Aging Articles

Pollution and Well-Being: A Startling Connection

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Pollution and Well-Being: A Startling ConnectionPollution can be ugly.  Just think of an industrial chimney spewing smog into the air.  It has devastating effects on the environment, plants and wildlife.  And we know that pollution has a negative effect on our physical health.  Since the 1970s, a recent article in Monitor on Psychology reports, we’ve studied the harmful impact of pollution on our cardiovascular and respiratory health.

A growing body of evidence indicates that the impact of pollution goes beyond physical health.  According to the Monitor, researchers have found that high levels of air pollution may damage children’s cognitive abilities, increase adult risk of cognitive decline and may even contribute to depression.

The issue is not as visible or taken as seriously as it should be, according to Paul Mohai, PhD, a professor in the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.

12 Depression Busters for Caregivers

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

12 Depression Busters for CaregiversNearly one-third of people caring for terminally ill loved ones suffer from depression according to research from Yale University. About one in four family caregivers meet the clinical criteria of anxiety. And a recent study found that 41 percent of former caregivers of a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia experienced mild to severe depression up to three years after their spouse had died.

Caregivers are so vulnerable to depression because they often sacrifice their own needs while tending to their loved one and because of the constant stress involved.

So here are 12 tips to help protect you from anxiety and depression and to guide you toward good mental health as you care for a relative.

Can Exercise Make You Smarter?

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Can Exercise Make You Smarter?Scientists have long studied exercise and its impact on any number of physical and emotional factors, including bone density, cardiovascular disease and stress.

But if we take the mind-body connection one step further and study exercise and cognitive functioning, will we see a link?

Death with Dignity: Why I Don’t Want to Have to Starve Myself to Death

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Death with Dignity: Why I Don't Want to Have to Starve Myself to DeathDr. Ron Pies writes an eloquent defense of why physician-assisted suicide should not be made a legal right in Massachusetts. He compares it to a doctor helping one of his patients jump from a bridge — something most doctors would never do.

But in making this analogy, I believe we’re removing all context and logic from the decision behind wanting to end your own life because of a terminal illness. For the patient, it’s not about the act of suicide or ending their lives — it’s about alleviating suffering from the disease and choosing one’s own way of dying with a little dignity. It’s about patient empowerment, human dignity and choice.

That’s why in the two states where it is legal for doctors to help patients with a terminal illness, it’s referred to as the Death with Dignity law.

Because the alternative takes much of the dignity out of dying in today’s modern medical system.

Merciful Assistance or Physician-Assisted Killing?

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Merciful Assistance or Physician-Assisted Killing?Imagine that your father, age 85, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and given only three months to live.

Fortunately, he is still well enough to walk, and finds himself one night near a tall bridge. Having contemplated the suffering he believes will attend his final days, he decides to end his life by jumping off the bridge. However, he is too weak to hoist himself up atop the protective railing.

Suddenly, he sees his very own physician, Dr. Jones, walking by. He begs Dr. Jones to help him climb atop the railing, adding, “Don’t worry, Doc, it will be my decision to jump.” The doctor is taken aback, but quickly determines that his patient is not psychotic or severely depressed, and is capable of making a rational decision regarding suicide. The doctor tries to persuade your dad that pain and suffering can usually be well-controlled during the final days, but the patient is insistent: he wants to end his life.

Would you agree that Dr. Jones is fulfilling his obligations as a physician by assisting your father in jumping off the bridge?

If not, would you support the doctor’s providing your father with a lethal dose of medication?

12 Depression Busters for Seniors

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

12 Depression Busters for SeniorsRoughly a quarter of people age 65 or older suffer from depression. More than half of doctor’s visits by the elderly involve complaints of emotional distress. Twenty percent of suicides in this country are committed by seniors, with the highest success rate belonging to older, white men.

According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, depression is one of the major causes of decline in the health-related quality of life for senior citizens.

Why all the depression?

Rafi Kevorkian, M.D. calls them the five D’s: disability, decline, diminished quality of life, demand on caregivers, and dementia. To combat senior depression, then, requires coming up with creative methods to counter the five D’s.

Here are 12 strategies to do just that: help people break free from the prison of depression and anxiety in their senior years.

Hair for Men? Preying on Men’s Insecurities

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Hair for Men? Preying on Mens Insecurities - Seth GaronMost of the time, society doesn’t pay much attention to men’s insecurities. Where there are dozens of magazines devoted to women and helping them feel better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) about themselves, there are very few men’s magazines.

What you’ll find men’s magazines is similar to what you find in magazines targeted to women — products or services to help them feel better about themselves. For women, that magic bullet is always about losing weight.

For men, the magic bullet is a little bit different. It’s about losing their hair.

Here’s what over $12,000 buys a man for a hair loss treatment. If you take out your magnifying glass, you may spot the difference.

Men are just as vulnerable to self-image and self-esteem advertising as women are. It just usually isn’t targeted at their beer gut, but their balding head of hair.

A Voice for the 20-Something Generation

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A Voice for the 20-Something GenerationBeing 20-something tends to be romanticized. Despite the appeal of independence, finally integrating into the ‘real world,’ or the overall fulfillment that’s found in the process of becoming who you are, there is also something to be said for the infamous ‘quarter-life crisis.’

It peaks as recent graduates navigate the stressors of post-college life, a bleak economy, and the complexities of romantic relationships. As someone who’s going through the motions, I began to view being this age as a time akin to a second stage of puberty — a little awkward and a little terrifying.

Lena Dunham, 25, created and stars in “Girls,” a television series that tells the story of four 20-somethings finding out that the ‘real world’ doesn’t exactly resemble Sex and the City. Instead of Carrie Bradshaw’s glamorous Manhattan lifestyle, these girls live in Brooklyn, wearing clothes from thrift stores and opting for the affordable beer over a cosmopolitan.

Quest for Innocence

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Quest for InnocenceAt 10 years old you could probably find me sitting on my bed, mesmerized by the latest NSYNC album, while playing the tracks on loop and dancing in front of the mirror. At 15 years old, I’m already immersed in the high school scene, but I’ll be the first to admit that friends and I would go to the local elementary school playground from time to time and ride the swings. At 20 years old, I’m getting closer to graduating college and entering ‘the real world,’ and life keeps on happening. I’m now turning 22, and it’s safe to say that life isn’t as carefree as it once was.

Innocence does get lost along the way, which is a natural consequence of undergoing various experiences that are encountered along the journey — perhaps grief from an illness, family conflict, loss, or a broken heart, just to cite a few of life’s curveballs. Everyone has a story and everyone has a past. Not everyone, however, copes with life’s pain in the same fashion.

Facing the Quarter-Life Crisis

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Facing the Quarter-Life CrisisSo you turn 50 and panic sets in.

Perhaps you feel that your career is at a standstill, or that you may want to enhance your physical appearance. Middle-aged men could even be found pining for one of those motorbikes that they don’t know how to operate, but its glossy presence in the garage somehow makes them feel adequate. Or perhaps you’re simply questioning your purpose in life for the years to come.

Sounds about right. Now imagine someone in his or her early twenties — an educated graduate from an accredited college or university, ready to take on the world and expected to know what they want in order to do so. Never mind the pressure from outsiders, or society as a whole, to settle into a profession quickly and succeed.

Welcome to the quarter-life crisis, guys. Unfortunately, no plastic surgery or new rides can combat this existential dilemma.

Life Gets Better: An Interview with Wendy Lustbader

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

In order to confront the pervasive stereotypes about youth and what it means to get older, professor and author Wendy Lustbader draws on her decades as a social worker with elders and their families to present a message contrary to the one blasted over every media outlet: life gets better with age!

In her book, Life Gets Better: the Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older, Lustbader defies all conventional logic and discusses the process of getting older as an adventure in personal discovery and increasing vivaciousness.

Here is an interview about her new book.

1. What are some of the specific ways in which life gets better as we get older?

Wendy: First, our self knowledge becomes more extensive, and from this we become more adept at asserting our opinions and preferences. Then we start bungling our relationships less often because we gain a further understanding of our own and others’ motives, needs, and feelings. The benefits of clear communication also become increasingly apparent.

Gradually, we come to make better decisions, using the hard-earned benefits of hindsight. We look back at our earlier mistakes and misadventures, weighing our choices on the basis of experience rather than conjecture. We gain a much greater grasp of the mixture of luck and diligence required to live a good life. We know so much more about what contentment looks like and how to seize it when we can. Often, a wonderful kind of freedom and courage emerge from this consciousness.

Atypical Antipsychotic Medications Not a Good Choice for Alzheimer’s

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Atypical Antipsychotic Medications Not a Good Choice for AlzheimersPeople with Alzheimer’s disease often suffer not only from the debilitating effects of the disease itself, but also from the secondary psychological effects. Delusions and hallucinations appear in up to 50 percent of those with Alzheimer’s, and as many as 70 percent demonstrate aggressive behaviors and agitation. Both caregivers and family members are distressed by these symptoms, and so everyone is motivated to treat the person with Alzheimer’s with antipsychotic medications.

The problem?

Antipsychotic medications haven’t always been well-researched on older populations, and fewer still on people with a disease like Alzheimer’s. And when the research has been done, the results are often underwhelming.

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