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Simple Way to Prevent Senior Depression, and Other News to Know

For elders, online interactions may keep depression at bay

A few hours online could reduce an older adult's chances of succumbing to the twin plagues of loneliness and depression by more than 30 percent, says a recent analysis published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. "It all has to do with older persons being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their social networks and just not feel lonely." says lead study author Sheila Cotten, professor of telecommunication, information studies and media at Michigan State University (MSU), in a press release. Cotten's team tracked the rates of internet usage, loneliness and depression in a group of more than 3,000 seniors who were part of the larger "Health and Retirement" survey, a nationwide survey of 22,000 older adults conducted every two years. While interacting with loved ones online wasn't able to completely eradicate depression in seniors who were already suffering from the mental disorder in the MSU study, it did minimize some of the symptoms, particularly for those elders who were living on their own. Learn more about the deadly consequences of loneliness for seniors.

Vitamin D deficiency and cognitive function may be connected

Both cognitive impairment and low vitamin D levels are common in older adults. But is there a connection between the two? Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center observed 2,777 well-functioning adults between 70 and 79 years old whose cognition was measured at the start of the study and then again, four years later. Their vitamin D levels were measured after 12 months. After just four years, low vitamin D was linked with a decline in cognitive function. Study authors expressed interest in further investigating whether or not increasing vitamin D levels could improve cognitive function over time. Here is a rundown of the benefits and drawbacks of vitamin D and other commonly suggested supplements for seniors.

How a printer could prevent seniors from getting pneumonia

A new senior-focused food product promises to make meals safer and more appealing for elders by utilizing cutting-edge 3D printing technology. The scientific brains behind Biozoon, a food innovation firm based in Bremerhaven, Germany are currently developing a new line of food texturizers (called "seneoPro") that are meant to make 3D-printed soft food products more appealing. In nursing homes and other care facilities, elders who have trouble chewing and swallowing, a symptom known as dysphagia, are often fed unappetizing meals of mushy, pureed fare. These foods are challenging and time-consuming to prepare, aren't fun for seniors to eat, and don't offer a well-balanced nutritional mix. The hope is that 3D printers can be used to create soft foods that look, feel and taste like their more solid versions, and infuse meals with extra vitamins and minerals, based on each senior's individual needs. The seneoPro texturizer line is currently undergoing testing as part of the PERFORMANCE project (PERsonalized Food using Rapid Manufacturing for the Nutrition of Elderly ConsumErs), an ongoing EU-funded initiative aimed at developing healthy and holistic food sources for seniors dealing with dysphagia. The project hopes to have a working process for efficiently creating soft foods by using a 3D printer sometime in 2015.
 

Spousal caregivers take on more complex tasks than others

Nearly 65 percent of spousal caregivers take on tasks that are normally performed by health care professionals, such as wound care and medication monitoring, compared to 42 percent of non-spousal caregivers who perform such duties, according to a report released by The United Hospital Fund and AARP Public Policy Institute. Even with these added demands, caregiving spouses are also less likely than other categories of caregivers to receive assistance from health professionals at home, or from family and friends, than non-spousal caregivers. As to why spouses receive less help, researchers remain unsure. It may be the spousal caregiver's personal choice or fear on the part of other friends and family members. Caring for a spouse can strengthen your bond, but it comes with its own set of challenges.

(With additional research and reporting by Melissa Roman.)

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