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What is a Good Exercise Routine for Seniors?

Recent studies at the Center for Exercise Medicine at the University of Alabama verified that seniors can achieve muscle growth and strength. The key is consistent effort and following a fitness scheme consisting of at least 30 minutes three times a week.

Senior Living’s article entitled, “Seventy (70) Is The New Forty (40) – Exercising Your Total Body Is Good News For Baby Boomers,” says to first consult with your doctor and make sure they give you the OK to start your fitness scheme. Then, start with the basics at a slow to moderate pace. Here’s a basic routine:

  1. Warm up. Take a short walk for about 10 minutes to get your blood flowing, and your body loosened up.
  2. Push Ups. Start with 5 to 10 pushups. If you cannot do regular push-ups, you can do these standing up, pushing off a wall. The modified pushups still work your chest muscles and triceps.
  3. Stretch Bands. Hold the bands with your hands and put your elbows next to your sides, feet shoulder width. Pull the bands across your chest. Do eight reps (repetitions) to start. When you get these bands, note that they will come in various resistance strengths. Choose a band with the least resistance, then as you increase your reps to 12, move up to the next band and start over at eight reps, building back up to 12 reps.
  4. Shoulder Exercise using Dumbbells: Dumbbells come in various sizes, starting at 2½ pounds and going up. Start with 2½- or five-pound dumbbells. Stand with your feet shoulder width, push the weights over your head and then bring them back down to the top of your shoulders. Do eight reps, and increase the weight when you build up to 12 reps.
  5. Bicep Curls using Dumb Bells. Stand erect with your feet at shoulder width. Using 10-pound dumbbells, place them in your hands, arms by your side, palms forward. Curl the weights up to the top of your shoulders, then lower them back down to your side, keeping your palms facing out to the front and your elbows tucked into your side. Start with eight reps and work up to 12.
  6. Tricep Extensions. While holding a 2½- or five-pound dumbbell in your right hand, bend forward at the waist slightly while placing your left leg out in front of your bent body, slightly bend your left leg. Rest your left forearm on your knee or upper thigh. Pull the dumbbell up along your right side waist-high, extend the right arm straight back and then bring it back to the side of your waist where you started. Reverse this position and do the same for your left tricep.
  7. Squats. For beginners, use your body weight. Stand up straight, feet shoulder width, as you squat down, push your buttock out, bending slightly forward at the waist. Don’t go past a half-squat position. Start with eight reps and work up to 12 reps.
  8. Lunges. Start with no weights. Stand up straight, extend your left foot, bend both knees simultaneously, and go down as far as possible. Don’t overextend yourself. Remember also that you need to concentrate on your balance. Return to your starting position. Do eight to 12 reps. Repeat this for your right leg. Don’t consider using weights for lunges, until you can do 25 reps per leg.

Reference: Senior Living (March 30, 2021) “Seventy (70) Is The New Forty (40) – Exercising Your Total Body Is Good News For Baby Boomers”

Will Living by the Golden Arches Give Me a Stroke?

We all know that fast food isn’t good for your health.

However, according to recent research, simply living near a cluster of fast-food restaurants has now been linked to a higher risk of having a stroke.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled, “Living Near This Type of Restaurant May Boost Stroke Risk,” reports that the study found that people who are 50 and older and live near a so-called “food swamp” — where there is a high density of fast-food and junk-food options — had a 13% higher risk of stroke than people who lived in neighborhoods with more healthful options.

The study findings haven’t been published but will be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2023.

In arriving at their findings, the researchers looked at data from the Health and Retirement Study, an ongoing study conducted at the University of Michigan that features participants from across the U.S.

This data was then matched against U.S. Department of Agriculture data about food environments to create a retail food environment index.

The index shows the ratio of unhealthy food retailers (convenience stores and fast-food restaurants) to healthy food retailers (grocery stores and farmers’ markets) in a given neighborhood.

The researchers found that most of the nearly 18,000 participants in the study lived in neighborhoods with about six times as many unhealthy food options as healthy options.

In a summary of the researchers’ findings, Dr. Dixon Yang, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, said, “An unhealthy diet negatively impacts blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels that increases the risk of stroke. Independent of one’s own demographics or socioeconomic status, living in a neighborhood with an abundance of poor food choices may be an important factor to consider for many people.”

Reference: Money Talks News (March 25, 2023) “Living Near This Type of Restaurant May Boost Stroke Risk”

Do I Really Need Eight Glasses of Water a Day?

Researchers say individual water needs vary from person to person. Therefore, general recommendations for water intake shouldn’t be used. Their recent findings were published in Science, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “8 Glasses of Water a Day? Nonsense, Says a New Study” reports that for decades, study co-author Dale Schoeller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison emeritus professor of nutritional sciences, has studied how water intake impacts the body.

In a summary of the study findings, he says, “The science has never supported the old eight glasses thing as an appropriate guideline, if only because it confused total water turnover with water from beverages and a lot of your water comes from the food you eat.”

Schoeller says the new research is the best to date for measuring daily water turnover and the factors that influence it.

“Water turnover” is the amount of water going into and out of the body. As a result, it serves as a measurement of how much water the body actually uses each day.

In the study, the researchers measured water turnover in more than 5,600 people of all ages and from 26 countries.

They found that daily averages of water consumption range from one liter per day to six liters per day. (There are about 33.8 ounces in 1 liter.)

The study measured the time it took water to move through a person’s body by tracking the turnover of what researchers call “labeled water.”

In short, the study participants drank water containing trackable isotopes that allowed researchers to know how much water went into and out of their bodies.

The biggest factors that impacted water turnover in the participants included, activity level, sex, age, pregnancy, socioeconomic status and environmental characteristics (latitude, altitude, air temperature and humidity).

In addition, another primary factor was the Human Development Index of the county a participant lives in. This was developed by the United Nations. It’s a measure of a country that combines life expectancy, schooling and economic factors.

In the end, the study findings suggest that given how much variation there is in people’s water turnover patterns, “pointing to one average doesn’t tell you much,” Schoeller says.

Reference: Money Talks News (Nov. 28, 2022) “8 Glasses of Water a Day? Nonsense, Says a New Study”

What Is ‘Food Insecurity’?

“The pandemic has exacerbated existing trends in food insecurity,” Cindy Leung, ScD, MPH, assistant professor of public health nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston, said in an email. “People who were already experiencing food insecurity found themselves at more severe levels, and other people were experiencing food insecurity for the first time. Older adults were no exception, on top of a higher risk of COVID-related disease burden and hospitalizations.”

MedPage Today’s recent article entitled “Food Insecurity Among Older Adults Remains a Problem” explains that food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of access to a sufficient amount of nutritious foods, was an issue in the U.S. even before the pandemic started.

Leung and her then-colleagues at the University of Michigan conducted a survey of about 2,000 older adults in 2020 that found that 14% of those ages 50-80 had experienced food insecurity in 2019. This appeared to be connected to worse physical and mental health, the researchers reported.

“Nearly half of adults aged 50-80 who were food insecure rated their physical health as fair or poor (45%), compared to 14% of those who were food secure,” while “almost a quarter of those who were food insecure reported fair or poor mental health (24%) compared to 5% of those who were food secure.”

The researchers also found that about 54% of food-insecure respondents had multiple (two or more) chronic conditions, compared to 41% of food-secure individuals. Food-insecure individuals were more likely than food-secure individuals to report having these conditions than food-secure respondents:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Chronic pain; diabetes
  • Kidney disease; or
  • A sleep disorder.

There were no significant differences in cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by food security status, however, they noted.

“Food insecurity is actually a really big problem among older adults,” Nicole Heckman, vice president of benefits access at the AARP Foundation, said in a phone interview at which a press person was present. “Nearly 9.5 million adults ages 50 and older are food insecure.”

Heckman gave several reasons for the problem. “One is obviously a lack of income,” she said. “Those that are at or below the poverty line struggle to afford the food they need, especially when we think about the inflation and just the crazy food prices and how much they have gone up over the last 2 years.”

The federal government addressed the general issue of food insecurity during the pandemic in part by expanding access to food programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as expanding the dollar value of available benefits. However, Heckman said, “many older adults aren’t actually aware of the programs and benefits to help them put food on their table. Research shows there are over three million older adults that missed out on more than $200 a month in SNAP benefits” during the pandemic.

Reference: MedPage Today (Jan. 10, 2023) “Food Insecurity Among Older Adults Remains a Problem”

Will I Live Longer If I Walk Every Day?

In a study of more than 25,000 older adults who didn’t regularly exercise, engaging in three sets of vigorous activity for up to two minutes each at some point during the day was connected with a 39% lower risk for all-cause mortality versus no activity at all, according to Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, of the University of Sydney in Australia, and colleagues.

MedPage Today’s recent article entitled “Can Just Minutes of Daily Activity Prolong Life?” reports that even the minimum of 1½ minute-long sessions of exercise daily reaped mortality benefits compared with not engaging in any activity at all. However, those at the top of the range in this study — getting 11 short bursts of vigorous activity daily (about 16 minutes total) — saw all-cause mortality risk drop by even more.

Engaging in just a few minutes of vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (VILPA) throughout the day was also protective against cardiovascular disease-related mortality, the group reported in Nature Medicine. Engaging in three one-minute bouts per day was linked with a 49% lower cardiovascular mortality risk. Those that engaged in the maximum frequency again saw the greatest benefit. Nonetheless, even engaging in the minimum was still significantly protective against heart-related death.

The researchers also found the same pattern for cancer-related mortality risk.

“We found that as little as 3 to 4 minutes of VILPA per day was associated with substantially reduced mortality risk compared to doing no VILPA,” Stamatakis told MedPage Today, noting how these were “very sizeable effect sizes.”

“We were not surprised that we detected beneficial associations; we knew that vigorous physical activity is very potent, especially when it is intermittent and repeated,” he said. “But the large magnitude of the associations was quite surprising, considering how little daily physical activity we are talking about.”

“Interestingly, is not unlikely that participants in this study did not know that they were doing vigorous physical activity,” Stamatakis remarked.

These short bursts of vigorous-intensity physical activity were considered a part of daily life. They included instances of short bursts of fast walking during a commute or climbing a set of stairs.

Reference: MedPage Today (Dec. 8, 2022) “Can Just Minutes of Daily Activity Prolong Life?”

How to Find New Doctor for Mom if She Moves

Seasons’ recent article entitled “How do I help an older adult switch doctors after a move?” advises that breaking the process into manageable pieces will help you make sure you don’t miss any details.

First, check mom’s insurance because Medicare options are different when moving states. Check with Medicare to determine the process based on your mom’s existing coverage. Then you can find new health care providers.

Caregivers should have at least one dedicated three-ring notebook with dividers specifically for their loved one’s important information. Two is even better: one for financial information and one for medical information. Separate notebooks allow you to take the one with medical information to appointments without having sensitive financial information out and about at appointments.

Place some blank calendar pages in the front of the medical notebook. You’ll be able to organize your mom’s appointments in one place, as well as have a record of past appointments.

If you also use an online calendar like Google Calendar or iCalendar, create a color specifically for your mom’s appointments, so you can easily see the dates and times of her appointments.

Try using the paper option even if you also use an online calendar because this makes certain the information is easily accessible in case you need to share information with another person who helps with the caregiving.

Having all of your loved one’s medical information in one place that’s easily accessible will be invaluable when going to appointments at different doctors’ offices. You’ll have all of the info ready to share with different medical providers.

Once you get a system started to keep your mom’s information in an easily accessible place, it will be a pretty simple process to keep doctor appointments and medical information organized.

Reference: Seasons (Nov. 28, 2022) “How do I help an older adult switch doctors after a move?”

How Can Seniors Be Prepared for Winter?

Snow, storms, power outages, extreme heat, wildfire smoke and other weather events and emergencies can pose extra hazards for seniors. The Spokesman-Review’s recent article entitled “Seniors should make plan to stay safe at home during emergencies” says that good communication, planning and a willingness to ask for and give help are essential in any emergency situation, regardless of age. However, there’s some preparation we can do that’s specific to older adults.

Have medications on hand: Anticipate prescription medication needs and see if your pharmacy will provide mail order or delivery.

Stay warm enough: Older adults can lose body heat faster, so identify a backup heat source for power or gas outages, like a wood-burning stove or backup generator, and know how to use it safely. Don’t use a gas oven or stove to heat indoors because it can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Stay cool enough: People also have less heat tolerance as they get older, so make sure the air conditioning is in good working condition with clean filters, or have a plan for staying somewhere cool when the temperatures spike.

Make sure you’re connected: Have a plan with a friend, neighbor, or relative nearby to check in with older adults during heat waves, power outages and storms. If the power goes out, phones can be out, so get a cellphone and learn how to use it.

Air quality matters: The prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is two to three times higher in people over 60, so seniors and people with health concerns should limit time outdoors when air quality is poor. Air filters improve indoor air quality and keep your air conditioning and furnaces running smoothly.

Avoid falls in the dark, wet or snow: Seniors frequently aren’t as stable on their feet, and falls are a leading cause of hospitalization. In snow, it can be useful to use a four-wheel walker with brakes or a quad-cane to walk. In a power outage take extra care when moving around with a flashlight. Consider getting a fall detection and medical alert device that can call the medics and get help quickly in an emergency.

People like to be independent, and that includes seniors.

A little bit of advanced preparation and planning for good communication during an emergency or severe weather can help keep everyone safe and comfortable and avoid a crisis.

Reference: The Spokesman-Review (Nov. 10, 2022) “Seniors should make plan to stay safe at home during emergencies”

Does the Early Bird Really Catch the Worm?

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh said that activity patterns – not just the intensity of activity – are just as important for healthy aging and mental health, reports Seasons’s recent article entitled “Why early birds (who also stay active) are happier and mentally stronger.”

“There’s something about getting going early, staying active all day and following the same routine each day that seems to be protecting older adults,” Stephen Smagula, PhD, first author of the study and associate professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, said in a statement. “What’s exciting about these findings is that activity patterns are under voluntary control, which means that making intentional changes to one’s daily routine could improve health and wellness.”

The research team recruited 1,800 adults 65+ to study daily activity patterns. They wore an actigraph – a device that measures movement – on their wrists for seven days and completed questionnaires to evaluate cognitive function and depression symptoms.

“We don’t know exactly what people were doing, except whether they were active, how much, and when,” he said.

The results showed that 37.6% of the participants woke up early in the morning and remained active throughout the day and followed consistent routines.

“They also tend to follow the same pattern day in, day out,” he said. “Lo and behold, those same adults were happier, less depressed and had better cognitive function than other participants.”

The authors found that 32.6% of older adults had consistent daily patterns, but they were active for about 13.4 hours each day because they woke up at a later time in the morning. Those participants scored lower on cognitive tests and described more depressive symptoms, compared to the participants who woke up earlier in the day. Although this finding suggests that activity intensity and what you do is important for health, the duration and how long you’re active might be more important.

“This is a different way of thinking about activity,” he said. “You may not need to be sprinting or running a marathon but simply staying engaged with activities throughout the day.”

The remaining participants (29.8%) showed disrupted activity and inconsistent patterns during the day. They showed the highest rates of depression and had the worst performance on cognitive tests.

“Now we know a bit more on what to look for and what these disrupted patterns might be related to,” he said. “This is useful because it can guide future clinical research aimed at restoring strong routines and improving health.”

“We know that consistently engaging in morning activity – especially if you get sunlight exposure – can help set a strong circadian rhythm (which helps tell your body when to do what, when to be awake/alert and when to sleep),” Smagula said.

Regularly engaging in activities, whether physical, social or intellectual, also forces people to flex and use their brain muscles to solve problems, think, learn and converse, said Krithika Srivats, SVP of clinical practice and products for HGS AxisPoint Health.

“Moreover, keeping an active routine, even with low-impact activities, can fill your day with movement, interaction, purpose and meaning,” she said.

Finally, regular activity patterns are linked to a lower risk of heart disease and dementia and help people maintain independence.

Reference: Seasons (Sep. 18, 2022) “Why early birds (who also stay active) are happier and mentally stronger”

How Many Americans Suffer from Dementia?

In a nationally representative cross-sectional study of about 3,500 older adults, 10% (95% CI 9-11) were classified as having dementia and 22% (95% CI 20-24) as having mild cognitive impairment, according to Jennifer Manly, PhD, of Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues.

MedPage Today’s recent article entitled “Dementia Strikes One in Ten Americans Over 65” notes that dementia prevalence rates were similar by sex but varied by age, education, and race, and ethnicity, they reported in JAMA Neurology.

The findings are from the first representative study of cognitive impairment in more than 20 years and are based on participants in the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) project of the ongoing, longitudinal Health and Retirement Study (HRS). HCAP is a cross-sectional random sample of HRS participants who were ages 65 or older in 2016.

“Because the HCAP study is part of the nationally representative and long-running Health and Retirement Study, these data not only show the burden of dementia now, but will be used in the future to track the trends in dementia burden in the decades ahead,” co-author Kenneth Langa, MD, PhD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said in a statement.

“Following those trends will be especially important given the likely impact of COVID and other recent population health changes on the risk for dementia in the coming decades,” Langa added.

Of the nearly 10,000 age-eligible HRS participants, roughly 3,500 were selected for HCAP and completed a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery and an in-person interview between June 2016 and October 2017.

Compared with White participants, dementia was more common among Black participants, and mild cognitive impairment was more prevalent among Hispanic participants. The rates rose dramatically with age: 3% of people between ages 65-69 had dementia versus 35% of people ages 90 and older. Every 5-year increase in age led to higher risks of dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

Each additional year of school was also linked with a drop in risks of dementia and mild cognitive impairment. The findings were similar to other recent estimates of dementia prevalence in the U.S.

“With increasing longevity and the aging of the Baby Boom generation, cognitive impairment is projected to increase significantly over the next few decades, affecting individuals, families, and programs that provide care and services for people with dementia,” Manly said in a statement.

The study provides a snapshot in time and cannot assess cognitive impairment incidence or rates of progression among people with mild cognitive impairment, the researchers said.

The HCAP study’s cross-sectional design “does not allow for examination of survival bias, which could inflate prevalence if some groups are living longer with dementia or decrease estimates in groups with higher mortality,” Manly and colleagues added.

Reference: MedPage Today (Oct. 24, 2022) “Dementia Strikes One in Ten Americans Over 65”

What’s Being Done to Help Seniors Age in Place?

Seasons’ recent article entitled “Federal grant will fund $15 million in aging-in-place home projects” provides everything you need to know about the latest on aging in place. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is making $15 million available to assist seniors with home modifications. This funding is made available through HUD’s Older Adult Home Modification Program.

“The funding opportunity … will assist experienced nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, and public housing authorities in undertaking comprehensive programs that make safety and functional home modifications, repairs and renovations to meet the needs of low-income elderly homeowners,” HUD officials said in a statement.

The goal of the program is to assist low-income and older adult homeowners (at least age 62) to remain in their homes by providing low-cost, low barrier and high-impact home modifications to reduce their risk of falling, improve general safety, increase accessibility and to improve functional abilities in the home.

“This is about enabling older adults to remain in the comfort of their family home, where they have made their life,” the spokesperson said, “rather than having to move to a nursing home or other assisted care facilities.”

With an estimated 20% of the population reaching age 65 by 2040, the home modification program aims to assist older adults who remain in their homes safely with honor and respect.

“We must allow our nation’s seniors to age-in-place with dignity,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge in a statement. “This funding will give seniors the flexibility to make changes to their existing homes—changes that will keep them safe and allow them to gracefully adjust to their changing lifestyle.”

Eligible applicants include experienced nonprofit organizations, state and local governments and public housing authorities that have at least three years of experience in providing services to the elderly. Individuals, foreign entities and sole proprietorship organizations are not eligible to apply or receive funds, according to HUD. As a result, there’s no individual application homeowners or family members need to fill out to receive funding. Homeowners, family members, caregivers and other interested parties who want to get help and receive home modifications need to apply through a certain institution by contacting organizations in their area in the process of applying for funds or that have already received funds.

“Caregivers can contact the local organization that has a home modification grant, and let the grantee know that they are caregivers for a family with a family member that is age 62 and older, who owns the home they live in and are interested in having the family’s home modified under HUD’s Home Modification grant program to help them age in place,” a HUD spokesperson said.

Reference:  Seasons (Sep. 19, 2022) “Federal grant will fund $15 million in aging-in-place home projects”