The U.S. Census Bureau graphic above predicts that adults over the age of 65 will exceed the number of children by 2034. The elderly needing significant care (typically over age 80 at present) are showing a rapid increase in cognitive decline. This is the state of affairs assuming nothing changes in the meantime. Fortunately, an army of doctors and scientists are on the case, making strides in eradicating the beast of aging in poor condition and dying too young.
This is the part where I give my opinion voice and do my best to offer creative ways we might improve the overall health and care of the elderly going forward. In fact, that “senior person” might be you. One day, if you live long enough, it definitely will be you. In which case, the matter becomes all that much more compelling. Most of the aging and longevity facts I mention are taken directly from Tony Robbins’ latest book, Life Force (2022) and are not hyperbole. Read the book or visit the website to see for yourself http://lifeforce.com
Complaining about the shortcomings of Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) is a little like visiting the scene of a multi-car pile-up and finding fault with the mop-up operation. It’s a big mess. We’re doing the best we can. At this stage, the most we can do for a person needing assisted living is due diligence or care for them ourselves. Caregiving is a tough job but many of us have done it. In fact, under certain circumstances Medicare will pay a family member to provide home care instead of paying a Nursing Home, which is the next and often final step before death. Hospice can also provide limited assistance in the home setting.
When considering an ALF, you may want to ask the manager how much daily physical exercise the residents receive or have the opportunity to participate in? Do they employ a physical therapist? How about a certified fitness coach? The answer is no, in most cases. “Activities” in ALF speak is passive social distraction like movies or games like Bingo. On the rare occasion they might go on a group outing. You might want to inquire about the frequency of these offerings.
In the facility where I trained, they had a gorgeous grand piano in the lobby. When I went to play it, it was so horribly out-of- tune I knew it was there just to leave visitors a “grand” impression. Even the so-called activities director (an overweight young girl with no physical fitness or psychological training) just laughed. I didn’t think it was funny at all.
Does the ALF facility advertise “chef-prepared” meals? This is a favorite marketing ploy. It’s simply not true. NOT a single place I’ve seen employs a trained chef. If they claim that ask which culinary institute their “chef” graduated from? In the final analysis, do you or anyone else really need a chef to prepare their meals? Of course not.
So why do they language their ads like that? The answer is simple. These places are literally invested in getting you to buy what they’re selling. If you choose one, choose wisely. Once your loved one moves in, visit them often and us unpredictably as you can. If they know you’re likely to drop in for a visit, the staff will pay extra attention to them.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.Benjamin Franklin
Lack of awareness about geriatric health and elder care is at the root of the problem we currently face. Now is the time to take action, not some time in the future. The sooner we take charge of our health, the better. We need to educate ourselves and our society because many, maybe even most, of us can age well and live longer and healthier lives than we previously thought. An increasing number of people are living well into their 100s. The new average life expectancy is projected to change from 85 for men and 92 for women to 120 within the next decade.
The latest findings on regular exercise (according to Tony Robbins’ Life Force) are rather startling. Muscle strength is becoming a new marker for predicting health as we age. That means we must find ways to be active and stay that way. Take up a sport you enjoy. Take daily walks. Lift weights and/or do calisthenics to build and maintain muscle.
The recommendation of how much exercise we need now is 45 minutes a day of moderate exertion at least four days a week. That’s almost double what was once believed. Inactivity is a recipe for disaster. And eliminate or radically reduce your intake of sugar and processed carbohydrates. Whole grains, lean protein and fresh fruits and veggies are the best foods for us. I’m on a campaign to get sugar out of my life.
The dementia problem is probably as great a threat as heart disease. Heart disease can at least be monitored and managed. Dementia, not so much. Contrary to widespread belief, cognitive decline is not a given in older adults. There are also a few different types of dementia.
The most well known is Alzheimer’s Disease, a deadly condition that is believed to be caused by plaque build-up in the brain. It can kill rapidly or slowly. As of now there is no cure for it. Then there’s vascular dementia, cognitive impairment caused by lack of oxygen to the brain due to stroke and/or trans-ischemic attacks (TIAs). Vascular and cardiac health are the best prevention for this type of dementia. And there’s a condition known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). There is a test for MCI. People with MCI tend to develop more severe cognitive decline as they age. If you know you have it, start exercising your brain now.
June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month#endalz
Contrary some sobering statistics at https://www.alz.org there are things we can do to prevent cognitive decline. One of them is brain training. Clinical trials show that just 20 hours of https://www.brainhq.com brain training improves cognitive health by 45 percent! In fact, certain Medicare Advantage programs will pay for a BrainHQ membership. Practicing the piano promotes brain health too. Interestingly enough, Soduku and Chess have little, if any proven impact.
We can live longer and healthier than ever but only if we work at it! Maybe science will soon even learn and be able to teach us about reclaiming some of the health we may have already lost. I know I’m excited about the possibilities. I have osteopenia. That’s why I became a member of https://osteostrong.me. I’ve written a couple of posts about how a new technology is helping people like me rebuild bone mass density. Osteoporosis is considered a silent killer because we often don’t know we have weak bones until we suffer a debilitating fracture.
I sincerely hope this has helped someone take better care of their loved one and their own health. May you live a long and healthy life!