City of Houston’s retiree Medicare plans have an edge over other plans. The enrollment period is Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Those retirees who are happy with their COH Medicare plans should do nothing to continue receiving their benefits. Those with questions may call the Benefits division at 832-393-6000 or email retiree email@example.com.
Staying in shape as you age can improve your quality of life. And while you can’t stop aging, you can remain physically active to ensure you are healthy and happy.
One thing to consider is how you get moving and what type of activity best suits your needs. SilverSneakers® is a free program offered through Medicare Advantage Plans that offers a way for older adults to stay active and connected.
“The goal of SilverSneakers is to help seniors age with vitality, and to provide opportunities for physical activity and social connection regardless of their age or state of health,” says the SilverSneakers team.
A recent survey of 26,000 SilverSneakers members found that more than 91 percent believe the program has improved their quality of life, with 90 percent feeling healthier overall and 94 percent saying their health is good, very good or excellent, according to SilverSneakers.
SilverSneakers, founded in 1992 by Mary Swanson, aims to provide people 65 or older with access to health programs to improve their quality of life. A nationwide network, the free program benefit is offered through 70 Medicare Advantage Plans and is available to about 18 million eligible seniors.
“We offer a wide range of classes for all fitness levels, from yoga to cardio to classes that focus on balance and strength,” the SilverSneakers team said. “In addition to fitness classes, members have access to other online programming including classes to support a healthy lifestyle with topics including nutrition, stress management and meditation.”
“The opportunities for health improvement through physical activity are so important for healthy aging,” the SilverSneakers team said. “However, it is so much more than just a fitness program – the social connections are a big part of what make the program special.”
If you’re a city employee aged 65 or older enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan through Kelsey or Aetna, you have access to SilverSneakers. Here are some answers to some frequent questions to help you get started on your fitness journey:
SilverSneakers is the leading fitness program for older adults, offered through more than 70 Medicare Advantage Plans nationwide.
Active or retired city employees aged 65 or older enrolled in a KelseyCare Advantage Plan or an Aetna Advantage Plan have access to the added free benefit.
The goal of SilverSneakers is to help seniors age with vitality, and to provide opportunities for physical activity and social connection regardless of their age or state of health.
SilverSneakers is offered at no additional cost to the member through participating Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement plans and plans with group retirees.
Members just need their 16-digit SilverSneakers number to get access to online and digital classes or to join a local fitness location. If they don’t have their membership number, or want to check eligibility, they can do so at SilverSneakers.com, or by calling Customer Service at 1-888- 423-4632 (TTY:711) Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT.
SilverSneakers offers a wide range of classes for all fitness levels, from yoga to cardio to classes that focus on balance and strength. All SilverSneakers classes are specifically designed for those 65 and older.
In addition to fitness classes at local gyms, SilverSneakers members have access to online programming including classes to support a healthy lifestyle with topics including nutrition, stress management and meditation.
SilverSneakers members can find classes and other information through our app SilverSneakers GO, and they can connect with other members through our Facebook community.
Members have access to more than 15,000 participating fitness and wellness centers in the SilverSneakers network.
An additional benefit of SilverSneakers that is unique, is that members can visit as many fitness locations in our network as they’d like as often as they’d like. So, for members who feel safe going to a gym now, and when it is safe in the future, they can use their SilverSneakers benefit when traveling or to visit more than one location in their community. This means you are not limited to one fitness location.
You can find fitness locations located near you by visiting SilverSneakers.com.
SilverSneakers has significantly increased the number of online classes they offer to meet the demand for more fitness opportunities in the home while members are socially distancing during the pandemic.
They now offer more than 3,000 live with instructor classes per week and have logged more than 2 million visits to those classes since the pandemic began. Members can also access hundreds of On Demand classes at SilverSneakers.com.
You can also download the SilverSneakers GO Mobile App to access workout programs.
A significant benefit of SilverSneakers is social connection. In the gym, members socialize within their classes and before and after workouts, and we know that many have missed that during the pandemic.
Our Facebook community and live with instructor classes can help members to develop that sense of community, and we are looking at additional non-fitness virtual opportunities that would provide connection.
Our instructors also help to build community, creating a welcoming environment and helping new members get acclimated.
Before beginning any workout plan, it’s always best to consult with your doctor. Let your doctor know about your fitness level and fitness goals. This way you can make an informed decision together about what will work best for you.
Your body changes as you age, so your diet needs to change, too. For women over 50, eating the right foods becomes even more important to avoid health problems.
These tips from Mayo Clinic can help ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need:
1. Calcium for bone health: Osteoporosis gets a fair amount of attention, and most older women understand that the risk of developing this bone disease increases with age. In fact, one in three women over 50 is at risk of a bone break caused by osteoporosis. Women over 50 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. Use the Nutrition Facts label on food products to keep track of your intake.
2. Protein for healthy muscle mass: Older women tend to sit more, exercise less. That compounds a natural loss of muscle mass. By the time women near 80 years, they may have lost as much as half of their skeletal muscle mass. Eating enough protein reduces the impact of that muscle wasting. Healthy plant-based diets that don’t include meat, a major source of protein, can still provide plenty of protein if you make savvy choices. Consider more soy, quinoa, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds
3. Vitamin B-12 for brain function: As women age, they absorb fewer nutrients from their food. One key nutrient they may not be absorbing enough of is vitamin B-12, which is essential for maintaining both healthy red blood cells and brain function. The best sources of vitamin B-12 are eggs, milk, lean meats, fish and fortified foods like cereals and grains.
Some common skin changes appear gradually as you age — age spots, freckles, discolored blotches, wrinkles, sallowness, roughness, very dry skin and leathery toughness.
Some skin changes, such as fine wrinkles from sun damage, may be reversed by treatment with retinoic acid. This treatment can also improve your skin’s texture, reduce discoloration and increase collagen. Other effects of aging aren’t reversible. But they may be treatable. For example, you may choose to have a rough patch or skin tag removed for cosmetic reasons. Or you could talk with your doctor about procedures for smoothing wrinkles and improving the appearance of your skin.
Your sense of smell and taste are connected, and they can change as you get older. In fact, changes in smell or taste can also be a sign of a larger problem.
Many problems cause a loss of smell that lasts for a short time. This temporary loss of smell may be due to a cold or flu that causes a stuffy nose; COVID-19, which sometimes causes a new loss of smell; allergies (try to avoid things you’re allergic to, like pollen and pets); a growth or polyp in the nose or sinuses that give you a runny nose. Having the growth removed may help.
Some medications like antibiotics or blood pressure medicine, can affect your sense of smell, as can radiation, chemotherapy, and other cancer treatments. Tell your doctor about any changes in your ability to smell.
— National Institute on Aging (NIH)
The older you get, the harder it is for your body has fighting off infections and diseases. That’s why Dr. Gregory Poland, who heads up the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group, says it becomes more crucial to get vaccinated as you age.
“As you get older, your immune system gets weaker,” Dr. Poland says. “That’s why we see more severe infections in older people. It’s why they don’t do as well with [other] diseases.”
Dr. Poland says that’s why his team at Mayo Clinic looks for ways to tailor vaccines to better protect older people.
“There are three influenza vaccines, one shingles vaccine and one hepatitis B vaccine that have been designed around those issues and that work better than the standard vaccines in older people,” he said.
Dr. Poland says it’s important to remember that these vaccines won’t always prevent you from getting an illness, but they protect you from complications.
“So you might have had sniffles or fever,” he says. “You were home for a day or two from work, but you didn’t get hospitalized. You didn’t get pneumonia. You’re not on a ventilator. You’re not in ICU. And you didn’t die.”
He compares it to wearing a seat belt in a car. It won’t necessarily prevent you from getting in an accident, but it will probably save your life if you do.
Yet another unsightly bruise. You don’t recall bumping into anything, but lately you seem to be bruising frequently. Is this cause for concern?
Easy bruising is common with age. Although most bruises are harmless and go away without treatment, easy bruising can sometimes be a sign of a more serious problem.
Some people — especially women — are more prone to bruising than others. As you get older, your skin also becomes thinner and loses some of the protective fatty layer that helps cushion your blood vessels from injury.
Aspirin, anticoagulant medications, anti-platelet agents, other medications, and some dietary supplements, such as ginkgo, also can increase your bruising risk due to a blood-thinning effect or reducing your blood’s ability to clot.
If you experience increased bruising, don’t stop taking your medications.
Talk to your doctor about your concerns. Easy bruising sometimes indicates a serious underlying condition, such as a blood-clotting problem or a blood disease. Causes of bruising in seniors can include falls and even elder abuse.
Family gatherings can be a perfect time for family to also consider talking about wills and living wills. Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Maisha Robinson said it’s as important as it is overlooked.
“It’s one of the best gifts you can give a loved one, so they can honor your wishes and preferences rather than trying to make them for you,” she said.
Dr. Robinson says, although it may be a delicate topic, it is important for families and friends to talk about what you’d like to have happen if you get sick and can’t make medical decisions for yourself. She also says that selecting a health care surrogate is important.
Yoga postures that flex the spine beyond its limits may raise the risk of compression fractures in people with thinning bones, according to research from Mayo Clinic.
The study examined injuries in people with osteo-porosis and osteopenia — conditions characterized by low bone density. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become thinner and more porous from loss of mineral content.
Bone loss that has not reached the stage of an osteoporosis diagnosis is called osteopenia.
Researchers reviewed the health records of 89 people — mostly women — referred to Mayo Clinic from 2006 to 2018 for pain they attributed to their yoga practice. Some were new to yoga. Others had practiced for years.
They had pain in the back, neck, shoulder, hip, knee or a combination.
Patients identified 12 poses they said caused or aggravated their symptoms. The most common postures involved extreme flexing or extending of the spine.
“Yoga has many benefits. It improves balance, flexibility, strength and is a good social activity,” said Dr. Mehrsheed Sinaki, a Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehab specialist and the study’s senior author.
“But if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia, you should modify the postures to accommodate your condition.”
New research aimed at highlighting the potential of new technologies to diagnose disease has suggested that virtual reality may play a crucial role in monitoring Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia is a general term to describe the impairment of cognitive functions such as memory, thinking, and communication.
The cognitive decline associated with dementia is progressive; people may go through stages of dementia, from mild cognitive impairment to more severe forms, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Not everyone who experiences MCI, which can result from anxiety or normal aging, will develop Alzheimer’s.
A new study from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom — the results of which now appear in the journal Brain — shows that virtual reality (VR) may be more accurate than standard tests.
Researchers gave subjects with MCI and others without it VR headsets and asked them to walk in a simulated environment.
The study showed that people with MCI and positive cerebrospinal fluid markers performed worse than those with negative markers, leading researchers to conclude that VR navigation tests may be better at identifying early Alzheimer’s disease than current methods.
Regular exercise is known to be good for you, but it’s one of the hardest habits to commit to. There is hope, though. Some simple tactics and technics may be useful in keeping you on a fitness schedule:
ν Sign up for a class. Then it’s scheduled, you’ve paid for it, and you may be more inclined to go.
ν Set specific goals. With goals you’re more likely to carve out the time to achieve them.
ν Track your progress. Seeing your progress — the number of steps you took yesterday, the amount of time you worked out this week — can make a big difference in how motivated you are to continue exercising.
Seniors who smoke may be more likely to become frail, a new British study suggests.
Researchers tracked more than 2,500 people 60 and older in England and found that current smoking boosted that risk by about 60 percent. The scientists determined that the participants were frail if they had at least three of five conditions: unintentional weight loss, self-reported exhaustion, weakness, slow walking speed, and low physical activity.
Frail people are at higher risk of problems such as falls, broken bones and hospitalization. Researchers have also linked frailty to poor quality of life and dementia.
The research team also found evidence that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a respiratory condition that is typically brought on by years of smoking, boosts the risk of frailty.
But the study did not prove that smoking caused frailty risk to rise, just that there was an association. The study was published recently in the journal Age & Ageing.
More than half of Americans will find themselves in a nursing home at some point in their lives, a new study shows. That eclipses the 35 percent estimate used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the researchers added.
“Lifetime use of nursing homes is considerably greater than previously thought, mostly due to an increase in short stays of less than three weeks,” said lead researcher Michael Hurd. He is director of the RAND Center for the Study of Aging, in Santa Monica, Calif.
Increased nursing home care begs the question of who will pay for it and how will they pay for it, he said.
The risk of long stays and correspondingly large out-of-pocket spending is fairly large — 5 percent of patients will spend more than 1,500 days in a nursing home, and 5 percent will spend more than $50,000, Hurd said. For married couples, the financial risks are even larger, he noted. As baby boomers start needing more nursing home care, costs will be staggering.
New research suggests that increased sedentary behavior, combined with low physical activity and increased TV watching time, drastically raises the risk of walking disability among seniors.
The study at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, D.C., examined data from the NIH-AARP diet and health study to better understand the link between diet and health.
Researchers tracked participants’ sedentary behavior and exercising habits, recording how much TV they watched and how much physical activity they did, as well as recording what kind of activity the participants engaged in.
At first glance, tai chi doesn’t seem remarkable: no heavy lifting, no charging up steep inclines or severe workouts. But don’t be deceived. The practice — a combination of slow, graceful, choreographed movements and meditation that came to our shores from China around the 1940s — has been scientifically linked to a list of live-longer, live-better health and fitness benefits, many of which have particular relevance as we age.
Chief among the benefits is tai chi’s ability to improve balance and prevent falls. “When you’re practicing the movements, you’re shifting your weight from one foot to the other to maintain balance,” says Michael Irwin, a professor of behavioral sciences and director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. “By doing (tai chi), you become more aware of the position of your body in space — which is something we become less aware of as we age.”
Tai chi’s soothing effects on the sympathetic nervous system also offer health advantages. A study in the Journal of American Geriatrics found evidence that the ancient art also seems to boost the immune systems of older adults, helping them fend off the viruses that lead to shingles.
Here’s some good news for America’s seniors: The rates of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have dropped over the last decade or so, a new study shows.The analysis of nearly 1,400 men and women 70 and older found that the number of dementia cases dropped from 73 among those born before 1920 to just 3 among those born after 1929.
The reasons for the decline aren’t clear, researchers said. But one factor stands out: The rates of stroke and heart attack decreased across generations. The rate of diabetes, however, has increased.
“It may be that we are seeing the benefits of years of success in cardiovascular disease prevention,” said lead researcher Carol Derby, a research professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
That doesn’t appear to account for all of the decrease in dementia rates, however.
Although the rate of dementia has declined, the actual number of people with dementia is expected to increase dramatically as the population bubble caused by baby boomers ages, Derby said.
Around the world, more than 47 million people suffer from dementia, and 7 million new cases develop each year, according to the researchers. The number of cases of dementia is projected to double every 20 years, and to reach 115 million by 2050.
Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, was not involved with the study but believes that much of the decline in the rate of dementia is the result of declining rates of stroke. He said that stroke incidence has fallen as cardiovascular health has improved.
Fewer than 10 percent of adults meditate, but more might be interested in the practice, given research linking it to longer attention spans and a slowing of age-related mental decline.
Meditation can take different forms, but its essence is quiet reflection and concentration. A typical session is five or 10 minutes, at home or in another convenient setting. But many practice for much longer sessions and in more remote, presumably less distracting venues.
Writing in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, researchers led by a team from the University of California-, Davis, determined that, as long as one continues to engage in intensive meditation, the mental benefits can persist through life.
Anthony Zanesco, who at the time of the study was a graduate student at UC Davis and is the lead author of the study, said that “intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention” and has the potential to yield long-lasting positive results in terms of cognitive change.
Many prescription medications, such as those used to lower blood pressure, can make a person feel dizzy. Other medicines have the potential to damage the inner ear and make you feel off balance.
If you take medication, ask your doctor if your medicine is ototoxic, or damaging to the ear. Ask if other drugs can be used instead. If not, ask if the dose can be safely reduced. Sometimes it cannot.
Medications and drugs to watch closely for how they may affect balance include antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, high blood pressure medication, sedatives, anti-anxiety drugs, diuretics, certain painkillers, and some anti-cancer drugs.
Consult your doctor for help get the medicine you need while trying to reduce unwanted side effects.
Source: National Institutes of Health
New research suggests that measuring healthy older adults’ brain activity may help determine their future risk of falling, one of the greatest dangers to the elderly.
The lead author of the study published in the journal Neurology said studying older adults may even help prevent falls.
“Our findings suggest that changes in brain activity that influence walking may be present long before people exhibit any sign of walking difficulty,” said Dr. Joe Verghese, director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for the Aging Brain in New York City.
Brain scan tests like the one used in the study might someday be used to help predict and prevent falls in the elderly, and physicians may then be able to educate and counsel patients to reduce fall risk, experts say.
A one-hour nap may be one key to older adults improving memory and thinking skills, according to a new study.
The study by the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at Johns Hopkins University indicates that more than 57 percent of participants who took post-lunch naps of about an hour performed better in cognitive tests than non-nappers.
As people age, cognitive functions decline and memory problems may begin to increase. For some older people, the decline in cognitive functioning can be more severe, potentially leading to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Source: National Institutes of Health
Older adults lose muscle mass at a higher rate as they age. But there is good news for those who are looking for a way to offset the loss of muscle tone: weight lifting.
Lifting heavy weights has always been a problem for seniors and weight training. But research conducted at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, concluded that lifting lighter weights for more repetitions is beneficial regardless of age. This benefits seniors who want to find new exercises to stay fit.
What’s crucial, the researchers say, is to push muscles until they’re fatigued and can’t lift any more. Whether you do that with heavy weights after a few repetitions, or lighter weights after 25 repetitions, the benefits will be the same.
Seniors just starting out with weights should begin using relatively light weights and concentrate on proper form. Then they can increase the weight if desired.