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Organization can extend your lifespan.

Will getting organized help increase longevity? It makes sense to say yes; because it puts you under less stress, reduces the frustration of continually having to search for things in your home, and reduces accidents by having everything in its place. One study even found that people who worked in a neat space tended to have healthier snacks during the day than those who lived or worked in a messy work space.

As an octogenarian, I find that my body doesn’t always keep up with my mind and I have to make certain adjustments. Although we may hate to admit it, we become frailer and more susceptible to falls the older we get. The National Center for Injury Control & Prevention reports that over one third of people 65 and over suffer falls and related injuries. Our bones are usually more brittle. So keep both home and office relatively clutter-free. Avoid placing furniture or other obstacles in high-traffic areas. Don’t wear hard-soled shoes and avoid having loose throw rugs on the floor. You might consider balance training as well.

The best advice I can give is to recognize that as you age, your body and mind change, and you have to pay more attention to organizing your environment and yourself as you may have done in the past.

According to Home Safety Council statistics, older adults in the U.S. experience more than 2.3 million home injuries each year. The most dangerous rooms in any home are the bathroom and the kitchen – mainly due to trips and falls. So install grip bars. And remember that bathroom rugs are dangerous.

Pets in the home can also be a hazard as well as a help. Large dogs can push you off balance and small dogs and cats can trip you up. Cats and dogs are blamed for 86,000 annual falling injuries that send humans to the emergency room, according to the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention. Dogs cause seven times more injuries than cats. So be aware of where your pet is at all times.

The major causes of fires in the home include leaving on a curling iron or heating blanket or an electric heater too close to flammable material – or an unattended kitchen burner or stove. I think it would be a good idea to have a checklist to go over each night before retiring – such as pull the plug on electric heater, turn on nightlights, lock door, etc. I’m a great believer in checklists.

Seniors should definitely keep a checklist for all the prescription and over-the-counter medications they take. Include supplements and vitamins. For each medicine, mark the correct name of the drug, the amount you take, the time of day you take it, and whether it should be taken with food. Store two copies of the list: one on the refrigerator door or where your medications are stored, and one in your wallet or purse. Drugs frequently get mixed up because many of them look alike and even the names sound the same.

Some people are notorious for keeping old medications. Periodically organize your medicine cabinet and toss out all the expired and unused stuff. You should store things in the room they are used. For medications, that could be the kitchen. Highlight the expiry date on all your medications. Use pill containers that have separate compartments for morning, afternoon and evening, and fill them with your week’s medications every weekend. I have one that holds enough medication for an entire month and it’s convenient when taking vacations.

Before heading to the runway for takeoff, pilots must complete a procedural checklist to assure the aircraft is ready for flight. Now many hospitals require surgeons to complete a similar checklist before doing even the most minor procedures — including, to the amusement of some, confirming which limb or organ is to be operated upon. While it seems silly, it’s not — it’s a way to be assured that every possible step is being taken to assure patient safety. Research is demonstrating that when hospitals adopt this practice, there is a measurable improvement in outcome. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a reduction in both deaths and complications when hospitals used a 19-item surgical safety checklist.

It makes sense that if individuals establish a structure with routine procedures for health-related matters, it would not only reduce stress, but also help lower the risk of at-home medication mistakes and other mishaps that can have serious consequences. Many people put themselves at risk because they are haphazard about letting important papers pile up or, equally problematic, throwing out things they should keep for future reference. Keep a copy of all medical records in a clearly marked folder. Make it a habit to request copies of all test results, X-Rays, and treatments.

As Leonardo da Vinci has been quoted as saying, “Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.”  To that I would add, “and who will manage it with care.”

Note: The above article was taken from the book. “How to grow older without growing old,” by Harold L Taylor, Taylorintime.com, 2018. 147 pages. Available in both paperback (Perfect bound, 8 ½ X 11 format, and electronic format.)

 

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Avoiding dementia and increasing longevity.

In a previous article I said I would provide a list of actions that are recommended in order to guard against dementia and improve longevity. Here is an abbreviated list of strategies from my new book on growing older without growing old. An electronic version of the book will soon be available at our website.

Stimulate the brain.

Good old-fashioned reading, writing and arithmetic stimulate the brain and grow more connections. Keep mentally active, whether it’s by doing crossword puzzles, discussing the weather, writing poetry, reading or working on your income tax.

Maintain lifelong learning.

Wisdom usually comes with age; but sometimes just age comes with age. So keep on learning. Lifelong learning could delay the onset of cognitive impairment by 3 to 8 years.

Build and maintain relationships.

Staying socially engaged affects your cognitive functioning and keeps your cells from aging too fast. Research indicates that the more social connections you have, the greater your ability to fight infection and keep your cells from aging too quickly.

Reduce stress.

Do everything you can to reduce excessive stress in your life since stress serves to exacerbate dementia. Stress can induce the release of cortisol and excess cortisol impairs function in the prefrontal cortex. The overproduction of cortisol was found in seniors who were experiencing memory loss.

Exercise regularly.

Physical exercise not only increases circulation of nutrient-carrying blood to the brain and stimulates the creation of new neurons. It also reduces the risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, diabetes – and improves mood, muscles, bones and lung capacity.

Get enough sleep.

Although many people sleep less as they get older, your need for sleep does not decrease. Sleep is one of the most important predictors of how long you will live — as important as whether you smoke, exercise or have high blood pressure.

Move around.

Researchers are now finding that even getting up from your chair is a lot better than sitting down most of the day. One study indicated that sitters had a 50% greater likelihood of dying from any cause during the eight and a half year study.

Watch what you eat.

Any food that reduces high blood pressure or helps the cardiovascular system in any way is good for the brain, since the brain’s blood supply is critical. This includes such foods as oatmeal, brown rice and grain breads. EPA omega-3 fish oil is also recommended since it keeps the cell membranes in the brain flexible, slows cognitive decline, and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Spend more time outdoors.

It is a fact that trees, grass, plants and vegetation affects us both physically and mentally. And sunlight causes the body to release serotonin – one of the reasons you feel in a good mood on sunny days. Hospitals and seniors homes are introducing more greenery into their facilities because of the impact of vegetation on healing, mood and pain control.

Maintain a view of nature.

If you are unable to spend much time outdoors have a view of nature if at all possible. Patients in hospital rooms with a window view require less pain medication and spend less time in the hospital. Recent studies found that urban green spaces, such as plants and gardens, also improve cognitive development.

Grow indoor plants.

Plants not only give off oxygen, they are able to absorb environmental chemicals and transport them to the soil. They act as vacuum cleaners removing pollution from the air. Studies have shown that the presence of potted plants, for example, improves productivity, creativity, performance and learning ability.

Volunteer.

Scientists have tracked 2025 people aged 55 and older for five years and found that those who volunteered for two or more organizations were 63% less likely to die during the study than those who didn’t volunteer. That was reduced to 26% when the only volunteered for one organization. By helping others you are helping yourself.

Listen to music.

Music can enhance learning and higher brain function and even improve memory performance. It increases creativity and learning skills. Background music has also been known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve concentration – and helps keep dementia at bay.

Grow spiritually.

Spiritual people tend to live longer, happier, healthier lives. Research from the University of Toronto showed that thinking about God or other spiritual beliefs keep you calm under fire. People with depression who believe in a caring, higher being are 75% more likely to get relief from medication. 99% of the physicians in 1999 meeting of the American Academy of family physicians said they believed that religious beliefs aid healing.

Maintain purpose and pursue goals.

Have a purpose in life – a reason to get up every morning, and the motivation to face the day’s trials as well as its joys. Having goals and focusing on long-term challenges, keep you mentally alert, and give you that extra push that keeps life interesting and fulfilling. Challenge the brain results in more brain cells and more connections.

 Laugh often.

Laughter has healing power and it has been known to reduce blood pressure decrease, heart rate and increase respiration. When you laugh, the body releases endorphins, and depression declines. When you relax again afterwards, that good feeling lasts for a day or two.

Get organized

An article in Rodale’s January/February, 2018 issue of Prevention Guide states that “People who consider themselves self-disciplined, organized achievers live longer and have up to an 89% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than the less conscientious, according to two studies.”

Watch your attitude.

Your outlook on life is linked to your health and well-being. A survey of more than 500 people 70 and over thought it was important to keep a youthful mindset, and researchers at the University of Michigan also linked it to a longer life.

 

 

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The sound of silence

In my book, How to grow older without growing old, to be published in late February, 2018, I discussed over a dozen strategies for strengthening body, mind and spirit. But one significant strategy that I failed to discuss is “silence” – probably due to the incessant background noise of our loud, distracting fast-paced world. My brain was not operating on all cylinders, so to speak, when I originally put together the outline before moving from the city.

That’s what exposure to noise can do to us over a long period of time. I’m not talking about the construction that was going on down the street or the annual fireworks display or the car crash we witnessed at the intersection. I’m talking about sound pollution, both indoors and outdoors from such things as TV, radio, air conditioning, computer printers, cell phone chatter, traffic and other noises of the city.

We don’t realize what this overstimulation of our hearing does to our brain cells. And among other afflictions it has been proven to cause stress, moodiness, anxiety and depression. It has been discovered that noise pollution can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and impaired hearing. Those exposed to loud noises, usually for long periods of time, can suffer from such things as tinnitus, a constant or intermittent ringing noise in the ears  that can interfere with sleeping, impede concentration and even interfere with work. One of my sons has tinnitus that was caused by the loud music of his and others’ rock bands during his youth.

You don’t have to be in a rock band or live near commuter train tracks to be victimized by noise. It’s now everywhere – unless you live in the woods, and according to the World Health Organization, persistent sounds of just 30 decibels, similar to that produced by people whispering in a library, are sufficient to disturb sleep patterns.

What can we do about it – short of living in a sound-proof room for the rest of your life? You might start by taking a “silence break” and gradually increase its duration until you are experiencing an hour or more a day of peace and quiet. This is referred to as “attention restoration.” According to a 2017 article in Science, “the brain can restore its finite cognitive resources when we’re in environments with lower levels of sensory input than usual.” This could take the form of a walk through the woods or a quiet park – far away from the noise pollution of the city.

If you want to experience what silence feels like, get a free hearing test. My first real experience of the “sound of silence” happened while sitting in a sound-proof booth waiting to have my hearing tested. It was nothing short of euphoria. Over a year after my move to the country, away from the constant background noises of city living, I find my hearing is more sensitive (even without my hearing aid) to the sounds of nature – such as the rustling of leaves, whispering wind, gurgling streams and the sudden flight of birds.

Silence has been found to repair and regenerate brain cells, relieve stress, improve our power of concentration, and in many ways improve our health and well-being. The article from Science, referred to earlier, mentioned a 2013 study on mice that found that two hours of silence daily led to the new development of cells in the hippocampus, a key area of the brain associated with learning, memory and emotion.

We’re not mice; but the research suggested that silence could be therapeutic for conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s.

I regret having omitted it from my book. It sure is peaceful listening to the sound of silence.