The Benefits of a Therapy Pet for Seniors

The Benefits of a Therapy Pet for Seniors

For many older adults, mobility limitations, health issues and low energy can keep them from the social engagement they once enjoyed. Especially in seniors who live alone, social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression and poor physical health. Pet therapy has been shown to benefit seniors by improving depression and anxiety symptoms, increasing self-care, and even improving heart-health. It turns out giving and receiving unconditional love is literally good for your heart.

Proven Benefits of Pet Companionship

The Pets for the Elderly Foundation, a nationwide charity committed to connecting seniors with therapy animals, has collected research on pet therapy for seniors. These studies discuss the physiological and psychological impact of animals on seniors’ quality of life. Here are their findings:

Physical Benefits

Heart HealthFrequent interaction with a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Improved ActivityWalking, grooming or playing with a pet increases the frequency of physical activity and exercise, which in turn has countless health benefits.

Healthy BehaviorThose who own a pet tend to take better care of themselves. Caring for a pet helps to develop a routine, encouraging owners to eat regularly or complete chores and other tasks.

Social & Emotional Benefits

Increased InteractionWalking a dog gets senior owners out of the house and increases their opportunities to socialize with neighbors.

Decreased LonelinessPets provide companionship, giving isolated seniors a source for affection, conversation and activity.

Stress ReliefBeing with a pet increases levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that relieves stress. It also provides physical contact, which helps to calm anxiety.

Better Self-Esteem —For seniors discouraged by their age, appearance or limited abilities, pets are welcome company, reminding seniors that they are still capable of being loved and needed.

Sense of PurposeThe company of an animal provides a reason to get up in the morning. Pets combat depression symptoms by eliminating feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Knowing that they are loved and needed enhances seniors’ mental health.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet

If you think your loved one would benefit from owning a pet, ask yourself these questions to help you make a wise decision:

What is the best choice for a pet? If your loved one has trouble walking or is more limited in their ability to provide constant attention to a pet, a cat might be a better choice than a dog.

Is my loved one an experienced pet owner?

Taking on the responsibilities of owning a pet could be overwhelming for a senior who has never had one before.

Are finances an issue? Consider your loved one’s financial situation. Animal care can be expensive, and if your loved one is on a fixed income, owning a pet could cause financial burdens. Assess the costs before you commit.

Choose the right pet. Do your research to find a pet whose age, size, personality and energy level fit well with your loved ones.

Could I adopt an animal in need? Older animals in shelters have a lower adoption rate than puppies or kittens and have a greater risk of being euthanized. Adopting an adult, healthy pet for your loved one can eliminates the stress of training, match your loved one’s energy level and save the life of a loving animal.

How to Create Fun for Frail Seniors

How to Create Fun for Frail Seniors

As a caregiver, you are focused on your loved one’s safety, finances, medical treatment, nutrition and therapy. You busy yourself with doing everything in your power to keep them comfortable. You worry about their reduced energy level, increasing fatigue, physical weakness and variable mental status. But do you know how important it is for them to just have fun? To laugh deeply, live in the moment, to briefly not be defined by age and frailty and to forget pain?

Below are some ideas on how to add fun and stimulation to their lives:

Mini-Field Trips
Seniors look forward to having a day out, but as they age, they don’t have the stamina or mobility for trips to fascinating museums, monster malls, wooded parks, loud modern restaurants, etc. But they may be able to go out for an hour or two. My mom adored a simple trip to the supermarket—colorful flowers, fanciful balloons, acres of fresh, bright produce, bakery smells, energetic families with huge carts. It was an hour that she talked about for days. Another day we drove one short mile to a local antique shop. “I had those gold Fostoria glasses,” she pointed out. “Your dad and I would stop at the Fostoria factory store on trips to see my brother in Washington, DC.”. Talk about the glassware led to reminiscing about her deceased brother, until she interrupted herself; “Look at the quilts—just like my Grandmother’s.”. And so on, pushing her walker forward toward the next memory. The first trip to a small local department store just before Christmas involved a little arm-twisting. But once there, lights, perfume, soft velvety fashions and just ahead a decorated Christmas tree, worked their magic. She relived it all week. Recently she had favorite rings that needed resizing, I invited her to come to the jewelry store with me. She appreciated being the “customer,” the center of attention. Other ideas might be a quilt shop for a former quilter, a hardware store for the ardent handyman, the library, bakery, family style restaurant, plant store or flower shop.

Fun at home
You don’t have to go out to have fun of course. Opportunities are right there in their home to have fun and fight boredom:
• Stage a sing-along to their favorite music. Play the music loud and clear. Get all dressed up and take some photo portraits—use them for family gifts.
• Rent/borrow movies—old ones, funny ones, scary ones.
• Have a deck of cards on hand and play the old familiar games—gin rummy, hearts, war.
• Scrabble is great fun with grandkids, and good for the brain too.
• Keep a puzzle going if you have a spare tabletop—people coming in always get engaged and stay to talk.
• Pull out a family album—get them to identify the older ones you may have forgotten and take notes or audiotape the stories you hear. Family photos trigger floods of memories.
• Rearrange furniture and pictures—just for stimulation.
• Order in or cook some favorite foods that aren’t usually indulged in as a treat.
• Manicures and pedicures are a special treat too.
• Have candy for drop-in guests and gifts for visitors—think about birthday and holiday gifts and “shop” online.
• Make up a holiday or birthday wish list from the web—send it to family members.

Think about what your loved one has always enjoyed, listen to what they talk about, look around your neighborhood and give it a try!

Summer Activities for Seniors & Caregivers

Summer Activities for Seniors & Caregivers

Enjoying the warm summer temperatures doesn’t have to be a distant memory for elders and caregivers. Finding an interesting activity that is suitable for a senior’s abilities may take some creativity and planning, but it is well worth switching up the routine and getting out of the house.

The Benefits of Getting Outside

A main advantage of heading outdoors, even for a short period of time, is being able to soak up some sunlight. Sun exposure generates vitamin D, which is necessary for a healthy brain, bones and muscles. Getting out also enables elders to socialize with new people and be stimulated by new experiences and environments.

Ideas for Outdoor Activities

When selecting activities to do with your loved one, focus on hobbies and interests that they used to enjoy. What is something they always wanted to try? Don’t be afraid to ask what they miss doing or what they’d like to revisit. Have a couple of suggestions prepared to choose from and head outside to enjoy the day together.

Catch a sporting event. Attending a grandchild’s soccer game or a professional baseball game can be an action-packed way for your loved one to reconnect with a favorite pastime.

Fish for fun. You can cast a rod from a dock, pier, or other location, even if someone has mobility problems or uses a wheelchair. Check your state’s or province’s tourism websites to see if they provide listings of accessible fishing locations.

Be a tourist. If you live in a city, take an open-air bus or trolley tour to see the local sights. Another option could be a boat tour, depending on what type of equipment an elder needs to take with them. A Sunday drive around town can also allow a senior to check out happenings in the community that interest them. This could be a neighborhood rummage sale, farmers market, community event or even just blooming flowers and trees.

Take a dip. If a senior is willing and able, spending some time in a pool is an excellent way for them to incorporate some physical activity into their routine that seems more like relaxing than a workout.

Stroll around. If a walk is possible, start slow and work up to longer outings. Either keep the first few walks short or bring along a walker or wheelchair in case your loved one gets tired and needs to rest along the way or requires help getting back.

Be an animal lover. This could be as simple as encouraging a loved one to sit outside and enjoy the sights and sounds or could mean an outing to the zoo or local dog park. There are plenty of options for seniors who enjoy animals to get outside and either interact with or observe nature.

Picnic outdoors. Picnics are another flexible activity that you can plan at a park, in your own backyard, or on the surrounding grounds of a long-term care facility. At the park, seniors can watch children run around and enjoy the buzz of outdoor activity. Make sure to locate an area with comfortable seating and plenty of shade in advance or remember to bring your own.

Go out for a treat. Most seniors have a favorite place to eat that picks their spirits right up. Instead of limiting this indulgence to special occasions or the post-doctor’s appointment routine, make an outing out of it “just because.” This could consist of a coffee and pastry from a favorite breakfast spot, or a lunch special from the diner around the corner. If the weather is nice, enjoy your goodies at a patio table.

Older bodies don’t adjust to temperature changes or perceive thirst as well as younger ones. With each of these activities, be sure to watch your loved one for signs of fatigue, thirst, sunburn, and overheating that could signal it’s time to leave, perhaps with a promise to return at another time.

Your Brain on Books

Your Brain on Books

Diving into a great novel is an immersive experience that can make your brain come alive with imagery and emotions and even turn on your senses. There is hard evidence that supports that while reading, we can actually physically change our brain structure, become more empathetic, and even trick our brains into thinking we’ve experienced what we’ve only read in novels.

We make photos in our minds.

Reading books and other materials with vivid imagery is not only fun, it also allows us to create worlds in our own minds. Researchers have found that visual imagery is simply automatic. Participants were able to identify photos of objects faster if they’d just read a sentence that described the object visually, suggesting that when we read a sentence, we automatically bring up pictures of objects in our minds.

Spoken word can put your brain to work.

Critics are quick to dismiss audiobooks as a sub-par reading experience, but research has shown that the act of listening to a story can light up your brain. When we’re told a story, not only are language processing parts of our brain activated, experiential parts of our brain come alive, too. Hear about food? Your sensory cortex lights up, while motion activates the motor cortex.

Reading about experiences is almost the same as living it.

Have your ever felt so connected to a story that it’s as if you experienced it in real life? There’s a good reason why: your brain actually believes that you have experienced it. When we read, the brain does not make a real distinction between reading about an experience and actually living it; the same neurological regions are stimulated. Novels are able to enter into our thoughts and feelings.

Different styles of reading create different patterns in the brain.

Any kind of reading provides stimulation for your brain, but different types of reading give different experiences with varying benefits. Stanford University researchers have found that close literary reading in particular gives your brain a workout in multiple complex cognitive functions, while pleasure reading increases blood flow to different areas of the brain. They concluded that reading a novel closely for literary study and thinking about its value is an effective brain exercise, more effective than simple pleasure reading alone.

Your brain adapts to reading e-books in seven days.

If you’re used to reading paper books, picking up an e-reader can feel very awkward at first. But experts insist that your brain can adopt the new technology quickly, no matter your age or how long you’ve been reading on paper. In fact, the human brain adapts to new technology, including e-reading, within seven days.

Story structure encourages our brains to think in sequence, expanding our attention spans.

Stories have a beginning, middle, and end, and that’s a good thing for your brain. With this structure, our brains are encouraged to think in sequence, linking cause and effect. The more you read, the more your brain is able to adapt to this line of thinking. Neuroscientists encourage parents to take this knowledge and use it for children, reading to kids as much as possible. In doing so, you’ll be instilling story structure in young minds while the brain has more plasticity, and the capacity to expand their attention span.

Reading changes your brain structure (in a good way)

Not everyone is a natural reader. Poor readers may not truly understand the joy of literature, but they can be trained to become better readers. And in this training, their brains actually change. In a six-month daily reading program from Carnegie Mellon, scientists discovered that the volume of white matter in the language area of the brain actually increased. Further, they showed that brain structure can be improved with this training, making it more important than ever to adopt a healthy love of reading.

Deep reading makes us more empathetic:

It feels great to lose yourself in a book and doing so can even physically change your brain. As we let go of the emotional and mental chatter found in the real world, we enjoy deep reading that allows us to feel what the characters in a story feel. And this in turn makes us more empathetic to people in real life, becoming more aware and alert to the lives of others.
Your Hobbies Can Make You Money

Your Hobbies Can Make You Money

If you’re looking to generate extra income during retirement, you might want to explore ways to make your hobby into a more profitable venture. After all, hobbies are the activities that, in most cases, you’d happily do for free. And pursuing a hobby-related business can make for a relatively smooth second-act transition since you likely have many of the skills, expertise and personal connections needed for success.
Thanks in large part to advances in technology, the possibilities for monetizing your hobby—both locally and online — have never been better. So, if you’re eager to turn your hobbies into retirement cash, here are six winning strategies to consider.

1. Teach Your Hobby
Whether you’re a skilled photographer, an experienced chef or a talented musician, there’s a good chance that others will pay you to teach them what you do so well. There are lots of ways to share your expertise. For example, you can set up shop in your home — just like your neighborhood piano teacher — or teach at a local adult education program or school. Alternatively, you could aim to reach a broader audience and create your own online courses and deliver them using an online instructional platform like Udemy.com or Pathwright.com.

2. Sell Your Products Online
Thanks to the proliferation of online marketplaces, the options for selling your products online have improved dramatically. Etsy is probably the best-known marketplace for artisans and crafters, but there are plenty of other smaller sites you might want to consider like ArtFire.com, Zibbet.com and HandmadeArtists.com.

3. Write About Your Hobby
Hobbyists enjoy reading books, magazines and how-to articles about their passions. So, if you love to write, there might be a way to profit from writing about your hobby. You can search for freelance writing assignments on sites like MediaBistro.com, FlexJobs.com or VirtualVocations.com.
Another option is to start your own hobby-related blog. While it will take time to build up a significant fan base, once you do, you can monetize your site through advertising, sponsorships or by selling your own digital information products—like e-books, downloadable tool kits, worksheets and more.

4. Create New Products Related to Your Hobby
Every hobby comes with its own set of specialized clothing, accessories, gear or gadgets. Hobbyists tend to be willing to buy products related to their hobby, so if you can craft, invent, or import an accessory for your hobby, you might be able to build a profitable income stream to supplement your retirement.

5. Find a Part-Time Job Related to Your Hobby
From the baseball enthusiast who gets paid to write about spring training for his local paper to the theater lover who works as an usher at the local arts center, finding a hobby-related job is a wonderful way to blend work and fun. Think about the places you’d happily spend time at for free—a ballpark, bookstore or gardening center—and see if they have any part-time job openings.

You might also find seasonal work at places like resorts, parks or tourist attractions.

An excellent resource for sourcing and learning about seasonal jobs is CoolWorks.com.

Nancy Collamer
www.gobankingrates.com/retirement/hobbies-money-retirement

Ways to Celebrate the Outdoors with your Elderly Loved One

Ways to Celebrate the Outdoors with your Elderly Loved One

Have a picnic
Whether you eat indoors at home or outdoors at a park, having a picnic meal is a lovely activity. Active older adults can help with the preparation too. Part of the fun can be planning the meal together. Think about traditional picnic foods like sandwiches or wraps, coleslaw, macaroni or potato salad, cookies and lemonade. What is your loved one craving? What were their favorites as a child? You could even invite family and friends and turn it into a festive potluck or barbecue. Reminisce about summer in the younger years and favorite memories and activities.

Visit a farmer’s market
Ah, fresh produce and flowers! Leisurely strolling (or being wheeled) around a farmer’s market is a perfect activity for seniors. There’s so much to see and sample. Plus, they can take home fresh veggies for a healthy meal and beautiful flowers for the table. Beauty, wonderful smells plus healthy food options are a bonus.

Take a nature walk
Take a walk through the neighborhood, go to the park, or visit a garden center. For those who are less mobile, sitting in the backyard on the porch or near a window is also nice. What hidden gems do you have in your area?

Bring nature indoors
Summer means plants and flowers. Bring the beautify of nature inside by getting an easy-to-care-for plant, a fragrant potted herb like lavender, or some colorful freshly cut flowers. There are also lovely faux flower options to brighten up a room long-term.

Bird watch
A sure sign of summer are birds chirping outside. Attract even more to your window by putting up a bird feeder. Listen to their cheery songs as you sip your morning coffee and visit with your loved one.

Do some summer cleaning
Chances are, your loved one can stand to get rid of a few things around the house. Warm months are perfect times to get rid of some of the clutter. It’s also a perfect opportunity to go through keepsakes and share special memories. If your loved one has so many areas that need decluttering or organization, just start with one spot… a drawer or a small area. You might find more momentum as you go, bit by bit.

Enjoy!