Keeping A sharp mind

Challenging, fun games reap cognitive benefits for seniors.

Common sense dictates that limiting passive behavior, like watching television, and challenging your brain can preserve mental acuity.

Having fun as you age is also important and playing games keeps your brain sharp, says Lane Tinsley, a neurologist with INTEGRIS Neuroscience Institute in Oklahoma City.

She offers options for everyone, such as cooking or language classes, reading books, playing games with children, exercising (or just listening) to music, gardening or simply taking time every day to have meaningful interactions with others. Tinsley also advocates for “any activity that requires detailed work and hand-eye coordination.”

She suggests that seniors find personal favorites among word searches, Sudoku, cards, chess, board games and jigsaw puzzles. Recent trends include adult coloring books and brainteaser applications for phones and computers.

A necessary Conversation

Planning creates a relatively smooth transition to end-of-life priorities.

The time to talk with your parents about their end-of-life care, financial decisions and health-care choices is now, before unexpected circumstances arise. These often-uncomfortable conversations can create a road map for their final years while their minds are sound.

Legal documentation is key, mediator and estate attorney Gale Allison says. At a minimum, a person needs to create an advance directive for health care, spell out end-of-life care decisions, and procure a health-care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney. The latter two documents legally authorize a person to act on another’s behalf.

Communication and planning can reduce chaos, financial discord, arguments and weeks of waiting if and when a health crisis occurs.

“It is better for these documents to be immediately effective, rather than triggered by some doctor’s opinion,” Allison says. “It is very difficult to get a doctor to issue an opinion in writing, and it makes the use of the powers of attorney more difficult.”

Allison says a person’s choice of a power of attorney is a serious matter.

“One should never name a person to a power of attorney that is not completely trustworthy,” she says. “If the person is completely trustworthy, they should know when to use the power.”

Planning also applies to financial matters because banks and other entities often take their time during cases that involve a power of attorney.

“Financial institutions are often very difficult in honoring powers of attorney and will frequently say it has to go to their legal department for approval before they will let the power holder exercise it,” Allison says. “This may take weeks for approval. It is better for the parent, while still of sound mind, to take the power of attorney to the various financial institutions and get it approved while the parent can force the approval, so it is already associated with the accounts.”

It’s important to understand all parts of the aging adult’s finances. Allison says the power of attorney document should address and designate specific power to each asset. For example, with an Individual Retirement Account, stipulations can include the power to direct investments, change financial institutions, cause a distribution, contribute money, change the beneficiary and/or make a new designation at a new institution.

The bottom line: Sit down with parents and get health-care and financial matters squared away sooner rather than later.

Increasing amenities

No longer staid and boring, retirement
homes offer dynamic options for seniors.

Retirement communities continually improve by keeping seniors active with mental and physical exercises while intertwining independent living and hands-on care.

“We are offering more and more all the time,” says Jim Jakubovitz, the CEO of Tulsa retirement community Zarrow Pointe. “It sure isn’t rocking chairs and bingo as our industry meets a younger, more active senior.”

Jakubovitz mentions Zarrow Pointe often gets recommendations from residents about new amenities to add. The campus offers semester-long programs on a wide variety of topics, and the staff listened when residents requested a more “green” way of living by utilizing solar power, adding electric car charging stations and improving the recycling program. Zarrow Pointe also offers a private school and museum on campus, which Jakubovitz believes “allows us to be truly inter-generational and adds such a fantastic dimension to our campus, as children bring light and excitement.”

Jana Decker, wellness director for Tulsa’s Inverness Village, adds that Inverness and other facilities should be places “where people want to live – not have to live – [which] lends itself to successful aging.”

Inverness helps to preserve cognitive and physical health and maintain strong interpersonal connections, says Decker, citing Mindful by Sodexo, a popular meal plan that balances nutrition with enticing flavors, and daily activities that keep residents on the move and interactive.

As advances in medical research and technology enter everyday life, retirement communities increasingly offer state-of-the-art fitness centers and classes in tai chi, yoga, aquatics and dance. One such program, neuroplasticity, is a cognitive cardiovascular class that challenges the brain and the body simultaneously.

Other studies have contributed to fitness programs at Inverness.

“Research has shown that weak feet can lead to a weak pelvic floor; therefore a class, Heart and Soul, is offered – a combination of cardio and barefoot training,” Decker says.

For stimulation of the mind and spirit, retirement communities around Oklahoma have informative speakers, film nights, live music, art programs, trips to local and regional visual and performing arts functions, technology courses and intergenerational activities.

For those who lust for thrills, Decker says Inverness takes residents for skydives, zip lining, ax throwing, slip and slides, and nature hikes. 

“Services and experiences are intentionally designed to meet residents where they are in the continuum of care, blur the lines between the living levels and maintain engagement,” she says.

Danger Signs

Make sure your relative is
being treated with care.

Elder abuse comes in many forms, according to the National Institute on Aging. Senior citizens can suffer physical, emotional, financial and sexual mistreatment – along with neglect and abandonment – from facilities, caregivers or relatives.

If you’re worried about a relative, the institute says to look for symptoms of abuse, such as confusion, depression, unexplained bruises or burns. Increasing social isolation, bed sores and an unclean appearance are also red flags. Over- or under-medicating can also be a form of abuse. If you have access to your older relative’s banking records, look for unusual changes in spending.

If you think people are taking advantage of your senior loved one, ask her or him questions and call the county department of human services, the statewide abuse hotline at 1-800-522-3511 or the police.

The Spectrum
of Care

Options abound: home health, hospice or retirement home?

Many adults face the question of moving to a retirement community or welcoming in-home care at a certain point in the aging process.

“Retirement community living is a resort lifestyle,” says Kathy Logsdon, director of marketing at OKC’s Epworth Villa. “Sometimes people get the idea that moving to a retirement community would be giving up something. In actuality, you gain freedom from what you don’t want to do. Living in a retirement community can be a step up to age in a place where you’re totally independent [and] unconfined.”

Aging in place, which Zarrow Pointe’s CEO Jim Jakubovitz dubs a “buzzword” in the industry, is taken seriously at this Tulsa establishment. The community, which offers independent housing, apartments, long- and short-term nursing care and hospice, “is one of the few continuum care licensed facilities in Oklahoma,” he says, meaning residents can come in at an independent state and receive more help as they age, without having to move from their original housing on campus.

For those who want to remain in a private residence, a spectrum of services is offered by organizations, including Interim HealthCare of Oklahoma in OKC and Tulsa or Oxford Home HealthCare in Tulsa. From light housekeeping and medication management to assistance in daily living, home health care offers aging adults the familiarity of home with varying levels of assistance.

Regardless of where you live, hospice provides highly personalized services, including companionship and skilled nursing, says Caitlin Eversole, admissions supervisor for Tulsa’s Grace Hospice of Oklahoma. Hospice is used when a doctor gives a terminal diagnosis of less than six months, but “it doesn’t always happen that way; many people live longer, and the point of hospice is to take care of people wherever it is they are calling home,” Eversole says.

Making care decisions before they’re needed gives your family peace of mind, Logsdon says, “so you can have a beautiful, worry-free lifestyle knowing that future care is there if needed, financial choices are planned and you remain in control of your care.”

Retirement homes like Senior Star often plan outings and vacations for residents.

Travel Tips

It’s easy to prioritize both entertainment
and health on vacations.

Whether organizing a bucket list trip or a visit to family members, you can optimize travel as a senior while keeping health a priority. Sonya Pratt, program director for independent living at Senior Star at Burgundy Place in Tulsa, leads frequent trips with seniors.

“Always keep a couple of copies of a complete medical list, allergies and emergency contact numbers with you when you travel, along with those for medical providers where you’re going, in case needed,” she says. “And for those using continuous oxygen, call your durable medical equipment provider for assistance to obtain supplies you need while there. Also ask about portable oxygen concentrators for travel.”

Pratt says to always think of access. Before embarking on a trip, you need to know whether wheelchairs and walkers can fit in rented vehicles, whether hotels and restaurants have sufficient handicapped access, and what, precisely, is included in “handicap accessible” hotel rooms. Calls in advance make for smoother trips.

“And please don’t forget about your home while you’re gone,” Pratt says. “Talk with a trusted neighbor or friend; this can also be the person that you share a detailed itinerary with. Finally, it’s good to have someone to check in with you on a certain date while you’re gone, so if they don’t hear back from you by that time, they can make inquiries.” 

Violence and Self-Defense

Crimes against older people are on the decline, but the threat is worth discussing.

The National Center for Victims of Crime ( has mountains of statistics on violent offenses against numerous demographics. These numbers bear good and bad news for those over 65.

A study done by the U.S. Department of Justice between 1995 and 2015 shows a decline in violent crime against senior citizens – from 6.8 violent victimizations per 1,000 individuals to 5.2.

Of all violent crime victimizations reported to the police, 51 percent involved victims who did not know their perpetrators; 26 percent were committed by well-known or casual acquaintances; and 18 percent were committed by relatives or intimate partners.

For protection, seniors can take self-defense classes through police departments, community centers, churches, and martial arts and karate centers. Many are geared to those 55 and older. A quick internet search should provide myriad options.