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Over 50? This is Why You Need the Shingles Vaccine.

Monday , October 26 , 2020

Over 50? This is Why You Need the Shingles Vaccine.

These days, everyone is talking about a vaccine for Covid-19. When will it arrive? Will it be effective? Will it be safe for everyone?

But we have something else on our minds: Shingles.

For older adults, the risk of developing the rash increases with age. Other factors, such as being infected with chickenpox early in life or being immuncompromised, also add to the risk.

That’s why experts recommend that anyone over the age of 50 receive the shingles vaccine.

Keep reading to learn more about shingles and how you can protect yourself:

What is Shingles? 

According to the CDC, shingles usually develops as a stripe across one side of the body or face. People may feel pain, itching, or tingling for a few days before the rash actually appears. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, and upset stomach.

A few days after the rash appears, it turns into fluid-filled blisters, like chickenpox. They usually scab up after 7 – 10 days and will fully clear up a few weeks after that.

Even after the painful rash has died down, the after affects can be even worse.

The most common complaint post-shingles is something called postherpetic neuralgia – nerve pain at the site of the rash that typically lasts for 90 days or more.

Dr. David Hrncir, an allergist-immunologist at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, says, “The older you are when you get shingles, the more likely it is you’ll develop post-herpetic neuralgia, or PHN, and have longer-lasting and severe pain. The pain is not easily treated. So you’re left with constant pain that can significantly affect quality of life.”

A less common complication involves the eyes and can result in pain, scarring, and (in rare cases) vision loss.

Who’s at Risk?

Who’s in danger of developing shingles? Anyone who’s had chickenpox, though those who experienced the virus before 18-months are at higher risk.

Shingles is an activation of the varicella zoster virus, the same bug that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox clears, the virus lays dormant in your body for the rest of your life. Although it’s not clear why, the virus may reactivate many years later as shingles.

Experts say that 1 in 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetime, usually after the age of 50. Though some younger adults do develop the illness, it’s far less common.

If you do have shingles, direct contact with the fluid from a blister can cause infection in other people, even those who have not had chickenpox. The risk of spreading the virus is low if you keep the blisters covered.

Vaccine Options

Up until the summer of 2020, there were two options for the shingles vaccine: Zostovax and Shingrix.

Shingrix was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 and is the preferred alternative to Zostovax, which was approved in 2006.

Both vaccines are approved for adults over the age of 50 for the prevention of shingles, whether you’ve already had the virus or not. Here’s how they’re different:

  • Zostovax is a live vaccine given as a single injection, usually in the upper arm, and has been shown to offer protection against shingles for up to five years. As of July 2020, Zostovax is no longer available in the U.S., but may be available in other countries.

  • Shingrix is a nonliving vaccine made of a virus component. It’s given in two doses, two to six months apart. Studies show that Shingrix provides protection against shingles beyond five years, and it is recommended for adults over 50, even if they’ve already received Zostovax.

The most common side effects of either vaccine are redness, tenderness, swelling, and itching at the site of injection. Some people report getting a mild chickenpox-like rash.

The CDC offers recommendations about people who should not get the shingles vaccine.

Good to know: Shingrix costs about $280 for both shots combined. Medicare covers Shingrix under Part D.

Final Thoughts

If you’re considering getting the shingles vaccine, talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits in your specific situation. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines.

Posted in: Health

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What is an Ethical Will and Do You Need One?

Monday , October 5 , 2020

What is an Ethical Will and Do You Need One?

Have you ever heard someone mention their “ethical will” and wondered what in the world they were talking about? We’re here to tell you what you need to know.

First, an “ethical will” or “legacy letter” is not legally binding. They don’t bequeath assets or spell out your last wishes.

Ethical wills are documents that communicate values and life experiences to your family or loved ones. They express your thoughts and feelings about what’s most important to you to those you care about. They can be created by a person of any faith – or of no faith at all.

And many people find that writing down their personal history eases the existential pain about the end of life.

Keep reading to learn more:

How do I Write an Ethical Will? 

Unlike a Last Will and Testament, ethical wills can take many forms. Because they are not a legal document, you are free to be as creative as you want.

Many people choose to simply write up a document, often just a single page. Others create slideshows, photo albums, recipe collections, or a gathering of favorite quotes.

The document (or collection) can be a one-time creation, something you add to at each of life’s milestones (retirement, the birth of a grandchild, etc.), or something you work on throughout your life. It can be intended for your children, grandchildren, spouse or partner, best friend, and more.

There really are no rules!

How do I Create My Ethical Will? 

According to AARP, you should begin your ethical will by “jotting down notes about your beliefs, life lessons and hopes for the future. You might include details about your family history. You also may want to express gratitude toward family and friends or request forgiveness for past actions.”

If you plan on creating a multi-media project, you might also start gathering photos, collecting favorite quotes, filming video, and more.

Ask yourself, “What have I learned during my lifetime that I’d like to share?”

Here are some topics that others have chosen to include in their ethical wills. Feel free to use these questions as you wish, skip some, or add your own:

Values

  • What values are important to me?
  • What are my spiritual beliefs?
  • Are there any special sayings, traditions, or rituals that have been passed down through the family?

Thoughts

  • What would I like to pass down to my grandchildren or other loved ones?
  • What books and movies influenced me and in what way?

Words of Wisdom

  • What advice can I offer to others about living their lives? Do I have any wisdom to pass on to the next generation?
  • What has life taught me?
  • What have I learned from my parents or grandparents that I want to pass on?
  • If I could change one thing in the world, what would I change and why?

Life Experiences

  • What do I want my family to know about me that they might not already be aware of?
  • Have I ever had a life-altering experience? How did this affect me?
  • What was the most significant/meaningful moment in my life?
  • What made my life worth living? A special relationship? Work? Children? Hobbies?
  • Did I fulfill all the dreams of my youth?
  • Who is or was the most important person in my life? What did I learn from them?
  • Were there any others who greatly impacted my life? Who?
  • What am I most proud of?

Decisions

  • What was the most difficult decision I ever made?
  • Is there anything in life I wish I had done differently? Do I need to request forgiveness or make amends with anyone?
  • If I knew I only had one year left to live, what would I do?
  • How did I choose the recipients for my charitable gifts and financial inheritance?

Creating an ethical will is simple, fun, and FREE. Why not start on your own project today and give your loved ones something to cherish for years to come?

Posted in: Aging

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Remembering Maggie Kuhn, Founder of the Gray Panthers

Monday , September 21 , 2020

Remembering Maggie Kuhn, Founder of the Gray Panthers

Fifty years ago, Maggie Kuhn founded the Gray Panthers, a radical movement to encourage activism among America’s older population. 

 

Inspired by the political environment at the time, such as Vietnam War protests and racial equality demonstrations, Kuhn believed that issues affecting older people should also be on the radar. More than anything, she wanted to destroy every single stereotype surrounding older adults – especially older women. 

 

Please keep reading to learn more about Maggie and the movement she started and find out where the Gray Panthers are today. 

 

Who was Maggie Kuhn? 

 

Maggie Kuhn was born in 1905 to parents who grew up in the segregated South. Determined to give their daughter a different life, they raised Maggie in the North, where she graduated college and organized a chapter of the League of Women Voters. 

 

Throughout her adult life, Maggie worked towards change and demonstrated a powerful interest in social reform on many fronts. 

 

In 1970, at just 65 years old, Maggie was forced into retirement. At the time, this wasn’t out of the ordinary. Senior citizens were expected to fade into the background and disappear from everyday life. Maggie, however, was infuriated. 

 

Even more irksome? Her parting gift was a sewing machine. 

 

“Old age is not a disease. [Old age] is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses.”

 

Sexism and ageism were two things this petite, gray-haired lady couldn’t stand for. Maggie took it upon herself to make sure other older adults didn’t face the same fate as her. 

 

With the help of a few other seniors forced out of the workplace, Kuhn quickly founded the “Consultation of Older and Younger Adults for Social Change,” dubbed the “Gray Panthers” by the press. The group was “lively, quick-witted, controversial and action-oriented.” 

 

Maggie’s legacy was so impactful that political activist Ralph Nader once called her retirement “the most significant retirement in modern American history.”

 

Conjuring the Power of Older Adults

 

The Gray Panthers identified as a militant, though nonviolent group and their tactics included public protests, political lobbying, and grassroots organizing. They forced their way into the diplomatic sphere and demanded action. 

 

According to the AARP, in their first full year of operation, the Gray Panthers stormed the White House and requested access to the presidential conference on aging. Kuhn even called out President Gerald Ford when she found his remarks “patronizing.” 

 

Throughout the years, the organization successfully lobbied against mandatory retirement age, pushed for nursing home reform and creation of a government-subsidized single-payer national health insurance program, fought for accessibility in mass transportation and against proposed cuts to Social Security, and much more. 

 

Most of all, Kuhn fought against the rampant ageism in America – especially the negative stereotypes about older adults in the media. The Panthers routinely monitored how seniors were portrayed on television and rallied against networks that insisted upon depicting them as “dependent, powerless, wrinkled babies.” 

 

The Gray Panthers Today

 

Today, it seems as though the Panthers have been largely forgotten. In part, that can be attributed to Kuhn’s death in 1995. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Maggie was “such a charismatic leader that once she died, the organization began to drift.” 

 

But despite their challenges since Kuhn’s death, the Gray Panther’s mission continues to this day. With a series of local advocacy networks throughout the United States, the group fights ageism and other social justice issues every day.

 

Interested in helping? You can contact the NYC chapter here or visit the National Council of Gray Panthers Networks on Facebook.

Posted in: Aging

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