I have two parallel thoughts for today. I want to talk about each and then try to pull them together.

Thought Number One

When I was a kid, my parents allowed me to wander the streets of Oakland, California on foot and by bus. Things were pretty safe and I never thought twice about being and going anywhere. There was a local clothing store on East 14th Street. It was part of a shopping area that once was its own little suburb. Before World War Two, my father had been the manager of the Western Auto Store along that street and he knew all the shop keepers; the barber, the watchmaker, the guy who ran the war surplus store, the insurance salesman, the skating rink owner, and on and on. He also knew the people at the clothing store (its name lost in the mists of time). My parents had a charge account at the store and as a teen I got to charge stuff on their account. No credit cards yet. The salesman knew who I was and put it on the account.

My father and his two Sisters in Oakland around 1922

My father and his two Sisters in Oakland around 1922

Those were simpler and safer times. As Oakland changed over the years all those people died and the stores closed. New people and new stores are there along East 14th street. It’s not so safe as it was, stores have big steel bars on the windows and probably the credit cards are scrutinized carefully to insure they are not stolen.

I think that living in a rural community is one way those of us of a certain age return to those simpler times of a more trusting society where everyone knew your name.

Thought Number Two

My usual source for ideas, the Austin American Statesman, presented me with this article by Michael Young (Young, 2015) dealing with how rural communities are losing population and floundering to stay in business. In the article, Young points to whole counties in Texas that are losing population. Now Texas is a big place and growing rapidly in the major urban areas. On the other end of the scale, there are 14 counties (whole counties) that have fewer than 1,500 people living in them. If there were major businesses in these counties and towns – be they railroads, oil, coal, cattle, farming or manufacturing – now they have all moved on. Young said, “People don’t move to Foard County to find a good paying job.”

So why would someone move to Foard County, Texas?

Young suggests this: people move there because… “they live beneath a sky so filled with stars they seem uncountable. They know their neighbors. Their kids can be good friends with everyone in their class and maybe everyone in their school. And they remain what most of Texas once was.”

Merger of Thoughts

Rural places in Texas that are currently losing population preserve much of what made life good a half century ago in urban areas that now are growing rapidly and may no longer offer those values. A future exists for these empty communities as folks like me and my family return to rural areas to seek that quieter, friendlier life. We can do this because we do not need those steam-age industries that in earlier times were the sole sources of an income. I work on-line at my own work as do many others here (here being Wimberley, Texas). Still others work in service businesses (restaurants, hardware stores, grocery stores, etc.) where we take our trade. Small communities can continue to exist using new models for income but keeping that more trusting society where everyone knows your name.


As a side note: Not everything about rural life is nostalgic. I just watched the film “The Homesman” and it dealt with the awful privations and stresses that faced early settlers on America’s Great Plains in the 1850’s. In all things there is a perspective to keep.


  1. The Homesman (2014), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2398231
  2. Young, M. E. The other Texas the boom forgot: Rural counties struggle to stay afloat. Dallas News, July 17, 2015.
    Story: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20150717-2.ece
    Photos: http://www.dallasnews.com/photos/20150714-trip-to-foard-county-is-a-step-back-in-time.ece

August 1, 2015

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month — an opportunity to join the global conversation about the brain, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Did you know that everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s… a fatal disease that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed? During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association® asks people around the world to take the Purple Pledge and use their brains to fight Alzheimer’s disease.Print

Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death and kills more people each year than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.  The Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, tips that may reduce the risk of cognitive decline:

  1. Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
  2. Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online
  3. Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
  4. Follow your heart. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke – obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
  5. Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
  6. Fuel up right. Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  7. Catch some Zzz’s. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
  8. Take care of your mental health. Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
  9. Buddy up. Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community – if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter.
  10. Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic.

Our Guest Blogger this week is Krista Bohn, MPH, Galveston/Bay Area Regional Outreach Coordinator, Alzheimer’s Association® – Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter

A Suggestion from Rodger: There is a movie that deals with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Still Alice, and that raises some of the questions and issues inherent with this condition. A brief review of the issues illustrated by the film is found in the Daily Beast.


June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and “everyone with a brain is at risk for Alzheimer’s”(1).

Alois Alzheimer

Alois Alzheimer

Of the 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, 5.1 million are older adults (> 65 years of life experience) (1).  This video illustrates the pathological process of this disease:  http://www.alzheimers.org/rmedia/adanimation.htm.

Clinically, Alzheimer dementia presents as a gradual decline in cognition over months to years with impaired memory and dysfunction in one or more other cognitive domains (ex. language, visuospatial presentation, executive function) (2).

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and effective treatment remains a research goal (3).  Studies of physical activity effects on biomarkers and cognitive function indicate potential for neuroprotection to reduce the slope of decline (3).

As a physical therapist, I appreciate opportunities to work with patients who have dementia.  Increasing physical activity is an important goal, one that requires astute interaction with patients, caregivers, and families.  Although it is difficult to see and hear about struggles and challenges they face along with their loved ones, it is also a privilege to learn their life stories.  In fact, I find it is usually essential to figure out what their life was like before cognitive decline in order to adapt therapeutic activities to meet their needs.basketball hoop
For example, if the patient is a retired basketball coach, then I can work on standing balance and endurance by simulating basketball maneuvers. Familiarity of this activity is more likely to engage the patient’s interest and attention than unfamiliar, standard balance exercises.  The needs of every patient are different, and responses to treatment sometimes change; this variability makes creative thinking even more important.


What physical activity do you think you will perpetually enjoy in the context of altered cognitive health?

Our Guest Blogger this week is: Rebecca Galloway, PT, PhD, GCS, CEEAA, Assistant Professor & Director of Clinical Education, Bridge PTA to DPT Program and Fellow of the Sealy Center on Aging.


  1. Alzheimer’s Association. 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. http://www.alz.org/facts/overview.asp. Accessed 6/15/2015.
  2. Guy M. McKhann et al. “The diagnosis of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease: Recommendations from the National Institute on Aging – Alzheimer’s Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 2011; 7(3): 263 – 269.
  3. Phillips C, Akif Baktir M, Das D, et al. The link between physical activity and cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer disease. Phys Ther. 2015;95: http://ptjournal.apta.org/content/early/2015/04/01/ptj.20140212.


  1. Alois Alzheimer. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/images/B30091.  Accessed 6/15/2015.
  2. Basketball-Goals.jpg; Image Source: Microsoft Office

A friend of mine was at a party on Sunday evening of May 25th. She met a woman in her 80’s who was enjoying the party and they fell into conversation.

My friend learned that this woman and her husband spent the previous night on the roof of their house waiting to be rescued from the rapidly rising waters of the Blanco River. Not the sort of activity one expects from a couple in their 80’s.

This news astonished my friend and she further wondered how the woman and her husband managed to climb up onto the roof of their house. The woman said that was rather easy as they just hung onto things until the rising water lifted them to the roof. Then, they simply waited for rescue.

The recent floods along the Blanco River in Hays County, Texas produced many stories of horror, tragedy, bravery, survival, and resilience. Many of the people affected were elderly and saw homes they had lived in for 30, 40 years flooded or washed away.

This one story, touched on a most admirable quality. This elderly couple found themselves in a difficult and dangerous situation where they stayed calm, literally rode with the tide, and were able to enjoy a party that evening.

blanco 5-25-2015

This is the 200th article written for the Weekly Update on Aging. There have been many guest bloggers and I’ve written a few myself. The ETGEC grant is ending on June 30, 2015. This blog will continue, but may become less frequent and the Weekly Discussion on Aging will not be held in the future.

Image from video taken by Stephen Ramirez, Birds Eye Video, and shown on the San Marcos Corridor News website. The picture shows RR12 as it crosses the Blanco River and looking towards the square in Wimberley.

lightingAs Texas and Oklahoma recover from the dramatic rainfall last week brought, I began to research ways in which seniors could be better prepared for future disaster. The Red Cross had a simple three step approach to preparedness that I found to be helpful.

1. Get a Kit – Disasters can happen at any moment. By planning ahead you can avoid waiting in long lines for critical supplies, such as food, water and medicine and you will also have essential items if you need to evacuate.

  • For your safety and comfort, have a disaster supplies kit packed and ready in one place before a disaster hits.
  • Assemble enough supplies to last for at least three days.
  • Store your supplies in one or more easy-to-carry containers, such as a backpack or duffel bag.
  • You may want to consider storing supplies in a container that has wheels.
  • Be sure your bag has an ID tag.
  • Label any equipment, such as wheelchairs, canes or walkers, that you would need with your name, address and phone numbers.
  • Keeping your kit up-to-date is also important. Review the contents at least every six months or as your needs change. Check expiration dates and shift your stored supplies into everyday use before they expire. Replace food, water and batteries, and refresh medications and other perishable items with “first in, first out” practices.

2. Make a Plan – The next time a disaster strikes, you may not have much time to act. Planning ahead reduces anxiety. Prepare now for a sudden emergency and remember to review your plan regularly.

Meet With Your Family and Friends

Explain your concerns to your family and others in your support network and work with them as a team to prepare. Arrange for someone to check on you at the time of a disaster. Be sure to include any caregivers in your meeting and planning efforts.

Assess yourself and your household. What personal abilities and limitations may affect your response to a disaster? Think about how you can resolve these or other questions and discuss them with your family and friends. Details are important to ensure your plan fits your needs. Then, practice the planned actions to make sure everything “works.”

Family Communications Plan

  • Carry family contact information in your wallet.
  • Choose an out-of-town contact person. After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long-distance call than a local call from a disaster area.

Community Disaster Plans

Ask about the emergency plans and procedures that exist in your community. Know about your community’s response and evacuation plans (e.g., hurricane, nuclear emergency, severe weather). If you do not own a vehicle or drive, find out in advance what your community’s plans are for evacuating those without private transportation or make arrangements with a neighbor who would drive you.

If you receive home care, speak with your case manager to see what their plan is in times of emergency and how they can assist with your plan.

3. Be Informed – What hazards threaten your community and neighborhood? Make a list of how they might affect you. Think about both natural (e.g., hurricanes, flooding, winter storms and earthquakes) and human-caused (e.g., hazardous materials and transportation accidents) and about your risk from those hazards.

Preparing for a hazard that is most likely to happen in your area will help you be prepared for any disaster. Remember, disasters can happen at any time.

The full Red Cross Disaster Planning document is available at: http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4640086_Disaster_Preparedness_for_Srs-English.revised_7-09.pdf.

While there are many resources out there, the key to disaster planning is to have a plan prior to the disaster. Waiting until the disaster is eminent is too late.


Our Guest Blogger this week is Amanda W. Scarbrough, Assistant Professor, Sam Houston State University.

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

birthday cakeYesterday, I turned 70 years of age.

In the Bible, mention is made of “three score years and ten” as one’s life expectancy. Now, the Bible does go on to suggest one might get four score years with the application of sufficient grit and determination.

I always think Abraham Lincoln used this phrase in the Gettysburg Address. He was however referring to “four score and seven.”

I’m not going to belabor the question of life expectancy again. I did that last week. Yesterday my family and I were happily cooking BBQ ribs, savoring hoppy ales, and consuming wonderful birthday cake. There was too much going on yesterday for me to write a more insightful and intellectually demanding essay for today.

So for today, I’ll send a positive thought from a future philosopher… “Live long and prosper.”


  • Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 11-19-1863, Wikipedia.
    “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth…”
  • Bible, Psalm 90:10, King James Version (KJV).
    “The days of our years are three score years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

Preview: Next week, due to the recent flooding events here in the Texas Hill Country,  we will look at emergency preparedness for older people.

cat wallsWhen I was in elementary school, we were only occasionally allowed in the library, could only take out a book or two and were threatened with dire consequences if we damaged or lost them. I remember that some books were very popular and we all waited for our turn to read them. One was a book about Homer Price by Robert McCloskey and the others were science fiction stories by Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988).

I continued to read his books throughout his career and yesterday I finished re-reading “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.” This book deals with a recurring theme in Heinlein’s work that of people, with interesting gene pools, who live a very long, long time. Another theme is that in the future medical science has advanced to the point where the body and mind can be “overhauled” (so to speak) so that long life is achieved if not via genetics then by science.

In our time, even those with the most fortunate genes rarely live to be 120 years old and medical science is pretty good (compared to 100 years ago) but has not gotten to the rejuvenation stage unless face lifts and tummy tucks count.

Next week, I turn 70 and have decided that growing old gracefully is not such a bad decision for these times.

Previous Essays Dealing with Lifespan:

  1. Forget Aging. Let’s All Be Ageless!
  2. Mortality and the 100th Blog
  3. Living Old: What It Really Means
  4. Family Ties

Books by Robert A. Heinlein dealing with topics related somehow to long life or alternative time lines: The Man Who Sold the Moon (1950), The Green Hills of Earth (1951), Revolt in 2100 (1953), Methuselah’s Children (1958), Orphans of the Sky (1963), The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), The Past Through Tomorrow (1967), Time Enough for Love (1973), The Number of the Beast (1980), The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985), To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987).

Children’s Books: Rocket Ship Galileo (1947), Space Cadet (1948), Red Planet (1949), Farmer in the Sky (1950), Between Planets (1951), The Rolling Stones (1952), Starman Jones (1953), The Star Beast (1954), Tunnel in the Sky (1955), Time for the Stars (1956), Citizen of the Galaxy (1957), Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958).

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.


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