For a Taste of Gourmet, Head to Verena at Gilbert

Meet the Culinary Director at Verena at Gilbert

Chef Stephan Germanaud is the Culinary Director at Verena at Gilbert, a modern Independent Living Community in the town of Gilbert, Arizona, ideally located right off the 202 San Tan and Val Vista Road.

Chef Stephan Germanaud Verena at Gilbert
Chef Stephan Germanaud, Culinary Director at Verena at Gilbert

Chef Stephan’s culinary journey began in Bourdeaux, France, where he grew up spending a lot of time in the kitchen with his grandmother, who, he says, was a fantastic cook. “My grandmother had a profound effect on my life, giving me the love of food and inspiring me to learn how to cook, and cook well,” he says.

At only 13 years old, Chef Stephan continued his journey in culinary school, acquiring culinary and management degrees over a period of five years, including a degree in French Culinary Art from the esteemed Lycee de L’Hotellerie et du Tourisme De Gascone in Talence, France. He describes the hands-on training as tough but the reason he has become the accomplished chef he is today.

At 20 years old, the aspiring chef made a life-changing move from France to Phoenix, Arizona, and began building an impressive resume, from cook to sous chef at The Phoenician luxury resort and progressing to Executive Chef and Executive Banquet Chef positions at other high-end properties, including Boulders Resort & Spa and the historic Wrigley Mansion. He also catered notable events, including the Mayor’s luncheon with President Barack Obama and the NFL Hall of Fame 2016.

Elevating Food in Senior Living

In 2017, Chef Stephan was inspired to join the senior living industry to elevate the perception of what food should be in a retirement community. “I believe that the senior living industry is becoming more about a lifestyle rather than a need, and food is a very big part of what drives the decision to move into and stay at a community,” he says. “I want to show our residents, and future residents, that seniors deserve fresh and tasty food, as we all do. I want to be part of their culinary experience.”

Verena at Gilbert culinary creations

Chef Stephan says that making residents smile while having fun doing what he loves is one of the best parts about being at Verena at Gilbert. He’s often inspired by Verena residents, stating, “I have had residents pass me their recipes, and this gives me ideas of dishes to make according to what they like.” He also is passionate about using the freshest ingredients and keeping up with trends to continue delighting the recipients of his meals. “But, listening,” he says. “Listening to residents about what they want—now that is my number one priority.”

Times may have changed since Chef Stephan stepped into the Verena kitchen, but his attention to detail and dedication to making exquisite dishes from scratch has not wavered. He continues to create beautifully plated, delicious food, even if the “plate” happens to be a meal container delivered to a resident’s door.

Receive a Meal from Verena at Gilbert

Are you interested in receiving a Chef Stephan meal delivered to your home? Call us at 480-899-8200 to arrange for your personal delivery.


At Verena at Gilbert, an Independent Living Community in the town of Gilbert, Arizona, retire in style with retail shops, restaurants, and hiking trails all within reach, and enjoy easy access to Chandler, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Phoenix! Connect with new friends, engage in new adventures, and enjoy exquisite meals prepared by an experienced and creative culinary team driven by a passion for food.

Check out Verena at Gilbert on Facebook.

Lessons from Centenarians: A How-To for Longevity and Health

Living to 100 isn’t all that rare anymore. In fact, the number of U.S. centenarians has grown 65 percent since 1980 with more than 53,000 centenarians living in the United States according to the 2010 census (330 of those have reached super centenarian status of 110 or older). Is there a secret to living a long and healthy life? Here’s what centenarians have to say.

Life Lessons from Centenarians

United Healthcare’s 100@100 survey found these common themes.

  1. All About Outlook – Approximately 61 percent of centenarians view themselves as being positive with a full quarter believing that a positive attitude is a key to staying healthy.
  2. Move It or Lose It – Nearly half of centenarians interviewed say they walk or hike at least once a week. Of those, about a third exercises to strengthen muscles or for stress relief. Cardiovascular exercise indoors and gardening to keep active are also popular.
  3. All You Have to Do Is Smile – Laughing and having a sense of humor is also important with 84 percent of centenarians saying that doing this is easy for them.
  4. Age is Just a Number – Approximately 60 percent of centenarians say they don’t feel old and the rest said they didn’t start to feel that way until they were in their 80s.
  5. Appreciate Your Youth – On average, centenarians felt most attractive at age 31, most energetic at 34, happiest at 44, healthiest at 46 and wisest at 49. However, they felt most content overall at age 56.

Blue Zones Back it Up

You may have heard about the Blue Zones or places around the world where people live longer, specifically into their 100s. Blue Zones locations are:

  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okanawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California, United States
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Nicoya, Coast Rica

Based on research in these places, some common characteristics for longevity have been found which are very similar to the ones listed above including exercise, stress relief and family. Additional lessons from centenarians in Blue Zones include:

  1. Know Your Purpose – Having clear values, passions and talents can add seven years to your life.
  2. The 80% Rule – This rule suggests you cut 20 percent of your calories with evidence based practices such as eating a big breakfast, eating with your family, using 10 inch plates and stoping when you feel 80% full.
  3. Love Your Plants – Eating a diet that’s heavy on beans, nuts and green plants are common among these centenarians.
  4. Have a Drink – This research has found that moderate drinkers (two to three drinks per day only) outlive non-drinkers.
  5. Have Faith – Attending faith-based services four times per month can add four to 14 years to your life.
  6. Find Community – Make sure you have a social circle that includes healthy-minded and supportive people to increase longevity.

Speaking of Community

There’s no easier place to practice these life lessons than in an active senior living community. They support this aging research too and are focused around keeping residents as active, independent and socially connected as possible. You’ll find monthly calendars filled with clubs, classes, events and outings along with amenities such as pools, fitness centers, restaurant-style dining and housekeeping and laundry services. It’s this convenient and carefree lifestyle that has more and more people moving to active senior living while they are completely healthy!

For more information on how you can benefit from these lessons on longevity and health in active senior living, contact us today to schedule a visit →

Drop These Unhealthy Habits for a Healthier Retirement

After all these years of work the time has finally come to retire! And it’s a time you want to make the most of right? We bet you’ve planned some things you’d like to do, you’ve likely saved and done some financial planning, but if you’re like many retirees, you haven’t really planned for your health. We’re not talking about healthcare costs, rather whether your current health habits will empower the retirement lifestyle you want or hinder it. If you’re an independent senior with some unhealthy habits, here’s what you can do to get back on track.

Healthy Habits and Life Expectancy

We all know that smoking, alcohol, exercise and diet are key components to your health. But, you may not realize how much of an effect they can have on your longevity. Research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has shown that projected life expectancy at age 50 increases by 14.0 years for women and 12.2 years for men when you follow all five of these habits:

  • Not smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Keeping a healthy body weight
  • Moderate alcohol consumption

Even if you’re past 50, keep in mind that it’s never too late to start. Healthy habits will always reap benefits.

Hidden Health Hazards

You may not think of spending time alone as a bad thing. And it most cases it isn’t. Spending more time by yourself is often a necessity as you age with approximately 29 percent of adults aged 65 and older living alone according to a 2010 Administration on Aging report.

However, when you become detached physically or psychologically, or are disconnected from family, friends and community it’s known as social isolation. The AARP Foundation states that more than 8 million adults aged 50 and older are affected and calls it a “growing health epidemic” in which the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to the dangers of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Social isolation is rarely caused by one thing, but risk factors include:

  • Living alone
  • Hearing/vision loss
  • Limited mobility
  • Limited transportation options
  • Being a caregiver for someone with a serious condition
  • Chronic health conditions 
  • Psychological or cognitive challenges
  • Life transitions such as retirement or the loss of a spouse

Some of the ways to keep connected are to utilize technology to stay in touch with friends and family when you can’t be together in-person, continuing hobbies, learning something new, volunteering and even reconnecting spiritually with nature, meditation or religion.

Healthy Living in Independent Senior Living

One way that you can make it easier to drop unhealthy habits is to move to independent senior living. We’re not talking a nursing home, rather today’s senior living communities are focused around keeping residents as active, independent and socially connected as possible. They offer monthly calendars filled with clubs, classes, events and outings. Plus, with numerous indoor and outdoor common areas, you still have plenty of space to host friends and family.

What’s more, independent senior living communities are often on sprawling campuses with lush green landscaping, beautifully decorated interiors, comfortable accommodations and amenities such as pools, fitness centers, restaurant-style dining and housekeeping and laundry services. It’s this convenient and carefree lifestyle that has more and more retirees moving to independent senior living while they are completely healthy!

For more information on how you can benefit from retirement in independent senior living, contact us today to schedule a visit →

Go Play: Easy Ways for Active Seniors to Benefit from Nature

Turns out, you are never too old to play outside. In fact, research has consistently shown that enjoying the great outdoors in your golden years can benefit you in a multitude of ways. But, we also understand how mobility issues, lack of access and/or lack of transportation can create challenges. Here’s why you should make the most of nature and how you can make doing so easier.

Why Seniors Should Get Back to Nature

Whether it’s the breath of fresh air that clears your head or the warm sunshine that puts a smile on your face, nature has long been known to inspire and improve mood. But nature’s benefits go much deeper than that, particularly as we age. Spending time outdoors can literally change your life for the better.

Mental health benefits – A University of Michigan study found that group walks in a natural setting could be a medication alternative for seniors dealing with stressful circumstances, such as loss of a loved one or serious illness. Another study by the University of Minnesota found that being close to water is especially comforting when you’re grieving and can provide a sense of connectedness with deceased loved ones.

Memory benefits – A study published by the Association for Psychological Science found that interacting with nature improved memory performance and attention span by 20 percent because of its restorative effect on our mental abilities.

Physical health benefits – One University of Chicago study found that simply living in a tree-filled neighborhood can help improve cardiovascular and metabolic health in addition to lowering blood pressure and stress levels. Plus, Harvard University found that people with homes surrounded by vegetation lived 12 percent longer, had a 34 percent lower rate of death from respiratory illness and a 13 percent lower rate of cancer death.

Emotional benefits – Social isolation is all too common among seniors and having access to outdoor spaces provides wonderful opportunities to be more active and engaged with others. According to a Kent State University study, social settings in outdoor spaces are associated with positive experiences, increases pride in the community and offers a chance to meet people with similar interests.

Energy benefits – It’s hard to feel energized if you’re home alone and going through the same routine each day. Getting out of the house can help immensely. According to a University of Rochester study, 90 percent of people report increased energy when placed in outdoor activities.

Easy Ways to Spend Time with Nature

You don’t necessarily have to travel far or sign up for the next Survivor season to get the benefit of time outdoors. Here’s how you can make the most of nature in everyday life:

  • Sit by an open window as you enjoy a meal or read.
  • Set up bird feeder within view of a window, porch or deck.
  • Plant flowers that attract butterflies or simply enjoy watching the plants bloom.
  • Make a point to walk to the mailbox each day.
  • Find ways to integrate your hobbies with the outdoors; paint landscapes or simply do your arts and crafts outside; find an outdoor concert where you can enjoy your favorite genre of music; instead of exercising inside, set up your yoga mat on the porch.
  • Invite your family over for a barbeque or the grandchildren over to play outside.
  • If you meditate pick a favorite spot in the yard instead of in the house.
  • If you have a pet, instead of just letting them out to play start taking them for walks.

Nature is a Natural Fit in Active Senior Living

Perhaps you’re still concerned about mobility in trying the ideas above at home or live in an area without easy access to outdoor space. Or, maybe you already do the ideas above and want to go bigger; there is another option: active senior living.

You may be surprised to learn that senior living is well aware of the benefits of nature for their residents and today’s communities are specifically designed to incorporate nature whenever and wherever possible.

On campus you’ll find lush green landscaping, numerous green spaces from gardens to patios and courtyards; even residences with lovely views in many cases. Plus, these communities cater to the mobility needs of seniors with easy-to-navigate walking paths for example.

But it’s not just the campus itself; active senior living communities incorporate nature into daily life as well with activities that incorporate the outdoors such as gardening clubs, walking groups and outings to enjoy local outdoor recreation opportunities. What’s more, many communities are even strategically located near parks. You’ll have more opportunities than you can imagine to enjoy the benefits of nature here!

For more information on how you can benefit from nature in active senior living, contact us today to schedule a visit →

Why Pets are Such a Treat if You’re Over 55

Wet kisses and unconditional love are just the beginning when it comes to the benefits of pets, especially people over the age of 55. From reducing depression and lowering blood pressure to giving you a wonderful, tail-wagging reason to get out of bed in the morning, numerous research studies have shown the positive impact. But before you rush out to find your new best friend, let’s take a closer look at what to expect and what you should consider about pet ownership.

The Benefits of Fur Babies

The physical benefits of owning a pet include:

  • Motivation to Stay Active – A study published in The Gerontologist found that dog walking was associated with lower body mass index, fewer daily activity limitations and fewer doctor visits.
  • Lower Blood Pressure – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having a pet has the potential to lower blood pressure, especially in hypertensive or high-risk patients.
  • Decreased Stress – A study at State University of New York at Buffalo found that when conducting stressful tasks, people experienced less stress when their pets were with them than even when a spouse, family member or close friend was nearby.
  • Pain Relief – Loyola University researchers found the use of pet therapy while recovering from surgery helped people to need significantly less pain medication.

There are mental and emotional benefits as well:

  • Companionship – Social isolation is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day according to the AARP and living alone is one of the key risk factors. Having a pet can provide much that needed companionship and give you more social opportunities – dog park anyone?
  • Keeping Mentally Active – Initially you might think all that’s involved with taking care of a pet is a negative thing. However, it’s actually another way you can stay mentally active in which a growing body of research suggests could play a role in slowing memory decline.
  • Purpose – In retirement many struggle to find the usefulness they once felt in their career or when raising a family. A pet can once again offer that purpose, and taking care of them can improve confidence and self-esteem.
  • Living in the present – Retirees often worry about the what ifs of tomorrow – will you outlive your savings, what will happen to your health, who will take care of you? But pets luckily can’t think like that; they live in the moment and have a way of keeping your focus right there with them.

Considerations for Pet Ownership over 55

The owner and pet relationship should really be a two-way street with benefits all around so it’s important to consider the following before making that commitment:

  • Experience Owning a Pet – For people over 55, it’s usually best to at least have some experience in owning a pet before. That way it’s an easier lifestyle transition and you have a clearer understanding of what to expect.
  • Activity Level – Puppies are certainly cute but they need a lot of attention and exercise, much more so that older dogs or cats. And cats in general are more self-sufficient than dogs. If you have any disabilities or functional limitations consider how much you could realistically take on.
  • Allergies – This could potentially be a deal-breaker but there are dog and cat breeds known to be more hypoallergenic. Doing your research here beforehand would be well worth it.
  • Temperament – Just like there are some types of people you get along better with, pets are the same way. Make sure to look at the characteristics of different breeds and their personalities.
  • Finances – Pets can be expensive, from toys and food to supplies and vet bills costs can rack up pretty quickly. And it’s not just the initial costs you need to consider; pets are a long-term financial commitment.
  • Contingency Plan – Should you no longer be able to care for your pet it’s crucial to have a plan in place for a family member or friend to step in so they’ll always have the loving home they deserve.
  • Place of Residence – Do you live in a house? In an apartment? With your children or a roommate? Consider whether it’s practical to own a pet given your living situation. Also check for pet restrictions with your home owner’s association or apartment complex.

Pets in Senior Independent Living

There are many benefit to senior independent living communities  – amenities, activities, convenience, peace of mind – which is more and more people are moving to them at a younger age, while perfectly healthy. What you may not know is that many of these communities are also pet friendly.

And the added bonus is that some also offer assistance with dog grooming, walking and/or other pet services which can make the decision to become a pet owner even easier with this extra help onsite. Be sure to check with any senior independent living community you’re interested in for their specific pet policy.

If at the end of the day you decide against pet ownership, you may still be able to regularly enjoy the benefits of animals in your senior independent living community. Many communities offer pet therapy programs where animals from rescues, animals shelters or certified therapy dogs come in to visit with residents.

How to Find Your Purrfect Pet

If there’s a specific type of dog you’re interested in, breeders are certainly an option. There are also many wonderful animals looking for homes through local pet rescues and/or animal shelters plus the fees are often much more reasonable. Petfinder.com is a good place to begin your search and includes these groups as well.

Not a dog person? Although cats often get a bad reputation, they are wonderful pets as well. Don’t let that aloof demeanor fool you, they are loving, fun and loyal too! You might also consider fish or birds as well.

For more information on the benefits of pets in our senior independent living communities, contact us today to schedule a visit →

5 Exercise Tips for a Healthy Retirement

What are you going to do with all that time on your hands? It’s a question those about to retire or newly retired may hear often. And while retirement does come with more time to do the things you love, unfortunately for many, it doesn’t include exercise. But don’t worry, we’ll show you how fun and easy it can be to make exercise part of your daily routine. As well as how LACK of exercise can put a real damper on your retirement plans.

Seniors and “The Sitting Disease”

We all know that exercise offers a range of benefits both physically and mentally. But we often overlook the risks of a sedentary lifestyle – little to no physical activity and/or primarily participating in activities where you sit or lie down such as reading or watching TV.

Being sedentary, also known as “the sitting disease,” puts seniors at higher risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, Type 2 diabetes and even cognitive decline. What’s more, bone loss may happen at a faster rate, you’re more at risk for falls and may have more trouble performing daily activities due to loss of muscle tissue. If that isn’t enough, you’re also more at risk of depression.

And shockingly, the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that a 67 percent of seniors are, in fact, sedentary for at least 8.5 hours a day.

But, if the gym has never been your friend, don’t worry. The benefits of exercise are seen not only in those who maintain an existing level of physical activity, but also in those who begin exercising between ages 70 and 85.

The First Step

Now that you know it’s never too late to get started, what do you do first? We recommend checking with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen to see if you have any restrictions due to medications or chronic conditions. Or, if foot pain has kept you sidelined in the past it may be time to see a podiatrist to correct any issues or help with footwear recommendations.

Making Your Move

The National Institute on Aging recommends seniors do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week in sessions of at least 10 minutes duration across four categories of exercise: endurance, strength training, balance and flexibility. To break this down an active senior could exercise approximately 20 minutes per day, seven days per week; 30 minutes per day for five days per week; or 50 minutes per day for three days per week; whatever’s most convenient. Now let’s talk tips:

  1. Endurance Exercises – These are aerobic activities that increase your breathing and heart rate to improve the health of your heart, lungs and circulator system. Try brisk walking, dancing, jogging, swimming, biking, tennis or basketball – even yard work or climbing stairs count! Consider getting a pedometer to track your steps, working up to 10,000 or more steps a day.
  2. Strength Training – Here you’re focused on improving your muscle strength to carry those grandchildren around or simply make getting out of a chair easier. Do these exercises for all major muscle groups (shoulders, arms, chest, stomach, back, hips and legs) two or more days a week making sure not to exercise the same group two days in a row. It can be as easy as having two pound weights handy for arm curls while watching your favorite show or doing some pushups while waiting for coffee to brew in the morning.
  3. Balance Exercises – According to the CDC, one in four Americans aged 65 and older falls each year. And falling more than once doubles your chances of falling again. However, improving your balance through activities such as standing on one foot while waiting in line, heel-to-toe walking to get the mail and taking Tai Chi can reduce your risk.
  4. Flexibility Exercises – Keeping your body limber through stretching gives you more freedom of movement, making it easier to do your everyday tasks like making the bed, seeing what’s behind you when backing out the car or even bending to tie your shoes. Try neck, shoulder and upper arm stretches, calf stretches and yoga for example.
  5. Make it Fun – Perhaps the most important tip, as you’re more likely to keep doing something you enjoy, is to make exercising fun. Look at it as a social opportunity by joining classes at your local senior center or gym or start a walking club with your neighbors. Listen to music, podcasts or audio books while exercising, take your grandkids to the park to play or incorporate it into things you already love like gardening.

Bonus tip: Make sure you spend about five minutes before and after you exercise to warm up and cool down. This gives your muscles a chance to get ready and helps to prevent injury and soreness later.

Active Senior Living is Easy

If all of the above sounds hard to keep track of or logistically challenging due to lack of transportation, we get it. Know that there is an easier way. Today’s senior living communities are going beyond the typical games and social gatherings towards an overall wellness approach, of which exercise is a big part.

In active senior living communities you’ll have access to amenities such as a fitness center, pool, a range of exercise classes and even walking trails and dog parks in some cases. Plus it’s all steps from your door so you no longer have to worry about transportation; and there will always be an exercise buddy nearby!

For more information on how our active senior living communities support a healthy retirement, contact us today to schedule a visit →

How to Keep Your Mind Sharp When You’re Over 55

You’ve heard the phrase ‘use it or lose it,’ and for those of us over 55 we can sometimes feel we’re losing it more often than not. “Where are the keys again?” “Why did I come in here?” But joking aside, there is truth to the statement particularly when it comes to your mind. In fact, another phrase you’re hearing more of lately is ‘brain health’ which is about making the most of your mind and helping to reduce risks to it as you age. We can help you do just that with 5 fun ways to keep your mind sharp as you age.

Why is Brain Health Important?

Before we get to the how in keeping your mind sharp, let’s talk about why it’s important.  One of the key reasons is to help ward off health issues such as Alzheimer’s disease which, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone in the United States develops every 65 seconds.  While a cure hasn’t been found yet, research has shown that the brain does benefit from staying both socially and cognitively active.

Doing something unfamiliar and mentally challenging can give you the most benefit, or as University of Texas scientist Denise Park says, “When you are inside your comfort zone, you may be outside of the enhancement zone.”

5 Fun Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp When You’re Over 55

  1. Learn something new – While you may not be in school anymore, that doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Keep your brain stimulated by learning a new skill, new language, new hobby; learn to play an instrument, to paint or even approach a familiar task in a different way.
  2. Win with brain games – Playing chess or bridge, doing crossword or jigsaw puzzles may seem like it’s all in fun but these types of games are also a great way to enhance memory and the processing speed in your brain.
  3. Read, read, read – If you’re not one to be found with your nose stuck in a book, it may be time to reconsider. Regular reading helps to strengthen the muscles in your brain; it improves concentration and even helps to reduce stress which can have its own harmful health effects.
  4. Take a walk – The mind-body connection is powerful as research suggests that parts of the brain that control thinking and memory have greater volume in those who exercise versus those who don’t. And it doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise; the key is that its regular exercise.
  5. Stay social – We said above that the brain benefits from social and cognitive activity so two birds, one stone? Joining a book club, bridge club, a walking group or taking part in local volunteer opportunities are fun ways to do both at the same time.

Keeping Your Mind Sharp Made Easy

It’s true, achieving all the tips above on your own may be a challenge and it’s one of the big reasons people over 55 are moving to active senior living earlier than ever. Senior living communities today have shifted from a purely clinical focus to one of engagement for the whole person and that includes brain health. That’s why you’ll find monthly calendars filled with clubs, classes, events, fitness and enrichment opportunities for virtually any interest you may have. And it’s all right outside your doorstep, making it easier than ever to ‘use it.’

For more information on how our active senior living communities help you to keep your mind sharp, contact us today to schedule a visit →

How to Create Better Social Connections When You’re Over 55

If the fountain of youth exists, it may very well be found within your social circles. Turns out, socially active seniors have a lower risk for Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease as well as some forms of cancer and even a lower death rate that those who don’t maintain social connections according to the National Institute on Aging. So, how should the over 55 set stay connected at a time in their life when it may be getting harder to do just that? We’re so glad you asked!

Four Ways to Create Better Social Connections When You’re Over 55

  1. Take advantage of technology – Nurturing existing relationships with friends and family is a great way to stay connected and technology is ideal in helping you to overcome barriers such as distance, mobility and/or lack of transportation. Plus, smartphones and tablets are more convenient than ever to use with large screens, voice capabilities and the ability to navigate by touch.

Ways to connect through technology:

  • Video chat apps such as FaceTime or Skype
  • Social media such as Facebook

If you need to learn:

  • Ask your kids, grandkids and friends.
  • See if your local senior center, public library, local university or local computer stores offer learning resources.
  • Find tutorials and classes online through aarptek.org and techboomers.com.
  • Watch for “How-To” events at local senior living communities.
  1. Try something new – Being over 55 is no excuse for letting yourself fall into a rut. Remember how invigorating it is to try something new? Yes, it’s another way to expand your social circles, but it also helps to increase your confidence and can give you a new perspective. If that’s not enough, research shows that brain health specifically benefits from staying both socially and cognitively active.

“New” ideas:

  • Adopt a new hobby.
  • Join a club.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Join a walking group.
  • Learn a new skill and/or new language.
  • Challenge yourself to games with strategy.
  • Learn how to play an instrument.
  • Approach a familiar task in a different way.
  1. Find your cause – Volunteering not only introduces you to others with similar interests, it can also help you to find renewed purpose and offers the opportunity to give back in your local community.

Ways to get involved:

  • See what causes your friends and family take part in.
  • Check with senior living communities, who often partner with local organizations, to see what opportunities may be available.
  • Connect with online volunteer matching services like VolunteerMatch which works with over 121,000 non-profits across the country and SeniorCorps which has programs such as Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions as well as opportunities that include tutoring, renovating homes, teaching English and assisting natural disaster victims.
  1. Connect spiritually – The ways we’ve discussed to connect so far benefit your mind and body, but what your spirit? Connecting in this way can be even more profound because while the body ages, the spirit can always grow and renew. If mobility and/or transportation, small print scripture or difficulty hearing the sermon have stood in the way of attending church, you do have options.

Making it happen:

  • If you’re in senior living, check to see if your community can provide transportation to your church and/or if religious services are available onsite (many communities have these options).
  • Participate in a bible study in your senior living community or with your neighbors at home.
  • Go online; YouVersion offers an app and website where you can read and hear Bible scripture; it even offers reading plans.

Other ways to connect spiritually include:

  • Meditation
  • Art
  • Nature
  • Positive thinking

For more information on how easy it is to stay socially connected in our senior living communities, contact us today to schedule a visit →

Discovering your Passion When You’re Over 55

“What’s my purpose?” It’s a question we ask ourselves throughout our lives – as teens, then as college graduates, as new parents and as empty nesters. But there’s perhaps no more important time to ask that question than as we prepare to retire. After all, work, perhaps parenting, perhaps marriage or a combination of all three has defined the majority of our lives. Now in the absence of full-time responsibility, we have the opportunity to find a new or renewed purpose. The next question is how do you discover your passion when you’re over 55?

The Importance of Purpose

It’s common knowledge that having a sense of purpose gives us direction, fulfillment and happiness, but research has shown it also has a tangible benefit on your health.

  • A study at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri found that rating a person’s sense of purpose even one point higher on a seven-point scale decreased risk of death by 12 percent over 14 years. Plus, the benefits were seen across people in their 20s to 70s, suggesting it’s never too late to find your passion.
  • A study by Rush University Medical Center found that people who have a lower sense of purpose in their lives could be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to people who have a greater sense of purpose.
  • Researchers for the American Heart Association analyzed a number of studies and found that over an average follow-up of 8.5 years, having a high sense of purpose in life was associated with a 23 percent reduction in death from all causes and a 19 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes.
  • A study by the University of Michigan found that those who reported having greater life purpose were more likely to make better use of preventative healthcare and spent less time in the hospital compared to those with a lower sense of purpose. 

5 Ways to Discover Your Passion Over Age 55

  1. Adjust your attitude – It all starts with getting yourself in the right frame of mind. Look at this as an opportunity to grow but don’t let pressure to find your purpose right away or fear of failing derail you. It’s a learning process so give yourself some grace, have fun and experiment along the way.
  2. Find your go-to – Most people, whether they realize it or not, are drawn to particular subjects, foods, books, movies, TV shows, hobbies, even types of people. Think about those themes and explore what attracts you to them, as well as how you might expand on them going forward.
  3. Start fresh – If you’re tired of the same ole same ole, perhaps it’s time to switch things up. It can be invigorating to try new things like joining a club, learning a new skill or language or even approaching a familiar task in a different way. You never know what opportunities may come when you put yourself out there.
  4. Make a difference – There’s nothing that warms your heart more than helping someone else. It can certainly give you purpose and for many quickly becomes a passion. To find your cause check with friends and family, local charitable organizations you’re already aware of or connect with online volunteer matching services live VolunteerMatch and SeniorCorps.
  5. Call on your inner child – There’s rarely a time when you’re more true to yourself than in childhood. Think back to what brought you the most joy; also ask your childhood friends or family members what they remember you being passionate about. You may be surprised to find that your purpose has been waiting for you all these years!

Bonus Tip – Change Your Scenery in Over 55 Communities

People are moving to over 55 communities earlier than ever these days and they’re an ideal place to find your passion. They offer a more active, convenient and carefree lifestyle than you may find at home, giving you more time and opportunity to fulfill your purpose. With various clubs, daily activities and enrichment opportunities, over 55 communities are plugged in locally in ways hard to achieve on your own.

For more information on the benefits of our over 55 communities, contact us today to schedule a visit →

5 Diet and Nutrition Tips for Active Seniors

The adage “You are what you eat,” has particular significance as you age. Throughout your adult life you’re advised to eat smart and make healthy choices to be your best self. But let’s be honest, doing that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Couple that with dietary needs related to health conditions, medications, bone health, gut health, immune function – the list goes on – and nutrition becomes even more complex the older you get. Who has time for it all? And who can make sense of it? We can help with these 5 Diet and Nutrition Tips for Active Seniors.

Simplifying Diet and Nutrition for Active Seniors

  1. Diet Dos

The National Institute on Aging recommends these daily servings for seniors:

  • Fruits — 1½ to 2½ cups
  • Vegetables — 2 to 3½ cups
  • Grains – 5 to 10 ounces
  • Protein foods — 5 to 7 ounces
  • Dairy foods — 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Oils — 5 to 8 teaspoons
  • Keep the amount of solid fats, added sugars and sodium (salt) to a minimum

And don’t forget the water! In general adults need about 64 ounces of fluid every day (through beverages or food), but that amount can vary with heat, strenuous activity, medications and health conditions so check with your doctor on what’s best for you.

 

  1. Nutrient Know-How
  • Vitamin D and calcium are important in helping to prevent osteoporosis and can be found in foods such as fortified cereal, bread and juice.
  • B12 can help with energy levels and can be found in beef liver, mackerel, sardines, red meat, yogurt and fortified cereals.
  • Fiber is helpful in digestion, lowering cholesterol, maintaining healthy weight and stabilizing blood glucose levels and can be found in beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseeds, chia seeds, salmon, walnuts, tofu, shellfish, canola oil, navy beans, Brussel sprouts, and avocados) and flavonoid-rich foods (dark berries, cocoa, tea, soy, citrus fruits and red wine) can help promote immune function.
  • Probiotics can help with gut health and can be found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi.
  • To reduce salt intake you can try seasonings such as garlic powder, onion powder, dill, paprika, pepper, citrus and fresh herbs instead.
  • And resources such as ChooseMyPlate.Gov can help you learn how to build healthy meals and better understand how to read nutrition labels.

    1. Smart Shopping

    For the diet and nutrition an active senior needs, smart grocery shopping is key. Plan your weekly menu ahead of time to avoid impulse buying and to stay on budget. Also take advantage of sales to stock your pantry with canned vegetables, beans, fruits and dried foods such as rice and pasta. You can also buy in bulk and freeze into smaller portions that you can thaw and cook later.

    To skip the hassle of grocery shopping altogether, check your local store for online ordering with curbside pickup and/or delivery options, and take a look at meal delivery options such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. Keep in mind however; the convenience will cost you more.

    1. In the Kitchen

    If you’re cooking for one or two, you can make large meals to freeze into smaller portions. Menu ideas include soups, stews, chilies, roasts, casseroles and any kind of slow-cooker meal. You can even make fresh side dishes each time you thaw out a portion to keep it interesting.  What’s more, the sides can also be multipurpose. Have rice as a side one night and use it for a casserole the next. Have chicken as a main dish in one meal and use leftovers in sandwiches for another.

    Add more variety and convenience with a dedicated cooking day a couple of times a month where you make several meals to portion and freeze. Then you avoid having the same meal multiple times in a row.

    1. Time-Saving Tech

    Active seniors are more tech savvy than ever and you can take advantage of that to keep your diet and nutrition on track as well. Save yourself some of the legwork with apps such as:

    • Food Network in the Kitchen — Offers over 50,000 recipes in categories such as Healthy, Weeknight Dinners, Quick and Easy.
    • Fooducate — Provides nutritional information from barcodes, helps you understand nutritional labels and offers healthy suggestions. You can also manually enter a meal’s nutritional information and track calories and exercise.
    • Shop well — Barcode scanning and shopping assistant that rates foods and grocery items according to your nutritional objectives and/or dietary restrictions and provides nutritional pointers.
    • Nutrients — Offers search for specific foods or ingredients with breakdown of nutritional content, or for particular nutrients to find foods with that nutrient. You can also customize recipes with a specific mix of ingredients.
    • Livestrong.com’s MyPlate Calorie Tracker — Allows you to log food/water intake, track consumption habits and includes database of over 2 million food items, a barcode scanner to log prepackaged food and a tool for creating custom meal items. Also doubles as an exercise log with Google Fit and Apple HealthKit integration and support for a variety of wearables.

    For more information on our active senior living communities, contact us today to schedule a visit →

    4 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress as You Age

    Everyone deals with stress and with the negative impact it has on the body. However, according to Harvard Medical School, individuals have a more difficult time coping with stress as they age. Fortunately, there are measures older adults can take to manage stress and its impact on the body.

    Before we look at ways to reduce stress, let’s define stress and its effects on a person.

    What is Stress?

    Stress is the body’s natural reaction to a stressor or other stimulus that disturbs a person’s physical or mental equilibrium. It’s commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” response. It may have served our ancestors well as they struggled to survive dangerous situations, but, for many in today’s hectic world, living in a constant “fight or flight” mode can have damaging health effects.

    Detrimental Impact of Stress

    Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. In fact, according to the American Medical Association, up to 80% of doctor appointments may be related to stress. The American Psychological Association backs this statement up with one of their own indicating that chronic stress is linked to six leading causes of death including heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, accidents, suicide and cancer. According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the effects of psychological stress affects the body’s ability to regulate inflammation which can promote the development and progression of disease.

    Chronic stress can:

    • Reduce your immune response affecting your ability to heal
    • Cause blood sugar imbalances
    • Raise blood pressure
    • Cause elevated levels of bad cholesterol
    • Increase fat deposits around your mid-section associated with heart attacks and strokes
    • Decrease muscle tissue and bone density
    • Suppress thyroid function
    • Affect the functioning of your brain

    With all of this in mind, let’s look at ways an older adult can address the issue of stress in their lives.

    Ways to Reduce Stress

    Now that we understand just how important it is to get stress under control, let’s look at ways that this can be accomplished.

    Practice Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is an excellent practice to help a person deal with stress in their life. Many people fret over the past or worry about the future, often robbing themselves of the present. This constant psychological turmoil causes undue stress. Mindfulness eases this stress by focusing on the present moment and what it has to offer.

    Other benefits of mindfulness include:

    • Hones your innate ability to focus
    • Helps you cope with physical and mental pain
    • Reduces brain chatter
    • Helps you connect better with others

    Exercise Regularly

    Although most stress originates in the brain, physical exercise can play a part in reducing stress by favorably impacting brain health.

    According to a study conducted at the University of Illinois, older adults who completed a walking regimen over a one year period saw a two percent increase in the size of their hippocampus. The hippocampus, which is the part of the brain where memory storage and new learning take place, is the first part of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s. This further makes the case to include exercise in your stress reduction routine.

    However, as we get older our bodies will sometimes respond differently to exercise than it once did. To prevent injury and added stress to joints, choose low-impact exercises that get your heart rate up. Low-impact exercises to consider include walking, swimming, water aerobics, resistance band training and chair exercises.

    “Body manipulation” exercises are another great choice. Although these exercises are characterized by subtle movements, they can still have a major impact on your body and your stress levels. Body manipulation exercises include yoga, tai chi, reiki, massage and craniosacral therapy.

    When all is said and done, the best exercise routine is one that you enjoy and are willing to stick to on a regular basis. Remember to start slow, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your workouts. Finally, don’t forget to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.

    Eat a Healthy Diet

    A poor diet, lacking nutritional density, can put stress on the body. In turn, stressful situations can cause overeating, which can lead to a never-ending cycle of poor eating habits. To stop this detrimental stress cycle in its tracks, make sure to eat a diet filled with nutritionally dense foods. A healthy diet includes foods that are low in carbohydrates, low in sugar and high in healthy, saturated fats. Eating this way will get you to naturally cut sugar out of your diet which can help prevent stress, anxiety, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

    If you focus on protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables you will provide your body and brain with the building blocks needed to function optimally and to fight off disease.

    Don’t Isolate Yourself

    For various reasons, older adults will sometimes isolate themselves and have less social interactions with others. This is unfortunate because social engagement is an essential component of successful aging. It’s critical that older adults find ways to remain active socially and cultivate warm and caring relationships with others.

    With technology, staying connected with others is easier than it has ever been. Enjoy conversations with family and friends more fully through the use of Skype. Keep in touch with what’s going on in other people’s lives through Facebook. (Be sure to avoid the drama that can be found there, otherwise, you’ll be increasing your stress levels!)

    Join your local senior center. Become involved in clubs that specialize in a hobby or interest you enjoy. Take a class at your local community college. Make a difference in your life and in the lives of others through volunteer activities.

    Final Thoughts on Reducing Stress

    Put these tips into action to reduce the stress that is robbing you of the joy in your life. The effects of stress can add up over time and when left unchecked can have devastating effects on your life. Thankfully, taking small steps to reduce stress can add up over time too! The longer you work at relieving your stress the better off you’ll be.

    At Parc Place, we understand the benefits of living a stress-free lifestyle; therefore, we strive to create a peaceful environment that focuses on keeping residents healthy and engaged. If you have any questions, please contact us. And remember, there’s no better time to take steps to reduce stress in your life than right now.

    10 Foods that Naturally Lower Blood Pressure

    Do you suffer from high blood pressure? If so, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, 29% of adults have high blood pressure. Your doctor likely has recommended changes you can make to address high blood pressure, such as limiting alcohol consumption, not smoking, eating a healthy diet and being physically active. Additionally, selecting the right foods can help lower your blood pressure.

    You have probably heard that cutting salt from your diet is a good first step in lowering blood pressure. Fortunately, some tasty foods also have properties that can help reduce your blood pressure. Here are 10 of our favorites:

    Flaxseed

    Research has linked flaxseed to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Study participants showed improvement even when they also took pressure-lowering medication. Fiber and healthy fats may play a role in the ability of flaxseed to lower blood pressure.

    Blueberries

    A cup of blueberries every day is delicious and might help lower your blood pressure. A 2015 study found that women who consumed blueberry powder every day for two months showed a significant drop in systolic pressure.

    Fatty Fish

    Fatty fish like salmon, eaten three times a week, has been linked to the reduction of diastolic blood pressure. Research also has linked omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty varieties of fish, to blood pressure reductions. Leaner fish like cod has shown no effect.

    Bananas

    Bananas are delicious, portable and rich in potassium — which can help lower blood pressure. Experts say blood pressure meds can increase the need for potassium, and a deficiency can negatively affect heart rate.

    Olive Oil

    Research has linked olive oil with lower diastolic and systolic blood pressure, especially in women whose blood pressure was high. To keep your oil fresh, buy it in dark-colored bottles, and store it in a cool spot and out of sunlight.

    Whole Grain Products

    Along with reducing cholesterol, whole grains also have a positive effect on blood pressure, research has found. Consider starting your day with high-fiber, whole grain cereal like bran flakes or shredded wheat.

    Beets

    Experts say the nitrates in beets can help lower blood pressure. Naturally sweet beets make a versatile ingredient for all sorts of dishes, from salads to pastas. This deeply-hued vegetable can even add moisture to your chocolate cake.

    Pomegranate

    One study found a link between drinking a cup or more of pomegranate juice daily for a month and lower blood pressure. Scientists haven’t established what constituent of the juice might cause the drop, but they suspect it’s the healthy polyphenols or potassium.

    Dairy Products

    Consuming low-fat dairy products has been linked to a reduction in hypertension. The connection was strongest with milk and low-fat yogurt but, sadly, the benefit didn’t extend to cheese.

    Chocolate

    Chocolate lovers, rejoice! Research has shown that dark chocolate and cocoa may help ease blood flow by widening blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure. The polyphenols in cocoa play a role in the formation of nitric oxide, which aids the process of reducing hypertension.

    Discover Meadowstone Place

    To maintain healthy blood pressure, eat a varied diet that includes these pressure-lowering foods, and see your doctor regularly. At Meadowstone Place, we’re committed to the health and wellness of residents, and provide the resources they need to live a vibrant, meaningful retirement. Our independent living community is located in beautiful Dallas, Texas, and is close to many area attractions for you to enjoy. To find out more about our active retirement lifestyle or to schedule a tour, please contact us today.