Security Issues for Seniors

This day and age, the news is ripe with all types of frightening scenarios.  Assaults, breaking and entering, & identity theft are among the top concerns of people living throughout our nation today.  As we age, it can become even more frightening.  Generally speaking, we have less ability to fight back physically & may have less of an understanding of all the rapidly changing technology.  Below, I’ll give you a few things to begin thinking about with regards to security in & away from home & online.

Inside your home.  Prioritize this area of security first since it is closest to your person.  Begin with household security.  Check locks on doors & windows.  Consider installing an extra chain or deadbolt on doors.  Be sure that you check your basement & attic windows to be sure that their secure.  Install lights around the perimeter of your yard & outbuildings.  Well-lit areas deter people with ill intent.  Inside of your house, be sure you have emergency numbers on speed dial on both your landline and your cell phone.  If you are able to install a security system, it may give you peace of mind, but oftentimes in smaller towns, a friendly relationship with your neighbors is a much simpler & better solution to security.  You watch out for them, & they’ll watch out for you.  If you plan to leave for a while, alert a trusted neighbor so they can keep an eye on your place.  Also invest in a couple of light timers.  Put them on different lamps in your home or on a radio in a room you use often so that they’ll go on in the evening & deter thieves.

Away from home.  If you are travelling to heavily populated areas, there are a few things that you can do to keep yourself safe.  First off, remember to keep your car doors locked unless you feel secure in your surroundings.  Survey the area before you get out of the vehicle & only then should you get out.  When you come back to your vehicle survey the area again.  You needn’t be afraid, just use your good sense.  If something doesn’t seem right, be aware.  Women traveling with purses be cautious in larger crowds.  Keep your purse close to your person, & try wrapping the strap around your wrist.  Inside of your purse, you may consider taking pepper spray with you, although if you are robbed, chances are that you’ll never have a chance to use it.  In the event of a mugging, it’s a much safer option to just hand over you purse or wallet and get to a phone to call 911 as quickly as you can.

Online security begins with setting up your accounts.  Any new account that you set up should begin with a strong password. It should include symbols, numbers & letters. Do not use the same password for every account.  You can keep a notebook to track passwords online.  You should also change the password periodically.  Next, look into the settings for the account that you’re setting up.  You can often choose who can see the things that you post on your account, who cannot see it, & what you’d like to be notified of.  If you have all of those areas covered you should have very little trouble with your online accounts.  If you do banking & bill paying online, the settings & notifications are very important.  The bank will notify you based upon the options that you choose.  If there is anything fishy, they will call the number that you put into the account for emergencies & questions.

The purpose of this article is not to scare or coerce, but simply to point out a few areas that require little effort that could have a big impact on your security.  The most important skill to hone is simply awareness.  If you are aware of what is going on around you, you can often prevent anything harmful. 

 

Children & Aging

Have you ever noticed how the light begins to come back into the eyes of an elderly person when a child enters the room?  Actually the light tends to come back into the eyes of a person of almost any age when a child enters (unless, of course, the child is behaving disrespectfully).  There is an unidentifiable quality about children that can bring life, freshness and joy to the coldest of hearts, or those hearts that have nearly given up.  In America, it is quite common to segregate different age groups.  We tend to make sure that the elderly are shut away from the noise & annoyance of “normal life”. Those in their working years are closed into offices or various jobs.  In school, each age group is educated alongside their peers with age being the primary consideration.  But what if we discover that there are other ways of doing things that can greatly benefit all involved?

There is a new movement in some countries to combine nursing or aging homes with day care facilities or pre-school classroom areas.  Science is beginning to recognize that the complete & total separation of the ages is not always as beneficial as was once thought.  These arrangements do not only benefit the elderly, but let's look at some of the benefits to them to start the conversation.  Some of the noted benefits are a new interest & involvement in daily life activities when seniors are involved with children throughout the day. They are encouraged, by the children & in a non-intrusive way, to engage with their surroundings & enter conversations.  There is also an increase in physical action. Whether it's throwing a soft ball back & forth, or holding the handle of a jump rope, they can still be a part of the physical activities going on around them without being in danger of being hurt.  Their interactions with children also offer them unconditional love, since children are naturally accepting of others who are different from them, unless they've been taught otherwise.

Benefits to the children include learning how to behave with people who have physical limitations that might cause them to get hurt, learning of respect & also learning about how life used to be.  These things also, inadvertently, benefit the elderly, too.  If they feel as if they can benefit the children & society through character building lessons, life stories & care that they show to the children, it can give them a tremendous sense of purpose.

It may not be possible to incorporate an official facility that involves children in the lives of those in elder care, but there are things that can benefit them greatly that we can all do.

 

It doesn't take much to involve children in the lives of the aging people we love, but it does require intentionality.  Quality of life often happens when we're in situations that are out of the ordinary for us, but can bring about genuine growth.  When all ages can benefit from interactions like this, why would we rob anyone of the growth that can occur?  Be a facilitator for that kind of growth in your community & see all of the good that will come from it!    

 

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!

 

 

Combating Loneliness In The Golden Years

Loneliness is a very real problem for people of all ages, but it seems to prey greatly on those of advancing years.  It can cause all kinds of issues, from undue stress, to depression & feelings of worthlessness.  While all of us naturally will have times in our lives that are more lonely than others, we need not just go with the flow if the time period is becoming extended.  There are things we can do to fight it off & lighten the heaviness created by it.

First, evaluate the changes that have occurred in your life to make you feel this way.  Has there been a death of a loved one?  Have several friends moved to other places like nursing homes or #assisted living facilities?  Are there family and friends that are struggling with their health & are no longer able to go out and about like they used to?  Are you struggling with your health?  It's important to think through all of the many changes so that you understand why you are justifiably struggling during this time.  Every major change in life brings about stress, & big changes such as these will take time to heal & require thought to develop a plan for how life will continue best after having fought through them.

Second, find your strengths.  Are you naturally a gathering person?  What I mean by this is do you like to gather people together for functions or even just to have them come to your kitchen for a cup of coffee and conversation?  If you are, start small, but make a couple of calls to people you feel may be likely to accept your invitation.

Third, consider starting new traditions. I know of someone who gathers her aunt & cousin together on the same date every year to celebrate their birthdays which all fall in the same month. They look forward to the conversation & time with people that they otherwise do not see on a regular basis, even though they live within 1 hour of each other.  If you have cousins, nephews & nieces, friends, children or grandchildren that you don't see often, consider organizing an occasion to visit together. It does not have to be a large gathering, though it could be, if you desire to put in a lot of effort.

Consider getting a pet if your living situation allows for it.  Something about a dog or cat, or even a bird, makes humans feel less alone.  It's nice to have someone to talk to as we bustle about our day.  Someone that shows affection to us on the days when we see nary a soul.  Someone to care for & that cares that we've gotten up to greet the day with them.

Observe nature.  Watching the birds that come to your feeders & having a book on hand can help to combat loneliness.  Knowing that there is a world of quiet solitude that is also full of life can help us as we enter this stage of life.  Taking walks & identifying the trees we see along the paths, or the flowers & plants will make you feel as though your are coming to meet new friends & watch how they progress throughout the year.  Even indoor plants can have this affect as we wait for the blossoming times & take cuttings to form new plants to offer to family and friends.  Field guides are incredibly helpful in all these areas to become truly familiar with the things that you find.  You may be surprised at what you locate that you've never noticed before.

Join clubs, guilds or community organizations.  There are as many clubs, guilds and organizations out there as there are hobbies & interests.  If you cannot find them in person, you may be able to find them online & be able to chat with people with similar interests in forums.  If you are fortunate to find a quilting guild, for instance, near you, make it a point to attend meetings & offer any help that you're able to give.  Several communities have senior centers to get involved in.  Other communities have home economics groups that meet.  Nearly every community has community education courses that one could take if they were interested in any of the courses offered.  These are several ways in which to reach out to the broader community and meet people with whom you do not otherwise interact.  Maybe you'll make a steadfast friend, or at the very least, you'll pass the time in a productive manner & learn new skills.  Either way, the time was not wasted!

Consider music.  Whether it's playing an instrument, singing or simply listening to & learning music, this can be a very worthwhile aid in combating loneliness.  Music has the ability to change emotion.  It can lighten our darker moods or dampen our light moods.  If you have a talent with an instrument, consider passing that on to a student or two.  I knew an older woman of 92 who was still giving lessons to a couple of children a week, even though she had early stages of #dementia.  She may not have had the lessons laid out consecutively each week, but the students were still learning & growing, not just from the piano that she taught, but also greater lessons about what it means to care for someone going through the frightening changes of old age.  If you do not know how to play an instrument, simply play music.  It does not matter the genre.  Try to listen to a number of works by a certain composer.  See if you can identify their songs by only hearing them, even if you do not see who wrote it.  Try listening to music from different generations & get a feel for the music that stirred them.  Then bring it up in conversation when you meet someone from that generation.  They may be very surprised that you know the groups that were popular, and it may be an opening into more meaningful conversations.

Lastly, do not feel alone in your loneliness.  This may sound ridiculous, but sometimes simply knowing that this is a common thing for all of us to face helps a great deal.  We're all learning and growing through this process, just as we have through all the other challenges we've faced in life.  Let's face it with strength and a little ingenuity.  We'll get through it just fine!

Hydration in the Elderly

In recent years fitness gurus have been touting how important hydration is for our health.  You’ve probably seen the water bottles for sale on the internet that have times listed on the side so that you’re sure to drink a certain amount of water throughout the day to maintain proper fluid levels in your body for optimum health.  Few people, however, realize that is even more important for elderly people to remain hydrated.

Why is it more important for the aging population? There are many factors that contribute to dehydration in the elderly, but we’ll just cover a few of the major ones.  First, water levels in the human body decrease as we age.  There is naturally less water in us as we grow older, & we need to be replenished more often.  Secondly, medications often cause dehydration.  While medications can help with a number of ailments, many of them also have dehydration as a side effect.  Check with your doctor if this is something that you should be aware of so that you can be proactive in combatting the problem.  Finally, as we age, our kidneys are often not able to function as well as they did when we were younger.  This is just a natural part of growing older, but it does contribute to dehydration.

What can you do to stay hydrated sufficiently?

  1. Find ways to increase water intake. Set goals for yourself to drink a bit more water several times a day.  Large quantities on an empty stomach can cause nausea, but try taking it in smaller doses several times a day and you might find it easier on your body.   If you do not like tap water, try filtered water.  If you need to, add some fruit into it for flavoring.  Lemon or lime sliced & steeped in water with a few mint leaves can make a nice infusion.  If you prefer hot drinks, try hot lemon water.
  2. Herbal teas. If you prefer even more flavor, you can increase your water intake without the side effects of caffeine by making herbal teas.  There are so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find something that you enjoy.
  3. Eat fruit and vegetables. Both fresh fruit & fresh veggies have good amounts of water in them that will help contribute to your hydration.  They also have the added benefit of adding fiber to your diet.  Pay attention, of course, if you are a diabetic as some fruits may cause issues with your blood sugars.
  4. Stay out of intense heat. Because it is so easy for an older individual to become dehydrated without noticing, it’s best to stay out of very hot environments whenever possible.  If you do need to be out in the heat, make sure that you wear hats that block the sun, stay in the shade and bring along a water bottle to drink.  Force yourself to drink water even if you do not feel thirsty.
  5. Eat soups & stews.  Soups can be eaten hot or cold, depending on preference.  Broths can be sipped throughout the hour in the same way that you would sip tea, and if can increase mineral intake if prepared properly.

You may be surprised as you maintain healthy hydration levels at how many ailments are alleviated!  There can be corrections in blood pressure, headaches may go away, dizziness may cease, infections may be flushed out of your system & energy levels may improve.  It is certainly not a “cure-all”, but sometimes the small & overlooked things in life can have long reaching implications.  So, start now!  Go and drink a glass of water for your health!

Fitness In the Golden Years

Being physically fit is emphasized as important all throughout our formative years. Schools generally have Physical Education courses, colleges have gyms and sports teams, women and men of child-bearing age are encouraged to be active and have gym memberships. Much is said about how the exercise will make one feel healthier, happier & improve the quality of life. But what about in later years of life? Not much is said about physical fitness in the golden years. (more…)

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