Are Probiotics Worth the Expense?

Are Probiotics Worth the Expense?

As worries about the coronavirus continue, many people are exploring ways to build their immune system. Because seniors are at higher risk for contracting the virus, it is vital for them to live as healthy as possible. One product often hyped as an immunity builder is probiotic supplements.

Probiotics are billed as a simple way to rebalance good and bad bacteria in the gut. Research seems to indicate a healthy gut lowers your risk for disease and health problems. But are they worth the expense? Are there less-expensive options that yield the same results?

Unfortunately, health care researchers disagree on their effectiveness. Some say they work, and others say the same benefits can be achieved through diet.

Consumers also seem to be split. But the industry itself is booming. Data published in the Nutrition Business Journal showed Americans spent an estimated $1.8 billion on probiotic products in 2016, up from $425 million in 2008. When asked, those using probiotics say they help with everything from lowering cholesterol to reducing inflammation.

While taking a supplement might be easier, quality probiotics often come with a high price tag. The good news is probiotics naturally occur in some foods. By working them into your diet, you and your senior loved one might be able to pump up your immune system.

Foods That Improve Gut Health

If you would like to try improving your gut health without supplements, a few foods to try include:

  • Kefir
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Soft cheeses (i.e., Gouda, cheddar, and mozzarella)
  • Green olives
  • Greek yogurt
  • Sourdough bread

Boosting the Immune System

In addition to COVID-19 worries, we are inching closer to the traditional flu season. It’s one more reason older adults need to take every possible measure to boost their immunity.

  1. Is your senior loved one up to date on recommended vaccines?

Talk with your doctor to see if you are in compliance with the vaccinations recommended by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Two of the most pressing include:

  • Influenza: Early fall is the best time to get your annual flu shot. Most experts advise seniors get vaccinated in early October to be protected against early flu outbreaks.
  • Pneumonia: In most cases, you will only need to receive the pneumonia vaccine once in your lifetime. If you received it when you were under 55, however, your physician may want you to repeat the shot in later years.

In addition, talk with the doctor about shingles and Tdap vaccines.

  1. Does your older family member eat well and drink water?

A healthy diet rich with lean protein, fruit, and vegetables is essential. Nutritionists often encourage people to plan menus with produce in all colors of the rainbow. That helps ensure you consume necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Drinking eight glasses of water a day is another must. If a senior you care for doesn’t like water, try adding lemon or berries. You can also encourage them to eat foods with high water content, such as melon, cucumber, leafy greens, and celery.

  1. Is the senior getting enough quality sleep?

When you don’t sleep or aren’t getting good sleep, the body can become run down. That makes people more susceptible to illness. Unfortunately, insomnia and other sleep disorders are common among older adults.

If your senior loved one isn’t a good sleeper, their physician may need to order a sleep study. It can help identify problems and ways to correct them.

  1. Does your family elder exercise?

From chair yoga to walking, there are plenty of exercises for seniors to enjoy indoors. If you are self-isolating due to COVID-19, ask your doctor which types and durations of exercise are best.

Programs like Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging and SilverSneakers On-Demand make it easier to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle from the privacy of your own home. Go4Life is free for seniors, and SilverSneakers is a membership program many insurance companies help finance.

Follow Our Blog

We hope you found this blog helpful in your pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. The Senior Community Lifestyle blog is updated at least once each week. We tackle topics ranging from giving up driving to moving a loved one who has dementia. Bookmark this site and stop back often for the latest news.

Falls Prevention Awareness Day: Keeping Seniors Safe

Falls Prevention Awareness Day: Keeping Seniors Safe

Dear Donna:

My 78-year-old mother lost her balance on a small step and suffered a nasty fall. She wasn’t seriously injured, but was badly bruised. While my mom blamed the shoes she was wearing, I think there is more to it.

One change in her well-being my family and I have noticed recently is weight loss. I’m wondering if it might be linked to her fall. Do you have any fall prevention tips I can use to lower my mom’s risk? We know she might not be as lucky should she experience another fall.


Chris in Saline, MI

Fall Prevention Awareness Day

Dear Chris,

Sounds like a frightening experience for your mother and you! I’m glad she wasn’t more seriously injured. Many seniors who’ve experienced a bad fall worry it will happen again. It can create a great deal of anxiety, so I hope she’s coping with that challenge.

Your question about preventing falls is common, especially from worried adult children. Understandably so when you know how common and dangerous falls are for seniors:

  • Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors.
  • Every year, 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 experiences a fall.
  • A senior is treated in a hospital emergency room for injuries related to a fall every 11 seconds. Every 19 minutes, one of those older adults loses their life.
  • People who fall once are more likely to do so again. Seniors often limit activity to prevent another fall. It can result in a lonely, isolated life.

These statistics are why September 22 is designated as Falls Prevention Awareness Day every year. It’s a day to inform the public about the dangers of falls, especially among our elders.

Here are a few suggestions to consider for your mom’s safety:

  • Visit the doctor: If your mother didn’t go to the emergency room after her fall, I would recommend a follow-up visit with her primary care physician. The doctor is the best person to render advice on possible causes.
  • Examine her diet: Unintended weight loss can be a sign of an underlying health concern. If her doctor determines she is healthy, it could be the result of a poor diet. That is fairly common, especially among seniors who live alone. You might need to come up with healthy meals you can cook and freeze or explore home-delivered meal programs.
  • Focus on hydration: Dehydration can also increase the risk for a fall. Check with her physician, but the general recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water each day. Foods with high water content, like berries, melon, lettuce, and tomatoes, can also help.
  • Conduct a home safety audit: Most homes weren’t built with the safety needs of older adults in mind. Uneven stair treads, bad lighting, and poorly designed bathrooms can all contribute. Conducting a home safety assessment, or hiring a professional to do one for you, can identify potential hazards to address.
  • Build core strength: If your mother has been leading a fairly sedentary life, she might need some strength training. Her doctor might refer her for a few sessions of physical therapy. That will allow her to learn some exercises she can do at home to stay strong.
  • Check medication side effects: Another potential concern can be found in her medicine cabinet. Medications may be contributing to her unsteadiness. Some have side effects that include dizziness and dehydration. Each of those can put your mother at increased risk for a fall. Talk with her pharmacist if you have any questions.

I hope this information is helpful, Chris! I wish you all the best in creating a fall prevention plan for your mother.

Kind regards,


Heritage Senior Communities Is Here to Help

If you have any questions related to independent living, assisted living, or memory care, we encourage you to call the Heritage community nearest you. One of our experienced team members will be happy to help!

What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat

What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat

Caregiving for a senior who has Alzheimer’s often involves overcoming a variety of unique challenges. One is making mealtimes go smoothly. Alzheimer’s disease can complicate some everyday activities, such as manipulating silverware or concentrating on the tasks associated with eating.

For some people with Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia, it results in poor nutrition and an unhealthy amount of weight loss. If you are struggling to get a family member with Alzheimer’s to eat healthy, it is essential to first identify your loved one’s difficulties and then develop strategies to accommodate them.


4 Reasons People with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat


If you find yourself worried or frustrated about why your senior loved one won’t eat, know it is a familiar struggle for dementia caregivers. Because a loss of verbal skills makes communication challenging, the senior may not be able to express what the problem is. Some common problems to explore include:

  1. Loss of appetite: An adult with dementia might not recognize the body’s hunger signals. They aren’t interested in eating because they don’t feel hungry. Perhaps one of their medications diminishes their appetite. A loss of smell or taste can further exacerbate the problem.
  2. Problems with teeth or dentures: If the senior hasn’t been to the dentist in a while, there might be an undiagnosed oral health issue. A sore tooth or poorly fitting dentures might make chewing painful. Pay attention to their face when they eat. Do they grimace in pain? It may be something to discuss with a dentist.
  3. Decreased dexterity: Hand-eye coordination eventually becomes a challenge for adults with dementia. It can make mealtime physically and emotionally difficult. The frustration of being unable to use silverware can lead to lower self-esteem and loss of dignity. The senior may give up trying and not eat.
  4. Challenging environment: Difficulty concentrating is a common issue for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Distractions caused by a hectic or noisy environment can make sitting still long enough to eat impossible.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to overcome each of these common problems.


Promoting Positive Mealtime Experiences for an Adult with Alzheimer’s


  1. Eliminate distractions: At mealtime, turn off the television and silence your cell phone. Try to eliminate as much background noise and distractions as possible. If your family member responds well to soft music, keep a few peaceful songs loaded and ready to play. It might also help to quietly sit with your family member while they eat. Providing a calm, distraction-free environment may improve their concentration and increase the amount of food they eat.
  2. Use helpful visuals: Sometimes vision issues make mealtime more difficult. You can make it easier for your family member to identify food on their plate by using a brightly colored placemat with a contrasting color of plate. That helps them distinguish the plate from the table and identify the food on the plate. Researchers also suggest using plain tableware and avoiding busy patterns. The Red Plate Study at Boston University found when people with Alzheimer’s are served meals on red plates, they eat 25% more than those who eat from white plates.
  3. Serve one food at a time: When a plate is full of several different food groups, the senior might find it distracting. Instead, serve one food group at a time. It might make it easier for them to focus and eat more. Serve the healthiest, nutrient-rich foods first, just in case you aren’t able to keep them at the table as long as you would like.
  4. Adapt tableware: Adaptive utensils with chunky handles and foods served in bowls might also make mealtime less of a struggle for someone with Alzheimer’s. Spoons require less coordination than forks. If that doesn’t help, finger foods are another option. Avoid foods that may be a choking hazard, such as hot dogs, celery, grapes, raw carrots, nuts, and popcorn.
  5. Model behavior: If possible, eat meals with your senior loved one. This allows you to model behavior for the senior to follow, such as eating their vegetables or drinking a glass of water. It will also allow you to discreetly help them eat, if needed.

Finally, as you are planning menus, include foods the senior likes and that look and smell inviting. That might encourage them to eat.


Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities


Dementia care programs are designed to support the unique needs of adults with memory impairment. At Heritage, we call ours The Terrace. We provide three nutritious homemade meals every day. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

How to Help a Senior Parent Make New Friends

How to Help a Senior Parent Make New Friends

Dear Donna:

My mother is in the process of selling her home in Florida and relocating to Michigan to live with me. While she is excited to make the move, I know it won’t be easy for her. She has a lot of friends in her active living community. Moving will mean starting over.

How can I help her meet people her own age once she arrives? Any ideas would be appreciated.

Thank you for your help!

Steven in Saginaw, Michigan


Making Friends During Retirement


Dear Steven:

Maintaining a close circle of friends is essential at every age. From encouraging healthy habits to lending a friendly ear on difficult days, friends play a role in our quality of life.

Like your mother, older adults often move during retirement. Rebuilding their social circle might feel intimidating. Here are a few tips you can share with your mom after she’s settled in:

  • Volunteer for a nonprofit: One avenue to help your mom meet like-minded people is to volunteer. Help her choose an organization that matches her interests and talents. Her local United Way might be a good place to start searching for a volunteer opportunity.
  • Enroll in a class: Another way your mom can meet new people while also giving her brain a workout is a class. Parks, libraries, art museums, bakeries, and community colleges often offer workshops and classes. Some might give older adults a discount.
  • Connect with a fitness group: Friends often influence your health, for better or worse. Helping your mom find a group of fitness-conscious seniors to spend time with may keep her healthier and
  • Find a hobby-related club: Connecting over common interests is a great way to grow a friendship. If your mom is a gardener, for example, explore local garden clubs together. Think about her favorite pastimes and research them before she arrives.
  • Explore spiritual organizations: It’s common for older adults to take a greater interest in spiritual activities. Your mom might appreciate it if you help her find a church or synagogue. It will allow her to nurture her spirit and meet new people.
  • Join a senior center: Most cities and counties have senior centers. These nonprofit organizations host programs and activities for members every day. Getting involved will allow her to quickly expand her social network after the move.

With a little effort, your mom will likely find a host of ways to make the transition to Michigan go smoothly. Best of luck to both of you, Steven!

Kind regards,



Make New Friends at Heritage Senior Communities


Senior living communities are a great way for older adults to stay actively engaged in life. Formal and informal opportunities for connecting and staying active abound. Call the Heritage community nearest you and ask for a copy of a resident activity calendar. You’ll find activities for every hobby and interest!

National Wellness Month: 4 Steps to Successful Aging

National Wellness Month: 4 Steps to Successful Aging

The older you get, the more likely you are to pay attention to health and wellness. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet discovered the fountain of youth, despite what beauty ads say. Researchers do, however, have sound advice on steps you can take to look and feel your best as you grow older.


In honor of National Wellness Month, celebrated every August, we share some tips for living a healthier life.


4 Steps to a Healthier You


Here are some leading research-based steps you can incorporate into your life to look and feel better at every age.


  1. Stay social and engaged.

Pursuing new passions and reconnecting with old ones when you retire offers more benefits than being just plain fun. It could also lengthen your life. Socializing reduces the likelihood of isolation, keeps older adults active and less sedentary, and promotes a positive outlook.

Researchers who study the link between seniors and socialization have observed not just improvements in longevity but also in quality of life. They have even compared the benefits of being active in social groups to those of regular physical exercise.

But don’t cancel your fitness club membership! Our next tip is to get moving and stay active.


  1. Stand up and get moving.

Too much sitting is bad for your health. It makes you look and feel older. When you are physically fit and active, you reap a variety of rewards. Exercise decreases stress hormones which, in turn, make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.

You won’t need to pay for a gym membership or torture yourself jogging either. There are endless low-impact forms of exercise you can engage in at home or in your neighborhood. Walking, chair yoga, riding a recumbent bike, and gardening are a few to discuss with your primary care physician.

Limiting how much time you spend sitting every day also helps. Instead of sitting down to talk on the phone, for example, connect your smartphone to Bluetooth and walk while you talk.


  1. Eat nutritious foods.

A healthy diet is one of the most important steps you can take to age well. The struggle for many seniors is figuring out what that means. The MyPlate app has loads of great tools and tips for healthy-minded older adults.

Also talk with your doctor about adopting the Mediterranean Diet. It’s linked to lower bad cholesterol, fewer incidences of cancer, and a healthier heart. The good news is meals are simple and easy to prepare.


  1. Find healthy ways to manage stress.

Chronic stress negatively impacts health. It can contribute to high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and more. Some people pick up bad habits to cope, such as smoking or drinking too much. That can make the issue even worse.

Instead, learn how to manage stress in positive ways. Meditation, journaling, swimming, and gardening are a few ideas to explore.


Live Well at Heritage Senior Communities


From great food to a variety of daily life enrichment activities, residents of Heritage Senior Communities enjoy the best quality of life. Visit The Heritage Difference to learn what makes our communities so special!