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TOPIC: aging


Marchas Populares, A Great Lisbon Tradition Is Missing Men

The Marchas Populares, Lisbon's summertime carnival parades, are a spectacle of dancing and music — but a shortage of money, free time and men who want to dance are endangering this midsummer tradition.

LISBON — With evictions in the city's “soul” neighborhoods and the aging of residents who have carried on traditions, it sometimes seems that a basic sense of community in Lisbon is fading away.

Nine years shy of their 100th year, Lisbon's traditional Popular Marches — nighttime carnival parades through the city's neighborhoods — are having a hard time finding participants to join the march, especially men.

Meanwhile, just across the river from Lisbon, in nearby municipalities Setúbal and Charneca da Caparica, the solution is to take marchers from one bank to the other.

For many of the participants in this traditional choreography, it no longer matters whether they dance for the neighborhood São Domingos de Benfica, Bica or Campo de Ourique. What they want is to keep going every year, and to save the future of this tradition, which for years has been struggling with a lack of men.

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An Ode To Gratitude — The First Step To A Better Life

Learning to actively be more grateful to those in our lives, even when it's hard, can change everything.


BUENOS AIRES — A medic and friend of mine recently told me he was trying to help a woman with medical tests. She had cared for him as a child and youngster, and now she needed surgery. I was struck by his sense of gratitude, but also by the fact that a friend of his had advised him against helping. Was it his problem, really? he had asked.

The conversation reminded me of the elderly people who feel their grown-up children don't appreciate the efforts they'd made in the past as much as they should. Despite the inherent difficulties of close relations and some further, "Oedipal" complications, such parents feel a little left behind, and may even see their affection and past service become a source of resentment.

I am not interested so much in the Manichean tale of long-suffering parents "who did everything" for their ungrateful children, as I am in observing how some entire societies can forge ties that include a lifetime of caregiving and support.

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No Country For Old People? How Seniors Are Portrayed In Hollywood, And Beyond

The author is looking for a coming-of-age movie, but not the age you had in mind.

Sometimes the hunt for a movie is just a hunt, and sometimes it’s a revelation.

I had already started and stopped several titles — labeled romance or comedy or drama or action — when I finally stumbled upon The Last Bus.

There was nothing wrong with the earlier movies I had surfed through and rejected. They were all good in their own right, except that the main characters looked to be in their 20s. Now some of my favorite people are in their 20s, but I’m in my 60s. And I wanted to see something of myself, or even my future self, reflected on the screen. I found that in the British film The Last Bus, a “coming of age” movie – in the real sense of the term.

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Old Folk v. Nature: 6 Endurance Conquests By World's Most Amazing Seniors

M.J. "Sunny" Eberhart just became the oldest person to complete the Appalachian Trail...at the ripe young age of 83. He is just one of many of the graying outdoor pioneers to set mind-boggling records that redefine staying power.

At 83, M.J. "Sunny" Eberhart has just become the oldest person to complete the Appalachian Trail, a 2,193-mile journey in the Eastern United States, setting off much well-deserved amazement among Americans.

Of course Eberhart is far from the first senior citizen to tackle a natural feat that virtually everyone, of any age, would never think of even trying. From mountain climbers to long-distance swimmers, here's a look at six hardcore adventurers to inspire young and old to get off the couch, and conquer the world...or at least go for a walk!

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Arturo Flier

Loneliness: A Global Ailment Of Our Aging, Virtual Society

Globally, 25% of all people admit they have nobody to talk to, with older people living longer and young people spending their time on line.

BUENOS AIRES After reading last month's article "The Loneliness of Millennials' in Clarín, I must point out that this problem does not apply to any single generation. For starters, the world's population is aging. The World Health Organization reports that life expectancy rose by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016. The indicator is not of course uniform across the world, and typically depends on income and healthcare available in a country or region. Even today, in some countries people live 18 fewer years on average than in wealthier places.

Still, there have been significant advances, as in the case of Eritrea, where life expectancy today is 22 years longer than early this century when it was barely 43 years, or other countries that have successfully fought AIDS, smallpox or other diseases.

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Stéphane Lauer

What Europe Should Worry About Most: Bad Demographics

Migration was a hot-button topic in last week's EU elections. But deeper demographic issues are shaping the region's future and economic wellbeing.


PARIS — Nationalist forces and their alarmist, demagogic obsession with migration took center stage throughout the European election campaign. The results, therefore, showed that the extreme right's strategy — playing on fears that Europe is being overrun by hoards of outsiders — continues to be effective.

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Huang Kuangshi*

Can Artificial Intelligence Solve China's Demographic Crisis?

BEIJING — Over the past decade or so, "The Low-Fertility Trap," a hypothesis put forth by Wolfgang Lutz, Vegard Skirbekk and Maria Rita Testa, respectively Austrian, Norwegian and Italian scholars, has worried many countries facing the risks of an aging population. This includes China. The theory suggests that when a country's birth rate is lower than 1.5, three self-reinforcing mechanisms — demographic, sociological and economic — can work, if unchecked, towards a downward spiral in its future fertility.

Yet, while people are still debating whether China is up against doomed demographics, a few have noticed that artificial intelligence (AI) is creating an ever faster, more disruptive and stronger force than that of the industrial revolution — and could completely overturn China's demographic outlook.

Industrialization and low birth rates are two sides of the same coin. For a long time, people have thought that modernization is what alters people's concept of birth, rather than more specifically, industrialization.

It was industrialization that pushed forward improvements in labor productivity while reducing the demand for workers. And coupled with information technology and AI, robots are now quietly replacing humans, as people's reproductive choices are also being subtly and fundamentally transformed.

Only a few years ago people were arguing that a shortage of labor in the Pearl River Delta and Yangzte River Delta, the two most developed economic zones of China, would push up wages. Yet, even before the workers have had a say, the robots have taken their place and a robotic revolution is underway.

In 2014, Dongguan, a manufacturing hub in the Pearl River Delta, introduced its plan to speed up the strategy of "replacing humans with robots' by 2025. Since then, this wave of "machines substituting humans' has washed across the whole country.

If one goes back to the Pearl River Delta to do business research today, one will find that almost without exception all manufacturers are currently operating with robots. The automation is beyond people's imagination. In 2016, CCTV's New Year Gala even came up with a particularly impressive show in which the dancers were 540 robots.

Express delivery is probably the sector where the public feels most obviously the power of robots taking the place of humans.

Only a few years back, a lot of countries were still laughing that China's rapid development of its logistics industry was counting on its cheap labor. In recent years, multi-function robots with transporting, palletizing and sorting capabilities have mushroomed throughout its logistics industry.

AI is an irreversible trend

Delivery-end robots are also increasingly taking over work that used to be handled by men, such as smart robots that can avoid barriers and deliver parcels to recipients, or intelligent robots that can carry a weight up to 50 kilograms at a speed of two meters per second while being capable of rapidly locating the merchandise's position, and then automatically delivering it to the packing station following an optimal route. This is not to forget the unmanned express vehicles using electric-power or solar technology.

From manufacturing to the service industries, little-by-little robots are approaching the daily activities of human beings. In brief, AI is an irreversible trend. As some have predicted, when robots are fully applied, China will cut more than 240 million jobs. According to the UN's forecast, two-thirds of the labor force in the developing world will be replaced by robots.

If this does happen, does China still need to worry about "The Low-Fertility Trap"?

According to World Health Organisation statistics, one out of every seven couples on the planet suffers from reproductive problems. In China, one out of every ten couples suffers from infertility, and the incidence rate rising.

People have long relied on assisted reproductive technology to solve infertility problems, which basically means help in conceiving with artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization (IVF) — embryo transfer as well as its derived technology.

Now AI is being introduced into these practices to further boost the success rate. With the help of AI, scientists can better predict which embryos will develop. In addition, when AI figures out which embryos have eventually resulted in babies, it will recognize good-quality embryos by self-learning. In other words, AI will be more stable and reliable than the embryologists and will boost the chances of those who can't conceive naturally.

On a somewhat more extreme front, the era of sex robots might affect population numbers. Not only does a sex robot promise to satisfy a human libido, some say it can know a human better than other humans. Through a variety of algorithms and deep learning, the perfect combination of body-and-soul sex robots can fully demonstrate the potential of becoming a human being's perfect companion.

Recently married Chinese couple in Shijiazhuan, China — Photo: Jia Minjie/ZUMA

In the book – Love And Sex with Robots, Dr David Levy, a British chess master, as well as the founder of computer Olympiads, claims that thanks to rapid advances in stem cell research and man-made chromosomes it's not far off that "half-breeds' will soon be born. Intelligent sex doll creator Sergi Santos even predicts that humans will eventually start to marry sex robots, and give birth to their offspring. In the AI era, these seemingly distant ideas may come to pass sooner than we think.

Being able to monitor and analyze in real-time the entire demographic issue.

The vision also foresees that AI can overcome traditional demographic challenges through the development of the so-called "smart population," based on AI, that will solve all population-related problems. This is derived from the "smart city" or "urban brain" where the public AI system can analyze the situation of the surroundings in real-time, automatically deploying public resources, fixing the bugs in the city's ongoing operations and guiding the infrastructure plans for the future.

It is a system that includes both the internal data of the population's births, deaths, migration, size, structure and distribution and the external system related to economy, society, environment, energies and resources.

A smart population can monitor and analyze in real time the whole demographic issue, solve automatically the problems of population degeneration, aging, overpopulation in urban areas, unbalanced distribution of population and poverty. By fixing the varied bugs of an unbalanced demographic development, it will become the infrastructure of a sustainable population.

For instance, when a city's population is in decline, it will send out messages to encourage population increases. When births are needed, signals will spread that will lead to more male-female coupling, particularly to women of childbearing age. In this sense, a "smart population" would seamlessly and automatically interpret long-term family planning policy.

In July, China's State Council issued a circular stipulating the country's new-generation AI development plan that aims for China to become a main AI innovation hub globally.

Will Artificial Intelligence prove to be the new cradle or final grave of human development? Either way, AI's role in disrupting traditional models of demography may turn out to be central to answering that question.

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Oswaldo López

Aging At Record Pace, Brazil Faces Demographic Emergency

Countries like France and Spain, already known for their inhabitants' longevity, needed three times as long as Brazil to double their percentage of older population.


A look at Brazil's recent demographics show a population that is aging at the fastest pace in its modern history. Life expectancy for the Latin American country went from 45.5 in 1940 to 75.5 in 2015, while years lived for adults aged over 60 have increased 8.9 years (rising from 13.2 to 22.1 years). Most likely by 2050, Brazil will have around 66 million above the age over 60, living in its territory, or three times more than the 24 million today.

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Jean-Pierre Robin

Are We Ready For The Japanization Of The World Economy?

Having experienced its economic collapse a generation earlier than the 2008 crisis, Japan has become a laboratory for making the most out of meek growth.


TOKYO — Shinzo Abe has once and for all earned his stripes as a great tactician. For the third time in five years, he triggered early elections to reinforce his hand as prime minister and, once again, it was a winning move. Taking advantage of the rising regional tensions since the summer provoked by North Korea's missiles and nuclear testing, he turned apparent weakness into a strength.

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Bismillah Geelani

Indian School For Grandmothers Takes On Female Illiteracy

They say it’s never too late to learn. A special school in the Indian state of Maharashtra is proving that in a new way.

FANGNE — It's early afternoon here in this village in the western Indian state of Maharashtra and dozens of elderly women wearing bright pink saris are walking down the main street in single file. Backpacks are slung over their shoulders and they're carrying abacus slates in their hands.

They're on their way to the Ajjibachi Shala, or the Grandmothers School.

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Laura Lin

Aging Taiwan And The Doubts Of A Faraway Daughter

PARIS — Last month, I made my annual trip back to Taiwan around the Chinese New Year to see my parents. My mother, who is 86, has not being doing too badly even though she has a mild but progressive form of Alzheimer's, diagnosed six years ago. She has continued to do her daily Qigong exercises around five o'clock in the morning, which is very good for her. She has insisted on continuing to cook, but often forgets and burns everything she's put on the stove. She still plants vegetables in the garden, but then forgets to water them. It all leaves my 85-year-old father in despair.

Just before I'd arrived in Taiwan, my sister-in-law, who works near my parents' place and often drops in to check on them, told me that my parents' neighbors have lately been gently but continually telling her that my mother is burning her cooking so often that they worry it is a fire hazard.

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Ranjani Iyer Mohanty*

Warren Beatty And My Dad, A Time For Reflection

I see a wisdom behind the slowness. I've learned that he must give the question full attention and respect, and won’t answer lightly.


CALGARY — Watching last Sunday's Academy Awards with my parents here in this Canadian city, it was during those now infamous final moments that I had something of a surreal epiphany: Warren Beatty reminded me of my father.

Not only are they fairly close in age (Beatty will turn 80 later this month, and my father is 82), and both still married to their only wife, but these two lifelong sharp-thinking men both now respond in a similar way: slowly. This is not surprising considering that cognitive processing and reaction times both slow with advancing age. Geoffrey Kerchner, professor of neurology at Stanford says that the elderly take "longer to solve problems or make decisions."

When I ask my dad if he'd like to go for a walk, he ponders. Sometimes he'll even say "Wait a minute" and sit back in contemplation. I get impatient waiting for the response. What's the holdup? It's a simple question. Just answer: yes or no. He feels I'm rushing him.

But having spent more time with him lately, I see a wisdom behind the slowness. I've learned that he's giving the question his full attention and respect, and won't answer lightly. For him, the answer depends on a variety of factors. Did he sleep well last night? Will the chemo he took this morning tire him out? How's the weather? How will he feel after breakfast? Is anything happening tomorrow for which he may need to conserve his energy? He's in fact quietly considering all the factors before deciding — and responding.

For a lot of older people (except, disturbingly, the 70-year-old in the White House), the value of what they say matters to them. They weigh their words. They want to get it right. They can't afford to waste time doing things they shouldn't do or be stuck with the consequences of a bad choice. However, they need time to get it right. And given the time, my dad is the one who — when I'm set to leap — says "look" and offers valid alternatives to consider. He also suggests that on our way home from the walk, we stop off at the library to return my overdue DVDs or buy the latest edition of the income tax software so he can do his returns for the year.

It's a simple question: Who won best picture?

Given the natural slowing down of the elderly, we sometimes forget their capabilities and their wisdom (again, it's worth noting the Donald Trump exception). In Beethoven's "late period", he produced the fewest number of works, but some of his most difficult compositions like the Hammerklavier Sonata and the Diabelli Variations. Between the age of 60 and 80, Claude Monet painted his iconic water lilies. Jessica Tandy and Christopher Plummer won their first and only Oscars when she was 80 and he was 82.

When Beatty appeared to be dithering last Sunday with the all-important envelope, he was not having a "senior moment" — he was pondering. When he pulled out the card and read it to himself, he pondered. He looked back inside envelope again to see if there was anything else. He paused. He looked at his co-presenter Faye Dunaway. He looked backstage. He looked at the envelope yet again. He paused.

All the while, we were all waiting impatiently and wondering, "what's the holdup?" It's a simple question: Who won best picture?

Beatty however was considering all the factors. Why did the card say "Emma Stone" as well as the movie name La La Land? Had he been given the wrong envelope? Was it the wrong card? Who should he ask? Should he ask? Was he too old for all this circus? Maybe Faye would know what to do?

My dad and the importance of pondering — Photo: Personal file

Mind you, at this point, Beatty did not say to Dunaway anything like, "Hold on, Faye, something seems wrong here" or even "I think we need to verify this'. Rather, much like my dad quietly handing my mom his blood test request form and waiting for her to notice that his name has been misspelled or the hemoglobin box hasn't been checked off, Beatty silently handed Dunaway the card and then waited for her reaction. So maybe this could be more accurately called "a male senior moment".

Diane Howieson, professor of neurology at the Oregon Health & Science University, says "Older adults tend to be slower in conceptualizing problems and less ready to change strategies when circumstances shift." This may have accounted for Dunaway's behavior. She is 76 — the same age as my mom. Not realizing there was a problem, much less a need to change strategy, Dunaway simply went ahead and read the name of the movie out loud. And the rest is 2017 Oscar Night legend.

My dad stood up carefully and steadied himself with one hand on the fireplace mantel. "Idiots," he said. "They should have slowed down. Then they'd have gotten it right."

And in case you're wondering why this article was not up within hours of the ceremony ending rather than days, I too wanted to take the time to ponder some vital questions. Is this a fair assessment of my dad? Should I write this article? Why? How's the weather? And is there anything happening tomorrow for which I need to conserve my brain power?

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