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Mature Focus: News and Notes

Twin Oaks honored

Twin Oaks Senior Living recently received multiple honors: the Western St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce “Best Of” award in the “Senior Care” category for its O’Fallon and Wentzville campuses, and a SeniorAdvisor.com 2016 “Best of Assisted Living” award for Twin Oaks at Heritage Pointe in Wentzville.

To learn more about all three Twin Oaks Senior Living locations, visit twinoaks.me.

self-parking carBoomers at the wheel

Baby boomers for the most part are open to new automotive technologies, but most of them may draw the line at driverless cars.

The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab recently released results of research regarding the willingness of “mature drivers” to adapt various technologies in vehicles. For the study, drivers aged 50-69 were shown videos about seven technologies and self-driving cars and were asked for their feedback.

The majority of participants reported that five of the technologies would likely improve driver safety: back-up cameras [78 percent], blind-spot warning systems [77 percent], collision avoidance systems [68 percent], lane departure warnings [64 percent] and smart headlights [63 percent]. Some respondents said they worried that parking assistance [42 percent] and adaptive cruise control [25 percent] might make drivers too reliant on the technologies themselves.

Overall, 96 percent of respondents said they would be willing to buy a car with at least one of the technologies, and nearly 10 percent said they would be willing to by a car with all seven technologies.

As for self-driving cars, while nearly three in four [70 percent] of respondents said they would be willing to take one for a test drive, only 31 percent said they would buy one, even if it was priced the same as a regular car.

Exercise for arthritis

Exercise is not likely to appeal to people suffering arthritis pain, but it has been proven to improve quality of life for many older adults with musculoskeletal conditions.

At senior centers in New York, more than 200 adults answered survey questions before and after participating in an eight-week, low-impact exercise program held a minimum of once a week. Nearly 90 percent of them had a musculoskeletal condition.

Overall after taking the exercise classes, participants reported a 32-percent reduction in muscle and joint pain.

“Getting seniors to be active in any way will generally improve their quality of life and help them function better in their everyday activities,” said Linda Russell, M.D., rheumatologist and chair of Hospital for Special Surgery. “People believe that if you have arthritis you shouldn’t exercise, but appropriate exercises actually help decrease pain.”

In addition to reduced pain, the seniors experienced better mobility and function, with significant improvements reported in their ability to climb several flights of stairs, lift and carry groceries, and bend, kneel or stoop. More than 90 percent of participants said they felt the exercise program reduced their fatigue and stiffness [97 percent] and improved their balance [95 percent]. All but 4 percent of participants said they felt more confident that exercising would not worsen their symptoms.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of those aged 65 and older have been diagnosed with arthritis. While other studies also have shown the benefits of low-impact exercise for those with arthritis, people with arthritis are less likely than their non-arthritic peers to be physically active.

Sense of smell linked with memory loss

Mayo Clinic researchers discovered a link between the sense of smell and problems with memory among the elderly.

Mayo Clinic researchers discovered a link between the sense of smell and problems with memory among the elderly.

A recent study found an association between an impaired sense of smell and memory loss.

At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, researchers conducted a study involving more than 1,400 men and women with an average age of nearly 80 years. At the study’s onset, all participants had normal cognition and were assessed in their ability to smell banana, chocolate, cinnamon, gasoline, lemon, onion, paint thinner, pineapple, rose, soap, smoke and turpentine.

During follow-up about 3.5 years later, 250 participants were found to have mild cognitive impairment [MCI], and researchers reported a link between a decreased ability to identify smells and an increased risk of amnestic MCI, a form of cognitive impairment involving memory problems.

No association was observed between declining sense of smell and non-amnestic MCI, which involves impaired thinking skills other than memory loss.

The researchers said changes in the regions of the brain that involve smell may explain their findings and that odor identification tests may be useful for early detection of cognitive decline.

JAMA Neurology published the study.

Under-vaccinated

Pneumonia, flu, tetanus and shingles vaccines are routinely recommended for older adults, but vaccination rates among the nation’s senior population are much lower than what healthcare professionals would like to see, according to a recent report from the nonprofit Alliance for Aging Research.

Millions of people are infected each year with pneumonia and influenza, infections that the elderly are most likely to contract and that often result in serious complications and even death. According to the Alliance, the death rate from those two infections combined is nearly 130 times higher among adults 85 and older than among 45-54-year-olds.

“Vaccinations are available for many of the most common and deadly infectious diseases in older Americans and can save countless lives and healthcare dollars,” said Susan Peschin, president and CEO of the Alliance. “Unfortunately, vaccination rates in seniors fall far short of target rates recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Although the recommended adult vaccines are covered to varying degrees by health insurance, cost was one of the main factors listed in the report as a barrier to seniors getting vaccinated. Other factors included lack of access to education and adequate healthcare.

Walking slowly

slow walkingResults of a small, “snapshot” study suggest an association between slow walking speed and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers in France conducted a study involving 128 people with an average age of 76 who were considered to be at high risk for dementia because they had some concerns about their memories. Participants were given PET [positron emission tomography]scans of their brains to measure amyloid plaques, which have been associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers measured how fast participants walked a short distance at their normal pace and compared their speeds with the amount of amyloid plaques in their brains. Results showed the amyloid level accounted for as much as 9 percent of the difference in walking speed.

“It’s possible that having subtle walking disturbances in addition to memory concerns may signal Alzheimer’s disease, even before people show any clinical symptoms,” study author Natalia del Campo said, noting also that the study was not conclusive and that there are many causes of slowed walking among the elderly.

The study was published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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