Why Cardiovascular Health is Important

Exercise is important at every age but maintaining a consistent exercise routine as we get older can help keep us independent for longer. Studies have suggested that physical activity, such as cardiovascular exercise, is the number one contributor to longevity. In addition to helping us live long and independent lives, exercise, in general, helps maintain weight, reduce the impact of chronic diseases, improve immune and digestive functioning, regulate blood pressure, lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even some cancers. Older adults are more at risk of living sedentary lives, especially as they undergo physical changes that might make exercise seem more challenging. However, by making an exercise plan that fits your needs and modifying exercises to fit your abilities, exercise can be a part of your life at every age.

How Much Exercise Does an Older Adult Need?

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, physical activity needs to change as we age. Older adults need 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours a week, of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cardio. Just 30 minutes of physical activity can be physically and mentally beneficial for older adults. The guideline also suggests that older adults practice muscle-strengthening exercises two days a week and three days of cardiovascular exercises, such as walking or dancing. As we age, it’s normal to lose muscle mass and bone density, however, physical exercise can help reduce the risk of these conditions.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise for Older Adults

While all types of physical activity are beneficial for our overall health, cardiovascular exercises have special benefits for older adults. Exercise can help older adults manage their blood pressure, improve bone and joint health and preserve their long-term cognitive function. Here are a few benefits that come with maintaining a consistent cardiovascular exercise practice:

Improved Immune Function. Our immune systems help fight off illnesses and protect us from diseases. A healthy immune system will also help heal our bodies from illnesses more quickly. According to Harvard Health, exercise can promote good circulation, which allows the cells that make up the immune system to move throughout the body more freely and more efficiently.
Enhanced Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function. According to the American Lung Association, regular exercise helps strengthen your lungs and heart. As we exercise, oxygen gets infiltrated into the bloodstream, transporting it to our muscles. As our exercise routines become more consistent, our bodies become more efficient at oxygenating our muscles.
Increased Bone Strength. Just as our muscles respond to exercise by getting stronger, so do our bones. Older adults are more at risk of losing bone density and developing osteoporosis. However, regular cardiovascular exercise can help strengthen our bones and reduce the risk of losing bone mass and developing osteoporosis. Exercising for bone strength can also help reduce the risk of falls and decrease the recovery time from a fall-related injury.
Decreased Risk of Chronic Illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic, aerobic exercise can help decrease the risk of developing a chronic illness and help manage symptoms of an existing illness. Low impact exercises can help improve muscle function for those with lower back pain, while those suffering from arthritis can reduce pain and stiffness through cardiovascular exercises. Also, exercise can help improve the quality of life for those with cancer and lower the risk of dying from breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers.
Improved Gastrointestinal Function. Regular cardiovascular exercise can help boost metabolism, regulate the elimination of waste and encourage overall digestive health. Those suffering from slow digestion and constipation often find relief when implementing a consistent exercise regimen.

Types of Cardiovascular Exercises for Seniors

As our physical abilities change as we age, it’s important to make adaptations in our exercise routines to decrease the risk of injury and promote overall safety. Incorporating cardiovascular exercises into your routine doesn’t have to be as challenging as it sounds. Here are a few cardiovascular exercises that can be added to your fitness routine:

Ballroom Dancing
Dancing in general is a great way to get your heart rate up, build muscle and strengthen bones. Ballroom dancing, however, has become popular among older adults because of its ability to strengthen cognitive function. Remembering steps and the fast-paced movements keep our brains sharp and help with balance and coordination, which can protect us from fall-related injuries.

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics classes can help older adults reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise without putting much impact on bones and joints. Practicing aerobic exercises in the pool can provide more resistance to add a strength-training element to this exercise as well.

Swimming

If you prefer independent exercise, as opposed to group activities, swimming laps can be a great alternative. Swimming can help build lung capacity, build endurance, muscle strength, and promote heart health.

Recumbent Biking

Biking is also a low-impact exercise, which is a great activity for older adults. For those who struggle with balance and coordination, or who prefer a safer activity, recumbent bikes can provide all the benefits of traditional cycling without the risk of injury or falling.

Making an Exercise Plan that Fits Your Lifestyle

Establishing an exercise routine can feel challenging, especially for those new to exercise. However, following a few simple steps can make your cardio routine a reality. First, start by choosing an activity that you find interesting, fun, and that will raise your heart rate. Choose the length of your workout, starting with just 20 minutes if you are doing something new or haven’t exercised for some time.

And, lastly, set your workout schedule each week, choosing the days you will exercise and at which time during the day. Sticking to this schedule will help you be consistent and allow you to establish a routine without having to make hard decisions each day. As you get into your routine, you might consider setting goals for yourself such as exercising three days a week or adding a new level of intensity after a month of consistent exercise. As always, it’s important to consult with your doctor before adding a new exercise to your routine or adding levels of intensity.

Keeping Up with Cardio at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how important cardiovascular exercise is to the overall health of our residents. Each of our facilities comes with a robust workout and wellness facility that offers group and private classes. To learn more about our facilities or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Heart Health Tips for Seniors

Aside from your brain, your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. The heart is a large muscle that pumps blood into our bodies. The right-side pumps blood to the lungs and the left side receives blood from the lungs and redistributes it through the arteries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States and the statistics don’t vary much between race or ethnic groups. For older adults, maintaining heart health is the key to living a long and healthy life.

Age-Related Changes in the Heart

As we age, our bodies go through physical changes, many of which are obvious, such as the appearance of wrinkles or changes in mobility. However, some changes, like those in our heart, go unrecognized. Aging can cause changes within the heart and blood vessels that can put older adults more at risk of developing various heart conditions Increased stiffness in large arteries can lead to high blood pressure. Other changes, like those within our body’s electrical system, can cause arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeat. As we age, the chambers of the heart can increase in size, causing the heart wall to thicken and develop heart rhythm problems, such as atrial fibrillation. Fatty deposits can build up in the walls of our arteries over many years, which can ultimately lead to heart disease.

Types of Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease encompasses a wide variety of conditions and diseases that can affect our heart function and overall quality of life. While there are many types of heart conditions, here are a few of the most common among older adults:

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

This type of cardiovascular disease occurs when the coronary arteries harden and narrow, causing blockages in the vessels that provide blood to the heart. The development of CAD happens over time and can eventually restrict blood to the heart completely. This can cause a heart attack, stroke, and other heart-related diseases.

Heart attack

Heart attacks usually occur when blood is severely restricted to the heart or completely blocked off, as in the case of coronary artery disease. However, heart attacks can also occur when substances, like fat, cholesterol, and plaque, build up and restricts access to blood to the heart. Heart attacks can result in permanent damage or death to part of the heart muscle.

Arrhythmia

This occurs when the heart develops an irregular rate of rhythm. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly, causing blood to pump ineffectively to the lungs, brain, and other organs. If an arrhythmia goes untreated, it can cause damage to the organs.

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart’s ability to pump blood becomes weakened. Blood will eventually move throughout the body at a slower rate, increasing pressure in the heart and reducing the amount of blood and oxygen in the body’s cells.

Cardiomyopathy

This is a progressive disease that causes the heart to become enlarged and thickened, limiting the heart’s ability to pump blood. Cardiomyopathy can cause other heart conditions such as heart failure or arrhythmias.

Signs of Heart Disease

Early heart disease doesn’t normally show symptoms, that’s why visiting your doctor annually is so important. Chest pain and heart attack are usually the first signs of progressing heart disease. According to the National Institute on Aging, here are some of the most common symptoms of heart disease and heart attack:

• Chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t subside
• Pain and discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
• Weakness, light-headedness, and nausea
• Shortness of breath when active, at rest, or while lying flat
• Dizziness
• Confusion
• Cold sweats
• Tiredness or fatigue
• Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach, or neck
• Reduced ability to exercise
• Problems doing normal activities

If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your health care provider right away.

Tips for Preventing Heart Disease

While genetics can play a role in the development of heart disease, some factors can be controlled to help reduce the risk of the disease. Simple lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy and exercising consistently, can help prevent heart disease. If you’re wondering how to keep your heart healthy, here are a few simple ways:

Control portion sizes.
Eating more than you need can contribute to obesity, which is a key risk factor for heart disease. If you struggle with overeating, you might consider using a small plate or bowl to help you control your portions. Stick with high volume, low calorie, and nutrient-rich foods to help you stay full and maintain your weight.

Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Consuming a proper amount of fruits and vegetables with each meal can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Also, eating more fruits and vegetables can help you cut back on high-calorie foods. Keep fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables on hand so they are available for quick snacks and meals. Smoothies, soups, and salads are great ways to pack in servings of vegetables and fruits.

Eat whole grains.

Whole-grain foods are great sources of fiber and help regulate blood pressure and maintain heart health. You can easily add whole grains into your diet by swapping white bread for whole-grain bread and pasta. Brown rice, barley, and buckwheat are also whole-grain foods that are great for heart health.

Reduce sodium.

Consuming a lot of sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Canned vegetables and processed foods are usually high in sodium. Instead, you might consider buying low-sodium options and making foods at home. Try salt-free seasoning blends, herbs and spices, and reduced salt versions of condiments.

Exercise.
Physical activity is extremely important when it comes to protecting your heart. Just 30 minutes of activity each day will strengthen your heart and help maintain proper heart function start with activities you enjoy such as walking, dancing, bicycling, or gardening.

Quit smoking.
While smoking is dangerous by itself, it can also damage artery walls in your heart. Quitting can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer over time.

Manage stress.
Long-term stress puts pressure on the heart and can lead to high blood pressure. It’s important to learn how to manage stress and put relaxation techniques into practice. Yoga, breathing exercises, and tai chi can help manage your stress and allow you to relax, taking the pressure off your heart.

Maintaining Heart Health at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know the important role heart health plays in living a long and happy life. Heart-healthy habits are instilled in each element of living in our Maplewood communities. From our experienced team of chefs to exercise offerings and stress management activities, our goal is to keep our residents healthy and happy. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Winter Exercises for Seniors

Exercise is important at every age but especially for older adults. As we age, our muscle mass decreases, which can make completing daily tasks more difficult. People who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, lower blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Exercise can also help decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer. However, as temperatures drop during the winter months, it can be tempting to abandon our regular exercise habits. Research has shown that just 30 minutes of exercise each day can ward off the health risks related to inactivity.

Risks of Physical Inactivity in Older Adults

It’s not uncommon for older adults to be less active than they were in their younger years. By age 75, nearly one in three men and one in two women engage in little to no physical activity. Physical inactivity can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, obesity, a weakened immune system, poor blood circulation, increased inflammation, and loss of muscle mass. Those who are physically inactive are also at greater risk of losing their independence sooner than those who maintain a physically active lifestyle. While exercising all year long is imperative for overall health, it is important to keep up with wintertime exercises as well.

Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

It’s tempting to call it quits on your exercise routine when it’s cold outside. Working to maintain your fitness even during the winter months will help you live a long and active life. Here are some of the benefits that come with wintertime exercise:

Strengthen your heart
Each time you exercise, you help strengthen your heart and improve cardiovascular endurance. Maintaining a consistent exercise schedule can make your heart muscle strong and help you cope with various life stressors. Exercising in cold weather can make the heart work harder to distribute blood throughout the body. These can enhance cardiovascular health for those who exercise regularly. Be sure to consult your doctor before participating in new exercises, especially in cold weather.

Stay hydrated
In general, older adults are more at risk of dehydration, but this risk can increase during the winter months. We’re more likely to feel less thirsty during the winter, but our bodies still need to be hydrated. Exercise can cause us to sweat and act as a reminder to drink water and consume more hydrating foods.

Beat the winter blues
As the weather changes and our exposure to sunlight decreases, it’s not uncommon to feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder. However, research has shown that exercise can improve your mood by releasing serotonin and dopamine, which act as natural mood boosters.

Stay energized
Winter weather can make you feel lethargic and lacking energy. Moving the body is a great way to revive you and make you feel more alert.

Improve the quality of sleep
Research has shown that people who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality at night. Experts suggest you choose an exercise such as yoga or walking to elevate your heart rate. These also encourage the biological processes in the brain and body that contribute to high-quality sleep.

Boost your immune system
Our immune systems work to help fight off illnesses like the common cold and flu. A consistent exercise regime can strengthen our immune system. Exercise helps to ward off illness and keep us healthy all winter long.

Reduce the effects of cabin fever
Being confined to home during the winter months can make us feel anxious, restless, and disconnected from others. Don’t be afraid to step outside or go for a walk during the winter. Be sure to dress appropriately and avoid going outdoors if there is ice or snow in the walkways.

Enjoy holiday treats
The holiday season is notorious for sugary and high-fat treats such as pies, cookies, casseroles, and other baked goods. While exercise is more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle than burning calories, it is wise to keep a healthy balance while indulging in treats and comfort foods.

Exercises to do Indoors for Seniors

Staying active each day can vastly improve our health. Research has shown that adults who exercised decreased their risk of injury and disability by 25%. The winter weather can present obstacles to exercising, but it shouldn’t stop you from being active.

Cheryl Kearney, Lifestyle Director at Maplewood at Mayflower Place told us, “Our motto here at Mayflower Place is “Senior Fitness for Healthier Living.” Our fitness instructors are awesome! Residents can go to the gym, swim in the pool, have 1-1 room visits, or attend balance classes. It is our priority to make everyone steadier on their feet. They can join a stretching class, yoga, walking groups plus we offer group exercises 3x a day 4 days a week at varied times to accommodate their busy schedules. One of the benefits of exercise is a decreased risk of falls. Exercise improves not only improves mental health as well as emotional well- being but it is also great for social engagement.”

Here are a few easy exercises you can do indoors or from the comfort of your own home.

• Indoor walking. Walking outside during inclement winter weather can be dangerous. Instead, try walking inside a public space like a shopping mall or museum.

• Stretching. Stretching is the most important way to prepare for exercise, but it’s also beneficial by itself. Stretching can decrease the risk of injury and helps increase flexibility and strength.

• Swimming. Swimming in an indoor pool is low impact and is especially beneficial for those with joint pain or osteoporosis. Research has shown that swimming can improve muscle and heart strength and reduce stress.

• Fitness apps and videos. Streaming a workout from your laptop or another smart device is just a click away. Apps like Yoga Pocket and Tai Chi for Seniors offer classes for free or at a low cost. They are easy to do in the comfort of your own home. YouTube also offers a wide variety of free exercise classes, especially for seniors.

• Wii games. The Nintendo Wii makes fitness fun with its virtual games that get you moving into a full-body workout. You can play by yourself or with a friend!

• Strength exercises. Strength Training is an option for active adults who want to exercise and strengthen their muscles. These strength exercises use your body weight to improve muscular strength and mobility. You can find a complete list of strength training exercises specifically for older adults here.

Tai Chi.

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that practices meditation in motion. These low-impact, slow-paced movements are perfect for seniors who want to improve their balance, strength, and increase range of motion. Tai Chi is known to help improve self-confidence, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Here are a few poses for beginners:

Touch the Sky

• Start by sitting comfortably in a chair
• Place your arms in your lap, palms turned upward, fingers pointing towards one another
• As you inhale, raise hands to your chest, turn palms outward and lift hands above your head
• On an exhale, relax your arms and lower them to your sides
• Return your hands to the starting position
• Repeat ten times

Hand Exercise

• Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width distance apart
• Raise arms out in front of you
• Flex your hands and feel the stretch, rotate your wrists to the left and then to the right

Stay Moving at Maplewood Senior Living

Health is our number one priority at Maplewood Senior Living. We have many fitness and exercise programs in each of our communities that promote wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle for all residents. To talk more or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Exercise and Brain Health

People choose to exercise for many different reasons. While some people exercise to reap the physical benefits, others enjoy physical activity as a way to release stress and anxiety. As we age, exercise becomes increasingly important to our overall well-being. Consistent exercise can prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lower blood pressure, and improve our mental health. What most people don’t know is that exercise can change the brain in ways that improve thinking and cognitive function. Some studies even suggest that a single exercise session can provide the same cognitive benefits as longer and more regular exercise.

Risk of Cognitive Impairment in Seniors

Older adults are naturally more at risk of cognitive impairment when compared to other age groups. The most common cognitive impairments can be caused by medication effects, depression, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Without taking steps to protect our brain health, we can put ourselves at risk of developing cognitive impairments in our later years. People with these types of disorders can experience a variety of symptoms, the most common of which are listed here:

• Decreased Processing Speed. Processing speed refers to the time it takes our brain to complete a mental task such as finishing an assignment, following instructions, or comprehending a conversation. It’s likely for older adults to notice cognitive changes related to their processing speed.

Problems with Attention. Some older adults with cognitive impairments may notice that their minds wander when trying to concentrate on a specific task or conversation. This can also express itself through difficulty when focusing on more than one thing at a time.

Memory Problems. Changes in memory are very common among older adults. Some age-related forgetfulness is normal; however, memory loss is not.

Difficulty Expressing Oneself. Decreased speed in verbal fluency is a cognitive impairment that refers to the ability to recall vocabulary. If our verbal fluency was to decrease, we would have problems expressing ourselves in conversations.

Losing Things. Forgetting your keys or an occasional appointment can be normal behaviors for people of all ages. However, older adults with cognitive impairment are often unable to remember important information consistently.

Social Withdrawal. Older adults experiencing cognitive impairment may notice changes in their behavior and begin to withdraw from their normal activities as a way to disguise or hide their symptoms.

While many older adults suffer from cognitive decline, it doesn’t have to be this way for everyone. There are simple things we can do to decrease the risk of developing these impairments. Dr. Wendy Suzuki, the author of Healthy Brain, Happy Life, and member of the advisory board at Maplewood Senior Living, knows the important role exercise plays in brain health.

In an interview with KTVU FOX 2, Dr. Suzuki reported that “Keeping our bodies moving is so important. Even one walk outside releases the neurotransmitters in our brain that keep us happy and boost our mood.” In her research, Dr. Suzuki has discovered there is a biological connection between exercise, mindfulness, and action. When we exercise, our bodies feel more alive and our brains perform better.

Benefits of Exercises for the Brain

As we exercise, our heart rate increases, causing an increase in blood flow to the brain. This allows our brains to receive more oxygen, nutrients, and proteins, while also promoting the growth of neurons. Additionally, the chemicals released in our brain during exercise can also make us feel less stressed and anxious. As she writes in her book, Dr. Suzuki believes that exercise has a direct effect on brain health and can provide a variety of benefits. Here are some of the most common benefits of physical exercise on brain health:

Reduces Stress– When we exercise regularly, our norepinephrine levels increase, which helps regulate the way our brain reacts to stress. Ultimately, exercise allows us to cope with both mental and physical stress in healthy ways.

Improves Mood– You might have heard that exercise is a natural mood booster. Exercising for just 30 minutes a day can release endorphins, which can help boost your mood while also decreasing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Increases Confidence– As we exercise and begin to grow and build muscle, it’s natural to feel a sense of confidence, which can carry over into many different aspects of our lives.

Prevents Cognitive Decline– Although research is limited, some studies have suggested that exercise can help keep blood flowing to the brain, which can reduce the risk of damage or deterioration. Some research has suggested that white matter fibers, which are associated with brain function, are less likely to deteriorate with consistent exercise. Other researchers believe that aerobic exercise can help slow the shrinkage of the hippocampus, which controls our memory.

Increases Creativity– You might notice feeling sharper and clear-headed after physical activity. Exercise can make us feel more alive and help spark our sense of creativity.

Decreases The Risk of Dementia– As we exercise, we decrease our chances of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression, all of which are linked to dementia.

Physical Exercises for the Brain

Any type of exercise will allow you to reap the benefits of physical activity for the brain. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated! If you don’t know where to start, you might consider one of these three simple exercises:

• Walking will increase your heart rate, allow blood and oxygen to flow to the brain, and release mood-boosting endorphins. Walking is also great for mental health, especially for those who have a hard time de-stressing and relaxing. After a 30-minute walk, you might notice feeling less agitated.

• Dancing requires our brains and bodies to communicate with each other. Remembering choreography might take some practice, but it can also help our brains stay sharp.

• Swimming or other water-based activities are great for older adults who experience joint and muscle pain. Water activities are low impact and can decrease the chance of injury.

Protecting the Brain through Exercise at Maplewood Senior Living

Health is one of our top priorities at Maplewood Senior Living. Each of our communities offers group-led physical activities that are designed to pose a challenge while also prevent injury for all residents. We know exercise can be powerful, that’s why we encourage all of our residents to get moving! To learn more about our offerings, please contact us here.

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.

Living Life in the Blue Zone

For most people, aging is mysterious. While there are many ways to hypothesize how we might age, such as family history, genetic testing, and overall lifestyle choices, there’s no specific formula that will tell us exactly what awaits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years. However, there are many people who live beyond that expectancy. In fact, nearly 72,000 Americans reached the age 100 in 2014, which increased by 44 percent from 2000. So, the question stands—what’s the secret to living a long and happy life? While many have their own theories, National Geographic sought to find out exactly why people live so long. What they found, along with the Blue Zones Team, is that the secret to longevity is made up of nine common denominators.

The Power Nine

Blue Zones and National Geographic studied areas around the world that were home to the highest proportions of people who reached age 100. In their studies, they found nine common similarities  know as the Power 9:

Move Naturally– For most centenarians, the movement was engrained in their environment, meaning many of them spent their days walking instead of driving a car and using their bodies instead of modern conveniences.

Purpose– Those who live longest have a reason to wake up in the morning and feel excited about the day ahead.
Downshift– Having a stress-reducing routine that’s part of normal daily life helps reduce the risk of suffering from stress-related illnesses, like chronic inflammation.

80% Rule– Many who live long lives are disciplined when it comes to food and stop eating when they are 80% full.

Plant Slant– A common theme among centenarians was a plant-based diet. Many only eat meat on average five times per month.

Wine at 5– Surprisingly, drinking alcohol frequently, but in moderation has been contributed to longevity.

Belong– Those who attend faith-based services four times per month will add between 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.

Loved Ones First– Research from this study found that those who kept their loved ones at the center of their lives lived longer than those who did not. This includes caring for a parent or grandparent, growing a family, and finding a life partner.

Right Tribe– The most successful centenarians belong to social circles that support healthy habits and ultimately help one another make decisions that promote good health and wellbeing.

Incorporating the Power Nine into Our Everyday Lives

Refocusing our lives to emulate the nine values related to longevity can seem like a daunting task. Instead of focusing on the result, making small changes every day is much more manageable. Here are a few ideas to get started:

Finding Purpose

It’s not uncommon for our purpose and passions to change throughout our lives. If you find that your life is the missing purpose, it’s not too late to find it again. As National Geographic found in its studies, those who age successfully have a reason to get out of bed each day. In fact, another study found that having a purpose in life directly affects the way we age. You might consider writing out a list of all the things that give you joy and bring true happiness. As you reflect and narrow down your list, your true purpose might become clearer.

Another way to find your purpose is to envision your “perfect” life within your own reality. This could include finding a way to live out your purpose or make changes to eliminate negativity from your life. You might consider creating small, but concrete steps to keep you moving towards your ideal life.

Finding a purpose also requires tuning into the world around you. Connecting with others and finding ways to contribute to your community can also bring a sense of purpose and pride. Where do you feel like spending your time? Who do you want to spend your time with?

Creating your Inner Tribe

When we talk about finding a “tribe,” we’re really referring to a group of people who reflect core values and qualities we hope to possess ourselves. Just like our friends or partners, your tribe will inspire you to discover your best self. If you don’t have an inner tribe, finding one probably feels impossible. While it does require effort and authenticity, finding your inner tribe is possible no matter your stage in life.

• Self-Reflect- First think about what types of qualities you want from your inner tribe. What are your goals? What activities do you wish you did more? What are your favorite hobbies? By focusing on these desired qualities, you’ll be able to identify them more quickly when they present themselves in different people.
• Try New Things- Sometimes our inner tribe has qualities or talents we wish we had. To identify with these qualities ourselves, we have to do things we’ve never tried. You might consider taking a new class, trying a new hobby, or attending a concert or show. By trying new things, we open ourselves up to new friendships.
• Live Out of Your Comfort Zone- When we’re comfortable, yet not fulfilled, we haven’t reached our potential. If we consistently push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we put ourselves in positions to learn from others and create meaningful relationships with those we might not meet otherwise.

Focus On Movement

As reported in the research, National Geographic found that centenarians had lifestyles that focused on healthy habits, including movement. Because many people in the United States drive more than they walk, many times movement has to be a deliberate act. Here are a few natural and easy ways to incorporate movement into your daily life:

• Park Your Car Far Away. If you are able to do so, try choosing a parking space other than the one right by the front door. The additional steps will add up quickly and ultimately help you build endurance and strength.
• Walk and Talk. The next time you talk on the phone, you might consider taking a walk while chatting. The more movement you can add to your day, the better off you will be long-term.
• Stand Up Each Hour. If you spend most of your day sitting down, try to set an alarm to get up and move around. Movement can help stimulate your brain, stretch your muscles and shake off feelings of fatigue or tiredness.

Prioritizing Power Nine at Maplewood Senior Living

Our Maplewood Senior Living communities want each resident to live long and joyful lives. That’s why we implement power nine practices into daily life through food options, social opportunities, and a wide variety of activities. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please 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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