Yoga Benefits for Seniors

It’s no surprise that as we age, our bodies and their capabilities continue to change. We might experience illnesses more often, cognitive changes and loss of flexibility and balance. While these changes can cause disturbances in our day-to-day lives, they can also put our health and lives at risk. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults, responsible for nearly 27,000 fall deaths in seniors each year. Unfortunately, this rate is estimated to rise with the influx of baby boomers reaching retirement. While falling can cause bruising, it can also cause broken bones, head trauma and eventually lead to cognitive decline.

Can Yoga Improve Balance?

While there are many causes of falls in older adults, many falls can be attributed to a lack of balance. Research suggests that there is a connection between our ability to balance and our cognitive skills. Researchers from Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine studied this relationship by asking older adults to stand on one leg, while lifting the other in front of them, bent at the knee. The results of this study suggested that most of those who reported failing the test and who previously had no history of balance problems, had small lesions on the brain which can be a precursor to a stroke or dementia. Strengthening your balance or speaking to your doctor if you notice a change in your balance can help you address health concerns before they become a problem.

Benefits of Yoga Practice

The risk of falling dramatically increases as we age, so it’s important to do what we can to prevent falls. Focusing on exercises that improve endurance, strength, balance and flexibility not only reduce the risk of falling, but can also decrease recovery time after a fall, as well as decrease the severity of the injury. Yoga works to build all four of these skills, making it an important element of a fall prevention plan. In addition to decreasing risk of falls, yoga has a number of benefits, especially for older adults who practice consistently.

Movement
Traditional exercise, such as running and weightlifting, can become more difficult on our joints as we age. Yoga allows us to build strength and increase our heart rate without putting strain on the body. Yoga uses your body weight as resistance, and is a great way to build muscle and improve posture without damaging the body.

Flexibility
Yoga uses different forms of stretching and holding to lengthen our bodies and develop a greater range of motion. Many older adults become inactive as they age, resulting in a small range of motion, which can make it more likely to experience a fall.

Good Bone Health
Yoga can be helpful in preventing loss of bone density and can even work to build bone. This exercise involves gentle twisting and stretching which can help give relief to those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Keeping Your Mind Sharp
Exercise in general releases endorphins, which can positively affect our mood. Similarly, the practice of yoga allows our bodies to function better, relieve stress and help us feel in control.

Balance and Stability
By strengthening the core muscles, yoga can help improve one’s balance, ultimately decreasing the likelihood of falling. Not only can yoga help prevent falling, the endurance and strength that comes with it can also help seniors recover more quickly if a fall were to occur.

Improves Respiration
Focused breathing is a major element of each yoga movement. Those who practice consistently might notice an improvement in their respiratory system.
Relieves Anxiety
Yoga is known to reduce stress and anxiety through its repetitive motions, focus on breath and slow movements. When you maintain a consistent practice, yoga also has the ability to reduce inflammation in the body.

Holly Foss, Fitness Director at Maplewood at Brewster, spoke to us about the positive impact her yoga classes have had on residents, especially those receiving memory care, “I have been brought to tears many times from witnessing the calming effects yoga has on even those residents with the most advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. My class provides a safe, calming space where they can take a break and relax their brains. It truly is amazing to witness.”

“You can actually feel the energy in the room shift a few minutes into the class. Residents who have a hard time focusing and following direction, are making eye contact, maintaining focus and following every movement. Seeing our residents regain confidence and pride in themselves makes everything I do worthwhile,” said Holly.

No matter what their fitness level is, Maplewood Senior Living helps all our residents begin or maintain some form of exercise. There are many classes for beginners such as yoga, water aerobics, body and balance, joint ease and fit for life. Often it is about getting residents to turn their brain off for a while and focus on their bodies instead. Sometimes, we turn down the lights, use a lavender scent to calm them, light a candle, add relaxing music and even adjust our voice. The residents really look forward to this time to unwind.

How to Do Yoga Poses Correctly

In order to strengthen our balance, it’s important to focus on yoga poses that require you to transition from one move to the next. Maintaining a consistent practice will allow you to build the strength and endurance that can protect you from falling. In partnership with the University of Miami, the Yoga Journal published a series of yoga poses that will help you build balance and strength.

Mountain Pose– Begin in a standing position with your feet parallel and close together. Slightly bend your knees and contract your abdominal muscles to draw the ribs in while stretching your hands out to the side.
Chair Pose– Starting from the Mountain Pose, bend your knees over your ankles, pull your abdominal muscles in and reach your arms above your head.
Tree Pose– From Chair Pose, slightly bend the right knee and place the right foot either above or below the inside of the left knee. If you feel unsteady, hold onto the wall or chair. Repeat on the other side.
Standing Pigeon– Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift your left foot over your right knee. Sit back into a single-chair pose while keeping your foot flexed. Lower as much as you can, while holding onto a sturdy chair if needed.

Stay Healthy and Active at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how detrimental falling can be to one’s health. That’s why we offer exercise and lifestyle classes to help prevent falls and related injuries. If you’re interested in hearing about our services, or want to schedule a tour, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

As spring continues in full bloom, now is the best time to think about finally starting your own garden. Because of our current global pandemic, all of us could use a little more joy in our lives. Growing plants, whether it be flowers, vegetables or fruit can help improve your mood, decrease anxiety and improve your overall health. While gardening might be a lifetime interest of yours or something you’ve never tried, its history is long.

History of Gardening

As you can imagine, gardening in the ancient times was mainly focused on cultivating plants that could be used as food. Instead of spending hours foraging for food, eventually people began planting these vines and trees together to make gathering food more accessible and efficient.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, many gardens were planted with the purpose of growing herbs for medicinal purposes. Monasteries and churchyards were known for housing beautiful and intricate gardens to supply infirmaries and kitchens. It wasn’t until later on that gardens were developed for aesthetics.

During the Elizabethan era, which came after many people died during the Black Death, there was more land available and gardens became centered on fruit, herbs and animals. By the 18th century, gardens really had no set borders and ventured into rolling hills. At this time, English gardens often contained a body of water, trees, flowers and other food producing plants. Still to this day, gardens bring sources of food, beauty and health benefits for all people.

Health Benefits for Seniors

Many people love to garden and grow their own produce, fruit and flowers, but many don’t know why gardening is so good for you. Both AARP and Good Housekeeping Magazine compiled a list of all the reasons why gardening is more than just a fun spring and summertime hobby.
Lower Blood Pressure– According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 30 minutes of exercise each day can help seniors avoid health problems normally associated with aging, like high blood pressure. Gardening can increase your heart-rate helping you burn calories and build strength.

Strengthen Bones– When you spend time gardening outside in the sun, your body absorbs Vitamin D which fills you with calcium, a nutrient essential for building strong bones. Of course, long-term sun exposure can increase your risk of developing skin cancer, so make sure to wear sunscreen.

Relieve Stress When we experience long-term stress, it can have a powerfully negative effect on our health. Stress can cause depression, heart problems and cognitive decline. Gardening can provide a sense of control, confidence and pride as you watch a plant grow from seed.

Decrease Risk of Dementia– Working in the garden can provide a lot of sensory stimulation, which can help reduce the progression of dementia. In fact, a study found that spending time each day in a garden working with plants has the potential to reduce the likelihood of dementia by up to 36 percent.

Helps Fight Loneliness– Isolation can be dangerous to our health, especially for older adults. Community gardens provide the opportunity for socialization and finding common ground with others in our neighborhood or senior living community.

Gardening in Small Spaces

While gardening has many health benefits, you might be discouraged by your lack of space, especially if you live in an apartment building. However, as many people migrated into the city, new ways of urban gardening became popular. If you live in a small space, don’t have access to a community garden, or are more comfortable with gardening inside, here are some great options:

Windowsill Gardening– You don’t have to have a large garden to reap the benefits of being around plants. If you have a window, you can garden! Herbs do especially well inside if they get enough sunlight. A small container will allow you to grow basil, cilantro, rosemary and thyme among others. If you’re more interested in growing vegetables, you might consider getting slightly larger containers for carrots, onions, hot peppers and lettuce.

Vertical Gardens– The problem with traditional outdoor gardening is that it requires a lot of space that most apartments don’t provide. If you have a small yard, you might consider purchasing hanging pots or larger containers that you can put a trellis inside, allowing you to grow your plants up instead of out.

Patio Gardens– Many people who choose to garden on their patios use raised beds. These garden beds are usually deep enough to grow vegetables but don’t require much space. In fact, some raised beds are simple enough to build on your own. You might also consider growing plants that don’t require much space, like tomatoes and peppers.

Indoor Gardens– Indoor gardens are quite simple to start. Begin by choosing a sunny, south facing window to put your container. Fill the shallow container, making sure to poke or drill holes into the bottom. Gently pack in the seeds, mist with water and watch them grow. You might start with easy to grow plants like herbs, spinach, watercress or cabbage.

Staying Safe Outdoors

While gardening can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors, it does require some protection and safety precautions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a list of tips to keep in mind the next time you go outside to enjoy your garden.

Dress Appropriately– The summer sun can be extremely hot and dangerous to your skin. It’s recommended to wear sturdy shoes, long pants and breathable long-sleeve shirts. Make sure to wear gloves to reduce the risk of cuts and irritation. In addition, it’s important to wear a sun hat to protect your skin and eyes from the sun.

Put Safety First– If you’re working with chemicals and fertilizers, make sure to read the label before using them. Many chemicals can cause unwanted reactions when mixed together. In addition, make sure to be careful with sharp tools. If you’re unsure how to use certain equipment, it’s always a good idea to ask for help before using.

Know Your Limits– It’s essential to pay attention to signs of heat-related illnesses. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, confusion and nausea. If you experience any of these symptoms, go inside and contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Stay Hydrated– In general, most older adults struggle with staying hydrated. Its’ important to consume more fluids especially when working outside in the hot weather. Bring a water bottle outdoors and set a timer on your phone or watch to remind you when it’s time for a drink.

Protect Your Body– Be realistic when it comes to your limitations. If you are at risk of falling, raised beds might be a good option instead of gardening at ground level. If you have arthritis, make sure to purchase tools that are easy to grasp and feel comfortable. As always, contact your medical doctor when you experience any chest and arm pain or dizziness.

Gardening at Maplewood Senior Living.

As summer approaches, our residents at Maplewood Senior Living Communities are busy preparing their gardens. All of our facilities have gardening options for residents. While many have been gardening for most of their lives, there are still many other residents learning to garden for the first time. If you’d like to hear more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.

Foods That Fight Aging

It’s no surprise that the process of aging changes our bodies in a variety of ways, some of which we can see and others we cannot. However, what most people don’t know, is that as we age our dietary needs change as well. Because of this, many older adults accidentally put themselves at risk of becoming malnourished. Consuming a well-balanced diet helps strengthen the immune system, and ultimately allows our bodies to fight off diseases and illnesses. When we under-nourish our bodies, we can negatively affect its ability to protect us. Understanding what our bodies need can ultimately keep us out of the hospital, and live healthier, longer lives.

How do our Needs and Habits Change?

 Calories and Appetite

It is not uncommon for older adults to eat less as they age. Most older adults might not be as physically active as they were in their younger years, which means they don’t necessarily need to eat as much as they once did. However, undereating can cause a wide variety of health problems.

Food sensitivities can also affect a person’s appetite, making it difficult to consume the appropriate amount of food each day. Some older adults might experience food sensitivities especially to foods like onions, peppers, dairy, and hot spices. If these are causing discomfort or pain after eating, they might need to be eliminated from your diet.

Nutrition Absorption

Even while monitoring your food and nutrition, medications can interfere with the nutrients your body is able to absorb. If you are taking a variety of medications, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about supplements you can add to your diet.

Immune System

Unfortunately, as we age our immune systems can weaken, making our bodies more vulnerable to illness and disease. However, we can strengthen our immune systems by consuming different types of food and nutrients.

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Maplewood Senior Living Walks to End Alzheimer’s

What You Should Know about Alzheimer’s Disease

The month of September is designated as World’s Alzheimer’s Month. Alzheimer’s disease isn’t just a national problem, it’s a global issue that affects nearly 44 million people worldwide. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is a memory disease, under the umbrella of dementia, which causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. As symptoms worsen, Alzheimer’s can ultimately affect a person’s ability to complete basic human tasks like speaking and eating.  The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is expected to rapidly increase in the next 30 years— from 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today to 14 million by 2050. As the threat of the Alzheimer’s epidemic increases, so do campaigns that spread awareness and raise funds devoted to finding a cure. The first step in spreading awareness of Alzheimer’s is to educate people on the causes of the disease.

Contributing Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

While it would be impossible to identify just one cause of Alzheimer’s, researchers and scientists do believe there are a few leading causes of the disease. Some of the causes and factors can’t necessarily be changed, but some of them, like lifestyle and environment, can help inform our daily lives and decrease our chances of being diagnosed. Listed below are the associated causes and risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Age

While most people with Alzheimer’s get diagnosed after the age of 65, 10% of patients are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s between the ages of 30 and 60. Age isn’t directly correlated with the disease, however the risk of being diagnosed doubles every five years after the age of 65.

Family History and Genetics

Adults who have immediate family members with Alzheimer’s disease are more at risk for being diagnosed than compared with families without a history of the disease. Researchers and scientists believe that the risk increases with each family member who has the disease. The reason behind this can possibly be attributed to genetics and environment.

According to the National Institute on Aging, researchers haven’t identified a specific gene known to cause the disease. However, many experts believe that those who carry a form of the APOE gene are more at risk of developing the disease than those who do not.

Environment and Lifestyle

Those who study Alzheimer’s believe there is a connection between the brain and the heart, which can ultimately influence the risk of developing the disease. This means that those who experience high-blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, or heart disease should be aware of the symptoms of the disease and consult with their healthcare provider. Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising daily will decrease your risk of heart disease, ultimately decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Brain health is also a factor when it comes to developing Alzheimer’s. Falls and brain trauma are also known to be underlying factors to the disease. Protecting your brain by wearing your seatbelt and decluttering your home to decrease your risk of falling, can help protect you from Alzheimer’s dementia.

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Fit & Fabulous

Most of us know by now that exercise and diet are essential for overall wellness. And that doesn’t lessen as we age. In fact, what we now know is that maintaining an exercise routine well past our prime can play a significant role in staying healthy and active longer.

Research suggests benefits of exercise for those with Dementia

According to recent studies on Alzheimer’s and dementia, exercise might do more than we think. Evidence suggests that biochemical changes, created by exercise, can “fertilize” our brain and mend nerve cell health. Although additional research is needed, prioritizing exercise and nutrition in our communities clearly improves the quality of life for all residents, including those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. At Maplewood Senior Living, our focus is on helping residents enjoy a high quality of life which includes staying active and independent.

Along with the attention given to cognitive health, ensuring we maintain balance and strength is essential. When these two components work together, seniors can better avoid falls that may occur from tripping or loss of balance. If a fall were to occur, strength is the best defense against potential injury.

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