Martin’s Point Sponsors 2019 NH Senior Games!

Martin’s Point Health Care is pleased to announce their collaboration with the 2019 New Hampshire Senior Games as the presenting sponsor of the statewide event. Now celebrating its 32nd year, the Games provide a blend of competitive sports and social interactions for active older adults.

“Beyond the high-quality Medicare Advantage plans and primary care, we provide in New Hampshire and Maine, we invest in strategic partnerships to promote healthy communities as an important part of our mission,” said Dr. David Howes, President and CEO of Martin’s Point Health Care. “We’ve advocated for senior health and wellness through our lead sponsorship of the Maine Senior Games for over ten years. We’re very excited to now support the New Hampshire Senior Games in their cause.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome Martin’s Point as a sponsor and supporter,” said Larry Flint, Chairman of the New Hampshire Senior Games.  “Our primary goal is supporting active, older adults in healthy competition and their mission is very much in alignment with our efforts.”

Dr. Howes noted that, beyond the financial support, Martin’s Point Health Care employees volunteer at a broad range of non-profits in the communities they serve.  “As a community-based organization, our employees share an enduring commitment to the good health of our patients and members. Service to our valued non-profit partners is an extension of that and part of our culture.” 

Flint said that, over the years, thousands of athletes from New Hampshire and throughout New England have taken part in the Games.  “Our slogan— ‘where fun and fitness meet’—truly embodies the spirit of the Games,” he said.  “Whether one is a competitive athlete or trying a sport for the first time, we offer something for everyone.”

This year’s Games will take place June through August and offer 17 different events and sports throughout the state and are open to participants aged 40–90+.  Online registration is now open. To learn more or sign up for the 2019 Games, please visit www.NHseniorgames.org.

About the New Hampshire Senior Games

The mission of the New Hampshire Senior Games (NHSG) is to promote, organize and effectively develop physical challenges, as they relate to the NH Masters Athlete and the 50+ population of the state of New Hampshire, undertake related activities benefitting the well-being of adults as appropriate and focusing on the development of active and healthy lifestyles.  Our mission is accomplished by encouraging fitness and by providing athletic competition in a variety of sports, clinics and creative pursuits. To learn more, please visit www.nhseniorgames.org.

The Maine Pioneers: A League of their Own

About 20 years ago, Marcia Chute picked up a basketball and helped form the Pioneers, the first senior women’s basketball team in Maine. Now 71, Marcia is still going strong – and she’s not alone. She’s one of 51 women over age 55 who gather to play the game they love on courts all over the state.

The Pioneers include eight enthusiastic women plus two helpers. Four of them—Marcia, Claudia Lackee, Eve Abreau, and Beverly MacLean—are Martin’s Point Generations Advantage members. They practice Tuesday evenings throughout the year at the Memorial Middle School gym in South Portland. And they tip off against other senior opponents—there are nine teams in Maine alone—occasionally playing teams from nearby states. The action culminates at the Maine Senior Games, held annually for adults over 45 and sponsored by Martin’s Point Health Care. There’s also a chance for those 50+ to qualify for national competition every two years.

Most of the Pioneers loved sports as young girls, and played whatever they could. “We didn’t have many choices back then, maybe two sports a year,” explains Claudia, 78, who played for the Pioneers for 15 years and still comes to help at every practice.

“I loved basketball and football, but I worked all through high school, so I couldn’t play sports,” adds Eve, 76.

On-court sport means more now than ever

Playing basketball as a senior is a bit different. In the 70+ category, the game is played half-court, three on three, with two 15-minute halves. But it’s just as fun and even more meaningful.

“Seventy is the new 50,” says Jo Dill, a Pioneer player and manager of the Maine Senior Games. “It’s wonderful to be able to compete at this age.”

“Your body says hey, you can’t do the same things you could at age 16,” says Marcia. “But your mind says, oh yes, you can!”

Is it risky? “I get hurt more off the court than on,” says Marcia, who broke an ankle last year out walking, and then hurt a shoulder this year after tripping and falling at an airport. “On the court I’m just fine,” she says.

In fact, they find basketball benefits both body and mind. “I exercise more now, because I want to stay in shape for the game,” says Eve. “And my brain is definitely stimulated because there’s always so much to learn.”

On or off the court, there’s no shortage of support when bad luck strikes. “No one gets hurt without the entire team rallying around them,” says Claudia. “I live alone, and, when I was injured, I had more support than I can convey.”

The camaraderie they feel as a team means more now than it did when the women were teens. “This feels like a family. That sounds cliché but it’s really true,” says Eve. The women also gather socially a couple of times a year for dinners, a Christmas party, and of course, to talk strategy before nationals.

The Maine Pioneers 70+ Women’s Basketball Team

Going for gold

To say the Pioneers are competitive would be understating things. This year’s goal is nothing less than a gold medal at nationals, which will be held in Albuquerque in June.  The team won bronze in 2015, and placed fifth in a field of 16 competitive teams in 2017. This year, they expect a challenge from at least 14 teams from all over the country.

Score aside, they know they’ll find loads of inspiration at the National Games. “Playing at Stanford in 2009 was amazing,” said Claudia. “Most of the events were right on campus, so you could watch lots of competition.” The women were thrilled to be among the 10,000 athletes over age 50 playing the sports they love, from former Olympians to 100-year-old swimmers. “It was just mind boggling,” added Marcia.

Players pay their own way for tournaments and chip in at every practice to help cover their coach’s expenses.

“It’s worth every penny,” says Beverly, 69. She sums up her experience this way: “It keeps us young.” And, if you saw her killer outside shot, you’d know there’s nothing more true.

To learn more about Maine Senior Games, which includes over 20 sports, visit smaa.org/maineseniorgames or call 800-427-7411. Participants and volunteers are welcome!

Keep Pace All Winter with Indoor Walking

Are snow, ice and frigid temperatures melting your good intentions to stay active this winter? Head inside and rev up your walking program! From community recreation centers to shopping malls, there are more places to get your miles in comfort than you might think. Check out some of our favorites below.

Tip: Though warm and protected from the elements, indoor walking can get repetitive over time. Keep it fun by bringing a friend, music, or an audiobook. Use a pedometer to count and track your steps – it’s great for motivation. And play around with changing your pace – faster on the straights, slower on the curves – or incorporating intervals, such as alternating 1 minute of faster-paced walking with 2 minutes at a slower pace.

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MAINE

Brunswick Recreation Center Indoor Track
220 Neptune Drive at Brunswick Landing, Brunswick

The two-lane track measures about 1/9 of a mile. Hours vary. Most days the track is open from 8:30 am to 8 pm.

Fees: None

More info: 207-725-6656
www.brunswickme.org/departments/parks-recreation/parks-facilities/brunswick-recreation-center/

 

Mason-Motz Activity Center
190 Middle Rd., Falmouth

Walk the hallways and gym.

Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 8 am to 5 pm; Tuesday, 8 am to 6 pm; Friday, 8 am to noon.

Fees: None

For more info: 207-699-5302
www.falmouthme.org/parks-and-community-programs

 

Kittery Community Center Walking Track
120 Rogers Rd., Kittery

Log 1 mile for every 17 laps on the bright and roomy elevated track above the gym.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 am to 9 pm; Saturday, 8 am to 4 pm; Sunday, noon to 4 pm.

Fees: $1 for non-residents

More info: 207-439-3800
www.kitterycommunitycenter.org

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The Maine Mall

364 Maine Mall Road, South Portland

The mall opens four hours early every day, leaving plenty of time for early risers to walk before shoppers arrive at 10 or 11 am.

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 6 am to 9 pm; Sunday, 7 am to 6 pm

Fees: None

More info: 207-774-0303
www.mainemall.com/en/visit.html

 

Saco Community Center Gym
75 Franklin St., Saco

Monday and Tuesday, 7:30 to 9 am, 11 am to 2 pm; Wednesday 7:30 to 9 am, noon to 1 pm; Thursday and Friday, 7:30 am to 2 pm.

Fees: $2 drop-in or $20 annual fee

More info: 207-283-3139
www.sacorec.com/info/activities/program_details.aspx?ProgramID=25375

 

South Portland Community Center Walking Track
21 Nelson Rd., South Portland, Maine

Circle the track above the gym 12 times to log one mile.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 am to 9 pm; Saturday 7 am to 7 pm, Sunday 12 pm to 8 pm.

More info: 207-767-7650
www.southportland.org/departments/parks-recreation-aquaticspool/

 

USM Indoor Track
43 Campus Ave., Gorham

Adults can purchase access to the six-lane track and gym by the month.

Fees: $50/month

More info: 207-780-5430
https://usm.maine.edu/costello-fitness/

 

York Middle School Indoor Trails
30 Organug Rd., York

Walk the hallways after school’s out for the day – incorporate stairs to boost your heart rate or stay on one level.

Monday-Wednesday, 4:30 to 8:30 pm.

Fees: None. Registration required.

More info: 207-363-7922;
https://york.coursestorm.com/course/indoor-walking-trails-and-fitness-stations

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

Mall at Fox Run
50 Fox Run Rd., Newington

The mall opens for walkers one hour before stores open their doors.

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 am to 9 pm; Sunday 10 am to 6 pm.

More info: 603-431-5911
www.mallatfoxrun.com

 

UNH Hamel Recreation Center Indoor Track
5 Edgewood Rd., Durham,

You don’t have to be a student to take advantage of UNH facilities. Ten laps on the track earns you one mile.

Fees: $11 a day or $44.16/month (includes access to everything but the pools)

More info: 603-862-2031
https://campusrec.unh.edu/hamel-recreation-center

 

Spinnaker Point Recreation Center Indoor Track
155 Parrott Ave., Portsmouth

The rubberized floor makes for comfortable walking; 12 laps equal one mile.

Fees: Residents over age 60: $9 per month/$108 per year; non-residents over age 60: $18/month, $216/year; drop-ins welcome for fee.

More info: 603-427 1548
https://www.cityofportsmouth.com/recreation/spinnaker-point

Seniors, Stand Strong with Free Balance Training

If you’re age 65 or older, it probably doesn’t take a slick winter sidewalk to get you thinking about falling. The loss of balance and strength that come with age make us less stable on our feet – and more prone to falls – even in our homes and other seemingly “safe” places.

Seniors fall more often than you may think. Last year 21,722 Mainers over age 65 sought emergency room treatment as a result of a fall, reports the Maine Health Data Organization. “That’s about 60 people each day,” says Anna Guest, Fall Prevention Project Director at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging and part of the Maine Falls Prevention Coalition.

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Balance training keeps you steadier, builds strength, and reduces risk for injury.

Aging doesn’t have to bring you down

At Martin’s Point, we want seniors to know their stories can be different – with balance training. Balance training keeps you steadier, builds strength, and reduces risk for injury – as 73-year-old Patricia Sipos of South Portland knows firsthand.

“I’ve had a few falls – one of which landed me in the hospital with a concussion and a hematoma the size of a grapefruit,” says the Martin’s Point’s US Family Health Plan member from South Portland. Then Pat started attending the All About Balance class at the Martin’s Point Health Care Center in Scarborough in March of 2017. “I haven’t fallen in a year,” she says, adding that she’s also able to safely enjoy favorite activities like camping and gardening again.

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At Martin’s Point, we want seniors to know their stories can be different – with balance training.

Building balance, one hour at a time

New evidence shows older adults can improve balance by an impressive 25 to 40 percent with specific exercise training, called high-level perturbation training. “Essentially, that means repeating difficult tasks, such as standing on one foot,” explains Jason Adour, PT, DPT, owner of Maine Strong Balance Center in Scarborough, Maine, and All About Balance instructor.

Balance training also involves building strength. “Weakness increases risk of falling by 2.6 times for older adults,” explains Adour. The seniors in his class work on strength chair rises (modified squats) and more. It’s also important to challenge the vestibular system – which helps us maintain balance in motion – with exercises like standing with eyes closed as you turn your head side to side, as if you were saying “no.”

How much training does it take to improve? The ideal target is 50 hours, completed in under six months. “It’s very different than cardiovascular training, where the recommendation is 150 minutes every week,” adds Ardour. “It helps to think of gaining balance in terms of gaining points, as opposed to a weekly requirement.”

All About Balance Class
All About Balance Class at Martin’s Point in Scarborough, ME

Learn the moves in Scarborough for free

Get started on your 50 hours with our All About Balance class. There’s no charge for the one-hour class, which takes place Mondays, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Martin’s Point Health Care Center in Scarborough.

“It’s a wonderful benefit, and we work at our own pace, without pressure to keep up,” adds Pat. Ardour even gives homework – exercises you can do on your home – so you can build balance, wherever you are.

Call 207-303-0612 today to RSVP for the free All About Balance class in Scarborough. (Dropping in is fine, too, as long as there’s space.) You can also find more information and resources for preventing falls at www.knowfallsforme.org.

Martin’s Point Health Care Among Nation’s Highest-Quality Medicare Advantage Plans for 2019

Martin’s Point Health Care Earns 5 Stars, Among Nation’s Highest-Quality Medicare Advantage Plans for 2019

Medicare beneficiaries living in Maine and New Hampshire have access to one of only 14 Medicare Advantage contracts in the country to earn 5 out of 5 stars from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for 2019. Portland-based Martin’s Point Generations Advantage Prime, Value, Value Plus, and Focus DC plans have earned the highest-possible Overall Plan Rating for quality and service awarded nationally to Medicare Advantage plans. They are the only Medicare Advantage plans in Maine and New Hampshire to achieve Medicare’s 5-Star rating for 2019.

“As an organization we are committed to improving the health of our community and are incredibly proud to offer 5-Star plans to our friends and neighbors here in Maine and New Hampshire,” said Dr. David Howes, President and CEO of Martin’s Point Health Care. “We share this recognition with our over 45,000 Generations Advantage members who took an active role in their own health, as well as our dedicated team of employees and over 15,000 network providers who took such great care of our members. We want to especially recognize the tremendous primary care community here in Maine and New Hampshire for such remarkable care. Achieving this rating was truly a team effort and we could not have done this alone.”

CMS publishes their Star Ratings during the Medicare Annual Enrollment period each year to help seniors compare the level of health care quality and service offered by Medicare Advantage plans. While CMS rated 376 Medicare Advantage contracts nationwide this year, only an elite group of 14, including the Martin’s Point Generations Advantage HMO contract, earned the distinction of a 5-Star Overall Plan Rating. The overall rating is based on nearly 50 care and service quality measures across multiple categories including customer service, member experience, management of chronic conditions, how the plan helps members stay healthy, prescription drug services, and more.

“This rating reflects our commitment to partner with our members and the greater health community to deliver the highest quality care and service possible,” said Dan Hounchell, Vice President of Health Plan Products for Martin’s Point. “We are incredibly proud to represent the health care community here in Maine and New Hampshire as we join only a few other Medicare Advantage plans across the country that have received this distinction. In the end, as a local health plan, our dedication to keeping our family members, neighbors, and friends as healthy as possible is what sets us apart.”

Martin’s Point Generations Advantage plans are the most popular in Maine, serving nearly 45,000 Medicare beneficiaries, and have achieved the highest ratings in the state for seven nine years in a row.

In addition to representing the highest quality recognition given by CMS, the rating also means that Medicare beneficiaries in Maine and New Hampshire may enroll in 5-Star Generations Advantage plan throughout 2019, not only during Medicare’s annual enrollment period (which runs from October 15 – December 7 each year). Medicare allows 5-Star plans a special enrollment opportunity to make it easier for seniors to move into higher quality plans at any time during the year.

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About Martin’s Point Health Care

Martin’s Point is a not-for-profit health care organization based in Portland, Maine. Martin’s Point offers Medicare Advantage and TRICARE® health plans – Generations Advantage serving Medicare beneficiaries in Maine and New Hampshire and the US Family Health Plan serving active-duty and retired military families in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania. Martin’s Point also provides primary care services at seven health care centers from Brunswick, Maine to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-star rating system. Star Ratings are calculated each year and may change from one year to the next. Generations Advantage HMO plans (Contract H5591) received a 5-Star Overall Rating and PPO plans (Contract H1365) received a 4.5-Star Overall Rating for plan year 2019. Visit www.Medicare.gov for more information. Martin’s Point Generations Advantage is a health plan with a Medicare contract offering HMO, HMO-POS, HMO SNP, PPO, and Regional PPO products. Enrollment in a Martin’s Point Generations Advantage plan depends on contract renewal. Martin’s Point Health Care complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. ATTENTION: Si vous parlez français, des services d’aide linguistique vous sont proposés gratuitement. Appelez le 1-888-640-4423 (ATS: 711). ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-888-640-4423 (TTY: 711).

 

Martin’s Point’s CEO testifies before Senate Committee on Aging

Innovative, Tailored Care Models for Maine’s Seniors

Washington, DC (October 3, 2018) – Martin’s Point Health Care, based in Portland, Maine, is implementing forward-thinking programs and care models to meet the health care needs of the state’s rapidly growing, mostly rural, and chronically ill senior population. That was the message Martin’s Point President and CEO, David Howes, MD, shared at an October 3 hearing of the Senate Committee on Aging, chaired by Maine Senator Susan Collins.

Maine health care providers, including Martin’s Point, are on the front line of tackling a collection of senior health care challenges other states will face in the years ahead. Maine’s average population age is rising faster than that of any state in the nation. Projections show that, by 2020, those over the age of 65 in Maine will outnumber those under 18—a statistic that is 15 years ahead of the national projected date of 2035. Adding to the complexity of this issue, 31 percent of Maine’s senior population lives below 200 percent of the poverty line and 51 percent lives in rural areas.

In describing their innovative approach to caring for a this progressively aging population, Dr. Howes highlighted the fact that Martin’s Point provides Maine seniors with both direct patient care and Medicare health plans. This unique combination of services allows the organization to leverage health care information to inform targeted and closely managed care, resulting in improved patient outcomes and experience and driving down costs.

 “I regard our [health plan] care management programs as some of our best innovation work at Martin’s Point,” said Dr. Howes. “They continue to illustrate to me that the little things can make a big difference.”

In his Senate testimony Dr. Howes described several programs that illustrate this strategic approach to delivering care, managing costs and helping seniors live independently. These programs feature a care model that emphasizes close care coordination and chronic disease management. Some of the programs included in the testimony include:

  • A home-based comprehensive care program tackling all factors that impact health, including physical, emotional, social and environmental. As part of the program, patients are screened for mental illness, addiction and depression. More than half of invited members in the home-care program are accepting nurses into their home for the first visit and then inviting them back.
  • A pilot program for patients with congestive heart failure, providing in-home assessments, education on symptoms and telemonitoring devices for participants. The effort led to significant improvements in members’ medication adherence, as well as decreased hospital admissions and a nearly 70 percent reduction in readmissions.

To read the full testimony from Dr. Howes, click here.

Pull the Plug on Stress with these Five Simple Yoga Poses

Calming frazzled nerves can be as easy as shifting your body into a different position.

“Any yoga posture that assists natural exhalation of breath instantly reduces tension in the body,” says Erin Compton, owner of Riverbend Yoga in Yarmouth, Maine. Forward folds, seated or standing, are a great example. “Breathing out and giving in to gravity allow your body to shift from fight-or-flight to rest and digest, releasing stress-carrying hormones and easing tension from areas where we tend to hold it the most, like the hips and jaw.”

Also, postures that invert your body reverse the flow of blood and flush toxins. “It’s like a reset for your nervous system and body, inside and out,” says Compton, who has been teaching yoga for six years.

More good news, the poses don’t have to be complicated to do the trick. Compton shares her favorites here. For each pose, focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply.

Forward fold

1 | Forward fold (also known as rag doll). Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Clasp opposite hand to opposite elbow, and hinge upper body forward, moving from hips. Shift weight forward to the front of your feet. Let your head hang heavy. Breathe. Work up to 1 minute.

Make it easier: Bend knees more, even to the point of resting upper body on thighs.

 

Wide leg forward fold

2 | Wide-leg forward fold. Step feet wider than hips, knees slightly bent. Hinge upper body forward, moving from hips. Rest hands on the floor and lift up through hips as you lengthen spine toward the floor, shifting weight forward to the front of your feet. Let your head hang heavy. Breathe. Work up to 1 minute.

Make it easier: Bring the floor closer by resting your hands on a stack of books or a yoga block.

 

3 | Child’s pose. Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Sink back as you slowly shift hips toward heels, extending arms overhead, palms on floor. Breathe. Work up to 3 minutes.

Make it easier: If your hips are tight, keep knees together and rest chest on thighs.

 

Supported fish

4 | Supported fish. Sitting on the floor, place a bed pillow or a couple of throw pillows behind you at the base of your spine; don’t sit on them. (The pillows expand your chest, making it easier to fill your lungs with oxygen and improving the flow of oxygen to the brain.)

Lower onto your back, legs extended in front of you, arms stretched to the sides, palms up. Rest back of head on floor or under an additional pillow. Lift chin off chest, close eyes. Breathe. “Let your muscles melt away from your bones,” cues Compton. Work up to 5 or 6 minutes, or more.

 

Legs up the wall

5 | Legs up the wall. Find about 3’ of clear wall space. Sit next to wall, hip to baseboard, palm on floor for support. Lift leg that is closer to wall, and raise it so back of leg faces wall with heel resting on wall. As you raise the other leg to meet the first, shimmy toward wall so buttocks touch baseboard, or come as close as is comfortable for you. Place heels hip-width distance apart on wall. Spread arms to the sides on floor, palms up. Relax your feet and toes. Breathe. Stay for 5 to 6 minutes, or more.

If you’re a senior and you’d like to try yoga with an instructor to guide you, we can help! Join us for free, 1-hour Senior Chair Yoga classes at the Martin’s Point Community Center in Scarborough. Learn more, and watch the video to get a taste.

Looking for more stress-busting strategies? Talk to your Martin’s Point health care provider about other approaches you can try, like meditation, getting out into nature, journaling, mindfulness, counseling or coaching and more.

Grow Your Own! It’s Easier Than You Think.

Looking for easy ways to get your daily 2-3 cups of nutrient-packed veggies?  You might find the answer in a bucket.

“Most any vegetable can be grown in a simple container,” says Jessica Beesley of Estabrook’s garden center in Yarmouth, Maine. And it’s surprisingly simple to get growing.

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Four steps to home-grown

1. Find containers with proper capacity. Lots of people use simple plastic buckets with a hole or two drilled in the bottom to allow for drainage. Size is important. Big growers – like tomatoes and zucchini – need five gallon-containers, one plant per bucket. Small-scale plants like lettuce, herbs, and radishes, do fine in one-gallon containers or window boxes.

2. Use the right soil. Dirt from your yard won’t support vegetables properly. Choose a good quality potting soil and plan to fertilize regularly.

3. Provide water and sun. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of full sun per day; 8 is ideal. Container plants need more water than those planted in the ground. Depending on sun and wind, you may need to water two or three times a day. “The trick is keep the moisture even,” advises Beesley. Don’t oversaturate or let soil completely dry out.

4. Don’t forget to consider drainage. Mark Sundermann, a Master Gardener with Maine Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Volunteer program, and Website Content Specialist at Martin’s Point, suggests, “To improve drainage in a bucket, line the bottom fifth of the bucket with stones, or gravel, making sure not to block drainage holes.”

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Bucket list

As for picking your plants, at this point in the season and to keep it simple, choose seedlings, not seeds. Look for these container-happy varieties at your local garden center or ask staff for their recommendations:

  • Tomatoes: Husky Red, Patio, Sprite

Sundermann adds,  “When you grow tomatoes in a bucket avoid “indeterminate” varieties that will grow to 6-12 feet high and require staking or caging, try to use “determinate” varieties that are bush like and compact.”

  • Lettuces: Salad Bowl, Tom Thumb
  • Zucchini: Eight ball, Raven

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Fun Tip:

Have fun with combining plants in one container. A container with one tomato plant, a basil plant or two, and a nasturtium or two to flow over the edge will give you all the ingredients for a plate of sliced tomatoes, except the mozzarella.

And be sure to consider what is perhaps Beesley’s best advice:

“Choose vegetables you like to eat, and you’re much more likely to put your crop to good use.”

Five Ways to Fight Winter Blues

In June, Mainers savor over 15 hours of daylight. In December, we get only nine. Add frigid temperatures to short days, and no wonder many of us feel down and out in winter. The most extreme form of the winter blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD – only troubles 1%-2% of Americans. But as many as 20% feel down, unmotivated, grumpy and tired this time of year, compared to spring and summer.

Thankfully, the outlook isn’t all bleak. In spite of our northern location, you can take action that will help you feel sunnier all winter long.

Keeping it Light in the Season of Darkness

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Keep moving. Get outside daily, regardless of weather. Physical activity taps feel-good chemicals in the brain like serotonin and endorphins. “In fact, research shows exercise is as effective as an antidepressant for easing depression,” says Kathryn Hamann, a Nurse Practitioner at Martin’s Point in Portland.

You’ll get the most impact by getting 30- to 60-minutes of rhythmic activity on most days. “Add the fun of adventure by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in your own backyard or on local trails, or ice skating on local lakes, ponds or rinks,” says Hamann.  Sledding, pond hockey and ice fishing are more great ways to get outdoors and move during winter.

With the right clothing and footwear, outdoor exercise in winter is totally doable. Squeeze it in during daylight hours, and you’ll get an additional mood-boost from exposure to natural light, too.

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Be mindful. As with exercise, there’s a lot to choose from. Yoga, meditation (on your own or guided), progressive muscle relaxation, mindful walking and tai chi are all effective techniques to calm the mind and replace negative emotion with uplifting ones. Even 10 minutes a day can help.

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Connect with others. Isolation is the last thing you need when you’re feeling down – even if you don’t feel like putting on a bright face. Gather a friend or two for coffee or a walk. Join a book club. Volunteer once a week at your local school or library. Pick up the phone and catch up with a relative. “Support from people we care about and community engagement create a sense of purpose that keeps you going,” explains Hamann

Practice sound sleep habits. Stay rested. Rise and go to bed at the same times each day. Avoid caffeine and vigorous exercise late in the day. Have a bedtime ritual to signal your body that it’s time to wind down.

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Pay attention to what you eat. You know the drill – more vegetables and fruits, fewer processed foods and fewer “bad” fats. It’s good for your physical health and it keeps your mood balanced. “Your body may crave pasta, doughnuts and French rolls, but try to opt for whole-grains like oatmeal and brown rice instead,” says Hamann. Boost your omega-3 fat intake by adding flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Add vitamins D and B12 and fish oil to supplement your diet.

Consider indoor light therapy. If the strategies above don’t help, your provider might suggest light therapy. This artificial exposure to intense light using a device called a light box is thought to kick off chemical shifts in the brain that calm symptoms of SAD.

If you can’t get out of your winter rut, your health care team can also suggest other avenues, such counseling at Spurwink in Portland, and medication, which you may only need during winter months. Let your providers know how you’re feeling, and together, we’ll find an approach to make winter bearable – and maybe even fun.

The Flu and You: 7 Habits to Stay Healthy

This year Maine, like many other states, has been hit especially hard with flu cases. According to a recent Portland Press Herald article, 531 new cases of influenza were reported the week of January 15th, 2018 and many were of a more severe type.

Here are some simple habits you can practice to stay healthy during flu season.

1. Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

2. Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

3. Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

7. Get a Flu Shot (It’s not too late).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.

“I strongly advise getting the flu shot this year.  The flu vaccine is not perfect,  but it will make  you less likely to get the flu, and  if you do get it, you will likely get a milder case. The flu is all around us, but it is not too late to get vaccinated. A flu shot now may also  make you less likely to get the flu next year too”, adds Dr. Patrick Connolly, MD from Martin’s Point’s Health Care Center in Portland.

Martin’s Point Health Care patients can call and schedule an appointment for a flu shot at a local Martin’s Point Health Care Center. Generations Advantage members can learn more about your flu shot benefit by clicking here.

“The single greatest advance in medicine in the last 50 years are immunizations. Diseases such as measles, small pox and pox, which used to have devastating effects and killed or crippled  millions of people, have been effectively eradicated thanks to vaccines. Protect yourself,  protect your loved ones, protect your neighbors. Get  vaccinated today!” –  Dr. Patrick Connolly, MD

Visit the CDC website for more information on the Flu and You.

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/

 

Five Common Scams Directed at Seniors

“We often hear from members that they’ve received suspicious phone calls or emails,” says Marcia Griffin, Director of Member Engagement at Martin’s Point. “Thankfully, it’s easy for seniors to protect themselves against such scams with awareness and knowledge. For starters, know that a Martin’s Point representative will never ask for your Social Security number over the phone.”

1. Medical identity theft.
If a thief captures your health insurance or Medicare numbers, you could end up having to pay for prescription drugs, medical tests and procedures you didn’t have.

Prevention:
• Do not give your Medicare, health insurance or Social Security numbers to people you do not know and trust.
• Avoid “free health checks” from sources you do not know, especially if they ask for your cards.
• Check your health insurance statements to make sure all the charges are for treatment and/or services you’re aware of.

2. Conning a grieving spouse.
Thieves know we’re especially vulnerable when we’ve just lost a life partner. They scan obituaries looking for victims to trick.

Prevention:
• Ask a relative you trust to help with your finances while you’re emotionally stressed.
• Be wary of phone calls and emails from people you don’t know during this time.

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3. The grandparent scam.
After discovering you have grandkids on Facebook, scammers manipulate software to make it look like you’re getting a call from a police department and demand bail for the release of your grandson or daughter. Thieves might even pretend to be your grandchild, using personal information found on social media to trick you into believing them.

Prevention:
• Be suspicious of anyone who calls asking for cash related to your grandchildren.
• Tell the caller you need to talk with another family member, hang up, and consult with another relative.
• Report your suspicions to the police.

4. The freebie lure.
Con artists sometimes ask seniors to share their name, date of birth, doctor’s name and address, and health plan name in exchange for something free, like a medical alert device or an anti-aging product.

Prevention:
• Know that no organization that’s above-board would ask for this information online.
• Hang up on automatic and unsolicited calls, especially if you never contacted the company calling you.
• Do not pay for an item you did not order, even if the caller threatens to take legal action against you.

5. Counterfeit prescription medications.
These scammers use the Internet to lure seniors looking for low prices on medications. Not only could you waste your money, you might end up taking a substance that doesn’t help your condition, and may cause still more harm.

Prevention: Avoid websites that:
• Have prices much lower than most vendors
• Suggest a different drug for your condition
• Don’t have a phone number for consumers to call them.
• Sell prescription drugs without prescriptions.
• Don’t have a pharmacy on staff you can talk with.
• Are not located in the United States, and licensed by their state board.

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Five Ways to Protect Yourself

1. Know you’re a target.
The sad truth is, scammers focus on seniors, whether they have a lot of income or not. If you know their games, it’s a lot easier to protect yourself.

2. Do not share your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare or other personal information with anyone you did not call yourself, or with unexpected visitors you don’t know.

3. Ask solicitors for printed information before you buy or donate.
If you get an unexpected call or visit asking you to make a purchase or give money to a charity, be suspicious.

• Ask the representative to send you information in writing.
• Get his/her name, contact information, and business license number.
• Don’t let solicitors pressure you or make you feel rushed.
• Make sure your phone number is on the Do Not Call list to keep telemarketers from calling you. To register, visit this website or call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236), using the phone you want to register.

4. Shred receipts that include your credit card number.
Safeguard yourself against identity theft by purchasing a paper shredder and using it regularly.

5. Safeguard your mail.
• To prevent theft of checks from your mailbox, set up direct deposit for benefit payments.
• Don’t leave outgoing or incoming mail sitting in your mailbox.

Where to learn more:
U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Learn more about health fraud
AARP: Reporting fraud
AARP: Identifying fraud