Grandparent Boom: Help Them Keep in Touch — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Amazingly, there are more than 70 million people in the US who are grandparents, the most in our history!

We’d call that a bonafide grandparent boom!

It shouldn’t be surprising, though, because it makes sense. With the population of older adults growing, there are more who can call themselves grandparents (or even great-grandparents).

Many agree that being a grandparent is good for successful aging.

Boston College researchers have delved into the grandparent – grandchild relationship to determine what benefits this can have on the health and well-being of older adults.

Intergenerational relationships were found to have an effect on both adult and child to reduce depression. The close bond can influence behavior in the grandkids too according to researchers.

Grandparents can influence the younger generation by sharing their life experience but children also bring fresh ideas to the older population too!

Some studies have shown that older women who babysit grandchildren one day a week have reduced incidence of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips for Staying In Touch

Despite the fact that there are more grandparents, our families continue to be spread out across the country and may not be in touch as well as they could.

Technology can bridge the gap, especially for those at a distance, but even for those who live in the same city (but different homes).

Here are some tips for seniors and grandchildren to strengthen relationships:

  1. Become pen pals. Use paper, pen, markers, crayons and ink to send messages of love and encouragement to each other. Kids can color pictures, write notes and create cards to send to grandparents who will love to receive these handmade missives on a regular basis. Even a very young child can participate.
  2. Share photos. We take photos every day using our phones and so do our senior loved ones. Setting up a way to easily share these photos — either through a secure website, personal Facebook page, or by text message — will spread the love.
  3. Connect via FaceTime or Skype to video chat. Grandchildren will love to connect with a grandparent face to face. They can play as the older adult watches, tell stories, share the events of the day, and just enjoy each other’s company. There’s nothing like being there (virtually) to be a part of the life of a younger child and watch them grow and change.
  4. Text message. If the grandchild is a bit older and can text using a smartphone or tablet, this is a great way to connect with a senior who can do the same. Short notes or longer stories can be shared in real time.
  5. ‘This is Your Life’ videos. Grandparents can make a video tape of their life events. Their first job, their first car, how they met their spouse, their siblings, the town where they grew up, and all the other details of their life that grandchildren would find interesting. Include facts such as the price of gum or milk, going to a black and white movie, getting a TV for the first time, or using a rotary phone will interest the kids. This will become a cherished memory for the whole family.
  6. Share a good book. Read a good book to each other. Maybe one day the child picks the book and one day the grandparent does but you read together, whether in person on via technology.
  7. Plan an outing. Go to the library, take a nature walk, plan a weekend getaway, or go for an ice cream cone. Make the most out of the time together.

Additional Resources

Spending time together will build lifetime memories and benefit both senior and child. Here are a few more articles family caregivers might like as we prioritize multi-generational activities.

 




Older Americans Month 17: How Will Your Senior Age Out Loud?

Getting older doesn’t mean what it once did.

For many aging Americans, it is a phase of life where interests, goals, and dreams can get a new or second start.

Today, aging is about eliminating outdated perceptions and living the way that suits you best.

Since 1963, Older Americans Month (OAM) has been a time to celebrate older Americans, their stories, and their contributions.

This celebration of our senior loved ones is led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL). The annual observance offers a special opportunity to learn about, support, and recognize our nation’s older citizens.

This year’s theme, “Age Out Loud,” emphasizes the ways older adults are living their lives with boldness, confidence, and passion while serving as an inspiration to people of all ages.

Is Your Senior Aging Out Loud?

Family caregivers of senior loved ones know that seniors aren’t the same now as they were in generations past.

They don’t want to sit on the porch and watch the world go by — they want to be the one going by to places unknown trying new things and staying both physically and mentally sharp.

Many seniors are doing things that their parents or grandparents wouldn’t have considered.

Age 65 is just the beginning, age 85 is mid-step, and 100 years old is a milestone more and more of our senior loved ones are achieving due to improved medical care and lifestyle changes.

Our seniors want life in their years, not just a few more years in their life.

What does it mean to ‘age out loud’?

The ACL describes a change in how today’s older adults are choosing to live. According to the ACL:

older Americans are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others. They expect to continue to live their lives to the fullest, and they’re insisting on changes that make that possible.

Seniors are:

  1. Working at an older age
  2. Coming out of retirement to try something new, even for a few days a week, as they pursue a second career
  3. Volunteering so they can feel fulfilled while giving back to the community
  4. Starting their own businesses
  5. Aging in place and staying healthy to avoid the need for facility care
  6. Adopting and enjoying the latest technology

Family caregivers are learning that their older adults are redefining aging — through work or family interests, by taking charge of their health, staying independent for as long as possible, and through their community and advocacy efforts.

Supporting Our Seniors as They Age Out Loud

Family caregivers can use this opportunity during Older Americans Month to learn how to best support their aging senior loved ones and help them live out loud too.

Encouraging seniors to remain as active physically and mentally as possible for as long as possible will help them (and us) age successfully!

Family caregivers can intervene with support, strategies, and education to help senior loved ones become healthier in a multitude of aspects of their life.

  • Help access healthcare – Facilitating transportation to their health appointments, encouraging them to take part in all preventive health services, assisting with insurance questions, including selecting a prescription drug plan that is beneficial for them.
  • Manage prescription drug administration – Assist our seniors with their medication administration by creating ways for them to be reminded of dosing, avoiding missed dosages, and regularly reviewing medication list to help prevent interactions.
  • Encourage and join physical activity endeavors – Go with them on walks; set up opportunities for movement, including tai chi, yoga, dancing, exercising, water aerobics or other fun they like; and remind them about the benefits of movement to their physical and mental health. We can also advocate in our cities for “Build Environment Intervention Approaches,” which are approaches cities can create to increase physical activity or modify environmental characteristics in a community to make physical activity easier or more accessible.
  • Support their rights -Help our seniors learn about their rights, including freedom from abuse, financial scams, and end of life decisions. Do they need an elder law attorney to help them execute personal documents including a will or a healthcare proxy or do they need a financial planner to help them budget for their future?
  • Connect them to technology – Help them use the latest technology to stay connected with family members and friends, stay safe in their own home, and receive telehealth benefits to improve their healthcare.
  • Reinforce healthy eating habits – It is never too late to make changes in the foods we eat to provide our bodies with the nutrition they need, especially our senior loved ones. Avoiding weak bones, muscle loss, and nutritional deficiency as we age will take some attention to be sure our seniors include foods that will nourish them. Caregivers can help seniors navigate the multitude of food choices.
  • Introduce volunteer opportunities – Seniors want to give back to their communities and find a meaningful purpose to fill their days. Caregivers can help them find ways for them to give their gifts and experience back.
  • Help them express themselves – Would your senior enjoy signing, painting, writing or storytelling? Provide them with the supplies they need, such as paints, paper, journals, recording devices and an audience so that they can engage through expression.

Supporting, encouraging and perhaps even a little cajoling can help our seniors live out loud, which can improve their quality of life.

Improving their wellness, engaging with their community, and finding meaning to their days will help our senior loved ones realize that…

Aging is a new stage of opportunity and strength ~~ Betty Friedan.




Would Genetic Testing Results Motivate You to Make Changes?

People have long sought the ability to see the future by gazing into a crystal ball.

That ability is now a reality — for some aspects of our lives, at least.

Preventing chronic diseases and declining abilities as we age is very important for family caregivers but we don’t always know exactly what we should do to make the most effective changes for our senior loved ones or ourselves.

Should we eat differently or would exercising more be the best strategy for us and our seniors to prevent debilitating disease?

Will it matter if we stop eating eggs every day or drinking sugary drinks whenever we are thirsty?

Are the benefits of changing our behaviors worth the effort?

Can we find out which behaviors would be important for us to change to really impact our aging?

What Can We Learn?

If you could learn what your senior’s future holds with regard to their personal health and well-being — or even your own — would you want to know?

Would you want to know if diabetes, heart disease, or cancer were potentially in your future and your level of risk of developing these diseases, so that you could change the course of your health?

If you knew that there was a great certainty improving your lifestyle behaviors for diet, preventive tactics, and physical activity would could change your health outcomes, would you change your habits to be healthier?

Is getting that information even possible?

Will it break the bank?

Will the results be accurate?

Is it easy to do or convenient?

Genetic Screening

Genetic testing can now tell us if we have specific markers that show we are at risk for certain chronic diseases. Your genes hold information about you, not just the color of your hair and eyes but also your predisposition to disease.

These screening tests DO NOT diagnose any medical conditions! They simply report whether or not we may be at risk.

Screening of our DNA will help us focus our lifestyle changes and advocate for our own health.

One such genetic test currently on the market is 23 and Me. These are some of the biomarkers for which they screen using your saliva, no blood or needles required:

  • Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
  • Hereditary Thrombophilia (harmful blood clotting)

After collecting your saliva in the comfort of your own home using the kit provided, your results will be ready in 6-8 weeks and viewed using your personal online access.

The results they give you include not only the presence or absence of biomarkers for specific conditions, but also describes the lifestyle factors that can influence their development. In addition, it provides education and resources for you to learn more about a particular disease, such as symptoms and treatments.

This information will help you determine which changes you can make to lessen your risk of developing these conditions.

Another screening test 23 and Me will complete is called a wellness report because your genes can influence your health habits. They will give you results about:

  • Alcohol Flush Reaction
  • Caffeine Consumption
  • Deep Sleep
  • Genetic Weight
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Muscle Composition
  • Saturated Fat and Weight
  • Sleep Movement

In addition to learning about your genetic predisposition, it gives education you can use to take action. You can also find out if you are carrier for certain diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, PKU, or hearing loss.

23 and Me can also use your DNA to determine your ancestry, which is similar to other testing products on the market.

23 and Me does not share individual information (results or responses) with any third party unless you request it. They may share data aggregated without any personal information attached to research partners for the purpose of advanced study. They have information about their privacy policy on their website for anyone to review prior to being testing.

Will You Be Motivated to Change?

If you or your senior were able to utilize this DNA based genetic testing as a predictor for health risk and the development of chronic health conditions, would this help you make necessary changes to lessen your risk?

Making dietary changes to lower your risk of heart disease or to reduce your weight to prevent diabetes has been ineffective for many people. Most people don’t seem to want to change their habits, even when they are told it can meaningfully improve their health.

Is this the type of information you need in your hands to finally get you making positive health and lifestyle changes?

Accuracy Questions

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, genetic testing may still be limited when it comes to providing the data we seek.

They report, despite the many scientific advances in genetics, researchers have only identified a small fraction of the genetic component of most diseases.

They fear using some genetic tests may lead to the misuse of these tests and the potential for physical or psychological harms to the public.

They remind us that they are not diagnostic. But there are many genetic tests for specific rare diseases that are useful and experts recommend using those.

It may be important to remember that genetic screening gives you results which indicate you’re at above-average risk for contracting a disease but don’t guarantee you’ll actually get it.

Also, we need to realize that if the test shows no risk that doesn’t mean that you won’t get it as a result of lifestyle and environmental factors. Your actions can influence your health.

Genetic screening can give false positives or inaccurate data according to some researchers into the entire industry.

We consider this to be one more tool in our health care prevention plan that we can use to guide us into healthier habits and focus our efforts toward actions that may help us in the future — as long as we take it for what it is worth and not hang our hopes and dreams on the results.


23 Pairs of Chromosomes. One Unique You. Get your DNA story at 23andMe.com.