Music, the Brain, Aging, and Memory Diseases

Jack Horner leads singing as Mickey McInnish plays keyboards during the Side by Side Singers practice at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala. on Tuesday October 27, 2015. The choir is made up of people with dementia, their family members and volunteers at the Respite Ministry at the church.

Jack Horner leads singing as Mickey McInnish plays keyboards during the Side by Side Singers practice at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala. on Tuesday October 27, 2015.

We live with music throughout our lives — it surrounds people no matter what their age. Children, of course, love to sing at almost as soon as they are born, but music, even for those who are not musicians, is a part of the air people breathe. Interestingly, music appears to become even more important as people age and contributes to a higher quality in life in the elder years.

No one these days disputes that music can bring happiness, joy, peace, energy, and even some sort of healing to people of every age. Increasingly, however, we are learning that for fragile elders, music not only brings joy but also rekindles memories. So why doesn’t every community of older adults have a musician on staff or at least a musician in residence who can lead a chorus, a sing-along or hymn sing? I believe that organized music programs, and not just performances that people watch, belong in every community of aging adults.

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Help People Evaluate Health Media With Trust It or Trash It

The moment a person needs health information, the inclination is to Google it, even though there are much better places to visit — places that offer high-quality and reliable health information. A Google search does not guarantee good quality information — especially when it comes to health information, and due to sponsored advertisements and what I call pseudo health websites, a search may actually send a searcher in a wrong direction. Moreover, these days television ads, infomercials, and online ads seek to grab and hold people’s attention, and it’s difficult to figure out what’s a good source and what’s bad.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 12.16.34 PMThe good health information issue becomes even more critical for aging parents and elders, who often have many health concerns. Each day pharmaceutical advertisements and self-improvement ads bombard older adults with sales info disguised as health support. When they do Google searches, they encounter carefully groomed advertisements that may swoop in and look trustworthy. It can be difficult for a person of any age to tell what information is really useful and what information is just trying to get attention … and money.

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The Scams that Scare Grandparents About Their Grandkids

Click on the image to take the AARP Fraud Quiz.

Click here to take the AARP Fraud Quiz.

Recently a friend of mine told me about the grandparent scam. She described receiving a call at her home from a person who claimed to have a message from their granddaughter. The caller told my friend was that her  granddaughter was stranded in a foreign country and desperately needed financial help. Another friend of mine, a granddad, received a call  from a hysterical female claiming to actually be his granddaughter.

Now I have received a lot of scam calls, and I’ve shared the information with my parents and with lots of other people on this blog. I am, however, stunned that I’ve missed this one.                        Continue reading

Loneliness as a Health Issue?

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 8.13.03 PMCheck out The Atlantic article, How Loneliness Wears on the Body. Written by Jessica Lahey and Tim Lahey, the piece points out loneliness is almost as big a health risk for elder adults as insecure food sources. The authors describe research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that identifies a strong connection between loneliness and susceptibility to viral infections and inflammation.

The Atlantic article offers a link to the highly technical PNAS research report and it is freely available. Most of us who we want to learn a bit more than The Atlantic piece may be satisfied with the research abstract.

Any of us who have delivered food to the elderly or sick know from experience that our interactions with the recipients is almost as important as the food itself.

Just Where Is That Fountain of Youth?

Yale University Museum

Fountain by Hans Vredeman de Vries, Dutch,  1527 – ca. 1606 Yale University Museum

Have you noticed how large pharmacies devote more and more aisle space to diet supplements, pills to fix this problem or that, anti-aging products, and vitamins that “can fix” almost anything? I’m also confronted by colorful catalogs and continuous ads, all encouraging me to try one product or another.

Jane Brody has just written an excellent article on the New York Times Well Blog, For an Aging Brain, Looking for Ways to Keep Memory Sharp, Published on May 11, 2015, Brody’s piece focuses on the ways that marketers are taking every opportunity to make us think it’s possible to do something to slow down, or even stop, the aging process, but most have no data to prove the claims.

Read the entire article, but here are two of the best sentences, succinctly summing up Brody’s thoughts:      Continue reading

A Great Infographic on Scams: Print, Put Together & Post

scams title

Click to view the entire infographic from NeoMam Studios.

Keeping ahead of scams — a perplexing and frustrating problem.

Almost every day at my house the phone rings with a suspicious caller. It’s the same at my parents home. It used to be that people needed to worry about door-to-door and telephone scams, but now there are many more. We need to caution our aging parents (and remind ourselves) about scams that involve  junk email, stolen identity, online shopping, false investment invitations and even online dating!

How do we stay alert to all of the possibilities, and more importantly, how do we assure ourselves that our aging parents remember all of the possibilities? The good news is, I’ve been introduced to a great graphic that can help to educate our aging parents and us as well.

The folks at NeoMam Studios in the United Kingdom have created a terrific infographic that depicts the various types of scams that prey on older individuals. The great thing about this infographic is that it’s colorful and not scary — an excellent portrayal of the problems.    Continue reading