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Shock of Gray

Ted Fishman

Harley-Davidson has a massive image problem bc all old geezers buying the bikes - they were once a youth product, but younger riders now see the big heavy bikes as being for old fogies. The big Harleys do not sell well to 20 and 30-somethings, but HD sells fewer bikes to older demographic

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In Germany retraining sex workers as nursing home caregivers."They have good personal skills, are not easily disgusted, and have little fear of personal contact." One worker said "Prostitution taught me to listen and to convey a feeling of safety...isn't that exactly what old people need?"

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Insurance scam perpetrated on elderly in Miami: sold policies that promised to provide caregivers and medical treatment at home. But the fine print said that the company wd provide names of caregivers and medical services, not actually provide them. And for that they were charging annual premiums of over $5000.

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The world has changed quickly from one where people died quickly of a small set of killers, to one where they live far longer and manage the dangers. Before modern sanitation and modern medicine's attack on infectious disease, life was like a light switch: people were bright one moment and out the next. The most common killers were infections, violence and childbirth.

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In 16th Century London, 1/5 children died before 1st birthday, and another 1/5 died before 5th. Even until 10, death rates high. From 10 to 40, people were relatively healthy, but then death cd come knocking at any stage. Only half the population lived to 25.

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Importance of literacy - gives people access to information from people they don't know. Literate societies can be taught universal practices that promote public health. Education is the key to good health and long life: lets you put society's advances to work for you and your family. Every additional year a girl spends in school reduces child mortality of next generation by nearly 10%. Actually better off educating girls than providing local clinics.

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Cities as life-extenders. Even for slum dwellers, child mortality is lower and life expectancy is higher than rural. City children are taller, stronger and better fed than country children. A rural school child in China is likely to be 10 kilos lighter and 4 inches shorter than a city child.

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Applies even in America. In 2004, in US as a whole, life expectancy went up by 2 months. But in New York, it went up by 5 months. Over the 20th Century, the decline in child mortality rates boosted life expectancy by 33 years.

Even the poorest country today has lower child mortality rates than did the richest countries a century ago.

By time turn 40, start to lose at least half an inch in height each decade. British researchers found that men who lost more(1.5 inches) in 40's and 50's, were much more likely to die in next 20 years.

In yr 50's big trouble if you've ever been a heavy drinker, even if you now give up. Nearly all the bodily setbacks that normally strike people much older will beset heavy drinkers in short order. Motor functions are particularly hard hit, gait and balance suffers, and mortal consequences to falls.

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Higher risk of osteoarthritis, particularly in knees hips and small hand bones. Globally, affects 1/4 adults over 50.

Older people walk more slowly. They still walk nearly as much as usual, but take shorter steps. Arms swing less and leg joints don't stretch so much so walk more flat-footed. Together with problems of vision and hearing, this starts to restrict what people try to do. Plus dangers of gravity. 1 out of 3 people over 65 suffers a serious fall every year. main problem is fall leads to rapid decline in health. 1/3 elderly who fall and break a hip are dead within a year.

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Doctor said there are drug complications with nearly every patient he sees. Often they create conditions that make people walk strangely or act disoriented, and their doctor thinks they have dementia, so he prescribes more drugs, and more problems.

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Monkeys have same kind of degeneration that humans do. Scientists used to think that young monkeys groomed older monkeys, but not the other way round, because it was a sign of respect. But now it appears that the older monkeys just can't see the small things like lice.

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Most people don't really begin to age until they're 70 or 75 - then they really start to fall apart. Everyone gets age-related macular degeneration at some stage after 60. Sometimes what seems like eye problem is actually incipient Alzheimers - they might complain that can't read clock clearly. So doctor asks them to draw a clock with the hands at half past four. If they struggle at that, it's not a vision problem.

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Vision is the most impt sense - reading papers and books, doing normal household things helps keep you alert, whereas when you have trouble seeing, you start doing less and less. When they can't see people clearly, they worry abt not recognising people and they miss facial cues which ease conversation - all of which contributes to withdrawal and isolation and loneliness, which is a major health hazard in itself.

With aging, multiple diseases interact - if yr short of breath and have bad joints you won't walk, so you don't get exercise, you don't get sunshine, and you get incr isolated.

Epigenetics: author spent lot of time in tropical sun. The intense exposure to the sun has changed body epigenetics - his genes haven't changed, but the software that switches them on and off in his body has changed. So both his children and grandchildren, as well as he himself, may be more prone to skin cancer than his twin brother or his descendants.

Scarring is one of the things that go wrong in old age - injuries don't heal properly; they are more likely to form scar tissue. It's because the stem cells called satellite cells which exist in our tissue and which normally repair injuries, don't reliably switch on in old age. Stanford expt where joined circulatory systems of old mice and young mice, and then injured the muscles of the old mice. The connected mice healed at the speed of young mice. But the benefits ceased as soon as their connection to the younger mice ended.

Easy to imagine how rich elderly cd set up a market to use poor youth in a similar way: we already have a market for surrogate mothers, and in some places, de facto market for spare organs.

In US, low-level nursing-home workers do not last long. Turnover rates are 80-100%.

The disparity between professional incomes in the Philippines and US is so great that 8000 doctors in the Philippines have retrained as nurses so they can get into America, where immigration rules favour foreign nurses over foreign doctors.

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Power of singing - researchers followed 12000 choristers around world and found that singing gives the muscles of the upper body a meaningful workout. It delivers the benefits of aerobic exercise, reduces stress, increases alertness and speeds recovery from illness. So strong are the benefits that the researchers are pushing the National Health Service to get doctors to prescribe singing as a general health benefit.

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In the time it takes to read this book, yr chances of living a longer life have gone up. the more time you spend in this world, the more time the world gives you. Every day the average human life span incr by 5 hours. (Your odds are better if you've avoided the obesity epidemic and live somewhere you get good health care) Just reading this book means you've tackled a complex topic and given your mind a cognitive workout that can help you keep cognitively fit. And if you drank a glass of wine while you read, that wd help too.

Baby boomers crave independence at almost any cost, so there is a huge developing market for technology that monitors and supports aged people living alone. Floors built to gently absorb falls, and sensors to detect that it has happened. Kitchen cabinets that raise or lower, open and close at touch of a button. Beds that monitor body functions of sleeper, and even turn them if necessary. Bathrooms that lift or drop on command, bidets to spray bits you can no longer reach.

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