Thursday, November 19, 2015

2016 Call for Conference Proposals

4th Annual CSA Conference | Washington, D.C. | August 26 - 28, 2016

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors is currently accepting proposals for the 4th Annual CSA Conference. The Building Knowledge and Empowering Networks to Benefit Seniors CSA Conference is designed to provide current information relevant to professionals working in the senior market on the health, financial, social, legal and business issues associated with older adults and how to apply practical knowledge to improve business practices. The CSA Conference is structured so that attendees gain knowledge relevant to their senior business and have opportunities to grow their professional networks by connecting with others in the senior market. The 2016 Program Committee invites proposals for conference sessions supporting the theme Building Knowledge and Empowering Networks to Benefit Seniors.

The deadline for proposals is January 15, 2016.

Proposals will only be accepted if they are submitted using the online form which can be accessed at 

Conference Session Formats

The conference includes 4 program tracks: 
  • Finance & Insurance
  • Healthcare & Home Care
  • Legal & Public Policy
  • Social Interest & Lifestyle

CSA conference sessions fit into the following formats:

- Two 90 minute general sessions (keynote and plenary addresses)
- Sixteen 60 minute breakout sessions

Interactive sessions with opportunities for facilitated discussion and Q&A, as well as sessions with a case-based approach, are preferred. Preference will be given to sessions that include proven and well-regarded speakers and sessions that focus on outcomes and learning rather than a narrative approach. Sessions should include national content and multiple perspectives on issues. A balanced view of issues and a diversity of perspectives, spanning across senior industry professions is critical. Joint submissions that span the interests of multiple program tracks are also encouraged.

Program Track Descriptions

The FINANCE and INSURANCE track will feature sessions that appeal both to professionals working in the finance/insurance industries and to all professionals seeking a broader understanding of these topics in order to understand what impact they can have on senior clients. 

The HEALTHCARE and HOME CARE program track features sessions designed to inform participants and explore new issues related to all aspects of healthcare and caregiving. Sessions can be a wide variety of topics in the healthcare/home care industries, and should be applicable to all professionals. Sessions should explore new concepts, address common and emerging issues, or identify best practices.

The LEGAL and PUBLIC POLICY program track features sessions designed to examine and explain new and pending policies that involve senior legislation. Sessions should have national appeal, but can include state specific case studies, examples, regulations, existing law and proposals.

The SOCIAL INTEREST and LIFESTYLE program track features sessions that provide information relevant to emerging technologies, trending issues, marketing, and business issues. Sessions should relate back to senior specific concepts and issues, but can have a wider scope than other tracks.

Society of Certified Senior Advisors 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Solo Aging: Take Steps Now to Create a Network

Those who are childless may lack the social networks that children and grandchildren provide. For elder orphans, experts say it's important to create a circle of support for aging.

Marcy, 66, is a single professional woman who enjoys her active life—seeing friends, playing tennis and traveling. She has been married and divorced but never had children. Recently, her independent parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and she has been scrambling to find an assisted living facility, talk to their doctors and convince her parents to move from their apartment. Marcy started thinking about who would take care of her if she were similarly disabled. She is not close with her brother, who lives on the other side of the country, and she barely knows her niece and nephew.

Marcy is part of a growing population known as “solo agers” or “elder orphans”—older adults with no children to care for them as they age. Today, one in five baby boomers has no children, and one-third of adults will enter old age single (widowed, divorced or never married) (from A Place for Mom). The problem is compounded because over the past few decades, parents are having fewer children. So, even those with children may only have one child to depend on, and that adult son or daughter may be unavailable for various reasons.
Setting Down Our Final Wishes
Older adults, especially childless ones, need to have all the legal documents in place for end-of-life issues (see Money article in this issue of Senior Spirit, “Solo Aging: How to Cope with End-of-life Issues”). It’s also a good idea to write down other wishes that go beyond legal and financial matters.

Some living wills encompass more than just do-not-resuscitate requests by spelling out your thoughts about dying, which can be helpful to your doctors and friends when deciding what kind of care you want. One of the more well known is Five Wishes, which goes beyond medical issues to deal with personal, emotional and spiritual concerns. The downloadable form includes questions about how comfortable you want to be, how you want people around you to treat you and what you want your loved ones to know when you’re facing the end of your life.

Five Wishes was written by Jim Towey, who worked with Mother Teresa. His organization, Aging with Dignity, is a national nonprofit that promotes better care for those near the end of life. Today, Five Wishes, which was introduced in 1998, meets the legal requirements in 42 states, and millions have used the form to specify their desires.
Family members provide 70 to 80 percent of long-term caregiving, according to a survey by the American College of Financial Services. Without a family, solo agers must create their own ways of coping with old age, especially because 70 percent of those over 65 need long-term service, which includes everything from transportation to more serious care.

As we age, many come to depend on their children for help. It can be in small ways—replacing a light bulb in a ceiling fixture too difficult for aging bodies to reach, running errands or reminding parents of appointments. But there’s also a larger social context. Seniors with children often have bigger social networks than those who are childless, interacting not just with their adult children but with their spouses and kids. Grandparents can enjoy the web of activities that their families are involved in: birthdays, graduations, school plays and sporting events.

Those who are childless may lack these social networks that can provide assistance as well as social engagement. Although childless couples can rely on each other, eventually old age will win out, and one or both couples will need help. A social network is a vital piece of the aging puzzle. Research links physical and emotional well-being to a strong support system, whether that’s family, friends or another community. Isolation, on the other hand, can lead to depression and poor health. For elder orphans, experts say it’s important to create a circle of support for aging.

Create a Support System

If you had an emergency, who could you call for help? Start talking to friends about this and see if you can share resources.

Examine what kind of social networks you have: friends, neighbors, religious congregations, book groups, former coworkers, cousins, members of your gym, gardening clubs, etc. It’s important to think about who you would trust and then strengthen those ties. Because many older adults are in the same (childless) boat as you are, it’s a good idea to start conversations now about helping each other when the time comes. If you don’t have a good social network, you can start by reaching out to others.

One community that may be ahead of others in planning for single old age is the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Because many LGBTs don’t have children and may have been estranged from their biological families, they have created their own families and communities.

Move to a Community

Many older adults, including those who are single, choose to live in a retirement residence surrounded by others seeking a community of similarly aged individuals. You get to know your fellow residents through shared meals, activities such as trips to the theater or museum, or classes such as yoga or painting. Help can be in the form of a knock on a neighbor’s apartment door (“where are the mailboxes?”) or services offered by the retirement home—such as cleaning or small repairs, or more serious issues, including checking on someone with memory issues. Although retirement communities can be expensive, many cater to lower-income seniors, such as SHAG in Seattle.

Another option for those who want more independence or a home of their own is cohousing (see "Cohousing Provides Community and Independence", Senior Spirit, March 2014). Cohousing consists of a community of people who want to live adjacent to each other and participate in activities together while also having their own place to call home. Members share communal property but own their houses or condos. Cohousing, averaging 20 to 40 units per community, comes in many forms. In multigenerational cohousing, families and residents of all ages, including seniors, inhabit the same communal space. A more recent development is cohousing solely for older adults. However, many cohousing projects are intended for independent adults and are just starting to have a conversation about what happens when one of its members needs more help than just a ride to the grocery store. Other forms of senior communities can be more informal, such as friends buying condos or homes next to each other—close enough to help each other out but still maintaining some independence. Many older adults are setting up their own communities by sharing a house together.


“Preparing for Long-Term Care Without Children,” May 29, 2014, A Place for Mom

“Who Will Provide Care for Childless Boomers?,” July 23, 2015, Next Avenue

“How to Retire Single Without Being Isolated,” Next Avenue

“Solo Aging: The Next Frontier,” May 21, 2015, Society for Certified Senior Advisors

“Aging, alone,” October 10, 2012, Chicago Tribune

Solo Aging: Take Steps Now to Create a Network was featured in the October 2015 Senior Spirit newsletter.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Solo Aging: How to Cope with End-of-Life Issues

Older adults who have no children need to set up protective legal documents for financial or health issues, plus find a trustworthy person or institution to carry out their wishes when the time comes.

The U.S. Government Accounting Office predicts that by 2020 the number of older Americans living alone with no living children or siblings will be 1.2 million. That figure for “solo agers,” or “elder orphans,” is almost double the reported figure in 1990. Because family members provide 70 to 80 percent of eldercare, those without family must cope with aging issues on their own.

Many older adults rely on their children for end-of-life issues and give them power of attorney for financial matters or health concerns. For those lacking family resources, it’s even more imperative to establish end-of-life documents such as powers of attorney, wills, living wills and advanced directives. For those who don’t leave wills, the courts will decide what to do with your assets in accordance with state laws. Because courts tend to favor blood relatives, no matter how weak the link, your life’s savings could end up with a third cousin in Brazil. 

Important Legal Methods

The most comprehensive approach to organizing end-of-life matters is an estate plan, which encompasses your assets as well as your healthcare wishes. By creating a plan, you eliminate the uncertainties of going to court and you reduce taxes and other expenses. An estate plan includes legal, financial and medical powers of attorney, a will, trusts and beneficiary designations. In the event of future incapacity, such as dementia, an estate plan outlines your wishes about health, asset disposition and medical care. An effective estate plan also provides options for determining incapacity.

To create this often complicated legal document, it is best to hire a board-certified estate planning lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer, local senior service or legal aid organizations often offer services at a reduced cost or at no charge. Estate plan advice is also available on the Internet, and online estate planning programs can help you organize information and help you create your plan.

Your Certified Senior Advisor is familiar with aging issues and can advise you. The Society for Certified Senior Advisors also offers an Information for Life Kit.

An estate plan can include:

Durable powers of attorney. You give these powers to someone you trust to make decisions for you, concerning both medical and financial issues. “Durable” refers to the fact that these powers endure if you become incapacitated. (Nondurable powers of attorney become legally invalid when the person is unable to make decisions or care for himself.)

Living will. This legal document indicates the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you want or don’t want, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, feeding tube and mechanical breathing (respiration and ventilation). Your power of attorney is usually the one to make sure your wishes are carried out.

Will. This sets down your wishes for distributing your non-titled assets (such as a house) after you die. Those include cash in a checking or savings account and personal possessions such as watches, jewelry and household furnishings. You name a person or company as your personal representative or executor to oversee the distribution of your assets according to the will’s instructions. The requirements for a will differ from state to state. If you move to another state, make sure your will is still valid.

Trusts. With a trust, an individual (grantor) creates a legal structure to transfer personal assets to the trust and appoints a trustee to hold and manage those assets on behalf of a beneficiary. Trusts supersede the instructions in a will, and trust assets are excluded from probate. The use of trusts can help reduce the costs and length of time to settle a person’s probate estate.

One popular form of trust is the revocable living trusts, because individuals can establish them to manage their assets during their lives and revoke or change them as their interests and needs change. They are also an excellent tool for elder orphans, because they comprehensively list what happens if the grantor is incapacitated, and the trustee takes over the management of the assets. Revocable living trusts can also be useful in asset distribution after death.

Beneficiary designations. You can name a beneficiary for financial assets such as a stock market fund or insurance policy or designate your favorite charity as the recipient of some of your wealth. Beneficiary designations take legal precedence over a will or trust. It’s a good idea to regularly review your named beneficiaries and make any necessary updates.

Another tool especially helpful for solo agers is long-term-care insurance, which covers expenses of longer-term treatment such as home healthcare, adult day care, assisted living and nursing-home care. Premiums for this kind of insurance are often thought to be expensive, but a properly designed plan can often fit into most budgets and could save you money in the long run. For those who can’t depend on children to take care of them, long-term-care insurance can offer peace of mind.

Who Can You Trust?

As a solo ager, who can you trust to carry out your wishes if you become incapacitated or die? You may first think of friends, neighbors or a fellow church member. But friends are often close to your own age and may not survive you or be in any shape to take over your affairs. Neighbors and church members can move or prove untrustworthy.

To find an impartial executor or stable institution, many turn to law firms or trust companies. Although these options can be expensive, many seniors are willing to pay the costs because they don’t have family connections or may prefer not to rely on their family members.

In many states, professionals such as geriatric care managers, adult protection workers and patient navigators can legally serve in this role and receive payment for their services.

Fiduciary Service

Another solution is a personal fiduciary service through a person or firm such as a bank, trust company or registered investment adviser (RIA). The fiduciary legally serves as a trustee, executor, personal administrator or discretionary agent responsible for managing your assets. Personal fiduciaries must follow performance standards defined generally by common law, statutes, rules and regulations, or specifically by contracts, trust agreements or wills (”Personal fiduciary services,” Wikipedia).

When a state or federally chartered bank provides personal fiduciary services, they are regulated by state and federal agencies, including the FDIC, the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. When an RIA offers these services, they are subject to a standard of care set out in the U.S. Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and related rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Private fiduciary services, such as Senior Planning Services in California, assist “vulnerable seniors” with daily care, housing and medical needs and financial management services ranging from basic bill paying to estate and investment management. State statutes govern private fiduciaries. What you pay will depend on the fiduciary service and the level of duties. Costs could involve fixed fees and/or asset-based fees as a percentage of total assets.

Another outlet for providing both financial and health assistance is chronic care advocacy, which encompasses every aspect of chronic care. A few law firms around the country offer these services.

Solo Aging: How to Cope with End-of-Life Issues was featured in the October 2015 Senior Spirit Newsletter.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, October 22, 2015

How to Talk Effectively with Your Doctor

You've finally been able to sit down with your healthcare provider to discuss a worrisome health problem. But all too soon it's over, and you realize you didn't quite understand the diagnosis and treatment and you have more questions. Experts offer suggestions for an effective visit with your doctor.

You’ve finally been able to sit down with your healthcare provider at an anxiously awaited appointment to discuss a worrisome health problem. But all too soon it’s over, and you realize you didn’t quite understand the diagnosis and treatment, you have more questions and you feel like you weren’t heard. Perhaps the doctor stared at a computer screen instead of your face.

Clear communication is key when dealing with health problems, and sometimes you, the patient, need to take control. In this day of high-speed Internet, digital medical records and doctors with too many patients and too little time, planning ahead can save your health.

Be Prepared

The first step toward ensuring good doctor-patient communication is preparation. The National Institute on Aging offers the following essential tips for making your medical visit a success:

  • Write down a list of questions and concerns before your exam.
  • Consider bringing a close friend or family member with you.
  • Speak your mind. Tell your healthcare provider how you feel, including things that may seem unimportant or embarrassing (see below).
  • If you don’t understand something, ask questions until you do.
  • Take notes about what the doctor says, or ask a friend or family member to take notes for you.
  • Ask about the best way to contact the doctor (by phone, email or through the staff).
  • Remember that other members of your healthcare team, such as physician’s assistants and pharmacists, can be good sources of information.

Lost in Translation
Health professionals have their own language and concepts that we lay people often don’t understand or interpret the same way. For instance, did you know that to a doctor a “fever” means a temperature above 100.4—not just something above the normal temperature of 98.6? Or, for example, your friend’s heart stopped beating, and he was successfully revived with CPR. You tell the doctor you’re glad your friend survived the heart attack. The doctor says your friend didn’t have a heart attack, he had cardiac arrest, but with no damage to the heart muscle. What does this mean? To better understand medical terminology, an easy-to-follow, free online tutorial from the U.S. National Library of Medicine provides explanations of various medical conditions that cause confusion between doctor and patient.

Speak Up

“There’s no such thing as a dumb question in the doctor’s office,” says Dr. Matthew Memoli, an infectious disease doctor at the National Institutes of Health. “I try very hard to make my patients feel comfortable so that they feel comfortable asking questions, no matter how dumb they think the question is.” Here are some questions to ask (suggested by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services):

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What are my treatment options? What are the benefits of each option? What are the side effects?
  • Will I need a test? What is the test for? What will the results tell me?
  • What will the medicine you are prescribing do? How do I take it? Are there any side effects?
  • Why do I need surgery? Are there other ways to treat my condition? How often do you perform this surgery?
  • Do I need to change my daily routine?
  • What should I do next? Ask for written instructions, brochures, videos or websites that may help you learn more.

Don’t Be Embarrassed

As we age, some health issues seem too uncomfortable to talk about. Bodily functions we took for granted throughout our lives have suddenly changed or become problematic. Sexual issues, incontinence or memory loss can be difficult to discuss. But most doctors are accustomed to talking frankly about such issues. The American Psychological Association offers a series of online brochures on many physical and psychological health issues affecting older adults, which can help you introduce the topic to your healthcare provider. If you have access to a printer, make a copy to take along to your appointment. Being honest about your habits, such as smoking, alcohol use, poor diet and exercise, is best for your own benefit. So, don’t try to please the doctor with the “right answers” if they’re not true. Besides your habits, describe your symptoms clearly and accurately. Before the appointment write them down, including when they occur, for how long, what makes them better or worse and how they affect your daily life. Tell the doctor about any big life changes that affect you emotionally and mentally, such as divorce or death of a loved one. These can manifest physically. For additional advice on discussing various issues, describing symptoms and making the best use of your time with your doctor, read “Talking with your Doctor: A Guide for Older People” from the National Institute on Aging.

What Doctors Say

To help optimize your doctor’s appointment, AARP offers ways–straight from doctors’ mouths–to make the most of your visit:

Hey, look at me. Even though electronic medical records have replaced the handwritten chart, "A doctor who focuses on the screen while talking to a patient is communicating ineffectively," says Dr. Robert Eckel, professor of medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado, Denver. "A doctor should look directly at a patient when he's providing important information about the visit," Eckel adds. If your doctor is not, try saying, "I'd feel more comfortable if you looked at me while we talked."

Show some personal interest. "Doctors are human, and sometimes they need a little attention, too," says Dr. Harlan Krumholz, professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. "A kind word or showing interest in your doctor can go a long way toward strengthening the personal tie between you."

Be the squeaky wheel. If your doctor is unclear about something you asked or said, or if you don’t understand what the doctor said, don’t let it drop. Ask for a re-explanation or clarification. If it’s something the doctor seems uncertain about, ask about getting a second opinion (see below) and a recommendation for another doctor. Even if this makes you uncomfortable, it’s better than leaving unsatisfied.

Ask about long-term issues. Following a diagnosis, ask for specifics about how long it takes to heal, how long a procedure will take and when you can go back to work or resume normal activities, given your specific situation. If a serious condition or surgery is required, ask if you can continue to live independently or if there are alternatives to the doctor’s recommendations.

Start with your main concern. Discussing your main worry upfront gives you the time to focus on it, says Dr. Lisa Schwartz, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. If you haven't covered all your concerns and time is running short, ask your doctor if he'd like to hear the rest now or prefer to follow up by phone or email.

Provide some background. If your medical history is complicated and you have an appointment with a new doctor, bring along a one- or two-page summary of recent tests and treatments so she can get up to speed quickly. Even if your records were transferred to her office before your appointment, she may not have had a chance to read them thoroughly. Providing a short version with only the highlights and test results for the last six months or year will save time and may help you avoid repeat tests and imaging.

When to Get a Second Opinion

Rita Wilson, the wife of actor Tom Hanks, credits getting a second opinion with saving her life. After two breast biopsies that came back normal, Wilson still felt something was wrong. A friend recommended a second opinion, and with it Wilson found out she had a dangerous and stealthy form of cancer often found with another condition she had. She ended up having a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

Trisha Torrey, founder of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates and author of You Bet Your Life!: The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes, was diagnosed with lymphoma and told she had three months to live. But this diagnosis didn’t gel with the way Torrey felt. After a second opinion, it turned out her diagnosis was misinterpreted by a zealous medical student, which can sometimes happen at large teaching hospitals. “You have a better understanding of your body than anyone else,” 
Torrey says.

Next Avenue provides some instances when a second opinion may be warranted:

  • If the treatment your doctor recommends or your illness is at all invasive, especially difficult (chemotherapy or radiation) or likely to be chronic
  • If surgery is required
  • If the condition is inherently tricky to diagnose but strongly symptomatic, such as Lyme disease or chronic fatigue syndrome
  • If many treatment options exist for what you have and you want to figure out the best course to follow
  • If a treatment is experimental or you’re considering participating in a medical trial

As a final cautionary note: Don’t assume a second opinion is always right. If you see a second doctor and his opinion is radically different from the first, it may be wise to get a third opinion as a tie-breaker. And sometimes, advises Torrey, it’s best to go back to the first doctor, present what you’ve found and raise questions. Also make sure that the healthcare provider from whom you want a second opinion is part of your insurance provider network. Ask your health insurance’s customer service department for a referral for a second-opinion provider. 

How to Talk Effectively with Your Doctor was recently featured in the October 2015 Senior Spirit newsletter

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Longevity in Okinawa: A Model for Treasuring Old Age

As Western culture prepares for the growing aging population, we search for models of how to find the fountain of youth and integrate meaning and value into the “third age.” Which societies are doing it right? Where can we find role models to show us the way? One example is on the island of Okinawa.

The Japanese live longer than anyone else, and Okinawans live longer than anyone else in Japan. According to the Okinawa Centenarian Study website, there are fifty centenarians for every 100,000 islanders in Okinawa, whereas the United States has about ten to twenty centenarians for the same number of its population.

The Okinawa Centenarian Study found more than nine hundred verifiable centenarians. Not only do Okinawans experience impressively long life spans, but their older population has admirably good health and enjoys independence into their seventies, eighties, and nineties.

Okinawa is an island archipelago region of Japan in the East China Sea where the average life expectancy is just over eighty-two years (almost seventy-eight for men and eighty-six for women). This is over a year longer than in the rest of Japan, and almost 4.5 years longer than the average U.S. life span. Okinawans are three to seven times more likely to live to one hundred than Americans. As impressive as Okinawan longevity is, however, what is of equal—if not more—interest is the quality of health most older adults in Okinawa enjoy. Heart disease, cancer, dementia, diabetes, and other conditions considered par for the course in older people in North America are rare in Okinawa.

What is their secret? What is the fabric for their long life? To get a better feel for a typical day in the life of an Okinawan older adult, connect with the following YouTube documentary, Okinawan Longevity and Health.

Erika T. Walker, MBA, MSeD, CSA, is owner and CEO of SAGE WAVE Consulting, LLC, in Greer, South Carolina. She conducts strategic planning with businesses and communities across the country to help them prepare for the growing aging population. She has served as director of the SAGE Institute, and director of geriatrics at Greenville Hospital system. Contact her at 864-313-9691, or visit

Longevity in Okinawa: A Model for Treasuring Old Age was featured in CSA Journal 63.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors.

Monday, October 12, 2015

One-Stop Online Resource for Seniors

Do you need information about Medicare? Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to apply for Social Security, or just looking for tips on how to stay healthy as you age. The government has just launched a one-stop resource aimed at older Americans.

Do you need information about Medicare or Medicaid? Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to apply for Social Security, or just looking for tips on how to stay healthy as you age. The government has just launched a one-stop resource aimed at older Americans, their families, friends and caregivers to answer questions about getting older.

Under the Department of Health and Human Services, links to a broad array of federal information, including how to find local services and resources in your community for everything from healthy aging to elder justice to long-term care. 

Visit to learn more

One-Stop Online Resource for Seniors was featured in the September 2015 Senior Spirit Newsletter. 

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Don’t Let Age Keep You from Bicycling

New bicycle models, including electric and adult tricycles, plus the popularity of biking trails and paths, offer new options for older adults who want to keep riding into their golden years.

When Martha was 80, she wanted to ride a bicycle again but wasn’t sure her balance was good enough. Because she was otherwise strong and fit, her children bought her a “three-wheeler,” and Martha was able to cruise the local pedestrian/bicycle creek path in her town, enjoying the freedom of riding outdoors.

And then there’s “oldsters“ like Howard Dietzman, 81, who last year did a solo bicycle trip across Canada, his second, which was preceded by three rides across the United States. That doesn’t count the bike tour he did from New York to Alaska (Biking Bis).

More Seniors Getting on Bikes

Bicycle riding is proving popular with older adults. Biking rates among people between the ages of 60 and 79 are soaring, an analysis of federal data shows. New trips by seniors account for 22 percent of the nation’s growth in adult biking (People for Bikes).

One likely reason for the increased popularity in bicycle riding is that you can ride many other places besides in traffic. Many cities and towns have added separate bike lanes on streets, or bike paths that keep you out of the way of cars. Bike-friendly towns, such as Seattle, provide a map of bike routes through and around the city, labeling them as far as difficulty. In fact, Seattle and other cities have bike share programs, which provide bikes for locals and tourists to rent and use.

Crossing through the countryside are scenic trails. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy transforms unused rail corridors into multi-use trails that transverse open prairies, mountain passes, canyons and along rivers.

You can join a bicycle club aimed specifically at seniors, such as California’s Claremont Senior Bicycle Group (which has its own website). Its list of planned bike rides shows these are not just spins around the block. Luckily, most rides have a destination that serves food. One week, riders on Monday took a moderate 20-mile cruise with some climbing, which ended with a breakfast stop. Tuesday, an easy/moderate 30-mile ride finished at the Euro CafĂ© for brunch, while Thursday, riders huffed and puffed up a difficult 35-mile climb to the Corner Bakery.

Health Benefits

Cycling has many health benefits. Because it’s not weight-bearing, bicycling has little impact on your joints. That’s why people are able to comfortably cycle in their 70s and 80s. Your legs and backside—the largest muscles in your body—drive the power, which means cycling tones the lower body. For those who want to lose weight, it’s great at burning calories. Even moderate cycling—riding 12-14 mph—burns more than 500 calories in only 60 minutes. And biking’s easy to fit into your daily routine. You don’t have to drive somewhere to do it and can use it as transportation.

A Wealth of Bike Types

Bicycles have come a long way from the three speeds, with coaster brakes, that we rode as youngsters. Now you have your choice of 21 speeds. Not only is there a huge variety, but many bikes offer just what older adults might want: cushioned seats, upright handlebars or a power boost on uphill climbs.

Prices can vary from hybrids and cruisers at $300 to $705, to a recumbent for about $700-$5,000, to electric bikes priced from $600 to $1,500.

Hybrid bicycle. This combines some of the best features of a road bike with some attributes of a mountain bike, making it extremely versatile. Many older adults can’t physically stay in the crouched position that a road bike demands, nor tolerate its narrow, hard seats. Meanwhile, mountain biking can be physically demanding and more suited to young bodies. Hybrid bike tires are cushier and less rugged than those on mountain bikes, but wider than the hard, skinny tires on road bikes. Handlebars are higher, providing a more upright riding position than a road bike, and the seats are padded.

Cruiser bike. The handlebars for these bikes are totally upright, letting riders “cruise” and enjoy the surroundings. With only a single speed, these are not meant for long and difficult rides, but for an occasional leisurely spin around the neighborhood or down to the grocery store. Cruisers are most like the three-speed bicycles of our youth.

Step-through bikes. With no cross-bar to lift legs over, step-through bikes are easier to mount and dismount, especially if you have balance issues or are not as flexible as you once were. The EZ boarding bike has an even lower “threshold” to step over when getting on your bike.

Recumbent bike. Sitting in a reclining position takes stress off the lower back, hands, neck and pelvis. Because you use different muscles than on a conventional bike, you’ll need to adjust to a slightly different style. Although the recumbent bike rider looks relaxed, these bikes are actually faster than a traditional bicycle because the “laid-back” position means less wind resistance. They come in a variety of configurations, including no-hands steering, rear- or front-wheel drive and a three-wheel arrangement.

Electric bike. This is a good bike for older adults who love bike riding but have physical issues that make hills or other types of terrain challenging. You can pedal until you get tired and then use the motor to climb a steep hill. On a single charge, the bike can go up to 20 miles at 15 mph.

Adult tricycle. These are becoming so popular that adult tricycles come in many different designs, including a semi-recumbent and electric version. With its step-through design, it’s easy to get on and off, and the adult tricycle offers a stable ride. Because you sit upright, this bike is easier on the back, buttocks and hands. The only difficulty you might have to contend with is a few sneers from the younger set on their sleek road bikes.

Other bike types to consider have automatic transmissions; are tandem or “built for two,” which provide two human power sources and are great for couples; and are “foldable,” perfect for those who don’t have a lot of space to store a bike, either at home or in your RV.


“Learn The Secrets Of Choosing A Bicycle That Is Perfect For You,” Bicycle-Riding-for-Boomers

“Benefits of cycling,” NHS

“Bike use is rising among the young, but it is skyrocketing among the old,” June 19, 2014, People for Bikes

“Age no barrier on solo trans-Canada bicycle tour,” November 11, 2014, Biking Bis

Don’t Let Age Keep You from Bicycling was featured in the September 2015 Senior Spirit Newsletter. 

Blog post provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors