Friday, January 13, 2017

Where to Volunteer on the MLK Day of Service

Credit: Thinkstock
By Richard Eisenberg for Next Avenue

In honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service, consider for a moment these two quotes from the esteemed civil rights leader:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” and “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

With those words in mind — and 2017 marking the 23th anniversary of the law creating this day of service — I hope you’ll look for a way to do something for others on MLK Day and volunteer. Be great. (Some nonprofits have Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering projects on Tuesday, too.)

Volunteer to Commemorate Dr. King

“Volunteering as a way to commemorate the efforts of Dr. King is probably a better way to honor him than going to a sale at your neighborhood department store,” says Delores Morton, president of programs at Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service.

It’s easier than ever to find places that could use your help. And it’s not too late. Simply go online to sites that let you find and sign up for volunteering opportunities by your Zip Code and particular interests.

For example, Points of Light has created a special Volunteer Opportunity Search tool just for Martin Luther King Day. “We’re trying to open the door as wide as possible to help people volunteer,” says Morton.

The VolunteerMatch site, which connects nonprofits with people who want to work for them, has a similar feature. (Next Avenue has a link to VolunteerMatch’s general tool to find opportunities and lets you search specifically for ones well-suited to people 55 and older.)

A Day On, Not a Day Off

Or you could visit, the website of the U.S. government’s Corporation for National & Community Service, and use its Find a Project tool. This agency urges people to support MLK Day of Service “as a day on, not a day off” — which I think is a pretty great description.

Any type of volunteering would be welcome, of course. But Morton says Points of Light encourages people to honor King by assisting the poor, the homeless and the hungry.

Her group and the Corporation for National & Community Service awarded $125,000 to support Martin Luther King, Jr. Day projects in eight U.S. locations, where 175,000 volunteers will join up to feed the hungry, clean up parks and schools and more.

Daily Point of Light Awards

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Points of Light will also give out its 5,135th Daily Point of Light Award — an honor given to everyday people creating change through volunteering. Christine Wright and her grown daughter, Melanie Stevenson, of the Birmingham, Ala., area, will receive the award jointly for bringing their family to volunteer every MLK Day for more than a decade.

This year, they’ll be helping Habitat for Humanity build a house that’ll provide a permanent home for a Birmingham family displaced by a tornado in 2011. And they’ll work on a landscaping project at a Birmingham elementary school.

Which reminds me: If you have a friend, neighbor, relative or work colleague whose volunteering work is worth honoring, nominate him or her for a Daily Point of Light Award on the Points of Light site. “It’s not about how many hours of service you conducted or how long you’ve served or how big the impact,” says Morton. “It’s about celebrating people doing great work. Points of Light is counting on people to raise up those stories.”

Upon accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention, George H.W. Bush famously said: “Any definition of a successful life must include serving others.” Monday will be a good day to help make your life — and perhaps the lives of many others — a success.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Being Older Is Better for Many Travel Discounts

Those milestone birthdays can add up to major savings
Credit: Getty Images
The next time you travel, ask about a “senior discount.” You may discover there are fabulous perks to reaching those milestone birthdays. Many hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, entertainment venues and big-box stores offer age-related discounts, although they’re often not publicized.

It’s no wonder travel companies seek opportunities to woo older travelers. U.S. News & World Report recently reported that boomers control 70 percent of all disposable income in the United States. Moreover, older travelers are likely to have more time to travel. A report by AARP found that boomer travelers anticipate taking four or five trips a year.

Whether you are traveling in the U.S. or abroad, here are some tips for finding age-related discounts to whittle down the costs of your next vacation:

Check Websites and Make Calls

When planning a trip, check the sites of the travel-related companies you’re considering using. Many have special pages with information about age-related discounts (often called “senior discounts”) available through a search or a pop-up box that let you insert your age when booking to obtain a lower rate.

If you can’t find a written discount policy online (sometimes it isn’t there and sometimes it’s simply hard to find), call and ask if you are eligible for a price break due to your age. Some airlines, for example, only offer such discounts on the phone, not online.

Ask a Travel Agent

Finding age-related discounts can be challenging and time-consuming. And because these offers change (and disappear) frequently, websites compiling them and travel guides aren’t always accurate or up-to-date.

With the complexity of do-it-yourself trip planning and booking, many midlife travelers are once again using travel agents. Experienced travel advisers often know about specific discounts and are able to compare them to other promotions.

Read the Fine Print

My optimistic husband always says that “older is better” and that certainly is the case when it comes to age-related discounts. Determine whether you meet the eligibility age for a senior discount. These vary widely, with some discounts available to those age 50, 55, 59, 60, 62, 65 and over.

Be sure to read the policies for securing the discount, too. You may be required to ask for the lower rate at the time of booking or purchase. The discounts may have blackout dates or only be available on certain days of the week. Hotel rooms offers may be on a space-available basis, with only a limited number of rooms at the special rate.

Moreover, age-related discounts usually can’t be combined with other promotions.

Consider Joining AARP
The AARP Member Travel Benefits website is a web portal cataloging an extensive number of member discounts that AARP has negotiated with hotel chains, car rental companies, cruise lines, tour and rail operators, restaurants, entertainment venues and more — typically ranging between 5 and 25 percent.

AARP also offers a Member Advantages Offer Finder app for iPhone, iPad or Android devices that enable travelers to find nearby offers and discounts, and to download a digital version of their AARP identification cards.

To join AARP, you need to be age 50 or older and pay an annual membership fee of $16 per year.

Carry Your ID Cards

Although you may not be required to produce proof of age to get a discount, come prepared with a valid driver’s license, photo ID or Medicare or AARP card. Some offers require signing up for a free senior membership ahead of time.

Comparison Shop

Even when senior discounts are available, don’t necessarily assume that they’re the best deal you can get from the purveyor. For example, a “two for one” cruise deal may be cheaper than booking a discounted senior fare.

Also, older travelers often have the advantage of being able to travel during shoulder seasons, when airfare and hotel rates are lower than the senior rates, or they can rearrange the timing of their trips to take advantage of special deals.

Just Ask

Most importantly: Since there is a certain randomness to the availability of these discounts, don’t be embarrassed to ask for one.

Even within national chains, individual stores may have different policies. When my friend was packing for a trip to the west coast, she discovered she could purchase designer jeans at a TJ Maxx in Delray Beach, Fla., with a 10 percent senior discount, available throughout that particular store on Mondays. Keep your ears open and ask budget-conscious friends about their finds.

Don’t know what to ask for? Check out the following examples of age-related travel discounts available in spring 2016. This list is intended to be illustrative, not exhaustive, and some may no longer be available.

Hotel Deals

  • At Hyatt properties, those 62-plus save up to 50 percent on the Hyatt Daily Rate at participating hotels and resorts in the continental U.S. and Canada.
  • On a space available basis, Marriott International offers discounts of 15 percent and more to those 62-plus at over 4,000 properties worldwide.
  • At Wyndham Hotel Group Hotels, guests 60-plus can request senior discounts of up to 10 percent off the Best Available Rate.
  • Guests 59-plus can take advantage of a 10 percent senior discount at the 425 Red Roof Inn locations across the U.S. The senior rate option is listed on the booking page.
  • In Spain, Paradores Hotels offers Golden Days Promotion discounts on rooms (10 percent) and breakfast (30 percent) to those 55-plus.

Transportation Deals

  • Along with other perks and amenities, most U.S. airlines, car rental firms and bus companies have done away with senior discounts, but there are a few available:
  • Southwest Senior Fares for those 65-plus, available on both domestic and international flights, offer the advantage of being fully refundable.
  • According to the Delta Air Lines site, senior discounts are available “in certain markets” with additional information available only by phone.
  • Although there are some exceptions, Amtrak travelers 62-plus are eligible to receive a 15 percent discount on the lowest available rail fare. On cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada, a 10 percent discount for those 60-plus applies.
  • Those 65-plus can apply for a Reduced-Fare MetroCard for half-price fares on MTA subways and buses in New York City, but, as with many other local transportation systems, including BART in San Francisco, they may need to file an application in advance.
  • Hertz offers a special 50 Plus Car Rental Deal discount code to renters 50-plus.
  • Greyhound Bus Lines offers a 5 percent discount to those 62-plus on passenger fares to a network of more than 3,800 destinations on their own buses and participating connecting bus companies.
Restaurant Deals
Some restaurant chains offer senior discounts, but these are highly variable. They may be on certain days of the week, vary by location within the same chain, or be limited to certain senior menus. A few examples:
  • At some franchised restaurants, like Applebee’s, discount decisions are made locally.
  • IHOP offers a menu that is specially “proportioned and priced” for those 55-plus.
  • Old Country Buffet has a 60-plus club membership with discounts and complimentary extras.
Attractions and Entertainment Deals

  • U.S. citizens over age 62 can buy a lifetime Senior Pass for $20 that includes entry to the 59 national parks and more than more than 2,000 other recreational facilities managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, the Tennessee Valley Authority honors the Senior Pass for entrance or camping discounts.
  • Many museums offer age-related discounts. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Philadelphia Museum of Art offer discounted admissions for those 65-plus, as does the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum for those 62-plus.
  • Admissions at the Minnesota Zoo are discounted for those 62-plus.
  • On Wednesdays, Station Casinos offer “My Generation” deals on dining, gaming, movies, bowling and more ”Young and Fun Day” with up to 20 percent off spa and salon services and 25 percent discounts on certain shows, and more for those 55-plus.
  • Those 65-plus get discounts at the Mob Museum and Neon Museum in Las Vegas.
  • At AMC Theatres, discounted tickets are available to patrons 60-plus.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Learning to Swim at 80

Credit: Getty Images
Tackling a lifelong to-do can be really enjoyable

By Louise Jackson for Next Avenue

Every Thursday night, I drive to the gym, wriggle into a swimsuit that does nothing to hide my bulging belly or my wrinkled, sagging underarms, put on swim goggles that make me look a bit like someone from outer space, grab my cane to help keep my balance while walking from the dressing room into the pool area and slowly ease down the steps into water smelling of chlorine.

I’m 80 years old and taking a swim class for the first time in my life.

How Do You Go Eight Decades Without Learning to Swim?

You’d think, given the description of my general appearance in one of today’s swimsuits, I’d be embarrassed to be seen at the pool. And I did think about that beforehand, but I looked around the women’s dressing room one day and realized I was in good company. People’s bodies come in all sizes and shapes and using my appearance as an excuse for opting out of an activity I really wanted to try seemed self-defeating. So, in spite of my misgivings, I paid the class fee.

If you grew up near a lake or a town with a swimming pool, or your parents swam, it may surprise you to learn I’ve never taken swimming lessons. But I grew up on a small ranch in Central Texas during an extreme, extended drought and all the swimming holes became wading pools.

Further, the cause of polio was yet unknown. We looked with fear at Life magazine photos showing long rows of children in iron lungs, unable to breathe on their own. The media warned parents about exposing their children to large groups in strange situations. Driving 20 miles each way, just so a child could learn to swim, was never even considered.

Better Late Than Never

After I became an adult, I watched with envy as others swam. I eventually taught myself to float and even to swim, after a fashion, but always wanted to do more, to be better. Finally, when my gym decided to offer adult swim lessons, I reminded myself of the old adage, “Better late than never,” and have just completed half the eight-week course.

To my surprise, even though I’m the oldest person in the class, I haven’t felt the least bit awkward and I’m doing pretty well in spite of some breathlessness due to A-fib. Everyone else has to struggle, too. We’re there because we want to learn to swim or swim more skillfully. It’s a new and demanding experience for each of us.

I’ve made friends with all sorts of people — young men who grew up in deserts, moms who want to swim with their children and a few younger seniors who, like me, hope to stay healthy as long as possible. One young woman even told me, “I want to be like you when I grow up!” (I think several bulges may have shrunk a bit on hearing those words!)

Feeling Sore — But It’s Worth It

One caveat if you’re thinking of following my lead: You may feel stiff and sore after the first several classes. That could be true even if, like me, you’re no stranger to gentle exercising like walking or Tai chi. Swimming demands the use of muscles in totally different ways.

Still, take heart. The aches don’t last and each session feels less demanding, as you build endurance.

For me, the water is no longer an awkward environment. My balance, slightly impaired by a small stroke, isn’t a problem in the pool. I look forward to learning new skills and getting better at the ones I’ve already learned.

Last week, we began the breast stroke. It used my leg muscles in different ways than the freestyle, and I’m stiff again. But that’s OK. It feels good to think I’m getting stronger and more supple with each new activity.

I figure, if you’re lucky, you get older. But aging doesn’t mean you should stop learning and staying in shape. Swimming is fun! I’ve already signed up for another eight lessons, beginning in the new year. It’s my Christmas present to myself.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


7 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Are you sabotaging yourself? Here's how you can fulfill your commitments.

Credit: Getty Images

It’s that time of year again. A new beginning, a clean slate. But how often do you actually make good on your New Year’s resolutions? If the answer is “not very,” you’ll want to read the seven ideas below that can help you follow through in 2017.

The start of a new year naturally creates incentive for making changes. Days that seem like transition points motivate people to take advantage of the “fresh-start effect,” research shows. Birthdays, the beginning of a semester, and the start of a new week all fall under this new transition time. Researchers at the Wharton School came to this conclusion after they discovered that visits to the university fitness center spiked during these turning points. Another
study published in Psychological Science further backs this up. Participants found motivation from imagining a fresh start in the form of moving in to a new apartment. They were asked to imagine their new digs and also ranked their level of motivation to pursue their goals. Those who imagined that the move was their first one in nine years (versus an annual event) were more motivated to make progress on their goals.

This feeling of a new beginning appears to empower and make it easier to leave our past self and failures behind and embrace our new potential for success moving forward, researchers surmised. A new year represents a new chance to start over and try again.

However, “most people don’t keep their resolutions because they are more committed to making the resolution than following through,” says Gina Gomez, a certified life and business coach in Lake Forest, California. “In fact, only 8 percent of people who make resolutions actually achieve their goal. You must make the commitment and take action.”

Gomez and other experts offer the following tips for making this year the year you finally reach yours.

1. Get clear

You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going, says Gomez. “If you want to lose weight, take that dream vacation, fall in love or watch more episodes of The Good Wife, get clear about what specifically you want and why you want it and identify at least three steps on how you’re going to get there.”

 2. Take the first step

Once you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, begin turning that into reality. “If you’re stuck, take the first step to finding the resources to help you achieve that goal,” says Gomez. This may include hiring a coach, reading travel books or signing up on a dating site.

 3. Follow through

It’s not enough just to plan and take the first step. Once you have your game plan, follow it. Think of your New Year’s resolution the way you would a business plan, says Gomez. “It does no good to have one if you don’t use it.” Set manageable goals, include some rewards, find an accountability partner and keep track of your progress. “This enables you to stay motivated and get consistent results,” she adds.

4. Reign yourself in

Ultimately, the ability to follow through on a New Year’s resolution involves the ability to regulate our impulses, says Timothy J. Bono, assistant dean for assessment and analytics at Washington University in St. Louis. “Our impulse might be to eat a lot of junk food or waste time on social media instead of using it more productively. To override those impulses, we need willpower, or what psychologists call self-regulatory strength.”

Bono likens strengthening willpower to becoming stronger physically. “If we can get ourselves to exercise willpower in small, everyday behaviors — maybe we resist the temptation to get the candy bar when we’re in the checkout line at the grocery store — those are the opportunities that allow our self-regulatory strength to grow.” The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

5. Expand your reach

In midlife, it’s tempting to have all your New Year’s resolutions focused on dealing with home life and empty nest syndrome if your kids have left, says Kristen Carpenter, director of Women’s Behavior Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “A better approach is one that enhances multiple areas of your life. For example, resolving to live in the moment helps achieve both personal and career goals.”

6. Prioritize

A long list of resolutions makes it less likely you’ll be able to do all of them, so order them. “If you already feel as if you’re being spread too thin, you likely will not be able to keep multiple New Year’s resolutions,” says Carpenter. “To edit your list, first rank your resolutions in order of importance and then keep only the top few. This gives you a better chance of meeting your goals.”

7. Align yourself

Ask yourself if your resolutions align with your values, says Carpenter. “If you’re crafting resolutions that are not in line with your values [e.g., training for a triathlon that takes you away from your family for weeks at a time], reevaluate your list and replace the resolutions with ones that are more cohesive to your overall goals. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up to fail.”

Follow these expert tips to create your best year ever.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

For a Happier Holiday, Host a Family Sing-Along

5 great reasons to make music together this season
By Susan Darrow for Next Avenue

Credit: Thinkstock
This time of year, music often plays a big role in many people’s lives. School concerts,
religious choir performances, seasonal community events, holiday hits on the radio — all offer abundant opportunities to take advantage of the benefits of music for any age.

Since the magic of music is shining exceptionally bright now, this is a great time to encourage your family to use these opportunities as a springboard for making music throughout the year. Music can help families on many levels. It promotes development in babies and young children; bonds families across generations and stimulates areas of the brain involved with motivation, reward and emotion. Making, or listening to, music can actually result in increased levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain’s reward system.

Here are five reasons to make music with your family this holiday season
1. Music-making is beneficial to development.

Music stimulates social, physical, cognitive and emotional development and promotes language and concentration skills, confidence and self-esteem. During the early years, active engagement with music promotes brain development and naturally supports growth essential to life and learning, as well as increasing the bond between children and their caregivers.

It’s easy to get started making music with children during the holidays: Sing your favorite carols in the car, dance to holiday songs or take children to a holiday concert or musical. A 2014 Harris Poll commissioned by the early-child music program Music Together (where I’m the CEO) revealed that only 17 percent of parents sing to their child daily. Music development is similar to language development. Imagine if parents only talked to their children once a day!

We teach children language by continuously talking and reading to them. Similarly, the best thing parents and grandparents can do to support musical growth is to sing and dance with their children and grandchildren as often as possible.

A growing body of research shows that participating in the arts promotes health and well being in older adults, too.

2. Music helps us create and recall powerful memories.

Music can spark the recall of lovely past experiences. It helps the past “come alive,” giving us access to deep feelings as we remember an event or moment. Singing while you decorate the tree, at a holiday party or at a religious celebration can help form memories and bonds with extended family and friends that will be recalled for years to come.

3. Music relieves stress.

The holidays, while joyful, can also be stressful. Singing can actually relieve stress. Studies show that singing has the ability to slow our pulse and heart rate, lower our blood pressure and decrease the levels of stress hormone in our bodies.

So, play music in the car while navigating the mall parking lot or sing along to a holiday recording while getting ready for company. It will help you stay calm and, most importantly, model for the children in your life a healthy way to deal with stress.

4. Music connects us.

The holidays can be lonely for some people. Singing, especially in groups, can relieve this loneliness by connecting us to others in ways that no other activity can. Recent research indicates that music-making as a shared experience can activate and synchronize similar neural connections in all those participating. This synchronization can result in feelings of empathy and shared intention that can promote positive social interaction and bonding.

When you sing with others this holiday season, whether during a religious service, at a community event or at a family gathering, everyone benefits.

5. Singing is intergenerational.

Music is an ageless way to connect with younger and older relatives and create ties between the youngest and oldest family members. Plus, music supports the aging processes. In later years, participating in music activities helps keep the brain active and engaged and supports us physically, socially and emotionally.

Sharing memories of holiday music-making and teaching those songs to younger generations can be joyous for both the older storytellers and the family members who are listening and forming new, pleasurable memories.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2016. All rights reserved.


The Season of Giving at Claremont Manor

The holidays are here! During this special time of year at Claremont Manor we celebrate together in so many ways. We know how fortunate we are to live and work in a place as wonderful and welcoming as Claremont Manor.

It’s important to take time from the festivities to acknowledge the meaningful generosity and support of our donors. As a donor to the Pacific Homes Foundation you make it possible for eight of our current residents to remain in their homes at our community despite having outlived their assets. As the executive director of Claremont Manor I feel that it is important to acknowledge that kindness and support. These gifts to our fellow residents in need allows me to focus operational resources to enrich the lives of all residents. Your gift benefits everyone in the community! We have much to be grateful for indeed!

Right now, the foundation’s Claremont Manor Resident Assistance Program annual drive is in full swing. And I have great news! An anonymous family member of one of our residents has pledged to match every gift given this month up to $15,000. This is a great opportunity to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year, one that could positively affect the lives of your neighbors.

Donating is easy. Visit and click on the “Donate” button and type in “CM RAP” in the note box on the bottom of the page.

You can also send a check payable to Pacific Homes Foundation (include “CM RAP” in the memo line) and drop it off at the front desk at Claremont Manor or mail it to Pacific Homes Foundation, 800 N. Brand Blvd., 19th Floor, Glendale, CA 91203. You will receive a written acknowledgement of your gift for tax purposes.

Most of all you will be helping someone in need at your own community.

Thank you again for your generosity. I wish you the very best at the holidays and always.

Greg Hirst
Executive Director
Claremont Manor

Monday, December 19, 2016


By Pastor Joan Randall

I’ve never been able to stay up until midnight to see in the New Year.  No amount of pretzels or movies or board games has ever seemed able to keep me awake.  And the New Year has always still been there when I got around to getting up in the morning to welcome it.

If you see someone quietly blowing a noisemaker at seven AM on New Year’s morning, while walking a little white dog, that will be me.

Maybe I’ll celebrate the New Year by trying something new, 
        like marmalade on my morning toast.
Maybe I’ll make resolutions, realistic ones this year…
        not “work toward world peace,”
            but living a peace with those around me, 
        not “keep our house neat and clean,” 
            but doing the best I can, day by day 
            to keep the dishes washed and the laundry done, 
            while considering those who have no shelter, 
        not “keep in touch with family and friends on a regular basis,” 
            but reaching out as I am able 
            to the people God places in my days.

Maybe I’ll just keep walking that little white dog
                     and not-so-quietly blowing my noisemaker
                     in celebration of a life
       where there can be toast and marmalade
       where I can work toward peace in my little corner of the world
       where I have shelter from the storms of life and an awareness 
       of those who have no roofs

       where I am never alone in a New Year of friends I have yet to meet 
       and a God who loves me past my knowing.

Get out your noisemakers. The New Year is coming!

Pastor Joan, Chaplain at Sunny View Retirement Community, was a beautiful shining light to residents and staff and a gift to all who knew her. She passed away last March surrounded by friends and family and her faithful dog Benji .