VT Stage presents New England Premiere of ‘4000 Miles’

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Waltrudis Buck portrays the grandmother in ‘4000 Miles,’ a play about communication between a grandmother and her grandson.

Vermont Stage Company will present “4000 Miles,” a hilarious and heartfelt new play about a grandmother and her grandson trying to find common ground, beginning March 13 at FlynnSpace.

Written by Amy Herzog, the play stars New York City based actress Waltrudis Buck as Vera, a 90-year-old grandmother whose world is turned upside down when her 20-year-old grandson Leo (played by local actor Willy McKay) shows up at her front door exhausted and looking for a place to stay for the night. The night turns into days, then weeks, as they argue, laugh and find comfort in each other’s company, discovering that they may have more in common than they realized.

The cast also includes New York actress Katie Peters, as well as local actress Andrea Underhill (making her VSC debut), with direction by Michael Dove.

“4000 Miles” runs for three weeks from March13-31 at FlynnSpace, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets: Flynn Box Office 802-86-FLYNN or www.flynntix.org.

More information about Vermont Stage Company can be found at www.vtstage.org or by calling 862-1497.

Lyric Theatre Company presents ‘Oliver! The Musical’

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Tim Lewis (left) as The Artful Dodger, and Jonny Barden (right) as Oliver. (Courtesy photo by Karen Pike)

Lyric Theatre Company will present the musical version of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” on the Flynn MainStage for five performances April 11-14.

Lyric’s 55-member cast hails from 17 Vermont communities. Leading players are Colchester Middle School seventh grader Jonny Barden in the title role, with Colchester High School sophomore Tim Lewis as The Artful Dodger and veteran Lyric performer and director Patrick Clow of Williston as Fagin.

Timothy Maynes of South Burlington is the Artistic Director, and the show’s energetic choreography is designed by Kim Nowlan of Burlington. Music Director Martin Hain of Williston waves the baton for the orchestra. Rob Parzych of Winooski serves as Production Supervisor.

Tickets are $21-$33, with student/senior discounts available at some performances. Purchase tickets in person through the Flynn Center Regional Box Office in Burlington; by telephone: 802/86FLYNN; or online www.flynncenter.org. Matinees are offered at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and evening performances Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday, April 14, matinee will be audio-described for patrons who are blind or visually impaired.  For more information, visit www.lyrictheatrevt.org.

Water: the Most Misunderstood and Neglected Nutrient

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Food

By Dr. Stuart Offer

Do you know what nutrient will make you look younger, help you lose weight, build muscle, make you smarter, reduce back and joint pain? This nutrient is needed for every life function and has been reported to be chronically insufficient in 75 percent of Americans. Next in line to oxygen, this is the most important substance you can put into your body. The answer is water.

If you are complaining about back or joint pain, or are worried about memory lapses, being properly hydrated might not be the cure-all but it probably can help. Water is the main constituent of the human body. Your muscles and brain are about 75 percent water, and your blood is about 82 percent water. It is no wonder that water is so vital for every cell from head to toe.

Some functions of water are: aiding digestion; cushioning and lubricating the brain and joints; transporting nutrients and carrying waste away from our bodies’ cells. It also helps regulate body temperature by redistributing heat from active tissues to the skin and cooling the body through perspiration.

We lose water continuously from skin evaporation, breathing, urine and stools. As we get older, the body slowly loses the ability to conserve water. Older adults are at higher risk of dehydration because they are less likely to sense that they are thirsty and may not eat or drink enough, especially if living alone. Illnesses, disabilities and certain medications can also contribute to dehydration.

So, how much water should you drink each day? It’s a simple question with no easy answer. Studies have produced varying recommendations over the years, but in truth, your water needs depend on many factors including your health, your activity level, where you live and how you eat.

It is easy to determine if you are hydrated or dehydrated. With a simple urine analysis, you will get all the info you need. No need to go the doctor’s office, just pee into the bowl and look at the color of your urine. If your urine is colorless or light yellow you are good to go. If your urine is dark yellow, you are probably not taking enough fluid. Medications can alter the color, so if you have any doubt, you can always consult with your doctor.

That being said, I don’t want to avoid the question of how much water you should drink. Most people have heard the advice, “drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.” The “8 by 8” rule isn’t supported by hard evidence—it continues to be a popular recommendation because it is easy to remember. The best way to reframe the rule is to “drink at least eight 8-ounces glasses of fluid a day.” Make sure to drink water before, during and after exercise.

You may be wondering if there are other ways to hydrate besides drinking water. The answer is yes. Without getting into the debate about the good, bad and ugly of other drinks, here are some guidelines. Beverages such as milk, juice, beer, wine, sports drinks and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea or soda are mostly made up of water and contribute to hydration, but these should not be a major portion of your daily total fluid intake. Water is your best bet because it hydrates best and is calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available.

While drinking water is the best source of hydration, many foods contain water and can help replenish lost fluids. Choose foods like lettuce (95 percent water), watermelon (92 percent water), and broccoli (91 percent water). Soups and yogurt are also good choices for high water content foods.

Here is more support for staying hydrated: drinking plenty of water keeps your skin moisturized and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles; water suppresses your appetite so you won’t eat as much; water carries oxygen, nutrients and electrolytes to your muscles making them stronger. Drinking plenty of water ensures that your brain gets all the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Water will also keep your joints strong, healthy, flexible and lubricated.

Now stop what you are doing and go get a big glass of water. Better yet, pour it into a glass you love and make it more fun to drink. Add a wedge of lemon or lime to jazz it up!

Stuart Offer, DC, CSCS, CLC, is a Wellness Coach & Educator with Hickok & Boardman Group Benefits.


Learning the ‘Language of Dementia’

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Regardless of language or of verbal ability, nonverbal communication and connecting with emotions is the basis of communication with someone with dementia. (Stock photo)

By Carrie Shamel, MSW

I always tell people that one magical aspect of working with people with dementia is that you can still communicate, even if the affected person has lost the ability to speak coherently. I think that people with dementia develop a gift, which is the ability to communicate in a nontraditional way. This forces “us,” the unaffected persons, to learn their language. It is a language with pure emotions, spelled out by facial expressions and body language.

In my work with those with dementia here in Vermont, I began to learn that new language, and watch those with dementia learn it, too. I will never forget a time when I was working as an activities assistant at a nursing home, and saw two of the patients laughing and appearing to tell stories to one another. Curious about what was so funny, I drew myself closer to them. To my astonished ears, I discovered they were not using sentences that made any sense. I could not follow their conversation as “Marion” was discussing the children she used to work with and “Lorraine” was pointing to a man across the room and commenting on his clothing. I could sense by their bodies leaning in toward one another, and by their smiling eyes and mouths,  that they felt they were having a perfectly legitimate conversation. I soon learned to communicate with them in a similar fashion. Before long, I shared laughter with “Lorraine,” although I was unsure if we were laughing about the same thing. The content of our conversations was not as important as the emotion behind it.

As I became fluent in their language, I developed intimate relationships with my patients. Though once perhaps labeled “the Alzheimer’s patients who misbehave and get angry,” these were people with true feelings, upset over the idea of not understanding why they could not go to work, or why their children were not coming home from school. I began to realize that addressing their feelings in the moment is the most important thing of all. It didn’t matter if they mourned for their deceased husband as if he had just died yesterday, what mattered is that you connected with them in their reality.

Always liking to travel, I took a two two-month volunteer position in Helsinki, Finland, at a residential care home for people with dementia. I was curious to learn about how their universal health care affected elders, where older people resided, and if the philosophy of dementia care differed from what I knew in the United States, along with other things. Prior to leaving, I regularly emailed the volunteer coordinator, Riikka, at the home. I had read in the literature about Finland that the majority of people speak English. What the literature neglected to tell me, and what Riikka informed me, is that this is only true of those under the age of 60 or so—those above 60 had not learned it in school as the younger population had. I began to have my doubts about whether the volunteer work would be satisfying if I could not talk with the elders. How I loved to hear stories from the older population. Without this, would the experience be gratifying?

Upon starting the volunteer work, I found Riikka to be extremely kind. She gave me the grand tour of the two-story home for the elders, included me in all sorts of activities, answered a plethora of questions and was more than willing to translate what the residents were saying. My questions ranged from “What is the patient to staff ratio here?” to “How do the patients pay for the homes?” and “What is the philosophy of care around dementia care?”

Through Riikka’a translation, she introduced me to the patients. Many were excited to meet a “young lady” from the United States. They were eager to share their culture, telling me stories about growing up in the Finnish countryside, what they did for work, what their families were like, what the common foods they ate were,  how they celebrate holidays, what it was like during wars, the difference between a Swedish speaking Finn and Finnish speaking Finn, etc. One lady had been to New York City and this was the basis for her view on the United States. She said she could never live in a country with so many people and tall buildings. I tried to tell her Vermont was different, but this notion was incomprehensible to her.

As I had in Vermont in my work at a residential care home, I began to develop relationships with the residents despite our language barrier. Mostly, I noticed this development through nonverbal cues such as smiling, hand holding, and acceptance of me participating in their activities, including dining. Some of them would recognize me as I came each day, and would say “hi” in English. One resident, Mia, spoke several languages. She could recall that I wasn’t Finnish, but could not recall that I was American. Consequently, she would greet me each day in a different language, sometimes French, sometimes German and sometimes English.

With the residents, I enjoyed doing chair exercises, dancing together, singing songs, having meals, mushroom foraging and going on daily walks. One walk with them stands out in my memory. As we got ready to leave, the staff began pairing up with some of the patients to help them walk and ensure they had no falls. I was hoping to walk with Mia or another resident who at least could say a few English phrases. Instead, the staff paired me with Eiya, a resident with warm eyes who didn’t know a single word of English. We began walking outdoors, down the road, toward the wooded trail. It was a pleasant autumn day with the leaves changing and wind slightly blowing. Eiya began speaking to me in Finnish. In my limited Finnish, I muttered back one of the few phrases I knew—“I do not speak Finnish.” She would nod, then not even a minute later start speaking in Finnish again, as she had forgotten what I had just said. As she spoke she would smile, point at a bird, glance at me and smile some more. Soon, I began doing the same thing is return: I would point to a pretty tree, make a comment on the number of bunnies, and simply smile with her. I began uttering back to her as she spoke, “Kylla, kylla” which basically translates to “Yeah, yeah,” And what do you know? Our conversation went along just fine.

This experience walking with Eiya confirmed my belief that nonverbal communication and connecting with emotions is the basis of the language of dementia. I now feel more strongly than ever that you can always, regardless of language or of verbal ability, communicate with someone with dementia. You just have to be patient and learn the language.

Volunteering at Fletcher Allen

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Health & Wellness

A volunteer plays the harp to entertain patients. (Courtesy photo)

By Phyl Newbeck

Fletcher Allen Health Care doesn’t make a special effort to recruit older volunteers, according to Director of Volunteer Services Margaret Laughlin. Just because there isn’t a special effort doesn’t mean the hospital isn’t filled with volunteers of all ages. “We have 950 volunteers,” said Laughlin “and a huge number are over 50. They’re everywhere. If they are physically able to do the work, they can choose their assignment. There are over 50 different areas for volunteers and each one has its share of mature helpers.”

Dick Houghton of Colchester has been volunteering at FAHC for more than six years, dividing his time between the information desk, working as a guide and promoting the cardiac rehabilitation center. Part of Houghton’s inspiration to volunteer comes from personal experience. In December of 2005, he had bypass surgery, after which he visited the cardiac rehabilitation center, where staff taught him how to exercise properly. Often, cardiac outpatients are reluctant to use the center, so after Houghton’s successful experience, he was asked if he would counsel others on the importance of attending. He agreed, and began spending two days a week visiting cardiac patients, often as many as 20 a day. At 69, he has taken a sabbatical from his work as a cardiac counselor, believing that those whose procedures are more recent might make for better role models.

After three or four months as a counselor, Houghton realized he truly enjoyed volunteering at the hospital and offered to serve as a guide, as well. Guides help patients and visitors navigate the maze-like hospital, either by walking with them or pushing them in wheelchairs. In addition, Houghton volunteers at the information desk, providing directions for those who are able to travel through the hospital on their own. The two positions complement each other and Houghton now guides twice a week and sits at the information desk once a week. He said many visitors are amazed that the hospital provides wheelchairs and offers of assistance to visitors. One couple visiting from Massachusetts swore that if they ever needed a big procedure done, they would come to Fletcher Allen, he said.

Betsy Lawrence of Colchester has spent three years volunteering at the Taylor Family Hospitality Room and Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU). Three years ago, the 62-year-old former medical social worker retired for health reasons and wanted to find a way to continue being helpful. Lawrence tried a number of volunteer opportunities, but found FAHC to be a good fit. “I felt like I was using my training,” she said “and helping families and patients directly.”

Lawrence divides her time between two related facilities. The Surgical Intensive Care Unit is her “busy” assignment. Once a week, she serves as a liaison between family and staff. Since the unit is a locked facility, Lawrence’s job is to see which family members are interested in visiting patients and arranging for visitation. “Since I was comfortable with the emotional issues,” she said “it felt like a place where I could be useful. I enjoy it a lot.” In contrast, Lawrence’s work at the Taylor Room is far more relaxed. The room is a waiting area for families who want to visit the SICU and it cannot be kept open without the presence of volunteers. While her SICU work involves a lot of walking, the Taylor Room is a place where Lawrence can knit or read while still providing assistance to families. “Those two assignments are a nice mix,” she said. “One is active and intense and the other is relaxed and quiet.”

In the case of Linda Pelkey of South Hero, volunteering at the hospital is a way to give back after two family members were treated for serious medical issues. Pelkey’s son was badly injured in a military accident and her grandson was diagnosed with histiocytosis, an abnormal increase in the number of immune cells. In 2002, Pelkey retired and decided to volunteer at Fletcher Allen to give back for everything the hospital had done for her family. Now 65, she wanted to spend her retirement years being busy and being around people. When Pelkey’s son was injured, she made a promise to herself that if he survived, she would find a way to give back. “I know it sounds trite and you hear it all the time,” she said “but it’s true that you don’t forget people who were kind to you in times of trauma and you carry that with you. It’s as simple as that.”

For the last eight years, Pelkey has worked for the FAVORS program, which provides room service for patients. Patients can request reading material, snacks, games, crafts, music and other entertainment. Although the program is designed for in-patients, volunteers are also willing to go on coffee runs for out-patients. “It’s very rewarding when you see how patients react,” she said. “Sometime it’s just a smile, but other times they say ‘you’ve made my day’ and most didn’t realize the service existed. Once they find out the scope of the program, they’re amazed.”

Lawrence credited the Fletcher Allen volunteer office with being well organized and for recognizing the work of volunteers. She noted that staff members also frequently show their appreciation for the volunteers’ efforts. “The office is really good at helping people figure out what they want to do,” she said. Volunteers receive training, a thorough orientation and annual updates. “It’s very gratifying,” she said. “I would recommend it to anyone. There are times when it’s stressful and sad, but I enjoy it and it makes me feel like I’m still useful.”

Pelkey echoed Lawrence’s appreciation for the volunteer office. “They’re exceptional people,” she said “and they make it fun to go to work with their positive attitude. You don’t get paid a dime, but there are other ways that you are rewarded.”

“If you talk to the volunteers we all say the same thing,” said Houghton. “We get a lot out of this; it feels good to help people.”

Houghton has also gained a group of new friends from his volunteer work. “It really brings a lump to my throat,” he said. “Everyone has been so nice.” After retiring from IBM, Houghton spent his time kayaking and bicycling but found there was something missing. “It gives me great satisfaction to be here,” he said “and it filled a void in my life.”

Vermont Cancer Center Receives Top Rating from National Commission

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Health & Wellness

The Vermont Cancer Center has been awarded a “Three Year Accreditation with Commendation” from the Commission on Cancer, a component of the American College of Surgeons.  It is the highest performance rating granted by the Commission, and is based on comparisons to all accredited cancer programs in the nation, according to a VCC press release.

The Vermont Cancer Center earned this renewed designation for surpassing numerous standards that encompass research activity, clinical care, quality improvement and community outreach.  Seven areas were given special recognition including outcomes analysis, the number of clinical trials underway and strong efforts to educate the public on prevention and early detection.

“Earning the highest rating is a testament to the teamwork of dozens of specialists and staff who are all dedicated to providing our patients and their families with the excellent care they need from diagnosis to survivorship support,” said Claire Verschraegen, M.D., co-director of the Vermont Cancer Center.

Expert Speaks on Elder Abuse

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Lillian Jeter

By Luke Baynes

Lillian Jeter prefaced her seminar at the 18th annual 50 Plus & Baby Boomers EXPO with a warning.

“Unfortunately, we’re going to talk about a very horrific topic,” she warned, before adding, “but I’m going to try to pave the way for some of you, and hopefully all of you, as to what factors to look for if you’re placing your loved one in a nursing home.”

A former lieutenant with the Charleston (S.C.) Police Department, Jeter was director of the Melbourne, Australia-based Elder Abuse Prevention Association from September 2001 to May 2011.

The horror alluded to in Jeter’s introduction to the Jan. 26 seminar was a case of sexual abuse in an Australian nursing home, perpetrated by a male staff member on several elderly females. A high-profile appearance on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Lateline program by Jeter and the family of one of the victims led to the passage of mandatory reporting laws in Australia for incidents of serious physical assault and criminal sexual assault.

“If someone feels that comfortable in doing those types of incidents, can you imagine the green light that occurs when you’re just doing the basic neglects?” Jeter asked the audience at the Diamond Ballroom of the Sheraton Burlington Hotel & Conference Center.

Jeter followed that rhetorical question with a more concrete query: Why would a nursing home cover up elder abuse, be it as serious as sexual assault or simple as negligence through understaffing?

The audience responses boiled down to two distinct yet not inseparable reasons: money and reputation.

“In order to protect their reputation, they cover it up and they allow it to continue because (the elderly) are old and vulnerable and dependent and they’re going to die anyway and they cannot tell anybody, so it’s their word against everybody else’s word, even other employees,” Jeter said. “How horrific, how absolutely horrific that is.”

All of which raised the more pertinent question, and ultimate focus of Jeter’s talk, how does one choose the right nursing home for a loved one?

Jeter’s recommendations can be summarized as follows:

  • Make sure the facility is licensed.
  • Talk to the facility administrator and director of nursing. Make sure they’re “on the same sheet of music” in terms of resident care philosophy.
  • Visit the nursing home. (“I cannot believe the people that go and put their loved ones into facilities without actually going through and touring and doing their homework.”)
  • Beware of outwardly ornate appearances. (“When you walk in the front door and see something that looks like the Sheraton, to me that’s a warning sign. That is a marketing scheme.”)
  • Can a resident be visited at any time? Can he or she leave the premises to visit family at any time? A “no” answer to either question is a red flag.
  • Ensure that a loved one’s personal physician is required to be contacted whenever a change in medication is made by facility staff.
  • Talk to other families.

Jeter put particular emphasis on the last bullet point, citing her own experience when she placed her father in a nursing home.

“Those families that had their own loved ones there, we all looked after each other. I looked after theirs, as well as they looked after my daddy when I wasn’t there,” she said. “It was like a big family.”

In closing, Jeter suggested that apart from safety concerns, a long-term care facility should be chosen based on its recognition that old age should be viewed as a stage of life to be treasured, rather than as a layover en route to the graveyard.

“One of the worst fears of those who are older is going to a nursing home. They see it as the last stop to death,” she said. “It should not be that way. It just means they have long-term care needs that need to be taken care of in a facility that has long-term care.”

ABUSE IN VERMONT

Dr. Susan Wehry, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, told Vermont Maturity that the department investigates approximately 1,000 cases of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation annually. The Adult Protective Services division has published a guide to recognizing abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults, which includes a list of warning signs including:

Possible indications of physical abuse

unexplained bruises, burns, cuts, fractures, dislocations

conflicting stories about injuries

changes in physical or mental health (fear, withdrawal, anxiety)

frequent changes in health care professionals

forced isolation

signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists

Possible indications of sexual abuse

full or partial disclosure, or hints, of sexual abuse

pain, itching or bruising in genital areas, thighs and upper arms

torn, stained or bloodied underclothing or bedding

sexually transmitted diseases, unusual urinary tract or vaginal infections

changes in sexual behavior/attitude, inappropriate sexualized behaviors

emotional changes

changes in personal hygiene—wetting, soiling, reluctance to undress, new obsession with washing themselves

Possible indications of emotional abuse

changes in behavior/demeanor when a certain person is present

prevention of access to friends, family, telephone, social groups

changes in mental health—withdrawn, depressed, low self-esteem, anxious

changes in sleep patterns or appetite

unexplained fear or defensiveness

The complete guide can be found at http://www.dlp.vermont.gov/raising-awareness-handbook/view

Five Dietary Tips to Help Your Memory

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Dr. Richard Isaacson and Dr. Christopher Ochner

Doctors have been recommending dietary changes to their patients with such conditions as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure for years. Soon, they may be doing the same for patients suffering from poor memory function.

That’s because a host of new clinical studies have found that specific nutritional interventions can significantly improve memory function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

But you don’t have to have Alzheimer’s to benefit from the new findings. Eating a brain-healthy diet can also help those of us who, as we age, notice that our mind and memory just aren’t as sharp as they used to be.

Here are five memory-boosting dietary recommendations, based on the latest scientific research and clinical experience treating patients with AD and MCI.

Fast 12 hours at night

If you take advantage of “early bird specials”—having supper at the diner between 4 and 6 p.m.—you’ve unwittingly stumbled upon a brain health secret: the 12-hour nightly fast. If you routinely wake up at 6 a.m., try to eat your last meal by 6 p.m. the night before. There is scientific evidence that substances called ketone bodies, which are produced when there are no carbohydrates to burn for fuel, may have a protective effect on brain cells. This means no late-night snacking between dinner and breakfast.

Proportion your fat-carb-protein intake

Every day, make sure you aim for 25 percent of your total calories from brain-healthy good fat, which includes olive oil, avocados, certain nuts, natural peanut butter, certain seeds and certain fish. Limit your intake of bad fats (most fast foods, anything hydrogenated, dried coconut, butter, animal fats, milk chocolate/ white chocolate and cheese). Consume 30-45 percent of your daily calories from complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables and whole foods that are low on the glycemic index), and wean yourself off high glycemic carbs (sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, processed cereals and grains, anything baked, whole milk and cream, ice cream and sorbet, crackers, salty snacks such as chips and pretzels and anything made with white flour). Finally, get the other 25-35 percent of your calories from high-quality lean protein.

Boost your brain nutrients

Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) are essential for memory function and brain health. Most of us don’t get enough from dietary sources (such as fish), so consider high-quality, pure fish oil supplements that contain a minimum of 250 mg of DHA in each capsule, and aim for 1,000-1,500 mg of DHA daily if approved by the treating physician. Antioxidant-rich foods are also great for mental function. Some of the best are berries, kale, 100 percent pure unsweetened cocoa powder, mushrooms, onions, beans, seeds, sardines, herring, trout, and Alaskan wild salmon. Finally, ensure adequate intake of folic acid, B6, B12, and vitamin D in particular. If you’re not eating vitamin-rich foods on a regular basis, it’s good to supplement as needed in pill or liquid form.

Eat whole foods, Mediterranean-style

A brain-healthy Mediterranean-style diet includes fruits and vegetables, lean protein (fish, chicken, and turkey), low-fat yogurt and cheeses and grains, nuts, and seeds. Stay away from red meat and processed foods. Get in the habit of eating whole foods. What are whole foods? They’re foods that have only one ingredient — for example, strawberries, broccoli, or barley. If you must have a convenience (manufactured) food on occasion, find those packaged, canned, and frozen items with the fewest ingredients, especially ingredients that you readily recognize and understand.

Enjoy coffee and pure cocoa

Caffeinated coffee, 1-3 cups early in the day, may be beneficial over time to your brain. Studies done in Europe over several years demonstrate that men who drank coffee regularly for many years showed less of a decline on memory tests than those who did not drink coffee. More good news: An exciting new study released in August 2012 showed that patients with mild cognitive impairment who had regular intake of the strong antioxidants found in pure dark cocoa powder had improvement in memory function.

A Different Way to Discover Hawaii

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Travel

After a day of exploring and adventures, passengers on the Safari Explorer can enjoy the ship’s elegant dining room and open bar. The Safari Explorer only carries 36 passengers, offering travelers an atmosphere that combines comfortably elegant amenities with ever-attentive service and a friendly sense of easygoing camaraderie. (Photo courtesy of Jim Farber)

By Jim Farber

When it comes to visiting the Hawaiian Islands, most travelers arrive by plane, check into one of the many resorts or go aboard massive cruise ships the size of floating cities. There is, however, another, more intimate, more adventurous and luxurious way to explore the islands—on board one of the small ships operated by Un-Cruise Adventures.

A fine example is the company’s Hawaiian Seascapes voyage, which begins with a one-hour bus ride away from the bustling town of Kona, past lava fields and luxury beachfront resorts to a secluded wharf where the Safari Explorer and its gracious crew await.

I say “ship,” but the Safari Explorer carries just 36 passengers with a crew-to-passenger ratio of almost one-to-one. And 10 minutes after you come on board, every crew member knows your name. The atmosphere combines comfortably elegant amenities with ever-attentive service and a friendly sense of easygoing camaraderie.

Originally built in 1998 as a no-frills, dormitory-style expedition ship, the Explorer (as it was then known) was purchased by Un-Cruise Adventures in 2008, given a $3.5 million facelift and renamed the Safari Explorer. Her totally renovated 18 ocean-view cabins, suites and staterooms feature individual climate controls, spacious beds, sitting areas and private bathrooms.

The focal point of the ship is the intimately scaled and elegantly appointed lounge, bar and dining room, which is set about with leather couches and lined with large picture windows. Anything you care to drink, from fresh juices to wine, beer and cocktails is included in the single price of the tour, as are all on-ship, on-the-water and onshore activities — whether it’s speeding over the waves in a high-powered Zodiac, hiking to a remote waterfall or exploring a lava tube by kayak.

The canopied top deck provides a perfect place to sip a glass of wine at sunset or take part in one of the early morning yoga classes. Meals are expertly prepared and feature the freshest produce, meats and seafood from regional farms and markets.

For eight memorable days and seven star-filled nights the ship cruises among the islands — from the Big Island of Hawaii to Maui, Molokai and Lanai. And everywhere it goes, ample time is allowed to experience the onshore and undersea wonders the islands have to offer, whether it is the chance to meet the Hawaiian crew of a seagoing outrigger, a tour of a macadamia plantation or a stroll through the fragrantly blooming trees of a plumeria farm. In addition, throughout the cruise native Hawaiians are invited on board to discuss their religion, tribal traditions and language, even the history of surfing.

The glories of the sea are, of course, the primary focus of the trip, with hours devoted to snorkeling in crystalline coral coves surrounded by schools of rainbow-hued tropical fish and gracefully gliding sea turtles. There are also kayak expeditions through the shadowy caves that penetrate Hawaii’s steep lava cliffs. But no watery experience compares with the opportunity to go night snorkeling with giant Pacific manta rays.

This encounter begins at sunset as the boat anchors just off the Kona coast. Once in the water, swimmers hang onto floating surfboards that have been outfitted with bright lights that point downward into the water. The lights attract swarms of plankton, which in turn attract the hungry manta rays.

The sight is quite amazing as these enormous creatures glide in graceful loops that channel the plankton into their waiting mouths. These looping movements, however, can be rather disconcerting as they bring the manta rays within inches of the swimmers’ floating bodies. The goal of every Un-Cruise Adventure is to combine action-filled activities with an abundance of time to relax and enjoy the friendly intimacy that comes of being one of only a handful of passengers. From the beginning of the voyage to the time you say goodbye, the crew is there not only to serve, but also to share in the adventure.

The islands of Hawaii have so much to offer visitors, from their natural wonders to the richness of their native culture. Traveling aboard an Un-Cruise Adventure makes these wonders available in a manner that is at once personal and unforgettable. And while this level of luxury cruising is definitely expensive (the cost for the Hawaiian Seascapes cruise begins at $5,695 per person), compared to the cost of traveling aboard a traditional cruise ship, then adding on the costs of spa packages, alcohol and numerous onshore activities, the difference may be surprisingly less than you think.

MORE INFO

Un-Cruise Adventures, 3826 18th Ave., Seattle, Wash. 98119; 888-862-8881, www.un-cruise.com. —CNS


Vermont 50-Plus & Baby Boomer winners!

March 7, 2013  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

On a cold, but sunny Saturday, January 26, over 2,000 Vermonters converged on the Sheraton Burlington Hotel and Conference Center for a fabulous day of interactive exhibits, workshops, entertainment, art demos and free concerts.

During the day, more than $3,500 worth of door prizes was awarded. See if your name is among the winners!

Want more fun? Come to the Central Vermont 50+ EXPO on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Rutland from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. See the ad on page 2 or visit vermontmaturity/RutlandEXPO for info.

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