September. The kids and grandkids are back in school and most of us are back into a regular routine. But what is a regular routine for the average Canadian senior? And is there an ‘average’ Canadian senior? Statistics Canada is monitoring this growing demographic and they offer a wealth of information to help us get a fix on what ‘average’ looks like in today’s 65+ crowd.
The majority of Canadian seniors have retired from the workforce. No surprise there, but what is surprising is the growing number of seniors who don’t retire. In 2015, one in five seniors still worked and of those a third of them worked full-time. It’s hard to say if this is, on average by choice or necessity. Likely some are working because they’re just not ready to stop. Others perhaps work to fund a special goal or a project while still others are working because they need to pay the rent. Whatever the case, Stats Can says about 43% of them reported that they worked ‘for the income’.
Whether fully retired or still punching the clock, there’s always work to be done at home and according to Stats Can senior women still spend more time doing routine, unpaid household work than their male counterparts. That said, statistics also indicate that today’s senior men do more dishes, vacuuming, laundry and the like than ever before. To that, I say amen!
This next glimpse into how seniors spend their day actually surprised me. Seniors now spend less time on so-called ‘active pursuits’ than the average senior did just three decades ago. That’s less time walking, exercising, volunteering, attending cultural events or even socializing! The Stats Can 2015 General Social Study on Time Use actually quantified the decline in activity as 35 minutes less each day for senior men and 40 minutes less each day for senior women. Conversely, more time was spent on passive activities like watching tv, reading and using technology.
We’re talking about just over half an hour of more sitting and less doing by the average Canadian senior. Something to worry about? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, I think it’s a senior stat worth being mindful of and if it is a trend, it might be a trend worth bucking. And why not start now! Perhaps instead of another half hour of Netflix tonight, why not get out for a walk on a gorgeous evening, in autumn, in Northumberland County. To me, that’s time very well spent.
Learning New Things
Want to stay sharp as you get older? Learn at least three new things a day, get a good night’s sleep and maybe take a pass on the supplements. These are just some of the findings from new studies looking into any possible links between aging and cognitive decline.
While I will admit to having a bit of ‘study fatigue’ when it comes to these things, I also admit I still pay attention to them. I think that’s because I’m hopeful. I’m eager for insights into the aging process and how to make it better. Without question, not every study is ground-breaking, but most every study has something interesting to offer.
So, these three new ones, here we go:
- Fascinating stuff out of the University of California Riverside which suggests seniors who actively seek out opportunities to learn or study not one or two but several new things every day create a huge and positive change to their cognitive function. It says that learning new things simultaneously and routinely seems to get the brain firing on all cylinders. Learn a new language for instance, maybe just a new word every day, while also mastering a favourite craft and then reading about a topic that interests you. The secret the researchers say, is to be like a child, be a sponge! Take in as much as you can, as often as you can. Your brain will thank you.
- One good night’s sleep doesn’t make up for the two lousy nights that came before, according to a pilot project study out of Georgia Tech’s School of Psychology. Good sleep patterns and consistency seem to play a big role in memory function. You can’t ‘make up’ lost sleep. When it comes to seniors, sleep and brain health, the study indicates routine is key.
- When it comes to supplements and vitamins claiming to boost or maintain your aging brain’s function, some researchers say save your money. With the exception of vitamin B12 and perhaps some Omega 3 fatty acid supplements, the American Association of Retired Persons researchers say any vitamins and/or nutrients that might be helpful in preserving brain health should be consumed as food, not supplements.
So, there we go, a few new ideas to discuss with family, friends and by all means with your health care providers. Studies on aging, I say keep them coming because one could offer a bit of information or a new way of thinking that could change your life. Anything and everything that helps us make life better, as we get older and better, I say bring it on!
Palisade Gardens Fashion Show Gallery
Palisade Gardens Fashion Show with proceeds going to Northumberland Hills Hospital.
Summer has Arrived!
We had to wait for it this year, but it finally feels like summer has actually arrived. It’s so nice to sit back, relax and enjoy the warmth and the sunshine. Shoulders drop and life’s just a little more carefree this time of the year. But if you think it’s time you can forget about paying attention to your footing and how you’re getting from A to B, well listen up. Falls, or as I’ve heard them called the ‘scourge of the 65+ crowd’ happen in all seasons and in all weather. July is no exception.
There are a host of reasons why people fall. Sometimes it really is a slippery sidewalk and sometimes it actually is the proverbial banana peel that’s to blame, but for seniors, falls usually occur for other reasons. Popular belief has it that most falls by seniors can likely be attributed to the following:
- chronic health conditions
- reaction to medications
Without question, any of those things can lead to a fall, but a study out of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia indicates that something else might be an even bigger contributor to the problem. It suggests that ‘incorrect transfers’ actually accounted for a staggering 41% of all falls by seniors in the study. In other words, awkward movements, over corrections or shifting one’s center of gravity ineffectively were the greatest cause of all falls. For example, this might refer to a poorly executed move from a wheelchair to a bed.
The study was conducted on seniors in long term care but I think the study results might also be relevant for seniors outside of a care facility and for those who don’t require the use of assistive devices. For those older adults, an awkward reach for a misplaced garden tool for example, can lead to an overcorrection of their footing, a stumble and then a fall. Still on the backyard patio theme, sometimes getting out of a low and unstable lawn chair can trip you up and get you off balance and end in a fall. It happens.
This study is interesting. The take away for me is that whatever your physical ability, be smart about how you move around in your space. Whether it’s navigating an icy parking lot in December or a backyard BBQ in July, take the time you need to move efficiently and safely. Here’s to a happy, healthy and fall-free summer for us all.
Finally, summertime! Hello June. Hello sunshine. Hello heat and hello dehydration. It really can sneak up on you. I know.
I’m lucky, ultimately nothing bad happened. I had been gardening. I didn’t bother to take a break or have anything to drink. I got a bit light-headed and felt unwell. A few glasses of water and a bit of down time in the shade and I was fine. But it hit me, I am now old enough to start taking dehydration seriously. So, I did a little research.
Seniors are at a greater risk of dehydration than younger adults.
Our bodies lose water as we age. Until we hit our forties the average human body is made up of about 52 to 60% water or fluids. After age sixty, those numbers drop by about 8%. It’s a natural occurrence which has to do with the loss of muscle mass as we get older and it’s the main reason seniors experience dehydration faster than younger adults. Add to that, as we age our thirst receptors become less efficient, so we don’t get the same cues to drink as we used to.
Even a mild case of dehydration can make you feel unwell. As a matter of fact, as a senior, by the time you start to feel a little woozy, you have likely already depleted your naturally reduced fluid levels by another 2 to 5%. More serious dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, urinary tract infections and a host of other ailments. Dehydration can happen easily. The good news is, it’s easy to prevent.
Stay hydrated. Eight glasses of water a day is the commonly held goal. I don’t want to feel woozy in the garden again, but wow, eight glasses a day is a challenge for me. So, I was delighted when I came across this little nugget in my research. While eight glasses a day is great, Baycrest Geriatric Centre in Toronto says most seniors only need to consume about 1500mls or 6 cups of water a day to stay healthy. I can do six! I know I can. I bet you can too.
Seniors are some of the most generous people I know. They like to give. They’re proud to be able to contribute to worthy causes and a recent Statistics Canada survey proves the point. Tax filing Canadians age 65 and over donated more money to charitable organizations in recent years than any other demographic. They donated more and their average individual donations were bigger than those of any other age group. Seniors are generous and they’re also smart. Donating to a recognized charity or organization which issues tax receipts serves two purposes: it reduces the amount of income tax one has to pay and it also lets the donor do some good by helping those in need.
Being able to support causes and initiatives you believe in is good stuff at any age, but in your retirement years it can be particularly fulfilling. Whether it’s being generous with your money if you’re in a position to or generous with your time, tapping into that desire to give and to be a part of something bigger than yourself can be really special, for both you and your community.
Northumberland County has a population of about 86,000 residents, a quarter of whom are in the 65+ crowd. A lot of those seniors are active, energetic people who want to volunteer their time. Lucky for us there is no shortage of worthy organizations or groups looking to add to their ranks. There are service clubs like Rotary and Lions. There’s the volunteer radio station Northumberland 89.7FM. The good people at Beyond the Blue Box and Greenwood Coalition are always happy to greet new volunteers as are countless other groups. The well of opportunity is deep for those who want to give.
I want to leave you with one of my favourite quotes on generosity. I think it’s perfect. “Your greatness is not what you have, it’s what you give.” Anonymous.
*I would like to cover topics that are of interest to seniors. If you have suggestions or questions that you would like to have addressed, please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (905) 372-1150 ext 222
Truth be told, until now I’ve had a hard time living up to my goal of being more active in 2019. I’ve been busy, but busy isn’t active. I honestly found it very hard to add more healthy activity to my routine when it was dark and cold outside. But now it’s April, the sun is shining and it’s time to get moving!
Every bit of activity or exercise we add to our routine is a good thing. And I mean every little bit.
- A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine says that as little as ten minutes of ‘leisurely activity’ a week lowers your risk of cardiovascular or cancer related illness or death.
We’re talking about TEN minutes of gardening, dancing or walking. IN A WEEK! That is more than doable. And if we can do it in the sunshine, all the better.
Yes, activity in the sunshine. It feels good and it guarantees your daily requirements of vitamin D. That said, you’ve got to be smart about your exposure. I’ve survived cancer once. This summer will mark sixteen years since I beat breast cancer. I don’t want to have to fight skin cancer or any other form of it, ever again. And so, when it comes to sun exposure, I take all the necessary precautions. Here’s my go to list:
- Avoid the sun during peak hours. Generally, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. — regardless of season. These are prime hours for exposure to skin-damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, even on overcast days.
- Wear protective clothing. Pants, long sleeves, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Use sunscreen. Apply it generously and reapply regularly. Be sure your sunscreen is a broad-spectrum product that will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. *Here’s a tip, check the expiry date on your sunscreen. While it doesn’t necessarily go bad, products do become less effective over time.
- Don’t forget to protect your lips! Many lip balms and even lipsticks, now come complete with sunscreen.
I love the sun. I always will. I also respect its power. Here’s to a spring and summer filled with healthy sunshine, happy activity and every good thing that makes you glad to be alive.
*I would like to cover topics that are of interest to seniors. If you have suggestions or questions that you would like to have addressed, please feel free to contact me by email at email@example.com or at (905) 372-1150 ext 222.