Mental Sharpness Begins to Decline in Middle-Age

The brain’s abilities to reason, comprehend and remember may start to worsen as early as age 45, a new study from England suggests.Researchers gave tests of thinking skills to about 5,100 men and 2,200 women between the ages of 45 and 70 years over a 10-year period. They found people ages 45 to 49 years experienced a notable decline in mental functioning.”‘Senior’ moments that people often joke about are true,” said Dr. Gary Small, geriatric psychiatrist David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the work.

“If you follow people over time, you’ll see there are structural changes that happen in the brain as they age,” he said.

Previous evidence suggests that impaired cognitive function could be  an early sign of dementia. One recent study showed cognitive performance strongly predicted a 75 percent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia, after six years.

About 1 in 8 older Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. They anticipate the numbers will grow each year as more and more people continue to live longer.

Though the age at which cognitive decline begins remains unknown, researchers say the new study demonstrates the importance of a healthy lifestyle, particularly paying attention to cardiovascular health, which may help stave off the effects of brain aging.

“A decline in mental function is inevitable,” said Steven Ferris, a psychologist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, who was not involved with the work. “Following a healthy lifestyle can help a certain degree of mental functioning, but there requires more research to prove this.”

A healthy lifestyle includes exercising, which increases blood flow to the brain, providing it with much-needed nutrients. Eating foods that are good for the heart, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains is also important, because it could protect brain cells from age-related decline.

A faster decline among older people

Study participants were tested for memory, vocabulary, hearing and visual comprehension skills. People were given cognitive tests three times over the course of the study. The researchers took differences in education levels into account.

Researchers found that over the 10-year study, there was a 3.6 percent decline in mental reasoning scores in people who were between the ages of 45 and 49 at the study’s start. There was a 9.6 percent decline in the abilities of men ages 65 to 70 years at the start, and a slightly smaller, 7.4 percent decline, in women of those ages.

Results showed that cognitive test scores declined in all categories except vocabulary, and scores declined faster in older people.

The study also demonstrated that measuring people’s abilities at one point in time may not yield accurate results.

“This study follows the same people over a long period of time to see if their cognitive performance changes,” said Ferris.

“And these changes are beginning earlier than what people previously thought,” he said.

via Mental Sharpness Begins to Decline in Middle-Age.

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The Five-Year Countdown to Retirement

I now have less than 4 years to retire at 66, and every once in awhile I Google “retirement” and find a whole crap-load of links to investment companies that will help me save enough money – ha!

Since I don’t have a lot of retirement savings, my fall-back is to target paying off the house by the time I turn 66, minimize my costs, and be able to live off of the Social Security benefit.

Below is an article I ran across that does more than tell you to save more:  via The Five-Year Countdown to Retirement: How to Prepare.

When it comes to retirement planning, the top regret among American seniors is this: they wish they had saved more. In fact, a recent survey by the National Council on Aging found that this regret outranks all others, including how well they prioritized health and maintained family connections in their younger years.Retirement planning, done well, starts early in a career but intensifies in the five years leading up to your actual retirement. Once you are within that time-frame, you should be pushing hard on saving as much as possible. But this part is relatively easy once you understand what’s required. Before we get to that, let’s talk about a less quantitative factor in retirement planning: what exactly are you going to do with yourself?

Set Some Goals

It might sound like a question for young people: what do you want to do with your life? But a surprising number of folks go into retirement with no idea what they’d like to do with their time. While the money has to be there for retirement to work, happiness in retirement also requires an answer to this big question.

So, make a list of goals. Maybe you want to volunteer your time, and one goal might be to try out several volunteer opportunities. Maybe you’d like a part-time job in a field that you’ve always found interesting — perhaps a bookstore or a library if you are a big reader, an art museum or gallery if you enjoy art, or a tutoring company if you like working with children. I have a client, a retiree, who volunteers with the Red Cross and travels to disaster zones all over the world.

If you are a golfer or enjoy fishing, if you want to spend more time with your grandchildren, if you’d like to travel — some of the more classic retirement activities — then put those goals on the list, and plan out ways you can achieve them. Setting goals and making plans will lend structure to your day-to-day life, which is a very important factor for retirees used to the hustle and bustle of a long, busy career.

Practice Retiring

This may sound a little silly, but it’s actually a great planning tool. Once you are within three to five years of retirement, take a long vacation — consider it a practice retirement. See how you spend your time, and consider what works and what doesn’t. You might find a balance of leisure time and productivity (that volunteer job, for instance) that works well for you, and having that information before you officially retire will make the transition that much easier.

Simply put, human beings are happier when they have a life plan and goals, and that’s not something that goes away in retirement.

The Numbers

As you come within five years of retirement, it makes sense to conduct a feasibility study. That means figuring out what your goals are, how much money you’ll need to meet them, and how much money you actually have. Try this step-by-step process:

Step 1:  Identify your assets, income source and debt

What and how much do you have? Assess all possible sources of income and equity: pensions, retirement accounts, other resources like property and liquid savings. Next, identify your debt, including money owed on credit cards, loans, and your mortgage. Will they be paid off or continue into retirement?

Step 2:  Assess your Social Security options

Identify how much income you will receive from Social Security and explore different strategies to elect your benefits. You can register online with Social Security to obtain your latest statement. Also, use the Retirement Estimator to receive an assessment of your actual benefits, and learn about your different benefit disbursement options.

Step 3: Determine your income needs

How much, exactly, will you need when you retire? This means understanding your spending habits and creating a realistic budget. Most people, surprisingly, don’t have a firm grasp of exactly what they spend from month to month. Your list should be specific and exhaustive, as the rest of the plan is built on it. Once you complete your list, use the PSA Retirement Readiness Calculator tool to help you figure out whether you will have sufficient income upon retirement.

Step 4: Consider your health and where you will live as you age

While most people underestimate the size of their savings necessary to cover retirement income even more fail to plan for rising health care costs or the potential expense of a retirement, assisted living or nursing care facility. The protracted illness of one spouse could leave the other spouse destitute. Will you have enough assets and income to cover the cost or should long-term care insurance be considered?

Step 5: Identify gaps

Do the numbers add up? If not, identify what you must change now in order to meet your goals. Review our blog about avoiding pitfalls by adjusting your plan. You might be able to put more into savings in the years before you stop working, or you might have to adjust your target date for retirement. It is important to conduct the study while you still have time to make adjustments in the plan, rather than a year before retirement.

Step 6: Develop an income distribution strategy

Assuming the numbers do add up, you’ll need to determine from what sources you’ll derive your monthly income. It might make sense to delay taking your pension and live off of your savings for a few months, if possible, until the new tax year begins and you fall into a lower tax bracket.

Step 7: Conduct an estate check-up

The years just before retirement are a perfect time to review your entire estate. Update account titles and beneficiaries, take a close look at your life insurance, annuities, will, power of attorney, advance directives, and the like.

Working through these important steps — and taking some time to set some life goals — in the five years before retirement will help you realize the relaxation and enjoyment a quality retirement affords.

via The Five-Year Countdown to Retirement: How to Prepare.

Seniors: Safe Sex, Please

Senior Citizens are spreading STDs like wildfire according to statistics recently released from the CDC. Some might find the numbers shocking, especially those who might be surprised at the level of sexual activity among single seniors. According to the CDC, diseases like Syphilis and Chlamydia increased by 52 and 31 percent respectively from 2007 to 20011. This puts seniors in competition with young people between the ages of 20 and 24 in terms of the biggest increase in STDS. Young people in this age group had similar numbers in terms of increases in these types of illnesses.

The rate of STDs among seniors has been growing steadily for the last several years. In 2010, the CDC reported that rates of STDs in seniors had doubled from 2000 to 2010. They continued to increase after that report with rates being the highest  in the state of Florida.

Reasons for the increase may be connected to drug use, specifically use of erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra and Cialis. In 2010, a study showed that older men taking these types of medications had an STD rate that was double that of their counterparts who did not take medicines for erectile dysfunction.  Besides drug use, the fact that seniors are living longer with better health also contributes to their increased sexual activity.

Senior citizens are also far less likely to use condoms than are their younger counterparts. A study out of Massachusetts General Hospital found that men aged 50 and over were six times less likely to use condoms than men in their twenties. Despite the fact that STDs are becoming a major problem among the senior set, the CDC reports that a mere 5 percent of seniors are utilizing the free STD testing that is provided to them through Medicare.

Besides the statistics that prove senior citizens are spreading STDs like wildfire, there are also many anecdotal reports in the media of senior citizens living in retirement communities who enjoy a “college dorm” type of atmosphere. This issue has also been reflected in movies and television shows, often with comedic effect. However, STDs are no laughing matter. Besides the curable diseases like Syphilis and Chlamydia, life-threatening HIV is also on the rise in the senior demographic.

Seniors who live in assisted living centers or retirement communities aren’t getting the education they obviously need with regard to STDs and how to take preventative measures against contracting such diseases. The combination of access to drugs like Viagra and a lack of education on susceptibility to STDS is a perfect storm of danger for seniors who are still enjoying an active sex life.

Senior citizens are spreading STDs like wildfire and this issue shows no signs of abating anytime soon. STDs have been rising drastically in this community for at least the last 14 years and seem be continuing their upward trend despite a public service announcement about the problem, which was produced last year. It seems clear that more resources and educational opportunities are needed to stem the rising tide of STDs among senior citizens.

By: Rebecca Savastio

via Senior Citizens Spreading STDs Like Wildfire.

Moving in together – a guide for guys

Imagine having your girlfriend there to fall asleep with every night, wake up beside, and eat meals with, every day. This thought can make you want to call her to tell her to pack her bags and move in with you, or shudder with fear. But if you venture into this unprepared, you’ll want to ship your new roommate out with the empty boxes.

Living together as a couple is one of the big steps of any relationship, right up there with marriage and starting a family, only your commitment isn’t bound by vows, nor are you bringing another human life into the picture.

As well, moving in together shouldn’t cause the same cold feet as marriage — it can be an excellent experience, making every day feel like a honeymoon. You just need to make sure you’re ready.

r-u-ready?

While living together can reap some of the advantages of marriage, it also packs in some inconveniences. Forget about going out without telling her who you’re going with, where you’re going and when you’ll be home. Think twice before you grunt, scratch and burp after every meal and during football. And hockey. And baseball. And golf. Oh yeah, while we’re at it, forget about watching only sports. You’ll also need to make time for figure skating, prime-time dramas and the soap operas she records every day.

So how can you tell that you’re ready to make the big move? A good start is by considering the following points:

How long have you been together?

How long you’ve been together isn’t the most accurate gauge of whether or not the move should be made, as time is relative to the point of your life in which you find yourself. A year together for a thirty-something couple is probably not equivalent to a yearlong relationship for 22-year-olds. As well, the decision should be based on how much you want this person to be a part of your everyday life — literally.

How much time do you spend together?

If you find that you’re with your girlfriend seven nights a week, at one of your apartments, and even spend every waking hour with each other, then perhaps living together is worth it. But keep in mind that those seven nights of “sleepovers” are not necessarily equivalent to actually living together. No matter how much time you spend with one another, the precious moments you have at home, on your own, might be enough to give you the breather you need. When you live together, there are few places you can escape to.

Are you ready to live with someone?

You might feel that you’ve lived on your own for enough time already, and are prepared to share your living space with that special someone. If you’re simply tired of being alone and want someone to come home to — and luckily for you, that someone is your girlfriend — then maybe the time to share a space has arrived.

Do you know who you are?

Speaking of having lived on your own, it might not be a good idea to go from living at home with your family to moving in with your girlfriend, unless it’s against your family values to live on your own until you’re married. It’ll also be a shock to your system when you learn that your loving roommate does not intend to do your laundry, fold your underwear and socks, and cook you dinner every night, just like mommy did. But once you’ve lived out on your own for a while and know how to fend for yourself, it might be an easier transition to make.

Are you eventually going to marry her?

If you know this is the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with, why not start out by living together to get a feel for what lies ahead? If you’ve discussed marriage with each other and you know she’s the one, then there’s no better time to call the movers.

Are you doing it for the rent?

If you spend countless hours at each other’s apartments and figure that you may as well cut your rent in half by living together, eventually you’ll probably want to cut your time spent together in half. Saving money on rent should be considered a result of moving in together, not a motivation.

race to one space

You might be elated to move in with your sweetheart, and as long as the two of you are ready, it can be a great step. Whoever said that you don’t know someone until you live with them must have lived with his girlfriend, and even if you’ve been an item for years, the little things you’ll learn about each other will surely surprise you. Traveling together is one of the “relationship tests” every couple should endure, but a vacation is a walk in the park compared to sharing the same living space.

While getting a dog together to test your ability to care for another life form as a team and traveling overseas can serve as wakeup calls, living with your girlfriend can be a rude awakening to say the least — so make sure you’re ready. Do not live together if one of you is being pressured in any way; you must both be prepared to go into this head first, because if you approach the move prematurely and it doesn’t work out, it could mean the detriment of your relationship.

I may have already talked you out of moving in together, but I hope not because I do believe that it’s a necessary step in a serious relationship of long-term capacity. And if you go about it the right away and with the right attitude, you might never want to leave home at all — that is, when she’s there.

survival tips

Sacrifice and compromise

If you’re a neat freak who can’t stand your girlfriend’s tendency to leave plates piling up in the sink, don’t wig out on her if she waits until the end of the day to do the dishes, and by the same token, she should make a concerted effort to clear the sink. As well, if you’re an early bird and your girlfriend has lunch at dinnertime, let her sleep and don’t be noisy in the morning. Make some sacrifices just to put her at ease, and make sure the effort is reciprocated — this is your roommate with benefits, after all.

Make schedules

Speaking of making compromises, a good way to ensure that you both fulfill your end of the bargain is by scheduling each other’s duties. It doesn’t have to be carved in stone, but at least a schedule can outline what each one should do to make sure they’re pulling their own weight in the apartment. You can divide everything from doing the groceries and taking out the trash to vacuuming, and no, performing a sexual favor or two won’t get you out of toilet cleaning detail (okay, maybe just once).

Outline details immediately

Making schedules of household chores is nowhere near as important as outlining the “contract” of your living arrangement — the lease. It is imperative that you both understand and agree to the terms of the lease and however it is split. The same goes for house or condo ownership, if you decide to purchase. Of lesser importance but key nonetheless, are the terms of your living arrangement. Make sure you’re on the same wavelengths where your budgets and social lives are concerned.

Get your own life

Speaking of social life, it’s important that you each maintain your own lives outside of the apartment walls. You should understand if she wants to go out with the girls or have them over for dinner, and she should equally understand that you could go out with your buddies, without feeling guilty if she’s staying home alone watching reruns. And don’t feel guilty for having your own plans once in a while — you each need your separate lives, so that you don’t reach the point of total dependency.

Set up alone time

By the same token, make sure that you each have time to chill out on your own, apart from socially. Even if you don’t have separate rooms, your own space doesn’t need physical walls — establish that you might just sit in the kitchen reading the paper or want to watch TV alone in the den. She should do the same, and make sure to respect each other’s “me time.”

Designate purchases

It might also be a good idea to split up your large purchases. Rather than dividing the cost of the couch and fridge, I recommend splitting up the actual purchases, such as furniture vs. electronics, or bedroom vs. kitchen. In the case of an eventual breakup, it might be hard to split the bed down the middle, even if it is a king size.

call the movers, we’re coming

As you can see, there’s more to think about and work on than simply finding a place you both agree on and calling the movers. Make sure you establish all the details of your living arrangement, and understand that there is nowhere to run and hide if you get into a fight and can’t get away with bringing a new girl home.

But don’t get scared because although this is a huge step in any relationship, it is worth taking if you love spending time together and want to share more than memories — the good and the not-so-good.

via Moving in together – AskMen.

The Last Dollar

In a few days I’ll probably appreciate it a bit more, but for now I’m simply quietly celebrating inside.  Today my bank is remitting the last payment under the divorce settlement to my ex.  No further obligation exists under the agreement.  After 30 years of work, I can now hurry up and pay off the mortgage so I can afford to retire and manage living expenses with a Social Security income.

I don’t seriously regret much of the past 3 decades and the 3 marriages over that time span, although I have to say it’s been expensive.  I have 4 great kids and 2 grandkids, and I helped raise 4 stepkids and a bunch of foster kids.  The rhythm of life seemed to dance between wonderful, horrible, and then resting in OK for awhile before it started all over again.  I’m guessing it just might continue that way, but maybe not.

Maybe I can start to let my foot off the gas now and not be so anxious about the future.  I have a lazy dog for a companion, and a wonderful girlfriend to spend pleasant moments together with.  I’m teaching myself how to cook, and joined a fitness center.  I can keep warm in the sauna in the winter, garden and cut grass in the summer.

With any luck, the next 30 years can be even better than the last 30.  Less expensive at least.