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A1. SENIOR READING GROUPS by Hank Bruce
Many adult communities, mature individuals in neighborhoods, and residents of assisted-living and long-term care communities are creating senior reading groups or book clubs. These senior reading programs can provide many benefits, and the cost is minimal.
While many senior living communities have libraries and some even have a book club, many seniors living at home miss out on the advantages of reading and discussing the printed word. Yet a reading group created by and for mature readers can easily be a part of senior communities, senior meal sites, even public libraries. One school we know of hosts a "Wednesday Afternoon Books and Tea" every week for seniors in the neighborhood. What began with about six individuals soon expanded to an average of twenty attendees.
The following are some thoughts on creating and using an informal reading group for elders.
Reading and discussing what we read is one of the best ways to exercise the mature mind. Mental stimulation far better than TV, it exercises the imagination. Reading and discussing what we have read can serve as memory triggers. Reading also forces us to think, process new information, and be creative ourselves. Reading provides topics for conversation, discussion, and our own storytelling. Sharing ideas sparks our own creativity, and this can be expressed in our writing, art, music, and open discussion.
Some of the Problems encountered
The success of the reading program will depend on more than just the reading material available; formatting of available material often makes reading difficult.
Subject matter may not be relevant to mature readers
Little reading material available has senior citizens as the main characters. Yet we feel emotions, experience romance, overcome challenges, and do great things with our lives, too. In most cultures elders are respected and hold important roles in the family. It is their work to tell the stories and to continue the traditions that guide the children. Unfortunately, our culture has given that role to television and the computer. Much of the reading matter available either ignores or denigrates our role. What if we made our elders the heroes in what they were reading? What if the stories dealt with issues, topics, and concerns of a life-experienced readership?
Designing your reading group or book club
Mechanics of a reading group can vary depending on the needs of those involved.
Don't make it feel like a classroom, and NO TESTS! Discussion topics and conversation starters are great, but avoid anything that implies "pass or fail."
One of the ways to start a senior reading club is with books designed for just this purpose. Seniors Illustrated is an ongoing series of books with senior heroes and a format designed to be convenient for senior readers. Get a copy here.
Hank Bruce Petals & Pages Press 860 Polaris Blvd SE, Rio Rancho, NM 87124 (505) 891-1355
A2. Oh, My Aching Back (or Knee)
Those aching joints we especially notice during damp or cold weather are generally caused by wear and tear, and as we age they grow more pronounced. Although they're not all caused by the degenerative disease we call osteoarthritis (OA), many of them are. Most adults over the age of 55 suffer from some form, to some degree, of osteoarthritis, and almost everyone has it by age 70. It seems to run in families, and being overweight increases the chances it'll affect you. Fractures and overuse at work or in sports and bleeding diseases such as hemophilia or disorders that block blood supply near a joint can lead to OA. Gout is another form of arthritis.
The most common symptoms of OA are pain and stiffness in a joint or joints. Pain may be present in the morning just after you wake up, and you may attribute it to "morning stiffness," which usually lasts for about half an hour after you get up. Some lucky people never have this symptom. Some seniors find that the pain increases with activity and gets better when they’re resting, and a fortunate few may have no symptoms, though the changes are visible on X-rays. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but its effects can be moderated
Although many of us simply "grin and bear it," we have many ways to help ourselves feel better. The most common aids to our arthritis aches and pains are medications. The first line is generally acetominophen, such as Tylenol; it's relatively safe and inexpensive, though it doesn't lessen the inflammation. The second-string drugs consist of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which decrease inflammation as well as reduce pain. This group of drugs consists of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxin (Aleve). These are all over-the-counter drugs. Other drugs may be prescribed for you--stronger analgesics that may contain codeine or other narcotics.
Topical analgesics, those you rub into the skin where you have joint pain, may be useful, though it may take several applications before you begin to feel results. One type is the capsaicin drugs. These are derived from the natural pain-blocker found in cayenne peppers, and no, don''t rub peppers on your skin! Counterirritants such as menthol oil, eucalyptus or turpentine oil, and camphor oil, distract your body from pain (guess how). Salicylates originally came from willow bark, though they can be made in the laboratory. These drugs need to be used carefully; some people are allergic to them.
Other home treatment may include nutritional supplements, particularly glucosamine and condroitin. The building blocks of the cartilage that cushions the joints, for many seniors taking them as dietary supplements does reduce pain, though there's some discussion as to whether they help rebuild cartilage. If you take these supplements, you should ask your doctor about the right dosages for you. Beware of these two supplements if you're allergic to fish or shellfish.
Your doctor may prescribe injections of corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid. These drugs, given into the affected joint(s), are related to a natural hormone and a natural acid already found in your joints which keep them moving freely. These injections can relieve joint pain and inflammation for weeks or months at a time.
Other natural treatments for OA include exercise and physical therapy, and these should absolutely be tried before more radical options. Water therapy is particularly effective in OA because when you move underwater you take weight (pressure) off the affected joints. Walking and bicycling are good exercise, too--and they help you get into better shape generally. Your doctor may want you to consult with a physical therapist to incorporate certain exercises to regain posture, balance, stability, and flexibility. If this is prescribed for you, try not to be brave and refuse it. It may be a most worthwhile investment, saving you much pain, and maybe some money you’d rather not spend on surgery! Weight loss is one of the best things you can do for yourself to improve your OA symptoms. Even losing a few pounds makes a difference in the amount of pressure you put on your joints, and it may help you avoid or put off joint surgery.
Now we get down to the nitty gritty: arthroscopic surgery and joint replacement surgery. I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on television, but I do know something about arthroscopic surgery, having been its recipient a time or three. Surgery is not recommended for most people with OA, but eventually the pain may become so severe that it’s disabling. Arthroscopic surgery is done through a couple of tiny incisions through the skin into the joint. Through these incisions a scope is inserted, and your surgeon’s scalpel or an electronic knife excises damaged cartilage, and "floating" debris is flushed out. The type of surgery is often done on an outpatient basis, though this is not to say you’ll be feeling great right away-you won't, and you'll have to endure that physical therapy anyway. But the result isgenerally favorable, with no resultant pain as you return to normal activities.
Joint replacement is a possibility, usually performed on the knee or hip, though it's often used in other arthritic joints such as the shoulder or ankle. This, of course, is a last resort. Although the surgery is relatively safe, recuperation can be lengthy and painful, though patients are generally up and walking within a day of surgery and often only hours after operation. It's generally performed when you have severe pain that limits your everyday activities; when you have moderate or severe pain when resting; when you have swelling that doesn't go down with rest; when over-the-counter medications don't work any longer; or when the joint is deformed or swollen, or can't flex properly. Other indications for surgery might be that you can't tolerate or don't improve with prescribed medications, or that you need a cane or a walker to get around.
In joint replacement, the cartilage is removed from both sides of the affected joint and it's resurfaced. A prosthetic one, which is made of metal and plastic components, is fitted to the roughened surfaces. It can be cemented in or not, depending on the principal material of the prosthesis. Generally, people who have this surgery can return to normal daily function, including low-impact sports.
Remember, every person with this disease is different. The same treatments have different effects on different people. I hope yours turns out well.
Find additional Health information at http://www.seniorresource.com/health.htm
B. DID YOU KNOW...?
1. So You Are Taking a Trip With Others.
Begin by considering everyone in your party. There may be needs or interests that are unique.
Have a discussion with each person to discover his/her thoughts and wishes. This will also provide something for everyone to look forward to during the trip.
The trip needs to be a reasonable one for each member of the group: the energy level of the trip needs to be assessed. A cruise may be what is called for, not a safari.
Obviously, health and age concerns need to be addressed. For example, the young and the old may prefer a midday rest.
Avoid surprises about the financial elements of the trip. Discuss with all the participants the expected expenses and any contingency considerations. Remember, plans can go awry. Illness strikes, work commitments may intercede, or the weather turns uncooperative.
While a lot of travel can be booked online, a more complex trip may need the help of a travel agent. The latter may be the case if party members are coming from different locations to a common meeting ground.
Find financial information to help fund your trip at http://www.seniorresource.com/finance.htm
As "third-hand" smoke builds up on surfaces over time, it resists normal cleaning. Such remedies as: opening windows and doors, airing out rooms, using fans, air conditioners, or confining smoking to only certain rooms, cannot eliminate the hazard. "Third-hand" smoke last much longer than "second-hand" smoke. The latter is the smoke and other airborne products that come from being close to tobacco products that are burning.
Find mire health information at: http://www.seniorresource.com/health.htm
C. THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH
We present here some words from those with a birthday this month.
Nadia Comaneci - "I don't run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet."
More "Thoughts" at: http://www.seniorresource.com/thought.htm
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D. SPECIAL SURFING SITES
1. Long Term Care Choice
The MedCottage features three rooms:
Some of the MedCottage's other optional features include
Learn more at http://www.medcottage.com
Visit Seniorresource.com Housing Choices for a full look at all housing options http://www.seniorresource.com/house.htm
2. Save That Energy
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E. OH MY AGING FUNNY BONE
1. Q&A Drives You to Retirement
Question: Why do retirees count pennies?
2. In the Eye of the Beholder
Larry watched, fascinated, as his mother smoothed cold cream on her face. "Why do you do that, Mommy?" he asked.
"Oh My Aging Funny Bone" is at: http://www.seniorresource.com/jokes.htm
SPONSOR AN ISSUE
This issue has been edited by Betsy Day (Betsyjday@aol.com).
Aging in Place