Local experts offer tips for healthy aging

Keep moving and eat well

By Robin Clarke

1) Stay physically active. Move your body. Try new forms of activity to add to your favorites. If daily walks are your go to, why not add a swim class or try strength training or pickleball? You’re never too old to try something new.

2) Stay social, which as of late has been challenging. Interacting with friends and making new ones will boost your mood. Join a gym, volunteer, get involved in your community. Whether it’s a church group, knitting group, book club – get out of your comfort zone.

3) Healthy eating is a must. Whole foods are the way to go. Take advantage of the fresh produce at farmers markets this time off year. When grocery shopping, shop the perimeter where the healthy foods are. Try a new healthy recipe and invite friends over to try it with you.

4) Hydrate. As we age, we have less water in our bodies and our sensation of thirst decreases. Water is needed for all functions of the body. Water helps to lubricate your joints, helps pump blood to the muscles and regulates body temperature. Try drinking a glass with every meal and snack. Keep a full glass on your nightstand and drink it immediately when you wake up.

5) Sleep. Eight hours should be a nightly goal. A full night’s sleep improves concentration and memory. Sleep also recharges your immune system to help prevent disease and repair cells that were damaged during the day.

6) Keep up with appointments. This includes a yearly physical, an eye exam and a hearing test. See specialists as needed. Keep a journal of changes you notice and do not downplay symptoms with your healthcare provider. Maybe splurge and get a massage if you have never had one.

7) Fall prevention. Each year over 25 percent of Americans 65 and older fall resulting in over 3 million injuries annually. It is important to work on core strength and balance to prevent falls. Every fall season in the Y senior classes we practice getting up from falls. We create scenarios and talk through the best options if a fall were to happen both inside and out. The Y will be focusing on fall prevention the week of Sept. 20.

Robin Clarke is health and wellness director at the Down East Family YMCA. Robin teaches senior programming daily at the Wiggins Center in Ellsworth as well as Zumba, bootcamp and personal training.


Ways to stay connected

By Jo Cooper

In this time of COVID, I think it is important to remember that we all are having ups and downs. And especially this fall when we thought the pandemic would be over!

Many of us who are older feel that we should be able to take care of things ourselves, but, in fact, being with other people is crucial to our overall health and well-being. Simple ways to connect with other people are all around us, and there is a tendency to think that technology will make it easier for us to connect. But we need to actually see and talk to other people in person. Even during COVID, this is possible. Take a walk around Knowlton Park and join others at the “senior playground.” You can be around other people safely in-person even now. Or pick up the phone and call a neighbor. Try to connect with someone every day.

Some suggestions that I have seen make a difference for people:

  • Volunteer. This is a really great way to feel better and to connect with others. If you are capable of physical work or meet the criteria for volunteering, there are many organizations that need you! You meet other people and can make new friends. Even if you are homebound, there are ways to volunteer. You may have a skill from previous work experiences or knowledge to share. Or you may have a skill such as knitting, sewing or another craft that can make items for people in need, such as children with cancer. Or you might be willing to be a “phone friend” and call another homebound person. Studies have shown that volunteering can improve overall health – especially for the volunteer!
  • Ask for help. This is something most of us are reluctant to do and yet it can be an important first step. You will be surprised to find that others are pleased to help you find what you need – and that you are not alone!
  • Join a group. This might be as simple as a walking group or a group that shares a hobby you enjoy. It is an easy way to connect with others. Or attend an exercise group for older people. The YMCA is a friendly place for group exercise, whatever your age. The Ellsworth Public Library has a knitting group. There are groups playing cribbage and mahjong and bridge at the Friends in Action Senior Center, groups that do art together and who work on writing together.

Jo Cooper is executive director of Friends in Action, an Ellsworth-based nonprofit dedicated to “empowering older adults to thrive.”


Aging safely in place

Compiled by Anne Ossanna and Blanche Barnes

  • Sign up for a lifeline, especially if you are a caregiver or live alone. The person whom you are caring for might not be able to dial 911 in an emergency.
  • If you are a caregiver and a friend or family member asks how they can help, take them up on that offer. Be very specific about your needs.
  • If your home is a two-story, try to move your bedroom to the main floor if possible.
  • Put no-slip strips on your shower floor and add a shower chair, and, if possible, add a handheld wand to your shower.
  • Add sturdy handrails to stairs both inside and out and a ramp to your outside stairs if at all possible.
  • Add night lights that turn off and on automatically to most of your rooms.
  • Remove tripping hazards, such as throw rugs, to avoid falls.
  • Add grab bars to any area where you might need help getting up.
  • Make a pact with one or more friends to call each other at a set time each day. This helps to keep you and them safe, and, as a bonus, wards off loneliness

Anne Ossanna is licensed social worker and director of Friendship Cottage Adult Day Service. Blanche Barnes is elder services navigator with Downeast Community Partners.


Estate planning tips

By Rebecca Sargent

Estate planning doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult, however it does take some thought and some action. Putting your affairs in order is a gift you give to those who are trying to help you during your life or take care of your estate when you are gone. Most estate planning documents are put in place to make sure that the right people have authority to handle your affairs and give direction to those who are left behind as to what your wishes are.

  • Don’t avoid estate planning or think it doesn’t apply to you. You don’t have to be rich or old to decide how your assets will be handled when you’re gone, or who should make decisions for you if you are unable.
  • Think about not only what happens when you die, but also what happens if you get sick or lose competency. Take time to get powers of attorney and an advanced directive in place to give your family (or others) the power to help you when you need it.
  • Don’t try to do it yourself or do it online. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you might not be able to spot potential trouble spots. Ask a local attorney to create a payment plan if you’re worried about the cost.
  • Create a list of everything you own, how much it’s wort, and how it is titled (i.e. solely owned, jointly held, in the name of your business, etc.). Be sure to include real estate, life insurance, retirement assets, vehicles, business interests and stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
  • Check all of your beneficiary designations and make sure they still reflect what you want. If they don’t, get the right paperwork from the company and update it. Be careful about leaving money to minors.
  • Plan to review your situation and your documents every five years, or whenever you have a major life event.

Rebecca Sargent is an attorney and partner at Jones, Kuriloff & Sargent. She specializes in estate planning, probate and real estate.


Protect yourself: How to spot and avoid scams

Common scams

  • Romance scam: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites to capitalize on their victims’ desire to find companions.
  • Tech support scam: Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers gain remote access to victims’ devices and sensitive information.
  • Grandparent scam: Criminals pose as a relative—usually a child or grandchild—claiming to be in immediate financial need.
  • Government impersonation scam: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
  • Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scam: Criminals claim to work for legitimate charitable organizations to gain victims’ trust. Or they claim their targets have won a foreign lottery or sweepstake, which they can collect for a “fee.”
  • Home repair scam: Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners in advance for home improvement services that they never provide.
  • TV/radio scam: Criminals target potential victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.
  • Family/caregiver scam: Relatives or acquaintances of the elderly victims take advantage of them or otherwise get their money.

Protect Yourself 

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings and door-to-door services offers.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
  • Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.


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