People of All Ages & Physical Conditions Benefit from Exercise

Use it or lose it.  Older adults can build muscle mass just as quickly as younger adults.

While it is true that there are many age-related illnesses, such as Osteoporosis, Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease which can have a negative impact on physical capabilities, it is also true that an inactive lifestyle leads to deterioration of strength, balance and flexibility.

In some countries without the modern conveniences we have here in the U.S., seniors maintain their abilities to function unassisted much longer.  In many parts of China and Africa, for instance, there are no toilets.  There is just a hole in the ground.  The one advantage this provides is that people must truly squat from their knees and then standup each time they visit the toilet.  This is sort of a forced way to continue to maintain strength and flexibility in the legs.  Their aging populations maintain an active lifestyle much longer than we do in the U.S.

The National Institute of Health provides exercise guidelines for older adults and also provides information on scientific studies which show that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of older adults who are frail or have diseases that accompany aging.

The four areas exercise can help are:  strength, balance, flexibility and endurance.  Check out NIH's website for more information and videos.

I know it isn't always easy to convince Mom and Dad to exercise.  My girlfriend purchased a health club membership for her parents and they told her they were going.  Everytime she called she would ask them how their workouts went and they would tell her all was going well.  Then after about 6 months her brother finally confided in her that he wasn't sure they were really going.  She called the health club and found out they had only been twice.  As she says, at least she tried.  If you can convince someone to stay with an exercise program for just a couple weeks, they will start to experience the positive benefits which will encourage them to stay with their program.



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Flu Shots: Good Idea for Seniors and Caregivers

It seems it is finally time to accept that summer is over, and all that comes with that, including flu shots.  Such an unpleasant thought.  But getting the flu really is worse than getting the shot and there are plenty of vaccinations on hand (The U.S. has a supply of 140 million vaccinations and only used 113 last year).  The Center for Disease Control recommends flu vaccinations for pregnant women, people 50 and older, younger adults with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma, health-care workers, people who come into contact with infants younger than 6 months, and people in contact with others at high risk of flu complications.

Caregivers can go along with their senior client to get a flu shot.  Many senior centers, churches and area departments on aging provide flu shots.  Some doctors offer flu vaccinations on certain days and many pharmacies host flu shot days.  Walgreens pharmacy will provide flu and pneumonia vaccinations at many of their pharmacies in October and you may find out when and where on their website.

Get the shot, not the flu.

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Caregiver Stress: The Relaxation Breath

I am a big fan of Dr. Andrew Weil.  He has some great books on healthy eating, healthy living and aging well.  He likes to talk about the benefits of aging which include wisdom.  He makes note of other things which are better with age such as wine, violins and friendships.  One of the reasons many people are attracted to senior caregiving is because it gives them the opportunity to be around the wisdom of an elder.

But with caregiving comes stress.  There are both physical and emotional challenges when providing senior care, especially when memory loss is present.  It is important for Caregivers to take days off and to take care of themselves when working on a long-term assignment.  Senior Home Care Agencies honor the 40-hour work week and are able to staff a replacement caregiver when the regular caregiver needs a day off.  This is good for both the senior client and the caregiver.

Dr. Weil offers the relaxing breath technique on his website and it truly works wonders for people of all ages.

The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens - before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.


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Google's Co-founder tested for Parkinson's disease

Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, said Thursday that he has a gene mutation that increases his likelihood of contracting Parkinson’s disease.  He discovered he carries this gene after testing was conducted by a biotechnology company called 23andme, co-founded by his wife.


Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that can impair speech, movement and other functions, including memory.

Mr. Brin, named by Forbes magazine as the 13th richest American, may now provide more financial support to Parkinson’s Disease research.


His Mother does have Parkinson’s Disease and is a carrier of the gene.  Mr. Brin has a 20 percent to 80 percent chance of developing the disease which usually begins to show itself when someone is in their 50’s or 60’s.


The gene mutation of the LRRK2 gene, known as G2019S, is associationad with Parkinson’s disease.   As his personal fortune is estimated at $15.9 billion, it will be nice to have his support for research on Parkinson’s Disease.





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Nursing Homes: Medicare vs. Medicaid

There are more than 18,000 nursing homes in the United States.  There are 3 ways to pay for nursing home care: private pay funds, Medicare insurance or Medicaid insurance.  However, the nursing home must accept Medicaid insurance as a payment option and not all of them do.

Medicaid insurance provides medical coverage for low-income seniors and the financial qualifications vary for each state but usually require no more than $2,000 or so in assets and owning a home may or may not be included in that number.

As nursing home care can easily cost up to $80,000 a year, and as Medicare only covers short stays in a nursing home, it is important to ask the right questions about payment when entering a nursing home.  This is necessary even if you are just going into the nursing home for rehabilitation after a major medical procedure. 

Some nursing homes will say they accept Medicaid but it may only be available for current residents who are forced to go onto Medicaid after spending down all of their assets.  The nursing home may not take new admissions who rely on Medicaid for payment.

This is because the government establishes a reimbursement rate for Medicaid and the nursing home may choose to focus on private pay and Medicare clients instead.  Although Medicaid will provide for a permanent long-term stay in a nursing home, this means that the bed will continue to be reimbursed at the Medicaid rate until the senior passes away.  The nursing home is losing out on the ability to charge more for the bed through Medicare or private pay.

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AARP: Available at age 50

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) was founded by Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired high school principal, in 1958.  The association pretty much goes by AARP now - much more hip than their full name.  I receive their mailings since someone, my brother, I think, signed me up when I turned 30.

AARP has expanded beyond their initial task of providing health insurance for retired teachers and others (their founder discovered a retired teacher living in a chicken coop, in poor health and unable to afford health insurance, and set out to find a solution which led her to found AARP).  She successfully created insurance programs for retired teachers and then expanded to offer it to others.  Now the National Association of Retired Teachers is just a division of AARP. 

AARP offers many benefits that all of us should consider tapping into when the need arises, including safe driver tests,  a work training program for low-income persons age 55 and over, free tax preparation and counseling, legal hot lines, training and assistance for aging advocates in elder law and advocacy, support for housing counselors in their work with older homeowners seeking reverse mortgages, and a community of support for all senior issues on their website.

AARP also offers a variety of discounted insurance programs for seniors.

As their membership has grown with the aging populatioin, AARP has become a very strong political lobby.  Their magazine and radio program provide updated information on their initiatives.

Check out their services on their website:


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Good Senior Living: Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey, known for his radio shows "News and Comment" and "The Rest of the Story"  which air on more than 600 U.S. radio stations, turns 90 today.  Why is this newsworthy?  Because he continues to work - at age 90!  He does have a reduced schedule since his wife passed away earlier this year and to allow for health concerns.

He says he will retire the day he finds something more fun to do, but even after working in radio for 57 years, he still enjoys his job.

Doctors advise healthy aging consists of maintaining social interactions, engaging in physical and mental exercise, and eating nutritious meals. 

While there have been many recent news stories on seniors delaying retirement because of the increased costs in living and the decreased returns on investments, maybe continuing to work a little delivers some benefits. 

And thank you to Paul Harvey for reminding us of this!


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