Gazing at Aging Through the Reunion Prism

When I attended my first school reunion with a family member, just a few years after graduating from college, the people attending their 35th, 45th and 50th reunions seemed really old. At a Saturday luncheon table near the back of an old-fashioned field house, we watched and clapped, somewhat wondrously, as the different classes stood to be recognized, beginning with a man attending his 70th reunion who moved around slowly with a walker.

The old observatory at the school — now a National Landmark.

The old observatory at the school — now a National Landmark.

Gradually the master of ceremonies worked his way from the front to the back of the room – 65th, 60th, 55th, 50th, 45th. It wasn’t until we reached the class attending its 30th reunion that the alumni started to look, well … not old. It took half-an-hour to reach our tables filled with raucous young men who along with wives and partners, had barely finished with graduate school.

Looking back, I realize that luncheon offered me my first concrete understanding of the way we age — the way I age, actually. We all sat there observing benchmarks — characteristics that define what happens to human beings over 10, 20, or 30 years.

And sure enough, this weekend, here I am in Ohio attending a 50th reunion, though not mine. This time I’m sitting at a table that looks toward the back of the room — and at some fairly raucous young people. Did I mention that not one of the people at our 50-year tables looks old?

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Second Wind: A New Book and Tour by Dr. Bill Thomas

second-wind-coverLeave it to Dr. Bill Thomas to write a new book, in this case Second Wind, and then use the book tour, not just to publicize its release by joining radio personalities and attending book signings, but instead to educate in a big way. Dr. Bill, some of his Eden Alternative and Green House Project colleagues, and other friends have undertaken a nationwide educational SecondWind Tour — with stops in 25 cities between the beginning of March and the end of May 2014. He’s using the book and the tour to promote his philosophy — and his beliefs — about aging.

Dr. Thomas’s philosophy is powerful, which is good because he is proclaiming and evangelizing to a large and very powerful demographic — the boomers — a generation that is beginning to age in earnest. A goodly number of us don’t quite know what to think about aging or how to get on with it. Of course we know we are going to age but are definitely uncertain about next steps. Participants at one of Dr. Thomas’s SecondWind Tour events — my husband and I attended the Washington, DC festivities — see and hear quite a bit about aging, gaining some insight, ideas, and tools that stimulate even more thinking. Did I mention that Dr. Bill is a great storyteller?

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Some Retirees Are Starting Businesses

Those of us edging closer to retirement may be in for some surprises. We may discover that  some of our friends and colleagues are thinking less about taking it easy in their later years and more about  using the time to start a business.

starting businessesA Bloomberg Personal Finance article, Older Americans Shun Retirement at 65 for Risky Startups, by Steve Matthews, describes how many boomers are opting to become entrepreneurs, turning their ideas into companies, and working hard to make their business grow. Quoting from a report by the Kauffman Foundation Matthews notes that, “People from 55 to 64 started 23.4 percent of the [new] companies in 2012.” The Kauffman Foundation offers support and information to people who are seeking become more independent by educational achievement and entrepreneurial activities. (Kauffman mission).

Most Interesting Information from the Article            Continue reading

The World Is Aging – Animated Planet Money Gifs

population agingYes, the world is aging. Every member of the boomer generation is getting tired of hearing about it. Yet, the media keep talking about the trend, and many people find it challenging to picture just what is happening, demographic wise.

To help out, the clever people over at NPR’s Planet Money have posted a set of animated gifs that demonstrate aging trends in several countries beginning in 1950 and continuing through 2050.

The gif animations move quickly, so you will need to concentrate as they move along, and most likely you’ll need to watch each sequence several times. A fifth, non-animated graphic blends all of the information from the other four animations.

The graphics feature population statistics for:

    • Japan
    • United States
    • Nigeria
    • The world

Life Expectancy Growth in the U.S. – Slowing Down

When I read the article Americans Fall Behind in the Getting Older Race at National Public Radio (NPR), I was impressed by the graphics — and how easy they were to understand — so I decided to share one or two of them here at As Our Parents Age, along with more information about the report that the NPR article describes.

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NPR’s life expectancy story, by Robert Krulwich, shares a good deal of  information, but I’ve added links to the book and PDF as well as sharing the two graphs. Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries (194 page pdf), is a book recently published by the National Academy of Sciences. The book attempts to answer the question about why the United States is experiencing decreasing gains in life expectancy, a question posed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Reading chapter I of the book, which includes many more graphs, is not difficult. Though the balance of the book includes a lot of technical language, it might be called descriptive epidemiology, it’s not at all impossible to read, and the digital version allows a reader to click and enlarge the charts.

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Senior Moment or Alzheimer’s?

As the adult children of aging parents most of us are used to hearing friends and colleagues make the “senior moment” comment. Often when a person over 45 or so has difficulty remembering something, he or she will comment, “…oops, I’m having a senior moment.” I began noticing this in my late 40′s and now, a few years later, it happens at least once a day. I make the comment, too, though I am trying to stop saying it.

Part of this is joking about the normal changes occurring in our brains as we grow older, according to a February 9, 2010 Washington Post article, Memory Lapses Are Common and Increase with Age; When Do They Signal Alzheimer’s? As we get older, our brains become less efficient and we store information less effectively.

My husband's mother would throw her toothbrush into the wastebasket or put it in her sewing box.

My husband’s mother would throw her toothbrush into the wastebasket or put it in her sewing box.

However, now that I have watched the steady decline and eventual death of a family member with dementia I feel my forgetfulness more intensely. As my mother-in-law’s continued experience  more severe dementia symptoms, we found dozens of friends and acquaintances who were experiencing or had experienced the same disease in their families. Just about every person occasionally worried about the potential for dementia in the future. When my husband and I had a moment to think about ourselves during that time, and it was not that often, we wondered how we might prevent dementia from occurring in our lives. It doesn’t feel like a joke that the senior moment comment implies.           Continue reading