Archive for July, 2007

Nonagenarian: prison care

following the earlier post, Prisons Not Geared to the Needs of the Elderly, Study Finds

At 95, killer hopes to win freedom

By J. Michael Kennedy, LA Times Staff Writer, June 29, 2007

SAN LUIS OBISPO – John Rodriguez didn’t seem to know what was happening to him.

The state’s oldest inmate didn’t immediately realize that the state parole board had recommended Thursday that he be freed. Instead, the 95-year-old sat hunched in his wheelchair, looking slightly confused, as he had for much of the four-hour hearing at the California Men’s Colony….

The Rodriguez case is unique in that it casts a spotlight on California’s aging prison population and the reluctance of the governor to release prisoners convicted of murder even if they have served their minimum sentences. In Rodriguez’s case, Thursday’s hearing marked the seventh time the state parole board has recommended that he be released….

Meanwhile, Rodriguez is the epitome of the aging prisoner, a man who uses a walker, is hard of hearing and requires a wheelchair when being moved out of the hospital ward where he lives. His normal attire is pajama bottoms and a blue prison shirt…. One recent projection is that by 2030, California will have 33,000 geriatric prisoners, compared with about 9,500 now. […]

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How to calculate hazardous materials exposure for older adults

EPA Releases Report on Development of an Exposure Factors Handbook for Aging

Older adults may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of environmental contaminants due to differential exposures arising from physiological and behavioral changes with age, as well as the body’s decreased capacity to defend against toxic stressors. To address these issues and discuss practical considerations of the utility of an Exposure Factors Handbook for the Aging in conducting exposure assessments, a panel of experts in the fields of exposure assessment, risk assessment, physiology, and behavioral science were convened at a national workshop in February of 2007. This report summarizes the discussions held during the workshop, highlights several sources of existing data, and provides recommendations for additional research. Panelists included national and international experts in the fields of gerontology, physiology, exposure assessment, and behavioral science.
The workshop panelists discussed practical issues related to evaluating and protecting against environmental health risks posed to older adults. A summary report of the workshop is now available online […]

http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/CFM/recordisplay.cfm?deid=171923

from Aging Initiative” Listserver! The “Aging_Initiativ” Listserver [sic] is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to raise awareness about the susceptibility of older persons to environmental hazards and to share information on strategies to reduce or prevent exposure. We use the listserver to send email to you, to let you know about important news and updated information.

see earlier, Aging and Toxic Response (EPA review)

Lead and Older Adults

Long-term lead exposure linked to cognitive decline in older adults

The Association between Blood Lead Levels and Osteoporosis among Adults – Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) Campbell JR, Auinger P. 2007. Environ Health Perspect: doi:10.1289/ehp.9716.

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Nonagenarian painter still fights for Minamata patients

Painter, 91, still fights for Minamata patients
07/20/2007, BY AYAKO TSUKIDATE, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Kikue Wakatsuki, moved by the plight of the mercury-poisoning victims, decided to bill her customers specifically for “fund-raising,” saying their “donations” would be sent to help the patients in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture. No one complained.

Wakatsuki retired from the bar called Noa Noa long ago. She is now 91 years old and uses a wheelchair. But she continues to help Minamata disease victims.

Last month, Wakatsuki, who is also a painter, held her first private art exhibition in her hometown of Niigata, bringing her together with mercury-poisoning victims in the city for the first time….

Kikue Wakatsuki, 91, at her art exhibition in Niigata, greets former patrons of her bar in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. (AYAKO TSUKIDATE/ THE ASAHI SHIMBUN)

Sanji Watanabe, 91, a Japanese folk singer who is also a victim of industrial mercury poisoning, sang in front of Wakatsuki.

Many of Wakatsuki’s fans, including former patrons of her bar in Shinjuku, showed up and danced to the music….

Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome first discovered in 1956. It is caused by consumption of marine products tainted with methyl mercury discharged from a Chisso Corp. plant into Minamata Bay. Although certified Minamata disease patients are entitled to payments for medical treatment, the standards for certification are rigid, and many sufferers have been left out.

Hideto Hatano… is also a key figure in managing the Niigata Eya art gallery, and he said he remembered hearing about Noa Noa’s manager who continued to support Minamata disease victims. When Hatano learned that Watatsuki had never held a private showing in her hometown, he invited her–and her paintings–to Niigata. […]

See also
A Case Study of a Documentary Portrait (the article discusses the impact of the Eugene Smith photo on the family under a discussion of ethics in photography)

Editor’s Note: If you wish to view the photograph discussed in this article, it is still viewable online at www.masters-of-photography.com. Click on Smith, then click through the slides to the last one, which is “Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath.”

Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thursday, Sept. 12, 2004 THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF MINAMATA DISEASE Exploring a cautionary tale By STEPHEN HESSE

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George W. Comstock, nonagenarian leader against TB

Dr Comstock Isoniazid (INH) is one of the classic “magic bullets” which revolutionized public health in infectious diseases. Eastern Europe, at least until recently, was still using BCG routinely. Unfortunately, as the articles below describe, once immunized, only X-rays can be used to screen for TB. The YK region still has high rates of TB, although nothing like it was, I believe.

George W. Comstock, 92, Dies; Leader in Fight Against TB
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, Published: July 18, 2007, NY Times

Dr. George W. Comstock, an epidemiologist who made major contributions to the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis and was regarded by many peers as the world’s foremost expert on the disease, died Sunday at his home in Smithsburg, Md. He was 92 and had worked until last week….

In 1957, the United States Public Health Service sought a doctor to study tuberculosis patterns in Alaska, where one of every 30 natives was in a tuberculosis hospital. Dr. Comstock volunteered, saying he saw an opportunity to study preventive treatment.

He conducted a controlled trial in 29 villages near Bethel, Alaska, where tuberculosis was rampant. Members of each household were given the drug INH or a placebo for a year, Dr. Chaisson said.

The study showed the effectiveness of INH in preventing tuberculosis: after a year, INH produced a 70 percent decline in cases of the disease; a follow-up study five years later showed the drug’s benefit had been sustained.

In the trial, Dr. Comstock and his family took INH themselves to convince the participants of his belief in the therapy’s safety, Dr. Chaisson said. After the trial, Dr. Comstock returned and gave INH to those who had received the placebo….

He was a lifelong advocate of public health efforts and expressed disappointment in later years that more doctors were not devoting their services to it. In an interview in 2003, Dr. Comstock said that members of medical school faculties had little contact with public health departments.

[read more]

George W. Comstock, 92; epidemiologist was influential in the treatment of tuberculosis
By Thomas H. Maugh II, LA Times Staff Writer, July 18, 2007

…Comstock was a young commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service after World War II when federal officials were considering a mass vaccination campaign against tuberculosis using the relatively new Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine, which is made from an attenuated strain of mycobacterium that produces TB in cows.

He organized a trial of the BCG vaccine in Georgia and Alabama that stretched from 1947 to 1951 and concluded that the vaccine had an efficacy of only 14% in preventing the disease. He argued forcefully that the efficacy was too low to produce widespread benefit and that vaccination would render the Mantoux skin test for detecting TB infections useless by making vaccine recipients permanently positive.

In a country like the United States, with a relatively low incidence of TB, he argued, it was more important to be able to identify those exposed to the mycobacterium and treat them. Federal authorities agreed, and the vaccine was never widely used here….

Comstock frequently quoted Horace Mann’s 1859 commencement address at Antioch College: “Be ashamed to die before you have won some victory for humanity.” Comstock expanded on that theme, noting that “most of us aren’t going to win any big victories, but we can win little ones every day, and they mount up. [read more at…]

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Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson nonagenarian

National Public Radio did a nice story about Mrs. Johnson.

They mentioned some of her own accomplishments, including as

  • media mogul (radio) at a time when women did not participate in business, much less ran large ones
  • impetus for the Highway Beautification Act 1965 (Lady Bird Act) which removed highway billboards
  • as tireless worker for native plants photo from http://www.wildflower.org/ladybird/

These last two are hard to believe these days would have been much of a challenge to implement. But for anyone who witnessed the difference along federal highways and along the streets and parks of Washington, DC, and the then opposition , it was an amazing effort. The wildflower research center will be a lasting legacy, among others.

the first solo whistle-stop tour of a first lady in history (1964)
founded a national wildflower research center in Austin (1982)
first First Lady to receive Congressional Gold Medal (1988)

She was not the longest living First Lady (Bess Truman, 97 years).

Claudia Alta Taylor was born in Karnack, Texas, near the Louisiana border, on Dec. 22, 1912. She was 2 years old when she was given her nickname by a maid who described her as “purty as a lady bird.”

She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1934 with bachelor of arts and bachelor of journalism degrees, and met Johnson, then a congressional aide, the same year…. In 1988 she received the Congressional Gold Medal for her environmental and humanitarian work, becoming the first wife of a president to do so.
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N11219716.htm

In 1943, Mrs. Johnson bought a failing low-power daytime-only Austin radio station with an inheritance from her mother. Armed with her journalism degree and a tireless work ethic, she took a hands-on ownership role, selling advertising, hiring staff, and even cleaning floors. Over time, her Austin broadcasting company grew to include an AM and FM radio station and a television station, all bearing the same call letters: KTBC… Mrs. Johnson stayed actively involved in the LBJ Holding Company well into her 80s.
http://www.wildflower.org/ladybird/

Stay tuned over at Ed Darrell’s place for his perspective, as a Texas historian. Update. The direct link–
Steel magnolias have nothing on Lady Bird Johnson, who understood the power of a blanket of flowers, the importance of roots and family, and how much grace can mean to those who get it.

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Mapping the Growth of Older America

5. Mapping the Growth of Older America [pdf]

As the American population continues to age, there is a growing concern in some quarters that the government and the private sector might be ill-prepared with the increased demands of an older population. The Brookings Institution published a rather insightful 28-page paper on the growth of older America, authored by noted demographer William H. Frey. Drawing on analyses performed with data from past U.S. Censuses, Frey comments on a number of trends, including the migration of older Americans into economically dynamic Sun Belt areas such as Austin, Atlanta, and Dallas. The report makes excellent use of maps, charts, and graphs that track the projected growth of senior populations by state and the counties with the fastest-growing senior population. For urbanologists and planners, this report will be quite helpful. [KMG]


O’Folks (off their rocker)

Old age isn't a disease.

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