Health and Wellness

Aging in Place

Katheryn W. Cowles, CKD, CBD, CAPS, RBC

You are nearing retirement and it may have fleetingly crossed your mind that you need to start thinking about what this will mean to your life style and how you want to spend this longed for period in your life. Whether “longed for” or not, this is an inevitable period in your life and planning for it should be a priority. You will find that changing from an active life in the work place to a life of leisure will require a period of time to adapt and adjust. Finances will play a role in many decisions including how and where you spend your golden years. Take it from a baby boomer, it is never too early to start thinking about what the future holds and planning for the ideal life.

“Aging-in-Place” is a phrase you may have heard bantered around. The phrase is commonly defined as having the means and home design to live comfortably and independently in your home for as long as possible. Many baby boomers would prefer to stay in familiar surroundings and remain close to neighbors, friends, and family. If staying in your home is the direction you choose there are steps to be taken to prepare the home for your future. You may be in perfect health, however, preparing and retrofitting the home for the future is a step any homeowner should plan on implementing in the near future. These changes are especially important in kitchens, bathrooms, main entrances to the home and areas you use often or plan to use often.

A few of the most important items to address in redesign work for the home are:

  1. Widen doorways to a minimum 32″ clearance when the door is at its maximum open position.
  2. Minimum clearance for passageways and hallways is 36″, ideal is 48″.
  3. Install or *block for grab bars.
    * To add support or beef up framing for secure attachment to walls.
  4. Choose cabinets with accessories that allow easy access to storage in upper and lower cabinets. There are tons of creative and functional items that can be built into cabinets maximizing accessibility and simplifying life.
  5. Remove clutter. Consider giving heirlooms and excess furnishings to children, donate to a good cause or consign to a second hand store. The main idea is to make your home barrier free by eliminating trip factors. The design process for Aging in Place is Universal Design. “The Father of Universal Design” Ronald Mace, AIA, defined universal design as, “Design for the built environment and consumer products for a very broad definition of the user that encouraged attractive, marketable products that are usable by everyone.”

In other words, this design process incorporates safety features/products and function for the elderly that can be used comfortably by all ages, and is balanced with equal amounts of esthetics.” Consider what this is telling you, the design for retrofitting your home for the future, if properly implemented, will not look institutional and that these safety features will be inconspicuous and at most look like intentional accents of the design. The equation is, safety, function & pretty equal Universal Design and this equals your plan for “Aging in Place.”

Simple Ways to Improve Your Diet

Courtesy of Ever’Man Cooperative

  • Focus on adding in more good things like fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Drink more water
  • Cook at home more
  • Increase whole grains, and add variety to the types of grains you eat
  • Experiment with protein to see what type and how much protein feels good to your body
  • Eat fewer processed foods

Eating healthy is about much more than weight loss. The food that you put into your body can affect your energy levels, risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kinds of cancer, and anemia. If you already have one or more of these diseases, eating well may help you better able to manage them. Healthy eating is also linked to helping people reduce high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, and manage diabetes.

Choosing healthy foods doesn’t have to be complicated. The best way to improve your eating habits is to focus on adding in more nutritious foods. When you add in more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and good protein, the not-so-nutritious stuff will naturally show up less in your diet. Whole foods will offer you the most nutritional benefits. Things like whole grains and beans contain fiber (both soluble and insoluble) which is linked to lowering cholesterol, improving digestion, and helping to stabilize blood sugar levels. Look to add a variety of colors to your plate, as different colors will give different nutrients. When you eat more colors of the rainbow on your plate, you will help to increase the amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you are consuming. Adding in more colorful whole foods can also help to improve cravings.

If you struggle with sugar cravings, try and eat more sweet vegetables and see if that helps to lower craving for sweets. Experiment with different types of protein to see what feels best for your body. Things like beans, nuts, fish, and lean meats are all good protein options. Whenever possible, cook your own meals rather than going out. When you cook at home, you are in more control over what is going into the foods you will be consuming. This means you have better control over the amount of excess salt, sugar, and processed foods in your meals. Above all else, the most important thing is to listen to your body and see what foods feel best to you.

Exercise in Aging Populations

Tyler Windham | Community Outreach for Solaris HealthCare Pensacola.

In a world where exercise recommendations are endless, we are here to provide a brief overview. The benefits of regular exercise have been studied more and more each year. We know that exercise can dramatically improve quality of life. We often times forget how easy it is to get started. Please make sure to visit your health care provider before starting any exercise regimen. Let’s answer some of the basic questions regarding exercise and physical activity.

How much exercise is enough?
The recommendation for older adults is 150 minutes of exercise per week. When broken down into segments, 150 minutes is only 20 minutes per day, seven days per week; 30 minutes a day for five days per week, or 50 minutes a day 3 days a week. The four major areas consist of aerobics, balance, flexibility, and strength training.

  1. Aerobics and endurance
    With the minimum goal being 10 minutes, the recommendation is to increase duration weekly. Common exercises include: walking, jogging, dancing and playing tennis.
  2. Strength training and weight lifting
    Strength training should include exercises to target all major muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, arms, abdominals, hips, and legs. The recommendation is for these exercises to be performed two to three times per week with a day of rest between sessions. Good examples are using free weights, strength training equipment, or resistance bands.
  3. Balance/ Fall Prevention
    Falls are very common with the increasing aging population. Balance and fall prevention exercises reduce risk a great deal. Balance exercises can focus on strength or stability. Both are very important. Balance exercises include standing on one foot, walking heel to toe, hip extensions, side leg raises, and back leg raises. These can be performed two or more days per week.
  4. Stretching and flexibility
    Stretching can improve posture, help back pain, and is beneficial for arthritis. Generally stretching should be done 2 to 3 days per week, performing each stretch 3 to 5 times with a 20 to 30 second hold. Try one or two stretches for each body region.

Getting started
If you ask most anyone, they will tell you, “The hardest part of exercise is getting started.” It’s much easier to get started when you think about your exercise goals in 10 minute sessions. We recommend touring your local health clubs in order to find one you are most comfortable with. Most have certified personal trainers that are highly trained to help you meet your goals. If you prefer to exercise at home, be sure to do your research and look for exercises specifically designed for older adults. Call on friends, family members, or neighbors who have been your cheerleaders. They can encourage you to stick with it. Exercise is for everyone who wants to increase the quality and longevity of their life. Exercise benefits are endless! Give exercise a try and see for yourself!

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