Monday, May 2, 2016

Screenings You Need and Don’t Need

health screening recommendations for senior citizens

While getting regular tests for certain diseases and medical conditions can prevent health problems down the line,
two tests can do more harm than good.

Many Medicare and other healthcare plans urge their clients, especially older ones, to get regular health screenings, such as colonoscopies. Finding serious medical issues early can mean a longer and healthier life, as well as financial savings for both you and the healthcare plan. Yet, despite all the recommendations, less than 25 percent of Americans ages 50 to 64 and less than half of those over age 65 are up to date on screenings (Next Avenue)

Two Tests to Possibly Avoid

Which tests should you get and which don’t you need? Researchers are questioning the value for older adults of two common tests—mammograms for women and prostate screenings for men. For those who think they have less than five or 10 years to live, it might not make sense to undergo tests that can be uncomfortable or even harmful, and are expensive. For example, men who test high for prostate cancer often have expensive biopsies that can cause infection and pain. If prostate cancer is found, doctors will recommend surgery or radiation therapy that can be painful, even though the slow-growing cancer would not have shortened the patient’s life.

Screenings and ensuing treatment could harm older patients whose health is already fragile, or who have multiple medical conditions. In fact, if the breast or prostate cancer is slow-growing, patients could die from another disease before the cancer affects them.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel that weighs evidence and makes recommendations about prevention tests, concluded in 2012 that prostate cancer screening isn’t beneficial at any age and that there’s not enough evidence to know whether women benefit or risk harm by undergoing breast cancer screening after age 74 (from Kaiser Health News)

Yet an article published online in JAMA Internal Medicine in October 2014 shows that many doctors still recommend cancer-screening tests for their older patients. Researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that among individuals with the highest risk of dying within nine years, many had undergone cancer screening in the two years before the interview (from Harvard Health Publications).

As mandated by Congress, the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force makes recommendations for 95 screenings that are intended to prevent or reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, infectious diseases and other conditions. Organizations that focus on one disease or condition, such as the American Cancer Society, have their own recommendations, and different professional organizations, such as the American Medical Association, also make recommendations, which can differ from that of other professional groups.

Common Screenings

The National Institutes of Health and others recommend regular screenings for the diseases and medical conditions listed below. As always, consult with your doctor about whether you need evaluations more often, depending on your risk factors, such as a family history of the disease.

Blood Pressure

Prepare for Health Tests

Before you have a health screening test, ask your doctor these questions:

  • Why do I need the test? What will it show about my health?

  • What will this screening cost, and will my insurance cover it?

  • What do I need to do to prepare for the test? (For example, do I need to have an empty stomach, or will I need to provide a urine sample?)

  • What steps does the medical test involve?

  • Are there any harmful or side effects from this screening?

  • How will I find out the results of my test?

  • How long will it take to get test results?

  • What will we know after the test?

Source: “What Are Health Screenings?,” NIH Senior Health

Every two years, have your blood pressure checked to detect hypertension, which can cause strokes, heart attacks, kidney and eye problems, and heart failure. If the top number (systolic number) is between 120 and 139, or the bottom number (diastolic number) is between 80 and 89 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury, which refers to how high the pressure in the blood vessels pushes a column of mercury) or higher, have it checked every year.

Breast Cancer

Although there’s some debate about when to start mammograms, women over 50 should have them regularly. The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 45 to 54 get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older can switch to mammograms every two years or can continue yearly screening. But, at 75, women at average risk of breast cancer can stop routine screening.

Cervical Cancer

Women should get a Pap test every three years to test for cervical cancer. If you get a Pap smear coupled with an HPV test, which detects the strains of the virus strongly linked to cervical cancer, you can delay screening to every five years. After 65, you no longer need the test if results in the 10 years prior were normal, according to the American Cancer Society. Once screening is stopped, it should not be started again.


Your cholesterol should be checked at least every five years, but check it more often if you have high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease or kidney problems, use tobacco, are overweight or obese, have a personal or family history of heart disease or blocked arteries, or have high blood pressure. High blood cholesterol increases your chance of heart disease, stroke and poor circulation. Ideally, your total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter). Your HDL (the “good” high-density lipoprotein) should be greater than or equal to 60 mg/dl, and your triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dl.

Colorectal Cancer

Between the ages of 50 and 75, you should be tested for colon or rectal cancer with either a fecal occult blood test done every year; flexible sigmoidoscopy (a routine outpatient procedure) every five years, along with a fecal occult blood test; or colonoscopy every 10 years. However, if you have risk factors for colon cancer, including ulcerative colitis, a personal or family history of colon or rectal cancer, or a history of large growths called adenomas, you should have the tests done more often. Ask your doctor which test is right for you. If you are between the ages of 76 and 85, talk with your doctor or nurse about whether you should continue to be screened.


If you are age 65 or older and in good health, you should be screened for diabetes (type 2) every three years. If you are overweight and have other risk factors, such as sustained high blood pressure, ask your doctor if you should be screened more often.


Women 65 or older should have a bone density test to make sure their bones are strong and to determine whether they are at risk for a fracture. An x-ray of your spine and hip will compare your bone density to that of a young woman in order to estimate your fracture risk. A score above -1 is considered normal; a score between -1 and -2.5 is classified as osteopenia (low bone mass), and a score below -2.5 is considered osteoporosis. While men are not as susceptible to osteoporosis as women, men age 70 and over should consider getting bone mineral density testing.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate examinations are no longer routinely done on men with no symptoms, because the potential benefits of routine screening for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) have not been shown to outweigh the harms of testing and treatment. However, other factors may tip the balance toward regular screening, so men age 50 or older should talk to their healthcare provider about the pros and cons of having their blood tested for PSA levels, which may indicate the presence of prostate cancer.

Other Tests to Consider

Depending on your risk factors, other screenings can be crucial in finding and treating serious health conditions. Talk to your healthcare provider if you feel you are vulnerable in these areas.

C-Reactive Protein

High levels of this protein point to inflammation and could increase your chances of having a heart attack, especially if you have risk factors such as high cholesterol or a family history of heart disease, or if you are overweight. If test results show more than 3.0 milligrams per liter, you are at a higher risk for heart disease and heart attack.


If you have felt down, sad or hopeless, or if you have little interest or pleasure in life for several weeks, ask your doctor to do a depression screening. This is essentially a series of questions, but your answers will inform your healthcare provider about whether you need treatment.

Hepatitis C Virus

If you were born between 1945 and 1965, have ever injected drugs or have received a blood transfusion before 1992, you should be screened for Hepatitis C, which can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis and cancer. Baby boomers are especially susceptible because of widespread use of recreational (and illegal) drugs during the 1960s and ‘70s. According to studies, boomers are six times more likely to have Hepatitis C than the rest of the population.

Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone

Women over 60 should be tested for an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), especially if you feel tired all the time, are more sensitive to cold, have constipation, experience dry skin and are suddenly gaining weight. Your result should be between 0.4 and 4.0 milli-international units per liter (mIU/L).

Vitamin D

Although vitamin D can be synthesized from sunlight, many people are deficient. This vitamin helps keep bones and muscles strong, may help lower your risk for cancer and heart disease, and may boost your immune system. Your test results should be between 20 and 50 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).


“5 Health Tests to Ask the Doctor About,” Dec. 4, 2015, Next Avenue

“Prevention Guidelines for Women 65+,” John Hopkins Medicine

“Many seniors get unnecessary and potentially harmful cancer tests,” Aug. 19, 2014, Harvard Health Publications

“Recommended Screenings for Women 50+,” NIH Senior Health

“What Are Health Screenings?,” NIH Senior Health

“Health screening - men age 65 and older,” Medline Plus

“Report Details Senior Health Care That Misses the Mark,” March 8, 2016, Kaiser Health News

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bringing up the Subject of Dementia with a Client

what to do if you suspect a client has dementia

If a professional believes a client’s decision making might be impaired, then the professional must discuss his or her concerns with the client.

Broaching this sensitive subject can be difficult and requires finesse. Although there is no guarantee that any one method will promote an open conversation, here are several options to introduce the delicate and much-feared topic of cognitive impairment:

  • If you and the person are of a similar age, or if you are noticing changes in your own memory and mental processes, you might open the discussion by expressing concern about the subject in your own life. For example, you might say that you are frustrated with your inability to recall names or to multitask, then ask the older person if he or she ever has that problem. If the person agrees, you can take advantage of the opportunity to ask whether it concerns him or her.

  • If a recent news feature, movie, or book highlights memory change, use it as the foundation to strike up a conversation about the topic.

  • Have information and brochures about cognitive decline visibly available. If the person shows any interest in these materials, take the opportunity to talk. You might suggest that the person consider seeing a doctor who specializes in geriatric care.

These ideas might help initiate a conversation, but there comes a time when professionals must disclose their concerns to the client. Following are suggestions for approaching the topic gently:

  • Express great concern and provide examples you have seen that might indicate the client is experiencing a cognitive decline. Remember, this is a discussion, not an inquisition or sentencing.

  • Listen more than talk, and ask your client open-ended questions about his or her perception of the situation.

  • If the client understands his or her condition, you can ask whom the client would like to make decisions for him or her. Clients might feel that they can make all their own decisions, or they might name a family member or a friend to help them. Honor this decision and, following standard professional practice, document the discussion. If the client wants assistance, you might even ask the client to sign a statement to the effect that he or she would like another person to make or to help make decisions.

Who has the authority to make decisions?

If you are unable to elicit a reliable answer, or if the client is unsure, you must take additional steps to determine who can make decisions for the client. For instance, have you served this person and his or her family in the past? If so, how were decisions made? Who was the decision maker? Has the client ever mentioned whom he or she wants to make decisions in the case of incapacity? Has he or she completed an advance directive that names a health care agent? Does someone hold a power of attorney?

Determining who has decision-making authority might require some sleuthing, accompanied by good documentation.


Remember, each time a professional suspects that a client has a failing mental capacity or works with a client who has a diagnosis of dementia, that professional needs to document:

  • Why he or she believes the client lacks decision-making capacity in the context of particular decisions.

  • The steps he or she takes to determine who should have decision-making power for the person with dementia.


Society of Certified Senior Advisors, Working with Older Adults: A Professional’s Guide to Contemporary Issues of Aging (2015). Adapted from Maximizing Integrity in Decisions with Seniors. Copyright © 2005 by WebCE LP LLLP. Used with permission of WebCE LP LLLP.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Take These Four Steps If Your Client Wants to Do Things That Seem out of Character

what to do if you suspect a client has cognitive impairment

Changes in how a client makes decisions may simply be signs of normal aging, but they might also signal something is wrong.

Changes in hearing, vision and the speed at which we mentally process information are normal as we get older. But if you have concerns that your client’s mental competency is changing beyond what is normal, take these four steps:

  • Validate your concerns.

  • Check for understanding.

  • Document client actions and directions.

  • Plan, if possible, for competency issues.

Validate Your Concerns

  • See your client at different times of the day, on different days of the week and, if possible, in different settings. Ask general health questions such as “How have you been feeling lately?” or “Are you having any trouble hearing me?” Clients might share their concerns about memory, sight, or hearing issues, all of which can affect decision making.

  • Clearly and fully explain the consequences of the client’s choice versus your recommendation and check for the client’s understanding (see tips below).

  • If you believe there could be a medical problem, make sure your client sees a doctor.

  • Having other people at client meetings:
    • Ask your older client if you have his or her permission to speak of your concerns with your client in the presence of his or her family members, doctor, attorney, tax accountant, or another professional.

    • The client may suggest another family member be present (the client may feel uncomfortable making decisions but is not ready to admit it.) This can be ideal for the professional, who then has the opportunity to meet the family before a capacity situation becomes critical.

  • You may need to postpone the transaction until the client’s competency can be checked.

Check for Understanding

  • Summarize by using cue words, for example: “We talked about doing something with your CD that matures next month. Can you tell me what your understanding is?”

  • Slow down. Say, “Let’s talk about this first point. What do you think is good or not good about this option?”

  • When you document your discussions or your client’s decisions, go over your memos and letters together to ensure the client has received, read, and understood the information.

Here are some ways you can make it easier for your older clients to mentally process information:

  • Prioritize as much as possible. Avoid compound sentences, multiple concepts, and lists of choices. Divide information into separate small pieces. Use bullet points or numbers and go over each, one at a time.

  • Limit distractions. Speak clearly and face the client.

  • Use type sizes that are large enough to read easily, and provide generous lighting.

Document Client Actions and Directions

Lack of written authorization could expose a professional to liability should clients change their minds or forget the agreement. If you have any doubts about a client’s capacity, put all client orders in writing. If the client questions this action, you can truthfully say you are uncomfortable executing the client’s orders without written authorization.

Plan Ahead

Discuss competency issues with clients before they happen. It’s easier to talk about a hypothetical future event than a reality. Find out what clients would want you to do if they begin to show signs of suspected incompetency. Would clients want you to go to another family member or professional if you become concerned? Have your clients put their decisions and instructions in writing so you have this authorization on file should you need it? And, have the clients shared their written instructions with key trusted others such as their family members, health care agent (named in their medical power of attorney), tax accountant and estate attorney?


Society of Certified Senior Advisors, Working with Older Adults: A Professional’s Guide to Contemporary Issues of Aging (2015). Adapted from Maximizing Integrity in Decisions with Seniors. Copyright © 2005 by WebCE LP LLLP. Used with permission of WebCE LP LLLP.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How Societies Can Grow Old Better

In tribal societies, older adults are valued because they have useful skills. A scholar suggests ways we can appreciate seniors in the modern world.

Traditional hunter-gatherer societies treat their elderly better than modern society does for several reasons, says Jared Diamond, a “civilization scholar.” In tribal societies, elders continue to perform useful services such as producing food and babysitting grandchildren, which frees the adults to hunt and gather. In our modern culture, we have books and Google that serve as our sources for knowledge, but in tribal societies, elders serve as the repository for information about medicine, politics and food, among other topics. Their knowledge can mean the difference between survival and death.

In the modern world, older adults are devalued in a Puritan-based culture that places worth on self-reliance, work and youth. Diamond offers suggestions for how to improve seniors’ lives in a youth-based culture. Listen to his informative talk on “How Societies Can Grow Old Better.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Famous & 65

Look Who’s Turning 65

April 6—Bert Blyleven

Source ES

Born in the Netherlands, Blyleven is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played from 1970 to 1992 and was best known for his curveball. In 2011, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Blyleven was drafted straight out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 1969, and at age 19 in 1970, was called up to the Majors after only 21 minor league starts. In his first season, his sharp curveball helped him to 10 victories, and he was named American League (AL) Rookie Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News. In 1973, he pitched the most shutouts of any AL pitcher, with 9.

In 1976, Blyleven was traded to the Texas Rangers, and his 2.74 career earned run average (ERA) with the Rangers remains the best in team history. After he gave the finger to a television camera, Blyleven was traded in 1977 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, with which he led the team in ERA, strikeouts and complete games in 1978 and helped them to a World Series victory in 1979. In 1980, Blyleven was traded to the Cleveland Indians but sat out most of the 1982 and 1983 seasons. He came back in 1984 with one of his best seasons: a 19–7 record with a 2.87 ERA. In 1985, he again led the AL in shutouts with 5 and pitched 293 ⅔ innings and completed 24 games, a feat never repeated. However, Blyleven forced a trade back to the Twins, where he passed the 3,000-strikeout mark and helped the Twins to a 1987 World Series victory.

Blyleven's first two full seasons back with the Twins also produced major league records for home runs allowed in a single season (50) and in back-to-back seasons (96). He never surrendered more than 24 home runs in any year before and after the 1986–87 campaigns, averaging 21 allowed per season over the course of his career. In 1989, Blyleven went to the California Angels and pitched a 2.73 ERA for a 17–5 record in his first season, and led the league for his third and final time in shutouts (5). He retired following the 1992 season with a career 287–250 record, with 3,701 strikeouts (only 16 other pitchers have at least 3,000 career strikeouts) and a 3.31 ERA. In 1996, Blyleven became a color commentator for the Twins.

April 7—Janis Ian


An American singer-songwriter who was mostly active in the 1960s and 1970s, Ian’s most successful songs were “Society’s Child” and “At Seventeen.” At the age of 13, she wrote and sang her first hit single, "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)," about an interracial romance forbidden by a girl's mother and frowned upon by her peers and teachers. After it became a national hit in the summer of 1967, some radio stations banned it from their playlists, and Ian received hate mail and death threats. In 2001, "Society's Child" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. "At Seventeen," a bittersweet commentary on adolescent cruelty, was released in 1975 and was a major hit, receiving acclaim from critics and record buyers alike, and winning the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance - Female. The album, Between the Lines, was also a smash, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's Album chart and was quickly certified Gold and later earned a Platinum certification for over one million copies sold in the U.S.

In 1979, "Fly Too High" earned Ian a Grammy nomination and became a hit single in many countries, including South Africa, Belgium, Australia, Israel and the Netherlands. Ian's album Aftertones topped Oricon's album chart in October 1976. After "At Seventeen," she reached the pop charts only once more with "Under the Covers" at No. 71 in 1981. However, Ian continued to write songs from 1982 to 1992, which have been covered by, among others, Amy Grant, Bette Midler and Marti Jones. She released Breaking Silence in 1993, about coming out as a lesbian, and Folk Is the New Black, in 2006, her first album in more than two decades.

Ian’s short stories have been published in science fiction anthologies. In 2008, she released her autobiography Society's Child to critical acclaim. An accompanying double CD, The Autobiography Collection, has been released with many of Ian's best loved songs. In December 2015, Ian appeared in the series finale of HBO comedy series Getting On, playing a patient who refused to stop singing.

April 10—Steven Seagal

Author=Gage Skidmore

A 7th-dan black belt in Aikido, actor Seagal began his adult life as a martial arts instructor in Japan. After moving to Los Angeles, he worked as a martial arts instructor on the movie Never Say Never Again, accidentally breaking actor Sean Connery's wrist during production. In 1988, Seagal made his acting debut in Above the Law, which was followed by four successful films. He achieved further fame in 1992, when he played Navy SEALs counter-terrorist expert Casey Ryback in Under Siege. During the latter half of the 1990s, Seagal starred in three more theatrical films and the direct-to-video film The Patriot.

Since that time, his career has shifted almost entirely to direct-to-video productions (released to the public on video instead of to movie theaters)—a total of 27 from 1998 to 2014. At the age of 58, he starred in his first widely released film since 2002, the 2010 film Machete. Between 2009 and 2013, he filmed three seasons of his reality show Steven Seagal: Lawman, which depicted him as a reserve deputy sheriff in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana (season 1–2) and Maricopa County, Arizona (season 3). He also created and starred in two seasons of the undercover police drama series True Justice between 2011 and 2012.

As an accomplished guitarist, Seagal released two studio albums (Songs from the Crystal Cave and Mojo Priest) and performed on numerous film scores. As a businessman, Seagal is estimated to be worth anywhere from $5 million to $16 million (as of 2015). Steven Seagal Enterprises markets his own energy drink, Lightning Bolt, and represents the Russian firearms manufacturer ORSIS. He is a supporter of both the 14th Dalai Lama and Vladimir Putin, calling Putin "one of the great living world leaders."

April 21—Tony Danza

Author=Larry D. Moore

Born Antonio Salvatore Iadanza, the Italian-American actor is best known for starring on the TV series Taxi and Who's the Boss?, for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award and four Golden Globe Awards. A professional boxer, Danza got his start on Taxi after a producer discovered him at a boxing gymnasium in New York. On Taxi, he played a cab driver and part-time boxer on the award-winning comedy that aired from 1978 to 1982 on ABC and from 1982 to 1983 on NBC. From 1984 to 1992, he starred in ABC’s popular comedy Who's the Boss?, in which he portrayed retired baseball player, housekeeper and single father Tony Micelli.

Danza also starred in the short-lived sitcoms Hudson Street (1995) and The Tony Danza Show (1997), for which he won the 1998 People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for a guest-starring role in the 1998 TV series The Practice. He made his movie debut in the comedy The Hollywood Knights (1980), which was followed by Going Ape! (1981). Danza received critical acclaim for his performance in the 1999 Broadway revival of the Eugene O'Neill play The Iceman Cometh.

Danza hosted his own TV talk show, The Tony Danza Show, which ended in May 2006. He starred on Broadway as Max Bialystock in The Producers in 2006-2007. In 2010, he had his own reality show Teach: Tony Danza (on A&E), in which he co-instructed a 10th grade English class in Philadelphia. The book I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High, was released in 2012 and was based on his year of teaching.

April 27—Ace Frehley

source: using Flickr upload bot

Best known as the former lead guitarist and founding member of the rock band Kiss, Frehley adopted the persona of the "Spaceman" or "Space Ace" and played with the group from its inception in 1973 until his departure in 1982. After leaving Kiss, Frehley embarked on a solo career, which was put on hold when he rejoined Kiss in 1996 for a highly successful reunion tour. His second tenure with Kiss lasted until 2002, when he left at the conclusion of what was originally purported to be the band's Farewell Tour. His most recent solo album, Space Invader, was released in 2014.

Guitar World magazine ranked him as the 14th greatest metal guitarist of all time. His solos often incorporate the minor pentatonic scale and the usage of vibratos. Outside of Kiss, Frehley has continued to be commercially successful, with his first solo album going platinum. He is also known for the use of many "whimsical" guitars, including a Gibson Les Paul guitar that emits smoke from the neck humbucker pickup and produces spinning pyrotechnics, and a custom Les Paul that emits light based on song tempo.

Source: Wikipedia

FAMOUS & 65 is a featured article in the MApril 2016 Senior Spirit newsletter.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Seniors Comprise Biggest Voting Block

elderly voting statistics

In recent elections, older adults, as a group, are voting more heavily Republican. Will this trend continue? How do Baby Boomers affect this shift?

“Any man who is under 30 and is not a liberal has no heart, and any man who is over 30 and is not a conservative has no brains.” This quote, which has been variously attributed to several people, including Winston Churchill, has been accepted as a truism. When we’re young, we’re more idealistic, more willing to throw caution to the wind and vote for a politician who appeals to our ideals. As seniors, we’re supposed to be wiser, more hard-headed and skeptical, not willing to gamble our lives on radical promises for a rosy future.

Whether this is true or not, one fact that has endured over time is that seniors tend to vote in higher numbers and more faithfully than younger voters. There are several reasons for this, including making sure their Social Security benefits are not tampered with (see sidebar). Yet, despite seniors’ importance in the current presidential election, current candidates are ignoring issues important to older adults.

Are Seniors More Conservative?

While the truth turns out to be complicated, evidence from the last few elections shows older adults voting in greater numbers for Republican candidates. The Gallup Poll reported that “U.S seniors—those aged 65 and older—have moved from a reliably Democratic group to a reliably Republican one over the past two decades.” This may represent a significant shift, because seniors had been solidly Democratic from 1992 through 2006, and significantly more Democratic than younger Americans. By comparison, younger Americans, those aged 18 to 64, voted more heavily Democrat from 2006 to 2013 than in previous years. It’s worth keeping in mind that what was considered liberal 50 years ago might be considered conservative today, and vice versa, as political views have shifted over time

However, seniors are not a monolithic group. The oldest of the group, what is known as the Silent Generation, is more likely to be Republican, while Baby Boomers are somewhere in between the Silent Generation and the younger Millennials, who lean toward the Democratic Party. Among Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, there are also notable differences. Boomers born in the middle (between 1950 and 1953) tend to vote more Democratic than their cohorts. The middle group came of age during the height of the Vietnam War and the battle for civil and women’s rights, as well as during the free love and drugs hippie era. Meanwhile, the youngest Boomers became adults during an economic downturn and during events that questioned the strength of the U.S. role in the world, such as the Iranian hostage crisis.

Because Baby Boomers constitute 32 percent of the U.S. adult population, they eclipse all other generational groups. But how they will vote in the future is hard to predict. Many of today’s Republican seniors were Democrats in younger years.

Why We’re Democrats or Republicans

We’re a product of our times, and particular events—historic or cultural—shape us. Experts say we choose our political affiliations based on events when we were young, and many remain loyal to the party of their youth. For example, those who grew up during the Great Depression and the Franklin Roosevelt administration tend to keep their Democratic leanings throughout their life. Those who came of age under Eisenhower, a popular Republican president, didn’t abandon their Republican membership, even when the party may have changed. In contrast, Baby Boomers were formed by the Kennedy and Johnson years, both Democrats.

Why Seniors Vote

Experts believe that seniors cast their ballots more often and in greater numbers than other age groups for several reasons:

  • For many, if not most seniors, Social Security and Medicare are their lifelines, which they want to protect. This raises the question as to why so few candidates are addressing this issue in order to capture the voting bloc they need to win elections.

  • Older adults tend to be less transient than younger people, often staying in the same home, or at least the same area, for decades. They know where to vote and where to register. Younger people who move around more often need to remember to register and track down the voter registration location.

  • Having voted in dozens of elections in their lives, seniors have a longer sense of history, civic duty and responsibility.

  • Without the responsibility of family or career, older adults have more free time to study the issues and vote. Beyond that, many seniors have time to get involved in politics, either by volunteering with their party or with local governments’ boards or committees. For seniors, government seems closer and more real than it may to those who have never been involved.

Sources:Griswold Home Care and U.S. News: Money

Others say political affiliations are based on our cumulative life experience—our jobs, religion, relationships or life-changing events, such as divorce or serious illness. If we are becoming more conservative as we age, one theory is that older people are more resistant to change. We worry about preserving our money longer, and we slow down while the rest of the world speeds up. Yet some studies have shown people becoming more tolerant and flexible in old age, as we learn from life’s experiences.

Interestingly, race seems to have been a factor in older adults becoming more Republican in the last few elections. While seniors favored the Democratic candidates in the presidential elections from 1992 through 2004, they abandoned the party when Barack Obama ran for president. Seniors favored Bill Clinton in the elections but were the only age group to support the Republican candidate over Barack Obama.

For whatever reason, this conservative trend reflects a shift in the electorate, as well. Seniors are overwhelmingly white, compared to younger generations that comprise different ethnic groups, and whites have become more solidly Republican in recent years. Eighty-five percent of those 65 and older are non-Hispanic whites, according to Gallup estimates, compared with 77 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds, 66 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds, and 54 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds. In all age groups, nonwhites are overwhelmingly Democratic. Nonwhite seniors, in fact, are the most strongly Democratic of any age group.

Aging Issues Mostly Ignored

Despite the fact that seniors are the biggest voting electorate—that is, those people who actually vote—issues around aging such as Medicare, long-term care and Social Security are rarely addressed in the current presidential election. As of this writing, only two candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have posted their positions on Social Security on their websites. Aside from Clinton discussing long-term care in early stump speeches, candidates have hardly mentioned this critical issue facing many American families.

In a poll of more than 3,400 Next Avenue readers—mostly 50 and older—about what issues matter to them in this election, 67 percent said aging, caregiving and long-term care will affect how they vote in the presidential election. However, these respondents’ biggest concerns were the economy, healthcare, climate change and foreign policy, and then aging. In other polls of issues crucial to seniors, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security have ranked high. A Pew survey in 2014 found the clear majority of Americans—61 to 74 percent, depending on age—opposed Social Security cuts.

With the exception of Donald Trump, most current Republican candidates espouse the party’s philosophy of a smaller government role in Social Security. They want to raise the retirement age and privatize retirement, in which workers would have their own personal investment accounts through Wall Street. In addition, this approach would lead to means testing that would reduce benefits to those whose current income or assets exceed specified thresholds. Democrats, notably Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, oppose privatization, a raised retirement age and benefit reductions.

So whether Americans, especially older adults, will vote for a candidate based on their view about Social Security remains to be seen, especially when it’s an issue currently below the radar.


“Baby Boomers to Push U.S. Politics in the Years Ahead,” Jan. 23, 2014, Gallup

“A Different Look at Generations and Partisanship,” April 30, 2015, Pew Research Center

“Do People Grow More Conservative as They Age?” Nov. 6, 2015, Time Goes By

“Do People Become More Conservative as They Age?” Jan. 19, 2012, Discovery

“Republican Views on Social Security,” May 7, 2014, Republican Views on the Issues

“Here’s What the Republicans Plan to do About Taxes and Social Security,” Oct. 29, 2015, Time

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Monday, April 4, 2016

Time to Join the Sharing Economy

seniors can earn extra income in the sharing economy

Seniors are in a good position to take advantage of this new model, either by finding a “gig” job or sharing their house, car or bicycle
—while making money.

When it comes to being thrifty and saving money, seniors could learn from the younger generation. Millennials are paving the way to what is known as a shared economy, where we don’t have to own our own car or lawnmower but can share the resources and therefore consume and spend less. At the same time, older adults are in a good position to benefit financially from the “gig economy,” the other side of the shared economy, in which you can rent out a room or give rides to strangers—all for money, of course.

What makes the shared economy possible is the Internet, which provides a communal database where you can find and connect with a service or person. You can also post reviews and read others’ opinions of the driver you’re using or the Airbnb room you want to rent.

What Is a Shared Economy?

At its purest form, a shared economy is individuals sharing with other individuals: whether a power saw, car or house. However, a shared economy usually involves a business, which sets up a mutual platform for sharers and seekers to find each other. While some websites have no charges, others, such as car-sharing company Uber and home-sharing organization Airbnb, have fees or commissions.

In fact, Uber, backed by Google and Goldman Sachs, is valued at $18 billion, while Airbnb is valued at $10 billion respectively (Great Transition), and are treading into the area of big business. A PricewaterhouseCoopers report estimated that the sharing economy, which totaled about $15 billion in 2014, could grow to $335 billion by 2025. It’s a big enough industry that cities are grappling with how to control some aspects. Taxi drivers are up in arms over Uber’s ability to charge less, while cities are setting up new laws to manage or tax Airbnb rooms.

Yet advocates of the shared economy like to point out that we don’t use—24 hours a day--all the possessions we have accumulated: cars, bicycles, blenders, chainsaws, a two-car garage. By sharing our unused items with someone else, we’re saving resources. The shared economy also lets you save money because you are dealing more directly with the seller or service provider and sharing expenses. For example, even with Airbnb’s cost and fees, it’s still less expensive than a hotel.

For older adults, the gig economy lets you work how much and when you want. Seniors who feel isolated can meet new people by giving them a ride or walking their dogs. In addition, seniors have accumulated a lot of assets over their lifetime: a house that once held children is big enough to rent out a room. A garage that had two cars only holds one now, so you can lease the extra space. You can even temporarily rent out a car that’s not used much anymore.

At its most idealistic, advocates say the shared economy satisfies a human need for interaction. In one study of conversations with Lyft riders and drivers, practically everyone said some version of the following: “I like dealing with real ¬people” (

Here are some of the better known companies and their services:

Car Sharing

Companies such as Uber and Lyft are different from traditional taxi services because an individual uses their own car to give rides. You need a smartphone to access and pay for a ride. The Lyft or Uber’s app stores your credit card information, so no cash is involved.

Uber is also proving to be an attractive job for seniors, especially retirees, who want to pick up some extra income. Nearly 25 percent of Uber's drivers are over age 50, according to a study commissioned by the company. In fact, Uber recently partnered with AARP in an effort to attract older drivers, who are perceived as more reliable.

Other services, such as Turo, link car owners to individuals who want to rent a car, either for an hour or a day. On average in the U.S., cars are idle for 22 hours of the day (Casual Capitalist), so there’s plenty of inventory for those who would rather not own a vehicle.


Airbnb and HomeAway use their websites to connect a homeowner with someone who wants a less expensive and more personal place than a hotel to stay. Websites post pictures of the rental unit plus reviews from previous tenants, so you can get a good idea of what you’re getting. You pay online to Airbnb, which then passes your payment to the host, after taking a 3 percent commission.

For seniors with bigger houses than they can use and/or with financial needs, Airbnb and Home Away allow you to rent out all or part of your house. If you decide to winter in Arizona, you can rent out your house for those few months and make some extra money. More than 10 percent of Airbnb’s hosts are over age 60.


How Safe Is It?

In a shared economy, we do something that we’ve been warned about our whole lives: Don’t trust strangers. In fact, the National Opinion Research Center’s 2012 poll found that only 32 percent of respondents agreed that people could generally be trusted, down from 46 percent in 1972.

Many shared-economy services work to ease consumers’ fears and make sure your experience is a safe one. Big companies like Uber and Airbnb do background checks on drivers and renters, respectively. More than most shared-economy platforms, Airbnb tracks each step of the booking process looking for suspicious signs. TaskRabbit says its “taskers go through an extensive vetting process before they can join our community.”

Online reviews and ratings make it easier to spot potential problems with vendors or buyers. You can use Facebook and other social networks to find a profile or other information about the stranger who wants to rent your car or bedroom.

At the same time, insurance doesn’t always cover all aspects of this new economy. Airbnb offers liability coverage, but it's secondary to your own homeowners insurance, which may not cover damage caused by a guest. Similarly, your personal auto insurance might not be enough if you are driving strangers around.

Before embarking on a gig in this new economy, you should find out what you are liable for and what the company and your insurance will cover. Otherwise you might find yourself having to pay for expenses that surpass the extra income you earned.

Several sites, including TaskRabbit and Fiverr, offer a shared place for work opportunities: either providing the job or finding someone to do the task. Fiverr is oriented toward technical work, such as building a website, while TaskRabbit is geared to chores such as repairing a door or shoveling a sidewalk.

For those selling their work, Fiverr takes $1 for every $5 worth of work you sell. Buyers must pay a processing fee of 50 cents on purchases up to $10, and 5 percent on purchases above $10. TaskRabbit charges by the hour and takes a fee for every job.


If you need to borrow money and don’t want to deal with banks, several online networks will lend you funds—to be repaid with interest, of course. LendingClub claims to be the world’s largest online marketplace connecting borrowers and investors. It provides a lower interest rate than credit cards for borrowers and a higher interest rate than savings accounts for lenders. LendingClub offers loans up to $40,000 for financial issues such as debt consolidation, paying off credit cards and elective medical and dental procedures. The service says its borrowers reported an average interest rate that was 35 percent lower than they were paying on their outstanding debt or credit cards. Prosper is another peer-to-peer lending service.


DogVacay connects pet sitters with pet owners. It’s generally cheaper than a kennel and offers the kind of personal service a kennel can’t. For example, most kennels don’t provide a daily update, with photo, of the cute things your dog has been doing while you’ve been gone, as DogVacay does. If the sitter encounters problems, they can phone DogVacay's 24-hour hotline for help.

If you’re worried about leaving your dog with the wrong person, DogVacay puts all its sitters through an approval process. Boarding rates start at $25 per night, which includes pet insurance that covers up to $25,000 in vet bills per pet.


Operating on the premise that we trust our neighbors more than strangers, several websites connect people who live in the same area—whether subdivision, town or section of a city. NeighborGoods and Peerby offer websites to share goods, such as power tools or a punch bowl. Advocates of the shared economy like to point out that sharing resources, such as a lawnmower that we might only use once a week, cuts down on our consumption of goods. Peerby says it has processed more than 100,000 transactions and has 500,000 users.

Nextdoor does more than offer a place to trade items. Neighbors can share information also—about lost dogs, a new development going up or the name of a good handyman. Before signing up, an individual must verify their home address and provide a real name (also verified). Each Nextdoor website is encrypted.

Other sharing services are Spinlister, which connects bicyclists, skiers, surfers or snowboarders who want to share their sports equipment;, an international marketplace for handmade and vintage items; and and for finding freelance work and workers.

To find other sharing-economy websites, check out, which lists about 1,400 companies in 16 categories.


“Seniors gear up for the sharing economy,” Aug 20, 2015, Reuters

“How Retirees Can Make Money in the Sharing Economy,” Aug. 20, 2015, U.S. News: Money,

“The Digital Senior Part 1: Sharing Economy Secrets to Independent Living & Earning In Retirement,” The Casual Capitalist

“The Sharing Economy Attracts Older Adults,” Sept. 25, 2015, New York Times

“On the internet, everything is for hire,” March 9, 2013, The Economist

“Debating the Sharing Economy,” October 2014, Great Transition Initiative

“How Airbnb and Lyft Finally Got Americans to Trust Each Other,” April 23, 2014, Wired

“The 6 Risks for Sharers in the Sharing Economy,” June 21, 2014, Huffington Post

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors