Monday, October 17, 2016
I was reading recently the following report, Gauging Aging: Mapping the Gaps between Expert and Public Understandings of Aging in America from the Frameworks Institute. The report comes from a collaboration of aging organizations, with the purpose "to develop a new, evidence-based narrative around the process of aging in our country, and the roles and contributions of older Americans. This first phase of the project identifies the patterns of thinking that Americans use to reason about issues related to aging, and compares those patterns with the knowledge of experts in the aging field." Why is this report different from others?
The research presented here is distinct from most public opinion research that documents what people say by conducting polls or focus groups. In this report, we take the analysis a level deeper to document the assumptions and thought processes that inform what people say and structure their judgments and opinions. This cultural-cognitive approach is powerful because identifying ways of thinking is key to developing more effective and strategic communication. By understanding the various ways that people are (and are not) able to think and reason about an issue, communicators can craft messages that avoid unproductive understandings, activate productive ones, and elevate new ways of thinking that are better aligned with policy goals. In short, an understanding of how people think is a powerful tool in identifying the specific perceptual challenges that require reframing.
The executive summary covers the experts' views on aging (what is it, what is older, policy needs). The executive summary offers these characteristics of older adults: "Experts explain that, as a group, older adults vary greatly with respect to health, financial situation and functional status. Adults over the age of 60 are living and staying productive longer, and represent the fastest-growing segment of our population. This unprecedented trend represents a long-term shift in the age structure of our society. Older adults have an enormous economic and social impact on American society — an impact that is often not well accounted for in our discourse, media and public policy."
The public view of aging section is particularly interesting as is the section on gaps in understanding. The report is written in a way that makes it a useful tool for classroom discussion. A pdf is available here. Check it out!
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Ok, ok, I know I've blogged several times about self-driving cars and how I can't wait to try one. I know they are being extensively tested. But in the meantime, it looks like I don't have to wait for a self-driving car for drivers to be safer. Driving tech is already supplementing many driving tasks for drivers as reported in an article published in the NY Times. Tech May Help Steer Older Drivers Down a Safer Road explains that tech is making cars smarter, allowing cars to do things that make driving safer (for the driver, passengers and other drivers).
[S]marter cars ... can detect oncoming traffic, steer clear of trouble and even hit the brakes when a collision appears imminent.... A few of these innovations, such as blind-spot warning systems, are already built in or offered as optional features in some vehicles, primarily in more expensive models....But more revolutionary breakthroughs are expected in the next few years, when measures such as robotic braking systems are supposed to become standard features in all cars on U.S. roads.
Sure, sure drivers of all ages will benefit from smart cars. But, as the article notes, the application for elders has great value.
[T]hose in their 70s and older are more likely to become confused at heavily trafficked intersections and on-ramps. Aging also frequently limits a body's range of motion, making it more difficult to scan all around for nearby vehicles and other hazards. And older drivers tend to be more fragile than their younger counterparts, suffering more serious injuries in traffic accidents.
"Anything that reduces the likelihood or severity of a collision is really a technology that is primed for helping tomorrow's older adults," says Bryan Reimer, research scientist for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab and associate director of the New England University Transportation Center. "We are moving toward an ecosystem where older adults will increasingly be supported by the technology that may help enhance their mobility."
Thinking about buying a car in the near future. Well consider this. "The presence of safety technology will be a key consideration for three-fourths of the drivers older than 50 who plan to buy a car in the next two years, according to a recent survey by auto insurer The Hartford and MIT AgeLab. In an indication that priorities are shifting, only one-third of the surveyed 50-and-older drivers who bought a car during the past two years focused on safety technology."
Some of the driving technology is already available, with rear view backup cameras proliferating. There are cars that can parallel park for the driver, and as seen on commercials, do other tasks to make driving safer. The article mentions several that are either in use, can be added to a vehicle, or will be available before much more time passes.
[T]he auto industry vowed to make automated emergency brakes a standard feature by September 2022, but it won't be that long before the technology is widely available. Toyota plans to build it into most models, including its Lexus brand, by the end of next year....Cameras on a dashboard screen that show what's behind the car have become commonplace in recent years and will be mandatory on all new cars by May 2018. The equipment is expected to be especially helpful for older drivers with a limited range of motion....Other technology expected to assist older drivers includes automated parking, and adaptive headlights that swivel in the same direction as the steering wheel and adjust the beams' intensity depending on driving conditions and oncoming traffic. ...Robotic systems that temporarily assist with highway driving already are available, most notably in Tesla Motors' high end Model S. The electric-car maker released its Autopilot feature last fall, prompting some Model S owners to entrust more of the driving to the robot than Tesla recommends while the system is still in testing mode. For instance, some drivers have posted pictures of themselves reading a newspaper or book with the Model S on Autopilot, or even sitting in the back seat.
(On that last point, Yikes and should I point out that we're talking about driving technology, not self-driving cars). All of these safety innovations are great, and maybe they will allow people to continue driving longer than they would be able to do without the innovations. Of course, we still want to be sure that unsafe drivers are off the road. At least it looks like I have some cool options while waiting for my self-driving car.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Stetson's 18th annual National Conference on Special Needs Trusts & Special Needs Planning takes place on October 19-21, 2016 at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. Early Bird Registration rates end September 23, 2016. The national conference spans two days, with general sessions in the mornings and three tracks of breakout sessions in the afternoons (basics, advance and administration) Information about the conference, including the agenda, speakers, and links to register is available here. (Full disclosure, I'm the conference chair. Hope to see you at the conference!)
Sunday, September 18, 2016
I was reading an article in the Washington Post about a young woman who was bullied at school. Drawing on her experiences, she created an app for kids who don't have anyone to sit with at lunch. This once-bullied teen has a simple solution so no one has to eat alone in the cafeteria ever again describes this app and her motivation in creating it.
[She] came up with an idea that would allow students a judgment-free way to find lunch mates without the fear of being rejected. She developed an app called “Sit With Us,” where students can sign up as “ambassadors” and post that there are open seats at their lunch table. A student who doesn’t have a place to sit can look at the app and find an ambassador’s table and know they are invited to join it. When signing up as an ambassador, the student takes a pledge that they’ll be kind and welcoming to whoever comes to sit with them.
Kudos to this inventor!
Although we may think of bullying as a problem faced primarily by children and young adults, happening in schools or in cyberspace. Of course, that is not the case. Elders can be bullies as well. So I was thinking-this app could have use beyond lunch at a school cafeteria. What about its use for an event at a senior center, independent living facility, CCRC, ALF or SNF. It seems it could be incredibly useful in providing a boost to socialization. I realize not every elder is tethered to her smart phone, but that surely may change over time. So, what do you think? Would this be helpful? Is this already being done?
Friday, September 2, 2016
My dear friend and colleague Professor Mark Bauer sent me this article from the Huffington Post about the newest market share for Uber and Lyft: Boomers! Once The Domain Of Millennials, Uber And Lyft Are Now Pursuing Seniors includes my favorite line of the day about Boomers: "It’s the Baby Boomers’ world. We’re just living in it."
"Ride-hailing services want to make sure Grandma Betty can get to bridge club just as easily as her 22-year-old grandson travels to and from ... whatever it is young folks are doing these days. ... Once the domain of 20-somethings who might have a drink or two and need a safe ride home, companies like Lyft and Uber have set their sights on a different age range entirely: senior citizens."
The article explains how the 2 companies have entered into agreements with companies-Uber with a home care company and Lyft with a company that books rides for elders without smart phones. The article notes that there are also other ride-hailing companies beyond these 2 that are providing ride-sharing services for those elders who don't have smart phones.
The companies are boldly moving into this market demographic. In fact they've started "offering non-emergency medical transport services, specifically targeting customers whose rides would be reimbursed by Medicaid."
Consider also what Lyft is doing with the city of Centennial, Colorado, "where 15 years from now at least 30 percent of the population is projected to be over the age of 65....[C]ity officials are exploring replacing current dial-a-ride services with less expensive, more efficient rides via Lyft."
“We call Centennial the Silver Tsunami,” Centennial Mayor Cathy Noon told The Atlantic blog CityLab. “As people age, one thing to go is the ability to drive. That means losing your freedom to get to doctor’s appointments and to stay social with friends. We really want to help keep the people who started Centennial engaged in it.”
We all know how the loss of driving ability can impact a person on a number of levels. I wonder whether this transportation option will be financially feasible enough to become a widespread solution. If so, it will be great, because not only does this provide transportation, but has the added benefit of socialization. I am still holding on for the availability of self-driving cars.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
A recent report about Boomers and voting made be stop for a moment and go "hmmmm". Pew Research Center's latest FactTank offered that this may be the last presidential election where the Greatest Generation, the Silents and the Boomers have a significant impact at the polls.
This may be the last presidential election dominated by Boomers and prior generations explains that although these demographic groups have dominated at the polls, that may no longer be true; "their election reign may end this November, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data."
[T]he ranks of Millennial and Generation X eligible voters have been growing, thanks to the aging-in of Millennials and naturalizations among foreign-born adults. These generations matched Boomers and previous generations as a share of eligible voters in 2012 and are now estimated to outnumber them. As of July, an estimated 126 million Millennial and Gen X adults were eligible to vote (56% of eligible voters), compared with only 98 million Boomers and other adults from prior generations, or 44% of the voting-eligible population.
However, keep in mind that eligible and actual are not synonymous. In fact, the article reminds us what ultimately matters is who casts ballots. Looking at the data and focusing on actual votes, the report offers that the Boomers and prior generations voted at a rate of about 70% of eligible voters. The younger generations percentage turnout was lower, according to the article.
Not that the generations are in competition or anything. It's just interesting to think about the changing demographics at the ballot box and wonder at the impact on laws and policies as a result.
Among those in the oldest living generation, the Greatest Generation, turnout crested in the 1984 election at 76% before declining. Similarly, turnout among eligible voters in the Silent Generation peaked at 76% in the 1992 election. The Millennial and Gen X generations are likely still on the upswing in terms of their turnout rates, so it is a reasonable guess that at least 54.5% of these adults will vote, and perhaps more.
We won’t know until after November if Boomers and their elders will pass the torch to Gen X and Millennials as a share of voters, but all the available data suggest that the 2016 election will mark the beginning of a new era for U.S. presidential elections.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
I was happy to see Nike's latest commercial for its Unlimited campaign featuring the triathlete dubbed the Iron Nun. According to an article in the Huffington Post, "Buder said that she manages to fit her training for these races in with her daily life. The sister, who is part of a nontraditional religious order called the Sisters for Christian Community, runs to her church in Spokane, Washington. She also runs to the local jail, where she volunteers to chat with inmates." I suspect the narration for the commercial is intended as amusing since it relies on aging stereotypes, but the Sister's accomplishments blow those stereotypes out of the water. Ad of the Day: Nike Celebrates the 'Iron Nun', an 86-Year-Old Triathlete With God on Her Side features the ad, as well as the behind the scenes interview with the sister without the narration. The quote I liked from Sister Buder: "the only failure is not to try". Huffington Post quotes from an article on her in Cosmo, "Don’t pay attention to how old you are, only focus on how old you feel ... And be patient — one of my worst enemies is patience, I’m still trying to fine-tune it so that I’m able to stop and smell the roses.”
Kudos Sister for your accomplishments!
Last week we blogged about those elders who have no kids to be their caregivers. The Washington Post featured an article on the topic of "aging solo". Aging Solo: Okay, I don’t have a child to help me, but I do have a plan, told from the perspective of the author, is an attention-grabber from the beginning
“The trouble is: You think you have time.” That Buddhist-sounding quote from a fortune cookie rattled around the back of my head for decades, seemingly for no reason. Now that I find myself living with my 94-year-old mother in a Florida city where preacher Billy Graham got his start and being a never-wed 60-something has made me a tourist attraction of sorts, I finally understand why I thought the repercussions of growing old without a child or two would not apply to me: I was just plain delusional.
As a New Yorker flush with friends, freelance work, Broadway tickets and great Botox, I had apparently existed in some sort of fun, singles bubble. It was a lifestyle so rewarding that I never read even one article about the stresses of the “sandwich generation.” (Hey, the writers all seemed to be married women with children, so even on a boomer-to-boomer level, I could not relate.)
Of course she's not alone. The article provides statistics--almost 33% of the Boomers have no kids. "That doesn’t count boomer parents who have lost a child or have one who is severely impaired. The Aging Solo pool also includes countless members of families plagued by addiction, disease, cults, rapacious children, even married progeny who much prefer their in-laws. While millions of Aging Soloists have siblings and other kin, many of us can’t imagine (or abide) having them shepherd us to our final rest."
The author calls for an aging plan with friends rather than kids, and using her parents' story as educational, she offers this advice "When you’re past 50 and single, location is 75 percent of the enchilada. Subways matter. Proximity to friends matters. Suburban seniors communities felt to me like slow death. I found senior centers and assisted-living facilities profoundly lonely because, it seems, the art of making friends does not grow as we age, and not everyone likes endless bingo and dominoes on Tuesdays, followed by a prayer service."
She goes on to offer further tips
It’s better to plan a more personal assisted-living future with your own friends while in your 50s or 60s. That will give you time to choose a location with diverse people and culture, with neighborhoods that have sidewalks and public transit....
Sharing resources can spawn all sorts of possibilities. Maybe my posse grabs several apartments in rental, condo or co-op buildings, or we share a group house in D.C., Manhattan or L.A. Heck, maybe we can find a way to lease a floor in one of the many overbuilt office buildings around the country. Perhaps (if yours is an anti-urban posse) you can hire an architect to design space-age yurts in Arizona. Each madly hip structure would be self-contained, but the colony would have a common dining hall, gym and tech-support center, or whatever your future selves desire.
New to the finances of aging, I had no idea how much control I gained by holding my mother’s durable power of attorney. Had I been less ethical, I could have taken her money and run. Therefore, I’ll never give that power to any one person; it will be held by at least three younger and devoted friends because elder fraud is one of the most horrifying aspects of aging solo. Trust me: That charming new friend who offers to manage your money so you don’t have to deal with “all those bills” is probably well known to the local police.
So what is the author doing to prepare for her aging without kids? She explains
What am I doing? Well, I’ve started small, using Skype dialogues with my pals to research and download the legal papers — from wills to end-of-life instructions — that we will need, sooner or later. Now we’re aiming higher. Should we learn what to look for in a nurse’s résumé so we can find the right person to help us in our collective dotage? Should we hire a visionary architect to create a high-tech trailer park or a cluster of tiny homes built around communal buildings? Our ideas are still all over the map.
We hope we have time to execute our most appealing visions. Mostly, however, we pledge to be our own Best Friends. United. Forever....
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
With summer winding down, and the fall semester bearing down on us, hopefully everyone had a fabulous summer. For many of us, summer vacation included a trip to a national park. I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Rocky Mountain National Park. One day I was walking along an accessible trail, and noticed 4 folks using wheelchairs within the first 100 feet of the trail. This particular trail also offers an accessible campsite. That got me thinking about how many trails in national parks are accessible. That led me to an internet search (yay Google) which led me to this report, All In! Accessibility in the National Park Service 2015-2020. The report explains the creation of a task force on accessibility which developed a "strategic plan with specific strategies on how to make parks and programs accessible to a broader range of audiences. These strategies are focused on actions needed to build momentum, augment capacity, and accelerate real improvements over the next five years (2015–2020)."
The parks are definitely not as accessible as they could be-or should be for that matter. "[T]he National Park Service is underserving people with varying abilities and their traveling partners. Without accessible parks, the National Park Service loses an opportunity to reach the widest possible audience and share a spectrum of experiences. This lost opportunity is a direct failure to carry out our mission. Both long- and short-term solutions are needed to build momentum and advance the program." The report sets out 3 goals for the NPS:
- "Create a welcoming environment by increasing the ability of the National Park Service to serve visitors and staff with disabilities."
"Ensure that new facilities and programs are inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities."
"Upgrade existing facilities, programs, and services to be accessible to people with disabilities."
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
My friend and colleague, Professor Mark Bauer sent me this recent article (thank you!) Can car-centric suburbs adjust to aging Baby Boomers? We want to age in place, but neither or houses, or their locations, are always designed for us to do that.
In fact, the American suburbs, built for returning GIs and their burgeoning families, are already aging. In 1950, only 7.4 percent of suburban residents were 65 and older. By 2014, it was 14.5 percent. It will rise dramatically in the coming decades, with the graying of 75.4 million baby boomers mostly living in suburbia.
But car-centric suburban neighborhoods with multilevel homes and scarce sidewalks are a poor match for people who can’t climb stairs or drive a car.
“Most [boomers] are in a state of denial about what really is possible and what’s reasonable for them as they age,” said John Feather, a gerontologist and the CEO of Grantmakers in Aging, a national association of foundations for seniors.
Staying put is not without costs, and not just for retrofitting the house to make it accessible. Instead, the article notes, "[r]etirees who want to stay in the suburbs will have to cover the rising costs of property taxes and utilities, and they may have to shell out big sums to retrofit their homes if they become frail or disabled. One study found that it can cost $800 to $1,200 to widen a doorway to accommodate a wheelchair, $1,600 to $3,200 for a ramp, and up to $12,000 for a stair lift. Major remodeling, such as adding first-floor bedrooms or bathrooms, can cost much more."
Then of course, there is the issue of transportation. Out in the suburbs, we may not be able to walk to the stores and services we need, and some of us may no longer be able to drive. Transportation is critical and we all know about Americans' love of automobiles. So, what's the answer?
Even if a suburb has a regional transit system, the routes are often limited and geared to help commuters get to and from work in the city. The nearest bus or train stop may be miles from the subdivisions where aging boomers live. And while the Americans with Disabilities Act requires most public transit systems to provide pickup “paratransit” for people with disabilities who are unable to use regular bus or train services, that applies only to people who meet certain criteria.
One alternative is transportation services overseen by a federally funded network of local agencies that offer services and support to older adults to help them age at home and in the community. In many regions, these Area Agencies on Aging contract with local providers that offer door-to-door van services to older adults who qualify. But those programs, often geared to taking seniors to medical appointments and grocery stores, usually offer little flexibility and require clients to make reservations.
The article examines whether such an option will work for Boomers and what local governments need to do to prepare for this demographic change in suburbia. Of course, some elders choose to move to communities that provide the services and amenities they want and the article discusses these briefly.
But what about transportation? Doesn't that remain the elephant in the room? So, off on a tangent...I read another article this morning about Uber selling passes in NY for ride-sharing. Lyft is partnering with GM so drivers can rent cars. Are we going to see ride-sharing services as an option (or solution) for elders who have had to give up driving? But will this only be an option for those elders who can afford ride-sharing services? I'm still hopeful about self-driving cars....
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Good news for consumers! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on June 27, 2016 that the telemarketing sales rule (TSR) prohibitions went into effect in June.
The changes to the TSR will stop telemarketers from dipping directly into consumers’ bank accounts through checks and payment orders that have been remotely created by the telemarketer or seller. Since they’re remotely created, they’re never actually signed by the account holder – and that makes it easy for telemarketers and sellers to dip directly into consumers’ bank accounts. And it’s then hard to reverse the transactions with consumers’ banks (again, a reason why con artists love using these methods).
In addition, with the updated rule in place, telemarketers now can’t get payments through traditional cash-to-cash money transfers – the type provided by companies like MoneyGram and Western Union. Scammers use these cash transfers as a quick, anonymous, and irrevocable way to get money from consumers. Once the seller picks up the transfer, the money is gone.
The TSR changes also prohibit telemarketers from accepting as payment cash reload PIN numbers. That means no requests for payment by using MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload, or Reloadit packs, used to add funds to existing prepaid cards. Because scammers use the cash reload PIN numbers to apply the funds to their own prepaid debit cards – and disappear with the money. Except not anymore, under the updated TSR.
Good news all around for consumers! More information for businesses about complying with the TSR is available here. Thanks to blog reader Mike Polk for alerting me to this update!
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
As Tropical Storm Colin pounds through Florida on its way northeast, it is a good reminder to all of us to have a disaster plan in place. Although the type of disaster may be somewhat geographic, a disaster plan is especially important for elders and individuals with special needs. Here are some links to helpful websites with information about disaster planning for elders and individuals with special needs.
Monday, May 23, 2016
The Association for Gerontology in Higher Ed annual meeting is set for March 9-12, 2017 in Miami. The call for abstracts closes June 1, 2016 with the conference's theme "The Future is Here: Educating a New Generation of Professionals in Aging Worldwide." A number of tracks will be offered, including on these topics:
Curriculum and Policy Issues
Translating Research to Education and Training
Program and Curriculum Development
Diversity and Social Justice for Older Persons
More information about submitting an abstract is available here.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
We have posted before about family caregivers and their importance. AARP's May 10, 2016 blog post, Eldercare Primarily Concerns Older Workers and Their Employers, Right? Think Again, explained that "[f]or employers big and small, the need to support workers who also provide unpaid care for a family member is a growing reality." A huge number of family members who work (60%) also serve as family caregivers. Here's an important point about those 60%, slightly over 50% of them are at least 50 years old. But caregiving is not just an elder law issue, because there is a significant number of younger caregivers too. Almost three-quarters of millenials reported that they were caregiving and working. The blog post ends with the suggestion that
"[a]dvancing a culture of understanding about eldercare needs is especially important to help make the workplace more supportive of workers who are also family caregivers — many of whom are in their prime working years."
Thursday, May 12, 2016
The latest issue of Biofocal from the American Bar Association Commission on Law & Aging is out, and the cover story is an article by Erica Wood on Evaluating the Capacity to Drive. Ms. Wood explores the question of what is the needed capacity to drive, and notes the skills one needs to be a safe driver.
[E]valuating capacity to drive is of course different from evaluating capacity to make decisions or execute legal transactions. First, driving involves a mix of mental, physical, and sensory abilities. Second, driving has serious risk not only for oneself but also for others as well. And third, the determination of capacity to drive initially rests not with a judge but with the commissioner of the state department of motor vehicles—although judges may well be involved in decisions about drivers licenses, as described in the “View from the Bench” by Judge Lyle. While state laws vary, the Uniform Vehicle Code provides that a license may be denied if the state commissioner finds that a person “by reason of physical or mental disability would not be able to operate a motor vehicle with safety upon the highways” (National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances).
Using the ABA/APA handbook for psychologists "general capacity evaluation framework," Ms. Wood breaks down the assessment elements for capacity to drive: the legal element, the functional component, diagnosis, values, mental health assessment, risk assessment, and clinical judgment that is needed in order "to integrate all of the evidence from the previous steps on supports, conditions, risks, abilities and limitations." The article underscores the need to examine the driver's values, consider emotional factors such as hallucinations and whether the person has capacity with support. Capacity with support is explained as "supports and accommodations that might enhance ability."
In the driving context, this might mean a change of eyeglasses, a higher seat or pillow, a revolving seat, or pedal modifications. With such supports, a functional assessment will test for visual acuity; flexibility to look behind and check blind spots on the road; and strength for control of the steering wheel, brakes, accelerator, and clutch. An assessment also will test the driver’s knowledge about driving rules and what to do in emergency or unexpected situations.
A pdf of the article is available here.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
The Wall Street Journal ran an article on May 2, 2016 that working past 65 may be good for the worker's longevity. Retiring After 65 May Help People Live Longer covers a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. "The risk of dying from any cause over the study period was 11% lower among people who delayed retirement for one year—until age 66—and fell further among people who retired between the ages of 66 and 72, the study found." One limit on the study-individuals studied were limited to those born between 1931-1941. The study noted "[postponing retirement may delay the natural age-related decline in physical, cognitive and mental functioning, reducing the risk of chronic illness...."
Here is an excerpt from the abstract:
Background Retirement is an important transitional process in later life. Despite a large body of research examining the impacts of health on retirement, questions still remain regarding the association of retirement age with survival. We aimed to examine the association between retirement age and mortality among healthy and unhealthy retirees and to investigate whether sociodemographic factors modified this association. .....
Conclusions Early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality and prolonged working life may provide survival benefits among US adults.
The full article is available for purchase here.
Thanks to Professor Dick Kaplan for sending us the link to the article.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
We've all been reading the articles about global warming and the impact on the planet, and on us. Although Earth Day is a couple of weeks past us, there's even more reason to think about the future of the planet. The Washington Post ran the article Why living around nature could make you live longer. The article highlights a recent study that indicates that not only is living near nature good for your health, it may help you live longer! The study was published on April 14, 2016 in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women. Here are some excerpts from abstract from the EHP article: "Objectives: We aimed to examine the prospective association between residential greenness and mortality... Conclusions: Higher levels of green vegetation were associated with decreased mortality. Policies to increase vegetation may provide opportunities for physical activity, reduce harmful exposures, increase social engagement, and improve mental health. While planting vegetation may mitigate effects of climate change, evidence of an association between vegetation and lower mortality rates suggests it also might be used to improve health."
Now, back to the Washington Post story, which tells us "[t]his is all in line with the ways previous research has suggested greenness can affect health. Places with more vegetation are generally thought to be less polluted, and the presence of vegetation, itself, can help keep air cleaner. And green spaces like parks can help encourage people to get outside, exercise and engage with other people — all factors that can improve overall health. The effects on mental health may be somewhat less straightforward, but nonetheless important, as this study suggested." As far as mental health, the article notes that social engagement and human's long term connection with nature is rejuvenating.
The article quotes one of the authors that more study is needed on the "finer details" of our interacting with nature. But for now, go outside and take a walk (and maybe buy some houseplants, too).
Thursday, April 28, 2016
We have heard about green cemeteries. Environmentally sensitive deaths have expanded beyond green cemeteries. According to the New York Times article from April 22, 2016 (Earth Day to those of you reading this closely), others are thinking about lowering the environmental impact a traditional burial may cause. Mushroom Suits, Biodegradable Urns and Death’s Green Frontier starts the story explaining one person's idea, a mushroom suit, or more specifically "the Infinity Burial Suit. It’s a $1,500 outfit that incorporates mushrooms meant to break down a human corpse, cleanse it of toxins and distribute nutrients back into the soil. No one has been buried in it yet, but ... a man who suffers from a chronic illness has agreed to be the first."
In addition to green burials, "[a]t Western Carolina University, researchers with the Urban Death Project are learning how best to turn corpses into compost. In Los Angeles, Undertaking LA operates a “do-your-own-death” workshop to give people the tools to plan home funerals."
What do these new businesses have in common (other than death)? "Design and innovative technology seem to be an important component of these new death products. Roger Moliné, the 24-year-old co-founder of Bios Urn, began a Kickstarter campaign after customers asked for better ways to monitor the health of the trees growing from biodegradable urns. The company raised over $83,000 to design an incubator that, through a sensor embedded in the soil, will send updates to a custom phone app. Around 60,000 urns have been ordered and 200 incubators pre-ordered."
So how do you know if burial products are truly green? Well, there is (you thought I was going to say app for that, didn't you)... there is a council that oversees this. The Green Burial Council grants certification to products that are actually earth-friendly. The list of certified products is available here.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Last week 12 lawyers who are deaf or hard of hearing were sworn into the Supreme Court Bar. That in and of itself is very special. It was made more so by the actions of Chief Justice Roberts. Chief Justice Roberts learned some sign language for the occasion; "[a]fter they were presented to the court for admission, Roberts signed in American Sign Language: 'Your motion is granted.'” Well done Chief Justice.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I ran across a couple of articles recently about hoarding. We all have "stuff" and the older we get, the more "stuff" we may have as we accumulate a lifetime of memories. Does that mean we are hoarders? According to the article in the Washington Post, Hoarding is a serious disorder — and it’s only getting worse in the U.S.,
While the stockpiling of stuff is often pinned on America’s culture of mass consumption, hoarding is nothing new. But it’s only in recent years that the subject has received the attention of researchers, social workers, psychologists, fire marshals and public-health officials.
They call it an emerging issue that is certain to grow with an aging population. That’s because, while the first signs often arise in adolescence, they typically worsen with age, usually after a divorce, the death of a spouse or another crisis.
So you have a lot of stuff. And maybe you are disorganized (I once had someone tell me people do two kinds of organizing, some are "pilers" and others are "filers"). Does that mean you are a hoarder? Not necessarily, according to the article, because "[h]oarding is different from merely living amid clutter, experts note. It’s possible to have a messy house and be a pack rat without qualifying for a diagnosis of hoarding behavior. The difference is one of degree. Hoarding disorder is present when the behavior causes distress to the individual or interferes with emotional, physical, social, financial or legal well-being."
The article offers some interesting insights into hoarding and the research (such as it runs in families) but it isn't until recently that it's been thought of as a brain disorder. Not only may hoarding have lacked attention in the past, it's one of those situations where the person may not know to seek treatment and the response requires a multi-disciplinary approach. The article has a lot of good information and is insightful in covering the issues.
Then look at this article in Huffington Post's Post 50, 5 Signs That Someone You Love May Be A Hoarder where one expert is quoted as predicting about 4 million people in the U.S. are hoarders. "Hoarding ... is associated with a number of things including difficulty processing information, the inability to make decisions when confronted with a large amount of information and a failure to categorize things — meaning you can’t see the commonality of objects and they instead all look unique to you." This article offers 5 signs that someone is a hoarder, including constant attendance at garage sales and swap meets, never inviting visitors to the person's home, never giving anything away, keeping every scrap of paper and getting upset at the suggestion of discarding possessions. Sound like anyone you may know?