Lifelong Learning: Good for Seniors’ Minds & Bodies

Summertime means graduation season and there is a recent and growing trend among college graduates that is garnering a lot of attention. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, by 2020, 43 percent of college students are expected to be age 25 and older. And among these older grads are more and more seniors. Click above to learn more about how lifelong learning is beneficial for seniors’ minds and bodies.



Active Aging Redefines Health and Wellness

What does it mean to be healthy as we get older? For most of us, it’s simply the opposite of illness. And staying healthy equates to managing diseases and chronic conditions.

But there is a movement to expand the definition of health and wellness in order to accommodate the idea that being healthy is the process of getting the most out of what life has to offer — regardless of physical age.

Click above to learn more about active aging.


Parkinson’s Disease and Nutrition

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic movement disorder. PD involves the failure and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. Some of these neurons produce dopamine, a chemical involved in bodily movements and coordination. As PD progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.

Primary motor signs of Parkinson’s disease include the following:

  • Tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • Bradykinesia or slowness of movement
  • Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • Postural instability or impaired balance and coordination

Common nutritional concerns for people with Parkinson’s disease are:

  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Difficulty eating due to uncontrollable movements
  • Swallowing dysfunction
  • Constipation
  • Medication side effects (e.g., dry mouth)

Nutritional concerns vary by individual based on signs and symptoms and stages of disease. It is important to work closely with a doctor or dietitian to determine specific recommendations.

When it comes to nutrition, what matters most?

  • Increase calories. If a tremor is present, calorie needs are much higher. Adding sources of fat to foods (e.g., oil and cheese) is one way to do this.
  • Maintain a balanced diet. Eating properly involves eating regularly. If uncontrollable movements or swallowing difficulties are making it hard to eat, seek the advice of an occupational or speech therapist.
  • Maintain bowel regularity. Do so with foods high in fiber (whole grain bread, bran cereals or muffins, fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes) and drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Balance medications and food. Individuals taking carvidopa-levadopa may need to adjust the amount of protein eaten and the time of day it is eaten, or take their medication with orange juice. If side effects such as dry mouth are making it difficult to eat, work with a health care professional to help manage these.
  • Adjust nutritional priorities for your situation and stage of disease.

Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.


Peg’s Perspective-Brain Fitness: Hardwiring for Happiness

The Brain Fit Book Club at Wesley Glen really enjoyed reading (and discussing, over a course of several months) Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson, Ph.D.  The book explores how we as humans are originally hardwired for negativity, not positivity. Why? Dr. Hanson refers to “Paper Tiger Paranoia,” which looks at the special power of fear:

“Our ancestors could make two kinds of mistakes:  (1) thinking there was a tiger in the bushes when there wasn’t one, and (2) thinking there was no tiger in the bushes when there actually was one.   The cost of the first mistake was needless anxiety, while the cost of the second one was death.   Consequently, we evolved to make the first mistake a thousand times to avoid making the second mistake even once,” Hanson explains.

So, we are genetically programmed for fear and anxiety. And anyone who has ever experienced the “hamster wheel of the mind” in the middle of the night can surely relate to that.

But we can, through a variety of ways, begin to hardwire our brains in a different way, in essence, change our brains for the better. The key, according to Dr. Hanson, is to become mindful of the thoughts you are thinking, step back and observe what you are thinking, then work with it to pull the negative thoughts from your own head like you would pull weeds from a garden, and then actively cultivate positive experiences and thoughts. Dr. Hanson calls it “Self-Directed Neuroplasticity,” which is cultivating good, positive thoughts in your head, including living and dwelling with good memories and thoughts, not bad ones.

The negativity bias, while good for survival in harsh conditions, is lousy for a good quality of life, fulfilling relationships, and long-term health. So, take a cue from Dr. Hanson, and regularly take in the good.     Many people are a much better friend to others than they are to themselves. He recommends taking notice of the good, and try not to focus on the negatives that inevitably arise in everyone’s life. Your life-long happiness with be enhanced as a result.

Source: Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson, Ph.D



Peg’s Perspective– Brain Fitness: Safety and Reciprocity

“Fifty Tips on Aging Well to Celebrate 50 Years of Excellent Service”

As The Wesley Communities approach 50 years of excellent service, our CEO Peg Carmany offers “Peg’s Perspective” on a variety of topics affecting seniors and their adult children as they plan and choose to age well – 50 tips to celebrate 50 years!

Tip # 9 of 50 – Brain Fitness: Safety and Reciprocity

The Wesley Communities have established a “Brain Fitness” club that consists of members from our three campuses, and the residents attend regular meetings to get updates on state-of-the-art research regarding brain health. It’s good to learn about how to keep our brains “fit,” and how to slow or even stop the progression of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The Brain Fitness club was established in response to rather current research that shows that you can create new and stronger neural pathways in your brain through exercise, proper diet, and a variety of other factors, including a strong social network and learning new things.

Social support is not merely the same thing as being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, and feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart. Numerous studies of disaster response have shown that social support is the most powerful protection against becoming overwhelmed by stress and trauma.

Wesley Glen, Wesley Ridge, and Wesley Woods at New Albany offer “brain fit” opportunities, including good dietary options, exercise and fitness classes, and a variety of activities to stimulate brain activity, learning, and just plain fun.

One of the most popular activities at Wesley Ridge is Chair Volleyball. Ken, a resident at Wesley Ridge, says: “[Chair Volleyball] is the most fun we’ve ever had! … But most of all, we’ve found it a great way to learn a lot of names of the residents in a very short time and we’ve made a lot of friends. We really enjoy being with the people on the volleyball team!

Perhaps the strongest attribute of The Wesley Communities is the element of social support. Many residents at our communities will testify to the fact that it’s never too late to make good friends, and as a result, create the reciprocity that is vital to good mental health.

We call it ‘The Wesley Way’.

Sources: The Body Keeps the Score:  Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

 

 

 


Peg’s Perspective – What’s the key to a long, healthy, and happy life?

“Fifty Tips on Aging Well to Celebrate 50 Years of Excellent Service”

As The Wesley Communities approach 50 years of excellent service, our CEO Peg Carmany offers “Peg’s Perspective” on a variety of topics affecting seniors and their adult children as they plan and choose to age well – 50 tips to celebrate 50 years!

Peg’s Perspective

By:Peg Carmany

Hazel was born in Olathe, Kansas in her family’s farmhouse. Hazel’s parents were hard-working, encouraging people.  She remembers her mother helping all of them to be their very best. “Stand up straight like God intended,” her mother would explain. Hazel was the eighth of nine children in her family.

She attended a one room country school, with only two others in her class. It was a four mile walk each way—except during the winter when the snow was so high they could walk across the fence rows in the pasture, which made the walk a little shorter.

She remembers wearing dresses made of feed sacks with pretty designs when she was very young. But, when she was in the third grade her family moved to Springfield, Missouri. Here, she received a new dress from her mother and had a pencil box with new yellow pencils. She remembers how exciting it was to receive them!

Hazel went on to attend McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas. Here, she met and married her husband Bob. They were married for 47 years, and moved to Wesley Glen after Bob was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It became difficult for her to care for him at home, so she knew she needed a helping hand.

Now, Hazel has been living at Wesley Glen for 24 years—since 1994! And, she has a lot of good, practical advice on how to live long, and how to live well!

Here are Hazel’s 5 tips for a long life:

  1. You have to have faith, and be connected to a faithful community. There can be lots of trauma in life, and at times you may say, “Lord I need a broader back.” She tries to not fret about things by trusting in her faith.
  2. Good children and a good family—that really helps! She has two children, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren. They are very good to her and she enjoys their company.
  3. A good diet. She is very conscious of what she eats—no fried foods, no pasta, no butter, very little red meat, and lots of vegetables!
  4. Exercise –she and Bob always kept a big garden, and she’s a faithful walker. Here at Wesley Glen she’s up almost every day by 5 or 5:30 a.m. to head to the workout room and walk two miles on the treadmill.
  5. Positive attitude –Hazel smiles and greets everyone she meets. She volunteers at church and at Wesley Glen. Her impact stretches far and wide!

We are grateful that Hazel lives at Wesley Glen, and appreciate that she practices what she preaches, truly “walking the walk.” She is a fine example of how to live a long and healthy life.


Giving Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving! What a wonderful thing!  A whole day dedicated to giving thanks for what we have individually, and as a family or group!

If you are looking for a reason to be thankful, research has shown that being thankful is actually good for your health. Can an “Attitude of Gratitude” really change your health?

Click above to learn more.


Peg’s Perspective: Human Connection and Mirror Neurons

“Fifty Tips on Aging Well to Celebrate 50 Years of Excellent Service”

As The Wesley Communities approach 50 years of excellent service, our CEO Peg Carmany offers “Peg’s Perspective” on a variety of topics affecting seniors and their adult children as they plan and choose to age well – 50 tips to celebrate 50 years!

Peg’s Perspective:

Do you ever wake up and feel like you can conquer the world?   Yes—me too! And, if you carry that mood with you all day, chances are many people will pick up on it. They may say things like “You’re in a good mood today,” or “You look good today!” or many other phrases that we love to hear.  But have you ever stopped and asked yourself how these people know that you’re in a good mood? Or how your positive mood is impacting those around you?

Although you may not be familiar with the term “mirror neurons,” medical research is filled with studies showing that human beings are astoundingly attuned to the emotions and emotional shifts of the other humans around them.   We notice changes in the position of the eyebrow, wrinkles around the eyes, and overall body language that signal to us the other person’s state of mind – comfortable, angry, frightened, happy, suspicious, or relaxed, explains Bessel van der Kolk M.D in his book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma.

Science shows that our internal mirror neurons register what the other person is experiencing, and our own bodies adjust to what the other person is feeling.  That is, we mirror what we’re seeing.  For example, when we receive a message from the other person that “You’re safe with me,” we relax.

So, what is the most important lesson of mirror neurons?   It is this:   surround yourself with people who send you good messages.  Our brains are wired to help us function as members of a tribe.    It is therefore important that we are surrounded by people who support and restore us.   And if you do, your quality of life will soar!

The feeling that you get when you walk into any of The Wesley Communities is perhaps the greatest benefit of our life plan communities.   Here, it’s never too late to make new friends and experience new things with a tribe—who can brighten your spirits on any given day.  Providing an environment to benefit your physical and emotional health is the top priority at our communities.  And one of the ways this occurs is through positive interactions with others.

To learn more about our living options or services, please click here.

Source: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.


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