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Fueling the Flames for Health

Fueling the Flames for Health

If March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, October must come in like a forest fire and out like a jack-o-lantern. So many events, observances, festivals, homecomings and even conferences are crammed into October. Perhaps this surge of activities stems from the old agrarian days of stocking up for winter. Maybe it’s the unofficial kick-off to the holidays that makes the 10th month eventful. The rush might just be following nature’s lead, transforming from vivid foliage and moderate temperatures to leafless trees and placid nights. October certainly sets our community ablaze with breathtaking scenery, fall festivals and deer going in the rut. This transition between autumn and winter is the perfect time for senior citizens to kindle their health before the darker and colder months approach.

Sadly, folks over 60 don’t have as much control over their physical health as gravity, years of hard work and susceptibility to fatal diseases can have. What we can steer, however, is our physical safety and security. The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) has multiple brochures available to download or print on topics ranging from illicit drugs to grief to identity theft. Remember the old adage, “success is 90% preparation,” and use this month to learn as much as possible to prepare for possible adversities.

One of the biggest threats to seniors is exploitation, so here are a few suggestions from the MSHP to avoid being swindled:

  • Remove your name from mass distribution lists by filling out a request online at dmachoice.org.
  • Be skeptical of a mailer saying you have won a fabulous prize as these are often ploys used to sell products.
  • Vet a company thoroughly before you sign contracts or binding documents.
  • Add your phone number to Missouri’s No-Call List at 866-662-2551, and the federal No Call registry at 800-382-1222.
  • Check your bank statements, credit card bills and credit reports regularly to detect identity theft. To learn more about identity theft or file a report, visit IdentityTheft.gov.

Since seniors are often the targets of fraud, please determine for yourself if something is or isn’t a “good deal.” If you need a home repair, research a reputable contractor or ask a friend for a reference. Be very cautious when donating to charities, and do not trust someone who claims to be on official business without seeing their identification first. If you have fallen prey to a scam, call the attorney general’s consumer hotline at 800-392-8222.

Unfortunately, older people can be the victims of abuse as well. If you suspect someone you love is being abused, neglected, financially exploited or bullied, report it immediately on the Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-392-0210. The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), health.mo.gov, also offers Adult Protective Services for eligible adults who are unable to manage their own affairs or protect themselves from harm. If you need help with care planning, or want to see if you qualify for home and community-based services, start with DHSS by calling 573-751-6400.

Another great resource to enhance senior security is the Missouri Bar’s Senior Citizens Handbook. The guide lists the laws and programs specific to seniors and contains information on financial assistance, personal planning and protection, Medicare and housing. If you haven’t already made a will or health directive, this is a great place to start. Request a free copy by calling the legal resources line at 573-636-3635 or filling out the online order form found at missourilawyers.help.org/legal topics/.

Besides safety and security, it’s also important to educate yourself on emotional wellness. This topic may be a foreign concept for baby boomers who graduated from the school of hard knocks. As a former Marine, I was skeptical, too. In our day, we didn’t pander to such whimsical notions. Our parents’ emotional coaching consisted of “big boys don’t cry, act your age, sticks and stones…” or my all-time favorite, “stop it, or I’ll really give you something to cry about.” Of course they meant well, but they lacked the time and energy to worry about emotional well-being. They also didn’t have the benefit of years of research and science that have proven how vital emotional wellness is to overall health. Start the wellness journey with small steps, such as being aware of your emotions and reactions. Practice taking deep, cleansing breaths before confronting a stressful person or situation. Combat loneliness by calling an old friend, visiting the senior center, going to church or joining a civic organization. Writing in a journal or drawing in a sketchpad, even if it’s just five minutes, can boost your mood and help you relax.

Another way to fine-tune your wellness is getting involved with the Area Agency on Aging, Region X. The center offers a wide range of helpful services, including a printable resource guide with local contact information to access clothing, meals, tax assistance, health and dental care. Socialize with peers while fueling your competitive spirit with board games, billiards and dominoes. Take advantage of the exercise equipment to tone your muscles and keep your heart healthy. Call Region X at 417-781-7562 to ask what other programs are available. You can always call me at 573-751-3620 if you need additional information or assistance.

The good news is you are never too old to be physically safe and emotionally fit. Try it for yourself – it’s risk-free and doesn’t cost a dime!

This column appeared in the Joplin Globe’s Better Living publication on Oct. 1, 2021.