Thursday, July 27, 2017

British Study Calls for End to “Age Apartheid”

Like our own country, Britain is in the midst of a polarizing political situation—made worse by intergenerational tension. A recent report from the organization United for All Ages pinpointed part of the problem: the generations spend much less time together than they once did! We hear about people of various political beliefs isolating themselves into a “bubble.” It seems that the generations, too, spend less time interacting.
United for All Ages is a think tank and social enterprise promoting an “all ages” approach to key social and economic issues. They recently released a report with suggestions on how to improve the situation in Britain, which could be very useful for policymakers and senior service organizations in the U.S., as well. The report, “A Country for All Ages: Ending Age Apartheid in Brexit Britain,” calls for “bringing older and younger people together through building multigenerational communities, innovative two-way relationships and better communication between generations.”
“Tackling intergenerational inequality is the challenge of our times,” according to United for All Ages. Here are some of their recommendations:
  • Building multigenerational communities: support for community businesses, making public spaces and shops more accessible, opening up community facilities from universities to older people’s housing programs for all ages, and co-locating childcare and eldercare facilities
  • Mutual support through two-way relationships: online mentoring of younger people, advocacy for older people needing health and social care, homeshare programs where younger people live with older people, and increased interaction between grandparents and grandchildren
  • Better communication between generations: establishing a national council for all ages supported by an intergenerational convention bringing older and younger people together from across the country, building bridges between generations with shared identities and interests, and using theatre, other arts activities, and street parties.
Today in the U.S., we are seeing some of these innovations. Children’s day care facilities located in nursing homes, assisted living communities and adult day centers are benefiting both young and old participants. For better or for worse, we have more multigenerational households today as rising housing costs make it a smart economic choice for senior parents and adult children. And statistics show that retired baby boomers are providing a growing amount of childcare for grandchildren.
We can do much more! These policies and programs enable young people to benefit from the wisdom and experience of older citizens, and reduce ageism and the stigma surrounding aging—which not only hurts seniors, but also makes it less likely that younger people will plan for their later years and make healthy-aging-friendly lifestyle choices.
Said United for All Ages Director Stephen Burke, “By sharing our concerns and interests and sharing our experiences and community activities across generations, we can promote stronger understanding and trust between people of all ages. Starting in our neighborhoods and communities, we can all take responsibility to make it happen. In our aging society, this is the big challenge for social innovation in 2017 and beyond.”
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on the “A Country for All Ages: Ending Age Apartheid in Brexit Britain” from United for All Ages. Read the whole report here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Can Skin Care Products Really “Turn Back Aging”?

Image result for elderly skin care
A celebrity touts the miraculous “fountain of youth” properties of an expensive face cream. A pop-up ad claims that “plastic surgeons don’t want you to know about this product that would put them out of business”! Dramatic before-and-after photos in the back of a gossip magazine show an elderly woman with a face of wrinkles, followed by a doctored “after” image with nary a line!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned a number of cosmetics companies that their marketing and advertising had crossed the line when making “anti-aging” claims. According to the FDA, these cosmetics makers claim their products can regenerate cells, boost the activity of genes and increase collagen and elastin in the skin. Said Dr. Linda Katz, director of the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, “Consumers need to know that these drug claims have not been proven to the FDA when they are making a decision to purchase one of these products.”
Dr. Katz reported that the FDA has seen a huge growth in the number of products making these claims. Anyone who watches late-night TV, goes on the internet or riffles through the back pages of a magazine knows what she’s talking about. She says that if makers of a skin care product claim their lotion or supplement can “turn back the biological clock,” consumers should remember the old saying: “If a product seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do to keep our skin as healthy as possible as we grow older. Though the appearance of our skin as we grow older comes, to an extent, from the genes we’re born with, many important lifestyle choices can keep our skin healthy looking:
  1. Use sunscreen. According to dermatologists, this is the top step we can take to protect our skin from premature aging. Sun exposure leads to freckles, age spots, leathery skin, spider veins and skin cancer. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher.
  2. Use a moisturizer. Especially during dry winter months, avoid chapping and cracking by applying a moisturizer to face, hands, and wherever else skin feels dry. Dermatologists say that certain ingredients are more effective at preventing wrinkles. But moisturizers need not be expensive. If yours has a high price tag, you may be paying for packaging and hype.
  3. Cleanse gently. Washing our face and hands regularly is so important for infection control, but some cleansers can strip the natural oils from our skin, leading to cracks and wrinkles. Look for a skin-friendly, gentle cleanser.
  4. Eat well and stay hydrated. A well-balanced diet that provides the nutrients we need helps keep our skin healthy. And drinking water helps us avoid dehydration of the skin – remember that alcoholic beverages have the opposite effect.
  5. Avoid stress. A number of skin disorders have been linked to the effects of stress. Reduce stress triggers in your life as much as you can, and talk to your healthcare provider about stress management practices. Don’t forget that exercise is a top stress reducer, and is beneficial to the skin in many ways.
  6. Get enough sleep. Sleep is the time when the body repairs and renews its various systems—including our skin. You’ve probably noticed that after a poor night’s sleep, your skin looks dull and saggy. This effect can be permanent if you continue to skimp on the shuteye.
  7. Stop smoking. Smoking causes premature wrinkling and sagging of the skin by narrowing the blood vessels so skin can’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to remain supple. Tobacco smoke also contains carbon monoxide and many harmful chemicals that destroy collagen and elastin.
If you have questions about your skin, talk to a dermatologist. These specialists can recommend products and procedures that improve the appearance and comfort of our skin as we grow older. Taking care of our whole body is the key to healthy-looking skin: It seems that beauty really isn’t skin deep!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Help Seniors Break the Cycle of Poor Health and Loneliness

Loneliness is a serious health problem for older adults. Studies over the past decade have found that feeling isolated can cause depression, raise our blood pressure, suppress our immune system, hasten the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and increase the perception of pain. Lonely people are less likely to exercise or eat a nutritious diet. A March 2017 study from the American Psychological Association even noted that people who feel lonely have a worse time of it when they come down with the common cold!
With all this evidence that loneliness raises our risk of illness and disability, could the opposite also be true? Researcher Meaghan Barlow of the Personality, Aging, and Health Lab at Concordia University in Quebec said, “We were surprised by the amount of literature that examined whether people who are lonely are more likely to get sick. Yet none of them asked the opposite question: ‘Do sick people get lonely?’”
To find out, Barlow and her team conducted a study of seniors with chronic illness, and found that illness can indeed lead to loneliness. The team urged people who are dealing with chronic illness to make social connections a priority. Said Barlow, “Putting a halt to socializing only contributes to a downward spiral. Dealing with a chronic illness shouldn’t prevent you from still trying to get out there if you can.”
The team warns of one pitfall: People with chronic conditions may blame themselves for the illness they are dealing with. Barlow said, “The fact that loneliness can lead to further complications means that measures can be taken to prevent the effects from looping back around. Finding different ways to connect with other people also means you are less likely to blame yourself for being sick.”
Another finding confirms that an ill person’s spouse or partner can’t provide all the social support they need. Said Barlow, “You can’t count on a partner to fill that gap. The quality of our social ties plays a role when it comes to coping with the effects of serious disease in later life. And just having a partner around may not be enough.”
Understanding this cycle can motivate ill seniors, their families and our public and private senior care organizations to make social opportunities a priority. Adapted activities, transportation and senior support services all help. And support groups can be of great benefit. When we’re dealing with a chronic condition, who better to understand what we’re going through than other people who are coping with the same challenges? Organizations that advocate for and serve the needs of people with health conditions often sponsor support groups—for example, the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, The Alzheimer’s Association and the American Heart Association. Support groups traditionally have met in person, but today more and more seniors are enjoying virtual companionship and a real mood boost through online support groups.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Before Your Cinco de Mayo Party, Check Your Medication Labels

Planning a margarita party for Cinco de Mayo? The National Institute on Aging says seniors should review their medications first, to prevent dangerous drug-alcohol interactions.
As we grow older, we’re more likely to develop health conditions that can affect our quality of life. The medications we take help us manage these conditions. But medications often have side effects, either by themselves, or in combination with other drugs. As we grow older, we’re more likely to experience these side effects, because our bodies process substances differently than they did when we were younger.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) also warns that many of these drugs can be dangerous if we take them with alcohol. These medications include those prescribed for common conditions such as:
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep problems
  • Arthritis
  • Mood disorders
  • Cough and cold
  • Blood clots
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Heartburn and indigestion
  • High cholesterol
  • Pain
Just as our bodies process medications differently as we age, we’re also more affected by alcohol—and the combined effects of both. Shedding light on the extent of this problem, the NIAAA conducted a study of 26,000 adults and found that almost half of senior adults who drink alcohol also take some of the above medications, putting themselves at risk of side effects that range from mild—nausea, headaches, loss of coordination—to severe, including internal bleeding, heart problems and difficulty breathing.
“Our findings show that a substantial percentage of people who drink regularly, particularly older adults, could be at risk of harmful alcohol and medication interactions,” said Dr. Rosalind Breslow, an epidemiologist in NIAAA’s Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research. “We suggest that people talk to their doctor or pharmacist about whether they should avoid alcohol while taking their prescribed medications.”
Dr. Breslow also recently reported that more seniors today are using alcohol, and many of them are drinking more than is safe. These studies remind us that drinking too much is very bad for the health of seniors—and when you add medications to the mix, the results can be deadly.
Visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website to find a complete list of commonly used medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter) that can have a negative reaction with alcohol.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Seniors and Food Safety: Do You Know the Facts?

Do you like to watch cooking shows? A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior suggests that the popularity of these programs might be one of the reasons that fewer Americans are taking precautions to avoid foodborne illness.
According to researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, during the past decade, fewer consumers reported that they practice food safety steps, such as washing their hands before handling food or keeping food at a safe temperature. To see if cooking shows set a bad example, the researchers watched several episodes of 10 popular shows and rated them on safe food handling practices.
Reported study author Nancy Cohen, PhD, RD, LDN, FAND, “The majority of practices rated were out of compliance or conformance with recommendations in at least 70 percent of episodes and food safety practices were mentioned in only three episodes.” Cohen added, “For most behaviors observed, the percentage of shows in conformance with recommended practices was much lower than that seen in restaurant employees and consumers in general.”
Cohen suggests that cooking shows could step up their game in this department. She says, “There are many opportunities on cooking shows to educate the public regarding safe food handling practices and help reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. Similarly, nutrition and food safety educators could work with the media to produce shows that demonstrate positive food safety behaviors and educate consumers about food safety practices as they adopt recipes.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that each year, one in six Americans—that’s 48 million of us—will get sick, be hospitalized and even die when harmful microorganisms—mostly bacteria, but sometimes viruses, parasites, molds or toxins—get into our bodies by means of the food or liquids we consume.
Being informed about food safety is the first step to protecting yourself and your loved ones. When it comes to foodborne illness, what you don’t know can hurt you! Read on to find out how much you know about foodborne illness … including the special concerns of older adults.
Myth #1: Only small children are at risk for severe cases of foodborne illness.
Fact: For most people, the symptoms of food poisoning, while definitely unpleasant, are short-term and not life-threatening. But certain populations are at higher risk of hospitalization, permanent health problems, and even death. This includes children, people with HIV/AIDS, and people older than 65. As we grow older, we are at greater risk because of …
  • Decreased immune system efficiency, so we can’t fight off bacteria as effectively as when we were younger
  • Reduced amount of stomach acid, which allows more bacteria to survive in the digestive tract
  • Impaired vision and sense of taste, so we become less likely to notice if food is spoiled.
Myth #2: Stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea and fever are usually caused by “the flu.”
Fact: Influenza (“the flu”) is a respiratory ailment, including sore throat, body aches, and sometimes a runny nose. Some people erroneously use the term “stomach flu” when they mean gastrointestinal (digestive) illness: nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. The germs that cause gastrointestinal illness most often enter the body through contaminated food or water.
Myth #3: Foodborne illness always strikes within minutes of a person’s consuming contaminated food.
Fact: Sometimes, food poisoning symptoms are obvious within 20 minutes. But in many more cases, it takes days or even weeks for symptoms to appear. The effects of foodborne illness most often last for a day or two, but can persist for over a week.
Myth #4:  Only meat and dairy products can harbor harmful bacteria.
Fact: Undercooked or raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs are indeed the most common culprits in food poisoning, because they provide the best environment in which harmful germs can flourish. But other foods can also harbor bacteria that can make you sick. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouts, and unpasteurized juice. When purchasing and preparing food, take these sensible precautions:
  • At the grocery store, inspect meat packages for tears, eggs for cracked shells, and all products for expired “sell-by” dates.
  • Wash hands before preparing food.
  • Use only acrylic or plastic cutting boards, and clean thoroughly with hot water and soap after use—or better yet, in the dishwasher. It’s safest to use one board for meat, and another for produce.
  • Cook meats to the recommended temperature (for example, beef to at least 160°, poultry to at least 180°, fish to at least 140°).
  • Wash fresh produce.
  • Purchased pasteurized juices only (check for a warning label if you’re not sure).
Myth #5:  So long as you cook meat, poultry and seafood to the recommended temperature, you won’t come into contact with harmful bacteria.
Fact: Proper cooking is important. But one big culprit in food poisoning is cross-contamination, when the juices from uncooked meat come into contact with other foods. It can begin right at the grocery store, if fresh produce and raw meat juices touch in the shopping cart. And give your food preparation practices a checkup. What about that cutting board? When you were done working on the raw chicken, did you then use the same surface to prepare a fresh salad? And if you were cooking on the grill, did you place the cooked steak onto a clean plate instead of the same one on which you carried the raw meat?
Myth #6: Let hot foods cool down thoroughly before putting them away, so you don’t damage your refrigerator.
Fact: The claim that hot food can damage your refrigerator is an old story left over from “icebox” days. Improper food storage is a major factor in the growth of harmful bacteria—and every minute cooked food is left at room temperature allows more bacteria to grow. So it’s important to refrigerate or freeze leftovers as soon as possible. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recommends consuming leftover prepared foods within 3-5 days. And be sure your refrigerator temperature is set at 40 degrees or lower.
Myth #7: The best way to thaw frozen foods is to set them out on the kitchen counter.
Fact: You should never defrost food at room temperature. This is because the portions that thaw first then are vulnerable to bacteria growth—and as the FDA tells us, bacteria in room temperature food can double every 20 minutes. Instead, thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave using the “defrost” setting.
Myth #8: Microwave ovens have special germ-killing powers.
Fact: Not to get too technical about it, but microwave energy itself doesn’t kill germs—it is the heat generated by the waves that destroy harmful organisms, the same as with a conventional oven. Remember also that microwave ovens may heat foods unevenly, so it’s important to stir foods once or more during the heating process. Turning the container several times during cooking (or using a carousel) helps heat reach all parts of the food.
Myth #9: All foods, if properly prepared, are safe for older adults.
Fact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that older adults and persons with conditions that weaken the immune system avoid certain foods entirely:
  • Any dishes with raw or undercooked meat or seafood (for example: sushi, steak tartare, raw oysters, hamburgers cooked rare)
  • Unpasteurized milk, and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk
  • Foods with raw or undercooked eggs (such as Caesar salad, unbaked cookie dough, homemade mayonnaise, eggnog)
  • Raw sprouts (alfalfa, bean, etc.)
  • Fresh-squeezed, unpasteurized fruit juices
Your healthcare provider can give you more information about the foods that are safe for you.
Myth #10: Restaurant and takeout food are always safe, because restaurants are inspected by the Health Department.
Fact: Though occasional outbreaks of illness are traced back to pathogens in restaurant or deli food, most eating establishments in the U.S. follow proper food handling procedures. But remember: take-out food or “doggie bag” safety is mostly up to you! Eating only until you are full and bringing leftovers home for a later meal is a great idea—for your waistline and your wallet. But only consume leftover food if you can refrigerate it promptly (within two hours, earlier in warm weather).
Learn More About Food Safety
The FoodSafety.gov website, sponsored by a group of U.S. and state government food safety departments, includes consumer advice and other resources, including information for older adults.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Am I Too Old to Be an Organ Donor?

Image result for elder organ donor
Ted went to renew his driver’s license. At 70, he had to renew in person and take an eye test. As he was completing his paperwork, the clerk said, “Would you like to be an organ donor?” Ted laughed. “My organs are too old for that!” Was he right?
April is National Donate Life Month. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Organ Donation and Transplantation website (www.organdonor.gov), this event “celebrates the tremendous generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye, tissue, marrow and blood donors, and encourages others to follow their fine example.”
Organ donation is a way to give someone else a chance at life even when our own life is over. Today, lives are saved or improved by transplants of the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, corneas and other organs and tissues. Today, more than 119,000 people in America are waiting for a transplant. Each day, 22 of them die. And while 95 percent of Americans believe in organ donation, fewer than half have actually signed up to be a donor.
Who can be an organ donor?
We often read heartwarming stories of parents who have lost an infant or young child, yet generously save the life of another child through organ donation. They say that though their child’s life was brief, their choice provided some comfort in their saddest time.
But what about people who have led a long life? There’s a myth that although seniors can be good candidates for organ transplantation, their organs are too old to be donated. Not true in most cases, say experts from the Division of Transplantation. They report that there’s no age reason not to become an organ donor. People in their 60s, 70s and even beyond have been organ donors. According to Organdonor.gov, the oldest organ donor on record was 92 years old. His liver saved the life of a 68-year-old woman. And in 2015, 20 percent of organ donors were older than 65.
Learn how to become an organ donor
  • The first step is to think about whether you’d like to be an organ donor.
  • The next step is to consent to be a donor by registering in your state.
  • The final step – and this is very important – is to discuss your decision with your family. Make your wishes known to those closest to you. You can also state your wishes regarding organ donation in your living will or other advance directive.
What about living donation?
Some organs and tissues can be donated while the donor is still alive, such as a kidney, part of the liver, and blood and bone marrow. Many people continue to give blood well into their later years, but donation of organs is relatively rare after the age of 60.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Considering a Reverse Mortgage? Read This First.

Image result for reverse mortgage
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says if you’re considering this type of loan, you should look beyond the advertising.
In a reverse mortgage advertisement, you might see enticing images of youthful retirees on the golf course or enjoying other leisure activities. A reverse mortgage is a special type of loan that allows homeowners aged 62 and older to borrow against the accrued equity in their homes. The loan must be paid back when the borrower dies, moves, or no longer lives in the home.
Ads for reverse mortgages are found on television, radio, in print, and on the internet, and many ads feature celebrity spokespeople discussing the benefits of reverse mortgages without mentioning risks. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took a look at some of these ads and found incomplete and inaccurate statements used to describe the loans. In addition, most of the important loan requirements were often buried in fine print, if they were even mentioned at all. These advertisements may leave older homeowners with the false impression that reverse mortgage loans are a risk-free solution to financial gaps in retirement.
In conducting their study, the CFPB met with older homeowners in Washington DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles to learn about their thoughts and impressions of reverse mortgage ads. After looking at a variety of ads, many of those homeowners didn’t realize reverse mortgage loans need to be repaid. Instead, some thought they could access their equity interest-free, or that the federal government provided the money as a benefit to seniors. Homeowners told us that the most attractive messages in the ads were “you can live in your home as long as you want,” and that you “still own your home.” Many ads, however, didn’t mention that seniors could lose their homes if they don’t satisfy the loan requirements, such as paying property taxes or homeowners insurance.
Seniors said the ads made reverse mortgages look like a good way to travel and enjoy retirement while they were still young and active. Yet Americans are living longer, more active lives than ever before. Reverse mortgage borrowers can outlive their loan funds by borrowing without careful planning.
Reverse mortgage ads don’t always tell the whole story, so consider these facts when you see advertisements:
  1. A reverse mortgage is a home loan, not a government benefit. Reverse mortgages have fees and compounding interest that must be repaid, just like other home loans. With most reverse mortgages, federal insurance guarantees that borrowers will receive their loan funds if their lender has financial difficulty or if their loan balance exceeds the value of their home. However, borrowers pay for this insurance, and it’s not a government benefit.
  2. You can lose your home with a reverse mortgage. When a reverse mortgage ad says you’ll retain ownership of your home, or that you can live there as long as you want to, don’t take these messages at face value. These statements are true only if you continue to meet all requirements of the reverse mortgage. If you fall behind on your property taxes or homeowners insurance, are absent from your home for longer than six months, or fail to satisfy other requirements, you can trigger a loan default. If you don’t take care of the default in time, the lender can foreclose on your home. Sometimes these requirements are listed in fine print, but not always. If you have a question about reverse mortgage requirements, contact a HUD-approved housing counselor near you.
  3. Without a good plan, you could outlive your loan money. After seeing a reverse mortgage ad, you might think that a reverse mortgage guarantees your financial security no matter how long you live. Americans are living longer today than they were just a generation ago. Make sure you have a financial plan in place that accounts for a long life. That way if you need to tap your home equity, you won’t do it too early and risk running out of retirement resources later in life.
If you have a problem with your reverse mortgage
Check out Ask CFPB to learn more about reverse mortgages. You can also download a printer-friendly version of this information to share with friends or family.
If you’re having a problem with your reverse mortgage or having problems getting through to your mortgage servicer, you can submit a complaint to CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-2372 or TTY/TDD (855) 729- 2372. CFPB will forward your complaint to the company and work to get you a response within 15 days.
For more information about how reverse mortgages work and questions to ask, read CFPB’s guide to reverse mortgages for older consumers and their families. And if you or loved one have a reverse mortgage loan, here are three steps you should take.
Source: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government agency that aims to make consumer financial markets work for consumers, responsible providers, and the economy as a whole. Visit the CFPB website to read an in-depth report on reverse mortgage ads.