Archive for the ‘Senior Living News’ Category

Benefits of Service Dogs for Seniors

Recently, we discussed the benefits of pets for senior citizens. But the benefits of animals—particularly, service dogs—can extend far beyond the companionship and other benefits of sharing your home with a furry, four-legged friend.

What is a service dog? service dogs for seniors

Service dogs are specially trained dogs who provide tremendous benefits to people with physical disabilities, including seniors. Service dogs are probably most recognized for their ability to help individuals with vision impairment navigate their homes and neighborhoods, but they are used to aid people with a variety of disabilities and in a variety of circumstances. Service dogs are even being used to help Veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and physical limitations resulting from service injuries. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are permitted in any public place where the general public goes.

Is a service dog right for your aging loved one?

According to Philips Lifeline, service dogs are being used to help the elderly today more than ever before. But how do you know if a service dog is the right choice for an aging loved one?

There are several types of service dogs who can serve seniors, including:

  • Seeing Eye dogs for the visually impaired
  • hearing or signal dogs for the deaf or hearing impaired
  • mobility assistance dogs who can aid with daily tasks, retrieve items, open doors, or even pull a wheelchair when needed

For instance, a service dog can serve as a senior’s eyes for an aging loved one with visual impairment due to glaucoma or any other chronic condition that causes vision loss. A Seeing Eye dog can give your aging loved one confidence and allow her to navigate streets, sidewalks, stairs and other areas safely. A service dog, in this and other cases, gives a senior greater independence by assisting in areas where the senior struggles due to his disability.

Service dogs are even beneficial for seniors who have family caregivers or outside caregiving assistance. When a service dog helps a senior to be more independent and carry out daily tasks without the direct assistance of a caregiver, caregivers have more time to dedicate to tasks that can’t be taken care of by a service dog, such as cooking, cleaning, and running errands.

Where can I find more information about service dogs?

There are several organizations dedicated to training and placing service dogs for individuals with disabilities, offering information on service dog training and ADA laws related to service dogs, and service dog registration.

  • Assistance Dogs International is “a coalition of not for profit assistance dog organizations. The purpose of ADI is to improve the areas of training, placement, and utilization of assistance dogs, staff and volunteer education, as well as educating the public about assistance dogs, and advocating for the legal rights of people with disabilities partnered with assistance dogs.”
  • The National Association of Service Dogs aims “to help people live a more enjoyable and productive life using service dogs.” The organization was established to register and certify service dogs and created the first formal process requiring documentation to aid in service dog verification.
  • The National Service Animal Registry maintains a service animal database and provides an abundance of resources on service dogs and the rights of service dogs.
  • The United States Service Dog Registry allows you to register a service dog, as well as learn about the laws and regulations that apply to service dogs. This resource also offers a simple service dog lookup directory.

There are also locally based organizations that train service dogs and provide service dog placement with Veterans, seniors and the disabled. If your loved one is a Veteran, one good starting resource is the National Resource Directory, which connects wounded warriors, service members, their caregivers and families with a multitude of resources that provide help, support, and assistance, including service dog organizations. offers a useful, state-by-state listing of service dog trainers, as well.

Service dogs can literally be lifesavers for seniors and other individuals with disabilities, let alone the tremendous relief and help they can offer a senior in day-to-day activities. If you think your senior loved one could benefit from a service dog, seek out local resources and organizations, or start with the resources listed above and get more information today.

Pets and Seniors are a Perfect Match

pets benefit the elderly Pets are generally associated with love and happiness, bringing delight to their owners and those who are privy to their goofy antics and loveable snuggles. This is especially true for seniors and a big reason why animals like dogs and cats are used as therapy pets in senior living communities, hospitals, and the like. As points out, “Evidence suggests four-legged friends are a real health benefit for elderly people, helping them live longer, healthier and happier lives.” Here are just a few of the many ways animals benefit the elderly.

Pets can lower blood pressure and heart rate

There’s just something calming about petting a four-legged, furry friend, and there’s evidence to prove it: Studies dating back to 1988 have shown a correlation between human-dog interactions, such as talking to and petting a dog, and a lower blood pressure, and the American Heart Association says that owning a pet can help protect you from heart disease.

Lower risk of heart disease linked to other benefits of pet ownership for seniors

There are several reasons for the link between pet ownership or spending time with animals and the lowered risk of heart disease, including the idea that pet owners, particularly dog owners, tend to be more active. After all, dogs need exercise, too, and taking the dog for a daily stroll is good for both the body and the soul.

Cats, too, require regular maintenance, such as grooming, litter box changes, and playtime, all of which contribute to increased activity for the people who care for them. Pet ownership has also been associated with lower stress levels and lower rates of depression. Pets make great listeners, and they’re always happy to see you.

Animals reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation

Seniors living alone can experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, which in turn can lead to depression. Animal companions can help to alleviate these feelings by providing constant companionship and even boosting the self-esteem of an elderly person. Pets rely on their owners to provide food, care and love, which gives seniors a sense of purpose as well as a welcome distraction when seniors are feeling down.

What’s more, seniors tend to take better care of themselves when they have a four-legged friend relying on them for food and affection, according to the nonprofit organization Pets for the Elderly. Because they want to stay healthy enough to provide the care their beloved pets require, seniors are more likely to be compliant with medications, get daily exercise, and eat healthier.

Visits from furry friends in senior living communities have tremendous effects on residents

The incredible bond that exists between humans and animals like cats and dogs and the amazing effects these animals can have on sick and elderly individuals has led to animals being used for therapy in hospitals and senior living communities. Many senior living communities have resident pets, such as a cat or dog who roams the community and provides companionship for both staff and residents. Additionally, there are more senior living communities allowing residents to bring their own pets to the community.

But even without these options, many communities take advantage of animal therapy programs, where local animal shelters bring friendly pets for visits with residents. Likewise, there are animal therapy organizations that train dogs (and sometimes cats) and make regular rounds at hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living communities, and similar settings to provide the benefits of animal companionship to patients and residents. Many a miraculous result has been recorded and attributed to the amazing power of animals to bring out the best in people. One such story is revealed by Everyday Health, in which a cat  visited a terminal man who had slipped into a coma. Miraculously, upon the cat being placed on his bed, the gentleman awoke from his coma and began to pet the cat.

Is pet ownership the right choice for you or your senior loved ones?

It’s clear that humans and animals share an incredible bond. While a pet can have many positive benefits for the elderly, adopting a pet isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. Be sure that you or your elderly loved one are able to provide proper care for a pet, and if you do decide to adopt a pet, take care to choose the right pet. Cats don’t typically require long walks outdoors, for instance, and some dog breeds are more active than others. If you live in a small home or apartment, a small-breed dog or cat may be a better choice than a large-breed dog. These are all considerations that should be weighed when adopting a pet.

If caring for a pet seems out of reach, consider looking into local animal therapy programs where volunteers bring animals for periodic visits—allowing seniors to reap the benefits of companionship without the demands of caring for a pet of their own.

Swimming, Water Aerobics, and Aquatic Therapy Offer Many Benefits for Seniors

Benefits of Swimming for SeniorsEverywhere you look, it seems someone is touting the benefits of physical activity for seniors. Maintaining physical fitness and overall health means improved balance, better management of chronic disease, such as diabetes, improved cardiovascular health (which in turn lessens the chance of cardiovascular disease), and many other benefits that contribute to well-being as we grow older. Regular exercise can even help you sleep better, reduce stress and anxiety, and, of course, help to promote healthy weight management.

But aging, over time, contributes to a loss of muscle tone, painful joints, and other effects that make exercising a not-so-pleasant experience for some older adults. While plenty of exercises offer modifications that make the activity more bearable for people with physical limitations, swimming, in particular, is ideal for older adults. Here’s a look at the benefits of swimming, water aerobics and aquatic therapy for seniors.

Swimming is Easy on the Joints

One of the most common complaints from older adults is aching joints, due to arthritis or even normal wear and tear from years of high-impact activities, whether on the job or through recreational activities. High-impact exercise consists of activities such as running, jogging, and plyometrics—activities that involve your body (your feet, particularly) repeatedly coming into contact with the ground. These types of activities are quite stressful on the joints, which can contribute to increased aches and pains both now and in the future.

Swimming, on the other hand, is a low-impact exercise. Note that impact and intensity are not the same thing, meaning you can get just as much of a workout and reap the same benefits from low-impact activities; it’s just a different type of movement. When you swim or participate in water aerobics, your body weight is partially supported by the water, so there’s less weight and strain on your ankles, knees, hips and back.

Swimming Can Lead to Increased Flexibility

Many seniors are able to gain flexibility and increase their range of motion while exercising in the water, thanks in part to the buoyancy effect of water, which supports some of the body’s weight. The motions you make while swimming not only increase muscle strength and tone, but lengthens your muscles and limbs in a similar fashion to yoga.

Swimming Improves Quality of Life 

For many people, there’s just something calming and relaxing about water. Spending time in the pool, lake, or pond isn’t only good for your body; it offers mental health benefits as well, such as reducing stress and anxiety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “Water-based exercise improves mental health. Swimming can improve mood in both men and women. For people with fibromyalgia, it can decrease anxiety and exercise therapy in warm water can decrease depression and improve mood.”

Additionally, swimming offers benefits for pregnant mothers and their unborn children, as well as social and familial benefits for children with developmental disabilities. In other words, swimming is a social activity with built-in health benefits, and an activity seniors can participate in with their children, grandchildren, and other family and friends, with benefits for all.

Swimming Offers Benefits for Bone Health

Any physical activity, particularly weight-bearing exercises, will help to improve bone density and bone strength, an important consideration for older adults. Post-menopausal women, in particular, have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

“After the age of 50, a third of women and a fifth of men experience a fracture because of osteoporosis, or chronic reduction in bone quality and density. While bone density naturally decreases with age, the risk of osteoporosis is lowest among those who exercise regularly. By swimming, seniors can better preserve bone density and fight osteoporosis,” according to the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

Swimming Offers Cardio and Strength Training in One

Swimming will raise your heart rate, offering cardiovascular benefits by increasing blood flow, boosting your metabolism, and increasing your energy. And because water offers some resistance while you move your body through it, whether you’re taking a traditional or leisurely swim or participating in organized water aerobics, you’re getting strength training benefits at the same time. This will help to improve muscle tone and overall strength and balance, reducing your risk of falls as you age and boosting your cardiovascular and respiratory health.

Of course, it’s always wise to talk with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program or physical activity to make sure you don’t have any underlying health concerns that would pose a risk. But for many seniors, swimming is a fun and social activity offering both physical and mental health benefits.

10 Fun Things to Do on a Summer Day with Your Aging Loved Ones

If you have a loved one in assisted living or memory care, you may be looking for fun, senior-friendly activities that will get her out and about and enjoying the beautiful summer weather. Outings provide a change of scenery, a chance to socialize, and the opportunity to bask in the sun’s warm glow. But what types of activities can you and your loved one enjoy together during the summer? While different cities offer various recreational opportunities with differing degrees of senior friendliness, there are activities any senior can enjoy in nearly any location. Here are a few fun-filled ideas for activities to enjoy with your aging loved ones this summer.

5 fun summer activities for seniors in assisted living

If your loved one resides in an assisted living community, there are ample opportunities for her to get out and about with fellow residents, friends and family. These activities will be sure to bring a smile on a warm summer day and create lasting memories you’ll both cherish forever.

1. Take a water aerobics class

Aquatic exercise is not only more manageable for many seniors, but it provides a welcome reprieve for aching joints. Even if you don’t participate in a formal, organized class, a relaxing swim at your local YMCA or public swimming pool can be an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Some assisted living communities have on-site indoor or outdoor swimming pools for residents to enjoy.

2. Attend a sporting event

Does your local community host sporting events, such as baseball games, soccer or football? Whether your elderly loved one once played sports in high school or is simply a fan of the local teams, attending a sporting event for the afternoon can be a fun way to spend a summer afternoon or evening.

3. Go fishing

Casting a line in the water makes for a surprisingly relaxing afternoon. If your aging loved one once enjoyed the sport of fishing, this activity is a sure-fire win—and even seniors who are wheelchair-bound can participate with the right location and planning. If your city or town is situated near a river or lake, rolling a wheelchair right up to a pier or dock is easy.

4. Hit the local mall

If shopping is more your style, a visit to the local mall or shopping center is the perfect way to spend a few hours out and about with your elderly loved one. Some malls offer walking programs, such as the Silver Sneakers program, and the indoor, air-conditioned atmosphere means no worries about heat stroke and sunburn on a scorching summer day. Your elderly loved one might appreciate the opportunity to do a little early holiday shopping, or she may decide to treat herself to something special (and well-deserved).

5. Watch the sun rise—or set

Many people appreciate the beauty of watching the sun rise or set, particularly on a beautiful summer day when the weather is just right early in the morning or in the evening. Taking a senior loved one to a perfect spot to watch the beauty of nature in action is an excellent way to get outdoors and enjoy some fresh air while spending some quality time together making memories that will last a lifetime.

5 fun summer activities for seniors in memory care

If your loved one resides in a memory care community, her memory impairment may leave you wondering what activities you can participate in together that will be enjoyable for you both. Consider the following five activities if you’re looking for something fun and imaginative to do with your elderly loved ones.

1. Attend a concert or musical

Music can be magical for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, sparking memories that otherwise are inaccessible. The familiar sounds of a favorite musical or artist can be a fun and enjoyable experience providing an opportunity to reminisce like you haven’t had in quite some time.

2. Head to a book reading

If you happen across a local author who has written about your loved one’s hometown history, attending a reading can be quite the positive experience for an aging loved one with memory impairment.

3. Participate in an art class designed specifically for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia

Art is powerful for all ages, but there’s something especially freeing about putting paint to canvas for people with memory impairment. Art provides a way for your aging loved one to express her emotions in a way that she may no longer be able to do with words. The experience will be one you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

4. Spend an afternoon baking your favorite food.

The sense of smell can create powerful feelings of nostalgia, particularly for memory-impaired persons who suddenly recall the comforts of their childhood homes as the smell of their grandmother’s famous banana nut bread wafts through the air.

5. Have a picnic lunch

Sometimes, just getting outdoors for some fresh air is a welcome activity for seniors. If your aging loved one suffers from mobility issues that make it challenging for her to go outdoors on her own, a picnic lunch in the warm sunshine can be just the thing to bring a smile to her face.

Whether your aging loved one resides in assisted living, in a memory care community, retirement community, or even at her own family home in the larger community, seniors appreciate when loved ones go out of their way to spend some quality time with them. A small gesture may take just a few hours of your time—but it might mean the world to your elderly loved one. Take the opportunity to get outside on a beautiful day this summer to make some memories that you’ll cherish forever.

Senior Living 2025

If you’re one of the individuals who are part of the upcoming gray wave, you’ve likely been more focused on finding care for your aging parents than for yourself. After all, you still have decades until you need to contemplate your care options. But ask yourself this—who will care for you? Perhaps your children or another family member? What if you have to join a retirement community or assisted living facility? Will there be enough employees to care for you and the other residents?

What most current and future retirees don’t realize is that the senior living industry will soon face a crisis of more seniors requiring care during their golden years and the infrastructure, such as government funding, employees and communities, isn’t equipped to care for these millions of people.

This is why the Assisted Living Federal of America (ALFA) launched the Senior Living 2025 initiative earlier this year to start the conversation within the senior living industry. Whether you are an a retiree who in 10 years will need supportive services to remain independent or an adult child who may be tasked with finding an assisted living community for an aging parent in the near future, you could benefit from this insight into the industry, as this crisis will affect not only your future care but many aspects of society.

What are the challenges?

ALFA identified four challenges that the senior living industry will face in the coming years.

Workforce Development

According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, in 2015 there were currently 7 caregivers (ages 45-64) to 1 senior (age 80 and older). In 15 years that number will shrink to 4:1; by 2050, there will be a 3:1 ratio. Yet in spite of the guaranteed jobs that await those who decide to focus on geriatrics, the Institute of Medicine’s 2008 report found that younger workers are not interested in working with seniors.Workforce Development Infographic - ALFA

*All infographics are courtesy of ALFA.


Quality Care

In 25 years, the Administration on Aging projects that the population of seniors 85+ will double, totaling over 14 million. And how will the senior living industry care for this influx of people, especially when 75% of seniors have at least two common chronic conditions and are living longer? ALFA sees the solution as creating advances in technology and healthcare services.

Operational Excellence

The senior living industry is a service industry, and with retirement communities often designed to have all the amenities of a town right on site (a beauty salon, gift store, bistro and wellness center), a well-managed community requires dedicated staff filling numerous positions that don’t involve healthcare services. So how can the senior living industry entice younger workers to enter the industry, especially when interest in working with the senior population is lacking? The solution is developing not only new ways that technology can provide better care but also retain skilled employees. Currently there are over 735,000 residents in assisted living communities and community managers recognize that the care that is provided by their employees directly affects whether future residents will consider joining the community. This is why they are focusing efforts to increase education and training opportunities.

Consumer Choice

Where do you envision living during retirement: in the same family home, in another state or will you join a retirement community? What is for certain is that you won’t lack for choices, especially since ALFA sees the senior living industry as “playing an important role in how consumers finance their most enriching years.” But while your parents may have their long-term care covered, hopefully you are not one of the 38% of Americans who think their retirement will be comfortable.

Planning where you will spend summer vacation is complicated enough, but then when you factor in planning for retirement may be 10, 20 or 30 years away, it doesn’t seem real. But before we know it, it will be 2025, and hopefully we aren’t experiencing the crisis that experts are currently foretelling.

5 Tech Trends in Senior Living

Having all the comforts of home isn’t a new trend in a senior living community, as efforts in recent years have shifted the focus to making senior living settings as homelike as possible. That said, today’s senior generation is accustomed to having easy access to technology such as Wi-Fi, smartphones and tablets, HD televisions with on-demand video, and other technology that many people have in their homes. As such, senior living providers must keep up with the pace of technology to meet the demands of modern seniors who join their communities. Here’s a look at a few current tech trends in senior living communities.

1. Electronic health records are the norm.

Gone are the days of paper progress notes and tattered manila folders holding a resident’s complete medical history. Electronic health records are making staff more efficient and allowing for better coordination of care among providers. As electronic health records become standard industry-wide, antiquated practices, such as faxing patient records to a physician or other healthcare provider, are slowly going by the wayside. But along with the increased use of digital record keeping comes the risk of a data breach.

2. Data breach insurance has become a necessary thing in the senior living industry.

Senior living providers, which handle sensitive resident information and generate protected health data, must comply with HIPAA regulations and maintain strict confidentiality and data protection measures. With more senior living providers maintaining electronic health records, the volume of data obtainable by hackers increases substantially every day. The cost of a data breach is simply too high to risk, and as data breaches become increasingly commonplace, senior living providers are looking to data breach insurance in order to minimize some of the risks in the event of a data breach.

3. Remote monitoring benefits providers and residents alike.

Historically, memory care units have maintained locked units and strictly monitored premises to protect residents who may be prone to wandering. Remote monitoring technology takes the safety of wander-prone residents to a new level, offering alert mechanisms that notify staff the moment a resident has wandered into unsafe territory and provide precise location tracking so that residents may be quickly brought back to safety. The same technology is being used to help seniors maintain their independence in their own homes longer.

4. Wi-Fi everywhere is a must.

Senior living campuses are increasingly providing campus-wide Wi-Fi for both residents and staff. Senior living staffers with ready access to Wi-Fi can communicate rapidly with other staff, order prescriptions and perform a variety of tasks that would otherwise rely on time-consuming phone calls and faxes. For residents, the need for Wi-Fi has never been more clear. Today’s seniors are more tech savvy than ever before, and they demand the ability to continue using their smartphones, laptops, email and social networking services following a move to a senior living community. Anything less is unfathomable to modern seniors.

5. Tech-supported caregiving.

Provider Magazine highlights some of the many tech innovations that are improving the lives of senior living residents everywhere. From sensors that detect soiled incontinence products to predictive analytics models that help healthcare providers predict which residents are likely to develop illnesses or complications, such as pulmonary problems, there are a slew of new technologies that promise to make caring for aging adults simpler and more effective. Some of these innovations are in development, while others are in Beta or being tested or utilized in senior living communities already. In the coming years, we expect to see more widespread, industry-wide adoption of these tech innovations.

It’s an exciting time to work in the senior living field, and seniors who will be making a move to a senior living community in the coming years stand to benefit from new and improved methods of care delivery, more comprehensive services, access to the latest technology tools and gadgets, and so much more.

Older Adults at Increased Risk for Heat Stroke: Know the Warning Signs

Last week, we discussed the dangers of dehydration for older adults and how to make sure your aging loved ones stay well-hydrated this summer. Today, we’re tackling another serious risk for seniors in the hot summer months: heat stroke. Like dehydration, heat stroke is especially dangerous for older adults because of the natural changes that occur as the body ages. Here are some tips to help you prevent heat stroke, identify the warning signs that your elderly loved one may be experiencing heat stroke and what to do to keep them safe.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke falls into a category of conditions called hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature resulting from the body’s inability to regulate its temperature due to internal or external factors, or a combination of both. In hyperthermia, the body absorbs more heat than it dissipates. The opposite of hypothermia, hyperthermia includes heat stroke, heat fatigue and heat syncope, as well as heat cramps and heat exhaustion.

Heat stroke is the most serious of these conditions, and it requires immediate medical attention. Once body temperature reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit, damage begins to occur to the brain and other organs. Without immediate medical attention, heat stroke may lead to collapse and even death, particularly in the elderly.

Why are the elderly at increased risk of heat stroke?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discuss several contributing factors that may make seniors more susceptible to heat stroke. The elderly often don’t adjust as readily as younger people do to sudden changes in temperature, for instance, and some seniors may have a chronic medical condition that affects the way the body adjusts to heat. Medications can also have an effect on the way the body responds to changes in temperature by impairing the body’s natural ability to regulate its own temperature or inhibiting perspiration.

Warning signs of heat stroke

It’s important for caregivers, adult children of elderly parents, and other loved ones to recognize the warning signs of heat stroke. Elderly adults who collapse are at risk of breaking bones and other injuries that can have devastating consequences, in addition to potential damage to the brain and internal organs resulting from a high body temperature. You should seek immediate medical attention if you notice your aging loved one experiencing any the following symptoms of heat stroke:

  • body temperature of 104 degrees or higher
  • confusion
  • light-headedness or if your loved one reports feeling like she may faint
  • changes in behavior
  • loss of balance or staggering
  • a strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse
  • dry or flushed skin
  • lack of sweating, despite the heat
  • loss of consciousness or coma

There are also some warning signs of less severe conditions, such as heat exhaustion. Noticing these earlier symptoms and taking appropriate action can prevent heat-related conditions from progressing to heat stroke. Watch for signs such as:

  • dizziness and/or headache
  • excessive thirst
  • nausea
  • muscle spasms or cramps in the limbs or abdomen
  • fatigue
  • lack of coordination
  • cold, clammy skin
  • swelling in the ankles

If you notice any of the above warning signs, take immediate action to help your elderly loved one cool down. Get out of the heat and into an air-conditioned room if possible, have him drink water, rest and change into cooler clothing if necessary. Even if you are able to help your loved one cool down and avoid progression to heat stroke, a visit to a medical professional is a good idea.

How to prevent heat stroke

Check with your loved one’s doctor to find out what medications your elderly loved one is taking that could impact the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Beta blockers, for example, may cause decreased perspiration—one of the body’s built-in cooling mechanisms. Diuretics increase urine output, which can contribute to dehydration and increase the risk of heat stroke. Lifestyle factors, such as being overweight or drinking alcohol, can also contribute to the risk of heat stroke.

Some factors you cannot control, such as chronic medical conditions. However, you can take steps to ensure that your aging loved one stays safe on hot summer days, such as:

  • ensuring the home is well-ventilated
  • installing air conditioners in windows or whole-house air conditioning systems
  • making sure your loved one drinks plenty of water throughout the day
  • ensuring your loved one gets adequate rest and avoids strenuous activity on humid days
  • watching the heat index and avoiding spending substantial time outdoors on very hot, humid days
  • dressing in loose, cool clothing

Heat stroke and other, less severe heat-related conditions can be quite dangerous for older adults. Taking the appropriate steps to avoid heat stroke and knowing the warning signs so that you can seek prompt medical attention will help your aging loved ones stay safe—and cool—this summer.

Helpful Tips to have Healthy, Glowing Skin as You Age

You’ve heard how important it is to take care of your skin. From using sunscreen to proper moisturizers, skin care tips are everywhere for men and women of all ages. Aging causes substantial effects on the skin, but you can minimize these effects by following some diligent skin care practices. From spending too much time in the sun to your diet and bad habits like smoking, everything you do throughout life can either damage or help to protect your skin.

With summer just around the corner, we thought now is a great time to discuss some of the common effects of aging on the skin and what you can do to prevent or minimize skin damage later in life.

Common effects of aging on your skin

There are some changes that naturally occur in the skin as you grow older, many of which will occur to some degree regardless of your lifestyle habits and skin care regimen. names several changes you can expect as you age, including:

  • rougher skin texture
  • lesions, such as benign tumors
  • loss of elastin or elastic tissue, leaving a slack or loose appearance
  • thinning of the epidermis or the outer layer of skin, leading to a more transparent appearance
  • flattening of the area between the epidermis and the dermis (the layer beneath the epidermis), leading to more fragile skin
  • thinner blood vessel walls, leaving your skin more susceptible to bruising

And of course, repeated exposure to the sun without adequate UV protection has been linked to the development of skin cancer. All of these changes are changes that most seniors would prefer to avoid. But what can be done to help prevent the changes associated with aging skin?

Lifestyle habits that affect skin health and aging

Prevention is key, and it’s never too late to start looking at skin care and lifestyle habits that you could change to minimize further skin changes associated with aging. Senior Living lists a multitude of common lifestyle habits and other factors that can speed up the aging process of the skin, including:

  • Smoking cigarettes—if your skin isn’t enough of a motivator to help you quit, quit for your respiratory and cardiovascular health.
  • Unprotected sun exposure—it’s true that natural sunlight helps to boost your mood and can have many other positive impacts. However you can enjoy the benefits of the bright summer sun without damaging your skin by applying sunblock before venturing outside, even for a short walk.
  • A sedentary lifestyle—yes, exercise is even good for your skin! Regular exercise helps to tone your muscles (reducing the likelihood of sagging skin) and increases blood flow, which is also good for skin health. Not to mention, the vibrant energy regular exercise provides will put a smile on your face and add a glow to your skin.
  • Failing to moisturize your skin—your body doesn’t have to be dehydrated for your skin to be dry. In fact, it’s often the harsh, cold winters that wreak havoc on skin’s natural moisture. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Using a humidifier in heated rooms is also a good idea, as some forms of home heat can sap the air of moisture.
  • Alcohol use—a diuretic, regular or heavy use of alcohol can lead to dehydration, but it can also lead to permanent skin damage. That’s because alcohol dilates small blood vessels near the skin’s surface while also increasing blood flow near the surface of the skin. This can lead to permanent damage over time, creating a flushed appearance or even showing broken blood vessels just below the skin’s surface.
  • Too much stress—while there’s no substantial clinical evidence that definitively and conclusively links stress to skin damage, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence and other factors that make the link between stress and skin aging a logical conclusion. For instance, stress increases the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as other hormones that communicate with oil production glands. Increased oil can lead to adult acne and other problems with the skin. Additionally, cortisol causes blood sugar to rise, which increases the production of glycation. Glycation negatively affects collagen (a substance that helps to give skin its plump, youthful appearance), leading to less collagen and more wrinkles.
  • Not enough sleep—”beauty sleep” is a common expression, but there’s some validity behind it. Not only will you feel tired and sluggish, you’re more likely to be over-stressed when you don’t have enough sleep. And, you could develop dark circles and bags under your eyes.
  • A poor diet lacking in vitamins and nutrients—you are what you eat, and so is your skin, to some extent. The food you eat is what gives your body the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its best. Vitamin C and Vitamin E both promote skin health and help to protect the skin against sun damage, while healthy zinc levels support cell turnover. Do your homework and eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals for optimal skin health.

How to protect your aging skin

Most of the contributors to aging skin are avoidable with some simple lifestyle changes. No matter how old you are or how much damage your skin has already experienced, it’s never too late to begin taking better care of your skin. The National Institute on Aging offers a few essential tips to care for  your skin at any age:

  • Limit your time in the sun—the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., so avoiding too much sun exposure during these hours is a good idea.
  • Remember, clouds do not filter out UV rays—you can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day or while you are in water.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher—look for a sunscreen that offers “broad spectrum” protection, which is noted on the label. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply at least every two hours—more often if you’re swimming or sweating.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing—wide-brimmed hats protect the delicate skin on your face (and protect your eyes from harsh sunlight, too). Good quality sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s rays are a good idea as well. Finally, opt for loose, lightweight clothing with ample protection, such as long skirts or long-sleeved shirts that are light enough to keep you cool while still protecting your skin from the harsh sun’s rays.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps—awareness surrounding the dangers of tanning beds and sun lamps has grown substantially, but reminders are always helpful.

No matter your age, you’re never too old to start taking better care of your skin. While you may not be able to reverse previous damage to your skin, you can certainly minimize and even avoid damaging your skin further through ordinary lifestyle changes and habits you never knew were damaging to your skin.  Most importantly, remember that sunscreen as we enter the hot summer months when the sun’s rays are strongest.

Summer Issues: Dehydration is a Concern for Older Adults

According to John Muir Health, “Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to function normally.” While dehydration is a common problem for people of all ages, it’s a particular concern for seniors.

Why older adults should be concerned about dehydration

Older adults have a decreased sense of thirst, and their kidneys don’t conserve body water as well compared to younger people with healthy kidney function. Beginning around age 50, older adults may begin to feel tired and sluggish rather than experience the familiar sensation of being thirsty. As such, they may opt for a nap rather than a tall glass of ice water. Coupled with medications that can dry out the body, the natural progression of aging and its effects on the body make older adults especially prone to dehydration.

Mayo Clinic offers an informative explanation of why older adults are particularly susceptible to dehydration, especially in the hot summer months: “Your body’s ability to conserve water is reduced, your thirst sense becomes less acute, and you’re less able to respond to changes in temperature. What’s more, older adults, especially people in nursing homes or living alone, tend to eat less than younger people do and sometimes may forget to eat or drink altogether. Disability or neglect also may prevent them from being well nourished. These problems are compounded by chronic illnesses such as diabetes, dementia, and by the use of certain medications.”

In the warm summer months, when the body is losing even more fluids through perspiration, seniors should pay close attention to how much water they’re consuming and be sure to drink the recommend amount of water daily.

Symptoms of dehydration

There are several symptoms to watch for that may indicate dehydration, including:

  • a dry sensation in the mouth or on the tongue with thick saliva
  • inability to urinate or urinating only small volumes of urine
  • dark or deep-yellow urine
  • headaches
  • few or no tears when crying
  • cramps in the arms or legs
  • general feelings of weakness or being unwell
  • fatigue or irritability, confusion, sluggishness or fainting

The symptoms above are indicators of mild dehydration, which can often be remedied by drinking plenty of fluids and ruling out underlying causes. But in some cases, the symptoms go unnoticed or don’t become obvious until the person is in a state of severe dehydration. In these cases, the symptoms are much more alarming, such as:

  • low blood pressure
  • convulsions
  • extreme thirst
  • irritability and confusion
  • very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
  • sunken eyes
  • little to no urination and urine output is dark in color
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • fever
  • deliriousness or unconsciousness in the most extreme cases

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the symptoms above, seek immediate medical attention.

How to prevent dehydration in the elderly

When it comes to dehydration, prevention is the best medicine. As a caregiver or family member of an elderly loved one, you can play an active role in ensuring your loved one is getting enough fluids and taking other steps to prevent dehydration. outlines several valuable tips for helping your loved ones consume enough fluids and prevent dehydration:

  • Encourage aging loved ones to drink small amounts of fluids throughout the day. This is often easier than drinking large quantities at once.
  • Aim for 40 ounces of fluid daily, or five eight-ounce glasses of water or other fluid. Water is preferable to sugary beverages and soda.
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol, which can have a diuretic effect and actually contribute to dehydration.
  • Encourage your loved one to drink fluid with every meal.
  • If drinking is problematic, consider foods that have a high water content to help your loved one reach their daily water intake goal. Foods such as watermelon, cucumber and other fresh fruits and vegetables can help your elderly loved one meet her daily water needs.
  • Keep favorite beverages within reach and easily accessible throughout the day.
  • Sometimes older adults avoid drinking liquids due to a fear of incontinence. If this is the case, encourage her to drink more fluids earlier in the day and cut back on fluid intake in the evenings before bedtime.

Remember, the 40 ounces per day guideline is only a guideline; your loved one’s individual needs may vary, particularly if she has a condition such as diabetes. And in the hot, humid summer months, it’s a good idea to consume even more water to compensate for the additional body fluids lost through perspiration.

Married in Senior Living: Tips for a Smooth Transition

Many older adults are choosing to downsize, selling the large family home they’ve raised a family in and moving to a smaller accommodation that doesn’t require the same substantial maintenance requirements. Senior living communities are traditionally set up to accommodate individual residents, but as couples are increasingly making the move together, more communities offer options suitable for senior couples. But moving to a senior living community as a pair poses some unique challenges, as well as some unique opportunities. Here are a few tips for a smoother planning and transition process.

Consider your differing care needs

For some senior couples, the decision to downsize and move to senior living follows a change in health status for one spouse. But the differing care requirements can make choosing the right type of senior housing a challenge. For couples with differing care needs, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are often a good option. CCRCs enable seniors to age in place, offering independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care on the same campus. That means spouses requiring different levels of care can remain in close proximity.

Likewise, the need for privacy should be a consideration. Couples who prefer a greater sense of privacy may opt for a senior living community offering apartment-like spaces for couples or even single-family homes rather than a larger, private room within an assisted living community or similar type of senior living.

Look for amenities that meet both spouses’ needs

Senior living communities, whether you’re considering a move to independent living, assisted living, a retirement community, or a CCRC, offer varying services and amenities. Before you make a move with your spouse, look for senior living communities that offer not only the care and support both you and your spouse require, but also the activities and amenities that suit both of your abilities and interests—as a couple and as individuals.

For example, one spouse may enjoy a day on the golf course while the other joins a group of residents for an outing at a nearby shopping center or local attraction. Just as in life before senior living, you’ll have activities that you choose to do together, as well as activities you’ll participate in independently.

Creeate a plan for financing your move

Senior living is a significant expense, and while larger, private rooms or small apartments are offered by many senior living communities for couples, these are typically more costly than a standard room. There are also additional fees associated with joining the community as a couple, such as a monthly second person fee. Downsizing and selling the family home, as well as possessions that are no longer needed or wanted, is often a strategy older adults use to help pay for senior living.

Retirement communities are another senior living option for adults and couples 55 and older who want to maintain their independence and privacy but reduce the maintenance requirements that come with home ownership. These communities, along with CCRCs, sometimes allow seniors to purchase a single-family home or apartment, more suitable in size to their now-downsized lifestyle, with services such as lawn maintenance and cleaning services available to residents. Because these homes are purchased by residents, this is a feasible option for many senior couples who are in a position to sell their existing homes and purchase a smaller home or apartment in retirement community. The appeal of retirement communities isn’t merely reduced home maintenance, but also easy access to a community of seniors within the same age range who share similar interests and activities.

As more and more couples are growing old together, the number of married couples choosing to move to senior living is increasing. As such, senior living providers are offering more options to meet the varying needs of married couples within larger communities. From retirement communities to continuing care retirement communities and even options in assisted living, married couples can find an senior living option that will meet their needs and budget.