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.

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!

How to Cope When a Parent Starts Dating Again

How to Cope When a Parent Starts Dating Again

Dear Donna:

My father passed away unexpectedly two years ago. After over forty years of marriage, my mom has been lost without him. She recently joined a single seniors group at her church. They play cards, go out for lunch, and organize trips to museums, zoos, and other local destinations.

While we were forced to stay at home during the COVID-19 crisis, her new friends stayed in touch virtually. They used online platforms and apps like Zoom and Houseparty to stay connected. It’s been such a blessing to see her happy again.

However, I wasn’t expecting her to start dating again as a result of joining this group. While I haven’t mentioned it to her, I’m really struggling with the idea. My husband tells me I need to get over it, but I’m not sure how.

Do you have any advice?


Nina in Grand Haven, MI


What to Do When a Senior Parent Starts Dating


Dear Nina:

First, please accept my sympathy on the sudden loss of your father. It’s never easy to lose someone you love, especially without warning.

While you might feel alone in being concerned about your mother’s return to dating, you aren’t. Many adult children share this concern. I do have a few suggestions that might help you find peace:

  1. Be honest with yourself: Take some time to think honestly about what you find most upsetting. Does it feel like you mother is betraying your father? Does her age worry you? Are you fearful of her being taken advantage of? By figuring out your concerns, you may be able to come to terms with this change in both your lives.
  2. Communicate with your mom: While no one wants to hear the intimate details about a parent’s dating life, it is important that your mom can share her new adventures with you. It might also give you an opportunity to overcome some of your worries. For example, if you are concerned about her safety, talking through a few precautions might make you feel better.
  3. Discuss safety concerns: Speaking of safety precautions, the dating world has changed a lot since the last time your mom dated. From making sure she meets new friends in public places to not loaning money, it’s essential to discuss potential risks. If your mom is utilizing dating websites, “How to Keep Aging Parents Safe on Senior Dating Sites” offers good advice.

Best of luck to you and your mother, Nina!

Kind regards,



Heritage Senior Communities


A fourth-generation, family-owned senior housing company, Heritage Senior Communities proudly serves older adults and families in Michigan and Indiana. We offer independent and assisted living, as well as memory care and respite services. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more!

Do Seniors Need Colonoscopies?

Do Seniors Need Colonoscopies?

Dear Donna:

My father is 81 years old. He last had a colonoscopy at 70. It’s always been tough getting him to comply with doctor’s orders, especially when it comes to this screening.

We have an appointment with his primary care doctor in two weeks. I suspect the topic will come up. At his age, how necessary is it to have this procedure again? While he’s fairly healthy, his age alone has me worried.

Do you know if older adults still need colonoscopies? Any information would be appreciated.


Stefanie in Saginaw, MI


Age and Colonoscopy: What to Consider


Dear Stefanie:

What a great question! It’s one residents at Heritage Senior Communities likely have too.

Colonoscopies are a preventive screening typically recommended for adults over the age of 50. Research shows colonoscopies save lives. Colon cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in this country. While most people know they should get one, not everyone follows through.

The unpleasantness of the prep combined with the perceived loss of dignity of the procedure are the leading reasons people put it off. For older adults, there are other concerns. The side effects of sedation and the risk of a bowel perforation are two.

Adults over the age of 65 are at 30% higher risk for perforation. For seniors, this can be life-threatening. If you are a senior or the adult child of one, here’s what to consider before scheduling a colonoscopy.


Colonoscopies and the Older Adult


  1. Age: In 2008, the United States Preventive Services Task Force published updated guidelines on colorectal cancer screening to include recommendations based on age. They recommend colorectal cancer screening using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy from age 50 through 75. After age 76, they recommend against a colonoscopy unless there are special circumstances.
  2. Last screening: Physicians also consider the date of last colonoscopy, especially for those between the age of 65 and 75. Because colon cancer typically grows slowly, seniors who have had clear colonoscopies might not be required to have another. The decision should be made on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Alternative screenings: Another suggestion is to talk with your father’s physician about alternatives to colonoscopy. There are several, such as a sigmoidoscopy or a fecal occult blood test. Cologuard, a newer, non-invasive colon cancer test, is covered by Medicare. Research shows it to be effective at detecting colon cancer, even in early stages.


While colonoscopy is likely to be considered the gold standard in colon cancer screenings for the foreseeable future, it’s essential to weigh the benefits against the risks with your father’s physician.

Hope this helps, Stefanie!

Kind regards,


Tick Prevention: How to Stay Safe Outdoors This Summer

Tick Prevention: How to Stay Safe Outdoors This Summer

As the threat of coronavirus lingers, many older adults continue to adhere to strict social distancing standards. Spending time outdoors is one way to safely enjoy summer. Strolls in local parks and gardening combine exercise with stress relief and improved mental health. But time spent outdoors in the Great Lakes region requires staying on guard for ticks, an arachnid linked to Lyme disease.

While some researchers attribute increasing incidences of the disease to growing numbers of ticks, others say it is due to improvements in diagnosing it. Diagnosis can be challenging because the symptoms of Lyme disease closely mimic many other health conditions.


Where Are Ticks Most Commonly Found?


While ticks are especially fond of wooded areas and tall grass, you can find them on almost any plants, grasses, trees, and shrubs in your yard. Even your flower garden can be a haven for these potentially dangerous insects. They patiently wait for the scent of carbon dioxide exhaled by passing animals (or humans!) and jump on to catch a ride.

As the deer population has increased in many areas of the Great Lakes, so has the number of ticks. They are known to “hitchhike” on deer because it is easier and faster for them to get around. Ticks can also be found in the feathers and fur of wild animals that call your yard home.

This is why it’s important to learn a few best practices for tick prevention.


5 Ways to Avoid Being Bitten by a Tick


  1. Check for ticks: Be vigilant about checking for ticks after spending time outdoors. Examine your clothing, body, and hair after coming indoors.
  2. Cover arms and legs: Wear long sleeves and long pants when you are outside. A lightweight, natural material like linen or cotton can help protect you from ticks while keeping you cool.
  3. Avoid wooded areas: During peak tick season, avoid walking near shrubs and tall grass. Paths where you may brush up against shrubs and tall grass can put you at higher risk for a tick bite.
  4. Wear insect repellent: Another way to ward off ticks is to apply and reapply insect repellent. Look for those containing DEET and permethrin. They are best at tick prevention.
  5. Shower after yard time: It will also help if you remove your clothes and throw them in the washer immediately when coming indoors. Then shower and wash your hair.

Finally, learn what symptoms might indicate a tick bite. Doing so will allow you to quickly seek medical intervention.


Common Symptoms of a Tick Bite


While it’s essential to know the symptoms, it’s also important to remember not all tick bites lead to Lyme disease. Most don’t end up being serious.

Signs of a tick bite include:

  • A red spot or rash on the skin, referred to as a bullseye
  • Itching or burning of the skin
  • Localized pain (not as common)

If you are in doubt, call your primary care physician for advice or to schedule an appointment—or virtual telehealth visit—to put your concerns to rest.

Another seasonal irritant many seniors struggle with is allergies. What Caregivers Should Know about Seniors and Allergy Medications is packed with good information to keep an older loved one safe this summer. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

7 Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Older Adults

7 Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Older Adults

Before summer officially kicks off in the Great Lake State, it’s important to talk about skin safety. Skin cancers are among the top ten leading types of cancer in this country. Non-melanoma skin cancer tops the list with an estimated one million cases a year, and melanoma comes in seventh with an estimated 68,720 people diagnosed each year.

While some skin damage happens during adolescence, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Every new sunburn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Protecting yourself is essential.

Here’s what seniors should know about skin cancer prevention.


7 Ways to Protect Aging Skin


  1. Use sunscreen: Today’s seniors rarely used sunscreen when they were younger. As a result, many aren’t aware of how important it is. The reality is sunscreen is one of the best steps in skin cancer prevention. Apply sunscreen generously anytime you will be outdoors or riding in a car. Cover your entire body, including the backs of your ears, tops of your feet, and the back of your neck.
  2. Reapply: Don’t assume since you applied sunscreen before heading out that you won’t need to do it again. Check the label for specific directions. In general, the recommendation is to reapply at least every four hours. If you are swimming or sweating, you likely need to apply it more frequently.
  3. Practice car safety: Being in a car might make you feel protected from the sun. Unfortunately, UV rays can get you there too. Remember to apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses.
  4. Wear sunglasses: Like your skin, eyes are susceptible to UV damage. While it can be tempting to choose sunglasses for appearance, find some that meet UVA/UVB standards. In addition to offering protection from sun damage, routinely wearing quality sunglasses helps lower your risk of developing cataracts.
  5. Avoid peak sun: The sun’s rays are usually strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can lower your risk for skin cancer by arranging your schedule around those times. Run errands and do lawn care in the early morning. Take your daily walk in the evening. Small steps like these can help you stay safe.
  6. Inspect your skin: Make monthly head-to-toe skin checks a habit. Look for new growths and changes to old ones. Any growths that change shape, increase in size, or have irregular borders should be shown to your doctor.
  7. See a dermatologist: The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends scheduling an annual dermatologist appointment. They can do a thorough exam and identify small skin problems before they turn into major ones.


If you are looking for more outdoor summer safety tips, focus on hydration. 10 Hydrating Foods to Beat the Summer Heat will give you some ideas for pumping up your fluids beyond drinking water. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.