Exercise Guide for Seniors

Exercise Guide for Seniors


Meet Sylvia, Janice, Harold, and Carl. They connect every afternoon to take a brisk walk, then play some shuffleboard, ping pong, or a game of cards. They laugh, talk, tease, and sometimes even sing a few of their favorite songs! They look forward to every day and can’t wait to tell the latest joke or funny story about a grandchild. For them, getting together is a great way to exercise for seniors.

Then, there’s Edward, Julia, and Dorothy. Every morning, Edward and Julia get out of bed and feel stiff, achy, and slow. It takes about 30 minutes to “loosen up” their joints. Dorothy gets winded whenever she washes her hair. Just holding her arms up to shampoo wears her out. None of these three are particularly active and prefer to sit and watch television. Frankly, most of the time, they feel lousy and tired.

Exercise Plan for Seniors Makes All the Difference

What’s the difference between these two groups? Exercise! Staying physically and mentally active has endless benefits, even for those seniors in their eighties and nineties. It helps with pain reduction and can also help people ease off some of their medications. Exercise assists with balance, fall reduction and can help combat depression. It can ward off diseases like dementia, heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health issues. Even doing a handful of simple exercises a few times every week can improve your life. Fortunately, no matter your age, it’s never too late to start an exercise program. Especially if you choose something fun to do with a group of people, it won’t feel like exercise at all!

There are Many Safe Exercises for Seniors

Why wouldn’t you want to exercise? Unfortunately, some seniors think that exercise isn’t safe for them and so they are afraid to try. They worry about overtaxing themselves or breaking a bone if they fall.

Yes, getting injured is a possibility, but by taking a few precautions, the potential for injury is much less likely. Additionally, by exercising regularly, your muscles will get stronger, your balance will get better, and the likelihood of a pulled muscle or twisted ankle is reduced even more.

The key to exercising without injury is to be careful and be aware of any physical limitations that might impact the selection of what exercises you do. 

exercising seniors

Talk to Your Physician First

Before starting any exercise program, talk with your doctor and get a complete physical. Discuss what your short- and long-term goals are, what physical restrictions you might have, specific information regarding your ability to exercise safely, and what you should – and should not – do to remain injury-free.

Your doctor may connect you with a physical therapist or trainer to help you put together an easy and fun exercise routine. Inform this professional of any medical conditions or physical restrictions you have for them to serve you better. After a physical assessment with your trainer, you’ll begin with a low-intensity workout program designed for your specific needs, then progress to a higher intensity program very gradually over the coming months.

Whenever you start a new exercise program, be very careful, because chronic health conditions can make activities more difficult. Especially in the beginning, avoid high-intensity exercises or those involving lots of repetitions. These may aggravate joints. If you have arthritis, only repeat a motion up to 10 times. Additionally, multiple session formats (a few short sessions per day, rather than one long session) or a circuit program is best if you have osteoarthritis.

How Often Should You Exercise?

With your mental and physical health in mind, exercise routines should be done according to your doctor’s plans. Most programs recommend working out with 30 to 45 minutes of movement at least three days a week. For senior adults, include rest days where you refrain from any exercise, yet continue to stay active most days. For example, on day one, do an hour of stretching, the next day just rest, the third day do some light weightlifting, then on day four take a leisurely walk, and so forth. Rest days allow your muscles to heal themselves for improved ability over time. Some programs may require multiple rest days, so let yourself do the exercises slowly and take breaks whenever you need it.

senior exercising

Make Exercise A Habit

To make any permanent changes to your health and muscle strength, it’s essential to do some type of physical activity every week. Since these weekly exercises are crucial, choose a physical task or two that you enjoy doing (dancing, walking, yoga, swimming, etc.) and stick to a routine. Doing this exercise with a group of friends is even better! You can all encourage each other and make the time more enjoyable.

According to several studies, it generally takes at least three weeks for something to become a habit. The best way to create one is to think of the Nike slogan: Just Do It! You may have to force yourself to exercise for a few weeks until your brain makes these activities an automatic behavior. But soon, your body will begin to enjoy the movement, and you might even start to look forward to it!

Although some people might be able to force themselves into a new habit despite not wanting to exercise, other people may prefer to use rewards, distractions, or encouragement to get into the routine. Of course, one of the best ways of guaranteeing a habit will stick is to find a neighbor, friend, or family member to exercise with you. Or make a deal with your exercise partner that you’ll get a special treat, go shopping, or buy some flowers after working out.

Exercising with home items

Exercise With Things In Your Own Home

If you have the opportunity and the space to exercise in your own home or room, it can make it easier to get into the habit of working out more frequently. Your own place is more convenient than having to go to the gym.

Here are a few everyday objects that you can turn into equipment to help you exercise. For example:

Walls: Standing about two feet away, place your palms against the wall, lean forward, and do ten standing pushups. For stretches, use a doorway as a brace. Hold on to the door jam and lean forward, then back. Another good move is to lean against the wall and, while keeping your back against it, “walk” out a step or two. Roll your shoulders back and try to touch them to the wall. This is a perfect exercise to strengthen shoulder muscles and improve your posture. Ask your physical therapist what other fitness activities you can do.

Groceries: Yes – groceries! By holding a can of soup in each hand (or any other canned good), the weight will offer some resistance. Begin with arms at your sides, palms up (and the can in your hand). Then bend arms at the elbow until your hand touches your shoulder. Move one arm at a time.

Another good exercise – while sitting in a chair, hold a can between your feet and extend your legs. This works not only your inner thigh muscles but your stomach area too (also known as your core). As these exercises get more manageable, find heavier groceries to use!

Chairs: A hardbacked wooden chair will give older adults with poor balance or limited mobility the capability to exercise. Sitting on a chair will take the pressure off certain parts of the body and isolate other parts. This will give you the freedom to strengthen and exercise one area of your body at a time. Sitting down will let you move your arms and upper body first, then work on your legs. Holding the back of the chair while doing standing exercises will offer better balance and safety. Many workouts use nothing more than a sturdy chair and your body weight.

Stairs: A flight of stairs or even just two or three steps are perfect for exercising your cardiovascular system. Stepping up and down is an ideal way to improve blood flow, increase your heart rate, and work your hips and legs. Instead of working out on an elliptical machine (which was invented to reproduce the action of climbing stairs), stay with what you have. Just remember to hold onto the handrails!

Swimming Pool: If you are lucky enough to live somewhere with a swimming pool, you can safely work your joints and muscles while floating in the water. Swimming can take the strain off joints while strengthening muscles and raising your heart rate. Perfect for cardiovascular activity, too!

No Equipment: There are many functional strengthening and stretching exercises that can be done with no equipment at all. By using your body weight, simple sit-ups, leg lifts, arm extensions, pushups, etc., can offer as much – if not more – benefit than using machines in a gym. Frankly, one of the best things you can do for yourself using no equipment is to take a walk.

Bottom line – don’t worry about what kind of equipment you have. The secret to a healthier and stronger body is consistency and the right level of intensity in your weekly exercise routine.

Every time you exercise, you must remember to breathe normally throughout the workout. Be sure to use proper form and control; if necessary, ask for professional guidance and a demonstration of the movement.  

Senior Exercising with Bands

Exercise vs. Physical Activity

Any movement that requires the energy of the skeletal muscles to perform is considered physical activity. It can include workouts, but also general body movements that happen with daily routines. Physical tasks such as walking, getting out of bed, brushing your teeth or your hair, changing a light bulb, and even playing cards or bingo, can offer some of the same benefits as exercise. You are stretching, moving muscles, and using your balance to do these activities every day, although it is less strenuous than regular exercise.

On the other hand, exercise is a physical activity that has the aim of maintaining or improving physical fitness and is most often repetitive and structured. People exercise to strengthen one of the five aspects of physical fitness: Cardio-respiratory fitness, body composition, endurance, flexibility, and muscular strength. Most senior citizens tend to live a less active lifestyle as they get older and lose these abilities as they age. Exercise is the only way to regain what they have lost.

Both physical activity and exercise can build health. Frankly, many seniors who live a consistently active lifestyle can often maintain their physical fitness just through action and movement. However, some of those seniors may still need to do individualized exercise routines to address issues such as arthritis or heart disease. In another example, a senior who recently had hip replacement surgery will still need physical therapy to build flexibility and strength, no matter how active their lifestyle is or in how excellent physical shape they are.

Recent research recommends that, for a truly healthy life, seniors should engage in both physical activity and exercise. Lazy lifestyles are the reason that even daily exercise routines are not as effective as they can be. A senior citizen will have trouble staying fit if they exercise intensely for an hour but then sit down for the rest of the day.

Ways to Help Yourself Get Fit

It’s essential to exercise regularly and to also engage in physical activity throughout the day. Stand when you talk on the phone. Whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Join a choir for deep breathing exercises (plus, it’s fun!). Take a walk with your neighbor. Turn on the radio and dance to the next three songs. You can turn almost any activity into exercise if you do it often enough and intensely enough.

Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Add weights while you walk: Many weights are small and easy to carry in your hands. Or hold a bottle of water in each hand as you walk. Swing your arms with each step.
  • Turn a daily activity into an exercise: Do you enjoy being outdoors? Tai Chi classes, for instance, are usually held outside. Or try your hand at gardening or yoga.
  • Watch less television – or do some leg lifts and stretches during the commercials. Get up from your chair and walk around the room for the duration of the breaks.

Track Your Progress

As mentioned earlier, it is crucial to start slowly and follow the exercise routine recommended by your physical therapist or doctor. Don’t push yourself too quickly! Light stretching, pedaling a recumbent bike, walking on a treadmill, and easy strength-training exercises with light weights are the safest exercises for seniors to begin with.

So, how can you tell if you’re making progress? While there are many ways to measure the benefits of an exercise routine, what you track depends on the type of results you’re expecting. For example, a muscle-strengthening program is measured differently than a weight loss program.

Here are common ways to track progress:

Muscular strength: These programs measure success by the fortification of nerves and muscles that are used to lift objects. While building muscle strength, keep track of the number of repetitions you can do, or the total weight lifted during each exercise.

Cardiovascular health: Have your blood pressure measured regularly. A low pulse rate preserves cardiac function and arteries and signifies that the heart is not having to work too hard to pump the blood. Having an appropriate body mass index (BMI) ensures that you are better able to fight off disease and are not overweight. A low BMI also helps to guarantee that joints are not overloaded by carrying extra weight. You are also less likely to have diabetes and other ailments.

Ease of daily routine: How effortless is it for you to live your everyday life? Can you put your groceries away? Are you able to get dressed or comb your hair without assistance? Many people are only looking to perform day-to-day tasks without help. A few simple exercises a few times a week can help you reach your goal.

You can thank your new exercise routine if you are having fewer physical challenges, and your days are getting easier. So, get out there and have some fun while you exercise!

About Villa St. Francis

Villa St Francis is an assisted living community in Milwaukee with a mission to continue the ministry of Jesus by providing person-centered services to meet the contemporary needs of aging individuals and their families.

How to Find the Best Assisted Living in Milwaukee

Assisted living in Milwaukee


Are you thinking of making a change in housing for yourself or a loved one soon? Do you or someone else need help with some daily activities, but still want to maintain as much independence as possible? Are you considering moving to an assisted living facility, but are unsure of what to do or how to choose? Here is some information about assisted living, which may answer your questions. Read on to learn more.

What is Assisted Living?

While there isn’t a specific definition as to what assisted living is, the words usually describe a living center or community that offers daily personal care and health care services, as well as housing for the long term. In recent years, you may have noticed that there has been an increase in facilities such as these. This is to match the demand of Baby Boomers heading into their golden years.

Different facilities offer a variety of accommodations, and there are many which will meet your needs and/or financial constraints. Be sure to tour several before making your final choice. Many centers offer both private apartments and shared quarters. Also, there are some which provide increasing services, so when or if a person’s medical needs increase, the resident can be moved to an individual room for closer observation and more healthcare assistance.

But no matter the size, type, or cost, all assisted living communities must follow state policies and licensing requirements. When choosing a location, be sure to review their website carefully. You should be able to find licensing numbers, regulations standards, and inspection summaries somewhere on the site. If these are not listed on the website, be sure to ask about them if you decide to tour the actual facility. Check if they’ve had any violations in the recent past.

Senior living community in Milwaukee

Assisted Living vs. Independent Living

Be aware that the terms “assisted living” and “independent living” are not interchangeable. They are very different types of living situations.

Independent living communities are perfect for retired or semi-retired people who are still active and independent, but who want to connect with others who share common interests and are similar in age. These residents are no longer interested in managing home maintenance tasks such as cutting the lawn, cleaning, or doing the laundry. They prefer to use their time with companionship and for organized activities. Residents live in private apartments with living rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. Hired staff take care of maintenance, etc.

Assisted living facilities offer services and living quarters to those who are unable to live on their own due to physical and/or cognitive limitations. Private apartments may be available in some assisted living communities, but residents opt for semi-private rooms or private studios most often. Healthcare staff is on-call and will help with everything from medical care to daily personal tasks like bathing, dressing, etc.

Senior Living Just Like Home

Throughout the past 20 years, healthcare professionals, interior designers, and those who specialize in geriatric medicine have changed the concept of what an assisted living facility should look and feel like. In the past, these centers were cold and impersonal and felt more like a hospital than a home. Today, the centers have many special touches to make them feel cozy and comfortable. Residents are encouraged to bring mementos, artwork, and even furniture from their previous homes to decorate their new quarters.

Trying to find the right place to live can be overwhelming for both the individual and the extended family. There may be questions regarding how much it will cost when it is the right time to move, and whether this is the best place for myself or my loved one. Before choosing a final location, here are some answers to frequently asked questions. But first, know that you’re not alone!

Senior care at villa st francis

How Do You Find the Best Community?

When you begin to look at an array of facilities for your loved one, have an idea of what they want. Does your loved one prefer a wide-open, rural location, with views of rolling hills and greenery? Or do they enjoy the energy and bustle of city life and watching cars and people outside their windows? Do they want a private apartment? Or are they interested in sharing their living space?

Be sure to talk with your relatives and ask about their lifestyle, tastes, and preferences and where they will be happy and comfortable. Don’t choose a location just because YOU like it! Allow your loved one to feel in control of their own life and be included in the process.

Also, consider the future. If there is a possibility of dementia in your loved one, for example, look for a center that has a memory care unit that can manage their potential medical issues. If they have diabetes or other chronic conditions, ask about how – or if – they will help to handle those issues.

Be sure to bring others with you on the tours of each facility. Another set of eyes and ears with a family member or friend along is always helpful. They may notice something (both positive and negative) that you missed. Also, ask for referrals and input from co-workers, neighbors, and friends who have been through this process already. They may have ideas and suggestions you hadn’t thought about.

Seniors walking

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Lavish furnishings, high prices, and lots of exceptional amenities do not always indicate good quality care. Don’t be swayed by surface issues and, as a result, make a decision too quickly. Read the fine print before signing any paperwork. Consider bringing it to an attorney first and ask for professional help in understanding the details.

Before your search begins, it’s essential to make a list of what your loved one wants, but it’s also important to know what they don’t want. What are the deal-breakers? Does the assisted living facility need to be within a particular area to be close to family and friends? Must it have housing on one level with no steps or elevators? What about pets? Are there restrictions as to whether you can have a dog or cat?

By taking the time to talk things over, asking for input from others, talking to an attorney and/or healthcare professional, you’ll be way ahead in the process of your search. It will be much easier for everyone involved.

Services in Assisted Living Communities

Depending on the community, the facility, and the residents, assisted living centers can vary greatly. However, here are some services that are the most common:

General Services At the very minimum, the assisted living facility you choose should provide help to their residents with the core Activities of Daily Living, also known as ADLs. This refers to the daily life tasks that individuals need to perform or manage with just a small amount of assistance to independently live and function. These include bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, personal hygiene, transportation, communication, and medication management.

Lifestyle Services These kinds of services are the most wide-ranging regarding assisted living. The services that a facility will offer are contingent upon the residents’ hobbies, budgets, and interests. Lifestyle services may include such things as the following: book clubs, art classes, wellness programs, religious services, exercise programs, music classes, pet-friendly areas, and groups going to local museums, restaurants, etc.

Safety Services Well-run communities put the safety, health, and security of their residents and staff first. The buildings should have security systems with controlled access, emergency call systems, and round-the-clock nursing staff. Also, look for grab bars along hallways and in bathrooms, non-slip flooring, easy to reach light switches, etc.

Additional Services:  In addition to the above service, many assisted living facilities offer services such as housekeeping, laundry services, meals, board or card games, gyms, common areas, pharmacies, libraries, barbershops, and hair salons.

care giver at villa st francis

Less Common Services

Culturally Diverse Options: Does your loved one have a specific cultural, dietary, spiritual, or language requirement? Some communities will cater their offerings to meet the unique needs of a local population. For your loved ones to feel comfortable, look for a Vegetarian, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Persian, LGBT, or Spanish speaking/focused community, or whatever specific requirement they may have.

Niche Lifestyle Communities: Niche communities are in high demand as Americans age and diversify. From boating, golf, or outdoor-oriented communities to foodies, book lovers, and more, many facilities are “themed” for their residents to enjoy their hobbies and lifestyles throughout their golden years with others who enjoy the same things.

Pet-Friendly Options: Does your loved one have a four-legged family member? Some communities will allow their residents to bring along their furry, feathered, or scaled friends to live with them. But be aware that pet policies can vary from place to place. Many pet-friendly centers will have strict breed, weight, and size requirements. Others host “pet interviews” to determine if an animal is a good fit. The management’s decision is final, so ask before signing an agreement to live there.

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

For many families, paying for an assisted living facility may be a challenge. Some families choose to combine resources with other relatives, many will leverage other assets, and some get creative to pay the monthly fees.  A handful of families may be in a better financial position to pay for the high cost of quality long-term care out of pocket.

Across Southeastern Wisconsin, costs vary drastically and depend upon several factors:

Location: Where the assisted living facility is located is one of the most significant factors in cost. Centers in more desirable neighborhoods and high-end areas come with higher price tags. To find something more budget-friendly, consider a variety of places throughout the region.

Size: Another factor in the cost is the size of the apartment. Residents can choose a studio apartment, a one-bedroom, or a two-bedroom unit. Residents can also choose to share a room.

Services: The kinds of services needed for your loved one will also affect pricing. With minimal care, the cost will be less. A community with “a la carte” choices allows you to pick only the services you need and only pay for what services you use. But don’t overlook the opportunities of an all-inclusive center.

Other Ways to Reduce Costs

Many people get shocked when they first see the cost of senior care. However, there are three easy ways you can reduce their monthly expenses.

  • Rent a smaller space. Even if your loved ones think they need a two-bedroom apartment, they may be surprised how comfortable they’ll be with just one bedroom. You can save a significant amount by getting a smaller, cozier unit.
  • Share a Unit. Cut costs in half by sharing a room or apartment. However, before you transition your loved one to an assisted living facility, be sure to find a potential roommate who is compatible. It will make things easier for everyone.
  • Level of Care. As stated earlier, the more services your loved one needs, the higher the costs may be. For example, nursing home care and memory care costs more than assisted living. If your parent or loved one doesn’t need as much help with daily living tasks, the costs will be lower.

A financial advisor can help you explore options and guide you to the best solution. Some assisted living centers have someone on staff who can also help. Make an appointment with a professional before signing any agreements.


When Is the Right Time to Move to An Assisted Living Community?

It can be a tough decision to make the transition from a home to an assisted living facility. It’s especially hard for adult children to convince their aging parent(s) that it may be time to move. The parent(s) may try to convince their child(ren) that they are healthy enough to live at home on their own. However, when the loved one is unable to manage the activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, and cooking, it is the right time for some help.

Other signs are:

  • Forgetting to check mail or pay bills
  • Forgetting to eat or not eating regularly
  • Showing signs of memory loss or confusion
  • Not taking medication
  • Incontinence, bed wetting, etc.
  • Decreased mobility, loss of balance
  • Loss of active relationships
  • Recent accidents or decrease in driving ability
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Decreased housekeeping
  • Slow recovery times
  • Weight loss
  • A decline in personal hygiene
  • Increase in days without leaving the house; isolating themselves
  • Stale or rotten food left on counters or in refrigerator

These are signs that may support your case and convince a hesitant sibling or parent. If a loved one frequently wanders or gets lost, becomes aggressive towards relatives or friends, or exhibits a condition known as Sundowning (agitated behavior that worsens throughout the day), you should consider talking as a family about making a move for the safety of everyone involved.

If issues like those on the above list persist, it’s time to transition your aging loved one from an independent living situation to an assisted living center. Additional help may be necessary if their needs become increasingly complex, or if you worry about his or her safety when you’re not with them. Finally, if you find yourself feeling angry or experiencing anxiety because of extreme stress (due to caring for the individual), it may be time to relinquish control to a health professional.

An Assisted Living Facility Can Help

For many families, an assisted living facility may be the best solution to a challenging problem. Once their loved one is adequately taken care of, these families can finally enjoy some peace of mind. Also, assisted living communities minimize the need for families to be hyper-alert, daily caregivers. Best of all, their loved one’s dignity, privacy, safety, freedom of choice, independence, and health needs will be met.

However, because your parent(s) may have been in their home for years, they may become emotional. They’ll need time to adjust to a new living situation. Bring along familiar items like family photos, a favorite chair, artwork, etc.  It will feel more like home to them, surrounded by fond memories.

Let extended family members grieve, too. They may feel guilty about not being able to care for mom and/or dad. But this is a good solution. It gives everyone quality time together as a family and not just as caretakers. Being in an assisted living center will enhance your loved ones’ well-being and health.

Villa St Francis in Milwaukee

Begin Your Search for the Right Facility at Villa St. Francis

Knowing where to start the search can be overwhelming, so begin with Villa St. Francis.

Located on the south side of Milwaukee, Villa St. Francis is near St. Francis hospital. Our assisted living facility provides a home-like, caring environment for those with a variety of needs. Whether you are someone who needs help with the activities of daily living, or an independent senior looking for a minimal level of assistance and the support of a group living environment, we are your perfect place. Live life to the fullest at Villa St. Francis.

Everyone is unique with an array of needs, and the staff at Villa St. Francis is here to help. Call us to reserve a day and time for a tour. We are happy to answer your questions. Contact Villa St. Francis today!


Beyond Card Games: Activities at Senior Centers Today


Senior Centers

People have the same basic needs at every stage of life. They want to explore, learn, have fun, and keep broadening their horizon. And when it comes to senior citizens, the same remains true. Senior centers that cater to this demographic have realized this, which has led to their transformation. They don’t have to offer card games only but a variety of activities that have been designed while taking the needs and limitations of older adults into consideration.

The senior center staff does a lot for their residents to make them feel at home. They ensure that the residents don’t miss the homes they come from. Following is a list of activities that senior centers offer today.

1. Classes and Workshops

One never stops to learn. You can always learn a new skill and find an original purpose. Senior centers offer workshops and classes on painting, sign language, computer, foreign languages, and more.

2. Dancing

Dancing is a daily event at many senior centers. Senior residents often enjoy line dancing, ballroom dancing, and swing dancing. It is not only a source of fun but is also a good form of exercise.

3. Entertainment

Drama groups, choirs, and standup comedy are other major hits at independent living communities. If one doesn’t enjoy singing or dancing, they can participate in putting up a dog show for dog lovers.

4. Fitness

Exercise is essential for elderly folks. They require some physical stimulation to live a healthy life. However, seniors tend to avoid or dislike it. Luckily, exercise becomes fun at senior centers because it is done with friends. Yoga, Zumba, and Tai Chi are now quite popular forms of exercises that senior centers offer.

5. Field Trips

Field trips are another popular form of the activities provided at senior centers. The residents enjoy trips to concerts, sports events, museums, and more.

6. Karaoke

There is no such thing as lousy singing. If you are fond of singing, then sing your heart out at the karaoke nights that take place at independent living communities. Some even stage their singing competitions with an elaborate setup like the one in American Idol.

7. Outdoor Excursions

People of all ages enjoy breathing in the fresh air, walking among greenery, and smelling wildflowers. Weekly or monthly picnics are arranged at a senior center, allowing the residents to enjoy nature.

8. Special Events

Events like bake sales, carnivals, and car shows are held for senior residents. Such events take place on and off the senior center, depending on what the residents demand.

9. Virtual Bowling

Most residents enjoy playing video games on Nintendo consoles. They prefer moving their body over clicking buttons on a joystick. Games like Wii bowling and tennis are more practical for elderly folks than the real thing.

These are just some of the many activities offered at senior centers. These activities clearly show how such communities have moved beyond card games.

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