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Satisfy a Senior’s Sweet Tooth in a Healthy Way

Satisfy a Senior’s Sweet Tooth in a Healthy WayAlthough providing an elder with a balanced, nourishing diet is not too difficult, getting your loved one to actually eat the healthy foods you serve can be a real challenge. As people age, their appetites often diminish. Problems with teeth or swallowing, medications, pain, and the inability to taste and enjoy certain flavors are only a few of the many causes of eating problems in the elderly.

Understandably, caregivers who strive to provide good nutrition to their loved ones can become frustrated when the only foods their elders want are sugary and low in key nutrients. However, it’s important to remember that seniors have different dietary requirements than younger individuals. Fortunately, there are ways to strike a healthy and delicious compromise.
 Aging Loved Ones Have Different Nutritional Requirements

Most sweets are high in calories and fat. While this combination is generally discouraged, it may be okay for a senior, since fat reserves in the body tend to shrink as we age. When it comes to your loved one’s diet, share your concerns with their doctor and ask for some guidance. If the doctor doesn’t see their sweet tooth as a serious issue (it would be for a diabetic), then let them eat what they like. Don’t expect to put a lot of weight on a frail elder. You can try to improve their nutrition, but that may be the best you can realistically do.

The Reasons Behind a Senior’s Sweet Tooth

While a diet high in sugary foods may not necessarily be detrimental to their health, it can indicate other underlying issues that can be remedied. For example, if your elder has problems chewing, swallowing or digesting foods, it’s natural for them to choose a soft sweet, such as a cupcake, over tougher, more nutritious foods, like meat. Ill-fitting dentures and tooth pain are both common reasons for dietary changes in seniors. Make an appointment with the dentist to rule out oral health issues as a contributing factor. For problems with swallowing (called dysphagia) and digestion, see their doctor. These complications can be caused by a host of health conditions, such as advancing dementia or constipation.

Hiding Nutritious Ingredients in Food

Regardless of the reasons why they gravitate toward sweets, convincing a loved one to consume healthy foods can be challenging. It’s often best to start by introducing nutritious ingredients into their diet gradually. Keep in mind that it’s okay to be sneaky when it comes to nutrition. There are cookbooks on the market that can teach you how to “hide” healthy ingredients in meals, including desserts. Examples include creamy banana ice cream, black bean brownies and chocolate chip sweet potato cookies. Make a list of foods that your elder has enjoyed throughout their life and do some research on how you can adapt the recipes to make them healthier.

For a picky eater who loves sweets, smoothies are the perfect vehicles for hidden nutrition. A healthy smoothie can include far more than fruit, and it doesn’t require a formal recipe. Homemade smoothies can be full of nutrients, taste like a delicious dessert and deliver much-needed calories. They can also be adjusted to appeal to a senior’s sweet tooth (see this recipe for a senior-friendly Shamrock Shake) and meet specific dietary restrictions.

Begin by using mostly fruit for flavoring. Strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and mango are popular, and a banana can provide some much-needed potassium and a creamy texture. Try hiding a tablespoon of flax seeds, a spoonful of nut butter or a dollop of Greek yogurt in your next creation for added protein and healthy fat. Liquid multivitamins and protein powders can be included for an extra boost of nutrients. Leafy greens like kale and spinach are easy to hide in a smoothie as well, but they can be bitter. Be sure to balance these ingredients out with a sweeter fruit blend or a drizzle of honey. You can adjust the smoothie’s thickness by adding ice cubes, water, milk or orange juice. There are many smoothie books on the market and recipes available on the Internet that can provide inspiration.

Let Them Indulge

Unless their physician has banned a particular food because of diabetes or another disease, it’s perfectly fine to allow your loved one to enjoy desserts often. Even though you’re trying to improve their nutrition, you want to offer enjoyment as well as calories. Our loved ones have likely suffered many losses as they’ve gotten older. Letting them indulge in the foods they love can help improve their quality of life.

If I make it to 80, I hope that I can have the foods I like, even if they aren’t “good for me.” In my opinion, unless the food is a direct health threat, our elders have earned the right to eat what they enjoy.

Source: AgingCare.com

4 Tricks for a Happy Halloween with an Elderly Loved One

Halloween is a holiday that people of all ages look forward to each year. Costumes, candy, haunted houses and festive parties set this occasion apart from all the others, but how do you help an elder celebrate All Hallows’ Eve in a safe, fun and healthy way? Use these tricks and treats to include your loved ones in the festivities this Halloween.

  1. Choose healthy treats to haunt your home and candy bowl. Whether you plan to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, have a small get together or simply spend a low-key evening at home with your loved one, make sure you have healthy treats on hand. Help yourselves avoid binging on fattening and sugary candies by having better options available at home and for children who are trick-or-treating.
    As a special treat, you and your elder can indulge in a few pieces of dark chocolate, which is lower in sugar and fat than milk varieties and even packs some immune-boosting antioxidants. A celebratory dessert made with natural and/or sugar free ice cream is another special treat that will delight your loved one. Provide healthy topping options like nuts, berries and other kinds of fruit, and oats or granola that they can choose from to make their own tasty creation. This will boost their intake of nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and protein.
    There are countless healthy options for snacks and desserts available. However, keep in mind that some elders may have difficulty eating certain foods. A loved one who has trouble chewing and/or swallowing may fare better with a healthy smoothie or bowl of pudding instead of a hard granola bar or dense fruit like apples.
  2. Plan your “paranormal” activities appropriately. Your loved one may enjoy the excitement of handing out goodies to trick-or-treaters and seeing neighborhood children in their costumes. This is a fun and easy way for elders to interact with other generations and feel that they are a part of the celebration without even leaving their front porch or driveway. Encouraging them to participate is a great way to improve their mood and get them into the spirit of Halloween.
    However, some elders may not interact well with children or be able to handle the hubbub of trick-or-treating. In this case, post an easily visible note in your driveway or on your front door that says, “Sorry, no more candy,” or “No trick-or-treaters, please.” This can be especially important for loved ones who have dementia and may be agitated or confused by repeated knocking or ringing of the doorbell.
    Most trick-or-treaters make their rounds at dusk or just after dark, which may coincide with the onset of Sundowner’s syndrome. For an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia, confusion and agitation can be heightened at this time of day. Excessive noise, the coming and going of strangers, and costumes can be extremely disorienting and even frightening. Making treats together, watching a not-too-scary movie, or engaging in simple holiday crafts can be great low-key distractions. If you both choose to participate in Halloween festivities, be sure that you remain attentive and aware of your loved one’s mood and comfort level throughout the evening.
  3. Keep seasonal décor spooky but safe. Houses can be decorated to celebrate the height of the fall season with pumpkins, wreaths of fall foliage and cinnamon brooms, or they can be made into sinister dwellings full of cobwebs, spooky figurines, bats and spiders. Regardless of how you wish to decorate, make sure that none of these items present a tripping or fire hazard. One of the best ways to do this is to place larger decorations outside on the lawn, and keep indoor embellishments to small accents.
    Décor may be out of the question for a loved one who has dementia, especially if they are prone to hallucinations, delusions or paranoia. Decorative touches that we think are tame may be extremely unsettling or bothersome for an elder with cognitive impairment. Their brain processes sensory stimulation in ways that can be scary or overwhelming. You know your loved one best, so decorate in a safe and considerate way.
  4. Make costumes creative and comfortable. For some, the ability to dress up is the best part of celebrating Halloween. If your loved one wants and is able to, assist them in making a costume, and let them show it off to trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.
    Keep in mind that complicated or elaborate outfits may make it difficult to walk and/or make trips to the restroom. Simpler costumes will keep your loved one comfortable and make your caregiving duties much easier so you both can enjoy the festivities.
 Holidays like Halloween can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Help your loved one celebrate in a fun and healthy way, and remember that there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of indulgence and kookiness every so often!
Source: AgingCare.com

Blindness Due to Age-Related Macular Degeneration Should Not be Considered an Inevitability

The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises that early detection and today’s treatments for common eye disease among seniors can help stop vision loss.

While age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in Americans age 65 and older, seniors who develop AMD should not consider blindness in advanced age to be inevitable, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The Academy is advising the public that regular eye exams, along with today’s treatments for AMD—if provided early enough—can help seniors avoid unnecessary AMD-related vision loss.

AMD, which affects an estimated 11 million Americans, is the deterioration of the eye’s macula—the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye that is responsible for central vision, the ability to see fine details clearly. AMD has two forms—wet and dry. While dry AMD leads to a gradual loss of vision, wet AMD leads to faster vision loss and is the most advanced form of the disease. Wet AMD is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all AMD-related blindness. As AMD is not commonly detected in patients until they begin to suffer vision loss, it is critical for seniors to understand the importance of routine eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that by age 65, seniors should get eye exams every one to two years, or as recommended by their ophthalmologist.

Years after Joan Nick, an 86-year-old retiree from Carmel, Calif., lost vision in her right eye in her 60s due to glaucoma, she was diagnosed with dry AMD in her left eye. Her ophthalmologist at the time advised her not to worry since the disease typically progresses slowly. But, during a routine eye exam, Nick was shocked to find she could not read an eye chart. Although she hadn’t noticed any changes in her vision, her AMD had progressed from dry to wet. Nick immediately visited a retina specialist who began treatment that restored the vision lost to AMD.

“I am so thankful that this treatment has given me a second chance to enjoy the activities I love, such as reading and cooking,” says Nick.

Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., Nick’s ophthalmologist specializing in retina-related conditions and a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages seniors to learn from Nick’s example of taking action to fight the progression of AMD. “Many older people develop AMD and other age-related eye diseases as part of the body’s natural aging process, but seniors should not suffer in silence about their sight loss because they feel it’s inevitable,” said Dr. Khurana. “There is so much that we ophthalmologists can do these days to help seniors prevent, slow and treat AMD. It’s important for seniors to know that people with AMD today have a much better chance of saving their vision than they did 10 years ago.”

For individuals who have been diagnosed with dry AMD, nutrient supplements have been proven beneficial in lowering the risk of developing wet AMD. For those who have the wet form of AMD, treatments are available and include anti-VEGF injections that are administered directly into the eye, thermal laser therapy, or photodynamic therapy which involves a light-activated injected drug in combination with a low-power laser.

Seniors who are worried about AMD or other eye conditions, and have not had a recent eye exam or for whom cost is a concern, may qualify for EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that offers eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible seniors age 65 and older. Visit www.eyecareamerica.org to see if you are eligible.

More information about AMD

Symptoms of dry AMD include:

  • Blurry or hazy vision, especially in your central vision
  • Need for increasingly bright light to see up close
  • Colors appear less vivid or bright
  • Difficulty seeing when going from bright light to low light
  • Trouble or inability to recognize people’s faces

Symptoms of wet AMD include:

  • Distorted vision—straight lines will appear bent, crooked or irregular
  • Dark gray spots or blank spots in your vision
  • Size of objects may appear different for each eye
  • Colors lose their brightness or do not look the same for each eye

Learn about AMD risk factors and view an AMD vision simulator [optional link to: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/age-related-macular-degeneration/macular-degeneration-vision-simulator.cfm] to see how this eye disease can affect vision. For more information about AMD and other eye diseases, visit www.geteyesmart.org.

Source: The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. For more information, visit www.aao.org. The Academy’s EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit www.geteyesmart.org or www.ojossanos.org to learn more.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

“Nightcap” Before Bedtime? Not a Good Idea!

Do you have a “nightcap” to help yourself relax before bedtime? This might not be such a good idea, according to sleep researchers. Experts have long known that consuming beer, wine or spirits right before bedtime can cause us to wake up after only a few hours and then feel tired during the day. A recent study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine helps explain why.

Mahesh Thakkar, Ph.D., and his team report that alcohol is a powerful sleep inducer, and almost one in five Americans drinks alcohol to help fall asleep. But, says Prof. Thakkar, alcohol interferes with the body’s natural mechanism that regulates sleepiness and wakefulness. This mechanism, called sleep homeostasis, makes us want to sleep if we haven’t slept in a while, and wakes us up if we’ve slept too long.

The researchers found that drinking alcohol interferes with the sleep homeostatic mechanism, putting pressure on us to go to sleep right away. When this happens, the sleep period is shifted. In addition, as the alcohol wears off, we may wake up. Said study co-author Dr. Pradeep Sahota, “Based on our results, it’s clear that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid. Alcohol disrupts sleep and the quality of sleep is diminished.” He added, “Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases your need to go the bathroom and causes you to wake up earlier in the morning.”

These findings are important for seniors, who are at higher risk of sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night and waking up too early. Poor quality sleep worsens many health conditions and can lead to depression and falls. Instead of having a drink, seniors are advised to read a book or listen to soothing music before bedtime, and to improve the sleep environment. Adding exercise during the day—but not right before sleep—also helps.

Dr. Thakkar said, “Sleep is an immense area of study. Approximately one-third of our life is spent sleeping. Coupled with statistics that show 20 percent of people drink alcohol to sleep, it’s vital that we understand how the two interact. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, don’t use alcohol. Talk to your doctor or a sleep medicine physician to determine what factors are keeping you from sleeping. These factors can then be addressed with individualized treatments.”

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, reporting on a study http://www.alcoholjournal.org/article/S0741-8329(14)20115-7/abstract from the University of Missouri Health System

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

Retirement Communities Encouraged to Promote Muscle-Strengthening Activities

A University of Missouri expert encourages staff and administrators to include a well-rounded fitness program in order to keep residents healthier.

The majority of adults aged 65 and older remain inactive and fail to meet recommended physical activity guidelines, previous research has shown. However, these studies have not represented elders living in retirement communities who may have more access to recreational activities and exercise equipment. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that older adults in retirement communities who reported more exercise experienced less physical decline than their peers who reported less exercise, although many adults—even those who exercised—did not complete muscle-strengthening exercises, which are another defense against physical decline.

“Physical decline is natural in this age group, but we found that people who exercised more declined less,” said Lorraine Phillips, an associate professor in the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing. “The most popular physical activities the residents of the retirement community reported doing were light housework and walking, both of which are easily integrated into individuals’ daily lives, but these exercises are not the best choices for maintaining muscle strength.”

Phillips and her colleagues studied the physical activity of 38 residents at TigerPlace, an independent living community in Columbia, four times in one year. The researchers tested the residents’ walking speed, balance and their ability to stand up after sitting in a chair. Then, researchers compared the results of the tests to the residents’ self-reported participation in exercise. Phillips found that residents who reported doing more exercise had more success maintaining their physical abilities over time.

Phillips says the national recommendations for exercise include muscle strengthening exercises, such as knee extensions and bicep curls. Most of the study participants did not report completing these types of activities despite daily opportunities for recreational activities and access to exercise equipment. Phillips says muscle strength is important to individuals of this age group in order for them to maintain their ability to conduct everyday activities such as opening jars, standing up from chairs and supporting their own body weight.

“For older individuals, walking may represent the most familiar and comfortable type of physical activity,” Phillips said. “Muscle-strengthening exercises should be promoted more aggressively in retirement communities and made more appealing to residents.”

To combat the lack of physical activity among seniors, Phillips says health care providers should discuss exercise programs with their patients and share the possible risks associated with their lack of exercise, such as losing their ability to live independently. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals 65 years of age and older that have no limiting health conditions should do muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups at least two days a week.

Phillips’ research, “Retirement Community Residents’ Physical Activity, Depressive Symptoms, and Functional Limitations,” was published in Clinical Nursing Researchhttp://cnr.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/02/10/1054773813508133.abstract

Source: University of Missouri News Bureau.

 

Healthy Lifestyle Choices to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

Most of us know that we can take “heart smart” steps to promote cardiac wellness. But sometimes, even the researchers are amazed at what a difference these lifestyle choices can make.

The American College of Cardiology recently reported on a new study, this one on a group of over 20,000 healthy Swedish men aged 45–79. The researchers from Karolinska Instituet in Stockholm, Sweden studied the men for 11 years, questioning them regularly about their diet, exercise and other wellness factors.

Said study author Agneta Akesson, Ph.D., “It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks. What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors.”

The researchers found that each healthy lifestyle factor decreased the risk of coronary heart disease. The healthy choices include:

  • A healthy diet including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains and fish
  • Not smoking
  • Walking or cycling at least 40 minutes per day
  • Amount of belly fat under 95 centimeters (37.5 inches)
  • Moderating alcohol consumption

According to the study authors, these preventive choices also help patients avoid the potential side effects of heart medications and, as a side benefit, save patients and the healthcare system money.

Akesson and her team report that, at present, less than 2 percent of the American population follow all these recommendations.

February’s American Heart Month is a great time to make some heart-smart resolutions for ourselves, and to promote heart health for everyone. This is not just an issue for seniors. Says Akesson, “It is important to note that these lifestyle behaviors are modifiable, and changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviors can have great impact on cardiovascular health. However, the best thing one can do is to adapt healthy lifestyle choices early in life.”

Learn More

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers resources and information for American Heart Month.  http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on information from the American College of Cardiology. Read the entire study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology  http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleID=1909605

 

What Does Successful Aging Really Mean?

When we talk about “successful aging,” many Americans think of models in senior product advertisements who—apart from their silver hair—seem to be untouched by age as they pose on the golf course, walk on the beach or dance the night away.

But few of us retain our physical and cognitive health indefinitely. Most of us will deal with increasing disability as the years advance, and while disease and disability aren’t “a normal part of aging,” they are challenges we are likely to face. According to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 40 percent of people older than 65 have at least one disability.

A researcher from University of Louisville recently urged that we reconsider our preconceptions of “successful aging.” Nursing professor Valerie Lander McCarthy, Ph.D., RN, collaborated with a visiting professor from China to develop a different definition of positive aging.

McCarthy says that it is unrealistic to measure “positive aging” solely on physical and mental capacity. She says that if they don’t fall into the 10 percent with exceptional physical and cognitive health, “older adults feel guilty when they get sick because they think they are not succeeding—and in the U.S., succeeding is important.”

McCarthy’s work with Shandong University’s Ji Hong appeared in the Journal of Transcultural Nursing. The team said, “Transcendence—a sense of meaning, well-being and life satisfaction—is the best predictor of positive aging. The concept involves relationships, creativity, contemplation, introspection and spirituality.”

McCarthy has worked with interventions to increase this type of positive aging. These include encouraging “a time for quiet solitude in natural beauty followed by a discussion about a person’s outlook, helping to develop a broadened perspective on life or a feeling of being an integral part of the cycle of life.” McCarthy says storytelling can also be beneficial.

“Successful aging is important for the rapidly growing population of older adults and their families and caregivers,” says McCarthy.  She urges more attention to interventions that promote a sense of successful aging, and reminds us:  “It is also significant for society as a whole, which will bear the burden of unprecendented demands on health and aging services.”

Source: IlluminAgeAgeWise reporting on study from University of Louisville [optional link to: http://tcn.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/05/16/1043659614526257.full.pdf?ijkey=ifzmJkLq4agorci&keytype=ref]

 

New Census Bureau Report Underscores the Need for Senior Care

The Baby Boom is now creating a Senior Boom. According to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of individuals age 65 and older is projected to reach nearly 84 million by 2050, almost double the size from 2012. Another factor contributing to the boom is the fact that people are living longer. Currently, the average American is living to be almost 79 years old, up from about 71 years in 1970.

 

This raises the question of how we, as a country, plan on taking care of our aging citizenry. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about one-third of people age 65 or older report functional limitations of one kind or another—limitations that require assistance in dressing, bathing, preparing meals, managing medications, etc. Among people age 85 or older, about two-thirds report functional limitations. And experts project that two-thirds of all seniors will need assistance to deal with a loss in functioning at some point during their remaining years of life.

“Changes in the age structure of the U.S. population will have implications for health care services and providers, national and local policymakers, and businesses seeking to anticipate the influence that this population may have on their services, family structure and the American landscape,” says Jennifer Ortman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Projections Branch.

The aging population presents numerous challenges and great opportunities for agencies and companies that provide senior care. Home care and home health care services, community care facilities for the older population, and continuing care retirement communities are all expanding. All showed an increase of 20 percent or more in their number of employees between 2007 and 2011. Additionally, age-restricted communities are becoming more and more popular. One such community, The Villages in Sumter County, Florida, was the nation’s fastest growing metro area from 2012 to 2013.

Fortunately, the Senior Boom wasn’t an unforeseen phenomenon. We’ve known for nearly 60 years that Baby Boomers would eventually grow old and need greater care. The associated industries caring for these individuals have, so far, been able to keep pace with demand, although occupancy at senior living communities is on the rise, reaching 89.9% in the second quarter of 2014. Fortunately, construction of new communities is also on the rise. It’s safe to say that senior care will be a growing industry for many years to come.

 

Source: IlluminAgeAgeWise

Leading Physician Group Releases Guidance for Treatment of Urinary Incontinence

It’s a subject few people openly discuss—yet millions of senior American women are living with urinary incontinence (UI), a troublesome problem that if not managed, can lead to infection, isolation, falls, inactivity and an overall decline in health. Many of these women and their families fail to realize that UI can be treated, often without surgery.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) recently reported that each year, treatment for UI costs upwards of $19.5 billion. In September 2014, the organization released updated, evidence-based recommendations for non-surgical treatment options “to help doctors and patients understand the benefits, harms, and costs of tests and treatment options so they can pursue care together that improves health, avoids harms, and eliminates wasteful practices.”

Treatment recommendations depend on the type of incontinence a woman is experiencing:

Stress incontinence means that urine leaks from the bladder when a woman laughs, coughs, exercises or lifts something heavy. It is caused by physical changes in the muscles of the pelvic floor caused by factors such as childbirth, menopause and obesity. This type is most common in women. For this type, the ACP recommends a specific series of exercises of the pelvic floor called Kegel exercises.

Urgency incontinence, sometimes called “overactive bladder,” happens when the bladder begins to empty itself suddenly, perhaps when the patient thinks about going to the bathroom or hears running water. It can be caused by damage to the nerves or by irritation from infection or certain foods. For urgency incontinence, the ACP is recommending “bladder training, a form of behavioral therapy that involves urinating on a set schedule and gradually increasing the time between urination.” If bladder training is unsuccessful, the ACP recommends medication as recommended by the patient’s physician.

Mixed UI is a combination of stress and urgency incontinence. For this type, the ACP recommends Kegel exercises with bladder training. They also recommend weight loss and exercise for women who are obese.

ACP president Dr. David Fleming states that about half the women who experience this problem don’t even report it to their healthcare provider. He says to doctors, “Urinary incontinence is a common problem for women that is often under-reported and under-diagnosed. Physicians should take an active approach and ask specific questions such as onset, symptoms and frequency of urinary incontinence.”

The information in this article is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor. If you are experiencing incontinence, seek the advice of your healthcare provider.

Source: AgeWise reporting on material from the American College of Physicians. You can read the entire “Nonsurgical Management of Urinary Incontinence in Women” set of guidelines in the Sept. 16, 2014 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine [link to: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1905131]

 

Can Seniors Fight Depression By Going on the Internet?

According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, more than 6 million Americans older than 65 experience feelings of persistent sadness, hopelessness and lack of energy. Two million of these seniors have been diagnosed with a severe depressive illness.

Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, resulting from illness, a loss or accumulated losses, chronic pain, the side effects of medication and other causes. You might be surprised to know that retirement can be the trigger event for depression. Even though most of us look forward to having our days to ourselves, with more time to do the things we want to do, retirement may create a “vocation gap” that leaves some retirees without a feeling of purpose and a place in the world. Retirement may also mean the loss of an important social context.

It’s important to seek treatment for depression. Treatment might include medications and therapy. But often, lifestyle changes provide a powerful mood boost. These include everything from exercise to volunteering to watching humorous TV programs. And over the past few years, several studies have shown that internet use can be an effective tool for reducing feelings of boredom and isolation.

This was confirmed recently when a team of researchers headed by Shelia R. Cotton, Ph.D., from Michigan State University examined results from the large Health and Retirement Study, an ongoing survey that provides data on more than 22,000 older Americans. As reported by the Gerontological Society of America, the team asked study subjects: “Do you regularly use the World Wide Web, or the internet, for sending and receiving email or for any other purpose?”

The results showed that the internet users had a 33 percent reduction in the probability of depression. Said the study authors, “This provides some evidence that the mechanism linking internet use to depression is the remediation of social isolation and loneliness. Encouraging older adults to use the internet may help decrease isolation, loneliness, and depression.”

Online socialization is a great way to supplement and increase “real life” friendships. Surfing the Web provides mental stimulation and helps seniors feel informed and connected. Something as small as watching a few cat videos—and sharing them on Facebook—can raise the spirits. And today, many young people who were raised with the internet are providing their older relatives with a little intergenerational tech support. If you or an older loved one is experiencing depression and isolation, check out the resources in your community to help seniors learn to use computers and connect with others online.

Read more about the study here.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2014; with excerpts from news release from the Gerontological Society of America.