Should Older Adults Write New Year’s Resolutions?

When we were children, we couldn’t wait to stay up until the ball dropped in Times Square, the confetti was tossed, someone sang Auld Lang Syne … or whatever meant that we didn’t have to be in bed at the usual time.

As young adults, we looked for parties and threw the confetti ourselves. We were mature enough, we believed, to take on the world. We wrote New Year’s resolutions that we took seriously, for a couple of days at least.

And then in middle age, we may have been a bit more subdued, but noting the year and thinking about the future were still important for December 31.

So, what about older adults? Have they seen it all? Are they “over” celebrating? Should they have a special early afternoon party and plan to be in bed at the usual pre-midnight time?

I suggest, rather emphatically, no!

As long as older adults are physically and cognitively healthy, celebrating and writing resolutions can still have real meaning for them. Planning new activities, engagement with family and friends, volunteering or working, refurnishing their houses or moving to new communities . . . new life adventures . . . may be some of their resolutions for the new year.

As C. S. Lewis wrote

Are you an older adult? Do you live with or care for an older adult?

I invite you to take time to celebrate the new year and write your resolutions for 2019!

If you would like suggestions for New Year’s Eve celebrations and making resolutions, look at New Year’s Eve & Resolutions (Home Care Assistance) and New Year’s Eve Party Ideas (Medicare).

Too Young to Be a Grandmom?!

Recently, “Grandma to Be” sent a letter to advice columnist (and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me panelist – yeah!) Amy Dickinson.

Grandma to Be wrote with pleasure that her daughter was expecting her first child. However, she also wrote that she had an 8-year-old step grandchild. She didn’t publicly acknowledge this youngster because she didn’t want her friends to think she was old enough to have been a grandparent for almost a decade.

Dickinson answered, essentially, that life happens when it happens. Embrace the reality.

Right!

And I would go even further. Embrace new paths. Embrace change. Embrace the possibilities! New paths can be exciting and joyous.

Becoming a grandparent is one new path that we may come to as we get older.  What are other paths you are considering for your life?

  • A new job
  • Retirement
  • Playing with your grandchild
  • Caring for an older relative
  • Moving to your dream home
  • Moving to a senior community
  • Taking up a new sport
  • Traveling across the United States

 

To read Grandma to Be and Amy Dickinson’s letters, go to Too Young to Be a Grandmom.

For help thinking about and planning your new paths, contact Dr. Cheryl Greenberg at TheAgeCoach@gmail.com. She will be happy to meet with you, at no cost for a sample session, to see if coaching is a good fit for you.

Why Did Pablo Casals Practice at Age 90?

The legendary cellist Pablo Casals asked why he continued to practice at age 90.

“Because I think I’m making progress,” he replied.

How brilliant! How positive! How engaged in life!

The Myth of the Rocking Chair

The myth about getting older is that seniors can’t work, play or learn, at least not well. When folks believe the myth, they think they must polish up the rocking chair and isolate themselves. They feel useless to others and bored with themselves.

But that is a myth.

Pablo Casals composed his last composition in 1971, at age 94. He traveled to Israel to conduct the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra at age 96.

Astronaut and Senator John Glenn went into space at age 77.

Everyone remembers that Grandma Moses took up painting when she was 76.

And it isn’t only famous people who have accomplished great things as seniors. In June 2014, Charlotte, N.C. resident Harriette Thompson completed her 15th marathon . . .  and broke a record for women in her age group.

Teiichi Igarashi, a former lumberjack, climbed Mt. Fuji when he was 100 years old!

The Reality of New Accomplishments

There is only one secret to accomplishing great things as a senior: refusing the rocking chair and engaging in life.

What new skill would you like to develop? What new adventure is on your horizon? What passion would you like to pursue? How will you complete the sentence, “I did ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____________ at age ____________?

 

Hear an interview with Harriette Thompson at 91 Year Old Breaks Record.

 

Memory Improvement: Tips of the Trade – Challenges

How Can I Make My Memory Better?

We have all heard about ways to maintain a good memory, but what are the best ways?

Take a quick quiz: Look at the list below and number them from 1 (very important), 2 (somewhat important), to 3 (not important at all).

  • Do the crossword puzzle in the local newspaper every day.
  • Play a musical instrument.
  • Meet with friends for coffee and conversation.
  • Continue to work as long as possible.
  • Exercise thirty minutes five days a week.
  • Meditate when you feel stressed.

Was this quiz a trick? Well, maybe. All these activities can be helpful in maintaining a “strong” memory if you challenge yourself when you do them.

Challenging the brain helps build more connections between brain cells, and these connections are the support system for a strong memory.

  • Doing a crossword puzzle is a great way to stay sharp, if you don’t choose a puzzle that is very easy for you. Step it up. Go to the next level. Make sure you have to put some effort into completing the puzzle.
  • The same is true for playing an instrument. When you learn new music, practice it and think about what you are doing, you build connections in your brain that are good for a “strong” memory.
  • Talking with friends? Just going over the same old gossip? Enjoying being with your friends is good for your brain. However, when you tackle new ideas, talk about books you have read, or even argue about politics, you add a challenge that is good for your memory and thinking.
  • Just putting in time at the office? There is benefit to staying active by continuing to work, but as with talking with friends, taking on new tasks and challenges causes our brains to build connections.
  • Reducing stress and increasing exercise improve the biochemistry of the brain. Stress hormones have a negative effect on the brain. Exercise helps to keep a good flow of blood and oxygen to the blood…and reduces stress. Great ideas for a healthy brain!

 

For some more about maintaining a good memory, you might look at Ideas for Maintaining a Good Memory.

Memory Improvement: Tips of the Trade – Healthy Living

Healthy Living for Healthy Brains and Bodies

We all know that we feel good when we are active, eat well and have enjoyable jobs and social lives. However, we don’t always realize how important good life style choices are for our bodies and brains. Is it possible, for example, to have “stronger” brains that help us remember and think? Can we delay some diseases and avoid others?

Many life style choices are equally beneficial for our brains and our bodies. Let’s look at some of them.

  • Exercise!

Exercise improves blood flow to all parts of the body. Each time the heart beats, 25% of the blood it pumps goes to the brain to deliver nutrients and remove waste.

  • Eat well!

Look for foods that are high in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals and low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt, and simple carbohydrates such as table sugar and refine flours.

  • Socialize!

From dinner dates to volunteer activities, being with other people gives individuals a chance to learn, problem solve, have fun, and reduce stress . . . all good for the brain and body.

  • Sleep!

All people, regardless of age, need extended, fairly uninterrupted sleep to restore the body and strengthen new memories.

  • Challenges!

Challenges at work, home, in the community, and with hobbies increase our feelings of wellbeing and pride (good for positive hormones) and build the capacity of our brains to remember and process.

  • Monitor!

Keep track of health issues, medications, stress, alcohol consumption, and injuries to the head.

Memory Improvement: Tips of the Trade – Reducing Stress

Stress and Memory? Helpful or Harmful?

We all know the cycle: We are ready to leave for a doctor’s appointment and can’t find our car keys. We look everywhere, try to remember where we put them, look again, frantically call the doctor’s office, try remember again . . . and later, when we are calm, there they are, right where we put them earlier that day.

What happens when we are stressed?

Well, the answer isn’t as simple as we might think; but without digging deeply into research articles, the following is a general description of the relationship between stress and memory.

  • We need a little stress to make a memory . . . to put information into our memories. After all, we have to be motivated to learn something new. We have to want to remember or we have to need to remember, and both wanting and needing mean we are just a little stressed.
  • When we are chronically stressed (stressed most of the time), we don’t remember well. We are often confused and lack focus when we are chronically stressed.
  • We make stronger memories when we experience severe or traumatic stresses than when we deal with day to day stresses. We remember losing our wallets with all our identification and credit cards, having an accident, and other events that are even more stressful.

We need some stress to pay attention, but we don’t want to be stressed all the time. And, even though we remember best when we are severely stressed, there are many reasons that severe stress is not good for our health.

What is happening?

Essentially, when we are chronically stressed, we produce hormones that affect the structure of the brain itself and interfere with the way neurons in the brain communicate with each other. Too much of these hormones damage the communication in the brain . . . the connections or pathways that build our memories.

What do we do about this?

  • Identify stressors and try to minimize them.
  • Avoid increasing your stress when you don’t remember: relax, give yourself time to remember, change your focus for a while.
  • Live a healthy life style that promotes relaxation: exercise, meditate, socialize, sleep enough and eat well.

 

Would you like to read more about the effects of stress on memory? Look at Govender and Chesire’s CNN article at http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/17/health/memory-stress-link/.

 

Catch that Salmon! Eating Well for a Healthy Memory

Catch that Salmon! Eating Well for a Healthy Memory

We all have a secret food passion. . . maybe chocolate mousse smothered in fresh whip cream, a half-pound hamburger with a side of hand-cut fries, or roast beef and gravy with a side of creamy mashed potatoes.

OK. We indulge sometimes. However, heart healthy eating is good for . . . well, all parts of our bodies: our hearts, veins, arteries, and the organs that are nourished and cleaned by a healthy blood supply, which includes our brains!

Look at the list below and number them from 1 (very healthful), 2 (somewhat healthful) or 3 (not healthful at all, but maybe a passion).

  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Homemade white bread
  • Fresh broccoli
  • Whole grain bread and rolls
  • Olive oil
  • Lean beef
  • Avocados
  • Canned carrots
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Almonds

Look for foods that are high in fiber, healthy oils, vitamins and minerals and low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt, and sugar.

Salmon, olive oil, avocados and almonds win for healthy fats, and broccoli and whole wheat bread gets on the list for fiber – not to mention other nutrients for all these choices.

Lean beef is not great, about in the middle of the list. It provides important nutrients, but should be a limited part of a diet.

Canned carrots and store-bought spaghetti sauce are often very high in sodium (salt) and white bread is low in fiber. And while you are checking, remember that these prepared foods may be loaded with sugar.

The Mediterranean Diet Plan is a good model for healthy food choice. Read more about this way of eating at Health.com’s 10 Things to Know about the Mediterranean Diet.