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Pathway to Living
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Companionship and Community in Senior Living
Mounting evidence shows that companionship and community are a key component to overall health. No longer are they seen as sitting a few rungs up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; they are foundational to your well-being. This is true across all ages, including seniors. Feeling extreme loneliness, for example, has been shown to increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14 percent. 
 
A myriad of factors are weighed when deciding to move into a senior living community. The opportunity for companionship and community should be one of them. When researching different senior living options, investigate the opportunities for social connections and interactions at each community.

Music Therapy
Don’t forget to bring tunes to your next visit with an elderly relative in Senior Living
 
There is mounting buzz around music therapy as one of the most transformative treatments for seniors. “Music has more ability to activate more parts of the brain than any other stimulus,” says renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks in a recently released documentary about music and the elderly, Alive Inside.
 
The documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen as he demonstrates music’s ability to combat memory loss. Alive Inside won the Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
 
In a clip from the documentary, one aide describes a bed-bound woman she has worked with for two years that “barely opened her eyes, didn’t respond. Once we put the iPod on her she started shaking her feet, moving her head. It was amazing.”
 
Across the country, senior living communities are incorporating music as a form of therapy to uplift and engage their residents. Studies have demonstrated its ability to improve memory, lower agitation, and improve cognitive skills.
 
To be most effective, music should be chosen based on whatever the person’s preference. So next time you’re planning a visit to your elderly relative, ask them about their favorite songs, bands or albums. Then bring them along to listen and groove to during your visit.

The Power of Storytelling for Seniors
 
“Your mother was born when your grandfather was stationed in Korea.”
“That was when I was a telephone operator.”
“I remember driving up Mount St. Helens, watching men with walking sticks climbing the mountain.”
 
You’ve been there: sitting across your grandmother, a china cup full of warm tea on the kitchen table between you, while you listen to stories from the good ‘ol days. But did you know there’s research that supports the benefits of this activity that seniors naturally tend to do?
 
Psychologists have long used reminiscence therapy - a practice that draws out life histories,  written, oral, or both, backed by research dating back to the 1970s - to improve psychological well-being of older adults. Done in groups or individually, memories of significant life events are recalled using prompts such as photographs, music or topics.
 
Even people with Alzheimer’s can benefit. Psychologist Alan Dienstag was recently featured on the NPR show On Being, where he discussed the Lifelines Writing Group he co-hosted with author Don DeLillo for people with Alzheimer’s in New York. Through writing prompts such as “I remember” or “The house where I grew up” participants in the group were able to write down memories from throughout their life. Dienstag summarized the experience:
 
The members of the Lifelines Writing Group have taught us about the power of writing and the nature of memory and memory loss. Their lifelines have also served as a means of dosing the psychological distance between the Alzheimer's and non-Alzheimer's world. Perhaps most importantly, they have demonstrated that there is a way to give meaning to the precarious station in life in which they find themselves, and they suggest a path for others in the early stages of Alzheimer's to follow; to live with memories; to give them to others; and to preserve in some form a record of who you are, who you were, and who you wanted to be in this world before it slips away.
 
You can help lift the mood of any elderly people special in your life on your next visit to them - at home or at their assisted living community -  by asking them to reflect on their past. Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling:
 
*-*Who has been the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?
*-*What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
*-*What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
*-*What is your earliest memory?
*-*Are there any funny stories your family tells about you that come to mind?
*-*What are you proudest of?
*-*For your great great grandchildren listening to this years from now: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?

(Questions suggested by the organization StoryCorps)

Fall Proof Your Home

Go through this checklist to help prevent you or your loved one from falling in their home, one of the leading causes of skilled nursing admissions.

FLOORS
Look at the floor in each room. Always keep a clear path through each room of your house, removing any objects, furniture, cords or rugs that may be in the way.

STAIRS AND STEPS
Take a careful look at the steps both inside and outside your home. Clear any objects off the stairs and make sure the carpet is securely attached to every step. Check that handrails are on both sides and run the length of the steps, and show no signs of loosening. Make sure that the steps are well lit, with a switch or light sensor at both the top and bottom. 

KITCHEN AND BATHROOMS
Examine your kitchen and bathrooms: are things you use often on high shelves? Rearrange these items to be lower to the ground, ideally waist level. If you need to use a step stool, find one with a bar.  Add a few safety items to your bathroom, if you don’t already have them: non-slip rubber mat in the tub or shower and grab bars in and beside the tub and next to the toilet.  

BEDROOMS
Is the path from your bed to the bathroom well lit? Add a light to your nightstand and night-lights along the way.

***Checklist modified from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults 

It’s officially spring; summer is just around the corner! 

April is the perfect time of year to get outside and seek new adventure. Your community is a great resource for finding new hobbies and exploring the outdoors; discover activities you haven’t yet experienced by looking into the local workshops or excursions. Better health can be achieved by making small life changes.  Breathing the fresh air of new activities, new friends, and the outdoors, is a great way to revitalize the body and mind!

What spring or summer activity are you most looking forward to?  Reach out to your local community or comment below with your ideas!

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Stay Active and Get Involved in Your New Home

It is important that you stay active and involved in your new senior living environment. This is a great time in life to make new friends, get involved in activities that you did not have time for in your pre retirement years and enjoy life. Here are some ideas to help get you more involved after getting settled in your new home.

Start Small: Rome wasn't built in a day. You do not have to change everything. Just start with something. Do something little today that is different than yesterday.
Do Something You Enjoy: This time of your life is meant for you to do things that you truly enjoy and want to do. Maybe a list of books you wanted to read? Take some time for you.
Meet Someone New: There are many new faces in your home. Take some time to really get to know them. You just might make a new friend.
Participate In An Art Class: ArtPath offers regular, ongoing art classes on a variety of art forms such as painting, jewelry making, sculpting and stained glass making as well as programs like “Wine and Canvas.” Learn about all the seven ways creating art can help you take a holistic approach to wellness on our blog! 

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Make a plan to volunteer in 2015! Many say that the key to aging well is to live a purposeful life. Volunteering is one way older adults can share a lifetime of experience and continue to find purpose. Visit our blog to read about the positive effects volunteering can have on you. 

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