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Virtual Reality Program Allows Memory Care Residents To Transcend Their Environment

Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Virtual Reality Program Allows Memory Care Residents To Transcend Their Environment

In 2020, now that travel has become increasingly restrictive (at least for the short-haul) it’s refreshing to learn that seniors living with dementia at Sunshine Retirement Living communities can now tour the world via virtual reality (VR). Their virtual adventures have included everything from swimming with sharks to going on an elephant safari to visiting the Louvre Museum in Paris or attending an opera for the first time.

Not only is VR therapy a stimulating and enjoyable way to spend the afternoon, but it also seems to unlock memories in people with dementia. Through VR, residents have had memory breakthroughs and recalled experiences from their childhood and important family memories that were previously lost because of their dementia, says Sarah Peters, Sunshine’s Director of Marketing. Although some residents choose simple virtual experiences, like walking on a beach or through a forest, that too often helps them connect to memories of family camping trips or other past events, she notes. In addition to its VR Bucket List program, Sunshine offers a weekly group VR program, which also has therapeutic benefits, she says.

Helps residents feel more connected

The timing of Sunshine’s virtual reality initiative could not have been better, given that its communities have had to temporarily halt outside recreational trips and family visits to prevent the spread of COVID-19. VR therapy has helped relax and alleviate the anxiety of some residents, says Peters, adding that in a time of social restrictions, feelings of isolation and seclusion can be a big danger to residents. “Virtual reality allows the residents to get experiences away from the community. The group VR setting also gives them that sense of a shared adventure.”

This cutting-edge therapy integrates real-time computer graphics, body tracking devices, visual displays and other sensory inputs that resemble real-life situations, giving users the sensation of being in a different place than their actual physical environment. In a VR session at Sunshine, residents wear headsets while the Life Enrichment Director guides the experience with a handheld device. If families give permission, the hardware can be connected to a display for other residents to also watch and follow along in the experience.

Sunshine has expanded VR therapy to all assisted living, transitional assisted living and personal care communities as well as to some independent living places, with a goal of rolling it out to every community. “The response from residents and family caregivers to VR therapy has been fantastic,” says Peters.

Promising research on VR and dementia

Although research about the benefits of virtual reality on people with dementia is in the early stage, a 2019 study by the University of Kent indicates that it has huge potential. “It provides a richer and more satisfying quality of life than is otherwise available, with many positive outcomes,” said one of the researchers, Dr. Jim Ang, in this press release.

In the study, eight patients living with dementia used a VR headset to virtually visit a cathedral, a forest, a sandy beach, a rocky beach, and a countryside scene. One key finding was that VR helped patients recall old memories by providing new stimuli. For example, one patient recalled a holiday after seeing a bridge that reminded them of that trip. At an art session, some weeks later, one patient was inspired to draw a seaside picture.

To get a sense of just how exciting virtual reality can be, check out this video and article about the VR program at Sunshine’s Azalea Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care in Tallahassee, Florida. In the video, resident Bobye Townsend virtually experiences a space shuttle ride and re-experiences a SCUBA adventure on the Great Barrier Reef from decades ago. She absolutely beams with joy as she describes her VR excursions: “It was the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’ve done a lot of things and been a lot of places,” she is quoted as saying.

To learn more about residency or to schedule a tour of Azalea Gardens, contact our friendly team today.

How You Can Keep Fit While Keeping Home

In a world where social distancing has become the norm you may wonder how to keep healthy and active. The good news is that you can find a plethora of YouTube exercise videos, making home workouts easier than ever. Not all videos are created equal, though, so we’ve scoured the Internet to find excellent videos geared to seniors who want to get or stay fit.

General exercise routines

Our first recommendation is the National Institute for Aging’s sample workouts of varying lengths. Other fitness resources include:

Strengthening

Strength training is one of the most effective things you can do to stay active and independent as it can ward off age-related muscle loss and keep bones and joints strong, all of which and help prevent falls. Here are a few resources that will show you how to build strength safely:

Balance

Incorporating balance exercises into your routine can also help prevent falls. One of the best ways to add a little balance into your life is to take up Tai Chi, a gentle exercise practice that can enhance mobility as well. Here’s two good introductory videos: Easy Nine-Minute Daily Practice and Tai Chi for Seniors. Also consider the Discover Tai Chi For Balance and Mobility Scott Cole Wellness Series, which can be purchased on Amazon.

If Tai Chi does not appeal, Feldenkrais, which uses gentle, mindful movements, may be a better fit. Check out Seven Balance Exercises You Need to Know | Feldenkrais Style.

Flexibility

Any exercise routine should include stretching, as this keeps muscles strong, flexible and healthy, increasing range of motion as well as circulation and blood flow. The National Institute for Aging has produced a nice playlist of stretching videos. You can also improve your flexibility by practicing yoga, as many poses emphasize stretching. Here are some yoga picks geared to seniors:

The ELDOA Method, a series of precise exercises, is another practice that can boost flexibility as well as posture. These exercises, which also provide pain relief, create space within a precise segment of the spine, using myofascial tension and muscle contraction. Cornerstone Pilates has a great beginner warm-up video as well as one that targets L5-S1 on the lower back.

Cardio

Finally, don’t forget cardiovascular exercise as this can reduce your risk for chronic diseases like heart disease and dementia. Walking is one of the best cardio choices for older adults–although, in times like these you may not feel safe going outside. Fortunately, walking at home videos like this one can provide the same benefits.

Other cardio options includes aerobics geared to seniors or fun dance workouts like Quarantine Dance Party, Line Dances for Seniors and Beginners and Low-Impact Salsa Dance for Beginners. You can even learn ballet at home—an amateur dancer and her 70-something mother have created a website for “beyond 50s” and beginners.

These are just a few of the many ways you can keep fit (and have fun!) while you’re cooped up in your apartment. Bear in mind that it’s especially crucial to keep physically active during troubling times, as exercise can boost your emotional well-being as well as your physical health.

Related Links

Tips on staying fit and mobile as you age.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April, 2020.

How The Mediterranean Diet Can Help Boost Senior Health

As we age, the nutrients our bodies need start to change. This makes it very important for the elderly to be more mindful of what they eat to stay healthy and prevent the development of various diseases such as Alzheimer’s. As highlighted in a previous post, following specific diets such as the Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 53%. Aside from promoting brain health, here are some more ways a Mediterranean diet can help boost the health of senior citizens:

Boosts the immune system

One of the most common fruits found in Mediterranean dishes is avocado. This fruit is relatively popular across America as the perfect topping on toast and as a great source of heart-healthy fats. US News states that the oils derived from avocado are rich in monosaturated fats, which are associated with cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits, and phytosterols, which help reduce the absorption of cholesterol. Elderly people usually suffer from nutrient deficiencies which Parsley Health explains can bring forth various symptoms such as depression, lethargy, and brittle hair and nails. Power-packed with vitamin E, vitamin K, B vitamins, folate, potassium, and vitamin C, avocados and avocado oils can help provide elderly people with the nutrients they need to stay healthy and address some of these symptoms.

Improves gut function

As people age, the immune response of their gut becomes less effective. Medical News Today claims that this decline is often linked to the changes in the gut microbiome or the communities of bacteria and microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract. These changes are often associated with inflammation, increased frailty, and a predisposition to intestinal illnesses. Fortunately, it is possible to rejuvenate the gut’s immune system. According to a study published in the Journal of the British Society of Gastroenterology, subscribing to a Mediterranean diet for a year can effectively alter the microbiome of elderly people in such a way that it improves brain function. The Mediterranean diet that follows the principle of eating lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and olive oil and little red meat, sugar, and saturated fats slows down the loss of bacterial diversity and the production of harmful inflammatory markers.

Promotes longevity

Aside from protecting people against certain types of cancer and cognitive decline, the Mediterranean diet in old age is also said to promote longevity. The Insider notes how the Mediterranean diet has been associated with the regions of the world where people tend to live the longest and healthiest. One of the easiest ways to incorporate this diet into your meals is by using liberal amounts of olive oil in your cooking. Olive oil is a fantastic source of powerful antioxidants that help protect the body against free radicals that cause cell damage and contribute to the development of diseases. Michael Simmons shared in an article on the Medium that olive oil can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and protect old people against strokes.

In summary, a Mediterranean diet not only provides a number of benefits that includes an improved immune system, longevity, and gut function, it is also easy to follow and should be a major consideration for the elderly across the world that will provide them with immeasurable benefits.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, March, 2020.

Seniors Enjoy Specialized Programs That Maximize Their Quality Of Life And Support Their Cognitive Health

Most of us know that people who are experiencing conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia need medical care. There are obviously doctor’s appointments to attend, medications to administer, and conditions and symptoms to be monitored and managed. But in addition to all of their medical care, people experiencing memory challenges also benefit from a wide variety of lifestyle factors that can support not only their cognitive health but also their overall quality of life.

That’s why Copper Canyon Assisted Living and Memory Care community in Tucson, Arizona, prioritizes residents’ lifestyle in addition to their medical care. Residents enjoy a variety of programs that are meant to support their physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life.

Specialized Memory Care Programming

Copper Canyon applies a Montessori-style approach to its memory care programming. While the Montessori approach was originally developed for early childhood education, Copper Canyon has built upon this approach, modifying it to honor the age and experiences of their residents. The program provides sensory stimulation and encourages cognitive stimulation while building on existing social skills. This unique programming enables your loved one to live life to the fullest in a safe and secure environment.

The community also designs its memory care and other resident programs specifically to nurture the physical, social, spiritual, cognitive, and emotional needs of all residents. The community’s programming is built on the research-backed six “Sunshine Pillars of Wellness.” That means each resident can receive not only assistance with the regular activities of daily life, but also support in the following areas: physical engagement, social connections, spiritual support, intellectual discovery, sensory stimulation, and emotional expression. As part of this programming, residents can enjoy activities such as music therapy, aromatherapy, validation techniques, health and wellness activities, and life skills stations.

Unique Dining Program

Even the community’s dining program is designed for the particular needs of memory care residents. Copper Canyon’s daily menu incorporates foods from the Rush University Medical Center MIND diet, which fosters brain health. This diet includes healthy foods such as green vegetables, nuts, berries, whole grains, beans, and lean protein sources like fish and chicken. The diet also excludes or limits foods that research suggests may not support cognitive health. The research suggests that even “modest adherence” to the MIND Diet can provide support for one’s cognitive health.

As part of Copper Canyon’s dining program, entrees are served on colored plates to stimulate appetite, and a server greets each resident individually with multiple daily menu choices. This unique 24/7 dining program, in conjunction with the community’s many Memory Care programs, is intended to help hold off memory issues for as long as possible.

Safety and Security

The Copper Canyon community was specifically designed with your loved one’s safety in mind. Each apartment offers a safe and convenient floorplan as well as safety pull cords. Each resident also wears a location-based pendant to provide you with an extra sense of security. The community’s grounds allow residents to enjoy the Arizona weather in a safe environment; the secured walking paths and enclosed gardens encourage a daily stroll, and residents can rest on the patio area’s comfortable benches to enjoy the beautiful views.

Your loved one will never be alone at Copper Canyon. The community’s team includes a highly-trained Executive Director, Health Services Director, and Life Enrichment Director. Each of these professionals, as well as the rest of the staff, are trained to provide customized, person-centered care to each resident, including options for health monitoring, medication management, assistance with dressing, bathing, grooming, and oral care.

All of these programs provide a lifestyle that supports your loved one’s quality of life in addition to their physical health.

To learn more about residency or to schedule a tour of Copper Canyon, contact our friendly team today.

A Specialized Memory Care Community Provides Many Advantages Over In-Home Care

When your loved one begins experiencing memory challenges and starts to need additional assistance with the activities of daily living, there are many options for providing them the necessary care. You or another family member or friend could provide the care yourself, or you could hire in-home assistance from a licensed professional.

But both of those options lack the advantages of a dedicated memory care community like Belleview Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care in Aurora, Colorado. The specialized care and programming at the community means your loved one will not only receive the assistance they need, but their quality of life will be maximized, as well.

Specialized memory care programming goes beyond in-home options

In-home caregiving can certainly provide your loved one with assistance like medication management, chores, dressing, shopping, and transportation. But at a community, your loved one also has the benefit of participating in specialized memory care programming that is designed to increase their quality of life.

At Belleview Heights, community activities are designed to nurture the physical, social, spiritual, cognitive, and emotional needs of all residents. The community’s programming is built on the research-backed six “Sunshine Pillars of Wellness.” Through this program, each resident receives support in the following areas: physical engagement, social connections, spiritual support, intellectual discovery, sensory stimulation, and emotional expression.

Community design keeps residents safe and happy

It can be tough to decide to move your loved one out of the home they’ve lived in comfortably for years. But for those experiencing memory challenges, the average home presents many safety concerns you may not have considered. Conditions like dementia or other memory challenges may affect a person’s spatial awareness and balance, meaning that everyday home features become much more dangerous. Normal items such as throw rugs, kitchen appliances, differences in flooring or elevation, and showers without safety features such as handrails, could cause accidents.

At a community like Belleview Heights, everything from the community’s grounds to the residents’ dwellings are designed with residents’ safety and comfort in mind. Living spaces are specifically designed with consistent, flat flooring, accessible bathroom safety features, and safety pull cords to keep residents safe and comfortable. Residents also wear location-based pendants to provide their loved ones with peace of mind. And the community grounds are designed to be both safe and secure as well as conducive to residents living a full, engaged life.

Social connection is crucial for memory care residents

Research suggests that socializing with others is a critical factor in slowing cognitive decline. If your loved one receives at-home care and cannot attend social events outside of their home like they used to, they may be missing out on many social opportunities that they used to enjoy.

At Belleview Heights, residents regularly socialize with both the staff and other residents. A certified Life Enrichment Director leads the community in engaging daily activities, weekly on-site social events, and fun cultural excursions as part of their researched-backed health and wellness program. Residents can enjoy programs such as music therapy, aromatherapy, validation techniques, health and wellness activities, and life skills stations.

Trained and licensed staff provide 24/7 individualized care

It could be the case that an in-home caregiver cannot be able to be with your loved one around the clock. That leaves you or another friend or family member to pick up the slack when your loved one needs medication, assistance with house chores, meals, or other help.

But at a memory care community, your loved one is never alone, and you have complete peace of mind. Belleview Heights’ trained and licensed staff is available 24/7, ensuring that your loved one receives the assistance that they need at any time of the day or night.

It is clear that the immersive, caring environment of a specialized memory care community provides distinct advantages over in-home care options. A memory care community like Belleview Heights is where your loved one will be safe, healthy, and happy!

To learn more about residency or to schedule a tour of Belleview Heights, contact our friendly team today.

Copper Canyon Uses Healthy Lifestyle Programs To Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies

Everyone knows that it’s important to get their vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, nutrient deficiencies can occur for a variety of reasons, whether it be poor nutritional intake, chronic or acute health conditions, medications, or a combination of these factors.

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) found particular deficiencies common in community-dwelling adults over the age of 65. Fortunately, Copper Canyon Assisted Living and Memory Care Community in Tucson, Arizona, takes special steps in designing its resident programs in order to help its residents prevent nutrient deficiencies and live a healthy lifestyle

Calcium

According to the BJN study, 65% of men and 73% of women over 65 are deficient in calcium. Initially, a calcium deficiency may not present any symptoms. But in more severe cases or over a prolonged period, low calcium levels can lead to serious symptoms such as muscle cramps and spasms, extreme fatigue, and dry or itchy skin. It can also lead to osteoporosis or osteopenia, which results in low mineral density in the bones.

Calcium can be found primarily in dairy foods and dark green leafy vegetables. Copper Canyon ensures that its unique 24/7 dining program includes these calcium-containing foods so residents can get this necessary nutrient.

Vitamin D

If vitamins and minerals had pals, Calcium and Vitamin D would be best friends. Vitamin D helps the body transport calcium to the bones. But it also helps reduce inflammation, particularly chronic inflammation. Unfortunately, the BJN study found that 84% of men and 91% of women over 65 don’t get enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D is actually manufactured in our skin when we are exposed to sunlight. We can also eat foods containing Vitamin D in order to increase the level of this essential vitamin. Copper Canyon residents get to do both! The community’s grounds are secure and set up to encourage residents to take short walks in the Arizona sun. The community also offers an activity calendar including outdoor activities.

Thiamin

Also known as vitamin B1, thiamin plays a critical role in energy metabolism. This vitamin is particularly important for older adults, as a thiamin deficiency can lead to short-term memory loss, muscle weakness, and cardiovascular symptoms. The BJN study found that found that 50% of men and 39% of women over age 65 were deficient in this essential nutrient.

Thiamin can be found in whole grains, meat, and fish. Copper Canyon makes sure to include plenty of these healthy foods in its dining program.

Magnesium

Magnesium is yet another mineral that helps aid in retaining bone density and muscle coordination. But it is also essential for more than 300 biochemical reactions within the body, and it helps support a healthy heart and immune system. The BJN study found that 73% of men and 41% of women were low in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency may cause fatigue, muscle cramps, mental symptoms, irregular heartbeat and osteoporosis.

Luckily, foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, dry beans, whole grains and low-fat dairy products are all great sources of magnesium, and they are all included in Copper Canyon’s menus.

Selenium

Selenium is an essential trace mineral, meaning that humans only need it in small amounts. But even so, the BJN study found that 30% of adults over age 65 were deficient in this essential nutrient. Selenium plays a role in helping our bodies prevent cell damage, as well as helping maintain metabolism and thyroid function. Selenium deficiency can lead to fatigue, mental fog, muscle weakness, and a weakened immune system.

Selenium can be found in foods like fish, meat, eggs, brown rice, and some nuts and seeds. Many of these options are available for Copper Canyon residents daily as part of their meal plans.

Although many older adults are at risk for certain nutrient deficiencies, Copper Canyon ensures that its dining program and wellness activities are designed to help prevent these common issues.

To learn more about residency or to schedule a tour of Copper Canyon, contact our friendly team today.

Start 2020 With 20 Fun and Life-Changing Habits

Don’t look now, but Father Time has launched us into a brand-new decade. Whether the 2020s turn out to be as “Roaring” as the 1920s remains to be seen. But if you’re ready to charge into them with a plan of attack like a lion, there’s a much better chance that you won’t end up with a “great depression” when they’re over.

Resolutions Provide Purpose

Setting resolutions and goals on a regular basis actually has practical value for seniors and can have a positive impact on overall health. Rush University has conducted studies that show people who view life with a sense of purpose and maintain a high level of self-discipline are two to four times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Also, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that older adults with a solid sense of purpose tend to retain stronger hand grips and walking speeds – key indicators of a delayed aging process.

What’s more, writing down your thoughts and desires can make a big difference in your general outlook on life. It’s a way to enter the year with an upbeat attitude. And yes, there are studies to support the benefits of a positive attitude as you age. A Columbia University study showed that people who are enthusiastic and content are less likely to develop heart disease.

So with all of those benefits, why not consider trying a few of these 20 fun New Year’s resolutions:

1. TRY A NEW HEALTHY FOOD EACH WEEK

Think you’ve tasted every food on the planet? Think again. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, there are 250,000 -300,000 species of edible plants on earth. Don’t worry about trying to eat all of them. The fact is, farmers only grow 150-200 species. Many of them, however, are not your garden variety lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, etc. and they’re quite delicious! Talk to your chef or Life Enhancement Director (LED) about introducing jicama, star fruit or some other new items to your meals. You might learn to like them as much as Brussel sprouts.

2. LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY

Psychology Today claims that learning can help reduce cognitive decline associated with aging. It can also help older adults deal with depression and poor self-image. Learn more about a topic you already enjoy or dig into something totally new.Play a musical instrument. Start a coffee chat group with fellow residents. Get into gardening. Or learn a new board game with friends. Your LED will be happy to help you branch out.

3. PICK UP A NEW HOBBY

A study in the National Institutes on Aging claims that participating in hobbies can lower your risk of developing dementia and other mental health problems. A recent survey of older adults found that the most popular hobbies for people ages 65 and older are walking and jogging, outdoor maintenance, and playing sports. Every Sunshine Retirement community has plenty of options for you to try.

4. MAKE YOUR SURROUNDINGS SAFER

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 falls each year, and many of those falls are preventable. Here’s a quick refresher on how to make your area safer:

  • Remove loose throw rugs from high traffic areas.
  • Fix the height of the bed so it’s easier to get out of.
  • Keep a working flashlight on the nightstand; check the batteries periodically.
  • Put eye-level decals or reflectors on glass and screen doors.
  • Telephones should be in each main room, and they should be positioned low enough to be reached from the floor in case of a fall.

5. GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR INNER HEMINGAY – WRITE!

You have seen and learned so much in life – why not put it down on paper? Writing can be a fun, fulfilling experience. Research shows that writing about the many positive things in your life can help you avoid depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

Write a book, pen a poem, or try writing some comedy. Even better, write down some of the memorable stories from your life. Some topics you may want to explore include:

  • What are the experiences that have made you who you are?
  • What are your favorite memories?

Journaling can also be an enjoyable and healthy experience. Pick up a pen and give it a try!

6. PLAY MORE

In the immortal words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing boosts your energy and vitality, and can even improve your body’s resistance to disease.

Join a Bunco or Bridge group. Or see if your community has a Wii or Play Station game console.If you can’t find a group that interests you, start one. Spread the word that you’d like to host a game night, and you might be surprised how popular it becomes. With a little practice, you might be able to challenge your grandkids someday.

7. TAKE UP A DANCE OR EXERCISE CLASS

Older adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They also need to engage in muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week. A dance, yoga or exercise class at your Sunshine community can help you get all the exercise you need in a safe and fun environment. If you’re not already participating at your Sunshine community, what are you waiting for?

8. READ MORE BOOKS

Reading enhances memory, sharpens decision-making skills, reduces stress, and can even help you sleep better. To make it even more interesting, join or create a book club.

9. BE MORE GRATEFUL – COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS

Gratitude improves both physical health and psychological health, enhances empathy, reduces aggression, boosts self-esteem, bolsters mental strength, and it can also help you sleep. One easy way to nurture gratitude and count your blessings is to keep a basic gratitude journal. Even something as simple as writing down one thing you are grateful for every day can go a long way in helping you see things all around you for which to be grateful. If you want to take it a step further, write down something you want to become more thankful for. If you’re consistent, it won’t take long for your outlook on life to improve.

10. SPEND MORE TIME IN NATURE

Are you noticing a theme here? Getting outdoors helps you get the fresh air and exercise you need to stay healthy. Spending time in nature also helps you connect with the world around you. Luckily, most Sunshine communities have beautiful gardens for residents to enjoy and frequently take outings to parks and natural areas. Grab your coat and hat, and take a deep breath.

11. ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE

Sometimes the smallest things can bring about the greatest pleasures. Embrace the smell of coffee in the morning, the hug of someone you love, or the sound of a favorite tune.

12. BE CHARISMATIC

Some people are naturally charismatic. The rest of us, not so much. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to exude more positive energy. How? Stand tall, have confidence, look people in the eye, and smile more often. Confident people will often admit that they acted confident long before they felt confident.

If you want to try new things this year or meet new people, don’t let a lack of confidence stand in your way. Raise your chin, straighten your back and walk boldly into whatever new endeavor you want to try. If the confidence isn’t there, it’ll catch up. Remember, the only thing worse than failure is regret. Don’t regret not trying your best self this year!

13. EAT SMART

Everyone knows that it’s wise to eat healthy foods and watch your weight. But did you know there are food items that are good for your brain? Blueberries, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and nuts are a few easy-to-find foods that can boost your brain power. And guess what? Dark chocolate is a brain-boosting food as well!

14. VOLUNTEER TO READ TO CHILDREN

Connecting with children is a great way to energize your life. Reading to youngsters or helping them learn to read can be just about as much fun as you will ever have. Ask your LED about how you can volunteer at your local library or invite children into your community for a storybook session.

15. VOLUNTEER AT YOUR LOCAL MUSEUM, THEATER, OR CHURCH

Older adults who volunteer in their communities report lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, fewer physical limitations, and greater well-being. It really is better to give than to receive! Give your time to causes and communities you love, and the benefits will be extraordinary.

16. TREAT YOURSELF TO A NEW WELLNESS ACTIVITY ONCE A MONTH

It’s never too late to take better care of yourself. Whether you’re trying yoga or Tai Chi, scheduling a massage, or trading your coffee for green tea, there are countless ways to enhance your wellness. If you try an activity and decide it isn’t for you, try another (and another!) until you discover something you love. Many people who give up on wellness activities simply stop too soon. Be patient and stay determined. Most Sunshine communities are kicking off the year with a 21-Day Wellness Challenge. So, it’s the perfect time to get started.

17. EMBRACE YOUR ROOTS WITH A DNA ANCESTRY TEST

DNA testing can help you discover your family roots and understand where you came from. There are many services available (often at a cost) to receive a comprehensive report of your genealogy, ethnicity or family tree. A few of these services include:

Who knows? You may be descended from royalty or another race. Along the same line, maybe this is the year you should reach out to a distant relative or family member with whom you have always wanted to connect. Send an email or make a phone call. Work on your family tree or work on documenting your family history. This can become a fun project of its own and one that your own ancestors will surely cherish.

18. MAKE A NEW FRIEND ONCE A MONTH

Friendships can have greater effects on your health and well-being than the relationship with your family. If you’re nervous about doing this one-on-one, consider simply meeting someone for coffee. If you are feeling lonely, chances are someone else in your community is feeling lonely, too. Find each other and start a friendship! And here’s a helpful hint: Don’t limit new friendships to people who look or act just like you or share the same viewpoints. Some of the greatest friendships are formed by the attraction of opposites.

19. LISTEN TO LIVE MUSIC MORE OFTEN

Music is good for your health. It has the power to bring back fond memories and transport you — even momentarily — to another time and place. It can make you feel relaxed from head to toe or it can get your blood pumping and make you want to get up and dance. Few other experiences in life have the wide array of effects on us that music has and experiencing it live enhances all of those positive results. Whether you want to destress, get motivated or forget your troubles, go enjoy the next live musical performance at your community. And get there early so you can grab a front-row seat.

20. SET ASIDE ONE HOUR A DAY TO ACHIEVE A DREAM

Write the Great American Novel. Paint a self-portrait. Learn a new language. it’s always a great day to do something you’ve always wanted to do. The good news is – even if you only spend an hour or so on your dream – by the end of the new year, you’ll have contributed a healthy amount of time on your project and made good progress. So, don’t delay! Identify your dream project and start working on it. You won’t regret it.

Share Your Resolutions and Stick with Them

Each new year provides an exciting opportunity to try new things and establish positive habits. But the best thing is, you don’t actually need a new year or a new decade to make a fresh start. Every day is an opportunity to do something amazing and rewarding!

Of course, starting 20 new resolutions all at once is a lot to ask. So, pick the ones that are most important to you, then share your resolve with friends and family members. They’ll support you and help you get the results you’re hoping for. Later, take on a few more and see how much easier they are to manage.

Day by day, step by step, let’s make the 2020s your decade of resolutions that become revolutions!

This blog was first published in Sunshine Retirement Living, January, 2020. Additional content provided by usnews.com and medfordleas.org.

Putting Yourself Firmly on the Road to Recovery

With the holiday season upon us, we look forward to the traditions that make this time of year so special, as well as the excitement of getting together with family and friends. Yet with all the joy we find during the holidays, it’s also a season fraught with danger for seniors who face greater risks of falling for one reason or another:

  • Climbing on stools or step ladders to bring down the good china or decorations.
  • Tripping over an extension cord that has been brought out for the Christmas lights.
  • Getting in and out of cars to go to restaurants and visit relatives.
  • Walking on icy pathways and parking lots.
  • Being a little tipsy from having an extra drink or two.
  • Reaching to put an ornament or an angel high on a Christmas tree.

If you’re getting advanced in years, these are just a few common occurrences that can put you on the floor or the ground in a heartbeat, and make you wish the angel on your tree is watching over you somehow.

For additional causes of falls and how to avoid them, refer back to our article on fall prevention posted on October 9. More recently, on November 6 to be exact, we took a look at how to pick yourself up from a fall, which is much easier said than done. Today, we wrap up our series on falls with the most important topic of all: how to recover from a fall that has caused a physical injury and possibly psychological damage as well.

Thanks to the Baby Boomer generation steadily getting older, many seniors are approaching their late 70s, which means they are well beyond the age when a fall merely results in a few minor scrapes and bruises. And they’re fast approaching the age of 80 when more than half of all people experience a fall each year and those often lead to fractures and even death. Consider these alarming statistics related to falling:

  • Approximately 9,500 deaths of older Americans are associated with falls each year.
  • Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age.
  • Two-thirds of those who fall will do so again within six months.
  • When an older person falls, his or her hospital stays are almost twice as long as those of older patients who are admitted for any other reason.
  • Among people aged 85 and older, one out of every 10 falls results in a hip fracture.
  • One-fourth of seniors who fracture a hip from a fall will die within six months of the injury. A broken hip itself is rarely fatal, but long periods confined to a bed or being inactive leads to other complications, including depression and pneumonia.

While falls are a major fear for older adults, often signaling the onset of serious physical concerns and a potential loss of independence, a fall doesn’t have to be life-threatening or even life-altering. If you or a loved has recently experienced a fall, here are some things to keep in mind to help with a full recovery.

Understand that falls will happen

Despite taking preventive measures, seniors are afflicted by falls more often than you may realize and the number reported in recent years is on the rise. Falls can occur for a number of reasons, from a defective shoe to cognitive impairment, weather conditions or even a simple distraction. The important thing to understand is that falls aren’t necessarily a physical failure, and there’s no need to get too discouraged if one does happen.

Fitness is a significant factor

The New York Times determined that, not surprisingly, one of the biggest indicators of how well an older adult could be expected to recover after a fall was directly tied to his or her level of physical ability. Those who were physically active were far more likely to recover more fully and quickly than those who are typically inactive.

Brenda Olivarez, Life Enrichment Director at Sunshine’s Garden Way Retirement Community in Eugene, Oregon, concurs.

“The best thing is to be a very active person beforehand and do a lot of bone-loading exercises for your legs,” she says. “But if the person is frail and does not stay on top of their health, unfortunately, they could easily pass away from a broken hip or other serious fracture.”

Consequently, an important element of recovery for any senior who has fallen is to improve their level of physical fitness as much as possible through regular exercise. Even if an individual is living with a disability, regular activity and physical therapy can help maximize functioning, which can be a huge factor in post-fall recovering. All Sunshine Retirement communities have regular group programs that can enhance your fitness, many specifically designed for victims of falls, including balance and muscle strength exercises.

Break down psychological barriers with living space changes

While falls are the leading cause of physical injury among seniors, much of the damage they do is psychological. Even seniors who were relatively fit and physically independent prior to their slip can suffer a huge blow to self-confidence and leave them feeling unsure about living on their own.

One way to combat a sudden lack of confidence is to create a safe space during the recovery process. This can involve everything from rearranging furniture to allow more support while moving around to widening walkways throughout the home. Brenda Olivarez offers this helpful list to those who have survived a fall:

  • Make sure your home is safe in case you come home with a walker or another device to help you move around. Have your family make more room so that the trip hazards are not as high.
  • Get rid of rugs! Or at least make sure they are new and do not have holes in them.
  • If you have dark hallways, get night lights so that you can see where you are going when you get up in the night for the bathroom.
  • Install handrails/grab bars in the bathroom and shower, and add a shower chair until you are stable enough to stand on the wet tile. Have someone install “grip strip” on the shower floor to make it less slippery.
  • Make sure the handrails along steps and stairways are secure and sturdy.
  • Have a cell phone or an emergency alert necklace in case another emergency happens and you need help immediately.

Not only can these suggestions reduce the chance of additional falls during the delicate recovery period, they can give you the confidence to make physical recovery faster and easier.

Healing the break

Unless you’re lucky enough to simply walk away with some mild bruising, chances are you’ll require some type of treatment and recovery period. Many people end up with hip, rib, shoulder, ankle, foot or wrist fractures. Typically, a broken bone will need to be kept straight and immobile while it heals in order to fuse together correctly. That’s fine in theory, but in practice, it can make things difficult, especially if you are someone who is used to being active. Before you try to go back to your old routine, consult with your doctor or therapist and stick with their prescribed timetable.

Living with a cast

If you’ve broken a bone in your hand or foot, it’s likely you’ll have a cast applied, and mobility will almost certainly become an issue. Rather than pushing your body through the pain, it’s important to adjust your lifestyle to account for the cast or splint. Spinal injuries may require a therapeutic brace or corset to keep the spine steady while you heal, and that can dramatically decrease your regular range of motion.

Here are some good tips to help you get through your time with your cast:

  • Unless your foot cast is designed for walking, don’t put your body weight on it.
  • Keep swelling down by propping up the limb when sitting.
  • Practice toning the muscles around and under the cast with physio-approved exercises.

Patience is a virtue

You can expect to be in a cast or splint for at least six weeks, but a break can take significantly longer to heal depending on the bone and the nature of the fracture. Listen to your doctor and your body. While there are average guidelines for healing a break, there is no absolute standard timeline because everybody is different. If you’re feeling pain and fatigue, these are signs that you might be pushing your body too hard.

Regaining strength

With the right help, you can begin regaining your strength well before the cast comes off. Your doctor will definitely provide a rehabilitation program for after surgery or the setting of the bone. Therapists and specialists will help you with targeted mobility and strengthening exercises, and the staff at your retirement community will surely provide recovery support as well.

Continuing your rehab

Rehab and recovery under medical supervision is important, but your improvement will grind to a halt if you don’t keep up the strengthening on your own. Hip fractures are among the most common osteoporosis-related injuries, and while they can be difficult to heal, a study out of Boston University found that patients recovering from hip surgery who did specific exercises at home enjoyed significantly more function and mobility.

How yoga can help

Along with rebuilding muscle, improving your balance will definitely help your recovery. Beginning a gentle yoga routine could be your best bet for a better balance. Don’t worry about the challenging postures that your granddaughter can do. Yoga instructors at most Sunshine Retirement communities will focus on slow and deliberate movements to nurture your balance on both sides of your body. Many of our instructors have experience with rehabilitation and can offer close and careful guidance through your practice, even starting you off with Chair Yoga.

Learning from your fall

After you’ve had a bad fall, you’ll naturally be a bit more cautious. You might be reluctant to go out in bad weather or cover longer distances on your own. However, strengthening muscles and improving your cardiovascular fitness are vital parts of the rehabilitation process and will absolutely improve your longevity. So whatever you do, don’t swear off exercise and become a couch potato.

“Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help – no matter or how big or small,” says Brenda. “Make sure all your future movements are safe and steady to avoid another accident. And above all, NEVER STOP MOVING and DO NOT LIVE IN FEAR. The more fear you move with, the higher the chances of you falling again. Keep engaging with everyone around you as you had before.”

While the fall season suggests that the end of the year is approaching, the time of year that could cause a fall doesn’t have to be the end of the road for you or your loved ones. We hope this series will help you stay on your feet and enjoy many happy holiday seasons to come.

First published on Sunshine Retirement Living, November 2019. Some content provided by sunriseseniorliving.com, comfortkeepers.com, silversneakers.com
and newlifeoutlookosteoporosis.com

Just Because Leaves Are Falling Doesn’t Mean You Have To

Unless you live in a banana belt surrounded by swaying palm trees, you’ve probably noticed a slight chill in the air and a hint of color on the trees outside. That’s because in the wee hours of last Monday morning, the autumnal equinox launched the official beginning of fall. One by one, the leaves on the deciduous trees will tumble to the ground.

This blog post marks the first installment in a series of safety topics an,d autumn seemed like an appropriate time of year to consider how seniors can avoid a fall of their own

According to a recent survey, one in every four Americans over the age of 65 will suffer a fall this year. As seniors reach their 70s, that number increases to one in three. Those are especially alarming statistics, when you consider that nearly 25% of those falls result in serious injuries, such as broken wrists, hips, ankles, and other bones, Fortunately, there are several precautions to help keep those bones, and self-esteem, intact.

Simple tips to prevent falls

As seniors get older, physical changes and health conditions — and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions — can make falls more likely A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This social isolation can result in further physical decline, depression and feelings of helplessness.

Get back to enjoying your golden years and consider these simple fall-prevention strategies to keep the fear of falling at bay:

1. Keep moving

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall-prevention. With a doctor’s approval, consider adding activities into your routine such as walking, water workouts, yoga, tai chi or dancing. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.

“Chair Yoga is a great safe foundation of fitness for seniors,” says Tina Bertelle, Life Enrichment Director at The Clairmont in Austin, Texas. “I am certified as a Chair Yoga instructor, I teach Yoga Flow, and I’m a green belt in Taekwondo. So, I incorporate Tai Chi and different kinds of movements into almost every day of our lives. We segue from peaceful Japanese music for Tai Chi into some Country/Western music to stretch out and keep our bodies moving.

“Residents even have homework to practice their ‘CAT’ and ‘COW’ spell-out poses from the chair. It’s a running joke that I tell them to ‘have a Cow’ every Wednesday.”

The results of movement classes at The Clairmont and other communities have been overwhelmingly positive.

“We have seen residents with low oxygen stats get back to normal,” says Tina, “and people who were not able to move or stretch are now able to touch their toes without pain.”

For those seniors who avoid physical activity because they’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, Tina has just a few words of advice: “Move it or lose it!” she says.

2. Wear sensible shoes

Swapping out footwear can be a practical part of any fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles can cause slips, stumbles, and falls. Properly fitted, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles are best for preventing falls and can even reduce. joint pain when worn over time.

3. Remove hazards

Take a look around your living area and get rid of unnecessary hazards:

  • Remove boxes, electrical cords, and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks, and plantstands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose
    rugs entirely.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food, and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease, or food.

4. Light up your living space

Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Also:

  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of your bed for those middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances.
  • Replace traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

5. Use assistive devices

If you feel dizzy or wobbly occasionally, consider using a cane or walker. Other assistive devices can help, too. For example:

  • Install grab bars and use nonslip mats in the shower or bathtub.
  • Use a bath seat and a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.
  • Consider a raised toilet seat or one with armrests.

6. Consult the doctor

If you have serious concerns about falling, it’s a good idea to talk with your health care specialists and check on the following:

  • What medications are you taking? Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring them with you to the appointment. To help with fall prevention, your doctor may consider weaning you off medications that make you tired or affect your thinking.
  • Have you (almost) fallen before? Write down the details, including when, where and how
    you fell. Be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
  • Could your health conditions cause a fall? Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your
    risk of falls, including wearing bifocals. Be prepared to discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk — for example, do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, shortness of breath, or numbness in your feet and legs when you walk?

Your doctor may recommend solutions or precautions that may require professional help
or a larger investment. If cost is a concern, remember that an investment in fall- prevention is an investment in independence.

Prevention is the best way to avoid the injuries and other problems related to falls. But
accidents happen despite the best laid plans. In our next installment, we’ll explore what to do if
you or a loved one experiences a serious fall. Until then, stay safe and let the leaves do all the
falling.

First published on Sunshine Retirement Living, September, 2019. Some content was provided by mayoclinic.org and aging.com

Sunshine Residents find 7th Annual Wellness Month is the Perfect Fit

Wellness – noun, the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.

Centuries ago, early explorers spent the better part of their lives searching in vain for a mythical “Fountain of Youth.” By the looks of things today, many Sunshine residents have found the source of a longer and healthier life right in their own communities.

From coast to coast, our Life Enrichment Directors are putting a wrap on Wellness Month for another year. But after giving residents a good taste of fitness and wellness, they certainly aren’t turning off the desire for them to keep living well. To refresh your memory, here’s how Wellness Month has played out in most communities.

Sunshine’s Wellness Month began with a Kickoff Party on August 1, where each community provided opportunities throughout the month for residents to learn Wellness practices from¬¬ local professionals based on four different categories – Get Informed, Get Fit, Get Restored and Give Back.

Get Informed

We live in a changing world where information about new ideas, policies, problems and solutions constantly arise. Getting informed and learning about these new things can help us live healthier lives. A few examples of opportunities to Get Informed this month included:

  • Seminars on Nutrition, Hydration, Exercise & Joints, Heat Stress, Fall Prevention, Eye Care, High Cholesterol and Massage Therapy.
  • Blood Pressure and Cancer Screenings and Hearing Checks.
  • Health & Wellness Fairs.
  • Orthopedic Talks

“An RN from Memorial Hospital came out and talked to the residents about Heat Stress,” claims MerryBeth Grant, LED at The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana. “She gave them the warning signs and symptoms of Heat Stress and ways to protect themselves. The nurse also informed the residents that different medications can impair the body’s ability to regulate body temperature.”

Merry Bethalso talked to the residents about the importance of staying hydrated. They learned about the symptoms of dehydration and ways to prevent it.

“We told them about the five myths and facts of drinking water,” she says. “Since so many of them don’t love to drink water, we also discussed how they could get their water through eating lots of different fruits and vegetables. In the end, they each got a water bottle and a nice cold glass of ginger water infused with honey, lemon, cucumber, and spearmint.”

Get Fit

For those who have been watching life from the sidelines for a while, the thought of getting fit may seem daunting. But the payoffs of living a longer, healthier life are well worth it. The first step is to develop a good attitude and set achievable fitness goals. Then keep track of progress and get into a sustainable routine. To make things easier, residents are encouraged to buddy up with a friend to support and challenge each other, then switch things up and try new things together. Some of this month’s Get Fit offerings have included:

  • Dance Parties and Cardio Challenges.
  • Wii Bowling Tournament.
  • Beginning Taekwondo.
  • Healthy Happy Hours and Smoothie Socials.
  • Cornhole Tournaments.
  • Senior Olympics featuring Bean Bag Baseball and Potato Golf.

Complete with opening and closing ceremonies, the Senior Olympics is one of the perennial highlights of Wellness Month in Austin, Texas. This year, The Clairmont hosted their friendly crosstown rivals from The Continental and according to Life Enrichment Director (LED) Olga Rosalez, the competition breeds an amazingly warm and friendly camaraderie, while bringing a lot of enjoyment to their Wellness campaign.

“The Summer Games creates an essential physical activity for body and mind,” she states. “Participating and engaging with a friendly, competitive and fun mode promotes wellness and an overall positive way of life.”

Olga notices a positive change in residents like Wendell Sharptonof The Continental.

“Wendell strives to stay engaged in most activities and outings,” she says. “His overall wellness has improved tremendously in the last five years.”

Wendell wholeheartedly agrees.

“Wellness Month gets my attention and concentration on my wellness,” he says.“I put extra effort to stay hydrated and eat the right foods. Overall wellness is extremely important to me, especially at my age.”

Even without the rivalry of Senior Olympics, residents and staff members had spirited competitions in several communities, including Fountain Crest in Lehigh Acres, Florida. “This is the first time that we’ve had the Wi Bowling Challenge with the residents and staff,” claimed LED Debbie Whiteaker. “My residents are very competitive and wanted to create more interaction between staff and residents. The staff took turns coming out to bowl their games in the activity room and some and the residents who do not participate in many group programs came to watch. We have many residents who bowl very well and achieved perfect scores.”

Stacy Harrison, LED at The Landing at Behrman Place in New Orleans also decided to jazz things up this year with a new twist.

“We actually have spiced up Wellness Month by going back into the ‘50s,” she said.“We were‘Rockin’ Around the Clock’ at the Landing Fabulous ‘50’s Birthday Bash on the 18th.”

Get Restored

Getting physically and mentally restored is essential for your health. With our hectic lives, we are constantly on the move and over time this has caused damage to our quality of life. We need to reclaim balance and give ourselves some much-needed peace of mind, body, and soul. Sunshine residents have been Getting Restored this month through:

  • Relaxation Days and Spa Treatments (Massage, Pedicure, Aromatherapy, etc.).
  • Essential Oils and Foot Soaks.
  • Nature Therapy.
  • Drum Circles
  • Relaxing String Concerts.
  • Laughter is Medicine Workshops.
  • Mary Kay and Estee Lauder Facials.

“I really enjoy the pillow spray,” said Wilma of Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “I made two different ones and used the lemongrass and jasmine scent on my pillows and it helped me relax and have a good sleep.”

Give Back

Volunteering services or donating goods and money are not only beneficial for the recipients, but for the givers as well. Doing good for others and paying it forward does wonders for self-esteem, and having money to donate is not a requirement. This year, Sunshine’s Give Back activities featured:

  • Collection Events for Pediatric Hospitals and the ASPCA.
  • Cookie Decorating and Thank You cards for local Police and Fire Departments.
  • Clothing Drives and Bake Sales.
  • Eye Glasses Donations.

At the beginning of the month, residents received a special Wellness Calendar and a Wellness Stamp Card. Since then, they have been rewarded with a stamp on their card every time they attended a Wellness event highlighted on the Calendar. As the month ends, most of the communities will be hosting a Wellness Awards Ceremonyover the next few days, and every participant will be recognized and awarded. The resident who receives the most stamps on his or her card at each community will win a customized $50 Visa Gift Card for their efforts.

Bigger and Better Every Year

With wonderful incentives and noticeable results, it’s no wonder Wellness Month is going stronger than ever at most Sunshine communities.

“Wellness Month sets the tone every year for our residents by providing them with great information that helps them gracefully age in place,” said Everett Williams, Executive Director at The Continental, who has witnessed positive outcomes for several years.

Tiffanie Harper, Executive Director at Country Club Village concurs.

“I think that it pushes the residents to be more active and come out of their shell,” she says. “I notice that the residents that don’t normally come to many activities seem to come out during Wellness Month. I think having a healthy competition is good for them and helps them build habits that carry on past Wellness Month, which in turn, leads to a healthier way of life!”

It’s been a real eye-opener for Country Club Village LED Star Longinotti, who experienced her first Wellness Month this year.

“I am enjoying the Wellness tradition!” she claims.“Our morning exercise classes have really increased to 23-25 people most mornings. And we’ve had to increase our water cooler jugs because we’re going through them faster than our delivery schedule.”

That about sums it up. Who needs to search for a Fountain of Youth when there’s always plenty of refreshing Wellness inspiration – and ice-cold water – to go around.

First published on Sunshine Retirement Living, September 2019.