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Displaying items by tag: senior health

Tuesday, 07 February 2023 13:29

Healthy Intimate Relationships in Older Adulthood

Need for intimacy does not diminish as we grow older. Whether romantic or platonic, maintaining close relationships helps older adults experience greater vitality, a sense of belonging, and deeper meaning in life. There are also many health benefits that come with maintaining healthy intimacy during one’s golden years.

Benefits of Intimate Relationships for Older Adults

  • Lower stress, greater resilience
  • Better recovery following surgery
  • Protection against depression and anxiety
  • Lower resting blood pressure
  • Enhanced feelings of self-worth and meaning
  • Overall better health (e.g., less frequent illness)
  • Longer lifespan

Ways Older Adults Can Enhance Intimate Relationships

Whether it’s the closeness between two friends or sparking romance, there are some very simple ways to older adults can enhance their intimate relationships.

Everyday Moments Matter. Physical touch in small, mindful doses throughout the day is an easy way to let someone know of your affection for them. From a spontaneous backrub or foot rub to a gentle touch on the hand or shoulder, these signal to the other person that they are important to you. 

Laugh Together. This is a good excuse to go to a funny movie or a comedy club: Laughing eases stress, promotes social bonding, and lowers blood pressure. It may even boost your immune system. Whether with your romantic partner or a special friend, think of ways that the two of you can laugh together more often.

Share More Deeply. Conversation with your significant person is a great way to build intimacy. However, discussion should be about more than the weather or the latest tragic story of the day. Sharing more deeply means opening up your heart, revealing feelings and disclosing hopes, fears, or dreams. 

Switch-up Your Routine. By the time we reach older adulthood, we can be pretty set in our ways and routines. To create intimacy, get adventurous by switching-up your routines. This could be as easy as trying a new restaurant, working on a project/ hobby or taking a class together, or planning travel to destinations more exotic than you would typically consider.

It’s Thoughtfulness That Counts. We can get so accustomed to a platonic or romantic partnership that we forget to show appreciation for the other person by simply doing something nice for the other person. Enhancing intimacy can be as easy as offering a compliment, buying a small bouquet of flowers, helping with chores that are typically “the other person’s job”, or cooking a meal for the other person.

Unplug. Just like younger generations, older adults can get sucked into the digital world. Socializing on fine and developing new technology skills are great, but technology should not replace or interfere with personal interaction. Unplug and be fully present, in person.

Get a Little Sexy. Sexual intimacy in older adulthood can boost self-esteem, help reduce stress, enhance immunity, improve sleep, and help you maintain overall good health. If you’ve still got mojo to share (and who doesn’t) then get a little sexy! This might mean buying tasteful intimate attire for your partner, sharing a bed rather than sleeping apart (as many older couples resort to), exploring different ways to experience touch (e.g., massage), or if needed, working with a therapist who specializes in intimacy in older adulthood.

Healthy physical and emotional connection in older adulthood enhances intimate relationships. It’s good for your physical and emotional health and can strengthen friendships or spice-up romantic relationships.

At Everbrook Senior Living, the Life-Enrichment Activities Program is just one of the many offerings that focus on helping our residents establish and maintain meaningful relationships throughout the golden years. To learn more about our programs and arrangements for independent or assisted living, get in touch with us, today.

Resources

National Institutes of Health: Sexuality in Older Adulthood

Why is Intimacy Important for Older Adults? National Council on Aging

Published in Health & Wellness

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

Preserving Eye Health, Reducing Risk for Cataracts

Early detection and treatment of cataracts is critical to preserving your vision. Even though cataract formation may be an inevitable part of the aging process for many of us, there are things you can do to preserve eye health and reduce your risk for cataracts having a significant negative impact on your quality of life. 

Move that Body. Moving your body enough to elevate your heart rate for 30 minutes each day is not just good for your heart, lungs, joints, and muscles—it’s good for your eyes. Whatever you enjoy for movement, do it. Exercise, such as walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi, weight training, hiking, increases circulation, carrying oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to all the vital organs, including the eyes.

Get More Greens. Dark, leafy green vegetables contain antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and minerals that support the health of the eyes (and the whole body!). Increase your intake of broccoli, collards, spinach, dark leaf lettuces, sprouts, etc. to obtain these nutrients.

Be Cool, Wear Shades. UV-protective eyewear is essential year-round. In the summer, the days are longer, and sun exposure increases as we spend more time outdoors. In winter, the sun is lower in the sky and often can feel like it’s “at eye level” with us while we drive or are outdoors. Just because it is colder outside, does not diminish the impact of UV light on our eyes. If you boat or engage in winter sports, the glare of the sun off the water and the snow increases the damaging effects of UV rays. So…no matter the season, you’ve got to wear shades!

If you are concerned about changes in your vision, or experiencing any of the symptoms listed, it may be time to adopt healthier habits, make changes in your vision care plan, or consult with an ophthalmologist. The health and wellness team at each of the Everbrook Senior Living communities are here to support and guide you.

Resources

American Academy of Ophthalmology “What are Cataracts?” https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-cataracts 

Prevent Blindness https://preventblindness.org/cataract-awareness-june-2022/

Published in Healthcare

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.

Everbrook Senior Living Residents Find Meaning, Purpose in Ageless Communities

The Everbrook philosophy is that, in later life we become ageless: As we fully accept our health and functional status, and that of our friends and neighbors, we recognize how interdependence helps to preserve independence. Our staff design and deliver activities that are suitable for all residents without regard to their functional status (independent living, assisted living, memory care). It is very important to all of us at Everbrook—and to our residents—that there is mutual respect and support among residents and that all residents experience belonging. 

To promote a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose (as suggested by the research study), our staff plans activities that enrich intellectual, social, and emotional wellbeing and help to give residents a sense of control over their aging process. Our interdisciplinary team is well-trained to deliver stage-appropriate activities that are matched to a resident’s functional and cognitive abilities. We employ adaptive methods of communication to evoke and sustain a positive emotion throughout the day. 

Our Wellness 4 Later Life™ program model encompasses seven dimensions of wellness: physical, spiritual, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, and environmental, as are advocated by the International Council of Active Aging. We help our residents discover what is significant in their life, now. Residents, with as much support as is needed, identify ways to add meaning/purpose to their self-care, in their activities at Everbrook, and in the community beyond Everbrook.

Original Research
Positive psychological constructs and association with reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis” by Georgia Bell et al. Ageing Research Reviews. The study was supported by the Alzheimer’s Society

Supporting Research, Resources

Dockray, S., & Steptoe, A. (2010). Positive affect and psychobiological processes. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 35(1), 69–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.01.006 

Ong, A. D., Mroczek, D. K., & Riffin, C. (2011). The Health Significance of Positive Emotions in Adulthood and Later Life. Social and personality psychology compass, 5(8), 538–551.https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00370.x 

National Institute on Aging. Positive Mood in Older Adults Suggests Better Brain Function. (2020, Research Highlights 

Published in Health & Wellness

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.

How Much Sleep Does an Older Adult Need?

Throughout the lifespan, the amount of sleep we need changes. Also, regardless of age, the amount of sleep you need is influenced by the quality of the sleep you do get, your activity level, and genetics (e.g., some of us really are night owls). Adults typically need 7 to 9 hours of sleep with older adults on the lower end of the range. A very physically active older adult might need more than a sedentary or less active older adult. 

5 Tips to Help an Older Adult Develop and Maintain Good Quality Sleep

The following tips can help older adults maintain good quality sleep habits:

  1. Stick with a Sleep Routine. A sleep routine includes soothing pre-bedtime rituals or steps each night, such as a warm bath, reading (in another room), meditation, or gentle stretching. You’ll want to go to bed and wake at the same time each day. This not only makes it easier to fall asleep, it teaches your body when to expect sleep. 
  2. A note about napping. We all know seniors enjoy their naps. It’s best (for anyone) to nap before 5:00 PM and to limit naps to 20 minutes.
  3. Create Sleep Ambience. The room you sleep in should be quiet, dark, and cool (between 60˚ - 72˚). If you have issues with outside lighting penetrating the room, use blackout shades or wear an eye mask. 
  4. Move Your Body. Compared to exercising late at night, exercising early in the day or early evening (before 7) makes it easier for most people to fall asleep. Exercise also increases the amount and quality of deep sleep you get.
  5. Maintain an Active Sex Life. Regular relations can improve sleep quality so don’t use your time between the sheets to negotiate new car insurance or discuss vacation plans.

The Golden Rule for A Good Night's Sleep: You should only be in bed for two things—sleep and making whoopie! Any other activities performed in bed (reading, computer work, phone calls) can disrupt sleep hygiene.

What Else Can You Do to Improve Sleep?

  • Remove electronic devices from your room. Research shows that, when used within an hour of bedtime, TV and digital devices have a negative effect on sleep quality.
  • Sleep on a mattress and pillows that are comfortable and supportive.
  • Finish eating meals 2-3 hours before bedtime. A light snack an hour before bedtime is okay. Avoid salty, hot, fried, sugary, and saucy foods that require more energy from digestion.
  • Try to limit how many caffeinated products you consume in the afternoon.
  • Alcohol and nicotine in your body can disrupt sleep and can cause nighttime waking. For optimal sleep, don’t use them close to bedtime or avoid them altogether.

A good guide for determining your sleep requirement is this: If you do not wake up feeling refreshed, you may not be getting enough, proper sleep.

Are you Sleep Deprived?

Stay tuned next month as we'll be discussing how sleep deprivation in seniors can mimic signs of dementia. If seniors can't get better rest, and if symptoms don’t resolve it may be time to consult your doctor, and even consider memory care or assisted living services.

Sources

Gottlieb DJ, et al. Association of Sleep Time with Diabetes Mellitus and Impaired Glucose Tolerance, Archives of Internal Medicine. 2005 Apr 25; 165(8): 863.

King, CR et al. Short Sleep Duration and Incident Coronary Artery Calcification, JAMA, 2008: 300(24): 2859-2866. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19109114

Cohen S, et al. Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold, Arch of Intern Med. 2009 Jan 12; 169 (1):62-67.

Spiegel K, et al. Impact of Sleep Debt on Metabolic and Endocrine Function, Lancet. 1999 Oct 23: 354(9188): 1435-9.

Published in Helpful Tips

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

Many types of supplements can have these effects, depending upon the medication you are taking. This includes vitamins, minerals, herbs, and enzymes/enzymatic formulas. The nutritional supplement can be in a capsule, tablet, or a tea and still be a risk for interaction with prescription medication. 

Information to Give Your Doctor about Supplements You are Taking

It is so important for your doctor to know about all supplements you are taking. Tell the doctor:

  • Name of the supplement
  • How much you take
  • How often you take it
  • The form you take it in
  • Where you purchased it, if you recall that information

Common Nutritional Supplements that Interact with Prescription Meds

The following nutritional supplements* can interact with prescription medications and alter how they work in the body:

  • Concentrated garlic extract 
  • Ginseng
  • Goldenseal
  • Kava
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Ginkgo Biloba
  • Iron and multivitamin/mineral supplements containing iron
  • Grapefruit extract and juice

*This is not a complete list.

Tips for Preventing a Nutritional Supplement & Prescription Drug Interaction

To prevent dangers reactions from taking supplements with prescription drugs, follow these tips:

  1. Tell all of your doctors about every medicine and supplement you take. Bring a list to your appointments.
  2. When you are prescribed a new medicine, ask your doctor these questions:
  • How will the drug work in my body?
  • Can I take this with the other medicines I am using?
  • Should I avoid certain foods, beverages, supplements, or other products?
  • Are there any drug reaction or interaction signs I should know about?
  1. Use a drug interaction checker. Visit: drugs.com or rxlist.com to quickly identify if any interaction warnings appear for products you are taking. Always talk with your doctor before making any changes. 
  2. Read all labels on any over-the-counter and prescription medicines –look for information about drug interactions. 
  3. Where possible, purchase nutritional supplements from an integrative or functional medicine physician if your own doctor is not experienced in this area. 
  4. Use one pharmacy for all of your prescriptions. This keeps a complete record of your medications in one place and makes it easier to track prescriptions ordered by different doctors. 

If you experience a medication interaction while also taking an nutritional supplement, report it using this form and report it to your physician.

Exceptional, High-Level Care for Senior Living 

At Everbrook Senior Living, our exceptionally well-trained professional staff are attentive to the various medications, supplemental nutrition support, and special dietary and lifestyle needs of every one of our residents. Whether you are living with us independently or are a part of our assisted living or memory care community, your health and wellbeing is our staff’s top priority. When you, or a loved one, are ready to move to a transitional care community rich with exceptional amenities, world-class medical expertise, and a devoted staff, schedule your visit with Everbrook Senior Living.

Sources

Food and Drug Administration

National Council on Patient Information and Education

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Council for Responsible Nutrition

The Dana Foundation: Gateway to Responsible Information about the Brain. “What is ‘Healthy’ Cognitive Aging?” 

http://www.dana.org/News/What_is_‘Healthy__Cognitive_Aging_/ 

Published in Medication

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

Published in Information
Monday, 05 August 2019 16:14

Exercise and Heat-Related Illness

This month’s topic for Gym Talk is "Heat Safety Awareness".

Hot weather can be dangerous, and seniors over the age of 65 are among those most at risk for heat exhaustion. Now that the hot weather has arrived it's important to know the signs of heat exhaustion and how to stay cool.

The human body regulates temperature through sweating, until exposed to more heat than the body can handle. As you become older the ability to notice changes in your own body’s temperature decreases. Others at risk for heat illness include infants and young children, people who are ill, those with chronic health conditions or on certain medications, and people who are overweight. Health conditions can make the body less able to adapt to the heat. Also, some medicines can contribute to dehydration.

Published in Helpful Tips
Monday, 15 July 2019 16:11

Stonebrook Village Gym Talk: Brain Health

This month we’ll be focusing on exercise and brain health. This is a topic that usually doesn’t get a lot of attention but is very important as far as one’s mental health is concerned. When we talk about exercise were always referring to the physical part of exercise and tend to leave out the mental part, so we wanted to share some awesome news on this topic!

Let’s talk about an overview of the brain first. The brain is one of, if not the most complex, organs in our body. The human body cannot physically and mentally run without a brain. The brain produces our every thought, action, memory, feeling and experience of our lifetime. It weighs about 3 pounds containing millions of neurons (nerve cells) working hard each day so what better way to treat your brain than to exercise it with physical activity and nutrition!

Published in Stonebrook Village
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