Health issues often seem like a fact of life, particularly as you get older.Health conditions common in older people include high blood pressure or diabetes. Here are some issues to be aware of and the options available for coping with them.
As you age, it is common to develop issues with your hearing. However, it’s worth noting that these days, hearing issues are becoming a lot more common and developing far earlier than they used to. For instance, you might find that you struggle with hearing problems because you listened to a personal listening device when you were younger. Research shows that such devices like this can negatively impact your hearing. Loud noises can also cause sudden or permanent hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss is painless and usually happens over time. Symptoms of hearing loss are increased concentration, muffled sounds, and avoidance of social events. Without treatment, hearing loss will get gradually worse over time.
Chronic pain is a common, complex, and distressing problem that has a profound impact on society and individuals. It is now a concern in developed countries due to lifestyle choices and work environments. One of the most common forms of chronic pain is repetitive strain injury, also known as RSI and repetitive motion disorder. It is a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves, and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Companies and corporations can provide ergonomic furniture options, such as standing desks, laptop stands, and monitor stands, that could provide a tremendous benefit to employee health and wellness.
Obesity is becoming more of a problem for every population and every country. The reason for this is simple. The majority of people are not getting the right diet that their body needs to stay at a healthy weight. Even communities have bought into the myth that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food, regardless of evidence. While chia-seed smoothies are expensive luxury food; basic nourishment like carrots, lentils, potatoes is cheap. There are also socio-economic factors (income, education, employment, community safety, and social supports) at play that affect our ability to make healthy choices. For instance, people on low incomes are more likely to buy calorie-dense foods instead of fruit or vegetables because they are more filling.
This is part of a series about aging in the twenty-first century.
The world of healthcare has changed enormously in the past few years. Many people are now prioritizing their health and wellness, from using exercise apps and wearable technology to raising awareness about specific health conditions. As the healthcare sector continues to evolve in so many different ways, health professionals must understand these crucial changes for continued effective treatment and all-around healthy living.
There are so many things at the moment that are impacting global healthcare, in both positive and negative ways. And the more health professionals can do to improve this, the better it will be moving forward. Here are just a few ideas to impact the healthcare landscape.
Technology In Healthcare
The healthcare industry is constantly changing and evolving with new technologies, practices, and innovations. Technological advancements, in particular, and illness trends all have an impact on w help improve the way patients are cared for, treatments are delivered, and hospitals are run. From policy to patients and everything in-between, technology plays such a major role in the future of healthcare. For instance, robot technology caring for the aging population is on the rise, and this is something that looks set to increase in the coming years, especially as technology grows rapidly.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the healthcare industry. It has led to many problems with patients getting ill and hospitals becoming overwhelmed. Though in some areas, the number of cases does seem to have reduced. But we are still amid a pandemic, and it could be a long while before the world returns to a degree of normalcy. The strain of COVID-19 on healthcare systems around the world should not be overestimated, and this is something that looks set to change the way a lot of countries run and operate their healthcare systems.
More Essential Healthcare
There is now a greater emphasis on essential healthcare, and one change in recent times includes the important elements of running a successful and fully operation hospital or doctor surgery. For instance, companies like Premier Anesthesia have played a major role in helping with this moving forward. For over nineteen years, Premier Anesthesia has carefully and intentionally developed hospital-based anesthesia practices.
There are a lot of ideas that play a massive part in essential healthcare, and it is vitally important for health professionals to come up with ideas that can play a role in delivering care and enabling health. Health professionals can continually improve their understanding of how the healthcare process works. With change comes the opportunity to play a crucial role in finding ways that can impact the world of healthcare.
This is part of a series about aging in the twenty-first century.
Gray divorce is a phenomenon going on all over the world right now, yet many individuals have never heard of it before. Gray divorce is when someone over the age of 50 gets divorced. Data shows that 25 percent of divorces that occurred in 2010 were gray divorces. Researchers must become aware of gray divorce because it has different effects than divorce earlier in life. The impact of gray divorce affects not only the individual but the family system as well. Therefore, it is important to look at the reasons why some couples who are 50 years of age and over may decide to get a divorce.
A study reported some of the reasons for gray divorce and found that the onset of an empty nest, retirement, or chronic illnesses was not related to gray divorce. Instead, they found that the reasons for this phenomenon are very similar to that of younger divorce. Some of the reasons are marital quality, marital duration, homeownership, and wealth. Couples who are socially and economically disadvantaged are more likely to go through a gray divorce. If an older couple is socially or economically disadvantaged, or if they are just afraid of a gray divorce, they can work to avoid it. Some practices that they could put into place could be working on communication, spending time bonding together, and keeping their marriage a focus even while there are still children in the home. Another part of strengthening marriage to avoid gray divorce is to understand the models of marriage and divorce.
There are two models of marriage in today’s world. The first is called the Expressive Individualistic Model. This model states that couples only value their marriage if it helps them grow personally and achieves their individual goals. A study found that under this model, individuals would consider gray divorce if they felt that their expressive individualistic goals were not being achieved or if they have experienced long periods of unhappiness with their partners. On the other hand, some couples fall under the Commitment-Based Model of marriage. This model says that binding and romantic love will hold couples together unless there is a severe strain on the relationship. Couples who fit into this model tended to experience gray divorce when they were experiencing severe relationship strain. These strains can happen in any marriage, and some examples of them are flawed reasoning to initially marry, physical/emotional abuse, or communication problems. Some other challenges that could lead to divorce are lack of emotional mutuality, affairs, and alternative relationships. A couple can get divorced for many of the reasons that have been discussed. Once a couple gets divorced, their life can change dramatically.
Adults who go through gray divorces face many new challenges, including deciding to date again and finding a new partner. The reasons include economic factors, health, and social ties. 22 percent of women and 37 percent of men re-partnered within ten years of gray divorce. Re-partnering could mean being remarried or cohabitating. Re-partnering through cohabiting occurred more than remarriage, especially for men. The rate of divorce is 2.5 times higher for those that have been remarried.
More research needs to be complete on the gray divorce. Even though there is still not much research out there yet, gray divorce is an important topic to study so that individuals can better understand an event that could happen in their own life or how to support others around them who may go through a gray divorce.
Logan Nuttall is a senior at Brigham Young University. Connect with Logan via email.
We are all aware of the importance of looking after our physical health as we age – taking regular exercise, supplementing our diets, taking the time to book the medical appointments that we need. We know that taking care of our health is the key to feeling good and looking good as we get older.
What’s less discussed is how to protect our mental health through the aging process. Some organizations have found that one in five older people experience poor mental health or depression – rising to two in five for those elders living in care homes. It’s vital to be able to take proactive steps in guarding our mental health as we age.
Facing Issues Head-On
Too often, we sweep the mental challenges that come with aging under the rug or dismiss them as something ‘everyone goes through.’ That attitude can be dangerous. Issues such as age discrimination, personal relationships, the impact of physical health issues, financial problems, and lack of fulfilling daily routines can affect how we age. If we try to minimize these issues, they can lead to worsening mental health and related problems such as alcohol and substance abuse. If you experience this or you know someone who is, getting the right support in place is vital – organizations such as Enterhealth Ranch Addiction Treatment, can help. Check them out!https://enterhealth.com/outpatient-ocoe/
Aging can involve a lot of changes, so learning how to be comfortable with change is something that can support older people. Issues such as dealing with retirement, setting a purposeful existence and daily routine, being assured of financial security, and being able to cope with altering health circumstances, new physical limitations, or changes in appearance are vital. Older people can often benefit from keeping an open mind on therapies, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which can support keeping an open mind and reframing your thinking.
Having someone to talk to can make a huge difference. A close friend, a trusted family member, even visiting a professional counseling service if you need it – can all make a significant difference in how you feel. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. Managing difficulties and getting the input of other perspectives can help us to make sense of the challenges we encounter as we age, see new solutions, and feel less alone.
Make A Plan
Having a plan for what lies ahead with aging can make the process manageable. Things to consider include events like retirement – and what comes after – staying active, overcoming mobility issues, retaining independence, dealing with loss and grief, access to the right facilities, and maintaining a social life as they are frequently areas that cause troubles in older age. Plan for your time and plan positive things to focus on and do. Life is what you make it, so if you approach the aging process well-informed and proactive, it’s likely to be a lot smoother.
Many people have different thoughts on ageing and what it means to them. While all of us have the same number of hours in a day and the same number of days in a year, what we choose to do with that time, and how we relate to it can be vastly different. For instance, there are huge industries that are supported by offering the antidote to ageing’s effects, for instance, how we may grow wrinkles or lose the color of our hair.
Of course, some people decide to take part in cosmetic surgery or other practices to help them look and feel younger, and that’s for every individual to decide. But how can we more easily redefine our style as we age, and what universal principles are worth knowing as you move into middle age and beyond? While it’s hard to give strict advice to apply to everyone, there are some worthwhile considerations we can make that aren’t necessarily platitudes or moral judgments in any way, shape, or form.
Let us consider what those are, and the value they might hold:
New accessories can make a major difference in how you tailor your outfit and how you can present yourself to the world. Accessories can become ephemeral additions to your outfit or perhaps long-standing sentimental pieces you love to wear. Sometimes, they can even look great and serve a real purpose, such as getting frames from eyeglasses.com
As you age, your taste in accessories may change. Perhaps you’ll love to wear more or less jewelry but invest in better items. Perhaps you’ll have jewelry crafted to celebrate milestones in your life. Maybe an investment in a watch you know will last a decade is an important gift to yourself. Don’t be afraid to tailor your accessory collection, as this can be great fun.
Color Tones & Shifts
The color tones and shifts in your outfits can be lovely to consider, particularly if you begin to stop dying your hair or if you wish to move into deeper, more confident, nobler, and dignified tones. For instance, in the autumn, deep maroons, crimsons, browns, and ochres can be worn to help elevate an outfit. It can make a nice change to switch up your color palette as you move into your wiser years, helping you bring a theme to your inward growth.
A fantastic investment can serve as a reward to yourself. However, you may wish to invest in a beautiful tattoo or maybe investing in better grooming and skincare for mental health and self-care. Little pampering sessions can help you feel rejuvenated no matter how much you work all week. All this adds to how fresh and confident you feel, which, in turn, helps you feel much better in your skin.
Taking Inspiration & Setting It
Taking inspiration and setting it is a good means of staying motivated to remain stylish and to enjoy fashion and what that means to you. It might be that opening an Instagram account and following some of your style icons can help you feel inspired to put certain outfits together. Maybe you can take a few photos of your outfit of the day, and more. Feeling as if you can share, join the conversation, and listen to others gives you a sense of connection. That helps you feel as if people are with you, and that style is something to be shared, not just ruminated over.
It can also feel quite nice to get compliments or to wear something you are proud of and glad to own. In these times, perhaps going out and showing our outfits isn’t as wise as it once was, and so this can give you that social sense of style-setting that you can appreciate yourself and with others.
To conclude, it is critical to understand that age is no barrier to style, and if anything, it just opens up an array of alternate, wonderful options. If you choose what makes you happy and ensure that your clothes fit well, and do not worry about yourself changing with the years (everyone does), you will no doubt look classier, more beautiful, and more approachable than you ever have before.
Name: Dr. Sarab Sodhi Job: Emergency Physician, Bioethicist, Ultrasonographer Country: United States and India Age: 31
A currently practicing Emergency Physician and Ultrasound Faculty Member at Cooper University Hospital, Dr. Sarab Sodhi trained in medicine and bioethics at Temple University School of Medicine, after an undergraduate biochemistry and philosophy degree at Albright College. He did his residency and fellowship training at Cooper Hospital, where he stayed on as faculty, with a concurrent appointment as the director of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University’s Undergraduate Ultrasound Program – a program that he is developing currently. His passions are medical education, evidence-based medicine, undergraduate medical education, ultrasound, and bioethics. Outside of medicine, he spends his time with his wife, son, dog, and cat. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and on his website.
On his career as a physician and educator:
“I’m an emergency physician at a busy, academic, level 1 trauma center, and teaching hospital. I’m also a core ultrasound faculty, which means I spend a lot of time teaching fancy ultrasound skills to my residents and medical students. The other major hat I wear is as the director of undergraduate ultrasound for the medical school. As the director, I am designing a four-year integrated point of care ultrasound curriculum to ensure that I give students the tools they need when they have completed medical school. The goal is to help patients quicker, more accurately, and with more cost-effective care.”
On how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his work:
“COVID has led to a few changes in my work life. Like most other places in the country, we convinced everyone to stay home from the emergency department – a little too well. It means we’re seeing complications of diseases we rarely see (like cardiogenic shock from heart attacks that usually are treated rather rapidly, but as patients stay home and minimize symptoms, these once rare disease complications are becoming challenging). Shifts in full PPE are different – far more uncomfortable when wearing a head covering, eye protection, an N95, and sometimes a face shield over a lot. Many of my colleagues sport nose bandaids to prevent a breakdown from the masks as well. My medical school job has led to an increase in my meetings from home, trying to figure out when is safe for students to return, what’s the best way of restarting, etc., not to mention trying to redesign a curriculum for various approaches.”
On how he finds time for self-care:
“It has been challenging. My wife’s been working from home as well as going into the hospital (she’s an Endocrine NP) and, we have a 9-month-old baby. Juggling keeping a house moving, our dog fed and walked, our child fed and watched, and both of our work schedules have been trying- more so than before. Luckily, our daycare remained open with excellent precautions, or we’d have been completely insane. That said, I make time every day for a 30-40 minute walk with the dog and a workout on my rather bougie Peleton. We’ve also been doing masked visits with the grandparents to ensure they get to see the child when we’ve had a stretch of non-clinical time.”
On why narrative medicine important for the public:
“Physicians are often held up as caricatures of who we are – whether it’s as beyond reproach, starched white coat wearing, paragons of virtue, or as shills of big pharma and big vaccine, with the companies slipping money into our pockets. The truth is somewhere between these two vast extremes, and I believe narrative medicine and explaining the sometimes broken healers that try the best we absolutely can within our own messy lives may help give context to our patients.”
On how he combines bioethics and medicine:
“I started a bioethics degree to become a bioethicist, ivory-towered, including writing theses or debating the thorny ethical issues. Luckily, the degree I started with is a degree in urban bioethics – a distinction that focuses more so on the challenges of the social determinants of health, the obstructions to us providing our patients the best care, etc. It has led me to have a more forceful voice with our elected leaders in the swaths of letters I send them. While it helps me handle the tougher questions with some more comfort than many of my colleagues, it also tempers the decisive nature that my profession demands. The biggest skill I developed from that training is that I’ve become better at asking patients “Why” before I label them as non-compliant or non-adherent, and just sitting and listening.
I believe narrative medicine and explaining the sometimes broken healers that try the best we absolutely can within our own messy lives may help give context to our patients.
Name: Dr. Michelle Caunca Job: Epidemiologist and Fourth-Year Medical Student Country: United States Age: 29
Dr. Michelle R. Caunca is a Ph.D. in Epidemiology and Fourth-Year Medical Student in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She is a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F30) Fellow, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and sponsored by Tatjana Rundek, MD, Ph.D. and Clinton B. Wright, MD, MS. She is also supported by the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute. Her dissertation work focused on examining the relationships between regional MRI markers of brain aging and cognitive performance in a racially/ethnically diverse, urban sample using data from the Northern Manhattan Study. She received her BSc in Neurobiology with a minor in Psychology at the University of California, Irvine in 2013, graduating cum laude with Honors inBiological Sciences and Campuswide Honors. Connect with Dr. Caunca on Twitter, LinkedIn, and her website.
On her research about brain aging:
“Much of my research has focused on elucidating the relationships between cerebrovascular disease and cognitive function and decline in racially and ethnically diverse populations. I view cerebrovascular disease, and vascular disease in general, as a common pathway for many different upstream determinants of cognitive decline and dementia. These upstream determinants include comorbid health and psychosocial risk factors, but also social determinants of health.
My approach is based on a population neuroscience perspective, combining the disciplines of neuroscience with epidemiology and biostatistics to properly leverage large, epidemiologic datasets that often have high-dimensional neuroimaging data available. I have used methods that span many different disciplines, including marginal structural modeling, structural equation modeling, and machine learning. During my undergraduate career, I worked in the 90+ Study under the mentorship of Claudia H. Kawas, MD, and Maria Corrada, ScD, where I wrote my Honors thesis on amyloid PET imaging and cognitive performance in the oldest-old.
On a surprising fact about working with diverse populations:
“One fact I learned was that more translation from research to the community and population needs to be done to address racial disparities in health. My recent paper examining the effects of racial segregation on cognitive function inspired me to continue this line of work in the future. As an MD/Ph.D. trainee, I am a translation-focused scientist, and I would like to see more efforts done to reduce disparities vs. describe them. There are so many other wonderful researchers out there who are working on these very issues – I would love to be part of this movement for neuroepidemiology.”
On why she decided to pursue an MD-PhD:
“I had a wonderful mentor in college (Claudia Kawas, MD) who inspired me! She was and is my role model. I had the honor of being her undergraduate trainee, working in her epidemiology research group. I was enamored with the idea that you could treat patients one-on-one, then use those experiences to inform research questions that you could attempt to answer with data science and epidemiology. She told me I should go for the MD/Ph.D., so I did, and I’m so glad. It’s a very fun and challenging path. Therefore, role models are important! I aspire to become an academic neurologist and epidemiologist studying the vascular and social determinants of cognitive aging to translate epidemiological findings into public health and clinical practice.”
On practicing self-care in graduate school:
“I had to learn how to prioritize self-care during my MD/Ph.D. training. I honestly did not make it a priority until midway through the program during a particularly difficult period of burnout. I always advise students to be introspective and know how they best care for themselves daily – they’ll figure out how to study for medical school and the techniques needed for their lab, but often we figure out self-care, too little too late!
I love to cook and bake, so the kitchen is a very peaceful place for me. I also love hanging out with my dogs and taking care of them – I am a very embarrassing dog mom! Of course, I like to binge-watch favorite TV shows and YouTube videos, but truly I think the most crucial self-care for me is the daily stuff. Some examples include: making sure I’m cooking healthy food, walking my dogs and getting outside, good skincare/haircare, and keeping in touch with family.”
On how COVID-19 will change healthcare for older adults:
“Of course, I think it’s inevitable that our medical and research systems will be changed. I’m not an expert on infectious disease, so what I’ll say about this is my opinion. Anecdotally, I am super encouraged and excited by the rapid adoption of telehealth services. I like the idea of potentially increasing the reach of care to populations that often find it difficult to travel to see their physicians or travel to university centers for research sessions. This population includes our older folks. With that said, I think that makes the availability and accessibility of the internet and technology to become an area where disparities may develop.”
I like the idea of potentially increasing the reach of care to populations that often find it difficult to travel to see their physicians…This population includes our older folks.
I wanted to write something instructive and useful during this pandemic of COVID-19 which is affecting all of us at this time. At the time of this writing, a large part of Canada is shutting down schools, workplaces and environments which have the potential of spreading this virus. While most of my clients are still coming in person to see me, many have opted for video or telephone sessions in order to stay healthy and protect others from getting sick.
As an individual therapist, I feel a very strong urge to provide a message of calm and to remind everyone that at our core, we are all incredibly strong and resilient- even when faced with such a huge health scare. I feel for those of you who are unable to attend your AA meetings or other self-help/support circles. Also, for those of you who take care of your mental wellness by going to community classes such as yoga or pilates and are now at home following along with videos instead, this is a challenging time.
Clients have brought me stories of how they cannot be with loved ones who have compromised immune systems who would benefit greatly from company and companionship. Others have told me sad tales of having to cancel vacations they had been looking forward to for months, or some concert they had bought tickets to that has been cancelled. A few have told me they were scheduled to attend work conferences they were excited about that were not happening since the spread of COVID-19 increased to dramatic levels.
Could there be an upside in all of this?
After listening to so many stories of how the practice of self-isolation is affecting people in their everyday lives, it struck me that while I cannot control this virus or our health authorities’ dictates on how we must proceed, I can do what I do best as a therapist- provide hope and find the higher meaning in the most difficult situations we find ourselves in.
Finding Hope in the Midst of Crises
I have a little wisdom card on my office desk from a wise mentor of mine which says:
May I learn to be a gardener of life
Nothing comes to birth
As without Light
One of the things I teach every client through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to change their thinking from negative to positive by changing their self-talk and looking for the positives in their lives by writing gratitude lists every day. This goes a long way to lowering anxiety and producing a state of peace and inner calm.
In my experience thus far with watching how the world is reacting to COVID-19, I see the full picture of both graceful and destructive ways people in power are handling things- both the pitfalls and the triumphs. I choose to focus on the part of humanity which views an enormous challenge such as this as a way of building community, finding our caring and compassion for one another, and finding straightforward solutions to solving the problem.
If you look hard enough, you will see these amazing testaments to the resiliency and compassion that we all have within us everywhere.
But if you’re strapped for time like me and want to read about such heartwarming acts of generosity and kindness, click on one of my favourite websites- Tanks Good News. Reading the ‘good news’ stories will turn your frown upside down and leave you feeling hopeful and inspired by good old-fashioned real-life acts of kindness.
Here are some of my favourite stories from that site related to the outbreak of COVID-19 which were posted recently:
I’m sure the list goes on! Here I am going to take the opportunity to ask you to send in your uplifting examples of everyday people doing good things to help others during this pandemic. I will share them with my readers and spread good vibes across cyberspace- I think we all need that right now. Either leave them as a reply at the end of reading this blog post, or email them to me at: estherATestherkane.com
How Can I Best Use this Sanctioned Time of Isolation? Finding the Higher Meaning
The next topic I want to address is how to find the silver lining in these times of shutdowns, quarantine and self-isolation. Of late, this has been the number one topic I’ve explored with my clients and when applying open curiosity without strong emotion (i.e., a mindful stance), has borne many wonderful fruits which I am thrilled to share with you.
I feel that since most of us are not travelling, visiting people, or for some, not even going outside, this is the perfect opportunity to engage in something which most of us put at the bottom of our “to do” list- self-reflection, meditation and going within. I’ve suggested that many of my clients take this opportunity to slow down and get in touch with themselves and do an assessment on where they’re at emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Many have taken to journaling, meditating, and sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings and aspirations with the people closest to them. You may have to get creative here! Luckily, we have incredible technology which helps us stay connected with loved ones far away. I recommended Skype or FaceTime or telephone.
Luckily, I don’t have to see people in person to provide my services as a therapist and many of my clients are taking advantage of this and booking video or telephone appointments. Also, I’m finding that their self-reflections and “ah ha” moments are deeper and more profound and I feel it is a direct result of having to face a calamity which affects all of us and forces us to ask the big questions we so often push to the side such as:
What do I do with my time if I’m not busy (fill-in-the-blank)…working, going to school, going to meetings, social events, or travelling?
Now that other countries are quarantined what is going to happen to our supplies and trade items such as food, medications, and other things we take for granted which may not be available in the near future?
How do I find meaning/purpose/enjoyment if I can’t do all of the activities I normally do like go to work/school, attend classes, go out to movies/plays/concerts or travel?
Scaling Down and Finding Meaning in the Simple Things
I’ll end this musing with a list of things you can do during this time of shutdowns, quarantine and self-isolation which may “fill your cup” for the time being until things go back to normal.
Look at your New Year’s Goals and see how you’re doing thus far and work on meeting goals you’ve slipped on (Hint: It probably has to do with eating and exercising!)
Write in a journal and explore your inner life- how are you doing in the self-care department these days? What things can you do to nourish your body, mind and spirit?
Meditate– I know that most of you have definitely been putting that one off big time- no excuses now! Get on that cushion, close your eyes and practise deep belly-breathing for at least 20 minutes. You may be mad at me now but you’ll thank me later
Order books online and get back into reading. Now is a nice time to sit by a fireplace with a blanket and a good book and a cup of tea
Call that friend or relative you have been putting off because you were “too busy”. I know for a fact that you aren’t now so pick up the phone- you’ll also thank me later for this one
Find online support groups if there are alternatives to in-person ones
I hope you found this article helpful and if so, please pass it on via your social media networks. Stay healthy, calm and have faith that this too shall pass and we will come out the other side stronger, and wiser. Onward!
Esther Kane, MSW, is a Canadian women’s psychotherapist with over twenty years’ experience and author of three self-help books. Sign up for her free bi-weekly newsletter to uplift and inspire at: https://estherkane.com.
Name: Nataša Lazarevic Job: eHealth PhD Fellow, STEM Advocate, and Illustrator Country: Germany, Serbia, Botswana, UAE, Australia Age: 25
Nataša Lazarevic is completing a PhD in the fields of digital health, machine learning, and anatomy at the University of Sydney, where she previously obtained an Honours degree in Immunology and Infectious Diseases. She is a co-founder of Visibility STEM Africa, which promotes the visibility of Africans in STEM and provides them with opportunities to flourish. Nataša loves interdisciplinary projects, and thoroughly enjoys teaching anatomy and histology to undergraduate and medical students, sometimes creating funny memes about science and technology. She is passionate about promoting underrepresented groups in STEM, coordinating public health outreach projects, and science communication. Connect with Nataša on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
On her diverse background and experience:
“Hello, I am Nataša (pronounced Natasha). I have been fortunate enough to live in five different countries, but that also means that I find the concepts of nationality, identity, and sense of belonging a bit tricky. According to my passports, I am both Australian (as of recently!) and Serbian. But I was born in Germany, then lived in Serbia, grew up in Botswana for most of my childhood, the United Arab Emirates for my teenage years, and now I live in Australia. A sense of culture and identity is so much more than what our passports reveal.
I am a PhD student at the University of Sydney, and I work on an interdisciplinary project that combines the fields of digital health, machine learning, and anatomy. The project is about applying new technologies and our understanding of the human body to create technological solutions for monitoring our bodies and health remotely. I also enjoy teaching anatomy and histology to medical and undergraduate students. Everything about the body and how it works fascinates me.
On how society can make technology more inclusive:
“When I was younger, I used to pretend and behave as though I did not understand how to use technology. I believed that a girl behaved in this way, and the more I played dumb, the more attention I received from boys I liked. I found myself fitting into the stereotype, and I decided that I did not want to be that person. What helped me get past this was to believe in myself and be courageous enough to challenge stereotypes.
I realized that I often stopped challenging myself because I felt like an imposter. I’ve sometimes struggled with ‘imposter syndrome’ – the feeling that you are not good enough or that you do not belong. Opening my mind to the idea that I can overcome my fear of failure through hard work has been helpful. Also, changing or re-framing my mindset has helped tremendously.
We are overloaded with amounts of information. To cope, our brain filters much of this information or creates short-cuts (known as heuristics) to make the world easier to understand. Forms of heuristics, particularly involving the use of emotions to assess situations, are sometimes referred to as having a ‘gut feeling.’ Heuristic learning can often be the basis for forming stereotypes. Stereotyping can, at times, be positive where the person being stereotyped is glad to be regarded in that light. For instance, older adults are wise and loving. However, I think the stereotype that older populations are incapable of using and understanding technology is widespread and can prevent older adults from trying to learn or have confidence in the things they have learned. While it is true that as we age, some people lose dexterity and cognitive flexibility, we must not blindly reinforce this stereotype. Sometimes these stereotypes prevent people from even trying.
Efforts should be made to promote the engagement of the older adults with technology and the use of mobile devices. Efforts should also be made to make use of technology more accessible and user-friendly. Features that could make technology or apps more user-friendly to older adults and other populations include
simplistic design navigation
use of voice activation to navigate the app
use of larger images and texts for easier readability
use of larger touchable buttons to assist with dexterity issues
terms and conditions related to privacy and security of user data being explained in lay terms.
The majority of these features would be helpful to the general population, and at no point should these further exclude the older community. I think what would contribute positively is to create spaces where older people can openly learn about, use, and discuss technology. After all, today’s young adults are tomorrow’s older adults.”
On why Africans in STEM lack visibility:
“A reduced number of Africans are pursuing higher degree education in STEM fields. This is partially due to a lack of opportunities (for example, scholarships, postgraduate programs, funding), focus on non-STEM disciplines, insufficient investment by governments toward STEM education, and workforce development. It has led to the global research output of merely 1.4 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa and low levels of peer-reviewed citations.
The pandemic has illustrated the importance of having research facilities and skilled individuals in local African communities to respond, to be self-sufficient, and not as reliant on international support.
Africans in STEM both in industry and academia are doing brilliant work in both Africa and the diaspora, and these contributions to STEM fields should be promoted. There is a lack of mentorship by Africans in STEM to younger generations to inspire them and make them feel as though such a career is possible at all. There is power in having mentors that look like you and come from the same region.
The pervasive stereotypes of Africans only being poverty-stricken and malnourished in many western countries has in some cases, led to the lack of representation of African contributions in STEM. Africa is often viewed as being one country, but in reality, the continent consists of a melting pot of diverse cultures, languages, and people. We must start changing the narrative surrounding Africans in STEM and provide them with opportunities to share their stories. Visibility STEM Africa aims to promote the visibility of Africans in STEM and provide opportunities for them to flourish in their scientific fields and communities.”
On practicing self-care especially during COVID-19:
“I am getting better at practicing self-care, and the pandemic forced a lot of us to reflect upon our current situation. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I regularly would put myself last. For instance, a deadline is more important than my sleep. During the pandemic, I have tried to focus on getting into a better sleeping routine and on my mental well-being by practicing mindfulness and regularly meditating. I still find it difficult, but the more you do, the easier it will be to form habits. I am passionate about exercise and its effect on mental health, so I regularly do Zoom exercise sessions with friends and family. I was able to get in touch with many friends I grew up with via video call. This was both helpful and nostalgic because I appreciated my social support network.”
On getting older in today’s world:
“I sometimes feel that people tend to treat the older population unfairly and almost as though they are a separate group. This age divide has been evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have heard younger people make comments like, “But it only affects older people, so it is not that big of a deal.” I feel that to some degree, such responses stem from younger people being subconsciously fearful of becoming older themselves as they inevitably will. As a society, we do everything in our power to counter the aging process, and many industries greedily profiteer from this obsession. I sometimes feel that some people view aging as an internal cell decay time bomb.
At my current age, I do not fear aging nor the existential anxiety commonly associated with the awareness that death is inevitable. I feel that it is more prudent to stop being anxious about phenomena that we cannot control. But, ask me when I am 60 and perhaps my response will change because the onset of age-related health consequences will have occurred (Like menopause! I am not looking forward to that).”
I sometimes feel that people tend to treat the older population unfairly and almost as though they are a separate group.