Anxiety is on the rise in the U.S., with boomers leading the hand-wringing charge. A 2018 national poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association found that Americans’ anxiety score jumped five points on a zero-to-100 scale from the same poll taken in 2017 — with a seven-point leap among boomers.
Plenty of theories try to explain why we’re so stressed out, pointing to technology’s influence (devices that demand our constant attention), a faster-paced world and more widespread financial worries. Whatever the cause of your own anxiety, it’s helpful to have ways to calm yourself when you start to feel the tension rise. Consult a doctor if your anxiety is persistent or interfering with your daily life.
Here’s the lowdown on some popular self-calming methods:
What it is: The practice of simply being still and focusing on your breath while you let thoughts float by — staying present without drifting into worries about the past or future.
One beautiful benefit is that you can do it nearly anytime, anywhere, says mindfulness mediation trainer Danesh Alam, a psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “If you’re going to a family event and it’s going to be a high-anxiety day, you can slip away to have a five-minute meditation every hour. Do some deep breathing, and in those five minutes you’ll lower your stress hormones and rejuvenate yourself,” Alam says.
Science says: Of all the self-care stress relievers, meditation is among the best-researched. A 2014 metanalysis of studies including 47 trials and 3,515 participants reported that mindfulness meditation practiced for two to six months worked as well for reducing anxiety symptoms as antidepressant medications.
Bottom line: Mindfulness meditation is easy, accessible and highly recommended for anxiety. Though many books, online articles and smartphone meditation apps like Headspace can guide you through the steps, Alam recommends taking a class. “Most communities have mindfulness meditation groups, some are no charge, where you can learn and ask questions. It’s a good way to start,” he says.
What it is: Using scents, generally from essential oils from plants, to manipulate your state of mind. The theory is that inhaling certain compounds can affect the same parts of your brain as anti-anxiety drugs, but without the worrisome side effects. Some popularly used essential oils for anxiety include lavender, rose, ylang-ylang, chamomile, jasmine, basil, clary sage and bergamot orange.
The simplest way to practice aromatherapy is to inhale these essential oils by sprinkling a few drops on your pillow or a cotton ball, spritzing them into the air, or using a diffuser that disperses the fragrance into the air. You also can apply them to your skin via lotions or in a bath, but they can be irritating if not properly diluted.
Science says: There’s not much valid scientific research on the effectiveness of essential oils and aromatherapy, says mental health counselor S. Katharina Star, adjunct professor at Cleveland State University. But dozens of small studies indicate that various essential oils may help reduce anxiety and stress, especially when used in hospital settings and other stressful situations.
Bottom line: “Scent has a connection to the brain, and there are certain scents, like lavender, that trigger a relaxing response,” Star says. “Some people really do find it effective. So if it works for you, use it.”
What they are: Blankets that are filled with beads and other materials to give them heft. They typically weigh anywhere from five to 25 pounds, depending on the size of the person (most guidelines suggest that your blanket weigh about one-tenth as much as you do). The idea is to simulate deep pressure touch (DPT) — a type of therapy that uses pressure to reduce stress and anxiety. Like swaddling an infant, weighted blankets are supposed to have a calming effect, lowering stress hormones, triggering the release of feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin, and helping you relax and sleep better.
Science says: Research is limited, but some studies have yielded positive results. One published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders reported that people with insomnia who went to bed with a weighted blanket found it easier to settle down and sleep, slept longer, and felt more refreshed in the morning. In another study of 32 adults, most (63 percent) reported lower anxiety after spending time under a 30-pound weighted blanket.
Bottom line: If you toss and turn at night and struggle to quiet your racing mind and relax enough to sleep, a weighted blanket could help. Just be prepared to pay at least $100 for one. Experts also caution that people with circulation, respiratory and/or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea should talk to their doctor before trying one.
What they are: A practice that’s at the heart of every piece of advice you’ve ever gotten when you were stressed out: “Just take a deep breath.” According to the American Institute of Stress, the goal is to use abdominal — or deep belly — breathing to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a sense of calm.
It’s similar to meditation, says Michael Ziffra, a psychiatrist with the Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago. “When you’re anxious, you have fast, shallow breathing, which can lead to hyperventilating, which triggers anxiety,” he says. “Deep breathing focuses on the inward and outward movements of the breath, getting your mind and body to a calmer place.”
Though practicing is as simple as taking deep breaths, there are specific methods you can use, including pranayamic breathing, where you inhale, hold, and exhale your breath for a certain number of seconds.
Science says: A 2017 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that volunteers who participated in eight weeks of deep breathing training (20 sessions in all) showed levels of the stress hormone cortisol significantly lower than in people who didn’t do breathing training. Other research has found deep breathing can lower anxiety and increase feelings of well-being.
Bottom line: You always have your breath with you, so deep breathing is a good tool for calming anxiety. Many smartphone apps, including Breathing Zone and Breathe+, can coach you through deep, even breathing.
What it is: Anything that involves moving your body — walking, cycling, lifting weights, yoga, tai chi, dancing, paddleboarding. The list is endless.
Science says: Myriad studies show that exercise improves well-being and stimulates feel-good brain chemicals that can help quell anxiety. One study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that six weeks of either aerobic exercise training or resistance exercise training reduced worrying among women with generalized anxiety disorder.
“Exercise is one of the biggest lifestyle interventions I recommend,” Ziffra says. “People who consistently exercise are a lot less prone to anxiety. People who don’t exercise have more problems with anxiety.”
Bottom line: If you do nothing else to beat stress and calm anxiety, exercise. It is hands down the best-researched and most widely recommended form of self-care for anxiety. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes a day of any activity you like.
by LENA ABRAHAM
bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
freshly chopped thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
cloves garlic, sliced
water or chicken broth
sprigs fresh thyme
- Season chicken all over with chopped thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper. Set Instant Pot to Sauté setting.
- Add oil to pot and add thighs skin-side down. Cook, in batches if needed, until golden and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes, then flip and cook 3 minutes more. Remove chicken from pot.
- Add garlic to pot and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add water or chicken broth and thyme sprigs, and use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pot.
- Fit Instant Pot with trivet and place thighs skin side up. Secure lid and press the manual setting. Cook on high for 12 minutes and then naturally release pressure.
- Carefully remove thighs and trivet. Place back on Sauté mode. Whisk 3 tablespoons of the hot broth (or water) into flour until smooth, then pour back into pot. Bring up to a simmer and cook until gravy has thickened slightly, about 7 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve thighs with gravy.
If using newer versions of Instant Pot, especially 8-quart capacity models, we recommend removing the inner pot and letting it cool off for 5 to 10 minutes before moving on to the pressure cooking stage. This will help prevent a potential burn warning.
Declining vision doesn’t mean you have to give up your autonomy. Celebrity designer Nate Berkus—known for appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and his most recent TV show, Nate & Jeremiah by Design, on TLC—is working on My home in Sight, a website with tools and information to adapt living spaces as eyesight changes.
- Why is helping people with low vision important to you?
- When I was a teenager, my grandmothers’ vision started to fail. I have vivid memories of her trying to explain how difficult it was to navigate her own apartment. This feels like an opportunity to give back to her.
- How can people keep their homes stylish and safe?
- Start with color and contrast. It’s really important for people with declining vision because it helps define the location of their furniture. Put two dark pillows on the sides of a neutral sofa. Place a bright, patterned throw over the arm of a chair so you know exactly where to sit down.
- We hear that you’re a fan of organization.
- Understatement of the century. But with declining vision, you can’t have a junk drawer. If you need to replace the batteries to your remote, you can’t be digging through stuff. In your linen closet, put things in baskets; that way you can take them to the kitchen, where it’s better lit.
- What are hazards people don’t think about?
- The borders of things are really important—where the area rug meets the floor, where the edge of a stair is. Use contrast tape on the treads of steps or to border out the area rug. It takes 10 minutes to do and doesn’t look ugly.
(written by Evelyn Spence for AARP The Magazine, December 2019/January 2020)
Fueled by women over 55, solo vacations are becoming increasingly popular
Being widowed has not stopped Cindy Cook from traveling the world on her own. “I just took my first solo trip for fun,” says the 66-year-old registered nurse from Howell, New Jersey, of her Danube River cruise. “There were several single women on the ship, so that made it extra fun.”
Cook is part of a trend driven largely by boomer women. “We are seeing a rise in solo travel,” with 36 percent of consumers in a survey planning to take, at least in part, one trip alone, says Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, one of North America’s largest travel companies. Through an online survey of Americans who said they were interested in solo travel, Expedia found that 60 percent of these traveler’s plan to take a solo trip in the next year. In fact, when given the choice between bringing their mobile phone or a travel companion on their next trip, one-third of these travelers from the same survey said they would choose to go solo with just their device.
A FAST-GROWING TREND
Over the past five years, “solo travel has been the fastest-growing segment of our business,” says Brian Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Overseas Adventure Travel. In 2010 women traveling alone made up 27 percent of bookings for his company, which caters to people over 55; now he puts that figure at 50 percent. “Women over 55, especially, are curious learners and passionate about travel. They’ve worked their whole lives to travel and don’t want to sit home. They’d rather be on the road and connecting with people.”
The travel company Tauck has also seen a spike in solo travel, especially on its riverboats, says Katharine Bonner, senior vice president for river and small-ship cruising, with 90 percent of the company’s solo riverboat cruisers over 50. “The baby boomer generation is now empty nesters and recently retired, which is our sweet spot.”
What’s more, she says, “75 percent of our solo travelers are women. They’re more willing to travel by themselves, and they like to travel more than men. Some are married, but their husbands don’t like to travel, so they travel without them. Some are widows who previously traveled with their husbands.”
But solo travel can be pricey. Surcharges abound, often because a single booking is taking up a room space that otherwise could house two people. For example, a six-day Danube River cruise in May 2020 with Avalon Waterways starts at $1,929 per person for a couple; a single traveler pays $3,331. Similarly, a nine-day air-inclusive motor coach tour to San Antonio and New Orleans with Holiday Vacations in April 2020 costs $3,999 per person with double occupancy; that same trip is $4,799 for a solo traveler.
THE INDUSTRY RESPONDS
To help singles save on these costs, some tour companies now specialize in solo travel. Most women who go on a tour by Wild Women Expeditions are traveling solo. Typically, they share a room or cabin with a fellow traveler, but they can usually get a private room for a nominal fee. The same goes for Exodus Travels, with 66 percent of their customers traveling solo, and Intrepid Travel, with about 50 percent going alone. Overseas Adventure Travel is adding 2,000 more solo slots, with no extra charges for singles.
Bonnie Mack, a 72-year-old retiree living in Clearwater, Florida, has taken several international solo trips. “Traveling alone helps you get into a place better and connect with other prople,” she says. “When you’re with a companion, you tend to stay with your companion.”
Mack is a longtime solo traveler and has stories about the benefits: “When I went to Bali, Indonesia, by myself about 23 years ago, I met a Burmese man walking from my hotel to the market. We ended up spending the whole afternoon together and had a drink at the hotel afterward. That wouldn’t happen if you’re with a companion.”
THE JOYS OF ONE
Cook, who considers herself outgoing, also enjoyed making friends on her cruise. “We hung out and did shore excursions together and have kept in touch,” she says. “If I had traveled with my husband, we probably would have stayed together and not met other people.”
Plus, singles like Cook appreciate being able to relate to their destination on their own terms. “Since the trip was to explore my heritage in Slovakia, I didn’t want the distraction of having a companion,” she says.
Both Mack and Cook value the sociability, support and safety of traveling with a group or on a cruise.
“Being alone can be intimidating: some women are apprehensive about it,” says Mack. “On a tour, you’ve got your guide and your nucleus of other people.” For example, when she visited India on a tour, she says: “I ended up connecting with my tour guide and giving him my DVD of 3, which he had always wanted to see. Everyone else was in couples. I felt I had someone to lean on. To this day, we’re still communicating.”
Above all, such travel can give a solo traveler a sense of empowerment. “When I got back from my India trip, I felt I could talk to the world because I had done it by myself,” Mack says. “That’s the greatest thing.”
(by Veronica Stoddart for AARP Bulletin, December 2019)
**The discounts and benefits are real, but you have to read the fine print**
Should you give a store money before you shop so you can land a discount later on? Many of us already do. Nearly 60 percent of Americans are paying members of shopping clubs, according to a new study by Clarus Commerce. To get deals on goods or shipping, we pony up monthly or annual fees to both niche retailers and giants like Costco, Sam’s Club and Amazon Prime.
Before signing up, assess your likely spending: why join if your membership fee will be greater than all the discounts you earn? Check the fine print for limitations, and note when your membership expires so you can cancel, if desired, before it automatically renews.
Here are six clubs from major retailers to consider:
Cost: $19.95 to $23.95 a month (depending on where you live)
Perks: The a-list level of AMC’s Stubs program gives you three free movies per week. You also get 10 percent discounts on concessions and free size upgrades on popcorn and drinks.
The fine print: You can’t roll over unused movies to the next week, and reservation no-shows count toward your balance. The program may exclude titles on a limited basis.
Cost: $5 a month or $48 a year
Perks: A monthly $10 store credit, which expires at the end of each month. You also get one-to-two day free shipping on qualifying prescriptions at cvs.com, and 20 percent off regularly priced CVS Health brand products.
The fine print: No discounts on prescriptions, and no free shipping on meds if they’re covered by a government health plan, including Medicare Part B and most Medicaid plans. The $10 credit is not redeemable at Target CVS pharmacies. Copays, lottery tickets and many other items are excluded.
Cost: $20 a year for an individual; $35 a year for a family membership
Perks: Discounts on more than 8,000 prescription drugs, including most generics; 5 percent to 20 percent discounts on most immunizations; 10 percent savings at Walgreens Healthcare Clinic; and discounts on nebulizers and diabetic supplies. You can also get discounts on human medications that are commonly given to pets.
The fine print: Medicare and Medicaid recipients are excluded. Pet meds need a veterinarian’s prescription; pets have to be members, either as individuals or in a family plan.
On the first day of 2020, several tweaks to Social Security will affect both beneficiaries and some workers paying into the system. Here’s what you need to know.
- Monthly benefits will increase. Checks will be slightly larger beginning in January, as a 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment kicks in. The average beneficiary will see a jump of roughly $24 per month or $288 for the year.
- The maximum monthly benefit will rise. A single recipient can get as much as $3,011 per month in 2020, up from $2,861
- If you have begun receiving benefits but you won’t reach the full retirement age of 66 until 2021 or later, you will be able to earn more in 2020 before one dollar is deducted for every two you earn. The new limit if $18,240. If you’ll turn 66 in 2020, you’ll be able to earn $48,600 before the agency deducts $1 for every $3 you earn until you reach full retirement age.
- Some of those paying into the system will pay more. Workers pay 6.2 percent of their earnings to fund Social Security. In 2019, that was capped at the first $132,900 earned. That cap will rise to $137,700.
- How much you have to earn to gain a Social Security “credit” edges up from $1,360 per three-month quarter, to $1,410. In most cases, to qualify for benefits you’ll need a minimum of 40 credits, or 10 years’ worth.
- Those on Supplemental Security Income, a federal program that aids the aged, blind and people with disabilities who have little or no income, will see a rise in their benefit, from $771 a month to $783. The amount for couples rises from $1,157 to $1,175.
To check the amount of your 2020 Social Security monthly benefit, sign in or create a My Social Security account at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
(from the AARP Bulletin, December 2019)
It’s a Wonderful Life in Bailey Park…… Moving to this active adult community opens up possibilities. We take care of unwanted tasks, get rid of all the needless worries, and surround you with resources and inspiration. Bailey Park gives you peace of mind and more free time for the people and things you love most. Bailey Park will give you the best of both worlds…country living in picturesque surroundings with access to larger communities of culture, shopping and fun. Bailey Park 55 plus community is truly “A Wonderful Life”.
Bailey Park is 45 minutes from Wyoming Valley Mall & Lycoming Mall
Berwick or Bloomsburg is only a 30-minute drive away.
There are multiple bus trips held in the area for Seniors that enjoy New York City, Philadelphia and Atlantic City.
For the Sportsperson: Fishing abounds in our local creeks, Briar
Creek Lake in Berwick & Lake Jean at Ricketts Glen State Park!
Benton has some of the best hunting around as we are surrounded by State Game Lands.
Call us today for your personal tour of Bailey Park….It truly is “A Wonderful Life”
570-925-2077 or email us: email@example.com
Fun Facts about February
- It is the shortest month of the year.
- The Welsh call February “y mis bach” which means “little month”.
- It is the third month of winter.
- In the Southern Hemisphere February is a summer month the equivalent of August.
- The month is named for the Latin word februum which means purification.
- Together with January, it was the last of the months added to the Roman calendar.
- The largest American sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl, is held in February.
- The Saxon term for the month, Sol-monath, means “cake month”. This is because they offered cakes to the gods during this month.
Born on February 22…. George Washington (1732-1799) was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He served as commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and became the first U.S. President.
February 20, 1962 – Astronaut John Glenn became the first American launched into orbit. Traveling aboard the “Friendship 7” spacecraft, Glenn reached an altitude of 162 miles (260 kilometers) and completed three orbits in a flight lasting just under five hours. Glenn was the third American in space, preceded by Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom who had each completed short sub-orbital flights. All of them had been preceded by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who was the first human in space, completing one orbit on April 12, 1961 – a feat that intensified the already ongoing Space Race between the Russians and Americans. Glenn’s successful flight showed the Americans had caught up and was followed in September 1962 by President John F. Kennedy’s open call to land an American on the moon before the decade’s end
February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon.
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 45 minutes Ready in: 55 minutes
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons margarine, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a cast iron skillet.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and sugar. Toss the raisins with the flour mixture until coated. Make a well in the center and add the egg, buttermilk, and melted margarine. Stir until all of the dry ingredients are absorbed. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a few quick turns just to even out the dough. Handle the dough as little as possible. Pat into a flat circle, and place into the prepared pan.
- Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are golden.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2020 Allrecipes.com
Printed From Allrecipes.com 1/28/2020
Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14. It is a festival of romantic love and many people give cards, letters, flowers or presents to their spouse or partner. They may also arrange a romantic meal in a restaurant or night in a hotel. Common symbols of Valentine’s Day are hearts, red roses and Cupid.
What Do People Do?
Many people celebrate their love for their partner by sending cards or letters, giving gifts or flowers and arranging meals in restaurants or romantic nights in hotels. People who would like to have a romantic relationship with somebody may use the occasion to make this known, often anonymously. Valentine’s cards are often decorated with images of hearts, red roses or Cupid. Common Valentine’s Day gifts are flowers chocolates, candy, lingerie and champagne or sparkling wine. However, some people use the occasion to present lavish gifts, such as jewelry. Many restaurants and hotels have special offers at this time. These can include romantic meals or weekend breaks.
Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday. Government offices, stores, schools and other organizations are open as usual. Public transit systems run on their regular schedule. Restaurants may be busier than usual as many people go out for an evening with their spouse or partner. Valentine’s Day is also a very popular date for weddings.
There are a number of Saints called Valentine who are honored on February 14. The day became associated with romantic love in the Middle Ages in England. This may have followed on from the Pagan fertility festivals that were held all over Europe as the winter came to an end. Traditionally, lovers exchanged hand-written notes. Commercial cards became available in the mid nineteenth century.
The most common Valentine’s Day symbols are the heart, particularly in reds and pinks, and pictures or models of Cupid. Cupid is usually portrayed as a small winged figure with a bow and arrow. In mythology, he uses his arrow to strike the hearts of people. People who have fallen in love are sometimes said to be ‘struck by Cupid’s arrow. Other symbols of Valentine’s Day are couples in loving embraces and the gifts of flowers, chocolate, red roses and lingerie that couples often give each other.
THE PROBLEM: Elizabeth Spiegler, 68, a retired office manager in New York City, wrote in to ask who could handle her financial affairs if someday she can’t. Unmarried, she has no children and isn’t that close to her extended family. Her brother has her power of attorney for finances, but she’d like further backup. She doesn’t think she can ask her friends, and her financial adviser doesn’t want the job.
Spiegler is what’s called a solo ager: an older person without a partner or surviving children. A recent SeniorCare.com study found that 78 percent of solo agers had no one to help with the bills or finances. “ I think I may be fine,” says Spiegler, who now manages her own money. “But what if I’m not?”
THE ADVICE: For answers, I turned to attorneys and financial experts who work with older people and their families. Each discussed the risk of elder financial abuse and how enlisting the wrong helper—maybe even a relative—can lead to disaster. Here are the experts’ best solutions.
1. A trust with successor trustees: Spiegler would set up a living (or revocable) trust and put all the assets she could into it now. She’d be her own trustee, naming her brother and a financial institution as successor trustees, to take over if necessary. Eventually, the institution would handle her bills and investments. “The benefits of an institutional trustee are professionalism, experience and guidance,” says New York City estate planning attorney Martin Shenkman. “There are tons of checks and balances to protect you. That’s vital for anyone who is vulnerable and isolated.”
This safe solution can be pricey. Traditional trust companies sometimes serve only clients with several million dollars. But mainstream financial institutions such as Fidelity, Schwab and Vanguard also do this work. Their annual charges start at $4,500 (on top of usual investment costs, like fund fees). Even these less expensive alternatives, though, cost more than Spiegler—who has a pension and a retirement account in the low six figures—feels she can pay.
2. Bill Payers and watchdogs: What Spiegler needs is a team, says Carolyn McClanahan, a Jacksonville, Florida, financial adviser specializing in life-planning issues. “You need people doing the work. But you also need people watching the people doing the work,” she adds. McClanahan suggests hiring a bill-paying service for day-to-day money management, then having an accountant or attorney lined up to make the bigger financial decisions.
You don’t want that bill payer to be just anyone, however, cautions Jennifer VanderVeen, National Association of Elder Law Attorneys president. “You want to make sure they’re bonded or insured and that you check out their background,” she says. You can find a service through the American Association of Daily Money Manager (aadmm.com). Another bill-paying option is SilverBills, a company that reviews bills and authorizes payments for a flat monthly fee beginning at $99.
THE OUTCOME: In the end, Spiegler decided to do nothing—yet. “This information is very valuable,” she says. But she admits she has a psychological block to getting started: “Right now I like being independent and taking care of my own business.”
(by Jean Chatsky for AARP Magazine, December 2019/January 2020)
These are all mere teases . . . days in which we must be content with hints and glimpses. Winter has not done with us yet, but the heart has caught a glimpse of the far-away sound on the wind and hope can no longer be denied. Spring will come . . . surely.