9 simple tips for better sleep

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How well you sleep at night affects nearly every aspect of your daily life, from your energy level to your appetite and cravings. Unfortunately, difficulty sleeping is all too common among American adults, and the prevalence of insomnia is higher among older adults. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of senior citizens experience one or more symptoms of insomnia.

Though it varies from person to person, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults 65 and older get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. To get better sleep at night, follow these simple steps:

  • Make sleep a priority. Plan your day appropriately to ensure you are able to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day.
  • Exercise daily. Research shows that moderate to high intensity exercise improves sleep, but don’t exercise within three to four hours of your bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom at an ideal temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit) with limited sound and light. Keep electronics out of your bedroom.
  • Turn off electronics at least an hour before you go to bed.
  • Mix a few drops of a soothing essential oil, such as lavender or chamomile, with water in a spray bottle and spritz your pillowcase to help you relax before bed.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book before bed.
  • Remember that alcohol and caffeine consumption can affect your sleep. Cut out caffeine after 2pm, and don’t drink alcohol at least an hour before bedtime.

Take a look at your medications and review them with your doctor. Many medications—such as beta blockers for high blood pressure—may cause insomnia. Write down all your medications and supplements and ask your doctor to evaluate how they might be affecting your sleep.

If you are experiencing constant sleepiness during the day, leg cramps or tingling at night, snoring, difficulty breathing during sleep or other symptoms that may be affecting your sleep, talk to your doctor. In some cases, difficulty sleeping is caused by a potentially serious underlying cause, such as sleep apnea.

Top 5 houseplants for better health

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Plants are nice to look at and they can liven up your home, but they can also give you a much-needed health boost. Houseplants promote clean air, fight fatigue and stress, and can fend off dry throat, cough, headaches and dry skin.

According to the Wall Street Journal“a growing body of research is showing that plants can reduce dust particles and contaminants, such as formaldehyde and benzene, that come from cigarette smoke, paint, furniture, building materials and other sources.”

Keep the air in your home pure and give your body an immunity boost with these five houseplants.

  1. Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (a.k.a. Snake Plant):  One of the best plants for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in household cleaning products, the mother-in-law’s tongue is the perfect plant for those without a green thumb. Its tall, hardy blades tolerate low light and irregular watering.
  2. Spider Plant: Named for its long, thin leaves that look like spider legs, the spider plant is a low-maintenance hanging plant that is easy to care for. The spider plant will help fight benzene, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide in the air.
  3. Chinese Evergreen: Another easy-to-care-for plant that will clear the air of a number of pollutants and toxins. Even if it is in low light, the Chinese evergreen will produce blooms and red berries.
  4. Aloe Vera Plant: If you use chemical-based cleaners, an aloe vera plant will help clear the air of chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene. The gel inside the plant can also be used to help heal cuts and burns. The aloe plant is an easy-to-grow succulent that loves bright sun, so place it near a window that gets direct sunlight.
  5. Bamboo Palm: The bamboo palm (a.k.a. reed palm) is a small palm that thrives in the shade indoors. The bamboo palm is one of the best plants for filtering out benzene and trichloroethylene. Put it near your furniture to filter out any formaldehyde that might be coming off furniture.

Give your home some ambiance with any of these easy-to-care-for plants, and do your health a favor at the same time. So many household products can release dangerous chemicals that houseplants are almost a necessity if you want to breathe clean, fresh air.

Balance exercises for senior adults

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The risk of falling is a big concern for senior adults. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults. According to the CDC, one of every three adults over age 65 fall each year, and about 20 to 30 percent of those will suffer moderate to severe injuries.

As we age, vision declines, our muscles become weaker, bones become more brittle and we begin to lose our sense of balance—all factors that contribute to the seriousness of the issue of falling for senior adults.

Common injuries from falls

Falling poses a big risk to aging adults, and it can result in serious injuries. Common injuries from falls include:

• Lacerations and bruises
• Head traumas and traumatic brain injuries
• Fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand

These injuries can make it difficult for a senior adults to get around or to live independently, and they also increase the risk of early death. Fear of falling causes some people to limit their activities, leading to reduced physical fitness and mobility and increasing their actual risk of falling.

Older adults can reduce their chances of falling and stay independent by exercising regularly, getting routine eye exams, speaking to their doctor or pharmacist about medications that may cause dizziness or drowsiness and making their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards and installing grab bars around stairways and in bathrooms.

Exercising to prevent falls

Strength and balance exercises are important when it comes to preventing falls. Here are some simple exercises you can do to improve your balance and strength and live more independently.

Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Hold the position for up to 10 seconds, repeating 10 to 15 times on both legs.
Walk heel to toe, taking 20 steps putting the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot.
Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other, holding your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. With each step, left your back leg and pause for one second before moving forward. Repeat for 20 steps.
Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Slowly raise one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Keep the leg you are standing on slightly bent. Hold for one second before slowly lowering your leg. Repeat 10 to 15 times on both legs.
Similar to the above exercise, raise one leg out to the side, keeping your back straight and toes facing forward. Hold for one second before slowly lowering your leg. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each leg.

With each of these exercises, always have a sturdy chair or another person nearby to hold on to, if needed. To challenge yourself, try these exercises holding the chair with only one hand, then with no hands. When you feel steady on your feet, try doing them with your eyes closed.

Note: Talk to your doctor before trying any of these exercises.

10 ways to go green for earth day

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Today is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day! Cleaning up the environment and building sustainable communities may seem like big ideas, but the future of our planet is at stake, and we all have a responsibility to do our part to help save the earth.

If everyone would make small adjustments in their daily habits, the overall impact would be huge. Here are 10 easy ways you can go green for Earth Day—and every other day, too.

  1. Keep your electronics, such as your computer, turned off at night or when not in use. Even if your computer is “asleep,” it’s still using energy.
  2. Read the news online to save paper. Do you have subscriptions to magazines or newspapers that you could read online instead? Sharing subscriptions is another way to cut down on waste. If you have family or friends nearby who read the same newspaper or magazines as you, consider sharing your subscriptions.
  3. Recycle. If you aren’t already sorting your trash and recycling, you should be! Plastics, paper, glass—these can all be recycled.
  4. Purchase reusable cloth or canvas grocery bags. Within Dallas city limits, grocery stores now must charge $.05 per plastic bag. Save money and the planet by using reusable bags instead.
  5. Take your own mug to the coffee shop. If you frequent Starbucks or another local coffee shop that uses paper mugs, take your own mug instead. Some coffee shops will even give you a discount on your coffee!
  6. Plant some green. Even a small houseplant can make a difference for the environment.
  7. If you’ve got several places to go in a week, try to schedule your errands and appointments back-to-back to help cut down on gas. Doing so will also save you time and money!
  8. Use all-natural, eco-friendly cleaning products and dish detergent.
  9. Pick up litter when you’re out for your daily walk. We’re all responsible for keeping the earth clean and beautiful, and picking up trash you see when you’re outside is one very simple way you can do your part.
  10. Switch out your incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent, LED or halogen bulbs.

None of us can singlehandedly save the planet, but each of us can do our small part. Will you commit to making 10 small changes in your daily life? If you want to do more to help save the planet, visit www.earthday.org for more information and ideas on how you can get involved.

10 ways to create a safer home for seniors

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Maintaining your independence as you age is important, and although home can be more comfortable for aging adults, it can also unfortunately become hazardous. An aging body, health problems and side effects from medications can increase risk of falls and injury in the home. In fact, the leading cause of death among adults over age 65 is falling, which results in broken hips and then leads to other serious medical problems.

Here are 10 tips for creating a safer home for senior citizens:

  • Check smoke alarms, place smoke detectors around the home in easily accessible places, create a clear emergency escape plan and install carbon monoxide detectors. These are important for the safety of any home, no matter one’s age.
  • Keep the home well lit, especially in walkways and stairways. Install extra light switches or remote switches, and use nightlights in bathrooms and hallways.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as raised doorway thresholds, floor rugs and loose carpet. Clear walking paths of furniture and electrical cords.
  • Wax hard floors with nonskid floor wax, put nonslip strips on floors and steps and use nonskid mats inside and outside the bathtub or shower and around toilets and sinks.
  • Turn water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below to avoid burns, and clearly label hot and cold faucets.
  • Add sturdy handrails to any stairways inside and outside the home.
  • Install grab handles in bathrooms near toilets and bathtubs/showers.
  • Store household items and heavy items at waist level or below for easy access, and keep a grabber nearby to reach items that are out of reach.
  • Place a step stool with handrails near cabinets or shelves where items are kept up high.
  • Consider a medical alert system.

Keeping the home a safe place as you age doesn’t have to be costly, and your health and safety is worth the effort. Your independence is important, but don’t hesitate to ask family or friends for help when you need it.

Influential American Jazz Musicians of the 20th Century

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Jazz music got its start on American soil—in the fields where the slaves made up songs to pass time and to remember the culture and traditions of their African heritage. New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz, since that’s where the music got its name in the early 1900s.

In honor of National Jazz Appreciation Month, here are some of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century.

Miles Davis: Miles Davis was a leader of the 20th century jazz movement and one of the most innovative and influential musicians of his time. He is responsible for the emergence of be-bop, hard bop, cool jazz, free jazz, funk and techno music. Davis’ success laid the foundation for many other successful jazz musicians, including John Coltrane, J.J. Johnson, Cannonball Adderley and many others. Davis was the recipient of multiple awards during his lifetime, including eight Grammy Awards and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Ella Fitzgerald: One of the top female jazz singers for decades, Ella Fitzgerald became known as the “First Lady of Song” and recorded more than 200 albums and more than 2,000 songs in her lifetime. In 1958, she made history as the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award. She went on to win a total of 13 Grammys (among numerous other awards) and sell more than 40 million albums.

Billie Holiday: Perhaps the most powerful vocalist of her time and one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Billie Holiday (a.k.a. “Lady Day”) had a unique vocal style and thrived as a jazz singer until she lost her battle with addiction in 1959. Holiday is known for her melancholy tone and distinctive phrasing. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

John Coltrane: One of the most influential figures in American jazz music. Coltrane played both tenor and soprano saxophone, and his compositions helped redefine be-bop. Coltrane recorded about 50 albums during his career, and is the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, among many other accolades.

Louis Armstrong: One of the greatest musicians of all time, Louis Armstrong was a trumpet player and singer from New Orleans. Legendary singers, including Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, were largely influenced by Armstrong’s singing, and he is also partially responsible for the recognition of the trumpet as a solo instrument in jazz.

Duke Ellington: A pianist, composer and big-band leader, Duke Ellington was one of the most important bandleaders in American jazz history. Ellington was not only a jazz musician, but was also influential in gospel, blues, classical and pop music. Ellington’s lifetime achievements include 13 Grammy awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, to name just a few. Ellington is the inspiration behind the music of Thelonius Monk, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie and many other well-known musicians.

Max Roach: One of the greatest drummers in history, Roach is partially responsible for modern jazz drumming. He was so skilled at drumming that he could play solo shows, leaving audiences enthralled with his performances. Over the years, he played with other jazz artists including Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington, among others.

Turn on your favorite album and celebrate the history and culture of America’s true art form—soulful, spiritual, bluesy jazz.

Avoid These 10 Common Couponing Mistakes

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Couponing can save you big bucks on your grocery shopping, but making common couponing mistakes can be costly. Avoid couponing mistakes and save the most money with these tips.

  1. Know the fine print and store policies. Avoid a time-consuming conflict at the register by reading the fine print on your coupons and knowing the store policies on how coupons can be used. Every coupon comes with fine print that spells out the expiration date, guidelines and restrictions for use; and store policies often vary from one store to the next, so print out a copy of your store’s coupon policies and carry it with you for quick reference.
  2. Don’t forget to stack your coupons. Do you have a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon for a particular item? Stack them to maximize your savings! Be sure you’re also using store loyalty cards to get the most bang for your buck at the register.
  3. Use coupons on sale items, too. Just because an item is on sale at your store doesn’t mean that the sale price is the lowest price. You will save the most using coupons when you combine those coupons with store sales. Most grocery stores follow a “sale cycle,” so get familiar with when particular items will go on sale (pay attention to those store ads that come in the mail!) and plan to use your coupons during the sale.
  4. Compare generic to name-brand prices. Oftentimes, the price of buying generic is still less than using a coupon on a brand name item. If the brand doesn’t matter, then be sure to skip the coupon and buy generic if it’s cheaper.
  5. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Just because something is on sale or you have a coupon doesn’t mean you need to buy it. If you won’t use it, don’t waste your money on it, no matter how good the bargain.
  6. Don’t invest more time than you can spare couponing. Couponing can easily become a job, so you need to determine how much time you have to spend couponing and find what works best for you within that time frame. This may just mean clipping coupons from Sunday’s paper. If you have more time to dedicate to couponing, then you might also try searching for coupons online. Remember, your time is valuable. If you are spending too much time couponing and end up neglecting other responsibilities, is the couponing really worth it?
  7. Compare prices between stores. When you have a manufacturer’s coupon for a particular item, you will save the most when you use that coupon at the store with the lowest price. Keep in mind also that most stores will price match, so don’t forget to carry competitor ads with you when shopping. Always remember to factor in the cost of gas if you will be driving to different stores to get everything on your shopping list. Just because you have a coupon, that doesn’t mean you’ll save money if it costs you more in time and gas to use that coupon.
  8. Watch your budget. If couponing requires you to buy in bulk to save money, but you don’t have the budget to buy in bulk, then it isn’t worth it. Couponing should help you save money and stretch your budget, not cause you to exceed your budget.
  9. Be organized. Keep your coupons organized using an accordion-style binder to keep your shopping trip as stress-free as possible. Organize coupons by type of product or store aisle, then organize each small group of coupons by expiration date. Be sure to toss any coupons that have expired.
  10. Don’t leave your coupons at home! This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is one of the most common couponing mistakes people make. Always carry your full binder of coupons with you—you never know when you’ll need to buy something that wasn’t on your original shopping list.

Couponing requires organization and careful planning, but it should not be an overwhelming experience or cause you undue stress. Find a system that works best for you and stick to that system. Remember: what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next. Your couponing system should save you time and money, not cost you.

Simple Tips to Organize Your Photos

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Photos hold precious memories of times past. Weddings, births, growing children, family reunions, school activities, sporting events—these snapshots remind us of people and places we love, and they allow us to pass those memories on to the next generation.

As you work your way through your spring cleaning projects, take some time to organize your photos. Most of us have boxes of unorganized photo prints lying around our homes. Many of us also have folders of digital images just waiting to be categorized. Organizing photos can be an overwhelming task, which is probably why you haven’t tackled that project quite yet.

Here are some tips to help you simply organize your photos—digital or print:

Start by gathering all of your photos in one place. Whether you are working with prints or digital images, move all your photos to one physical location or to one folder on your computer so you can easily see what you have.

Next, start paring down your photo collection by tossing/deleting photos that:

  • Are blurry.
  • Do not bring back happy memories, or that make you feel bad.
  • Are of people or places you cannot remember (if you’re worried you’ll toss important photos, this is the time to ask your spouse, son/daughter, sibling or friend for help).
  • Are duplicate shots (keep only the best shot).

• Sort remaining photos by category in a way that makes sense to you. You might choose to sort by who’s in the photo, date, event or location.

• Next it’s time to decide how and where you want to store your photos. This may be a photo box or album. If you are working with digital photos, you may choose to print your photos and put them in a box or album, or to store them on your computer in albums. It’s wise to keep duplicate copies of your digital photos in separate places so you will not lose them. If you are storing photos on your computer, purchase a USB storage device or use a cloud storage service for a backup.

• Label photos with date, name, event, location or other details. For digital images, choose a labeling system that makes sense to you and works best with your operating system.

If your goal was simply to organize your photos, you’re done here! Just be sure to keep up with your system in the future so you won’t have to tackle a major photo organization project again.

If you are planning to put your photos into albums or scrapbooks, the fun starts now! When working with digital images, there are numerous resources available to design and print photo books to hold your memories. Some of the most popular services are: smilebox.com, blurb.com and shutterfly.com. You can also print photos and create albums online at walmart.com and walgreens.com. Depending on the service you choose, printed photos and albums can be delivered to your home or picked up in-store.

Once your photos are organized into boxes, folders, albums or scrapbooks, they will be much easier for you to enjoy. So pull them out and take a walk down memory lane the next time your children or grandchildren stop by for a visit.

A Simple Guide to Spring Cleaning

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Springtime is all about new beginnings and a fresh, clean slate. That translates to all areas of our lives, even our homes, which is why spring cleaning can be so beneficial. A clean and organized home promotes a calm, stress-free environment and will leave you feeling fresh and renewed.

Spring cleaning can be a huge undertaking—especially if you plan on tackling it on your own. Use these tips to make this year’s spring cleaning project simple and efficient.

Make a cleaning plan. Spring cleaning is going to take some time, so be sure to set aside time in your weekend or even during the week to tackle your spring cleaning project. It doesn’t have to be done all at once, but it is important that you are able to dedicate as much time as necessary to do a thorough job.

Start with a quick cleanup. Before you get down to the nitty-gritty of spring cleaning, start with a quick cleanup. Go through each room in your home and put away as much as you can. Wash dishes, do the laundry and put away clean clothes. Once your home is tidy, you can start deep cleaning and organizing.

Clean from the top down. This is especially important when dusting. Begin at the top and work your way down to the floors. Use a duster with an extendable arm to dust out-of-reach corners, light fixtures and ceiling fans. Next, dust and clean furniture, and finish by cleaning the floors.

Organize. Spend some time organizing closets, drawers and cabinets. Toss items you no longer use into a box or basket to sell or donate. Organize and file those papers stacked on your desk, empty out your junk drawer and sort items into trays or small baskets. When your home is organized, it is easier to keep clean and to find things when you need them.

Transition your wardrobe. Clean all your winter clothes and store them away for next winter. Move your warm-weather clothes to the front of your closet and organize them in a way that makes the most sense to you—by color or type (T-shirts, blouses, pants, etc).

Detail counters, cabinets, and drawers. Empty out cabinets and drawers and wipe them out. Then sort through items and return them to the cabinet or drawer in an organized fashion.

Ask for help. Spring cleaning is a big task, so be sure to ask for help if you need it. Don’t try to move large items like furniture on your own, and avoid climbing on ladders to get to out-of-reach places. Call on your children, grandchildren or a friend to lend a helping hand.

A clean home will allow you to focus on the things that really matter—the people in your life and activities you enjoy—without being distracted by mess. Plan out your spring cleaning project and get to it!

 

Top 10 Springtime Activities for Seniors

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Spring has arrived in North Texas and winter is finally behind us. Are you ready to come out of winter hibernation and enjoy the springtime weather?

There’s no shortage of activities in the D-FW area this spring. Here are the 10 top springtime activities for senior citizens.

1. Dallas Arboretum: Whether you enjoy a stroll through the gardens, sitting down for tea with the ladies, an evening concert under the stars or participating in gardening and photography classes, the Dallas Arboretum has it all. Adult education classes at the Arboretum include topics on horticulture, photography, art, floral design and much more. At the Historic DeGolyer House, you can sit down for a three-course Spring Tea with your family or friends. The Cool Thursdays Spring Concert Series on the lawn of the Arboretum launches April 9 with Rocket Man: The Elton John Tribute Experience. And of course, the gardens themselves display a full array of colors this spring with Dallas Blooms, the largest floral festival in the Southwest featuring more than 500,000 spring blooming bulbs.

2. Volunteer programs: Volunteering is a great way to stay active both physically and mentally. It also provides an opportunity to socialize with others. The Senior Source is a tool you can use to find the right volunteer opportunity for you based on your likes and dislikes. Through the volunteer opportunities at The Senior Source, active older adults can become mentors, coaches or companions to people in need, or contribute their skills and expertise to community organizations and projects. You can also find opportunities to volunteer on your own through your local church and other organizations such as United Way and The Red Cross.

3. Exercise programs: Staying physically active is especially important as we age. There are a variety of senior citizen exercise and fitness programs available in the metroplex—including group yoga, aerobics, walking, balance, Zumba—at area recreation centers, municipal senior centers and local gyms. Dallas Parks also offers a number of fitness classes at local parks and rec centers. For details on Dallas Parks fitness options, click here.

4. Senior Center Events: Senior centers around the metroplex host events and activities each month, ranging from movie showings to exercise classes and more. Find senior center events in your area here.

5. White Rock Lake: The White Rock Lake Trail is one of the most scenic spots in Dallas. Grab a friend and go for a stroll around the lake on the 9.3 mile trail that circles the lake. Take in the fresh air and enjoy the scenery of boats on the water with the Dallas skyline overlooking the lake from a distance.

6. Dallas Museum of Art: The DMA is another hot spot for local events year-round. Take a day to visit the museum and stroll through the various art collections and exhibitions. On the third Friday of each month, the DMA hosts Late Night at the museum, which includes performances, concerts, readings, film screenings, tours and more. The DMA also holds regular musical performances, creative workshops and many other activities for art lovers of all ages.

7. Dallas Summer Musicals: The 2015 season of Dallas Summer Musicals is in full swing, and the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, The King and I, the dramatic tale of an English widow who falls in love with the King of Bangkok, hits the stage March 20 through April 5.

8. Historical spots: Explore Dallas’ history for free at one of the many sites around town, including the grassy knoll outside the former School Book Depository; Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial, a pre-Civil War burial ground; Heritage Village, which highlights the history of Texas in the late 1800s and early 20th century; and the Hall of the State, home to more than three million historic documents and objects on display.

9. Culinary and food tours: Dallas is home to a broad variety of cuisine from award-winning, nationally known chefs and restaurants. Culinary and food tours are a fun and unique opportunity to explore new foods, drinks and restaurants around town with friends.

10. Be a tourist: No matter how long you’ve lived in the Dallas area, there are surely local sites and attractions you have not experienced before. Take a day to explore Dallas as a tourist with a city tour. Bus tours and walking tours are available at one of the many Dallas tour companies. With a tour of the city, you will be able to experience the history of Dallas, learn interesting facts and see a side of Dallas-Ft. Worth you’ve never seen before.