Make it to 100 years old and things don’t feel so bad

I’m not certain it’s the yogurt either

Many studies of very old people seem to boil down to this: trying to figure out what they ate, drank and did, so that other people can try to live that long, too. Daniela S. Jopp, an assistant psychology professor at Fordham University, is more interested in how people actually feel once they approach 100.

Younger people can derive lessons from her findings, but beyond that Professor Jopp hopes her research can help the very old lead fulfilling, socially connected lives until the very end…

There is a paradox in the desire to live longer, she said. Many people want to reach an advanced age, but they do not actually want to be that old, she said. Yes, it’s seen as better than the alternative. But over all, “We have a very negative view of very old age,” she said.

Her research gives cause for hope: It shows that once people approach 100, they tend to have a very positive attitude toward life. This is the case even though “they have on average between four and five illnesses, which are pretty disabling and hinder them from doing the things they want to do,” Professor Jopp said. They still have goals, she said, and they are not ready to die just yet. They want to see how the Yankees fare next season or attend the wedding of a grandchild.

This attitude holds true across the socioeconomic spectrum, although having enough money to pay for one’s medications is very important to well-being, she added.

In fact, people 95 and older report higher levels of satisfaction with life than those who are decades younger, Professor Jopp said. She speculates that people in their 60s and 70s have not yet fully adapted to their impairments, whereas the very old have reached a state of acceptance.

Professor Jopp’s observations are based on studies of people in Heidelberg, Germany, and a study she did of 119 very old New Yorkers chosen from voter registries and nursing homes.

She has found that in addition to being optimistic, the very old tend to be extroverted and to exhibit “self-efficacy,” meaning they report feeling in control of their lives. Most of the people in the New York study live within the community, many of them alone, and most greatly value retaining a sense of independence, she said…

Professor Jopp says she hopes her research will help uncover ways to offer better social services for the very old. And she hopes it will open up new avenues for the very old to pass along their insights and knowledge to others. As she puts it: “They have a lot to share — and to contribute to society.”

Yes, there are mornings when I feel like I already am 100. But, that hasn’t anything to do with Phyllis Korkki’s article does it? 🙂

RTFA for some of the interesting anecdotes. I certainly think her conclusions provide some guidance. Above all else I believe in keeping my curiosity about the whole world and science rolling right on through to the end of my life. I’m not likely to change that.

Neither am I to become less of a hermit. I access the world through the Web and any number of sources of communications – as I always have. My presence isn’t needed in a traditional round dance at a facility full of elders. Especially since they aren’t likely to be my peers. I don’t think the good doctor would consider that a contradiction.

I find most folks are a time capsule by the time they reach thirty. They stop learning. And if you stop learning, I don’t think you are well equipped to do a very good job of thinking for yourself either. Perhaps Dr. Jopp’s exceptional centenarians are an exception to that rule as well.

Dating and DNA affirm Paleoamerican-Native American connection


Click to enlargeDaniel Riordan Araujo

Eastern Asia, Western Asia, Japan, Beringia and even Europe have all been suggested origination points for the earliest humans to enter the Americas because of apparent differences in cranial form between today’s Native Americans and the earliest known Paleoamerican skeletons. Now an international team of researchers has identified a nearly complete Paleoamerican skeleton with Native American DNA that dates close to the time that people first entered the New World…

The skeleton of a teenage girl was found in Hoyo Negro, a deeply submerged chamber in the Sac Actun cave system in the eastern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Alberto Nava Blank and a team of science divers discovered the skeleton along with many extinct animal remains deep inside this inundated cave in 2007. The divers named the girl Naia…

Kennett and Brendan J. Culleton, postdoctoral fellow in anthropology, Penn State, were originally asked to directly date the skeleton. After traditional and well accepted direct-dating methods failed because the bones were mineralized from long emersion in warm salty water within this limestone cave system, they worked closely with colleagues to build a geochronological framework for Naia using a unique combination of techniques to constrain the age of the skeleton to the end of the ice age.

To build the case for a late Pleistocene age they collaborated with Yemane Asmerom and Victor Polyak from the University of New Mexico using global sea level rise data to determine when the cave system, which at the time Naia and the extinct animals entered was dry, filled with water. The site where Naia lies is now 130 feet below sea level and sea level rise would have raised the groundwater level in the cave system and submerged everything between 9,700 and 10,200 years ago. So initial estimates of the latest that animals and humans could have walked into the cave system was 9,700 years ago.

At the same time, the researchers experimented with uranium thorium dating the skeleton directly. Asmerom and Polyak tried to directly date Naia’s teeth using this method, but that also did not work well.

The bones were found deep below today’s ground surface in a collapsed chamber connected to the surface via a web of now flooded tunnels that Naia once walked along to fall to her untimely death. Because the caves are limestone, mineral deposits continued to form while the cave was largely dry. Working with Patricia Beddows, Northwestern University, Chatters noticed accumulations of calcium carbonate — tiny rosettes of calcite deposited by water dripping off the cave roof — which could be accurately dated using the uranium thorium method. Because these drip water deposits formed on top of Naia’s bones, their date must occur after she fell in the cave. The oldest one dated so far is 12,000 years old.

Naia’s tooth enamel was also radiocarbon dated to 12,900 years ago by Kennett’s lab…

Morphologically, Naia does not look like a contemporary Native American, but mitochondrial DNA testing — maternally inherited DNA — carried out by Brian Kemp, Washington State University, and his collaborators shows that she has a D1 haplotype. This is consistent with the hypothesis that her ancestors’ origins were in Beringia, a now partially submerged landmass including parts of Siberia, Alaska and the Yukon. Early humans moved into this area from elsewhere in Asia and remained there for quite some time. During that time they developed a unique haplotype that persists today in Native Americans. Genetically, Paleoamericans have similar attributes as modern Native Americans even if their morphology appears different.

There is so much more that can be determined about paleolithic finds with the aid of modern chemistry and the tools grounded in DNA. Has to make paleontologists a heck of a lot happier about the focus and improved accuracy they can bring to their studies.

Lifetime science students like me really appreciate the difference between sound hypothesis and certified measurement. Even if the increments are centuries. 🙂

Shiller praises Piketty’s contribution to a debate – and responds

Thomas Piketty’s impressive and much-discussed book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has brought considerable attention to the problem of rising economic inequality. But it is not strong on solutions. As Piketty admits, his proposal – a progressive global tax on capital (or wealth) – “would require a very high and no doubt unrealistic level of international cooperation.”

We should not be focusing on quick solutions. The really important concern for policymakers everywhere is to prevent disasters – that is, the outlier events that matter the most. And, because inequality tends to change slowly, any disaster probably lies decades in the future.

That disaster – a return to levels of inequality not seen since the late nineteenth to early twentieth century – is amply described in Piketty’s book. In this scenario, a tiny minority becomes super-rich – not, for the most part, because they are smarter or work harder than everyone else, but because fundamental economic forces capriciously redistribute incomes.

In The New Financial Order: Risk in the 21st Century, I proposed “inequality insurance” as a way to avert disaster. Despite the similarity of their titles, my book is very different from Piketty’s. Mine openly advocates innovative scientific finance and insurance, both private and public, to reduce inequality, by quantitatively managing all of the risks that contribute to it. And I am more optimistic about my plan to prevent disastrous inequality than Piketty is about his.

Inequality insurance would require governments to establish very long-term plans to make income-tax rates automatically higher for high-income people in the future if inequality worsens significantly, with no change in taxes otherwise. I called it inequality insurance because, like any insurance policy, it addresses risks beforehand. Just as one must buy fire insurance before, not after, one’s house burns down, we have to deal with the risk of inequality before it becomes much worse and creates a powerful new class of entitled rich people who use their power to consolidate their gains…

Piketty’s book makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of contemporary inequality. He has identified a serious risk to our society. Policymakers have a responsibility to implement a workable way to insure against it.

Here in America, we’re saddled with policymakers who are convinced their first responsibility is to be re-elected immediately followed by becoming a lobbyist for the corporations and other power-hungry entities they’re supposed to be keeping an eye on.

Thomas Piketty’s book and Bob Shiller’s tome complement each other well. Yes, I endorse reading both and those of you who think they can’t enjoy modern economics must only have a problem with the pleasures of learning.

Both men represent a school of thought that has never left modern investigations of political economy. Every nation’s economy is only as successful in how it treats all of us – not just the oligarchs. Retrograde examples from Reagan onward excepted of course.

Minister to repay $1.2 million he “borrowed” from charities he ran

A New York City minister who was the subject of an Associated Press investigation about misspent 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina charity funds has agreed to repay $1.2 million that he took from his congregation to buy an 18th-century farmhouse on seven acres in rural New Jersey.

The Rev. Carl Keyes and his wife, the Rev. Donna Keyes, who jointly led the Glad Tidings Tabernacle in Manhattan, signed a legal judgment Wednesday settling a probe by the New York attorney general into a series of questionable church financial transactions.

Those deals included an illegal loan the couple took from the church in 2008 to buy a house in Stockton, New Jersey, near the Delaware River, and $500,000 the church loaned to an anti-poverty charity controlled by Carl Keyes, called Aid for the World.

Some of that money, the attorney general’s office said, was used to buy the minister and his wife a BMW. According to the settlement, which was scheduled to be officially announced Thursday, other funds were used to finance family trips to California, West Virginia, Africa and Florida, where the couple’s sons went to college.

Glad Tidings former executive director, Mark Costantin, agreed to repay $482,000 he still owed Glad Tidings on $1.2 million in loans he’d taken from the church, some of which were used to pay off the mortgage on his house in Chester, New York…

Three former members of the Glad Tidings’ board agreed to pay $50,000 in penalties for neglecting their oversight duties.

The attorney general’s office began its investigation after the AP raised numerous questions about Carl Keyes and two charities he controlled, including one that had received $4.8 million in donations intended to help victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina…

Using a combination of internal documents and public records, the AP also chronicled how the church disposed of $31 million it made by selling off its historic Manhattan church in 2007. That report included detail on some of the loan transactions that were the subject of Wednesday’s settlement. After the AP began asking questions, Keyes filed eight years of tax returns for Urban Life Ministries and three years for Aid for the World.

Nice to see the Fourth Estate behaving with traditional backbone. In a craft so often dazzled and dumbed-down by reclassification as media and entertainment, commitment to ethics, functioning as a genuine watchdog is too rare.

I holler at AP folks frequently enough – mostly their editors – about politics. Always nice to witness dedication to traditional standards of journalism.