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Yoga and Meditation: The Two Activities Seniors and Caregivers Can Benefit From

Growing older brings its own set of stresses and struggles, from changes in mobility to limited independence and the onset of more wrinkles. Caregivers experience stress as well and are at risk for burnout. What if there was an activity the two of you could enjoy together that not only provided stress relief, but offered other mental and physical benefits, too? Look no further; yoga and meditation are here to save the day.

The Benefits from a Senior Perspective

Yoga is about much more than contorting your body into pretzel-like positions and standing on your head—neither of which are recommended. So, what benefit could it possibly provide you? Well, yoga has several physical benefits, one of which is improved joint health and flexibility. As you get older, you’ve probably noticed that your joints feel stiff, and you may experience aches and pains. Yoga is a low-impact way to loosen your muscles, improve range of motion, and build strength to prevent falls. Practicing yoga has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower anxiety, and promote mindfulness. Meditation is a less physical practice, but the mental benefits are outstanding. According to U.S. News, regular meditation practice has seen seniors show improvement in memory, cognitive functioning, digestion, stress, and chronic pain.

The Benefits from a Caregiver Perspective

As a caregiver, yoga is a great activity to explore what your body can do, but stretching into unimaginable yoga poses isn’t required. In fact, yoga can simply be a way to restore balance and relax pent-up tension. Caregiving is a huge responsibility, but yoga can help you take a moment to focus on your own needs while experiencing helpful benefits, such as reduced stress and depression, and better sleep quality. Meditation is another activity worth looking into, especially once you know the perks. Mindfulness meditation does just what it says: It helps you become more mindful of your thoughts and emotions, and serves as a healthy way to calm them—as opposed to reaching for food or alcohol.

Getting Started with Yoga

The two of you are likely beginners when it comes to yoga, so the key is to start slow and ease into it. When you first start out, it is best to take a class so you can learn the proper poses and reduce the risk of injury. In addition, an instructor will be able to help you safely modify poses should the need arise. Opt for classes that are gentle, such as Hatha yoga. Iyengar yoga is a great option too because it uses props to make poses easier, in addition to Kripalu and Viniyoga, which focus on tailoring the postures to each individual. If your senior loved one struggles with mobility or flexibility, a more adaptive approach may be the ticket, such as chair yoga. Once the two of you are feeling confident, you can enjoy a yoga session and various other indoor exercises at home using technology, such as Youtube videos, fitness apps, or even Wii games. Yoga can be practiced anywhere and at a time that works best for you.

Getting Started with Meditation

Meditationis simpler than yoga in that it doesn’t require formal instruction to practice safely. However, don’t let its simplicity lead you to believe it doesn’t offer just as many benefits as yoga. There are various types of meditation, with some using guided imagery, but all focus on breathing and clearing the mind. Simply take a seat, whether on the floor or in a comfy chair, and follow along to the meditation video of your choosing. Once you learn the technique, you and your loved one are free to practice whenever and wherever.

Both seniors and their caregivers can benefit from yoga and meditation. The best part of both is that you can do it together, so the stress of finding time isn’t an issue. Take a breath, relax, and enjoy this new adventure together.

About the Author: Harry Cline is creator of and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

Image via Unsplash

Planning and Paying for Your Long-Term Care Needs

Most seniors end up needing some kind of long-term care during their retirement. Whether it’s short-term custodial care after a procedure or injury or admittance to a nursing home as dementia symptomsprogress, these long-term care options are not covered by Medicare. The federal insurance program will provide for one to two months in a skilled nursing facilityafter a hospital stay, but even this coverage has its limitations.

To get the kind of care you want, it’s important to come up with planson how to approach long-term care needs when the time comes as well as how to pay for them.

Planning for Long-Term Care Needs

The likelihood of a person needing long-term care is pretty high. The rate of debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s continues to rise, and the American population is only growing older. With that being said, there are things you can do to decrease your chance of needing long-term care by reducing the risk of injury or onset of illness.

It’s never too late to start an exercise regimen -- even in your senior years. Working out regularly helps reduce muscle loss due to age while improving cardiovascular health. Furthermore, some studies show that exercise can slow the onset of dementia symptoms. By using a combination of fitness techniques, including balance exercises, seniors also reduce their risk of falling, which can have dangerous or even deadly consequences.

Most seniors want to age in place within their current home. Not only is it a more comfortable environment, but hiring in-home caregivers is also more affordable than admittance into an assisted living facility. With this in mind, it helps to make accessibility renovationsthat will be of use down the line. Be sure to do things like installing railings on both sides of stairs, utilizing automatic night lights, and removing any loose carpeting or rugs that could be a trip hazard.

Ramps over steps, a shower bench, and wider hallways are just some of the features to consider when thinking about aging in place. Stairs can be difficult to navigate as age affects coordination and balance. Having a non-slick ramp makes it easier for seniors to get around homes that have limited elevations between rooms. The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. A shower bench makes it easy for seniors to bathe safely. Finally, while wider hallways may sound unnecessary, they make it much easier for people in wheelchairs or with walkers to get around within the house.

Paying for Long-Term Care

The further you are from retirement, the more options you have when it comes to paying for long-term care. For instance, long-term care insurancedoes exactly what it sounds like -- it covers whatever costs regarding long-term care you may incur. However, premiums for long-term care insurance can be pretty expensive. Since the population continues to age and the cost of healthcare gradually increases, insurance companies know there is a good chance you will make good of use your policy -- and that’s why they have to charge so much for premiums. However, the younger you are, the less you will be charged because you have a longer period of time to put money into the company.

If long-term care insurance isn’t an option, there are other ways to access funds for custodial care. Individuals who own property can look into a reverse mortgagethat borrows against their home’s value for a cash settlement. After the property owner is deceased, the family can either sell the home to pay back the lender or use other assets to do so.

Even though most seniors end up needing long-term care at some point, many do not know how to plan or pay for it when needed. To reduce your chances of needing custodial care, embrace good habits such as daily exercise that keep the mind and body healthy. If in-home care seems like a better option over an assisted living facility, it helps to make renovations that create accessibility within the home. Finally, long-term care insurance may be expensive, but you are basically paying into something that will cover an extreme cost in the future. If long-term care insurance isn’t an option, look into alternative funding options like a reverse mortgage.

By: Hazel Bridges, Chief Wellness Coach for Seniors,

Courses offered have not been evaluated or endorsed by Bring Smiles to Seniors, Inc.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

The Best Exercise Advice to Reduce the Risk of Falls for Seniors

by: Sharon Wagner

As you grow older your risk for falls increases. Even more disturbing, falling can lead to serious injuries. With a handful of basic exercises added to your routine, you can greatly lower that risk.

Scary Statistics

Age brings a number of health-related concerns, and falling is one of the biggest. In fact, according to the 

National Council on Aging, falls are the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors. American emergency rooms treat an older American every 11 seconds due to fall-related injuries. Some experts feel the fear of falling can even affect seniors’ quality of life in other ways, such as causing depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. However, it’s important to understand that falling is not an unavoidable result of growing older. An exercise routine that engages balance, step, and strength exercises can be a key to lowering your risk for falls.

Stay Balanced

As US News & World Report explains, a number of changes can cause older adults to lose balance and stability. As we age, we can lose the ability to perceive our body’s position. When combined with any nerve damage due to medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes in our legs and feet, the result can be a tumble. What’s more, with reduced strength in our legs, arms, and core to catch ourselves as we go down, the ability to stay upright can become nearly impossible. Exercising can improve neurological function, boost blood flow to lower extremities, and enhance strength, bettering to your ability to stay balanced. Through exercises such as alternating lunges, single-leg stands, and slow toe touches, you can improve balance and stability.

Step It Up

Step exercises are a key to enhancing your mobility in your senior years. Reuters points out that a step-training program can increase your balance and strength, as well as enhance physical functioning. When everyday slips and missteps occur, thanks to a step-training program, you can recover your balance more easily and reduce the chance you’ll take a fall. It improves response time, snap decision-making, and your bodily reaction to becoming off-balance. Simply adding walking to your regimen is the key to your step training. Perform exercises while walking, such as tandem walking, shifting weight from one foot to the other, and stepping on a variety of surfaces.

Build Strength

While any form of exercising offers some level of strength building, using body-weight exercises or lifting weights can be particularly beneficial. Some professionals point out that a strength-training program can keep you more independent, help you stay more social, reverse some symptoms of aging, and boost your energy levels. Strength training can reduce the symptoms of several chronic conditions, such as diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, obesity, depression, and back pain. If you’re new to strength training, one recommendation is to begin by focusing on your form. You can gradually add weights or resistance bands to your routine.

Making Your Plan

It’s important to avoid injury when you’re jumping into any new exercise regimen. Any time you’re beginning a new workout program, you should ease into it. You should also talk with your physician about any issues you have that will require personalizing your workout routine. You don’t want to overdo things or become injured in your effort to be more healthy. Some easy exercises for seniors include stretching, indoor walking, balance exercises and swimming. One suggestion is to have another adult assist you with your exercises initially. The important thing is to ensure you get started in a way that allows you to feel good and stay safe.

Strong and Stable

Reduce your risk of falling with a smart fitness plan added to your lifestyle. Do some balance, step, and strength exercises. You can be more confident, healthy, and strong throughout your senior years!

Courses offered in this article have not been evaluated or endorsed by Bring Smiles to Seniors, Inc. 

How Seniors Can Prepare for and Get Through the Grief of Losing a Spouse

Grieving for a deceased spouse is a completely normal and healthy part of life. This doesn’t make the process any easier, however. A senior going through the spouse-loss journey is going through one of the hardest moments in their life, and the moment can last for weeks, months, and even years. Here’s what you can do when the time comes.

First things first: make the passing as peaceful as possible

For most seniors, passing at home is the preferred way. You must do what you can to help them create a peaceful environment at home. This may involve home modifications, depending on the type of medical equipment they need for their palliative care. You will need to help your senior loved one set up a space for in-home hospice care. In the end, you want the space to be clean but not sterile. It should be warm and full of the things they know and love.

Seek help in the immediate aftermath

Even when you’re dealing with a prolonged illness, the moment you lose your spouse is a shocking and traumatic event. Unfortunately, you can’t just begin to grieve. There are multitudes of things you must do immediately following the death of your spouse. This includes, but is not limited to, making funeral arrangements, settling governmental accounts, handling life insurance, contacting banks, handling real estate and assets, and reviewing final wills and testaments. It’s a lot. You shouldn’t attempt to do it alone. Seek help among family first and then begin to assemble a team of friends, church members, attorneys, etc. to spread out the tasks.

Focus on your physical health first

When you’re grieving a lost loved one, there are a lot of things that are outside of your control—mainly your emotions. Focus on what you can control. You can make sure you stay well by being mindful of your diet and activity level. Grief can cause some people to comfort eat and others to lose their appetites completely. Try to focus on maintaining a healthy diet and try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day―even if it just means walking around your neighborhood. The combination of good food in and solid energy out will help you cope.

Stay social

Grief is a personal emotion, but it doesn’t have to be an isolating one. You may not feel like hanging out with friends and family every day after your spouse is gone, and that’s ok. But completely cutting yourself off from social interaction in an attempt to heal yourself is misguided. Being social is a tenant of overall mental well-being.

Not only that, but you are allowed to be happy, and you are allowed to laugh. Science has shown the healing power of laughter in grave situations. Smiling and laughing while reminiscing about your lost loved one is even more important. One research study showed decreased levels of anxiety and depression in widows/widowers who were able to be positive in memory of their spouses.

It’s okay to grieve for whatever amount of time it takes you. Some say you never actually stop grieving the loss of a spouse. What you can’t do is let that grief prevent you from enjoying the rest of your life. If you’re struggling to figure out how to get yourself well following this tragic event, there are online wellness courses available that can help. Beyond that, you should never be wary of asking for help. People love you, and it is not their burden to guide you through this difficult time; it is their privilege.

By: Hazel Bridges, Chief Wellness Coach for Seniors,

Photo by Christian Langballe on Unsplash

Courses offered in this article have not been evaluated or endorsed by Bring Smiles to Seniors, Inc.