of this reduction was to come from the Social Security Disability program, with a proposed adjustment that would reduce retroactive pay to six months from the current 12 months.
Third, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget and one of the president’s top advisors, is a fiscal hard-liner, and he strongly believes that entitlement reform, perhaps including cuts, should be on the table.
Life expectancy in the U.S. has risen for the first time since 2014, according to new 2018 mortality data from the CDC. In 2018, the average age at death was 78.7, up slightly from 2017, and which scientists attribute to decreases in cancer mortality. U.S. life expectancy had been on a downward trend since 2014, when it was an average of 78.9 years. Heart disease was the top cause of death, followed by cancer. There was a small increase in the number of deaths by suicide and from flu and pneumonia compared to 2017.
Tips from a super saver. Use tea bags multiple times, dilute dish soap with half water so it lasts longer, wear dark clothes as light colors stain too easily, buy a very affordable home, and drive an old car. Indeed, research from TD Ameritrade, which looks at people who save 20% or more of their incomes, called “super savers”, shows that the single biggest difference between what super savers spent less on, as compared with the rest of us, was housing. Super savers spent just 14% of their incomes on housing, while regular folks dropped 23%.
One of the keys to living longer is having supportive relationships, according to the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. She says that we tend to prune our relationships as our time horizons shrink, choosing quality over quantity. This process of winnowing down social interaction with only those people who matter most, which she called the socioemotional selectivity theory, may be echoed in two 50+ consumer trends: spending on our pets and our home.
A pet can fill the gap for daily companionship for the one in three adults over age 45 who report they are chronically lonely, according to an AARP Foundation report. Several studies are showing that boomers are not relocating, but are making home modifications to facilitate aging in order to stay at home over the next 30-50 years. Some of the updates: smart thermostats, keyless entries and no step shower entries.
The secret to being happier, more productive and avoiding things that don’t matter.
A recent study found that people tend to fall into one of four biological aging pathways, or ageotypes: immune, kidney, liver or metabolic. Metabolic agers, for example, may be at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes as they grow older. Immune agers may generate more inflammation, and therefore be at higher risk for immune-related disease.
It could be that liver and kidney ageotypes may be more prone to liver or kidney diseases, respectively. There are likely other pathways, such as cardio agers who may be more prone to heart attacks, for example, but this study was limited to four main aging pathways. The next step is personalized medicine for aging.
Another study concluded that drinking low-fat milk (both nonfat and 1% milk) instead of whole milk accounted for 4.5 years of less aging in adults.
This week the temperature on planet Earth was probably raised several degrees from the heat generated by people worried that the latest US-Iranian confrontation would lead to an all-out war. But did you know that since the early 19th century, the average human body temperature in the United States has dropped to 97.9 from 98.6 F.
Researchers at Stanford University observed that the body temperature of men born in the 2000s is on average 1.06 F lower than that of men born in the early 1800s. Similarly, they observed that the body temperature of women born in the 2000s is on average 0.58 F lower than that of women born in the 1890s. These calculations correspond to a decrease in body temperature of 0.05 F every decade. The 98.6 standard was established by a German physician in 1851.
According to the researchers, the decrease in average body temperature could be explained by a reduction in metabolic rate, or the amount of energy being used. They hypothesize that advances in medical treatments, better hygiene, improved standards of living, and greater availability of food reduce inflammation. Inflammation produces proteins and cytokines that increase your metabolism and raise your temperature.
The researchers also hypothesize that comfortable lives at constant ambient temperature contribute to a lower metabolic rate. Homes in the 19th century had irregular heating and no cooling; today, central heating and air conditioning are commonplace. A more constant environment removes a need to expend energy to maintain a constant body temperature.
Some of the most memorable stories from the year 2019...
Potential Dementia Vaccine, SciBlog, 12.31.19
Could Decreasing Inflammation Be the Cure for Everything, AARP, 11.8.19
A Cure For Cancer?, JeruPost, 2.1.19
More Benefits Await for Medicare Advantage Plans, Kaiser, 9.26.19
Bargain Dentistry and a Vacation Too, Kaiser, 9.3.19
Will You Be Able to Afford Long-Term Care When You Need It, NYTimes, 5.13.19
Age-Proofing A Home Won't Come Cheap, Kaiser, 10.24.19
You Are In Your 60s and Haven't Saved Enough, WSJ, 10.4.19
The Fear of Spending During Your Retirement Years, Kiplinger, 2.9.1
Having That Family Talk About Aging, Stria, 11.26.19
Caring for Mom or Building a Future, WashPost, 11.3.19
Rational Suicide, Kaiser, 6.25.19
Company Assumptions About Older Adults Are Wrong, MIT, 10.7.19
The Benefits of Working Past Age 70, LondTimes, 8.21.19
Six New Technologies for Older Adults, Aging in Place, 7.11.19
A new study concluded that how people allocate their time in retirement is a factor in their wellbeing, and that most retirees are spending way too little of it on what they desire as they get older, contributing to a decrease in overall happiness. Passive activities such as watching television and staying at home were reported to generate the lowest amount of happiness, while more active endeavors, like socializing, volunteering, walking or exercising, were associated with the highest level of happiness.
The study found that as respondents aged, they spent more time watching television, staying home, and running errands, even though their desire to engage in active pursuits was found to have increased with age. One possible explanation for this is that people might start off in their retirement spending more time at home or watching more television, but eventually they found that engaging in more meaningful activities provided more happiness.