weekly blog--one for the ages
And the headline has nothing to do with today's chilly weather. People are living longer. To be happy and fulfilled during your extended life, you will need to be able to support yourself financially and emotionally. And it should come as no surprise that most people are poorly prepared for the effects of rising life expectancy.
The usual response is to push back your retirement age, cut the pension and increase the contribution rate. But a 100-year life requires more than a change in financial planning. There is no financial nudge big enough to deal with it, and some of the big changes will have to come from our non-financial behavior.
Some lessons learned from one retirement expert:
Sometimes it takes being shut-in on an extremely frigid day to realize how much stuff you have collected over the years. Fortunately, my wife and I remain outside the six percent of people worldwide who are categorized as hoarders.
To begin, hoarding in the clinical sense was initially called Collyer’s syndrome in honor of two brothers who buried themselves with stuff in their Harlem mansion between 1909 and 1947. With the postwar economic boom, people of modest means began acquiring more and more objects, and Collyer’s syndrome became more widespread.
In those days, psychologists believed that hoarding was a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder--a repeated, ritualized action intended to ward off anxiety. That categorization held until 2013 when psychologists connected hoarding to an array of causes spanning everything from an over-cluttered home to the accumulation of live animals.
The curse of the hoarder: objects take on individual personalities with outsized emotional significance. People resist parting with them because of their perceived potential, their sentimental significance, their triggered memories, or for some other reason.
People with severe hoarding disorder tend to be easily distracted, and have a hard time focusing and concentrating. Paradoxically, they also tend to be perfectionists, so they’ll put off making decisions rather than risk being wrong.
And when it comes to their own stuff, they don’t categorize by type. Instead of looking at an object as a member of a large group, they see it as a single item that is unique and special with its own history, significance, and worth.
According to researchers, hoarding gets progressively worse as a person ages, and is exacerbated by bereavement, divorce, fuzzy thinking, or financial crisis. One study concluded that fifteen percent of depression-stricken older adults engaged in extreme hoarding. Which makes sense since both disorders impact the brain in the frontal lobe area, which is responsible for such things as organizing and arranging.
When a family member, close friend or good Samaritan tries to step in and help, most hoarders respond with hostility and deep mistrust. To jumpstart the cleaning and organizing process, it’s best to make the hoarder feel like they are in control.
It came as no surprise that my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Sundown Syndrome following a recent hospital stay. The term refers to a state of confusion associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s that occurs in the late afternoon and spans into the night. Symptoms can include anxiety, aggression, ignoring directions, paranoia, difficulty separating reality from dreams, and pacing and wandering.
The exact cause of this behavior is unknown, but fatigue, low lighting, increased shadows, disruption of the body’s “internal clock,” and the presence of an infection such as a urinary tract infection, may aggravate the situation.
When sun downing occurs in a care facility such as the one where my mother-in-law is recuperating, it may be related to the flurry of activity during staff shift changes or the lack of structured activities in the late afternoon and evening. Staff arriving and leaving may cue some patients to want to go home or to check on their children, or other behaviors that were appropriate in the late afternoon in their past.
The chronic shortage of professional care workers only adds to the burden care facilities face in providing patient support. The crisis is most acute in Japan where government projections show that by 2025, the country’s first baby boomers will have turned 75 and 7 million people will be suffering from some form of dementia.
Accordingly, the government projects that it won’t be able to avert a dementia crisis without an additional 380,000 senior care workers. And despite the government’s best efforts to bolster the numbers of senior care workers with foreigners, the plan has been a bust with the national caregiver examination proving a major hurdle to pass.
Another grim reality is that 19 to 38 percent of foreign nurses who pass the exam opt to leave the industry and return home, citing tough work conditions and long hours.
Enter the care robot. In Japan there are robots that mimic cute furry animals, small children, human shaped “humanoids” or full-sized lifting and walking robots. One that offers great potential is the Telenoid. It specializes in friendly communication for dementia patients who live alone or in nursing homes. The goal is to improve communication with family and staff as well as serving as conversation stimuli.
At first glance the Telenoid looks like a bald, expressionless, unfinished robot from a horror movie. However, it is designed to mimic the gestures as well as to broadcast the voice of remote users, and is intentionally designed to be unisex, ageless and easy to hug in a person’s lap.
The Telenoid is maneuvered remotely using an external tablet, and the robot’s mouth and head moves to mimic conversation. From a psychological standpoint the austere exterior encourages recipients to harness the power of imagination to envision the Telenoid as a positive image of the person they are actually talking to, or someone they want to talk to.
A research study by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development showed that, with robot care, seniors’ autonomy, sociability, mood and communication improved along with a better quality of life over all.
One last thing…On the horizon, a way to prevent Alzheimer’s using a drug under development to treat stroke patients: https://scienceblog.com/505298/stroke-drug-may-also-prevent-alzheimers-disease/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+scienceblogrssfeed+%28ScienceBlog.com%29
This week's blog was supposed to give an historical perspective about the Elixirs of Immortal Life found in different cultures around the world. And as so often happens, my research led me to something quite unexpected, a fast-growing chain of coffee shops based in California that caters to those looking to add extra energy to their day while improving the odds of living a long healthy life.
Bulletproof's heavenly elixir, which took the owner about six years and tens of thousands of dollars to perfect, features coffee with a dollop of butter from grass fed cows in it or a teaspoon of brain octane oil, which is similar to coconut oil and provides ketones or fat-energy to the brain. You can also order a cup with grass fed collagen protein and other upgrades that contribute to a feeling of immortality--at least for the day anyway.
However, there's more going on at these shops than just coffee.
The couch and chairs emit a gentle electromagnetic field to increase the blood flow in your body. Throughout the day, the shop’s lighting shifts the color spectrum to match your diurnal circadian rhythms. A long metal panel that’s been electrically grounded on the floor is designed to reduce inflammation that builds up from the rubber soles in most shoes.
Customers are also invited to stand on an elevated vibrating square pedestal near the cash register while waiting for their drink. The pedestal tricks the body into thinking it’s moving at 30 times the rate it actually is, making it an ideal spot to assume a quick lunge or yoga pose.
Further, all of the water used is purity-tested from an advanced water filtration system using coconut charcoal, which filters out the toxins and heavy metals, and controls the water alkalinity to enrich the flavor of your coffee.
Behind Bulletproof’s concept is the fairly new practice of Biohacking. It can best be defined as a do-it-your-self approach to manipulating your environment to get the best results possible from your body. Biohacking often takes place in small labs—mostly non-university where people get together to experiment with biology on the cheap.
That could mean figuring out how the DNA in plants affects their growth, how to manipulate genes from another source to make a plant glow in the dark, or hacking your own biology to gain control of systems in your body that you would never have access to. The research often is aimed at producing a product such as Bulletproof’s heavenly brew.
As we start the year 2019, the definition of “old” continues to be a subjective, moving target. Just ask people in their 20s and 30s who think that old starts at age 59, or those in their 40s and 50s who believe old starts at 65, or those AARPies 60 and older who say that old begins at 73.
And then there are people like my father who finally admitted to “feeling” old while laid-up in bed for a week at age 93. And still others who simply look to more visible signposts like having to add an extra 15 minutes to a roundtrip bike ride that once took only two hours, or avoiding downhill skiing altogether for fear of not being able to get up from a fall.
And then you run into people like 95-year-old Phyllis Sues from Los Angeles who just published a book about aging. She launched a business at 50, became a trapeze enthusiast at 75, took her first yoga lesson ten years later, began tango dancing shortly after, and jumped out of a plane at age 90.
But don’t tell that to the descendants of Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who holds the record as the world’s oldest person. She was 122 years and 164 days when she died in 1997. However, a Moscow-based mathematician claims that it was actually Jeanne Calment’s 99-year-old daughter. He believes that Jeanne died in 1934 and her daughter, Yvonne, took her mother’s identity to avoid paying taxes.