When we were kids, just a few years ago, our aches, pains and sprains responded nicely to rest, ice, compression and elevation. All designed to decrease swelling and hasten the healing process. In a few days we would be fine and ready to move on. It’s a bit different now; as a senior you know that a sprained ankle, a sore back, or a tender knee can still bother you a year later.
It’s bad enough dealing with pain after an injury, but when you stiffen up from sitting in one position too long or wake up hurting all over, it gets old in a hurry.
We still feel young and we are as active as we have ever been, but something has happened. We learn that muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue lose flexibility as we get older; if we want to be comfortable and we want to keep moving we have to figure a few things out.
Talk to a member of your health care team about ways to improve strength and flexibility. It is very likely that they will recommend yoga, or give you a series of exercises based on yoga poses. There is a reason why people have been doing these very same stretching exercises for over 3,000 years; they work.
It is unfortunate that many of the people who need flexibility exercises the most (the injured, elderly, overweight and less fit individuals) feel intimidated by the idea.
They may think that yoga is for young, agile athletes who can bend themselves into pretzels; not something older people could possibly do, but don’t give up so readily. There are many styles of yoga, or exercise groups like Stretch and Pray, that can help you achieve your goals. Yoga is still yoga even if you use a chair, a pillow, a blanket, or a variety of yoga props to ease you into nice therapeutic stretches.
Look for videos or classes that use the words gentle, senior, chair, or therapeutic in the title. No matter what you call it, gentle stretching is the perfect way to start your day.
It is time to rethink Medical Alert Systems. The “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercials all point to a frail elderly clientele, but where do the rest of us fit in?
My niece, a nurse in her 50s, wrote to tell me that she fell in her kitchen last week. She said “I slipped and fell hard, hard enough to make me realize how lucky I had been. My cell phone was in the living room, I was on vacation so not expected at work, and I have no close neighbors. If the fall had been related to my diabetes or heart condition I would have been out of luck. It is very possible that I wouldn’t have been found until the following Tuesday when a friend was due to come over.”
Should you use an alert system? If you live alone, are at risk for falling for any reason, or like to hike, jog or walk where the terrain is uneven, you need to have some sort of contingency plan. Your cell phone may not be enough. A cell phone is not waterproof and you probably do not carry it with you at all times. Admit it; you spend more time looking for your cell phone than using it. A Medical Alert bracelet may be the answer. The key is remembering to wear it; an alert system is only effective if you have it on. You should wear it in the shower, when sleeping, cooking or walking outside.
Wearing an alert bracelet will not make you look old. A lot of people, regardless of age, are wearing bracelets that track activity, are GPS locators and/or medical alert buttons. They look like an ordinary wrist watch (yes, most of them tell the time too) but they do so much more.
Medical alert systems are not just for the frail elderly. Wearing a medical alert device does not label you as “old”. All it really means is that you are smart enough to take care of yourself.
Are you the life of the party or are you the “sad sack” sitting in the corner feeling out of place and out of sorts? Not everyone is programmed to be the life of the party, but feeling “down in the dumps” all of time is not normal either. You may be suffering from depression, or, you may have just forgotten what it is like to feel happy.
So, what’s with this happiness thing anyway? Happiness, as you know, is big business. There are hundreds of thousands of “how-to be happy” books on the market, and the fact that people spend billions of dollars on happiness pills and therapy speaks volumes.
It turns out that happiness really does matter. Surprising as it may seem, the latest research indicates that there may be a correlation between happiness and stroke prevention. This is a rather interesting statistic and one well worth thinking about. Regardless, life is easier and more fun when you feel good about yourself.
Make up your mind to be happy. Treat yourself well. Take a few minutes before you get out of bed in the morning to think good thoughts, and then plan your day accordingly. This might be a good time to rethink meditation or a morning yoga routine. Practice smiling at yourself in the mirror and then smile when you sip your coffee, smile at the paperboy, smile at your next door neighbor, and then keep on smiling.
If you are still having more bad days than good days, you may need professional help. The good news is that society no longer views counseling, therapy sessions or support groups negatively; in fact the whole idea of “finding yourself” has become quite trendy.
Nip mild depression in the bud, before it becomes habitual and ruins your life. Let happiness be your new normal. Happiness matters.
There’s no law that says seniors can’t giggle and laugh and have fun like everyone else. Where is it written that little old ladies (and guys too) have to spend “social hour” just sitting around visiting. I’ve been watching Pickleball tournaments this summer and I can’t imagine a better way to have fun.
Pickleball is a relatively new sport and it is ideal for seniors. Remember tennis? Remember badminton? Remember Ping Pong? Pickleball is a cross between all three. It is easy to learn and can be played both indoors and outdoors.
Basically the players use an oversized table tennis paddle to volley a whiffle ball over a net. The court is a third the size of a standard tennis court, the serve in underhand, and since the ball moves slower you can concentrate on placement rather than on trying to “kill” the ball.
The name makes it sound like a kid’s game, but it was initially intended for the 60 and over crowd. It is an activity that nearly everyone can play, but if you watch tournament play you will appreciate it on many different levels.
It is easy to learn and easy on the joints but you can still get a good workout. You don’t have to be a super athlete in order to have fun. Quickness helps, a long arm reach helps, but it isn’t a must. Age doesn’t matter. If you can move, you can stand there and hit the ball back and forth.
What’s in it for you, besides fun that is? Besides the obvious cardiovascular benefits the lateral and forward motion helps improve balance which, as you know will lower your risk for falls. Better yet…it exercises your mind as the game is based more on placement of shots than on power so it sharpens your planning and decision making skills.
The game was invented in 1965 and has grown in popularity to the point of having a USA Pickleball Association, which tells you that this isn’t just a bit of fluff designed to give grandma something to do. You will find groups at your local senior center, YMCAs, racket clubs and recreation ceners.
What do you think about taking the bus? Americans love to drive. You probably remember your first car. It’s too bad that driving isn’t as much fun as it used to be.
Gone are the days when entire families would pile into the car for a Sunday afternoon drive. They don’t do that anymore. Its rush hour traffic 24/7, gas prices are out of sight, and folks who drive the speed limit are considered a menace to society. Too fast, too slow, too close, too far away, you are never doing the right thing.
It is good to get out of the house, everyone says so, but how do you get from point A to point B without losing your mind? A growing number of people are turning to public transportation because it is a cost effective way to get away from it all. Riding the bus is safe, economical, and it is easy to learn how to navigate the system. It is only fear of the unknown that keeps many from taking the first step.
Conquer the fear. Ask a family member to go with you the first couple of times. Once you are comfortable with getting on and off, using transfer options or using the ADA amenities, you will be on your way. If you are still timid about navigating the transit system alone you will be pleased to know that help is just a phone call away. In addition to information you will learn about the special training programs that can make you feel like a pro in no time at all.
By all means use your car to go to the grocery store, out to lunch or to church, but don’t rule out public transportation for routine trips. Carry a bus pass or the right change, know where you want to go, travel lightly, dress comfortably and sit back and enjoy the ride. It is good to be out there surrounded by people of all ages, and it is good to have someplace to go.