If 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.
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?
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.”
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.
“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.
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:
People with hearing loss isolate themselves, and social isolation can contribute to dementia.
Those with hearing loss have more difficulty absorbing information because they strain so much to hear what people are saying.
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.”
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.
It’s new-tradition-Tuesday here at Engage As You Age, and so we’re starting a new one on our blog. Each Tuesday, we’ll be highlighting senior services in the San Francisco Bay Area that complement our unique, one-of-a-kind social engagement offerings. The San Francisco Bay Area offers an array of community resources for seniors, so the blogs should be plentiful and varied.
This Tuesday, we’re highlighting the local discounts available to San Francisco Bay Area seniors who are also members of AARP.
If you’re a senior over 50 living in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’re eligible for AARP membership. Members can save on insurance, financial services, health products and receive discounts at a variety of Bay Area stores and restaurants.
Some of our favorite discounts include:
Health: If you’re a Bay Area senior and an AARP member—but aren’t yet eligible for Medicare—your membership may provide you with discount medical coverage or supplemental hospital coverage provided by Aetna.
Shopping: Bay Area older adults who hold AARP memberships can save $5 off every $20 they purchase at Walgreens. San Francisco seniors can attest to the plethora of Walgreens stores in the city—and therefore the plethora of opportunities to save on any variety of health or home products. $20 can add up quick. This is especially helpful for seniors who are aging in place in San Francisco or the surrounding Bay Area!
Insurance: AARP members in the Bay Area who are between the ages of 50 and 64 can receive discounts on long-term care insurance through AARP’s discount offerings. Long-term care insurance helps offset the cost of in-home caregiving should you decide to age in place, and also helps cover the cost of assisted living facilities or nursing homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. For older adults or seniors who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, long-term care insurance can be a valuable resource.
Check out the AARP website for more ways to save as you age, and Engage as you save!
This week, Engage As You Age is blogging about three elderly Olympic athletes, who deserve to be recognized for their athletic achievements. See yesterday’s post on the oldest living American gold medalist, and check back tomorrow for another profile of one of the world’s oldest Olympic athletes—a 97-year-old gold medal swimmer!
Decades before Usain Bolt won Olympic gold in the 100-meter dash, Harrison Dillard won gold in the very same event. Which makes him the oldest-living Olympic 100-meter champ! Don’t mistake him for being the oldest living Olympian.
Dillard, 89, won a gold medal in the 100-meter race in the 1948 London Olympics. He is the only man to ever win Olympic gold medals in both the sprints and high hurdles. And he returned to London to watch Bolt defend his “world’s fastest man” title.
“I saw [Usain] Bolt in Beijing, and as they say, ‘I don’t believe what I just saw’ when he ran the 100 meters. I’m wondering if he can do it again,” Dillard told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last month.
A lot has changed in Dillard’s life since he competed in the 1948 London games, held as Britain and the world struggled to recover from World War II. “In my day, it was purely amateur. You represented your country, period,” he told the Associated Press. “They are now able to make it a profession.”
Dillard grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. After the Olympics and away from the track, he joined the Cleveland Indians’ public relations department in 1949. He also worked in radio and TV and wrote a weekly newspaper column for the now-defunct Cleveland Press.
The senior citizen still lives in a Cleveland suburb. He carried the Olympic flame in the 1984 and 2002 torch relay. This year, he traveled to London as a guest of the Omega watch company, which is still the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games.
Because even though much time has elapsed between Dillard and Bolt winning gold, no time can erase the memory of such an achievement.
“When they play that anthem and you’re standing there and it’s being played because of something you did it is a feeling that you can’t describe,” he said. “I remember in subsequent years watching the Olympic Games on television and [the athletes] some with tears streaming down their face, some look like they’re in shock. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I stood there the first time.”
This week, Engage As You Age is blogging about three elderly Olympic athletes, who deserve to be recognized for their athletic achievements. Check back tomorrow for another profile of one of the world’s oldest living Olympians—an 89-year-old track star!
In the glitz and glamour of the 2012 Olympic Games, it’s easy to forget that even in the modern era, Olympic events weren’t always housed in brand new, state of the art facilities.
The world’s oldest Olympic gold medalists have been in the news this week reminiscing about their athletic past during the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles—at the height of the Great Depression.
The oldest living Olympian (an American gold medalist) could not afford to go the Olympic Trials in Chicago. So the people of her hometown—Tustin, California—went door to door and raised $190 for her to drive from southern California to Chicago with her mother and coach in order to compete.
And it was a good thing her community rallied behind her. Because Evelyn Furtsh Ojeda, now 98, broke both the Olympic and the world record while running to victory in 46.9 seconds as part of the women’s 4×100 relay track team.
After taking gold at the Olympics, Ojeda met her husband, Joe, and before she could think about training for the 1936 summer games, they had a baby. Today, she has two children, seven grandchildren and two great-grand children.
Ojeda worked for many years at her husband’s real estate office. But even retirement didn’t slow her down. She has remained active into her old age. When she retired at 80, she took two semesters of golf at Santa Ana College.
“ I had never played golf and I enjoyed that. I was always interested in sports. Now I can still walk. My doctor got me a cane but I’m not using it and as long as my legs hold out I won’t be,” she said in April during an interview with runner/author Gary Cohen.
Ojeda stands out for her Olympian achievements, but today she is like many elderly folk. She lives in Santa Ana, CA, and has chosen aging in place instead of living in an assisted living facility. Even though she lives with her granddaughter, she still gets lonely. She told the man who interviewed her that she gets very few phone calls and so was delighted to receive his call.
“I’ve outlived practically all of my old friends,” she said. “I have one lady friend who is 90 and we get together but all the rest are gone. The sad part of growing very old is that you lose your friends and even some of your younger family members.”
Engage As You Age understands that growing old also often means growing lonely. It’s why we provide social visits to seniors like Ojeda in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our work benefits seniors who choose to age in place and also those who live in assisted living facilities.
Because we know that both parties crave the kind of social interaction they can’t easily obtain–even if they once sprinted to gold.
Check back tomorrow for a profile on an octogenarian Olympic gold medalist!