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Surgery not always safe for seniors

When a loved one wakes up in the middle of the night with abdominal pain, a caretaker’s first instinct is often a trip to the emergency room, followed by scheduling surgery. Sure, it can be scary, but hospitals typically help families feel more secure due to the assumption their loved one will leave in better shape than when they went in. Nevertheless, a recent study published by The Annals of Surgery reveals how surgery can actually increase the mortality rate and use of invasive interventions among nursing home residents compared to independent seniors.

Despite reports, many seniors upbeat about aging

You would think recent crises like the economic meltdown would have many older adults approaching their futures with fear, but a new survey released jointly by the National Council on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA Today say that’s not the case.

While a portion of the 2,250 seniors aged 60 or older admitted they are worried about finances, retirement planning, and managing long-term healthcare needs, overall they are optimistic about what lies ahead. Mostly, this is because they are living longer, more productive lives, which enables them to confidently navigate the country’s many uncertainties. Here are a few highlights:

Elderly volunteers have so much to give

The Nonprofit Quarterly estimates there are more than 60 million volunteers in America. Most volunteers do their work without fanfare for years on end. The volunteers help their communities because they have the time, expertise they can share, and in many cases, to stay connected. For the elderly, volunteering can be especially rewarding as wisdom can be shared, and boredom and isolation of living at home avoided.

In our EPOCH communities, many of our residents volunteer without leaving the premises. For example, in EPOCH at Melbourne, residents meet with children from a local elementary school regularly to read, do history projects and share time together. For many of these children, whose grandparents live outside the area, this interaction can be a wonderful learning experience. In EPOCH Senior Living in Providence, students from Brown Medical School stop by regularly to visit with residents. These residents have volunteered to work with the young, future physicians, to expose them to issues of aging adults.  Residents at our Chestnut Hill community do the same.

The Nonprofit Quarterly included an article recently that demonstrates how volunteer work can be restorative for older adults. The story features a 90-year-old woman who helps out – for a decade – at a local elementary school. She had no experience, she thought, but her ability to guide reading has been valuable; and the connection she has established with the school children has helped her cope with the death of her husband.

Click here to read “The Soul of Community: A 90-Year-Old Volunteer Mentor.”


Tips for alleviating arthritis pain

Did you know one in three American adults suffers from some form of arthritis? It’s the number one reported disability in this country, and accounts for more than #86 billion – yes, billion – in health care costs annually. This common problem, though, can be alleviated through a variety of methods, from gentle stretching to dietary habits. Here’s a list of tips; for more, click on the link to a recent CNN article below.

  • Create a pain management chart so you can track how different methods alleviate your pain – or don’t – and adjust over time.
  • Lifestyle changes such as improving one’s diet and increasing activity are key. Weight loss can go a long way in alleviating arthritis pain by reducing the force and stress on already damaged joints.
  • Move! It may seem counterintuitive, since arthritis restricts motion, but regular, gentle movements and stretching keep arthritic joints limber and alleviate pain.
  • Give hot/cold therapy a try. Cold alleviates swelling and pain while warmth relaxes muscles and tight joints.

For more tips on how to alleviate arthritis pain, check out “10 Ways to Alleviate Your Arthritis” from CNN.

Cyber exercise for a fit mind

The unfortunate irony for many aging individuals is that while they could benefit a lot, both physically and mentally, from exercise, many are not physically able to do so. Enter “cybercycling,” a virtual fitness program that’s had some promising outcomes, including improved mental sharpness in aging adults.

Researchers had a group of seniors ride on a stationary bike equipped with a monitor that depicted a real-life scene, complete with obstacles, scenery, and more. Participants rode for 45 minutes three times a week. Those who participating in the “cyber” cycling showed better physical and mental health than individuals who simply road a stationary bicycle without the virtual reality monitor.

From the article:

The findings suggest that even elderly people who might be physically limited may benefit from some types of exercise that are linked to a virtual world in which they can interact with their environment. Among the study participants, Anderson-Haney says the cybercycles became more popular than the traditional stationary bikes, and that the subjects were motivated by trying to beat ghost riders in their virtual world.

Want to learn more? Check out “Virtual Exercise Games Help Elderly Remain Mentally Sharp” from TIME.