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When Forgetfulness Equals Wisdom

Wednesday, May 21, 2008
From the New York Times:

"Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful."

"For example, in studies where subjects are asked to read passages that are interrupted with unexpected words or phrases, adults 60 and older work much more slowly than college students. Although the students plow through the texts at a consistent speed regardless of what the out-of-place words mean, older people slow down even more when the words are related to the topic at hand. That indicates that they are not just stumbling over the extra information, but are taking it in and processing it."

"Such tendencies can yield big advantages in the real world, where it is not always clear what information is important, or will become important. A seemingly irrelevant point or suggestion in a memo can take on new meaning if the original plan changes. Or extra details that stole your attention, like others’ yawning and fidgeting, may help you assess the speaker’s real impact."

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Men Married to Educated Women Live Longer

According to a recent study undertaken by researchers in Norway, married men can live up to thirty-five percent longer if wed to a well-educated woman. Since women are often more health-conscious than men and because women often prepare food and otherwise care for their spouses, the study suggests, men married to more educated women (who are, in turn, more likely to research nutrition and fitness than their less educated counterparts) live healthier lives. The level of a man's education, on the other hand, seems to have no effect on his partner's longevity. While Norwegian media outlets such as Verdens Gang seem to focus on the effects of a woman's education on her spouse in heterosexual unions, the findings are only a small part of a much larger study published in Social Science & Medicine's most recent issue. The full study, entitled "Brittle bones, pain and fractures -- Lay constructions of osteoporosis among Norwegian women attending the Nord-Trondelag Health Study (HUNT)" may be purchased for $31.50.

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"I Choose You!"

Monday, May 5, 2008
From the Associated Press:

"Doctors know some patients needing lifesaving care won't get it in a flu pandemic or other disaster. The gut-wrenching dilemma will be deciding who to let die.

Now, an influential group of physicians has drafted a grimly specific list of recommendations for which patients wouldn't be treated. They include the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma victims, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia."

"To prepare, hospitals should designate a triage team with the Godlike task of deciding who will and who won't get lifesaving care, the task force wrote. Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival. But the recommendations get much more specific, and include:

-People older than 85.
-Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.
-Severely burned patients older than 60.
-Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer's disease.
-Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes."

"If followed to a tee, such rules could exclude care for the poorest, most disadvantaged citizens who suffer disproportionately from chronic disease and disability, he said. While health care rationing will be necessary in a mass disaster, 'there are some real ethical concerns here.'"
[Full story]

Scary. Real damn scary.

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Faces of Death

Thursday, April 10, 2008
From the Guardian:

"The German photographer Walter Schels thinks it not only odd, but wrong that death is so hidden from view. Aged 72, he's also keenly aware that his own death is getting closer. Which is why, a few years ago, he embarked on a bizarre project. He decided to shoot a series of portraits of people both before and after they had died. The result is a collection of photographs of 24 people - ranging from a baby of 17 months to a man of 83 - that goes on show in London next week. Alongside the portraits are the stories of the individuals concerned, penned by Beate Lakotta, Schels' partner, who spent time with the subjects in their final days and who listened as they told her how it felt to be nearing the end of their lives."

"Some of the subjects, says Schels, were bitter about how lonely the business of dying had made them feel - for some, this was why they agreed to take part in the project. "Some of the dying said, 'It's so good you're doing this - it's really important to show what it's like. No one else is listening to me, no one wants to hear or know what it's really like.'""

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