Healthy Living Tips for Seniors on a Fixed Income

Please check out this fantastic article, written by Karen Weeks, which is full of tips on how to live healthy and strong as a senior on a fixed income!

by Karen Weeks – Elderwellness.net
karen@elderwellness.net


Image by Xevi Casanovas via Unsplash

As you get older, it’s more important than ever to make your health a priority. Unfortunately for seniors living on fixed incomes, a healthy lifestyle can seem financially impossible. Nutritious ingredients, fitness classes, and other healthy living resources don’t come cheap. When money is limited, it’s hard to find room in your budget.

Forgoing healthy habits may save money in the short-term, but it costs seniors in the long-run. A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent chronic illness, and if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re more likely to develop health problems that are costly to manage.

That’s why it’s so important to adopt healthy habits now, no matter your budget. If you’re a senior living on a fixed income, these tips will help you stay healthy without spending a lot.

Eating Well

Learn how to grocery shop on a budget
If you look at the price of packaged organic goods, healthy foods can seem out of reach. Instead of worrying about organics, focus on eating a diet high in vegetables of any (and every!) type. If fresh vegetables are too expensive, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious without the sodium content of canned goods. Dried beans, whole grains, frozen fruit, canned fish, and eggs are more cheap and healthy foods. Avoid frozen meals. While they seem like a good value, most frozen dinners are high in sodium and saturated fat.

Make use of food assistance programs
If you find yourself skipping meals or eating poorly to save money, look into food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is an especially helpful resource if you live alone and have trouble leaving your home.

Staying Active

Get cleared for exercise
It’s safe for most older adults to exercise, but it’s still wise to talk to your doctor. Your annual wellness visit is a good time to ask if you should take precautions before starting an exercise program. Keep in mind, however, that Medicare’s annual wellness visit doesn’t include a full physical. You may owe a copay if your doctor recommends bloodwork or other tests to clear you for exercise.

Exercise at home
There’s a lot of exercise seniors can do in the comfort of their homes. Basic strength and balance exercises, important for senior fall prevention, require minimal space and no special equipment. Use these 14 exercises from Philips Lifeline to get started.

Join a senior center
Do you prefer the camaraderie of group exercise? Senior centers offer tons of activities for older adults, including exercise classes like tai chi, yoga, and Zumba. Not only that, but all of a senior center’s services are available free or low-cost. No matter where you live, there’s likely a senior center in your neighborhood.

Getting Help at Home

Apply for the Assisted Living Waiver Program
If you need caregiving but don’t want to move into a nursing facility, consider assisted living. Under the Assisted Living Waiver Program, California seniors receiving Medi-Cal benefits can receive a reduced rate for assisted living. With facilities in California having a median cost of $54,000 annually, that’s a valuable benefit. However, not all facilities participate, so it’s important that seniors understand how to research assisted living facilities. Online search tools are a good place to start looking for a facility that meets your needs, but once you find one you like, you’ll need to check if it participates in the waiver program.

Get a roommate
Unfortunately, not every senior who needs help affording care qualifies for a waiver. If you could use help at home but don’t need nursing home-level care, consider a roommate. A roommate can be a housemate who splits the bills or someone who provides housekeeping and companionship in exchange for reduced rent.

Living on a fixed income forces you to get creative with your money, but it shouldn’t stop you from living well. If you’re having trouble affording the things you need to stay healthy, reach out to your Department of Aging and Adult Services to learn what resources are available to you.

Enough With The Retirement Talk!

Copyright: pinkomelet

Almost every time I look at my computer these days, I’ll see at least one featured article on Yahoo! which discusses retirement.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it happens almost daily, and it’s making me mental.  

I know the population is aging, and that baby boomers and GenX’ers are trying to prepare and plan for their golden years, but this is getting ridiculous.  The media and the internet have unabashedly latched onto the subject, and now there is a constant barrage of anxiety-provoking articles with headlines and titles such as: 

Do you have what you will need to retire?

Are you prepared for your golden years? 

Beware of the pitfalls of investing in an IRA

Watch out for these “retirement killers” 

I’ll read one article which sets me at ease, because I am on track with what it says I need to do.  Then the next day I’ll read an article which either contradicts what I read the previous day, or which has such a doomsday vibe that it basically states that almost everyone is in danger of not having enough money to ever retire.  Does this mean that we will all be living under freeway overpasses, eating dog food?  

Honestly, all these articles seem to do is to stir up worry which affects how I function throughout the day.  And though I can try to let it go, the next day another article will appear which will wash away my feelings of security and accomplishment regarding my retirement portfolio.   

Who else has noticed this trend?

Sex After 40

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

The Shifting Tide

Those of you about to turn the corner and enter the 40 and over zone may be concerned about the impact that getting older will have on your sex life. You may have questions about whether you must resign yourself to becoming a dried-up old lady, with no fun to be had in the bedroom. Thankfully, the reality is that you can have more fulfilling and enjoyable sex than you had in your 20’s or 30’s.

What’s more, society has gotten wind of the idea that people want to live completely fulfilled lives into their advanced years. It’s true that 40 has become the new 20, and the concept is supported by empowered celebrities like J. Lo proclaiming their eternal youth and sexual vitality without shame. So instead of allowing the aging process to shut you down, it’s time to look forward to a new and more sexually fulfilling chapter in your life.

Why Getting Older Is Great For Your Sex Life

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trade the knowledge and life experience I obtained over my 52 years on the planet to return to my 20’s, because aging has positively impacted every aspect of my life, including what happens behind closed doors. With age comes acceptance of who we are, body flaws and all. Let’s face it, we accumulate stretch marks, cellulite, scars, etc. over time, all of which could send us into a meltdown if we stressed out about them. We have become more comfortable with who we are, which translates to greater body confidence. That body confidence works to our advantage in the bedroom, because we no longer feel uneasy or ashamed of how we look sans clothing. When we are comfortable naked, we can finally relax and enjoy intimate encounters to the fullest.

A woman in her 40’s or 50’s is less likely to take desperate measures to entice her man, such as dressing up in sexy but uncomfortable lingerie, or wearing a pair of high heels guaranteed to aggravate her plantar fasciitis or her bad back. In contrast, it seems there are plenty of women in younger age brackets who follow ridiculous wardrobe guidelines to garner the attention of potential sex partners or followers on social media channels. A woman in her 40’s of beyond doesn’t have the inclination to make a fool out of herself to guarantee a romp in the bedroom. She is older, wiser, and doesn’t have time for such nonsense. She doesn’t feel like she needs to try so hard to win her partner’s favor. Her attitude tends to be more along the lines of, “This is what I got, take it or leave it.” Besides, I am willing to bet that such an attitude is far sexier to a man these days. In addition, most men tend to be more excited about the notion of getting you naked, and once you are in the buff, they aren’t scrutinizing your body for flaws.

Older women are also less selfish in bed, and bolder about declaring what they want. They know their bodies, their likes and dislikes. If single, they are more discerning about how they procure partners, so they are less likely to engage in risky activities which expose them to sexually transmitted diseases. For older women in a relationship, there is a greater likelihood that they have been with the same partner for many years, and have developed a level of intimacy which only comes from a longer term committed relationship. A 40-something woman is usually confident enough to turn to her partner and say, “I really like it when you use your hands on me more”, and not fret about whether her partner will accept her sexual preferences.

Chances are that for older women, there are far fewer household distractions which can impede the natural progression of an afternoon of flirting into a full-blown lovemaking session. Such interludes are pretty much impossible if a baby is crying, or young children are demanding attention. Once children have become old enough to be relatively independent, say from pre-teens on, there may be more opportunities to roll around in the sheets with your partner without any interruptions. That kind of freedom can result in more spontaneous sexual encounters and greater satisfaction.

For those past menopause, Aunt Flo’s monthly visit no longer interferes with any amorous advances. Furthermore, there is no concern about getting pregnant and having an unplanned family addition. It’s incredibly liberating.

Sexual Issues and Aging

Though I have painted a rosy picture of the sex life of older women, there are some issues which can interfere with optimal sexual activity. However, this doesn’t mean that all women over 40 will experience sexual dysfunction. As geriatric psychiatrist and Caring.com senior editor Ken Robbins states, “Impaired sexuality and sexual function aren’t normal consequences of aging.” (https://www.caring.com/articles/sexless-after-40).

Women can experience symptoms of perimenopause as early as 35, and the diminishing estrogen and progesterone levels can result in vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal mucosa, both of which can make intercourse painful. If this occurs, make sure to obtain a pelvic exam with a physician who can diagnose and treat the condition. In many cases, a lubricant is sufficient, but hormone replacement therapy may be offered as an option as well.

Some women may experience a decrease in sexual desire as they age, but many others experience a surge in libido from the increased testosterone to estrogen ratio, which increases as estrogen levels continue to diminish. The sexual benefits of testosterone are also enhanced by regular weight training, which naturally boosts testosterone levels in the body. However, the ebb and flow of sexual desire often fluctuates more in women over the age of 40, a result of associated dips and surges in hormonal levels. In addition, the hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings associated with plummeting progesterone levels don’t exactly make a woman feel amorous.

If you are a woman over 40 who is experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, such as hot flashes, and they are frequent enough to disrupt your daily life, seek the advice of a physician. During your visit, you may ask if the addition of hormonal support supplements like maca or dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) would be helpful in decreasing the symptoms you are experiencing.
Most importantly, reduce stress in your daily life, get plenty of rest, and communicate with your partner about any sexual concerns you may have.

Fifty-Two

This was me last summer at the age of 51…

Yesterday I turned 52. It just blows my mind that I have been around for more than a half-century now, because I simply don’t feel that old. I know when my mother hit 50, I thought she was ancient. And yet, here I am, over 50 and feeling like someone in her early 30’s.

Let’s be real though. My fingers, elbows, and neck ache from arthritis which has crept upon me over the past few years. My skin sags in places it never did before. My neck is beginning to resemble a Shar-pei (you can even see the folds in the headshot here). And though I am the same weight I was when I was competing, and still hitting the gym six days a week, my body proportions are shifting in such a way that clothing items I have had for a while fit differently.

Before you tell me to quit my whining, please understand that everything is relative, and because I still participate in very image-driven industries (modeling and fitness), I hold myself to a certain standard which is beginning to elude my grasp. I have had to change my angles while shooting to accommodate the changes in my physique. Modeling had forced me to come to terms with my ever-aging physical form, and it’s been pretty brutal.

I experienced a major wake-up call last month, when I was going through items in my wardrobe for a four day photo shoot. As I tried on bikinis and dresses, I realized that several items either didn’t sit well on my body, or just flat out didn’t look good on me. It was incredibly frustrating, especially since some of the pieces I tried on had never been worn before and were purchased specifically for photo shoots. I just assumed that my body wouldn’t make the micro techtonic shifts it had. My waistline is ever so slightly larger, my hips wider, and my glutes are slowly deflating, just enough to make a bikini which once looked all right look like a high school hand-me-down.

As a 52 year old woman, I am more concerned than ever about the progression of my medical career, and have thrown new challenges at myself to make me a better practitioner. I’ve been thinking more about what will happen when I reach retirement age, and how I will manage financially. And though I have always been in excellent health, I am often struck with thoughts of “What if something happens to me?”, and “How will I die?”, both of which may sound like morbid thoughts, but I regard them as necessary.

My parents are in their 80’s and of course they will eventually pass on. Both of them mention how disappointed they are in me for not giving them grandchildren, as if it was my filial duty to do so. It irks me to no end, but I also feel pangs of guilt whenever I am berated by them. It’s not like I was trying to defy them by remaining childless. And now that the window of opportunity is forever closed for me, I wonder why I wasn’t meant to have children.

Although 50 may be the new 30, it still marks 50-plus years of life experience. And since there is more societal pressure to be more dynamic and more successful, hitting one’s 50’s can be downright depressing. For all of you over 50, HANG IN THERE!

How Technology May Be Saving Aging Brains

Our brains are precious cargo which govern all that we do. One of the most mystifying things about these organic motherboards is that they are constantly changing and adapting to our environment, even as we continue to age. Of course, that also means that as we age, we can experience a decline in function.

Now that we are deeply immersed in a major technological age, our very sensitive noggins are also being shaped by the endless stimulation by iPhones, smartphones, computer interfaces, Mp3 players, Bluetooth, even self-driving vehicles. The speed at which technology is evolving is so rapid these days, that it is almost impossible to keep up, but somehow, our gray matter will be affected, either positively or negatively, by these advancements. Most scientists have begun to believe that the impact is mostly positive.

There is a new generation of young people who have little to no clue about what it might be like to play outside and to enjoy the fresh air, because they would much rather play video games, surf the internet, or dig around in the world of social media. The trade-off is that these millenials tend to have faster decision-making skills and can also navigate through the newer computer interfaces and platforms with great ease.

There’s actually a term coined for the generation which has been exposed to computers and cellular phones since birth: digital natives. Their brain circuitry actually differs from older individuals who haven’t had the same lifelong exposure to tech gadgets. There’s a possibility that older brains may get a similar benefit from using the high-tech devices which are so ubiquitous these days. Dr. Small from UCLA performed a study which examined older individuals who had some experience searching online, and discovered that those individuals did indeed have more activity in the decision making portions of the brain than subjects who had never searched online before. Since the brain alters its neural connections with each experience, it makes sense that our inner wiring will change, even as we age.

The Fifty-Something Zone

 

Today I transition from being a 50 year old to being a 50-something.  It’s such a strange reality for me to move past the half-century mark, despite the fact that my joints ache more, my skin is losing its firmness, and rogue gray hairs threaten to disrupt the mass of dark brown hair on my head.  My mind and spirit are stuck in an early 30’s zone, so I am constantly in a strange disconnect between how I feel mentally and where my body is chronologically.

Since my 50th birthday last July, I have received promotional mail from AARP and Forest Lawn Mortuary, which is extremely disconcerting.   In valiant protest, I have increased my involvement in aerial arts, dabbled in other pursuits like fencing, and have maintained a 5 to 6 day weightlifting schedule each week.

To be honest, turning 50 caused me to fret a bit about my overall health, so I decided to obtain a full medical workup, including bloodwork, MRI’s of my injured left shoulder and neck, a mammogram and colonoscopy.

 

These were the results:

  1. Bloodwork results were completely normal, and as always, my HDL was over 70 and my LDL was under 100.
  2. MRI of my left shoulder revealed moderate bursitis, widespread inflammation, severe biceps tendinitis, and widespread tendinopathy.  The good news is that my shoulder issues don’t warrant surgical intervention.
  3. MRI of my cervical spine revealed dessication of multiple intervertebral discs and osteophytes at multiple levels.  Basically, my neck reveals that I am a dried up old bitch.
  4. Screening mammogram revealed a suspicious 5mm mass on my right breast, which was further evaluated with more views.  It turned out to be a small cyst.
  5. The colonoscopy prep was definitely not enjoyable, but my days of water loading for contests made drinking the vile electolyte prep solution (bastards gave me the unflavored version…blech) a bit more tolerable.  Aside from a small polyp, my colonoscopy was unremarkable.

Evidently, my body is doing a pretty good job of fending off aging.  With a clean bill of health, I will continue to engage in my physical pursuits, eat clean food, meditate daily, and be thankful.