Still Alice

As I was recently driving through Boston/Harvard, I remembered scenes from the book Still Alice.  If you love old people, you’ve got to read this book.

It’s the best book I’ve ever found that brings the layman (like me) into the complicated realm of Alzheimer’s.

The book tells the tale, in a novel format, of a Harvard professor with early onset Alzheimer’s through HER eyes.  And, I suppose seeing it through the professor’s eyes is what makes the book so compelling.

The other day I ate a vegetarian meal.  A couple hours later, I was trying to recall every item on the plate. For the life of me I couldn’t remember the word ‘Asparagus.’  Instead of shrugging it off and moving on to something else mentally, I dug in and tried with all my mind to recall the word.  No luck.  I thought of this book.  I worried.  I could visualize the vegetable.  I could smell it.  But, I could not name it.  10 minutes later, I gave up.  What explains that?  I don’t know.  Could it be a ridiculously early hint of things to come decades from now.

I truly hope not.  I can’t think of a more tragic disease.  I lost my father to cancer (he was way too young).  I lost my friend to a car accident.  And while there’s nothing to gain by ranking the level of bad of bad things, Alzheimer’s ranks up there.  When your mother looks at you blankly and has NO IDEA who you are and the disease will lead to her death too … ? … brutal.

Read the book.  Get involved.


Social Security brought to its knees

Booming Senior Citizen Population Will Bring Social Security to Its Knees: Deficit Committee

Significant changes in seniors’ security blanket program detailed by committee in ‘The Moment of Truth’ report

By Tucker Sutherland, editor,

Dec. 3, 2010 – Most of the initial reactions to the proposal on December 1 by President Obama’s special committee seeking ways to reduce the U.S. deficit focused on changes to Medicare as being the most dramatic of the adjustments recommended. Medicare, no doubt, is critical to senior citizens but the program closer to the hearts of millions of seniors is Social Security – the security blanket. The committee’s report does urge drastic changes in this program to and says unless the nation acts the booming number elderly will “bring the Social Security program to its knees.”

Read the rest here.

A portal for baby boomers.  Cool.  I wonder how their traffic is?  How many visitors/day?  Anybody know?  Check them out …

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NYTimes – A Look At Generations


Two Generations: An American Story

Published: May 14, 2010

To the Editor:

Joel Holland

Re “Root Canal Politics” (column, May 9):

Thomas L. Friedman is right. The Greatest Generation built the most prosperous society in history with its blood, sweat and tears, giving its children a tremendous head start. How have we responded? By consuming our way to insolvency. And now we’re robbing future taxpayers of wealth that has yet to be produced.

The Grasshopper Generation may be too kind a term for us boomers. Even grasshoppers don’t eat their young.

Michael Smith
Cynthiana, Ky., May 10, 2010

To the Editor:

Thomas L. Friedman equates boomers with “hungry locusts” who have eaten through the abundance their parents created for them, sinking our country into crippling debt. If anything, it was boomers who rescued our economy in the 1980s and 1990s through the high-tech entrepreneurial economy they created. And the one president who embraced boomers, Bill Clinton, ended his presidency with a budget surplus that could have lasted for years to come.

Perhaps Mr. Friedman should aim his fire elsewhere. Dial back to the 1960s, when the venerated World War II generation claimed that we could have both guns and butter, and in the process sank our nation into debt while shipping off baby boomers to their death in Vietnam. Move ahead to the 1970s, when that same generation ran our industrial base into the ground, leaving us with double-digit inflation and interest rates and steering our automobile industry into near collapse.

Ronald Reagan ran against the boomer culture and the national debt soared. George W. Bush, demographically a boomer, prided himself on being the anti-boomer and presided over the near collapse of our economy.

Mr. Friedman is right that we need a national reckoning to deal with our economic woes. But criticism of baby boomers will only delay the real conversation we need to have.

Leonard Steinhorn
Washington, May 9, 2010

The writer, a professor at the School of Communication of American University, is the author of “The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy.”

To the Editor:

Far from being a resource-consuming bunch of slackers, members of the baby boom generation have worked hard and steadily for 40 years to pay the bills for themselves, their children and, yes, their parents in the Greatest Generation, an admirable group that nevertheless has taken much more money out of our social safety net than it ever put in.

And the boomers have done all this in a decades-long era of flat wages and rising prices. While many Greatest Generation families could make it on one income, it now takes two incomes. And what is our thanks for all this steady, tortoise-like effort? To be told we are the problem.

This is not a generational quarrel; it’s a political one. Approximately two-thirds of our current national debt was accumulated under the last three Republican presidents: Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes.

Who began the movement to prevent the kind of sensible tax increases we need to pay for the government services we want? Conservative Republicans. Who turns out to oppose tax increases, often school bond efforts? Older voters of the Greatest Generation.

We don’t disagree with Mr. Friedman’s assertion that our social programs may face hard times and cuts. But we disagree that the baby boom generation is to blame. We have had our nose to the grindstone for decades, trying to support not one but three generations.

Jan Farrington
Brian Farrington
Fort Worth, May 10, 2010

To the Editor:

“Root Canal Politics” aptly describes our addiction to free lunch politics. As a local government official who has to balance a budget every year, I see one answer — a balanced budget amendment. Avoiding budget reality has eliminated honesty from our politics and creates disincentives to find efficiencies, to compromise or to prioritize.

A balanced budget amendment — with reasonable provisions for recessions, times of war and debt financing for sound investments — would not change parties’ priorities, but it would force an honest discussion of the trade-offs. We need new rules if we are to bring honesty back to our politics.

Rob Krupicka
Alexandria, Va., May 9, 2010

The writer is a city councilman.

To the Editor:

Thomas L. Friedman states, “My takeaway is that U.S. and European politicians — please don’t laugh — are going to have to get a lot smarter and more honest.”

It is the voters who are going to have to get a lot smarter and more honest with one another first, and then demand that their politicians get smarter and more honest. Given our political system, it’s unlikely to happen the other way around.

Joe McDevitt
London, May 9, 2010

Hardened Arteries, Elderly Falls Linked

Thomas H. Maugh II Los Angeles Times

May 17, 2010 | 10:36 a.m.

A stiffening of the aging brain’s blood vessels reduces their ability to respond to changes in blood pressure, increasing the risk of falls by as much as 70%, researchers reported Monday.

Although the change in the arteries is only one of many factors that lead to falls among the elderly, the findings provide a potential target for intervention, said Dr. Joe Verghese, a neurologist at Albert Einstein University College of Medicine who was not involved in the research. Treating high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, among other factors, can reduce the stiffening.

“Even if it accounts for only 10% to 15% of all falls, that’s still large numbers that you are talking about,” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of adults over the age of 65 fall each year, and 30% of those suffer moderate to severe injuries, including hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries. Most elderly who are hospitalized with a hip fracture end up in a nursing home.A variety of factors have been linked to falls, including diseases, foot problems, overmedication, environmental hazards — and abnormalities in the signaling potential of the brain’s white matter, which controls both cognitive and motor functions, have also been linked. The study was designed to demonstrate at least one mechanism by which these latter abnormalities could occur.
Dr. Farzaneh A. Sorond, a neurologist at Harvard University’s Institute for Aging Research, and her colleagues studied 420 people over the age of 65. The team used ultrasound to measure the flow of blood in the patients’ brains while they were at rest and when they were breathing rapidly.

Heavy breathing increases carbon dioxide levels and normally produces a dilation of the blood vessels, a phenomenon known as vasoreactivity. If blood vessels don’t properly dilate under stress, the brain does not get enough oxygen and glucose.

The researchers also studied the patients’ gait over a 12-foot course and had them keep a record of their falls. Poor gait is also a factor in falls. About 85% of 65-year-olds have a normal gait, but only 18% of 80-year-olds do.

The team reported in the journal Neurology that patients in the bottom fifth for vasoreactivity had a slower, worse gait than those in the top fifth and were 70% more likely to have suffered a fall during the study period.

“This gives us a window to intervene,” Sorond said. “There is a lot of data, for example, that says [cholesterol-lowering] statins improve vasoreactivity. We hope to be funded to study that over the next five years.” The team also plans to do imaging studies to see if the low vasoreactivity is linked to problems with white matter.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and a private donor.

Betty White!

What a way to go …

From Dallas, TX:

DALLAS (May 18, 2010)—Among the things Fred Krusemark, 87, of Dallas, wanted to do before the end of his already-long life was to take a 100-mile-per-hour car ride.

On Monday he died after fulfilling his dream at Texas Motor Speedway.

Krusemark was a passenger Saturday in a Chevrolet Corvette with a professional driver at the wheel when the high-performance car slammed into a wall at the speedway.

He suffered blunt force head and neck trauma in the crash and died Monday.

Krusemark was taking part in a ride-along program offered by a company called Texas Driving Experience.

WFAA-TV reported that there were four cars on the track at the time of the accident and that one of them was passing Krusemark’s Corvette in a turn when the elderly man’s car hit the wall and ended up in the speedway’s infield.

He and the driver were flown by helicopter to hospitals in Fort Worth.

Krusemark was taken off life support Monday morning, a spokesperson for John Peter Smith Hospital said.

Information about the driver’s condition wasn’t available.