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Monday, June 29, 2020

Sleep and Alzheimer’s Linked



New studies show a relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and a lack of deep sleep. Nap habits are a key.


Decades before an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is made, those likely to get the disease show disruptions in sleep patterns, in particular, a lack of deep sleep. So says Ruth Benca, a psychiatrist at the University of California Irvine. Her work has followed the parallels between rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and the development of Alzheimer’s. Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that people who have less slow-wave sleep also have higher levels of the brain protein tau, an indicator for Alzheimer’s. 




Track Your Sleep

Both Fitbit and the Apple Watch can help monitor your sleep habits. However, the battery life of Ionic, Versa and Charge 3 Fitbits can be measured in days, not hours, encouraging users to wear it at night, encouraging sleep tracking. “Our typical user is viewing sleep as being really important to their general wellness and mental health and how they handle stress and fatigue,” says Dr. Conor Heneghan, head of innovation and research at Fitbit

Not that the Apple Watch isn’t a stellar health device. It can track sleep by using the heart rate monitor, but its 18-hour battery life means you need to take it off to charge it up. It also requires a third-party app to download data so that users can visualize the results. Fitbit sleep tracking is built into the device, just like step tracking, and you don’t have to set up or install anything additional. 

“We’re very interested in using the sleep tracking to then provide an additional service to alert people to a sleep apnea risk,” Heneghan said. “That’s where the battery life is important, because if you’re charging your device, you can’t be screening or detecting your sleep problems.” 

One way to avoid battery issues is to get a device specifically for sleep. The Oura ring slides on a finger at night and measures REM sleep, deep sleep, restlessness and other factors. However, some might be discouraged by its $299 and up price tag on a device that only measures sleep habits. 

Another downside to sleep tracking is that anxiety over results may actually make your sleep worse, not better. And while you may learn that sleep worsens after a glass or two of wine and improves on days you exercised, what do you do with the rest of the data? Experts recommend writing down your mood when you awaken, but before taking a look at device results, to better assess how your night’s rest has made you feel.

Sleep Adaptogens: Botanicals To Relieve Stress 

Adaptogens have long been used in Chinese medicine to help “balance” the body. They have to meet three criteria: 

  1. They must be nonspecific and assist the body in a range of adverse conditions (physical, chemical and/or biological stress).
  2. They must offset or resist physical disorders caused by external stress. 
  3. They must not harm the normal functions of the body. 

"The stress hormone, called cortisol, is our primary fight-or-flight hormone, and its release triggers an adrenal response causing physiological changes such as spikes in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar,” according to Steven Zen, founder and CEO of Lokai, which has a line of adaptogen tonics. A spike in cortisol can lead to sleep disruption.

Some of the better-known adaptogens for sleep include ashwagandaha, prized in Ayurvedic medicine for its healing power, and Holy Basil, which is thought to bestow tranquility. They are available in tablets, teas and more. 

It’s long been known that people with Alzheimer’s tend to have poor sleep. But scientists now think that that a lack of deep sleep may be a sign of the disease that appears long before cognitive symptoms are apparent.

"What's interesting is that we saw this inverse relationship between decreased slow-wave sleep and more tau protein in people who were either cognitively normal or very mildly impaired, meaning that reduced slow-wave activity may be a marker for the transition between normal and impaired," said first author Brendan Lucey, MD, an assistant professor of neurology and director of the Washington University Sleep Medicine Center. "Measuring how people sleep may be a noninvasive way to screen for Alzheimer's disease before or just as people begin to develop problems with memory and thinking.”

Studies show that amyloid beta protein starts to build plaque in the brain well before memory loss and confusion are evident. Tangles of tau appear after the plaque, but in advance of brain atrophy. While there is currently no cure for the disease, there are medicines that can slow its progression if it is discovered early. 


Napping 

 
"The key is that it wasn't the total amount of sleep that was linked to tau, it was the slow-wave sleep, which reflects quality of sleep," says Lucey. "The people with increased tau pathology were actually sleeping more at night and napping more in the day, but they weren't getting as good quality sleep.” 

In fact, daytime resting in itself was “significantly” tied to high tau levels, meaning that nappers might want to seek further testing. But nap habits alone, or even impaired sleep, don’t mean you’ll get Alzheimer’s.

"I don't expect sleep monitoring to replace brain scans or cerebrospinal fluid analysis for identifying early signs of Alzheimer's disease, but it could supplement them," Lucey said. "It's something that could be easily followed over time, and if someone's sleep habits start changing, that could be a sign for doctors to take a closer look at what might be going on in their brains."

The Chicken or the Egg?


One thing that researchers don’t yet understand is if poor sleep is allowing buildups of amyloid and tau, or if amyloid and tau deposits inhibit deep sleep. However, healthy research subjects who consented to being awakened every hour (!) showed increased levels of amyloid the day after in a study from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

While none of us is likely to get a good night’s sleep every time we lay our head on a pillow, it’s worth the effort. Aim for seven hours. Think of it like you do other health initiatives — getting enough exercise, eating well, keeping alcohol consumption moderate, and not smoking. You may not always meet your goals, but aiming for them is a good thing in itself.


Sources:

https://qz.com/1737881/scientists-are-looking-at-sleeps-role-in-developing-alzheimers/
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190109142704.htm
https://www.macworld.com/article/3307872/fitbit-sleep-tracking-apple-watch.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6240259/
https://www.marthastewart.com/1540906/what-are-adaptogens-skin-sleep-benefits-explained
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/20/oura-ring-review---what-we-learned-about-the-sleep-tracking-ring.html





Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors




Saturday, June 27, 2020

Quotes From Famous People Will Influence Your Money Decisions



Follow these nuggets of wisdom to better money management and your ultimate worth.


No matter where we are in our financial journey, there’s always something we can learn. Maybe our priorities aren’t quite where we want them to be, or problems at home or work have upended our finances. The following quotes are useful to anyone, and come from some of the best minds on the subject. There are bound to be at least a couple that can inspire us to improve the way we manage our money, our time, and our priorities.

  • “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.” — Dave Ramsey 
Finance guru Ramsey knows that being in control of your money starts with a plan. Having a budget allows you to first see where you’re spending. It’s an essential step before deciding where you can make changes. Divide your expenses into needs (such as rent, utilities and health coverage) vs. wants (such as new clothes, eating out and game tickets) to find your base expenses and identify areas where you can save. Try the free Mint or Personal Capital budget trackers.

  • “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” — Colin Powell
Whether you have a dream to run your own business or retire early, it’s not going to be easy. Forget about winning the lottery (the odds are about one in 300 million). You need to have a vision and then work hard and consistently toward your goal.

  • “Every time you borrow money, you’re robbing your future self.” — Nathan W. Morris
Bad debt, such as balances on credit cards, can make it impossible to get ahead. Never ever carry a balance on a credit card; the interest rate will kill your savings and the balance will hurt your credit score. Payday loans are another bad idea. 

  • “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” — Henry David Thoreau
Think about your spending in terms of lifespan instead of money. Is that big new car worth a year of stress and being tied to the office? And what about the increased cost for insurance, tires, registration and servicing? Did you buy it with a loan? Then you’re also giving up many, many future hours of your life. To put this in perspective, read “Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence.” 

  • “I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.” — Benjamin Disraeli
Insurance helps you to be prepared for the worst. Life insurance, homeowners insurance, umbrella insurance and disability insurance are some that you’ll want to at least consider. Making a will and having a health care directive are two more ways to prepare for what may come. 

  • “It’s how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success.” — David Feherty
If you can manage to go through the worst times with grace, keeping your ethics and attitude high, it’s fairly certain that you’ll maintain them when luck and hard work lead to success. It’s not always easy, but having an even keel really can help you navigate the toughest storms. The same goes for investing, where panic and greed never lead to a good end. Stay the course with sound, diversified investments and time is your friend.

  • “The stock market is designed to transfer money from the active to the patient.” — Warren Buffett
Take it from the Oracle of Omaha, sound investing requires time and faith. Faith in the companies or indexes you have chosen. Studies prove, over and over, that much more money is lost by people trying to time the market (selling at highs, buying at lows) than by those who simply stay the course, investing over time. It’s easier said than done. Human nature works against us, urging us to sell in a panic at market lows and buy at the top when everything looks rosy. Listen to Buffett.

  • “When buying shares, ask yourself, would you buy the whole company?” — Rene Rivkin
You are buying the company, at least a piece of it, when you buy a share of stock. (Bonds, on the other hand, are loans you make to companies). So before you become an owner, you should make sure that you believe this is the best company in its class, the best investment you could make with that money. Otherwise, keep looking.

  • “Don’t look for the needle in the haystack. Just buy the haystack.” — John Bogle
Even though Bogle is no longer with us, the proclaimed father of the index fund at Vanguard still inspires an army of proud Bogleheads who invest, not in individual companies, but in baskets of stocks that follow the S&P 500 or some other major index. Research shows that even supposed “expert” managers underperform the market most of the time. An added bonus is that index investors don’t have to worry about market ups and downs, thus having more hours to spend in life pursuits, whatever they may be.

  • “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” — Benjamin Franklin
Franklin’s sage advice is as true today as it was in his time. The more skilled you can be in your career, the more you’re likely to get paid and the more autonomy you will have. Find a niche, and strive to be the very best one in it. Go to seminars, read books (like Bill Gates!), hire a coach and seek out a mentor. No matter what your field, from app development to bartending, knowledge is the key to success.

  • “The amount of money you have has got nothing to do with what you earn. People earning a million dollars a year can have no money. People earning $35,000 a year can be quite well off. It’s not what you earn; it’s what you spend.” — Paul Clitheroe
In “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy,” the authors reveal that most millionaires are ordinary people with run-of-the-mill jobs who invested their savings and lived below their means. No, they didn’t win the lottery, inherit a fortune or become a CEO in the vast majority of cases. They drive an older car that has long been paid off. They don’t buy fancy clothes. Their home is likely to be in a nondescript neighborhood. When you hear about the secretary who left $8 million to her alma mater, it isn’t because her paycheck was exceptional, but her habit of saving and investing was.

  • “The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” — Unknown
Indeed, Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in America, says he measures his success by how much he is loved by the people who matter to him. We all want financial security, but putting the spotlight on making money without paying attention to how we treat others and what we are teaching them leads to an empty life. Ask yourself if you are helping those below you to improve their position, if you are a benefit to your community and if you are contributing to goals that are bigger than you are. There’s no better time than right now to start.
 

Click below for the other articles in the June 2020 Senior Spirit




Sources:

https://www.fool.com/retirement/2019/01/19/12-quotes-that-will-make-you-rethink-your-personal.aspx



Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors



Thursday, June 25, 2020

Relief for Cancer Patients in One Dose



Anxiety, depression and dread in cancer patients was substantially reduced with a single dose of this popular drug combined with therapy.


When someone has cancer, the weight of the world can be on their shoulders. Will I die? How will I ever pay the medical bills? How will my family survive? How can I work when I feel so awful? These terrible anxieties can impair healing and quality of life for the time that is left.

But what if a single dose of a drug could alleviate those symptoms for years? That is exactly what researchers found when they gave cancer patients psilocybin, a compound found in “magic” mushrooms. Once looked at as a dangerous recreational drug class, psychedelics are being studied extensively for their ability to make quick, profound changes in patients with a variety of ailments, including cancer.

Meaningful Experience


“Three out of four of our participants said the therapy was the singular or in the top five most spiritually meaningful experiences of their lives, and they continue to remember them,” says researcher Stephen Ross at NYU Langone and senior study author. “These experiences rapidly changed their relationship to cancer, changes which this long-term follow-up study suggests endure for years.” Researchers speculate that the mechanism of action in psilocybin is related to a common class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), a group that includes Prozac and Zoloft, commonly used to treat depression and other issues.

These new results build on a 2016 study of 29 cancer patients who were divided into two groups. One received a single dose of psilocybin and participated in nine psychotherapy sessions. The other group got a placebo (Niacin), which produces a flush similar to that of psilocybin and also took part in nine psychotherapy sessions. After seven weeks, researchers switched the group that got the real drug and the one that got the placebo.

Patients recorded how they felt. Psilocybin produced “immediate, substantial and sustained improvements” in anxiety and depression in 100% of participants, researchers noted. “One day after getting psilocybin, 80% of the participants no longer met criteria for depression related to cancer,” Ross says. These effects were “immediate and clinically meaningful.” However, since the study wasn’t blind, there remains the question of a placebo effect.

Success Over Time


But no one knew if or how long the effects would last. The team performed a follow-up with 15 of the original participants (nine had since died). No further treatment was given, but the participants filled out a questionnaire at 3.2 and 4.5 years after the first study. It asked open-ended questions about life since the psilocybin and therapy experience. 

The majority reported a reduction in anxiety, depression, hopelessness, demoralization and death anxiety. Furthermore, scientists determined that 60% to 80% demonstrated signs of having eliminated clinical depression and anxiety at each time period.

A full 71% to 100% of participants attributed these uplifting changes to the psilocybin-assisted therapy and judged it to be one of the most meaningful and spiritual life experiences they had ever had. None of the participants reported long-term negative effects from the sessions. 

My experience during the dosing was profound,” said one participant during a teleconference to discuss the research. “I experienced first-grade anxiety and then that turned to great compassion for the suffering on Earth, in all different modalities. Then, that turned into a profound spiritual awareness of how connected we all are. That has lasted and opened me enormously.”

Pathways in the brain appear to open with the use of psilocybin, although scientists don’t know exactly how it works. “The brain appears to be more interconnected when you use psilocybin,” Ross said. “Parts of the brain that don't normally speak to each other communicate with each other.”

Decriminalization


While we may be years away from routinely using psilocybin to treat people with cancer-related psychological issues, many parts of the country are beginning to recognize that the drug is not as dangerous as once thought, at least by the government. Denver, Colorado led the way with a May 2019 vote to decriminalize magic mushrooms. The policy change at the Colorado capitol has inspired a grassroots movement throughout the country. 

Oakland and Santa Cruz decriminalized a wider range of psychedelic substances, and Oregonians will face a statewide ballot to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use in November. Activists in more than 100 cities have expressed interest in similar changes. 

Psychedelics Research Center


Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University announced in September that more than $17 million in private funds had been donated to open the nation’s first center for the exclusive study of psychedelic drugs. A prestigious team is currently conducting studies on an array of drugs, which they hope will make inroads in the treatment of opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Conversely, the National Drug Intelligence Center states, “Yes, psilocybin is illegal. Psilocybin is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs, which include heroin and LSD, have a high potential for abuse and serve no legitimate medical purpose in the United States.” While the drug is still classified Schedule I, as it has been since Nixon was president, the page lists a caveat: “ARCHIVED January 1, 2006. This document may contain dated information. It remains available to provide access to historical materials.”

Only time will tell if the results of these initial studies hold up. But it is worth following scientific efforts to see if that is the case, especially as some entities push to not only legalize but medicalize psilocybin and similar drugs. The thought is to treat them similar to marijuana, which is now widely available in controlled, state-approved shops with specified strengths and dosing. As with marijuana, researchers need to evaluate how psilocybin interacts with other medications to determine possible contraindications for its use. At this juncture, it appears the benefit may outweigh the risk for the population being treated.


Click below for the other articles in the June 2020 Senior Spirit



Sources:

https://www.marijuanamoment.net/john-hopkins-university-announces-nations-first-ever-psychedelics-research-center/
https://www.marijuanamoment.net/psychedelics-decrim-activists-mark-first-anniversary-of-denvers-historic-psilocybin-mushroom-vote/
https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/cancer-patients-single-dose-one-popular-drug-provides-relief
https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs6/6038/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007659/





Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors



Monday, June 22, 2020

Robot Dog Patrols Park


In Singapore, Google’s “dog” robot marches through a large park, making sure people socially distance. 


Visitors to the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park have been unnerved to find a headless, robotic dog purposely treading along the asphalt paths. “Spot,” the yellow and black canine (sort of) spawn of Boston Robotics, is programmed to walk at human speed, occasionally playing a recording in a soft, female voice that encourages people to stay apart.

“Let’s keep Singapore healthy,” says the voice. “For your own safety, and those around you, please stand at least one meter apart. Thank you.”

Not a bad use for the dog-size robot, which is race- and gender-neutral. However, its presence does appear to scare the pants off some park-goers in videos that follow its movement through the grassy space. 

Spot the Robot

The quadruped is a sensation on YouTube, where videos show it walking up and down stairs, blithely operating across precarious terrain, moving through rain and dust, and avoiding obstacles in the dark. It can right itself if it falls over and assume a lowered position on the floor when it is not in use.

You might wonder about getting a Spot of your own, so what does one of these little guys cost?

Boston Dynamics is evasive on the answer. To be certain, it depends on what sort of add-ons your Spot would come with, and how much support the company would provide. Both can vary considerably. But alas, Boston Dynamics is not currently offering its doggy robot for personal use. Instead, businesses can apply to get one by first filling out a questionnaire about what tasks they want the robot to perform. Not only does Boston Dynamics want to make sure expectations are not unrealistic, the company also encourages industry operators to come up with innovative uses for the steel “animal” that the company itself hasn’t yet pondered. In that way, the robot will be tested for unusual jobs that may broaden its sales appeal. However, Boston Dynamics does give a hint about the price: it’s slightly less than the cost of a car. Hmmm, would that be a Land Rover or a Mini Cooper? The company isn’t saying.

One danger in using the robot to maintain social distancing is that people may become blasé about the mechanical canine. How long will it be until people just look at the robot and go on with inappropriately close chatting? 



Sources:

https://mashable.com/video/boston-dynamics-spot-patrols-park-social-distancing/
https://www.wired.com/story/spot-the-robot-dog-trots-into-the-big-bad-world/
https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/boston-dynamics-spot-robot-dog-goes-on-sale



Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors




Thursday, June 18, 2020

Travel Movies



Actually going somewhere may be off the table for a while, but you can take a trip around the world with these movies filmed on location.


The pandemic has dampened travel plans for many of us, but our wanderlust is still urging us to explore. Sadly, we come to terms with a bucket list that won’t have that trip to the Greek islands checked off. Many of us will investigate state and national parks in the safety of an RV, but what to do about our desire to eat Indian food in India, or munch a chocolate croissant atop the Eiffel Tower? How can we stay safe while seeing new parts of the world? 

Hollywood may have the answer: there is no shortage of great movies filmed abroad. No, it is not the same as traveling there yourself, but it can provide a somewhat-satisfying substitute in a pinch. Order some curry takeout from your favorite Indian restaurant and watch the charming Marigold Hotel or snag some delectable frozen pastries at Trader Joe’s to heat up and enjoy while viewing An American in Paris. Thrifty retirees have known for a long time that it is a great way to get a foreign experience on a budget!

But what to watch? Whether your preference is adventure, action, or romance, there is a movie for you. Keep a box of tissues nearby for the tear-jerkers, a cuddly blanket, and settle down to enjoy. Here is our list of favorites featuring a variety of locales, in no particular order:

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
This heist film is the second in a trilogy of entertaining romps. While not set entirely abroad, it does take viewers to Lake Como in Italy and has an overall international flavor. 

Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
Based on a true story, the film follows an Austrian mountaineer and his partner who are imprisoned then escape across the treacherous Himalayan mountains and find refuge in Lhasa, where he befriends the Dalai Lama. Personal and political drama amid a breathtaking setting make this a winner.

A Room With a View (1985)
This charming British romance set in Edwardian England includes a stop in Florence, Italy. If you thrill at thwarted young love that resolves happily at the end, this is your film. Based on a 1907 novel by E. M. Forster.

Sound of Music (1965)
Julie Andrews plays a winsome young nun who becomes the pseudo-mother of six rich Austrian children whose handsome father is a recent widower. Gee, what do you think happens?! Yet this somewhat saccharine, predictable classic is somehow imminently satisfying and worth yet another viewing, if only for the scene where the nun disables the Nazi car.

The English Patient (1996)
Bring out the hankies for this romantic war drama featuring a horribly burned WWII soldier as he has flashbacks of his life working in the Sahara Desert before the war. Set in an Italian monastery, the film satisfies with a great story and foreign flavor.

Endless Summer (1966)
Yearning for some saltwater and sand between your toes? Try visiting beaches from Africa to Tahiti in this epic surfing lifestyle flick, as a pair of Southern Cali boys chase the waves. The cinematography will thrill you, and you may even be inspired to sign up for a lesson or two on your next seaside vacation.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Traveling through India by train, three fictional brothers reinvent the classic road trip through the stunning backdrop of Rajasthan. Brew a pot of tea while you watch the trio interact with other passengers and villagers they encounter along the way.

The Way (2010)
Northern Spain is the setting for this drama set along the Camino de Santiago, where Martin Sheen traces the footsteps of his recently deceased son, meeting a variety of pilgrims and fellow travelers seeking some form of enlightenment as they tread the ancient pathway.


Tracks (2013)
Accompany the actor portraying Robyn Davidson, who walked 17,000 miles through the Australian Outback with only a dog and four feral camels for companionship. Adapted from her namesake book, the movie highlights both her solitude and courage as she trudges through wild landscapes that vary from desolate to stunning.


Y Tu Mama También (2001)
In this coming-of-age adventure, a pair of friends and an older companion seek a fabled Mexican beach but find a variety of challenges, including sex and drug use. Set in the late 1990s, the beauty of Oaxaca is juxtaposed with its poverty.


Click below for the other articles in the June 2020 Senior Spirit



Sources:
https://www.thediscoverer.com/blog/7-movies-to-watch-your-way-around-the-world/?
Wikipedia


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors



Sunday, June 14, 2020

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!


Image Source: Wikipedia

June 1 - Lorraine Moller, marathoner


What is it about New Zealand? Apart from being an ecological wonderland, it has produced some of the world’s top mountain climbers and, with Lorraine Moller, a top marathoner whose athletic star burned bright through four Olympics. This in spite of there being no sanctioned marathons for females on the international circuit until 1984, when Moller turned 29. 

The athlete began her running career in 1974 with a fifth-place finish in the 800 m, posting a time that still stands as the fastest by a New Zealand woman under 20. But her claim to fame is her performance in the marathon, winning Boston in  1984, triumphing at Osaka three times, and competing in the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games (the last at the age of 41). In 1992 at Barcelona, she was awarded the bronze medal at the age of 37. 








Image Source: TV Guide

June 2 - Dana Carvey, comedian


Dana Carvey’s schoolteacher parents moved the family to California when he was three, and the fourth of five kids got his bachelor’s degree in broadcast communications at San Francisco State University. It was a natural fit; in 1977, he came in first in the San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition. 

You may remember Carvey as the prim Church Lady on SNL, which he and his fellow cast members resurrected from mounting obscurity in 1986. He also was tapped to play George H.W. Bush during many political sketches leading up to the 1992 presidential campaign. When Carvey left SNL, he was asked to take over hosting for David Letterman in his Late Show, but turned it down in favor of having more time to spend with his two sons. 

A film career featured an unfortunate lead role in The Master of Disguise, which was widely panned and earned 1% approval on ratings site Rotten Tomatoes. Carvey’s portrayal of Garth Algar in Wayne’s World was much better received, and a sequel followed. Nowadays, Carvey prefers live performances when not at home in California with his wife of 37 years.






June 5 - Sally Silverstone, Co-Captain (Biosphere 2)


You remember that terrarium you had as a child? Biosphere 2 is basically the world’s largest terrarium (technically a vivarium since it is completely enclosed), a 3.14-acre system that is a research and teaching site, created between 1987 and 1991, now owned by the University of Arizona. Its original purpose was as a demo for a potential mini colony in outer space, to show that humans could survive on say, the moon, or Mars. The structure sports seven biome areas, in addition to a human habitat: a rainforest, an ocean, a coral reef, mangrove wetlands, savannah grasslands, fog desert, and an agricultural system. 

Sally Silverstone was part of the first two-year, closed-system experiment that took place from 1991 to 1993. Participants were to live off what the biosphere produced, including a low-calorie, high-protein diet that caused an initial average weight loss of 16 pounds each. Oxygen ran low, and pollinating insects died while cockroaches and an ant species that had been accidentally sealed into the biome thrived. Although participants thrived physically, tempers flared and the researchers divided into factions. 

Nevertheless, the crew was united in an intense focus on experiments and carrying out the original mission. In fact, their turmoil mimicked that which has occurred in Antarctic research stations, another closed environment. Although the crew reported depression, a psychological check found none, speculating that hunger and low oxygen may have been responsible for the reports. In fact, psychologists found that researchers were quite hardy and fit the mental profile common to astronauts. 

Currently, university undergraduates may attend a week-long “space camp” at the site, located at the foot of the Catalina mountains outside Tucson, and overnight camps are available to local school children. 








Image Source: Wikipedia

June 8 - Tim Berners-Lee, inventor off the World Wide Web


Who becomes the inventor of the Web? A child whose parents were computer scientists, who was fascinated by trains and had a model railway. A kid who got a physics degree from Oxford while making a computer out of an old television set he bought at a repair shop. 

Berners-Lee went on to work at CERN as an independent contractor in Geneva, where he was frustrated by the slow and cumbersome process of data sharing. He proposed a new system based on hypertext, and built a prototype, ENQUIRE, to demonstrate it. His manager called the system, “vague, but exciting.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Berners-Lee holds the founders chair in computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among many, many positions and projects. Many in recent years surround the issues of data privacy and ownership. Oh, and you may call him “sir” as he has long been knighted. He has married twice, has two sons, and currently collaborates with his second wife (an internet and banking entrepreneur) on investing in artificial intelligence companies.


Sources:

https://www.wikipedia.org

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Friday, June 12, 2020

“Lean on Me” in This Time of Uncertainty

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just a few short months since the coronavirus claimed its first life here in our great nation.  It seems much longer, doesn’t it?  Since then, we have been bombarded with a lot of negative news, and through this experience we have become self-taught epidemiology “experts”. We are learning a lot of new medical terminology: acronyms like PPE (personal protective equipment), and words like asymptomatic (not showing symptoms), as we drink from a fire hose of information about this pandemic.

Bob Roth
Make no mistake, COVID-19 is serious, with the elderly being the most vulnerable.  With all the uncertainty in the world due to this virus, there is no better time  to show the world the power of our great nation, and that power lies with us, the people of the United States of America.

For some of us, a stay at home mandate offers a great opportunity to get closer to our family members, partners and roommates.  However, for many  that are living alone, a time like this  can make for an extremely lonely existence.  Did you know that approximately 33% of our elderly population (65+) lives home alone?  According to Joseph Coughlin and the MIT Age Lab this number may eclipse the 50% mark over the next 15 years.  Loneliness is a significant challenge with this pandemic, and with our older adult population this can be extremely dangerous.  How do we keep them engaged? How do we ensure they are getting what they need?   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges that we all practice self-isolation and social distancing to protect ourselves.  However, the same isolation that could save the elderly from coronavirus could also have a dramatically negative effect.  A 2015 study found that prolonged isolation can have the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The emphasis for social distancing should be centered on the word “social.”  How do we keep our aging loved ones engaged?  So many are feeling socially disconnected.

Here are 9 things you can do to keep your aging loved ones, neighbors and friends from feeling  isolated.
  1. Help with keeping them socially engaged
    Check in  regularly. If they are comfortable using technology, you can video conference with Facetime or Zoom, or simply send text messages and emails.  Sometimes nothing beats the old-fashioned practice of picking up the phone and giving them a call.  If you’re cooking, make a little extra and offer a dish to them; put it in a disposable container, use a disinfectant wipe to sanitize the outside of the container, and leave a thoughtful note.
     
  2. Help with food and essentials
    Lots of nonperishable items have disappeared from stores, especially hand sanitizers and toilet paper. Consider shopping for them while doing your own, or help them set up a revolving delivery from the grocery store.
     
  3. Help with medications
    Offer to pick up prescriptions or  set up ongoing delivery. In some cases you can order prescriptions in 90-day quantities to eliminate the need to worry about running out.  Many of our seniors have trouble remembering to take medications; you can ask the pharmacy to pre-package medications in blister packs with designations for morning and evening. You can also call to remind them to take their medications.
     
  4. Help with health care appointments
    It is amazing how many medical practices have embraced the use of either phone or video conference appointments (telehealth). This is a safe way to visit your doctor during the pandemic. If  you are a family member or have power of attorney for medical decision-making, you could also participate in these appointments. Should the older person urgently need an in-person evaluation, phone ahead for them, report symptoms and ask for instructions as to next steps.
     
  5. Engage the grandchildren
    With schools closed for the time being, your children could help an older adult learn something new about today’s technology, whether it be a laptop or a TV remote. Or they might send emails to grandparents or elderly neighbors to chat about what they’re doing, or ask them to participate online in virtual classrooms, symphonies or museums. Best of all, your children could use this time to record some family history.
     
  6. Connect with trusted organizations
    Remote-volunteer for local organizations serving older adults. Many of these agencies, stretched thin, may prefer financial support. Many provide meals for seniors and are delivering during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Consider helping out by purchasing pre-paid gas cards to support the drivers.
     
  7. For dementia care partners
    If you know someone caring for a person with dementia, reach out to them. Many of them occasionally use adult day care, but during this outbreak these facilities are now unavailable. Any support groups they normally attend might not be in session either, and the lack of services may increase their stress. Assist them by setting up phone or video conferencing with other dementia care partners to strategize on ways to cope.
     
  8. Encourage activity
    While some of our aging loved ones may be isolated in their own homes, this does not preclude them from moving.  If they are watching television, they can get up during every commercial and do an active chore. If possible, taking a walk outside is a great way to stay active and enjoy the benefits of fresh air and sunshine.
     
  9. Go on a news diet
    Stay informed and know what’s going on but don’t get locked into endlessly watching “breaking news” on the 24-hour news channels. Typically, not much changes hour to hour. But enduring the repetitious pummeling from TV all day long can bring needless anxiety. Watch a news update in the morning, then check in again at night. Don’t stay with it all evening — 30 minutes or an hour is plenty.
Music is a powerful way to elicit positive emotions. Help grandchildren or neighbors make playlists that resonate with them.  With the unfortunate passing of music legend Bill Withers recently, I can’t help but feel that his hit “Lean on Me” is a great tribute for how we need to come together to help lift up our family, friends, neighbors and community.  We are all in this together and together we will beat this virus.   If everyone does their part we can surely blunt the virus curve, get through to the other side, and life can get back to some semblance of normal again.  

About the Author


Bob Roth is Managing Partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions. Bob assisted in creating Cypress HomeCare Solutions with his family in 1994. With nearly 35 years of consumer products, health care and technology experience, Bob has successfully brought the depth and breadth of his experience to the home care trade and in doing so, Cypress HomeCare Solutions has been honored to receive a number of awards over the years. Bob hosts a radio show called “Health Futures, Taking Stock in You.” This program airs every Friday from Noon to 1:00 pm on Money Radio 1510 AM, 105.3 FM. In addition, he writes a monthly column called “Aging Today” for the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, and Lovin Life after 50 newspapers. In March 2017 Bob was appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. In 2019 Bob was selected the winner for the Home Health Care News Future Leader Award - Recognizing up-and-coming leaders elevating the home health industry.

Friday, May 29, 2020

COVID-19 Treatment, Vaccines Update



As Americans long for a return to normalcy in the wake of the pandemic, a variety of treatment and vaccine candidates for the coronavirus are showing promise.


We all yearn to go to restaurants again, to work out at the gym, to go to a concert or get together with friends without thinking about an imaginary six-foot ring. Some states are starting to reopen, but nobody will be able to rest easy until a reliable vaccine is developed or at least an effective treatment can allow us to avoid thinking the worst. New information seems to come out daily, but where are we really? 

Treatments


Farther along than you might think, it turns out. Let’s start with treatments for COVID-19. Fortunately, a handful of drugs that have been developed to ameliorate the symptoms produced by other diseases are finding initial success against the coronavirus. Some may be familiar to you, others not so much.

  • Remdesivir. The drug continues to look promising after several small studies. Allowed on a “compassionate use” program that fast-tracks likely treatments, the majority of a 53-person trial “demonstrated clinical improvement and no new safety signals were identified,” according to maker Gilead Sciences. While more studies need to be done, the company is ramping up production to treat more than half a million patients by October and twice that by December.
  • Kevzara. Currently approved to treat immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, Kevzara may reduce COVID-19’s damage to lungs by stifling the body’s overreaction to the virus. Suppressing the immune system may allow some individuals to avoid ventilation and recover faster. A partnership between Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi, the drug is currently in U.S. trials that were anticipated to include as many as 400 patients.
  • Baricitinib. Another immunosuppressant drug, baricitinib is currently under study with hospitalized patients in the U.S. Maker Eli Lilly hopes its anti-inflammatory properties could ease symptoms. The study will expand abroad, with results anticipated at the end of June. 
  • Famotidine. A common medication for heartburn, famotidine is in a trial with 200 patients receiving a daily dose nine times the amount used to treat heartburn in common over-the-counter medications like Pepcid. COVID-19 patients receive the drug intravenously, rather than by mouth. Conducted by Northwell Health at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, the trial is only one of several underway at the hospital, which is also looking at remdesivir and sarilumab, another drug approved to treat arthritis.
  • Chloroquine, derivative hydroxychloroquine. Anti-malaria drug chloroquine and sister drug hydroxychloroquine were among the first to be touted as a possible treatments for the coronavirus, but a recent study in Brazil was cut short after several patients developed irregular heartbeats and more than 20 died after taking daily doses. The findings serve as a cautionary tale after the drug was upheld by the president as a potential “game changer” before adequate testing. While it is approved to treat auto-immune diseases such as Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, serious side effects include arrhythmia and muscle weakness, and the drug is toxic at high doses.
  • Lopinavir and ritonavir. Part of what the World Health Organization (WHO) terms a “solidarity study,” these drugs and some of those mentioned above are involved in studies in 90 countries around the world. These two (used together) inhibit an enzyme that the coronavirus needs to survive. So far, results are not promising.




Antibody Tests Not Ready


Anyone who’s had the virus is anxious to get a coronavirus “passport” signifying that he or she is cleared to go anywhere, anytime, and around anyone. The theory is that once you’ve had the disease, antibodies circulating in your body will keep you protected against exposure to positive individuals for some time, perhaps years. And since you can’t get the coronavirus, you won’t be passing it along to anyone, either. Not so fast.

For one thing, there isn’t yet a test available that is reliable enough to use. While companies are working toward one that gives proven results, experts warn that current tests “may give a false reading and put you, your family or others at risk,” according to John Newton, the UK’s testing coordinator. He adds. “As soon as we have found a test that works for this purpose, we will be in a position to roll them out across the country as a back-to-work test.”

A study of 12 antibody tests in the U.S. performed by the COVID-19 Testing Project showed that one gave false positives more than 15% of the time, and three others gave false positives more than 10% of the time. “That’s terrible. That’s really terrible.” says Dr. Caryn Bern, one of the study authors. She notes that while no test is perfect, an acceptable rate must be less than 5%, and preferably under 2%.


Vaccines

 
The world is waiting for a vaccine, possibly followed by a booster dose, that will eliminate fear of the coronavirus for anyone who gets immunized. But scientists actually think a variety of vaccines will be created to battle the virus. 

“Ultimately, there will be more than one vaccine,” according to Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, where he is working on a COVID-19 vaccine. “There could be several vaccines that have different uses. Some vaccines might be used for older Americans at risk of disease or those with underlying comorbid conditions like diabetes or obesity. There might be some use for younger adults. Maybe some for health-care workers. Same with the other technologies that we’re talking about, like remdesivir, there may be a prophylactic use for it as well. All of this is being accelerated through a lot of studies in parallel and we’ll have to see how the target product profiles will look.”

As the coronavirus destroys economies and livelihoods, laboratories around the world are hard at work to get products out in record time. Here are several leading candidates, followed by some lesser-known contenders.

  • Oxford University shocked many medical professionals when it announced it may have a vaccine that will be “widely available” by September. Researchers there had already been working on a vaccine for a similar virus, so they were able to pivot quickly to COVID-19. “Well personally I have a high degree of confidence about this vaccine, because it’s technology that I’ve used before,” says Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the university. It’s already been found effective in animal trials and is currently being tested in humans. Before that study is complete, millions of doses will be produced in hopes of success.
  • Johnson & Johnson has announced that it, too, is about to begin production of a its vaccine on an “at risk” basis, i.e. before it’s proven to work. It will be made at a facility in the Netherlands and here in the U.S. J&J partnered with subsidiary Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. back in January, working with a drug platform that had been developed for Ebola, Zika and influenza.
  • Moderna biotech has a vaccine candidate that recently was approved for further testing. Phase 2 will begin in the second quarter to evaluate safety, adverse reactions and efficacy of two vaccinations given 28 days apart. It will involve about 600 healthy adults and older adults. A third phase could start in the fall. 
  • Dynavax Technologies Corporation is making its adjuvant technology available to other companies. The tech boosts immune response to a vaccine. In addition, Dynavax has partnered with the University of Queensland, Australia, on a coronavirus vaccine of its own.
  • GlaxoSmithKline is also allowing access of its vaccine adjuvant platform technology, which strengthens the response to a vaccine and decreases the amount needed per dose.
  • Heat Biologics, in partnership with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is in the preclinical stage of vaccine development.
  • Inovio Pharmaceuticals is in a Phase 1 trial of its DNA-based vaccine that is backed by a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It has launched human trials in the U.S., China and South Korea with 3,000 doses of the vaccine. It expects to have 1 million doses ready for further testing or emergency use by year’s end.
  • Novavax has developed several vaccine candidates. The preclinical biotech expects at least one Phase 1 trial to start this month, with results to begin coming out in July. 
  • Vaxart announced plans to work on a vaccine back in January, and it’s developing an oral vaccine in the form of a room-temperature stable pill. Such a product would offer enormous advantages over injectables, which are normally refrigerated.

Whether or not a vaccine is available by the fall, it may be longer until it’s in widespread use. “Our vaccine could be ready by the fall as well,” says Dr. Hotez. “We’ll have up to 200,000 doses. But unless you’ve shown that it actually works and unless you’ve shown that it’s safe, you’re not going to do that (make it widely available). Without having the efficacy and safety data, I think you have to be really careful about bold statements (about having a vaccine ready this year). As I often like to say, these nucleic acid vaccines have been around for 30 years and offer great promise, they work in laboratory animals, but, historically, they have not worked well in people. Maybe now there’s been modifications to improve that. Let’s wait and see.”

So, the jury’s still out on both treatments and vaccines for now. But scientists are working around the clock to treat and prevent the coronavirus. That’s good news for a weary world that is looking for hope and a return to socializing with friends. It may not come this summer, but the future is looking brighter all the time.

Sources:

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/28/stock-market-futures-open-to-close-news.html?__source=iosappshare%7Ccom.apple.UIKit.activity.Mail
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/modernas-coronavirus-vaccine-candidate-advances-to-next-stage-of-testing-2020-04-27
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/what-to-expect-from-the-race-to-develop-coronavirus-vaccines.html
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-52335210
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/18/the-stock-market-is-rising-on-hope-for-a-pharma-solution-to-coronavirus-heres-how-close-we-are.html?__source=iosappshare%7Ccom.apple.UIKit.activity.Mail
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/jj-coronavirus-vaccine-we-plan-to-begin-production-at-risk-imminently-210204457.html
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-vaccine-oxford-university-scientists-september/
https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/coronavirus-latest-updates-2020-04-29/
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/28/heartburn-drug-trial-shows-reasonable-confidence-famotidine-could-help-treat-coronavirus-hospital-ceo-says-.html?__twitter_impression=true&recirc=taboolainternal 




Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors




Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Financial Help During COVID-19



Many older adults need some extra help during these trying times. Here’s where to get it.


Retirement insecurity is a thing. As recently as 2019, a quarter of all older adults in the U.S. had less than $9,650 in savings, and about one out of ten had none at all. Even for those who have much more, the recent fall in stock prices has likely been a disconcerting blow. Retirees who depend on dividends have watched as many companies, worried about the economy, cut theirs. And many older adults continue to work in “retirement.”

Last year, one out of five older adults were still working. Some are supporting children and grandchildren or stretching a Social Security check for rent and food. Research shows that older adults have a harder time getting back in the workforce after losing a job or may simply give up looking for work. Many have lost a position in retail work or find their Uber income has vaporized as customers disappear. 




Negotiating with Creditors


Many types of monthly payments can be negotiated if your income has taken a hit during the pandemic. Mortgages, home equity lines of credit, auto loans, personal loans and credit card debt are prime examples. Some companies have set up relief programs - but you have to contact them to take advantage. How should you approach the call?

Take stock of your situation, says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Research terms you may not understand, and check on current lending rates, for example. Write out the basics of what you need to say to keep the call professional: how the coronavirus affected your income, and that you would like to work something out on payments.

You may want to politely refuse the first offer. If one customer service representative is unhelpful, call back on another day, says McClary. Ask if you can speak to a manager or the customer loyalty department. Ask what discounts and promotions are available, and what other callers have been offered. Remain calm, polite, and businesslike to have the greatest chance of success. 

Get the agreement in writing and ask about a negative report on your credit rating. Don’t agree to a balloon payment; instead, negotiate installment payments, or ask to have current payments tacked on to the end of the loan. 

Older adults who never thought they would have to ask for a little help are realizing that the world has changed. Luckily, there are things you can do to get by. We’ve gathered a list to help retirees all over the country make it through the COVID-19 season, however long it lasts.

  • You may qualify for a $1,200 stimulus payment from the federal government. If you get Social Security or file a tax return and earn less than $75,000 (single), $112,500 (head of household) or $150,000 for a married couple, the full amount should be available. There have been glitches reported in the system, which is not surprising considering the archaic hardware and rushed nature of the payments, but most people who expect the funds are getting them. Those who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should see the cash by early May, as should those collecting Veterans Affairs benefits. People who do not get their Social Security or tax refunds direct deposited, but instead count on getting a check in the mail, will have to wait longest: up to five months. You can track where your payment is at the government Get My Payment page
  • If you are having trouble making house payments, contact your mortgage servicer (whoever you pay your mortgage to) immediately. Don’t wait until you are months behind. You have options, such as suspending payments for a while or reducing your payment. Options may vary with loan types and your personal situation. Prepare for the call by gathering your loan number, the reason for your hardship, all income and contributing sources for the mortgage, and assets. Contact the Homeowners HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-4673 for help avoiding foreclosure or get housing counseling using HUD’s online locator tool
  • You can find general resources available in your community by dialing 211. It will connect you to a hotline that can give you information about a local food bank, clothing bank, shelters, rent assistance and help paying utilities. Remember that you should make the call for any resources. If someone calls you, it may be a scam.
  • If you need meals, contact Meals on Wheels and Feeding America to find help available in your community.
  • Need help with utility payments, prescription drug charges, and more? Find options available in your state at Benefits CheckUp
  • Getting around may be harder now, too. Find help with transportation at Eldercare Locator

One thing older adults have going for them is experience. We have been through a lot before and survived. But this time, ingenuity and a good work ethic may not be enough. It is alright to ask for help. The pandemic won’t last forever, even though it seems endless right now. Reach out for yourself or a loved one or neighbor who needs a boost. We’ll all get through this, together. 


Click below for the other articles in the May 2020 Senior Spirit




Sources:

https://www.ncoa.org/blog/tips-for-homeowners-facing-hardship/
https://www.ncoa.org/blog/pandemic-threat-to-older-workers/
https://www.ncoa.org/covid-19/covid-19-resources-for-older-adults/
https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-policy-watch/retirement-insecurity-in-time-of-covid-19-next-shoe-to-drop/
https://www.fool.com/retirement/2020/04/28/still-waiting-on-your-stimulus-check-heres-when-th.aspx
https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/track-your-coronavirus-stimulus-check-status-through-irs-get-my-payment-app/
https://www.wsj.com/articles/if-you-must-negotiate-your-bills-heres-how-11588078800



Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors



Free Healing Is a Benefit of Nature



Research shows that getting outside is not just a nice break from the office or home. Your body gets remarkable health benefits from nature.


A recent study done by the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter found that people who spent a minimum of two hours every week outdoors in a natural environment were much more likely to say they had good health and psychological well-being than their counterparts who did not. And spending less time outside, whether in parks or other natural environments, didn’t just have a lesser effect; it had no benefit at all. 

The study included 20,000 people from all walks of life, including those from different ethnic groups, with varying income levels, and those with chronic illnesses and disabilities. The effect held true across the board. Although scientists knew that getting outside was a boost for health, they hadn’t known how much time was enough. While the study showed a hard minimum, it didn’t matter whether the time per week was achieved with several shorter sessions or one two-hour chunk.


Scientific Benefits of Being Outdoors 


There are many ways that going outside can benefit health. Research supports all of the following statements about the upsides of stepping into nature.

  • At least for children, outdoor activity protects the eyes and reduces the risk of developing nearsightedness. 
  • Walks in green environments improve mood and self-esteem, especially among the mentally ill. 
  • Time outdoors lowers blood pressure. 
  • Going outside improves your attention span and ability to focus. New studies suggest it may help kids with ADHD. 
  • Creativity spikes after time outside. 
  • Preliminary studies suggest forest exposure may stimulate the production of anti-cancer proteins. 
  • There is a strong positive correlation between green space and health for urban residents. 
  • Getting outside in sunlight gives people vitamin D, which many lack. 
  • Outside exposure can lessen the effects of seasonal affective disorder. 
  • Being outdoors boosts energy.

Lyme disease even from gardening?


One caution in the outdoors comes from the prevalence of Lyme disease, a potentially disabling infection of the nervous system and joints. It is caused by the blacklegged tick, which can spread the disease when it bites. They are active in temperatures down to the mid-30s, so be aware the ticks are out now. Three-fourths of cases take place not in the deep woods, but in backyards.

Ticks prefer wet, cool places with abundant shade. Stone walls, wood piles and brushy areas are favorite hideouts. Ornamental vegetation and lawns are the least likely to contain ticks. Create a tick-resistant garden by using a three-foot barrier of wood chips or rock between the lawn and brushy areas. Keep wood piles away from the house or put them atop a wood chip barrier. Remove leaf litter and keep lawns mowed. Locate play sets in open, sunny areas. Prune surrounding trees if needed. Since deer are a host, erect an 8-foot-high fence around the garden or plant deer-resistant perennials to discourage their presence. 


Time Outdoors Gaining Research Momentum


“When I wrote 'Last Child in the Woods' in 2005, this wasn’t a hot topic,” said Richard Louv, a journalist in San Diego whose book is largely credited with triggering a naturist movement and who first used the term Nature Deficit Disorder. “This subject was virtually ignored by the academic world. I could find 60 studies that were good studies. Now it’s approaching and about to pass 1,000 studies, and they point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning.”

Increasingly, researchers are studying the topic and using it for urban planning. “We have entered the urban century, with two-thirds of humanity projected to be living in cities by 2050,” said Gretchen Daily, director of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University. “There is an awakening underway today to many of the values of nature and the risks and costs of its loss. This new work can help inform investments in livability and sustainability of the world’s cities.”

The Children & Nature Network, founded by Louv and others, tracks much of this research but lists summaries of abstracts on its website. Scandinavian “forest schools” have found a home in the U.S. as more education takes place outdoors … an increase of 500 percent since 2012, according to Louv. 

Even health care providers have begun prescribing the back-to-nature paradigm. One organization, Park RX America, founded by Robert Zarr of Unity Healthcare in Washington, D.C., has a mission “to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship, by virtue of prescribing Nature during the routine delivery of healthcare by a diverse group of health care professionals.”

The Trust for Public Lands recently completed a multi-year project to map parks in the U.S. with the goal of finding places that lack parkland. “We’ve mapped 14,000 communities, 86 percent of the nation, and looked at who does and doesn’t live within a 10-minute walk of a park,” said Adrian Benepe, a senior vice president of the organization. The Trust has a Ten Minute Walk initiative involving mayors across the U.S. to ensure everyone has access to a park within a short walk from where they live.

Businesses are taking note as well. They have become aware that attracting good employees requires more than a competitive salary, and are designing offices with large windows and access to trees and open space. “It’s needed to attract a skilled work force,” says Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix. “Young people are demanding high-quality outdoor experiences.”

More Than a Visual Experience


What makes time in the natural world restorative versus time spent elsewhere? Rachel and Stephen Kaplan have been studying this question since the 1970s, and they’ve come up with Attention Restoration Theory. While bustling city environments, work spaces and the like require effortful attention, they theorize that natural environments let people focus more broadly and with less effort, leading to a more relaxed body and mind. 

The Japanese have long advocated “forest bathing,” or walking in the woods. Researchers believe that smelling natural aerosols in the trees elevates levels of Natural Killer cells in the immune system that battle tumors and infections. One study showed that exposing people to essential cedar oil while they slept in a hotel room also caused a spike in the same cells.

In an age where climate change is causing significant anxiety, the antidote may be, in part, to go out in nature. 


Sources:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/how-immersing-yourself-in-nature-benefits-your-health 
https://www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7
https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/70548/11-scientific-benefits-being-outdoors
https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener/counties/pike/news/2017/creating-a-tick-resistant-garden
https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight 




Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors