Archive for December, 2009

The changing nutritional needs of seniors in Joliet

The modified pyramid for older adults and seniors in Shorewood, Joliet, Plainfield, Channahon, Crest Hill, Minooka, Naperville, Morris, Aurora, and Lockport ILMany things change as people age. That’s a given. But how does nutrition change over a lifetime. Each year over age 40, a person’s metabolism slows down resulting in fewer burned calories. Add a reluctance to exercise, and it’s a recipe for weight gain and its complications.

On the other hand, scientists estimate that anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent of American seniors over the age of 65 consume too few calories, proteins or essential vitamins and minerals for good health. According to Dr. Jeffrey B. Blumberg, associate director of the Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University, national and regional surveys over the last decade have found close to 50 percent of elderly Americans consuming insufficient levels of calories or of such micronutrients as calcium, iron, B vitamins or vitamin C.

In 1992, the United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services published the Food Guide Pyramid for healthy eating. Seven years later in 1992, scientists at the USDA’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston released the “Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults” which was specially designed to meet the nutritional needs of people over age seventy.

First, the modified pyramid is based on eight 8-oz. glasses of water or other nonalcoholic, caffeine-free beverages per day. Moving up, the next level of the pyramid suggests that a senior’s diet include six or more servings a day of fiber-rich bread, cereal, rice, or pasta.

Above that, there should be three or more servings of vegetables and two or more servings of fruit. The fruits and vegetables with the richest colors (dark green, orange, yellow, and red) have the greatest quantities of nutrients. Then comes the protein level which suggests three or more servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese, and two or more servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. Dairy choices should be of the low-fat variety.

In the meat category, include fish, which may reduce cardiac risk, dried beans, which have lots of fiber, and lean meat and poultry. Protein is important in maintaining muscle mass, boosting immunity, and aiding in wound healing. And finally, the tiny tip of the pyramid recommends using fats, oils, and sweets sparingly.

Good nutrition should and can be part of every senior’s life in order to keep the immune system strong and to have energy and a positive outlook.

Some helpful tips include:

  • Good carbs. Opt for whole grain nutrition (brown rice, whole wheat bread), not refined “white” products such as white bread, white rice, or products made with white flour.
  • Raw veggies. Aim to eat at least one daily serving of your fruits and vegetables raw. This not only preserves their nutritional value, it’s an easy way to avoid constipation. Raw fruits and veggies are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to aid digestion. Plus, there’s no preparation involved. If you have difficulty biting or chewing, cut your apple or carrot into bite-sized pieces. Or try a green salad with grated zucchini.
  • Steaming is the best way to cook vegetables; it preserves nutrients.
  • Protein. Fish, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and tofu all count as protein. So does skinless turkey or chicken, or fish, baked, broiled, grilled, steamed or poached. Go easy on red meats which contain saturated fat and on salty meats such as bacon or ham.
  • Calcium. All dairy products are not created equal. Milk, cheese and yogurt retain their calcium content; cream cheese, cream and butter do not. As part of a healthy senior diet, choose fat-free or low fat dairy products. If lactose-intolerance is an issue, there are lactose-free and lower-lactose products such as hard cheeses and yogurt. A calcium supplement might insure enough calcium. Ask the doctor.
  • Fats. Good fats come from olive oil and sunflower oil, avocados and avocado oil, nuts and seeds.
  • H2O. Drink enough water each day and eat foods with a high water content such as melons, grapes, cucumbers, onions, apples, cabbage, and soup. Staying well hydrated flushes toxins from the body, relieves constipation, helps keep joints flexible. Don’t wait until thirst happens because some people don’t feel thirst, but their bodies need lots of water anyway.

Remember to choose foods that are simple to prepare, flavorful, and easy to chew, swallow and digest. Another good guide to check out is Healthy Eating: New Food Pyramids and Tips for a Healthy Diet.

Before any changes in diet are made, it is wise to consult a health care professional who can evaluate specific nutritional needs based on medical history.

Bon appétit!


Like all assisted living communities, The Timbers of Shorewood braces for surge in diabetes

The Timbers of Shorewood Assisted living and retirement community in Shorewood, Joliet, Plainfield, Channahon, Crest Hill, Minooka, Naperville, Morris, Aurora, Lockport is bracing for a tremendous surge in residents with diabetesAssisted living and retirement communities typically have long range planning in place. If executive directors see ahead as far as 25 years, they are bracing for a tremendous surge in residents with diabetes.

According to a new study from researchers at the University of Chicago, if the current trend continues, the number of diabetes cases will nearly double in the next 25 years, rising from the current 23.7 million to 44.1 million in 2034. The cost of treating this many people will triple, rising from $113 billion $336 billion.

If and when that happens, it’s a massive impact on senior care that will, in turn, have a bearing on an incalculable number of facilities, physicians, nurses, hospitals, etc. Medicare spending on diabetes will skyrocket from $45 billion to $171 billion. It’s the domino effect for sure.

The predicted surge is driven by aging Baby Boomers or those born between 1946 and 1964. Presently the oldest boomer is 64, a senior citizen perhaps for admission to the movies, but a good 10 or 15 years away from assisted living arrangements. But decades can pass very quickly.

Luckily, there are a few things that can prevent such appalling numbers. A recent 10-year trial called the Diabetes Prevention Program showed that overweight people with elevated blood sugar levels who lost a modest amount of weight, lowered their risk of developing diabetes by at least a third. People age 60 and over saw even more dramatic results, cutting their risk of diabetes during the study period by about half.

If everyone would take three easy steps, the surge in diabetes might be better controlled:

  • Lose weight
  • Eat right (low fat, lower calories) most of the time
  • Take a walk (or exercise) 30 minutes five days of the week.

Prevention is the first step. Soon-to-be seniors still have time to change these dire predictions. The Mayo Clinic has an excellent website about diabetes prevention.


Mastering the art of aging well in Joliet

Seniors Aging Well in Shorewood, Joliet, Plainfield, Channahon, Crest Hill, Minooka, Naperville, Morris, Aurora, LockportToo often, the term “aging,” invokes negative images which can stigmatize older adults. But more and more, leaders in the healthcare field, the media, and seniors themselves are focusing on the positive elements of healthy aging over a lifetime. Perhaps the aging Baby Boomers have wrought this change, but it is indeed refreshing to think of post retirement years as a time to consider new roles, new relationships and creative ways to communicate.

Let’s think of the advantages older adults have. At last there is time to stay engaged in one’s social life which can lead to greater health and longevity. I’m convinced isolation and loneliness age people faster than the years going by. Remaining social, especially being helpful to others, promotes wellness by keeping older adults physically active and mentally connected.

Another advantage is a senior’s vast accumulation of experiences, skills and knowledge. It’s like a very deep toolbox. From showing a grandson how to use pliers to adjusting, yet again, to setbacks and losses, older adults have the benefit of knowing they have coped before and will again. Many seniors have developed solid confidence because of this wisdom. It’s almost as if they now truly believe, “If I got through that, I can get through this!”

More older adults see their lives as valuable resources that should not be wasted by passivity. Even older adults with physical limitations can find activities and social events that suit their needs and challenge them to remain engaged.

In conclusion, thinking of aging in positive terms can help prevent the well-known pitfalls of lost ability, relationships, and autonomy. By remaining engaged socially, mentally, and physically, older adults can make post retirement some of the “best days of their lives.”

Visit The Timbers of Shorewood web site to learn more about how we engage our residents.


Seniors, it’s ‘good to be good’ in Joliet

We would all agree that volunteering is good, but research from the past two decades has found that volunteering is also good for you. For seniors, donating time is especially beneficial, because there is a convincing relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

Also, comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have shown that older volunteers are the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering. It seems volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing.

According to a report from Corporation for National and Community Service titled The Health Benefits Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research:

  • a study of adults age 65 and older found that the positive effect of volunteering on physical and mental health is due to the personal sense of accomplishment an individual gains from his or her volunteer activities;
  • another study found that volunteering led to lower rates of depression in individuals 65 and older;
  • a Duke study found that individuals who volunteered after experiencing heart attacks reported reductions in despair and depression – two factors that that have been linked to mortality in post-coronary artery disease patients;
  • an analysis of longitudinal data found that individuals over 70 who volunteered approximately 100 hours per year had less of a decline in self-reported health and functioning levels, experienced lower levels of depression, and had more longevity;

“This is good news for people who volunteer,” said Robert Grimm, Director of the Corporation’s Office of Research and Policy Development and Senior Counselor to the CEO. “This research is particularly relevant to Baby Boomers, who are receiving as well as giving when they help others. Just two hours of volunteering a week can bring meaningful benefits to a person’s body and mind.”

Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health. It increases self-confidence and provides a natural sense of accomplishment. It gives a senior pride and identity. Reducing the risk of depression is another important benefit of volunteering. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation.

Volunteering keeps a senior in regular contact with others and helps develop a solid support system, which in turn protects against stress and depression when going through challenging times. In addition, volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life – that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.

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