Happy New Year 2020! The start of a new year and a new decade is a good time to reflect on our life and our life style and commit to making some changes that can improve our health and happiness. The American Geriatrics Society has these top 10 recommendations for older adults to improve health. These are 1) Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low fat dairy, and healthy fats; 2) Consider adding a multi-vitamin to your routine; 3) Be more active; 4) See your doctor on a regular basis; 5) Drink in moderation; 6) Guard against falls; 7) Give your brain a workout; 8) Quit smoking; 9) Speak up when you are anxious or depressed; 10) Get enough sleep. This may seem like a daunting list but Chautauqua County Office for the Aging is here to help all older adults who live in our county achieve their New Year’s goals.
As we get older, we need healthier foods but less calories to maintain a healthy weight and manage the chronic health conditions we may be dealing with. Office for the Aging oversees the Meals on Wheels programs as well as congregate meals and a restaurant dining program to ensure they meet the dietary requirements for older adults. We offer 1:1 consultations with a registered dietician who can help you achieve your personal dietary goals. Our registered dieticians lead classes at various locations throughout the county called “Eat Healthy, Be Active” teaching you how to create simple healthy meals on a budget that taste great while increasing your activity with small daily changes. In addition, OFA offers a variety of no cost/low cost exercise and wellness programs that can boost your activity as well as get you out and socializing with a new group of people which is important to your mental health. Classes include the Aging Mastery Program, Tai Chi for Arthritis, Moving for Better Balance, Walk with Ease, and more. Call NY Connects to find out about class times and locations. As we get older, we can become deficient in certain vitamins that can cause or contribute to health problems, mood swings, and energy levels. For example, 3 out of 4 people who live in northern part of the US are typically Vitamin D deficient due to lack of sun exposure which is essential to helping our bodies make Vitamin D. In addition to being essential for bone health, vitamin D deficiency is associated with low energy, aches and pains, poor sleeping and mood swings…sound familiar? Studies showed that vitamin D supplements alone can reduce your risk of falling. Your doctor can do a blood test for Vitamin D and other essential vitamins, and advise you which vitamin supplement is right for you. To learn more about how Vitamin D and Calcium are essential to bone health and preventing falls, consider joining a Healthy Bones class offered by OFA and RSVP volunteers throughout county.
Our recent OFA survey revealed that many older adults in Chautauqua County are worried about falling. Not surprising as falls are a leading cause of injury and death among older adults. Unfortunately, most people who experience a fall or worry about falling, limit their activity which makes them more likely to fall. Many of the programs mentioned above specifically train you for improving balance and strength to prevent falls. Our exercise leaders know how to modify the exercises to your starting level so anyone can participate no matter their ability or disability. We also work closely with many local physical therapists for those who need 1:1 help to get started with increasing activity. Since environment can be a factor in falling, OFA has several home audit tools available so you can assess your home for things that increase your falls risk. People always think of throw rugs but there are many other small changes you can make around your home to prevent a fall. Call NY Connects for a copy of one of our home falls assessment tools and consult with our Health Educator on other ideas to prevent falls in and around your home.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are a growing concern for all older adults as we live longer. While we still do not know the cause of dementia and there is currently no cure for the disease, there are many things you can do to keep your brain healthy. As you might guess many of the things mentioned already like staying active, managing chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, not smoking, and being social all keep your brain healthy. Studies show that regular walking for just 20 min/day can improve brain function as well as challenging your brain by learning new things. Be wary of advertising for special supplements “proven” to improve brain function as these can be costly and none have been independently verified to work. There are many health problems that can interfere with thinking and mimic dementia, so talk to your doctor if you suspect you are having problems with thinking and judgement, not just memory. The Alzheimer’s Association of WNY and the University of Buffalo Center for Excellence on Alzheimer’s Disease are the local experts to help diagnose and manage dementia. Our collective goal is to help people with dementia live independently in the community for as long as possible! So take care of your brain as well as other parts of your body. As we greet the new decade, I want everyone to keep in mind that OFA is a resource for every older adult living in our county no matter your age, income, or living situation. Call us to find out what local resources are available to help you live your best life in 2020. For more information on anything mentioned in this article contact our NY Connects Helpline at (716) 753-4582, 363-4582, or 661-7582!