Who Me? Grow Up?

baby boomersIf you are anything like me, you do not feel your age.  In my head I am still in my twenties!  Only when I look in the mirror am I forced to face the reality that I am getting older :-)  It’s not that I don’t want to grow up, it’s just that I am having so much fun that I just don’t feel like I think old is supposed to feel like.  In fact, I’m not sure exactly what “old” is supposed to feel like.  When I was younger, “old” was frail and sort of grumpy.  Perhaps in a wheelchair or on a walker.  With wrinkles and smelling of gardenias.

“Old” meant living in a nursing home and barely moving and talking in whispers.  The people who I thought of as “old” were always really tiny in my mind.  Mrs. Nations, a little bird-like woman who liked tea and spoke quietly.  Or Clara and Mary who lived next door and baked cookies and talked about their life on the farm growing up.  I loved these women who had the time to spend with a young girl telling stories about life.

It’s funny though, looking back that I never thought of my Grandmother as “old” even though she was the same age as Mrs. Nations, Clara, and Mary.  My Grandmother worked until age 81 as a court reporter for the State of Illinois, moving quickly all the time, flitting from one place to another.  She was an incredible pianist and constantly in motion.  Perhaps that was the difference.  Nana was always on the go, always looking ahead.  She also spent a great deal of time with me, but took me with her on adventures to the State Capitol and to the Court.  Her stories were also about life, but from a different perspective.

Now, as Baby Boomers are living longer and staying healthier, it appears I am not the only one who feels younger than my age.  According to recent research by the Institute for the Ages, the coming of age 65 and its consequential cutting ties with a lifelong career now is the process of opening a door, not closing one.  The same baby-booming generation that blazed the trail for civil rights issues decades ago is now blazing the trail for what old age should feel like.

It wasn’t that long ago that a dream retirement meant buying a home in a 55+ community, tooting around the neighborhood in a golf court, hanging with people your own age, relaxing, playing cards and shuffleboard until the end comes.

End?!?! What end?  Boomers are essentially saying, “Grow up?  Make me!!”

Your Identity!! Protect and Deflect!

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Your identity is one hot commodity in today’s world of online business and high tech living.  This is especially true if you are an older person with a good credit history who may be a bit more gullible and lonely, or just more inclined to think people are more honest than they are.

These new identity thiefs are really just new versions of the scam artists of old.  They are the modern reincarnations of the guys selling “miracle medicine” on the street in the old western towns, except now instead of just taking a few dollars, they can take someone’s entire life savings.

One of the latest scams reported is a cold-call phishing scheme taking advantage of the fact that so many older individuals, especially baby boomers are online. In this scheme, the caller phones an older individual claiming to be from Microsoft and states that the “customer’s” computer has been sending “error” messages to the “technician”.  This “technician” then asks the “customer” to allow the “technician” remote access to the “customer’s” computer to “fix” the problem.  As you can imagine, when this is allowed, the scam artist then has access to every bit of personal information that has ever passed through that computer.  Anything that’s been used to purchase anything online, any bit of medical information that may have been stored, any information used to get a driver’s license, social security card, tax information, etc.

This is a devious scam because many older individuals, who use computers may not understand exactly how the system operates. They may not know, for example that software updates are automatic and that Microsoft will never call them asking for information or access to their computer!

Unfortunately, what also seems to be happening with these phishing scams is an increase in intimidation and aggression tactics.  If the target resists the scammer’s attempts to get information or access to information, the scammer will begin to threaten the target.  In one recent case in Los Altos, CA, a scam artist attempted the Microsoft error scam on a woman who was pretty tech savvy.  When she informed him that he was lying and pointed out that Microsoft corrects errors through software updates, he told her that if she didn’t comply that he’d freeze or shut down her computer.  His emotional intensity increased and at one point he was even yelling at her over the phone.

One of the things that makes this such a hard crime to fight is that it remains to underreported.  Many times, an older individual is embarrassed that they have been duped or they may be afraid they’ll lose their independence.  Don’t be one of these people!  This is fraud and these people are criminals!  If someone takes advantage of your good nature and steals from you, report them to law enforcement!

Together, we can send them packing!  Remember, LIVE OUT LOUD and SPEAK UP!!

 

 

Baby Boomers – Here’s What’s New: Housing Resources and the Fit Bracelet!

fitbracelethousingpicI don’t know about all of you, but every year I look forward to the holiday season and then by the end of it, I can’t wait for it to be over!  So, even though we’re headed into what I traditionally think of as the “gray months” of January and February, I’m happy that we’re on the downhill slide toward Spring!!

With the end of the busy holiday season, I hope to get back on a regular blogging schedule, for I have been sadly remiss in my posting.  However, the good thing about being self-employed and doing freelance work is that one can set one’s own schedule!  I truly enjoy this bit of freedom after years and years of marching to someone else’s tune.

One of the things I did have time to do during the last couple of weeks was read and I learned about a great new resource for Baby Boomers called AFTER55.com, a new website and publication from Rent Media Solutions.   The site and publication were developed to help senior, Boomers, and their children find information and resources on housing, as well as information on helping plan for retirement.

The website is very user-friendly and even includes a needs assessment to help the visitor with identifying the appropriate level of housing or facility.  There is also information on health and wellness, as well as finances, long-term care insurance, and spiritual well-being.

Copies of the AFTER55 Magazine tailored for several states and major metropolitan areas are also available on the website for download.  These include Atlanta, Colorado, Columbus, Minneapolis, Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Diego, South Florida, and Tampa.

With the population of the United States projected to be more than 50% Baby Boomers, this is an idea whose time has come.  According to Terry Slattery, president of For Rent Media Solutions, AFTER55.com’s main priority is to provide outstanding marketing solutions and valuable housing resources for consumers.  The website and publication meet the needs of this rapidly growing market by providing user-friendly tools for seniors, Baby Boomers, and their children to search for housing online.

Many of today’s and future communities will house multiple generations and even seniors from three separate and distinct generations.  These will even have unique needs and AFTER55.com is a valuable resource for these multiple generations to search for and find appropriate housing options that will appeal to this variety of lifestyles.

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My next topic is brief.  My regular readers know I do not sell stuff on this blog nor do I promote items here by reviewing or acting like I’m reviewing something just to get my readers to “click-through” to buy an item so I will get a commission.  I just want to be very clear about this because I am about to recommend an item and I want to ensure my readers so they know I am recommending this item because I REALLY use it and LOVE IT!!  It’s the Fitness Bracelet!!  Have you seen them?  They are AWESOME!!  I have the NIKE+ FuelBand which allows me to track my activity all day no matter what I’m doing.  I can set my daily goal and when I hit it, my band goes green.  It’s also a watch, so I don’t need two things on my wrist.   There are a couple of versions by NIKE and they are all pretty good.  You can see reviews and the different styles on Amazon here.  I think they have the best prices.

The other one that I hear is good (I have a friend who is using one of these) is the Jawbone UP.  I have not used this one, so can’t personally vouch for it, but my friend likes hers.  The UP links to a mobile app instead of keeping track of your physical activity on the bracelet itself.  You can also read reviews and get more information on the UP on Amazon here.  If you’re like me and need a little motivation during the day to keep going, you may find these fit bracelets will work for you!  Remember, get up, get moving and LIVE OUT LOUD!!

Baby Boomers: Loving Life Dancing Oldie!

When I talk about Living Out Loud!!, the little 88-year old lady in the video below exemplifies exactly what I’m talking about!  My daughter sent this video to me and told me I absolutely had to watch it to the end, so I did and what a hoot!  This active, engaged woman is showing her joy and love of life!  She’s my Shero and I want to be just like her when I grow up!  We can all take a lesson from this wonderfully funny lady and keep on dancin’!!  She proves that It Ain’t the Age, It’s the Attitude!!

 

Baby Boomers: The Older Americans Act – It’s Not Just About Old People!!

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The Older Americans Act (OAA) is up for reauthorization (it’s actually been up for reauthorization for a couple of years now…) and tomorrow Senator Bernie Sanders, along with Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, will offer a 5-year reauthorization of the legislation to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. If the legislation is to pass the Senate and the House, it will need strong bipartisan support from the Committee.

The OAA is one of the most important pieces of legislation there is, but unfortunately it’s also one of the most unheralded as well.  You know Meals on Wheels?  That’s funded by the OAA, as well as essential services for seniors like job training, caregiver support, transportation, preventive health services, and protection from abuse and financial exploitation.  This critical legislation has been underfunded for several years since it is discretionary funding and must be approved in the annual budget every year.

The programs funded under the OAA are some of the most cost-effective and efficient within the federal government as shown by a study done by the Center for Effective Government.  It found that for every $1 in federal spending on Meals on Wheels, there is as much as a $50 return in Medicaid savings alone.  Unfortunately, this critical program reaches less than 10 percent of low-income seniors who need access to meals programs.  That’s a tragedy.

There are research proven fall prevention programs funded by the OAA which protect seniors from hospital stays or long-term care admission—where too often they end up spending every last dime and are then forced to turn to Medicaid. One in three seniors falls every year, and falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people ages 65 and older. Injuries from falls are projected to cost $60 billion in 2020. Research shows that several OAA-supported programs have reduced falls by 30 to 55 percent—which saves both money and lives.

The OAA’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) which partners with the Department of Labor help find very low-income seniors employment and provide retraining and job skills training while also providing community service for non-profits. Nearly 90 percent of participants live in poverty (on less than about $11,000 annually), and one-third are homeless or at risk of homelessness. While the job training helps these seniors return to the labor force and in some cases prevents homelessness, participants also perform millions of hours of community service for local organizations struggling with their own budget cuts. Howard Bedlin, vice president of public policy at the National Council of Aging, said SCSEP has “a value to states and communities estimated at over $1 billion.”  Again, however, due to a lack of resources, the number of seniors served by the program has declined by 34 percent since FY 2010, and the program now has waiting lists in many cities.  In fact, because of the required match to operate the program, many organizations are no longer to offer it.

Other important aspects of the legislation prevent and address elder abuse. Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation are all too common in the US and have long been overlooked. The bill directs the Administration for Community Living to include training for state and local agencies on elder abuse prevention and screening, and it promotes data collection at the state level to help assess the scope of this problem.  This is a long-term goal of the Elder Justice Coalition.  It also strengthens the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which provides ombudsmen to serve all residents of long-term care facilities, regardless of age. Significantly, the bill specifies that all residents of a long-term care facility must have private, unimpeded access to ombudsmen, so there are no other parties that are interfering, intimidating, or somehow preventing candid communication.

If you are represented by Senators on the HELP Committee, please let them know that you expect strong support for the OAA—from the Committee markup on Wednesday through passage on the Senate floor—and that the legislation needs more funding.  These are safety net services that are cost effective and which make a huge difference!

Baby Boomers: We’re Always Busy!

hand with glove draws brain as medical concept

Now with the onset of fall in the United States, my husband and I are usually hiking every weekend.  Even though I appreciate the special things about every season, I truly love the Fall!  We live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where “leaf peeping” in the fall to enjoy the fall foliage is a sport and something that everyone should see at least once!

We are fortunate to live right in the “View”,so hiking this time of the year is very special.  Now that Shenandoah National Park is open again, we are hiking our favorite trails to enjoy Nature’s splendor!  I’ve just discovered that there is another benefit to our hiking, it makes us sleep extremely well!  Getting a good night’s sleep is not only a great restorative, it is also, according to recent research, the period when our brains are doing some of their best work.

A study by neurosurgeon, Maiken Nedergaard from the University of Rockester found the cleanup system in the brain, responsible for flushing out toxic waste products that cells produce with daily use, goes into overdrive in mice that are asleep. The cells even shrink in size to make for easier cleaning of the spaces around them.

What this means for humans is this nightly self-clean by the brain provides a compelling biological reason for the restorative power of sleep.  “Sleep puts the brain in another state where we clean out all the byproducts of activity during the daytime,” said Nedergaard. Those byproducts include beta-amyloid protein, clumps of which form plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Evidently, the network that drains waste from the brain, named the glymphatic system by Nedergaard and her associates, works by circulating cerebrospinal fluid throughout the brain tissue and flushing any resulting waste into the bloodstream, which then carries it to the liver for detoxification.

When we sleep the cerebrospinal fluid flushes through the brain very quickly and broadly .  Another experiment revealed that sleep causes the space between cells to increase by 60 percent, allowing the flow to increase.  “Brain cells shrink when we sleep, allowing fluid to enter and flush out the brain,” Nedergaard said. “It’s like opening and closing a faucet.”

The researchers also found that the harmful beta-amyloid protein clears out of the brain twice as fast in a sleeping rodent as in an up-and-about one. The study was published in the journal Science on Thursday.

According to New York University cell biologist and Alzheimer’s specialist Ralph A. Nixon, this study could have special importance in Alzheimer’s research.  For instance, researchers have linked the development of Alzheimer’s Disease to the overproduction of beta-amyloid, but Nixon believes these new findings hint that the lack of clearing it out might be the bigger problem.

Nixon also said that other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, are associated with a backup of too much cell waste in the brain.  “Clearance mechanisms may be very relevant to keeping these proteins at a level that isn’t disease-causing,” Nixon said.

Nedergaard and her colleagues are working on an MRI diagnostic test for glymphatic clearance.  She also believes that a drug could be developed to force a cleanup if necessary, perhaps by mimicking the sleep-wake cycle.

This research is very promising to the future treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases.  It also demonstrates just how incredible the human body is in repairing itself!

This research is yet more proof that getting up and getting moving are vital to staying healthy and aging well!  Exercise helps with sleep and sleep helps maintain a healthy brain!  So, let’s move and LIVE OUT LOUD!!

 

Baby Boomers: Just Do It!

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Depending upon which magazine or study report you read, there are a number of steps we can take to improve the aging experience.  Some reports say this supplement or that vitamin will help and others say to eat this food or that one.  I don’t know about all of you, but I can get pretty confused trying to sort through all of this information.  I have decided that I am going to just do what makes good sense and feels right to me and not do something just because it is supposed to help “reverse or slow down” the aging process.

I am convinced that how well we age is truly more about attitude than about chemistry.  The right attitude will get a person moving, not necessarily because it’s what is recommended, but because it feels good!  The right attitude will lead a person to eat well, not because it is going to keep us younger longer, but because healthy, bright-colored foods taste good!  Sure, so do cakes and chocolate, but who’s saying not to eat those as well?  The right attitude will ensure these treats remain just that – treats – and don’t become a staple in their diet.

Obviously, there are some supplements that are useful and do help (calcium, for one) and the right attitude will see that those supplements are taken when necessary.  The right attitude will also result in routine wellness visits to the doctor and preventative screenings so that problems can be addressed before they become serious.

Aging is a fact, but it certainly does not have to be accepted as a sentence.  A positive attitude will see this stage as one of freedom to explore and experience adventures we either didn’t have time for earlier or were too afraid of pursuing.  After all, after a certain age, some things just aren’t worth worrying over!

Speaking from personal experience, my husband is furloughed from his job as I write, but instead of whining and complaining, he is finishing home improvement projects that have been on the back burner.  We’ve also been spending time together walking with the dogs around the farm and into the woods.  In many ways, this time is a blessing for us, even if it means money will be tight for a while.

Looking forward can be harder than looking back, but it is the only way to see the sunrise.  Think of aging as the adventure it is and suck every iota of fun out of it!  Wear a red hat with a purple dress if that’s something you’ve always wanted to do!  You may start a trend!  Remember, LIVE OUT LOUD!!

Baby Boomers: Healthy Aging and Activity – Perfect Partners!

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We talk about it again and again – get up and get moving to age well!  Now, yet another study says we’re on the right track (no pun intended) and that mobility is one of the primary indicators in how well a person will do as they get older.  Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed reports published between 1985 and 2012 that focused on mobility and aging.

Their review found that increased physical activity and/or exercise resulted in a much healthier lifestyle as individuals aged. The review also indicated that a lack of mobility could raise red flags for doctors as indicators of decline in older patients.  If someone has difficulty climbing ten stairs or walking a quarter of a mile, these could be signs that a patient is in the early stages of an illness, needs help with mobility devices or is at risk for falling.  Or it could be that the doctor and the patient need to work on a program to get the patient more active to prevent these things from happening.

As we’ve talked about, activity does not have to be running a marathon. Experts recommend thirty minutes of exercise at least four or five times per week.  It can be a thirty minute walk with your friends from the block or your best buddy, Spot.  The thirty minutes don’t even have to be all at once.  They can be broken up into two fifteen minute blocks or even three ten minute blocks.  Walking is a really good way to get the thirty minutes in, but if you’re into something else, go for it.  You have all heard me speak of my friend, L.  Well, L loves Zumba and does it several times per week.  She looks mahvelous!  Of course, she also walks every day as well.

I, myself love to walk with my dogs and we do this every day.  I also throw in some yoga and light weights – the yoga for flexibility and balance and the weights for strength and bone density.  Whatever program you choose, make it work for you.  Do check with your doctor if you haven’t exercised in a while.  Fall’s coming in the U.S. and it is one of the most beautiful times of the year to get out and walk.

The only way to start is to stand up, put one foot in front of the other and take off!  The rest will naturally follow!  Have fun and remember to Live Out Loud!

 

Baby Boomers: Video Gaming for Brain Health!

BoomerVideoGamers

It’s been a while and I apologize for that, but I had the busiest August on record!  First I attended my 40th, yes my 40th High School reunion and had a blast!  It was so much fun reconnecting with old friends and reliving fun times from high school.  It always amazes me how much every one has accomplished and where everyone is in their lives.  So many of my friends are grandparents several times over!  Next, my son graduated from Army National Guard training and the entire family was there proud as peacocks to see him in his uniform!  There is something so emotionally riveting about a military ceremony, even if it is Army (I am retired Air Force, so can kid my child for the rest of his life about choosing the Army!)!  Then we ended the month of August by moving our daughter back to college taking everything she owned (at least it seemed like it) and she still forgot a few items…like her computer cord and mattress cover.  However, August is finally over and I am hopefully back on a regular schedule.

My first blog for September is about a topic near and dear to my heart – using technology to improve our health!  This time it combines having a great deal of fun and keeping our brains healthy at the same time.

At University of California, San Francisco, researchers are reporting that a specially designed video game may help sharpen mental skills that fade with age.  The study, which is published in the Sept. 5 issue of the journal Nature, tested a video game that was created by brain scientists and dubbed NeuroRacer.

The game requires players to multitask, or juggle several things that require attention at the same time.  People had to keep a car centered in its lane and moving at a certain speed while they also tried to quickly and correctly identify signs that flashed onto the screen, distracting them from their driving.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments on 174 healthy adults aged 20 to 80.  The researchers first found that the ability to multitask suffers with age. But healthy seniors who regularly played the game were able to turn back the clock. After a month of practice, they were able to multitask even more effectively, on average, than younger adults.

The study suggests that the value of video games might extend beyond entertainment. Experts say video games may not only stave off the mental deficits that come with age, but could also help in the diagnosis and treatment of mental problems.

Next, they wanted to see whether people could get better at multitasking with practice. For these experiments, they picked 46 healthy seniors who were between the ages of 60 and 85 and assigned them to one of three groups: 16 were asked to play the NeuroRacer game for an hour a day three times a week, 15 played a version of the game that required them to do only a single task at a time and 15 others didn’t play the game at all.

After a month, seniors who had practiced multitasking with NeuroRacer showed big gains compared to their peers in the other two groups.

The drop in performance that everyone experiences when they try to do two things at once “improved dramatically from 65 percent to 16 percent, and even reached a level better than 20-year-olds,” who had only played the game once, researhers reported.

What’s more, seniors who played for an hour a day three days a week saw improvements in other mental skills that weren’t directly trained by the game. Working memory, or “the ability to hold information in mind, as people do when they’re participating in a conversation and they have to think about what they want to say and remember it while they wait their turn to speak” got better, as did their visual attention (the ability to sustain focus on a task in a boring environment).

Additional tests, which measured the brain’s electrical activity, showed a boost in areas responsible for cognitive control, the skill that helps the brain switch back and forth between activities.

The improvements in mental function lasted for about six months after seniors stopped playing, the researchers said.

For the present, it doesn’t appear that the game will be sold to the public, but will more likely make its way into doctors offices.  The developers are considering going for FDA approval for the game to used as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool.  The study was funded by Health Games Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

 

Baby Boomers: Going Mobile!

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According to Pew Internet Research, Baby Boomers are using tablets and mobile devices in a big way. According to their recent report, a third of American adults own tablet computers and 38% of all adults age 45 to 54 years of age use tablets to connect to the internet. Another 28% of adults age 55 to 64 years of age own tablets and use them to browse, shop, and research on the internet. Even more interesting, the number of adults age 65 and older owning tablets and using them increased from 8% in 2011 to 18% in 2012. that is a significant jump and shows just how open the older generation is to learning new technology – especially if it makes their lives easier and more interesting.

Baby Boomers are considered by technology companies to heavily influence their industry. Over 41% of Apple’s customers are Baby Boomers. It’s not a good idea to plug all Boomers in as ultra-savvy in all things tech. Like their children and grandchildren, they are selective in which elements of technology they like to use. A recent Nielsen report paints a picture of “techno-Boomers” — a subset of the senior crowd who are far more likely to own an electronic reader or an iPhone than the rest of their generation, who tend to gravitate toward desktops and laptops. These techno-Boomers, like their kids in Generation X, are 40% more likely to own an iPhone.

“Internet users over the age of 50 are driving the growth of social networking as their usage of the social net has nearly doubled to 42% in the past year. 53% of Boomers are on Facebook,” Nielsen reports.

Just after the iPad tablet was released in 2010, wave after wave of anecdotes came out about how fast seniors were adopting the new platform so readily. While the iOS interface was designed and built for the smaller iPhone device, it is probably no accident on the part of Apple’s design team to come up with an interface that requires such a small learning curve to operate, making it very marketable for the over-50 crowd.

This comfort with tablets and mobile media means Baby Boomers will also be comfortable with health technology as it becomes more common. In many instances Baby Boomers are already playing the role of caregiver for aging parents while still working full time and health technology can help tremendously to relieve some of this burden. For example, there are Fall detection sensors are essentially gyroscopes that measure a person’s sway, orientation, and impact with surface. Automatic fall detection devices, including monthly monitoring, are available for around $75 a month from companies such as MyHalo and Philips LifeLine.

Sensor technology is even embedded in chairs. “Health-e-Chair” by Commwell Medical incorporates biosensors to measure basic vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, lung sounds, blood oxygen saturation, motion and reflex response time. The basic Health-e-Chair costs $3,500, which enables patients to self-monitor their vital signs. The ability to transmit data to healthcare professionals adds another $3,250 to the price tag. The full system (including chair, bio-metric sensors and transmitter) can be leased for $595 per month from Commwell Medical.

These are just a couple of the new technologies that will help caregivers support their aging loved ones and also help our older friends and neighbors and eventually ourselves maintain our independence and live the way we want as we age. As Baby Boomers we have always done it our way and that is exactly how we will continue on! Remember, Live Out Loud!!

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