How Smart Security Cameras Can Improve -- or Even Save -- Seniors' Lives

Monday, April 16th, 2018 by Eric Murrell

SmartCameras1

When you think of people who buy smart home gadgets, young, tech-savvy Millennials who are always “early adopters” may come to mind. While it’s true that the younger generations are more apt to chase the latest that technology has to offer, the customers who may benefit the most from high-tech home security features are a few generations ahead.

One of the most popular smart home tools on the market today is a re-imagining of the home security system through the use of smart wireless cameras that are part of an Internet-enabled smart home hub. Whether you’re a retired homeowner looking for more peace of mind, or a family caregiver looking for a reliable safety tool for an elderly loved one, smart cameras can be a helpful upgrade to an older adult’s home.

Keep an Eye on the Outside

For elderly adults who are homebound, outdoor security cameras (available from the hardware store or your Internet service provider for around $200) can go a long way in keeping them and their families aware of their surroundings.

Most modern outdoor cameras feature both motion detection and night vision, and they can be part of a home-monitoring service package, making them the perfect tool for seniors who live alone. These systems can also help police identify vandals and alert homeowners to intruders before they ever make it to an entrance.

Many of these cameras are also enabled with cloud video recording features that help monitor potential problems, keeping a digital eye on everything from trivial matters (such as identifying garden pests) to critical ones (viewing suspicious visitors or verifying important deliveries). For many seniors, these cameras can give some much-needed visibility to the outside world.

Monitor Visitors

Answering the door to solicitors and salespeople can be a nuisance, but it’s especially taxing for people who can’t get back and forth to the door easily, or who may be wary of opening the door to strangers. A video doorbell ($150–$250) is a valuable tool that can help the elderly and their caregivers “screen” front porch visits.

These doorbells can send notifications to a variety of devices, making it easier to tell when a visitor is at the door. Also, many provide live video feeds with two-way voice chat, allowing homeowners (or even caregivers) to speak with visitors without having to leave the couch.

This quality-of-life improvement has another benefit: Video doorbells have also been shown to help deter crime.

Improve Safety Within the Home

Indoor smart cameras might be the most valuable safety tool for older generations and their caregivers. Besides performing basic functions, like keeping an eye on the house while residents are away, the software and motion detection that accompany these affordable ($150–$200) cameras may even be a lifesaver.

Smart cameras can be combined with smart home devices to help improve safety, especially for elderly adults living on their own. When you pair connected-home devices with a home automation hub from the hardware store or your Internet service provider, they unlock a world of enhanced functionality.

The following features can be managed and controlled remotely from one platform.

  • Smart lights throughout the home can be set to turn on and off automatically when the camera detects motion, lighting the way for midnight trips to the bathroom or late-night visits to the kitchen.
  • A smart thermostat, once it’s set up with the home hub, can automatically adjust the temperature inside the home based on your preferences. This means the homeowner won’t need to get up in the middle of the night to adjust it.
  • Smart locks allow users to lock or unlock a door from their tablet, giving seniors and caregivers the ability to let visitors in without even getting up.

Give Caregivers Peace of Mind

As helpful as these tools are to seniors themselves, their caregivers may be the ones who benefit most from having them. It’s comforting to be able to check in on the status of an aging loved one via camera, and their motion-detecting features can make all the difference in urgent care scenarios.

Caregivers can set up these devices to receive notifications when motion is detected at an unusual time, or when motion isn’t detected at a time when it’s expected. A quick video checkup can make a big difference between a false alarm or catching a life-threatening emergency.

As you evaluate your own safety devices or consider new tools for caring for a loved one, don’t overlook the benefits of today’s smart cameras. With low upfront costs and cloud storage — and with options to bundle services into your existing Internet service plan — they can help an older generation of techies feel safe and secure.

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Eric Murrell is a software developer and technology contributor to XFINITY Home. He enjoys sharing tips on how people, including seniors, can benefit from incorporating smart home security in their homes on his blog, At Home in the Future.

5 of The Most Valuable Paid Services for Seniors

Thursday, April 5th, 2018 by Jean Cherry

PaidSeniorServices

As aging parents grow older, they may struggle to maintain their homes. Luckily, there are a range of maintenance and housekeeping services available for seniors and family caregivers who need an extra hand.

Paying for certain home services can help seniors live independently longer. Hiring someone to take care of the following services may help simplify your aging parent’s life.

1. Yard Work

Seniors may have difficulty handling lawn mowers or snow blowers. A lawn service can cover both lawn care applications and mowing. Some lawn service companies also manage snow removal in the winter. Or you may have to hire a separate snow removal service. Ensuring sidewalks and driveways are cleared of snow and ice is crucial to decrease the risk of falls.

2. Simple Repair Projects

Some older adults may lack the skills or physical ability to complete fix-it projects around the home. That’s where a handyman can come in. These projects can range from minor plumbing problems, like fixing faucets, fixtures and pipes to more complex projects, such as installing a tub, shower or grab bars in a bathroom. These professionals can fix structural issues, such as electrical outlets, walls or steps. A handyman can also repair small appliances and paint or fix doors and windows.

3. Meal Preparation

Preparing daily meals can present real challenges for your aging parents. For instance, they may be:
  • At high risk for misusing a stove or other appliances while preparing food
  • Unable to make themselves nutritious meals or have poor eating habits that may compromise their nutrition status and affect their health or chronic conditions
  • Unable to access transportation to a grocery store
  • Unmotivated to cook, as many recipes are designed to yield too much food for one or two people
There are many ways seniors can get assistance with meal preparation. They can link up with a program that offers home meal delivery either occasionally or every day. You can also hire a housekeeper or home care aide to prepare meals. A housekeeper can go to a grocery store, monitor the refrigerator and pantry for food needs, and toss out old food.

4. House Cleaning

Challenges with lifting, flexibility and eyesight can make housekeeping more difficult. A housekeeper can help keep a home clean and tidy. Hire someone to vacuum, dust, clean bathrooms, wipe down countertops and stoves, mop floors and organize closets regularly. This can make a big difference for a senior living at home.

5. Laundry

Carrying baskets full of clothing on unsteady feet or not being able to lift much weight can make washing clothes difficult. Think about hiring a service to come once a week or every other week to wash clothes and bed linens. Or, take laundry to a wash, dry and fold service.

Work with your parent to determine the most important services that will help them in their daily lives. Adding just a few services can simplify life and provide a good environment for seniors to thrive.

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Jean Cherry, BSN, WCC, MBA, works to develop clinical programs and writes for Walgreens. As a former home health nurse, Jean prides herself in helping seniors stay active in their communities and live independently at home. Assistive devices for seniors, such as mobility scooters, can be found on the Walgreens website.

 Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any products, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

 

 

5 Reasons for Older Adults to Update Their Tech Skills

Friday, March 23rd, 2018 by Scott Morris

BoomerComputer

 

Learning new technologies can be daunting, and at times may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. But as members of the Baby Boomer generation reach retirement age, there are plenty of good reasons to make sure they’re up to date on the latest technology.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be difficult. Scott Moody, who’s been developing technology specifically designed for seniors with the company he founded, K4Connect, disputes the common perception that older adults are uncomfortable with technology, and says he has the data to back it up.

“What they don't like is tech designed for 25-year-olds with bigger fonts,” Moody said. “I actually find that the premise that older adults don't like technology is the fault of the people designing the technology.”

K4Connect’s first product is a comprehensive software platform for senior living communities that allows community residents to turn on lights, adjust the heat in their apartment, lock doors, track their health and communicate with neighbors.

The platform integrates other technologies that would be difficult for older adults to install and learn individually, but collectively can be even more useful for them than for younger folks, Moody says.

Tech for independent living

Moody points out that a lot of products currently available might be marketed toward younger people, but could be even more useful for older adults and seniors. For example, a wireless doorbell and lock may be appealing for a younger, healthier person who just doesn’t want to get off the couch, but for an older adult with mobility issues, it could be crucial.

“That really provides utility, it's not just a matter of convenience,” Moody says. This type of technology could lower the risk of a fall or injury, for example. “The whole bevy of home automation products really provides a lot of demonstrable value to the people we serve,” he says.

Many of these kinds of “smart home” products don’t even represent a high-tech upgrade, and are easily available at hardware stores and drug stores.

Other convenience-centered technology solutions could be crucial to seniors as well. Delivery services like Instacart and Postmates may be appealing to people who don’t feel like going grocery shopping, but a boon for seniors who find it difficult or exhausting.

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft can allow seniors to run errands even when they find driving difficult, and some designed specifically for seniors have even cropped up recently.

Keeping connected

Many older adults, particularly those with mobility issues, tend to become increasingly isolated from friends and family with age. Learning technology can offer way to stay connected even if they’re unable to leave the house as much, Moody says.

But, he points out, some of the prominent social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter aren’t necessarily useful for this kind of connection. “We're not trying to keep the older adults’ faces glued to the information all the time,” Moody said. “Digital connection fosters personal connection.”

For example, Moody says, in senior living communities, internal communication tools can help residents stay connected with each other on a local level. Also, if friends and family are unable to visit often, they can keep in touch via communication tools like video calls, so they’re not already up to date on what’s happening with their loved one when they are able to show up.

Such strong social engagements can help keep people happier and healthier. An active social life is important for happiness and “your happiness plays directly to your health,” Moody says.

Staying healthy

Lisa Cini, the owner of Mosaic Design Studio, which designs senior living community interiors, points out that technology can also be useful in tracking health data, which is great for younger people trying to keep track of their exercise, but even more important later in life.

Apps for smart phones and connected watches that track baseline health data have become more popular in recent years, which can help seniors keep an eye on their health data or give them a nudge to stay in shape, Cini said.

“The main device I recommend is an FDA-approved EKG monitor that pairs with your smart phone to give you insights on heart health – this is a literal lifesaver in that it can predict an impending heart attack,” she says.

Another new device available is a sugar monitor, which can be helpful for making better dietary choices, particularly for those who may have a chronic condition like diabetes that necessitates strict diet.

New opportunities

Qi'Anne Knox, who tutors through the Varsity Tutors platform, says that with a little help, older adults can start whole new careers in technology. The Varsity Learning platform is an interactive application that allows enrollees to share work with tutors and chat over video.

Knox says she tutored one Baby Boomer named Mark, who left the U.S. Marine Corps after 17 years to pursue a new position as an engineer with AT&T. But he found himself at a technical disadvantage in his new job and lacked the skills, particularly computer programming skills, that would be necessary to advance.

He was a quick study, Knox says. “Mark was amazed by the things he could accomplish with technology and truly enjoyed learning new skills,” she said. “With every assignment, Mark became more confident in his work and was excited to share it with others.”

While she doesn’t think that everyone needs to learn computer programming in their work, keeping up on tech skills is important to compete in today’s work environment. Knox emphasizes the importance of mastering operating systems and basic professional software like Microsoft Office.

Lifelong learning

Continuing education doesn’t have to be about professional advancement, though. In fact, lifelong learning in itself can be hugely beneficial for older adults: keeping their minds active can help them stay healthy.

Furthermore, knowledge of the world can help keep older adults more confident and functional with age, Cini points out.

“I highly recommend podcasts and blogs as an easy means of checking in on the latest and greatest or learning about a particular topic that you encountered and found confusing,” she says.

 

6 Foods to Avoid for Better Brain Health

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers

FoodBrain

 

Did you know that what you eat can have a significant impact on your brain health (including your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia)? In fact, groundbreaking research released in 2017 revealed conclusive links between diet and Alzheimer’s disease.

“There is also growing evidence that our gut health is directly linked to brain health,” says Liz Weiss, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of multiple family-oriented nutrition books. “Our microbiome depends on a diet rich in fiber…so it's important to choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.”

As important as it is to consume foods that can improve brain health, it’s equally crucial to avoid those that have been shown to damage the brain. Here are the top six foods to avoid for better brain health.

1. Sugary drinks

High amount of sugar in beverages

 

You can enjoy the occasional soft drink without any negative health consequences, right? Unfortunately, that’s a common misconception. A 2017 Boston University study demonstrates a relationship between brain shrinkage and memory loss in the brain and drinking sugary beverages (including sodas and fruit juices). According to the study’s findings, brain volume is negatively affected by sugary drinks.

“A diet with high amounts of sugar has been linked to brain inflammation and mental health disorders, so limit the amount of sugar you consume for healthy brain function,” advises Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety investigator with ConsumerSafety.org. “By limiting your sugar intake, you will also be able to control your body’s blood glucose levels better, which will boost your brain’s memory functions and reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.”

Healthier options: water, seltzer, pure fruit juice, hot or iced tea

2. Diet soda

Brown soda in a clear glass

 

Many people think they can remove the risk of health consequences if they swap sugar-sweetened beverages for diet versions. But turns out that these artificially sweetened options also have a negative impact on brain health.

“Artificial sweeteners like aspartame used in sugar-free food items may not be as great a substitute as the claims make it out to be,” says Hoff. “A study done in 2014 found that their test subjects were more likely to experience depression and struggled through cognitive tests while consuming a high-aspartame diet."

And according to the aforementioned Boston University study, those who drink a single can of diet soda per day are potentially tripling their chances of developing both dementia and stroke. Doctors suggest avoiding diet drinks altogether for the sake of your brain health.

Healthier options: water, seltzer, pure fruit juice, hot or iced tea

3. Refined grains and carbs

Plain bread

 

Whether or not you give any credence to modern gluten-free diet trends, it’s important to be aware of the research on refined grains and carbs (think white bread, white rice) and brain health.

According to neurologist David Perlmutter, president of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, FL, grains can be linked to a number of modern ailments, from chronic headaches to dementia. Perlmutter theorizes that human genes evolved over millennia to consume diets high in fat and low in carbs. However, the modern American diet is much higher in carbs than fats.

A Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease seems to support Perlmutter’s theory. It shows that people aged 70 and older who consume diets high in carbohydrates are nearly four times more likely to develop cognitive impairment than those whose diet is relatively higher in protein and fat.

Healthier options: whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oats

4. Saturated fats

assorted junk food

 

Saturated fat is an unhealthy type of fat that contains a high amount of fatty acid molecules without double bonds between carbon molecules. While foods loaded with saturated fats often taste good, they’re not so good for your brain. According to a review published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, there are several lines of evidence supporting a correlation between dementia risk and dietary fatty acid composition.

You may be dismayed to learn two of the biggest sources of saturated fat in the typical U.S. diet: cheese and pizza, according to the National Cancer Institute. Becky Kerkenbush, a clinical dietitian and member of the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also advises avoiding or limiting butter, margarine, fried food, fast food and pastries, all of which tend to be high in saturated fat and trans fats.

Plus, saturated fats “are harmful for your arteries, so that can accelerate or make dementia worse as you're tying to improve blood flow to the brain to deliver nutrients to the organ,” notes registered dietitian Julie Upton, co-author of “Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food and Nutrition Guide to Fuel Your Active Life.”

Healthier options: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, salmon, tuna and eggs or other healthy fats such as olive oil or avocado

5. Red meat

Buyer woman chooses chopped meat in shop

 

Americans are reportedly eating more red meat than ever before, and it may be doing more harm than good. While you chew on a tender piece of beef or pork, it could be slowly chewing away at your brain health. Red meat is rich in iron and can raise iron levels in the brain.

According to research from the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, elevated iron levels in the brain can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses related to aging.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, MRI scans show an iron buildup in the hippocampus (the brain region that is damaged first over the course of the disease). During late-stage Alzheimer’s, MRI scans show a buildup of iron in the thalamus as well. Scientists have found an association between increased iron levels in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and brain tissue damage.

Healthier options: Fish, chicken, tofu

6. Alcohol (in excess)

"Bartender reaching for bottle of spirits, close-up"

 

An important new study shows that excessive alcohol use is a risk factor for the onset of dementia. It’s also been linked to early-onset dementia, which occurs before age 65.

“Too much alcohol as an adult exacerbates and accelerates dementia,” says Upton.

To highlight how damaging alcohol abuse can be, consider the fact that the life expectancy of individuals with alcohol use disorders is shortened, by more than 20 years on average. And among those who die from alcohol-related disorders, dementia is a leading cause of death.

Healthier options: water, seltzer, pure fruit juice, hot or iced tea

 

Eating Disorders Not Just Younger Women's Problem

Sunday, March 4th, 2018 by Katherine OBrien

Girl and weight loss

 

Like many Americans, you may believe that eating disorders (EDs) are the exclusive territory of teenage girls and twentysomethings. But in fact, research shows that older women are just as preoccupied with food and weight as their younger counterparts.

A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders shows that 3.5 percent of women 50 and over report binge eating and nearly eight percent report purging. The research also revealed that about 70 percent of midlife women are trying to lose weight and 62 percent believe their weight or shape negatively affect their lives.

“One of the features of an eating disorder is that thinking around food and exercise becomes distorted,” says Melissa O’Neill, director of program development at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center in the Chicago area. Other common hallmarks of women with EDs are depression, low self-esteem and perfectionism.

“People who are feeling depressed and bad about themselves often externalize that to their appearance, and then become hyper-focused on losing weight,” says eating disorder specialist Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross, author of "The Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook."

Two key players: diet and hormones

Although some men struggle with binge eating disorder or bulimia, women are much more likely to suffer from an ED ( 10 million females versus 1 million males in the U.S.) partly because women feel societal pressure to be thin.

Ross, who has treated women as old as their late 60s, sees diets as one of the biggest culprits. “People go on a diet to lose 15 to 20 pounds and then can’t stop themselves,” she says. Women who are genetically predisposed towards an eating disorder “see this newfound change in their appearance as a way to boost their mood and to help them deal with some of the other things that are going on.”

Menopause can be another factor in the development of an ED. Evidence suggests that the fluctuations in estrogen that occur during this time may make women vulnerable to a new eating disorder or the re-emergence of an old one.

“The physiological and psychological changes that happen during menopause seem to echo changes at puberty,” another high-risk time for an eating disorder to emerge, the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Cynthia Bulik told AARP.

The role of loss and trauma

Midlife EDs are often triggered by stressful life events such as divorce, the death of a spouse or the empty nest syndrome. Unresolved traumas such as previous sexual abuse or rape, sometimes triggered by a loss, are often a “huge underlying cause” for an eating disorder, says Ross.

According to O’Neill, a loss of human connection can “drive someone who was engaging into a little bit of disordered eating behavior” to lose control around eating. “In a perfect storm, an individual whose brain is predisposed to run with a maladaptive coping mechanism can become pretty compulsive pretty quickly.”

Women who are recovering from alcoholism may also be vulnerable to disordered eating. When alcoholics stop drinking they significantly reduce the amount of sugar they were consuming via alcohol, points out O’Neill. “What may begin as a craving for sweets can turn into a binge eating disorder or binging-purging cycle,” she says.

Recovering alcoholics or drug addicts are also susceptible to “whack-a-mole behavior”-- after achieving recovery from one substance, “up pops an eating disorder,” she says. “Very often they have struggled all their life to regulate emotions and they have taken to really fast methods… like drinking or drugs or eating disorders or self-harm.” If the treatment strategy does not deal with what lies underneath the ED, “it will just evolve into another behavior,” she says.

Greater health risks

The health effects of eating disorders in older women are more pronounced than in younger women. According to a 2015 study, while women of all ages experience the same types of medical complications from eating disorders, “the risk of death for cardiovascular, metabolic, gastric and bone disorders is considerably higher” in older women.

Two-thirds of binge eaters are obese, putting them at risk for obesity-related illnesses like diabetes, high cholesterol and heart attacks. If they have concurrent disorders like high blood pressure, they’re at even greater risk for heart problems, says Ross. The other one-third of binge eaters, who are not overweight, are still vulnerable to digestive problems and, occasionally, gastric rupture.

As for bulimics, the recurrent binge-and-purge cycles that mark their disease may damage teeth and affect the entire digestive system. Electrolyte and chemical imbalances can produce heart complications, especially purging is combined with if over-exercising, says Ross.

Anorexia is another serious ED, though not as common in older women as binge eating or bulimia. “We typically don’t see older women who are experiencing anorexia because it is such a deadly mental illness that often it takes the life of an individual or they achieve recovery-- one or the other--at an earlier age,” says O’Neill.

Even though eating disorders can damage a woman’s health and lead to isolation, shame and depression, most people do not view binging on donuts with the same seriousness as, say, a crack addiction. As O’Neill points out, “Eating disorders have a powerful way of insuring their own survival by convincing everyone that it’s not a problem.”

Signs of a distorted relationship with food

One of the defining features of eating disorders is that they are often hidden. It’s not uncommon for women to stuff themselves with chocolate, ice cream and chips alone in their bedroom, only to eat chicken salad in front of friends and family. Still, despite the secretive nature of the disease, you can sometimes pick up on clues, such as the following, that suggest a problem.
  • A sudden change in weight
  • Compulsive exercising
  • Refusal of dinner invitations
  • Repeated diets, especially if they are at a normal weight
  • Extreme preoccupation with food and/or body image
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
  • Stashes of junk food
If you’ve observed any of the above signs in an older woman you love, mention it to them in a non-judgmental way, advises O’Neill. “Just be curious with them and compassionate and supportive.” (Note: A decrease in appetite could be a side effect of a medication or a sign of depression or dental problems, all serious issues themselves, which should be checked out by a health professional.)

Getting help with an eating disorder

To break free from an ED, women can explore several avenues, says Ross, who encourages women to seek help from an experienced team of experts (e.g, a dietitian, eating disorders specialist and therapist). Although talking to a primary care doctor can be an appropriate first step, Ross cautions that some primary care doctors “encourage women to lose weight, and then they get on that diet treadmill and can’t get off.”

Ross also notes that certain medications, such as Vynase, are also used to help treat women with eating disorders. “It won’t make people lose 100 pounds … but it helps give people a little freedom from binging,” she says.

Outpatient eating disorder programs can often be found at hospitals. Another alternative: residential treatment centers, where patients participate in a variety of therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, nutritional counseling, and peer support.

“Peer support groups with people who are active in recovery are a wonderful resource,” says O’Neill. They reduce “the shame of eating disorder behaviors, especially the binging behaviors, that we really are silent about.”

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Katherine O'Brien is a freelance content writer and editor specializing in seniors’ health, senior care and aging. She’s covered a wide range of topics including dementia, seniors’ nutrition, advance care planning and emotional wellness. More of Katherine's writing can be found here.

 

Meet the 2018 SeniorHomes.com Scholarship Winners!

Friday, March 2nd, 2018 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers

Graduation hat with degree paper on a stack of book

The SeniorHomes.com Student Caregiver Scholarship award two university students in the U.S. a $1,000 grant for tuition and/or books, based on each applicant’s essay or video story submission. After reviewing nearly 100 applications from students throughout the nation, our judges deemed the following two students most worthy of this year’s prize.

Jeremy Coleman | Colorado State University

JeremyScholar

 

We asked applicants to tell us about the trends or services they believe will become increasingly important for seniors who want to age in place, and how their degree will help seniors age with dignity. This was Jeremy’s winning response.

What do you think about when you hear "the other family doctor?" Your optometrist? No. Your pediatrician? No. Maybe your gynecologist? No. Your veterinarian is the other family doctor.

More than half of Americans own a pet, whether it be a fish, dog, cat or iguana, and pets provide a wide range of services for humans. Personally, I have a pet rabbit which is my emotional support animal, or ESA. And there are numerous other services that animals can provide including being a companion pet, a therapy animal, a working animal and a service animal.

Seniors living in their own homes  want to be able to continue to have as much freedom as possible. Enter pets and veterinarians. With my studies in the veterinary field, I have seen a wide range of things that animals can do and the results are awe-inspiring. With my degree, I hope to improve the lives of seniors living at home by providing them with pets of their own.

For instance, animals can be trained to help seniors get groceries at the store, walk on the sidewalk and even be able to know when the individual needs help to get off of the couch. Instead of having another person follow you around the store or gym, let a dog follow you around. Service animals are commonly seen on college campuses for students who need  them.

Another way animals can help seniors at home is solely as companion animals that the senior can interact with on a daily basis. For me, my pet rabbit has been a saving grace because on days when I don’t want to get out bed or just want to sleep in and ignore my duties as a student, he’s a constant reminder that I have to resume my day-to-day activities because he is relying on me to eat, drink water and get exercise.

The experience of having a companion animal is immeasurable because of the unconditional loyalty and joy it can bring to any room. Having pets in senior care homes can also be helpful in reassuring the residents that they, too, can support another living thing. Having a pet can help encourage older adults to  be more active and get outside more often.

With my degree, I can help support the lives of seniors in their own communities by providing them with a pet they can call their own and that could help them get through each day smiling and more revitalized. The impact animals have on people cannot be simply stated. In my town of Fort Collins, everyone you meet has a pet, and this speaks volumes.

This scholarship will be helpful to me because I’ll be able to continue my education toward helping everyone live a healthier life with the aid of pets and animals.

Kayla Sherrodd | University of Wyoming

KaylaScholar

 

We asked applicants to tell us about the trends or services they believe will become increasingly important for seniors who want to age in place, and how their degree will help seniors age with dignity. This was Kayla’s winning response.

Home is a safe place. Whether you live in a  bustling city or a wide-open space in the country, home brings a sense of security and comfort. The thought of migrating from a well-known home to an assisted living facility may be daunting, which is why the use of services for those to age in place grows increasingly important.

The decision to grow old in your own home should be met with welfare and dignity, and  services such as fall-proof assessments and remote monitoring make aging in place achievable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are a major hazard for the elderly.

In my experience as a certified nursing assistant, many fall risks could be prevented through fall assessments or devices to reduce falls. Home health certified nursing assistants or nurses can receive training to do fall-proof assessments in an individual’s home. These assessments can vary from checking carpet thickness and sturdiness and the appropriate placement of grab bars, such as in bathtubs and showers. These adaptations can be applied to make an environment free of fall risks, encompassing a genuinely safe home.

Health not only depends on the safety of a home but also the well being of the individual. Through the advancement of technology, prior tasks requiring doctors to be present can be achieved in a home environment through remote monitoring.

Remote monitoring includes the use of monitors to transmit data to doctors about the patient’s overall health. This may include scales that transmit an individual’s weight immediately to a doctor or monitors that track when a person is eating, or when they open and close a refrigerator.

Other monitors include those that measure the weight of medications and those that emit  a beep alerting someone to take their medications. The use of new technology can help keep seniors in their homes for an extended amount of time. It’s an upgraded home, but it is still home.

A passion for caring for others is something I’ve embodied ever since my first day working at a nursing home. I witnessed the emotional hardship many residents experienced being out of their homes, and I would do my best to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

Currently, I’m a sophomore in nursing school and have been working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) for about two years. I find it an honor to be a part of someone’s life as they grow older and want to continue helping others through geriatric nursing.

Showing respect and maintaining dignity are important things I’ve learned throughout CNA training and nursing school and is something that can establish trust between patients and their care providers. This involves giving a patient privacy, including them in decision making and treating them as an individual.

Nursing is a career that can significantly impact the lives of others, and I hope I can make many homes safer and people more comfortable when they’re away from home.

 

These responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

 

 

Cancer-Fighting Home Inspection Tips

Thursday, March 1st, 2018 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers

House Stethoscope and Survey Clipboard Concept

 

As caregivers, we work to ensure the safety and happiness of the loved ones we support. We try our best to protect them from potential harm. However, often when we think of cancer, we think of a disease that’s completely out of our control.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death  in people over 65, second only to heart disease. The power of this one word can change a life completely - bringing anxiety, burden and heartache to all those it touches. However, most cancer diagnoses are actually preventable, according to the World Health Organization.

Throughout the month of February, survivors, patients, advocates and caregivers have been supporting National Cancer Prevention Month. Each year, this month is dedicated to highlighting lifestyle adjustments which can help safeguard health and lower cancer risk.

Lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, alcohol and tobacco use are often discussed as cancer-causing - but what about lesser known environmental factors? Some of the materials we surround ourselves with every day have been shown to increase cancer risk.

These materials are considered carcinogens and can be just as dangerous as a pack of cigarettes. If you see a substance labeled “known cancer risk factor” or “known carcinogen,” it means that researchers have found that material hazardous because it increases the risk of cancer.

Looking out for carcinogens may seem like a daunting task - but starting out small can help ease the anxiety while mitigating risks and improving overall health.

So, Where Is The Risk?

We often assume that our home would be safe from hazards. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the health of a home greatly impacts those living in the space. Unfortunately, many people are still unaware of the direct link between their housing and their health. Common household hazards which increase your risk of developing diseases like cancer include the following.  

Building Materials

The health of the home often begins at its core, with the materials used to create the structural elements. Although the U.S. government has created tighter regulations in the last few decades surrounding the use of both formaldehyde and asbestos, these carcinogencic materials can still be found in homes today.

Asbestos is a toxic fiber that was most often used as insulation in the construction of residential and commercial buildings between the 1940s and 1980s due to its affordability and resistance to heat, fire and electricity. But when the material is disturbed and its particles release into the air, asbestos becomes incredibly hazardous. When inhaled, the fibers can embed into the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen, mesothelioma cancer can develop.

Formaldehyde is also found in the home - the chemical is highly flammable, produced both industrially and naturally and often found in building materials and household products. Potential sources of formaldehyde in the home include pressed-wood products, tobacco smoke, gas stoves, wood-burning stoves and kerosene heaters.

This chemical is also be present in some cosmetics as well as beauty products such as lotions, shampoos and conditioners, although the levels found in these products are typically not considered to be hazardous. Inhaling formaldehyde gas can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Research suggests that high levels of formaldehyde exposure may cause cancer.  

Radon

In addition to the materials used to build your home, there is risk in where your home was built. Certain regions in the United States have higher levels of radon, a radioactive gas released through the natural decay of rocks in the soil. Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. Exposure to radon is responsible for roughly 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year, according to the EPA.

Radon is invisible, tasteless and odorless and can travel from the ground into your home through cracks in the walls and foundation. Since the chemical is emitted from the soil, levels are usually highest in the basement or the lowest floors of the home.

Once inside your home, radon gas accumulates. According to the EPA, one in 15 homes in the U.S. has radon levels at or above the EPA's recommended safety level. Testing your home is the only way to determine if you have elevated radon levels.  

Plastics in Bottles and Food Containers

The health risks associated with Bisphenol A, or BPA, came to light in 2008 when reports of its toxicity started to make headlines. Some 10 years later, we’ve learned that this industrial chemical used for over 40 years to harden plastics is indeed harmful to the human body.

Studies show that BPA exposure is prevalent in the U.S., with detectable levels of BPA present in 93 percent of tested urine samples. Elevated rates of exposure to this chemical have been linked to the development of breast and prostate cancer.

Most exposure to BPA comes from eating food or drinking water stored in BPA containers - anything labeled as a number 7 or 3 plastic may contain the chemical. You can reduce exposure to BPA by not microwaving food in plastic containers, ensuring that the plastic used is not marked with recycle codes 3 or 7, reducing the use of canned foods, and opting for glass or stainless steel food containers whenever possible.  

Lowering Risks to Safeguard Your Health

Although there’s still a lot we don’t yet know about cancer, limiting exposure to known cancer-causing toxins, can help you protect yourself and your loved ones from the cancers that we know most about.

Through education and lifestyle adjustments, the chance of a painful battle with cancer may be reduced. In light of National Cancer Prevention Month, take a moment to investigate the health of your home to help ensure the health of those you love.

 

8 Steps to a Healthier Heart

Monday, February 12th, 2018 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers

Healthy heart diet and sport gym equipment concept on blackboard

As an older adult, you know just how important it is to stay healthy as a way to lower the risk of illness. This is especially true when it comes to heart health. Cardiovascular issues are extremely common. In fact, one in every three deaths in the United States is due to heart disease. That means cardiovascular issues cause more deaths than all types of cancer combined. While there isn't a way to completely prevent heart disease, there are a number of things you can do to drastically reduce your risk factors.

Making smart lifestyle choices can help you keep your heart healthy and reduce the risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

“Most people know what it takes for a healthy heart, but they are often filled with excuses of why they don’t take steps to make it happen,” says Coach Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc., who is also the strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. “Taking care of our heart health should be a top priority for everyone.”

Understanding the most common risk factors for heart disease can enable you to take action to make healthier choices. What follows are eight key ways to improve your heart health.

1. See a Doctor Regularly

One of the most effective ways to reduce your risk for heart disease is to attend regular physical checkups with your doctor. As you get older, these appointments should include tests for cholesterol, blood pressure and other potential risk factors.

Diabetes can also increase the risk of heart disease, and statistics show that about one-third of American adults are pre-diabetic. Regular medical care can help manage diabetes, reducing the possibility of heart disease.

2. Get regular exercise

While eating a nutritious diet can help you avoid obesity and the associated cardiovascular risks, it's also important to make sure that you’re getting regular exercise. Physical activity can improve your heart health, lower your resting heart rate, and help you maintain a healthy weight.

For overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least a half hour of moderate aerobic exercise five days a week, or a half hour of vigorous cardio activity three days a week. This aerobic activity should be combined with muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.

3. Manage stress

While there’s not a clear, direct link between stress and heart disease, research has shown that stress can affect a number of behaviors and elements that raise your risk, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and smoking, according to the American Heart Association.

Luckily, using stress reduction techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi or meditation can help calm you and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that raises the risk of heart attack, says Walls.

4. Ditch tobacco

Smoking tobacco is one of the most prevalent risk factors for heart disease. There are numerous studies linking tobacco smoke (including secondhand smoke) with cardiovascular disease and cancer. If you’re a smoker, one of the best things you can do for your heart health is to quit right away. Many have found success using aids such as nicotine gum or patches.

5. Eat healthfully

Your diet contributes heavily to your overall health and your risk of heart disease. Choosing healthy foods and consuming the right amount of calories daily can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart in good condition. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Some plant-based substances can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Additionally, filling up on produce can help you avoid eating too many high-fat foods.

Choosing whole grains over refined options is also important. Whole grains provide fiber and other nutrients, and they can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure. Cutting back on sugar and unhealthy fats in your diet can also help strengthen your heart and lower your risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, and other health issues.

6. Don't Neglect Your Oral Health

“There is a strong link between gum disease and heart disease,” says Dr. Harold Katz, founder of oral care company Therabreath. “Periodontal disease is a form of inflammation (albeit in the mouth). The first step in this inflammation is known as gingivitis and the most obvious sign is bleeding gums (pink in the sink).”

These open wounds in the mouth allow toxins to enter and travel to other parts of the body, including the heart valves, Katz explains.

If you have sensitive, bleeding, or inflamed gums, it's wise to seek treatment from a dentist. Lowering the risk of periodontal infection can improve your overall health and potentially reduce your risk of heart problems.

7. Understand your genetic history

Many cardiovascular risk factors have to do with genetics. People whose parents have had heart attacks or strokes usually have a higher risk of these issues. Additionally, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can also be affected by genetic factors.

While you can't do anything to change your family's medical history, understanding it can help you make the best decisions for your own health. If you have family members with heart disease, make sure to discuss this with your doctor. He or she may make different recommendations for heart-healthy lifestyle choices and the frequency of cholesterol, blood pressure, and cardiovascular tests.

8. Watch for signs and symptoms

While you may be familiar with the common symptoms of a heart attack, there are other signs that can indicate possible cardiovascular disease. Shortness of breath, sleep apnea, heartburn, chest or shoulder aches can all be potential indicators of heart problems.

Fatigue is another possible symptom, and it’s particularly common for women who have heart problems. You should discuss symptoms like these with your doctor, especially if they appear suddenly or increase in frequency.

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Heart disease is, unfortunately, a common issue for adults. However, there are several things you can do to significantly reduce your risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular issues. Maintaining a nutritious diet, exercising, seeing a doctor and dentist regularly, and avoiding tobacco can improve your overall health and reduce your chances of heart disease.

2018 Valentine's Day Gift Guide for Older Adults

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 by Tammy Worth

Gift box with pink bow ribbon and glitter hearts on wooden rustic background

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you’re looking for a way to show your appreciation for an older special someone, parent or friend this holiday, there are plenty of gift options out there. We’ve compiled a Valentine’s Day gift guide with everything from small trinkets to exciting adventures for your senior loved ones.

Under $25

 

Pretty little things

VDay_SmallTrinkets

Valentine’s Day is a good time for gestures both small and large. If you prefer to show your love with a sweet, simple yet meaningful gift, there are a wide variety of options on sites like Natural Life. Their wide selection of charming, bohemian-inspired trinkets include small glass trays, bracelets, mugs, keychains, bandeaus, prayer boxes and small succulents.

Cost: $3 and up

To order: Natural Life

 

Scoops of sweetness

If ice cream is your loved one’s weakness, then they might enjoy a gift from Nebraska-based Ecreamery. The shop’s 16 flavors of ice cream, sorbet and gelato are available to order online and include Valentine-themed pints with flavors such as red velvet cheesecake and amaretto cherry with almonds and chocolate chunks.

Cost: Starts at $7.99

To order: ecreamery

 

A get-well box

HospitalBox

If someone you love is hospitalized or at home recovering from an illness, this is a great time to let them know you’re thinking of them. One way you can do that is by sending a care package like the “Feel Better Box” available at thehospitalbox.com. The care package comes with stickers for decorating and three bags labeled for opening whenever your loved one needs a hug. There’s also space in the box to add personal touches like photos, books or their favorite treats.

Cost: $19.99

To order: The Feel Better Box

$25-$50

 

A cookbook for two

Courtesy of America's Test Kitchen

 

Most cookbooks offer recipes for a family, and are meant to serve four or more. But many people in their 50s and beyond either live alone or with just one other person. If they enjoy cooking but aren’t keen on leftovers, consider gifting them a cookbook that caters to smaller households.

"The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook" from America’s Test Kitchen provides cooking tips and foolproof recipes of all kinds including soups and desserts made for two.

Cost:$25.47

To order: Amazon.com

 

 

Handwritten memories

adorable girl writing greeting card

There are lots of ways to memorialize time spent with loved ones, and hand-written notes are always appreciated. The company greetingStory offers a box full of cards labeled with questions like, “What do you admire about your grandparents?” and “What are your favorite activities to do with your grandparents?” Kids can fill the cards out to capture these memories in their own writing. Boxes come with packs of 12, 24 or 48 cards.

Cost: starts at $29

To order: greetingStory

 

Under $25

A comfy medical gown alternative

Courtesy of GetJanes

If your aging loved one spends a lot of time in the hospital or doctor’s office, they may appreciate this Jacks and Janes “wellness gown,” a welcome alternative to the hospital gown. These garments are warm and lightweight and provide more coverage than the traditional medical gowns. They can be used at the doctor’s office or hospital and then brought home and washed for the next visit. Each gown comes with a bag for easy transport.

 

Cost: $55

To order: GetJanes

 

All-inclusive entertainment

VDay_AmazonPrime

 

If your aging loved one is the person who already has everything when it comes to material goods, you may want to think about a subscription service this Valentine’s Day like the one from Amazon Prime.

They won’t just get free shipping (which can come in handy when he or she would prefer not to run errands in the cold), but a range of entertainment options including videos and movies, a free e-book download each month, unlimited music streaming and photo storage.

 

Cost: $99 per year

To order: Amazon Prime

 

A good night’s sleep

Courtesy of Nightingale

 

If you know someone who has trouble sleeping, consider a gift that could help them get more zzzzzz’s. One option is the Nightingale Sleep System, which uses “sound blankets” to block out noises like snoring in nearby bedrooms. According Nightingale, the device can even work for someone with a hearing-related health condition like tinnitus. The system can be set up through a phone, Bluetooth or computer.

Cost: $150

To order: Nightingale

 

Varied costs

An anytime massage

Courtesy of Zeel

 

As we age, our bones, muscles and joints can get achy and need a little extra care. If your loved one enjoys massages but can’t get outside or just wants to stay in the comfort of her own home, consider gifting them with an on-demand massage from a company like Zeel. Their massage services are available 24-7 in more than 70 cities and metropolitan areas across the country.

At Zeel, you can usually get a same-day massage and some therapists are available in about an hour.

Cost: Varies

To order: Zeel

 

A day of adventure

Courtesy of Cloud 9 Living

 

If your sweetheart is far from a couch potato, you may want to consider giving them the gift of adventure this Valentine’s Day. There are plenty of ways to do this – an online search brings up many results. Or you can try a company like Cloud 9 Living, which offers golf lessons from a pro, dinner cruises, flying and driving lessons or helicopter rides. Options vary depending upon the locale.

Cost: Varies

To order: Cloud 9 Living

 

Legos for adults

Sphere made of random colored toy blocks. 3D Rendering

Legos aren’t just for kids anymore. If your Valentine likes to work with their hands, Lego offers a surprising range of sets that adults love. He or she might enjoy building an old-time fishing store, a double-decker London bus, a Disney castle, a winter village or 50s-style diner. Building with Legos can be a great way for your loved one to pass the time while improving their dexterity.

Cost: Varies

To order: Lego

 

Dance lessons

Courtesy of Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bonita Springs, FL

photo courtesy of Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bonita Springs, FL

If you think nothing is more romantic than sweeping across a dance floor, dance lessons will spark a fire this Valentine’s Day. Organizations like the Fred Astaire Dance Studio offer lessons all over the country. Many of the studios offer private, group and practice sessions. Dancing can help your loved one burn calories, improve muscle strength and provides a great opportunity to socialize and express themselves.

Cost: varies

To order: Fred Astaire Dance Studio

 

The Freebird Club: An Airbnb for 50-and-over Travelers

Friday, February 2nd, 2018 by Tammy Worth

Portrait Of Senior Friends Hiking In Countryside

You’ve probably heard of Airbnb, VRBO and other services that let people rent out rooms or their entire homes to vacationers. There’s a new option on the market that aims to provide that same convenient alternative to hotels – but this one only caters to the 50-and-over crowd.

The idea for The Freebird Club sparked for Peter Mangan when he began working and living part-time in Dublin. He was renting the home he had built in Southern Ireland and his father, an aging widower, took care of the home and managed the guests.

His father’s lifestyle had become less active since retirement and Mangan couldn’t help but notice how much he was enjoying this new experience.

“When older guests stayed, they hit it off on a consistent basis and were going to local pubs and sightseeing and having dinners together,” Mangan said. “He had a new social outlet and it was putting a smile on face.”

Mangan also got positive feedback online from guests about his father’s hosting abilities and he soon realized he had hit on a need: a social form of home sharing dedicated to people over 50.

“In an aging society where we hear about loneliness and isolation, this is a way older people can connect,” he said. “Travel hosting will allow people of a certain age to connect and meet and travel and stay with each other.”

Launched in early 2017, The Freebird Club has about 2,000 members with 200 hosts spread among 25 countries. About 40 percent of its members are American and a majority are in their late 50s and early 60s. Mangan’s goal is to offer travel options for aging adults who want to travel more, but either dislike the idea of group tours or lack the confidence to set out on their own.

A social connection

What differentiates Freebird from its competitors – other than the age designation – is the social aspect. According to Mangan, when someone stays at a rental through a place like Airbnb, a vast majority of their properties are vacant. There’s no guarantee travelers will have any social connection.

“It’s our niche … it offers a way to ensure that no matter where they go, they are staying with a fellow club member who has signed up to take part in this aspect of the club,” Mangan said.

And when it comes to socializing between guests and hosts, the Freebird founder says he understands that one size doesn’t fit all. But at the very least, customers can know they’re staying with a live-in host who is welcoming and has “bought into this ethos.”

In a focus group of older adults held in London prior to starting the site, participants voiced concern that they would be mismatched and would want more or less social interaction than was available. For this reason, hosts rank themselves on a scale of one to five: the first level for hosts who don’t want a lot of interaction, moving up to chatting and sharing meals, up to Level 5; hosts who make themselves available as a tour guide.

Focus on safety

Mangan said charging a fee for taking part in the club was important for creating a sense of security for aging adults booking a room online. For that reason, the cost to join is a one-time charge of 25 Euros (or about $31).

Everyone joining the club – hosts and guests – have to register and pay the fee. Prospective members must fill out identification information and upload a personal profile. Hosts are required to upload details of their accommodations and proof of address and to undergo an interview. This call is used to let hosts know what’s expected of them and to provide an extra level of comfort to prospective guests.

Benefits for hosts

Much like with Mangan’s father, being a host provides some social interaction with other adults of a similar age. But it also allows them to take advantage of empty rooms to supplement their income.

As the site grows, Mangan says Freebird is always in need of additional hosts. While the company tries to ensure that attractive destinations are well represented, members living anywhere can join and list properties.

“There’s an opportunity to make money from those rooms,” he said. “And we increasingly see that people get to know their area more. When they have a guest, they are more likely to go to nearby vacation spots that they might not otherwise visit.”

What's in it for travelers

Guests booking on Freebird will be staying in someone’s home, so the cost is usually less than a hotel or other rental. Mangan said they have some places for rent for as little as $25 and up to $130, depending upon the quality of the accommodation and its location.

“You are never getting a whole apartment, but we have rooms in fabulous city apartments and villas in Spain,” he said.

He stresses that booking on Freebird isn’t just about going to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, or other top tourist destinations. The site is as much about meeting new people all over the world. A guest may stay someplace slightly more obscure because they found a host who loves fly fishing or basket weaving or they may want to learn French and find a host who is willing to help them.

Looking ahead

Though Mangan says he wants to help people spend time with others with shared interests, the site isn’t quite set up specifically for that purpose yet. But he plans to create a platform for someone who’d like to visit Dublin, for instance, for a theater festival. The guest could then perform a sub-search on the site to find a host with that interest who may want to attend the festival too.

The site’s founder has also worked with www.internationalrail.com to help members get discounts on rail tickets to travel through Europe, Canada and Japan. This would allow people to country or city-hop (and stay in Freebird rooms along the way) at a more reasonable price.

Mangan said that while The Freebird Club is still young and small, it’s growing daily. He hopes to create momentum and soon see the site foster a strong international social travel community.