Aging and Caregiving in the News

Related topics: Alzheimer's Disease, Financial Planning, Senior Lifestyles

Information, updates and interesting tidbits from across the country and around the world.

In this issue:

  • Elders played an important role in human survival — and still do!
  • A landmark study confirms that exercise protects the brain.
  • When should I collect Social Security?

The Role of Elders in Human Survival

Stone Age people walking in the snow

Why do humans live so long? Anthropologists speculate that for our Stone Age ancestors, the presence of a supportive generation of elders raised the chance of survival of offspring — just as it helps children thrive today. To learn more about how our ancestors might have benefited from a long lifespan, a study from Chapman University observed the role of elders among people who live in small, isolated bands today. Prof. Eric Schniter reports, "Not all abilities peak in middle adulthood as previously thought. As adults continue to age beyond their reproductive years, despite physical frailty setting in, they are often regarded as experts — such as in music and storytelling." It takes years to gain expertise in complex skills, and in pre-industrial societies, seniors also are the ones who teach those survival skills to younger people. What can our own industrialized culture learn from this? Schniter noted that in the people he studied, older adults are "the age group that excelled most at planning, conflict negotiation and delegation," and says, "Those are prized talents in any economy; so if baby boomers delay retirement, as some economists predict, it might behoove employers to better deploy them."

Landmark Study Shows Exercise Protects the Brain

You've probably heard the expression "He’s got a lot of gray matter," referring to an intelligent person. It's not just an expression: The more gray matter we have in certain areas of the brain, the lower our risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.  A March 2016 study from University of Pittsburgh showed that exercise reduces the loss of gray matter and may even increase it as we age — which could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by half! The study, led by Dr. Cyrus Raji, has been called one of the largest to date to examine the relationship between physical activity and cognitive health, and Dr. Raji says, "The results strongly support the notion that staying active maintains brain health." The research team cautioned that in our later years, when we are in greatest need of exercise to support memory and cognition, many of us typically become more sedentary. They suggest that doctors prescribe exercise for patients who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or are otherwise at risk of dementia. So, no matter what your age and health, use your gray matter to protect your gray matter — ask your doctor for an exercise program now.

What's the Best Age to Claim Social Security?

It's a confusing question: At what age should I start collecting Social Security? Historically, almost every qualifying American collected Social Security as soon as they could. Even today, almost half of retirees begin collecting as early as possible, at age 62. But according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), many people are unaware that claiming their benefits earlier means their monthly checks will be smaller — and that the amount is larger each year until the age of 70. With far fewer Americans saving enough for their retirement or receiving a traditional pension, getting the most out of Social Security benefits is vital. So what's the ideal age? It depends on a person's situation — their marital status, health, predicted life span, other income sources, and whether they plan to continue working. To help consumers make the decision, the CFPB has created an interactive tool that helps each user examine their own unique circumstances. It is completely confidential and does not affect your benefits in any way. By entering your age, highest annual work income and other facts, you can see the difference in benefits and get some general guidance.  Read more about the tool here.

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2016 IlluminAge