Happy New Year and welcome to 2014! The last year has been a wild ride, with many things
happening in the world – there were several natural disasters, like the typhoon that hit the
Philippines and the deadly earthquake that hit China; deadly incidents and bombings here in
the US – DC Naval Yard, the Boston Marathon, another terrible school event in Colorado; and we
bid farewell to beloved leaders Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela.
It’s the start of the new year and many of us look back on the things we did, things we wished
we had done, and things we wished we hadn’t.
And as many of us begin or continue those new
year’s resolutions that we made, one of those for many is leading a healthier lifestyle; this is
especially true the older you get and the less active you may became because of it. January
kicks off with several different events, all promoting and bringing awareness to keeping you fit
As we age, the body of course begins to change, but for some it starts to change in a negative
way. There is a vast difference between how your body behaved when it was fifteen vs when
it was twenty-five, thirty-five, and all the way up to seventy-five. There are a wide variety of
different ailments that can affect a person once they’ve reached a certain age – obesity is one,
a growing epidemic within the US and growing amongst other countries. The extra weight isn’t
the main issue, but the complications that occur with the maladies that come with it; obesity can
cause type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and breast and colon cancer.
And speaking of cancer, January is the national awareness month for cervical cancer, the third
most common cancer for women. Thanks to the use of Pap smears during examines has made
it less common, however it does not mean that woman over the age of fifty need to avoid them,
especially if they are sexually active. For the start of the new year, make sure you have a yearly
exam with your OB/GYN scheduled on the books. And while you’re scheduling that OB/GYN,
make sure you’re also scheduling an eye appointment as well.
Glaucoma Awareness is also in January, bringing information about this disease of the eye.
Glaucoma is a disease that is caused when there is buildup behind the eye, which can cause
damage in the optic nerve; the problem with glaucoma is most people don’t experience any
pain and there are no early symptoms that can warn someone if they have it. This is why getting
an eye exam, especially when older, is extremely important. Glaucoma is usually an inherited
disease, meaning that if your family has a history of glaucoma, it’s essential that you have your
yearly eye exam in order to test for the disease. Most assisted living facilities will offer transporation to an exam or appointment if needed.
While a new year means taking care of your body, it also means taking care of your mind, which
is especially true for those entering into their golden years. January is Mental Health Awareness
month, bringing awareness to the different types of psychological issues that affect billions of
people all over of the world. For seniors, many of these mental illnesses are caused by age -
like dementia and Alzheimer’s – and can be devastating when it comes to retaining moments
and life events that have occurred. These aren’t the only mental issues that can plague the
elderly – depression is a common occurrence for many, especially in the wake of the death of a
spouse or with the moving of family members from the immediate area.
It’s not unheard of for people to experience a period of a blue state, where they just feel down
about life and themselves in general, but depression is the condition where these feelings last
longer than two weeks and interfere with normal activities that had once been enjoyed. Again,
seniors can be prone to feelings of depression, especially during times of change – the loss of
a spouse, children/grandchildren moving away, being placed in a retirement or assisted living
facility, or learning about a deteriorating disease can all be motivators to induce depression. At
any point in time, 3 to 5 people will experience depression, and many of these don’t go to seek
treatment, often withdrawing further and further away from loved ones; in the more extreme
cases, these feelings just continue to build until a person thinks the only way to rid themselves
of these feelings is to rid themselves from the world.
To maintain your mental health, it’s as simple as enjoying life.
For seniors, having social groups
or get-togethers often help to alleviate the feelings of isolation and loneness, while having
hobbies or other fun activities can help to keep their mind sharp. If you read my last article
regarding video games, you’ll know that games can provide both the togetherness and fun
activities; many assisted living facilities now incorporate a variety of different board games,
video games, and other activities to keep seniors engaged with others, mentally fit, and bodily
The good thing about a new year is that there are twelve months in which to get everything
together before the next year. It’s important not to put off any exams or to not discuss any health
related issue with your doctor; sometimes a simple stomachache isn’t a simple stomachache
but something more ominous.
So from the desk of Gina, Happy New Year everyone and here’s to hoping it’s the best one yet!
- Article by Regina Woodard exclusively for Assisted Living Directory
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