Dancing, Music and the Brain

As we age, our bodies undergo a variety of physical changes, which can make exercise and physical activity difficult.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28% of adults over 50 years old have reported being inactive. Although inactivity increases with age, the need for physical exercise is crucial, especially for older adults. Inactivity can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression and increases the risk of certain cancers, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week for older adults, which has been shown to reduce the risk of certain illnesses and improve overall wellbeing.
Although exercise can be intimidating, especially for newcomers, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Exercising can be fun. Many older adults achieve their physical activity goals through dance, reaping its many physical and mental benefits along the way.

Benefits of Dancing for Older Adults

An article published in the National Library of Medicine confirms that “dance, regardless of its style, can significantly improve muscular strength, endurance, balance, and other aspects of functional fitness.” While dancing might seem like a simple activity, it requires both the brain and the body to work together, improving our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing in the following ways:

Improves Cardiovascular Health– When we participate in cardiovascular exercises, like dancing, our hearts become stronger and work more efficiently. When done consistently, dancing can help to decrease our risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Improves Balance and Strength– Falling is the leading cause of injury in older adults. While the risk of falling can’t be completely avoided, dancing can help decrease the risk of fall-related injuries. Dance requires strong core muscles and involves rotational movement, which can help improve balance.
Strengthens Brain Function-Some research suggests that dancing can help strengthen the area of the brain responsible for controlling memory. One study suggests that dancing can even prevent the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Dancing also requires the synchronization of both the body and brain. Dancers are constantly recalling steps and patterns, while also performing the movements.
Boosts Mood– Movement can be a form of self-expression, which is especially helpful for those suffering from stress and anxiety. While we dance, our bodies also release endorphins, which act as natural mood boosters in our bodies.
Encourages Socialization– Older adults are at greater risk of loneliness and isolation, especially when they live alone. Loneliness can have a profound negative impact on cognitive skills and physical health when left untreated for long periods. Dancing classes encourage socialization and provide a great opportunity to meet those with similar interests.
Improves Confidence and Self-esteem-Every time we learn a new step or dance routine, we increase our self-esteem, which can be translated into different aspects of our lives.

Music and the Brain

What’s dancing without music? While dancing has many benefits, so does the music that accompanies it. Research has shown that music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain, while also improving our sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. While many scientists are still studying music and its effect on the brain, experts agree that music sends out vibrations that enter into our ear canal and transmit electrical signals into the brain stem, where we process what we know to be music. As researchers work to understand exactly what happens in our brains as we listen to music, there are proven benefits that have a positive effect on our overall wellbeing.

Together, music and the act of dancing can stimulate the brain and body, encouraging overall health in many different ways. Music is proven to help with memory, especially in those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Depending on your loved one, music can provoke memories from the past and help boost verbal memory.

In addition to improving memory, music can improve one’s quality of sleep, diminish pain, increase mobility, and improve cognitive skills. Research shows that those who are in the process of recovering from brain injuries can often recover more quickly when music is a part of the rehabilitation process. Music, along with the movement of dance, has also been shown to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.

5 Different Types of Dancing

If you’re interested in dancing, but don’t know where to start, you can always play your favorite songs and dance alone. For those who prefer structure, a guided dance class might be a better fit. Here are a few styles of dancing that can be adapted to fit different skill levels. Remember to always consult your doctor before participating in new exercise activities especially for those who have health concerns.

  • Ballroom dancing is a great social opportunity for seniors since it requires a partner. But, don’t let this stop you! You don’t always need to come with a partner, as many classes will pair you with another student. There are many different types of ballroom dances such as foxtrot, waltz, rumba, and swing. All of these varieties will help build strength while promoting balance.
  • Line dancing is perfect for those who want guidance yet prefer to dance without a partner. Most line dances include choreography taught by a teacher to western or country music.
  • Tap dance will help build strength, balance, and endurance through its quick movements and transitions.
  • Zumba is a workout class that looks like a dance party! The objective of Zumba is to increase the heart rate while having fun dancing to music. A Zumba teacher will guide you through low-impact movements and can adapt movements for you if necessary.
  • Ballet classes might seem intimidating but can be adapted to fit your needs. A popular form of ballet exercise, called Barre, incorporates a ballet bar into each movement, helping you improve balance while decreasing your risk of injury.

Dancing at Maplewood Senior Living Communities

Our residents at Maplewood Senior Living Communities love to dance! Many residents have been dancing with Temi, a personal robot who can do anything from play music and check the weather, to serving as your dance partner. At Maplewood, we believe anyone can dance, no matter their skill or ability level. To learn more about our offerings, please contact us!

Aging without Family: Senior Orphans

As baby boomers begin to reach retirement age, many make decisions that will impact how they live the rest of their lives. While most older adults want to stay independent for as long as possible, many underestimate the care they will eventually need. According to Senior Care, 69% of Americans will require long-term care, but only 37% will plan for it in the future. As they age, many older adults will rely on family members, such as adult children or their spouse, to care for them as they need additional support. However, for senior orphans, or those who lack a family member to care for them, aging can look a lot different. Nearly one-quarter of Americans are currently or will be elder orphans in the future.

Older adults isolated for long periods are more at risk of health concerns than those who are not. Adults who consider themselves lonely can experience cognitive decline, trouble completing daily tasks, and develop heart disease and chronic illnesses. Medical complications, mental illness, mobility issues, and access to healthcare are also real concerns for socially isolated older adults. Many elder orphans do live full and happy lives, but aging can pose additional challenges preventable with proper planning.

Life Planning Tips for Seniors

While we can’t avoid the physical, emotional, and mental challenges accompanied by aging, we can prepare for them before they occur. Whether aging alone is an intentional choice or not, we should all prepare for what the future might look like if we happen to age independently. Here are a few ways to start preparing now:

Create a support team
If you are aging without family or friends who can offer you support, it’s important to build your team. Think about those you trust—perhaps a physician, clergy person, social worker, attorney, or a financial planner and ask them to be a part of your care team. Together, these individuals can work to ensure that your wishes are upheld as you age. If you are still in your working years, you may consider having these discussions with those you trust earlier. This can help you establish a care team before you need their support.

Consider how you want to age
If you foresee yourself aging alone, it’s important to think about how and where you want to spend your later years. You might consider adjusting your living situation so that weekly tasks, like going to the grocery store and doctor’s office, are feasible. Many senior orphans consider moving into communities, like assisted living or continuing care retirement communities, to better prepare for their future. These communities offer built-in social networks, easily accessible healthcare, and offer support with daily tasks.

Plan early and often
As you begin planning for the future, assess your family history. If you have a long line of heart disease, cancer, or a history of early death, you should start planning earlier and reassess your plan to reflect your needs.

Instill healthy habits
If you want to make your own decisions later in life, you have to start taking care of yourself now. Eating a healthy diet and exercising can make a positive impact on how we age. Staying engaged and active can help prevent cognitive decline and keep our brains sharp for longer.

Develop and maintain a social life
Loneliness and social isolation can lead to cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and even early mortality. The best protection against depression and loneliness is to connect with others often. Joining senior clubs, recreation centers, or volunteering can all help ward off loneliness and isolation while giving you a platform to connect with others routinely.

Challenges for Elder Orphans

Healthcare

Older adults are more at risk of developing chronic illnesses and diseases that require additional healthcare such as doctor’s visits or medication management. For those without caregivers, healthcare arrangements should be made in advance. One option is to appoint a healthcare proxy. This process legally designates a person to act on behalf of a patient and allows them to make medical decisions when necessary. While it’s best to choose someone, you’ve known for a long time, such as a friend or former colleague, social workers can also act as a healthcare proxy when necessary.

In addition to appointing someone to advocate for your healthcare needs, it’s also important to compile important documents somewhere easily accessible. This might include your living will, which will help identify your end of life wishes, as well as your do-not-resuscitate order if applicable.

Financial Planning for Seniors

Many older adults will require assistance with managing their finances, especially for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Generally, many aging adults assign their adult children to manage their finances. However, there are plenty of options for those without caregivers or family support. Here are a few things you can be doing now to ensure you’re prepared for the future:

How to Plan for Your Future Financially

• Seek Professional Help. CPA and financial advisors can help provide money management services such as paying bills, facilitating required minimum distributions, reconciling bank statements, and end of life planning.

• Authorized Signature. If you have children or friends who are long-distance, you might consider granting them permission as an authorized signature on your account. This permits them to sign checks but doesn’t give ownership of the account. This setup can be a good option for managing bills and other recurring payments. As always, you should only give financial access to those you trust completely.

• Money management programs. For those who prefer outside help, there are companies you can hire to handle bill payments and other financial matters, specifically designed to serve the elderly. You can find these programs through the America Association of Daily Money Managers.

Aging at Maplewood Senior Living

Our communities at Maplewood Senior Living offer a wide variety of services to ensure that residents feel supported, especially for those without family. Regularly scheduled activities, exercise classes, and support groups encourage residents to socialize and decrease the risk of loneliness and isolation. To learn more about our communities, please contact us.

Why Social Isolation is Detrimental to Older Adults

Social isolation, which includes having few social relationships or infrequent contact with others, is a national public health concern, especially for older adults. Our bodies use pain as a warning sign to signal that something is wrong. Like pain, feelings of loneliness can be a sign that isolation is beginning to affect our health. While it’s possible to feel lonely without being socially isolated from others, long-term social isolation can very likely increase our risk of feeling lonely. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the social isolation in older adults’ epidemic. However, subsequent social distance and lock-down protocols have exacerbated the epidemic, causing a spike in reported isolation among the senior population.

Isolation and subsequent loneliness are not new concerns. However, according to the Association of Health Care Journalists, new social isolation statistics suggest that lock-down and social distance protocols have already increased loneliness in older adults. A June 2020 poll from the University of Michigan found that “56% of respondents over the age of 50 reported that they sometimes feel isolated from others which is more than twice of the 27% who felt that way in a similar 2018 poll.” The same report suggests that nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. These increasing numbers are concerning for several reasons, including the fact that older adults who experience long-term isolation are significantly more at risk for many health concerns.

Effects of Social Isolation on Mental Health

It’s common for older adults who are socially isolated to show signs of cognitive decline and decreased speed in information processing. Those who are socially isolated for long periods can often experience physical inactivity, depression, poor sleep quality, high blood pressure and inflammation, all of which can contribute to cognitive decline.

While researchers are still studying the relationship between isolation and cognitive decline, many new developments have been made. Researchers have found that loneliness, due to isolation, has been linked with the same types of brain changes found in those with Alzheimer’s disease. For those with Alzheimer’s disease, certain proteins build up in the brain and alter the brain’s function. These proteins, beta-amyloid, and tau, are also found in those who have reported long-term social isolation. Certain life stressors linked to isolation, such as negative thinking, can also cause the same proteins to build up in the brain, which can increase the risk of disease and illness.

Effects of Isolation on Health

Some research suggests that isolation can alter cells in the immune system causing inflammation. While inflammation can help our bodies heal in the event of injury, if it goes unaddressed for long periods, it can increase the risk of chronic diseases. Those who are isolated can develop compromised immune systems, making them more vulnerable to viruses and infectious diseases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are isolated and suffer from pre-existing conditions, such as heart failure, are at an increased risk of hospitalization by 68%. They also have a 57% increased risk of emergency department visits and have nearly four times the risk of premature death. Loneliness and isolation are also associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. Those who live in social isolation are at risk of premature death from all causes, the severity of which rivals the risk associated with smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.

A study from Florida State University gathered data from 12,030 older adults aged 50 and above to study the relationship between dementia and loneliness. While there is a difference between the two, loneliness can often be a result of social isolation. The findings reported that loneliness was associated with a 40% increased risk of dementia after analyzing data from a 10-year follow-up. This risk includes people of all genders, education, race and ethnicity.

Importance of Social Activity

Cultivating meaningful relationships and having consistent interaction with others can promote both physical and mental health. Research has suggested that those who feel supported in their relationships have a 55% lower risk of dementia. Those who have strong social connections often cope better with stress and they have a supportive social circle to lean on in stressful situations. Social connections can help those who already have protein-build up in the brain decrease their risk of dementia and lessen the build-up over time.

The pandemic has presented a unique challenge, especially for older adults, as many social-distancing protocols are still in place making interaction more difficult. However, many older adults are using technology as a way to interact with others and maintain meaningful relationships.

Using Technology to Combat Isolation

Now more than ever, we are seeing how technology can be used to alleviate social isolation for many older adults. Here are a few ways older adults are utilizing technology to stay connected:

Connecting with Friends and Family
A survey out of the University of Michigan reported that 59% of older adults use social media to connect with others at least once a week, while 31% use video conferencing platforms. In May of this year, video conferencing apps broke records with 62 million downloads. Apps like FaceTime, WebEx, and Zoom are being used to host virtual cocktail parties, dinner gatherings, and book clubs.

Staying Active
Many older adults use exercise and physical activity as a way to connect with others and make new friends. Now, technology has made it possible to continue this connection, while also staying safe. YouTube offers virtual exercise classes like Pilates, dance classes, and chair yoga that can be done with a group, but from the comfort of your own home.

Lifelong Learning
Social connection can occur when people bond over similar interests. For those who like to learn, there are many online options available. Open University offers many free classes, most of which offer online forums that allow classmates to connect with and learn from each other.

Preventing Social Isolation at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how important social connection is for older adults. Our facilities offer a wide variety of social activities and utilize technology to encourage connections with family and friends. Our Temi robots give residents many opportunities to video chat with family members, interact with online videos, and monitor their health. For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact us here.

Making Friends as You Age

There are many opportunities to cultivate friendships in schools, camps and clubs as children and young adults. However, making and maintaining new friendships can become increasingly difficult as we age. This year the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has understandably exacerbated the situation. While many adults experience difficulty in making new friends, the importance of socialization actually increases with age. In fact, according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine, “Having close social ties is not always considered to be an important health behavior, however, studies have revealed that the effects of close social relationships on health carry the same magnitude comparable to or greater than that of such well-established risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and physical inactivity.”
Both loneliness and social isolation are serious public health concerns that affect many older adults. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported that more than one-third of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.  Long-term isolation and loneliness can actually cause a number of negative health issues, such as the increased risk of mortality, depression, cognitive decline, dementia and high blood pressure. However, these risk factors dramatically decrease when we prioritize and nurture healthy relationships and living in a senior living community offers programs to make a big difference

Benefits of Maintaining a Healthy Social Life

While socializing with friends feels enjoyable in the moment, these activities actually have lasting positive effects on our health and well-being. Research shows that maintaining an active social life can impact us in many ways:
Live longerAccording to an article published by Harvard’s School of Public Health, people with strong social connections and relationships may live longer than those without. In fact, studies show that those who are isolated face a 50% greater risk of premature death than those with strong connections.
Improve physical and mental health- Engaging with others can help strengthen the immune system, allowing the body to fight off physical illnesses while also decreasing feelings of depression and loneliness.
Lower risk of dementiaStudies have shown that increased social interaction helps prevent feelings of isolation, stress and loneliness, all of which contribute to cognitive decline.
Improve brain function– When we socialize with others, our brains become stimulated, which helps improve our cognitive abilities and keep our brains sharp and agile.
Increase the quality of life– When we have meaningful relationships and friends, we love to spend time with, our lives improve. Friendships can help us find renewed meaning and purpose in life.

The Challenges of Making New Friends

Many older adults find it difficult to make new friends in their later years. One of the most common ways for adults to meet new people and establish friendships is through their workplace. For many retired individuals, the difficulty isn’t in maintaining a relationship, it’s in finding new people to meet. It can be especially challenging for adults who move away after retirement or choose to relocate for parts of the year. Before retirement, many individuals are preoccupied with raising their families, or feel like their social circles are already well established.
However, many individuals in their retirement have more time to commit to meeting new people. According to a study from the University of Kansas, in order to form a friendship, two people have to spend at least 90 hours together. Now that you have the time to invest in new relationships, the next step is to think about what kind of friends you want to have in your life.

Tips for Making New Friends

Finding new friends can feel awkward, especially when you put too much pressure on yourself. The best way to meet new people is to seek out new opportunities. If you’re ready to meet new people, here are a few tips to get you started:

Invest in your acquaintances– It might sound unnatural at first, but you might consider writing down a list of people you know that you would like to know better. Think back to people you volunteer with, your neighbors you don’t know that well or even friends of existing friends. There can be a lot of potential for friendship in people you already know. Once you have a list of these people, invite them over for lunch, play cards or to participate in one of your favorite hobbies. Most people are open to new friendships!

Join clubs for groups with people of similar interests– Think about the friends you already have. Where did you meet them? What do you have in common? More often than not, we make friendships based on commonalities. If you enjoy crafting or gardening, you might consider seeking out new group opportunities in your area such as a gardening club or crafting group.

Join a community center– Recreation centers offer wonderful opportunities to meet new people. Most recreation or senior centers offer group exercise classes, activities and some even host parties. Depending on your location, you might be able to join for free or pay a small fee for membership. If this intimidates you, you might consider inviting a friend or family member to accompany you.

Practice starting conversations– Even if you have plenty of experience with people, starting a conversation can be a bit intimidating. However, if you start the conversation first, more likely than not, you will make the other person feel more comfortable. Unleash your curiosity and ask questions that help you get to know the other person.

Find ways to learn– An active mind is a happy mind! When we find new ways to engage our brains, we strengthen our cognitive functions. Learning is also a great way to meet new people. Most universities offer educational opportunities for older adults such as auditing classes of interest.

Volunteer– Before retirement, you might have felt too busy to volunteer at your favorite charities or for causes close to your heart. However, now might be a great time to volunteer and meet new people while doing it. Choose something you want to do consistently that allows you to come more than one time.

Socializing at Maplewood Senior Living

While making friends in your later years comes with its own set of challenges, Maplewood Senior Living makes it easy for our residents to build friendships with one another. Social outings and various activities occur multiple times a day, giving each resident an opportunity to learn new things while meeting new people. Many of our residents find their social calendars full each day with everything from exercise classes, to movies, or coffee and conversations. To learn more about our offerings, please contact us.

Why You Should Consider Assisted Living

There are nearly 12 million Americans over the age of 65 who live alone, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center. While living independently certainly has its benefits, it can often become a point of concern for family members, especially as their loved ones continue to age and lose the ability to completely care for themselves. At some point, many older adults have to decide whether to hire outside help, rely on a family member or move into an assisted living facility. This decision-making process can be challenging and made more complicated when failing health and finances are important factors to consider.

While there are many different options, most older adults typically decide between hiring outside help while staying at home or moving into an assisted living facility. According to U.S. News, senior home care typically includes assistance with daily activities such as eating, taking medication, bathing, cooking and cleaning. The level of assistance depends on one’s overall health and ability to care for themselves. Although assisted living requires moving from home, it also provides additional services such as planned activities, 24-hour care and additional security measures to keep residents safe. When deciding which option is the best, many older adults and their family members ask, “How do I know it’s the right time to move?”

Signs it Might be Time for Assisted Living

Coming to terms with a loss of independence can be extremely difficult for aging adults. In fact, for many adults, concerned family members often initiate the conversation of moving first. While we all age at different rates and in different ways, there are some clear signs that it might be time to move into an assisted living community.
Declining Health Conditions– As we age, we become more at risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In fact, according to research conducted by AARP, “more than 70 million Americans ages 50 and older, or four out of five older adults, suffer from at least one chronic condition.” Managing these conditions, including traveling to doctor’s appointments and taking the appropriate medications, can pose problems for older adults. Assisted living communities take pressure off of managing these conditions, which allows residents to enjoy a higher quality of life.
Difficulty Managing Finances– Age-related memory loss can cause confusion when it comes to managing money. This makes paying bills on time and sticking to a budget more difficult. Other memory disorders, like Alzheimer’s and dementia, can also affect one’s ability to understand finances, putting them more at risk of scams, forgetting to pay bills or filing taxes properly.
Inability to Care for Oneself– If your loved one is unable to maintain their living space, bathe themselves or complete basic daily tasks, it’s time to consider assisted living. A lot of family members take on the responsibility of caregiving without understanding how demanding it can be, especially when they have their own families to care for each day. Assisted living facilities have caregivers on staff who will make sure their residents maintain proper hygiene, a healthy diet and live in a clean environment.
Lack of SocializationAccording to a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging, nearly 17% of all Americans aged 65 or older are isolated due to their location, living status, language or disability. Loneliness and isolation can have negative long-term effects on one’s health, such as cognitive decline, increased mortality and feelings of depression. Socialization is at the core of assisted living facilities. Planned activities, social dining areas and one-on-one interaction are everyday occurrences at most facilities.

Benefits of Assisted Living

While the thought of moving out of your home and into an assisted living community might seem intimidating, the benefits are overwhelming. Instead of thinking about moving as another reminder of aging, you might consider it as an opportunity for something new and exciting. Here are a few benefits of assisted living that you might not have considered:
You Gain Independence– While many people think of assisted living as a way to lose independence, the opposite is true. Instead of relying on a family member or outside party for assistance, all of those daily tasks, like shopping and cooking, are taken care of by staff. This leaves you with plenty of time to discover your interests and renew your hobbies instead of thinking about who will come to help.
More Value for Your Money– Many individuals are afraid to consider moving into an assisted living community because they think they can’t afford it. However, that’s not necessarily true. Many assisted living facilities offer many services under one fee. For example, you might find that meals and activities are included in your monthly fee, where in-home care is usually priced a la carte. While assisted living can be expensive, you might find it to be a better deal based on your needs.
A Safer Living Option– As we age we are more at risk of health emergencies, such as falling. When living alone, these injuries could become life-threatening. However, at assisted living facilities, there is always a staff person or registered nurse available to help, no matter the time of day.
Socialization- Assisted living communities provide a wide variety of activities for their residents. From sing-a-longs to arts and crafts, there’s always an opportunity to learn and socialize with others. Socialization is proven to be beneficial for one’s overall health, especially for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Things to Consider

If you decide it’s the right time for assisted living, there are a few things to keep in mind. As you start touring different communities, they can all start to feel similar. At Maplewood Senior Living , we know what that can feel like. That’s why we have compiled a list of things to consider and questions to ask when looking for an assisted living community:

1. Ask to meet the team. How can a resident or family member get in contact with the management team?
2. Do they have apartments available? What sizes are offered? Is the furniture provided?
3. Ask about the culinary program. Is food prepared from scratch? You might consider asking for a menu or schedule a time to have lunch or dinner on the campus.
4. Are nurses available 24 hours a day?
5. What type of training is provided for the staff?
6. Do they provide call lights, pendants or life alerts? What’s the protocol for responding?
7. Is transportation available for outings, doctor’s appointments or grocery shopping?
8. What accommodations are available when more care is required?
9. What type of programming and cultural enrichment opportunities are available?
10. Ask to speak with a current resident who would be willing to share their experience with you.

Assisted Living at Maplewood Senior Living Communities

We know transitioning into assisted living from an independent living situation can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Our Maplewood Senior Living communities provide support and transitional care to make the change an easy one. If you’re interested in learning more about our assisted living communities or would like to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Why Every Older Adult Should Be Crafting

Depending on where you live, this summer could be looking a lot different than you might have anticipated. For many, travel plans and other summer activities have been put on hold. However, this could be a great opportunity to try things you’ve never done before. While many people might not identify as being creative or artistic, there are arts and crafts options for everyone. Not only is crafting a great way to have fun and socialize with others, it also offers a myriad of health benefits. In fact, some experts believe that crafting and other leisure activities can actually reduce the chances of developing a cognitive impairment by up to 50%. In addition, researchers suggest that crafting-related activities can have a positive effect on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Benefits of Crafting-Related Activities

Creative activities, such as arts and crafts, can help boost mental health by stimulating different parts of the brain, depending on the activity. Trying new activities as an older adult can also provide a sense of accomplishment and improve self-esteem. Crafting covers a wide range of activities from knitting and sewing to painting and coloring. No matter the activity, crafting can provide numerous health benefits:

Promotes Socialization
Untreated isolation and loneliness can cause serious health problems in older adults, such as increased cognitive decline and depression. However, arts and crafts activities provide an opportunity to socialize with others, especially if you join a crafting group or club that meets consistently. Socialization, along with exercising your own creativity, can help enhance quality of life.

Acts as a Form of Therapy
As we age, communicating our thoughts and feelings can become difficult, especially if diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Finding new ways of communication becomes increasingly important with age. Participating in arts and crafts is a wonderful way to practice self-expression when traditional communication becomes more difficult.

Increases Physical Health
Many older adults experience a decline in their fine motor skills as they age. We use our fine motor skills each day when we feed ourselves, use our phones, button our shirts or put the key in the door. These activities can become more difficult for a number of reasons. However, the more we practice these skills, the better they become. Arts and crafts activities, such as sewing and knitting, help refine our fine motor skills.

Protects Against Aging
Crafting has the ability to involve many different areas of the brain, which ultimately strengthens memory, processing and problem-solving abilities. The more we provide a stimulating environment for our brains, the more their ability to become flexible and adaptable increases.

Acts as an Anti-Depressant
When we do something pleasurable, our brain releases dopamine which acts as a natural anti-depressant. Whether we’re creating something from nothing, or learning how to work with our hands, dopamine is released and helps to protect us from feelings of depression.

Tips for Crafting with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

Arts and crafts can be beneficial for all who participate, but it can be especially therapeutic for those with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Keeping the brain stimulated and actively engaging the mind can help slow cognitive decline and increase the overall wellbeing of these individuals. While most arts and crafts activities can be adapted to be appropriate at any ability level, there are some tips you might consider when crafting with those diagnosed with memory disease.

• While stimulating the brain is good, over-stimulation can cause confusion and anxiety. When leading a crafting activity, keep instructions simple, and avoid crafts with many different steps.

• The objective of an arts and crafts activity is to promote enjoyment. When we take the pressure off of achievement and instead focus on building upon the strengths and abilities we already have, the activity will be much more beneficial to a person’s overall wellbeing.

• If you’re working one-on-one, you might consider tapping into your loved one’s favorite pastimes or incorporate their favorite music into the activity.

• Lastly, keep safety in mind. If you are working with materials that are potentially harmful, keep them out of reach until it’s time to use them. If possible, each participant should be assigned a helper to assist in projects that require more skills.

Crafting Ideas for Older Adults

Choosing a crafting activity can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. These activities are great for beginners and can be adapted to fit any skill or ability level.

Knitting and Crocheting
Both of these activities help improve mood and contribute to overall wellbeing, especially when done in a social setting. In addition, there are many clubs and groups designed just for beginners. If you’re interested in finding an activity to do alone in your spare time, you might consider purchasing beginner level kits that come with guides and instructions. You can find them on Amazon.

Coloring and Painting
Anyone can color! Coloring is a great form of self-expression and is a perfect crafting activity for beginners. Adult coloring books are available in many different styles and provide a gentle guide for those who are new to coloring or don’t know where to begin. If you prefer to craft with paint, there are still many different options. You might consider beginning with a guided painting picture, or unleash your creativity by painting on rocks for your garden or as a gift for a loved one.

Decoupage
This activity allows you to take a normal household item, like shoe-box or food container, and turn it into a work of art. You can use whatever you have at home, such as wrapping paper, scraps of fabric or other items to make it unique and playful. By using your hands to cut and place small items, you can actually improve your fine motor skills.

While all of these activities can be adapted when necessary, here are a few activities that are especially beneficial for those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia:

• Collages- This is a great way to help evoke memories while inspiring creativity. You might consider using newspaper clippings, or photographs from major life events to decorate your space.

• Greeting Cards- This activity can be adapted to fit any skill level and can allow your loved one to feel connected to friends and family. Start with pre-cut shapes, photographs or glitter markers to make the cards special and unique.
• Clay Modeling- This is a great way to use fine motor skills while also using your creative side. You can model the clay into certain shapes and dry them to make artistic embellishments to give as gifts to friends and family.

Getting Creative at Maplewood Senior Living

Our residents have been releasing their creative sides in many different ways at our Maplewood Senior Living communities. From rock painting to t-shirt making and quilting, our residents have found many ways to unleash their inner artist. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Ways to Combat Social Isolation During COVID-19

As we all do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19’s global impact, most of us find ourselves self- quarantined in our homes. While self-quarantine is the best thing to do to stay healthy, it can also come with challenges, especially for vulnerable populations. Many older adults are at risk of isolation during this time, especially if they are alone. For many individuals, social interaction and physical touch can be reduced to just minutes per day, if at all. According to AARP, loneliness and isolation “affect a significant proportion of adults in the United States and have been calculated as being the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Long-term isolation can have serious effects on an individual’s health both physically and mentally.

Effects of Isolation on Mental and Physical Health for Seniors
The symptoms of long-term isolation can present themselves slowly and can be difficult to identify, especially in yourself. That’s why it’s so important to check-in with yourself each day and assess how you’re feeling. If you experience any of these symptoms or effects of isolation, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider right away to get the treatment you need. According to the Lifeline Crisis Support, here are some of the most common effects of long-term isolation.

• Physical Symptoms– You might notice your pre-existing conditions worsening or the development of new conditions. Headaches, aches and pains and sudden illness are all common physical symptoms of long-term isolation.
• Mental Health Conditions– During periods of isolation you are more at risk of depression, anxiety and panic attacks, especially if you have experienced these conditions before.
• Interrupted Sleep Patterns– You might experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or even sleeping too much. These interrupted sleep patterns can cause you to feel tired, fatigued and generally disinterested.
• Changes in Diet– Isolation can cause loss of appetite, which results in sudden weight gain or loss. If you experience these changes, it’s important to notify your doctor quickly.
• Substance Abuse– To deal with the stress of isolation, it’s not uncommon for adults to increase their consumption of alcohol, smoking, medications and drugs. If you have a history of substance abuse and are experiencing long-term isolation, be sure to have support plan put in place.
• Negative or Depressed Feelings – Long-term isolation can provoke feelings of hopelessness and disinterest.

How to Stay Connected during Social Isolation
While we’re navigating these difficult times, the thought of being unable to see our loved ones adds another level of challenge and stress. However, there are many alternatives to help you stay connected to your family and friends from the comfort of your own home while decreasing your risk of feeling isolated.

Video Chatting
While there’s no replacement for hugging your family and friends and spending time connecting in person, there is an alternative that can help you stay connected while also staying healthy. Many people are using video conferencing platforms to speak with their loved ones, while also being able to see their faces. Applications like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts are video enabled platforms that are great for chatting with either one person or large groups. FaceTime is great for Apple products, while Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts are accessible on all devices. If you have a loved one who is living abroad, you might consider using WhatsApp.

Entertainment
Who says you can’t have fun in self-quarantine? There are a wide variety of online platforms that allow you to have virtual parties with your friends and families no matter where they live. These services allow you to watch movies or play games with your loved ones online.

Houseparty– While this application isn’t exactly new, it has become more popular in the last few weeks. While video chatting is a great way to stay connected, Houseparty allows you to video chat while providing entertainment for your group. This app allows you to play games with your group such as: Heads Up, Trivia, Quick Draw and many others.

• Watch Party– Facebook offers a feature that allows its users to watch Facebook videos together. Users can watch videos together in real time while writing and sharing their comments and reactions with their friends. Here are some tips to keep in mind while using.

Netflix Party– Watching movies is a great way to spend your time inside, but sometimes it can get lonely watching by yourself. That’s why Netflix created an extension called Netflix Party, which allows its users to type text into a chat box while watching.

Ways to Learn Online
You might be looking for ways to mix up your day and stay busy. This is a great time to learn new skills and utilize online learning tools. While learning is something you can do alone, it can also help you feel part of a community, especially if you find a friend to learn along with you. If you’re looking for a new book for your kindle, check out Amazon or buy a new book from Oprah’s Book Club. You might even consider starting a book club with your friends and using a video chat to discuss your thoughts.

There are so many ways to learn by using the computer. If you like learning about new topics, you might consider listening to a talk on TED. You can choose from a variety of lectures on hundreds of topics. Other platforms like Teachable and Coursera offer college level courses free of charge, and you can also choose to buy a membership for more access. Choose a course to take with a friend and call each other after to discuss what you’ve learned.

How to Build an Online Community
The best way to decrease you risk of isolation is find ways to build your community of support. Whether you’re video chatting or watching a movie with a friend, the more you interact with others the less likely you will feel isolated. For times like these, the best way to build a community is by utilizing technology.

Facebook and Instagram allow users to post pictures and videos, while allowing friends and family to comment and leave their well wishes. You might also consider starting an email chain with family and friends to stay updated on new life happenings. Group text messages are also a great way to share how you’re feeling and what you’ve been doing each day.

At our Maplewood Senior Living Communities, seniors are busy learning the latest technologies to stay entertained and connected with family and friends during this time. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.

The Benefits of Music Therapy for Seniors

Seniors making music with rhythm instruments as musical therapy.

Many adults between the ages of 65 and 85 experience at least one chronic condition such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes. Older adults are also likely to experience changes in their physical and mental capabilities, and often seek medical help to improve their conditions. In addition to seeking the advice of a healthcare provider and making necessary lifestyle changes, there are other therapies available that can be beneficial to seniors. Music and music therapy have been proven to help seniors restore and maintain their health, both physically and mentally.

Music for Everyday Life

Even if you aren’t experiencing illness or disease, there are many benefits music can have just by listening or playing an instrument.

Managing grief
Many music therapists help their clients navigate the recent loss of a loved one by using music as a tool to cope with grief. Many older adults find it helpful to capture the personality of their loved one through their favorite songs, or through those that carry a specific memory. Music therapists encourage clients to listen to these songs throughout the process of grieving to remember a loved one and reflect on the time spent together.

Improving cognitive function
Listening to music daily can also improve how fast we process information. Music teaches us to recognize our emotions, and when we practice this often, processing emotions and information we consume becomes similar to muscle memory.

Encourages socialization
It’s not uncommon for older adults to feel lonely or isolated, especially after the loss of their spouse or friend. However, as we age, socializing with others and maintaining healthy relationships becomes an important part of our well-being. Many older adults find music to be a helpful way to connect with others through dancing, reminiscing over popular music from their younger years, or going to see the symphony or opera.

What are the Effects of Music on Alzheimer’s Patients?

While music has benefits for everyone, recent research suggests that it can especially helpful for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. With the help of music, many Alzheimer’s patients see a boost in brain activity, which can result in the following benefits:

Evokes emotions and memories
According to Neurologist Oliver Sacks, music can evoke emotion even in severe cases of Alzheimer’s. When we experience emotions, oftentimes memories are quick to follow. When we pair everyday activities with music, Alzheimer’s patients are able to recall the memory associated with that activity, which can ultimately improve cognitive function.

Encourages emotional and physical closeness
As Alzheimer’s and dementia progress, many older adults lose their ability to express and share emotions with others. However, through music and rhythm, many ambulatory patients can express themselves through dancing which can lead to other expressions of affection like hugging and smiling.

Improves engagement
When you listen to music, you might find yourself tapping your toes or singing along to the words. You can also find this kind of behavior in those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Music has a way of capturing and keeping their attention for a period of time, especially during live performances.

Practicing Music Therapy at Home

You don’t have to be an expert to reap the benefits of music. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association compiled a list of ways to practice music therapy in the comfort of your own home. If you are a caregiver or are interested in music yourself, here are few tips for playing with music at home:

Play music that is familiar. When choose what kind of music to play, go with your favorite selections. If you are choosing music for someone else, think back to what they grew up with, or music from the first concert they might have attended. When we play what we know, oftentimes happy memories will come with it, improving your mood and encouraging positive mental health.

Choose continuous music. Keep the distractions to a minimum. While the radio or playing music from an application on your smart phone can be enjoyable, it’s important to try and avoid commercials and frequent disruptions that can cause confusion. You might consider listening to a CD or record instead.

Use music to create the mood you want to experience. Music can be a great way to practice controlling your emotions. For example, if you’ve had a busy or stressful day, you might consider playing slow and calming music to help you think more clearly and slow your breathing. Playing a fast paced song from your childhood could help boost your mood and evoke positive thoughts.

Encourage movement. If you are practicing music therapy with someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, try adding movement while listening. Clapping, tapping your feet, or dancing if possible can help improve cognitive function by increasing blood flow throughout the body.

Avoid sensory overload. For those who have limited cognitive function, loud music and a chaotic environment can be extremely stressful. You might consider starting the music out softly on a low volume and increasing it slowly until you find the appropriate level. In addition, you might consider turning off the television and shutting the windows and doors.

Harnessing the Power of Music

Playing music with someone one can create a very special bond, especially between caregivers and their loved ones. However, for a more interactive approach, you might consider one of these activities to do together.

Make your own music. Playing music can boost your mood while also improving cognitive function and fine motor skills. If you’re able, you might consider bringing a few simple instruments for your loved one with play with. Even strumming a few chords on the guitar can have a powerful affect on your mood. Instruments like the drum or a steel triangle can be fun to play and simple for those who have limited physical abilities.

• Highlight hobbies. As traveling becomes more difficult, it can be a challenge to see live musical performances. If you or a loved one grew up enjoying the symphony or opera, you might consider downloading a live performance and listening at home.

• Sing togetherAs the holiday season approaches, you might consider listening to your favorite Christmas music and singing along. This can be a great way to socialize with others, while also getting in the mood for all of the festivities ahead.

Music at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how much music can benefit our residents. That’s why we incorporate music into the daily lives of our residents in many ways. Whether it is music softly playing in our lobby to create a warm and welcoming ambiance, a local band or musician performing a concert to entertain residents and guests, or a formal music therapy program designed for individuals with dementia, like Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging’s Making Connections through Music program. You can read more about our partnership with Benjamin Rose Institute on Again and this program in our blog, or contact us for more information about our facilities.