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

From Mom to Mama: My Experiences in Long Distance Caregiving

altshul headshotSara Altshul
AGS Staff Writer

My brother Jake and I aren’t especially close in anything except age – we’re just 18 months apart. We share few commonalities, except on matters of décor, fine food, and wine. But on one very important matter, we cooperated and came together in a way we never had before, or in fact, have since – taking care of our mother in her final years.

Beside our vastly different personalities and viewpoints, we had our challenges: it was just the two of us, we lived 150 miles apart, and we both had demanding, full-time jobs. And I was the single mother of two adolescent boys. But we managed. We adopted an oddly supportive and cooperative approach, splitting tasks in ways that worked for us. Together, when the time came that Mom could no longer manage alone, we moved her from Florida to live with Jake on eastern Long Island, and I drove from western New Jersey to help out on weekends. When Mom needed full-time care, we found a good nursing home a few miles from Jake’s house. He visited her daily, and the kids and I continued our weekend visits up until her death several months later.

When I remarried four years after Mom passed, I was delighted to discover that I’d gotten myself a magnificent mother-in-law. She was an energetic 82 when we married, a tiny truly Italian mama of seven whose accent was thick as polenta, despite her many decades living in this country. She cooked, she gardened, she babysat her grandchildren, she kept a keen eye on her Brooklyn neighbors, and she danced the Tarantella at our wedding. Sweeter and more nurturing than my own mother had been, we took to each other the moment we met, and even now, 15 years later, I feel like I got a second chance at being mothered. Continue reading

Have You Been a Victim of a Financial Scam?

Syed picQuratulain Syed, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine,
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics,
Emory University School of Medicine

It’s a Saturday morning and Ms. Edwards is sitting on her recliner enjoying her cup of coffee when the phone rings. She picks up the phone and hears a distant but upset voice calling out, “Grandma!”

“Oh, is it Karen?” Ms. Edwards asks. “Yes, Grandma. I have been kidnapped in South Africa. They’ll kill me unless you send $10,000 within 24 hours. And please, do not tell Mom or Dad, or anyone else, or I’ll be dead,” the voice pleads.

The voice on the other line gives an account number where the money needs to be wired, and the line is disconnected before Ms. Edwards can ask any questions. Extremely concerned about the safety of her beloved granddaughter, Ms. Edwards drives to the bank immediately and authorizes a wire transfer for $10,000.

Three days later, Karen calls to check in on her grandmother and is shocked to hear about the phone call. Karen tells her that she has been busy studying for school the past few weeks and has never been to South Africa.

Ms. Edwards is not alone. One in five older adults in the United States has been a victim of financial scams and exploitation.

Below are some tips to help you stay informed and avoid getting involved in a scam: 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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