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Tips for Seniors to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep and waking up rested are important and help maintain concentration, memory and focus at any age, especially as we age. Sleep not only refreshes us mentally; it also refreshes our immune system. Getting a solid seven to nine hours of sleep every night is important for adults but the way you feel upon waking—and feeling rested throughout the day—are good indicators of whether or not you’re getting the restful sleep you need for optimal quality of life.

Sleep patterns in seniors
Due to hormonal changes, older adults may notice changes in their sleep patterns such as waking up earlier in the morning or getting sleepy earlier in the evening. Other seniors may find themselves becoming “light sleepers.” While these changes are normal with aging and are relatively easy to adapt to, insomnia, disturbed sleep or waking up tired all the time are not normal and can affect health and well-being. Insufficient sleep can lead to depression or irritability, memory and attention issues, and may increase risk of certain health problems.

Sleep disruptions are not a normal part of aging, so it’s important for seniors to identify the underlying causes. These may be:

  • Emotional or psychological – Feeling stressed or anxious, or dealing with a significant life change or traumatic experience. Some ways to combat stress are to keep a journal, listen to calming music, do puzzles, and stay in touch with friends or relatives.
  • Medical – Chronic or emergent pain, and certain chronic conditions may make it difficult to fall asleep or cause you to wake up several times during the night. These may be sleep apnea, asthma, diabetes, heartburn, or arthritis to name a few. Medications may also be a factor.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – Being too sedentary and not getting enough exercise during the day inhibit restful sleep. The same goes for spending too much time indoors with a lack of sunlight.
    • If you can, take a walk outside, do chair Zumba or arm & leg exercises
    • Open the shades during the day to let in the sunlight, or use a light therapy box.
    • Avoid daytime naps so that you are more tired in the evening.
  • Diet – Some sleep-friendly dietary measures are:
    • Limit intake of coffee/tea or chocolate late in the day (these all contain caffeine that will stimulate your system rather than invite sleep).
    • Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime, as this disrupts sleep
    • Reduce your consumption of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates – fresh vegetables and fruits, and whole grains are better for everyone
    • Avoid a big meal or spicy food just before you go to bed (indigestion!)
    • Limit your liquid intake about an hour or so before bedtime
  • Sleep environment/habits – Maintain consistent sleep hours, and keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.
    • If you are sensitive to noise, earplugs or a white noise machine are helpful, and a sleep mask can keep out light that may cause sleep problems.
    • Turn off the TV before bedtime
    • Don’t use backlit devices such as tablets or e-readers before bedtime; the artificial light can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes your sleepy. Using a supplemental low-wattage lamp at your bedside will help with this if you are a late-night reader.
    • Mindfulness meditation and deep breathing are excellent ways to induce relaxation.

Making small changes from the list above can help improve your sleep experience if you’re having trouble sleeping or are not feeling rested when you wake up. Of course, if problems persist, please consult your medical professional to make sure underlying or chronic conditions are not causing issues.

Trends and Benefits of Technology for Seniors

Seniors—a generation that’s seen telephones become palm-sized devices and computers go from filling a room to fitting in a pouch—are using today’s technology in many ways, from staying in touch with loved ones to managing their health.

Smartphone ownership has risen among older adults ages 65 and up; today, about half who own cellphones have some type of smartphone, up from 23% in 2013. Internet use among older adults has risen to nearly 70%; and e-readers and tablets, and the use of social media, are also growing in popularity among seniors.

Here’s a look at how some technology is benefiting elders.

Senior safety
For seniors who take several prescription medications a day, it can be challenging to keep track of medications. One way in which technology helps is with smartphone apps and wearables for medication management and health tracking. Reminders and alerts are available, and these apps can also help prevent medication errors. And, we are all aware of the emergency alert systems that summon assistance in our buildings at the push of a button on one’s pendant. There are also other devices are available to monitor heart health, activity, and location to keep users safe.

Voice-activated devices and smart homes are also helping keep older adults safe, especially as mobility issues arise. These devices can turn lights on and off and adjust thermostats; in private homes, they can also turn the lawn sprinklers on and off.

Socializing
Staying socially active is as important as being mentally or physically active as we age. The emergence of Skype and similar video and audio chat programs are helping seniors stay in touch with family member across the country and around the world. Social media adoption is rising as grandparents want to stay abreast of their grandchildren’s accomplishments and enjoy photos of friends and family.

There are a few social media networks specifically for seniors. The stated goal of Stitch is to help seniors find peers with similar interests. Those seeking a roommate can go on the Gold Girls Network, and video-based virtual senior centers are available.

Active minds and bodies
Computer games help keep older minds agile. Of course, in our JCHC communities, there are many activities already programmed into each week, and for those who enjoy some screen time, there are many games one can play alone or with other online participants, such as jigsaw puzzles, mahjong or Scrabble.

JCHC residents enjoy weekly exercise classes but there’s always room for some additional physical activity revolving around technology. For those with grandchildren who own video game systems like Wii or PlayStation, a visit with family could include a fun round of virtual tennis, bowling, golf, and other ways to stay physically active.

Residents in all our JCHC senior living communities have access to computers in the libraries or computer rooms, where they enjoy using It’s Never2Late, a computer program designed specifically for older adults. Residents can browse the internet, send and receive email, play computer games, use Facebook, explore distant lands, and more.

Whether living in their private homes or in a senior living community, there are many opportunities for seniors to enjoy and benefit from technology. A quick internet search will yield many results for devices and programs to keep older adults engaged, socializing and safe.

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!

National Assisted Living Week: Assisted Living with Creative Flair

National Assisted Living Week (NALW) takes place every September and at Lester Senior Living, our residents embrace it with great enthusiasm. We celebrated every day in our Weston Assisted Living Residence from Sunday, September 8 through Friday, September 13.

Thanks to our community life coordinator, Keisha McDonald, the week is always filled with great programs aligned with the year’s theme. This year, it was “Spark of Creativity” and featured daily ways in which our residents could express their creativity. All programs were open to everyone throughout the community with one exception: a special all-white dinner party for our Weston residents.

The week kicked off with Movies & Mimosas and a screening of the film, “Woman in Gold.” On Monday, the Heller multi-purpose room became an art studio for those who like to paint, and we enjoyed musical entertainment by David Elgart. Continuing the art theme on Tuesday, residents attended an art lecture titled, “Impressionists: The Rebels of Their Time.”

That evening was the “Diner en Blanc,” an all-white dinner party for seniors in our Weston Assisted Living Residence, which was just beautiful. The Weston dining room was decorated with white ostrich feather centerpieces, white balloons, and crisp white table linens. Residents wore all white, sipped on sauvignon blanc wine, and feasted on an elegant meal. Everyone was in good spirits, buoyed by live entertainment by Frank Musumici. It was a great evening!

Our seniors were on a creative roll for the remainder of the week with an improvisation acting class, a decoupage class, a trip to the Morris Museum, and “We’ve Got Talent,” the Lester talent show. This multi-faceted event showcased the many talented residents who call Lester Senior Living their home and it was so much fun. The broad range of talent in our community is really something to behold. The talent included:

  • Songs performed by members of the JCHC Resident Choir as well as some soloists
  • Artwork on display
  • A dance routine
  • Comedy acts
  • Poetry readings

Our talented lineup included David Rozen, admissions and marketing manager at Lester Senior Living, who played guitar and sang “Sunrise, Sunset” to everyone’s delight, and musical entertainment by Mitchell Goldberg, JCHC’s Regional Director of Dining Services. You can see pictures from NALW and other programs our residents enjoy on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/LesterSeniorLiving.

These activities and many others on our monthly calendar are among the ways we support healthy minds and bodies, cater to a diverse range of interests, and promote an active lifestyle at Lester. We invite anyone who is interested in learning more to contact David Rozen at davidr@richardc95.sg-host.com or 973-929-2725 to arrange a tour-or reserve a spot at our next open house on Wednesday, October 23 (3:00 to 5:00 p.m.) and discover what the Lester lifestyle is all about.

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.