Friday, July 09, 2004

dispatch from santa monica, #4

Talks on the second day of Mini-Medical school were on Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cognitive aging. All three talks were great and puts the judgment meter into "Very Glad I Came". Although, wow: nothing like a series of talks on the biology of aging to get your mind a-dwelling on your own mortality and that of anyone around you. None of us, in case you didn't know, is getting any younger. We are all, moreover, going to die.

I'm writing this using the wireless connection from the hotel restaurant, where I'm having breakfast. The woman who did the cognitive aging talk is sitting two tables away from me. One part of her talk was about medication adherence, and included a discussion of a study of rheumatoid arthritis patients they did where they monitored compliance with these special pill-bottle caps that were equipped with a computer chip that would record the times when the pill-bottle was opened (subjects weren't allowed to use a pill-box for this study). Anyway, among the interesting findings from this study were that middle-aged people were less adherent than older (age > 65) people; and that the leading predictor of non-adherence was how busy people were. The speaker's explanation of that second finding was mainly in terms of the first; that middle-aged people have busier, less routinized lives and that older people were more likely to have The Taking Of The Medications as a ritual around which their lives were built. Meanwhile, an economist in attendance spoke up to ask: "As an economist, I would wonder if it might also be the case that older people are more motivated to adhere to their medications because the consequences of non-adherence appear more severe and more imminent." To which I thought, why would somebody have to be an economist to wonder this? Sometimes economists seem to think they are the only ones who are aware that human beings often respond to changes in the apparent costs and benefits of different choices; a more accurate opinion would be that (some) economists are (about) the only ones willing to push that idea to obviously absurd and empirically untrue ends.

Meanwhile, a postdoc at Rand saw my nametag and said that she had visited the sociology department at Wisconsin a couple of years ago. She's an avid Scrabble player, and when she visited she had wanted to meet me after seeing that I had changed the nameplate on my door to my name spelled out in Scrabble tiles. Alas, I had to tell her that I didn't play Scrabble so much anymore (and have changed my nameplate back), although I didn't go into how the decrease to zero in Scrabble playing occurred as a result of my starting a weblog and having that come to monopolize My Hobby Time.

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