Healthy Diet for Seniors and its Benefits

November 21st, 2015 by Doris Bersing

healthy foods for seniorsOur regular collaborator, Edward Francis with alerts us that trying to stay healthy as we age can be a bit of a challenge, and it’s even more difficult to try and encourage someone else to be healthy. He says: “…But there are many benefits of having a healthy diet as a senior, so it’s definitely worth the effort. Here’s just a few of the main benefits of having a healthy diet as a senior:

Reduce Risk of Heart Issues

As we get older, our heart is already at a higher risk of suffering from issues – whether that’s heart attacks, heart disease or other similar problems. Making sure you have a healthy diet is one way to lower these risks and keep your heart in top shape. But what exactly is a heart healthy diet? Portion size is important here – eating too much of even the best things isn’t great for you. There’s no need to cut the size so much that you’re hungry, but learning not to overfill your plate is a great foundation for building a healthy diet on. Other key aspects of a heart healthy diet include eating more fruit and vegetables, swapping to whole grains, and limiting unhealthy fats. It’s important to note that it’s only unhealthy fats – there’s no need to cut out fat altogether!

Have More Energy

It’s common for older people to begin to feel lethargic and low on energy. Part of this is simply because of aging, but it’s often something worsened by underlying issues – such as depression, or a poor diet. Swapping to a healthier diet is a quick way to give yourself an energy boost. If this is the main benefit that interests you, there are some specific tips you should follow. Firstly, make sure you’re eating breakfast! This is a vital part of both eating healthily and keeping your energy rates high. If you’re really struggling to eat a full meal in the mornings, even snacking on a breakfast bar is better than not eating. Complex carbohydrates are a must – starchy foods such as potatoes are a great source of these. And finally – make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Being dehydrated saps away energy, and making sure you’re drinking lots throughout the day is a great way to feel refreshed.

Strong Bones

One risk for seniors is brittle bones – it’s why there’s an increased risk of hip fractures from falls, for instance. Whilst this isn’t entirely avoidable, it is possible to lessen the impact by ensuring you’re eating correctly. Calcium and vitamin D are the most important things to consider here. Vitamin D is often hard to get enough of through diet alone, so we recommend taking a supplement in order to ensure you reap the benefits. As for calcium, milk and yogurt are key sources, but you should also consider increasing the amount of green leafy vegetables and nuts that you eat, as these are great secondary sources. It’s also important to remain active – in this case, diet can only go so far, so making sure you get a regular amount of exercise (even if it’s only a small amount) is vital.

Keep Your Mind Sharp

There’s a lot of discussion on the best way to keep your mind sharp as you age – from doing sudoku to taking long walks. One thing everyone agrees on though is that your diet plays a massive part of it. Starting to eat more healthily can has major benefits for your mind, and if you’re concerned about issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s, then it’s a quick and easy change with a big impact. If this is the thing you’re most concerned about, then a big thing to add into your diet is omega-3s. Foods like salmon are the obvious choice, but did you know you can also get the same effects from flax seeds? Green tea is another worthwhile addition, as it’s great for countering free radicals – the things most likely to be responsible for age-related mind issues.

These are just a few of the potential benefits gained from having a healthy diet – there are many more, and it’s something worth discussing with a medical professional if you have any queries about. Just be aware that the portions deemed healthy for a senior are likely to differ from what’s considered healthy for a younger adult, so make sure to do the research and not overload with food by mistake. Everything calls, of course for balance. That what you like and that what you must have versus what improves your quality of life. A difficult balance to keep and yet, a token for quality of life.


Home Modifications to Support Aging In Place

November 21st, 2015 by Doris Bersing
gero technology TO LIVE AND age WELL


Aging in place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. Most adults would prefer to age in place—that is, remain in their home of choice as long as possible. In fact, 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 report that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age.

The focus of aging in place is to help seniors ensure they can live where they choose and get any help they need for as long as they can. The goal of an elderly person (or anyone) wanting to age in place should be to maintain and/or improve their quality of life. In order to do that, a good plan that focuses on quality of life and covers your self, home, finances, care and other items should be created as early as possible. This plan should be maintained over time as your situation changes. This includes being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change, including safety monitoring, home care assistance, or home renovation, while maintaining their quality of life. Some examples of home modifications include: increased lighting, accessible switches at both ends of the stairs, additional railings, grab bars, nonskid flooring, a hand-held, flexible shower head, walk-in bathtubs, and the removal of throw rugs and clutter. In most cases, home modifications can be simple and cost-effective, while simultaneously offering substantial benefits to the individual.

We thank Liz Greene [1] for her ideas about home renovation. She proposes 5 home modifications to support aging in place. She said “…It’s not easy to choose which living arrangements will suit you later in life. So much depends on your health, mobility, and family situation. However, with the cost of senior living on the rise, many people are choosing to grow older in their own homes rather than moving into assisted living communities. Nonetheless, aging in place comes with a host of considerations, not the least of which is modifying your home to accommodate your changing needs. If you’ve decided to stay in your home for the long haul, think about implementing some of the following modifications to make the transition easier.

Pull-Down and Pull-Out Shelving

Bending, stooping, reaching — these motions become harder on your joints as you age. Regular exercise can help alleviate pain and increase mobility, but it’s not a bad idea to eliminate situations where you’re putting more strain on your body than necessary. Installing pull-down and pull-out shelving in your closets and kitchen cabinets will allow you to reach out of the way items without having to strain or use a step stool. These devices are inexpensive, easy to install, and an almost effortless way to improve accessibility.

Grab Bars

Grab bars are an absolute must have if you plan to age in place. Install grab bars next to the toilet to provide balance while sitting down, give leverage when rising from a seated position, and help transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet seat and back. Place them next to the bathtub and in the shower to help maintain balance while standing or moving, assist in maneuvering into and out of the enclosure, and help reduce slips and falls. Put in floor to ceiling grab bars, or security poles, in the bedroom to assist in getting in and out of bed. While many grab bars tend to have an institutional look, some manufacturers are releasing newer models that are more aesthetically pleasing. This allows you to add stability and safety to your home without sacrificing personal style.

Walk in Tubs

Traditional bathtubs can be 20” or higher from the bathroom floor — clearly not designed for those who suffer from mobility problems. This is where walk in tubs come in. Walk in tubs offer a watertight door that opens so you can easily walk into and out of the tub. Most walk in tubs include a chair-height seat for a comfortable and secure bath and a non-skid floor to minimize slips and falls.

Curbless Showers

Curbless showers are designed to provide a safe and convenient alternative to traditional bathtubs. Curbless shower floors are flush with floors in adjoining spaces, allowing you to safely walk or roll a wheelchair into the shower without getting tripped up by a raised threshold. Curbless showers are a favorite in universal design as they are not only stylish, but friendly to users of all ages.


Sinks can prove especially inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. Luckily there are accessible sink options for both the bathroom and kitchen. To provide space beneath a bathroom sink for wheelchairs and other mobility devices, install a wall-mounted sink. Wall-mounted sinks have no vanity cabinet or supporting legs underneath to get in the way. For the kitchen, consider a push-button, adjustable-height sink that gives each user a custom fit. The sink can be raised and lowered between 28 and 36 inches with the simple push of a button. This is ideal when you live with people with varied heights and mobility.

It takes some fore thought when designing your home to adapt to your needs as you age. However, if you do it right, you’ll find you’ll be able to live a happy, comfortable life in your own space, free of the cost and ordinances of retirement communities and assisted living centers.

[1] Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene

Depression among seniors is often overlooked and untreated

October 20th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

depression elderSadly to say but depression among seniors is a far more common problem than one might expect, but that doesn’t mean it’s a ‘normal’ part of growing old.

In fact, seniors suffering from depression are often overlooked and go untreated, thanks to it being seen as ‘just part of aging’. But what about depression among seniors make it so hard to notice?

Most people have a certain idea of depression, one that involves ‘feeling sad’ as the main aspect. But this is far from the only, or even, the main, symptom of depression. In seniors especially, other symptoms may be more prominent, but harder to notice. Whilst being aware of sadness is important, it’s vital these other aspects don’t get overlooked. So what should you be looking out for?

Difficulty Sleeping

It’s common as we age for us to need less sleep – it’s why there’s the stereotype as elderly people going to be earlier and getting up at the crack of dawn. But this change in sleep patterns should feel natural, not challenging. If a senior person is complaining about having trouble getting to sleep, waking up frequently throughout the night or other such disturbances, it’s likely not just age, but a symptom of an underlying problem. There are a few things it could be, but one thing is may be is a sign of depression.

Loss of Appetite

Again, losing appetite is common among seniors – taste-buds grow less effective, and we need to eat less food as we age. By itself, this may not be cause for concern, but when appearing alongside other common traits, it’s worth considering. The fact these aspects of depression are also common for other reasons in seniors is part of what makes spotting depression so tricky.

Social Withdrawal

Elderly people often feel like their social circles are shrinking, but this shouldn’t mean that they withdraw. After a dramatic event – a death or illness in a friend – then it’s understandable that one may shrink from socializing, but if this continues and becomes the norm then it may well be another sign that there’s something bigger at play.


If a person is complaining about having little to no energy, feeling listless, fatigued and worn out, then there are a few things it could be. Whilst age does put extra pressure on our systems, it alone doesn’t necessarily lead to this state – so it’s worth exploring what it could be. Whether it’s not eating enough, feeling at a loss since retirement or something like depression, it’s worth taking seriously – even if they don’t think it is.

The second part of the problem is when considering the prevalence of depression in seniors is how often it goes untreated. One of the biggest issues here is persuading a senior person that they don’t have to feel this way, and to seek treatment. Many seniors won’t open up about issues because they don’t want to burden their families – and will outright deny feeling that way even if you confront them on it. So how can you help them get the treatment they need?

Firstly, don’t normalize the things they describe. Try to avoid writing off comments about listlessness or sleep disturbances as ‘just getting old’, but instead validate them as negative things that don’t have to be the case.

Secondly, don’t force the topic – even if you suspect they have depression, you don’t have to confront them using such terms. Many senior people will reject the term and even the possibility of attending psychotherapy. They are more of the generation of “minding-your-own-business for cultural and other variety of reasons. Some of them will associate it with sadness, some won’t understand it, and some will simply feel as though it makes them weak. Instead, talk about the things they will admit to – if they talk about losing appetite; discuss addressing this issue with a doctor, rather than suggesting they go straight to therapy. Taking your time and following their lead can often lead to them actually getting help (even if it starts with just one symptom!) rather than writing the whole thing off.

Edward Francis from Foresth reccomends “…make sure you’re working with professionals who actually understand senior depression. If they’re in a care home, or getting home visits, chat to them about your concerns – and, if they write it off as ‘just getting old’, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere…”

Depression in people of any age is often misunderstood, and this is extra difficult for the elderly, so try to support them and prevent them being overlooked in every way you can. Organizations like Living Well specializes in working with elders who suffer from mental illnesses, often called gero-psychiatric patients. The most common diagnoses in gero-psychiatric patients include depression, dementia, psychosis and anxiety. Seniors with mental illness find it more difficult dealing with adjustments in lifestyle, such as isolation or loss of independence. Medical conditions or physical diseases complicate the challenges they face.

There are not enough mental health facilities nationwide to accommodate elders, or assisted living facilities with specialized services to meet their needs. By providing gero-psychology training for companions and in-home caregivers and promoting the values of dignity, choice, self-determination and individuality, specialized and compassionate professionals close the gap. Every encounter with an elder can be therapeutic, and in reality it takes a village to care for our elders, depressed or not.


Pilot Study Tests Drug that Reverses Parkinson’s and Dementia Symptoms

October 20th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

In a pilot study at Georgetown University Medical Center, researchers found that small doses of the cancer drug nilotinib (used in the treatment of leukemia), appear to dramatically reduce symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease with dementia or the related condition, Lewy body dementia. In all eleven patients who completed the six month trial, movement and mental function improved, in some cases the changes were dramatic and ‘life-changing.’

Listen to the story:

Presentation – Dementia: Legal and Medical Aspects

October 15th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Elizabeth Krivatsy, Esq. and Elizabeth Landsverk, MD

Dementias of all kinds are wreaking havoc with the lives of individuals and families today. The more you know about the medical and legal repercussions involving the diagnoses of Dementia, and the sooner planning begins, the stronger the safety net we can create for our loved one, ourselves and our families.

Elizabeth Krivatsy, Esq. is an estate planning and elder law attorney, who is passionate about helping people plan for the best possible future, preparing for personal care and financial management during times of incapacity, and choosing their life in retirement. A graduate of the UC Hastings College of the Law, Elizabeth has served clients in the San Francisco Bay Area for 23 years.

Elizabeth Landsverk, MD. Dr. Landsverk has over twenty years of experience in providing medical care to the elderly. She is board-certified in Internal, Geriatric, and Palliative Care Medicine. As a House Calls Geriatrician, she collaborates with local physicians to address the needs of complicated vulnerable elders to alleviate pain, agitation and discomfort. Dr. Landsverk is a graduate of Stanford University and trained at Cambridge Hospital, Harvard University.

Thursday, November 5, 2015, 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Mill Valley Recreation Center
180 Camino Alto
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Limited seating, please call 1-800-805-7104 to reserve a space.

4 Ways to Help a Loved One Adjust After a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

September 29th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Prepared for Living Well Assisted Living at Home by Patricia Sarmiento (*)

Alzheimer’s disease is a diagnosis that has heartbreaking impact on sufferers and their loved ones. Symptoms increase in severity as the disease progresses, from mild memory loss in the early stages of the illness to extreme confusion and even loss of identity as time goes on. Although Alzheimer’s changes the way those ailing from it live day to day, there are many ways caregivers, family members, and friends can make the transition a little easier. Here are a few ways to help a loved one adjust after receiving this diagnosis:


Make necessary home modifications.

Identifying issues that your loved one may have immediately or sometime down the road can prevent stress for everyone by helping to reduce the risk of injury or confusion. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation has a list on tweaks you can make around the home to help with safety issues and daily tasks. For example, installing hand rails and eliminating clutter will help prevent falls, while labeling the contents of drawers and cabinets can make daily tasks more manageable.


Plan ahead.

There may come a point when Alzheimer’s sufferers can no longer care for themselves, or even make decisions regarding finances or healthcare. Taking care of these details before an individual becomes severely impaired will prevent their loved ones from burden. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests updating legal documents like living wills, trusts and power of attorney documents, as well as having a plan for future living assistance needs.


Consider a fuzzy companion.

Most people have heard of service dogs for the blind and deaf, but man’s best friend is now taking on a new role by providing support to those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. These four-legged assistants are trained to prevent patients from wandering off and having panic episodes that result from disorientation and confusion, and even to bring medication in bite-proof packaging at the same time each day.This guide provides information on the many benefits of Alzheimer’s service dogs, as well as resources for bringing one home.


Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes.

Alzheimer’s is a complex degenerative cognitive disease, and it’s nearly impossible for those not suffering from it to completely understand what these individuals go through every day. As caregivers, trying our best to empathize with the struggles of Alzheimer’s patients can help us remain calm in frustrating situations. This video from ABC News sheds light on just how much this illness can affect an individual by creating an Alzheimer’s experience for two people without the disease.


Alzheimer’s is indeed a disease that impacts not only those with the diagnosis, but also those closest to them. That’s why it’s so important that we do all we can to show our support to our ailing loved ones by helping to simplify daily life as much as possible for them. Making the adjustment to life post-diagnosis benefits everyone, and allows us to focus our time making the most of each day.


(*) Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.

5th Annual Legacy Film Festival on Aging, San Francisco, September 18-20

August 27th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Living Well is pleased to once again sponsor the Legacy Film Festival on Aging, to be held September 18-20 2015 in San Francisco. The festival’s programs showcase shorts, features, and documentaries from around the world.

Friday, September 18, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 19, 11:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, September 20, 11:30 a.m. – 6:30 pm

1746 Post Street (at Webster)
Japantown, San Francisco

For descriptions of the films as well as ticket information, schedule, location and parking, go to