Studies have linked happiness to better health and longer life. But though many measure happiness in terms of achievement, recent research shows being grateful for what you already have increases happiness more than a concentration on achieving goals or acquiring possessions. In a controlled study, participants who were instructed to focus on a time in their life when they were at their best were less likely to report increased happiness than those who were instructed to express gratitude to someone who they’d never properly thanked. The same study found participants who were asked to write down three things that went well each day for a week reported less depression at one-month, three-month, and six-month follow-ups. More here.
Compared to middle-aged emergency room patients, adults over the age of 75 are much less likely to receive pain medication, even when in severe pain. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine looked at data collected from American emergency rooms between 2003 and 2009 and found patients between the ages of 35 and 54 received pain medication more often than elderly patients. Nearly 80 percent of middle-aged patients complaining of severe pain were given medication, while just 67 percent of older patients were given medication to relieve their pain. Timothy F. Platts-Mills, MD, lead author of the study, said they don’t know why this is, though it may be because physicians are more concerned about side effects in older patients. Platts-Mills said the study highlights the need to better understand how to best manage pain in elderly patients. More here.
The American population is aging. Already, the fastest-growing age group is made up of people over the age of 85 and, by 2030, one in five Americans will be at least 65 years old. The increasing number of senior citizens, combined with the economic pressures of the recent recession, mean more families will take on the burden of providing ongoing care for an aging loved one. Senior advocates recommend familiarizing yourself with the needs of the person you’re caring for and learning about their disease or condition in advance. Studies have found higher stress levels among caregivers that felt thrown into the role. Also, look for help from friends, family, and local caregiving support services. Most importantly, caregivers should be sure not to sacrifice their own health, as it will negatively affect both the caregiver and the level of care they’re able to provide for their loved one. More here and here.
Among the elderly, falls are common, dangerous, and can lead to serious health consequences. According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, one in three elderly adults fall each year. Exercise can be an effective way of reducing falls and strengthening balance. A new study aimed at determining the best exercise for improving balance and coordination in the elderly tested a number of different exercises, including yoga, dance, walking, and cycling, on 9,917 participants. The research showed the best activities to prevent falls were dancing and carrying objects while walking. Tracey Howe, study researcher, said combining activities that use various parts of the body and keeping a routine of three times a week for three months was the best method for reducing falls. More here.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s official poverty measure focuses on food budgets and the wages of the poor but a new formula for calculating the poverty rate in America, which takes into account taxes, medical and housing costs, hopes to offer a more accurate depiction of the nation’s poverty rate. According to the new formula, the poverty rate is 16 percent, as compared to the official 15.1 percent. The new measure also found a spike in the poverty among people over the age of 65. The official rate of poverty among the elderly was 9.0 percent, while the broader calculation found the rate at 15.9 percent or approximately 1 in 6 seniors. More here.
According to research from the Center for NeuroScience at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, our ability to distinguish between specific odors deteriorates as we age. Professor Diego Restrepo, Ph.D., the study’s lead researcher, said, when presented with two different odors, the olfactory sensory neurons of younger participants were able to respond to one or the other, while older participants responded to both. The inability to distinguish between smells poses a risk to seniors as it could make it more difficult to detect spoiled food or leaking gas. The researchers tested 440 people split into two groups, one under the age of 45 and those over the age of 60. Though they expected to find fewer neurons in older subjects, researchers found older participants had just as many olfactory sensory neurons but, those over the age of 60, could not distinguish between two odors, suggesting that changes to the nose and brain contribute to a loss of smell as we age. More here.