Category: Aging

AgingCurious DavidRetirementTime

Vita Brevis: Tempus Fugit

New office

“There is something wrong with you! You have no sense of urgency about time!” I was recently admonished while sitting in my chair reflecting upon Patricia Hampfl’s delightful book of essays entitled The Art of the Wasted Day. Don’t retire, accelerate advises Bracken Darrell, Head of Logitech, in a recent LinkedIn blog piece.

Here are some of my previous thoughts about time:

A canceled meeting! How best to make use of that unexpected 50 minutes—that gift of time.  Maybe catch up on Profhacker blog pieces sitting on my RSS feed? Here are five of them:

  1. When the technology changes on you? Seems germane.
  2. Slowing down and learning about “deep listening”?  I should also turn off my twitter feed that tempts me with messages from some of my favorite thought leaders.  I am so easily distracted.
  3. Hints for teaching a large online course. I may try this when I leave Carroll.
  4. Making a WordPress Site Multi-lingual: Lately I’ve been exploring translation and language software.
  5. Exploring “gamification“: I’m still somewhat chary of moving in this direction, but intrigued by the creative writing/ gaming applications of English Professor Colleague BJ Best.

TIME was the campus -wide theme for Carroll University (Waukesha, WI, USA) during the 2014-2015 academic year. Across my years of teaching, I have enjoyed creating special courses (‘Why War?” “Happiness” “Pioneering Web 2.0 Technology Tools”) when I have been allowed time and total control over the course. Had I offered a course on this theme of time, I would have include the following as required reading and videos:

Time to walk with the Dog!

 

 

AgingCurious David

Reflections on How We Age

I have spent quite a bit of time the past few years thinking about aging and more specifically about brain health and brain fitness training. Two books written by geriatric psychiatrist Marc E. Agronin have very much shaped my recent thinking this summer about these topics. I shared some of my reactions to his latest book (The End of Old Age) in an earlier blog piece. NPR a few years ago provided a useful summary of Agronin’s earlier book How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey into the Hear of Growing Old.

In this earlier book Agronin acknowledges the known biology of the cellular aging process (e.g. the Hayflick Limit) and the successive shortening of telomeres with cellular divisions.  However, heavily influenced by the thinking of the late geriatric psychiatrist Gene Cohen,  Agronin persuasively and eloquently argues in this earlier book that aging is not and should not be thought of as a disease. Reading this earlier book which is enriched with detailed case studies of his patients was enlightening about my own myopic, age-centric views.

AgingCurious David

Reflections on “The End of Old Age”

Were I to teach a course on brain health, aging, or brain fitness, I definitely would include Marc E. Agronin’s engaging, thought-provoking, and well-written recent (2018) book The End of Old Age: Living a Longer, More Purposeful Life.He asks three fundamental questions – Why age? (to grow in wisdom). Why survive? (to realize a purpose). Why thrive? (to create something new.)  He argues persuasively that aging can and should be seen not as a disease but as a life enhancing opportunity for developing strengths of wisdom, purpose, and creativity. His arguments are well supported both by germane case studies and by detailed chapter end notes. The author makes wonderful and creative use of metaphor and clever turns of phrase, provides useful chapter summaries and even gives the reader an action plan for redefining and “re-aging.” This book definitely deserves careful reading and heeding by readers interested in a balanced, refreshing positive perspective about aging. Below are some resources I plan to further explore gleaned from the book.

Resources drawn from reading Agronin’s provocative book:

  1. Marc Agronin Web site:
  2. Audrey de Grey’s Research to End Aging.
  3. Margaret Morganroth Gulette: On Ending Ageism
  4. Becca Levy’s Stereotype Embodiment Research
  5. Ellen Langer’s Power Of Possibility.
  6. MIDUS: University of Wisconsin Longitudinal Study of How Americans Age   
  7. Paul Baltes’ Model of Wisdom
  8. Carol Ryff’s research on positive aging
  9. Ezekiel Emmanuel: “Why I Hope to Die at 75.
  10. Barbera Myerhoff’s Number Our Days

Here are some of my earlier blog pieces about the aging process:

  1. Ten Brain-enriching Resources
  2. Ruminations about Memory Loss
  3. Brain Fitness Software: Brain-boosting or Bloated Claims?
  4. Obsessing about Forgetting:
  5. Promising Research or Wishful Thinking?
  6. Sharpening My brain at the Summit:
  7. Brain Fitness Training: Fact and Fiction
  8. Pieces of the Puzzle:
  9. Retraining My Old Brain
  10. Reflections on the Myth of Multi-tasking

 

Agingbook-writingbrain fitnessCurious DavidSelf Publishing

Five Courses I’d Like to Create, Teach, or Take in the Next Few Years

I learn best and most by creating and then teaching courses. Here are five courses for which I have done extensive background preparation and that I may develope to fruition in the next few years.  Even if I never offer them at Carroll, there are so many venues for continuing teaching (e.g. via LinkedIn, Coursera, etc.) that it seems a waste not to complete and share these thoughts —and others.

  1. Self-Publishing Tools (e.g. Designrr, CreateSpace, Pressbooks; Lulu) 
  2. Brain Health and Aging
  3. History of Waukesha’s Carroll: 1977 – 2019
  4. Memory and Literature
  5. Internet Learning Tools

Which should I complete during my last year teaching at Carroll?

 

AgingBrain health supplementsCDICLCurious David

Curious David Redux: Brain Health Resources

P1110785

Today I made additional considerable progress obtaining, reading, and vetting information about brain health issues. Thanks to Alvaro Fernandez at Sharpbrains.com for corresonding with me about the forthcoming 3rd edition of the Sharpbrains Guide to Brain Fitness. I look foward to “attending” the 2018 Sharpbrains summit in December. LinkedIn feeds are now alerting me to a number of resources about Brain Health Summits (such as this one)  and dead-ends in pharma funded research (such as this one).

Increasingly there is a need for paying attention to the good work of organizations such as the  Truth in Advertising Organization (truthinadvertising.org). Recently they did good work exposing false claims about memory enhancement supplements such as Prevagen.

I still hope to pull all this information into one place in e-book format before I leave Carroll for the summer on May 13. I have now discovered several easy ways to convert WordPress files into Word or pdf formats. Stay tuned!

 

 

AgingBrain health supplementsCurious David

Works in Progress (Part 2): Brain Health, ebooks, Learning LinkedIn and Research Assistant Development

Today I made considerable progress obtaining, reading, and vetting information about brain health issues. Thanks to Alvaro Fernandez at Sharpbrains.com for introducing me to the Truth in Advertising Organization (truthinadvertising.org) and the good work they do exposing false claims about memory enhancement supplements such as Prevagen.

I hope to pull all this information into one place in e-book format before I leave Carroll for the summer on May 13. One challenge I face is finding an easy way to convert WordPress files into Word or pdf format. Any solutions would be welcomed.

 

 

 

I am delighted that I shall have a 2nd talented student joining my research assistant team in the Fall.  Kristen has already successfully stepped into the shoes of Tia and Lizzie who are abandoning me for a better deal — graduate school. I need to remind myself that Kristen is “only” a freshman since she handles responsibilities so conscientiously, responsibly, and capably.

Here are Kristen’s thoughts about LinkedIn:…

Being only a freshman in college, I am progressively expanding my knowledge on how to successfully use different platforms. Dr. Simpson recently introduced me to a site called LinkedIn. Although I have heard of this networking platform in the past, I previously had no use for it. However, as I start to enter into adulthood, we thought it would be wise to start my profile this year. Dr. Simpson assisted me in the creation of my profile by sending me a video series on this platform called Learning LinkedIn for Students created by Oliver Schinkten.

Throughout this video series, Schinkten goes step-by-step on how students can successfully obtain a professional profile. He gives nice examples for the viewers on certain information employers look for in these profiles. He also gives the viewer tips on how to stand out from other users. Although this information is useful, there is copious amounts of information that he suggests that seem to be too detailed. If one wants to use LinkedIn as a resume, they should keep it simple and organized. It can also be difficult, especially as a freshman, to add skills onto one’s profile. Maybe adding some examples on what senior high schooler/college freshman could have on their profile.

            Overall, I thought this video series was a good starting point for students who want to start their job networking. Schinkten gives a nice overview of the website and gives clear directions on how to add, edit, and use this platform. Even though some of the information he suggests can be quite detailed, Schinkten does give a nice overview of the platform. Not only does he give clear directions on how to use the platform, but also in how a student can successfully use this professional site for seeking future jobs.  

AgingApp GenerationForgetting names

Oops – My Playful Memory Failed Me!

 

 

I’ve never claimed to have eidetic memory. Clearly I don’t. I committed a memory faux pas last week by sending a message on my LinkedIn account indicating my delight at seeing a former student (whom I hadn’t seen in 40 years)  at our new Carroll University President’s inauguration. Alas, the 15 seconds of reunion with the former student and the intervening hours before I took the time to look him up on LinkedIn (hmm, he looks so different from whom I talked with) resulted in this subsequent electronic exchange.

  • David Simpson sent the following message at 8:35 PM

    Thanks for saying hello today!

  • Doug Cumming sent the following message at 2:57 AM

    Professor – unfortunately that wasn’t me that said hello yesterday. I am with my family, on my way home from Rome and a little vacation. Hope you are welland thanks for the note!- Doug Cumming CC ’85

  • David Simpson sent the following messages at 8:19 PM
  • Less you think that I am completely losing it, what happened is as I was emerged from the ceremonial march, someone called out “Hello, Professor Simpson. Do you remember me, Doug C_____. He then asked about Ralph Parsons. Ordinarily I have access to all my files of all students since 1977 (hard copy) but they are in storage while Rankin Hall is refurbished. Though he did not look like you, he had indicated that we had been in touch on LinkedIn. Oops. Must be nice visiting Rome! Take Care Doug—and thanks for the correction. I may have to blog about this! DS

  • Maybe Doug Cushing…another class of 85 Pio?!?

  • David Simpson sent the following messages at 8:28 PM
  • You may be correct although I thought he said 1978. I can check eventually because I am compulsive.

Other times my memory for former students is so rich  that there is no need to consult (inaccessible paper files. Such was the case for a Soul food Reunion Dinner
with Carl Meredith.

Do keep those letters, emails, and visits coming. I enjoy your shared memories—some of which are new to me such as the one below shared with me in 2014.

 

The letter was posted out of state on April 29, 2014. It appeared in my campus mail box a few days later. I glanced at the hand-written envelope (too) quickly, guessed that it might be a (sigh, yet another) solicitation for a letter of recommendation, and didn’t have a chance to open it until the following Saturday while I was proctoring my first final exam.

Dr. Simpson,

     I hope that this letter finds you in good health and spirit. I’m not sure if you’ll remember me, but you did something for me that I’ve never forgotten.

[Alas, he’s right that I am not as good at remembering students as I once was. I suspect that some of that memory failure is age-related; some is caused, I think, by how Carroll has changed. Some by the sheer number of students I have taught in the past 40 years. And though I had no immediate recollection of the particular event he shared, nonetheless I recalled him in some detail even without going to my filing cabinet and pulling out his advisee folder.]

In 2004 ,,, I called the College to inquire about online classes. The adviser I spoke with told me that you changed one of my grades allowing me to graduate. You gave me my life and I can never begin to thank you enough. … I never contacted you because I was embarrassed, but always so thankful for it….[B]ecause of what you did I have been able to get my Masters… and have the current job I hold.  I am about to leave for Afghanistan … And just want you to know that I have never forgotten what you did for me and have always tried to earn it and will continue to. Thank you so much. Respectfully,

I have only a vague recollection of the particular circumstance alluded to (but I verified its occurrence).

A student, about to graduate fails a final exam in one of my courses. Were there personal circumstances affecting their performance? Is this part of a pattern? Is there justified reason to give them an additional chance — say, an oral exam?

A student is just a few points away from the next higher grade needed to graduate. This is easier for me to resolve, because of my extensive training in statistics and measurement error I am aware of and sensitive to the imprecision of measurement. I am quite comfortable in this situation under certain circumstances allowing some subjective (human, humane?) factors to enter into my final judgment of the student’s demonstrated abilities and likelihood of future success.

I most assuredly would change a grade if I myself had made a clerical error in assigning a grade. My vague recollection is that the latter was the case in this instance. Sometimes memory failure (or fuzziness) is a blessing!

Simple acts of kindness, even when unintentional, can have long-lasting effects. This I believe. I was overjoyed to hear from him and communicated my thankfulness for his letter and best wishes for safety while serving our country.

AgingMCIMild Cognitive impairment

Sexagenarian Obsession: the F-Word

With aging I have become overly sensitive to the F-word—- “Forgetting.” I meant to sandwich in a chance to have my photo taken with Truman, President Gnadinger’s dog. Was it “forgetting” that resulted in my not following through with my intent — or was it the fact that I was trying to squeeze that event into a time during which I was also proctoring an exam, writing a blog piece about brain health, monitoring email, and making sure that all students had the time they needed for the exam before the next group arrived.

I am well aware that nearly everyone who lives long enough experiences some cognitive decline. I am human. I am also quite familiar with that grey area of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) — how to test for it, its relationship to dementia, how to compensate for it, and diagnostic guidelines for it (found here) .

According to Peter Rabins’ (University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health) 2018 White Paper on Memory (found hereit is estimated that 10 to 20% of Americans over 65 years of age have that condition with men more often affected than women and at earlier ages. Welcome, David, to your new reference group norms. Perhaps this is part of my motivation for continuing to surround myself with intellectually stimulating students — and playful, younger relatives.

In their presence I am younger. A number of studies (for example, this one: click here) suggest the preventative value of stimulating mental activities such as playing games, doing crafts, using a computer, and engaging in stimulation-rich social activities. Many studies have also found strong evidence for the value of age-appropriate strength training for global cognitive function (though not for memory). And I may have to start learning to dance ( see this link) or at least take up Tai Chi!

I have two playful partners in mind who always make me laugh when we dance or play together.

AgingApp Generation

Brain Boosting or Bloated Claims? Promising Research or Wishful Thinking? Part 1

At Christmas time one of my nephews gave me some brain challenging puzzles. For a few minutes I was able to fool him (and myself!) by being able to solve two of them in a few minutes. Then my beloved, intellectually curious grand nieces and nephews (ages 5 through 8)  proceeded to provide a context for my achievements by taking apart the remaining two puzzles which I had recognized as too difficult for me! Alas, they then lost interest and I still haven’t figured out how to put the puzzles back together!

Later I was invited by one to play a board game “Brain Games for Kids.” My mind was indeed blown away as he outperformed me very quickly. My solace was that he probably had memorized all questions and answers. Also, he had earlier shown me (on “his” computer which he had “built”) a school project he had on his Google-drive account.

Are these additional signs of effects on my aging brain? I must confess I find more of my research time focused on the topics of brain health and aging.

In an earlier blog piece I summarized five preliminary conclusions I had reached as a result of my immersing myself with my research students  investigating the claims of brain fitness training companies. I hope to continue that research in the Fall and to build upon what I learned at a Brain Health Virtual Summit.

  1. “Brain Training” and brain health products is a huge, lucrative and growing industry with very expensive market research reports! Alas, I did not have the $7,150 to purchase such a report. Click this link to read the abstract.
  2. There exist a number of excellent, current, well-written and understandable science-based guides to maintaining cognitive fitness and brain health (e.g. Click this link to see an example of this Harvard Medical School paper).
  3. There exist excellent scholarly reviews of the efficacy (and validity of claims made) of “brain fitness” programs. The best such review is by Daniel J. Simons et al. which can be found here: (Click this link to see it in full).

              Among the authors’ important conclusions and advice most germane to this blog piece (and the next series i am contemplating writing) are the following:

“Consumers should also consider the comparative costs and benefits of engaging in a brain-training regimen. Time spent using brain-training software could be allocated to other activities or even other forms of “brain training” (e.g., physical exercise) that might have broader benefits for health and well-being. That time might also be spent on learning things that are likely to improve your performance at school (e.g., reading; developing knowledge and skills in math, science, or the arts), on the job (e.g., updating your knowledge of content and standards in your profession), or in activities that are otherwise enjoyable. If an intervention has minimal benefits, using it means you have lost the opportunity to do something else. If you find using brain-training software enjoyable, you should factor that enjoyment into your decision to use it, but you should weigh it against other things you might do instead that would also be enjoyable, beneficial, and/or less expensive.

When evaluating the marketing claims of brain-training companies or media reports of brain-training studies, consider whether they are supported by peer-reviewed, scientific evidence from studies conducted by researchers independent of the company. As we have seen, many brain-training companies cite a large number of papers, but not all of those directly tested the effectiveness of a brain-training program against an appropriate control condition. Moreover, many of the studies tested groups of people who might not be like you. It is not clear that results from studies of people with schizophrenia will generalize to people without schizophrenia, or that benefits found in studies of college students will generalize to older adults. Finally, just because an advertisement appears in a trusted medium (e.g., National Public Radio) or is promoted by a trusted organization (e.g., AARP) does not mean that its claims are justified. Consumers should view such advertising claims with skepticism.”

4. Many cognitive training studies and brain training companies overpromise results, cite the same methodologically faulty studies, cite studies funded by their organization,  ignore best practice experimental designs (see point 2 above), and fail to take into consideration placebo effects (Here is a simple, well-designed,  study indicating how EXPECTATIONS may cause the outcome attributed to cognitive training.)

5. Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and from individuals sharing first-hand experiences such as in the beautiful bogging in Sally Remembers.

Over the next few months I plan to focus my writing on expanding upon these points by examining recent claims. I shall take a look at products such as that pictured below that claim their products are backed by “clinical trials.” I actually still have the energy, motivation and developed cognitive skills to find, to read, to reflect upon and to evaluate such claims.

Can you train your brain to drive longer into your golden years? Such was the headline that appeared in my LinkedIn feed today that caught my interest. So I hunted down the original article (rather than trust that which was summarized) AND I contacted the author of the article asking her what she thought of the claims being made for her study.

Stay tuned…

— Still curious at age almost 69,

David

AgingCurious David

Sharpening My Brain

I’m looking forward later today to (virtually) participating in the 2017 SharpBrains Virtual Summit.  As I await its starting, I am flooded by emails from brain fitness companies. Lumosity claims to have “…adapted age-old-techniques of Mindfulness training into a series of easy-to-learn courses and activities.” I’ll learn more about that on Thursday from a Summit presentation. BrainHQ from Posit Science shares with me their latest claims. A new blog piece is published by Smartbrainaging.

I now am a subscriber to a number of very science-based brain health resources coming from Harvard Medical School and UC Berkeley,  I also now monitor National Institute of Aging clinical trial research. There are some intriguing ongoing randomized trials investigating cognitive, dietary and behavioral interventions (such as exercise programs) for mild cognitive impairment such as these.

I am looking forward to opportunities to interact at the summit with some of these CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and fellow investigators and to continue those relationships over the next few years.

My student research team has now spend a semester investigating brain fitness research claims. We are in the process of reflecting on what we have learned. Here are a few preliminary thoughts which will be expanded into a book.

 

  1. “Brain Training” is a huge and growing industry with very expensive market research reports! Like this one:
  2. There exist a number of excellent, current, science-based guides to maintaining cognitive fitness and brain health (e.g. this one).
  3. There exist excellent scholarly reviews of the efficacy of “brain fitness” programs (e.g. this one).
  4. Many cognitive training studies and brain training companies overpromise results, cite the same methodologically faulty studies, ignore best practice experimental designs (see point 2 above), and fail to take into consideration placebo effects (See this study.)
  5. Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and other like works (Such as these).

Time to log into the summit. To paraphrase the proverb, all work and no play makes David a dull boy.