Aging and Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Senior Life, Legal & Financial

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

In this issue:

  • It's never too late—or too early—to add brain-protecting mental stimulation to your life.
  • Researchers speculate on the reason flu season begins when the temperatures fall.
  • To avoid hard-sell Medicare health and drug plan sales pitches, learn about Medicare's rules for marketers.

Another Great Reason to Read and Play Games With Your Grandchildren

By now most of us have heard about the benefits of brain exercise. Reading, writing, games and other mentally stimulating activities may help us preserve our memory and cognitive abilities. In the July 3, 2013 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers reported that autopsies on the brains of 294 people showed that those who had participated in mentally stimulating activities throughout their lives had a slower decline in memory, despite having the characteristic plaques and tangles in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease. "Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person's lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age," said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

This research shows that while it is never too late to add brain activities to our routine, the protective effect actually begins early in life. Wilson says, "Based on this, we shouldn't underestimate the effects of activities such as reading and writing on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents." So, while you are indulging in brain-healthy activities, remind the younger people in your life to do the same!

Why Do We Get Our Flu Shot in the Fall?

Cooler weather, falling leaves, children in their back-to-school finery … these are all things we associate with autumn. Healthcare personnel also think of fall as the time for patients to be vaccinated for the annual seasonal flu. Have you ever wondered why flu season in the U.S. peaks during the fall and winter months? Scientists have asked the same question. Is it because children return to school and "share" the virus? Is it because people are cooped up in closer proximity to one another during the colder winter months? Or perhaps the lower levels of light affect our immune systems? Researchers from Virginia Tech recently studied the relationship between flu outbreaks and humidity. They found that the virus thrives very well in low humidity—making our dry, heated homes the perfect condition for the flu to spread. (On the other hand, the virus also survives in very high humidity, which may be why flu season peaks during the rainy season in tropical climates.)

No matter what the reason for the timing of flu season, it's wise to be vaccinated at the recommended time. Check out the National Council on Aging's Flu + You resources to learn more about the risks of the flu in older adults, the importance of annual vaccination, and available vaccine options.

Medicare Reminds Seniors to Avoid Shady Sales Pitches When Shopping for Medicare Plans

Medicare's Open Enrollment period is October 15 - December 7. This is the time when people with Medicare can make changes to their existing Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug coverage for the following year. Selecting a plan can be confusing, and many companies that offer these plans reach out to seniors through advertising. Protect yourself by learning about the marketing rules Medicare requires these companies to follow during a sales call. Here are some of the basics:

  • The agent must get your permission to meet in person, and cannot come to your house without an appointment.
  • During the meeting, the agent may tell you about the plan options you agreed to discuss, but may not tell you about other plan options you have not agreed to discuss, or sell you any other products, such as life insurance.
  • The agent may not ask for your credit card or banking information.
  • The agent may not use "hard sell," high-pressure sales techniques.

Read more rules and cautions on the Medicare.gov website. And visit the Medicare Plan Finder to learn more about available health and drug plans.