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Expert Insights

Analysis of trends in senior care, advice for people coping with an aging patent, and health advice for seniors.

Social media usage soars among seniors

Seniors on Social MediaIt might surprise you to hear that seniors are the fastest growing demographic using social media. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, only about a sixth of older Americans were using the internet in March 2000, but now, more than 50 percent comfortably navigate the web.

Why are seniors the fastest growing segment of social media users? Two reasons. First, as younger Americans are well-saturated with digital technology, there’s not really room for their usage to expand. Second, as baby boomers enter their golden years, they’re doing so with far more familiarity with technology than previous generations.

Driverless cars promote seniors’ independence

Seniors and DrivingDriving provides us with a stronger sense of independence and self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, with deteriorating eyesight and slower reflexes, many people face giving up their car keys as they age.  

Relinquishing driving privileges is a difficult decision for many seniors, especially those who strongly value self-reliance. Giving up the car keys means they have to rely on others to get to the grocery store, doctors' appointments, dates with friends, and other errands and meetings.  

Within the next few years, there might be a new solution that would allow seniors to reclaim the independence that comes with driving: computer-operated autonomous vehicles. In other words, self-driving cars.

Tips for family financial caregivers

Financial caregivingDiscussions around family caregiving often focus on providing assistance with chores and errands, as well as looking after a loved one’s physical and emotional health. But an equally important aspect of family caregiving is financial caregiving.

Many adult children become responsible for their parents’ finances so gradually, they often don’t realize it’s happened. Yet, managing a loved one’s finances can be one of the most stressful aspects of caregiving. Especially as lay fiduciaries, assuming responsibility for another person’s finances and acting in their best interests can be challenging, despite your best intentions.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the American Bar Association offer these tips to financial caregivers:

Childhood music lessons have lasting health effects

Childhood music lessons have lasting health benefitsA new study suggests that your brain may still be reaping benefits from those childhood music lessons you took so many years ago.

The Northwestern University study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, examined adults aged 55 to 76 to determine whether a link exists between limited musical training in childhood and the way the brain responds to sound as we age.

Participants listened to a recorded speech sound while the researchers measured electrical activity in the part of the brain that processes sound. Those participants who took music lessons during childhood had a faster brain response to the speech sound than those who did not. And the more years participants had spent playing an instrument, the faster their brains responded. Participants with four to 14 years of music training had the fastest response times.

The healthy caregiver hypothesis

Many articles on caregiving discuss the stress that caregivers bear, and subsequently offer coping and stress management tips. With this in mind, it is surprising that a recent study, published in The American Journal of Epidemiology, suggests the opposite—caregiving makes people healthier.

David Roth, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health, and his team compared 3,500 family caregivers aged 45 and older with non-caregivers of the same age, gender, education level and health. The caregivers studied included spouses and adult children, as well as people caring for other family members.

Six years after the beginning of the study (known as “the healthy caregiver hypothesis”), the researchers found that the non-caregivers had significantly higher mortality rates, much to Roth and his team’s surprise. Compared with non-caregivers, the caregivers had a nine-month increase in life expectancy.