August 15

Autistic Artist Shares His World of Vibrant Colors

Autism … offers a chance for us to glimpse an awe-filled vision of the world that might otherwise pass us by. — Dr. Colin Zimbleman, from

Jeremy Sicile-Kira sees the world in vibrant colors: alluring oranges and yellows, calming purples and blues and soothing greens. And for the first time, the autistic artist is sharing that vision with the rest of us. “Color is evident in everything to me,” says Jeremy, 27, whose form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) includes the symptom of “grapheme-color synesthesia,” a neurological phenomenon that causes him to perceive letters, words and even emotions in colors. “Autism affects each person differently,” Jeremy told NBC News. “For me it means being stuck in a body that doesn’t work well and not being able to speak. It means also frankly being overwhelmed by sound and light.” Jeremy has managed to turn that aggressive assault on his senses into art – a series of abstract portraits in which he portrays people through the colors that their faces, names and personalities create for him. This month — Autism Awareness Month — his work received its first public exposure at an art show in San Diego. The use of art to help people with autism express themselves has gained momentum in recent years, and produced some notable success stories. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University whose triumph over autism was the subject of the award-winning 2010 biopic “Temple Grandin,” says art helped lead her to “a very interesting career.”

For the article from the NBC News, click here.

August 11

Hearing Aid Use is Associated with Improved Cognitive Function in Hearing-Impaired Elderly

Older persons are notoriously unwilling to use hearing aids. But a new study conducted by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) found that older adults who used a hearing aid performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those who did not use a hearing aid, despite having poorer hearing. The study was published online in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The researchers also found that cognitive function was directly related to hearing ability in participants who did not use a hearing aid. More than half of adults over age 75 have hearing loss, yet less than 15 percent of the hearing impaired use a hearing aid device. Previous studies have shown that the hearing-impaired elderly have a higher incidence of fall- and accident-related death, social isolation, and dementia than those without hearing loss. Studies have also demonstrated that hearing aid use can improve the social, functional, and emotional consequences of hearing loss. The study included 100 adults with hearing loss between the ages of 80 and 99. Hearing aid users, who had worse hearing than non-users, performed significantly (1.9 points) better on tests of cognitive and motor functioning. Among non-users, participants with more hearing loss also had lower MMSE scores than those with greater hearing levels.

For the article from EurekAlert, click here.

August 8

How City Design Is Adapting to Older Populations

As cities experience a demographic shift, the need for age-friendly design is becoming ever more critical. From almshouses to driverless cars, the future of urban housing and mobility may just be shaped for and by the elderly. As we age, our housing, transport and social needs change. By preparing for this, policymakers, town planners and architects can make it more likely that older populations can still lead fulfilling lives. The global engineering firm Arup has looked at how authorities are responding to this demographic shift. Stefano Recalcati, project leader behind the firm’s report Shaping Ageing Cities, explains that cities must adjust if older people are to maintain quality of life: “It’s important to be conscious of the ageing trend. It is a huge challenge for world cities – they will need to change, to make sure older people continue to play an active role in the community and don’t become isolated. Isolation has a negative impact on health so tackling that is really important.” “Small innovations can make a difference,” Recalcati adds. “Older people are less likely to drive, favoring public transport and walking. The average person over 65 manages a walking speed of 3km [1.9 miles] / hour. At 80 that goes down to 2km [1.2 miles]/hour, compared with the average for a working age person of 4.8km [2.9 miles]/hour. Reducing the distance between transport stops, shops, benches, trees for shade, public toilets and improving pavements and allowing more time to cross the road all encourage older people to go out.” In the UK, the government has just announced the building of 10 new towns designed to address ageing and health issues such as obesity. As well as encouraging more active lifestyles, the designs could include wider pavements, few trip hazards and moving LCD signs, making the streets easier to navigate for people with dementia and other age-related conditions.

For the article from The Guardian, click here.

August 4

The Dangers of Polypharmacy

Dr. Caleb Alexander knows how easily older people can fall into so-called polypharmacy. Perhaps a patient, like most seniors, sees several specialists who write or renew prescriptions.

“A cardiologist puts someone on good, evidence-based medications for his heart,” said Dr. Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. “An endocrinologist does the same for his bones.” And let’s say the patient, like many older adults, also uses an over-the-counter reflux drug and takes a daily aspirin or a zinc supplement and fish oil capsules. Geriatricians and researchers have warned for years about the potential hazards of polypharmacy, usually defined as taking five or more drugs concurrently. Yet it continues to rise in all age groups, reaching disturbingly high levels among older adults. Tracking prescription drug use from 1999 to 2012 through a large national survey, Harvard researchers reported in November that 39 percent of those over age 65 now use five or more medications — a 70 percent increase in polypharmacy over 12 years. Lots of factors probably contributed, including the introduction of Medicare Part D drug coverage in 2006 and treatment guidelines that (controversially) call for greater use of statins. But older people don’t take just prescription drugs. An article published in JAMA Internal Medicine, using a longitudinal national survey of people 62 to 85, may have revealed the fuller picture. More than a third were taking at least five prescription medications, and almost two-thirds were using dietary supplements, including herbs and vitamins. Nearly 40 percent took over-the-counter drugs.

For the article from the New York Times, click here.

August 1

Administration Says New Rules For Medicaid Plans Will Improve Service For Enrollees

The Obama administration tightened rules for private insurance plans that administer most Medicaid benefits for the poor, limiting profits, easing enrollment and requiring minimum levels of participating doctors. For consumers the most visible change may eventually be quality ratings intended to reflect Medicaid plans’ health results and customer experiences. The administration agreed to move slowly on such a sensitive industry issue, saying it would develop the scores over several years. But the sweeping regulation, the biggest for Medicaid managed care in a decade, changes many aspects of how UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and other large contractors who administer care for some of the most vulnerable patients do business.

For the article from Kaiser Health News, click here.

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