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Retirement Insider

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Pat Fream

Seniors and Mental Health

We’ve come a long way when it comes to identifying, accepting and treating mental health issues. In fact, nowadays it is common for family doctors to incorporate mental health-related questions in routine patient appointments. This is good news for all of us, considering that stats indicate that everyone will be impacted by mental health issues on some level and at some point in our lives.

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Meals Matter to Seniors

If you ask most people, a good meal matters. Seniors are no different. In fact, as you get older many people say that food becomes increasingly important since you are less able to enjoy other pleasures that you once took for granted.

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The Art of Engagement — Bringing Seniors into Focus

In retirement residences across the country, recreational staff are busy innovating and planning – striving to create just the right complement of programs and activities to entice the residents who call the facility home. No doubt it can be a bit of a challenge, hitting the mark with such a diverse array of people from all walks of life.
For Rosal Yade, Activities Coordinator at AgeCare’s Governor’s Walk in Ottawa, the formula is simple: “We look at each resident as a whole and unique individual, taking into account their full life up to retirement and bringing their background and life experiences forward into the next phase of life,” said Rosal. She adds, “I make it my mission to get to know everything I can about each one of them, beyond their needs, preferences, medical requirements. To really make someone feel welcome is to learn as much as you can about who they are, what they’ve done, and what matters to them.”
Once Rosal is in possession of this privileged knowledge, her next aim is to bring their meaningful interests and skills into focus, creating opportunities that will resonate with them, engage them, and give them a sense of purpose.
To illustrate this, Rosal cites the example of inviting a resident who formerly owned a clothing store, to assist in decorating Governor’s Walk for all seasons of the year. The resident developed a beautiful storefront so Rosal was able to pick up all the decorations needed and the resident-led in decorating for the Fall, Christmas season and beyond. “She was very talented at her craft and the decorations made residents proud of their home and brightened the atmosphere for staff, residents and visitors.”
In another example, Rosal invited a resident who formerly taught voice and enunciation classes, to give lessons to other residents on how to properly speak and communicate. Prior to the invitation, Rosal noticed that the resident spent most of her time in her room, but when invited to share her skills, she became more connected and engaged with others. “She uses cognitive, emotional and physical stimulation to teach the classes and what is happening is she’s becoming proud to be sharing her craft. You can see she is uplifted by the recognition from her peers who are looking up to her for guidance and direction.”
If personalized engagement is Rosal’s top priority, then advocacy is a close second, as she views seniors as able, intelligent, individuals who have much to contribute to the world around them. “I think it’s important to bring residents out into the community and to also bring the community to the residents – the two need to be given opportunities to integrate,” she suggests.
Rosal punctuates her point by relaying the story of inviting a talented singer to perform at Governor’s Walk, a man who also happens to be a prominent Ottawa cardiac surgeon. When he accepted, she turned the event into a black-tie affair, inviting residents to attend and enjoy. “It was hugely successful,” she said. “Everyone had a wonderful time and everyone felt a part of something really special and important.”
Of course, Governor’s Walk also offers many of the more common activities like Bingo, Bridge, and crafts, appealing to just about anyone who likes to get out and have fun. But overall, AgeCare’s philosophy in serving its residents involves a whole person approach, and to that end, activities are specially designed to nourish the mind, body and spirit.
Specifically, at Governor’s Walk, they offer an intriguing list of activities to stimulate the mind, including a program called “Puzzles of the weekend”, Poetry Group, and even bi-weekly history lessons with local Professor, Dr.Eric Teehan. Programs designed to nourish the body include: Walking group, chair yoga & meditation, Fun & Fitness and more. To ignite people’s passions, the list of ‘spirit’ activities is extensive and enthralling, including gardening, Happy Hour, Meet Your Neighbor Floor Parties, weekly special events with musical entertainment, Community Choir, weekly mass and outings to live theatre, museums, and restaurants.
“I think it’s really important to never stop seeing each individual as unique and extraordinary,” said Rosal. “If you show them they are important and they are valued – they maintain their self-respect and dignity, and they know they are a part of something bigger.”

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Aging in Place ~ What it Really Means

You’ve heard the term ‘Aging in Place’ but what does it really mean?
The formal definition of Aging in Place is “having the health and social supports and services you need to live safely and independently in your home or your community for as long as you wish and are able.”

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Socialization is Good for Seniors

We all know how satisfying and enriching it can be to spend time with friends, but did you know that it can also improve your health, boost self esteem, and may even ward off dementia?
The benefits of having an active social life have been studied for years, and according to some seniors who are currently living in a residential community setting, these findings have merit. In fact, these folks say they are living proof that socialization is good for you.
“To be honest, I think having people right outside my door every day and spending every meal talking with other seniors has prolonged my life,” said Joan Carter, from her home in a senior’ residence in Calgary. “Back when I was living alone in my home, I would see people just maybe once or twice a week, I barely felt like I was part of the world anymore.”
Irene Stintson says before she moved into AgeCare Seton, she had lost all desire to live, and spent all her days buried in memories from her past. Now, she shares her meals with others, goes to activities offered in her community, and even enjoys joking with the attendants and other staff in her place. Says the 81-year-old, “I’ve really come around. These days I have every intention of sticking around for a few more years.”

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Seniors Targeted in Scams

We live in a world where fraud, theft, and privacy violations are a very real and common threat. This is a tough reality for all of us, and even more of a concern for seniors who are vulnerable on so many levels, and often the target of elaborate and convincing scams.

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Holiday Gift Giving for Seniors

Consider the 3 Es: Experiences, Expressions and Edibles

’Tis the season of joy and of course, you want to spoil your favourite senior! The question is… what can you give your loved one that they will cherish, without overwhelming them or adding clutter to their simplified living space?

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Senior Loneliness — How You Can Help

For many, the holiday season can be a particularly lonely time. This is especially true for seniors who are living on their own and don’t have close family ties.
“My husband and so many of our friends have passed on now,” said 79-year-old Donna Watson of Calgary. “I have a nephew in town but I don’t like to burden him over the holidays, he has his own kids and grandkids to occupy his time.”
New research shows that isolation and loneliness is a growing trend for ageing Canadians, and this problem can lead to a deterioration of physical and mental well-being. In some instances, loneliness in the senior population is considered an epidemic and is linked with dementia and premature mortality.
For Donna, regular attendance at her local YMCA is key for her overall health, but she admits that her confidence in driving beyond her neighbourhood is waning and she is struggling to keep up her positive outlook as another winter sets in.
“Over the years, I have mostly found myself retreating inward around this time of year. I do puzzles and watch old movies and hope the Christmas season passes quickly,” said Donna. “But last year I had a wonderful surprise, a friend I swim with invited me to join her family on Christmas day. I had to push myself to go but it turned out real nice. It did my heart good to be around people and see the young children playing with their new toys.”
In recent years many communities have rallied around a mission to help seniors feel connected and cared for. In some cities there have even been public campaigns calling on volunteers to reach out to seniors with regular visits by phone or in person.
Other suggestions on how people can come together to ensure elderly people are not feeling alone and isolated, are:

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