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Longevity Secrets from Japan’s Longest-Living Prefecture

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The surprising story of Japan’s Nagano Prefecture, once plagued by high blood pressure and strokes, now known for longevity among both women and menlongevity Japan

The Japan Times recently published an article on “How Japan’s saltiest residents came to live the longest“, an interesting twist for those who credit Japan’s longevity to a diet filled with fish. Nagano Prefecture is a land-locked area, once known for digesting high levels of salt (used to preserve foods during long winters). Some of its most famous foods are preserved and pickled foods and a salty miso. So, how did this region go from being plagued by high blood pressure and strokes as recently as the 1960s to the highest levels of longevity in the world?

The solutions might surprise you! This story proves that people can make small changes that can make a dramatic difference in longevity (and quality of life). The area began tackling the issue by first focusing on the high salt diet, encouraging residents to make realistic changes. For example, instead of eating the salty miso soup with each meal, residents could cut back to once/day.

By adding more fresh vegetables (which refrigeration had made possible), people could still eat favorite foods but reduce the salt in their overall diets. The average Nagano resident consumes more vegetables each day than other Japanese people. This advice was echoed many times over at a recent Johns Hopkins women’s conference I attended, with a constant refrain from gerontologists, aging specialists and other researchers that a plant-based, nutrient-dense diet is essential to health and longevity.

The life expectancy for Nagano residents (from a 2013 study) is 80.88 years for men and 87.18 years for women. Japan’s national averages (2013) are 79.59 and 86.35, and the U.S. stands at about 76 and 81.

More than just living a long time, this area originated the concept (and slogan) of being “spry and energetic” in life and dying “a quick and painless death”. This concept of healthy life expectancy is increasingly popular, as most people worry that with longevity can come decreased quality of life. The question really becomes how can we not only live longer, but live better (i.e. aging wisely!). To read more about some of the ways Japan is tackling this question check out EasyLiving’s recent article on “Rethinking Aging: Lessons from Japan“.

So, what can you learn from Nagano’s residents to increase healthy longevity and age wisely? The surprising news is how easy it can be to make small changes (residents weren’t told to turn to the latest diet trend or completely eliminate anything).

  • Consider implementing one small change in diet (e.g. eating meat-free one or two days/week, reducing sugary drinks to once/day, adding one serving of vegetables to each meal, using more herbs and less salt) immediately. Try the great recipe in the Japan Times article and use online resources for new ways to make veggies delicious. See how you feel and determine ways you can make additional small changes this year.
  • For healthy, happy aging make small changes in lifestyle, one geared toward physical activity (parking further away to add more steps, taking a short walk each morning, trying a stretching or balance exercise video for a few minutes each day) and one geared to social/intellectual stimulation (taking a course or joining a new activity, setting time aside for lunch with a friend once/week or to Skype with family members). Think back to a hobby or interest you once enjoyed that perhaps you have given up, and find new ways to bring it back into your life!

For more longevity secrets, aging wisely advice, health research and more:

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Best of Aging Wisely Advice 2015

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aging wisely advice from 2015

In case you missed them, here are some of our top Aging Wisely advice posts from the past year. As always, we covered an array of news related to caregiving, Medicare and eldercare issues as well as general aging wisely advice and resources. We try to answer questions clients and families frequently ask, and share the wisdom of our expert Aging Life Care Professionals™. In the coming year, we plan to bring you the best aging wisely advice and tips to help take more control of your health and well-being!

What do you want to know in 2016? Please leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page! The Aging Wisely site is for you!

Finding the Right Gifts for Older Loved Ones

Our most read page for 2015 is our Gifts for Seniors page. This page has been consistently popular for many years, and we’ve updated it and added a special gift coupon for our users. We also do seasonal and special needs posts to cover a whole range of options. Linda’s Holiday Gift Ideas have already been incredibly popular…they’re the Oprah’s picks for your older friends (and really good for most any age)! Other popular gift posts include: Gifts for Caregivers and People Facing Illness, Mother’s Day Gift Ideas and Gifts for Older Fathers.

Respite Care: Breaks for Caregivers

What Will Respite Care Cost?” was our second most popular post in 2015. This is great news to us as we strive to support caregivers and ensure they get the help they need. Another popular post was “Caregiver Breaks: Do You Know Your Options for Respite?“. If this topic interests you, our EasyLiving team has put together a great checklist to help caregivers prepare for respite care. Use this checklist for a successful respite care experience.

Aging Wisely Advice on Hospital Discharge Planning

There’s been a lot of focus in the medical community about the problem of hospital readmissions for the elderly. Older adults tend to have multiple medical conditions and medications and are prone to complications after hospitalizations or surgeries. Therefore, a post-discharge plan for an older adult needs to be more comprehensive than a simple list of what to take and what to avoid. Many families still find the hospitalization and discharge process overwhelming. Two popular tools we created to help families with the transition are: the Hospital Discharge Planning Checklist for Families and Stroke Rehabilitation and Planning.

Other Popular Resources and Aging Wisely Advice

Eldercare Tools: The Florida Durable Power of Attorney

Sundowner’s Syndrome in Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias

A Daughter’s Experiences in Eldercare: Detailing a client’s two very different experiences caring for aging parents

What is Medicare 2016 Going to Cost Me?

To get the latest and greatest from our experts on these topics and more, sign up for our monthly newsletter!

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The Keys to Aging Wisely

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happy couple aging wisely

At Aging Wisely, we’re all about helping people to be the best they can at any age. We help clients and their families navigate health challenges and care needs, while maintaining the vitally important things that make them unique. Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of different ways people deal with aging, from the ways they plan (or don’t) to their attitude and actions. Today, we’ll share some of what we’ve learned about the keys to aging wisely and living well.

Exercise for the body and mind

Exercise can be very beneficial for those with arthritis and many other conditions. As the CDC shares, “scientific studies have shown that participation in moderate-intensity, low-impact physical activity improves pain, function, mood, and quality of life without worsening symptoms or disease severity” (more info., tips and guidelines).

A rapidly growing body of studies strongly suggests that exercise may reduce dementia risk and mitigate the effects of cognitive impairment (Ahlskog et. al). In addition to physical activity, exercising your brain can have protective effects for it. This can include specialized brain fitness solutions, but anything that keeps thinking, organizational or memory circuits active can be helpful so enjoy that crossword puzzle, engage in debate and discussions, play computer games and generally stay engaged!

If you need help with creating an exercise program that works for you and/or help staying motivated, we recommend our friends from At Home Fitness! People with arthritis who can most benefit from exercise often don’t participate due to pain, but the senior specialists from At Home Fitness can create a routine just for you and make exercise enjoyable.

Our EasyLiving companions are also here to help you keep your body and mind engaged, from driving you to activities to planning outings and activities at home. You might also be interested in some of their senior-friendly activity ideas.

Nutrition to keep your body strong

What you eat is even more important as you age. Metabolism slows and your body therefore needs to get greater nutrition from less calories to maintain a healthy weight. Nutrition is vital to healing and closely related to how well your body will deal with chronic health conditions or recuperate from illness.

Read more about senior nutrition and get special tips from our senior nutrition specialists (check out our meal preparation services, too!).

Keep growing and giving

Many Aging Wisely clients tell us the secret to them aging wisely is their attitude (and especially, a sense of humor and perseverance). They continue to give back and grow as people, by volunteering, pursuing interests and staying close to family and friends.

Several studies have corroborated this. As shared by Heather Gilmour of Statistics Canada’s health analysis division about their study’s findings, “Social engagement — involvement in meaningful activities and maintaining close relationships — is a component of successful aging.”

Another important study about the role of volunteering for older adults found that the volunteers reported significant improvements in mental health, along with other socioemotional benefits such as a greater feeling of productivity, increased social activity, and an overall sense that life had improved.

When we do an Aging Wisely assessment, we consider how your physical situation might impact important areas like socialization and activity. For example, if it is time for a senior to stop driving, we help create a plan so the person can continue activities and avoid isolation.

When we suggest caregivers to assist at home or help a client transition to assisted living, we work with the client on aspects of socialization and engagement. For example, when one of our clients is moving to an assisted living facility we might find out ahead of time which facilities offer activities specifically matched with the client’s special interests and provide an orientation to the facility and introduction to activities staff and other residents after move-in. When we introduce caregivers, we make sure they know about the client as a person and can play a role in socialization and activities along with simply doing tasks.

Contact Aging Wisely for assistance today and get our FREE comprehensive eldercare checklist for more great tips!

Stay tuned for great resources to accomplish these aging wisely strategies!

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Aging Wisely: America’s Big Aging Misconceptions

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It’s time for a “senior care reality check”, say many experts in the field of aging, including our own Executive Director at Aging Wisely and EasyLiving, Alex Chamberlain. Alex was recently interviewed as part of SeniorCare.com’s report on the misconceptions about aging.

aging wisely, aging misconceptions

As Alex shared, “when it comes to aging or chronic care needs, everyone thinks they will be okay or that they have family to take care of them” and lack of preparation “just makes conflict and hard choices more likely”.

Fortunately, there are more choices than ever. As Alex urges, “think about what you want as you age and then learn a little bit about the realities”.

americans have more long term care choices than ever

Alex shares, “Unfortunately as an owner of a home health business, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have seen families’ quality of life disappear due to being unprepared for the challenges of long-term care.I have seen loved ones and family members never speak to one another again because they weren’t prepared and began fighting over everything”.

The families who navigate the challenges successfully did their homework, got help from quality professionals, and availed themselves of the choices that were best for them. The statistics shared in this report and the opinions of all the experts point to the same important advice: be prepared!

aging wisely preparation

To talk to Alex Chamberlain about this thoughts on this subject or get more information from our expert team so that you can be prepared, contact Aging Wisely online or call 727-447-5845.

aging wisely alex chamberlainAlex Chamberlain, Aging Wisely and EasyLiving Executive Director, shares his expertise here and on our EasyLiving blog regularly. Alex is a Clearwater Chamber Young Professional of the Year and has been named a top business leader by several business publications. Most importantly, Alex has a passion for bringing innovation to eldercare and has dedicated his career to giving families better options and creating a better environment for caregiving professionals. Connect to Alex on Linkedin.

 

**Graphics are from Seniorcare.com’s Report on the Major Misconceptions of Aging. Read more details of the report there and Help Close the #SeniorCareGap by sharing this and making sure others are aware!

 

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The Five Steps to Aging Unwisely

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top eldercare mistakes

Working with hundreds of elders and families over the years, we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. And, while we advise on the best ways to plan for and manage the challenges of aging, we have also learned a lot about the worst ways to handle things. So, here’s our slightly tongue-in-cheek list of things you can do if you want to age “unwisely” (and what to do instead).

1. Don’t think about it. What can you do about it anyway?!?  Unfortunately, this is common, as many of us tend to be in denial about getting older and needing help. Our healthcare system has traditionally been set up to be about illness rather than health and prevention. More people are taking steps to be proactive with their health, but too few people invest the time in planning for their elder years. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can have some control over what happens as you get older. No, you can’t control aging, but you can control a lot about your level of dignity and comfort as you age.

2. Avoid the tough discussions. Death and money are probably the two most taboo subjects in our culture, which explains why so few people talk about them, even with their closest friends and family. Unfortunately, in order to age wisely, you have to break through that barrier and have some basic discussions about these topics. Engage the help of a professional if you need it (a geriatric care manager can help guide the conversation and you can do a family meeting with your financial advisor and estate planning attorney–experienced parties know sensitive ways to handle the conversations and can serve as a buffer for the emotions of those so close to the situation).

3. Follow thy neighbor. Neighbors (both physical neighbors and our “neighbors” in our online community) have all sorts of advice. Unfortunately, well-meaning advice isn’t always right. And, it’s especially not always right for you. Check your facts, especially when you get opinions from the internet. It is great to get ideas from neighbors and trusted friends, but make sure to get more information (and possibly professional advice) before making major decisions.

4. Go it alone. People constantly refer to wanting to “stay independent” and remain in their own homes as they age. We offer a different perspective on aging “interdependently”, in order to maintain your options and stay healthy and happy despite perhaps needing a bit of help in a few areas. Isolation and unnecessary decline are often the costs of stubbornly maintaining absolute independence. When you really want to stay in your own home and maintain some control, a little in-home help is likely the best way to make that happen.

5. Leave it all up to the family.  Yes, of course, eldercare is a deeply personal thing and families handle over 80% of the care needed by older loved ones. However, families don’t need to handle everything alone. Having professional advice and occasional help can make a huge difference. One of the most frequent comments we get at Aging Wisely is, “You allowed me to go back to being daughter/son/wife/husband again.” Our EasyLiving caregivers are often handling tasks such as personal care (bathing, shaving, helping in the bathroom) and household duties, which allow adult children and parents to retain a balanced relationship and spend quality time together.

For help with “aging wisely” and “easy living” in your elder years, contact our team today at 727-447-5845 or complete our request form for a free eldercare consultation!

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2014 Wrap-Up: Aging Wisely Advice

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Aging Wisely Advice: Our Most Popular Blog Posts of 2014

Here’s a wrap-up of our most-read posts in 2014. After many years of blogging, Aging Wisely continues to work hard to bring you both unique content and a focus on the issues that matter most to you. We are always pleased to hear from our readers and would love your feedback (contact us online or leave a comment on our Facebook page) on our aging wisely advice!

Gifts for Seniors: This post wins our award for the most popular topic of all time, proving that gift giving is a tricky business. We’ve put together a practical guide with different categories and specific ideas and we’ve also done a number of follow up posts both here and at EasyLiving on specific gift ideas for seniors and caregivers. Refer back to these posts at the holidays and throughout the year when you need some creative suggestions.

Our Long-Distance Caregiving post discusses what caregivers can do on a visit to out-of-town elder loved ones. We have several great resources on this topic, including our EasyLiving checklist that you can print out before a visit. Give us a call before (or during or after!) a visit to schedule a consultation or even set up a professional assessment to address the concerns you spot (and those our care managers may notice before they become trouble).

We’re thrilled to see What Will Respite Care Cost? among our most popular posts read in 2014. This important topic is essential, as caregivers need to maintain their health and well-being as they care for their aging parents or spouses. Even though the post is no longer brand new, the figures still give you a good estimate of care costs today, along with resources and tips for setting up respite care.

Discharge planning in general is a popular topic that we cover and something that comes up often talking with families. When a loved one is hospitalized, it is an overwhelming experience and many are shocked by the decisions that need to be made quickly and the confusion they feel trying to navigate the system. Discharge Planning: Stroke Care and Rehabilitation offers specific tips and information for families helping a loved one who had suffered a stroke.

For those of you looking for information on other caregiving and aging wisely topics, you might want to start with our Aging Wisely handouts page or our Eldercare Resources page. Both offer a great array of specific information on our most frequently requested topics. For personalized aging wisely advice, don’t forget we offer a complimentary consultation with our Senior Care Consultant to get you the help you need today. Call us at 727-447-5845!

 

 

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Starting the New Year Right: Aging Wisely in 2015

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aging wisely eldercare advice for 2015

Start the new year off right with our aging wisely checklist! Here’s a simple list of things you can do to stay healthy, physically, emotionally, and financially.

1. Talk to your doctor about the preventative care screenings and services you should get in 2015. Schedule your wellness exam and any necessary screenings. Talk to your doctor about your medications and ask for a review to eliminate any unnecessary ones. Medicare B provides 100% coverage for many preventative care services. Check out Medicare’s Preventative Services page for a complete overview.

Screening and preventative care that is covered includes:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
  • Alcohol misuse screenings & counseling
  • Bone mass measurements (bone density)
  • Cardiovascular disease screenings
  • Cardiovascular disease (behavioral therapy)
  • Cervical & vaginal cancer screening
  • Colorectal cancer screenings
  • Depression screenings
  • Diabetes screenings
  • Diabetes self-management training
  • Glaucoma tests
  • HIV screening
  • Mammograms (screening)
  • Nutrition therapy services
  • Obesity screenings & counseling
  • One-time “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit
  • Prostate cancer screenings
  • Sexually transmitted infections screening & counseling
  • Shots:
    • Flu shots
    • Hepatitis B shots
    • Pneumococcal shots
  • Tobacco use cessation counseling
  • Yearly “Wellness” visit

2. Did you get your vaccinations? As mentioned above, Medicare covers flu and pneumonia shots. Flu season usually begins in Fall and peaks in January/February. If you have not received the flu shot, talk to your doctor about getting it and you may still avoid the peak risk. Put a reminder on your calendar to check into getting the flu shot this coming fall so you don’t miss it. If you have not had a pneumonia vaccine (recommended for all adults 65+ and some younger adults with certain conditions), check with your doctor.

3. Schedule a review visit with your attorney and financial advisor. Have you had any major life changes? Are all your documents up-to-date? Discuss how often you should have a review.

4. Have a “care check”. If you are currently working with a care manager, plan some time together (along with your family) to review the status of your situation and keep the lines of communication open. Is there anything your care manager would recommend changing in 2015? What concerns can you anticipate and what resources can you bring in to help? If you have not worked with a care manager, consider scheduling a consultation or geriatric care management assessment (if you are simply planning for the future, a consultation may suffice). This “care check” can help identify pitfalls so you can avoid stressful, costly crises.

5. Do a home safety/clutter sweep (or have someone help you–our team specializes in this so contact us if you’d like to know more!). Check out our free EasyLiving Falls Prevention Checklist. Reduce unnecessary clutter, organize and ensure key items are accessible, remove throw rugs and obstacles in your walking path. Check your driveway and sidewalk for uneven pavement and consider getting someone to cut back overgrown trees or bushes. If there’s an area you are having trouble managing, find a tool to help or consider hiring someone to assist.

Contact the Aging Wisely/EasyLiving team at 727-447-5845 for the best start to 2015! Our team can help with a “care check”/wellness visit, assistance around your home, a home safety review and more!

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Dr. Phillips’ Expert Heart Health Tips

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diet for healthy heart

Hello, I’m Dr. Paul Phillips and I’ve been practicing cardiology for over 30 years at Morton Plant in Clearwater. As managing partner of Clearwater Cardiovascular and Interventional Consultants, I’ve worked with thousands of patients throughout Pinellas County. I’m pleased to offer some heart health tips to the readers of Aging Wisely today to help you get a healthy start to 2014!

Every New Year brings a sense of renewal and the potential to change our lives. Unfortunately most New Year resolutions get put on the back burner and quickly forgotten. The goals of losing weight, changing our diets, exercising more regularly and adopting a healthier lifestyle become missing in action. However, with February being Heart Month it is good time to recall some of resolutions and try to lower the risk of future cardiovascular disease.

The epidemic of obesity in our country continues. The reasons include eating more high-calorie processed foods, larger portion sizes, more meals eaten away from home, and less physically active lifestyles. We consume more foods and drinks with added sugars. Portion sizes have increased and the average adult’s daily calorie intake increased by 350 between 1977 and 2005. Many of the meals that are served at restaurants, particularly fast food restaurants, as well as prepared meals bought at grocery stores are high in saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugars and sodium. As a society we spend more time in front of televisions, computers, and video games than  ever before.  The lack of physical activity places us at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Fad diets and appetite suppressants are not the answer to combat these problems. They usually will not lead to sustained weight loss. Unfortunately, getting healthy requires work and discipline. The key is to find a daily eating plan that keeps the pounds off and provides the right balance of calories and nutrition with an appropriate amount of exercise. Although it seems simple the rule is that to lose weight you must take in fewer calories than you use through normal metabolism and physical activity. Don’t expect to lose more than 2 pounds per week. Without increasing your amount of exercise you will need to eat 500 less calories a day to lose 1 pound per week! Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.

These are some guidelines I suggest to help create a healthy diet:

  • Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits. 

They are high in nutrients and low in calories.  Eat whole vegetables and fruits (fresh, frozen, or canned) instead of drinking juices. Prepare without adding sugar, salt, or fats.

  • Eat whole grain and high fiber foods.

They can lower your cholesterol level and help you to feel full to help manage your intake. Whole wheat oats, wild rice, corn, barley, and popcorn are good choices.

  • Eat fish at least twice a week.

Grill, bake, poach, or broil (don’t fry). Use herbs, spices, lemon, and citrus juices instead of salt, lard, butter, or cream choices.

  • Select low fat dairy products.

Use low fat cheeses like mozzarella, Parmesan, and cottage cheeses and use fat free cheeses when available. For desert use frozen yogurts sorbets, sherbets, and fat free ice creams.

  • Give up sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
  • Limit the amount of food with saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Use oils that stay liquid at room temperature like olive, corn, safflower, and canola.
  • Grill, bake, or broil meat and poultry.
  • Choose lean and extra lean meats.
  • Use chicken without the skin.
  • Avoid processed meats i.e. hot dogs, luncheon meat, ham, and bacon.
  • Shellfish are acceptable in moderation.
  • Avoid trans fats found in margarine or shortening.
  • Limit the intake of French fries, cakes, cookies, pies, and doughnuts.

Some other tips to promote weight loss:

  • Control portion size.
  • Don’t snack between meals or eat anything other than fruits and vegetables after dinner.
  • Avoid, bread, pasta, white rice, and potatoes (sweet potato is a better alternative).

Now for some good news! A glass or 2 of wine a day promotes heart health, although wine does have calories you will have to burn off.

Make this a healthy year! Modify your diet, lose weight, get regular exercise, and enjoy some wine.

heart health month

Thanks to Dr. Phillips for sharing his valuable advice with our readers. Dr. Phillips works with many of our clients and is well known throughout the area for his excellent work as a cardiologist and his contributions to the community.  Here is a quick bio about Dr. Phillips: Paul L. Phillips, M.D., F.A.C.C. received his medical degree from the University of Virginia Medical School. His post graduate training continued with an internship, residency, and cardiology fellowship at New York Hospital- Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Phillips has practiced for over 30 years at Morton Plant and is currently managing partner of Clearwater Cardiovascular and Interventional Consultants. He received the Excellence in Medicine Award in 1999 and the teaching award from the Morton Plant Primary Care Program in 2005. He serves as an affiliate professor at the University of South Florida School of Medicine. 

In the days leading up to heart month, our Aging Wisely and EasyLiving blogs have been focusing on heart health for elders and caregivers and sharing resources for a healthier lifestyle. We hope these help inspire you towards good health in 2014. If you need any specific information or have a suggestion, we invite you to contact Aging Wisely any time.

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