Monday 28 November 2022

The age of woo

One of the most interesting Big Science projects to come out of Trinity College while I was working there in the 00s was The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) fronted by Rose Anne Kenny FTCD, FRCP, RIA. TILDA recruited 8000+ representative  people over the age of 50 with the intention of monitoring their inevitable decline over the next many years. Such keys to a happy old age as gait, cognition, cardio and macular degeneration were measured on first visit to TILDA Centraal, together with various health and well-being questionnaires. I was touched when at about the same time the aged father of a palomino started to quote "My geriatrician says . . .". It showed an engagement with and active interest in the process of things fall apart as the various and sundry systems of homeostatic equilibrium prove unable to keep the corporeal ship of state steady as she goes.

Prof Kenny is clearly a geriatrician of note; who has put in the hours and should be worth listening to. And I've spent the last several days listening to her reading Age Proof, her distillation of an active life trying to make sense of decrepitude. This is one case where, I feel, the author shouldn't read their own stuff; because on her reading, the text is liberally scattered with , random , pauses at places , which make it difficult to follow her sentence structure. The problem with getting professional readers [apart from the Australian accents: looking at you Bolinda] to read sciency books is that they either mangle the long words or have big loin-girding pause before , say , Taeniopygia guttata. But I have to call out the hard G "lon[Gh]evity" and "[Gh]eriatrics", which, as you may expect from a book about aging, are used frequently.  I checked numerous on-line sources in case it was me being a self-righteous soft-G before I and E pedant. What next: Ghenetics? The Gheneration Game?

More to the point, I learned Chronotype is A Thing . . . the word was coined maybe 30 years ago but was popularized by Dr Michael Breus in his book The Power of When. Breus calls himself The Sleep Doctor which smacks of hubris. Move over owls vs larks on the Breus watch - sooo yesterday. Take the chronotype determinant quiz? But always know that you are welcome to join me in chronotype aardvark: characterized for falling into a drooling sleep while attending lunchtime seminars.  I can't convey strongly enough how this kind of plausibly possible simplification jangles my chain. I've had a contemptuous poke at zodiacal Sun signs but Dolphin - Lion - Bear - Wolf chronotypes are closer to Hans Eysenck's Personality Inventory (EPI) which measures-by-quiz two pervasive, independent dimensions of personality: Extraversion-Introversion vs Neuroticism-Stability and bins everyone into one of four bins. Eysenck was immersed in his own certainties about how the world should be was and, 20 years after he died, 26 of his peer-reviewed papers on race intelligence and personality have been withdrawn by his quondam employer as "unsafe". And check out this take-down by Alexei Guzey of St Matthew of Walker the other Sleep Guru [multibloboprevs]

Yer, like whatevs, this is the level of scienciness in Chronotypes:

  • Dolphins are wired and tired light sleepers; also highly intelligent, cautious, perfectionist and often anxious.
  • Wolves used to be owls: at their best in the evening and creative, impulsive, and emotionally intense.
  • Bears are median: deep sleepers while easygoing and social, fun-loving team players during the day.
  • Lions are early risers after a good night's sleep and are conscientious, stable, practical and optimistic with a tendency to over-achieve.

Prof Kenny devotes a chapter of her book uncritically promoting this saddo simplification of human diversity. Elsewhere in the book Kenny gives some gratutitous product placement to Calico the age-research spin-off of Google/Alphabet. It is unfortunate because Calico and Chronotypes are hostages to crap-detecting: citing them casts doubt on all the other research reported in the book. Likewise cold-water swimming and having a personal fitness coach. Great if that's your thang; but that's not the same as suggesting that it is appropriate for everyone.

tl;dr: But the take home is the same: good sleep, good diet, more exercise, all adopted early, is likely to yield a happier and healthier old age. It also means missing some hella fun parties when you're still young enough to get off on such things.

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