World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2017

weaad_rgb_small-1-300x300.jpgToday, June 15, 2017 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Created in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, WEAAD strives to raise awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic issues of elder abuse and neglect. Elder abuse can present in several different forms such as physical or psychological abuse, neglect, or exploitation, and is an important public health and human rights issue that should be recognized as such.

“Every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And experts believe that for every reported case of elder abuse or neglect, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported.” – USC Center on Elder Mistreatment

For a variety of educational tools & tips on how to identify, address, and prevent these issues, visit the University of Southern California (USC) Center on Elder Mistreatment’s WEAAD website. Information includes:

Show your support for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by finishing the sentence below, downloading the image, and sharing your answer on social media! Don’t forget to use the hashtag #WEAAD!

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 2.19.45 PM

Download image here.

For more information on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, click here.

Advertisements

Exercise and Aging: Finding the right program for you

Staying fit and active as you age can be a major challenge for some individuals. Whether it is due to an injury or medical condition or simply the normal changes that occur with aging, at some point our bodies just don’t quite function how they used to. Generally speaking, older adults often experience a slowing of movement, which can in turn lead to decreased activity followed by decline in function and ultimately, a loss of independence.

On Thursday, June 8, 2017, the University of Pennsylvania’s Division of Human Resources – Quality of Work Life and AREUFIT Health Services, Inc. hosted a workshop on “Exercise and Aging” open to all Penn faculty and staff to discuss safe and effective ways that older adults can work to maintain their function.

“As we age, our muscles tend to work on the “use it or lose it” principle,” said Micah Josephson, MS, representative of AREUFIT and leader of the workshop. There are two main neuromuscular changes that are often associated with aging – dynapenia, the loss of strength and power and sarcopenia, the loss of muscle tissue. However, research shows that exercise and physical activity can help slow or reduce the risk of these changes.

The question is, what type of exercise is the right one for you? Because all of our bodies are different, it is extremely important to understand what exercises and activities will best suit your needs or restrictions and help you achieve your goal.

Josephson presented some “official recommendations” for the following types of exercise: aerobic exercise (often referred to as “cardio”), strength training, balance training, and power training. When it comes to aerobic exercises like spinning, running, swimming, and a variety of group fitness classes such as Zumba, it is best to stick to 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity per week.

Strength training, which focuses on major muscle groups such as the torso and legs, is Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.47.06 AMrecommended 2+ days a week. The most important factor is to focus on the number of repetitions (reps) you can reach in a certain number of sets. For example, if you are strength training and doing bicep curls (pictured here), you should try to reach 8-12 repetitions doing about 3-4 sets of this movement. The amount of weight that you should use varies person to person, but it should be enough that you are maxing out around 8-12 reps while still maintaining form and control of the movement.

According to Josephson, balance training is suggested 2-3 days per week/60 minutes per week. The National Institute on Aging (NIH) Senior Health website offers some great tips and examples of safe ways to practice balance training.

Finally, for power training, Josephson says it is best to practice high-speed, low-resistance movements, recommending 2 sets of 12-15 reps twice per week. Using bicep curls as an example again, when power training instead of focusing on reaching a specific number of reps, you would focus on the velocity, or speed, of your movements. You want to perform the movement as quickly as you can while still maintaining control of the weight and yourself.

Regardless of your age or abilities, the first step in determining the best exercise program for you is to set your goal. When setting your goal, you have to think as specifically as possible. For example, the goal of “being able to keep up with the grandkids” does not look the same for every individual. For some, this may be getting up and down on the ground to play a game, while for others it may be running around the yard or going on hikes. These goals focus on very different muscle movements and your exercise program should be tailored accordingly.

If you are serious about exercising and maintaining a safe, active lifestyle as you age, Josephson has three overarching recommendations:

  1. Make the choice to exercise regularly
  2. Find a professional trainer who can help guide you
  3. If you cannot meet regularly with the trainer, meet periodically for check-ins and re-assessments

However, if you do not have access to a personal trainer, there are many other resources that can help you on this journey. The National Institute on Aging (NIA)’s Go4Life campaign is designed to help older adults fit exercise and physical activity into their daily lives. They focus on nutrition, exercise, and safety and offer a variety of tips and examples of exercises for maintaining endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

The NIA’s main website is also a great source of information, not only for tips on exercising, but also for facts on the many benefits and ways that it can improve your quality of life.

The Assumptions of Aging: Addressing the Myths and Stereotypes Associated with Getting Older

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA)* held a daylong training course titled “Assumptions of Aging,” led by Kathy Jedrziewski, PhD, Deputy Director of the Institute on Aging (IOA) at the University of Pennsylvania.

The purpose of this training was to address and debunk some of the common myths and stereotypes that are often associated with the aging population. Participants in the course ranged from social work coordinators and senior counselors to service coordinators from PCA and other local senior service centers. While this goes for the general public as well, it is especially important for individuals in these lines of work to understand and differentiate between the truths of aging and the negative labels that often overshadow in the elderly community so that they can provide the level of service — and respect — that seniors need and deserve.

After an ice-breaker introductory exercise, the group took turns sharing some of the common aging-related stereotypes that they have heard or experienced themselves. Some of the most frequently mentioned ideas were:

  • Older people are not good with technology
  • Romance is only for the young
  • All older people are weak and sickly
  • Older people cannot maintain the same hobbies, activities, or social life that they had when they were younger
  • Older people with disabilities are helpless and useless

Debunking Some of the Myths:

  • Older people are not good with technology:
    One of the most common misconceptions about the aging community is that they do not know — or cannot learn — how to use technology. While it may take older individuals a bit longer than the younger generation (a generation who has grown up using, and often depending on, technology) to pick up on the latest devices, they are not incompetent or unable to do so. Many older adults actually enjoy learning the latest technology and internet trends as it provides a way to stay engaged and in touch with the ever evolving means for communicating and consuming information (i.e. social media). In fact, according to Pew Research Center, 56% of U.S. online users ages 65 and up use Facebook.
  • Older people cannot maintain the same hobbies, activities, or social life that they had when they were younger
    As people age, they often feel pressure from their peers, relatives, and even from themselves to re-evaluate and restrict their idea of what is “appropriate” for them. Whether it is a choice in clothing, a physical hobby such as sports or exercise, or even something as personal as dating or physical intimacy, older adults often think or hear that they are “too old for that.” However, if an individual is still physically and mentally capable, their age alone should never determine what they can or cannot do.
  • Older people with disabilities are helpless and useless
    One of the most important things to understand about an individual with a disability is that it does not define them as a person. It is a common myth that individuals, particularly seniors, with disabilities need to be completely catered to and treated as children, which in turn can strip them entirely of their sense of independence, and in some cases, their self-worth. It is important for family members, caregivers, and others to understand that as long as the individual is still cognitively and/or physically capable of doing something — whether it is making their own decisions or taking part in normal day-to-day activities — they should be given the opportunity, and respect, to do so.

Instead of addressing these ideas through a lecture or notes, the participants were put into groups and asked to act out a series of scenarios that were based on many of these common myths and stereotypes of aging. Each scenario was followed by an open discussion among all of the participants to share their thoughts and feelings on how each character handled, or mishandled, each situation. This method of role-playing put the participants into the scenarios in a more hands-on way — showing them the effects of these stereotypes in a much more personal and relatable manner.

“I love doing this training at PCA twice a year,” said Dr. Jedrziewski, leader of the training session. “It gives me a chance to meet staff from across the aging network who are doing such important work, impacting lives every day and hopefully I give them some tools to work with.”


* PCA is a private nonprofit organization serving the Philadelphia area with a broad range of services to help older Philadelphians live as independently as possible. In addition to providing training programs to individuals working in aging-related fields, they also offer serves such as advocacy programs, coordinating in-home care, legal assistance, and home-delivered meals. It is the largest of 52 Area Agencies on Aging in Pennsylvania and assists more than 134,000 individuals through its PCA Helpline each year. 

For more information on PCA and their services, visit: www.pcacares.org

Can postponing ill-health via comprehensive damage repair extend human lifespan indefinitely?

On Tuesday, December 6, 2016, the Institute on Aging (IOA) welcomed Aubrey de Grey, PhD, Chief Science Officer at the SENS Research Foundation, for a Visiting Scholars Series lecture on “Rejuvenation biotechnology: Postponing ill-health via comprehensive damage repair.”

The SENS Research Foundation is a public charity doing biomedical research with a focus on developing new medicines that may be more effective than current methods in postponing the ill health of old age.

“I do think that the general concept of eliminating damage that the body does to itself is something in which the sky is the limit,” said Dr. de Grey.

He compared this idea to the example of restoring vintage cars. He explained that since we are able to keep cars going essentially forever just by periodic and comprehensive preventative maintenance, we should be able to do the same thing for the human body, ultimately maintaining people in “truly youthful health indefinitely.”

While he does recognize that the human body is much more complex, Dr. de Grey believes that “the further we get in the process of developing methods for eliminating the various types of damage that the body does to itself, the more slowly we will accumulate damage because we will only be left with the residual damage that we haven’t yet worked out how to fix.”

Watch Dr. de Grey’s full lecture here!

The Longevity Dividend

On Tuesday, November 29, 2016, the Institute on Aging hosted its annual Vincent J. Cristofalo Lectureship and reception featuring this year’s keynote speaker, S. Jay Olshansky, PhD, professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dr. Olshansky’s research focuses primarily on human longevity, exploring the health and public policy implications associated with individual and population aging, global implications of the re-emergence of infectious and parasitic diseases, and most recently, the topic of his Cristofalo Lecture; the pursuit of the scientific means to slow aging in people, or as he calls it “The Longevity Dividend.”

“The Longevity Dividend,” a term borrowed from the era of the “peace dividend,” is basically the idea that if we can find a way to slow the basic biological aging process, both society and individuals will reap huge economic and health benefits.

Over the years, human life expectancy has become longer but the success of extended lifespans come with a price. With the ridding of many infectious diseases came the rise of other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease; three different diseases with one thing in common—the process of aging being their most powerful risk factor.

“The rise of these diseases are nota consequence of failure… they are a consequence of success. You’ve lived long enough to experience them. But, the consequences of success might be very dangerous.” – S. Jay Olshansky, PhD

Dr. Olshanksy shared more on the “longevity dividend” during our video interview here:

In addition to his current research on “The Longevity Dividend,” Dr. Olshansky and his colleagues have also conducted research on “facial analytics” combined with biodemography. The study of facial analytics uses components of the face to measure disease risk, longevity risk, and survival prospects. Through this research, Dr. Olshansky and his team are trying to find new ways of allowing organizations and industries to use what we know about ourselves to improve the ways that they do assessments of health and survival.

Recently, Dr. Olshansky and his colleagues published an article in Computer that lays out the framework for building a “health data economy.”

“I think a new form of “currency” will be developed and this “currency” will be your own health data,” explained Dr. Olshansky. The idea is to take data from Fit Bits and other wearable monitoring devices monetize this information, for instance, selling your recorded health data to companies and organizations in exchange for things like money, lower premiums on health insurance policies, coupons, and more. He believes that this resource could be the new form of collecting health data and could inspire a whole new generation of citizen scientists.

To watch Dr. Olshansky’s full lecture on “The Longevity Dividend,” click here.

To learn more about the Vincent J. Cristofalo lectureship, click here.

The National Institute on Aging’s Luigi Ferrucci, MD, PhD receives the IOA’s 2016 Joseph A. Pignolo Award in Aging Research

On Thursday, October 27, 2016, the Institute on Aging hosted its 2016 Joseph A. Pignolo Award in Aging Research event. The recipient of this year’s award — which is given annually to recognize significant contributions in the field of aging research — was Luigi Ferrucci, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist and geriatrician who is currently the Scientific Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and Chief of the Longitudinal Studies Section.

During his lecture on “The Mechanisms of Age-related Loss of Muscle Biomechanical Quality,” Dr. Ferrucci discussed his work on trying to uncover the reasons why we lose muscle mass and strength in aging. “The important thing to understand is not why the muscles shrink, but why we lose muscle quality,” he said.

Watch the video below for a summary of Dr. Ferrucci’s lecture:

Dr. Ferrucci also shared a glimpse into other research happening at the NIA, including a relatively new study in which they selected a small population of healthy individuals in hopes of understanding their secret to maintaining their health in old age. They are conducting in-depth analyses of genomes, epigenetics, blood, and other tissue samples including muscle and skin biopsies. Through their research, they hope to develop technologies that do not require such labor-intensive interventions to be measured and can apply them to new generations of epidemiological studies of aging.

Dr. Ferrucci received the 2016 Pignolo Award in Aging Research for his 2015 publication, “Gene expression markers of age-related inflammation in two human cohorts,” in Experimental Gerontology. His research focuses primarily on the causal pathways leading to progressive physical and cognitive decline in older persons, and in particular, inflammation.

This publication was an attempt for Dr. Ferrucci and his colleagues to look at the genetics of aging in a “somewhat nontraditional way,” he said.

To read the full publication, click here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Friends of the National Institute on Aging (NIA)’s Annual Update on NIA Scientific Advances

Earlier this month, the Friends of the National Institute on Aging (FoNIA) participated in their annual NIA Scientific Advances Update to discuss the progress of ongoing and upcoming research projects in the field of aging. Topics include the basic biology of aging, neuroscience, behavioral and social research, and geriatrics and clinical gerontology. Richard J. Hodes, MD, Director of NIA, presented this year’s updates (slides provided below) and joined in the open discussion with FoNIA members and leadership from each NIA division. NIA Deputy Director, Marie A. Bernard, MD, was also in attendance.

“These meetings are a really great opportunity for us to hear about the latest advances in
aging research across the board and to discuss future initiatives with NIA leadership,”
explained Kathy Jedrziewski, PhD, Chair of FoNIA and Deputy Director of Penn’s
Institute on Aging.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-11-40-40-amscreen-shot-2016-10-13-at-11-42-01-amscreen-shot-2016-10-13-at-11-42-13-am

The group will meet again early next year to discuss the NIA budget. In addition, FoNIA meets annually with National Institutes of Health Director, Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They also host an annual educational briefing on the Hill.

fonia-pic-with-dr-collins

Richard Hodes, MD, Director of NIA (left), Francis Collins, MD, PhS, Director of NIH (center), and Marie A. Bernard, MD, Deputy Director of NIA (right), with members of FoNIA at their last meeting.

For more information, visit: http://www.friendsofnia.org

FoNIA is a broad-based coalition of aging, disease, research, and patient groups that supports the mission of the NIA. FoNIA activities include advocating on behalf of the NIA and increasing public awareness about NIA’s work and its tremendous impact in the field of aging research.