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Winter blues

Otis Cliatt, 73, throws horeshoes at a senior center in Orlando, Fla., on Aug. 26. Some experts predict the average American will live to the age of 120 by the year 2050. JACOB LANGSTON | ORLANDO SENTINEL/MCT

Would you want to live to 120? Proponents of ‘radical life extension’ think most people will by 2050 By JEFF KUNERTH, ORLANDO SENTINEL

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RLANDO, Fla. — Otis Cliatt is 73 and hopes to make it to 100. Ginger Hallowell is 81 and thinks 90 will be long enough on this earth. “I’ve done what I need to and I’ve had a long and productive life,” said Hallowell, a former model. Neither has any desire to live to 120. Both belong to the majority of Americans who, given the chance, would rather not live to the endline of human existence, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. Fifty-six percent said if they had a choice to undergo a medical treatment that would allow them to live to 120, they would decline. More than half said extending longevity to such a degree would be bad for society. “We saw a number of people mention over-population as a concern,” said Cary Funk, the study’s senior researcher. Proponents of “radical life extension” — the science, technology and theory of living to the extreme limits of human life — boldly predict that by the year 2050, the average American will live 120 years. So far, the oldest verifiable person was Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122. But extreme longevity would affect everything from the environment to the work force to the economy. It would redefine the meaning of young, middle age and old. Retirement at 65 would become obsolete. “It has far-reaching implications for how we live,” Funk said. Nonetheless, the idea of stretching the limits of a lifetime has some appeal — particularly among the young, blacks and Hispanics. All three groups had 40 percent or more who said they would like to live to be 120. Kayla Arocho, a 20-year-old Hispanic student, said she would like to live to be 135: “How the world is now, everybody thinks it’s so bad. So I’d like to see how much the world would change.” Blacks and Hispanics are most likely to hope they reach 100, and have a more posi-

vive, I don’t have the facilities to support tive view of the future, the study found. Cindy Epiphane, a 36-year-old black myself,” said Cyr, who was pitching horsewoman, said a longer life would give her a shoes at Orlando’s Beardall Senior Center better chance of obtaining her dreams of an recently with his two buddies. “If they don’t have horseshoes in Heaven, I’m not MBA and law degree. She’d like to make it at least to 100, but is going.” Life shouldn’t be measured in years, but concerned about the possibility of outliving in fulfilling the purpose of being here in the her money. “If I could afford it and not rely on anybody first place, said Orlando Catholic Diocese else, yeah, I’d like to do that,” said Epiphane, Bishop John Noonan. More decades added who works at a college recruitment kiosk in a to an empty, sad or disappointing life is no reward. mall. “Life is something And that’s where Those least enamored to value and celethe futuristic idea of brate, but it is to be n e a r - i m m o r ta l i t y with extending life another used for a higher purmeets the practicality couple of decades are the old pose in the context of of a longer life. our journey toward Instead of retiring in and the evangelical. life after death,” said your 60s, extended Noonan, 62. longevity might Significantly extending the lifespan of mean working until you are 80 or 90. “It’s easy to say I want to live forever, but humans could challenge our fundamental we better think of all the ramifications,” said understanding of what it means to be Rabbi Rick Sherwin, 62, head of human, religious leaders told Pew Congregation Beth Am in Longwood, Fla. “If researchers. “Our mortality defines us. It influences I don’t retire until I’m 90, what about all those graduates of the rabbinical seminaries? virtually all of our decisions,” said David They don’t get jobs because I’m holding onto Masci, a senior Pew researcher who dealt with the religious implications of radical my job forever.” life extension. Everlasting life Masci said leaders from all different Those least enamored with extending life faiths questioned whether extreme another couple of decades are the old and longevity would upend the concept of marthe evangelical. Only 31 percent of those 65 riage for life, the definition of family and and older, and 28 percent of white evangel- the relationships between generations. icals, would like to live to 120. Pope Benedict XVI addressed those conNorthland Church Pastor Joel Hunter cerns in 2010 when he preached on the belongs to both groups. For many prospect of adding decades to the human Christians, death isn’t something to delay, lifespan. deny and postpone. It’s when everlasting “Humanity would become extraordinarilife begins, he said. ly old, there would be no more room for “With Christians, we think Heaven youth,” he said. “Capacity for innovation sounds pretty good to us. It has to be worth would die, and endless life would be no avoiding Heaven,” said Hunter, 65. “I think paradise, if anything a condemnation.” I am at my prime in terms of wisdom and Nearly 70 percent of adults in the Pew the best use of my time and leadership. But study said they would like to live someI have no desire to live beyond the age when where between 79 and 100 years old. That includes Beardall Senior Center manager I can contribute to somebody’s life.” Paul Cyr, at 84, also has no desire to live Cheryl Rainsberger, who is 53. “I think 90,” she said. “I still see 90to 120. “The amount of money it takes to sur- year-olds dancing.”

Digital reminders take place of nagging Apps tell you to sit up straight, take your medicine BY KATIE HUMPHREY STAR TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS) (MCT)

It used to be that Mom harped “Sit up straight!” when you slouched. Now there’s a smartphone app with a belt that gives you a buzz if your posture slips. Other apps send reminders —

by e-mail, text message or popup, on-screen alerts — to take medications, go for a run, get an oil change or clean out the refrigerator.

“I’ve set up an alert for my husband for garbage day,” said Sara Swenson, of Cannon Falls, Minn., who uses the app Cozi to help keep her family on track. “It’s about trying to get away from the nagging and make it be more of an electronic reminder that it’s garbage day every Tuesday.”

As technology aims to help us solve all sorts of mundane problems, smartphones have morphed into digital nags. Repeated “suggestions” from a spouse can grate on the nerves, but users say Such digital reminders are it’s easier — and less abrasive — catching on. Evernote, an organto let a device issue the orders. ization app that claims more

than 50 million users worldwide, added pop-up reminders in May, saying they were one of the most requested features. Yet it’s unclear whether digital nagging is any more effective than the face-to-face kind. While devices may help us remember the little things, and be less likely to prompt eye rolls, the electronic alerts themselves can become overwhelming. SEE REMINDERS | A6

New research suggests that getting depressed when it’s cold and dreary outside may not be as common as is often believed. In a study recently published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers found that neither time of year nor weather conditions influenced depressive symptoms. Lead author David Kerr of Oregon State University said this study does not negate the existence of clinically diagnosed seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, but instead shows that people may be overestimating the impact that seasons have on depression. “It is clear from prior research that SAD exists,” Kerr said. “But our research suggests that what we often think of as the winter blues does not affect people nearly as much as we may think.” Kerr, an assistant professor in the School of Psychological Science at OSU, and his colleagues analyzed data from participants in Iowa and western Oregon. Kerr believes the public may have overestimated the power of the winter blues for a few reasons. “We may not have as much fun, we can feel cooped up and we may be less active in the winter,” Kerr said. “But that’s not the same as longlasting sadness, hopelessness, and problems with appetite and sleep – real signs of a clinical depression.” — Oregon State University

The feared 15 For many new college students, adapting to university life is especially challenging when faced with the threat of the so-called “Freshman 15,” a term for the weight college freshmen supposedly gain during their first year away from home. But recent studies suggest that while college students do gain weight during their first year at school, it’s more like five pounds. A recent Ohio State University study that included data from 7,418 young people over the course of their college years found that women and men, on average, gained around three pounds during freshman year. Less than 10 percent of the freshmen gained 15 pounds (or more), and a quarter of the students actually lost weight. Overall, the only consistent “cause and effect” relationship was between boozing and weight: Students who drank “heavily” (six or more drinks at least four days each month) were about a pound heftier than their teetotaling friends. — The Washington Post

Goldenrod’s bad rap Goldenrod has gotten a bad rap, and undeservedly so. The fall bloomer often gets blamed for autumn allergies, when the real culprit is ragweed. It’s a common mistake, said Dr. Bela Faltay, chief of allergy and immunology at Akron General Medical Center. Goldenrod and ragweed are close cousins, so people who are allergic to one are typically allergic to the other, he said. But the properties of their pollen grains put them on opposite ends of the hay fever misery scale. Ragweed is wind-pollinated, which means it has pollen grains that are tiny enough to be blown by the wind from one plant to another - and unfortunately, to people’s noses. Goldenrod, on the other hand, is pollinated by insects. Its pollen grains are big and heavy. The pollen grains fall to the ground rather than wafting in the air. — Akron Beacon-Journal


A6

To Your Health

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reminders Continued from A1

Stay on task Greg Osterdyk gets five to 10 alerts on his smartphone each day, some from his calendar app, others from a task management app called Remember the Milk. As mayor of Carver, Minn., and a business owner, he’s got a lot to remember. “It’s what enables me to handle more projects,” he said. “I can’t keep track of them in my head on my own.” He enters to-dos into the apps, and when the tasks are due, he gets an alert. “I had one today that was telling me there was an advertisement due to the newspaper,” he said recently. “A couple others were calls I need to make, people I need to contact.” RICHARD SENNOTT/MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE/MCT For such real-time reminders, a Spouses no longer need to nag to get things done — digital devices are taking over the little digital nagging is probably task of reminders. Alerts can be set up to remind when to take out the garbage and go helpful, said Dr. Sheila Jowsey, a for a jog. psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic. She’s a particular fan of alerts sent pull on your pant leg and they never sometimes are included in the spoby some airline apps that note ken word but not in the pop-up text stop until you give them your full updated flight information and gate attention,” she said. “Put the nagmessage that you get,” Henderson changes. said. ging toddler in the playpen.” But it is unclear whether nudges People interested in getting fit from a smartphone alone can alter are often drawn to apps because the No eye roll necessary more important behaviors, such as digital nudges offer accountability Fans of digital alerts say that establishing a fitness routine or without any shame or blame, said ability to turn them off is a key dif- Shannon Fable, director of exercise quitting smoking, she said. “If you are significantly ambiva- ference from human nagging. programming for Anytime Fitness. “The nice thing about these lent and not quite ready to make The Hastings, Minn.-based chain reminders is that we, as individuthat change, after a few reminders of fitness centers offers apps and als, can control them,” said Mark you’ll deactivate it,” Jowsey said. online tools for tracking workouts, Henderson, “It has to be including a feature that lets you division chair something schedule specific workouts in for information advance, and then send an e-mail where you’ve It is unclear whether technology at come to the that day. nudges from a smartphone Mayo, who has reminder point in your Other fitness apps, like been involved in MapMyRun, will send an alert if it’s own mind where alone can alter more developing its you say, ’Ok, I’m been awhile since the last jog. important behaviors, mobile app for ready for this.’” There are even wearable fitness patients, which gadgets like FitBit Flex and Jawbone Then there’s such as establishing includes a the annoyance Up that will buzz to remind people a fitness routine reminder feafactor. to get up and move at set intervals. tures for or quitting smoking. Being con“Where a device is better than a upcoming stantly interperson, it can be anonymous,” Fable appointments. rupted, even by said. “It’s not judging me. It might Technology reminders that nag me, but I can turn it off if I hate can also be more consistent in its you programmed, can derail proit.” instruction and less emotional than ductivity, said Audrey Thomas, Indeed, Monisha Perkash, CEO a human. owner of Organized Audrey. and co-founder of posture app Everybody has dealt with (and “If I’m focusing on something LumoBack, said some people turn else and my phone is going off, then dished out) unrequested reminders, to the buzzing belt and related app especially with family members. I lose focus on what I was working because the verbal reminders in Researchers have found that on,” she said. their lives are getting to be too She recommends using technolo- repeated nagging can cause stress much. among couples, and even congy for communication and organi“There are a lot of customers we tribute to divorce. zation, but turning off the alerts, have who do want their mothers or especially for incoming e-mails, “The digital delivery of somewives to stop nagging them,” which she likens to needy toddlers. thing just cuts through all those Perkash said. “This is a more gentle “Toddlers come up to you and way.” innuendos, hidden meanings that

When Medicare stops paying BY CURTIS SKINNER THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (MCT)

PHILADELPHIA — Mary-Carol Feeney’s Medicare coverage was running out, and in midFebruary, her nursing home in Montgomery County, Pa., told her she would have to leave. She still had a pressure sore on her tailbone and was recovering from multiple illnesses — including congestive heart failure — that had bounced her between hospitals and nursing homes for three months. Though residents have rights, including one to appeal Medicare’s denial, Feeney didn’t know that. She was discharged to her daughter Jolene’s one-bedroom apartment in Fox Chase. She lasted there only a week before being rushed by ambulance back to a hospital with fluid retention in her lungs. She never made it back home; she died in another nursing facility in late June at 65. “To me, you don’t send a sick person home who shouldn’t be home and can’t do anything for themselves,” said Jolene Feeney, 35. “It’s crazy, and I’m stuck picking up the pieces.” Advocates for care home patients say Feeney’s case illustrates a growing problem that is poorly understood. Medicare — public insurance for the elderly and disabled — covers most of the costs of skilled nursing for up to 100 days after a hospital stay. But many patients do not realize that, when Medicare coverage stops, they have other options — because, advocates say, the facilities fail to inform them. “What they say is, ‘Medicare has stopped paying, so you’re going home tomorrow,’ ” said Mark Davis, long-term care ombudsman at the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE) in Philadelphia. Patients have the right to appeal termination of coverage, and they also have the option of paying out of pocket or applying for Medicaid,

which reimburses facilities at a fraction of their rates. Davis said his agency had received eight complaints, including the Feeney case, over the last 18 months. He and colleagues believe that’s a small fraction of the total, because many residents accept being discharged without knowing their rights. The problem for homes is that Medicaid pays far less than Medicare or private payers. A 2011 report posted by the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, an industry trade group, found that homes lost $9,500 a year for each Medicaid patient. Medicare, by contrast, paid 2 1/2 times more for the typical patient than Medicaid, giving homes a doubledigit profit margin on that care, the report found. In the last three years, 11 homes in Southeastern Pennsylvania have been cited for failing to give residents proper discharge information, federal records show. Pennsylvania has fewer complaints than many states. In 2011, the most recent data available, one in every 1,000 residents complained about discharge planning in Pennsylvania, compared with 6.5 per 1,000 nationwide. In New Jersey, the rate was seven per 1,000, according to ombudsmen who monitor complaints. “These are kind of the bread-and-butter issues that ombudsmen deal with,” said Laurie Brewer, chief of staff at the New Jersey Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly. She said that some homes had a history of improper discharges, but that most complaints were caused by a lack of knowledge among residents and their relatives. Other ombudsmen also report receiving complaints regularly. “We get at least two a week that we know of,” said Kathy Forrest, long-term care ombudsman for Bucks County. “Two is the tip of the iceberg. People are simply not informed of their rights.”


To Your Health

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A7


To Your Health September 2013