Monday, October 27, 2014

Video Games for Grandma

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times about the positive effect video games can have on the older brain. Project: Evo is a game designed for elderly people, ages 60-85, to help improve skills that may have declined due to aging (memory, multitasking, processing speed, etc.) by the company Akili. Akili was co-founded by PureTech, and is building clinically-validated cognitive therapeutics, assessments, and diagnostics that look and feel like high-quality video games. Since neuroscientests believe that certain skills do decline as we age, a possible fix to this problem may be video games. 
However, there is minimal evidence that this game does, in fact, help improve everyday tasks; your success in the game may not measure to your improvement in life skills. To test this, Adam Gazzaley conducted an experiment with 46 elders aged 65-80 where he had them play a race car game, testing multitasking and memory skills. He split them into three groups and measured their results as to whether they played the advanced version of game avidly, the simplified version, or didn't play the game at all. He found that the group who played the advanced version of the game became extremely good at the game, and their skills improved as well. The players didn’t merely become better at NeuroRacer; they also became sharper at other things. Gazzaley admits that he needs to conduct more research and find deeper evidence that video games really do improve the brain, because brain games show different results regarding improvement of skills. 
I think that video games could potentially help sharpen the skills we tend to lose, but I think that more research needs to be conducted before every video game company starts making games for elders. I agree that many of our skills do decline with age, and if a game can improve that, then I'm all for it. My grandpa does a puzzle almost every day. He's great at puzzles, but I don't think that means anything regarding his other skills. This also made me think about children and video games. Whenever I babysit for my neighbors, they always beg me to play their favorite video games on the iPad with them. One of their favorites is a game practicing your multiplication tables. To me, this is a little shocking, because I know that most teenagers don't play video games to help them in school; they play because their fun. But could this be the new COD? Will educational video games become more popular than racing or killing games? If kids can benefit from video games, can the elderly learn from them too?  

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Well Armed Woman

There were 8 million active concealed-weapon permits in the U.S. in 2011, and state-level tallies suggest that the number has risen by at least 1 million since. In Missouri, 19 is the minimal age requirement for getting a concealed-weapon permit. More than ever before, handheld guns are being bought for protection by everyone--especially women. 

Recently, I read an article in Times magazine titled Armed America by Kate Pickert. The article discussed why the number of people with guns has increased in recent years, which I immediately found intriguing. But what I found even more interesting was that "among the newly armed, state statistics show, an increasing number are women".  In Florida, for example, the number of female concealed-weapon holders doubled in 2010-2014, while male owners only increased 59%. Why? Possibly because women feel more vulnerable, more unsafe in their own lives due to the recent occurrences that appear on the news. In 2012, Carrie Lightfoot launched a company called the Well Armed Woman which aims to educate, equip, and empower female gun owners. The website offers holsters, eye protection, handbags, even bras equipped to hold handheld guns. But is it necessary?
A "Classic Hobo Concealed Carry Purse" from the Well Armed Women website
On one hand, I can see why some women choose to carry a handheld gun for protection. I think women can feel vulnerable around men, and with many the sexual assault stories in the news I can see the desire for protection. However, I don't think this means that every woman should be carrying a gun around in their purse. Lightfoot makes an interesting point in the article by saying some of the drawbacks of carrying a gun everywhere you go is the accessibility of it to other people, especially children. If you have a gun just tucked away in your purse, many people could access it, especially in a public place, when you aren't looking. I think if a woman feels it is necessary to have a gun on her at all times, it physically has to be on her, because it can be easily used against her.

I think this also calls into question the feeling of comfort and safety that seems to be lacking in our society today. If a woman can't leave her house without feeling unsafe, doesn't that say something about our country? Why should we have to be in constant fear of being attacked or harmed? I definitely think that women should be able to protect themselves, but I question if guns are necessary. What happened to learning "old-school" self-defense?

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Right to Die with Dignity

What would you do if you found out you only had 6 months to live? How would you spend those 6 months? I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to spend those 6 months in a hospital.

29-year old Brittany Mayer decided she didn't want to spend her last 6 months in the hospital, trying to treat her fatal brain cancer. Instead, she is choosing to die with dignity on November 1. When she received the terrifying news, the doctors prescribed a full brain radiation. The full brain radiation would have severely altered her life for the worse, causing her final days to be spent in pain. The only other option was hospice care, which would have potentially altered her personality and actions, even to loved ones. So instead of getting treatment, she decided to request for a prescription to end her life.

Death with dignity is an organization with a mission to provide an option for dying individuals and to stimulate nationwide improvements in end-of-life care, as stated on the website. If a patient meets the requirements, they can ask for a prescription to end their life. However, only 5 states permit assisted suicide (Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico). Mayer and her family, who previously resided in California, moved to Oregon so that she would be eligible for the prescription.

I support Mayer's decision. If I were in her position, I think I would feel the exact same. I wouldn't want to spend my last moments with my family and friends confined to a hospital room with them watching me suffer. I would want to spend it making memories and living my life as I wish. However, I wonder why only 5 states allow assisted-suicide. With specific requirements to request the prescription, I don't think this is dangerous to permit. I can see why states might have been hesitant when the idea was first introduced, but they don't have a reason to be anymore with the strict rules. People should be allowed to die on their own terms when the situation is terminal.

What do you think? Should people be able to plan their own death?