National News

Boomers Generation is Coming of Age

Volunteering Keeps People Young at Heart

 

by Liz O’Connor

Volunteers at many social service programs, like this soup kitchen, come from those who retired.
Volunteers at many social service programs, like this soup kitchen, come from those who retired.

(CNS) – Retirees form the core of volunteer programs across the U.S., offering important services especially to the elderly – some of whom are younger than the volunteers.

In the Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y., for example, where Donna Nash coordinates Catholic Charities services for the aging, the majority of volunteers are themselves seniors.

They deliver Meals on Wheels, visit the homebound to provide companionship and outreach, offer a reassuring daily phone call to elderly individuals who live alone, offer counseling on tax preparation and dealing with insurance companies, function as nursing home ombudsmen and give a friendly check to elderly people discharged from hospitals to make sure they’re doing all right.

Stacey Lazurek, who coordinates a visitor program through Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., said the majority of her volunteers are seniors. She trains and matches about 100 volunteers to help older adults who are essentially homebound.

Mike Kronn, who is 74, has been a regular visitor to a few people during the past two years and is also on call if someone needs a driver in a pinch.

Visiting those who are very ill “isn’t always pleasant,” Kronn said, but there’s great satisfaction in knowing he’s brought pleasure into someone’s life.

Kronn noted that volunteers are screened and informed about not getting involved in dispensing medications and not lifting a disabled patient because that might endanger the elderly volunteer’s own health.

Sue Jepson, 70, is legally blind and has some difficulty walking, but that doesn’t stop her from being active in several organizations and volunteering three or four days a week at the “Loaves and Fishes” program of her local senior center.

She sets the table, helps serve lunch and gets coffee for people who range in age from 62 to 90. “I like helping others, it keeps me from just being bored,” she said from her home at Catholic Charities-affiliated Caritas Villa in Portland, Ore.

She enjoys “seeing people have a better day” because of a program in which she’s involved. She said those who come to the senior center also play bingo, listen to music and “do a lot of chatting.”

Being a senior citizen herself, she said, “I kind of can understand where they’re coming from.” Legally blind from birth, she said she cared for her own parents for 12 years and before that “worked lots of places – usually with people.” She said she has lots of memories and is “still making them.”

Cindy Hamberg, 64, recently started running an osteoporosis prevention program called “Bone Builders” at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Winona, Minn.

The group is for people as young as 55 and in their 90s and uses carefully graduated weight-bearing exercise to strengthen muscles, build bone density and improve balance.

“Word is getting out that people need to watch themselves,” and she said she now has about 40 who come regularly. Hamberg is energetic and enthusiastic, saying, “I love it, I really love it,” and she loves the fact that she can help people who couldn’t afford to go to a gym.

“It gets me off the couch, too,” she said. “What a powerful feeling volunteering is!”

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Eating Well Is Key to Health

 

by Sara Angle

(CNS) – Retirees with more time on their hands can use this time for their health by taking the extra time needed to prepare foods with anti-aging properties.

More than ever before, nutrient-rich but low-calorie foods are vital, says “Eating Well” magazine, which notes that as the body and mind age, certain nutrients become particularly important for nourishing the body and fighting signs of aging while caloric needs drop and the metabolism decreases.

Everyone’s personal needs vary, so those beginning to see and feel the signs of aging should focus on the biggest challenges of their own body.

For starters, there are many power foods for bettering complexion and reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

A 2007 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that vitamin C-rich foods – such as kale, bell peppers, papaya or peaches – have the ability to fight free radicals produced by ultraviolet rays. Vitamin C also helps produce collagen, which keeps skin firm.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, olive oil, flax seeds and walnuts, have a double benefit for skin and brain health. The acids improve the skin’s natural defense against damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, according to “Eating Well” magazine, and the University of Maryland Medical Center notes these foods also play a crucial role in brain function. They are thought to be a key component in brain memory and performance.

Power foods can help ward off problems with blood pressure as well. Although blood pressure can be lowered with medication, most people find that is not needed if they adjust their diet. “Prevention” magazine reports that potassium-rich foods such as bananas, sweet potatoes, kidney beans, melon, tomatoes and orange juice, can lower blood pressure when 2,000 to 4,000 milligrams a day are consumed. Decreasing sodium intake can also help even out blood pressure levels.

If cholesterol is a concern, Harvard Medical School recommends foods that lower low-density lipoprotein, known as LDL or the “bad”cholesterol, which is a cholesterol-carrying particle that contributes to artery-clogging and hardening. Oats, barley, whole grains, beans and nuts get the gold star for lowering cholesterol.

Don’t forget the liquids; coffee and red wine have proved to have multiple health benefits and are tasty indulgences. Coffee was found to be the No. 1 source of antioxidants for Americans in a 2005 study from the University of Scranton. Antioxidants are a source of disease prevention and possibly a method of disease treatment in some cases. Several Harvard Medical School studies discovered regular coffee drinkers are 50 percent less likely to suffer from breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Red wine is also packed with antioxidants, namely a type called flavonoids. Researchers from the University of California at Davis say Cabernet Sauvignon contains the most flavonoids, which reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

But all these tips won’t make a difference if retirees don’t actually have the energy to prepare a nutritious meal or snack.

An online resource with tips on health issues, parenting and senior living – helpguide.org – recommends that a key step in healthy eating for seniors is making the effort whenever possible to eat with others.

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