Falls may be early sign of Alzheimer’s

Falls and balance problems may be early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report July 17, 2011, at the Azheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Paris.

Diet-exercise combo best for obese seniors

For obese seniors, dieting and exercise together are more effective at improving physical performance and reducing frailty than either alone. Although weight loss alone and exercise alone improve physical function, neither is as effective as diet and exercise together, which improved physical performance in seniors by 21 percent.  

The global demographic shift is a significant opportunity as long as it is in tandem with a policy and cultural shift, say productive aging experts

China’s population of adults over 65 tops 100 million. This number is steadily growing, putting China at the forefront of a global demographic shift that includes the United States and other developed nations. “While a common tendency is to focus on the burdens an aging population will place on a country’s economic and social welfare, an aging society represents an opportunity, not just a crisis,” says Nancy Morrow-Howell, Ph.D., productive aging expert and professor at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. “Expanding opportunities for productive engagement, including paid employment, formal volunteering, and mutual aid, may reduce social costs by reducing health care expenses and need for post-retirement income supports. (Video available)

Making a Medicare Part D decision

Medicare Part D decisions can be confusingDuring the next six months, Medicare recipients will need to enroll in one of the new prescription drug coverage plans. But with the deluge of information about Medicare Part D, some reliable and some not, “seniors find themselves in an environment of fear and confusion,” says Edward F. Lawlor, Ph.D., a Medicare expert and dean of the School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. “There is so much noise about the prescription drug program, but people are not getting clear, simple information. Many seniors aren’t even entertaining making the proper plan choice.”

Scam artists exploit elders’ vulnerability to false memories

Older folks can be swayed by the power of suggestion.Especially if you’re older, get everything in writing, from estimates to receipts. Psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis report that the memory function of people in their mid-60s and up is easily swayed by the power of suggestion, making them more vulnerable to memory-related scams. Their study appears in the May 2005 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology (JEP): General, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Does enrolling in medicare HMOs affect mortality?

People who are enrolled in Medicare Choice HMO plans with drug coverage die at about the same rate as those in traditional fee-for-service Medicare plans, but mortality rates for those in Medicare HMO plans without drug coverage are substantially higher. That’s the conclusion of a recent study done by Gautam Gowrisankaran, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at the Olin School of Business of Washington University in St. Louis, with University of Minnesota colleague Robert J. Town. The researchers’ estimates imply that a 10-percentage point shift in coverage from fee-for-service to HMO plans without drug coverage could result in 51,000 additional deaths per year among the elderly.

Just a few hours of volunteering a week positively affects the well-being of older Americans

Photo courtesy of The OASIS InstituteVolunteering can have a positive effect on the overall well-being of older Americans.Looking to chase away the winter blues? Interested in staying active after retirement? Need a boost to your health? Try volunteering at your church or a neighborhood organization for a few hours a week — it could do you a world of good. Just two hours of volunteering a week can have a positive effect on the overall well-being of older Americans, according to a study from the George Warren Brown (GWB) School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. The researchers found that older adults who volunteered had better assessments than non-volunteers on three measures of well-being: daily functioning, self-rated health and self-rated depression.

False memories, failing recall are not an inevitable consequence of aging, research suggests

The human brainThe failing memories of older adults, including their tendency to remember things that never happened, are not an inevitable consequence of aging, according to Washington University research presented Aug. 8 at the American Psychological Association meeting in Toronto. The study offers evidence that false memories and other cognitive declines often associated with normal aging can be more directly linked to measurable declines in executive control functions in frontal brain lobes.