Aging & Caregiving in the News

Information, updates and interesting tidbits

In this issue:

  • Can online exercise classes combat loneliness?
  • Why do LGB elders face a higher risk of dementia?
  • What do food packaging dates mean?

Senior woman doing yoga online

Exercise Is More Fun With a Group—Even Online

Senior exercise classes have become very popular. And while these classes help older adults manage their health conditions, lower the risk of falls, and maintain their independence, many participants admit their main motivation is the social opportunity! But what can they do now, when most of these programs are shuttered?

In July 2018, a team of geriatricians from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles began a study of older adults to measure the effect of exercise classes on loneliness. The results were looking very positive—but suddenly, the pandemic happened, and those classes had to go online. Could virtual senior exercise classes also help seniors feel less isolated? The study, which continues, suggests that they can.

One interesting pivot: Before the pandemic, seniors worked with a health coach to select appropriate classes. As the seniors moved online, the health coaches also took on the new role of tech support, helping class participants figure out how to log on to the platform. Senior study author Dr. Sonja Rosen reports, "The health coach is the key ingredient because they make sure that nobody falls through the cracks." Read about the study and see a video here.

LGB Elders Face a Higher Risk of Dementia

Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) studied a group of 3,500 older adults, and found that lesbian, gay and bisexual elders are more vulnerable to cognitive impairment in later life than their heterosexual counterparts. The team, headed by MSU sociologists, found that stress and depression related to the societal attitudes and inequities faced by these elders is a major factor.

"We knew that stress and depression are risk factors for many chronic health problems, including cognitive impairment, in later life. LGB people experience more stressful events and have higher rates of depression compared to their heterosexual counterparts," said study author Prof. Ning Hsieh. "Social inequality makes less privileged groups, including sexual minorities, more prone to develop cognitive impairment. Making the society more just and more accepting of diverse sexuality may help prevent dementia and reduce related health care burden on society." The study was published by the Gerontological Society of America.

Deciphering the Dates on Food Packaging

Grocery shopping is a little more challenging these days! If we decide to go in person, we take precautions to leave the proper distance between other shoppers, and we try to wrap up the trip quickly. Maybe it's a little hard to see with our mask on, especially if we wear glasses—and that can make it difficult to see the product dates on packaging! Do a little homework ahead of time to speed up the process. What do those dates mean, anyway? The U.S. Department of Agriculture explains:

  • "Sell by" tells how long the manufacturer suggests that a store should sell foods like meat, poultry, eggs, or milk products—buy it before this date.
  • "Use by" tells how long the food will be at peak quality—if you use it after that date, some foods might be stale or less tasty. It is not a safety date.
  • "Best if used by" (or "best if used before") tells how long the food has the best flavor or quality. It is not a safety, nor a purchase, date.

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2021 IlluminAge