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Monday, September 12, 2022 17:45

Cleaning House—It’s Good for Your Brain!

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Cleaning up around the house isn’t just meant for springtime! The health benefits of picking up around your place has been shown to be good for your brain. Plus, it’s pretty good exercise. So, if you’re someone who has never been too keen about house cleaning, you’ve got good reason to change your mind! New research shows that the physical activity of doing household chores is good for brain health—even reducing your risk for dementia. 

Physical Activity and Brain Health

Being physically active increases blood flow circulation throughout the body and to the brain. Moderate physical activity promotes a positive mood, helps you manage stress, and can reduce inflammation in the body. A large research study recently published in the journal, Neurology, showed it’s not just exercise (such as brisk walking, swimming, or bike riding) that supports brain health. Daily activity from doing household chores also showed protective benefits against risk for dementia. Don't worry, we aren't talking about "bucket full of cleaners, rubber gloves, and a mop" type of cleaning. Just the simple, day-to-day, chores.

Essentially, the study team wanted to know “What lifestyle habits can reduce risk for various forms of dementia?” 

Over 500,000 men and women participated in the study, completing various health and lifestyle questionnaires. Participants ranged in age from 40-69 years, with an average age of 56.5 years. The participants were recruited from England, Scotland, and Wales. The results of the study established a significant relationship exists between certain lifestyle factors and decreased risk for dementia over a ten-year period. 

3 Simple Lifestyle Shifts that May Lower Risk for Dementia

The findings indicate that 3 lifestyle factors are associated with reducing risk for dementia:

  • Frequent Physical Activity: Associated with a 35% lower risk of dementia.
  • Housework-Related Activities (Chores): Associated with a 21% lower risk of dementia.
  • Social Visits with Friends/Family: Associated with a 15%lower risk of dementia.

These results indicate a strong correlation between risk for dementia and each of the 3 lifestyle factors. Suggesting that simple lifestyle shifts contribute to reducing risk of dementia as we age.

What type of household physical activity reduces risk for dementia?

According to the research, the household physical activities that participants engaged in on a regular basis included the following:

  • tidying rooms / organizing – folding clothes and putting them in drawers, hanging up clothes in the closet, removing any clutter from bureaus and nightstands.
  • dusting / vacuum cleaning – running the vacuum cleaner over high-traffic areas or in the kitchen, dusting the coffee table, bookcase, or other seldom used areas.
  • kitchen clean up – putting dishes and silverware into the dishwasher, wiping down the counters, and placing food items away after each meal.

As we get older, particularly into our 50’s and 60’s, cataracts can become a common eye condition experienced by both men and women. Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss in the United States, so it’s important to know how to protect your eyes to reduce your risk for cataract and to be able to recognize the signs of a developing cataract. 

Cataract Formation

Like the rest of the body, the eyes and the structures that support the visual system undergo significant change as we age. One of the structures that undergoes the most change is the lens in the eye. The lens of the eye is located behind the pupil and the colored iris. The lens helps to focus images onto the retina, which then transmits the images to the brain. Normally the lens is “crystal clear.” 

Aging, and other medical conditions can cause the lens to become cloudy and yellow. This can cause mildly blurry vision, resulting in changes in your eyesight. If the crystalline lens loses significant transparency and clarity, then a cataract has formed. A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens, causing blocks or changes in the passage of light into the eye. 

Vision Changes Due to Development of Cataracts

If you have cataracts, you may notice changes in your vision, such as:

  • Difficulty seeing in dim illumination
  • Difficulty with night driving
  • Colors appear faded or dull
  • Experiencing glare, haloes, or light sensitivity 
  • Diminished vision

The only way to treat cataracts is to remove them surgically. The longer cataracts are left untreated, the more difficult it can be to successfully remove the cataract and restore vision.  

Cataracts can affect you even if you’ve had normal vision and relatively healthy eyes throughout your life. This is because, for most people, cataract development is a part of the normal aging process. 

Risk Factors for Developing Cataracts

Certain health and lifestyle conditions and use of certain medications can increase your risk for developing cataracts, such as:

  • diabetes 
  • trauma to the eye
  • chronic inflammation of the eye
  • other eye disease
  • repeated sun exposure without using UV protective eyewear (on cloudy days also)
  • long-term use of steroids, cortisone (including for asthma)
  • other chronic inflammatory medical conditions
  • smoking
  • genetics, family history

Residents in senior living communities often delight in receiving visitors, especially when those visitors include children. Even so, it can be quite difficult, emotionally, to bring the kids along to a long term care facility. With a little preparation, patience and compassion, a family’s first visit to an elder care community can be made meaningful for all family members—especially for the elder and grandchildren.

Your aging loved one, who is residing in long term care, may have changed a great deal as a result of their physical and emotional health. They may display different behaviors, personality changes, and memory deficits that even the most well-prepared adult can struggle to see. So, how do you prepare a child for their first visit with a grandparent who is residing in an elder care community?

Prepare the Kids Before they Arrive at the Senior Living Facility

A few days before the visit to see their grandparents or other aging loved ones who are in residence at a senior living facility, invite the children to sit down and talk about the upcoming visit. Start by asking the children what they remember most about this family member. Reinforce that those positive qualities and memories they have will always be in their hearts, and the elder’s heart, too. It just might be harder for grandma or grandpa to remember all of those wonderful memories.

Talking with Very Young Kids about a Loved One in Elder Care

For very young kids, under the age of 10, you’ll want to remind them of the physical and cognitive limitations the older adult has, but in simpler terms. Rather than giving the kids a long list of “Don’ts” (Don’t jump on grandpa, don’t try to dance with grandma, don’t leave your shoes on the floor in her room)… focus on the person they are visiting and the kind of caring attention they need from all family visitors:

Grandma is not as strong as you are. You are much younger. Remember to be gentle with your hugs and handshakes.

Grandpa is not able to run and jump and play like he once did. While he can’t play catch with you, he can play cards and board games. It would be nice to bring some games with us. 

You know how we all forget things from time-to-time? (Give an example of forgetting items at the grocery store or leaving things at school) Well, Mimi’s memory is not so great anymore. That can happen when you get older and have SO many memories in your head. They can get mixed-up. She might even forget your name! Just remind her and try not to get upset that she forgot; she feels badly when she does not remember. Just encourage her to learn your name again while we are there and she may start to recall all kinds of great memories with you.

Sometimes granny or pappy gets easily upset if his things are touched or moved around. You know, how you sometimes get upset when someone takes your toy without asking. It’s a good idea to ask before you touch things in the room.

Remember not to give pap pap any food or candy, even if he asks for it. He has to follow a special diet that help his medications work best.

It is a good idea to let the children speak to the elder family member by phone a few times before you arrive. This may lead to any questions about how the grandparent sounds or speaks.

No matter your age or activity level, you reap numerous health benefits from spending time in nature. Not only is time spent outdoors good for physical health, it is especially good for brain health. New research from the fields of psychology, health, medicine, and environmental science consistently shows that, for people of all ages, who spend as little as 15 minutes a day interacting with the natural world, experience lower blood pressure, less frequent headaches, and are at lower risk for anxiety and depression. With so much natural beauty surrounding the Everbrook Senior Living Communities, it’s easy to get your daily dose of “nature’s medicine.”

How The Lack of Time Spent in Nature Takes a Toll on Health

Enough research has been done to strongly indicate that people who spend the least amount of time outdoors have greater detriment to their well-being: higher risk of mental health conditions, obesity, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses. There’s even a name for the ill-effects of not spending enough time in nature—it’s called “nature-deficit disorder.” Nature deficiency contributes to the following health issues:

  • increased stress
  • trouble maintaining focus
  • diminished emotional resilience
  • deficits in self-expression, creative thinking, and reasoning
  • difficulty establishing healthy social connections (at work, in the community)
  • increased risk for and/or worsening of chronic illness
  • loss of connectedness to nature and one's responsibility for protecting it

Even though nature-deficit disorder is not yet regarded as a medical condition, both conventional and holistic health practitioners recognize the significance of the detrimental health effects stemming from lack of contact with nature. In fact, in Canada, doctors can now prescribe national park passes to patients who are at risk for, or who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and certain other mental and physical health conditions. Many more physicians around the world have come to recognize nature-deficit as a nonclinical syndrome that can impair the emotional, cognitive, and physical functioning of adults and children.

Feeling a sense of purpose or meaning in life is associated with a 19% reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment later, according to findings from a review of evidence led by researchers at University College London (UCL).

The UCL researchers examined several positive psychological constructs (e.g., maintaining a positive mood, being optimistic, having a sense of life purpose) to determine if these constructs have a significant association with reduced risk for dementia and other cognitive impairment in later life. 

The results showed that having purpose and meaning in life were key factors consistently associated with reduced risk of dementia years later:

  • Among people who had higher purpose or meaning in life, there was significant association with a reduced risk of multiple cognitive impairment outcomes, including dementia and mild cognitive impairment. 
  • Having a sense of purpose, most notably, was associated with a 19% reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment. This finding—reduced risk for cognitive impairment—did not apply to other positive psychological constructs, such as having a positive mood state.

For this study, the UCL research team conducted what is known as a systematic review and meta-analysis, which involves and in-depth approach to pooling and analyzing data from multiple studies. The researchers gathered evidence from nine previously published studies, yielding data from 62,250 older adults (age 50+) across three continents. This makes the findings quite meaningful because they have relevance across different demographics. 

Meaning in Life: How Does it Protect the Brain from Impairment?

One theory about how purpose and meaning, as well as other positive psychological factors, may protect against cognitive decline has to do with the physiological effect that positive mood and resiliency has in the body, including the brain. 

Positive mood promotes a state of balance (homeostasis) in the body. This reduces the circulation of stress hormones and other chemicals that are known to increase inflammation in the cells and tissues, Inflammation, which causes damage to cells and can alter physiological function, is a known underlying factor in many disease processes, including Alzheimer’s Disease and heart disease among others. 

Having a sense of purpose in life seems to promote positive mood, which supports resiliency from stressful events; in turn, this reduces inflammation in the brain—both of which are linked with reduced risk of dementia.

Reinforcing the positive psychological effects that come with having a sense of purpose is the fact that, when people feel their life has meaning and purpose, they are more likely to engage in activities that support their health: exercising, socializing with peers, doing volunteer work—all of which may protect against dementia risk.

The researchers suggest that prevention programs for people at-risk for cognitive impairment and dementia should prioritize activities that help bring purpose and meaning to one’s life. Staff who work with older adults can devote programming time to helping the elder identify what is important them, what their values are, and how they might act in alignment with these priorities and values. The researchers suggested “taking small steps.” For example, if an elder values “education for all,” they could benefit from volunteering as a literacy coach or as a reading buddy in a local school.

Since older adults tend to need fewer hours of sleep – around 7 hours a night – than younger people, it might surprise you to learn that sleep deprivation can be quite common in older adults. Not only that, symptoms of sleep deprivation can also be confused for dementia in older adults.

Many people are aware that there is a connection between sleep and brain health. The changes in brain chemistry that occur when we don’t sleep leads to impairment of physical performance, decision making skills, and how well we manage our emotions. Poor quality sleep as well as insufficient hours of sleep makes us sluggish, causes muscle tension and physical fatigue, and can lead to changes in appetite and mood. The longer we go without good quality and sufficient hours of sleep, the more imbalanced brain chemistry and hormones become – and that is not good for the brain.

For older adults, who are less physically resilient to the stresses of poor sleep, the effects on their cognitive abilities can be significant. So much so, family members may wonder if their loved on is showing signs of dementia. 

How Can You Tell if an Elderly Adult is Sleep Deprived or Has Dementia?

Before you start calling assisted living centers about memory care services, you’ll want to carefully observe the sleep habits and behaviors of the older adult you are concerned about. First, you’ll want to understand the different symptoms of sleep deprivation versus dementia:

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

  • Daytime drowsiness and fatigue not attributable to medication or a health condition
  • Difficulty concentrating on everyday tasks that usually come easily
  • Forgetfulness
  • Changes in appetite – either eating too much or not enough
  • Less resilient to stressful situations
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Muscle tension and headaches
  • Being more clumsy than usual, such as tripping or falling frequently

Early Symptoms of Dementia

  • Everyday tasks that should come easily are causing frustration or other difficulty
  • Changes in mood that represent a significant shift in personality
  • Trouble communicating, following a conversation, and losing train of thought
  • Forgetful and needing to repeat statements or questions repeatedly
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability, unusual anxiety, fear, or suspicion
  • Neglecting their appearance and hygiene
  • Confusion about time and place

This month we are celebrating the health benefits of sleep for mind and body! National Sleep Awareness Week is March 13-19, 2022—it’s the perfect time for older adults to learn new ways to improve their sleep routine.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, adult sleep habits were affected in many ways. Some people slept more while others didn’t sleep enough. Many of us were tossing and turning through the night. Additionally, many adults got into some pretty poor sleep habits… staying up late or falling asleep in front of a mobile device. 

Poor-quality sleep is detrimental to the health of the brain and the body. In fact, there’s 25 years of scientific research that supports the health benefits of good sleep hygiene for adults (and kids, too). 

How Do We Know Sleep is Good for Health? 

In order to understand the effects of sleep deprivation on our physical and mental health, scientists study how the brain and body respond when we don't sleep enough. 

Insufficient Sleep Increases Risk for Illness

Insufficient sleep increases a person’s risk for chronic disease. When you get less than 8 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis you raise you risk for:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease and stroke
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • colds, flu, and respiratory illness
  • obesity
  • cognitive impairment

While You Were Sleeping: How Does Sleep Affect Health?

No matter your age, sleep effects brain chemistry and the hormones that circulate through your body. Put another way, sleep influences the functioning of the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. 

When you get sufficient, quality sleep a lot of amazing things happen in your body:

  • the brain develops and reinforces brain pathways that are involved in memory, learning, and emotion
  • the body manufactures hormones that are involved in repair and growth, and which help minimize the effect that stress can have on our physiology. These hormones support the health of the liver, the development of muscle and bone, that break down fat, and the regulation of blood sugar
  • the immune system gets a boost so that it is more effective at fighting infection 
  • the body works to decrease inflammation, which protects us from chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease
  • the metabolic system manages hormones that the body relies upon to regulate appetite 

As you can see, sleep affects a lot of what goes in the body and how healthy (or unhealthy) your body can be.

This Valentine’s Day we want to remind you of a special relationship between physical health and level of risk for cognitive decline. You may already be aware that, when you engage in physical activity you are building both physical and mental fitness. What you may not know is there is a “brain-heart-health connection” that influences your risk of cognitive decline: The healthier your heart, the lower your level of risk is for dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). 

What Does a Healthy Brain Require?

The brain-heart-health connection isn’t particularly complex. In a nutshell, a healthy brain requires 3 things:  

  1. glucose (the chemical name for sugar) for energy
  2. a strong blood supply to carry glucose and oxygen into the brain
  3. a healthy diet to provide essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, healthy fats) that serve as building blocks for brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. 

Look over those items once more time. Numbers 1 and 3 on the list are directly related to your diet---what, how often, and how much you eat. Number 2 – a strong blood supply--is related to heart health. So how does heart health relate to brain health?

How a Fit, Healthy Heart Fuels a Fit, Healthy Brain

Your brain relies on a strong heart to pump oxygenated blood into all regions. Scientists now believe that the disease process that leads to Alzheimer’s Disease begins when brain tissue degrades and nerve tissue becomes damaged. Poor circulation to the brain is a key factor in causing such damage to brain tissue.

If you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, have diabetes, or other cardiovascular risk factors, it’s not only your heart that is at risk for disease, your brain is as well. For example, a type of dementia called vascular dementia can happen as a result of a series of small, “silent” strokes, sometimes called “mini-strokes.” Also, repeated or prolonged stress on the heart (such as from lack of physical activity, smoking, and stress) can lead to blockages and high blood pressure, which in turn affects circulation to the brain.

The good news is, many of the same things that strengthen the heart also help keep your brain fit and healthy

Many people, even those who are in good health and eat a balanced, robust and healthy diet, take nutritional supplements. In fact, vitamins, minerals, and herbs are the most widely used over-the-counter products among people of every age and every lifestyle. Many older adults take nutritional supplements and they tend not to inform their physician (or even other family members) they are doing so. Mixing certain nutritional supplements with prescription medicines can result in a dangerous interaction and seniors could be putting their health—or even their life—at risk: Many nutritional supplements alter the way prescription medications work in the body. This can lead to a dangerous situation in which medications do not work as they should for a given medical condition and can result in a life-threatening interaction.

Every physiological process in the body relies upon vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other compounds that facilitate processes necessary to maintain your physical and emotional health. For people of all ages who eat a variety of healthy foods most of the time, we tend to get the nutrients we need. As we age, however, our bodies change in every respect.

Consequently, we may not digest food as well, can develop food intolerances, may take medications that affect nutrient absorption, and a variety of other factors can affect how effectively nutrients are getting to the places where the body most needs them. This can prompt senior citizens to take nutritional (dietary) supplements purchased over-the-counter.

4 Ways Nutritional Supplements can Interact with Prescription Medication

Taking nutritional supplements is not risk-free:  If you take prescription medications for health concerns such as menopause, a heart condition, cholesterol management, high blood pressure, cognitive decline to name a few, the dietary supplements you take could be changing the way your prescription medicines work inside your body. Some of these interactions can include:

  1. Decreasing the effectiveness of a medication’s ability to treat a health condition
  2. Increasing the potency of a prescription beyond what is medically safe for your condition
  3. Altering how the body breaks down a medicine, resulting in too much oof the medicine circulating in the bloodstream and target tissues
  4. Altering how a medicine is excreted by the body, which also changes potency
Thursday, December 09, 2021 16:10

Festive Games to Stimulate Senior Minds

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During the holidays as we gather with family, young and old alike, we may feel concern for a senior family member who is showing signs of difficulty with memory and cognition. While there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, the leading cause of dementia, engaging your elderly loved one in “brain games” can help to protect brain function, lower the risk for, and even slow the progression of dementia. So, put on your ugly holiday sweaters and gather everyone ‘round for these festive holiday games to stimulate thinking, cognition, recall, and problem-solving. 

Holiday Themed Games for Seniors

Holiday-themed Word Search

Crossword puzzles and other types of word-search games are fantastic activity for sharpening reasoning skills and stimulating multiple areas of the brain. Word searches generally involve using clues to solve a word-puzzle. This stimulates recollection from stored knowledge and memories, uses problem-solving skills, and provides a sense of reward when finding the right word to fit the space. You can find crossword books and games (in the app stores) that cover any theme and are suitable for any level. If your loved one is already struggling with signs of dementia, consider using a crossword designed for school-age children, which will utilize simpler words and clues.

Festive Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are a great activity to do with family members of all ages. This provides your elder family member with a sense of inclusion. Jigsaw puzzles require reasoning, problem-solving skills, and creativity. To personalize jigsaw puzzles, you can have one made of a favorite family photo or destination that is meaningful to your senior. Imagine their joy to put together a puzzle depicting a happy memory! This can spark conversation about the “time when” or the events that are associated with the photo. And don’t forget the many other types of puzzle games… from Rubik’s Cube to Sudoku!

The holiday season can be one of the most difficult times of year for our elderly loved ones. Do you know how to recognize the concerning signs that can indicate your older adult family member is struggling with more than just the holiday blues?

There are several reasons why an elderly family member may experience sadness around the holidays, any of which can be a common part of growing older:

  • Widowed within the past year or previous loss of a partner during the holidays
  • Caretaking for a partner in declining health
  • Coping with their own declining health
  • Loss of the ability to drive or other forms of personal independence
  • Changes in their ability to care for themselves (bathing, household chores)
  • Coping with the death of close friends/family members to COVID-19 and other illness

Grieving over any type of loss and the range of emotions that comes with it is to be expected and it varies by person. However, when grief, sadness, despondency, or other difficult emotions are prolonged and interfere with a senior’s day-to-day vitality, they may be suffering from depression.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 12:37

Vitamin D is Critical to Healthy Aging

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The winter solstice (Dec. 21st) plays a role in vitamin D deprivation. Often seniors will suffer from bone softening, nausea, cognitive difficulties and frailty. Each of these symptoms can be mistaken for any number of illnesses but could quickly be identified as a lack of Vitamin D by a physician.

The CDC has determined that osteoporosis affects 16% of all seniors. The condition carries serious health risks, potentially leading to falls and other home safety hazards. The clear connection between vitamin D and bone health in the elderly helps defend against bone softening. Vitamin D improves senior mental health, combating prevalent issues like elderly depression. A 2017 study of more than 5,600 older adults found a link between lower levels of vitamin D and depressive symptoms, such as loneliness, lack of enjoyment, and restless sleep.

Study participants with the least amount of vitamin D reported more pronounced mental health concerns. As a result of this emerging science, researchers continue to investigate a potential vitamin D antidepressant.

There are several ways to attain vitamin D benefits:

Sunshine is one of the best natural sources of vitamin D. Take an afternoon walk or invest in a UV lamp for colder months.

  • One tablespoon of cod liver oil supplements 170% of daily vitamin D.
  • Four or five sliced, white mushrooms make up half of the needed vitamin D intake.
  • Three ounces of cooked salmon account for more than 80% of necessary vitamin D.
  • A cup of milk, which is fortified with vitamin D, contains 20% of the daily recommended vitamin D value.

Beyond these natural sources, a doctor or dietitian may recommend a vitamin D supplement, after ruling out medication interactions or other health risks.

Sources:

Madi M, et al. “The association between vitamin D level and periodontal disease in Saudi population, a preliminary study.” 
sciencedirect.com

Yao P, Bennett D, Mafham M, et. al. “Vitamin D and calcium for the prevention of fracture.” 
jamanetwork.com

Kweder H, Eidi H. “Vitamin D deficiency in elderly: Risk factors and drugs impact on vitamin D status.” 
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

aplaceformom.com

 

Thursday, September 24, 2020 11:27

Introducing Medicare Advantage Plans

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Here at Everbrook Senior Living we like to make you aware of companies who we believe align with our vision and offer resources that can help aging adults in our communities.

One such company is Medicare Advantage Plans. At MedicareAdvantagePlans.org, their mission is to help current and future subscribers develop their understanding of Medicare so that they can navigate this complex system with confidence. Their most recent guide was designed to walk seniors and their families through the different medicare plans to find the best one that meets both their medical and financial needs. 

You can learn more about some of their helpful guides here: 

Figuring out if you qualify for Medicare Advantage and what benefits you’re entitled to can be confusing. Medicare Advantage Plans can help you figure out if you’re eligible.

Saturday, August 01, 2020 12:40

COVID-19 Facts About Senior Living

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What we have learned during Phase I

Researched based on Everbrook Senior Living Communities

  • Senior Living proved a safer alternative than seniors living with home care
  • Resident to resident transmission risk is low
  • In-home caregivers present increased risk due to high exposure
  • Senior Living staff are subjected to preventative protocols
  • Senior Living in communities were able to help residents maintain a quality of life throughout the pandemic


Benefits of moving into an Everbrook Senior Living Community

  • Strict environmental controls
  • Vigilance at tracing staff activities outside of work to identify risks
  • 24-hour nurses monitoring for signs of illness
  • Socialization with peers who help one another cope
  • Essential and non-essential services including chef-prepared meals
  • A robust exercise program that helps reduce risk of falls and injuries

Contact us today to schedule a visit.

Everbrook Senior Living was proud to host our first virtual event on May 20, 2020 featuring Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CLL, and the founder and owner of Atwood Dementia Group. Atwood led the group with ideas and exercises to practice at home, as many daily activities and plans have shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Atwood gave insight on strategies to connect with seniors in meaningful ways with items you can find in your home.

Were you unable to join us for the presentation? No worries! You can watch the following videos at your convenience to learn the tips and tricks from professionals. We'll be offering a virtual event each month. So check back soon for new and different educational webinars with top professionals in the field.

 

 

 

In the Month of April, the American Heart Association promotes everyone to MOVE MORE! This month we encourage everyone to participate in more physical activity. Make it your goal to move more and sit less. Staying active is one of the best ways to keep our bodies healthy, maintain our quality of life and keep our independence longer as we age. Start adding more activity into your day one step at a time. 

How long have you been sitting today? You sit while you eat your meals, drive your car, work at your desk, reading a book, watching TV, while you’re on your computer, or talking on the phone. It all adds up. People now spend a majority of their waking days sitting. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in 2019 that stated adults in the U.S. spent more than 6.4 hours a day sitting.

Try to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting every day to help improve your health. No matter how active you are, even if you’re getting the weekly recommended amount of exercise (150 minutes of moderate exercise), you still might be sitting too much. 

Making small changes in your daily routine will allow you to move more. Fit in 2, 5, 15, 30 minutes when possible. Be active however and wherever you can. Here are some tips to get yourself to move more throughout the day. Get up and move at least once every hour. If you’re watching TV, during the commercials take a walk down the hallway. After reading 20 pages in your book stand up, stretch and walk around. Walk while you’re talking on the phone. Park further away from the store when you go out shopping. Vacuum or dust the house. If you can’t walk or stand try seated knee lifts, arm circles, or straight leg raises. The important thing is to remember to move more, sit less.

The outbreak of COVID-19 or Coronavirus has spread fear much more virulently than the disease itself although older adults being at high risk of mortality from coronavirus certainly have much to fear. Self-isolation as a method to reduce transmission risk may not be an optimal response to the coronavirus threat for very old adults because social isolation and loneliness have been shown to be detrimental to the physical and mental well-being of seniors. Isolating seniors amid such high tension can only serve to heighten the risk to their mental and physical health. Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent among the elderly because their social networks tend to shrink in later life due to losses of friends, family or from age related functional loss. As whole communities retreat into isolation to ease concerns about acquiring coronavirus, the vulnerable elderly living in near isolation will be forced to deal with fears of dying or media reports of impending doom all alone. What an alarming development!

All gatekeepers to the elderly should increase urgency to help seniors stay connected socially during the coronavirus crisis. What seniors in later life need more than ever are peers sharing similar feelings of distress about coronavirus who can band together and help each other through this most difficult period. Gatekeepers to the elderly are reminded that social isolation and loneliness though not the same, are widely recognized among health experts as a cause of poorer health among the elderly. Social isolation is measured objectively by the number of contacts we have which can drop sharply as we age.1 Loneliness is measured subjectively as the difference between one’s desired and achieved levels of social connectedness which can increase as we age.2

This month in Gym Talk we will be focusing on brain health. When most people think of exercise and physical activity they think of building strength, improving balance and flexibility, or going for a walk. However, exercising the mind is just as important as exercising the body. The mind needs to be challenged daily in order to keep the brain working to the best of its ability for as long as possible. 

As we age, maintaining a sharp mind is a top priority. Activities you do to improve your body also benefit your brain. Exercise can increase the blood flow and oxygen to your brain as well as help your brain grow new neuronal connections. Mentally stimulating activities for your brain are just as important. Brain games help individuals to stay focused on the task at hand, remember instructions and improve our working memory so we have the skill to remember and use relevant information while performing an activity. Try participating in arts and crafts, do word puzzles and logic games, work on a jigsaw puzzle, attempt a sudoku puzzle or trivia game to help exercise your mind. 

Try a few tasks that target memory and attention:

  1. Name two objects for every letter in your first name
  2. Say the months of the year in alphabetical order
  3. Name six or more things you wear on your feet that start with an “S”

There are many ways to exercise the mind through brain games and activities. Try the game below for fun! Say aloud what color you see in every word, NOT the word you read as quick as possible. Go from left to right, from top to bottom.

Ready. Set. Go!

word game

Winter has arrived so it only makes sense that this month’s gym talk is about trying to prevent the common cold and flu. The start of flu season begins when levels of the flu are high, which usually begins around October and can last until May. The flu does share symptoms with the common cold; however, the flu can take a much greater toll on the body. The influenza virus or better known as the flu can not only effect humans, but nearly every other mammal and even birds on the planet making it easy for the flu to spread around the world. There are three main types of the flu: influenza A, influenza B, and influenza C. There has been no epidemics caused by influenza C, whereas Influenza A is the most common around the world. Influenza A can infect humans and animals as well as birds, unlike Influenza B, which is only carried in humans.

Symptoms of the flu include constant cough, runny nose, fever, sore throat, chills, muscle cramps/aches, headaches, diarrhea and/or vomiting. Just because you have some of these symptoms does not mean you have the flu. The common cold has similar symptoms, but usually does not get more severe then a fever and stuffy nose and only lasts for a few days. More severe symptoms lasting longer than a couple of days indicates you should get tested by a doctor. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019 16:12

The Impacts of Vitamin D Deficiency

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Addressing Vitamin D Deficiency in Later Life?

Could sun dried mushrooms and tank-top shirts be keys to reducing vitamin D deficiencies in later life thus reducing fall risks? Well, yes and let’s discuss why. Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin as it is made from cholesterol in skin and as the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) penetrate skin cells it causes production of vitamin D3. 1The dilemma for seniors is that older skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently while outside activities are often greatly reduced: and, while there are few foods that actually contain vitamin D, older seniors need more vitamin D, approximately 800 IU (international units) daily, as opposed to 600 IU daily for their younger counterparts. 2(According to the Institutes of Medicine, a serum 25 (OH) D level of 25 ng/ml is adequate for most populations while deficiency is defined as less than 20 ng/ml, with insufficiency being less than 30 ng/ml. Through a process called hydroxylation, the liver and kidneys turn stored vitamin D into an active form the body uses.) 

Vitamin D Deficiency is Linked to Poorer Health 

Because older adults are vulnerable to muscle weakness and falls, maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin D is important: there is evidence that sufficient vitamin D levels can strengthen bone and muscles in older adults which leads to reductions in falls3 – the primary benefit of vitamin D is to maintain serum calcium and phosphorus levels within normal ranges to support metabolic function, neuromuscular transmission, and bone mineralization.4 In fact, vitamin D deficiencies are linked to a multitude of health risks. For seniors in later life, vitamin D deficiency has been linked in studies to such conditions as cognitive decline, depression, osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, although there is debate about the strength of the link. 5Vitamin deficient older adults living in areas prone to inadequate exposure to sunlight have increased risk of experiencing cognitive decline. 6Vitamin D deficient older adults may experience a loss of bone density which causes fractures and falls.7 Vitamin D deficient older adults may experience increases of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 8Vitamin D deficient older adults may experience increases of risk factors for depression and other psychiatric conditions.9

This month’s topic for October’s Gym Talk is breast cancer awareness. October is breast cancer awareness month and we thought we’d share some eye-opening facts on breast cancer. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast caner in her lifetime. Breast cancer is also the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death among women. However, there has been a gradual reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates for those aged 50 and older and death rates have also been declining. There are over 3.3 million survivors in the United States Today.

The process of cell growth does not always go perfectly causing uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells resulting from damage to DNA. When this occurs a buildup of cells occurs called a tumor. Both male and female are born with breast cells and yes, even a male can develop breast cancer, but it is very rare. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men.

Fears of being placed in a nursing home preoccupy a supermajority of older adults as in surveys about their course of aging they consistently ranked memory loss, financial insecurity and losing independence as their top three concerns.1 Yet, after age 80, the risk of being placed in a nursing home increases significantly. Seniors of advanced age experience what is termed “functional aging”, that is an inevitable, progressively declining continuum in functional ability from having a stable capacity to perform daily activities through a state of physical vulnerability (influenced by cognitive loss) in which the person is losing independence.2 At advanced ages, some caregiver support becomes necessary for many, and for some, a nursing home admission. 

Although most seniors accept that the aging process accelerates physical and cognitive decline after age 80, they want to know whether they have any means to control the degree or pace of their functional losses. This article discusses the evidence-base showing that changes in lifestyle, particularly engaging in exercise targeted to improving functional fitness even in seniors who were mostly sedentary, can slow and in some cases reverse functional impairment, which in turn reduces the risk of being placed in a nursing home. In fact, there is strong evidence that long-term habitual exercise is linked to a slowing of the biological aging process, which certainly enhances independence.3: but, studies also show that even sedentary older adults who begin to exercise in later life can see significant improvements in physical and cognitive health.4

Functional impairment is caused by not only age, cognitive decline, multiple chronic medical conditions or following an acute medical event, but also from lifestyle choices- a sedentary lifestyle is shown to decrease functional fitness levels which in turn increases functional impairment while engaging in a physically active lifestyle appears to derive a polar opposite effect.5 Functional impairment reduces ability to perform activities of daily living, “ADL’s”:6 and, consequently, the most common reason that very old adults are placed in a nursing home is loss of ability to perform ADL’s.7 (Over 80% of nursing home residents need assistance with 3 or more ADL’s). Thus, when functional fitness is improved through exercise, that is, when an older adult experiences an enhanced ability to the summon strength, energy and executive function needed to carry out basic ADL’s, independence is retained for longer which reduces the risk of being placed in a nursing home.8

sept healthy aging month logoHello! It’s National Healthy Aging Month in the month of September! What is healthy aging you ask? Healthy aging is defined as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age. 

As we age, a lot of things about our body change both physically and mentally. It’s very important to be open to adapt healthy habits and behaviors as we grow. Physically, getting involved in an exercise program with friends or within your community. You can use preventative services and manage your health conditions regularly by seeing your physician once/twice a year with follow-ups to make sure you’re in the best possible health. Going over medications with your MD and knowing, as well as understanding, risk factors as you age is also important. Maybe that blood pressure medication you were put on before is not needed now due to improved health! Making changes in nutrition is important as well, such as less sodium intake in the foods you eat. Make a goal to stop smoking or smoke less than you used to before. Get your balance and vision checked to prevent falls. These are all great things you can do to maintain a strong healthy body.

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