In Life + Health this month, we're focusing on health and fitness. We'll target a generation each week. Today, we're focusing on the health and fitness of seniors, with eight tips. On May 4, we looked at kids. On May 11, we focused on the health and fitness of teens and on May 18, we looked at adults. Some of the tips we'll give will be new; some will be gentle reminders. All of them are geared toward making us all healthier and more fit.
1. Exercise your intellect: The University of Kentucky offers people 65 and older a chance to become students for free through the Donovan Fellowship for Academic Scholars. Donovan Fellows may audit classes. with no exams, papers or other assignments required, or take classes for credit, but they cannot work toward a degree or take classes for credit and be a degree candidate. The fellows are responsible for the cost of any required materials, parking permits and applicable income taxes. For an application or more information, call (859) 218-2091. Those hoping to take fall classes should submit an application by June 1.
2. Play it safe: According to the Centers for Disease Control, people older than 50 account for 20 percent of those with AIDS. A healthy sexual relationship can be an important part of life at any age, but to learn more about playing it safe go to www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/over50/index.htm.
3. Good night: Sleep patterns change with age, and older folks can find it harder to get to sleep. Try a light snack at bedtime or, just like momma use to say, some warm milk. And don't nap. Remember to use the bed for sleep or sex, not for watching television, paying bills or working on the computer.
4. Be friendly: Kids and grandchildren are fabulous, but an English research team recently found that having friends is key to a happy retirement. Having shared interests with a social group provides a sense of community and purpose and overall better mental health. A good place to start is the local senior center. The number for the Lexington Senior Center is (859) 278-6072.
5. Emergency kit, please: Everyone should have an emergency kit in their homes with batteries, non-perishable food and water. But seniors should create a personalized plan listing where they should go in an emergency; what they should bring, such as medications, glasses or hearing aids; and a list of emergency contacts. Older adults should keep a list of their medications, doctors and pharmacies in a waterproof bag and a second set at the home of a friend or family member. If there are pets in the home, call the local animal shelter to see what options there are in case of emergency.
6. Eat smart: Older adults, because they produce less stomach acid, are at greater risk from food-borne illnesses. Changes in smell and taste can make it more difficult to determine when food is spoiled. Avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish and seafood, and unpasteurized milk and juices. Also stay away from protein milkshakes and Caesar salad dressing.
7. Steady as you go: Falls can be a major concern for seniors, but simple precautions can go along way. Ask your doctor about beginning an exercise routine that will help increase stability. Also, remove throw rugs or other items you can trip over, install grab bars in your tubs, and improve the lighting in your home so you can see hazards better.
8. An aspirin a day? Some 43 million Americans routinely take an aspirin each day to help prevent heart attacks and strokes, but that practice is being scrutinized. A study released in March of 30,000 adults ages 50 to 75 without known heart disease found that a daily aspirin offered no more protection that a placebo. Plus, the study — published in the Journal of the American Medical Association — reported that taking a daily aspirin almost doubled the risk of dangerous internal bleeding. If you are taking a aspirin regularly, talk to your doctor about these new findings, especially if you don't have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. The study recommends people older than 80 shouldn't take aspirin on an ongoing basis.