Is Sitting Making You Older?

Is Sitting Making You Older?
Is Sitting Making You Older?

We’re sure you’ve all heard the dangers of sitting too much. Being too sedentary can cause all sorts of issues, including organ damage, muscle degeneration, leg disorders, back pain, and even a greater risk of mortality. 

But did you know that sitting for too long actually ages you too?

A recent study looked at just how much sitting can affect your “age”. The study, performed by Aladdin Shadyab from the University of California San Diego, took blood samples from 1500 women, and measured their daily activity levels using accelerometers. The researcher then looked at the impact sitting had on the women’s chromosomes. The study found that women who did not meet the recommended 30 minutes of physical daily activity, and spent more time sedentary (roughly 10 hours) were about 8 years older than those who were also inactive but not quite as sedentary. However, women who met the recommended daily activity level seemed to show no association between their chromosome age and how much they sat. This seems to suggest that exercise may counteract the aging process.  (Read more about the study here from Time.)

While the research is still out on exactly how much exercise you need to do daily to negate the aging effects, getting in the daily-recommended 30 minutes is a good place to start.  Wondering how to fit in 30 minutes a day? Here are a few ideas

  • Brisk Walking
  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Resistance training (be sure to hit all the major muscle groups, including lower and upper body)
  • Running
  • Bodyweight cardio, like jumping jacks

Beyond that, try to avoid sitting for too long. Working at a desk job can make this challenging, but there are things you can do there too that can keep you from being too sedentary. Many work places have instituted standing work stations to combat the negative effects of aging. You may also try sitting on a balance ball, which helps to activate your muscles more than sitting in a normal chair. If these are not options for you (or even if they are), even just setting an alarm every hour to remind yourself to stand up and walk around a bit can help.  (Read this article for some more ideas to combat sitting during the workday.)

If you’re home all day, don’t get caught in the sitting trap. Take up a new hobby, such as gardening, or golf. Move around the house regularly. Find a friend to take a walk with. Clean the house. Anything you can do to stay active will help you in the long run.

Aging is Easier When You Build a Community

They say two heads are better than one. And the old adage of a village raising a child isn’t just made up. Building community is key to longevity, positivity and happiness, and overall health.

People need other people and that need couldn’t be more apparent than during the aging process. Aging is much like growing up. It’s uncharted territory fraught with new experiences and changes in the body. Unfortunately, experiencing aging alone is more common that we realized.

Aging Is Easier When You Build A Community

Aging Is Easier When You Build A Community

The U.S. Census Bureau reported 11 million or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone in 2010. As spouses and family members age and die, the likelihood of living alone increases. Although living alone and spending time alone isn’t a problem in and of itself, it can lead to isolation, which can lead to depression.

Additional strains of loneliness include physical health decline, vulnerability to elder abuse, cognitive decline, high blood pressure, and pessimism about the future. Some experts point to these statistics as reasons for community care with other elders or co-housing.

So how do caregivers or individuals in the midst of aging create or find community? They build relationships and attachments to recurring activities and engagements.

We recommend starting small and branching out. Look around your neighborhood and see if there are opportunities for friendships with neighbors. Or beyond the fence-- go to your local senior center and try a new class.

Building habits around time spent with other people is crucial. The importance of that time can’t be stressed enough. Click here to watch one of our favorite examples of the beauty of community.

How have you seen community benefit the aging process?

Caregivers In An Aging Population

Caregivers In An Aging Population

Caregivers In An Aging Population

Sally was 56 when she first decided to invite her dad to live with her. He was 80 years old and had been suffering with a slight form of dementia for a few years. Recently, his episodes had gotten worse and she decided that the time had come where she simply could not leave him on his own.  

Because she was an only child, most of the burden of care fell on her.  And while she was happy to do it, it was more challenging than she could have ever realized. Her already busy life was suddenly filled with even more responsibilities: helping him with his daily activities, accompanying him to doctor’s appointments, researching medical needs and performing tasks that were new to her. It didn't take long to reach the point where her career was suffering. While her boss was understanding, she had to reduce her hours just to be available to her father when he needed her. The financial strain was as great as the emotional one.

Sally’s issues aren't unique. So many who find themselves in a caregiver role are forced to make the same sacrifices, and the stresses can be overwhelming. And now that our population is aging quickly, these issues are only going to increase.

 The AARP estimates that by 2050 there will be only 3 potential caregivers for every person aged 80 and above. That’s a drastic difference from today’s 7-to-1 ratio.

Why the sharp decline?  In just 10 years, the oldest of the Baby Boomer generation will be slipping into their 80’s, and with them, the need for additional care. Unfortunately, with the population expected to grow at just a 1% pace over the next several years, the caregiver ratio simply won’t be able to keep up. The AARP estimates that over the next several years we’ll see a steady decline in the ratio of caregivers to older adults, with the sharpest decline happening as the Baby Boomers reach their 80’s.

What are the implications here? In the coming years, caregivers will need more support than ever before.  The greater number of caregivers will create an increased need for nationwide Long Term Services and Support.  And workplace policies will need to accommodate flexible work schedules to allow caregivers the extra time they so desperately need. In addition, care for the caregivers themselves will need to be addressed to ensure that they have the tools to take care of themselves, as well as their loved ones.  Things such as providing extra funding or tax credits to caregivers, creating more resources for caregivers to ensure they have the tools and skills needed to care for their loved ones, adjusting FMLA laws to allow for greater workplace flexibility and time off, and making adjustments to medicare and medicaid to cover caregiver coordination services are just a few of the things that can be done to avert this growing crisis.  Putting these types of resources and policies in place is crucial in the coming years if we want to support the caregiving community and our growing, older population.

How Seniors Can Age-In-Place Comfortably And Safely

How Seniors Can Age In Place Comfortably And Safely

How Seniors Can Age In Place Comfortably And Safely

Many seniors can continue to live vital and active lives well after retirement, but safety is always a concern when a senior is living alone. As our bodies age, the risk of falls, broken bones, and other injuries increases, and for some, staying in the home may not be feasible. This is especially true when the home contains stairs, clutter, or walkways that aren’t accessible to wheelchairs or walkers. That’s why it’s imperative for seniors to assess their home to see what dangers might be lurking, to repair or replace any broken appliances, and take a good look at what their needs will be in the coming years.

Here are some of the best tips for senior safety while aging-in-place.

Update

If you have lived in the same home for many years, it’s possible that several updates need to be made in the kitchen and bathroom areas. Take a look at appliances and fixtures such as the stove, refrigerator, and bathtub and consider replacing worn-out technology with newer models. Many appliances now come with “smart” features--such as alarms and automatic shutoff--that would be extremely helpful for a senior. As for the bathroom, add non-slip rubber mats to the floor and tub, as well as a safety bar and shower seat.

Assess

Take a look at your home through the eyes of an older version of yourself. Will you be able to climb the stairs easily, or navigate through walkways? Remove any clutter, old rugs with turned-up corners or slippery backs, and furniture that could provide a trip hazard. Add lighting to stairwells and main living areas to ensure visibility; nightlights are a wonderful tool to have in every room. It’s also a good idea to make sure bedrooms and bathrooms will be accessible from a wheelchair and that doorways are wide enough, especially in older homes.

Security and home safety

For peace of mind, it’s always nice to have door alarms or motion sensors on the property, but they can also be helpful in reminding you to lock up. Consider investing in an alarm service and having motion sensor lights installed around the perimeter, which will aid your vision at night.

It’s also a good idea to make sure there are up-to-date fire extinguishers in the kitchen and in any living space where there might be candles or smoking. Install carbon monoxide and smoke alarms in living spaces.

Consider getting a pet

Dogs and cats can be wonderful companions, and for seniors, they can also be service animals. These animals do much more than provide loyal company; they also help lower stress levels and can be extremely helpful for individuals living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Aging-in-place may seem like a big undertaking, but if you take it one step at a time and plan well, you might be able to stay in your own home for the rest of your days.

About the Author:  Caroline James is the co-founder of Elder Action, which aims to provide useful information to aging seniors.

Compassionate Care: How To Take Care Of An Aging Loved One

Caring for an aging loved one.

Caring for a senior--whether it’s a loved one or a client--can be an overwhelming task at times. It’s a stressful job, to say the least, and it can take a toll on your mood, your mental and emotional health, and your physical well-being. If you’re caring for a loved one, there’s added pressure due to your ties, and if you’re caring for a client, it’s important to make sure they’re well taken care of and that their family is satisfied with your work.

"There's a continuum of ways people become caregivers. Often a loved one suffers a stroke, accident or fall or a chronic condition worsens, and people are thrust into a situation. But few plan for it as well as they could," says director of operations for the Family Caregiver Alliance: National Center on Caregiving Leah Eskenazi.

Here are some simple things you can do to make sure you give the most compassionate care possible to the senior in your life.

Consider your options

When a family member needs assistance, it can be difficult to think about all the options available to both of you. Is it financially viable to keep them in their own home? Will they require 24-hour care? Moving a loved one into your home is a huge step and could have repercussions on your relationships with your family members and your own financial status. Lay out all the possibilities and give it some thought before committing to a decision

Lay down some guidelines

Whether you’re caring for a family member or a client, it’s important to have boundaries. Both of you will benefit from setting some rules, such as what you can and can’t do physically, what your schedule will be like, and what you expect from both the senior and their family members. This can help keep your relationship respectful and will ensure you don’t experience burnout.

Ask for help

If you’re caring for a loved one and most or all of the responsibility is falling on your shoulders, it’s time to ask for help. Keep in mind that you are just one person and it’s impossible to do it all alone without experiencing exhaustion and stress; don’t allow guilt to stand in the way of asking for assistance. Let your family members know that you need someone else to step up and help, and make an effort to support one another as much as possible.

Do some research

There are several groups around the country that will assist seniors who are ill or unable to leave their home; church groups, senior centers, and caregiver programs are all great resources to access when you need a break. Some of these will provide rides to doctor appointments, help with grocery shopping or bringing meals in, or even do light housework. When you need to take a breather, let one of these groups come and help you out.

If you’re going to be caring for a loved one in your own home, you’ll need to prepare the environment first. This can be very involved, so do some research or seek the guidance of professionals.

If you’re caring for a parent or other loved one, it may become necessary for you to become power of attorney at some point. Discuss the possibilities with your family and find out what your loved one wants when it comes to hospital stays; seek the counsel of a lawyer to draft a living will. This will be invaluable should the unexpected occur.

Staying Young With A Positive Outlook

stay young with a positive outlook!

Getting older is inevitable. It will happen to us all at one point, but just because we’re all aging doesn’t mean our life has to decline. The power of positivity is a real thing, and research shows that those who are optimistic about getting older, and who follow the mantra “you’re only as old as you feel” actually do fare better than those who are more likely to attribute aches and pain to old age.

In a study from the Journal of American Medical Association, researchers looked at the effects of positive age stereotypes to see what effect it had on helping people recover from certain disabilities. Participants (aged 70 years or older) were asked to relay 5 words or phrases that came to mind when they thought of old people. None of the participants had a disability prior to the initial questioning, but they did experience at least one month of disability during the 11-year follow up. The people who had given more positive age stereotypes were 44% more likely to fully recover from severe disability and were able to perform daily activities better as they aged than those with negative age stereotypes.

Positive thinking does matter. Even as we age, we are still in control of our own life. How we view it, and our health, make a big difference.  Nothing could be truer when considering a condition like incontinence. At NAFC, we hear from people all the time who think incontinence is simply a part of getting older. They’ve already resigned themselves to the fact that it will happen and there is nothing that can be done. But that is simply not true. (And if you follow this blog we hope you know that by now!) Lifestyle changes, medication, simple medical procedures, and even surgery can often correct the problem (or at least greatly improve the symptoms).  Don’t let your health decline simply because you’re marking another year on the calendar. Take charge of your wellbeing and attack any health concerns head on now, to enjoy a long and happy life.

Here’s a quick exercise to try each day.

Close your eyes and think of a time when you were at your optimal health. Think of your vibrancy at that age, your energy, how you felt. Now think of yourself as that age – not just in this exercise, but throughout your day. Associate yourself with that vibrant, younger version in everything you do. And, if research is correct, you may just start noticing the difference!

Have some tips to share on how you “think yourself young”? Share them in the comments below!

The Pelvic Floor As We Age. A look at how it changes through the different phases of life (pregnancy, menopause, etc.).

The Pelvic Floor As We Age, Pregnancy, Menopause.

A Guest Post By Michelle Herbst, PT

As women age, their birthing history and overall muscle weakness may catch up with them.  A healthy pelvic floor can be achieved as we age but often little attention is paid to the pelvic floor until it starts to fail. It can be difficult for women to seek medical attention due to feelings of embarrassment and despair. But, advances in health care and knowledge of the aging process allows today’s women to seek effective treatments.

Let’s step back and take a closer look at the pelvic floor as we age.

The pelvic floor is a sling supporting our abdominal and pelvic organs. It is made up of our muscles and connective tissues which I like to think of as our active and passive pelvic support structures. The pelvic floor muscles, or active pelvic support structures, create a muscular sling whereas our passive pelvic support structures are made of connective tissue called fascia. Fascia is a spider-web like material traveling through and covering the pelvic floor.

The active and passive pelvic support system are one in the same. They are knitted together interlacing creating a dynamic basin of support. Healthy pelvic support system work together controlling our sphincters, limit the downward descent of the pelvic organs and aide in sexual appreciation. Damage or weakness to the pelvic support system may result in symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunctions resulting in leakage and pelvic organ prolapse.

The pelvic floor over time.     

Pregnancy, child birth and the post-partum period is a time of great change. The interlacing nature of the active and passive pelvic floor support systems protect the mother and baby as they both grown. Child birth calls on the pelvic support system to push and slide the baby out into the world. The pelvic floor muscles can heal in as quickly as 6 weeks after delivery. But, the physical strain of living and creating new life can be taxing on the pelvic support system leaving it overstretched and weak.

The prescription is often kegels and post-partum kegels can be hard to do. The muscles are lengthened, very weak and trying to ‘reconnect’ to their nerve supply. In an attempt to ‘get it all done’, the post-partum mom is often multi-tasking while doing kegels. Their brain is preoccupied, sleep deprived and foggy. Despite good intentions, many new mothers ‘muscle their way through’ relying on other muscle groups to assist or do the job of the pelvic floor. Overtime with due diligence and a sleeping baby – the brain fog lifts, kegels are consistent and pelvic floor muscles recover allowing the new mom to return to and enjoy life’s pleasures and adventures.

Life continues to click at a fast pace.  The biological process of aging ticks away. The passage of time can be bittersweet. In the 3rd through 5th decades of a woman’s life, she will begin to experience a gradual loss in overall muscle strength and tensile strength of their connective tissue. In their 4th and 5th decades, peri-menopause ushers in a decrease in circulating estrogen and progesterone. The conclusion of these gradual changes are marked by menopause which is typically complete during the 5th decade. Life starts to catch up with you. The birthing of children, past injuries, the development of chronic health conditions and your family history may predispose the active and passive support system to overall weakening and loss of integrity resulting in leakage, organ prolapse and decline in sexual function.

What Can you do To Strengthen The Pelvic Floor?

1.     Protect and strengthen your active pelvic support system by engaging in a strength program and doing your kegels. Peak muscle strength occurs in twenties or thirties. And, unless a woman is engaging in a strength program she will begin lose muscle mass and strength.

2.     Protect the passive pelvic support system by avoiding straining during bowel movements and avoid holding your breath while lifting, pushing and pulling. The passive pelvic support system can not ‘fix itself’ and will need to rely strength of the active pelvic support system. So, revisit number 1 again and again and again …

3.     Stay healthy and seek out your doctor’s advice when you are sick or notice your first sign of leakage or prolapse. The treatment often times isn’t as bad as you think it will be.

 
Michelle Herbst, PT

Michelle Herbst, PT

 

Ask The Expert: Is Urinary Incontinence A Normal Part Of Aging?

Is Urinary Incontinence A Normal Part Of Aging?

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: Is Urinary Incontinence A Normal Part Of Aging?

Answer: We get this question all the time, and suspect that many people believe this, even though it’s not really true. Here are the facts:

While incontinence should never be considered a normal occurrence, our chances of getting it do increase as we get older. Certain life events (childbirth, for example) can cause the muscles and tissues to weaken, and, over time can result in urinary incontinence. Other conditions can also play a role – neurological conditions such as MS or Parkinson’s Disease, being overweight, or prostate problems in men can all contribute to bladder leakage.

So, in a way, yes, as you get older, you may be more likely to experience urinary incontinence, but it’s typically a symptom of something else. And it most certainly can be treated. Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise (especially performing moves that increase the strength of the pelvic floor) can do wonders in improving symptoms of incontinence. And, if that doesn’t work, medications, minimally invasive procedures (like Botox injections or InterStim) or even surgery are all options for treating the issue.

The most important thing to take away is that having bladder leakage is not a lost cause. If you live with this symptom, find a doctor and talk about your options. Life’s too short to live with a condition that has so many options for treatment.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!