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Monday, November 30, 2015

New Treatments for Preventing Alzheimer’s

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented? The jury is still out on the subject, but recent new drug studies, clinical trials, diets, lifestyle changes, mental gymnastics, ultrasounds, vitamin therapies and specialized groups and communities are paving the way for Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment, as the search for a cure continues.
The grim statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association reveal that one in three seniors dies with dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases—the general term for memory loss and deterioration of other intellectual capabilities that negatively impact daily life. By 2050, experts predict Alzheimer’s will cost the nation $1.2 trillion as the number of dementia patients increases.

New Drug Trials and Clinical Studies

A new drug shows promise in halting the progression of Alzheimer’s in the brain. Researchers at Duke University found that something goes wrong with the immune cells that normally protect the brain, and the cells start to consume an important nutrient called arginine. Scientists found that the drug difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) blocked these immune cells from consuming arginine and prevented the brain plaques and memory loss associated with Alzheimer's. The tests were done with mice, so it’s not yet known if the drug will be successful in humans.  
"If indeed arginine consumption is so important to the disease process, maybe we could block it and reverse the disease," senior study author Carol Colton, a professor of neurology and a member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, said in a Duke news release and reported by America Aljazeera. Currently, the drug is being tested on patients with different types of cancers but has not yet been tested for Alzheimer’s in humans. The study was published April 15 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The MIND Diet

A combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets seems to have an effect on preventing Alzheimer’s. Scientists in the Rush Memory and Aging Project developed the so-called MIND diet and saw a 53 percent lower risk for Alzheimer's in the group tested. Even those who followed the diet only "moderately well" saw their Alzheimer's risk drop by roughly 35 percent.

The MIND diet emphasizes healthy grains, vegetables, beans, poultry and fish—stressing the importance of plant-based foods such as green leafy vegetables and blueberries—with a limited amount of less-healthy red meat, butter and sweets. Compared to the Mediterranean and DASH diets, the MIND diet puts less emphasis on consumption of fruit, fish, dairy and potatoes.

The study analyzed food questionnaires completed by more than 900 men and women between 58 and 98 years old, all enrolled in the Rush project in Chicago. Completed between 2004 and 2013, the surveys quantified respondents’ intake of 144 food items the prior year with no dietary intervention. Participants were then tracked for an average of four to five years, during which time they underwent repetitive neuropsychological testing. Out of 923 adults, 144 developed Alzheimer's during that time. Those whose food consumption conformed to the MIND diet were much less likely to develop the progressive brain disorder.

“This was the first study of how diet might affect a person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s,” said study author Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Rush University Medical Center and the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago. Morris added that more research is needed to verify the study results.

Lifestyle—Mind and Body Exercise

P. Murali Doraiswamy, director of the neurocognitive disorders program at Duke University and coauthor of The Alzheimer's Action Plan, recommends exercising mind and body to ward off Alzheimer’s. Research shows that walking is as good as running, since it enhances blood supply in the memory centers. Brain stimulation works, too. Many types of brain-stimulation devices are being tested not only to treat and prevent Alzheimer's but also to improve cognition in people without dementia. Some of these devices are implanted into the brain, and some are worn externally like a headband.

Mental decline as you age appears to be largely due to altered connections among brain cells. But research has found that keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections. You could even generate new brain cells.

Scientists have found that low education levels are related to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s later in life, perhaps because of a lower level of lifelong mental stimulation, reports the Alzheimer’s Association. Put another way, higher education levels appear to protect against Alzheimer’s, possibly because brain cells and their connections are stronger. Well-educated individuals can still get Alzheimer’s, but symptoms may appear later because of this protective effect.


Researchers in Australia are testing ultrasound on mice to eliminate plaque buildup in the brain that's associated with Alzheimer's disease, reports HealthDay News. The experimental study is still in the "very preliminary" stage.

The ultrasound treatment targets amyloid plaque, a material scientists believe clogs the brain and is linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease. The study’s lead author, Gerhard Leinenga, a graduate student at the University of Queensland in Australia, says it’s uncertain if the approach is feasible for humans, but the research is promising. "The mice performed better on three tests of their memory," he said, noting their performance was similar to that of healthy mice used as controls.

"We know that amyloid interferes with the function of neurons and causes brain cells to die, but not everyone with amyloid in their brain will go on to develop Alzheimer's or another dementia," said James Hendrix, director of global science initiatives for the Alzheimer's Association. The study appeared in the March 11, 2015 edition of Science Translational Medicine.

Vitamin D

We often hear that “sunshine vitamin D” is good for us, but it also may reduce Alzheimer’s risk. A new study published in the journal Neurology found that older adults who are severely deficient in Vitamin D have a 122 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The study leader, Dr. David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, explains, “the association was twice as strong as we anticipated.” Adults who were moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 percent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind. Those who were severely deficient had 125 percent increased risk. The study observed 1,658 adults older than 65 over a six-year period, reports Next Avenue.

When exposed to sunlight, our skin converts the rays into vitamin D. Because older adults’ skin may be less efficient at this, it’s important to have your vitamin D levels tested and to perhaps take a supplement. Testing is especially important for people living in northern climates, where exposure to winter sunlight is limited. For better absorption, take vitamin D supplements with a meal containing healthy fat. Certain oily fish and mushrooms also contain vitamin D.


“Quick Study: The Latest on Vitamin D and Dementia,” Aug. 11, 2014, Next Avenue

“Ultrasound Used to Attack Alzheimer's-Linked Brain Plaque in Mice,” March 11, 2015, HealthDay News

“Study draws link between immune system and Alzheimer's,” April 15, 2015, America Aljazeera

New Treatments for Preventing Alzheimer’s
was featured in the November 2015 Senior Spirit Newsletter.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, November 19, 2015

2016 Call for Conference Proposals

4th Annual CSA Conference | Washington, D.C. | August 26 - 28, 2016

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors is currently accepting proposals for the 4th Annual CSA Conference. The Building Knowledge and Empowering Networks to Benefit Seniors CSA Conference is designed to provide current information relevant to professionals working in the senior market on the health, financial, social, legal and business issues associated with older adults and how to apply practical knowledge to improve business practices. The CSA Conference is structured so that attendees gain knowledge relevant to their senior business and have opportunities to grow their professional networks by connecting with others in the senior market. The 2016 Program Committee invites proposals for conference sessions supporting the theme Building Knowledge and Empowering Networks to Benefit Seniors.

The deadline for proposals is January 15, 2016.

Proposals will only be accepted if they are submitted using the online form which can be accessed at 

Conference Session Formats

The conference includes 4 program tracks: 
  • Finance & Insurance
  • Healthcare & Home Care
  • Legal & Public Policy
  • Social Interest & Lifestyle

CSA conference sessions fit into the following formats:

- Two 90 minute general sessions (keynote and plenary addresses)
- Sixteen 60 minute breakout sessions

Interactive sessions with opportunities for facilitated discussion and Q&A, as well as sessions with a case-based approach, are preferred. Preference will be given to sessions that include proven and well-regarded speakers and sessions that focus on outcomes and learning rather than a narrative approach. Sessions should include national content and multiple perspectives on issues. A balanced view of issues and a diversity of perspectives, spanning across senior industry professions is critical. Joint submissions that span the interests of multiple program tracks are also encouraged.

Program Track Descriptions

The FINANCE and INSURANCE track will feature sessions that appeal both to professionals working in the finance/insurance industries and to all professionals seeking a broader understanding of these topics in order to understand what impact they can have on senior clients. 

The HEALTHCARE and HOME CARE program track features sessions designed to inform participants and explore new issues related to all aspects of healthcare and caregiving. Sessions can be a wide variety of topics in the healthcare/home care industries, and should be applicable to all professionals. Sessions should explore new concepts, address common and emerging issues, or identify best practices.

The LEGAL and PUBLIC POLICY program track features sessions designed to examine and explain new and pending policies that involve senior legislation. Sessions should have national appeal, but can include state specific case studies, examples, regulations, existing law and proposals.

The SOCIAL INTEREST and LIFESTYLE program track features sessions that provide information relevant to emerging technologies, trending issues, marketing, and business issues. Sessions should relate back to senior specific concepts and issues, but can have a wider scope than other tracks.

Society of Certified Senior Advisors 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Solo Aging: Take Steps Now to Create a Network

Those who are childless may lack the social networks that children and grandchildren provide. For elder orphans, experts say it's important to create a circle of support for aging.

Marcy, 66, is a single professional woman who enjoys her active life—seeing friends, playing tennis and traveling. She has been married and divorced but never had children. Recently, her independent parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and she has been scrambling to find an assisted living facility, talk to their doctors and convince her parents to move from their apartment. Marcy started thinking about who would take care of her if she were similarly disabled. She is not close with her brother, who lives on the other side of the country, and she barely knows her niece and nephew.

Marcy is part of a growing population known as “solo agers” or “elder orphans”—older adults with no children to care for them as they age. Today, one in five baby boomers has no children, and one-third of adults will enter old age single (widowed, divorced or never married) (from A Place for Mom). The problem is compounded because over the past few decades, parents are having fewer children. So, even those with children may only have one child to depend on, and that adult son or daughter may be unavailable for various reasons.
Setting Down Our Final Wishes
Older adults, especially childless ones, need to have all the legal documents in place for end-of-life issues (see Money article in this issue of Senior Spirit, “Solo Aging: How to Cope with End-of-life Issues”). It’s also a good idea to write down other wishes that go beyond legal and financial matters.

Some living wills encompass more than just do-not-resuscitate requests by spelling out your thoughts about dying, which can be helpful to your doctors and friends when deciding what kind of care you want. One of the more well known is Five Wishes, which goes beyond medical issues to deal with personal, emotional and spiritual concerns. The downloadable form includes questions about how comfortable you want to be, how you want people around you to treat you and what you want your loved ones to know when you’re facing the end of your life.

Five Wishes was written by Jim Towey, who worked with Mother Teresa. His organization, Aging with Dignity, is a national nonprofit that promotes better care for those near the end of life. Today, Five Wishes, which was introduced in 1998, meets the legal requirements in 42 states, and millions have used the form to specify their desires.
Family members provide 70 to 80 percent of long-term caregiving, according to a survey by the American College of Financial Services. Without a family, solo agers must create their own ways of coping with old age, especially because 70 percent of those over 65 need long-term service, which includes everything from transportation to more serious care.

As we age, many come to depend on their children for help. It can be in small ways—replacing a light bulb in a ceiling fixture too difficult for aging bodies to reach, running errands or reminding parents of appointments. But there’s also a larger social context. Seniors with children often have bigger social networks than those who are childless, interacting not just with their adult children but with their spouses and kids. Grandparents can enjoy the web of activities that their families are involved in: birthdays, graduations, school plays and sporting events.

Those who are childless may lack these social networks that can provide assistance as well as social engagement. Although childless couples can rely on each other, eventually old age will win out, and one or both couples will need help. A social network is a vital piece of the aging puzzle. Research links physical and emotional well-being to a strong support system, whether that’s family, friends or another community. Isolation, on the other hand, can lead to depression and poor health. For elder orphans, experts say it’s important to create a circle of support for aging.

Create a Support System

If you had an emergency, who could you call for help? Start talking to friends about this and see if you can share resources.

Examine what kind of social networks you have: friends, neighbors, religious congregations, book groups, former coworkers, cousins, members of your gym, gardening clubs, etc. It’s important to think about who you would trust and then strengthen those ties. Because many older adults are in the same (childless) boat as you are, it’s a good idea to start conversations now about helping each other when the time comes. If you don’t have a good social network, you can start by reaching out to others.

One community that may be ahead of others in planning for single old age is the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Because many LGBTs don’t have children and may have been estranged from their biological families, they have created their own families and communities.

Move to a Community

Many older adults, including those who are single, choose to live in a retirement residence surrounded by others seeking a community of similarly aged individuals. You get to know your fellow residents through shared meals, activities such as trips to the theater or museum, or classes such as yoga or painting. Help can be in the form of a knock on a neighbor’s apartment door (“where are the mailboxes?”) or services offered by the retirement home—such as cleaning or small repairs, or more serious issues, including checking on someone with memory issues. Although retirement communities can be expensive, many cater to lower-income seniors, such as SHAG in Seattle.

Another option for those who want more independence or a home of their own is cohousing (see "Cohousing Provides Community and Independence", Senior Spirit, March 2014). Cohousing consists of a community of people who want to live adjacent to each other and participate in activities together while also having their own place to call home. Members share communal property but own their houses or condos. Cohousing, averaging 20 to 40 units per community, comes in many forms. In multigenerational cohousing, families and residents of all ages, including seniors, inhabit the same communal space. A more recent development is cohousing solely for older adults. However, many cohousing projects are intended for independent adults and are just starting to have a conversation about what happens when one of its members needs more help than just a ride to the grocery store. Other forms of senior communities can be more informal, such as friends buying condos or homes next to each other—close enough to help each other out but still maintaining some independence. Many older adults are setting up their own communities by sharing a house together.


“Preparing for Long-Term Care Without Children,” May 29, 2014, A Place for Mom

“Who Will Provide Care for Childless Boomers?,” July 23, 2015, Next Avenue

“How to Retire Single Without Being Isolated,” Next Avenue

“Solo Aging: The Next Frontier,” May 21, 2015, Society for Certified Senior Advisors

“Aging, alone,” October 10, 2012, Chicago Tribune

Solo Aging: Take Steps Now to Create a Network was featured in the October 2015 Senior Spirit newsletter.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors.