By KAITLYN NAPLES
Last Wednesday, the United Way of West Central Connecticut held its annual TRIAD conference, providing resources and information to seniors on how to “Stay Strong — Live Long.”
TRIAD is a partnership that was formed among the United Way, law enforcement departments, and seniors “to ensure the safety of our oldest citizens,” said Mary Lynn Gagnon, director of Development & Donor Relations at United Way of West Central Connecticut.
Gagnon said the panel of speakers, demonstrations and information on resources and services are provided so that seniors can learn how to “live healthy and age gracefully.”
In addition to yoga and Zumba demonstrations, law enforcement groups, civic groups and organizations on hand, and health screenings, a three-person panel of health professionals presented information on living healthy, eating right, and respiratory therapy.
Geriatric medical practitioner Dr. Margarita Reyes shared ways in which some countries see their citizens living well into their 90s and 100-years.
Reyes said one of her favorite topics to share are the “Blue Zones,” founded by Dan Buettner, who in 2004 teamed up with National Geographic and researchers to discover the pockets of the earth where individuals are living better and longer, and why.
“These people are staying healthy and vibrant, not just living to be 100,” Reyes said, as she referred to pockets of Italy, Japan, California, Costa Rica, and Greece as the five “Blue Zones.”
Buettner came up with nine common reasons as to why individuals in these areas are living longer, healthier and stronger lives.
They move naturally and exercise, their plates are filled with vegetables and meat is considered a side dish or only consumed once per week; they eat until they are 80 percent full and not until the plate is empty; they drink wine or alcohol daily in moderation; they have a strong sense of purpose, which they remind themselves of daily; they set aside a day to de-stress and relax; they have faith and belonging in their community; they put their loved ones first; and they surround themselves with individuals who have the same values.
Reyes told the crowd of seniors to become part of their communities or senior centers so that they are active and socializing, rather than staying home.
Another panel speaker was Miles Everett, a dietician and registered nurse from Bristol Hospital, who discussed healthy eating and things to look out for in the grocery store and on food labels, because packaging can be deceiving.
Building off of what Dr. Reyes’s comments about eating until you’re 80 percent full, Everett said Americans will eat until everything on their plate is gone. He said a study was conducted where a bowl of soup had a tube connected to it and while individuals were eating the soup the bowl would fill up slowly and the individuals continued to eat the soup until it was gone. For every meal, he said we should be chewing each bite 30 times, and if that is too long 10 or 20 times is better than two or three. Food will be more flavorful, will ease digestion, and will help limit excessive consumption.
Nutritionists are also suggesting humans should be consuming nine to 11 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and Everett offered alternatives to dishes like pasta or meat, and suggested substituting them with brown rice, quinoa, beans and more. He said individuals should be making fruits and vegetables a staple in each meal. When it comes to the battle of frozen vegetables versus fresh, Everett said there isn’t much difference and frozen could be even better as it will last longer.
When making a salad, Everett said to make it as colorful as possible and make homemade dressing using canola oil, or peanut oil or olive oil. He suggested adding nuts to part of your diet. When choosing breads, he said to make sure the first ingredient is whole grain or wheat.
“If you have to be a chemist to read it, don’t eat it,” he said, adding sometimes bread is just white bread with some whole grains in it.
Another speaker was Kimberly Sadler, a respiratory therapist, who shared some tips about breathing.
She said when getting up from a chair or any sitting position, inhale before standing up and exhale while you are standing up. She also showed the seniors how pursed-lip breathing lowers heart-rates and increases oxygen levels. Climbing stairs can be difficult for seniors, so Sadler said to exhale on the first step with pursed lips to make the trek easier.