Virtual Reality Program Allows Memory Care Residents To Transcend Their Environment

Category Archives: Technology

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.

What can you do to stop robocallers and avoid being a victim of phone scams?

After our rather alarming review of robocall tactics and consequences, we’re back to share some ways you can fight back and protect yourself from robocall scams. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers the following advice:

  • Make sure you have created Contacts on your mobile phone for all of the family, friends, doctors, dentists, etc., who call you most frequently, so their name shows up in Caller ID when they call.
  • You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is a scam. Be aware: Caller ID showing a “local” number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller. Unless you’re expecting to hear from someone who is not in your Contact List, don’t answer calls from unknown numbers, especially those that appear to come from overseas. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • You can always return a voicemail if you don’t answer a call from a friend or family member. Voicemail messages from scammers in one of the categories mentioned above should be pretty obvious. Or they may not leave a message at all. In either case, use the “Block Caller” function on your mobile phone or landline, if you have one, to prevent them from disturbing you again, at least from that phone number. If you’re not sure if you have a Block Caller option on your phone, talk to your phone company about tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.
  • If you answer the phone and the caller—or a recording—asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets. Frequently check your phone bill for unusual or suspicious charges.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes.” The scammers can record your voice, then fraudulently splice it into what seems like a statement giving them permission to sign you up for an expensive service.
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mothers’ maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. Your bank, credit card company, the government or any other legitimate source will usually ask for a payment via a written statement in the mail before calling you on the phone.
  • If you have a voicemail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voicemail if you do not set a password.
  • If you have become a frequent target of scammers and are willing to pay a fee to make them stop, look into subscribing to a flagging and robocall-blocking service, such as:  HiyaNomoroboRoboKillerTNSTruecaller and YouMail.
  • If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls, so they can help block those calls for you and others.
  • To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list. If you still receive calls from scammers and telemarketers, report the number to the FTC at donotcall.gov.
  • In the U.S., you can also file a complaint with the FCC, or the Federal Trade Commission(FTC), as the agencies choose which robocallers to pursue for legal or regulatory enforcement based partly on these complaints. You can also report the robocalls to the office of your state’s attorney general.
  • Finally, make yourself less of a target by never giving out your numbers online or posting them publicly in your social media profiles, as they will likely be scraped by scammers.

If you have been a victim of an online scam, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.

We hope this information has been helpful in educating you and your family members about potential the hazards of robocalls. Cell phones and landlines are so critical for our residents to stay connected with friends and family, we hate to see anything – especially relentless and nefarious robots – come between them.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, August, 2019. Some content was provided by malawarebytes.com, prnewsire.com and washingtonpost.com.

Telephone scammers have got your number. Here’s how to fend them off.

Did you ever sit through one of those “B” movies in the 1950s or ‘60s, where a futuristic space hero was being attacked by evil robots? You probably left the drive-in thankful that you’d never have to deal with something so menacing and relentless in your lifetime.

Well, guess what. Those evil robots – or at least some of their close relatives – are already here on our planet. And they’re targeting unsuspecting seniors each and every day.

What spam is to email, a “robocall” is to a telecommunications device, such as your landline or mobile phone. There is usually no real human involved, only an automated, pre-recorded message sent via computer. Hence the term “robocall.” And not surprisingly, with many seniors being somewhat technologically challenged, and maybe not as skeptical of scam artists, they are often more vulnerable to robocall tactics. In Part 1 of our look at robocalls, we’ll explore those tactics and the consequences of being sucked in by them.

Robocalls, also known as “voice broadcasting,” generally contact you with the intention of stealing something from you, such as, your credit card or bank account information, your identity, or anything else of value through dishonest means. While the practice is Illegal, it is virtually unstoppable. The best you can do is be aware of their methods and not get sucked in to their nasty traps. You can read more about the legislation that addresses robocalling and the scams they attempt to pull off in The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA).

When you answer the call, the autodialer either connects the call to a live person or plays a prerecorded message. Some robocalls use personalized audio messages to simulate an actual personal phone call. You may even join in the conversation thinking that you’re speaking to a live person.

With some exceptions (political messages, flight delays, etc.), the TCPA prohibits robocalls to both traditional landline and mobile numbers without prior written consent. Despite the restrictions, the volume of illegal automated calls has continued to grow, having reached an estimated 27 billion in 2018.

“It’s astonishing how many robocalls were made nationwide in 2018,” said YouMail CEO Alex Quilici. “We’re now talking about 150 or more robocalls for every adult in the U.S. over the course of the year, and many of these robocallers are unwanted scammers trying to trick people out of their money or personal data.”

How effective is Caller ID?

Most of us rely on Caller ID to help screen our calls. Unfortunately, it’s not a very effective measure against robocalls any more. These days, scammers use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to hide their actual number and location. VoIP calls are almost free, which is why they can do this 24/7, and why you can’t trust your Caller ID to flag suspicious numbers.

Scammers know that Caller ID is very easy to spoof, so that no matter where in the world they are located, they can make it appear as if it comes from your same local area code, complete with a familiar first three digits of your own contact number. Seeing a somewhat familiar number makes it much more likely that you’ll accept the call thinking it’s from a friend or a trusted local business

The main types of robocall scams.

Whether the intrusion starts out as just an annoying robocall pitch, or succeeds in its ploy to pass you on to a live scammer, you’re likely to encounter a variety of typical robocall-initiated scams, such as:

Tech support scams. You answer the phone and immediately hear a distressing message, pressuring you to act fast: “Hello, we are calling from Windows and your computer looks like it is infected. Our Microsoft Certified Technician can fix it for you.”

Of course, you don’t want an infected computer. But if you fall for it and get connected to a remote technician, he may sell you phony security software at a cost of hundreds of dollars in order to “clean up” your alleged problem. Or worse yet, he might persuade you to give him remote control of your computer, which will allow him to plant malware to ferret out and steal valuable data (social security number, credit card information, bank accounts, etc.) from you. Among the nasty downloads that malware can plant on your computer are those that: 

Charity requests. If you’re like most seniors, you’re compassionate and eager to help those in need. So of course, you’d be open to contributing to wipe out world hunger. To cure cancer. Or to save the endangered snipes and obsolete robots. (Well, maybe not the robots.) Such robocalls prey on trusting souls, and count on them to take the bait and make a pledge by credit card. Whether your credit card payment actually does go to a worthy cause is anyone’s guess. But chances are, your account information will go to several causes that aren’t.

Bogus Surveys. These scams can come at you via telephone, text-message or email —asking you to answer questions or give your opinion about a product or service you have used. They may even claim that there’s an incentive, such as a gift card, for your participation. But more often than not, they end with pitches for dubious products or services. Questions may also focus on the bank or financial institution you use, whether you are happy with their service, and if you would consider changing banks. And as part of the survey, they might ask for your bank account number so that they can provide a “competitive comparison” with the fake bank they represent. They may even request your banking and credit card information, because it is “necessary” to claim your supposed reward.

Banks, FBI, police, the IRS, and other institutions of authority. This will be another call that tries to alarm you about a serious situation in an attempt to derail your common sense. The script usually revolves around an alleged wrongdoing that you have committed involving the government or law enforcement, with the threat of imminent fines or arrest. Even though you may be totally innocent, your human nature will want to react, defend yourself and do anything to clear your name. And that’s when the scammers get you trapped in their web of lies.

Stranded grandchildren. This is a particularly cruel form of social engineering that targets seniors. The caller claims to be a grandchild calling from jail (hence the unfamiliar phone number), and seeks to first fluster you, and then ask for bail money, to be sent via a cash transfer service.

One-ring scam. In this scenario, the robocall places a call to you and then hangs up after a single ring. The assumption is that you’ll wonder who the missed call is from and be curious enough to call back. And chances are, you’ll be connected to a pricey international call, which you end up paying to the scam artist.

The all-expense paid vacation. Perhaps the oldest trick in the book, but one that still works, is the lovely robotic voice congratulating you on winning an “expense-free” vacation or cruise. All you have to do is verify who you are with your social security number and/or provide a credit card to cover a small processing fee and incidentals.

If you have a landline, the ultimate insult in almost all of these scenarios is that not answering the call will send it to your voicemail, where the incoming message often becomes an annoying fast-paced beep or buzzer that goes on endlessly until your voicemail box is full. One way to prevent the beeping voicemail is to accept the call, but don’t say anything. Just hang up.

Want more ways to defend yourself against robocall attacks? Stay tuned. We’ll share ways to strike back in just a few days.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, August, 2019. Some content was provided by malawarebytes.com, prnewsire.com and washingtonpost.com.

Tis The Season To Be Wary.
This Christmas, Don’t Let Scam Artists Take The Joy Out Of Your World

We like to think of the holidays as a time of peace on earth and goodwill toward men and women. But the sad fact is, it’s also the time of year when thieves and scammers are as busy as Santa’s elves, preying upon people when they least expect it, or when they’re simply too busy to keep their guard up.

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard about “porch pirates,” thieves who take advantage of all the cyber shopping before Christmas that leads to an endless stream of valuable packages being left by delivery trucks on front porches everywhere. With many UPS and FedEx drivers delivering well after dark these days, it’s easy for scavengers young and old to sneak on to a front porch and plunder the booty without being seen. Some may even be bold enough to follow the delivery truck down the street from a safe distance and collect treasures they leave behind one after another. It’s gotten so bad, many homeowners have resorted to using Smart Package Lockers at grocery and convenience stores, purchasing expensive porch security cameras, or having packages delivered to their workplace or neighbor’s house instead of their vacant home.

Thankfully, disappearing deliveries aren’t really an issue at retirement communities where packages usually can be received by an attendant inside. But there is another scam known as “Secret Sister” that started sneaking up on seniors via email and social media during the Yuletide season a few years ago and seems to be back with a vengeance this year. So what is it?

Well, the name is a take-off on the Secret Santa gift exchange that many retirement communities participate in at Christmas. You know the drill. You draw a name from a hat and secretly buy that person an inexpensive gift that they open in front of everyone at the community party. The sillier the gift, the better. It’s all pretty innocent and a great source of unwanted novelty items. Secret Sister appears to be just as innocent to most seniors, because it’s based on the concept of chain letters that you sent as a youth. The problem is it could put you in a great deal of trouble. And chances are, you’ll never get to open a single gift.

Here’s how the scam works:

When you were a child or teenager, chain letters often arrived in your mailbox or were jammed through your front door. With Secret Sister, the chain letter lands in your digital mailbox. For seniors, Facebook seems to be the most common avenue because it offers the possibility of being sent pinging all around the globe, and most seniors don’t expect foul play among their Facebook friends and family. The messages can vary wildly, but one of the popular ones reads as follows:

Anyone interested in a Holiday Gift exchange? I don’t care where you live – you are welcome to join. I need 6 (or more) ladies of any age to participate in a secret sister gift exchange. You only have to buy ONE gift valued at $10 or more and send it to one secret sister and you will receive 6-36 in return!

Let me know if you are interested and I will send you the information! Please don’t ask to participate if you are not willing to spend the $10.

TIS THE SEASON! and it’s getting closer. COMMENT if You’re IN and I will send you a private message. Please don’t comment if you are not interested and aren’t willing to send the gift!

It might sound promising to many people reading it, but it really won’t do you much good. Chain letters are essentially pyramid schemes that involve funneling money from the bottom to top of the pyramid, benefiting those at the top and not many others. If you’re there from the get-go, your chances of making a good return increase somewhat. For everyone else, you’ll probably receive the equivalent of a lump of coal. And maybe worse.

Here in the U.S., these schemes tend to resemble gambling. That means you could easily end up breaking the law as stated on the U.S. Postal Inspectors website:

They’re illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants. Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the mail (or delivering them in person or by computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute.

Secret Sister data harvesting

So, not only will you miss out on getting a pile of free gifts, you could be dragged into some sort of dubious postal scam with mail fraud penalties instead. There’s also the risk of identity theft to consider.

Mail fraud scammers typically ask seniors for valuable pieces of personal information. You may end up handing them your name, address, phone number, alongside a variety of online profiles to tie them to. This could be all that an enterprising criminal needs to do some additional damage, especially if they persist in branching out from your profile to those of your friends.

No matter how appealing the prospect of easy free gifts sounds as 2018 slowly draws to a close, don’t fall for it. These types of antics have been around for a long time, and moving into the digital realm makes the consequences much more serious. So, if you want to receive surprise gifts at Christmas, we suggest you stick with Secret Santa at your retirement community. And give Secret Sister nothing more than a Return to Sender.

Stay tuned for our next article on how to avoid phone scams and unwanted solicitation coming in January.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, December, 2018. Some content was provided by and www.malwarebytes.com.

Hop, Tweet, Snap to it: 5 Tips for Seniors on Social Media

Have you hopped on the bandwagon of snapping, posting, sharing, liking and tweeting yet?

Involvement in social media is gaining popularity among older age groups. Seniors are increasingly using it to find news and information, share experiences, and connect with friends and family. According to recent Pew Research, 67% of seniors ages 65 and up use the internet today – a 55% increase in just under two decades. Of those who are online, nearly one-third of seniors report using social media, and that number is growing.

With kids out of school, summer can be a great time to stay in touch with teenage and pre-teen grandchildren to keep up with their vacations and adventures via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more. However, the intricacies of social media etiquette may not always be apparent and can even be intimidating. So we put together a list of five Dos and Don’ts of social media to keep in mind to help you communicate with friends and loved ones positively, safely and effectively.

1. Do manage your privacy settings. Many social media platforms like Facebook default new accounts to “sharing” mode. So before you start posting and interacting with others, go into your settings and be sure to adjust them so that you know exactly who will be able to see your content.

2. Do be selective. Decline friend requests and messages from strangers. The safest way to use social media is to only engage with your close friends and family. It’s better to have a close circle of friends who you care about and interact with instead of a large number of followers who you don’t know (and who don’t know you).

3. Don’t overshare. If a website asks for personal information, such as your full name, birthday, and address when you sign up, be sure to adjust your settings so that only your close friends can see it. Be conscious about sharing details about family members, such as your grandchild’s name, age, and school, to keep him or her safe from strangers. Never share information like your social security number or bank account details. Be careful about sharing your location, and wait to post about vacations until after you or your relatives have returned to avoid clueing potential burglars into knowing someone is away from home.

4. Do watch your comments. Even though you mean well, online communication can often be perceived differently than you think. For example, some users may not realize that writing with CAPS LOCK ON generally means you’re yelling at someone. It’s best to comment carefully and steer clear of anything having to do with touchy subjects, such as politics, religion and appearance so that you don’t offend or embarrass friends and family.

5. Don’t share without asking for permission first. If you’re posting a photo of someone else or a group, make sure that person is okay with being tagged first. You may be proud of your grandson’s graduation photos or your daughter’s new job, but some people are particular about having their photos shared with folks in other networks that they don’t know–especially if they haven’t shared the news yet themselves.

Social media can be a healthy way for residents to stay connected to their loved ones. Using proper etiquette will allow you to get the most out of your experience, as well as to be considerate and stay safe while online. Here’s how some of our tech-savvy residents are already using social media:

Kay Brenner from Villa Serena (also featured on TheseEyesHaveSeen) said:

My friends were worried about me not being social enough. But while I don’t do cards and bingo, I go home and I am social online. I’m on Facebook, but I don’t do Twitter or those other ones. I’m friends with people on Facebook that I have lost touch with throughout the years and I’ve been able to reconnect with them. I especially like to keep in contact with people that I have met in my travels. I check in with my family too. I love seeing the grandkids’ pictures and videos. I saw my granddaughters’ first steps on Facebook!”

“I would encourage other seniors to use social media if they have that type of personality, but it’s not for everyone. I have seen scams on Facebook and I am aware of those, so I unfriend people if I need to.”

Ledorna Israel from Villa Serena said:

“My son told me he didn’t want the whole world to know where I was all the time, but I’ve always had computers and I think that helps. I got my first iPad in 2011. I have family all around the world and I like that I can connect with them. I like Instagram the best because it’s more private with my followers.”

Beth Minor from Country Club Village said:

“Facebook has been a part of my life for many years. I have reconnected with friends from the states in which we lived during my husband’s employment with Mobil Oil. It’s also a way to connect with my boys and their families. I come from a large family and it’s fun to see the activities of my many cousins. There are games on the internet I like to play with others, especially Words With Friends. It helps me keep up with my vocabulary. My life would not be as full and meaningful without social media!”

How do you use social media? Share with us on our Facebook page!

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

Free Time Financial Supplements: Become an Online Juror

The U.S. justice system was designed to give everyone the right to a speedy trial, judged in part by a jury of peers. Jurors come from all walks of life, with all interests and backgrounds. Being on a jury panel is an exciting way to stay involved in your community and make a difference in the lives of your neighbors.

However, serving on a jury brings with it the negative connotations of seeking time away from work or activities, going to a local courtroom, sitting through the trial, and making a decision. This is no longer the case.

Thanks to the new technologies available online, you now have the opportunity right from your living room to take part in both mock and real trials.


Jury Duty Then and Now

Not much has changed in traditional jury duty throughout the years. Typically, jury duty begins with a letter from the court, summoning you to call a specific number every morning during a set period of time to see if there is a case you’ll need to hear.

If chosen, you’ll be placed as part of the juror pool, and can expect to sit (and wait) through the entire process – which can span from hours to months. After you’ve heard all of the information, facts, and evidence on the case, you will join the other jury members to make a decision.

Many people dread jury duty, but find that, at the end of the case, they’ve learned quite a bit about the legal system and enjoyed the experience. If this is something you’d like to do on a more regular basis, becoming an online juror is a great way to get involved, learn more about the justice system, and make a difference.


Jury Duty Online

Online jury duty allows you to give your time to a trial service and stay in your pajamas at home. The other responsibilities, however, are the same as those for individuals who are attending an in-person trial.

Once you apply online, the company you apply with will ask you some questions to learn more about you and the cases for which you might be eligible to evaluate. As a case comes up that you are eligible for, you’ll be sent the cases to review via e-mail and will submit your opinions electronically.

Some websites, like OnlineVerdict.com, will connect you with a panel of cases that allow you to choose the ones you want to review.

Many lawyers use mock juries online to help them prepare for cases that are going to court. You can help lawyers determine the type of person they need on an in-person jury to  end up with a favorable outcome for their client. Other lawyers want the feedback that would come from a prospective jury before the case goes to trial.

Lawyers spend their careers focused on jury selection, becoming experts at reading people and gauging their voting tendencies. To do this, they need practice, and usually turn to online jury websites with practice juries. The process is usually similar to that of an online jury.

Serving as an online juror takes about 30 minutes a case, a positive change from the hours many people spend with traditional jury duty.

Online jury duty consists of reading the case, questioning, and evidence, and allows you to give your responses. They typically give detailed instructions, and following them shows the lawyers and administrators that you are thorough — giving you a better chance of being asked back.

If the case doesn’t interest you, no problem. You have the freedom to turn down any cases that are offered to you.

If you choose to participate in online juries, don’t expect to get rich. However, once you have reviewed a case and submitted your opinions, you can expect to be paid for your time.

The salary isn’t extremely high. Online jurors are typically paid less than $50 per decision. Though this is not a fortune, it is enough to help out with some bills or provide you with fun money – especially if you serve regularly.

Individuals who are interested in the justice system might find the opportunity to serve on online juries during retirement to be the most rewarding.

From former law enforcement officers to  lawyers,  to retired judges, bailiffs, and other individuals who may merely follow the court system as a hobby, online jury duty is open to all. It can provide each interested individual with an opportunity to stay involved in their previous past times without the pressure or time commitment of serving in-person jury duty.

Since the online jurors took the necessary steps to apply to serve, there is usually less chance of being dismissed during a case.

At Sunshine Retirement Living, we believe that the best retirement is one filled with happiness, which is why we include the amenities you need to enjoy your retirement. Most of our communities have computer centers, so even if you don’t have computer access at home, you can still apply to be an online juror.

Our staff can help by showing you the best online jury websites, and safe ways to navigate the Internet.

To speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members, click here today.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

Your Family Tree: A Generational History That Lasts Long Into Forever

A family with roots grows strong, and family tree lays out these roots for remembrance in and connection with the current generation and those to come. Spreading your lineage across a physical page illustrates relationships, common traits, health histories and more.

A family tree can help children see where they have come from, and help young adults recognize the foundation that impacts their current situations and their futures. Our lives weave story over story to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that the family tree holds in its framework. And, these stories last far into the future.


Tips for Designing a Family Tree

Perhaps the idea of a family tree project overwhelms you a bit, or maybe a lot. After all, generations of names, various technologies and a pile of dates offer enough reason to say, “I don’t have time for this.” But, be assured you can design a family tree.

Keep in mind:

  • Your family tree can be as simple or as complex as you decide.
  • You can record histories that you know or research more extensive information.
  •  It is meant to be fun.


How to Start?

Many Internet sources offer online and printable templates to help you draw out your family tree. But, let’s begin in a different direction. To get started, grab a pen, a large sheet of paper, like a piece of butcher or even wrapping paper, and a stack of Post-It notes. Then, take the following steps:

  • Determine your goal. For instance, a tree that you intend to print and frame requires less information for readability.
  • Decide the information to be included. Will your family tree offer only individual names or additional dates, places of birth and death, marriage and health information, religious preference, occupation, photographs and more?
  • Write each name and the information you choose to include on Post-It Notes.
  • Use the large sheet of paper to arrange the Post-It Notes on in the proper genealogical order and desired tree shape, whether horizontal or vertical.
  • Transfer the information to a printable template or transcribe it online for more permanent keeping.

Children and other family members may enjoy engaging in the puzzle-piecing that this type of  tree requires. The dialogue that arises through this activity bonds generations and passes down family history. Isn’t this the point? The framework of information means nothing without the relationships and stories that it represents.


Where to Find Online Templates

The Internet offers seemingly unending sources for researching and recording family history. If you are new to this technology, libraries and senior organizations in your area may offer courses. Or, you can check the following design sources:

Who to Include?

The contents of a family tree are personal to its creator. Knowing the reason why you are drawing a tree helps determine the generational reach and the broadness of relationships to include. For instance, projects aimed to engage grandchildren should include the family members they know and perhaps go back one or two unfamiliar generations.

Nontraditional family structures often throw off tree creators. Blended, adoptive and divorce situations prove best handled by personal preference and the context for which the family tree is being drawn up. Family Tree magazine offers helpful insights on this point.


Value to Family

Family is forever. This concept comes to life through the valuable information detailed on family trees. Details recorded and uncovered on a family tree for future generations include:

  • Recognition of fame.
  • Medical history.
  • Land ownership.
  • Proof of paternity or birth parents.
  • Religious association.
  • Family tradition.
  • Family culture.

Yet, perhaps the most significant values prove to be family connection and legacy. The relationships marked out by the family tree signify powerful factors impacting an individual’s current reality and future days. These qualities connect us, inform us and comprise our memories.


Medical History

Including medical information on your family tree offers critical insight to current and future generations. Being informed as to the history of certain conditions and diseases allows doctors to be on alert, and even run screenings that save patient lives. Be sure to understand the reasons why family medical history proves valuable and consider including it in your document.

To spread out a family tree between generations and tell stories of those that grace its limbs offers unforgettable family memories. And, if a dear one’s family has passed, what a precious opportunity to hear the stories of those filling their lineage. Do you need any more reason to start recording your history today?

To speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members, click here today.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

10 Tips to Help Seniors Learn How to Use Tablets

Tablets can be the perfect tech gift for a senior.  They are usually easy to use out of the box, are lightweight, offer font enlargements,… and are touch sensitive.  They typically take less time to learn how to use than a laptop or desktop computer, but some seniors may still feel hesitant about using a tablet.  Some may consider getting a cell phone, but often these screens are a bit too small to use for long periods of time.  These helpful tips may help in introducing seniors to tablets.

1. Purchase tools that will be useful for the tablet.

Some resistance to tablets may come from worry over dropping and breaking an expensive piece of technology or worries about neuropathology/shaking hands making it hard to use the touchscreen.  Purchasing a case, screen cover, and stylus can help to overcome these fears.  Having a tablet that a senior is afraid to use because of how delicate it is acts as an expensive dust catcher and is not helping anyone.

2. Teach them how to find applications that they want to download through the Google Play Store, iTunes, or Amazon’s app store.

Don’t assume that the seniors in your life will understand how to use the search feature or go through the app installation process.  Plus, you should let them be hands on with it from the beginning.  They are going to be the one using it from now on, so getting a feel for it now is a good step forward.

3. They might feel unsure about what applications they may enjoy or like to use for their daily lives.

You can show them some applications that they can find a use for, such as health apps or games they enjoy playing normally. The more that they see is possible with apps, the more comfortable they will become doing their own searches.

4. Some seniors may be worried about putting their personal information online.

Teach about tablet safety, such as basic password management.  They may prefer to write down their usernames and passwords, and save them in a safe place.  You may want to look into using a password service.  You can find some that offer apps that will not only save login information safely but will also generate safe passwords for websites to help prevent their accounts from being hacked.

5. Getting a tracking application activated or placed on the tablet can be a good idea.

The benefits that attract users to laptops can also be negatives in that they are easy for anyone to misplace or even steal.  This is just added security that the tablet will not go far, and can be found in the future.

6. Don’t go overboard with adding applications.

Some seniors with no experience using technology may be overwhelmed with a screen full of application icons.  Find ones that you both agree will be appreciated at first, and go from there.  As they get more experienced with it, you may find that they have screen upon screen of their favorite games, book reader apps, and more.

7. Go over any tablet or computer lingo that they may be confused about as some words are common knowledge for people that use a computer every day.

The tech terms cookies and URL might seem like a foreign language to seniors new to technology.  It’s easy to assume that they know what you know, but this is not the case. Be sure that you are not losing them with the tech talk.

8. Don’t forget to talk about how some apps and services are free to play or use, but may require in-app purchases or only offer a free trial.

This may cut down on unexpected bank account or credit card charges.  Show your elder how they are able to password protect purchases to prevent them from making any unwanted purchases.

9. Find out what they already know about computers and technology.

The seniors in your life might not need as much help as you thought that they did to get started with their new tablet.  You can then go over what is necessary for them to start exploring their new tech on their own.

10. Don’t make the senior feel as though you are talking down to them about the tablet.

Your elder may just feel that it’s easier to go on as they have before without the technology than have to deal with someone that is making them uncomfortable about learning.  They may not have wanted to ask for help in the first place, and feeling like they are being treated like a child is a sure turn-off to technology.

Tablets can be a great way to stay productive as a senior by keeping in touch with family and learning new skills.  Tablets are often ready right out of the box to start connecting the seniors in your life with the world.  To speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members, click here today.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

Internet Do’s & Dont’s: Online Safety for Seniors

Technology changes at a rapid pace, and it can be hard for people of any age to keep up. More and more seniors are embracing… the digital age as it offers many benefits such as keeping in touch with family, connecting with others, and shopping from the convenience of their homes. Unfortunately, with the increased numbers of senior citizens online comes the increased number of people looking to scam and take advantage of them. The following are some simple ways to improve cybersecurity for senior citizens.

Keep Things Familiar

One way to ensure internet safety is to only visit, share information with, and communicate with people and websites you know or that are reputable. The Department of Homeland Security reminds us that most banks, charities, companies, etc. do not ask for personal information over email, so do not reply to emails requesting personal information. Some other guidelines include:

  • Don’t enter contests or share information for any reason with an unfamiliar person or website
  • Don’t reply to, open attachments, or click links in email messages from unknown senders
  • If you’re unsure if an email is official, call the company or organization to verify
  • If you don’t recognize a sender and the subject line seems suspicious (deals, ultimatums, etc.), it’s best to delete the email immediately without opening it
  • If an offer in your email sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Delete it, don’t install it, and move on!

Protect Your Computer & Information

The Center for Internet Security suggests that you keep your security software, web browser, and operating system updated to the latest version on your computer. Here are some other protection tips:

  • Your wireless router should require a password to connect
  • Creating long and unique passwords is a significant step in protecting your information online.
  • Avoid using commonly known personal details for passwords, like pet names, birthdates, or children’s names
  • Be sure the banking and shopping websites you use are secure. Only enter your payment information if the site begins with “https://” NOT just “http://”
  • Understand privacy settings on social media, and keep them updated frequently

Many of our locations have a computer center, so you won’t need to worry about maintaining your own computer if you don’t want to!

Be Careful with Online Dating

Online dating is an excellent way to meet new people, but it’s also another way scammers are taking advantage of senior citizens. Here are some ways to safely date online:

  • Research online dating sites to know which ones are legitimate before signing up
  • Don’t give any personal information in your profile that could give scammers access to you or your finances
  • If an email address of a potential suitor looks suspicious, Google it to see if it comes up on romance scam sites
  • Compare a potential suitor’s profile to their social media accounts to be sure their information matches up
  • If you communicate by phone, use a cell phone instead of a land line
  • Once you decide to meet a suitor, do it in a public, well-populated place

Following these tips and using common sense while enjoying your online experience will help keep you and your information safe. One of the most important things to remember is that the internet is forever, so if you don’t want something shared, keep it offline. We’re happy to help with any questions you may have. To speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members, click here today.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

Wise and Wonderful: Five Unique Ways for Seniors to Find Holistic Health and Happiness

When people talk about being healthy, they are usually just talking about being free of symptoms.  But, if you step back and look at a… holistic definition of health, it’s about a whole lot more than just being disease and illness free.  Being healthy is about living a well-rounded lifestyle.  It is, of course, about living free from the burdens of symptoms and ailments, but it’s also about being happy. Interestingly enough, the more you focus on happiness, the more traditional metrics of healthiness tend to fall into place.

Researchers have found that individuals who enjoy life and are happy are also fitter and healthier in old age. Conversely, unhappy people were up to twice as likely to suffer from serious health problems like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.  So, if you want to age well and stay healthy, you should be thinking about more than your next check-up.  You should be actively pursuing lifestyle choices that lead to happiness.  Here are five great ways for seniors to find happiness, and increase their overall health and well-being in the process.

Part 1: Pet Ownership Increases the Quality of Life Among Seniors

Part 2: Massage Can Increase Happiness and Health in Seniors

Part 3: Being in a Healthy Relationship Improves Overall Health for Seniors

Part 4: Spending Time With Children Improves Senior’s Health

Part 5: Music Therapy: A Unique Aide to Senior Health

Part 1: Pet Ownership Increases the Quality of Life Among Seniors

Senior Lady Loves Her Dog

Anyone who has ever owned a pet can tell you that a special feeling of connection and companionship can develop out of pet relationships.  Having a pet for a companion leads to feelings of love and security since pets can love so unconditionally and provide so much warmth to pet owners lives when doing so. Research shows that, for seniors, pet ownership has a healing effect that goes beyond just providing emotional comfort.

Pet Owners Are Happier and Healthier Than the General Population

Returning to our theme of happiness, research shows that people who own pets are, on average, happier and healthier than the general population.  While the emotional benefits of owning a pet are relatively straightforward, pets contributed to higher health metrics across many fields.  In addition to heightened self-esteem, pet owners tend to be more physically fit, less lonely, and more extroverted than individuals who do not own pets, according to the Allen McConnell of Miami University in Ohio. Digging into the specific health benefits paints just as positive of a picture.

Pet ownership is linked to positive health outcomes across a wide variety of metrics.  According to a survey by the Australian National Heart Foundation, pet owners have been shown to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those who do not own pets.  Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo have found that individuals on blood pressure medication are less likely to have spikes in blood pressure as a response to outside stimulus when they are pet owners.  The American Heart Association has even found a correlation between owning a dog and having a lowered chance of risk for heart failure and heart disease.

All of these health benefits and more are tied to the fact that pets help reduce stress levels of pet owners.  Owning a pet leads to higher levels of oxytocin, the love hormone, which your body produces when you feel attached to something that is important to you.  This chemical release leads to lowered cortisol levels, which has an enormous positive effect on all of the health areas listed above and many more.  In short, pets make people happy.  Happier people are less stressed and tend to be healthier overall. When looking to seniors specifically, these positive health benefits can have a profound effect on quality of life.

Pet Ownership Improves Quality of Life for Seniors

Seniors can benefit from all of the positive effects that pets can have on the health of all pet owners, but there are more specific ways that older pet owners can benefit from a furry companion.  For starters, seniors are unfortunately more likely to suffer from some of the specific health issues mentioned above that pets can help to improve, like heart disease.  But, beyond those areas, seniors are especially likely to benefit from some of the psychological supports that a pet can bring to their life.

Many seniors living on their own or in assisted living facilities struggle with loneliness and the depression that arises from being alone. Pets can help confront those emotional issues head-on by providing companionship that is always there.  Additionally, pets can help seniors become more social with other retired individuals in their home or area, as the joys that a pet can provide are contagious.  Common areas and rec centers can turn from boring hangouts to sunny social hubs when a pet is thrown into the mix, helping seniors branch out and form connections with a pet’s encouragement.

These psychological benefits of companionship, from decreased feelings of loneliness and depression to increased feelings of connectivity, all help to further decrease stress levels even more – providing a positive feedback loop that continues to deliver increasing health benefits.  By decreasing stress, providing unwavering love and companionship, and bringing a constant, positive source of happiness to seniors’ lives, pets are a perfect example of the link between happiness and health.  Pets make seniors happy, which can help with a wide range of health outcomes, further increasing happiness and boosting overall quality of life.

Picking the Right Pet for Seniors

It is important to understand that all of these health and happiness benefits will only be present if seniors choose the right pet for them.  In general, seniors may not be the best fit for younger pets like newborn puppies, since training a young pet can add a whole lot of stress to a pet owner’s life.  Additionally, seniors may not benefit from some specialty pets that have expensive upkeep, since most retired people are living on a tight budget.

One great solution for seniors is to adopt older pets, who can share retirement with their elder owners.  Older cats and dogs that are already trained and well-mannered provide all of the benefits of great companionship without a lot of the stressors of behavioral issues.  And, older dogs usually don’t need quite as much exercise, and may be more manageable for seniors for that reason as well.  In general, when picking a pet for a senior owner, just be honest about how much time and energy the older pet owner has to dedicate to their pet, what they are capable of doing to keep their pet happy on a daily basis, and any financial constraints that may make owning some pets difficult.  As long as you keep those factors in mind when choosing a pet, pet ownership can be an incredible joy for seniors, and can provide some great health benefits in the process.

Part 2: Massage Can Increase Happiness and Health in Seniors

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Many people in the U.S. trust in massage for its healing properties, making massage therapy one of the most popular forms of alternative medicine there is.  Massage has many health-boosting and stress-relieving benefits, which can be particularly useful to seniors.  Here’s a look at some of the health-boosting effects of massage therapy, and how seniors can get the most out of massage to increase their happiness and overall health.

The Health Benefits of Massage and Touch

For starters, massages, of course, make you “feel good” while receiving them.  But, according to studies, the health benefits go beyond just a nice feeling.  Deep tissue massages have even been shown to boost immune system response by heightening white blood cell levels among massage patients.  However, deep tissue massage may be dangerous for some seniors with sensitive muscles and outstanding pain issues.  Luckily, there are lots of health benefits related to other kinds of massage as well.

Many of massage’s health benefits stem from the healing power of touch, which has been shown to have positive physical and psychological effects.  Even receiving lighter massages can help clenched muscles relax, which has a huge number of positive side effects.  Racing hearts can slow and heightened blood pressure levels can drop just from receiving even a light massage. The answer lies in touch. It’s not necessarily all about getting those deep knots out of deep tissues, but just about having a therapeutic hand provide an appropriate-pressured massage.

The touch that’s passed on in a massage helps decrease cortisol levels, which has a positive effect on the body in a wide number of ways.  For starters, lower cortisol levels help the immune system respond to infections better and help keep white blood cell counts high. The decrease in stress that comes with the touch of a massage has other health benefits, like lowered blood pressure, which get passed on even in lighter massage variations.  While a deep tissue massage may not be a safe bet for some seniors, there are a lot of others forms of massage out there that can provide some great health benefits.

Massage for Seniors

One great massage variation that seniors can benefit from, and unlock the positive benefits of therapeutic touch without the safety issues relating to deep tissue massage, is foot massage.  Foot massage has been practiced in many cultures for millennia and has been shown to have some great health benefits.  Since your feet build up so much pressure from carrying around your body all day, unclenching the muscles and tendons in your feet can have huge relaxation effects that help lower stress.  Additionally, foot massage has been linked to increased circulation.  Lastly, a lot of tension is stored in the feet, and relieving this pressure can help relax the body overall.

Another massage option that can be great for seniors and provide some unique health benefits is hand massage.  Especially if you suffer from arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other chronic hand pain issues, receiving a hand massage can help improve your hand, wrist, and finger mobility and range of motion.  Like foot massages, relieving pain from the tendons and tissues of the hand helps improve circulation and leads to relaxation, which has positive effects all over the body.  Plus, the immediate pain relief that a hand massage can provide is a big benefit in itself, as any chronic pain sufferer will tell you that any relief from arthritis or another source of hand pain is invaluable.

Massage Specifically Linked to Health Improvement in Aging Adults

While all of the health benefits of massage mentioned above apply to older individuals and can be very helpful in maintaining an overall good quality of life, there are specific links that show that massage is especially helpful for the health of seniors in particular.  For one, seniors are unfortunately more likely to suffer from chronic pain, and the pain relief effects of a message can be a great way to help cope with chronic muscle soreness and stiffness.

The relief of pain has a big, positive effect on overall health, as elders who experience relief from chronic pain are able to sleep better, keep up their daily routines better, and live more active lifestyles free of pain.  Frequent massages can even help improve posture and balance, as once muscles are unclenched and get the chance to relax, seniors can walk more easily and retain higher mobility.  An interesting side effect of this better posture is that seniors who receive messages may be at lower risk of falling and injuring themselves, since being able to walk and move with good posture decreases the likelihood of balance-related falls.

Plus, the psychological effects of receiving a therapeutic touch can be very beneficial for seniors that feel disconnected and lonely.  The touch of a massage decreases stress levels and helps the body relax overall, but can also be a great emotional support, allowing seniors to feel a connection.  Seniors are especially prone to chronic pain and mobility issues, so massage is especially useful in a physiological sense.  But, it is helpful in reducing stress, too. Feeling touch decreases stress levels.  Again, seniors may not be suited for deep tissue style massages, but so many of the benefits of massage are present in other types too, so seniors can still enjoy them safely.

Part 3: Being in a Healthy Relationship Improves Overall Health for Seniors

Senior Couple Putting On In Line Skates In Park

The search for companionship and romantic love is present in just about everyone, and it isn’t usually something that goes away with age.  Seniors can become invested in healthy, mutually beneficial, joy-filled relationships in their retirement, even if pain and heartbreak have happened in the past. Beyond just a nice feeling of companionship and the joys of falling in love, being in a healthy relationship can have some big positive health effects for seniors.  Here’s a look at some of these benefits, and how they can apply specifically to elders and people in relationships later in life.

The Health Benefits of Social Connections

As prestigious of an institution as Harvard University has recognized that where relationships are concerned, “good connections can improve health and increase longevity.”  All of the research out there shows that having strong social connections can be just as important of a factor in overall health as adequate sleep and a good diet.  On the other hand, lack of social connections can lead to faster cognitive decline later in life, and lead to other health issues that could be prevented through the development of healthy relationships.

Being socially connected to someone closely helps lower stress levels, which, as we have mentioned, has famia huge number of positive health effects from decreased risk of stroke to lowered blood pressure to a decreased risk of complications from heart disease.  Being socially connected to someone and caring for them actually helps the body produce stress decreasing hormones.  Even more interesting, Harvard notes that the quality of relationships matters, too.  In other words, the closer you are to someone and the more closely connected you feel, the better the health benefits are.  This is why romantic relationships can have such a powerful effect on health.

“Married People Live Longer”

While this saying is commonly passed around, research shows that there is indeed some truth to the old axiom; people in marriages DO live longer and are healthier later in life than single elders. A look at why this is the case highlights some of the health benefits that being in a caring, romantic relationship can provide, even if the relationship doesn’t lead to marriage.

For one, having someone who cares about you and is around all of the time can be great positive reinforcement to engage in healthy habits that you already knew were important, but may be more likely to abandon while in solitude.  A significant other will ideally remind you to eat healthy, have one less drink at the end of the day, and get enough sleep.  It’s easy to forget about these things or put them on the back burner if you are alone, but all of these small habits that can add up to big health consequences are important to stay on top of. When you have a romantic partner around to help remind you to take your own health seriously and keep up with healthy habits, it goes a long way towards overall health.

But, the health benefits of healthy relationships go beyond just positive reinforcement.  Having a reliable partner nearby to support you when you are feeling down can be extremely helpful in avoiding emotional issues and depression. The stress-reducing effect of companionship cannot be overstated, and again has a huge number of positive effects on overall health.

Of course, these positive health benefits only present themselves in HEALTHY relationships.  Unhealthy relationships conversely can have a big negative effect on health, which presents itself differently in different people.  Often, men in unhealthy and unhappy relationships have been shown to be at higher risk of depression, and more frequently susceptible to alcohol and other substance abuse. Both women and men are susceptible to suffering from obesity and stress-induced hypertension when in unhappy relationships.  Healthy relationships are hugely beneficial to overall health, but unhappy ones can be just as detrimental.

Healthy Relationships Can Be Especially Beneficial to Seniors

Seniors living in nursing homes or living on their own after retiring tend to suffer from a lack of opportunities to be social and interact with others, which often leads to feelings of loneliness and depression. As feelings of isolation increase, health consequences present themselves, from the psychological dangers of depression to the real physical ones associated with spending all of your time alone as an elder.

Being in a romantic relationship means that all of the benefits of social connection will be readily and reliably yours and that you will always have someone to turn to for companionship.  For elders, these benefits are far ranging, from potentially decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s to lowering blood pressure, to decreasing chances of heart disease.  Being in a romantic relationship as an elder means that you won’t have to struggle to find connections; you will have a meaningful one to rely on.  Romantic relationships can be the best way to fight off feelings of being alone and isolated, and can provide all of the benefits of social connection but to an even higher degree.

If you are a senior wondering if it’s worth it to jump back into a romantic relationship, think of all of the health and happiness benefits that being in one can provide. Realize that people find love all the time, no matter their age.  It’s never too late to find a companion that can help you beat off depression and loneliness. If you are a senior dealing with these issues, putting yourself out there and looking for romantic love again can be a powerful way to improve your quality of life.

Part 4: Spending Time With Children Improves Senior’s Health

Grandpa with little boy using electronic tablet

Whether it’s at a scheduled event or just a casual visit, spending time with family has a huge positive effect on senior health and happiness.  Being surrounded by their children and their children’s children can make any elder feel good emotionally, and these emotional benefits translate into real health benefits.  Here’s why it’s so important for seniors to spend as much time with their children and family as possible.

The Health Benefits of Relationships Don’t Stop at Romantic Relationships

All of the benefits that we covered in the section above can be particularly strong in romantic relationships, but they by no means stop there.  In fact, all healthy relationships can provide some direct health benefits and family relationships are no exception.  Isolation has huge negative effects on health, leading to depression and other emotional issues. Having close family connections can help fight off these feelings and the associated negative health consequences in seniors.

Having any form of social connection provides a ton of health benefits as discussed above, mostly centered around the decreased stress levels and the likelihood of depression that comes along with not being connected to someone else.  Studies have shown that adults in healthy relationships live on average 3.7 years longer than adults who tend to isolate themselves. As a senior, family relationships are some of the healthiest and most rewarding that you can foster.

A family, with parents, children and grandparents, walk through park

Healthy Family Relationships Lead to Overall Health

Family ties can be a healthy source of love, emotional support and security, and emotional protection.  Family relationships are unique and unique in the connections they provide. The closeness of family love is impossible to reproduce and has some specific and powerful benefits for elders in quite a few different areas.

Elders often feel that their family is their legacy, and as thoughts of mortality and the end of life loom, getting reassured that their happy family will continue on can help set elder’s minds at ease.  Plus, frequent contact with family members can help elders feel like they still provide value to the family unit and are still important, which helps fight off feelings of loneliness and depression.  The enjoyment that’s brought on by family visits and spending time with children helps fight stress as well.

For many elders, it can be hard to find people to connect to, and feelings of loneliness and isolation stem from an inability to make new friends. With the importance of social connections being so critical, it’s important for seniors to interact with others no matter who they are. This is where the family can come in as a crucial resource. When elders know that family members will always be there for them and are available to socialize and spend time together often, they won’t feel as lonely – even if they have trouble meeting new people. The effect that this can have on elders, especially living in nursing homes, is huge and has been tested out in countless studies.  When elders get the chance to spend time with their children and family, they are happier, and happiness is crucially important to health.

Dealing With Issues of Family Availability

For many elders, it can be hard to find a time when children and other family members are available for visits. This feeling that their family can’t make time for them can lead to additional depression and feelings of loneliness.  But, if you are an elder dealing with loneliness and frustrated that your family doesn’t visit enough, remember that even if they care a lot and are trying hard to make more time, it can be difficult to do so. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be vocal about your needs and let your children and family know that you would like to spend more time with them.  Often, family members get so wrapped up in their personal lives that the frequency of their visits gets forgotten. As an elder, speaking up and saying that you want to spend more time with your family can help them realize that they need to make themselves more available.

As a child of a senior, you NEED to do your best to make yourself available for connection.  Reach out to your parent or grandparent and let them know that they are still important.  Teach them how to use technology to feel more connected to their family and friends. Make sure that visits are as frequent as you can make them.  There are huge advantages tied to elders maintaining regular contact with those they care about. As a young family member, it’s your responsibility to make sure that that’s a possibility.

Overall, it can be hard for some families to spend time with elders, and retired seniors should do their best to be understanding of the limitations placed upon their families where visitation is concerned.  But, when families can spend time with seniors, there are a lot of health benefits conferred, as stress levels decrease and feelings of depression caused by isolation wane.  As a senior, do as much as you can to spend as much time as possible with your family. Family relationships are unlike any other. Your family can be a great resource that you can count on to be loving no matter what.  As a child or young family member of an elder, do everything you can to spend time with them.  Doing so could improve their overall health!

Part 5: Music Therapy: A Unique Aide to Senior Health

Music for all ages. Portrait of senior man in headphones listening

Many of the options to help seniors achieve healthy lifestyles mentioned above are somewhat conventional, and some seniors may be following all of the advice already offered here and still be unhappy or unhealthy. This is why so many elders look for other options and explore everything out there to try to find something that makes them happy and keeps them healthy.  Music therapy is just such an option, but one that can provide a lot of health benefits for elders.

What is Music Therapy? 

For starters, it’s important to approach music therapy as complementary medicine. Despite the health benefits it can provide and the term therapy in its title, music therapy shouldn’t replace traditional psychological support or any other types of treatment.  Instead, music therapy can go a long way towards aiding elders who are already seeking help and already consulting a therapist.

Music therapy can be applied by trained experts to meet a wide range of goals, but typically it is best used in support of elders in a few specific ways.  Through introducing music into therapy sessions, therapists can help control some direct physical outcomes in older patients, and help them do things like reach a relaxed, even breathing pattern, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and relax in general.  Additionally, music therapy can be helpful in balancing emotions and even sharpening mental function.  Since it has so many applications and uses, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact definition of music therapy, but it’s helpful to remember that it can have a lot of health benefits as long as it is conducted by a trained professional.

The Healing Effects of Music Therapy

Music has a very specific triggering effect on the brain, and professionals have been able to capitalize on this to use music therapy to treat some long-term brain injuries.  Even in cases where individuals have lost speech abilities, music has been able to trigger some speech recognition and eventually help those who suffer from brain injuries regain full speech.  A great and inspiring high-profile example is Congresswoman Gabby Gifford.  After Gifford suffered a brain injury as the result of a gunshot wound, she couldn’t speak in sentences at all, but she could sing.  Her speech therapist sung “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with Gifford until she regained enough confidence and ability to start forming full sentences again.

Even for individuals who don’t suffer from injuries as serious as Congresswoman Gabby Gifford’s, music can be a powerful healing force.  “Entrainment” is a concept being studied now. It describes the phenomenon in which the rhythms of our bodies can synch up with rhythms in music we are listening to.  Through entrainment, people with high anxiety and stress levels can achieve physical and relaxation through listening to relaxing music.  People with focus issues can achieve heightened focus by listening to music at a moderate tempo without too many distracting elements.  No matter what affliction a person suffers, the healing power of music can be of some help. This is true for elders with emotional and psychological issues too.

Music Therapy for Elders

For seniors suffering from memory loss issues, music therapy can be an invaluable tool to regain some memory function.  Whereas the brain forgets words and names and places easily, melodies are harder to forget and stick with people.  By playing a song that a person associates with a time and place, music therapists can trigger some recall in patients, even those suffering from memory loss due to advanced dementia.  Music brings patients back to where they were when they heard the song and had a significant experience, helping them regain other memories along the way.

For elders who have suffered a stroke, music therapy can help with speech recovery, somewhat like Congresswoman Gifford’s example.  Stroke victims are more able to form speech patterns around songs they have sung many times than create sentences, and many have found that singing along with a familiar song is the first time they are able to speak again at all.  As stroke victims regain their confidence and are more able to recognize speech patterns after listening to music and singing, they can translate these skills into conversational speech as well, and on average have much faster speech recovery times than victims who don’t listen to music.

Finally, professional therapists have even been able to use music therapy to relieve the symptoms of intense grief.  Grief counselors use the power of entrainment to help those suffering from grief-induced anxiety reach a more healthy cardiovascular rhythm, which, in turn, reduces stress.  Creating a compilation CD of pleasant songs that bring a grieving person back to happy times in their lives, or calming songs to help maintain healthier breathing patterns and reduce stress, can help those who suffer from intense grief manage their symptoms long after a therapy session is over.

Music Therapy is Just One Example of Non-Conventional Routes to Happiness

Music therapy is a very cutting edge and exciting area, with a lot of potential to relieve the symptoms and aid the recovery for individuals experiencing everything from dementia to speech loss.  But, it isn’t the only non-conventional route to happiness out there, or the only thing that people facing these issues can turn to. That being said, music therapy has been very helpful for a lot of people, and can help seniors who are just stressed out or grieving in addition to those who suffer the effects of the illnesses or injuries mentioned above.

Conclusion: You Can’t Separate Health from Happiness

Happy conversation

All of the ideas above can help increase the health of seniors.  But, they do so by increasing happiness as well.  When you think about living a healthy life, you have to consider a lot more than just living without the burden of disease.  The science is there and shows conclusively that the happier that you are, especially in old age, the healthier you will be.  Not just healthy in a holistic sense of finding balance, but “healthy” in the conventional definition that we urge you to move away from.  Happy seniors have better health outcomes along a wide range of issues, from heart disease to depression.  You can’t divorce the two, and you need to think about happiness when you talk about health and consider the pursuit of happiness as an important factor in living a healthy life.

As a senior looking for ways to be healthy, start with the ideas we mentioned above.  Owning a pet decreases feelings of loneliness, and increases overall happiness.  Massage therapy and the power of touch can help create feelings of connection and reduce stress.  Pursuing a romantic relationship can help seniors feel like there is always someone there.  Re-investing in family relationships can produce unique benefits, since family is bonded in a unique way. Music therapy can treat a wide range of maladies and help seniors find happiness.  But, don’t stop there.  Keep searching for the things that make you happy, and be honest with yourself if you aren’t finding happiness in what you are doing.  The more time you put into trying to live a happy life, the better. Health will follow.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living