Tuesday, February 3, 2015

10 More Prep Tips for Seniors

As long as we are on the topic of seniors, let’s go ahead and discuss ways that we can prepare seniors (whether ourselves or our aging friends and relatives) for a disaster (personal, natural, man-made, etc)…
  1. One of the most important ways for seniors to protect themselves is to avoid falls.  This was an excellent point made by a reader who commented on the last post.  Senior falls are far and away the leading cause of accidental death and injury for seniors in our country.  Obviously not doing activities that will lead to falls is one way to prevent such an event but also exercising to keep as much strength and balance as possible, making their home fall safe (like getting rid of throw rugs that can cause trips and falls), and putting grab bars near the toilet and shower are all ways to help prevent unexpected falls.
  2. A friend of mine has found an ingenious use for his old fitness tracker.  He was worried about his 90 year old mother who still lives by herself a few states away and he came up with the idea to give her his old FitBit that he wasn’t using.  He was concerned that, aside from calling her each morning, there would be no way to tell if she fell or otherwise became incapacitated until he couldn’t reach her the next day.  With her wearing the fitness tracker, he can literally log into the program on his computer that syncs with the program for her FitBit and see how much activity she is getting by the hour.  Should this number unexpectedly drop, he can give her a call to make sure everything is OK.  It’s a simple fix for both of them.
  3. Unfortunately, seniors are the number one target for personal fraud in our country.  They are easy pickins because they trust people and, these days, there are so many ways to reach lonely seniors (via the phone, an email, or a knock at the door) that someone who wants to relieve an elderly person of their hard-earned money only needs to make up a clever story and wait for the money to roll in.
  4. We—you, me, and everyone else who reads this blog—pride ourselves on being prepared for a disaster.  We spend our time, effort, and money getting ready for whatever man or nature might throw at us.  But what about the seniors in our lives?  There are a number of ways to help seniors prepare for a disaster from making sure they have the items necessary for a power outage or being snowed in (in the old days, this wasn’t called disaster preparedness but normal living, but I digress…) to getting them involved with community organizations that help prepare seniors for the most common disasters likely to hit their area.
  5. Health and wellness is just as important for seniors as everyone else.  Unfortunately people look at those who are aging and see them on a downward spiral towards death.  This doesn’t have to be true.  In fact, many times when seniors are having a “senior moment” it can be something fixable.  Like medications that causes side effects, glasses with a very old prescription that no longer works, unsteadiness due to lack of exercise or falling blood sugar, etc.  Seniors need to stay on top of their health just like everyone else and, more importantly, find a doctor who takes care of each health issue individually instead of adding another prescription to fix the latest symptom.
  6. Seniors also need to socialize.  Once you retire, literally no one cares if you ever leave you house.  Your spouse and kids might get kind of worried but there is no one, like your boss, saying you absolutely need to be anywhere any more.  Some seniors fix this by shopping (I know one guy who hits up the Goodwill nearly every single day).  I wouldn’t recommend this as you probably have enough stuff already.  Some are in the casino every single day (another expensive proposition), while others volunteer, keep working (talk to your tax accountant about this), or join an exercise group (like a bowling league, walking group, or even do tai chi in the park).  
  7. Ideally socializing would be combined with exercise but for some people, socializing isn’t high on their list of priorities once it isn’t necessary for work.  Exercise, however, is a requirement if you want to age well.  I was just talking to a guy today who is 85, he retired out of the Special Forces after 30 years, and his girlfriend (yes, he has a very nice girlfriend) reports that he would gladly re-up, even at his age, if they would let him.  The funny thing is, however, he would put most recruits to shame, even at his age, since he runs every day, plays tennis three times a week, bowls four times a week, and lifts weights in his spare time.  In short, he is in much better physical condition that most people a quarter of his age.  Not only does exercise help prevent you from falling but it is great for your overall health as well.
  8. Another thing you can do (for yourself or to help out a senior) is to do a home safety check.  There are plenty of things that people put off fixing (a loose stair, a burned out lightbulb, a fraying rug, etc) that can cause real injuries if not fixed immediately.  Also, safety improvements can be made as you go along.  Things such as installing a good bolt lock, adding an automatic opener to the gate for ease of use, or installing a full-fledged security system are also projects to consider.
  9. Aside from hearing aids and glasses, instruments that many seniors need to navigate through their later years, having a few other items on hand can make life much easier as well.  Items such as magnifying glasses (when did they start making instructions and other type so small??), a long-armed “grabber”, a proper step stool with a handle, tools to easily open jars, etc. can simplify tasks that can become more difficult as you age.
  10. Finally, know when to fold ‘em.  In other words, there is aging gracefully (and knowing your limitations) and there is aging stubbornly (you know in the back of your mind you have limitations but they will take your car keys out of your cold, dead hands).  I know that my vision at night isn’t as good as it once was (plus they kill off about one pedestrian every other night in Vegas because people jump out in front of your car wearing all black and try to sprint across six lanes of fast moving traffic) so for those reason I don’t often drive at night any more.  I know I can do marathons so those are still on my “to do” list, however, while I used to rock climb quite a bit in my younger days, the idea of dangling my carcass off a sheer rock face just doesn’t have the appeal that it used to.

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