• October 31, 2016 /  Basics

    4 Ways to Stay Active as a SeniorIt’s important for people of all ages to get regular physical activity. Countless studies have shown its positive effects on physical, mental, and emotional health. However, as you age, you might face concerns about injury. You might also wonder what sorts of activities are feasible for you. But staying fit doesn’t need to mean hours at the gym lifting weights! The important thing is to be moving around as much as possible, and to reduce the time you’re sitting.

    A study in 2012 found that those who sat for more than 8 hours a day increase their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by almost 90%! At the same time, a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that those who simply fidgeted while sitting reduced their risk of all-cause mortality. Clearly, it takes less effort than you’d think to stay healthy. The key is to put the effort in and find what works for you! Remember to ask your doctor before embarking on any fitness regime.

    Here are four ways that you can stay active!

    Choose Active Hobbies

    A fun and simple way to stay active is by pursuing specific hobbies. You’ll want to choose ones that get you moving – even if it’s just in your backyard! Gardening is a great choice that many seniors like. Moving from kneeling, sitting, and standing is important for your bones and muscles to keep their strength. Working with your hands promotes brain and physical coordination.

    The best part is, you can make it as comfortable as you like, and go at your own pace. You can buy a kneeling pad to ease some pressure off your knees. You can take a rest as often as you like. Even 5 minutes is great for you! The fresh air will do wonders for your mood as well.

    Other options include knitting, needlework, painting, and scrapbooking. When you think of fitness, these might not come to mind. But the fact is that you’re moving your body, no matter how small the movements are, while engaging the brain. Open your mind to the possibilities!

    Gentle, Low-Risk Exercise

    Yoga, Pilates, Tai chi, and swimming are popular among seniors. They carry little risk of serious injury, and are easy to do in groups, with friends, or at home alone. They’re an excellent option for those who are new to exercise or have concerns about safety.

    • Yoga includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, and is widely practiced for health and relaxation.
    • Pilates is designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture. It also enhances mental awareness.
    • Tai chi is actually a martial art, however it focuses on alleviating stress and anxiety through slow and carefully controlled movements. Tai chi is often practiced in an outdoor setting, and can be quite invigorating!
    • Swimming is a low-impact exercise, with little risk of injury. It’s gentle on your joints while improving muscle tone.

    Use a Buddy System

    Choose a friend or family member to be your buddy and go on walks or other activities with you. It could be your neighbor, your best friend, or even your spouse.  You hold each other accountable, and it’s easier to stay committed that way. They’ll provide you with companionship and encouragement. In turn, you’ll do the same for them.

    Perhaps you can arrange to go on monthly hikes. If possible, it’s highly beneficial to find someone to walk with on a daily basis. Your buddy can even join you in your active hobbies, as discussed above. You can garden or knit together, for example, while enjoying each other’s company. You don’t need to do it alone!

    Senior Group Fitness Classes

    Group classes are like the buddy system, except on a larger scale! They bring a lot of fun and excitement to what might otherwise be considered tedious.  You might be surprised at how many there are specifically for seniors!

    These classes can be found in health clubs, local gyms, recreation departments, YMCAs, community wellness programs, and more. They can utilize anything from basic exercises using handheld weights, to yoga, to cardio. Silver Sneakers (https://www.silversneakers.com) is a popular program, and that’s provided at no cost! AARP and the ICAA have also teamed up to provide a service that’ll help you search for the right program: http://www.icaa.cc/facilitylocator/facilitylocator.asp

    Whatever you choose, the point is to be proactive about your fitness level. Only you and your doctor can decide what type is right for you. However, at any stage in your life there are things you can do to stay healthy and active!

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  • Many of us have heard of or even experienced a family conflict at the bedside of a very sick loved one. Maybe you have read stories in the news about family members disagreeing about whether to continue Mom’s aggressive care or to let her have a natural ending without medical intervention. Neither side of the argument might be wrong, but the big question is: “What would Mom have wanted?”

    Such conflicts may be more easily managed or even minimized with a little planning and conversation ahead of time. In fact, according to a survey conducted by The Conversation Project, more than 90% of 2,073 Americans aged 18+ believe that having a conversation on end-of-life matters with loved ones is important. But only around 30% have actually done so.

    Discussing options, decisions, and wishes about end-of-life care can make a big difference during crises. The benefits to expressing wishes about end-of-life care include:

    • Giving loved ones a chance to understand important end-of-life care wishes for the future whether it is related to a progressive illness or older age
    • Removing the burden from caregivers and loved ones, who might not agree with one another when making certain end-of-life care decisions
    • Helping doctors and family members make vital healthcare decisions if a dying loved one becomes unable to make decisions for him or herself

    By having an end-of-life care conversation, you can establish comfort and trust with those in charge of your care. It may offer you and your loved ones more peace of mind than you might expect.

    Why It’s Important

    In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 126 participants—including 48 dialysis patients, 40 people with HIV, and 38 patients in long-term care facilities—answered a series of in-depth, open-ended questions about quality end-of-life care.

    Survey answers were analyzed and organized into the following 5 main categories representing what study participants cared about most:

    • Receiving adequate pain and symptom management
    • Avoiding inappropriate prolongation of dying
    • Achieving a sense of control
    • Relieving burden for caregivers, family members, and others
    • Strengthening relationships with loved ones

    How would you answer the question as to what quality end-of-life care is? What would matter most to you? It can help to jot some of your thoughts down.

    Having A Conversation with Loved Ones

    If you or your loved one is advanced in age or is managing a chronic, life-threatening or serious illness that will worsen over time, having on open and honest dialogue with loved ones, caregivers and family members is a good way to ensure that end-of-life wishes are known. Of course it can be difficult to discuss this topic—your loved ones may not want to face the sensitive topic of the uncertain future. Still, it’s important to talk about it.

    There is no right or wrong way to have the discussion—and there is never a wrong time to bring it up, as long as it’s done ahead of a crisis. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:

    • Take the time to think about what’s important to you—don’t assume that loved ones will know exactly what you want. What are your thoughts on the type of medical care you would like to receive and the extent of life-saving efforts you would wish for (e.g., CPR, artificial breathing, artificial feeding, full life-support)?
    • Discuss your end-of-life concerns with the healthcare team to learn more about your options. If you are managing a condition, ask: How long will the end-of-life journey be? How much pain and suffering will there be? How will the condition affect your family?
    • Communicate your wishes to your family. Your loved ones may disagree about certain options but that’s okay. You may need several talks. It’s important to start the discussion before a crisis occurs
    • Ask yourself: What has to be done to get personal affairs in order (e.g., finances, home)? Do the wishes need to be put in writing, is a living will needed?
    • Think about who you would want to help you make decisions about your care, in the case that you are not able to do so yourself

    Remember that making end-of-life care decisions may be easier for you and your family with a little preparation and communication. So take the time now to ensure that your last wishes are known and that your quality of life during those moments will be supported.

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