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6 Winter Wellness and Safety Tips for Seniors

The winter months are here—with cold temperatures, dry air, snow and ice. Although we love the sight of fresh snow, it’s important that your senior loved ones are safe and well-prepared in case a pretty winter snowfall turns into a severe storm. (Important safety tip: give the kid down the street ten bucks to shovel for you!) The colder weather can also have negative effects on our minds and bodies,  if we don’t stick to good wellness habits throughout the season. Luckily, our assisted living team at Lester has put together some tips to help seniors stay safe and well this season.

  • Home safety. If mom and dad are still residing in their own home, It’s important to make sure someone is nearby to shovel and salt their outdoor steps, walkways and driveway. The last thing your senior parents should have to worry about is getting hurt while shoveling the snow. Seniors should also wear closed comfortable shoes or boots with rubber soles in icy weather. If they use a cane or walker, double check that the rubber tips are in good condition, so they don’t lose grip on slick surfaces. 
  • Bundle up. Seniors are less able to regulate their body temperature, putting them at increased risk of hypothermia in cold weather. Older adults should keep the thermostat set at a comfortable temperature, avoid sudden exertion, and wear layered clothing outdoors to retain body heat. They should also wear a hat or head scarf to keep their hands and feet warm, and protect their ears against the harsh winter chill. 
  • Stay hydrated. The cold air and indoor heaters can cause dehydration, if you’re not careful. So encourage your senior family member to drink plenty of water and use moisturizers to avoid itchy winter skin. Bonus tip: Indoor plants give off moisture and oxygen, and the colors brighten can up a dull, winter’s day.
  • Eat well. Comfort foods feel good in the moment, but lack quality nutrition. Seniors should include fruits, vegetables and whole grains to maintain optimal nutrition and well-being. (They may also help with digestion and may lower cholesterol and blood sugar.) Older adults should also limit unhealthy fats, sodium and added sugars. At the JCHC communities, we prepare fresh, nutrient-packed homemade soups for residents who are on meal plans. A bowl of delicious hot soup in the winter is a great way to support our seniors’ well-being with immune-boosting ingredients. 
  • Exercise. Daily exercise helps keep your body strong and your mind positive. Seniors especially should try to get fresh air and sunshine, even on cold days, as sunlight provides Vitamin D which aids in strengthening bones. Fitness classes are also a great way to help stretch, tone and strengthen muscles, promote relaxation, and improve coordination and cardiac health; better coordination and balance enhance wintertime safety by helping to prevent falls. These are all reasons why we offer a variety of regularly scheduled exercise classes at all four JCHC communities. 
  • Stay connected. Although face-to-face check-ins may be tough during a pandemic, it’s important that seniors have someone to check in periodically (even if it’s through Zoom!). An essential benefit of living in a senior/retirement community is that one always has neighbors and a staff to provide immediate care. At JCHC, we also have individual 24-hour emergency alert systems in every apartment.

Active Senior Living in Whippany, NJ

Lester Senior Living is part of the Jewish Community Housing Corporation, a collection of senior living communities in New Jersey that help support and engage an active lifestyle for seniors.

During the current health crisis, we’re not only working hard to keep your loved ones safe and healthy, we’re also doing all we can to keep families connected during the winter season. If you’d like to find out more about our senior activities and care services in Morris County, NJ, give us a call today: (973) 929-2725. Or you could visit our website to learn more about community life at Lester Senior Living: https://jchcorp.org/lester-senior-living-morris-county/

 

Winter Exercise Tips for Seniors

We all need exercise at any age, and the National Institute of Aging recommends at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity in your routine every day.

Physical activity helps older adults improve and maintain balance, flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance. But when the winter comes, it’s not easy to get outside for those brisk walks or a leisurely bike ride. Between the colder temperatures, snow and ice, many seniors take their exercise indoors for safety and comfort. Here are some ways to keep active this season.

Dancing. Whether ballet or foxtrot, dancing keeps minds and bodies healthy. You can dance alone, with a partner or in a group, and enjoy music at the same time. Ballet steps and poses have been shown to improve posture and dancing in general is a great way to enjoy social time with friends. As with any form of exercise—particularly as we get older—it’s important to stretch and warm up beforehand, and be careful not to overdo it.

Yoga. This popular form of exercise, combined with elements of mindfulness, is a wonderful year-round activity. It’s gentle, quiet, and low impact and you can do yoga in a chair. Yoga is said to increase flexibility, help improve balance and strength, and lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. Poses can be easily modified to avoid injury or to accommodate physical needs or restrictions, while still providing great benefit. Several JCHC communities offer yoga and balance & mindfulness classes for residents to work on their balance, stretching, and stress reduction.

Gym workouts. Weight-bearing exercise is good for bone health and a light cardio workout is important for young and old alike. Treadmills, stair climbers, recumbent bikes, weight machines, and more provide many options for maintaining muscle tone and cardiac health. Working with a personal trainer or instructor will ensure you are using the equipment properly and are handling the right weights for your level of fitness and ability. Lester Senior Living in Whippany and Village Apartments in South Orange have nicely equipped fitness rooms with a variety of equipment and space for exercise classes.

Swimming. This low-impact form of exercise improves balance, flexibility, endurance, and strength. Senior aquacise is a popular and fun swim class. Moving gently in the water can provide benefit for seniors who have limited mobility, and water exercise may be helpful for those with arthritis or joint pain.

Walking. Walking outdoors gives you fresh air along with the exercise but indoor walking is a fine way to keep moving. Make sure you wear sneakers or comfortable walking shoes, that the area is well lit, and that the track or route is free of trip hazards. Mall walking with a small group is popular—many shopping malls have early hours before the stores open for mall walkers. Find out if a local community center or senior center has an indoor walking track or an area suitable to walk. Residents at Jewish Federation Plaza in West Orange enjoy walking the Promenade, which connects the buildings.

Benefits of exercise for seniors
Regular exercise activities such as those noted above are key factors in helping prevent falls. Exercise that strengthens and tones muscles, improves mental state and alertness, and keeps bodies more limber will enhance one’s balance.

Aerobic exercise (such as using a treadmill or bike, or swimming) is good for the heart and lungs, and improves oxygen flow which is good for the brain as well. Incorporating arm movements into walking helps pump up the workout.

Simple stretching—before or during an exercise class—helps combat the loss of elasticity many older adults deal with, which decreases range of motion. Staying limber helps one perform many daily tasks—think of how many times we reach for things every day.

Regardless of what type of exercise you enjoy, make sure it’s comfortable and suited to your abilities, and remember to listen to your body. It’s good to challenge yourself somewhat but don’t push yourself too hard—it’s not a competition!

Making the Transition to a Retirement Community

Moving from your long-time home to a retirement community brings about a lot of change which can be difficult for many people. Leaving the place where many memories were created can bring up strong emotions, moving away from old friends or the thought of going to a new place may trigger feelings of uncertainty.

However, moving into a retirement community also means starting a new chapter of life—one that brings new opportunities for discovery with peers.

Benefits of living in a retirement community
If you’re moving from a private home or condo, you’ll leave behind the cares of maintaining or upgrading a home. No more worries about the roof or siding, appliance repair, lawn maintenance, sidewalk repairs, snow removal, and so many other expensive or time-consuming tasks.

Do you like to visit family and friends for long weekends or plan nice vacations? Forget security systems or asking neighbors to check on the house. Just close the door and go, knowing your home is secure.

Best of all, senior living enables you to age in place, safely and with dignity. There’s always staff around, programming is designed to keep seniors active and engaged, and the residences are built with older adults’ needs at the forefront.

If you’re an older adult considering the move, here are some things to keep in mind.

Getting familiar with senior residences
Visit several senior living communities to get a feeling for the type of environment or lifestyle best suits your preferences or needs. Some considerations are:

  • Would you like senior housing with a range of services and programs?
  • Would you like to open your apartment door every day to an array of activities?
  • What about the amenities offered?
  • While touring the communities, take a ride around the area as well so you have a good idea of where town services, stores, and restaurants are located.
  • Ask if you can sample a meal in the dining room (where you’ll also have a chance to meet and chat with residents). If you have specific dietary needs, find out if those can be met.

Settling into your new home
When you move into your new home, place some favorite photos or special keepsakes in your apartment to help it feel more familiar (along with furniture pieces you’ve brought with you). If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you might consider buying some new furniture to give your apartment a fresh look. Have fun with it!

Once you move in, make sure to try out some of the offerings so you get familiar with your new surroundings and get acquainted with your neighbors. Whether it’s a class, lecture, or movie night, participating in all that’s available will help you meet like-minded people with whom to share this life chapter. Staying open to new experiences will help you write a new story for yourself. Perhaps you will:

  • Learn a new hobby or creative pursuit like painting, knitting, or poetry
  • Engage in adult learning classes about new topics
  • Join a book club or discussion group.
  • Go on an outing to a place you’ve never visited before

Widen your social circle
Remember that you’ll be surrounded by new neighbors who will welcome you, and a support staff that’s eager to make you feel at home. Talk to your fellow residents about their experiences, the kinds of programs they enjoy, and give yourself time to acclimate to your surroundings and your new acquaintances—some of whom will soon become your friends. Many seniors find that when they establish those personal connections, they feel truly at home. That’s when the fun can really begin!

At the JCHC, our senior living communities offer older adults a variety of services, programs, and amenities—and many ways to write a new chapter that enriches their lives. Contact our team for information about independent living, assisted living, and memory care options in Essex County and Morris County, NJ.

Pet Therapy Brings Comfort and Joy to Seniors

There are many benefits of canine therapy in for seniors. While people often think of the furry therapists as visiting hospitals, rehab centers and nursing homes, many do not realize that older adults in senior living communities also benefit from these visits.

Science has proven that interaction with gentle, friendly pets:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Enhances mood
  • Diminishes physical pain
  • Produces a relaxation response
  • Increases socialization, decreases feelings of isolation

Why animal therapy works
Spending time bonding with an animal produces serotonin in the brain—the hormone that makes us feel good or happy—along with other chemicals that foster a sense of calm. Whether it’s stroking or brushing out an animal’s fur, giving a treat (and getting grateful puppy eyes looking back), or simply sitting together (perhaps with a dog’s head or paw in one’s lap), those moments are quite beneficial for older adults.

Pets are non-judgmental and are quite empathic—they sense a person’s moods (and often know whom to approach in the room in order to provide comfort); and service dogs sense changes in heart rate or other physical markers. Pet therapists also play a role in reducing the agitation and confusion associated with sundowning in people with dementia.

Although animals don’t communicate with us verbally, their gentle manner and acceptance can be soothing to people who may have trouble communicating with language. Interacting with a pet therapy animal can also help get seniors talking about their own pets from long ago, providing opportunities for socialization and sharing stories with each other.

At the JCHC, residents in our communities enjoy periodic visits from canine therapists and enjoy connecting with these loving animals. Given the beautiful interactions, these visits are clearly a treat for both humans and dogs.

Tips for Seniors to Maintain a Healthy Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is a common issue—and major health problem—among many older adults. High blood pressure can lead to other dangerous conditions in the kidney, the eye, and heart. It can be controlled with medication and by adopting a healthier lifestyle. But what exactly constitutes and causes high blood pressure in seniors?

Blood pressure measures the force of one’s blood pushing against the artery walls. That inflatable cuff and the stethoscope are checking your systolic and diastolic pressure—the first being the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood and the second when the heart relaxes and fills with blood. Your blood pressure is typically read and records as systole over diastole; a normal number for adults is under 120/80.

As we age, the chance for high blood pressure increases due to changes in our vascular system. Men are more likely to have hypertension before age 55 and women after menopause.

What’s a normal blood pressure reading?
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology now define hypertension for most adults as 130 or higher for the first number and 80 or higher for the second number. There are different kinds of hypertension, depending on which way those systole and diastole numbers go from there. However, everyone is different, so a medical evaluation of one’s overall health and fitness is a good first step in diagnosing and addressing high blood pressure. If you are feeling lightheaded upon standing quickly or are short of breath during light physical activity, you should be checked for hypertension right away.

Conversely, hypotension is low blood pressure (lower than 90/60); it is often caused by dehydration, blood loss, medications, or a medical condition. With the heat of summer upon us, we remind everyone to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You might not feel thirsty, per se, but your body is feeling it in other ways.

Controlling blood pressure in seniors
There are some ways you can keep your blood pressure in the healthy range:

  • Adopt a low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. A low-salt DASH diet might also help; it encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. Read the labels on all processed foods, which often contain high levels of sodium.
  • Watch your weight!
  • Moderate your alcohol consumption – alcohol can affect blood pressure (and puts on weight).
  • Get some moderate exercise every day, whether it’s walking the halls, taking it slow but steady on the treadmill or exercise bike, taking a Zumba™ Gold class, or doing some chair yoga. (Make sure your physician clears you for exercise before getting started.)
  • Don’t smoke – quitting at any age is better than risking hypertension, heart disease, or stroke.
  • Get enough sleep
  • Relax and manage stress

Also be sure to tell your doctor about any vitamins or supplements you are taking, which could affect blood pressure.

Remember: You could feel absolutely fine but have early signs of hypertension you are not aware of. Therefore, routine blood pressure checks are wise for seniors to do, in order to detect a rise in pressure that may require you to change your diet, engage in exercise (mindfulness & meditation classes can do wonders!), or perhaps take prescription medication.

Keeping our seniors healthy at the JCHC
Residents at the JCHC communities are doing their part by participating in our weekly exercise classes, which include balance, mindfulness & meditation, and physical exercise; residents at Village Apartments and Lester Senior Living are using the equipment in the communities’ fitness centers; and at Jewish Federation Plaza, walking club members enjoy cruising the promenade that connects the buildings. We also encourage everyone who is able to get out during the early morning or late afternoon hours to enjoy a walk in the fresh air and sunshine—it’s good for the body and the soul!