As we mature into our 50s and beyond, decades of hunching over computers, staring down endlessly at cell phones, and otherwise inadvertently abusing our muscles, tendons and joints, can begin to take a toll. Many of us develop, as a result of too much hunching, a kink in our posture that bodes no good. But, like the 85-year-old stooped-over woman who discovered yoga and regained her properly aligned spine, there are things we can do to rectify the situation no matter how late in the game we start.
Agreed recently to review a couple of books by Dr. Karl Knopf, a professor of health and fitness for older adults and the disabled. For 40 years he’s worked in multiple areas ranging from personal fitness and therapy to consultation, plus he developed the “Fitness Educators of Older Adults Association” to guide trainers of older adults. Now he’s writing an ongoing series of books on fitness and health topics for older adults.
Stretching for 50+ is one book in Knopf’s series. I took it with me one day to a place where I had to sit and wait for a long time, which gave me plenty of time to pay serious attention to trying the exercises. The biggest surprise was the stretches relating to posture.
A family friend who’s a doctor came up to me one Sunday while I was helping my daughter prepare family dinner and said, “I’m worried about you grandma. Your shoulders are getting rounded.” Now this friend is not only a doctor but is also a former personal trainer. So you can bet she doesn’t prescribe drugs if stretching and exercise will solve the problem. She said there was a solution.
She taught me an exercise that I’ve been working on. But when I read this book, I learned there’s more that can and should be done. It describes stretches to help remedy the situation – whether your poor posture comes from working on a computer all day or using your cell phone for texting and typing emails, which tends to lead towards the “head forward” problem.
And Dr. Knopf has also written a book called Beat Osteoporosis with Exercise that features low-impact stretches and exercises designed to improve posture, build bone density and increase strength and flexibility – all of which can help prevent falls in the first place.
Each book includes hundreds of photos so it’s easy to see how the moves are done without having to read an inordinate amount of text. No matter how old you are, you can benefit from incorporating even some of these exercises and stretches into your routine. Remember, this stuff deserves just as much a place in your schedule as all the things you do to keep your mind strong and nimble.
We’re baby boomers, so we don’t have to talk about what a pain it is to have to keep reading glasses handy. We’ve all been doing that for years now. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been through many different options for keeping yours with you. Some kind of case, of course, is a must, otherwise the lenses get so smeared and scratched they soon become unusable. But what kind of case? Tried buying a pair whose claim to fame was neat: they fold totally flat, even the temples, and go in a nice, neat, flat case. Only problem with them – besides being a bit pricey at $30 – was that the straight-line-shaped earpieces let the glasses slip immediately off your face when you bend your head down to read. Ended up having to wrap a black hairtie around each earpiece to keep them on – a really sophisticated look. Saw another pair that folds flat but stays on – and it costs $200!
Now enter a new product called Thin Optics. These readers come in your desired strength and clip on to your nose – no temples needed. Plus, they come in a case that’s cute as a button – totally flat and available in many different colors and designs. The sample they sent us has a beautiful multicolor floral pattern all over it.
Even cooler, there’s a little strip on the back so you can stick it to your telephone, your dashboard or wherever. You slide the glasses out by gripping the nose bridge and then clip them on your nose and read away. If you’re standing in the store with labels that you can’t read, if you’re out somewhere and you want to read a book, or even if you just need to see what’s on your smartphone (emails, bus arrivals, etc.), these little things come in really handy. If I didn’t already have something stuck on the back of my phone. I would definitely put these on there. But you can also buy a Thin Optics phone case with the holder (they call it pod) already built into the case. Because what do we boomers really need to take with us besides our phone, our ID or bus card and a credit card? Right: a pair of reading glasses!
And these Thin Optics glasses come with an extra pair for free and free replacements for lost or broken ones – forever! How can you beat that? And check out the cases that are decorated with lovely unique artwork from disabled or homeless artists. Thin Optics partners with Artlifting and donates 20% of its profit to directly benefit the artists.
Now the glasses likely won’t stick to your nose through high winds or strong, sudden movements, and you probably wouldn’t want to use them for your long-term reading, but they’re good to get the job done when you’re up and about. And hey, how about putting one in every room of the house? Could stick one on the inside of a cabinet door in the kitchen. Inside the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, etc.
Okay. I’m getting carried away. But it’s a neat concept, well-executed, and offered at reasonable prices (starting at $19.95 + S+H) and with free replacements. A win-win for sure.
We’ve all heard of probiotics, but what do they really do? There’s reasonable disagreement as to the benefits, but here’s a fascinating piece of research. Eating fermented foods to balance your gut microbes can lead to a reduction in social anxiety, according to a recent study at William and Mary College. But if you’re not a fan of kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt and the like, consider taking probiotics. We were recently asked to review a brand that has recently become an Amazon’s Choice because of its natural qualities and its affordable price (~$25 for a two month supply).
Morea did a vast amount of research and ended up creating a product known as Hyperbiotics. It comes in a range of formulas designed for many different ages and needs. On their website you can take a quiz to see what formulation might be best for you, get a free pamphlet about gut health and sign up for news about probiotics here.
Some doctors feel you only need to take probiotics if you are having trouble with your gut, whereas manufacturers tend to promote this as useful for anyone at any time. My doctor said you probably wouldn’t notice any dramatic change if you were not having trouble. But one health-nut, former-nurse friend of mine said, if you’ve taken a lot of antibiotics over the years – as I have – your gut will probably be happy to have an infusion of appropriate probiotics.
In any case the Hyperbiotics, the formulas are vegetarian, non-GMO, and free of lactose, gluten and sugar. There’s also no soy, iron, nuts, artificial flavors, artificial colors, or preservatives. And they contain only strains of probiotics that are already resident in the human gut. So the chance is slim of anything negative happening by taking them. Things you might not notice if you’re not having issues but could potentially be benefiting from anyway include:
Digestion. Absorb nutrients and vitamins more efficiently and minimize gas, bloating, diarrhea etc.
Energy levels. When your gut microbes are balanced, it frees up your body’s energy.
Reduced leels of low-grade inflammation. This can help fight infection, heart disease and some cancers.
Support for brain function and mental clarity. Serotonin, the feel-good hormone, is produced in the gut. (Refer to the study on reduced social anxiety in the link at the top of this article.)
Support for optimal body weight, metabolism and blood sugar.
Support for healtheir, clearer skin.
Visit the company’s well-laid out website at www.hyperbiotics.com for thorough explanations and more information. Meanwhile, try to eat more yogurt and quit using so much bacteria-busting cleaning fluids and anti-microbial gel. Healthy immune systems have to keep in practice.
Attendees will choose from programs that consist of discussion and hands-on activities in seven areas: adaptive dance, rhythmicity with drumming, improv theater, video biographies, modern portraits, stained glass and singing. At only $10 a person, this is a unique opportunity both for those with early-stage Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other conditions that limit cognitive or neuro-motor abilities, and for their caregivers.
This collaborative effort is a significant achievement for arts organizations that were already offering this kind of programming, but hadn’t previously thought to tailor it to this particular target group, according to Stacey Foisy, creator and co-chair of the undertaking. Potentially a model for other cities, the workshop will take place right here in Chicago on June 15 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4545 N. Lincoln Ave. Get more details and register here.
*Brain Camp participating organizations:
Art Institute of Chicago, Boomers Plus, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Loyola University Museum of Art, Northwestern Medicine-Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Old Town School of Folk Music, and Video Family Biographies.
Feet hurt? Got plantar fascitis? What do you do about it? Custom-made orthotics cost a bundle – $200 to $800 is typical. But many ask whether such expensive insole options are over-prescribed, according to an article in the New York Times. Some helpful ready-made inserts we’ve had good results with include SuperFeet and SofSoles.
And here’s another idea. The name is MommySteps Maternity Insoles, but don’t let that fool you. They actually work really well for anyone – especially us baby boomers who may have fluctuating weight or other balance issues and need insoles that fit well but don’t cost a fortune. Upon receiving review samples of these ready-made, we found they felt really good right out of the box. And they also have the capability of molding to your feet with a custom fit. Designed for the changing needs of a pregnant woman’s feet, anyone can put them in the oven or toaster oven, and they’ll re-mold to the current shape of your foot. It’s a neat way to customize your inserts without spending too much.
We tried both the Casual/Flats and Active/Athletic styles and found them to be very comfortable and supportive right out of the box. I replaced my ¾-length SofSoles inserts in my cross-trainer shoes with the full-length MommySteps Athletic edition and found it even more comfortable on the very first wearing to step class. I particularly felt a positive difference in the ball of the foot area.
I also tried the Casual/Flats edition in a pair of Trotters Mary Jane flats that I’d been successfully using as semi-dressy walking shoes with only their own factory-supplied insoles. The MommySteps insoles brought the comfort level up a notch or two, enough to consider significant. And then I decided to put that thinner Casual version into my non-cross-trainer walking-around tennis shoes – ones that could not accommodate the thicker Athletic version. This, too, was a winner in terms of comfort.
Finally, I was ready to try the oven thing. Although I was nervous about putting the insoles into the oven, the directions were clear and simple. You put the thicker Athletic version in the oven for exactly two and a half minutes, then put them in the shoes and right away put your stockinged feet into the shoes and tie any laces. Then you stand straight, relaxed and balanced on both feet for two and a half minutes. And that’s it – custom fit orthotics that you can re-mold up to 5 times. My out-of-the-box insoles already fit well, but I believe after the oven treatment I noticed an improvement in the fit of the area between the toes and the ball of the foot. The fact that you can customize them and use them in multiple shoes makes the cost of $39.95 seem like a pretty sweet deal.
With the impending crippling of some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, do you ever wonder how access to healthcare might change for your grandkids, or your friends’ grandkids – the kids who are constantly telling you, “Just Google it, Grandma”? Below is an interesting article written from the perspective of a healthcare professional.
Gen Z: The ‘just Google-it’ generation
by Kim Bassett, President
Norwood Hospital in Massachusetts
Imagine growing up in a world where Google has always existed. Where Facebook is as much of a staple as Nickelodeon or the Johnny Carson Show. A world where terrorists are real, and 9/11 is taught as a history lesson, just as D-Day and Hiroshima were explained to earlier generations.
Generation Z-ers, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, make up 25% of the U.S. population – larger than both the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations, respectively. Those born at the start of this generation are entering the workforce, bringing with them a combination of their Millennial parents’ ideals and their own, shaped by living in a technology driven world at a time of national insecurity with war on-going and terrorist attacks being sensationalized in the media.
This generation is uniquely positioned to change healthcare from both the provider and consumer sides.
1) Technology. Generation Z is the first generation born after the advent of Internet and social media. They are true digital natives, growing up with smart phones, tablets and other devices connected to the entire world. It’s akin to a child growing up in a home with two languages. They not only learn both languages much earlier, but also how to leverage the knowledge seamlessly into their everyday life.
○ Consumers – Because of this, we can safely assume that as consumers they will demand healthcare digitally, enhanced care options available online versus the traditional care model of in-person visits.
○ Providers – On the healthcare side, we will see new software programs created to meet their own demands.
2) Entrepreneurship. Millennials created this trend, making great strides toward changing workplace culture, creating a more flexible work environment, community service, work-life balance. Generation Z will take it to the next level, evolving it further, not letting their predecessors efforts go by the wayside.
○ Consumers – Gen Z, as a consumer, will demand access to healthcare, even though they don’t work in a traditional employer-providing healthcare environment. And because they are seamlessly connected through social media, you can be assured the entire world will hear their thoughts on this issue.
○ Providers – Not one to pass up a business idea, Generation Z will create new business opportunities to not only fulfill their own healthcare needs, but also form businesses and product lines that will help their older family members in the Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer generations. Generation Z carries over their Millennial predecessors trait in their need to make the world a better place.
3) Diversity. Generation Z is the first generation to be gender non-specific. They are growing up a world where it’s commonplace for people to change gender and marry people of the same-sex. This acceptance of all types of lifestyles will change – and already has – the healthcare landscape.
○ Consumers – Gen Z will expect healthcare providers to provide equal access for non-specific gender roles and relationships just as they are asked to do with traditional male-female roles. Gen Z will continue to push for acceptance in all aspects of healthcare for every consumer, regardless of gender identification.
○ Providers – In healthcare facilities and other workplaces, gender roles will continue to evolve as HR departments and employers struggle to wrap their arms around these new realities in our culture. Acceptance will become paramount to the happiness of Generation Z in the workplace, much like the issues of flexibility and work-life balance are to the Millennials.
As the largest generation to exist, Generation Z is becoming equipped to move our culture forward in all aspects – economically, socially, and technologically. So before dismissing or scoffing at their seemingly radical ideas, remember that they hold your future in their hands and perhaps – with a little guidance and encouragement from their predecessors – that future will be the best yet.
Who doesn’t love books that speak to us where we are in life? Whether you’re feeling old or caring for aging parents, or you’re just curious or wanting to read a good memoir/story, here are a few – in a wide range of topics – from the year 2016 that some of us Boomers might enjoy.
I’m 93. Why am I still alive? True stories from a long and eventful life, by Alan Mayer. Ever ask yourself this question – even if you’re still a long way off from 93? Mayer is a NY native who butchered, boxed and entrepreneured for many years. Then he and his high-school-sweet-heart-turned-spouse moved to Chicago where he was a banker for 30 years. This short new book – written in large print, with very small margins and lots of white space between lines – is full of stories from his life and many of his own personal observations on life. He’s survived near-miss accidents, several serious illnesses, life-threatening disgruntled employees, and other incidents that left him wondering how he came out okay. Check it out (paperback $14.95) at http://wethepeoplepublishing.com/
Cats Are Capable of Mind Control, and 1000 UberFacts you never knew you needed to know, by Kris Sanchez.Fun. Weird. Interesting, occasionally perhaps questionable “facts” about a myriad of things such as:
– “Coca-Cola and Pepsi are used as pesticides by farmers in India, since they’re cheaper and get the job done.”
– “The [five-sided] Pentagon was constructed so that no point in the building is more than a 10-minute walk from any other point in the building.”
– “Vultures have stomach acid so corrosive they can digest anthrax.”
Light reading that may appeal to several different levels of curiosity. My reaction to a few of the statements was to go and check another source before believing it, so keep your truth detector in gear and tell kids to double-check with you if they question something. Suitable for adults and kids maybe 7 and up. My 9-year-old granddaughter found it intriguing in small doses. Available on Amazon in hard cover and Kindle editions, both ~$12.
Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey, by Fred Minnick. The author is famous for writing about spirits in a well-researched and entertaining fashion. This book is no different – amusing anecdotes, interesting history of the spirit as unique to its original home in the South, fascinating stories of competition between distillers, and even a story of how James Bond, who ordered a martini “shaken, not stirred” instigated the rise of white spirits to compete with bourbon. Sample chapter headings include: “Government: Friend and Foe,” “Whiskey Is the Devil’s Own Brew,” “Distillers vs. Nazis and US Government,” “To Beat Jack Daniel’s” and more. The books’ bibliography reveals how the author conducted his research: interviews with important industry figures, government publications, books, corporate literature and so on. Quarto Publishing Group 2016. ~$12 Kindle edition, ~$15 hard cover on Amazon.
The Blue Nightgown: My French Makeover at Age 78!, by Karin Crilly. It’s a memoir, not a novel. The author’s husband of many years dies after a long illness, and she decides to move to Aix-en-Provence to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in France, despite the fact she doesn’t speak the language. Simply written, the story is a chronicle of her experiences there in search of joy, learning and, yes, romance at age 78. She re-connects with a guy she met 25 years earlier and, after months of increasingly intimate phone conversations, agrees to meet him in Amsterdam – and buys a blue satin nightgown in anticipation. You have to read the book to know what happens. This is an easy read, a charmingly simple story of a huge adventure undertaken by a long-past Boomer-age woman of comfortable means. And it’s even more enjoyable because she ends each chapter with a recipe for something wonderfully French to eat. $6 Kindle.
The Future Tense of Joy: A memoir, by Jessica Teich. This book is the beautifully written chronicle of a brilliant 30-something woman’s battle with childhood demons and a seemingly ineradicable fear about life’s danger. Educated at Yale and then at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, she has two young girls and a loving husband, but she can’t get control of her fear. One day she hears about another brilliant young woman, also a Rhodes scholar, who at age 27, had a hugely promising life ahead of her – but chose instead to commit suicide. Author Teich decides she will investigate this woman’s life story and see if, in deciphering that woman’s suffering and life choices, she can find help for her own struggles. The story is full of tension and drama and even some of the really tough parts read almost like a novel in gentle poetic prose. $14.99 Kindle on Amazon.
Travel, fun and curiosities for Chicago women over 50