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Older Americans Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Older Americans Month & Healthy Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are some great opportunities that come in life during retirement. More free time to explore hobbies or travel, less stress from day-to-day work responsibilities and more time to spend with family. However, as we age, Americans are more likely to experience ageism. Not only can ageism impact the mental and physical health of older adults, but it has also been associated with earlier death. 

For senior citizens with a chronic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or heart disease, it is especially important to create a life and a lifestyle that supports health, happiness and positivity. 


Older Americans Month

Established in 1963, Older Americans Month came out of a collaboration between President John F. Kennedy and the National Council of Senior Citizens. The discussion began out of concern for the growing number of older Americans living in poverty. At first, Older Americans Month was held as an appreciation of past and present older Americans for their contributions to the country, especially those who served in the military. Beginning in 1978, Older Americans Month has been observed with a different theme each year. 

Older Americans Month is observed annually every May in the United States. While the themes have changed over the years, all the themes focus on senior citizens and their families. The theme in 2000 was The Future Is Aging, it was Age Strong! Live Long! in 2010, and the 2023 theme is Aging Unbound, which offers an opportunity to explore diverse aging experiences. Many senior living communities, like Anthology of Louisville, celebrate Older Americans Month with social events and family gatherings.


Healthy Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Aging Unbound theme of this year’s Older Americans Month is dedicated to encouraging progressive thinking about aging and how older adults can remain independent and engaged; this includes older adults with chronic conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 58.5 million U.S. adults had some form of arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, gout or rheumatoid arthritis between 2013 and 2015. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, meaning it is caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissue.

It is very possible to live an active, engaged life with rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA. There are several disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs for seniors living with RA. These drugs work by suppressing the immune system and minimizing the damage that it does to joint tissue. There are also lifestyle changes a person living with RA can make to reduce symptoms and increase mobility, including:

Exercise—For those who suffer from feelings of stiffness or joint pain from living with rheumatoid arthritis, moving around is often the last thing people want to do. However, staying physically active is one of the best ways to ease the symptoms and reduce the pain and inflammation of RA, and it can even prevent long-term problems. Some of the best exercises for those living with RA include:

Low-impact aerobic exercises, such as swimming and walking
Strength training, including using light weights and resistance bands
Yoga or Pilates

At senior living communities, like Anthology of Mason, residents can take advantage of fitness, wellness and exercise programs designed for each individual to help them achieve their health goals and support them in activities of daily living.

Physical or Occupational Therapy—Therapists can help seniors living with RA learn healthy and safe ways to conduct their daily lives. From learning the safest way to lift a box to how to protect joints when moving around and how to build strength to support joints, seniors can learn to avoid flares in their RA symptoms.

A Healthy Weight—More than half of seniors living with rheumatoid arthritis are overweight or medically obese. The extra pounds put pressure on the joints, and some disease-modifying medications do not work as well for people who are overweight. The parts of the body that often feel the most strain include:

Lower back

Getting to a healthy weight can reduce flare-ups of RA symptoms, create a better chance of remission and ease the discomfort of daily tasks.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet—While there is no scientific proof that one special diet will reduce RA symptoms, there is plenty of proof that eating a healthy, balanced diet, including dairy products, is part of healthy living with rheumatoid arthritis. At senior living communities, like Anthology of Tanglewood, on-site chefs and nutrition experts can help craft a healthy diet specifically for each resident’s needs. For those living with RA, the diet may include: 

Fish, like trout, tuna and salmon, that are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and may ease joint pain.
Vegetables and fruits, which have antioxidants that fight damaging free-radical molecules in the body.
Whole grains, such as oatmeal and brown rice, to lower levels of C-reactive protein, which is a sign of inflammation.
Low levels of saturated fat, sugars and cholesterol.
No alcohol, which may interfere with some RA medications.

Reduced Stress—While dealing with any chronic disease can be stressful, it is always beneficial for overall health to reduce stress levels as much as possible. For those living with RA, it can be helpful to:

Join a class, attend a support group or talk to peers living with RA to share ideas and solutions.
Ask for help from family, friends and neighbors as needed.
Learn techniques that promote relaxation, such as yoga or meditation.
Take time to rest during the day; while being active is important when living with RA, rest is also a crucial part of keeping symptoms under control.
Talk with a doctor for ideas about medications and lifestyle changes.
Take deep breaths and try to stay relaxed as much as possible.

For older adults living in retirement communities, such as Anthology of McCandless, there is an entire village of support available for seniors living with RA. From meal planning to yoga classes, exercise plans to peer connections, there are many resources residents can rely on to reduce stress levels.


About Anthology Senior Living

Anthology Senior Living is committed to providing a unique senior living experience with many community offerings and the highest quality of care. Anthology offers independent living, assisted living and memory care at various communities, all with the needs of the resident at the heart of our culture and our values.

Interested in learning more about Anthology of Olathe and all the other Anthology communities? Contact us today! And check our community finder to locate an Anthology community near you!