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Mature Focus: News and notes

Twin Oaks Seniors

Twin Oaks Estate residents Margaret Warmann and Elmer Berthold show off their fall fashions at the photo corner.

Twin Oaks Estate residents Margaret Warmann and Elmer Berthold show off their fall fashions at the photo corner.

Residents at the Twin Oaks Senior Living campuses in O’Fallon and Wentzville recently welcomed autumn with fall festivals. The events at Twin Oaks Estate and Twin Oaks at Heritage Pointe featured entertainment, food, activities for children, a car show and a petting zoo, all for residents and their family members to enjoy.

Twin Oaks Senior Living offers independent and assisted living options for older adults.

Face-to-face contact

When it comes to socializing after age 50, nothing beats face-to-face contact, according to findings of a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University assessed the mental health of more than 11,000 adults aged 50 and older. Participants were enrolled in the University of Michigan’s longitudinal Health and Retirement Study.

To determine the effects of various forms of socialization on depression risk, researchers looked at frequency of social contacts occurring in person, over the telephone and in writing, including via email. Results indicated that those experiencing little face-to-face contact had nearly double the risk of depression two years later, while having more or fewer phone conversations or written contacts had no effect on depression. Those who got together with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms.

“We found that all forms of socialization aren’t equal.  Phone calls and digital communication with friends or family members do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression,” said lead study author Alan Teo, M.D.

Senior travel styles

The number of seniors who travel independently has increased in recent years, and today’s older travelers approach their trips differently from those of a decade ago.

A study analyzing how today’s senior travelers use tourism information revealed that they can be divided into three distinct groups.

“The Adventurous Experimenters are confident both in choosing their destination and using information technology. They are independent travelers who like to try out new destinations and avoid ready-made travel packages,” said researcher Juho Pesonen. “The Meticulous Researchers, on the other hand, use technology mainly to search for information, and they appreciate safety and user-friendliness both when it comes to technology and their destination. The Fumbling Observers, however, are less keen to use technology, and they often require assistance in using it. This group is the one that prefers ready-made travel packages and familiar destinations.”

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A recent AARP survey found that 87 percent of adults aged 45-plus will take at least three road trips this year. Nearly three in four (72 percent) of those surveyed said road trips are their favorite type of travel. The majority said they like having their own transportation when they get to their destination and enjoy the flexibility and cost benefits that come with traveling by car.

The survey found also that:

• The average, one-way drive time for a road trip is nine hours. Travelers typically stay at their destination for five days, making the average road trip a one-week excursion.

• Nearly all travelers (95 percent) said their trips typically involve two to three family members driving in one vehicle.

• Compared to members of Generation X, baby boomers are more likely to do some routine maintenance on their vehicles before traveling and are more likely to travel by car, as opposed to SUV.

• Asked about required road trip technology other than a cellphone, 62 percent cited cell coverage, 40 percent said they need an iPad or tablet and 39 percent noted the need for a digital camera.

Exercise after menopause

Light physical activity improves the body composition of postmenopausal women more than it does for premenopausal women, according to a study presented last month at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society.

University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers compared the amount of time spent on physical activities such as casual walking and gardening among both premenopausal and postmenopausal women and found that the benefits of exercise were not the same for the two groups.

“Across the board, for each measure of body composition, we found that light physical exercise had a greater impact in postmenopausal compared with premenopausal women,” said Lisa Troy, lead study author. “We additionally found that sedentary behavior was more strongly associated with waist circumference in postmenopausal women. This is an important public health message because as women go through menopause, physiological changes may decrease a woman’s motivation to exercise. What we’ve found in our study suggests that doing even a little bit of exercise may make a big difference in body composition.”

Better brain health

Sticking to a Mediterranean or Mediterranean-like diet might conserve brain cells that otherwise might be lost to aging, according to an article in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

A study conducted at Columbia University in New York demonstrated that those who followed a Mediterranean-like diet that involved eating more fish and plant-based foods and fewer meats and dairy foods had larger brain volume than those who did not follow the diet. The difference was significant, essentially amounting to five years of aging.

The study divided nearly 700 adults (average age of 80) who did not have dementia into two groups. One group followed Mediterranean-like diet guidelines in at least five food components, either consuming more of the diet’s healthy foods or fewer of its unhealthy foods, and those in the other group did not follow the diet.

The Mediterranean-like diet used in the study included high consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish and monounsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil; low consumption of saturated fatty acids, dairy products, meat an poultry; and mild to moderate intake of alcohol.

Participants in both groups underwent brain scans about seven months into the study.

Study author and American Academy of Neurology member Yian Gu said the study suggested that eating at least three to five ounces of fish weekly or eating no more than 3.5 ounces of meat per day might offer protection against brain cell loss equal to three or four years of aging.

“These results are exciting, as they raise the possibility that people may potentially prevent brain shrinking and the effects of aging on the brain simply by following a healthy diet,” Gu said.

Hearing aid bonus

It turns out hearing aids may do more than improve hearing ability. For senior adults, hearing aids might safeguard cognition and memory, too.

A study involving about 3,500 older adults found that while hearing loss was significantly associated with with greater cognitive decline over a 25-year period, hearing-impaired adults who used hearing aids had no greater decline in cognitive function than those with no hearing loss.

Study results were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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