5 Strategies for Maintaining Community Connections While Aging

Community Connections for Seniors

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Aging in place may satisfy a senior’s desire for independence, but if they don’t maintain community connections, staying home could do more harm than good. While some seniors enjoy active social lives, others develop a fear of falling that keeps them home-bound more often than not. Our communities also affect seniors’ ability to stay engaged, with seniors suffering greater isolation in areas with poor walkability and limited community resources.

Staying engaged becomes much more difficult as we grow older, but it’s not impossible. With these strategies, seniors and their caregivers can avoid the isolation that comes with aging in place and enjoy better health while aging.

Move Downtown

Rural seniors have it harder when it comes to staying engaged. Isolation hits especially hard when rural seniors lose the ability to drive and can no longer get to their favorite activities. While moving isn’t without challenges, it’s easier for seniors to stay physically and socially active when they live in dense, walkable neighborhoods where everything they need is nearby.

When seniors need to move, it’s always better to do it sooner rather than later. Moving early in the senior years gives older adults an opportunity to form relationships and routines before the challenges of age catch up to them.

Downsize the House to a Manageable Size

Mundane tasks like cleaning the house can take a lot of energy as we get older. It’s understandable that seniors want to stay in a familiar home, but most seniors benefit from a downsized house that’s easier to move around and maintain.

Downsizing also saves money on housing costs. Even if a senior’s home is paid off, selling and buying a less-expensive home will provide a lump sum that can be used for senior care, healthcare, and other expenses. However, downsizing may not save as much money as a senior expects. Before diving seriously into the home-buying process, research home prices to get a clear picture of what you can afford and avoid sticker shock. For example, the median list price of homes in Huntingdon Valley is approximately $396,000.

Save Money with Alternative Living Arrangements

If a senior’s heart is set on an area but homes are not affordable, consider alternative living arrangements like home sharing. Sharing a home with a roommate reduces housing costs and combats loneliness for independent seniors. In some cases, a roommate may offer housekeeping or companion services in exchange for reduced rent and board.

Senior co-housing and cooperatives are other options. These communities combine private living spaces with communal facilities where seniors can connect with their fellow community members. Unlike assisted living, co-housing and cooperative communities are owned by the residents and cater to independent seniors, although residents may hire their own caregivers.

Connect with a Village

Villages are membership-based volunteer organizations designed to meet the needs of local seniors through volunteer services, service coordination, and social opportunities. While only a few communities have established villages, seniors can search for a local village organization or learn how to start a village at the Village to Village Network.

Stay Physically Active

Exercise helps seniors maintain their physical health so it’s easier to get out and enjoy life. Getting active is also a smart way to meet new people. Whether it’s a neighborhood walking group, a Zumba class (which only cost around $5 to $20 per session), or pick-up games at the local senior center, exercise allows seniors to mingle in a low-pressure environment.

Staying active also enables seniors to continue living independently. Physical exercise is the most important thing people can do to prevent Sarcopenia, the gradual muscle loss associated with senior frailty, among other age-related disabilities.

Aging in place presents many challenges, from remodeling the house for senior living to coordinating in-home care. While the challenge of senior isolation is often overlooked, it has a big impact on a senior’s ability to age in good health. By taking a community-minded approach, seniors can stay engaged, active, and independent throughout the senior years.

Post contributed by Hazel Bridges, the creator of Aging Wellness, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor. She challenges herself to live life to the fullest and inspire others to do so as well.

The Best Fall Prevention Tips for Seniors

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Image courtesy of Unsplash

If you have lived in your home for a long time, chances are you think of it as a comfortable, safe environment. However, as people age, sometimes the risk for in-home falls can increase. To ensure you can savor the safety and comfort you’ve come to expect from your home, a handful of changes can make all the difference.

Cause for Concern

There are numerous reasons that seniors become at-risk for falling. Many of those reasons stem from physical changes relating to aging. Our vision isn’t as sharp as it used to be, or a health condition might cause balance concerns. Oftentimes, it’s harder to catch yourself when you stumble, due to a decrease in strength and flexibility. Some statistics show that 60 percent of senior falls occur in the home; thankfully, as HomeAdvisor explains, there are many modifications seniors can make to help prevent falls at home.

A House Full of Support

The last thing you want is for your home to become a danger zone. With that in mind, start making some notes about what you might change so you can safely age in place.

Here are some ideas:

Light Your Way

Vision naturally fades later in life, with eyes gradually slowing in how they adjust to depth and brightness. With that in mind, brightening dim areas in the home — especially places you go from a well-lit space to a dark one — can help you stay safe. For example, if you leave a bright bedroom for a dark hallway, adding lights in the hallway can help. This can come in many forms, such as installing wall sconces, adding plug-in nightlights, and/or installing overhead lights. Staircases are another area of concern. Contemplate your trouble spots and think of how to improve them, aiming for generally even lighting throughout your home.

Ease Your Entryway

Reducing risks in the entryway can make a difference in keeping you on the go. The ideal situation will include a zero-step entrance, and if steps are a must, ensure they are deep, even, and have handrails for support. Also, change out traditional doorknobs for lever-style handles, which can be easier for older hands to operate, especially if you’re carrying things.

Slips and Slides

With water, smooth surfaces, and changing positions, bathrooms can be hazardous for older adults. To enhance safety and accessibility, consider installing grab bars in the bathroom, and swapping a traditional toilet for a comfort-height selection. Walk-in showers or tubs can also be a boon, and faucets with lever-style handles can be easier to work with than knobs.

Put Away Your Toolkit

There are some simple changes you can make in the bathroom as well that require no tools or expertise. To boost traction, add a rubber bath mat outside the bathing area, and install non-slip strips inside the shower or tub. A magnified mirror can make it easier to groom yourself, and a pill bottle magnifier can help you read the fine print.

Focus on You

Aside from home modifications, there are changes in lifestyle you can embrace to help prevent falls. Tech-Enhanced Life explains that you can design an exercise program aimed specifically at addressing your personal risk. Base your regimen on how much strength, balance, and flexibility you currently have. There are fun options you can explore, like tai chi or a class at a local gym. If your risk is severe, Medicare might pay for you to work with a physical therapist.

When it comes to falls, the home can hold many areas of concern for seniors. Think about how you can improve both your living environment and lifestyle to reduce your risk of falling. With a few changes, you can enjoy safety and comfort at home throughout your golden years.

Post contributed by Kent Elliot at AtHomeAging.info

Stay Fit without Sacrificing Food, Fun, or Family Time this Summer

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Ice cream, baked beans, and burgers are all quintessential summer fare, but these delicious indulgences shouldn’t comprise the bulk of your warm-weather diet. Here are a few ways to encourage your entire family to eat healthy all summer long.

Add alternative ingredients

You don’t have to live by grandma’s recipe book in order to enjoy a delicious meal at sunset. Consider swapping a few ingredients in your favorite recipes to cut down on fat and calories. For instance, use cabbage instead of tortillas when making enchiladas or tacos. You can also replace ground beef with ground turkey or chicken and cool off with frozen fruit pops instead of ice cream.

Shop local

There are a number of reasons why you should shop at your local CSA or farmers market before a conventional grocery store. Perhaps the most important is that food grown within 100 miles of relocation tends to retain more nutrients and is picked when ripe as opposed to being artificially ripened using ethylene gas. As an added bonus, spending your Saturday morning digging through bushel baskets of fresh produce is a fun and economical way to get the kids interested in the quality of the food they consume. The Food Revolution Network also points out that fresher food tends to taste better and the money you spend at the farmers market will support your local economy.

Go for color

Nature has made it easy to get a variety of vitamins and nutrients by color-coding fruits and vegetables. Experts say you should eat the rainbow, but what does this mean? Essentially, it’s a way to select what goes on your plate by avoiding too many of the same types of food. Orange fruits and vegetables, such as pumpkin, corn, and butternut squash, are full of beta-carotene and vitamins A and C. Green foods, including lettuce and asparagus, are often filled with fiber and contains sulfurous compounds that offer protective benefits against cancer and macular degeneration. Blues and purples – purple cabbage, blueberries, etc. – are dense in nutrition and may improve urinary tract health. Tomatoes, radishes, and chili peppers fall into the red food category and contain lycopene. Cauliflower, onions, and garlic – white foods – have pre- and probiotic properties and offer anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits for the body. Read more about the different benefits of each color at BodyEcology.com.

Don’t focus on food

No matter what time of year it is, when people get together, food tends to be the focus. But it should not be. While eating is certainly an important part of your day, avoid using food as the centerpiece of your activities. If you focus on fun, you won’t have to sacrifice your health to have a good time. Plan your summer get-togethers after lunch and offer an assortment of healthy and refreshing appetizers instead of a full spread. Likewise, family dinners should prioritize togetherness. Plan an activity, such as a family game of badminton or walk around the neighborhood, for after your meal so you won’t be tempted to sit around the table for seconds.

Eat a few treats

One of the worst things you can do when you’re trying to stay on track – or teach kids healthy eating habits – is to completely deprive yourself and your family of the occasional indulgence. You won’t wreck your diet by hosting a dessert night once a week, and it’s perfectly okay to sneak a burger at a backyard barbecue. By limiting – but not eliminating – these types of “sometimes” foods, you will help your children develop a healthy relationship with food.

Get help

If you’re not comfortable in the kitchen, consider taking a cooking class. The University of North Carolina notes that cooking classes will not only encourage you to try new ingredients, but will also help you stay organized, which will go a long way toward creating a healthy culinary experience for your family.

Most importantly, have fun. Your goal is to create a positive relationship with food for yourself and your family, and nothing does that better than making memories while you plan and prep.

Post contributed by Dylan Foster at healthwellwise.com

How Seniors Can Get Their Best Sleep

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As we age and our bodies begin to show signs of slowing down the systems within our body such as the nervous and immune systems take longer to recover putting us at a higher risk for injury and illness. As a senior, a good night’s sleep allows our body to improve memory and focus which wards off dementia as well as gives our immune systems plenty of time to repair damage, recover from injury, and fight disease.

But sleep isn’t just about staying in bed with our eyes closed for eight to ten hours a night. Quality sleep involves two stages of sleep that our body cycles through multiple times each night: Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM). In NREM sleep your brain waves dramatically slow down allowing the heart, blood vessels, and muscle tissue to repair. The longer you are in NREM sleep the better you will feel when you wake up. Additionally, REM sleep is beneficial in that it helps promote brain activity, learning, and creativity through dreams.

How seniors can get better sleep

Getting better sleep as a senior may not be as hard as you think, but it does take a little action on your part. Here are three tips that will not only help you get a better night’s sleep but will also aid in providing overall health as we age.

Tip 1: Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Developing healthy lifestyle habits provides your body the strength and nutrition you need to not only function during the day, but also recover at night. Eating small healthy meals and staying active throughout the day are great ways to start. But, understanding what is going to prevent you from falling asleep at a reasonable hour is just important. That means not using caffeine within six hours of going to bed and avoiding late-afternoon naps which may be rejuvenating, but also make it difficult to fall asleep when you need it most.

Tip 2: Get more comfortable

One of the most frequently dismissed ways to get a good night’s rest is to find a comfortable mattress that works for you. Did you know that a poor mattress is one of the leading causes of lower back pain? While you may have been sleeping on the same type of mattress for decades, you may not have been sleeping on a mattress that is best for you. A comfortable mattress will help to alleviate pain, reduce uncomfortable pressure, and will be comfortable enough to help you sleep through the night.

Tip 3: Keep up a consistent routine

Our bodies are designed to learn from routine. So, when we go to sleep and wake-up at the same time each day you are helping your body develop a consistent circadian rhythm that trains your body to follow the same sleep cycle each night. Another way to help build consistency at night is to develop a wind-down routine that incorporates a relaxing, non-stimulating, yet enjoyable activity such as reading, knitting, listening to music, or meditation.

Ashley Little is part of the editorial team at Mattress Advisor, a site dedicated to helping others get their best night’s sleep each night.

How Caregivers and Seniors Can Benefit From Daily Yoga and Meditation

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Sometimes, we get so stressed out that we forget to breathe. Caregivers tend to get so wrapped up in their duties that they neglect to take time for even basic self-care. If you are a senior living with a debilitating illness or injury, you may also feel this way. This is why yoga and meditation can be so enriching for both groups. So, if you are feeling frazzled and need some extra self-care in your life, these simple practices may be right for you. Not entirely convinced? Here are some reasons to fold these helpful habits into your daily routine.

Yoga and Meditation Can Be Learned at Home

When you think of yoga and meditation, you may think of large classes taught by experienced instructors. It is true that practicing with others can have many benefits, but you don’t necessarily need to go to a class to learn how to relieve your stress with these practices. You can set up a home workout area that can also serve as your meditation/yoga zone. Make sure you have some soft exercise mats to cover hard floors or consider having a softer floor installed. While many meditation room guides suggest low lighting, seniors would do better with lighting that allows them to see where they are moving. Need some help getting started? Check out online tutorials and apps that will make your home practice so much easier.

Less Stress Will Make Your Practice More Meaningful

Mediation and yoga can definitely help you release tension. However, if your duties as a caregiver have you overly tense, then you may find it hard to even get started. So, before you begin your wellness journey, consider treating yourself to some serious self-care. Plan an at-home spa session to help your body and mind relax. Whip up a DIY face treatment, massage your muscles, and take some time to truly unwind. A cup of calming tea can help seal in all that self-care and can also fight inflammation. To really pull your spa day together, compile a playlist of relaxing spa or meditation music. You can use this playlist later as you work through your first breathes and really get into your new practices.

Even Gentle Exercise Can Provide Stress Relief

Did you know that exercise affects your brain? Regular exercise routines can help seniors and caregivers fight feelings of depression and anxiety. Most studies suggest more intense workouts to maximize your endorphin release, but a gentle workout may suit you better. Plus, you can still get the same mood boost if you choose the right exercise. Since caregivers are at a higher risk of depression and burnout, practicing stretching poses in yoga can be especially beneficial. Headstands may be out of the question for beginners, but that’s okay! You can use variations of tree pose or child’s pose to help your body release any built up stress. What matters most is that you find a relaxing way to get moving a few times a week. That’s why yoga is a good idea.

Purposed Breathing Should Always Be Your Focus

Yoga can certainly be an effective physical workout. The gentle movements are perfect for building balance, as well as developing a little muscle tone. The true benefits of these ancient practices, however, rest in your ability to focus on your breath. Controlling your breath is the simplest way to encourage your body to release tension and stress. For this reason, it may be best to master your breathing before you begin your actual practices. Try this short exercise to learn how to count your breaths and calm your body. You can use it at night to relax before bed or in the morning to set a positive tone for your day.

The beauty of yoga and meditation for caregivers and seniors extends beyond the physical. These self-care habits are so helpful because they can quickly melt away any excess stress. Less stress can add up to more quality of life. So, think about practicing yoga and meditation for your mind, your spirit, and lastly, your body.

Post contributed by Dana Brown at HealthConditions.Info
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Video Chat and Other Ways to Watch Out for a Loved One from a Distance

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You can’t always be there when you’re needed, but you can help your senior loved one from anywhere. Whether they choose to live independently or you can’t uproot your family, the following tips can give you some eyes on the ground and ensure you are always in the loop regarding your elderly parents’ care.

Get to Know Their Healthcare Plan

The right healthcare plan can mean the difference between health and hardships. There’s a good chance your elderly loved one is already on Medicare. Even if this is the case, it still pays to review their coverage every year. It’s best to be prepared when you contact a Medicare agent. Have your loved one’s Medicare card and any Medicare Advantage plan identifier or prescription drug coverage plan handy, if applicable. Also, make a complete list of their medications, including any over-the-counter medicines they take.

Schedule Regular In-Person Visits

Depending on how far away you live, it may be difficult to break away for in-person visits. However, it’s necessary at least a few times each year — more when their health begins to deteriorate. If you’re driving, make sure to sleep well in the two or three nights prior to your road trip. Plan plenty of stops and bring along books, games, and puzzles for your youngest passengers. Nationwide offers more tips on planning a successful road trip.

If you plan to fly, book these trips well and in advance and, if possible, stick with the same airline so that you can enjoy reward perks. You can double your benefits by choosing a credit card that also allows you to collect points and cash back on travel and other expenses.

 Screen Potential Helpers Before the Need Arises

If your loved one plans to live alone for as long as possible, they’ll need help at some point. A medical or non-medical caregiver is an asset to your family and to the well-being of your senior in need. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know exactly who to trust, and elder abuse is a problem that runs rampant throughout the United States. Your best bet is to create a list of potential caregivers and then perform a background check on each. Caregiverlist explains this cost between $8 and $18 each, which is a small price to pay for peace of mind. Another important service for your elderly loved one is transportation. After55 notes that Uber and Lyft now provide transportation services for seniors. Know what’s available in their area so you aren’t scrambling to find them a ride to the doctor’s office when they are unable to get themselves there.

 Add modifications that enhance their safety

Perform a room-by-room assessment of your loved one’s home. This will give you an opportunity to identify and secure potential home modifications, such as wider doorways or enhanced lighting, that can help your family member stay safe. Other additions that can contribute to their well-being include senior-friendly video calling devices, a remote-access home security system, and a wearable medical alert station, which connects with their home telephone and allows them to receive help with the push of a button. Many also provide fall detection and medication reminders.

Build a Network

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, establish a network of people who can be your eyes, ears, and hands when you can’t. Spend a day at your parent’s home following them as they go about their daily routine. This gives you a chance to see who they regularly interact with. You can contact these people and ask if they would be willing to contact you if anything seems off.

When you want to be there but you physically can’t make that happen every day, minor home modifications, other friends and family, and technology can help you stay in control of your loved one’s health and well-being.

Post contributed by Claire Wentz at CaringFromAfar.com

Elder Fraud: How to Keep Your Family Safe

By: Dr. Stacey Wood, Ph.D.

Financial elder abuse is an epidemic in America, and today’s technology makes it easy for fraudsters to take their schemes global. Scammers can call or email from anywhere in the world, making it more difficult to trace the funds after a con artist disappears. According to reports, fraudsters take $37-billion every year from older adults in the United States.

Many scammers play on people’s drive for human connection. Whether the scams begin on social media, through telephone calls, from an email, or even in person, senior citizens are often in a position to be more vulnerable to fraudsters.

Elders don’t need to have experienced cognitive decline to be targeted. A recent loss, like a death in the family or a divorce, can make them more vulnerable. Odds of being scammed more than double during difficult life circumstances and those who are lonely or isolated may be more likely to fall for a romance scam or similar confidence trick.

People who are in a troubling financial situation, who are eager for a bargain, or enthusiastic about risk-taking can also be targeted for get-rich-quick schemes.

There are a number of different types of scams that target senior citizens. Health scams seek out seniors’ private Medicare information to submit false billing for reimbursement. Other medical scammers sell fake prescription drugs at cheap prices. This is a scam that can put seniors’ health and lives at immediate risk.

People who have lost a loved one are also targeted for funeral scams. Fraudsters call grieving people and claim that their loved one had a debt that must be paid. A variety of phone scams involve financial offers, investment opportunities, or claims of overdue taxes.

Many fraudsters take advantage of seniors who are less technically savvy or aware of social media norms. Internet schemes include romance scams over social media, fake anti-virus software used to extort money, or phishing schemes to gather online banking information.

Mortgage and investment schemes seek to divert seniors’ wealth to a con artist, while sweepstakes scams inform seniors that they have “won” prizes, but they must pay to receive their winnings. There is a multitude of schemes that target older Americans, and being aware of the wide range can help people avoid financial catastrophe.

As a caregiver, you may notice signs that something is wrong with your loved one’s finances. One common sign that a person has become a fraud victim is a sudden change in financial habits.

A frugal person may suddenly withdraw large sums of money but have little to show for it. An older adult with a healthy bank account may suddenly be running up debts or receiving collection calls. Others may suddenly discuss a new friend in their lives, often overseas and connected via social media.

Unfortunately, many victims experience fear and shame. They don’t want to admit to being victims, as they fear it will make them look incompetent. However, those understandable emotions can be a barrier to taking action to prosecute those responsible and potentially recover lost funds.

You can help the elders in your life avoid fraud. Open conversations about new friends or love interests can help shed light on potential scammers. Discuss social media use, as well as its pros and cons. In addition, advise loved ones to get a copy of their credit report each year to ensure accuracy.

Seniors can protect themselves by visiting financial advisors, lawyers, and their bank branch. Bank fraud personnel are trained to spot scams, so developing a trusting relationship with the local bank helps seniors protect themselves. Advise loved one to always request financial offers in writing and take time to consider before sending money, especially via untraceable methods like wire transfers or Western Union.

If you suspect that an elder in your life is a fraud victim, you can help by reaching out. A compassionate, non-judgmental approach can help to break the silence imposed by fear and shame. Loved ones can work together to support their family member and unravel the truth about a fraudster.

You can also take action by reporting the scheme to their bank; fraud departments are motivated to stop these schemes that cost banks millions. The authorities can also help. Adult Protective Services in your area is charged with protecting vulnerable adults. The local police also have a responsibility to investigate fraud, which is a serious criminal offense.

As a caregiver, your participation matters. In fact, your active involvement in a senior’s life helps fight fraud, because he/she will be less vulnerable to the emotional manipulation used in scams.


Dr. Stacey Wood, Ph.D., is a forensic neuropsychologist and one of the nation’s leading Dr. Stacey Woodexperts on financial elder abuse and fraud. She is the Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology at Scripps College and a licensed clinical psychologist in California. As one of the nation’s leading experts in the areas of forensic neuropsychology and geropsychology, Dr. Wood has vast experience as an expert witness in California and nationwide.

5 Ways You Can Plan for Long-Term Care Costs and Needs

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Photo: Courtesy of Unsplash

As we grow older, our health care costs tend to get a bit higher. When you or a loved one needs help from a nursing home or assisted living facility, the costs can be overwhelming. Here are a few ways you can offset those expenses and plan for long-term care before you even need it.

 Figure Out Whether Care Will Be Needed

When you are planning ahead for your health care, it helps to know whether long-term care may be needed. Statistics show the majority of seniors will need some sort of extended care at some point in their lives. Family history can have a lot to do with your need for care, especially if there is a history of Alzheimer’s disease on your mother’s side of the family. Falls can also cause seniors to need long-term assistance, so try to take steps to help yourself or loved ones age in place safely and avoid fall-related injuries. Finally, take care of your health by eating a clean diet and exercising on a regular basis.

 Use Medicare to Your Advantage

Medicare is a wonderful tool for seniors to rely on when it comes to their medical needs. But if you or a family member ends up needing long-term care, basic Medicare may not yet help you when it comes to covering the costs. The good news is, however, that there are several supplemental Medicare Advantage plans that can offer more help with prescriptions, vision care, and dental care, and by saving on these expenses, you can tuck more funds away to provide long-term care. if you are currently eligible for Medicare or are nearing the age of eligibility, it’s important to get a better understanding of how to navigate some of the vital Medicare open enrollment dates, so read up on those first and plan ahead of time.

Understand Long-Term Care Insurance

If you are only planning for long-term care needs, then you may want to look into information about long-term care insurance. Getting this sort of supplemental coverage can be a bit expensive, but it can give you peace of mind if you are worried about you or a loved one needing care. Long-term care insurance typically costs less if you are younger and in good health, so start planning for this coverage option early to get the best deal. Otherwise, your rates will go up as you get older, particularly if your health begins to decline.

Know How to Use Benefits and Other Insurance

For adults who have served in the military, long-term care costs may be covered by the benefits provided by the VA. Eligible veterans and spouses can cover their care costs through pensions and possibly by adding the Aid and Attendance benefit. You may also be able to use life insurance policies to cover care costs as well. Many policies allow you to cash out or sell your life insurance to get the cash you need. This option can come in handy when the need for care comes up suddenly.

 Look Into Home Equity Options

Another way to pay for unexpected expenses associated with long-term care is to use the equity built into a home. If you or your loved one will make a permanent move, the most beneficial option may be to sell it and use profits to pay for care. For individuals who need to remain in their homes, there are still viable options to get the extra funds they need. You can take out a home equity loan or look into a reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgages come with the added benefit of not having to make monthly payments, but the house will be turned over to the lender when the owner passes away.

If you or a family member is in need of long-term care, the last thing you want to think about is how to pay for it. Finding quality care should be your top priority. By planning for costs now, you can focus on getting the care you need without worrying about how to pay for it.

Post contributed by Dana Brown at HealthConditions.Info
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Wellness For Older Adults: Tips to Help Boost Your Health

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Image Via Pixabay

Retirement has finally come and now you have the time to enjoy your family, travel or to simply sleep in every morning. But the fact that you are no longer obligated to punch a clock does not mean that it’s time to let yourself go. If you want to age well, you have to pay attention to your physical and mental health. Here’s how:

See your doctor regularly

When you reach 65, your relationship with your primary health care provider is more important than ever. Before now, you’ve been able to get away with a physical every two or three years. But now, you should plan on seeing your doctor at least once every 12 months. According to Comprehensive Primary Care, men and women have different health care needs. Women, for instance, are advised to get a mammogram yearly and Pap smear every five years after their 50th birthday. Likewise, men should receive a prostate cancer screening and bone density test after the big 5-0.

If paying for this extra health care is a little intimidating, you should consider learning more about Medicare Advantage Plans — also known as Medicare Part C. Medicare Part C plans provide all the benefits as Part A and Part B, but may also offer coverage for other important aspects of your health such as prescription drugs, vision and dental care. Keep in mind, however, the open enrollment is limited to October 15 to December 7 each year.

Exercise

Age is no excuse for letting your muscles, bones and joints go to waste. Even if you suffer with issues such as arthritis, there’s still plenty of ways to stay active. Aquatic exercises for seniors utilize the buoyancy of water to ease pressure on the joint. Water aerobics is low impact and reduces the risk of falls. If you’d rather get outdoors and enjoy nature, the benefits of walking cannot be underscored enough. Not only will walking increase your aerobic capacity, walking a few days out of week can actually give you a more positive outlook on life and improve your physical health.

Stay social

One of the biggest downfalls of leaving the workforce is that you no longer have access to other adults on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this social isolation leads to stagnant lifestyles with approximately 70 percent of seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 reporting long periods of inactivity. Turn your downtime into social time by attending church, volunteering, or joining a club that caters to your interests. Whether you like to travel, read, work puzzles or even collect stamps — there’s a group for that.

Don’t destroy your diet

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional overindulgence, your body will thank you if you fuel it properly. Start with a good breakfast each day – preferably something full of fiber, such as oatmeal. If you haven’t already, take some time and research foods that can combat issues that go along with age. For instance, Senior Lifestyle points out that salmon, which is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, can help slow mental degeneration. Likewise, snack foods such as dark chocolate and walnuts contain compounds that can improve circulation, reduce blood pressure and boost a host of cognitive functions.

With age comes a level of freedom like you’ve never known before. But in order to enjoy your sovereign ways, you have to pay attention to – and prioritize – your health. So exercise, eat right and keep an open line of communication with your doctor and your social network. Doing so will help you enjoy all the benefits of age.

Post courtesy of Karen Weeks at Elderwellness.net

Assessing and Planning for Long-Term Care Needs: Knowing Your Options

Assessing and Planning for Long Term Care

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The high cost of long-term care represents a serious threat to individuals as they grow older. It’s a problem that’s staring many baby boomers right in the face. The generation born between 1946 and 1964 is rapidly aging and many will need assisted living, nursing home and other forms of care.

Considering the costs involved, it’s vital you determine how likely it is that you or a loved one will require long-term care based on factors which can impact your health. It’s even more important to begin planning how you’ll fund the expense of long-term care. Taking action sooner rather than later can make a big difference in your health, lifestyle and financial situation.

Planning

The choices you make today can have a tremendous impact on your life 20 or 30 years from now. If your doctor has advised you to get more exercise and watch what you eat, following her advice can markedly improve your health and reduce the likelihood you’ll need long-term care. If your job is highly stressful, taking steps to deal with it, perhaps through exercise, yoga and meditation, may represent an important and positive lifestyle change. Anything that reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and other serious health care risks will likely help you avoid needing long-term care in the coming years.

If Alzheimer’s disease is common in your family or if there’s a history of heart disease or cancer in your genetic background, it’s probably in your best interest to begin planning ahead for long-term care. There are more options available these days, such as assisted living, home health services, adult day care, independent living and hospice care, and many ways you can prepare for assuming those care costs.

Paying

There are several factors to consider when it comes to paying for long-term care. If you’re in your 50s, consider taking out a long-term care policy (some financial planners advise doing this earlier). Or, if your employer has a health savings account (HSA) option, you can make contributions that are fully tax-deductible and use the earnings later to help fund long-term care. An HSA, unlike a flexible spending account, rolls over from year to year and its growth is tax-deferred. It is a savings account specifically designed to help you pay for medical expenses.

Many people use a reverse mortgage to free up money for long-term care. A reverse mortgage allows you to borrow against the value you’ve accumulated in your home, and your lender makes payments to you computed based on a percentage on your home equity. Credit requirements are modest, and you can remain in the home even if your debt exceeds the value of your home. Be aware of the pros and cons of reverse mortgages. For example, your debt will increase while your equity goes down. The equity that would become part of your estate will decrease as you receive payments, and you are not the owner of your home.

A life insurance policy that generates cash value can also provide you with a funding source. You can sell a policy to generate revenue for medical expenses, “surrender” it to your insurer for a cash settlement, or make advance use of your death benefit (any amount used will count against your beneficiaries after your death).

Learning your care and payment options early and preparing for long-term care is highly recommended by financial advisers. That means it’s important to assess your needs, financial situation and consider how you might fund long-term care.

Author

June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.