Social Connectedness: A Key to Healthy Aging

Shah headshotKrupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

In an average day, Ms. Alvarez interacts with many people.  In the mornings, she frequently walks to a neighborhood café to have coffee with her best friend.  In the afternoons, she likes to go to the local senior center, where her favorite activities are water aerobics classes and playing bridge.  In the evenings, she often calls her daughter to chat, and likes to send emails and pictures to her grandchildren in college.  Ms. Alvarez’s daily life has a lot of social connectedness.

What is social connectedness?

  • A person’s level and quality of contact with other people

Why is social connectedness important?

  • It is key to healthy aging. Studies have shown that older people who have close connections and relationships not only live longer, but also cope better with health conditions and experience less depression. Life transitions can impact the number and quality of people’s social and community networks. For example, friends and family members may move away, which can have a negative impact on someone’s social network. But a transition such as the birth of a new family member can bring positive changes.

What are some of the life circumstances that can affect one’s social connectedness?

  • Changes in health and ability to walk and get around
  • Changes in work status and income
  • Changes in living arrangements
  • Loss of family and friends, particularly a spouse
  • Commuting challenges. When driving is no longer an option, isolation becomes a significant issue, especially in communities where there is little or no public transportation.

Below are some proactive steps you can take to prevent loneliness and stay connected. Continue reading

Prevent Pneumonia – Get Vaccinated!

Shah headshotKrupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

Most people are aware of the flu vaccine. Fewer know that there is another important vaccine available – to prevent pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection and inflammation of the lungs. There is a high rate of sickness, hospitalization, and death associated with pneumonia in older adults who are 65 years old or above.

We’ve reviewed how to prevent pneumonia before, but here is some more information on why older adults should consider getting vaccinated as a way to prevent pneumonia.

Vaccines to prevent pneumonia are called pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines can prevent or reduce the severity of pneumococcal pneumonia, a very common cause of bacterial pneumonia.

Two types of pneumococcal vaccines are currently available to prevent pneumonia in older adults.

  • Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13®) and
  • Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax®)

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Tips on Preventing Pneumonia in Older Adults

Shah headshot

Krupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry





What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation of the lungs.

Why Should Older Adults be Aware of Pneumonia?

Older adults are more likely to have pneumonia than younger people. The chances of having both disability and disease increases with age, and which also increases the risk of getting pneumonia.

Research has shown that there is a high rate of sickness, hospitalization, and death associated with pneumonia in older adults. In fact, the majority of all deaths from pneumonia occur in people who are above the age of 65 years.

Let’s be informed!

Below are some proactive steps that you can take to prevent yourself or a loved one from getting pneumonia.

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It’s Baaack! The Flu Season, That Is…

Shah headshot

Krupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

Like it or not, the flu season is back. Everybody should take notice, especially older adults. This blog post will give you some tips on how to prevent getting the flu.



Why is it especially important for older adults to be extra careful about the flu?

  • In general, older adults have weaker immune systems compared to younger adults. This is a result of the aging process. In fact, people 65 years or older are at the greatest risk of complications from the flu.
  • Older adults become sick more frequently, which often results in hospitalization.

What are some of the more common flu symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

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Walking is the Best Medicine!

Lacing up your shoes and getting out the door is one of the best things older adults can do for their health and mood.

Barb Resnick HeadshotBarbara Resnick, PhD, CRNP
Sonya Ziporkin Gershowitz Chair in Gerontology
University of Maryland School of Nursing

The Surgeon General’s new “Call to Action on Walking” is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the many physical and mental health benefits of walking. In fact, if the benefits of walking came in pill form, I’m convinced it would be the best-selling pill on the planet! Walking is a scientifically proven, simple way to dramatically improve your well-being. No matter how old you are, when you walk regularly, you can enjoy benefits like these:

  • You can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • You will start feeling happier, less anxious, and less stressed
  • Your sleep can become sounder and more restful
  • You may be able to lessen your risk of falling and reduce your fear of falling
  • You can prevent gaining weight
  • Your mental sharpness can improve

Recently, researchers from Johns Hopkins University discovered that for older women (but not older men), a low-intensity daily walk might enlarge the part of the brain responsible for memory. Known as the hippocampus, this section of the brain is linked to memory loss when it shrinks due to aging. [Varma et al. Low-Intensity daily walking associated with hippocampal volume in older adults. Hippocampus. 2015 May;25(5):605-15] 

Although we know that there is little risk associated with walking, many older adults are afraid that walking might worsen conditions such as arthritis. But the good news is that the opposite is true. In fact, when you walk just 3,000 steps a day, you can prevent the pain of knee arthritis from getting worse. And people who walk 6,000 steps a day (about 3 miles) can reduce their chances of becoming disabled by arthritis.

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