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GIVING WINTER YOUR BEST SHOT TACKLE THE SEASON WITH AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION AND AN EYE FOR FUN

Already it's time to flip the calendar page over to November, and while it's still officially autumn, it's also almost time to settle into the winter mode.

That means scouting up scarves and gloves, boots and brushes. Making plans for holiday gatherings. And facing the reality that winter takes more effort to stay healthy and fit, to look good, to keep ourselves entertained, to get around.

We've rounded up some experts to tell us how to confront winter's challenges so that when the first crocus bursts forth we'll have survived the harsh weather in fine form.

Hey, good-looking

Use color, protection and fresh ideas.

For starters, cover your head when you go outdoors.

"You ever see Eskimos running around without something on their heads?" asks Joyce Gugino, owner of Salon DuBouchett. "And they've got gorgeous hair."

Wind and cold temperatures do damage to hair, scalp and skin, she said.

"As soon as furnaces come on, it's time to pay attention," said Ms. Gugino, a hairdresser for 27 years. Fight back with moisturizer and conditioner, especially if you color and perm your hair.

Don't neglect hands and feet. "People get all fussy about their hair and faces, but boy, can you tell a woman's age by her hands," said Ms. Gugino, who advises a light layer of Vaseline before bedtime.

Once the basics are in place, there are the decisions about color, makeup and wardrobe style. Camille Jarmusz, owner of Artistics Assets, who has been giving this kind of advice for 12 years, is brimming with ideas.

Rather than piling on makeup, she said, older women should use less and it should be a translucent base and refined powder. "Makeup has to be the right kind in the right places," she said. For those who are makeup-shy, she suggests blush, lipstick and mascara.

For an instant "eye lift" get rid of the lower growth of eyebrows, she said.

"Women don't realize that it will give them a great lift," she said.

As for clothing:

The blacks, charcoal grays and hunter greens now coming out of storage are fine, but they need to be lightened and softened.

"Dark colors can add 10 to 15 years if you wear them right under your face," said Ms. Jarmusz. "They cast a shadow that deepens the fine lines around your mouth and the circles under your eyes. They make you look like you have a double chin, even if you don't."

Help!

Wearing a light-colored blouse or a bright scarf helps a lot, she advises.

And don't try the squeeze play of putting on a size that no longer fits.

"You look better in a larger size, because clothing that has hang makes you look smaller," she said. "I suggest trying a size larger than you usually wear. If it looks good -- buy it. Who cares what the tag says?"

Food for the soul

New eating habits are on the platter, too.

Eat smaller portions and eat more often.

"That revs up your metabolism," said Sharon Lawrence, president of Nutrition Dynamics and spokeswoman for the New York State Dietetic Association.

"As people age they frequently have digestive problems, so if you overload, it's hard to digest," said Ms. Lawrence, who was eating a midafternoon snack of a sweet potato with a shot of Downey's Honey Butter, which she also uses on carrots and winter squash.

Also, nibbling maintains blood sugar so that mood swings aren't as volatile and you don't become ravenous, she said.

Because metabolism cranks down about 10 percent each decade, it's important to cut down on portion size and to add exercise to the daily diet.

"When you consume too many calories, you end up wearing them," she said.

She holds high the banner of fiber.

"It's unbelievable that all the emphasis is on fat-free when we should be thinking of foods that are fiber-rich," she said. That includes whole-grain bread, cereals, fruit and vegetables.

Beyond that, keep those fluids coming, whether it's water, fruit juices or other beverages. They
help fill you up, carry nutrients through the body and remove toxins and wastes.

New! Fresh! Different!

As winter looms we need a stockpile of pleasurable interludes, whether it's taking up new pursuits or doing more of what delights us.

Want to learn to knit? Do martial arts? Get tips on your golf game?

That's just a sampling of available adult education programs. If your district doesn't offer what you want, try another, even though you'll pay slightly higher non-resident registration fees.

Check your library. Book clubs can put you in touch with authors, and people, you haven't encountered previously.

Or invent a challenge for yourself, whether it's working a difficult crossword puzzle each week or reading your way through a list of books before spring.

Offering to help in a school, a social agency, your church, a political campaign is good for the soul and for the community.

Don't know how to get started?

Call the Volunteer Center of the United Way at 887-2690 for dozens of leads.

If you're housebound or reluctant to go out when there is ice or snow on the ground, initiate some new traditions. Invite your grandchildren over on Friday evenings or Saturday morning. You can send out for pizza or teach them how to make chili. Then settle down with a video (there are plenty of free choices at libraries) or go through photo albums to see how things were in the old days.

Do you live in an adult residence?

Start a rotating tea party with two or three friends. Pick one afternoon a week and get out your favorite teacups. Or make it a Friday evening video group.

It's not too early to block out some events to share with friends.

Here are some that aren't too expensive:

Popular music is on the program when the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra plays at Mount St. Mary Academy three more Sunday evenings (Dec. 7, Feb. 8 and May 6). Tickets ($12 presale) can be reserved at 877-1358.

There's the Shea's Classic Film Series, offering free films in one of the area's loveliest viewing locales. On Nov. 15, it's "Vertigo"; "A Miracle on 34th Street" will be shown on Dec. 20. Tickets are available three weeks prior to each screening. Call 847-1410.

For a look at some lovely homes, the Westfield Women's Organization will hold a self-guided Holly Tour of four decorated houses, the Chautauqua & Erie Telephone Co. and the United Methodist Church from 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 23. Cost is $10 and includes dessert and holiday music. Call 326-665.

Anywhere but
here

If you've hit the Lotto, you'll be sunning on Hawaii's Lanikai Beach or Playa Luquilo in Puerto Rico. Far more likely, though, is a week in Florida or Myrtle Beach.

Or a shorter, spirit-lifting getaway.

Western New York offers access, in less than two hours, to many such pleasant, scenic spots.

For example, the bustle is gone from the Chautauqua Institution's summer season, but the charm remains. A winter stay offers cross-country skiing, a chance to browse in a well-stocked bookstore, an antique store or the library, or to just sit in front of a fireplace. (Call Vacation Properties Realty to rent efficiency condos (starting at $80), town houses or single-family homes at the institution and around the lake.)

Or get some northern exposure at Niagara-on-the-Lake. This lovely town doesn't roll up its streets once the theater season is over. Shops are open and so are restaurants. There are hotels and 130 bed-and-breakfasts within the township. (Call the Chamber of Commerce at (905) 468-4263.)

If you need a reason to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake, at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 5 the annual Victorian Candlelight Stroll, featuring 20 choirs, will be held.

Think healthy, stay well

Prevention, prevention, prevention.

Stay ahead of germs by washing your hands. Keep in mind that every time you hold a grandchild's hand or touch a surface that has been touched by a cold-carrier, you are setting yourself up to come in contact with viruses.

This is the prime time of the year for getting an influenza vaccine, said Dr. Alan Aquilina, chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Erie County Medical Center.

"It needs to be given every year, because the virus changes some of its antigens," he said.

Influenza, which can be spread from an infected person to the nose and throat of others, generally strikes between December and March. Last year, it peaked in the last week of December. It can kill as many as 20,000 people each winter.

Still, in 1995, only 58 percent of Americans 65 and older got a flu shot, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People of that age should be getting the shot, and so should anyone whose immune systems are weakened, as well as cancer patients and health care workers, said Aquilina. "The only ones who shouldn't are people who have allergies to eggs."

A newer protection, and one that gets little attention, is the pneumonia vaccination that prevents or reduces complications of pneumococcal pneumonia.

"The pneumonia vaccine can be very effective," said Aquilina, who recommends it for everyone 65 or older and anyone whose immune system is compromised.

The doctor's last bit of advice is not to skimp on sleep, because that will reduce the effectiveness of the immune system.

So, under doctor's orders, no one should ever feel guilty about snuggling deeper under the comforter for an extra hour.

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