weekly blog--one for the ages
With the debate about health care boiling over in the US, we take a look at how Japan is addressing some of the issues of aging via an article in Toronto’s Globe and Mail. About 25 percent of the country’s population is currently over the age of 65 with a demographic forecast of 40 percent by the year 2060. Also, between 2010 and 2060, the percent of people over age 75 will double from 11 percent to 27 percent.
For businesses, Japan’s aging society is a reality as well as an opportunity. One company created a hybrid store featuring a seniors’ salon with a blood pressure monitor, pamphlets on municipal health care services and nursing homes, and on-staff social workers.
The store also has a special section featuring adult diapers, special wipes for bathing the elderly, straw cups, a gargling basin and detergent that is tough on urine and perfect for bed mats and wheelchair coverings. Staff will also deliver heavier items, such as bags of rice or water, to local residents.
Additionally, to attract workers, the company raised its maximum employment age, and is experimenting with lower part-time hours and jobs with very limited tasks.
Concerned about how Japan’s aging and shrinking work force will slow down the national economy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has initiated an “Abenomics” revival program which includes getting more women in the workplace, and supporting new medical technologies, including experimental regenerative medicine and cell therapy. The hope is that with two new acts governing regenerative medicine to help commercialize technologies more quickly, the government can save money on future health care costs while spurring the creation of a valuable new industry.
17 years ago, Japan chose to supplement its national pension plan with comprehensive long-term-care insurance (LTCI). People pay into the system starting in their 40s and are eligible to receive benefits starting at 65, or earlier in the case of illness. When they apply, applicants are interviewed by a municipal employee who feeds the resulting information into an algorithm that assigns the person a care level.
The information is analyzed by an expert committee of welfare workers. A care plan is then drawn up, allowing the patient to choose between competing institutions and service providers offering everything from home visits, bathing and help getting groceries to paying for short stays in hospitals or long-term residence in nursing homes and specialized group homes for dementia patients.
The LTCI system covers up to $2,900 a month in services, as opposed to cash payment, and does require “co-payments” from patients. LTCI co-payments are capped or waived for low-income individuals, and the system saves money by providing options other than full-on institutionalization.
Meanwhile, Japanese researchers are now looking at whether robots can help as the country ages, from robot suits that help rehabilitation to fully functional humanoid robots. One company currently sells a furry robotic seal called Paro, which has been proven in various settings to reduce anxiety, stress, depression and even patients’ perception of pain during chemotherapy treatments.
What AARP Has To Say About the New Healthcare Bill:
8 Countries Where $200K will Last 30 Years of Retirement:
Trumpcare Could Bring Back Epidemic of Nursing Home Abuse:
Comienza el verano, Summer begins…When the weather is nice I like biking from my house to Walden Pond, about a 15 mile ride. In late March 1845 Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond to build a house on land owned by his close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. At Walden, Thoreau explored Walden Woods and recorded his observations on nature in his Journal. By the time he left the pond on September 6, 1847, he had combined lectures that he gave on life at Walden with more notes from his journal to produce the first draft of a book which he hoped to publish.
Fast forward to Japan in the 1980s where the practice of “shinrin-yoku” emerged. Essentially, “forest bathing” is immersion in the forest as a way to clear your mind, open your senses and take advantage of the healing power of nature. The science behind it: studies suggest that when you are in nature, the trees and plants emit oils called phytoncides that enhance the immune system. By gently breathing in and out, you remove toxins in your body.
If only Thoreau knew!
Setting politics aside, I was quite skeptical when President Trump claimed that he was in excellent health despite appearing to be overweight. But in this case, it was one of the few times he wasn’t lying.
Enter the world of the Obesity Paradox, a medical hypothesis which holds that obesity may, counter-intuitively be protective and associated with greater survival in certain groups of people, such as very elderly individuals or those with certain chronic diseases. It further postulates that normal to low body mass index or normal values of cholesterol may be detrimental and associated with higher mortality in asymptomatic people.
A research study published in 2012 found that individuals over the age of 65 with a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 had the lowest mortality rate of any of the BMI categories studied — and lower than individuals with a BMI considered “healthy.” A 2014 meta-analysis found that, for individuals over the age of 65, the lowest mortality rate occurs among people with a BMI between 24.0 and 30.9.
Researchers aren’t sure why this is the case, but hypotheses abound. Some researchers say that individuals with “risky” obesity might die earlier, while those with “less risky” obesity live longer. Another possibility is that the imprecision of BMI as a metric.
So, if the Obesity Paradox is true, you can contribute to making America great again by taking your elderly father out for ice cream this Father’s Day. Or consider a beer and donut, now trending in Los Angeles. Or you can give him a copy of Harvard Medical School’s Guide on Men’s Health to learn the steps, strategies, and secrets to defy age-related diseases, stay mentally and physically fit, boost sexual vitality, and live longer.
A few weeks ago I ditched my real estate agent license to become the higher-level real estate broker. To do so, I had to take a 40 hour class spread across four days over a two week period, and then pass the national and state exams where the failure rate was upwards of 30 percent.
At age 65 the task seemed daunting, but to my surprise, I managed to endure. It also provided insight into how my learning style had changed since I took the agent exam about eight years ago. No longer could I memorize long vocabulary lists or math equations, or use a highlighter to mark and remember key concepts. I had to absorb information by thinking and doing--mostly by taking lots and lots of practice tests. Then again, maybe that’s the way I should have been learning all along.
Surprisingly, research on elderly learning styles is just beginning to emerge. One study found that older adults did best using one of four styles: Accommodator, Assimilator, Diverger, and Converger.
Accordingly, the 55 to 65 age group preferred the Accommodator learning style (learning by feeling and doing), the 66 to 74 age group preferred the Diverger style (learning by feeling and watching), and the 75+ group preferred the Assimilator style (learning by thinking and watching). Among all the survey participants, fewer preferred the Converger style, which involves thinking and doing while learning. I think that’s the equivalent of patting your head, rubbing your tummy, running in place and humming a Beatles tune at the same time.
The study’s conclusion: not all older learners are active, hands-on learners as adult education literature suggests, but rather with age there is a tendency to become more reflective and observational in the learning environment.
A recent blog in Harvard Medical School’s Health e-letter offered four effective learning strategies to use regardless of age based on recent research findings.
Quiz yourself frequently on the material you read. Make flashcards of important topics. Generate questions and answers from the material and regularly quiz yourself. Keep retrieving knowledge from your memory. It will prevent forgetting and allow you to identify areas you do not know to focus future study.
Space out your studying and quizzes. Spread out when you quiz yourself by hours, days, weeks, and months. As you gain mastery over the material, keep spacing the quizzes further apart.
Quiz yourself on different topics in each study session. For example, if you are studying for a biology test, don’t just study the chapters in order. Mix in questions from different chapters as you study. Interleaving, or alternating topics, will improve your ability to remember and apply information in the future.
Ask yourself questions while you are reading. Why is this happening? Why does this make sense? Or why does this not make sense? Asking “why” will help you process the information you are reading and apply it in future situations.
Earlier this week, one of our operatives stumbled into a back channel in the basement of Trump Tower that led directly to the Kremlin in Moscow. It gave our operative an opportunity to find out how the Russian government supports its elderly population.
Russia has always been home to a mixture of Western and Eastern values, and these values affect attitudes toward aging. In the Southern Republics, having an older person in your family commands respect and honor. The Central and Western regions of the country are more influenced by European values, with fears about the aging process and becoming a burden to their families.
In 2014, life expectancy in Russia was 79 years for women and 64 years for men, up from 74 and 59, respectively, in 2010. The formal retirement age for women is 55, and for men 60. Formal retirement means that if a person who reaches the appropriate age wants to retire, he/she can do so, although it is not mandatory. A person can continue his/her career after reaching the retirement age, while also acquiring the social status of a retiree and receiving a retirement allowance from the government.
In 2014, there were 33,788,600 people over the retirement age representing 23.3 percent of the national population (143,666,900). The proportion of the “retirement age” population is expected to grow to 28 percent by 2030. 12.3 percent of 55–59 year-olds, 6.7 percent of 60–64 year-olds, and 3.2 percent of 65+ year-olds work past the formal retirement age.
Russia’s pension system has two pillars: the insurance portion and the funded portion. The former is a pay-as-you-go pension, much like Social Security in the United States: Current workers are charged payroll tax (directly from their wages) that redistributes money to retirees. Payouts are determined by a point system (each point is worth about 74 rubles). Pensioners are assigned a certain number points based on their income and other characteristics (state sector work, veteran status, etc.).
The second pillar is perhaps better described as a nest-egg: current workers can elect to divert a portion of their payroll tax into an individual account that is either state run or privately managed. However, this is not a private arrangement like a 401(k). All pension funds collected through payroll taxes are first sent to the Pension Fund of Russia, and are then transferred to whatever management arrangement a worker has selected.
Overall, pension amounts can range from hardly enough to live on to that comparable with the salary of a middle-class specialist.
On paper, Russian citizens are entitled to free universal health care through state-run medical clinics. In practice, they are required to take out compulsory private medical insurance. It’s also common for patients at state hospitals to bribe doctors for adequate treatment. Although hospitals in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the country’s two biggest cities, are largely serviceable, the situation is different in cash-strapped regions which reportedly have more in common with Third World countries.
Russia’s health care system is ranked 130 out of 190 countries by the World Health Organization. France is first followed by Italy, San Marino, Andorra, Malta, Singapore and Spain. Canada is ranked number 30, the US is 37 and China is 144.
Social services for aging people in Russia include a variety of options. There are educational centers called “third age schools,” where aging people can learn different subjects and skills.
For those who need social or medical assistance, there are “social houses” and “homes for elderly.” “Social houses” provide temporary care and are supported by the government. Aging people live in their own apartments for a limited time (usually several weeks) supported by doctors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists.
“Homes for elderly” are permanent residences staffed by social workers, doctors and nurses, where residents receive everything they need for their health conditions. There are both public and private “homes for elderly.” Due to traditional and very conservative values, “homes for elderly” are associated with a variety of negative stereotypes, and most people, both young and old, are afraid of such institutions.
Social support includes help of a material nature, both monetary and goods, and of a non-material nature, such as special services and benefits (e.g., discounts for certain services). There is also a list of free medications that people can receive in certain pharmacies, which has provoked some public discussion about the medications that are included in the list, and the availability and provision of these medications in the pharmacies.