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Karen M. Rider

Karen M. Rider

Karen M. Rider, M.A. crafts credible and compelling health content to better engage readers in their own health journey. With 16 years of health writing experience, Karen has worked with a variety of healthcare organizations, senior living services, and medical practitioners to develop content that elevates consumer health literacy.

Website URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karen-m-rider Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We’ve covered a great variety of health topics on our blog—most of which focus on encouraging older adults toward an active lifestyle to support their social, physical, and emotional wellbeing. This month, in recognition of National Men’s Health Month, we want to focus on a topic important to men’s emotional and mental health: depression in men. To be clear, depression is not a part of the normal aging process. Depression in older adult men can be overlooked when other health conditions are present, such as dementia. This makes it all the more important to understand and be able to recognize depression in older adult men.

The experience of depression can be quite different for men compared to women. It’s important for loved ones to be able to understand a man’s unique experience of depression so they can best provide support for coping with this serious mental health condition. 

Who Suffers from Depression?

Of all the mood disorders, depression is the most common, afflicting over 21 million Americans from all ethnic groups, ages, and backgrounds each year. Annually, over six million men suffer from depression. In general, men (compared to women) have been less open about reporting symptoms of depression to a healthcare provider. In recent years, thanks to high profile stories of men speaking openly about their mental health and a movement to de-stigmatize conditions like depression, men have been more forthcoming about their struggles with depression.  

There are still generational differences around mental health, including depression. Some older adult men may not be willing to admit to feeling depressed—they may look for a “logical reason” for what they are feeling, and become despondent and/or angry when they can’t pinpoint that reason to explain their depressed mood. 

A Man’s Experience of Depression

Ups and downs in mood are a natural part of being human. Hour to hour, day to day, our emotions can shift based on events in our lives and our perceptions of these events. Clinical depression in men reflects a disturbance in mood and emotion over a period of time, interfering with a person’s usual daily routine and their ability to derive enjoyment from living as they usually do.

If you are concerned that a man in your life may be struggling with depression, ask yourself if there is evidence of the following signs/symptoms:

  • Uncontrolled anger or violent behavior that is uncharacteristic of them
  • Increased use of alcohol / tobacco 
  • Reckless behavior 
  • Changes in usual eating & sleeping habits that persists for 2+ weeks
  • Frequent complaints of headaches, physical pain, or similar
  • Feeling unrelenting pressure, even when simple requests are made
  • Changes in how they view themselves and their life
  • Decreased desire for social interaction, relationships, and intimacy
  • Not able to experience joy in things that usually hold meaning/interest for them

What Can Trigger Depression in Older Adult Men?

For older adult men, depression can be triggered by situations that create feelings of helplessness, anger or stress, such as: 

  • Overwhelming change in responsibility at work or home, including caretaker duties
  • Retirement, particularly if there isn’t a plan for it
  • Feeling dissatisfied with their accomplishments in life
  • Unanticipated changes in relationships (loss, illness, broken ties)
  • Chronic illness, injury, disability that alters lifestyle & independence
  • Changes in memory / other areas of cognitive function
  • Financial problems

Remember: There isn’t a single cause of depression; sometimes, it can afflict a man for no apparent reason. This is why addressing depression must consider biological (genetic factors), psychological, and social factors as well as things like lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills.

What Can Older Adult Men Do to Protect Against Depression?

Men can do many things to help protect against risk of depression. The following healthy living tips are a good start:

Get Cuddly. Hugs, a gentle hand on the back, and other affectionate touch is shown to reduce stress, and lower heart rate and blood pressure. It also increases the hormone oxytocin, which plays a role in our desire for social and romantic bonding. Touch, ideally, is between two people who care for one another’s well being, but older adults can also benefit from cuddling a dog—a live animal or a robotic therapy pet

Stay Social. Older adults need in person social connections to support their emotional wellbeing. People who maintain social ties—over a cup of coffee, lunch, dinner, or a game of cards—have lower risk for depression and other health problems, tend to live longer, and report having happier lives, overall.

Eat a Brain Smart Diet. The food you eat influences the production of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that play a role in regulating emotional experience and mood. A brain smart diet includes primarily plant0based whole foods, lean cuts of poultry and fish, and, less frequently beef, as well as a variety of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. 

Mood Lifting Movement. There’s a significant link between exercise and positive mood. You don’t need to have a racing heart rate to get the mood boosting effects of exercise. You can benefit from taking a stroll through your neighborhood, dancing in your living room, splashing around in the pool, plating catch, or even doing yoga in a chair. If you can get a partner to join you, even better: You’ll reap the benefits of social connection while engaged in mood lifting movement! 

In older adults, what looks like depression could be another underlying health condition—such as sleep deprivation or dementia. And, some health conditions common to older adults can mask a depressive disorder. If you suspect that you, or a loved one, is experiencing depression, please speak to a healthcare provider right away. 

Resources

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Men’s Mental Health” 

Mental Health America. “Depression” 

Murray, M.T. and Pizzorno, J. “Depression.” Cited in Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (3rd Ed.) 2012. New York, NY: Atria Paperback: Simon & Schuster, Inc.  p. 497-498.

When Mom resides in an assisted living facility, Mother’s Day might look different than celebrations in years past. However, you can bring a unique Mother’s Day activity to her at her residence. Take a look at our list of festive ideas to inspire how you share this special day with your mom.

Planning a Special Mother’s Day in Assisted Living

Before you make plans, be sure to check with the staff regarding updated policies and procedures at the assisted living community. This is especially important if your mom happens to be taking medications or has had a recent change in their health status that could affect her mobility, energy level, or social skills.

If your original plan requires accommodations, ask the staff to assist you in accordance with your mom’s needs and the facility policies.

A Day of Reminiscing. If Mom lives close enough to her original hometown and you can have her out and about for the day, then plan to take her down memory lane! Begin with brunch at her favorite restaurant and car ride or stroll around the old neighborhood. Bring her by schools, homes of friends, parks, and other places she frequented during her life and in raising her family. If some of those places no longer exist, you can show her how the neighborhood has changed. Alternatively, you can bring out old photo albums and gather the kids and grandkids to hear Mom share stories of her youth. Wrap of the day with a home-cooked meal or a meal all together back at the assisted living facility. 

Spend Time on Her Favorite Hobby. Maybe your mom has had a lifelong love of gardening, or art, or reading books. Pick-up some terra cotta pots, assorted bulbs and live plants and plan a day of potting plants that will bloom in the weeks to come. This will provide healthy décor for her living space and serve as a beautiful reminder of your time together. Similarly, you could bring a paint and pottery project to her and makes something together, visit local art museums, or take her to a thrift bookstore to stock-up on new reads. Conclude the day with dinner out or at her residence.

Create a Family Recipe Book. Spend the day cooking favorite meals from your childhood—and hers! Prepare a breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. In between the cooking and eating, gather together all the recipes that mom has kept over the years—including all those “secret ingredient” ones she tries to keep from everyone. Work together to create a paper or digitized family recipe book. 

For any of these activities, you can have the grandkids and any of your siblings stop by throughout the day, or the weekend, to participate. 

Tips for Making Mother’s Day Meaningful for YOUR Mom

If these ideas aren’t on par with what will work for your mom, the following tips may help you come up with meaningful ideas that are just right for your mom:

What are some of your mom’s favorite things from over the years: music, books, hobbies, places? Brainstorm ways to bring those things into her assisted living residence. For example, she may not be able to visit Hawaii again, but you can put together a slideshow of her trip there and watch Hawaiian themed movies, together. 

Does she still have close friends from her neighborhood? If so, consider bringing some of these folks to her on your next visit, or arrange a group video call.

Does she have a bucket list item? Consider some of the things your mom has always wanted to do or see—and try to find a way to bring that wish to life for her.

There are many ways to make Mother’s Day special for a mom residing in assisted care. A little creativity and a lot of love and thoughtfulness will help you plan a wonderful celebration with, and for your mom.

Spring is blooming all around us and as soon as the chill leaves the air, you’ll be wanting to step outdoors to recreate. Older adults can keep the spring in their step and prevent falls by maintaining a simple routine of balance and strength building exercises.

If you’ve felt unsteady around your home during the winter months, or if you (or a beloved older family member) have a history of falling or being unsteady, it’s important to step into physical activity with extra caution. Though it is tempting to venture out on a long walk on the first warm day of the spring season, not being physically ready for the increase in physical activity can lead to a potentially devastating fall or other injury. Older adults want to pay attention developing and maintaining balance, coordination, and strength in the legs as well as their core muscles around the midsection. 

“Having good balance can help older adults avoid both the frequency and the severity of their falls, reducing the the likelihood they will suffer a serious injury that will lead to a significant and permanent change in their quality of life. That is why exercise is so important on a daily basis!”

~ Michael Levandowski, B.S. EP-C, CDP, Everbrook Exercise Physiologist

The following are basic exercises that senior citizens can be doing year-round, particularly during the weeks and months leading up to spring. If you haven’t participated in an exercise program in quite a while, be sure to get cleared by your physician before you begin. Also, seek the guidance of a certified fitness trainer who specializes in working with older adults.

Strength and Balance Training: Essential for Older Adults

For older adults, certain movements or activities can present cause them to feel unsteady and increases their risk for falling, such as:

  • squatting to pick up an item from the floor
  • standing up from a chair
  • sitting down into a low seat
  • walking on uneven surfaces
  • pivoting to reach for an object or move out of the way of something

Exercises for Fall Prevention in Older Adults

Sit-to-Stand Exercise

The sit-to-stand exercise builds leg strength and improves body mechanics and balance, which are important in reducing falls. This exercise mimics the movements that are necessary to rise from a seated position and return to that position. Seats of varying heights can be used based on a person’s starting range of motion and ability to move independently or with an assisted device such as a cane or walking stick. 

Balance Training Exercises

The ability to stand on both feet, and on either foot independently, is essential for fall prevention as well as for climbing or descending a flight of steps. At home, it’s easy to work on balance training exercises. Just be sure you are nearby a steady piece of furniture, such as a couch or a countertop that you can easily reach out to if you do feel unsteady.

Standing Feet Apart

Start with both feet on the ground, shoulder distance apart. Stand without holding onto anything for 10 seconds, working your way to 1 minute for a set of 3-5 repetitions. 

Standing Feet Together

Start with both feet on the ground, shoulder distance apart. Stand without holding onto anything for 10 seconds, working your way to 1 minute for a set of 3-5 repetitions. 

Standing on 1 Foot at a time

  • 2. 2-3 sets for 10-12 repetitions 
  • Perform with eyes open and with eyes closed

Yoga or Tai Chi Class

If you are already steady on your feet. Practicing yoga or Tai Chi 1-3 times a week is an excellent way to maintain and even improve your strength, balance and coordination. You might also benefit from a regular workout, twice a week, using strength training equipment under the supervision of an exercise specialist, as noted above.

Fitness and Wellness at Everbrook Senior Living

Senior fitness and wellness are a priority at Everbrook Senior Living. Whether you are part of our independent living community or require assisted living services, our cutting-edge exercise program is led by a certified exercise physiologist who delivers evidence-based, safe and fun exercises designed for older adults. In addition to a focus on individual needs, we also offer a variety group exercise and Wellnes 4 Later Life programs, all designed to help you feel your best at every age and state of life.

We’d love for you to see what the Everbrook family of senior living residences has to offer you. Get in touch with us, today, to schedule a tour.

Additional Resources on Fall Prevention Exercise for Older Adults

National Council on Aging

Tufts School of Medicine “Exercise Decreases Fall Risk for Elderly People”

Is forgetfulness, faulty memory, or even dementia hardwired into the brain’s destiny as we age? 

Some scientists think that terrifying idea may hold some truth; but hope lies with scientists who are studying just the opposite question: 

What can we do to protect brain health, particularly as we get past age 40 and progress into the older adult years? 

One important area of research is the role of nutrition for a healthy older adult brain. What we are leaning is that, indeed, key nutrients and dietary habits can help protect the integrity and longevity of brain cells and nerve pathways. 

Let’s learn a bit more about how older adults should eat to nourish a healthy brain!

Dementia:What Happens to the Brain?

Scientists believe the dementia disease process begins when protein builds-up in brain tissue, causing damage to nerve cells. This evolves over a period of many years (sometimes as much as 10-20 years) before symptoms show up. Genetics, lifestyle, dietary habits, and environmental factors influence the onset of dementia and the rate of deterioration for each person is different for each person.

Since research shows a variety of factors influence the development of the dementia, it’s important to learn what factors you have the ability to exert some control over—to potentially alter your brain’s destiny, such as

  • Keeping your heart & lungs fit with aerobic activity e.g., walking, swimming, cycling
  • Keeping your muscles limber & strong with activities like yoga, strength training, tai chi
  • Managing stress through relaxation and mindfulness techniques
  • Cultivating resilience and optimism
  • Maintaining a consistent, healthy sleep routine
  • Eating a nutrient rich diet to support the brain (and the body!)

Keep in mind, the earlier in life you establish these habits, the better your overall health will be and the better the protection you give to your nervous system and brain.  Let’s take a closer look at smart eating for older adults. 

Nutrition Tips for Brain Health in Older Adulthood

Choosing fresh, high quality, and nutrient rich foods is the foundation for eating for brain health. Whole foods (not boxed, packaged, and processed), provide the greatest nutrient density and it is nutrients that work in your cells to exert healthy effects on organs and tissues in the body. Plus, fresh food simply tastes better!

  • Select organic foods when you can because this will decrease the food having been exposed to toxins that exist in conventional farm soil and processing methods. 
  • Limit your intake of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol which can draw nutrients away from the cells and flush them out of your body before the bodyhas a chance to absorb them.

Key Nutrients Older Adults Need for Brain Health

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil) help reduce inflammation in the body; this includes nourishing and protecting brain cells. Your body cannot make Omega-3 fatty acids, so you must get these nutrients from the food you eat or from a supplement. Omega-3 rich foods include salmon, tuna, halibut, krill, as well as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. Ideally, you want to take in 1000-2000 mg of Omega-3s for optimal health and brain support

Vitamin B-6 is known to support the body’s ability to fight germs and produce energy, and it supports brain development early life. As we age, B6 is involved in more than 200 physiological interactions, but with age and typical changes to eating habits, we get less of this nutrient. Studies show high levels of homocysteine have been associated with different types of dementia and general cognitive decline. Vitamin B6 helps the body regulate levels of homocysteine in the blood, so it can support brain health. Foods rich in B-6 include chicken, salmon, nuts, chickpeas, and some fruits. A b-6 supplement should be discussed with your physician to be sure you don’t take too much.

Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds in plants, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This means these plant chemicals help protect cells from inflammation and do a better job of reducing inflammation that does occur. To get your daily dose of brain-boosting polyphenols eat 5 servings a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Probiotics have been getting a good deal of attention for the role they play in supporting gut health. You might have heard about the gut microbiota and the microbiome? Well, as it turns out a healthy gut supports the immune system, helping to keep undesirable bacteria levels low, and encouraging good bacteria to flourish. There’s also emerging research showing strong connections between gut health and brain health (known as the gut-brain-axis). It seems certain probiotics can protect from cognitive decline and/or support healthy cognitive function, but more conclusive evidence is needed. There are many strains of probiotics so it’s important to speak with your health provider about which probiotic supplement is best for your brain health concerns. 

These are just a few of the key nutrients that support brain health for older adults. There are other vitamins and minerals, as well as herbs, that can support a healthy, aging brain. Please check-in with your healthcare provider for the approach for your healthcare needs.

Nourishing Mind and Body with Exceptional Amenities at Everbrook

At Everbrook Senior Living, you’ll find exceptional amenities to support your lifestyle. Our best-in-class dining venues provide our residents with nourishing, delicious meals. Our Wellness 4 Later Life offers a variety of activities, excursions, and hobbies to support a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Contact our care coordinators to learn more about our living options—or schedule a tour of one of our charming New England properties. 

Resources 

TED Radio Hour. “Lisa Genova: Can Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?”https://www.npr.org/2017/07/21/537016132/lisa-genova-can-alzheimers-disease-be-prevented

NIA.NIH.gov“What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?”https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-causes-alzheimers-disease 

NutritionData.com. Foods Highest in Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Ahttp://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-012140000000000000000.html?maxCount=20 

Alzheimer’s Association. The Healthy Brain Initiative: A national public health road map to maintaining cognitive health. (published with the CDC).https://www.alz.org/national/documents/report_healthybraininitiative.pdf 

Cederholm, T., Salem, N. & Jan Palmblad; ω-3 Fatty Acids in the Prevention of Cognitive Decline in Humans, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 4, Issue 6, 1 November 2013, Pages 672–676.https://doi.org/10.3945/an.113.004556

Older adults can celebrate Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month by treating their senior sweetie to a heart-healthy treat: Dark chocolate

More than just an indulgence, nutrients found in dark chocolate can support cardiovascular health, which is important for aging adults. But not just any ole’ dark chocolate; you want to indulge in dark chocolate with a high cacao content. What’s so special about cacao? Glad you asked! 

Cacao: Raw Chocolate, Food of the Gods!

Considered by ancient Mayan culture to be the ‘food of the gods,’ cacao is cocoa (chocolate) in a raw, less-processed form. Cacao grows from trees called Theobroma cacao, which are native to South America and West Africa where more than half of the world’s cacao comes from. After harvesting, cacao is processed to make various chocolate products. The more cacao is processed, the more nutrients it loses. Less processing not only helps dark chocolate retain nutrient density, less additives are mixed-in, such as added sugars, palm oils, butters, and artificial flavoring.

To derive maximum health benefit from eating dark chocolate (in moderation) choose chocolate that contains 70-85% cacao (60% is the minimum cacao content).

What Makes High Cacao Dark Chocolate Good for You?

Like most plants, cacao contains nutrients and plant compounds (known as polyphenols) that support health. Dark chocolate, that is minimally processed, contains several health-promoting compounds. When cacao-rich dark chocolate is eaten in moderation as part of an otherwise healthy diet for older adults, it is associated with the following heart-healthy benefits:

  • Antioxidants help to protect the health and integrity of cells and tissues by neutralizing free radical molecules in your body. (Free radicals are by-products of oxidative stress that occurs when your body is exposed to toxins.) Antioxidants are also associated with keeping inflammation at bay, which helps protect health and lower risk for chronic disease.
  • Flavonoids/flavonols are plant compounds that promote heart health by fighting free radicals, supporting blood flow, and lowering blood pressure. In regard to cholesterol, some studies of overweight and obese persons show that dark chocolate reduces LDL particles in the blood vessels; LDL cholesterol is what clogs arteries and leads to heart disease.
  • Magnesium, Potassium, and Zinc are minerals that support muscle tissue, heart function, and immunity. 1

Dark Chocolate as Part of an Older Adult’s Healthy Diet

Knowing that dark chocolate can support heart health isn’t a free pass to eat bars of it every day. When nutritionists and healthcare providers suggest eating dark chocolate, they are talking about an ounce or two a couple of times a week. They also intend for you to reduce your intake of overprocessed sweets and snacks and replace those with cacao-rich dark chocolate. In a nutshell, dark chocolate should a part of an older adult’s healthy diet inclusive of veggies, fruits, lean meats, poultry, and plenty of water.

Check out these 12 healthy versions of dark chocoalte recipes – our favorite: The Dark Chocolate Fondue.

This Valentine’s Day, surprise your sweetie by making cacao-rich dark chocolate fondue and sharing dipped fruit together. Remember to use chocolate ingredients that is 60% or higher in cacao content. 

Fun Flavor Fact: Raw cacao has a unique flavor profile! Depending on the cacao content, dark chocolate can be slightly to very bitter compared to its more processed chocolate cousin. This is why many high-cacao dark chocolate products are infused with other nutrient-dense ingredients, such as dried fruit (raspberry, acai berry, blueberry) or fruit extract (orange, berry) or nuts (walnut, cashew). These ingredients cut the bitterness and enhance the sweet, tangy flavor profile of dark chocolate.

There are many simple ways for an older adult to make, and keep, a New Year’s resolution. Whether you want to exercise more regularly, drink less soda, or learn how to draw, the following tips can help you be successful with your resolution for 2024.

Resolution Making: Getting Started

First, kudos to you for recognizing it’s never too late to make a change, try something new, or otherwise enhance an area of your life.

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that change is a process. The more ready you make yourself for it, the easier it can be to follow through to successfully keeping your New Year’s resolution.

A few things to keep in mind:

Know Your Why. Write down why you want to make a particular change. Motivation is an important predictor of behavior, so be honest about your why. If your motivation for change isn’t important enough to you, you are less likely to stick with your 2024 resolution. Make note of how you want to feel when you achieve your resolution. 

  • Connect emotion to your why to strengthen your motivation and commitment to it: I’ll feel healthier and stronger and more confident when I strength train three days per week. 
  • Another strategy for strengthening your why is to link it to something (or someone) of importance to you: Taking this art class will teach me new skills and I’ll be able to socialize with my friends—and maybe make a new one!

Grant Yourself Patience and Kindness. Whether you’re adding a healthy habit like eating more fruit throughout the day or trying to reduce a poor habit such as smoking or watching too much TV, making a change takes about 6 weeks before the behavior becomes routine for you. Be patient with yourself. If you slip-up, intentionally or on purpose, be kind to yourself. Every moment, every day, is a chance to begin again and do better. Berating yourself will only make you less motivated to stick with your resolution. Be kind to you!

Do Set Goals. Don’t Aim for Perfection. Of course, you’ll set goals to guide your process during those six weeks and beyond. It’s also important to understand that making a behavior change involves more than just good planning. There will be emotional ups and downs, progress and setbacks that will be different for each person. Plan for success and be realistic about challenges you may encounter. Try to anticipate how you will handle challenges that pop-up (our list below can help with this). If you are moving toward your goals 80% of the time, you are doing great! 

4 Tips to Help Older Adults Keep Their 2024 New Year’s Resolution

  1. Find Your Tribe. Enlist the support of loved ones, friends, and co-workers or a health/wellness coach. Working toward a New Year Resolution together provides social support that makes it easier (and more fun) to stick with making the change. When asking for support, you might start by talking with the people closest to you and letting them know what you are doing and why. You also can ask for specific help:  When you see me reach for a third cookie, say something to me. Tell people what you need as you start and keep them updated as your progress toward your goal. 
  2. Be Aware of Social Cues. If your bongo/board game buddies typically eat sweet snacks and your goal is to cut back on your sugar intake, you’ll need to make some changes to reduce temptation. Bring your own healthier alternatives to your games and invite everyone to take a 10 min walk between games. 
  3. Have a Plan and Be Flexible. Anything you want to achieve isn’t about finding the time, it’s about making the time—and that’s a choice in your power. Look at your daily and weekly routines to identify blocks where you can exercise or prepare meals in advance. Making the time may mean waking-up earlier or reducing social media screen time to get moving. Block off those times in your schedule. Of course, life happens and there will be things that get in the way. Those are temporary shifts. Get right back to your routine the following day or as soon as possible. 
  4. Celebrate Success! Incorporate a small reward for weekly successes and a bigger reward for milestones (e.g., 3 weeks of exercising daily, or sticking with a new art class) Rewards need not be expensive; rather, just them meaningful for you such as buying a new workout outfit or a higher quality set of paints and brushes). 

5 Great Ideas for New Year’s Resolutions for Older Adults

The Golden Years can be a time of adventurous change for many older adults—and the New Year is the perfect time to embark on a specific change for yourself… check out these ideas:

  1. Move joyfully. Daily physical activity that you truly enjoy is easier to stick with and it is important for older adult health: moderately vigorous movement supports heart health, strengthens joints, and reduces the risk of injury from falls.
  2. Learn something new. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the time for? A language, pickleball, bowling, or calligraphy? The New Year is a great time to learn something new. 
  3. Make new friends, or spend more time with old ones. For older adults especially, loneliness and isolation has serious health concerns, including increasing risk of heart disease and stroke. Let 2024 be the year that you focus on friendship—making new ones or strengthening ties with current friends. If you’re struggling to meet people in your same stage of life, you might consider the benefits of living in a senior community.
  4. Sleep better. Sleep is essential for good health at every age. For older adults, a sound sleep routine supports the health of the immune system, the brain and nervous system (including concentration and memory), and metabolism. Getting restful sleep begins with your pre-bedtime routine and talking with your healthcare provider about any difficulties you are having with sleep. 
  5. Get tech savvy. If you feel lost in the maze of new technology, help is out there! Try to learn and keep up with today’s tech by attending a program at a local library or asking a tech savvy grandchild to show you around a smart phone. With modern tech in hand, you have more opportunity to stay connected with family and friends, learn new things, and even make daily tasks a little bit easier for yourself.

Resources

Young, S. “Healthy Behavior Change in Practical Settings.” Perm J (2014, Fall) 18:4: 89-92. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4206177

NIH.gov “Changing Your Habits for Better Health.”

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diet-nutrition/changing-habits-better-health

Medium.com “10 Science-backed Tips to Making a Health Behavior Change that Sticks.” Posted by Paige Brown Jarreua;https://medium.com/lifeomic/10-science-backed-tips-to-making-a-health-behavior-change-that-sticks-8655c3bbde50

APA.org “Making Lifestyle Changes that Last”https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/lifestyle-changes.aspx

Finding the time for holiday shopping, selecting the right gift for each person at the best price – it's enough to stress out even the jolliest of shoppers. When you have a loved one in assisted living, it can be difficult to know what to gift that person. To help you avoid defaulting to baked goods and gift cards, try the suggestions on our list: “Mindful Gift Giving for Loved Ones in Assisted Living”.

What is Mindful Gift Giving?

A mindful approach to gift giving can ease your shopping stress, help you find greater joy in the giving process, and provide your loved one in assisted care with a more meaningful holiday experience.

To give mindfully, you must give some thought to what you know about your loved one in assisted care and pay attention to what is important to them or needed by them. Mindful gift-giving also requires that you slow down and give thought to why you are giving the gift. You can discern this by engaging in the following simple, pre-shopping exercises:

  1. Jot down, on paper rather than using a device (it’s more mindful this way!) the name of your loved one.
  2. Record what you know about the person, as they are, right now, in there senior living space: 
    • What are their likes, their hobbies, their passions? 
    • What are their pet peeves (we’ll get back to this one)? 
    • How do they spend their day? What could make their day easier or the time pass more meaningfully for them?
    • What causes are important to them?
    • Do they have an unmet need that you’ve observed? 
  3. Contemplate the gift with care and intention. Is a physical gift the best choice for this person, or, is the best choice an experiential gift, such as time spent with you or out with friends? (see our list below)
  4. List ideas for gifts related to what you know about the person (Step 1) – include options for both physical gifts (within your budget) and experiential gifts. 

Mindful Gift Giving for Loved Ones in Assisted Living

The gift of presence. If you recognize that your loved one is lonely – missing their significant other who has passed, or not socializing much at their care facility, give the gift of being there with them. Bake holiday treats together, put on holiday classic music from their generation, and stream a few holiday movies. Play games or make holiday crafts, together. 

The gift of skill or talent. Maybe someone needs your unique skills. If you draw, paint, take pictures, offer to do a portrait of the person – make them feel like a model for a day; then hang the portrait when it is ready. If you are an excellent cook, plan a time to create a few day’s worth of healthy meals or snacks (*aligned with their dietary needs). Then, sit down to enjoy one of those meals, together. Or, teach the person your craft or skill.

The gift of memories. Write a note, a poem, or create a collage of photos and captions of special and everyday experiences that you’ve shared with your loved one or that they’ve shared with others across their lifetime. Reminding them of these special times and giving a memento such as this is a wonderful way to give a gift that keeps on giving.

The gift of helping hands. If you noticed they have an old radio with poor reception, update it. Or, if they are still tech savvy, gift them a digital music player and teach them how to use it. (preload it with tunes they will enjoy). Are there repairs to be done around their assisted living apartment that the on-site maintenance doesn’t take care of? Step-up and help out with that. 

If there are grandkids around, all of these mindful approaches provide an opportunity to create lasting memories, and to share in one another’s life experiences.

With this mindful gifting approach, you can add joy and meaning to the holidays for yourself and your loved one.

If you need more ideas, check out this article from Harvard Health. If you still want to go to a traditional route with gift, have a conversation with your loved ones CNA or other on-site care provider before you purchase something that either don’t need or can’t have in their assisted living space.

Everbrook Creates Home for Seniors at Every Level of Care

Everbrook Senior Living embraces the unique needs and qualities of each of our residents. Muchmore than just a place to live, it is our goal to provide a home for every resident. We are involved in every aspect of the design of exceptional, elegant, and affordable residences from independent living to assisted living and hospice care. We offer first-in-class health and wellness programs that are backed by the latest research. Our team of professionals are thoroughly assessed and bring to their work a devotion to the care of older adults, a willingness to learn from them, and the ability to their interests, personal needs, and sense of community. 

Come see for yourself: schedule a visit, today. 

Caregiving for a family member who has a chronic health condition is taxing for even the most resilient individuals. If you are a family caregiver, it is essential for you to take steps to support and maintain your own wellbeing.

With the aging of the U.S. population, more people find themselves in the role of caregiver for an older adult who has a chronic health condition such as dementia, physical disability, cancer, and other serious illnesses. Consistently, those in a caregiving role report high levels of stress. This stress is compounded for those individuals who have careers and families of their own. 

Whether the caregiving role is one you’ve prepared for and willingly taken on or is something that comes as a surprise addition in an already busy life, the stress of caregiving is very real. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent caregiver burnout and support your own wellbeing, including

  • Creating a support network
  • Asking for help 
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Keeping a Self-care Routine
  • Recognizing Caregiver Stress Warning Signs

1. Create a Support Network

It’s essential to build your support network early in your caregiving role. Look for support groups offered through local hospitals, libraries, area agencies on aging, senior centers, and mental health advocacy organizations. Through these groups, you will find helpful resources, guidance for dealing with difficult situations, and the invaluable insights of those who have already navigated caregiving challenges. 

2. Ask for Help

Knowing where to find, and having access to support is not the same as asking for help. If you are overwhelmed, showing signs of caregiver stress (see below), then you must put ego aside and ask for the help you need. Your loved one’s medical provider or patient advocate froma local hospital or support group is a good place to start.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is not only for people who meditate. You can learn to bring mindfulness strategies into daily life—from folding laundry to walking the dog. You can also cultivate a formal mindfulness practice, which has been shown to significantly reduce stress, chronic pain, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many community programs such has yoga studios, parks and recreation, YMCA/YWCA offer mindfulness groups or look for a mindfulness-based stress reduction program for caregivers offered through a local hospital or medical arts organization.
Also, see the Zen Caregiving website for resources.

4. Self-care is Essential for Caregivers

There are three things caregivers can focus on to maintain their own wellbeing:  sleep, balanced nourishment, and daily physical movement.

Sleep is essential to overall health and wellbeing. During sleep, the body recovers, heals, and develops innate resources to support how we live, work and play during waking hours. One sure sign that you are getting sufficient sleep is waking-up feeling refreshed and restored. If you don’t awake most mornings feeling this way, then you may want to create a sleep routine. A healthy sleep routine includes going to bed and waking the same time each day; using room darkening curtains; lowering the room temperature; and not using digital devices in the bedroom with the hour before going to sleep. 

Balanced nourishment means including a variety of real, whole foods in your diet—and enjoying sweets and treats in moderation If you eat mostly packaged and boxed foods, your body is not taking in the vitamins and minerals and fuel nutrients (carbs, protein, healthy fats) that it needs for optimal function. Without a balanced diet, you will feel the effects of stress more sharply and you are likely to throw-off your sleep routine, which compounds stress. If you need some guidance on healthy eating to support your caregiver role, local hospitals and wellness centers usually offer nutrition workshops.

Physical Movement – While vigorous physical activity a few times a week is ideal, it may not be realistic for you as a caregiver, to get 3 or 4 workouts in a week. Instead, aim for daily physical movement that gets your heart rate up for 30 minutes. This can be a walk, bike ride, working in a garden, yoga, taking a fitness class, or turning on music and dancing in your living room. Movement releases hormones that help support a positive mood, strengthens and tones the body, and helps relieve stress. Find something you enjoy and move every day!

5. Know the Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress 

The stress of caregiving puts the caregiver at risk for health problems such as burnout, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, headache, sleep disturbances, and relationship tension. Warning signs of caregiver stress and burnout can include:

  • Feeling alone
  • Feeling helpless or depressed
  • Isolating from friends 
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Diminished quality of important relationships
  • Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Reduced capacity for coping or problem-solving 
  • Feeling guilty for taking time for yourself
  • Persistent sense of worry or dread
  • Feeling tired often
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Becoming quick to anger or frustration
  • Misusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medicines
  • Missing your own medical appointments
  • Missing work due to caregiving demands 

If you are experiencing symptoms such as these, it is imperative to seek support and medical guidance so that you can recover your wellbeing and continue to be of support for your loved one.

These are just a few of the many approaches to self-care for caregivers. Additional resources can be found at Mayo Clinic and the Caregivers Actions Network.

If you find the caregiver role has become more burdensome than you can manager and still maintain your health and wellbeing, it may be time to consider other options for your frail loved one. Everbrook Senior Living offers support in helping you make this decision along with the resources and options necessary for placing an elderly older adult in assisted living care.

When it comes to Halloween, you’re never too old to pretend to be something or somebody else! Older adults, and their caregivers, can enjoy a safe, fun, and memorable Halloween through a variety of activities.  

The Halloween activities we’ve chosen for older adults are not only fun, they provide several benefits including:

  • enhancing creativity
  • encouraging positive social interaction
  • improving cognition, memory & learning
  • inspiring playfulness & humor
  • supporting positive emotional states
  • improving problem-solving skills
  • strengthening hand dexterity

Taken together, these benefits support an older adult’s social-emotional and physical well-being, can provide moments of meaningfulness, and foster a sense of belonging. 

The activities on our list are easy enough for you to bring to your older adult family member at their home, or set-up as a group activity at a senior living community or local senior center. 

Cook-up a Scare: Shrunken Head Apples & Apple Tart Pie

Any cooking experience involves a variety of mental and physical tasks. First, there’s thinking that goes into planning and preparing the recipe. Some recipes require a little physical stamina and dexterity during preparation (ex: standing to cut, chop, mix, and serve). 

We chose Shrunken Head Apples because this is a non-edible cooking experience that results in Halloween memento that will last up to a few years! It’s perfect for creating memories with friends, family, and especially with the grandkids. It has many steps involved and is ideal for the kitchen in a senior living center or your home. For an edible favorite, that’s healthy too, check out this Shrunken Head Apple Tart Pie recipe

Deck the Haunted Halls with DIY Halloween Decorations 

One doesn’t have to be an artiste to enjoy making Halloween decorations. From simple paper bat garland to no-carve face-painted pumpkins and wickedly simple-to-make door decorations, there are many safe and fun decorations for older adults to make. Once you have a great selection of decorations, put them up around the house--or deck the haunted halls of the senior living community!

Halloween Trivia & Scary Movie Night

This is perfect for those who don’t enjoy crafting, but want to revel in the spirit of All Hallows Eve. The tv shows movies listed range from horrifying classics to humorously haunting…something for every taste and every age. 

  • The Exorcist
  • Psycho
  • Halloween (the original)
  • Carrie
  • Scream (series)
  • What Lies Beneath
  • Ghostbusters
  • Haunted Mansion
  • We Have a Ghost 
  • Beetlejuice
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Wednesday (Netflix series)

For older adults who don’t enjoy scary-movie marathon, break out the trivia games. Always fun, always entertaining, trivia games tend to bring everyone out of the dungeon to play! Play can be set-up for individuals going head-to-head or competition between teams (be sure to have some fun, and funny, prizes for the winners).

There are many haunted trivia games on the market that you can adapt to suit your audience and game format. Search online for more info on these (or other) games: The Halloween Game Trivia Book, Trivial Pursuit: Halloween Edition, and even some of the Halloween trivia sets made for teachers of school-age kids or this spooky trivia set from the Today Show.

Halloween Costume Ideas for Older Adults

Last, but not least, is to dress-up in a Halloween costume that is safe and fun for an older adult. The ideas we share here are easy to put together from clothing seniors already own, or can modify, or can be found with a little savvy shopping. 

  • Tina Turner 
  • Queen Elizabeth
  • Elon Musk
  • Donald Trump
  • Joe Biden
  • Johnny (Cash) and June
  • Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Dorothy and Toto (real dog or plush animal)
  • Cast from Wizard of Oz
  • Snow White & the Huntsman
  • Game of Thrones Characters

If these ideas don’t fit your vision for your haunted alter-ego, by all means bring out the horns, fangs, and broomsticks for a more traditional Halloween costume!

Ahh…Autumn in New England. It’s the perfect time of year to fall into the pages of a good story. 

What’s your reading pleasure? Is it a heart-pounding thriller or a poignant romance? A perilous adventure story or a hilarious whodunnit? Maybe you’re one for historical fiction or true crime? 

No matter the genre, stories are a powerful vehicle for transporting you out of real time and into imaginative places and encounters. But there’s more power in reading than just spurring the imagination: Older adults who are avid book readers are doing a lot to support their health—and they may live longer lives as a result! 

Spoiler alert: Don’t miss the book list—featuring dynamic older adult characters, provided at the end of this post!

Book Reading Supports Good Mental and Physical Health

Reading books can enhance both the mental and physical health of older adults in a variety of ways. The benefits presented in the list below come from research that focused on reading books. Magazines and newspapers are a different type of reading experience; while that type of reading has its own benefits, it is not necessarily the same as when reading books. In fact, when comparing people who read books to non-book readers studies show something very interesting:  Book-readers have a 20% lower risk of mortality compared to non-book readers. Essentially, book reading adds years to your life span! Here are some of the other important ways reading supports older adult health:

  • Reduces stress. When there’s less stress, your body produces less stress hormones and that has a cascade effect on the entire body. Muscles relax. Tension is released. Heart rate and blood pressure are lower. 
  • Promotes a good night’s sleep. Reading within an hour or two of bedtime helps the body settle down and prepare for sleep. Now, you don’t want to be reading on device as screen blue light negatively affects sleep quality. Also, stick with reading something enthralling, which won’t generate worrisome thought. So, keep work-related reading, the daily news, or financial reports off your nighttime reading list.
  • Enhances neural activity. Reading helps the brain forge new neural pathways and strengthen existing neural connections. When you are reading, you’re not away of just how highly active your brain is: The brain is building vocabulary, interpreting context, interpreting characters and their relationships, making connections between the storyline and real life, etc. This neural activity produced while reading promotes brain health.
  • Protective against cognitive decline. By supporting neuroplasticity, the brain and mind stay healthier that means reading can be protective against brain changes in older adults that lead to cognitive decline.
  • Boosts Creativity. Reading is a creative pursuit in itself. It also helps promote your own creativity by way forging new perspective, inspiring new ways to problem solve, or introducing you to a new creative outlet to try. (How often do you read about something before you decide to sign-up for a class or try it out on your own, at home?) 
  • Reduces symptoms of mild depression. Reading can promote problem solving, perspective sharing, understanding, and help an individual foster new associations with difficult emotions. As reading helps enhance positive emotions and reduce negative emotions, it has been shown to reduce symptoms of mild depression

Reading Books as Therapy: Bibliotherapy

You might have heard from someone, or even stated yourself that reading is therapeutic. Now, there is research to back-up the therapeutic value of book reading. 

Bibliotherapy is a creative arts therapy devoted to helping an adult or child move through challenging emotional and life experiences. Using books, primarily, but also poetry and picture books; fiction and non-fiction alike, bibliotherapy provides therapeutic, educational, and developmental support with the goal to improve wellbeing, both overall, and in specific situations (school, work, home, social situations, etc.). It can be used when people are recovering from illness, surgery, a traumatic event, as well as when learning to cope with changes to emotional or physical health.

Five Types of Bibliotherapy

  1. Therapeutic bibliotherapy is used along with psychotherapy and mental health treatment.
  2. Developmental bibliotherapy is used in schools, homes, and organizations to teach and guide.
  3. Prescriptive bibliotherapy is used in medical and mental health settings to educate, inspire hope, support behavior modification, and help with acquisition of new skills.
  4. Creative bibliotherapy is used in groups, such as book clubs or support groups in which literature is discussed for its transformative, educational, or inspirational power.
  5. Informal bibliotherapy is what we all do when we choose a book because we believe that reading it will help us learn something new or cope better with a given situation.

You might find yourself engaged in informal bibliotherapy upon learning about a new medical diagnosis, or if you are part of a support group for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease, or if you are part of a reading group or other type of interest group in your community.

The benefits of bibliotherapy go beyond the benefits of book reading, in general, including but not limited to: helping to reduce clinical symptoms, improve social functioning, reduce loneliness/isolation, instill hope, foster creativity and problem solving, and support recovery.

Books Featuring Older Adult Characters

Having the opportunity to read books that feature characters similar to ourselves as well as those with life experience different from our own is one of the unique features of the reading experience. We asked a few librarians, and we discovered some terrific online resources, to curate this book list—all featuring older adult protagonists, villains, and sidekicks. 

Happy Reading!

Romance

  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson.

An unlikely friendship—and something more—blossoms between the retired Major, a proper Englishman and Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. But can it survive village gossip and the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?  NY Times Book Review

  • Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure, by Courtney Milan

Mrs. Bertrice Martin—a widow, some seventy-three years young—has kept her youthful-ish appearance with the most powerful of home remedies: daily doses of spite, regular baths in man-tears, and refusing to give so much as a single damn about her Terrible Nephew. Then proper, correct Miss Violetta Beauchamps, a sprightly young thing of 96 (ahem, “nine and six”), crashes into her life. When you’re of a certain age, your take on life looks a lot different and Mrs. Martin is going to have the adventure of a lifetime doing things and exploring relationships on her own terms. Author’s Website

Comedic

  • The League of Pensioners (series), by Catharina Ingelman Sundberg

In this series, Oceans 8 meets The Golden Girls! The Senior League—five residents of the Diamond Retirement Home—Martha, The Genius, The Rake, Christina and Anna-Greta—turn to a life of crime. You’ll be laughing all the way to the end as you follow this cracker-jack gals through three books in the series. Learn More

Suspense

  • Before She was Helen, by Caroline B. Cooney 

As the story in this book opens, there’s a retirement-community caper in process. A missing neighbor. A shiny, mysterious object left in place. A photograph that goes viral and an identity long kept hidden faces risk of being exposed. And the dead body pops-up eventually. Things are not always as they seem, and this story quickly evolves into a deceptively dark mystery.
More at Foreward Indie Book Reviews

Horror

  • Ghost Story, by Peter Straub

Written by one of the masters of the genre, this gothic-horror tale centers around a single question asked by the four elderly men of the Chowder Society: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” The question drives the men as they meet to share intensely chilling ghost stories and consume expensive cocktails. But are these stories more than fiction? A chain of mysterious events and death hangs over the Chowder Society. But whose to blame for the suicides and “accidental” deaths that surround them…is something sinister at work? Or is the past finally catching up with the men of the Chowder Society? More books like this at Nightfire 

Mystery

  • An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten

There’s no other way to describe this book of connected stories than to repeat what Kirkus Reviews wrote: “Five connected stories about a murderous old Swedish lady.” Each tale of main character, 88-year old Maud’s misdeeds (murder, even!) doles out a dose of “senior justice”. 

  • The Senior Sleuths (series), by Laurien Berenson

Dick and Dora Zimmerman from are sixty-something crime solvers, specially those of the murderous type. You know, like when a dead body body turns up in an ice box with a note that says, "contents rotten." The Zimmermans are lovable characters with the time, money, wit, and "chutzpa” to get involved despite warnings from police and criminals to stay away. There’s a cast of characters-- residents of the condos where the Zimmermans live in Manhattan and Vegas, who all to eagerly seek Dick and Dora's help whenever foul-play is suspected. *adapted from the author’s website)

Resources for Finding Books with Older Adult Characters

We were impressed that across these lists there were very few duplicate books, So if you haven’t found a book you love among our resources, be sure to talk to the staff at Everbrook Senior Living Community about their book resources, book clubs, and special interest groups.

25 Books with Older Adult Protagonists. This list encompasses books written by authors from various backgrounds and featuring different cultural settings, storylines, and genres. You’re bound to find a few to suit your interest.

Midlife BookList on Facebook. Books that show what makes older adults get fired-up, ticked-off, and maintain their sest for life. These books (and there are a lot) reveal the many perspectives that seniors have on the second half of life—their hopes, fears and challenges, and all of it is weaved into a wide variety of storylines, settings, and dilemmas. From humorous to horrific, from all-to-close to real life to purely fantastical, there is something for everyone in this book list. 

Must Read Books Featuring Mature Characters. This list features heroes and heroines having incredible adventures that will make you want to celebrate and empathize with them as you reflect on your own life’s journey. From feisty senior ladies and gents to salty old dogs and timeless romantics…there’s a character in these stories for everyone to love!

Learn More about the Health Benefits of Reading

Reading for Stress Relief

Why Reading Books Makes You a Better Person, According to Science. Inc Magazine 

Benefits of Reading Books: How It Can Positively Affect Your Life 

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