Life: The Long and the Short of It — Telomeres

AMARA ROSE MAY 7, 2018 

 “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

—   Albert Pike

May is Older Americans Month, and in recognition of this year’s theme, Engage At Every Age, Americans are growing older than ever before. What’s their secret? Possibly telomeres.

What we learned from astronauts 

Telomeres — the protective endcaps of our chromosomes, which shorten over time as we age — appear to lengthen in space, a NASA study reveals.

Researchers compared a number of psychological and physiological factors affecting identical twin astronauts, one of whom spent a year in orbit aboard the International Space Station while his brother remained on Earth as a control. Testing confirmed that the off-planet brother returned to Earth with significantly longer telomeres.

While his telomeres shortened again after just a few days back on Earth, it begs the question: is living aboard a spacecraft the ultimate anti-aging tonic?

Ripe for disruption

It’s not just space that affects longevity; there’s a lot of health disruption happening right here at home. We may not be able to lengthen our telomeres (yet) but healthcare innovation has just taken a quantum leap forward: Amazon hired a geriatrician.

Isn’t that a bit odd? What does Amazon know that other businesses don’t?

According to MedCity News, “Healthcare — especially for seniors — is at its breaking point and is ripe for disruption. The old ways of doing things have not been working for patients or providers. That’s why the geriatricians who have been on the front lines are actually some of the most innovative minds who could shift the paradigm.”

Dementia without stigma

We’re also starting to remove the ignominy of memory loss. The inaugural “Dementia Village”, based on the pioneering Netherlands model, opened last month in Chula Vista, California. An adult day care center, known as Town Square, is a simulated town designed for reminiscent therapy, featuring everything from a 1959 car to a working diner and black-and-white movie theater.

While senior residences have seen the benefit of yesteryear-themed design, what’s intriguing about this dementia village is that it’s staffed with seniors, via a national home care franchise. They hope to scale the concept to 100 locations throughout the U.S.

Like Amazon hiring a geriatrician, having seniors support seniors makes perfect sense. Just as Japan is gearing up to care for its burgeoning number of older adults with Alzheimer’s through the concept of “dementia towns”, where residents take responsibility for seniors who need assistance rather than leaving this to immediate family or the medical establishment, dementia villages create a welcoming, immersive experience for elders who need memory care. And it’s stigma-free — inviting, even. The whole environment sounds quite appealing for any nostalgia buff!

For love of the game

For some seniors, working at what they love, whether it involves caring for their cohorts or ushering at a beloved ballgame, keeps those telomeres and the person they pilot in fighting trim to the very end.

That was the ticket for Phil Coyne, a Pittsburgh Pirates fan who retired in April just a few weeks prior to his 100th birthday after — wait for it — 81 years on the job, besting Elena Griffing’s 71-year record (of course, Ms. Griffing is almost a decade younger than Coyne, so she may catch up!)

Whatever their game, when elders love life, and when industry giants such as Amazon and the creators of Town Square continue to focus on the benefits of making senior wellness a priority, life for your reverse mortgage clients and prospects promises to be better than ever. Enjoy honoring your clients this May!