Saturday, October 01, 2005

Age Beat Online, Oct. 18, 2005, continued

Newsletter of the Journalists Exchange on Aging (JEoA), Oct. 18, 2005 -Volume 5, Number 32 ... continued YES this really is from Oct. 18, 2005

As we announced last week, ABO now has been be-blogged, thanks to Journalists Exchange on Aging co-founder, John Cutter, assistant city editor at the Orlando Sentinel. This is the first of his regular week-in-review reports about the news traffic on the blog. Age Beat Blog is updated during the day, with links to articles and reports of interest to journalists who cover aging and others interested in the age beat. You can post comments and reactions on any blog entry.
He-e-e-er's Johnny:
Hello, age beaters: The past week on the Age Beat Blog began with some tips on the impact of energy prices on the low-income energy assistance programs and ended with talk of the Social Security COLA increase and the cuts in the "qualified individual" program in Medicare. My favorite, however, might be the link to an article on baby boomers and motorcycles, even if I wasn't "born to ride."
If you have a suggestion for the blog, post it under the appropriate blog entry or email me at You can find the blog at
The age beat is alive and kicking in Japan these days, according to RITSUKO INOKUMA of Yomiuri Shimbun. Some ABO regulars might recall meeting her during her year in the United States (1999-2000) as a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and on a Fulbright Scholarship (not to shabby a combination). ABO readers not familiar with her newspapers might think, at least in circulation terms, of USA Today X 5. That's right, Yomiuri is one of three national dailies with a circulation of 10 million, compared with USA Today's approximately 2 million. Inokuma, who has been at Yomiuri for about 18 years, spent much of the past several years as a full- time feature writer on aging. Most Japanese papers assigned a reporter to cover aging after the government made a major commitment to the concerns of its rapidly aging population with its 1990 Gold Plan. The fortunes of the age beat have been up and down since then. So when ABO recently received a note from "Riri," as her friends know her, we took the opportunity to pump her with questions about the state of age-beat coverage in Japan. Here is what Inokuma-san reported:
"I'm not sure I can answer your question precisely, but I will try. First of all, when you say 'aging' (or age beat), does that mean whole issues related to aging society, i.e., demographic change, including number of seniors and children, social security issues (mainly, pension system, medical insurance system and long-term care system), employment, housing and so on? If so, I can say that the number of reporters who are covering aging is increasing dramatically recently in Japan.

"Aging, particularly pension reform, is getting to be one of the most crucial and political issues in Japan. All media want to cover it. As you may know, our birthrate is going down, and the newest TFR (total fertility rate) is 1.19, historical low. If the birthrate remains at such a low level, we can't continue our current social security system, because, it is a 'pay as you go' system, that is, it cannot exist without the younger generation being able to pay for the retirement of current retirees. To avoid collapse of the systems, Japanese government has tried to reform the system, for example, with pension reform in 2004, and long-term care reform in 2005.

"A recent topic is the '2007 problem.' The baby boomers (first born in 1947) are going to retire starting in 2007. It may cause lots of social and economic problems. All media have a strong interest in this issue and want to cover it.

"As for the media, in March 2000, the Yomiuri Shimbun became the first newspaper to establish a special age-beat department, which is called the 'Social Security News Department.' Actually, after coming back to Japan that June, I was asked to join the department, and I still belong to it. After the Yomiuri created it, the Asahi (our rival quality newspaper) and the Kyodo (one of a news agency) also made a special department covering social security news.

"As for my department, there are 11 staff members there. Some have special knowledge about the pension system, and some knew about long-term care. We do not only write articles but also make proposals about the social security system to the government, and give lectures to citizens. In our company, there are other departments, such as politics, economics, city news and international affairs, in which the staff also cover aging, if necessary.

"Besides newspapers, TV, radio, magazine, the Internet and all media have a special interest in cover aging. As for the public, they get lots of information on aging. However, the quality of some information is questionable. It is just spreading anxiety for the future."

Mate ne,


THE SUPERCENTENARIANS: Photographer-writer JERRY FRIEDMAN might say, "I'll meet your 100 and raise you to 110." His four- year trek from Massachusetts to Mongolia has finally resulted in the publication of his handsome new book, "Earth's Elders: The Wisdom of the World's Oldest People." Not only does the book include photographs and profiles of more than 50 people at least 110 years old, it begins with essays by ROBERT COLES, LAMA SURYA DAS (a colleague of the Dalai Lama), former U.S. Surgeon General JOYCELYN ELDERS and CHIEF ARVOL LOOKING HORSE, spiritual leader of the Lakota Nation and 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. The book is published by the nonprofit organization Earth's Elders Foundation, which will receive all proceeds from the book. Friedman says that the nonprofit was founded "to raise consciousness about the elderly in America" and to develop initiatives aimed at bringing elders together with children. Friedman premiered the exhibition of his photographs in 2004 at the Mitsukoshi Gallery in Tokyo, and it will be shown at the United Nations next Spring before touring internationally. To learn how to obtain a review copy of this holiday-gift-quality title, contact Freidman by e-mail at

"OUR BODIES OURSELVES: MENOPAUSE" is a special edition of the groundbreaking book first created more than three decades ago by the Boston Women's Health Collective. MARGARET MORGANROTH GULLETTE reports that the new book will be released by Simon and Schuster in 2006. The current (September-October 2005) issue of Aging Today includes an article by JOAN DITZION, one of the original "Our Bodies Ourselves" authors, about how issues of aging have increasingly become a presence as the book has been revised over the years, most recently last year in its eighth edition. Meanwhile Gullette, author of "Aged By Culture" (University of Chicago Press, 2004) and a resident scholar at Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass., has been writing commentaries for Women's e-News (also featuring NICOLE HOLLANDER'S wry "Sylvia" comic strip). Click: Most recently, Gullette filed a commentary titled "Feeling Old or Ugly? Take Another Look."

THEODORE ROSZAK IS A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, AGAIN - This time in Germany. ABO reported last year that the social critic-and the person who coined the term "the counterculture" in the 1960s-hit the top of the charts in France. But the unexpected surge of book sales wasn't for his nonfiction books, more recently, "Longevity Revolution: When Boomers Become Elders," Berkeley Hills Books, 2001, but for his novel "Flicker." First published in the United States in 1991, the conspiracy-entangled social satire, which centers on early Hollywood and an ancient European religious society, garnered critical praise and swelling sales in 2004, with the release of the book's French translation. This year, the German translation hit the bookstores with a similar public response. And the French translation of his 2003 novel, "The Devil and Daniel Silverman" was also published this year to critical acclaim. All of this comes as a pleasant surprise to the (mostly) retired history professor. He won't be heading to Europe soon, though, to bask in his newfound glory. Roszak, who is recovering from an Achilles-tendon injury, prefers sticking around his Berkeley environs these days and spending as much time as possible with his granddaughter, Luci, who will soon turn six.

BUSINESS WEEK IS BOOMING: "Love Those Boomers: Their new attitudes and lifestyles are a marketer's dream" is the cover story by LOUISE LEE in this week's issue of Business Week (Oct. 24; Along with last week's health and longevity cover story in Time, featuring wellness guru ANDREW WEIL, issues in aging are having their moment in the media sun. Some questions, ABO readers: Does this kind of national spotlighting of issues help you sell story ideas to editor? Are they a pain? That is, do your editors only want pieces on those subjects for now, when you're trying to get them to go for something else? Or is there no effect? Over the years, ABO's editor has heard from reporters that a major piece in the New York Times or Washington Post, for example, can pique the interest of an editor who was previously cool to a story pitch. So, how are these cover stories playing in your newsrooms or those you might deal with freelance?



I am writing this column in the midst of preparing for an NYU Medical Center workshop for caregivers of relatives with Alzheimer's disease. Having spent a good deal of time selecting what I think is appropriate music for the exercises-both for caregivers and for patients-I was intrigued to find a study in the current issue of the medical journal Heart that suggests that music can be good for the heart and respiratory systems (; a draft version of the full article is posted at

"Music induces an arousal effect, predominantly related to the tempo," the authors write. "A pause in the music induces a condition of relaxation greater than that preceding the exposure to music, and leads one to speculate that music may give pleasure (and perhaps health benefit) as a result of this controlled alternation between arousal and relaxation. It may be viewed as an alternative technique of relaxation or meditation . . . ."

Although the study subjects were colleagues of the authors or medical students, and so not necessarily "older," it would be surprising if age were to make much of a difference in the findings. Actually, as suggested in the Family Caregivers Alliance fact sheet, "Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person with Dementia," music can play an important role in reducing agitation, providing a structured afternoon activity that could prevent sleeplessness later, and in helping make mealtimes "special." Also, a New York City nurse who was involved in Sept. 11, 2001, relief efforts notes the following on the site of the American Musical Therapy Association: "During the Caring for the Caregiver sessions I felt some of that tension melt away, evidence of the magical way music can seep into the nooks and crannies of our souls and psyches, not to mention that raw collective nervous system we have all been carrying with us" (

Marilynn Larkin regularly contributes "Larkin's Links" to Age Beat Online. Readers can reach her at



Posted October 17: "THE SOCIAL SIDE OF HEALTH"

When it comes to health and longevity, the United States ranks near the bottom among the richest countries. Dismal health statistics have generally been blamed on poverty, racism, blocked access to medical care, and poor lifestyle choices. But many experts are now exploring the effects of social status, organization, and interconnectedness.

Check out SAGE Crossroads stories at

SAGE Crossroads includes in-depth articles and webcast debates on major developments in the science of aging and their policy implications.

SAGE KE (Knowledge Environment) is Science Magazine's website on aging, providing information and analysis of cutting-edge aging-related research: The site requires a subscription for full-text access, but ABO members can sign up for free sample articles, abstracts, and weekly news alerts about commentary articles on new findings in the field.

The Journalists Exchange on Aging (JEoA) publishes AGE BEAT ONLINE with the assistance of the American Society on Aging (ASA). JEoA provides information and networking opportunities for journalists covering issues in aging but not those representing services, products or organizational agendas. ASA is a nonpartisan, nonlobbying organization of professionals in aging that is based in San Francisco. Its mandate is to serve as a forum for all points of view. Opinions expressed in ABO do not represent those of ASA. The most recent four issues of ABO are posted online at

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