Quality of life for senior citizens poorer in the United States than in most first world countries.

Elderly_poor_1 While Americans think they are the best country in the world, when you look at various indicators the United States leaves a lot to be desired.

In the November/December, 2004 issue of the AARP magazine there is an interesting article describing some research in which the authors looked at 16 industrialized countries on 17 indicators regarding quality of life for senior citizens.

The United States ranks 13th out of 16 behind countries like Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Japan, Canada, and France. We are, however, doing better than United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy.

Some of the indicators the United States does worst on are Life Expectancy at Birth, Total Health Costs, Public Spending on Social Programs, Economic Inequality, and Retirement Age for Full Benefits.

It is interesting how the richest, most powerful nation in the world does so poorly at taking care of its most vulnerable citizens, namely, its seniors and its children.

Perhaps our perverted policies which lead to the fighting of wars for "freedom and democracy" while we neglect the welfare of our own citizens leaves much of the world wondering about what the United States values really are. If freedom and democracy are such great things and yet the United States enriches its elite by waging pre-emptive wars while it treats its own citizens poorly and further bankrupts the nation, it might make one wonder if these are the kinds of government policies that people would really want?

Americans continue to support policies that favor an industrial/military corporate elite rather than their own, their elderly parents, and their children and grandchildrens' best interests. It is puzzling especially because they claim to do this based on "values".

In looking closely at cultural indicators, though, people don't seem to act on the very values that they claim to espouse, namely Christian values for justice, equality, and service to the poor. Vulnerable populations continue to be marginalized, pushed aside, and deprived as the elite and affluent capitalize on activities that enhance economic rewards at the same time they oppress and disregard the needs and desires of the more vulnerable and less powerful.

Check out the AARP article.

Link: AARP Magazine : As Good As It Gets.

Supplements Don't Affect Mental Powers of Elderly

Save your money. According to a study reported in the journal, Neurology, in November 2004, dosing with antioxicants, even for years, don't change cognitive performance in the elderly.

"Supplementation with antioxidants, zinc or copper has neither a beneficial nor harmful effect on cognition in elderly people, a new study indicates.

"Oxidative pathways" are thought to be involved in common forms of dementia, Dr. Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues note in the medical journal Neurology.

Also, the authors point out, "Several observational studies of non-demented older adults have suggested that high antioxidant dietary intake or the use of antioxidant supplements is associated with better cognitive performance."

With this background, the researchers examined the effects of daily antioxidant and/or mineral supplements on the mental abilities of elderly participants in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study.

The subjects were randomly assigned to take antioxidants (500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 units of vitamin E, and 15 milligrams of beta carotene); or 80 milligrams of zinc and 2 milligrams of copper; or antioxidants plus zinc and copper; or placebo.

A year before entering the study, the participants' dietary intake was assessed using a standardized food questionnaire.

After an average of 6.7 years, a total of 2166 patients who completed study underwent a battery of tests to evaluate their cognitive powers.

No significant differences were seen between any of the groups on any of the eight parts of the six tests administered, Yaffe and her colleagues report."

Link: MedlinePlus: Supplements Don't Affect Mental Powers of Elderly.

To Improve Brain Activity, Put Down the Remote


"Even if someone makes healthy lifestyle changes for just two weeks, it can improve memory and other brain activity.

Suppose you're middle-aged and have some trouble remembering names, faces, or where you put your keys. If you undertook a two-week program consisting of a healthy diet, relaxation exercises, brisk daily walks, and memory training, could it alter your brain activity and improve your memory?

It looks as though it can, a small study conducted by Gary Small, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and aging at the University of California at Los Angeles, and colleagues suggests. Small reported their findings at the Ninth International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, held in Philadelphia in July."

I've noticed this myself. When I walk, even though, it is hard for me to push myself, I feel sharper, and physically better. This report has encouraged me further to keep some sort of exercise activity in my daily schedule. I'm 58.

To Improve Brain Activity, Put Down the Remote -- Arehart-Treichel 39 (19): 34 -- Psychiatric News

Study says older person abuse widespread

"A substantial number of older persons, from 2 to 10 percent of the elderly population, are physically or mentally abused, a report says.

Further, mistreated seniors are three times more likely to die within three years than those who are not abused, says a report by two Cornell University gerontologists in this week's issue of the British medical journal The Lancet.

"This vastly unrecognized and undertreated problem compromises the quality of life for millions of older people worldwide," says Karl Pillemer, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell.

Pillemer collaborated with Dr. Mark S. Lachs, co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, on the risk factors, screening, clinical manifestations, diagnosis and treatment of elder abuse."

One of the factors that contributes to elder abuse is the lack of resources for care givers, or care givers being overwhelmed with the amount of care that an elder requires.

In Genesee County, NY they have just developed a new web based directory that helps people walk through the needs of their elders and resources available to help. You can access this web assessment and resource directory on the Genesee County web site. Click on Care Options For Seniors in the drop down box. There is a lot of good information there even if you don't live in Genesee County.

MedlinePlus: Study says older person abuse widespread

Letter To A Great Grandson, the book


Hugh Downs has written a cute little book entitled, Letter To A Great Grandson: A Message of Love, Advice, and Hope for the Future. It is a letter to his young great grandson, Alexander, who currently is a toddler, sharing reminisces of Hugh's life, his projections of what life might be like for Alexander at different decades of his life, and advice on how to handle things. The book is broken up into decades. So Hugh talks about what life is like in your 20s, your 30s, all the way up to your 90s.

Apparently, Hugh has taken some advanced study in social gerontology so the book follows a framework of describing the stages of life thoughout the life cycle. One of the more interesting things is that he divides the life cycle into 17 stages. I have never seen anything quite so detailed before. Here are the stages of the life cycle according to Hugh Downs:

1. Zygote
2. Embryo
3. Fetus
4. Newborn
5. Baby
6. Infant
7. Toddler
8. Small Child
9. Half-grown child
10. Adolescent
11. Young adult 21-33
12. Prime adult 34-55
13. Young middle age 56-65
14. Prime middle age 66-75
15. Young old 76-88
16. Old old 89-98
17. Ancient 99 and beyond

I am very gratified to learn that I am still in young middle age and haven't even hit my "prime" yet. Golly, I feel a lot younger already. Hugh earned the price of the book, in my eyes, with this little schema itself.

I also learned that Hugh has read all the Great Books and has set for himself the goal of reading them all a second time before he dies. I have never done this and I would guess that few people have, so this is something, I think I will look into.

The rest of the stuff I skimmed frankly.

Other than what I have said above, I don't know if I would buy and read this book again. It was OK, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, unless you're into this schmaltzy kind of stuff.

Launching our kids and caring for our elders

sandwich_generationCheck out True Grit written by the author of the Blog Freudian Pink Slip on 09/02/04. She talks about celebrating the accomplishments of raising and launching kids and then having to focus on taking care of aging parents. It reminded me of Mary Pipher's book, Another Country.

People in this position are sometimes referred to as the "sandwich generation."

Look out - the senior boomers are coming

aging_hippiesThe gerontologists define the aged as people over 65. They divide the 65+ crowd as the young-old who are 65 - 74, the old-old who are 75 - 84, and the oldest - old who are 85+.

Interestingly the fastest growing segment of the American population is the oldest old, the 85+ group, and this is before the baby boomers become "senior boomers" and they won't begin to reach 85+ until 2030.

But here's also where the stereotypes don't play out. Even though more people are living longer, only 5% of the oldest-old wind up in nursing homes. People tend to live healthier and die faster even though they are living longer. This phenomenon even has a name. The gerontologists call it "compression of morbidity" by which they mean that old folks only experience a few years of major illness before it kills them at the end of their lives.

70% of the oldest-old are women who are single because they are widowed, divorced, or were never married. Almost 20% of the oldest old live near or below the poverty line. (There are fewer oldest-old living in poverty than previously because of Social Security)

The number of centenarians also is growing. In 2000 it was estimated that there were about 70,000 people in the United States who were 100+. By 2030, it is estimated that the number will more than quadruple to about 324,000.

As this part of the population continues to expand what will be the new social roles these people will play in our society? They are vital, creative, wise, with many years of life experience. This may be one of the biggest changes our society has ever seen since the baby boomers were born and brought us the 60s. These baby boomers are becoming the senior boomers and will be bringing us the teens, the 20s, and the 30s.

The graying of America

old_folksI have been doing some reading about the demographics of the aging of America and I wondered if you might find some of these facts interesting?

The life expectancy in 1900 was 47. In 1998, it was 78.

In 1900, people 65+ comprised 4% of the population, and in 2000 they comprised 13% of the population. By 2030, they will comprise 20% of the population, one out of five.

In 1998, if you were 65 and female you could expect to live another 19.2 years and die at 84.2 years. If you were male at 65 in 1998, you could expect to live another 15.8 years and die at 80.8 years.

52% of the people 65+ in the United States live in just 9 states: California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey.

States with the highest proportion of its citizens over 65 are Florida with 18.3%, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island with 16%, and West Virginia, Iowa, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Connecticut with 15%. Florida has a high proportion because of the number of older people moving in, and West Virginia and South Dakota because of the young people moving out.

States with the lowest proportion of people 65+ are Alaska with only 5.5%, and Utah with 8.8%

On a world wide basis some European countries have high proportions of people over 65, and low birth rates so the proportions keep growing to the extent that they are looking at immigration as a way of recruiting more younger working people into their countries.

When the baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) become "senior boomers" between 2010 and 2030, the proportion of Americans 65+ will move towards 20% or one out of five until by 2030, the proportion of the population 17 and under will equal the population 65 and older.

It is fascinating to speculate what these demographic trends mean for our culture, our social policies, our economy, our heath care system, etc.

It would seem reasonable to say that our preoccupation with our "youth culture" will diminish, and more attention and focus will shift to the older folks. They will have the money, the power, the knowledge, and the numbers. It could be that the little old granny, and dirty old man jokes won't seem quite so funny anymore.

Quote of the day

"Indeed it is assumed that a person does not have the capacity for true wisdom until the years have bestowed the benefits arising from the experience of such seeming polarities as success and failure, gain and loss, love and fear, sickness and health, and life and death."

William Martin