Month: March 2016

Pathophysiology of Aging and Its Socioeconomic Implications

Life expectancy has increased in most countries, particularly in western countries, as a consequence of advanced technology, vaccinations, antibiotics and other forms of therapies. The 20th Century saw a significant rise in life expectancy in wealthy population groups of developed nations. From an average of 50 years, life expectancy jumped to 75 years because of efficacious preventive measures against killer parasitic and infectious diseases. In most of these nations, every sixth person is 65 years old or above [1]. This is one of mankind’s momentous achievements and we congratulate these nations for it. Nations such as Japan, USA, France, East and West Germany, Sweden and UK, have a life expectancy averaging over 80 years [2]. Unfortunately, this bright picture is not universal. The developing world is experiencing the opposite of the above scenario due to the scourge of AIDS and other infectious diseases that have been ravaging it, relentlessly. However, although we all covet longevity, it does not always guarantee living well. Aging always comes with a gradual but progressive decline in biological functionality due to onset of age-related health conditions. For example, aging is often characterized by degeneration of cells. This loss of the cells’ regenerative ability can lead to morbidity that can impair the general vitality of the individual. Such changes can be frightening and can trigger feelings of loss of self-worth as well as feelings of insecurity. To prevent this, the aging individual needs to be surrounded by a strong support system. However, while in sub-modern cultures, old people are usually revered as repositories of cultural values and oases of generational wisdom, in most western societies they are more likely to be associated with lower social status and less power. There is an alarming growing negative stereotype and stigma against the elderly in western societies [3]. Because of the prevalence of such an attitude towards aging, a desperate effort to cling to youth has flooded and permeated these societies. Consequently, the demand for countless formulas, creams, pills and programs for discovering the fountain of youth and reversing signs of aging have established a foundation for a lucrative business that has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry. Propelled by fear of aging and ageism, all types and categories of cosmetics and hair styles meant to slow down or camouflage the aging process have saturated the market.
Ageism, which is prejudice and stigma directed at advancement in age, is evident in workplaces, in social life, and even in healthcare facilities where physicians and nurses’ expectancies and attitudes toward elderly people’s capabilities tend to shape the type of care they receive. For instance, an elderly person who is depressed is likely to be misdiagnosed with dementia. The belief that chronic illness is an inevitable consequence of the normal process of aging can cause the elderly to be overlooked for preventive or screening programs. A notorious job-related example of ageism was the mandatory retirement age that led to the creation of the Age Employment Discrimination Act of 1967.
Elderly people’s constant exposure to ageism can adversely impact their mental and physical health as well as their capability to execute normal activities of daily living. Research has demonstrated that elderly people exposed to negative stereotypes at subliminal levels can end up with increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and increased heart-rate to stress levels compared to their counterparts exposed to positive stereotype about their aging process in societies such as China, Japan and Africa [4]. Constant exposure to ridicule about their aging process has also been found to negatively affect elderly people’s will to live, their walking speed and even their handwriting. Furthermore, their memory can deteriorate quickly if constantly subjected to such derision. Although decline in cognitive abilities, and other physiological functions among the elderly may be an inevitable result of declining biological functions, these can be exacerbated by exposure to mocking and scornful language, negative stereotype, and stigma. Consequently, most elderly people feel safer when they confine themselves to groups of fellow elderly individuals who share the same fate such as those in assisted living facilities. Sadly, this usually means that they have lost their freedom to participate in matters that shape the destiny of their own society. But such a society deprives itself of the unique contribution these individuals can make based on the cumulative wealth of their experience.
To compound the problem of increased numbers of elderly people in developed nations, is the inevitable increased pressure and demand this exerts on social and health care systems. The increase in the population of the elderly means an increase in demand for long-term care facilities because elderly people are responsible for high utilization of these facilities. In the UK, the per capita utilization of health care services by old people is 3-5 times higher than for younger population groups [5]. The services and programs that were designed and implemented to support the elderly are financed by the population in the working age bracket. An increase in the numbers of elderly people means an increase in utilization of these resources, which makes the elderly an unwelcome burden to society. Obviously, there is need for better policies and interventions to help the elderly. For instance, not all the disabilities the elderly have should be considered as handicaps. Efficacious interventions can be conducted to help enhance their mobility and self-care. This can help them become less dependent on others. Primary preventive measures should be aggressively promoted to delay onset of debilitating health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke that can lead to morbidity and even mortality. A new paradigm is also needed to regard old age as a blessing not a curse, not only for the elderly individual but for the society as well, whether western or not.

Sources
[1]. Pesic, L. (2007). Social and Health Problems of the Elderly. Accessed from http://publisher.medfak.ni.ac.rs/2007-html/2-broj/SOCIAL%20AND%20HEALTH%20PROBLEMS…pdf
[2]. National Institute on Aging (2015). Global Health and Living: Living Longer. Accessed from https://www.nia.nih.gov/research/publication/global-health-and-aging/living-longer
[3]. Richeson, J.A. & Shelton, J.N. (2006). A Social Psychological Perspective on the Stigmatization of Older Adults. National Academy of Sciences.
[4]. Levy, B. R., Hausdorff, J. M., Hencke, R., & Wei, J.Y. (2000). Reducing cardiovascular stress with positive self-stereotypes of aging. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 55(4):P205–P213
[5]. Rechel. B., Doyle, Y., Grundy, E. & Mckee, M. (2009). How Can Healthy Systems Respond to Population Aging? Health Systems and Policy Analysis. Policy Brief 10. Accessed from http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/64966/E92560.pdf

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Is it Evidence or Proof?

The other day I received an email in which the author stated that “…there is no evidence for God, period…”

Obviously, the individual confuses evidence with proof. There are so many things people believe they exist without any mathematical proof to substantiate their existence. For example, people believe in the existence of black holes. These are said to be dense, powerful, and black regions in space from which nothing can escape-not even light. However, the truth is that no astronomer has ever actually seen a black hole. There is no direct image to show us how black holes look like. Belief in them is based on “strong evidence for them,” and their effect on gravity, according to Peter Edmonds, astrophysicist at NASA. The photos we are shown of black holes are mere illustrations.

Astronomers infer the existence of black holes by detecting their effect on matter near them. This is the evidence. So then if we are convinced that such things, which we have not seen exist, why would we not believe in the existence of God although we have not seen Him? The Cosmological argument, and the teleological argument from the design and regularity of nature point to the evidence of the existence of God. Then there are objective moral values or the universal moral instinct. All these infer the existence of a Transcendent Being we know as God. Why do we demand mathematical proof for the existence of God before we can believe He exists and yet we are so ready to believe what a handful of people tell us exists somewhere in space although no one has seen it?

Anyhow, at the end of the day, each one of us must wrestle with this issue and come to a decision in our heart because it will surface again at the end of our lives.

Young Adult Faith Attrition Crisis: What the Church and Family Can Do

In a global culture that is fast becoming secularized and hostile to religion and the Christian faith in particular, the church has a responsibility to prepare its congregants and especially its children and young adults for Christian apologetics. Apologetics is merely giving a reason and justifying one’s faith. This will not only ground them in the faith and equip them to have an objective foundation for their faith, it will also help them give an answer to everyone who asks them a reason for their hope, particularly as they enter faith war-zones in colleges and universities. Without this foundation, our kids are likely to take books like the Da Vinci Code and mistake them for truth. Most young adults lose their faith in colleges and the main reason they give is that they find Christianity to be “intellectually shallow” (attrition statistics vary, but they should be of concern us). This is why it is important to have a concerted effort between the church and the home, the family, to take steps together to familiarize our children with the ideas that will challenge their faith before sending them out as sheep among wolves, as it were. They need to be aware of the tests they will encounter regarding their faith and learn how to intellectually (and spiritually) engage and interact with those who ridicule their faith without flinching or feeling idiotic. You cannot defend what you do not know. Apologetics answers objections to the faith and builds the faith and intellectual inquiry of the defender. If we neglect this, we will have abdicated our responsibility and in our place will arise “another generation …, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done …” (Joshua 2:10 KJV). This is the time to take seriously the command that “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul… And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 11:18,19 KJV). It is no longer enough to merely raise good boys and girls. We must prepare them to fight the good fight of faith; to be confident men and women, rooted and grounded in their faith. We must pass on a bright torch to our children, not one dimmed by uncertainty, retreat and hesitancy otherwise our children will end up with a distorted view of Christianity. The battle for people’s souls is raging and it will only intensify with time. Apologetics should be part of regular sermons and weekly Bible studies. It should even be part of children’s story time. Children should understand Jesus is a Person. He is not a myth. His historicity is as axiomatic as that of Alexander the Great. Parents should study hard to keep their children in the faith. Praying for them fervently and teaching them how to study their Bibles and draw life-applications from them. Allow your children to ask the questions they are wrestling with. Let them explain to you what salvation means to them. Help them understand that evolution has not debunked the existence of God. Let them understand that science is not against God, but rather explains what God has already made. They should know that there is nothing wrong with faith. The atheist uses it when he or she claims that the universe is their creator or that life sprang from some primordial soup. They were not there to witness the process. Therefore, they are relying on faith that it happened as they believe it did. Christians believe that God created the heavens and the earth. They were not there to witness the creation, but they believe it. Both sided have faith. It is just a matter of where one chooses to place it. Faith is not credulity. That is why the apostle John indicates that “These things were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God” (John). The things John is talking about are the life, ministry and death of Jesus Christ and the testimonies of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the church continues to bury its head in the sand, this is what atheists vow to do to our children when they enter college: “we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own…we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization….So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable…” [1]. Apologetics is not a new phenomenon. Jesus faced the Sadducees and defended His reason for believing in the resurrection which they were trying to repudiate. This is not to advocate that Christian students should enter college to fight with those who challenge their faith, but that they should be confident of being able to withstand attacks on what they believe without flinching or feeling intellectually shallow. Alvin Plantinga, a Christian Philosopher said, “The contemporary Western intellectual world is a battleground or arena in which rages a battle for men’s souls,” [2].
Sources
[1]. ‘Universality and Truth,’ in Robert B. Brandom (ed.), Rorty and his Critics, pp. 21-22.

[2] Ratio Christi (2016). Are Christian Students Really Ridiculed and Humiliated? Accessed from http://ratiochristi.org/about-us/why-important

http://www.wmturls.com/pp