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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 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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National Napping Day: The Perfect Way to Recover from Daylight Savings Fatigue

Tuesday , March 9 , 2021

National Napping Day: The Perfect Way to Recover from Daylight Savings Fatigue

This weekend, people across the country will “spring ahead” and set their clocks forward an hour in observance of daylight savings. What’s that mean? As DST starts, the sun will rise and set later than it did the day before. While the change, in theory, helps us make better use of daylight, it also leaves many people feeling drowsy.

Luckily, the following day has officially been designated “National Napping Day,” and it’s the perfect time to catch some much-needed Zs.

Types of Naps

You may have thought that a nap is simply a quick afternoon sleep session, but as it turns out, naps can be categorized depending on the function they serve. According to the Sleep Foundation, there are five main types:

  •  Recovery Nap: Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling tired the following day. If you are up late or have interrupted sleep one night, you might take a recovery nap the next day to compensate for sleep loss.
  • Prophylactic Nap: This type of nap is taken in preparation for sleep loss. For example, night shift workers may schedule naps before and during their shifts in order to prevent sleepiness and to stay alert while working.
  • Appetitive Nap: Appetitive naps are taken for the enjoyment of napping. Napping can be relaxing and can improve your mood and energy level upon waking.
  • Fulfillment Nap: Children have a greater need for sleep than adults. Fulfillment naps are often scheduled into the days of infants and toddlers and can occur spontaneously in children of all ages.
  • Essential Nap: When you are sick, you have a greater need for sleep. This is because your immune system mounts a response to fight infection or promote healing, and that requires extra energy. Naps taken during illness are considered essential.

How to Take the Best Nap 

If you want to get the most out of your nap, there are some Do’s and Don’ts. Napping at the wrong time of day or for too long can leave you unable to sleep later at night. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Keep naps short. Aim to nap for only 10 to 20 minutes. The longer you sleep, the more likely you are to feel groggy after you wake up.
  • Nap in the early afternoon. Napping after 3 pm can interfere with sleep later at night.
  • Create a restful environment. A dark, quiet room at a comfortable temperature is best. Blackout curtains can help eliminate unwanted light, while a white noise machine can drown out any household commotion.

Benefits of Napping

There’s no need to feel lazy for indulging in daytime sleep. As it turns out, a nap can have dozens of health benefits including improved memory, better job performance, and increased alertness. Here are a few more:

  • It may lift your mood. Experts say that napping, or simply laying down for an hour, can help improve your outlook on life, whether or not you actually fall asleep.
  • It can ease stress. Just 30 minutes of sleep can help decrease anxiety and improve your immune health.
  • Sleep is good for your heart. One study found that people who napped for 45 to 60 minutes had lower blood pressure after going through mental stress.
  • Naps can help you sleep better at night. Although it seems counterintuitive, sleeping during the day, combined with light to moderate exercise, can improve nighttime rest.

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