And excellent recent New York Times article on this important and often unaddressed issue for the elderly: http://nyti.ms/2iLDEjB
And excellent recent New York Times article on this important and often unaddressed issue for the elderly: http://nyti.ms/2iLDEjB
It's important to keep our elders active.
And here is an excellent article about that challenge:
by ANNA SHARRATT
Elizabeth Knebli takes her exercise regimen very seriously. “It took
me four years to figure out that retirement is another job,” the
former executive says with a laugh. “There are all sorts of things you
need to learn.”
On a sunny morning in November at a recreation centre in midtown
Toronto, the 71-year-old has just finished a two-hour city-run yoga
class. “Mondays, it’s yoga; Tuesdays, tai chi and on Friday,
low-impact aerobics,” she says.
Job No. 1 after retirement was figuring out how to integrate fitness
into her week, “anchoring Monday to Friday.”
In addition to making her body limber, Ms. Knebli says exercise has
opened doors to new friendships and social activities. Flanked by her
yoga friends, who go out for breakfast after their class, she’s keenly
aware of the dangers of isolation.
“It gets you out of the house. If you sit at home, you end up living
between four walls. You start to forget how to talk.”
Isobel Gallagher, 76, agrees. The Toronto resident also does yoga
twice a week, while filling her social calendar with films,
performances and volunteering. “When I have too many down days, I get
She takes classes designed for retirees at York University’s Glendon
campus and at the University of Toronto, and finds they give her the
impetus she needs to stay stimulated. “I’ll say: ‘Do I really want to
go out in the snow?’ ” Ms. Gallagher says. “Then you feel a sense of
accomplishment when you get there.”
What Ms. Knebli and Ms. Gallagher have discovered is that exercise and
brain-stimulating activities are the glue that holds together the mind
and body past 65, something that’s well-documented in scientific
According to a 2014 article in Canadian Geriatrics by Vancouver
researchers Dr. Marisa Wan and Dr. Roger Wong, their review of
numerous studies found that physical exercise can have profound
effects on the cardiovascular system, lowering blood pressure,
improving the efficiency of the heart and reducing arterial plaques.
It can also improve muscle mass and balance, reducing the chance of
falls that cause many seniors to land in long-term facilities or
“Older people who have been identified as recurrent fallers, for those
who have been exposed to an exercise program, there is evidence that
suggests they are less likely to fall,” says Dr. Wong, clinical
professor of geriatric medicine at the University of British Columbia.
He says it’s postulated that exercise helps at “the muscle level, the
bone level – but also at the heart and blood-vessel level, and the
But not all exercise is equal, cautions Dr. Laurie Mallery, an
internist geriatrician at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “Generally,
we tend to under-exercise older people … we can improve the manner in
which we do it.”
Dr. Mallery says that while many programs focus on low-intensity
activities, weight training and Pilates can push seniors a little
more, maximizing the benefits such as muscle strengthening and
improved postural alignment.
“Being functionally active – it dictates their quality of living,”
says Judy Chu, a registered kinesiologist at Baycrest Health Sciences
in Toronto who tailors exercise programs for clients 50 and older.
“Inactivity is like smoking – it creates lack of function and lack of
function becomes a barrier to quality of life.”
In addition to keeping the body fit, exercise may also help protect
the brain, and that fascinates Dr. Tarek Rajii, chief of geriatric
psychiatry at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
He says it’s believed that physical exercise releases chemicals
related to the neuroplasticity of the brain and improves circulation,
potentially staving off anxiety, depression and cognitive problems
such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Part of what we’re doing when we’re engaging in a physical activity
is there’s a mental activity happening,” says Dr. Rajii.
And mental exercise – such as learning a language, attending an art
class, going to a lecture or watching a movie – can also go a long way
in preserving brain health, as can merely interacting with others at
the actual event. “Mental inactivity is a risk factor for dementia,”
says Dr. Rajii.
He’s currently conducting a large-scale, randomized, doubleblind study
aimed at preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s that began this past
spring in which people with mild memory problems or a history of
depression are enrolled in an eight-week, five-days-a-week “brain
camp.” Participants in the $10-million, five-year study perform two
hours of mental exercises daily in a class setting while wearing
electrodes that send signals to the brain to “prime the
neuroplasticity.” Once they complete the eight-week period, they get
“booster” classes every six months. Their memory is assessed once a
Feedback has been positive. “They feel they are enjoying it – they
feel they are benefiting on an individual level,” Dr. Rajii says.
Ms. Gallagher is certainly convinced of the benefits of exercising her
body and mind. “I will go until I can’t any more.”
© Copyright The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved
Below is an email I got the other day from a friend.
I thought the 21 rules for a good old age was pretty sound counsel. It's goof for our aging parents and loved ones, and it's good for ourselves, too. Please read and reflect, and embrace what most makes sense to you!
Hi All,Some of us have reached our golden years, and some of us have not. But these suggestions should be read by everyone. They have been collected from many a senior, each with his or her own piece of advice. Some you know, some may surprise you, and some will remind you of what's important. So read well, share with your loved ones, and have a great day and a great life!1. It's time to use the money you saved up. Use it and enjoy it. Don't just keep it for those who may have no notion of the sacrifices you made to get it. Remember there is nothing more dangerous than a son or daughter-in-law with big ideas for your hard earned capital.2. Stop worrying about the financial situation of your children and grandchildren, and don't feel bad spending your money on yourself. You've taken care of them for many years, and you've taught them what you could. You gave them an education, food, shelter and support. The responsibility is now theirs to earn their own money.3. Keep a healthy life, without great physical effort. Do moderate exercise (like walking every day), eat well and get your sleep. It's easy to become sick, and it gets harder to remain healthy. That is why you need to keep yourself in good shape and be aware of your medical and physical needs. Keep in touch with your doctor, do tests even when you're feeling well. Stay informed.4. Always buy the best, most beautiful items for your significant other. The key goal is to enjoy your money with your partner. One day one of you will miss the other, and the money will not provide any comfort then, enjoy it together.5. Don't stress over the little things. You've already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present. Don't let the past drag you down and don't let the future frighten you. Feel good in the now. Small issues will soon be forgotten.6. Regardless of age, always keep love alive. Love your partner, love life, love your family, love your neighbor and remember: "A man is not old as long as he has intelligence and affection."7. Be proud, both inside and out. Don't stop going to your hair salon or barber, do your nails, go to the dermatologist and the dentist, keep your perfumes and creams well stocked. When you are well-maintained on the outside, it seeps in, making you feel proud and strong.8. Don't lose sight of fashion trends for your age, but keep your own sense of style. There's nothing worse than an older person trying to wear the current fashion among youngsters. You've developed your own sense of what looks good on you – keep it and be proud of it. It's part of who you are.9. ALWAYS stay up-to-date. Read newspapers, watch the news. Go online and read what people are saying. Make sure you have an active email account and try to use some of those social networks. You'll be surprised what old friends you'll meet. Keeping in touch with what is going on and with the people you know is important at any age.10. Respect the younger generation and their opinions. They may not have the same ideals as you, but they are the future, and will take the world in their direction. Give advice, not criticism, and try to remind them of yesterday's wisdom that still applies today.11. Never use the phrase: "In my time". Your time is now. As long as you're alive, you are part of this time. You may have been younger, but you are still you now, having fun and enjoying life.12. Some people embrace their golden years, while others become bitter and surly. Life is too short to waste your days on the latter. Spend your time with positive, cheerful people, it'll rub off on you and your days will seem that much better. Spending your time with bitter people will make you older and harder to be around.13. Do not surrender to the temptation of living with your children or grandchildren (if you have a financial choice, that is). Sure, being surrounded by family sounds great, but we all need our privacy. They need theirs and you need yours. If you've lost your partner (our deepest condolences), then find a person to move in with you and help out. Even then, do so only if you feel you really need the help or do not want to live alone.14. Don't abandon your hobbies. If you don't have any, make new ones. You can travel, hike, cook, read, dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. You can paint, volunteer at an NGO or just collect certain items. Find something you like and spend some real time having fun with it.15. Even if you don't feel like it, try to accept invitations. Baptisms, graduations, birthdays, weddings, conferences. Try to go. Get out of the house, meet people you haven't seen in a while, experience something new (or something old). But don't get upset when you're not invited. Some events are limited by resources, and not everyone can be hosted. The important thing is to leave the house from time to time. Go to museums, go walk through a field. Get out there.16. Be a conversationalist. Talk less and listen more. Some people go on and on about the past, not caring if their listeners are really interested. That's a great way of reducing their desire to speak with you. Listen first and answer questions, but don't go off into long stories unless asked to. Speak in courteous tones and try not to complain or criticize too much unless you really need to. Try to accept situations as they are. Everyone is going through the same things, and people have a low tolerance for hearing complaints. Always find some good things to say as well.17. Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on them but accept them as a part of the cycle of life we're all going through. Try to minimize them in your mind. They are not who you are, they are something that life added to you. If they become your entire focus, you lose sight of the person you used to be.18. If you've been offended by someone – forgive them. If you've offended someone – apologize. Don't drag around resentment with you. It only serves to make you sad and bitter. It doesn't matter who was right. Someone once said: "Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die." Don't take that poison. Forgive, forget and move on with your life.19. If you have a strong belief, savor it. But don't waste your time trying to convince others. They will make their own choices no matter what you tell them, and it will only bring you frustration. Live your faith and set an example. Live true to your beliefs and let that memory sway them.20. Laugh. Laugh A LOT. Laugh at everything. Remember, you are one of the lucky ones. You managed to have a life, a long one. Many never get to this age, never get to experience a full life. But you did. So what's not to laugh about? Find the humor in your situation.21. Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. They'll do it anyway, and you should have pride in yourself and what you've achieved. Let them talk and don't worry. They have no idea about your history, your memories and the life you've lived so far. There's still much to be written, so get busy writing and don't waste time thinking about what others might think. Now is the time to be at rest, at peace and as happy as you can be!
from 'The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition)' – 2015-10-03
by VIRGINIA GALT
Stephen Shea, a Toronto-based managing partner at Ernst & Young LLP, knows as well as anyone the enormous relief of being free to leave work, on occasion, to care for a seriously ill family member. This demonstrates that caregiving obligations spur need for flexible work hours.
After his mother suffered a debilitating stroke four years ago, Mr. Shea was able to be there when she needed him most. During periods when his mother’s condition was relatively stable, he stopped by to see her every night on the way home from work. But when something required urgent attention, he could attend to it quickly – “with the total support of the firm.”
As managing partner of talent for Ernst & Young in Canada, and a global partner in the resource sector, Mr. Shea was accustomed to working long hours in any event. Starting early and working late gave him the flexibility to step out at midday, as necessary.
“You do what you have to do,” Mr. Shea said in an interview. There’s no question that juggling work and caregiving responsibilities for a prolonged period “just grinds you over time.” Still, Mr. Shea, whose mother died two years ago, remains profoundly grateful for the support of his chief executive officer and colleagues.
The conflict between work and caregiving is an issue more Canadian employers are grappling to address because longer life spans have made elder care a pressing issue for many employees, said Mr. Shea, who served as chairman of an employer panel appointed by the federal government in 2014 to look at ways in which organizations can help.
“Only a few years ago, it may have been considered career-limiting for a parent to leave at a set time to collect a child from daycare. Today, most organizations accept and support this situation without question,” the panel said in its report, When Work and Caregiving Collide: How Employers Can Support Their Employees Who Are Caregivers.
However, when it comes to looking after ill or disabled relatives, many employees fear their careers will suffer if they request time off or flexible work arrangements.
This is not necessarily the case, Mr. Shea said, but employers are hard-pressed to help if they are unaware of the need for accommodation. Indeed, his panel’s report said, the majority of these caregivers “are 45 or older, often talented and experienced employees possessing deep company or industry knowledge … people we don’t want to see exit the work force.”
There are varying estimates of how many working Canadians are caught in this dilemma. Human resources firm Ceridian Canada Ltd. reports that 2.8 million working Canadians, or 17 per cent of the work force, have heavy caregiving responsibilities outside of work. “Even more alarming is that the average caregiver dedicates 23.8 hours per week to caregiving activities,” Ceridian wrote in a recent report, Double Duty: The Caregiving Crisis in the Workplace.
Estelle Morrison, vice-president of clinical and wellness services at Ceridian Canada, said employers have traditionally accommodated employees on an ad hoc basis. Some organizations are now looking at more formal policies that are flexible enough to accommodate their employees’ unique needs on a case-by-case basis, while ensuring that the work still gets done.
“The challenge for employers is to create a flexible work system that is trackable, accountable, and fair for all – without ruffling any feathers or risking undue losses,” the Ceridian report said.
Ms. Morrison said employees who do not have caregiving responsibilities are more likely to support alternative work arrangements for their colleagues when they know similar accommodations will be offered to them when, and if, they ever need them.
“It sends the right message [when the employer says] we expect this certain amount of work to be done, but the way in which it gets done is something we may be able to accommodate,” she said.
Sometimes, the remedy is as simple as a shift change that allows employees to schedule daytime appointments for the person they are caring for. Or it might involve days off here and there.
“It’s one thing to say ‘we’ll give you leave,’ but a lot of people can’t afford it, so an extended vacation program where people can take reduced pay and more time off, may work at various points of the year,” Mr. Shea said.
“You have to come up with different ways to be flexible. … It [the time spent on the job] is not always equal week to week, day to day. It’s the flexibility to allow people to work when they have to work and deal with family issues when they have family issues,” he said.
Linda Speedy, chief human resources officer at KPMG LLP in Canada, says the range of accommodations offered by her firm includes paid personal days and the option to telecommute.
“When longer absences are required, a temporary reduced work schedule can be arranged to allow more capacity for personal needs while maintaining a client-service role,” Ms. Speedy said. “If employees need to be away from work completely for a period of time to support family and friends, an unpaid leave with continued benefits can be arranged.”
In the end, she said, having a corporate culture that makes it possible for people to discuss their needs and get support is “far more important” than the programs themselves.
© Copyright The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved
Here is an interesting, informative link to a blog on Huffington Post about how to face key issues in balancing a receding work life and a growing eldercare life: http://m.huffpost.com/ca/entry/7519778.
What seems to happen way too often is that aging parents would rather sit in the kitchen or living room at home instead of going out… almost anywhere.
Yet getting them out is good for them. Homebound aging parents need mini field trips. It’s movement, it’s new sights and sounds, it’s a diversion to their otherwise often limited lifestyle. But not too much! Homebound elderly parents will tire more easily; they’ll feel out of sorts, even threatened by too many stimulants.
The trick is to take them for short trips. To a park. To a mall. To a movie. For a visit. To… well, whatever will engage them. Whether half an hour or two hours, it’s time well spent.
Have you tried to get your aging parents on mini field trips? How did it go? What worked? What didn’t?
We’re all pressed for time. Too much to do at work, too much at home and with our kids, and then there’s needed ‘self time’ too. Better manage limited time to help aging parents in need. Here are seven really important questions to ask yourself to see how you can achieve that goal.
· If you can answer them honestly, you’ll find your personal roadmap to a better quality life. And only you will know if you are answering candidly. Good luck!
· What can others and existing services do for you?
· Who can help and what services can you engage to help relieve the pressure you are feeling right now?
· What can you do less of?
· What are you doing now for your parents that you can reduce in terms of your own hands-on involvement?
· How can you best use your newfound free time? What can you do to best help yourself?
· What should you stop, keep or start doing?
When you’re planning for the festive season, remember that older parents and other aging loved ones often have different needs than our children or we do.
Because they’re such an important part of our sense of family and the holidays, we need to plan good holidays for elderly loved ones. Too often we take for granted that our older family members can be as fully involved as we’d like. The fact is elderly family members may be lacking the stamina we’d wish they had.
That’s why it’s so important to plan all holiday events to ensure aging loved ones can enjoy them fully and that we can have the pleasure of their company.
Here are five steps for you to consider and apply in order to assure elder enjoyment at your family events this holiday season.
1. Reduce ‘wait time’. You can spend a lot of family wait time while meals are being prepared or people are dressing, or getting to a religious ceremony early in order to have good seating. But these are actually tiring times for the elderly. Help them by planning the latest time you can bring them to the event. That way, they don’t have to spend tiring ‘wait time’ doing nothing.
2. Build in ‘down time’. Make sure there’s at least half an hour or hour of rest time between events so your elderly parents can relax and perhaps catch a catnap or at least just have some personal quiet time. Their batteries run down faster now, and some recharge time becomes important.
3. Make meals more manageable. The more courses and the longer time a full meal takes, the more agitated little kids become… and the more aggravated older people become. Elderly parents will find long, drawn out meals fatiguing, even if they pretend to be enjoying themselves. So plan meals to be shorter, or plan strategies to respectfully give them options during a drawn out dinner so they’ll have some rest time.
4. Smart wrap for gift giving. Opening gifts that are tightly taped and tied with lots of ribbons is often difficult for the elderly. With reduced dexterity and maybe some arthritis, they can be stymied by some of the packages we present. Make it easier—and eliminate the embarrassment of being unable to open a package—by either wrapping their gifts much more loosely, or better yet, by putting them into attractive gift bags, covered with colorful issue paper.
5. Slow down and speak up. The elderly tend to process less quickly and don’t hear as well as once ago. To help them get the most out of your holiday events, slow down how fast you talk or do things, and speak more slowly and louder. Be sure to watch their reactions and body language very carefully for clues about how well they’re staying with you in terms of what’s being done and said.
And it’s also important to consider that for an elderly person who has lost a loved one, this is an especially difficult time of year. The loss, and the memories that inevitably freely flow especially during religious festivities, combine to create a level of personal hurt and pain we often don’t understand or respect to the extent we could and should.
When we consciously plan to meet the oft-unexpressed needs of our elderly family members, we’re ensuring they’ll be active participants in our holiday events. And we’ll know that their engagement is satisfying to them and to every person in the family.