A Smarter Home for 55+

Now that you’re retired or planning for retirement, purchasing a smaller, low-maintenance home is the perfect opportunity to upgrade your technology too. Advances in home automation are making this easier than it’s ever been. Now, with smart phones, you can do virtually everything you need to from anywhere, whether it’s down the block or across the globe. Here are some high-tech home gadgets to make your home smarter and your life easier.

Smart TV

Smart TVs allow your television to connect to your home’s internet connection, allowing access to hundreds of apps and nearly endless opportunities for entertainment. Popular options include Apple TV and Roku. A simple HDMI cable to your TV and WiFi connection can instantly stream Netflix, HBO, and a host of your other favorite channels and movies; making your TV into the ultimate entertainment machine.

Smart Thermostat

Always forgetting to turn off the air conditioning, leading to unnecessarily high energy bills? Products like Ecobee and Nest are here to save your wallet and bring you peace of mind. Smart thermostats can automatically adjust to make rooms more comfortable, conserve energy while you’re away, and use sensors to make your bedroom more comfortable while you’re asleep. Not only does it make your home more comfortable, but can save you lots of money on energy bills by giving you more control no matter where you are!

Video Monitor

Being away from home has never been safer with video monitors that give you live feeds directly to your phone, tablet, or computer. The Nest Cam links up with your mobile device, allowing you to keep tabs on your home whenever you’re away. Not only can you check in to make sure that you shut the fridge, but it will send you a notification if it detects motion while you’re away. Have an old iPhone sitting around? Now you can use it as a monitor rather than a dust collector in your drawer, thanks to the Presence app.

Smart Garage Door Remote

Leaving your garage door open is more than a cause of anxiety while you’re in the middle of the grocery store, it can be a serious security hazard. With MyQ Garage, you can check to see whether you shut the door. Left it open? A simple tap will close it. MyQ Garage will also send you a notification if your garage door opens while you’re away from home.

Smart Home Lock

Tired of digging through your purse for your keys with an armful of groceries? Kwikset Kevo makes that situation a thing of the past. Although it appears like a typical lock, the Kwikset Kevo connects with your phone via Bluetooth and, after approved users touch the lock, it’ll automatically open using fingerprint recognition. Have guests? The product also comes with key fobs that will allow the door to open when they are within range. It also allows you to see when your front door was locked or unlocked and by whom, so you can track every time someone enters or leaves the home.

Smart Slow Cooker

Want to make something delicious while you’re gone all day, but aren’t comfortable with leaving it unattended? The Belkin Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with Wemo will put your fears to rest. This WiFi-enabled crockpot can be adjusted through the WeMo app, allowing you to adjust the temperature from anywhere. So, if you happen to be running late, you can lower the temperature so your meal won’t overcook. Even if you forget, the crockpot will automatically know that it’s been longer than the allotted cooking time and will lower the temperature accordingly.

Home Automation Systems

If all these sound like good additions to your home but you don’t want to clutter your phone with apps, then a home automation system would be the answer. A home automation system acts as a central space for all your smart devices, allowing you to control all of them from one interface.

Have a smart lighting system, coffee maker, and thermostat? A home automation system, like SmartThings, will have them all talk together. Just tell it that you’ve woken up, then watch as the lights slowly turn up, the coffee starts brewing, and the temperature adjusts to a more comfortable level. When you’re away from home, you can lock your doors, turn off your lights, monitor your home with whatever cameras you have set up, or unlock your doors for your spouse who forgot their keys before leaving. A device like SmartThings is perfect for the tech-savvy active adult homeowner who has several smart devices but would like to easily manage them.

5 Reasons It’s Exciting to Be Over 55

There are several reasons to look forward to reaching 55. It’s a major milestone and many adults report being happier the closer they get to retirement age (although, we think, a lot of that has to do with being able to move into an active adult community). After all, there is a reason we call this stage in life “the golden years.”

Life not only gets better after 55, it also gets a lot cheaper.

Many places offer senior discounts, making exploration less of a splurge and more of an economical way to spend an evening or afternoon out. Here are some ways to leverage your age to save some money.

Dining Out

Although eating out is seen as an unnecessary extravagance for many, several restaurant chains (and local restaurants too) offer senior discounts. Popular restaurants like Papa John’s Pizza, Outback Steakhouse, and Carrabba’s Italian Grill offer steep discounts for AARP members. Early risers can have their morning coffee and breakfast at IHOP and Denny’s, where a special senior menu offers smaller portions at a lower price in addition to AARP member discounts.

Looking for something more local? Check out Seniordiscounts.com for a list of restaurants near you that offer deals for active adults and retirees.

Continuing Education

Want to hit the books again without the exorbitant tuition fees? Many public universities offer extremely reduced, and sometimes waived, tuition for seniors. The University of California in Los Angeles has the Senior Scholars program, where 50+ adults can audit undergraduate classes. Prestigious universities see the value in having seniors sit in during courses including Georgetown University (through their Senior Citizen Non-Degree Auditor Program) and UC Berkeley.

Universities typically do a poor job of advertising these opportunities, so check out your local college’s website or meet with an advisor to see what they can offer.

Travel Time

Many active adults spend their newfound downtime to see new corners of the country and little-known parts of the planet. While some airlines will shave off 10% of the price for adults over the age of 50, British Airways has discounts for AARP members that range from $65 up to $400. If you’re curious how far your AARP membership will take you, they offer a search function so you can see how much you can save in flights, hotels, and cruises.

Movie Night

Want to unwind at a matinee or see all the Oscar nominations before the big night? Several of the country’s largest theater chains offer steep discounts. Cinemark has designated Senior Days where the discounts last all day for all movies. New England chain Showcase Cinemas has Senior Wednesdays, offering not just a reduced ticket price but also popcorn and a soda for just a few bucks. AMC, one of the country’s largest movie chains, offers senior discounts for most showings.

Museums, Music, and Memberships

If you live near a major city, all those renowned cultural institutions are now accessible thanks to senior discounts. The Art Institute of Chicago gives seniors a 42% discount, while New York’s Museum of Modern Art also gives seniors a respite from the full admission price. Several other cultural institutions offer similar discounts like symphonies, theaters, and aquariums.

For exploring the country’s famed national parks, the National Park System offers a lifetime pass for just $20 to adults 62 and over. This allows entrance into all national parks and it will never expire. It also gives discounts for use of extra amenities like camping, swimming, or boat use.

55+ Nutrition: What your body needs

Older adults can feel better immediately and stay healthy for the future by choosing healthy foods. A balanced diet and physical activity contribute to a higher quality of life and enhanced independence as you age.

55+ Food pyramid guidelines

Fruit – Focus on whole fruits rather than juices for more fiber and vitamins and aim for around 1 ½ to 2 servings each day. Break the apple and banana rut and go for color-rich pickings like berries or melons.

Veggies – Color is your credo in this category. Choose anti-oxidant rich dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli as well as oranges and yellows, such as carrots, squash, and yams. Try for 2 to 2 ½ cups of veggies every day.

Calcium – Aging bone health depends on adequate calcium intake to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Adults 55+ need 1,200 mg of calcium a day through servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese. Non-dairy sources include tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale.

Grains – Be smart with your carbs and choose whole grains over processed white flour for more nutrients and a higher fiber count. If you’re not sure, look for pasta, breads, and cereals that list “whole” in the ingredient list. Adults 55+ need 6-7 ounces of grains each day (one ounce is about 1 slice of bread).

Protein – Adults 55+ need about .5 grams per pound of bodyweight. Simply divide your bodyweight in half to know how many grams you need. A 130-pound woman will need around 65 grams of protein a day. A serving of tuna, for example, has about 40 grams of protein. Vary your sources with more fish, beans, peas, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, and seeds.

Important vitamin and minerals

Water – Adults 55+ are prone to dehydration because our bodies lose some of its ability to regulate fluid levels and our sense of thirst is dulled as we age. Post a note in your kitchen reminding you to sip water every hour and with meals to avoid urinary tract infections, constipation, and possibly confusion.

Vitamin B – After 50, your stomach produces less gastric acid making it difficult to absorb vitamin B-12—needed to help keep blood and nerves vital. Get the recommended daily intake (2.4 mcg) of B12 from fortified foods or a vitamin supplement.

Vitamin D – We get most of our vitamin D intake—essential to absorbing calcium—through sun exposure and certain foods (fatty fish, egg yolk, and fortified milk). With age, our skin is less efficient at synthesizing vitamin D, so consult your doctor about supplementing with fortified foods or a multivitamin.

Changing dietary needs and physical changes

Every season of life brings changes and adjustments to your body. Understanding what is happening will help you take control of your nutrition requirements.

  • Metabolism. Every year over the age of forty, our metabolism slows. This means that even if you continue to eat the same amount as when you were younger, you’re likely to gain weight because you’re burning fewer calories. In addition, you may be less physically active. Consult your doctor to decide if you should cut back on calories.
  • Weakened senses. Your taste and smell senses diminish with age. Adults 55+ tend to lose sensitivity to salty and bitter tastes first, so you may be inclined to salt your food more heavily than before—even though older adults need less salt than younger people. Use herbs and healthy oils—like olive oil—to season food instead of salt. Similarly, older adults tend to retain the ability to distinguish sweet tastes the longest, leading some to overindulge in sugary foods and snacks. Instead of adding sugar, try increasing sweetness to meals by using naturally sweet food such as fruit, peppers, or yams.
  • Digestion. Due to a slowing digestive system, you generate less saliva and stomach acid as you get older, making it more difficult for your body to process certain vitamins and minerals, such as B12, B6 and folic acid, which are necessary to maintain mental alertness, a keen memory and good circulation. Up your fiber intake and talk to your doctor about possible supplements.
  • Medicines and Illnesses. Prescription medications and illnesses can often negatively influence appetite and may also affect taste, again leading older adults to add too much salt or sugar to their food. Ask your doctor about overcoming side effects of medications or specific physical conditions.

Tips for creating a well-balanced diet

Thinking of trading a tired eating regime for a nutrient-dense menu? Good for you! It’s easy and delicious.

Avoid skipping meals – This causes your metabolism to slow down, which leads to feeling sluggish and poorer choices later in the day.

Breakfast – Select high fiber breads and cereals, colorful fruit, and protein to fill you with energy for the day. Try yogurt with muesli and berries, a veggie-packed omelet, peanut-butter on whole grain toast with a citrus salad, or old-fashioned oatmeal made with dried cherries, walnuts, and honey.

Lunch – Keep your body fueled for the afternoon with a variety of whole-grain breads, lean protein, and fiber. Try a veggie quesadilla on a whole-wheat tortilla, veggie stew with whole-wheat noodles, or a quinoa salad with roasted peppers and mozzarella cheese.

Dinner – End the day on a wholesome note. Try warm salads of roasted veggies and a side of crusty brown bread and cheese, grilled salmon with spicy salsa, or whole-wheat pasta with asparagus and shrimp. Opt for sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes and grilled meat instead of fried.

Snacks – It’s okay, even recommended, to snack. But make sure you make it count by choosing high-fiber snacks to healthfully tide you over to your next meal. Choose almonds and raisins instead of chips, and fruit instead of sweets. Other smart snacks include yogurt, cottage cheese, apples and peanut butter, and veggies and hummus.

Source: HELPGUIDE.ORG in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications
Authors: Sarah Kovatch, M.F.A. and Gina Kemp, M.A.

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