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How Seniors can Socialize Safely in the Wake of COVID-19

Monday , July 13 , 2020

How Seniors can Socialize Safely in the Wake of COVID-19

Stay home as much as possible. That’s what we’ve been hearing for months in the wake of COVID-19.

And for good reason.

Experts believe that coronavirus is mainly spread from person to person – sometimes by people who aren’t even showing symptoms. So, it makes sense to avoid others if you want to avoid getting sick. This advice is especially important for older adults, as the risk for severe infection increases with age.

Unfortunately, avoiding others isn’t as easy as it seems. Staying home all the time and not seeing friends or family members can be emotionally difficult, even for the most introverted among us.

Loneliness and social isolation can have a significant effect on mood and can lead to depression and anxiety. When the condition is more long-term, as is happening now, isolation can lead to more severe health problems, such as memory issues and increased risk of heart attack.

Luckily, there are some fun and easy ways that seniors can help combat feelings of loneliness (while also staying healthy and safe). Here are a few suggestions:

Be Neighborly

Joining your neighbor for a cup of joe isn’t currently an option, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t check in on the people that live nearby. Consider swapping home cooked meals or treats and leaving them on each other’s doorsteps. Or try swapping books and movies in the same manner, and having a weekly phone call to share your thoughts.

Write a Note

Old-fashioned letter writing has fallen out of favor since email and texting have become mainstream. But there’s something to be said for snail mail. These days, when mailboxes are filled with bills and junk, it’s a rare treat to find a note from a friend. Letters don’t have to be lengthy, perhaps just a note to say “hi” or to give an update on your family.

Hit the Streets

Sick of sitting at home? Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get out of the house, and parks and trails are open in most communities. As long as you maintain a distance of at least six feet and wear a mask, you can enjoy a walk or bicycle ride with a friend.

Pick up the Phone

Nothing can replace face-to-face socializing, but a phone or video call are still great options. Call a friend, family member, or someone you haven’t talked to in ages and catch up. Talk about how you’ve been coping with staying at home, what you’ve been cooking, or favorite television shows to help make it through quarantine. Trust us – everyone wants to hear a friendly voice these days!

Virtual Group Activities

Video chats aren’t JUST for chatting. Many activities can be adapted for the virtual realm, including parties, card games, or a simple meal together. Some groups are even offering larger group activities, such as exercise classes or bingo nights, online. Check out Senior Planet, and organization that offers courses, classes, and other programs for older adults online.

A Note on In-Person Visits

While it’s not advisable, many people are choosing to meet with family and friends in real life. If you find yourself in this boat, there are some steps you can take to remain as safe as possible:

  • Delay or cancel your visit if you or your loved one have had symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus within the last 14 days
  • Remember that the more people you interact with, the higher your risk of contracting the virus. Try to keep gatherings as mall as possible
  • Visit with friends outdoors as whenever possible, or sit in a very well-ventilated room
  • Arrange seating to allow for social distancing (at least six feet apart)
  • Don’t shake hands, kiss, or hug
  • Wear a face mask and ask those around you to do the same
  • Wash hands often and limit contact with frequently touched surfaces

Final Thoughts

Social isolation doesn’t have to end in loneliness. There are many fun and creative ways you can use to stay in touch with those you love. Tell us: How have you been maintaining relationships in the wake of COVID-19?

Posted in: Health

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OTC Hearing Aids are on the Horizon

Monday , July 6 , 2020

OTC Hearing Aids are on the Horizon

The mythical over-the-counter hearing aid has always seemed like a unicorn – a magical thing that everyone wants to believe exists, but no one’s ever actually seen.

As countless older adults know, regular hearing aids are extremely expensive and easily lost. Because of this, many people end up going without.

Unfortunately, poor hearing doesn’t just mean strained conversations or a higher volume on the television. It can trigger a landslide of other issues, including social isolation and hastened dementia symptoms.

Recently, however, I’ve been hearing a lot about lower cost hearing aids becoming a viable option. The U.S. is beginning to introduce OTC alternatives to the public. If they work well, they could be a boon for many people. People who, otherwise, can’t afford to take care of their hearing.

Keep reading for a recap of a recent white paper from HomeCare and learn how the dream of affordable hearing aids may soon become a reality:

Traditional Hearing Aids

Authors at HomeCare recently wrote that U.S. markets are beginning to introduce over-the-counter hearing aids to the public, and some models are already available. This fall, the FDA is set to approve and regulate additional less-expensive models.

Traditionally, acquiring a hearing aid is a lengthy process. According to one expert, “Once a person recognizes they have a hearing loss and wants to do something about it, they have to go to their doctor, and often get a referral to an ENT for a hearing test and then they are able to meet with an audiologist. Audiologists are not direct service providers as of yet, most of the time requiring a referral.”

Once all the testing is done, the patient will be advised of their hearing aid options. Typically, hearing aids range from about $3,000 to $5,000 – the more expensive, the more functionality.

Older adults, often on a tight budget, sometimes can’t afford the better models and have to settle for an inferior product. Some can’t afford the litany of doctor appointments in the first place and are left with no options at all.

OTC Hearing Aids 

New over-the-counter options may make it possible for people who couldn’t otherwise afford it to get the hearing aids they desperately need.

Available in two basic tiers, OTC hearing aids will start at under $100 per ear. These will provide sounds amplification with any special bells and whistles. The mid-level product, already available, starts at around $699 and has slightly more functionality than the lowest tier. Companies who sell these have an audiologist on staff, though an exam isn’t necessarily given.

There is hope that both products will qualify as durable medical equipment and, thus, allow the patient to qualify for more reimbursements.

Physician Concerns

Some medical professionals are concerned that the OTC availability of hearing aids will lead to patients missing critical diagnosis.  “There are two important exams that people might receive as part of getting a hearing aid. The first may be the exam carried out by their medical doctor or ear, nose and throat specialist,” they explain. The other is a hearing evaluation conducted by an audiologist. The physician’s exam—also known as medical clearance—is conducted to assess whether any medical conditions may be present. “It helps rule out any medical conditions that may be the underlying cause of the patient’s hearing loss.”

Without a prerequisite hearing exam, serious medical conditions could be completely overlooked.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is this: Thousands of people, previously forced to live a life of half-heard sentiments, will now be able to effortlessly take part in conversation, listen to the radio, or catch up on the evening news. Though they’re not a perfect solution, OTC hearing aids could be a game changer for low-income seniors in the United States.

Posted in: Aging

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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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