In Pictures: Character Foods

Little Twin Stars Kiki and Lala

Essay on Aging: Living Bone on Bone

Ann Burack-Weiss wrote . . . . .

An old lady falls and can’t get up. An x-ray shows that the cartilage in her right hip has worn away. An orthopedic surgeon explains the situation in layman terms. “You are walking bone on bone.”

I am the old lady who–even in extremis–knows a good metaphor when she hears one. Living “bone on bone” is what entering the kingdom of the oldest old is all about.

The happy novelty of the senior citizen discount is long past; and, for many of us, the need for total care is still ahead. Are we well? Not really. There may be that bad hip or trick knee, the dimming sight, the sounds we can’t quite catch, the need to rest more often, a list of chronic conditions that accumulate over the years.

But we aren’t seriously ill either. Our doctors find nothing that is cause for immediate alarm. We may live on for years, perhaps a decade, more. Diminished selves–going, going, but not soon gone.

Much has been made of the “donut hole” of the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. One period of coverage ends and patients must fend for themselves until the next one begins. An analogy can be found in the professional literature and mainstream media on old age. I search it in vain for mention of myself and many of my peers.

The Palliative Care experts solemnly drape the Death with Dignity banner over the coffin that awaits us. Get your affairs in order! Have that family conference! Sign those Advance Directives! We comply and here we sit: all papered up and no place to go. At least not yet.

We listen to the Wellness advocates. Cheerleaders of Successful Aging, they are filled with statistics and inspiring personal stories. Learn a new language! Start a second or third career! Civic engagement! We’ve been there. We’ve done that. And still do. When we’re feeling up to it.

What no one talks about is the experience of living in the middle stage, the “bone on bone” stage that occurs somewhere between jazzercise and hospice care. What I want to see is recognition of what it takes to hold our own without the insulating padding that once buffered us from assaults of the outside world.

Our physical appearance–one of vitality and competence–has eroded. Our intimate partners and close friends have died. Our children, if we have them, are involved in their own lives. Jobs and volunteer activities have fallen off. And for many of us, the fixed incomes of old age allow for few sustaining comforts.

Without the virtual equivalent of bubble wrap or cotton batting, we are on our own. Facing the elements of old age with only our memories, our personalities, our will to carry on.

But–and here’s the strange thing–the loss of padding has good effects as well. We feel things more. The bad things may stab more deeply but so do the good. Not being needed by others gives us more time to look after ourselves. Judgments wear away as does the need to have them. There is, at last, time to smell those proverbial roses. And the knowledge that this might be the last spring to do so enhances the aroma

For there is still much we still can do. Much to enjoy in our lives. I will start with the sights of my everyday life in New York. As children unerringly gravitate to age mates at the playground, as adults in youth and mid-life take special notice of their age peers in any multi-generational setting, so we–the ones who are well past a certain age but not dead yet–give each other the once-over.

We notice the woman in the wheelchair, holding the leash of the small dog who has matched his step to her pace. We see that the man with the walker has hooked an interesting bag to the handlebars; a contraption with various pockets fitted to include essentials of every dimension and wonder where he got it. We see a variety of canes, from standard to ornate. We take in lined faces and limpy walks. We see our images on the park benches, on the bus, alone in the diner, at the movies on weekday afternoon. And see before us profiles in courage. Well past our expiration dates, no longer all we were but still doing the best we can with what we have. Let the light of renewed interest in the aging process shine on us. Let us shine it on ourselves.

Source: Columbia University Press Blog

In Pictures: The Art of Food Plating

Wellderly Study Suggests Link Between Genes That Protect Against Cognitive Decline and Overall Healthy Aging

An eight-year-long accrual and analysis of the whole genome sequences of healthy elderly people, or “Wellderly,” has revealed a higher-than-normal presence of genetic variants offering protection from cognitive decline, researchers from the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) reported today in the journal Cell.

The initial findings from the Wellderly Study suggest a possible link between long-term cognitive health and protection from chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes, which account for 90 percent of all deaths in the United States and other industrialized nations and more than 75 percent of health care costs.

“The Wellderly, as we’ve defined, are exceptional individuals who live into their ninth decade and beyond without developing a significant chronic medical condition,” said STSI Director Eric Topol, M.D., who is one of the study’s senior authors. “Our findings indicate that protection from cognitive decline is associated, not necessarily cause and effect, with healthspan. Since healthspan is woefully understudied, much more work in large numbers of individuals across all ancestries is desperately needed. For this reason, we have made all the genomic data available to the research community and public to help spawn further research.”

Results of the Wellderly Study were published online today by Cell. The report also will appear in the journal’s May print edition.

STSI is a National Institutes of Health-sponsored site led by Scripps Health in collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute. This innovative research partnership is leading the effort to translate wireless and genetic medical technologies into high-quality, cost-effective treatments and diagnostics for patients.

STSI researchers launched the Wellderly Study in 2007 in hopes of unlocking the genetic secrets behind lifelong health. The ongoing project has enrolled more than 1,400 people from across the country ranging in age from 80 to 105 who have not developed any chronic medical conditions or diseases including cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and heart attack.

“This study is exciting because it is the first large one using genetic sequencing to focus on health,” said Stanford University Department of Genetics Chairman Michael Snyder, Ph.D., who was not involved with the research. “Most of the world’s scientists are studying disease, but what we really want to understand is what keeps us healthy. That is what the Wellderly Study is all about.”

John Rawlings, 90, of San Diego is one of the study’s participants. The Indiana native and World War II veteran started playing softball in his 70s and was inducted into the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame in 2009. He also is an avid reader.

“When I turned 90, they said, ‘Let’s have a big party,'” Rawlings said. “I told them, ‘You’d better wait until I turn 100.'”

For the study, researchers sequenced the whole genomes of 600 study participants and compared their DNA with genetic data gathered from 1,507 adults by Inova Translational Medicine Institute as part of a separate study. The ITMI cohort represented the general population. All of the genomes were mapped using the Complete Genomics sequencing platform.

After filtering to control for ethnic differences and blood relatedness, downstream DNA analyses were conducted on the genomes of 511 Wellderly individuals and 686 ITMI individuals. Researchers ended up analyzing 24,205,551 individual gene variants in both groups.

The Wellderly group had a significantly lower genetic risk for Alzheimer’s and coronary artery disease, researchers found. However, no difference was found between the two groups in genetic risk for cancer, stroke or type 2 diabetes, suggesting protective behaviors or other genetic characteristics might be at play among the Wellderly.

“We didn’t find a silver bullet for healthy longevity,” said Ali Torkamani, Ph.D., director of genome informatics at STSI and one of the study’s co-authors. “Instead, we found weaker signals among common as well as rare variant sites, which collectively suggest that protection against cognitive decline contributes to healthy aging.”

Of particular interest was a group of ultra-rare coding variants found among 10 Wellderly individuals in the COL25A1 gene, which encodes for a major component of amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. None of the coding variants were found among the ITMI individuals.

“Those gene variants might offer a pathway for the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s,” Torkamani said.

“For many decades, we have searched for the genetic causes of disease in sick individuals,” noted founding director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai Eric Schadt, Ph.D., who was not involved with the STSI research. “The Wellderly Study presents an attractive alternative by studying those who are well in order to uncover the solutions nature has provided to protect us against disease. The initial discoveries around protective factors for Alzheimer’s disease and coronary artery disease demonstrate the keys the Wellderly may hold in unlocking ways in which we all may live healthier lives.”


Pull-apart Chocolate Bread


1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (approx)
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Chocolate Topping

3 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder


1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp water


  1. In large bowl, dissolve 1 tsp of the sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand for about 10 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Whisk in remaining sugar, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla and salt. Whisk in 2 cups of the flour. With wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make soft, slightly sticky dough.
  3. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface; knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding enough of the remaining flour as necessary. Knead in chocolate chips.
  4. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  5. Grease 10-inch tube pan; set aside.
  6. Chocolate Topping: Punch down dough. Divide into 24 portions; shape each into ball. Place butter in small bowl. In separate bowl, combine sugar with cocoa powder. Roll balls first in melted butter, then in cocoa mixture. Arrange in prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place until almost doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan; let cool completely.
  9. Icing: Stir sugar with water until smooth; drizzle over bread. Makes 24 buns.

Makes 24 buns.

Source: Style At Home

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