After Jack Fussell lost his father to the disease and then almost died from an ulcer, he committed to a life of health and giving back.
A combination of factors led Jack Fussell, in his 60s, to run from one end of the country to the other. First was the death of his father from Alzheimer’s disease. A year later, he was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer and told he had only one year left to live. The Georgia resident decided it was time to turn his life around and commit to a healthy lifestyle. He started by running and dropped his weight from 250 to 100 pounds.
At some point, he decided his exercise regimen should be for a good cause—to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s. In 2013, at age 62, he ran from Georgia to California. The following year, he repeated the trip, although he ran only part of the time, preferring to use a car so he could meet with more people. He did some 50 TV and 100 newspaper interviews, plus met with four governors. He’s met with students and chambers of commerce—whomever he could find to talk to about the disease that currently affects 5 million Americans, at a cost of $259 billion annually. Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is devastating,” Fussell says. “It’s hard for the individual that is diagnosed, but it’s really the families and caregivers that struggle the most. Not only do people need to donate to this cause, but they need to know how serious it is.”
Fussell was recognized by Maria Shriver on mariashriver.com as an “Architect of Change”—people who see a problem and who do something about it.
He said he was drawing attention to Alzheimer’s for two reasons. First, he wants to let caregivers know that they can get help from the Alzheimer’s Association, which reports that 40 percent of caregivers die before the patients because of the stress. Second, he wants to inform the general public “how devastating [Alzheimer’s] is to patients and caregivers . . . so maybe you will feel what you need to feel to call lawmakers and put it on their radar.“
“About my Epic Journey from Savannah, GA to Monterey, California to #ENDALZ,” April 3, 2017, Across the Land.
“Across the Land – Jack Fussell,” Alzheimer’s Association.
“Running Across America to Spread Awareness for Alzheimer’s,” March 23, 2015, mariashriver.com.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
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May is Older Americans Month and this year’s theme is Age Out Loud. Smith Senior Center in Greensboro is ready to help you Age Out Loud!
This months programs include:
UNC-G Oral History Project Listening Session on May 3
Greensboro Senior Artists Guild Craft Fair on May 4
Tai Chi for Rehab classes begin May 8
Medicare Simplified on May 17
Grasshoppers Games on May 19 & June 16
Adult Coloring Books Spring Art Show on May 23
Benefits Check-up on May 24
Healthy Living for Your Brain & Body on May 31
Healthy Cooking Demo on June 1
AARP Safe Driver Course on June 5
Home Burglary Prevention on June 15
Garden Club Meet & Greet on June 19
4th of July Cookout on June 30
Visit www.greensboro-nc.gov/Seniors for more information about these upcoming events!
A restful night is important for our health and well-being,
yet, as we age, it can be elusive.
For most of us, a poor night’s sleep can mean irritability and fogginess the next day. But long-term sleep deprivation can have more serious effects, including memory problems and depression.
Insufficient sleep is an important issue for seniors, who sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans, whether as a normal part of aging or from medical problems common in older people. Chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis or back problems can keep us up at night, as does the need to use the bathroom if we suffer from bladder or prostate problems. As we age, we might take more prescription drugs that interfere with our sleep patterns. AARP’s 2016 sleep and brain health survey found that 43 percent of adults age 50-plus say they don’t get enough sleep.
How much is enough? Most research advocates 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, refuting the notion that we need less sleep as we get older. However, too much is not healthy. A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Boston found that sleeping too much, as well as not getting enough rest, can lead to worse cognitive function in old age.
A new report from AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health found that “chronic inadequate sleep puts people at higher risk for dementia, depression, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, fall-related injuries and cancer.” The council recommended that healthcare professionals take patients’ concerns about lack of sleep more seriously.
Causes of Insomnia
An inability to sleep well can be caused by primary insomnia from physical problems such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Special devices or surgery can treat serious sleep apnea, while drugs can often help restless leg syndrome.
More commonly, insomnia is secondary, related to an underlying issue such as drinking coffee too close to bedtime, stress or noise at night. Physical difficulties that impede sleep include heart failure, arthritis or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). If you can fix the underlying issue, such as by wearing noise blockers at night, you can control the insomnia.
Effects of Insomnia
Scientists are discovering that sleep benefits us by recharging our bodies and minds. If we don’t get enough sleep, it can exacerbate various ailments:
Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you recognize and change the worries that keep you tossing and turning all night. In clinical trials, it’s proved as effective or more so than prescription sleep medications.
At the same time, CBT promotes good sleep habits. Check out the following strategies (from the Mayo Clinic).
Lack of concentration. Because we need sleep for our nervous systems to work properly, too little affects our concentration the next day. This can hurt our ability to solve problems and learn new information.
Memory problems. Some experts believe sleep gives neurons a chance to repair themselves. Without sleep, neurons may become so depleted that they begin to malfunction. Research has found that the deepest levels of sleep help consolidate our memories from the day.
Serious health problems. Long-term insomnia can lead to heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, seizures, sensitivity to pain, a weakened immune system, stroke and diabetes.
Depression. One study showed that those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those who slept well through the night. One poll showed that people diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep fewer than six hours a night.
Harm to body. While we sleep, the body increases production of protein, which is needed to grow cells and repair cells damaged from factors such as stress and ultraviolet rays. Lack of sleep causes the body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. And if we don’t get enough deep sleep, we don’t release enough of the hormone that helps increase muscle mass, thicken skin and strengthen bones.
Weight gain. One study showed that people who slept less than six hours a day had an increased risk of becoming obese compared to those who slept 7 to 9 hours. Apparently, sleep loss stimulates the appetite, particularly for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods.
Increased mortality. Various studies have shown that those who slept less had an increased risk of death, particularly from cardiovascular disease.
Relief for Insomnia
If your inability to sleep well isn’t from primary insomnia, there are many simple actions you can take to get some good shut-eye:
Adhere to a schedule. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Your body adjusts to this cycle, so when you change it, your cycle is disturbed.
Take a break. If you’re tossing and turning, get up and do something different, like reading or listening to music, until you feel sleepy. If something is on your mind, write it down, so you get it out of your thoughts.
Turn off electronics. Your cellphone, laptop and TV emit light that can disturb your sleep cycle. Instead, before you go to bed, read, meditate or listen to music.
Exercise. Twenty to 30 minutes of exercise a day can help you sleep, but working out too close to your bedtime can be stimulating. Experts recommend a 5- to 6-hour gap between sleep and exercise. Similarly, don’t eat too close to bedtime.
Avoid stimulants. Having coffee, nicotine or alcohol before you go to bed is guaranteed to prevent sleep. Although alcohol will make you initially drowsy, it interferes with deep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is needed for learning.
Nap early. If you’re tired, take a nap early in the afternoon and not for more than 30 minutes. Some studies have found that a long nap can cause problems with sleeping at night.
Seek out the sun. Get as much sunlight during the day as possible, while minimizing light at night. This helps your body stay on its inner clock.
Take medication. Your doctor can prescribe drugs that will help you sleep, if other less invasive methods don’t work. However, physicians don’t recommend taking sleeping pills on a long-term basis, and the pills’ side effects can be harmful for older people.
A non-prescription alternative is melatonin, a hormone that the brain naturally produces in response to darkness. Melatonin pills create the same sleepy response as the natural hormone, but medical experts warn that taking too much melatonin or taking it for too long can disrupt your sleep cycle. Doctors recommend 1 to 5 milligrams an hour before bed.
Other alternative medicines often used or recommended to help with insomnia are valerian root and chamomile. These are both available without prescription and can be given in pill/capsule form (or as a tea with chamomile). As with any prescription or non-prescription medicine, it’s best to consult your healthcare practitioner and/or pharmacist to make sure there are no known interactions with your current medication regimen.
Another promising sleep aid is cognitive behavioral therapy. See sidebar, “Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia.”
“You Need 7-8 Hours of Sleep for Better Brain Health,” Jan. 10, 2017, AARP.
“Getting Older, Sleeping Less,” Jan. 16, 2017, New York Times.
“10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss,” WebMD.
“Insomnia,” Feb. 6, 2017, Healthline.
“Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep,” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
“Insomnia and aging,” Mayo Clinic.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
Look Who’s Turning 65
March 2—Laraine Newman
The comedian, actress, voice artist and writer was part of the original cast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL). After high school, Newman went to Paris to study mime with Marcel Marceau for a year. On SNL from 1975 through 1980, she originated the characters of Sheri the Valley Girl and Connie Conehead, among others, and became a close friend of co-star Gilda Radner. However, by her own account, she was unhappy for much of her time with the show because she disliked living in New York.
Newman’s post-SNL film career has included both leading and supporting roles, as well as a voice artist on television and features. Among these were Perfect, American Hot Wax, Wholly Moses and Problem Child 2. In 1986, she starred in the syndicated B-movie comedy series The Canned Film Festival, playing the lead role as Laraine the usherette.
Additionally, Newman made appearances on programs including Laverne & Shirley, St. Elsewhere, E.T. and Friends (1983), Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever (1981), Friends, 3rd Rock from the Sun and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Most recently, she appeared in episodes of Entourage and Brothers & Sisters, and provided voice work for WALL-E, Cars, Up!, Finding Nemo, Barnyard, Horton Hears a Who!, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and others.
Newman also works as a writer and editor. She is a contributing editor for the online magazine One for the Table and an occasional contributor to the Huffington Post. She has written articles for the Los Angeles Times, The Believer and McSweeney’s. Newman and her husband, actor-writer-director Chad Einbinder, have two daughters.
March 22—Bob Costas
The sportscaster has been on the air for NBC Sports television since the early 1980s. He was the prime-time host of twelve Olympic Games, from 1992 until 2016. Costas currently does play-by-play for MLB Network, hosts an interview show called Studio 42 with Bob Costas and serves as an alternate play-by-play announcer for Notre Dame Football on NBC. Costas’ sportscasting career began while attending Syracuse University, and he was 28 when hired by NBC. Over the years, Costas hosted NBC’s National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) coverage. He also did play-by-play for NBA and Major League Baseball (MLB) coverage.
During the 1980s, Costas anchored NBC’s pre- and post-game shows for NFL broadcasts and the pre- and post-game shows for numerous World Series and MLB All-Star Games. It was not until 1997, when Costas finally got to do play-by-play for a World Series from start to finish, that he won a Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality, Play-by-Play. In 1997, Costas began a 3-year stint as the lead play-by-play man for The NBA on NBC. In 2006, Costas returned to NFL studio hosting duties for NBC’s new Sunday Night Football, hosting its pre-game show Football Night in America. Costas hosted NBC’s coverage of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 National Hockey League Winter Classic. From 1988 to 2016, Costas frontlined many Olympics broadcasts for NBC, including Barcelona in 1992, Athens in 2004 and Rio in 2016.
From 1988 until 1994, Costas hosted Later with Bob Costas on NBC, which featured Costas and a single guest conversing for the entire half hour. The program was critically acclaimed and won the Emmy Award for Best Informational Series in 1993. From 2002 to 2007, Costas co-hosted HBO’s long-running series Inside the NFL. In 2005, On the Record with Bob Costas was revamped to become Costas Now, a monthly issue-oriented sports program that occasionally employed a town hall style format. Costas left HBO to sign with MLB Network in February 2009. On February 9, 2017, Costas announced that he had begun the process of stepping down from his main on-air roles at NBC Sports and that he would host Super Bowl LII as his final Super Bowl. He said he still expected to be an occasional special correspondent to the division.
A devoted baseball fan, he wrote Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball in 2000. Costas serves as a member of the advisory board of the Baseball Assistance Team, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping former Major League, Minor League and Negro League players through financial and medical difficulties. Costas has two children from his first marriage; he and his present wife reside primarily in New York.
March 23—Rex Tillerson
The energy executive, civil engineer and diplomat is the current U.S. Secretary of State, serving since Feb. 1, 2017. Tillerson began his career as an engineer, joining Exxon in 1975, and by 1989, had become general manager of the Exxon USA central production division. In 1995, he became president of Exxon Yemen Inc. and Esso Exploration and Production Khorat Inc. In 2006, Tillerson was elected chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Exxon, the world’s sixth largest company by revenue, and served as CEO of the company from 2006 to 2016. In 2012, his compensation package was $40.5 million.
Tillerson is a longtime contributor to Republican campaigns, although he did not donate to President Trump’s presidential campaign. Tillerson’s close business ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin have generated controversy. In 2013, Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin for his contribution to developing cooperation in the energy sector. In 2011, on behalf of ExxonMobil, Tillerson signed an agreement with Russia for drilling in the Arctic, which could be valued up to $300 billion. In 2014, Tillerson opposed the sanctions against Russia, although, as of Jan. 3, 2017, he had severed all ties with ExxonMobil “to comply with conflict-of-interest requirements associated with his nomination as secretary of state.”
Tillerson is a longtime volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), and from 2010 to 2012, was their national president. After the end of his term as BSA president, he remained on the organization’s National Executive Board where he played a significant role in the board’s 2013 decision to rescind the long-standing ban on openly gay youth as members. He and wife have four children and reside in Irving, Texas.
FAMOUS & 65 is a featured article in the Senior Spirit newsletter.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
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Around the world, researchers are finding that robots can do many tasks once done only by humans.
What’s the solution to the problem of an aging population in a society with a decreasing amount of (human) caregivers? Looking at the direction that research is going, the answer is robots.
Researchers in Japan are leading the way, where 20 percent of the population is over 65. By 2025, experts predict a shortage of 1 million caregivers for the country. It’s not surprising that Japan, which has often led the world in technological development, is creating “carebots” that could take the place of caregivers in several ways. In fact, one-third of the Japanese government’s budget is allocated to developing carebots.
One example of ongoing research is Honda’s Asimo, a humanoid robot that can bring food to someone or turn off the lights. Another is the Resyone robotic device, which converts from a bed to an electric wheelchair, eliminating the need for a strong caregiver who can lift someone in and out of bed. A similar device helps transfer seniors from the bed to a wheelchair.
Meanwhile in Europe
In Europe, which is also seeing a graying population and a drop in birthrates, the European Commission is investing tens of millions of euros annually in technology to help older adults and strengthen the region’s robotics industry. The research project Robot-Era recently concluded the world’s largest real-life trial of robot aides for older adults. During the four-year project, about 160 seniors in Italy and Sweden tested the robots.
A promotional video shows an older man enjoying breakfast at home while his humanoid robot stands nearby in the kitchen. When the man turns to the robot, it comes over to him, and the man removes a computer tablet from its front, on which he punches his grocery list. The robot then makes its way to the nearby grocery store, taking the elevator down to the street, walking down the sidewalk and several blocks to the grocery store, where a friendly clerk has the order ready to be delivered back to the man.
Other test robots can do a whole host of daily tasks: accompanying people to a nursing home’s dining room and reminding them when to take their medications; retaining important information such as phone number or names, while tracking the senior’s progress or memory loss over time; reminding people of meetings; keeping track of shopping lists and playing music. These robots are able to speak but can also communicate through a touch screen that features simple icons for things like medication.
Research in the U.S.
In the United States, 13 percent of the population was 65 or older in 2015, but that percentage is expected to nearly double by 2050, according to the Pew Research Center.
IBM is working on a robot with sensors that detect changes in the homes of seniors who live alone. For example, the sensors can identify when the stove’s burners are on or when someone has fallen. A camera on the robot can read facial expressions to see if the person is having a stroke or heart attack, for example.
Experts see much promise in getting seniors to use virtual reality. An older adult can take a virtual tour of their hometowns, workplaces they remember fondly or beaches they loved. This not only stimulates memories but also brings a sense of connection to the world, especially for those who are homebound.
Cuddling with a Robot Cat
In a nursing home in New York, residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s, cuddle and lovingly talk to furry robotic cats. The interaction appears to ease residents’ agitation and anxiety. While nursing homes have long used pet therapy, a robot cat is more reliable than a real one, which can scratch or wander off. A staff member said the robotic cats give residents a chance to actively take care of something, which makes them feel good, instead of passively receiving care.
Researchers are also testing a talking parrot to interact with Alzheimer’s patients. “Polly” repeats in a high-pitched parrot voice whatever she hears—twice—mimicking the actions of a real parrot. Initial reports from families of Alzheimer patients are encouraging.
Using robotic animals to interact with people who have dementia has proved successful in Japan for more than a decade, where baby seal robots are popular. Research has shown reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the older adults who pet the baby seal, which responds with body and eye movements.
What About the Human Touch?
Although proponents tout that robots can have limited conversations with seniors, which can help keep aging minds sharp and ward off loneliness, experts in the field of aging don’t see robots as a replacement for human companionship.
Susan Madlung, a gerontologist at Vancouver Coastal Health (quoted in Aging Care) believes robot care would only compound seniors’ social isolation: “Although robots might seem like a good response to the growing need for caregivers, I could see this as being quite detrimental to the emotional and psychosocial well-being of anyone, not just seniors. Humans need humans.”
Daniel C. Potts, a neurologist and the Medical Director for Dementia Dynamics, a training program for dementia caregivers, is also uncertain about robots. He believes that robots can help with the rote physical tasks of caregiving, such as lifting and turning. However, he says, “Story and personal sharing is so important for all of us, an essential for human life. Relationship is critical to maturity, and I think it becomes even more important as we age… Nothing can take the place of human touch, eye contact, warmth, reminiscence, presence, compassion and empathy—bearing one another’s burdens through real relationships. So I think we have to be careful that we use technology wisely.”
“Therapy Cats for Dementia Patients, Batteries Included,” Dec. 15, 2016, New York Times.
“Europe Bets on Robots to Help Care for Seniors” March 17, 2016, Bloomberg News.
“IBM is working on a robot that takes care of elderly people who live alone,” Dec. 28, 2016, Business Insider.
“Seniors Welcome New, Battery-Powered Friends,” Jan. 20, 2017 , New York Times.
“A role for robots in caring for the elderly,” May 16, 2016, Cisco Newsroom.
“I, Caregiver: Do Robots Have a Place in Elder Care?,” Aging Care.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
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A small, but rapidly growing, segment of retirees have embraced web-based platforms, from Airbnb to Lyft, to secure extra income in retirement.