Exercise for the Elderly: Good for the Body, Good for the Soul

As we age, few things become more apparent than how much slower we move or more forgetful we are than we were 20 years ago.  Unless, of course, you’re Demi Moore and your body is literally incapable of aging past the age of 21.  If you are fortunate enough to have no genetic predispositions to disease or chronic health conditions, you have my congratulations. (Just don’t gloat to the rest of us, okay?)

Let’s face it: We’re not going to be in the same physical condition at 75 as we are at 45. People are living longer thanks to advances in medications, treatments and technology, but that’s also leading to an increase in health problems. The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, is growing at a rapid pace—and a big reason for that is a longer life expectancy.

While genetic factors play a significant role in how we age, there are some key proactive approaches that can help our bodies and minds age gracefully. Exercise is one of the most important influential lifestyle factors that we can control, and it boosts the health of not only our bodies, but our minds as well.

Exercise is Key

Someone once asked me, “As you age, would you rather have your body give out or your mind go?”

I recall my answer vividly. I immediately blurted out, “I would rather my mind go so that I’m not aware of what’s going on with my body!”

Exercise for the mind and the body is imperative to the aging process. It increases our quality of life both now and in the future. Hoping to get out of it by saying it’s too late; you’re past middle age and any exercise you do now won’t do any good? Not so fast: Research proves that it’s never too late to start.

Why is Muscle Mass So Important?

Inevitably, muscle mass deteriorates as we age. According to MedicineNet.com, we lose three to five percent of our muscle density per decade, beginning in the fourth decade of life. It continues to decline one to two percent every year after the age of 50. Muscle is vital to keeping bodies strong and balanced.  Muscle mass reduces the risks from major injuries, such as a hip fracture and also aids in mobility.

Muscles can–and do–react to low-intensity activities such as walking, dancing and gardening as well as light weight lifting.  These activities reduce the deterioration of muscle mass and aid in rebuilding muscle mass that has already been lost. Exercising can also reduce the risk of broken bones, which can become increasingly common with age. Women, for instance, may be affected by osteoporosis after menopause which leads to easily fractured bones; exercise can help improve bone health and reduce the risk of fractures.

Does Exercise Help Cognitive Function?

Brain tissue density also deteriorates as we age. A substantial decline in brain tissue occurs after age 55 and involves the tissue responsible for thinking and memory. The decline in brain tissue has also been linked to cardiovascular health or fitness.

Brain neurons are the cells responsible for thought, movement and basic bodily functions, and they’re also involved in memory. So far research has shown that these neurons actually increase in number after just a few days or weeks of regular activity. Studies indicate that the fittest individuals have higher scores on tasks like coordination, scheduling, planning and memory, according to article on Senior Exercise on MedicineNet.com. Simply put, the more physically fit you are, the more brain tissue you may have.

What Type of Exercise Should I Do?

The American Heart Association regularly publishes guidelines for the recommended amount and frequency of physical activity in older adults. Here are some of the current recommendations:

  • Aerobic exercise which includes walking, jogging, dancing, biking and swimming. To promote and maintain health, older adults need moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes, five days each week, or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes three days each week.
  • Resistance exercise which includes weight lifting and calisthenics. To promote and maintain health and physical independence, older adults will benefit from activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance. This can include brisk walks, water aerobics or similar activities at least two days per week.
  • Flexibility exercises, such as Pilates. To maintain the flexibility necessary for regular physical activity and daily life, older adults should perform activities that maintain or increase flexibility at least two days each week for at least 10 minutes per session.
  • Balance exercises to reduce risk of injury from falls.  Older adults with a substantial risk of falls, such as those with frequent falls or mobility problems, should perform exercises that maintain or improve balance. One simple activity is to use the back of a chair to balance your body, then balancing on one leg at a time without using the chair for support. Or do some dynamic walking in your living room; simply walk in a straight line while slowly turning your head from right to left simultaneously.

Exercise is tremendously beneficial for both the body and mind, and it’s never too late to start. All it takes are some simple exercises and workouts a few times each week to start building muscle mass, slim down your frame, improve your balance and even boost your brain function. Don’t like to exercise? Find yourself an exercise buddy so you can motivate each other. It only takes 21 days to form a new habit, and you may be surprised by how much you actually enjoy it.

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Home Help for the Elderly: Is it Right for Your Loved One?

Many older adults desire to stay in their homes as long as possible, avoiding placement into an assisted living or senior living setting. This can be a viable option as long as an elderly parent or loved on has adequate help in the home as additional care and support becomes necessary.  It is important however, to research the range of options available to maintain this desired lifestyle. There are different levels and types of care which can be offered in the home depending on your loved one’s needs.

Make Decisions Early

All too often, families don’t have discussions or make these decisions until  a catastrophic event occurs and it becomes absolutely necessary. Other family members (in cooperation with physicians and other healthcare providers) are then faced with determining whether arrangements can be made for their loved one to remain in her home or whether an alternative living arrangement, such as nursing home placement, will be necessary.

Home care can be more affordable than residential senior living settings, depending on how much care your loved one requires. But home help providers can’t provide more complex services, and non-medical in-home care is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid in most cases.

Evaluating Your Options

There are a few questions you should ask yourself if you’re considering hiring at-home care for an aging loved one. These questions will help guide you in making the right decisions for your family.

  • What support do you have available? Do you have family, friends or neighbors, and how willing are they to become involved? Are there people in your life who can and will step in when needed to help with the lighter aspects, such as house cleaning, errand running, or providing a respite for the caregiver?
  • Do you have the financial ability to pay for care? Obtaining help now or in the future is something you should budget for. Also, look into what the financial obligations are when using a home health or private agency so you can create a financial plan in advance. Call your local office of aging and inquire about what services they provide and about income guidelines.
  • What are your loved ones medical needs? Does your elderly loved one have chronic medical conditions that will inevitably worsen over time? This is specific area of concern when evaluating your options. Consider mobility and health concerns,  possible future complications and how you might handle them.

Finding the Right Home Care Services

Once you have determined your needs, it’s time to evaluate what services your loved one will require to help maintain her independence. It’s time to look for outside providers. Ask among your network of friends and family to find out what local services might be available. Sometimes the best referrals come from your personal network.

Older adult resources such as the Area Agencies on Aging, eldercare specialists such as geriatric care managers, and senior centers can also be great places to start. When it comes to home health care, your physician will also be able to help with the referral process and may have recommendations or advice.  . Insurance providers will sometimes cover a portion of the costs associated with homecare services, if the care is necessary due to a medical condition.

Full-Service Agencies  vs. Independent Providers

There are two main types of in home care available to seniors: Full-service agencies and independent providers.

  • Full Service agencies typically range from companion services to complete nursing services. They can be more expensive but the trade-off is their caregivers have often been carefully screened with extensive background checks. This provides a little peace of mind and helps you feel comfortable with the caregiver in your home. Most states require these caregivers to be certified according to specific state standards, such as taking an examination to become a CNA.  And if a caregiver is unable to work due to illness or emergency, a replacement is typically sent to the home when using the full-service option.
  • Independent Providers are often less expensive.  However, you’ll want to do the legwork to carefully screen your employee. It’s also a good idea to check backgrounds and verify identities. The other downside is not having a readily available replacement should your employee is unable to work on any given day.

Home care can be a viable option for helping your loved one remain independent and in her own home. It’s not right for everyone, however; some seniors prefer the socialization and activities available in senior living settings, and not all families can afford the costs associated with in-home care. Finally, your loved one’s needs may eventually exceed what the agency is able to provide, making a move to a residential senior care facility necessary.

Image via Geograph.org.uk and is licensed under the Creative Commons license.

Legal Services for the Elderly: Where and When to Start

Older adults will eventually encounter age-specific issues which can require legal services. But at what point should you seek legal advice, and for which situations? Is it to make end-of-life decisions or for income-related advice and support? Perhaps it is due to hardships related to consumer-related problems because unfortunately, many seniors fall prey to scams such as fraud, identity theft and other crimes. Seniors are faced with important and often vital end-of-life decisions that require the expertise of a professional.

When is it time?

Older people occasionally, sometimes more often, have to rely on others for things related to their daily activities. This can make the elderly more susceptible to things such as elder abuse, which can be in the form of physical abuse, neglect, or even telephone scams designed to take advantage of vulnerable older adults. Fortunately, there are laws that protect the elderly from such abuse, and if you or a loved one ends up in a situation like this, it’s time to call a lawyer.

Maybe its time to think about end-of-life arrangements such as an advanced directive, a living will, power of attorney, funeral planning, or estate planning. Whether it’s a living will, which specifies what healthcare-related actions you want taken if you’re unable to make decisions due to  temporary or permanent incapacitation, or whether you want to plan for the future financially, an attorney who specializes in elder law should be contacted.

Living wills and advance planning for the elderly

It’s wise to protect your property and assets by having a will even if you don’t have a large estate or a lot of money. The main reason is to ensure that your property and valuables go to the person or persons that you choose. If a will has not been drafted, the property can be distributed according to their state’s laws.

Preplanning for a funeral can take a huge burden off of family members; it offers emotional and financial security for seniors and their loved ones. Since 2000, The National Funeral Directors Association now follow a Bill of Rights for funeral contracts, which serves as a resource to understand what to expect from preplanning your funeral. However, before signing any funeral arrangement contracts it is important to have a legal professional look over the documents.

Where do I Look for Legal Advice?

Where are the experts that can help a senior with end-of life-concerns? In the early 2000’s the specialty of Elder Law surfaced, which is devoted to the issues that seniors face. Elder law encompasses all aspects of planning for aging, illness and incapacity such as:

  • Health and personal care planning, which includes powers of attorney and living wills, lifetime planning and family issues.
  • Fiduciary (financial) representation, financial planning, housing opportunities and financing, income, estate, and gift tax matters.
  • Planning for a well spouse when the other spouse requires long term care, asset protection, public benefits such as Medicaid and insurance, and Veterans’ benefits.
  • Capacity, guardianship and guardianship avoidance.
  • Resident rights in long-term care facilities and nursing home claims.
  • Employment and retirement matters, age or disability discrimination and grandparents’ rights.
  • Will and trust planning, planning for minor or adult special needs children.

There are a number of situations in which you may find yourself in need of an elder law attorney. In general, however, the sooner the better is the rule when it comes to making plans for the future. It’s wise to sit down with an attorney even in mid-life or sooner to discuss things such as advance directives and wills in case of unforeseen events. The better prepared you are now, the more you can enjoy your golden years knowing all your end-of-life decisions will be carried out.

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Role Reversal: Cohabitating with an Elderly Parent

As the population continues to age, few things become more apparent than seniors’ desire for independence coupled with wanting to stay in their own homes. It’s a comfort thing: Most people want to grow old in their home, surrounded by their personal belongings and memories. Not to mention, the exorbitant costs associated with care outside of the home either in a long-term setting or assisted living facilities seems far out of reach for many of today’s families.

Nowadays, there are more and more adult children who end up cohabitating with their aging parents, whether that means the child returns home to get back on his feet or an elderly parent moves in with a child’s family to downsize or when it becomes unsafe for them to live alone. In the last 15 years, the number of seniors living with an adult child has skyrocketed, thanks in part to the high costs associated with getting outside help.

Living with elderly parents
Families provide the bulk of long-term care

It’s estimated that over 10 million adults over the age of 50 are responsible for the care of an aging parent. That’s about one in five Americans taking over the responsibility of a parent either in their home or paying for their care, according to the most recent statistics from the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA).

What’s more, Focus on the Family reports that families–not institutions–are providing 80 percent of long term care, meaning there are a lot of family caregivers out there providing the bulk of caregiving services for today’s elderly population. . As baby boomers are living longer and having healthier lives, any care that is needed for the aging parents typically becomes the children’s responsibility.

As people grow older, there are many ailments and conditions which may lead to the need for outside help. Cohabitating with aging parents can take the place of some, if not much, of the need for this assistance. A cohabitating arrangement can prove beneficial and rewarding, but it could also create plenty of complications.

Talk out the details first

Most children have good intentions when they decide living with an elderly parent is the best option. However, these situations can go south very rapidly if all the details weren’t given much thought before the decision was made.

Addressing every topic beforehand, such as finances, and evaluating how to establish unity among everyone involved can ease much of the tension associated with living with aging parents. Here are a few topics that should be considered prior to cohabitating with mom or dad:

  • Who will pay the bills? Will your parent be expected to contribute financially?
  • Are there young children involved, and how can they be prepared for this change? Be sure to discuss the situation and explain, even to very young children, why Grandma or Grandpa is moving in and what it means for them.
  • Do you need ground rules for young children? The roles can get mixed when multiple generations live under the same roof; be upfront about disciplinary roles and expectations to avoid hurtful confrontations.
  • What medical needs does your elderly parent have? Who will be responsible for taking care of any care needs, appointments and supplies?
  • Is it safe for your aging parent to be alone during the day? If not, who will be caring for her while your family is away? Look into options such as adult day care if needed.

Living with mom or dad

Share responsibilities with siblings

If your aging loved one requires a great deal of care, enlisting other siblings to help can be a good idea. If you have adult siblings who live close enough to help with daily activities or transportation to doctor appointments, it can alleviate the amount of stress placed on the child with whom the aging parent resides.

Make plans in advance and discuss these options with your elderly parent and any siblings who will be participating in care. Again, advance planning goes a long way in avoiding unpleasant disputes down the road.

Check into community resources

Researching all the options available in your community, such as respite care can also help alleviate some of the burden. It’s important for families entering into a cohabitating arrangement with an elderly loved one to know all their options and have ample support. Ancillary resources that can help include:

Living with elderly parents can and does work, provided there is sufficient space, privacy and boundaries for everyone involved. Mutual respect and a place to go when one has had enough family time are also crucial to a successful cohabitating arrangement.  Cooperation, advance planning and flexibility are all critical to the family’s happiness.

Images via celesteh.com and  InAweofGod via Flickr

Top 5 Ways for Seniors to Stay Active…Even During the Winter!

Exercising regularly has important benefits for seniors, but when the winter comes, many resort to sitting on the couch and watching TV for lack of something else to do. Just because the temperatures have dropped, doesn’t mean your activity level has to! Here are some great ways to stay active during the winter season, without sacrificing your safety

1. Change your attitude toward winter

You can’t avoid winter cold and weather, unless you’re living in the tropics. Many people tend to hate the season because of the amount of time they’re forced to spend indoors, due to cold, inclement weather or snow. If wintery weather or storms are predicted, make a plan to be productive indoors, and don’t waste time complaining about it!

2. Enjoy the wintry outdoors

If you’re a particularly active senior, you may not like the idea of being forced indoors for your workout. Guess what? You’re not! Dress warmly, and engage in a snowball fight with the grand kids! You may not be breaking a sweat, but it’s a great cardio workout and you’ll forget you’re doing something healthy through all the fun you’re having!

3. Spend an hour in the sauna

If you are unable to do strenuous activities due to joint pain, or any number of health problems, a sauna (or even a portable sauna) could be a great cure to the cold weather blues! Amongst frigid temperatures outside, the warm comforting air of a sauna will help relax you, and it will allow you to sweat off a few pounds as well… without doing anything! Seniors should take care, however, and consult their doctors before spending extended periods of time in the sauna.

4. Recognize the awesome possibilities with a home workout

Working out at home is easier than you think! If you have a treadmill or elliptical at home, working out inside is simple. For those of you without home gym equipment, however, there are many available DVD’s and Blue-Ray Discs out there that have home workout instructions. Many of these workouts use only your body, or common items in your home, so anyone can do it without spending money on pricey equipment. You can tailor your workout to your preferred level of activity, which is great for seniors, who range from very active, to frail and unable to perform complex and strenuous workouts.

5. Have a health-focused mindset

Most importantly, eat and sleep well, and stay hydrated. Being well nourished and rested provides a great start to a healthy, active body.

No matter what you decide to do, it doesn’t hurt to have a little extra precaution: check with your doctor before implementing a new workout routine, and use a medical alert system so that help is always a press of a button away in the event of a fall or other accident.

These are easy to use alert buttons that you can wear as a pendant or bracelet, and can be pressed to call a team of emergency responders through a base unit installed in the home. It is an inexpensive way to ensure that your workout doesn’t carry the risk of putting you in an emergency situation. By all means stay active with some winter activity, but do not sacrifice your safety.

For More Information on medical alert systems and how they can help you stay active and safe, visit: http://rescuealertofca.com

Movember: Raising Awareness for Men’s Health, One Moustache at a Time!

Photo credit: Movember.com

As the month of November rolls along, you may begin to notice more moustaches. That’s because it’s Movember–a month-long grassroots movement to raise awareness about men’s health issues, including mental health, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. By simply growing a moustache, men’s faces become walking billboards touting the importance of men’s health.

Men’s life expectancies are shorter than women’s, currently 77 as opposed to women’s 82. Is it because men’s health issues are swept under the rug? Studies show that men are less likely to call for a doctor’s appointments when they don’t feel well, or schedule routine check-ups, and as a result, fail to benefit from early detection and preventative measures. It seems a long-standing tradition for men to shy away from talking openly about sensitive health issues or to “man-up” and assume things will be just fine.

According to Movember & Sons, the website that promotes Movember, men don’t get regular health checks for these reasons:

  • Fear that a regular check-up will lead to a hospital stay
  • Discomfort or embarrassment to talk about a health issue
  • Busy schedules preventing getting a doctor’s visit on the calendar
  • Not wanting to be bothered to make an appointment

These “old-school” presentiments about men’s health have led to a less healthy population of senior citizens. Some of the statistics are frightening. One in two men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. About a third of the nearly 572,000 cancer deaths will be attributed to preventable issues like obesity, poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity. What can be done?

The Importance of Annual Check-Ups

For men in their 60s and 70s, annual check ups should include the following:

  • colorectal cancer screening
  • skin cancer screening–keep tabs on your body and tell the doctor if your skin changes
  • prostate cancer screening
  • blood pressure check
  • cholesterol screening
  • vision and hearing screenings
  • dental check-up

Get Your Immunizations Up To Date

Are your immunizations up to date? The following immunizations are important for men as you age:

  • tetanus-diptheria booster if you haven’t had one in the last 10 years
  • annual flu vaccination
  • shingles/herpes zoster annually after age 60
  • pneumococcal vaccine annually after age 65

Know Your Health History

Family history affects your risks for diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The Department of Health and Human Services offers a free online tool called “My Family Health Portrait” which allows you to enter and track necessary information about your health and the health history of your family members. It can be both a useful tool to manage your own health, and a valuable resource for your children and grand-children.

Join the Movember Movement!

Spreading the word about men’s health issues is not a job only for the younger generations. By promoting the “Mo” movement in senior centers, assisted living centers, and retirement communities, members of those communities can benefit from awareness of men’s health issues, be encouraged to schedule regular check-ups, strike up conversations with the community at large about Movember and begin to tackle statistics that are impacting the overall health of men. Is it working? More than 855,000 people worldwide participated in Movember in 2011. Research specific to Movember’s impact in the U.S. showed that

  • 69% of participants had a general check up with their doctor
  • 79% discussed their health with friends, family and colleagues
  • 70% talked about specific men’s health issues
  • 67% recommended that someone else see a doctor
  • 43% became more aware and educated about the health risks they face

Movember & Sons provides a place to register and free educational resources about men’s health.

The Difference a Year Makes

With the holiday season approaching, families will soon be gathering to celebrate together. Today with more miles separating us from our loved ones due to job commitments, many people may only see their elderly parents or relatives at this time of year. A year can be a long time and many elderly heath issues including mental health issues may crop up during this time that you cannot detect just from a phone call.

Elderly status can change drastically in just one year.

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You may be surprised when visiting your parents or other relatives to find evidence that may lead you to suspect a decline in their physical or mental health. This may indicate they may be in need of home services for the elderly in order to remain in their homes, or it may be time to consider a residential home for the elderly for their best interests.

What to Look For

Does your relative appear to have lost weight? This could be a sign of elderly mental health or physical problem. They may be too weak or just uninterested in cooking for themselves and could benefit from home delivered meals for the elderly. Their medication may also be causing weight loss by having an effect on their appetite or changing the taste of the foods they used to enjoy. A more serious consideration may be that they are suffering from an illness such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s or depression that may be affecting their weight or their ability to cook.

Look at their prescription or over-the-counter medicine bottles for expiration dates and make a list of any medications they are on and keep it for reference if needed in an emergency. If you have concerns about what medications they are taking, discuss this with your relative, and if you still have concerns, suggest that you both visit their doctor to discuss them.

Does your relative seem to have balance problems? This may be health-related and put them at a higher risk of falls. You may want to investigate ways to improve home safety for the elderly. Some steps you can take are making sure to eliminate or move any items that may cause them to trip or fall such as unsecured rugs. You will also want to make sure any dangers are eliminated in the bathroom also. This may mean installing bars for the bathtub or a raised toilet seat to reduce the danger of falls in the bathroom.

Examine their home environment when you visit. If your parent(s) have normally kept their home neat and clean, this may be a sign that they are starting to have a decline in their physical or mental health. Are there piles of clutter, dirty laundry, or unpaid bills lying about? Is there evidence of cooking mishaps such as burned pots or scorched stoves or ovens? They may be beginning to slip in their abilities or lack the energy to do their chores on their own anymore.

What to Do if You Have Concerns

First, you do not want to insult your parent(s) or relative(s) and put them on the defensive by making them think you are going to take their independence away from them. Express that you are concerned for their wellbeing, and that you have noticed a big difference since your last visit. Suggest that you both speak to their doctors to rule out any unknown health issues. Often, declines in physical or mental health could be stemming from interactions between the medications they are taking. They may also be feeling shut off from the world and in need of social interaction. By pinpointing the causes, you are taking the first step toward improving their quality of life and in the end; your parent(s) or relative(s) will appreciate your concern for their wellbeing.

 

 

Startling Statistics Concerning Suicide among Elderly Men

Studies have shown a startling trend in the increase of suicides among older adults, which has brought the subject of elderly mental health into the spotlight. Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health show that suicide among older adults is more common than most realize and more disproportionate to suicides committed by any other age group.

Depression among elderly men may go unnoticed.

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Adults over the age of 65 represent only 12% of the people in the United States, but they represent 16 – 25 percent of all suicides that occur in this country. What is surprising is that four out of five suicides are committed by elderly men. The numbers increase drastically for white men over the age of 85 to 50 occurrences out of 100,000 men.

No Previous Warning

What is even more disturbing is the majority of elderly suicide victims gave no indication that they were considering suicide and had no outward signs of depression. Many had been seen by their doctors in the month and even days before their deaths. Even though practitioners are trained to recognize symptoms of depression, which can be crucial in preventing suicides, often there are no signs exhibited by their patients.

Concern for Elderly Men

While depression plays a large part in many of these cases, other elderly health issues can increase feelings of hopelessness and not having anything left to live for. Social isolation can increase these feelings also. This is the case for many elderly men who tend to become more socially isolated than women do. The risk increases for elderly widowers because their wives managed many of their social connections. Once their wives has passed, these social connections may be greatly reduced or totally cease.

Elderly men may also find themselves losing a sense of purpose because they were poorly prepared for retirement and now do not know what to do with themselves. This is especially true if they have never developed interests or hobbies outside of work. The added stress of being alone may become too much to bear and they feel they would be better off dead.

Risks and Signs to Watch For

As with so many elderly health concerns, if an older man finds himself facing the prospect of going through a major health crisis such as cancer alone, this can become overwhelming. This is one major risk in which to be aware. Returning home after a stay in the hospital can be a trying time for many and can increase the risk of suicide.

One signal that may suggest depression is taking hold of one’s life may be drastic weight loss. This is often because they have stopped eating as their will to live fades. They may also stop taking their medications and sleep more often. They may also appear very sad and say such things about being a burden on others, and how their family would be better off if they were gone. This is not a normal stage of aging; this is a sign that help is needed, and now.

What Can You Do?

The key to helping to prevent depression and suicide among the elderly is to help them remain socially active and involved in activities. These activities could be of any type whether joining a senior center or a book club. Getting the person involved in volunteering for their church or local school or museum will give them a sense of they are making a contribution and have a purpose.

If you suspect that an elderly person you know is exhibiting signs of depression, take steps to stop them from becoming a statistic. Help find mental health services geared toward the elderly for them immediately. If you feel that they are in immediate danger, contact your local hospital for an immediate referral.

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What are the Biggest Injury Risks to Seniors?

Ever wonder what the biggest injury risks for seniors are?  This new infographic from Your Local Security shows some of the most common causes of injuries to senior citizens and also gives a few suggestions for how to prevent such injuries from happening.

For Seniors, Staying Fit Can Lead to Happiness

Keeping fit by implementing a daily exercise routine is not only a healthy way to live, it can also a happy one. Research shows that seniors who maintain a daily exercise routine are more productive and, in general, feel good about life. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers some suggestions on how to stay active, healthy, and happy:

  1. It is important for seniors to stretch for five to ten minutes before beginning any exercise regimen. Stretching increases flexibility and agility, which in turn reduces the risk of injury. Regular stretching also diminishes muscle soreness and increases endurance.
  2. Activities like hiking, jogging, or running help to maintain a good heart rate and burn calories, but even something as simple as parking your car farther away from a store to walk or taking stairs instead of elevators will do wonders.
  3. Strength training is an essential component to leading a healthy lifestyle. Strengthening the core muscles of your back and stomach helps to boost endurance and keep you motivated. The AAOS recommends varying the frequency of which muscles you work out, the speed at which you work them and the quantity of repetitions during each program. It is important to take strength training slow at first; unused muscles will need care to return to their former tension and resistance.
  4. Eating healthier also increases your level of energy and reduces the risk of heart problems and obesity. This includes eating leaner meats, more fruit and vegetables, and whole grain foods. Drinking plenty of water and keeping hydrated, especially during a workout, is also important and coincides with eating healthier. Staying away from fatty food and caffeinated beverages such as coffee or soda not only keeps calorie intake and the risk of dehydration down, but helps to eliminate that sluggish, always-full-but-wanting-more feeling.
  5. Relaxation, perhaps surprisingly, is an integral part of maintaining a healthier, happier lifestyle. Massages, day spas, yoga, or just sitting quietly in a room will relieve stress, reduce blood pressure, and even strengthen your immune system. Taking some time for you is a great way to ensure happiness.
  6. Spending time outdoors, breathing fresh air, also raises the spirits and invigorates the body. Even simple tasks like raking leaves, barbequing or having a yard sale will sustain and strengthen your positive mental attitude.

It is important that you consult a physician in case of medical issues that may prohibit certain kinds of activity before beginning any exercise regimen. Some senior housing facilities may have exercise programs readily available; it is always a good idea to check with an administrator for more information on what types of activities are offered and if there is an additional cost. There may also be gyms, YMCAs, YWCAs, and other health facilities nearby worth looking into. If you’re determined to stay fit and eat healthy, no matter how you go about exercising – either with a specially designed fitness program or by taking stairs when available or even going for a walk around the park – you’re on the fast track to a happier, richer life.

About the Author

Dustin Monk blogs for Methodist Senior Home Care, a Chicago-based home care agency.