We all have issues, and like it or not, we can all use a little help. You will be pleased to know that help doesn’t always mean relying on other people.
Nearly 1 in 3 Americans suffer from arthritis or other debilitating handicaps. You may be one of them, but with the help of “assistive technology” you can be the capable and independent person you were meant to be.
Arthritis, stroke, serious injuries, and neurological disorders, often associated with aging, can affect the dexterity and fine motor skills necessary to perform simple tasks. Actually, there are no simple tasks if they are things that you can’t do yourself.
The most obvious assistive devices are the walkers, canes, wheelchairs and scooters that you see every day. Most of us also have a passing acquaintance with bath seats, hand held showers and grab bars, but let’s break it down even further.
Assistive technology covers a broad spectrum; think of it as any item that might help you bathe, comb your hair, brush your teeth, get dressed, or prepare a meal. We call these activities of daily living. For example, a simple weighted eating utensil or a non-skid bowl might mean that you could feed yourself. There are tools for just about everything and you can find them in neighborhood drugstores, medical supply stores, hardware stores and on the internet.
Assistive technology includes both high and low tech solutions. We can’t all have Smart Home’s, but we can have a collection of gadgets to help us do the chores that others take for granted. Check out the specialized kitchen and gardening tools that are readily available in stores near you. If you don’t know where to start, seek help. An Occupational Therapist can introduce you to and teach you how to use gadgets that will change your life.
Seniors turn out in droves for social events and community meals, but they can’t seem to make it to the Senior Center exercise classes. Good classes end up being cancelled because not enough people sign up to make the cost of hiring qualified instructors worthwhile. Seniors, it seems, don’t like to exercise.
It could be because you grew up in an age when women didn’t want big muscles and men got enough exercise plowing the fields, but we know better than that now.
It’s a known fact that people are living longer. Without the benefit of a healthier lifestyle you could spend more years in a semi-disabled state. Obviously this isn’t what you want. What if a simple exercise program could decrease pain and disability, make your heart work better, and make your muscles stronger?
It’s hard to think about this when your back hurts, your knees creak, and your energy level is at rock bottom, but what if you are already teetering on the edge:
• Your stamina isn’t what it used to be. You tire or get out of breath easily. You gain weigh in all the wrong places and yes, you really are shrinking.
• You’ve lost some flexibility, you are stiff and sore all over, and poor balance puts you at a risk for falls.
• Medical problems creep up on you. Nearly 2/3 of people over 65 have at least one condition that requires medication or special care.
The good news is that none of these changes mean that the end is near. A healthy lifestyle can delay these inconveniences, or enable you to live with them, for a very long time. See your doctor, make a plan, and drop in and check out a class or two. You will be glad you did.
Remember playing? It was something you did a long time ago, before you grew up. The “Puritan work ethic,” instilled in us at an early age, emphasized the importance of hard work. We grew up believing that hard work was more important than anything else; we forgot how to play. Researchers have since discovered that grown-ups who play live longer, are more capable, and are happier than those who do not. Play, it seems, alleviates stress, stimulates creativity, and helps people recharges their batteries.
We can’t blame everything on our Puritan ancestors. Modern madness is just as bad; our children and their children have forgotten how to play too. Instead they multitask, which is a fancy way of saying that they are comfortable working on multiple tasks at the same time. Every minute of every day is filled with “not play” activities.
It is up to seniors to not only rediscover the art of having fun, but to share it with others. Play can take many forms: Some people express playfulness by testing themselves physically. Others prefer games, puzzles, art work or learning new things. Regardless of personal interpretation it is all about doing things that you love.
What can a senior do to reap the benefits of playing? Explore the arts. Sing, dance, paint, compete or don’t compete. Play is good for you. Did you know that the act of singing, even if you are tone deaf, improves lung function and decreases stress? Learning to play an instrument or revisiting instructions from the past can serve to keep fingers nimble and brain cells active. Dancing has been known to increase circulation, reduce fall risk and make you feel good about yourself. Expressing yourself through art enhances overall quality of life. Stop trying to “act your age,” and learn how to have fun again.
I hope you will read the article about “slowing down” in the December 2015/January 2016 AARP magazine by Ted Spike. It is worth your while.
There are thousands of articles on the market about retiring successfully; many of them focus on the importance of being busy, rather than on the importance of slowing down. As a result we are busier than ever. Seniors everywhere declare “I don’t know how I ever had time to work.”
The body tries to slow down, but the pace of life continues on at a breakneck speed, and we keep trying to keep up. We spend our lives waiting for weekends, holidays, and special events, when we need to focus on the in-between moments of everyday life.
Why do you think Amish romances are so popular? Is it because readers long for the “good old days” when they didn’t feel so rushed and unfulfilled? Would you be any less of a person if you only scheduled activities every other day or every third or fourth day?
What do you gain from slowing down? Researchers have concluded that slowing down is good for us. People, who juggled to-do lists in their mind, worry about the future or rehash the past get caught up in a vicious cycle and stress ensues.
Tough questions, but let’s take a minute to think about a few of them:
Are you still driving too fast, bolting your food, or checking your cell phone way too often? Do you think you could try taking a different route to the store or drive 10 mph slower? Could you take a moment to breathe or say a silent prayer before tucking into your meals? Could you turn off the television or mute your phone for an hour or two?
It is good to be social and it is good to be busy, but it is also good to smell the roses. These same researchers tell us that that when we slow down we tap into the part of our brain where intellectual thought processes and creativity reside. What could be better that that?
Everyone has a story to tell. History is exciting when seen through the eyes of those who have lived it; why then are so many seniors reluctant to share?
Senior Centers everywhere offer writing classes, taught by wonderfully experienced teachers, in hopes of introducing their members to the world of creativity. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a writer, you will benefit emotionally and physically from learning how to put thoughts and memories down on paper.
No need to be afraid; there are no rules. Keep a journal (previously known as a diary) or jot down mini-stories and call it a memoir. Pick your quiet time; sit down and write a few words every day. Whether you write for yourself or write to share is up to you.
You will soon learn that pen and paper are your best friends. Write about things that you want to share; the story of you. A single memory can jog thoughts about the person you were and the person you’ve become. Ordinary experiences told in ordinary language create a history, a history that is a part of your family.
It is vitally important to find ways to share your life stories, but in order to do that you need to write them down. If you aren’t sure how to begin, check out tips on how to start a journal or write a memoir. Join one of the classes at your senior center. No pressure, just a fun group of like minded individuals. You needn’t feel that that you aren’t good enough if flowery words don’t flow from your pen; that isn’t the point of a family story. What is at stake is more important that the telling. By relating remembrances of things past you are providing insight into your family values and sharing a little bit about yourself.