Lifelong Learning and Healthy Aging

Lifelong Learning and Healthy Aging

Most people associate fitness with physical activity. We visualize people walking, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, or performing aerobics. While that’s a vital part of healthy aging, another type of fitness is important, too. That is giving your brain a daily workout.

One way to do that is by becoming a lifelong learner. Here’s what we know about continuing to challenge your brain with new information and hobbies as you grow older.

Brain Health and Continuous Learning

After you retire, it’s easy for bad habits to sneak up on you, like spending too many hours sitting in front of the television. Not only is a sedentary lifestyle bad for your physical health, it’s bad for your cognitive health, too.

Just like with muscle mass, the phrase “use it or lose it” applies to cognitive health. When you settle into a routine and your brain isn’t stimulated by new things, cognitive well-being can decline. But when you make a point of learning something new every day, your brain responds by staying alert and active.

A few ideas to make brain health a part of your daily fitness routine could include:

  1. Learning a new language: Learning another language is a great way to test and expand your mind. While it might be fun to take a class at a local community college or learning annex, online platforms may be more convenient and cost-effective. Duolingo and Babbel earn high praise from users. By spending two hours a week on either one, you’ll be able master a basic understanding of a new language in four to five months.
  2. Taking a class: Many universities and colleges offer seniors the option to audit classes or take a course at a deeply discounted rate. You could learn more about marine biology, art history, or literature with students of all ages. Another choice might be to take advantage of programs top tier colleges offer online. For example, you could choose Marketing Analytics through the University of Virginia or Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies at Harvard University. No matter what your educational background, you can sign up for a class of your choice. Most are free.
  3. Creating music: The benefits of music are well documented. It has the power to soothe, uplift, or calm the spirit. That’s why it’s used as therapy in settings like hospitals and hospice care centers. Learning how to play a musical instrument stimulates the brain. Explore sites like Music Go Round and Reverb to find and purchase used musical instruments from guitars to drum sets. If classes aren’t offered by any music stores near you, try Simply Piano or Simply Guitar by JoyTunes. It’s a great option whether you need a refresher or are new to learning an instrument.
  4. Dabbling in art: The process of creating, even if you don’t think you have any artistic skills, challenges the mind and boosts the spirit. If you don’t have a nearby art museum or school that offers classes, you can find one online. Sites like Creative Live and Skillshare host virtual art classes on topics ranging from photography to drawing. And don’t forget about YouTube. You can find a variety of free educational videos to watch and learn from there.
  5. Reading a book: Another activity that stimulates the brain is reading. Whether it’s the latest thriller or a new science fiction release, a good book can be brain food. If you don’t have the space to add more books to your collection or are trying to stick to a budget, ask your local library about e-lending programs and apps like Libby that allow you to read online.

Opportunities for Learning Abound at Heritage Senior Communities

We understand that staying mentally and physically active is an essential part of healthy aging. Therefore, our residents have a variety of programs and events to participate in every day. From stretching and walking groups to religious services and art workshops, Heritage communities are a thriving place to call home. Call the location nearest you to ask for a copy of our monthly activities calendar, and join us for a program of your choice!

Does Your Diet Need a Heart-Smart Makeover?

Does Your Diet Need a Heart-Smart Makeover?

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide. The statistics are startling. Research shows that 1 in 4 deaths are linked to heart disease. Heart health experts say it doesn’t have to be this way. Many of the risk factors that lead to cardiac-related illnesses can be controlled through lifestyle choices, especially what we do and don’t eat.

In honor of National Heart Month, we are sharing a few tips to give your diet a heart-smart makeover.

Ways to Improve Heart Health through Diet

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast.

You’ve probably heard your doctor or another medical professional say it’s important not to skip breakfast. That’s because breakfast sets the tone for the food choices you’ll make all day—good or bad. A high protein breakfast, such as a bowl of oatmeal or a smoothie, will help you feel full longer. You’ll be less likely to feel sluggish and crave sugary treats mid-morning.

  • Watch your sodium intake.

This can be tricky. Some sodium is necessary for maintaining proper fluid levels in the body, as well as for nerve and muscle function. Too much, however, can set you up for cardiac issues. It contributes to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Unfortunately, many western diets contain too much sodium. “Get the Scoop on Sodium and Salt” is a good article to review.

  • Limit sugary treats and beverages.

Sugary treats like baked goods, soda, and candy are another part of many people’s diets. While an occasional indulgence is probably fine, moderation is important. Elevated blood sugar is linked to heart disease, especially among women. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons per day of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.

  • Incorporate foods with soluble fiber into your menus.

Soluble fiber plays a role in overall health, including managing cholesterol and blood sugar. Both of these are important to maintaining a healthy heart. The American Heart Association Eating Plan recommends a total intake of 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day with 6 to 8 grams of it being soluble fiber.

  • Avoid or limit processed foods.

Many times, seniors who live alone rely on fast foods or convenience foods to avoid cooking for one. While they might be easier, most are high in sodium, trans fat, and calories. All of these contribute to weight gain, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, which are known risk factors for heart disease.

  • Limit alcoholic beverages.

One surprising lifestyle choice people don’t often associate with heart problems is consuming too much alcohol. While some studies say red wine might be good for your heart, not everyone agrees. Ask your doctor for advice based on your personal medical history.

  • Explore Mediterranean-style diets.

People who live in areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea seem to have lower incidences of a variety of illnesses ranging from diabetes and heart disease to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Learning more about the Mediterranean diet might help you adopt a healthier way of eating.

  • Build a strong relationship with a primary care doctor.

One final suggestion is to find a primary care doctor you trust and feel comfortable with and see them regularly. You’ll be more likely to stay on track with preventive tests and screenings when you have an established relationship with a doctor.

Nutritious Meals Served Every Day at Heritage

Residents at Heritage communities enjoy delicious, nutritious meals every day. If you or a loved one is considering moving to a senior living community in Michigan or Indiana, we invite you to call us and schedule a visit. One of our experienced team members will be happy to take you on a tour and arrange for you to stay for lunch! Call us today to set up a time.

Living a Purpose-Filled Life during Retirement

Living a Purpose-Filled Life during Retirement

A happy, thriving retirement is something people dream about for many years. We envision days filled with activities of our own choosing, such as sleeping in, traveling, and reconnecting with favorite hobbies from the past. But what happens a few months after you retire?

According to research, a lack of purpose can increase an older person’s risk for health conditions like heart disease and depression by as much as 40 percent. That’s a pretty compelling case for creating meaningful days after retiring.

Ways to Live a Purpose-Driven Retirement

What steps can you take to bring purpose to your life when you’ve left the working world behind and your children are grown and gone? Here are some ideas you might want to explore:

  • Volunteer: Lending your time and talent to a cause you believe in can make you feel more productive. Just knowing someone is counting on you can lead to more meaningful days. You can choose a full-time position or volunteer for just a few hours a week. Are children your passion? Or maybe you enjoy nature. Reach out to organizations that serve those groups to see if they need volunteers. Another way to connect with a nonprofit agency is to call your local United Way for advice or utilize a website, like VolunteerMatch.
  • Pursue hobbies: The days can be hectic when you are juggling raising a family with the demands of the working world. It can lead people to make their own hobbies and special interests a low priority. Once you’ve retired, reflect on what you loved as a child or young adult. Maybe you liked singing in your church choir or taking photos. Did you have dreams that time didn’t allow you to pursue, such as learning to speak a foreign language or play a musical instrument? Now is the time to prioritize these interests. Life enrichment programming is one of the most common reasons older adults choose to move to senior living communities like Heritage.
  • Stay active: Aging well requires prioritizing self-care. Committing to a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated are both important. So is exercising regularly and incorporating light weight training, stretching, and cardiovascular activity into your fitness routine. Also, getting 8 hours of quality sleep each night is essential. Talk with your primary care physician for more advice if you have questions.

Build a Relationship with a Primary Care Doctor You Trust

Finally, schedule a yearly appointment with your primary care physician. It’s the best way to keep a preventable medical crisis from disrupting your retirement dreams. If you feel as if your doctor isn’t willing to answer your questions or spend quality time with you, it may be a sign that they aren’t comfortable working with seniors. “4 Tips for Helping a Senior Find a Primary Care Doctor” is a good article to help you or an aging loved one with the search.

Protecting Senior Skin during Harsh Winter Weather

Protecting Senior Skin during Harsh Winter Weather

Winter weather can do more than make your teeth chatter. Windy days and freezing temperatures can also be tough on the skin, especially for seniors. Older adults are prone to age-related skin conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis. Both can leave skin feeling itchy and irritated year-round.

With frigid outdoor elements and drier air in the house caused by the furnace, it’s easy to see why winter can further exacerbate skin problems. While most people have their own skin care regimen, there are other steps older adults can take to protect their skin during the frostiest months of the year. Here are some to explore this winter.

Winter Skin Care Tips for Seniors

  • Add humidity to the house: Unless the furnace in your house has a built-in humidifier, you’ll probably need to add moisture back into the air. One way is by setting the thermostat lower, especially overnight. It may also help to place humidifiers in the rooms you spend the most time in. A word of caution: make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for care, which usually include using distilled water and cleaning the unit frequently.
  • Stay hydrated: Many people know to drink extra water when it’s hot and humid outside, but hydration is important in the winter, too. In addition to drying out skin, dehydration contributes to sagging skin, which makes you appear older. The general recommendation is to consume 8 to 10 glasses of water every day, but check with your physician to be sure.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen: We generally think about layering on sunscreen on sunny summer days. It’s an essential step for guarding against skin cancers, like melanoma. Winter can be equally risky. The sun reflecting off of the snow can leave you with a painful “snow burn.” Make a habit of applying sunscreen every morning, but especially when you will be spending time outside or riding in a car.
  • Change your moisturizer: Heavy moisturizers might leave your skin feeling greasy when it’s warm outside, but they are perfect for winter. Rich moisturizers for the face and body can protect your skin. This list of recommendations might help you find one you like.
  • Take shorter showers: While a long, hot shower might sound inviting when you are cold, it can dry out your skin. Keeping the water lukewarm instead of hot and making showers brief is kinder on older skin. Apply a good quality moisturizer afterward, too.
  • Bundle up outdoors: When the mercury falls below freezing, frostbite can occur fairly quickly. It is especially dangerous when it’s both cold and windy outside. Prevent skin damage by bundling up before you head outside. A hat, mittens or gloves, and a scarf to shield your face will help. Try to keep any area of your skin from being exposed.

Despite your best efforts, you might still experience dry and cracked skin this winter. It might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. The doctor can determine if there is an underlying health issue or allergy that might be causing your skin challenges.

More Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

If you are the family caregiver for a senior loved one, there are other winter hazards to be aware of. “Creating a Winter Safety Plan for a Senior Loved One” has good information that you might find useful.

Holiday Fire Safety Tips for Older Adults

Holiday Fire Safety Tips for Older Adults

The holidays are an eagerly anticipated time of the year in most families. People often decorate their homes with twinkling lights, freshly cut evergreen trees, and brightly colored ornaments. It provides a warm welcome to friends and loved ones throughout the season.

What isn’t welcome, but sometimes happens during the holidays, is home fires. This is the most common time of year for house fires. For seniors, it can be especially troubling. Although people over the age of 65 make up less than 15 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost 40 percent of all fire deaths.

From overloaded breakers to burning candles left unattended, it’s a good idea to learn more about unique seasonal fire hazards.

Tips for Preventing Holiday Home Fires


  • Be cautious combining lights and fresh greenery.

In under 30 seconds, a Christmas tree fire can engulf the whole room. Taking steps to ensure your tree and other holiday greenery isn’t presenting a hazard is important.

  • Place fresh greenery at a safe distance from open flames, including candles, fireplaces, and stovetops.
  • If you display a real tree or greens, make sure they are fresh when you purchase them. Even greenery that looks fresh might not be. One way to assess freshness is by shaking greenery to see how many needles fall off.
  • Water your tree and greenery daily. The lack of humidity indoors during winter months can cause them to dry out quickly. It also helps to mist garlands and greens with a spray bottle to keep them fresh longer.


  • Purchase quality holiday lights and follow the instructions.

Lights are a holiday decorating tradition in many families. When not used properly, however, they can be a fire hazard. Here are a few precautions to keep in mind as you deck the halls:

  • Use lights that have a UL tag, which indicates they were safety tested by Underwriters Laboratories.
  • Check for any fraying on the cords and plugs.
  • Use extension cords sparingly to avoid overloading the circuit.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions to determine how many strands of lights can be safely strung together.
  • Make sure to use indoor lights inside the home and only outdoor lights outside.
  • Don’t leave the house or go to bed with the lights on. Use timers with your lights to ensure they turn off.


  • Use real candles sparingly and with caution.

Candles are a staple for many people during Hannukah and Christmas. But safety experts say candle use causes home fires to spike during the holidays. Here are a few ways to use candles safely:

  • Don’t leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Be careful where you place a burning candle. Avoid setting them near curtains, towels, and flammable household cleaners.
  • Be cautious of candle use if you have a pet. Cats and dogs might knock over a burning candle, resulting in a fire.

One last tip is to make sure you and your senior loved one’s homes have working smoke detectors in key areas. Make a plan for testing them regularly.

Bookmark the Heritage Blog

If you are interested in staying updated on the latest news in healthy aging, caregiving, and senior living, bookmark the Heritage blog and stop back often. We share new information each week!

Heart Smart Holiday Appetizers

Heart Smart Holiday Appetizers

Sticking with a heart smart diet can feel more daunting than ever during the holidays. Between decadent dinners, rich desserts, and festive cocktails, the temptations are often numerous. For an older adult trying to limit their sodium intake or manage cholesterol, the season can be challenging.

If you are wondering how to make healthy choices or need ideas for heart smart appetizers, we have some options for you.

Foods That Are Good for Your Heart

Let’s start with foods that promote a healthier heart. Some of the most popular ones to look for at holiday parties include:

  • Leafy greens
  • Avocado
  • Whole grains
  • Berries
  • Fatty fish
  • Walnuts and almonds
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Dark chocolate

By contrast, there are foods to limit or avoid completely if you are trying to protect your heart, including:

  • Red meat
  • White breads and rolls
  • Processed deli meats
  • Grocery store rotisserie chicken
  • Blended coffee drinks
  • Condiments like ketchup and barbeque sauce
  • Soda (including diet soda)

Heart-Friendly Holiday Appetizers

  • Roasted red pepper and walnut dip: This tasty appetizer can be served with vegetables, multigrain crackers, or pita chips. Besides its great taste, it’s a visually appealing addition to your holiday buffet or cocktail party.
  • Mini crab cakes with smarter tartar: Frozen crab cakes or those served in restaurants are often fried and loaded with saturated fats, which are bad for your heart. This recipe allows you to make a healthy version, including a yogurt-based tartar sauce.
  • Chilled avocado gazpacho: Another nutritious option for your holiday appetizer menu is gazpacho. You can serve it up in small glass cups or bowls with a cherry tomato and slice of cucumber on top. The pretty color of the soup makes it another festive seasonal choice.
  • Cup of berries: One easy idea is to purchase a variety of fresh berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Serve them in small, individual samples glasses. You can even add a dollop of almond milk whipped topping and a sprig of mint.
  • Roasted figs and honey: This healthy appetizer combines the delicious flavors of figs, honey, goat cheese, and hazelnuts or almonds. You can serve it with small slices of multigrain bread or on its own. Equally appealing is that this dish can be prepared and baked in just 10 minutes.

One final tip is to watch your alcohol consumption. If you do want to indulge a bit, skip the beer and sweet, fruity drinks. Instead, opt for red wine or champagne. Clear liquors like gin and rum are other good choices. Just be mindful not to mix them with soda and other sugary beverages.

Visit a Heritage Community This Holiday Season

If you or a loved one have been contemplating making a move to a senior living community, we invite you to schedule a personal tour of a Heritage community in Michigan or Indiana. The festive holiday season is a great time to plan a visit. Read “Why the Holidays Are a Good Time to Tour Assisted Living Communities?” to learn more!