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A1. REGULAR EXERCISE SAVES MONEY by Rene Ellington
If the benefits seen in the mirror and on the scale aren't enough to convince you, new research shows that regular exercise can also have a dramatic impact on your pocketbook. The financial benefits are more pronounced for those who stand to gain the most physically from routine activity-older adults with chronic disease.
A January 2008 study funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked a group of participants in the Healthways SilverSneakers® Fitness Program for two years, and found that they were admitted to the hospital less often and had lower overall healthcare costs. Participants in the study had significantly lower total adjusted healthcare costs, saving an average of $500 compared with a control group that did not participate. The more members participated, the more they saved. Participants who averaged at least two fitness center visits per week over two years incurred at least $1,252 less in healthcare costs in year two than did those who visited less than once per week on average. The savings were even more pronounced among those who visited more than twice a week.
According to the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, chronic diseases exact a particularly heavy health and economic burden on older adults due to associated long-term illness, diminished quality of life, and greatly increased healthcare costs. In 2005, 133 million people-almost half of all Americans-lived with at least one chronic condition, and 70% of all deaths in this country were attributed to chronic diseases. The medical care costs of people with chronic diseases account for more than 75% of the nation's $2 trillion medical care costs.
Diabetes is one of the fastest growing conditions in the United States. The risk of developing diabetes is highly correlated to lifestyle factors, specifically poor diet and physical inactivity. Being active can help to control and maintain body weight and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Further research of the same participants from the January study suggests that the healthcare cost reductions associated with participation in an exercise program for older adults in general also apply to older adults with diabetes. In fact, the impact on total healthcare cost is seen earlier and is three times greater in this higher-risk group. Those with diabetes had a 29 percent lower hospitalization rate, largely attributable to fewer hospital admissions and lower inpatient care costs with those hospitalizations. Participants had notable reductions in total healthcare costs at both one year (-$1,633) and 2 years (-$1,130) compared with non-participants. Even those who visited less frequently in year two still saw health benefits.
Another chronic condition affecting millions of older adults is depression. Depression affects between 5 and 10 percent of older adults seen in primary care, and is associated with decreased adherence to exercise, diet and taking medication. However, those who exercise report having a better outlook on life, and studies show that engaging in regular physical activity may also help to improve quality of sleep. Investigators at Duke University found that those who went through group-based exercise therapy did as well as those treated with an antidepressant drug. While the exercise alone is beneficial, many experts feel that the social aspect of group-based exercise may provide added benefits. In the first study to examine the association between depression and participation in a health plan-sponsored physical activity program for older adults over an extended period of time, researchers also found that at least two visits per week to group exercise classes during the first year were significantly associated with a lower risk of depression in year two.
We are learning more each day about how physical activity can prevent the onset of other chronic diseases such as heart disease and osteoarthritis. Exercise has also been shown to help treat the symptoms associated with those conditions.
Physical activity plays a critical role in the prevention and treatment of heart disease by increasing the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood. Research has shown that regular physical activity can speed recovery from a heart attack, and can also help to prevent symptoms worsening if you already have heart disease or a risk factor such as high blood pressure. Cardiovascular or aerobic activity of moderate intensity (like brisk walking) on most days of the week is most beneficial for the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
A common misconception seen among older adults who suffer from osteoarthritis is that exercise will worsen their condition. The Arthritis Foundation, sports medicine physicians, and researchers all agree that proper exercise can help control pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis. For the older adult, reducing weight and strengthening the joint can mean improved ability to do daily activities. Physical activity in general is often recommended as an excellent non-medical therapy for patients who have osteoarthritis.
While the CDC-funded studies focused on health plans' savings, fewer illnesses and improved health can mean less co-pay, prescription and other out-of-pocket costs for the member. Many Medicare health plans offer wellness benefits to their members, giving them access to a life-changing tool. Although the risk of disease and disability increases as we get older, this new research is proof once again that poor health does not have to be an inevitable consequence of aging. Much of the illness, disability, and death associated with chronic disease can be avoided through known preventive measures such as exercise.
Rene Ellington is Senior Vice President of the SilverSneakers® Fitness Program, the nation's leading exercise program designed exclusively for older adults, and a product of Healthways, Inc., an industry leader providing specialized, comprehensive Health and Care SupportSM solutions to help people maintain or improve their health. For more information, go to http://www.silversneakers.com
Find related information for seniors about Finance and saving money at:
A2. SAVING THE DOLLARS LEAKING OUT OF YOUR HOME
How much is your home energy bill, that bill you pay month in and month out, the unavoidable bill, the expensive one? You know the one I mean.
Your money goes mostly for heating or cooling, depending on the weather. What if we told you that money is leaking out of your home, and raising that bill even now, as you read this? Would you do something about keeping your heated or cooled air in the house? Of course!
But now you're waiting to hear the giant price tag. Well, how much do tubes of caulking cost from the home improvement store?
That's right. Considerable savings can be had by simply sealing up the cracks around doors, windows, access panels, vents, and stovepipe type exhausts in your roof.
If you want to know just how leaky your place is, there are expert firms all over the country who will come to you and complete an energy audit. They'll arrive with smoke sticks and exhaust fans to draw air in through the leaks in your home for identification and measurement. Infrared detectors are also in their arsenal of tools, among other things. The goal is to find all of the leaks in bathroom vents, double-hung, and older aluminum windows, doorframes, exhaust flues from your kitchen, and central heating at the roof.
Yes, some of these are harder to address than others, but everything
you do helps. And if you don't want to go to extremes, you can certainly
do the obvious to increase energy conservation:
Find related information for seniors about Aging in Place at:
B. DID YOU KNOW...?
1. Lowering Auto Insurance Costs
- rear-view mirrors that automatically dim and filter out headlight glare
A significant factor in improving safety is driver comfort. This is especially
true for the seat belts themselves. Poor belt comfort reduces the likelihood
of your using them. Also, reducing the physical effort of driving improves
safety. Such items as automatic transmission, power steering and power
brakes should be in good working order.
Visit our site at http://www.seniorresource.com/insur.htm#auto to learn more about auto insurance and to get a quote.
2. Staying Independent as Long as Possible
Many seniors in a community are able to live independently with some assistance, but don't have a network of family or friends nearby to provide that assistance. Many times, the chosen "solution" to the problem is a nursing home or institution. Of course, in the case of low-income seniors, the bill for institutionalization falls to the taxpayer.
ElderFriends was founded in Richmond, VA, in 2005 as a way to help solve the problem. This volunteer organization is modeled after a successful program in Seattle that was created by Richmond ElderFriends founding director Kiersten Ware. Family Lifeline, one of the oldest and largest community-based nonprofits in the area, manages the ElderFriends locally.
ElderFriends volunteers provide companionship and advocacy to Richmond's elders, with the goal of allowing them to stay independent as long as possible. They visit with program participants, alleviating loneliness and giving their elder friends a window on an outside world. Volunteers are also trained to spot and report the symptoms of abuse, and to help to identify other services they may benefit from.
"The need for this program is growing exponentially each year," said Ms. Ware. "It's been proven that seniors are able to live on their own longer, and lead more productive lives if they remain social. Isolation can lead to a number of problems, including depression and a number of associated health problems."
Aside from the obvious benefit of healthier and happier seniors who are able to remain independent longer, there are a number of side-benefits of the program. Volunteers not only are assisting the community, they're also building intergenerational relationships that enrich their lives.
The qualifications for a volunteer are simple. All that's needed is the ability to communicate and listen, and a desire to help the community by establishing a relationship with an elder participant. After completing ElderFriends' training program, a new volunteer is paired with a senior, with whom they visit at least four times per month. Volunteers report back to ElderFriends about their new friends' well-being. No healthcare or domestic training is necessary, as ElderFriends volunteers do not perform duties such as distribution of medicine or house- cleaning.
Additional Aging in Place information may be found at: http://www.seniorresource.com/ageinpl.htm
C. THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH
We present here some words from those with a birthday this month.
More "Thoughts" at: http://www.seniorresource.com/thought.htm
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D. SPECIAL SURFING SITES
1. Travel and Volunteer
History, culture, geography, environment, and the recreation of exploration meet the inspiration of your voluntary efforts in serving a destination and its residents. Body, mind, and soul respond to the awakening of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, via a labor of gratitude that is offered as a part of your overall itinerary.
VolunTourism provides you with perspective and balance. You are able
to utilize your "six" senses and interact with your destination
in ways that had previously existed beyond your capacity of expectation.
This is travel that unites your purpose and passion and ignites your enthusiasm
in ways unimaginable.
2. Are You a Knowledgeable Patient
Additional health information for seniors can be found at: http://www.seniorresource.com/health.htm
E. OH MY AGING FUNNY BONE
They Ask Why I Like Retirement
"Oh My Aging Funny Bone" is at: http://www.seniorresource.com/jokes.htm
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SPONSOR AN ISSUE
This issue has been edited by Betsy Day (Betsyjday@aol.com).
Aging in Place