2014 – A Year of Growth for Engage As You Age

2014 was a remarkable year for Engage As You Age. We hired some amazing activity specialists who profoundly impacted many lives. We lost some of our favorite clients and met some amazing new ones along the way.

2015 will be Engage’s seventh year in business. I’ve learned so much from the thousands of seniors that I’ve met and hundreds of activity specialists that I’ve hired.  Still, what I’m most struck by is how many new things I learn each day and how many socially isolated seniors there are. It’s a privilege to walk into so many people’s homes and try and find a way to make someone smile. It’s humbling to learn that I can’t do that for everyone and unbelievably rewarding to know that I’ve made many lives richer by matching people up who wouldn’t have met if not for Engage.

I encourage readers of our blog to reach out to us and tell us what they’d like us to write about, who they think we should hire and also who they think we should help.  We’d like to help as many socially isolated seniors as possible in 2015. Happy New Year!

Chase Small Business Contest – Mission Main Street Grants – Thank you!

We are now over 300 votes and appreciate all of your support in this fabulous contest.

Please vote for us if you haven’t already – https://www.missionmainstreetgrants.com/business/detail/14573

Thank you Chase for this great opportunity to apply for a grant that would transform our business. We’re working on the essays and close to finishing them up. The 1000-word-character count is challenging!

84-Year-Old Wins Second-Largest U.S. Jackpot in History

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

You’re never too old to experience a life-changing event.

On June 6, a Florida octogenarian won the second-largest U.S. jackpot in history, $590.5 million.

And all because of the kindness of one stranger—who let this little old lady go ahead of her in line to purchase the winning quick-pick ticket.

Gloria MacKenzie, 84, came forward last week to claim the $590.5 million jackpot, more than two weeks after the Powerball drawing on May 18, Florida Lottery officials said. She passed up a payout spread over 30 years for a somewhat smaller one-time lump sum, pocketing $370.9 million before taxes, CNN reported.

MacKenzie bought the winning ticket at a Publix supermarket in Zephyrhills, a town of about 13,300, which is 30 miles northeast of Tampa. It is best known for the bottled spring water that bears its name—and now, for one of the biggest lottery winners of all time.

“We are grateful with this blessing of winning the Florida Lottery Powerball jackpot,” MacKenzie said in a statement.

However many years MacKenzie has left, they will certainly not be the same.

S.F. Board of Supervisors Holds Town Hall Meetings on Aging Issues

CLClogoIf you’re a senior citizen in San Francisco concerned about how the city is planning for and investing in resources for aging in place and healthy aging, then mark your calendars for two upcoming town hall meetings on the city’s budget.

  • For Districts 5 & 6, hear from Supervisors London Breed & Jane Kim on Monday, May 13, 2013 (6:00 – 7:30 p.m.), at the Main Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street. That’s tomorrow!
  • For Districts 2 & 3, hear from Supervisors Mark Farrell & David Chiu on Saturday, May 18, 2013 (10 – 11:30 a.m.), Location TBA.

These are good opportunities for residents to learn more about city leaders’ priorities and make their issues known. SF Healthy Aging and the Community Living Campaign have been publicizing the town hall meetings as part of an effort to ensure the continuity of the “Keep Us Connected Campaign,” for which funding ends this fall, and also other issues that impact seniors, adults with disabilities and their caregivers.

“We are excited to hear directly from our residents about their top priorities on issues that matter the most to them,” said Mayor Lee on the website for Office of the Mayor. “We must craft a balanced budget that …ensures San Franciscans can access city services they need.”

Make your voice heard! Attend the upcoming town hall meetings and advocate on behalf of the city’s senior citizens, those who wish to age in place, and their caregivers who ensure they can.



Inside the Brains of SuperAgers

Is it possible for an 80-year-old brain to look like a 50-year-old brain? And if so, how?

One researcher at Northwestern University was determined to find out.

Neuroscientist Emily Rogalski from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine began recruiting volunteers age 80 and up from the Chicago area to test their memories. Why do some elderly individuals have such strong memories? What do their brains look like?

Of those who came in to have their memories tested, only about 1 in 10 had exceptional memories as good or better than the memories of people in their 50s and 60s. This small group Rogalski calls “superagers.”

MRI scans of the SuperAgers found two big differences from the brains of average 80-year-olds.

The cortex (the area of the brain responsible for thinking and memory) of SuperAgers experienced no significant shrinkage as compared to the brains of 50 and 60-year-olds. Additionally, SuperAgers had anterior cingulates thicker than in that of the 50-year-old brain. The anterior cingulate is the small brain region important for attention and memory.

Tests found SuperAgers also had fewer risk genes for Alzheimer’s than typical 80-year-olds.

The study, with 12 participants, is too small at this point to be conclusive; Rogalski has consequently recruited 30 more SuperAgers to participate in the study, and she’s just started to analyze their brain scans.

Engage As You Age is eager to follow the study as it grows and develops. What are the primary reasons why SuperAgers’ brains look different? Genes? Environment? Lifestyle? Could socialization and social stimulation have something to do with it? Does aging in place versus in an aging facility have something to do with it?

What do you think? Do you know any seniors in the San Francisco Bay Area with an excellent memory?

Bay Area Radio Station Features Engage Founder

KHMB Half Moon Bay recently featured Engage As You Age’s founder on its weekly radio broadcast, Porch Talk, a radio show focused on healthy aging.

Host Jeannine Clark interviewed Ben Lewis the KHMB studios January 20. The broadcast is available in its entirety on the station’s website.

If you’ve ever wanted to know…

  • The story of how Ben Lewis decided to start Engage As You Age
  • Why it’s so critical to provide older adults with consistent, meaningful interaction
  • Where Engage As You Age helps families determine how best to provide purpose for their elderly loved one (hint – it’s at your home!)
  • How customized one-on-one social interaction can improve seniors’ quality of life
  • Why seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s need socialization and human connection — and the best way to open the door to that meaningful conversation.

…then you should listen to the show!


89-year-old San Rafael Senior Launches Business with Grandson


Pearl Malkin might just be the San Francisco Bay Area’s next great entrepreneur.

An 89-year-old senior in San Rafael, she began using a cane when she got vertigo. She was depressed just looking at her plain black cane. So this enterprising octogenarian got a hot glue gun, silk flowers and a pair of scissors. Carefully, she cut the bunches of flowers into individual blooms that she affixed to her cane. Voila. A happier cane, in under an hour. She made a few more. The craft project kept her busy and creative while aging in place in San Rafael.

Her grandson, Adam London, had been dreaming about starting his own business, being an Entrepreneur. He stopped by his grandmother’s San Rafael house one afternoon to catch up and tell her about his vision. The sassy senior citizen informed her grandson that she was already an Entrepreneur, and showed him her happy canes.

Adam thought she was really onto something. So he created a kickstarter campaign to raise $3,500, expanding Grandma Pearl’s line of decorated canes and raising capital so she wouldn’t have to make each one by herself, by hand.

“I never thought I’d go into business with my grandma,” Adam said.

Just days away from the conclusion of the kickstarter campaign, Grandma Pearl and her grandson Adam have raised $4,661 from 223 investors from around the globe. CNN recently featured this intergenerational start-up on its website.

Pearl was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. More than 60 years ago, she and her late husband, Irving, moved to Arizona, where they raised four kids. For the last few years, Pearl has lived in San Rafael, Marin County, California.

Happy Canes is not her first entrepreneurial venture. Years ago, she and her son self-published a book, “A Jewish Mother’s Guide to Professional Worry: Worry Yourself to Good Health.” For a $22 investment, you can receive a signed copy of the book. Sixty-five dollars will get you one Happy Cane, designed with seasonal spring flowers of tulips, lilies, daffodils and gardenias. Or, you can buy one directly from this hip grandmother’s Etsy Shop.

“I want to see the world smiling and laughing,” Pearl said, “and if it takes a stupid little cane with little flowers and 15 burn marks on my hands to make it happen, it’s okay.”

Enriching Environment May Delay Onset of Dementia

A new study published this week by researchers at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) shows that keeping the mind active, exercising and having a good social life boost a major molecular mechanism in the brain that can delay the onset of dementia.

Given that Engage As You Age is in the business of keeping seniors’ minds active through enriching, meaningful social interaction, we were quite pleased to hear about these results.

The study provides scientific evidence supporting the concept that prolonged and intensive stimulation by an enriched environment — especially regular exposure to new activities — may have beneficial effects in delaying one of the key negative factors in Alzheimer’s disease.

How? By preventing the toxic amyloid beta protein from weakening the communication between nerve cells and the brain’s “memory center” known as the hippocampus. The researchers, led by Dennis Selkoe, co-director of the Center for Neurologic Diseases in the Department of Neurology at BWH, say this could explain the exact mechanism in the body that is boosted by mental stimulation and can delay the onset of dementia.

“Prolonged exposure to a richer, more novel environment beginning even in middle age might help protect the hippocampus from the bad effects of amyloid beta, which builds up to toxic levels in 100 percent of Alzheimer patients,” Selkoe said.

Moreover, the scientists found that exposing the brain to new activities in particular provided greater protection against Alzheimer’s disease than did just aerobic exercise.

Clearly, quality homecare and caregiving is not enough for seniors who are aging in place. They must also have a nourishing environment with access to activities and stimulating conversation.

We knew we were doing important work before this study came out. Now, we are even more proud that this cutting edge research confirms our approach–providing an enriched environment, mental stimulation and new activities for Bay Area seniors in an effort to slow the onset of  dementia/Alzheimer’s and improve quality of life.

Is There a Connection Between Hearing Loss and Dementia?

By Katherine Bouton

A developing body of research has found connections between hearing loss and dementia, and a new book explores this from a first person perspective. “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I—and 50 Million Other Americans—Can’t Hear You” chronicles a former newspaper editor’s experience with hearing loss over a period of 20 years.

Katherine Bouton, an editor at The New York Times, couldn’t hear what her colleagues were saying at daily editorial meetings. She had gone profoundly deaf in her left ear; her right was getting worse. Today, she wears a cochlear implant and a hearing aid.

“I wrote the book because I think people do not understand what so many people in the United States, and around the world for that matter, what their life is like on a daily basis. Serious hearing loss — it’s something you can’t just try it out for yourself. You can’t put earmuffs on and go outside and see what it’s like because it’s not just that you can’t hear, it’s that what you do hear is distorted,” Bouton said recently in a New York Times interview.

An estimated 17 percent of Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss. The research Bouton explores in her book looks at the association between hearing loss and dementia. Scientists have three theories:

  1. People with hearing loss isolate themselves, and social isolation can contribute to dementia.
  2. Those with hearing loss have more difficulty absorbing information because they strain so much to hear what people are saying.
  3. There may be a physical link between hearing loss and dementia.

The primary researcher in this space, Dr. Frank Lin, is currently conducting a longitudinal study to measure the cognitive abilities and social functioning of older adults with hearing loss.

This research has potentially great implications for the way doctors treat hearing loss and the way seniors choose to age in place.

“If these studies between hearing loss and dementia turn out to be accurate,” Bouton says, “as we get older that means a really considerable number of people having earlier and more serious dementia, which is — it’s bad for them, but it’s a huge cost factor in terms of public health.”

Shouting Won’t Help,” by Katherine Bouton, will be released February 19th.


Hollywood Goes Gray With Films About Aging

Two of 2012’s best movies tackle the topic of getting older with honesty, humor and compassion.

Two Must-See Films About Aging:

Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut–as a septuagenarian no less–with “Quartet,” a funny and poignant tale of aging musicians living in a retirement home for retired opera singers. “What is it like to be so full of talent that no one is interested in, and to have amazing stories that nobody really wants to hear?” asks San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle.

The joys and pains of aging are woven throughout the film as the residents prepare for the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. Dementia is more a source of amusement than tragedy in this tale that critics are calling “one of the best movies you’ll ever see about old age.” Now playing at the Embarcadero Landmark Theaters in San Francisco, Albany Twin Theater in Albany, Piedmont Theatre in Piedmont, Rafael Film Center in San Rafael and CineArts in Pleasant Hill.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the humor spectrum is “Amour,” a French film that San Francisco Chronicle film critic called “cinematic boot camp. It is bleak and hopeless… but unforgettable and one of a kind. ”

“Amour” centers on octogenarians Georges and Anne, retired music teachers with one daughter who lives abroad with her family. Anne suffers a stroke and is left paralyzed on one side of her body, forcing her husband into the caregiver role. Whereas “Quartet” deals with dementia and finds the humor in those early signs of aging, “Amour” is ruthless and unforgiving in its portrayal of a person’s falling apart.

It may be depressing, but it’s Oscar-nominated for best picture, best actress, best director and best foreign language film. We think it’s one worth seeing, so head over to the Clay Theater in San Francisco, the Albany Twin Theater in Albany, the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael or the CineArts in Pleasant Hill.

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