weekly blog--one for the ages
Summer is a wonderful time to break through boredom by trying the same old things in new ways. Researchers have discovered that using unconventional consumption methods helped people focus on what they enjoyed about the product in the first place.
Consider these activities for this summer’s bucket list:
Providing care for older people has become the classic example of a job native-born Americans would rather not take. It’s physically demanding work that pays poorly. The median wage for home care workers was $10.49 an hour in 2016 and usually doesn’t include benefits, according to a NY-based research organization. The aides, who are mostly women, frequently qualify for federal programs like food stamps or Medicaid.
The research firm estimates that one in four of the direct-care workers in U.S. nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home care agencies are foreign-born. In the so-called gray market, where consumers hire home care workers directly and often pay them under the table, the proportion is likely far higher.
The number of immigrants in direct care ballooned from 520,000 in 2005 to approximately one million in 2015, including those who work independently through state home care programs. In New York, California, New Jersey and Florida, more than 40 percent of direct-care workers are immigrants, and nationwide, nearly 35,000 come from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, whose immigrants have had temporary protected status in the United States.
The Trump administration recently terminated temporary work status for Haitians, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans. Also, temporary work status was terminated for immigrants from Sudan who will have to leave the United States as early as this fall. Another nearly 11,000 direct care workers come from largely Muslim countries affected by the Trump travel ban and might leave if family members can never join them. An unknown number of workers are DACA recipients who might eventually be forced to leave. Even when workers are legal residents they may consider moving when relatives are deported.
Eventually, especially in rural areas where home care workers have to travel long distances to clients, older adults along with younger ones with disabilities, may not be able to hire people who can help them remain in their homes. In cities and suburbs, older immigrants who want assistance from those who speak their native language could be similarly at a loss.
This seems to be the year of the PorchFest. Two Saturdays ago there was one in Newton; last Saturday it was Brookline’s turn. If you haven’t been to one, it’s essentially a music festival where groups perform on the front porches and in the front yards of houses throughout town. But did you know that music may actually help boost your health as well as your mood? This happens whether you listen, play or sing.
Music can also alter your brain chemistry, and these changes may produce cardiovascular benefits. According to researchers, music enables people to exercise longer during cardiac stress testing done on a treadmill or stationary bike. It can also improve blood vessel function by relaxing arteries, help heart rate and blood pressure levels to return to baseline more quickly after physical exertion, ease anxiety in heart attack survivors, and help people recovering from heart surgery to feel less pain and anxiety.
Like other pleasurable sensations, listening to or creating music triggers the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that makes people feel engaged and motivated. This connection could explain why relaxing music may lower heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and ease pain, stress, and anxiety.
Alas, if you are a musician, music may be good for the mind, but it may not be good for the body. The most common problems playing stem from repetitive motion, often in combination with an awkward body position and the weight or pressure of the musical instrument. A Canadian study found that 39% to 47% of adult musicians suffer from overuse injuries, mostly involving the arms.
A particularly disabling ailment of highly trained musicians is focal dystonia, a movement disorder that might be caused by overuse of parts of the nervous system. Another hazard is hearing loss caused by prolonged exposure to loud music. Brass and wind players may develop skin rashes triggered by allergies to the metal in their instruments. And the list includes disorders ranging from fiddler's neck to Satchmo's syndrome--rupture of a muscle that encircles the mouth.
And then there is a pop band in Japan whose players are all over the age of 80: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/08/health/japan-longevity-centenarians-aging-population/index.html
Michael Hilzik is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who writes a daily blog for the LA Times. In a recent blog, he pointed out a number of glaring oversights regarding the news coverage about the annual trustees’ reports about the future of Social Security and Medicare that were released earlier this week.
According to Hilzik, within moments of their appearance, the Associated Press reported that Medicare was projected to become “insolvent” in 2026, three years earlier than was projected last year. In actuality, the Medicare report projected that its hospital insurance trust fund, which applies to Medicare Part A, would be depleted in 2026, even though the program would be able to keep paying out more than 90% of scheduled benefits.
The bigger news was that the trustees concluded that the policies of congressional Republicans and the Trump White House have damaged the financial prospects of both programs, and that there could be additional funding deficits if the fertility levels stay low.
The bottom line: stabilizing the funding of Social Security and Medicare should be a high priority for Congress to assure working Americans that they will receive the income and health care they need in retirement. The long-run deficit can be eliminated only by putting more money into the system or by cutting benefits. There is no silver bullet.