weekly blog--one for the ages
In 1970, seven per cent of Costa Rican children died before their first birthday. By 1980, only two per cent did. In the course of the decade, maternal deaths fell by eighty per cent. The nation’s over-all life expectancy became the longest in Latin America, and kept growing. By 1985, Costa Rica’s life expectancy matched that of the United States. Now it’s 81 years old compared to the US’s 79.
Demographers and economists have taken notice. The country is now the best performer among a handful of countries that seems to defy the rule that health requires wealth. Costa Rica’s per-capita income is a sixth that of the United States, and its per-capita health-care costs are a fraction of the US’s. People who have studied Costa Rica have identified what seems to be a key factor in its success: the country has made public health, measures to improve the health of the population as a whole, central to the delivery of medical care.
But what set Costa Rica apart isn’t simply the amount it spends on health care. It is how the money is spent: targeting the most readily preventable kinds of death and disability.
Learn More: Costa Ricans Live Longer Than Us. What’s the Secret? | The New Yorker
There is a giant tortoise on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic that was born in 1832. Sea turtles can live from 50 to 100 years. Box turtles can live more than a century. So why do turtles live so long? There's an evolutionary answer and a biological answer, says a professor at Arkansas State University who studies turtles and other reptiles.
The evolutionary answer is relatively straightforward: Animals such as snakes and racoons love to eat turtle eggs. To pass on their genes, turtles have to live a long time and breed frequently, sometimes multiple times per year, and lay a lot of eggs.
The biological mechanism behind turtles' longevity is more complicated. One clue to turtles' longevity lies in their telomeres, structures composed of noncoding strands of DNA that cap the ends of chromosome. These structures help protect the chromosomes as cells divide. Over time, telomeres get shorter or degrade, which means they can no longer protect their chromosomes as well, leading to issues with DNA replication. And errors in DNA replication can lead to issues such as tumors and cell death.
Also, giant tortoises and a few other turtle species seem to be able to protect themselves from the long-term effects of cell damage. They do this by quickly killing off damaged cells, using a process called apoptosis or programmed cell death.
Learn More: Why do turtles live so long? | Live Science
When Medicare was created, its architects assumed expansion, both in terms of population and in terms of benefits later, according to a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina. “They didn’t anticipate the shift in American politics to the right, and they didn’t anticipate that Medicare would be labeled a fiscal problem and that policymakers would be more concerned with avoiding the next trust fund shortfall than expanding benefits,” he says.
Learn More: Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover Services So Many Seniors Need? | Kaiser Health News (khn.org)
Pulling a loved one out of a long-term care facility when the pandemic hit was often a great alternative for those who could afford it. However, for others, that was never an option. Paying for home care out of pocket can run a steep price tag, depending on the state and amount of care required. In Pittsburgh, for example, a home caregiver that works 40 hours a week costs around $,000 per month, slightly more than an assisted living facility.
Chronic conditions, like dementia, require around-the-clock care. A home caregiver that works hands-on, 24/7 can cost more than $17,000 each month, significantly more than a private nursing home room, which hovers around $10,000.
Learn More: Pulling family from nursing homes during Covid was great — but pricey (statnews.com)
Aging men have more resources available to them than aging women, according to a new global study. The Netherlands had the largest gap between men and women of the 18 countries studied. Italy and Denmark were not far behind. The study also found that the largest differences emerged when accounting for how productive people were in society because men tend to out earn women and that women tend to outlive their partners and largely have to support themselves. Gender differences in countries' adaptation to societal ageing: an international cross-sectional comparison - The Lancet Healthy Longevity
Nearly three in five adults (about 60 percent) experienced pain of any kind in the three months prior to being surveyed by the CDC in 2019. Among adults, 39 percent experienced back pain, 36.5 percent experienced lower limb pain, and 30.7 percent experienced upper limb pain.
The prevalence of pain experienced at each of these locations increased with age and was highest among adults aged 65 and over. The prevalence of pain at each of these locations was lowest among men and non-Hispanic Asian adults. Finally, the percentage of adults who experienced back, lower limb, and upper limb pain decreased with increasing family income as a percentage of FPL. Products - Data Briefs - Number 407 - April 2021 (cdc.gov)
Improving air quality may improve cognitive function and reduce dementia risk, according to several studies reported at an Alzheimer’s conference in Denver. Improving air quality reduces dementia risk, multiple studies suggest - ScienceBlog.com
Middle- to older-aged adults who ate at least three servings of whole grains daily had smaller increases in waist size, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels over time compared to those who ate less than one-half serving per day, according to new research. Eating Whole Grains Linked to Smaller Increases in Waist Size, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar | Tufts Now
If you are concerned about managing a midlife crisis, wait until the late-life crisis hits. Recent research has found that as many as one in three people over 60 will experience it in some form. The late-life crisis is characterized by dissatisfaction; a loss of identity; an expectations gap and the feeling that life has peaked, so it's all downhill from here. Are You Having a Late-Life Crisis? Here's What to Do. (nextavenue.org)
During the summer of 1972 when I was traipsing through Europe, Albania was a small communist-ruled country on the Adriatic Sea sandwiched between Greece and Yugoslavia that did not allow foreigners to enter freely. In fact, if you somehow managed to cross the border, knowingly or unknowingly, and got caught, there would be a good chance that you’d be thrown in jail for the rest of your life.
How times have changed. International Living Magazine offers six great reasons to now live in Albania. It’s easy to get too. Affordable. The people are friendly. It’s historic. The beaches are legendary. And so too are the mountains.
6 Great Reasons to Live in Beautiful Albania - International Living
Is it just a cold or is it Covid?
Doctors are beginning to notice Covid-19 cases that look more like a very bad cold, especially in areas of the country where the highly contagious delta variant is quickly spreading. It is not clear why common cold symptoms are increasingly being reported, though some experts suspect it could be due to the delta variant, which now accounts for about 20 percent of new cases in the U.S.
It's also possible the shift in symptoms has nothing to with the delta variant. Now that most older adults have received the Covid-19 vaccine, new cases are skewing toward younger, mostly unvaccinated, adults. Younger people have generally been spared the worst of Covid-19.
Common cold or Covid? Upper respiratory symptoms are growing more prevalent, docs say (nbcnews.com)
A new study suggests that about one-fifth of retirees will need no long-term care support at all and about one-quarter will have severe needs, with the rest facing low to moderate needs. Those who are married, better educated, white, or in better health will have more manageable needs. Learn about the resources available to meet care needs and the types of people most at risk of facing unmet needs: What Level of Long-Term Services and Supports Do Retirees Need? | Center for Retirement Research (bc.edu)
Meanwhile, For at least 20 years, national experts have warned about the dire consequences of a shortage of nursing assistants and home aides as tens of millions of baby boomers hit their senior years. Low wages and benefits, hard working conditions, heavy workloads, and a job that has been stigmatized by society make worker recruitment and retention difficult,” concluded a 2001 report from the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Enter President Biden who has allotted $400 billion in his infrastructure plan to expand home and community-based long-term care services to help people remain in their homes and out of nursing homes. Republicans are pushing back, noting that elder care didn’t fit the traditional definition of infrastructure, which generally refers to physical projects such as bridges, roads and such, and the bipartisan deal reached last week among centrist senators dealt only with those traditional projects. But Democrats say they will insist on funding some of Biden’s “human infrastructure” programs in another bill. Learn more: Desperate for Home Care, Seniors Often Wait Months With Workers in Short Supply | Kaiser Health News (khn.org)
Whenever there is a massive tragedy such as a pandemic, a war or a natural disaster, there is a corresponding surge in reports of people seeing the dead or trying to contact them.
The 1918 influenza epidemic sparked a “spiritualism craze" as Americans turned to seances and Ouija boards to contact departed loved ones. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks came a wave of people reporting sightings of and even conversations with those who had been snatched from their lives.
When a tsunami struck Japan in 2011, killing at least 20,000 people, so many inhabitants of Ishinomaki reported seeing their loved ones appear that a book and a documentary were made about this city of wandering ghosts.
These experiences can be subtle: relatives appearing in hyper-real dreams, a sudden whiff of fragrance worn by a departed loved one, or unusual behavior by animals. Other encounters are more dramatic: feeling a touch on your shoulder at night, hearing a sudden warning from a loved one, or seeing the full-bodied form of a recently departed relative appear at the foot of your bed.
These stories may sound implausible, but there is something in us -- or in our lost loved ones -- that won't accept not being able to say goodbye. Experiences like this are so common in the psychological field that there is a name for them: "ADCs" or "after death communications." Research suggests at least 60 million Americans have these experiences, and that they occur across cultures, religious beliefs, ethnicities, and income levels. Many of these encounters occur in the twilight state between sleeping and waking, but others have been reported by people who were alert.
They lost their loved ones to Covid. Then they heard from them again - CNN