The mental, physical and social benefits associated with pet ownership have been well documented, but having a pet of your own is a huge responsibility. How your pet behaves will determine the success of the relationship.
I like to think that animal lovers are a special breed, and most of them are, but remember that your pet takes his/her cues from you. It is important, especially for seniors, that your pet doesn’t put you in harm’s way.
A cat may very well be the perfect companion, but a dog will meet more of your physical and social needs. Dogs and people need exercise on a regular basis. A simple walk is a good way to spend “quality time” with your best friend, and it can be a pleasurable experience for both of you.
Hopefully you aren’t one of those people other dog walkers hate to see coming. An out of control dog is a disaster waiting to happen; it is important that you know your own dog.
• Research the breed. Pick a dog that is not too big or not too small. Consider the dog’s personality. Some dogs are as mellow as pussy cats while others are holy terrors, and it has nothing to do with their size.
• Socialize your pet. Apologizing and picking your small dog up is not good enough. All dogs need to be comfortable around people as well as other dogs.
• Obedience training is a must, and it has nothing to do with the size or cuteness of your dog.
• Obey leash laws.
Be vigilant both at home and when you are out walking. A squirrel sighting, a dog jumping up on you, or a lose leash can be a recipe for disaster.
If you have the energy, strength, and mobility to play with, clean up after, and exercise a dog you will be truly blessed.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie A Walk in the Woods. This delightful story is about two “older gentlemen” taking on the Appalachian Trail. It reminded me how much I used to love to camp. I haven’t been camping in a very long time, but I can still remember a pup tent honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains, and a cross country trip pulling a tiny travel trailer. Later an RV served as a home base for tours of the Pacific Northwest. I loved them all, but the day came when it just seemed easier to rent a cabin or to take a cruise. It’s not the same. Have you stopped camping because you think you are “too old?” Camping can be fun at any age. Walk down the aisles of your favorite sporting goods store and remember the good times. Dream a little. New products such as tents that set up quickly and easily, self-igniting stoves and lanterns, and inflatable air mattresses might tempt you to try again. Forget about burnt oatmeal, itchy wool blankets, lumpy bedrolls, and heavy canvas tents. Those heavy tents and lumpy sleeping bags have been replaced with light weight and comfortable gear, and you can eat in style. For the most part you still need to think quick, portable and nonperishable but at least try some of the freeze-dried offerings. The basics remain the same, whether you camp in a tent, a travel trailer or a recreational vehicle: • Fires are often prohibited so carry a kerosene camp stove. • Remember that bears and raccoons forage in even the most populated sites so follow instructions re: food storage. • Carry a first aid kit. Burns, blisters and bug bites are bound to happen even if you are prepared, and carry prescription meds in waterproof containers. You don’t have to hike the Appalachian Trail to enjoy the out of doors. Road trips remain the best way to see the country. It may take a little more planning if wheels and walkers slow you down, but you can still get out there to commune with nature. Books about barrier-free traveling will soon have you wheeling in comfort and style. Rediscover the joys of camping at any age.
Travel can be difficult as well as painful for those living with chronic medical conditions. Still, most people need to travel at some point, even if just to get from Point A to Point B.
The key is to plan ahead and to make sure you are at the top of your game before setting out. Expect the unexpected. An acquaintance of mind recently traveled across country to meet with friends for a combined business/vacation trip. She didn’t feel particularly well when she left home, but certainly didn’t expect to spend a week in the hospital when she got there. Her experiences should serve as a reminder to all of us. Your current health status needs to figure into your plans. Unfortunately, you cannot escape chronic pain or special health care needs. Consider purchasing extra insurance if there is any possibility at all that you could get into trouble.
All this is rather sobering but you can still travel if you plan ahead and modify your itinerary accordingly. For starters:
• Make sure you have all of your medications with you and dress comfortably, right down your shoes. You need to be able to wiggle your toes and stretch frequently whether you travel by car, plane, bus, or train.
• Call ahead when making reservations and explain your needs. Purchase a guide book that focuses on barrier free travel and keep it handy.
• Pack your bags with care and anticipate challenges. Use wheeled luggage and ask for help.
• Carry a few accessories: travel sized hot and cold packs, inflatable neck pillow, lumbar support and seat cushions.
Be realistic. Once you have arrived at your destination, plan your days around your energy levels and pace yourself. Don’t overdo at the start of the trip only to find yourself unable to enjoy the end.
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.