Thursday, June 16, 2005

Friends may be key to living longer

Looking for the secret of a long life? Look closely at your friends. New research suggests that having a strong network of friends helps people live longer.

"Older people with better social networks with friends were less likely to die over a 10-year follow-up period than older people with poorer friends networks," Lynne C. Giles of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, told Reuters Health.

But in what may come as a surprising finding to older people who rely on their children and other relatives, having a large network of relatives was not associated with longer life, Giles and her colleagues report in the July issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

"Of course, that is not to say that social networks with children and other relatives are not important in many other ways," Giles said.

Study after study has shown that elderly people who are connected with lots of people tend to live longer lives. However, few studies have examined whether different types of relationships -- with friends, partners, children and other relatives -- have different effects on longevity.

Giles's team set out to examine the relationship between various types of social networks and longevity in a group of almost 1,500 Australians who were at least 70 years old. Volunteers answered questions about their social networks and then were followed for 10 years.

What the study showed was that older people who reported better social networks of friends were more likely to be alive at the end of the study than people with fewer friends. Similarly, people who reported strong networks of confidants -- people with whom participants shared a close, confiding relationship -- tended to live longer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Invasion of Privacy

Insurance companies, banks and telecommunications companies are able to access information about their clients such as social insurance numbers, dates of birth, signatures, addresses, credit history, employment and salary. They can trace your movements, your purchases, and create a consumer profile based on your spending habits. Gmail is able to market directly to your immediate needs by scanning your emails for keywords, and then matching it up with 'relevant' advertisers immediately. The location of a cell phone on Earth can be traced to its exact location through a GPS, and now with the 'Pay as you go' plan proposed for insurance, first in Europe, and then later here in Vancouver, it is possible to track our movements in our cars.

According to research, nine in ten people say they would prefer their motor insurance to reflect usage of their car and the type of trips they make - with the majority favoring 'pay as you go' systems similar to those offered by gas and electricity suppliers. Which is where Norwich Union's Pay As You Drive comes in: the British insurance company will be able to collect real-time vehicle data using a 'black box' device installed in its customers' vehicles. Insurance payments will be calculated based on how often, when and where customers use their vehicle. The black box measures vehicle usage and sends data directly to Norwich Union, using similar technology to that used by cell phones. Billing occurs monthly, and the technology will also include associated in-car services, such as emergency assistance and real-time route planning.

In pilot stage at present, Norwich Union's 'Pay As You Drive' insurance is now being used by 5,000 volunteers, and Norwich is looking to increase this to 6,500 due to high demand. Over the next 18 months the firm will be collecting data to produce a picture of their volunteers' driving patterns - with information coming in at a rate of 12 million journey data items every day. Which leaves some time for other players to get their act together; after all, pay as you drive, as you eat, as you call, as you watch, as you listen, as you drink, as you read and so on somehow appeals to consumers increasingly relying on PLANNED SPONTANEITY. So even if you're not in insurance, this idea may get you going... (Spotted by Özgür Alaz, Springspotter Network.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

How do you get people to clean up the shorelines?

Just ask.

The TD Canada Trust Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is part of an international effort.

Each September, hundreds of thousands of volunteers from around the world join forces during the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy. In the past 17 years, more than 4.5 million volunteers from 120 countries, including Canada, have participated in the annual ICC.

The TD Canada Trust Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup has become Canada largest contributor to the ICC, and one of Canada’s largest environmental direct action programs. The Vancouver Aquarium started the program over 11 years ago, and with support from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation the program has grown from a local beach cleanup to a national program with volunteers in every province and territory.

Sign up at