Caregiver's Job to Help Seniors Stay Fit in Winter

Winter storms drive even the most hale and hearty of us to seek the shelter of warmth indoors. While it’s enticing to stay inside by a roaring fire (or space heater) snuggled under a blanket with a favorite book, I think we can all agree, and studies show, exercise is just as important, if not more so, in the winter than other times of the year. So it’s imperative to get up and get moving.

Fitness classes for seniors are a great option, as is a simple walk around the mall. But what about the transport? In inclement weather, even getting in and out of a car can be daunting. How does a senior, with limited mobility on the best of days, keep strong, flexible and fit when snow and ice keeps them housebound?

Caregivers can help with a regiment of at home exercises for seniors. Remember — it’s always important to consult a doctor before starting a home workout plan.

Ideally, a comprehensive workout plan will address endurance, strength, flexibility and balance.

If possible, invest in a low-impact piece of exercise equipment, such as a stationary bike. It’s great aerobic exercise and will strengthen leg muscles. For those who are very limited in their mobility, check out the Sit and Be Fit series, either on YouTube or your local PBS station. Learn about Chair Yoga, which is a great way to increase blood flow and fluidity of movement.

Resistance bands and free weights, if used with caution, can increase muscle mass and promote strength. Building strength can help counteract the weakness and frailty usually associated with aging.

Balance is a special concern for the elderly. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), one in every three adults 65 years and older falls. Many times those falls can cause severe injuries, such as breaks and head traumas. Regular exercise will help a senior bounce back more quickly from an injury or illness, as well as help prevent those falls in the first place.

Exercise is an essential part of aging well. Exercise helps alleviate depression — which can be a problem for the elderly, especially during these dark, cold months. It can also help prevent osteoporosis, keep diabetes at bay, enhance energy, and generally make a person feel better. If you’re not sure where to start, consult a physical therapist or senior fitness expert. If I’m a caregiver, that’s a gift I want to give to the senior for whom I care. That’s a gift I want to give to myself.

If you are a senior caregiver, consider Caregiverlist’s Caregiver Training and Certification. One of the training modules deals specifically with promoting and maintaining good mobility, and that’s a skill that will make you more attractive to future employers.

Super Bowl Commercial Features Seniors Who "Viva Young"

Super Bowl commercials are as anticipated as the big game itself. This year’s offerings included Taco Bell’s 2013 Game Day commercial, “Viva Young,” part of their Live Más (Live More) campaign.

In the commercial, after being tucked in for the night, some elderly residents of the Glencobrooke Retirement Home go out for some after-hours debauchery to a very literal spanish translation of the apt fun. song, “We Are Young.” The group and their leader, Bernie Goldblatt, go on a shenanigan-spree that includes pool trespassing and setting off firecrackers. Next, they go clubbing (along with the requisite make-out sessions), Goldblatt gets a tattoo and they all finish the night at Taco Bell before returning to the nursing home at dawn.

We first meet the 87-year-old Bernie Goldblatt in the online teaser trailer called, “Grandpa Goes Wild.” In it, Mr. Goldblatt takes to the football field in his motorized scooter — tearing it up, popping wheelies and evading security.

According to the spot’s agency, Deutsch L.A., “the “Super Bowl delivers more than 110 million viewers and that is one of the most-watched broadcasts on TV each year ...it fills nine of the top 10 television program slots in history.”

"Our hope is that our consumers will see themselves in this ad," Brian Niccol, chief marketing and innovation officer at Taco Bell Corp., said of the Super Bowl spot.

It’s a good way to go. As the population ages, target consumer markets are getting older. If 50 is the new 30, this Taco Bell spot pushes the notion that 80 can be the new 20, and that life doesn’t need to stop or even slow down as we age.

So what do you think? Taco Bell is not the first to feature “young” seniors in advertising. I recall Coke and Pepsi using the same tactic, albeit with a slightly tamer seniors. There is evidence that healthier living promotes aging well and a “Cocoon” -like life can be waiting for us as we get older.

Senior-Proofing the Home

Aging in place is an option more in the senior population want to pursue. There’s no place quite so comfortable as one’s own home and community. However, according to AARP, nearly one-third of all Americans over 65 experiences a fall in the home. There are other safety issues that make staying in the home a challenge and the initial accident prevention costs might be off-putting. But in the long run, the costs can be far less to stay home and renovate than to move into Assisted Living.

Senior-proofing the home is much like childproofing the home. Both encourage you to do a room-by-room assessment of potential and hidden hazards. Both take into account the physical limitations their subjects may encounter. And in both instances, safety in independence is key. But do everyone a favor and, for the senior crowd, don’t lock the toilet seat.

Elder home-proofing suggestions abound on the internet, but the most thorough and comprehensive guide to home safety I’ve found comes to us from our friends at AARP. Their AARP Home Fit Guide goes into great depth discussing home livability, home safety and home maintenance to help keep the estimated 83% of seniors who would like to, age at home.

Fall prevention is a huge concern when it comes to seniors living alone. Getting rid of scatter or throw rugs throughout the home, lighting dim passageways, installing shower and toilet grab bars, keeping passageways clear of clutter and wiring, all contribute to fall prevention in the home.  If your home needs renovation, contact your state’s Department on Aging for information on available senior home modification services.

Senior safety is addressed outside the home as well as in. Make sure medication dosages are kept current. Visit the eye doctor to gauge general as well as peripheral vision.

Owning a good Medical Alert System, as we’ve written before, is vital. In addition to providing real help in case of an accident or fall, simply possessing such a device can contribute to peace of mind for older adults who live alone.

Occupational Therapists (OTs) can be brought to the home to conduct a full assessment to help maximize an accessible living environment. Also, look for a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) through the National Association of Home Builders to help with recommending home modifications to help age in place.

Taking preventative steps such as these, along with the help of a family or professional caregiver, can go a long way to help an independent lifestyle a viable senior option.

Dark Chocolate Boosts Elderly Brains

Here’s some science I can get behind: a recent study shows that the consumption of dark chocolate and red wine may improve cognitive function in older adults.  Senior caregivers can now have a positive reason to share chocolates with seniors.

Flavanol consumption is favorably associated with cognitive function, according to The Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study conducted by lead researcher Dr. Giovambattista Desideri, director of the geriatric division in the department of Life, Health, and Environmental Sciences at the University of L'Aquila, Italy, and published online in the August 14 issue of the American Heart Association journal, Hypertension.

In the study, 90 elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment consumed drinks containing high, medium and low milligrams of cocoa flavenols once daily for 8 weeks. Their results showed a marked difference in brain function, with those who consumed the highest amounts of flavenols scoring higher in verbal fluency and eye-hand coordination. The study was funded by the candy-bar company, Mars, Inc.

If the findings are true, implications could be widespread. Mayo Clinic researchers have found that mild cognitive impairment is prevalent among the elderly and increases with age. According to Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., “12 percent to 20 percent of the entire population of those over age 70 may have either mild cognitive impairment or dementia, which is quite significant.”

In addition to the recent research, flavanols have been shown to provide a variety of benefits, including improving high blood pressure, preventing blood clots, and improving insulin resistance.

Although dark chocolate’s benefits are many, those suffering with obesity or borderline diabetes should find their flavenols from other sources like broccoli, grapes, apples and tea.

Not all researchers are on board with the findings. According to US News and World Report’s HealthDay reporter Steven Reinberg, when asked, Dr. Sam Gandy, associate director of the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said that "the study is interesting but requires replication before it can be taken seriously."

I’ll take my chances and begin to include reasonable amounts of dark chocolate and red wine (along with other flavenol-rich foods, of course) into my diet in my effort to age well.

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Diana Nyad Attempts Cuba to Florida Swim at Age 63

Senior swimmer Diana Nyad isn’t planning on letting anything stop her this time—not jellyfish stings, storms or hypothermia. In her fourth attempt to make the 103 mile swim across the Florida Straights without a shark cage, Diana Nyad is out to prove that it’s never too late to chase your dream.

The endurance swimmer turns 63 on Wednesday. She’s expected to arrive in Florida some time Tuesday, despite being slowed down and pulled off course by storms. Her last attempt at the effort was thwarted by toxic jellyfish stings. She was 28 years old when she first attempted the swim. Diana Nyad is nothing if not persistent in her desire to make the history.

A CNN Health article sums up Ms. Nyad’s indomitable spirit:
In her 60s, she says, she still feels "vital (and) powerful" -- and definitely "not old." A successful swim ideally will inspire people her age and older not to let their age hinder them, Nyad said.

"When I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP sisters and brothers to look at me and say, 'I'm going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I'm going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I'm going to adopt a child. It's not too late, I can still live my dreams,'" she said.

Read about the swim at Diana Nyad’s blog.

Ed. note: At 742am EDT Diana was pulled from the water when a doctor determined that another jellyfish sting could prove life-threatening. She swam 67 nautical miles for over 40 hours before she was forced out of the water. We at Caregiverlist.com salute Ms. Nyad and her spirit. She continues to inspire us all.

 

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