We all know to eat right, exercise, and get a good night’s sleep to stay healthy. But can flexing our creative muscles help us thrive as we age? Ongoing research looking at singing group programs, theater training, and visual arts for older adults, suggests that participating in the arts may improve the health, well-being, and independence of older adults.
“Researchers are highly interested in examining if and how participating in arts activities may be linked to memory and improving self-esteem and well-being. Scientists are also interested in studying how music can be used to reduce behavioral symptoms of dementia, such as stress, aggression, agitation, and apathy, as well as promoting social interaction, which has multiple psychosocial benefits,” said Lisa Onken, Ph.D., of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research.
Lifting their voices for healthy aging
“There’s a pressing need to develop novel, sustainable, and cost-effective approaches to improve the lives of older adults,” said Julene K. Johnson, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing. “Singing in a community choir may be a unique approach to promote the health of diverse older adults by helping them remain active and engaged. It may even reduce health disparities.”
“I’m not the same person. The person before just kind of took life for granted. And now I cherish every moment I have because I know it can be taken away very quickly.”
Lisa Pellerin, a mother and a nurse, shared these words as she recounted an experience so devastating to her health that it changed her entire perspective on life. It wasn’t cancer. It wasn’t a heart attack.
It was the flu.
Surprisingly, the flu is a source of worry for only 8 percent of adults 50 years of age and older, according to a recent survey. And, even if they were to get the flu, the majority (80 percent) only saw themselves as being at average or below average risk for flu-related complications. For some, these misperceptions could be dangerous.
Adults 50 years of age and older are more likely than younger age groups to have a chronic illness, such as asthma or other lung disease, heart disease or diabetes. Flu can exacerbate symptoms of these conditions and lead to serious complications, like pneumonia – or sometimes even death.
Flu and chronic health conditions
According to the CDC, about 70 percent of adults ages 50 to 64 have at least one chronic illness. Lisa is among this group, living with both asthma and diabetes. All it took was one day for the flu to land her in the hospital. “I just kept getting worse. I was in the hospital for three weeks. Everyone thought I was going to die,” she said. Lisa continues to struggle with shortness of breath and a persistent cough, but she’s grateful to be alive.
If you are helping to care for a loved one, you are a “caregiver.” There are many resources in the Philadelphia region to help you understand the growing responsibility of caring for your loved one. These classes offer information on understanding the caregiver role and learning about resources that are available in your community. They are presented by St. Mary Medical Center professionals who specialize in various aspects of caregiving.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2018
Caregiving for a Loved One in the Home presented by Dan Moore, Director of LIFE St. Mary, and Margaret Leib, Manager of Outreach and Enrollment for LIFE St. Mary
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2019
Nutrition Tips for Caregivers presented by Registered Dietitian Maria Nicholson of St. Mary Dietary Services
The Relationship between Heart Health and Dementia
People with dementia have problems thinking, remembering, and communicating. They may repeat the same question over and over, get lost in familiar places, or have other problems managing everyday life.
Dementia can be caused by a number of disorders, such as strokes, brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, and late-stage Parkinson’s disease. Most forms of dementia slowly worsen. Risk factors include aging, diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking cigarettes, and a family history of dementia.
Past studies suggest that problems in the vascular system—the heart and blood vessels that supply blood to the brain—can contribute to the development of dementia. To explore the effect of vascular risk factors on dementia, a research team led by Dr. Rebecca Gottesman at Johns Hopkins University studied nearly 16,000 middle-aged people who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. ARIC was funded by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The current study was also supported by NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Results were published online on August 7, 2017, in JAMA Neurology.
The people enrolled in the study were between 44 and 66 years old in 1987-1989 and located in four states. Over a 25-year period, the researchers examined the participants five times with a variety of medical tests. Cognitive tests of memory and thinking were given during the second, fourth, and fifth exams. In addition to in-person visits, the researchers collected health data from telephone interviews, caregiver interviews, hospitalization records, and death certificates.
Personal Care Homes (PCHs) are residences that provide shelter, meals, supervision and assistance with personal care tasks, typically for older people, or people with physical, behavioral health, or cognitive disabilities who are unable to care for themselves but do not need nursing home or medical care. While available services vary and are based on the individual needs of each resident, services provided at a typical PCH include assistance with:
- Walking/getting in and out of bed or chair
- Toileting/bowel and bladder management
- Personal hygiene
- Arranging for and managing health care
- Making/keeping doctor's appointments
- Assisting with or administering medications
- Positioning in bed or chair