<Meyer leads a group of assisted living residents in a poetry session.

Meyer leads a group of assisted living residents in a poetry session.

 

The thought of elders with dementia drafting poems may be difficult to imagine. However, for one woman who lost both of her parents to Alzheimer’s disease, turning dementia patients into poets has become her passion.

“When caring for my parents, I was like so many caretakers who are focused on whether their loved one is taking their medicine correctly, eating properly, staying clean and kept safe, but it never occurred to me at the time about what I could have been doing for them that was stimulating, intellectual, creative, and allowed them to feel good about themselves,” says Molly Middleton Meyer.

While attending graduate school for creative writing, Meyer’s mother passed away.

“People would ask what I was going to do with my master’s degree, and the truth is I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted to give back something that I couldn’t give my parents,” she says. “I kept envisioning all the faces in memory care who I had come across while visiting my mother, and so many seemed stagnant.”

Meyer began researching art therapy as it relates to people with dementia. So began the makings of Mind’s Eye Poetry.

“I knew music was able to trigger memory and calm people, but I thought it wasn’t very intellectually stimulating. I wanted to give those with memory loss the ability to contribute, not just put headphones on and sink into themselves, but actually communicate with their fellow memory care residents, as well as possibly learn something,” she says.

Mind’s Eye Poetry’s mission is to engage elders in the writing process through guided hour-long sessions led by Meyer. She held her first poetry writing session in 2013 at an assisted living community in Dallas, Texas. Years later, she’s helped hundreds of people with dementia living in assisted living communities and nursing homes write more than 800 poems collectively.

A Typical Session

The poetry sessions are a unique break from the typical day in assisted living communities. Meyer begins by asking participants to think about a particular topic. “I may say, ‘Let’s talk about the ocean’, and see where it goes,” she says. “They’re so used to being talked to about routine mundane things like eating and changing that it’s out of the ordinary for them to have someone ask them to think about other things. Even the word ‘ocean’ will light up their faces and get the wheels turning.”

Meyer brings a bag of props, too. For instance, she may pull out a scarf and ask the elders to share how it relates to the ocean. “Someone may say ‘wind’ and then I’ll ask, ‘How does the wind feel by the ocean?’ All the sudden we’re into a sensory realm. I’ll get answers like ‘it smells like ice cream on the beach’ or ‘I can hear children laughing,'” she says.

Part of the program includes reading poems related to the topic aloud.

“It’s scientifically proven that when people listen to poetry their brain reacts in a different way than if they just listen to someone talk, so I like them to hear the symbolism and metaphors, and even if they don’t really understand it all, their brains are hearing different language than they normally do day to day,” she says.

Meyer asks participants a variety of open-ended questions. From their responses, she creates short poems that she reads back to them.

“This is when the whole empowerment piece comes into play, which is one of the greatest gifts that I’ve given to people. When I read the poems back to them that they helped contribute to there are physical indications that they’re feeling empowered. They sit up straighter, lean in, talk to each other,” she says.

Each group creates three or more poems, depending on the stage of their dementia. Afterwards, Meyer types out their work and sends it to the communities. “The poems have a life that goes beyond the session. I’ve seen some places make scrap books or frame them so the elders can share them with family.”

Meyer says that while the finished poems are phenomenal, the process is just as rewarding.

“It’s really about getting people to relate, think and be empowered, as well as add joy to their day,” she says.

Get Poetic with Your Loved One

If your loved one’s assisted living facility doesn’t offer this type of program or they still live on their own or with you, Meyer says you can help them get the creative juices flowing.

“You don’t have to be a poet. You just have to ask open-ended questions and care about elevating a conversation,” she says.

After asking the typical questions about taking medication, eating and sleeping, Meyer suggests asking more engaging question like “What’s your favorite flower?”

“Maybe your parent says, ‘A yellow rose.’ Then you can ask, ‘Why yellow?’ All the sudden you have something to write down,” she says.

Another way to engage your loved one is to show them items from their home such as a quilt, picture, or piece of art. “Have them look at it, touch it and smell it, and ask what they think about when they do so, then start writing and read it back to them,” she says.

While this may be a change of a mindset for you, Meyer says, “try to get off the caregiver road and just be with your parent.”

If your loved one doesn’t want to participate, Meyer suggests telling them you want to hear more about them and how they feel, or try again another time.

“It’s okay if you only get a few lines the first time,” says Meyer. “The point is that you’re allowing them to engage in a way that gets them away from the day to day of living with dementia.”

 

Nurse Pushing Old Man On Wheelchair In Hospice

Committing to an assisted living community is a big decision. And chances are, your parent isn’t jumping at the opportunity, even if you think it’s their best move. The good news? Today there are a number of options that allow your mom or dad to test-drive communities to get a feel for how each place runs and to figure out whether it’s a good fit for them. Below are a few ways to test the waters.

Take a Tour

After you’ve pinned down some communities that seem like a good fit financially, you should tour the communities yourself without your parent, says Lisa Mayfield of Washington-based geriatric care management company Aging Wisdom.

“This way you can narrow it down to the top two places you like rather than dragging your parent all over the place, which can be exhausting and hard for them to remember one community from another,” said Mayfield. “Also, if you take them along initially, and the first place you go to is a bomb, then it can be discouraging and reinforce their hesitations.”

After you’ve determined your own top picks, it’s time to take your parent on a tour.

“It’s necessary for the parent to tour. They’ll see things differently than you will and you want them to want to move there,” says Debbie Feldman, a geriatric care manager in Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Typically, the visits last an hour and a half to two hours, and you can expect a marketing or salesperson from the community to tell you about the pricing structure, activities, and meals before you tour the different apartment options, dining room, and activity rooms.

Make sure to tour during a mealtime. “Not only do you want to taste the food, but everyone is assembled in the dining room, so it’s a good time to observe the type of people who are living there–if they’re cognitively and functionally similar to your parent,” says Mayfield.

Here are some other things to check off your list during tours:

  • Ask if the community will refund the admission fee, if your parent decides to leave.
  • Request to meet the nurse. “I think the nurse is the most important person in the building. Talk to her about any special needs your parent has and ask her how long she’s worked there,” Mayfield recommends.
  • Meet the community’s activity director and ask to see a calendar of activities, as well as observe an activity.
  • Pay attention to the ambiance. “Is the lobby active and are families in and out or does it feel like a ghost town?” says Mayfield, noting that while the condition of the building is important, most seniors aren’t sold based on whether it’s new and fancy. “Most older adults live in homes they haven’t changed or updated in years and they’re living modestly. They may not feel comfortable in a glitzy, brand new building. Find a match suited for your parent — not what you would want,” she says.
  • Take pictures of the outside of the building and inside the apartments, so you can remember each place after you leave.

Try Out Respite Care

Many assisted living facilities offer temporary stays, of up to a few days to several weeks. This option is referred to as respite care and gives your parent the chance to stay on the premises and try out everything the facility has to offer.

During respite stays, your parent will typically be billed for rent and services for the time he or she stays, but won’t have to pay the onetime admission or community fee of permanent residency, which can cost as much as $3,000 or more.

While some adjusting will take place, Mayfield says, “they’ll use the facility’s furnished apartment, so it’s more like staying in a hotel, which is a little easier and less stressful than having to move their own stuff in.”

Feldman notes that respite care is different from adult day care, which is usually not set in an assisted living community. “Adult day care is really set up for people who have dementia and other cognitive issues, and whose caretakers need a place for them to go during the day,” said Feldman. “This kind of environment is intended to engage elders during the day, so that when they go home, they tend to eat better and sleep better.”

Stay for the Short-Term

Many assisted living communities offer month-to-month lease arrangements in addition to long-term contracts. This offers similar advantages to respite care.

“The hope it that your parent realizes it’s not as bad as they thought,” says Mayfield. “However, there is a chance that if they stay and hate it, then they may not ever want to consider assisted living again.”

With this in mind, Mayfield recommends short-term stays only for people who are really reluctant to make the move. “It can take three to six months or up to a year to adjust to a community, so short periods of time aren’t enough to really get acclimated,” she said.

However, if circumstances require that your parent move into a facility immediately, a short-term stay can prevent you from having to choose a community based solely on what’s available–many popular assisted living communities have wait-lists for certain types of rooms or for the entire facility.

In the long run, this option may also make more sense financially. While month-to-month rates may not seem like the best deal, if you’re forced to move your parent into assisted living on short notice, going with a short-term stay can buy you the time you need to make a full assessment of your financial situation and choose a community that your family can afford.

While moving your parent to another facility could cost you to lose the community fee, Mayfield notes, “at most places that is pretty nominal in relation to the big picture.”

As you’ve gotten older, you may have noticed that your balance and the muscle mass needed for strong bones and balance is not what it used to be. Deteriorating posture due to spinal degeneration, weakening muscles, and an overall loss of balance can cause nasty falls. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three older adults suffers a fall each year.

Falls can be hugely detrimental, causing broken hips and head injuries that limit your mobility and change your lifestyle. Luckily, regular exercise can help improve balance and posture enough to help keep falls at bay. Older adults can also recover some muscle mass with the right training. Regular physical activity can help prevent stroke, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, among other chronic illnesses. Weight-bearing training also helps prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.

What’s more, the endorphins released during a workout can lift your mood and help alleviate anxiety. But what type of exercise is ideal for older adults? You should be looking at activities that are not overly strenuous and that incorporate balance, strength and endurance training. Below are some great exercise ideas for seniors

 

1. Walking

power walk

One of the most universal and necessary exercises, the simple act of walking can help you make big strides toward better health. Walking can improve your endurance as well as your circulation and cardiovascular health. The endurance that you gain from walking should also help prevent falls.

If you’re not a big walker already, start out with a 2 to 5-minute walk several times per day, until you’re able to walk for 30 minutes per session. Aim to do your 30-minute sessions at least four times per week. If you have bad balance, try to walk indoors on flat surfaces initially. Venture outdoors along an uneven terrain as your balance and endurance improves. Increase your 30-minute sessions until you reach a 60-minute daily walking session.

 

2. Seated March

Seated march
The seated march is another great exercise for balance. While seated in a chair, start marching your feet in place for about 20 times. You feet should be raised a few inches off of the floor with each step. Try to maintain an upright posture during this exercise.

 

3.Upright Front Row

upright row
This exercise helps build muscle mass and increases upper arm and back strength. This should then improve mobility in your shoulders, which will ultimately improve your posture and overall balance. While standing, position your feet slightly apart and bend your knees slightly. Grab two light dumbbells and hold them in front of you. Raise the dumbbells to chin level and keep your stomach in. Complete 10 lifts.

 

4. Sit-Backs

Sit-backs
Sit-backs are great for strengthening your stomach muscles, which can help you prevent falls when rising from a sitting position. Sitting on a folded towel or a gym mat, bend you knees and bend your elbows, with the palms of your hands supporting the back of your head. Carefully move backwards as you focus on your stomach muscles. Then slowly pull yourself back into the initial upright position. Repeat 10 times.

 

5. Wall Half-Squat

wall half-squat

This exercise is ideal for strengthening your hip flexors, which can help reduce falls. It also strengthens the quadriceps, which will help improve your walking and balance. Lean against a wall with both legs bent and apart wider than your shoulders. Slowly slide down the wall, making sure that your knees aren’t bent over your toes, then slide back up to the starting position. Repeat 20 times.

 

6. Leg Lifts

leg lifts
Leg lifts are ideal for improving your balance and overall circulation. In a standing position, bend your knee at 90 degrees as you raise your right leg for a few seconds. Your foot should be raised not more than 10 inches from the floor. Repeat 10 times, then do the same for your left leg.

 

 

 

Senior woman meeting with agent

 

Deciding whether it’s time for aging parents to stop living alone can be difficult. You don’t want to wait too long until after a major incident has occurred and done irreversible harm, but sometimes the early signs of a growing problem can be subtle. To make sure your parents get the care they need when they need it, keep an eye out for the following signs that your aging parents should  no longer live alone.

1. Difficult recoveries

If your aging parent’s last brush with illness or injury led to a longer-than-usual recovery, this can be a strong indication that their health is starting to fail. As we age, we lose our ability to bounce back from poor health. This is important to take into account, as even a mild injury or ailment can become a long-term drain on an elderly person’s well being. To avoid these types of lengthy recoveries and their detrimental impacts, it might be a good idea to start looking at alternatives to living alone.

2. Signs of dementia

Any sign of dementia should be taken extremely seriously. Forgetfulness, losing track of events or items or general disorientation can all spell danger for your aging parent without the proper supervision and help. It only takes a moment for a forgotten stove burner to start a major fire, for example.

If you even slightly suspect that your parent might be suffering from the early stages of dementia, you owe it to them to help them seek diagnosis, treatment and the proper senior care, whether assisted living, in-home care, or another daily care arrangement.

3. Recent accidents

There are a lot of little accidents that might not mean much on their own but can combine to paint a worrisome picture for elders living alone. For example, if you notice new dings and dents on your parent’s car, it’s probably time to join them on a ride to see how their driving looks.

If they’ve become prone to falls or stumbles, they may need help getting around the house or may need to move to an easier-to-navigate home. If you see signs that accidents are becoming a regular occurrence in your parent’s life, it might be time to talk about outside assistance.

4. Weight fluctuations

If your parent is experiencing serious changes in their weight, you should keep a close eye on how they’re doing. This includes both weight loss or gain, as either one can herald a host of health problems, psychiatric issues, or neurological problems, especially if there’s no easy explanation for the change. Difficulties preparing the same meals they used to make routinely or getting as much exercise as they previously did should be taken as warning signs.

5. Poor hygiene and personal care

If a parent who previously paid close attention to their appearance begins to slack on fixing their hair, makeup or other normal grooming before leaving the house, it may be a sign of deteriorating physical or mental health. You should also be alert to changes in hygiene; if your parent is no longer brushing their teeth, bathing regularly, or washing their clothes, it’s a huge red flag. These problems will only grow worse with time, and can complicate, encourage, or create health issues if left unaddressed.

6. Social withdrawal

If your parent has suddenly begun making excuses to avoid social outings, stopped attending church, hasn’t seen friends in a while, or has otherwise shown signs of social withdrawal, you should pay attention. Not only will getting out less worsen or exacerbate their general well being, it’s a potential sign of cognitive decline or depression.

Normally people do not, as a rule, stop socializing without reason—and in most cases, the underlying reason is something you should be worried about. The health benefits and social engagement of assisted living or a home care companion can be exactly what a withdrawn parent needs to return to their normal social activities and start thriving again.

7. Financial problems

When you visit your parent, do you spot unpaid bill warning notices in the mail? Do you have to help your parents make ends meet where they previously had no problems? These can be signs of deteriorating health and may indicate that the time for living alone has ended, as forgetfulness, apathy, and other problems begin to take a serious toll on their bank account. In some cases, forgotten expenses, scams, and other issues can add up to larger financial problems.

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You should think long and hard about the best interests of your aging parents and the rest of your family when considering senior care options. It’s better to have these conversations with your parent early on. That way, you can honestly discuss the potential pitfalls associated with living alone and the perils of ignoring them before any cognitive problems develop.

 

Senior Man Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone

One day you get a call informing you that you’ve won a cash prize, or an invitation to buy into an investment that outperforms the market, or an email telling you that your medical insurer needs your insurance ID. Scenarios like these should raise red flags. While some of the time they may be legitimate, oftentimes these are scams.

As technology becomes more sophisticated, so too do unscrupulous scammers.

“The stereotype is that older adults have more money,” says Brandy Bauer, communications manager for economic security at the National Council on Aging. “That, coupled with the perception that seniors are in cognitive decline, means that older people are a target for economic exploitation.”

Falling victim to a scam can have real consequences. Seniors are often living on a fixed income and don’t have the time to recover and rebuild their savings should fraud lead to a large financial loss, says Bauer.

That said, for many of these scams to work, scammers want you to hand over your personal information. Knowing the red flags to look out for can help you avoid giving out the information they desperately need, protecting you and your assets from falling into the wrong hands.

“The key to avoiding many scams is to stay educated and to continuously monitor your accounts for suspicious activity,” says Liz Loewy, former chief of the elder abuse unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office who is now senior vice president for industry relations at EverSafe a service that helps protect seniors from fraud and identity theft.

When in doubt about whether an offer or request is legitimate, it’s best to have a trusted family member or friend take a look, Loewy says.

“It never hurts to have a trusted advocate serve as a second set of eyes,” she says.

What follows are some of the most common scams targeting seniors today.

1. Phone Scams
Scams that take place over the phone are one of the most common types to affect seniors. Some current schemes include people posing as IRS agents to collect personal information (the IRS does not contact you over the phone) and scammers pretending to be technicians from computer companies claiming to have detected a problem with your computer. With little way of verifying a caller’s identify, avoid giving out any personal information over the phone.

Once on the phone, it can be hard for many seniors to say no to caller requests. To avoid being put in an uncomfortable position in the first place, consider screening calls on cell phones and landlines with caller ID. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t pick up.

2. Medicare and Health Insurance Scams
Beware of people posing as medical professionals who request your medical information over the phone or online. Scammers can use your health insurance ID number and other personal information to fraudulently bill Medicare or insurance companies. In the meantime, you could get saddled with copays and percentage-based fees for care you never received.

Also be wary of companies selling durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, and claims that they’re covered by Medicaid. Since Medicaid has strict rules about which agencies you can use to acquire medical equipment, oftentimes this type of equipment is not actually covered.

Don’t provide your medical information to anyone unless you are 100 percent sure you know who you’re talking to. Review your insurance statements regularly to spot any suspicious activity.

3. Internet and Email Scams
Watch out for pop-ups on your computer, phone or tablet that ask you to download things like virus protection software. Ironically, you may actually be downloading a virus that will mine your computer for personal data.

Similarly, you may receive official-looking emails telling you to download something or click on an unknown link. “Phishing” scammers often use this tactic, and once you click, the scammer is given a porthole into the information stored on your computer. What’s worse, sometimes simply opening these emails is enough to give scammers access to your data.

Before opening any emails, make sure they’re from a legitimate source that you recognize. In general, before entering any personal information online, look for a padlock symbol in your browser bar (near the URL) or a web address that includes HTTPS at the beginning of the URL. Any information you type into a website that includes these markers is encrypted and protected by the website.

4. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
Scammers may inform you that you’re the winner of a sweepstakes or lottery prize, and that all you have do to claim your prize is pay a processing fee or taxes upfront. They may go so far as to send a fake check for you to cash, knowing that it will take a few days for your bank to reject it. In the meantime, the fraudster can pocket your money and disappear.

5. Investment Schemes
Seniors managing their finances after retirement may encounter investments that sound too good to be true. That’s because a lot of the time, they are. Investments that purport to be a limited-time offer or claim returns that are higher than the market—think the Bernie Madoff pyramid scheme—should raise red flags for any investor. Make sure you fully understand any kind of investment you’re considering participating in.

6. Asset Recovery Scams
An insidious and increasingly common scheme, asset recovery scams target older adults who have already been the victim of a scam. For example, a perpetrator might contact a senior taken in by a timeshare scam, promising to help the senior recover some of their lost money. The scammers then collect personal information from the senior that gives them access to the senior’s finances — victimizing them twice.

7. Social Media Scams
Increasingly, seniors are on social media, and that means a lot of their personal information is readily available to the public. If you’re on social media, scammers may find photographs of friends and family members, gathering names and other information. Then they contact you, claiming that one of the people you know is in some kind of financial trouble and needs you to send them money. Protect your information on social media by changing privacy settings so that only family and friends can view your profile.

8. Charity Scams
During the end of the year, the holiday season, or after a well-publicized disaster, some scammers try to take advantage of seniors’ charitable instincts by soliciting money for bogus organizations. Before giving, make sure to vet all charities to make sure they are legitimate and that your money will actually go to help those in need.

It's time to dispel the myths about Alzheimer's disease.

It’s estimated that more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Learning that a loved one has Alzheimer’s can bring up countless questions. With a bombardment of information easily accessible online, it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s not. The following are some common myths surrounding the disease.

Myth 1: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Are One in the Same

Dementia is an umbrella term for progressive and disabling cognitive decline. Everybody with Alzheimer’s disease has dementia, but there are many different kinds of dementia. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, accounting for about 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Sometimes people are upset when they hear Alzheimer’s disease, and for some reason less upset when they’re told it’s dementia. Everybody with Alzheimer’s has dementia, and in fact, most older adults with dementia have Alzheimer’s,” said neurologist Riley McCarten, MD, medical director of the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Gary Kennedy, MD, geriatric psychiatrist at the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York said to think of it this way: “Alzheimer’s is to dementia as leukemia is to cancer.”

Myth 2: Everyone Gets Alzheimer’s Eventually

While Alzheimer’s disease is an age-related illness, it’s not inevitable for everyone. “If you live well into your 80s or 90s, about half of the population has some signs of dementia, but there’s also half that don’t. Dementia is always caused by disease. It’s not healthy aging,” said McCarten.

Myth 3: Alzheimer’s Comes on Strong

Alzheimer’s often is associated with the image of an incompetent or impaired person. However, for most people with Alzheimer’s, this isn’t the case until they’ve had the disease for years. “Like lots of chronic diseases, whether it’s emphysema or cancer or heart disease, people can look good for a long time with Alzheimer’s. Dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s Disease, can last for a long time, on average 10 years, and sometimes twice that long, so for the first 90 percent of it, people may be up and around, quite active and engaged,” said McCarten.

Not recognizing people also happens much later in the disease. “I tell families that it’s not important if the patient calls wife ‘Mother’ or husband ‘Father’ or daughter ‘Son’. What’s important is that they’re expressing love and affection and recognize that this is a person they love,” said Kennedy.

Myth 4: I’ll Have Alzheimer’s Because My Dad Had it

While having a family history of Alzheimer’s increases your risk, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the disease. Scientists have found certain genes related to the onset of the illness. When genes are to blame, it is referred to as “familial Alzheimer’s disease,” because family members across several generations are affected. In these cases, symptoms tend to develop at a young age, usually before 60. This form of Alzheimer’s is rare, accounting for less than 5 percent of cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

 “While there’s a lot of work that’s been done on identifying these genes, nothing has lead to the discovery of a medication that could modify the genetic risk,” said Kennedy.

Myth 5: Medication Can Cure Alzheimer’s

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several prescription medications to treat Alzheimer’s, the drugs are used to treat symptoms rather than cure the disease.

 “While we have medications that will help, we really don’t understand what’s causing Alzheimer’s yet,” said Kennedy. “For instance, for diabetes, we know where the problem starts so we can counter it with medications like insulin. For HIV/AIDS, we found the infectious agent and now we have medication that keeps it at bay. However, that’s not the case with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s much more complicated.”

Both Kennedy and McCarten agree that the best approach to treatment is making lifestyle changes that give the patient a sense of independence for as long as possible.

“The concept of treatment, unfortunately, is usually viewed as a pill or surgical intervention, but medications have a modest affect,” said McCarten. “A lot of intervention isn’t related to medication. Somebody who is living with dementia can have a much better life if the family intervenes and makes sure they’re not isolated, are eating well and getting exercise.”

Myth 6: It’s Always Hard to Care For Someone with Alzheimer’s

Of course Alzheimer’s has detrimental effects, but Kennedy said there are some people with Alzheimer’s who are easier to care for than expected. “Rather than depressed and aggressive, there are Alzheimer’s patients who are in elevated spirits and in a certain sense ‘easy’ to take care of,” he said. “Of course they don’t make it into the research studies because they’re not a ‘problem’ and they’re not seen by the psychologist or specialty neurologist because the family is managing well.”

Still, Kennedy points out that there is a need for better resources for families who struggle with difficult behaviors exhibited by their loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Myth 7: Alzheimer’s is on the Rise

According to Kennedy, the percentage of older adults who now develop dementia has declined, but because the older adult population is increasing worldwide, the prevalence of dementia will continue to swell.

“There’s an increasing awareness that vascular risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease make a contribution to Alzheimer’s. In other words, people who have the pathology of Alzheimer’s also have the pathology of vascular disease in their brains,” Kennedy said. “The reason that’s so important is that we’ve had pretty good luck for intervention for cardiovascular disease, whether it’s the cholesterol lowering agents, anti-hypertensives, or anti-diabetic agents.”

“They’re all having an impact on the frequency of stroke, brain hemorrhage and heart attack, which is most likely responsible for the reduced incidence of dementia in late life,” he said.

Kennedy advises that ensuring a loved one with Alzheimer’s is properly treated for other conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes may help keep dementia at bay.

Hacks and Swaps for Fancy and Green SeniorsYou want to be greener. But you don’t want to give up your creature comforts. Rest easy—with some small hacks and swaps, you can lead a more sustainable life.

Now sing with me. I’m so fancy, you already know. I’m a senior just trying to green my home. I’m so fancy and I can reach this goal, if I up my green game. Let’s go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o.

1. Inspect Your Home

Have a professional assess your insulation level. Many people unknowingly pay good money to heat the outdoors or cool their garage. Owners of older homes should schedule an insulation and energy audit. The original builder should be able to provide basic information for new homes.

2. Be a Greener Cleaner

Run only full loads of dishes or laundry (not together). Now, let them air dry. Remember to use cold water. Double down on green and go old school with sustainable cleaning products. Feel free to buy your supplies from leading stores or create your own at home. Baking soda, lemon juice, oils, borax and the Internet are your best friends.

While you’re at it: homemade soap bars make amazing gifts that your friends will love.

3. Let Your Lights Shine, Not Warm

Replace old bulbs with energy efficient LED bulbs. They are bright and beautiful without wasting energy on releasing heat. This hack is so simple it’s “like you’re giving lessons in physics.”

4. Impress Your Friends with Smart Technology

Convert your appliances to smart appliances. The fancy side of you will love that you can turn your lights on and off from a remote application on your phone. The green side of you knows that your smart house can do the green work for you. From the lighting to the temperature, everything adjusts just how you like it. It will feel “so good getting what you want.”

5. Use Reusables

Paper or plastic? Opt out of both by bringing your own cloth bags to the store. For storage and transport, use reusable crates instead of cardboard boxes.

6. Change Your Driving

Keep your car in tip-top condition. Drive slower and inflate your tires. Reduce the junk in your trunk for better gas mileage “from L.A. to Tokyo.”

7. Switch Into the Fast Lane

Splurge on a new hybrid or electric car for some serious swagger. From the Prius and the i3 to the Leaf, Tesla and the Chevy Spark, you will find a car that fits your lifestyle. Your friends will ask “Who that, who that?” as you drive by.

8. Purge Your Paper

Unsubscribe from junk mail. Switch to electronic versions of your favorite magazines and newspapers. Scan your old files and receipts and recycle the originals. Try applications like Evernote and OneReceipt. You can make your electronic copies more organized than the paper versions ever were.

9. Do a Digital Diet

When leaving your home, unplug your appliances and electronics. This reduces phantom loads—energy use from idle electronics. Use power strips to turn everything off with a single button. Look for smart strips that turn off the power flow when the appliances are off. You don’t “ever have to turn down nothing.” Take the next step and go screen-free for a day. Then try it for a week.

Luxury and comfort, meet sustainability. You’ll get “the whole world asking how I does that.”

Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.

escape-to-the-beachAs fun as snowy winter weather can be, sometimes you just need to escape for some vitamin D therapy. Do you envision relaxing on a white sandy beach? Or is the dry heat of Arizona calling your name? From the bustling city of Oahu to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, these are the top desert, beach and city destinations for your 2016 travel adventures.

Desert 

Nothing beats the heat of the desert. And nothing compares to its wide-open spaces, geological beauty and quiet solitude.

Death Valley, California

If vitamin D therapy is definitely what you need, a visit to warm and sunny Death Valley is just what the doctor ordered. The Valley is known for its record-breaking heat.

Plan your visit in the spring, and you will get to see the valley of death turn into a valley of life. From February to July there is a spectacular explosion of wildflower blossoms covering the desert floor.

Any time of year, you can visit Death Valley’s sand dunes, relax in warm hot springs and marvel in its stark natural beauty. With names like the Devil’s Golf Course and Mosaic Canyon, how can you resist?

Grand Canyon, Arizona 

The Grand Canyon is one of the United States’ incredible natural wonders, stretching a vast 277 miles from end to end. A mile straight down you will find the Colorado River winding its way along the canyon floor.

You can explore the canyon in every way imaginable. Hiking, backpacking, biking, off-road driving, helicopter flights and mule rides are only some of your options. A must-see stop is the Grand Canyon skywalk—a glass walkway that extends 70 feet out from the canyon’s rim.

Pictures don’t do this breathtaking sight justice; you truly have to experience it in person.

Beach

Is there anything more relaxing than lying out in the sun, burying your toes in the sand and watching the waves? These exotic locales may be just the winter pick-me-up you need.

Turks and Caicos Islands, Caribbean

The Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean are home to picture-perfect white sand beaches. With consistently warm temperatures, even at night, you’ll never be cold.

Plunge into the warm blue water and snorkel over exquisite reefs. Or take to the sky in a breathtaking hot air balloon tour. When you’re ready for a break, you can enjoy beachfront dining with views that can’t be beat.

Once you enjoy a walk down the powdery white shores of the Caribbean, you won’t want to go home!

Phuket, Thailand

With its turquoise lagoons and sherbet sunsets, Phuket is an island conjured out of a dream. Surrounded by the clear waters of the Andaman Sea, it is home to silky-soft beaches and picturesque views.

Whether you are looking for world-class diving, an exciting rainforest adventure or a round of golf at international-standard courses, Phuket has no lack of activities.

Once you have had enough sun, Buddhist temples, Chinese shrines, relaxing spas and a lively nightlife entertainment scene await you. 

City

Experience the perfect mix of city life and beach living with these cities full of rich cultural destinations and lively party scenes.

Oahu, Hawaii

Sandy white beaches and clear blue water seem to epitomize Hawaii. While Oahu has lovely beaches and scenery for you to enjoy, it is the heart of its big city that distinguishes it from the other Hawaiian Islands.

If you love art, food, shopping or surfing, Oahu is the place for you. The island is full of cultural and historical sites, including Pearl Harbor, the Bishop Museum and the Polynesian Center. Many of these destinations are accessible and can be easily reached by public transportation.

Enjoy a day in the city, then kick back and watch a sunset on one of the island’s pristine beaches. With Oahu you will get the best of both worlds.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Once a small fishing village, the bustling city of Playa del Carmen is now one of Mexico’s top travel destinations. Home to many all-inclusive resorts, this trendy city has a European flair with restaurants and shopping to fit every taste.

In Playa del Carmen you can meet playful spider monkeys, explore ancient ruins and visit Mexico’s best golf courses. Take a trip to the popular Xcaret eco-Park and swim with dolphins, explore a bat cave and see jaguars up close.

Playa del Carmen’s vibrant culture is the perfect getaway for the city lover. Beachside lounges and exquisite dining awaits you in this Euro-chic Mexican city.

Sunny Retreats

Escape the cold grip of winter and head for someplace warm and sunny. Kick back and relax, go on an adventure or party the night away—the choice is yours. Go get that vitamin D and make 2016 the year you embark on your next great adventure.

Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.

merrill-gardens-at-the-university-courtyardIn Bill Pettit’s opinion, the courtyard at Merrill Gardens at The University is one of the best in Seattle. As president of R.D. Merrill Company (parent company of Merrill Gardens), he has seen some of the finest courtyards that are found in senior living communities. Superficially, there isn’t anything noticeably different that distinguishes this courtyard from others:  it has seating areas, a water feature, and planters. Not even the Ionic columns, which symbolize its relationship with the University of Washington, would make this courtyard more special than the others.

The Importance of Connectivity

It’s not the tangible design elements that make this courtyard the best, in Pettit’s mind. It’s the intangible element of connectivity: This courtyard is a gathering place not only for seniors who call Merrill Gardens at The University home, but also the residents of The Corydon, an adjacent apartment complex which houses students, young professionals, and even baby boomers. Petitt says that during the day, the populations mix in the courtyard, allowing relationships to grow between residents of all ages. It’s this connectivity which he sees as an overlooked yet vital component that contributes to a seniors’ well-being. This desire for social connection “will merrill-gardens-at-the-university-courtyard-twoeven be more pronounced and meaningful as my generation, the Baby Boomer generation, transition into senior housing alternatives,” Petitt explains, and that “seniors as they age are looking for connections and to maintain connections more than anything else.”

In his opinion, this connectivity wasn’t appreciated or understood when senior living communities were built decades ago. “When Merrill Gardens started building communities 24 years ago, and I think the industry as a whole, a lot of the 1990s’ designs focused on finding an affordable piece of land and rather than looking at trying to create a community that kept seniors connected, typically that affordable land would be off on its own,” he said. “Out of this experience we learned two things, the land might have been cheaper, but you were spending more in marketing trying to get people to the site, and in addition to keeping them connected, we were now transporting them longer distances. The other aspect is what they were turning into was one big island of old age.”

Building a senior living community that wasn’t an island of old age was the vision for Merrill Gardens at The University, which is located near the University Village shopping center and less than half a mile away from the University of Washington Seattle campus. “From the start we had envisioned a gathering place, someplace where [we could] combine seniors with other generations. In some respects we weren’t sure how it was going to work out,” Pettit admitted.

Since the opening of the community in 2009, this new approach has paid off with a waiting list at the community, and families surprised that the surroundings don’t feel like a senior living community when they tour. “All of what we build as a company, and we’re not alone, these are truly residences. All of our units have kitchens,” Pettit says. “Our residents know they have the flexibility if they choose to prepare their own meals but they also have access to our dining room.”

The Design of Connectivity

The incorporation of connectivity is visible in prominent and subtle ways of its design. Walking around the block, and you will find a Yoga studio, restaurants, and shops and the entrance to The Corydon. Once inside Merrill Gardens at The University, “it’s not by accident that all of our common areas are set up with a visual to the courtyard,” he adds.

Pairing a merrill-gardens-at-the-university-dining-roomresidential apartment building alongside the senior living community also resulted in the unforeseen benefit of helping seniors transition “at their own pace” into Merrill Gardens at The University. Seniors who live in the neighboring apartments can participate in the dining program and activities, and this approach has “worked very effectively,” Pettit says.

With Merrill Gardens at The University having proven that this new approach to connectivity works, Pettit says they are now using this approach at new communities in other Washington State cities including Burien, Kirkland and Auburn, but also future sites in California. We have been actively building for the last 10 years, he says, and we are looking for sites “where the seniors are connected to downtown, where they are connected to be able to walk and step outside the door of the community and be immersed in an intergenerational population, rather than feeling like they have to [be] transport[ed] to it. They are part of it.”

This new approach does have its disadvantages from a financing and construction standpoint; multiple parcels are required to build these larger communities and being located in an urban environment means higher construction costs due to less laydown area for materials. Unfortunately, it also means higher monthly fees to live at the community, but at least in Washington State, there are income-restricted apartments available thanks to tax credits Merrill Garden receives from the state.

With an increasing population of seniors who will eventually move into senior housing, an emphasis on connecting seniors to outside the community and other generations will likely only increase.

“My belief, after all these years in the industry, is the industry needs many solutions,” Pettit shares. “This is a solution which I think appeals more broadly certainly to my generation than to previous generations, and yet I think there are still other alternatives that will continue to evolve and offshoots. But I think the central theme of maintaining connections is very real and very telling about the evolution of senior housing.”

Senior man reading book

For caregivers, the John Lennon lyric “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans,” could easily be rephrased to read “Caregiving is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” There often is no advance notice that you will suddenly assume the role of caregiver, whether for a mother, uncle, spouse, or sibling. And for many new caregivers this means rearranging one’s life to make room for these new responsibilities. Yet this rearranging shouldn’t mean abandoning your own ambitions.

This is why SeniorHomes is proud to announce our brand-new Caregiver Scholarship program to help caregiver-students continue their schooling. We are offering two $1,000 scholarships for caregivers who are actively enrolled in a U.S. college or university. To apply, student caregivers may submit their story through a 1,200-word essay or a 5-minute video that tells us of your journey being a caregiver and student. The deadlines for entry submissions is June 30, 2016 and the winners will be announced August 1, 2016.

To learn more about the application requirements, visit our Caregiver Scholarship page. We look forward to hearing your stories.