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December 22, 2019 Senior Lifestyle

Moving elderly parents can be a challenging and emotional task for all parties involved. Here is how you can approach the move with care, sensitivity, and organization.

The largest group of homeowners in the United States are 65 years of age and older, and according to a Berkeley Economic Review, baby boomers are both living longer and decidedly staying longer in their homes. Perhaps your parents are among those who have lived in their homes for decades. Here, they have raised children and spent years building a collection of art, furniture, and collectibles. They have also made lifelong friends. 

Today, mom and dad are having trouble keeping up with the two-story, four-bedroom house you grew up in. Navigating the stairs to the bedroom is now difficult, and the area rugs they have collected over the years have become trip hazards. You think they would be better off in a smaller, one-level home where they would be safe and have less to manage. Assisted living or moving in with an adult child may also be considerations.

Relocating aging parents from their memory-filled home to a smaller place in a new community can be a challenge. Particularly when mom and dad may not be ready to embrace the idea just yet, even when their adult children think it’s the best thing for them! 

A Thoughtful Conversation

The prospect of downsizing can be difficult for seniors to wrap their heads around. The thought of leaving a family home can be emotional to discuss. Broaching the topic early, and before your loved one(s) are in crisis, will make for a smoother process in reaching a conclusion your mom or dad will feel comfortable with. 

If siblings are involved, discuss ideas together before approaching your parents, so everyone is on the same page. Research alternative living options and affordability so they don’t have to come up with viable options on their own. It will be necessary to know whether they can stay in the same neighborhood to be close to friends and what’s familiar, or if they’ll need to move a distance to accommodate needs.

Present your parents with ideas and information without actually implementing anything, or saying “We think you should…” It’s important that mom and dad feel like they are in control of the decisions. Putting pressure on them will most likely be counterproductive; guiding them rather than directing them will make propositions less intimidating.

Downsizing for Seniors: Task of Decluttering and Organization

Whether your parents are downsizing to a smaller home, moving to assisted living or have decided that there really is no place like home, decluttering and organizing will be necessary. Downsizing is no small task, and doing too much at once can be overwhelming for anyone, particularly your aging parents. 

Here are some tips for keeping organized while moving elderly parents:

  • Create a calendar to outline all aspects of each project, with dates for completion. This will avoid confusion when moving from one task to another.
  • Plan on tackling one room at a time. Start with the rooms that are seldom used; this is usually where most of us store the stuff we use the least.
  • Sort closets and belongings into categories and label boxes: Move, Sell, Toss, Donate, and Pass Along. Use different color stickers for each category for easy recognition later.
  • Break big projects down into three-hour sessions to avoid “decision fatigue.”
  • Make culling a social event. Play music, have drinks and snacks available and be sure to entertain your loved ones with a walk down memory lane if they want to reminisce. 
  • Collect and keep important papers in one location, such as: deeds, wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, medical records (including contact information for medical caregivers, medications, and dosages), birth certificates and passports. Be sure all family members know where they are kept.
  • Have grown children claim their keepsakes. This includes diplomas, photo albums, trophies, and any items they may have stored in the home over the years.
  • Create a home inventory on a spreadsheet, or take photos of family keepsakes mom and dad will want to pass along to their children (ie. furniture/antiques/china). Put this information in a shared location like Google Drive or Dropbox. This will help when siblings decide who will take what.
  • If your loved one wishes you to have a certain piece of furniture or china, take it happily, whether you want it or not. It will make your parents happy for you to have it. 
  • Save the more emotional items for last, like photo albums and loose photos if they haven’t been scanned. This kind of decision making can be draining and takes time and can be saved for a rainy day. 
  • Make a floor plan with measurements of the new space. Determine which pieces of furniture have the most sentimental value, and where they will work in the new location.

Making A New Home Feel Like Home

Recreating the feel of the home they are leaving can ease the strain of moving to new accommodations. Offer assistance in unpacking and settling in by hanging pictures and arranging the furniture so that it has a warm and welcoming feel. Unpack boxes with bedding and bathroom items first, and prioritize these rooms so they are able to continue routines uninterrupted. 

  • Enlist close friends and family to help move them in. This will expedite the process of unpacking, organizing, removing boxes, and will make settling in easier for mom and dad.
  • Or, arrange for a friend to entertain your loved one on moving day. While they’re out, unpack as much as possible to ensure that your loved one’s new space is ready when they return.
  • Make sure the TV, Wi-Fi, and all utilities are up and running before the move.
  • Fill the fridge with necessities and have dishware and utensils ready. This way, mom and dad do not have to worry about shopping and preparing meals immediately.

Wherever your parent(s) are moving to a smaller home, a retirement community, assisted living, or with an adult child, the hope is to make the transition as seamless as possible. Make the move manageable by breaking the process down into increments, being patient with your loved one(s), and being prepared will minimize stress for your parents and the family involved in the move.

Think positively! Once your loved one(s) are moved and settled in, they may feel downsizing at this point in their life was the best decision to have made.


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December 8, 2019 Senior Lifestyle

The holidays can be stressful for senior citizens due to the common need for travel. Minimize the hardship of taking a plane, train, or car during this busy time of year with our holiday travel tips for seniors.

Trains, planes, and automobiles: The holidays are approaching which means that droves of travelers will hit the road to be with family and friends. It is the most wonderful time of year, catching up with loved ones and enjoying the delights of the season, however, getting to your destination can be a stress-inducing affair. 

For some older adults and retirees, having fewer time constraints and more flexibility can make traveling easier to navigate. For the infrequent traveler or a senior with medical conditions, dealing with crowds, lines, inclement weather, and potential delays is about as joyous as a toothache… unless you plan!  

Holiday Travel Tips for Seniors

If you or your loved one will be traveling during the holiday season, being fully aware of and preparing for unforeseen occurrences can make for a much less stressful travel experience, and the start to an enjoyable vacation.  

Below are a few travel tips for the senior traveler, to help you feel confident about your trip and your time spent with loved ones over the holiday 

Check-In With Your General Practitioner Or Relevant Specialist 

Before traveling, senior travelers should make an appointment with their GP or relevant specialist to ensure they are in good health, up-to-date on medications, and are fit to travel. The common cold and the flu are more prevalent during the winter months, and exposure in close quarters, like in an airplane or train, puts older adults at higher risk for illness. Whether you or your loved one will be traveling domestically or internationally, vaccinations or a flu shot may be recommended a few weeks prior to departure.   

Medications: Before you leave home, make sure you have a copy of important medical information and a list of medicines. If you are taking large amounts of medications with you, you may need a letter of explanation from your doctor. 

  • Pack enough medication to exceed the number of days you will be away from home. 
  • Take along a pillbox with compartments for different days of the week. Being away from home and a routine could make you more likely to forget to take your medication.
  • Travelers should always have several days’ worth of their essential medications in their carry-on bag, should your checked luggage go missing for a day or two. 
  • If you wear prescription eyewear, it is always a good idea to have an extra pair packed in your suitcase.

Making Arrangements 

Special Accommodations: If you or your loved one has mobility concerns, all airlines are required to offer specific accommodations for people with disabilities. Airlines must provide passengers with assistance, including wheelchairs or other guided assistance, to board, deplane or connect to another flight. 

Request seating accommodations to meet disability-related needs, as well as assistance loading and stowing assistive devices. Service animals are permitted (with possible restrictions) in the cabin portion of the aircraft, including those for emotional support. Documentation may be required to provide the authenticity of the needs of the traveler.

Contact your travel provider at least two days before your departure date to plan for select assistance options.

Book non-stop flights: When possible, book non-stop flights rather than one with connections. Layovers can cause extra strain when moving with carry-on bags, and when navigating multiple airports. If there is no way around connecting flights, allow enough time between legs. This way, you won’t be rushed getting to the connecting gate.

Select an aisle seat: One of the most critical risks for senior travelers is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or what has been dubbed “economy-class syndrome.” DVT is when an abnormal blood clot forms in a large vein, typically in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis. DVT can be precipitated by prolonged sitting during travel. Older adults, people who have had surgery in the four weeks prior to travel, patients undergoing cancer  treatment, and those with palliative stages of cancer are at higher risk for developing DVT. 

Seniors and other susceptible travelers should:

  • Stand and stretch as much as possible and do frequent seated, lower leg exercises.
  • Avoid sitting with your legs crossed.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid sedative medications.
  • Wear compression stockings on long trips. Compression stockings improve blood flow by applying gentle pressure around the ankle.

Consider Travelers Insurance: Travelers insurance is important for any traveler, but maybe more valuable to us as we age. Planning for the unexpected, such as illness, falls, lost medication, or a trip to the hospital while away, is not paranoia, but an action that can provide peace of mind. 

Most carriers offer a variety of insurance options to customers, which can help cover medical, baggage loss, and cancellation costs. Speak to your travel provider or trusted agent about your options.

Maintaining Your Health While Traveling

Staying healthy can be a challenge over the holiday season, particularly if you are away from home. We all tend to indulge (perhaps overindulge) in rich foods, snacks, and spirited drinks. For seniors who have dietary restrictions, it can be particularly stressful if healthy options are hard to find. 

If you or your loved one has dietary guidelines, remember to:

  • Keep healthy options available such as fruit, vegetables, and other low sodium foods.
  • Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration. Make sure water is always available at home, shopping, and traveling; a refillable water bottle is an excellent option.  
  • Consider sparkling cider or other non-alcoholic drinks. Alcohol can impair functions for some seniors, and certain medications should not be taken with it.
  • Keep exercising! Between activities and all of those meals, bundle up if it’s cold and get out for a walk. If it is too cold or icy, head to the mall! Wear comfortable and supportive footwear, do a few laps, and enjoy the festivities!

Whether you or your loved one is traveling by car, train, or plane, the experience can be exhausting, and he/she will probably need to rest upon arrival. Between the parties, shopping and other social activities, carve out time for relaxation. The holidays can be a hectic time of year, but knowing your loved one’s abilities, as well as limitations, can reduce levels of stress, allowing for fun and merriment with family and friends. 

What are your favorite holiday travel tips?


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December 1, 2019 Senior Lifestyle

In American culture, “retirement” is considered to be a stage in our lives when we may be less mentally or physically equipped to continue contributing to society. Once we reach the legal retirement age of 62 to 67 years old, we are often expected to cease working at our full-time jobs. But why should we?

For some, the prospect of retirement is a welcome opportunity to slow down after decades of work. Others find the loss of their daily job thrust upon them; a disruption to what has been the norm for most of their lives. With longer lifespans, people are healthier and live well into their eighties, some with the assets, the wherewithal, and the willingness to continue working in some capacity.

Sharing our skills and experiences in the public or private sector is, in large part, how we identify ourselves. It’s also how others recognize us. Consequently, when it’s time to retire, we are left asking, “who am I now?” or, “what do I do next?” Seeing ourselves as competent and useful, and sharing our expertise, is what keeps us vibrant.

Benefits of Working After Retirement

Having a daily routine that provides a sense of purpose and direction can contribute to overall good physical and mental health. Continuing meaningful work, whether it’s a paid part-time job or volunteering, can provide several benefits:

  • Feelings of accomplishment and recognition
  • The satisfaction of problem-solving and learning new things
  • A sense of vitality and productivity
  • A boost in self-esteem through the use of our strengths and knowledge

Lawrence Miller of Udemy asserts, “Americans need to face the reality that systems like Social Security and Medicare will collapse if every boomer calls it quits at the “nonsensical” age of 65. There’s zero reason to stop sharing if you’re physically and mentally able to give.”

So, how can you share knowledge and experience, and discover new opportunities for growth and experimentation after retirement?

Finding Senior Jobs After Retirement

Workers 65 and older are becoming a larger share of the nation’s workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these older workers will constitute the fastest-growing segment of the workforce from 2014 to 2024. Many seniors decide to continue working because they enjoy the work and have harnessed a high level of expertise. Others (almost 19%) say they need to work at least part-time beyond the traditional retirement age due to increased living expenses.

Many retired seniors would like to work in some capacity but find it difficult to connect with employers. This is despite having valuable work experience and knowledge. Whether the goal is to supplement income, find a new challenge, or to connect with new people, identifying companies best suited for older workers can be challenging.

While retirement age parameters continue to be favored by many companies and organizations, there has been a move to beat “age bias” through advocacy amongst “age-friendly” employers. Older workers bring valuable traits such as knowledge, maturity, reliability, productivity, a strong work ethic, and flexibility with schedules and pay.

Companies like RetirementJobs.com, affiliated with Boston’s Age Strong Commission, are helping older workers with skills and expertise find companies who are age-friendly employers. They provide services such as resume critique, as well as career advice in areas like finding a job, the benefits of temp work, working while retired, self-employment and retirement dreams jobs.

Volunteer Opportunities for Older Adults

Retirement has come and you are ready to pursue your hobbies, exercise, and travel. Scheduled meetings, early alarms, and punching a time clock are happily, things of the past, but you miss being involved. Working after retirement, full- or part-time, may not fit into this new lifestyle, but you would still like to share your skills, passions, and expertise.

“Giving Back” can come in the form of charitable contributions, working in the nonprofit world, or volunteering. This allows you to put your skills and expertise to work to help others. Many retirees turn to volunteering as a way of making an impact on their community. Doing so can re-establish a sense of identity and purpose.

Not only does volunteering benefit the organization, community, and people you are serving, but it can also be rewarding for you, as the volunteer. Given you choose the right charity and role for yourself, volunteering has proven benefits to physical and emotional well-being. Research has shown that older volunteers report decreased mortality rates, lower rates of depression, fewer physical limitations, and higher levels of well-being.

Related:
Stress and Aging: Recognizing & Managing Your Senior’s Symptoms

Unfortunately, with retirement, many seniors lose their social connections and say they lack companionship. Almost two-thirds of Senior Corps volunteers (67%) reported feeling less isolated after becoming involved in community service or civic engagement. Meaningful social interactions fill empty time with positive activities and can reintroduce a sense of purpose in life.

If you are looking for ways to fill some time, connect with others, make a social impact, and exercise your intellectual muscle, volunteering could be for you. Every community needs and relies on the involvement of volunteers. When selecting your charity or organization, make sure it aligns with your interests, values, and beliefs. Yes, you would like to help, but the opportunity needs to be fulfilling for you, too.

Volunteering in Boston

If you live in the Boston area, you may know that the city prides itself on being “Age Strong.” Boston’s Mayor Martin Walsh says, “our older residents are the heart of the city, and we look forward to serving their needs and drawing on their tremendous strength.”

Volunteer opportunities are plentiful in the Boston area. Seniors are encouraged and invited to share their accumulated wisdom, skills, and experience in places that offer cultural, educational, medical, and other services in both the public and private sectors. Visit the Age Strong Commission website to see a complete list of exciting opportunities like the ones listed below:

  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • JFK Family Services
  • Museum of Science
  • MEMORY Care
  • YMCA Roxbury
  • Covenant House

Retirement can take on many shapes; there is no one-size-fits-all. There are ways to achieve a successful post-retirement life with some research, creativity, and confidence in your skillset. Meaningful work, whether paid or on a volunteer basis, can be a way to access confidence and happiness. The beauty of retirement is that you can decide when, where, and how you would like to work in your golden years.


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November 2, 2019 Senior Lifestyle

As we age, it is more important than ever to be cognizant of the foods we put into our bodies and how they relate to our brain and heart health. You may remember when your parents advised that you eat your fruit and vegetables because they were good for you. Or when they suggested that healthy eating would make us smarter. Back then, it may have seemed like an exaggeration. Fast forward fifty years, and what do you know… they were right! 

Eating the right foods such as fruit, vegetables, fish, grains, and yes, even chocolate, not only does a body good, but certain foods are especially beneficial in protecting the brain, nerve cells and blood vessels from the damage of aging. A diet rich in the proper nutrients will not only support brain and heart health but will boost your alertness, memory, and mood. It sounds like a “no-brainer!”

The Struggle To Eat Healthy

We all want delicious, simple, affordable, and sometimes quick meals. However, figuring it all out is where it can get dicey. People are busier today than ever before, and our lifestyles are such that we may feel challenged in maintaining a healthy balance for eating and living. And that doesn’t change as we grow older and perhaps lack the energy to be creative in the kitchen.

Working long hours, being housebound due to illness or lack of mobility, living in the city without a car, or simply not being able to cook are all factors that do not have to be obstacles when it comes to getting the right foods on the table.

Below are a few tips to help you incorporate better habits when it comes to meal planning, food selection, and smart eating as you age. With some of these suggestions, you and your loved ones can enjoy a nutritionally sound diet that is easy to assimilate into a busy schedule, and enjoyable enough to sustain for years to come …or rather the rest of your life!

Let’s start with “brain foods”, or “smart foods.” They are smart for a reason. They have tremendous benefits for both brain and heart health, most with properties that combat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and high blood pressure, and they are delicious!

Best Foods for Brain and Heart Health

Fruits and Vegetables

Spinach and leafy greens. These nutrient-dense vegetables are rich in magnesium and full of antioxidant power. Veggies like swiss chard, collard greens, and spinach are high in folate, B12, and B6 vitamins, which are required to break down homocysteines, which are a normal part of protein metabolism. High levels of homocysteines are linked with cognitive decline, heart disease, and dementia.

Try This: Line your plate with a handful of arugula before placing the entree on top; mix a cup of baby spinach into whole-grain pasta; throw a handful of spinach with fruit in a smoothie (you won’t even taste it!).

Blueberries. Blueberries offer many health benefits. They are full of antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory compounds, and may improve memory loss. Blueberries are also known to have a positive effect on arteries intricate in blood vessels in the brain, lowering the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Try This: Mix blueberries (and other mixed dark berries) into a smoothie; throw berries on top of your morning cereal; top a salad with blueberries and nuts. 

Oranges. Your body cannot make Vitamin C, but it is essential for better eyesight and healthy brain cells. Oranges are also rich in flavonoids, shown to improve memory and cognition.

Try this: Fresh oranges with breakfast instead of concentrate; eat an orange instead of a cookie – it will naturally feel like a dessert!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Salmon. Fatty fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids. Higher levels of omegas produce higher levels of serotonin, which is a mood-enhancing brain chemical. Studies have shown a positive effect on learning acquisition and memory performance.

Try this: Swap salmon for chicken on top of a salad; have fish tacos instead of beef; have a tuna sandwich instead of turkey or roast beef.

Nuts. Nuts, particularly walnuts and almonds, are rich in antioxidants, vitamin E and omega-3s. They have been found to lower blood cholesterol levels and have significant brain benefits. A Harvard study showed that women who ate more than five ounces per week had a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who did not.

Try this: Raw nuts are a great snack instead of chips; toss almonds into a salad; throw some cashews into a stir fry. 

Olive Oil. High in monounsaturated fats (the “good fats”) and polyphenols. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and has been shown to improve memory, protect against heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Try This: Substitute light olive oil instead of vegetable oil; baste veggies with olive oil instead of butter.

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Dark Chocolate and Red Wine. You didn’t think I would forget to bring up chocolate again, did you?! A little misnomer in regards to chocolate and red wine… they are more than decadent indulgences. They have redeeming qualities in that a few ounces of dark chocolate or cocoa powder can provide brain-boosting compounds such as flavonoids, antioxidants, and dopamine. They can improve blood circulation to the brain, stimulating endorphin production which is a natural mood booster. Feel free to enjoy, but in moderation, of course!

Related:
Memory Loss Prevention: 6 Steps to Maintain an Active Mind

Shopping for Brain Healthy Foods

The grocery store can be tough to navigate with aisle after aisle of “organic,” “natural,” “immune-boosting,” and “gluten-free” foods. It’s hard to know which foods are the smartest choices. Sticking to the perimeter of the store will help you avoid canned and packaged foods that tend to have ingredients like excessive sodium that your diet can do without.

  • Produce: The produce section is the most colorful section of the store and the healthiest. Choose a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. The colors signify vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
  • Bread, Grains, and Pasta: Choose whole wheat, brown grain mixes, quinoa, bulgur, and barley rather than starchy whites.
  • Frozen and Canned Foods: Frozen fruits and veggies will fill gaps when you can’t get your hands on fresh options. Choose cans without sauce, added salt and sugar, and low-fat, low sodium soup.

Planning is half the battle. Having a list of items based on a weekly meal plan will have you in and out of the grocery store with a cart of healthy staples for meals and the cupboard. A tip: never shop when you are hungry! Everything looks appealing, and you will likely end up with things you did not intend to buy that are probably not the healthiest. 

Boston Food Delivery Options

For some, getting to the grocery store can be difficult. Fortunately, living in the Boston or metropolitan areas provides a ton of delivery options, fitting just about every budget and need imaginable. Some options below:

Grocery Store Delivery  

Boston Organics provides organic fresh produce and grocery items, sourced from regional farms. Boxed items come in a variety of sizes catered to families and businesses large and small. No fees and free delivery.

Whole Foods is a national chain with locations in Boston and the metropolitan area. They provide personal shopping and delivery on a per-item fee structure.

Online Meal Plans

HelloFresh provides weekly meal plans to fit lifestyle and preferences, delivered to your door. Healthy meals with step-by-step recipes, signature plans and family plans are offered.

Blue Apron provides high quality and sustainably grown foods. Weekly meal plans for two or families, with step-by-step recipes delivered to your door. Skip or cancel anytime.

Personal Chef Services in Boston

Why a personal chef? You may have a one-time event, you may be interested in cooking lessons, you may not have time to cook, or you have dietary needs associated with a medical condition. In-home professional services provided by some of Boston’s best chefs focus on delivering home-cooked, nutritious meals in your own home. Check out:

Chef Gloria B. , who specializes in home-cooked meals and using immune-boosting ingredients, perfect for those with medical conditions including heart disease, diabetes, IBS, cancer, and people undergoing cancer treatment. Her services include personal chef services, cooking classes, and nutritional counseling. Healthy eating counseling sessions are also available on Facetime for recipes and recommendations.

Your Kitchen Confidant, Lisa Caldwell, located in Chestnut Hill, serves the greater Boston and metropolitan area. Lisa is a chef, nutritionist, and corporate wellness educator. Lisa takes care of the shopping for simple and inexpensive ingredients and will cook in her home or the client’s home. Cookware cleaning, packaging, and delivery are available

It is easy to be weighed down by commitments or find excuses that steer us away from our health goals. Structuring your schedule (days/weeks/months) to incorporate your meal planning/menus and shopping time, including a delivery service or hiring a consultant, are commitments to eating smart for your brain and heart health. 


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October 19, 2019 Senior Lifestyle

Are you worried about the elderly drivers in your life? If you have concerns about mom or dad getting behind the wheel, it may be time to have a conversation about hanging up the car keys and coordinating transportation assistance. But don’t throw in the towel too soon! Read on to learn how you can recognize limitations and maximize your senior’s independence.

Earning your driver’s license is considered to be a right of passage by many. It is a lifeline providing independence, mobility, convenience, even freedom. For some, not only is it a means of transportation, but it can be a passion… driving for control and the sheer pleasure of it. 

Driving is a crucial aspect in maintaining self-sufficiency for many seniors, though driving abilities naturally change as we age, making safety a higher priority when getting behind the wheel. Recognizing limitations and incorporating safe driving practices will reduce risks, allowing you to continue driving as long as possible. Realizing when capabilities are no longer suitable and it is time to hang up the car keys for good can be the biggest challenge of all.

With the growth of the Baby Boomer population, there is a steady rise of older citizens, meaning there will be more senior drivers on the road than ever before. According to a 2018 report, the number and proportion of licensed drivers 65 and older have surged in the last decade. From 2006 to 2016, there was an increase of 38%, or 41.7 million drivers. 

Despite the stereotype that the elderly are a particular hazard on the road, data has shown this not to be the case. Statistics show crash rates per mile driven are highest for the youngest drivers (ages 16-19), though they do increase steadily for seniors 70-74, and even more by 85 and older. The risk is highest to the older driver themselves, mainly due to their increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications.  

Age-related and cognitive challenges such as slower motor reflexes, changes in vision, hearing loss, or declining health conditions can make driving a dangerous proposition. Everyone ages differently, making it discretionary when you or a loved one should stop driving. Often, elderly drivers will recognize when operating a vehicle becomes more challenging and impose limitations, such as no longer driving at night, staying off of freeways, or not driving during rush hour.

4 Ways Elderly Drivers Can Stay Behind The Wheel

1. Stay In “Driver Shape” 

Maintaining preventive measures to support a healthy mind and body will not only prolong those years of living the lifestyle you are accustomed to but will keep you in the driver’s seat as long as you are fit. Physical and mental activity are essential factors in keeping you safe behind the wheel. 

Physical Fitness

Staying physically active builds strength and flexibility, allowing an elderly driver to make the kinds of movements necessary in checking blind spots, manipulating the gas and brake effectively, and managing the steering wheel in the event of an emergency. 

Mental Acuity

Keep your mind sharp and aware by participating in stimulating activities. Reading, adult education courses, puzzle building, art projects, and mindful meditation will promote mental alertness when it comes to driving a vehicle. 

2. Regular Check-Ups

Have your hearing and vision checked regularly. Being able to hear what is going on around you (emergency sirens and car horns) is a crucial part of driving. Being able to see in all weather conditions, near and far, on sunny days as well as at night should never be a struggle. If your vision or hearing changes, make necessary adjustments, or heed the advice of your doctor if they suggest not driving.

Related:
How You and Your Family Adapt to Hearing Loss

3. Be Mindful

Medication or a combination of medications prescribed for specific conditions or pain that can result in drowsiness or confusion. Be aware of these symptoms and refrain from driving a car when taking these prescriptions.

4. Recognize Warning Signs 

It is natural for you or your loved one to be reluctant to hand over the car keys. Loss of independence and isolation due to lack of mobility are genuine concerns for anyone who relies on a vehicle. He or she may not indicate they are having a hard time behind the wheel, therefore, recognizing limitations and the warning signs can help gauge when it’s time to stop driving. Some warning signs are:

  • Frequent close calls or near accidents. 
  • When there are scrapes or dents on the car, or surrounding objects such as the garage, mailbox or fence. 
  • Increased citations such as traffic tickets or warnings by law enforcement officers.
  • Difficulty with driving fundamentals such as sudden acceleration without reason, drifting from one lane to another, inability to make sudden lane changes, failure to use turn signals, or leaving turn signals on when not turning.
  • Trouble hearing emergency sirens or honking from other cars.
  • Problems with memory causing missed exits or getting lost frequently in familiar areas. 
  • Vision problems making it difficult to see traffic signals and street signs.
  • Problems with reflexes or range of motion, prohibiting you from braking suddenly, looking over your shoulder or confusing the brake and gas pedals. 
  • Getting frustrated or angry when behind the wheel.

Related:
Memory Loss Prevention: 6 Steps to Maintain an Active Mind
Stress and Aging: Recognizing & Managing Your Senior’s Symptoms

When Elderly Drivers Should Stop Driving

It takes a lot of courage to recognize the warning signs and to put your safety and those of others first. Surrendering a driver’s license can feel like a crippling loss of freedom. This conversation should be done with respect and compassion, and hopefully, a determination will be reached together.

If the conversation is met with reluctance, consulting a trusted friend, clergy member, or advice of a doctor may be necessary. Seek outside expertise by having an elderly driver’s evaluation done by an occupational therapist, driving rehabilitation therapist, or another trained professional to assess driving ability. The advice of a professional may make the transition easier to digest.

You may also provide alternative solutions to driving for the senior in your life. Public transportation, carpool services, and volunteer programs are geared toward helping the elderly stay mobile. Connecting seniors with friends who can drive comfortably and securely will provide more opportunities for social connections.

Determining when the time is right for you or your loved one to retire from driving takes careful consideration. Safety for the driver, passengers, and those on the road is essential. The conversation may be a challenging one to have, but dealing with a tragic outcome is even more difficult to handle. 


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October 11, 2019 Senior Lifestyle

Imagine slowly losing the ability to have conversations with family and friends because you can no longer hear them very well. Or, withdrawing from your favorite activities due to the frustration and embarrassment of not understanding what is being said.

This is the reality for one in three adults in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 and nearly half of those 75 and older. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition for our senior population. Even though age-related hearing loss is common, losing your hearing does not feel commonplace at all.

There are two prevalent types of age-related hearing loss or disorder. Presbycusis is the gradual loss of hearing and can be the result of many things such as changes to the inner, middle or outer ear or the auditory nerve due to aging. It can also occur as a result of loud noises over long periods, heredity, infection, illness, and some prescription medications. There is no reversal of loss associated with presbycusis. However, a patient’s life can be mitigated with treatment or amplification devices. 

Tinnitus is also common in aging individuals. It is a symptom of an underlying problem (age-related hearing loss or upper respiratory infection) rather than a condition itself. It manifests itself in the form of ringing, buzzing, roaring, hissing or humming. If the onset is sudden or there is no apparent cause, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Although hearing loss is a significant concern for many older adults, the vast majority of people, live with the condition for as long as ten years before seeking treatment. Living with hearing loss has been strongly linked to loneliness, isolation, and depression. 

Studies have also shown that older adults with hearing loss are at a higher risk for developing dementia, as well as a decline in cognitive abilities such as memory and concentration. 

Safety can be a significant issue for the hearing impaired, particularly for those living alone. Would your loved one hear a smoke alarm in the night? Could they follow a doctor’s advice for treatment? Would they hear the doorbell if it rang or if someone attempted to break into the home? Would they hear cars honking or sirens if they were driving a car?

Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss

You or your loved one may have a problem hearing and not even realize it. Many seniors do not want to admit they are struggling and may be too embarrassed to talk to a doctor, family, or friends. Recognizing the signs and seeking treatment can improve the quality of life for you or your loved one. You should see a doctor if:

  • You find it hard to follow a conversation when two or more people are talking.
  • You often ask people to repeat themselves.
  • You need to turn up the television loud enough, and others complain.
  • You have trouble hearing over the telephone.
  • If women and children are particularly hard to hear.
  • If others seem to mumble.

How to Cope With Hearing Loss

Even when a senior learns they have a hearing problem, there may be a reluctance to seek treatment due to the mischaracterization by others of their symptoms. Seniors who experience hearing loss are sometimes perceived to be confused, uncooperative, unresponsive, or standoffish. It is easy to succumb and retreat because of these feelings.

There is also a disinclination by many older adults to wear hearing devices. Seniors may feel there is a stigma attached to using them, or they may worry they will encounter technical difficulties in using them. For many, hearing aids are too costly and out of reach.

 There are ways you and your family can work together to minimize frustration, getting the most out of daily interactions. A few tips to help are below:

  • Find a quiet place to talk. Reduce background noise by shutting off the tv or music.
  • Face the person, speak clearly, and maintain eye contact.
  • Speak a little louder, but do not shout.
  • Try to speak slowly but naturally.
  • Repeat yourself if necessary.
  • Above all else, be patient and understanding. We all will be elderly someday!

Using Technology As A Hearing Aid

Only about 20% of seniors with hearing loss wear hearing aids. With the high costs of these devices and often little assistance from insurance companies, alternative solutions are on the rise. “Congress voted in 2017 to establish a new category of over-the-counter devices. Companies like Bose seem poised to enter the market-possibly driving innovation and technical improvements to make hearing aids more accessible to consumers.”  

In the meantime, if high-cost regulated hearing aids are not an option, there are lower-priced devices at some drugstores. There are also apps on some smartphones that can amplify sounds or convert speech to text, making it easier to be part of the conversation.

Safety in the home for the hearing impaired is a concern. Devices can be installed to take the place of doorbells and smoke alarms. Strobe light smoke alarms and a flashing light for a doorbell can signal a person to respond. There are also personalized hearing devices for television and radio.

Hearing Loss Prevention

You may not be able to prevent age-related hearing loss, but you can certainly take steps to keep it from getting worse. Consult your primary care physician who can recommend strategies to help reduce the effects of hearing loss. Your doctor may also suggest you visit an audiologist who can measure hearing loss.

Hearing issues left untreated will most likely worsen with time. With advances in technology, more options for comfortable and affordable hearing devices, medication, or even surgery, communicating your concerns and seeking help can significantly enhance you or your loved one’s quality of life.

Hearing loss continues to be underrecognized and undertreated. If you or a loved one suspects hearing loss is an issue, seeking the advice of your primary care physician is recommended.

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September 2, 2019 Senior Lifestyle

Stress is a common factor in life, and it does not discriminate. Most everyone will experience some level of stress due to life events, both large and small. From raising children, paying bills, saving for retirement, or caring for elderly parents, stressors will challenge our minds and our bodies’ defenses. Understanding the connection between stress and aging can help you and your loved one cope with life’s unexpected changes.

We may not think of our parents, who are older and wiser and who have retired and successfully raised their children, as having stressful lives. However, our moms and dads may be facing new challenges in their older years and may need to learn or relearn stress management techniques to cope. Declining health and decreased mobility, the loss of a partner, increased dependence on others, loneliness or feeling like they lack a sense of purpose can contribute to increased stress.

Our bodies are equipped to manage stress naturally. When confronted with a stressful situation, a physiological reaction occurs. Hormones are released from the adrenaline gland called cortisol, and our bodies are suddenly in the “fight-or-flight” mode.

Cortisol induces an increase in blood pressure, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing to aid in reducing the “threat” caused by a stressful event. As we get older, coping with stress isn’t as easy as it once was. According to Harvard, “Our cells are aging and heart fitness and lung capacity decline, especially if you are sedentary.” We have less resistance to the demands the body places on us to adequately accommodate this natural response.  

Stress and Aging: Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms in Older Adults

Stress affects individuals in different ways. It is essential to recognize the common symptoms, in seniors particularly, and to understand how you can help your loved ones combat its unfavorable effects. If your mom or dad seems to be out of sorts or is displaying behavior that is uncharacteristic, talk to them about what has changed, what might be troubling them and how you can help. Often, seniors suffering from stressful events will experience some of the following:

  • Feeling fatigued
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle pain
  • Worry and Anxiety
  • Forgetfulness

Mind, Body, and Spirit: How You Can Help with Stress Management

If you know your loved one is having trouble dealing with stress, they will undoubtedly benefit from your encouragement, support, and understanding. There are some lifestyle practices and techniques we have benefited from as younger adults and should continue to practice as we get older.

1. Regular Exercise

Regular exercise improves mental health, restores cognitive function, aids in preventing disease, decreases the risk of falling, and can provide social interaction. Decreased agility is common in aging adults, perhaps making it more difficult to participate in strenuous activity, however, less invasive events like walking, chair yoga, dancing or swimming might be better suited. Seniors age 65 and older should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week, averaging about 30 minutes of activity on most days. Encourage your loved one to invite a friend or acquaintance to be an “exercise buddy.” They will be more inclined to get moving if they have a companion who is relying on them for support… and it’s more fun!

2. Meditation

Meditation, breathing exercises, and mindfulness techniques have been practiced for years to reduce the symptoms of stress and age-related illness. Research has shown that with regular practice comes a wide range of physical, emotional, and medical benefits. Meditation can help you relax and organize your thoughts more efficiently. Taking 20 minutes a day to sit quietly and still your thoughts will instill a sense of calmness and give you the energy to tackle those stress-inducing events. If you have never practiced meditation or mindfulness techniques, joining a group run by a mediator with a neighbor or friend might make the introduction a little easier. If you would rather go it alone, you can get started with a guided meditation tutorial online such as Mindwork’s Guided Meditation.

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3. Remember Favorite Past-times and Hobbies

Were your parents enthusiastic about anything in particular? Painting, gardening, reading? Did they attend the theater or enjoy going to the movies, but never had enough time as a young adult to participate?  It might be the right time to re-introduce that hobby. Keeping busy with what you enjoy provides relief for the mind. Feeling creative by making something, reading a good book or planting and caring for the earth can give a sense of worth and occupy your time, leaving less time to worry. Plan a movie night once a month and reassure them you will join them in other activities they enjoy when you can.

4. Pets as Therapy

If a pet is manageable, a cat or dog can bring a tremendous about of joy and companionship. Pets don’t know if you are worried or anxious and they love unconditionally. Psychologists Penny B. Donnerfeld says, “I’ve seen those with memory loss interact with an animal and regain access to memories from long ago,” she explains. “Having a pet helps the senior focus on something other than their physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss and aging.” 

Over the long term, human and pet interactions have been known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, heart rate, and stress levels. If your loved one is relatively active or if you are encouraging them to be more active, having the responsibility of walking a dog is another reason to get outdoors and exercise! For the elderly who may be housebound or in assisted living that allows pets, a senior dog or cat is a good option. They are more calm, quiet, and require less maintenance.  If your loved one is unable to have their own pet, there are “pet therapy” home visit services all over the country.

5. Healthy Eating Habits:

According to the National Research Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Aging, one in four older Americans have poor nutrition. Not getting the right daily nutrients can ultimately lead to being underweight or overweight. It is common to lose our sense of smell and taste with age, making food seem less appealing or unnecessary. If you are exerting less physical energy, you may not need the extra calories to burn. However, you do need the nutrients from these calories for healthy organs, muscle, and bone.  

Choosing nutrient-rich foods and getting enough fiber is important. “Fast food” is convenient!  We all know how quick and easy it is to go through the drive-thru!  However, most “on-the-go” foods are higher in sodium content and particularly important for seniors to avoid. 

Plan your visits around mealtimes. Not only will it make meals more enjoyable but you will be able to see what kinds of foods mom and dad have been eating. This will put you in a better position to help them make wise choices. 

Unfortunately, stress is a part of our lives, and we learn to deal with its adverse side effects in stride. We learn coping mechanisms, employ what works best, and continue on. Occasionally, circumstances will negate our best intentions and little seems to be effective. Always ask for help from professional providers when stress management techniques like these do not seem to be enough.  


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August 28, 2019 Senior Lifestyle

A senior’s decision to live alone can be difficult for a family to accept due to the increased risks associated with aging. It’s natural to have concerns about a solo loved one’s health, safety, and ability to navigate their home without injury. But it’s also natural for an individual to think about aging in place, preferring the comfort of their home over senior living alternatives. 

According to AARP, 87% of adults age 65 or older want to stay in their home as they age. However, this desire doesn’t come without its challenges. That’s why it is essential for family members and senior caretakers to be aware of and prepare for the dangers of solo living to avoid potential accidents and emergencies.

Aging in Place as a Solo Senior

If your parent or loved one has expressed interest in living independently, use these home safety tips to ensure that they remain as safe as possible, whether you’re near or far.

Fall Prevention

While falling is not an inevitable result of growing old, it remains one of the greatest dangers. An unexpected fall can compromise independence and safety, and can result in economic burden should it cause injury. More than one in four seniors fall each year, less than half of whom inform their doctor. One fall doubles your chances of a repeat incident, and one in five results in a serious injury, such as broken bones or head trauma. At least 300,000 seniors are hospitalized for hip fractures each year, 95% of which are caused by, you guessed it… a fall. 

These statistics only support the importance of fall prevention. So, how can you fall-proof your loved one’s home?

  • Declutter: A lot can be collected over 65+ years; old magazines and books, trinkets, clothes and footwear that haven’t been worn in decades, and traces of your own childhood. These items only make it more challenging to move around without accidentally tripping or bumping into something. Donate what you can and throw away the non-essentials.
  • Get rid of throw rugs: Our parents’ generation loves their rugs, but they are an enormous tripping hazard. All it takes is a small misstep to trip on the corner of that small throw rug, and you’re looking at a potentially serious accident. Rug-free rooms or wall-to-wall carpets are ideal.
  • Install slip-resistant flooring: Materials such as rubber, cork, bamboo, and non-slip vinyl are highly slip-resistant options, particularly useful in the bathroom and shower where floors can get slippery.
  • Add grab bars and handrails: Our agility naturally fades with age, making it difficult to climb or descend stairs, or stand up and sit down. Grab bars and handrails are useful for that extra support if your senior’s home is multi-story. They are also helpful when placed next to the toilet and by frequently used seating.

It is advised that your senior has a medical alert on-hand so that if they do fall, they can send for help as quickly as possible.

Keep Emergency Numbers On-hand

While most adults own a mobile device, many seniors find touch screens and advanced software to be excessive, confusing, and difficult to use. Make life easier for mom and dad by filling out an address book or posting a large note with emergency numbers on the refrigerator and the back of their phone. Include your number (and any other close family members’), 911, their healthcare provider, and their caregiving service, if applicable.

Be Aware and Alert

While your senior is clearly an adult and has had their share of life experiences, it is not uncommon to lose your edge with age; mom and dad may need to be reminded of what was once common sense. Unfortunately, seniors are often taken advantage of at varying degrees, usually financially. Elder financial abuse or exploitation is a rapidly growing problem, often experienced by seniors with disabilities. 

The National Adult Protective Services Association reports that one in twenty seniors have experienced some form of financial mistreatment. This may be in the form of lottery and sweepstake scams, home repair/traveling con men, the grandparent scam, charity scams, and more. Seniors should remain aware and alert of these types of deception, never agreeing to telephone offers or claims that a family member is in trouble, and hanging up when financial information is requested over the phone. Seniors should also keep doors and windows locked, check to see who is at the front door when the bell rings, and install a peephole and a mail slot.

Related:
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Improve Lighting Inside and Outside 

Visibility naturally worsens as we grow older. Improved lighting both inside and outside can help your loved one move around without missing a thing. Outdoor motion sensors are ideal to carefully light the path from their vehicle to their front door. Voice-activated lighting indoors (think Google and Amazon) and night lights throughout the home can also make it easier to light a room without tripping over items on their way to the switch. 

Know Thy Neighbors

Whether mom is downsizing or staying put, she (and you!) must remain connected to her neighbors. Neighbors are often a great source of help for seniors. They are among the first to notice when mom’s not keeping up with her gardening or other outdoor activities. Get in touch with someone who can keep an eye on her house and her presence; a neighborhood watch of sorts, but for your loved one.

Protect Against Fires

Elderly individuals are 2.7 times more likely to die in a fire than the rest of the population, making fire safety a top priority. Make sure that your loved one knows to exit the home immediately should they experience a fire, rather than trying to put it out themselves. You should also employ simple in-home fire safety measures:

  • Ensure up-to-date fire detectors, and check and replace their batteries regularly.
  • Keep a working fire extinguisher at all times.
  • Keep space heaters three feet away from furniture, curtains, and bedding.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing when cooking.
  • Check electrical cords for damage, and limit the number of cables plugged into any given socket or power strip.
  • Don’t leave burning candles in an unoccupied room. Or, remove candles from the home altogether.

If your senior is aging in place, don’t forget to check in on them frequently. We become less sharp as we age, and come to count on our loved ones for continued support! Securing your senior’s home will encourage them to maintain their independence for as long as they are safely able. It will also help alleviate any reservations you may feel about their solo living!


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