weekly blog--one for the ages
The Holiday Season is supposed to be joyous and celebratory, but for some people it’s filled with stress, anxiety and loneliness. The operative word for today’s blog is loneliness, highlighted by an article in this morning’s New York Times about people dying alone in Japan.
“Kodokushi” is the term the Japanese use for people dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a long period of time. The country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reported there were 3,700 “unaccompanied deaths” in 2013, but some researchers estimate that because of significant under-counting, the true figure is closer to 30,000. Almost a quarter of Japanese men and a tenth of Japanese women over age 60 say there is not a single person they could rely on in difficult times.
Over the last decade, physicians and researchers in the US have begun looking deeply into the impact of loneliness and social isolation on health, well being, and mortality, and the data on the subject is overwhelming: a lonely person is significantly more likely to suffer an early death than a non-lonely one. Most of this research is centered on geriatrics, where feelings of loneliness are powerfully predictive of mortality. A few years ago researchers at Brigham Young University found that social isolation increases your risk of death by 30%, and some estimates have it as high as 60%.
The bottom line this holiday season: Try to reach out to a family member or someone in your community who may need a little more help. And if you are the one feeling alone and depressed, here is a guide on how to stay connected and engaged: http://info4seniors.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Expanding-Circles.pdf.
What would Thanksgiving be without leftovers? Just in case you were ever wondering…
Does eating turkey really make you sleepy? Contrary to popular belief, eating turkey doesn’t make you sleepy. It’s a great example of pseudoscience. The idea comes from the knowledge that turkey contains a lot of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. We can’t make it, so we must get it from our diet. Tryptophan can be a template for a lot of stuff, such as hormones and chemicals inside the brain called neurotransmitters. It’s unique among amino acids in this regard. So the link most people make is that tryptophan can be converted into serotonin, which can be converted into melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep/wake cycles.
However, turkey doesn’t actually have a particularly high level of tryptophan. It’s got less than nuts or cheese, for example. And hormones like melatonin are made in the brain, and after a big meal, tryptophan has a lot of competition from the other 19 amino acids found in turkey that are also trying to get into the brain. Passing the blood-brain barrier isn’t easy, and tryptophan doesn’t have special access. Imagine a crowd shoving into a store when the doors open on Black Friday.
Why do people tend to get tired after the holiday meal? We usually consume over 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving, which is almost twice the daily requirement for the average person. After we eat, blood starts to be redistributed to the gut, and your bloodstream gets flooded with hormones carrying messages between gut and brain. Some tell us how to process these nutrients.
Other hormones control hunger and satiety. Some of these hormones also work on other areas of the brain, to control alertness. In particular, orexin in the hypothalamus controls both appetite and alertness. When you feel full, orexin is inhibited, and you don’t get same high level of alertness as when you’re hungry. But it has nothing to do with the tryptophan in the turkey. A Tofurkey will make you just as sleepy as the real deal!
It’s that time of the year again. ConfrontingAging has to give the bird to someone. This year it was a toss-up between President Trump and Congressional Republicans supporting the new tax bill.
Consider President Trump and his hurtful tweets. Despite the old adage, words along with sticks and stones really do harm us.
Ah, but the Congressional Republicans with their new tax bill. That can really hit seniors where it hurts the most…their pocketbook.
If the tax bill passes as is by the end of the year, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that a "pay-as-you-go" sequestration law passed in 2010 would necessitate cuts to Medicare by as much as $25 billion in 2018. And with the absence of any more legislation, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget claims the cuts could reach almost a half trillion dollars over the next 10 years.
Pass the gravy please, and I'll take an extra helping of stuffing too.
Fed-up with pricey, boring funerals? In New Zealand, groups of older people are forming Coffin Clubs where members gather to construct and decorate their own coffins for use when needed. They also have tea, sing, dance, and support each other through the aging process.
One club video shows members dancing and singing about forgetting traditional gold and mahogany coffins, and building unique, affordable coffins that highlight their individual interests and personalities. One coffin is decked out with Elvis imagery; another is covered in painted flowers and a poem called “Wild Daisies.” Next Avenue
Faster than drying cement. More powerful than a box of prunes. Able to circumvent government regulations with a single bound. Look! Up in the sky. It’s a luxury condo. It’s a rental apartment complex. It’s a cohousing community! Yes, it’s a cohousing community, a strange living arrangement imported from Denmark which came to the US with powers and abilities far beyond those of communes and ordinary 55+ age communities. Cohousing, which can change the course of being alone; where units are privately owned; and where residents meet regularly to share meals and build community.
Of the 168 cohousing communities in the US, there are now 13 exclusively for the 55+ crowd, with two more under construction, and another 13 in the early stages of development. In 2010, there were no cohousing communities in the US geared toward seniors. In most cohousing communities, the residents start as strangers who plan to help each other for the rest of their lives. Part of the home-buying process includes months of getting-to-know-you activities that precede the purchase.
“The best thing about cohousing is the neighbors, and the worst thing about cohousing is the neighbors,” says one resident. “You get to know people in ways you wouldn’t. You’re putting up with everyone’s positives and negatives, and striking a balance between being in community and being an individual.” Kaiser
This weekend we move the clocks back to standard time from daylight savings time. In Massachusetts a special commission has recommended that the commonwealth along with the 5 other New England states remain on daylight savings time year-round, placing it in the same time zone (Atlantic) as the Canadian Maritime provinces, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and several other Caribbean and South American countries.
Experts say that by being an hour ahead Massachusetts would reap economic and medical benefits while reducing street crime, on-the-job-injuries and traffic fatalities. Whether the change comes to pass, the switch in time is also a good excuse to take care of important biannual tasks around your home.
Here are 9 tips from Good Housekeeping: Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and thermostat. Flip your mattress. Wash Pillows. Declutter your medicine cabinet and pantry. Clear the refrigerator coils. Vacuum the dryer vent and ducts. Replace or clean filters around your house. Clean the oven. Check and restock your emergency kit.
For older adults, I would add a 10th item: declutter your home or apartment. Three compelling reasons to do so: access and find what you want easily, open up space to reduce the possibility of tripping and hurting yourself, and leave less junk for your children and family to sort through in case you have to move.
According to a professional organizer, it takes 20 to 30 hours to organize a house. The essence of the job is to put things in four piles: To Keep, To Toss, To Sell or Give Away, and Undecided. For Undecided, it’s best to put a time limit on how long the item remains in that pile.