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As UCFV is about to start the registration process for their Elder College I though it would be topical to talk about the effects of continued education on the aging process.

In the December 20, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association an article on the effects of learning and cognition in the aging was published. It involved 2800 subjects aged 65 to 96. These individuals were placed in one of four groups, those working on improving reasoning skills, those working on improving memory, those learning on improving processing time and a control group who did nothing. The study found that after 10 learning session’s individuals in each of the first three groups had improvements in their areas of focus. Furthermore, the study did a five year follow up showing that the effects of this learning were still present even after a prolonged period of time.

This study is a great indication that continuing to learn, to stimulate and to challenge one’s self mentally, can lead to long term benefits that may increase one’s sense of independents and stave off mental decline. The socializing aspect of learning can not be overlooked either. Social interactions have been shown to increase one’s sense of emotional well being and give one a feeling of community, of belonging. As we age and enter into retirement our social circle may decline end our sense of purpose may be stymied. The social aspects of pursuing an education may be a good way to curtail these events.

With these concepts in mind the University College of the Fraser Valley has been working in partnership with Eldercollege. The Eldercollege provides adults aged 50 and up with access to educational and learning opportunities focusing on expanding knowledge and enriching one’s life. Anyone over the age of 50 can join for a $10 fee, which is good until the end of the following August. Individual courses cost between $20 and $35 depending on the length of the course. Two six week semesters are offered each year; the fall semester is in October/November and the winter one is in February/March. For exact course information contact the Eldercollege office, (located in building A of the Chilliwack campus, room 112, 45635 Yale Rd, Chilliwack) with the information below. Or look in the UCFV continuing Ed catalogue that recently came out in the local paper.

Registration is one day only, January 22, opening at 3 pm at the Landing Sports Centre, (previously the Age Rec. Building), at 45530 Spading Ave. Registration takes place form 3:30 to 4:30. For more information call 604-702-2611 or e-mail elderco@ucfv.ca.


That’s it for this session of Let’s Talk About, thanks for readying,

Sharon Grant, BA, SAC, MA, (candidate).

 

 

 


Even thought this article is being published in January I wrote it before Christmas, a time of giving, and I decided to explore the potential benefits of giving one’s time, of volunteerism. So, let’s talk about volunteering, and specifically it’s impact on healthy aging, if any. Volunteer Canada has posted an overview on line of the recent literature, what little there is, that studies the health effects of volunteerism on retires.

While the article indicates that there are benefits to volunteerism, it also points to some problems with the data, like not enough studies being done, and studies not designed to indicate causality of effects. For instance, while there is evidence to indicate that those who volunteer feel greater life satisfaction there is no way of knowing if the volunteering provided this effect or if people who have a greater sense of well being volunteer. At any rate 70 percent of volunteering retirees reported feeling a greater life satisfaction than non-volunteers. It is pointed out that the few studies done did try to control the variables of health and socioeconomic status, meaning that all those polled, whether an older volunteer or part of a control group of comparison non-volunteers, have the same health status, financial means and educational background. These facts would positively impact the validity of the studies.

Importantly, 85 percent of those working with an older volunteer do better than those without help. Interestingly enough older volunteer seem to excel in counseling and enabling roles, having greater reported success in these roles than those of financial planning, advocacy, mediation, and information referral. I would speculate here that this is due to the greater life experience of the volunteer. The report goes so far as to indicate that older volunteers garner similar results in comparison to paid social workers.

While this article suggests that more study is needed to define which aspects of volunteering are most beneficial, social interaction, physical activity, a sense of purposefulness, or the fact that one’s co-volunteers act as an early warning system and support system to any potential problems, it dose indicate that there are health benefits to volunteering that are not experienced as greatly by simply participating in group or club activities. Specifically, those who volunteer formally report a greater sense of overall health.

All the studies done thus far on aging and volunteerism indicate that it positively impacts life satisfaction, overall health, vitality, and a sense of well being, as well as social connection versus social isolation, a sense of purposefulness.

If you are interested in reading the full article it is available on line at Volunteer Canada’s web sight, http://volunteer.ca/en/volcan/older-adults/canada_adults_report7, or if you are interested in volunteering and you are on line you can type volunteering in Chilliwack into your browser and you should find you are presented with several options, including the city of Chilliwack’s web page, which provides a list of places to volunteer and available position when you click on the link www.volweb.ca. Unfortunately there is no phone number to call for general volunteer opportunities. But, if there is an issue or cause you are interested in I would encourage you to call that organization and get involved. It may be more beneficial to you than you expect.Have a happy New Year, Sharon Grant, BA, ADC, MA (candidate).

 

Let’s talk about a subject close to my heart as my aging mother has suffered from it, anemia. An on line article published by Duke university sugested that as many as 13 percent of individuals over the age of 70 are anemic. This means that they have a hemoglobin concentration below 12g/dL in women and below 13 g/dL in men. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cellsm that gives it its color.
Anemia in older individuals is often atributed to diseases like cancer, heart failure and kidney disease. But, up to 35 % of cases are not due to illness. There are several common causes of anemia some of which are iron deficiency, a lack of folate, (folic acid), or a lack of vitamin B-12. Iron deficiency may be dietary or your body may be losing blood, some common causes of which are suffering from an ulcer, a colon polyp or taking aspirin regularly. If you suffer from a folate or vitamin B-12 deficiency, both of which help produce red blood cells, it could be a diatary lack or an inability to absorb these nutrients properly.
The Duke article points to a study on women’s health and aging published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Here it is suggests that anemia impacts what is called executive functioning in women in their 70’s and 80’s. Executive funcitoning is the ability to solve problems, plan, and follow through on on decisions and with activities. The study concluded that anemic women were four to five times more likely to score poorly on tests measuring executive functioning even when age, education level and disease were controlled.
Another study, published in in the Journal of Gerontology, found that people 71 and older who suffered from anemia were more likely to die, be hospitalized or spend more time in the hospital than a healthy control group at a four-year follow-up. While it is uncertain wether anemia causese mental and physical decline or if it’s a by product of disease or the aging process, it should still be watched for.
The symptoms of anemia are a followes: feeling weak or tired, experiencing shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, cold or numb extremities and headaches as well as pale skin and cognitive difficulties. In anemia these are due to low levels of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout your body. Low hemoglobin levels can be detected with a blood test. Often treatment for this ailment is as simple as eating more iron rich foods, boosting your folate and B-12 consumption or taking sumpliments. But, other, more serious, causes of anemia should be rulled out with tests.
In the Duke University article Dr. Robin Ali, (MD, Pharm D), a Geriatric Medicine Fellow, says, "Even though routine screening of older adults for anemia is not recommended, it’s important for a health care provider to evaluate an older person for anemia if he or she complains of weakness, fatigue or shortness of breath with exertion, or experiences cognitive difficulty.
"If you have a condition associated with blood loss such as a kidney disorder or a hematological disorder, of course your physician will already be evaluating you for anemia. Most otherwise healthy people should be able to get the iron they need by eating a balanced diet.
"But if you are at all concerned about your iron intake, talk to your physician. He or she can recommend iron-rich foods and discuss whether or not you need a iron supplement. Although anemia is a common occurrence in the elderly, it should not be considered a ‘normal’ part of aging."

Sharon Grant, BA, SAC, Media Pil Cert, PhD.

 

As the holiday season is approaching my mind is turning more and more often to Christmas shopping and gift giving. I thought this month we could talk about shopping from the sales person’s perspective as well as the consumers, and hopefully these tips will help you get the best deal possible.

This is a topic of interest to me as I used to be a sales person for an upscale jewelry store in the local mall. As part of my sales training I was given lessons on how to use empathetic listening, a counseling technique, to establish a report with potential customers. This is a common tactic amongst sales people and the first of many steps meant to steer consumers into bigger and more expensive purchases then they had anticipated.

I was encouraged to strike up a conversation with a potential customer that involved fishing for potential communalities that I could then parlay into a basis for a friendship. Once the relationship was established the schmoozing would truly begin. Sales people use empathetic listening, understanding comments and reflective questions that indicate that they want to know more and understand who you are, to build a relationship. This technique helps the customer to feel special, seen and understood as a unique individual. If the customer is lonely or socially isolated this contact may become one of the most pleasurable aspects of the shopping experience and may be what draws them back to that store and sales person.

The sales person uses what is called open ended questions to mine for information about the customers’ desires. Open ended questions are meant to elicit more than monosyllabic answers, yes’s and no’s, and instead require full sentences that are full of potentially useful information.

Once the sales associate gets a grasp of what the customer wants he or she will steer the customer towards more expensive merchandise as they are chatting. If the customer indicates that they are interested in a specific item the sales person will try to up sell the customer into extra, matching or coordinating, items. Also, extra products like insurance against damage will be offered. There is usually a loop hole in the policy if it is for jewelry that states the item purchased must be brought in for inspection once a year. This gets the customer into the store at least once a year and gives the sales representative an opportunity to sell the individual into more items.

If possible the sales associate will get the customers contact information and make a habit of calling the customer to notify them of special sales events “not open to the public”. Many stores also offer credit products, in store cards, that are coupled with special no fees or interest paid deals on purchases over a certain price point for a limited time only. But, the sales people are loath to educate the consumer as to the real amount of interest paid, often 29%, on any outstanding balance.

When shopping it is important to price check and make sure that other retailers don't sell the item in question for a lower price point. Often times large retail outlets have the same suppliers as smaller chains, and as the bigger chain stores can buy in bulk they get a better discount, which can be passed on to the consumer. Grocery stores often carry clothing and gold jewelry now as well as name brand perfumes and cosmetics. You can often find regular prices in theses stores that are better than department stores and specialty retailers’ sales prices. Also, many stores offer coupons before Christmas, if you can hold out until then you can save even more. Remember, ten dollars saved here and there adds up. Discount stores like Liquidation World often have name brand items at a fraction of the regular cost and you can sign up for e-mail notifications of new merchandise.

When you purchase an item it is best to inquire as to the stores reimbursement policy if the item goes on sale after you buy it. Also, make sure to clarify the return policy for an item if it is a gift and request a gift receipt, that way the recipient won’t know how much you’ve spent but can return it if necessary. Costco may have the best return policy of all retailers, as you have a year to return an item. But, keep in mind that the original purchaser must return or exchange an item from Costco as the Costco card is necessary for the transaction.

Regarding other shopping options, on-line shopping is convenient and easy, provided the item is in stock and ships in adequate time for the holidays. Also, even thought on line purchases are often more cost effective than regular retail purchases the return policy can be sketchy, consisting of being able to send the item back at your expense within 9 or so days of the original shipping date. Also, on line payment options can be risky. It is best to stick to using Pay-pal, a secure on line service, or credit cards that have a built in insurance policy that covers online fraud. Catalogue shopping is also a nice option if you don’t want to leave home. Just make sure the item can be delivered in time for Christmas and has a good return policy. Gift cards are another popular gift choice these days. But, not all cards are created equal. Some have expiration dates that make the card null and void after a certain number of months. It is best to inquire about this when they are purchased.

I hope this information is of help to you, have a happy holiday season and good shopping.

Sharon Grant, LAD, BA, SAC, Media Phil Cert, PhD.

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