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Being a caregiver means balancing a lot of emotions and contradictions. When taking care of an older loved one, especially someone who has significant functional limitations, one of the most pressing issues is a contradiction of time.

The contradiction is this: there are never enough hours in your day to take care of everything, and there are so many hours in their day that need to be filled up so they don’t wither from boredom.

This difficulty was best expressed by Lupe, a 47-yr-old editor who recently had her mom move in with her and her family. She had time to take care of Carmen, who was suffering from memory loss, but not enough to make it a full-time job. And when she was taking care of her, she often felt crushed by the weight of her competing responsibilities.

“I had stuff to do, on the computer mostly, for my job. I was busy all the time but still wasn’t able to get everything done. And I was really aware that my mom was bored a lot, that she wanted to do things, but was dependent on me. I just couldn’t do my job, and I couldn’t just take care of her. Honestly, it was really stressful and I felt guilty from all sides.”

That’s when Lupe discovered that she could take advantage of the Irene Swindells Center on Adult Day Care offered by Institute on Aging in San Francisco.

The program, which was able to provide Carmen a place to go up to 5 days a week, changed both their lives. It gave Carmen a sense of destination and purpose and opened up her social life while providing high-quality care. It gave Lupe more hours in her day to take care of her own life and alleviated any unfair guilt.

By providing much-needed care services, adult day programs help caregivers handle their own affairs, relieve stress and tensions, and improve quality of life. And they do the same thing for older adults; they are a place to be happy and creative, to be engaged, and to be taken care of. They are a community, and the more people part of it, the stronger the community will be.

Why Adult Day Programs Matters

Like a lot of people, Lupe had questions about how senior day programs would work and some questions about how she would feel.

“Honestly,” she says, “my initial questions were practical. How much did it cost? How often would my mom be there? Did I have to drive her? What would she eat, and what about her meds? But mostly, I was wondering why I was doing this. Was I being fair to mom?”

That’s a great question, and it is unsurprisingly common. Becoming a caregiver for a loved one is a great practical and moral responsibility, and it can feel like shirking when you send someone to a day care program. But it isn’t, at all. It’s the opposite: it is doing right by them.

At an adult day care program, seniors can expect to have a broader social life than they might otherwise. They will meet people and, by seeing the same people 2-5 times a week, develop new friendships. They’ll sharpen their social skills, which is overwhelmingly beneficial, as socialization is known to be excellent for enhancing mental health.

And it is fun! At many adult day programs, participants learn new skills, engage in arts and crafts, and even take trips together. They can experience fresh activities surrounded by peers who share their excitement and understand their challenges. This is no minor thing; society often cruelly assumes that new experiences are the sole domain of the young and forget the unique concerns of older adults. But older adults can have and need new experiences. At Institute on Aging’s day care program, that includes sharing experiences across generations; students from kindergarten all the way through college come and participate in fun and creative programming, along with live music concerts, therapy dog visits, and free community classes. This mix of ages allows people from different ways of life to grow and share together.

So there is no need to feel guilty for signing a loved one up for a day program. You are doing them a kindness, especially if you don’t have time to engage them in mental and physical activity throughout the day.

You are also doing yourself a favor; you deserve to have your own life where you can tend to your own needs, whether practical or emotional. Caregivers deserve room to breathe and to think on their own, and they are better caregivers for it. Ultimately, it’s an act of dedication to your loved one to give yourself space. It can prevent resentment from building and recharge your batteries so that you can be more fully present for your aging loved one when you are together. As such, adult day programs are beneficial for everyone involved.

Logistics and Requirements of Adult Social Day Programs

Lupe was happy to have her questions about the practical side of the social day program answered pretty easily.

“It turns out that pretty much everything was taken care of. The staff was highly-trained and understood how to make sure my mom took her medicine at the right time. The program participants were all at different stages of their mental and physical lives, but the staff knew how to make sure everyone was taken care of. For people with mobility or incontinence issues, full restroom assistance is provided by trained staff who approach with compassion and dignity.

“My mom would start her day with some coffee and chatting with new friends, they’d an interdisciplinary mix of activities, including a seated exercise class, and then have a really healthy lunch. This wasn’t just some sandwiches, it was hot and nourishing. These were homemade meals, made with really good ingredients, and developed by a nutritionist who understands the dietary needs of older adults. Mom was eating better than I was, that’s for sure. It was like they were taking care of her body as well as her mind. After lunch they had another physical activity to keep the blood pumping, followed by three more activities, often including a live concert.

“Oh! One of the best parts is that I didn’t even have to drive. Paratransit picked her up and dropped her off. That made both our lives so much easier.”

(For more information on Paratransit San Francisco, please read here)

IOA’s Social Day Program is available to any older adult. A few notes on how it is run:

  • Open Monday through Friday as well as the first Saturday of the month
  • ADA compliant (both the center and the transportation)
  • Runs from 9AM to 3PM
  • Participants can come 2-5 times a week
  • Available for one day/short-term respite with the proper paperwork and notice
  • Prices vary depending on how many days per week older adult signs up for and average about $80. This price includes all transportation, food, outings, and additional classes.

Having a place to go is always a plus. Having a place to go where you are always treated with respect, compassion, and dignity is everything.

Bringing the Family Together

So, we talked earlier about contradictions. It turns out the one about time is resolved by a contradiction about proximity: by spending less time together, Lupe and her mom are closer.

That’s not uncommon. It isn’t because familiarity breeds contempt or that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s because everyone in the caregiver/loved one relationship needs room to themselves. Room to grow, to learn, to express their individuality. And being able to be fully yourself makes being with others warmer and more meaningful.

Lupe, as usual, sums up the benefits of the IOA Social Day Program:

“My mom is happy. I’m happy. And I have more energy not just to take care of her, but to actually spend time with her. To spend quality time, talking to her, asking her about her day, and bonding like we used to. I know it seems silly to say that by having her out of the house I have my mom back, but I really do. And isn’t that what it’s all about?”

At Institute on Aging, our programs and services help older adults, their families, and caregivers explore aging together, through good times and bad, as an adventure and a journey. Contact us today to learn more.

The post Adult Day Programs Bring Comfort To San Francisco Caregivers and Their Aging Loved Ones appeared first on IOA Blog.

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Sometimes simple statements, filled with numbers and statistics and the flat, census-based declarations, contain within them an enormous reservoir of pain and suffering and loneliness. That’s probably why we keep them so dry and clinical: to avoid looking at the hurt. Here are a few:

In California, getting older increases the risk of falling below the poverty line. Falling below the poverty line increases the chance of facing hunger on an occasional or regular basis. Put together, this means that in California, a leading cause of hunger and malnutrition is growing older.

While there are numbers to back all that up, we want to focus on the grimness of these facts; it is a terrible truth, but hundreds of thousands of older adults in the state, and around the Bay Area, don’t have enough food and sorely lack proper nutrition. This lowers their quality of lives, worsens their health, and can increase isolation or force someone to no longer be able to age in place. Hunger robs you of many things; stealing the choices and options in front of you is high up there.

Luckily, there are programs to help older adults both learn more about nutrition and receive home-delivered meals if they are eligible, which many are. These services increase the chances of living a life you want and prevent age and poverty from condemning you to a gnawing constant hunger, an onrush of nutrition-based illness, and doors creaking closed one by one.

As a state, we can do better. As individuals, we can do more. It starts with knowing the problems and the programs that aim to solve them.

Poverty, Hunger, and Malnutrition in California

Between 1999 and 2014, the rate of impoverished California residents over the age of 65 increased by a full 85%, skyrocketing to over 520,000 total people. That was more than twice the growth rate of older adults in California as a whole. More people were growing older and poorer than older and comfortable.

However, even those numbers fail to capture the insidious nature of the problem. Poverty targets specific communities with more ferocity than others. While 7% of white older adults in California live below the poverty line, the numbers jump in other ethnic groups:

  • Native American: 11%
  • Asian: 12%
  • African-Americans: 14%
  • Hispanics: 16%

There are differences in gender as well. Research shows that 65% of impoverished seniors are women; a full 33% are widows. Over half are renters. And, of course, as we’ve talked at length before, LGBTQ older adults are particularly prone to poverty.

It’s obvious that a lifetime of opportunity, or the lack thereof, matters. Prejudices and attitudes that shaped earning power over a lifetime add up. Sometimes those meet with cataclysms like recessions and are made devastatingly worse. Sometimes that cataclysm runs into even the most charmed life and wrecks it in the blink of an eye. But no matter what, poverty can hit older adults.

And when it does, it brings with it the specter of hunger.

In 2018, 14% of older adults in California faced food insecurity. This is actually down from nearly 18% in 2014 and is not the worst rate in the nation (Arkansas is at a horrifically grim 25%). But that is no need to be smug. We have one of the largest economies in the world. Having “only” one out of seven or eight adults not sure if they will have enough to eat is still a gnashing crime.

The effects of hunger and lack of proper nutrition can be devastating, physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Eating right, on the other hand, can:

  • Increase cognitive function
  • Promote heart health
  • Promote bowel health
  • Promote immune health
  • Promote musculoskeletal health

The problem is, poverty can make it hard to eat right—or eat at all. For one thing, the incredible housing prices and vast inequality in California (particularly in the Bay Area) means that lower-income adults often live in areas without good grocery options and, sometimes, without public transportation to access to better ones. Money problems also make it harder to buy the fresh produce, lean meats, and whole grains that make up a healthy diet. Health problems can make it more difficult to cook and get to the store. Health problems can also be expensive, increasing financial issues further, and making it more difficult to eat right, which exacerbates health problems. It’s a terrible cycle.

So what can be done? A few programs in California are there to help.

Congregate Nutrition and Homes-Delivered Meals in California

There are several state programs designed to help older adults eat enough, eat healthily, and eat well. The first is Congregate Nutrition.

Congregate Nutrition “addresses dietary inadequacy and social isolation among individuals aged 60 and older” by providing “nutrition education, nutrition risk screening and, in some Planning and Service Areas, nutrition counseling.” It’s clear that for cultural and economic reasons—the most important one being that a lifetime of work and poverty does not give one time to learn to eat well—many lower income older adults don’t know the best ways to eat.

Congregate Nutrition aims to change that by being a source of education. Volunteers often also help with shopping and sometimes even meal prep, though neither are technically part of the program. This program is for people over 60, especially low-income minorities and people in rural areas.

Of course, learning about nutrition often isn’t enough. That’s why seniors in the Bay Area can turn to the Adults with Disabilities Home Delivered Meal Program. The program is made possible with funds through the Department of Aging and Adult Services and is proudly run through Institute on Aging.

Adults with Disabilities Home Delivered Meal Program provides good, healthy meals to older adults who would be at risk without having daily, home-delivered meals. Eligibility for this includes:

  • Limited caregiver support
  • Inability to get to congregate meal site
  • Inability to grocery shop
  • Inability to prepare meals
  • Inability to consistently secure nutritious meals
  • At risk of health decline or institutionalization without consistent nutritious meals

To participate or make a referral, call the Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) Intake and Screening Unit at (415) 355-6700 or Institute on Aging Connect at (415) 750-4111.

(For those not in the Bay Area, there is a similar statewide program. We encourage you to look into programs in your area.)

We ask that participants pay a small fee to help defray costs if at all possible. These are expensive programs, but we don’t need to tell impoverished seniors the cost of food. That’s why, no matter what, no one will ever be turned away due to inability to pay.

To us, the fact that such sentiment isn’t a national motto is a shame. It is a tragedy that so many older adults are hungry every day simply because life didn’t afford them a cushion of wealth on which to retire. Justice demands that a lack of opportunity, denied rights, or just plain bad luck shouldn’t condemn someone to the daily grey misery of food insecurity.

We’re better than that. We can all be better than that. We can help people age at home, with dignity and health, and free from the vision of hunger. We’re called to break bread together. Let’s make sure it happens.

At Institute on Aging, our programs and services help older adults, their families, and caregivers explore aging together, through good times and bad, as an adventure and a journey. Contact us today to learn more.

The post Home-Delivered Meals and Nutrition Education For Older Adults in California appeared first on IOA Blog.

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If you were to ask most non-Californians where the Inland Empire was, they probably wouldn’t have an answer. It isn’t a place like Los Angeles or Napa or Silicon Valley that has mythical resonance in the ears of the country. Indeed, even most Californians, and maybe even most residents, wouldn’t be able to define exactly what Inland Empire really is.

That’s not too surprising, though: the Inland Empire is a vast, sprawling metropolitan region, defined by moving east away from the ocean, and a place proud of not being flashy or insistent. It’s a hard-working region, where people from all over the country and the world come to raise families, work decent jobs, and have a good place to live out their old age.

Unfortunately, for too many in the Inland Empire, the last part is getting more and more difficult. Poverty rates in the region are skyrocketing, and the cost of growing older, inflated by richer metropolitan areas along the coast, is going up. As a result, older adults who want to age in place are finding it increasingly difficult.

Disability, poverty, medical conditions, and isolation make it harder for a senior to remain at home as they age. Their spot feels less like a place in an Empire and more like a castle under siege. These conditions can rob people of their choices and force decisions they’d rather not make.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are programs specifically for residents of the Inland Empire to access the services they need to live independently, with dignity and pride. We’re proud to be a part of them, as changing demographics and cultural/economic shifts in the Empire make this ever more vital.

Maybe not everybody knows where the Inland Empire is. But everyone knows what it is like to have a place to call your home, and for less financially-stable residents of the area, keeping theirs as they age can be difficult.

We don’t think that’s right. We intend to help them keep their homes.

Poverty in the Inland Empire

To understand the roots of poverty in the Inland Empire, we have to define where it is. The most common definition is that it refers to San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Some say that it only includes part of those counties and some say it should include eastern Los Angeles County, though not the city of Los Angeles itself.

Maybe the most helpful definition is that it is the metropolitan region of Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario. With a population of over 4,000,000, it is the 14th-largest region in America. But considering it a region of cities is still relatively new.

For a century, the area was one of America’s agricultural heartlands, producing crops year-round while the Midwest shivered. In the 70s, it started to become denser, more industrial and commercial, and more crowded. Inexpensive land led to a population explosion, while its location made it key spot for warehousing and logistics.

It’s easy to see where this leads. Huge population growth taxed local services and increased competition for jobs, lowering wages. Unskilled workers competed against each other, adding to that wage depression. And then the Great Recession gutted the warehousing and logistics industry, which didn’t fully rebound thanks to advances in technology that reduce the need for human labor. Meanwhile, the region has long been home to people who work in neighboring communities, such as Los Angeles and Orange County, but were priced out of those more expensive areas as real estate prices soared beyond their means.

Earlier this decade, by some (though not all) accounts, the Inland Empire had the highest rate of poverty in the nation (different researchers use different methods, and the slippery nature of what constitutes the Inland Empire makes a firm accounting nearly impossible). While there has been economic growth, it has been inconsistent and inconsistently distributed. Meanwhile, the cost of living has continued to increase.

This has been especially hard on older adults, particularly those who were near or had just retired when the market crashed. Recovery has been slow and painful and sometimes impossible, leaving many to struggle in their golden years.

In the Inland Empire, the average median household income for residents over the age of 65 is $49,000. That’s lower than the national average of $57,000, lower than the California average of $67,000, and lower than the Los Angeles average of $58,000.

That’s why we feel that aging residents of Inland Empire need help, and the community agrees. This is a diverse and vibrant region, one of the hearts of America’s rich multicultural heritage.  It’s a place where family matters. It’s a place where people fight for each other and support each other. And that’s why we’re here to support that.

Preventing Institutionalization for Inland Empire Older Adults

Poverty makes it incredibly hard to live at home for older adults. Specifics about the Inland Empire, such as its car-centric culture, make it hard for older adults who can no longer drive or easily use public transportation to get groceries, to go to the doctor, or to just live their life. Poverty, especially being poor in the Inland Empire, conspire to make it hard to access needed services and these difficulties are further compounded by the social isolation, health issues, and mobility difficulties many seniors face.

That’s where our Inland Empire Community Living Solutions (IECLS) come in. These solutions, available to members of the Inland Empire Health Plan, are designed to connect “clients with home and community-based services, or a combination of goods and services, that help individuals who are currently or at risk of being institutionalized.” In other words, it helps older adults live and age in place.

Aging in place helps keep people comfortable and rooted and gives them independence and a feeling of control over their destinies. It’s also just a nice thing, to be able to grow older in the community you know, among the things you loved and the memories you’ve made. That’s our mission, and that’s the goal of the IECLS.

This is achieved through a three-part approach:

  1. Coordinated Case Management: We connect clients to community services such as transportation, meals, personal care, housing assistance, etc. Often, it’s understanding the web of red tape that makes so many people throw up their hands in frustration, but coordinated case management helps you cut through that red tape so you can more easily access the resources you need.
  2. Purchase of Services: We provide needed resources and services to Inland Empire Health Plan members. These are often impossible or difficult to get elsewhere.
  3. Housing Retention and Placement: If it is needed, we identify, secure, and maintain appropriate community-based housing.

By thoughtfully implementing these services based on each client’s individual needs, the IECLS is able to support aging adults in their goal of successfully remaining in their homes.

Who Is Eligible for the Inland Empire Community Living Service?

We offer our services to three broad categories of people:

  • Individuals in the hospitals or short-term care who are willing and able to live in the community even if they have been recommended for institutionalization.
  • Individuals who are at risk of being institutionalized
  • Individuals currently in long-term care facilities who can live on their own with some support and services.

It is important to note that this program isn’t just for seniors; anyone over the age of 18 is eligible, provided that they:

  • Are an Inland Empire Health Plan Member
  • Are willing and able to live in the community with appropriate supports
  • Need resources and assistance to prevent being placed in long-term care facility or other institution
  • Need assistance with at least two activities of daily living or three instrumental activities of daily living
  • Have medical conditions that can be managed in the community

This broad scope allows people of diverse ages, abilities, and situations benefit from the IECLS according to their individual needs.

Supportive Communities Can Increase Independence

One of the great terrors of poverty is that it robs you not just of well-being, but of choice. This is becoming an increasing problem in the Inland Empire, especially for immigrants and people of color. The Inland Empire Community Living Services program aims to give that choice back to the people, regardless of their background. We are one community and we must support each other in order to live healthy, fulfilling lives individually and collectively.

Because no matter where you think the Inland Empire has its borders, within those borders are people. These are people who have worked hard their whole lives, and maybe haven’t always gotten a break. But they’ve raised their families, lived their lives, and contributed mightily to the greatness of our state. We owe it to them to give back.

Maybe we can’t define the Inland Empire. But we can define a problem for the older adults who call it home. And we can work to solve that problem. So if you or someone you know is in need, please fill out this form to connect to the IECLS today, and together, we can define a solution.

At Institute on Aging, our programs and services help older adults, their families, and caregivers explore aging together, through good times and bad, as an adventure and a journey. Contact us today to learn more.

The post Community Living Services for Inland Empire Seniors Help Older Adults Age in Place appeared first on IOA Blog.

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When her grandfather gets out of bed and is unable to fall asleep for hours at night, Stella knows that he is struggling with anxiety. Sometimes his heart will race, and he’ll be preoccupied with the noises he hears outside, concerned about whether the doors are locked and the house is secure. It began shortly after his wife passed away, and it got worse with time until they addressed the issue with his doctors. Even with treatment, her grandfather still has bad days sometimes, but Stella has seen so much improvement in his symptoms. And she can tell that he feels much more confident and connected with his life as a father and grandfather.

We can experience anxiety occasionally as a normal response to stressful situations. In fact, anxiety can be an important warning sign that something is wrong and help us protect ourselves from danger. But when it arises more often, is disproportionate to stressors, and disrupts an aging adult’s experience and quality of life, anxiety becomes a serious disorder that should be treated with great care. Fortunately, compassionate, holistic treatment for anxiety in the elderly is readily available, and you can help an aging loved one to access this care.

Symptoms of Anxiety in the Elderly

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. None of these disorders should be dismissed as just a normal part of the aging process. Symptoms of anxiety disorders can be very distressing, and older adults require special care to minimize and prevent its symptoms, which can include:

  • Shakiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Digestion problems
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Eye and vision problems
  • Muscle tension or soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Nightmares
  • Scary thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of activities, places, people, and even thoughts that trigger anxiousness
  • Changes in weight, appetite, or eating habits
  • Sleep disturbances, including sleeping too much or too little
  • Resistance to leaving home
  • Withdrawal and isolating behavior
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Panic
  • Abuse of substances

Not all of these symptoms must be present in order for an older adult to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. However, if your aging loved one exhibits even one or more of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to talk to their doctor about how their discomfort can be addressed.

If not dealt with, symptoms of anxiety can escalate and a senior can experience a weakened immune system, muscle tension, high blood sugar, nervous system fatigue, digestion problems, ulcers, cardiovascular problems, and difficulty breathing, among many other health complications and possibilities. They may also be at greater risk of developing other mental health complications, such as depression and thoughts of suicide. Along with adequate treatment, we can consider some of the stressors in their lives and help ease some of the burdens on our aging loved ones.

Common Triggers of Anxiety in Seniors

While anxiety doesn’t necessarily have a specific trigger, it often arises from or is exacerbated by specific environmental and situational factors. With age, we encounter challenges and stressors that we may not have faced before. Transitions themselves can be difficult, and older adults can be facing significant changes that can contribute to the development or escalation of anxiety. If we can narrow in on some of the common triggers of stress and anxiety in the elderly, we can keep an eye out, anticipate anxious responses, and mitigate challenges. By creating a more positive and supportive environment for aging adults, they can cope with anxiety more effectively and navigate treatment more gracefully.

Here are some of the anxiety triggers to look out for that are common among older adults:

With greater awareness of your loved one’s particular issues, you can offer support or find the support they need in these areas. For example, you might help to set them up with professional money management financial services, reconnect with old friends or community activities to reverse isolation, or practice exercises to support chronic pain management.

Treatment and Coping Strategies for Anxiety in Older Adults

If you think that your aging loved one might be experiencing an anxiety disorder, it’s time to seek out medical care—the sooner, the better to address their symptoms. A psychiatrist will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and identify the best treatment options based on that assessment. A care plan for anxiety may comprise a combination of medication and therapy, but the doctor will be able to determine the very best course of treatment for the individual and monitor their recovery progress over time.

As with so many other physical and mental health disorders in seniors, care for anxiety should consider the whole person: their home environment, existing support systems or lack thereof, level of isolation, mobility, level of independence and ability to manage necessary daily tasks, health history and active illnesses, and, of course, their particular preferences for care. A professional care manager is a great resource for assessing all of these elements and developing an environment for them to thrive in. A care manager considers every relevant detail that will bear on a senior’s quality of life. They can help you to develop an individualized plan for your aging loved one that addresses everything from home safety to nutrition to social engagement to medication management and regular therapy sessions. They can help to arrange on-site or in-home behavioral health appointments.

They can also refer you to a clinician if your aging loved one doesn’t already have a doctor who is prepared to treat their anxiety comprehensively. And you can advocate for an aging adult by offering a doctor your observations of their symptoms and by asking what you can do to support your loved one on a regular basis.

For example, you might:

It’s important that your aging loved one doesn’t have to journey through their anxiety alone. Likewise, as a caregiver, you need not operate alone, as there is a range of support systems for caregivers. Start to explore the treatment options for your loved one’s anxiety. Talk to them about the options they feel comfortable with and about the life they would like to create in recovery from anxiety. That revitalized life can start today.

For more resources and comprehensive support services, contact us at Institute on Aging today. We work every day to support older adults and their caregivers in creating healthy, fulfilling lives of grace and dignity. Join our community.

The post Anxiety in the Elderly: Symptoms and Restorative Strategies appeared first on IOA Blog.

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It’s summer in San Francisco. And while it isn’t quite as warm here as it is in other areas, it still means getting outside, taking in the air, getting down to the water, and spending time exploring the neighborhoods and the artistic and cultural energy that makes this city great.

For a lot of people, including older adults, that means one thing: street fests and fairs.

Street fests and fairs are great ways to explore the diversity that makes this city great, walking around a swirling potpourri of foods and sounds and lights and activities. For older adults, they offer a wealth of opportunities to improve well-being:

But while there are a lot of health benefits, that’s also not entirely the point: the point is to have fun. It’s to explore areas of the city that you may never have seen, see artists you never would have discovered, and hear music that would never have found your ears if you didn’t turn down that one street.

They’re all about experience, and reminding ourselves that it is never, ever too late to do something new. So if you are able to get to one, check out our list of some of the best San Francisco fests and fairs for older adults.

San Francisco Street Fests and Fairs for Older Adults

Stern Grove Festival
Dates: Sundays through August 19th
Location: Stern Grove Park
Cost: Free

Now in its 81st year, the Stern Grove Festival is as much a local institution as fog. A weekly concert series featuring legends, local celebs, and global musicians who you may never have heard of, but will lilt your afternoon away, gather at Stern Grove Park every Sunday at 2:00.

The concert is free, so bring your own chairs, food, some drinks, and anything else you need. It isn’t luxury. It’s just relaxing. Upcoming artists include M. Ward, the Mexican Institute of Sound, the San Francisco Ballet Company, and the Ronnettes.

San Francisco Sunday Streets
Dates: Varied
Location: Varied
Cost: Free

Here’s one for the more active older adults among us. Every few weeks during the summer, through September, the city closes off a few blocks in the city to car traffic. It allows anyone to walk, run, ride bikes, or just stroll along the usually crowded boulevards. It turns the street into an open corridor, a large expanse of usually-crowded areas into which anyone can fill, for any reason. It’s like a city-wide block party.

While this isn’t a “Fest”, per se, it is a gathering, or a happening, as some of our Boomer readers would call it. It’s a self-made fest of people experiencing San Francisco without traffic and forming a new kind of community.

Check out the link above to find out what the next date and location is. July will see parts of the Mission closed off, a rare treat indeed.

Breastfest Beer Festival
Dates: July 14th
Location: Marin Center in San Rafael
Cost: $40-$65

What’s better than fun? Fun for a good cause. On July 14th, from 1-5PM at the Marin Center in San Rafael, almost two dozen local brewers will ply their wares. It’s a chance to try some of the best beers the region has to offer, all in the beauty of the North Bay. But the best part is the cause. As the name implies, this is a fundraiser. Your $40-$65 ticket (depending on when you buy) raises money for low-income women with breast cancer. The money raised goes to the Charlotte Maxwell Complimentary Clinic, a free clinic for women in need.

So have a few beers, and help out people who need it. You’ll feel great for a lot of reasons.

San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival
Dates: July 14-15th and July 21-22nd
Location: War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
Cost: $25-$45

One of the great things about living in a huge, global city like San Francisco, sitting at the edge of America’s vastness and looking out over the great ocean, is the huge diversity of culture. You’ll hear that in the hundreds of languages you encounter on the BART. And you’ll see it at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.

On July 14th-15th, and 21st-22nd, at the War Memorial Opera House, the 40th annual dance fest features the sounds and movements from around the world, including “Brazil, Central Europe, China, Congo, Cuba, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, Tahiti, West Africa, and Zimbabwe.”

Nihonmachi Street Fair
Dates: August 4-5th
Location: Japantown
Cost: Free (costs for food)

On August 4th-5th, in San Francisco’s Japantown District, the 45th annual Nihonmachi Street Fair is a celebration of Asian-Pacific American cultures. With music, arts, food, and more, you’ll sample from a variety of cultures and recognize that whether it is yours or someone else’s (or most likely a blend of the two), we all want the same things: good food, good friends, and good times.

Polk Street Blues Festival
Dates: August 18-19th
Location: Polk Street
Cost: Free

For eight years, this free festival has showcased some of San Francisco’s, the nation’s, and the world’s best blues. It offers the variety of music in the all-American genre, and how it has been molded and influenced by music from around the globe. The blues are universal; this fest celebrates that.

This year, the fest returns to Polk Street between California and Sutter, on August 18th and 19th from 10-6. There is plenty of seating, plenty of music, and great food from vendors around the city. It might be about the blues, but it’ll make you plenty happy.

Get Out and See the City

At IOA, we’re part of San Francisco. We all live around here, usually in the city itself. We know and love the city and the incredible diversity of people we get to meet. We love their experiences, and we love their vitality, sense of life, and willingness to find new stories and create new memories.

That’s what going to street fests and fairs can do. They combine all of that. They give you a chance to see things you might not have ever seen, whether it is a dance from the other side of the world or a street you’ve never strolled down before. They’re good for you and good for the community.

Street fests and fairs also let you give back. You can support local artists or support good causes. You can try local vendors. You can have a glass of wine with your friends and thousands of happy strangers as music fills the air and the city beats around you. It’s a new memory every day.

At Institute on Aging, our programs and services help older adults, their families, and caregivers explore aging together, through good times and bad, as an adventure and a journey. Contact us today to learn more.

The post The Best San Francisco Summer Festivals and Fairs for Older Adults appeared first on IOA Blog.

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Just about any time you purchase or make a payment on insurance, you’re spending money you hope to never get back. Auto insurance is only used in case you have an accident, which, by definition, you aren’t trying to do. Same with home insurance. Health care is the only type of insurance you pay for (for most American readers) that you use regularly, but even then, hopefully, it is only during checkups.

But there is one type of insurance whose rarity of use surpasses all others: life insurance.

Every time you made a payment on your life insurance (or when you purchased a policy), you were balancing it against your possible death. But the purpose of life insurance isn’t to replace you (as auto or home insurance might be), but to replace your earning potential. That way, if something happened to you while you were still working, your family or other dependents wouldn’t suddenly be left with nothing.

That’s why when people retire, they tend to either cash out or otherwise discontinue their life insurance. After all, there seems to be no reason to pay for it once you have passed your prime earning years. For many, life insurance is seen as a needless expense on a fixed income.

But this is often far from the case. While different investment and financial experts have different opinions on the benefits of life insurance after you retire, there are certain situations where it can make sense.

Every situation is different, of course, and it all depends on what you have saved, what you are earning, what you and your dependents need money for after you are gone, and what you want your legacy to be. There are no cut-and-dried solutions, so no matter what, consult with your financial advisor before you make any decisions.

Life insurance is a policy that you are glad to never have used. But even after you retire, there are some situations where you and your loved ones will be glad you had it.

5 Situations Where Older Adults Need Life Insurance

No two people’s needs are the same. But if you have any of these considerations or desires, you may want to talk to your financial advisor about the probity of continuing to have or purchasing a life insurance policy.

1. Dependent Children or Grandchildren

While many retirees have independent adult children with established careers, that is no longer universal for everyone. Today, a lot of people have dependents even after they retire. A few reasons children might be dependents include:

  • You had children later in life, and they are still in school/grad school
  • Your children are struggling in their careers
  • Your children have had life changes (such as divorce or partner having to move for work) and need help with things like lodging and childcare
  • You are responsible for raising your grandchildren
  • You have children with disabilities

Some of these are legal dependencies, others are emotional ones. But we live in challenging financial times, and not everyone is in control of their own destiny. Having a life insurance policy to protect those who depend on you after you are gone is a way to create a little bit more security.

2. Funeral Costs

The average cost of a funeral in the United States is $7,045, and that’s before cemetery costs, which can add another $3,000 or so. That means that a standard funeral will run as much as $10,000 or even more. That’s an enormous amount of money and can dramatically cut into whatever you leave your children.

This is where life insurance often comes in. Using it as a hedge against funerary costs is one of the most common uses for life insurance. Now, it takes at least 30 days for a payout, so the funeral will still have to be paid for in advance of collection, but knowing that money is coming means that your survivors won’t have to worry about costs as long as they can temporarily cover the upfront expenses.

It also means you know the amount that is coming, so that you can prepare in advance. It even gives you the chance to plan your own funeral, which can be a wonderful, if bittersweet, gift to give to yourself and your loved ones.

3. Gifts or Charity Donations

For many people, the chance to leave a charitable donation after they die is incredibly appealing. It is a way to leave a legacy, whether you are funding a shelter for cats or endowing a chair at a symphony orchestra. But unless you are very well-off, it’s hard to plan for this when you don’t know what your expenses will be over the course of your life.

That’s where (surprise!) life insurance comes in. Having a policy for the express purpose of donating to a charity means that you don’t have to worry about circumscribing your spending or inheritance wishes in order to fund a cause of your choosing. You don’t have to set aside a chunk that you could otherwise use for vacations or health care or helping your family, and you don’t have to worry about eating into your gift if an emergency arises.

4. Collateral or Creditor Proof

There are times as an older adult when you might need a loan. You may be selling your house to get a place downtown, which might be more expensive than your house. You may want to take a trip around the world. You might be looking to move into an assisted living community.

Whatever the case, it can sometimes be hard to get loans, particularly when you are not working. There are reverse mortgages and other financial products designed for people 62 and over, but those aren’t always the right choice, designated for your purposes, or even feasible.

In these cases, you might have to take out a traditional loan, which can be harder as an older adult, in part because creditors are wary about being paid back in the event of your death. A life insurance policy is a guarantee of sums, great collateral, and proof to any creditor. It means you can get what you need now on fair and decent terms without burdening your survivors.

5. Inheritance or Estate Taxes

This certainly doesn’t apply to everyone. In America, the new inheritance tax shields you up to $11.2 million for a single person or $22.4 for a couple. It could drop to a lower standard (5.46 million and $10.5 million, respectively) in 2025, but that isn’t a sure thing.

Obviously, not everyone will be impacted by the inheritance tax. But we’re optimistic here, and we hope some of our readers have been fortunate enough in life to have these considerations!

If this is you, you may want a life insurance policy to cover the taxes of what you will leave your inheritors. This way, they don’t have to pay the taxes on what is left to them, so they can collect the full amount you want to leave.

Doing What’s Right For You

Here’s a bonus reason you might want a life insurance policy: so you can spend what you want in life and still have something left to leave your children. We know that post-retirement can be a balance between living the life you want and planning your estate and will. For some people, a life insurance policy allows them to do both.

And that’s the point of having life insurance after you retire. For the people who need or want it, it is the comfort of having plans securely made. It is having something in the back of your pocket that lets you know the plans you have for the rest of your life aren’t dependent on the whims of the market or a sudden expense. It is a way of securing your legacy.

Life insurance policies aren’t needed for everyone after they retire. But if you have talked to your financial advisor about your plans and determine that it makes sense, they can be a source of security.

When you are working, life insurance policies are a somewhat grim reminder of life’s worst-case scenarios. But after you retire they can be a path toward one of the best things in life: peace of mind.

At Institute on Aging, our programs and services help older adults, their families, and caregivers explore aging together, through good times and bad, as an adventure and a journey. Contact us today to learn more.

The post Do Older Adults Need Life Insurance? 5 Reasons You Might appeared first on IOA Blog.

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When you’re a caregiver it is easy to overwork yourself. Caregiver stress, fatigue, and overall burnout can be easy to dismiss as less important than undivided attention for your aging or disabled loved one. In other words, caregiving has the potential to be all-consuming. But it shouldn’t be so at the expense of your own well-being and vibrancy. There are other ways to be—progressive ways to manage your responsibilities to yourself as well as to the person in your care.

When you indifferently accept your frustration, overwhelment, and fatigue, you do so at your expense and at the expense of your aging loved one. Your attention suffers, as do your energy, motivation, judgment, and capacity for joy. It’s in everyone’s best interest that you maintain proactive awareness of your own needs, even when that means asking for outside help or taking a break. A caregiver’s self-care checklist can guide you as you become more comfortable prioritizing your needs and creating harmony among your personal and caregiving responsibilities.

Keeping Your Various Roles and Responsibilities in Perspective

Now is as good a time as any to step back and consider how the different parts of your life are working—for your own sake and for the higher good. Your self-worth does not depend on how successful you are as a caregiver. It’s good to remind ourselves of that fact and to reroute the common tendency to overestimate our capacities and overachieve, even when it means running ourselves into the ground. It takes a bit of patience to move away from these tendencies, but you can learn to better manage your expectations and forge a path that is truly self-sustaining and free of so much stress!

Just as you can help your aging loved one to set smart goals, you can approach your own goals with fresh eyes. When you make a list of the housework, care tasks, errands, appointments, and other activities that you decide you need to do in a day or a week, are you being honest about how much time you really have and how much you can realistically fit in? And have you carved out the time for your own needs? When you get real about this equation, you may find that the time and the tasks don’t add up. And that’s okay. It may be time to accept some help, an extra set of caring hands to spend time with an older adult while you take a break to handle your own life responsibilities or extra assistance to take over some of the housework and errands so you are free to spend more quality time with your loved one.

Shake the reaction that tells you you should be able to do this all on your own. As a caregiver, you deserve as much compassion as the person in your care or anyone else. Giving devoted attention to your own self-care is a foundational practice for reasonable work-life balance, health, and happiness.

Your Caregiver Self-Care Checklist to Help Keep You Grounded

In an ideal situation without limitations, what would you hope for in terms of daily routine, ease of care, and personal fulfillment? Can you identify which conditions and goals are most important to you and to the older adult in your care? There are ways to get creative with your time and resources in order to really put those priorities first. But in order to give this caregiving role your all, you have to reserve the time and resources to take care of yourself—and not just this week, but on an ongoing basis.

Take the time now to list the things you need and want to do for yourself—again pretending that there is no limit to your time or your energy. We’ve given some ideas and examples to get you started, but you can fill in your lists in whatever way makes the most sense to you.

Physical Health
  • Exercise three times a week
  • Sleep 7 to 8 hours per night
  • Get a massage every other week
Emotional Well-Being
  • Visit with family and friends every week
  • Meet with an individual therapist for weekly appointments
  • Keep up with personal spiritual practice
Personal and Professional Development
  • Take an evening art class
  • Renew First Aid and CPR certifications
  • Take one personal day off from caregiving every month


Consider your personal goals and your goals for regular caregiving to be separate. Then think about how to integrate your time and resources to make space for both because they are equally important. If you have a hard time conceiving of real balance among all of these needs and wants, a care manager can help you to sort out your lists and your schedule. If you’ve been handling your loved one’s care all on your own for awhile, it may be difficult at this point to imagine having someone else step in to give support and respite. But welcoming a compassionate individual with fresh perspective and ideas may contribute even more than you could have expected.

As caregivers, we have to constantly be evolving because situations change and we grow in the process. Being open to new possibilities and being honest about our own human needs will ensure that we flow with the course of evolution rather than resist it.

For more ideas about balancing the joys and challenges of caregiving, check out Institute on Aging’s blog. Contact us a call anytime at 415-750-4111 to find out how our programs, services, and resources can benefit your life and your aging loved one’s.

The post Caregiver Self-Care Checklist for Work-Life Balance appeared first on IOA Blog.

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One of the most inescapable facts of life is the law. This is often a good thing since lawlessness is usually a pretty bad scene. But it means that, if you have a legal issue and aren’t fortunate enough to have the right kind of lawyer on retainer, you need a representative or a counselor to help you navigate the warrens and mazes of our system.

This is no different for older adults in California. Aging doesn’t mean slowly freeing yourself of the need for representation; indeed, it could be argued that older adults need more help figuring out the legal aspects of health care, end of life issues, and protecting yourselves from scams, abuse, and other insidious problems.

Legal assistance, however, can be costly and in the Bay Area—with rising costs of living, a rapidly aging population, and a large percentage of adults at or under the poverty line—that could be a problem. That’s where the state of California comes in.

For older adults who qualify, there are statewide Legal Service Providers (LSPs) that work through a network of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) to help you get the advice and counseling you need. These LSPs are found in every country in California, from north to south, and from ocean to desert to mountain.

California leads the nation in taking care of its aging population; know the programs designed to help you, and use them. You can’t escape the rigorous bureaucracy of modern life. But you can get help getting through it so that you can get past legal concerns and enjoy every day.

The Need For Legal Assistance For Older Adults

In the past 30 years, the population over the age of 65 in California has more than doubled. While this creates a growing community with stronger political power, it also means that resources are more scarce. This includes legal resources, and, unfortunately, it means that lawyers will be able to charge more for basic services. Supply and demand and all that.

This could be very bad. After all, as we said, California is expensive and given housing, medical, and other basic living costs, it is especially expensive to be an older adult. A study by the National Institute of Health estimated that, in California, the Federal Poverty Limit wasn’t even a baseline for older adults:

New calculations using the Elder Economic Security Standard (TM) Index (Elder Index) for California show that both singles and couples age 65 or older who rent need more than twice the amount established by the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) Guideline to meet basic living expenses..Housing and health care are the primary drivers of the high costs.

That means every penny counts, and for people closer to the economic margins, any legal issues could have a huge impact. And there are a lot of potential issues. Aside from mundane, everyday cases that arise from car accidents, disputes with neighbors, and the like, some legal issues that older adults will face include:

Many of these can be folded into even more complex issues, like family disputes over wills. And of course, there is always the need for criminal attorneys due to charges for which a person might be unprepared. This is true if you are the defense or the prosecution.

Additionally, the sad reality of life is that there are enormous amounts of scams targeting the elderly, whether they are trying to steal veteran’s benefits or using culturally-targeted scams to gain trust and money. You may need a lawyer to help you fight off such scams and get back what is rightfully yours.

But all of this costs money. And if you don’t have it, what do you do?

You look for the Legal Service Provider near you.

Legal Service Providers in California

The Older Americans Act of 1966 established certain guidelines for the legal rights of older adults, who had previously been shunted aside and left tragically vulnerable. Different states treated their obligations differently, but California has always tried to take them very seriously.

One of the primary ways California fulfills its obligations to protect the legal rights of older adults is by setting up Legal Service Providers. These providers are funded in coordination with the California Department of Aging, which works with Area Agencies on Aging to provide the best services. That’s complicated, and yes, bureaucratic. But you don’t have to know every level here. You just should know its mission:

The purpose of the Legal Services Program is to deliver high quality, high-impact, cost-effective services designed to address the unmet legal needs of vulnerable older people throughout the State of California.

By “vulnerable”, here, the state means “people in greatest social or economic need, including but not limited to low-income individuals, minorities, rural elders, and those with limited English proficiency.” This also includes many people with disabilities, the formerly incarcerated, people suffering from dementia or other mental conditions, those without access to transportation, and those who are socially isolated.

There is no real exhaustive list, and criteria can vary by jurisdiction. As a general rule of thumb, however, the provisions are for people who fall under those the “greatest economic needs” or “greatest social needs”, and of course these categories overlap. The economic need is defined, generally (though not universally), as being at or below 125% of the poverty line.

Your LSPs, through your AAAs, will help provide you with the legal assistance you need, whether that is cutting through red tape or providing actual lawyers and counselors to represent you. There are 39 different agencies representing all areas. Call the one nearest you.


Institute on Aging and the Importance of Community

It’s nice to know that the state is looking out for older adults. Too often, their needs are neglected, especially if they don’t have money. The vast divide in income means that it is easy to fall through the cracks, as most professionals (understandably) want to cater to the people who can pay them the most.

That’s where the state steps in, helping to distribute resources to everyone. And make no mistake: legal aid is a resource. You need it to plan for the future and live a safe, comfortable life, without a gnawing fear. The richest in California, through the auspices of the state, help those not as fortunate.

That’s what we believe in at IOA. We know that no one is an island, all by themselves. We know no one makes it alone. That’s why we work together, everyone helping each other. It’s why we run the Community Living Fund and Elder Abuse Prevention Program. People who face financial hardships or are being abused are often most in need of assistance. We can’t provide legal support for them, but, along with programs like LSP, we can help get them on their feet. Because we know that life is better if we help each other out.

So if there is a hand extended to you, take it. If you need legal help but can’t afford it, call an AAA near you to see if you qualify. Get the ball rolling. Get the help you need. The only thing you have to lose is frustration, fear, and the red tape that is holding you back. Cut through it, and bound into the rest of your life.   

At Institute on Aging, our programs and services help older adults, their families, and caregivers explore aging together, through good times and bad, as an adventure and a journey. Contact us today to learn more.

The post Legal Assistance for Older Adults in California: Know Where to Get Help appeared first on IOA Blog.

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One of the discomfiting contradictions of living in the Information Age is the realization that a surplus of information doesn’t necessarily lead you closer to the truth. We’re constantly bombarded by contradictory sets of facts from every corner of the internet, making it almost impossible to know what is right. Except for maybe politics, this is probably most true in personal health.

Do you have a glass of red wine every night? That’s very good…unless, of course, it is bad. What about dark chocolate? Eating that is very bad for you, unless, of course, it is good. Here’s a supplement that doctors Don’t Want You To Know About, which, in the amped-up carnival barker argot of internet scams, is a good thing.

One of the areas of contention is iron supplements for older adults. Iron is an important mineral, and iron deficiencies can lead to serious health issues. For that reason, iron supplements are a huge seller and are often pushed toward older adults with the idea that they can prevent anemia and help boost energy.

The problem is that having a surplus of iron is also dangerous, and most older adults get the iron they need from diet alone. So there are many cases where taking iron supplements can actually be bad for your health. In fact, most older adults probably shouldn’t be taking iron supplements at all.

Before we get into more details, we’ll sum up the Golden Rule of IOA health blogs: talk to your doctor. If you believe you have an iron deficiency, find out! Find out if supplements are right for you. Find out if they are dangerous.

Iron deficiency is a real thing. But so is iron surplus. Monitoring your health, talking to your doctor, and taking professional advice is the best way to make sure you don’t suffer from either.

How Much Iron Do I Need?

The first question is: why do we need iron? At the most basic level, iron contributes to the production of red blood cells, which, not to put too fine a medical point to it, are good. When your body is unable to produce the required amount of red blood cells, you could face anemia.

Obviously, not everyone needs the same amount of iron. Oddly, children, especially infants, need a lot of iron, even more than adults. The first year of life and the years between 14 and 18 are important years for both men and women.

The need for iron changes as we age, but once we pass puberty, it remains consistent for most of our adult lives. Men between the ages of 19 and 50 require 8mg of iron a day, with women in that age (prime childbearing years) requiring 18mg. These numbers go up during pregnancy and lactation.

After roughly 50, a man’s requirement stays the same, but a woman’s dramatically drops. After menopause, a woman also requires only as much iron as men do—just 8mg a day.

What Happens If I Get Too Much Iron?

We all know that anemia is bad, of course. But what is the issue with getting too much iron? Why would that be a bad thing?

It has to do with how iron is processed in the body. It is absorbed as necessary as the body cycles through its oxygen-rich red blood cells. While this is a perpetual process, it involves only a finite number of cells. So when there is more iron than actually required, it has to be stored elsewhere, and it generally goes toward the organs.

This isn’t good. Too much iron can be toxic and may damage the liver, the heart, and the pancreas. An excess of iron can also be bad for your joints, leading to arthritis and chronic pain.

Older adults who have unusually high levels of iron are also at increased risk for diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. There have also been correlations found between excess iron and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It is important to note that while there is a correlation, there has not been any direct causation.

Finding the Right Balance

All this being said, we don’t want to give the impression that everyone has enough iron. Indeed, a growing body of research indicates that older adults might be more at risk anemia than previously thought. A 2014 study in the journal Mechanisms of Aging and Development, for example, showed that 10% of adults over 65 were anemic, a number that jumps to 20% for those over 85. Both of these numbers are even higher for those in assisted living homes.

The researchers pointed out that older adults with anemia were more likely to suffer from mechanical performance issues and were at an increased risk of falling. It is a real problem.

They blamed two major culprits: inflammation (which, among other things, makes it more difficult for the body to absorb iron) and poor diet. Inflammation can be reduced through a number of mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory drugs, supplements, and even drinking a cup of coffee. Simultaneously, a more iron-rich diet can be introduced, especially if you are living at home and can control your own diet.

What you want the most are foods that are high in iron that is easy to absorb. This includes:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp

There are also foods that contain a lot of iron but aren’t as easy to absorb. These include:

  • Tofu
  • Brown rice
  • Broccoli
  • Beans
  • Spinach

A good trick is to also eat foods that are rich in Vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron better. This includes most fruits and vegetables.

So, should older adults take iron supplements? The answer is: probably not. While there is no exact iron limit for everyone, there are real dangers in taking too much. Diet is, most of the time, the best way to regulate and moderate your iron intake.

However, there may be cases where an older adult will need to take an iron supplement. Everyone is different. That’s why you should talk to your doctor if you are exhibiting symptoms of anemia. She or he will be able to tell you what is right for you.

Even in confusing times, that’s what it comes down to: seeking out help when you need it and listening to the people who know you best. Listen to your body. If it has signs of too much or too little iron, do something. You know what you need to do to live your happiest, fullest life. You know you need to listen to yourself and your doctors.

That’s information you can truly use.

At Institute on Aging, our broad range of programs and services help older adults stay healthy and engaged through the journey of aging. Contact us today to learn more.

The post Should Older Adults Take Iron Supplements? Revisiting a Controversy appeared first on IOA Blog.

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Glen describes his stress as “a feeling that someone is gripping the back of my neck tightly. And I’m so tense that I can’t even turn around to see who it is—if I wanted to.” He feels the stress of healthcare expenses, family drama, and even death as he’s dealing with more unfamiliar health challenges than ever before. Maureen, on the other hand, says that when she’s stressed, “I just power through it, focusing only on what needs to get done. But then I crash, and sometimes it takes me days to recover in bed.” She feels the weight of continuing to host a book club in her home each week even after she took a bad fall and has had to use a walker, as well as her husband’s worsening dementia.

Stress can take a heavy toll on our holistic health. Just as other health troubles can be particularly challenging for seniors because our bodies become less resilient with age, so can stress. We’ve examined the signs of stress in seniors so caregivers and family members can be aware of what their aging loved ones may be going through. Now, let’s explore some of the critical action steps and stress management strategies for seniors. With these tools and opportunities in hand, older adults can feel empowered to live life the way they want to without unnecessary distress.

How Can Caregivers Approach Stress Management for Seniors?

Our sources and forms of stress can be as different as each of us individually. Caregivers and family members, especially, can pay attention to the patterns of their aging loved one’s stress to identify what their particular challenges are. In a lot of cases, the strategies for stress management will address the actual sources of stress. But it’s also possible to encourage relaxation and stress relief more broadly. Here are some tips and resources to consider in both directions.

Addressing Stress at the Source

When you can identify that an older adult is struggling against some particular stressor in life, you may be able to introduce solutions that diminish or dissolve that burden. When these sources of stress are no longer in control and aging adults are no longer at the whim of external pressures, it’s an empowering development. And, together, you may be able to prevent stress more proactively and efficiently into the future. Consider these tips and resources for addressing challenges that are common sources of stress for seniors:

  • Lifestyle. Lifestyle habits can have a positive impact on one’s health and well-being, or they can have a negative one. Caregivers can help an aging loved one to re-evaluate and revitalize daily routines, such as nutrition and diet.
  • Health. For a lot of people, age brings new and challenging health problems. Unfortunately, these problems can inspire stress, and stress can make these problems worse. The best strategy is to get ahead of the challenges by having a cooperative relationship with a geriatric doctor and being open to making those lifestyle adjustments that can promote health in later years.
  • Sleep. If your aging loved one is having trouble sleeping or feeling otherwise fatigued, it’s time to address this strain with a doctor or with lifestyle changes to support better quality rest. Sufficient rest will support all other areas of healthy living.
  • Advocacy. When it comes to health challenges later in life, many older adults feel overwhelmed by communicating with practitioners and insurance companies and keeping track of the information that piles up in the process. Caregivers can serve as important advocates to support communication and planning.
  • Substance Use. Just like health generally, substance use among seniors can stem from stress, and it can contribute to it. Discover how you can help prevent senior substance abuse and address these issues if they already exist for your loved one.
  • Activity. When an aging adult is isolated or feels prohibitively limited by disability or other barriers, it can become a slippery slope toward even greater isolation and stress. Incorporating interesting activities on a daily or weekly basis can help to reverse this trend.
  • Organization. Paperwork, financial responsibilities, communication, and other burdens can weigh heavily on older adults—especially when these pressures build up over time. A caregiver’s fresh perspective can go a long way toward introducing organization and systems that an older adult can participate in successfully.
  • Clutter. Likewise, when clutter builds up in an older adult’s home, they can feel weighed down and stressed out by it. Caregivers and families can work together to declutter and tidy a loved one’s space and set up systems for organization and more graceful living.
  • Independence. As adults age and begin to lose some of their independent abilities, the transition can be extremely difficult and stressful, especially as they may be trying to understand their identity in a new way. In many cases, having professional in-home assistance can help them strike a graceful balance between dependence and independence.
  • Socialization and Community. Isolation is a common and important red flag in seniors. Prolonged isolation can lead to depression and even physical health problems. But opportunities for socialization and community involvement are accessible if you can help your aging loved one to get connected.
  • Psychological Health. Underlying psychological conditions may be standing in the way of an older adult’s best life. Geriatric counseling can prevent unnecessary suffering and pave the way for your aging loved one to thrive.
Promoting Stress Reduction Holistically

There are also ways to ease stress from the inside out. Relaxation techniques can empower aging adults to live the life they want to live despite outside pressures and limitations. These activities and positive ways of perceiving are flexible and accessible, so you as a caregiver can help an aging loved one to practice relaxation right at home and almost anywhere else. Encourage an older adult to give some of these different opportunities a try to discover what piques their interest and inspires stress relief.

  • Yoga. Yoga practices help to ease stress in the body and the mind. It also prepares an aging body to be more supple and ready for physical activity. As an adaptable exercise, you can practice yoga in a chair, and it can be modified for particular challenges such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Meditation. Meditation also serves as a powerful stress reliever, especially when older adults discover the meditation techniques that resonate with them. These relaxation practices can be personalized for your loved one—like this mindfulness practice for dementia.
  • Exercise. The benefits of exercise for older adults are immense: physical activity can improve health and motivation, enhance balance and confidence, and be a great way for people to connect and socialize.
  • New Hobbies. Trying new hobbies, even right at home, can reinvigorate seniors. The possibilities are endless, even when limited by arthritis and other challenges.
  • Sunshine and Nature. Time outdoors can revitalize an aging adult who has been isolated. Simply taking a walk or getting involved in gardening together are great habits for stress relief.
  • Positive Goal Setting. We’re never too old to have dreams and set goals. Work with your aging loved one to explore the possibilities for inspired goals for all of these positive action steps we’ve discussed.
Our Power to Manage Stress

Researchers have discovered that stress has a powerful impact on our health overall. Even our stressful thoughts begin to wear on our bodies and speed up the aging process. The good news is that our efforts to keep stress in check through enlightened perspective, taking action, getting support, and practicing relaxation techniques can also have a powerful impact. It’s never too late to introduce these positive practices for your aging loved one—and, indeed, for yourself as a caregiver prone to stress and burnout. We may feel too stressed out to take action against the stress, but there is nothing more important for our health. And none of us has to approach it alone.

To find out how Institute on Aging can be a supportive resource in your quest for stress relief, contact us today at 415-750-4111. Our services and programs can support seniors aging in place and seeking ways to live life to the fullest.

The post Stress Management for Seniors: Strategies for Empowering Your Aging Loved One appeared first on IOA Blog.

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