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The Surprising Ways Gardening Can Benefit Seniors

Monday , April 12 , 2021

The Surprising Ways Gardening Can Benefit Seniors

This Wednesday, April 14, is National Gardening Day. Whether you grow vegetables, flowers, houseplants, or anything in between, gardening is a fun and healthy hobby!

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

Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of gardening and how to best grow your own:

How Does Gardening Benefit Seniors?

Home gardening has been on the rise since the onset of COVID-19. Why? Because not only is it a great socially-distanced activity, but it helps promote emotional wellness. 

  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.

Need help getting started? In response to the influx of home gardeners during COVID-19, the Rodale Institute is offering a free Victory Garden Starter Kit complete with an Organic Gardening 101 webinar!

Check it out – and don’t forget to share photos of your home garden on our social media pages!

Have fun and happy gardening!

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How Seniors Can Safely Manage Allergy Season

Monday , March 29 , 2021

How Seniors Can Safely Manage Allergy Season

While most of us look forward to the warmer weather that marks the beginning of spring, the time of year comes with severe seasonal allergies for some individuals. 

For older adults, it is imperative to look for signs of springtime sensitivities, such as runny nose, congestion, and itchy eyes. For seniors aged 65+ – especially those with cardiovascular issues – allergies and the medications used to treat them can pose a severe threat. 

Here are some simple tips on managing allergies in the elderly, so you or your older loved one can enjoy the season without the sniffles:

Be Aware of Allergy Symptoms

 Don’t assume that just because you’ve never had allergies before, you can’t suddenly get them. Adult-onset allergies are not unusual, and they’re on the rise in the U.S. 

Learning the symptoms of seasonal allergies is critical to managing them for yourself or your loved ones. Here’s what you should look for: 

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Dark circles under the eyes

Though most of these symptoms may seem harmless, they can cause extreme discomfort and complicate the treatment of other conditions. 

Avoid High-Pollen Days

The amount of pollen in the air can vary from day to day, so plan your time outdoors to avoid exceptionally high pollen counts. Many news services report the daily pollen count during the weather forecast, and you can always find the information online.

If you’re unable to find the information, stick to these basic guidelines: 

  • Stay inside if the weather is warm, dry, or windy
  • The pollen count is usually highest from 5 am to 10 am every day
  • The best time for people with allergies to be outside is after a heavy rainfall

Keep Your House Pollen-Free

During spring, it is nearly impossible to keep your home allergen-free, especially if you spend a lot of time coming and going. Still, there are several things you can do to help keep your home allergy-safe:

  • Avoid opening windows and doors
  • If you get warm, use an air conditioner rather than a fan
  • Vacuum and mop floors frequently
  • Wash your hands and shower often
  • Wear sunglasses when outdoors to help keep irritants out of your eyes
  • Change your clothes after coming in from the outdoors
  • Use the dryer rather than hanging clothes outside

Try Natural Remedies

Although allergy treatment usually involves over-the-counter antihistamines, experts say that adding certain foods to your diet may help alleviate symptoms. From reducing inflammation to boosting the immune system, these snacks may help ease the struggle of seasonal allergies: 

  • Apples, berries, garlic, onions, cabbage, and cauliflower contain quercetin, a bioflavonoid that can help prevent your body’s immune system from releasing histamines
  • Citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, and broccoli contain immune-boosting Vitamin C, which can help shorten the duration of symptoms
  • Fatty fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation
  • Bee pollen can have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties in the body

Final Thoughts

If you or an older loved one have symptoms of seasonal allergies, bring it up with your healthcare provider. Allergies can easily get missed during a fast-paced doctor appointment, and some older adults, such as those with dementia, may not be able to express how they’re feeling on their own. Don’t be afraid to advocate! 

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How Can I Eat Healthy as I Age?

Tuesday , March 16 , 2021

How Can I Eat Healthy as I Age?

In March, people across the country focus on healthy eating in celebration of National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme, Personalize Your Plate, centers on creating nutritious meals based on individual needs and preferences – because no two people are the same.

At ComForCare, we know that no two seniors are the same! We all age differently, and that often means different nutritional goals and needs.

Keep reading to learn more about the history of National Nutrition Month and how you can continue to eat healthfully as you age.

National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It began in 1973 as National Nutrition Week and became a month-long observance in 1980. Each year centers around a different topic focused on nutrition education and information.

This year’s theme, Personalize Your Plate, promotes creating nutritious meals to meet individuals’ cultural and personal food preferences.

According to Su-Nui Escobar, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Miami, Florida, “America is a cultural melting pot, so you can’t expect everyone’s food choices to look the same. Eating is meant to be a joyful experience. As supermarkets increasingly diversify their shelves to meet the needs of their customers, it’s becoming easier to create nutritious meals that align with a variety of cultural preferences.”

Unique Challenges for Older Adults

Developing a healthful eating pattern is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The key is tailoring your favorite foods to meet your individual nutrient needs – including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and minerals. Meeting these nutrition goals is essential at any age, but especially as we grow older.

As our bodies age, they change. For example, you may have noticed that the nightly bowl of ice cream you used to enjoy now gives you indigestion or that having a glass of wine before bed now keeps you up all night. Some of these changes are easy to deal with, but others make it harder for seniors to eat healthy.

Here are just a few of the issues that can make it difficult for an older adult to maintain a balanced diet:

  • Changes to home life, such as suddenly living alone
  • Health issues which can make it harder to chew and swallow food
  • New medications which can change how food tastes, make your mouth dry or take away your appetite
  • Decreased income and less money for groceries
  • Altered sense of smell and taste

Healthy Eating as You Age

These tips from MedlinePlus can help maintain a healthy diet, despite challenges:

  • Eat nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins
  • Avoid empty calories, like soda or alcohol, candy, and baked goods
  • Choose foods that are low in cholesterol and fat
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other clear fluids, eating soups, or snacking on fruits such as watermelon
  • Keep physically active to help stimulate your appetite

Tips for a Custom Eating Plan

Our partner in caregiving, Stein Hospice, is offering a wonderfully informative Zoom seminar on Thursday, March 25th, entitled “Personalize Your Plate: Nutritional Considerations for Older Adults Living with Chronic Illnesses.” The presentation will offer expert tips to customize a healthy eating plan for yourself or your loved one by creating a balanced diet, increasing fluid and protein intake, and incorporating immune-boosting foods into your life. A Q&A will follow.

Register here, or for more information, call 732.649.3502, ext. 104

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