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The thyroid: Its importance to older adults

With the new year just beginning, many of us are focusing on the healthy resolutions we have made to ourselves and a renewed commitment to wellness. Since January is Thyroid Awareness month, it may be a good idea to examine the thyroid’s role in health and wellness.

Image result for thyroid picture
Image via medlineplus.gov


The thyroid is a small gland located in the base of the neck . Many important biological functions are maintained by the thyroid including the regulation of metabolism, body temperature, and heart rate (Check out endocrineweb’s overview of the thyroid here). Having too much or too little of certain thyroid hormones can lead to a variety of symptoms, with some being less noticeable or overlooked in the older adult.

According to the American Thyroid Foundation, hypothyroidism (having too little thyroid hormone) is increasingly common in individuals over 60. Symptoms may include weight gain, dry skin, and constipation. This condition is often treated with medication prescribed by your doctor. Having too much thyroid hormone is called hyperthyroidism, which can cause certain body functions to speed up. Symptoms may include an increase in heart rate or a tremor. To learn more about the thyroid and older adults, a great article by the American Thyroid Foundation can be found here .

Here’s to healthy aging in the New Year!

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Keeping warm during the winter months

Hypothermia, or a body temperature of less than 95 degrees, can be a concern for older adults during the winter months.  As we age, our bodies have a more difficult time of regulating our body temperature for a variety of reasons.  Some of the most common reasons include the medications a person may be taking or their general medical condition. It’s important to know signs and symptoms of hypothermia and ways to stay safe. The National Institute on Aging has some great tips for keeping  older adults  warm and safe as the temperatures continue to drop.  For example, older adults should keep their thermostat between 68-70 degrees, and should bundle up when going outside in colder temperatures (gloves, scarf, etc).  Click here to learn more!

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Movies for the holidays

As families gather together to celebrate the holidays, a favorite pastime is selecting a great movie to watch. Though it can be a challenge to find a movie that is enjoyable to adults and children alike, Senior Advisor has put together a list of the most loved Christmas movies that seniors enjoy. This list is family friendly, so kids (of all ages!) will enjoy these films too. Check out the list here, get the cocoa ready, and relax with one of these great films tonight!

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A word from the President

My first exposure to gerontology as an academic discipline was about ten years ago when I was working in a small liberal arts college. The school specialized in applying traditional liberal arts education to the contemporary professional work world, and it offered majors like English, history, theology, psychology and business. There were no science or clinical health programs, but the most popular minor was gerontology. How did THAT happen?

Next door to that small liberal arts college was a continuing care retirement community, and residents had full access to the college and its services. The seniors hung out in the college library, attended sporting events, participated in student activities and audited classes. It was fascinating to observe how students reacted to and interacted with the seniors.  Students curbed their language, tidied their clothing and stood up straighter in the company of their older neighbors.  In the student environment, the seniors’ eyes brightened, their steps quickened, and they engaged their younger neighbors in rich, meaningful conversation.

The long-term result of this day to day interaction was the establishment of a genuine intergenerational learning community.  Regular and healthy exposure to seniors sparked an appreciation for the importance of the social, spiritual, and psychological aspects of aging.  Regular exposure to the reality of healthy aging led students to explore service opportunities and internships within the continuing care retirement community, especially in the memory unit and the long-term care facility.  Through a combination of experiential learning and gerontological coursework, an increasing number of students completed gerontology minors.  Many went on to work as senior services navigators or senior advocates. Others continued to volunteer in the continuing care facility years after graduation.

It is my desire that FranU students may be similarly blessed with multiple opportunities to interact with seniors in healthy, mutually beneficial ways, such that they may be inspired to support healthy aging through their professional or volunteer work. If students understand that “old and aging” do not equal “sick and sicker”, they will be much more motivated to pursue gerontology as a discipline and/or profession.

So, let’s emphasize healthy aging and encourage healthy relationships with seniors. We will all be certain to enjoy the benefits.



Dr. Tina S. Holland


Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University


Dr. Tina Holland has been the president of Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University (previously Our Lady of the Lake College) since 2014. Prior to coming to Louisiana, Dr. Holland was the Executive Vice President and Provost at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Indiana for 24 years. Dr. Holland is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served three years in the United States Marine Corps.


Whats New?

It’s Family Stories Month!

November is Family Stories Month, so take time during this holiday season to sit down with your family and listen to your family’s stories! As your family comes together for holiday celebrations, take the time to ask the older adults in your family about their stories growing up and any interesting family tales they may have. You could even make a video or write a few stories down in a family album. Your grandparent, aunt, uncle or other relative may have a few stories that could surprise you! Celebrate your family stories and share a few of your own!