Senior Health Tips

Are you a senior making your spring and summer travel plans? You’re not alone. In fact, AARP’s 2017 Travel Research reveals that the majority of Boomers travel during the spring and summer months. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, summer vacation, or a big family reunion, taking trips is a great way for seniors to get out of the house, socialize with others, problem solve, and check some life goals off their bucket list.

Travel doesn’t come without its own challenges, however; everything from cost, health, and security concerns to long lines at the airport and unexpected snafu’s with reservations can throw a wrench in your well-designed travel plans. These challenges are made even more difficult if you have mobility problems or another disability.

enjoy-the-little-things-Pixabay(Alexas_Fotos)

Photo by Pixabay(Alexas_Fotos)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that you will get equal treatment under the law and that all the accessibility standards and requirements in both public and private places are regulated. However, it does not always work out that way in real life, especially when traveling abroad. More than one-third of people with disabilities reported they experience difficulties, inadequate facilities, prejudice, higher prices, and other associated problems while traveling.

If you’re looking for effective tips to make traveling easier and more enjoyable as a senior, don’t miss this quick list:

Save time and money planning online

For more efficient cost-comparison and travel planning, technology can be your best friend. Websites like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and Hotwire can help you search for a great flight, hotel, and car rental deals as well as enlighten you about your destination. If you’re looking into potential vacation rentals, sites like Airbnb or HomeAway are your ticket. And use smartphone apps like Yelp and Zomato to check menus, pricing, and reviews of potential restaurants or other destinations on your itinerary.

Call a travel agent

If you have built up airline loyalty miles, are looking guided tour vacation opportunities, or simply prefer to coordinate travel plans with a real live person, give a travel agent a try. Travel agencies in the United States, Canada, and Europe offer niche services which can be tailored to your specific needs, i.e. if you have mobility problems. Since they deal with seniors regularly, they know all the potential travel pitfalls and hurdles you could encounter and how best to avoid them. Working with an experienced travel agent alone can make your travel more accessible and convenient.

Choose your flight wisely

Senior Travel Plane -Pixabay(bosmanerwin)

Photo by Pixabay(bosmanerwin)

If possible, try to choose a direct flight and avoid connecting flights. Getting off the plane, waiting during a layover at another airport, and boarding again is nothing but an added hassle. However, if you have a hard time using the tiny restrooms on a plane, a long flight can be uncomfortable. In that case, you may want to opt for a connecting flight, but make sure that there is ample time for you to get from one gate to the other.

Be a smart packer

As a senior, there are a handful of items you want to be smart about packing. Take medicine, for example – always take more medicine than you might need, sort and store it in a pill organizer if possible, pack it in your carry-on (not in your checked luggage which has the potential to get lost), and keep your refill prescriptions with you just in case.

For avoiding aches and pains when traveling you may also want to bring items that offer greater comfort, cushioning, and support on your journey. Always wear proper-fitting walking shoes with smooth bottoms and consider getting gel inserts for added comfort and support, especially if you have sensitive feet or are not used to staying on your feet a lot. It makes your travel a lot easier, even if you get caught up in unexpected delays, long lines, and other unwanted situations.

Travel neck pillows and padded seat cushions can also alleviate neck, back, and hip discomfort on long plane or car rides by helping you maintain good posture and better distributing your weight in your seat.

If you use a wheelchair to get around, consider packing accessories (like your pedals) in a bag in your carry-on and bringing a small wheelchair repair kit along (or going ahead and looking up local repair shops at your destination) just in case. Moreover, if you are planning on traveling internationally, make sure you know your rights as a person with a disability by going to the website of the local border agency.

Contact your hotel early

Contact your hotel or other lodgings at least 24 hours before your time of arrival, so they have enough time to make necessary arrangements if needed. If you use a mobility aid like a walker or a wheelchair, make sure to share those details and verify you will be staying in a handicap-accessible room (they have wider doorways, grab bars, walk-in showers, etc).

You may even want to go so far as to bring a doctor’s note with you with their phone number, as well as a travel statement and a list of any special needs written down on a piece of paper.

Taking even just a couple of these steps in your travel planning can save you time, money, and stress. Good luck, and have a great trip!

Author: Joe Fleming

Co-Founder, Vive Health

Senior Financial Literacy

In 2004, the American Society on Aging sponsored a study to test the financial knowledge of Americans age 50+. This included a survey of three simple yes/no questions that assessed the knowledge of the respondents on concepts such as inflation, risk diversification, and interest rates. At that time only one-third of respondents could answer all three questions correctly.*

Since 2009, broader studies have been made within the wider population and the results were similarly dismal. However, there was a clear correlation between age and a failure to understand some basic financial concepts that make up financial literacy. This is especially worrisome given that money and debt management issues are most consequential to seniors.

This may seem an overwhelming topic to tackle for a senior or their family. While getting sound financial advice is one of the first things most money professionals recommend, that can be easier said than done. Many older adults rely on the advice of relatives, friends or neighbors. Yet, this is a strategy that as many as 70 percent of fraud victims report having used. Become more informed and consider learning more from an accredited Financial Advisor. These are the best first steps to improve one’s financial literacy. One online resource for understanding some of the basics is ConsumerCredit.com. This site offers useful tools designed for the 50+ population.

Here are several topics which seniors and their families may wish to consider when evaluating their financial health.

Know where your money is going Do you know where your money is going?

Based on a 2014 survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, over 60% of Americans don’t have a budget. This is the first place to start in developing financial literacy. You cant make informed choices about your money if you don’t know where it is going.

Address your debt 

Now that you know where your money is going, its time to develop a strategy to start eliminating it. This means identifying expenses that you can trim and develop strategies to change your spending habits.

Check your credit report 

Your credit report can impact not only your ability to get a loan but to rent an apartment or land a job. Therefore, it is critical that you check your credit report often and understand the factors that affect it. If your score is low, there are many agencies available to help you start improving it.

Understand your retirement portfolio 

Check your investment choices. For those seniors with retirement portfolios, it is important to understand your risk. While the safety of bonds has always been attractive, a perfect storm may be upon the bond market in the form of anticipated increases in interest rates, tax cuts and a ballooning national debt which will all impact the value of bonds. If your portfolio favors bonds, it may be time to consider a more diversified financial plan. Know whether your total living expenses could ride out a drop in value.

Prepare 

We’ve all heard the rule—you should have three to six months of expenses on hand for an emergency. Even if you don’t think you can get there, start somewhere. Have a set amount put away so if there’s an emergency you have something to fall back on.

* For more information on this study and a more in-depth discussion on the topic of financial literacy, go to asaging.org.

Adapted from The Seniors Choice ‘Improving Senior Financial Literacy’

Fitness for Seniors

With age, most people tend to become sedentary. Work, kids, and relationships can push your health and well-being down on the list of your priorities. However, staying fit is a primary key to a long, healthy, and productive life, and being able to take care of others around you.

Benefits of exercise for seniors

By leading an active life, seniors benefit more than people of any other age. Exercising regularly not only improves your overall physical health but also boosts your mental health.  Key physical benefits include increased mobility, flexibility, and balance. You’ll be able to control your weight, even lose a few pounds, and the impact of chronic diseases and illnesses can decrease. Your brain also undergoes positive changes, you’ll sleep better, and your self-confidence and mood will lift.

Obstacles to an active lifestyle

Maintaining an active lifestyle is hard at any age, and it gets harder as you get older. The biggest hindrance is the thought that you’re too old to exercise. Sure, it’s not easy, but people that become active in older age show better progress, both physically and mentally. Some older adults are scared they’ll fall if they exercise, but the opposite is true. You’ll gain strength, stamina, improve balance, and avoid bone density loss.

Another excuse seniors have is that they will never be as athletic as they once used to be, and that’s true. But you don’t have to; your goals will be different from someone half your age. Chair-limited seniors are the least active and think they can’t exercise, but they are the ones who need to be active the most. Chair aerobics, chair yoga, weight lifting, and tai chi can be done from a chair to increases flexibility, muscle tone, enhance the range of motion, and promote heart health.

Fear or pain or hurting oneself may also hold you back. There are many aids and gadgets available to ease aches and pains that may arise from exercise including braces, wraps, and orthoses. You’ll especially need to take care of your feet if you have diabetes like 25% of seniors do. If your feet feel the heat when running, find the best insoles for heel pain for some added cushion and relief for your feet.

A plan just for you

Since every person is unique, you’ll need a tailored workout program. Depending on your level of flexibility and mobility, you can walk, run, join senior classes, do water aerobics or yoga, practice tai chi or qi gong, dance, play tennis, play basketball, go swimming, or do all of these. To stay motivated, find an exercise buddy, someone who you like spending time with. Try new activities to keep your brain and body involved. Even if you don’t like a particular activity, you’ll still get to spend some time with a good friend.

Making sure your plan is balancedFind balance to fit your health needs

While doing any physical activity will improve your health, doing new or at least different activities will make sure you cover all the five blocks of fitness:

Concentration and focus:  Exercises like yoga will keep your brain focused and active. Depending on how flexible you are, you can do any easy poses like cobra, down dog, seated twist to advanced poses like power yoga and Bikram yoga. Brain games can also keep your brain guessing and engage your memory.

Balance:  Exercise like tai chi and yoga can help improve balance and become more stable. This not only reduces your risk of falling but can also help improve your posture.

Cardio:  Jogging, cycling, swimming, playing tennis, rowing, and other fast pace exercises use large muscle groups an extended time. You should feel your heart pumping, get short of breath and sweaty. Cardio gradually builds stamina and reduces shortness of breath and fatigue.

Power training:  Exercises that involve lifting weights can help build muscles and prevent bone mass loss. This promotes independence and allows you to do many tasks, such as lifting heavy items or opening a jar, that many other citizens will need help with.

Flexibility:  Stretching exercises and yoga increase your range of motion and encourage your joints to move freely. Doing daily chores, playing with your grandkids, and doing other routine physical activities will be a lot easier as your flexibility increases.

How seniors can stay motivated

Remember these quick tips if your motivation level seems to be going down:

–          Listen to your favorite music while working out

–          Get competitive, especially when playing any sports

–          Socialize and meet new people

–          Keep changing your exercise routine and the type of exercise you do

–          Keep a log of your activity and reward yourself every time you hit a new level

Staying safe

The goal is to get active, but safety always comes first. Start slow and gradually increase intensity and frequency. Consult your doctor before starting a new activity, especially if you have an underlying condition. Listen to your body, you might be sore, feel tightness in the muscles, but it should never hurt. If it does, stop immediately and consult your doctor.

Author: Joe Fleming

Vive Health