Increase In Cancer Rates Shocks Canadians

Cancer-Treatment

A new report released last month by the Canadian Cancer Society, in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada, predicted that almost one in every two Canadians is expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and one in four Canadians will die from the disease. The charitable organization indicated that the latest statistics show that cancer is now the leading cause of death in Canada.

According to the Society’s epidemiologist and one of the report’s authors, Dr. Leah Smith, currently every year there is an increase in the number of cancer cases in Canada. “So between now and 2030, for example, we expect to continue to see a dramatic increase in the number of cancers diagnosed in Canada. The lifetime risk (an individual’s likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives) for Canadian men is 49 percent, while it sits at 45 percent for women.

Dr. Smith also said that these statistics are a reflection of the aging and growing population. “About 90 percent of all the cancers that we expect to be diagnosed in 2017 will be among Canadians 50 years of age and older.” About 45 percent of those cases will occur in people aged 70 and older, said Dr. Smith, noting that as more people move into old age, the number of cancer cases will rise.

The Cancer Society’s report also showed that lung cancer is the most commonly-diagnosed cancer overall, making up 14 percent of all diagnoses, followed by colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. Lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer deaths among Canadians. Of the four top cancer killers, pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate at only eight percent. It’s anticipated to be the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada.

Canadians, both young and old, were shocked to hear this bad news. According to a report by Global News, the numbers seem shocking and alarming but it’s reminding Canadians how many people will be touched by cancer. The Cancer Society also said that it takes a huge toll on individuals who have a cancer diagnosis, on their loved ones and on the healthcare system.

In the past three years, I’ve lost at least three boomer friends to cancer. In spite of the sobering statistics, the good news is that overall cancer survival rates have increased: in the 1940s, only 25 percent of Canadians survived their diagnoses, but now 60 percent do. Some cancers, like thyroid and testicular, have five-year survival rates of over 90 percent.

What can we do to reduce our risk of cancer? In addition to regular check-ups and cancer screens, we can focus on a healthier lifestyle by avoiding tobacco, excessive drinking, eating well, exercising, maintaining a healthy body weight and practising sun safety.

We can only do our best because unfortunately some cancers are just unavoidable. According to a new research at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, only about 42 percent of cancers are preventable. Using health records from 69 countries, the scientists of this study concluded that 66 percent of cancer-causing genetic mutations arise from the “bad luck” of a healthy dividing cell making a random mistake when it copies its DNA. About 29 percent are due to the environment and the remaining five percent are due to heredity. These numbers also vary depending on the type of cancer, the authors of this research found. At least 60 percent of mutations triggering skin and lung cancer are due to the environment, they calculate, compared with 15 percent or less in prostate, bone, brain and breast cancers. The bad news is that most mutations arise naturally and there is nothing people can do. The causes of cancer are complex and until more breakthrough research results tell us more, let’s try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and live life to its fullest.

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Sanctuary Cruise Recommended For Adventurous Boomers

Photo Credit: E. Pang

Photo Credit: E. Pang

I thought my third and final blog post on my recent travels should summarize my experience with the cruise ship, Oceania Riviera, built in 2012 and renovated in July 2016. I’ve sailed with many luxury cruise lines before but Oceania’s Sanctuary Tours Voyage was my maiden sailing with this cruise company, billed as “the world’s largest luxury cruise line featuring the finest cuisine at sea”. Oceania, together with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. I would recommend this cruise to my fellow boomers because The Riviera is beautiful and spacious; the itinerary was meticulously designed and well organized; and the overall 10-day cruise offered much value-for-money.

I was, first and foremost, impressed by the efficiency and personalized welcome upon check-in and embarkation at Port Piraeus in Athens, Greece. My travel companions and I were probably among the earliest passengers to embark – there was no line-up and two Oceania staff members took us through the check-in procedure and escorted us to the ship in no time.

The Riviera is quite stunning in many ways. Its interior design is a masterpiece created by the renowned ship designers, Yran and Storbraaten, the same Norwegian architects who designed the Disney ships, several Silverseas and Regent Seven Seas vessels. The grand lobby on Deck 5, where the main reception is located, features a magnificent Lalique Grand Staircase which is perfect for a showstopping entrance or photography. My 282-square-foot verandah stateroom is very spacious, particularly after paying a 100 percent single supplement to enjoy what is usually a double-occupancy room. Each suite includes a plush seating area with flat-screen television offering satellite news and programming; a refrigerated mini-bar with free and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water; a spacious closet and a marble and granite-clad bathroom with a full-size bath tub and a separate shower stall. Furnished in Ralph Lauren Home, the room features a King Prestige Tranquility Bed which is exclusive to the cruise line, with 1,000-thread-count linens. All bathroom amenities are Bulgari and thick cotton robes and slippers are, of course, provided to guests as well. There is also a complimentary 24-hour room service and Belgian chocolates are served with nightly turn-down service.

The rooms are sufficiently sound-proof and even for a light sleeper like me, I had to admit that I slept very well throughout the voyage. I was very happy with the duo-housekeeping team members assigned to my room. They were fast, efficient, very professional and clean. I was also impressed with the ship’s room service as I’ve relied on them for breakfast at the crack of dawn for at least half of my time on the voyage – particularly when I had to optimize every minute in the morning to get ready and catch the bus for the shore excursions departing from Haifa, Israel. Even though there was no hot food, the continental breakfast was sumptuous and delicious. A duty attendant from the kitchen would always call me 15 minutes prior to my scheduled delivery time to announce that somebody was on the way with my breakfast. I usually do not like any food odour in my room, but I made an exception on this cruise and was immensely satisfied with the efficiency and punctuality of their service.

With a total of 1,250 passengers on board based on double occupancy, The Riviera’s layout was very carefully designed and built as I’ve never felt claustrophobic nor crowded even during our two full days at sea. There are at least eight dining venues all of which were tastefully designed with an understated elegance. Two of them offer casual buffets and the rest of the six are gourmet restaurants with no surcharge.

As part of Oceania’s offering, we  had had a choice of four free shore excursions, a ship board credit or a wine package. Since my group of five was quite adventurous, we all picked the first option and ended up participating in the shore excursions of Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee; a day in Jerusalem and Bethlehem; Jerusalem Old City; and Pafos and Kourion in Limassol, Cyprus. Billed as the “Sanctuary Tours” Voyage, the highlights were, of course, the three full days in Haifa/Jerusalem, Israel. All the shore excursions were extremely well organized and included buffet lunches in a hotel or local restaurant. Cruise expeditions usually present a wide range of tour guides in terms of quality, but we found all our guides to be extremely knowledgeable and professional. Unfortunately, stormy weather in Patmos, Greece – supposedly our first stop on our itinerary – led to a cancellation of our visit ashore and we ended up spending an extra day cruising the Mediterranean Sea instead. Even though we did not participate in any formal shore excursions after Israel and Cyprus, the other stops on our itinerary – the Greek islands of Rhodes, Santorini and Mykonos – all offered us breathtaking scenery for casual expeditions, local food samplings and artsy photography.

Prior to my commitment to this voyage, I’ve heard many friends raving about this cruise line’s food. As a “five-and-a-half-star” cruise line, Oceania’s epicurean offerings in all its specialty dining rooms have met our expectations. Even the casual Terrace Cafe and Waves Restaurant, which prepared buffet-style breakfasts, lunches and dinners, offered diversity and creativity in addition to the quality and flavours of the cooking and the freshness of the ingredients. With our proximity to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, seafood, naturally, became the main attraction. From the lobster dishes at the Polo Grill; to the jumbo shrimp and lightly-breaded calamari at Toscana; to the French signature dishes at Jacques, designed by the renowned master chef Jacques Pepin at his first namesake restaurant on a cruise line; to the daily different European-inspired menus offered at my personal favourite, the splendid and handsomely decorated Grand Dining Room, there was always a choice of at least 10 appetizers, soups and salads and 12 entrees at dinner. The quantity and quality of the food were probably the reason why I’ve gained four pounds immediately after the cruise.

The weakest link among all the specialty restaurants was, in my opinion, The Red Ginger, which offered an Asian-fusion cuisine. The ambiance looked great with plenty of Asian touches, but the food was, at best, mediocre. The disproportionate heights of the chairs and tables made it extremely uncomfortable to maintain a proper posture while dining; and one of the servers almost burned my friend’s hands while pouring hot tea.

According to vacationstogo.com and galaxsea.com, Oceania belongs to the Deluxe Class, often ranked as a five-and-a-half-star cruise line – one class below the top-of-the-line Luxury Class or six-star cruise lines including Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Seabourn. Then comes the Premium Class or five-star cruise lines including Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Cunard and Norwegian. What differentiates a six-star from a five-and-a-half-star cruise line often lies in the attention to detail. Having sailed with both Seabourn and Silversea, I rate Oceania’s food as better than Silversea but inferior to Seabourn’s. Here, the challenging ‘C’ word comes to play in the hospitality industry – to really excel as the finest cuisine of any cruise ship, hotel or restaurant, consistency becomes the key yardstick. The food and service have to be consistently top-quality in all restaurants, for all courses and at all times on the cruise ship! And consistency, particularly in service, was what The Riviera lacked.

I was initially very impressed with the Polo Grill when dark napkins were offered to match our black pants or dresses. You could, of course, imagine my disappointment when we dined at the other specialty restaurants and this great attention to detail was entirely overlooked. Such examples were ample throughout our sailing: the high tea served at Horizons every afternoon at 4 p.m. featured instant tea bags instead of loose leaves; The Canyon Ranch, supposedly one of the best spas in North America, often mixed up pre-booked appointments and made no attempts at offering beverages on each of my three hair appointments; staff at the Deck 5 reception desk lacked a smile on their faces almost at all times; and wait staff in a few restaurants often looked stressed and unhappy. When the laundry/ironing service damaged a small part of my friend’s dress, the staff blamed it on the garment’s “defect” instead of apologizing and owning up to their mistake.

Having said that, I would still recommend Oceania’s “Sanctuary Tours” voyage to my fellow boomers. Oceania does include more “Port Time” than most of its rivals and the itinerary to Israel on The Riviera is a ‘must’ for all boomers’ bucket lists. The cruise line offers unlimited internet access for passengers who want to be connected  with the rest of the world while sailing – but be forewarned that depending on your itinerary, the internet can be very slow at times, particularly when everybody is at sea. The respected and ad-free U.S. website cruisetruth.com, devoted exclusively to the world’s top 10 cruise lines, ranked Oceania as number nine on its most recent list updated on November 24, 2016. Should you want upper-end premium quality, good food, country-club casual attire, classy and subdued entertainment, and enough time in port to explore and experience, without paying at the price point of the six-star lines, this is the right cruise for you.

Cruise vacations used to be popular primarily among senior citizens and boomers, but according to a recent report by the largest industry trade group, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the number of global cruise passengers is set to rise again in 2017 after several years of consecutive growth. One of the reasons for this anticipated increase in the cruise business is because of a rising interest from millennials and generation X travelers. The Association’s survey found that these younger cohorts rate cruise travel as better than land-based vacations, all-inclusive resorts, tours, vacation house rentals or camping.

Even though younger people seem to start sharing our interest in cruise travel, our “Sanctuary Tours” Cruise still attracted more smartly-dressed boomers than millennials. And because the shore excursions to The Holy Land required some strenuous walking, there were also fewer elderly passengers than I expected. No matter what age demographic, cruise travel is now more popular than ever. Perhaps, young and old alike, people are starting to appreciate French explorer Jacques Cousteau’s famous words: “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Happy sailing this summer!

 

 

 

 

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Virgin Mary: An Icon of Purity, Wonder and Empowerment

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My second blog post on my cruise to Israel focuses on our shore excursion to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee with a brief stopover in Haifa. April 24, the day of our excursion, happened to be Israel’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day and we were forewarned by our tour guide not to panic when we heard the five-minute siren (two minutes across the rest of the country) that wailed across the city in remembrance of the Holocaust’s 6 million Jewish victims. The siren actually gave me goosebumps when our tour bus pulled over and stopped to pay homage to the victims of the Nazi genocide, in which a third of the world’s Jewish people was annihilated.

I was quite surprised at the beauty of Haifa, our cruise ship’s port of call and the third largest city in Israel. The city is a major seaport located on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline in the Bay of Haifa and lies about 90 kilometres north of Tel Aviv. Most sea ports look very industrial but Haifa is beautiful with its tranquil and picturesque residential neighbourhoods, cafes, beaches and the renowned Baha’i Gardens and the Baha’i World Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Baha’i pilgrims pay tribute and homage. Fellow boomers might be interested to know that towards the end of the 20th century and the beginning of this century, the city had a declining and aging population compared to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as young people moved to the centre of the country for education and jobs. However, as a result of new projects and improving infrastructure, Haifa managed to reverse its population decline, reducing emigration while attracting more internal migration into the city and metamorphosed from a fishing village to a major sea port and an important regional economic centre of northern Israel.

Our tour guide also told us that Haifa is home to Israel’s first university – the Technion (also known as Israel’s MIT) – which was founded in 1912 and is associated with three Nobel laureates. The other internationally-acclaimed university in the city is the University of Haifa on the top of Mount Carmel (a sacred location associated with Prophet Elijah in the Bible) which is famous for its research and development studies. Unlike Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Haifa is considered a relative haven for coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Perhaps, the common Israeli saying, “Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, and Tel Aviv plays,” best characterizes the three largest cities in Israel.

Our next stop was Nazareth – the Virgin Mary’s hometown where Jesus spent his childhood and young adulthood until about the age of 30. I was in awe of the Basilica of the Annunciation, one of Christendom’s most revered shrines and the largest church in the Middle East. The Basilica was built on the same site where the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Apart from admiring the architectural wonder of its 170-foot-high cupola that rises high above the upper church, we also saw the mesmerizing altar, which incorporates a portion of the grotto where Mary had lived. What left a lasting impression for me were the 43 colourful national mosaics, in the entrance courtyard and on the walls of the Upper Church, made and sent by Christian communities from all over the world. Every artwork depicts Mary in the traditional national dress of the countries and reflects the characteristics of the contributing nation. For example, the Japanese Madonna and baby Jesus look like a Japanese mother and child dressed in beautiful, rich-coloured kimonos while baby Jesus from Columbia looks South American.

My most favourite mosaic is the national rendition of Mary from the U.S.A. as shown in the photo on this blog post –  I think the U.S. Christian community absolutely contemporarized their image of Mary, making her an empowered feminist and a wonder woman. It was fascinating to witness the power and influence of Mary via the individual interpretations of Mary by each Christian country. The Blessed Virgin Mary, who gave birth to the Messiah via Immaculate Conception, was one of the greatest mysteries in Catholic faith. When Mary said Yes to Angel Gabriel, human history was forever changed. That’s why I think the U.S. national rendition of Mary best represents the Mother of God as a woman of deep, living faith and a woman of prayer and purity. The depiction was also one of empowerment because through her, she not only gave birth to the Messiah in her womb, but she empowered all of us to receive the birth of Jesus in each and every one of us.

From the Basilica of the Annunciation, we drove through Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine. We then arrived at Tabgha, where he later multiplied the loaves and fishes. Living through the Bible, one could almost imagine oneself amongst the crowd on the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus preached the famous sermon on the mountain. Our visit to the Yardenit baptismal site where the River Jordan separates from the Sea of Galilee was equally memorable. In this naturally scenic and symbolic setting, we pictured Jesus’s baptism in the River Jordan where pilgrims from around the world come to perform baptismal ceremonies.

According to the Scriptures, Nazareth, during Jesus’s childhood, was a traders’ town and was, therefore, notorious for its “wickedness”. However, Jesus was not influenced by the “sin” around him and was able to devote himself fully to God and to a life of righteousness. Even though the people of his hometown twice rejected Jesus during his adulthood, he was still known as Jesus of Nazareth. It gave me immense satisfaction to have visited this small town where “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour of God and men,” according to Luke.

From the birthplace of Jesus to his hometown where he grew up and formed his character, to the city where he suffered, was crucified and buried, I’ve fulfilled one of the common goals of baby boomers – an insatiable desire to learn – via this trip. Upon this education by travel, I felt enriched and enlightened by this first experience with Israel and look forward to returning again in the near future to explore Tel Aviv, Jordan and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.

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In Awe Of The Holy Land

 

Photo Credit: E. Pang

Photo Credit: E. Pang

My recent visit to The Promised Land as part of The Oceania Riviera Cruise: Sanctuary Tours left me in awe and overwhelmed by The Holy Land of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. With 1,200 passengers, most of whom were boomers, The Riviera is a beautiful ship offering an exclusive three-day call at the Port of Haifa, Israel.

Our highlights of the shore excursion to Jerusalem and Bethlehem included driving along the same route used for centuries to reach Jerusalem. Once considered the centre of the world, the capital of Israel did not disappoint with its timeless beauty. We took in a breathtaking panoramic view of the walled Old City from the Mount of Olives. Near the base of the Mount, we also visited the picturesque Gardens of Gethsemane, site of an olive oil press yard that is surrounded by 1,000-year-old trees.

Our walk through the historical Old City was particularly impressive. Entering via the Jaffa Gate, our very experienced and knowledgeable tour guide (who was actually born a Palestinian) took us past some of the most sacred sites in religious history. The colourful Christian Quarter which rests beside a part of the famous Via Dolorosa, actually reminded me of The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. From Via Dolorosa, we embarked on a route believed by many to be the way Jesus followed as he carried his cross to Calvary – the Way of the Cross, as we Catholics commemorate and pray in memory of Jesus’s sufferings every Good Friday. Among the many religious sites we viewed included the golden-topped Dome of the Rock – the third holiest site in Islam – with its stunning blue and gold ceramic tiles. We also went to the Western (Wailing) Wall, the holiest site in the Jewish world because it is believed to have been closest to where the Holy Ark once stood. For 1,000 years, the Jews were not allowed to pray on the Western Wall and now they prayed and cried against the wall with separate entrances and walls of prayer for men and women.

We also rejoiced upon our visit to the newly refurbished and reopened Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was buried on Good Friday. Perched on the hill known as Golgotha, the Church marks the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection. The last station of the Way of the Cross was in the burial site of the Church where thousands of Christian pilgrims lined up every day to see the burial room. According to our tour guide, the site where Jesus was buried is the centre of the world; Jerusalem is the centre of Israel; and Israel is the centre of Europe.

The shrine, known as the edicule and in danger of collapse, had been propped up by an unsightly iron cage since the 19th century. The New York Times reported that for the first time in over two centuries, this sacred edicule has been restored when the shrine reopened to the public two months ago. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations share custody of the Church. The restoration cost more than US$3 million, mostly financed by a donation from the World Monuments Fund, an American non-profit group. Other funding came from the three denominations and a personal donation from King Abdullah of Jordan.

Our visit to Manger Square and the renowned Church of Nativity in Bethlehem was one of the key highlights of this trip for me. The extraordinary church located in the West Bank, Palestine, was built over a grotto that is believed to be the location of Jesus’s birth. Due to the complex politics between the Jews and the Palestinians, our tour guide from Israel had to hand over his duties temporarily to a Palestinian guide in this territory. The Church’s original basilica was completed in 339 and destroyed by fire during the Samaritan Revolts in the sixth century. A new basilica was built in 565 by Justinian, the Byzantine Emperor, restoring the architectural tone of the original. The site of the Church of the Nativity is a World Heritage Site and was the first to be listed under Palestine by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The site is also on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.

Our full day in Jerusalem and Bethlehem left us exhausted, but spiritually uplifted and culturally enriched. Whether you are religious or not, Israel and the Holy Land should be on the bucket list of all baby boomers from a geographical, historical, cultural and scientific perspective!

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Boomers Attend More Rock Concerts As They Age

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I read with interest in The New York Times that many baby boomers are still boarding buses and trudging through muddy fields upon their retirement to see their favourite bands in action. There are many boomers who have made attending rock concerts their lifetime passion – some of them attending more than 100 shows a year, spending thousands of dollars travelling to concerts.

In fact, concerts aimed at the mature population are big business. According to the music industry tracking firm Pollstar, the six-day music extravaganza Desert Trip, featuring The Who, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney  and Neil Young, took in US$160 million last year. Tickets at US$399 and higher were not inexpensive and tickets to other concerts, such as the Classic East and Classic West, featuring Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, scheduled for New York and Los Angeles this summer, are also selling strongly. A 2015 study conducted by Harris Poll found that 44 percent of those aged 51 to 70 are attending more live shows now than they did in 2005. Of those concertgoers, 40 percent say they want to stay abreast of current pop culture. The New York Times reported that for many retirees, concertgoing is a lifestyle, and not a new one. Now that they’ve retired, many music-loving boomers are now doing more concerts than before because they have the time and the disposable income to pursue their passion.

So long as they still have the stamina, aging concertgoers are willing to navigate through large crowds in the summer sun from morning till dusk two or three days in a row. There is a misconception that only millennials go to concerts because they love loud music and huge crowds and they value experience over material things. But boomers and seniors also want the same experience, but more from a nostalgic point of view as they were the ones who attended Woodstock, The Newport Folk Festival and the US Festival. The same Harris Poll survey found boomers, like millennials, see “experiences” as an important part of their fulfilled life. According to Billboard Magazine, legacy artists, in particular, drew more boomers among concertgoers – The Rolling Stones, The Eagles and Paul McCartney who were among the top-grossing tours of 2014.

In Canada, casinos have been so successful at entrenching themselves in the concert marketplace that they are almost indistinguishable from traditional performing arts centres. Baby boomer tastes are the heart and soul of casinos’ entertainment policy. Club Regent Casino in Winnipeg launched a new 1,400-seat theatre in 2014 to help the casino host bigger-name acts such as Huey Lewis and the News, Glass Tiger, The Doobie Brothers and Roch Voisine. Grey Eagle Resort and Casino in Calgary also opened a 2,600-seat entertainment centre in 2014 which hosted acts such as The Temptations.

In Ontario, Casino Rama and Fallsview Casino have long been recognized as the concert venues for big-name musicians. This year alone will see boomer-drawing artists such as Three Dog Night, Kenny Rogers, Burton Cummings, Diana Ross, Santana, Kiss, Donny and Marie Osmond, and Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons at Casino Rama. Fallsview Casino also has an impressive lineup in 2017: The 5th Dimension, Donny Osmond, Art Garfunkel and Chubby Checker, just to name a few. In fact, a trip to these casinos nowadays often does not include any gambling activities at all.

But marketers are making a very sweeping assumption that only legacy artists will be a draw for boomers. They’ve very often neglected the fact that boomers want, not only nostalgic experiences, but they also want to remain young at heart and keep current with the latest in pop and rock music. I, for one, would attend concerts by younger, contemporary artists such as Lukas Graham, Joss Stone and Meghan Trainor. Casinos and concert promoters who start marketing musical acts by contemporary artists to baby boomers will be pleasantly surprised.

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