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National Senior Health & Fitness Day

Monday , May 24 , 2021

National Senior Health & Fitness Day

On the last Wednesday of May each year, thousands of older adults put on their sneakers and celebrate National Senior Health & Fitness Day. At ComForCare, we encourage all adults aged 65+ to make exercise a part of their daily routine!

Seniors benefit in many ways from exercise, including stress reduction and stronger muscles and joints. Even better? “Exercise” doesn’t have to be a 60-minute aerobics class or a 5-mile run. There are countless types of physical activity, and most can be modified to fit physical limitations.

Keep reading for more information on the advantages of exercise for seniors and a few fun ways you can get moving.

Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults

As an older adult, exercise can help you in many ways. Countless studies show that it improves both physical and mental health, which helps us maintain independence as we age. Below are six of the best benefits for aging adults:

Prevent Disease

Exercise improves overall immune function, which is important for seniors as their immune systems are sometimes compromised. Even light physical activity, such as walking, can improve digestive function, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

As we age, our metabolism naturally slows down, and maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging. Regular exercise helps boost your metabolism and build muscle mass, helping your body to burn more calories.

Decreased Risk of Falls

Exercise improves your strength, balance, flexibility, and mobility, which in turn can reduce your risk of falls. Strength training can also help alleviate symptoms of conditions such as arthritis and chronic joint pain.

Improved Cognitive Function

Studies show that regular physical activity can lower the risk of cognitive decline and memory loss, no matter when you begin a routine. In addition, exercise can also help slow the progressions of brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Better Sleep

Quality sleep is vital for your overall health, especially as you get older. Regular activity can help you fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, and wake feeling more refreshed.

Improved Mental Health

Regular exercise can boost endorphins and reduce the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression. Physical activity can also provide an increase in confidence, leading to better self-esteem and more social interaction.

Easy Exercises for Seniors

Want to get started, but not sure what to try? Whether you’re a total beginner or an exercise pro, these activities can help boost your physical and mental health:

Walking. Walking is the perfect way to get started with an exercise routine. It requires no special equipment, can be done anywhere at any time, and you can move at your own pace.

Water aerobics. Many gyms and fitness centers offer senior-focused water aerobics classes. Working out in the water reduces stress on the body’s joints while still providing strength and cardio fitness.

Tai chi. This martial arts-inspired system can increase balance, stability, and flexibility in older adults. Practiced regularly, it can also help reduce pain in those suffering from conditions such as Fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis.

Yoga. Yoga combines a series of poses with breathing and can be adapted to suit many different fitness levels. It is known to improve strength, flexibility, and balance.

Senior fitness classes. Many senior living communities and gyms/fitness centers offer classes tailored to meet the needs of older adults. Exercising with others can not only help improve fitness but can be fun and provide a new way to socialize.

Getting Started

Getting active is one of the best decisions you can make for your overall health as you age but proceed with caution (especially if you’re a newbie). Get medical clearance from your doctor, consider any health concerns, and listen to your body. Now get out there and have fun!

Posted in: Aging

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Monday , May 3 , 2021

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more vital than ever to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles.

For the millions of Americans already living with mental illness, the uncertainty of the pandemic may have caused added stress. And the number of people experiencing symptoms is on the rise. According to recent studies, reports of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased significantly between April and June 2020 compared to the previous year.

These issues can be even worse for older adults, especially those who are isolated or who lack social support. 

Keep reading for more information on mental health issues in older adults and what you can do to help.

What is Mental Health Awareness Month?

Since 1949, Mental Health America has been observing May as Mental Health Month. The event helps spread the word about mental health through media campaigns, awareness activities, local events, and screenings.e

This year, the theme is “Tools 2 Thrive,” and the goal is to provide practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency in any situation. Topics include: 

  • Adapting after trauma and stress
  • Dealing with anger and frustration
  • Getting out of thinking traps
  • Processing big changes
  • Taking time for yourself
  • Radical acceptance

Mental Health and Older Adults

The American population is rapidly aging: approximately 75 million people will be over 65 by 2030. And according to a 2012 study from the Institute of Medicine, about one in five older adults have a mental illness, substance abuse condition, or both. 

It is likely that someone close to you – a friend, family member, or neighbor – is personally impacted or will be in the future.

Here are some ways you can help: 

Identify Risk Factors

Mental health illness can worsen an older adult’s physical health and overall well-being, but conditions such as anxiety and depression are often unrecognized and undertreated. It’s vital to be aware of issues that may leave your older loved ones vulnerable so you can intervene early. 

According to the MHA, common risk factors include: 

  • Chronic medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, and diabetes
  • Overall feelings of poor health
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Side effects of medications (i.e., steroids, antidepressants, stimulants, bronchodilators/inhalers, etc.)
  • Alcohol or prescription medication misuse or abuse
  • Physical limitations in daily activities
  • Stressful life events
  • Adverse or difficult events in childhood

Know the Signs and Symptoms

Mental health illness can be challenging to recognize in older adults because they may show different signs than younger people. It’s important to know what to look for so you can help. Some common indicators include: 

  • Issues with confusion, concentration, or decision-making. Age-related memory loss is expected, to an extent. However, if an older adult starts to repeat themselves several times a day, states the same thing repeatedly, or has trouble concentrating for extended periods, it may be an issue. 
  • Periods of sadness lasting more than two weeks. Everyone feels sad from time to time. If these feelings persist, though, it is wise to see a doctor. 
  • Decrease in appetite or unexplained weight loss. Depression and anxiety can both play a role in appetite.
  • Changes in appearance. A marked decline in personal grooming can be a sign of several different mental health issues. 
  • Social withdrawal. When people struggle with mental health, it can be challenging to be functional in relationships. Keep mindful of loved ones who struggle with social isolation and do your part to try to connect. 
  • Unexplainable physical health problems. Mental health can affect physical health. Headaches, body aches, and feelings of general malaise are common in those with emotional health issues.
  • Unexplained fatigue. Mental illness can impact normal sleep patterns, leading to fatigue, lethargy, and brain fog during the day.

Get Help When Necessary

If you suspect that your older loved one or friend is suffering from mental illness, don’t let them struggle alone. Help them contact their health care provider to evaluate their condition and see what treatments are available. 

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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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