Life Times Newsletter

May/June 2002
Vol. 4, No. 3
A bimonthly publication to enhance
the quality of life of individuals,
families, and communities

Issue Theme:  Aging

  1. Keeping your brain in good shape

  2. Getting older, getting better!!

  3. Tips for healthy aging

  4. Making meals enjoyable when dining solo

  5. Central Poison Control Hotline now available

1. Keeping your brain in good shape

Elizabeth Reinsch, LCSW/ACSW
Human Development Specialist

"Oh, it’s just one of those senior moments" is a comment often heard, especially as we get older. It is often used to identify moments of confusion or forgetfulness.

These moments occur spontaneously, just like stopping to catch our breath if we exert ourselves more than usual. Do you remember the last time you, or someone you know, had a "senior moment"? Are you concerned that this may be happening more often than you might want to admit?

Some recent research dispels some of our previous thoughts on the slowing down of the brain, which results in forgetfulness and possibly dementia. This research offers hope that something can be done or changed to improve the working of brains.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has done a lot to bring this matter to our attention. In the January/February 2002 issue of AARP’s Modern Maturity magazine, Richard Restak, MD, says in his article called "All in Your Head" that "Our brains have an innate capacity for change no matter how old we are," adding that "the older brain is more resilient than we think."

This was proven in part through research that compared young and old subjects as they performed memory tasks equally well, even though the brain waves of the older subjects were weaker. This was explained by the fact that the older brains rerouted some of the messages across underused areas of the brain.

The report also stated that the older brain can partially rebuild itself. Great progress is being made to understand the workings of our brains, and there is great hope that within the next decade or so, there will be even more progress toward human therapies.

So how do we keep our brains in good shape? Robert Friedland, MD, of Case Western University in Cleveland, suggests the following: Learn something new. Try something different, like painting or sculpting. Memorize poetry or songs. Learn to identify as many trees and birds as you can. Play an instrument or table tennis. This might be a good time to play the video games you didn’t have time for when you were younger.

Since the brain is a muscle, keep exercising it. Keep it healthy by eating wisely and get-ting a good night’s sleep. Reduce your stress. Be aware that a deficiency in either vitamin B-12 or folate can cause forgetfulness. Vitamin E research has shown promise that it may protect the brain from some effects of aging.

Other research suggests that use of estrogen may improve both verbal and visual memory. And last but not least, caffeine in coffee or other soft drinks stimulates your central nervous system and helps you become more alert. But drink in moderation.

2. Getting older, getting better!!
(back to top)

Maudie Kelly, MS
Human Development Specialist

Although many people dread the thought of "getting old," attitudes about aging have changed because many older Americans have discovered that getting older is not all that bad.

Susan Scarf Merrell wrote in American Demographics: "The wondrous news is that getting old is a generally positive thing. We don’t just accumulate years, we also gain wisdom which enables us to make decisions with less of the fussing and wheel-spinning that marked our teens and twenties."

There are many positive benefits that older people have realized, according to Merrell. Here are some of the benefits:

All this does not lead to a claim that getting older is all fun and games. Just ask someone dealing with a serious illness or raising a grandchild.

We know that two aspects of aging are slowing down and having a less-efficient memory, but one of the worst aspects of aging seems to be some of the intolerant attitudes of younger people. However, as Merrell also points out, it is very difficult to generalize about older people because they are as heterogeneous as any other group of people.

3. Tips for healthy aging
(back to top)

Maudie Kelly, MS
Human Development Specialist

[Adapted from Work and Family Life newsletter, May 1999, Susan Ginsberg, editor/publisher, New York City, NY]

4. Making meals enjoyable when dining solo
(back to top)

Mary Schroepfer, MED
Nutrition Specialist

Eating alone can dampen an appetite when someone is facing changes in lifestyle due to widowhood, divorce, or leaving home.

Eating meals together provides a warm, social interaction that isn’t there when you begin to dine alone. Here are some steps to boost your appetite and put joy back into mealtime.

Eat healthfully, but simply.

It is not necessary to prepare gourmet meals everyday, but do include the basics. A simple breakfast includes a dairy food, grain, and fruit.

Breakfast options:

Snack options:

Lunch & supper options:

Set the stage for pleasant dining:

[Source: Freezing Prepared Foods, Extension publication GH1505, University of Missouri Extension.]

5. Central Poison Control Hotline
now available: 1-800-222-1222
(back to top)

Linda Rellergert
Nutrition Specialist

Americans for the first time can use a single, toll-free telephone number to reach a poison control center anywhere in the nation. Callers dialing the number automatically will be linked to the closest poison center.

National poison control officials launched the new national hotline, 1-800-222-1222, in January 2002, applauding it as overdue to coordinate the country’s 65 separately-run poison centers.

The new number is part of a $21.2 million federal effort to update poison control centers across the country.

Half of all calls to poison centers involve preschool-age children, although calls involving adults or elderly persons tend to be more serious. Officials said they would accompany the new national phone number with a print and radio-based education campaign urging children to avoid household poisons and urging parents to post poison control numbers near their phones.

Household cleaners and chemicals make up the bulk of poisonous substances in homes, although perfumes, medications, and spider and animal bites can also lead to poisoning.

To obtain stickers, magnets, and other promotional materials, call the new toll-free number at 1-800-222-1222.

Return to the Life Times Newsletter main page

University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller