By: Jennifer Watson-Choi
Yoga is a gentle physical and mental health process that is perfectly suited to the elderly. Aging, too often, brings with it ailments that inhibit our activities of daily living and therefore our quality of life. Perhaps it’s the mind-body connection, but as we or our bodies slow down and become less flexible, so too does our mind. In all aspects, practising yoga can bring a myriad of positive changes for overall health.
You’re never too old to do yoga! Yoga caters to all physical abilities, with poses ranging in difficulty, and also provides an opportunity for reflection and meditation or prayer. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising to see older individuals or caregivers in need of respite, studying or practicing yoga. Although degeneration of the body can limit the types of poses (Asanas) some elderly are able to do, a knowledgeable teacher should be able to show variations and alternatives. Even the milder poses suited for delicate bodies provide real benefits.
“Yoga gives me a chance to give a gift to myself,” says Shirley, a woman in her late sixties who practices yoga twice a week at a local studio in rural Ontario. “The gift is to be able to keep up with my grandchildren and stay active with them for as long as possible.” Even with arthritic joints that have left some of her knuckles deformed, she makes time for herself on the mat knowing the benefits she can both recognize and even those she cannot. “It’s helping me in ways I can see, but I also trust it’s helping in ways I can’t” she mentions confidently. When asked if she feels she has personally noticed the benefits of yoga in her life, she answers with a knowing smile “Oh, yes.”
Why is yoga perhaps the best exercise for the elderly?
A continuous practice of gentle yoga can provide:
- improved flexibility
- better digestion
- increased lubrication of the joints, ligaments and tendons
- massaging of internal organs
- improved balance and toning of the muscles
- normalization of blood pressure
Meditation techniques that are integral to yoga help improve concentration and sharpen memory, which can be due to a variety of factors such as better circulation and improved nervous system functioning.
Recommendations for elderly starting a yoga practice:
- Like any new exercise program, start slow and with the supervision of a professional yoga teacher. Inquire into their experience teaching the elderly and discuss your personal physical situation so they can watch and assist you during the class.
- Never push yourself, remain within your capabilities. Yoga is not about pushing yourself in a competitive nature, it is rather like opening as a lotus flower does, slowly, and one petal at a time.
- Make sure to warm up before and cool down after you exercise, and drink lots of water. Stop or slow down if you feel you are reaching your limits and take a rest.
- Stay with it. Anything that is worthwhile requires effort, and the benefits are many. Be gentle with yourself. Remember this and don’t focus on your progress, your age or your perceived inabilities. You have your own measures of improvement that are not the same as anyone else’s.
Make friendships that can be continued outside of the yoga class.
By: Jennifer Watson-Choi
As the first wave of baby boomers reach 65, the more Alzheimer’s will become a reality for them. Alzheimer’s disease is fatal, degenerative and progressive. It destroys vital brain cells and is not a normal part of aging. And although Alzheimer’s can start as early as 40 years of age, by the time Canadians are over the age of 65, 1 in every 11 of them will develop the disease. The risk of developing a debilitating brain disease, Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, then doubles every 5 years after the 65th birthday. The stark reality of these statistics is alarming. If those in this age category don’t develop Alzheimer’s disease or a dementia themselves, at the very least it will happen to someone they know.
In 2010, there were over 110,000 new cases of dementia a year or one new case every 5 minutes! Within the next generation that statistic will swell to over 250,000 new cases or one new case diagnose every 2 minutes. In fact, without a medical breakthrough over the next 25 years, more than four million Canadians can be expected to develop Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
These numbers are alarming, so what are baby boomers doing to prepare themselves? Are they aware of the risks? The symptoms? Are they aware that although a cure has not been discovered, lifestyle changes may reduce their risk and even slow the progression of the disease?
If baby boomers are going to be their own best detectors of Alzheimer’s, they need to at least be aware of which early symptoms should be reported to their health professional. Yet, a recent survey by the Alzheimer Society of Canada shows that an alarming number of baby boomers reveal a worrying lack of awareness about the disease. Many couldn’t correctly identify a wide range of symptoms that may present themselves in the early stages of dementia from memory loss, changes in mood and behaviour, difficulty with everyday tasks and misplacing common items. Since early detection of dementia can result in potential symptomatic treatment options, it’s vitally important to become informed.
Become Aware of Alzheimer’s disease:
January of each year is used by the Alzheimer Society of Canada to promote awareness and raise funds for their programs and support for research. There are many ways to get involved and many opportunities to learn more, no matter where you live. Coffee Break is a Canada-wide annual event and can be hosted by anyone interested in fundraising. You can look for one near you or host one yourself, see the website for details. Many communities across Canada host the ‘Walk for Memories’ in January and February – check your local society website for more information. Specific Alzheimer Society branches may have their own fundraising initiatives; contact your local society to find out.
At the very least, Alzheimer Awareness Month is a good time to familiarize yourself with the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s – for your own good, your spouse, or a friend. Test your own knowledge of Alzheimer’s by taking their online survey yourself.
Getting the homecare help you need:
Find a homecare company such as Premier Homecare Services, who specializes in Alzheimer and dementia care and offers compassionate, knowledgeable services for those who have loved ones in need of extra assistance or up to 24 hour a day monitoring and care. Our professional caregivers are given additional training in Alzheimer’s and dementia care and are well prepared to handle the unique challenges that may arise when caring for an individual with dementia. Call us today to book your complimentary in-home assessment!