Monthly Archives: March 2016

Why food labels are so misleading


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Even when accurate, they may not reflect good choices

By Rashelle Brown for Next Avenue

If you care about your health and pay attention to nutrition, then you probably read the labels on the back of the packaged food products you buy. Would it surprise you to learn that in doing so, you might actually be making yourself less healthy? In fact, many of us are misled into buying products that are just plain bad for us.

Package marketing has evolved

The fact that food companies use their product packaging as a marketing tool is not news to anyone. We all know that words like “natural,” “low-fat” and “reduced-calorie” are plastered onto all kinds of products to create the so-called “health halo” effect. The savvy, nutrition-minded consumer has adapted; your first instinct now is probably to flip the package over and read the Nutrition Facts and ingredients list. read more

The surprising secret to aging well


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A Next Avenue Influencer in Aging says it’s all about the bones

By Barbara Knickerbocker Beskind for Next Avenue

Editor’s note: This article is part of Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencers in Aging project honoring 50 people changing how we age and think about aging. 

As an occupational therapist and someone in my early 90s, here’s what I recommend to age well: good posture and a brisk 30-minute walk daily from early childhood on. This builds bone density and balance reflexes that reduce the impact of falls and injuries in later years.

Walking has enormous benefits — emotionally and even creatively — as recent studies show. This is in addition to the well-known benefits to the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. A sturdy gait pattern with alternating arm/leg movement helps maintain balance reflexes and strength in lateral hip muscles. read more

The 10 best pet companions to have at your side

These dog and cat companions provide multiple benefits.

By Debbie Swanson for Next Avenue


A Boston terrier is a good choice for older adults.

Maybe your father needs to keep up with his exercise, but without anyone at home to nudge him outdoors, he tends to put it off. Maybe your mother needs something to focus her attention on instead of her health worries. The right animal companion is the perfect way to keep older adults active as they age in place, and to help them feel less alone, needed and loved.

“An animal provides another focus, a reason to get up in the morning, an opportunity to exercise, unconditional love and a social lubricant,” says Rebecca Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri. For adults living alone, “animals can reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation,” she says. Research has also found that pet owners take better care of themselves, rebound faster from illness, maintain lower blood pressure, and have a lower risk of heart disease, Johnson says, adding that she has seen these benefits firsthand at TigerPlace, an independent living community co-developed by the university that encourages pet ownership. She credits animal companionship there with transforming withdrawn, sedentary adults into active, social members of the community. read more

The impact of older voters in the 2016 Election


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Assessing the New Hampshire and Iowa results and looking ahead

By Bob Blancato for Next Avenue

New Hampshire voters have spoken. They selected the oldest candidates in the race from each party: Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. What does that say about the impact that the older voter might have in the November election?

It is too soon to know, just as it is too soon to know who will ultimately win. However, it is never too early to start raising the issues that will motivate older Americans to vote.

This article is not meant to be a political crystal ball; it is far too cloudy to see November’s final outcome. But, after the first two opportunities for people to vote instead of just answer polls (Iowa and New Hampshire), we emerge with a sense that there is genuine anger combined with restlessness about the economic direction of the country and the growing reality that the recovery has not reached everyone. read more

Remembering Harper Lee, author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’


Credit: 205 Mary Murphy & Company LLC Caption: Harper Lee (center) with filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy (left) and Lee’s friend Joy Brown (right), June 30, 2015, Monroeville, AL

A PBS doc described her impact and the stir ‘Go Set a Watchman’ made

By Heidi Raschke for Next Avenue

Novelist Harper Lee has died at age 89. The author of To Kill a Mockingbird died peacefully in her sleep at an assisted living facility in Monroeville, Ala., on Friday, February 19, 2016, The New York Times reports, leaving in her wake a mystery that will likely never be solved.

After decades of silence, Lee created a stir with the release of her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, in 2015. Watchman was as controversial as Mockingbird was revered. People wondered why Lee was suddenly publishing a second book (and whether she was mentally competent to do so) and her legacy was reconsidered. read more

How library classes in the arts are changing aging


Woman dancing in tango class at Brooklyn Public Library in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Lifetime Arts teaches older adults to dance, write and perform

By Linda Bernstein for Next Avenue

Six words sum it up: The arts are good for you.

Inspired by the research of the late Dr. Gene D. Cohen demonstrating the positive impact cultural programs have on our intellectual, emotional and even physical health as we age, nine years ago, Maura O’Malley and Ed Friedman co-founded Lifetime Arts, a nonprofit arts service organization.

“My career had been in arts education, and Ed and I both had become involved in caregiving. We looked around at programs available for older adults, and frankly it was pitiable,” O’Malley remembers. read more

3 ways to give to charity before writing a will

Charity-webShow your support while receiving unexpected benefits

By Ric Edelman for Next Avenue

Many Americans leave money to charities in their wills — but you needn’t wait to die before giving aid to a charity.

Today’s tax laws offer you many ways to support charities while giving you benefits you might not have expected — such as tax deductions and extra income from the assets you’ve donated.

Here are a few ideas you might not have considered.