Social Connections Keep Seniors Healthy

importance of social connections in chattanooga tn retirement communities

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that seniors who experience close social connections live longer and enjoy a better quality of life, but there’s plenty of science to back up the importance of staying socially active for seniors. Many seniors live alone in isolation, which can lead to depression and loneliness. But Chattanooga TN retirement communities offer a solution to keep aging loved ones active and happy.

Research Points to a Strong Link Between the Strength and Quantity of Social Connections and the Health Among Seniors

The results of a 17-year study of senior citizens in Alameda County, California suggest that social connection and leisure-time physical activity can improve the mortality rate regardless of age, race, socioeconomic position, and other behavioral risk factors, and baseline health status.

The study began in 1965 with 6,928 adults ages 20 or older completing an extensive questionnaire about behavioral, social, and psychological aspects of their lives. This enabled the researchers to compare the findings for those ages 60-94 with several younger age groups. Participants self-reported a variety of conditions, symptoms, and disabilities experienced during the 17 years.

Ties with close friends and/or relatives assume greater importance for those ages 60 or older, pointing to the critical importance of social network ties. Analyses of the findings have shown that such ties are significant predictors of lower 9-year mortality risk for persons aged less than 70 years. Social ties are also significant predictors of lower mortality risks for those aged 70 and older after adjusting for age, sex, race, baseline health status, perceived health, depression, and health practices.

Other Studies Back Up the Health Benefits of Social Connections

Another study of 5,151 seniors found that people are more likely (by almost one-half) to live longer and healthier lives if they participate in some form of social interaction. Social activities like visiting or talking with friends or relatives decreased their likelihood of mortality. Those with a greater number of social ties experience reduced levels of functional decline.

Research from 1992-96 in Barcelona, Spain revealed that among females, in particular, the existence of support from neighbors, the size of the family network, the number of contacts with the community network and the situation of living with someone else were related increased life spans. The support of neighbors was found to have a significant relationship to their longevity.

Research Looked at the Health Benefits of Social Interaction for Seniors

The Alameda County study and research it has inspired achieve similar conclusions: It is likely that social engagement exerts a protective influence on health. It is possible that by encouraging older adults to participate socially and to maintain their social engagement, they will be more likely to consider themselves healthy at a later stage in life.

Scientific research repeatedly demonstrates that social engagement significantly predicts future subjective health. Even when prior subjective health is taken account of, those who are more socially engaged report higher levels of personal health than those with lower levels of social engagement.

Retirement Communities offer a great alternative to living alone

At our Assisted Living in Chattanooga, seniors follow a calendar of scheduled activities that keep them busy and create opportunities for socializing. Regular entertainers perform songs that evoke memories of shared generational moments. Meals, craft workshops, and worship programs all offer chances for seniors to engage in conversations, and our programs attend to both their physical and mental wellbeing. Regency Senior Living offers regular physical activity to keep blood flowing, relieve tension, and to improve stamina, strength, and heart health. Those living alone often feel less motivation to exert themselves. Seniors can also keep their minds sharp with activities and games.

Regency’s amenities create a care-free environment where seniors no longer worry about most of the daily chores that keep us running ragged, yet they can still stay connected with people and exert their energy on things that matter to them. We provide transportation to go shopping or visit their doctor. They no longer worry themselves with housekeeping and cooking meals (or the cleanup!). Seniors still want to feel useful and needed. We encourage our residents to get involved in a hobby or to volunteer with their church, community, or charity groups.

Regency Encourages Family and Friends to Remain a Big Part of a Senior’s Life

We surround our residents with people their age, as well as compassionate caregivers who they can connect with on a personal level and consider friends. However, a person’s family will always matter most to a senior. Unlike the isolated grandmother whose sole companion most nights is a television, people who live with us enjoy an active social life independent of family involvement while also creating excellent opportunities for the family to visit and bond.

Families join us for dinner and special events. Many grown children take them out regularly for time together away from our community. Regency is there for Seniors in today’s busy world. Residents enjoy the freedom to come and go as they please, yet their families feel the peace of mind that they’re safe and secure.

With medication reminders, regular activities, and social moments planned and carried out, there’s no comparison to what a senior experiences when living alone at home.
Regency offers access to technology so seniors can take their real-life social connections and relationships online as their grandkids do. Computers connected to the Internet allow residents to research things and play games. Seniors living in our community are undoubtedly safer than those living alone and vulnerable to scam artists and thieves.

A social network is more than just something owned by a billionaire in Silicon Valley. It’s the key to getting more enjoyment and purpose from life. The research backs it up, giving us the mission to carry out for their wellness. Regency’s communities and programs set the stage for seniors to engage with friends from their own generation as well as our skilled caregivers. Combined with enduring ties to old friends and their families, the social circle is complete.

This sense of connection leads to a positive view of life. Combined with regular doctor check-ups and activities to keep days filled, a loved one can live a long, healthy life full of purpose, laughs, and joy.

Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo

Written by Steven Stiefel

 

Published in Active Senior Living

Regency Senior Living seniors and musicJune is National Effective Communications Month. Being able to express oneself in a clear and understandable manner helps decrease misinterpretation, confusion and conflict. But what are we to do when a disease of the brain causes a family member to experience more and more difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions? That’s exactly the challenge faced by families who have a loved one battling Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.

A Memory Care neighborhood like the one at a Regency Senior Living community provides the attention and compassion that seniors and their families need in such a situation. Our caregivers work with the Alzheimer’s Association to deliver strategies of treatment that allow our residents to retain their dignity and remain connected to their pasts through a variety of activities. 

Day-to-day communication can be extremely frustrating for a family member attempting to serve the role of caregiver to someone impacted by dementia. It is heartbreaking to see the progression of the disease, as the senior struggles to find the right words, becomes repetitive, loses his or her train of thought, and relies on gestures more than speaking. 

Once Alzheimer’s reaches the late stage, around-the-clock care is usually needed. 

Memory Care Uses Music to Stimulate Seniors with Dementia

In Regency’s Memory Care neighborhood, residents are surrounded with the familiar. A jukebox might be playing songs that the senior knew as a teenager. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, music may help them to function at a higher cognitive level. Tunes can engage them in singing, rhythm playing, dancing, physical exercise, and other structured activities. Ballads and lullabies have been shown to calm someone during moments of agitation or when preparing for bed. Soothing sounds can provide a sense of comfort. 

Regency  regularly welcomes musical entertainers who may perform for Memory Care residents, often evoking a response of familiarity because our shared cultural connection to music invites an emotional reaction. Like anyone listening to a song to fit a given mood, the residents enjoy reconnecting with songs from their generation. The sounds of Elvis and Sinatra are quite familiar to those of us who live and work in our halls. 

Our community has recently become certified for a pilot program called Music and Memory. There have been instances where seniors with dementia have been unresponsive until headphones are placed on their ears and familiar tunes from their youth are played on an iPod. Even after the headphones are removed, the power of music moves  seniors to reacquire their cognitive faculties for a time. It reawakens feelings they haven’t felt in years. 

Appealing to the visual senses as well, the furniture and decorations in a typical Memory Care neighborhood use cheerful colors and may even resemble a corner drug store with a soda fountain or jukebox, just like the ones residents likely visited as children. Such an environment can prove helpful in breaking through the fog of confusion. Baby dolls can also offer comfort to some Memory Care residents. 

Another way to effectively communicate with a person dealing with Alzheimer’s is to minimize distractions, going to a quiet place and limiting conversations to one-on-one interactions. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends speaking clearly and slowly, avoiding lengthy requests. Maintaining eye contact and speaking slowly may also help. 

“Sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important than what is being said. Look for the feelings behind words or sounds,” the Alzheimer’s Association states on its website. “Treat the person with dignity and respect. Avoid talking down to the person or as if he or she isn’t there. It’s OK if you don’t know what to do or say; your presence and friendship are most important to the person.”

Maintaining a connection with their past and with their relationships is key to Regency’s Memory Care activities. Photos of loved ones and objects of personal significance may be displayed prominently inside a resident’s apartment. It is important for residents to feel at home and for their families to possess the peace of mind that they are safe while enjoying stimulating activities for a higher quality of life.

One resource that may interest families is The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Buddy, which teaches how to deal with wandering, bathing, and meals. It also provides live help 24 hours a day by clicking and calling the Alzheimer's Association toll-free 24-hour helpline at 1-800-272-3900.

Until science provides us with the key to preventing dementia cases in future generations, Memory Care offers a valuable resource for families struggling to effectively communicate with an elder affected by Alzheimer’s. 

For more tips on communicating with persons suffering from Alzheimer’s or another dementia, visit alz.org/commtips. For more information about the Music & Memory program, visit https://musicandmemory.org/.

Written by: Steven Stiefel 

Published in Memory Care

Seniors can apply for benefits to offset some of the costs of assisted livingThe second most challenging aspect of relocating a loved one to Assisted Living, after the actual physical move to the building, is figuring out how to pay for it. In the best case scenario, an aging parent has a nest-egg accumulated over generations of working hard and saving money so he or she can retire in a community as nice as Regency. Either way, there are multiple options for financing such a move, especially for military veterans and homeowners.

Regency maintains a trio of partnerships with organizations to make it work. Jeff Clay, Vice President of Business Development, explains some popular options and how they work.

First, a BRIDGE LOAN from Elder Life Financial.

“This allows a senior to move right away to Assisted Living while their home is on the market to find a buyer,” Clay said. “They don’t have to wait until the house sells to actually move, and the home will sell quicker once mom and/or dad are settled so the walls can be painted, the shag carpeting taken up, etc.”

Elder Life can typically qualify a family member with good credit within 24-48 hours, allowing up to six people to be on the non-secured bridge loan without putting up collateral and make payments. The family only has to pay the interest until the home is sold. Once the home sells or other options discussed below kick in, the family pays the accumulated low interest of about 8.25%.

Second, VETERANS BENEFITS from the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, for veterans and spouses of veterans who have served at least 90 days on active duty and at least one day during wartime. Called "aid and attendance", this program pays a maximum benefit of $2,123 a month for married veterans, $1,788 for single veterans, $1,406 for well veterans with an ill spouse, and $1,149 for a surviving spouse.

“We refer veterans to our partners at Elder Resource Benefits Consulting,” Clay said. “ERB helps them with the paperwork, and once they qualify them, Regency absorbs the cost so there’s no charge to the veteran or spouse. It’s our way of giving back to our veterans. A bridge loan can work well with VA benefits. The good thing is once the VA gets the paperwork, it is stamped and the benefits pay retro dollars back to that date.”

Third, a MEDICAID WAIVER through TennCare CHOICES. This can help pay for expenses for those who can no longer live alone. Typically, the recipient must pay for their room and board if they opt for Assisted Living rather than a nursing home. If are interested in the CHOICES program, you can call your TennCare health plan (MCO) at the number listed on the TennCare card.

Fourth, for those with the foresight to look ahead, LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE that can be redeemed through Elder Life Financial.

Clay said when going to insurance route, it’s important for seniors to give their grown children Power of Attorney to avoid delays in applying the policy toward Assisted Living. “I talked with a woman whose mother had a policy she’d been wise enough to get 17 years earlier through Aetna, but she was unable to execute it in lieu of her parent. It’s also important to factor in cost-of-living increases. In that case, the mother had gotten a locked fixed interest that only paid the rate that Assisted Living would have cost her two decades ago.”

Long-term care insurance is best purchased within a window of time, between the early to mid-50s, because it can be of little use if arranged at too young of an age and cost-prohibitive if purchased too close to retirement age.

Finally, a partner called Life Care Funding can help families CONVERT A LIFE INSURANCE POLICY, which normally only pays at death to beneficiaries, to go toward Assisted Living while the policyholder is alive and well. Since most people rely on life insurance to final their final expenses, Clay recommends arranging for pre-paid funeral expenses that can be paid over months while the senior lives happily in Assisted Living.

For those who lack the financial means to afford their own apartment at a Regency facility, Clay said an openness to something called “companion living” increases their choices.

“Obviously, we’d all prefer to have our own space rather than sharing with a roommate, but this makes living in Assisted Living more do-able for some. Through our Homes4Heroes program, we’re seeing companion living because there is a backlog of veterans on the waiting list, plus it allows them to save money on housing that they can put toward other things,” he said.

Every senior hopes to have the financial means to spend their Golden Years in a community as wonderful as Regency where they can enjoy comfort and compassion. That’s why it’s so reassuring to have a variety of options to make it more affordable – and to start saving well in advance of needing it.

To learn more about Regency Senior Living and the companies mentioned here, call (615) 598-0245.

Written by Steven Stiefel

Published in Retirement Communities

You'll love Chattanooga TN retirement livingSome seniors may initially be apprehensive about moving from their home to an assisted living facility such as Regency Senior Living, but there are a lot of perks to it once you move beyond the fear of change and think about it.

Living alone, especially when you have mobility or memory issues, can not only be dangerous but also stressful and boring.

Being in a home means having to take care of a house and a yard. Why mow the grass, shovel snow or vacuum the carpet when you don’t have to and can have someone else do it? If a senior enjoys playing in the dirt, there are still opportunities at Regency Senior Living to tend to a community garden. Trying to take on home maintenance when affected by physical ailments can increase the risk of falls.

When a senior’s only regular companion is a television set, this leads to feelings of loneliness as well as guilt from family and friends whose busy schedules do not permit daily check-ins. In contrast, someone living in Assisted Living is never truly alone, although their privacy is respected.

Someone living at Regency has opportunities to form new friendships with other residents and staff, which includes an activity director tasked with providing activities for stimulation. Doesn’t that sound better than sitting alone in front of a glowing box?

Beyond the safety considerations of avoiding hazardous physical labor, once someone lives in a community like Regency, there are safeguards in place to not only protect them from hurting themselves but also from being exploited by con-artists and criminals off the street – those who might prey on a vulnerable senior forced to answer his or her own door and cope with aggressive or persuasive approaches.

Moving from the home that is perhaps larger than the senior needs (with children now grown and perhaps a spouse deceased) also makes sense from the family perspective. No longer do they have to feel resentment as full time caregivers or guilty because they haven’t visited enough; instead, they can rest easy knowing that the elderly individual is surrounded by people focused on their well-being.

Life at Regency also means no longer having to go grocery shopping or clean dirty dishes. There’s always a risk that a senior might suffer nutritionally as memory fails or performing these chores becomes too labor-intensive, but in assisted living they can be assured of three delicious meals a day. Regency also offers transportation without the risk of a senior attempting to drive in traffic.

From housekeeping to assistance with food and medications, a move to assisted living can be the key to a happier, more secure life going forward.

Written by Steven Stiefel

Published in Retirement Communities

Chattanooga seniors stay hydratedIt’s already been a scorching hot summer and the season has only just begun. With that in mind, here are some tips for making sure you and the ones you love stay cool. Infants and anyone with a chronic illness need special attention, as do outdoor pets.

Dehydration from being in the heat and not getting adequate liquids can lead to hospitalization. Older adults are particularly at risk due to changes in renal function and body water composition.

Signs include confusion, problems with walking or falling, dizziness or headaches, dry or sticky mouth and tongue, sunken eyes, inability to sweat or produce tears, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure or blood pressure that drops when changing from lying to standing, constipation and decreased urine.

A caregiver like the ones at Regency work to keep our seniors healthy and hydrated, but what about friends and family who may live alone and struggle to keep cool in the oppressive heat?

Some tips to remember:

  • If going outdoors is necessary, it is best done in the early morning or late evening when tempera-tures will be cooler.
  • Fill a plastic bottle with water and put it in the freezer; grab it when ready to go outside and enjoy cold water longer as it melts.
  • Use fans to help circulate air because even a home with air-conditioning can feel warm if the air is not getting to you.
  • Wearing loose-fitting, light colored clothes will keep us cooler. Cotton clothing is cooler than syn-thetics.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which promote dehydration. Sugary drinks can also have a negative effect.
  • If someone lacks air-conditioning, they can spend time during the day in climate-controlled public places such as a shopping mall, public library, movie theater, or other space. Some cities also dedicate space for cooling centers open to the public.
  • Avoid activities in direct sunlight.
  • Try eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content (cucumber, celery, watermelon, toma-toes, lettuce/spinach). Avoid cooking foods that require using a stove.
  • Plan indoor activities such as organizing scrapbooks, reading books, listening to music, getting organized, etc.
  • With a little caution and following these steps, you can stay cooler this summer and help your loved ones remain safe in the shade. 

 

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Published in Active Senior Living

Ooltewah seniors celebrate the holidaysWe've all experienced it: A family Christmas gathering, with familiar scents drifting from a kitchen and wrapped presents sitting under a decorated tree. It's a scene most Chattanooga-area seniors look forward to each year. With so much hype and commercialism, it's easy to forget sometimes that the holidays are about preserving traditions and bonding with family.

Here are 6 tips to have a great family Christmas this year:

Give It Some Thought: Note a loved one's interests, hobbies, and collectibles. A handmade gift that appeals to someone's favorite things is beloved more than an expensive present that feels like a shot in the dark from out of left field.

Be Gracious: Imagine how you'd feel if a grandchild acted unappreciative of a gift. According to the etiquette experts at Debretts, we "must never, ever look anything but delighted with a present. Lack of taste is regrettable, but not a criminal offense."

Stick to a Budget: We can feel obligated to spend beyond our means, but generosity can actually create problems rather than happiness. Says Debretts: "Costly presents may detonate waves of guilt, obligation and social embarrassment; not everyone will be able to match your generosity, nor should they be expected to... If someone showers you with extravagant presents you are not under a moral obligation to reciprocate, or outdo them."

Give Yourself Time to Shop: You won't get the best deals or find that toy that a grandchild said he wanted if you wait until it is sold out.

Be Appropriate in Gift-Giving: Ask your children before you buy their son a drum kit or their daughter a puppy. Don't play favorites when it comes to grandchildren. Although it may seem impersonal, teenagers will prefer a gift card to clothes.

Give Experiences: A trip to the Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum or other Chattanooga area attractions can inspire and entertain a family member more than a toy.

Make Experiences: Take time to share stories about past family holiday gatherings, cook traditional meals, play games, watch favorite Christmas movies, sing Christmas Carols, etc. Rituals become the things that grandchildren carry on into their own families.

With just a little effort, this holiday season can be a great one for Ooltewah seniors.

Published in Active Senior Living

With the holidays ahead, Chattanooga area families are going to be gathering for meals and chatter. Around at least some of those dinner tables, there are going to be inevitable talks with an aging relative about whether they need a helping hand with the tasks of daily life.

If you have a parent who needs assistance with housekeeping, meals, transportation, medication administration, or personal care, they may find Regency Senior Living to be a great option for taking the next step. The same is true if you are a senior who wants to explore new opportunities for staying socially and physically active in a place where help is available when you need it.

Some families anguish over such a transition because of concerns about uprooting a loved one from their home of many decades into unknown situations that may be cloaked in misconceptions of what to expect. We all want the comfort of knowing the next chapter in our story is one of happiness rather than misery.

The freedom to come and go is part of the Assisted Living experience at Regency in Ooltewah, as is forming new friendships. Until one researches the options and understands what they are dealing with (typical costs, living arrangements, etc.), they may have misconceptions about what lay ahead and assume the worst.

Elder Advisor Gail Samaha says it is best to broach the topic with an open mind and a focus on the positives. Grown children should tell their parents that they are bringing it up out of a desire to know what their wishes are going to be in case their health starts to fail or they need more help than family caregivers alone can provide. Samaha advises people to tell their aging mom or dad that "in order for us to provide your wishes and your needs, we need to have an idea of what you can afford."

This provides an opening for the conversation. Once the senior sees what they can expect at Regency, they may transform their outlook from fear of uncertainty to eagerness to begin a new living arrangement that offers abundant opportunities to stay active and enjoy new friendships.

Some families may want to consult a doctor for his or her opinion, especially if there are indications the senior may be suffering for early stage dementia. In the mind of a senior, the recommendations of an objective professional can carry more weight in reaching a tough decision than the opinions of relatives. A son or daughter sharing their worries about an elder falling without anyone around to help can show the right motivations are at heart.

Moving is stressful for anyone, but particularly a frail senior. One advantage to living at Regency in Ooltewah is the range of services we offer, from Independent Living to Memory Care. Finding the facility that can meet their present and future healthcare needs, such as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) will ensure the elder's life doesn't have to be disrupted a second time down the road due to declining health.

The next step is to arrange a tour at a time when the parent and other family can visit and ask questions. Speaking with residents about their experience living at Regency goes a long way toward helping because most will say they wish they'd made the move sooner.

To arrange a visit, call (615) 598-0245 or fill out the form at http://regencyseniorliving.com/chattanooga-retirement-community . After meeting with you, we can advise you on the services you may need and tell you more about the lifestyle Regency offers.

Published in Retirement Communities

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