Aging Well



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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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How to Stay Hydrated in Summer Heat

Summer is a time to be outdoors and enjoy your favorite activities. Whether you are gardening, golfing, walking the dog or sitting on the deck watching the birds, protecting yourself from dehydration due to excessive heat is important.

Here are a few helpful suggestions to include more fluids in your day and protect yourself from dehydration:

  • Drink a glass of water before you go outdoors or exercise, especially on a hot day.
  • Remember to have a glass of water if you need to take a pill.
  • Keep a water bottle or glass handy so you can sip on it throughout the day.
  • Consider ideas other than water, such as soup, stew, broth, Jell-O, fruit juice, smoothies, sports drinks, grapes or watermelon as an afternoon snack.

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

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Downsizing: What to Save for Your Adult Children

Downsizing is a time to re-evaluate and decide what things you enjoy the most.

Whatever your motivations for downsizing may be, it can be an overwhelming task to figure out what you are going to do with all your stuff and where to start.

One useful place to start the process of downsizing is with your adult children’s belongings. If you are like most parents, chances are you still are storing your adult children’s belongings in your attic, long after they have moved out and have a home of their own. One solution is to send their belongings to them or tell them to claim the items by a certain deadline.

Another aspect of downsizing is your belongings that you assume your adult children will want. What should you save for your adult children?

  • Start with asking your adult children what possessions they do want.
  • Use technology, such as FaceTime or Skype, to discuss this issue with adult children who live at a distance. Walk through your house and put labeled stickers on items they want.
  • Save special items for your kids, such as your first passport, military discharge papers, one printed photo of your wedding, a sentimental piece of jewelry, a photo of the first time you held them, dog tags worn by their childhood pets, a receipt with a date on it, and your favorite music on a platform your kids can use.
  • Capture their childhood highlights by keeping items such as college acceptance letters and report cards with teachers’ comments.

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

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Advance Care Planning

Life can change suddenly. We never know when we might be injured seriously in a car accident, suffer from a stroke or experience some other sudden injury or illness.

These types of situations can leave people unable to speak for themselves, and family members and health-care providers may be uncertain about how to proceed with their care. 

Advance care planning can help you be prepared for the unexpected. It is the process of deciding your own future health care and communicating these wishes in the form of a written health care directive.


How do you prepare a directive?

  • Think about what would be important to you (based on your personal values and beliefs) if you become very ill or are injured seriously.
  • Understand medical treatment options. Talk with your health-care provider if necessary.
  • Discussion your thoughts, concerns and choices with those close to you.
  • Choose a loved one to speak for you if you no longer can speak for yourself.
  • Prepare a health care directive.

NDSU Extension has resources on its Aging Well website ( to help you. You also can contact your local county Extension office for more information.

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

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Ways to Avoid Loneliness and Isolation

Limited social connections can lead to isolation and loneliness for all of us. However, older people who live alone, have health concerns or experience a loss are especially vulnerable.

Scientists are finding that our interaction with other people - friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, clubs and religious groups - can have powerful effects on our health and well-being. Persistent loneliness and social isolation have been linked to poorer health and increased risk for depression, dementia and early death, just to name a few issues.

Here are some suggestions that may make a difference in preventing isolation:

  • Get physical during the day and stay active. Take a walk, clean out a closet or join a class at a local gym.
  • Consider volunteering because helping others can bring meaning into your days and make you feel part of something larger than yourself.
  • Learn how technology can keep you connected to family and friends via Facebook, texts and emails.Taking small steps to connect with others and keep a positive outlook can make a big difference in warding off loneliness and isolation. NDSU Extension has resources on its Aging Well website ( to help you. You also can contact your local county Extension office for more information. 

Source: Jane Strommen, NDSU Extension gerontology specialist, 701-231-5948

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