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Category Archives: Aging

Japan Births at New Low as Population Shrinks and Ages

Mari Yamaguchi wrote . . . . . . . . .

The number of babies born in Japan this year is below last year’s record low in what the the top government spokesman described as a “critical situation.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno promised comprehensive measures to encourage more marriages and births.

The total of 599,636 Japanese born in January-September was 4.9% below last year’s figure, suggesting the number of births in all of 2022 might fall below last year’s record low of 811,000 babies, he said.

Japan is the world’s third biggest economy but living costs are high and wage increases have been slow. The conservative government has lagged on making society more inclusive for children, women and minorities.

So far, the government’s efforts to encourage people to have more babies have had limited impact despite payments of subsidies for pregnancy, childbirth and child care.

“The pace is even slower than last year … I understand that it is a critical situation,” Matsuno said.

Many younger Japanese have balked at marrying or having families, discouraged by bleak job prospects, onerous commutes and corporate cultures incompatible with having both parents work.

The number of births has been falling since 1973, when it peaked at about 2.1 million. It’s projected to fall to 740,000 in 2040.

Japan’s population of more than 125 million has been declining for 14 years and is projected to fall to 86.7 million by 2060. A shrinking and aging population has huge implications for the economy and for national security as the country fortifies its military to counter China’s increasingly assertive territorial ambitions.

A government-commissioned panel submitted a report to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week citing the low birth rate and falling population as factors that might erode Japan’s national strength.

Source : AP

Chart: The World’s Aging Societies

Source : Statista

Robots Move into Hong Kong Care Homes, Cleaning Up, Playing Mahjong with Residents

Oscar Liu wrote . . . . . . . . .

Usually used for video chats and playing music, they were tracked down to the bedside of some residents.

“It turned out the residents had ‘summoned’ them to play mahjong,” said Lim Long-hei, founder and chief executive officer of Robocore, the Hong Kong distributor of Israeli-made Temi robots.

Although the squat 100cm machines were not programmed to play games, the residents had found a way to download mahjong onto them.

The home ended up buying 10 more robots to not only help with repetitive tasks, but also entertain residents, he said.

As robots have become increasingly common at Hong Kong shopping centres and MTR stations and during the Covid-19 pandemic, care homes have found them to be useful assistants for disinfecting the premises, recording residents’ temperatures and connecting them with family members.

Lim’s company, set up in 2019, is one of the main suppliers of robots to the homes. It sold about 500 robots in 2019 and 2020, and twice as many since last year, with the latest model priced at HK$79,800 (US$10,165).

Robotic solutions are designed to perform tasks that are repetitive, time consuming and even dangerous. Artificial intelligence drives what robots can do, and more functions may be added by using various applications.

For example, Lim’s team developed a smell-sensing app to detect the odor of faeces and urine, alerting staff of the home to change diapers or bedsheets.

Temi robots are among the innovations featured at this year’s four-day International ICT Expo which was opened on Thursday by Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry Sun Dong.

Organised by the Trade Development Council, it features more than 1,100 exhibitors, including the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, showcasing the use of information and communication technology for “smart city” innovations such as those used to improve search and rescue operations and the safety of hikers.

Lim said public and private hospitals were using robots in isolation wards to record patients’ vital signs such as blood pressure and oxygen levels.

“Doctors can then speak to patients remotely, reducing infection risks,” he added.

He said more homes for the elderly had begun buying robots since the Social Welfare Department extended its innovation and technology fund in September to include NGOs and private organisations that received subsidies.

The fund was set up in December 2018 to help eligible elderly and rehabilitation services buy, rent and try out tech products that improved their services and eased the burden on staff and carers.

Among the groups that began using robots during the pandemic was the Asia Women’s League, which bought robots for its three elderly homes.

A spokeswoman said they were used mainly for video calls between residents and their families when visitors were not allowed.

“Residents could speak with their loved ones via video without physically moving around,” she said. “They sometimes also sing along to the music the robots play.”

Dignity Kitchen, a social enterprise which runs a restaurant in Mong Kok serving Singaporean food such as Hainanese chicken rice and bak kut teh (pork bone tea), bought robots in April last year that allow 10 employees with physically disabilities to work from home.

Training administrator Nicholas Lai Chi-lok, said: “We trained them to control the robot at home so that they can see what happens in the restaurant, and engage customers by recommending signature dishes and taking orders.”

Source : SCMP

Bathing Services for Seniors Gain Popularity in Aging China

Li Xin wrote . . . . . . . . .

Bathing services targeting the older demographic are picking up steam in China, as the country’s rising aging population seeks convenient means to keep on top of their personal hygiene.

Searches for keywords related to “elderly baths” saw a significant uptick in 2021, as reported by Blue Heath, a media outlet specializing in health care, citing data from service platform Meituan. Searches for “elderly bathing assistance” jumped 808%, while orders for “elderly bathing” increased by 1,450% that year.

Official data shows that 264 million Chinese are aged 60 and above, and nearly 42 million lived with different forms of disability as of 2020, according to the Chinese National Committee on Aging. Lack of access to regular and safe baths has left many elderly people suffering from personal hygiene issues, as well as being susceptible to risks including injuries from falls that could potentially exacerbate their pre-existing ailments.

First popularized in Japan, which also has a large older demographic, bath visits are a nursing care service whereby caregivers and nurses give professional bathing services in patients’ homes. In China, the service is gradually getting attention, though there isn’t specific data on the number of such centers across the country.

Zhao Rong started a bathing service company for older people in the northern city of Tianjin after working in a similar sector in Japan for five years. His company provides both bathhouse and home-visit services, with the latter costing up to about 500 yuan ($70).

“We had to explain our services to our clients when they first launched last year,” Zhao told Sixth Tone, adding his company has since served 100 clients and delivered 400 various services. “Also, service listing platforms like Meituan are having trouble tagging my store when we try to list the service on the app. But people are becoming increasingly familiar with the service now.”

Zhao’s company, which primarily targets older people, is also shifting its demographic to include younger people with disabilities. But there aren’t clear national guidelines on bath visit services and usually work through the support of local neighborhood committees — this means there is a lack of regulatory standards and insurance coverage, leading to risks for caregivers in the event of accidents.

“None of the 20 insurance companies we consulted provided insurance for elderly bathing services because they said there were so many uncertainties in providing the services,” Zhao said. “We managed to purchase insurance for older people who are visiting the bath house, which is registered as a elderly care center. The compilation of corresponding regulatory standards could take several years.”

Source : Sixth Tone

Brain Secrets of the Super-Sharp ‘Super-Agers’

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Researchers have discovered another clue as to how some older people stay sharp as a tack into their 80s and beyond: Their brain cells are really big.

The study focused on what scientists have dubbed “super-agers” — a select group of elderly adults who have the memory skills of people decades younger.

The researchers found that in a memory-related area of the brain, super-agers had larger neurons than elderly adults with average brain power — and even in comparison to people 30 years their junior.

What’s more, those big brain cells were relatively free of “tau tangles,” one of the key markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

Tau is a protein that, in healthy brain cells, helps stabilize the internal scaffolding. But abnormal versions of tau — ones that cling to other tau proteins — can develop as well.

In people with Alzheimer’s, the brain is marked by a large accumulation of those tau tangles, as well as “plaques” — clumps of another protein called amyloid.

Researchers at Northwestern University, in Chicago, have been studying super-agers for years. In previous work the investigators found that those unusually sharp seniors are similar to their cognitively average peers when it comes to amyloid plaques: Both groups have comparable amounts in their brains.

Where they differ is in tau buildup. Super-agers have far fewer tau tangles in a memory-related area of the brain called the entorhinal cortex.

The new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, adds to that picture. Super-agers also have larger neurons (nerve cells) in the entorhinal cortex.

“The study of super-aging establishes the principle that dementia is not inevitable — that withstanding ‘abnormal aging’ is possible,” said lead researcher Tamar Gefen. She is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

It also highlights the link between tau accumulation and the dementia process, Gefen said. Historically, amyloid plaques have gotten most of the attention, she noted — with drug development mainly aimed at reducing amyloid plaques in the brain.

Now, Gefen said, “it’s generally accepted among the scientific community that amyloid is not the only culprit. There are several targets, amyloid and tau included, that need to be considered in the fight against Alzheimer’s pathology.”

Based on the new findings, she said, her team suspects that tau tangles may cause neurons to shrink.

There are many unknowns about super-agers — including how many are out there, and why their brains resist age-related decline. It’s likely a mix of good genes and lifestyle factors, and Gefen said the super-ager study is trying to figure what, exactly, those factors might be.

Understanding why some seniors cognitively thrive into their 80s, 90s and beyond will also help researchers understand why so many others develop dementia.

“In order to more fully understand dementia risk, it is important for researchers to examine both sides of the coin,” said Claire Sexton, senior director of scientific programs and initiatives at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“In those people found to be consistently more resistant, what can we learn from them to help others reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s or other dementia?” said Sexton, who was not involved in the study.

She agreed that the new findings highlight tau as a key player.

“While much of the limelight is currently on anti-amyloid therapies for Alzheimer’s,” Sexton said, “these new findings align with a growing focus on the role of tau in neurodegenerative disease.”

Sexton noted that the Alzheimer’s Association is funding a number of studies developing experimental anti-tau therapies. And earlier this year, researchers launched the first trial to test a combination of drugs targeting both amyloid and tau.

The current findings are based on autopsied brain tissue from six elderly adults who’d participated in the super-ager study before their deaths and agreed to donate their brains for research. Their tissue samples were compared against donated brain tissue from seven “cognitively average” seniors, five elderly adults with early-stage dementia, and six healthy adults 20 to 30 years younger.

Overall, Gefen’s team found, super-agers had larger neurons, with far less tau, in the entorhinal cortex, versus both groups of older adults.

Surprisingly, their neurons were even larger than the younger group’s — some of whom were only in their 40s, Gefen noted.

It’s not clear why. But, Gefen said, it’s possible that super-agers are equipped with those larger neurons at birth.

She speculated that the super-size neurons may “harbor features,” as yet unknown, that help them resist tau-tangle formation. Resistance to tau, in turn, might protect the neurons from shrinking.

Source: HealthDay

China to Offer Tax Concessions for Private Pension Schemes

China will offer tax concessions for private pension schemes that enjoy policy support and are run commercially to meet people’s diverse needs, according to the decision made at the State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Sept 26.

The meeting noted that the development of policy-supported and commercially-operated private pension is a useful complement to the basic old-age insurance scheme, and can better meet people’s diverse needs and enhance social security safeguards.

The meeting decided that personal income tax concessions will be made available for those participating in policy-supported and commercially-operated private pension schemes: participants will be entitled to a contribution deduction of up to 12,000 yuan (about $1,687.6) each year from their annual taxable income.

No tax will be levied on investment yields for the time being. The actual tax burden for receiving pension benefits will be lowered from the previous 7.5 percent to 3 percent. This policy will be applied retroactively to January 1 this year.

“The policy support we introduced this time will deliver sizable benefits. In the process of implementation, we need to gradually fine-tune the policies and sum up experience before applying such policies more broadly,” Premier Li said.

The meeting also decided to temporarily defer payments of certain government-levied charges and deposits to further ease the burden on market entities and help them overcome difficulties.

“Market entities, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, self-employed households and manufacturing firms now face considerable difficulties. Postponing the collection of government-levied charges and deposits is an important step to support market players. All policies must be delivered on the ground without delay,” Premier Li said.

The meeting rolled out an additional set of fee deferral policies for the fourth quarter. Payments of 14 government-levied charges, including farmland reclamation fee and sewage and household waste disposal fee, amounting to over 53 billion yuan, will be deferred without overdue fines.

Localities will be encouraged to postpone the collection of sub-national government-levied charges on enterprises, and arbitrary charges will be strictly prohibited.

Payments of project quality deposits of various kinds, amounting to about 63 billion yuan, will be deferred. Due responsibilities must be fulfilled, and promises delivered with concrete actions to ensure that market entities truly benefit from the policies.

“Relevant institutions and mechanisms of charge levying should be refined to foster a world-class and market-oriented business environment governed by a sound legal framework,” Premier Li said.

The meeting also decided on measures to make more government services inter-provincially accessible to further unlock market vitality and bring greater convenience to the people.

On top of the 187 government services already inter-provincially accessible, additional 22 high-demand items that affect a wide range of sectors will be added to the list to address the pressing concerns of households and businesses.

Inter-agency information sharing will be enhanced and operational standards aligned to make more inter-provincial services available online and processed on a one-stop basis. The needs of senior citizens for in-person services will also be well met. Personal privacy and trade secrets will be protected pursuant to law.

Source : The State Council

Regular Weightlifting Could Lengthen Your Life

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

Combining weightlifting with aerobic exercise can significantly lower your odds dying early, especially from heart disease, new research shows.

Depending how much weightlifting they did, older adults reduced their risk of premature death by between 9% and 22%, the study found. Moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise lowered the risk by 24% to 34%. The lowest risk, however, was seen among those who did both types of exercise.

“Current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend participation in both aerobic physical activity and muscle strengthening exercise, like weightlifting,” said lead researcher Jessica Gorzelitz, of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

These results show that weightlifting is uniquely linked with lower rates of premature death and doing both offers even greater protection, she said.

“Thus, adding weightlifting to your physical activity routine, even for those who are aerobically active, is important for better health and longevity,” Gorzelitz said.

The study doesn’t prove that weightlifting reduces the risk of death, only that there appears to be a link. Weightlifting, however, can make the body leaner, which may explain the association, the researchers said.

“We know that muscle strengthening exercise is associated with a wide range of health benefits, which include increased strength and better physical function,” Gorzelitz said. “We are still learning about the metabolic effects of weightlifting on bodily systems that may affect [death rates], but we do know that this type of exercise can have a beneficial effect on body composition and other metabolic risk factors, such as blood pressure, inflammation markers and even blood cholesterol.”

For the study, data was collected on nearly 100,000 men and women who were part of a screening trial for prostate, lung, colon and ovarian cancers. Their average age was 71 at the trial’s start. Over nearly 10 years of follow-up, more than 28,400 participants died.

Participants were asked about how much moderate and vigorous physical activity they did. Both forms of activity work up a sweat, but vigorous activity increases breathing and heart rate to high levels. Moderate activity brings smaller increases.

In all, 23% of participants did some weightlifting, and 16% exercised with weights one to six times a week.

A third said they also got aerobic exercise. Twenty-four percent got in the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise and 8% exceeded that benchmark.

Gorzelitz’s team found that exercising with weights and aerobics was independently associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, as well as from heart disease, but not from cancer.

For example, the risk of death was 41% to 47% lower among people who met the recommended weekly activity levels and exercised with weights once or twice a week, compared with those who didn’t exercise. This link was stronger among women, researchers said.

If you don’t lift weights or do other muscle-strengthening exercises, such as calisthenics, pushups and squats, Pilates and plyometric exercises such as tuck jumps and burpees may be a good substitute.

“Our results suggest that some weightlifting is better than none, and it’s OK to get started slowly and progress as strength and confidence increase,” Gorzelitz said.

It is important, she said, to work all the major muscle groups — legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. Adults, including older adults, should do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups two or more days a week.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, interim chief of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, reviewed the findings.

“Much of the focus of the cardiovascular health benefits of physical activity has centered on aerobic activity, including duration and intensity,” he noted. “Muscle strengthening exercise has become a more recent focus and is now included in recommendations for adults for overall health.”

Fonarow said the findings of this study offer further support for current exercise recommendations.

The findings were published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Source: HealthDay

Chart: The Best Countries To Grow Old In

Source : Statista

Video: 天黑得很慢

Words of Wisdom for Persons 60 Years Old and Older

Watch video at You Tube (4:00 minutes) . . . .

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on the Secrets to Aging Gracefully

Mikael Wood wrote . . . . . . . . .

Robert Plant picked up the phone at his home in western England and offered a detailed weather report as he peered through a picture window in a sitting room.

“It’s a beautiful evening here,” said the 73-year-old singer best known as the golden-god frontman of Led Zeppelin. “That said, in the U.K. we’re unaccustomed to 38 degrees Celsius” — about 100 degrees Fahrenheit — “which is what’s been going on today. There’s a major panic around the country with the water supplies.

“So: lovely, but also a little ominous.”

The description isn’t a bad one for the music Plant makes with Alison Krauss, the veteran bluegrass singer and fiddler he met nearly 20 years ago when they sang together as part of a Lead Belly tribute concert. In 2007, the two teamed with producer T Bone Burnett for an album, “Raising Sand,” which showcased their haunting vocal interplay in lushly arranged roots-music renditions of old songs by Gene Clark, Allen Toussaint, Townes Van Zandt and the Everly Brothers. Commercially speaking, the LP was hardly a sure thing (though Burnett had recently overseen the smash soundtrack for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”); nevertheless, “Raising Sand” went on to sell more than a million copies and win six Grammy Awards, including album and record of the year.

Now, Plant and Krauss, who’s 51, are on the road behind a long-awaited follow-up, “Raise the Roof,” which came out late last year — inside the eligibility window for the upcoming 65th Grammys — yet sounds like it could’ve been made just weeks after its predecessor. Produced again by Burnett, who assembled a top-flight band including guitarists Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot and drummer Jay Bellerose, the gorgeously spooky “Raise the Roof” features more tunes by Toussaint and the Everlys along with oldies by Bert Jansch, Anne Briggs and Merle Haggard; it also has an original by Plant and Burnett, “High and Lonesome,” and opens with a relatively new song in “Quattro (World Drifts In)” by the Arizona-based indie-rock band Calexico.

Krauss, who recently lent her vocals to Def Leppard’s latest album, joined Plant on the call from Nashville ahead of the duo’s Thursday night show at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

How would you describe your relationship beyond the music?

Krauss: We’re happily incompatible.

Plant: That’s probably right. I do still like you, though.

Krauss: I still like you too!

Plant: We’re not Dale & Grace or Sonny & Cher, but we’ve definitely got something going on. We’ve got two totally different lives running. Alison’s a lot more private than I am. I’m out in the flood. I’ve lived where I’ve always lived.

You’ve both been singing for decades. Talk about how you take care of your voices.

Plant: I don’t. I just go out and sing. I know a guy from a famous band that Alison’s quite friendly with — he’s gonna pour some sugar on me or something — who creates a complete hullabaloo backstage. I was back there one time and he was making such a bloody noise. I said, “Why are you doing that?” He said, “I’m warming up.” I said, “Well, you won’t have anything left by the time you get there.”

A voice changes over time.

Plant: I know that the full, open-throated falsetto that I was able to concoct in 1968 carried me through until I was tired of it. Then that sort of exaggerated personality of vocal performance morphed and went somewhere else. But as a matter of fact, I was playing in Reykjavík, in Iceland, about three years ago, just before COVID. It was Midsummer Night and there was a festival, and I got my band and I said, “OK, let’s do ‘Immigrant Song.’” They’d never done it before. We just hit it, and bang — there it was. I thought, “Oh, I didn’t think I could still do that.”

Plenty of fans would love to hear you do it with Led Zeppelin.

Plant: Going back to the font to get some kind of massive applause — it doesn’t really satisfy my need to be stimulated.

Does that make you feel like an outlier among your classic-rock peers?

Plant: I know there are people from my generation who don’t want to stay home and so they go out and play. If they’re enjoying it and doing what they need to do to pass the days, then that’s their business, really.

You and Alison recorded your two albums at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios, and you returned there for an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Why always work in Nashville and not in England?

Plant: I’ve been making records and traveling through America since 1966, and we just don’t have the flexibility that American players do. The culture here and the schooling — English players haven’t been exposed to the wide variety of music forms that are in the States. If Allen Toussaint were around and it was another time, maybe we would have gone to New Orleans and tried to pick up on where he was going with Betty Harris and people like that. But in the U.K. we don’t have that lineage of music — of telling a musical story.

Krauss: I love Fairport Convention and skiffle and all the things that came from that. I appreciate the land that it came from. And the rock ’n’ roll singers that come out of that area of the world — Paul Rodgers and Frankie Miller — they always reminded me of the Ralph Stanley kind of singers. There was always a link for me between the way they sounded and what I would see in my head when they sang.

What’s the link?

Plant: To my mind, with the guys from the northeast of England — Paul and Frankie and Eric Burdon and Joe Cocker — it was all about the blue notes, same as the Stanley Brothers. It’s that flattened third in the scales, which ultimately leads back toward Bert Jansch and Davey Graham — a sort of British transposing of the folk music that was present before the Industrial Revolution and made its way across to Kentucky and West Virginia. Many of the songs we do are blueprinted on both sides of the Atlantic.

Is the point of Plant & Krauss to delineate those historical through lines?

Plant: It’s not just a historical monument, though. What’s the album by Rod Stewart? “The Great American Songbook”? I mean, “Come Fly With Me” is fine. But the guys from Calexico, they’re giving us the new American songbook. Their records “Feast of Wire” and “Garden Ruin,” they’re echoing the circumstances in contemporary America. I have a little blue book that I carry with me everywhere and continue to add songs — threads for the future, if you like — because with access to music now, you’re hearing new stuff all the time.

Which kind of encourages an ahistorical perspective, right? It’s so easy to hear something without understanding what it was building on.

Krauss: But isn’t that part of it? You don’t know why you love something — you just love it. It seems very natural and innocent.

T Bone Burnett recently introduced a new audio format that he says represents the “pinnacle of recorded sound.” Is high fidelity particularly important to the two of you?

Plant: Eh. I prefer something that crackles and bangs. I don’t mind if it sounds like it had a better time earlier in its life. I just want to hear what the musicians and the engineer and the producer at the time were going for. I’m sitting here looking at all these records I got from these record stores in Oslo when Alison and I were playing in Scandinavia last month — fantastic compilations of Muscle Shoals country-funk, stuff by Gregg Allman, some of Cher’s early recordings when she got down there. Remember when Otis Redding was a driver for that session with whoever it was, and everybody went to lunch and he got up and sang, and suddenly we had a new voice on the planet? For me as a listener, I just want to hear the spirit.

Last thing: Don Everly died last year, which means very few of early rock’s pioneers are still living. Obviously their music lives on, but what does it mean when the actual people are gone?

Plant: It’s tough, isn’t it? Great players remain, but maybe it’s a different kind of romance that we’re left with now.

Krauss: We recently lost [the bluegrass guitarist] Tony Rice, who was a huge influence, and I couldn’t believe how hard that hit me for so many reasons. Those people that made you who you are — when they go, they take some of you with them.

Plant: That’s exactly right. I remember when Bo Diddley passed, I was on a bus somewhere with Buddy Miller. It came on the radio and it was like the whole bus just slumped. I mean, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry — they’re part of your DNA, you know? As British kids, we spent our adolescence just furiously ruining their songs.

Source : Los Angeles Times