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Light – Circadian Rhythms – Health and Well Being

Did you know that your tissues and organs have their own biological clocks?  Even more compelling is the fact that these clocks are coordinated and synchronized! The conductor of this grand synchronization is a ‘master clock’ residing in nerve cells in a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus.  Within the hypothalamus, this master clock is made up of approximately 20,000 nerve cells referred to as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SNC.)  Responding primarily to light, this orchestration controls almost every bodily function.  When the synchronization is in harmony, the music of the body, mind, and spirit is elegant.  When the biological clocks are out of sync, our mental and physical health suffers. Circadian Rhythms According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS,) circadian rhythms are “physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle.”  They influence the ebb and flow of our major systems impacting changes in our digestion, hormones, heart-rate, metabolism, blood pressure, immune system, and temperature.  The most predominant expression of our circadian rhythm is our 24-hour sleep and wake...

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Sleep Better to Live Longer

It has long been accepted that we need good nutrition and regular exercise to contribute toward our health and longevity. Did you know that quality sleep was just as important? We always think about sleep as being restive – and this is true. However, there exists another side of sleep that reveals that there is a lot going on during this time! The active restorative aspect of sleep assists our cells in our muscles, organs, cardiovascular system and brain to repair and renew. Our metabolism and hormones are also included in these processes, and it has even been suggested that quality sleep can also help to keep our weight in check. Conversely, then, inadequate sleep has the opposite effect on our systems. Poor quality or insufficient sleep can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, depression and anxiety, obesity, and increased risk of falls, stroke and some cancers. Prolonged sleep deprivation can decrease immune function, memory, and cognitive acuity. It is important to also recognize that while poor sleep can affect health outcomes, pre-existing conditions can in turn influence the length and quality of sleep. Sleep Deprivation and Impairment No one...

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Cognitive Reserve – Can We Beat Biology?

We know we are living longer — but are we living better?  Most would agree that it is not just about adding more years to our life story, it is about making sure those years enriching and rewarding. Too often, though, we know of friends and family who struggle with cognitive decline as they transition into later years.  Is it inevitable?  Why is it that some individuals seem to navigate this progression better than others?  Is there a secret to stalling or even overcoming cognitive decline? In the late 1980s, researchers noticed an interesting anomaly.  Some individuals, with significant brain pathology, did not evidence a commensurate decline in overall cognitive functioning while they were alive.  Others, with less brain pathology, showed much greater challenges in their day to day functional capacities.  Clearly, brain pathology in and of itself was not directly associated with the behavioral expression of cognitive function. This led to the study of ‘Cognitive Reserve.’  Cognitive Reserve (CR) refers to the mind’s resistance to damage to the brain.  Some brains are just better able to compensate for damage, and to establish...

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Intergenerational Learning : What Is Old Is New Again

Imagine young and old coming together to experience, learn, and share. Innovative new programming, or a dusting off of the way it used to be? With our aging population, we see emerging examples of intergenerational programs being offered on many continents. Although it would be over-stating it to suggest this has ‘taken-off,’ some of the experiences and results are both encouraging and positive. Some Examples:We turn first to Seattle where a long-term care facility shares space with a pre-school and child care center.1  Monday through Friday, babies and toddlers come to Providence Mount St. Vincent to mingle and connect with the residents where the average age is 92! Canada boasts a variety of examples where select secondary school students on a regular basis, attend local retirement or long-term care centres for a full school day that includes elements of their academic curriculum, social engagement with the residents, and service to the facility.2 The United Kingdom showcased an imaginative program initiated by a group of seniors. 3 This program brought together teens and older persons to explore mutual stereotypes and fears, and to ultimately discover appreciation and common...

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Power of Older Workers Part 2

The previous Maturity Matters Newsletter alerted us to the exodus of a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce leaving many organizations.  More than half of their management teams and employees are positioned to leave as Baby Boomers are preparing for partial, full, or re-defined retirement. For the past decades, employers have benefitted tremendously from the dedication and commitment of the baby boomers who have worked and still work for them.  Often described as ‘driven and workaholics,’ they served as a valuable resource and asset for many businesses.  This established intellectual and human capital will be moving on unless the right environment is created to continue to be welcoming and personally satisfying. Internships, mentorship opportunities, flexible hours and inter-generational workplaces, created the right way can help to create the right environment to stimulate creativity, knowledge sharing, productivity, and an enhanced sense of workplace well-being. We know that simply throwing together a group of multi-generational teams is not an effective solution.  Thoughtful and deliberate strategies, with corresponding training, preparation,...

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Power of Older Workers – Part 1

In praise of wine, cheese, and older workers – why we need to woo, engage and retain maturing employees. The majority of maturing workers are there because they want to be, and increasing numbers need to be there.  They are reliable, loyal, mature, professional and experienced.  They are known to have an exceptional work ethic and appreciate the opportunity to share and pass on their knowledge.  Most have probably been with their employer for quite a while now, and businesses have likely invested much in their training and development.  Older team members understand company and corporate values, culture, the business customers, and the job that needs to be done.  Ideal members of the workforce, they are getting ready to leave — en masse.  Are we ready? It is called the brain drain — originally referred to the emigration of highly intelligent and experienced professionals leaving for political, safety, or economical reasons. Today, you’ll often hear this term in reference to the current and pending retirement of the large baby boomer cohort. According to McKinsey Quarterly Survey[1], “…the baby boomer generation is “the best-educated, most highly...

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Tax Time Scams – Time for a Review and Update

The phone rings. You pick it up and the caller identifies himself as being from the government, contacting you on a problem with your taxes. Your heart races. You begin to wonder what could possibly be wrong? You picture investigations, fines, and trouble! All those thoughts begin to spin in your head while you try to listen to what he is saying. When you start to ask questions, the caller becomes aggressive and threatens serious consequences—police, criminal charges, and jail—if you don’t provide specific information and make a payment right away. That is called a telephone phishing scam. Those scams are all too common during tax preparation season. The more sophisticated telephone scammers might even have a telephone call display ID that looks official, so please be very careful. Or you might have been contacted through a very official-looking email message that demands personal information or even payment. That is an email phishing scam. Bogus requests can also be sent through the regular mail. Scammers use the pretext of a government investigation to obtain your personal and financial information. That puts you at risk for identity theft and the loss of your...

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National Advance Care Planning Day is April 16th

Keeping Our Voice – Part 2 – Advance Care Planning Life Happens….Be Ready.  This compelling theme underscores the significance of our National Advance Care Planning Day held annually on April 16. When we cannot speak for ourselves – who will speak for us, and what do we want them to say? One of the greatest gifts we can give our close friends and family is the comfort and confidence of knowing they can direct your care and treatment according to your wishes, beliefs and values.  Whether triggered through illness or accident, any one of us, regardless of our age, could lose our ability to express our wishes about our personal and health care preferences.    It is essential to remove uncertainty and the potential for conflict and dispute during difficult and emotional times.  Advance Care Plans that are prepared and shared free up your loved ones to be present for you and each other. What are Advance Care Directives? Advance Care Directives provide us with the opportunity to explore, discuss and document: – what we want to be communicated regarding our personal, treatment, and health care preferences,– who is in the best position to take on that role on our behalf,– how we record...

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Fall Prevention Series – Part 3 – What to do After a Fall

The previous two editions of our ‘Fall Prevention’ series addressed the common environmental, biological, and lifestyle elements that contribute to the risk of falls.   Even with the best prevention strategies, falls can still occur, and it is important for us to know just what to do when a fall happens. After a fall - If you can get up – how to get to a safe and comfortable position: Do not try to stand up if you are injured and/or feeling dizzy. If anyone is close enough to assist you, call out for their help. Take a moment to catch your breath, get your bearings, and recover if you were feeling light-headed. If no one else is around to assist, and you are able to, gently roll to your side – leading first with your head, then shoulders, torso, and legs. Rest if necessary. Slowly get up on all fours. Once you have your balance, gently crawl to a sturdy piece of furniture such as a sofa or heavy chair. Place your arms on the piece of furniture and grip firmly. While steadying yourself with your arms on the furniture, place your strongest foot flat on the floor, and with the other leg in the bent position, slowly lift yourself onto the chair or sofa. Once you are able to move, and...

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Fall Prevention – Personal Risk Prevention

In the previous Maturity Matters Newsletter, we discussed how to reduce the potential of a fall by attending to the environmental risk factors looming inside and outside of your home. In this edition, we will introduce the biological influences and lifestyle changes you can make to remain safe in later years. While the impact and consequences of falls are significant – it is important to realize that falls are not inevitable! There is much we can do to mitigate the risks and add to our longevity and well-being. Biological Factors These refer to factors relating to overall aging, as well as the effects of chronic conditions, acute health challenges, medications and their interactions, end of life issues, and gender differences. TIPS • Review your medications and supplements with your health practitioner on a regular basis. • Consult with your health practitioner to manage conditions that could cause dizziness. • Manage your blood pressure and pay attention to the potential for postural hypotension that can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up and transferring. • Have your eyes and hearing tested annually. • Visit a podiatrist to keep your feet in good condition....

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