65 Is The New 55: Prominent Baby Boomers at Stanford Alumni Weekend discuss impacts on society of aging and longevity.

This article is a MUST READ! It is SO refreshing to hear new ideas for the Baby Boomer generation from the Baby Boomer generation! This is a certainly though provoking conversation, so I’ll post the whole article and the link! -SP

An all-star lineup of Baby Boomers, including Tom Brokaw and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, explored Saturday how matters of death, education, disease and family intersect with the aging of their generation.

The panel of leaders—from academia, business and law—said at a Maples Pavilion Stanford Roundtable that the confluence of these factors could lead to a crisis in our society.

The former Stanford students in the audience, here for Alumni Weekend, resonated with the questions posed by moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC News and the responses from the panel of six experts in “Generation Ageless: Longevity and the Boomers.”

With France in the news for legislating a controversial increase in the minimum retirement age, it was natural for Brokaw to bring up the issue of raising the age for initiation of Social Security benefits in the United States.

Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, pointed out that Social Security is self-funded, so it’s not a deficit issue. But, he said, “The issue is solvency. Seniors care about their children and grandchildren.” He and other panelists agreed that if we want to raise the minimum age for eligibility, we need to create jobs for seniors.

O’Connor said that at age 80, she is fully capable and eager to work, but she resigned from the high court to spend more time at home with her husband of 57 years, who suffers with Alzheimer’s Disease. She strongly urged a national campaign to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, just as we have done for polio and TB.

Stanford President John Hennessey commented that in addition to more research on Alzheimer’s, we need to think about the multi-generational problems associated with obesity and diabetes. Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford professor who focuses on stress, neuronal degeneration and aging, asked, “Why is it that when people are unhappy they eat more starch?”

Laura Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, received a healthy round of applause for saying, “The only stage in life that’s gotten longer is old age. Why can’t we stretch out adolescence?” She said, “We need a world where people arrive at old age mentally sharp, physically fit and financially secure.”

The way to accomplish that, she said, is through education. “High school dropouts decline from age 30. We need to change to allow everyone to have access to education.”

Carstensen pointed out that there are now families with as many as five, sometimes even six, living generations.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said that as we grow older, it’s more and more important to connect with others, especially with people of other generations than our own. She credits her parents with being role models to talk with and hopes that her own young children will call her when they get older.

“The best people around are your family,” she said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Brokaw asked the panelists if there were any societies that could be regarded as role models for dealing with their aging populations. Rand said that AARP with its international focus has found no role model to follow.

Carstensen agreed, and Sapolsky stated that most societies have undergone shifts that result in their not valuing aged people. China will have problems stemming from their one-child-per-family policy and their gender bias for boys, he said.

Brokaw’s closing question was, “How shall we think about death?” Stanford’s Sapolsky told of a palliative care specialist he knows who once told him, “I had three good deaths this week.” What he meant by “good” was that the patients were referred to hospice early and died peacefully.

Original article here at the Palo Alto Patch website.

NYT: The Age of Alzheimer’s, by Sandra Day O’Connor

Former Supreme Court Justice and Family Caregiver Sandra Day O’Connor teamed up with Nobel Prize in Medicine winner Stanley Prusiner and gerontologist Ken Dychtwald to write this editorial in The New York Times last week. Part policy advice, part wake up call, this is an interesting article for anyone to read-SP.

By SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR, STANLEY PRUSINER and KEN DYCHTWALD
Published: October 27, 2010

Sandra Day O-Conner, Bush 43 & John O'Conner
Sandra Day & John J. O'Connor with President Bush in 2004. John O'Connor died of complications of Alzheimer’s disease in 2009. Justice O’Connor cited the need to care for her ailing husband as one reason she decided to retire in 2005.
OUR government is ignoring what is likely to become the single greatest threat to the health of Americans: Alzheimer’s disease, an illness that is 100 percent incurable and 100 percent fatal. It attacks rich and poor, white-collar and blue, and women and men, without regard to party. A degenerative disease, it steadily robs its victims of memory, judgment and dignity, leaves them unable to care for themselves and destroys their brain and their identity — often depleting their caregivers and families both emotionally and financially.

Starting on Jan. 1, our 79-million-strong baby boom generation will be turning 65 at the rate of one every eight seconds. That means more than 10,000 people per day, or more than four million per year, for the next 19 years facing an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Although the symptoms of this disease and other forms of dementia seldom appear before middle age, the likelihood of their appearance doubles every five years after age 65. Among people over 85 (the fastest-growing segment of the American population), dementia afflicts one in two. It is estimated that 13.5 million Americans will be stricken with Alzheimer’s by 2050 — up from five

Read the whole Op-Ed piece at The New York Times online.