Thursday, 23 March 2023

Redefining the elderly as aged 75 years and older: Proposal from the Joint Committee of Japan Gerontological Society and the Japan Geriatrics Society

In many countries, including Japan, the elderly are defined as having a chronological age of 65 years or older. However, there is no clear medical or biological evidence to support this definition. Recently, this definition of the elderly has come to not match the current situation in Japan, although there are individual differences in the elderly. 

Many of the elderly, especially aged those younger than 75 years, are still robust and active. Many people feel hesitant to treat them as elderly, and many of them feel uncomfortable being treated as elderly. Based on these reasons, in 2013, the Japan Gerontological Society and the Japan Geriatrics Society launched a joint committee to reconsider the definition of the elderly, and discussed the definition of the elderly from various aspects for 3 years. As a result of analyzing various data on the physical and psychological health of the elderly in recent years, a phenomenon of “rejuvenation” has been seen in which the appearance of changes in physical function as a result of aging, including gait speed and grip strength (Fig. 1), have been delayed by 5–10 years among the elderly at present compared with 10–20 years ago.1 Even among those aged 65 years or older who have been regarded as elderly, especially the young-old aged 65–74 years, mental and physical health is well maintained, and the majority of them are capable of taking part in active social activities. Furthermore, according to the results of various awareness surveys, the opinion against recognizing those aged 65 years or older as elderly is generally gaining strength in society as well (Fig. 2).2 According to the survey carried out by the Cabinet Office of the Japanese Government, many people think that those aged over 70 or 75 years should be considered elderly.2 Therefore, our joint committee would like to propose a classification of people aged over 65 years as follows.

Aged from 65 to 74 years: pre-old age 
Aged over 75 years: old age

In addition, people aged over 90 years can be classified as oldest-old or super-old. 

This definition mainly takes into consideration the aging situation of developed countries, but we believe that if the extension of life expectancy and “rejuvenation” phenomenon spreads globally, it is a concept that will be globally accepted. In contrast, with the global extension of life expectancy, it is appropriate to think of those aged over 90 years who have surpassed the average life expectancy as oldest-old/super-old according to the previous definition.  

The significance of re-examining the definition and classification of the elderly is: (i) to consider the elderly according to the previous definition as motivated supporters of society once again; and (ii) to create an upcoming super-aged society with brightness and vitality. However, the trend towards improved physical ability in the elderly is not guaranteed to continue into the future, indicating the need to educate the next generation on the promotion of health once again. As for policy implication, our proposal might lead to the revision of social security policy, because many pre-old people can contribute to productivity and reduce the socioeconomic burden of the younger generation. However, we would like to emphasize that this proposal does not intend to provide a political basis for shrinking social welfare for pre-old and old people. 

We hope that our proposal will contribute to the realization of our citizens’ desire to construct a bright, productive, healthy and long-living society. (Ouchi et al., 2017, literally)

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- Yasuyoshi Ouchi, Hiromi Rakugi, Hidenori Arai, Masahiro Akishita, Hideki Ito, Kenji Toba, Ichiro Kai, 2017, on behalf of the Joint Committee of Japan Gerontological Society (JGLS) and Japan Geriatrics Society (JGS) on the definition and classification of the elderly, link
- photograph Greg Girard (Tokyo, 1979, two school girls) via

Monday, 20 March 2023

The Ageing Body of an Actor and the Only Answer to the Question: "Bothered by the required nudity?"

“It didn’t matter to me because it’s the only body I’ve got. At least it was a reality. An aging body, to people who are not old, this is what’s going to happen to you. So don’t get too smart about it.” 

photographs by Brian Duffy via

Friday, 17 March 2023

"Sad to be at a stage in your life where you have to play 'old people'?"

“The only alternative to playing old people is playing dead people. I’ll pick elderly people. I have three grandchildren and I live for them. But also, I remember, I once read a script and I sent the script back [to the producer] saying the part was too small. He sent it back to me saying, ‘I did not want you to read the lover. I wanted you to read the father.’ And that’s when my career changed. I suddenly realized I wasn’t going to get the girl anymore. But I was going to get the part, and I really did get some parts.” 
Michael Caine

photograph via

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Quoting Paul Robeson

"Here we were born and here we will stay." 
Paul Robeson (1898-1976)

"Well, I am the son of an emancipated slave and the stories of old father are vivid on the tablets of my memory." 

"My father was a slave and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you." 

"This United States Government should go down to Mississippi and protect my people. That is what should happen." 

"To fight for participation in the forward march of humanity." 

"The history of the capitalist era is characterized by the degradation of my people." 

"I am being tried for fighting for the right of my people." 

"I've learned that my people are not the only ones oppressed." 

"I am here because I am opposing the Neo-Fascist cause, which I see arising here in these committees." 

"As an artist, I come to sing, but as a citizen, I will always speak for peace, and no one can silence me in this." 

"I do not hesitate one second to state clearly and unmistakably: I belong to the American resistance movement which fights against American imperialism."

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photograph via

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Demarcating "Old Age"

"Old age" is what is defined as "old age" and the perception very much depends on the age of the persons asked. In a study, participants (n=300, 150 men and 150 women, mean age 58.8) were interviewed using a quetionnaire on the age perceived as old. 

According to the sample, 73.7 years is the lower bound of "old age" (answers ranged from 45 to 100 years). A closer look at the participants' age shows an impact their age had on their definition: Participants under 65 reported 70.5 years to be the beginning of old age while participants over 65 marked 77.4 as the beginning of old age - a difference of almost 7 years. In other words, the older a particpant, the later the beginning of old age. 

Men perceived old age 3 years before women and those reporting good health perceived it 3.9 years earlier than those with excellent health. In fact, health deterioration was "the most reported factor in the perception of old age" (Daignault, Wassef & Nguyen, 2021).

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- Daignault, M., Wassef, A. & Nguyen, Q. D. (2021). How old is old? Identifying a chronological age and factors related with the perception of old age. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 69(11), 3330-3333.
- photograph by the great Vivian Maier via

Tuesday, 21 February 2023

The Child Opportunity Index

The Child Opportunity Index (COI) was developed in 2014 to measure and map "the quality of resources and conditions that matter for children to develop in a healthy way" in the neighbourhoods they grow up, and to spark conversations about inequality and encourage actions to increase equity. In 2020, COI 2.0 was launched including updated data (via) from 29 neighbourhood-level indicators covering three domains: education (quality and access to early childhood education, social resources related to educational achievement), health and environment (access to healthy food and green space, pollution from industry, exposure to extreme heat), social and economic domain.

Good schools, parks, playgrounds, healthy food, clean air, safe housing, health care are some aspects crucial for children to become healthy adults. In the United States, many children live in these "high opportunity" neighbourhoods that provide access to the conditions mentioned before. Many, however, live in "low opportunity" neighbourhoods, many of these "many" being Black, Hispanic and Native American children (via).

For example, (...) in the Milwaukee metro the typical White child enjoys a neighborhood with a Child Opportunity Score of 85, while the typical Black child lives in a neighborhood with a score of only 6. As another point of comparison, this racial gap in Milwaukee represents about four opportunity levels (the maximum possible): the typical Black child lives in a very low-opportunity neighborhood, while the typical White child lives in a very high-opportunity neighborhood. (via)

As of 2017...

While only 9 percent of white children live in the 20 percent of neighborhoods ranked as lowest in opportunity, 32 percent of Hispanic and 40 percent of black children live in such neighborhoods. These disparities remain after controlling for children’s own poverty status. Looking just at poor children, 22 percent of white children live in the 20 percent of neighborhoods ranked as lowest in opportunity, but 45 percent of Hispanic and 57 percent of black children live in such neighborhoods (...). As in our analysis of neighborhoods by poverty status, we find that racial/ethnic inequities in neighborhood opportunities for children are larger in metro areas with higher levels of segregation. (McArdle & Acevedo-Garcia, 2017:5)

Summing up... 

Segregation is not benign. The neighborhoods where children live and grow are both separate and greatly unequal along racial/ethnic lines in ways that have profound impacts on opportunities for healthy child development and wellbeing. The differences in neighborhood characteristics and opportunities between racial/ethnic groups are dramatic not just on average, but for large majorities of their populations. (McArdle & Acevedo-Garcia, 2017:4)

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- McArdle, N. & Acevedo-Garcia, D. (2017). Consequences of Segregation for Children's Opportunity and Wellbeing; via
- photograph by Gordon Parks (Alabama, 1956) via and via

Monday, 20 February 2023

Diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease: Black vs White Patients

In the U.S., Black Americans are about 1.5 to 2 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's or related dementias than whites are. Nevertheless, fewer Black than white Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer's or related dementias. In a study carried out by Lennon et al. (2022), 15 years (ranging from 2005 to 2020) of data on 5.700 Black and 31.225 white participants were tracked. While 36.1% of white participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer's, only 26.8% of Black participants received the diagnosis. Relative to white participants, Black participants had 35% lower odds of having the diagnosis at the initial visit (via).

Black study participants showed higher rates concerning cognitive impairment (particularly processing speed, language, executive function) than white participants, higher rates of hypertension and diabetes - in other words, more potential risk factors for Alzheimer's. In addition, they were twice as likely to experience delusions and hallucinations and generally more likely to show symptoms such as abnormal sleep, appetite or eating changes, irritability, agitation or aggression.

According to the research team, the results are further evidence that - compared to white patients - Black patients usually need more severe clinical presentations to receive a diagnosis of dementia from physicians. The results are backed by the tendency found in numerous studies showing that Black individuals are only diagnosed with Alzheimer's or related dementias when the disease process is more advanced.

Apart from the differences in diagnostic thresholds applied by providers, the scientists believe that these trends are partly due to social attitudes within Black communities in which memory problems are viewed as a normal part of ageing and medical treatment is only sought when neuropsychiatric symptoms (hallucinations, delusions, personality changes) are encountered. 

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- Lennon, J. C., Aita, S. L., Del Bene, V. A., Rhoads, T., Resch, Z. J., Eloi, J. M. Walker, K. A. (2022). Black and White individuals differ in dementia prevalence, risk factors, and symptomatic presentation. Alzheimer's & Dementia, The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, 18(8), 1461-1471.
- photograph by Gordon Parks via

Friday, 17 February 2023

Quoting Matilda Joslyn Gage

"The women of today are the thoughts of their mothers and grandmothers, embodied and made alive. They are active, capable, determined and bound to win. They have one-thousand generations back of them… Millions of women dead and gone are speaking through us today."

photograph by Reg Innell (1970, Women's liberation demonstration at Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto) via

Monday, 13 February 2023

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky's Frankfurt Kitchen

"They thought that I would starve to death. Nobody could imagine hiring a woman to build a house in 1916 — not even myself."

Schütte-Lihotzky (1897-2000) was born in Vienna and became the first female student of the so-called Kunstgewerbeschule, now known as the University of Applied Arts Vienna. As a student she worked on projects on affordable housing for the working class and decided to dedicate her career to reducing some burdens through efficient residential design. In an early project of hers, she designed flats for single, working women. 

When the social housing development programme "New Frankfurt" was launched in the German city of Frankfurt, Schütte-Lihotzky was invited to join - which she did creating her magnum opus, the first fitted kitchen, the "Frankfurt Kitchen" (aged 101, she said: "If I had known that everyone would keep talking about nothing else, I would never have built that damn kitchen!"). With this kitchen she aimed to make life easier for those (mainly women) using it. At the time, kitchens in working-class housing were part of the living room which often also served as a bedroom. The separated kitchen was small but efficient, the efficiency was drawn from kitchens in scientific laboratories and railway cars. The design was also based on interviews with housewives and time-motion studies of their work to reduce the number of steps needed to be taken between different tasks. About 10.000 of these kitchens were built in Frankfurt alone. Later, feminists linked Schütte-Lihotzky with the subjugation of women by the kitchen. Schütte-Lihotzky, however, wanted to reduce the hours and burden of women's unpaid labour at home: 
"I was convinced that the economic independence and self-realization of women would be a common good, and that therefore the further rationalization of household labor was imperative."

Schütte-Lihotzky was an ardent antifascist who joined the resistance against the Nazis. She was imprisoned in 1941 and sentenced to death but was lucky and returned to Vienna after the liberation in 1945 (via).

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photographs of Schütte-Lihotzky in her home via and via and via

Monday, 30 January 2023

Becoming "The" Ernst Haas

Ernst Haas was born in Vienna in 1921. As a child, he decided to become a painter, however, he was drafted into the military for two years after the Anschluss of Austria to the German Reich in 1938. When returning to Vienna after his service, he entered medical school which he was forced to leave after one year of study because of his Jewish ancestry (via).

His father was an amateur photographer. After his death in 1940, Haas started printing his father's negatives teaching himself technical aspects of photography and developing an interest in the creative ones. In photography, he saw the chance to combine his two goals, i.e. becoming an explorer and a painter (via). Haas, in fact, became an early master of colour photography, a member of Magnum, the man behind the iconic photograph of the Marlboro Man, and much more (via).

photographs by Ernst Haas via and via and via