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Five Questions With Public Health Registrar Rory McGill

Name: Rory McGill
Job: Public Health Specialty Registrar
Country: Ireland and England
Age: 33

Rory McGill is currently training as a Public Health Specialty Registrar in the North West of England. He is a health and social psychologist by background and worked as a Postdoc in academia upon completing his PhD in psychology from Queen’s University Belfast. Dr. McGill was born and raised in Derry, Ireland but is currently based in Liverpool, England. His research interests include the wider determinants of health and the practical application of the social sciences. His hobbies include all things horror and video game related, which can be explained partly by being a Derry native which is the global capital of Halloween! He is passionate about using his platform to engage with wide audiences about the causes of health and the importance of well being and connecting with others that goes beyond academic journal articles.  Find him on Twitter and Instagram.  

On his training as a public health consultant:

“Training to be a Public Health consultant is a very exciting opportunity! The training programme began specifically for clinicians to develop their specialty in public health and become consultants. However, this was then opened to health professionals with non-medical backgrounds as public health is more than just the treatment of illness or management of communicable diseases. It includes everything that can impact upon health, which if you think about it is almost everything from the food we eat to where we spend our time and how we feel. Having such a diverse curriculum means two days are never the same, which I love! I completed my PhD in psychology back in 2011 and had no idea what public health was. I worked as a postdoc within the field of psychology before taking an academic position in public health as it dovetailed nicely with my own research on eating behaviours. This experience made me certain that this was the field I wanted to be a part of. Being able to apply the academic theory in practice and see population health improve is so fulfilling!”

Dr. McGill was a guest on Homo Sapiens podcast with hosts Chris and Will. He talked about why our LGB elders are missing out on vital healthcare services. Listen here.




On one surprising fact about older LGB in your research:

“I am passionate about the health of our ageing population, particularly our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) elders. I am a gay man who is very grateful for the work our older LGBT generation have done in fighting for our rights to live as normalised and accepted members of society. However, there is a disproportionate focus on youth culture when considering the LGBT community. While this is a vital consideration, older generations can become forgotten about. My research examined the care experiences of older LGB people in Merseyside (UK) and their thoughts on the future. There is a lack of academic research and UK policy consideration involving older LGB people. The Office for National Statistics estimate that 2 percent of the UK population identify as LGB. Older LGB people experience multiple disadvantage living in a hetero-normative society, with poorer health outcomes than their heterosexual counterparts. This is worsened by a long-standing oppression which has shaped the interactions of older LGB people with informal (care from family and friends/social interactions) and formal care (medical care from a professional). The implication of this is widened health inequalities arising from sub-optimum care, yet little research focusses specifically on older LGB health. My research found that older people did not want to be defined by their sexual orientation. They wanted to be valued as a whole person when receiving any form of care or support, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it! What was surprising for me was the differences in viewpoint by gender. The older women I spoke to were not as accepted as gay men into the “gay scene” of the 1960’s and 1970’s, forcing them to develop their own close support networks. This resulted in a preference for care exclusively from female carers and in contexts predominantly female. This highlights that older LGB people are not a homogenous group and should not be considered as such!”

On making health systems inclusive for older LGBT:

“It is important to note that I did not include older trans people in my research as there are very important biological considerations necessary when serving our trans elders, such as training for healthcare professionals to carry out the appropriate screening checks, e.g. carrying out prostate examinations in older trans women. This is an area which needs to be explored more in depth! From my research, it was shocking to hear some of the care experiences had by older LGB people. Some older gay men were tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) despite not having had a sexual partner in decades, and older women having had pregnancy tests despite never having had sexual contact with a man. Their clinicians failed to hear them and tested them based on stereotypical assumptions which made them feel isolated, stigmatised and alone. This is completely avoidable and does not require huge investment for our overstretched healthcare services. Front line staff should treat anyone coming through the door as an individual and not with preconceived and outdated assumptions. Older people are vulnerable, and when you add any other minority status to ageing, it makes them doubly vulnerable and this should be a consideration within induction training for care staff, no matter what minority group it may be.”

On whether or not older LGBT care homes are needed:

“The idea of older LGBT care homes is a very interesting and contested concept. It has come about due the examples of older LGBT people having very negative experiences while being cared for. I read one case study about an older lady who was with her female partner for decades and who since passed away. She then wasn’t well enough to live independently and needed to move into a care facility. Her carer was reportedly homophobic and as a result, the older lady hid all evidence of her lifetime spent with her partner until she herself passed away. She essentially went back into the closet in the twilight of her life. It really stuck with me and got me involved in this research in the beginning. I was initially surprised to hear from my participants that a strong majority were very much averse to the idea of an older LGBT exclusive carer home. They wanted to be cared for alongside members of their local community and not “ghettoised” and isolated among only other LGBT people. They reported this would only magnify the “othering” they have felt throughout their lives. Considerable more research needs to be carried out exploring this before large financial investment is provided in establishing such facilities. In my own opinion, having a more inclusive care home environment with a kitemark signifying the space being a safe one for LGBT people, coupled with more sensitivity training would be an ideal scenario.”

On his future goals:

“My current goal for the future is to complete my training and qualify as a public health consultant. I then would love to be able to influence policy at a national level to help shape how we consider LGBT ageing in terms of both prevention of ill health and the inclusive treatment of illness. I would also like to highlight and showcase the diversity in STEM by being an openly gay man who can hopefully inspire others like me to pursue their own goals!”

Having a more inclusive care home environment with a kitemark signifying the space being a safe one for LGBT people, coupled with more sensitivity training would be an ideal scenario.

Dr. Rory McGill, PhD, MPH, MFPH

Five Questions With Medical Scientist Aisha Bassett

Name: Aisha Bassett
Job: Pediatric Clinical Researcher
Country: United States, England, Bermuda
Age: 33

Aisha Bassett is a Senior Post-Doctoral Research Fellow working in clinical research in Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She was born and raised on the island of Bermuda. She obtained a BSc. Psychology at McGill University in Canada and her medical degree from Norwich Medical School in England. Her research interests include maternal-infant immunityvaccine efficacy and the maternal-infant microbiome. Her hobbies include singing, song-writing, composing on the piano and art. Dr. Bassett has had a vegan diet for over three years. She enjoys cooking and curating new plant-based recipes which combine her knowledge of nutrition and its role in disease prevention and health. She is passionate about using her knowledge and experience to help people live healthy and full lives by incorporating tasty and nutritional recipes into their diets. Find her on Instagram, and LinkedIn.

On why she chose to study medicine:    

“I remember being fascinated at a young age by this magical place called the hospital where my mom, who was a nurse, would disappear and then emerge with interesting stories about the people she met. After loosing my grandfather to a preventable disease, I became interested in how diseases develop, their complications and how they could be prevented. At age 13, I started volunteering at a hospital in Bermuda and did so until I graduated high school. I enjoyed getting to know the patients and felt natural compassion towards them, several of whom had become resident in the hospital due to chronic diseases. The stories they would tell me made each patient and their condition memorable and fueled my desire to understand the underlying mechanisms of the diseases I was seeing.

Seeing first-hand preventative disease such as diabetes, that particularly affected Blacks and minorities, and the plethora of complications that developed further fueled my desire to study medicine. As a medical student, I began to learn that most deaths in the western world were due to preventable diseases. I became interested not only in how to treat the disease but how to stop or reverse the disease process and how we develop protection from diseases starting in infancy, the topic of my current research.

The research I am performing in the Pannaraj Lab at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is investigating how to make vaccines work better. One such vaccine that we are researching is the Rotavirus vaccine. Rotavirus is a leading cause of diarrhea in children and results in roughly 130,000 deaths in children worldwide every year. While the vaccine is very effective in high-income countries, it is much less effective in low- and middle-income countries. We are looking at the role of breast milk and the infant microbiome, the trillions of organisms that live in us, in how the vaccine works in different parts of the world.”

On her experience in medicine across countries: 

“The clinical experience I have has come from working in various healthcare settings, namely in Bermuda, Canada, Belize, England and the US. Each healthcare system had similarities in terms of leading causes of mortality and morbidity that were preventable through diet and lifestyle factors such as Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes and certain cancers. Across all countries, differences in access to the resources, socioeconomic status, and patient education play a role in access to health resources. In some countries, the cost of healthcare is a deterrent to seeking medical attention, in others, the understanding of when and where to seek healthcare impacts utilization of resources. Working in various settings has taught me the importance of the cultural and socioeconomic factors involved in the health of individuals and communities. These experiences solidified my desire to work to reduce global health outcome disparities.”

A couple of plant-based meals that Dr. Bassett cooks and curates on her Instagram.

On the role our diet plays in disease prevention:    

“When thinking of disease prevention, I adopt a holistic approach. There are several factors that play a role in prevention including diet, daily exercise, dental hygiene and attending regular checkups with your doctor. Many of the top causes of deaths such as heart disease, stroke and cancers are due to lifestyle factors including diet, that include consumption of processed food, refined sugars, and animal products such as meat and dairy as a main source of nutrition.”

Scientists are discovering more about the role of the microbiome in disease prevention and development. The hygiene hypothesis explains the role of the microbiome in eczema and allergies and explains why there has been an increase over the last few decades in allergic diseases, such as respiratory, skin, and food allergy. It explains that modern living conditions are very clean and so there is less microbe exposure early in life. This results in the immune system not being taught to be able to recognize and fight foreign organisms. In addition, an imbalance of the microbiome is known to affect the skins immune response in a way that predisposes to immune conditions, such as eczema. On the other hand, a healthy microbiome is reported to have a protective influence on the immune system. The development of the infant microbiome has been found to be influenced by early life exposure such as delivery method, breast milk ingestion, infant nutrition, and antibiotic use.

On the science behind the benefits of plant-based meals:

“Plant-based meals focus on foods primarily from plants. It means proportionally choosing more foods from plant sources such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, beans and more. Plant-based meals are beneficial for many reasons. Some vegetables and fruits can reduce inflammation in our bodies. This is important for our health because inflammation, when it goes on for a long time, can lead to certain diseases. Eating foods that reduce inflammation or avoiding foods that cause inflammation, can promote health in the body. There are also substances in fruits and vegetables called phytonutrients. These phytonutrients have different roles. Some can actually ‘turn off’ gene that lead to cancer, which is simply an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Other phytonutrients can repair damage in our cells that would usually lead to disease states.

I have met so many people who have said to me, “I want to eat healthier, but I don’t know where to start.” People who want to make that change can often have a lot of information to sort through before they feel comfortable adding new foods to their diet. I started curating plant-based meals on Instagram to help people make food choices that would help them live a healthy life. As a doctor and researcher who has had a plant-based diet for over 2 decades, I enjoy sharing the meals I have created while also sharing nutritional facts about the foods I eat.

Regarding meal prepping and recipe development, the foundation of each meal is first ensuring it is balanced – that it has good portion of protein, carbohydrate, and healthy fat as well as vitamins and minerals. Then I consider what flavors, spices and textures would complement the meal. Next, I create something new or put a healthy spin on a well-known recipe by replacing certain ingredients with healthier ones. Lastly, I also consider how to make the meal colorful and appealing. This is important because so much of what we choose to eat is influenced by our senses, that is, how food is presented and how it tastes. Making nutritional meals that people want to eat is my goal, so that their bodies can have the fuel it needs for them to function at their best.”

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Diagram from a journal article showing factors that influence maternal breast milk microbiome and proposed mechanism of how breast milk may alter the infant gut microbiome and health outcome. The article was co-authored by Dr. Bassett and her colleagues. Learn more.

On her best advice to new mothers: 

“Motherhood can be an exciting time, but it can also come with navigating all the surprises that come with being a new mother. Many moms have concerns about what is normal for their baby from how much their baby is feeding to the changing colors of their stool. The best advice I have given to new moms is that I encourage them to use the resources around them to navigate challenges as they come so that concerns don’t build up. This includes talking with breastfeeding consultants, doctors, more experienced mothers as well as making use of their support systems so that they can engage in self-care while caring for their baby. Some moms just need to be reminded that every mother’s journey is different because every baby is unique and has its own special personality. I remind them that they are doing a good job even when they hit speed bumps on the road of motherhood.

For example, it is especially helpful for mothers to learn how breastfeeding and the microbiome are linked to health and longevity. Breast milk is a specialized secretion that provides many nutrients, antibodies, and microbes. Breast milk helps establish the gut microbiome. This microbiome plays a role in our metabolism, that is how well we can get the nutrients we need from the food we eat. It is also vital to educating the body’s natural defense system, the immune system. Breastfeeding also provides protection against respiratory and gastrointestinal infections and is associated with a reduced risk of diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and obesity. Having a healthy gut microbiome and immune system is a key part of health and longevity.”

I started curating plant-based meals on Instagram to help people make food choices that would help them live a healthy life.

Aisha Bassett, MBBS

Five Questions With Engineer Kayse Lee Maass

Name: Kayse Lee Maass
Job: Industrial Engineer
Country: United States
Age: 29

Kayse Lee Maass is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and leads the Operations Research and Social Justice lab at Northeastern University. She also currently holds a research appointment with the Information and Decision Engineering Program at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Maass’s research focuses on the application of operations research methodology to social justice, access, and equity issues within human trafficking, mental health, housing, and supply chain contexts. Her work is supported by multiple National Science Foundation grants, centers interdisciplinary survivor-informed expertise, and has been used to inform policy and operational decisions at the local, national, and international levels. A recipient of multiple awards, she currently serves as the INFORMS Section on Location Analysis Secretary and is a member of the H.E.A.L. Trafficking Research Committee. Find her on TwitterLinkedIn, and her website

On why she chose to study engineering:

“When I was growing up, I was interested in a lot of social justice types of topics, but I also really loved math. I knew I wanted to do something with applied math. In college, I studied math and physics [I had some physics in high school and liked it], but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. I wanted to tie in social justice with math, but I didn’t know how to do that until I took an operations research course in my senior year. That’s when I learned about the field that I’m in, which is industrial engineering.

I like to explain Industrial Engineering as the mathematics of decision making where we can look at things from a systems perspective. It’s nice because anything—any application or any topic that you think of—involves decision making. However, it wasn’t until I was pursuing a PhD in Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) from the University of Michigan that my mentors provided me with space and encouragement to explore how industrial engineering and social justice applications, like human trafficking, intertwined.”

On her self-care practices for a healthy lifestyle:

“I’ve been thinking about this [self-care] a lot lately. I read somewhere that when we talk about self-care, what we often need is community care. There are things I personally need to do for self-care, but we also need to make sure we design our systems and communities around making sure people have space to have healthy lifestyles.

As a professor, I work with a lot of students interested in pursuing a PhD or a career as a professor. I know that academia gives this idea that everyone’s always working, rarely has time for fun, and it’s very intense [which it is]. But, that’s not true for everyone in academia, and the assumption that it is true is one of the major barriers to creating an inclusive, diverse academy. I want students interested in academia to know that the field can be welcoming to people with diverse family needs or diverse health needs with different accessibility levels – but to do this I have to help create an academic environment where people know that flexibility and accessibility are the norm. For example, I try to be intentional about encouraging students to step away from their work to take time for their own self-care and relaxation, to be with family, and to generally just not work when they need to not work. This involves setting boundaries between work and other areas of your life and creating an environment where stepping away and having other interests is normal. The workplace can do a better job at normalizing healthy living. In fact, stepping away from your work to focus on other parts of your life is healthy and can lead to you being more engaged and productive once you are back at work!

In my personal life, I try to exercise as much as I can with realistic expectations. If I don’t reach my goal on a day, then self-care for me means I have to avoid being hard on myself for missing the goal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to listen to my body a lot more, including understanding when I’m starting to get stressed or anxious, and when what my body really needs is to rest rather than move.

Learn more on her website.

On how engineers can help fix healthcare:

“A lot of people in our field also look at healthcare applications. Sometimes it’s looking at telehealth options for people who either cannot drive anymore or live in rural populations. Industrial engineering can help answer questions such as: How can these populations have better access to a healthy lifestyle and check-ins? There are also people in our field who use industrial engineering to determine how often people should get screened for different conditions as they get older. If people were screened all the time, that would put a lot of time and financial burden on patients and they probably would not go to their screening. But if patients are not screened frequently enough, then they might have an undetected medical condition that can progress or get worse over time with limited treatment options available in the future.”

On how she uses data to fight human trafficking:

“There are researchers in other fields that use quantitative data to get insights into what human trafficking. Statisticians are working on better ways to determine the prevalence of human trafficking; economists create economic models to understand ways to reduce the profitability of exploiting people by using trafficked labor; there are quantitative social scientists researching, among other things, ways in which systems of poverty, racism, and homelessness intersect with human trafficking.  But, in industrial engineering, there really hasn’t been much prior work focused on data and mathematical, systems-based models to provide decision support to anti-human trafficking stakeholders. For example, there’s often not enough of a budget for anti-human trafficking agencies or non-profits to adequately address the needs of trafficking victims and survivors. They don’t have enough resources. They already have a lot of things they need to do. Industrial engineering is great for those kinds of applications because we can help figure out, “How do I make the most efficient use of my resources?” For example, in some of our current work, we focus on how to increase access to shelters and other services for human trafficking survivors. After people come out of their trafficking experience, they need safe and stable housing options, they need access to food and medical care and many additional things, but those supports currently are not adequately available throughout the world, including the United States.

Some of our work is focusing on determining how to best increase access to shelter and other services if an organization/government has a limited budget to spend. We work with human trafficking survivors to determine what they want and need after they leave their trafficking experience. From this we can answer questions such as: Where should you build these additional shelters? What types of services should each shelter offer? How can the shelters best coordinate with other community support partners? In short, one of the things we as industrial engineers can do is help determine how to most efficiently use your resources to meet your goals.

This a similar problem to something like what any other company would do when they are going to create a new warehouse or storefront. They use these kinds of models to say, “Where am I going to open my next warehouse?” or “Where am I going to open my new store?” And we’re just doing it in a different application while also considering things that aren’t focused primarily on demand and profit. Instead we incorporate more human components as well.”

On her tips for combining engineering and social justice passions:

“It’s important to understand both the technical aspects of industrial engineering and the nuances of social justice issues. Sometimes what can happen is a prospective engineer who has a math/engineering background can get so excited about a social justice topic that they just jump into it without understanding all the nuances and all the complexities of that social justice topic. And while it’s good to have interest and passion in all these topics, it can also be harmful if we don’t understand how there are many different complexities and overlapping systems involved. For example, creating a new decision model that looks at stopping trafficking within a city might just push the traffickers outside of the city and into the suburbs or rural areas, causing problems for other populations or marginalized groups.

So, I think it’s important that industrial engineers come with a passion, and start working on these topics, but also come with the willingness to really get connected with people that have expertise in human trafficking.

It’s important that if you’re making decisions about trafficking-whether through industrial engineering models or policy-, you need to have trafficking victims and trafficking survivors centered at the decision table with you; they understand what the complexities of the system are, and are crucial to making sure that we aren’t having any unintended consequences.” There’s that saying, “Nothing for us without us” that is particularly helpful for us as industrial engineers to remember as we work on problems that have very real impacts on people’s lives.

I read somewhere that when we talk about self-care, what we often need is community care.

Kayse Lee Maass, PhD

Interview with Medical Gerontologist Fatma Nur Mozoğlu

Fatma Nur Mozoğlu is a fifth-year student of Antalya Akdeniz University Health Sciences, Faculty Department of Gerontology and Eskişehir Anadolu University Social Work, The nation’s first Gerontology department was founded in 2006 at Antalya Akdeniz University. In 2018, Fatma was published in the Scholar Journal of Applied Sciences and Research. Her paper titled Gerontology and Aging in Turkey focused on healthy tourism, medications, and older adults, and university for older adults. She also works on a university initiative to encourage lifelong learning for students over 60. We are excited to interview Fatma about her research thesis and making intergenerational connections. Follow her on Twitter @fatmanurmozoglu

Can you tell us about your journey in Gerontology?

I started my journey in the Department of Gerontology at Turkey Antalya Akdeniz University Faculty of Health Sciences, this was in the 2014–2015 academic year. It has been a fun run and I’m excited to be writing my thesis with my adviser Dr. İkuko Murakami on the use of medicines for older adults.

Can you tell us about your work on intergenerational connections?

Since 2014, I have been working with Prof. Dr. Ismail Tufan and his team from the Gerontology department. Dr. Tufan is the gerontology chief of the department, he and his team published Turkey Gerontology Atlas (Gero Atlas) using data from the past 15 years. Gero Atlas was launched in 2000 and is expected to be completed in 2023.

60+ Tazelenme University is Turkey’s first Senior University. The university is specific to Turkey and aims to develop a model that will set an example in the world. It was founded by Akdeniz University as part of Dr. Tufan’s project on Gero Atlas. Open and free for students over 60, training lasts for four years and students can enroll in a variety of classes from archeology to agriculture. While all the courses have proven beneficial, a new knitting course offered only to men has given a special boost for those experiencing memory loss. Between classes, male students pass time knitting sweaters, berets, scarves and socks in the campus garden.

This initiative has created a new way of perceiving older adults in Turkey. On the 60+ Tazelenme University campus, it is ensured that lifelong learning is realized through theoretical courses, while on the other hand, practical lessons allow students to discover their talents. The aim of the training is to connect with younger generations studying on campus in a similar environment, older adults and gerontology students can benefit from their knowledge and experiences as they work together on projects. The main purpose of these studies is to encourage lifelong learning and I’m excited to contribute to the management of this project.

In your opinion what three words describe the characteristics of older adults in Turkey? 

Active, Knowledgeable, Healthy

What are you most proud of in your life?

I am a volunteer for environmental carbon offset and nature projects. I am glad to have Erasmus experience in the capital of Croatia. Additionally, I am an educator for disadvantaged groups, our topics are social entrepreneurship, safe internet, and innovation. Public and private services provided by the Internet makes life easier for people in the world. Use of the internet is growing rapidly in Turkey but everyone is not able to equally benefit from this technology.

I am a member of Crossing Paths, an organization running education and social responsibility programs mainly targeting the youth in Turkey. Crossing Paths believes that “most of our problems can be resolved through education, a kind of education that promotes empathy, tolerance, social responsibility and respect for differences. We trust that we can meet on common ground with anyone who shares this belief independent of their ethnic background, religion, political views, gender, sexual orientation, and age.” Crossing Paths was founded in Turkey.

What are your future career goals?

I would like to be an international researcher and academician. I am going to graduate in June 2019 and hope to start a masters degree next year. I am currently exploring internships with nursing homes, hospitals, and Alzheimer’s centers among others.

What do you like to do for fun?

I’m interested in tango, salsa, theater, painting, extreme sports, yoga, scuba diving etc. I play tennis as well as flute. I’ve also taken part in fun projects about stray animals and environmental pollution ecology in Croatia and Turkey.

Is there any other information that you would like to add?

I have many startup and project experience, I believe that social relations contribute to my academic career. I would like to reach more audiences by setting up a gerontology news channel on YouTube. I would also like to work with older adults and their families. Thanks to the Global Health Aging team for this lovely interview!

A Call to Reclaim Aging Today

Anti-aging! It’s everywhere.

There’s lotions, potions, creams, and make-up. Shampoo, moisturizers, face masks and toothpaste. There are anti-aging diets promoting superfoods, revitalizing drinks, vitamins, herbal mixes, homeopathic remedies and juicing whilst at the same time we read the latest story about the oldest person on the planet reaching that age on wine, chocolate, and a maverick attitude!

We’re told about anti-aging exercises, treatments, laser surgery, sun lamps, and cosmetic procedures. We’re advised on clothes, underwear, hairstyle, hair color, and even eyebrow shape!

There are books, magazines, DVDs, radio programmes, tv programmes, youtube channels, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Snaps, Insta influencers, podcasts, and blogs all dedicated to anti-aging.

We can even go on retreats, workshops, and seminars to learn, discuss and discover the best ways to beat aging.

Why?

Aging is a sign of survival- what’s the alternative? Not surviving? Not a great option. We need to celebrate having survived, realizing that the wrinkles, the lines, the grey hairs are a mark of success, of having reached a point in life that is your new record and you beat that record every day by getting older day by day. A ‘personal best’ you might say.

Whilst there appears to be a huge industry in ‘anti-aging’ and there is a myriad of ways that are promoted to be able to ‘stay young’, it cannot be denied that we are, all of us, not staying young! And that surely is the point.

We are all getting older and that is a good thing, we should stop trying to defy aging and, instead, live positively. Shake off the dreadful, negative, old age stereotypes and ask yourself what is so bad about aging that it has created such an ‘anti’ industry?

Let’s all be pro-age and let’s call out and challenge all the age discrimination that exists out there which has led to this huge ‘anti-aging’ phenomenon.

Let’s do it today.

Morna O’May is the Head of Service for Scotland at Contact the Elderly, the national charity dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation amongst older people living in the United Kingdom. Morna also writes the Goodstuffgreatideas blog about all things Third Sector. Follow Morna on Twitter.

Social and Financial Costs of Millennial Dementia Caregivers

A report by the Center for Healthcare Innovation.

Abstract

With the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease expected to impact 16 million individuals by 2050, younger generations will increasingly assume caregiving responsibilities. More than a third of today’s caregivers are employed full-time. As millennials take on informal caregiving responsibilities, public and workplace policies must consider financial assistance or other support (e.g., family leave or allocated time off). This report explores the economic impact of the shift to millennial caregivers and the higher rate of incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in minority groups. The report concludes with a discussion of strategies at the organizational-and system-level to support millennial caregivers.

Calls for Action

  1. Define public policy in supporting family caregivers in providing care.
  2. Address how universities can better support student caregivers.
  3. Companies and employers take the lead in supporting working caregivers.
  4. Caregiver supports begin in communities.

Figure 1. U.S. population 65+ (in millions)

To view the white paper, click here.
To view the best practice, click here.

Interview with Cognitive Neuroscientist Judy Lobo

Judy Lobo is a cognitive neuroscience graduate student at the University of Miami. She uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and cell staining methods to study the links between health and cognitive abilities. fMRI is a technique for measuring brain activity and cell staining is used to better visualize cells and cell components under a microscope. Her Master’s project was one of the first fMRI investigations into Successful Cognitive Aging or “SuperAgers”. As a part of the BREATH Lab at the University of Miami, she also works with HIV populations. Their current work focuses on the mind-body interactions between chronic inflammation and the disruption of functional brain activity. We are excited to interview Judy about her research, fighting Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and the role of exercise in cognitive decline. Follow her on Twitter @judi_diane

Can you tell us about your journey in science?

I am an unlikely member of the academic community. I am a mixed-race, Honduran American student and I do notice that I rarely see students like me (much less faculty) that understand where and what I come from. I am now in my third year of graduate school and finally feeling like I can catch the flow of research life, however, this was after an intensive cultural immersion into the academic environment. I must admit that I do love it, I love learning about the brain and rubbing elbows with people who are equally passionate about my field. This was a world I waited for years to be admitted into.

What areas of research are you currently pursuing?

I am part of a very interdisciplinary lab. I concentrate my efforts on fMRI analysis and how we can use it to understand and treat memory loss. I am interested in the mysterious phenomena of “SuperAgers”, older adults that are still as sharp as individuals who are 20 to 30 years old. I study their brain activity and how that contributes to their “special” abilities. However, there is another side to my research. I study brain activity changes due to exposure of HIV-disease as well as cell staining and cell cultures. I use these methods to investigate how inflammation relates to brain activity and memory abilities. *Cell culture is the process of obtaining cells from a plant or animal and then growing them in an artificial environment.

What’s one piece of advice you would give early career researchers?

Broadly, learn to work and study with others. As you get to advanced stages of your academic career, two heads truly are better than one.

How can science communication contribute to fighting against AD?

I think this is a vital piece that AD research needs right now. First of all, awareness of what AD is and how it can be prevented. Prevention is our best weapon against AD right now and it is possible to do so with simple life changes. Greater awareness also has a feedback effect; if more people knew about our research I also think more of them would volunteer for the studies and support our efforts.

What’s one recommendation you’d give people wanting to reduce their risk of AD?

Exercise. It’s the best intervention or treatment we have so far for cognitive decline.

What are you most proud of in your life?

At the moment, I am most proud of my current position. I would have been a happy teenager if someone told me that I would be doing fMRI research as a part of the University of Miami. I am a part of amazing research groups, such as the McKnight Research group which is a team of neurologists, neuropsychologist, radiologists all at the same investigating treatments for age-related neurodegeneration.  I am also a regular at the Brain Connectivity and Cognition Laboratory, which is one of the research laboratories that I looked up to earlier in my career.

What are your future career goals?

I hope to take fMRI research as far as I can. It has been a rewarding experience and it is such an impressive community. However, students like me have lower chances to move on to direct their own laboratory, so I remain open to prospects in the industry.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love making art. I have film cameras and paint canvases all stashed in my home for the rare moments when there is time to make something or shoot pictures.

Is there any other information that you would like to add?

To an early career researcher that is also an underrepresented minority, I would say: You are not alone. It’s a challenging life path, which is made more challenging if you blame yourself for a lot of the challenges that you encounter in academia.

Interview with Alzheimer’s researcher, blogger, and advocate Maya Gosztyla

Maya Gosztyla is the creator of AlzScience. Her passion for Alzheimer’s disease began at a young age when her grandmother was diagnosed with vascular dementia following a stroke. She currently works in a lab at the National Institutes of Health, where she’s researching a rare neurodegenerative disorder called Niemann-Pick Disease. In addition to her love of research, Maya has a passion for science writing and hopes to continue educating the public about the ways we can keep our brains healthy as we age. We are excited to interview Maya about her research, fighting Alzheimer’s and the role of diet in brain health. Follow her on Twitter @AlzScience

Can you tell us about your journey in science?

I’ve pretty much always known that I wanted to be a scientist, but the exact field of science has varied quite a bit. For most of my high school, I wanted to be an astrophysicist. But then I took an advanced biology course in my senior year, and I was hooked! I ended up going to college at the Ohio State University and double-majoring in Neuroscience and Molecular Genetics. I knew I wanted to get involved with research, so I joined a lab that was studying how axons (the long projections that neurons use to send electrochemical signals) are guided to their proper destinations during the development of the nervous system. This research was fascinating work, but over time, my interests began to drift more toward studying human diseases. I spent some time in Switzerland doing a research project on Alzheimer’s disease, which convinced me that this was the area of research that I wanted to focus on. After I graduated, I secured a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where my research has a biomedical focus. I’m now applying to Ph.D. programs in Neuroscience, and I hope to begin my enrollment this fall. I plan to research the underlying mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases (including Alzheimer’s) and develop new strategies for treatment.

What areas of research are you currently pursuing?

My section of the NIH is called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. We are interested in the “bench to bedside” research, which involves taking scientific discoveries and trying to apply them to treating diseases. One of my projects is to develop a method to quantify how much cholesterol is inside of neurons that are growing in a dish. There are several diseases caused by the accumulation of too much cholesterol, including Niemann Pick Disease (also known as “childhood Alzheimer’s disease”). We are hoping that this new method will allow us to quickly screen thousands of different chemicals to see if any of them can reduce how much cholesterol is inside these cells. After that, we can investigate those chemicals further and try to develop them into a new treatment.

What’s one fact that you’ve learned about the brain?

During the day, your neurons are working hard sending lots of signals, and in the process, they release a lot of waste products into your brain. One of these waste products is amyloid-beta, a toxic protein that’s believed to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. Luckily, when we sleep, all the gunk inside your brain gets cleared away. That’s why getting enough sleep is so important!

What’s one piece of advice you would give to early career researchers?

One of the best things I ever did was start a science blog. It’s a great way to get more familiar with your field of research while helping other people to understand. It’s also great for networking; so far two people at my Ph.D. interviews have told me that they are regular readers of my blog!

How can science communication contribute to fighting against Alzheimer’s disease (AD)?

There’s a lot of misinformation surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. A lot of people don’t realize that only one-third of your overall risk is due to genetics—the rest is all determined by your lifestyle choices! A balanced diet, regular exercise, and lifelong learning can dramatically reduce your risk of getting this disease. I’m hoping that my efforts in science communication can help more people learn how to start taking better care of their brains.

What’s one recommendation you’d give people wanting to reduce their AD risk?

Probably the number one best thing you can do for your brain is to improve your diet. A lot of research has shown that the Mediterranean diet, which is also great for heart health, dramatically reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This diet minimizes saturated fat and red meats while consuming lots of vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Even if you take a small step toward improving your diet, like cutting out all sugary beverages, it can make a big difference in your brain health, not to mention your body!

What are you most proud of in your life?

I started my blog AlzScience about three years ago, and I’m so proud of how far it’s come. Last year the site had nearly 15,000 readers and also won a Science Seeker Award. It’s fantastic when people comment that they are grateful to learn the information.

What are your future career goals?

This fall, I’m planning to start a Ph.D. program in Neuroscience. My goal is to pursue a career in research either as a professor or in the pharmaceutical industry. I hope I can play a key part in bringing Alzheimer’s cure research to fruition.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love jogging; it’s my favorite way to clear my head. I also read a lot, and occasionally play around on my violin.

Four Key Questions When Choosing A Residential Care Facility

Does the facility offer memory care options?

Not all aged care facilities are created alike. Some offer memory care options, while others do not. Independent living facilities, for example, are geared toward older adults who are able to live an active lifestyle. Assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities (also known as nursing homes) may offer memory care options for people with dementia. Before choosing a care facility, ask the facility director if the institution provides specialized care or not.

What is the cost?

Caring for a person with dementia is expensive. According to an analysis conducted in 2016, the cost of health and residential care of people living with dementia can reach up AU $88,000  annually. Before committing to a facility, ensure that the facility and their services are up to or above par. Check the facility’s basic daily fee, plus its means-tested care fee and accommodation cost. Some facilities also charge fees for additional services.

What activity programs are available?

Mental stimulation can have physical benefits for people with dementia. Thus, an ideal aged care facility should provide inclusive programming, as well as specific recreational activities for residents with dementia. Some examples of activities include:

  • Reading and solving puzzles
  • Exercise and meditation
  • Playing a musical instrument/ listening to music/ sing-a-long
  • Movie screenings
  • Painting and crafts

What kind of training has the nursing staff received?

Thoroughly check ALL nursing staff credentials to make sure that they are adequately trained. Observe how the staff deals with the residents. Do they treat the residents with compassion and respect, or do they raise their voices or are rude when they communicate? Do you see signs of abuse or neglect? What is the staff-to-resident ratio per shift?

Also, make sure that a registered nurse is on duty 8 hours a day, and the facility is operated by licensed nursing staff 24 hours a day. Many dementia patients are unable to eat or drink by themselves, so check whether the staff is willing to assist residents who are unable to do so.