Using community choirs to boost well-being

Community music programs may help combat loneliness in older adults and heighten their interest in life, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

A recent study that featured in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences looked at a novel way to fight loneliness in older adults — joining a choir.

The aim of the program, called Community of Voices, was to measure the impact of art-based interventions on well-being and quality of life.

People are now living longer thanks to medical and technological advances. However, as our average lifespan steadily increases, the issue of loneliness grows in parallel.

Full story at Medical News Today

Better Training, Career Development Needed for America’s Direct-Care Workforce

By 2034, all of America’s baby boomers will be over the age of 70, many living with complex health care needs and multiple chronic conditions.

A well-trained direct-care workforce will be critical to keeping those baby boomers safely in their homes as they age. Without one, experts predict, public and private insurers will struggle in meeting the population’s needs.

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that works to promote bipartisanship on key issues facing the United states, highlighted the need to support the country’s direct-care workforce in a report released on Thursday.

Full story at Home Healthcare News

One of the fastest-aging US states has rejected free care for seniors

Voters in Maine were presented with a ballot measure that would have provided disabled adults or people over the age of 65 with full-time, long-term care in their own homes, at no cost to individuals or their families. It was hailed by supporters as a visionary model for ensuring support for vulnerable people, one that could be rolled out in other states as the US elder population grows.

Alas, it’s a vision whose time has not yet come. Voters in Maine soundly defeated Question 1 at the polls on Tuesday (Nov. 6).

Maine is one of the fastest-aging states in the US. People aged 65 and older there are expected to outnumber those under 18 by 2020, a full 15 years before the US as a whole reaches that crucial threshold.

The vast majority of seniors prefer to age in their own homes. The availability and affordability of in-home care in Maine, however, is among the poorest in the nation. Without access to home care, family members typically shoulder the work—along with the financial cost of their own lost wages—to care for elderly relatives.

Full story at Quartz at Work

Questions to Ask When a Loved One Is Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

IT STARTS OUT SLOWLY, almost imperceptibly. The misplaced keys. The forgotten birthday or anniversary. Using the wrong word or losing the thread in mid-conversation. These are often dismissed as typical signs of aging, but in some people, they may be the earliest signs that something bigger is at work – the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. When a doctor diagnoses dementia or Alzheimer’s in your loved one, you should be sure to ask a lot of questions to make sure you understand your loved one’s current state of being and so you can appropriately prepare for how this progressive disease could change over time.

1. Is it Alzheimer’s or another kind of dementia?

There are several types of cognitive decline people may experience. “Dementia is simply an umbrella term,” says Dr. Susann Varano, a geriatrician at Maplewood Senior Living, a Westport, Connecticut–based senior living residence company. “If a physician says, ‘you have dementia,’ it’s the same thing as saying, ‘you have cancer.'” She says it’s critical to pinpoint exactly which type of dementia it is. “Is it Lewy body dementia? Is it vascular? Is it a frontotemporal disorder? Is it mixed dementia? Is it Alzheimer’s disease?” Although all dementias affect the brain and cognitive function, “each of those types of dementias have a different path. Some accelerate more than others and some have different presenting symptoms, so it’s very important to get the actual diagnosis of dementia.”

Full story at US News 

The New Face of Grandparenting

GRANDPARENTS ARE IN THE news more than ever today. Some are caregivers, raising their grandkids, while others are separated or estranged from them. What’s going on? Has the role of grandparents diminished, or is it needed now more than ever?

Separated or Estranged

In a recent survey by the National Association for Grandparenting, many adults – 23 percent – had no memories of their grandparents. They were either deceased before they were born, lived far away or made no effort to connect.

We can’t do much about the first, and distance is no excuse for not connecting, not when you can use tools like Skype, Zoom and FaceTime. Even grandparents in the same geographic vicinity may not have a close relationship.

Full story at US News

No Kids? Who Will Care for You as You Age?

PREPARING FOR OUR golden years in middle age is usually focused on fattening a 401(k), keeping up with the hottest ranked retirement cities and thinking about how we might adapt a home for aging in place. But are you giving much thought to who’ll take care of you when your health, mobility and independence decline?

If you have kids, you may feel some security knowing there’s a ready-made shortlist of people who might look after you – although it’s not a guarantee they’ll be able to help. But a growing number of people are heading into old age without any children to put on the list of potential caregivers.

In 2016, nearly 15 percent of women ages 40-44 hadn’t given birth and were childless, up from 10 percent in 1976, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A 2013 report from AARP projects that by 2040, about 21 percent of the older, disabled population will be childless.

Full story at US News

Exercise reduces stress, improves cellular health in family caregivers

Exercising at least three times a week for six months reduced stress in a group of family caregivers and even appeared to lengthen a small section of their chromosomes that is believed to slow cellular aging, new UBC research has found.

“I am hoping that a new focus on the family caregiver will emerge out of this research,” said Eli Puterman, a professor in the University of British Columbia’s school of kinesiology and lead author of the study. “We need to design interventions that help caregivers take care of their bodies and their minds, and provide the type of support that’s needed to maintain that long-term.”

The population of seniors in the U.S., where Puterman and colleagues from the University of California conducted the study, is expected to nearly double by 2050. Younger family members will increasingly be providing this type of care and it can take a toll on their health.

Full story at Science Daily

Men take care of their spouses just as well as women (new research suggests)

Men respond to their spouse’s illness just as much as women do and as a result are better caregivers in later life than previous research suggests, according to a new Oxford University collaboration.

The study, published in Journals of Gerontology, Series B, is good news for our increasingly stretched adult care services, which have become more reliant on patients’ family and spouses for support. Conducted with peers from the University of Pennsylvania, the research sits in contrast to previous studies on spousal caregiving, which found that female caregivers tend to be more responsive. However, the new results reveal that men are just as responsive to a partner’s illness, as women.

Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, the research carried out by Dr Langner of Oxford University and Professor Frank Furstenberg of the University of Pennsylvania, focused on 538 couples in Germany with an average age of 69, where one of them had developed the need for spousal care, between 2001-2015, and looked at how caregivers adjusted their hours in response to the new care need: whether directly responding to their physical needs or performing errands and housework.

Full story at Science Daily

Five Ways to Fight Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Financial Exploitation

As Americans, we believe that people of all ages and abilities deserve to be treated fairly and equally and to live free from abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. Tomorrow, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day , we join the world in recognizing the importance of elders to our communities and standing up for their rights. Here are five ways you can join this fight.

1. Break Down Isolation

We cannot talk about elder abuse without talking about social isolation. Elders without strong social networks face a greater risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. It is up to all of us to ensure that our communities are supporting and engaging older adults. One simple way to do this is by staying in touch with the older adults in your community. So go ahead and knock on your neighbor’s door just to say “hi” or start an intergenerational book club or movie night. You can also support community efforts to empower elders and fight isolation; act by volunteering to deliver meals or serve as a long-term care ombudsman.

Full story at acl.gov

How Medicaid Work Requirements Could Hurt Older Americans

For some lower-income Americans, Medicaid is their lifeline to health care. That includes “older nonelderly” adults from 50 to 64 – an age range when chronic health conditions and mobility issues are common. Other people use Medicaid benefits so they can serve as family caregivers.

On Jan. 11, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that states can apply for waivers to implement work requirements for people who receive Medicaid benefits. Some older Americans will be affected.

To date, waivers have been approved in three states and are pending approval in others. Age limits vary for who might have to fulfill work or “community engagement” requirements for up to 80 hours a month. In Kentucky, Medicaid recipients are exempt at 64. In Indiana, 60 is the cutoff age. In Arkansas, however, 50 is the cutoff.

Full story at US News