Getting The Best Out of Insurance

In the second of our series on investments for seniors, Chamila Nagendran, Managing Director/CEO of Infinity Trust Wealth Advisors (PVT) Ltd. talks about the need to invest in an insurance policy. The insurance options available to senior citizens reduces with advancing age, it therefore makes sense to acquire cover as early as possible.

What are the Insurance policies available for seniors? For example after 50 is it possible to get medical or life cover. If not at what age would you consider getting insurance in order to reap the best out of the available policies?

Most of insurance companies prefer clients who are less than 60 years since there is a lesser risk of illness compared to seniors. However, many insurance companies do provide an insurance cover for seniors with a higher cost and after a health check up.

We need health insurance because we cannot predict what our medical bills will be. Given the high cost of healthcare, having a health cover protects us financially in the event of an unexpected serious illness or injury.

What should a senior look for in a medical cover?

  • Maximum age limit they could continue a health cover
  • Premium of the health cover compared to the benefits and limitations of the health cover
  • Claim procedures (is it a reimbursement or will they settle the full bill directly to the hospital)
  • Exclusions (such as will it cover dental surgeries)

Can a person integrate different policies together? If yes, then how is it beneficial to get more than one policy?

Yes one can integrate different policies and create a unique cover for oneself. Ever-so-often people integrate a life cover along with health cover. Most of the life covers are include an investment strategy to provide a lump sum amount after a long period of insurance.

Till what age do the medical policies provide cover? Are policies something you renew every year or are they valid for a couple of years? Also can you get lifetime cover?

Normally all medical insurance providers initially grant cover for a period of 12 months. Thereafter, we can renew the policy annually up-to the required number of years.

Does the premium increase with age?     

There are a number of factors that influence the annual increase in premiums. The main reasons though, are medical inflation and the increasing age of the insured person which increases the chance of illnesses or injuries.

How do deductibles normally work?

By having a deductible there will be a reduction in the premium payable by the member. A deductible will be applicable on an annual basis and depends on the claims made by the member.

Many people don’t have medical insurance. What are the best policies available to seniors in Sri Lanka internationally and locally? Is it a good idea to get international cover as opposed to getting only local cover?

When one gets international health cover, usually the member can get medical treatment locally as well as in hospitals located overseas, and the limit of cover is very vast and substantial. Local cover is applicable only for treatment in local hospitals and limits of cover are not very much in comparison. This is because there is a huge difference in the price of medical care in Sri Lanka and abroad.

If you are unable to get a cover due to medical reasons are there any other options available for seniors?

If an insurance provider declines a client’s application for cover there is unfortunately no other option available for a senior citizen to obtain medical cover.

At the time of cashing in your life policy, what are the options for re-investment?

Some prefer to reinvest their money into another insurance cover; however this could depend on person to person.

How does travel insurance work for young seniors and older seniors (75 and above)?

Travel cover can be obtained form the age of 18-70years.  Following options are available to prospective client.

Annual cover – The member can make any number of trips but in each trip minimum stay of 30 or 45 days should be adhere to.

Single trip cover – cover can be obtained only for a stay overseas for a particular number of days required by the member.

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FITNESS FOR OLDER WOMEN

– By Sajeda Akbarally

There has been much written about men- issues pertaining to men, exercises for men etc. Most of my work in the fitness area is with women. So, I thought I would dedicate this article to women, a specific group of women – the older women. You can decide whether you fall into this group J. Many “older” women ask me whether they are too “old” to start exercising. You are never too old!

Did you know that? :-

  • After the age of 30 women lose approximately 3kg of muscle mass in every succeeding decade of life.  For people whose diet is inadequate this figure can be as high as 20% to 40%.
  • Women who are inactive, and who have poor dietary habits run a higher risk of osteoporosis in later life.
  • A woman’s risk of death from heart disease, usually due to a poor lifestyle, increases by approximately 400% after menopause. The rate of stroke also increases dramatically at this time in life.
  • Women with diabetes at any age are at a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke than those women who do not have diabetes.

There is considerable evidence to support the theory that exercise works directly to improve your health, lower the risk of developing life-threatening problems and provides an added indirect benefit of keeping your weight down.

So what is the recommendation?

Many health professionals recommend that older women engage in regular cardiovascular exercise (e.g. walking, cycling, swimming) as well as regular strength training.

In order to counter the natural muscle wastage  (3kg every decade after age 30) you need to perform some degree of strength training. This will help preserve, if not, increase muscular strength and endurance, particularly in the leg and hip muscles, which often become weaker with age.

It is highly advisable that you have a resistance program (weight training program) specifically designed for your needs. In this way you can address any problem areas, or other areas that require special focus.

If you are not a “gym” person, you can consider group classes such as circuit training (refer my last article).

If you are exercising at home it may be worthwhile engaging the services of a personal trainer to give you some guidelines as what is safe and advisable for you to do on your own.

Advantages of Exercise for older Women

Aside from the fundamental health benefits and weight control, as already outlined, there are a number of practical benefits and allied health benefits. These include:-

Daily activities become easier and less tiring as you gain stamina, with increased cardiovascular fitness. People who exercise generally have more energy to get through the day.

  • Strength training helps older women tone, shape and strengthen muscle fibres, minimizing the “fatty marbling” within the muscle that results in a flabby, weak muscle.
  • Exercise helps increase metabolism, and bone density – both factors which ordinarily decline with age.
  • The risk of sustaining fractures resulting from osteoporosis can be mitigated with strength training.
  • Increasing your core (abdominal) strength will help to improve posture, and contribute towards a firmer looking abdomen.

Cautions to Older Women contemplating Exercise

  • If you are over 40 years of age I would recommend you get clearance from your doctor to start exercising if you have never exercised before, or if you have any concerns which may affect your ability to exercise.
  • Unless you have been exercising previously it is important to seek the guidance of a qualified trainer before commencing any physical training program.
  • It is imperative that you listen to your body, and do not push yourself beyond reasonable limits. Do not compare yourself with your younger compatriots, or with yourself “x” years ago. We all age, and need to accept that we cannot do what we once were capable of doing…

So there you have it – all the reasons why all you “older” ladies should consider exercising! Go for it!

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Our Personal Ecosystem

Our Personal Ecosystems Age as We Do

Did you know that your body is actually a living ecosystem that support trillions of lives! That’s right. Each of us host trillions of microbes inside as well as on the surface of our body that not only live off us, but also contribute to our well- being. What’s more, our personal ecosystem or microbiome is unique to us very much like our fingerprints.

The study of the human microbiome is gaining huge momentum. Researchers are particularly interested in the microbes within the gut or stomach. These little organisms that live in the lining of our stomachs and intestinal tract have a very important job to do in keeping us healthy, as they are essential to digestion.  Research shows that they:

  • Produce vitamins K, B7 (biotin), and B12
  • Help regulate appetite
  • Help control inflammation
  • Help control cholesterol
  • Stimulate the immune system
  • Are involved in production of 90% of your serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter

An imbalance in the mix of bacteria living in the intestinal tract or a shortfall of certain microbes has been linked to obesity, depression, and chronic diseases, from heart disease to diabetes.

Studies show that the ecosystem we support ages as we do!

By the time you were three years old, your digestive tract, especially your colon, was home to a community of diverse bacteria. Some of those microbes got there from your mother as you passed through her birth canal. If you were breastfed, you accumulated even more. And you picked up some bugs from your environment as you played with other kids, petted the cat and made mud pies in the dirt. Research has shown that keeping clean is important. However, keeping your environment overly sanitized might actually work against you.

As a healthy adult, the bacterial ecosystem that is unique to you is well established and fairly stable. However, those bugs can take a beating when you take antibiotics to treat an infection or eat a high-sugar, low-fiber diet of processed foods. The chemicals in the packaged food we eat, is harmful to us and the microbes in our gut.

By the time your hair turns gray and your joints begin to stiffen, your microbiome has changed considerably. In your senior years, your microbiome bears little resemblance to the one of your youth.

Although researchers haven’t pinpointed exactly how aging changes your intestinal flora, they do know that certain factors can be damaging:

  • Your intestinal tract has its own nervous system with as many nerve cells as your spinal cord. It’s not clear how the gut and the bacteria within it interact with the brain, but scientists know that chronic stress disrupts neural communication. Experts suspect an unhealthy mix of gut bacteria could also contribute to depression.
  • A high-fat, high-sugar diet that is low in natural fiber does not support bacteria in the colon. These bacteria need fiber (got from fruit and vegetables) to create inflammation-fighting fatty acids. A poor dietary mix causes many of these bacteria to be depleted and is the reason for many of the diseases of aging.
  • A diverse mix of healthy bacteria requires a diverse diet. We tend to buy and eat the few standard fruit and vegetables available at supermarkets which reduce the number of types of bacteria present in our digestion system.
  • Gastrointestinal conditions that often occur in seniors such as diverticulitis, decreased saliva production, and tooth loss which also impact gut bacteria.

How do we keep our ecosystem or microbiome healthy as we age?

Here’s what you can do to boost the number and type of healthy bacteria in your tummy:

  • Eat different types of foods that are low in fat and sugar, and high in fiber diet. Eat as many season fruit and vegetables as you can and if possible eat home grown or organic produce.
  • Make small portions of fermented foods part of your daily diet. These foods help replenish your gut bacteria. These include curd, yogurt, cheese, pickles and acharus.
  • Practice stress relief — whatever technique is comfortable for you. Try meditation, or listening to soft, instrumental music.
  • Exercise daily. It not only helps relieve stress but also contributes to a robust population of gut bacteria.
  • Brush and floss regularly. Keeping your gums healthy and holding on to your teeth as you age allows you to eat a chewy and diverse, fiber-rich diet.
  • Don’t take antibiotics unnecessarily. And, if you do, replenish your gut bacteria with fermented foods and possibly a probiotic supplement. Clinical trials show that taking a probiotic with the antibiotic reduces the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

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The fine art of story telling

The fine art of story telling

Engaging little ones with toys and stories can be an amazingly enriching and rewarding experience for both kids and their grandparents alike.  Story-telling especially, is a fabulous way for kids to bond with their grandparents. Fantasies woven in to stories help stimulate the little ones’ and their grand-parents’ creativity and communication skills.  Of course there are other benefits to story-telling as well. Stories are a great way to pass on traditions and oral histories which would otherwise be lost to the younger generation. Kids do not get enough of exposure to traditional folklore, which are an important way to reinforce our Sri Lankan cultural identity.

Read me a story – Kids these days are very likely to say ‘read me a story’. So it would make sense for grandparents to keep a stock of books handy for those moments they share with their grandchildren. Bookstores have a huge number of exciting contemporary children’s books on offer. However, the old classics have a wonderful charm about them and yet are often not read. So grandparents can bridge that gap by reading handed-down fables such as Aesop’s Fables, and folk stories both Sri Lankan and foreign.   Also stories with moral values woven in to them are a good way to teach young ones the difference between good and bad.

Spinning a yarn – There is much to be said about the benefits of reading to young ones. But offer to tell them a story and you will see their eyes light up with excitement. We often shy from telling kids stories because we don’t know where to start and how to build the plot. Here are a few tips that will help you spend a fun story hour with your grand kids.

  1. Once upon a time there was a king or queen…” never gets out of vogue – tell kids about the great kings and queens of Sri Lanka. They will love their history lessons when they get to that stage, because their achchi or achcha has already told them a fantastic story about the era. As kids get older you can share and discuss important moments in our history so that they can understand current situations better.
  2. When I was a little girl or boy” is another great way to start a story. Tell little kids about incidents from the past. An anecdote about a great grand uncle or aunt who did something funny or incredible, or a rogue who broke in to the house and was chased away can be very engaging. Build verbal images of life as it used to be when you were young – Games that you played and the things that gave you joy.
  3. When I was little, Avurudu meant….” tell kids about how you celebrated festivals and special occasions. To make that story-telling session more interesting you can have your grand-kids taste some of the goodies you had when you were young.
  4. Did anyone tell you about the yakka that was scared of mice…” if you feel the mood is right throw in some fantasy. A little action, a little comic relief and some tragedy that eventually got sorted out will keep the little ones rapt.
  5. Let’s build a story together…” Sometimes encourage your grand kids to build a story with you. Let your eyes shine in appreciation when they come up with something. The sillier and more nonsensical the story the better. Let them pull out some props to enact a scene. It can make their time with you so much more fun.
  6. When you were a little baby….” most kids love to hear about funny things they did when they were very little. So if story ideas fail you, tell kids about themselves. They will love you for it.

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy your own stories. If you share positive energy while telling kids stories; they will be all ears.

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Dealing with Interfering Adults

My friend, Geetha constantly complains about how her mum and mother-in-law interfere with everything she does.  “They have an opinion for everything I do”, she says with a sigh.  “They are ready to criticize the way I bring up my children, or run my house or even sometimes the way I speak to my husband. I feel I am constantly being judged.” The frustration over not being allowed to figure things on our own has been expressed so many times across generations. So why is it that as people get older they forget that they were once young too – and perhaps went through this same ordeal?

Sometimes people want to ‘manage’ the lives of younger loved ones, to assert their authority, or maybe because they care. They’ve been through the grind and have seen the pitfalls, and want to protect them against likely mishaps. At other times, however, they interfere merely because they want to have their opinion heard. Geetha says more often than not, she ignores the constant comments and continues to do her own thing. But, ever so often, there are sharp and sarcastic remarks that fly pass her that really upset her. “We listened to our elders when we were young, but nowadays children think they know better”, is a very common jibe thrown her way.

It wasn’t very long ago when many aged parents lived together with their grown children and grandchildren. Elders’ seniority allowed them to prevail over most family matters whether they were right or wrong. However, over the years, things have changed rapidly. Today there is a growing need to assert oneself and make one’s own decisions. Today’s young adults have a lot more information at their disposal that they tend to rely on. As a result, young adults today are far less dependent upon their elders for guidance.  They prefer to make their mistakes and learn from them. They prefer to seek out the latest trends rather than follow ‘outdated’ information. This is something that Geetha’s elders and so many others do not understand. They can’t accept that Geetha would trust a computer over the first hand experience that they can offer her.

To better understand this conflict, we interviewed several senior citizens and researched online resources.  What we found was what the younger generation tended to brush off as stubbornness and interference was often an attempt to be heard and acknowledged. Geetha for example admits that she blocks out her elders out of exasperation and the fear that if she listens to them it might lead to never ending interference.

Perhaps if Geetha did accept at least some of the input provided by her elders, it might actually make them ease up a bit. This would make them feel more relevant and wanted – which is a greatly felt need for the elderly the world over. However, it is also recommended that we establish clear boundaries.  Older parents, in-laws and other seniors, who are advising their adult children, should be made to understand that the final decision on matters will be in the hands of the younger generation. At the same time, their advice would be respected and even welcomed.  The older generation has a treasure trove of information that could be of immense use to their younger counterparts.  For instance, often times, home remedies work better for minor ailments than the pharmaceuticals a doctor would usually prescribe.  For example, Geetha says her mum-in-law uses a bee’s honey and lime mixture for a cough. She tried it a couple of times and it does soothe an irritated throat.

Looking at it from the seniors point of view, they should understand that though they do have a lot to offer, they need to share advice without making it look like they are finding fault.  For instance they could rephrase their inputs as ‘during our time we did it like this – you could try this out if you like.’  The important thing for elders to remember is that their children are not children anymore. Sometimes, they need to back off and let them make their own decisions – and mistakes. At the same time, they need to keep themselves open for discussion so that when their children really want their advice they can easily turn to them. This way their children will value advice better and accept it without resentment.

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Preserving Memories

As generations pass on, they leave behind a legacy – achievements get recounted; values are cherished; physical assets are distributed and used. However, what often gets lost to future generations are the stories and memories of all those things that help families evolve. These include, snippets of how life used to be, the history behind family traditions, and insights to the many personalities that shaped families. Many, whose influence can still be seen, but tend to will fade away with each successive generation unless an effort is made to record and preserve them.

Many older people love to slip back in to the past. I remember how my grandmother would throw little anecdotes our way about her life. About how she got married at the tender age of 15, then travelled to Sri Lanka by ship – a journey that took over a month – and was introduced to a large, boisterous family. She told me about the cows in the backyard that gave fresh milk each day and the veralu, guava and jambu trees from which her younger brothers-in-law plucked fruit.  How many little children of the time, went to school in rickshaws drawn by men, and you could count the number of cars that passed her house each day on your fingers. She painted verbal pictures of grand family dinners and outings. Each of these events needed a great deal of planning and preparation, and whilst they drew everyone together, they also sent many into despair. I have tried passing on these stories to my children but they never seem quite the same. I know I miss many of the finer details that would make her stories come alive and wish she were here to tell them.

Today we have at our disposal many tools that can help us preserve our histories. A compilation of photographs, home videos, letters and diary entries can provide a glimpse into a person’s life. But only when we can combine these with interviews of the primary source, the elders in our family, do we get the true essence of these stories. The gaps get filled in and the picture becomes complete. “A Wonderful Life Productions” is a company in the US that does exactly this. They chronicle people’s life stories through interviews, conversations and memorabilia (we have included a link below to a You Tube video that showcases some of their work). You, cannot access their services here in Sri Lanka, but even a home production, though less professional, could be just as priceless for generations to come. So the next time you are having chat with the elders in your family about their past, record the conversations. Those little tit bits will be gems for future generations.

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It’s all about attitude

This article is dedicated to my grandmother. Bed ridden though she was, with acute arthritis, she radiated enthusiasm. She always greeted us with a smile, hug and a sharp-witted dig. Perhaps it was her undying zest for life that kept her loved, alert, and otherwise well until 87.

You may have noticed that while some of our elders seem happy and active way into their senior years, others find it difficult to emotionally cope with failing health and diminishing faculties. As much as this difference can be attributed to genetic disposition, positive thinking as one grows older plays a significant role in our general health as well. Aging is inevitable; however, it is easier to deal with, if we have a positive attitude. A study done by the Yale School of Health shows aging stereotypes with positive thinking are more likely to recover from disability and illnesses than those with a negative attitude.

Positive attitude = Health + happiness

This equation says it all.  Various studies and published articles by health organizations such as the Mayo Clinic highlight the benefits of having a positive attitude:

  • Increasing life span
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Lower rate of depression
  • Greater resistance to common colds
  • Improved psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Improved capacity to deal with hardship and stress.

The prescription for positive attitude

 A measure of acceptance – It begins with accepting aging gracefully and understanding your physical and mental changes. Aging need not be a handicap and should not stop you from having fun. In fact, in your golden years you will have more time to engage in activities that you may have postponed when you were younger, and busy working or running your family.  For example, you could learn ballroom dancing or start on that hobby which you did not continue because you were otherwise busy – Gardening, sewing, cooking, or anything that makes you happy and gives you positive vibes is a great way to spice up your life.

A strong dose of positive thinkingOne way to pull yourself out of a state of despair is to practice to have positive thinking, by actively eliminating negative thoughts. Whenever you think, “I can’t do that, it is too much of a hassle”, you must stop right there and will yourself to think, “I can do it and I will feel be better if I do it?”.

A spoonful of laughter -You may have heard of the saying ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ Well there is an element of truth to it. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. If you can laugh at life, all your cares will seem so much more less wearisome.

A daily regime of keeping fit and looking good – It is very important to be active in your senior years. This will keep your mind ticking and more importantly eliminate boredom and loneliness. An individual who makes an effort to exercise on a frequent basis – even if it’s a simple daily stroll will be healthier and happier.

Sometimes as one gets older one tends to get careless about appearances. Spend some time on grooming and personal care. Simple efforts to dress nicely will make you feel good about yourself and lift your spirits.

Regular exposure to joyful company Friends are a big part of our lives.  However, spending time with people who have a positive, can-do attitude towards life will make a huge difference to your mental well-being as well. Friends with a positive attitude will advice you well, give constructive feedback and are supportive. Even spending time with young children can add a much-needed sparkle to your day. Young energy can be very encouraging and infectious.

A quiet moment of spirituality – When you are distressed, it helps to look to a spiritual source for some peace of mind. It will give you time to reflect on the situation and face your challenges with optimism. After all faith fuels hope, and hope fuels a positive attitude.

A generous amount of community work – It is not always only about making yourself feel good. Helping others does wonders for your soul. Whether you provide those in need with your time or financial support, your thoughtfulness and service will make you feel better about your life.

Removal of emotional baggage – Don’t dwell upon something that happened years ago. Deal with it and set it aside. Choose what you want to change and take action. Harping on the past only keeps negative emotions like anger, regret, guilt, shame and worthlessness alive. It is time to cast those feelings out, and face the future with hope and cheer.

There are many ways to improve your life with confidence and positive energy. However, it is up to you to make it happen. This is not always easy to do, but with a little bit of effort and practice you can bring some sunshine in to your life and the lives of those around you.

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Who we are…

Our seniors’ golden years should be celebrated. It is a moment to look back with pride at all that they have achieved and use this opportunity to make the best of all they have to offer…

We are two friends who often despaired that so little was available for our elders in terms of information, facilities and most importantly activities. Often we’d encounter problems which we couldn’t find ready solutions to and there seemed to be precious few places that we could turn to for advice or assistance.

What was missing, we felt, was a common platform or meeting space for seniors, their families, and caregivers to share experiences and receive information about the issues and challenges facing our senior citizens today. And from this need evolved the idea of ‘The Senior Station’ – an online space dedicated to seniors and their caregivers where we could talk about all that’s out there from health and well being to entertainment, and everything in between.

So, if you consider yourself a ‘senior’, or if you have an elderly person in your care, then please join us at ‘The Senior Station’. If you have any information, advice or practical tips that you feel would be useful to others like you, then we urge you to share them via this page. If you are an individual or part of an organization that is already providing services or facilities for elders, then The Senior Station is the place where these can be shared, promoted or advertised for our members to benefit from, enjoy or be entertained.

Finally, if you have ideas in the area of elder care that you would like to see implemented then please do send us a message. We are always on the lookout for resources that could help implement good suggestions. And if you would like to volunteer or join us, please don’t hesitate to contact us because we believe that this is a truly worthwhile cause that will require a great many to contribute their effort, time and resources to.

So do tune into ‘The Senior Station’. A space specially dedicated all the amazing seniors amongst us.