Physical Fitness and Aging

We all want our parents to remain as active and independent as possible, and we want the same thing for ourselves! Regular exercise is pivotal for seniors. Seniors are at greater risk for disease, lost mobility, and falls than any other age group. Conversely, they often realize the positive effects of exercise more quickly than other age group. If your parent hasn’t been exercising, it can be difficult to get started.

Healthaging.net offers some tips to get over that initial hump. Click the link above to learn more.


Older Adults and the Benefits of Meditation

At any stage of life, taking time to relax and find peace of mind is important. We all have daily stresses to deal with, and learning how best to deal with them is critical in order to mitigate the negative effects that come with those daily stressors. In today’s world, dedicating time to reflect and relax has become more prevalent. However, sometimes it’s “easier said than done” to find ways to truly bring a sense of calm into one’s day. Click above to learn more about the benefits of meditation for older adults. 


Healthy Aging Through Food

We all know that a low salt, low fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber can reduce the risk of age related health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases. However, there are lots of other foods out there. Can you eat those other foods and still experience healthy aging? Yes! Click above to learn more about healthy aging through food.


What is the Happiest Age? (You Might Be Surprised by the Answer!)

What age group of adults would you think is the happiest? If most people were to guess, they’d likely assume people in their 20s and 30s are the most content. Why wouldn’t they be, right? They are young and likely healthy, and they have their whole lives ahead of them, full of potential and exciting events.

If you think young adults have it all, you may be surprised to learn the results of a study conducted out of the University of California-San Diego; the research results were published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Happiness comes with maturity…

The study’s author, Dr. Dilip Jeste, is a geriatric psychiatrist and the director of the university’s Center on Healthy Aging. He and his team of researchers used a random sampling of 1,546 adults in the San Diego area, age 21 to 99.

The subjects in the study underwent a phone interview with a member of the research team and then completed a lengthy survey assessing their physical, cognitive, and mental health. They were asked about their overall happiness and satisfaction with their life. In addition, they were questioned on their stress levels and any depression or anxiety they were experiencing.

It is often assumed that happiness would form a sort of U-shaped curve over the course of life—high in early adulthood, dropping in middle age, and then ticking back up in late life. But this isn’t what the study found.

The researchers discovered that despite potential health issues and physical decline that are often inherent to the aging process, the older research subjects were actually happier overall than the younger adults. Surprisingly, it was those in their 20s and 30s who were found to have the lowest levels of happiness, life satisfaction, and wellbeing, in addition to the highest levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Although the study did not follow the research subjects over time to determine if their responses were just a reflection of that moment in time or a more long-term trend with their mental and physical state, it does suggest that overall, people appear to have improved mental health and overall happiness as they mature and age.

Think about it: In your 20s and 30s, you’ve been released into the “real world,” which can be a difficult transition that includes educational and career pressures, romantic turbulence, trying to keep up with the Joneses, and other “adult stuff” like bills and taxes. It becomes clear why it can indeed be a stressful, anxiety-filled time.

Contrast that to older people. With the wisdom gained over the years, they appear to have more emotional stability, self-awareness, and contentment with their stage in life. They have learned to let more things roll off their backs, which results in greater happiness.

…But not for all seniors

While this study from the University of California-San Diego is certainly good news when it comes to the overall emotional state of our nation’s older citizens, it is not suggested that we should assumethat all seniors are in their happiest phase of life.

There is a “loneliness epidemic” among the elderly, particularly those who live alone, with roughly 40 percent of those seniors saying they often feel isolated—a risk factor that can have a more detrimental impact on health than things like smoking or obesity.

CCRCs can help facilitate happiness

Living alone, in and of itself, does not necessarily translate into loneliness, although it is a contributing factor for many. Likewise, surrounding one’s self with lots of people doesn’t always translate into avoidance of loneliness. Ultimately, it is about quality of relationships and other factors. Yet, this opportunity to socialize more frequently, develop new friendships, and stay active are among the many benefits of living in a retirement community, such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, also called a life plan community).

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The above article was written by Brad Breeding ofmyLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.


Tip # 15 of 50 – One of the Hardest Decisions There Is: When (and how) Do You Take the Car Keys Away?

If this title caught your eye, you may very well be on the horns of dilemma. You might be an adult son or daughter, a spouse, or a good friend from church or the neighborhood, and you’re dealing with a very tricky problem – your loved one probably shouldn’t be driving anymore. There have been a few too many “Mr. McGoo” moments, perhaps a damaged garage door or fender with no explanation? Or worse? An accident where someone has been injured? The latter is actually easier to deal with than the former, I’ve found. Click above to learn more about when (and how) you take the car keys away.


Lifelong Learning: Good for Seniors’ Minds & Bodies

Summertime means graduation season and there is a recent and growing trend among college graduates that is garnering a lot of attention. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, by 2020, 43 percent of college students are expected to be age 25 and older. And among these older grads are more and more seniors.

Lifelong learners

You may have seen some news stories about older people who recently got their diplomas. ABC News highlighted Bob Barger, a WWII Navy pilot, who received his associate degree in technical studies from the University of Toledo in Ohio. After returning home from the war, he had dropped out of college to focus on his job and earn a living for his wife and two children.

CBS News shared the moving story of 89-year-old Ella Washington, who, after raising 12 children and putting in a lifetime of hard work, completed her associate degree in interdisciplinary studies from Liberty University in Virginia. She’s already begun work on her bachelor’s degree, majoring in history.

Bob and Ella are just two of the many older people who are taking advantage of the free time that retirement offers to pursue their education and learn more about subjects they are passionate about. And studies show that the benefits of seniors’ pursuit of lifelong learning are abundant.

Healthier brains

Learning something new, such as a new skill or hobby, can help boost your memory. Neuroscientists at the University of Texas at Dallas conducted a study that found that seniors who took on a new, mentally challenging hobby saw a lasting increase in their memory skills. These researchers believe that taking on a new, challenging activity—like learning to quilt, playing an instrument, or operating a computer, for example—strengthens numerous networks within the brain.

A research study conducted by neurologists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland found that engaging in a lifelong pursuit of mentally challenging activities may actually help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The study found that seniors who frequently read, played mentally challenging games like chess, or engaged in other intellectually stimulating activities are 2.5 times less likely to have Alzheimer’s, which impacts approximately 4 million Americans.

And another study out of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School had similar findings. Using participant interviews and brain scans, those researchers found that seniors who reported higher levels of intellectual stimulation throughout their lifetimes had a marked delay in the onset of memory problems or other Alzheimer’s-type symptoms, even though these study participants didn’t actually have any lower incidence of protein plaques on their brains. The ability to delay or even prevent the potentially debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s offers substantial advantages when it comes to seniors’ quality of life.

Healthier bodies

Pursuing lifelong learning activities has benefits that go beyond boosting your brain power. Cognitive neuropsychologists at the University of Sussex in England did a study that found that reading for even just six minutes lowered study participants’ stress levels, slowed their heart rates and eased tension in their muscles. And lower stress has wide ranging benefits for seniors’ cardiovascular health, decreasing blood pressure and reducing the risk of a stroke or heart attack, boosting immunity, and lowering levels of depression.

But researchers at Harvard and Princeton had even more impressive findings in their research on the connection between lifelong learning and health. The study authors found that one more year of education increased life expectancy by 0.18 years. They discovered that the more educated a person, the lower their rates of anxiety and depression as well as the most common acute and chronic diseases (heart disease, stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, emphysema, diabetes, asthma, ulcer), and they were far less likely to report that they were in overall poor health.

Now, there is a “chicken or egg” debate on whether the increased level of education caused these positive health results, or if the people who were healthier (perhaps based on lifestyle factors like drinking, smoking, eating habits, etc., or the impact of their economic standing) were simply more likely to pursue educational opportunities, but the findings are still significant.

Put on your thinking cap

There are numerous lifelong learning opportunities available to seniors. If you live in a town with a university or community college, call them or visit their website to find out what types of continuing education classes are offered; some colleges will even allow older adults to “audit” a college class—sit-in on classes for no credit, but also for little to no cost. If you don’t live near a school, there are also numerous online learning programs offered by colleges across the country.

AARP compiled a helpful list of the best colleges for older or returning students, which includes online learning opportunities.

If you’re looking to take up a new intellectually stimulating hobby like quilting or painting, contact your local arts and crafts store to see if they offer classes. To learn how to play an instrument, contact a nearby high school to see if the band director can offer recommendations on teachers, or you can even do an internet search to find teachers in your area. Your local library is another great resource, providing not only a treasure trove of mentally stimulating books, but also offering programs and presentations for eager learners.

Lifelong learning at CCRCs

One of the many advantages of living in a senior living community, such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or life plan community), is the array of activities and events offered to residents. Knowing the many benefits to their residents’ mental and physical health, CCRCs in particular put an emphasis on lifelong learning opportunities. From guest speakers to art classes to affinity groups like chess, bridge, and book clubs, CCRCs provide their residents with numerous ways to keep their minds active, all in a close-to-home location.

Some CCRCs have even made lifelong learning a major component of their resident programming, forming cooperative ventures with local universities and professors. Courses include everything from literature, history, and creative writing, to art and music appreciation, philosophy, and current events. Classes may take place at the retirement community or at the university, or both.

Food for thought

Whether you are interested in getting educated on a new subject or acquiring a new skill, there are near-countless ways that lifelong learning benefits seniors. So why not challenge yourself and try something new? It’s a lifestyle choice that’s good for your mind, which in turn is good for your health!

 

The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.



Active Aging Redefines Health and Wellness

What does it mean to be healthy as we get older? For most of us, it’s simply the opposite of illness. And staying healthy equates to managing diseases and chronic conditions.

But there is a movement to expand the definition of health and wellness in order to accommodate the idea that being healthy is the process of getting the most out of what life has to offer — regardless of physical age.

Click above to learn more about active aging.


Parkinson’s Disease and Nutrition

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic movement disorder. PD involves the failure and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. Some of these neurons produce dopamine, a chemical involved in bodily movements and coordination. As PD progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.

Primary motor signs of Parkinson’s disease include the following:

  • Tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • Bradykinesia or slowness of movement
  • Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • Postural instability or impaired balance and coordination

Common nutritional concerns for people with Parkinson’s disease are:

  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Difficulty eating due to uncontrollable movements
  • Swallowing dysfunction
  • Constipation
  • Medication side effects (e.g., dry mouth)

Nutritional concerns vary by individual based on signs and symptoms and stages of the disease. It is important to work closely with a doctor or dietitian to determine specific recommendations.

When it comes to nutrition, what matters most?

  • Increase calories. If a tremor is present, calorie needs are much higher. Adding sources of fat to foods (e.g., oil and cheese) is one way to do this.
  • Maintain a balanced diet. Eating properly involves eating regularly. If uncontrollable movements or swallowing difficulties are making it hard to eat, seek the advice of an occupational or speech therapist.
  • Maintain bowel regularity. Do so with foods high in fiber (whole grain bread, bran cereals or muffins, fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes) and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Balance medications and food. Individuals taking carvidopa-levadopa may need to adjust the amount of protein eaten and the time of day it is eaten, or take their medication with orange juice. If side effects such as dry mouth are making it difficult to eat, work with a health care professional to help manage these.
  • Adjust nutritional priorities for your situation and stage of disease.

Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.



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