LIFE & FAMILY
I'm retired…..now what?
How to stay happy in retirement.
By Tracy Willard, Publisher of the Triad Edition

Q: What's the difference between a general practitioner and a specialist?

A: One treats what you have; the other thinks you have what he treats.

When many of us think of retirement, we have grandiose plans of selling our homes, trading them in for an RV or a beach villa in the southern states. We might even have more time to spend with the grandchildren or have time to enjoy hobbies we thought were long forgotten, like golf and gardening. We assume we will be able to sleep late and be in no hurry to keep a schedule, just floating along like a feather on a breeze. When we become thirty-something, we become more serious about our retirement planning. We question whether or not we have planned enough financially to do the things we envision. We think more intensely about 401k’s, IRA’s, and pensions, squirreling ten percent of our income away to make a “cushion” for ourselves in case the “system” fails us. In our forties and fifties, we might even meet with an eldercare attorney to establish a will and advanced directives, discuss purchasing long term care insurance or pre-planning our funeral arrangements, so that we won’t leave our children with our burdens. We managed our way through the hard part of having a plan and being prepared, but once we are retired…now what?

The novelty of being retired wears off for some. You have traveled to visit your grandchildren out of state or had a chance to catch up on chores around the house that have needed your attention for years. You have met your long lost friends for casual lunches and you are doing all the things you wanted to be able to do…now what?

For my father-in-law, this was the case. He had been in the workforce for the last several decades; many of them spent working for the same company. Now he found himself retired with seemingly nothing to do. He had been an active man all of his life. The son of a farmer, he had carried on the tradition himself, while also maintaining a 9-5 job. He loved working in the acres and acres of fields, growing numerous varieties of crops, and canning and freezing his harvest. He loved being involved at his company in the small town where he lived and knew everyone. Working for him was as much of a social endeavor as a place to earn a living. But after his stroke, he wasn’t able to do many of the things he once loved to do.

This stroke was of course in no way part of his “retirement plans”. After all, wasn’t he too young for a stroke? Life happens, often changing our plans. He managed to make it through the hospitalization and the intense rehabilitation after his stroke. Was he destined to be imprisoned in his own home after all these years? He wasn’t able to work his acres of gardens and he surely wasn’t able to manage the hours of standing, bending and lifting at his previous place of employment. The stroke had left him with left sided weakness and even driving was a burden. He became frustrated with this new life he had been forced to assume and tried to make the best of it. He would frequent the various social stops around town where the few other retirees would go. He would make time to pop in to see his children and grandchildren only to remember they were at work or in school. What was he to do with this once revered free time?

Being a determined gentleman, he sought to go back to work. He understood that he wasn’t going to be able to keep a full time position, and after all his disability coverage wouldn’t allow. Because he was well-known in his small town, he talked the manager of the local grocery store into hiring him as a bagger for a couple of hours a few days a week. He was the perfect person for increasing the morale of the customers and employees because he enjoyed people that much. His work turned into more than just bagging groceries, his tasks and hours increased as his manager noticed his dedication. My father in law fell in love with working all over again. He had a sense of purpose, he felt like his old self again. He was able to work many more years, doing what he loved, helping and talking with the people, in the town in which he was born and raised.

When he became sick again and it looked grim for his return to the workforce, the times he remembered most vividly were not of his childhood or the career he maintained for 30 years. But rather it was those last times, working at that grocery store serving his friends and townspeople who gave him a chance to be a “working retiree”.

You see, it wasn’t the retirement that he had spent his life planning and hoping for, but it was the retirement that was so perfectly him. For many, retirement is what they have dreamed it would be, but for many it isn’t. Planning for your future is a must, I would never tell you otherwise. But I do ask for you to be open to what your future holds and if you do find yourself to be seemingly without purpose, remember you can MAKE your own purpose. Volunteer in your community, look for a part time job that suits your needs, or be a friend to someone who cannot do for themselves. Be prepared to answer the question…now what?





TRAVEL & LEISURE

Are you planning your spring and summer vacations yet? Dreaming of a quick getaway or a long trip? You can wind your way through America’s National Parks, keep it affordable and close to home. SeniorStyle will take you on a stroll through just a few of America’s National Parks to decide which one you would like to take your family on for this year’s vacation. You can discover historic battlefields, famous landmarks and, of course, extraordinary landscapes.

For a full listing of America’s National Parks, go to www.travelchannel.com

Acadia National Park, Maine
By Valerie Conners

A mosaic of geological and ecological features, Acadia National Park is composed of ocean, mountains, forests, streams and ponds, wetlands, meadows and beaches. Nature lovers cannot help but be sated after visiting this paradigm of natural wonders, which rests mainly on Mount Desert Island, but also extends to the Schoodic Peninsula, Isle au Haut and a dozen tinier islands. The park's dramatic geological extremes are the result of glacial activity and a melting process that shaped the area into islands, coves and kettle ponds, and a 10,000-year-old shoreline so "new" that finding sand is almost a rarity.

The plant and animal life in this 47,633-acre park is vast and accessible. Fisherman will find 28 species of fish lurking in the coves and streams, and bird-watchers will be awed by more than 300 species of birds (including a whopping 23 species of warblers, and that old icon - the bald eagle), which call this park home.

Acadia reflects all that is New England, with glimpses back to the days when wealthy New Englanders first began settling the region - there are winding carriage roads and quaint stone bridges ideal for hiking, biking and breathing crisp Maine air. With vistas that leave even the most hardened park-goer speechless, the 27-mile " Park Loop Road" features the likes of Cadillac Mountain, the North Atlantic coast's highest promontory, and Thunder Hole, where views of waves smashing against the coast give visitors a powerful sense of how this very wondrous park was shaped.

Park Activities
The variety of geological features offers something for everyone. There are 115 miles of hiking trails looping through the park and 45 miles of carriage trails, which are perfect for walking, biking or horseback riding. Fishing, boating, skiing, snowshoeing and wildlife watching are also available. One of the park's true gems is its educational ranger-led programs which include boat cruises, mountain hikes, stargazing, bird and nature walks, short talks and evening slide programs.

Where to Stay
Experience Acadia's natural glory by staying at one of the park's campgrounds, only a 10-minute hike from the ocean. Blackwoods Campground is open year-round, and has sites for small and large tents, RVs up to 35 feet, pop-ups and vehicle campers. Facilities include comfort stations, cold running water, a dump station, picnic tables, fire rings and water faucets. Reservations are required from May through October. Fees are $20 per night per site.

Side Trips
Just outside park limits on Mount Desert Island is the quaint town of Bar Harbor. Museums outline the area's history, including a rich Native American heritage, and even the town's microbrews. Bars, restaurants, an art-deco theater and two annual music festivals ensure a town rich in culture and activities.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
By Valerie Conners

Surrounded by small villages and dotted with nationally recognized historic buildings and structures, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a living testament to a near-forgotten era. The park is a reminder of the old canal-building days of the early 1800s, when the popularity of this mode of transport was thriving. The park stretches along a 22-mile run of the Cuyahoga River in a region shaped by thousands of years of erosion. History buffs can witness what was once the Ohio & Erie Canal, the towpath of which has morphed into a popular bike and foot trail. Canal lock demonstrations are still performed seasonally on weekends, much to the delight of passers-by.

The park pays homage to the area's history, as evidenced by the preservation of surrounding towns and the number of places in thepark that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including various canal locks and the Furnace Run Aqueduct. By exploring the park's 125 miles of hiking and biking trails, visitors will see many of these historic treasures. The three-mile-long Buckeye Trail takes hikers to the Everett Road Covered Bridge, the last covered bridge in Summit County. Another popular destination is the Hale Farm & Village, an outdoor living history museum, where craft demonstrations include glassblowing, hearth cooking and even cheese making.

Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the mixed-oak forests andvarious wetlands and fields. Visitors hoping to spot wildflowers may encounter bloodroot, water lilies, goldenrods and even yellow and blue irises. The park is also home to an assortment of wildlife, including the beaver, coyote, white-tailed deer and more than 100 species of birds.

Park Activities: Cuyahoga offers a number of seasonal recreational programs that include a boomerang program in conjunction with the Boomerang School; cycling programs along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and other cycling loops located within the park; and snowshoeing and cross-country skiingworkshops. Also of interest is the old-fashioned Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad, which takes visitors on tours of various valley destinations such as Quaker Square and Hale Farm & Village. Numerous hiking, biking and fishing opportunities also exist in the park.

Where to Stay: Situated in a cozy, white farmhouse with impeccable lawns, the Inn at Brandywine Falls is a lovely retreat with views of Brandywine Falls. The inn's six rooms include two carriage-barn suites dubbed "The Granary" and "The Loft." All are decorated with colorful quilts and wooden furniture. Breakfasts atthe inn are not to be missed, and include home-baked bread with raspberry butter and white grape juice from a local winery. Rates: $108-$250.

Nearby Sights/Side Trips: Located in Cuyahoga Falls, the Porthouse Theater is nestled in an outdoor, covered, 500-seat pavilion in the midst of a sun-dappled forest. Showgoers are encouraged to bring a picnic with them and enjoy their meal on the lovely theater grounds. This summer's productions include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the ever-popular Brigadoon.

Big Bend National Park, Texas
By Valerie Conners

It's easy to feel like the last person standing when in the midst of the desert abyss that is Big Bend National Park. So vast, quiet and wild are the park's 801,000 acres, it can be easy to ignore the life and natural activity that is at constant work in these environs. With an average yearly visitation of less than 300,000, Big Bend is one of the least visited national parks, and yet its diversity of plants, animals and geology make it one of the most fascinating.

Bordered on its southern edges by the Rio Grande River, comprised of 98% desert and dimpled with just enough mountains to keep things interesting, Big Bend is indeed a world of contrasts. In Big Bend, visitors find a geologic history that began some 300 million years ago when the area was an ocean trough, continued through the eras of tectonic collisions and mountain building to the days when a shallow sea covered the land, and resulted in the current state of desert and mountain. Big Bend was a different world back then, and fossils from these eras include a 50-foot-long crocodile and a flying reptile with a 35-foot wingspan. In fact, afterthe last ice age, nomadic hunters could be found chasing after the elephant, bison and camels that called this region home.

A varying climate and altitudes that range from 1,800 feet by the river to 7,800 feet in the Chisos Mountains help over 1,200 plant species and a range of animal species to thrive. More cacti (over 60 kinds), birds (at least 450 species) and reptiles (67 species - more than the Everglades!) exist in Big Bend than in any other park. In the moister areas of the Chisos, it's even possible to find maple, aspen and Douglas firs. A closer look at the sprawling world of Big Bend will delight visitors in search of a wildly diverse adventure.

Park Activities: The Big Bend landscape can be easily explored by taking the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive past overlooks, through the Chihuahuan Desert and to Santa Elena Canyon, possibly the park's most scenic point. Popular hikes include the Window Trail in the Basin Area and Boquillas Canyon Trail, which leads hikers to a canyon overlook facing the Mexican town of Boquillas. Visitors spending a few days in the park can explore some of the unpaved roads and untamed backcountry. A dip in the hot springs near Rio Grande Village by night will grant visitors unforgettable views of the great Texas sky, exploding with stars.Where to Stay: Because of the park's remote location, it is recommended that visitors take advantage of Big Bend National Park's campgrounds. Rio Grande Village lies within Big Bend's borders along the Rio Grande, and offers 100 sites suitable for both tents and RVs. Though no food service is available at the campsite, the Rio Grande Village Store offers groceries, gas, a laundromat and coin-operated showers. Evening programs are available at the Rio Grande Village Amphitheater. Camping in Big Bend is on a first-come, first-serve basis with no reservations, and sites are $8 per night.

Nearby Sights/Side Trips: The Rio Grande River snakes along the border of Texas' Big Bend region, slicing canyons into the landscape bordering Big Bend National Park. Big Bend River Tours is the area's oldest river tour outfitter and offers a variety of guided rafting trips along the river satisfying multiple skill levels. From peaceful, half-day tours to an intense 21-day river excursion, guests are sure to have an unforgettable experience. Prices range from $62-$1,510 per person.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
By Valerie Conners

The deepest lake in the Unites States isn't really a lake at all - it's a caldera, an enormous volcanic crater nearly six miles wide, with depths close to 4,000 feet. Crater Lake has been stunning visitors with its piercing blue waters for centuries now, and the thrill of gazing at the mirror-like waters never grows old. But Crater Lake National Park is certainly not for onlookers alone: this is a park full of hands-on, outdoor adventure. Experience the cornflower blue waters and the mysterious Wizard Island up-close and personal with a guided boat tour, or by SCUBA diving.

The lake lies in the midst of 249 square miles of protected wilderness ready to be explored, be it by foot, snowshoe or snowmobile. Easily accessible to tourists, the 33-mile Rim Drive covers the lake's perimeter and grants drivers views of the lake and surrounding environs. Within the park's territory it's not unlikely to see black bear, elk, Clark's nutcracker, even the elusive bald eagle. Tree lovers will enjoy the varieties of forest that comprise the park's wilderness - ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, mountain hemlock and whitebark pine zones are all represented. Many cold weather activities such as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are available to visitors, but winter travelers, take note: from October to June it is not unusual to find the park's grounds covered in 10-15 feet of snow.

Park Activities: Making the most of 10 to 15 feet of snow each winter can be quite a task, but Crater Lake National Park faces the challenge like an old pro. This is one of the snowiest regions in the entire northwest and winter sport enthusiasts find it a dream come true. Unplowed roads and open slopes are perfect for skiing, snowmobiling and checking out the gorgeous scenery. The warmer weather of spring and summer is perfect for fishing, swimming, hiking and especially a Volcano Boat Tour through the lake. These boats are the only ones allowed on the lake, and visitors can experience close-up views of Llao Rock, Phantom Ship and Wizard Island.

Where to Stay:Crater Lake Lodge reclines along the edge of the Crater Lake caldera, leaving guests little choice but to easily fall victim to the hotel's glorious environs. Refurbished in 1995, this lodge is considered by many to be the finest of all national park accommodations. Patios dotted with rocking chairs afford perfect vistas of the lake and Wizard Island, while the delightful Watchman Restaurant and Llao Rock Cafe sate the appetite. Rates: $117-$162 per night.

Nearby Sights/Side Trips:Klamath County, home of Crater Lake National Park, is a little slice of heaven on earth, and well-worth exploring. In this land of outdoor adventure, it's not surprising to gaze skyward and see one of the area's 1,000 bald eagles soar overhead as visitors take advantage of stellar skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing or hiking opportunities. Culture loverd won't be disappointed either, as Klamath County is also home to museums, theaterd, monuments and even a casino.

Everglades National Park, Florida
By Valerie Conners

It's hard to believe that early settlers once considered the Florida Everglades a swampland needing to be drained. Today, this national treasure is the only subtropical preserve in North America and its endangerment has placed it at the forefront of a massive restoration movement. In reality, the Everglades are a massive but shallow 50-mile-wide " River of Grass," with a current that moves little more than 100 feet per day. This freshwater circulation originates at Lake Okeechobee and flows toward the Gulf of Mexico. Animal and plant life have adapted to alternating wet and dry seasons, shaping the very nature of this natural wonder.

The Everglades region is a veritable textbook of natural habitats. Temperate and tropical plant life exists in nine different environments, including mangrove and cypress swamps, sawgrass prairies, estuaries and coastal marshes. This amalgam of environs is home to wading birds like the wood stork, great blue heron and roseate spoonbill. More than 14 endangered species call the Everglades home, and visitors are often privy to sightings of rare sea turtles, the Florida panther and the West Indian manatee.

Exploring the Everglades can seem daunting, and a visitor's best bet is to check out one of the park's exceptional visitor centers. The Flamingo Visitor Center, at the southwest end of the park, offers boat tours and canoe rentals and is the starting point for a number of wilderness and canoe trails. At the northwest end of the park, the Gulf Coast Visitor Center offers access to Ten Thousand Islands, a maze of mangrove islands and waterways that lead out to the Gulf of Mexico, as well as Chokoloskee Bay, Turner River and the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway.

Park Activities
Ranger-led activities include bird-watching trips, trail walks, slough slogs, bike hikes, canoe trips and evening programs. Canoe, boat and tram tours offer up-close glimpses of the marine and plant life that have created the Everglades. Particularly interesting is the tram tour from the Shark Valley Visitor Center, which delights tourists with outstanding alligator- and bird-viewing opportunities. Fishing is permitted in a limited number of water flats, channels and mangrove keys.

Where to Stay
The Flamingo Lodge Marina and Outpost Resort is the park's only on-site lodging facility and offers lodge rooms, cottages, a swimming pool, houseboat rentals, canoes, kayaks, guided tours, a general store and two restaurants. Rates range from $95 to $145 per night.

Side Trips
A far cry from the tranquility of the Everglades, but only an hour away, is sexy, sizzling Miami. Trend-setting restaurants, an unsurpassed arts circuit and notorious nightclubs make this city a side trip not to be missed.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
By Valerie Conners

Visitors to Shenandoah National Park will see for themselves why John Denver crooned so passionately about the winding country roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the tumbling Shenandoah River. The park encompasses a 300-square-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge, which forms the eastern branch of the Appalachians. Surely, the easiest and most scenic way to explore the park is via Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that slithers through the park along the crest of the mountains. The drive offers perfect views of Piedmont Valley to the east and the Shenandoah River Valley to the west.

The trees blanketing the park's mountains are part of a hardwood, oak-hickory forest, and can be explored via 500-plus miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Twisting through the forested landscape, the trails lead visitors along sun-dappled paths that pass by many of the park's cascading waterfalls. The varying landscape of the mountains have created multiple habitats - from rocky overhangs to bubbling streams, the region supports the life cycles of thousands of plant and animal species. Hunting and trapping are prohibited in Shenandoah, thus visitors can expect countless sightings of Virginia's white-tailed deer, and even the occasional black bear.

Geology lovers will enjoy numerous rock formations in the area, which help tell the geological history of the park and are easily viewed from sites such as Mary's Rock Tunnel, Crescent Rock or Franklin Cliff.

Park Activities
In addition to the usual hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding and camping opportunities, the park plays host to an exceptional variety of special events including: National Audubon Society Annual Christmas Bird Count, Wildflower Weekend, Appalachian folk dancers, Apple Butter Festival, even basket making and quilting demonstrations. Check out the park's Web site for more information.

Where to Stay
Nestled in the highest point on Skyline Drive is the charming Skyland Lodge, with 177 units, including cabins and suites. The lodge is located at mile 41.7 along Skyline Drive, and features a craft shop, guided ranger programs, horseback and children's playground. To make reservations at Skyland, call (800) 999-4714 or (540) 743-5108, or write to ARAMARK Sports and Entertainment, Inc. (an authorized park concessioner), P.O. Box 727, Luray, VA 22835.

Side Trips
The unexpected capital of bluegrass music and home to some serious toe-tappin' good times, Floyd, Va., is where to find a now-famous country store, some music-loving locals and the greatest hoedown this side of the Appalachians. All of this downhome fun makes this little town a must-explore stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway.





HEALTH & FITNESS
Staying in shape at any age
Tips for Starting and Keeping an Exercise Routine
Jill M. Willis, SeniorStyle Health, Beauty & In the Kitchen Contributor

At any age, beginning an exercise routine, enjoying it and sticking to it is difficult to say the least! Many healthy, active seniors have joined a fitness club or have programs provided by the community they live in. If you are a member of a church or other house of worship, you might consider starting a fitness club that meets at various locations for all sorts of activities. I find that if you share your desire to start a healthy fitness routine with your friends you will have an easier time sticking to it because you have others who hold you accountable. Setting up fitness dates with each other will help you stay focused and it will be more difficult to come up with excuses for not exercising.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Get a checkup: Talk with your doctor and get clearance to begin a fitness program and perhaps making some modifications to suit your personal needs

  2. What are your options: Choose a program that you will enjoy so you tend to do it more regularly. Some people like to go to a gym for a structured workout, while others may enjoy an informal walk through the neighborhood. Check out the local fitness club, YMCA or YWCA. Is it friendly and helpful? Are the facilities clean and easily accessed?

  3. Choose what is best for you: Do you prefer to be in a class or go solo? Or both?

  4. Begin slowly: Most people are overeager and will overdo it. Another common mistake is expecting too much of yourself within the first 3-4 weeks. You may lose interest if you don’t see immediate results. Remember, it is much easier to put on weight and inches than it is to take off!

  5. Make fitness dates: Find a friend to exercise with and keep each other motivated.

  6. Set short and long-term goals: Pay for a few sessions with a dietician or personal trainer and find out what reasonable goals for weight loss, nutrition and optimum health are for you.

  7. Look at the extra benefits: If you consider exercise only weight and inches lost, you need to expand your horizons. Exercise can decrease stress and depression, build stronger bones and muscle strength and help you get a better nights sleep.

  8. No pain, no gain is not necessarily true: Learn to work around pain not through it. Work at an effective, yet comfortable intensity level. You should at least be able to hold a short conversation with someone during your activity. If you experience dizziness, shortness of breath or chest pain, stop what you are doing immediately and advise someone around you.

  9. Drink plenty of water (not juice or soda) before, during and after activity.

  10. Pat yourself on the back: Treat yourself for a job well done so it will encourage you to continue.

“Your body wants to hold on to your insulation – that means your fat – in the winter because the days are short and cold. Your metabolism is designed to help you stay warm over the cold winter months, so all people have a harder time losing weight at this time of year. Now it gets easier as we move towards spring since the days are getting longer” says Dr. Elizabeth Vaughan, a physician for over 30 years in Greensboro, NC. This time of year can be depressing and challenging for any age, but most especially seniors.

Exercise has a positive effect on the body and mind by increasing your self-confidence and providing a feeling of accomplishment and mastery. If you participate in group exercise you place yourself in an environment where you are more likely to interact with others and that alone can have an effect on your mood. Researchers have studied the various ways the mind alters one’s mood by focusing on the brain's neurotransmitters. One of the most highly publicized neurotransmitters is serotonin. It is believed that exercise may increase levels of serotonin enough so as to help those suffering from depression.

Only a third of the population over the age of 65 has a regular exercise routine according to the National Center for Health Statistics. You may be hesitant to start working out or are feeling overwhelmed by all of the choices. Figure out what you love to do or have always wanted to do, find a friend to do it with and start exercising!


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