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Driving Safety for Older Adults   

Monday , April 19 , 2021

Driving Safety for Older Adults  

Driving a car represents freedom and independence to many older adults. Yet as we age, many of us begin to experience unavoidable physical and mental changes that can affect our ability to safely drive.

It’s vital to be aware of how these changes to your health may impact your driving skills so you don’t risk hurting yourself or others. Keep reading to learn about conditions that may impact your driving and how to deal with them safely:

Trouble Seeing

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, roughly 12% of Americans aged 65 – 74 suffer from severe eye problems as compared to 5% of adults aged 18 – 44. Many experience vision problems so serious, they impact the ability to complete simple daily tasks. This problem is only expected to grow as the baby boomer generation continues to age.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • See your eye doctor every year.
  • If you need glasses or contacts to see far away, always wear them when driving.
  • Avoid driving in the dark, during sunrise and sunset, or during bad weather.

Trouble Hearing 

As we get older, hearing can change. In fact, nearly one in three people between 65 and 74 experience hearing loss. This can impact our ability to hear horns, sirens, or even sounds coming from our own car.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • Have your hearing checked at least every 3 years after age 50.
  • If you have hearing concerns, speak to your doctor.
  • Try to limit sound, such as music or podcasts, inside your car.

Slow Reaction Time and Reflexes 

As we age, loss of brain connections slows reaction time and reflexes. This can make it harder to handle more than one task at a time, more difficult to steer or use foot pedals, and tricky to respond quickly.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you.
  • Start braking early when you need to stop.
  • Avoid rush hour and heavy traffic areas when possible.
  • Stay in the right hand lane when on the highway.

Stiff Joints and Muscles 

As we get older, joints get stiff, and muscles weaken. Problems such as arthritis and spinal stenosis can make it more difficult to turn your head, turn the steering wheel, or brake quickly.

To help ensure safe driving:

  • See your doctor if pain or stiffness seem to impact your driving.
  • Be physically active to keep and improve muscle strength and flexibility.
  • Consider hand controls for both the gas and brake pedals.

Memory Loss 

Memory loss is a concern for many people as they grow older. In fact, about 40% of people aged 65 or older have age-related memory impairment. Often, people with memory loss don’t even realize they are having driving problems, so it’s up to family and friends to act. If decision-making skills are impacted, the individual must stop driving. 

More Safe Driving Tips 

  • Take a defensive driving course. Organizations like AARPAmerican Automobile Association (AAA), or your car insurance company can help you find a class near you.
  • Ask your doctor if any of your health problems or medications might make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • Don’t drive when you are stressed or tired.
  • Always wear your seatbelt and make sure your passengers wear their seatbelts, too.
  • Don’t use your cell phone while driving.
  • Avoid distractions, such as eating or chatting.

What if I Have to Stop Driving?

Are you worried that you won’t be able to get around if you can no longer drive? There are more ways to travel than you think! Many areas provide free or low-cost transportation options for senior citizens, religious and civic groups often have volunteers that will drive you, and most senior living communities offer shuttles to supermarkets, doctors, and more.

Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for help finding services near you: 1-800-677-1116 or

https://eldercare.acl.gov

Posted in: Aging

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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!

Posted in: Health

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Brighten the Day for an Isolated Senior

Monday , March 1 , 2021

Brighten the Day for an Isolated Senior

Visits from family and friends are often the only link isolated seniors have to the outside world. Yet now, in the wake of COVID-19, getting together face-to-face is considered unsafe and even dangerous.

Isolation and loneliness – already a problem for so many older adults – have dramatically ramped up worldwide. More than ever, these issues are taking a toll on the homebound, both mentally and physically. In response, we’ve put together this guide with a few ways to help older adults feel a little more connected to the world and their families.

Keep reading for some simple ways to help brighten up someone’s day.

Send a handwritten letter.

COVID-19 has limited our ability to see people face-to-face. Still, notes provide a simple way to maintain a connection – and in the age of email and text messages, receiving a handwritten letter or card in the mailbox is a fun treat. Not much of a writer? Try sending family photographs, interesting articles, or fun recipes instead. It’s more about making an effort than anything else.

Tip: If you want to help even more people, consider sending a note to an organization like Letters of Love. They sends cards and letters to elders all around the world to help ease loneliness.

Organize drive-by visits. 

Almost as soon as COVID-19 hit, people started coming up with new and fun ways to stay connected. One of our favorites is the “drive-by party,” in which loved ones and friends drive down the street honking horns, flying banners, and shouting greetings out the window. Traditionally, these are reserved for birthdays, graduations, and other special occasions, but why not set up a drive-by visit for your homebound loved one? It’s sure to brighten their day!

Try a video chat.

Just because you can’t get together with someone in person doesn’t mean you can’t see them! Phone calls and letters are great, but seeing someone’s facial expressions on a video chat creates a more intimate experience. Most seniors have a smartphone or laptop that can be used for Zoom or Skype. If they are interested in trying a video chat but don’t know how, hundreds of online tutorials can help.

Help them pick up a new hobby or get reacquainted with an old one.

Being stuck inside is a great time to learn a new craft or hone a current skill. From painting to scrapbooking to photography, art is one of the best things a senior can do from the comfort of their home. Many older adults also enjoy things like playing games, reading, doing puzzles, or even dancing. As a fun surprise, sign them up for an online class or club that caters to their interests – it will offer the opportunity to learn something new and a chance to socialize with others.

Run errands or help with chores. 

Many older adults have trouble running errands on their own, even under the best of circumstances. These days, due to social distancing, restrictions placed on businesses, and other factors, it can be even more difficult. So whether you’re picking up takeout and dropping it off or making sure your loved one gets their prescription refill from the pharmacy, the effort is sure to be appreciated.

Final thoughts

Being thoughtful doesn’t require a lot of time, effort, or money. A small, simple gesture is all it takes to let someone know that you’re thinking about them and to brighten their day. Tell us, how do you show your older loved ones that you care?

 

Posted in: Aging

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