Get Involved: Live Happier Longer

Coleman, Jessica 4x6Jessica L. Coleman, DO
Geriatrics Fellow
Summa Health System
Akron, Ohio

 

We all know that volunteering for local organizations is a great use of free time. But did you also know that it can not only improve your mood, but also help prolong your life and prevent memory loss?

Volunteering has been shown to be one of the most effective ways for older adults to stay active, learn new skills, make new friends, and be healthier.

Getting involved in your community can be as easy as heading to your local library to read to children after school, volunteering at your local hospital,or joining a service league in your area to meet others who also enjoy giving back.

Consider some of the following ways to connect with and contribute to your community:

  •  Foster Grandparent Programs: Connect with local children who need the love and support of an older adult to guide or comfort them. Work with troubled teens, young mothers, or premature infants—everyone can benefit from having an involved and caring grandparent.
  • Retired and Senior Volunteer Programs: Using the skills and talents you have gained over a lifelong career, serve as a volunteer in your community rebuilding homes, tutoring, or organizing neighborhood watch programs.
  • Senior Companions: Help keep a fellow senior independent and in their own home by assisting with daily tasks such as shopping or paying bills. You can provide respite for caregivers, family members, and make valuable friendships. Continue reading

Central Park: An Age-Friendly Place

Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) recently announced the winners of its Friendly Faces. Friendly Places photo contest.  They had submissions from all over the world and it’s pretty amazing to see so many different perspectives on aging all in one place.”We launched this contest to gain insight on what people think best illustrates an age-friendly community.  We had hundreds of wonderful submissions that captured different moments among family and friends, and showed how communities can be great places to grow up and grow old,” said John Feather, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Grantmakers In Aging.  “Our winning photographs tell meaningful stories of how older adults are vitally connected to the life of their cities, towns and villages in many different parts of the world.”

I am honored to be counted among the winning photos for Walking in a Winter Wonderland—a photo I snapped quickly while walking on a beautiful winter day in New York City’s Central Park.

Nancy Friendly Faces Friendly Places Photo

I typically snap photos of people from behind.  I like the mystery—Who is that person?  Where did she come from?  Where is he going?  I also like the way you see someone when not distracted by their faces.  The focus becomes on how a person is moving.  Is she using an assistive device like a walker or a cane?  Is a friend or caregiver supporting him with a gentle hand or the offer of an arm?  Is an older couple walking hand in hand as if they were 22 and just married?

I rarely submit my photos to contests but I was drawn to the idea of the “Friendly Faces, Friendly Places” contest that John Feather so aptly captures in his quote above.  I happen to think that Central Park is one of the most age-friendly parks in the world.  There are plenty of paved walk ways and benches upon which to rest and watch the rest of the world go by at every turn.  New York City has this reputation as being big and burly—a place where young people come to make their way.

The less known side of the city is what an age-friendly place it can be.  Thanks to GIA for hosting this contest and giving professional and amateur photographers alike a chance to show off why we think our communities are age friendly.


About the Author

Nancy Lundebjerg is Chief Operating Officer of the American Geriatrics Society and the Health in Aging Foundation.

My Favorite Time of Year…

This time of year has always been one of my favorites. It’s a time when things slow down a bit, allowing more time with family and friends – time to catch up, celebrate cherished rituals, and enjoy favorite foods and one another’s company. But while this can be a wonderful time of year, it can also be challenging, particularly for older adults.

For some older people, the end of another year can be a powerful reminder of how many years have already passed. Traditions like lighting the menorah candles or decorating the Christmas tree may bring to mind family and friends who are no longer with us. For some older adults, health problems can make it difficult, or perhaps impossible, to travel to traditional get-togethers with relatives and old friends. All of these things can contribute to the “holiday blues” or, more seriously, depression.

In colder parts of the country older adults may face other challenges. Older people run higher risks of injuries while shoveling snow, for example, and are more likely to develop frostbite and hypothermia –  a life-threating condition in which your body temperature drops to dangerous levels. Snow and icy weather can also put older adults at risk of falls and fractures.

The good news, however, is that there are many things older people, and their caregivers, can do to help address these problems. And you’ll find them on healthinaging.org – the source of a wealth of easy-to-read health information for seniors that’s reviewed by leading experts in elder health. These include:

You’ll also find 10 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Older Adults on healthinaging.org. I recommend it for adults of all ages. In fact, I’ve resolved to make a few of the ten my own this New Year.

Here’s wishing you and yours a happy season!

Superstorm Sandy – Senior Services Map

Older adults are a vulnerable population when there is a natural disaster and often will need help long after the crisis has passed.  We like this map for locating senior services in areas where older adults and caregivers have been affected by Superstorm Sandy. The map flags services in affected areas, and notes which locations need volunteers and donations. Our kudos to AGS member Wen Dombrowski, MD, for working on this.