Best city for geezers? NY lays claim

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New York City seems to be all aglow in being named by the World Health Organization to its Global Network of Age-friendly cities. As Clyde Haberman reported about the event in the July 1 New York Times,

“It makes us members of a club of people who are struggling, in their own and perhaps much different ways, with learning about and thinking about and approaching this issue,” said Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services. “It’s really a lovely recognition.”

One reason for the acknowledgment was a plan that city officials and the New York Academy of Medicine announced last year to improve life for older New Yorkers. All sorts of ideas were put forth, on matters like transportation, housing, health care, job training, nutrition and cultural activities. To a large degree, it was more a wish list than a concrete program. But at least it showed that the city was thinking about issues that will only become more dominant.

Like other cities, New York has a population that is aging, if you will forgive a somewhat meaningless word that we are stuck with. After all, everyone is aging. It’s called living. The only people not aging are dead.

WHO says, of its Global Nework of Age-friendly Cities, that the problem lies with the fact that too many of us are aging and not dying.

Populations in almost every corner of the world are growing older. The greatest changes are occurring in less-developed countries. By 2050, it is estimated that 80% of the expected 2 billion people aged 60 years or over will live in low or middle income countries. The Network aims to help cities create urban environments that allow older people to remain active and healthy participants in society.

To that end, the Network got off the ground a few years ago, and now lists a few cities across the globe as having been accepted for membership. This week’s bulletin (excerpted above and below) lists the Big Apple as the first U.S. member, although the PDF of member cities also lists Portland, and one has to wonder how Portland’s going to feel about all of New York’s hoopla.

The WHO Age-friendly Cities initiative began in 2006 by identifying the key elements of the urban environment that support active and healthy ageing. Research from 33 cities, confirmed the importance for older people of access to public transport, outdoor spaces and buildings, as well as the need for appropriate housing, community support and health services. But it also highlighted the need to foster the connections that allow older people to be active participants in society, to overcome ageism and to provide greater opportunities for civic participation and employment.

The Global Network builds on these principles but takes them a significant step further by requiring participating cities to commence an ongoing process of assessment and implementation. Network members are committed to taking active steps to creating a better environment for their older residents.

A few years ago (2006) the Sperling’s Best Places people came out with a “Best Cities” list about which do the best job of caring for their aging folks. The “Best Cities for Seniors” study examined the state of senior care in the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

“This is different from the usual studies of retirement living,” said Bert Sperling, the study’s primary author. “When we first retire, we have the energy for traveling and sightseeing. At some point, we will all need specialized resources and facilities to help us cope with aging. That’s what this study examines.”

This unique new study, produced in partnership with Bankers Life and Casualty Company, identifies cities that offer the best resources for less active seniors. The study analyzed nearly 50 categories such as various senior living facilities, comprehensive medical care, specialized transportation services, and a significant senior population.

Top Ten Cities for Seniors

  1. Portland, OR
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Pittsburgh, PA
  5. Milwaukee, WI
  6. Philadelphia, PA
  7. New York, NY
  8. Boston, MA
  9. Cincinnati, OH
  10. Chicago, IL

Haberman takes issue with that ‘Senior’ word along with the ‘aging’ word. “What does that make the rest of the populace — juniors?” This space (an unabashed fan of Sperling’s #3 city — sorry, #7; but you’re my #2) concurs. But Great Geezer Towns probably wouldn’t cut it with WHO.

Bone weary in America: contraceptives, celiac disease & other osteo-hazards

You might want to start paying attention to your bones.

Even if you’re not an over-50 hard-drinking guy, or a post-menopausal former-smoker gal — even  if you are, say, just a light-complexioned skinny person, your bones want you to understand they might not be able to keep you together forever.

My bones sent that message not long ago by summoning a few other medical markers. Anemia and exhaustion got my attention and lo! we discovered celiac disease. Who knew? Celiac sprue is a genetic condition half the country seems to have, now that it’s gotten half the country’s attention — and confirmed diagnoses are relatively easy to make. Because I am an asymptomatic celiac person, in my case it was just the ol’ bones sending a signal that they would like a little calcium, please.

Yesterday’s New York Times reported another new finding:

Almost half of all women who use a popular injected contraceptive lose a significant amount of bone mass within two years, and researchers now say the greatest risk is to smokers, women who don’t consume enough calcium and those who have never gone through a pregnancy.

A study that followed women who used the birth-control method — a shot of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, better known as DMPA or Depo-Provera, every three months — found that 45 percent of the users experienced bone mineral density losses of 5 percent or more in the hip or lower spine, researchers said. The study appears in the January issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

More than two million American women use DMPA, including about 400,000 teenagers.

Researchers said the bone loss was of “significant concern” because recovering bone mass can take a long time, and the hip is the most common site for fractures in women later in life.

“We can now tell our patients, ‘Don’t smoke, and take your calcium every day’ — those are modifiable risk factors,” said the senior author, Dr. Abbey B. Berenson, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. “The flip side is that if I have a patient who smokes, I’m going to be more concerned about giving her Depo-Provera.”

Your bones could be aching for attention even if you’re still none of the above. The World Health Organization now has a nifty new bone-health tool called FRAX to help you figure if you’re at risk for fractures. You can visit their site, plug in country and ethnicity for your personal profile. You can also go to KnowMyBones.com (bones people are having a good time with titles and acronyms) and find out more about healthy bones and how to keep them thus.

Dem bones, as long as you help them, gonna walk around.