Celebrating 1,000 Birthdays
May 19, 2015
Dona Miriam, a 93- year old Costa Rican midwife, has celebrated over 1,000 birthdays by serving as a guardian to deliver young lives into this world.
This past summer, a brigade of Purdue University undergraduate health majors traveled to Costa Rica to study the Costa Rican health care system and met this guardian of young lives.
Preceding Dona Miriam as a midwife was her mother and grandmother. Dona grew up lending a helping hand in her home and in her village. Doing so, she learned the invaluable skills of a midwife. Eventually, Dona gained the responsibility of the practicing midwife for her entire village as well as surrounding villages.
The Costa Rican ministry of health took notice of what she was doing to impact the health of her people. Dona Miriam and other midwives were then trained in the practices of primary care, yet Dona reports the majority of the training she received was gained through observing her grandmother and mother. Dona states, “I just know. I have never been taught. I just feel.”
During Dona’s journey of practicing as a midwife, she has learned various methods of healing:
• Therapeutic Massages: By merely the use of lotion and her hands, Dona has the uncanny ability to massage an expectant mother’s stomach and identify both the sex and position of the infant. She can then reposition a breech infant, relieve potential childbirth complications, and provide comfort to the mother. A traditional obstetrician does not emphasize this kind of therapeutic, non-pharmacological treatment.
• Home-Grown Medicinal Herbs & Roots: Grown in her backyard, these plants can rid a mother of the pains of contractions during labor. The medicinal plants have also been known to help a woman to become pregnant and decrease infertility within her community.
Professor Elizabeth O’Neil, Johnson School of Nursing at Purdue University, remarks that, “Dona is a reminder that pregnancy and birth generally require minimal intervention. An advantageous lifestyle, making healthy food choices, and exercising are essential to a successful birth.”
Professor O’Neil remarked that the long history and tradition of the midwife is being lost throughout the world in favor of a model of birth management. Perhaps we should heed the ways of Dona Miriam—an exemplar of optimal aging.
Campbell Contributes to National Dietary Guidelines
March 31, 2015
Every 5 years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dr. Wayne Campbell, Professor of Nutrition Science and CALC Faculty Associate, was a member of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which released new guidelines in February.
The Guidelines are available for public comment until May 8, 2015.
"This report is a science-based wake-up call for people to improve what they eat and how they can obtain healthy food," said Campbell. "The report represents a rigorous examination of nutrition and health research to help the federal government formulate the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The reality is that as a nation we do not have access to readily available healthy foods. The health of people in our country is going to require a major commitment from individuals, communities and all segments of government and industry to improve everyone's eating and physical activity behaviors."
Campbell was one of 14 scientists who served on the Committee, which was formed in 2013 to evaluate scientific evidence on the health consequences of the American diet.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages individuals to eat a healthful diet—one that focuses on foods and beverages that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent chronic disease.
Campbell's research focuses on nutrition and health as people age, especially how protein nutrition and exercise influence the aging process. His contributions helped the Committee focus on the long-term consequences of nutrition.
His research laboratory at Purdue has demonstrated that the protein requirement for older adults is greater than what has been recommended in previous national guidelines.
Plake Receives Murphy Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching
March 25, 2015
On March 25, 2015, Kimberly Plake was named a recipient of the Murphy Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching. Plake earned the PhD in Pharmacy Administration with a Gerontology Minor in 1999, then joined the faculty of Drake University. She returned to Purdue as an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice in 2003 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2009.
Professor Plake's research focuses on patient care and associated outcomes. She studies services and programs in community settings, health literacy, and patient education.
Ken Ferraro, CALC Director, recalls Kim Plake as an outstanding graduate student and was delighted that she returned to Purdue University. “As soon as I learned that Kim was joining the faculty of Pharmacy Practice, I wanted her as a CALC Faculty Associate. She has a strong commitment to gerontology, which manifests itself in the classroom. The Murphy Award honors her excellence for undergraduate teaching, but Kim is also an outstanding mentor of graduate students.”
The award is named in memory of Charles B. Murphy, a history professor at Purdue from 1927 to 1970. The University's highest undergraduate teaching honor, the Murphy Award is accompanied by a $10,000 cash award and induction into Purdue's Teaching Academy, which provides leadership for the improvement of undergraduate, graduate and outreach teaching. Congratulations, Professor Plake.
J. Jill Suitor
October 31st, 2014
“This distinguished honor is given annually to an individual whose theoretical contributions have helped bring about a new synthesis and perspective or have yielded original and elegant research designs addressing a significant problem in the literature.” Todd Kluss, GSA
Suitor is Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Associate of the Center on Aging and the Life Course. She regularly teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on family relationships across the life course with particular interest in later life. Suitor’s research focuses on the effects of status transitions on interpersonal relations between adult children and parents.
Suitor’s research has been supported by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Spencer Foundation. Throughout her career, Suitor has had over 100 publications including journal articles and book chapters.
Suitor also serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Gerontology; Social Sciences, and has been a member of the editorial boards of Social Forces, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Gerontology; Social Sciences, The Gerontologist, and Gender & Society.
Since 2000, Suitor has led the Within-Family Differences Study, a 14-year panel investigation of predictors and consequences of parental favoritism in the middle and later years of life.
Jill Suitor is a GSA fellow, the Gerontological Society of America’s highest class of membership.
Christ Receives 2014 CALC Outstanding Professor Award
September 25th, 2014
The CALC Outstanding Professor Award recognizes faculty who are excellent instructors and mentors, and Dr. Sharon Christ was named this year’s honoree at the fall 2014 symposium.
Expertise, willingness to help students succeed, and dedication are three qualities that distinguish Sharon Christ as the CALC's 2014 Outstanding Professor.
Since joining Purdue in 2010, Christ has distinguished herself as a prolific author and outstanding instructor and mentor. Her vast knowledge, use of innovative statistical methods, and guidance on how to skillfully analyze data make her remarkable in the eyes of CALC graduate students.
A recent survey of Purdue graduate students identified some of her qualities:
The CALC is both honored and privileged to have dedicated professors such as Dr. Sharon Christ.
Olshansky and de Cabo Identify Avenues to Optimal Longevity
September 5th, 2014
On September 5th, two internationally acclaimed scholars in gerontology, S. Jay Olshanksy, and Rafael de Cabo, discussed strategies to add years to life—and life to years. About 120 people attended the symposium entitled Avenues to Optimal Longevity.
Olshansky, Professor of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, challenged the idea of major extensions in life span. Rising life expectancy is a good thing, but he noted the limits to longevity in a variety of species and argued for more attention to quality of life. He stressed optimizing our genetic potential for active life expectancy.
Rafael de Cabo, Senior Investigator in the Laboratory of Experimental Gerontology at the National Institute on Aging (and Editor, Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences), proposed nutritional interventions to positively impact health and function. He documented that the effects of caloric restriction on health are not as universal as some scholars contend.
The symposium was sponsored by the Center on Aging and the Life Course, Department of Nutrition Science, and Purdue University Retirees Association.
Ferraro Wins Riley Distinguished Scholar Award
August 15th, 2014
The American Sociological Association announced Kenneth F. Ferraro as the 2014 winner of the Matilda White Riley Distinguished Scholar Award. Ferraro is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center on Aging and the Life Course at Purdue University.
In conferring the award, Deborah Carr, Chair of ASA’s Section on Aging and the Life Course, noted Ferraro’s “methodological, theoretical, and substantive contributions to social gerontology and his dedicated mentorship of graduate students. We truly cannot think of a more deserving candidate.”
The annual award honors a scholar in the field of aging and the life course who has shown exceptional achievement in research, theory, or policy analysis to advance knowledge of aging and the life course. The award is named after Riley, 77th President of ASA and the first Director of Social Science Research at the National Institute on Aging.
Ferraro joined Purdue in 1990 and is the author of over 100 refereed journal articles related to health, aging, and inequality.
Freeman Receives Exceptional Teaching Award
June 2nd, 2014
On Tuesday, April 1, Jennifer Freeman, assistant professor of toxicology, received the honor of being named a recipient of the 2014 Exceptional Early Career Award. The award was created by the Office of the Provost and the Murphy Award selection committee. The award recognizes outstanding undergraduate teaching among early career, tenure track faculty at Purdue University. Recipients “dedicate time to student learning while still committing to the research and scholarship requirements of the tenure track.” In addition to her newly acclaimed title, Freeman also received $5,000 cash award and additional funding for her department.
Beyond classroom instruction, Jennifer Freeman has also served as a mentor to undergraduate students in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences. Many of Freeman’s students have further pursued their education and professional schools including medical, veterinary and graduate schools. In addition, she has created an undergraduate course, Essentials of Environmental Occupational and Radiological Health Sciences, and a graduate level course, Advanced Techniques in Molecular Toxicology.
On April 17th, Purdue Today reported Freeman saying, “I look forward to many more years of interacting with students and aim to provide unique opportunities during their educational experience that will assist them as they work toward achieving their educational goals.”
The Center on Aging the Life Course is grateful to have dedicated and passionate faculty focused on academic and scientific excellence. Of note, Dr. Freeman was recently promoted to associate professor of health sciences, effective August 18, 2014.
By Megan Klotz
CALC Faculty Members Receive Promotions
April 11, 2014
CALC Faculty Associates Promotions Promoted to Associate Professor:Jennifer L. Freeman, Health Sciences
Elliot M. Friedman, Human Development and Family Studies
Promoted to Professor:
Jessica E. Huber, Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences
“In The Eyes of 105” - A Personal Interview
by Megan Klotz
February 28, 2014
At the turn of the twentieth century, Anna Nayphe and her brother left Lebanon and set out for the Americas. They left with the intention of gaining what was most valuable to them, their religious freedom. They made their way to Ellis Island carrying with them a black suitcase full of pins, needles, and sewing necessities. Their journey led them to Indianapolis, Indiana
Anna Nayphe married Alexander Kamees in 1900 and had 7 children: Albert, William, Rosemary, Emily Mae, Eva, Sadie, Kathryn, and Louis John. This brings us to Eva, or Raifa as her mother called her by her Lebanese name. If we would like to be technical, we would call her by the name on her birth certificate which reads "Fifth Child". Born the fifth of seven children, the doctors failed to understand the Lebanese dialect of Eva’s mother. Raifa, Eva, or the Fifth Child has been known to me as Great Grandma Evie for the past 22 years.
I recognize her by sweet disposition, wonderful cooking, and her large collection of angels. To others, she is recognized by the longevity of her life. To epidemiologists, she is considered a centenarian, a person who has lived beyond 100 years of age. According to the 2010 US Census, the US has the greatest number of known centenarians compared to any other nation. 17 in 100,000 people in the US are recognized as centenarians with the highest incidence of these people being women.
While her birth certificate states she is 104 years old this past December, Social Security indicates otherwise, making her 105 years old. When I asked my Grandma exactly how old she was she replied with a grin, "that's not to be recorded."
Growing up she remembers the horse and buggy that came through the neighborhood with wooden crates full of milk. Her family was the only household on the entire block to have a television: "it was beautiful with its double doors, black and white color, and wonderful reception." They watched Red Skeleton, George Burns, Fibber McKee and my Great Grandmother's favorite news anchor, Walter Cronkite.
Her first date with her soon-to-be husband, William Jennings, was a trip to see a movie at the Indiana Theatre. She married young and the wedding only cost $20. In 2011, the average wedding cost approximately $27,000.
Her husband gave her a weekly allowance of $5 to buy groceries, household items and any other necessities needed to take care of her husband, home, and son.
Her first vehicle was a 1936 Ford that went "as fast as anybody wanted it to." My father smiled as he said, "Grandpa always bought her giant cars. He didn't want her in a little car because she drove so fast. If she ran into anything he never wanted her to get hurt."
When discussing politics, she conveyed that in her opinion the best president of the United States was Franklin D. Roosevelt. In regards to current political issues the country is facing she replied, "what's going on right now is going to give us quite the ride, it's tough. It's just tough."
"Tough" to my Great Grandmother, I would imagine, is extremely different from my conception of "tough." She remembers a friend, Frankie, being drafted into war. The image of her Frankie’s mother walking down the street when the armistice had been signed, banging a metal pan yelling "Frankie is coming home!" is still vivid.
The days of Prohibition and Al Capone brought up stories of bootleggers running banned alcohol between Chicago and Springfield, Illinois. Aello, a friend of my grandmother and victim of Al Capone's gang, was found on his way home from church with 28 bullet holes in his body.
In those days, her father carried a shotgun for protection. To end our political discussion, I asked her what she thought of the civil rights movement in the 1960's. She replied, "they should have started the movement 20 years before they did."
In regards to technology, she thinks the world is going a little too fast. "Slow down and forget some of the things you all worry about. You don't know how good it is to simply sit around a table and eat with the people you love."
In the early 90's growing up, she taught me the Charleston, the Mashed Potato, and how to knit. Now in 2013, as I study to become a nurse, I notice and appreciate the uniqueness of my Great Grandma Evie that much more.
Her skin is beautiful and free of aging spots. Her advice for people my age, "wash your face with good soap and a good washcloth." She walks without an ambulatory aid and is as quick as a whip. To this day, she still lives independently in her own home eating her own cooking. She still faithfully wears her wedding ring even after losing her husband nearly 40 years ago.
A supercentenarian is defined as someone who has lived to at least 110 years of age. My Great Grandma Evie is well on her way to becoming one of only a few hundred supercentenarians in the world. What is her secret? Maybe it was the giant cars that have kept her safe and living so long.
She also followed good health regimens: regular exercise and a diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (antioxidants). Great Grandma Evie also has a strong spiritual life. She says her life has been led by "what the Good Lord would want." Perhaps this is where the secret of life is kept … with simplicity.
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." -Leonardo da Vinci
Aging Families and Health Symposium: Social Influences on Health Lifestyle Choices in Later Life
Decemeber 10, 2013
The Center on Aging and the Life Course faculty and friends gathered for the annual Fall Symposium to explore how social influences affect health lifestyle choices later in life. On Friday, September 20th at the Burton Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship at Purdue University, three leading scholars—Deborah Carr, Karen Hooker, and Alex Zautra—graced the campus with their presence and knowledge of how social influences shape later life.
The symposium was co-sponsored by the Center for Families and the Purdue University Retirees Association.
Deborah Carr, PhD, Professor and Chair in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University, challenged the idea that we are “born alone and die alone.” Her research examined the intricate role that family relations play in end-of-life health care preparations. She finds that the majority of people, if they had their way, prefer to be in the comfort of their own homes at the end of life rather than a health care facility or hospital. Yet, research shows that the vast majority of people (up to 75% of Americans), die in the hospital setting surrounded by family members.
Carr proposed the idea of practicing patient-centered care. Patient-centered care would make care plans to be family-based, therefore making the patient only one part of the health care plan equation. Professor Carr left us with the thought that it is not the actual event of death that is most important to the patient's overall well-being and state of happiness near the end of life. Rather, it is the process of dying that patients find most crucial to their care and departure.
Carr also noted that many people procrastinate with respect to making a living will or durable power of attorney for health care. She urged audience members not only to talk with family members about their preferences but to also do the legal work to safeguard those preferences.
Karen Hooker, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Oregon State Center for Healthy Aging Research, elucidated how families shape the rhythms of daily life, including health care plans. Hooker's research regarding self-regulation of health highlights the role of planning.
She finds that goals, even if delayed by family needs or events, help people manage health promotion efforts related to diet, exercising, and stress management. Moreover, communicating one’s health goals to family members and/or close personal relationships aids goal achievement: health promotion is a social process. People who have others supporting them in pursuit of their health goals are more effective in reaching the desired end.
The Arizona State University Foundation Professor of Clinical Psychology, Alex Zautra, PhD, conveyed information about social intelligence training and how it can enhance the well-being of older adults. Social intelligence refers to the ability to form meaningful relationships with others and effectively negotiate complex social relationships.
Research reveals that social intelligence helps people interact more effectively with health care providers and caregivers. This may occur in health promotion, primary care, or long-term care. Zautra explained that social intelligence interventions also give health care professionals a greater sense of direction in how to develop humanistic and meaningful relations between both patients and staff in long term facilities.
Zautra challenged the notion that resilience is largely an attribute of the individual. Instead, he finds that resilience is socially developed. Social intelligence encourages the development of resilience, enabling patients to recover more quickly from illness episodes and sustain daily activities.
At the conclusion of the symposium, Ken Ferraro, Director of CALC, conferred the Research Excellence Award on Dr. Jill Suitor and Dr. Megan Gilligan, recognizing their collaboration to advance understanding of intergenerational family relationships.
The day was capped with a reception and poster session; graduate students displayed projects that were enjoyed and discussed by visitors. Topics ranged from sensorimotor control during walking to the use of the Geriatric Medicine Game on health professional students’ empathy.
The Center on Aging and the Life Course appreciates the support of the Purdue University Retirees Association, Center for Families, and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. In addition, a special thank you is given to Lisa Stein for photographing the symposium.
For further information or to access video recordings of the proceeding from the 2013 CALC Symposium, please visit the CALC website (www.purdue.edu/aging).
Or visit our YouTube channel to view video of the symposium.
Rong Fu to be presented with the Emerging Scholar and Professional Organization Student Poster Award
November 21, 2013
Suitor and Gilligan Recognized for Research Excellence
September 20, 2013
The Center on Aging and the Life Course at Purdue University named J. Jill Suitor and Megan M. Gilligan co-winners of the 2013 Research Excellence Award.
Suitor, who is Professor of Sociology and Faculty Associate of the Center, is widely known for her research on the aging family, including topics such as favorite children, ambivalence, and how families communicate with nursing home personnel. The author of over 70 refereed-journal articles, Suitor is a fellow the Gerontological Society of America and the Secretary-Treasurer of the Section on Aging and the Life Course of the American Sociological Association.
“Jill Suitor has excelled in research since joining Purdue in 2004,” said Ken Ferraro, Director of the Center on Aging and the Life Course. “She has been highly productive as a scholar, publishing her work in some of the field’s top journals. She received multiple large grants from the National Institute on Aging, which have led to important discoveries and supported multiple graduate students.”
Megan Gilligan, the co-winner and one of those former graduate students, is now Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University. According to Ferraro, “Megan has a passion for research on the aging family, especially intergenerational relations and adult sibling relationships. She distinguished herself as one of our top students and has an exceptional record of scholarship.”
By naming Suitor and Gilligan co-winners, the Center also honored the collaboration. “Jill and Megan are an exceptional research team,” said David Waters, Associate Director of the Center. “We simultaneously honor the research—the scientific discoveries—but also a very fruitful collaboration.” Added Ferraro, “each has a distinguished record of research; together, they have provided critical insights into family dynamics in later life.”
Research on Healthy Aging with Botanicals
Every year, new information emerges about the important role of plant-foods in reducing age-associated diseases like Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and cancer. However, many commercially available botanical dietary supplements are not well-investigated, with some even having illegal labeling claims of the ability to treat or prevent disease.
At the same time, researchers repeatedly demonstrate strong evidence of certain eating patterns or even certain foods containing these botanicals which are associated with lowered disease risk. To promote better processing and research techniques, and improve understanding of the role of botanicals in healthy aging, Purdue University and the University of Alabama collaboratively developed the Botanicals Research Center for Age Related Disease.
Investigating botanicals' roles in nutrition and health is a complex process. Basic questions, such as extraction methods, storage stability, and the body’s ability to use these plant products, must be examined before disease treatments with food can be pursued. To address this, a highly interdisciplinary team of 17 co-investigators was assembled to investigate foods like grape seeds, isoflavones, and green tea. Connie Weaver, Distinguished Professor and Department Head of Nutrition Science at Purdue, summarized the strategy simply. “Complex problems require interdisciplinary teams to address them,” an approach familiar to most of us at the Center on Aging and the Life Course.
Plants have a tremendous amount of variation in biological potential due to factors such as species differences, geographic location, local environment, and storage requirements. As a foundation of the botanicals investigation, Jim Simon of Rutgers University addressed sourcing and quality of the plants. Simon genetically profiled the plants and their extracts, which are now archived for permanent reference. This careful planning provides researchers with quality botanicals to investigate or reproduce in the laboratory.
Several studies have used this work as a foundation to create botanicals enriched with harmless radioactive tags, such as carbon-14 and calcium-41. The enriched research botanicals can then be eaten and further studied based on how the molecules interact with different tissues. These tissues are then collected for further analysis. One noteworthy collection technique includes a special ultrafiltration probe designed in part by Dr. Elsa Janle, an Associate Research Professor in Purdue’s Nutrition Science. This technology allows "snapshots" of chemical interactions in an animal’s body for a better understanding of how the body changes in response to these foods.
Purdue has unique capabilities that make detection of very small quantities of the radio-labeled chemicals possible. Using Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS), researchers can examine how polyphenols and other potentially health-benefiting chemicals might interact with other foods when eating a meal, how effective the chemical is, what the appropriate dosage would be, and identify potential safety issues.
"The application of high technology to health questions was very exciting to me," said Weaver. "We developed the rapid screening method for effective interventions for reducing bone loss in postmenopausal women using Calcium-41 and AMS." This technology allowed researchers to examine the usefulness of commercial supplemental isoflavones, plant-derived compounds that may mimic estrogen in the body, as estrogen replacement therapy for prevention of bone loss. Weaver’s lab was able to demonstrate that soy isoflavone therapy at 0-135.5 milligrams per day had no effect on decreasing the amount of bone reabsorbed in healthy post-menopausal women. Using previous techniques, it would have required many years to provide similar data.
As part of the Botanicals Research Center for Age Related Disease, investigators also studied how certain foods may reduce inflammation in the body. “Inflammation is an underlying mechanism of many chronic diseases", explained Weaver. “Many fruits and vegetables contain many anti-inflammatory compounds.” Grapes and grape seeds extracts (GSE) are of interest for their potential anti-inflammatory benefits, which might protect the brain against age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Rats were given GSE-enriched diets for 6-weeks at which time their brains were examined for changes in certain proteins. The researchers’ findings were consistent with GSE providing a protective effect to the brain, demonstrating for the first time that specific disease-associated proteins had changed in response eating a complex botanical ingredient.
In addition to research, training new scientists in botanicals and aging was another important component of the Botanicals Research Center. Courses as well as an annual symposium were held for graduate students at Purdue. Some of these students transitioned to post-doctoral fellowships at other Botanical Research Centers, became faculty members at other universities, or obtained research positions in the food industry.
Though the grant that funded the initial development of the botanicals center has expired, collaborations initially established from that work continue to enhance exciting new research and influence future directions. Subsequent grants have been awarded based on data gained from the Botanicals and Bioavailability research core. In 2006, in conjunction with Mt. Sinai Medical School, an NIH Center for Excellence Research for Grape Derived Polyphenolics and Alzheimer Disease was established. Further work on Alzheimer's Disease has continued under the Center of Excellence for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CERC).
Research on the role of botanicals in healthy aging continues to be a young, but expanding, field. Based on Purdue’s leading role in this topic through research and training, significant progress is expected to advance consumer health, safety, and potentially longevity through nutrition.
No Age Limit in Blue Yonder: United Flying Octogenarians (UFOs)
While some might argue that flying or even driving takes more concentration and caution for older adults, the United Flying Octogenarians (UFO hereafter) shows that there is no age limit on actively remaining a pilot in command. Presently, the UFO has 942 members spread across the United States and Canada as well as members all around the globe. The group, founded in 1982, hosts annual conventions around the world. There is one condition to join the membership: pilots must have flown an aircraft after turning 80.
These exceptional octogenarian/nonagenarian pilots have retained valuable flying skills through retraining as well as biannual flying check-ups that compensate for the loss of reflexes that comes with older age.
A 2012 survey of 655 UFOs members reveals that the group remains relatively active and healthy—better than the national average for persons their age. Most UFOs were within the normal weight range (83%) and reporting being regular exercisers (82%). Only a few were current smokers.
Their overall good health was also reflected in how they rated their health: most pilots rated their health as excellent or good (88%). Being healthy and active appears to be an important motivator for older pilots since most of them believe that their good health primarily enabled them to fly at age 80 or older. The regular biannual medical check-ups may be another vital part for the pilots to maintain good health and to retain their license.
Beyond physical activity, these pilots also frequently engage in stimulating cognitive activities. Most of the sample appears to be actively reading (85%) in addition to engaging in problem solving activities such as crossword puzzles or chess. Over half also use the Internet, which is particularly interesting given their age. These pilots also participate in several voluntary associations, with more than half being involved in more than 3 organizations including UFO. This might be a spillover effect of being an active pilot since some pilots might make charitable trips that fly patients to hospitals from home, in addition to flying for leisure.
The majority of these pilots have flown between 2,000 to 5,000 hours over their lives—a remarkable achievement. To address what factors influence their flying hours, we investigated several possible predictors. Two findings are noteworthy. First, older pilots (ages 89 and 90) had accumulated more flight hours, suggesting that older pilots' unique capabilities and experiences enable them to maintain their flying (i.e., use it or lose it). Also, notable advances in aviation technology such as the development of an autopilot system permits them to fly with less concern over the risks associated with pilot error.
The most surprising finding emerged when examining involvement in organizations and accumulated flying time. Although one might think that involvement in other organizations would lead to reduced hours of flying (competition for one’s time), we found the opposite: pilots involved in more organizations (3+) generally had accumulated more hours of flying time than those involved in UFO only.
Gerontologists have long drawn attention to the link between social engagement and optimal aging, noting the benefits of productive activities. According to Charlie Lopez, UFO regional manager, these pilots are a very sociable group: “I would guess that close to 80% of our members belong to AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) which has over 400,000 members.” And there are many other flight related organizations such as Experimental Aircraft Association and even the secretive Quiet Birdmen.
Lopez also noted that many UFO members have long professional careers as lawyers, physicians, and engineers; and may continue to fly to these professional associations.
The question of age limit in active pilots is still a matter of debate within the aviation industry, medical field, and insurance companies. Yet the data from active UFOs show that older pilots love flying so much that they don’t hang up their “goggles and helmet” no matter how old they are. Flying might also offer them a form of social engagement and additional health benefits. After all, staying healthy is all about doing what you love.
For more information about UFO, see ufopilots.org
September 21, 2012
Professors Haddad and Rietdyk win Exceptional Engagement Award.
The Center on Aging and the Life Course recently conferred the Exceptional Engagement Award on Drs. Jeffrey Haddad and Shirley Rietdyk, Professors in Purdue’s Department of Health and Kinesiology and CALC Faculty Associates.
The Center on Aging and the Life Course joined forces in 2009 with University Place, a continuing-care retirement community in West Lafayette, to launch an intervention research initiative. The idea was to enable Purdue scholars to do research that would potentially benefit the participants while advancing the science of aging. Professors Haddad and Rietdyk have led the balance project at University Place since 2009, an intervention research project designed to better understand balance and biomechanics in order to prevent falls by older people.
More than 1/3 of adults over 65 years of age fall at least once a year, so Haddad and Rietdyk devised a training program to see if they could improve balance and reduce falls. About 75 persons participated in the study during the past three years. The study involves an assessment of posture and mobility (before the training) and repeats the assessment after the balance training. The team compared two training methods: wobble board and Biodex. Results revealed that both methods aid postural control and mobility.
The intervention proved beneficial to the residents and community members in multiple ways. The training itself was helpful, but Haddad and Rietdyk also involved more than 50 undergraduate students and three graduate students in the project. By doing so, each study participant received one-on-one training in postural control and fall prevention. Thus, there was an intergenerational component to the training that was also beneficial. To quote two residents: “I love getting to work with these young people” and “They helped me with my balance, and it was fun.”
The students also saw research in action while helping the residents: “This class was tough. However, I learned so much from this class that will translate to my future career.” As one student said, “this is by far the best lab that I have taken at Purdue!”
The Center on Aging and the Life Course confers an award each year, and the purpose of the award rotates annually across research, teaching, and service.
September 5, 2012
Congratulations to Markus Schafer, Ken Ferraro, and Sarah Mustillo for winning the 2012 Outstanding Publication Award from the Section on Aging and the Life Course of the American Sociological Association.
Adversity early in life may alter pathways of aging, but what interpretive processes can soften the blow of early insults?
Drawing from cumulative inequality theory, the authors analyze trajectories of life evaluations and then consider whether early adversity offsets favorable expectations for the future.
Results reveal that early adversity contributes to more negative views of the past but rising expectations for the future.
Early adversity also has enduring effects on life evaluations, offsetting the influence of buoyant expectations. The findings draw attention to the limits of human agency under the constraints of early adversity-a process described as biographical structuration.
May 11, 2012
Congratulations to Daniel K. Mroczek, PhD, newly named the Bill and Sally Hanley Professor of Gerontology in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.
Mroczek has been a professor of human development and family studies since he came to Purdue in 2005. Before that he was on the faculty as an assistant and associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Fordham University.
His academic interests are changes in personality and well-being, particularly during midlife and older adulthood. He has shown that factors such as marriage, divorce, remarriage and death of a spouse play a key role in altering personality.
He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association in the adult development and aging division, and he also served on the social personality and interpersonal processes study section at the National Institutes of Health.
Mroczek received his bachelor's degree from Loyola University in Chicago and his master's degree and doctorate from Boston University.
November 28, 2011
Ken Ferraro receives the Distinguished Mentor Award from the Gerontological Society of America
The Gerontological Society of America — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — at the 2011 annual meeting in Boston.
At Purdue University, Ferraro is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and founding director of the Center on Aging and the Life Course. His recent research focuses on health inequality over the life course; current projects examine minority health, obesity and health, and the long term consequences of childhood misfortune on health. Ferraro is the author of over 90 peer-reviewed journal articles.
According to GSA, the Distinguished Mentor Award is given to individuals "who have not only fostered excellence in the field, but have made a major impact by virtue of their mentoring, and whose inspiration is sought by students and colleagues."
August 22, 2011
CALC Launches Facebook Page
Stay current with the news of the Center on Aging and the Life Course. CALC launched our facebook page this summer, as a way to communicate quickly and effectively with our interested students, faculty, and community. Let us know what you think and send links you would like to have added to: email@example.com.
Swiss Scholar Visits CALC
Dario Spini, a behavioral scientist at the University of Lausanne, recently visited Purdue’s Center on Aging and the Life Course to explore collaborative training opportunities. Dr. Spini studies aging and the life course, with specific interests on the antecedents of frailty and the sense of timing as people age.
Professor Spini directs PRN LIVES, which aims to better understand the emergence and evolution of life course vulnerability and ways to overcome it (http://lives-nccr.ch/). The project places a premium on studying life trajectories, especially those over the entirety of the life course. Biographical trajectories of some 25,000 people will be studied in various fields (health, family, labor and institutions).
Purdue was one of four North American centers that Spini visited to learn more about life course studies.
Ferraro Elected Section Chair of Gerontological Society of America
Kenneth Ferraro, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center on Aging and the Life Course, was recently elected Chair of the Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSS) of the Gerontological Society of America. With a membership of nearly 3,000, BSS is the largest section of the GSA, which was founded in 1945.
In discussing the professional organization, Ferraro noted that it "provides an excellent intellectual home for scholars to reach beyond their disciplinary backgrounds to explore what it means to be a gerontologist."
Since receiving his PhD in sociology in 1981, Ferraro has held appointments in sociology departments and twice founded and directed gerontology centers. Professor Ferraro recently completed a 4-year term as Editor of the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences and previously served as Chair of the American Sociological Association's Section on Aging and the Life Course (2004-2005). His research interests include life course health, especially health disparities, and the development of cumulative inequality theory. He is the author of over 80 refereed-journal articles. Recent publications include: "Aging and Cumulative Inequality: How Does Inequality Get Under the Skin?" (The Gerontologist), "Assistive Device Use as a Dynamic Acquisition Process in Later Life" (The Gerontologist), and "Children of Misfortune: Early Adversity and Cumulative Inequality in Perceived Life Trajectories" (American Journal of Sociology).