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DISCOVER A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES: For many of us September is a time of new beginnings. Want to learn something new? Check out Coursera, a U.S. company offering free online courses from top universities to anyone in the world with a computer. No prerequisites required.

Coursera offers courses in the arts, computer science, health, mathematics, history, literature and other disciplines. The courses do not count for credit towards a degree but students receive certificates for completing their studies.

These courses seem especially well suited to older adults with time and in search of new worlds.

Coursera has attracted more than a dozen universities to its online platform including: Stanford University, University of Edinburgh and the University of Toronto.


RUSSIA: BAD FOR MEN: The decline in male life expectancy in Russia is one of the most significant and unexpected developments in world health during the late 20th century, says William Cockerham, a leading medical sociologist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Al., U.S.A.

The average male life expectancy in Russia today is 64.3 years. In Canada, men have a life expectancy of 78.3 years. This is a startling 14-year difference.

So why are Russian men dying prematurely?

The problem is caused by a combination of factors, says Cockerham, but lifestyle is the chief culprit.

Highlights from his findings:

  • Premature deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases and alcohol abuse.
  • Russian males are heavy smokers and consume large amounts of alcohol. They eat high-fat diets and avoid regular exercise.
  • The rise in male mortality is most prevalent among middle-aged blue-collar workers with lower levels of education.
  • Drinking is a common aspect of Russian social life. For instance, large amounts of alcohol are consumed at weddings, birthdays and other celebrations.

Cockerham reported his research online in the Sociology of Health & Illness on April 12, 2012.


WHY ETHNIC NURSING HOMES MAKE A DIFFERENCE: For Siu Tin Ho, 87, living at a nursing home is much better than the monotony of being cooped up in the house. "I don’t want to live with my children," she said.

It may help that Siu Tin Ho lives at the Yee Hong Geriatric Care Centre in Mississauga (Ont., Canada), a home catering to the needs of the Chinese population.

Early research suggests ethnic-focused nursing homes may provide significant health benefits for residents, with easy communication, cultural traditions and native cuisine easing the stress that can come with being transplanted into a mainstream nursing home.

According to Susan Griffin Thomas, director of care at Yee Hong, the home has fewer falls, less hospitalizations and lower rates of depression among its residents, compared with those living in mainstream homes.

Dr. Karen Kobayashi, a research affiliate at the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, says staff culture has a lot to do with Yee Hong’s success. "They specifically screen for care workers who have the same philosophy around care as the home does and they drill that into their staff," Kobayashi said. "You don’t see that at other mainstream homes."



THE SCHOOL AROUND THE CORNER IS NOT THE SAME: Children of a tiny two-teacher school in Kilrusheighter, Sligo, Ireland, got a surprise when they welcomed their grandparents to school recently.

Grandparents did not have to bring their books or lunch, just stories from their own school days. The evening of reminiscence was part of the 50th anniversary of the school opening.

Eamon Carney arrived with his schoolbag and showed the pupils the diary he started keeping in 1955, the year his father died.

Another grandparent pulled up a sally rod (a wooden stick) from beside his chair and demonstrated how his teacher used the stick on him and his classmates. Six slaps on each hand.

The children’s eyes widened.

"Six seemed to be the magic number," one granddad said. "The teacher liked the number six."

Another grandparent said the boys tried to hide the sticks on the teacher. "There were holes in the floors and the boys would put them down the hole."

"It’s cruel," the children said.

Source: RTÉ Radio: Documentary on One: Bring Your Grandparents to School Day