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’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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OK. I’ll start with a bit of a rant about how much I love my activity tracker, the Fitbit Flex. It has changed my life. I’m healthier, fitter, and 30 pounds lighter – a goal that had been receding further and further with every passing year until this tracker came along. It has amazing capabilities for such a small device. But truth be told, it’s not the most stylish thing to wear on your arm, especially if you’re going somewhere dressed up. I accidentally found a way to hide my tracker on dressier occasions by fastening it a little looser and then slipping it inside a big black plastic bangle bracelet. No one has ever been the wiser. And that bracelet looks at least business-casual dressy but doesn’t work well for fancier occasions.
I had seen last year some classy-looking ornaments and covers and bands for activity trackers, but the prices were outrageous and some of the bracelet covers extremely heavy. Now, to the rescue comes FunktionalWearables.com. They’ve got a wide variety of beautifully designed charms, bands and actual jewelry pieces that don’t just disguise your tracker; instead they make a serious fashion statement. Whether you like like your look flashy, bold or simple, you’re bound to find a design that calls your name. For those of us already dedicated to tracking our steps and so on, this is fabulously exciting news.
If you own and wear an activity tracker – or want to but never wanted something that ugly on your arm – I seriously urge you to visit FunktionalWearables and take your time looking over the merchandise. Affordable beautiful and fun. Would make a fabulous gift for someone who has a tracker or for whom you want to buy one. This line of products includes – mirabile dictu! – even stylish necklaces that hold and conceal that little smart thing that counts your steps. Absolute genius at affordable prices. They start at around $15 for a simple charm or enhancement and go up to maybe $50-ish for a gorgeous engraved silver necklace and earring set. Unbelievable.
Take a look. Choose a style or two (after all, they are affordable) that makes you feel good and buy. Then walk – even if it’s on a pad in your living room (which works well if you listen to your favorite rockin’ music ). You will be the happier – and the more stylish – for it, I promise.
You guys are offering some sure-fire-win products. Thank you – and congratulations!
Even if you’re still in the middle of your holiday shopping, you might also be thinking about how to make your final charitable contributions of the year. In 2015, twenty-nine percent of charitable giving occurred in December – eleven percent in the last three days of the year.* In case you’re not donating a car, use these final weeks of the year to apply a few year-end money-giving tips from World Vision programs for under-served children:
Keep it simple. Most organizations offer a wide variety of ways to make a difference. For donors who feel overwhelmed or are not sure where their passions lie, look for a general fund to make the greatest impact. For example, the World Vision Gift Catalog offers an excellent option to give where most needed to help children and families in areas of greatest need.
Invest in the future. Explore options to change a child’s world for good; it will make an impact on the future while also providing a tax deduction for readers. World Vision offers the option to invest in a full-year of child sponsorship through a single transaction; the benefit will accrue throughout the life of the child in 2017, while readers can claim the deduction on their 2016 taxes.
Give someone else’s money. Hundreds of companies across the country match employee contributions to nonprofits, doubling the impact without requiring the donor to give another cent!
Forget the checkbook. Generosity comes in many forms. Donating valuable personal property such as farm equipment, royalties and even jewelry is an innovative way to turn non-cash assets into life-transforming gifts. Check with local organizations to see how non-cash assets can be donated; national organizations may have guidelines posted online, such as World Vision’s guides for Planned Giving.
“Double” your tax break. Readers can “double” their tax break by donating appreciated assets such as stock and real estate. Stock that has grown in value can be donated for a charitable deduction for the current value, and the capital gains tax will be eliminated on the appreciation. A gift of real estate will also valued at its current valuation for charitable deduction purposes, enabling the donor to avoid capital gains taxes.
Consider itemizing. When readers file their taxes, if their total deductions – state and local taxes, mortgage interest, charitable donations, etc. – are greater than the standard deduction, they may come out ahead by itemizing.
Remember the deadline. Gifts must be completed by midnight on December 31, 2016, to be eligible to receive a charitable deduction for the 2016 tax year. Keep in mind that stocks or other securities may take two to three weeks to process at this time of year, so don’t delay. Right now’s the time.
It’s utterly confounding to realize that you may be able to find a site that offers the kids’ movie you want for free – but the screen is likely to be surrounded by suggestive drawings or photos that link to pornographic content.
How do you say “outrage”? For most of us baby boomers who were told next to nothing about sex – and probably had a tough time explaining it to our kids – this is an almost unimaginable challenge to the belief that it’s important to protect children’s innocence.
In a 2015 article, “Parenting in the age of online porn,” experts say statistics are not so far indicating a younger generation that’s out of control sexually – teen pregnancy is down, sex among ninth graders is down. Gulp – ninth graders. When one mother discovered a previous search phrase on her computer for “child porn,” her older son told her he’d been looking for porn made for children because he wanted to know what his body was supposed to look like at his age. There’s that beautiful innocence.
If we could legally stop advertising to children on Saturday morning cartoons, surely we can stop porn vendors from “advertising” on children’s content websites. Come on, legislators. Get with it.
Well, grandmothers, be deeply aware of the dangers when you search the Internet for free movies for your grandchildren. And do your due diligence on intelligent ways to handle it if it comes up with one of them.
Travel, fun and curiosities for Chicago women over 50