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Monday, November 22, 2021

Ageless: Can We Turn Back Time?

Will you live to celebrate your 120th birthday, where you’ll play a lively game of hide and seek with the great-grandkids? It could happen, according to the author of a recent book. 

Biologist and physicist Andrew Steele has penned a provocative book, Ageless: The new Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old, that details how scientists are tackling the underlying causes of aging itself. The author defines aging as “the exponential increase in death and suffering with time,” and he insists we should “finally grapple with this raw quantity of suffering.”

“We’re all quite blind to its magnitude. But what do people die of? Cancer. Heart disease. Stroke. These things all occur in old people, and they primarily occur because of the aging process.” Rather than treat the individual diseases, Steele looks at a new field, biogerontology, that seeks to address the root causes of aging itself. “The dream of anti-aging medicine,” Steele writes, “is treatments that would identify the root causes of dysfunction as we get older, then slow their progression or reverse them entirely.”

Even before Ponce de Leon went searching for the fountain of youth, humankind has sought ways to extend life, to transcend the boundaries of our existence. But although lifespans have gradually lengthened, what Steele terms our “healthspan” has not. Hearing and eyesight usually dim, and aches and pains increase. The likelihood of dementia shoots up. 

Three Hallmarks of Aging

Aging has three underlying causes, called hallmarks. Scientists are looking at all three as ways to improve function in old age and expand lifespan.
  1. Genomic Instability. Genetic damage accumulates as we age; our DNA degrades. 
  2. Cellular Senescence. Old (senescent) cells build up in our bodies the older we get.
  3. Mitochondrial Dysfunction. Mitochondria gradually become less able to generate the energy needed by cells to power biochemical reactions.
“There’s this misconception when you talk to people about treating aging,” he says. “They imagine they’re going to live longer but in a state of terrible decrepitude, that you’re going to extend their 80s and 90s so they’re sat in a care home for 50 years. That doesn’t make sense from a logical perspective or a practical one.”


The book highlights four general areas of study: “removing bad things that accumulate,” “renewing things which are broken or lost,” “repairing things which are damaged or out of kilter” and “reprogramming our biology to slow or reverse aging.” Don’t let the layman’s language fool you; although written so that we can all understand the concepts, the book discusses the hard science behind them.

In the last 30 years, researchers have begun to make progress toward these goals. A 2015 study from Harvard showed that a drug regimen designed to remove senescent (old) cells in mice “reversed a number of signs of aging, including improving heart function.” A 2020 Texas study found elderly mice lived three months longer — 10 years in equivalent human time — after a stem cell transplant from young mice. 

Perhaps the most encouraging news is that human trials have started. Research is underway to remove senescent cells. Another study found that a drug/hormone combination appeared to rejuvenate the thymus, which is responsible for assisting the immune system. Diabetes drug metformin is being tested to see if it can retard the “development or progression of age-related chronic diseases — such as heart disease, cancer and dementia.”

Does any of this mean much to those of us who are becoming older adults right now? Steele thinks so. “I think we are very likely to have a drug that treats aging in the next 10 years.” Of course, a breakthrough drug won’t be able to extend our lives another 100 years right away. What it may do is allow us to live another 10 years, while subsequent advances in treatment increase both the quality and quantity of life, giving us yet more time. 

Steele theorizes about a generation that expects to die at 85, but then doesn’t. “One after another,” he writes in Ageless, “lifesaving medical breakthroughs will push their funerals further and further into the future.” Steele admits this sounds strange.

“The trouble is, saying we’re going to have 150-year-olds walking around looking like 20-year-olds, it’s weird. It sounds sci-fi. It sounds a bit creepy. Ultimately, I don’t want this because I want to have a load of 150-year-olds looking like 20-year-olds, I want it because those 150-year-olds won’t have cancer, they won’t have heart disease, they won’t be struggling with arthritis. They’ll still be playing with their grandkids, their great-grandkids even. It’s about the health and lifestyle benefits.”

Steele hopes to convince the public and officials in charge of funding that aging should be addressed. Regulators currently don’t consider it a disease, so it’s hard to find grants for trials. He admits that biogerontology raises some eyebrows. “It sounds strange,” he says. “We place aging research in this separate category — socially, morally, ethically, even scientifically, when actually, it’s just an extension of the normal goals of modern medicine.”

What You Can Do Now

So, will you be able to find a cure or two in the book’s pages? Unfortunately, no. Steele himself has reassessed his lifestyle, but not to take a handful of pills or supplements every day. He runs more than before, and he’s careful about what he eats. “It seems that a lot of the sort of basic health advice that everyone can recite — do some exercise, don’t be overweight, try to eat a broad range of foods, don’t smoke –—all that stuff basically slows down the aging process,” he says.

What about metformin and supplements? “Given that I’m in my 30s, I think the case against metformin is stronger than the case for,” Steele says. “The evidence is suggestive, but it’s not conclusive. And there’s a spectrum. There are people who are experimenting with senolytics. There was the case of the biotech CEO who went to Colombia and had gene therapy. But the data in humans just isn’t there.” The author adds that “the same is true of so many of these supplements and health foods. If any of these things did have a substantial effect, we’d know about it.”

But what happens if people quit dying? How will the framework of our lives change if we no longer have the typical progression famously defined in the riddle of the Sphinx? Steele has an answer. “Because death is inevitable people have rationalized it as something that drives life, or gives life meaning, or adds some sort of poetry to the human condition. But I think, broadly speaking, death is bad. If there was less death in the world, I think most people would agree that was a good thing. And though my passion for treating aging isn’t driven by reducing the amount of death, it’s driven by reducing ill health in later life, it’s driven by conquering disease, it’s driven by getting rid of suffering. If there’s less death as a side-effect? I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

Thursday, November 18, 2021

What You Need To Know About RMDs

Understand required minimum distributions and how to strategize to reduce taxes and make the most of your retirement accounts.

You spend your working years tucking money away for retirement. But the same accounts that gave you a tax break when you contributed have likely been growing over the years. That’s a good thing, until Uncle Sam wants his share. At age 72, you must start taking out required minimum distributions, or RMDs, and pay regular tax on the withdrawals. 

While you can’t skirt the law, there are a variety of ways to optimize your position. But first, you need to know the basics. The 2019 SECURE Act upped the age when RMDs start from 70.5 to 72. Now, you must make the first withdrawal by April 1 of the year after you turn 72, and then by December 31 of every year thereafter. 

This law generally affects the original owner of a traditional IRA, SEP IRA, and/or SIMPLE IRA. In addition, it applies to employer retirement plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s. It does not affect Roth IRAs because you paid tax on those funds before they were deposited.

RMDs are taxed at the ordinary income tax rate, not as capital gains. It’s usually best to take your first RMD in the year you turn 72 and not wait until the next year, when you would have to take two RMDs that may push you into a higher tax bracket. Compare your tax bills under each scenario before deciding what to do. Remember that higher income could also alter how much of your Social Security income will be taxed and the cost of Medicare Parts B and D.

Calculating Your RMD

To arrive at your RMD, the IRS divides your account balance on December 31 from the previous year by the life-expectancy factor based on your birthday. Luckily, you can just use a calculator or have your brokerage do this for you.

If you own more than one IRA, you need to add them up and figure out your RMD based on the total amount. However, you can withdraw that amount any way you’d like, taking it from just one account or from several. Owners of 401(k)s, on the other hand, must calculate RMDs and withdraw from each account separately. 

You have the option of getting the withdrawal in a lump sum, or spreading out payments over the year — quarterly, monthly, or whatever works for you. Just make sure that the total is taken out by the deadline, or you will owe some incredibly stiff penalties: 50% of the shortfall plus income tax. The IRS may forgive you if you can offer up an explanation and how you corrected your mistake. File Form 5329 to ask for leniency.

An easier way to avoid this punishment is to have your account custodian manage withdrawals. 

Avoiding RMDS: Work Waiver, Roth Rollovers and Conversions

One way to avoid taking RMDs at 72 is if you are still working and don’t own over 5% of the company. In that case, you don’t have to take RMDs on your current employer’s 401(k), but you will still need to make withdrawals on other retirement accounts. 

If your current 401(k) allows rollovers from other 401(k) plans from previous employers, it’s a great strategy for not paying taxes until you actually retire. Note that IRAs cannot be rolled into a 401(k).

An easy solution for Roth 401(k) owners is to roll those funds into a Roth IRA, which doesn’t require the original owner to make RMDs. If you have a Roth IRA account that is at least five years old and you are 59.5 or older, the money rolled into the account (and any gains) is yours tax-free.

If you own both traditional and Roth IRAs, another smart strategy is to convert all or some of your traditional funds to a Roth IRA. This is typically best in years when you have lower income, so it’s often done over time between retirement and age 72, although there is currently no age limit. Of course, you’ll have to pay taxes on the amount converted, but future RMDs will be lowered. All Roth distributions are tax-free, so if you need extra money, you can access these funds without increasing your taxable income. If you retired before 65 and have health care through the Affordable Care Act, remember that rollovers count toward your adjusted gross income (AGI) and may affect subsidies you receive. 

Qualified Longevity Annuity 

You may want to use a qualified longevity annuity, or QLAC, to lower RMDs and defer the related tax. These deferred annuities don’t pay out right away, but it is not as expensive as an immediate annuity. You can invest up to $130,000 or 25% of your balance, whichever is less. The money invested in the QLAC is no longer taxable, but payouts, which usually start at about age 85, are. 

Company Stock

If you own company stock in your 401(k), then you may be able to take advantage of a tax strategy known as net unrealized appreciation. Roll all of the funds out of the 401(k) and into a traditional IRA but put the stock into a taxable account. You’ll have to pay ordinary income tax on the cost basis of the stock, but future profits realized at a sale will qualify for lower capital gains taxes. In addition, your RMDs will be lower since the company stock is no longer included.

Younger Spouse

The IRS makes an exception to the traditional formula for RMDs for those with a spouse more than 10 years their junior. The life-expectancy factor is adjusted by using the intersection of the age of both spouses in Table II of IRS Publication 590-B or just check the appropriate box on the calculator.

Excess Funds

If you’ve reduced your RMD as much as possible but still have excess funds, put them in a taxable brokerage account. Tax-efficient investing options include municipal bonds and index funds. 

Your RMD does not have to be made in cash. Consider directing your broker to transfer a portion of it in stock to a taxable account, where the date of transfer value becomes the basis. This is particularly valuable in a down market where you can avoid locking in a loss. Of course, if the stock continues to decline you can at least harvest the loss. 

Starting at age 70.5, qualified charitable donations (QCD)s allow transfers of up to $100,000 annually to a charity or charities directly from the IRA. They will count toward the RMD but will not appear in adjusted gross income. This is an especially useful tactic for taxpayers who don’t itemize and would otherwise not be able to write off contributions.

But it can also benefit itemizers by lowering AGI so that they can take advantage of, for example, the write-off for medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of AGI. 

Pay Taxes

Yes, you can use your RMD to manage tax payments. Tell your brokerage to withhold an amount of money from your RMD to equal your entire tax bill for the year. You won’t have to hassle with quarterly payments or worry about underpayment penalties. Even if you have your RMD withdrawn as a lump sum in December it’s not a problem because the IRS considers withholding to be evenly paid throughout the year. And if you wait until December, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re going to owe.

RMDs may be unavoidable but they can be effectively managed. Be sure to consult a tax professional before you make any changes to your accounts. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

20 Best Holiday Gifts for Older Adults

Holiday (and birthday!) shopping just got a whole lot easier with these thoughtful presents for all the people over 65 in your life.

Coming up with just the right gift can be as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. We’ve searched for the top 20 gifts for seniors that they’ll use and enjoy. These choices are helpful and thoughtful, selected to enhance quality of life. 

We’ve covered a diverse array of older adults, from those who are very active to people with Alzheimer’s. Selections have also been made from a variety of price points and encompass everything from tech to special experiences. Most are appropriate to give to clients as a small thank-you gift. And nearly all are available online.

  1. Amazon Echo Dot Alexa. This voice assistant plays music, tells jokes, reads audiobooks, plays the news and so much more. Arthritic fingers and aging eyes can make typing difficult, but Alexa is operated entirely by voice. About $50.
  2. SilverRide. A “door through door” experience, SilverRide sends someone to pick up the customer and accompany that person on an outing, then bring him or her back into the home. Treat someone to a wheelchair ride through the park, a visit to the art museum, or another favorite place. Price varies.
  3. Sunbeam Heated Throw Blanket. There are chilly days everywhere in the country, and nothing will warm someone up as thoroughly and quickly as an electric blanket. This one has three settings and comes in several colors. About $45.
  4. Succulent Garden. These hardy plants are a great choice for indoors, even if the recipient is lacking a green thumb. Choose from a wide array of shapes and colors, either fully grown or from cuttings that will grow to fill the pot. From $9.
  5. Boot Jack. Remove any shoe or pull-on boot without bending over. From $10.
  6. Tile Pro Key Finder. Use an app on your phone to find lost keys, or find your phone, even in silent mode, with your key finder. Four hundred foot range and is compatible with Alexa. About $35.
  7. Wheelchair Leg Blanket. Lap blankets can leave the backs of legs cold, but that won’t be a problem with this cocoon-style leg blanket that wraps around limbs for cozy comfort. $40.
  8. Super Vison Phone App. Anyone with aging eyes would appreciate having this free app on their smartphone. A simple slider adjusts the amount of magnification while a light brightens the space. Read menus in dark restaurants, see prescription doses and so much more. Free.
  9. Ancestry DNA Test Kit. Find relatives and discover your genetic heritage with a simple test that can be mailed in. From $59.
  10. Extra-long Shoe Horn. Helps shoes go on easily without bending over. $15. 
  11. Instacart Home Delivery Service. Treat an older adult to deliveries from the local grocery store, Costco, or other retailer. Price varies.
  12. Audiobooks Subscription. Who wouldn’t love choosing from over 250,000 book titles? Start with their free trial that includes three books plus other content. Start for free.
  13. Aftershokz Wireless Bluetooth Headphones. These bone conduction headphones don’t block out other sounds, making them safer to use than ear buds. They’re also easy to take on and off and come in one piece. Charge for up to eight hours of use. About $80.
  14. TSA PreCheck®. Frequent travelers will appreciate being able to avoid long lines at TSA security checkpoints. No more removing footwear or bagging liquids, either. $85, good for five years.
  15. Lemonade Pursuits Jigsaw Puzzles. Voted the best jigsaw puzzles around, these artistic puzzles embrace unusual-shaped pieces, low glare, and great craftsmanship. Plus, the company will replace lost or damaged pieces. About $25.
  16. Destination Maps from National Geographic. These waterproof maps include historic sites and cultural attractions, as well as roads and terrain. $14.95.
  17. Ancestors/Relatives Photo Concentration Memory Game. Send in photos of ancestors, relatives, or the recipient at different ages, and receive a matching game with photos. Perfect to play with grandchildren. $24.99.
  18. Motion-Activated Indoor Lights. Not everyone wants a night light illuminating their sleeping space; solve the problem with motion-activated lights. Great for stairwells. From $10. 
  19. Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. Cook an entire meal in one pot, up to 70% faster than with other methods. Clean up is fast and easy, and there are recipes for a wide variety of meals. From about $67.
  20. Firstleaf Wine of the Month Club. Award-winning wine-of-the-month club offers free shipping of wines from around the world. About $40. Other monthly choices to consider are bouquets and desserts.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Tech Update for Older Adults

Trends in technology for older adults highlight continued adaption in a variety of services, including health care.   

Older adults are continuing to live better because of technological innovation. A recent AARP report about tech trends shows that adults over 50 have nearly as high an adoption rate for smartphones, wearables, voice assistants and smart home technologies as their younger counterparts. 

Tech Adaption Increases

Older adults are streaming movies, video-chatting with friends and family, and buying plenty of smart devices such as tablets and home security systems. COVID-19 was the tailwind that spurred increased acceptance of technology while we couldn’t get together in person. Spending on devices such as smart TVs, smartphones and Bluetooth headsets skyrocketed as older adults changed how they consume entertainment.

However, that’s not to say that barriers to adoption don’t exist for older adults. More than half were eager to learn more about how to use technology, and over a third said they’d use technology more often if they knew how. The three top barriers cited were cost, lack of knowledge, and concerns around privacy. The majority (83%) were not confident that what they do online remains private.

Rendever Poised to Boost VR Options

VR networking platform Rendever already allows users to strap on a headset and participate in travel activities, attend a concert, or play games. “It’s very socially engaging,” Rose says. “It’s networked VR; you could ‘go scuba diving’ and talk about the experience together.” 

Now the company is launching a new effort aimed at total engagement: RendeverFit is due to be released in December. The program combines physical exercise with cognitive fitness and social engagement. How? In one mode, participants cycle through landscapes with their friends as they reach to pop balloons and compete for high scores. Another involves swinging a paddle, and a third invites users to paint a virtual canvas, moving about as they do. 

Users are encouraged to keep participating; the program tracks individual progress and biometric data such as calories used. Participants have custom avatars and compete both individually and with communities world-wide.
Finally, there are still disparities relating to access. Some relate to cost, which is an issue for about a quarter of older adults. But a quarter of rural consumers cited a lack of access, including 15% who either don’t have internet access or are not sure if they do. 

What’s On the Horizon

So, knowing that tech is increasingly prevalent in the lives of older adults, let’s look at what’s catching on. Sheri Rose, director of the Thrive Center nonprofit that provides education on tech for older adults and looks at trends, highlights five areas where home tech and delivery models are morphing.

  1. Tech to support independent living. The kitchen is changing, from induction cooktops that can’t burn a user to fridges that let users see the contents without opening the door and remind users when product is expiring. Those lacking the full pocketbook for a fancy fridge can take advantage of a voice assistant -- one that can be paired with other devices to move the thermostat, see who’s at the door, or turn on the lights. Sensors can help family members living elsewhere keep tabs on a loved one by detecting motion via laser scanning or measuring changes in gait and thus the likelihood of a fall. 
  2. Wearables for health data. A plethora of wearable products is available to help users monitor their own health. Of course, there are the iconic Apple Watch and Fitbit, but you can also find Wi-Fi-enabled pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitors that will reduce visits to the doctor’s office or alert when the measurement is out of normal bounds. “Chronic heart failure and other comorbidities can be monitored remotely and help seniors avoid exposure to the virus, keeping them safe and healthy at home,” Rose says. “Smart tablets designed for seniors have integrated data collected from wearables. While you’re playing solitaire on your tablet, you get an alert that you need to take a walk or take your heart medication.” 
  3. Telehealth is taking off. The pandemic has spurred adaption of remote health visits, made possible by secure videoconferencing platforms and improvements in camera sensitivity, making it possible for doctors to diagnose a rash or assess healing.
  4. Virtual reality is viable entertainment. The isolation of COVID-19 corresponded with an uptick in the use of virtual reality (VR) systems. Thrive Center seniors have been overwhelmingly positive in their assessment of the technology. “We see older adults visit Thrive and put on a VR headset, and they get so enthralled with sitting on the beach and meditating,” Rose says. “We do so much with virtual reality because we know the impact it can have on reducing pain, loneliness and stress levels.”
  5. 5G will make a difference. The fifth-generation cell service is set to boost speeds up to 100 times over current levels, and users will have to be trained in best-practice cybersecurity measures before joining up. Older adults may see the most benefit in the healthcare delivery arena. “5G is really going to boost a lot of download and upload capacity. When deployed, I think it will make a huge difference,” Rose says. 

It’s clear that technology use is on the rise among older adults. Senior living facilities may soon be competing based on their tech offerings, as well as more traditional amenities. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Spreading Happiness

Happiness is an important element of healthful well-being. What does it mean for older adults, and how can we help seniors in our care be happier?

Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”—Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Believe it or not, people in their 80s and 90s report higher levels of contentment and well-being overall than teenagers and young adults, according to researchers interviewed by The New York Times. A study at the University of California at San Diego Center for Healthy Aging found similar results, with seniors in their 90s the most content among people aged 21 to 99 who were surveyed. These older adults have coped with many setbacks and losses over the decades, and usually aren’t stressing over a job or career path. 

But not all older adults are happy. Loss and change can bring about unhappiness or even a state of depression, and that can impact health. Worry and anger can actually worsen chronic health issues such as heart disease and arthritis, so much so that happy people live longer than those who are not.

Over six years, scientists looked at the health of Americans in three groups: those who reported they were “very happy,” “pretty happy,” or “not happy.” Those in the very happy group had a 6% less chance of death than those in the pretty happy cohort, and people in the not happy group had a 14% greater chance of dying than those in the very happy group. These outcomes remained true even after social, economic, and lifestyle factors were considered. 

How To Help a Senior Be Happier

This holiday season, consider giving a gift of love to older adults. 

One way is to help them form bonds with others. You may facilitate this by offering a ride to the local senior center or texting their niece to please come spend some time with the adult. Make it a point to call older adults in your life on a regular basis or start a telephone tree for family members. Stop to talk to an older stranger you encounter or tell that person her hat is cute. No matter how brief, every moment spent listening and/or noticing can change someone’s day.

Help them be involved in social activities. Could you volunteer to bring someone to church or start a bridge group? Make a shuffleboard area at a local park? Play chess or cards with a senior once a month? Maybe you could accompany someone on a walk in the park. It may be painfully slow … but you’ll come to appreciate patience. Whenever we reach out to someone, we gain much more ourselves.

Helping others is actually very beneficial for our mental health. Can you bring a senior along when you volunteer? Or take time to set up a one-time event, such as helping out at a food bank or soup kitchen? Stop by an older neighbor to chat? 

Another thing that often takes some thought is to help an older adult in our care feel like he or she is enhancing our life rather than being a burden. Can the older adult put stamps on letters, or tell us the best way to make pumpkin pie? Asking for information is a way to make someone else feel valued. How about calling up memories by asking to hear what a holiday was like when that person was a child or asking about a favorite gift or meal. 

Find the positive and dwell on it. Maybe a bum knee and arthritic hands have curtailed activities, but grandma can still see to look at old photos or tell you if the soup looks right. Older adults actually accentuate the positive as shown in studies. One of these at Stanford Center on Longevity found that in memory tests seniors recalled more smiling faces than frowning ones, and more positive images vs. negative ones when compared to younger adults. 

Remaining active as long as possible is a powerful benefit. One Canadian study found that active older adults were more than twice as likely to age well than their sedentary counterparts. Encourage the seniors in your life to move, even if it’s only stretching up their arms while they are seated. 

And finally, don’t forget to learn a little something every day and share it with older adults. Ongoing learning is a key to life satisfaction. Turn on PBS, download an audiobook, or attend a local class. Use a free app like Duolingo to learn a new language. 

The best way to get rid of holiday stress is to focus on others. There is always an older adult in the community who could use our help, whether it’s shoveling their walk or inviting them for coffee. Seek out ways to help all year ‘round but start now. Give some love for the holidays.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 8 - Richard Curtis, director, screenwriter, producer

Surely you saw the films Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually, or perhaps War Horse? All were written by famed Brit Richard Curtis. Apart from penning the script that catapulted Hugh Grant into fame, Curtis has garnered a bevy of enviable awards.

Specializing in romantic comedy, Curtis has won the BAFTA Academy fellowship award, only the top award given to a British filmmaker. But he’s also passed along his good fortune, co-founding both Comic Relief, Red Nose Day and Make Poverty History. His efforts earned him a BAFTA Humanitarian Award. Curtis was ranked twelfth in The Telegraph’s “100 most powerful people in British culture” for 2008.

Other works you might recognize are the Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley series. The pair were ranked second and third, respectively, in the 2004 Britain’s Best Sitcom online poll. 


Image Source: Wikipedia

November 13 - Charlie Baker, governor of Massachusetts

Winning on a platform of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism, Republican Baker consistently polls as one of the nation’s most popular governors. That he went into politics is no surprise. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and father all had prominent positions in government. 

Baker was a natural at basketball growing up, and he played on the JV team at Harvard, which he attended “because of the brand.” He wasn’t much of a student and wrote of his time there: "With a few exceptions... those four years are ones I would rather forget.” He went on to get an MBA and was quickly hired as codirector of a libertarian think tank, where he was noticed by Governor Weld, who appointed him Undersecretary of Health and Human Services.

Armed with a clever “Baker’s Dozen” campaign slogan for 13 areas of reform and a gay Republican running mate, Baker proved unable to triumph in a 2010 bid for governor. Running again in 2014, this time with the endorsement of The Boston Globe, Baker nosed by his opponent to a win.

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 18 - Warren Moon, quarterback

Too small, too slow, and too weak: that’s what Moon thought of himself when most four-year colleges ignored him after he set records at a two-year school. But University of Washington Seattle signed him up when they saw his rifle passing arm, and as a junior he led the school to a Pac-8 title and upset win at the Rose Bowl where Moon was named MVP.

But Moon’s road to NFL glory was a long one. He was one of seven kids, and when their dad died of liver disease when the boy was seven, he learned to cook, sew, and iron to help out. In high school, Moon decided he could only play one sport in order to work the rest of the year to contribute to his family. 

Moon felt he would be chosen late in the NFL draft, so six weeks out he took the sure bet and signed with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian League. The Eskimos were thrilled as he led them to five consecutive Grey Cup victories and Moon became the first pro quarterback to pass for 5,000 yards in the 1982 season. 

After six years in the CFL Moon went to the highest bidder in the NFL, which turned out to be the Houston Oilers. After an adjustment year, Moon hit his stride and gave the team its first winning season since 1980. Ahead of 1989, Moon negotiated a five-year contract extension that was the richest of its time: $10 million. 

Moon’s career on the field lasted until he turned 44. He was named to 9 Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, but his first Super Bowl ring came as an announcer for the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. 


Image Source: Wikipedia

November 20 - Bo Derek, actress

Known best for her lead role in the risqué comedy 10, Bo Derek has the questionable distinction of having won two Golden Raspberry Awards for worst actress, and she was nominated for a third. In 2000, she narrowly missed earning Worst Actress of the Century, beaten out of the “honor” by Madonna. 

Derek also has an interesting marital history. “I was 16 when I quit high school. I didn't really mean to quit. I spent about a month going to the beach surfing and sunbathing while I was supposed to be in school: when I got caught, my mom was furious,” she said in an interview on David Letterman. “I started to go back to school, and I was really enjoying it, and then I went to go do this film with John in Greece …”

“John” was John Derek, 30 years older and married to Linda Evans at the time. Since Bo was only 16, the couple ensconced to Germany to avoid charges in California until shortly after she turned 18. In the meantime, John put her in Fantasies, the first of many panned movies he directed that tried to capitalize on her looks. If you still want to see Derek, check out these films: Orca, Tarzan, the Ape Man, Bolero, and Ghosts Can’t Do It

Derek supports Disabled Veterans and animal rights. 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, October 28, 2021

How Genomic Sequencing Will Revolutionize Public Health

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are only one outcome from an increased use of genomic sequencing that has already improved the way many diseases are tracked and treated in the U.S.

Public health agencies are adopting pathogen genomics to improve outcomes in a wide variety of infectious diseases. New tools allow earlier detection and more accurate investigation of disease outbreaks. An abundance of data contributes to research for future applications as well as the development of therapeutics and preventive measures, such as vaccines.

What Is Genomic Sequencing?

Genomic sequencing allows scientists to look at a pathogen’s genetic footprint. Every strand of DNA (or RNA in some viruses) is comprised of a sequence of four chemical “letters.” A base is formed from each of these letters. The order, or sequence, of these bases displays information used by researchers to combat disease.

First-generation Sanger sequencing used fluorescent tags to read letters of the genetic code. New technologies such as next generation sequencing (NGS) are faster and can work on longer strands of DNA, as well as being able to review millions to billions of sequences at the same time. Compared to the older Sanger sequencing method, NGS cuts down on costs by more than 1,000 times when using larger samples and it is vastly faster. 

How Does NGS Help Fight COVID-19?

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, was sequenced and the code made public in January 2020. Scientists began working on a diagnostic test almost immediately and developed one within weeks. Two teams of scientists began work on a vaccine against the disease that used genetic material from the virus, known as mRNA. After development and testing that showed 94% and 95% efficacy, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were authorized for use in December 2020.

Other pharmaceutical companies use the virus’s genetic code to develop other types of vaccines and antivirals to help treat people who already have the disease. Scientists also use the genetic blueprint to determine how immune systems will react and who may need earlier treatment. Finally, researchers are continuing to track changes in the genetic code that could require targeted drugs and new vaccines.

“Genomics and genomic epidemiology have emerged as an incredibly powerful tool in fighting this pandemic,” says Francis deSouza, CEO of genetic-sequencing machine fabricator Illumina. “And they will be essential to how we fight future biological threats, whether it’s the next coronavirus or antimicrobial resistance or even bioterrorism.”

Tracking Spread

Genomic sequencing can be used in many areas of infectious disease research. Data can enable researchers to track distribution and spread in a group of people or animals, and use this information, called genomic epidemiology, to react to outbreaks. 

Outbreaks of flu, tuberculosis, bacterial enteric illness, and even potential agents of bioterrorism can be subtyped and more easily managed via genomic sequencing. The technology can be used to determine antimicrobial resistance in Strep, serotype E. coli, and Salmonella, thus eliminating the need to obtain serum panels, and check for virulence factors, such as the presence of Shiga toxin, in E. coli, among many others.


There are limits to the use of NGS in the public health arena that may prevent its widespread use in some applications.
  • Sensitivity. Genomic sequencing requires millions of copies of genetic material from the pathogen being examined. 
  • Cost. Although the cost has come down dramatically since first-generation sequencing, NGS cannot be performed without expensive laboratory equipment, computer resources, and trained personnel.
  • Privacy. To counter outbreaks of infectious disease, data must be processed, shared, and linked in ways that could potentially allow the identification of infected individuals or those carrying new variants, possibly leading to discrimination or stigmatization.
  • National security. State or non-state entities could utilize NGS along with gene-editing technology to modify the survivability of pathogens as an effort at biological warfare.

Next-generation genomic sequencing has proven its value to public health and will continue to mold treatments and policy in the future. Policymakers, academic institutions, and private philanthropies must use their combined resources to support and broaden its use while safeguarding the confidentiality and security of public citizens.


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

5 Instances Where You Need a Short-Term Medical Policy

Don’t be caught without health care coverage. How to find a short-term plan, when you’ll need it, and what to look for. 

Anyone who hasn’t reached the age of 65 and qualified for Medicare runs the risk of needing a short-term health insurance policy at least once. Even people who are in good health are taking a big risk if they forego medical insurance. You could find out you have diabetes or get injured or discover a lump that is cancerous. Paying out-of-pocket can be debt-inducing to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, particularly without negotiated prices from an insurer. 

Travel Insurance

Medicare is always confusing, and coverage while you are outside of the U.S. is no exception. Find general rules for Medicare coverage outside the U.S. but be sure to check your policy since Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional coverage. Medicare does NOT cover the vast majority of health care while you are outside of the U.S.

While you may have a credit card that offers protection against delayed or canceled trips, travel health insurance will still be needed. Check if a policy excludes adventure activities such as hang gliding or scuba diving and look for an insurer that will make payments to hospitals directly. Also check if you need medical evacuation insurance, especially if you’ll be traveling to remote areas. IMG is the top-rated travel insurer by; check their complete list of top travel insurers.

Enter short-term health insurance, also known as short-term medical, to offer some protection when you don’t have an Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan. These policies last from 30 days to a year and are subject to state regulation. Although there are plenty of things they don’t cover, it’s better to have some sort of plan than none at all. Here are times when short-term medical might be right for you:
  1. You missed the time period for open enrollment. The ACA offers guaranteed well visits, price limits, and subsidies to most beneficiaries. But if you are past the enrollment period and you don’t have a qualifying life event (marriage, divorce, an additional child, surviving domestic abuse or a move) then you won’t have to spend a year with your fingers and toes crossed. A short-term plan will give you some peace of mind and help pay for unexpected expenses.
  2. You or your spouse retired early. If you retire before you turn 65, you may need coverage. You may be covered under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) from work but going on it is a big mistake since it is not considered qualified coverage and full underwriting is required for any Medicare supplement policy. Consider a short-term plan to fill the gap but check with a Medicare office first (try your state’s SHIP services) to make sure it qualifies. Or your spouse is eligible for Medicare, but you won’t be 65 for a few months. Just remember that a short-term plan may not be available if you have pre-existing conditions. 
  3. You have a gap in employer coverage before you start your next job. When you are between jobs, it’s easy to try and save money by doing without health insurance. But is that a risk you can afford to take? A short-term policy will get you through until you’re employed again, and help you sleep at night in the meantime.
  4. You’re in an employer waiting period. You’ve got a new job, but your employer makes you wait up to 90 days to get on their health coverage plan. Don’t go through this orientation period without any insurance. 
  5. You qualify for special enrollment but are waiting for coverage to start. If you’re getting married or divorced, moving, have added a new child to your family, are a survivor of domestic abuse, or are in certain other circumstances you can enroll in the ACA outside of the enrollment period. Usually, you have 60 days to get health insurance, but this coverage may not start immediately. If you sign up in the first 14 days of the month, coverage will begin the next month. But if you sign up in the last 15 days, you won’t be covered for a month and a half. 

You can sign up for short-term medical and coverage can begin as soon as the next day. Most plans don’t require you to see network providers, although you may receive a discount if you do. Short-term insurance often is considerably cheaper than major medical premiums, and they usually cover inpatient and outpatient hospitalization, emergency room visits, surgery, ambulatory services, and intensive care once your deductible is met. Some plans even cover accidental death and dismemberment. 

However, a short-term plan won’t cover preventive health care or pre-existing conditions. Short-term insurance does not have coverage requirements, so plans vary widely. Be sure to check the plan over carefully to see what is offered. 

It’s also wise to research a company’s National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) complaint score. The site offers the number of complaints by code, index, state, licensing, and financial categories. Still wondering where to start? Check out this article on four of the best short-term health insurance companies. Finally, just as with any other insurance you buy, check the longevity and track record of the company you’re buying it from. If the company goes out of business or can’t pay its debts, you essentially have no coverage. 

Most of the time, getting health coverage through work, the ACA, or Medicare is the best bet for most of us. But if you experience a gap in coverage, a short-term policy may be just what you need to avoid a daunting medical bill. Compare a variety of plans and determine how high your deductible should be. Then research the track record of the company you plan to go with before you buy. Short-term coverage can give you peace of mind and sure beats taking a big risk on your health.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Eight Ways To Make Yourself Popular

Retiring can shrink your circle of friends. Brush up on how to connect and be someone others seek out. 

Most people don’t think about older adults needing to be popular. That ends at high school, right? Wrong. Given COVID distancing, friends moving to downsize or be closer to grandchildren, losing work friends at retirement — getting older can be a lonely place. And it’s easy to let social skills get a bit rusty.

We combed the Internet to find tips for making new friends and keeping old ones. These eight tips are a good reminder for all of us on how to be the sort of person others want to be around. And some of them may surprise you.

Where to Find New Friends

Many older adults feel sidelined by the Delta variant and/or a health condition. Others may need some new ideas about where to hunt for new friends. Here are some likely sources:
  • Your local library has book clubs, game nights, author talks, and other programs. This is also an excellent resource if you need help finding a volunteer opportunity, don’t know how to contact a MeetUp group, etc. Libraries have free computers with internet and staff to help out. 
  • Check MeetUp online for local groups with a shared interest, then try them out.
  • Volunteer at the local food bank, animal shelter, or any other organization helping those less fortunate. 
  • Visit your local senior center. 
  • Join AARP
  • Attend Osher Lifelong Learning classes. 
  • Join a local church or synagogue.
  • Take Fido to a dog park.

  1. Introduce yourself. If you’re in a situation where you don’t know anyone, the best way to break the ice is to go up to someone standing alone and say, “Hey, I’m John.” Sounds way too simple, but there’s almost always at least one other person just as scared as you may be, and the best way to offer relief is just to say “hey.”
  2. Ask questions. Make it all about them, not you. It’s often easiest to ask how they know the birthday girl, or what brought them to this get-together, or if they come to this bar often. Maybe you both know Michelle; a good follow-up is to ask how they met. Or maybe the person wanted to see the West Coast so he signed up for the Pacific Sea Turtle Conference, and your next question can be what sparked his interest in sea turtles. Does he snorkel? Does he love the beach? Has he seen the tide pools here? And you’re off. Of course, it’s fine to throw in a line or two about yourself but keep the focus on the other person. Remember that Barbara Bush would always tell son George growing up that he should ask other people about themselves. He was president and a guest when Barbara and the elder Bush were giving a dinner party at their home. Barbara overheard her son start telling some guests a story about some heads of state and she admonished him, “George, no one wants to hear all about you!”
  3. Be a good listener. Most of us are too worried about what we’re going to say next to really listen. Being a good listener is all about digging a little deeper and then remembering what you heard. If you ask someone how their day is going and they answer “fine” with a smile, ask what made it good. If they tell you they got a hole in one, remember that and the next time you see that person ask if they’ve been out on the golf course lately. It will make them feel special, and you will move up on their esteem meter.
  4. Deliver your opinions with a spoonful of honey. It’s great to have confidence in your beliefs and know where you stand, but smart to offer them sparingly and with a smile. Brilliant statesman Ben Franklin noticed that people were more likely to reject his arguments when he used firm language like “certainly” and “undoubtedly” so he switched to using phrases like “I think...” or “If I’m not mistaken…” Another way to offer an opinion without offending someone is to tell a little story to illustrate your point. Let listeners come to their own conclusion. 
  5. Fake it ’til you make it. Yes, you can! Research shows that making eye contact, staying relaxed and speaking evenly, and using decisive hand gestures signals that someone is confident, even if they know almost nothing about what they’re saying. Demonstrating this social confidence will help you attract and keep friends.
  6. Get good at small talk. We know, you hate small talk! But it’s a learned skill, and it is how people build relationships. It’s all about listening and then keeping the conversation going based on what you’re hearing. Every few questions, you can throw in something about yourself. This is what skilled conversationalists do. Nothing is more wonderful to someone else than to talk about their favorite subject: themself. And by offering a tidbit about yourself, you are giving them the opportunity to ask you a question back. It’s a little like playing tennis: a skilled player in a friendly match can keep hitting it right back to the other person to keep the game going.
  7. What about body language? Don’t get too worked up about how you’re standing, the direction your feet are pointed, or the many other specifics you may have read about. Author and speaker Ramit Sethi advises people to use the acronym “SETHE” to practice the essentials. They are: Smile, Energy, Talk slowly, Hands and Eye contact. He says most of us don’t smile enough, or big enough, when we’re nervous. Practice in front of a mirror or videotape yourself on your phone. Project positive energy — probably 50% more than you think you need. Talk slowly so others can understand you and you will also sound more relaxed and self-assured. Make eye contact. If you’re not sure how much, watch people in films or on TV and then practice in front of the mirror or with a good friend. Most importantly, just work on one thing at a time. You don’t want to be so nervous about getting everything right that nothing works. As Sethi says, “You have your whole life to get good at this.”
  8. Be sincere. A sincere compliment goes a long way. “I love your haircut. Where did you get it done?” works great if you’re being honest. But saying something just for flattery often comes off as shallow and desperate, and actually reduces your social credit. Remember what author and speaker Dale Carnegie said: “The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other is insincere. One comes from the heart out, the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.”

For a more robust explanation of how to be popular, with added videos, check out author Ramit Sethi’s blog. Sethi penned “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” and these days he travels the globe (or at least Zoom!) on speaking tours, but he was once an awkward child and teen. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Clean Out Your Closets and Sell Extra Stuff

Decluttering can take a load off your shoulders and bring in some extra money to boot! 

With the holidays coming up, what better way to both make your home look inviting and score a little cash for gifts than to sell unwanted items? It’s never been easier, thanks to the internet and a host of apps. All you need is a smartphone to get started earning.

The first step is weeding out clothing and other items that you don’t need. The process can be very difficult when sentiment is involved. Can you really part with Dad’s favorite chair? How about the vase Mom always had on her kitchen windowsill?

The Kondo Approach

One idea is to take a look at the methods of organizing diva Marie Kondo. She believes that less “stuff” in our lives makes us happier while acknowledging the difficulties of letting go. 

Seller Beware

No matter where you decide to market your extra things, make sure you only give personal information out to the site, and never to prospective buyers. Scam artists are waiting for newbies. They will send a note telling you they want to give that bracelet you have posted to their wife for her birthday, but can you save it until then? and include “their” email address and/or phone number. Never respond to such requests. Legitimate buyers go through the site’s messaging service and never ask for personal information.

Quick Tip: Fold, Don’t Hang

When you’re repacking clothes, folding takes less space than hanging. The problem is that clothes on the bottom of the pile tend to get wrinkled and stay unworn since you never see them. Remedy this by folding into three parts (left, right, center), and then again into three or four parts top to bottom, and packing one-side-up. You will be able to see the side of every item within a drawer, and no item will be crushed beneath another.

Kondo espouses the “three piles” approach: take out all your clothing, for example, ALL of it at once — drawers, closets, anywhere there is a single sock! — and divide into piles to keep, donate, or throw away. You can add another pile: sell. This pile may replace the “donate” stack, or it may be separate. 

As you are going through item by item, mentally thank each piece for its service. Remember that Grandma’s hankie won’t bring her back but place it in a pile with gratitude and love. Keep only those things that spark joy and can still be of use to you. (Good-bye, dress that never quite fits.) See if family members who don’t live with you want items that hold memories. If not, it’s time to acknowledge that the item’s work is done. Perhaps it will go on to make meaningful memories for someone else, but its time with you is over. 

Hassle-Free Sales

People who just don’t have the time or energy to sell online can opt to take clothing to a local brick-and-mortar consignment store. Generally, management will look over your clothes, choose what they want to market, and either pay you a set price on the spot or keep track of each item and pay you a commission when (and if) it sells. Generally, items are kept for 60 or 90 days, and they may be marked down every 30 days. Items that don’t sell are usually donated to a charity for you.

Another way to get items you want to sell off your plate is to use the online consignment store ThredUp. Order a Clean Out Kit and the company will send you a large bag to fill up, complete with a shipping label. Drop it off at FedEx or USPS, and they do the rest. You can opt to get cash or shopping credit for items that sell, and they will donate what doesn’t. They pay 3% to 15% for items that sell for under $20, and up to 80% for those pieces priced at $200 or more. 

DIY Local Sales

Several apps allow you to sell locally. You post the photos and description and use the app’s messaging service to connect with buyers. This can be a great way to dispose of large items like furniture, that are difficult to ship. Craigslist is perhaps the oldest and best-known, but Nextdoor, letgo, and Facebook Marketplace are coming on strong. The advantage of these last three is that your buyer has a profile you can check. All are free to use. No matter which app you choose, never schedule a showing when you are home alone. It’s also helpful to move the item to your garage or porch, if possible, so your house can stay locked. If the item is small enough, load it in your car and meet buyers at a local grocery store (or anywhere there are always a lot of people) or police station. 

You can always opt to give things away for free via the above apps or join the Buy Nothing network, where members give away things they don’t need and pick up items they can use from each other. It’s a great way to recycle and it fits everyone’s budget! 

DIY National/Worldwide Sales

If you want to get top dollar for your items, you need to expand your pool of buyers while utilizing a platform that will help you get views. Facebook Marketplace can be used, or go with the daddy of this method on eBay and gain access to over 183 million buyers for anything from jewelry to cars. Take your own photos, fill out the listing, and then ship your item when it sells. EBay allows you to have an auction-style sale with bids (quicker, but usually the sale price is lower) or set a price. You can opt to allow buyers to make offers. EBay will handle payments and gives sellers a discount on shipping, which is made easy through printable labels the company sends to the seller. 

A plethora of companies have popped up to take share from the generalists, and they’re viable options. Poshmark and The RealReal specialize in designer apparel, accessories, and home goods. Sell tech and small electronic goods on Decluttr and use MaxSold, which specializes in estate sales, for collectibles. 

No matter which route you take, you’ll feel great knowing that you have less stuff taking up space, and the things that are left are ones you care about and enjoy. Some of your things will be giving joy to other people, and some will have ended their usefulness. And some will have put some holiday cash in your pocket.