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By Aaron Townsend –

As we age, achieving overall health and fitness is becoming more and more of a priority. One way to maintain the highest level of fitness is to join a gym. While you could design and conduct your own workout routine, gyms offer the advantages of program variety and the services of experts. Nevertheless, a fitness membership plan can be expensive, so it is important to find the option that meets all your needs and still fits your budget. This article provides a list of the some of the most affordable gym memberships in the United States.

1. Gold’s Gym
When it opened over fifty years ago, Gold’s Gym was called the “Mecca of Bodybuilding” for its emphasis on weight machines and free weights. However, today the chain is one of the largest and most diverse in the world. Gold’s offers three levels of membership. The Silver gives access to all basic amenities at the chosen home club. The Gold allows access to all amenities in all clubs plus an individualized fitness assessment. The Platinum includes all of the above in addition to the Kids’ Club, tanning and other salon services and special classes if available. So, in addition to bodybuilding, this is the place to go for circuit training with audio, Zumba classes, cycling, and various styles of yoga. 

  • Silver – $19.95 per month
  • Gold – $29.95 per month
  • Platinum – $39.95 per month
2. Lifetime Fitness

According to Men’s Health, Lifetime Fitness is the best overall gym to join in 2018. Lifetime Fitness membership prices are a little higher than some clubs, but the variety of available amenities make this a good value. In addition to the usual equipment and classes, members can access the LifeClinic and LifeCafe, relaxation spaces like the sauna and salon, kids’ spaces, and lockers and showers with free toiletries. This is the perfect gym for those looking to complete a different routine at each visit.

  • Membership fees – $105 to $139 per month depending on location
3. Fitness 19

Fitness 19 gyms are much more basic and do not have pools, saunas, or spas. What they do offer, in addition to the standard machines and equipment, is the Kids Room, a personal fitness assessment, and tanning services (specific locations only). Multi-club members can also join customized programs and classes and invite an unlimited number of guests to workout with them. Senior citizens workout for free since all company locations honor the Silver Sneakers Program.

  • One Club Membership – $10 to $15 per month
  • Multi-Club Membership – $15 to $24 per month
4. Planet Fitness

This club is on most lists of gyms with an affordable fitness membership plan. It is a great place for beginners and those trying to decide if they can maintain a workout routine. Members do not need to make an annual commitment, though there is a savings if you purchase an annual membership. Each location provides all of the standard machines with a small free weight area. There are no classes or special amenities, but the advantages are the “judgement free” atmosphere and the friendly and accommodating staff.

  • Basic monthly plan – $10 per month
  • Annual membership plan – $99 per year
5. Blink

If you are not yet familiar with Blink, it is only a matter of time until you hear about it. There are currently only sixty locations in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Los Angeles, but new sites are being added all the time. The focus is on providing the greatest variety of quality equipment in a modern and clean facility, staffed by highly skilled professionals.

There are no group classes or special studios, but members have regular access to locker rooms and certified personal trainers. Blink wants members to have a “Feel Good Experience” and the company believes that if they enhance the mood with color, design, and clean, open spaces, successful workouts will increase. 

  • Membership Fees – $15 to $25 per month depending on location

Finding the perfect gym is often a process of trial and error because an affordable fitness membership plan does not necessarily guarantee a good fit for you. Take time to learn about the amenities, any annual fees, and the cancellation policy before making a commitment.

Once you decide, check out the registration deals offered by the gym or sites like Groupon. Then all that’s left to do is workout in your favorite place as often as you can and have fun achieving your fitness goals!

The post 5 Most Affordable Fitness Membership Plans in the U.S. appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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By Jae Y. Lim, M.D. –

Far too often when dealing with back pain, we immediately turn to medication to help remedy the symptoms which can be harmful. If you are taking NSAIDs in excess, particularly for back pain, consider the following alternatives to managing back pain.

1. SOOTHE PAIN WITH COLD/HOT TREATMENT

The majority of back pain is caused by inflammation or unnecessary strain placed on the joints and muscles surrounding the spine.

HOT THERAPY

Heat therapy serves as a muscle relaxant and stimulates healing blood flow to ailing muscles. Feel for any bulges or areas of pain. Once you’ve found the affected area, you can apply heat two ways:

  1. Local fashion – heat up one area of the body using warm water bottle or a heating pad onto the affected muscle for 20-30 minutes (minor strain) or 30 minutes-2 hours (severe strain)

  2. Systematic fashion – raise the temperature of the entire body systematically – spend time in a jacuzzi, steam bath, or hot shower.

COLD THERAPY

Ice is primarily used for pain relief to fresh injuries to the spine or surrounding muscles, not to treat it, and is particularly effective when the injury is fresh. In these cases you should apply an ice pack to the affected area of your spine for no more than 20 minutes.

Note: Ice should never be applied directly to your skin. If you don’t have a covered ice pack, place a towel or rag between the ice and your skin.

2. STRETCH YOUR HAMSTRINGS

Your hamstring muscles run down the back of both your legs and are connected to your pelvis. If either, or both, of these muscles are tight, they can put strain on the pelvis and limit its motion and increase the amount of pressure placed on the lower back and keep you from a correct posture, ultimately causing pain.

If you have tight hamstring muscles, make it a routine to stretch them throughout day regularly. Start by bending forward at the waist, reaching for your toes. Your knees should be about shoulder-width apart and should only bend slightly as you lean down. Stop when you start feeling the muscles in the back of your legs stretching and hold for a couple of seconds. Then, stand up and repeat those steps as many times as you are comfortable with.

3. GET MORE SLEEP

Research has shown that there is a link between sleep deprivation and the amount of pain a person feels. So the obvious answer to helping fight back pain is to get your recommended amount of sleep each night.

Most spine specialists encourage you to do your best to take pressure off the affected area of your spine. Below are two of the best ways to do that:

  1. Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees and your feet on top of each other

  2. Sleep on your back with a pillow underneath your knees.

4. EXERCISE

Contrary to the belief that exercise can exacerbate back pain, there are numerous benefits that exercise has on your spinal structure. Exercise promotes the transfer of fluids between discs, which provides them with the nutrition they need to stay healthy. Additionally, it helps stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons surrounding your spine, which increases support.  

Try a variety of low-impact exercises (activities that don’t put much pressure or pounding on the spine) and see what works best for treating your pain – walking, swimming and biking. It’s also important to note that consistency is key with exercise. The more you do it, the stronger you’ll become and the more benefits you’ll reap.

5. EAT HEALTHY

The food you eat has a direct impact on the amount of inflammation that occurs throughout your body. If you’re looking to fight back pain, you should avoid eating most processed foods including white bread, pasta, sugary drinks, chips, pastries and fast food.

Instead, try to fill your diet with natural and organic ingredient like deeply colored fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, cherries, watermelon, grapes and more). Additionally nuts, lean proteins (like chicken and turkey), spices (like garlic, basil, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, curcumin, onions, oregano, and turmeric), many types of fish and tea can all have an impact in fighting inflammation.

In Conclusion

In the end, there are many ways to combat back pain without first resorting to the use of NSAIDs—you just have to know where to look and find out what specifically works for you.


Jae Y. Lim, M.D., Chief of Neurosurgery Trauma at the Reston Hospital Center in Reston, VA.

The post 5-step Guide To Combating Back Pain Without Medicating appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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Most people are reluctant to go to the gym because it takes time, effort—and plenty of commitment. However, getting regular exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. While going to the gym works for some people, it’s not for everyone. There are other fun and effective ways to integrate exercise into your daily routine, without sweating the thought of exercise. Here are five other ways to make exercise a part of your lifestyle:

1. Dance to the rhythm

Affectionate senior couple dancing in their backyard

Blast your favourite playlist. Turn up the volume, and dance to the rhythm. Dancing to music is a fun way to get some exercise, and you can do it in the comfort of your room, or visit a fitness studio, nightclub, or a dance class. There are a variety of dance music genres to choose from that has a great rhythm for dancing. Here are a few:

  • Swing dance music
  • Jazz
  • Soul music
  • Folk music
  • House
  • Trance
  • Moombahton
  • Disco

If you’re feeling brave, you can also dance outside, at the park, on the sidewalk, or even outside your favourite restaurant, as long as you’re not being disruptive.

2. Play sports or join a fitness class

You don’t have to exercise alone. And it doesn’t have to be all about exercise. For instance, joining a sports team can give you a greater sense of purpose and harness your competitive spirit. Whether it’s through playing badminton, curling, or golf, being part of a team entails working together to achieve a collective goal. This is also a great way to make new friends and be part of a community.

Fitness classes also offer a great alternative to going the gym alone. These tend to be a lot of fun as there’s music playing in the background, people wearing spandex, and a fitness instructor demonstrating how to move.

Some senior community living centers also provide activities, such as Tai Chi, ballroom dancing, and biking, to encourage residence to exercise while relaxing and having fun. 

3. Get yourself a step counter or dumbbell

Bring the gym to your home instead of going outside. You can purchase a dumbbell or step-counter online or at a sports store or Wal-Mart. There are a variety of exercises you can try with these accessories that you can find on YouTube, on a fitness site or through fitness home videos.

4. Drive or take public transit less

Instead of driving or taking public transit, consider making the most of your errands by walking or biking. If they are too far, try to take more breaks during the day to go for long walks or a light jog. Not only will you get a little more exercise, it’s also nice to get some fresh air and sunlight. Plus, reducing your carbon footprint is always good for the environment.

5. Don’t see it as exercise

And finally, achieving your fitness goals is all about perception: mind over matter. You don’t have to think of exercise as a dull or painful activity, or something that requires a lot of time and commitment. Making incremental changes to your lifestyle, such as avoid sitting for too long, or doing a few jumping jacks in the morning can make a difference. By adding a more movement here and there, you can help prevent your body from becoming too stiff, fatigued, and out of shape.  

The post 5 Fun Ways to Integrate Exercise into Your Daily Routine appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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It isn’t hard to see why so many people choose to retire to sunnier climates. Relocating to places like Mexico, Thailand or Spain is a great way to live well for less, enjoying good food and sunshine in your own piece of paradise.

But for many, moving away from a country you’ve always called home comes with its own set of challenges – and for couples and solo expeditioners in retirement, healthcare concerns can be top of the list. Will the quality of care be as good as it was back home? Will the doctors have the same levels of expertise? Destinations like Belize and Ecuador that have excellent perks for expat retirees simply don’t have the widely available, high-standard healthcare that most of us are used to, but that doesn’t stop them from being that little bit more enticing than the option of staying put.

Falling ill and needing care are not something we’re keen to focus on when we’re planning a great escape, but thankfully there are now easy ways to stay connected with the very best services when they’re needed.

The term ‘virtual health’ might not mean a lot just yet, but this innovation in healthcare is the missing piece between international living and world-class wellness. Nowadays we shop, socialise and keep up with the news through mobile apps and websites – and through virtual health, these same pieces of technology can connect us with the health services we need even when we’re far from ‘home’. So how does it work?

Virtual health service includes things like:
• Video consultation
• Diagnosis
• Physical specialist visits
• Online test result access
• Transport bookings
• Medication deliveries


Starting via video consultations with trustworthy, highly skilled GPs over the phone, virtual health services can take you through every step of primary care. If a diagnosis can’t be made without a physical check, your doctor can arrange for a specialist visit and any necessary tests – results are then available to your doctor online as soon as they’ve been processed.

Through apps, the doctor can arrange transport for you to get to the best medical facility for your needs, or organise prescriptions. For users with chronic conditions like diabetes, there’s the opportunity for more efficient monitoring and management through regular video check-ups. This can also reduce your insurance costs, which makes all the difference when you’re paying for long-term health insurance overseas.

Home care and medical availability are often listed as some of the most important things to consider when you’re planning a retirement location – but this can limit your prospects to a small pool of places, and your dream destination might not feature. While it’s wise to make sure there are medical facilities within easy reach, virtual health helps to grow the list of possible destinations for your new home by ensuring that the very best healthcare options are only a phone call away.

Even in remote and rural destinations, the highest quality patient care is made available without everyday limitations. The technology is easy to access, not requiring anything more than your usual smartphone or computer – but of course while technology helps to supply the service, the most important feature is the care itself.

For more information about virtual health, see Aetna International’s website or watch their Virtual Care video above.

The post Virtual Health: Taking Care of Retirement Abroad appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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By Erin Young—

Hooked on the buzz from your daily cup of coffee but don’t like the caffeine crash? We have 5 energizing alternatives that can keep you energized in a healthier way. But first, let’s discuss why you might like to moderate your coffee habit.

How Much Coffee is Too Much?

The daily recommended average is 3-4 cups (400mg of caffeine), and exceeding this number can lead to certain adverse effects on your health (1). If you’re doing just that and drinking more than you think you should, here are some things to look out for:

  • Weight Gain: As relaxing as a good cup of coffee may seem, the caffeine in it actually boosts the level of the stress hormone cortisol (2), which has been proven to lead to weight gain (3). 
  • Energy Loss: Caffeine as a stimulant to your adrenal system provides an effective short-time energy boost, but results in a slump of fatigue afterwards.
  • Mineral Deficiency: Caffeine hinders sufficient iron intake, and reduces your storage of calcium, zinc, magnesium and other essential minerals (4).
  • Poor Sleep: A cup of coffee late in the evening is rarely a good idea. Caffeine’s energy boost stays for 4-6 hours and can get in the way of proper sleep (5).

So what else can you drink? For starters, here are 5 healthy and energizing alternatives to help keep your coffee fix in check:

1. Matcha Green Tea Powder

 Matcha green tea in powder form comes from the whole green tea leaf being stone ground, and is being favoured by more people as a coffee substitute.

A two gram serving of matcha only has the equivalent of a fifth of coffee’s caffeine, but due to its amino acid content, is absorbed by your body much slower (6-8 hours). This means it’s perfect to start the day, and you won’t feel the same annoying jitters to begin with (6).

Matcha also happens to be packed with health benefits. This immunity-boosting drink promotes weight-loss (7), and contains cancer-fighting antioxidants (8). It also has the highest natural concentration of the amino acid L-theanine, which helps in promoting concentration and better memory (9).

To drink matcha, simply dissolve two teaspoons of the powder in a cup of hot water, stir, and enjoy!

To receive the full range of health benefits, make sure you buy high-quality matcha green tea powder from Japan.

2. Water

If you have been dealing with surprising bouts of fatigue, you might just be dehydrated. While unknown to many, fatigue is actually a primary symptom of dehydration.

The common mistake of most people is to drink water only when thirsty. But as a matter of fact, thirst is one of the last symptoms you will actually feel when you are dehydrated.

Without enough hydration, your body simply becomes weaker. A study on athletes found that dehydration was directly linked to their capacity for exercise (10).

The recommended daily water consumption is two litres.

Healthy Tip: Pack a drink bottle when you go out so you have no excuse not to drink water. You can also add flavour to your water by mixing in some sliced fruit and fresh herbs. Watermelon, cucumber, and ginger make for tasty and refreshing mixes!

3. Green Smoothie or Green Vegetable Juices

 You might be surprised what wonders green vegetables can do for your body. Spinach, for instance, is a prime source for iron which helps keep anaemia away. Ladies, you are more prone to this.

A glass of green juice a day can also help improve cardiovascular health. A study revealed that drinking 300ml of green juice a day in a span of 6 weeks lowered LDL-Cholesterol by 9% (11). Impressive!

While green juices are an acquired taste, try to limit sweet ingredients to keep the sugar low.

Quick Recipe: Try juicing a handful each of kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, two slices of fresh ginger, and two pieces of green apple.

For an added energy boost, throw in a superfood supplement such as spirulina, barley greens, or matcha green tea powder.

4. Yerba mate

Those who have traveled to South America might recall how crazy locals are for this herbal beverage. A product of the leaves of the Yerba mate plant, “mate” (pronounced mah-teh as commonly called) is a drink not too different from green tea in the way it is sourced, prepared, and even how it tastes.

To drink mate, you steep the leaves in hot water and serve in a hollow wooden bowl. You sip it with a metal straw.

Mate contains about three quarters of coffee’s caffeine content, but like matcha green tea also packs all kinds of health benefits from amino acids.

Why do South Americans love it? Mainly because of the buzz it produces – a natural high!

5. Protein based smoothie

 Protein is premium fuel for your body’s energy. Research shows that protein increases alertness and concentration, as it stimulates the brain chemical orexin into production mode (12).

For a sustainable level of energy, why not introduce a protein based smoothie into your diet?

Common protein-packed choices include Greek yogurt, silken tofu, nut butter, and raw cashews. For a thicker consistency, you may also add hemp hearts, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, and whole oats.

Quick Recipe: Blend the following ingredients until smooth:  3/4 cup almond milk, 2 tablespoons almond butter, 1/4 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight in water), 1 banana (frozen chunks), 2 tablespoons whole oats, and a pinch of cinnamon.

“Does this mean I should stop drinking coffee?”

  • Not necessarily. Finding alternatives doesn’t mean you should completely stop enjoying coffee. Just remember to drink in moderation!
  • Consuming healthier drinks will positively affect to your diet, introducing your body to health benefits you may have been missing out on all these years.
  • For a balance of energy increase and natural health benefits, matcha green tea is your best bet among the above mentioned alternatives.
  • When it comes to maintaining a high and sustainable energy level, it’s important to stay hydrated with water and have a substantial intake of protein.


Erin Young is a health food writer and a tea expert. She owns two tea companies; Evergreen Matcha in the USA and Zen Green Tea Matcha in Australia. She partners with sustainable tea farms in Kyoto, Japan to source her premium matcha green tea powder. Want a free Matcha Recipe book with over 30 healthy recipes delivered to your inbox? Click here.  

The post Make the Switch: Here Are 5 Healthy and Energizing Alternatives to Coffee appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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By Dr. Sanda Moldovan—

As another flu epidemic tears through the U.S., the nation appears almost defenseless. From flu shots to healthy habits such as hand washing and covering the mouth when coughing, no remedy is infallible.

One of the best bets against getting the flu, experts say, is eating healthier. Good nutrition, according to the American Dietetic Association, can help you avoid the flu by boosting the body’s immune system.  

Dr. Sanda Moldovan, author of HEAL UP!: How to Repair, Rebuild and Renew Naturally (www.beverlyhillsdentalhealth.com), says the benefits of proper nutrition extend from oral health to sickness prevention and post-surgery healing. As a periodontist and nutritionist, she sees problems taking root early on.

“Proper nutrition is a huge component of oral health and overall health,” says Moldovan, who has practices in Beverly Hills and Manhattan. ”Nutritional deficiencies manifest in the mouth. Redness at the corners of the mouth, a shiny, spotted or glossy tongue, burning mouth, bleeding gums, can all be signs of different vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.”

Moldovan notes that many medical journal articles have related nutritional deficiencies to numerous oral health problems and general health crises such as diabetes, high blood pressure, immune system issues, and even cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 50 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamins A, C and D and E, as well as in calcium and potassium.

“Unfortunately, most people do not get the nutrients needed from their food,” Moldovan says. ‘For example, vitamin D needs supplementation because we cannot get enough of it from food alone.  Research has shown that an optimum level of vitamin D, together with a healthy diet, is a key to staying healthy during this flu season.

 “Good nutrition is so important in everyday life and in the healing process.  There are a number of ways for a person with sub-optimal health, or who is healing after surgery or injury, to improve their condition through better nutrition.”

Moldovan lists three ways to protect and heal the body with the right nutrition:

  • Antioxidants.  These combat the potential damage done by harmful cells. So try a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, which contain potent antioxidants. ”Fresh fruits and vegetables are best because cooking destroys most antioxidants,” Moldovan says. “Basically, the more colorful the foods, the more antioxidants they have. Green, leafy vegetables also contain a healthy supply of minerals and chlorophyll, both of which aid in the rehabilitation process.”
  • Mix of proteins, fats. Diets low in protein and high in sugar and animal fat can increase inflammation, Moldovan says. ”But don’t eliminate fats completely from the diet,” she says. “You should include healthy fats such as in olives, flax seed, coconut oil, nuts and avocado.” Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in cold-water fish such as salmon and black cod, have been shown to decrease pain and inflammation. Diets too low in protein can deplete the immune system.
  • Acid-alkaline balance. “The best tool you have for daily living and healing is the way you eat,” Moldovan says. “For instance, a diet high in sugar is acidic, whereas incorporating alkalinizing foods, such as lemons, limes and dark leafy greens combat acidity. They’re also loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.”

“There’s no one-size fits-all nutritional advice anymore,” Moldovan says. “Each person has a different way of absorbing and processing vitamins and minerals. The bottom line is that food is nourishment, and it’s vital we get what we need to stay healthy, fight disease and to heal.”

About Dr. Sanda Moldovan

Dr. Sanda Moldovan (www.beverlyhillsdentalhealth.com) is an award-winning board-certified periodontist and nutritionist, with practices in Beverly Hills and Manhattan. Her latest book on alternative medicine is HEAL UP!: How to Repair, Rebuild and Renew Naturally. She is the creator of the Ask Dr. Sanda YouTube channel. As an authority on biological dentistry, anti-aging, and oral health, she is in demand nationally and internationally as a continuing education provider for dental and medical professionals. A former ambassador for Waterpik, Dr. Sanda can be seen on The Doctors TV show as the go-to oral health expert. A graduate of Ohio State University School of Dentistry, she did her post-graduate training at UCLA, where she received a Master of Science in Oral Biology.

The post Bugged By The Flu Or Other Ailments? 3 Ways Good Nutrition Protects and Heals appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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By Bonnie Stover, Director of Volunteer Services at Front Porch—

I would like to tell you about Tomoko. Tomoko has memory challenges. For the past year, she has lived at Summer House at Villa Gardens, the memory care neighborhood within Villa Gardens Retirement Community in Pasadena, part of Front Porch, a not-for-profit provider of senior living communities. Although Tomoko sometimes struggles to recognize family members and recent events, she knows all the words to “Amazing Grace,” “America the Beautiful” and other favorite songs. And when she joins in a song together with her longtime friend, Esther, the two of them share a powerful emotional connection.

As director of Volunteer Services for Front Porch, I am constantly looking for ways to enrich the lives of older adults and give residents opportunities to volunteer. About a year ago, I became intrigued with a music program, The Giving Voice Chorus. This community chorus engages people with cognitive disorders and their caregivers, bringing a sense of joy and purpose to people with Alzheimer’s and their care partners. 

Finding meaningful ways to engage retirement community residents who are experiencing memory loss and other cognitive disorders can be challenging. Research is teaching us that music is an amazing catalyst to engage people regardless of their cognitive abilities. Exploring this idea further, I assembled a group of team members from Summer House at Villa Gardens.

We organized and named our chorus Joyful Hearts and secured funding from two of Front Porch’s partner foundations, FACT Foundation and California Lutheran Homes and Community Services to hire a music director and an Alzheimer’s and dementia expert. Besides benefitting the resident singers, we wanted to educate our volunteer “buddies” about ways to support resident singers while partnering with them.

Finally, after several rounds of reviews, our plan was approved and Joyful Hearts was officially formed. Our primary goal was to have fun. No one was expected to have a good singing voice (though many did). We started with two rehearsals per week, serving refreshments and encouraging socializing, something our dementia expert had recommended.

We experimented with different musical genres to see what would resonate with the residents. It soon became clear they thrived on variety, from movie musicals to patriotic anthems to folk songs. Our small chorus of about a dozen singers began to grow once the word got out and the halls of Summer House began filling with music. Residents and staff began stopping by. 

Slowly, our shy and inward-focused resident singers started to make eye contact and  became more conversational, animated and connected. Several residents whose language skills had deteriorated were soon singing words effortlessly. Even those who seemed not to respond were, upon a closer look, tapping their feet, then singing at first with their eyes closed and then open! 

Our volunteer buddies were having a blast too. Some teamed up with former neighbors and friends from independent living at Villa Gardens who had since moved to Summer House. Now, they were able to connect with a common purpose – creating music together.  

I started hearing the stories. 

Military veterans were tearing up during patriotic songs. A daughter was learning new things about her mother as the songs began to trigger long-lost memories. Caregivers reported that residents who rarely spoke couldn’t  stop talking about the chorus. 

Esther and Tomoko had been good friends in Villa Gardens independent living and had enjoyed conversing in Japanese together. However, once Tomoko moved into Summer House, they lost contact. Tomoko came into the program very shy and withdrawn, but now, with Esther’s help, she is speaking, smiling and singing with everyone.  

Then, out of the blue, we were invited to participate in the Villa Gardens community talent show. 

I began preparing the choir for some of the changes they would experience. We conducted two dress rehearsals in the Community Room at Villa Gardens, so everyone could become familiar with new surroundings. Our music director was bringing his youth choir, The Los Angeles Youth Ambassadors, to sing along with us, providing an intergenerational connection. 

Residents, family members, staff and community members showed up to support the singers. With standing room only, the Joyful Hearts Chorus brought down the house! The looks on the choir members’ faces said it all: they had worked towards a goal and were able to accomplish it with style and grace in a short time. 

Joyful Hearts is now practicing for a Holiday program due to demand from the Villa Gardens community. 

I have a few insights for any individual looking for inspiration when caring for an aging parent, family member or friend with dementia or cognitive issues.

Singing together live, with a director, music books and an accompanist creates an experience that can’t be matched by headphones or a TV screen. Be flexible and prepared to be surprised, in a good way! Music activities that focus on fun, rather than perfection, allow people to relax, bond socially and look forward to coming back again. The key is the experience!

The post The Healing Power of Music and How It Can Transform the Lives of Older Adults with Memory Loss appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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When someone you love dearly passes on, be it a best friend, spouse, child or parent, it can be life-changing. The pain, the regret and wishes of what you could have done can all be pretty overwhelming. Dealing with grief is one of the hardest things in life and nobody deserves to go through it. If you recently lost a loved one; here are tips on how to deal with the loss:

Know that everybody deals with it differently

There is no one fits all kind of grief or a way that people should grieve their loved ones. Some people go into shock mode and withdraw, others talk about it nonstop, and others seem to move on fast. Whatever it is you are feeling, know that you have the right to deal with the loss in your own way and whatever works for you is what is best.

Don’t bottle up emotions

Some people especially men don’t want to show emotions in the name of being strong. Others fear that if they open that door, they won’t be able to recover. However, bottling up emotions is not the solution. If you feel like crying, cry all you can. If you want to scream and hit stuff, by all means do so. Letting out emotions will release that knot of pain inside you and prevent you from bursting out in anger later on.

Allow people to be there for you

After suffering a loss, one can feel an overwhelming amount of sadness and even go into depression. Instead of pushing people away, let your friends and family be there for you and help in any way they can. Simple things like cooking, cleaning, listening and just being there will go a long way during this period when you feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Sometime people may not know how to be there for you so tell them what you need.

Do what you love

There is no telling how long the pain and the grief will last. However, you cannot stay in the house and moan forever. One of the best ways to start the recovery process is to get out of the dark place and do something that you love. Travel, go dancing, write, go to work and just start living again. It will be hard in the beginning but time heals all wounds.

Get professional support

Apart from friends and family, professional help might be necessary in extreme cases. There are institutions everywhere set-up to help people deal with grief through counseling, support groups and exercises.

St. Marie Hospice provides a safe and supportive environment for loved ones to share their loss with each other and learn from others’ experiences. Counseling and group support is offered to anyone who has been bereaved for up to 13 months after the loss. The educational support groups, written resources about grief and the constant counseling and companionship help to take someone through the most difficult period until they are able to stand on their own again.

The post How To Cope With The Death Of A Loved One appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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By Ryan Fossi—

Everyone these days seems to have a hate for sugar. It has been named as the culprit in the global obesity epidemic, and is considered the first item you should cut from your diet if you want to lose weight. But have you ever wondered why we all crave sugar, and why these cravings are so hard to overcome? 

Why Do We Crave Sugar?

As a species, our sweet tooth developed 15 million years ago when our early ancestors went through a period of starvation. During that time, those who could store more fat were more likely to survive. Since sugar provides our bodies with energy and helps us store fat, sugar cravings have become a survival mechanism

However, there is more to it than just survival. Sugar stimulates the brain to produce dopamine – the feel-good chemical. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. The euphoric response caused by dopamine also caused our ancestors to eat more sugar, giving them a better chance at survival. 

This all happened at a period of time when sugar was rare. And weight gain was not a problem when food was scarce. Now we are not in a period of starvation and sugar is readily available. 

Consuming too much sugar has repercussions beyond putting on extra pounds. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease are all linked to excess sugar consumption. 

How to Reduce Sugar Intake for Weight Loss

Although it is not necessary to eliminate sugar completely to drop pounds, it is essential to reduce its consumption. According to the American Heart Association, men should limit their sugar consumption to 150 calories (9 teaspoons) or less a day, and women should limit their sugar consumption to 100 calories (6 teaspoons) or less a day. 

It may not be easy, but there are a few steps you can take to reduce your sugar intake and increase your chances of losing weight and becoming healthier.

  1. Read Food Labels

Reading food labels is essential for anyone attempting to lose weight, but especially for those looking to control their sugar consumption. Look for foods that have no more than 10 grams of sugar for each 100 grams of food. Be aware of names for added sugar such as corn syrup or sweetener, molasses, malt, maltose, sucrose, dextrose, and basically anything that ends in -ose.

  1. Gradually Reduce Sugar Consumption

If you can quit sugar cold turkey, that’s great. Most people find it difficult to just quit, so for them weaning off sugar gradually is a better option. Reduce the sugar in your coffee or tea a teaspoonful at a time, so that your taste buds can get used to less sugar. Try out a few sugar alternatives such as a weight loss powder or vegetable juice with no-added sugars. Also cut the amount of sugar in your recipes by a quarter to a half, depending on the recipe. Most recipes call for too much sugar, so play around with it to see what works best.

  1. Reduce or Eliminate Soda

Sugary beverages, even those with artificial sweeteners, keep your sweet tooth alive. Try sparkling water with lemon or lime. Lowering your consumption of sugary beverages can help to lower your risk of obesity.

  1. Bring Your Own Snacks

Having a healthy snack ready will help you resist the snack machine during the day or the drive-thru on the way home from work. Whole-wheat crackers and string cheese or a piece of fruit such as a banana or apple will help you resist sugary snacks.

Reducing sugar is one of the best ways to ensure you lose weight, but also one of the hardest. Moderation is always the key to sensible, healthy eating. A little sugar on oatmeal, some jam on whole-grain bread, or honey in your tea isn’t going to put you over the top. Stock up on fresh fruit and avoid sugary junk food if you want to make losing weight easier.

Ryan Fossi is a health freelance writer and wants to inform people how to make healthier choices in their lives. When not jotting down words on a paper, you can find him hanging out with his dog near the beach or playing golf.

The post The Link of Weight Loss and Sugar Intake, According to Science appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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By Erika Rosenthal–

Hey there, 60-somethings! This decade is a time for you to be active and enjoy your golden years. If you have always been active, staying active will be easy. If you have been leading a sedentary life, getting active might be harder, but far from impossible. 

Here are a few tips for getting active and staying moving well into the future.  

Consult Your Doctor

While it might not seem like an important step, you need to ensure your body is ready for the exercise plan you have in mind. Your doctor can warn you of any exercises to stay away from and which ones will help you most. Be sure to have a consultation before you start any activity, even if you have always been active.   

Always Stretch

Stretching is a huge part of exercising, and many people skip it. As we age, tendons and ligaments change, which can decrease flexibility. Be sure to stretch your arms, back and legs as a warm up to your exercise. 

Strengthen Muscles

Over time our muscles lose their strength and flexibility. The loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to soreness and stiffness as well as difficulty performing regular tasks like walking up stairs, carrying groceries and even opening jars. That’s why weight and strength training are so important as you age. Try exercising with light dumbbells or resistance bands two to three times a week. 

Add in Aerobic Activity

Our metabolism slows as we age. For many, the idea of gaining weight is less than appealing, and that’s why aerobic, or cardio, exercise is so important. This can include walking, biking, tennis or even swimming. You will want to choose activities that get your heart rate up and have a lower impact on your joints. 

Eat Properly

Bones lose mass, mineral content and density as we get older, making them fragile and vulnerable to fractures. Be sure you are getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D in your diet to help prevent any fractures. Also, before you exercise, consume foods high in complex carbs and proteins to give you extra energy for the workout. 

Don’t Ignore Pain

If you feel pain when you are exercising, stop immediately. You do not need to push yourself too far too fast. This could end in injuries. If the pain is coming from your joints, see a doctor to uncover the cause, which could range from tendonitis to arthritis. Over-the-counter medications can help, but if the pain persists, it might be time to consider other options.

If chronic pain, especially neck or back pain, is keeping you from enjoying life’s everyday moments, it may be time to consider seeing a specialist. Back Pain Centers of America (BPC) can match you with a board-certified orthopedist close to home so you can get the quality care you need, including the latest minimally invasive treatments available.

Erika Rosenthal is the Vice President of Strategy and Healthcare Partnerships for Back Pain Centers of America. Her passion is in helping making the patient journey a positive experience.

The post Tips to Stay Active Over 60 appeared first on LivingBetter50.

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