Archive for the ‘active aging’ Category

3 At-Home Balance and Strength Exercises for Seniors

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.

 

A Functional and Fashionable Kitchen for All Ages

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Although some people believe that fashion is sacrificed when functionality takes precedence, the opposite is true when it comes to a concept known as universal design. “Universal design” is a term that broadly refers to the idea that all design—products, technologies and structures—should serve the broadest range of people, regardless of ability, mobility, age, gender or physical stature, without adaptation or specialized features. Universal design is especially important when it comes to designing a kitchen. From appliances to counter height, a kitchen space should be created with the end user in mind.

When adding onto or redesigning a kitchen for older adults, it helps to remember the following principles, which are meant to ensure flexibility and to include simple and intuitive products and appliances.

  1. The kitchen’s design should make it equally usable by everyone. In other words, the way the kitchen is configured should never isolate or stigmatize any group of users or privilege one group over another.
  2. The kitchen should be designed so people can use its features in more than one prescribed way—for example, it might have a countertop orientation map that’s viewable from either a seated or standing position.
  3. The purpose of each feature in the kitchen should be easy for everyone to understand. All of the kitchen’s features should also be easy to use, without any hidden or confusing features.
  4. The kitchen should provide all essential information in more ways than one—written, symbolic, tactile and verbal—to make sure everyone who comes through it can understand how to use different features regardless of their abilities. This simply means that instructions should be visible or audible at all times.
  5. The design of the kitchen should eliminate, isolate or shield any design features that could be hazardous or inconvenient to any user. Hard or sharp edges, malfunctioning appliances or out-of-date materials should be removed from the space.
  6. The kitchen’s design should include features that require little or no physical strength to use.
  7. There should be enough space and appropriate arrangements in the kitchen so that anyone can use it.

Ideally, universal design means good design that can be used in any setting. With these points in mind, let’s explore ways to create a fashionable and functional kitchen for all ages.

 

General Considerations for a Fashionable and Functional Kitchen

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

First and foremost, the kitchen should be accessible to everyone. As the heart of the home, the kitchen is a place where families get together, where weekday date nights happen and midnight snacks are gathered. For older adults, a well-designed kitchen space is a big help in maintaining independence.

Start by making sure the flooring in your kitchen is flat and smooth. This is especially critical for adults who need wheelchairs, walkers or extra assistance in getting around. If you want to add an area rug, opt for a short-pile material over thicker, nubby textures that can cause snagging underfoot.

Next, choose convenient, stair-less parts of the kitchen to install appliances like ovens, stoves and refrigerators for easy accessibility. Everyone should be able to lend a helping hand when preparing family dinners, whether it’s grabbing eggs from the fridge or sliding cookies into the oven. Lastly, make sure your kitchen design offers plenty of accessible storage. Not only does storage reduce kitchen clutter, it also keeps work surfaces neat and clean, which helps avoid spills or accidents.

 

Elements of a Safe and Comfortable Kitchen

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

While universal design offers the basics for creating a safe kitchen space, the term doesn’t necessarily connote coziness. Here are some of our favorite ways to create a kitchen that satisfies safety measures as well as a comfortable space for all to enjoy:

  • If you don’t cook often, you won’t necessarily need a traditional kitchen island. Instead you could use a kitchen cart or mobile island. These can be rolled in if you need an extra work surface and move it out of the way when not in use to make the kitchen more open and accessible.
  • Use lighter colors to brighten the space. Lighter, brighter hues make your space look larger and more inviting while also allowing you to see every square inch clearly.
  • Install more floor cabinets and less overhead cabinetry. As we age, our agility and mobility wanes. When redesigning or renovating your kitchen, keep in mind cabinet height. Upper cabinets should be no more than 4 feet from the floor, as the lower height makes them easier to reach from a sitting or standing position.
  • Select countertops at varying heights to accommodate sitting and standing, especially for older adults. Give your future self and older loved ones a break by making sure your counter heights are optimized for working while standing and seated.

 

Comfortably Accessing Appliances

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Last but certainly not least, making sure you can access your favorite kitchen appliances is essential to a kitchen remodel. One way to do this is by raising the dishwasher 8 inches above the floor to help facilitate loading and unloading. This is also great if you have nieces, nephews or grandchildren who come over often and need a helping hand in reaching the dishes.

If you’re doing a complete remodel, consider updating all of your appliances. Not only will brand new appliances enhance the look and feel of your space, they also help ensure easier access and use for everyone. Lastly, consider small appliances where appropriate. Smaller appliances that are lightweight and easy to grip mean more kitchen space to moving around in and a safer, sleeker overall look.

What are some changes you’re considering in your kitchen remodel? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks on designing a safe and comfortable space for all ages!

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Interior design specialist Kerrie Kelly heads up her own firm, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, and is also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). Kerrie writes on design topics of interest to seniors and other age groups for Home Depot. To research kitchen utility tables as part of a senior-friendly kitchen plan, you can visit Home Depot’s website.

 

9 Ways to Stay Healthy When Traveling by Air

Nothing’s worse than being on vacation and falling ill. Being sick means you can’t experience the vacation you spent so much time planning for.

Many of us travel by air when we go on vacation. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that make airplanes less-than-ideal spaces for avoiding illness, and one study showed that harmful bacteria can survive in plane cabins for a week.

Between the lack of sleep and close quarters, cramped airplane flights can be a great way to get sick, especially for older people or for those with underlying conditions.

The key to staying healthy while on vacation is preparation. Take care of your body’s needs so you can enjoy your time away and come home sickness-free.

 

woman on airplane

 

1. Stay hydrated

Your body needs to stay hydrated to keep up its defenses. Bring an empty water bottle through security so you can fill up without paying the airport’s extravagant prices. Stick to bottled water, both on the plane and at your destination—it’s less likely to be contaminated.

With the dry air inside the cabin, your nasal mucous membranes easily get dehydrated. Use a saline solution nasal spray to increase your nose’s ability to fight contagious bacteria.

2. Don’t touch your face

Airports and airplanes have a lot of dirty surfaces that are touched by thousands of people. Chances are that you will touch that luggage cart and then touch your face. Avoid touching your face at all, unless you have washed your hands and used hand sanitizer. Practice this before leaving for your trip—you may be surprised how often you touch your face without realizing it.

3.  Avoid alcohol

Sure, it’s nice to relax with a beverage in the airport lounge or take advantage of on-board drinks, but if you are trying to stay healthy, you should abstain. Alcohol is dehydrating. Add that to the dry plane air and your skin can begin to crack, creating entry points for germs.

4. Avoid the airline pillows and blankets

Many airlines provide pillows and blankets for long flights. But if they’re sitting unwrapped on your seat, it’s better to avoid them—you don’t know where they have been. Only use amenities sealed in plastic.

If you want to bring your own pillow on the plane, pack it so that it doesn’t touch anything as you take it through security and on the plane. Make sure to wash your neck pillows regularly.

5. Prevent dry eyes

Dry eyes get itchy, but resist scratching—touching your face gives you a higher chance of illness. Wash your hands before touching your face.

If you wear contact lenses, it’s a good idea to remove them before you get on the plane and wear glasses instead. Falling asleep with contacts in will exacerbate any dryness. You can always put your contacts back in once you land.

6. Boost your immune system

When you’re in an enclosed airplane cabin, you are exposed to the foreign germs of everyone around you. Protect yourself by boosting your immune system before the flight. Try drinking immune boosting supplements that contain vitamin C, antioxidants, zinc and manganese.

The best way to boost your immune system? Get plenty of sleep before you begin your trip.

7. Get up and move

Sitting on a plane can cause what is known as “economy-class syndrome”— blood clots in the legs. Dehydration and low cabin pressure contribute to this phenomenon.

To get the blood in your legs moving, contract your calf muscles, tap your feet and take some breaks to stand up and walk down the aisle.

8. Reset your internal clock

Jet lag can ruin a vacation. Set your watches to your new time zone while still on the plane. When you arrive, try to stick as close as possible to a regular schedule in your new time zone. If it’s bedtime when you arrive, try to get some sleep. If it’s daytime, try to stay awake. A nap may sound good, but it will delay your internal clock and can make you feel worse.

9. Pack disinfectants

Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes are essentials when traveling by air. Clean your space by disinfecting your seat, arm rests, control panels and tray table with anti-bacterial wipes.

Wash your hands whenever you get the opportunity. If you use the airport bathroom, use paper towels to open the doors and use hand sanitizer after you exit, even if you washed your hands. Those tiny sinks typically aren’t big enough to provide a thorough cleaning.

Keep the germs away and enjoy your stay

Why do so many people get sick after flying on a plane? Sharing a tiny space with a lot of people in a confined space appears to be a major factor.

The key to staying healthy is to clean the surfaces you’ll touch on your flight and avoiding touching your face. Make sure you get enough sleep and water so your body is prepared to fight the germs that try to get through your defenses.

Above all, enjoy yourself. Less stress equals a healthier body and a more relaxing vacation. Stay healthy and enjoy your destination sickness-free. Bon voyage!

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.

 

 

 

These 7 Older Athletes Prove It’s Never Too Late to Be an Olympian

If you think getting older means an automatic end to dreams of athletic glory, think again. In the world of professional sports, athletes are considered “old” as early as 30. But throughout the history of the Olympic Games, there have been a number of amazing athletes who were far older than that when they set records and won medals. The competitors on this list remind us that there’s no age limit to being an Olympian and pursuing your dreams.

 

1. OSCAR SWAHN

  • Age: 72
  • Country: Sweden
  • Sport: Shooting

This sharp-shooting, bearded Swede was the oldest-ever male Olympic medalist when he won the silver medal at the 1920 Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium (this was after taking home gold and bronze medals in the 1908 and 1912 Olympic Games). He qualified for the 1924 games but withdrew beforehand due to illness.

 

2. ARTHUR VON PONGRACZ

    • Age: 72
    • Country: Austria
    • Sport: Equestrian Riding

Arthur Von Pongracz was one of the most celebrated equestrians of his time, and went on to compete in Dressage in the 1924, 1928 and 1936 Olympic Games. Born on June 25, 1864, the Austrian athlete was 72 years old when he competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Several months older than Oscar Swahn, he is the second-oldest athlete to have competed in the Olympics.

 

3. IAN MILLAR

Image by Grandslamjumping under the Creative Commons attribution license

    • Age: 65
    • Country: Canada
    • Sport: Equestrian

Nicknamed “Captain Canada,” the 69-year-old Canadian equestrian has competed in more Olympic Games than any Canadian in history, in any sport. He took home his first Olympic medal — a silver medal in Team Jumping — at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing at the age of 61. He plans to compete again in this summer’s games in Rio.

 

4. LORNA JOHNSTONE

    • Age: 69
    • Country: Great Britain
    • Sport: Equestrian

Lorna Johnstone is the oldest woman and the oldest-ever British competitor to have competed in the Olympics to date. The British equestrian competed in the 1956, and 1968 Olympics and was 69 years old when she competed in the 1972 Olympic Games.

 

5. GALEN SPENCER

    • Age: 64
    • Country: United States
    • Sport: Archery

This American archer brought home the gold medal at the 1904 Summer Olympics, competing on his 64th birthday! He was born September 19, 1840, and competed on September 19, 1904. He died exactly one month later.

 

6. LIDA “ELIZA” POLLOCK

    • Age: 63
    • Country: United States
    • Sport: Archery

Lida Pollock is the second oldest woman to have competed in the Olympics. The Ohio native won two bronze medals in Archery at the 1904 Games in St. Louis, just a couple months shy of her 64th birthday.

 

7. CARL AUGUST KRONLUND

  • Age: 58
  • Country: Sweden
  • Sport: Curling

At 58 years old, Swedish curler Carl Kronlund was the oldest male medalist and competitor in the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix, France. He took home the silver medal in curling.

 

Exercise for Seniors: 6 Great Ways to Get Moving

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

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

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

 

1. Walking

power walk

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

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

 

2. Seated March

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

 

3.Upright Front Row

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

 

4. Sit-Backs

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

 

5. Wall Half-Squat

wall half-squat

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

 

6. Leg Lifts

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

 

 

 

9 Hacks and Swaps for Fancy and Green Seniors

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

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

1. Inspect Your Home

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

2. Be a Greener Cleaner

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

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

3. Let Your Lights Shine, Not Warm

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

4. Impress Your Friends with Smart Technology

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

5. Use Reusables

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

6. Change Your Driving

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

7. Switch Into the Fast Lane

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

8. Purge Your Paper

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

9. Do a Digital Diet

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

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

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

Best Warm Places to Escape to in 2016

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

Desert 

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

Death Valley, California

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

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

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

Grand Canyon, Arizona 

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

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

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

Beach

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

Turks and Caicos Islands, Caribbean

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

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

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

Phuket, Thailand

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

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

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

City

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

Oahu, Hawaii

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

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

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

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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

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

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

Sunny Retreats

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

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

Merrill Gardens: Designing Senior Communities that Forge Intergenerational Connections

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

The Importance of Connectivity

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

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

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

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

The Design of Connectivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surprising Ways Seniors Can Stay Fit in the Winter

senior-fitness-activitiesThe weather outside is frightful, and all you want to do is snuggle on the couch with your warm blankets and a mug of hot chocolate. But after all of those Christmas cookies you ate this holiday season, you know it’s time to get up and moving.

The good news is that being healthy doesn’t have to mean going outside and turning into an ice cube. It’s time to get motivated with some surprising ways to stay active while staying out of the cold.

Playing Games

Who says staying active can’t be fun? The best way to exercise is to forget you’re exercising. Grab some friends and play games that keep you moving.

  • Indoor Mini-GolfChallenge your coordination and visualization skills with miniature golf. The game may be small, but it is big fun. Even regular golfers will be challenged by mini-golf’s clever obstacles.
  • BowlingWhen’s the last time you put on a pair of bowling shoes? Head over to your local lanes and get laced up. Choose your ball, knock over some pins, and cheer your friends as they try to beat your high score.

Taking it Easy

Need to keep your workouts low impact? It’s all about getting creative with where you exercise.

  • Aqua DanceSwimming is the best low-impact activity. Find a heated indoor pool that offers aqua dance or water aerobics classes. Water aerobics is a surprisingly great workout. You will dance and swim your way to better health.
  • Window shoppingThe mall is the perfect place to take a walk on a winter day. Stay warm while enjoying the sights. People watch, look in the windows and maybe try on a few things. Even if you don’t buy a thing, you will have spent the day burning calories without even realizing it.

Staying Home

You don’t have to go very far to start getting in shape—you don’t even have to leave your living room.

  • Video gamesVideo games don’t have to mean sitting on the couch. Wii and the Xbox Kinect were made to get you moving. Play a wide variety of games, from tennis to shuffleboard to bowling. Or grab Dance Dance Revolution and dance to your heart’s content—all without leaving your living room.
  • CleaningCleaning is very few people’s idea of a good time. Why not make a game out of it? Put on your favorite upbeat song and see how much you can get done before the song ends. Make a playlist of your favorite tunes and you’ll find yourself dancing and singing your way to a cleaner house and better health.

Being Adventurous

Don’t let staying inside be an excuse to be lazy. Stretch your limits, push your boundaries, and get your blood pumping while staying indoors.

  • Rock climbingThere’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get from scaling a wall and looking back down at the ground. Revel in your body’s power with an amazing arm and back workout. Rock climbing gyms have walls of different levels so that you can increase the challenge whenever you’re ready.
  • Ballroom danceHave you ever watched Dancing with the Stars and wished you could dance like them? Head over to your local ballroom studio and sign up for classes—no partner required. Before you know it, you will be twirling around the ballroom to your favorite songs and dancing the night away.

Getting Fit

Making your body strong doesn’t have to mean going to the gym and lifting weights.

  • Tai ChiTai chi is a martial art that is often called “meditation in motion”. You will do slow, flowing movements that stretch out your muscles and promote better balance and body awareness. Focusing on the movement will clear your mind and help you to forget your worries. 
  • PilatesPilates is a favorite of celebrities and dancers—and for good reason! It focuses on strengthening your core and maintaining lean muscles. It can be done with equipment and without, and can be adjusted to different experience levels. It will increase your strength and flexibility without feeling like a traditional gym workout.

Having Fun

Exercise doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Get creative. Find something that you enjoy–something that just so happens to keep you active. You’ll be having so much fun that you’ll surprise yourself with how strong you’ve gotten and how much better you feel.

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.

Joan’s Journey: That’s a Wrap!

joans-journey-last-postWelcome Joan’s Journeyers. Four years ago, on Dec. 22, 2011, Joan’s Journey to Senior Housing launched as a regular feature in SeniorHomes.com‘s blog. Many roads were traveled, chronicled in my 38 Joan’s Journey’s posts. The journey included a decision to relocate, sell a condo, downsize, pack, move across country, and settle comfortably into life in a senior community.

Joan’s Journey has arrived at its destination—Holiday Villa East, an independent living residence in Santa Monica, California. With every arrival comes an ending. My Joan’s Journey chronicling concludes with this post. Thanks to SeniorHomes.com, its management and editors for the awesome opportunity to share my journey with its online readers. Most of all, thank you Journeyers for your readership, questions, comments, and suggestions.

The goal of Joan’s Journey was to share the realities of my lifestyle changing from living alone in a condominium in a city suburbs to sharing life in a +55 residential community. With the assistance of the helpful SeniorHomes.com family advisors, I identified the appropriate community to meet my personal and family criteria, as well as geographic location and budget requirements. The journey was not an easy one. Stumbling blocks and roadblocks appeared along the way. But as we near 2016, I am living happily in senior housing that is close to my children and grandchildren. The New Year beckons with many exciting journeys ahead.

As producers say in nearby Hollywood, “That’s a wrap” for Joan’s Journey to Senior Housing. For further conversations and sharing, visit my Joan London Facebook page, where Journeyers may message—and I will respond. From the staff of SeniorHomes.com and myself, thank you for being part of Joan’s Journey. We hope that by chronicling my path, we have helped families understand the road to successful senior housing. Happy New Year, and remember to enjoy the trip day by day.

Joan London is a freelance medical and social service writer who specializes in topics on aging. London moved from Maryland to California to enjoy life in a senior living community and enhance her quality of life by living closer to her children.