Aging Baby Boomers want fun, creative exercise that not only keeps them active, but also provides an avenue for making friends. Luckily, programs across the country are stepping up to meet this growing demand. Here are five innovative places and programs that are keeping seniors active, independent, and social.
SilverSneakers is a unique senior wellness program that gives older adults access to over 13,000 fitness centers and classes across the country, all free of charge through qualifying health plans. Organizations that participate in SilverSneakers offer senior-centric fitness classes like low-impact circuit training, yoga, seated exercise, water aerobics, and fall-prevention fitness. More than just an exercise program, SilverSneakers emphasizes the value that friendship and social support bring to senior health. In fact, 74 percent of active SilverSneakers members report they’ve made friends through the program.
The YMCA and YWCA offer a wide range of fitness programs designed for seniors. Whether you’ve just hit your senior years and want to stay fit with Zumba, or you’re limited to chair exercises but still want to get out and stay healthy, your local Y has a senior fitness program for you. Most Ys also have pools, which means that seniors of all ages can enjoy low-impact water exercise to build flexibility and endurance without straining arthritic joints. Seniors can make friends in class and join senior group outings led by YMCA staff.
Multigenerational Community Centers
Senior centers are becoming a thing of the past, and multigenerational centers are taking their place. The new multigenerational centers mix the therapeutic recreation typically found in senior centers with social activities, fitness classes, and recreational sports that appeal to all ages. By creating a place where active people of any age can come together — without neglecting the unique needs of aging adults — multigenerational centers let seniors stay healthy side-by-side with friends of all ages. And since interaction across ages has been shown to be more beneficial to senior mental and cognitive health than senior-to-senior socialization alone, multigenerational centers can help keep seniors stay fit in more ways than one.
Ageless Grace combines physical and mental fitness to keep seniors healthy in both body and mind. With lessons that range from memory recall and imagination exercises to upper body strength and joint mobility, Ageless Grace takes a holistic approach to senior fitness. The classes are taught by independent instructors and can be found in churches, retirement homes, schools, and community centers around the country. Since Ageless Grace lessons incorporate both physical activity and mental games, they provide ample opportunity for seniors to interact and make friends. Ageless Grace participates in the SilverSneakers program, so qualified seniors can access their classes free of charge.
Senior Sport Leagues
Nothing promotes bonding quite like team sports, and senior sport leagues are a great option for active older adults who want to meet friends while staying fit. Seniors can access established programs like Granny Basketball, Senior Softball, National Senior League Wii bowling, or the National Senior Games Association. There may also be team sports for seniors available through local community and recreation centers. And if there’s no established league in your town? Enterprising seniors can start their own social league by advertising through existing fitness and community centers.
Staying active in your later years does more than keep you fit. In addition to helping you retain flexibility, improve your balance, and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, staying active can also be an excellent way to maintain a vibrant social life. And socialization comes with its own health benefits, from a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia to better physical mobility. With such a diversity of programs available, there’s a way for every senior to stay active and social.
Image via Flickr by sima dimitric
By Dr. Nanette J. Davis, Ph.D.
Caregiving has often been compared to a roller coaster ride, with its inevitable ups and downs. This is especially true as your loved one deteriorates and faces the end of life. If you’re one of the 65 million family caregivers who has been feeling overwhelmed for too long, “burnout” may have set in.
Take that first step. Identify and claim the full range of your emotions—the anger, indifference, anxiety. In a recent study, 50% of family caregivers confessed to feeling depressed and some 69% admitted that frustration drove them to place their loved one in care. You may be experiencing the following, as well:
- Confusion over role reversal
- Loss of interest
- Withdrawal or isolation from friends and other support persons
- Poor sleep
- Desire to harm self or others
These unwanted reactions can also be compounded by the guilt and shame about feeling this way. Here are a few suggestions that might make a big difference.
- Make a point to engage in outside activities for maintaining a sense of health and well-being. Sure, it could feel like “one more thing” to do. But if you choose your outside activities wisely—staying away from demanding people or events—you could feel surprisingly refreshed.
- Seek and accept outside help. Once you admit to yourself and others that you can’t do it alone, the burden suddenly lifts. Good starting points are: local organizations, social service agencies and faith communities. Don’t overlook family, friends and neighbors who may be able to lend a hand.
- Allow your loved one plenty of opportunities to practice functional skills—as hard as it may be. Feeling as independent as possible satisfies a basic human need, even for a seriously ill person.
- Consult with a geriatric specialist, pastor or counselor about the right course of action if your loved one has become overly dependent or has exhausted your resources—physical, emotional or financial.
- Admit that you are juggling multiple roles, and engaging in an ever-so-delicate dance of support. The dance can go on as long as you allow the role of who leads and who follows to shift as circumstances change.
- Pay attention to your own needs. You can achieve balance when you include time to sleep, exercise, eat and attend to your own medical needs. Time spent with family, friends or just being alone helps you bounce back, too.
- Practice saying—maybe even forcefully—“no” when appropriate, and “yes” when someone offers to help.
- Seek out quality respite care.
- Enjoy an occasional movie or lunch with a supportive friend.
- Don’t expect too much from yourself.
Continue to recognize, acknowledge and accept your difficult emotions, so you can then work on setting boundaries, letting go of control and developing coping skills. For example, meditation and yoga can be incredibly relaxing.
Your commitment to your loved one can be a renewable resource if you take the right steps and are willing to change strategies when the “same ol’, same ol’” isn’t working anymore.
You can visit Dr. Nanette’s ABCs of Caregiving blog at http://www.abcsofcaregiving.com/
Introduction: Being a grandparent is special in many ways. It sometimes means overspending and spoiling our grandkids. We tend to cut down on other expenses rather than buying gifts for our cute little ones.
What’s so special about being a grandparent? Grand parenting brings along with it opportunities for loving a new person, the magic of childhood, play and fun and the joy of parenthood minus the heartache that often goes along with it. It is also an opportunity to share your hobbies with a young, curious mind, watch as the kids grow and develop, provide encouragement and make an impact, draw upon your breadth of experience to guide the child through life’s challenges. Many grandparents, in today’s graying America, provide care for their grandkids while mom goes off to work. This can be a very enriching experience for both.
Why do we overspend on our grandkids? A 2012 study by AARP shows that 89% of grandparents spoil their grandkids. USA Today says that 40% of Americans spend $500 or more per year on their grandchildren. Some grandparents even pay for their grandchildren college education and afterschool activities, such as piano lessons and dance classes. Grandparents often find themselves in a dilemma where they would like to be there for their adult kids financially but don’t want to jeopardize their retirement savings.
Where can I cut on spending?
- Give the gift of time. It doesn’t always have to be a gift. Going on a hike together or doing a baking project can be a very memorable one for the two of you, much more so then a gift. Share stories. Your grandchildren will be delighted to hear stories about when their parents were children. Get with the times and learn to text and build a relationship that will last.
- Make a budget. “Making a budget is the most important thing you can do because then you will be able to understand where your money is going and where you can afford to make cuts,” says Meg Favreau, senior editor of Wisebread.com. Grandparents should not fall into the trap of overspending on their grandkids. “If it’s affecting your ability to meet your obligations or is dipping into retirement savings, that’s a sign that it’s excessive spending,” says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. For full article, click here.
Save your retirement for the fun things in life. Very often, without proper planning, our retirement funds get totally wiped out down the road if a loved one requires long-term care. Medicaid will usually cover for many types of care, including in-home, assisted living and nursing home care. They will however “look back” for a period of five years prior to application to uncover monetary gifts granted- “spent down” during that period, in which case they will impose a penalty corresponding with the gifted funds. Plan ahead and gift the monies to your loved ones now, so it doesn’t hurt you in the years to come. A Medicaid planning company like Senior Planning Services can guide you through the application process if you’re eligible and help shoulder the burden in these stressful times.
Conclusion: Being a grandparent is one of life’s most meaningful pleasures, but it can also be a juggling act. Knowing when to educate, when to spoil, when to stop spending, when to “spend down” and when to save your retirement funds; are all part of this blessing called grandparenthood.
Assisted living is a long-term care facility that provides housing, support, health care, and most importantly, a sense of community to senior citizens. These facilities make it possible for the elderly to continue living on their own, with occasional assistance now and again. The benefits of living in an assisted living community are immeasurable for seniors and their families alike. Learn more about the multitude of benefits the elderly receive when they move into an assisted living facility.
- Proper, Healthy Meals: Daily meals are provided at assisted living facilities. This helps senior citizens to get the proper nutrition in their daily diet, and also lets family members feel assured that their loved ones are eating enough. Any and all dietary needs are taken into consideration. For instance, if a senior has diabetes, this is of course taken into consideration when creating their meal plan. The utmost care is used when serving seniors their meals at assisted living facilities.
- Help with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living): An assisted living facility will provide its residents with assistance completing a number of day-to-day tasks that one might not be able to do on their own. This includes dressing, eating, mobility, hygiene, bathing, toileting, using the phone, and personal shopping. Take, for example, patients with dementia or other types of memory loss who might find it difficult to remember doing the simplest of tasks. Assisted living facilities make it possible for these types of patients to continue living on their own with minimal help.
- Medication Management: This is perhaps the most important benefit of living in an assisted living community. More than 50% of senior citizens make a mistake when administering their own medication. This rate is shockingly high, and of a major concern due to potential life-threatening consequences. Assisted living staff not only ensure the right medications are being taken at the right times, but they also help to educate seniors on the importance of their medication.
- Transportation: Many seniors do not have the ability to drive anymore. In some cases, a senior simply no longer possess a car. Whatever the case may be, assisted living facilities handle any and all of the transportation necessary for senior citizens. Most of the time, transportation is needed for doctor’s visits. A senior who resides in an assisted living facility will have transportation to and from their appointments, as well as to activities outside of the facility, like shopping trips. When a family member can’t be there to take a senior citizen out and about, assisted living staff is.
- Social Interaction: Assisted living facilities are a great place for senior citizens to socialize. Like-minded individuals in similar situations are all around, and with plenty of activities to choose from, your loved one is sure to make a new friend or two. Many of the activities that take place at assisted living facilities are moderated by staff to ensure that healthy interactions are occurring at all times.
Assisted living may be the right choice for your aging loved one. Discuss this option with them, and share the numerous benefits that this type of facility can offer.
Byline: Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Skyview Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a post acute rehabilitation and long-term care center in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia seen in older adults. An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages had Alzheimer’s disease in 2012. Nearly half (45%) of people over the age of 85 have AD. By 2050, the number of individuals age 65 and over with Alzheimer’s could range from 11 million to 16 million unless science finds a way to prevent or effectively treat the disease. One in eight older adults has AD, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States (Alzheimer’s Association, 2012). Those affected with AD may live from 3–20 years or more after diagnosis, making the life span with this disease highly variable.
Advanced age is the single most significant risk factor for AD (Alzheimer’s Association, 2012). More women than men have AD, but this is because women live longer than men, not because gender is a risk factor. Family history and heredity are also identified risk factors for AD, as are head trauma and poor cardiac health.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by progressive memory loss. The person affected by AD is gradually less able to remember new information and memory lapses begin to affect daily function. It is a terminal disease that over its course will eventually leave a person completely dependent upon others for care.
Initially, the clinical progression of the disease is slow with mild decline; however, deterioration increases the longer the person lives, with an average life span of 8 years after diagnosis (Cotter, 2002; Fletcher, Rapp, & Reichman, 2007). The underlying pathology is not clear, but a growth of plaques and fibrillary tangles, loss of synapses, and neuronal cell loss are key hallmarks of AD that interfere with normal cell growth and the ability of the brain to function. Absolutely definitive diagnosis is still through autopsy, although clinical guidelines make diagnosis easier than decades ago when less was known about the disease. Primary care physicians generally make the diagnosis through a thorough history, physical exam, cognitive testing, and labs. New criteria for diagnosis include staging the disorder and biomarkers (beta amyloid and tau in the cerebrospinal fluid and blood) (Alzheimer’s Association, 2012b). An MRI of the brain may be ordered to rule out other causes of symptoms.
The clinical course of AD is divided into several stages, depending on the source consulted. In the early course of AD, the person may demonstrate a loss of short-term memory. This involves more than common memory loss, such as where the keys were put, and may involve safety concerns such as forgetting where one is going while driving. The inability to perform math calculations and to think abstractly may also be evident. In the middle or moderate phase, many bodily systems begin to decline. The person may become confused as to date, time, and place. Communication skills become impaired and personality changes may occur. As cognitive decline worsens, the person may forget the names of loved ones, even their spouse. Wandering behavior as well as emotional changes, screaming, delusions, hallucinations, suspiciousness, and depression are common. The person with AD is less able to care for her- or himself and personal hygiene suffers. In the most severe and final phase, the person becomes completely dependent upon others, experiences a severe decline in physical and functional health, loses communication skills, and is unable to control voluntary functions. Death eventually results from body systems shutting down and may be accompanied by an infectious process. Although there is no single test, and the diagnosis may be one of exclusion, early diagnosis is important to maximize function and quality of life for as long as possible. Persons experiencing recurring and progressing memory problems or difficulties with daily activities should seek professional assistance from their physician.
Treatment for AD is difficult. There are several medications (such as Aricept, Namenda, Razadyne, and Exelon) that may help symptoms (such as memory), but they do not slow the course of the disease. There is currently no cure; however, research continues to occur in pharmacology, nonpharmacology, and the use of stem cells to manage symptoms and perhaps one day eradicate the disease.
Treatment will focus on symptom management, particularly in the areas of behavior, safety, nutrition, and hygiene. Behavioral issues such as wandering and outbursts pose a constant challenge. Many long-term care facilities have special “memory care” units to care for Alzheimer’s patients from the early to late stages of the disease. These units provide great benefits such as consistent and educated caregivers with whom the patient or resident will be familiar, a safe and controlled environment, modified surroundings to accommodate wandering behaviors, and nursing care 24 hours a day. Additionally, nurses are present to manage medications and document outcomes of therapies. However, many family members wish to care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible.
Thus, another important aspect of care in AD is care for the caregivers. Howcroft (2004) suggested that “support from carers is a key factor in the community care of people with dementia, but the role of the caregiver can be detrimental to the physical, mental, and financial health of a carer” (p. 31). She goes on to say that the caregivers of persons with AD would benefit from training in how to cope with behaviors that arise in these patients and how to cope with practical and legal issues that may occur.
Research has shown that ongoing skills are needed by family caregivers to deal with the progressive decline caused by AD. In fact, “a 63% greater risk of mortality was found among unpaid caregivers who characterized themselves as being emotionally or mentally strained by their role versus noncaregivers” (National Conference of Gerontological Nursing Practitioners & National Gerontological Nursing Association, 2008b, p. 4). Adapting to stress, working on time management, maximizing resources, and managing changing behavior were all skills caregivers needed to develop in order to successfully manage home care of their loved ones. When interventions and resources were not used by caregivers in the early stages of the care recipient’s AD, the risk of a healthy patient being institutionalized due to caregiver burden was higher (Miller, Rosenheck & Schneider, 2012). Caregivers needed not only to acquire knowledge and skills, but also to make emotional adjustments themselves to the ever-changing situation.
Such findings suggest that nurses should focus a good deal of time on educating caregivers of persons with AD to cope with, as Nancy Reagan put it, “the long good-bye.” Scientists continue to explore the causes of AD and hope in the near future to be able to isolate the gene that causes it. In the meantime, results from a fascinating longitudinal study (called the Nun study) on aging and AD, which used a group of nuns who donated their brains to be examined and autopsied after death, has suggested that there is a connection between early “idea density” and the emergence of AD in later life. That is, essays the nuns wrote upon entry to the convent were analyzed and correlated with those who developed AD. It was found that those with lower idea density (verbal and linguistic skills) in early life had a significantly greater chance of developing AD (Grossi, Buscema, Snowdon, & Antuono, 2007; Snowdon, 2004). The nun study has allowed researchers to examine hundreds of brains so far in nuns who died between 75 and 107 years of age and discover other important facts such as a relationship between stroke and the development of AD in certain individuals, and the role of folic acid in protecting against development of AD (Snowdon, 2004). Scientists from a number of fields continue to research the causes and possible treatments for AD and the Nun study project is continuing at the University of Minnesota. Snowdon’s research suggests that early education, particularly in verbal and cognitive skills, may protect persons from AD in later life.
Adapted from Mauk, K. L., Hanson, P., & Hain, D. (2014). Review of the management of common illnesses, diseases, or health conditions. In K. L.
Mauk’s (Ed.) Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Used with permission.
‘Carpe diem’ is a phrase that you’ve no doubt heard before. Your grandchildren might be announcing instead that ‘YOLO – you only live once’. The message is simple – live each day as though it’s your last, you never know what’s around the corner. According to those phrases, saving for old age might be a waste of money. We never know if we’ll make it to retirement, or how far into our retirement years we’ll get. Aren’t there more important things to be spending our money on than our old age care? Should we be saving at all?
What are your future prospects?
As much as you might convince yourself that you never know what lies ahead, the reality is that you can assume that you’ll live to see old age. Thanks to medical advances, more and more people are living full and healthy lives past an age that would previously have been considered to be ‘old’. After those healthy years, in many cases, come the not-so-healthy years when medical costs and care costs increase.
If you’re trying to convince yourself that saving isn’t worthwhile because you might not ever be ‘old’, bear in mind that by 2030 it is expected that 1 person out of 5 in the U.S. will be 65 or over.
Should you save for old age?
Your future is unknown. A majority of people pay a small fortune in costs for their care when they reach old age. The amount of support available could increase by the time you’re there, or it could dramatically decrease. It is far better to assume the latter and be prepared for every eventuality than to assume that you’ll have financial support and then discover later on that you don’t.
As you age, you may become less able to earn money and may be less capable of making your own decisions. If you don’t prepare in advance, then the eventual burden of your old age care will fall to your loved ones. By saving for old age, you are able to ensure that you get the best place to live, the best support and the best medical treatment, without impacting on the finances and livelihoods of younger family members.
Ecuva is an online health and wellness store where customers can purchase daily living aids, disability aids and items that can make old age easier, more comfortable and more independent.