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.

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.”

From drug labels to Web sites, visual designers should keep older population in mind

Photo courtesy of National Eye Institute, National Institutes of HealthVisual perception changes as eyes age.Graphic design can be a matter of life and death. Literally. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 40 percent of Americans aged 65 and over use five or more different medications each week, making unintended drug interactions a major contributor to an estimated annual 180,000 fatal or life-threatening adverse drug reactions. Yet drug labeling is a kind of typographical Wild West, says Ken Botnick, professor of visual communications in the School of Art at Washington University in St. Louis. “Drug companies are required to divulge certain types of information but there are no requirements in terms of how accessible that information is made,” Botnick explains. “Typically, decisions about the way information is organized — the hierarchy of presentation, the size and clarity of type — are simply afterthoughts.” Medical information design is just one of the issues to be explored as part of “Visual Design for an Aging Population,” a national symposium Botnick is organizing in March 2004.

Older Americans in the workforce essential to economic future

Older workers enrolled in a computer training class.Some economists predict that by 2030, the United States could experience a labor shortage of 35 million workers. Many businesses, including retail giants such as Wal-Mart and McDonalds, have responded to a looming labor shortage by encouraging older workers to remain in the workforce. But a recent study issued by the U.S. General Accounting Office finds that many of the government’s existing employment assistance programs are not providing computer training and other high-tech skills to workers over the age of 55, a demographic that may soon constitute roughly one-third of the entire American workforce. Nancy Morrow-Howell, Ph.D., a professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis and a leader in the emerging field of productive aging research, contends that America’s economic future may well hinge on our ability to help older adults continue making contributions to society.