Saturday, 27 March 2010

Men do not grow into being Mr Meldrew!

Well - not all of us anyway!
Researchers asked groups of 19 to 31-year-olds and 61 to 80-year-olds to view a series of photographs while analysing their brains’ activity.
Some of the images were of happy moments, such as a victorious skier, while others conveyed darker themes such as a wounded soldier.
The subjects were then asked to remember as many of the pictures as they could.
By studying their brain scans, the research team from the University of Auckland found that the old and young processed the happy images differently.
They found that in older people, there were stronger connections between regions of the brain that process emotions and those known to be important for forming memories. The trend was particularly strong for processing positive information.
Among the younger group, the link was found to be much weaker.
Meanwhile, ageing was found not to affect the connectivity between regions during memory formation of the negative photographs.
The results suggest that older people are much more likely to remember happy moments than their younger counterparts, the journal Cortex report.

I have already told my wife about this research but she is not totally convinced!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

You're never too old to learn

Most people who get to the grand age of 95 would decide to take things a bit easy and leave the challenges of academic study for younger folk. But not Allan Stewart. He's a 95 year-old retired dentist of Tea Gardens near Newcastle on the New South Wales coast in Australia.
He's already in the Guinness Book of Records for being the world's oldest person to graduate from a university degree. That was for his law degree back in 2006. Allan is now doing a Master of Clinical Sciences at Southern Cross University, focussing particularly on complementary medicine and the ageing process.
So - what are you waiting for!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Do we always have to be positive?

In general the answer has to be 'yes'. In our book we quote the Yale University research studies that state that if we have a positive outlook towards our own ageing then we can live an extra 7.5 years - a bigger influence than not smoking or regular exercise. However, I firmly believe that just occasionally one can indulge in a little cynicism. As such I loved this quotation from Anthony Powell that was quoted recently in the Independant:
"Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven't committed."

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Helping older people develop IT skills

There is a fascinating programme developed in Oxford which I would hope could be a blueprint for elsewhere in which students volunteer time to help older people move into the digital age.
Students at Oxford Brookes University have been sharing their expertise by running computer classes for the over-50s.
The free classes, at Northway Community Centre, Headington, are organised by Age Concern Oxfordshire and the university.
The idea is to bring different generations together and strengthen community ties, as well as sharing computer skills with older members of society.
Edmund Ogunleye, 67, from Headington, is among those who has been taking the class, receiving help from 18-year-old Tom Smith, a first-year history student.
Mr Ogunleye regularly receives emails from his extended family in Nigeria and Canada, and before starting the eight-week course, had no idea how to respond.
He said: “These days, no matter what level of education you have, if you don’t have knowledge of computers, you can’t participate.
“All the time I have only been opening my email – I can write and send them now.”
The eight student volunteers have been working under the supervision of Ahmed Rahman, Age Concern’s IT development worker and Northway’s IT manager, and are giving one-to-one tutorials during the course.
Deputy chief executive of Age Concern Oxfordshire, Penny Thewlis, said only 38 per cent of people over the age of 65 had ever used the internet, and just 28 per cent had a computer at home.
She said: “Older people are missing out very significantly on things which could make life easier and more enjoyable.
“Working together with Oxford Brookes we hope to be able to change this.
“It is never too late to learn.”
Those who have signed up to the course range from complete beginners to people who have some knowledge of computers.
The course covers digital photography, word-processing, desktop publishing as well as surfing the internet, sending e-mails and web design.
Tom Smith has also been tutoring 86-year-old John Goodwin, from Headington, a former navigational staff pilot with the RAF.
Mr Smith said: “John has had a computer for 15 years and never surfed the world wide web, which really shocked me as the possibilities of the internet are endless.
“Working with John over the past few weeks has been fantastic, allowing me to develop his IT skills, while also making a new friend.”
And the extra knowledge of how to use the facilities has already paid off for some of the older people.
Carl Jacobs, 72, from Headington, is now in touch with a cousin in New Zealand whom he had not spoken to in years, who found Mr Jacobs’s details and got in touch.
For details of the scheme, call Age Concern on 01235 849400.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

'I'm never going back to the job centre'

Look at an excellent article on todays BBC news online by Joanne Babbage with the above title which brings home dramatically the problems faced by the over 50's when it comes to finding a new job. There are so many initiatives that providers yet alone the end user are getting confused.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Learning with Grannie

I have just been given some information on an interesting experiment in intergenerational learning. Have a look at a site set up in Wales to promote English teaching by using grandmas. Not quite sure why grandads do not seem to have a role in this!  However, a fascinating venture which the founder tells me is being broadened out into a national initiative to involve grandparents in learning. Traditionally this has always been a role for grandmas and with the huge amount of time now being spent by grandparents in looking after younger children to enable their parents to do paid work this would seem to offer a unique opportunity. Learn with Grandmas is the name of the new non profit company set up to promote this. 

Valerie Wood-Gaiger MBE is the founder of this new initiative and if you want to find out more you can contact her at

As a Grandad I would still hope that there just might be a role for us too!

Think younger stay younger

This has always seemed instinctively correct but some recent research now backs this up. 
Research from Purdue University in the United States, published in The Journal of Gerontology, has found that feeling that you’re younger than you are can make a big difference to your mental abilities.
"How old you are matters, but beyond that it's your interpretation that has far-reaching implications for the process of ageing," said Markus H. Schafer, a doctoral student in sociology and gerontology who led the study.
"So, if you feel old beyond your own chronological years you are probably going to experience a lot of the downsides that we associate with ageing. But if you are older and maintain a sense of being younger, then that gives you an edge in maintaining a lot of the abilities you prize."

Markus Schafer and his co-author, Tetyana P. Shippee, a research associate on the 'Aging and Life Course' at Purdue University, compared people’s attitudes and their belief in their mental abilities over a ten year period. For the National Survey of Midlife Development in the USA, almost 500 people aged between 55 and 74 were surveyed about ageing in 1995 and again in 2005.

  At the beginning of the study participants were asked what age they felt most of the time. Most replied that they felt around 12 years younger than their real age. So what difference did the next 10 years bring? 
"We found that these people who felt young for their age were more likely to have greater confidence about their cognitive abilities a decade later," Schafer said. "Yes, chronological age was important, but the subjective age had a stronger effect.

"What we are not sure about is what comes first. Does a person's wellness and happiness affect their cognitive abilities or does a person's cognitive ability contribute to their sense of wellness. We are planning to address this in a future study."

Thinking young is easier said than done, especially if the wear and tear of age has left its mark on us physically. Aches, pains and medication have a habit of bringing us back to reality.

In our book we quote the Yale University studies which also link with this. They made it quite clear that you can add 7.5 years to your lifespan by thinking positively about age. Some grumpy old people may live to a great age but you have a better chance if you are not!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Men likelier than women to enjoy sex in old age

Did that get your attention? Men are more than twice as likely as women to be sexually active in old age but good health is the key for both to feeling naughty, says a study published Wednesday by the British Medical Journal.

One survey covered 3,000 people aged 25-74 who filled in questionnaires in the mid-1990s as part of an investigation into midlife.
The other survey, focussing on old age, was carried out a decade later among a similar number of volunteers aged 57-85.
At the age of 55, men have on average almost 15 years of sexually active life ahead of them, and women 10-and-a-half years, the researchers found.
They also discovered a major gap between the genders on sex lives.
The biggest gap was among 75- to 85-year-olds, where 38.9 percent of men said they were sexually active, compared with 16.8 percent of women.
Another 41.2 per cent of the men were interested in sex, compared with 11.4 percent of the women.
Within the "sexually active" group of the 75- to 85-year-olds, 70.8 percent of men rated their sex life as of good quality, compared with 50.9 percent among women.
Why such a difference?
It could be partly explained by opportunity, say the investigators.
Around three-quarters of men across all age groups said they had a partner.
Among women, though, only two-thirds of respondents between 25 and 54 had a partner. For women aged 75 and beyond, fewer than four in 10 had a partner -- a figure reflecting women's longer lifespan and the tendency of men to marry younger women.
Good health, too, was vital for sexual wellbeing, said the study.
An individual in sound health is almost twice as likely to be interested in sex and can expect to enjoy around six more years of sexual activity compared to a peer in poor health.
If the study's measure of "sexually active life expectancy" is credible, American men generally stop having sex around the age of 70, about eight or nine years before their death, according to demographic life expectancy.
For women, "sexually active life expectancy" would ended around 65, yet their demographic life expectancy was around 82 or 83.
The question is - do you want to be a statistic?

Monday, 8 March 2010

Women want to work well into their 60's

Have a look at an article by Emma Soames published in todays Daily Mail in which she gives examples of many women still working and wanting to work well into their 60's. Again her case studies concur with what all the research is telling us which is namely that most of us want to continue with some kind of paid work and not just because we need the extra money.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Taking the tired out of retirement

I just came across a blog that is worth checking out from time to time - Live  for the Moment. In the latest posting I came across this quote which I reproduce here.

"People want to take the ‘tired’ out of retired. Retirement is no longer a matter of ’stop work and start dying’. It’s now more like, as one client put it to me, “what’s for dessert? I’ve finished the main course and I’m still hungry!” Such people want to continue having an active involvement in society – preferably paid – but on their own terms rather than on an employer’s terms. Total health is a critical factor in this issue.
A growing health issue here is what’s called the Retired Husband Syndrome – the man (usually) who has left work and finds himself with no interests to pursue. He develops a “me too” attitude, seeking to become involved in the interests of his wife or partner. Sometimes he assumes the role of an efficiency expert, advising his partner how to better run the home. If unresolved quickly, strong emotional issues can arise, leading to possible divorce or even death.
The Retired Husband syndrome highlights the fact that preparations for a healthy retirement need to be in place long before the event". 
Do you recognise any of this?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sexually Transmitted Diseases In Over-45s Increasing

Well - after all of the good news in the last posting about happiness and ageing this should bring us down to earth.
Rates of sexually transmitted infections have doubled among the over 45s in less than a decade, reveals research published ahead of print in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Researchers monitored the numbers of sexually transmitted infections (STI) diagnosed in 19 sexual health clinics and reported to the Health Protection Agency’s Regional Surveillance Unit in the West Midlands.
The period of analysis spanned eight years between 1996 and 2003 inclusive.
In total, 4445 STI episodes were identified among people aged 45 and older during that time. Most of these were in straight men and women.
The most commonly diagnosed infection among the over 45s was genital warts, accounting for almost half (45%) of the episodes. Herpes was the next most common, accounting for almost one in five (19%).
Men and those between the ages of 55 and 59 were significantly more likely to have an STI than anyone else.
Among women, rates were highest among those aged 45 to 54; among men, rates were highest among those aged 55 to 60 plus.
And in 1996, this age group comprised 3.9% of all clinic visits; by 2003, this had risen to 4.5%.
While the numbers of infections identified in younger age groups rose 97% during the period of the study, those identified in the over 45s rose 127%.

“Indeed, it may be argued that older people are more susceptible [to sexually transmitted infections] as they are less likely to use condoms than younger people,” the authors say, adding that as successive waves of people with more liberal sexual attitudes and behaviours age, the problem is likely to worsen.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The happiest years?

This is the fascinating graph reported by
German and American scientists who analysed the results of a long-term British survey in which more than 21,000 men and women were regularly asked how happy they were with their lives.
They replied on a scale of one to seven, with one meaning they were not satisfied at all and seven indicating complete satisfaction.
Life satisfaction was rated about 5.5 when the subjects were in their late teens, on average.
This gradually dropped to about five when they turned 40. appiness hovered around this mark for the next few years, before taking an upturn around the age of 46.
And through their fifties and sixties they became more upbeat, with satisfaction peaking at a rating of 5.9 around 74. After that it drops off as more people become affected by health problems.
The researchers said it was possible that people become more appreciative of what they have as they get older. They may find a desire to make the most of their remaining years, they added.
Writing in the journal Social Indicators Research, they said: 'This awareness of impending mortality may lead older individuals to focus on ways to make their remaining experiences as enjoyable as possible.
'Compared to younger individuals, older people tend to place a greater emphasis on emotional aspects of social interactions and are likely to remember the emotional content of their experiences.'

But this happiness scale appears to be a peculiarly British phenomenon, the researchers from the German Institute for Economic Research found.
When they carried out a similar analysis of German men and women, they found that levels of satisfaction remained relatively stable throughout life.
The British figures chime with recent claims that the mid-life crisis is a thing of the past.
Improvements in healthcare, education and life expectancy mean 'wobbles' around the age of 40 are now less likely, psychologists claimed last month.
By that time, most will have married, bought a home and chosen a career. With those difficult decisions behind us, we are free to start enjoying life and learn from our mistakes.
Does all this chime true for you?