Aging Well



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Tips for Making the Holidays Brighter

The holidays are often a time of joy, togetherness and good cheer. However, for many older adults, especially if they live alone, the holidays can be stressful and even depressing. During this time of year, paying attention to our aging parents, family members, friends and neighbors is important.

If you have older friends or family members you are concerned about this holiday season, you can help them enjoy the December festivities by following these suggestions:

  • Be inclusive. Extend an invitation to your older family members and friends and include them in holiday activities.
  • Make new memories. For older adults who live alone or do not get out of the house much, doing something new can be exciting and a great mood lifter. Consider taking them on a drive to look at holiday lights or invite them to your child’s holiday programs.
  • Promote social connections. Social connectedness is especially important during the holidays. Loneliness is a serious and difficult emotion for anyone. Think about meaningful ways you can reach out to older adults in your life.
  • Encourage reminiscing. Talking about holiday traditions and memories can be important during the later years of life. Looking at photo albums and family videos, or watching favorite classic holiday movies can encourage older adults to share their stories and experiences.
  • Increase communication efforts. If you do not live close by, make an extra effort to communicate with your older family members and friends during the holiday season.

Source: , NDSU Extension Gerontology Specialist, 701-231-5948.

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Taking Care of You: Self-care for Family Caregivers

Caring for yourself is one of the most important, and one of the most often forgotten, things you can do as a caregiver.

When your needs are taken care of, the person you are caring for also will benefit.

Research indicates the effects of caregiving on health and well-being are significant, such as sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, failing to exercise, failing to rest when ill, and postponing or failing to make medical appointments for themselves.

Caregivers may not be able to stop the impact of a chronic illness or condition of someone they are caring for, but caregivers have a great deal they can do to take responsibility for their personal well-being and get their own needs met.

The Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC) program is an evidence-based educational workshop designed to help family caregivers take better care of themselves and feel more confident in their ability to care for their family members. NDSU Extension offers the PTC program through extensive partnerships with local organizations.

In the six weekly classes, caregivers develop a wealth of self-care tools to reduce personal stress, change negative self-talk, communicate their needs to family members and health-care or service providers, communicate more effectively in challenging situations, recognize the messages in their emotions, deal with difficult feelings and make tough caregiving decisions.

For more information on the PTC program or upcoming workshops, contact NDSU Extension Gerontology Specialist, 701.231.5948.


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How Strength Training Can Help You

With fall just around the corner, many of us are settling into a new routine, so now is a perfect time to consider how to include physical activity into this schedule.

Exercise and physical activity are good for everyone, including older adults. For some older adults, getting older seems to involve a loss of strength, energy and vigor.

But this does not need to be the case. The frailty and decreased energy we associate with aging, such as difficulty climbing stairs, walking long distances or doing household chores, are largely due to muscle loss.

One of the best ways for keeping muscles strong is through exercise called strength training. Research has shown that strength training is one of the best ways to combat the frailty and weakness, as well as help manage and sometimes prevent conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis. Strength training can have a major effect on a person’s mental and emotional health, including improved sleep, reduced depression, better self-confidence and self-esteem, and an enhanced sense of well-being.

One useful site to visit is Go4Life . It offers exercises, success stories and free materials to motivate the growing numbers of baby boomers and their parents to get ready, start exercising and keep going to improve their health and achieve a better quality of life.

Falling is another risk associated with muscle loss and poor balance. Stepping on, a falls prevention program offered by NDSU Extension, empowers older adults to learn balance and strength exercises, and develop specific knowledge and skills to prevent falls. Contact your county office of NDSU Extension for more information about Stepping On.

Strength training can help you stay strong, vital and independent throughout your life. Consider motivating others to join you in the many physical and emotional benefits of strength training.

Source: Jane Strommen, NDSU Extension Gerontology Specialist, 701-231-5948,


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Understanding Depression in Later Life: A Brief Educational Video Series

A new resource from NDSU Extension, “Understanding Depression in Later Life: A Brief Educational Video Series.”

This series of 5 short educational videos helps to dispel myths about depression in later life, explores issues related to depression, anxiety, grief and loss, and suicide, and highlights what to watch for and how to find help when dealing with the topic of depression in later life.

This educational video series can be accessed at the NDSU Extension YouTube channel, and can be viewed as a series of short 6- to 12-minute video segments, or as a single video of 25 minutes. 

The link to the Understanding Depression in Later Life video playlist is here:

Presented by NDSU Extension family science specialist, Dr. Sean Brotherson, and NDSU Extension aging specialist, Dr. Jane Strommen, these educational videos are intended to provide brief and helpful overviews of key issues in understanding and managing depression and related topics in later life. It is meant to be of use to individuals and family members, educators, health care workers, mental health workers, assisted living staff, community leaders, and others who work with aging persons. The video clips can be viewed individually or as a group, played and then discussed in one-on-one or group settings, or used in other ways to provide insight as a resource.

Links to the individual video topics include:

We encourage you to share these resources widely in your work settings, community settings, and with family members and friends. We appreciate the opportunity to partner with you in bringing science-based educational resources to the citizens of our region.

You may find further resources on this and related topics at the following NDSU Extension resource pages:

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New Medicare Cards Are Coming

Each person enrolled in Medicare soon will receive a new Medicare card. 

The main reason people will receive new Medicare cards is that the cards no longer will have Social Security numbers on them. Medicare beneficiary identifiers will replace Social Security numbers. This will help keep your information more secure and help protect your identity.

Medicare beneficiaries will get a new Medicare number that is unique to them. It will be used only for Medicare transactions such as billing, eligibility status and claim status. People’s coverage and benefits will not change. 

Medicare is mailing new Medicare cards from April 2018 through April 2019.

Here are a few things to know about your new Medicare card:

  • Mailing takes time. Your card may arrive at a different time than your neighbor’s or friend’s card.
  • Destroy your old card once you get your new Medicare card. You can start using your new Medicare card right away.
  • Guard your card. Only give your new Medicare number to your health-care providers, insurers or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.
  • Your new card will be paper, which is easier for providers to photocopy and less expensive to issue.
  • You still need to keep your Medicare Advantage Card. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, your Medicare Advantage Plan ID card is your main card for Medicare. You should keep and use it when you need care.
  • Help is available. If you don’t get your new Medicare card by April 2019, call 800-Medicare (800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048. 

For more information about the new Medicare cards, go to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.


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Making Holiday Memories With Grandkids

The holidays are a special time for us to come together as families to reconnect, enjoy each other’s company and reflect on many good memories of the past.

For grandparents, it is an especially important opportunity to spend time with their grandkids and create cherished memories. 

These are a few suggestions of things to do with grandkids during the holidays:

  • Have the grandchildren ask family members for their favorite holiday foods and create a family holiday cookbook.
  • Teach the younger family members to how make their favorite dishes by involving them in the cooking process.
  • Take grandchildren shopping for gifts to give others. It will help them learn that holidays are also about giving gifts, not just receiving gifts.
  • Have a holiday pajama party. All generations can wear their holiday pj’s, eat popcorn and enjoy favorite holiday movies together.
  • Do something your family never has done together before. Go ice fishing, take a painting class or enjoy a treasure hunt. If it turns out to be a fun time, make it an annual tradition.

Grandparents have many activities they can enjoy with grandchildren, but remember, you don’t have to do every tradition every year. The main goal is to have fun and create memories.

As your grandkids get older, you can ask them what things they would like to add to the holiday festivities. By enjoying some family traditions and creating new ones, your grandkids will remember and look forward to these special times year after year.

Contact your county office of NDSU Extension for more information about grandparenting or visit for the “Making Memories for Grandchildren” publication.


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Are You a Family Caregiver?

Are you one of the 62,100 individuals in North Dakota providing care to a spouse, relative or friend?

Caregiving can include transportation, housekeeping, grocery shopping, bill paying, personal care, managing legal or insurance matters or providing a place to live.

Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, but it also can be filled with enormous challenges, such as time commitment, competing demands, financial implications, and physical and mental stress. Many caregivers have no idea what to do, how to do it or where to get help.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Take care of yourself. The Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC) program is an evidence-based six-week workshop the NDSU Extension Service offers through extensive partnerships with local organizations. The PTC program is designed to help family caregivers take better care of themselves and feel more confident in their ability to care for their family members.
  • Ask for help. The ND Family Caregiver Support Program is a system of support services for unpaid caregivers of older adults to help them continue to provide care in their homes and community through information, assistance, counseling, support groups and training. Contact the Aging Services Division at 1-855-462-5465 for more information or to learn more about other services and supports available to you and your care recipient.

  Contact your county office of NDSU Extension for more information about PTC workshops in your community.


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Take Action During Medicare Open Enrollment

If you are on Medicare, you already may be on a prescription drug plan, also known as Medicare Part D.

Medicare Part D is a voluntary prescription drug benefit offered by private companies that are approved by Medicare.

Medicare’s open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 each year. It’s a time when you can make changes to your Medicare coverage if you want to. Take action to make sure your coverage will meet your needs in 2018.

Here are three steps to take during open enrollment:

Know the changes you can make during open enrollment. The changes you can make include:

  • Joining a new Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Joining a new Part D prescription drug plan
  • Switching from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Switching from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare

Review your coverage for 2018. Make sure your drugs still will be covered next year and that your providers and pharmacies still will be in the plan’s network.

Know whom to contact if you have questions.

  • North Dakota Insurance Department’s State Health Insurance Counseling Program (SHIC) at 1-888-575-6611

Contact your county office of NDSU Extension for more information about Medicare open enrollment.                    

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Take Steps to Stay on Your Feet

Did you know that one of every four people 65 and older falls each year?

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people 65-plus.

In North Dakota, 559 fall-related deaths occurred among adults 65 and older from 2009 through 2014, with an average of 93 deaths per year.


Falls threaten older adults’ safety and independence, and generate enormous economic and personal costs. However, falls are largely preventable. Here are six easy steps to help you reduce falls:

  1. Find a good balance and exercise program that builds balance, strength and flexibility.
  2. Talk to your health-care provider and ask for an assessment of your risk of falling.
  3. Review your medications with your pharmacist or doctor. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling.
  4. Get your vision checked annually and update your eyeglasses as needed.
  5. Keep your home safe. Increase lighting, remove tripping hazards, install grab bars and make stairs safe.
  6. Assess your footwear for safety. Look for supportive shoes, a good fit, a sole that grips, and a heel that is stable and grips.

Stepping On, a fall-prevention program offered by the NDSU Extension Service, is designed for older adults who have fallen or have a fear of falling.

The workshop, offered once a week for seven weeks, empowers older adults to adopt healthy behaviors that reduce the risk of falls.

Contact your county office of NDSU Extension for more information about fall prevention or the Stepping On program.

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Stay Active All Year Round

In this part of the country, staying active is easier during the summer months, when we can be outdoors and engage in enjoyable activities such as golfing, gardening and walking.

However, as fall approaches, consider ways to continue or increase your physical activity and exercise.

One useful site to visit is Go4Life, a national exercise and physical activity campaign for people 50 and older from the National Institute on Aging.

September is Go4Life Month. Older adults are encouraged to work out a bit harder, try a new activity and do all 4 types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.

 Check out of the Go4Life Month Toolkit ( to get inspired to move more. Each week will be devoted to one type of exercise and provide suggestions for encouraging people to build on their current level of activities. For example:

  • Week one: Endurance - Try adding 500 steps per day or five minutes on a treadmill.
  • Week two: Strength - Try lifting weights while watching TV or adding eight more repetitions to your routine.
  • Week three: Balance - Sign up for a tai chi class or learn how good balance can help prevent falls.
  • Week four: Flexibility - Hold your current stretches a minute longer or add a yoga class to your schedule.

Consider motivating others to join you in Go4Life Month activities.

NDSU Extension also has resources on its Aging Well website to help you stay healthy. You can contact your local county office of the Extension Service for more information as well.

Source: Jane Strommen, NDSU Extension Gerontology Specialist, 701-231-5948

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