Friday, 8 June 2018

Celebrating Seniors

Every June is Seniors Month in Ontario. June 2018 is the 34th year we celebrate seniors and their contributions to our province and our lives through a month of activities and events geared to highlight and involve seniors and their families. Every year the government announces a theme and this year is no different. "Now's the time to start something new," highlights how aging does not prevent any of us from leading fulfilling lives. Seniors continue to contribute to our community and we can all benefit from their wisdom, friendship, and experience. "  (from www.ontario.ca/page/celebrating-seniors-ontario). 

If you have a senior in your life, encourage them to attend or participate in activities in their community. If that is not possible, or in addition, have your own private celebration with them. While celebrating our senior loved ones is something we should do every day, its nice to have a reminder every now and then and an excuse to do something special for them. 

If you have someone in your life that you wish to honor in some way, have a look at the site 
www.ontario.ca/page/celebrating-seniors-ontario for links to information on the award nomination process for the Ontario Senior Achievement Award and the Ontario Senior of the Year Award. There is also information on that website about how you can request congratulatory messages for a milestone occasion from the Queen, Lieutenant Governor, PM of Canada and Premier of Ontario.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Technology and Seniors

Is technology isolating seniors? Is the very thing that makes the lives easier for younger people actually making life increasingly difficult for the older generation? I read an article today indicating that with advances in technology, and a need for us to be 'connected' to do things like banking and accessing other types of services, seniors who are not tech-savvy are becoming isolated. If you start paying attenition to things around us that we need and use technology for, it does become apparent that those who are not willing or able to learn how to use it, can have a harder time functioning in today's world.
We get calls all the time from seniors who do not have access to a computer or know how to use one. Even seniors who do have computers may be unable to do anything beyond email and Facebook. Navigating websites are beyond challenging for some people and many don't want to put sensitive banking or credit card information into a website. Many scams target seniors through email and it makes many wary of the internet and computers and all that goes with it.
That being said, there are wonderful advances that can make life easier for seniors, keeping them safe in their home and connected to family that live far away and can't visit regularly. Unfortunately, many are afraid or think that they are too old to learn something new.
The solution may be as simple as offering opportunities to learn about technology in venues that seniors frequent. Community Centres, libraries and Senior's Centres are all perfect locations to offer up introductory courses. Encouraging seniors to take simple courses and perhaps showing them how you can do things easily on a laptop or tablet, might make all the differnce to them. For those who run seniors venues, consider offering courses on using email, using Facebook and Skype, using banking websites and other targeted technology /computer related topics. As we move towards more 'age-friendly' communities and initiatives, introducing seniors to technology and helping them learn the benefits should be one of the priorities under consideration.


Thursday, 10 May 2018

GUEST POST - Ways to Provide Long-Distance Senior Care


Whether you’ve moved or your parents have relocated to a retirement or nursing home, caring for them from afar provides a means of staying connected. There are some ways to make the best of your circumstances and ensure that your loved ones are well-taken care of, even if you live hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

Stay In Touch

No matter how old you get, you’ll always be a child in your parent’s eyes. They’ve raised you, and though you are living on your own, it's important to give back by taking the time to communicate with them as often as you can. According to Psychology Today, estrangement is more common than we may think. As many as 7 percent of children are estranged from their mothers, while 27 percent don’t communicate with their fathers. Approximately 60 percent of the estranged parents and children wish to procure a relationship with their relatives, according to The Spruce.

Regardless of the type of relationship you have, communication is key. Thanks to modern technology, we can easily talk on the phone, on Skype, via instant message or through social media. Apps such as AARP Caregiving allow you to stay in touch and keep track of health records and other services (like doctor’s visits) all in one easy place so you can juggle important tasks all at once. Other modes of communication, such as the lost art of letter writing, shows a more intimate means of displaying affection for your loved ones. Remember, even if your loved ones are living in a senior community, they want to hear from you.

Seek Help From Others

You may have your own family to look after while you also take long-distance care of an elderly relative, which makes it difficult to do it all alone. Even if they receive care in a nursing home or assisted living facility, enlist the help of friends, family and even healthcare providers to ease some of the burden.

Additionally, it is important to ensure that your parent has an adequate ride to and from their residence. Even if they receive assistance from their care facility with errands like picking up medication and groceries, your loved one should have a way to leave for social outings. There are many options available, such as public transportation services, Lyft/Uber and even senior shuttles, that will provide transportation at a discount so your loved one will be able to maintain his or her independence. 

Nutrition and Fitness

If your loved one resides in a senior living community, they should have plenty of options for eating healthful meals and getting physical activity. You can further ensure their overall wellness by arming them with healthy-living tools from afar. For example, you can send your mother who is reluctant to attend her water aerobics classes, seeds, soil, flower pots, and a spade so she can burn some calories through gardening. If your father’s freezer is loaded with sodium-filled TV dinners, sign him up for a meal or grocery delivery service to encourage him to eat and if possible, cook healthy (and delicious) meals.

Ensuring that your loved one’s life remains as fulfilling as possible even when you aren’t physically there can be tricky. It’s important to consider your time and be open to the help of others so that your elderly parent remains as happy and healthy as possible.

Contributed by: Marie Villeza, ElderImpact. 

Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she developed ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Daily Check Ins

There was an article this week about an unfortunate event that happened a year ago. Presumably, it took so long for people to hear about it becuase the family could not get the answers they wanted by dealing with the home directly, so they went to the press. An elderly man who resided in an independent retirement home died of natural causes in his room but, he wasn't found by the home for several days and only after a concerned resident alerted them to the fact that she hadn't seen him in a while. The issue wasn't that he died, as sad as that was for his family; it was that no one noticed he hadn't been at his meals for days.
One of the reasons people move to retirement homes is for the peace-of-mind that something like this doesn't happen, especially if all meals are included in your package. That no one noticed that this man was missing is very concerning. While independent people do go to retirement home settings, one would hope that there is a system in place to ensure something like this doesn't happen. We can only hope that learning from this experience will ensure no other resident or family has to go through this sort of thing again.
For families and potential residents of retirement homes, when you tour a home ask if there is a system to check on residents if they miss a meal. Is there a "buddy system" so residents check in with one other person daily? I recently read about a home for independent residents that has a door knob notification system; residents put a card on their door knobs when they go to bed and remove it in the morning. If someone spots a card when there isn't supposed to be one, they alert staff. Ask about the call bell system - if they wear a pendant there is less of a chance that they won't be able to alert someone if they are feeling ill. If there are not call bells in the room or if meals are not included in the home you go to, can you purchase a call bell pendant system privately on your own? Can you and other family members arrange to check in with your loved one daily? I know of seniors who live alone who have set up their own call system with friends in the same situation; one phone call or phone signal of so many rings at a certain time every day alerts  their friend that they are okay. Not getting that call at the same time one day, is cause for alarm and leads to a chain of events to ensure the person is fine.
For retirement homes that do not have a system in place to ensure people are okay daily, it's time to create one. I know years ago there was a home that created a card swiping system; a bit like what they have on cruise ships actually. When people went to a meal, their card was swiped at the door. If they didn't make it to a meal, the computer system alerted the staff of this and someone went to check on the person. A great system as long as residents are cognitively alert and able to remember their cards every time they go down to the dining room. While this is proably an elaborate and costly system that would not work for many settings or residents,  I'm sure there are other effective ways to monitor residents' safety that homes can consider, enabiling them to ensure that the people they are meant to look after, are indeed connected to the staff and/or other residents.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Holiday Worries

This weekend, many family members will get together to celebrate Easter or Passover. Some will travel great distances to see parents and loved ones who they may not have seen in months or longer. Often, in addition to sharing a meal, conversation and memories, concern may arise if there is a seemingly sudden change in a loved one since a last visit. Often, right after significant holidays, websites like www.senioropolis.com, see a bump in searches and inquiries as worry about the future sets in for the children of elderly people who don't seem to be managing well.
While we always recommend that planning ahead is ideal and creates more opportunities for choice and adjustment, for those who haven't had that opportunity, the sooner you can begin your research, the better. Keep in mind that for any kind of assistance or relocation to work, as long as your loved one is mentally competent, you must have their agreement and cooperation.
There are signs you can be looking for when you visit, that may point to the need to begin discussions; things like kitchen safety issues, a noticeable weight loss or even substantial gain, changes in habits, behaviors or personality, evident difficulty with personal care or cognitive tasks, difficulty managing in general in the home or unexplained physical injury all may be cues to caregivers to start talking about options with your loved one.
There is really no 'best time' to have this conversation, but there are better ways to approach it and deal with it. Timing is important - so not at the holiday dinner table. Know your facts. Speak to other family members that may have more frequent contact about your concerns and find out their observations. Listen to your loved one. Don't attack or bombard. Tell them what you see and why you are concerned. Be supportive. Create a plan that starts with the least intrusive assistance and do some research about options available moving forward. Make it about problem solving and not about forcing them into something they don't want or understand a need for (we have an extensive article about this in our book and in the PDF download on Care Options for Seniors in Ontario https://www.senioropolis.com/BookInfo.asp).

Friday, 9 March 2018

GUEST POST - Seniors Can Learn New Skills from Home


Learning is nutrition for the body and mind. The mind is designed to investigate, discover and expand. The advent of the internet has completely revolutionized the way people learn. Seniors now have the opportunity to engage and participate in the world like never before by learning new skills, joining communities and finding learning opportunities. 

According to Wired magazine the learning revolution is taking place at home. People are participating in self-teaching and connecting with the world in a more individualized way. An entire industry of online schools, academies and entertainment sites has made it more accessible for people to acquire information and knowledge. For senior citizens, this has given them an opportunity to continue learning and finding new activities.

Learning Opportunities

There is a plethora of online learning courses and activities that teach people new subjects and skills. Some popular learning ventures for seniors include:

Art/Photography courses. These can be a great way for seniors to engage with their creative side and learn new skills of the trade. Courses, such as photography, teach people new ideas while encouraging them to go out into the world. Painting courses and tutorials also encourage hands on practice. Many host painting parties that invite people to engage creatively and share their projects.

Arts and crafts. For seniors that like to work with their hands, arts and crafts are a great way to satisfy that urge. You can learn anything from making jewelry, fabric and needle crafts and other small projects.

Music lessons. The Guardian newspaper reports that learning a musical instrument has documented neurological benefits that keep the mind sharp as people get older. Many online music schools will teach people to pick up an instrument and learn to play through step-by-step instructions and instructional videos.

Dancing. Seniors can also engage in learning new activities through the internet sources or local classes. One of the best benefits of dancing is that you can do it in the privacy of your own home or in a classroom setting, which can help you socialize. It’s also a great way to get in shape and learn about your own body’s abilities and limits in a healthy way. Seniors should partake of at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, and dancing is a fun and great way to do it.

Book clubs. For seniors that like to read, joining a book club is a great way to communicate with others and engage in conversations. There are many local or online book clubs where people socialize or communicate through discussions.

The Benefits

The learning revolution has given seniors a connection to the world around them. The benefits of this type of self-teaching are plentiful.

Convenience. As people get older, it becomes more difficult to move around town. With many of these online activities, seniors can do the bulk of the learning from the comfort and safety of their own living rooms. As the New York Times reported, even colleges have taken to offering online courses for retirees and seniors.

Health & healing. Participating in physical activity like dancing is a great way to improve mental and physical health. Finding a new hobby and finding passion for learning new skills will help seniors who are recovering from addiction. Expanding and challenging the mind will do wonders for self-healing and leaving behind destructive behaviors.

Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford’s famous quote, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young” is applicable today. This is an exciting time in history, when knowledge is available and open to everyone. Seniors have an opportunity to use the modern world to their advantage. Learning and staying active from home has never been easier or more fun.

Contributed by: Marie Villeza, ElderImpact. 


Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she developed ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Senior Isolation

With our increasing aging population, there is significant talk about 'active and engaged' seniors. There are 'action plans for seniors', talk of resource connection and development and seniors working well into their retirement years. Yet, there is a whole group of seniors that we hear little about - those who are socially isolated. There are several risk factors to becoming socially isolated including "older age (being aged 80+), living alone, having no children or contact with family, having a chronic illness or disability, loss of vision or hearing, mobility issues, lack of access to transportation, living with a low income, membership in a vulnerable group, language (non-English speaking) and location (rural, unsafe or inaccessible)" (from: www.cbc.ca/news/
canada/hamilton/hamilton-senior-isolation-1.4464883). Humans are social beings; having regular contact with others can make the difference between health and wellness. These are the people that most need an 'action plan' yet more than likely they are the ones who fall between the cracks. With isolation, one can become depressed, develop mental health issues and experience a health decline. Often, this can go unnoticed, until perhaps a family doctor or some other resources identifies the issue and tries to connect the person to supports. For some, by the time this happens it might be too late to reverse the presenting issues and a downward spiral ensues. 
So what can we do to fix this problem? In Hamilton, Ontario there is a 3 year program developed by 7 organizations, called HSIIP - the Hamilton Seniors Isolation Impact Plan (http://socialisolation.ca/) whose aim is to reduce isolation among seniors. As well, a study to be conducted by a PhD candidate at McMaster University in the spring will explore the issue of isolation in senior women in downtown Hamilton. Hopefully the findings of both the HSIIP program and this study will help to create change for other communities in the future. 
Beyond this, we as individuals can make a difference as well. Are you concerned that a senior you know might be isolated and/or need some support? Start a conversation. If they are interested in getting out a bit, contact your local seniors organization and ask for information on programs that you can pass along. If they are well enough and willing to engage in a conversation about things they can do to get out, suggest they volunteer or take a class. If you are able to, reach out. Invite them for tea or offer to take them out somewhere. Sometimes, simply letting someone know that you care, can go a long way.