Tag: senior living

Insights on fad diets

From keto to gluten-free to vegan and more, fad diet options abound. But are these eating plans a healthy choice for older adults?

And the question has become especially important, as more people eat in and cook at home as they shelter-in-place related to the current pandemic from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Two registered dietitians with Morrison Community Living, Diakon’s culinary services partner, Samantha Griffith, RD, LDN, the nutrition care manager at Ohesson in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, and Connor Forlini, MS, RDN, LDN, nutrition care manager at Cumberland Crossings near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, provide insights. As in most cases, if you have specific questions about your own diet, please consult your health-care professional.

One common theme among many fad diets is that something must be eliminated for the diet to be successful: cut carbs or eliminate wheat or eat virtually no fats.

“That’s the first red flag,” says Griffith. “As dietitians, we promote the idea that everything is okay in moderation. People don’t like to hear that, though. They think it’s easier to cut just one thing and magically lose weight.”

Take the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet, for example. According to Griffith, the diet calls for reducing carbs so drastically that you are tricking your body into starvation mode and producing ketones from fat to create energy.

“The problem is that it’s awful for your metabolism; you start to feel fatigued and it’s just not sustainable for the long-term,” she says.

Or the gluten-free diet. Unless you have celiac disease, Griffith says, there’s no advantage to cutting out gluten.

“Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye and barley with no caloric value,” she says. “If you can’t tolerate it, gluten can create serious digestive issues. But a lot of people follow the diet and cut out grains. If you do that, you cut out an important source of B vitamins, fiber and other nutrients. Grains also often are fortified with iron, which a lot of older adults struggle to get enough of. Getting iron from dietary sources, including fortified grains, helps you avoid taking iron pills.”

Griffith’s advice is to instead modify your diet to reduce your carbs overall, but not completely. Not all carbs are bad.

Forlini adds that carbs are often misunderstood. Older adults may just need more education on them, he says.

“Your doctor may tell you to limit your carb intake,” he says. “That really means empty carbs, like sugar. And it doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a sweet dessert. Just have a smaller piece,” although that advice may vary for people with diabetes, who should follow physician recommendations on carb-intake.

Because many older adults deal with health issues such as heart disease and high blood pressure, Forlini notes that culinary services at Diakon vary menus, with less red meat and meatless options. Most foods are prepared in-house from scratch, he explains, and use low-sodium products or are made only with naturally occurring salt and no added sodium.

“We learn about residents’ diet history, their medical history, what foods and drinks they like,” he says. “We don’t tell them they can’t have this or that food. We always offer alternatives.”

Griffith and Forlini agree that fad diets aren’t the answer if you’re trying to eat healthier. Here are five suggestions they make for greater success:

Forget the word “diet.” Think lifestyle changes, Griffith says. “You are changing habits versus cutting things out.”

Make small changes, gradually. You are more likely to stick with the diet than if you overhaul your entire way of eating all at once.

Don’t cut out complete food groups. If you’ve read that fruits are high in sugar, that doesn’t mean you stop eating them altogether. “Many fruits are good sources of minerals, fiber and anti-oxidants,” Forlini says.

Have pizza or a slice of your friend’s birthday cake—just don’t do it every day and pay attention to the carb count if you are diabetic. Good nutrition is not made or broken in one day, Griffith says. “I call those kinds of food good for the soul; we all need those.”

Think of the foods you eat as helping you fight disease. “The American health-care system is more reactive, treating people after they get sick,” Forlini says. “Dietitians and nutritionists are “pro-active,” using food to prevent or reduce the disease state.”

If you’re looking for a tried-and-true approach to healthy eating, Griffith and Forlini recommend the Mediterranean food plan. It focuses on eating smaller portions of meat, more seafood, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains.

The power of community

I recently heard someone speak about the importance of community. I was intrigued by an unusual experience he cited, called the Roseto effect.

According to UnimedLiving.com, “In 1964 a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined a population of recent Italian immigrants in Roseto, a small town in the state of Pennsylvania. The study was instigated because the town doctor was completely baffled by the Rosetans’ near immunity to heart disease. He reported his observations” and an extensive study was conducted, comparing health statistics in the community to those of neighboring towns.

In fact, from 1954 to 1961, Roseto had nearly no heart attacks within the population of men 55 to 64, normally a high-risk group, and men older than 65 had a death rate of 1%, while nationally the average was 2%, despite other behaviors (such as smoking) considered unhealthy and sometimes-hazardous working conditions.

The local physician attributed the lower heart-disease rate to lower stress. Researchers suggested “the quality of family relationships and the social milieu may be pertinent to the occurrence of or protection against death from myocardial infarction.” (The Huffington Post also writes about it here in more detail.)

Interestingly, as social structures changed and the community grew less tight-knit, heart-disease rates rose to be comparable to the rest of the country.

There are certainly no guarantees that living in a close-knit community will protect you against heart disease but, at least for me, the Roseto effect makes sense.

When we live in healthy communities, assisting one another and enjoying life together, it just makes sense that stress levels are lower. With stress reportedly one factor in heart disease, it seems logical to associate life in close community with others to taking at least one step closer to physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Creating that type of community lies at the heart of what senior living services providers such as Diakon do.

The very design of our senior living communities, the amenities we offer and the events we craft are all designed to engender a sense of community not only among our residents but also between residents and staff members and residents and the general community.

Again, no one can claim creating such community will ensure lowered heart concerns or even decreased stress levels, but it certainly cannot hurt. And when you speak with our residents, many mention the newfound sense of community they have found with us.

By Melissa Kindall
Manager, Social Media and Digital Communications Manager
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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Making that vision of the future come true!

From the time we are young, we tend to look forward to a time when we can enjoy a lifestyle in which we don’t necessarily have to work and can relax and have time to pursue passions we may have put aside.

We envision this time, and the activities we’ll enjoy with family and friends, but we often don’t consider how we’ll ever achieve that.

And we may couple that vision with a desire to remain in our own home as long as possible. What we don’t consider is the fact living in that home typically comes with restrictions and responsibilities.

Consider this: A snowstorm is coming. You need to grocery-shop, make sure you’re ready to shovel a driveway and sidewalk, and check to see if you have ice-melt for the outside steps so that you don’t fall.

Or perhaps you want to visit family or take a vacation. Typically, you need to find someone to check on your house, maybe pick up your mail or water the garden.

And these are just a few of the responsibilities you need to worry about—instead of having that time to do all those things you postponed. This situation doesn’t match that vision you had of retirement.

That’s exactly why many older adults seek out a vibrant senior living community to call their new home, a home without maintenance worries or other responsibilities.

At Diakon Senior Living Services, older adults can enjoy the lifestyle they envision. Instead of worrying about housekeeping and maintenance, they can focus on what truly matters to them.

Click here for a brief listing that gives meaning to the phrase “maintenance-free” living!

Senior living … with the emphasis on living!

It’s a concern I often hear.

Life in a senior living community means giving up your independence. Or it means you no longer own your own home. Or it means we’ll be isolated from our friends and family. And on and on.

But nothing could be further from the truth!

And so many people who come to live in a Diakon Senior Living Community later say they held back from making a decision and were suddenly forced to consider the move. They frequently add that they wish they had made the decision long ago, had they known the positive impact our lifestyle can have.

We at Diakon Senior Living Services are happy to debunk such commonly held myths. In fact, many of our residents say that community life opens up new opportunities for better health and wellness, quality of life and a sense of fulfillment they could never experience living on their own!

From greater independence to security for the future, the benefits can be life-changing:

Click here to read more!

A “dino”-mite marketing campaign

While I hate clichés, sometimes thinking “outside the box” can be a great idea, even if occasionally a daunting task.

A few years back, we were tasked with developing a direct mail marketing-focused post card for one of our senior living communities. But think about your mail for a moment and recall how many such cards you receive weekly.

So the goal for any such card is to get picked up and at least looked at.

For some reason—perhaps that book by Roy Chapman Andrews of the American Museum of Natural History I read at night as a child, the blanket pulled over my head to avoid parental discovery, a flashlight held by my teeth—I thought: dinosaurs.

The value of having access to on-site health services

When Sarah and John began the process of selecting a senior living community for their retirement years, the minor health issues they had faced recently—Sarah’s chronic arthritis had flared up and John learned he has diabetes—played a role in their decision.

In their early 70s, they were still a very active and independent couple and yet they had come to recognize that future, potential health-care needs played a bigger role in life now.

In fact, a significant reason many older adults choose to make the move to a senior living community is for the health benefits.

A community setting inherently promotes a more active lifestyle, not to mention the availability of amenities that make exercising more feasible and fun. But perhaps the greatest value is the senior living community’s on-site access to health care and related services.

Diakon Senior Living Communities offer a variety of health-care services. Having access to lifestyle options that range from daily personal care to rehabilitation programs that enhance recovery, older adults feel confident and secure, no matter what the future holds.

Consider how the health-care services on site at Diakon Senior Living communities add incredible value to the health and happiness.

Click here to read more…

Bowling brings out the good sport in residents

In the world of bowling, three consecutive strikes is called a “turkey.”

In the world of Wii bowling tournaments at the Cumberland Crossings senior living community in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, such an accomplishment earns the “turkey hat.”

“Not everyone thinks it’s an honor to wear the hat, but they’re all good sports,” says Toni Cannon, the senior living community’s fitness coordinator.

For the past 10 years, Toni has coordinated a Wii bowling tournament for residents. Two of Cumberland Crossings’ home video-game systems were donated and as residents experimented with various games, bowling became the favorite.

“I’ve tried to do the golf, but no one wants to, not even the golfers. The baseball game is hard and tennis is difficult. I think they like the bowling because it is a simple game, easy to learn and everyone understands it,” Toni says.

“And playing it gives the feel of actual bowling. It requires some hand-eye coordination to use the controller and release the ball at the right time, but even people who have never bowled before can do it.”

‘Smart Seniors’ at Diakon Senior Living: The pursuit of knowledge

After retirement, it can be easy slip into habits that don’t always challenge our minds and bodies. Without careers or family to care for, we can become isolated and out of touch if we aren’t careful.

But when we pursue something of value to us, it can give us energy and purpose each day. It can provide goals and reasons to be active members of our community.

For that reason, lifelong learning is an important part of healthy aging.

Not only does continued learning stimulate the mind and battle the risks of cognitive decline, but it also provides individuals with the benefits of new perspectives, social opportunities and a sense of purpose.

Whether you choose to explore something new or continue learning in an area of personal expertise, staying mentally active is a key to a healthy and meaningful lifestyle.

To read more, please click here

Overcoming nutritional challenges with older adults

You probably have witnessed it: An older relative who just does not eat the same way he or she once did.

As we age, our bodies undergo inevitable changes, even when we’re at our best health. Many of these changes affect how we consume, absorb and use the nutrients from food.

Without awareness of these changes, we can easily begin to experience a decrease in health because of lack of nutrients.

To stay healthy, older adults—or those caring for them—need to recognize the biological changes as well as habitual obstacles that keep them from optimal nutritional health. They need to know how to adapt their lifestyles and diets to overcome such challenges.

Biological changes that affect nutrition

The simple process of aging can affect many ways our bodies consume and use nutrients from our food. Click here to consider the following…

What does the RAISE Family Caregivers Act really mean?

Every year, tens of thousands of family caregivers deliver support and personal care to loved ones without training, pay or, in many cases, help from anyone.

In fact, family caregivers make up the core of our nation’s caregiving workforce, yet they often struggle with financial challenges, workplace issues, stress-induced health problems and more.

In January, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act became law, starting an initiative to better support family caregivers on both local and national levels.

RAISE stands for Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage. The RAISE Act will create a nationwide strategy to support family caregivers by providing education and resources, fixing workplace issues that limit a loved one’s ability to provide care and assessing current and future health systems to ensure caregivers’ central role in their loved one’s care.

With the act passed, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has 18 months to develop a strategy to bolster family caregivers in their roles. Along with the HHS secretary, an advisory council made up of caregivers themselves, older adults, veterans, adults with disabilities, health and long-term care providers, employers and state and local officials will work together to make recommendations for the new approach.

Click here to read more about what the RAISE Act is supposed to do…