Gardening – Benefits to Health & Well-Being

It’s that time of year. Growing season is upon us, and aside from the actual fruits of your labor, there are multiple health benefits to gardening.

Get Outside and Get Your Vitamin D

A 2014 Italian study, published on the National Institutes of Health website, found that exposure to sunlight helped older adults achieve adequate serum vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is needed to maintain healthy bones. Outdoor activities, such as gardening, drive folks outside to soak up the sun, and thereby increase their vitamin D levels. So get out there, and enjoy the added health benefit of increasing this much needed vitamin, which will have lasting effects on your health. Just remember to pack your sunscreen!

Lower Risk of Dementia

Studies have also found that gardening could lower the risk of dementia by 36%. Researchers tracked just under 3,000 people over the age of 60 for 16 years and concluded that physical activity, particularly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.

Gardening Can Improve Mood and Reduce Stress

A recent study out of the Netherlands, suggests that gardening fights stress even better than other hobbies. Participants completed a stressful task and were then told to read inside or go outdoors and garden for 30 minutes. The gardening group reported better moods afterward, and their blood tests showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. There is a great sense of accomplishment that is achieved by watching something that you have planted and grown with your own hands – flower, fruit and produce.

Gardening as Exercise

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the best way to get exercise is by doing something that you enjoy. You’re much more likely to exercise, if you’re having fun while you do it. Gardening is one of those activities, that while purposeful and possibly a bit tedious at times, can give you a great workout when you least expect it. Bending, stretching, pulling, twisting, lifting watering cans are all giving you the benefits of physical activity while your mind is focused on tending to your garden. These activities can improve your overall flexibility, strength, stamina and balance. Before you know it, you’ll likely break a sweat and have experienced a great overall workout without even realizing it!

Community Gardens Help Reduce Loneliness

Not enough land to have a garden on your property? Check with your local Parks and Recreation Department to find out if your community has a community garden. These are typically large areas of land with cordoned off, rentable garden spaces. Grab a friend, pick up some seeds or plants and get started. The added health benefit of this type of space, is the broader opportunity to socialize with others who also enjoy gardening.

And, as we age, many people struggle to find groups to socialize with – think about it, you were around people every day at work. Once you retire, you need to look for opportunities to get together with others. Gardening can be a great way to accomplish this. These gardens tend to be part of neighborhood beautification programs or programs that help provide fresh produce to those less fortunate in your community. Getting involved in a community garden can lead you to other opportunities to help and volunteer in your community, which will help you grow your social network.

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Benefits of Inter-generational Programming and Volunteering

Laura Carstensen, a Stanford psychology professor and Director of the Stanford Center for Longevity, said, “Contrary to widespread beliefs that older populations consume resources that would otherwise go to youth, there is growing reason to think that older people may be just the resource children need.”

Carstensen’s prior research has found that as people age, their brains actually improve in many ways, including in complex problem-solving and emotional skills. “It is a huge loss for society not to offer such counsel and experience to others, especially young people,” she said.

The aging population has “distinctive qualities to meet the needs of youth,” she and her co-authors wrote. “Older adults are exceptionally suited to meet these needs in part because they welcome meaningful, productive activity and engagement. They seek – and need – purpose in their lives.”

As for older adults, Carsten’s report pointed out, they benefit as well, experiencing emotional satisfaction in relationships with young people. One way to achieve such contact is through volunteer service, which is associated with better physical health and cognitive performance for aging people. From a societal view, these interactions are positive, too.

“Focusing volunteer efforts on young people improve their (young people’s) chances of success in life,” Carstensen said. “These mutual benefits are perhaps the most compelling reason for programs that connect young and old.”

Advantages of Inter-generational Programs for Older Adults

45% of Americans who work into their retirement years, express their desire to work with younger people. Many older adults also report their desire to continue learning, especially when it comes to changes and new innovations in technology. As younger adults are typically very tuned in to these technological advances, they make for great trainers or teachers of technology for their older counterparts. Engaging in programs with younger people also keep the older adults more physically active and able as well as mentally sharp. Studies have even shown that those with a dementia or cognitive impairment have also shown positive effects during their time with younger people. Sharing the wisdom of years of education and experience with younger people, allows the older adults in programs like these to feel a great sense of giving back and contributing to younger people.

Advantages of Inter-generational Programs for Youth

In school systems where older adult volunteers were helping students regularly, reading test scores were higher than those at other schools. Working with older adults helps youth improve their communication skills, develop new and lasting friendships, and gives them an appreciation and positive attitude toward aging. Many young people report feeling a sense of giving back and purpose in these types of settings. Having these folks in the lives of younger people has proven to lower the likelihood that these children would use illegal drugs or alcohol, and they are also far less likely to skip school. Oftentimes, these programs can benefit the younger people in the way of providing them a positive influence, with whom they can interact with on a regular basis.

Inter-generational Programs Benefit the Community

The typically diverse nature of the inter-generational programs break down barriers and stereotypes among young and old. Everyone – young and old, typically wants to the opportunity to contribute to the greater good, and these groups help foster those opportunities. Some of the greatest plagues of the elderly is the feelings of being helpless and bored. Programs such as these offer the opportunity to continue to contribute their greater community in a positive and impactful way. Teaching children and youth at younger ages the importance of working together, and having a positive impact also benefits them and their community by setting the stage for a lifetime of service.

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Overcoming Hearing Loss with Technology

Engagement plays an essential role in our quality of life, whether it’s one-on-one or in larger settings. However, with aging, this may become harder to do as the ability to hear and see diminishes. Hearing loss and impairment affects millions of Americans, with estimates as high as 30% of adults over 65, and a dramatic 70% of adults 85 and up are affected.

Hearing impairment impacts overall health significantly. Imagine trying to participate in your favorite activity without the ability to hear. You would suddenly feel disoriented as you tried to understand what others were saying. Even following simple instructions for an activity would become difficult. This limitation could easily cause embarrassment and confusion. Which means soon, you might stop participating all together, leading to an emotional disconnection and eventually, isolation. The tendency to withdraw when faced with hearing impairment can quickly lead to a decline in an individual’s overall physical and emotional health.

Recently, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published information from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) that looked at 2,000 adults aged 50 and older. They found those who began using hearing aids to combat hearing loss experienced a decline of cognitive deterioration by 75%. These staggering numbers lead some to believe that adults who may have been diagnosed with dementia could, in fact, be dealing with hearing loss. Fortunately, as technology grows, so does the opportunity to overcome these limitations.

One such advancement we use at Maplewood Senior Living is Eversound. Eversound is a unique headphone system that connects directly to any audio source, while at the same time minimizing exterior noise that can be distracting or confusing.

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Approach to Care

Living with, supporting and caring for a person with a dementia diagnosis can be very challenging, particularly if your loved one begins acting out or becomes aggressive or agitated while you are caring for them. One of the biggest questions that arises for a caregiver in these situations is “why?”  “Why are they upset?” “Why are they acting this way?” “Why can’t they sleep?” Why, why, why.

Obviously being in the role of caregiver can become very stressful, especially when you can’t be certain what is needed to help your loved one feel better, sleep, eat or just relax. While it can be challenging at times as the caregiver, the best thing you can do is try to understand what is causing the behavior. Continue reading “Approach to Care”

Locally Sourced Foods

Here at Maplewood Senior Living, food is one of our priorities and for good reason. The research is clear when it comes to brain health; what you eat matters.

Reaping the Benefits of the MIND Diet

There’s a fundamental reason that we choose to work with local purveyors. At Maplewood Senior Living, our memory care focus means we follow the latest research in the field and incorporate whatever we can to improve our residents’ quality of life. One such study in the field of Alzheimer’s and dementia confirmed the vital role played by diet and nutrition, and introduced the MIND diet.

The MIND diet was developed by nutritional epidemiologist, Martha Clare Morris, at Rush University Medical Center through a study that was funded by the National Institute on Aging.  MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and it has many similarities to the Mediterranean diet.

With the MIND diet as a guide to our Maplewood cuisine, we focus on the key tenets which include eating the following foods regularly:

  • Vegetables
  • Green leafy vegetables in particular
  • Berries, especially blueberries
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil

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Residents Come First: Our Person-Centered Approach

“We recognize that a move to a senior living community is a very big emotional journey for families. One of the very first things we do to help make new residents and families feel comfortable is introduce them to our community staff. This allows them to get to know the many experts we have on staff and to ask any questions they may have. Our ultimate goal is to support residents and families throughout the journey so that they have a wonderful experience and thrive in our Maplewood [Senior Living] communities,” said Heather Freemont of Maplewood Senior Living.

Individual Preference & Tailored Approach

There are many ways Maplewood Senior Living puts residents first, and it starts with a tailored nursing plan. We understand that individual needs will vary, as well as personal preferences such as how residents prefer to engage with staff. When it comes to those with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, it is even more critical that we tailor the plan of care, as needs are so unique to each resident. We focus our efforts on treating our residents with dignity using the HEART (Humor, Empathy, Autonomy, Respect & Reaching out to others, and Trust & Triumph) approach. Our on-site nurses are available to help residents around the clock.

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Our Culinary Program – A Sensory Experience

At Maplewood Senior Living, our culinary experience is one designed to excite and engage the senses. We start with fresh, locally sourced ingredients that change with the seasons and offer peak nutrition for our residents. Our culinary team creates dishes to delight the palate while focusing on presentation, because along with tastes and smells, sight is also an essential part of our dining experience.

We focus on the senses. Why? Simply because the five senses can be hindered with age and yet they’re critical to improving our resident’s quality of life. Every detail of the dining experience has been purposefully developed, from the expertise, passion and creativity of our chefs and dining staff to our dining environments.

We tailor our culinary experience to help each resident thrive, even when their senses change. Here are just a few examples of how we cater to our residents:

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