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Liz Harper

Lifelong Learning: Good for Seniors’ Minds & Bodies

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Summertime means graduation season and there is a recent and growing trend among college graduates that is garnering a lot of attention. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, by 2020, 43 percent of college students are expected to be age 25 and older. And among these older grads are more and more seniors.

Lifelong learners

You may have seen some news stories about older people who recently got their diplomas. ABC News highlighted Bob Barger, a WWII Navy pilot, who received his associate degree in technical studies from the University of Toledo in Ohio. After returning home from the war, he had dropped out of college to focus on his job and earn a living for his wife and two children.

CBS News shared the moving story of 89-year-old Ella Washington, who, after raising 12 children and putting in a lifetime of hard work, completed her associate degree in interdisciplinary studies from Liberty University in Virginia. She’s already begun work on her bachelor’s degree, majoring in history.

Bob and Ella are just two of the many older people who are taking advantage of the free time that retirement offers to pursue their education and learn more about subjects they are passionate about. And studies show that the benefits of seniors’ pursuit of lifelong learning are abundant.

Healthier brains

Learning something new, such as a new skill or hobby, can help boost your memory. Neuroscientists at the University of Texas at Dallas conducted a study that found that seniors who took on a new, mentally challenging hobby saw a lasting increase in their memory skills. These researchers believe that taking on a new, challenging activity—like learning to quilt, playing an instrument, or operating a computer, for example—strengthens numerous networks within the brain.

A research study conducted by neurologists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland found that engaging in a lifelong pursuit of mentally challenging activities may actually help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The study found that seniors who frequently read, played mentally challenging games like chess, or engaged in other intellectually stimulating activities are 2.5 times less likely to have Alzheimer’s, which impacts approximately 4 million Americans.

And another study out of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School had similar findings. Using participant interviews and brain scans, those researchers found that seniors who reported higher levels of intellectual stimulation throughout their lifetimes had a marked delay in the onset of memory problems or other Alzheimer’s-type symptoms, even though these study participants didn’t actually have any lower incidence of protein plaques on their brains. The ability to delay or even prevent the potentially debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s offers substantial advantages when it comes to seniors’ quality of life.

Healthier bodies

Pursuing lifelong learning activities has benefits that go beyond boosting your brain power. Cognitive neuropsychologists at the University of Sussex in England did a study that found that reading for even just six minutes lowered study participants’ stress levels, slowed their heart rates and eased tension in their muscles. And lower stress has wide ranging benefits for seniors’ cardiovascular health, decreasing blood pressure and reducing the risk of a stroke or heart attack, boosting immunity, and lowering levels of depression.

But researchers at Harvard and Princeton had even more impressive findings in their research on the connection between lifelong learning and health. The study authors found that one more year of education increased life expectancy by 0.18 years. They discovered that the more educated a person, the lower their rates of anxiety and depression as well as the most common acute and chronic diseases (heart disease, stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, emphysema, diabetes, asthma, ulcer), and they were far less likely to report that they were in overall poor health.

Now, there is a “chicken or egg” debate on whether the increased level of education caused these positive health results, or if the people who were healthier (perhaps based on lifestyle factors like drinking, smoking, eating habits, etc., or the impact of their economic standing) were simply more likely to pursue educational opportunities, but the findings are still significant.

Put on your thinking cap

There are numerous lifelong learning opportunities available to seniors. If you live in a town with a university or community college, call them or visit their website to find out what types of continuing education classes are offered; some colleges will even allow older adults to “audit” a college class—sit-in on classes for no credit, but also for little to no cost. If you don’t live near a school, there are also numerous online learning programs offered by colleges across the country.

AARP compiled a helpful list of the best colleges for older or returning students, which includes online learning opportunities.

If you’re looking to take up a new intellectually stimulating hobby like quilting or painting, contact your local arts and crafts store to see if they offer classes. To learn how to play an instrument, contact a nearby high school to see if the band director can offer recommendations on teachers, or you can even do an internet search to find teachers in your area. Your local library is another great resource, providing not only a treasure trove of mentally stimulating books, but also offering programs and presentations for eager learners.

Lifelong learning at CCRCs

One of the many advantages of living in a senior living community, such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or life plan community), is the array of activities and events offered to residents. Knowing the many benefits to their residents’ mental and physical health, CCRCs in particular put an emphasis on lifelong learning opportunities. From guest speakers to art classes to affinity groups like chess, bridge, and book clubs, CCRCs provide their residents with numerous ways to keep their minds active, all in a close-to-home location.

Some CCRCs have even made lifelong learning a major component of their resident programming, forming cooperative ventures with local universities and professors. Courses include everything from literature, history, and creative writing, to art and music appreciation, philosophy, and current events. Classes may take place at the retirement community or at the university, or both.

Food for thought

Whether you are interested in getting educated on a new subject or acquiring a new skill, there are near-countless ways that lifelong learning benefits seniors. So why not challenge yourself and try something new? It’s a lifestyle choice that’s good for your mind, which in turn is good for your health!

 

The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.

Tip # 14 of 50 –The Case Against Staying at Home as You Age

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There has been a media blitzkrieg (and resulting changes in state and federal regulations regarding nursing home care) about the benefits of staying at home “as long as possible” as we age. Who wouldn’t, after all, want to stay at home? It’s well, home. And home can be familiar and welcoming, with daily routines, good memories, and familiar surroundings.

But what if staying at home isn’t the best option? Click above to learn more about the case against staying at home as you age and the many benefits of continuing care retirement communities.

Ready to Sell? Tips for Preparing Your Home for the Real Estate Market

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With summer on its way, there’s a sense of renewal and opportunity; it’s a great time to make a fresh start!

Perhaps, after discussions with loved ones over the spring, you’ve begun considering a move to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or life plan community) this year. There’s no doubt that it’s a big decision to make, but many people feel a great sense of relief once the choice is made. When you live in a CCRC, all of your needs along the continuum of care will be provided in one location, and for most CCRC residents, there is comfort and security in knowing that.

Top 5 tips for prepping your home

Now that your senior living decision has been made, the tough part is over. There’s just the “small” matter of selling your house. While this can feel like a daunting task on the surface, it doesn’t have to be. Spring is a great time to sell since many people want to be in their new home in time for the new school year in the fall. So right now—in January and February—is a good time to start doing a few things to prepare your house. Here are five ways that you can boost your home’s value and make it more attractive to would-be buyers.

  1. Clean-out time

One of the first tasks to tackle when you decide to sell is to declutter your home. This is a bigger task for some people than others, but it’s also a good opportunity to enlist the help of your friends and family. As I’ve written about before, host a “declutter party,” complete with music, snacks, and a reward at the end of the day. Separate things into keep, sell, giveaway, and trash categories. It can be helpful to have your adult children assist with this task so that you aren’t saving things that you think they may want when they actually don’t.

If you feel overwhelmed by this clean-up project, there are “declutter specialists” who you can hire—professional organizers who will help you tackle this sometimes-daunting project. Your realtor will be able to refer you to an experienced provider.

  1. Make it shine!

Once you have gotten rid of the excess clutter in your home, it’s time for a top-to-bottom cleaning. Wipe down all surfaces including counters, sinks and tubs, baseboards, and floors. If you have a smoker or pets in the home, or if you often fry foods or use pungent spices, you also will want to address odor issues. Have the carpets professionally shampooed to help remove lingering smells. A fresh coat of paint on the walls may even be needed in order to eliminate strong odors.

  1. Curb appeal

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this is true for your home too. Take a look at your landscaping: First ensure that your grass is well-kept, and then do a little extra sprucing up with some colorful flowers and a fresh layer of mulch in the beds.

Also look at your home’s front entrance. As prospective buyers wait for their real estate agent to unlock the door, they will be noticing your front steps, porch, and doorway. Be sure there is no peeling paint on the door or molding, cobwebs have been swept from the corners, the stoop is free of leaves or debris, and consider adding an attractive planter full of vibrant flowers to the porch or a seasonal wreath on the door.

  1. Make repairs

It’s time to finally take on that honey-do list! Repair that sagging gutter; fix the broken ceiling fan in the den; nail down that squeaky step. Again, your realtor can offer advice on specific cosmetic repairs that should be made, but you also will want to be sure that all of your home’s appliances and major systems (heating/cooling, water heater, etc.) are in good working order. Once you have an offer and are under contract, problems with these things will turn up on an inspection report, and you don’t want such issues to scare a buyer away, so you might as well repair known issues now.

  1. Neutralize your color palette

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and nowhere is this truer than in people’s taste in home décor! You may love your cherry red kitchen and the floral wallpaper in your bedroom, but a prospective buyer could find them to be a huge turn-off…even a deal-breaker. That’s why you may want to tone down your house’s color palette, freshening up walls with a neutral paint tone like a cream, light gray, or beige. These colors are unobjectionable to almost everyone, and a fresh coat of paint can instantly brighten up a room, making it feel bigger.

Expert real estate advice for seniors

Again, a realtor can help you look at your home objectively to determine which of the tasks above you need to do before listing your home. If you don’t already have a trusted realtor that you want to work with, you may want to consider finding a “seniors real estate specialist” (SRES). These are realtors who have undergone additional training to learn how to better address the unique needs of older clients who are buying, selling, or refinancing a home.

One of the big benefits of SRES realtors is access to their extensive network of related service professionals such as real estate attorneys, financial planners, and accountants who also have expertise in senior-specific legal and financial issues. Learn more about the advantages of utilizing a SRES-certified real estate professional by visiting their website. As with any provider, you will still want to be sure you vet a SRES realtor and ask for references.

The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.

 

Active Aging Redefines Health and Wellness

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What does it mean to be healthy as we get older? For most of us, it’s simply the opposite of illness. And staying healthy equates to managing diseases and chronic conditions.

But there is a movement to expand the definition of health and wellness in order to accommodate the idea that being healthy is the process of getting the most out of what life has to offer — regardless of physical age.

Click above to learn more about active aging.

Making a Move: Packing Parties and Other Creative Ideas

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The below article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.

Recently I had the chance to speak with a couple that lives in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC or “life plan community”) in Virginia. Let’s call them Joe and Becky. They have lived in the CCRC for about three years and said they couldn’t be happier. One thing that has really stood out to them since moving, they explained, was the level of service provided by the staff, which they described as “exceptional.” As we talked more, I asked about their experience in making the move and how they managed to deal with all their “stuff.”

Indeed, dealing with years of accumulated belongings can be daunting. Of course, somebody eventually has to deal with all that stuff, and it doesn’t get any easier as we get older. Click above for some ways that can help make the experience more, dare I say, fun.

Comparing Life Plan Retirement Communities on Price

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In Columbus, and the surrounding central Ohio region, shopping for a life plan retirement community (also referred to as a CCRC or continuing care retirement community) requires a lot of research, and your final decision will be based on many factors–services, location, amenities, reputation, and more–though price is usually one of the most heavily weighted.

Click above to read more.

Peg’s Perspective –The Longevity Project and Conscientiousness

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“Fifty Tips on Aging Well to Celebrate 50 Years of Excellent Service”

As The Wesley Communities approach 50 years of excellent service, our CEO Peg Carmany offers “Peg’s Perspective” on a variety of topics affecting seniors and their adult children as they plan and choose to age well – 50 tips to celebrate 50 years!

Click above to read tip # 11 of 50 –The Longevity Project and Conscientiousness!

CCRCs: The Purpose of Entry Fees

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The vast majority of Continuing Care Retirement Communities require an entry fee. Naturally, people often ask, “What is the purpose of the entry fee?” Before answering this question it is helpful to understand the history of entry fees.

The CCRC concept began about a century ago when faith-based and other charitable organizations sought to provide lifetime shelter and care for the aged. In exchange for this promise, residents being cared for were usually required to assign most or all of their assets to the organization.  Although well-intentioned, this model was less than scientific and when residents lived longer than expected there often wasn’t enough money on hand to fulfill the organization’s commitment.

In response to the short-coming of this model the idea of entry fees evolved. Rather than collecting the assets of a resident, organizations began establishing minimum entry fees (combined with monthly fees) that were determined to be adequate to cover commitments.

After proving to be more effective, the entry fee model eventually expanded to also offer refundable entry fees. Many prospective residents responded more favorably to this approach because they knew that either they or their heirs would receive back some portion of the entry fee if they ever left the community, or at death.

Today there are over 2,000 CCRCs located throughout the United States offering non-refundable, partially refundable, and fully refundable entry fees. Many providers offer multiple options from which to choose.

So, what is the purpose of an entry fee? Primarily, the entry fee helps secure a resident’s contractual access to a continuum of care. This is why CCRCs are the only type of retirement community providing such a promise to its residents. In recent years more rental-only CCRCs have evolved. However, under a rental contract there is either no contractual promise to provide a continuum of care, or the monthly fee will be higher than a comparable entry fee CCRC.

The money received from entry fees is also used to help pay down, or limit, the amount of debt required for development, expansion, or occasional capital projects, which keep the community attractive and competitive in the marketplace.

Finally, many CCRCs- particularly non-profit providers- offer a financial assistance or endowment fund to help ensure that if a resident runs out of money due to a longer than average stay in the healthcare facility or some other unforeseen circumstance, they will not be forced to leave the community. Of course, this would not apply to any situation where a resident mismanaged or intentionally transferred personal assets in order to receive such support.

The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.