Washington, July 19 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Learning new things can make older people's brains 30 years younger in just six weeks, according to a new research from University of California Riverside (UCR).
Scientists have discovered that taking up several new tasks at the same time boosts mental power and protects people against Alzheimer's disease.
These skills range from studying new languages, using an iPad, writing music to painting.
UCR psychologist Rachel Wu says one important way of staving off cognitive decline is learning new skills as a child would.
She encouraged elder people to be a sponge, which means to seek new skills to learn, maintain motivation as fuel, rely on encouraging mentors to guide you, thrive in an environment where the bar is set high.
Building on lifelong learning research, previous studies have demonstrated the cognitive gains of older people learning new skills. But these skills were learned one at a time, or sequentially.
For Wu's studies, the researchers asked adults aged 58-86 to simultaneously take three to five classes for three months, about 15 hours per week. The course workload is similar to an undergraduate's.
After just six weeks, participants increased their cognitive abilities to levels similar to those of middle-aged adults, 30 years younger. Control group members, who did not take classes, showed no change in their performance.
"The participants in the intervention bridged a 30-year difference in cognitive abilities after just six weeks and maintained these abilities while learning multiple new skills," Wu said.
"The studies provide evidence that intense learning experiences akin to those faced by younger populations are possible in older populations, and may facilitate gains in cognitive abilities," she added.
Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, and Alzheimer's disease is the most common form that may contribute to 60 percent to 70 percent of the cases, according to the World Health Organization.
No treatment is currently available to cure dementia or to alter its progressive course.
Canberra, Jul 19 (AP/UNB) — A fisherman said on Wednesday he was looking for the author of a message in a bottle found off the southern Australian coast 50 years after it was written.
Paul Elliot told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that he and his son Jyah found the bottle on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia state while fishing.
Elliot said he was looking for the author Paul Gibson, who described himself in the note as a 13-year-old English boy traveling in a cruise ship along the southern Australian coast from Fremantle in the west to Melbourne in the east.
Government oceanographer David Griffin said the bottle could not have remained afloat for 50 years off the south coast because "the ocean never stays still."
Griffin suspected that the bottle had been buried on a beach for years then refloated by a storm.
"If it had been dropped in anywhere in the ocean somewhere south of Australia, then there's no way it's going to stay actually at sea moving around for more than a year or two," Griffin said.
The author gave his position as "1000 miles east of Fremantle." However it is not clear whether the author actually meant 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) out of Fremantle, which would have included a journey south along the west coast before turning east.
Hundreds of thousands of Britons migrated to Australia in the 1960s with the Australian government subsidizing their fares. Children traveled for free.
But a quarter of them returned to Britain within a few years when life in Australia fell short of their expectations.
Springfield, Jul 19 (AP/UNB) — An Illinois woman who recently got a 1993 postcard in her mailbox has tracked down the man who sent it to his children more than two decades ago.
Kim Draper's story about the mysterious Hong Kong postcard was published in The State Journal-Register in Springfield and picked up by The Associated Press.
Masrour Kizilbash sent the postcard to his family while working overseas in 1993. He told the newspaper that he was "fascinated with the area" and wanted to share his experiences. At that time, there were no cell phones or internet and international calls were costly, so he instead opted to send postcards.
Kizilbash's family was living in Springfield at the time. He always figured that they had received the postcard.
U.S. Postal Service officials said the card could've gotten tied up in Hong Kong or might've been stuck in old equipment.
With the help of social media, Draper learned that Kizilbash's son, Mohammad Kizilbash, now lives in suburban Chicago. A reunion with the postcard is planned.
"I thought that was really gracious of her, she went out of her way to track us down," Mohammad said. "I'm looking forward to getting this postcard. This is one to keep."
Draper would ideally like to appear with the Kizilbashes on a TV show to give them the card, but if that can't happen, she'll drive to Chicago and give it to them in person.
"I won't mail it. I don't want it to get back in the mail system, and I really want to meet them," Draper said. "I am surprised about how the story has spread," she said. "But at the same time it's heartwarming. I think it made people want to know the family and it's one of those cool stories that you want to hear the end."
Detroit, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — The heat wave that has been roasting much of the U.S. in recent days is just getting warmed up, with temperatures expected to soar to dangerous levels through the weekend.
Communities are preparing by offering buildings as cooling centers and asking residents to check in on relatives and neighbors. Officials also are concerned about smog, which is exacerbated by the heat and makes it more difficult for certain people to breathe, including the very young, the elderly and people with asthma or lung diseases.
More than 100 local heat records are expected to fall Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Most won't be record-daily highs but record-high nighttime lows, and that lack of cooling can be dangerous, meteorologists say. Temperatures in parts of the East won't drop below the mid- to upper-70s or even 80 degrees (26.7 Celsius) at night, he said.
The heat wave will likely be "short and searing," said Greg Carbin, forecast branch chief for the weather service's Weather Prediction Center.
A high pressure system stretching from coast-to-coast is keeping the heat turned on. The heat and humidity are made to feel worse by the large amount of moisture in the air coming from the Gulf of Mexico, much of it left over from Hurricane Barry.
The heat index, which is what the temperature feels like, should hit 110 (43.3 Celsius) in Washington, D.C., on Saturday and 109 (42.8 Celsius) in Chicago and Detroit on Friday, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of Weather Underground. Wednesday marked Washington's seventh straight day with temperatures of at least 90 degrees (32.2 Celsius), and that streak was expected to last for another five days.
An experimental weather service forecast projects that nearly 100 local records will be broken Thursday and Friday in Texas, Oklahoma, parts of the Midwest and a large swath of the East Coast. On Saturday, 101 records could fall in an area stretching from Texas to Iowa and east to Maine and Florida, according to projections.
Deloris Knight said she will keep the heat out of her eastside Detroit home by keeping her doors and curtains closed while running the small window air conditioner in her living room.
"We have a couple of big fans. We have ceiling fans," Knight, 63, said Wednesday while enjoying temperatures in the mid-80s (about 29 degrees Celsius) from her front porch. "I keep lemonade and gallons of frozen water in the refrigerator. At night, we're in the house."
Even that may not provide enough relief for some, especially for young children, the elderly or people with certain chronic illnesses.
The Environmental Protection Agency's live air quality tracker reported that the air was "unhealthy" Wednesday for sensitive groups in a stretch of the East Coast from Baltimore to Bridgeport, Connecticut, including Philadelphia and New York City.
Such heat can be deadly. Over three days in July 1995, more than 700 people died during a heat wave in Chicago as temperatures rose above 97 degrees (36.1 Celsius). Many of the dead were poor, elderly and lived alone.
"Daytime hours when the sun is out is clearly our highest risk periods," said Dr. Michael Kaufmann, EMS medical director with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. "We're not expecting the drops in temperature at night — or the humidity — that we often realize when the sun goes down."
Roger Axe, who heads the emergency management agency in Indiana's Greene County, said he has asked churches and other organizations to open their doors as "possible lifesaving cooling centers."
Officials in the Detroit suburb of Westland will keep the police station lobby and one of its fire stations open around the clock. The Chicago suburb of Orland Park also opened its police station as its primary 24-hour cooling center.
Kelly Boeckman, 31, and Taylor Knoll, 28, met Wednesday morning — when the heat was still bearable — to chat at a patio table in downtown Jefferson City, Missouri. Both have young children and said they are careful to keep them hydrated and protected from the heat.
"We definitely aren't doing outside activities for the afternoon and evening, even though they want to sometimes," said Boeckman, who has 6-year-old twins and a 3 year old. They're "playing early, (getting) lots of water and hydration, (and) staying in the shade when we are outside."
Steve Owen, a 54-year-old bus driver from Roeland Park, Kansas, dumped water on his head to stay cool Wednesday while waiting to pick up a day care group from the local pool.
"I'm usually revived and feeling much better," he said after drenching himself. "That usually gets me through."
The heat also can take a toll on pets and other animals. Officials at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago have spent the past few days preparing.
Blocks of ice weighing about 300 pounds (136 kilograms) were being trucked in for the polar and grizzly bears, and the zoo planned to give ice cubes to the reindeer. Additional animals were being given access to indoor quarters starting Thursday.
"The welfare of the animals is our top priority," said zoo spokeswoman Sondra Katzen.
The same is true at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, where some animals have cooling stations in their enclosures and space off-exhibit where they can go to cool down, said general curator Dave Bernier.
"I don't expect it to be much change in attendance," he said. "Once they decide they want to go to the zoo on the weekend, that's usually where they go."
Farmington Hills, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — The suburban Detroit owners of two record-setting cats killed in a house fire have filed a lawsuit blaming the maker of a massage chair for the blaze.
William and Lauren Powers of Farmington Hills seek more than $1 million in damages from Fremont, Calif.-based American Crocodile International Group Inc. The couple claims the chair was defective, malfunctioned and caused the 2017 fire.
At the time, Arcturus Aldebaran Powers held the Guinness World Records mark for tallest domestic cat, measuring about 19 inches (48 centimeters). Cygnus Regulus Powers held the record for the domestic cat with the longest tail, measuring more than 17 inches (43 centimeters).
The lawsuit claims the cats were like children to the couple.
A phone call seeking comment from American Crocodile International was not immediately returned Wednesday.