It has been the topic of news for several months now and as of late, has turned into a bigger epidemic. The Zika virus, spread by bites of infected mosquitoes in the Aedeus genus, is in the same family as West Nile, yellow fever and tick-borne encephalitic viruses. I just returned from a cruise recently to the Caribbean, where several of the countries are affected. The entire ship’s crew was staffed with bottles of hand sanitizer, and the cruise line took direct steps to communicate with passengers as part of our embarkation process, as well as when we exited the ship for ports of call in Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico to make sure we were covered in bug repellant.
Individuals most at risk are pregnant women, as the Zika virus is linked to birth defects. Fetuses and newborns are of most concern, particularly those in the first trimester. While one in five people infected with the virus become ill, there are those who experience little to no symptoms and may be completely unaware that they are infected.
Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, headache and red eyes or conjunctivitis. Per Dr. Robert Amler, vice-president for government affairs, dean and professor of public health, and professor of environmental health science at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, “these symptoms are usually mild and last only a few days or up to one week.” Symptoms typically occur roughly two to seven days after the mosquito bite, according to the World Health Organization.
In recent weeks, the Zika virus has been linked to older individuals. What are YOUR risks? Researchers have been studying a link between the virus and developing Guillain-Barre syndrome. This post-infection complication causes the body’s immune system to attack part of the nervous system shortly after exposure to the virus. It causes gradual weakness in the legs, arms and upper body, and in some cases, paralysis. In some tracked cases, there was also significant hearing loss, as well as dizziness, although, again, those symptoms were temporary.
At the current moment, there is not a quick test for Zika, nor a vaccine. Thus, it is most important for those traveling to Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, South America or any third world country to be extra cautious and be sure to travel with some form of cover, including Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula Picardin or OFF! Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent deet. Such products keep mosquitoes from biting for about eight hours. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus contains 30 percent lemon eucalyptus, and lasts for roughly seven hours. These particular products were recommended by Consumer Reports.
Do you enjoy walking, but hate walking alone? Are you looking for a new way to motivate yourself and others to get up and get moving? Starting a walking group requires little effort and provides big rewards. Because walking is possible for most people and doesn’t require special skills or equipment, it has become the most popular form of physical activity in the U.S. If you like to walk, why not invite others along on your walking adventures? Getting support from others by walking together can actually help you stick with your health and fitness goals.
A daily, brisk 30-minute walk boosts brainpower, helps control weight, and improves your overall health. And if you commit to doing it with your friends, you’re more likely to stick with it. A sure way to get started and stay committed is to start a walking group.
Here are some suggestions for getting started.
Step 1- Partner up, start recruiting. Ask friends and neighbors if they’d like to form a walking group, and drum up interest by posting fliers in your retirement community or your place of worship. Also be sure to check with the activities center at your senior community for help in organizing.
Step 2- Encourage members of your walking group to set individual goals, like eating a healthier diet, and/or investing in a step counter to help keep track of their progress
Step 3- Establish guidelines and decide when, where, how long, and how often you’ll walk. Create some rules, like whether or not you’ll walk when it’s raining, and whether members need to notify the group if they can’t make it. Exchange contact information and agree on a starting date.
Step 4- Maintain momentum. Once your group’s walking routine is established, look for ways to maintain and boost motivation. You might choose a name for your walking group, enter charity-walking events, and set group goals to increase walking time.
Before you start walking, it’s important to check in with your physician to make sure your heart is healthy enough for exercise. Your doctor will also know how many minutes of exercise in optimal for your body. When you start walking regularly, pay attention to your body to find the intensity level you are most comfortable with. And remember, with any exercise routine, it’s important to stay hydrated.
Be sure to contact the activities director at your senior living community for assistance in organizing your group.
I was on a cruise and was surrounded by sandals, flip-flops, and bare feet everywhere. It’s that lovely rite of passage for traveling spring breakers! Finally, your feet can breathe after being cooped up in boots, socks and snow shoes. But what do you really uncover when you take the socks off? If you look down and see cracked, brittle discolored toenails, you may be suffering from a fungal infection. Not so pretty in open-toed shoes.
So what causes a fungal infection? Age is most certainly a factor as well as certain health conditions, such as diabetes or other conditions that limit circulation in your feet. The fungus feeds on the nail and leaves behind a damaged nail. Also, make sure you dry your feet completely when you get out of the shower or bath.
Can it be cured? It can but early detection is key. You may have seen commercials for such treatments as Jublia or Kerydin. These topical solutions work very well. However, if the infection is more severe, i.e. the nail itself is raised, thick or appears to be showing signs of continued discoloration, a more intense treatment may be needed. Check with your doctor before beginning any type of oral medication, as some require random checks for affects on your liver enzymes. A newer form of treatment is with the use of lasers and is upwards of 80 percent more effective than topical solutions.
If you notice ongoing discoloration in the nail bed, don’t wait. This could be a form of skin cancer, which is sometimes detected late as it is buried in the nail bed. If you have annual visits to your family physician and/or podiatrist, it is a best practice to make a note of any changes and point out to your doctor. However, as previously mentioned, if you notice something that does not look as it should, make an appointment immediately and seek treatment.
On a recent trip to Tampa, I learned the importance of knowing your neighbors. My uncle lives in a quiet retirement community, and he shared several stories of how he and his neighbors look out for each other. We noticed a brand new American flag flowing in the wind in his front yard as we pulled up. We asked if he bought a new flag for us. He said his neighbor noticed his was a bit worn and put up a new one. We both commented on the gesture, and he continued with more stories of how knowing your neighbor matters, especially as you get older. About a year ago, one of the neighbors noticed a large puddle of water at the end of the driveway of the couple that lives across the street during the winter months in Florida. After a closer look, they found there was a water line break, and because they all have each other’s numbers in case of emergency, they were able to notify the couple and help them arrange repairs.
With spring in the air, it’s the perfect time to plan a get together or two so you can meet your neighbors. If you know everyone already, use the time together to get caught up on what everyone’s been doing. Here are some ideas to bring everyone together so you can meet your new neighbors and reminisce with the ones you already know.
- Get on your green thumb! Community gardens are great ways to beautify a landscape and fortify new-found friendships.
- Offer a carpool. If you go to the grocery or the pharmacy every Tuesday, offer your neighbors a ride so they can also pick up items they need. It lends an opportunity to chat and maybe even share dinner ideas.
- Host a game night. Dust off those board games you always loved to play and invite some folks over for a game night. Pick a day, send invites, and provide light snacks. The loser of the game hosts the next game night.
- Start a birthday club. Pick a day each month to celebrate those who have birthdays that month. Buy a cake and meet in a common area at your senior community. You will meet more new people who will likely stop by to share in the celebration.
- Recipe swap. Ask your neighbors to share one of their favorite recipes. Provide them with recipe cards and plan an afternoon to meet to share the actual item, as well as pass out the recipe to each other.
- Walk group. Plan a time and location to meet and get moving. If It’s 30 minutes or if it’s 10 minutes, it gets the heart pumping and encourages time with friends.
- Scrapbook Club. What a great way to preserve your memories! Gather your pictures, scissors, fancy paper and a tape runner, along with a scrapbook. Create decorative pages to store your family photos for generations to come.
Since one of the risks of aging can be a sense of isolation, getting to know one’s neighbors goes a long way toward enriching the lives of all concerned. There are a number of reasons and advantages for seniors to become acquainted with their neighbors. Feeling connected with neighbors increases a sense of community not only in seniors, but also with community members of any age. Many seniors have family members who live elsewhere. Bonding with their neighbors gives a direct sense of family or a bit of closeness one might associate with families.
For a list of group activities happening in your retirement community, contact the Activity Director for Wesley Ridge at 614-907-4198 and for Wesley Glen at 614-987-8973.
I like to meet people, talk to them and learn something unique about them. I learned early on from my father the art of being social. As I look back on my life, I realize that I have met some amazing people. Think about those individuals you knew in your neighborhood, your high school, college, maybe even your first job. We have crossed paths with people who have impacted our lives in some way. But I think the most interesting people I have found are in my own family.
My niece Emma Grace is a freshman at a local high school and was assigned a special project: interview someone and document the conversation. She had to write a list of questions based on who her subject was, and she was even going to videotape it. This is coming from a generation that spends time with their heads down, buried in their phones, and fingers madly typing a thousand miles an hour, not readily engaged nor seeming to care what anyone thinks or says.
And Emma? She chose a subject very near and dear to my heart: her grandmother, my mother. We set everything up in the living room of my sister’s home: lights, camera, chairs and had the microphone ready to capture grandma’s responses. I couldn’t wait to hear what Emma was going to ask her. What was her favorite food? Who was her favorite grandchild? Surprisingly, I was not even close.
Emma had thought diligently about her questions. She knew my mother grew up poor, the seventh child of eight children in a coal-mining town. She knew that she had traveled to Austria a few summers ago to visit her mother’s town. She knew she lost her husband to cancer at a young age. I sat there while Emma interviewed my mother and was captivated. There were things I did not know about my mother. “Grandma, tell me when you knew HE was the one?” “How did you deal with the death of your husband at such a young age?” “What do you hope that your children or grandchildren learned from you?” Yes, these were some of the questions dear Emma asked my mother. I was overwhelmed by emotion.
Too often we wait to acknowledge what someone means to us after they pass away or leave us. And what we miss is the simple fact that someone so close to us fell in love, had dreams, fears and philosophies that we never knew. But we can ask them…now. I ask my mother a lot about her life, and I have many memories tucked away, but I learned so many things that day.
I challenge you to take a moment and go on a verbal journey with someone you love, respect or maybe always wanted to just know more about. Don’t be afraid to ask them thought-provoking questions or just about what makes them tick. We all have that inside each of us. It is amazing what you can learn and how you feel afterwards. One journey in a conversation. Take that trip. If you would like to share a life-changing conversation, share with us.