photo credit: W.A. Weeks

Here Comes the Sun

It is always exciting to see the pool being prepared for the summer season – the cleaning, the small touchups and finally the blue blue water. Our private resort is in its glory this time of year promising lazy days by the pool.

A warning though – the sun can be damaging. Parents of young children know the importance of protecting young skin from the sun. And as we age, the risk of skin damage increases. Older skin is also fragile. Our immune systems become weaker. And over our lives we have accumulated ever more sun exposure.  That’s why skin cancer is so prevalent in older people.

Here’s some advice for us all: Aim for the shade, especially when near water and sand which reflect the sun rays, and especially in middle of the day. Always wear sunscreen, even on rainy days. Sun protective clothing is a wise choice when outdoors. Know the signs of skin cancer and look for changes in moles, and birthmarks. If you find something out of the ordinary, see a doctor quickly.

Now grab a hat and safely enjoy the summery weather.

Earth Day 2024 – Plastics & our planet

This year the theme for Earth Day is Planet vs. Plastics, and we are encouraged to commit to achieving a 60% reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040. The plastic waste choking our waterways and piling up on land is unsightly and harmful to wildlife.

Plastics are known to be a danger to human health. The chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is considered an endocrine disruptor, meaning it can both decrease or increase endocrine activity in humans and cause adverse health effects. It is found in plastic beverage containers, dinnerware, protective linings of food cans and toys. It is associated with an increased incidence of breast cancer, and is a risk to fetuses and babies.

Phthalates, chemicals the make plastic flexible have been linked to weight gain and insulin resistance, decreased levels of sex hormones, and other disruptions of the human reproductive system both for females and males. These chemicals can migrate into food that has been wrapped in plastic.

Tomorrow is Earth Day 2024. As we celebrate our wonderful Earth, we are challenged to find ways to transition away from plastics – for the sake of the planet, and our better health.

Falls lunch & learn

The NORC community arranged for Alicia Remark, an occupational therapist, to speak about preventing falls, and some steps we can take if we do fall.  Fifty residents came for the presentation and it was evident that we were all giving her our full attention. So many of us feel that we are at risk of falling, and we realize the serious consequences, particularly for older people. The five practical steps for getting up from a fall are shown in this video.

We also learned about the Toronto Grace Hospital Remote Care program, in particular the GPS locating pendant for those at risk of falling. A checklist of risk factors let us score ourselves on the chance that we might fall.  This provided food for thought, and perhaps motivation to act.

Power of positive thinking

As we age, many of us experience mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Symptoms include increased difficulty in thinking and memory, frequently forgetting appointments, or losing items more often. Nearly half of older persons with MCI regain normal cognition. The reason for this recovery is still a mystery.

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health administered a subscale of the Philadelphia Geriatric Morale Scale to 1,716 participants aged 65 years.This scale measures someone’s attitude toward aging. The positive age-belief assessment included questions like the following:

  •  “​Do things keep getting worse as you get older?”
  •  “​Do you feel that as you get older you are less useful?”
  • “​Are you as happy now as you were when you were younger?”

Results showed that participants with positive-age beliefs to start with were more likely to experience cognitive recovery from mild cognitive impairment than those with negative-age beliefs. The amount of time for cognitive recovery was also shorter for participants with positive-age beliefs versus those with negative-age beliefs.

Overall, the study authors suggest that fostering positive-age beliefs and attitudes may be highly beneficial in improving and maintaining cognitive function into old age. Societies and individuals can begin to cultivate these beliefs.

M​ore research is warranted to fully understand the roles of cultural beliefs on cognitive outcomes.

[Manny Radomski: Excerpted from: Levy BR, Slade MD. Role of positive age
beliefs in recovery from mild cognitive impairment among older persons. JAMA
Networks Open/Geriatrics. 2023;6(4):e237707.]