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The Peace Corps is famously all about young men and women venturing to distant locales, bringing with them the promise of social, economic and technical assistance, leavened with a bit of good old-fashioned American can-do spirit. There's now a move afoot to create a similar program to help senior citizens closer to home.

The Department of Health and Human Services has taken the first steps to create a National Volunteer Care Corps, which envisions healthy retirees and young adults taking needy senior citizens to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, shoveling snowy sidewalks, helping out around the house or just stopping by for visits.

Younger volunteers might get community college class credits or a small stipend. Older volunteers would get the satisfaction of helping less-fortunate peers.

By 2040, it's estimated the number of Americans age 85 and older with multiple chronic illnesses will rise to 14.6 million from the current 6 million.

France already has a similar program. The key difference: Those checking in on isolated elders are postal carriers, who regularly check on older people along their routes to make sure all is well.

MILKY WAY

Four leading health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, have weighed in on what children under the age of 5 should drink. It's the first time there has been a public consensus recommendation. The approved beverages are breast milk, infant formula, water and plain milk.

The groups advocated against any beverage that included added sugars, such as flavored milks and low-calorie or caffeinated drinks. They also noted that plant- and nut-based milks do not offer any unique nutritional benefit over regular milk.

The groups said that children as young as 9 months can develop preferences for flavors, that could last a lifetime, which makes it important to establish healthy taste early in life.

EYES HAVE IT, BUT NOT ALL OF IT

■ Humans are the only animals who produce tears as a means of expressing emotion, such as grief or joy. Other animals can be tearful but only to lubricate their eyes.

■ When you rub your eyes, sneeze or stand up too fast, you might see bright flashes or squiggly lines. These are not figments of your imagination but actual sparks of light inside your eyeballs called biophotons. All cells within the human body let off light or bioluminescence. You don't see them, of course, except inside your eyes, where the brain is usually able to ignore them.

When you apply pressure to your eyes, more biophotons are created than the brain can process, and the result is visible flashes.

DOC TALK

Giant congenital nevus: A dark-colored, often hairy, patch of skin present at birth that grows proportionately with the child. It's the result of localized genetic changes in the fetus that lead to excessive growth of melanocytes on one part of the body. Melanocytes are the cells in skin responsible for its color.

Eructate: to burp or belch

Xerostomia: dry mouth

Dysgeusia: a distortion of the sense of taste in which foods taste different or similar to other foods. Common causes include chemotherapy, liver disease, hypothyroidism and zinc deficiency.

Parageusia: another name for dysgeusia

Ageusia: complete lack of the ability to taste

PHOBIAS VS MANIA

Eremophobia: Fear of being oneself

Tetraphobia: Fear of the number 4

Rhytiphobia: Fear of getting wrinkles

Bromidrosiphobia: fear of body smells

Theomania: An obsession with one's own divinity or divine mission

BEST MEDICINE

A man walks into the doctor's office.

The doctor says, "I've not seen you for a while."

"Yes," replies the man. "I've been ill."

IG NOBEL APPRISED

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh and then think -- a look at real science that's hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.

The 2019 Ig Nobel Prize in medicine went to an Italian team of scientists who investigated whether eating pizza could protect against illness and death. Their work, published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, found that pizza did confer some protective effects — if it was made in Italy.

SELF-EXAM

Q: Your thumb is as long as your:

a) Big toe

b) Nose

c) Kneecap

See answer below.

CURTAIN CALLS

Francois Vatel, majordomo of Prince Louis II de Bourbon-Conde, was responsible for a banquet of 2,000 people hosted in honor of King Louis XIV at the Chateau de Chantilly. Vatel reportedly became so distraught about the lateness of the seafood delivery and other mishaps that he committed suicide.

His body was discovered when someone came to tell him the fish had arrived.

ANSWER BELOW

Your thumb is as long as your nose (b).

OBSERVATION

"Anywhere is walking distance if you've got the time." — Comedian Steven Wright

LAST WORDS

"I am dying. Please bring me a toothpick." — French absurdist writer Alfred Jarry (1873-1907).

Jarry's work and life celebrated the absurd, so his last words seem appropriate. In fact, he had a practical reason for requesting a toothpick. Jarry died of drug-, alcohol- and tuberculosis-induced dehydration; dehydration can make one's gums itch.

Syndicated science writer Scott LaFee's column of health-related humor appears occasionally in Style.

Style on 11/04/2019

Print Headline: Volunteer corps forming to help older population

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