Category Archives: seniors

Got lower back issues?

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If you sit or stand for long periods of time, your back probably gives you trouble now and then. Or maybe all the time. Or maybe you don’t have to sit or stand for long periods, but your back hurts anyway. Or maybe you run a lot, or lift heavy stuff, or you’re just plain very active. Whatever the situation, if the pain is in your lower back, a product called BaxMax promises to give that area the support that could give some relief.
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BaxMax super-supportive, breathable

The BaxMax is a support device that adjusts to fit around your waist and over the top of your hips. It’s “Power Unit” consists of two discs connected to each other by strong extendible drawstring-type fiber strands. You open the space between the two discs and position it so that the discs are situated with your spine right between them. Then, when you pull the belt snug and connect it with the hook-and-loop closure, the two disks push firmly against the muscles that help support your spine and the front compresses your belly muscles.

Growing up, I remember seeing a strange-looking contraption hanging on the hook on the back of our bathroom door. I remember staring at it for long periods of time while I took a bath or did my kid business. Never asked anyone about it – figured it was some grownup thing I probably wasn’t supposed to know about. Years later I found out one day that it was a sacroiliac support device my dad used when he was working on his milk truck, lifting and pulling and pushing hundreds of pounds of milk bottles and cottage cheese cartons around inside the truck, onto the heavy wheeled hand truck, into the little neighborhood stores and then switching them out for outdated items in his customers’ refrigerated cases.
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My dad’s back device was made of stiff gray cloth and bloomed with what seemed like a mad array of straps and belts. The BaxMax is a much sleeker device, and you don’t have to sport baggy striped overalls like my dad did in order to wear it under your clothes. Of course, you can wear it outside your clothes in situations where support is more important than sleek lines.
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I don’t have any back issues but hoped it would enhance my ability to maintain proper posture while sitting for long stretches at my computer. It was helpful for brief periods. I then asked a friend who has back issues to try it. She is extremely pleased – appreciates the support she gets from the two disks on either side of her spine. Wore it under her dress to a party and loved the relief it gave her. She was also very happy that the material was so breathable. She said her previous devices were rubberized, and she was forever having to change her shirt when she wore them because she got so sweaty.
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Here is an interesting review of the BaxMax on a website that talks about how back support devices work. It says don’t use any belt if you’ve never had a back injury, but that the BaxMax can be very helpful immediately after a back injury or to support your spine while lifting heavy objects (no heavier than you could lift without a belt). Available from BaxMax, the manufacturer, via Amazon at ~$70.
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2 books on improving Boomer bodies

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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.
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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.
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Surprising help in this book

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.

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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.
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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.
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Sensible ways to strengthen bones and and prevent falls

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.

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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.
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Chicago premieres arts program to help early-stage Alzheimer’s

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Chicago arts program helps early-stage Alzheimer’s and others

This June 15 Chicago is pioneering a new arts-inspired idea. Arts Camp for Brain Health is a half-day workshop just for those with early-stage memory loss, diminished cognitive and neuro-motor function, and those who care for them. The goal is to help attendees experience new ways to feel their best through artistic endeavors. Several of Chicago’s most-respected arts institutions are participating (see listing below).

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.
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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.
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*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.
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Healthcare for Gen Z – your grandchildren

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Pro and anti healthcare protesters vie for spa...
Pro and anti healthcare protesters vie for space in front of televison camera. Demonstration for health care in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building, Poydras Street, New Orleans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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5 books from 2016 – reviews for Boomers

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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.
  1. Wondering why he’s still around at 93

    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/

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Move to France at 78?

    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.

    Elegantly poetic memoir of wounded childhood and adult fears

  5. 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.
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Vacation ideas in warm-winter Arizona

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Even when your Baby Boomer life is very comfortable, things can sometimes start to feel really low-key, even  routine. So it’s good to know about travel/vacation options that could revitalize you with their unexpected vibrancy. Arizona is one of the few states we’ve been to multiple times – and enjoyed very much each time. The folks from VisitPhoenix.com partnered recently with Lux Bar, 18 E. Bellvue Place, to showcase the winter joys of Arizona and invite Chicagoans to include this winter-warm state in their upcoming travel plans. Scottsdale serves as the main hub for Phoenix, Mesa and more and is continually growing and changing.
Sonoran Desert Scottsdale AZ 50349
Sonoran Desert Scottsdale AZ 50349 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wineries in the desert?

Yes! Downtown Scottsdale features four Arizona wine tasting rooms that tell the story of the state’s 100 award-winning wineries including LDV Wine Gallery – eat, sip and taste on their two shaded patios. Further south in the Wilcox wine region, check out Salvatore Vineyards, Carlson Creek Vineyard, and the Sue Vino Winery, all of which serve, along with the four tasting rooms, as part of the Scottsdale Wine Trail.
Scottsdale is also now home to a unique cocktail bar called Counter Intuitive. Open only on Friday and Saturday nights, 8pm to 2am, it rotates its decor and menus every few months – from a New Orleans antique shop or Cuban hideaway, to an Agua Caliente Racetrack during Prohibition or a Chinatown hangout. You never know what kind of ambiance to expect – just that it’ll be interesting and stimulating – which gives even full-time area residents something new to get excited about.
Southwest culture and art

Besides imbibing, of course, other activities may call to you on your visit. You might like to go exploring the cultural footprint of the Southwest’s Native American nations during Native Trails. This is a series of noontime festivals that tell stories of Native culture through song and dance. Free, at Scottsdale’s Civic Center Park January through March. Then you can always visit the Arts District where dozens of creative minds have their shops;

Soleri bridge in the desert

extended hours on Thursday evenings let you take the Scottsdale ArtWalk. Or take a self-guided tour of the Scottsdale Public Art Program (love the holiday musical greeting on their website!) of some 50 artworks, including well-known pieces like Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE”sculpture and Soleri Bridge & Plaza.

Challenge yourself!
Wanna be a cowboy? Almost all local resorts in Scottsdale offer trail rides and communal cookouts, but how about this for a challenge?! Arizona Cowboy College gives you a closeup view of what it’s like to be a true cowboy. Learn horsemanship skills – yes, serious things like cutting, branding, inoculating, dehorning and driving cattle – and then go out and do that stuff on the range. Yikes! We’d have to sign up for an awful lot of horsemanship skills before even thinking about attempting the rest of it. Hmm. Wonder if trying this at a ripe old age like 60 would ever result in actually achieving such skills? Hey, who cares? If it’s on your bucket list, go for it! If your taste leans more towards a less vigorous horse-related activity, check out Fort McDowell Adventures for a trail ride.
Or how about learning (or at least trying) to drive like the pros on a racetrack? Bondurant Racing School experts teach high-performance racing skills on a 1.6 mile, multi-configuration track. From four hours to four days, the school offers racing courses for every level of driver. If you’ve already graduated to a huge Cadillac or Buick, consider how this might shake up your life.
Green Zebra Adventures

Then there are adventure tours that include climbing mountains, stargazing, hiking and bicycle riding. Try Green Zebra Adventures or a trek with Arizona Outback Adventures (AOA) that includes the history and gelology of the landscape and some insights into the desert’s flora and fauna.

If you like to plan your own adventures. get yourself a copy of the Scottsdale Area Hiking and Trail Guide from ExperienceScottsdale.com.

Where to stay
In case you’ve been there before and would like to indulge at a new top-of-the-line location, three new luxury resorts are coming on the scene in the Scottsdale area. Hyatt Corporation just opened Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Spa. Then in February 2017 Mountain Shadows debuts. Then mark your calendar for late 2018 for the unveiling of Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley.
Fly the skies in hot air balloons from The Boulders Resort

Other facilities to consider: The Boulders Resort & Spa. One-hundred-sixty private casitas (small individual houses) set out in the Sonoran Desert just far enough to be free of light pollution – the canopy of stars out there is magnificent and seemingly endless. The resort just underwent a multimillion dollar makeover that incorporates the area’s indigenous roots and Old West charm along with new furnishings and upgraded fixtures in bathrooms. Enjoy your private fireplace and cozy patio. Commune with 12-million-year-old natural rock formations. Enjoy drinks in the redesigned lounge bar and dig the Southwestern cuisine in the Palo Verde restaurant.

Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa

Or check out the new custom-designed furniture in the completely restored and modernized 60-year-old Hotel Valley Ho that welcomed Hollywood’s finest during its heyday in the 50s and 60s. There are dozens more places in a wide range of prices, including the wellness experience at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa‘s Spa House.

Lux Bar hosting
Lux Bar welcome Arizona Tourism attendees with tasty appetizers that led to a first course of rich crab bisque, then the diner’s choice of broiled skirt steak with caramelized onions and maitre d’ butter, or sauteed whitefish with lobster butter, or penne pasta with dried tomato, parmesan, arugula, and zucchini, seasoned with thyme and roasted garlic and topped with smoked Nueske’s Farm smoked chicken. Entrees were accompanied with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes served family style. Dessert was an old fashioned chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache and chocolate frosting – perhaps a new “near-death by chocolate.” High five to the Lux Bar culinary and service teams.
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If warm-weather-destinations are on your agenda, consider Arizona/Scottsdale/Phoenix/Mesa this season. And if happy hour’s on your agenda, try Lux Bar’s new one 3-6pm Tuesday to Friday.
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Holiday happiness – try gratitude therapy

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New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto o...
New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; added by those for whom prayer or miracles were granted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gratitude – just the act of thinking about how grateful you are for the good things in your life – improves your attitude, your mood and, yes, even your health. HeartMath.org has scientific proof of how it works, and they even get hired by corporations to teach executives how to feel more gratitude – because it also improves your ability to be creative and to make sound decisions.

What? you say. Too good to be true! But in fact, it really makes a difference. And if this season tends to give you the holiday blues, here’s a little schedule – with thanks to Health.com magazine for the plan – by which you can teach yourself how to feel more gratitude and gain some of those benefits.
For the first week…
  • Notice the good. Every morning think of three things you’re grateful for. Doesn’t matter what they are or how small they are. Can be as simple as “I woke up this morning” or “I have enough milk for my coffee today” or “Knowing my friends.” But make sure you think of three different things each morning. It won’t work if you just mindlessly repeat the same things each day.
  • Put it in writing. Write or record the things you’re grateful for. Journaling works for some, but you could also text your three things to a friend or record a voice memo on your phone.
  • Use terms of positive feelings. When you think, write or record, use words like gifts, blessings, good fortune and abundance. Avoid left-handed expressions of gratitude like “thank heavens, this finally happened” or “it’s about time!” or “it’s the least they could do.”
For the second week…
  • Express thanks to others. Every day tell someone thank you for something very specific they do/did. “I really appreciate that you gave me your seat on the bus.” “Thank you for taking the garbage out in time for the truck.”
  • Put it in writing. Write a note to a friend, family member or mentor expressing your heartfelt appreciation for something s/he did that affected you in a positive way. If possible, read it out loud to the person or schedule a video chat to share it.
  • Volunteer to help someone else. People commonly feel more grateful for their own blessings when they do something for others. Carve out some time and sign up to help in your family, church, community or city in some way.
For the third week…
  • See the good everywhere you look. Notice the good things done by others in your family, school, neighborhood or civic group. When you think of your three blessings each day, also recognize others who perform heroic or even simply kind acts.
  • Find and record silver linings. Think of three less-than-ideal experiences you’ve had recently and discover ways in which they might have benefited you in some unexpected way. Sometimes, for example, getting laid off can lead to an even better opportunity. Ending a difficult relationship may lead to greater peace of mind.
  • Pay it forward at work. Workplaces can be the least gratitude-inspiring environments of all. Change up the vibe in your workplace by showing a peer, an intern or a boss some appreciation. And don’t be surprised if your gratitude comes back to you in return.

Rinse and repeat. Endlessly. And see what happens. Happy holidays!

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