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470 N. Main Street, Brewer  t

Contents The Power of Advocacy by Jessica L. Maurer, Esq. | 4 As the legislature grapples with the hard decisions, it is critically important for older Mainers to stand firm against cuts that adversely impact our most vulnerable low-income seniors.

A mission, a legacy, an opportunity by Jane Margesson | 6 The history of AARP and what it means for Maine’s seniors.

The ABC’s of Aging well by Amy Cotton | 8 Awareness of individual health risks is an essential starting point to promote healthy aging.

On Being a Grandparent by Jean Abbott | 10 When you become a parent there is no instruction manual, and you often wonder if you are doing the right thing. Are you too strict? Not strict enough?

The Gift of You: Discovering your legacy by Lee Ann Szelog | 12

255 Western Ave., Augusta  s    3TILLWATER!VE "ANGOR  s   


Discovering and sharing your gift—your uniqueness, your legacy— can be challenging, especially in this day and age when technology is driving our world in fast-forward.

Dealing with diabetes by Amy Allen | 14 Where should you turn when you are first diagnosed with diabetes? Gathering information about how to care for yourself and control your disease should be your first step.

could a medicare advantage plan be right for you? by Larry Henry | 16 Approved by Medicare and run by private companies, Medicare Advantage Plans provide comprehensive medical coverage and often also include prescription drug coverage.

The benefits of a reverse mortgage by Dana Ward | 18 An important financial tool being utilized by some senior homeowners today is a safe and secure Housing and Urban Development (HUD) insured reverse mortgage.

You’re Retired! Now what? by Devon Smith | 20 Retirement conjures up images of fun, freedom, family, and friends. It can also raise specters of boredom, loss, and isolation.

Vote for your favorites! Go to or scan this QR code!

An ounce of prevention by W. Andrew Hodge, MD | 22 By incorporating healthy daily exercise like stretching, walking, biking, or swimming into your lifestyle, you’re likely to see your pain subside. Route 55 is produced by Metro Publishing, LLC. Cover photo Š Purestock/ Route 55 by Bangor Metro • 3

The Power of Advocacy By Jessica L. Maurer, Esq.

4 • Route 55 by Bangor Metro


he Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging (M4A) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for Maine seniors in various statewide venues, including the legislature. M4A provides a consistent, unwavering voice for Maine seniors and has built a strong network of older adults who can rapidly respond when legislative issues need citizen involvement. And, we need your help! There has never been a more critical

time for older Mainers to get involved in the legislative process. We have an aging population that needs more services but also have a dwindling number of direct care workers and a faltering state economy. As the legislature grapples with the hard decisions about where to make cuts, it is critically important for older Mainers to stand firm against cuts that adversely impact our most vulnerable low-income seniors. For two sessions in a row, Governor

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LePage has proposed elimination of the Medicare Savings Program, a program that provides prescription drug and health care coverage to low-income seniors. These cuts would be devastating to seniors, who would have to choose between paying for heat, food, and necessary medication. Thankfully, hundreds of Maine seniors called, wrote, and even showed up to testify against these cuts and the legislature rejected them. Speaking up works! It’s not just budget issues that need attention. Last year, we needed the voices of elder abuse victims to support a series of bills designed to support older victims and increase prosecution. This year, we needed rural seniors to get the attention of rural legislators who weren’t watching a telephone deregulation process that could have resulted in higher costs in rural Maine and fewer consumer protections. In these and many other instances, direct citizen involvement had a big impact on the process. This is because our legislature is made up of citizens. They want to serve you and hear from you. They understand they must consider your voice when making decisions, and they really listen. They want to understand how the proposals they consider impact your life. Now it’s time to gear up for next year. When we send out a call for assistance, we need you to respond and to tell your story. There are so many ways you can get involved. You can write or call your legislator, testify at a hearing, or write a letter to the editor. While your voice is critically important, your support for advocacy organizations is also needed. Advocates spend long, tireless hours at the legislature, watching bills, testifying, talking to legislators, and getting alerts out when help is needed. Advocating for seniors at the legislature is a team approach. We can’t do it without your help and support! Sign up today to receive advocacy alerts, and see what’s happening in Augusta by going to Jessica L. Maurer, Esq., is the executive director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging. A licensed Maine attorney, Maurer is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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[207] 990-1995 Route 55 by Bangor Metro • 5

AARP Maine: A Mission, A Legacy, An Opportunity By Jane Margesson, AARP Maine Communications Director

6 • Route 55 by Bangor Metro


r. Ethel Percy Andrus founded the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) more than 50 years ago. She probably never dreamed that her efforts would eventually result in an organization with 53 state offices nationwide and a membership of almost 38 million people ages 50 and up. Already a powerful advocate in Washington, she no doubt did envision the critical role that AARP would play on Capitol Hill and in state capitols across the country. Andrus was a school teacher and the first female high school principal in the state of California. She saw firsthand the economic plight of retired educators in the post-Depression era. Since Medicare

did not become available until 1965, and pensions were meager, many retired teachers at the time found themselves living in poverty during their so-called “golden years.” Upon discovering that one of her retired colleagues was so poor she was actually living in a chicken coop, Andrus took action. Armed with the belief that everyone has the right to age with dignity, she began a campaign to provide affordable medical insurance for retired educators. Eight years later, the first-ever group health insurance coverage was offered to retired teachers nationwide. At that time, Andrus founded the National Retired Educators Association (NRTA). Thousands of older Americans who were not retired teachers (and therefore

Photo: © Polka Dot Images/

In need of Help at Home ? not eligible for NRTA membership) contacted the association wanting to know how they, too, could obtain health insurance. Recognizing that many other older Americans needed help as well, she decided to start a new association. In 1958, she founded AARP. But Andrus saw AARP as doing much more than offering health insurance for older Americans who needed it. She believed that people’s older years should be an opportunity for new growth and participation in society. She referred to AARP as “an army of useful citizens” who had the ability, the experience, and the desire to promote and enhance the public good. She created the motto that still guides AARP today: “To serve, not to be served.” Here in Maine, AARP’s work spans the entire state. During each state legislative session, the staff and volunteers are at the state house in Augusta almost every day. They meet with legislators, attend hearings, and deliver testimony, working to represent our 228,000 members on issues of concern to them. On the national front, AARP is committed to protecting Social Security and Medicare. They consistently reach out to and work with policy makers on both sides of the political aisle. AARP members watched all summer long as their vital benefits were debated on Capitol Hill. Few would have believed it possible that these programs would emerge intact without undergoing major cuts, but thanks in great part to the voices of AARP members, that is exactly what happened. In 2012, AARP is conducting listening sessions in communities throughout Maine to hear your opinions and ideas on how to protect Social Security and Medicare. You are encouraged to participate in You’ve Earned a Say and make your voice heard. Visit to complete the online questionnaire and add your voice to the national discussion. To contact AARP Maine, call 1-866554-5380, send us an email at aarpme@, or like us on Facebook at AARP Maine. Jane Margesson is a communications professional with over 20 years of experience with AARP. She currently serves as director of communications for AARP Maine.

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Route 55 by Bangor Metro • 7

The ABC’s of Aging Well By Amy Cotton, Gerontological Nurse Practitioner, EMHS

8 • Route 55 by Bangor Metro


eople who pay attention to their health, and actually do something to promote wellness, tend to age better than those who rely on good genes and pure chance. The quest to feel good occupies the attention of many people today. There is increasing focus on the importance of health and wellness throughout the lifespan. Advances in health care, prevention practices, early detection, treatment of disease, and lifestyle changes that improve health have all resulted in people living longer lives. Strategies to enhance health and wellness for those 55

and older can be described using the ABC approach: Awareness of individual health risks; Blocking health problems from occurring; and Commitment to take action. Awareness of individual health risks is an essential starting point to promote healthy aging. Family history, environmental exposures, previous health conditions, and lifestyle choices are all important topics to discuss with your primary healthcare provider. This information will help in creating an individualized road map for health and wellness action. Reducing risk factors for developing chronic disease, like smoking cessation and daily

Photo: © Digital Vision/

physical activity to maintain a healthy weight, is important to reduce the risk of illness with aging. Blocking health problems from starting is the next step to promote healthy aging. Early identification of diseases, such as high blood pressure, cancer, or diabetes can promote early treatment and effective management. An important resource for learning about the recommended preventive health screenings for men and women is the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The USPSTF is an expert panel of primary care providers, who look at the current evidence and recommend the scheduled screenings for the early detection of common health problems, including diabetes, various types of cancer, and heart disease. Commitment to take action is the final step in aging well. Information about health risks, healthy lifestyle recommendations, and preventive screening tests are meaningless if no action is taken. Some people get discouraged and feel guilty when life’s distractions interfere with living a healthy lifestyle. One recommendation is to make one change at a time. Success with small changes will help encourage bigger changes. It is important to have honest conversations with your healthcare provider about things in your life that are barriers to wellness. For many, the demands of work, financial pressures, and relationship challenges can all be significant barriers to staying well. Physical and mental activity are key strategies to stay well while aging. The truth is there is no one secret to aging well. Feeling good at any age requires understanding individual health risks, prevention strategies, and action steps to promote aging well. Partnering with your primary healthcare provider is an essential tool to understand what is to be expected as a usual change in health or function with age and what might be a red flag needing further investigation. Make a date today to check in with your healthcare provider.

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Amy Cotton is a senior health expert and nurse practitioner at EMHS. She is currently President of the National Gerontological Nursing Association and is an advocate for health and wellness promotion in aging.

Route 55 by Bangor Metro • 9


On Being a

Grandparent By Jean Abbott

10 • Route 55 by Bangor Metro

rowing up, I had a wonderful grandmother. I was even lucky enough to meet a grand guy who would, over time, help me to become a wonderful grandmother myself! Bruce and I waited quite a while to have children, but we became parents to two terrific boys. Our oldest decided when we were to be grandparents, and it was quite a surprise to say the least! At first I was upset. Not because he was a teen—he was 24 years old—but he was

Photo: © Getty Images/

single and that wasn’t the way was “supposed to be.” Time and lots of thinking convinced me that, no matter what, this new little person who was developing was and would always be my first grandchild. The most perfect new little person I had ever seen turned out to be a boy! Nothing in this world compares to the first time you hold the cuddly little bundle as a grandparent! “Hello, I’m your Grandma,” I said to the brand new human being I was holding in my arms. You, too, will feel the magic. Just think about all the things you have to celebrate with your grandchild that you haven’t celebrated in years— dressing up for Halloween, Christmas and Hannukah gifts, a new little person at the table for Thanksgiving. First birthday, first tooth, first step, first word. Joy upon joy to watch all over again, only this time most of the diapers, night feedings, sniffles, and more are someone else’s responsibility. Grandchildren are a gift your children give you and you cherish all the rest of your days. You can never get enough of their smiles, pictures, giggles, and hugs. They are even smarter, stronger, and cuter than you remember their parents being. When you become a parent there is no instruction manual, and you often wonder if you are doing the right thing. Are you too strict? Not strict enough? I remember recently telling my son, “Michael, I am so very proud of you! You are such a good dad.” His reply was, “Mom, why wouldn’t I be? I had a great example.” I knew he had a great example, I just didn’t know that he was paying attention. If you think hearing the word Mama or Daddy for the first time sounds good, wait until you hear Grammy or Grandpa, Memere or Pepere! It will melt your heart. Your own children seem to grow up so fast! I believe grandchildren are your second chance to enjoy all the wonderful things children bring into our world—so don’t spare the love. Jean Abbott lives in Greenbush with her husband Bruce. A mother of two boys, she is the grandmother of three— two boys and a girl. Abbott works at Dirigo Pines in Orono.

Route 55 by Bangor Metro • 11

The Gift of You: Discovering Your Legacy By Lee Ann Szelog, Simply Put, LLC


ho among you has swooned over “Frankie,” survived the Great Depression, World War II, or the Korean War? Do you recall the simple pleasures of life, remember life without TVs, and know how to write a handwritten thank you note? Life experiences, both good and bad, created the very unique and wise person you are, and provide you the opportunity to share your gift of wisdom as your lasting legacy. Just as antiques are cherished possessions that reflect historical significance, cultures, and trends passed down from generation to generation, you are a treasure and can pass down the gift of yourself, creating a lasting legacy for your loved ones. Discovering and sharing your gift— your uniqueness, your legacy—can be challenging, especially in this day and age when technology is driving our world in fast-forward. Oftentimes, legacies are associated with power and money, but true legacies come from within. As a member of the senior population, you are a gift to all of us. You enrich our lives with the abundant wisdom you have gained from your life experiences. You lived during a time without gadgets. You encountered life from a different perspective, a perspective from which we can all learn and be inspired. You experi-

12 • Route 55 by Bangor Metro

Photo: Š Digital Vision/

enced living in a world without the fear and disconnect we have today. You can leave legacies that we won’t find on YouTube or Facebook. Seniors, you are at an honorable and admirable stage in life; it’s time to celebrate the person you are and learn from your wisdom. As Henry Ford once said, “If you took all the experience and judgment of people over 50 out of the world, there wouldn’t be enough brains and talent left to run it.� Reminisce about your life experiences, good and bad. Through these events you learned and developed into the unique individual you are today. It’s your uniqueness that molds the gift that you are and the legacy you have to pass on, richly influencing the next generations. The greatest legacy given to me was from my grandmother, Bubby. She gave me the gift of courage and perseverance simply by sharing the stories of her life. Find confidence in your stories and wisdom. Yes, you’re in a different stage of life; you may not feel as though you have much to offer, but I want to reinforce that you have more to offer than ever before! You may not be technologically savvy, but you are savvy about the power of simple pleasures, the human spirit and communicating one-on-one. Simply ask yourself: “How do I want people to remember me? What do I want people to remember about me?� Every living thing has a purpose and therefore a legacy—a gift of himself/herself to pass on. What is your gift and to whom will you pass it?


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Tips to pass on your legacy: • Share your life experiences through conversation, stories, or writing your memoirs. • Invite loved ones to share in your favorite activity; sailing, hiking, knitting, volunteering, etc. • Teach others how to prepare a favorite family recipe, plant the best tomatoes, or take photographs.  Lee Ann Szelog, owner of Simply Put, LLC, specializes in human relations. Szelog and her husband, Tom are also the award-winning authors of the two books, Our Point of View—Fourteen Years at a Maine Lighthouse and By a Maine River—A Year of Looking Closely.


Route 55 by Bangor Metro • 13

Dealing with Diabetes By Amy Allen, public relations associate for St. Joseph Healthcare


iabetes is a life-changing diagnosis and can come as quite a shock窶馬early 25% of patients find out while they are in the hospital being treated for another condition. Part of the problem is that not enough people get regular screenings, says Dana Green PA-C, director of the St. Joseph Diabetes Institute of Behavioral Medicine. Everyone should be tested every five years beginning at age 40, and those at an increased risk should be tested earlier and more often, especially people with a family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. While the cause of diabetes remains a mystery, studies show genetics do play a role, as well as risk factors such as obesity and lack of exercise. The disease results in high blood sugar levels caused by lack of or improperly produced insulin. Insulin converts sugar, starches, and other foods

14 窶「 Route 55 by Bangor Metro

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into energy to fuel your body. Without it, you may experience symptoms like frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability, and blurry vision. A simple blood test can determine if you are at risk. So where should you turn when you are first diagnosed? Gathering information about how to care for yourself and control your disease should be your first step. Ask your primary care provider for a referral to a basic diabetes education course. Educational classes teach patients how to check their blood sugar, manage their weight, and discover how food and other triggers affect their condition. Newly diagnosed patients should also be prescribed an ACE-inhibitor, to help protect their kidneys and set up with a schedule of lab work. Staying ahead of other potential problems can help limit damage caused by the disease. Patients should also share the news with their optometrist, podiatrist, and dentist. Diabetes can have far reaching affects, including foot ulcers, gum disease, and vision problems such as fastforming diabetes cataracts. A nutritionist is also an important member of the team who can help with weight loss and education about glucose control. “It takes more than one person,� says Dana Green. “You need a whole network of people working together to help you manage your disease.� Green also recommends joining a diabetes support group. Led by certified diabetes educators, these groups provide an opportunity for those living with diabetes to get together, share their struggles and triumphs, and hear from various speakers. Remember that you are the most important member of your healthcare team. Take responsibility for your insulin injections, blood sugar checks, medication, and exercise. And when something feels off or you notice any problems be sure to alert your healthcare providers.  Amy Allen is a Public Relations Associate for St. Joseph Healthcare. Originally from Presque Isle, she’s lived all over Maine and New Hampshire and is now happily settled in Hampden with her husband and two children.

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Could a Medicare Advantage Plan be Right for You? By Larry Henry, vice president of Medicare for Martinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Point Health Care

16 â&#x20AC;˘ Route 55 by Bangor Metro

What are Medicare Advantage Plans? Medicare Advantage (MA) plans were created nearly 30 years ago to provide more options for Medicare beneficiaries. Approved by Medicare and run by private companies, they provide comprehensive medical coverage and often also include prescription drug coverage. To be eligible, you must have Medicare Parts A and B, and continue to pay your Part B premium. Most MA plans also charge a monthly premium, which is typically significantly lower than Medicare Supplement policies (Medigap). Medicare Advantage plans can take many different forms, such as HMOs and PPOs. Members pay a copayment or coinsurance at the time of service, and the health care provider bills their MA plan, not Medicare. These copayments are often lower than what a beneficiary would pay under original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are paid a set rate from

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Medicare for each member they serve. You can visit for more information. How to Choose the Best Plan for You So youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve done your research and decided that a Medicare Advantage plan is right for you. What now? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time to sift through the options and find the best plan for your needs. This will depend on what youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re looking for in terms of price, benefits, access, and quality.

Extraordinary Assisted Living Every Davis Long Term Care Group assisted living home provides personalized, compassionate care to each and every one of

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â&#x20AC;˘ Price: Look for affordable premiums, low copayments, low or no deductibles, and low out-of-pocket maximums. â&#x20AC;˘ Benefits: Look for extras like preventive dental care, vision, or hearing benefits. â&#x20AC;˘ Accessibility: Check provider networks to make sure you can have the doctor you want. â&#x20AC;˘ Quality: Compare companiesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Medicare star ratings to find out who offers superior quality and customer service. Medicare has a 5-Star rating system, which provides Medicare beneficiaries with an important tool for comparing the quality of care and customer service that Medicare Advantage plans offer. The rating system considers several factors, including: success in providing preventive services; helping members manage chronic conditions; and plan responsiveness, care, and customer service. New in 2012, Medicare beneficiaries can now enroll year-round in MA plans and Part D prescription drug plans with a 5-Star rating, rather than just during the annual enrollment period each autumn. This change is intended to urge plans to have a sharper focus on quality and ultimately to encourage beneficiaries to choose highly rated plans. Fortunately for Mainers, we have one of the only 5-Star rated plans in the country. To find out more about Medicare Advantage plans in your area, visit and search by zip code. Larry Henry is vice president of Medicare for Martinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Point Health Care in Portland. He has over 16 years of health care experience working in sales, marketing, operations, and government programs.

our residents. We provide spacious and comfortable accommodations, elegant dining experiences, and lots of fun social opportunities that create lasting friendships.


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The Benefit of a Reverse Mortgage By Dana Ward, loan officer for MaineStream Finance

18 • Route 55 by Bangor Metro


n important financial tool being utilized by some senior homeowners today is a safe and secure Housing and Urban Development (HUD) insured reverse mortgage. The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is HUD’s reverse mortgage program, which enables you to withdraw some of the equity in your home. The HECM is a safe plan that can give older Americans greater financial security. Many seniors use it to supplement Social Security, meet unexpected medical expenses, make home

improvements, and more. You can also use a reverse mortgage to purchase a primary residence if you have enough cash available to pay the difference at closing. To read HUD’s list of top ten things to know regarding reverse mortgages, please go to and type “reverse mortgage” in the search box. HUD insured reverse mortgages are conservatively structured and, if used prudently, they should last the homeowner’s lifetime. With the unfortunate scarceness of assisted living facilities across Maine, a reverse mortgage may be just

the right tool to help seniors stay in their home. The access to equity could be used for in-home care until there is an opening at an assisted living facility, or until they require nursing home care. All HUD-insured customers pay into a self-funded insurance pool (no taxpayer money is used) out of the closing proceeds; plus 1.25% of their unpaid balance each year the reverse mortgage is open. While this makes them more costly than regular mortgages, it guarantees that homeowners retain ownership, and that they will never have to make a monthly payment on their reverse mortgage. If there is a deficiency balance remaining once the home is sold, that amount is taken out of the insurance pool. As reverse mortgages are conservatively structured, this does not happen very often. Like any other insurance we purchase, we hope we don’t have to use it, but if we do, it is there for us.

photo: © Creatas/

Things to Know When Considering a Reverse Mortgage • Qualifications: You must be a homeowner 62 years of age or older, own your home outright, or have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off with money from the reverse loan, and you must live in your home. • Types of Eligible Homes: You must have a single-family home or a two- to four-unit home, with one unit occupied by the borrower. HUD-approved condominiums are also eligible. • Difference between a Reverse Mortgage and a Home Equity Loan: With a second mortgage or home equity line of credit, borrowers must have enough money to qualify for the loan, and they make monthly payments. A reverse mortgage pays you, though you are responsible for paying real estate taxes, utilities, and hazard and flood insurance premiums (if required).

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Dana Ward has been in the financial services field for 25 years. He joined MaineStream Finance, a nonprofit community development financial institution, as a loan officer in 2005. MaineStream Finance was the first nonprofit lender in the country to offer HUD insured reverse mortgages.

Route 55 by Bangor Metro • 19

You’re Retired! Now What? By Devon Smith


etirement conjures up images of fun, freedom, family, and friends. It can also raise specters of boredom, loss, and isolation. In her job as women and family health coordinator for Quarry Hill’s parent organization Pen Bay Healthcare, Wendelanne Augunas, L-CPC, specializes in counseling new parents. But she says the formula she’s found to help twenty- and thirty-somethings navigate sea change in their lives proves just as helpful decades down the road, when adults accustomed to the structure of the workday world confront the exhilarating—and often unsettling—prospect of retirement. Here are her tips: Breathe Taking time each day to sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe, puts the brakes on racing thoughts and feelings, allowing you to respond rather than react to the changes in your life. Breathe deeply, not just through your nose but into your lungs and ribcage, and think about “breathing forward into the change.” Augunas says this simple, daily practice can help you “step into change with hope” that the strength, creativity, and opportunities you need to move joyfully into life’s next chapter will be there when you need them. Honor Thy Feelings “I shouldn’t feel this way!” It’s a com-

20 • Route 55 by Bangor Metro

mon refrain. But Augunas says it only makes adjustment more difficult. Instead, she recommends, give yourself time to, honor the sadness and anxiety that go with any major change. Consider ways to take the best parts of your old life with you into retirement. Missing the satisfactions of running a business? Here’s your chance to share what you’ve learned by mentoring young entrepreneurs. Mourning the loss of your old neighborhood? Perhaps you could invite your new, retirement community neighbors to start a coffee group.

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Watch Your Language Augunas says it’s important to acknowledge and respect your feelings. Recognize that the words you use to describe how you feel affect how well you acclimate to change. For example, if you tell yourself every day that you are furious you can’t afford that retirement villa you dreamed of, you’ll likely fixate on the fury and miss the opportunities it obscures. Instead, try saying, “This is a tough challenge. What are my options?” The translation acknowledges the difficulty you’re up against, but also helps shift the focus to the possibility of solutions and support. Similar strategies can benefit younger adults as they help aging parents make the transition from independent to assisted living. “This is a big step for everyone, and patience with yourself and your parents is key,” Augunas says. Remind yourself and your parent that you’re both doing the best you can in a challenging situation. Take time to honor that—and to breathe. Seek help from family, friends, and other professionals. You can even find useful information and support on the Internet. From any vantage point, Augunas concedes, the fruits that fall from retirement’s tree are a blend of the bitter and the sweet. Grant yourself—and your family—time to savor each one slowly and mindfully. Then relax. You’re doing your best to ensure a satisfying harvest. Devon Smith is a writer whose work has appeared in numerous Maine publications. She works in the Marketing Office at Quarry Hill, a Camden community for adults over the age of 55.

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An Ounce of

Prevention: A Prescription for Better Joint Health

22 • Route 55 by Bangor Metro

By W. Andrew Hodge, MD, Eastern Maine Medical Center


n apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This common phrase is one we hear often, but the reality is some people need an extra dose of prevention to keep the doctor away. It’s wise for doctors to prescribe healthy activities for people who experience joint aches and pains as they grow older

photo: © Ron Chapple Studios/

and more prone to arthritis. More activity may sound like an unusual prescription for someone in pain, but research shows that motion is good for joints and for each pound lost, stress is reduced by four pounds on your knees or hips. I’m not recommending running a marathon, but I do suggest a low-impact, low-stress exercise regimen that will help ease daily activities like walking, dressing and rising from a chair. The key is to avoid harmful activities and avoid over exercising. By incorporating healthy daily exercise like stretching, walking, biking, or swimming into your lifestyle, you’re likely to see the pain and stiffness subside. Another key is to focus in on your diet. Make sure you eat in moderation with plenty of greens and vegetables while getting Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in fish oils, vitamin D, and calcium. If you want to boost your energy, you can eat healthy snacks such as unprocessed fruits and vegetables with plenty of natural nutrients that will help to reduce inflammation of your joints. Healthy exercise and diet keep us moving better and living longer. Another suggestion that often helps my patients is to alternate heat and cold therapy when experiencing joint pain and stiffness. Athletes often use heat before exercise and ice down their joints afterwards. Heat reduces stiffness making exercise easier, and ice helps minimize swelling and pain after activity. Just remember to protect your skin by using a towel or some barrier between the ice or heat source and the skin. Preventive and conservative treatments can usually help, but remember joint pain doesn’t have to control your life. If you are not getting relief, then more interventional therapy may be needed. Please take the time to see your primary care or orthopedic provider. He or she will examine the problem and help you decide which treatment options best fit your medical needs and your lifestyle. W. Andrew Hodge, MD is chief of EMMC’s Orthopedics program. He specializes in knee and hip surgery, as well as bioengineering research. Dr. Hodge joined the staff at EMMC in January, 2012.

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AS WE GET OLDER,djg[ZZiVcY h]dZcZZYhX]Vc\Z#8dbZ^cidYVn[dg Vfree[ddihXVchdlZXVc]Zaendj l^i]i]Zg^\]ih]dZh[dgndjg[ZZi LZVgZndjgadXVa![jaa"hZgk^XZ! h^i"YdlcVcYÒih]dZhidgZ# (-*=^\]HigZZi!GdjiZ(™:aahldgi] '%,"++,"'','™lll#Xjgi^hh]dZ#Xdb Route 55 by Bangor Metro • 23

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