If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times—water is essential to our health and wellbeing. Have a headache? Feeling fuzzy-brained? Constipated? Fatigued? It nearly always comes back to this: Did you drink enough water?

Up to 60 percent of the adult human body is water. This miracle fluid aids in nearly EVERY bodily function: It helps rid our bodies of toxins, reduces excess sodium, brings nutrients, minerals, and oxygen to our cells, lubricates our joints, and keeps organs functioning at optimum levels.

The general rule of thumb is that adults should drink at least 64 ounces of fluids every day. That, though, is easier said than done. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43 percent of adults drink less than four cups of water a day. Only 36 percent drink one to three cups, and 7 percent don’t drink any at all. Why is this? One of the main reasons is that as we get older, we can lose our sense of thirst and simply forget to drink enough.

Dehydration—caused by loss of salt and water in the body due to extreme heat, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and certain medications— can be problematic for any adult, but especially concerning for seniors who have a lower volume of water in their bodies. When you’re severely dehydrated, there’s not enough water to carry blood to the organs. Dehydration can lead to heat cramps, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, seizures, and hypovolemic shock—a sometimes life-threatening complication. Dehydration is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization for those 65 and over.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration may include the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Cramping
  • Weakness
  • Sleepiness or irritability
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Fever or chills
  • Dark yellow or orange urine

Another way to determine whether your body is dehydrated is the skin test: Use two fingers to pinch skin on the back of your hand and let go. The skin should spring back to its normal position in less than a few seconds. If the skin returns more slowly, you might be dehydrated.

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you or a loved one has had diarrhea for 24 hours or more, is irritable, disoriented, or more sleepy than usual, can’t keep fluids down, or has bloody or black stools, call your family doctor. 

PREVENT DEHYDRATION

Keep water accessible at all times—taking many little sips throughout the day can add up. Jazz up water by adding fruit, drink unsweetened tea, and eat foods that are high in water content, like cucumbers, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, and apples, oranges, and watermelon. Avoid sodium and caffeine.

One UCLA research study showed that seniors who stay hydrated may experience fewer falls, so DRINK UP!

 

RESOURCES

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases  
1-800-860-8747
1-866-569-1162
healthinfo@niddk.nih.gov
www.niddk.nih.gov

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
1-301-592-8573
nhlbiinfo@nhlbi.nih.gov
www.nhlbi.nih.gov

National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs
1-202-682-6899
www.nanasp.org

President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition
1-240-276-9567
fitness@hhs.gov
www.fitness.gov

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Memoir 101: How to Write Your Life Story

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Night by Eli Wiesel. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen.

These are all best-selling memoirs, authored by people who felt compelled to remember their past and write it all down. Just like these authors, we all have untold stories within us. Whether you want to leave a legacy, share a life lesson, make sense of a certain time in your life, or help others through your personal experiences, memoir writing is a wonderful gift—therapeutic for you and meaningful to your loved ones. No one wants friends or family to one day think: “I wish I would have asked them about that when I had the chance.”

So, why don’t more people take the time to capture their thoughts and feelings around major life events?

There are a few reasons, and they’re all misconceptions. You don’t have to be a professional writer to write a memoir, just write from the heart. You don’t have to be famous. And you don’t have to detail the entire storyline of your life—that’s an autobiography—and autobiographies can be a daunting idea, whether you’re 40 or 90.

According to Reader’s Digest, a memoir is your version of what happened during a specific time in your life; whereas an autobiography is the chronological telling of your experiences, with a timeline, focused on facts. A memoir is less formal, less encompassing, less obsessed with factual events, and more concerned with “an emotional truth toward a particular section of one’s life.” It’s mostly written from memory—not intended to be an accurate statistical report.

With memoir writing, facts and figures don’t tell the whole story. In order to make your experiences come to life, you also need to include feelings. According to author Bart Astor of Baby Boomer’s Guide to Caring for Aging Parents, “No one else has had your experiences or reacted in the same way.” People connect with emotions, descriptions, dialogue, and personality. It’s YOUR story—no one can tell it the same as you. After you write it all down, your loved ones will want to read it!

But where do you begin?

  • Start by reading memoirs. Just reading about another person’s experiences will help you understand more about tone and theme. A list of the top 50 memoirs can be found here.
  • Think about the pivotal moments in your life. Which ones really mattered? (Remember, this isn’t your autobiography. You don’t have to write about the entirety of your life.)
  • To get the words flowing, look at a photo that evokes a strong reaction. What do you hear, smell, feel, see? Repeat this process with a few different photos.
  • Write the way you talk—in a conversational way. It’s more engaging and easier to read. (Don’t be too formal.) Be honest. It’s ok to show your flaws; everyone can relate to making mistakes.
  • Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or quality. Just get it all down. You can fix it later.
  • Believe in yourself!

If you feel like some of your memories are a little fuzzy, you can always include a disclaimer at the end saying: “These events are my memories. Others may remember events differently.”

If you still need inspiration, these questions might help get the creative juices flowing:

Where were you born? Was there anything unique about your birth?

What’s your earliest memory?

What toy do you most remember getting at Christmas?

Did you have any pets growing up?

What family vacation do you most remember from your youth?

Who was your favorite teacher? Why?

What was your favorite subject?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Were you in any extracurricular activities?

Who were your childhood friends?

What did you do for fun when you were young?

Did you get an allowance? How much? How did you earn it?

What was your first car?

Who were your high school friends?

What did you learn about yourself in high school?

Are you more like your mom or your dad? How?

When was the first time you saw your parents cry?

Who was your first crush?

Who was your first kiss?

Who was your first love?

What’s your favorite city to visit?

What’s the farthest from home you’ve traveled?

What impact has religion had in your life?

Did you go to college? What did you study?

What was the greatest success in your career?

What did you do with your first “big” paycheck?

What was the biggest sacrifice you ever made?

What time(s) in history will you always remember?

Name a time you were on top of the world.

Name a time you were overcome with sadness.

As a youth, did you break any bones? Need stitches?

What was your first job?

What was your favorite job?

Who were your role models when you were young?

What have you done that you never thought you’d do?

What do you know about your family history/heritage?

What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Why?

(If applicable): How did you meet your spouse? When did you know he/she was “the one?” What was your marriage proposal like?

Where was your wedding? How many guests attended? What did you serve? What do you remember about that day?

(If applicable): Tell me about the time(s) your kid(s) were born.

How would you describe your kids’ personalities? Grandkids?

What person most influenced you in life?

What makes you happy?

What’s your dream for future generations?

Now get to writing! Good luck! 

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The Best Exercises for Improving Balance + Stability

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an older adult falls every second of every day in the U.S.

Let that sink in.

An older adult falls every second of every day in the U.S.

That’s a lot of falls—some with serious consequences. Aging causes bones to become brittle, and broken bones don’t heal as easily.

We tend to lose balance with age for a number of reasons: could be due to a medical condition, side effects of dizziness or vertigo due to medications, impaired eyesight, or an overall decline in physical fitness.

The good news? Medical conditions aside, balance is a motor skill that can be maintained and even improved. It’s not going to happen, though, without a little effort. First and foremost, you have to get back on your feet. Don’t let poor balance result in a cycle of inactivity and muscle loss. Gain confidence—and muscle—through regularly doing simple balance and strengthening exercises. Even better, you can do the following exercises anytime, anywhere.

STANDING EXERCISES:

Flamingo stand (balance on one leg)

Start with an easy exercise. Stand on one leg, gripping a sturdy chair (no wheels) for balance—use both hands. Lift your right foot about an inch off the floor and balance on your left foot. Hold the move for 10 seconds, repeat 10 times, then alternate legs. The goal of this exercise is to get strong enough to eventually hold the pose—without using the chair for balance—for up to a minute.

Tightrope walk (walk in a straight line, heel to toe)  

By walking heel to toe, you’re strengthening your core and your leg muscles while simultaneously improving your posture. To do this one, mark a straight line with masking tape, then walk heel to toe, with your heels and toes almost touching. Focus on one spot directly in front of you. Stretch your arms wide as you walk (picture a tightrope walker). Repeat 20 times.

Leg raise with arm lifts

Improve physical coordination by standing next to a chair, feet together and arms at your sides. Lift your left hand over your head and slowly raise your left foot off the floor. Hold for 10 second and repeat with the other side.

Back leg raise

Using a chair for support, lift one leg at a time as far back as possible. Bend the leg you’re standing on, raise your other leg. Hold the position for a few seconds. Repeat 10-15 times. Bonus: this exercise helps to strengthen your lower back.

Side leg raise

The side leg exercise will help strengthen the upper legs and hips. Hold onto a chair, keep your back straight, toes facing forward, and hold the position. Repeat 10-15 times. Breathe slow and steady.

March in place

This one is as easy as it sounds—standing straight, lift your right knee high, lower, then lift the left leg, or march in place. Marching is as fun as you remember. Repeat 20 times.

SITTING CHAIR EXERCISES  

Arm circles

Sit in a chair and lift both arms above your head. Use a light weight (or a can of vegetables works, too) and rotate your arms like you’re making a large circle in the air.

Side twists

Sitting in a chair, hold a ball at arms-length, keep it up to shoulder height. Twist slowly to the left, then to the right. Repeat.

Hand squeezes

Strengthen your arms by bending your elbows, then bring your hands together, and push with both hands (right hand pushing into left and vice versa).

Other ways to lower your chances of falling   

Many falls can be prevented. The Centers for Disease Control recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Have an open dialogue with your general practitioner—tell him or her if you have fallen recently, worry about falling, or feel unsteady. Mention all of it. Don’t be too embarrassed to mention a recent fall. Some medications can make you feel dizzy or drowsy, leading to falls. Let your doctor know about every medication you take—even over-the-counter ones that might not seem worth mentioning.
  • Schedule an annual eye exam. Limited vision can impair your mobility.
  • Eat foods high in Vitamin D and rich in calcium.
  • Remove any “tripping hazards” from your living space. Put shoes away instead of leaving them near the door, secure loose rugs, make sure cords aren’t in the way, and put a nightlight in the bathroom. (As we get older, it takes awhile for our eyes to adjust to dark and light.)
  • Get out of bed slowly. Sit on the edge of the bed, take a few deep breaths, and get your bearings before attempting to walk.
  • Try tai chi or yoga. These gentle activities can significantly improve your balance and flexibility.

Getting some exercise every day—even a moderate amount—is really the best way to stay steady on your feet and reduce the risk of falling.

If you haven’t been active recently, consult your doctor before doing these exercises.

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Innovative Hearing Solution to Be Offered to ABHM Seniors

When seniors have trouble hearing, they miss out on life. This can lead to feelings of frustration, embarrassment, or anger. Sure, conventional hearing aids are one solution: but they can be expensive, they can easily get lost, and they can be difficult to use when dexterity becomes an issue.

Now, thanks to the new wireless headphone technology of Eversound—designed specifically for older adults—seniors are able to hear clearly during conversations, movies, presentations, and other group activities.

Eversound was tested in the American Baptist Homes of the Midwest community of Maple Crest Health Center, located in the Benson neighborhood of Omaha, with promising results. Seniors described an enhanced listening experience, significantly improving participation, engagement, well-being, and overall quality of life.

The test went so well, ABHM partnered with Eversound to bring this exciting technology to all seven of their communities.

With a mission of creating healthy Christian communities that empower people, Eversound was a natural fit. According to David Zwickey, CEO/President of ABHM, “Eversound enables our hearing-impaired residents to hear with a level of clarity they haven’t experienced in years.”

The audio products are easy to use, too, and cost “less than the cost of one premium hearing aid,” explains Jake Reisch, CEO and co-founder of Eversound.

The partnership is an opportunity to bring awareness to Eversound while giving the gift of hearing to residents.

According to Matt Reiners, VP of Customer Impact and co-founder of Eversound, “The effects are immediate, and as a result—the morale of both the residents and staff is significantly improved. Hearing loss is a natural part of the aging process, but when it’s left unaddressed, it has been linked to mental decline, social isolation, and depression. With the 65+ population nearly doubling by 2050, we look forward to developing our partnership with ABHM to address such a critical need.”

 ABOUT MAPLE CREST HEALTH CENTER
Maple Crest is a health care provider offering long term care, short term rehabilitation and memory care. They have been serving the seniors of Benson and the surrounding communities for more than 65 years. maplecrest.net 

 

ABOUT EVERSOUND

Eversound is improving quality of life for seniors by helping audience members hear clearly during movies, presentations and all group events. The company is expanding with installations in several of the largest senior living chains in the country with its easy to use wireless headphone group listening system product specifically designed for the ergonomic, auditory and aesthetic needs of older adult users. For more information, visit everoundhq.com

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The Healing Effects of Music

Music can remind you of a specific person or time in your life. It can soothe you, energize you, and recent research shows that it has the power to heal you.

Music therapy—when a trained professional uses music interventions to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals—is a growing field in the U.S. (and around the world). Music therapy has been credited with everything from helping newborns gain weight to helping people recover their speech after a stroke.

It’s not a new field, either. Music therapy has been around since World War I, when community volunteers played music for the wounded. The patients and the nurses noticed a boost in spirits after music was played, an improved outlook, and even less pain. This led to a revelation: music can heal us. Soon after, hospitals were hiring musicians.

HOW IT WORKS; WHO IT HELPS

Music is meditative—the whole brain is stimulated and engaged when you’re listening. From emotion to motor function, creativity to memory, the brain processes music in complex ways. It has the power to shift your mood. It can bring on feelings of comfort and safety. You can forget about your present-day worries. According to Mindfulness Meditation Coach Louise Jensen,“When we listen to music, our brain releases dopamine—a feel-good chemical essential for the healthy functioning of the central nervous system; it has effects on emotion, perception, and movement.” So, music makes us happy. It can also lower blood pressure, reduce your heart rate, and relax your muscles, it’s no wonder that music therapists are in demand in a number of healing environments.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, “Music therapists work in psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, medical hospitals, outpatient clinics, day care treatment centers, agencies serving persons with developmental disabilities, community mental health centers, drug and alcohol programs, senior centers, nursing homes, hospice programs, correctional facilities, halfway houses, schools, and private practice.”

It doesn’t matter what style of music is used, either. There is no one-size-fits-all style that’s more therapeutic than others. It’s really a matter of preference, circumstance, and treatment needs (it also helps to have a positive, consistent relationship with the music therapist).

In short, music therapy can improve people’s quality of life.

MUSIC THERAPY HAS THE POWER TO:

• HELP RESTORE SPEECH

Imagine the frustration of not being able to find the words for everyday conversation. Imagine, too, the freedom of remembering words to familiar songs—and the euphoria of realizing the words and lyrics are still there. This isn’t uncommon for stroke survivors experiencing aphasia, a disorder that impairs the ability to process language. Listening to music can help boost stroke recovery by activating the part of the brain associated with memory, motor function, and emotional processing. Music therapy is being used to treat patients with neurological disorders of Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as people living with brain injuries. After singing phrases often enough, some patients are able to find the words to speak again. Neurologists are excited about this: the research backs the idea that regardless of which part of the brain was damaged, music can help people learn again. Our brains can be rewired.

• AID IN PAIN RELIEF

Listening to music before surgery can take the focus away from fears. According to Joanne V. Loewy, PhD, director of the music therapy program at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center in an article on WebMD, “There’s a belief that music and pain are processed along the same [nerve] pathways. So, if we have a patient playing or focusing on the music, they won’t feel the pain.” It might not be that people can’t feel the pain, but rather—that they’re distracted from it. For a brief time, the music can take them out of their situation so they can simply focus on the music.

• IMPROVE ASTHMA SYMPTOMS  

Music can help asthmatic patients relax so their lungs work more efficiently with medication. There’s evidence, too, that playing wind instruments can help asthmatics monitor their breathing strategies.

• HELP WITH DEMENTIA

Listening to and singing songs from the past can bring out memories associated with those songs; memories that were otherwise locked away. According to Alzheimers.net, “Music requires little to no mental processing, so singing music does not require the cognitive function [missing] in most dementia patients.”

• ASSIST THOSE IN ADDICTION TREATMENT

In the realm of addiction treatment, music therapy—when used in conjunction with talk therapy and medication—can be a highly effective tool. Those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol build up defense mechanisms (rationalizing, denying, lying) in order to hide their addiction and hide from their emotions. The creative nature of music therapy can help addicts alter their thought patterns. And listening to and talking about songs and lyrics can help people explore different emotions and feelings they might not feel comfortable discussing otherwise.

OTHER EXCITING STUDIES

Another exciting new study showed that music therapy reduced the rejection of heart transplants; another study showed that music can speed the rate of physical healing after surgery.

Music is universal—everyone can relate. And it’s doing so much more than entertaining us. It’s changing people, one beat, one rhythm, one song at a time.

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Health Benefits of Following a Mediterranean Diet

You’ve likely heard it before: it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.

When it’s the Mediterranean diet, it’s a lifestyle that can help improve your heart health, fight cancer, prevent diabetes, protect your cognitive health, boost your mood, and keep your weight under control.

The Mediterranean diet was introduced in the 1950s, following an extensive study of what people ate and how they lived in seven countries, Finland, Holland, Italy, the U.S., Greece, Japan, and Yugoslavia. In the countries that followed a Mediterranean diet, studies showed a very low rate of cholesterol. According to Harvard Medical School, “It showed that regions with a low consumption of saturated fat, such as the Mediterranean countries, had a much lower incidence of coronary artery disease than regions with a high consumption of saturated fat, such as the Scandinavian countries.”

What is the Mediterranean diet?     

There are no preservatives in a Mediterranean diet. It consists of fresh fruits and veggies, olive oil, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, yogurt, cheese, the occasional glass of red wine, along with plenty of water. Fish and poultry is consumed “moderately.” There is low consumption of eggs and red meat. The focus is on foods and ingredients close to nature, rich in monounsaturated fats, high in fiber, and high in fresh plant foods. Unlike the average American diet, there’s very limited processed foods and sugar.

Can it save your life?

While the main long-term health benefit is protection against heart disease—the alpha-linolenic acid found in fresh olive oil can lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of a sudden cardiac arrest by a whopping 45 percent—studies have shown “eating Mediterranean” can be beneficial in many other ways.

According to the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, “The biological mechanisms for cancer prevention associated with the Mediterranean diet have been related to the favorable effect of a balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids and high amounts of fiber, antioxidants and polyphenols found in fruit, vegetables, olive oil and wine.”

And there have been studies showing that following a Mediterranean diet might be a natural Parkinson’s disease treatment and a way to preserve your memory and protect cognitive impairment. In one four-year study, participants assigned to the Mediterranean diet maintained stable levels of cognition, whereas the ones advised to follow a low-fat diet experienced a small amount of decline. (Healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, plus plenty of anti-inflammatory veggies and fruits, are known to fight age-related cognitive decline.)

Mediterranean diet tips:

  • Eat fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, avocados, and whole grains
  • Eat at least a handful of nuts each day
  • Try to eat more beans, chickpeas, and peas (a source of protein and fiber)
  • Eat sweet potatoes
  • Drink smoothies instead of soda
  • Enjoy red wine in moderation
  • Eat a moderate amount of plain and Greek yogurt, organic milk, and natural cheese
  • Use olive oil abundantly for cooking and seasoning
  • Focus on high-quality ingredients and high-quality fat
  • Be mindful of portions
  • Dramatically limit or avoid pastries, potato chips, baked goods, processed meats, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates
  • Aim for one serving or less of cured ham, red meat, and fatty cheeses per week
  • Sit down and enjoy your meal! (Even better when enjoyed with friends and family.)

Experiment eating the Mediterranean way with the following Mayo Clinic recipes. 

 

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