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Top 8 Holiday Gift Ideas for Seniors

We’ve all been there—standing in a store aisle or scrolling through a website looking for that perfect gift for a friend or family member. Finding the right gift can be a challenge, but the reward of seeing the look on a loved one’s face when they unwrap it is well worth it.

For older adults, finding the right gift can be even harder. What gift do you get for someone who has everything? For someone who insists they don’t need anything?

When it comes to gift ideas for seniors, the best choices offer practicality and functionality. Read on for a few options for the special senior in your life!

The best holiday gifts for seniors

  1. Private chef meal

    What gift is better for seniors than a personalized home-cooked meal? Hiring a private chef gives your loved one the unique chance to enjoy the company and wisdom of a local culinary master. Private chefs will shop for all the ingredients, cook them to perfection, and serve them up with a description of all the flavor elements.

    Want to give a great meal, but make it a little more personal? Check out one of the many meal kit companies that send you all the ingredients and recipes so your favorite senior can make a hands-on discovery of a new favorite dish.

  2. Blanket

    Give the gift of comfort with a cozy blanket so your loved one can stay warm while they’re thinking of you. A blanket may strike you as an unimaginative gift for a senior loved one, but that couldn’t be further from the truth considering all the blanket options out there.

    Electric blankets, which plug in for an extra layer of warmth, and weighted blankets, which can help ease anxiety and stress, are perfect senior gift options. If you’re looking for a gift for a loved one that has Alzheimer’s or dementia, fidget blankets sew sensory activities right into the fabric for an excellent hands on gift.

  3. Photo Memorabilia

    Capture the perfect gift with photo memorabilia like hanging picture collages, digital photo frames, and personalized coffee mugs. With large canvas prints, decorative photo albums, and laser-engraved 3D crystal photo frames (yes, you read that right), photo memorabilia is perfect for any senior in your life, but especially those who have homes in assisted living and may not have access to their own car. Photos are great for family members in memory care too as they can elicit feelings and memories.

    Bonus gift tip—If you like the blanket idea, be sure to check out customized blankets with family photos printed right on the fabric!

  4. Window bird feeder

    One of the best gift ideas for seniors is a window bird feeder. These attachable feeders provide stimulation, entertainment, and a connection to the outdoors for the nature lover in your life. With plenty of sizes to choose from, bird feeders attract all kinds of local avians for up-close views. You can also couple this gift with a bird identification journal. Plus, your family member’s pet cat will love it too!

  5. Shared experience gifts

    One of the great things about moving to a senior living community is that older adults get to meet new friends and make new connections, but seeing family members is still important. A shared experience gift is a great way to spend time with your loved one doing an activity they love or discovering something new.

    Check around your loved one’s local community to see what’s available like wine tastings at a vineyard, go for a river cruise, or visit a theater for a live show.

  6. Subscription box

    Give a gift that keeps on giving with a subscription box.

    The sheer breadth of subscription box services means you can get just about any bundle of goodies delivered right to your senior’s door like curated japanese snacks, murder mystery games, knitting patterns, book clubs, and much, much more.

    This gives your loved one something they can look forward to all year long even if you can’t visit them in person as much as you’d like. Many services provide auto subscriptions so you know your gift will come on time every time for your loved one.

  7. Diffuser

    Bring the aroma of a relaxing spa into your senior loved one’s home with a diffuser.

    The wide selection of diffuser oils come in fragrances like citrusy orange, calming lavender, soothing peppermint, and more. Diffusers can have calming effects for older adults with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. The relaxing smells make a senior’s home environment feel like the respite they deserve.

    Diffusers come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and light up colors so they can fit the decor of any space.

  8. Puzzle

    Puzzles are a classic gift that the older adult in your life can enjoy by themselves or with a friend. Pick a puzzle with their favorite painting or illustration, choose from the easier 250 piece puzzles to the challenging 4000 piece puzzles, or order a custom puzzle with a photograph of your family or a special pet.

    Puzzles are also an excellent gift for family members living with Alzheimer’s and dementia as it provides great mental stimulation.

Finding the right gift for seniors

As with gifts for any age, when looking for the perfect gift for seniors, remember that it’s the thought that counts. Gift giving should always be fun and no matter what you get for your family member, they’ll love it. Looking for other great gift ideas for seniors? Download our Ebook for more inspiration!

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How Seniors Can Find Purpose After Losing a Loved One

Chances are if you’re an older adult, you’ve had to cope with the loss of someone close to you. It may be the loss of a parent, the death of a spouse or the loss of dear friends. From graduations to honeymoons to nights full of joy and laughter, each left an indelible mark on your life and their absence can lead to feelings of profound sadness, grief and loneliness. The loved ones you surround yourself with give your life purpose. Without them, it can be much harder to find.

That’s why it’s so important, especially as an older adult, to be part of a community that provides meaning, deep connections and a sense of belonging. All are shown to have numerous physical and mental health benefits, especially when coping with the loss of a loved one. Living in community is also one the best ways to combat senior isolation and loneliness so you can live your fullest, most vibrant life. Struggling to find community and purpose after a recent loss of a loved one? These five tips can help.

1. Be creative

When grieving the loss of a loved one, there’s much satisfaction to be found in creating something from scratch, whether it be painting a watercolor or building a birdhouse. Even if you feel you don’t have the skill or talent, just the act of creation can help cultivate a curiosity and joy and keep your body and mind active. Creating can also be a powerful tool for expressing your grief and remembering the ones you love through activities like putting together a photo album of memories or cooking their favorite dishes.

2. Stay active

It can be difficult to imagine going about your regular activities without your loved one by your side. Yet, maintaining a routine of practices you enjoy like yoga, walking or gardening can give you a reason to get out of bed and out your front door each morning. Active living can also have many life-changing benefits that encompass the five dimensions of wellness—physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual.

3. Explore hobbies

It can be easy to feel guilty for wanting to do the things that make you happy after a recent loss. It’s important to remember, though, that you can give yourself permission to pursue your passions. Grieving the loss of a loved one can hold you in place and keep you from the fulfilled life you deserve. Give yourself time and space to heal, but also explore your interests and find renewed purpose in enjoying the hobbies, old and new, that excite you.

4. Get involved

Losing a loved one can make you feel disoriented and like you’ve lost a sense of purpose. Serving others by volunteering your time to local organizations is a powerful way to find purpose by becoming a valuable member of your community. Consider your talents, experience and what you enjoy. Maybe after school tutors are needed at the local school or ushers at your favorite concert hall. Volunteering is a rewarding and fulfilling experience, and a great way to honor and contribute to the groups and organizations that were close to the hearts of loved ones you’ve lost.

5. Seek relationships

You’ve spent decades forming strong, deep relationships with the ones you love. That makes losing them that much more difficult to bear. As a senior, it can also feel like you’re past the time of starting new relationships and putting yourself out there wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Here’s the thing: there are many lonely older adults like you in need of a friend to lean on and celebrate life’s joys with. Invite your neighbor on a walk, join the local church choir or try dating after the loss of a spouse and you’ll soon discover that there’s no age limit on building genuine human connections.

Five Star Senior Living: Where Helping You Find Your Purpose is Our Passion

You shouldn’t have to cope with losing a loved one alone. At Five Star, you’re surrounded by friends and neighbors who have been through the same struggles and can help walk alongside you on the hard days, as well as celebrating the good ones. Our innovative LifeStyle360 wellness program also offers plenty of opportunities for residents to explore hobbies old and new, be creative, and keep their mind and body active. Find a community near you to learn more about Five Star offers a vibrant, fulfilled life full of friends who become family.

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What are ADLs and IADLs and What’s the Difference?

A big source of pride for many folks is being able to take care of themselves without assistance. Whether it’s home upkeep, managing medications or personal hygiene, being able to do these tasks independently can be very fulfilling. Yet, as we age and our bodies aren’t able to function like they used to, many of these once routine tasks can become more and more challenging. Knowing when additional help is required—and how much of it you need—can also be difficult. That’s where Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) come in.

ADLs and IADLs are both services offered by senior living communities that help residents—particularly those in assisted living—stay independent for longer. Though they have nearly identical names, ADLs and IADLs have key differences in the services they include that together form a holistic level of care. Here’s what you should know about both terms so you can determine how much extra care you or your loved one needs to maintain independence.

What are Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs?

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are routine tasks most people are able to perform on a daily basis without assistance. Most senior living providers and health professionals group ADLs into the following categories:

Common Categories of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)


Being able to dress and undress, choose appropriate clothing for the weather and have the dexterity to manage buttons, zippers and other fasteners.


The ability to feed oneself (not including cooking).

Bathing or Showering

This includes grooming activities such as shaving and brushing teeth and hair.


Being able to control bowels and bladder or to manage incontinence independently.


The ability to use the toilet and get to the toilet independently.


This refers to functional mobility. For most people, functional mobility is being able to walk, get in and out of bed, and into and out of a chair. If the person is not ambulatory, they should be able to transfer from bed to wheelchair on their own.

What are Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, or IADLs, and how are IADLs different from ADLs?

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are more complex tasks that often build on basic ADLs, but require a certain amount of physical dexterity, sound judgment and organizational skills. IADLs are not essential functions of living like ADLs, though they are key to being able to live independently. Instrumental activities of daily living typically include the following:

Common Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

Managing finances

Paying bills and managing financial assets.

Managing transportation

Either by driving, using public transportation or by organizing other means of transport.

Shopping and meal preparation

Grocery shopping, cooking and any other activity required to prepare your own meals.

Housecleaning and home maintenance

Keeping one’s living space reasonably clean and tidy and overall maintaining of the home.

Managing communication

Using the telephone and managing mail.

Managing medications

Obtaining medications and taking them as directed.

How do I know if and which ADLs and IADLs are needed?

The signs that it’s time to consider help with ADLs and IADLs can take a while to appear and be difficult to spot. It’s common to need a little more assistance with our day-to-day as we get older and we’re not as spry as we used to be. That’s why one of the best ways to evaluate the need for ADLs and IADLs is through a functional assessment performed by a doctor, rehabilitation provider or senior living specialist.

Difficulty managing instrumental activities of daily living is often an early indicator of other health problems. This assessment can help seniors determine what kind of assistance is needed on a day-to-day basis. An inability to perform two or three activities in a functional assessment is often a sign that one would benefit from outside help, or by considering moving to an assisted living community where ADL and IADL services are available.

Five Star Care: All the services you need, when you need them

In our Five Star Senior Living communities, no two residents are alike, so we personalize our level of care to fit your needs. That includes any help with ADLs and/or IADLs that you or your loved one needs to embrace and enjoy their best life and live stress-free. Call one of our senior care experts at (757) 797-6866 or complete the form below to find a Five Star community near you.

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How to Know When to Move to Assisted Living

You’ve earned your retirement, and you deserve to kick back, relax, and enjoy your golden years without the challenges of working. But getting older can pose challenges of its own. If home upkeep, hygiene, and other activities of daily living have become difficult for you or a loved one, it may be time to consider moving to assisted living, also known as personal care in Pennsylvania and Georgia.

When older adults (or their caregivers) hear the words “assisted living,” the image that comes to mind is often an institutional facility that marks the end of the road—a cold place where seniors are meant to live out the final years of their life. But the truth is that transitioning to assisted living can be the start of a wonderful new chapter of life where the to-do list is tossed out and the focus is on what brings joy.

What is Assisted Living?

Falling between independent living and full-time nursing care, assisted living offers a stress-free lifestyle where extra help with activities of daily living (ADLs) is always near so residents can maintain much of their independence.

Signs It’s Time to Move to Assisted Living

No two situations are exactly alike, and there are a lot of factors to weigh when considering moving to assisted living, whether for yourself or a loved one. Here are five signs that it might be time to start thinking about making the move to assisted living.

You Want to Expand Your Social Circle

As you or your loved one gets older and enjoys retirement, social circles can sometimes feel like they’re shrinking. Your friends may have moved away to be closer to their children or relationships you had during your working life have drifted apart.

Moving to an assisted living community is a great way to enjoy a stress-free lifestyle while meeting new people and making new bonds. The life enrichment and wellness activities offered at assisted living communities give you the opportunity to meet people with similar interests and experiences. Five Star takes a holistic approach to active community living with LifeStyle360—whether it’s in art class, on a cultural excursion, or during happy hour you’re bound to make new friends.

Accidents and Falls are More Frequent

As the leading cause of injury among older adults, falls are often caused by an older home that isn’t designed with senior safety in mind. Car accidents also pose a major risk for serious injury for older adults. Especially if you or a loved one lives alone, making driving a necessity.

It can help to reflect on the past year. A question to ask yourself if you’re thinking of moving to assisted living is: have you made two or more trips to the hospital due to a fall or an accident? If you notice any pattern of injuries, you may benefit from moving to an assisted living community where bedrooms and communal areas are made with safety in mind plus trained staff to assist you.

Home Maintenance Struggles

Aging often causes physical strength to decline. This can make it more difficult for you to keep up with housework and yard maintenance. Mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, and cleaning out the refrigerator can be difficult and even unsafe.

If taking care of your home has become increasingly difficult it might be time to look at an assisted living community. The stressors of home upkeep, housekeeping, and laundry are all handled by welcoming and trained staff letting you focus on your hobbies and pursue stress-free living.

Difficulty Leaving Home

Whether it’s mobility impairment or a lack of transportation, getting out of the house can become difficult as you or a loved one gets older.

If you are having difficulty leaving your home you may benefit from moving to an assisted living community. Most communities offer expert staff who work with your needs. Plus all kinds of life enriching activities, fun programs, and transportation services are included to keep you engaged and comfortable.

Getting the Right Nutrition

One of the best things about assisted living communities is the restaurant-style dining rooms with well-balanced chef-inspired meals, snacks, and catered meal plans. You or a loved one might benefit from an assisted living community if you find yourself skipping meals or relying on unhealthy convenience foods.

Enjoy The Freedom of Stress-Free Assisted Living

Still not sure if it’s time to think about assisted living? Take your time and reach out to a family member, friend, or an assisted living community directly to start the conversation.

Moving to an assisted living community is a major life decision for you or a loved one to make. There’s a misconception that assisted living means giving up your independence or that someone is watching over you 24/7—this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

At Five Star, assisted living is designed to enhance independence. With no more chores or errands to worry about, you have the freedom to do what makes you happy and rest easy knowing your every need is met at a cost you can afford. Most importantly, though, you are welcomed into a new home sweet home where you’re treated like family from the moment you walk in. Find out if there’s a Five Star community near you or contact us to learn more.

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Guest Blog: How Hospice Brought My Dad Joy, Independence and Family

To paint a fuller picture of senior living, we at Five Star sometimes invite guest writers to share their unique experiences and perspectives in a blog post. Our guest writer this week is Shari Rivera, Manager of Sales Enablement at Five Star whose ailing father found personalized care, companionship and independence in hospice. Read on for Shari’s powerful story of how her dad’s three years in hospice were three of the best years of his life.

The first conversation was hard. I was staying with my dad for a week while my mom was away, and I could immediately tell that something was off. He was acting depressed and not himself. Though he was happy to see me, he would often be upset with himself because he couldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. With the pain from his congestive heart failure (CHF) and loss of independence, he started drinking more than he should. He needed constant care to be available from time to time, and family could only provide so much. Then, hope came in the form of hospice.

Talking About Hospice – A Difficult Conversation Leading to The Right Care

The hospice conversation was tough, but even after several strokes, Dad’s mind was as sharp as ever and he made the decision for himself. I explained to him that he wasn’t going anywhere today and planned on him being with us a long time. We couldn’t change the diagnosis, but we could get him help from caregivers who would be by his side when he needed. He was scared at first, but open to the idea so we, together, called for an evaluation.

Transitioning to Hospice – A New Recliner, Caregiver and Lease on Life

Pops and SalemThat day, we also had some fun to ease his mind. He loved nothing more than watching Green Bay Packers and Notre Dame—his alma mater—football from his beat-up recliner. He had his eyes on a new one, though, that would make him more comfortable than ever on gameday. So, we decided to order the new recliner the same day he was put on hospice. Never would I have thought that he would get to enjoy that recliner for three more great years because hospice made his life worth living.

Dad’s spirits rose as soon as he started meeting with his nurse Carla, his massage therapist and other great hospice caregivers and social workers. I could see the joy and comfort hospice care gave him in his smile whenever I visited. He never overdrank and regained some strength just by knowing he was now in control of his independence. Over time, Carla became more like a friend to Dad and his beloved yellow lab Salem he affectionately calls “Big Guy”. When Dad didn’t feel well enough to come to my son’s out of town wedding and did a respite stay at a skilled nursing facility, he was so worried about who would watch “Big Guy” that he never left his side. That is, until Carla took Salem home with her!

End of Life in Hospice Care – One Last Drive and Family by His Side

New ReclinerWhen the call came after three years that nothing more could be done for Dad, I was sad but not surprised. Salem had recently passed away and Dad asked if we could go for a drive even though he usually preferred to be at home. We rode in my convertible with the top down, Dad sitting in front wearing his Packers cap and mom in the back. We took a lovely country drive and stopped for ice cream. On the way home, Dad asked if we could drive by the Catholic Cemetery to see if the mausoleum he had reserved was ready. It was complete enough that I think my dad felt at peace that it was his time to go.

Family PhotoWhen I arrived at home on his final day, Dad was no longer speaking but could hear us and held my hand until his last breath. In the room were his friends from hospice care who never left his side. They weren’t just his support team; they were his family. After Dad passed, Carla retired. We learned later she was planning on retiring two years earlier but stayed on just to be with my dad. He was the only patient she was caring for at the time of his passing. I’m so thankful that he was able to spend his final years at his home on hospice with folks who helped him find joy and independence despite his condition. Truly, hospice caregivers are angels, and those angels gave my dad his wings.

Senior Care: Where Older Adults Can Find Peace, Joy and Comfort

It can be devastating to see a loved one lose their independence and struggle to stay engaged due to ailing health. Being the primary caregiver can also be overwhelming physically and emotionally. A community of experienced caregivers who can provide support 24/7 at home or in an assisted living community can ease the burden by helping your loved one maintain independence and discover a joyful new lease on life. Call one of our senior care experts at (833) 457-8271 or find a Five Star Senior Living community near you to learn more.

What is Luxury Senior Living?

If you’ve gone on Google and looked into senior living options, you’ve probably come across the phrase, “luxury senior living.” The concept of luxury retirement living has come of age, driven in part by the rising number of Baby Boomers considering retirement.

But what exactly is luxury senior living? Definitions vary widely, as do the range of communities advertising premium services and amenities. At one end of the spectrum are communities promoting the good life: the upscale apartments of a high-rise, the concierge-like services of a fine hotel, and resort-like amenities such as movie theaters and heated indoor swimming pools.

The catch? The entrance or buy-in fee for some luxury communities can be pretty steep—in some cases, from hundreds of thousands of dollars to well over $1 million. The monthly fees are substantial as well. Fortunately for those who choose to be more discriminating with their retirement nest egg, it’s possible to enjoy luxury living for a lot less. Let’s talk about what really makes senior living luxurious.

Living the good life where your needs are taken care of

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary offers a definition of the good life as “a happy and enjoyable life.” According to The World Happiness Report 2021, which is based on Gallup polling data, some of the major factors supporting a happy and enjoyable life are health, someone to count on, freedom and trust.

If you or someone you love is older, you might be surprised (and happy!) to learn that according to the report, the wellbeing of people over 60 rose significantly in 2020, including fewer health problems, despite older people being at greater risk of COVID-19. The higher ratings were attributed mainly to better health and, interestingly, “someone to count on” in the form of neighbors and Zoom calls during the pandemic.

Interestingly because it so happens that having someone to count on is a major advantage of living in a community designed for older adults, whether that someone is a neighbor checking in, a team member taking care of errands or housekeeping, or family members dropping by. You never have to worry about you or your loved one being alone. Senior living communities also enable the freedom to enjoy a life without chores as well as having onsite support and services—and, in the case of some Five Star Senior Living communities, onsite fitness and rehab centers—all provided by folks you’ve come to know and trust, all of which support better health.

Luxury living: plush and personalized

Of course, enjoying luxurious accommodations can be part of the good life, too. A Five Star senior living community might offer any or all of the following, with an emphasis on personalizing services and amenities for a bespoke experience:

  • Gourmet-style dining, including personal favorites
  • Beautiful lobbies, living rooms, meeting areas, card rooms, activity spaces, bars, bistros, courtyards, pools and other inviting spaces where you can meet with friends and family
  • Pianos, drums and other musical equipment for classes or general use
  • Onsite fitness centers
  • Onsite entertainment and Happy Hours
  • A full complement of social, educational, wellness, cultural and spiritual program
  • Guided day trips to places of regional interest, with transportation
  • Extra-attentive team members—servers, housekeepers, maintenance—who are focused on your every need

Five Star Senior Living offers premier community options with these features and so much more. Search our communities and you will see which ones offer resort-like services and amenities such as concierges, bistros, pools, full libraries, beauty salons, doctor house calls, landscaped gardens and incredible views. Across the board, however, whether independent living or assisted living, no matter which Five Star community you choose, you can count on enjoying the good life.

The wealth of warmth

The added advantage of a quality senior living community is that all of these life enhancements come with a sense of independence in the warmth of a community setting, a kind of personal wealth money can’t necessarily buy. When you think about it, luxury living can be seen as being in a class by itself—or living where you feel you’re flying first-class. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Good living happens here

Ready to make a change? Ready for the good life? Find out if there’s a Five Star Senior Living community near you. We’ll make you feel like royalty.

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Senior Independence: 5 Ways to Take Control

It happens to every golfer. A slip in the grip, an awkward stance, or just a break in focus on a drive and the ball flies into a bunker. No matter the age or skill level of the golfer, control of the swing is everything. Losing that control can be frustrating and keep you from reaching your goal. That rings true in life, too. As we age, physical and mental limitations can lead to a feeling of losing control of the things in life you love, like your senior independence.

Here’s the good news. Independence doesn’t have an age limit. By taking certain steps, older adults can maintain their independence for as long as possible. Ready to take control of your independence? Here are five things you can do to live life to your fullest for years to come.

Live On Your Own Terms, With a Little Help

There are many things to love about owning your own home as an older adult. You can decorate it however you like, do things on your own schedule, and maintain it as you see fit. However, there are many parts of home ownership that are…not so great. Appliances break, roofs leak, and cooking all your meals can start to feel like a chore. Good thing there’s a better way. Independent living at a Five Star Senior Living community offers everything you love about having your own place, without the hassle of annoying home maintenance and other obligations. Since most services and amenities at Five Star are provided, like landscaping, transportation options, and fine dining, you can focus on doing your favorite things and living carefree.

Focus on Therapy and Fitness

Seniors know it well, all those aches and pains that make it hard to do all the activities you love, whether it’s a game of pickleball or just a walk around the park. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on the sidelines due to a bad back or another chronic ailment. Physical therapy and fitness might be the answer. Regular therapy and fitness training can help you relieve pain, prevent injury and gain control of your body. At Ageility clinics located in many Five Star communities, therapy and fitness focused treatment plans have been proven to improve strength and balance in residents so they can stay on their feet, and control that golf swing, for longer.

Keep Your Mind Sharp

The brain is a muscle, and just like the rest of your body, it requires regular exercise to keep it in tip top shape. Brain deterioration is a very real threat for older adults and can lead to memory loss and can cause dementia. Some simple and powerful ways to keep your brain engaged is to challenge it with a change to your routine, like starting a new hobby or participating in a new activity. Either is easy to do when you move into a Five Star community. No matter your lifestyle and interests, Five Star offers a whole host of unique activities, clubs, and experiences to explore and reignite your mind like painting classes, lecture series, visits to local cultural sites, and many more.

Stay Connected to Maintain Senior Independence

It may sound like an oxymoron, but one of the best ways for older adults to maintain senior independence is by staying social. Building strong relationships and meaningful social connections can give you a greater feeling of purpose and belonging, which in turn can boost your overall health and quality of life. Staying connected can be difficult when living on your own and you’re not as mobile as you once were. At Five Star, you’re invited in like family from the moment you arrive and everyday offers an opportunity to make new friends over drinks at Happy Hour or gather with them for a classic flick at the movie theater. The best part? You can choose to be as social, or not, as you like. Who says you can’t be an independent social butterfly?

Want to Maintain your Senior Independence? Make Your Voice Heard

Everyone has their own opinions and preferences for what they like to eat, wear, do, etc. For older adults, it can feel like your dignity and the freedom to make your own choices is slowly being lost as others start to make choices for you. Five Star knows that you have the ultimate say in how you want to live out your golden years. That’s why each day at a Five Star community is a choose your own adventure where you can do as you please. Is there a favorite dish that’s not on the menu or activity that’s missing from the community’s offerings? Make your voice heard and you may just see that beloved family recipe on the menu or run your very own club. When you speak at Five Star, you’re listened to, and given the freedom to choose for yourself.

No matter what stage of life you’re in, maintaining the ability to chart your own course and live, as Frank Sinatra sings, “My Way,” is a deeply held value. What’s important to remember is, there are actions you can take to maintain your independence for as long as possible, whether that’s starting a regular exercise routine or moving into a Five Star Senior Living community. The best is yet to come. It should be what you make of it.

If you or a loved one is searching for a senior living community that offers an independent lifestyle, consider all that Five Star Senior Living has to offer.

How Active Relaxation Helps Seniors Beat Stress

From political drama to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no doubt that the last year has been a stressful one. For older adults who may have spent months visiting with loved ones only through video chat, the impact can be even more pronounced.

We know living with chronic stress can negatively affect your health at any age. It contributes to diabetes, cardiac disease, weight gain, memory, digestive problems, and more. That’s where active relaxation can come in. It plays an important role in overcoming and managing stress.

Here’s what active relaxation is, along with some suggestions you can immediately work in to your day.

What Is Active Relaxation?

Unlike passive forms of relaxation, such as meditation, reading, or napping, active relaxation requires activity or movement. Those activities that bring you a sense of peace and centeredness are considered to be active relaxation methods. They can help with everything from reducing blood pressure to promoting better sleep and reducing stress levels.

One of the most common forms of active relaxation is progressive muscle relaxation. Begin by getting comfortable and taking some deep, cleansing breaths. Try to actively tense one part of your body, then release the tension. It’s usually easiest to begin with one foot. Let’s say you tense the muscles in your right foot. Hold for a count of ten, then let your right foot relax. Move to your left foot and follow the same procedure. Work your way up the body, muscle by muscle.

Senior-Friendly Forms of Relaxation

Other types of active relaxation older adults can explore include:

  • Practice chair yoga
  • Engage in Pilates
  • Tend to your garden
  • Go for a nature walk
  • Swim or wade in the water
  • Paint with watercolors
  • Dance to favorite songs in the kitchen
  • Play in an adult coloring book
  • Bake some cookies
  • Knit a scarf
  • Create a gratitude journal
  • Pet an animal
  • Ride a bike
  • Go bird-watching
  • Call a friend
  • Do a little housework
  • Fold laundry
  • Write your biography
  • Declutter your closets
  • Watch a comedy and laugh out loud
  • Repot a houseplant
  • Arrange a bouquet of fresh flowers

These are just a few of the many ways you can stay active while promoting calm and relaxation.

Live and Thrive at Five Star Senior Living

At Five Star Senior Living communities, we encourage residents to not just live, but thrive. And that includes keeping stress and anxiety at bay. Through our Lifestyle360 program, our residents can join a wide range of daily activities that reduce stress and nurture the five dimensions of wellness: intellectual, social, physical, emotional, and spiritual. You’ll find activities to meet every interest, from arts and crafts classes to card games to community movie nights.

But don’t just take our word for it. Visit us in person (or virtually) to see for yourself. Find a senior living community near you or Schedule a Tour.

Yoga: Great for Seniors, Too

It can make you stronger, more flexible and better balanced on your feet. It reduces stress. It helps ease chronic back pain and arthritis symptoms. It can lift your mood and boost your energy. It can even help you sleep better. All this, plus you already have the necessary equipment to start this amazingly simple (and enjoyable) fitness regimen: your body.

“It” is yoga, an ancient group of physical, mental and spiritual practices that in a busy, stressful world can do you a world of good. Yoga exercises are good for both body and mind—and, experts say, good for your spirit as well.

But wait. Isn’t yoga for the young? Don’t you already have to be in somewhat-good shape to do all those yoga poses, like sitting cross-legged on the floor (the lotus position) or the tree pose, where you stand on one foot with your arms raised over your head?

Benefits of yoga for seniors

Fear not. There are many varieties of yoga, ranging from gentle to vigorous and from using only your body to posing and moving with the aid of a chair or other props. (In fact, doing yoga while sitting, called seated or chair yoga, is a great option for those with limited mobility.) In short, older adults have many options when it comes to yoga. And the benefits are many, including being better able to enjoy an active lifestyle and connecting with a community of peers who, like you, are invested in improving their physical, mental and emotional health as they age.

We humans tend to lose muscle tone and our bones grow weaker as we age. Yet our bodies respond to exercise at any age, and even gentle yoga can help you build muscle and bone strength  Even if you haven’t been to the gym in ages, yoga can help you ease back into a fitness routine. Your brain and body have worked hard all these years. Now it’s time to repay them—and you—with the mind-body benefits of yoga.

How does yoga work, exactly?

Yoga increases flexibility and mental clarity through movement and meditation. Flexibility comes from various gentle stretching movements while focusing on breathing, which also enhances your physiological well-being. During yoga, while some muscles contract to allow movement, others are relaxing and lengthening to allow that movement. Stretching like this over a period of time allows the muscles to become more pliable and flexible, increasing movement patterns within your joints. Ultimately, stretching and breathing increase physical flexibility while improving overall health.

Now that you know more about how good for you yoga can be, here some basic yoga poses for seniors you can try right now:

Tree pose. Stand with legs together and your arms raised, palms folded together. Raise your right foot enough to touch your heel to your left ankle but with your toes still touching the ground. (Use a chair if needed.) Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat with your left foot. As you gain confidence holding your balance, try raising either foot off the ground enough to touch heel to the inside of the lower leg and hold for 20-30 seconds.

Leg climb. Sit on the floor with one side of your body against a wall. Lower your back so it is resting on the floor. Lift your legs up the wall, “climbing” until the backs of your legs are flat against the wall. If you can’t get them flat, try shifting your body away from the wall a few inches at a time. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then slowly lower your legs to the floor.

Cat-cow chair stretch. This pose gives you the benefits of the well-known cat-cow stretch without having to get down on the floor. Sitting straight up in a chair, inhale as you push your back against the back of the chair, drawing your navel toward your spine as you do so. (Think of a cat stretching.) Then, exhaling, push your stomach forward while arching your spine away from the back of the chair. Hold each pose for 10-15 seconds.

The other piece: meditation

Because your mind and body are so connected, yoga works on both. The practice of meditation or dhyana in yoga helps create mental stillness, allowing an individual to be at peace with their mind, body and spirit. There are several different ways to meditate in yoga, such as visualizing, gazing, breathing, or physical sensations (hot/cold temperatures):

  • Visualizing requires one to picture in one’s mind a peaceful object or channel, such as a god or goddess, flower, or a particular chakra (energy center).
  • Gazing is a different form of imagery that uses an open-eye focus on an object, such as a flower, candle flame or painting. (Gazing may be performed with both eyes open or one eye closed.)
  • Breathing in meditation is performed by focusing on the rise and fall of one’s chest, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Physical sensation is similar to focusing deeply on breathing; however, it is redirected to a sensation such as the temperature of your lips or nose, strengthening in your spine, or even observing an emotion.

An easy way to combine poses and meditation is to remember to inhale and exhale, gently but deeply, as you maneuver into a pose or as you hold it. Try to keep to a steady rhythm of breathing in and breathing out. Before long, you won’t even notice you’re doing it—but your body will, and it will thank you by growing healthier.

Ready to give yoga a try? At Five Star Senior Living, we offer a holistic approach to wellness called Lifestyle360. Residents have opportunities every day to engage in activities that nurture the body, mind, and spirit. Many Five Star communities also feature onsite clinics offered by Ageility, our rehab and fitness training partner.

Either way, you’re sure to find programs geared toward your abilities and goals. Visit us in person to see for yourself. Find a senior community near you or schedule a tour.

Spring Back into Shape—Safely, with These Tips

Tips for Improving Muscle Tone for Seniors

April Fool’s Day has come and gone. But there’s nothing funny about what a year of lockdown has done to our physical shape. Many of us have gained weight, but for older adults there’s been another issue: not just weight gain, but loss of muscle tone.

Loss of muscle tone (or, medically speaking, muscle mass) in seniors will show up differently depending on the person. If you’re active, you may notice you get winded much more quickly than you did in years past. Or you may notice your parent now finds it harder to do even the simplest things, such as pushing the chair away from the table or rising from their seat. So although in spirit we’re all ready to spring back to all our previous activities, our bodies might not be ready.

Still, with spring in full bloom, now is a perfect time to get moving again. At Five Star Senior Living, with vaccinations continuing and reopening efforts under way, residents are now taking advantage of weekly reconditioning classes to get back in shape so they can return to the activities they love. But a word of caution: After so many months of reduced physical activity, it’s important to reengage with exercise gradually and not overdo.

“I tell my clients, ‘You’re a different person now,’” says Jessica Lime, a personal trainer with Ageility, Five Star Senior Living’s rehabilitation and fitness training partner. Compared to a year ago, Jessica warns, “We’re not as flexible as we were and our bodies are probably not as efficient, causing us to fatigue quickly.”

With that in mind—and whether your plan is to start going for longer walks, jogging, running, cycling, taking yoga or some other spring shape-up regimen—here are some tips from the experts at Ageility.

How to make reconditioning and regaining muscle tone as rewarding as possible for you:

  1. Be honest with yourself. Look back over the year and admit if you developed what John Wheeler, a physical therapist and Ageility’s fitness director, calls “COVID habits.” Did you sit in front of the TV and snack away? Stop exercising because your gym closed or you just didn’t feel like it? Be honest, but don’t despair. And don’t feel guilty. You were definitely not alone!
  2. Write it down. Put your goals on paper. “Make small, attainable goals,” Jessica advises. As you work toward your goals, note your progress. Did you go from ten touch-toes to twenty? One-mile walk to two? Great! Write it down. “The point is to celebrate little victories that motivate you to keep on going,” Jessica adds.

Here’s another great tip to help reach your goals. “Come up with a motivational word for the week,” says Jessica, words like “energized,” “stronger” or “grandkids.” Post that word on your refrigerator door. “Then use that word in a sentence each day,” says Jessica, noting that doing so makes the word—and your goal—more real. And more likely.

  1. Ease into it. Don’t overdo. Consider starting with gentle chair exercises such as sitting and stretching to your toes. Try this: Sit up straight in a chair, feet firmly on the floor, and gently roll your head clockwise in a circle several times. Keep your shoulders down. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Gently switch directions, rolling your head counterclockwise for a few circles.
  2. Listen to your body. Your body is very good at telling you when it’s had enough. Heed one of the golden rules of physical therapy and if you feel pain, stop. Better, Jessica says, to increase exercise activity slowly, steadily and in moderation. Muscle soreness, not pain, is normal. If you experience muscle soreness, let your muscles rest two or three days before resuming your routine.

Kathryn Cunningham, Fitness Programming and Training Specialist at Ageility, adds, “For people who have been inactive, nothing is going to feel as fluid as it was. Be mindful if you’re feeling stiff or lack flexibility. Especially if you’ve had surgery or rehab and haven’t seen a health professional in a while, consider getting a reevaluation from your physician or physical therapist.”

  1. Remember to hydrate. “Always keep a bottle of water nearby when you work out,” Jessica says. “Hydration is key and often overlooked.” In fact, the human body loses water all day long, and perspiration and breathing harder during exercise only accelerate that loss. According to the Cleveland Clinic, losing even 1.5% of your body’s fluids can lead to dehydration, with symptoms ranging from a simple headache to life-threatening heat stroke.
  2. Don’t bounce! Stretching to touch one’s toes is a great, simple exercise to build flexibility—but if you bounce your fingertips while trying to touch the tips of your toes, you can do more damage than good. “Better to stretch down as far as you comfortably can and hold, then stand back up,” Jessica says, adding that bouncing can actually damage muscle tissue.
  3. Give it time. Both Jessica and Kathryn stress that a new you doesn’t happen overnight. A good reconditioning protocol can take two to three months to yield results. That’s actually a fraction of the time we’ve all spent in lockdown. Undoing all that stiffness and lack of energy in just 60 days after a year of shelter-in-place can seem like a bargain.

And the payoffs are worth it! You drop a pant size. You can look forward to joining a walking club again. You can lift your grandchild when you see them. All because you set some goals, eased into an exercise routine, took precautions, listened to your body, and didn’t rush things. Sounds like a good deal.

Throughout April, all Five Star locations are offering reconditioning classes, created by Ageility, to help our residents get their bodies back in action again. Do you know someone who could benefit from a lifestyle that includes regular reconditioning?