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A Harvard Geneticist Wants To Sell A Magical … – HuffPost

Renowned Harvard University geneticist David Sinclair recently made a startling assertion: Scientific data shows he has knocked more than two decades off his biological age.

Whats the 49-year-olds secret? He says his daily regimen includes ingesting a molecule his own research found improved the health and lengthened the life span of mice. Sinclair now boasts online that he has the lung capacity, cholesterol and blood pressure of a young adult and the heart rate of an athlete.

Despite his enthusiasm, published scientific research has not yet demonstrated the molecule works in humans as it does in mice. Sinclair, however, has a considerable financial stake in his claims being proven correct, and has lent his scientific prowess to commercializing possible life extension products such molecules known as NAD boosters.

His financial interests include being listed as an inventor on a patent licensed to Elysium Health, a supplement company that sells a NAD booster in pills for $60 a bottle. Hes also an investor in InsideTracker, the company that he says measured his age.

Discerning hype from reality in the longevity field has become tougher than ever as reputable scientists such as Sinclair and pre-eminent institutions like Harvard align themselves with promising but unproven interventions and at times promote and profit from them.

Fueling the excitement, investors pour billions of dollars into the field even as many of the products already on the market face fewer regulations and therefore a lower threshold of proof.

If you say youre a terrific scientist and you have a treatment for aging, it gets a lot of attention, said Jeffrey Flier, a former Harvard Medical School dean who has been critical of the hype. There is financial incentive and inducement to overpromise before all the research is in.

MELANIE MAXWELL FOR KHNMice frolic in Richard Millers pathology and geriatrics lab at the University of Michigan. Miller heads one of the three labs funded by NIH to test anti-aging substances on mice.

Elysium, co-founded in 2014 by a prominent MIT scientist to commercialize the molecule nicotinamide riboside, a type of NAD booster, highlights its exclusive licensing agreement with Harvard and the Mayo Clinic and Sinclairs role as an inventor. According to the companys press release, the agreement is aimed at supplements that slow aging and age-related diseases.

Further adding scientific gravitas to its brand, the website lists eight Nobel laureates and 19 other prominent scientists who sit on its scientific advisory board. The company also advertises research partnerships with Harvard and U.K. universities Cambridge and Oxford.

Some scientists and institutions have grown uneasy with such ties. Cambridges Milner Therapeutics Institute announced in 2017 it would receive funding from Elysium, cementing a research partnership. But after hearing complaints from faculty that the institute was associating itself with an unproven supplement, it quietly decided not to renew the funding or the companys membership to its innovation board.

The sale of nutritional supplements of unproven clinical benefit is commonplace, said Stephen ORahilly, the director of Cambridges Metabolic Research Laboratories who applauded his university for reassessing the arrangement. What is unusual in this case is the extent to which institutions and individuals from the highest levels of the academy have been co-opted to provide scientific credibility for a product whose benefits to human health are unproven.

The promise

A generation ago, scientists often ignored or debunked claims of a fountain of youth pill.

Until about the early 1990s, it was kind of laughable that you could develop a pill that would slow aging, said Richard Miller, a biogerontologist at the University of Michigan who heads one of three labs funded by the National Institutes of Health to test such promising substances on mice. It was sort of a science fiction trope. Recent research has shown that pessimism is wrong.

Mice given molecules such as rapamycin live as much as 20 percent longer. Other substances such as 17 alpha estradiol and the diabetes drug Acarbose have been shown to be just as effective in mouse studies. Not only do mice live longer, but, depending on the substance, they avoid cancers, heart ailments and cognitive problems.

(MELANIE MAXWELL FOR KHN)Until about the early 1990s, it was kind of laughable that you could develop a pill that would slow aging, says University of Michigan biogerontologist Richard Miller. It was sort of a science fiction trope. Recent research has shown that pessimism is wrong.

But human metabolism is different from that of rodents. And our existence is unlike a mouses life in a cage. What is theoretically possible in the future remains unproven in humans and not ready for sale, experts say.

History is replete with examples of cures that worked on mice but not in people. Multiple drugs, for instance, have been effective at targeting an Alzheimers-like disease in mice yet have failed in humans.

None of this is ready for prime time. The bottom line is I dont try any of these things, said Felipe Sierra, the director of the division of aging biology at the National Institute on Aging at NIH. Why dont I? Because Im not a mouse.

The hype

Concerns about whether animal research could translate into human therapy have not stopped scientists from racing into the market, launching startups or lining up investors. Some true believers, including researchers and investors, are taking the substances themselves while promoting them as the next big thing in aging.

While the buzz encourages investment in worthwhile research, scientists should avoid hyping specific [substances], said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor who specializes in aging at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Yet some scientific findings are exaggerated to help commercialize them before clinical trials in humans demonstrate both safety and efficacy, he said.

Its a great gig if you can convince people to send money and use it to pay exorbitant salaries and do it for 20 years and make claims for 10, Olshansky said. Youve lived the high life and get investors by whipping up excitement and saying the benefits will come sooner than they really are.

Promising findings in animal studies have stirred much of this enthusiasm.

Research by Sinclair and others helped spark interest in resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, for its potential anti-aging properties. In 2004, Sinclair co-founded a company, Sirtris, to test resveratrols potential benefits and declared in an interview with the journal Science it was as close to a miraculous molecule as you can find. GlaxoSmithKline bought the company in 2008 for $720 million. By the time Glaxo halted the research in 2010 because of underwhelming results with possible side effects, Sinclair had already received $8 million from the sale, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents. He also had earned $297,000 a year in consulting fees from the company, according to The Wall Street Journal.

At the height of the buzz, Sinclair accepted a paid position with Shaklee, which sold a product made out of resveratrol. But he resigned after The Wall Street Journal highlighted positive comments he made about the product that the company had posted online. He said he never gave Shaklee permission to use his statements for marketing.

Sinclair practices what he preaches or promotes. On his LinkedIn bio and in media interviews, he describes how he now regularly takes resveratrol; the diabetes drug metformin, which holds promise in slowing aging; and nicotinamide mononucleotide, a substance known as NMN that his own research showed rejuvenated mice.

Of that study, he said in a video produced by Harvard that it sets the stage for new medicines that will be able to restore blood flow in organs that have lost it, either through a heart attack, a stroke or even in patients with dementia.

In an interview with KHN, Sinclair said hes not recommending that others take those substances.

Im not claiming Im actually younger. Im just giving people the facts, he said, adding that hes sharing the test results from InsideTrackers blood tests, which calculate biological age based on biomarkers in the blood. They said I was 58, and then one or two blood tests later they said I was 31.4.

InsideTracker sells an online age-tracking package to consumers for up to about $600. The companys website highlights Sinclairs support for the company as a member of its scientific advisory board. It also touts a study that describes the benefits of such tracking, which Sinclair co-authored.

Sinclair is involved either as a founder, an investor, an equity holder, a consultant or a board member with 28 companies, according to a list of his financial interests. At least 18 are involved in anti-aging in some way, including studying or commercializing NAD boosters. The interests range from longevity research startups aimed at humans and even pets to developing a product for a French skin care company to advising a longevity investment fund. Hes also an inventor named in the patent licensed by Harvard and the Mayo Clinic to Elysium, and one of his companies, MetroBiotech, has filed a patent related to nicotinamide mononucleotide, which he says he takes himself.

Sinclair and Harvard declined to release details on how much money he or the university is generating from these disclosed outside financial interests. Sinclair estimated in a 2017 interview with Australias Financial Review that he raises $3 million a year to fund his Harvard lab.

Liberty Biosecurity, a company he co-founded, estimated in Sinclairs online bio that he has been involved in ventures that have attracted more than a billion dollars in investment. When KHN asked him to detail the characterization, he said it was inaccurate, without elaborating, and the comments later disappeared from the website.

Sinclair cited confidentiality agreements for not disclosing his earnings, but he added that most of this income has been reinvested into companies developing breakthrough medicines, used to help my lab, or donated to nonprofits. He said he did not know how much he stood to make off the Elysium patent, saying Harvard negotiated the agreement.

Harvard declined to release Sinclairs conflict-of-interest statements, which university policy requires faculty at the medical school to file in order to protect against any faculty bias that could heighten the risk of harm to human research participants or recipients of products resulting from such research.

We can only be proud of our collaborations if we can represent confidently that such relationships enhance, and do not detract from, the appropriateness and reliability of our work, the policy states.

Elysium advertises both Harvards and Sinclairs ties to its company. It was co-founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Leonard Guarente, Sinclairs former research adviser and an investor in Sinclairs Sirtris.

Echoing his earlier statements on resveratrol, Sinclair is quoted on Elysiums website as describing NAD boosters as one of the most important molecules for life.

Supplement loophole?

The Food and Drug Administration doesnt categorize aging as a disease, which means potential medicines aimed at longevity generally cant undergo traditional clinical trials aimed at testing their effects on human aging. In addition, the FDA does not require supplements to undergo the same safety or efficacy testing as pharmaceuticals.

The banner headline on Elysiums website said that clinical trial results prove safety and efficacy of its supplement, Basis, which contains the molecule nicotinamide riboside and pterostilbene. But the companys research did not demonstrate the supplement was effective at anti-aging in humans, as it may be in mice. It simply showed the pill increased the levels of the substance in blood cells.

Elysium is selling pills to people online with the assertion that the pills are clinically proven said ORahilly. Thus far, however the benefits and risks of this change in chemistry in humans is unknown.

Many interventions that seem sensible on the basis of research in animals turn out to have unexpected effects in man, he added, citing a large clinical trial of beta carotene that showed it increased rather than decreased the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Elysiums own research documented a small but significant increase in cholesterol, but added more studies were needed to determine whether the changes were real or due to chance. One independent study has suggested that a component of NAD may influence the growth of some cancers, but researchers involved in the study warned it was too early to know.

Guarente, Elysiums co-founder and chief scientist, told KHN he isnt worried about any side effects from Basis, and he emphasized that his company is dedicated to conducting solid research. He said his company monitors customers safety reports and advises customers with health issues to consult with their doctors before using it.

If a substance meets the FDAs definition of a supplement and is advertised that way, then the agency cant take action unless it proves a danger, said Alta Charo, a former bioethics policy adviser to the Obama administration. Pharmaceuticals must demonstrate safety and efficacy before being marketed.

A lot of what goes on here is really, really careful phrasing for what you say the thing is for, said Charo, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin. If theyre marketing it as a cure for a disease, then they get in trouble with the FDA. If theyre marketing it as a rejuvenator, then the FDA is hamstrung until a danger to the public is proven.

This is a recipe for some really unfortunate problems down the road, Charo added. We may be lucky and it may turn out that a lot of this stuff turns out to be benignly useless. But for all we know, itll be dangerous.

The debate about the risks and benefits of substances that have yet to be proven to work in humans has triggered a debate over whether research institutions are scrutinizing the financial interests and involvement of their faculty or the institution itself closely enough. It remains to be seen whether Cambridges decision not to renew its partnership will prompt others to rethink such ties.

Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, had earlier heard complaints and looked into the relationships between scientists and Elysium after he stepped down as dean. He said he discovered that many of the board members who allowed their names and pictures to be posted on the company website knew little about the scientific basis for use of the companys supplement.

Flier recalls that one scientist had no real role in advising the company and never attended a company meeting. Even so, Elysium was paying him for his role on the board, Flier said.

Caroline Perry, director of communications for Harvards Office of Technology Development, said agreements such as Harvards acceptance of research funds from Elysium comply with university policies and protect the traditional academic independence of the researchers.

Harvard enters into research agreements with corporate partners who express a commitment to advancing science by supporting research led by Harvard faculty, Perry added.

Like Harvard, the Mayo Clinic refused to release details on how much money it would make off the Elysium licensing agreement. Mayo and Harvard engaged in substantial diligence and extended negotiations before entering into the agreement, said a Mayo spokeswoman.

The company provided convincing proof that they are committed to developing products supported by scientific evidence, said the spokeswoman, Duska Anastasijevic.

Guarente of Elysium refused to say how much he or Elysium was earning off the sale of the supplement Basis. MIT would not release his conflict-of-interest statements.

Private investment funds, meanwhile, continue to pour into longevity research despite questions about whether the substances work in people.

One key Elysium investor is the Morningside Group, a private equity firm run by Harvards top donor, Gerald Chan, who also gave $350 million to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Billionaire and WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann has invested in Sinclairs Life Biosciences.

An investment firm led by engineer and physician Peter Diamandis gave a group of Harvard researchers $5.5 million for their startup company after their research was publicly challenged by several other scientists.

In its announcement of the seed money, the company, Elevian, said its goal was to develop new medicines that increase the activity levels of the hormone GDF11 to potentially prevent and treat age-related diseases.

It described research by its founders, which include Harvards Amy Wagers and Richard Lee, as demonstrating that replenishing a single circulating factor, GDF11, in old animals mirrors the effects of young blood, repairing the heart, brain, muscle and other tissues.

Other respected labs in the field have either failed to replicate or contradict key elements of their observations.

Elevians CEO, Mark Allen, said the early scientific data on GDF11 is encouraging, but drug discovery and development is a time-intensive, risky, regulated process requiring many years of research, preclinical [animal] studies, and human clinical trials to successfully bring new drugs to market.

Flier worries research in the longevity field could be compromised, although he recognizes the importance and promise of the science. He said hes concerned that alliances between billionaires and scientists could lead to less skepticism.

A susceptible billionaire meets a very good salesman scientist who looks him deeply in the eyes and says, Theres no reason why we cant have a therapy that will let you live 400 or 600 years, Flier said. The billionaire will look back and see someone who is at MIT or Harvard and say, Show me what you can do.

Despite concerns about the hype, scientists are hopeful of finding a way forward by relying on hard evidence. The consensus: A pill is on the horizon. Its just a matter of time and solid research.

If you want to make money, hiring a sales rep to push something that hasnt been tested is a really great strategy, said Miller, who is testing substances on mice. If instead you want to find drugs that work in people, you take a very different approach. It doesnt involve sales pitches. It involves the long, laborious, slogging process of actually doing research.

KHN senior correspondent Jay Hancock contributed to this report.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Fife woman breached Asbo by having illicit party at home during lockdown – The Courier

A selfish neighbour breached her Asbo by inviting friends round for an illicit party during the coronavirus lockdown.

Shannon Mullen, 25, was caught with more people in her home than she was allowed under the strict terms of her anti-social behaviour order.

Mullen who had made her neighbours lives a misery broke the Asbo by having more than two people in her home on May 10.

Dundee Sheriff Court was told that Mullen had the Asbo imposed on March 25 after a series of incidents at the property in Burns Begg Street, Kinross.

Depute fiscal Lisa Marshall told the court: She has previous convictions. She has been making her neighbours lives a misery.

Mullen was banned from shouting, swearing, screaming, slamming doors, arguing, fighting, banging walls and playing loud music under the terms of the interim order.

It also prevented her from having others banging the external door and shouting and swearing at the property.

But it was the condition limiting her visitor numbers which she admitted breaking by having three people in the house during the pandemic lockdown.

Solicitor David Sinclair, defending, said: Things have been difficult with her neighbour. I am not sufficiently familiar with the case to know whats caused that.

She accepts there were three persons in her house. Her intention is to go to Kelty and live with her mother, which may give her neighbours some respite.

Mullen, now of Croftangry Road, Kelty, had sentence deferred and was ordered to be of good behaviour for six months.

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Drug Use is Transmitted from Old to Young – UPJ Athletics

Up until now, research into the demographics of drug use has focused more on age, finding that midlife is the riskiest time for drug-related death, but Burke and colleagues saw that the year a person was born also has a large effect.

These phases map onto the previously identified drug waves that came with the waxing and waning popularity of prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl, each in turn.

Peering within each generation, Jalal and colleagues saw a steady march toward greater overdose risk at younger ages for each successive birth year, which they found quite surprising.

Theres no reason why the lines should be fanning like this, Jalal said. If you look at breast cancer, for example, or any other mortality curves, they dont look like that.

Its not clear why this is happening, Jalal said, but the pattern is too clean to chalk up to chance. And an overall rise in drug overdose deathsalthough that is happening in the background of these datadoes not explain away the results presented in this study.

Burke uses an analogy borrowed from infectious diseases to explain the progressive shift of drug overdose deaths to younger ages.

Burke hopes that the highly regular patterns uncovered in this analysis will give policy makers a tool for testing whether their measures to curb drug overdose deaths are working over the long termany effective intervention should disrupt the pattern.

Additional authors on the study are Jeanine Buchanich, David Sinclair and Mark Roberts, all of Pitt Public Health. Funding was provided by theNational Center for Advancing Translational Sciencesand theRobert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Hide and Hedonism invite guests to a virtual wine dinner – Spear’s WMS

The Mayfair restaurant and wine boutique invite diners to a virtual four-course dinner with head sommelier Julien Sarrasin

Guests of Mayfair restaurant Hide can now enjoy a four-course menu prepared by Ollie Dabbous and paired with fine wines from Hedonism all in the comfort of their own home.

The Michelin-starred restaurant and its sister wine merchant Hedonism have upped the ante in the high-end food delivery stakes by offering diners the chance to join HIDE at HOMEs head sommelier Julien Sarrasin by live video feed on Wednesday 13th May.

Sarrasin will introduce each dish and discuss each of the wines in turn. Diners will learn about the winemaker, the grape varieties and why each fine wine was selected to pair with a particular course.

The menu starts with a chilled pine broth amuse bouche with strawberries, avocado, basil and pistachio. The starter is scallop tartare with Exmoor caviar, followed by Champagne-poached cornfed chicken, sptzle and black truffle. Dessert is a baked Alaska made with cascara, coffee and pecan.

Wines will be delivered one or two days before the date of the event. The meal will be delivered on the evening of Wednesday 13th May. The offer is limited to a list of London postcodes which is available on the HIDE at HOME site.

The menu will be prepared by Ollie Dabbous and his team at Hide. The chef opened his first restaurant, Dabbous, in 2012 and earned his first Michelin star. After closing Dabbous in 2017, the chef joined forces with Hedonism Wines to launch Hide, which earned a Michelin star within six months of opening in 2018.

The virtual wine dinner from HIDE at HOME is just one in a series of virtual events being run by the restaurant. Others include a spirit tasting to discover the smoky drams of Scotland with specialist Tom Olive, a winemaker tasting with the Chef de Cave at Charles Heidsieck, Cyril Brun, and a whisky tasting with The Macallans owner David Sinclair.

Web: hide.co.uk/home

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Budget realities from COVID-19 cut $40.6 million from Prince William budgets – Inside NoVA

Prince William County will leave the rate on real estate taxes unchanged for the next fiscal year, as the budget reality of the COVID-19 pandemic forced supervisors to ditch new spending and a proposed tax rate increase.

More than 25 Prince William County residents who talked remotely to the board of county supervisors Tuesday were divided with many supporting a proposal to keep the real estate tax rate steady in an effort to fund schools and social services, while others said the county should decrease the tax rate as thousands in the county have lost jobs and others face furloughs and an uncertain future amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board adopted its $1.09 billion budget for fiscal year 2021 that starts July 1.

The board adopted the same real estate tax rate as this fiscal year: $1.125 for every $100 of assessed value. That doesnt mean that taxes wont go up. Residents who have seen property values climb will see an increase in their tax bill, about a $177 increase on the average residential tax bill.

The vote was 5-3. Supervisors Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, and Yesli Vega, R-Coles, argued for a tax rate of $1.085 per every $100 of value. Democratic supervisors argued the cuts would limit county services.

Supervisors also voted to increase the tax rate on computer equipment by 10 cents to $1.35 per every $100 of assessed value a charge that primarily affects data centers.

The adopted budget has $40.6 million less than staff had proposed on Feb. 18. Of that money, $22.7 million was expected to be added to school division revenue.

The board ended up allocating $629.6 million to the division, including $625.3 million that is part of the countys revenue sharing agreement, along with additional funding for class size reduction, costs related to the 13th high school and more.

Chair Ann Wheeler said she expects the board will have to revisit its budget every quarter due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

When the board adopted its current budget last year, Republicans held a 6-2 majority. Now, Democrats hold a 5-3 majority.

The budget included $7 million for pay increases for about 1,500 employees, raises that were recommended to the board to ensure employees are being paid equally for similar work and to make sure pay is competitive with other governments in the region.

Supervisor Andrea Baileys proposal to add an additional $150,000 for community partners nonprofits such as ACTS in Dumfries to the existing proposal of $92,904 for fiscal year 2021 was also approved.

David Sinclair, the countys director of the office of management and budget, told the board the fiscal 2021 budget means about $36 million less than the school board adopted as part of its recommended budget. The school board is waiting to adjust its spending plan until after the county and the state determine how deep cuts will go.

On Feb. 18, County Executive Christopher Martino proposed a budget based on a 2-cent increase to the real estate tax rate. After the coronavirus, Wheeler sought a budget that kept the tax rate unchanged.

Among items cut was a 3% merit raise for county staff. Martino also has implemented a hiring freeze unless the position is required for public safety related to the pandemic, focused spending on core services, and postponed large construction projects that are not under contract, among other measures.

Staff project the county will see $14.2 million less in revenue in fiscal year 2021. The county also expects to receive $2.4 million less in revenue prior to June 30, when fiscal 2020 ends.

In Prince William Health District, which includes the county, Manassas and Manassas Park, reported 1,677 people who tested positive for COVID-19, 183 people were hospitalized and 23 people have died due to the virus, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission, over 28,600 Prince William residents filed for unemployment benefits between March 15 and April 18.

The board also approved the request from Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, for $2 million for the environmental and preliminary design for the Van Buren Road extension project. That funding is coming from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

Supervisor Margaret Franklin, D-Woodbridge, proposed on April 21 to starta small business program so the county can offer $10,000 loans and grants through its Industrial Development Authority. This week,theboard approved $1 million for that program starting this fiscal year 2020 and carrying over any funds to fiscalyear 2021. Also starting this fiscal year, is a program pitched by Franklin to dedicate $500,000 to offer rental or utility assistance for people who are low income or elderly or disabled.

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Carole Carson: Adventures in Aging Seven myths about getting older – The Union of Grass Valley

How many of these myths do you accept as reality?

Myth 1: When it comes down to it, aging is just another disease, asserts professor David Sinclair, PhD, a Harvard professor.

He is convinced that aging, like obesity, is a pathological condition that scientists will eradicate.

Reality: If aging is a disease, it must be highly contagious because all my patients get it, says Dr. Todd Bouchier, a Grass Valley physician. And everyone over the age of 65 has an advanced case.

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Humor aside, Dr. Bouchier continues, aging is not a disease. Over time, mountains crumble, barns collapse, and cells degenerate. Aging is a fact of nature. Scientists get excited about the possibility of escaping the preprogrammed aspects of cellular aging. No doubt, well make gains and eventually live longer but wont eliminate aging. Making the final years as meaningful as possible is the goal.

Myth 2: All seniors are alike and are best described as sexless, toothless, prune juice-drinking dribblers who watch daytime television and shuffle like Tim Conway.

Reality: People live more diverse lives over time. People in their 20s are more alike than folks in their 80s. We even age differently. Four distinct ageotypes metabolic, immune, hepatic (liver), and nephrotic (kidney) determine how and where in the body biologic aging occurs.

As for sex, studies show that seniors enjoy sex and variations of sexual activity beyond middle age. Moreover, the need for intimacy touching, hugging, or holding hands is timeless.

Myth 3: Old timers are a drain on society, sucking up resources the younger folks need. The fewer seniors in a community, the healthier it is. The coronavirus can thin the herd.

Reality: Over 1,200 nonprofit and 501(c) organizations operate in Nevada County, enriching our community in immeasurable ways. Funding and volunteer support (estimated at 10,000 hours annually) rely heavily on seniors for these civic and social activities.

Plus, increasing numbers of seniors work. And even those who arent on a payroll still work as grandparents and caregivers.

As for welfare, older people have emerged as the wealthiest segment of our population.

Myth 4: Seniors dont need or buy much, hence, commercials focus on young people, except for depressing pharmaceutical ads.

Reality: The 65-and-older population is the mother of all untapped markets, according to Barrons. In 2015, the spending of Americans ages 50 and up accounted for nearly $8 trillion worth of dollars spent. By 2030, the 55-and-older population will have accounted for half of all domestic consumer spending growth.

And even when household income for older people is at or below the median, they have as much or more disposable income as young people with the same income.

Myth 5: You cant teach an old dog new tricks. Technology is wasted on seniors. Humans are born with a finite number of brain cells that die off with aging.

Reality: Learning patterns may change and the speed of learning may diminish, but the basic capacity to learn is retained. As for technology, in 2000, 14% of those aged 65 and older were internet users; now 73% are.

Moreover, through the process of neurogenesis, brain cells adapt and reconnect even regrow and replenish. Thanks to brain plasticity, we old dogs can teach young dogs some new tricks!

Myth 6: To be old is to be irritable and grumpy. Depression is inevitable given the declining trajectory of deteriorating mental and physical health.

Reality: Depression is not a normal part of aging but rather an illness requiring treatment. The course of depression in the elderly is identical to that of younger persons, and the response to treatment appears as positive as that of people in other life stages.

Myth 7: Senior moments signal the onset of dementia, a disease no one escapes if they live long enough. The lights are still on, but the voltage is low.

Reality: Forgetfulness occurs at all ages, but were more inclined to notice as we age. The good news is that the rate of dementia is declining and occurring at older and older ages. Only 5% of people over age 65 have dementia. In addition, some memory loss is caused by medications and medical conditions unrelated to aging.

The best news is that aging and dementia are not inextricably linked. Evidence is growing that regular exercise, healthful eating, and mentally challenging activities can preserve cognitive functions independent of age.

Accepting these myths holds us back. It cuts us off from opportunities that are jumping up and down in front of us seeking to get our attention. Knowing the truth, on the other hand, sets us free to explore our options while we celebrate the simple joy of being alive.

Next Month: Your body over time

Carole Carson, Nevada City, is an author, former AARP website contributor, and leader of the 1994 Nevada County Meltdown. Contact: carolecarson41@gmail.com.

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