Touchmark Reports: April 2016

Current research and news to enhance your well-being …

Get out and shake it!

Whatever you do to keep your body moving is beneficial for your brain.


Even older adults need a boost(er).

Booster shots and other vaccinations are an important step in maintaining good health.


A look at dementia, through spouses’ eyes …

The effects of dementia can be trying for any marriage. Sometimes, just hearing someone else’s story can help.


Eat your apples (and other fruit)!

An expansive study in China shows a potential link between regular fruit consumption and reduced health risks.


Look to your waist—not your weight—to predict heart disease.

Excess abdominal fat can be a powerful predictor of heart disease.


Show your pearly whites some love.

April is National Oral Health Month in Canada. Good oral health can improve overall health and quality of life.


Beware: little-known danger lurks in the backyard barbecue.

Before you fire up the grill, take a closer look.

 

When “fine” is not really fine

As the child of an aging parent, it can be difficult to notice signs that things may not be as “fine” as the parent claims them to be. Those who live far away and may be consumed with their own busy lives can easily miss changes that can affect their parent’s safety, health, and overall well-being.

When visiting a parent or loved one, the signs listed below are just some of the things to keep an eye on to make sure they are continuing to manage well at home. Spending the night at a person’s house can often provide more insights than a short visit, and can allow you to observe hygiene, cleaning, and nutrition habits.

  • If things are piling up, the lawn and garden are overgrown, and laundry is not done, household chores may be too much to handle.
  • In the kitchen, charred pots and pans or burn marks on the countertops can indicate potential safety concerns. Expired food in the refrigerator may mean that nutrition needs are not being met.
  • Scratches on the side of the car could indicate it’s time to give up the keys.
  • Even when living with a spouse, the partner who serves as caregiver may be overwhelmed and in need of support.

A parent or loved one who insists they are managing fine by themselves will likely be resistant to accepting help. They may be too proud, in denial, or trying to avoid feeling like a burden. It’s important to approach any conversation with sensitivity and not just force a solution upon the person.

Adjustments to help a loved one manage at home can be small and may not require much disruption to personal routines. Hiring a cleaning service, transportation, or home care to assist with daily activities can help an older adult maintain their confidence and remain independent in their home.

Agreeing to check in every few months can help to identify potential issues and find solutions before they get serious. Maintaining an open dialogue about the changes that lie ahead can help to avoid surprises and avoid children having to “parent” their older parents.

Meet Kathy and Bob Ramsay

Catch them if you can
There is hardly a corner of the globe nor an adventure in Bend that Bob and Kathy Ramsay have not explored. And as Touchmark residents, they continue to embrace the {FULL} life.

The Ramsays met 36 years ago, when both were naval officers in the Philippines. Within a month of their meeting, Bob’s ship set sail and the two began a long-distance romance. Between space-available flights and conveniently scheduled training missions, they managed to see each other quite regularly. “We dated for a year long distance, and in that one year we got together 40 weeks out of 52,” says Bob. They will celebrate 35 years of marriage in May 2016.

Upon retiring from the Navy, the couple started an aerospace-consulting company in the Puget Sound area, and ran that company for 20 years before moving to Touchmark. The two did their homework before making the decision to move. “Bob had done lots of research online,” says Kathy. “We figured that if we’re going to go to all the trouble to move, let’s find a community offering a continuum of care so we won’t have to move again.”

They considered some communities in the Seattle area, but upon visiting Touchmark, they knew their decision was made. “When we drove in here, there was no comparison. This is what we were looking for, with the trees, river, and architecture.”

It may be a long wait
The Ramsays were told it could take five to seven years for a house on the river to open. “We ended up getting the call in only three months!” says Kathy. An upcoming cruise adventure posed a bit of a hurdle, though. “The wrinkle was that we were getting ready to go to Antarctica, and then we’d have to sell our house. We had 41 days to make it all happen, and it was meant to be! We got the perfect house for us. This is karma!”

While the earlier-than-expected move to Touchmark proved to be a challenge, the decision was not. “Once we knew we were coming, we shut the company down and moved here. It was an easy decision,” says Bob.

The couple wasted no time getting immersed in the Touchmark lifestyle. “We’re thrilled to be here, and we’re more active than we ever were,” says Kathy. “One word to describe it is ‘fun’. We’re laughing all the time! It’s really, really healthy. We participate in all kinds of stuff that Touchmark and Bend have to offer. Plus, we traded 300 days of rain for 300 days of sun!”

Bob adds, “One of the best parts is the happy hours and then going into the dining room and hanging out with people for a few hours. Every one of these people has a great story to tell, and they’re all different. All you have to do is ask them to tell you about themselves, and they have a lot to say!”

Loving life
The Ramsays love their carefree lifestyle. “We had a huge yard in Washington and spent hours keeping it up,” says Kathy. “Now I just have tomatoes in pots on the deck, and Bob doesn’t have to do anything except go hit golf balls.”

Bob grins. “I go out and watch those guys mow my lawn every Monday!”

From their river-view home, they watch the tubers and kayakers. Four days every week, they walk the River Trail. “We are really, really busy, but it’s really, really fun,” says Kathy. “I overheard Bob tell a friend, ‘I’ve known this lady for over 30 years, and she’s never been healthier or happier.’ There’s so much to do here, and the people are so wonderful. We’re as social as we can be!”

The busy couple can be found participating in a myriad of activities. For example, they are founding members of the wine club; they also enjoy playing Mahjong and Jeopardy as well as golfing with their neighbors, and skiing. They attend resident presentations in the Forum and Socrates Circle, and the two plan to participate on one of Touchmark’s Pole Pedal Paddle (PPP) teams this spring.

Kathy was the sprinter on last year’s team that placed first for their age group. “Our downhill competitor was 84, our kayaker was 80, the chef did the mountain run, and a manager did a run.”

Bob and Kathy also manage to continue their globetrotting. In March, they returned from nearly a month of travel. Their trip started in Singapore. After a few days, they boarded a Seabourn® cruise ship and set sail for Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. “It was fabulous,” says Kathy. “Culturally, very interesting! And Seabourn ships are small and beautiful, and both the crew and passengers are international. It was a great experience.”

She adds that a lot of travelers live at Touchmark. “It’s so easy; they watch your house and take care of things.”

After a few days recovering from jet lag, the Ramsays’ days are again filled with friends and fun at home … and planning for their next trip.

Plugging in to today’s technology

Technology is abundant in the lives of most people these days, but older adults historically have not embraced it with the same fervor as younger generations. Today’s seniors are most likely to adopt technologies that provide some benefit to their lives instead of just technology for technology’s sake.

If you’ve tried to help a loved one use technology, you may have been met with resistance for a number of reasons:

  • They don’t see a need or any benefit in using a certain technology.
  • They’re not confident they’ll be able to use it.
  • They worry they can’t afford it.
  • They get easily frustrated.

But usage is increasing. According to a Pew Research Center study, 60% of adults over the age of 65 now use the internet and 77% have a cell phone. Of those who have a smartphone, 82% reported finding the phone a way to connect rather than distract.

Fortunately, most of today’s technology is intuitive and easy for nearly anyone to learn how to use. Many tools can be valuable for seniors and can help improve personal wellness, such as video calls to keep in touch with friends and loved ones, health tracking apps, brain fitness apps, and more.

For those looking to help an older adult get connected—or embrace more technology yourself, consider the following approaches:

  • Research a range of size and price options. Tablets are less expensive and usually simpler than a desktop computer. If home internet service is not feasible, consider using computers at the local library, or using Wi-Fi in cafés and other public places.
  • Look for local classes and workshops designed to help seniors with technology. While family members and friends can teach how to use new devices, sometimes being with those in similar situations and learning from a professional can have more of an impact.
  • Explore how technology can actually make things easier. There are apps for everything these days, including medication reminders, health trackers, and safety notification.
  • Stay safe—keep informed of scams and viruses to make your online experience a positive one.

 

How much exercise do I actually need?

Senior couple riding bikes

No matter your age, physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. It can help reduce the risk of certain health conditions, keep muscles strong, and help you maintain your independence for longer.

Any activity is better than nothing, but the CDC recommends achieving certain levels of activity to gain maximum benefits from exercise.

For those over the age of 65 with no limiting health conditions, it is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, plus two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities that target all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

What kind of exercise should I focus on?

While 150 minutes per week can sound like a lot, it’s much more manageable when broken down into smaller increments. You might spend 30 minutes exercising five days out of the week—or you might break that down further into 10-minute segments.

Aerobic activity should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time to get the heart beating faster. These activities can range in intensity from mild to vigorous and it’s important to note that one minute of vigorous activity is roughly the same as two minutes of moderate activity. Aerobic activities can include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Taking a dance class
  • Riding a bike

Muscle-strengthening activities help keep muscles strong and should be done as repetitions (8-12) in a set. You can strengthen your muscles through:

  • Lifting weights
  • Using resistance bands
  • Heavy gardening
  • Yoga
  • Doing push-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises that use body weight as resistance

Exercise is for everyone

Many people also believe the misconception that if they are living with a chronic condition or disability, physical activity may not be safe for them. In fact, physical activity provides important health benefits for everyone, as it can improve quality of life and help reduce the risk of developing certain conditions. Inactivity can be more dangerous than activity for your overall health.

It’s recommended to speak with your doctor to determine the best types and amounts of exercise for you.

Meet Sally and Rich Bradbury

Enjoying a full life of fitness, friends, and travel
touchmark4Sally and Rich Bradbury are packing their bags again. This time, they’re heading to Palm Desert for a couple of weeks to visit friends. Then it’s back to their Touchmark home in Meridian, just minutes from Boise.

Both are from the Treasure Valley. They met at the University of Idaho, where Rich set records on the swim team. After Rich finished his Army service in Korea, the couple settled near Walnut Creek, California, and started raising their family of four daughters and a son. Rich’s responsibilities as general manager with New York Life often pulled him away from home as he shouldered the position’s many demands.

Growing a successful business
While in Miami for a business meeting, he called Sally to suggest a spur-of-the moment trip to Las Vegas. “There and then, we decided we wanted to have more fun. I quit New York Life, and we carved out a new opportunity.”

While Sally took care of the children and home, Rich formed a business with three others offering insurance for disability, life, and health insurance as well as pension and profit sharing plans to 200 newly formed professional corporations. After three years, Rich set out on his own forming Bradbury and Associates and providing a mix of insurance policies and pension/retirement plans and investments for a diverse client mix of physicians, dentists, small-business owners, lawyers, wine purveyors, and many others.

“I was in charge of the office administration, and Rich was on the road constantly visiting clients and hand delivering their reports. Every year, he would visit each client three to four times.”

“I drove up and down the coast putting in a lot of miles and wore out three Mercedes Benzes!”

Making time for fitness
Even while busy running a business and raising a family, the Bradburys always placed a priority on sports, physical activity, and outdoor adventures.

“I’d come home from the office, and Sally would have everything organized and food ready to go,” explains Rich. “Camping was our way to build good family relationships and teach our kids to love the outdoors.”

As the kids grew, the couple enjoyed tap dancing, racquetball, tennis, and then snow skiing—a sport that kept their attention for more than 20 years and into retirement.

“We really enjoyed it. Since Rich and I worked together all day, the ski mountain was one place where we didn’t talk business as we were more focused on getting down the mountain.”

She continues, “When we retired, we moved to our vacation home near Tahoe and clicked with a good group of people who were all interested in the same things: hiking, biking, skiing, and golf. We had some very special trips of exotic travel that included scuba diving while living aboard ships in the Grand Cayman, Philippines, and Belize.”

When knees no longer appreciated the impact of skiing, the Bradburys moved to Palm Desert filling their days with golf, trips to Idaho to visit family, and road trip with friends.

“We stayed all over the Idaho backcountry—Redfish Lake, Henry’s Lake, Driggs—exploring and staying in funky places,” laughs Sally. “We were always Idaho centric and would come back for Vandal football games, jazz concerts, and skiing.”

Combining a passion for history and travel
Another interest the couple share is visiting professional baseball stadiums and presidential libraries. “Of the 30 professional teams, we’ve seen 16 ballparks,” says Rich. “Baltimore and San Francisco are two of our favorites as the parks are so well designed you feel close to the field.”

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Museum in Simi Valley, California, is one of their favorites, because they were able to tour the Air Force One Pavilion, which houses an Air Force One plane that served seven presidents including President Reagan. Another favorite is The Jefferson Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, because of the many inventions President Jefferson created.

Next on their list? The intrepid travelers are planning a trip to see the Texas Rangers at their home stadium in Arlington. Close by are the libraries honoring the two Bush presidents: the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station.

Keeping fit and making new friends
While at home, Rich and Sally work out regularly at the Touchmark Health & Fitness Club. Both take the Balance & Posture class and enjoy the pool as well as work out on their own using the different equipment.

Touchmark also provides opportunities for regional excursions and social outings. “We like to eat at different restaurants that we wouldn’t normally go to,” says Rich. “Most importantly, it gives us a chance to meet other residents we haven’t yet met. Talking over dinner gives us a chance to hear others’ interesting life stories.”

Sally smiles and adds, “We’re lucky we like to do the same things. It keeps us together and on the move.”

The Hidden Dangers of Depression

hands_shutterstock_176258786Although not often discussed, depression in older adults is common—affecting about six million Americans over the age of 65. It’s a serious condition that can easily be overlooked by both loved ones and medical professionals.

Depression later in life often accompanies other medical conditions, which can make it difficult to identify. The condition may be expressed through physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, or loss of appetite, all of which can be easily attributed to other factors. Other symptoms of depression may include aches and pains, loss of interest in hobbies, and a lack of motivation.

It may also be difficult to distinguish between depression and grief, which may be caused by the death of a spouse or friends. Grief is natural, but when it persists and includes feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or even suicide, it may actually be depression.

In older adults, depression can develop as a result of a serious health condition, such as a stroke, heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer’s—and can also increase a person’s risk of developing certain conditions. It’s important to recognize depression as a separate issue and treat it as such.

Staying aware, active, and engaged

There are certain steps you can take to minimize the effects of depression, especially for those who may be at a higher risk.

  • Walking for 30 minutes three times a week or other types of regular exercise can be even more effective than medication in treating depression.
  • Consider taking folic acid and B12 supplements, as deficiencies can increase the risk of depression in older adults—but check with your doctor first.
  • Review medication side effects with your doctor, as symptoms of depression may be a known effect.
  • Socialize regularly. Spending time face-to-face with friends and loved ones offers support.
  • Maintain a healthy diet of foods that provide nourishment and energy.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark at night and get enough sleep.

If symptoms of depression persist, your doctor can determine the best treatment approach, which might include medication, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, or a combination of treatments. Be sure to vocalize your concerns if you are experiencing symptoms of depression. Seek help and don’t be embarrassed.

Finding focus in an increasingly distracting world

attraktive, grauhaarige Frau genießt das MeerThese days, just reading an article online can seem like an impossible task—with pop-up ads, related links, email notifications, and more competing for our attention as we read. Even offline, cell phones, television and radio ads, or a knock at the door make distractions feel more ubiquitous than ever.

 

Organizations, advertisers, and even our loved ones are constantly trying to compete for our attention. This endless stimulation can have negative effects on our ability to focus on one task. Research shows that after a distraction, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back to the original task.

 

As we age, not only do we have to contend against the endless distractions of the modern world, but we also are battling nature’s effects on the brain, with an increase in memory problems and brain fog. Getting through a to-do list can seem almost impossible.

 

Fortunately, there are steps to help restore or enhance focus and feel confident in your productivity.

 

  • Keep a notepad and pen nearby to jot down any reminders that you think of in the middle of a task—avoiding having to interrupt yourself with something new. While multi-tasking is a common goal, the brain can really only handle two simultaneous thoughts.

 

  • Practice mindful meditation to train your brain to stay clear throughout your day. This can be as simple as taking a few seconds to count your breaths.

 

  • Schedule time for important tasks and commit to completing them (and nothing else) during that time.

 

  • Train your focusing abilities on something you enjoy. Read a book or watch a movie to enhance engagement and absorb yourself in the story. These skills can be recalled when working toward a goal.

 

  • Exercise your mind every day. Crossword puzzles, passionate discussions, or making something keeps your mind active and strong.

 

Focus may not be attainable in ways it once was, but with mindful behavior it can still be achievable for maintaining a productive way of life.

 

Success{FULL} role model

Meet Neal Gamsky

Dr. Neal Gamsky describes himself as “a high-energy person.” The 84-year-old leads an active life with Irene, his wife of nearly 60 years. Born into “abject poverty”, Neal met Irene in elementary school. The two later became high school sweethearts. At age 25, after graduating from college with bachelor’s degrees in education—and his two-year stint in the US Army completed—they married.

Education and working with young people have played a central role in the couple’s lives. Irene, a teacher, earned a master’s degree in counseling. Neal followed his time in the army with law school, a master’s in psychology, and three years as a high school counselor. “I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” he says of their two daughters, who also have advanced degrees.

In 1962, a persistent professor persuaded Neal to pursue a doctorate—and the degree opened a new life chapter. He worked in a psychiatric facility at the University of Wisconsin and for the state in mental health. This led to an opportunity at Illinois State University (ISU). “They brought me there to start a counseling center and teach clinical psychology,” Neal shares. “I became a full tenured professor, and I taught for several years before being appointed Vice President and Dean of Students”; he continued to teach clinical psychology for another 20 years. Today, three awards at ISU are named after him.

Building a life at Touchmark
Since moving to Touchmark, the couple has become involved in numerous activities offered through the Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program™. They continue to participate in outside activities, as well.

Neal enjoys trophy fishing, gardening, and photography; reads medical research and financial reports (“it keeps my brain sharp”); and attends plays, musicals, and lectures with his wife. In addition, he exercises for two hours on most days of the week. Neal serves on the Touchmark Resident Council (he was formerly president), and the party-loving couple invites other residents into their home “so we can get to know them.” They are also ICAA Champions. “I like trying to get people involved in trips and other activities,” Neal says.

He encourages others to eat well, exercise, and participate in intellectual activities.

For Neal, active aging “means engaging yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally in the community and for yourself. You have to stay active—exercise, be involved intellectually and emotionally, and interact socially. It means having a sense of curiosity.”

Outside the community, the couple advises older friends to downsize. “Things don’t create your life, people do,” Neal observes. “We let friends know that you’re not giving up your life when you downsize. Instead, you’ll be more engaged in life, if you move out of a large, demanding home.”

It’s all about perspective
Neal also finds that a positive attitude to aging makes a difference. “I’m trying to grow old cheerfully,” he stresses. Someone who naturally jokes a lot, he cites the example of his mother, who died at age 96 and “always chose to look forward to tomorrow.”

Travel is a particular passion. Every year includes a three-month stay in Florida for the couple, who’ve “been to all 50 states and visited every presidential home, museum, birthplace, and many of their graves,” Neal shares. The world travelers have explored every country in Europe, plus Finland, Russia, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. His once or twice a year travelogues are enjoyed by Touchmark residents.

Young people, too, have learned from these active-aging role models. “My wife and I gave back-to-back presentations—six of them—to high-school health classes for sophomores, juniors, and seniors combined,” Neal reveals. Pre-presentation surveys asked the teenagers their biggest worry about growing old. “You’ll never guess what most students answered,” says the former high-school counselor and grandfather of four—“getting wrinkles!” Among the words of wisdom he shared with the students? “Age is not a matter of years; it’s a matter of perception.”

Being Prepared: Learn About Advanced Directives

It’s not an easy thing to think about, but planning ahead for end-of-life care can prevent stress and anxiety among family members and make sure your wishes are met whenever the time comes.

The most effective way to set your wishes in place is to develop an advance directive. Requirements for this legal record vary by state (find your state’s requirements here), but do not typically require help from a lawyer and can simply be a notarized statement of your wishes.

An advance directive is actually made up of two separate documents: a living will and a health care power of attorney. Some states combine these documents into one, so be sure to check.

  • A living will is a written plan for what types of medical or life-sustaining treatment a person wants when they are unable to speak for themselves.
  • A healthcare power of attorney designates someone to make health care decisions on the person’s behalf when the person cannot communicate for themselves. This is different from a regular durable power of attorney, which usually is for financial matters.

Despite the importance and relative ease of creating an advance directive, they’re not quite as common as you’d expect. According to The American Journal of Medicine, only 26.3% of Americans report having an advance directive in place. And the California Healthcare Foundation reports that only 7% of people reported having an end-of-life conversation with their doctor.

Sharing this information with family members, your doctor, and the person you have chosen to serve as your health care proxy can help provide peace of mind for your loved ones. An advance directive can be changed at any time, as long as the person is considered of sound mind to do so.

To learn more about end-of-life care and ensuring your wishes are met, check out the following resources or look for an informational class in your area.