4 Ways Gardening Can Help Prevent Depression in Older Adults

4 Ways Gardening Can Help Prevent Depression in Older Adults

Gardening is a common pastime for all ages. For some, gardening is more than a hobby. Tending and cultivating a garden has several physical and mental health benefits. Current research suggests it may even help alleviate symptoms of depression in older adults.

4 Ways Gardening Can Prevent Depression

  1. Gives seniors a sense of purpose.

After retirement, many seniors struggle to find a sense of purpose. With their kids fully grown, they might not feel needed. Feeling useless can lead to sadness and depressive thoughts.

Horticulture can help seniors regain their sense of purpose by giving them something to nurture. Maintaining a garden takes consistent work, and plants need to be tended daily to survive. Not only can gardening give seniors responsibility, but it can also be a reason to get up in the morning.

  1. Keeps the mind active.

It can be challenging to maintain an active mind after retirement. Studies show that the saying “use it or lose it” applies to the brain. Regularly performing mentally stimulating activities sustains cognitive health longer and increases the ability to fight mental health issues like depression.

Starting a garden can keep the mind active because it requires constant learning. For plants to thrive, gardeners need to know their optimal growing conditions and how to care for them. Horticulture can also activate the mind by stimulating the senses. Gardens are full of colors, smells, and textures.

  1. Promotes exercise.

Exercise is known to reduce anxiety and depression, but it can be particularly beneficial for older adults. Studies suggest exercise can help seniors maintain their physical functioning and delay (if not prevent) the onset of some chronic conditions—most of which can contribute to depression.

Gardening can be an effective form of exercise for older adults. It requires physical movements for weeding, harvesting, pruning, watering, and rearranging.

  1. Helps seniors feel connected.

Social connections are essential for mental health. Unfortunately, many seniors struggle to make friends after retirement. Without coworkers and frequent social outings, seniors can become lonely and isolated. This disconnect can worsen depression.

Not only can gardening help seniors feel connected to other living things, but it can also help seniors make friends. The horticulture community is vast. Gardening stores, trade shows, and online forums are great ways for seniors to connect with fellow horticulturists.

Staying Safe While Gardening

Like any age group, seniors should take proper precautions when starting an activity. Here are a few ways senior gardeners can stay healthy:

  • Accommodate mobility limitations. It’s common for people to experience mobility challenges as they age. Seniors can make modifications to accommodate their restrictions. Using raised flower beds, for example, can reduce how far they need to bend down. There are also tools specially designed to minimize discomfort in those with disabilities.
  • Warm up. Gardening is a form of exercise; therefore, seniors should warm up. Taking the time to stretch before starting can significantly reduce the risk of injury.
  • Take proper sun precautions. When gardening outside, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun. This always involves wearing sunscreen, but may also include protective clothing, sunglasses, or a hat. Also drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Gardening Is a Healthy Hobby

If you are looking for a hobby to improve your overall health, you may want to consider gardening. Tending to plants and watching your hard work come to fruition can bring a tremendous sense of accomplishment and improve your self-esteem.

Heritage Senior Communities Promotes Healthy Activities

Heritage Senior Communities encourages residents to participate in activities that improve their sense of well-being. The best way to learn how we help our residents thrive is to visit. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

5 UV Safety Tips to Protect Seniors During the Summer

5 UV Safety Tips to Protect Seniors During the Summer

It’s normal to want to spend more time outside during summer. The weather is warmer, and the days are longer. While the warm sun may feel great on your skin, it often causes more harm than good. The sun emits harmful UV rays that damage the skin. Continual sun damage can result in more troublesome skin conditions, including skin cancer.

Seniors and Skin Cancer

Older adults are at higher risk of developing skin cancer for various reasons:

  • Damage from UV rays builds up over time. Seniors have lived longer, so they have been exposed to more UV rays.
  • The baby boomer generation didn’t grow up wearing sunscreen. During their youth, it wasn’t uncommon to apply baby oil before laying in the sun.
  • With age, the body’s ability to find and destroy cancer cells decreases.

Regardless of how you cared for your skin in the past, you can still benefit from protecting your skin today. By using these UV safety tips, you reduce further damage to your skin.

5 UV Safety Tips for Seniors

  1. Wear sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen is an excellent way for seniors to protect their skin from the sun. Sunscreen works by blocking and absorbing UV rays. This helps to combat both UVA and UVB rays, which contribute to skin cancer, sunburns, and other types of sun damage. Because the sun can damage the skin in just 15 minutes, apply sunscreen even if you are only going to be outside for a few minutes. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using sunscreen:

  • Wear sunscreen every day
  • Choose SPF 30 sunscreen or higher
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours
  1. Protect your eyes

In addition to guarding your skin, it’s equally important to protect your eyes from UV radiation. Extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to various types of eye damage including cataracts and macular degeneration. Wearing sunglasses can protect your eyes. Consider the following when purchasing sunglasses:

  • Choose a pair that blocks 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays
  • Select close-fitting wrap-around frames so your eyes are guarded from every angle
  • Try them on to make sure they don’t slide down your nose
  1. Wear protective clothing

Wearing protective clothing can be an effective way for seniors to preserve their skin during the summer. By covering the entire body with clothing, the sun’s rays have to travel through an additional layer before reaching the skin. A few types of clothing that help protect the skin include:

  • Clothing specially designed for sun protection
  • Long sleeves and pants to cover more skin
  • Darker or brighter colors because they absorb more UV rays than lighter colors
  1. Stay in the shade

It’s helpful for seniors to avoid the sun as much as possible, especially between 10 am and 2 pm. During these times, the UV index is higher, meaning there is a greater chance for sunburn. If you need to be outside, do your best to stay in the shade. While the shade won’t guard against all of the sun’s harmful rays, some protection is better than none. Here are a few things to keep in mind when using shade as sun protection:

  • Choose large umbrellas as opposed to smaller ones
  • Sit under trees with large spreads or trees near other trees or buildings
  • Avoid using shade as your only form of protection
  1. Have your skin examined

Regardless of how careful you are about protecting your skin from the sun, you will still benefit from examining your skin throughout the year. The earlier you find skin cancer, the easier it is to treat. If you notice any new moles or skin discoloration, bring it up to your doctor. It’s also a good idea to have your skin examined by a health care provider annually.

Protect Your Skin Year-Round

It’s essential to protect your skin throughout the year, not just during the summer months. Even when it’s cloudy or cold, the sun still emits UV rays. These rays easily peek through clouds and are often masked by cold weather. Seniors can minimize their risk by employing sun safety tips year-round.

Heritage Encourages a Healthy Lifestyle

UV safety is only one part of healthy aging. At Heritage Senior Communities, we encourage seniors to live balanced and productive lives. Contact us today to learn more about our living options.

How to Choose a Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center for an Aging Parent

How to Choose a Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center for an Aging Parent

Dear Donna,

My dad recently had hip replacement surgery. His doctor recommended that he stay at a short-term rehab center before returning home.

How do we choose a skilled nursing and rehab center? We aren’t sure where and how to get our search started.

Jan from Holland, MI

Choosing a Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center

Dear Jan,

It’s not uncommon for seniors to require additional assistance after they are discharged from the hospital. Skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers can be very effective at helping seniors regain their strength and reduce their chances of returning to the hospital.

Choosing a skilled nursing and rehab center is an important decision. You want to pick a center that works diligently to rehab your loved one so they can return home as soon as possible. Knowing what to look for is the first step to ensuring that your loved one finds a center that meets their needs.

4 Things to Consider When Comparing Skilled Nursing and Rehab Centers

  1. View the state survey results.

One step caregivers can take to find a skilled nursing center is to view the state survey results. Caregivers can do this easily by visiting Nursing Home Compare. Nursing Home Compare is a government-run website that allows you to find and compare nursing homes certified by Medicare and Medicaid. It gives you a quick snapshot of the center’s overall rating. You can also see how they rated in specific areas including performance on health and safety inspections, staffing, and quality of resident care.

  1. Ask the rehab center for its success in outcomes.

You are looking for a short-term stay that focuses on rehab. The goal is for your loved one to be healthy enough to return home. Asking the center about its success in outcomes—specifically those with the same health condition or injury as your loved one—is a great way to gauge whether their center will be a good fit.

  1. Visit the therapy room and talk to therapists.

When comparing communities, it’s also a good idea to visit their therapy room. Talk to the physical therapists and find out what types of therapy they offer. Ask about the frequency and duration of their therapy sessions. Be sure to ask them to estimate how long it may take for your loved one to recover in their care.

  1. Consider the location.

Also consider location when comparing assisted living communities. Choose a community that is close to friends and family. Being nearby will make it easier for loved ones to visit and ensure your senior parent feels supported and connected.

Making Sure Your Loved One Is Taken Care Of

Finding a skilled nursing and rehab center requires a lot of research. Taking time to learn about your options and visit centers is a great step towards making sure your loved one receives the care they deserve.

I hope this helps you find a skilled nursing and rehab center for your father parent.



Heritage Senior Communities

Many seniors struggle to regain the same level of health they had before their hospital visit. Assisted living can be an excellent option for those who want to reduce their risk of returning to the hospital.

Heritage Senior Communities, including our communities in Appledorn, is dedicated to helping seniors and their families find a living arrangement that meets their needs. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

3 Ways Vitamin C Can Help Seniors Sleep Better

3 Ways Vitamin C Can Help Seniors Sleep Better

It is a common misconception that you need less sleep as you age. Seniors need just as much sleep as younger adults. Unfortunately, many adults suffer from sleep disorders that prevent a good night’s rest. This can increase their risk of various health problems, including Alzheimer’s. Vitamin C may help seniors attain the sleep they need to thrive.

Understanding the Relationship Between Vitamin C and Sleep

Many people are familiar with how vitamin C benefits your immunity. What many don’t know is that vitamin C may be just as important for sleep health. Studies have shown that people with higher levels of vitamin C had better sleep health than those with lower levels. Those who met their requirements were also more resilient to the effects that occur from occasional sleepless nights.

Here are 3 ways vitamin C can help seniors sleep better:

  1. Increases sleep duration

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects about half of adults over 60 years old. The reasons why older adults have trouble sleeping can vary from physiological to lifestyle factors. Research has shown that those with lower levels of vitamin C in their blood experience more sleep disturbances throughout the night. This includes waking up frequently during the night and waking up early and not being able to return to sleep.

  1. Relieves movement disorders

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a common movement disorder that affects over 20 percent of adults over 80 years old. RLS causes seniors to experience discomfort in their legs often described as “pins and needles.” This feeling gives them an uncontrollable desire to move their legs, which can make it extremely difficult to fall asleep.

Vitamin C has been shown to minimize the symptoms of RLS. Because iron deficiency is associated with a higher risk of RLS, vitamin C can also help the body absorb and store iron.

  1. Improves obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is another common disorder among older adults. Sleep apnea makes it more difficult to breath by blocking the airway while you are sleeping. This disorder can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease and can even affect cognitive health. Vitamin C has been shown to alleviate sleep apnea by improving blood vessel functioning.

Consuming More Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient. This means your body doesn’t produce it on its own, so you need to incorporate it into your diet. Here are a few foods that are high in vitamin C:

  • Citruses like lemons and oranges
  • Berries, including strawberries and blueberries
  • Vegetables, such as broccoli, peppers, and leafy greens

Supporting a Healthy Lifestyle at Heritage

The benefits of vitamin C extend far beyond sleep health. Seniors also need vitamin C to keep their bones, skin, and blood vessels healthy. If you or a senior loved one is struggling to meet your vitamin C requirements, it may be time to explore senior living options.

Most communities, including Heritage Senior Communities, have healthy, nutrient-dense meals prepared daily. Contact us today to schedule a tour and join us for lunch and dinner!

Fire Prevention Tips Older Adults Should Know

Fire Prevention Tips Older Adults Should Know

When it comes to older adults and fire deaths, the statistics are alarming. They’re probably all the incentive most of us need to take steps to protect the older loved ones in our lives.

Here’s a brief rundown of the statistics that highlight fire hazards for seniors.

Fire Dangers and Older Adults

This is what we know about older adults and fires:

  • Although adults over the age of 65 represent less than 15 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for nearly 40 percent of all fire deaths in 2014.
  • This same group of older adults was over 2.5 times more likely to perish in a fire than the rest of the American population.
  • Worse still, persons over 85 were four times more likely to die in a fire than the general population.

These deaths are often quite preventable by taking a few precautions. Since October is Fire Prevention Month, we thought it was a good time to review fire safety for seniors.

Let’s first talk about fire prevention tips that older adults and their caregivers need to know. And address how you can help save lives in the event a fire occurs.

Fire Safety Tips Older Adults Should Know

Fire safety starts with education. Here’s what you should know:

  • Space heaters should be placed at least three feet from curtains, furniture, or any type of flammable material. Make sure heaters are turned off whenever you leave the house.
  • Be sure working smoke detectors are installed on every level of your older loved one’s home. At a minimum, there should be functioning smoke detectors in the kitchen, hallways, bedrooms, and other often used living areas. Just as important, smoke detectors should be tested at least twice a month.
  • Have an escape plan in case a fire occurs. For older adults, a fire escape plan must be designed around their abilities and limitations, including mobility aids like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. These devices should all be stored within easy reach at all times, especially during sleeping hours. Whenever possible, create an alternate escape plan just in case the main one is inaccessible.

Preventing Smoking-Related Fires

Smoking-related fires are the most common cause of fire deaths among both the general population and older adults. In fact, smokers are nearly seven times more likely to become victims of home fires than nonsmokers.

Five smoking safety rules seniors should never ignore include:

  • No smoking in bed or while lying down, ever
  • Use only large, heavy ashtrays and never leave them sitting on the arm of a chair or any other piece of furniture
  • Make sure that all cigarette butts are extinguished before disposing of them by wetting them thoroughly with water
  • Check between and under furniture cushions for smoldering butts before going to bed or leaving the house
  • Never smoke anywhere near an oxygen tank, not even in the same room

Preventing Electrical Fires

Electrical problems are another common cause of fires. These tips can help you identify potential hazards, such as:

  • Prevent appliances from overheating by making certain computers, stereo equipment and TVs have plenty of room for air to circulate
  • Never use or plug in an appliance that has a damaged cord
  • Keep all electrical cords where they can’t be walked on or damaged in any other way

Heritage Senior Communities Keeps You Informed

Part of our mission is to do all that we can to protect older adults from fires and other preventable tragedies. Hopefully, this information will help you and your family stay safe.

Please feel free to contact us any time for more information about senior living and to visit our blog frequently to stay updated on issues related to aging and caregiving.


Photo provided by www.freedigitalphotos.net

What Is the Difference between Assisted Living and Independent Living?

What Is the Difference between Assisted Living and Independent Living?

Dear Donna,

I am trying to help my parents find a senior living community. I am not sure if I should be looking for an independent living community or an assisted living community.

Can you please explain the difference between independent living and assisted living?


Vanessa from Holland, MI


Understanding the Difference Between Independent Living and Assisted Living


Dear Vanessa,

It’s common to have trouble understanding the difference between independent living and assisted living. Having so many senior living options available can be overwhelming for families. However, it’s crucial to fully understand your options if you want to ensure you help your senior parents make the right decision.

In the simplest terms, independent living is for healthy seniors who want to maintain an active lifestyle. Assisted living is for seniors who need support to maintain their independence.

Amount of Assistance Needed

The primary difference between assisted living communities and independent living communities is the amount of care provided to their residents.

Assisted living communities usually have around-the-clock assistance available. Professional caregivers are available 24/7 to support seniors with everyday activities like preparing meals and managing medications. If your senior parents can’t spend more than a few days alone without jeopardizing their health or safety, then assisted living is likely for them.

Independent living communities, on the other hand, are more suitable for healthy seniors who don’t need much assistance. Many communities offer amenities that can significantly improve their quality of life. A few common services include meal plans, cleaning services, and maintenance.

Reasons for Moving

The reasons for moving are also different between seniors who choose assisted living versus those who select independent living.

Seniors who move to an assisted living community usually do so because they need some form of assistance to remain independent. A few common reasons seniors choose assisted living include:

  • Needing help with activities of daily living.
  • Having trouble maintaining their home.
  • Struggling to meet their nutritional requirements.
  • Having a health condition that requires supervision.
  • Wanting to give their families peace of mind that they are safe.

Seniors who choose independent living often move to have their desired lifestyle. A few common reasons seniors move to independent living communities include:

  • Being a part of a community with people who are their age and share similar interests.
  • Enjoying their retirement years without many of the responsibilities that come with home ownership.
  • Having easy access to the services and amenities offered at that particular community.

Financing Options Available

Another factor that varies between assisted living and independent living is the financing options available.

Because seniors usually choose assisted living for health and safety reasons, they are often able to find resources to lower their out-of-pocket expenses. A few common resources include long-term care insurance, employee benefits programs, VA benefits, and Medicaid.

The cost of independent living varies due to multiple factors including the type of housing, the amenities offered, and the services provided. Because it’s considered a choice to live there, it usually doesn’t qualify for any financial assistance.

I hope this helps you decide which senior living option is best for your parents.




Heritage Senior Communities Helps Families Understand Their Options

Heritage Senior Communities, including our Appledorn Assisted Living location, provide support to help families decide which senior living option is best for their loved ones. If you are an adult children or family member who is having trouble understanding the difference between assisted living and independent living, please feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to help!