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Senior Agenda airs live every Thursday morning at 10 am. Podcasts are also available.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Eight Ways to Help Seniors Achieve Nutritional Wellness

The importance of proper nutrition cannot be overstated.  It is vital for older adults looking to stay healthy and maintain their varying degrees of independence. 

Making dietary changes is difficult.  It can be especially overwhelming for older adults who are set in their ways and resistant to change.  What can be done to encourage change? 

·         Incorporate changes slowly. 
·         Be mindful of medication side effects that by alter appetite. 
·         Plan to share meals as often as possible. 
·         Know the signs of constipation.
·         Address signs of dysphagia or difficulty swallowing. 
·         Be sure dentures are in good repair and fit properly.
·         Consider other dental issues like gum disease.
·         Understand sudden or on-going weight loss as cause for concern. 

    Do not hesitate to consult a physician. Your doctor will help identify the underlying causes of loss of appetite, weight loss or malnutrition.  He or she can test for a number of treatable culprits including ulcers, sinusitis, zinc deficiency, thyroid disease, dementia and depression.  Doctors can also screen for loss of taste and smell which diminish at variable rates with aging.  Taste and smell affect the desire to eat and impact thirst mechanisms.  

Mindset Matters

Did you know that positive people live longer, happier, healthier lives?  According to our trusted friends at the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of positive thinking include: 
·        Increased life span
·        Lower rates of depression
·        Lower levels of distress
·        Greater resistance to the common cold
·        Better psychological and physical well-being
·        Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
·        Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Most experts agree that these benefits are connected to the positive person’s ability to better manage and cope with hardship including everything from daily stress to grief and/or trauma. 

We are all capable and worthy of making positive changes in our lives regardless of age or circumstance.  We each have the power to change or modify our own dispositions.

·        We can start by counting our blessings instead of focusing on our disappointments. 
·        We can commit to being more active and involved in our communities. 
·        We can practice positive self talk until our words become our realities. 
·        We can grant forgiveness instead of continuing to harbor ill-will or guilt.
·        We can practice kindness and appreciation until they become habits.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Love of a Grandmother...I thought she walked on water!

I don't recall the first time I met my grandmother, but I'm sure it was a precious moment smothered in energetic admiration as only she could deliver.  As a child, I lived on the assumption that all good grandmothers were seven feet tall with high check bones, strength of character and the mesmerizing ability to tell a story. She could turn an activity of daily living into a celebration of monumental portions.  I call them monumental because today those stories are guarded memories tucked away deep in my being. She was willful and a bit of a worry wart when it came to family matters.  I always enjoyed her tendency to fret without regard to the toll it must have taken on her because it prompted her to share what I believed at the time to be adult secrets.  She was also a woman worthy of respect. That realization, like many other truths about my grandmother, never occurred to me until I was grown and she was gone. What I did understand about her from the very beginning was that she loved me.  

On Saturdays the two of us made our weekly trip to the local A&P Supermarket to shop.  Our primary purpose was to buy groceries and I usually ended up with an "unexpected" treat, but the real excitement was in the walk to the bus stop.  We would put our Sunday clothes on a day early, lock arms, throw our heads back and march to the bus stop.  We walked with purpose and pride.  It was my grandmother who first convinced me of my own special beauty.  Those walks were our chance to practice the confidence and poise she claimed we deserved.  

My family moved back to Texas when I was about four-years old and those months away from my grandmother in Kentucky were torturous for me.  I cried for her nightly.  I still remember the day I was reunited with her after almost a year away.  We picked up right where we left off and reminisced about the old days like two old friends at a high school reunion.  I made my father promise never to take us back to Texas.  

When I started school, my grandmother lived in the apartment over top of ours.  After school, I was permitted to visit for one hour daily.  She had a desk in her bedroom and the first half of the hour was spent doing homework and discussing the events of the day.  She always prepared an after-school treat and we shared it during the second half of the hour while we watched a cartoon together on her black and white television that has since become quite famous - Spider Man.  The treat itself was always simple, usually salted cucumbers or red ripe tomatoes. When she could afford it, she would buy a melon or the occasional apple or orange. I have no idea how my grandmother made those salted cucumbers and red ripe tomatoes taste so scrumptious.  That is the magic of a grandparent.  

Grandparents play a unique role in the lives of their grandchildren. They generally represent stability in the face of hardship or change.  They are instrumental in handing down habits of the heart and faith.  They work as watchdogs and advocates.  Please feel free to celebrate your own grandparent by offering a comment.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

6 Key Vitamins & Nutrients for Senior Nutrition

1.     Folic Acid found in spinach, asparagus, breakfast cereals, and lentils.
2.     B-12 found in turkey, salmon, crab, mussels, chicken, beef, eggs and milk.

3.     Vitamin C found in oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet red peppers, broccoli and potatoes.

4.     Vitamin D found in canned salmon, sardines, mackerel, instant oatmeal, cereal, egg yolks, soy milk, cow’s milk and orange juice fortified with Vitamin D. 

5.     Omega 3 Fatty Acids found in flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, canned tuna, oysters, herring, sardines, salmon, trout and crab.

6.     Calcium found in orange juice, cow’s milk, leafy greens and kale. 

A note about sodium...
Also remember to limit sodium intake.  Processed foods are typically extremely high in sodium and should be avoided.   Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and fish, dry beans, oats, eggs and brown rice are all naturally low in sodium.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Understanding Senior Nutrition

Older adults are negatively impacted by poor eating habits and a lack of nutritional understanding for seniors.  Aging presents different nutritional needs.  Still, seniors continue to be underrepresented in clinical trials, and information about senior diets is not typically included in most popular diet plans.

Understanding changing nutritional needs of older adults is critical due to the overlap of several age-related challenges.  Seniors have higher rates of common chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.  Others live with chronic pain, osteoporosis and various forms of arthritis.   Many face daily challenges of managing complicated medication regimes.  The elderly are more likely to live alone which can lead to increased likelihood of loneliness, isolation and even depression.  Living alone also means cooking for one and eating alone which both have negative nutritional consequences.   In addition, many seniors face challenges associated with living on a limited or fixed income which often compromises their ability to purchase nutritional food.  

Studies show that proper senior nutrition reduces the risk of the following:

·        Compromised immune system
·        General muscle and body weakness leading to more falls
·        Osteoporosis
·        High blood pressure
·        Diabetes
·        Heart disease
·        Certain types of cancer
·        Certain types of arthritis

Older adults require a senior- nutritious and well-balanced diet to thrive.  Doctors generally recommend a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains to maintain and improve overall senior health.  Other recommendations include:

ü Choose a variety of healthy foods.  
Eating the same foods day after day is boring and monotonous. 
Eating a variety of healthy foods enhances the dining experience and
makes staying on track easier. 
ü Become better informed.  
Understanding senior nutrition includes taking the side effects of
medication into consideration, and it empowers seniors to tailor a 
 nutritious plan with their special needs in mind. 
ü Stay hydrated.  
Staying hydrated will require a conscious effort because as we age,
we tend to get thirsty less often even though we still require the same 
amount of liquids as we ever did.  

For more information on healthy eating habits for seniors, visit Nutrition Programs for Seniors.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Heart-Healthy Exercise for Older Adults

The American Heart Association recommends that older adults do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week or the equivalent of 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. 

The benefits of exercise for older adults with heart disease include the opportunity to optimize heart health, control diabetes, keep strength up, improve mood and promote independence.  It is especially important for older adults to work to maintain their strength and endurance since managing heart disease is a lifelong effort. 

These three cardiovascular exercises are heart-friendly for seniors:

Ø  Light-weight lifting
Ø  Yoga
Ø  Water aerobics

While it is true that many older adults face physical challenges to exercising due to osteoarthritis, risk of injury and the cumulative effects of aging, it is also true that the benefits of exercising greatly outweigh the risks. 

Aging brings an increased risk for heart disease and cardiovascular events.  In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death for adults over the age of 65.  That’s why understanding the value of a heart-healthy lifestyle is so important for older adults including our parents, spouses and ourselves. 

Some older adults believe that heart disease is an inevitable part of aging, but a heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart disease.  Others underestimate the importance of heart health because they believe heart disease can be cured with surgery or medicine.  The truth is heart disease is a lifelong condition that never goes away once it presents. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Tips for Caring for Older Adults with Heart Disease

Caregivers are faced with the daunting challenge of providing direction, advice, encouragement and support for loved ones managing heart disease. Managing heart disease is a scary proposition for everyone involved because the risks are great. In addition, the tasks of learning to recognize symptoms, manage medications and make the necessary lifestyle changes can be downright overwhelming.  It's no wonder fear and anxiety often crop up making caring for someone with heart disease difficult.  

Being anxious is a normal response to heart disease or an acute episode like a heart attack. Reassure your loved one that making the recommended lifestyle changes and taking medications regularly and as prescribed will greatly increase the likelihood that he or she will be okay.  

Other tips to reduce stress and improve heart health include: 

1) Encourage exercise. Cardiovascular exercise can help improve circulation, regulate blood pressure, combat depression and control diabetes.

2) Consider relaxation techniques.  Practicing relaxation techniques has been found to reduce stress, boost the immune system and promote heart health.

3) Encourage your loved one to take ownership in their recovery process.  Research shows that patients who practice self care and self monitoring are more successful.  

4) Consider utilizing telehealth or home safety monitoring equipment.  Remote healthcare monitoring can aid in the diseases management process and provide peace of mind.  

5) Be sensitive to your loved one's lifestyle changes.  Do not smoke or eat high-fat foods in front of them.  

6) Seek professional help.  Talk to your doctor. 

Taking steps to avoid stress and promote health are beneficial across the board - for the caregiver, other family members and for the one with heart disease.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Importance of Heart-Healthy Lifestyles for Seniors

Aging brings an increased risk for heart disease and cardiovascular events.  In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death for adults over the age of 65.  That’s why understanding the value of a heart-healthy lifestyle is so important for older adults including our patients, clients, parents, spouses and ourselves. 

Some older adults believe that heart disease is an inevitable part of aging, but a heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart disease.  Others underestimate the importance of heart health because they believe heart disease can be cured with surgery or medicine.  The truth is heart disease is a lifelong condition that never goes away once it presents. 

What is heart disease?  The term heart disease refers to a group of cardiovascular diseases which are diseases of the heart and blood vessel system.  The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD).  CAD is often associated with heart attacks, heart failure, chest pain and irregular heartbeat.  Other cardiovascular diseases include stroke, high blood pressure and rheumatic heart disease. 

The American Heart Association has developed a simple seven-step list to help people live longer, healthier, happier lives.  The list includes the following:

·         Get active    
·         Eat better
·         Lose weight
·         Stop smoking
·         Manage  blood pressure
·         Control cholesterol
·         Reduce blood sugar

A heart-healthy lifestyle is possible at any age, but it does require a conscious effort.  In addition to the recommendations provided by the American Heart Association, the following recommendations are also meaningful: 

·         Consider reducing alcohol intake.  Excess alcohol consumption can negatively impact health conditions that contribute to heart disease like blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. 

·         Work to reduce stress.   Stress might be a risk factor or it could be that high levels of stress compound common chronic illnesses associated with aging like high blood pressure or diabetes.  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Meet Senior Agenda's Senior of the Year 2016...Ms Mary Greenlee

She's poised, polite, sophisticated, intelligent, articulate, dramatic, beautiful and smart.  Her eyes dance when she speaks and her smile is contagious.  She walks with purpose and speaks with confidence. She says you get smarter as you grow older because you just can't keep making the same mistakes over and over again.  

But the thing that truly captivated us about Mary was her energy.  Her energy is electric.  This woman isn't slowing down. She isn't getting old. She isn't growing tired.  She's out and about still turning heads and bending ears.  

Meet Mary Greenlee.  We had the privilege of interviewing her on Senior Agenda in August of 2016.  Listen to the interview here.  

Mary earned her BA in Communications from Denison University in 1962 followed by her MA in Theatre Direction from Wayne State University in 1967. She worked as a teacher prior to her years as a stay-at-home mom, and then served as Director of the Franklin County Drug Free Schools Consortium from 1987-1996.  

She founded a company called Transition Times in 2009 after her own discoveries about the importance of being prepared following the sudden loss of her lifelong spouse.  Transition Times  provides adults with a comprehensive approach to pre-planning that goes beyond typical legal and financial considerations.  Mary drew on the expertise of over 40 professionals including physicians, attorneys. financial planners, accountants, bankers, nurses, and funeral planners to connect the dots.  She is quick to point out that planning isn't enough. You also want to be sure the information is accessible.  She developed a Life Facts Book, available in notebook and spiral versions, to organize and maintain everything from passwords to medical information to household services to legal documents and beyond.   

What will Mary be up to next?  We're not sure but stay tuned and we will let you know.  In the meantime, please learn more about Transition Times and join us in congratulating Mary Greenlee as Senior Agenda's Senior of the Year 2016!  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Top Six Ways to Reduce Chronic Pain for Seniors

Teaching seniors to self-manage their pain and understand pain treatment options is necessary to reduce or eliminate chronic pain.  Safe treatments for seniors are available and include:

·        Medications or Drug Therapy / Prescription and Nonprescription
If over-the-counter drugs do not provide relief, your doctor may prescribe stronger prescription medications like muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety drugs, and other prescription painkillers. 

·         Physical and/or Occupational Therapy / Out-patient or Home Health
Physical and occupation therapies help to relieve pain by using special techniques that improve movement and function along with stretching,  strengthening, and other pain-relieving techniques.
·        Exercise
Research shows that regular exercise can diminish pain in the long run by improving muscle tone, strength, and flexibility.  Types of recommended exercises for senior chronic pain suffers include swimming, biking, walking and yoga. 
·       Chiropractic Treatment & Massage
Chiropractic treatment and massage are increasingly used by seniors suffering from chronic pain – especially when the pain is occurring in the back and/or neck.  The effectiveness of these techniques is an open and on-going debate.  Osteopathic doctors are also trained in bone manipulation techniques like the ones used by chiropractors. 

·       Psychological Treatment for Depression & Anxiety
Chronic pains leads to increased levels of anxiety, stress, depression, anger and fatigue.  Reaching out to a psychologist or counselor for professional help can help ease the emotional toll of chronic pain and make pain management possible.

·       Alternative Therapies / Acupuncture, Meditation, Biofeedback
Some people find relief in mind-body therapies and dietary approaches including nutritional supplements.  Alternative therapies are not always benign.  Always talk to your doctor before trying an alternative approach.  Be sure to tell your doctors about any alternative treatments you are using. 

Seniors and the elderly suffering from chronic pain should see their doctor for a complete assessment to rule out underlying causes that can be treated or to learn how to manage their pain.  

Chronic pain poses a significant problem for many seniors.  Pain is incorrectly thought to be a natural or inevitable part of the aging process.  Consequently, it is often under-reported and under-treated. Too often seniors do not report their pain because they do not believe it can be treated.  Some worry that reporting it will lead to expensive testing, additional medications or a new diagnosis.  Others fail to report it when they are in denial or fearful about disease progression when a diagnosis is in place.  And then there are age-related conditions like hearing loss and dementia that make it more difficult to communicate or assess pain.  To complicate matters even further, studies indicate that the pain threshold increases with advanced aging so pain tolerance decreases with age.  Increases in pain sensitivity have been attributed to age-related anatomical, physiological and biochemical changes. 

Treating chronic pain in seniors requires understanding the special needs of seniors and the elderly. Some older adults require special care because of multiple medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and other common ailments.