Jenson Mak | Vitality & Healthy Ageing Blog

Dr. Jenson Mak covers the best of living a vital and healthy life at any age.

Tag: technology

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3 Apps That Encourage Healthy Eating

Maintaining a healthy diet has become much more challenging with fast food restaurants opening on every corner and people sharing their culinary creations on social media. Though certain occasions in life call for some indulging, eating healthy as often and for as long in life as possible holds the key to aging gracefully. With the rapid advancements, technology provides in everyday life, finding the best recipes to stay in as great of shape possible is always in the palm of your hand. Here are a few great apps to help manage a balanced diet.

 

Harvest

Not sure if this is the right time of year for blueberries? This user-friendly app is great for anyone who is a fan of fresh produce. The app’s simple design shows exactly which fruits and veggies are “in-season” and which time of year consumers are likely to find the freshest produce. Not only does it give projections for the fruit’s season, but it also shows users how to determine the perfect ripeness. Fresh food lovers, rejoice as Harvest has provided the handbook in perfecting the ideal summer fruit salad.

 

Fooducate

Everyone is somewhat familiar with the meanings of nutrition labels, but truly understanding the calories is where many fall short. This clever app will share the genuine nutritional value of the foods being consumed. It even offers healthier substitutions when a user inputs a junkier food item. The Fooducate app alerts users of potentially harmful ingredients that would cause fluctuation in their attempt to eat better.

 

HelloFresh

With the hectic lifestyles led by many, finding time to make it to the grocery store in order to get ingredients for a specific meal becomes a difficult task. The people over at HelloFresh came up with the brilliant idea to deliver exact measurements of ingredients to make homemade meals feel like a breeze. Every meal comes with holistic nutritional information, easily transferable to a calorie counter. The app allows customers to see which meals they can expect to receive in each shipment along with detailed recipe instructions and additional uses for any unique ingredients included.

 

The food industry has made it very easy for individuals to lose track of the calories included in everything they consume. Luckily technology has made so many advancements and allows us to obtain nutritious options and guidelines instantaneously. When utilizing such tools, becoming healthy will become an easily achievable lifestyle transition for anyone!

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The Best Health Apps 2017

As technology and education continues to revolutionize and empower human beings, there is no better time to focus on your personal health and fitness than now. The ease and flexibility of having a fitness app on your phone allows you more time and motivation to workout throughout the day and keep up with your health. Here are the top health apps you should have on your phone for optimal daily motivation.

 

Workout Trainer

This app is great for those looking to stay active throughout the day. If you get bored of the same, boring routine, then this app is for you. Workout trainer provides you with hundreds of workouts from strength training, to cardio, to yoga and relaxation. You get to pick what type of workout you’re feeling that day and which muscles you want to strengthen. This app will ensure that you’re staying physically active throughout the day with many different options for you to choose from. This is a great app to switch up your routine, while keeping track of your daily activity.

 

Yoga Studio

If you’re tired of driving back and forth to the yoga studio every morning, while traffic is far from allowing you to destress. Yoga Studio is the app for you. First of all, yoga should be relaxing, and there is nothing relaxing about paying a costly monthly fee for joining yoga studios each month. Yoga studio is a great app to use throughout your day. All you need is a relaxing, quiet space to turn your home into the same comfort as a yoga studio. The app offers a variety of virtual yoga classes from beginner to advanced practices. Save time and money by implementing this app into your lifestyle, and be on the road to a relaxing and stress free daily routine.

 

My Fitness Pal

Part of living a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise is planning out and monitoring your daily activity and the foods you eat. My Fitness Pal is a great app for those on the go. The app allows you to scan or enter in details about any foods you eat throughout the day. It also allows you to enter in your daily physical activity, which can be linked to other apps in your phone. The app will keep track of the nutrition of your daily foods, such as calories, carbs, sodium, etc, while tracking your physical activity. You can also set goals such as weight loss, and the app will help you with a target of calories to intake daily, and exercises to practice throughout the day.

 

Sleep Cycle

One of the biggest aspects of living a healthy lifestyle is getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep Cycle is a great app to keep track of your sleeping. It works through a motion sensor in your phone and a microphone which is able to be heard when you move around in your sleep. It also has an alarm feature that will softly wake you up, allowing you to train your body to go to sleep and wake up at a consistent routine time. The key to your daily productivity is sleep, therefore this app will allow you to start the day right.

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Researchers Will Study Alzheimer’s Disease Thanks To $12.2 Million Grant

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Pennsylvania State University have recently been awarded a grant by the National Institute of Health in order to continue studies on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It is a five-year, $12.2 million grant, and the size of this grant make sense when you consider how many people are affected by Alzheimer’s. There are currently over five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. Because baby boomers are aging, that number is projected to double by 2040.

 

The research will be conducted by scientists at the Einstein Aging Study in collaboration with experts at Pennsylvania State University. In the study, senior citizens will be given smartphones on which they’ll be presented with questions testing their thinking ability. The researchers hope that the way participants answer these questions will measure the cognitive changes that precede the beginning of dementia.

 

According to Richard B. Lipton, M.D., a professor and vice chair of neurology at Einstein and Montefiore, the research will look at risk factors for cognitive decline that can be corrected, such as pain, stress, poor sleep and vascular disease. Lipton is also a co-principal investigator on the grant. He states that by finding a link between specific risk factors and cognitive decline in the study’s participants, the researchers aim to develop customized interventions that can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.

 

Martin J. Sliwinski, Ph.D., another co-principal investigator on the grants, stated that the subtle changes in the brain that occur before Alzheimer’s are not well understood and are difficult to track using the typical cognitive evaluations, which occur one time and in person. Sliwinski pointed out that Alzheimer’s disease is usually diagnosed after several years of cognitive decline.

 

Accurate data from the study will give insight into the disease’s natural progression and shed light on the way this varies between individuals. It will also help evaluate the effectiveness of existing treatments.

 

The participants will be 500 people over the age of 70 in the Bronx. They will be given customized smartphones which will ask them multiple times a day to record personal assessments on a number of measures. The participants will also play a number of short matching and memory games. The researchers will then be able to average multiple measurements in order to more accurately assess an individual cognitive status and individual sense of well-being. This will occur over a period of 14 days so that the researchers can track changes over time.

 

Sleep patterns and activity will also be measured by fitness trackers that participants will be required to wear. There will also be monitors to measure heart rate, and some participants will have MRIs taken of their brains to help researchers assess a number of cranial regions, including the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory.

 

Since 1992, Dr. Lipton has been leading the Einstein Aging Study, focusing on normal aging, mild cognitive impairment, the aging brain, Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that cause dementia. The study involves an interdisciplinary team of neurologists, neuropathologists, neuropsychologists, neurochemists, social workers and other professionals in the healthcare field.

 

Over three decades, the study has served at a resource for Alzheimer’s disease research both nationally and globally. Thanks to the new NIH funding, investigators will be able to expand their research by collaborating with experts at Penn State and using the new mobile phone-based approach. The grant could make a huge difference in the advancement of our understanding of preclinical states of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

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Seniors & Exercise, How Long, How Often, How Much?

We all know that fitness is one of the major keys to staying active, healthy, happy, and full of vitality as you age. But seniors also need to take into account that injury from overexertion or exercise too strenuous can lead to serious complications or much longer healing times as you age.

A large health study suggests that the elderly can benefit from as little as 15 minutes per day of moderately heart-pumping exercise. (Though 30 minutes minimum is recommended.) An active fitness routine can help everything from balance and strength, to delaying the onset of heart disease and dementia. It can reduce depression, prevent diabetes, delay or prevent osteoporosis, and reduce occurrences of breast and colon cancer.

So what kind of exercise should you do? For how long? And how often?

There are three main types of exercise, aerobic/endurance-building, weight training, and stretching.

Endurance building exercises are activities like walking, swimming, dancing, or anything else that gets your heart rate up and increases circulation falls into this category. This includes chores like shovelling snow, walking the dog, raking leaves, or mowing the lawn, as long as you do it at a pace that gets your heart pumping! Increased activity that ups your heart-rate is the number one most important element for mood, weight, and cardiac benefits.

Weight training doesn’t need to mean lifting weights like a bodybuilder, although lifting weights is really good for muscle health and can counteract the muscle loss that comes along with old age. It also ups your metabolism, which helps keep your weight and blood sugar in check! Physical labour chores can be part of a weight-building regimen, as can exercise that uses your own body-weight, like push-ups, lunges, arm-circles, and sit-ups. Yoga and pilates are great ways to incorporate muscle-building into your routine.

Stretching exercises help maintain flexibility, increase balance, and help prevent injury. It’s important to include stretching with any exercise you do, because it helps prevent you from over-exerting muscles during exercise. They can also help with old injuries, back pain, headaches, and other recurring symptoms. Stretching will keep you active, reduce tension, and keep your mobility at it’s peak!

The length of time you devote to fitness daily will depend -at first- on your current fitness level. For moderate activity (working hard enough that it’s difficult to talk, but not so hard that it’s impossible), the ideal is a 30 minute workout. But consistency is more important than overworking yourself, so if you haven’t been very active until now, you might want to build up to 30 minutes over time, start with as little as 5 minutes, if you need too. Listen to your body!

A large health study in Taiwan followed about 416,000 people for an average of eight years and discovered that people who exercised just 15 minutes a day reduced their mortality from all causes by 14 per cent and increased their life expectancy by three years.

The frequency of exercise is your key to seeing long-term health benefits, so you should be trying to get some activity into your routine every day, or nearly every day. Consistency is the key to building stamina, muscle, and seeing those great health benefits.

At least twice a week your schedule should include muscle-building, and every other day should include aerobic activity. Stretching is best if it happens as part of your cool-down after working out, or first thing every morning. If 30 minutes every day doesn’t fit into your schedule, you can try dividing your time up differently, such as doing an hour and fourty-five minutes of activity every Saturday and Sunday and none during the week. Also keep in mind that 30 minutes a day can happen in three 10-minute installments, or two 15-minute sessions, if you’re busy or worried about overworking yourself.

However you set your goals, make sure you can accomplish them, and remember to always take a break if you need one! A few days off every week to relax and recuperate is better than doing damage by pushing too hard, and it’s also better than setting yourself goals that you won’t follow through on. Any activity is better than none!

Vigorous exercise carries risks that people should discuss with a doctor. You should always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise programme, especially if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • A symptom you have never told your doctor about
  • Arthritis of the hips or knees
  • Blood clots
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Eye injury or recent eye surgery
  • Family history of a cardiovascular disease
  • Foot or ankle sores that won’t heal
  • Heart disease
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hernia
  • High blood pressure
  • History of smoking
  • Infections
  • Joint swelling
  • Obesity
  • Pain or trouble walking after a fall
  • Shortness of breath

Consortium Uses Tiny Worms To Screen For Anti-Aging Chemicals

Caenorhabditis_elegans_hermaphrodite_adult-en.svgThere is currently a large need for pharmaceuticals that can combat age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and Huntington’s disease. Doctors at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging are trying to fill this niche. The team is working to identify chemicals that can improve lifespan in a number of organisms. These chemicals may one day become incorporated in an anti-aging drug in the future.

The Buck Institute’s researchers are working with teams led by Monica Driscoll, Ph.D. at Rutgers University, and Patrick Phillip, Ph.D., at the University of Oregon. The team is working together in the Caenorhabditis Intervention Testing Programme (CITP), a consortium funded by the National Institute on Aging. Researchers in the consortium are using a number of strains and species of the roundworm Caenorhabditis to find chemical agents that can delay aging effects across a number of organisms with varied genetic backgrounds.

The processes associated with aging are very complex and are most likely informed by an individual’s genes. CITP hopes that if scientists can detect agents that show effects in a variety of organisms with different genetic backgrounds, those agents may have a high likelihood of being effective in humans, too. Roundworms are ideal for screening chemicals affecting lifespan in a short amount of time because they only live about three weeks.

Researchers at the Buck Institute used three stains each of the roundworms C. briggsae and C. elegans in order to test a series of ten compounds that have shown increased longevity in other organisms such as C. elegans. Most of the chemicals that had been previously studied were shown to extend lifespan in the laboratory-adapted N2 strain of C. elegans. The researchers did not yet know how these chemicals would behave in wild strains of C. elegans or C. briggsae.

The research showed that a number of the compounds did increase longevity in the C. elegans strains, while others only showed these effects in the N2 C. elegans strain. However, the compound Thioflavin T lengthened lifespan in every organism tested. It was also extremely potent, with at least one of the strains consistently showing a doubling of lifespan.

Thioflavin T is a dye that is commonly used in laboratories. It binds to toxic protein aggregates called amyloid plaques. These plaques are found in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s disease. Buck Institute researchers had previously published results stating that the lifespan of one strain of C. elegans could be extended by Thioflavin T. The study also stated that Thioflavin T is likely to work by allowing the organisms to maintain proper transport, folding, expression, and clearance of proteins.

The CITP has created a stronger scientific process by bringing together multiple institutions and allowing these researchers to validate each other’s work. The Buck Institute team recently analysed the results as a whole and found the the three CITP study sites did a good job of reproducing each other’s data. However, analysis of the individual experiments at any given site shows that there is high variation from experiment to experiment. The experiments still need to be replicated in a large variety of organisms to ensure the anti-aging effects of these chemicals.

According to lead author Mark Lucanic, Ph.D., the researchers hope that the chemicals that have promising effects can be tested in vertebrates in the future. If the chemicals are effective in vertebrates, they may be the basis of drugs that can combat age-related illnesses in humans. This could be a huge step for anti-aging and the prevention of diseases associated with aging.

Smell Test May Be Able To Predict Alzheimer’s

24445365953_a0299f6fce_bCan a smell test predict Alzheimer’s? According to research conducted at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), New York State Psychiatric Institute, and NewYork-Presbyterian, it just might. When aging people take an odour identification test, their inability to detect odours may correlate to a cognitive decline and early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

The two studies that point to this idea were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in Toronto, Canada. These studies show that the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test, also known as UPSIT, may work as a practical and affordable alternative to other Alzheimer’s early-detection tests.

In one of the studies, UPSIT was administered to 397 older adults who had an average age of 80 years. The 397 people were from a multiethnic population in northern Manhattan, and none of them had dementia at the time of the experiment. Each participant was given an MRI scan and the thickness of the entorhinal cortex was measured. This is the area of the brain that is first affected when a person gets Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers checked in with the participants four years later, at which time 50 participants had developed dementia. This made up 12.6 per cent of the participants. Almost 20 per cent of the participants showed signs of cognitive decline.

The study found that low UPSIT scores, an indication of a decreased ability to identify odours correctly, had a significant association with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Entorhinal cortical thickness, however, was not associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Cognitive decline was also predicted by low UPSIT scores, but not entorhinal cortical thickness. Entorhinal cortical thickness was, however, significantly associated with UPSIT score of participants who transitioned to dementia.

The study ultimately showed that impairment in odour identification, and to a lesser degree, entorhinal cortical thickness, can help predict the transition to dementia. The findings suggest that perhaps odour identification impairment precedes thinning of the entorhinal cortex in those who are in the early clinical stage of Alzheimer’s.

In the second study, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) assessed how useful UPSIT and tests that measure the level of amyloid in the brain are in predicting memory decline. The reason a test for amyloid was used is because large amounts of this protein can form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The participants in this study were 84 older adults with a median age of 71 years. The researchers administered UPSIT to the participants, and also either preformed beta amyloid PET scanning or analysed the cerebrospinal fluid. It was found that 58 of these participants had mild cognitive impairment. The researchers then kept track of these participants for at least six months.

Upon following up with the participants, the researchers found that 67 per cent of the participants had signs of a declining memory. Testing positive for amyloid through either of the two methods predicted cognitive decline. UPSIT scores did not, but participants who had a score of less than 35 were over three times as likely to have declines in memory as those who have higher UPSIT scores. The research ultimately suggests that both UPSIT scores and amyloid states could predict a decline in memory, but further research is needed.

The current methods for finding Alzheimer’s are only able to clinically detect the disease in its later stages of development, at which point significant brain damage has already occurred. If the UPSIT test or analysis of amyloid plaques could be used to predict Alzheimer’s, this would be a huge breakthrough in Alzheimer’s detection.

Pomegranates Anti-Ageing Capabilities

pexels-photo-100801Pomegranates have long been touted as an elixir of anti-aging, but there has been very little research that proves those claims, outside of the rich amounts of antioxidants contain. Until now, that is.

 

Research shows that there is a compound within pomegranates that is activated by gut bacteria. The effect of our intestinal microbes breaking down this compound results in a by-product called Urolithin A, which has been shown in research to aid muscles in protecting themselves against aging. When Urolithin A was given to Caenorhabiditis elegans worms, they lived an average lifespan that was 45% longer than the lifespan of the regular worms. When fed to elderly mice, the mice could run up to 42% further, without building any additional muscle. This change suggests that the chemical improves muscle-cell quality, not quantity.

 

The human trials have begun, but the findings from the worms and mice were so measurable and impressive the preliminary results have been published in Nature Medicine.

 

Mitochondria in our cells work kind of like batteries, powering the cells. Eventually, mitochondria degredate and fail over time, which leads to complications like muscle weakness and Parkinson’s disease. Essentially, Urolithin A (UA for short) is responsible for re-charging failing mitochondria, salvaging cells which might otherwise fail completely. “It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy,” said Patrick Aebischer, co-author on the study.

 

But before you run out to stock up on pomegranates, remember that the fruit don’t carry the compound, rather your gut bacteria processing it. There are those out there that do not have the right intestinal microbes for this process, or some that produce far less of the compound than others do.

 

The co-authors of this study founded a company to help combat this problem with a goal of creating and administering precise doses of UA to bodies directly, without the variable conversion process in the digestive system. They have already begun testing with humans in clinical trials in hospitals throughout Europe.

 

And for those of you that are reluctant to believe that worms and rats are good test subjects for humans, fear not: “Species that are evolutionarily quite distant, such as C elegans and the rat, react to the same substance in the same way. That’s a good indication that we’re touching here on an essential mechanism in living organisms.” So says Johan Auwerx.
The idea is to see if UA can provide the same mitochondrial-saving benefits to humans that it did in the trials. If it does, we could see UA being given to the elderly to help with muscular degeneration, amongst other ailments related to age. We may not see 45% longer lives, as we did with the rats, but we may see an extension of quality of life, and a longer period of healthy lifespans.

Can Researchers Make a Pill for Exercise?

RunningAn “exercise pill” may sound like science fiction, or like yet another diet fad that ultimately does nothing. However, science is seeking out a solution in earnest. The chemical effects of exercise are well documented in improving conditions from memory to stress management to age-related brain deterioration. For those who are unable to run long distance, life weights, or hold their body weight due to age or limited movement ability, there is no way to get the chemical and cerebral benefits of exercise. This is exactly the problem that researchers are looking to fix.

University of Sydney partnered up with the University of Copenhagen to take tissue samples from four men who had just exerted a lot of energy on a bicycle for 10 minutes. The results showed over a thousand different molecular changes in the muscle tissue taken immediately after exertion compare with muscle tissue taken from those same men before the activity began.

“We’ve created an exercise blueprint that lays the foundation for future treatments, and the end goal is to mimic the effects of exercise,” said Dr. Nolan Hoffman, one of the authors of the study. “It’s long been thought that there were many signals elicited by exercise, but we were the first to create this map and we now know the complexity.”

But these two Universities aren’t the only ones working on this.

The National Institute of Health has organised a giant clinical study, spanning many different clinical centres, to attempt to decipher an incredible amount of detailed data a a blueprint for how exercise changes our genes, the way we use and absorb protein, epigenetics in muscles and fatty tissue, and metabolism. “Identification of the mechanisms that underlie the link between physical activity and improved health holds extraordinary promise for discovery of novel therapeutic targets and development of personalised exercise medicine,” wrote the participating researchers in a report in Cell Metabolism.

All of this is being made possible by “big data”, a term used to describe researchers and computer programmes built to decipher massive amounts of data to find correlations that could go unseen by the human eye.  With the help of big data, a team from Harvard has announced a drug that converts white fat (the kind that isn’t beneficial and sticks around) to brown fat (the kind that is metabolically active), which in essence converts all your fat storage cells into fat burning machines.

All of this research is a long way from being our day-to-day reality. “We are at the early stages of this exciting new field,” said Dr. Ismail Laher. a scientist at the University of British Columbia who recently published a think piece on the future of exercise pills.

On the other side of the coin, the British Medical Journal recently published a study showing that the efficacy of exercise is often as good a medicine in preventing mortality as medication in some situations. In these tests, regular physical activity rivalled some heart drugs and outperformed stroke medicine in preventing death. In England, reports the BBC, there were an average of 17.7 prescriptions for every person in England in 2010, compared with 11.2 in 2000. “These trials looked at managing conditions such as existing heart disease, stroke rehabilitation, heart failure and pre-diabetes. When they studied the data as a whole, they found exercise and drugs were comparable in terms of death rates. But there were two exceptions: Drugs called diuretics were the clear winner for heart failure patients, while exercise was best for stroke patients in terms of life expectancy.”

 

So while the potential for an exercise pill may be in your future, if you can it’s probably for the best if you just go out for a brisk walk on your own.

Seniors Learning to use Technology are More Connected Socially

technologyA significant part of healthy ageing is being connected to a community, to participating in society actively. In a world that in increasingly more digital, this can lead some seniors unable to connect. Seniors who are unfamiliar with -or made uncomfortable by- technology can have a difficult time adapting to this. A Pew Research study showed that of American seniors, only 54% over the age of 65 even have Internet access, and over the age of 77 that number drops to about ⅓ of all American seniors.

A dissertation at Umeå University in Sweden shows that occupational therapists who work with seniors in an Internet-based intervention programme have notable results in participation, a reduction in feelings of loneliness, and have seen a strengthening of the communities of the participating seniors’ social networks.

“Digitalisation is increasing the risk of excluding seniors who often can have limited experiences of Internet-based activities,” says Ellinor Larsson, doctoral student at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation. “A steadily increasing amount of everyday activities require access to the Internet, and to achieve increased participation in society, we need to pay attention to an increased inclusion of seniors. The senior citizen can also experience social change at the loss of loved ones, which makes the loneliness more evident. A joint effort focusing on how the well-being of the elderly can be promoted through meaningful Internet-based activities, is becoming more important in order to support the ageing population of today’s society.”

Seniors were interviews and evaluated to determines these results. In a relatively easy and low-cost solution, health-promoting efforts aimed at seniors not just living, but living well, can be developed by involving different parts of a society.  Daily performance in internet-based activities boosted mood, the feeling of connectedness, and the feeling of productivity.

Social media, once introduced, is a wonderful way for people to keep up with friends and relatives from home. News sources and research methods can help keep people reading, learning, and in touch with current events. Games can help engage the brain and can be played with friends or family.

There are several options for getting technology into the hands of those that might benefit most from it. Maavis and Eldy are both projects that are designed to give an ultra-simple user experience to those who might otherwise get confused when searching for photos, videos, music, making video calls, and more. They both allow facilitators to easily configure settings in a computer or mobile device (platform varies based on program) that instead of logos, file folders, or complicated programmes, shows large buttons with easy to understand text that identify clearly and take the seniors to exactly where they want to go. News For Betty is a project designed (and built with the help of a developer) by Mel Kramer to help her 89 year old neighbour read the news, and has been lauded by senior citizens and accessibility advocates alike.

For classes in technology designed for seniors, most local libraries and universities have programmes worldwide, and are a good place to start. In Australia, you can also look at the Seniors Information Service, which has training in computers and tablets, as well as computer clubs and internet access. Check them out as well as the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association and the Broadband For Seniors initiative.

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