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Sunday, November 27, 2022

LED Light Therapy to Combat Wrinkles and More

LED light therapy has come into vogue as a noninvasive way to treat a host of conditions, especially on the skin. We explain what it is and how it works. 

NASA started investigating the unique properties of light-emitting diode (LED) colored light in the ‘60s on plants sent to space, and the Navy SEALS began to use it in the ‘90s to help heal wounds faster and regenerate damaged muscle. Now, the lights are used to mitigate several conditions found primarily on the skin. Older adults as a whole may be particularly interested in their ability to erase fine lines and soften the color of spots. 

LED light therapy has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including:
  • Age spots
  • Basal cell carcinoma (when small and superficial), a common skin cancer
  • Eczema
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Psoriasis
  • Actinic keratosis (rough, scaly, precancerous spots on the skin)
  • Rosacea
  • Sun damage
  • Wounds
  • Wrinkles

LED Light Therapy Safety

Generally, LED light therapy is considered safe when used alone or at your doctor’s office. It is not invasive or damaging, such as dermabrasion or acid peels. However, long-term studies are lacking.

When LED Light Therapy Should Be Avoided

While LED light therapy is appropriate for all skin types and colors, there are some people who should avoid it.
  • People who take medications that increase their sensitivity to sunlight, such as isotretinoin (Retin A) and lithium.
  • Those who have a history of skin cancer and inherited eye diseases.

The FDA has approved a variety of devices that emit LED light for use at home. These are less powerful than those found at medical facilities, but you still must be careful to shield your eyes while using them. Neutrogena was compelled to recall its Light Therapy Acne Mask due to concern that it could damage the eyes of people with certain eye conditions or whose eyes are more sensitive to light due to medication. 

Be sure to consult your doctor before using LED light therapy. For example, some people may want to lessen what appears to be a little sun damage, but a visit to the doctor can reveal skin cancer or another condition that requires a different treatment. 

LED Colors Penetrate Different Depths

Different colors of LED light, created from different wavelengths, travel to different depths in the skin. Wavelength is measured in nanometers. From most shallow to deepest penetrating, the colors of LED light are:
  • Purple light 400-420 nm
  • Blue light 440-500 nm
  • Cyan light 500-520 nm
  • Green light 520-565 nm
  • Yellow light 565-590 nm
  • Orange light 590-565 nm
  • Red light 625-700 nm
  • Infrared light 750-1000 nm

Red and Blue LEDs Used Most

Red LED light therapy is the most commonly used in aesthetics. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen production. Collagen is a protein that makes skin appear smoother and softer; the body produces less of it with age. Collagen is also important for healing wounds. Increasing collagen can lower redness, swelling, and bruising, and speed up the healing process. 

Red LED light therapy has also been shown to stimulate hair growth for people with male- or female-pattern baldness. Red and near-infrared wavelengths have been used to reduce the redness and inflammation of psoriasis. One study showed that these LED light colors also reduced the red, itchy patches, or plaques, caused by psoriasis.

Sports performance can be enhanced using red LED light therapy over a large portion of the body, according to some sports clinics that point to peer-reviewed studies to back up their claims. They promote consistent, multiple exposures to the light for better sleep, enhanced blood flow, more energy, better physical performance, and quicker recovery. 

Red and green LED lights have been used to treat skin cancers, and red LED light therapy has been used to treat the lesions caused by basal cell carcinoma.

Blue LED light therapy destroys the bacteria that cause acne and acts to diminish oil production in the sebaceous glands. This combination fights acne and allows the skin to heal.

Dermatologists may use a combination of light colors to treat individual issues.


There are two ways to get treatment with LED light therapy. The first is with medical-grade equipment in a healthcare setting, such as a dermatologist’s office. The second is via a device that has been purchased over the counter. Either way, multiple treatments will be required as well as follow-up exposures that are more spaced out.

A facility with medical-grade equipment may require a series of 10 visits at weekly intervals, for example, although it will vary widely with what is being treated and how. That is a common regimen for facial rejuvenation. Each treatment may require exposure to LED light therapy for around 10 to 20 minutes and take place at weekly intervals. Patients report that the cost per treatment varies from about $25 to $85, depending on the market in a particular area. Then, you may need to visit once every month or so to maintain the result.

An alternative is to buy your own personal device. Many are available online; be sure to purchase eye protection at the same time. There are handhelds, wands, folding devices, and those used to target specific areas like the neck and upper chest. Cost varies widely, from about $50 to many hundreds of dollars, generally depending on size. 

Having a personal device would seem to be a great solution. You can use it at your own convenience for a great number of sessions. However, the LED light emitters sold for home therapy are not as strong as those used by medical professionals and may take many more sessions — even several a day — for a similar result, or they may not deliver a similar result. The FDA only reviews devices for safety, not for quality or efficacy.


Because the LED lights are non-invasive, you can go from your treatment right back to your daily activities. Results may start to appear after your first session, but don’t expect anything dramatic. Take a look at some before and after photos and remember that these tend to be the best cases. 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Elder Index Shows Many Seniors in Poverty While Aid Goes Unclaimed

Many older adults struggle to make ends meet every month, unaware that billions of dollars’ worth of aid is going unclaimed.  

Elaine Ross was living in central Florida in 2007 when a hurricane destroyed her home. Her insurance didn’t cover most of her belongings, so she started working two jobs to compensate. She and her husband were able to buy another home. Then, a pair of falls resulted in a broken leg and three hip replacement surgeries. Pain forced her to quit working in 2016. She now gets $919 per month in Social Security Disability Insurance. 

Her husband also quit working in 2016, due to back troubles. He has a Social Security check of $1,051 for a grand total of $23,600 and change annually between the two. Their savings are long gone, spent on emergencies, and they had to sell their home. They now rent a place in Alabama for $540 a month, but they are struggling, and inflation has been a major challenge.

"It's awful,” Elaine says. "I know I'm not the only old person in this situation, but it pains me that I lived my whole life doing all the right things to be in the situation I'm in.”

Elder Index Reflects True Cost

About half of single older adults have incomes below what is needed to pay for essential expenses, according to researchers at the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. They developed the Elder Index to measure the true cost of living for older adults. The index gathers information from public databases to calculate the cost of health care, housing, food, transportation, and other expenses for seniors on an essentials-only budget. The amount is adjusted according to their level of health, whether they rent or own housing, and if they are+ living alone or as part of a couple.

Federal Programs 

These federal programs may provide you with the lifeline you need:

In every state, the cost of living for older adults is greater than federal poverty thresholds, which are often used to calculate need. For instance, the Elder Index for 2021 estimated a 
single older adult in good health renting housing needed $27,096, on average. That amount is $14,100 more than the federal poverty level, which is used to determine eligibility for everything from Medicaid to food stamps and housing assistance. 

"The poverty rate just doesn't cut it as a realistic look at the struggles older adults are having," says William Arnone, chief executive officer of the National Academy of Social Insurance. "The Elder Index is a reality check.”

Aid is Available

There is help for older adults, but they must apply. 14 million adults age 60 and above qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) but they haven’t applied. Another 3.5 million seniors age 65 or older could benefit from Medicare Savings Programs that cover Medicare premiums and cost sharing, but they haven’t signed up. And 30% to 45% of older adults would qualify for the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program if they would apply. 

Not all cost cutting programs are need based. For instance, home-delivered meals and legal assistance for seniors in danger of home foreclosure or eviction are available to all older adults, although the neediest may be served first. And property tax breaks are available to all homeowners 65 and up.

“You’ve earned these benefits,” says Josh Hodges, chief customer officer at the National Council on Aging, a group that advocates for seniors. Older adults should think of these benefits “like their Medicare, like their Social Security.”

Where to Look for Help

The first organization to contact is your local Area Agency on Aging, which can perform benefits assessments or point you to a group that can. Staffers will often help seniors fill out application forms for benefits from federal, state, and local programs that offer help with transportation, health care, utility charges, and other basic needs. Don’t wait until an emergency to see if you qualify. And if you would rather do the checking yourself, use BenefitsCheckUp. 

“Even if you think you might not qualify, you should apply because there are different rules across states,” said Meredith Freed, a senior policy analyst for the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy.

As of this writing, the cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security recipients is expected to be 8.7% in 2023, according to The Senior Citizens League, a non-partisan group that advocates for older adults. That is the highest percentage in 41 years. While that will throw a lifeline to older Americans, it is important to remember that much more help is available for those who reach out to get it.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional financial advice from a qualified financial advisor.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Seniors Welcome Housemates for Income and Company

Inflation has put a squeeze on the budgets of older adults but opening the door to a roommate can relieve the pressure and — in the best cases — add a friend.  

Plenty of older men and women are opening up to the idea of having a roommate, or “boommate,” as the baby boomer generation copes with rising prices. According to a recent AARP survey, 70% of adults over 50 are open to sharing their home with a family member who is not a spouse, more than half (51%) would share with a friend and 6% are open to sharing with a stranger. Tellingly, out of those who said they’d never share their home, 23% admitted they would change their tune if they needed the money.

“With the boomers aging, you see higher and higher numbers in shared housing,” says Rodney Harrell, vice president of family, home, and community at AARP. He finds that the current generation of retirees is more open to experimenting with alternative solutions to the traditional models of aging.

Four Housemates Share Space

In Asheville, NC, Marianne Kilkenny, 63, shares a home with three other women who range in age from 48 to 69. Kilkenny also owns a coaching business for prospective house sharers and offers workshops on the topic. Each woman has a bedroom and bathroom of her own, and they share a meal together a minimum of once a week. Two of the renters are divorced, and the third never married. 

House Rules 

If you’re considering getting a housemate, make sure to spell out house rules clearly in the lease or other signed document. Items to consider:
  • Smoking ban or limitations.
  • Who is expected to clean where and how often.
  • Can overnight guests visit? For how long?
  • Will one person pay the bills?
  • Collecting first and last months’ rent.
  • What about meal sharing/cooking? 
  • How will common rooms be used?
  • What about pets?
  • How long is the lease?
  • What is your exit strategy?

Kilkenny herself moved in at night a couple of years ago. It was pitch black, and one of the other housemates had made sure there was a light on to welcome her. “I was so moved,” she says. “It’s the little things that mean so much. Feeling cared about is worth going through some of the conflict that will occur.”

Another statistic that points to an increase in the trend of seniors living together is the number of older singles. One out of every three boomers is likely to reach old age without a spouse, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research. The rate of divorce for those 50 and over is twice what it was in 1990, and adult children are more likely to live far away.

Women Housemates Outnumber Men

Often, it’s older women who choose to live together. On Let’s Share Housing, a Portland, OR, online service for homeowners and potential renters, about 80% of the clients are boomer females. Part of the sex-based discrepancy may be attributable to finances. 

A recent study by the TIAA Institute found that a pay gap still exists for women. in 1973, full-time female workers earned 56.6 cents for every dollar their male counterparts pulled in, and the current ratio is still just 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the Census Bureau. That may help explain why the median retirement balance at TIAA for participants 50 through 64 is $221,492 for men, but only $117,040 for women. At age 65 and up, the median balance for men increases to $491,621 but less than half that ($204,304) for women.

Social Security is impacted by earnings. Here again, the average monthly benefit is higher ($1,824) for men than women ($1,437), according to 2020 numbers. Women are more likely to sacrifice their career to become caregivers, lowering both income and savings, according to TIAA notes. 

Friendship in the Big Apple

Retired copywriter Debbi Campbell never expected to want a roommate, but after her longtime live-in boyfriend died of cancer, that changed. She met Loretta Halter, a retired grocery manager, at a cultural event in New York City. Halter had used a local home sharing program when she moved to the city years earlier but wasn’t satisfied with her match. The pair went through the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens home-share program that handles background checks and administrative details to find their rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village. 

“First, we started with the crossword and the jigsaw puzzles, and the TV, and it turned out well,” Campbell says. She was pleasantly surprised at how well they got along. “I mean, I’m one of those people who’s spent a good time of my life in therapy, mostly complaining about people I knew.”

Campbell retired in October 2020, a little earlier than she’d expected. “I had not been desperate over money, but having a pandemic come, suddenly you have company where you wouldn’t have. And suddenly there is extra money for you from home sharing, which I wouldn’t have had. It was just a bonanza. I feel like the luckiest person of the pandemic,” she says.

Friday, November 11, 2022

10 Best Holiday Tech Gifts for Older Adults

Give someone you love a gift they’ll cherish this holiday season while choosing from a variety of price ranges.

Seniors are adopting technology at a rapid pace, according to AARP’s 2020 technology survey. The pandemic pushed older Americans to stream more movies and TV shows, chat via video, and snap up smart TVs, phones, watches, tablets, home security, and voice assistants. And daily usage of these devices was up.

Ownership of tech devices increased across the age spectrum. More than half (53%) of adults aged 70 and over now own a tablet, and most of those are used every day. The top three buys that older adults made were smartphones, smart TVs and Bluetooth ear buds and headsets. With this rapid adoption of technology among seniors, tech gadgets are a great idea for holiday gifts. 

We’ve gathered a selection of devices that would be particularly welcomed by Mom, Dad, or another older adult in your life. (We promise not to tell if you’re using this guide to do a little shopping for yourself!). Some of them require little or no computer skills. Better yet, you can do all of your shopping online. 

Under $50

If an older adult in your life has gone this far without Netflix, it is time to change that! Give him or her a gift subscription to the granddaddy of streaming services for a wide variety of movies, television, documentaries and the like from all over the world. Maybe your loved one should start with “Last Tango in Halifax”, a sweet British show about marriage late in life. A bolder senior might want to check into the wildly popular “Squid Game”. The world of video will be their oyster. Priced from $10 per month.

Everyone needs at least one spare charger, and this powerful, tiny unit comes with a convenient six foot cord. Also available without the cable for Android devices, the $29.99 price includes USB-C to Lightning cable for Apple products like iPhone, iPad Pro and many more. 

If you use an iPhone, these little gadgets are indispensable for tracking keys, your purse or wallet, luggage … just about anything. For $29 apiece they work with Apple’s extremely robust Find My network, and they’re waterproof. Android users are best served by TileMate gadgets (also compatible with iOS), which work great around the house but have a much more limited range.

For $29.99, anyone can have full control of their garage door right in their smartphone. Have you ever left home and wondered if you forgot to close the door after you pulled the car out? Now your giftee can check the app for peace of mind. You can also give limited access to the home for trusted users, such as a caregiver or dog walker. 

If you’re thinking of giving a streaming device, the best one out there is Chromecast with Google TV. It gathers recommendations from all of the user’s streaming services and pairs it with helpful information such as ratings from Rotten Tomatoes. Another plus — it offers support for Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. 

6. Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation) 
Sneaking in just under our price limit at $49.99, the echo dot is a budget-friendly way to bring voice assistant Alexa into any home. Alexa’s soothing voice alleviates loneliness as she responds to requests for radio, music, news, jokes, weather reports, and so much more. In fact, you may as well get two because you’re going to want one as well!

$50 to $200

Place your hand in the massager and enjoy a trio of heat modes and three different intensity settings. For about $70, arthritis sufferers can enjoy long-lasting relief while they watch a video or listen to music. Lasts four to five hours before recharging is needed.

The latest iteration of the popular Kindle eReader features a larger 6.8 inch display and adjustable, warm light that is easy on the eyes. It starts at $140 for 8 GB of storage that will store thousands of titles. Waterproof technology allows you to use it in the bathtub or at the beach. And don’t worry about finding an outlet; a single charge will last for weeks.

$200 to $500

If this $210 on up camera is in your price range, there is no better gift for someone with a furry friend at home. The original model is a wonderful basic camera that allows you to view and talk to your cat or dog while you’re away from home. The new version is a pet lover’s dream. It has a 360-degree view and follows your animal so you can watch him every moment, talk to him, and command the device to toss out a treat. It even alerts you if your dog barks, and it compiles video from the day so you can watch a fast-forwarded compendium of what Fido or Fifi did while you were gone. 

With a 14inch touch screen and stereo speakers, the Meta Portal Plus is tops for video calling. 
For about $290, it will work with Alexa to set reminders, check your calendar, control smart home devices and more. Connect with others via Messenger, WhatsApp, or Zoom while the smart camera follows you throughout the room. 

Monday, November 7, 2022

Inflation Reduction Act Lowers Health Costs for Seniors

Older adults will benefit from changes coming to Medicare and an ACA subsidies extension outlined in recently passed legislation.

Inflation has hit the pocketbooks of America’s older adults particularly hard this year. That is why news about reduced costs coming to Medicare and the extension of premium subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace via the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) are so welcome right now. But implementation of the IRA’s different provisions will be staggered, and some provisions are complicated for those of us not in the field of health care — so this month’s Coffee Break is devoted to laying out the new policies as simply and concisely as possible. 

Affordable Care Act Subsidies

Many older adults who are self-employed and don’t yet qualify for Medicare receive health insurance through the ACA. The new law extends expanded subsidies and other financial breaks from the 2021 American Rescue Plan for another three years, through 2025. Adults aged 50 to 64 covered through the ACA already pay up to three times more than their younger counterparts, so they’ll save more too — an average of $950 per year, versus $800 across all participants. The law also caps premiums at 8.5% of income for all age groups.

Which Drugs Will Get Price Negotiation?

Everyone wants to know which particular drugs will undergo price negotiation. While there is currently no list, the new law creates a formula for the drugs that will get tapped. They will be the drugs with the highest Medicare spending that meet specific criteria. According to three knowledgeable physicians, these are the most likely candidates, listed by their generic and brand names:
  • Apixaban, Eliquis
  • Rivaroxaban, Xarelto
  • Sitagliptin, Januvia
  • Ibrutinib, Imbruvica
  • Insulin Aspart, Novolog Flexpen
  • Empagliflozin, Jardiance
  • Etanercept, Enbrel Sureclick
  • Budesonide/Formoterol, Symbicort
  • Palbociclib, Ibrance
  • Insulin Detemir, Levemir Flextouch

The Inflation Reduction Act price negotiation regulations take a stab at equating the cost of a drug to its relative value. The government is supposed to take into account the cost of research and development, production and distribution, as well as how effective the drug is when compared to alternative treatments when arriving at a price. This process will doubtless evolve over time, but the hope is that more ground-breaking treatments will be rewarded, while those that improve treatment only incrementally won’t receive the same financial advantage.


The biggest changes come in the form of ground-breaking modifications to Medicare, particularly the Part D voluntary outpatient prescription drug benefit. The law reduces the price of many drugs and puts a limit on out-of-pocket costs for Medicare patients. Currently, research shows that many older Americans skip doses or never fill prescriptions at all due to cost concerns. Prescription drug prices account for 20% of costs paid by the 48 million Medicare patients who get coverage through Part D. However, some changes from the new law won’t begin immediately.

  • Starting in 2026, negotiated drug prices on expensive drugs with no generic or biosimilar equivalents will go into effect. Ten drugs will be on the list in 2026, increasing to 20 drugs by 2029. (See sidebar for likely drug candidates).
  • Medicare Part D inflation caps will limit drug price increases to the rate of inflation starting in October 2022.
  • Beginning in January 2023, beneficiaries will qualify for a rebate on drugs (most often office-based infusions for cancer drugs) covered under Medicare Part B.
  • Beginning in 2025, there will be an annual $2,000 cap on part D spending for beneficiaries.
  • Starting in January 2023, Part D premiums cannot increase more than 6% annually through at least 2029.
  • The income threshold for Part D out-of-pocket subsidies is raised from 135% of the federal poverty level ($18,347 for an individual in 2022) to 150% ($20,385 for an individual in 2022).
  • Beginning in January 2023, most vaccines will be free in Medicare, including those for shingles and Tdap. Medicaid and CHIP enrollees will get all ACIP-recommended adult vaccines free beginning October 1, 2023.
  • Starting in January 2023, the cost of insulin products will be limited to $35 per month.

It’s not just Medicare beneficiaries who are expected to benefit from the new regulations. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office analysis estimates savings of hundreds of billions of dollars by Medicare over the next decade as a result of the new law, primarily from drug price negotiations and inflation caps. There are no cuts to the Medicare program. Senior advocacy organizations have championed the changes as well.

"AARP has fought hard to lower prescription drug prices for decades," AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said in a statement after the bill was signed. "This is one of the most important pocketbook issues for older Americans — across political aisles and across the country. We have made our voice loud and clear: Drug prices have been out of control, and enough is enough.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 1 - Lyle Lovett, singer-songwriter, actor, record producer

Born on his family’s Texas farm, Lyle Lovett was a natural to become a country singer, starting his career at the little bars adjacent to Texas A&M University, where he earned degrees in both journalism and German. He has recorded 15 albums and won four Grammy Awards, including for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Album (“The Road to Ensenada”)

Lovett won the Esky award for the Surest Thing from Esquire magazine in 2006. Staff praised him, noting, "The secret of Lyle Lovett's endurance comes down to the three C's: class, charisma and consistency... In the studio and on stage with his giant orchestra, he's spent two decades gracefully matching genuine songcraft with A-list musicianship.”

You may know that Lovett was married to screen icon Julia Roberts for a couple of years before they split due to “career demands.” A few years later, Lovett became romantically involved with April Kimble, taking it slow with a 14-year engagement before marrying in 2017 when their twins were born. 

What don’t you know about the crooner? How about that he was trapped against a fence by a bull on the family farm in 2003 and needed six months to heal his broken leg? Or that he loves reining horses and competed on stallion Smart and Shiney? Or that he is in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame? Listen to a Lovett song on YouTube and enjoy!

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 7 - Christopher Knight, actor

Playing toothy middle son Peter on “The Brady Bunch” seems to have suited Christopher Knight just fine. The son of an actor, he went on to pursue other television roles, but the self-titled “geek” was a big success in the computer industry long before anyone heard of Apple or Microsoft. 

In 1998 he needed just 18 months to bring in Martec, Inc.’s first million-dollar sales deal and get named Employee of the Year. A couple short years later he co-founded 3D graphics company Visual Software and went on from there to work in video hardware and finally founded his own TV tuner company that got bought out in 2000. 

Strange but true: Knight kept in shape and debuted as a pro wrestler in 1994 against the Partridge Family’s Danny Bonaduce, who won the match. However, he salvaged his pride with a later win on “The Weakest Link” against other Brady Bunch cast members. He’s been married four times, most recently in 2016. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 23 - Mark Radice, musician, singer, songwriter, producer

We can’t omit Mark Radice from the birthday blog. The man has written more than 5,500 songs so it’s a good bet you’ve heard his work! He taught himself to play guitar by listening to Beatles albums when he was seven and signed to RCA Records.

Radice has worked with a veritable constellation of star talent, including Johnny Mathis, CheapTrick, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow, Barbra Streisand and yes, The Muppets. He wrote 50 songs over eight years for “Sesame Street”, during which time he was nominated for a trio of Emmy Awards.


Image Source: Wikipedia

November 27 - Caroline Kennedy, author, attorney and diplomat

Currently serving as the US ambassador to Australia, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy is the lone survivor of the family of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated when his daughter was not yet six years old. As a small child, she rode her pony, Macaroni, around the White House lawns. A photo of her on the pony with an accompanying story inspired Neil Diamond to write the hit song “Sweet Caroline,” which he sang at her 50th birthday.

Mother Jacqueline Kennedy moved Caroline and brother John Jr. to Manhattan after their father’s death. Her uncle, Bobby Kennedy, stepped in as a father figure. But when he was assassinated, it was the last straw for her mother, who stated, "I hate this country. I despise America and I don't want my children to live here anymore. If they're killing Kennedys, my kids are the number one targets. I have the two main targets. I want to get out of this country.” Several months later, she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and moved to Greece. 

Senator Ted Kennedy became Caroline’s godfather, and she continued to rub shoulders with world leaders while attending Radcliffe College at Harvard University, then working at the Met, where she met her future husband. After Onassis died, her mother passed away from cancer, and in 1999 her brother died tragically in a plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. 

Kennedy dedicated her life to philanthropy, serving on the board of many nonprofits and raising more than $65 million for New York City public schools. She is active in the Democratic Party and served as the US ambassador to Japan from 2013 to 2017.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Why Medicare Advantage Is So Popular

Millions of seniors are choosing Medicare Advantage over traditional Medicare. Lower cost is just one of the reasons. 

Medicare Advantage is becoming increasingly popular. More than 43% of 63 million adults eligible for the Medicare healthcare program in 2022 decided to go with an Advantage plan, administered by private insurers that contract with the federal government. That’s up nearly 9% over last year alone. In August, Senior Spirit explored the pitfalls of Advantage plans, but there’s obviously a flip side to that coin. 

Vision, Hearing, Dental

Most Advantage plans bundle hospital (PartA), outpatient (Part B) and prescription drug (Part D) coverage. Nearly all of these plans offer additional benefits not covered by traditional Medicare. Consider that 99% of Advantage plans come with some coverage for eye exams or glasses, 97% will cover hearing exams and hearing aids, and 94% offer dental benefits.

New Law Delivers Medicare Benefits

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act delivers the biggest change to healthcare coverage since 2010’s Affordable Care Act, and seniors are the big winners. The law limits Medicare expenses for individuals in four ways: 
  • Part D prescription drug costs are capped at $2,000 (previously $7,000) out-of-pocket annually
  • Insulin cost is capped at $35 per month
  • Vaccines are now completely covered, with no co-pays
  • Expansion of the low-income drug subsidy

And at long last Medicare will be granted the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices. Beginning in 2026, Medicare can bargain on the cost of 10 retail drugs, which expands to 20 retail and 20 doctor-administered drugs by 2029, saving an estimated $288 billion over the coming decade.


Then there’s cost. With Medicare Advantage, the average older adult is out less than $3,400 for their insurance per year. Conversely, traditional Medicare costs about $5,000 annually, and a third of enrollees opt for a Medigap (supplemental) plan for up to $3,600 more. The senior with Advantage may pay more in copays and deductibles, but traditional Medicare and Medigap are pricier year in and year out, in good health years and bad. This difference can add up in a 30-year retirement.

Health Outcomes

Furthermore, Advantage enrollees tend to have better outcomes. They get more depression screenings and pneumonia vaccines. They have more visits for preventive care and go to the emergency room fewer times than their peers on traditional Medicare. And for those with complex, chronic conditions, Advantage beneficiaries are a whopping 57% less likely to end up in short-term hospitalization, according to an analysis done by the Better Medicare Alliance. 

What can account for this disparity? Traditional Medicare "has no quality care processes, no quality reports, and no quality standards or expectations at all,” according to George Halvorson, former Kaiser Permanente CEO. In Medicare Advantage, competing private insurers vie to offer the best coverage at the lowest price. Every Advantage plan is rated on a star system that considers overall quality and client satisfaction. In 2022, more than 70 Advantage plans got a coveted five-star rating … four times the number that achieved that status in 2021. 

Additional Benefits

Advantage plans compete with each other to offer perks. Two big ones for 2022 are Telehealth visits (95%) and fitness (97%), which may include a gym membership, cash rewards for healthy food purchases, and more. Most (81%) cover over-the-counter items, 67% offer meal benefits, and 38% come with transportation benefits. A few (8%) include bathroom safety and 10% have in-home support benefits. 

“There have also been additional benefits added to some Medicare Advantage plans for long-term care services,” says Cynthia Pruemm, investment advisor, founder and CEO of SIS Financial Group in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.  “Look for plans that cover adult day care, home safety modifications, meal delivery service, and transportation service, just to name a few.” These benefits often vary quite a bit from plan to plan. For instance, one plan may offer hearing aid coverage up to $2,000, while the limit is $400 with another company. Additionally, most plans mandate the use of the insurance company’s third-party vendor. And you will nearly always pay upfront and wait to get reimbursed. 

Still, these services are worth checking out. For example, Scan Health Plan covers 40 hours of in-home caregiving after a hospital discharge, complete with 28 days’ worth of home-delivered meals including breakfast, lunch and dinner. But read the fine print; some providers will offer different benefits to different enrollees, and all benefits are county and zip code specific. 

How to Find the Right Advantage Plan

Because of Medicare’s complexity and the variability between different plans, it is highly recommended that beneficiaries use a local insurance agent. It’s a great idea to peruse plans yourself at to familiarize yourself with available options first. But an agent who works with all the plans and has no incentive to steer you toward one insurer over another can help you pick the right one for your specific needs. You may want a plan that will allow you to keep the doctor you know, or you may prefer an insurer with many specialists in their network. 

Another option for expert advice is your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) office where you will get “trusted, unbiased, one-on-one counseling and assistance.” It’s free, and the people there know Medicare intimately since it is all they do. Finally, be sure to check out Senior Spirit’s technology article this month, where we look at apps to help you make the most of Medicare.

You’ll also need to review your plan annually to make sure it is still the best bet to fill your needs at the best price. Plans can, and do, change from year to year. However, you may find you save substantial money and receive valuable extra benefits by choosing a Medicare Advantage plan.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Monday, October 24, 2022

Seniors, Ensure Heirs Know Your Passwords

If you died today, would someone you trust be able to access your accounts tomorrow to take care of bills, inheritance, finances, and more?

Older adults can forget how much of their financial (and often, social) life depends on the internet. After all, when their parents died, all they had to do was visit the local bank to take the will out of the safe deposit box, divvy up assets, go forward with a funeral and wrap up the estate. Today’s world is vastly different: if no one knows your passwords, settling your estate will be a nightmare.

Why Share Your Passwords?

Nowadays, one person might use an online-only bank for savings, a local bank to handle cash, and a credit union for its great rates on certificates of deposit. Bills may automatically debit several different accounts, and five or ten credit cards could be racking up points on everything from airlines to groceries. Venmo may pay friends, while the PayPal account could hold a refund from an online purchase. A digital wallet can be sitting on thousands of dollars in digital currency, while stocks and bonds are held in a variety of account types at a brokerage. And that’s just financial institutions. 

You can imagine how stressed and resentful your executor will be if you fail to give him or her the key to handle your affairs: your passwords. First and foremost, never succumb to the temptation to use a single password, or two or three, for all your online accounts. If your 2013 email gets hacked and the code was stored in unencrypted cleartext, thieves have your password. To check if your email is listed as breeched, go to Have I Been Pwned.

Making a List

One way to handle the password problem is to make a list and send it (but never by email!) to your executor or attorney for safekeeping. If you are most comfortable writing out passwords to each of your accounts, that’s perfectly fine. You can also make a spreadsheet or put them on a Word doc, then print it out and send via snail mail. However, you’ll have to update the list as you add new apps and update passwords if they expire.

It’s a good idea to store this list by your will and other sensitive documents. Make sure someone knows where these are. You may have known someone who died unexpectedly, only to leave relatives searching for days to try and find the will. One way to avoid this unfortunate circumstance is to leave these documents with an attorney or financial advisor, letting several trusted contacts know who this person is and how to get in touch.

Password Managers

There are basically three types of password manager: Apple’s iCloud Keychain, hosted password managers, and those that are self-managed. We will concentrate on the first two, which are the most commonly used.

All password managers will automatically suggest password combinations that are random and difficult to compromise. They also allow you to fill in the password of your choice, and they don’t care how long you make it. You may feel more comfortable writing down the password to your brokerage accounts, for example, than having it be random. Having longer, more difficult passwords, different for every account, is the first step in online security.

Apple’s iCloud Keychain

If you use the Safari browser on an Apple computer, you are in luck. Known for privacy and security, Apple doesn’t disappoint on their free iCloud service dubbed Keychain. It automatically stores the user’s account names and passwords, credit card information, and Wi-Fi network passwords across all trusted devices, including your iPhone. 

Give a trusted person the password to your Mac and he or she will be able to access all your accounts on your computer, simply by using Safari and clicking in the user and/or password boxes at any site you use. Banking, social media, brokerages, utilities and more can be accessed this way. 

But is it really safe? As safe as using a hosted password manager? The answer is yes. The data is wrapped in layers of security and stays protected even if your iCloud account is hacked, either by an external attack or if a third party managed to access user accounts. In fact, Apple can’t even read your data — so use Keychain with confidence. See more information on Keychain encryption methods. Another great feature of Keychain is that it can sync with new Apple devices, such as an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. 

Hosted Password Managers

You can buy a service that will hold your passwords and make it relatively simple for an executor to gain access. 1Password has users create an emergency kit that enables someone else to log into your account. You can print it out or put it on a USB drive and tuck it somewhere safe and known to loved ones to access after your death. Keeper and Dashlane prompt you to set up an emergency contact within the app which grants the contact access after a certain waiting period if you don’t respond. 

Check out some of the best password managers. You’ll note that one, the open source Bitwarden, is available for free. If you’re unhappy with the first service you choose, don’t worry. Most password managers will allow you to export saved data or import it from competitors, so switching is possible.

Self-Managed Password Managers

Self-managed password managers include the popular KeePass. Great for techies who will thrive on keeping their own database safe and synced between devices, the hitch can be emergency access. You may want to build it in to your system, but make sure your trusted contact can identify how to access your database file and decrypt it. It has to work for you in your lifetime, AND be available to someone else when you’re no longer here. 

The bottom line is that we all need to use a password manager to secure our accounts, and we need to be able to pass on access for the day when we are gone. Pick one, set up your accounts, and sleep better knowing that you are protected now and in the future. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

How Much Do Seniors Know About Social Security?

Most (65%) older adults scored a “D” or “F” on this Social Security quiz comprised of 13 true or false questions. How does your knowledge stack up?  

Social Security payments will likely be a big part of most retirement plans. That’s why it was a surprise when MassMutual recently polled 1,500 older adults from age 55 to 65 and most got a failing grade. A mere 1% of respondents got a perfect score. It just goes to show that most of us need to brush up on our knowledge before we make any decisions about when to file for Social Security and the other big government program for our elder years, Medicare.

When Should You File? 

It is possible to calculate the optimal time when you should begin benefits by guesstimating your likely year of death (usually by using the history of close relatives) and then adjusting the benefits calculator with the number of years you will get paid.

While that makes sense if you are looking at Social Security in terms of dollars collected, you might need to reevaluate your frame of reference, according to a recent article in MarketWatch. Author Jim Blankenship argues that Social Security was always meant to function as insurance, more accurately, insurance against living longer than you think you will. That shift may cause you to change when you choose to tap into the program. 

For instance, a high earner may estimate the optimal time to start drawing benefits is at age 66, but it would be a much better move to put that off until later so that his wife, who is a lower earner, can take advantage of bigger payouts when he dies.

Many Americans Start Social Security Early 

It is no secret that inflation is up, increasing costs on everything from gasoline to milk. Amid this backdrop, many Americans (42% in 2022 vs. 36% a year ago) are choosing to put their hands on some cash in the form of Social Security benefits now, while continuing to work, according to a recent survey. They may not realize there are disadvantages to this scheme. 

First, if you claim Social Security at 62, the earliest age possible, you may give up as much as a 30% bigger check down the road. Second, some benefits will likely be held back if you are working before full retirement age. Consider waiting until then to claim Social Security to maximize what you get out of the program.

Most Americans will count on Social Security to provide them with much or all of their retirement income. It is important to do your own research to find out the best option for your particular situation.

“There are definite rules, definite deadlines and definite dates that need to be met,” says David Freitag, a financial planning consultant and Social Security expert at MassMutual. “Or you could discover after the fact that that oversight was very costly, if you’re not careful.”

One of the big questions is whether to file early, when you will be sacrificing the amount of your monthly payment in order to get more of them, or later, when waiting rewards you with a heftier check. A great place to start weighing the differences is on the agency’s My Social Security site, where you’ll find information about your own situation, with sliders so you can estimate payments according to a few different factors. 

Are you ready for that quiz? Here it is, with answers below.

Social Security benefits quiz: True or false?

  1. In most cases, if I take benefits before my full retirement age, they will be reduced for early filing.
  2. If I am receiving benefits before my full retirement age and continue to work, my benefits might be reduced based on how much I make.
  3. If I have a spouse, he or she can receive benefits from my record even if he or she has no individual earnings history.
  4. If I have a spouse and he or she passes away, I will receive both my full benefit and my deceased spouse’s full benefit.
  5. Generally, if I am in a same-sex marriage, there are different eligibility requirements when it comes to Social Security retirement benefits.
  6. The money that comes out of my paycheck for Social Security goes into a specific account for me and remains there, earning interest, until I begin to receive Social Security benefits.
  7. Under current law, Social Security benefits could be reduced by 20% or more for everyone by 2035.
  8. If I file for retirement benefits and have dependent children aged 18 or younger, they also may qualify for Social Security benefits.
  9. If I get divorced, I might be able to collect Social Security benefits based on my ex-spouse’s Social Security earnings history.
  10. Under current Social Security law, full retirement age is 65 no matter when you were born.
  11. If I delay taking Social Security benefits past the age of 70, I will continue to get delayed retirement credit increases each year I wait.
  12. Social Security retirement benefits are subject to income tax just like withdrawals from a traditional individual retirement account.
  13. I must be a US citizen to collect Social Security retirement benefits.


  1. True (89% got this right)
  2. True (82%)
  3. True (72%)
  4. False (68%)
  5. False (65%)
  6. False (62%)
  7. True (60%)
  8. True (58%)
  9. True (57%)
  10. False (56%)
  11. False (49%)
  12. False (42%)
  13. False (24%)

Still have questions? The MassMutual site includes lots of easily digested information to help you out. Start with the video that gives an overview of this potential $1 million benefit, then go on to charts and graphs that are supported by short explanations. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Tools and Apps That Work With Medicare

Choose a plan, share your health information, or even earn some extra money with these online apps for Medicare users.

Open enrollment for Medicare is upon us. It runs from October 15 through December 7, when you can opt to change your plan. New enrollees have seven months — three months before and after their birthday month — to sign up. While many seniors breathe a sigh of relief for attaining eligibility, there are a lot of choices to be made before you pick a plan. For a general overview of Medicare, go here or to the government Medicare site.

To review, Part A is for hospital and nursing home coverage, Part B covers doctors, outpatient costs, and durable equipment, Part C is Medicare Advantage that runs through private insurance companies, and Part D is for prescription drugs. 

If it feels like choosing the right Medicare plan is akin to deciphering the tax code, you are not alone. However, a couple of tools can kick-start the process for you. 

Choosing a Plan

AARP’s Medicare Question and Answer tool helps you navigate the program with input about your own situation. It will help with eligibility and enrollment parameters, and answer questions about plan “options, coverage and costs in an easy-to-understand manner.” It covers the gamut, from breaking down the late-enrollment penalty for Part A to explaining how to report Medicare fraud. AARP does a first-rate job of giving clear answers to a wide range of questions.

You can also try the Medicare government Plan Finder tool. Fill out information about how you usually use the health care system, and it will direct you to plans in your area that would be appropriate. Better yet, like the AARP tool, you can input the drugs you take along with your zip code, and it will recommend an optimal Plan D prescription drug program. That alone makes it worth the effort!

You might want to try an app like the Medicare PlanFinder. It will help you compare your existing employer’s health plan along with traditional Medicare, a Medicare supplement plan that covers some of the gaps in traditional Medicare, and Medicare Advantage options. It has a 4.2 star rating; some users have complained about giving out information like their doctor’s name or what drugs they take, but these determine which plans will work and the information is protected by privacy laws. 

Sharing Your Information

The government has “Blue Button” apps that are privately developed but authorized by Medicare to help with a variety of tasks related to Medicare. These apps not only help you find plans, but can make appointments, contact your doctor, and check your symptoms. You can also use the apps to share your medical information and claims with people that you approve. Lastly, they enable you to connect your claims data with research projects. As of this writing, there are 89 apps to choose from!

Making Money from Fitness

One app that is worth a write-up is Achievement. It is free, and using it can actually help you stay fit and pay you back in cold, hard cash. There are other apps that are similar, but Achievement is easy to use and plays well with other apps, making it a top choice. It has a 4.5 star rating after 3 million downloads.

So, how does it work? Register on the app, then connect the Apple Health app or another fitness app like FitBit. It will track your activity and reward you with points for different forms of exercise, up to 80 points per day. Then, you can earn more points for tracking what you eat, your sleep, weight, meditation, etc. Take advantage of bonus offers, such as 250 points for referring a friend and surveys that pay out extra points when completed. 

You’ll get paid $10 for 10,000 points, either via PayPal or with gift cards. Do the math, and that comes to about $30 a year for exercise alone. Not a jackpot, but it’s a meal out or a movie with popcorn. But you can jack that up to more than $200 by participating in those extra surveys, and that starts getting meaningful. 

Plus, if it gets you to exercise more often, then it’s worth it for the benefit to your overall health alone.

Medicare is complicated. Doing a little research with these apps and tools can help you optimize the program and get the most care for your dollars. It’s worth it to spend a little time now to get the best plan for your needs.