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Forever Young: The Benefits of Pet Ownership

Betty White, known as the world's most beloved animal lover, credits her Golden Retriever with keeping her young. Martha Stewart says her Chow Chow has never had a bad day. And Morgan Freeman says that "a loving pet is the most loving you're ever going to get."

It's not surprising that numerous studies extol the mental and physical health benefits of owning a pet later in life. Both dogs and cats can help reduce stress, encourage exercise and, of course, provide unconditional love and affection.

As well as providing vital companionship, living with a dog or cat can add to the quality of our lives by:

Helping us find meaning and joy in life. As we age, we may no longer engage in the activities that previously occupied our time and gave our lives purpose, like a career or raising children. Caring for a pet can bring us pleasure and help create a sense of optimism and self-worth.

Staying connected. Dogs, especially, are a great way for older adults to spark up conversations and meet new people.

Boosting vitality. We can overcome many of the physical challenges associated with aging by taking good care of ourselves. Dogs and cats encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise, which can help boost our immune systems and increase our energy levels.

Since raising puppies and kittens can be a handful, today, many older adults are choosing to adopt senior pets. In fact, several national organizations, including The Pets for the Elderly Foundation, help pay the fees -- including pre-adoption veterinary exams -- for senior citizens (age 60 and over) who adopt a companion pet from participating shelters. Some programs, like Seniors for Pets, even help subsidize the animal's ongoing medical care.

If owning a pet doesn't make sense for you, look for an organization nearby that offers specially trained therapy dogs and cats. During these visits, you'll be invited to pet the animals, giving you many of the physical and mental health benefits without the daily responsibilities of pet ownership.

10 Best Cities for Retirement

Retirement day has finally arrived! You are entering the next exciting phase of life. Now it's time to figure out just where that will be. Perhaps you seek a warmer climate and an escape from the cold, harsh winters of the northeast. Or maybe you crave to be closer to those little grandchildren who seem to have a way of getting bigger every day. There are many factors to take into account when making this huge decision - cost of living, quality of the health care in the area, great place for staying active indoors as well as outdoors to name a few. No matter what your needs, we have the top places to explore for this next chapter of your life.

1. Desert local. If you love the mountains plus tons of Sun, check out Yuma, Arizona. According to the National Climatic Data Center, Yuma is the sunniest city in the United States. You can catch those rays an average of 90% of the time. Did we mention Yuma has the least humidity as well?

2. Excitement and adventure. If you thrive unlimited activities all while experiencing sunny skies and limited humidity, then Las Vegas is a city to consider. There's something for everyone and never a dull moment in Las Vegas.

3. Ski Lovers Rejoice. If you are a ski buff and plan to spend retirement hoaning those skills on the slopes, then Boone, North Carolina is the place to consider. Boone offers three ski resorts that are guaranteed to amaze all while offering a budget friendly, small town feel. Boone also offers residents free local bus service on their AppalCART line as a nice conveinence.

4. Looking for Open Space? If you are looking for wide open spaces with plenty of fresh air, check out Walnut Creek, California. Downtown is filled with high-end shops guaranteed to satisfy any shopaholic, great restaurants, and a large focus on the arts. There are 22 parks offering over 2,700 acres of wide open spaces. Great for hiking and staying active.

5. Tried and true. Since 2008, Phoenix has attracted more older residents than any other large city in the US. And this continues to grow each year. With mild temperatures and lower rain levels all year round, it's not hard to understand why Phoenix is a big attraction. And don't forget the amazing scenery.

6. How about the Gulf? Want Sunny skies and aqua blue ocean at an affordable cost? Then check out the Tampa Bay area. Great cost of living along with beautiful weather year round, make this an attractive spot to consider.

7. Southwest. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas offers great history, fabulous places to eat and something for everyone. Suburbs of the city offer economical housing perfect for any retiree.

8. Northwest delight. Strong economy, affordable, and low crime rates. These are just some of the top reasons to look at Boise, Idaho to settle down in after retirement. Low humidity is also on the weather forecast, however, so are cold winters. If you are someone that likes the seasons, then think about Boise.

9. Budget conscious? Check out Bella Vista, Arkansas. With a low median home price and cost-of-living 5% below the national average, Bella Vista is worth consideration. Did we mention the great weather and tons of outdoor activities including several golf courses and many lakes? Affordable with plenty to do and see are just two of the many reasons we had to add Bella Vista to the list.

10. Eastcoast Splendor. If the beach is calling, look no further than Nahant, MA. Low population and amazing water views are the attraction here. Not to mention the history. Nahant is full of historic attractions and is just minutes from Boston so there is always something to do. All this plus the slow pace Nahant provides, put this high on the list.

Gardening: Why It's Good for the Body & Soul

Garden envy is a good thing, especially if it inspires you to start your own. Gardening requires no experience and very little space, and the benefits to your body and soul will amaze you!

Here are a few ways gardening can benefit you mentally, physically and spiritually:

Spiritually Awakening

Nobody understood nature's path to personal peace and happiness better than Henry David Thoreau. Back in 1854, Thoreau would retreat into the woods to escape the constraints and expectations of mainstream society. Today, we can unplug from the daily grind and recharge our batteries without ever leaving home by simply heading into the garden.

Physically Rewarding

Did you know that working in the garden burns 150 calories? Planting, weeding, digging and raking use all the major muscle groups, provide a pretty good workout and, according to the CalorieLab, generally burn 100-200 calories per hour, depending on how strenuous the activities. The movements are repetitious so you can build strength doing something you enjoy. Need more motivation? National Gardening Exercise Day is June 6!

Mentally Uplifting

Gardening is considered a wonder drug by many health care professionals. According to the American Horticulture Therapy Association, even just sitting in a beautiful garden has significant psychological benefits. Studies show that gardening can reduce stress and depression, improve alertness, alleviate agitation and help hospital patients heal faster.

Hello, Sunshine!

And, if that's not reason enough to tend the garden, just a few minutes in the sun 2-3 times per week encourages the body to manufacture Vitamin D, which is important to maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles, and warding off a number of diseases.

So join a local gardening club, stop by your community garden or garden center to pick up a few basic tips from some seasoned gardeners. Then get outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine!

You'll be amazed by how good you feel!

Happy Gardening!

Fun, Fresh ideas to keep you busy after retirement

It Sounds So Easy, But Retirement Can Be a Real Bore! One of the most common complaints we hear about life after retirement is that it's a challenge to find things to do during the day. Once you've finished the little projects around the house you never had time for, what's next. Not to worry, we're here to help with a few ideas for how to find new ways to keep busy.

1. Join a club

Most communities have clubs and organizations to serve all kinds of interests and it's easy to find them if you know where to look. Your local library, town hall, or community center are good places to start. Finding a club is made easier if you have a hobby you enjoy, because chances are good you know someone else who shares your passion. It can take just minutes to find a club meeting in your area. And if you can't find a club that serves one of your interests, start one yourself!

2. Help Your Community

Volunteerism is one of the most rewarding ways you can spend your time, and volunteer opportunities abound in many communities. If your city or town has a historic building, museum, or public garden, you can probably find a way to be a volunteer worker for a few hours a week or more.

3. Learn Something New

It's never too late to learn something new. Whether it's an afternoon class on making origami or a cooking course, learning a new skill or hobby is a great use of time. Check with your local library to find out about classes that are available in your area. Or, visit your local craft store or even the supermarket to inquire about classes that may be available for everything from flower arranging to cake decorating.

4. Plant a garden

You may not have had time to tend to your garden while you were tending to your career. Now is a great time to get your hands dirty. Learn a bit about growing zones and which plants will thrive where you live. If you have a backyard, start small to be sure you can keep up with the weeding and maintenance. If you're an apartment dweller, try a container garden or houseplants. No matter how big or small your planting space, you can grow something you'll love.

5. Adopt a pet

Pets can enrich your life and give you a sense of purpose, especially if you live alone. If you're an animal lover, now may be the right time to adopt a furry friend. Being a pet owner can help you stay active and even improve your social life! Weigh the pros and cons and decide what pet is right for you.

6. Go places

You now have unlimited vacation time, so travel to destinations on your bucket list. Travel tours are very popular and take people near and far. Visit Europe if it's something you've always wanted to do. Plan trips to visit a relative you haven't seen in a while. If you're more budget conscious, visit local historical places. You may find some new locales right in your area that you never knew existed.

LIVE BEAUTIFUL SURVEY RESULTS

About the Live Beautiful at Every Age Survey

In February 2015, an online survey of 1,000 US women ages 55+, was conducted. Respondents were split evenly according to census representation of age brackets (55-64, 65-74, 75+) and geographic region (West, Midwest, South, Northeast).

With 10,000 American baby boomers turning 65 every day, stereotypes about women and aging are losing ground to a livelier narrative. The Live Beautiful at Every Age survey reveals a new cultural mindset among women who are ramping up, restarting their engines and taking major U-turns once they hit the second-half of their life.

In a youth-oriented nation, we know what society thinks of women and aging. How does she see herself?

She gets better every day! She's dispelling outdated notions about aging and turning negative clichés like "age before beauty" on their head. To her, age is beauty.

  • A whopping 94% of women say they believe that today, more than ever before, women get better with age;
  • And, a resounding 95% say that women can be beautiful at every age, with the majority (72%) reporting that they are generally happy with their looks.

What does she see when she looks in the mirror?

She's complex. Looking good is an inside job. If she's mentally and physically strong, she feels beautiful and happy. Good relationships, having a reason to get up in the morning, having faith and living fearlessly help her to see her beauty at every age.

  • 80% say how they look on the outside is influenced by how they feel about themselves on the inside. When it comes to finding happiness in the second half of their lives, the vast majority (83%) say they believe that maintaining their health is key. She also attributes her happiness to:
    • Being resilient (72%)
    • Having confidence in herself (69%)
    • Having a purpose in life (66%)
    • Being engaged with family and friends (64%)
    • Tapping into her faith / spirituality (60%)
    • Being organized and having an orderly home (44%)
    • Being curious and unafraid to try new things (42%)
    • Being intimate with her significant other (22%)

How does she navigate life's inevitable challenges?

The saying holds true for all ages...what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger! But, by the time she hits the second half of life, she's brimming with confidence and resilience and is ready to take on the world!

  • 88% say their ability to recover from difficulty, their resiliency, has helped them navigate life's challenges.
  • 78% say they are as confident in themselves today than ever before.
  • 70% say that self-confidence has played a major (20%) or significant role (50%) in helping them navigate life's challenges.
  • 67% saying that their life experiences have given them the confidence they need to fully embrace what lies ahead.

That said, women ages 55 to 64 say they could use a confidence boost (28%). The good news is, the older they get, the more confident they are.

  • 27% of women ages 65-74 could use a confidence boost; this percentage drops to 20% for women ages 75+

What life changes are impacting her most?

The second half of life is just as full of change as the first half of life, but, not surprisingly, the changes, for the most part, are health-related. The good news is, she's more confident and more resilient than ever to get through it, and knows she's not alone.

60% of women report that they've experienced at least one life change in the past two years.

  • Nearly 40% have dealt with health issues.

Other reported life changes include:

  • Moving (11%)
  • Becoming a grandmother (11%)
  • Retiring (11%)
  • Downsizing (8%)
  • Job loss (7%)

Does fashion influence her mood?

Far from frivolous, fashion is not just for the young; it's also for the young at heart. Her motto: Change your clothes, change your mood, change your life. Retail therapy works wonders in the happiness department.

  • 86% say that fashion helps them feel good about themselves at every age
  • 78% agree that fashion is just as important to women ages 55+ as it is to younger women, when it comes to looking and feeling their best.

Where does she find her fashion inspiration?

When it comes to fashion, our gal is anything but one-dimensional.

  • She's a pro at destination shopping (42% get inspiration from stores)
  • She loves a good catalog (26%)
  • And, she pays attention to the trends (20% read fashion magazines and newspaper articles on fashion)

That said, by the time she hits the second half of her life, she's clearly not a follower...

  • She's not into what younger women are wearing (only 13% find their inspiration in their daughter's closet)
  • She could care less about her sister's style (5%)
  • She's not letting celebrities or fashion designers call her style shots (only 11% find inspiration in celebrities their age and 6% find inspiration in designers).
  • She has better things to do than go to fashion shows (only 4% find inspiration in fashion shows).

One thing is for sure...when it comes to fashion, she wants to have it all:

  • 78% say they'd like to see more women ages 55+ represented in fashion editorial and advertising
  • 67% say they prefer to shop with retailers and brands who represent women their age honestly, authentically and beautifully.

While she loves the in-store experience, she's also mastered the art of online shopping. Who doesn't love the thrill of seeing a package on their doorstep?

  • 72% have shopped for apparel online

Does she believe that women today are having an age-defying moment?

You bet!

  • 74% of respondents say that women ages 55+ are smashing outdated notions of what it means to age
  • 78% agree that a new breed of confident women is changing what it means to age for the better.

Inspirational Tips

Social Butterfly

Want to be better at the art of conversation? Barbara Walter's book, "How to Talk to Practically Anyone about Practically Anything", gives you 5 almost-foolproof conversation starters. So start talking!

Believe

We love the inspiration you can find in a simple fortune cookie. If you could write an inspiring fortune cookie message that might bring hope and happiness to a complete stranger, what would it say?

The Joy of Two Wheels

For most of us, learning to ride a bicycle as a child is our first true taste of success. In her TEDx Talk, the leader of a bike company shares how the simple act of riding a bicycle can make you laugh like a kid again. Are you ready to roll?

Stick with it

Eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet is hard, but doable. Make a list and try eliminating one at a time over a long period. It could take years, but it's a strategy that works! What are the top 3 foods you'd like to give up?

BOOK CLUB

1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Everyone's raving about this WWII page-turner about a French family in Nazi-occupied France. Code-named the Nightingale, one fearless sister boldly joins the Resistance, helping many Allied airmen escape to safety, while her older sister tiptoes into joining the Resistance to fight the enemy that is destroying her beloved country. Kristin Hannah tells this moving story of love, war and survival from a woman's perspective. The result: Tres magnifique!

2. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce wraps her richly entertaining story around Harold Fry, a character who at first seems as bland and non-descript as a vanilla cookie, until his life takes an unexpected turn. Joyce unveils a complex tale fraught with disappointment and regret and, finally, a self-awareness that leads Harold to a place of happiness. This marvelous story begins with Harold receiving a letter from an old friend, Queenie Hennessy, who is in hospice and saying goodbye from her deathbed. Harold impulsively embarks on a 600-mile pilgrimage to say goodbye to Queenie in person. Along the way, he experiences painful revelations about his unfulfilling marriage and failures as a father. A lonely man on a mission to right a past wrong, Harold attracts an audience of colorful characters who float in and out of his pilgrimage, leading him through a series of surprising self-discoveries.

3. Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

A rich historical novel, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker is the story of Mary Todd Lincoln's friendship with her seamstress, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley. A former slave, who bought her freedom, the talented Keckley set up a dressmaking business serving Washington, D.C.'s fashionable elite. Eventually, she became a modiste to First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln in 1861. Through her fashionable gowns, she develops a close relationship with the First Lady, a story Chiaverini explores with authenticity and remarkable insight into the private lives of the President and First Lady against the backdrop of Civil War America. Keckley becomes a confidante to Mary Todd and a privileged witness to White House life, including the tragic loss of Mary Todd Lincoln's young son and the assassination of President Lincoln. This novel is all the more interesting, considering Keckley's revealing 1868 tell-all memoir raised more than a few eyebrows among insiders who thought what happens in the White House should stay in the White House.

4. It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

In this moving memoir, combat photojournalist Lynsey Addario takes the reader on an unlikely journey of love and war. Starting with her childhood in idyllic Westport, Connecticut, her passion for photography inspires a career in photojournalism that takes her to the eye of the storm in the most dangerous war zones and civil conflicts of the late 20th and 21st centuries. A Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist, Addario witnesses unspeakable atrocities and sorrow as her freelance assignments take her across the Middle East, where she documents the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to war-torn Africa, where she documents violence against women in the Congo, devastating crimes in Darfur and starvation in Somalia. She gives a harrowing account of getting too close to the conflict in Libya and being taken prisoner by Qaddafi's soldiers. Her early photographic studies of Afghan women under Taliban rule would later mark a turning point in her career following the attacks of 9/11 that changed the world, and her life, forever.

5. Creating What's Next -- Gracefully by Valerie Ramsey, written with Heather Hummel

Anyone who's ever thought of reinventing herself needs to read this book. Treating each and every day as a grand adventure, Valerie Ramsey believes there are no endings, just beginnings. This master of reinvention offers valuable advice and information on how to create your own What's Next. Using examples from her own life and with entertaining, behind-the-scenes stories, Valerie shares her secrets for overcoming challenges and winning in the second half of life — and tells you how you can too. Ali MacGraw says it best in the book's Forward, "Above all, this book radiates Optimism and Joy and serves as one of those blueprints for those of us women who keep reinventing ourselves." Valerie's book is available on Amazon.

6. The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown

The true story of the U.S. men's Olympic eight-oar rowing team and the nine boys from working class backgrounds, who, against all odds, brought home gold from the 1936 Berlin Olympics. A triumph on the world stage, as Adolf Hitler looked on, The Boys In The Boat recognizes the incredible achievement of these American athletes and the unmistakable American spirit that would prevail over the Nazis in WWII. Whether you are a member of the Greatest Generation or not, this is a must-read that will fill you with pride. This book is available on Amazon.

7. A Fine Romance by Candice Bergen

An uplifting memoir by iconic Hollywood star, Candice Bergen, A Fine Romance takes readers on an entertaining, humorous, bittersweet and joyful ride through the actress's life. In her classic self-deprecating voice, Bergen recounts life with her first husband, French director Louis Malle, the unexpected joys of motherhood, her starring comedic role in 80s sitcom Murphy Brown and the show's collision with the 1992 presidential campaign, the devastating loss of her husband, finding love again and, of course, a side-splitting commentary on the pitfalls of aging. This book is available on Amazon.

8. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Set in WWII, All The Light We Cannot See traces the story of a blind French girl named Marie-Laure in German-occupied Paris and a German orphan named Werner, whose fascination with radios makes him the perfect person to track the French Resistance for the Hitler Youth. This story of survival in a time of war takes the reader to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where the girl and her father find refuge with a reclusive uncle and eventually cross paths with the German boy on assignment. If you like historical fiction, you'll love this richly woven tale of two lives colliding in Nazi-occupied France. Against the odds, and in spite of the war and their vastly different backgrounds, two young people find good in one another. This book is available on Amazon.

9. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

If you loved Gone Girl, you'll love this psychological thriller. A bestseller, book clubs nationwide are devouring The Girl On The Train. And we can see why. This is a chilling page-turner narrated by a young alcoholic divorcée who witnesses a crime from a train window, or so she thinks. Breakout novelist, Paula Hawkins, draws the reader into an unfolding mystery so suspenseful Hitchcock would be proud. On her daily commute to and from London, Rachel becomes obsessed with a young couple, who seemingly have it all, until they don't. What she sees shocks her and throws her into an investigation with enough twists and turns to keep you up reading all night, including a surprise ending you didn't see coming. This book is available on Amazon.

Tell us, what are some of your favorite books? Tell us, what are some of your favorite books?

Got a Pool?

Water Exercises that Tone & Sculpt

Summertime means swim time. Water exercises increase metabolism, overall strength and cardiovascular health, and you don't need to be Esther Williams to enjoy the health benefits of a refreshing dive in the pool. If swimming a few laps from one end of the pool to the other sounds too strenuous, try doing laps with a kickboard or a foam water noodle. Alternatively, a few easy exercises in the low end of the pool is a quick way to tone and sculpt without the stress and risk of injury associated with exercising on land. The water's buoyancy supports the body's weight, making water exercises super easy on the joints. Water also provides at least 12 times the resistance of air, so walking in water builds muscle and strength, and burns more calories than walking on land. Studies show that regular water exercise makes the body stronger, more flexible and more agile. Our own Valerie Ramsey hits the pool each morning with her husband. What a great way to start the day! If you like exercising in a group, look into a water exercise class at your local YMCA. If you have access to a private pool or your home is part of an association with a community pool, here are a few water exercises to try on your own. But, before you start anything new, please check with your doctor first.

Water Walking - Walk forward, backward and sideways to tone different leg muscles. Avoid walking on tippy toes for the best workout. When walking forward, walk heel to toe, planting your flat feet firmly on the bottom of the pool. When walking backward, reverse the motion, walking toe to heel.

Marching - Lift your knees and march from one end of the low end to the other with your arms extended for balance. The higher you lift your knees, the better the workout.

Arm Toning - Stand with feet apart and arms stretched out in front of you holding a ball. Push the ball under the water and slowly bring it back up to the surface resisting as it rises. For a more challenging workout, push the ball in a figure eight pattern under the water.

Side Arm Stretches - Stand sideways holding onto the edge of the pool with feet flat on the bottom of the pool. Extend your other arm up and over your head, inhaling at the same time. Exhale as you bring your arm back down and straighten up.

And of course, it always helps to look and feel your best -- treat yourself to a new swimsuit. Check out our vast array of styles here!

Walking Your Way to a Better Memory

Did you know that walking just a few miles a week is exercise for your brain? Scientists have discovered that our brains naturally shrink as we age, causing memory loss. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh conducted a study of 299 dementia-free people with a mean age of 78 and followed them over the course of 13 years, measuring brain size after the first 9 years and, then 4 years later, testing them for cognitive impairment or dementia. The results showed that people who walked at least 72 blocks per week, or 6 to 9 miles, cut their risk of developing memory loss in half. So, not only is a regular walking routine good for your overall body strength and cardiovascular health, it also maintains a healthy brain and may prevent memory loss. Clearly, walking is a no-brainer!

Check out these great shoe styles to get you going.

After 50, All (Bike) Paths Lead to Fitness

After 50, fitness routines not only change to accommodate an aging body, but they also become more important. It's no longer about being a weekend warrior or training for a marathon. For most of us, it's about doing some form of physical activity every day to keep bones healthy and muscles strong. And, cardiovascular activity is a must to keep your heart healthy and improve your metabolism, which slows down with age.

To preserve joints, most people replace high impact sports like running with low impact activities like walking, bicycle riding and swimming. Not many women can continue to run 10 miles a day. We envy those who can, but most of us need to transition into a less strenuous routine that meets our needs for daily exercise with little-to-no risk of injury. Walking requires nothing but a great pair of walking shoes, but if a stroll feels a little too slow for you, give cycling a try. Riding a few miles every day keeps the legs moving and it's as much fun as when you were a kid. Once you check in with your doctor, here's how to get started:

Equipment - Any bike will do. Whether you have a 3-speed beach cruiser or an old 10-speed in the garage, take it in for a tune up to make sure it's up to snuff and ready to get you going. You don't need to invest in a fancy new bike, but you do need a good-fitting bike helmet. For safety, install simple blinking lights at the rear and front of your bike, along with a mirror so you can see cars coming up behind you.

Clothing - It's not essential, but padded bike pants make the journey far more comfortable. A sturdy pair of sneakers that protect your feet are a must. It's never a good idea to wear sandals or flip flops, because they slip more easily on the pedals and you risk losing your balance. Reflective clothing is another safety item, especially during twilight hours. You also might consider wearing a fanny pack to hold your house keys, cell phone, water bottle and identification.

Distance - Start out small, with short rides, and gradually increase your distance over time. Find a loop near your home that doesn't have too many hills. Hills are great exercise, but you have to build up to them.

Time of Day - Time your rides around rush hour to avoid the traffic. We know a 65-year-old who rides every morning before work, around 6:30 a.m., when the streets are nice and quiet. She makes several loops around the neighborhood in about 10- 15 minutes. What a great way to start the day!

Destination Motivation - Whether your ride takes 20 minutes or 40, it helps to have a destination in mind. Envisioning a half way mark, and then the final stretch, motivates you to keep going.

Happy Pedaling!

Balance Begins in the Brain

Did you know that brain overload can cause you to fall? New research shows that balance is all about exercising your brain! Rising from the kitchen chair and walking over to the counter might actually cause your brain to go into overload, leading to a fall. Keeping the brain toned actually helps your balance. It-s the combination of coordination, agility and balance that together keep the brain's wires working properly to prevent injury. Exercises that have the element of surprise really challenge your brain. So obstacle courses and juggling are actually more beneficial to balance than say, running on a treadmill, for instance. With repetitive exercises, strength and aerobic capacity improve but the neurons in the muscles go into autopilot, so they don't exercise the brain. Activities where there's unpredictability, like a game of basketball or tennis against an opponent, keep the brain engaged and ultimately, improve your balance. Not quite ready to ride a skateboard or run an obstacle course? Start small and then move into more challenging, coordinated activities. According to the National Institutes of Health, these 3 exercises are aimed at improving your balance:

1. Standing on one foot - Stand behind a sturdy chair and lift one leg, hold it for 10 seconds. Try again with the other leg. Repeat 10 times.

2. Walking heel to toe - Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch. Continue taking a step for 20 steps total.

3. Balance walk - Raise your arms to your sides, shoulder height. Then walk a straight line, with arms outstretched. Repeat for 20 steps.

To be safe, have a chair nearby to keep steady. And talk with your doctor if you are unsure about trying a new exercise. But the key word is "try". Because trying something new boosts the brain's ability to change its wiring in response to new stimuli.

Good luck with your balancing act!

FOCUS ON FITNESS - Basic Yoga Pose

As we age, it becomes more and more important to maintain our strength to prevent falls. Falling can cause a variety of injuries from bruising to broken bones. Yoga is an exercise that is gentle on the body yet it is a great way to strengthen your joints and muscles. Warrior I is a basic yoga pose that builds strength in your lower body and increases your ability to stay balanced. Try the following once a day and see if you feel a difference.

To do the Warrior I pose:

1. Face the wall with your toes forward. Take a big step forward with one leg but leave the other leg stretched behind you with toes outward.

2. Bend your front leg and stretch the back leg.

3. Put your hands on your hips and breathe. Then slowly raise your arms up so your hands are aligned with your hips.

4. Breathe deeply and slowly for ten seconds. Then switch to do the pose with the other leg forward.

5. Repeat up to ten times.

Tell us your favorite Yoga pose here

Clothes Make the Woman


Dress Well - Feel Great

By Valerie Ramsey

There are few things more important to your self-image than the way you feel and look in your clothes. If you look in the mirror and love what you see, your confidence soars. It is reflected in the way you walk, how you carry yourself and even how you interact with other people.

Your wardrobe doesn't have to depend on dress size or budget. Start with some fabulous basics - a beautiful jacket, a crisp, white shirt, a pencil skirt, a pair of perfect fitting trousers, and a flattering dress - and you can build from there. Accessories are fun to add and can take your look from ordinary to extraordinary and day to night.

Step 1 - Out with the Old

It's easier than you think. Take an honest look at your closet and just do it! Get rid of items that you haven't worn in the last year. Keep only the things you truly love, that fit well, and make you feel beautiful the moment you put them on.

Step 2 - In with the New (or time to shop!)

Be sure to consider your tastes, lifestyle, and self-image. If you have classic tastes, stick to that, but then jazz it up with scarves, handbags and jewelry to brighten up the outfit. Always try to buy the best fabrics your budget will allow. Don't forget the shoes. The right pair of shoes can make or break your look.

If the fit isn't quite right, find a good seamstress in your area. This is an invaluable resource for making necessary adjustments. It is well worth it if the item is one you'll wear often. Tailoring is not a luxury; it's a necessity.

Finally, have fun with how you dress, but keep it real! Embrace the current trends, but customize your outfits so they are appropriate for your stage of life. Again, accessories can play a key role, they allow you to add a little pizzazz to your look without overdoing it!

Most of all, let your clothes reflect your personality and your originality! That's what it's all about!

GETTING YOUR GLOW ON


Simple Steps To A Beautiful Complexion by Valerie Ramsey

Healthy aging - not antiaging - is the most appropriate and effective way to look at turning back the clock when it comes to keeping skin looking young and healthy. It's not about masking age; the focus should always be on following a plan to achieve healthier skin. At any age, a healthy complexion is radiant, smooth, and more evenly toned.

Nurturing healthy skin is a relatively simple process. It really just comes down to a three-step routine - cleansing properly, exfoliating, and moisturizing. After exfoliating you might want to use a mild (alcohol free) toner to tighten your pores. This helps get rid of some of the discoloration that can appear on skin as we age.

Exfoliating can work wonders for your complexion. It removes the dead surface layer of skin cells to uncover the glowing skin beneath. A gentle exfoliation every day or every other day will make your skin appear younger and healthier and give it a dewy look.

With advancing age, skin can lose essential moisture, resulting in age spots, wrinkles, and dullness. Help combat this by protecting your skin from the sun by using a moisturizer that has an SPF value of 15 or higher every day. While most people understand the importance of moisturizing their skin, it's just as important to use the right moisturizer. In the winter, choose a cream rather than a lotion, and look for ones that are fragrance free. Also, be sure to apply moisturizer immediately after your shower while your skin is still damp, as well as before and after spending time in the cold air.

Finally, consider using an eye cream or serum. There are many to choose from and they are a good investment because they can really help tighten skin and lessen the appearance of wrinkles around your eyes.

I have found that by following these simple steps, my complexion is healthy and radiant - a definite beauty asset!

GOING FOR THE SILVER


When Your Crowning Glory Turns to Silver by Valerie Ramsey

Most of us face it eventually...gray hair. It usually starts out slow, but then becomes impossible to ignore. So when you've gone past the point of denial, you may color it or dare we say, even pluck it. But have you ever considered ending the battle and just embracing this new look? We asked the ageless Valerie Ramsey to tell us about her decision to defy the expected and let her hair go from brown to her fabulous, trademark silver.

Have you ever noticed that what may seem like a bad thing, in fact, turns out to be a good thing? Twenty years ago, my colorist told me that I had a serious racing stripe across the top of my head. I also noticed that even when I colored my hair, almost overnight the color oxidized, and that stubborn stripe was back! After years of this routine, the game plan was changing. So when highlighting my light brown hair became a losing battle, I realized I had a decision to make - go gray or constantly spend time coloring, highlighting and basically going to war with my hair!

And you know what, changing to my natural silver color was easier than I thought. I discovered numerous techniques to turn silver hair into a gorgeous, head-turning trademark. Here is what I learned:

Don't go cold turkey, just cut back on whatever you're doing for color. Weave some highlights and lowlights into the gray to blend in and avoid the harsh appearance of roots. You can do this gradually as the silver grows in. This way the change will be more subtle and less shocking. There are vegetable dyes and glazes that can work wonders during this transition period as well. Consult a professional colorist before making any changes.

Always remember, that a good cut and regular trims are vital to keeping your hair healthy. The right cut can turn a dowdy look into a sensational style.

If your gray hair is coming in wiry, ask your stylist about a good conditioner for damaged hair. That might be just the ticket to making it smooth and glossy again.

Is your silver leaning towards yellow? I have found that an occasional lavender shampoo mixed in with your regular one works wonders.

The bottom line: Silver, gray or white hair is not the end of the world. It can, in fact, put you on a path to a new, dramatic and intensely flattering look that you never expected - one that turns out to be one of your greatest assets!

GOOD NUTRITION - BEAUTY FROM THE INSIDE OUT


Your Key to Maintaining Health and Youthful Energy by Valerie Ramsey

Let's face it - nutrition is one of the most important aspects of maintaining health and energy. It's something that we read and talk about all the time, yet doing something about it is another story. Let's face it, it's much easier to just cook and eat the same foods rather than change our habits completely.

Our own Valerie Ramsey faced this dilemma when she turned 50. Here is what she learned and decided to do about her own nutrition.

My fiftieth birthday was a wakeup call. I came to the realization that in order to avoid any future weight problems, have consistent energy, and to sleep more soundly, it was imperative that I take a serious look at my eating habits. With a little outside help, I educated myself on some of these important facts:

  • 8 glasses of water every day is essential - I start with a glass first thing in the morning
  • Eat breakfast - You know what they say, it is the most important meal of the day.
  • Carbohydrates - I try never to eat a carbohydrate by itself. I like to add a fat or protein. I also try to only include natural-carbohydrates such as rice, yams, sweet potatoes, and beans.
  • Eat small throughout the day - I try never to go longer than four hours without eating. I am not talking about big meals, but rather small, healthy snacks.
  • Valerie also knows that looking healthy on the outside isn't as important as becoming healthy on the inside. Proper nutrition and good digestion are key to healthy living.

To get on the right track, start with these simple steps:

  • Build a food plan around foods you like. You are more likely to stick with it, if you are enjoying what you are eating.
  • Always be aware of how you feel throughout the day. If your energy drops grab a small snack that consists of a protein and a healthy carb.

I hope these tips help you get on the road to a healthier, more energetic you! Here's to your health!

GETTING YOUR BEAUTY SLEEP


The Importance of Sleep and How to Get Enough of It by Valerie Ramsey

If you think there's no such thing as "beauty sleep"? Think again. Sleep is key in helping to repair the damage done to your body during the day. This becomes even more true as we age. A good night's sleep is right up there with good nutrition, exercise, and stress management in keeping you healthy and looking and feeling your best.

Our bodies heal and recuperate from the wear and tear of our day while we sleep. One essential benefit of regular sleep is the generation and rejuvenation of skin cells. While asleep, skin makes new cells faster than during our waking hours according to Alex Khadavi, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can also be a contributing factor to a number of lifestyle-related illnesses - among them obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Without proper rest, the brain also works harder, but less effectively. In fact, sleep problems may contribute to memory loss, mood swings and depression.
So to help you get the zzz's you need, here are some tips to a good night's sleep:

    1. Diet - Did you know that what you eat before bed may affect how you sleep? Try to avoid spicy foods, stimulants, high-fat meals, and overeating. Foods that can help promote a good night's sleep contain tryptophan. Some examples include bananas, chamomile tea, honey, potatoes, oatmeal, almonds, flaxseeds, whole-wheat bread, and tart cherries
    2. Eliminate caffeine by 2:00 PM and stop drinking alcohol 3 hours before bedtime.
    3. Exercise daily but not less than 4 hours before bedtime
Quality sleep and proper nutrition are the foundation for looking, feeling and being the best that you can be. The combination of the two gives you the fuel you need to balance everything as you look to develop your own "What's Next".

FOCUS ON FASHION AND BEAUTY


Four easy beauty tips

    1. Wear sunscreen everyday on your face even on a cloudy day. At least an SPF of 15. You can use a moisturizer with and SPF in it then apply your makeup on top.
    2. When giving yourself a manicure, put a little bit of nail glue on the tips of nails before polishing with your nail color. It helps keep color from chipping on the tips of the nail. (Use a nail glue that includes a brush)
    3. Sometimes our lips can get thinner as we age so use a great lip gloss to give the impression of a more plump lip. Clear gloss or lightly tinted, either work.
    4. To tone down or mute a harsh eyeliner, use an eye brush to apply eyeshadow over the line. This will still give the effect of the liner while giving a more subtle look. This is an easy way to blend.