Best reads weekly archive
Every week, through my work and my interests, I come across articles about life beyond midlife. I look for topics that are at the crossroads of psychology, health, policy, science, retirement transitions, aging, and much more.
Each Wednesday I have been sharing a curated round-up of the most interesting stories I read.
If you’ve missed any, you can still read them on this page.
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Health insurers are starting to roll back coverage for telehealth – even though demand is way up due to COVID-19 (The Conversation) In less than a year, telehealth has gone from a niche rarity to a common practice. Now, due to the financial strain on health care systems and insurers, the increase in telehealth use may be forced to shrink even though the public health crisis remains.
For Your Next Health Insurance Fight, an Exercise in Financial Self-Defense (KHN) “An Arm and a Leg” podcast’s host Dan Weismann speaks with veteran self-defense teacher Lauren Taylor who shares some of her top strategies and how she used them this year in her health insurance fight.
COVID-19 Data Dives: A Biostatistician’s Primer on Vaccine Efficacy (MedScape) A biostatistician’s primer on vaccine efficacy, the difference between vaccine efficacy and effectiveness, how to measure reduced infectiousness, and how to distinguish between efficacy against infection, disease, and severe disease.
The Year of Blur (The New York Times) It’s 2020, when days just bleed into weeks and each day feels like it is Thursday again. How isolation, monotony and chronic stress are destroying our sense of time.
Astronauts Know How to Handle Isolation (space.com) Tips and a four-step process that astronauts use to handle the isolation they face on the space station that people can apply to their lives now.
American Time Use Survey — 2019 Results (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) How do Americans spend their time? In 2019 82% of employed people spend most of their time at work. What picture would 2020 paint?
Some Daydreaming Might Make You More Creative (Behavioral Scientist) According to research, two types of daydreams—those that are personally meaningful and those with fantastical content, are associated with creativity.
How the Aging Brain Affects Thinking (National Institute on Aging) As a person gets older, normal changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. There is growing evidence that the brain maintains the ability to change and adapt as we age. Cognitive decline is not a given.
Be a schedule builder not a to-do list maker (Nir&Far) Do you run your life with an ever-incomplete to-do list of all the things you promise to get done? Instead, decide in advance how you intend to spend your time. With distraction-free time blocks you can direct it to the things that matter most to you.
10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away (David Whyte) Poet and author David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves, especially when we least want to confront our own answers.
Some Thoughts on The Real World by One Who Glimpsed It and Fled (Graduation Wisdom) In 1990 Bill Watterson the creator of Calvin & Hobbes gave this commencement address to the graduates of his Alma Mater Kenyon College, OH. I find it relevant for any life’s transition.
Practical Tools for Better Decisions: A Q&A with Annie Duke on How to Decide (Behavioral Scientist) Annie Duke, author and a former professional poker player shares what a really good decision process looks like.
What It’s Like Living in An Off-Grid Earthship? (Insider) Lockdowns have created a wave of interest in the off-grid sustainable lifestyle. There are about 3,000 Earthships sprinkled around the world and some retirees make it their preferred dwellings.
The Case for ‘Universal Property’ (Scientific American) Neither private property nor state-owned property is sufficient to guarantee equality and liberty for all. Universal Property, will require those who benefit from using it to pay according to their use, and the money received from their use would be paid out equally to all.
Ikea’s HACK CARE Catalogue Focuses on Dementia-Friendly Life Environments (The Futures Centre) A new catalogue from IKEA focuses on creating dementia-friendly living environments. The number of people with dementia is predicted to reach 82 million in 2030 and nearly twice as many by 2050, creating an increased demand on the needs of this group.
Arlo Alone (Art & Healing) Arlo explores modernized methods of communication through the experience as one woman in a world where in-person contact has become a rarity. These 15 minutes are guaranteed to give you a pause.
What can we learn from Solitude? (New York Times) Contemporary hermits are reaching out to people struggling with isolation. Their message: Go inward, and get outside.
The Psychology of Eye Contact (BP Society) Psychologists have made some surprising discoveries about the way that mutual gaze, or the lack of it, affects us mentally and physically and how we relate to each other. Here is a digest of the fascinating psychology of eye contact, from tiny babies’ sensitivity to gaze to the hallucination-inducing effects of prolonged eye-staring.
Human Wilderness Connection Could Reduce Disease Risk (Neuroscience News) Feeling calm after spending time in nature can be explained by our psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
You Don’t Have to Work on Yourself Forever (Vice) A fixation on being the peak versions of ourselves—emotionally, physically, spiritually—is now an ingrained part of daily life. What would happen if you stopped?
The lost hope of self-help (Aeon) Habits – good or bad – were once a matter of ethical seriousness. Much of today’s habits literature focuses on time management, individual productivity, and business success, but the genre has a long history. Are habits finally just another technology of self-absorption?
Stop Confusing Habits for Routines: What You Need To Know (Nir and Far) When people say they want something to become a “habit” they mean they want it to be effortless. To change a behavior, you need to understand the difference between a habit and a routine, so you choose the right tool for the job and accomplish your goals.
Your Brain Is Not for Thinking (New York Times) Lisa Feldman Barrett is suggesting using a physical lens to understand how your brain view your stress in turbulent times.
Take This Quiz to See If You Are a Face ‘Super-Recognizer’ (scientific American) Some people are truly exceptional at recognizing faces even decades later. This online test, would reveal whether you have that talent.
Fluid Intelligence vs. Crystallized Intelligence (Verywell Mind) When you think of intelligence, you might think of having a lot of knowledge about different subjects. And might also consider quick thinking and the ability to reason. Both abilities are equally important in everyday life and each develops differently as we age.
To ‘Keep Sharp’ This Year, Keep Learning (NPR’s Fresh Air) The act of experiencing something new — or even doing something that’s typical for you, but in a different way — can all generate these new brain cells.
5 New Policy Ideas for Fixing Life After Prison (Politico) Ex-prisoners can face a whole second sentence when they try to reenter society. Business, governments and nonprofits have ideas for how to make it easier.
Debunking the Deficit Myth (Townhall Seattle) How can we possibly afford it? This is the inevitable question to any ambitious proposal, whether it’s fixing infrastructure, instituting Medicare For All, or combating climate change Economist Stephanie Kelton suggests that this question means we’re thinking about government spending the wrong way.
Bring Solar Energy to Low-Income Communities (Slate) In the lowest income brackets, total energy costs—including electricity, gas, and gasoline—can eat up to 50 percent of monthly household income, forcing people to make impossible choices on essential expenditures. By contrast, wealthy households typically pay more like 5 percent of their monthly income on energy.
The three-pronged approach to healing – Befriending the sensations in our bodies (Sequence Wiz) This approach (structural, physiological, and mental) is only possible if we develop our ability to sense the inner workings of the body.
5 Reasons You Can’t Stop ltching (aarp.org) As they age, women are especially prone to irritation of nerve endings. That means the usual culprits such as a wool sweater, a chemically enhanced new soap, hives or a persistent mosquito bite are not to blame.
Group Exercise May Be Even Better for You Than Solo Workouts (the Conversation) If you’ve been considering joining an online group class, here are some research-based reasons why that might be a great idea.
Great-Grandma Was Bored Being Old so She Went Shoplifting (Guardian Liberty Voice)
When Wielded Correctly, Boredom Can Be a Powerful Tool (Science) Boredom is neither good nor bad. It is an important signal that says “we need to engage in satisfying activity.”
What Happens If an AI Gets Bored (Scientific American) If our future creations are both autonomous and capable of having complex psychological states (curiosity, boredom, etc.), then we should be interested in those psychological states and their effects on AI’s behavior.
Memory of Mankind (MoM) The digital age history may be lost for future generations – a kind of ‘Global Alzheimer’. The MOM project aims to preserve today’s digital stories in order to give the future a past.
Writing and Health (University of Texas) Is something weighing on your mind or keeping you up at night? James Pennebaker believes that people can use this Expressive Writing exercise to understand their emotions, improve their health, and even change their lives.
6 Daily Questions that make a difference (Marshall Goldsmith) When it comes to self-reflection, asking yourself active questions rather than passive questions changes the focus of your answers in ways you wouldn’t otherwise consider and that lead to a higher satisfaction with life.
How a Jefferson Dinner Works (Jefferson Dinner) Thomas Jefferson engineered conversations at dinner that helped people discover their common humanity. Jefferson’s dinners are credited with saving our early republic. It’s a tradition we’d benefit from reviving.
Giving Animals New Legs – (Freethink) Derrick Campana isn’t your typical… anything. He’s a prosthetics engineer helping animals walk again – or walk for the first time – with artificial limbs. This video will melt your heart.
How Biden’s dogs could make the Oval Office a workplace with less stress and better decision-making (The Conversation) A growing area of research suggests that dogs can provide real benefits, not only to their daily companions, but also to those in their orbit.
Old Dogs, New Research and the Secrets of Aging (The New York Times) The ways that dogs grow and age may provide potentially useful similarities with people.
The Wollman Test of Reality (Robert Fulghum) Originally published in the 1993 book “Uh-Oh”. The older we get, the more experience and knowledge we have, the more we know that something is “uh-oh,” not 911.
As COVID Numbers Rise, So Does ‘Psychic Numbing’ (Medscape) How we react to a crisis like the pandemic depends on the mode of thinking we are using. Psychic numbing happens when the harm and loss of individual lives feel like just dry statistics. And yet there’s also another way.
Hindsight Bias: Why You Make Terrible Life Choices (Nir and Far) Hindsight bias occurs when people feel that they “knew it all along”, after the event already happened. knowing that outcome influences our perception of the events leading up to it and our present and future decisions.
When to Stop Exploring (Clearer Thinking) It’s rare to feel certain about the path we should take in life. Yet, despite this uncertainty, we still have to make big and small decisions in life. This quiz will reveal the four key rules influencing how you make decisions.
The Meanings of Life (Aeon) If happiness is about getting what you want, it appears that meaningfulness is about doing things that express yourself. So, what is better – a happy life or a meaningful one?
UN Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations) The Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. Learn more and take action.
What Does Retirement Look Like in a Pandemic? (The New York Times) Bucket-list plans for travel to exotic lands are on hold, while socializing and volunteering have gone virtual. How retirees are finding ways to adapt.
Is 70 Really the New 60 (Scientific American) We often hear that 60 is the new 50 and 70 the new 60. Recent studies comparing people born in different decades identified particular areas of improvement. But these gains are not across the board, and they appear to depend on social, behavioral and economic factors.
Staying Younger For Longer: Brain (ABC Australia) One in 40 of us born today will live until we are 100, yet many of us will live our later years in poor health. Neuroscientist Dr. Sarah McKay uncovers the extraordinary new science about how to keep our brains healthy into old age.
Why hasn’t evolution dealt with the inefficiency of ageing (Aeon) Considering the 3.5 billion years in which we have evolved from single-cell organisms, why hasn’t life countered the inefficiency of ageing? Or more accurately, how has ageing persisted within the Darwinian framework of evolution?
They don’t come as pills, but try these 6 underprescribed lifestyle medicines for a better, longer life (the Conversation) Americans spend nearly $4 trillion annually for health care in the U.S. is for chronic diseases and mental health conditions. Lifestyle medicine is the clinical application of healthy behaviors to prevent, treat and reverse disease.
5 strategies for cultivating hope this year (The Conversation) Many people confuse optimism with hope, yet it is hope that’s most needed in times of overwhelm.
How to Be Resilient? (Psyche Guides) 6 ways to define resilience and 5 ways to build that muscle.
How to Make Stress Your Friend? (TED Global) Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction.
How Anxiety Hides in Your Habits (Greater Good) Anxiety exists inside the habits that make up your everyday lives, and habits are sticky. They won’t go away just because you tell yourself to breathe. Before you try any tips to reduce anxiety, you have to understand your own anxiety routines.
The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life (TED Global) When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. McGonigal explains how a game can boost resilience — and promises to add 7.5 minutes to your life.
Engaging With Aging (blog) Doris Carnevali, is a nurse and former faculty member of the UW school of nursing. At 99 she keeps writing to ‘elders’ and ‘yet-to-be elders’, and sharing of experiences, explorations, ideas, and an invitation to try out engaging with aging instead of just living it.
Documenting All the Small Things That Are Easily Lost (The New York Times) Lynda Barry, a graphic novelist, cartoonist and teacher, shows how to capture an extraordinary time.
‘Slowing Down to Feel’- Moving Our Minds Around Our Bodies (The New York Times) Movement can do all sorts of things. Dancers know that how you are in your body relates to how you are in your mind and how you move through the world. It heals. And if more people moved, they might just find their way to dance.
Forming New Habits- Train to be an Amateur, Not an Expert (Nir & Far) As an amateur, you can ditch the need to push yourself to exhaustion and instead create habits that you do almost effortlessly, consistently and enjoyably, in a life well lived.
Proprioception, Our Imperceptible 6th Sense (The Conversation) Proprioception is our “global positioning system”, which is essential in our daily life because we need to know where we are in order to move somewhere and so it enables the brain to guide our movements.
Is Aging a Disease? (Slate) Old age isn’t abnormal, so why would aging be pathological? If aging is a disease, then all 7.7 billion people on Earth have it, and everyone over the age of 65 has an advanced case. If you bristle at that notion, you have a sense of the designation’s damaging stigma. Whether aging can be cured or not, there are surprising arguments for thinking about it like a disease.
Chronological vs. Biological Aging (Healthline) Your chronological age will always increase at a set rate as the years pass, while your biological age depends on a number of variables that can change on a continuing basis. The difference between the two can be surprising.
In Obesity, Fatphobia Is Always the X Factor (Scientific American) Contrary to what you’ve undoub Research tedly been told, you can be fat and fit at the same time. Defining health and fitness exclusively through the prism of someone’s pants size, is ignoring the myriad of other measurements that matter more.
Stereotypes Can Harm Performance of Older Adults on Cognitive And Physical Tasks (Neuroscience News) When older people feel personally stigmatized as being physically or cognitively deficient, they fail to live up to their actual abilities.
Understanding People Who Aren’t Like You (Behavioral Scientist) Another perspective — how high self-monitors and low self-monitors manage the expectations of the situation.
People Have Limited Knowledge. What’s the Remedy? Nobody Knows (The New York Times) The book The Knowledge Illusion demonstrate that as history progressed, individual humans came to know less and less about their world and the technological gadgets, the economic currents and the political dynamics that shape it. With voters and customers who are so ignorant and susceptible to manipulation, providing them with more and better facts would hardly solve the problem.
How to Have A Difficult Conversation (Psyche Guides) It’s common for people to avoid conflict, but avoiding it tends to create more of it. Approaching an awkward, upsetting or long-avoided conversation isn’t easy, but it can be done effectively. Whether it’s a relationship within your family, at work or in your community, you can have a difficult conversation successfully without the help of a third party.
Amanda Gorman, Poet Laureate and Gesturer Laureate (Scientific American) She shows us that gestures are not mere hand-waving. They can convey images that magnify speech or even add new ideas that are not found in the spoken word.
Women used to dominate the beer industry – until the witch accusations started pouring in (The Conversation) The history of beer points to a not-so-magical legacy of transatlantic slander and gender roles. Up until the 1500s, brewing was primarily women’s work – that is, until a smear campaign accused women brewers of being witches.
What is your time really worth to you? (Clearer Thinking) You’ve probably heard the saying “time is money.” It’s a popular line for a reason — it’s true. This questionnaire will help you understand how much money your time is worth to you.
Retirement Business Ideas- 12 Ideas for Getting Started After 50 (New Retirement) Acting on our passions and setting future goals can really do great things for a person – for their mind, body, and soul. If you find yourself nodding to this statement, then the next question is, “Have you considered starting a business after retirement?”
An ‘Electrifying’ Economist’s Guide to the Recovery (The New York Times) Mariana Mazzucato, a professor who has the ears of world leaders and chief executives, envisions a post-pandemic world that redefines what is valued.
The Tail End (Wait But Why) Tim Urban shows how to lay out the human lifespan visually, by years, and by activities or events. This will surely change how you see and appreciate your life.
We Regret More Not Becoming The Person We Wanted To Be Than Not Becoming The Person We Were Expected To Be. (BPS) The most advisable way to live will depend on how much weight you place on your ought self vs. your ideal self. If you are focused on your ideal self you’re more likely to lose sleep over your ‘wouldas’ and ‘couldas’ than your ‘shouldas’.”
Being In Motion vs. Taking Action (James Clear) Being in motion and taking action sound similar, but they’re not the same. Are you doing something? Or are you just preparing to do it?
Why Science Says Your Best Years Are Yet To Come (WBUR) Recent study shows that people over 50 were generally mentally better off, more resilient — possibly even happier. In this radio interview we hear why science says your best years could be yet to come.
Focused Attention Vs. Open Awareness Meditation – What’s the Difference? (Pocket Mindfulness) And which type of meditation is best for me?
Mindfulness Can Make You Selfish (Neuroscience News) Mindfulness and meditation are associated with reducing stress and anxiety, while increasing emotional well-being. But Mindfulness can also make you selfish. It’s all in the mindset.
Bumping Into Mr. Ravioli (New yorker) Not much has changed since this 2002 story. Busyness is our art form, our civic ritual, our way of being us.
How to Shift from Hostility to Empathy in Political conversations (Greater Good) In tough conversations, science suggests a way to bridge divides and foster understanding: By appealing to other people’s values.
Cognitive Dissonance in Real Life (Psychwire) Carol Tavris answers this question: “I have a friend who has done some bad things, and I have reluctance about keeping him in my life, but we have been friends for a very long time. Is this cognitive dissonance?”
Bridging Differences Quiz (Greater Good) How open are you to connecting with different kinds of people? How skilled are you at expanding your social circle beyond people who seem most like you? How comfortable are you with disagreement with people whose views differ from your own? This quiz will help you answer these questions.
Climate Change and Your Retirement (NewRetirement) If you think about climate changes, you might believe that the impacts are too far in the future to worry about now. However, you might want to reconsider how it could impact your financial and personal well-being immediately and throughout your retirement.
The Great Climate Migration (ProPublica) Climate change will force a New American Migration. Wildfires rage in the West. Hurricanes batter the East. Droughts and floods wreak damage throughout the nation. Life has become increasingly untenable in the hardest-hit areas, but if the people there move, where will everyone go?
Moves to Make Now To Age in Place (Kiplinger) Are you thinking ahead about your forever-home? Think beyond renovation projects. It’s just a part of what you need to make aging-in-place work for you.
Water wells are at risk of going dry in the US and worldwide (The Conversation) As the drought outlook for the Western U.S. becomes increasingly bleak, some areas households already are running out of well water. It is Earth’s most widespread and reliable source of fresh water, but it’s not limitless.
Why Should We Look Forward To Getting Older? (NPR) So if the passage of time changes our personalities and our values, what about its effect on our emotional state? Find out in just 9 minutes.
4 Mindsets for Fulfillment as You Age (Psychology Today) People over the age of 65 have the most stable and optimistic outlook of all adults. What mental attitudes can help you navigate the typical transitions of aging and weather the inevitable losses that accompany getting older?
When Does Old Age Begin? (Dr Sarah McKay) We can’t seem to make up our minds, and the older we get, the further we move the goalposts marking the last season of our lives. when do you believe someone grew ‘old’?
Plan Your Life Again, but Keep It Simple (The New York Times) It’s Spring 2021 – even as we’re optimistic about re-emerging and pointing ourselves toward long-term goals again, many people’s crystal balls remain foggy. It’s OK.
COVID Artifacts (James Gouldthorpe)
Quarantine Barbies (Tonya Ruiz)
The Third Thumb 1 (Danielle Clode Design & Plasticity Lab) New research seeks to define the boundaries of plasticity – our brain’s ability to adapt how it processes inputs based on changed experience.
The Third Thumb 2 (UCL) New research seeks to define the boundaries of plasticity – our brain’s ability to adapt how it processes inputs based on changed experience.
The Art of Falling Safely (AARP) The world is full of banana peels. So while avoiding a fall is job one, knowing how to take a fall when it’s inevitable is a crucial skill. Alexa Marcigliano, who is a professional stuntwoman, gives her four-point plan for a safe crash landing.
5 Yoga Practices for Better Digestion (Sequence Wiz) Food is the main source of energy that enables our bodies to form tissues and perform all vital functions. Our food becomes us, so we literally are what we eat. And, this can be affected by the quality and quantity of food you eat, your activity level, and the amount of stress you are under, etc.
A User Manual to Your Knees (The New York Times) Your knee routinely feels the force of five to eight times your body weight with every step, making it the most taxed joint of the human body. Here is your knee guide for keeping your knees working for years to come.
5 Tips for Living Your Strongest, Healthiest Life Yet (Healthline) A healthy lifestyle can not only help you feel better, but it can also reduce the risk of some diseases, lengthen your lifespan, save you money, and benefit the environment. And your version of a healthy lifestyle is whatever you define it to be.