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Put memories to paper to create a book of you By NICOLA BRIDGES You have lived a life and share anecdotes and memories with your kids and grandchildren, but no matter how mundane you may feel your life has been, it’s your story, and it deserves preserving so that you can pass it along to future generations. Writing memoirs can seem daunting because we tend to think of it as writing an autobiography, which captures your entire story, beginning to end. But memoirs are more about focusing on a theme or particular periods of your life, a collection of life stories, each a different chapter. Denis Ledoux, author of “Turning Memories Into Memoirs: A Handbook for Writing Lifestories” and founder of The Memoir Network, which offers workshops and mentoring on how to write the story of you, says the hardest part is deciding on a theme. “Some people know what they want to write about — their college days, military experience or love for horses or a hobby that’s been thematic in their lives — whereas others don’t know where to start.” He says that if that’s the case, begin with quantity and write down all the memories you can think of. “Keep writing and typing. Don’t crumple up pages and keep deleting. Keep writing. Then, when you’re done, you revise, revise and revise, and you’ll find your true theme to commit to paper.” With that in mind, consider the following tips when starting your memoirs: ■■ Write, write and keep on writing. Ledoux has people start by doing a memory list. “Write about everything you remember — your grandmother’s thick black heels, your mom’s fragrance, your grandfather’s pipe, vacations,


The first step to writing your memoirs is to make a memory list. memorable moments you spent in the military. When you do the memory list, you’ll never get writer’s block, because you’ve got no excuse. Just refer to your list. It’s very liberating,” ■■ Find a focus. After you write a memory list, you may decide on one important time in your life that will make up your memoirs or start to see a theme that can be the book’s core, whether you ultimately focus on one chapter of your life — for example, your time in Vietnam or the Peace Corps — or you share different moments in your life as stand-alone chapters. ■■ Be truthful. It’s tempting to embellish and

portray your life how you want to see it rather than how it was. But memoirs are more engaging and revealing when you write with raw honesty, capturing exactly how it was and how you felt. ■■ Show through your own eyes. Instead of just stating facts — for example, saying that you had an unemotional and distant father — describe them. An expression writers use is, “Show; don’t tell.” You could say, “Father kept to himself, always sitting in his favorite chair smoking a pipe and ignoring the family goingson around him, rarely engaging in conversation and often not at home, the quiet closing of the

door late at night the only indication he was in the house.” Setting a scene versus stating a fact helps the reader experience your story through your own eyes and is also nonjudgmental, as opposed to saying, “My father was never home, and when he was home, he wasn’t present to our family.” ■■ Be descriptive. Setting scenes by describing the ambiance, the smell of the place and the sounds is more powerful than just saying you were there. Instead of saying “We were standing in a rainy field at the horse barn,” say: “It was a windy day. The tall green grass was swaying to the rhythm of the breeze, the smell of horse manure from the

barn lingering on the wind as our boots sank into the mud.” Taking readers there with you puts them more in your shoes. ■■ Go beyond you. If you’re writing about a memorable family vacation, don’t just write about where you went and what you did. Include information about the town, its people, interesting anecdotes of historic moments that took place there. It helps to set the scene by giving more context about your surroundings and makes your memoirs more informative and meatier. ■■ Go beyond words. Engaging memoirs include personal visuals: old photos, recipes, certificates, an image of a memorable handwritten letter or birthday card, a sports program, a clipping from a newspaper — whatever can visually embellish your memories. ■■ Embrace your emotions. Memoirs are intended, by their very nature, to let readers get to know about the true you. Beyond facts of things that happened, be sure to share what it meant to you and how you felt. We all react to different situations in different ways, and if you only state the facts, then — as they would reading nonfiction — your readers will create their own emotions on a situation instead of feeling yours. ■■ Can I get published? Though your memoirs may not be a best-seller to a broad audience, your story will be popular among family and friends — and a wonderful gift to pass down to future generations. Ledoux points out that there are many services online today — such as Lulu, Solentro and Blurb — where you can have your memoirs hard-bound in book form to give to those you love and people who might be riveted knowing more about you and the life you’ve lived.

Missing face time? Stay connected to family with visit By ANNIE LANE Dear Annie: My husband and I are in our 70s, and he is experiencing depression from lack of contact with his children. I don’t mean Facebook, because he sees them on there. They do not call like they did in the past. I am sure they feel that since he can actually see them on the screen, he knows what they are up to and what they are doing. Thus, they think this is all we need to do. We do not text either. We used to FaceTime but not anymore. When he calls them, usually he can only leave a message because they rarely answer the phone. If he does get hold of them, the typical response is that they are busy but they will call back, and then they almost never do. We do not live in the same state, so we don’t see them often. New technology is wonderful for many things, but whatever happened to actually hearing someone say, “I love you, Dad,” or “I love you, Grandpa”? I am sure we are not the only people who are feeling left behind with the new tech world. — Hope to Hear One Day Dear Hope: It is understand-

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able that your husband’s feeling disconnected from his children is causing sadness. But I am not so sure that it is technology’s fault so much as the fault of miscommunication. Technology is a blessing and a curse — a blessing because it makes communication instant and easy, and a curse because it throws up a barrier to interactions that only come from being together in person. I would encourage you and your husband to plan a trip to visit his children face to face and talk to them. Tell them how much you enjoy talking on the phone and hearing their voices. Communicating via text and social media is no way to maintain a relationship, especially an important and special one with wonderful parents. Dear Annie: I have a daughter who is a lovely person but has become very bossy and super opinionated. She has not always been this way. She is married, but she and my son-in-law have no children. My problem is that every time she comes home, she rearranges the items in my pantry and refrigerator and throws things away.


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She’s very critical. So far as I know, she doesn’t treat others this way. And my other children do not act this way with me. What do you think is motivating this, and what do you suggest I do? — Miffed Mom Dear Miffed Mom: I’d be willing to wager that your

daughter is checking for expired foods and getting rid of them out of concern for you. Even so, there’s no need for the criticism, and she really should ask your permission before throwing anything away. Talk to her about how this makes you feel. Acknowl-

edge that you appreciate her desire to help but you don’t appreciate the way in which she conducts these pantry purges. Set some boundaries you can live with. In the end, it is your house, your rules. Your daughter should respect that.

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Learn how to relate to millennial grandchildren By MAXINE MULVEY Have you heard of Grumpy Cat? Have you seen a “Doge”? Maybe you’ve heard of “memes.” If not, you’re in for some modernday education. Your grandchildren will thank you. Grumpy Cat and Doge are just two examples of the internet-born phenomenon known as memes or “meme culture.” To understand Grumpy Cat and Doge, you need to first understand what memes are. A meme is “a viral image that depicts a certain cultural concept or behavior, which people identify with and share,” says Maya Kachroo-Levine at Bustle. “They’re often meant to be humorous, and can apply to various different cultural topics. You can’t really control or predict when they’re born — often something will spontaneously happen and the Internet will seize onto it and make it famous, sometimes overnight.” New trends and technologies — such as memes — often baffle those who are 55 or older. Thanks to social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, memes spread particularly fast. But memes are accessible to people of all ages — even those well into retirement. More simply put, memes are “funny pictures mixed with relevant commentary,” said Ashley Perling in a New York Times letter to the editor. In her words, young people use memes to “connect and relate.” If memes are a mystery to you, chances are that today’s youngsters are as well. Today’s young people confuse older people in part because they combine logic with nonsense. “Youth culture today, in two words: practicality and memes,” researcher Jay Owens

wrote for Medium. “Seriousness, and also taking nothing seriously.” Memes allow young people to blend the ever-chaotic real world with imagination and humor. And older people can also join in the fun! Making an account on a social media site such as Facebook can make memes more accessible to you. By extension, Facebook can help you bond with your younger family members. As social networks go, Facebook is incredibly easy to sign up for and a favorite among people over 55. According to The Guardian, Facebook users over 55 are the platform’s secondlargest demographic, behind 16- to 34-year-olds. Now that you’re starting to grasp what memes are and how they bring people together, let’s get into examples. So, who’s Grumpy Cat? And what’s a Doge? Grumpy Cat’s story is simple: The snowshoe cat from Arizona rose to fame when her owner took photos of the cat’s “grumpy” facial expressions and posted them on the internet. Photos of the feline Scrooge have since been paired with humorously unhappy captions, such as “I had fun once. It was awful.” People of all ages can relate to Grumpy Cat’s irritability. Sometimes we feel sulky — and Grumpy Cat is there for us. During the holidays, Grumpy Cat becomes especially relatable. Making your own Grumpy Cat memes is easier than ever: “I’ve listened to ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ 42 times today.” “I made three pies, and only three people said ‘thank you.’” “I tried to go to bed at my usual time, but I got distracted reading about memes.” You’re welcome. Doge (pronounced with a long O and a soft G) is another pet-related meme. According to meme

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database Know Your Meme, the original Doge is a shiba inu named Kabosu, owned by Japanese kindergarten teacher Atsuko Sato. In meme form, photos of a startledlooking Doge are accompanied by humorously abbreviated and ungrammatical captions — for example, “such happy,” “much party,” “very food” and “wow.” The short, comedic phrases are meant to reflect the dog’s internal monologue, which is presumably

simple. Dogs don’t know proper English. Dating back to 2010, Doge is a classic, universally appealing meme. Your grandchildren may find Doge a bit outdated, but seeing their grandparent talk about Doge memes will make their eyes all aglow. And creating your own holiday Doge memes is simple! “Such family. Very celebration. Much festive. Wow.” This holiday season, try to

bond with the younger members of your family by discussing their favorite memes. If they’re good sports about it, they’ll tell you about some of the memes that make them laugh the most. Don’t feel discouraged if they’re difficult to understand! Memes may not be straightforward for a first-timer. Though the kids may roll their eyes at first, they will appreciate that you’re taking the time to learn about something they enjoy.

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6 ways to take the ‘I’ out of anxiety By MARILYNN PRESTON Are you worried about how much you worry? Bravo. Uncontrolled anxiety is a giant obstacle to personal happiness. No surprise. Worry causes stress, and stress saps our strength, disturbs our sleep, fries our brain and constantly undermines our best efforts to stay healthy, relaxed and optimistic. And yet there’s so much to worry about these days. Is Alexa really recording everything I say? Why is our air more foul, our food and water more toxic? What do we do when all our online 24/7 connectivity only increases people’s loneliness and isolation? Of course, my list of worries will be different from your list, but we all share a need to deal with our anxiety in clever and effective ways. That’s why I want to offer some proven coping strategies recommended by psychologist Robert L. Leahy, the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, an author and editor of 26 books, including “Anxiety Free: Unravel Your Fears Before They Unravel You.” Some sound truly weird, and those are some of my favorites. Dr. Leahy has seen these methods work wonders. His blog on is a constant source of simple and powerful methods for dealing with your worries:

■■ Turn your anxiety into a movie. One creative way to let go of a worry is to disconnect yourself from it, Dr. Leahy says. Imagine your anxiety, your fear, presented to you as a film or a theater piece. You’re in the audience. You’re listening to the guy in the goofy hat sing and dance about your overdrawn bank account or your underwhelming relationship. He’s acting out your worries, all right, but you’re detached. You are the witness. And that trick literally takes the drama out of it. From that calm, detached place, you’re able to take more effective action. ■■ Set aside worry time. Worries show up, constantly and unannounced. You’re washing your dishes, and bam! You begin to panic about paying off your student loans. You’re taking a walk — a wise and wonderful thing to do — and the whole time, you’re worrying about all the things you should be doing instead — a very silly thing to do. Here’s Leahy’s suggestion: Set aside a specific time every day to worry about your worries. Pick, say, 6 p.m. If it’s morning and a worry hits, jot it down and decide to focus on it later. Do that all day long. By the time 6 p.m. rolls around, many of your worries will seem too silly to deal with, and you’ll have spent most of the day worry-free. ■■ Breathe it out. The mind attaches to the negative. Know that and be ready. Next time you feel


Worrying doesn’t change the present. It does keep you from enjoying it. tense, notice your breath. You’re probably holding it. Ask yourself: Where is my breath now? Where is my attention? Link them by listening to your inhalations and exhalations, an easy and ancient strategy for calming your nerves. Breathe in, breathe out, consciously. When anxiety knocks — and it will — answer it by bringing your attention back to your breath. No harm doing this 10 times a day if you need to. ■■ Don’t fight the craziness. It’s normal to have crazy thoughts, says Dr. Leahy. He had a client, a

lawyer, who kept imagining she’d lose control and start screaming in court. Our minds are creative, he told her. Sometimes our little synapses make wacky connections and a crazy thought results. It happens to everyone. Don’t judge yourself. See your anxiety as though it were a curious object on a shelf, he says. Notice it, but don’t react to it in negative ways. ■■ Take your hand off the horn. When you make a stupid comment, do you play it back over and over? Stuck in heavy traffic, is that you blasting your horn? What is,

is, Leahy points out. Some things just cannot be controlled ... like rush hour. He teaches his clients to surrender to the moment. It’s a paradox: The more you surrender to the moment, the more in control you actually feel. ■■ Let it pass. When you’re a worrier, everything can feel like an emergency. And yet, every feeling of panic comes to an end. Next time you feel your anxiety building to a crisis, ask yourself, “How will I feel about this is a week? In a month?” So why not drop it now?



Old age and modern life can affect hearing By MARILYN MURRAY WILLISON I’ve had two friends who’ve struggled with hearing loss, so I know how profoundly this health challenge can negatively affect every aspect of your life. According to many experts, hearing loss — which is now being referred to as “America’s silent epidemic” — is more harmful to quality of life than many forms of cancer, diabetes, obesity or a stroke. For years, loss of hearing was considered to be a harbinger of old age, but the advent of loud rock music and ear-splitting live performances, and the overuse of ear buds have introduced audio deficiencies to an entirely younger generation. According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are currently at risk for hearing loss, and the numbers are expected to rise with each passing decade. In fact, U.S. government data estimates that approximately 5.2 million children ages 6 to 19 have already suffered permanent damage to their ears’ inner hair cells due to repeated exposure to loud noises. Age is, however, an undeniable factor when it comes to hearing loss. About 30 percent of people in their 50s, close to 50 percent of those in their 60s and nearly 70 percent of those in their 70s will notice a measurable decrease in their ability to hear correctly. And this unwelcome development is further complicated by the fact

that the average older American postpones — for seven to 10 years — getting a hearing aid or device. Sadly, the longer people refuse to address their hearing loss, the greater the risk — to the brain! — of losing the ability to translate what someone says into usable speech. A variety of factors can contribute to losing our ability to hear properly. They include the following: ■■ Changes in blood flow to the ear. ■■ Changes in the structure of the inner ear. ■■ Changes in the way our brain processes sound or speech. ■■ Damage to the tiny ear hairs that transmit sound to the brain. ■■ Diabetes. ■■ Exposure to loud noises. ■■ Family history of hearing loss. ■■ Impairment of the nerves responsible for hearing. ■■ Poor circulation. ■■ Smoking. ■■ Use of certain medications. Currently, there are three theories regarding why we hear less as we grow older. One is the wearand-tear assumption that with the passing years, our mechanisms for hearing correctly simply “age out.” Other scientists believe in the free radical theory, which asserts that a lifetime accumulation of free radicals can irrevocably damage our hearing mechanism. And yet others insist that a genetic predisposition explains why some people can hear well into their 90s, while others struggle as soon as they hit the half-century

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Make the most of your newfound free time By DOUG and EMMA MAYBERRY Q: I was a sales manager in a major department store for 28 years and looked forward to having a new and exciting lifestyle in retirement. I finally retired in the last year, but I’m finding myself bored to death! While working, I liked the feeling of accomplishing things, meeting new people and taking pride in my work. Now I’ve lost my sense of focus. How can I feel like my old self ? A: Start by realizing that you now have the opportunity to switch gears and look forward to a new lifestyle. Be grateful for the blessings you have, as not everybody has them. Do you think that you are anxious and fearful for the future? Some difficulties that many retirees face are losing business contacts and longtime work friendships, and not having a reason to get out of bed. However, you now have the chance to develop new skills, such as learning how to relax, taking your time to appreciate life, choosing new hobbies and adventures and developing your relationships with others. Now that you’re retired, you are in control of your personal


Retirement provides time to relax, appreciate life and go on new adventures. life. Now that you don’t have work commitments dictating your daily schedule, you have to build your life from the bottom up. Find reasons to be excited for every day. Retirement is what you make of it! — Doug Q: After having a stroke

six months ago, my husband hasn’t recovered completely. Although he’s improved significantly, he still finds talking very difficult. He speaks slowly and has trouble finding his words. Trying to speak often leaves him frustrated. How can I support the man

I love? A: The best thing that you can do is to help him adjust to his new challenges. Although he will doubtlessly be frustrated with himself, you can try to give him some extra help avoiding common obstacles. Speak clearly without raising

your voice. Speak at a slightly slower pace, but don’t overdo it. Avoid spaces with a lot of background noise, like crowded restaurants or hardware stores. Say one idea at a time, and avoid complicated sentence structures. Hand gestures, facial expressions or the tone of your voice can make it easier for him to understand you. If he makes mistakes when speaking, don’t make a big deal of it. The more he practices speaking, the easier and less stressful it may feel. Finally, give him time to talk, and don’t interrupt. Although you may want to help, interfering could be demeaning and foster dependence. When talking about aphasia, remember that language impairments aren’t the same thing as cognitive difficulties. Although your husband isn’t able to speak as he did before, that doesn’t mean that he is less intelligent. Depending on the exact nature of his stroke, he will find particular communicative tasks challenging. Every case of aphasia is slightly different. You can help by talking with him about what he struggles with and figuring out coping methods. Most of all, continue to be patient and loving. A positive attitude makes it easier to get through all struggles. — Emma, Doug’s granddaughter

Does older equal happier? The bell curves of life satisfaction By MARILYN MURRAY WILLISON Like most baby boomers, I had always embraced the “Forever Young” mantra of Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart, which suggests that life’s best blessings are reserved for the youthful. Now that I’m officially a senior citizen, I find it reassuring to learn that — against all odds — being older seems to really mean being happier. Stanford University psychologist and founding Director of the Stanford Center of Longevity Dr. Laura L. Carstensen discovered with her colleagues that there really is a U-shaped curve to our sense of well-being. In her words: “Forties were, for me, the worst.

You’re never good enough professionally. I think you’re coming out of the fog in the 50s. ... The peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade.” And when David Blanchflower of Dartmouth University and Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick began to measure the relationship between work and happiness, the results of international surveys that focused on “life satisfaction” surprised them. For the first couple of decades of adulthood, the numbers declined until they bottomed out in the 40s or early 50s. They would then increase with age and often reach a higher level than in young adulthood. On average, the lowest point — in 55 of the 80 countries surveyed — was 46 years of age.

Carol Graham and Milena Nikolova studied polls from 149 countries that asked people to rate their lives on a scale from zero to 10, where 10 represented the “best possible life for you” and zero the worst. In all but nine of the countries where they found a relationship between age and happiness, the average lowest level of satisfaction was about age 50. As a quirky aside, primatologists gathered information from zookeepers, researchers and other animal caretakers to rate the wellbeing of more than 500 captive orangutans and chimps in Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore and the United States. Believe it or not, the apes’ well-being bottomed out at ages that would be comparable in humans between 45 and

50 years old. Researchers have come to some age-related happiness conclusions: ■■ Younger people consistently overestimated how happy they would be in five years. ■■ Older people underestimated their future sense of satisfaction. ■■ During middle age, both life satisfaction and expectations are in decline. ■■ For this reason, middle-aged people tend to be disappointed and pessimistic. ■■ Eventually, the expectations stop declining and come to rest at a lower level than in youth; surprises become positive; and life satisfaction moves upward. This usually happens around age 50. ■■ When the future becomes closer and more constrained, we

focus on the present, which helps older people live in the moment and savor the now. ■■ In spite (or because) of physical decline, older people acquire wisdom, which can act as a springboard to contentment. ■■ Older individuals are less likely to feel unhappy about things they can’t change, which means they live with less regret than younger people. ■■ Compared with younger people’s brains, older people’s react less strongly to negative stimuli, which means that younger people tend to wind up with more negative feelings. ■■ The older we get, the easier it becomes for our aging brains to be more grateful, more calm, more satisfied and wiser.

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Who do you trust? SS knowledge and authority By TOM MARGENAU You know how sometimes one thing can lead to another? The other day, I was watching Jay Leno’s TV show, “Jay Leno’s Garage.” He was driving around in a car once owned by his “Tonight Show” predecessor, Johnny Carson. It was a car that Johnny grew up with — his father’s 1939 Chrysler. Jay mentioned that Johnny had once done a TV special in which he drove that Chrysler back to Norfolk, Nebraska, and took viewers on a tour of his hometown. I remembered that show, so later that night, I rewatched it on YouTube. And, as I said, one thing leads to another, and I next watched a couple episodes of Johnny’s TV debut, a program called “Who Do You Trust?” So what’s all of this have to do with Social Security? Well that show’s title got me to thinking about emails I get from my readers. They frequently tell me what they heard from a representative at their local Social Security office. And, more often than I hoped would be necessary, I tell them that what they were told (or maybe what they thought they were told) is wrong. I then proceed to explain the way things really work. And I think I’ve done my job. But watching that old game show led me to wonder: “Who do you trust?” My readers heard one thing from a Social Security clerk and something else from me. So do they trust me? Or do they trust the clerk? Well, I’ve been doing this stuff for 45 years, and I think I’m pretty well versed in Social Security rules and regulations. And I hope that when people go back to their SSA office, they either learn that they misunderstood the agent the first time, or they get someone who verifies that what I told them was correct. Here are some examples of what I am talking about. Q: My wife is about to turn 65. We went to our Social Security office to sign her up for Social Security. I am 73. I started

my Social Security at age 70. I get $2,788 per month. We said my wife wanted to file and restrict -- taking spousal benefits on my account and then saving her own until 70. The clerk said that would be fine. He said she would get half of my benefit now, or $1,394. Then at age 70, she could switch to $1,995 on her own record. We then asked about widow’s benefits when I die. He said she would get 82.5 percent of my benefit, or $2,300 per month. We decided to put everything on hold so we can think about it and ask you for your advice. What do you think? A: I think you either misunderstood what the Social Security agent was telling you. Or you got a clunker of a clerk. Because most of what you told me is messed up. First, your wife can only employ the maximizing strategy called “file and restrict” if she is 66 years old. Second, even if your wife were 66 and wanted to file for spousal benefits on your record, she would not get half of your current benefit, which includes a 32 percent bonus that you got for delaying your own benefits until age 70. Her spousal rate would be based on your full retirement (age 66) benefit amount. And the widow’s rate the clerk quoted you is way off base. The 82.5 percent rate is close to the minimum amount a widow can receive. Assuming your wife is over age 66 when you die, she will get 100 percent of your retirement benefit, and this time it will include the extra money you are getting for delaying your retirement. So what are your wife’s options? If she does want to file at age 65, her only choice would be to take her own retirement benefit. She’d get about 92 percent of her full retirement rate. Or if she does want to do the “file and restrict” thing, she could wait until she is 66 and file for spousal benefits and get 50 percent of your full retirement rate. Then at 70, she could switch to 132 percent of her own

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retirement benefit. Q: I am 64 years old. I just got back from my Social Security office where I went to sign up. The clerk told me that I could collect my own Social Security now, and then later on, switch to higher benefits from my divorced husband. He is 72 and already getting his Social Security. She told me to come back when I was 66 to file for his benefits. She also mentioned something about widow’s benefits. But I was a little confused. Can you tell me what is going on? A: I wonder if you misunderstood what the Social Security representative was saying. She might have been telling you that when your ex-husband dies, you could switch to higher benefits on his record. In fact, assuming you are over age 66 when that hap-

pens, you would get 100 percent of his Social Security rate, less what you are getting on your own account. I hope that’s what the clerk was trying to tell you. Because if she was telling you that you could file for reduced retirement benefits now, and then later on switch to higher benefits on his record while he is still alive, then she was wrong. That’s because of the “deemed filing rule” that says this: If you file for one kind of Social Security benefit, you are deemed to be filing for any and all benefits you are due at the same time. So because your ex is already getting benefits, if you file for your retirement now, you must also file for divorced wife’s benefits now. You can’t wait until a later date and file for spousal benefits. Q: I turned 68 yesterday. I

had previously decided not to file for my own benefits until I reach age 70. But financial circumstances forced me to change my mind. I need my benefits now. So imagine my shock when I called Social Security and was told that once I made my decision to wait until 70, I can’t change my mind. Is this true? A: It is absolutely not true. You will have two choices. File now with no retroactivity. You will get your full benefit along with 24 months worth of “delayed retirement credits.” That means your ongoing benefit rate will be 116 percent of your full rate. Your other option would be to take six months worth of retroactive benefits. Then your ongoing rate would be only 112 percent of your full rate, but you would get a big retroactive check.


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Yoga has been shown to improve chronic lower back pain and fibromyalgia osteoporosis-related curvature of the spine, as well as improve your mood and well-being.

Understanding, dealing with age-related pains By KRISTEN CASTILLO Aging can bring some aches and pains, such as arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all people over age 65 have reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis. What happens as we get older? The Mayo Clinic reports that as we age, our bones shrink in size and density, making them weaker and more susceptible to breaking. Plus, our muscles lose strength, flexibility and endurance, all of which can impact our balance, coordination and stability. To promote good bone, joint and muscle health, the clinic suggests adults get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day. Women over age 51 and men over age 71 should take 1,200 milligrams daily. Get vitamin D, too. Adults up to age 70 need 600 IU a day, while those over 70 should get 800 IU. The Mayo Clinic also recommends weight-bearing exercises,

such as walking, climbing stairs, jogging and playing tennis to help keep bones strong and slow bone loss. Move it While age-related pain varies from person to person, it’s not necessarily a doom and gloom situation. “The expectation that pain comes with aging is an unfortunate one and can lead to helplessness that there isn’t anything that can be done,” says physical therapist Devra Sheldon. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. Aging does not equal pain.” Sheldon, who specializes in helping patients manage pain through movement, encourages those with general aches and pains to find the movements and exercises they like. “If you’re not into a particular type of exercise, then that’s not the one for you,” she says. She teaches patients to look for “movement opportunities.” For example, when getting up from a chair or couch, perform five sit-

to-stands. When standing at the bathroom sink, do 10 heel raises. Wear and tear “As we age, we suffer from years of wear and tear in our joints,” says certified personal trainer and nutritionist Adnan Munye, noting that people over 50 can be affected by arthritic pain, a lack of mobility, muscle imbalances and impact injuries from falls. He recommends exercising daily, with a focus on being gentle. Swimming and Pilates, for example, are great ways to stay active without straining joints. “Some movement every day helps to keep circulation in good order,” says Munye. “It keeps synovial fluid production in the joints high, helping arthritis, and improves cardiovascular health.” He also advises using a sauna two to three times a week, which can reduce inflammation and improve circulation. Yoga According to Harvard Health Publishing, studies show yoga can

help people with chronic low back pain, as well as those with fibromyalgia osteoporosis-related curvature of the spine and other conditions. Plus, yoga can improve a person’s mood and psychosocial well-being. “A regular yoga practice can also improve core strength and balance to prevent against falls and injuries and has been shown to improve respiratory function and circulation,” says yoga instructor Leslie Conner, noting the exercise can strengthen muscles and increase stability in joints. Yoga is highly adaptive, too, so it’s a fit for people of all ages and physical abilities. Patients with multiple sclerosis, for example, can practice yoga from a chair instead of a mat on the floor. Lifting weights Pick up those dumbbells. If the idea of weightlifting to reduce pain seems counterintuitive, think again. Nick Rizzo, director of training and fitness at RunRepeat, did

a meta-analysis of over 126 scientifically peer-reviewed studies on the benefits of weight training and strength training for seniors. He found that studies on agerelated pain have shown weightlifting improves overall quality of life by easing general aches and pains, as well as disorder-specific ones. He says weightlifting is also good for your brain, helping improve your memory. Tips for managing pain ■■ Aching feet and legs? Wear medical compression stockings or socks to help ease swelling, improve circulation and prevent blood clots. ■■ Sooth body aches by soaking in a warm bath with Epsom salts. ■■ Ease joint pain by applying heat to joints when they’re stiff and icing them when they’re swollen. ■■ As always, consult your doctor before trying new therapies and if a new injury or pain develops.

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Fun, simple activities can boost brain health By KRISTEN CASTILLO It’s important to keep your brain sharp as you age. “In order to engage our brains for an ideal level of challenge, we should aim for something that is new, novel and challenging to maximize our effort — grow our brains, new neurons and strengthen our neuronal networks,” says certified brain health coach Dr. Krystal L. Culler, DBH, M.A., founder of Your Brain Health Matters, LLC and an Atlantic fellow for Equity in Brain Health. Dr. Culler says brain health is 70% lifestyle and 30% genetics. She encourages people to think about brain fitness the same way they think about physical exercise. That means giving your brain a 15to 20-minute daily workout, adding up to at least two hours a week. Read on for easy ways to stimulate your brain. Game on Playing games — whether it’s chess, puzzles or computer games, such as Words With Friends or gem matching — may help your brain to stay engaged. For example, smartphone apps can be an entertaining and challenging activity for the brain. One app, Elevate, which was Apple’s pick for 2014’s top app, uses artificial intelligence to create custom exercises for each user, tailored to their personal goals. In a four-week study of 125 Elevate users, conducted for the game company by a researcher at California State University,

Stanislaus, and Nichols Research, Inc., participants who had access to Elevate games and training exercises improved their test scores “69% more than the control group, which did not have access to the games and exercises.” While research on the overall benefits of cognitive games is mixed, one study shows participants may get good at a mindstimulating activity, such as crosswords, even if those gaming skills don’t transfer to other brain health, like attention to problem-solving. Still, that doesn’t mean the activity isn’t valuable. You can have a healthier, happier life by participating in games and activities you enjoy. “Having fun with new learning experiences or engaging in topics that are of interest to us can pique our curiosity and increase our likelihood to stay engaged,” says Dr. Culler. Read Challenge your brain with reading but mix up your habits. Dr. Culler suggests reading a different section of the newspaper than you usually would or reading a new magazine. Next, read some passages out loud, which she says can activate different areas of your brain. Read your newspaper, book or magazine with the intent to share the message with friends. You will be more mindful and process the information differently. Set new goals Try new things. Set an intention to do something new, such as


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visiting museums, attending talks, etc., for the next week or month. Map it out and invite a friend. Dr. Culler says both the planning process and socialization have brain benefits, too. Meditate Clearing your mind can be good for your brain as well. “Set aside time daily to cool your brain, practice mindfulness or meditate,” says Dr. Culler. “Meditation is an excellent brain workout, and studies have found numerous benefits for the brain. If meditation is not a daily part of your routine, aim to add it in.”

She recommends starting with a few minutes of meditation a day and working up to 20 minutes or longer. Search online, such as on YouTube, for free meditation videos or check out meditation apps like Calm and Headspace. Healthy habits The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America encourage people to adopt healthy habits to help improve brain health. Among their recommendations: ■■ Get moving: “Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain.” This can include brisk

walking. ■■ Eat healthy: “In general, foods that are ‘heart heathy’ are also ‘brain healthy.’” Avoid processed and fatty foods as well as salt and sugar. Instead, eat berries, broccoli and other fresh foods. ■■ Get consistent sleep: Aim for seven to nine hours of shuteye nightly, as proper sleep helps memory and thinking. ■■ Mix up your routine: For example, “brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand stimulates the brain by forcing it to think outside of its normal routine.”

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Research shows exercise can restore aging heart By CHUCK NORRIS According to the Arkansas Heart Hospital, within the average human, about 2,000 gallons of blood travel daily through about 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Because of its vastness and essential nature, the cardiovascular system is most prone to disease and a major factor in why cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. As we age — even if we do so in good health — the heart becomes less flexible and not as efficient in processing oxygen as it used to be. For most people, the first signs of this change begin to show up in their 50s or early 60s. What if you could take this 50 year-old heart and transform it to that of a 30- or 35-year-old merely through exercise? As reported by NPR, according to recent findings published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, cardiologists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have demonstrated this possibility. They also discovered that for even a midlifer who has not been an avid exerciser, getting in shape now could head off decline and help restore an aging heart. For the study, researchers recruited individuals between the ages of 45 and 64 who were mostly sedentary but otherwise healthy. Participants in the study were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group engaged in a program of nonaerobic exercise such as basic yoga, balance training and weight training. They performed these exercises three times a week. The other group was assigned a trainer and did moderateto-high-intensity aerobic exercise for four or more days a week. After two years, the group doing the higher-intensity exercise saw dramatic improvements in heart health. Their hearts processed oxygen more efficiently and were notably less stiff. The hearts of those engaged in less intense routines did not change. A key part of the exercise regimen was interval training: short

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bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a few minutes of rest. “It’s an old Norwegian ski team workout,” Dr. Ben Levine, sports cardiologist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center tells NPR. “It means four minutes at 95 percent of your maximal ability, followed by three minutes of active recovery, repeated four times.” The difference between this study and previous heart studies is that it focused specifically on heart function and on how heart function can improve with exercise. It also focused on what researchers call “the sweet spot in life,” late middle age when the heart still has plasticity. Researchers are quick to point out that anyone considering such high-intensity workouts should check with a doctor first and ask about individual health issues that might warrant a less intense program initially. It is further pointed out that this initial study is considered a small one and

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more research is needed. It is also stressed that there appears to be a time limit during which you are able to reverse the aging of the blood vessels. Researchers also put healthy 70-yearolds through a yearlong exercise program, and nothing changed as to the structure of their heart and blood vessels. This is not to suggest that exercise does not relate to better health for people as they age. A recent study conducted by Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo, shows that exercise training helps improve daily life for obese adults with asthma. Researchers found that patients who exercised had improvements in physical activity and asthma-symptom-free days, as well as declines in depression symptoms and sleep apnea. “In the past, exercise was seen as harmful to asthmatic patients because they’d have a reaction to the exercise and airways would narrow,” senior study author Dr. Celso Carvalho explained to Re-

uters Health. “However, we’ve learned that exercise can be good for asthma patients and even better for those who are obese.” The study randomly assigned 55 obese adults with asthma to participate either in a weight-loss program with exercise, including aerobic training and weightlifting, or a weight-loss program that focused on nutrition, psychological therapies and breathing and stretching exercises. Following two sessions per week for three months, people in the weight loss and exercise training group had increased their step count by more than 3,000 steps per day, compared to about 730 steps per day in the group that did not get more strenuous exercise training. In addition, the exercise group had about 15 asthma-symptomfree days per month, on average, compared to about nine days per month for the control group “There is a tendency by doctors to rely on pharmacological treatment and neglect non-pharmaco-

logical interventions,” Carvalho tells Reuters. “This study adds to the body of knowledge that this tendency is incorrect.” According to a recent New York Times report, despite warnings from experts, older people are using more anti-anxiety and sleep medications, putting them at risk of serious side effects and even overdoses. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1999, there were 63 related deaths among those aged 65 and older attributed to drugs primarily used for treating anxiety. Almost 29% also involved an opioid. By 2015, these deaths in that age group had jumped to 431, with more than two-thirds involving an opioid. Even patients taking the drugs exactly as prescribed can unwittingly wind up in this situation, since both sleep problems and chronic pain occur more frequently at older ages. There seems to be little reluctance to fill such prescriptions.



Maintain physical health, appearance as you age By DOUG and EMMA MAYBERRY Q: I’m finding that my skin is getting more fragile and dry with every year. Winter is especially harsh on my tender skin. I’ve resorted to showering less frequently, which has helped. On the other hand, I don’t feel clean, and I worry that people are judging me. What’s the best way to stay clean? A: Bodily changes are a natural part of aging, but they sure can be irritating and frustrating! There are ways for you to stay clean and take care of your skin: ■■ Look for soaps specifically designed for aging skin. Check the label for shea butter, which is especially helpful. ■■ Apply lotion regularly, espe-

cially to your hands, elbows and knees. ■■ To maintain your hygiene between showers, apply deodorant regularly and use dry shampoo on your hair. Although bathing less frequently may be a good idea, there’s no need to feel self-conscious! — Doug Q: I’ve had cavities all my life and had to have several teeth taken out. The dentist is insistent that I be careful about removing my dentures at night and cleaning them, but I’m skeptical. As far as I can see, the damage is already done, and I don’t especially want anybody to see my missing teeth. Does it really matter if I’m a little lazy about cleaning them? A: Even with dentures, dental hygiene is essential.

One of the primary risks with dentures is the potential to develop a fungal infection. The material of dentures, acrylic resin, is prone to developing a microbe infection called candidiasis. Wearing dentures increases your likelihood of infection. Symptoms to watch out for include white lesions; bumps along your cheeks and tongue; sores in the roof or back of your mouth; white, creamy material that can be wiped away; and cracks at the corners of your mouth. Fungal infections are hard to get rid of, as fungi are more similar to human cells than bacteria. Although there are medications that combat fungal infections, you

will be susceptible to redeveloping the condition, even after treating it. If you develop an infection, you will likely need to get a prescription medication to target it. Some recent research has found that fungal infections in the mouth can have more widespread, deleterious effects. These infections can spread into your bloodstream and potentially lead to swelling around the brain. Researchers are now investigating links between oral fungal infections and Alzheimer’s disease. For your health, remove the dentures nightly. Soaking them in a denture cleanser will help to lift bacteria, which can be brushed

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away the next morning. For a periodical deeper clean, you can also soak them in bleach diluted with water. When you go to the dentist for your regular checkups, bring your dentures along with you. Your dentist can examine them for signs of infection and clear away plaque. Some good news for the future is recent research into antifungal dentures. These dentures will be designed to nip fungal infections in the bud, relieving people like you from health risks. We hope to see them in the next few years, but in the meantime you should stay vigilant. — Emma, Doug’s granddaughte.

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Smartphones, Fitbits bring freedom, ease By KRISTEN CASTILLO These days, you don’t have to be a millennial or a tech junkie to understand how to use some of the latest technology, like smartphones and fitness trackers, because the gear is becoming more user-friendly. Older Americans who embrace technology can enhance their lives by staying informed, shopping, connecting with friends and family, and even tracking their health and fitness progress. Smart investment The over-50 crowd is getting more and more engaged with tech. According to a November AARP study of 1,520 adults over 50, 70 percent of Americans own a smartphone; 90 percent own a laptop or computer; and 40 percent own a tablet. With functions like taking and storing photos, playing music and games, and tracking everything from your heart rate to your finances, the devices are both practical and fun. Eighty-nine percent of respondents send and receive emails and texts on their devices; 77 percent use it for traffic information and directions; and 28 percent use it to manage their health care. Seventy-nine percent say they do their banking on their computer, while 35 percent do it on their smartphone. For entertainment, 42 percent play games on their gadgets (“Words with Friends,” anyone?), while 34 percent watch videos or shows. Regardless of the device, tech is a personal tool for day-today activities and communication. Personal connection Technology allows seniors to stay in touch with family and friends near or far, and some technology is made especially for a senior audience. The GrandPad tablet connects seniors through voice and video calls and instant photo sharing. Targeted toward people over 75 who may not use cellphones or computers, it has large buttons and an intuitive interface. Family members can preload contacts and pictures and then use the GrandPad companion mobile app and web portal to start chatting, ensuring that no memories are missed. Nixplay is a digital picture frame that uses Wi-Fi to immediately display media sent from anywhere in the world with friends and loved ones. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, and it connects to platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox and Google Photos. Nixplay can function as a family social network to strengthen your relationships. Wearables Wearables have been adopted by just 13 percent of the over-50 crowd, according to the AARP study, though new wearables that cater to seniors can actually make a difference in personal safety and health and wellness. Fitbit users can expect the gadget to track their sleep patterns, heart rate, steps and stairs climbed. They can manually enter data such as when and what they eat or how much water they drink. Staying mobile and active is key for seniors’ physical health and well-being, and this device helps wearers be mindful. A safety wearable called run

angel, which is worn on the wrist like most wearables, can be used to help caregivers and family members know the whereabouts of their loved one. In an emergency, you can press an alert button that produces a loud alarm and alerts up to three designated people with the time, date, coordinates and map to your location. Trusted family and friends will be with you every step of the way. Freedom Guardian is an all-inone medical alert smartwatch that provides around-the-clock monitoring and support, including unlimited emergency calls, speechto-text messaging, calendar and appointment reminders, weather forecast, GPS and Wi-Fi triangulation. A caregiver can check in via the companion mobile app. The PC Magazine product review

Seniors are using technology, like GrandPad tablets, to connect with family through calls and photos sharing. GRANDPAD.COM CREATORS.COM

website gave the device an excellent rating but notes a drawback: There’s a monthly $44.95 monitoring fee. Any of these devices make fantastic gifts and go a long way to offer you and your loved ones peace of mind. Health tech Medical expenses increase as we age, but technology can actually help us save money on medicine. FamilyWize is a prescription savings program that offers free digital tools including a mobile app to help seniors find the lowest drug prices and manage their pre-

scriptions. With the app Medicine Cabinet tool, users get alerts when a lower price becomes available. The drug price lookup tool allows users to search for the lowest price within their ZIP code for any FDA-approved medication. A new generation of hearing aids is here. According to the What Mobile website, the new Signia Styletto allows users to adjust the volume and other audio settings via a mobile app. Its portable charging dock allows up to four days of continuous use before needing to power up, and it has fully rechargeable built-in lithi-

um-ion batteries. With innovative function and design, seniors will be proud to wear this device. Most of these technologies have an initial purchase price but many have additional add-ons or subscriptions. Look for reviews and recommendations before purchasing. The digital world can be very intimidating for seniors, but even more daunting can be the fear of injury, becoming disconnected from loved ones or becoming less physically capable. Emerging tech is designed to help ease seniors’ transition and improve their vitality in every way.

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