Chi Gong for the Elderly

What Is Chi Gong?

‘Chi’ is the vital force, the life force that is transmitted by the breath.  “Gong’ can be translated as exercise. So chi gong provides exercises that maximize the benefits of healthy breathing.  The great news for seniors is that there are literally hundreds of simple exercises that maximize the benefits of breath and chi.  Many exercises can be done while sitting in a chair or even lying down.

What Are the Benefits of Doing Chi Gong?

 

 

One may notice an overall improvement in physical well-being.  You just feel better. When you feel good physically, all of your life feels better.

Doing Chi Gong With Physical Impairments

Trouble standing?  Problems that keep you in a wheelchair?  Bedridden? No problem. All the exercises I will be offering can be done sitting and even lying in a bed.  In this first column, I will offer two simple exercises that can be done standing, sitting, or even lying in a bed.  Like any exercise, however, the benefits will only be realized by those who do them on a regular basis. Make a commitment to do these exercises at least once a day and preferably twice a day.  

Exercise One - Two Hands Reach the Sky

Standing, sitting, or lying in a bed, Slowly, while breathing in through the nose, raise both hands in front of you.  Stretch both hands above you. Form claws with your hands at the top. Bring your hands slowly down in front of your face as you breathe out slowly through the nose, grasping the energy from the sky.  Let your hands relax as they drop. Finally, spread the energy out to bless the earth. Repeat 7 more times.  

 

Exercise Two - Kidney Rub

Rub your hands together vigorously in front of you while slowly breathing in and out through the nose.  Now wash your face without touching it. Next, repeat rubbing your hands together. Finally, reach around your back as best you can, forming two loose fists and rub your kidney area with a circular motion.  Repeat 7 more times.

Anxiety & Worry

  Much of the population of America struggles with anxiety and worry.  Don't believe me?  It is estimated that more than 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with anxiety and a large percentage of those people are on anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication in order to treat the symptoms. Anxiety is a force to be reckoned with, but often it wins the battle, especially as people begin to add more years of experience to their days.  When you have lived long enough, you begin to realize that bad things really do happen to good people, young people and even the most careful of people.  The things you've lived through personally might be enough to fill volumes of books. But if it is a force to be reckoned with, we need to be armed to fight against it, lest it overcome us.  Most people know that anxiety and worry are huge stressors on the body and can cause long term damage to our physical health and psyche.  What most people don't know is how to get the anxiety and worry to stop.  In some cases, there might be chemical imbalances that are causing the deep cycles of anxiety and worry. If this is the case for you, do not feel guilt about getting help.  In many cases, however, a change in lifestyle and a few simple helps can greatly reduce your feelings of anxiety, provided you're willing to make lifestyle changes.  Even if you are on medication, these ideas might be helpful to you and perhaps over time you could reduce the amount of medication that you need.  If you are up for a challenge, read on.

  If you are like most of us, food is a large part of your life, but not necessarily the healthiest part.  Our culture is saturated with quick, easy meals that are destroying our ability to fight against depression.  Foods high in starch and fat sit heavily in our guts with very few vitamins and minerals able to be absorbed.  “Simply” making some changes to diet can be a great help.  But simple things are not always easy to put into practice.  If you're not used to eating vegetables a few times a day, increase them.  Take out grains unless they're whole grains.  See how you feel.  Cut out sugar.  I wouldn't advise doing this all at once, but take each a step at a time and pay attention to how different you feel.  You'll find the things that make the biggest difference for you over time.

  Cut out caffeine.  Caffeine can increase your cortisol levels.  When those go up, your anxiety levels naturally follow.  You can't help but feel nervous and jittery when there is a stimulant coursing through your system.  If you are a heavy caffeine consumer, you'll need to wean yourself off gradually sodas not to get major headaches.  Replace your drink of choice with healthy alternatives that have some vitamin benefits, like smoothies, or herbal teas.  This one change can be the difference between an anxiety filled day and one that you can keep under control.

  Exercise.  Endorphins released during exercise can boost your mood and also keep the anxiety at bay because that energy is being spent on something useful.  Speaking of useful, instead of going to a gym to exercise, try exerting that energy in a way that is meaningful to you and your family so that you will get more than one benefit.  Garden or raise animals.  Remodel parts of your house.  Paint rooms that are in need of TLC.  Spending that nervous energy in a useful way will make you feel better, even if you end up exhausted.

  Set a timer.  It's going to sound strange, but start setting a timer if you find yourself worrying too much about one particular issue.  It's honorable to try to come up with solutions to problems in your life, but if you're not careful, they'll take over your thought life.  So, set a timer, perhaps even keep a record book of when your time to think deeply about a subject is scheduled for.  Jot down any ideas that can help you to solve the problem.  Then, let it go.  When it tries to re-enter, push it away and go and do something physically different.  Wash dishes, fold clothes, change the oil in your car, research grafting fruit trees, ANYTHING!  Doing something else or researching other subjects will break the cycle.  If you follow this pattern enough, your body will form new pathways in the brain and will begin changing the subjects you dwell on in shorter amounts of time.  It is the formation of a new habit, so be relentless with yourself, especially at first.  If it's 2:00 AM and your mind will not stop, get up and start a load of laundry, then read or do something else productive.  Many people find that they are eventually able to wake, decide that they'll think about that problem during a certain set time the next day and go back to sleep with enough practice.  It can be life-changing to be able to give yourself permission to sleep despite the fact that there are frayed ends in your life.  The truth is, there will always be frayed ends, unfinished business or less than satisfactory outcomes, but losing sleep doesn't improve them, or you.

  It is said that most of what we worry about is out of our control.  Many people worry about the past, which they cannot change.  That is a complete waste of energy.  If you are worried that you've hurt someone in the past, ask forgiveness (actionable step) and move on.  If there is nothing you can do about a past situation, worry will not change one thing.  If you're worried about some future thing, decide whether there is anything tangible you can do about it.  If there is, plot a course of action...write it down in your book.  If there is not, then no amount of worry will change it, so let it go. 

  Worry and anxiety are things that eat away at the very core of who we are.  If we allow them to carry on in our heads without capturing them and making them submit to our will, they will drag us down to our lowest point.   Our physical, emotional & mental health is dependent upon us making a change for the better within our own minds. 

Stay Active in Old Age

Admittedly, active lifestyles are pretty rare in the elderly population these days, but they are on the rise.  People are discovering how much better their quality of life can be if they remain as active as possible and deal with health issues as they arise instead of letting them debilitate them before dealing with them.  Activity in old age, however, does not look like activity did in our 20s.  We are no longer able to do many of the same workout routines, or even daily chores that we once did.  You can evaluate any exercise advice through the scope of your age and with a physical therapist’s help to ensure that you are not taking unnecessary risks to your body, but for most people, your body will let you know how much activity is too much.  If you have an injury or are recovering from an injury, be sure to get clearance before starting any routine.

Let’s start with the basics.  Much of our mobility or immobility depends upon the core of our bodies being fit.  If the core is not fit, we try to use other parts of our body to compensate for that.  In old age, it gets increasingly difficult to fight against gravity because we tend to have less muscle mass.  Working on keeping our core & spine intact will go a long way to improving our health and give us less pain.  One simple starting place for strengthening your core, especially if you notice that your posture is less than ideal is to force yourself to sit at a table or desk, upright and with your feet flat on the floor.  Make sure your shoulders are back.  You may notice that this stretches your clavicle (collarbone) region.   Do this several times a day during regular meals, writing letters, etc & hold the posture for a couple of minutes each time.  It seems so simple, but is quite effective.  If you notice when you’re sitting, that you have the urge to brace your feet against the chair, or cross your legs, or lean sideways, your body is compensating for a weak core.  Consciously do this simple exercise until you are consistently sitting upright without fatigue.

At one time there was a class on TV called, “Sit And Be Fit”.  I do not think it is aired regularly anymore, but there are various fitness programs available online for elderly people that have exercises done while seated, to reduce the risk of injury.  Check into these and be sure you follow the instructions closely.

Regular activity is the most important thing to keep an active lifestyle.  You’ve heard the scientific law, “objects in motion stay in motion”?  It is the same for adults.  If you stay active, you will keep staying active.  This is easier if you have an external reason to stay active, if you have someone else to care for, if you have a job to do, etc.  It’s a part of why we also recommend volunteering and social engagements as a part of a healthy lifestyle.  If you have no reason to get out of bed in the morning, or off the recliner in the afternoon, it is much more challenging to talk yourself into moving from those positions.

Mobility is a huge issue.  If you have limited mobility, be sure that you’re doing everything that you can within what your doctor has said is safe for you to do.  Don’t ever do less than that, or your mobility could worsen.   Household tasks like dishes, vacuuming, dusting, & light gardening in a raised bed are all wonderful for keeping you moving.  Think of them as dual-purpose and it might help motivate you a bit more!  If you’re in a wheelchair, see which things you can safely do for yourself.  If you’re not in a wheelchair, keep fighting to stay out of one!

Regular movement and bits of resistance for your muscles improve your muscle mass over time, and it also increases the density in your bones, improves circulation and lung capacity.  I cannot emphasize how important it is for you to remain active even as you may feel that you’ve finally earned a break!  I know it’s tempting, but you’re not only doing this for yourself.  You’re showing the next generation what old age can look like!  You’re showing them how to age gracefully!  You’re showing them how to make the most of life until it ends, and they are going to need that to push through the situations that they are struggling with right now and as they age.  Your active lifestyle can be an inspiration to those around you & will increase your health and happiness along the way!

 

 

Exercise for Senior Citizens

Spring has officially arrived in much of the country.  There are a few pockets of rough weather throughout, but at least on the calendar, we’re all celebrating the arrival of more sunshine and warmer temperatures.  Winter has a way of making us sedentary.  Sometimes that is good if you’re overworking yourself and running in busyness.  If it lasts for too long, however, it can be difficult to overcome the inertia to get up and move again once the warmer weather hits.  But staying on the sofa is not a viable option.

Seniors care who lead a sedentary lifestyle are much more prone to weight gain.  They are also much more likely to have health problems than their active counterparts.  Movement can keep your mind active and your body healthier.  It can also boost endorphins and lift your spirits through hormonal means.  The mind/body connection is powerful here.  If you get out and about for longer periods of time, you will most definitely feel better about life, but you might find that you sleep better at night, too.  This will be especially effective if you are able to spend some of your active time in the outdoors and fresh air.

What types of exercises are appropriate for those who are aging?  Nothing strenuous is required.  If you’ve been a body builder your entire life, please disregard this statement.  Most of us require basic, natural movement and muscle toning on a regular basis, along with stretching to remain flexible.  It’s also a good idea to get your heart rate up through cardiovascular exercise occasionally, but you needn’t do and aerobics workout to obtain this.

1st: Walk.  Start out by walking regularly.  Walking outside on different types of inclines and declines is the best way to start out on you journey again.  It’s much easier to talk yourself into walking up the road a bit than to walk on a treadmill, but if you live in a place that makes that impossible, hop right on the treadmill.  Brisk walking will begin to get your blood flowing and get your heart rate up without you having to do strenuous workouts to reach your goals.

2nd: Another part of being able to maintain your health as you get older is to be able to continue to move your body and engage in activities that are normal for daily life.  Being able to get up from the floor, for instance, to a standing position without much difficulty, is important.  Rolling onto your side and rising to a sitting position is also important.  Basic reaching, light lifting, and cross-over movements will keep you more stable on your feet and make you less prone to falling.  If you have questions about exercise regimens built around these ideas, search YouTube for natural movements exercises.  You’ll find a wealth of information to begin.

3rd: Muscle toning is also important.  Before you go out and buy a set of weights, look around your house for handy alternatives.  A jug of milk weighs about 8 pounds.   A half-gallon weighs about 4 pounds.  Use a half gallon to do different lifting exercises with your arms.  Work on your biceps and triceps while moving around the groceries!  Lift things up from the floor, but instead of just doing it one time, do it in repetition in order to strengthen your back and shoulders.  Attempt some core exercises like sit-ups or crunches as a part of your natural movements exercises so that your body maintains every bit of muscle tone that it already has, then begin building more.

Finally, practice a bit of stretching in order to maintain flexibility.  Keeping our bodies from stiffening can become a part time job as we age!  Focus on one area at a time while you stretch and make sure you’ve thoroughly stretched it before moving on.  I always begin with my neck and shoulders because that is where I tend to carry my tension, but you may be different.  Do what works for you, just be sure that you are doing it!  At the end of your stretching, it can be fun to lie on the floor, tighten all your muscles for five seconds and then relax them all intentionally at once.  If you are not able to do this, lie there and focus on relaxing each part of your body, one at a time beginning with your neck and jaw and working downward to your toes.  It’s amazing that we sometimes do not realize that we have muscle groups that are tense until we go through this exercise.  If we do this and find areas of tension that we were unaware of beforehand, it’s good to go back and stretch them, as well.

After any kind of exercise be sure to hydrate to move any toxins out of your body.  This also gives your body something to work with to keep going throughout your day.

Whatever you decide to do to stay fit, just make sure you’re doing it on a regular basis to reap the greatest reward and to benefit your body, mind and mood the most.  It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s routine, it simply needs to work for you!

 

Beginnings

It is a new year.  With all things new, we tend to have our hopes set very high.  It is common, especially when the year is at it’s start to have high hopes for the things that will change in the coming year.  The bad habits that we’ve formed over the past years, we hope to discontinue.  We also hope to somehow work our way toward a healthier & happier life in the year ahead by forging new habits with some sort of immense willpower which has, until January the first, alluded us.  Our expectations may be unrealistic & our efforts laughable, at times. After having no exercise routine for years we suddenly hope to run 5 miles a day, 6 days out of the week.  After drinking soda daily since we were teens, we hope to drink only water, herbal tea and probiotic rich drinks.  But, just because we sometimes set unrealistic goals for ourselves does not mean that new habits are futile to try to attain.  On the contrary, new  & wholesome habits are important and worthy goals set.  There are better ways to go about it, however, than strictly by grunt-force willpower.

1. One at a time. Habits are formed through doing them, not by resolving to do them. For this reason it is best to choose one habit at a time to work on.  It takes a great deal of energy to make the decision to do something new each time you must do it. For instance, if you do not have the habit of walking each morning, it takes just as much effort to decide to put on your gear and get out the door as it does to actually do the walking.   Once the effort of decision is less, you can move on to more habits that you’d like to form, but not until then, lest you abandon the progress you’ve made on the first habit.

2. Specific, Measurable, attainable, reasonable, trackable. You’ve probably already heard of making goals that are “S.M.A.R.T”.  Remember to make your goals each of the things listed above.  It is better to say, “I’m going to eat at least 2 green vegetables a day,” than “I’m going to get healthier this year.”  If you can measure a goal, you’ll know whether you’ve reached it or not.  If you cannot measure a goal, you can easily fool your own mind into believing that you’ve attained it, even without evidence.

3. Once your goals or habits have become easier, move on to solidifying them in such a way as it will be difficult to break them in the future.  Try to be sure you do them 21 times in a row, without pause.  Notice how much easier it is each time.

4. Wagons & Trains. You’ve probably heard habits described as ruts in a road that makes it easier for a wagon to find its way with ease. They’ve also been described as putting down track for a train to later follow on easily.  Whichever way you look at it, habits are the pre-cursors that we follow on, often without thought.

5. Good or Bad. Because it would require too much effort to think through each action, habits are actually little blessings throughout our day. If you had to pay heed to things like tying your shoes each time that you did it and decide to do it a different way each time, your mind would be full of that action & unable to think ahead to some of the heavier decisions that had to be made throughout the day.  One thing is certain, we are forming habits all throughout the day, every day.  Not making your bed each morning is just as much habit as making your bed.  Eating sugary cereal and coffee is just as much habit as eating veggies and eggs.  You are laying down rails through habits.  Is the railway taking you where you want to go?

Chair Exercises For Seniors

We've discussed fitness and the importance of health in several articles for this blog.  But, one thing that we have not discussed is what to do if the person you are caring for is physically compromised in such a way as to make being active very difficult or impossible.  In these cases, many people choose to become more & more inactive.  This only exasperates the situation & often creates new muscle problems and degrades the strength of the individual.  Consider chair exercises as an alternative form of fitness.  You might find yourself to be surprised at the range of exercises available while sitting in a chair.

Who can benefit?  Anyone!  Those who have had surgery recently can benefit greatly from seated exercises without danger of falling to re-injure themselves.  Those who are easily dizzy or unstable because of health issues can benefit.  Those who no longer have the strength to stand for short amounts of time will find help. Those whose joints ache, or are so stiff that range of motion is affected & standing is unbearable will find the exercises helpful.  Those who have none of these issues, but would like a different type of fitness routine can also benefit from a varied workout.

What type of chair to use?  A stable chair is imperative.  Any kind will do, really, as long as it is stable.  Stay away from dainty chairs or those with wheels for obvious reasons.  Also, stay away from recliners or deeper chairs as these can inhibit movement & be so inviting as to draw you into themselves and make it much more difficult to do the exercises.

Where to find the exercises?  Look online first if you have a computer.  YouTube has a good selection of chair exercise videos available for you to watch.  Public television stations are another place to look.  They will often have exercise videos available for public viewing at certain times on certain days.  Check with your local station for the names & times that shows like that are aired.  One such show is called, “Sit and Be Fit”.

Find out if there are classes nearby.  If you call your local clinic, they may be able to tell you where chair exercise classes are held in your area, if any exist.  It can be a nice change to workout with other individuals, for encouragement & social interaction with others who are going through similar things.

How will it help?  By staying active, the person you care for will benefit in numerous ways.  Range of motion should be improved greatly as they complete the stretches and exercises.  Joint stiffness can be alleviated as they work out.  Endorphins will be released in the body to improve mood & relieve stress.  Muscle strength will be improved.  Bone density can be improved with resistance training. Blood circulation will improve as the body is moving.

These exercises are not going to prepare anyone for a 5K or for climbing Everest.  They will, however, help to improve quality of life in individuals who can use them as a workout plan themselves or as a stepping stone on their road to recovery.  Fitness is important.  Let's encourage it!

Benefits of Nature During the Aging Process | Beehive

Aging can take a toll on us, even if we're healthy individuals.  It is very rare in today's world, however, for those who are aging to escape problems that go along with it.  Often, disease can cause more difficulty than any toll that the normal wear and tear of the years has done.  While a simple walk in the park may not turn back the biological clock, in the following article, we're going to take a look at a few ways that getting into nature can help you alleviate some of the symptoms of common diseases or problems often associated with aging.

-Hypertension.  There is something incredibly soothing about walking, or even sitting in nature that can calm nerves & slow heart rates.  It has been shown to reduce blood pressure.  Light exercise has been shown to have the same effect.  So, whether it's taking a walk or working for awhile in the garden, get outside for a bit & feel the benefits!

-Diabetes.  Being in nature requires a bit of effort from us.  You can use those natural surroundings to fight against a very common disease that accompanies aging, diabetes.  Walking or biking through the park on a regular basis, or simply puttering around in the yard can help regulate your blood sugars.  If you garden, you can get a “two for one special” with exercise, plus having fresh, healthful fruits and vegetables to supplement your diet.

-Dementia.  How could nature help with dementia, you ask?  It's quite simple, although it does take a bit of effort at the outset. Bring along a book of birds, trees or flowers while you spend time out of doors.  Challenge yourself while you are out by finding and identifying the things you see.  The next time you are out, see if you can remember what they were before looking them up again.  Many of those in #dementia care facilities could benefit from this.  Something this simple can be done in almost any setting, from rural to urban.  If outdoor spaces are not readily available, it would also be feasible to do with indoor plants and garden plants.  Another great addition to this exercise would be to find books of poetry that address the beautiful things that you find while you are on your excursions.

-General Health.  Most people are aware that outdoor air is less polluted than indoor air.  Therefore, it stands to reason that anyone experiencing lung problems would benefit from more time outdoors.  Vitamin D from the sun is also a healthful benefit of spending time outdoors.  Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, helps regulate sleep & gives a general sense of well-being.

Certainly, there are a number of benefits from being in nature at any age.  As we grow older, it becomes more challenging to spend times outdoors than it was when we were younger.  But, consider, if you will, all of the different ways that it could improve your health & life. Then, get out in nature and start enjoying life!

 

 

Vitamin D in the Elderly

Vitamin D deficiency is an issue of concern for more than just the elderly.  Many people who live in extreme Northern climates are very aware of how the lack of sunlight can affect their energy levels, their immune systems, their sleep cycles, etc.  Those who work nights & sleep days are also aware of the detrimental affect it has on their lives.  It's not surprising, then, that the elderly are a large group of individuals that struggle with a deficiency of this vitamin in their bodies.  They are often indoors more than out of doors, have slowing metabolisms, & have trouble absorbing vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin D contributes to good health in a number of ways in your body.  It helps your body absorb calcium & maintain strong bones & teeth.  It also helps to reduce inflammation, builds your immune system, & helps to regenerate cells.  All of these areas can be beneficial, especially for the elderly!  So, how do we make sure that they are getting adequate amounts of this amazing, life-giving vitamin into their systems?

Start with sunlight!  Look up the most beneficial times of year & day to get Vitamin D from the sun in your area.  During those times, be outside, when possible, during the safest parts of the day.  Be sure to have exposed skin in order to absorb the rays of the sun, but not for such lengths of time as to get sunburnt.

Eat up! A number of foods are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, but the best food source of naturally occuring Vit. D is in cod liver oil.  We all know that the stuff is good for us, but some people just can't stomach the taste.  If you are one of those people, but would still like to enjoy the benefits of Vit. D from a food source instead of a supplement, try the cod liver oil that is lemon flavored, or even the capsules.  It may not take away the unplesant aftertaste, but you should at least be able to swallow it down!  You can also try sockeye salmon  & tuna as beneficial options.

Supplement!  If you've tried both of these ways & are still having a hard time getting your levels up to par, talk with your doctor about supplementing with Vit. D.  Find out if there are other things that can help increase the absorption rates of the supplement, as well as signs to look for that will assure you that it is helping to improve your deficiency. The benefits from Vit. D are so widespread & diverse, they are certainly worth taking notice.  So step up and begin utilizing their benefits for yourself & your elderly friends!

 

Arthritis

 Many people struggle against the old enemy that accompanies aging...arthritis.  Pain, stiffness & swelling in the joints may not seem serious, but when you've started to experience it on a regular basis, it becomes clear why we should do all we can to treat this problem to regain mobility & lack of pain.

If you've never experienced arthritis, but suspect that you may be developing it, you should keep an eye on it.  If you have pain or swelling in your joints for two or more weeks, head to a doctor for a diagnosis. Arthritis is defines as a “painful inflammation and swelling of the joints”.  Because your pain could also be due to an injury of a joint, it's important to have it diagnosed properly & seek the best treatment.  If it is due to injury, treatment may include surgery, while treatment for arthritis will most likely be less invasive.  There are several things that the doctors might recommend:

Medications.  There are a variety of medications & creams that your doctor might recommend to combat arthritis.  Some of these options might be over-the-counter, while others might be prescription.  Some people just try different over-the-counter remedies, but you'll have the advantage of knowing which ones are a waste of money if you speak with your doctor.

Heat & Cold.  Speaking with your doctor can also help you to narrow down the correct times & methods to apply heat & cold packs to arthritic joints for the best relief.

Exercise.  It may seem counter-intuitive to exercise the joints that are causing you such pain, but it does help.  The key is to know the correct exercises that will help instead of causing further harm to your joints.  Look into exercises that are approved by a physical therapist to find some relief in this manner.

Diet & Supplements.  Because this is a problem in your body caused by inflammation, find a diet that wars against inflammation in the joints.  Make sure it's high in fruits & vegetables, and low in trans-fats, & you should be on the right track!  Also consider looking into supplements that can help fight inflammation.  Turmeric is one such spice to consider using if you are not allergic.

Surgery.  If your arthritis is bad enough, your doctor may advise surgery to take care of the problem.  This can be a huge relief for those whose arthritis is advanced enough, but if you feel that you could benefit from some of the other areas listed, discuss those options first until you are convinced that this course may be necessary. 

Arthritis may be a common accompaniment to aging, but it doesn't need to be debilitating for everyone, nor a source of constant pain.  Make it your goal to do all that you can to lessen the pain instead of just living with it.  Your body & your mind will thank you!

 

Nature and Dementia

All of us have probably experienced the benefits of nature at one time in our lives or another.  The calming sound of waves on the beach, the gentle rain on a roof or the canopy of the forest, or even the calm breeze through the pines can knock our anxiety levels down a few notches.  What few people realize, however, is that there is genuine scientific evidence that reveals that which we’ve all experienced…nature is good for us!  It’s even better for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

It is so good for us, in fact, that in Finland regular doses of nature incorporated in their governmental health policy.  They may prescribe a walk in a natural area as treatment for anxiety, alcoholism, attention problems or depression.   But Finland is not alone as a country finding ways to combat the ailments of our century.  South Korea, Canada & the US are all studying nature’s effects on the human psyche.  Many questions are being answered as scientists delve into these areas of study, but it is mostly confirming what we all seem to know intuitively.  Nature is good for us.  It calms us down & helps us become more thoughtful.

Because Dementia & Alzheimer’s can be diseases that have some social stigmas attached to them, the diseases themselves are often accompanied with extreme depression or anxiety.  Regular outings into nature are incredibly helpful for those suffering from any of these diagnoses.  When you’re in nature, none of those things matter so much.  You can find a beautiful caterpillar, for instance, and be allowed time to pay attention to the exquisite detail of something that is currently in front of you without needing to remember its relationship to everything else in your world.  You can watch it for a long period of time without needing to rush.  You can remain calm & it will not judge your actions.  You are given time to think, to wonder & to be amazed.  You are given the freedom to be you. 

Of course, it is prudent to have someone along with you on your trips into nature.  We are not advocating that patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s wander in the woods alone as treatment.  But, as often as possible help those you care about to experience nature in meaningful ways.  Perhaps they’d like to bring along drawing supplies, or a camera for the outings.  Meaningful occupations that will bring attention & mindfulness are never amiss with patients & loved ones that struggle with these diseases.  It will likely improve their (and your) quality of life for years to come!

 

 

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