Tag Archives: aging

Can we Age Well through the Challenges of Aging?

Until a miracle cure is found to stop, reverse or drastically slow down the aging process,  the news flash of the day is that we will all leave this earth someday.  In our anti-aging driven society of wrinkle reducers and body re-shaping, the fact is that all of us are, shall I say it – AGING!  The question is not that we are aging, but can we age well through the challenges of aging?

Unlike what many marketers would have us believe, aging is not a disease.  Normal aging is associated with changes, some of these being:

  • Vision – decreased depth perception and ability to distinguish dark colors.  Often this includes decreased night vision.
  • Hearing – loss is gradual;  in the 65 – 74 age group 25% hearing loss is average, with men experiencing more than women.
  • Smell – by age 80, 40% of older adults may experience changes in ability to smell.
  • Touch – the number of nerve receptors in skin decrease and difficulty in the ability to discriminate temperature increases with age.
  • Psychosocial – memory and reaction time typically being to decline at about the age of 70, leading to slower response time, decreased reflexes in the feet and learning time takes longer.

These age-related changes can be challenging, especially if we don’t accept these as a reality of normal aging.  For instance, vision changes require that we see our eye doctor on a regular basis so that symptoms such as cataracts can be corrected.  Hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids.

Other changes are more complex which can be related to a number of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, medications, and dementia.  The “snowball” effect of age-related changes such as falling, depression, memory loss, loss of peripheral vision, weight loss, for example, is not a normal part of aging and needs to be addressed in order to age well.

To age well we:

  1. Must accept the normal changes taking place as we age
  2. Address these changes with regular health care visits
  3. Understand that an unhealthy lifestyle such as lack of physical exercise, unhealthy eating, over-consumption of alcohol, drug or medication misuse,  and lack of social interactions will have a domino effect on normal aging.

Age is the greatest factor in developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological symptoms, heart disease and other chronic illness.  For the 78 million boomers marching toward old age who want to age well, the best first step is to realize that you have the ability to choose if this will be your course of action.  To age well, we must take on the aging challenges intentionally.  Not by ignoring that we are aging, or allowing ourselves to wallow in the woes of aching joints.

“Know that you are a perfect age.  Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once.  Be comfortable with growing older.”                              ….Louise Hay

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the internationally acclaimed Dementia Live Simulation program.  She may be contacted at pam@ageucate.com

www.AGEucate.com

Considering Retirement? This Might Change Your Mind

I wonder if “retirement” will be one of those words that get’s shelved as such a “twenty-tens” thing.  Why the buzz about nixing retirement?

A study of nearly half a million people in France found that people who delay retirement have less risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.  It is the largest study done thus far and backs up the theory about brainpower and the benefits of staying mentally (and physically) sharp.  Researchers agree with the findings that working tends to keep people physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged.  All of these things are known to help prevent cognitive decline.

“For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 percent,” said Carole Dufouil, a scientist as INSERM, the French government’s health research agency.

Are we turning the tide on what old age means and when society determines we’re used up?  I certainly hope so!  Famous people such as actress Betty White (95) and Warren Buffett (87) haven’t given up their day jobs, and neither have any intention of doing so!

104 year old Fauja Singh recently ran the UK based Mumbai Marathon and is to date the oldest running marathon runner in the world.  He took up the sport at the spry age of 81!

Certainly we are seeing the tide change, as our health care and  retirement systems reevaluate the worldwide longevity revolution.  Living 30, 40 or more years in “retirement” is neither financially feasible or healthy for many many people,  and it’s stretching federal and state budgets in ways that no one dreamed of decades ago.

So before gazing into your crystal ball and seeking that dreamy “retirement” you would be wise to consider what work brings you in keeping mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually young.  If, after examining your decision, you opt for retirement,  have a plan of filling your days with meaningful activities that are healthy for mind, body and soul.   Follow the advise of professionals on healthy aging:

  • Stay active. Many studies show exercise reduces dementia risk.
  • Stay connected — join a club, travel, volunteer. Social ties boost brain health.
  • Eat right. High cholesterol may contribute to stroke and brain cell damage, while dark vegetables and fruits may help protect brain cells.
  • Do mentally challenging activities such as word puzzles and other things that stimulate thinking skills.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who care for them.  

www.AGEucate.com

The Driving Dilemma – Why It is Everyone’s Business

Senior Citizen Woman Driving in Profile

According the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, seniors age 80 and older have the highest rate of fatal crashes per mile driven – even high than for teens.  As our aging population rapidly increases, the driving dilemma is most certainly everyone’s business and a problem that must be addressed at many levels.

Vision problems, slower reactions and other effects of aging increase the risk of crashes. But most state legislatures ignore the problem.   Only 19 states make seniors renew their licenses more often than younger drivers. Half of those states cut eight- to ten-year renewal periods down to four to six years.

Driving represents independence and freedom, in addition to providing mobility, and politicians aren’t eager to take on seniors by making driver’s-license renewals more stringent.  But state lawmakers largely sidestep the issue, so it’s up to families to take action when a loved one is no longer a safe driver.

Easier said than done.  Families who have dealt with the driving dilemma of a spouse, parent or friend can attest to the battle that is likely to embroil when the topic of car keys ensues.

It is everyone’s business that we address these issues today. Lawmakers,  healthcare professionals, EMTs and families must work together in better assessment standards to determine functional ability of an older person to drive safely.   We need more education  when it comes to guidelines and helping everyone who has a stake in determining if an older adult is physically and mentally competent to get behind the wheel.

Studies have shown that the driver with dementia is at increased risk to cause traffic accidents.  In one study, there was a  47% prevalence rate of crashes among 30 persons with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) compared to 10% of 20 age-matched controls in a retrospective survey over 5 years.  Overall, there is probably a 2- to 8-fold greater risk of crashes for elderly drivers with mild to moderate dementia compared to those not demented.

Lawmakers need more stringent testing for older adults, Law Enforcement and EMTs need training to quickly assess the presence of cognitive impairment and families need education on how to communicate with their loved ones about this sensitive issue.  Too often, families are not knowledgeable themselves of what to look for  in terms of driving incompetencies and they too lack assessment tools.

“If you see something say something”.  The general public needs to be made aware of the risks of older drivers.  Like airport security reminders, we should be regularly reminding the public to call in unsafe drivers so law enforcement can take appropriate action. before it’s too late.

Aging education and training, especially in the area of dementia, are in high demand.  Stakeholders have only so much bandwidth to provide the training that is needed across the spectrum.  The challenges escalate every day, and until we work together in getting this training to the hands of professionals, families and lawmakers our dilemmas will escalate as fast as our aging population.

www.AGEucate.com

Pam Brandon is President and Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute.  Aging advocate, speaker and trainer, Pam is passionate about helping families and professionals create transformative change in how they care for older adults.  

How Dementia Friendly Communities Can Change Our Attitudes

cityscapeDementia is everyone’s business.  After decades of being relegated to an issue of institutionalism,  the idea that people living with dementia can have a quality of life is a huge step in furthering education, awareness and acceptance for  millions of Americans that are affected by dementia.  The Dementia Friendly Community movement is making great strides in bringing opportunities to change attitudes, actions and our thinking.

People living with dementia and their families should have access to community services such as grocery stores, retail shops, banks, recreation centers and their faith communities without the fear of embarrassment or isolation.  For those who are living alone, we must make services accessible so that they can continue to enjoy a quality of life that is not only safe but engages them with others.

While the “dementia friendly” concept is by all accounts, in its baby steps across most parts of the world, it is nonetheless capturing the attention of policy makers, businesses and consumers.

Allowing people with dementia to live independently for as long as possible means that as a society we must reduce the stigma of dementia and improve how we are educating all levels of society.  This means the check-out person at the local grocery store, pharmacy assistant and bank teller all need to understand how to better communicate and respond to people who are living with cognitive impairment.

The World Alzheimer Report 2015:  The Global Impact of Dementia estimates that there are currently 46.8 million people living with dementia around the world with numbers set to increase to 74.7 million by 2030 and 131.5 million by 2050.  There are over 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide, which breaks down to one new case every 3 seconds.

The Dementia Friendly Community objectives go beyond seeking safety and well-being for those living with dementia, but empower all members of a community to celebrate the capabilities and honor them as valuable members of the villages, towns and cities where they reside.

Dementia educators and advocates are greatly needed to help people understand dementia and even more, how to better to communicate, respond to their needs and support their families.   It offers communities the ability to take place in making real changes and encourages conversations about what needs to be done locally, nationally and globally to change our attitudes, actions and thinking about dementia.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute.  Their growing network of Master Trainers provides cutting edge aging and dementia education for long term care providers, hospitals, non-profits, higher education and the business community.  

www.AGEucate.com