“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Mark Twain’s wisdom is perfectly applicable to today’s seniors, which spans generations, including Baby Boomers and their parents, known as the Greatest Generation (some of whom are centenarians) and the in-between Silent Generation. This diversity proves there is no single definition of a “senior” and that life can be lived to its fullest well into these golden years, especially with the help of people and professionals who can keep them active and engaged.
Susan Batastini, founder of Walk 2 Wellness, a program that encourages walking and talking in nature as people transition through certain life events, says she has been pleasantly surprised by the interest in her program, specifically from seniors. “Seniors in general are living longer and they want to live healthier and happier lives, they want to age well,” she says.
Walking in particular is an accessible activity for seniors: It requires no equipment or gym membership. “Walking keeps your heart and muscles healthy, and it’s an easy way to burn calories and stay in shape. Some doctors even prescribe walking in nature. It naturally gives the brain a boost of endorphins and improves our mood,” Batastini says. “That translates to mental health benefits and reduced stress.”
Conversation also comes more naturally when walking, and Batastini encourages clients to discuss transitions and find their purpose. “People who have retired, they spend their life working at full speed and now they want to enjoy life but with purpose. These can be some of the most productive years in our lives and it’s a great time to discover what brings them joy,” she says.
Pain Relief and Management
Staying in motion can also help reduce pain or other symptoms often associated with aging, says Dr. Paul Vidal, owner of Specialized Physical Therapy.
He often sees elder patients who are referred to his practice with complaints of dizziness, loss of balance, arthritis, and pain in the hips, knees and lower back. Some of these concerns can also be a safety hazard. “With dizziness, for instance, that could create a risk for falling, which can lead to serious injuries, commonly hip fractures or a traumatic brain injury, or even death if severe,” Vidal says. “If we can help reduce or eliminate dizziness through vestibular rehab, it improves balance through retraining, and ultimately has a positive effect on their quality of life.”
A physical therapist is also a good person to consult to keep the body moving in general to prevent pain and injury. “Physical therapists are experts in movement. We understand how the body works, combined with knowledge of diseases and conditions and how that impacts someone’s body. Based on that and each individual’s unique presentation, we can come up with a treatment plan to help,” he says.
The ability to communicate is one of the most important pieces in our daily lives, no matter our age; however, when a sense such as hearing begins to fade, it’s not always something people are ready to admit.
“When a patient can’t communicate easily, they can react by removing themselves from social interactions,” says Dr. Rosario Saad, an audiologist at Associates in Hearing HealthCare. “You may notice them sitting in a corner at family gatherings, not participating and just observing. They laugh when they notice others laughing, but they reluctantly engage. This snowballs as they become more aware of what is happening and they may isolate themselves to their home, or a small circle of loved ones, as communication with others can be stressful.”
The thought of needing a hearing aid may be discouraging, but it’s worth noting that the design and technology of hearing devices have come a long way, she continues. “Patients come in with many perceptions based on limited firsthand experiences with hearing aids. The older demographic is surprised when we show them what devices look like now. Many of them still think of what their parents wore 20 years ago.”
Dr. Saad adds that providing patients the experience of trying out hearing aids during a consultation is often eye-opening and life-changing for them.
There will inevitably come a time when a senior will benefit from being in a community of peers and professionals who can take care of their health needs while providing an active social environment. This decision should not be met with sadness, but happiness, says Lavanda Clinkscales of Brightview Senior Living.
“Being prepared for this time takes the fear out of it. Getting to visit senior living communities is usually eye-opening. Your best option for a happy future is one that you have prepared for,” she says. “We take a lot of time prior to someone moving into the community to find out about their interests, what they did for a living and even what they are looking to enjoy here at the community. We have a hospitality committee that we pair each new resident with to help get the new resident acclimated to their new home.”
Being surrounded by fast friends helps new residents decide how they want to fill their social calendars, which include everything from off-site excursions to on-site activities utilizing the myriad amenities found at Brightview. Those include a library, fitness center, walking path, spa, salon and dining areas.
Once settled in, seniors and their families return to their roles as sons, daughters and spouses rather than full-time caregivers, making these precious years enjoyable for everyone.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 11.
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