Aging On The Web

by Stephen M. Pribut, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S.

 

There are many aspects to the aging process. Social, psychological, economic, medical and scientific research into the aging process itself all have their own knowledge bases. One hundred years ago the average European individual lived to be only 47 years old. Today, the average age of death is over 70. Between 1960 and 1990 the overall U.S. population grew 39% while those 85 and older increased by 232%. The population under 25 increased by only 13% while those aged over 65 increased by 89%. The oldest baby boomer was born in 1946 and will turn 62 in 2008. The number of retirees will continue to rapidly increase during the subsequent ten years reflecting the height of the Baby Boomer years. The Baby Boomers are currently dealing with the aging process in their own parents.

The field of Podiatric Medicine plays an important role in the treatment of the geriatric patient. Many of our practices specialize in Geriatric care. We must always be aware of all aspects of our patients health. Total health is dependent on many factors some which are genetic and some that are environmental or life style based. A healthy low fat diet and regular exercise are vital components of a healthy life style for individuals of all ages. Exercise can help with the maintenance of normal weight, hypertension, diabetic control, and osteoporosis. Our task of keeping our patients feet comfortable and in good working order plays a vital role in enabling our patients to pursue their exercise programs and maintain overall health.

Vitality and Aging

Many people maintain their vitality deep into the older ages. New interests are pursued, new fields are studied. Artistic ability may finally be revealed and reveled in. Genius may still be seen in the older individual. Michaelangelo sculpting in his eighties, Pablo Casals virtuosity on the Cello after eighty, and Verdi composing two of his greatest operas when he was more than seventy show the possibility that a decline in ability may sometimes be minimal and that new methods of thinking and creation are still possible. While almost no one has the talents of these giants we can all attempt to maintain our abilities and develop new aspects of our persona over the years. Some adventurous seniors are turning their talents to the web to share their enthusiasm for life.

There are many active older individuals online. One thorough source of information on computer education for seniors is SeniorNet at http://www.seniornet.com/ . SeniorNet is a nonprofit organization set up to build a community of computer-using seniors. One of the seniors’ own sites is the Blacksburg Electronic Village Senior Site at: http://www.bev.net/community/seniors/ . Their pages are well laid out and have useful information for all. Their newsletter is an excellent model for other individuals interested in designing a senior newsletter or in developing activities for seniors.

Several sites contain good reference material and links on the social and emotional aspects of Gerontology. Geropsychology Central at: http://www.premier.net/~gero/geropsyc.html contains links to information and services for older adults and Geropsychology professionals. They have an excellent set of links to other sites here. The Aldus Gerontology Center of USC also has another excellent list of resources at http://www-lib.usc.edu/Info/Gero/gerourl.htm . The Institute of Gerontology of Wayne State University at: http://www.iog.wayne.edu is considered to be the most thorough web site online.

Caregivers

Caregivers frequently suffer from both physical and emotional disorders related to the stress surrounding their caregiving duties. ElderWeb at http://www.elderweb.com/altaging.htm has many articles and information relating to the social aspects of aging that should be helpful to caregivers. Links to Social Gerontology sites, hospice information and information on grief and death and dying are also found here. Another helpful reference for caregivers is the hypertext version of the "Caregiver's Handbook: Assisting Both the Caregiver and the Elderly Care Receiver" originally published by San Diego County Mental Health Services online at http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~drstall/hndbk0.html.

The scientific aspects of aging are also well represented on the Internet. One of the best sites is that of the Aging Research Center at: http://www.iog.wayne.edu/GeroWebd/GeroWeb.html This site has links to real audio interviews with scientists and gerontologists. You may also access a direct link to a Medline subset of over 37,000 articles on the aging process. Links to more than thirty journals which contain germane scientific articles and abstracts are also provided. A list of upcoming regional and international conferences is available. Archives of the USENET group bionet.molbio.ageing which contain discussions on aging are maintained at this site. Laboratories involved in aging research and biotech corporations are also listed.

Medweb has the most thorough listings on all medical topics and they have an extensive listing of geriatric sites at: http://www.gen.emory.edu/medweb/medweb.geriatrics.html . Review articles on the Medical aspects of aging can be found at the Medscape Web site at: http://www4.medscape.com/ . Articles are available on Urological problems in the aging process, Osteoporosis, Tuberculosis, sexually transmitted disease in the elderly and many other medical problems.

Specific Medical Problems

There are a variety of sites that address the specific medical problems that older patients have. Many geriatric patients have Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus. Links to these sites were published in this column in the January issue of APMA News. Some other specialized disease sites include: The National Osteoporosis Foundation http://www.nof.org which provides information on osteoporosis including the risk factors, prevention, treatment, and clinical guidelines; and The Prostate Cancer Infolink at: http://www.comed.com/Prostate/ which contains all you would like to know about Prostate Cancer.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) affects over four million Americans. It affects only a total of 5% of American's over age 65, but the percentage dramatically rises over the age of 80. Some estimates range as high as 50% of individuals over the age of 85 may have AD. AD is not considered a normal aspect of aging despite these numbers. Senile dementias may have several other causes, including stroke, depression, substance abuse, infections and reactions to medications. It is important for a physician to distinguish these other causes of dementia from AD to initiate appropriate treatment. Alzheimer Web at http://werple.mira.net.au/~dhs/ad.html contains a vast array of links to information on Alzheimer's Disease. This site is designed to provide a resource for researchers in the field of Alzheimer's Disease and for individuals who have an interest in this research. Information on conferences, online discussions, papers of the week, the amyloid protein, books, articles, jobs, labs and a medline query on Alzheimer's disease are all found here. A thorough bibliography of recently published articles is also found here. Frequently asked questions on Alzheimer's Disease are answered on these pages.

An excellent research and discussion site on Alzheimer's Disease is provided by the Alzheimer Research Forum located at: http://www.alzforum.org/ . This site is designed primarily for the research professional. It is an attractive and content rich site. It serves both experts in Alzheimer's research and people interested in entering the field, including students and researchers from other disciplines. Listings from several sources of recent articles is available. Several online forums are at this site as is an online journal club. An interesting discussion on "The Amyloid Hypothesis" is here.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information has a detailed reference and summaries on the genes related to Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Four different genes have so far been linked to Alzheimer's disease. Three genes seem to be linked with inherited forms of AD which have onset between the ages of thirty to fifty. The fourth gene codes for apolipoprotein E (ApoE) and is believed to be a risk factor for late onset AD. Detailed information is available through links provided from the Alzheimer Research Forum.

The Internet offers a wealth of information on the aging process. The sites mentioned here are places to begin a multifaceted exploration of aging. Considerably more information is available on the web than can be discussed in a few pages.

Stephen M. Pribut, D.P.M. is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at the George Washington University Medical Center. His web site is available at https://www.drpribut.com/sports/spsport.html.

Additional Information for the web:

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) at http://www.nih.gov/nia/ is part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIA conducts and supports biomedical, social, and behavioral research and public education on aging. A description of the research performed here is available.

Buzzwords in the science of aging include telomere shortening, cellular senescence, cyclins, and progeroid syndromes. Telomeres are repetitive base structures at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. In most eukaryotes, telomeres are essential portions of the chromosome. They protect chromosomes from degradation in the way the caps on shoelaces protect them from wear and tear. Their integrity allows the cell to determine if their chromosomal material is intact. A special enzyme called telomerase which is a telomere-specific reverse transcriptase is necessary for their maintenance. Telomeres may apparently both shrink and lengthen in a complexly regulated manner. Alteration of telomeres leads to chromosomal changes that are associated with cancer and aging. The "Hayflick limit" which is a theorized and observed limit on the number of times cells divide may also be related to telomere alterations.

Alzheimer's disease affects over four million Americans. It affects only a total of 5% of American's over age 65, but the percentage dramatically rises over the age of 80. Some estimates range as high as 50% of individuals over the age of 85 may have AD. AD is not considered a normal aspect of aging despite these numbers. Senile dementias may have several other causes, including stroke, depression, substance abuse, infections and reactions to medications. It is important for a physician to distinguish these other causes of dementia from AD to initiate appropriate treatment. Alzheimer Web at http://werple.mira.net.au/~dhs/ad.html

contains a vast array of links to information on Alzheimer's Disease. This site is designed to provide a resource for researchers in the field of Alzheimer's disease and for individuals who have an interest in this research. An online chat area is also provided, which is accessible by telnet, chat software or your web browser. Information on conferences, online discussions, papers of the week, the amyloid protein, books, articles, jobs, labs and a medline query on Alzheimer's disease are all found here. A thorough bibliography of articles published in 1995 and 1996 is also found here. Frequently asked questions on Alzheimer's disease are also answered on these pages.

An excellent research and discussion site on Alzheimer's disease is provided by the Alzheimer Research Forum located at: http://www.alzforum.org/ . This site is designed primarily for the research professional. It is attractively laid out and content rich. It serves both experts in Alzheimer's research and people interested in entering the field, including students and researchers from other disciplines. Listings from several sources of recent articles is available. Several online forums are at this site and an on line journal club is also available here. An outline and question and answer session with Dennis Selkoe, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA. on "The Amyloid Hypothesis" is here, with many questions presented to him online through January 1997. His lecture was presented at the Fifth International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Osaka, Japan.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information has a detailed reference and summaries on the genes related to Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Four different genes have so far been linked to Alzheimer's disease. Three genes seem to be linked with inherited forms of AD which have onset between the ages of thirty to fifty. One of these genes is on chromosome 21 and codes for the amyloid precursor protein (APP). The next two genes code for two proteins known as presenilin 1 and 2 and are located on chromosomes 1 and 14. The fourth gene codes for apolipoprotein E (ApoE) and is located on chromosome 19. The E4 allele is believed to be a risk factor for late onset AD. The available information includes history on the discoveries, key references and allelic variations. The easiest way to find the information that is specific on Alzheimer's disease is through links provided from the Alzheimer Research Forum.