Staving off Alzheimer’s disease.

It may be too much to expect that major degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases can be prevented just by mental exercises. However there can be no excuse for ignoring  the problem, and not doing all we can to research the benefits of brain exercises.
Please read this article carefully, and think about what you can do to stay alert and “with it” as you age.

Brain exercise vital: Use it or lose it, visiting expert Dr Michael Merzenich warns Australians

Updated Fri 28 Feb 2014, 2:34pm AEDT

A neuroscientist is warning people need regular brain exercise to help ward off health risks such as senility as they age.

Australians generally are living longer, healthier lives than ever before but visiting American neuroscientist Michael Merzenich warns work is needed to maintain functioning into old age.

Dr Merzenich, emeritus professor of neuroscience at the University of California, says the burden of rising demands on the health system could become economically and socially unsupportable.

“By the time you reach your 85th birthday about half of us will need continuous care, [so] have to think about maintaining our abilities and capacities,” he said.

I think it is possible to keep most people in good stead from brain health to the point where their brain span can equal their life span

Dr Michael Merzenich

On a visit to South Australia, Dr Merzenich warned medical advances of the past century had dramatically increased the average life span but had largely ignored brain function.

His research has found people who frequently exercise both physically and mentally can maintain healthy functions deep into retirement.

“We are in the middle of a grand experiment,” he said of the ageing population.

“I think it is possible to keep most people in good stead from brain health to the point where their brain span can equal their life span.”

Dr Merzenich has pointed to his Australian friend Rex Lipman, now in his 90s and still working.

To keep physically fit, Mr Lipman plays tennis but twice per day he also takes time to exercise his brain, doing online puzzles and problem-solving.

“It exercises the neurons of the brain, making them move,” Dr Merzenich said.

“Loss of cognitive response is caused by neurons that are no longer healthy and growing and instead of being plastic and soft like when we were young, they get hard and stiff and we don’t hear as well, see as well or taste as well.”

Dr Merzenich says Mr Lipman is “an Australian treasure” and has applauded his friend’s zeal for preaching the value of regular brain exercise.

In recent days in Adelaide, the pair have been taking their message to high school students, staff and students of the University of Adelaide and a gathering the science hub, RiAus, the Royal Institution of Australia.

Please remember Carly Ryan!

http://www.carlyryanfoundation.com/

Carly Ryan

Carly Ryan

Senate votes down pedophile legislation

  • 1 YEAR AGO AUGUST 22, 2012 6:54PM
Carly Ryan

Murder victim Carly Ryan was a victim of the type of crime the legislation aimed to prevent. Picture: Supplied Source:Supplied

SOUTH Australian senators have been criticised for voting down a law that would have made it a crime for adults to lie about their age to minors online

Independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon sought to create a criminal offence for the practice in the Criminal Code Act 1995 and create a register of those who breached the law, in a legislative change he dubbed the “Carly Amendment”.

Senator Xenophon said while the amendment was supported by himself, the Greens and the DLP, the major parties voted against it on party lines.

“For me and many fellow South Australians, nothing brings home the seriousness of cyber crime more than Carly Ryan’s story,” Senator Xenophon said.

“In 2006, when Carly was just 14 years old, she started chatting online with someone she thought was a 20-year-old called Brandon Kane.

“What Carly did not and could not have realised is that behind the online conversation with Brandon was not a 20-year-old musician at all. Brandon Kane did not exist. Instead she had unknowingly developed a relationship with Garry Francis Newman, a 47-year-old man who lived with his mother.”

Senator Xenophon moved the amendment to a Bill brought by the Greens to improve the policing of cyber crime.

He said some major party senators would be regretful when they realised they had torpedoed a law that, had it been in place, could have stopped the murder of Carly Ryan.

“I said to one of the South Australian senators who voted against it, ‘do you realise what you just voted against?’ and he just shrugged his shoulders,” Senator Xenophon said.

Eminent UniSA child protection advocate Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs yesterday joined the criticism, saying predation was the only reason for adults to lie to children about their age.

“There needs to be a better deterrent,” she said.

“I can think of no other reason other than predatory ones for an adult lying to a child on the internet.”

 

 

Too old to Drive?

South Australia tightens the licence requirements for elderly drivers

An article in Adelaide’s The Advertiser on September 4, 2013, written by Police Reporter Ben Hyde, stimulated much debate all-day on talk-back radio station 5AA.

South Australian Motorists over the age of 70 must pass an annual medical and eyesight examination, and receive a certificate of fitness to drive.  Of particular concern to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) of the SA government, are medical conditions that might adversely affect competence to drive safely.

Examples include diminished visual acuity, sleep disorders, attention deficit disorder and other psychiatric problems, degenerative neurological disorders e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, epilepsy, diabetes, drug dependency, and heart disease.

All drivers, whatever their age, have a duty to report any condition that might affect their fitness to drive. Because of the increased incidence of medical disorders with age, an annual medical examination is appropriate for those over 70.

The New Certificate of Fitness Assessment Form

There has been a concern with the standard of medical information provided by some doctors completing the current assessment forms. This has prompted, according to the Road Safety Minister Michael O’Brien, the design of a more detailed document with a comprehensive patient questionnaire and examination report, to be completed by the driver and the medical examiner.

The new form complies with national guidelines in assessing fitness to drive. It is not aimed at increasing driver suspensions which have increased from 1416 in 2010/11, to 1541 in 2011/12, and now in 2012/13 to 2016, a jump of 30%. There are 117,000 licence holders in South Australia who are 70 or older.

In addition to those loosing their licence, an extra 816 drivers had restrictions placed on their licence. This was up from 645 in 2011/12 and 381 in 2010/11. This rapid increase is in part due to ageing of the population, but may also be a function of improved reporting.

The intention of the government is to reduce the high incidence of over 70-year-old drivers involved in fatal collisions. This year 17 of 74 road deaths have been in this age group. This statistic does not differentiate between the age group of the drivers mostly responsible for the accident.

By drawing attention to driving competency from medical causes, and placing restrictions when appropriate, the measures may in fact prolong driving longevity for the elderly.

The Victorian Approach

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/keeping-older-drivers-on-the-road-is-the-test/story-fni0ffsx-1226680985609

This article by Judith Charlton in the Herald Sun on July 18, 2013  puts the entirely different perspective of the Victorian State government to mandatory licence testing of older drivers. Annual medical examinations do not alter the road toll. Although older drivers may have more medical issues, their vision and hearing be less acute, and their reflexes slower, they are more likely to change their driving habits, and to drive within their limitations.

They are less likely to speed,  more likely to be cautious. They are less likely to weave in and out of traffic, cutting into the path of other cars. They often stop driving at night,  and avoid peak hour city traffic. They often pick less frequented roads. Many just use their car to do the shopping, to attend church, entertainment and sporting fixtures, and to visit friends. They are less likely to engage in such hazardous activities as talking on a mobile phone, or texting messages. They are mostly experienced drivers with good driving records.

Sure they may be annoyingly slow for impatient drivers behind them. They may miss opportunities to enter and leave streams of traffic. Because of this they are often honked impatiently and sometimes subject to road rage. A little more consideration would help prevent them from becoming flustered. Because of their frailty they are more likely to be severely injured in motor vehicle accidents.

Victoria claims the lowest older driver (over75) crash rate per number of licenses issued, according to an Australian study, quoted by Associate Professor Judith Charlton. She is an associate director of the Monash University Accident Research Centre, and has been a lead researcher in an Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand study of more than 1000 drivers over 75.

Pop-Star’s experience

Living in South Australia, an annual medical examination was necessary when he turned 70. This has not been onerous. He advised the Transport Department of health issues when they arose.  The first was an irregularity of his heart rate. Later he needed to wear glasses when driving.

Subsequently, he developed sleep apnoea, but this was a problem controlled by a CPAP machine, or a dental splint at night. His doctor had no hesitation in recommending his licence be approved each year. In 2002 he was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s disease, but the symptoms were not severe, and medication helped. More recently he developed an oesophageal diverticulum (pouch) causing regurgitation of undigested food especially at night when lying flat.

With such disturbed sleep he became increasingly sleepy during the day to the point that Mrs Pop-Star stopped him from driving for longer distances, for fear of him sleeping at the wheel, and causing an accident. Pop-Star did not mind at all being chauffeured by his dear wife.

When his next medical examination fell due, his doctor was unsure whether she should again endorse his licence. For this reason she requested a driving test. Pop-Star had no difficulty in passing this test easily , and has since increased his driving without problem.

Pop-Star’s Attitude

There are some elderly who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge when they are no longer safe to be driving. For this reason Pop-Star regards compulsory medical examinations as appropriate. In his opinion however it is not fair to place all responsibility on either doctors’ reports, or even on practical driving tests. Driving is a privilege, not a right. It is important for the elderly to listen to their family, and be proactive in restricting their own driving when necessary. From his own experience, cessation of driving need not be permanent. Driving with restrictions may be a welcome alternative.

The day will come when he can no longer drive. Pop-Star, faced with this possibility, tries to be positive about the prospect.  Being a passenger can be enjoyable, observing the scenery, back-seat driving, and getting to talk to his wife! To his disgrace he often tends to snooze, or occasionally use his great little smart phone for all sorts of uses, from Googling to answer his wife’s questions, to checking the stock-market, and playing chess. With less car expenses, occasional taxi rides is an affordable alternative. Staying at home has its advantages too.