Good eye care can also protect your independence

Just about every article on healthy aging will remind you to eat better, exercise more, get plenty of rest, and make sure you’re getting routine checkups with your dentist and doctor. While I am passionate about all those things, this time I’m focusing on taking care of your eyes.

It’s something I have personal interest in.

As I get older, I’m noticing that my eyes are changing. And, I’m paying more attention to keeping them healthy. Eyecare may also need some seasonal adjustments. Fall’s dry air can bother eyes. So can all those hours spent shopping online.

Think about how many times you depend on your eyes every day. From reading mail and paying bills to driving, your vision is massively important for your independence as you get older. Make sure you’re doing all you can for your eyes.

Here are some of my favorite tips:

  • Tell your eyecare professional if family members have been diagnosed with an eye disease or condition. Some conditions are hereditary, which may put you at higher risk for developing them. Taking appropriate precautions, and catching symptoms early, may help ultimately help preserve your vision.
  • Always be ready to soothe dry eyes. Dry, cold air can leave your eyes feeling dry and uncomfortable. A new eye mist technology may forever change how you manage dry eyes. I love this stuff. I take it with me everywhere. It makes such a difference. There’s no dripping, no mess, and ladies, it won’t smudge your makeup.
  • Look away from the screen every 20 minutes. We don’t blink as often when we’re staring at the computer. If you’re not protecting your eyes, you may be increasing your risk for digital eye strain and dry eyes. Also, every 20 minutes, it’s smart to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Another option is to wear special computer glasses that have a blue light filter in the lenses. (A third option is to just cut your screen time!).
  • Use protective eyewear when doing yard work. Blowing or raking leaves can send small pieces of plant matter flying into your eyes. Because the lenses of most protective eyewear are made of strong polycarbonate, they may do a better job of protecting your eyes from flying debris than regular sunglasses or prescription glasses.
  • Ladies, smell your eye makeup. Experts recommend tossing your mascara, shadows and eye liners because they harbor germs that may cause eye infections. If you don’t want to go to the expense of replacing makeup that frequently, smell it. If it’s stinky, it’s not worth the risk.
  • Keep rocking your sunglasses all year long. The sun’s rays can still damage your eyes even on cloudy, overcast days. Make sure your sunglasses block 90 to 100 percent of all UVA/UVB radiation.
  • Eat to protect your sight. Several nutrients are known to support eye health and may even help protect eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration. These include beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc; and vitamins A, C, D and E. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is good for your eyes as well as your overall health. That means eating plenty of dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, berries, nuts and seeds, brown rice, citrus fruits, and melons. Eye-friendly proteins include shrimp, crab, eggs, and cold-water fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel.

You can continue to enjoy your independence as you age. When it comes to your eyes, it may just require making some adjustments here and there.

Jonny Bowden, who has degrees in holistic nutrition and psychology, writes on subjects related to weight loss, nutrition and health. His articles have appeared in print or online in the New York Times and magazines, including People and O the Oprah Magazine.

Bouncing back from the holidays and into a healthy eating and exercise routine is always easier said than done.

On the bright side, getting back on track doesn’t have to be difficult. However, you may feel discouraged if you try to go back to your usual routine all at once. Instead, it’s better to wean yourself off the sugar and ease yourself back into an exercise routine.

Even for someone who is in shape, taking just a week off of exercise can decrease your fitness. Thus, jumping right back into your usual routine can feel difficult or be tough on your body, potentially causing injury or a lot of soreness at the very least. Remember that getting back in shape won’t happen in just one day.

Instead of hitting the treadmill and running until you can’t any more, or struggling to lift heavy weights,take it slow. For example, take a few extra minutes to warm up–stretch, walk on the treadmill, or do a light jog. If weights are more your thing, start with something lighter than you’re used to, and do extra reps rather than bumping up the weight.

Some other post-holiday sweat-session examples include a home workout, a gentle yoga class, keep it short (30 minutes or less), and walk as much as possible (around the neighborhood, at work, in town, etc).

Saying No to Sugar

Good news: You don’t have to quit sugar cold turkey. In fact, cutting out sugar all together might make you more likely to indulge in unhealthy eating habits, such as bingeing. Instead, you want to wean off sugar for the best results. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Find out what is triggering you to eat sugar. Is it an afternoon slump? Are candies and cookies lying around your house? Once you recognize these triggers, you’ll already be able to make better decisions and ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”
  2. Manage your portion sizes. Instead of depriving yourself of sugar, limit your portion sizes. One tip is to portion out your treats ahead of time if you can, by separating amounts in Tupperware or plastic baggies.
  3. Out of sight, out of mind. Instead of leaving holiday treats around the house or out in the open, put things away in drawers or in the fridge. Sometimes we don’t have cravings for a treat until we physically see it.
  4. Make healthy snacks available. This step is extremely important. Typically, we grab sugary treats because they are easy and readily available. Buy pre-cut veggies and fruits with healthy dips like hummus or guacamole to store front and center in your fridge. Leave fresh fruit on the counter so it’s the first thing you see when you enter the kitchen.
  5. Make sure you are getting a balanced diet, and use a supplement. Even when we are trying our best to eat healthy, we can’t always eat in the proportions that we need to get the correct amount of vitamins and minerals that we need to feel our best, so taking a supplement is key.

Sugary Swaps

Finding yummy alternatives to your favorite treats will be a huge help when it comes to kicking sugar to the curb. Here are some ideas to start implementing when thinking of reaching for one of your holiday favorites:

  • Candy canes: Peppermint tea
  • Chocolate or fudge: One or two ounces of dark chocolate, preferably 70 percent cacao or higher.
  • Cookies: Chopped apple with cinnamon and raisins.
  • Candies: Grapes (fresh or frozen).
  • Hot chocolate: Make your own with one cup hot water, one tablespoon cacao, one-quarter teaspoon vanilla extract, and two teaspoons maple syrup.
  • Alcohol: Fruity, herbal tea or seltzer with lime.

Dr. Nicole Avena, who wrote this article, is an assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University. She is a research neuroscientist and expert in nutrition, diet and addiction, has written several books, andblogs for “Psychology Today.”

Bring on the veggies and fruit

Ample fruits and vegetables in the diet is essential throughout the entire lifespan, including in older adults. In fact, seniors who consume more fruits and veggies lower their risk of numerous chronic diseases and are expected to live longer, especially in combination with regular physical activity.

Older adults should consume approximately two cups of fruits and three cups of vegetables each day. But despite the recommendations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports only one in 10 adults get enough fruits and veggies.

While changes in taste, smell, chewing, and swallowing may make the recommendations difficult to meet, you can help increase fresh food for seniors and ensure adequate intake of both fruits and veggies with these nine tips.

1. Open the discussion

First and foremost, ask your loved one their input regarding their diet and make the conversation bidirectional. Discuss whether or not they have difficulty chewing or swallowing them or if their taste seems “off.”

These sort of indices can not only help you increase fruits and vegetables in their diet, but bring to light any potential concerns deserving medical attention.

2. Have them available and convenient.

If fruits and veggies are out of sight, they are likely out of mind! So to encourage their intake conveniently, have various assortments cut, prepared, and ready to enjoy.

Having a fruit basket visible on the counter can also inspire their intake, while looking for pre-sliced produce is beneficial if slicing and chopping is a barrier between seniors and their fruit and veggie intake.

3. Try Different Cooking Techniques

Rather than boring the taste buds with the same scoop of peas night after night, shake up the repertoire by trying different cooking techniques, including steaming, grilling, sautéing, stir-frying, and boiling.

You can also soften apples into a smooth, healthy applesauce, free of added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives!

4. Mix into Smoothies

While sipping on 100 percent fruit or veggie juices grants valuable nutrients, they are stripped away from their natural fiber content. So to help retain fiber, maintain the sippable appeal, and increase easy-to-digest vegetables, blend up some smoothies!

Smoothies are a tried and true tip to sneak in fruits and veggies, along with supplying adequate protein to preserve muscle mass and strength.

Nutritious and delicious smoothie options include chocolate banana or mint and peach, raspberry, and basil. These 13 smoothies also pack in the veggies (and your loved one will never notice)!

5. Puree into Sauces

Like smoothies, sauces are another way to sneak in veggies. For instance, rather than mixing whole spinach leaves into pasta noodles, puree them into the tomato sauce.

6. Bulk Up Main Dishes

To rev up the nutritional content, bulk up main dishes with veggies. There are numerous ways to do so, including chopped bell peppers into chili and finely diced carrots into soups.

7. Offer Dips

Offering dips is a creative way to jazz up fruits and veggies. Nutritious and delicious dipping duos include carrot sticks and red pepper hummus, apple slices and peanut butter, and cucumber slices and Greek yogurt ranch.

8. Whip Up Some Popsicles

Popsicles are refreshing and convenient but unfortunately, are often loaded with sugar and lack any sort of nutritional value. But by making these irresistible homemade yogurt popsicles, seniors can enjoy what makes that summertime staple so cherished whilst increasing fruit, veggie, and protein intake!

9. And an Avocado and Banana “Ice Cream”

Rather than being packed with refined sugars, this avocado and banana “ice cream”  is naturally sweetened and contributes to daily fruit recommendations.

You and your loved one can also make it an ice cream social and invite other friends and family members!

Source: Silver Cuisine by bistroMD.

Maybe you’re one of those people who worked hard all your life, and didn’t take – or have– the time to travel and see this wonderful world of ours. And now in retirement, you find yourself with lots of time and itching to travel, but don’t know where to get started.

The good news is, travel is so easy today. There are many, many options available now to suit whatever you envision for your next travel experience. Whether you enjoy wine tasting or want to try bungee jumping, those options are available. You can choose anything from local events to around-the-world cruises. You might want to experience white water rafting, hiking, or spelunking—if you like exploring underground. There is a world of adventure just waiting for you.

My early interest in travel and languages led me to take an opportunity to live and study in Europe for a year—best year ever. I loved meeting people in other countries and learning at least a few words of their languages. I’m older now, and the love of traveling around our own United States and revisiting locations, friends and acquaintances still hold its charm for me.

Here are five easy tips to keep in mind if you are a new traveler:

  1. Take advantage of your flexibility, and travel during non-peak periods. Costs are usually less for everything from flights and accommodations, to entrance fees and attractions. And, there are fewer crowds.
  • Use any discounts you qualify for. One of the perks of being a senior citizen is the wide range of travel discounts that are now available to you.
  • Go for longer visits. Spend more time at your destination. Plan to see just one city, or one country, and experience it thoroughly. That’s the best way to soak in the local flavor.
  • Let someone else do the booking. Many travelers appreciate someone else making the arrangements, and group travel provides security for solo travelers or if you aren’t confident about planning all the details on your own. It eliminates worries about finding transportation, missing an important site, or not speaking the language.
  • Day tours are your friend. If you prefer to go it alone and have any concerns about getting around or being able to visit popular sites, look for day tours with reliable companies, especially those offering front-of-the-line access or other methods for avoiding the crowds.

Seek out new experiences. Wherever you go, you will make new friends and create a storehouse of happy memories.

Joan Lacy is the author of “A Shadow Away” (, the first novel in the Alex Cort Adventures series.