Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Amusement park started as a "retirement project"

By day, I'm a communications manager at the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community. In my spare time, I blog for the Indiana Insider blog, telling people about fun things to do in the state of Indiana.

Yesterday, I was at Holiday World and Splashin' Safari (formerly known as Santa Claus Land), taking a tour with the park's Director of Public Relations Paula Werne. My professional and off-duty worlds collided when she told me that Santa Claus Land started as a retirement project for Louis J. Koch, a retired industrialist from Evansville, Indiana.

With the management of the family business safely in the hands of his two sons, Koch (pronounced "cook") used his retirement years to develop Santa Claus Land as a children's park, which opened in 1946. Werne said that it just bothered Koch that Indiana had a town called Santa Claus, but didn't have any Santa Claus activities to offer people who visited.

This picture, taken in March 1955 and provided courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, shows Louis J. Koch (far right) with then-actor Ronald Reagan visiting with the Big Guy at Santa Claus Land.

Today the park, now known as Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, is a destination for more than 1 million visitors each year.

What Koch did was embrace his "third age." This month's edition of Aging in Indiana takes a look at the third age as part of what I'm calling the 4th "P" in the 4 Ps of aging -- preparation. Beyond simply financial planning, the third age is the time in a person's life between the ages of 45 and 80 when he or she begins to consider and pursue what is next in terms where time and passions are invested.

For some people, the third age brings with it an impetus to travel. For others, it might mean spending more time with family or exploring new hobbies. Many will launch an encore career, perhaps one that offers more flexibility and is based more on passions than on paychecks.

Each year the Purpose Prize is given to people over the age of 60 who are making extraordinary contributions in their encore careers, that is people who have embraced their own third age.

The Purpose Prize and the phrase "third age" did not exist in 1946 when Louis Koch embarked on his project. But what he did in his retirement created a legacy that still continues today.

Amy Magan
Communications Manager

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer heat poses dangers to seniors

An article in the Evansville (IN) Courier & Press last week highlighted the need for older adults to have places to seek relief from the high heat and humidity the comes with the summer months.

According to the article, the combination of heat and humidity is particularly dangerous for seniors whose bodies don't cool down as quickly as younger people's and who may avoid turning on the air conditioning to save money on utilities.

The article offered "beat the heat" tips for seniors, including:

  • Wear light clothes with light colors and a hat or cap if possible.
  • Drink lots of water or beverages with electrolytes, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Be aware of temperature and humidity, as a high relative humidity can hinder the effect of perspiration.
  • Plan outside activities such as gardening early in the day.
  • When going out during peak sun hours, go to cool places such as a library or mall.
For more information about older adults and the risks associated with high heat and humidity, check out this downloadable publication (available in English and Spanish) from the National Institute on Aging.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reinventing Retirement webcast

Are you looking forward to retirement as a time to reinvent yourself? Perhaps a time to pursue a new hobby, invest in a personal passion or even launch an encore career?

Tune in to a free webcast tonight, Thursday, June 17 at 8pm ET for a discussion on redefining retirement, especially in terms of preparing for an encore career. Moderated by ABC's Charles Gibson and sponsored by Merrill Lynch, the webcast will feature the following participants:

  • Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist Anna Quindlen
  • Best-selling author Daniel Gilbert (Stumbling to Happiness)
  • Civic Ventures CEO and co-creator of The Purpose Prize Marc Freedman
There is still time to submit questions for the discussion by clicking here.

This is the second in Help 2 Retire webcast series. To view a recording of the first webcast, which focused on retirement after recession, click here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Good stuff out there

You might consider this a lazy post, but I'm going to say that it's spreading the love for interesting news about aging:

Why Your Grandpa Is on Facebook

Effective Social Media for the 55 or Better Crowd

The Safety Dance
- How cautious is too cautious?

Think cable TV needs a positive show about the joys of aging? Click here.

New tech applications to make caregiving easier

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rue McClanahan on aging

You've likely already heard that Rue McClanahan, the actress who played sassy and saucy Blanche Devereaux on the television series "The Golden Girls" died of a stroke earlier this week.

I was reading an article about McClanahan's death on the ABC News website, when I came across this quote, given by McClanahan to The New York Times in 1985:

"...when people mature, they add layers. They don't turn into other creatures. The truth is we all still have our child, our adolescent and our young woman living in us."

As I approach a milestone birthday later this summer, I understand how true that statement is. Sure, there are parts of my personality that are more seasoned (and for that I am grateful!), but I also carry around some of the same desires -- and insecurities -- that I've had since I was a little girl.

How about you? Do you see your age giving you layers or dimensions? How does that affect the way you view aging in general?

Amy Magan
Communications Manager

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Telomeres, Aging and Cancer

This year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to three American Scientists who made an important discovery related to both aging and cancer: “how chromosomes can be copied in a complete way during cell divisions and how they are protected against degradation.”

The new word out there in the field of aging and possibly cancer prevention is “telomere.” Telomeres are protective DNA-protein complexes positioned at the ends or tips of chromosomes. They have been compared with the tips of plastic at the end of shoelaces, which are protective and maintain the integrity of the laces.

Telomeres are important because of the functions they serve during cellular division. When cells divide, the exact sequence of DNA must be transcribed from the chromosomes of the parent cell to create chromosomes for the new cell. A piece of the telomere is clipped off and donated to the DNA sequence at the end of the chromosome so that the copying is complete and accurate. Most cells (e.g, those that line the intestinal tract) normally divide about 50-70 times, their telomeres getting progressively shorter until the cells lose their ability to divide, sustain genetic damage (which can cause cancer), or die.

Can anything counteract or slow down telomere shortening? Less frequent cell division is one possibility. Things that slow down cell division include calorie restricted diets, and avoidance of inflammation and injury. In addition, there is an enzyme called “telomerase” which can add chemical components to the ends of telomeres, which slows their erosion. However, telomerase is a two-edged sword.

If telomerase is too available all of the time, there is no slowing down of cell division, and there is an increased risk for cancer due to inaccuracies (mutations) in the gene copying process. While scientists have been examining telomerase as a possible “fountain of youth” substance, they also realize its potential for causing or increasing cancer risk in some individuals.

Scientists have found that telomere length does appear to be related to aging. One study has found that individuals with longer telomeres tended to live five years more than individuals with shorter telomeres. However, research is also showing that there are other factors that more strongly affect the number of years that humans live. These include chronological age, gender, and exposure to something called “oxidative stress.” Oxidative stress is damage to DNA, body proteins and fats caused by highly reactive substances that contain oxygen (oxidants and free radicals). These substances are produced normally when we breathe, but they are also increased by eating certain types of fats (polyunsaturated oils, trans fats, saturated fats); infections, smoking and overconsumption of alcohol also increases oxidants and free radicals. Consuming antioxidants contained in brightly colored fruits and vegetables can help counteract this effect, and slow the aging process down.

So, while telomeres are interesting and important, they are not the only factor involved in aging long and well! This is a complicated topic, so be sure to go to the following references to learn more:

Constance McCloy, PT, EdD
Associate Professor