USC Gerontology


A Guide to Senior Health and Safety

A Guide to Senior Health and Safety

As people grow older, they can, and often do, continue to lead active and full lives. With age, however, a person’s body will begin to undergo certain changes. The amount and extent of these changes will not be the same for everyone, but one thing is certain: As one enters their senior years, greater risks to their health and overall safety loom. To avoid these potential problems, people must take measures to maintain or even improve their health and to prevent accidental injuries, whether they are living at home or in some type of senior care environment.

Eating the right foods for proper nutrition is crucial for seniors to prevent malnutrition and to help them maintain their strength and energy. Seniors often do not get enough vitamins B12, B6, and D. People can get these nutrients and others, including calcium and potassium, through their diet and supplements. A senior’s diet should include foods that are low in sodium and high in fiber. It should consist of healthy food choices such as lean meats and eggs, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. Healthy eating can also help manage or reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic health problems.

In addition to getting the right nutrients, older adults must also continue to be active, which helps strengthen their muscles and bones. Ideally, they should begin some form of workout regimen that involves cardio and strength training. Before beginning any form of exercise, it’s important to check with one’s doctor to ensure that it is safe. Once this is confirmed, take safety precautions such as warming up with stretches or some other form of warm-up exercises to prevent injury. Types of mild to moderate cardio that many seniors enjoy include swimming, brisk walking, bicycling, and even gardening.

Safety is another area of potential concern for people as they age. Senior safety concerns include scams, fraud, and violence. Some of the more common criminal schemes that target seniors include reverse mortgage scams, telemarketing fraud, Medicare fraud, and grandchild scams. Criminals also use death to their advantage when targeting seniors; death-related schemes include obituary, funeral, and burial plot scams. Knowing that these schemes exist is the first step to avoid becoming a victim of them. Older adults should also avoid sending any money online or to people that they do not personally know. In addition, they should never give out personal information to individuals on the phone or online or to anyone they have not personally contacted or know. In situations where it is necessary to supply information, when shopping online, for example, always verify that the person or website is legitimate and the site is secure. If one suspects that they or their family member is being conned, the authorities should be contacted immediately.

When it comes to violence against seniors, elder abuse is a serious concern. Elder abuse may be emotional or physical and can occur at home at the hands of in-home caregivers, adult children, or other members of the family. Seniors who live in nursing homes may also become victims of elder abuse inflicted by the people who should be both protecting them and providing them with care. In many cases, seniors who are abused are afraid or unable to stand up for themselves. This leaves their safety in the hands of observant friends or family. Signs of abuse may include unexplained and frequent injuries such as bruises or even broken bones and changes in one’s behavior or emotional state. If there is a suspicion of elder abuse or if one is a victim of it themselves, the crime should be reported to adult protective services or the authorities.

Safety issues in nursing and assisted living homes extend beyond physical and mental abuse. Before admitting a loved one into a nursing home or moving into an assisted living community, it’s important to look closely at the staff. To start, verify that employees have undergone thorough background checks to reduce the risk of subjecting one’s self or parent to a person who’s been convicted of abuse, neglect, or other crimes. In addition, one should also consider the qualifications of the staff. For example, is there a staff member who has a degree in social gerontology? A social gerontologist is someone who is interested in improving the quality of life for seniors, which is important in a nursing home environment. It is also important to confirm that the facility is equipped with security features such as cameras and fire and burglary alarm systems to monitor the facility and to alert residents and staff of fire, intrusions, or other emergencies. The facility should be well-lit and have sprinklers in place. In addition, it should be designed in a way to prevent residents from falling, as falls are a serious and common problem for the elderly. This includes the proper placement of furnishings and having safety protocols to ensure that staff members know what to do in order to prevent falls from occurring.

Senior Nutrition

Exercise for Seniors

Scams and Crimes

Elder Abuse

Assisted Living and Nursing Home Safety

Master of Arts in Gerontology

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