Discover recently added resources, including podcasts of interviews with HD faculty from HD Today e-NEWS Listen Notes playlists. Also, read the evidence-based review of the Nurse-Family Partnership Program, and watch Karl Pillemer's training webinar on elder-to-elder mistreatment research and interventions in our Resources section of the drop-down menu.
This webinar, hosted by Consumer Voice in collaboration with the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), discusses resident-to-resident mistreatment and how to prevent and respond to these incidents.
Dr. Karl Pillemer, Director, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College, shared findings, recommendations, and best practices from his research regarding the prevalence of resident-to-resident elder mistreatment in nursing facilities. Consumer Voice staff shared information and resources to help increase awareness of these incidents and demonstrate how individualized care is critical in preventing and responding to resident-to-resident mistreatment.
The slides for this webinar can be downloaded as a PDF.
This brochure (and large font fact sheet), a product produced by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care in collaboration with the National Center on Elder Abuse, identifies mistreatment, shares information about an individual’s rights, and offers resources where they can seek help. The brochure and large font fact sheet can be purchased in bulk from the Consumer Voice store.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Advocacy: Resident-to-Resident Aggression (Technical Assistance Brief)
Resident-to-resident aggression is a serious issue that has a significant negative impact on all residents involved, but incidents are often not reported and investigated. The purpose of this brief is to provide an overview of resident-to-resident aggression in order to assist Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) programs in effectively responding to complaints involving resident-to-resident aggression, as well as help prevent RRA and reduce the prevalence of these incidents. Click here to view the brief.
Elaine Wethington is elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. Dr. Wethington is recognized for distinguished contributions to medical sociology.
Corinna Loeckenhoff says that shifting stereotypes is no simple feat. People develop their views on aging when they are toddlers, but they also change based on experience. Unfortunately, negative beliefs are often built on inaccurate impressions.
Research has found that loneliness is a known risk factor for cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, disability and depression. Anthony Ong urges addressing the direct, indirect, and moderated effects of social isolation and loneliness on health.
Since its launch in September 2016, the Cornell Race and Empathy Project has recorded, archived and shared the everyday stories of Cornellians that evoke racial empathy. To continue fostering the ability to identify and understand the feelings of someone of a different background, the project has evolved into an online presence.
John Eckenrode and Karl Pillemer discuss the origins of translational research, and how it differs from "basic" and "applied" research. There are some examples of translational research projects and throughout the conversation they touch on why this research method is so effective and more and more in-demand by funders, policymakers and practitioners.
STUDENTS IN THE NEWS
Three of Tamar Kushnir's graduate students--Teresa Flanagan, Alyssa Varhol, and Alice Xin Zhao--reflect on what led them to work with Dr. Kushnir and enroll in the Department of Human Development Graduate Program.
College of Human Ecology Communications, by Tom Fleischman
Nine Cornell faculty members have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society.
The association elected 417 new fellows for 2018, honoring their efforts to advance research and its applications in scientifically or socially distinguished ways. New fellows will receive a certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin at the 2019 AAAS annual meeting, Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C.
Elaine Wethington, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology, of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences and of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. Wethington is recognized for distinguished contributions to medical sociology, focusing on the social aspects of physical and mental illnesses, their epidemiology and rigorous measurement, and for making her findings translatable to diverse audiences, including patients and the public.
thehindu.com, Age well: attitudes matter in a greying world, June 14, 2018, by Jim Rendon and Olumfemi Terry.
Healthy ageing has become increasingly important, but a WHO analysis found that 60% of people surveyed across 57 countries had negative views of old age.
At 85, Claude Copin, a retired French welder, may have discovered a secret to living a long, healthy life. She stays active by playing a petanque game with friends in a Paris park. And she has made friends with her teammates’ children, many of whom are teenagers. They take her to parties and movies — sometimes forgetting that she might need a rest before they do.
“I make my life beautiful,” says Ms. Copin. “I am still healthy because I have activities and I meet people.”
Ms. Copin is right. A growing body of research and global data collected and analysed by Orb Media shows a strong connection between how we view old age and how well we age. Individuals with a positive attitude towards old age are likely to live longer and in better health than those with a negative attitude. Older people in countries with low levels of respect for the elderly are at risk for worse mental and physical health and higher levels of poverty compared with others in their country. A shift in attitude, the research shows, could improve a lot.
Healthy ageing is increasingly important: countries everywhere outside Africa are rapidly growing older. If population trends continue, by 2050 nearly one out of five people in the world will be over 65, and close to half a billion will be older than 80. Smaller, young populations will have to care for large, older populations with increasingly expensive health care needs.
Surprisingly, in a world brimming with older people, negative views of old age are common. A World Health Organization analysis found that 60% of people surveyed across 57 countries had negative views of old age. Older people are often viewed as less competent and less able than younger people. They are considered a burden on society and their families, rather than being recognised for their valuable knowledge, wisdom and experience.
Orb Media compiled data from over 1,50,000 people in 101 countries to learn about their levels of respect for older people. Pakistan was among the countries that scored the highest.
Respect for older people is a long-standing tradition in Pakistan, says Faiza Mushtaq, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, Pakistan. But as more people move to cities, traditional family structures are being disrupted, making it harder to care for elders. Without a government safety net, many older people fall into severe poverty, she says.
Nonetheless, there are tangible benefits to the way elders are viewed, says Ms. Mushtaq. “This attitude towards ageing is a much healthier embrace of the ageing process, rather than having all of your notions of well-being and attractiveness and self-worth being tied so closely to youth,” she says.
Japan, with the world’s longest lifespans and low birth rates, is at the leading edge of this global demographic shift. There Orb found low levels of respect for the elderly. Kozo Ishitobi, an 82-year-old nursing home physician, says that older people were traditionally seen as a burden.
“Japanese people are starting to realise that elderly people need support,” he says. “We all go through it, so we should support each other.”
It turns out that one’s attitude towards ageing has broad implications. Becca Levy, a Professor of Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health in the United States, has been fascinated by the power of age stereotypes for decades. She started her work in the 1990s with a hunch. If older people are respected in society, perhaps that improves their self-image.
“That may in turn actually influence their physiology and that may influence their health,” says Ms. Levy.
Over the past two-and-a-half decades, Ms. Levy, the leader in the field, and the researchers that followed have found just that: those with positive views about old age live longer and age better. They are less likely to be depressed or anxious, and they show increased well-being and recover more quickly from disability. They also are less likely to develop dementia and the markers of Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, Ms. Levy found that Americans with more positive views on ageing who were tracked over decades lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative views. Studies in Germany and Australia have found similar results.
“Some of the magnitudes of the findings have been surprising,” says Ms. Levy.
Orb’s research and analysis found that these effects can also be seen across cultures. Older people in countries with high levels of respect for the elderly report better mental and physical well-being compared with other groups in their countries, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations and others. Those countries also report lower rates of poverty among people over 50 compared with younger people in each country. It seems too simple: How can holding a better attitude towards old age help someone live longer? Ms. Levy found that people with negative age stereotypes have higher levels of stress. And stress has been correlated with a range of health problems. Those who expect a better life in old age are also more likely to exercise, eat well and visit the doctor, says Ms. Levy.
That has been the case for 57-year-old Marta Nazare Balbine Prates who moved her family into her parents’ home in Sao Paulo, Brazil a decade ago. She had to quit her job as a nutritionist at a hospital to care for them (her father passed away at the beginning of the year). It has been hard financially and emotionally. But, she says, the experience has made her think about the kind of life she wants when she is older.
“I try to watch what I eat. I work out as much as possible,” she says, “so I can reach old age in good physical condition.”
We should be grateful that we are even concerned about growing old, says Marilia Viana Berzins. She has worked with the elderly in Brazil for 20 years and founded the advocacy group, Observatory of Human Longevity and Aging. “Old age is actually an achievement,” she says. “It’s humanity’s biggest achievement of the last century.”
But, Ms. Berzins says, in Brazil old age has become associated with incapacity. “When we change this mindset and old age is seen like just a stage of life, we’ll move forward,” she says. “And the elderly will be treated with more respect.”
Shifting stereotypes is no simple feat. People develop their views on ageing when they are toddlers, says Corinna Loeckenhoff, an Associate Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, who has studied age stereotypes across cultures. But they also change based on experience. Unfortunately, negative beliefs are often built on inaccurate impressions.
As people grow older, their health usually remains stable until about five years before they die, says Ms. Loeckenhoff. Only then will most people experience the mental and physical decline most associated with old age. “People keep mixing up ageing and dying,” she says.
Some research shows that increasing meaningful contact between young and older people can break down negative stereotypes. For the past five years, the Résidence des Orchidées, a nursing home in Tourcoing, France, has tried to do just that. Every week, the home brings children from a neighbouring daycare centre to visit the residents. Pierre Vieren, a 91-year-old retired business owner, loves seeing the children.
“When I went to my balcony, the children said ‘Pierre, he is here,’” he says. “They all wave at me to say hello. That is my little ray of sunshine in the morning.”
The nursing home’s director, Dorothee Poignant, says the experience normalises old age for the children. “It recreates a family spirit with joy, children laughing, older people laughing,” she says.
“We don’t only have elderly, we have children, elderly, disabled people. It’s inclusive.”
Everyone can gain from improving ideas about old age, says Ms. Loeckenhoff. “The single-most important thing to realise about ageing stereotypes is that they are the only fair ones,” she says. “You will be the victim of your own stereotype, or the beneficiary as you get older.”
(Access full report at Orbmedia.org/agewell)
CNN.com, "Loneliness peaks at three key ages, study finds -- but wisdom may help," December 19, 2018, by Susan Scutti
Rising rates of loneliness may not be news, but the three periods when it peaks may come as a surprise: More people reported feeling moderate to severe loneliness during their late 20s, their mid-50s and their late 80s than in other life periods, according to research published Tuesday in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.
The general sense of isolation was also more prevalent than the researchers expected. A full three-quarters of all study participants reported moderate to high levels of loneliness, said Dr. Dilip Jeste, senior author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego.
"One thing to remember is that loneliness is subjective. Loneliness does not mean being alone; loneliness does not mean not having friends," said Jeste, who is also director of UC San Diego's Center for Healthy Aging. "Loneliness is defined as 'subjective distress.' " It is the discrepancy between the social relationships you want and the social relationships you have, he said.
Within the dark clouds, Jeste also found a silver lining: An inverse relationship exists between loneliness and wisdom. "In other words, people who have high levels of wisdom didn't feel lonely, and vice versa," he said.
The friends we lack
Dr. Vivek Murthy, former US surgeon general, says the reduced lifespan linked to loneliness is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, Jeste noted in the study's introduction. Meanwhile, some research suggests that loneliness is common in old age, and others say it is typical in young age. "They are somewhat split, so that's what we wanted to find out," Jeste said.
A total 340 San Diego County residents between the ages 27 and 101 participated in the study. Jeste and his co-authors hypothesized that these community-dwelling participants, none with serious physical or psychological ailments, would report more loneliness in old age based on the "usual assumption that as people get older, they become more alone," he said. They were surprised when they discovered two peaks (during the late 20s and mid-50s) in addition to the one in the late 80s. The results do not explain the reasons why people feel lonely, but Jeste had his theories.
"So the late 20s is often a period of major decision-making, which is often stressful because you often end up feeling that your peers made better decisions than you did, and there's a lot of guilt about why you did this or did that," he explained. It's a period of stress, which increases loneliness, he said.
"The mid-50s is the midlife crisis period," Jeste said. Typically, your health begins to decline, and many people learn that they have pre-diabetes, say, or heart disease.
"You see some of your friends are dying, and really, it's the first time you realize that your lifespan is not forever," he added. "And the late 80s is, of course, a period when, if you're lucky to have survived to that age, then things start getting worse." Along with health issues, you may experience financial issues and the death of a spouse and friends, he said: "It's probably the most understandable of the three periods."
The surprising main finding of the study was the 76% prevalence of moderate to severe loneliness, Jeste said: "We thought that it would be little more than a third." Men and women felt equally lonely and to the same degree -- no sex differences were found in either prevalence or severity, he and his colleagues found.
The study also showed that loneliness is associated with declines in physical health, mental health and cognition, though this has been reported in the past.
The third main finding, the inverse relationship between loneliness and wisdom, was "surprising and interesting and actually positive -- an optimistic finding," according to Jeste. He and his colleagues measured the six components of wisdom in each participant: general knowledge of life; emotion management; empathy, compassion, altruism and a sense of fairness; insight; acceptance of divergent values; and decisiveness -- the ability to make quick, effective decisions when necessary.
The traits we need to develop
This inverse association between loneliness and wisdom is "suggestive of the role of personality in the development and persistence of loneliness over time," said Anthony Ong, a professor of human development at Cornell University and a professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.
The focus on wisdom as a protective factor is "novel, but more research is needed to clarify the mechanisms underlying the reported association between wisdom and loneliness," Ong, who was not involved in the new research, wrote in an email.
A "full understanding" of the phenomenon of loneliness is far from complete, Ong said. "Questions remain about whether the associations between loneliness and health reflect the effects of loneliness." Research has found that loneliness is a known risk factor for cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, disability and depression.
Ong added that more studies "addressing the direct, indirect, and moderated effects of social isolation and loneliness on health are urgently needed."
"More research is also needed to clarify the brain mechanisms underlying the association between loneliness and cognitive decline in old age and the extent to which such decline is reversible through intervention," he said. He believes that combating loneliness "may play an important role in improving well-being and prolonging life."
Jeste agrees that more research is needed and that answering the question, "How do you reduce loneliness?" is the "main goal." With suicide, opioid abuse and now loneliness all at "epidemic" levels, Jeste believes there is "increasing stress in general society over the last few decades."
"People need to realize that [loneliness] is a common problem. It is a serious problem," said Jeste, who suggested that the six component traits of wisdom might be cultivated. "Loneliness is sad; nobody disagrees with that," he said. "But it is a little bit more under our control than some people think."
Reprinted from CBS News' Healthday, April 14, 2017
by Maureen Salamon
A pair of key differences in the brain may help distinguish which seniors are at risk of falling prey to financial scams, a small new study suggests.
The first-of-its-kind study found a biological basis -- rather than poor decision-making skills -- underlying financial exploitation in the elderly. These findings might lead to a way to predict which seniors are susceptible to scams, the researchers said.
Such scams affect about 5 percent of older adults after age 60, said study author Nathan Spreng. He’s director of Cornell University’s Laboratory of Brain and Cognition.
“We suspect these are brain changes that occurred prior to [seniors] being exploited that rendered them vulnerable to exploitation... It could have been something that emerged as they were aging,” Spreng said.
“We think it’s probably more of an age-related change to the brain,” he added. “We don’t necessarily think this is a lifelong brain difference.”
About 45 million Americans were age 65 and older in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The true incidence of financial scams in this age group is probably underestimated. Spreng said that many older adults are unaware that they were scammed or unwilling to report being exploited.
Prior research indicated that family members are the most common financial abusers of seniors. In Spreng’s study, a grandson continued to steal even after being confronted by the study participant. In other examples, a daughter charged $2,000 to a study participant’s account without permission, and a son’s girlfriend borrowed $4,000 and never paid it back.
Spreng and his team evaluated 13 older adults who had been robbed by family members or neighbors, or scammed online or by phone. The researchers compared that group to 13 peers who’d been exposed to a potentially exploitative scheme, but recognized and avoided it.
Forty-five behavioral tests were performed on both groups to measure aspects such as memory, personality, financial reasoning, and the ability to pay attention to information and evaluate it. Additionally, MRI scans were performed on the participants’ brains.
The only behavioral difference that emerged between the groups was more anger and hostility in those who’d been scammed. But the brain images were more telling: Exploited seniors showed more shrinkage and less connectivity in two key areas of the brain.
One brain region, known as the anterior insula, signals when something significant is happening. This area was significantly reduced in the exploited group of seniors, which suggests their brains weren’t signaling that they faced a risky situation, according to the study authors.
The other brain region, called the medial prefrontal cortex, helps read social cues, such as people’s intentions. The scammed seniors also showed more shrinkage and fewer neural connections in this area, the findings showed.
The researchers also found the networks of both affected brain regions were more connected to each other. This suggests the combination of effects might leave those seniors more vulnerable to scams.
S. Duke Han is a spokesperson for the American Federation for Aging Research. He said this study’s results are preliminary because of the small number of people studied.
“There also could be other reasons for why these brain imaging differences might be seen -- there may be differences in cardiovascular health, nutrition or another variable not accounted for, and this isn’t a large enough study to address those,” said Han.
Han and Spreng agreed that studying financial scams in the elderly is a difficult task.
“The topic can be seen as very embarrassing for older adults who become the victims of financial exploitation, so it’s hard to get them to agree to be recruited for this type of research,” Han said.
Larger studies are needed to confirm these findings and perhaps identify markers -- both biological and behavioral -- to identify who’s most at risk of scams, Spreng said.
“Overall, our objective is to help with identifying people who may be vulnerable but don’t know it, and help build up additional protections for them,” Spreng said.
“The consequences are just so devastating for people’s well-being and quality of life and, ultimately, their health when they lose their life savings. We’re trying to tackle this problem as a biological issue,” Spreng said.
Valerie Reyna and Evan Wilhelms developed a new questionnaire for predicting who is likely to engage in risky behaviors, including, unprotected sex and binge drinking. Their questionnaire significantly outperforms 14 other gold-standard measures frequently used in economics and psychology.
The research of Professor Nathan Spreng and his collaborators sheds light on the basal forebrain region, where the degeneration of neural tissue caused by Alzheimer’s disease appears before cognitive and behavioral symptoms emerge.
Financial exploitation of older people by those who should be protecting them results in devastating health, emotional and psychological consequences. International elder abuse experts met at Weill Cornell Medicine to map out a strategy for conducting research on this problem.
Childhood poverty can cause significant psychological deficits in adulthood, according to a sweeping new study by Professor Gary Evans. The research, conducted by tracking participants over a 15-year period, is the first to show this damage occurs over time and in a broad range of ways.
STUDENTS IN THE NEWS
Camille Sims '15 says fate brought her to Cornell and the Department of Human Development. And now it has propelled her to reign as Miss New York and to finish second runner-up in September's Miss America competition.
Brian LaGrant ’17, a human development major from New Hartford, N.Y., discusses his research on factors surrounding imitation among children and adults.
David Garavito, graduate student in the Law, Psychology, and Human Development Program, under the supervision of Dr. Valerie Reyna, is working with communities in New York and around the country with support from an Engaged Cornell grant for student research. He is working with coaches and student athletes to study the effects of concussions on decision making about risks.
ARTICLES ON THE WEB
Alzheimer’s early tell: The language of authors who suffered from dementia has a story for the rest of us
Adrienne Day writes about how Barbara Lust, professor in Human Development, and other researchers are studying changes in language patterns in early Alzheimer’s disease.
Listen to Associate Professor Corinna Loeckenhoff discuss self-continuity, or our perceived connections with our past and future selves.
Reprinted from College of Human Ecology tumblr, June 20, 2016
For their work on aging, two College of Human Ecology faculty members have been named fellows for the Gerontological Society of America.
Corinna Loeckenhoff, associate professor of human development and associate professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC), and Elaine Wethington, professor of human development and of sociology and professor of gerontology in geriatrics at WCMC, were two of 94 professionals named on May 31 to the society, which is the largest of its kind seeking to understand aging in the United States.
As fellows, Loeckenhoff and Wethington are being recognized for their “outstanding and continuing work in gerontology,” specifically in the behavioral and social sciences section of the
Loeckenhoff, above, who directs the Laboratory for Healthy Aging and oversees Cornell’s gerontology minor, researches various topics related to health, personality, and emotions across the lifespan. She has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses on the various aspects of adult development and healthy aging.
Wethington, below, director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Human Development and associate director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, focuses on stress and how outside factors can affect one’s physical and mental health.
The society will formally recognize Loeckenhoff, Wethington, and its other new fellows at its 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans this November.
- By Tyler Alicea ‘16, MPS ‘17