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The Surprising Ways Gardening Can Benefit Seniors

Monday , June 15 , 2020

The Surprising Ways Gardening Can Benefit Seniors

Exercise is an important part of daily life for seniors, and its benefits are well-documented. A regular fitness routine not only helps improve strength but can also enhance mental health and delay the onset of many age-related diseases.

Despite these benefits, many older adults don’t love the idea of going to the fitness center several times a week. We get it – exercise can get boring.

Luckily, fitness doesn’t have to mean aerobic exercise or weight training. It can be as simple as puttering around in the garden!

Studies show that spending time weeding, planting, and sowing is an excellent way to boost mental and physical health. It stimulates the senses, provides physical activity, and helps us reconnect with nature.

Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of gardening for seniors – and how to best grow your own garden.

How Does Gardening Benefit Seniors?

 

  1. It lowers stress. Studies have shown that gardening can lower levels of the stress-producing hormone cortisol and raise the levels of serotonin, a calming chemical that helps improve mood. Some studies have even linked gardening to a reduction in symptoms of depression. In addition, gardening increases hand-eye coordination, which helps to keep the brain and body in sync.

 

  1. It boosts heart health. Did you know that in the 60–79-year-old age group, 69.1% of men and 67.9% of women have cardiovascular disease? Luckily, studies have found that regular gardening can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 30% for people over 60. Additionally, gardening can help you burn 200 to 400 calories and hour, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

 

  1. It increases mobility. Mobility problems in seniors can stop them from taking part in activities they enjoy and can lead to social isolation and depression. Many older adults begin to limit what they do physically, believing they are saving themselves from injury – but remaining active is the key to good health. Gardening is known to engage lesser-used muscles and to help build strength and mobility.

 

  1. It increases brain health. No one knows exactly what causes Alzheimer’s Disease or how to prevent it, but studies show that positive live choices, such as gardening, can have an impact. In fact, the physical demands, critical thinking skills, and sensory awareness have been shown to reduce the risk of dementia by up to 36%.

 

  1. It encourages healthy eating. There are many reasons why it can be difficult for seniors to stick to a healthy diet. New food aversions. Difficulty chewing. Dietary restrictions. Boredom. The list goes on and on. But growing your own garden makes it easy to access healthy, delicious foods in season – including many you can pluck off the plant and eat on the spot, like snap peas, cherry tomatoes, or berries.

Final Thoughts

Gardening can be an enjoyable activity when the weather is nice, and the benefits are many. One of the best things about gardening for seniors is that it is adaptable for all skill and ability levels – for example, potted plants or raised beds can be used instead of a traditional garden for those who can’t bend or kneel.

Know your limits, take breaks as necessary, but – most of all – HAVE FUN!

Happy gardening!

Posted in: Health

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New Year’s Resolutions for Older Adults

Monday , December 30 , 2020

New Year’s Resolutions for Older Adults

As we head into the new year, it’s an excellent time to reflect on your life. Are you happy with your health? Do you see your friends and family as often as you’d like? Do you have hobbies and activities you enjoy?

Setting new year’s resolutions may seem like a young man’s game but having goals can be especially beneficial for older adults.

In 2020, consider a resolution that focuses on eating better, improving your social life, or learning a new skill:  It will improve your wellbeing for the year to come and far beyond.

The following are our suggestions for new year’s resolutions that every senior citizen should consider:

Make Time for Daily Exercise

Studies have shown that staying physically active is the key to healthy aging. Although experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, any amount is beneficial. If you’re just getting started, consider a quick walk around the block – or even around your backyard.

Take up a New Hobby

For many older adults, boredom and loneliness are a real threat. Taking up a new hobby or activity can help alleviate social isolation, as well as keeping the mind and the body active. There are plenty of activities for individuals of all capabilities – from art and crafts to exercise – so there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Explore Volunteer Opportunities

During your senior years, you may have more time to dedicate to charitable causes than you did in your younger years. Doing so can provide a great sense of fulfillment in your life. Volunteering provides a way to give back to the community and support causes that are personally meaningful to you. Bonus: It also connects you to like-minded individuals and introduces new opportunities for friendship and socialization!

Learn a New Technology

Learning a new technology isn’t just a great workout for your brain – it also helps build a connection to the younger generation. Today, everything is done on a computer or cell phone. Learning how to use social media or online chat can help bridge the gap between you and your grandkids or other young family members. In addition, many new technologies can help keep senior citizens safe and healthy (the Apple Watch can do everything from detecting a fall to monitoring heart rate!).


Do Some Traveling

Whether it’s a trip across the world or a trip across the city, travel can enhance the lives of seniors in many ways. Studies have found that just three days of vacation can lower stress levels, even after vacation ends – plus, travel keeps seniors moving and active, and introduces more opportunities for socialization. There are dozens of tour groups that cater specifically to older adults – and if you’re unsure about travelling alone, a professional caregiver can be utilized to provide companionship and safety.

Spend More Time with the Grandkids

Research shows that grandparents who babysit their grandchildren live longer than those who do not care for anyone. In fact, they have up to a 37% lower mortality rate than people of the same age who aren’t responsible for others. Even if you don’t care for a grandchild or other young person, simply spending time with them regularly can help. And can you really think of a better way to spend your retirement??

Final Thoughts

Lots of people make New Year’s resolutions every year and don’t stick with them. This year, vow to do something that’s good for you and make it happen! Resolutions can be fun. Find a class you want to take, plan a trip, or book a monthly lunch with a friend.

Tell us: What do you have planned for the New Year that will help improve your health and happiness?

Posted in: Aging

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Is weight training the key to healthy aging?

Monday , August 19 , 2019

Is weight training the key to healthy aging?

Hippocrates said, “That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away.”

As adults steadily move towards old age, it becomes progressively more important to maintain health and fitness through a variety of exercises. More and more, research is showing that strength training exercises in particular are the key to a long and healthy retirement.

On the flipside, if efforts are not made, the age-related loss of muscle mass can become a slippery slope from which it’s hard to recover.

Why is strength training so important? And does that mean other exercises, like walking and stretching, can be ignored? Keep reading to find out!

Why do we lose muscle as we age?

As we get older, people tend to become more sedentary – whether it’s due to health issues, physical limitations, or just plain old fatigue. In addition, as we age:

· Hormone levels change

· Protein requirements alter

· And motor neurons die

Altogether, this can lead to a condition known as Sarcopenia, or the age-related loss of muscle mass. The word literally means flesh loss – from the Greek ‘sarx’ (or flesh) and ‘penia’ (or loss).

This loss of muscle can affect posture, stability, and balance. It is one of the reasons older adults fall so often, but it can be fixed through regular exercise and strength training.

Sarcopenia can begin to affect adults as young as 30 years old, but it’s not until around age 50 that the effects become very noticeable. At that point, muscle mass typically decreases about 30% during the next two decades. Even more dramatic losses begin after the age of 80.

It is important to note that age-related muscle loss can vary greatly from person to person.

Those that were active in their younger years are far more likely to stay fit as they age – that’s why most experts suggest adults start weight training well before they reach middle age.

Signs of sarcopenia

Often, the signs of sarcopenia can be vague.

Symptoms such as feeling physically weaker or suffering from frequent falls might just be attributed to old age or to other health issues. However, if you or a loved one experiences one or more of these signs and can’t explain why, you should talk to a health professional:

· Diminished muscle strength

· Feeling physically weaker over time

· Having more difficulty lifting common objects

· Poor hand grip strength

· Difficulty walking or rising from a seated position

· Becoming exhausted easily and having difficulty carrying out daily tasks

· Unexplained weight loss

Fighting age-related muscle loss

Ultimately, the only way to stay ahead of the aging process is by staying active and fit.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, older people who lift weights can slow or even reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass. In fact, they can actually GAIN strength, as well as better mobility, mental sharpness, and better metabolic health.

Experts say that a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and balance work are the key to preventing or reversing the condition, with a particular emphasis on the strength training portion.

According to one Harvard study, to gain more muscle mass, older adults need to engage in a PRT (progressive resistance training) program. Dr. Thomas Storer, director of the exercise physiology and physical function lab at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says “It should be tailored to the individual with the goals being progression and improvement. It should focus on individual elements like specific exercises, load, repetitions, and rest periods, and should challenge but not overwhelm.”

A typical weight training program might include:

· 8 to 10 exercises that target all the major muscle groups

· sets of 12 to 15 reps, performed at an effort of about 5 to 7 on a 10-point scale

· 2 to 3 workouts per week

Of course, it is best to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Once you’ve been given the go-ahead, a qualified personal trainer can help set up a sequence of exercises tailored to your abilities and can monitor you for safety and technique.

And remember: All of the exercise in the world won’t help if you don’t eat appropriately! Always try to get lots of protein (shoot for 30 grams per meal), check your vitamin D levels, and eat your Omega 3s.

Posted in: Aging, Health

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