Maintaining healthy habits during the holidays

The holidays are a time of gathering with friends and family to show gratitude, share a meal, and spend quality time together. In the midst of celebrating, it’s easy to let healthy habits slip and find ourselves indulging in sweets, drinks, and heavy meals.

But there are easy ways to maintain healthy habits during this busy time and still enjoy all that the holidays have to offer. Here are some tips for continuing the diet and exercise routines established throughout the year at special meals or holiday parties:

Find balance. If you overindulge on one meal, eat lighter on the next. Consider following the 80/20 rule: eat healthier foods for 80 percent of the day and enjoy a special meal or dessert for 20 percent of the day.

Eat until satisfied, not full. By sticking with normal-sized portions, you can enjoy the delectable treats of the season without overeating. If you’re still feeling hungry after 20 minutes, it’s OK to go back for seconds.

Choose your favorite treats. If pie is your favorite dessert, have a slice! But avoid piling other types of desserts on your plate just because they’re available.

Stick to your exercise routines. Even with a busier schedule during the holidays, it’s especially important to continue with regular exercise schedules to balance out the extra calories.

Don’t get discouraged! If you overindulge, simply get back on track. Try to reduce your intake as the holidays wind down to get back into your normal routine. Add more exercise if possible to burn more calories.

Being mindful about your approach to eating during the holidays can help make it a happy and healthy season whose effects you won’t have to worry about in the new year!

Keep tabs on your health using modern technology

Today’s technology has made many parts of our lives more convenient. In our phones and tablets, we can carry books, movies, games, notes, maps, and so much more. Some of these new innovations can even help us keep in tune with our bodies and minds by monitoring our health and stimulating different aspects of our wellness:

  • Fitbit or other wearable technology: These small bands can track your steps, heart rate, calories, sleep quality, and overall activity level. They are a great motivational reminder to help you meet your fitness goals each day.
  • Activity tracking apps: Monitoring your steps and exercise doesn’t necessarily require another piece of technology. Apps like Map My Run, Strava, and MyFitnessPal can also log workouts, calories, and overall health.
  • Luminosity and other brain games: Many of these games are free to download and offer fun and stimulating games to keep your brain active. They can also track your progress and potentially show any areas of decline.
  • Skype or Facetime: Social interaction is important for everyone, but especially for seniors, who are often prone to feelings of isolation. These video chatting tools can substitute face-to-face interactions with grandchildren and other loved ones when an in-person visit isn’t always practical.
  • Medication tracking apps: A daily pill box can still get the job done, but apps like Medisafe or Pill Monitor can provide visual reminders of which pills are needed as well as alarms to help you take them at the same time each day.

While using apps and other technology can sometimes seem daunting for older adults, most are built to be intuitive and user-friendly. Determine which ones would be most helpful in your life and start embracing the power of technology!

Meet Marge and Bob Willis!

Traveling without worries

Every winter, Bob and Marge Willis pack up and head for Florida. “But we don’t worry a bit while we’re gone, because Touchmark takes care of everything while we’re away,” says Marge.

Like many retired Wisconsin residents who fly south for the winter, they used to worry about their home in Kaukauna when they were on the Gulf. “When we were in our family home and went to Florida, no matter how the neighbors helped, we would always come home to dead car batteries, or the furnace didn’t kick in,” she says.

“Now, while we’re enjoying the warm weather, Touchmark takes care of all the details here. We go to Florida in January and come back in April. While we’re gone, Touchmark will start our car so the battery doesn’t die. They clean while we’re gone. They check the faucets, and when we walk in after Florida, everything is pristine.”

Their bright, colorful single-family home is on a neat cul-de-sac near the Touchmark main building and offers expansive views of trimmed lawns and trees gently swaying in the breeze. It’s a home that has the personal touches that make Marge happy and the support system that takes the burden of home maintenance off of Bob.

Choosing a new home

In 2015, the couple decided it was time to move from their large home on the banks of the Fox River in Kaukauna to a 1,640-square-foot home in Touchmark’s Fox Pointe neighborhood. Then they moved to a slightly larger home just down the street.

Bob is a retired sales executive for a paper-converting company, and Marge taught elementary school in Kaukauna. Now grown, their son and daughter were raised in the family home but attended college out of state and eventually started their families outside of Wisconsin. But Marge and Bob say the Fox River Valley was—and is—their home, so they knew their retirement years would be spent in the area they’d come to love.

Before moving to Touchmark, the couple had researched the community as a possible home for Bob’s mother. When they decided it was time for them to move, Touchmark was their first choice. “My mother passed, and three years later, we’re here. Instead of bringing her, we just moved in ourselves,” Bob says.

Adding personalized touches

A painter, Marge’s artistic talent is evident in every corner of their home. The living and dining areas are accented by walls painted soft teal and aqua. The master bedroom is painted a subdued lilac, and the kitchen is accented in gray neutrals. Family photos and treasured heirlooms accent the bright space. The couple worked with Touchmark to customize the home and give it a personalized palette and designer touches. “The environment is so happy,” Marge says. “I love the light! I love the colors, because I picked them. I walk in here, and it feels like home.”

“It’s more than I expected,” says Bob. “I knew we made a good choice, and with the help Touchmark gave us to do what we asked, the results speak for themselves.”

Marge and Bob's house

Beyond customized decorating and manicured landscaping, the couple quickly list the amenities they appreciate that are included with their single-family home at Touchmark. They leave all lawn care, snow removal, hedge trimming, and power-washing the outside of their home to Touchmark. Housecleaning is taken care of every other week and while they’re in Florida. Plus, Touchmark does an annual deep cleaning. Building Services staff take care of plumbing, electrical work—even changing a lightbulb. Bob laughs and says he doesn’t need to touch anything now. “Fix-it doesn’t go with my name anymore!”

Enjoying a community

Bob and Marge spent a lifetime traveling but stay closer to home since Bob’s diagnosis. That hasn’t diminished their zest for pursuing a rich life, though. Marge attends exercise classes and paints. Bob also likes attending Touchmark’s exercise classes. His other pastimes include managing their finances and reviewing his collection of Motown recordings and books. His favorites: Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, and The Temptations.

Marge and Bob eating out

They like the flexibility of cooking at home or taking advantage of 20 meals a month in the Grand. They frequent the neighborhood block parties for the single-family homeowners. Parties always include live entertainment and have featured a pig roast, pizza parties with outdoor pizza ovens, a Hawaiian party, and even a Door County fish boil put on by a popular restaurateur from the region. “It isn’t your mother’s weenie roast,” laughs Marge.

They appreciate how Touchmark encourages residents to choose what they want to pursue and how much they want to get involved. “Touchmark opens the doors, but they don’t push you through,” Marge says.

Bob agrees. “People here can be independent and not feel a pressure to do something or participate in something. But if they don’t participate, it’s their loss.”

The couple values the suburban lifestyle and the independence of their own home without the hassle. Marge explains when she added up the cost of home maintenance, utilities, repairs, appliance replacement, and even the cost for electricians and plumbers, the value was apparent.

The convenient location is also a plus. She cites ready access to the Fox River Mall, the regional airport, and the downtown Performing Arts Center. “I always say we are 10 minutes from anything, yet we feel like we’re in the country. And we don’t have to worry about the everyday stuff.”

Breathing toward a better life

Breath is essential to life. Each person will take about half a billion breaths in their lifetime, most of which are taken without thinking. But focusing on the breath and bringing awareness to it can be a valuable tool in connecting the mind and body.

Our thoughts are connected to our breath, and can be used to influence the way the body behaves through simple exercises. A deep breath tells the body to calm down and encourages full oxygen exchange to keep the heartbeat steady.

For example, stressful thoughts trigger the release of “fight or flight” hormones that then increase blood pressure and heart rate and constrict blood vessels. Deep breathing can reverse this response by increasing blood flow and oxygenation to organs and muscles, thus reducing the damage caused by stress.

The benefits of a regular practice of deep breathing can include:

  • Reduce anxiety, depression, and stress
  • Lower/stabilize blood pressure
  • Increase energy levels
  • Relax muscles

Practicing deep breathing doesn’t have to be complicated. To try, find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. Breathe in through the nose, slowly, allowing the chest and abdomen to expand. Then breathe out slowly through the nose or mouth.

You may find it comforting to close your eyes or even to focus on a word or phrase to help you relax. Many also combine deep breathing with practices that promote it, including meditation, yoga, tai chi, or repetitive prayer.

A daily practice of deep breathing is one of the most effective tools for enhancing your health and producing long-term benefits. Try to practice for 15 – 20 minutes each day. Over time, these techniques can become more natural for your body and breathing will be more effective.

An active mind is a healthy mind

As we age, we often think about a decline in physical health and how we can work to keep our bodies active. But just as important as maintaining physical health is the health of our brains.

When we’re young, we are continuously learning. At some point in life, we often become primarily users of mastered skills and abilities and no longer engage our brains to acquire new abilities.  Most of what we do are things we are familiar with. We apply skills unthinkingly and tend to look for non-stressful paths to things. But this can be detrimental to our mental health.

A lack of challenging activities combined with the gradual shrinking of the brain’s volume with age can lead to brain cell damage and an acceleration of natural cognitive decline.

Fortunately, many of the ways we work to keep our bodies healthy also apply to enhancing brain health. These include staying physically active, following a healthy diet, and engaging in regular mental and social activity.

According to a clinical trial presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, this combination is proven to slow cognitive decline. Slowing this decline can help keep memory language skills, perception, reasoning, and judgment strong—plus keeps brain cells healthy to fight off dementia.

Activities that challenge the brain are key. This can include reading the news and discussing it with others, learning a new skill, taking a class, or playing stimulating games. Helpful online resources for keeping your brain active can be found at the following sites:

  • brainhq.com
  • happy-neuron.com

Additional steps you can take to keep your mind sharp as you age include controlling cholesterol and blood pressure levels, getting sufficient amounts of sleep, and avoiding excessive smoking or drinking.

It’s important to remember that while occasional memory lapses are normal, significant memory loss is not a regular part of aging, and any cognitive changes noted should be discussed with your doctor.

Preparing for flu season

The seasonal flu is a viral infection affecting the nose, throat, and lungs, and with the change in seasons, it’s essential to take preventative steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

For many, the flu is a serious nuisance—and for some, it can develop into a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Those at the highest risk for serious flu complications include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children under the age of 5
  • Adults age 65 and older
  • People with health conditions such as asthma or diabetes

The most effective way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine. Flu vaccines may be administered as a shot or a nasal spray and are available at many different locations, such as your doctor’s office, clinic, pharmacy, or employer. They are covered under the Affordable Care Act as well as Medicare Part B.

In addition to the flu vaccine, listed below are other steps you can take to help prevent the seasonal flu.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • If you do get sick, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever has subsided.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Practice general good health habits, such as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at home, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating a healthy and balanced diet.

Taking action to prevent the flu can help ensure you have the best season ever!

This season, strive for wellness in every dimension

With changes in the weather often come changes in how we feel, whether that means feeling cold, feeling sadness, or simply feeling different than the previous week. Whatever we’re feeling, overall wellness is important for optimal health. The following tips can help us make sure our wellness is in top shape!

To improve your emotional wellness

Practice optimism. Read books that interest you, and spend time with family and friends. Manage stress by setting boundaries, laughing, smiling, and hugging.

To improve your environmental wellness

Respect resources by choosing green processes. Seek ways to spend time in natural settings through walking paths, meditation, gardening, and similar options

To improve your intellectual wellness

Read. Challenge your brain with games. Learn new skills, and share and discuss your interests with others.

To improve your occupational wellness

Pursue interests. Contribute your passion or hobby in a paid or volunteer role. Recognize the value of your contribution, and get involved in your community.

To improve your physical wellness

Engage in regular physical activity, get adequate sleep, and have regular health checkups. Get a massage, eat a variety of healthy foods, and ask your doctor which vitamins might benefit you. (These things will also help your emotional wellness!)

To improve your social wellness

Listen to and care for others. Touch, hug, and laugh. Develop and nurture close, warm friendships. Join a club or an organization.

To improve your spiritual wellness

Live with a sense of purpose, guided by personal values. Participate in group or individual faith-based activities, meditation, or mindful exercises (tai chi, Qigong, yoga).

Practice wellness every day for the healthiest you!

Focus on health all hours of the day (and night)

While being active, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet are often touted as the keys to a healthy lifestyle, the amount and quality of your sleep is just as important.

Getting enough sleep provides valuable benefits for both our minds and bodies, as it can affect our immune system, appetite, hormone levels, blood pressure, and more.

As people age, falling asleep and staying asleep can become more of a struggle, and the prevalence of insomnia rises, as well. This can be caused by changes in circadian rhythms, hormone levels, lifestyle habits, or effects from medications.

However, sleep needs remain the same throughout adulthood—seven to nine hours per night. A lack of quality sleep each night can lead to reduced productivity, daytime sleepiness, depression, increased risk of obesity, and other health concerns.

There are certain practices you can follow to help fall asleep faster and get quality sleep each night:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Do not nap for longer than 20 minutes.
  • Use your bed only for sleeping. Do not read, snack, or watch television in bed.
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol in the evenings.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications that may be keeping you awake at night, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, and cardiovascular drugs.

Taking care of yourself at night can help your daytime hours be safer, healthier, and more enjoyable.

Proper Poise for Healthy Living

While we’re careful about what we eat and how much we sleep, sometimes we forget how important moving correctly is. As we get more active outdoors with friends and family, let’s take a moment to reflect on the importance of ergonomics—the science of human safety and capabilities—in our everyday lives.

The ways we sleep, sit, twist, bend, reach, and stand can all have lasting effects on the health of our bodies. If not practiced properly, repetitive actions can lead to overused muscles, poor posture, and eventually even injury. As we age, our muscle and bone mass naturally decrease, which can lead to stiff joints and limited mobility.

No matter what activities you’re doing, it’s important to make sure you’re safe and comfortable at all times. The following tips can provide a helpful starting point to assess your ergonomic safeguards.

  • When sitting at a computer, make sure your feet are flat on the ground, your monitor is at eye level, and your wrists are flat and straight. And be sure to sit up straight.
  • If you have to stay in one spot for a prolonged amount of time, don’t just sit—get up and walk around every hour to avoid slouching or slumping.
  • Any time you must stand for long periods of time, be sure to wear supportive footwear to help maintain the body’s center of gravity and alignment of the spine.
  • When lifting something from the ground, bend only at the knees and hips, keep the object close to your body, and avoid twisting while lifting.
  • Get regular aerobic exercise—such as running, walking, or swimming—to help the muscles of the back stay strong and promote good posture.

By staying proactive and practicing proper posture in everyday activities, you can keep your body pain-free and healthy!

Seven Dimensions for Full Living

As we age, experts agree it is essential that we stay physically active. But many don’t realize there are several other factors that add up to healthy wholeness. In fact, living a full and satisfied life means overall “wellness,” which is defined by more than physical well-being.

In 1976, Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, developed a six-dimensional model for achieving wellness. According to Dr. Hettler’s model, by focusing on and balancing each of these factors, a more complete form of wellness could be achieved.

In the years since Dr. Hettler made his discovery, a variety of organizations, from universities to health care professionals, have adopted these dimensions. And in the years following, a seventh dimension has been added.

The seven dimensions of wellness are:

  • Emotional: Being aware of feelings and coping with challenges in a respectful way signals emotional wellness and helps create a balance in life.
  • Physical: Healthy lifestyle choices can help maintain or improve health and function.
  • Spiritual: Living with a sense of purpose in life and being guided by personal values is key to our well-being and connection to the larger world and others.
  • Occupational: Utilizing our skills and passion, while cultivating personal satisfaction, is valuable to both society and the individual.
  • Intellectual: Engaging in intellectually stimulating activities is a proven approach to maintaining cognitive function.
  • Social: Positive social support has a protective influence on our health and well-being.
  • Environmental: Living with a greater awareness of the world allows us to begin to make environmentally friendly choices.

The dimensions in action

At Touchmark, the seven dimensions of wellness are an essential part of the Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program™. This award-winning program identifies people’s strengths, skills, needs, interests, and goals to help them lead happy, healthy, and full lives.

By focusing on each dimension, individuals become aware of the dimensions’ interconnectedness and how they contribute to overall health. And the dimensions can be applied in multiple ways to nearly every area of daily activity. For example, going on a hike with friends combines aspects of the physical, social, and environmental, but may also involve the spiritual, emotional, and even the occupational and intellectual, depending on conversations, thoughts, and experiences. The same dimensions may interact in a variety of ways when we go on a picnic, play a game of pickleball, or visit a museum.

Touchmark’s Health & Fitness Club can help by offering residents a firm foundation in the physical that can be easily added onto with other elements like the mental, in classes like yoga, and the social, intellectual, and more in group fitness classes and other group activities in the heated pool.

In order to provide a plethora of opportunities for these kinds of interdimensional crossovers, Touchmark uses its Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program and the seven dimensions to craft daily diverse and creative events and activities that often go beyond what some might expect from a retirement community.

“Residents may find themselves on a seven-day train trip through California, digging in at our old-fashioned clam bake, or enjoying the sights of Touchmark’s annual Father’s Day Weekend Classic Car Show,” says Touchmark at Meadow Lake Village Executive Director Matthew Hoskin. “By carefully listening to what people are interested in, we’re able to offer residents a lifestyle that’s not only fun, enriching, and engaging, but also includes all the elements of wellness.”

Touchmark believes that a full life is available to anyone—no matter one’s age—and its Full Life program ensures all residents have the unique tools, opportunities, and community support to bring their personal vision to life.