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Savvy Senior

Lifelong Learning: Continuing education options for seniors
By Jim Miller
Jun 21, 2007, 13:57

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Dear Savvy Senior,
Do you know of any good golfing gadgets or equipment that can help a stiff, old, less mobile golfer? I love to play golf, but at age 74, I struggle with arthritis and a few other health conditions. What can you tell me?
Aging Golfer
Dear Aging,
No matter what your handicap or physical limitations are, there are a variety of golfing gadgets, gizmos and equipment on the market that can help with almost every problem.
Adaptive Golf
As we age, changes in our strength, flexibility, range of motion and vision make most things in life more difficult, including golf. Here are some of the key areas that can cause older golfers problems, and some adaptive products that can help keep them playing longer and maybe even improve their game.
Being able to grip a golf club can be challenging for seniors who struggle with arthritis or have limited hand strength. To help alleviate this problem there are specially designed golf gloves and jumbo grip golf clubs that can make a big difference. Here’s what’s available:
• Power or Sure Grip Gloves: These use a Velcro strap to secure the club to your hand which increase grip power and prevents the club from slipping in your hand. Visit and
• Bionic Golf Gloves: Ergonomically designed to improve grip with less effort. Visit or call 877-524-6642.
• Jumbo golf grips: Oversized cushion grips (sizes vary) can make gripping the club much easier and more comfortable. To get jumbo grips installed on your clubs, a good resource is the Professional Club Makers’ Society which provides a nationwide list of club makers on their Web site at or call 800-548-6094. The cost per grip is $5 - $10.
Bending and Stooping
Golf is a game that requires a lot of repetitive bending and stooping, which can create problems if you have a bad back or limited flexibility. To address this problem, the Uprightgolf company ( or 319-268-0939) offers a variety of affordable products (most are under $40) that eliminate the bending and stooping that comes with teeing the ball up, repairing divots, marking the ball while on the green, retrieving the ball, picking a club up off the ground and more.
Adaptive Clubs
To help golfers with limited mobility, custom-made adaptive golf clubs are a great option to consider. Two types you should know about include:
·        Flexible shaft clubs: Ideal for golfers who have lost some of their strength and range of motion. The flexible shafts increase club head speed for greater lift and more distance on your shots, making for a more enjoyable round of golf. The cost range is $50 - $85 per club.
·        Flat lie clubs: For handicapped golfers, these clubs are angled outward at the club head, which makes for better ball contact from a seated position. Cost is around $75 per club. Again, the best resource to get these custom clubs is the Professional Club Makers’ Society (
Riding Carts
For golfers with mobility loss or who have problems with balance or stamina there are several ergonomically designed (single riding) golf carts that offer the ability to play from a seated position (see or Golfers just swing the seat out to the side of the cart to take their shot, and turn the seat back to the forward position to drive to the next shot. These carts are light weight and precisely balanced so they can be driven on tee boxes and greens without causing any damage. By law, they must be allowed on public golf courses nationwide. Price ranges from $7,000 to $8,500.
Extra Golfing Goodies
For golfers who like to walk, a terrific ergonomic walking golf cart is the three-wheeled Kaddy Stroller ($180, And if you could use some help finding your golf ball from time to time, take a look at for $200.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you tell me about sleep apnea and what can be done to treat it? My 59-year-old husband snores like a chain saw and wakes himself up so frequently he keeps me up too.
Sleep Deprived Susan
Dear Susan,
Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious condition that affects more than 12 million Americans. But the problem is that most cases (up to 90 percent) go undiagnosed and untreated. Here’s what you should know.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes a person to stop breathing during sleep, dozens and even hundreds of times during the night for up to 30 seconds at a time. If that sounds dangerous, it is. Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and can sharply increase the risk for stroke and heart attack. It can also cause morning headaches, memory problems, mood swings or feelings of depression, impotence, and excessive daytime sleepiness which is a major cause of car accidents. But the good news is that sleep apnea is treatable and most insurance companies, including Medicare, cover it.
Symptoms to Know
There are two different types of sleep apnea: central apnea, the least common form that occurs when the muscles you use to breathe don’t get the signal from your brain. And obstructive apnea (nine out of 10 people with apnea have this type), which occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep blocking the airway. Some people may have a combination of both. Symptoms of obstructive apnea include loud snoring (however not everyone who snores has apnea), long pauses of breathing, gasping or choking during sleep and daytime drowsiness. But because most of these symptoms happen during sleep, many people don’t recognize them. They’re usually noticed first by the person they sleep with.
Who’s at Risk?
While anyone, even children, can have obstructive apnea, it’s typically more common in men. Other factors that can increase the risks are being overweight, smoking, drinking alcohol, having high blood pressure, being over the age of 60, and having a family history of the condition. African-Americans, Pacific-Islanders and Hispanics are also more prone to having apnea.
Seek Help
If your husband has any of the listed symptoms, he should talk to his doctor or a sleep specialist who may recommend an overnight study at a sleep center (see to determine if he’s suffering from apnea or another problem.
Treatment Options
If he is diagnosed with apnea, the most commonly prescribed treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This involves sleeping with a snorkel-like mask that’s hooked up to a machine that blows air up your nose to keep the passages open. As unpleasant as it sounds, CPAP is the most effective treatment for apnea. However many find the mask uncomfortable and difficult to adjust to. Others simply can’t tolerate it at all and opt for dental appliances or surgery to keep the throat open and prevent blockages.
In milder cases of obstructive apnea there are various lifestyle changes that may help relieve the problem including:
•   Losing weight. Excess body weight, especially around the neck, puts pressure on the airway, causing it to partially collapse. Even a slight weight loss may help relieve symptoms.
• Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills. These can relax the muscles in the back of your throat, interfering with breathing.
•  Stop smoking. Smoking can increase the swelling in the upper airway, making apnea and snoring worse.
•  Sleeping on your side or stomach. Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and soft palate to rest against the back of your throat and block your airway. (Tip: To prevent sleeping on your back, sew a tennis ball in the back of your pajama top.)
•  Keep your nasal passages open when you sleep. Nasal strips such as ‘Breathe Right’ might provide some relief or talk to your doctor about using nasal decongestants or antihistamines.
Savvy Resource: For more information, the American Sleep Apnea Association offers a wide variety of free publications that are very helpful and a national directory of apnea support groups. See or call 202-293-3650.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.
Dear Savvy Senior,
I recently read an article on the mental and social benefits of senior lifelong learning or older adult continuing education programs (learning for fun without exams), and am very interested. Can you direct me to some resources that will help me find what’s available in my area?

Senior Student
 Dear Student
The growth of older adult educational programs has been on the upswing in the United States over the past few years – and for good reasons. Senior lifelong learning programs not only offer interesting and mentally stimulating educational opportunities, they also provide a wonderful social outlet, bringing together people with common interests. Here are some tips that can help you find out what’s available in your area.
Local College
Your first step in finding noncredit adult education programs should be to contact your nearby college or university. While many may offer great educational options for seniors, others offer few or none. If your local college has limited opportunities, find out if auditing (attending a course that interests you without taking exams or receiving credit) is a possibility. Also check with your local library or Area Agency on Aging (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number). They may know of other community sources that provide senior education programs. Here are some additional resources you should check.

Lifelong Learning Institutes
The top resource for facilitating senior education programs around the country are Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs). And the two organizations that support and facilitate them are the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Elderhostel Institute Network. Together they offer around 450 programs nationwide. Although these programs are affiliated with colleges and universities, each institute is independent, setting its own curriculum, schedule, minimum-age requirement (usually 50) and annual fees, which are very affordable.
 The no-test, no-grade, noncredit classes are fun, intellectually stimulating, and offer a wide array of academic courses in such areas as literature, history, religion, philosophy, science, art and architecture, economics, finance, computers and lifestyle issues. They are taught by active or retired faculty, or by experts in their field. In addition, these programs also offer non-academic activities such as writing groups, brown-bag lectures, trips to local attractions as well as domestic and international travel, art, theater and photography groups and more. To locate an LLI near you visit or call 207-780-4076, and
Another educational resource to look into is Oasis (, 314-862-2933) – a nonprofit national organization that offers members (age 50 and older) challenging programs in the arts, humanities, wellness and technology. Oasis has centers in 25 cities serving over 350,000 members. Membership is free.
Shepherd’s Centers of America
This is a nationwide network of 75 interfaith community-based centers (located in 21 states) that offer older adult’s college-type programs on a variety of subjects. They also offer computer classes, intergenerational programs, personal finance classes, arts and crafts, travel trips and more. Classes are free or there may be a minimal fee. See or call 800-547-7073.
If you’re interested in learning more about computers check out SeniorNet (, 800-747-6848). A national organization that helps people age 50 and older learn how to use the computer and maneuver the Internet. For a $40 per year membership, SeniorNet offers a variety of online computer courses as well as instructor-led workshops at around 200 learning centers throughout the United States.
Senior Summer School
If a summertime adventure sounds appealing, visit Senior Summer School (, 800-847-2466). They offer retirees a fun educational and sight-seeing experience at campus locations across the U.S. Programs range from two to eight weeks during the summer, and three days to one week in the fall and winter. Costs will vary.
One Day University
Another fun educational option is the One Day University (, 800-811-8821). This is a day-long seminar taught by the best professors from Ivy League schools. The classes are held in the northeastern United States, and cover such topics as American studies, bioethics, psychology, astronomy and political science. The cost per class is $219.
Savvy Tip: A useful book on this topic is “Learning Later, Living Greater” (Sentient Publications, $16.95) by Nancy Nordstrom and Jon Merz. It’s available online or in book stores nationwide.
 Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can certain foods help with arthritis pain? I have osteoarthritis and am looking for some alternative solutions.
Arthritic Alice,
Dear Alice,
For years, arthritis sufferers looking for pain relief have usually turned to their medicine cabinet. But now, many doctors think the kitchen might be a better place to start. Here’s what you should know.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects more than 21 million Americans. Rheumatoid arthritis plagues about 2 million more. Many people with these two conditions don’t realize how much nutrition can improve the way they feel.
Because arthritis is a disease of inflammation, the most effective treatment is anything that fights inflammation, including an anti-inflammatory diet. While there’s no single arthritis diet that works for everyone, you’ll need to experiment to find the foods that make you feel better while cutting out the foods that can cause pain flare-ups. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Lose Weight
If you’re overweight, your first tip is to lose it! Excess pounds can significantly increase the wear and tear on your joints. Plus, fat cells also produce proteins that can encourage inflammation in your body.
Problem Foods
Certain foods can exacerbate symptoms. To find out what foods may be triggering your pain, keep a health diary to track the foods you eat, activities, stress and pain flare-ups. Look for patterns that may suggest a link between a food and a pain flare-up. Problematic foods to watch for include: dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, etc.), fatty meats (beef, pork and poultry skin), corn, wheat, oats, rye, eggs, citrus fruits, tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, peanuts, sugar, butter, soy, corn oil, regular safflower and sunflower oil, alcohol and coffee, as well as processed foods that contain trans fats. This doesn’t mean you have to give up all these foods, but tracking what you eat might flag one or two foods that cause your symptoms to flare up.
Helpful Foods
Some of the best food sources and nutritional supplements for reducing inflammation and arthritis pain include:
•  Fish and other omega-3s: Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are ideal for people with arthritis or other inflammatory disorders. You can get it by eating salmon, tuna, and sardines as well as walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans and dark green vegetables like spinach.
• Antioxidant foods: These protect your body from the effects of free radicals, and can help prevent arthritis, slow its progression, and relieve pain. Antioxidant-rich foods include: beans, berries, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, mangos, papaya, apples, apricots, red or purple grapes, dark green vegetables (spinach, asparagus, green peppers, brussel sprouts, broccoli, watercress, other greens), tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, walnuts, whole grains, oatmeal, soybeans, brown rice, olive oil and more.
•  Spices: Ginger and turmeric spices have anti-inflammatory effects that may also be beneficial. You can take ginger supplements or add diced or powdered ginger or ginger juice to meals. (Note: ginger has blood thinning effects, so if you’re taking a blood-thinning medication, talk with their doctor first.) Turmeric, sometimes called curcumin, is a mustard-yellow spice from Asia and is the main ingredient in yellow curry.
• Green tea: It contains compounds called polyphenols that may help relieve inflammation and prevent osteoarthritis.
• Vitamin D: By getting just the basic daily requirement of vitamin D, you can reduce the risk of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. If you’re over 50 you should take a daily vitamin that contains at least 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D (600 IU after age 70).
•  Glucosamine and chondroitin: Studies support that these supplements may have some anti-inflammatory effects as well as spur cartilage growth, ease symptoms, even reverse osteoarthritis. (Note: If you’re allergic to shellfish or are taking a blood thinner, or if you have a clotting disorder, consult your doctor first.)
Savvy Tip: The Arthritis Foundation offers great information on their Web site and various free publications including “Diet and Your Arthritis.” To order a copy, visit or call 800-207-8633.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.


© Copyright 2007 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing Company, Inc.

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