May 31, 2005

CANADA: Study Shows Chronic Illness in Middle Age

WebMed (Fox News), May 31, 2005:

Glance around the waiting room in your family doctor's office, and many people may be facing more than one chronic illness, even if they're only in middle age.

Chronic illnesses - such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, depression, and heart disease -- are not just the province of the elderly. They can surface years earlier, often driven by hazards such as smoking, poor nutrition, and inactivity.

How common are chronic illnesses? In a Canadian study of 980 adults treated by 21 family doctors, nine out of 10 had more than one chronic condition. Nearly half of the middle-aged patients (aged 45-64) had five or more chronic conditions.

So many people have multiple illnesses that doctors would have to work nearly 30 percent more annually to be able to manage them all, says another study. Both reports appear in the Annals of Family Medicine's May/June issue.

You, Too?

What do those numbers have to do with you? An estimated 57 million Americans had multiple chronic conditions in 2000, and that number is expected to reach 81 million by 2020.

That's according to the Canadian researchers, who included Martin Fortin, MD, MSc, CMFC. Fortin works in the family medicine department at Quebec's Sherbrooke University.

The most common chronic illnesses in Fortin's study were high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and rheumatological diseases. The good news: Those conditions can be treated. Even better, a healthy lifestyle (including a good diet and adequate exercise) can help.

Fortin's study included 320 men and 660 women. On average, the men were about 58 years old and the women were 55. Multiple chronic illnesses were the rule, not the exception, write the researchers.

Doctors on Deadline

In the same journal, Duke University researchers totaled the time it would take for primary care doctors to manage America's top 10 chronic illnesses. Those conditions are: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, anxiety, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and coronary artery disease.

When stable and under control, those health problems would take up about 3.5 hours of a doctor's day, say the researchers, who included J. Lloyd Michener, MD.

Unfortunately, those conditions are often much more volatile. That bumped up the estimated time commitment to about 10.5 hours per day. That's more than a day's work, and it doesn't count other illnesses, treatment side effects, or patient education.

It may be time to take a fresh look at patient care, say the two studies. "New health care models must be proposed and evaluated if we are to meet the needs of these patients," write Fortin and colleagues.

By Miranda Hitti Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Fortin, M. Annals of Family Medicine, May/June 2005; vol 3: pp 223-228. Ostbye, T. Annals of Family Medicine, May/June 2005; vol 3: pp 209-214.

USA: Entrepreneurs Flourish at Any Age!

WALNUT CREEK, California (Business Wire), May 31, 2005:

Ernie Roberts proves that inventors flourish at every age. The 77-year-old owner of AntGuard, believes that even a septuagenarian can launch the start-ups of the 21st century. Ernie Roberts first began toying with the AntGuard technology 20 years ago when he tried to address his ant problem on his boat docked in Florida. He wanted to keep crawling insects away without using repeated pesticide baits and sprays. His highly effective solution turned into the AntGuard concept.

Ants are the biggest urban pest problem in the US. Mr. Robert has developed maintenance free disks which slowly release repellent to keep ants away without harming people, pets or the environment. Mr. Roberts worked with the University of Florida's Department of Urban Entomology for 15 years to test the concept.

Ernie Roberts married at age 70 and moved to Davis, California seven years ago, he began working in collaboration with the UC Davis and UC Riverside Departments of Agriculture and Entomology. He has also been working with the University of Florida, Gainesville, Department of Entomology. He holds 18 patents and has 48 EPA approved product registrations.

Mr. Robert's vision is to introduce his portfolio of products into hospital and health care, PCO and agricultural markets. Currently he is at work on additional products and patent applications.

May 30, 2005

RUSSIA: Indexation Extras to Old-Age Pension to be paid by August 1

MOSCOW (Itar-Tass), May 30: Indexation extras to old-age pensions will be paid for the second time this year, by August 1. This was conveyed to President Putin by Health & Social Development Minister Mikail Zorabov on May 30. The average old-age pension will now be 2,569 roubles (US $ 90).

USA: Middle-age tuneup: Boomers can fine-tune lifestyles to improve health

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (Deserest Morning News), May 30, 2005:

It's not too late. The tricks for a long, healthy life — don't smoke, eat right and exercise — are well-known. But putting that into practice often seems so daunting that people don't even try, and by their 50s, many baby boomers figure that the damage has been done anyway. Researchers and doctors increasingly agree, however, that even modest changes in middle age and later can have a dramatic impact on health and longevity — that people over 50 can benefit from what effectively amounts to a tuneup. A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health, for example, showed that participants, who had a mean age of 51 and were at high risk of developing diabetes, were able to slash their risk by half through modest weight loss and exercise.

The problem is that while people over age 65 are less disabled and more spry than they used to be, there are signs that Americans in their 40s and 50s are actually less healthy today, according to an analysis of the annual National Health Interview Survey published last year in the journal Health Affairs. And with life expectancy on the rise — it is now 78.2 years for a 50-year-old man and 82.1 years for a 50-year-old woman — boomers could be faced with decades of ill-health if they don't make changes.

What follows is an effort to cut through the often-conflicting advice and come up with a list of relatively simple, concrete actions that people can undertake in middle age to help live a longer, healthier life. The advice is based on the growing body of research in this area and on interviews with doctors, government officials and academics who specialize in it. They are in addition to the basic screenings that everyone over 50 should undergo — regular cholesterol tests and colon-cancer screening, for example.

Some of the advice here highlights risk factors that often arise in middle age — such as vitamin deficiencies, marital tension, even gum disease — and can have a surprising impact on health. Others are efforts to simplify complex health guidelines — on diet or exercise, for example — into tasks that can be done reflexively, from the two vitamins that nearly every boomer should take to three key weight-bearing exercises that can be done anywhere.

Eat your spinach

Among all the research on fruits and vegetables, the evidence appears to be greatest for the benefits of green, leafy vegetables. Even far fewer servings than the government recommends can make a difference.

Research suggests that such vegetables can prevent age-related diseases, and even preserve cognitive function. A Harvard Medical School study released last summer found that women who ate eight servings or more a week of green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and romaine lettuce had the cognitive function of someone 1.7 years younger than women who ate three servings or fewer of the vegetables a week.

Scientists think that the reason fruits and vegetables are so beneficial is that they are high in antioxidants, substances that protect tissues from degrading. The government's recommendation for people to eat five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day can seem pretty unattainable, but doctors say people will get benefits even from much lower amounts. "Going from two to three servings is much more important than going from seven to eight," says Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Boost your B12 and your D

A variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients is important for overall health, but we have particular trouble metabolizing B12 and D as we age. And many nutrition experts say boomers should take them in supplement form to avoid deficiencies.

A B12 deficiency can cause anemia and has also been linked to neurological problems.

In a study published in the journal Neurology in 2001, those with low levels of B12 and folate (another B vitamin) had double the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Food sources for B12 include fish, eggs and milk and some fortified cereals. But Harvard's Dr. Willett says the form of B12 in a multivitamin is better absorbed than that from food. Be sure the brand you choose has 2.4 micrograms per day.

A multivitamin is also helpful for ensuring adequate intake of vitamin D; you need at least 1,000 international units per day. Aging skin has a tougher time absorbing vitamin D, which we largely get through sun exposure. While admonitions to wear hats and use sunscreen to prevent skin cancer are wise, that can also further limit our vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, bone health and muscle strength, and deficiency has also been linked to colon cancer. Fish is a source of vitamin D, but people can't get enough from food alone, Dr. Willett says.

Floss your teeth

Everyone knows dental hygiene is important for healthy teeth. But it is also important for your heart. A growing body of research shows a link between periodontal disease and stroke and heart disease.

In a study published last year in the journal Stroke, for example, those with severe periodontal disease (gum disease) had a 4.3 times greater risk of stroke than those with either mild or no periodontal disease. Scientists believe that infection in the mouth increases level of inflammation in the blood, which can help create blood clots that lead to strokes and heart attacks.

Periodontal disease is most common in those older than 50. The best prevention for periodontal disease is to brush and floss at least once a day and see a dentist for cleanings every six months, says Sally Cram, a periodontist in Washington, D.C., and a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association. It can be treated with intense cleanings and antibiotics.

Analyze your sleep

Increasingly, doctors are concerned that sleep apnea, a condition where people periodically stop breathing during sleep, leads to more than just some annoying snoring. In the past few years, research has linked it to high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. Sleep apnea becomes more common during the late 40s and early 50s.

With age, muscle tone in the mouth diminishes, the tongue falls back to cover the windpipe more easily and the soft palate is looser. About one in five adults has at least mild sleep apnea, according to a 2003 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Data published last year from the large Sleep Heart Health Study showed that even participants with mild sleep apnea had an increased incidence of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, conditions that lead to diabetes.

Sleep apnea is diagnosed by a physical examination of the mouth and an overnight sleep study that measures how frequently a patient stops breathing. Treatments include a special mask worn during sleep, surgery to shorten the uvula and dental devices.

Pump iron The benefits of strength training to maintain muscle as we age are well-documented. But it is increasingly clear that strength training has benefits for the heart as well, and one new effort has boiled training down to simple exercises that you can do in the home or office.

Strength training — or resistance training — involves controlled exercise using weights or the force of gravity to strengthen muscles. Muscle mass begins to decrease by about 5 percent per decade after the age of 40, so strength training is vital to prevent a host of problems, including sarcopenia, a loss of muscle mass and strength that puts people at risk for falls and thus lethal hip fractures.

But new research also shows that strength training has surprising benefits for the heart, reducing levels of homocysteine, a blood marker that can indicate risk for heart attacks and strokes. In one 2003 study by researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, six months of resistance training, three times per week, cut homocysteine levels by more than 5 percent. Those who didn't train saw a 6 percent rise in homocysteine levels.

This doesn't mean you need to start doing bench presses at the gym. The International Longevity Center, a New York-based nonprofit, is promoting three simple exercises that provide the benefits of resistance training without requiring fancy equipment.

Walk the dog

Aerobic exercise not only reduces blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease, but it also helps preserve cognitive function. A study published last year in JAMA showed that women aged 70 to 81 years old who were most active experienced less cognitive decline than women who were less active.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. But leading doctors, including Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, head of the department of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, say those 30 minutes don't have to be all at once: A quick walk with the dog, a couple of trips up the stairs and a few laps around the mall over the course of the day add up.

Kiss your spouse, and call your college roommate

Middle age is a time when relationships can be rocky as people deal with empty nests, elderly parents and their own looming retirement, according to psychiatrists. So it can be particularly valuable to maintain strong relationships and an active sex life, which research has shown to have benefits for health and longevity.

"The decade between 50 and 60 is a period of major turbulence," says Arthur L. Kovacs, a psychologist in Santa Monica, Calif. "Death becomes a more constant companion, and this leads to a kind of stocktaking."

A study published in 1997 that followed 918 Welsh men over a decade showed those who had the highest frequency of orgasms had half the risk of death during a 10-year period than those with the lowest frequency.

Friendships are important, too. A study published in Lancet that followed 1,200 people in Stockholm, Sweden, for three years, showed that those with a limited social network had a 60 percent increased risk of developing dementia.

Check your skin

The risk of skin cancer soars during midlife, but new techniques are making it possible to diagnose skin cancer earlier and treat patients with less pain and scarring.

The average age of onset of melanoma, the most deadly form, is 50. The average age of onset for other skin cancers is 60, says Andrew J. Kaufman, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

One new technique, dubbed dermascopy, uses a magnifying instrument and an oil placed on the skin that allows light to penetrate the skin's surface. Since the doctor is better able to see if the spot has characteristics of cancer, it may allow for earlier diagnosis. It can also eliminate some unnecessary biopsies. The American Cancer Society recommends that everyone 40 and older get a yearly body check from a doctor.

Brush up on French verbs. Or play the cello. Or go dancing

There is now strong evidence to support the common-sense belief that stimulating activities can help us stay mentally sharp as we age.

The ability to act on new information, to multitask and to retrieve information from memory all gradually decline beginning in one's 20s. But it becomes more noticeable after the age of 40, says Molly V. Wagster, program director of the neuropsychology of aging branch at the National Institute on Aging.

In a 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, those who most frequently read, played board games, played musical instruments or danced had a 63 percent reduction in the risk of dementia. In a 2002 study following 801 Catholic nuns and priests, an increase in the level of cognitive activity was associated with a 33 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Get screened for depression

There are specific risk factors for depression at midlife, say mental-health experts, and the signs aren't always easy to spot, particularly in men.

The good news is that the risk of depression overall goes down after you hit 40. The dark cloud is that, for men, suicide rates rise after 40. Women also face a slight increased risk of suicide around menopause, says Douglas G. Jacobs, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "Any time you have hormonal changes, it is going to affect mood," Jacobs says.

Symptoms of depression include difficulty sleeping, weight change and feelings of worthlessness. But in some people, especially men, depression may manifest itself with fatigue, irritability and a lack of productivity at work. Those with symptoms should consult their doctors.

May 29, 2005

USA: State cuts threaten plan to offer adult day care, services

PORT ST. LUCIE, South Florida (Port St. Lucie Tribune), May 29, 2005:

The Treasure Coast's senior citizens may soon have a "one-stop shop" to get medical attention and socialize with others under a proposed plan from area social service agencies.

Treasure Coast Hospices and the Council on Aging want to use 15,000 to 20,000 square feet in the old Kmart building in Eastport Plaza on U.S. 1 for the program.

Plans include an adult day care center with medical professionals on hand to treat senior patients, said Louis Benson, chief executive officer of Treasure Coast Hospices.

Plans would be submitted to the Port St. Lucie Planning & Zoning department next week, he added.

"It's a one-stop shop kind of thing," Benson said. "It's more than just a day care."

But, the program could suffer a serious setback if Gov. Jeb Bush cuts it from the state budget today.

TaxWatch, a nonprofit budget watchdog group, recommended Bush cut $973,000 in funding for the program last week.

Benson said if Bush does veto money for the project it would not kill the plan, but it would make it more difficult to fund startup costs.

By Sarah Myrick

Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


May 28, 2005

MALAYSIA: Age is recurring theme in elections

KUALA LUMPUR (New Straits Times), May 28, 2005:

DATUK Wira Dr Fong Chan Onn is wrestling with an age-old problem within the Malaysian Chinese Association in his bid to retain the party vice-president’s post in the August elections: his age.

Being the oldest incumbent vice-president at 62, and having been minister for as long as party president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, Fong has become an easy target for his younger opponents.

Snide remarks are circulating about how the Human Resources Minister has overstayed and is taking up a place that, his detractors insist, should rightly go to a younger leader.

Fong’s aides may be loath to admit it, but in the absence of any compelling vote-winning controversy, his age has become by far the single most contentious issue being used by his opponents to try and dislodge the three-term vice-president.

As it turns out, age is a recurring theme in this year’s elections. Since Ong and his deputy Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy took over in May 2003, "renewal" and "rejuvenation" have become buzzwords in the party.

Ong was 47 when he took over the party reins and Chan, 48. After the prolonged Team A-Team B crisis ended with their elevation, expectations ran high for the two younger leaders to rid the party of the baggage left by their predecessors, Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik and Tan Sri Lim Ah Lek.

The campaign to attract young professionals into MCA launched last year also helped breathe new vigour into a party with a largely ageing membership.

"Yes, the mood is quite different now. Members expect to see infusion of new blood," says Ayer Itam Member of Parliament Dr Wee Ka Siong, an engineer who stood in his first general election last year.

Wee, who has an impeccable command of Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin, represents the young, highly-educated leaders the MCA is trying to promote.

The Young Turks’ eagerness to assert their presence was evident during the divisional nominations on Tuesday.

In Serdang, for example, incumbent Datuk Yap Pian Hon is being challenged by his one-time protégé and Seri Kembangan Assemblyman Datuk Liew Yuen Keong.

The same is also happening in Gopeng, where deputy chairman Datuk Dr Ho Wai Cheong is planning to unseat his longtime chairman and party secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Ting Chew Peh.

In Tebrau, a group of leaders allegedly sent an ultimatum to incumbent chairman Michael Goh, who had led the division for 17 years, to step down. Goh was at that time hospitalised in Singapore.

He died of a heart attack on May 6, two days before the deadline set for him to announce his retirement.

Divisional polling is scheduled for tomorrow.

At the national-level elections, age is also expected to figure prominently during campaigning. As it is, a few over-eager young leaders have passed comments about how Yap, Ting and vice-president Datuk Chua Jui Meng, having "been there and done that", should make way for a new generation of senior leaders.

Wee says the old-young contests seen in many divisions are partly due to the suspension of proper party elections for six years. The prolonged duration has bred a group of impatient young leaders raring to change the status quo.

Yap is all fired up when the subject of age is mentioned: "Who is to say that a 62-year-old leader like me should quit when my constituents returned me for the third time in Serdang during last year’s general election? Don’t insult my voters.

"Why are my opponents calling me old and incapable when voters think otherwise? MCA members who say leaders above 60 should quit should look at other Barisan Nasional leaders."

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is 65, Gerakan president Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik is 66 and MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, 69.

Fong is not bothered about being tagged "old". "Physical age is not relevant. Experience and capability count and these are qualities delegates look out for."

The former University of Malaya economics professor is also a staunch believer in "old is gold".

He adds that when the MCA-run Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman was first approved, he played an important role in forming its International Advisory Council — thanks to the former dean’s extensive network of friends in academia and from a two-term stint as Deputy Education Minister.

"When delegates vote for a vice-president, they will look at how a candidate can fit into the president’s and deputy president’s team. They look at the big picture. They want a good mix of young and old," says Fong who won the Alor Gajah division’s top post uncontested on Monday.

Clearly, Fong is banking on the hope that delegates will want a 62-year-old vice- president as an "anchor" in the team led by Ong and Chan, who are 49 and 50 respectively.

(Incidentally, Chua, Yap and Ting are also 62.)

For these "veterans", the rallying call to ward off challenges from upstart young leaders is lao zhong ching, Mandarin for a mixture of young, middle-aged and senior leaders. That theme has been emphasised with increased vigour of late.

Fong says while nobody can hold on to a post forever, those capable and willing should be given a chance to serve.

Even Wee concedes that members want a good mix of youth and experience in the top leadership ranks.

"All this talk that those above 60 should not contest is nonsense. It boils down to whether you can contribute. There are some leaders like Datuk Wong Mook Leong (also 62) who have served continuously on their track record," says a central committee member.

Wong has been a central committee member since 1977, and has served under four presidents.

But there is a difference between the publicity-shy Wong and leaders like Yap, Ting, Fong and Chua: Wong has not held any government post while the rest are perceived as harbouring ambitions that extend beyond party positions.

"The party posts are a platform for government posts. At the end of the day, government posts matter more. For example, some people want to defeat Fong in the party in the hope that he will lose his ministerial post.

"Age being made an issue is just an excuse. Contenders are bent on eliminating anyone who blocks their way," a Selangor leader says.

A branch chairman says at the end of the day, delegates will consider a combination of factors, including track record, age and the dynamics of political patronage, when casting their votes.

But given the intensity of this year’s elections, it is a lot easier for aspirants to harp on something quantifiable like age than on subjective matters like track record and leadership qualities.

By Chow Kum Hor

INDIA: 11% of Senior Citizens live alone

NEW DELHI (The Times of India), May 28, 2005:

Sunil Dutt's daughter was staying with him when he passed away. But she usually didn't. Dutt's was a one-man household, and he liked it that way. Like him, close to 8.5 million of India's elderly stay all by themselves or with other old people.

According to Census figures released recently, about 11% of India's 76.4 million people aged 60 and above do not have a person below 60 living with them. This includes 4.9 million females, or 12.6% of elderly women, and 3.6 million males, 9.5% of elderly men. These figures don't take into account those living in old age homes.

Interestingly, this phenomenon is more pronounced in rural areas, where 11.9% of the aged have to fend for themselves. In urban areas, about 8.6% of the aged live alone. This seems to indicate that migration is at least as significant a cause for loneliness in the elderly, as is the growing preference for nuclear families. Therefore, it seems that unlike Dutt, many old people living by themselves do so as a compulsion rather than by choice.

Of the 8.5 million, over 3 million are aged individuals who live without any company at home. More than two-thirds of these, about 2.1 millionb, are aged women living alone, while there are about 900,000 old men faced with a similar situation. Another 5.2 million live in homes where the only company they have is that of another elderly person. Among this lot, the gender distribution is more even with 2.6 million women to 2.5 million men, suggesting that most of them may be elderly couples living on their own.

The 2001 Census data shows that over 134 million of India's 193 million households have nobody above the age of 60. That leaves 58.3 million or 30.2% of all households with at least one elderly person as member of the household.

While 21.3% of all households have exactly one elderly, those reporting two comprised 8.4% of the total. This leaves a mere 0.5% of households with three or more elderly persons each.

The share of elderly in the rual areas (31.6%) is relatively higher than in urban areas (26.6%).

Kerala (38.5%) and Punjab (35.4%) are two states with the highest share of households reporting at least one elderly member, whereas among the states and union territories with more than 100,000 households, Chandigarh (16.4%), Arunachal Pradesh (18.6%), and Delhi (19.9%), reported the lowest share.

Of all the households having a single elderly member, 7.5% ared single-member households. Among the major states, Tamil Nadu with 12% and Jammu & Kashmir with 2.9% of the elderly, afre ranked at the top and bottom respectively in this category.

The overall sex ratio of elderly is 1030 females per thousand males, quite expected, considering the higher female life expectancy. But the sex ratio for single-member households is extremely high at 2300.

Among the major states, Karnataka at 3763 has the highest elderly sex ratio for single-member households while Uttar Pradesh at 937 has the lowest.

By Chirdeep Bagga

USA: Seniors Going the distance

LONG ISLAND, NY (Newsday), May 28, 2005:

Mature travelers in search of adventure and international understanding are finding a burgeoning selection of tours to guide them

Grace Bushholz has ridden elephants in India and Thailand, crossed a river on a swinging bridge in New Zealand, teetered on an open platform high above a Peruvian jungle and grappled with a tapir that grabbed her shorts and tried to dissuade her from entering an Amazon lodge.

Recently surfing the Web before heading off to Turkey, Bushholz, 74, of Bay Ridge, came upon a tour to a place she's never been: Antarctica. She booked it. "There's a beautiful world out there," she says.

Barbara Beresford, 70, and her husband, Richard, 77, of Setauket, fell in love with Africa on a recent tour. They're returning in the fall. Africa, says Barbara Beresford, "touches your heart."

Only a violent insurgency in Nepal is keeping Sally Wendkos Olds from returning to the tiny Himalayan village where her heart is. Olds, 71, of Port Washington, has been to Nepal seven times. The people, she says, "are remarkably sweet, cheerful and hospitable, in spite of their poverty and hard lives."

These intrepid New Yorkers may not be your average older tourists, but they are not unusual in their passion for journeying to distant places under rugged conditions, say experts who cater to the burgeoning senior travel market.

Rising tide

Mark Frevert, chief architect for Overseas Adventure Travel, which transports older adults to places such as Kenya and the Serengeti Plain in Tanzania, says participation has zoomed from 3,000 in 1995 to almost 40,000 last year. Grand Circle Travel, Overseas Adventure's parent company, moves 150,000 people a year.

Not only are Americans living longer, healthier and, in many cases, wealthier lives, but the world has shrunk in the 80 years since Arthur Tauck Sr., a traveling salesman, packed seven passengers into his 1925 Studebaker for an escorted tour of New England. Nowadays, Tauck World Discovery, the company he founded, will helicopter senior travelers to hiking trails on the peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Others splurge on 5-star hotels in Vietnam, India or Tibet, entertained and protected by English-speaking escorts, who, as one traveler put it, "leave nothing to chance."

Goodbye, pink umbrella

Today's mature travelers tend to eschew the traditional tour with the tour guide holding up a pink umbrella as she shepherds her flock to the Eiffel Tower. And not all seek deluxe accommodations.

"We go where Americans don't go, and we don't stay in the tourist hotels," Frevert says. Overseas Adventure Travel groups, limited to 16, put up in smaller inns that reflect the local culture, he says. "When you wake up in the morning, you know it's not Kansas City."

In China, the Beresfords of Setauket stayed overnight in a private home, sleeping on hard pillows. "I would rather have the adventure than be comfortable," Barbara Beresford says.

Moving beyond terror

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, though a severe jolt to the travel industry in general, caused only a brief blip in the senior trade. Some seniors canceled plans; others were inspired to travel farther.

"We had our best year ever in 2002," Frevert says. "We never stopped going to the hot spots of the world: India, Kenya, Egypt, Israel...." And seniors continued to fill the planes.

Gary Murtagh, who founded ElderTreks in 1992, says crises such as the terrorist attacks and the Iraq war slow senior travel "for only about six months, then it bounces back." Business is booming this year, he says, to both poles and to unpronounceable places, such as Uyghu, Tajik and Kyrgyz.

"After 9/11, we can't afford not to travel," says Karel Rose, a Great Neck grandmother of eight. "We can't put ourselves in a cocoon. We have to look beyond our own personal world." Rose, who teaches women's studies and philosophy at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, says her farflung travels help her to connect with her students, who come from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Travel, she says, "takes you out of the confines of who you are." While experiencing lifestyles very different from Western culture, she says, "you recognize our essential humanity."

While Rose, like Bushholz and the Beresfords, prefers the convenience of a group tour, she cautions older folk that a trip won't always go smoothly. Some eye-popping examples: Rose fell out of a boat on a crocodile-viewing cruise in Costa Rica, got lost in Tibet and was frightened by an elephant in Zimbabwe when her party's open Jeep accidentally separated a mother from her calf. "She glared into our windshield and could have turned over the Jeep," Rose recalls.

Still, the planned group tour clearly has some advantages, says Madonna Starr, 57, a Manhattan attorney who travels with Overseas Adventure Travel. "You can do Paris on your own, but when you're doing exotic places, it's nice to have everything taken care of; you do things that you wouldn't do on your own, such as visiting a family or a school. You want to experience a different culture, not just get there and shop."

Most seniors travel for the joy of it or to see the world while they're still able.

But sometimes, a journey begun for pleasure evolves into a passion and a mission. Seniors who take a group tour to a Third World country may return later on their own, their luggage stuffed with toys, books, food, toiletries and perhaps a grandchild's outgrown baby clothes.

Serendipitous sidekicks

Olds, a writer, first went trekking in Nepal in 1987 with her husband, Mark, fulfilling his boyhood dream. The couple returned to Nepal in 1991. After that, Mark's knee gave out and he was through trekking. At this point Sally was serendipitously introduced to artist Margaret Roche, an Evanston, Ill., grandmother who shared her passion for Nepal. Roche, 74, began traveling at 54 when her six children were safely out of the nest. "I felt so free," she says of her first journey to Nepal, with the Sierra Club. (She's been back 11 times.)

The two women travel frequently to a remote hill village that has no electricity, no stores, no hotels, no doctors, no indoor plumbing, no roads. (It's a three-day walk from the nearest air strip.) The women funded a library for the village, and Olds has raised $7,000 more to create a simple sanitation system. Its completion awaits the end of an insurgency that has closed off the area.

Olds has written a book, illustrated by Roche, called "A Balcony in Nepal: Glimpses of a Himalayan Village" (ASJA Press). She also gives slide talks on Nepal and on her travels to China and Vietnam.

In her book she explains the yearning to visit distant shores "despite our joy in our families, our past achievements in our work, our comfortable circumstances, and our considerable good fortune.... We wanted to reach across cultural boundaries to understand people in a vastly different place, almost of another time, so that we could better understand ourselves."

Yearning to learn

The desire to travel with a purpose has given rise to numerous educational and service travel organizations targeting the older population. Started 30 years ago with summer classes on a New Hampshire campus, Elderhostel now provides "learning adventures" for nearly 200,000 older adults every year in 10,000 programs worldwide.

Elderhostel has devotees who have logged 40 programs or more. More typically, Helen Zingale, 76, of Melville, and Muriel Sternberg, 85, of Manhattan, inveterate travelers who met in the Canadian Rockies on a Tauck helicopter hiking tour, have booked an Elderhostel tour to the GlimmerGlass Opera at Cooperstown, N.Y., this summer.

Another nonprofit, Global Volunteers, offers "service adventures" for adults willing to pay a fee to go abroad to help others.

More than two-thirds of the volunteers are 65 or older. "They're mostly retirees who have the time, and many talents, to share," says spokeswoman Barbara DeGroot. For example, a retiree would pay a three-week program fee of $2,520 to teach English in a high school in China.

But China and Nepal are not for everyone.

Cookie Eyester, 65, organizes shorter excursions for residents of the Glenwood Village retirement community in Riverhead. Her travels with the Bellport-based Prime Time Travel Club may go no farther than the Amish country in Lancaster County, Pa., but make up in frequency what they lack in distance.

Recruiting is no problem in the senior village, she says. More than 30 residents quickly signed up for a trip to Ireland two years ago.

Similarly, Dolores and Tony Genovese of Massapequa travel frequently with Prime Time. The tours may be as close as the Thimble Islands off the coast of Connecticut or as far as Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

But whom you go with is as important as where you go, according to Dolores Genovese, 72, a retired teacher. The couple has made close friends along the way, she says. Next year, they plan to visit Sicily. "If not now, when?" she asks.

Travel 'takes you out of the confines of who you are ... you recognize our essential humanity.' - KAREL ROSE OF GREAT NECK

'You can do Paris on your own, but when you're doing exotic places, it's nice to have everything taken care of.' - MADONNA STARR OF


'We wanted to reach across cultural boundaries to understand people in a vastly different place, almost of another time, so that we could better understand ourselves.' - SALLY WENDKOS OLDS OF PORT WASHINGTON, in her book, 'A Balcony in Nepal: Glimpses of a Himalayan Village'

Some jumping-off points for adventure

As seniors become hardier, savvier and more adventuresome travelers, tour agencies expand to meet the need. Here are some that offer adventurous journeys:

Overseas Adventure Travel. (A division of Grand Circle Travel) Groups of 10 to 16, tours to Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America. 800-248-3737;

ElderTreks. Small group adventure trips by land and sea to 60 countries, including North and South Poles. 800-741-7956;

Collette Vacations. Pairs with Smithsonian Journeys Travel Adventures to offer educational adventures. 800- 528-8147;

Tauck World Discovery. Not exclusively for older adults, but many participate in helicopter-hiking packages and other adventurous trips. 800-788-7885;

Elderhostel. Nonprofit organization offering learning adventures in 90 countries for adults 55 and older.

Global Volunteers. "People-to-people" volunteer opportunities in 19 countries; two-thirds of participants are 65 or

By Rhoda Amon

Prime Time Travel Club. Bellport-based organization offering escorted trips for adults over 50, not necessarily adventuresome.

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

May 27, 2005

USA: The Golden Age of Sex: Seniors Say Their Spark Is Still Going Strong

WebMD Medical News, May 27, 2005:

Don't believe the hype about sex fading with age.

Relationships and sex remain a vital part of life for many people in midlife and beyond, an AARP survey shows.

AARP has just released a 2004 update to its 1999 sex report. The results will appear in the July/August issue of AARP The Magazine, says an AARP news release.

Among the findings:

* More than half (51%) of participants say they're "extremely" or "somewhat" satisfied with their sex life (52% of men, 49% of women, 63% with a regular sex partner). * 31% expressed neutral feelings about their sexual satisfaction. * 60% agree or strongly agree that sexual activity is a critical part of a good relationship. * About half (49%) agree or strongly agree that sex is important to their overall quality of life. * 84% disagree or strongly disagree that sex is only for younger people. * Nearly one in four (24%) said they had consulted a doctor or mental health professional about a sex problem. More men than women reported this.

Most Are Sexually Active

* Half of the respondents say they have sexual thoughts, fantasies, or erotic dreams at least once a week, with nearly one-fourth saying they have these thoughts at least once a day.

* Participants' weekly (or more frequent) sexual activities in the past six months were listed:

* Kissing or hugging: 69%

* Sexual touching or caressing: 53%

* Intercourse: 36%

* Self-stimulation: 20%

* Oral sex: 14%

The vast majority (86%) said they had engaged in any of those activities in the last six months. Younger participants were more likely to report sexual satisfaction.

Two out of three participants were married or living with a partner or had a regular sexual partner. Most (85%) had been with their partner for at least 10 years. Four percent of the men and 1% of the women had same-sex partners.

Former Surgeon General: Sex Is Not Just for the Young

"Many believe that sexuality is the exclusive province of the young," says former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD, in a news release.

"But this AARP study makes clear that, even as we age, sexual health continues to be important to our general health," says Satcher, who is now the interim president of Morehouse School of Medicine.

The good news, he says, is that more middle-aged or older men and women are turning to health professionals to improve their sexual health. "This means, however, that health professionals must be increasingly better prepared to deal with issues related to sexual health," says Satcher.

Better Health, Better Sex Life

When asked what would improve their sex life, the No. 1 answer was better health. That ranked ahead of a better relationship, a more adventurous or younger partner, more free time, and more privacy.

Many had health problems, including 42% with high blood pressure, 35% with high cholesterol, 28% with arthritis or rheumatism, 22% with back problems, 16% with diabetes, and 10% with depression. (Each person could report more than one diagnosis.)

A lot of participants had also tried medicines, hormones, or other treatments to improve their sex lives. That included 22% of men, a substantial increase since 1999, says the study.

Among men, 31% said they were moderately or completely impotent, and 17% said they had been diagnosed with impotence, says AARP.

Baby boomers and senior citizens still need to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, says Satcher.

Gender, Racial Differences

"Sex is far more important to the overall quality of life of men than women," says the survey. Men who took the survey thought about and engaged in sex more often than the women. Only about 3% of men said they didn't particularly enjoy sex, compared to 15% of women.

Sexual satisfaction was reported most often by Hispanics (56%) and least often by Asians (49%). Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites and Asians to say that their partner was extremely satisfied with their relationship, says the study.

Additional surveys were done to ensure diversity.

Changing Practices, Traditional Views?

The survey showed an increase in people seeking information about sex, reporting sexual thoughts, and citing sex as important in a relationship, says AARP. But that doesn't mean the participants had an "anything goes" mentality.

Nearly three out of four people (73%) agreed or strongly agreed that society places too much emphasis on sex. Only 7% of those with regular sex partners said they would try or ask their partner to try sex outside of marriage with their partner's consent.

By Miranda Hitti

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD),

SOURCES: AARP, "2004 Update of Attitudes and Behaviors: Sexuality at Midlife and Beyond." News release, AARP. News release, Morehouse School of Medicine.

© 2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

May 26, 2005

ISRAEL: Netanyahu revokes part of old-age pension cutbacks

TEL AVIV (Haaretz), May 26, 2005:

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that he will return some funds to old-age pensions that were cut in 2003.

Netanyahu said that starting this July, the Finance Ministry will increase the pension budget for elderly citizens who have no other source of income by NIS 180 per month.

Pensions for the elderly have remained unchanged since 2001. In July 2003, Netanyahu sought to cut the pensions as part of a larger plan that also included reductions in allowances for the handicapped and unemployed. Elderly pensions were cut by 4 percent, and the over-all pension for elderly citizens with no other source of income stood at NIS 1,863 per month. State support for assistance to the elderly was also reduced.

The new increase in pensions, intended to remedy problems with the 2003 reduction, was announced in TheMarker in April.

Netanyahu emphasized that the old-age pension increase is one of many other economic moves that the Finance Ministry has made recently, including lowering the income tax and reducing National Insurance payments for lower socioeconomic groups.

By Moti Bassok, Nitzan Cohen

INDIA: An old-age home for the Royal Bengal tigers

KOLKATA (S.N.M. Abdi in KHALEEJ TIMES), May 26, 2005:

CHRISTIAN charities are responsible for Kolkata's best old-age homes. Built during the Raj or soon after independence, most of them are in the heart of the city. Real estate developers are forever eyeing the prime properties. But the sprawling homes for senior citizens have so far held their own.

Now an altogether different kind of old-age home is being planned. It will not be made of bricks and mortar. Nor will it be built in Kolkata. It is being set up in the Sunderbans mangrove forest tiger reserve — a sanctuary which is the pride of West Bengal — for ageing tigers.

Atanu Raha, chief conservator of the Sunderbans forest, says that sick and ageing Royal Bengal tigers that can't hunt any more will be rehabilitated in the rescue centre so that they don't fall prey to poachers. 'It will be like an old-age home. We will try and make it a near-natural habitat so that the animals don't feel they are in captivity.'

The old-age home would also treat injured and ailing tigers. After treatment, they will be released back into the wild. Last year, a census revealed that there are as many as 274 tigers in the 10,000 sq km riverine mangrove marshlands of the Sunderbans straddling West Bengal and neighbouring Bangladesh.

Old or wounded tigers often slip into villages on the edge of the reserve and prey on people and cattle. Raha says that once the age-old home becomes operational, ageing tigers will cease to be a threat to humans. Tigers are in the news for various reasons. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has just completed his first year in office, sighted his first tiger this week in the famous Ranthombore reserve in Rajasthan.

Singh — a synonym for tiger — set up a tiger task force last month to review the management of reserves around the country after reports that between 100 and 125 tigers are being killed each year in the country. Official estimates put India's tiger population at around 3,700, but conservationists say it could be less than 2,000 as the majestic animals fall prey to bullets, poison, explosives or traps in so-called sanctuaries across India.

A century ago, the number was thought to have been 40,000 but hunting and rampant poaching of tigers for their body parts — used in traditional Chinese medicines — has brought the animal closer to extinction. Experts fear that by the next Chinese year of the tiger — 2010 — there may be only 1,000 tigers left. Most reserves do not receive the allocated funds on time, resulting in low morale — and 40 per cent of posts are vacant.

The situation has worsened by insurgency and law-and-order problems in many reserves where forest guards have only batons to tackle well-armed attackers. Singh says he is giving highest priority to saving tigers. Not too long ago, over 300 Members of Parliament signed a memorandum demanding high-level intervention to save the endangered species.

USA: One-stop medical, day care for seniors

PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA, May 26, 2005:

The Treasure Coast's senior citizens may soon have a "one-stop shop" to get medical attention and socialize with others under a proposed plan from local social service agencies.

Treasure Coast Hospices and the Council on Aging want to use 15,000 to 20,000 square feet in the old Kmart building in Eastport Plaza on U.S. 1 for the program. Plans include an adult day care center with medical professionals on hand to treat senior patients, said Louis Benson, chief executive officer of Treasure Coast Hospices.

Plans are expected to be submitted to the Port St. Lucie Planning and Zoning department this week, he added.

"It's a one-stop shop kind of thing," Benson said. "It's more than just a day care."

But, the program could suffer a serious setback if it's part of cuts to the state budget Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to make today.

TaxWatch, a nonprofit budget watchdog group, recommended Bush cut $973,000 in funding for the program last week.

Benson said if Bush vetoes money for the project it would not kill the plan, but it would make it more difficult to fund start up costs.

The plan is part of the state-funded Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly, and will include pharmacists, doctors, physical and occupational therapists and nurses on site, Benson said. The program also is being started in Fort Myers, Benson added.

Seniors who are diagnosed as clinically frail and are over 55 are eligible to participate in the program, and Medicaid and Medicare are accepted, he said.

Hospice plans to partner with Council on Aging groups on the Treasure Coast to operate the day care center.

Benson said the day care will allow elderly residents to socialize and get needed medical attention at one place rather than driving to several doctor's offices.

"There's no city dollars involved and it's going to bring a wonderful service to residents of the Treasure Coast," he said.

Program participants still will be able to visit their local council on aging centers, Benson said.

City Councilman Jack Kelly, who serves on the board of the Council on Aging, said the council's day care center in Port St. Lucie is already at capacity and the new plan will allow the group to serve more residents.

"This is a welcome addition to the city," Kelly said.

Hospice is working on a lease with Regency Centers, a property management company to use the space.

The plans must be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board and City Council.

By Sarah Myrick

USA: In Good Company

You don't have to be alone. Members of the AgeWise Wellness Group meet to learn, share, laugh.

VICTORVILLE, CALIFORNIA (Victorville Daily Press), May 26, 2005:

According to a pamphlet published by AgeWise, an outreach program for the elderly sponsored by the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health:

• People who isolate themselves from others have two to three times the risk of premature death;

• A terminal cancer strikes isolated persons more often than it does those who have supportive relationships; and

• Those who confide in a close friend are much less likely to become depressed.

Even the innately outgoing may find that advanced years and the deaths of so many loved ones have left them feeling as stranded and alone as Mont St. Michel at low tide.

Hence the need for the AgeWise Wellness Group, which meets every Tuesday morning at the United Methodist Church of Victorville.

At the invitation of Renee Mason, a senior peer counselor with AgeWise, and the Rev. Ernie Fritschle, pastor of the Methodist Church from 1981-87, I sat in on the May 17 meeting.

In addition to Mason and Fritschle, there were 10 other women and one other man in attendance. But their names may not be mentioned in this article, for as Fritschle reminded the group, "What we say here, stays here."

The day's theme was memory and how to keep the mind sharp and agile.

As facilitator, Fritschle opened the meeting by remarking, "If you say, 'I forget where I put my glasses,' that's OK. Just remember that you have glasses!"

Stressing that the mind is a muscle — and that, as with other muscles, if you don't use it, you'll lose it — Fritschle said, "Sharing in a group like this helps the mind turn over."

Next he reviewed suggestions from the Mayo Clinic for improving communication between nerve cells of the brain. For example:

• Take classes

• Read regularly and keep a journal ("What did I do today?")

• Learn about computers, connect to the Internet, e-mail friends and family

• Join a book club or other discussion group

• Explore the cultural life of your community

• Teach others your skills or knowledge

The long list of local activities that get you out of the house and keep the little gray cells humming includes SWIM (Seniors With Inquiring Minds), the Victor Valley Community Concert Series and the Passport to Adventure travelogue series at Victor Valley College.

Several members of the Wellness Group were already involved: for example, the woman who is trying to teach a younger woman to knit.

Another, a literacy tutor, mentioned that sometimes her students are so busy with their extended families that they don't keep appointments.

This prompted Mason to say: "Often, people who cannot read are unassertive and put themselves last, so they don't stand up to family pressure."

Mason also mentioned the prodigies of compensation accomplished by the functionally illiterate.

One woman, a devoted reader, said she was reading Bill Clinton's 1,008-page autobiography, "My Life."

But her edition is in large print, so it is 1,400 pages long. "I have 400 pages to go!" she said.

As the conversation turned to the pros and cons of borrowing books from the library, buying used books, etc., Fritschle, a former missionary, said:

"In India, we never gave tracts away. We knew that people would read them only if they had paid something for them."

Fritschle added that he had heard there are few cases of Alzheimer's disease in India, perhaps because the turmeric in curry helps to reduce plaques in those parts of the brain which regulate thinking, learning, sleep and memory.

Most people say they can hardly wait to retire. But retirement can usher in a host of new problems: for example, a loss of structure.

Fritschle acknowledged that after he retired, he had to learn that it was OK to receive checks from Social Security and from his pension.

He also mentioned a class for retired men learning to cook for the first time in their lives. Always eating out — a temptation when you cannot cook and have time on your hands — brings with it risks of too much sodium, too many fats and a leap in triglycerides.

When Fritschle said, "As we age, we get discouraged because there are some things we can no longer do," Mason added:

"It's important to remember that we can make changes: for example, use a different arm when putting on a jacket."

After recommending "The Memory Prescription: Dr. Gary Small's 14-Day Plan to Keep Your Brain and Body Young" by Dr. Gary Small of the UCLA Center on Aging, Mason handed out blank, yellow slips of paper.

Then she asked everyone to write down two things about the appearance or personality of the person sitting to their immediate left, fold up the paper and set it aside.

Echoing Fritschle's warning about a diet high in fats, Mason urged the group to avoiding fatty foods ("They impact mental abilities") and promised to teach them breathing exercises at a future meeting.

Now it was time for a second test of memory.

Passing out white slips of paper, all of which had the same five words written on them (flag, dune, card, heart, fence), Mason had the group read the words out loud, in unison, in order, five times — and then put the folded papers aside.

After a break ("Good for the memory, too," Mason said), the group members visited, chatting about the value of costume jewelry, eBay, etc.

Mason described an outing with 50 members of the Red Hat Society to see the musical "Menopause."

"It was hysterical!" she said. "And they gave everyone 'Menopause' fans to wave."

Apropos of physical changes, Fritschle said, "When we get older, our plumbing isn't what it once was, and so many people stay at home.

"But socialization is good for memory."

Then, one by one, the members tried to recall what they had written about the person to their left.

Everyone remembered correctly: mostly compliments about the person's dress or personality.

"As we get stressed, we forget things," Mason said. "Tests show that memory is better in the morning, when there has not been much stress yet. Both mental and physical exercise go better in the morning."

Then, sharing the news that Lois Fox, director of Samaritan's Helping Hand, will retire June 29, Mason praised the many things Fox has done for the community — in her capacity as director of a nonprofit, but also as a private woman.

Now came the tough part of the meeting: recalling the five words (flag, dune, card, heart and fence) and using them in a sentence.

I remembered flag, card, heart and fence — maybe because of those twin f's and the approximate rhyme of card and heart.

But dune had flown into the ether.

In closing, Fritschle said: "Here we share what we do and don't do."

"There's also a lot of laughing," Mason said. "You know how good that is for your brain."

By Stuart Kellogg, Staff Writer

USA: Airline Pilots seek to stay on job until age 65

WASHINGTON (Boston Globe - Bloomberg News), May 26, 2005:

Hundreds of US airline pilots are asking Congress to raise their mandatory retirement age to 65, saying the change won't threaten safety and would give workers more time to recover money lost to pension cuts.

The Federal Aviation Administration since 1959 has required that airline pilots retire at age 60.

Southwest Airlines Co., JetBlue Airways Corp., and pilots at other carriers, including those with pension troubles, want to extend the limit. Larger airlines and their pilot unions oppose a change.

''I regard it as a moral issue," said Herb Kelleher, Southwest's 74-year-old chairman, who was flanked by about 30 current and retired pilots at a Capitol Hill news conference yesterday.

''We have a bunch of splendid pilots right behind me who would be perfectly safe and totally competent if they were able to fly in our cockpits today."

Some of the biggest US carriers such as US Airways Group Inc. and United Airlines have moved to terminate pensions as the industry posted combined losses of $33 billion over the past four years.

Others, including Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp., have sought to spread payments over a longer period to keep plans viable.

© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

USA: Attorney general targets ID theft against seniors

PHOENIX, ARIZONA (The Arizona Republic), May 26, 2005:

Anyone who has tried to thwart identity thieves knows it's hard to completely safeguard Social Security numbers and other personal information. Plenty of consumers also know it's frustrating to learn that the federal government is a big reason for this problem.

One area of special concern for seniors is Medicare cards, which clearly list patients' Social Security numbers.

"We all know Social Security numbers are the key element to ID theft," said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. "And the big offenders now are Medicare cards."

That's why Goddard is sending a letter to Arizona's congressional delegation, urging them to persuade Washington to issue new Medicare cards with less-sensitive numbers.

The attorney general will outline his initiative during a talk at 10 a.m. today at the Desert West Senior Center, 6501 W. Virginia Ave. in Phoenix.

If the states, businesses and individuals can persuade the government to scale back its reliance on Social Security numbers, that would be a big step against ID theft, Goddard said.

An Arizona law that went into effect this year proscribes the use of Social Security numbers in many commercial dealings, but it doesn't apply to Uncle Sam.

Goddard also said he'd like to see other governmental entities, including counties, get tougher about posting residents' information online.

Examples include Social Security numbers on marriage licenses and divorce papers and signature images recorded for real estate transactions.

Goddard said he didn't see how making such information easily accessible over the Internet benefits the public.

"But it's still up to each county recorder to decide what they want to post," he said.

By Russ Wiles

May 24, 2005

USA: Scientists Seek To Unravel Mysteries Of Old Age

SEAL BEACH, California (NBC 4), May 24, 2005:

A 112-year-old Seal Beach woman is of great interest to a group of Southland scientists attempting to unravel the mysteries of extreme old age, including those who live past 110 years old. Marion Higgins, of Seal Beach, is a spry, enthusiastic 112-year-old. The secret to her old age: "I don't smoke cigars," she told NBC4.

A nonprofit gerontology research group wants to talk to "super-centenarians" like Higgins about how the mysteries of human survivability are locked deep inside them.

Founder Dr. Stephen Coles wonders why so few humans ever live past 110. He calls it "a wall," that is very difficult for humans to pass, even in this age of medical knowledge, nutrition and exercise.

"At 110, the chances of living one more year to 111 are like flipping a coin, heads or tails," Coles told NBC4.

Coles and his colleagues have found more than 60 of the rare individuals worldwide. They've agreed to offer DNA samples, and even autopsies, to help unwrap the mysteries behind extreme old age.

Researchers have found a few common traits, like optimism.

"These people get up in the morning," said Coles, "and they have something to do."

Coles also noted that none of the participants in the study has ever been

significantly overweight.

Coles said being optimistic and thin can be genetically preprogrammed. He believes the answer may not lie on your daily exercise and vitamin regimen, although those practices will increase your odds of living into your 70s and 80s.

But to squeeze past 110 and beyond, Coles said, it takes a genetic blueprint for long life.

Copyright 2005 by

May 15, 2005

UK: Pensions chief wary of age increase to 70

LONDON (The Financial Times), May 14, 2005:

A rapid across-the-board increase in the pension age to 70 by 2030 is too crude a solution to the pension crisis, Adair Turner, chairman of the Pensions Commission, told the annual meeting of the National Association of Pension Funds.

Mr Turner, who has promised to deliver his commission's report before November 30, gave no hint at where it would come out on a spectrum of solutions to the mounting pension problems, ranging from "encouraged voluntarism to compulsion".

However, he said that although the simple flat-rate citizen's pension proposed by the NAPF was an "interesting, and clear proposition", there were also significant counter-arguments.

By William Hall

USA: Social Security Is Least of Newer Generations' Worries

Retirement's Unraveling Safety Net

MIDDLE RIVER, Maryland (Washington Post), May 15, 2005:

If it's a clear morning, you can count on seeing 80-year-old Junior K. Paugh strolling streets that tell his life story: Propeller Drive, Fuselage Avenue, Cockpit Street, Compass Road. He's been here more than 60 years, ever since aviation pioneer Glenn L. Martin put him to work making seaplanes and bombers at the defense plant down the road.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was president and Martin himself walked the factory floor, urging on workers as the nation went to war. Out of that perilous time came Paugh's now predictable world.

He never is short of money, thanks to Social Security and his company pension that will last as long as he does. Health care costs him next to nothing, thanks to Medicare and retiree health insurance. His Baltimore County home is long paid for, thanks in part to a below-market price of $4,400, a result of wartime subsidies for defense-related housing construction.

"I feel completely secure," says Paugh, no small triumph for the third of 13 children born to farmers in Depression-era Appalachia. The triumph is not only his but also the country's -- the fulfillment of a New Deal vision of cradle-to-grave security, underwritten by the federal government and large industrial employers.

That vision is being supplanted by one President Bush calls the Ownership Society, in which the burdens of economic security -- and, the president hopes, the rewards -- shift back to individuals. Social Security is only one aspect of the shift. The safety net big companies wove for Paugh's generation -- long-term employment, pension security, retiree health insurance -- has been giving way for so long that its unraveling is mere background accompaniment to Washington's noisy debate over Social Security. But in the lives of most middle-class families, it stays in the foreground, inseparable from the Social Security discussion.

This becomes clear in the company of Junior Paugh, his three children, all in their fifties, and five grandchildren, ages 18 to 35. Their three-generation journey has taken them from Appalachia to suburbia, from government relief to an assembly line to a management track at Sears. Yet, despite the apparent progress, their expectations are sinking:

The grandchildren, all three generations agree, have it worse than their parents and grandparents -- most dramatically in their prospects for retirement, when all gains and losses come home to roost.

Until now, financial planners have likened retirement security to a three-legged stool: employee pensions, personal savings and Social Security.

For the Paugh grandchildren, the savings leg is effectively gone, reflecting a plunging personal savings rate nationally. In place of Junior Paugh's pension, they have 401(k) plans, under which they -- not employers -- bear the risk and responsibility of investing enough for retirement. And under Bush's Social Security proposal, their promised benefit could drop significantly.

This is a new order with new givens. Paugh and his co-workers came of age as Democrats who felt protected by their union, their party and their government. His grandchildren are all registered Republicans who feel largely on their own in a world full of risks and responsibilities, and no guarantees. They are willing to give Bush's Ownership Society a try, saying they have no hope that government or employers can or will protect them.

The president is counting on the Ownership Society to do for the Republican Party what the New Deal did for the Democrats -- that is, make it the nation's majority party. For now, it is easier to measure what has been lost in security than has been gained in opportunity. But the grandchildren's story is only beginning.

The War Generation

If childhood in Western Maryland's Deer Park community during the Depression exposed Paugh early and often to life's hardships, adulthood became one encounter after another with protections government and businesses were erecting against risks his parents had battled on their own.

Paugh got his first job through Uncle Sam, driving a truck for the Civilian Conservation Corps, the New Deal agency that put unemployed people to work preserving natural resources. By the time he went to Glenn L. Martin Co. in 1942, wartime wage controls had led most industrial employers to provide pensions and health insurance -- in part to secure their workers' loyalty in an exceptionally tight labor market.

Paugh's job even came with a home. The entrepreneur built whole communities to house his burgeoning workforce, which topped 52,000 in 1942 as military orders soared during World War II. The government subsidized the construction as part of the war effort, and Martin passed on the savings in cheap rent and later, low sales prices.

Initially, Paugh paid $19 a month -- including water and electricity -- for the house where he still lives at 108 Glider Dr. in Aero Acres, a subdivision built on a former strawberry field. Martin named every street for an airplane part (Left Wing and Right Wing drives had no larger connotation), and everyone lived in an identical 24-by-48-foot bungalow with a hallway, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a spacious living room.

Paugh went off to war in 1943, returning with a Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds in the Battle of Okinawa. He remained faithful to Martin, spurning other offers, including one from the Baltimore Orioles in the 1950s. A lanky lefty, Paugh was a star pitcher for the Martin Bombers, the company's standout industrial league team, but professional baseball had nothing on a factory job in his day. "No security," he explained.

Pitching for the Bombers was its own form of security. Martin was famously fanatical about baseball -- he built a verdant field on Eastern Avenue and Wilson Point Road, watching Bombers practices from the wing of a strategically parked airplane. When layoffs began after the Korean War, the Bombers' entire roster was exempt.

In return for this security, Paugh traded away some flexibility. In his days as a "CCC Boy," as he still calls himself, he got $5 of his $30-a-month salary, and the CCC sent the rest home for his parents and 12 siblings.

And he would have received only a small fraction of his $920 monthly pension had he not spent his entire career, 41 years, with one employer -- an arrangement dubbed the "invisible handshake." The pension is 40 percent of his retirement income; Social Security pays him $1,373.

Nor would Paugh have retired with lifetime health insurance, under which he pays only $2 for prescription drugs. Because of rising health care costs, retirement experts say, employers now pay as much or more for retiree health insurance -- which supplements Medicare -- as for pensions.

Another important feature of Junior Paugh's retirement security is his thrift, which was bred into him. "We saved and saved and saved," he said of himself and his wife, who died 10 years ago. Paugh is what his family calls "tight," and proud of it. He does not turn on lights until the afternoon sun all but disappears. "Hey, I'm paying for that," he cracked one day when son Doug stopped by after work and flipped on the living room light. He'd rather sweat than use air conditioning, turning it on only when his children and grandchildren visit. ("It was 110 degrees in the South Pacific and we still won the war," he said.)

In Paugh's day, only the wealthy invested in the stock market; Paugh put his trust in Uncle Sam through the "bond a week" savings plan. He also opened an individual retirement account in the early 1980s, with bank interest rates at 15 percent. Last year, the rate fell below 1 percent. His disappointment with IRAs makes him dubious of young people's faith in the stock market -- what goes up, he warns, can come down.

At a recent monthly meeting of the Retirees Association of Martin Marietta, Paugh sat with seven former co-workers whose life experiences were almost identical to his: All 80 or older, all sitting pretty on three-legged retirement stools, and all worried about how their children and grandchildren will get by in old age.

"They spend their money before they make it," Ed Dorsey, 82, said of his children. "I say, 'What do you have for retirement?' They say it's a long way away. But they're all in their fifties!"

All said they regard Social Security as indispensable, and all said they know it cannot sustain their descendants in its current form.

"We're the generation that beat the system," said Elmer Sanders, 83.

"Social Security didn't count on us living this long. I tell my wife if I have a stroke, and they put me on life supports, just don't unplug me. If I'm still breathing, the checks keep coming."

The Boomers

For the children of Junior Paugh -- Kay, 56, Doug, 54, and Dan, 50 -- the Social Security debate is only the latest reminder that nowadays few things keep coming.

Doug and Dan followed their father into the Martin company, which became part of Martin Marietta and then Lockheed Martin until their division of about 700 workers was sold to General Electric Co. several years ago. Now named Middle River Aircraft Systems, still housed in the hangar where Junior Paugh worked, it manufactures thrust-reversers for commercial airplane engines. Dan is a senior buyer; Doug is a painter.

Unlike many who started out with them, the brothers have survived all the reorganizations, and still have the prospect of retiring with full pensions and lifetime health insurance, like their father. Typical of companies that still provide these plans, theirs conditions full benefits, which include health insurance for life, on more than 25 years of service -- a tenure common in their father's generation, an anachronism in theirs.

"I know we're the fortunate ones," Doug said. "My kids definitely won't get anything like this."

It is not certain that they will either; they know of others who got caught short. Dan had a counterpart in purchasing at the Boeing Co. who had 20 years of service when her division recently was sold to a Canadian company. Her pension benefit was frozen, a 33 percent reduction from the full benefit, and she became ineligible for retiree health insurance. Dan's wife, Joyce, took the same hit in 2001 when her job at Lockheed Martin was eliminated after 21 years. She has since found work at a machine shop, but without a comfortable pension, she said, "It feels like I'll have to work till I die." Last week's news that United Airlines can terminate its pension plans in the largest corporate default in U.S. history sounded to them like more of the same. So Social Security is hardly the biggest worry.

"As I understand it, people my age could end up getting less than we expect from Social Security, but not too much less, so I feel that it will be there in some form for me. It's not like the government will sell you out," Dan Paugh said. "But a company could. As a middle-class person, this scares the daylights out of me."

Their dream, the brothers say, was to do as well as their father: a good job, good wages, a nice-enough house, a family trip now and then. And so far they have. They may even have a similarly secure retirement, buoyed in part by their ballooning home values. Dan's house in Essex has more than tripled in 20 years; Doug's in Cecil County has doubled in five.

Although they and their wives have been contributing to 401(k) plans for 20 years, the brothers say they would not have enough for a comfortable retirement if not for their homes. They may sell them and downsize.

They face a major savings challenge that Junior Paugh didn't: providing for grown-up children. While Junior had 15 years of peak earnings with no child-rearing expenses, Doug has three children, ages 18 to 24, still at home, along with one 4-year-old grandchild. And Junior's daughter, Kay Cody, at 56, is raising her 15-year-old grandson for her daughter, Pamela Cody, 35, a supervisor for a Towson answering service who says she barely can pay her own expenses.

Kay Cody knows the ownership society well, ever since her pension was converted to a 401(k) in the 1990s, forcing her to learn to manage her own retirement savings.

"Growing up, we didn't focus on stocks and mutual funds," she said. "But when they explained the 401(k) to me, I thought, 'That's a darned good idea.' I made sure I understood and kept track of it. Since then, I've taken finance classes, and now I'm on our committee here that monitors how we invest our funds."

In 1996, she suffered a much bigger blow to her security when her husband, a union construction contractor, died of Lou Gehrig's disease. In the process, Cody has learned to tolerate significantly more risk than her father had to. The 2001 stock market plunge following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks posed no threat to Junior Paugh's pension check, for example, but it savaged his daughter's 401(k) balance. While her funds have mostly recovered, Cody said, "my biggest fear is what if we're hit again and go into another slide?"

Always frugal, she became even more so after her husband's death. Her home in Essex paid for, she put herself on a budget, with a goal of accumulating $5,000 in savings, "in case the washer broke, in case I needed new tires." She created a separate bank account, paying into it from each paycheck, even before buying groceries. When she reached $5,000, she said, $10,000 sounded safer. She passed that, and is still going. She also invested her husband's death benefit and insurance in mutual funds, and invests in a growth fund for her grandson. But she said that her 401(k) and savings amount to $114,000 -- far short of the $400,000 a financial adviser told her she will need to support herself in retirement.

Her job as an administrator in a medical practice reminds her daily of other risks. Unlike her brothers and her father, she has no expectation of retiring with lifetime health insurance. "I'd like to be like my father and never be sick or have medical needs, but if I'm not, I see every day that Medicare doesn't begin to pay for what health care costs," she said. Her father-in-law, a Bethlehem Steel Co. retiree, lost his retirement health insurance when the company declared bankruptcy, and he had to pay thousands of dollars when he needed a pacemaker, she said.

Amid these rough waters, Social Security represents an island of stability. At 56, Cody is not likely to face benefit reductions, since every proposal so far exempts people 55 and older. But while she supports Bush's call for private accounts, she said she worries more about the system's long-term solvency.

"It does give me huge peace of mind to know I won't have to think about what I have to live off when I'm a certain age," she said. "But of course I worry what will be there for my children and grandchildren. Sometimes I think things look as bleak for them as before Roosevelt started all this."

The Grandchildren

One measure of the unraveling of old-fashioned retirement security is that the younger generation of Paughs does not even expect to find it. "Security to me is about having options in case something happens," says Jessica Paugh, 29, an assistant manager at Sears in the Harford Mall in Bel Air.

Daughter of Dan and Joyce, she says she lost confidence in the old order when her mother lost her job of 21 years. "It was heartbreaking," said Jessica, who is now a convert to the Ownership Society. "Now, every day a company is buying another company. So I figure if this works out, great! I love my job, but it could change, and I'll adapt."

Indeed, the Ownership Society looks much like a Sellership Society from the younger Paughs' encounters with it. Sears was sold last spring to Kmart, with potential implications for Jessica. Her cousin Pamela Cody took a cut in benefits when the locally owned answering service where she worked was sold to a national chain. And Jessica's father and uncle know only too well that GE could sell their division, just as Lockheed Martin sold it in the 1990s. Dan Paugh recalls the response of a Lockheed Martin official to workers' surprise about that sale: "For the right price, my best hunting dog is for sale."

In Junior Paugh's day, when experience was valued on the production line, cradle-to-grave security and loyalty to one employer made sense for companies and workers. But for the younger Paughs, who have watched jobs, capital and products cross borders ("Our payroll operation is in India!" Doug exclaimed), the invisible handshake can seem like handcuffs.

Doug's daughter Lindsay, 21, recently left a job as a bank teller to work for a rival bank that offered a raise and promotion, but she forfeited three years toward a pension. The pension was not a factor, she said, because if she hadn't left now, she was certain to leave later. This remark led her mother, Melanie Paugh, who has worked 13 years for BMW, to close her eyes momentarily, as if to steady her spinning head.

"Today, if kids see a $10 raise, they jump," she said. "We were raised to stay put."

Jessica accompanies Junior Paugh to Martin retirees' gatherings sometimes, and loves meeting his former co-workers, but cannot believe that all these years later these men still talk about their old company. "They still care about what goes on there -- it's just really hard to imagine," she said. "For me, a job is where you work."

Retirement experts say the three-legged stool has only two legs for Paugh's grandchildren's generation: Social Security and 401(k)s, which are like a merger of pensions and savings. Jessica's position at Sears comes with a 401(k) into which she tried to put 7 percent of her paycheck, although she said she recently cut back to 3 percent because she couldn't pay her expenses. "If I didn't use my credit card, I wouldn't have eaten some weeks," she said.

Jessica is the only descendant of Junior Paugh to go to college so far. Her parents didn't give her a choice. "They raised me to see college as inevitable, part of being prepared," she said. "Skills are the key. It's in the job description for my position -- you need a college degree." Yet another child-rearing expense Junior Paugh did not face.

If Jessica's career goes well and the stock-market cooperates, she could end up as secure as her grandfather is in old age. But for now, even with her recent promotion to assistant manager (salary: $26,000), she and her parents are not counting on it. Her 401(k), now with a balance of $6,000, could reach $308,000 by retirement, according to a calculation provided by the plan, but this is well short of what economists say she would need. She said she hopes to invest more and see more gains.

"I check my balance online every other week," she said. "I have half the money in safe investments. With the rest I'm taking risks, just saying, 'Go! Go! Go!' "

Jessica said she believes firmly she never will be able to afford a house. Her cousin Pamela, who rents an apartment with her husband in Harford County, says the same. And her three younger cousins -- Doug's children -- have yet to move out on their own. As their parents see it, this is another wobble in the next generation's retirement security stool.

"We did as well and in some ways better than our parents," Melanie said. "I don't see how our kids will."

But Jessica and Lindsay, for their parts, are too optimistic to imagine things won't ultimately go their way, and too young to imagine ever being old.

"In my mind, right now, retirement is a myth. It may exist, but I can't see that far. I have my 401(k), so I'm preparing," Jessica said.

Pamela, the answering service supervisor, sees it differently. On a recent day, when Pamela's 11-year-old Ford Probe broke down, Junior Paugh made the hour-long drive to pick her up and take her to work. A starker contrast in two people's relationship to their government and employers would be hard to conjure.

Here was Junior Paugh at the wheel of his silver Buick LeSabre, having moved out of poverty, into the middle class, and now a secure retirement, with the help of one employer and his government. And here, only two generations behind him, sat Pamela Cody, feeling abandoned by everything her grandfather valued.

"I see how my grandparents were able to get by, but my husband and I just struggle from paycheck to paycheck," she said. "I don't have a pension and I'm not expecting Social Security to hold up long enough for me. Where is all the government's money going? Who is it benefiting? Nothing is benefiting me."

By Dale Russakoff Washington Post Staff Writer


© 2005 The Washington Post Company