Most aging Americans have a dream about aging in place. To do this, homes may need to be refitted with safety in mind. Grab bars might need to be installed in bathrooms, a chair lift might need to be added to the stairs, and perhaps a ramp and wheelchair accessible halls and doorways. It can be costly to refurbish a house for older residents, so seniors should consult a builder or look at suggested housing updates here.   

Beyond better lighting and safety features, what other things can you do to help ensure you can age in place?

There are several different forms of technology that are designed to aid seniors in their homes. Beyond fall detection devices, there are now medication dispensing machines, sensors that can help track senior movements, and tablets or video chatting devices that will make staying connected to family members easy. If seniors don’t feel comfortable using technology, and don’t have a younger friend or relative that can show them the ropes, there are often classes at local senior centers that will show you how to operate essential devices.

Communities also have a role to play in successful aging in place. The Morningside Gardens community on the Upper West Side of New York City has made a concerted effort to refit their community with their older members in mind. Their new community center has been redesigned with senior mobility in mind. The center also offers senior-tailored health services and social programs to foster a sense of greater community and combat feelings of isolation that often plague seniors.

Finally, in the near future, if you want to age at home, you may need a companion – one that comes with a charger. Toyota recently invested $14 million into the development of an aging in place robot. The ElliQ is a revolutionary robot that works with a tablet to help seniors control technology in their households as well as connect with the outside world.

Aging in place is becoming an attainable goal as technology improves. Work with senior loved ones to prepare and the transition should be smooth.

Some people just seem to have an extra spring in their step, even as they age. They’re healthier, mentally quicker, and happier than many of their peers. Why is this? Doctors are starting to find out.

In a new study from Northwest Medicine, doctors took a look at SuperAgers – persons 80 or above who show fewer mental and physical impairments due to aging. What they found was this: The brains of SuperAgers look very different than that of normal subjects. SuperAgers tend to have a thicker region of the cortex; fewer tangles (which are often a marker of Alzheimer’s disease), and a large supply of von Economo – a neuron that has been linked to higher social intelligence.

Scientists are using the scans of SuperAgers’ brains to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and to learn how they can strengthen the brains of people who age normally.

What does this mean for those of us who are aging normally? One of the SuperAgers, June Scott, has some advice.

June, who at 86 has traveled to 87 countries, recommends challenging your brain as often as possible. For June, that means traveling and experiencing a whole world of different cultures and customs. Scott has tracked gorillas in Rwanda and hung out with emperor penguins in Antarctica. Her fitbit regularly registers 18,000 steps as she continues to keep in shape for her next adventure.

June believes that her constant travel and exposure to different ways of thinking and living has helped keep her levels of von Economo high and her frontal cortex strong. Researchers seem to agree with her. We’ve learned that our brains thrive on new experiences and challenges, and that new neural pathways can be created even as we age.

If you can’t see the world like June, it may be time to explore the world around you. Give your brain a challenge. Learn something new, try a new activity. Though we may grow wise with age, it’s not a time to stop expanding our knowledge base. Start challenging yourself now and see if you’re a SuperAger too.   

Americans are getting older. It’s a great thing. The CDC estimates that the number of Americans who will live to be over 100 years old has grown 44 percent from 2000 to 2014. With the baby boomers aging into their senior years, this means that there will be an unprecedented boom in the senior population of the country.

While it’s wonderful that our population is living longer, there are some unexpected issues that come with aging. One of the biggest concerns facing seniors is how to plan for caregiving if they are Elder Orphans. Defined as a senior who either has no family that can help with their caregiving, or no one able to aid them, Elder Orphans are a growing segment of the senior population. This year, the number of Elder Orphans in the senior community has grown to nearly a quarter.

If you find yourself to be an Elder Orphan, there’s no need to panic, just plan.

The biggest concern for those who do not have family or friends to care for them is finances. Elder Orphans should work with a financial advisor to cultivate savings that will help them in case of medical emergencies. It is also essential that any living space is senior-friendly. If you’re planning on aging-in-place, that may mean renovations to your home including chair lifts and better lighting. It could also mean investigating local senior living communities to determine if that is a more budget friendly option.

Another issue facing Elder Orphans is isolation. Those without family to check on them can sometimes feel that they’ve grown isolated. This can lead to feelings of depression and also declining mental faculties. It is imperative that seniors keep and maintain social connections. This is especially important for Elder Orphans who don’t have family to rely upon for interaction. Be sure to cultivate a strong friend group and meet with each other at least once a week for a fun activity.

Though being an Elder Orphan requires a bit of extra planning, there’s no reason it can’t lead to a fulfilling life. If you’re aging and alone, plan ahead for a successful life as a single senior.

One of the most dangerous medical issues facing seniors is a preventable one. Each year, seniors are hospitalized, immobilized, and injured in falls. Falls have become the number one cause of injuries and death in Americans over the age of 65. One in three seniors will suffer a fall.

While there is no foolproof way to avoid taking a spill, there are many preventative techniques that can help you lower your risk of falling and injuring yourself.

Check your meds. Medications can sometimes alter your balance or perception abilities. If you are on multiple medications, or have just gotten a prescription for a new medication, it would behoove you to speak to your doctor about the side effects. Make sure you’re aware of the effects medication can have on you, and work with your doctor to find a mix that’s right for you.

Get help at home. If you’ve decided to age in place, make sure your home is equipped to aid a senior who might need fall assistance. Consider grab bars in your bathrooms and non-slip flooring on stairs and in bathtubs. Look around your home and see if there are any areas that need better lighting. A home with lots of light and places to clutch should you feel unsteady is a safer environment for seniors. You may also find it necessary to add chair lifts to your home should stairs become too difficult to navigate.

Dress the part. Make sure you’re dressed in accordance to your environment. Wear comfortable shoes that don’t impede your gait (consider flats over high heels if you have balance issues). If you must go out in icy conditions, wear sturdy boots and multiple layers to help pad you if you fall.

Get moving. Exercise isn’t just for the young. Seniors can not only dramatically improve their health by committing to fitness, they can dramatically improve their balance. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help you keep steady footing when you’re in your home. So go for a walk, take a water aerobics class, or find a fitness program that suits you.  

Whether you’re hoping to prevent a fall, or trying to ensure one doesn’t reoccur, simple fall prevention is something all seniors should know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retirement doesn’t need to be a time for beach chairs and endless vacations. It can be, but many seniors are finding that they have time to discover their true passions once they bid work adieu. If you’ve always had a hidden hobby, retirement could be time to explore and share your interests with the world.

Robert Wittman made a career investigating art crimes and theft at the FBI. When he retired at 61, Wittman decided to use his decades of historic knowledge to open his own Art Appraisal and Investigation firm. Now, he chases art and history for fun around the world.

You don’t have to continue your career past retirement. You can also find ways to celebrate and explore your hobbies. Join a local crafting circle, offer knitting classes, work with a senior center to impart your technical knowledge to those who may need help. You may even offer up cooking classes, gardening workshops, or carpentry classes at a local community center, helping others to find a hobby they’ll cherish for years.

If you’re not sure what you want to do post-retirement, consider learning. Studies have proven that learning languages, physical skills, and interacting regularly with peers is an excellent way to maintain a healthy mind as you age. Have you always wanted to explore a subject and never had the time? Many community colleges offer seniors the chance to learn for free. Click here for a look at the e-learning resources near you.

Whether you’re looking to spread your knowledge and skills to others, or simply want to keep expanding your knowledge base, retirement offers you an excellent opportunity to spread your wings. Take your free time as a pass to expand your mind and your information base.

 

A New Book About Patient-Doctor Communication
The wonders of an empathetic ear in the doctor’s office

Despite modern medicine’s infatuation with high-tech gadgetry, the single most powerful diagnostic tool is the doctor-patient conversation, which can uncover the lion’s share of illnesses. However, what patients say and what doctors hear are often two vastly different things.

Patients, anxious to convey their symptoms, feel an urgency to “make their case” to their doctors. Doctors, under pressure to be efficient, multitask while patients speak and often miss the key elements. Add in stereotypes, unconscious bias, conflicting agendas, and the fear of lawsuits and the risk of misdiagnosis and medical errors multiplies dangerously.

Though the gulf between what patients say and what doctors hear is often wide, Dr. Danielle Ofri proves that it doesn’t have to be. Through the powerfully resonant human stories that Ofri is celebrated for, she explores the high-stakes world of doctor-patient communication that we all must navigate. Reporting on the latest research studies and interviewing scholars, doctors, and patients, Ofri reveals how refocusing conversations between doctors and their patients can lead to better health.*

Do you have a communication strategy? Do you feel you successfully communicate with medical professionals and caregivers? Please share your experiences on our Facebook page.

*Synopsis from Dr. Ofri’s website

 

Do you know how much money you have in the bank? How about how much money your parents have?

As seniors age, financial decisions become crucial. Are your loved ones prepared to age in place? If they’re aging in place, can they afford to upgrade the house to make it safe and limited-mobility friendly? Would downsizing or moving to a refined residential community be a safer option? What happens if a medical emergency befalls a senior?

Unfortunately, as your loved ones age, they will most likely need help planning and managing their finances. It’s an uncomfortable topic for many, but having a rational, detailed conversation about expenses and savings now can prevent a great deal of stress for seniors and their caregivers in the future.

To fully take over finances, a caregiver must have the following:

  1. A plan. Seek out a financial advisor, and get a realistic portrait of the lifestyle that your loved one’s savings and earnings will allow. Know your options; learn how to make their money grow.
  2. An OK. Once you’ve discussed finances, it may be necessary or best for you to take over as the primary decision maker, depending on how comfortable your loved one feels about the idea. To properly take over finances, a loved one or caregiver needs a power of attorney or a living trust to begin making financial decisions. Consulting an Elder Law Attorney is highly recommended.
  3. The contents of accounts. Once you have the ability to help your loved one officially, it’s time for a full assessment. Go through documents and statements to get a full picture of how many bank accounts, stock portfolios, Long Term Care Insurance policies and other financial accounts your senior has. Once you have the full picture, it will be easier to understand the financial situation and move funds, should that be necessary.
  4. A breakdown of the bills. Finally, make sure you have a system for organizing and paying bills. One of the first signs that a senior may need help at home is failure to pay bills.

Ensure that your loved one stay on top of their finances so that they can age with confidence. If they need help, step up by helping them get organized, stay current, and invest in growth. With some careful financial planning, you can help your loved one’s later years become golden.

People are living longer. Medical advancements, a cultural focus on health, and progress in technology have allowed people to extend their lives. Seniors are becoming one the fastest-growing groups all over the world.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) predicts that seniors will become 17 percent of the world population by 2050. This population explosion will affect the whole globe in a myriad of ways.

In the U.S., the NIA estimates that our aging population will double in the next three decades, meaning 88 million seniors will be living here. Throughout the globe, the so-called “oldest old” population—seniors living to be 80 or older—will triple in the coming decades.

What does this mean for you and your aging loved ones? It’s time to prepare.

Unless lawmakers and the population of the U.S. prepare for this senior boom, the country will face limited or nonexistent resources for their aging population. Programs like social security and Medicare will be stretched to the brink, while hospitals and doctors’ offices will be filled with seniors who need specialized gerontology care.

Some industries are already preparing for the senior boom. Caregiving companies are increasing staff and focusing on helping seniors age at home successfully. Tech companies are developing senior-friendly devices that will help the aging and their caregivers monitor health, medication distribution, and even movement throughout the house.

The senior surge also affords you an excellent opportunity to discuss aging with your soon-to-be-senior loved ones. Make sure your loved ones have a sound financial plan for their later years, and consult with a financial advisor if you’re concerned about retirement funds. Nail down your loved one’s wishes ahead of time: Do they want to age at home? What would they want done in case of a health crisis? These topics are often uncomfortable but utterly essential to a happy, worry-free aging process.

Whether you’re a soon-to-be-senior or a caregiver to a senior, it’s time to prepare for the senior surge.