Articles

Up On A Good Foot

Parks & Rec and the Wide World of Sports

Quick. What comes to mind when you hear the word “old”? How about “senior citizen” or “elderly”? If you’re like most people, the first image that sprang to mind wasn’t a kayaker, a top-notch pool player, or a dancer, and it’s probably safe to say you didn’t picture a tri-athlete or a skydiver, either. And yet, senior citizens can be all of those things and more. As people are living longer lives and, frequently, enjoying longer retirements, many find themselves wanting to engage in activities they couldn’t find the time or money for when they were working and raising children. In as much as they are positioned to do so, many seek out new ways to occupy and entertain themselves that challenge our old notions of what it means to be old.

 

annemariecyclingThis Senior Cycler has competed in numerous Triathlons and Ironman Events

 

Of course not all activity has to be in the realms of extreme sports or endurance tests to be rewarding and rejuvenating (or to defy stereotypes) and most of it isn’t. Not everyone is an adrenaline junkie or a thrill seeker; and the positive effects that even low-impact activities like walking and gardening have on physical as well as mental and emotional well-being are well-documented. What’s important is getting out there and doing something. Get some air. Get the blood moving. Whether it’s a sun-dance or a stroll, we’d be happy to accompany you.

The greater Washington, DC metro area provides seniors and people of all ages nearly endless resources and opportunities to stop and smell the roses, hyacinths, and cherry blossoms. Here are a few:

- The Capital Crescent Trail runs from Georgetown to Silver Spring, MD. This shared use, off-road trail is popular with walkers, joggers, bikers, and rollerbladers. Lush and well-maintained, it is paved from Georgetown to Bethesda; from Bethesda to Lyttonsville (in West Silver Spring) it is packed, crushed stone.

- Great Falls National Park is an 800 acre park near Washington, DC with access points in Maryland and Virginia. On the Maryland side the Visitor Center is housed in the Great Falls Tavern, built in 1828, and hosts historical exhibits and interpretive programs. The park on this side is also a part of the C & O Canal National Historic Park, and the C & O Canal Towpath is used by hikers, joggers, and bikers alike. Mule-drawn canal boat rides depart from this location April through October. The Virginia side offers 15 miles of hiking trails. Both sides have wheelchair-friendly scenic overlooks.

- The United States National Arboretum in NE Washington, DC sits on a 446 acre campus and is wound through with nine miles of connecting road for bicyclists. Walking tours are also offered and there are four gardens with easy access for the disabled, including the National Herb Garden, the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, and the Aquatic Garden and Koi Pond. More serious hikers will find many interesting trails on the property as well.

There’s always something to do, and the best reason for doing that something is “because it’s good for me.” If it’s Parkour or snowboarding that gets you there then more power to you; we’d also be happy helping you plant bulbs or taking a walk on the towpath.

 

Great Falls National Park

 Kayakers on the Potomac River: Great Falls National Park

 

 

Hearing Loss and Dementia

Seniors recognize that as they age certain abilities will become diminished, but never consider that some of these could lead to memory loss.

With that in mind and a focus on hearing issues, research began. In 2011, the results were published, stating that “the researchers found that study participants with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were significantly more likely to develop dementia by the end. Compared with volunteers with normal hearing, those with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss had twofold, threefold, and fivefold, respectively, the risk of developing dementia over time. The more hearing loss they had, the higher their likelihood of developing the memory-robbing disease.”

Financial Planning for Seniors and Their Adult Children

One of the many challenges facing adult children of seniors is the conversation regarding finances. In Kiplinger’s Retirement Report, research provided by Ameriprise Financial  shows that no one, no matter their age, does well talking about money. Vice president of wealth strategies, Suzanna de Baca says that the conversation should begin sooner than later, so that needs are addressed as well as anything that might have been overlooked.

According to a Fidelity Investment study, 24% of children feel that they will need to provide financial assistance to their parents compared to 97% of parents who state that they will not need help. Yet, when conversations do actually take place, they, “can dramatically increase peace of mind, reduce anxiety and foster additional discussions.”

In-Home Support Can Address Isolation and Loneliness in Seniors

Featured in a recent Los Angeles Times article, recently published research reports that social isolation can accelerate the aging process, thereby likely leading to an early death among the elderly.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the seven yearlong British study, involving 6,500 participants, showed that when physical and mental health issues were taken out of the equation, a deficiency of social contact made a huge overall impact on the state of health.

Innovations to Avoid Hospital Readmissions Among the Elderly

In an article featured in Health Day, cardiologist and Yale professor of medicine, Dr. Harlan Krumholz, points out how vulnerable patients are after a hospital stay. Dr. Krumholz compares it to being in a fog; almost like dealing with jet-lag.  Even though the patient has been treated properly, there is still stress related to the many facets of the hospital stay including loss of sleep and the possible side effects of any drugs given. And sometimes, the problem is being discharged too soon.

Medicare Skilled Nursing and Therapy Services Expanded

Attorneys from the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Vermont Legal Aid and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have agreed to settle the “Improvement Standard” case, Jimmo v. Sebelius. The proposed agreement was filed in federal District Court on October 16, 2012. When the judge approves the proposed agreement, CMS will revise its guidance to clearly state that skilled nursing and therapy services to maintain a person’s condition can be covered. Previous interpretations of the rule suggested that in order to continue receiving Medicare payments, the providers had to be able to demonstrate continued improvement.

Cholesterol and Aging

Although our cholesterol levels tend to rise with age, the medical community suggests that this is not desirable. Cholesterol, in itself, is important in the manufacture and care of cells, but too much can interfere with blood flow, contributing to cardiovascular disease and, possibly, heart attack. HDLs – high density lipoprotein, the ’good’ cholesterol – attach themselves to the LDLs – low density lipoprotein, the ‘bad’ cholesterol – and move them to the liver, where the LDLs are released.

Seniors in Assisted Living: One Man’s View

An article, “A Room With A Grim View: The ‘Ambient Despair’ That Marks Life In Assisted Living,” authored by Martin Bayne and published by Health Affairs was republished in the Health & Science section of The Washington Post, July 10, under the headline, “They call it assisted living, but it can take the life out of you.”

Mr. Bayne, now 62, entered an assisted living facility at age 53 because of young-onset Parkinson’s. In his article, Mr. Bayne makes several compelling points:

Making Technology Available To Everyone

We are living in times when technology is reshaping everything, from how we operate in the workplace to creating a global economy that is knowledge based. But with workplace operations in flux and a shift toward a knowledge-based economy, there is a greater requirement for accessibility, collaboration, communication, and mobility – with accessibility being the crucial element in attracting business.

Accessible technology is allowing each computer user to address his or her personal needs, whether due to limitations caused by aging, language and learning impairments, or physical disabilities. Having this technology is a win-win situation for business as it serves the customer, helps the employee, and maintains good relations with partners.

Depression Can Affect More Than Just The Brain

Back in the early 1990’s Duke University research found that brain scans of depressed elderly subjects showed quicker loss of brain volume compared to those that did not suffer with depression. Researchers reported that the accelerated aging went beyond the obvious unhealthy habits such as diet and lack of exercise.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, writer Shirley S. Wang reported that medical science is finding more and more that psychological disorders are showing up as diseases in the body, not just in the mind. Diseases that would normally be associated with old age are showing up in younger individuals who have dealt with or who are dealing with depression, psychological stress and post – traumatic stress disorder for long periods of time. To name a few, these diseases include dementia, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. (An earlier article, Mental Health in Later Life: A Guidebook, may be found on the Care for You website.)