Woman playing Sudoku on tablet computer

 

If you or a loved one suffer from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or know someone who does, you understand the frustrations that come with it. The condition can cause problems in memory, language, thinking, and judgment – even while you’re still able to perform everyday activities.

MCI also is considered an intermediate stage between the normal cognitive decline of aging and dementia, of which the most common type is Alzheimer’s disease. And having MCI may also increase your risk of developing dementia later in life.

But a recent study has delivered good news when it comes to cognitive decline. The study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic showed that older U.S. adults were less likely to develop MCI if they engaged in mentally stimulating activities once or twice a week.

Those who engaged in mental stimulation, the researchers noted, may be protecting themselves from “new-onset MCI.”

Certain Activities Linked to Lower MCI Risk

Research has already shown that mental stimulation is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia. But there had been few studies about the possible connection between mental stimulation and MCI until the Mayo Clinic undertook its research that began in 2006 and lasted just over a decade.

Researchers defined mentally stimulating activities to include computer use, reading books, craft activities, playing games and social activities such as going to movies and the theater.

Results showed that computer use was associated with a 30 percent decreased risk of new-onset MCI, a 28 percent decreased risk with craft activities, 23 percent with social activities, and 22 percent with gameplay.

The Mayo Clinic researchers were unsure why certain activities produced a lower risk of developing MCI than other types of mental stimulation tested. However, their findings suggested that the specific technical and manual skills required for an activity such as computer use may be linked with the decreased risk.

The study also showed that mental stimulation may also lower the risk of MCI in people who carry the gene APOE e4, which is linked to Alzheimer’s.

What is MCI?

As mentioned, people with MCI experience noticeable declines in memory and thinking skills but not enough to greatly interfere with their everyday activities. Some people with MCI never get worse.

What causes MCI? The fact is, there’s no single cause for it. Evidence suggests that the condition develops from similar changes in the brain as those seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Other changes associated with MCI include shrinkage of the hippocampus – the region of the brain important to memory – enlargement of the brain’s ventricles, and a lower use of glucose.

MCI Symptoms

If you experience any or all of the following symptoms, you may have cognitive issues that indicate MCI. A medical professional can help evaluate your symptoms.

  • More forgetful than usual (i.e., forgetting a person’s name)
  • Forgetting important appointments and social engagements
  • You lose your train of thought or the thread of a conversation
  • Increased feelings of being overwhelmed by making decisions, planning the steps to complete a task or interpreting instructions
  • You have trouble finding your way around in familiar environments
  • You show poor judgment or become increasingly impulsive

People with MCI may also exhibit signs of depression, irritability and aggression, anxiety, and apathy

Risk Factors for MCI

There are certain risk factors that may increase your likelihood of developing MCI, including age, but also:

  • Having a form of the gene APOE-e4, which is also linked to Alzheimer’s
  • Medical conditions and lifestyle factors such as diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, a lack of physical exercise, and little or no participation in mentally and socially stimulating activities.

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The Mayo Clinic study clearly indicated that there is a connection between mentally stimulating activities and a decreased risk of MCI, including a decreased risk of people who carry the APOE e4 gene.

 

 

Modern bathroom walk-in shower with steam modern system.

 

Bathrooms require special attention in order to meet the living needs of a senior who wants to age in place. Everyday routines like bathing, washing up and brushing teeth can be challenging for some older adults in a standard bathroom.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to make bathroom faucets more user-friendly for seniors with mobility issues. The design tips shown here should be part of an overall design philosophy for aging in place bathrooms that include appropriately placed grab bars, nonslip flooring and adequate lighting.

1. Handheld Showerheads

Replace a wall-mounted showerhead with a handheld model. A handheld showerhead attached to a pole allows the user to adjust the showerhead’s height when standing or to use it as a handheld model when sitting or standing. Here are some other user-friendly changes that can help older adults:

 

  • Combine the showerhead with built-in or portable shower chairs to make bathing more comfortable.
  • Bathtubs and walk-in showers should have non-slip finishes on the floors, and there should be grab bars on the walls in and around the tub or shower to provide stability.

 

2. Lever Controls

Lever-shaped faucet handles in the tub, shower and at the vanity sink are easier to use than smaller, round knobs. Controls shaped like a cross are another easy-to-grip option. No matter which style you choose, the following guidelines can help:

 

  • Shower and bath controls should be large and easy to operate.
  • Hot and cold taps should be labeled with large text and/or bright colors so that someone with weak eyesight can easily distinguish between the two.
  • To reduce the senior’s need to bend or stretch, place controls for tubs and showers as close to the room side of the fixture as possible.

 

3. Easy-to-Reach Vanity Faucets

Older adults who are mobile can use a standard floor-mounted vanity, but it’s helpful if the sink is on the narrow side so the senior does not have to bend over to reach the faucet controls. For someone who uses a wheelchair, a wall-mounted sink or a vanity that provides adequate room for the chair is necessary. Shallow, narrow sinks are best for someone in a wheelchair. Here are some other vanity guidelines to keep in mind:

 

  • Under-vanity storage is often inaccessible for a person with limited mobility. In those cases, consider wall-mounted cabinets or shelves instead.
  • Avoid sharp edges on vanity countertops.
  • A contrasting band of color around the edge of the countertop helps seniors with weak eyesight identify the edge of the fixture.

 

4. Walk-in Tubs and Showers

The standard bathtub/shower combination found in most homes is a real challenge to use comfortably for someone with even minor mobility issues. If possible, the standard tub should be replaced with one equipped with a side door to allow for easy access. Some of these models also include built-in seating.

Another option is to replace the tub with a roll-in shower. Since these showers don’t have a threshold, a person can roll their wheelchair into the shower and transfer to a shower chair. Both options are a major expense, and adding a roll-in shower will require using up a lot of floor space in the bathroom.

However, the less cost-intensive addition of grab bars and nonslip surfaces can also make standard tubs and showers more user-friendly for seniors. Here are some other suggestions:

 

  • Eliminate the need to reach or get in and out of the tub or shower by placing built-in or wall-mounted shelves or niches for bath supplies in the shower or tub enclosure.
  • Install lighting fixtures in the ceiling above tubs and showers. Use fixtures rated for wet locations.
  • Place a vertical grab bar near the entrance to the tub or shower to make entering and exiting easier.

 

5. Scald Protection

Tub and shower controls should be equipped with scald protection technology. Older adults are more susceptible to burns from too-hot water. And sudden changes in a building’s water pressure, such as when a toilet flushes while someone is in the shower, can lead to burns. These steps can help keep the water temperature safe:

 

  • The thermostats on many water heaters are set too high, so check the unit and lower the temperature. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 Celsius). The water will cool somewhat as it moves the water heater to the faucet, where it will be mixed with cold water. This step can reduce serious burns, but it will not eliminate them on its own.
  • Faucets equipped with a thermostatic water mixer monitor the water’s temperature. When the monitor senses a change in temperature due to fluctuating water pressure, the mixer compensates so that the temperature stays about the same.

 

Taking some basic precautions when designing or remodeling a bathroom for seniors will give them the ability and confidence to live more comfortably and independently.

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Fran Donegan is a DIY-for-the-home authority, currently writing for The Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY author, and has written several books, including Paint Your Home. Fran’s tips are geared to provide you with numerous options for bathroom remodeling, bath safety and organization. To research a variety of bathroom vanities, you can visit the Home Depot website here.

 

senior couple on city street

 

You’re never too old for dating, love, or romance. Whether you’re taking your spouse out on the town or trying to find someone special, there’s always room for dating. Those who are dating over 60 and looking for new date ideas should—like anyone—look to have fun first, and let the rest follow. A pleasant experience shared makes for a far better memory. Here are nine date ideas for senior couples to consider:

1) Try a new food

If there’s a foreign cuisine neither of you has ever tried, what are you waiting for? It’s time to experiment. Nothing makes your time richer than new experiences, so why not share them with a date? Whether your new experience is fine dining at a high-priced restaurant or food from that street cart you drive past each day but have never tried, it can add up to a great memory.

2) Take a class

You’re never too old to learn something new, whether it’s a useful skill or a more indulgent hobby. Take a class on pottery, dancing, cooking, anything that seems interesting. It may lead to a new way to spend time together— and at the very least, it’s going to be memorable.

3) Go picnicking

If you’re hoping to plan a date that’s low-key and intimate without much cost or pressure, try a picnic. It’s a great excuse to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Make it a bit more fun by finding a park or other outdoor area neither of you have been to before. Sitting out on a blanket under the sun isn’t just for the young, with good weather and good company,, it can be just as enjoyable for older couples.

4) Go to a wine or cheese tasting

Sitting down for a full meal is nice and all, but outside of a few new experiences it’s old hat. A tasting event, be it for wine, cheese, or something a bit more ‘out there’, is a great way to have some fun, enjoy something new, and make a memory you and your date will remember fondly. Taste and scent are closely tied to memory, after all, and where else can you focus more on those senses than at a tasting event?

5) Recreate an old favorite

As a senior, you have the invaluable benefit of experience—use it! Recreate your favorite dates anew. Whether you aim for perfect replication or try to update things and add a new twist, either one is going to be fun. This works best for current senior couples, of course, but there’s nothing stopping you from borrowing inspiration from favorite past dates with a new date, either.

6) Find friends for a double date.

Whether you’ve been together for decades or are a new couple, a double date is a great idea. It can be daunting to go out on a date at any age—especially if you’re out of practice. Making your date a double can make things a bit less stressful, add a fun new dimension to things and allow you to get to know your friends better while also bonding with your partner.

7) Visit an interesting marketplace.

Whether it’s a tiny flea market, the county fair or a massive mall full of artisanal shops, there’s lots of potential for great dates when you go wandering through an interesting marketplace. The point isn’t necessarily to shop—it’s to spend time together seeing novel and interesting things. And if you walk away with a few trinkets, it’s all the better to remember your date by.

8) Explore familiar places in depth.

Your town has sides of it you probably haven’t seen, whether that means a new restaurant or event, or a long-standing corner you’ve never visited. Visit your local museum, take the tour meant for visitors, or consider volunteering together at a local charity. Rediscovering your own backyard can be as exciting for dates as journeying to a foreign land—there’s always more depth than you realize in a place. You may even find a new way to spend your time around town, or learn something interesting about the place you live that you’d never otherwise have known.

9) Go to an amusement park or live event.

Don’t write off the more exciting stuff as being for the young—couples of any age can have fun on a date at the amusement park or live event. Cheering at a concert or laughing at a standup comedian doesn’t have an age limit. So get out there and have some fun, share some funnel cake and enjoy a date that just might make you both feel like kids again.

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Ultimately, all dates are about building a shared experience. Make sure it’s an experience you’ll both enjoy, and remember fondly, and everything else will work out from there. Try new things, revisit old ones, or blend the two. It’s all a matter of finding the things you can enjoy together—no matter how long you’ve been together, or what the date on your driver’s license says.

 

Valentines day greeting card

 

Valentine’s Day can present a gift-giving conundrum for couples of any age, and for those who’ve been together for many years or decades, it can be even tougher. Perhaps you’ve been together so long that you feel you’re out of ideas, or maybe your partner insists they don’t want or need anything.

Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Nancy Irwin notes that a lot of older couples already have enough “stuff” and are attempting to downsize and de-clutter. “To that end, experiences are much more valuable than more stuff,” she says.

And for those whose partners would prefer a more tangible gift to hold onto, there are options that are more meaningful than the age-old flowers and candy combination. We’ve compiled the following guide to help point you in the right direction.

 

1. A picture is worth 1,000 valentines

 

Senior African couple looking at photo album

 

If you and your valentine are like a lot of older couples, you have a stack of photographs documenting your love story. Some of your favorite pictures together can make for a simple yet meaningful gift that your sweetheart is sure to appreciate.

You can get as creative as you want with your photographic memories – consider creating a scrapbook with love notes, ticket stubs and other mementos alongside photos of you and your partner. Or use digital photos to create a calendar filled with memories via an easy-to-use online service like Shutterfly or VistaPrint. Or for those looking for an even simpler last-minute gift, frame a favorite photo of you and your love – bonus points if it’s one you haven’t seen in a while.

 

2. A gift that’s just the ticket(s)

 

Audience silhouette and curtain

 

Maybe you’d rather focus this Valentine’s Day on creating new memories rather than reminiscing over past ones. Irwin suggests tickets to a concert, or to the theater, opera or ballet, among other activities. Plenty of websites, like Ticketmaster, CheapTickets.com or Vivid Seats are a good bet for tickets to entertainment near you.

For more affordable options, check out what your city or local college have to offer in the way of entertainment, and make sure to ask about senior rates or discounts. You might just find tickets for a date unlike any you and your long-term valentine has experienced.

 

3. Date night in a box

 

i have received my postal packet

 

Don’t feel like going out to celebrate Valentine’s Day? You and your sweetie can enjoy a night in with the help of a date subscription box. Subscription services like Crated with Love and Unbox deliver themed boxes full of ingredients for a successful date night, like  “Tea for Two” from Crated with Love. Each box includes date activities, games or projects designed to spark laughter and bring you and your partner closer.

If you want to stay in for the date night  but don’t feel like cooking, food delivery services like DoorDash, Grubhub and Seamless can bring meals from your favorite eateries to your door.

 

4. Entertainment blasts from the past

 

Player record and vinyl vintage

 

Bring back memories from the days when you and your valentine first got together with the gift of a movie or album from that time period. Recall that movie you two went to on one of your first dates, or that song that reminds you of your wedding or your first date? With the help of sites like Amazon and eBay, hard-to-find  films and records can be yours in a few clicks.

Whether your love story goes back several decades or just a few years, you can also visit an online music store like iTunes to create your own CD mix featuring tunes from your early days as a couple.

 

5. A monogrammed token of affection

 

His And Hers Wedding Cups

 

Monogrammed items are easy yet personal Valentine’s Day gifts. These days, just about anything can be monogrammed via online shops such as Etsy. Think coziness and pampering when considering what to monogram, like fluffy robes and slippers, or a super-soft pair of pajamas. Or, you might opt to put a personal stamp on items that the two of you can share for years to come, like wine glasses or luggage.

 

6. The gift of relaxation

 

Spa - Couple Towels With Candles And Orchid

 

The older you get, the more you could probably use a little TLC. Help your loved one soothe aches and pains and relieve stress with a spa treatment. That could mean a gift certificate to a local spa, or a gift that brings the spa experience to you. One such service is Soothe, which works only with fully background-checked, licensed massage therapists and offers both individual and couples massages.

Or create a DIY spa day for you and your sweetie with relaxation-boosting products like aromatherapy kits and manual massage tools.

 

SocialSenior

 

As my mom puts it, she “has bad luck with technology.” She may live in Silicon Valley and be married to a software programmer, but Mom has always struggled with anything tech-related.

Mom uses a computer from the early 2000s. She needs help to send emails and format documents. Every time I visit, she has something for me to fix. A year ago, Mom got her first smartphone.

And now? You can’t separate Mom from her phone. She messages her friends more often than I do. She’s now a pro at all things social media.

Social media has completely changed the way Mom keeps in touch with her friends. I’ve witnessed firsthand how big of a change it’s made in her life. And she’s not alone—seniors across the globe are more connected than ever. Here’s why you should encourage your aging loved ones to get into social media.

Reconnecting with old friends

One of the first things Mom did was to look up her friends from high school. She had moved from New Jersey to California and fell out of touch with them decades ago. The day she found them on Facebook, I don’t think I’d ever seen her so excited.

Mom reconnected with her best friend, learned that her high school reunion was coming up and spent hours learning what her friends had been up to over the years. She has reconnected with her hometown in a way she never thought possible.

Keeping in touch with family

My mother loves her sister, but their schedules don’t allow for regular phone calls. Luckily, messaging apps have come to the rescue. Between sharing pictures of their meals, political cartoons and daily cat memes, Mom and her sister are closer than ever. They can share their lives without having to sync their schedules.

Learning about local events

Food trucks in town? A sale at the local antique store? With event notifications coming directly to her phone, Mom knows about everything that’s going on. In fact, she knows more about local happenings than I do!

Mom used to always learn about events a day or two too late. With her phone’s calendar, she no longer worries about what she’s missing. She’s up-to-date on what’s going on now through next month.

Staying on top of neighborhood news

Mom is a member of our local Nextdoor group. She and the neighbors share warnings about rowdy kids, notices about construction, sightings of potential thieves and anything else of interest to the neighborhood. Mom loves to share the crazy stories she finds in the app and always forwards the useful tidbits about traffic or construction. Her neighborhood group has enhanced her connection with her community.

Organizing fun with friends

Mom used to see her church friends just once a week, but not anymore! Thanks to social media, Mom and her friends are constantly going out to dinner or traveling to interesting places together.

I’ve watched my mother’s network of friends expand and deepen like never before. If Mom is ever lonely, she is just a message away from good pals and laughs.

Keeping entertained

Bringing Mom on a long car trip? Chances are, she will be “liking” photos and playing videos on her smartphone. I’ve noticed that my mother no longer complains of being bored—there is too much for her to do online. Social media is perfect for filling the gaps in her day.

Learning about the issues

Mom is big into politics, and social media helps her follow her favorite politicians, social commentators and authors. She keeps up on the issues and learns about current events as they happen rather than waiting for the nightly news recap.

Finding work

For many seniors, retirement can be boring. Sixty-five may be the official retirement age, but that doesn’t mean everyone 65 and over automatically wants to stop working. The Internet can help connect older adults with opportunities that canbe tough to find otherwise.

For the best health and quality of life, seniors need to keep their brains and bodies active. Working (or volunteering) allows seniors to share their knowledge, make some extra income and give back to their community.

After some online searching, Mom joined our town’s education committee to influence how the coming generation is taught. She loves being a voice for change.

Staying active with social media

Before social media, my mother spent most of her time reading at home. She would go out to church once a week, and that was pretty much it.

Now, with her smartphone in hand, Mom is always doing something interesting. I’ll come back home to visit and she won’t be there—Dad will tell me she’s off at one of her meetings.

Mom is making a real difference in her community. She’s involved in her town’s school board, joined a board of directors and is part of the leadership community at her church. Her smartphone and social media helped make that possible.

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

 

 

Driving in snowy weather. View from the driver angle

 

There are many things to love about winter, whether it’s outdoor activities or the natural beauty of a snow-covered vista, but driving in the winter can be far from lovable.

In many areas of the country, winter weather can change in a heartbeat as roads and highways go from dry and safe to icy and treacherous. It can be challenging for even the most skillful driver, and even more so if you’re an older adult whose driving skills have inevitably changed with age.

But driving – in any kind of weather – is a necessity for older adults who rely on their vehicles to remain independent and able to function in everyday life. The luxury of staying home when the weather turns bad isn’t always an option for some seniors.

Here are some driving safety tips to keep you and your older loved ones out of harm’s way on the roads this winter.

1. Make sure your vehicle is in good shape

The condition your car is in can have a major effect on your driving experience, especially in the winter when you’ll be calling on your wipers, defroster, breaks, heater, and headlights to meet the challenges of bad weather. Some other points to remember for driving safety: cold air makes your tires contract and lose air and colder temperatures can cause your battery to lose its charge, while your engine may benefit in winter from oil that has thinner viscosity.

2. Always have emergency supplies

If you get stuck or your car breaks down in cold weather, it’s important to have emergency supplies available such as blankets and bottled water. Road flares and non-perishable snacks should also be included as part of your driving safety plan.

3. Plan ahead

It’s best to avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible, but you’ll also want to stay on main roads if you can. Backroads and other shortcuts may pose difficult driving conditions because those routes are often the last to be plowed or maintained. Pre-plan your travel route and get the latest information on traffic and road conditions to ensure your driving safety.

4. Accelerate and decelerate slowly

Accelerating slowly is the best strategy for regaining traction and avoiding skids on slippery roads. It’s also best to give yourself plenty of time to slow down for stoplights and stop signs. You should always stop gently to avoid skidding and ease off of the brakes if your wheels start to lock up.

5. Watch your speed

Everything takes longer when roads are covered in snow or ice, making it crucial to drive slower than you normally would. Whether it’s accelerating, turning or stopping, it doesn’t happen as smoothly and as quickly as it does on dry pavement. It’s also important to proceed down hills as slowly as possible in icy conditions.

6. Keep a safe distance

You should keep the recommended three to four seconds between you and the car ahead in normal, dry conditions. But with wintry road conditions, the American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends increasing that distance to eight to 10 seconds away.

7. Know your surroundings

Bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas often freeze first and remain icy longer than normal roadways. Also, a road that’s completely snow-covered provides more traction than one that is in the process of melting.

8. Keep your cell phone with you

Never leave home without your cell phone. If you don’t have a phone, make sure to let a loved one know where you’re going, when you expect to arrive there, and when you plan on returning home. Check in with them again once you’re safely home.

9. Monitor your health

It’s never a good idea to drive while you’re fatigued or you’re not feeling well, especially when conditions are less than ideal. Make sure to have your eyes regularly checked so that you can correct any vision problems you may have that may be affecting your driving.

Driving may be one of the only transportation options for many people, despite winter hazards. Luckily, there are a number of precautions you can take to help you stay safe while driving in the snow and ice.

 

Stretches

 

My Great Uncle Bud used to always say, “It’s hell to get old.” He griped incessantly about his loss of strength, poor balance, and frequent trips to the hospital from falls. Yet his experience, that of an elderly person in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, was far different from today’s seniors. We know now that a body can be rebuilt at any age, and that most of the physical problems seniors experience are the result of inactivity.

Why does the body break down during inactivity? It’s a process known as the Use-Disuse Principle. In a nutshell, it means that the body will only hold onto the parts of itself that are frequently used. If a certain muscle group isn’t used for a long time, the body will discard those muscles to use the energy that would have been consumed by them elsewhere. So the cliché “Use it or lose it” is ultimately true.

Over the years, I have worked with a number of seniors who began a fitness journey at their doctor’s recommendation. Most had never exercised a day in their life, and preliminary fitness tests revealed severe muscular deficiencies. The majority could not easily perform simple movements such as sitting and standing. In light of this, most of the traditional gym equipment was off-limits until these older adults could regain some basic strength and stability. To help them get started, I created three at-home exercises to include in their daily routines.

The following three very basic exercises are designed to help seniors who have never participated in fitness programs, or who haven’t exercised in a while, to improve the strength and balance in their legs, core, and shoulders before using a gym. If the following exercises are performed every day for about a month, the risk of injury and overtraining when starting a more intense fitness routine—such as one designed by a personal trainer—will fall substantially. None of these exercises require any extra equipment.

The Toothbrush Challenge

Dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each session. This amounts to four minutes of nothing other than standing in front of a mirror and staring at ourselves. The Toothbrush Challenge makes use of this time to do a very basic strength and balance exercise that can help restore a senior’s stability fairly quickly.

While brushing your teeth, set a timer for one minute. During that minute stand only on one leg, with the knee slightly flexed (DO NOT LOCK OUT THE KNEE), and hold that position. Be sure to perform this exercise in a place where you can catch yourself in case you lose your balance. Once the first minute is up, set the timer again and repeat the exercise with the other leg.

The first few times you perform this exercise, you probably won’t last the entire minute. What’s important is that you try to keep balancing until the end of the minute. If your other foot touches the ground, reset and keep holding. Do this exercise every time you brush your teeth. After the first week, you should feel a marked improvement in your ability to balance and hold yourself on one leg. After one month, your legs will be far stronger and stable, and from there you can attempt other exercises at a gym.

The Textbook Toss-up

Shoulder injuries are a common complaint among seniors. The slightest tweak from overreaching for something in the back of the cupboard, or even from sleeping in an awkward position, can drastically hinder your quality of life. Weak shoulders are also prone to injury when exercising at a gym, so it’s a good idea to strengthen those muscles in a low-risk manner. The Text Book Toss-up is a great way to accomplish this.

Set a timer for one minute. Using a book about the size of a standard bible, grasp the sides firmly with both hands and extend your arms straight out ahead of you. Without bending your elbows, slowly lift the book above your head until you reach 90 degrees, then return to the starting position. Once returned to the starting position, bend your elbows and slowly bring the book to your chest. From there, extend back out to the starting position. Without dropping the book, repeat these two movements in sequence until the timer runs out.

The first few times you do this, you’ll feel a deep burn in your shoulders. Only perform three repetitions of the exercise at first and see how you feel the next day. Over time, assuming you do this every day, you should grow strong enough to begin setting the timer to two or even three minutes. If you’re really feeling strong, swap out a book for something heavier, like an encyclopedia, textbook, or atlas.

The Restless Leg (Abs Workout)

The abdominal muscles are crucial to good balance. As such, it’s important to strengthen them, but many seniors may struggle with traditional floor exercises such as ab crunches. To solve this problem, I created the Restless Leg Abs Workout. It’s designed to allow seniors to strengthen their abs and legs in a single movement, all from the comfort of their own bed.

Lying in bed, place your hands underneath the small of your back and stretch your legs out as straight as possible. Make a mental note to flex (or suck in) your stomach muscles and hold them that way. Raise one leg up without bending the knee and hold it for one minute in that position. At the end of the minute, reset the timer and repeat with the other leg. Do this three times with each leg.

The key to this exercise is to keep the stomach muscles engaged throughout. This means keeping your stomach sucked in while holding one leg off the bed. Again, over time this will become easier for you, and as you improve you may move on to more challenging and strenuous exercises.

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Christophe Adrien, also known as The Viking Trainer, is a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) and Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition (SFN) with a Master’s Degree from Oregon State University. He is a lifelong health and fitness enthusiast who regularly contributes to publications such as 1-800-HOMECARE™1-800-HOSPICE™ and Baby Boomer Cafe, among others.

 

LightingTips

 

Just as it’s a good idea to adapt other parts of the house to accommodate the needs of older adults who want to age in place, it’s also best to upgrade the lighting in the home to make it a safer, more comfortable place to live. Here are some tips to help you create a safer home with better lighting, based on research by the American Society of Interior Designers and the Illuminating Engineering Society.

Throughout the House

  • Provide more ambient light. As people age, they tend to need brighter light, but it should also be glare-free. Points of light—such as exposed bulbs—cause glare, so all light sources should have shades or be concealed.
  • Light levels should be consistent from one area to the next. Avoid situations where a brightly lighted area blends into a darker area, as this can be dangerous for older adults to navigate.
  • A contrasting color scheme makes it easier for those with age-related vision problems to see shapes. Avoid monochromatic color schemes.
  • Opt for silent lighting fixtures – avoid those that flicker or have a humming sound.
  • Make the most of natural light. Remove heavy drapes and shades from windows. If it’s within your budget and makes design sense, have additional windows and skylights installed.

Living Areas

  • Provide uniform lighting from hanging fixtures, wall sconces and recessed lighting.
  • Use table or floor lamps near seating areas for reading or other activities, such as sewing.
  • Place TVs and computers so that their screens don’t reflect light from lighting fixtures or windows.
  • Lighting is just as critical in bedrooms. Jennifer Ballard, Chief Clinical Officer at Interim Health Care, Inc. recommends taking these steps to ensure safety: “Add a light that can be reached lying down. Use motion-sensor night lights that will ensure the path from the bedroom to the bathroom is well lit. Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case the power goes out, and get a desk phone with large, backlit numbers.”

Kitchens

  • Hanging or ceiling-mounted fixtures can provide general lighting. If there’s space above the wall cabinets, fluorescent or LED strip lighting can be installed there to reflect off of the ceiling.
  • Provide dedicated task lighting at all work areas, including counters, sinks and cooking appliances. Shielded under-cabinet lights make good task lighting. “Task lighting is especially important over the stove and over the kitchen counters when preparing food, as well as anywhere that a senior would be managing their medication,” adds Ballard.
  • Consider installing a contrasting edge on the countertop, contrasting inserts in the counter or even contrasting cutting boards placed on the counter. They’ll make the surfaces easier to see and safer to use.
  • Place a hanging fixture equipped with a dimmer over the table—the same goes for dining room tables. The light can be dimmed for dining and increased when someone is sitting at the table for an activity that requires more light, like paying bills, writing out grocery lists or using a laptop computer.

Bathrooms

  • General lighting should be bright and glare-free. If possible, place light switches outside of the bathroom so that the senior does not need to enter a dark room and try to find a light switch.
  • Place vanity lights on the sides of the bathroom mirror at about eye level.
  • Make bathtubs and showers safer by installing light fixtures designed for wet locations in the ceiling above the fixture.
  • Provide safety for people who need to use the bathroom at night. Light the path to the bathroom and the room itself, and use fixtures on dimmers or nightlights so that the person using it does not have to adjust to a brightly lit bathroom from a dark hall or bedroom. LED rope lights installed along the bottom of a vanity make good night lights.

Proper lighting can make a house safer and easier to navigate for elderly adults, providing a boost of confidence for those who wish to live independently in their homes. Choose the options that work best for you and your loved ones.

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Fran Donegan writes for The Home Depot on topics ranging from gardening to home improvement tips for seniors. He provides guidance on the best types of lighting seniors can use for different tasks. To see a selection of lighting and ceiling fan options, head to Home Depot’s website.

 

ToughConvo

 

Communicating your end-of-life wishes is often among the most difficult conversations you can have with your family and loved ones. It’s also a conversation that many avoid until it’s too late.

The importance of clearly laying out your end-of-life preferences cannot be overstated, however. And doing so before you a suffer a life-threatening illness or other crisis will help reduce anxiety and doubt for family members who may be confused about final wishes that haven’t been clearly expressed.

Perhaps the most important question when it comes to communicating end-of-life wishes is, “how to do it?” Fortunately, there are a variety of steps you can take and proven methods that should make the process easier for you and your family. Getting started now, before it’s too late, should be a priority.

  1. Plan ahead

There’s no time like the present when it comes to letting your loved ones know about your final wishes is now. You can start by drawing up a living will that states your treatment and care preferences if you should ever be in a position where you can’t speak for yourself.

It’s also important to have a durable power of attorney in place that appoints one family member or other trusted person to make medical decisions for you in the event you’re unable to do so. Take all the time you need to reflect on what’s most important to you, then get the paperwork started.

  1. Be clear about what you want

It’s not easy to think about becoming too ill to make healthcare and other important decisions. But a critical injury or debilitating illness can happen to anyone at any time, and it’s vital to be clear about your wishes as soon as you can in case the unthinkable happens to you.

  1. Finding the right opportunities

While finding the right time to talk about your end-of-life issues can be a challenge, here are some events that can present opportunities to sit down with family and loved ones:

*Gatherings or time spent related to milestones such as the birth of a child, marriage, death of a loved one, retirement, anniversaries, etc.

*During holiday gatherings when many family members may be present.

*When creating your will or other estate planning.

*When a major illness requires that you or another family member move out of the home and into a long-term care setting – such as an assisted living community or a nursing home – or when a friend or family member is facing a serious illness or end-of-life situation.

  1. Talk often

It’s important to have end-of-life conversations early and to ensure that everyone understands your wishes. Moreover, your preferences may change over time and create the need for regular discussions on the subject.

  1. Ask permission

Again, discussing end-of-life issues isn’t necessarily easy, and it may make some of your family members uncomfortable. Asking your loved ones for permission before diving into the topic reassures them that you respect and honor everyone’s desires.

  1. Keep the purpose in mind

Your conversations with loved ones should address two important goals: making sure that your financial and healthcare wishes are expressed and honored, and providing them with the information and confidence they need to make future decisions.

  1. Find an Appropriate Setting

Find a quiet, comfortable place to have discussions about end-of-life wishes – preferably somewhere private and without distractions. A noisy restaurant or other public places is probably not the right setting to broach this tough topic.

  1. Be a good listener

Whether you’re discussing your end-of-life wishes, listening to another family member express theirs, or getting feedback from family and friends, it’s important to listen carefully. Make every effort to hear and understand what your loved ones are saying, and make clear to them that it’s important to you. If you’re listening to someone else,express their wishes, try to reaffirm what they’re saying and acknowledge their right to make life choices, even if you disagree with them.

  1. Know your audience

Some loved ones and family members may want to discuss end-of-life wishes in private rather than in a group setting. Use your knowledge of the people involved to figure out the best way express your wishes.

  1. Let others set the pace

If you’re in the role of listening to a family member express their wishes, follow their lead. Avoid correcting the person or becoming argumentative if they say something you don’t agree with.

HolidaysDementia

 

Celebrating the holidays with a loved one who has dementia can pose a number of unique challenges. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to enjoy a holiday celebration and traditions with this love done. If you’re hoping for a good holiday but are unsure of how to approach things due to your loved one’s dementia, the following tips can help.

Use the Senses to Evoke Memories

The senses, especially taste, smell and hearing, have a powerful effect on memories. Your loved one may not remember a specific event if it’s mentioned in conversation, but a sensory experience associated with the event could help bring the memory back.

When planning your holiday festivities, make your loved one’s favorite dishes and put on familiar tunes that they know well. The tastes, smells and songs may help bring to mind past holidays that are associated with cherished memories.

Share old photos of well-known places

Old photographs are another resource you might use to help your loved one remember past holiday celebrations. Just keep in mind that they may be embarrassed if they don’t remember a family member or dear friend’s name.

Instead of showing your loved one photos of family members and friends and asking them if they recall who’s in the pictures, use a less direct way of sharing photos so they won’t be ashamed if they can’t recall who is pictured. You can:

  • Put up a few photographs when decorating, so people can notice or pass by the pictures as they choose
  • Play a game trying to guess who is in old photos or baby photos, with everyone present guessing
  • Share photos of well-known places, which lets your loved one say they don’t remember the place rather than anyone in the picture

Opt for a simple celebration

Unfamiliar things can be frightening to someone whose memory is failing them, and even simple holiday items can become unfamiliar over a yearlong period. Just because your loved one remembered something last year doesn’t mean that he or she will remember it this year, especially if their condition has significantly worsened

Help your loved one enjoy, rather than be fearful of, all that’s going on by keeping your holiday celebration simple. Depending on what they’re comfortable with, you may want to only put up a few decorations, limit the number of gifts exchanged or even forgo a tree or candles.

Help your loved one act properly

At times, your loved one may not know hot to properly act during your family’s holiday celebration. They may be paralyzed by fear, or they may be confused about everything going on.

If you ever sense that your loved one either isn’t sure what they should do or will make a major faux pas, take the lead and guide them in what they should do. For instance, after they open a gift, you might want to remind them who the present was from and to say thank you.

If they’re having a particularly difficult time, you might even need to say something like “Mom, do you want to say ‘thank you, Jim?’” With such a direct question, your loved one can simply repeat what you say, or can simply say “yes.”

Keep activities calm

Lots of hubbub can make someone with dementia uneasy, and even those who don’t mind the activity can become fatigued after a daylong celebration. Young children, large family gatherings and constant activities can all take a toll.

Help keep your loved one from getting too overwhelmed by all that’s going on. Don’t be afraid to:

  • Have people move to a different room for a while
  • Ask kids to play in a different part of the house (especially if they got loud toys for gifts)
  • Specifically set aside some downtime in the middle of the day
  • Suggest everyone go outside for a while, take a shopping trip or see a movie

Celebrating the holidays with a loved one who’s suffering from dementia takes some forethought, but it isn’t too challenging. Keep these tips in mind, and you, your family and your loved one can all have a great time.