Aging and Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Senior Lifestyles

Information, updates and interesting tidbits about healthy aging, senior care and family caregiving from across the country and around the world. In this issue:

  • "Unleash the Power of Age!" May is Older Americans Month
  • Do all dairy products protect equally against osteoporosis?
  • Alcohol damages the developing brain in teenagers, yet seniors may be at even greater risk of alcohol-related health problems.
  • The percentage of people who die from Alzheimer's disease is on the rise.

May is Older Americans Month

This year, the theme of Older Americans Month is "Unleash the Power of Age." Older Americans Month acknowledges the value that seniors continue to bring to our communities, applauding the efforts of local elders and inviting them to share information about the activities they do. This year, the U.S. Administration on Aging asked organizations to nominate seniors who are using their talents and expertise to make a positive impact on the community and beyond. The focus is on civic engagement, the creative arts, technology and innovation, and more. The public are invited to visit the Older Americans Month website to view the finalists and vote for the winners between May 20-28. Winners will be announced on May 31.

When It Comes to Bone Health, Not All Dairy Products Are Created Equal

May is National Osteoporosis Month. Each year, the National Osteoporosis Foundation and other organizations seek to educate Americans about bone health, which includes the consumption of adequate dietary calcium. Most of us know that dairy products are a good source of calcium—but did you know that not every dairy product provides the same benefits? Researchers from Harvard Medical School's Institute for Aging Research recently reported that consuming milk and yogurt is associated with higher bone mineral density—but consuming cream and ice cream is not, and may even be associated with lower bone density. Lead author Shivani Sahni, Ph.D., says, "Dairy foods provide several important nutrients that are beneficial for bone health. However, cream and its products such as ice cream have lower levels of these nutrients and have higher levels of fat and sugar." Shivani says that future research will also examine the benefits of cheese consumption. The research team reports that 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and another 34 million have low bone density that puts them at increased risk of dangerous fractures. Seniors should discuss bone health and calcium intake with their healthcare provider.

Risky Drinking May Hurt Seniors More Than Teens

Much attention is paid to the public health problem of teen drinking. We know that alcohol affects the developing teenage brain differently than the brains of adults, causing problems with memory, learning and impulse control. However, Baylor University researchers recently suggested that people on the other end of the age spectrum may be at an even greater risk of alcohol-related health problems. "Health implications such as falls, accidents and poor medicine-taking are pretty easy to conclude," said study author Douglas B. Matthews, Ph.D. The researchers are also looking at the relationship between alcohol abuse and memory loss, other cognitive impairment and physical coordination. Says Matthews, "We know a lot of neurobiological changes occur during aging which underlie age-related cognitive and behavioral deficits. It's reasonable to suspect a significant interaction exists between age-related and alcohol-induced effects in the brain." At present, around ten percent of people over 65 engage in risky drinking behavior. The researchers point out that with the aging of the baby boomers, this may become an increasingly common and costly problem.

One in Three Seniors Dies with Alzheimer's or Related Dementia

Each year the Alzheimer's Association releases a report on the most up-to-date research on Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. This year's report revealed the startling fact that while deaths from heart disease, HIV/AIDs and stroke are declining, deaths from Alzheimer's disease continue to rise—increasing 68 percent during the decade of 2000 – 2010. Alzheimer's is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and is a contributing factor to earlier death from other causes. Alzheimer's Association president Harry Johns said, "Unfortunately, today there are no Alzheimer's survivors. If you have Alzheimer's disease, you either die from it or with it." This means that in addition to the people who die as the result of Alzheimer's, many more who die from another cause were also living with dementia by the end of their lives. Said Johns, "Urgent, meaningful action is necessary, particularly as more and more people age into greater risk for developing a disease that today has no cure and no way to slow or stop its progression." For more information and to see the full report, visit the Alzheimer's Association website.